And so, the Dragon Conclave started, with the arrival of the fashionably early guests.
Vainqueur, Grandrake, Manling Victor, and Gorynych had gathered at the meeting point right outside Murmurin, a grassy [Plains] field vast enough to accommodate a dragon army. Thousands of minions were already at work, preparing the food and drinks for the guests while flying wyrms could be seen flying towards their location.
With the vile Mell Lin defeated and the Earthgate destroyed, the new fomor-dragon war had already begun in fire and flames. But the true battle would be decided here.
“Minion.” Vainqueur turned to Manling Victor, who had left his scythe to some minion for study. “Are you certain that no falling bomb shall spoil this gathering?”
“The Isekai Anti-Nuclear Defense is fully operational, Your Majesty.” The [Reaper] pointed at hills near the grasslands, which housed dwarven rockets.
The system was brilliant in its design. Suicidal members of the Esoteric Order of Isekai, wishing to be reincarnated in that mythical Japan like their founder, would pilot rockets and crash them against any incoming bomb long before they could reach the ground. Not only would Vainqueur protect his shores from attacks, but he would also help natural selection in weeding out his most stupid minions.
“You will also reinforce my hoard vault’s door,” Vainqueur said. “I woke up this morning to find a spider stalker drinking my sweat and promising that we were meant for each other. I had to eat her.”
“I have the same problem, but that’s an interesting solution. I also have an amulet to reduce charisma, which should help with stalkers.”
“Minion, why would I ever be less charming? Especially at a time like this? No, it is better to eat privacy invaders one at a time.”
“I hope this will go well,” his manling shook his head. “I’m not sure the taradodos’ regeneration and our snack-cats farms can keep up with the guests’ appetite.”
“The taradodos? Why not their father?” Vainqueur asked. Having grown fat on the spoils of the last raid, the Tarasque would benefit from losing some weight.
“Since the [Tarasque Emperor] is now so radioactive that it kills almost anything in the vicinity, I wouldn’t risk serving his flesh to anyone, even Your Majesty’s kindred. We can’t even keep it in the Dodocare anymore without risking the life of the staff or our dodos; we’re lucky the lead side of the Moon’s citizens can handle him for us.”
Good. That would make him even more effective against the fairies, although he would be kept away from the other minions.
“Breeder Victor, I am having trouble hearing your voice clearly,” Grandrake said with a frown. “Can you repeat yourself, but louder?”
The emperor immediately frowned, as the esteemed [Princess Hunter] struggled to understand his Grand Vizier. “It seems the wealth sound barrier is catching up to you, Breeder Victor,” Grandrake said. “You must work on your hoard.”
“But Manling Victor is a true minion!” Vainqueur protested. “He is beyond the wealth sound barrier by default!”
“Yes, which is why I can still hear him, but only in the middle-class volume range.”
Vainqueur panicked at the revelation. “Minion,” he faced Manling Victor, who looked down at his feet in shame. “Are you… are you poor?”
“Your Majesty, I pay child support to a lot of people,” the poor Vizier admitted. “Between the legal fees, my manor, and my research… I’m stretching the limits of my one-one-tenth.”
Beyond the fact that Vainqueur would never tolerate having a pauper for a chief of staff, something else bothered him. “Manling Victor, is this why you do not want to breed? Because more children than your current count will make you poorer?”
“That’s… one of the reasons. I admit that… if Your Majesty...” the Doer of the Thing struggled to find the right words, “that if Your Majesty could… increase my one-one-tenth...”
“Minion, are you asking me for…” Vainqueur struggled to get it out of his throat. “For a raise?”
Manling Victor nodded slowly, looking like a puppy expecting to be thrown out.
A raise? That was insane, even for Manling Victor! Every dragon knew that when a single minion received a raise, every other slacker wanted one! Raises were the beginnings of strikes, of minion wars!
But, if Manling Victor refused to breed because he needed more gold to spoil his progeny, then it reduced Vainqueur's resources in the long-term because his best lackey would breed fewer minions. If all of his servants followed the same rule, then it would explain their lackluster fertility.
The dragon considered the matter with great care, his mind losing itself in complex mathematics only a mind like his could comprehend.
If two one-one-tenth meant one more minion, who could each give him ninety-eight percent of its earnings… then, considering the overwhelming amount of wealth waiting for a dragon to claim, the total final wealth would be, in fine, greater than if Vainqueur maintained his usual rates! And if the breeding rates doubled with every one-one-tenth added, then the total would grow exponentially to ad infinitum!
Intelligence check successful!
You discovered circuitous long-term investing!
“Manling Victor, let you be the witness of the sixth commandment, that I shall deliver unto the world below,” Vainqueur channeled the Elder Wyrm spirit of bountifulness. “That henceforth, all of my minions are entitled to one-ten-tenth of their earnings.”
The declaration brought gasps from both Manling Victor and Grandrake. “Your Majesty means a full tenth?” his chief of staff asked, too shocked to fully grasp his master’s generosity. “We can keep a tenth of our earnings?”
“Yes, one-ten-tenth,” Vainqueur said, raising his head with magnanimity and expected to be praised for his generosity.
“Are you certain, young Vainqueur?” Grandrake asked, astonished. “This is… this has never been seen in the entire history of dragonkind.”
“I am not a dragon that repeats himself,” Vainqueur replied. “Visionaries take risks, so that they may change the world for the better. And for themselves.”
“I can certainly say it changed a lot for the better in my case!” Manling Victor rejoiced, all but kissing Vainqueur’s ring finger in adoration. “I bow before Your Majesty’s kindness!”
“Breeder Victor, I hear you more clearly than I ever did,” Grandrake rejoiced. “You have entered the millionaire volume range.”
“Well yes, if I keep even a tenth of what I should earn…” Manling Victor pumped up his fist. “Oh gods, I feel so much lighter now!”
“Shush, minion, you will brag to my rivals when they arrive,” Vainqueur told him, as the first dragons landed.
As expected, his close family members arrived before everyone else, with his niece and cousin rejoicing at seeing him.
“Uncle!” Jolie nuzzled Vainqueur, now wearing a beautiful golden armor on every inch of her body. Unfortunately, she carried the Kobold Rangers on her back, since Knight Kia had abandoned her duties. “Look at me, I have become a true [Knight]!”
“I am so proud of you,” Vainqueur said, vowing to spoil his niece once the celebration is over. “What is your level?”
“We are so proud of you, Jolie,” said the second guest, Genialissime. Unlike his niece, he carried his chief of staff the proper dragon way, in his hand, and reserved his back for his son Courageux. “Great Grandrake, it is an honor to meet you again.”
“Ah, Young Genialissime, I remember when you were your mother’s tiniest spawn!” the elder dragon nodded to himself, before looking at Courageux. “I see you have caught a dragon queen of your own, to produce a scion!”
“M-Money!” Courageux replied, too intimidated by the older dragon to say anything coherent. “I am money!”
“Your Majesty, if everything is going well, could I teleport away for a few hours?” Manling Victor asked as the dragons exchanged wealthy pleasantries. “Kia left to petition King Roland Gardemagne for help already, and I need to meet someone in Haudemer.”
Already, Vainqueur’s fertility public policy bore its fruits! “Go breed, minion! I shall summon you if needed!”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” said Manling Victor before bowing and teleporting out in a puff of smoke.
Unfortunately, no sooner did Manling Victor leave, that a new form in the skies ruined Vainqueur’s mood.
The one problem with the Conclave was that all dragons were invited.
“A zmey!” Gorynych rejoiced, a purple, female member of his kind landing on the grass. She was even more inbred than Manling Victor’s mount, with mammaries and hair.
“Cousin, what is this thing doing here?” Genialissime asked, while Grandrake simply turned his back to snob the newcomer.
“I am a dragonz!” the female zmey lied, unable to speak well. “I have ze right to be zhere!”
“Is it true?” Jolie asked, confused. Due to her age, some of the unsavory aspects of the gathering had been kept from her.
“Lesser cousins of dragons such as intelligent drakes and zmeys lobbied for the right to participate in the Conclave,” Vainqueur admitted. “We granted them the right to witness the debates, like our chiefs of staff.”
“Thankfully, zmeys don’t have the right to vote, Jolie,” Genialissime said. “They’re an oppressed minority.”
“But if we could vote with all our zree zeads, we would outnumber you!” the female zmey complained.
“Look at you!” Vainqueur lambasted the creature. “You have hair! You are so inbred, that you have hair!”
“While I’m alive, Zmeys will never vote!” Genialissime vowed. “What else, give voting rights to wyverns? Does nobody else see the slippery slope?”
Vainqueur would have expected Gorynych to complain or whine, but the zmey was entirely enamored with the newcomer and made a pass at her. “Gorynych finds you beautiful!”
“Zhank you!” the female, inbred horror replied, her three heads flustered. “My nephew is my grandzather!”
“Me too!” Gorynych wagged his tail. “You are perfect!”
Vainqueur did the proper dragon thing and ignored them, welcoming new guests as they arrived.
Congratulations! For riding at your master’s side and opening the first battle of a war, you earned one level in [Chaos Rider]! You earned the [Red Rider] class perk!
+30 HP, +1 STR, +1 VIT, +1 SKI, +1 AGI, +1 INT, +1 CHA.
[Red Rider]: You and your mount’s movements are never impaired by [Field] or [Weather] effects; additionally, while mounted on a monster, you and your creature ignore all forms of damage reduction and resistance to [Physical] attacks, including armor (you do not ignore immunity). You can add two monsters to your mount stable.
Finally, all his [Claimed] Perks offset his class’ lowest growths!
A lifetime ago, Victor remembered defending the port city of Haudemer from the Scorchers early in his adventures; he had been less than level twenty back then, and barely survived an intense battle with two bandits. Some of the Kobold Rangers had even perished, forcing him to embrace [Necromancy] to bring them back.
How far he had come since. The port city hadn’t changed at all, besides having repaired the houses destroyed by the Scorchers and V&V’s battles; but Victor certainly did.
Surrounded by the statues of three guards, his helmet removed, the Vizier knocked on the door of Lynette’s inn. The citizens had deserted the street upon seeing the [Reaper], either because they didn’t recognize him… or because they did.
“Coming,” a woman’s voice said beyond the threshold, before opening the door. “Yes?”
“Lynette,” Victor said. “It’s been a while.”
More than a year for her, eight for him.
Much like the city, she hadn’t changed much. She was still the same busty innkeeper easy on the eyes, with long blonde hair arranged in a ponytail and emerald eyes. She wore a dress and a pendant with the symbol of Shesha, matching her patron deity in greed.
“Victor? Victor Dalton? I’m sorry, I almost didn’t recognize you for a moment, and…” She squinted at the statues around him. “Why are there petrified watchmen surrounding you?”
“I think that with my burning armor, wings, and dragon tail, they mistook me for something else. They will recover in a few hours.”
“I see,” the innkeeper said, definitively surprised. She eyed him head to toe, very much impressed by his intimidating appearance. “I had heard the rumors, but…”
“Can I come in?” he asked. “I only have a few hours ahead before I have to teleport back to the V&V Empire.”
“Certainly,” she said, inviting him inside and closing the door behind them. Much to his surprise, the inn was almost empty.
“Tough times?” Victor asked.
“No, but I closed the inn for a while,” Lynette admitted. “I heard rumors of a new war with Prydain, so I am moving out east to Barin before the fairies start raiding our shores.”
Wise choice. “Actually, I came to discuss this, and our son.”
“When you asked me to breed instead of a monetary reward, I was so eager to do it that I forgot to take my usual precautions,” she admitted. “I guess I lucked out. The other options were… subpar.”
“They didn’t have my good looks?”
“They weren’t rich and heads of state,” she replied bluntly. “I was ready to raise Armand on my own, but keeping some extra money on the side is well and good. I can save wealth to buy eternal youth from Shesha, instead of paying for my son’s education all by myself.”
Armand. Beautiful name. “I can arrange that.” He showed her his [Claimed] brand. “I’m sure she will give you a discount on my behalf.”
Lynette’s eyes widened in surprise. “You have been chosen by the goddess?”
“For almost a year since,” he said, before showing her his other marks. “And more than half the pantheon.”
She looked up at him as if he were a completely different man than a second before. “What is your level?”
“Seventy-eight.” She almost choked. “And we also have a new [Heroic Crest] in storage.”
It would probably go to Allison, to have an [Epic] healer among their officers, but nothing confirmed yet.
Now, he could tell that Lynette’s merchants instincts had awakened. “Is there a job opening in your empire?” she asked out of the blue.
“An actual job opening?”
“Victor, frankly, you don’t interest me personally, but your money does.” At least she was open about her motives. “I can tell staying around Vainqueur opens many opportunities. I’m also an excellent organizer, merchant, innkeeper…”
“[Innkeeper]?” Victor’s head perked up. “The class?”
“Capped,” she said proudly.
“Well, I have a pocket dimension where one would come in handy.” And it would be the safest refuge on Outremonde soon, for her and many people. “Could I see my son first though, before we discuss anything?”
“Of course. He is upstairs, sleeping.”
She led him to a room with a baby bed. And in the middle of it, his son.
It wasn’t the first time Victor had seen a perfectly human baby, but after having expected fiends and weredragons for weeks, it was a refreshing sight; and somewhat unsurprising, considering the timing. The baby must have been a bit older than six months old, a tiny creature with the barest hint of hair, soft and wet.
As the baby opened his big green eyes, Victor found himself overwhelmed by strange emotions he had never experienced before.
“Armand, here’s your father,” Lynette said, taking him in her arms. “Here, Victor. Take him.”
Immediately deactivating all spells and innate protections that may harm the child, especially the fire effects, Victor carefully took the baby in his arms, unable to utter a single word. His son looked up at him, confused, but somewhat at ease.
At this moment, all of Victor’s fears and anxieties about being a parent vanished. All the stress accumulated over managing the crazy women in his life was lifted off his shoulders. Even his lingering doubts about the Earthgate’s destruction left the building.
Everything was replaced by pure bliss.
“I’m going to murder them all.”
“What?” Lynette asked, surprised.
“Everyone who threatens my beautiful kids,” Victor said, giggling at his adorable son. “I will murder them, raise the corpses as undead toys, and have them dance on their own grave.”
Congratulations! You’ve unlocked [Evil Dad Mode]!
Your daughters’ boyfriends will date them on nightmare difficulty.
“You will love that, huh?” Little Armand made cute baby sounds at his father’s cruel smile. “You will love it when I kill the fairies who scare you at night, huh?”
Parental love often brought out the best in people.
In Victor’s case, it brought out the worst.