The skies were bright with explosions, but Vainqueur’s light blinded them all. “[Shining Majesty]!”
The dragon radiated the holy light of the hoard on the Sablarian heathens, incinerating those closest to him, and melting even their mighty war golems. A shooting star made wyrm, he pulverized everything in his path, creating a golden road for his fellow dragons to follow; behind him, Grandrake and Genialissime led the reptilian charge, raining elemental breaths on their outmatched enemies.
The fomors’ last line of defense couldn’t hold against the fury of dragons. Yet they held the line with suicidal stubbornness, fighting to the death for masters who refused to risk their own worthless lives.
The metal Dolphin, whom his minions had called a nuclear submarine, remained the greatest threat fielded by the fomors against the united minion armies. But unlike last time, it unleashed no Arrow of Light at Vainqueur’s allies; Wind Spears and other artillery were its main weapons today.
Had the fairies learned their lesson? Or had it exhausted all its offensive weaponry fighting the fishmen’s master, Lord Dagon, in their previous encounter?
No. The fairies must have kept their arrows in reserve in their hidden castle, sending the submarine as a sheep to the slaughter; a final, last-ditch defense to halt the V&V army’s advance.
Having finished clearing the skies enough to safeguard his minions, Vainqueur allowed his kindred to take over the aerial battle and returned to his assault on the submarine. The machine was engaged in a fierce battle with the V&V Empire’s amphibious forces, from fishmen to monstrous squidlike immigrants from the dreaded Planet Moon. They were swift and strong, but their speed could only safeguard them so much against the barrage of cannonballs and missiles the golem submarine fired in every direction.
Roaring at the challenge, Vainqueur dived down to bombard the submarine with his breath; the machine, fueled by a simple yet effective intelligence, dived down below to the safety of seawater. The dragon’s fireballs turned waves to boiling clouds of steam, and some might even have hit their target, but the ocean provided protection difficult to overcome.
What could Vainqueur do? Use Geomancy to alter the sea, raise stone from the ocean floor? He would need to be grounded to do so, and it would deprive his seafaring forces of their own safety net.
No. He would confront the metal beast in its nest, and force it to duel him on the land.
The dragon dived down, dodging artillery, before falling into the water like a harpoon; his scales hit the waves and pierced through saltwater. Sharkmen followed after their emperor, the creatures swimming with almost as much grace as Vainqueur himself.
Vainqueur kept going down until he reached the undersea rift where the submarine had retreated. Instantly, upon catching sight of its enemy, the machine fired a dozen torpedos in the dragon’s direction.
|Agility check successful!|
Like a magnificent water wyrm, Vainqueur skillfully moved to dodge the torpedoes, circling the golem. His aquatic minions, meanwhile, went for the frontline approach, assaulting the submarine head-on by launching lightning spears at it. The scene reminded the dragon of those silly knights, who tried to tickle him with their ridiculous sword toothpicks.
Useless… but distracting.
This offered the dragon an opportunity he didn’t waste, moving below the submarine’s hull and grabbing it with his hands.
With great might, Vainqueur attempted to lift the Dolphin from below, defying the very laws of physics.
But impossible wasn't for dragons.
Even underwater, the flapping of his great, mighty wings could carry Vainqueur through anything. They allowed him to push up until even the sharkmen pulled back, as the dragon carried his prey towards the surface.
Unbalanced, the Dolphin began to break down under the strain of its own mass, even as Vainqueur raised it further and further high. The dragon emerged from the waves, lifting the giant golem above the ground.
Then, gaining momentum, Vainqueur threw the submarine at the distant shores, like the very same arrows it rained upon the dragon. The machine hit the ground in a catastrophic crash, blowing dust in all directions, but survived. Even as Vainqueur unleashed fire upon its iron hide, the golem raised itself on tiny mechanical legs and tried to return to the sea; its steel hide turned red from the heat, yet remained too strong for Vainqueur to pierce through.
But the dragon was cunning and had planned ahead. Time to activate one of his new Perks.
"[Sublime Dragonbreath: Icefang]."
|Your breath element changed to [Frost].|
Next time he breathed, Vainqueur’s gullets produced not hot, nuclear flames, but a holy blizzard; as chilling as his departed rival Icefang had ever produced. After the searing heat, the freeze damaged the metal hide, turning it brittle.
When he knew that one final push would destroy the beast, Vainqueur prepared to land the coup de grace.
“[Sublime Breath: Earth]!”
As he changed its element one more time, Vainqueur’s breath transformed from ice to earth. Instead of releasing a chilling blizzard, he rained sharp stones from his gullet; each shard thick enough to cut a tree in half.
Weakened by the heating and freezing, the rain of projectiles devastated the Dolphin’s hide, piercing its metal skin as easily as arrows with mammal flesh. The barrage of stones cut the metal monster in half, explosions devastating its body and blowing steel in all directions.
When the dust settled, the golem submarine looked like a gutted fish, dead and smoking.
“I am the wyrm of countless breaths!” Vainqueur roared to the heavens, victorious once again.
“You wasted too much time, Knightsbane.”
It took a few seconds for Vainqueur to recognize the voice and its source. “Dragonslaying fairy,” he hissed. “Show yourself.”
"Foolish dragon," Odieuse's voice echoed out of the Dolphin's dorsal fin, and the tiny loudspeakers hidden there. "You believe you cornered me when all you did served my design."
“Then you must be very good at losing,” Vainqueur replied with pride.
"You gathered my enemies in one place, including the dragons of the world… so that I may slay you all at once. Your souls will fuel my belly, unleashing a tide of blood that I shall ride to Valhalla. The dead of this conflict almost made me a goddess already. I simply need... a final miracle."
Sound erupted from the distant island, beyond the magical wards.
Victor had to admit it, Wotan had a good reason to favor Ragnarok as his chosen spell; it had killed Akhenapep in one strike, while it had taken Kia’s epic sword or Vainqueur’s [Charged Breath] before.
A pity it didn’t stick.
As expected, a few seconds after the mighty thunderbolt vaporized him, the mummy reappeared unharmed at the same spot. Floating under the power of a sandstorm, he cast a mighty buffing spell on himself. “[Greater Seal: Lightning].”
|Akhenapep gained temporary Immunity to [Lightning]!|
Meanwhile, Victor and Allison still rode on the back of Noirceur the Nightmare, who could run on the seawater as easily as grass; while they lacked Akhenapep’s flight advantage, they outmatched him in speed and maneuverability. Rolo the golem rode a captured pterodactyl above them as support.
The golem [Farmer] and his mount attempted to smash Akhenapep by diving up, but the mummy leaped through time to avoid the attack. When he reappeared, the undead immediately put some distance between his foes and himself, Victor and Rolo giving pursuit on their respective mounts; one above the target, the other below.
“[Leaf Storm]!” While Victor focused on chasing after the mummy, Allison cast a spell at his back. She pointed her fingers at Akhenapep above them, unleashing a mighty storm of leaves and green energy.
Akhenapep sundered reality itself with an index finger, creating a moving rift in the fabric of space itself. The ‘slash,’ while no longer than three meters, cut through the leaf storm, the water, the very air. It was a fast-moving, horizontal black hole erasing anything unlucky to be in its path; a blade of pure nothingness.
Victor’s horse swiftly dodged the attack by leaping to the side, even as the blade bent its course, but the attack kept going long afterward. The slash cut through a fairy golem, cutting it in half, and beheaded a fishman swimming in the waters; the blade cut through the shores and traced a razor-thin line in the sand, and then continued past Victor’s line of sight. Maybe it would continue its deadly course all the way to Gardemagne, crossing the earth and finishing its travel in the deep darkness of space.
While the attack had been ineffective, Victor could only approve of Allison’s initiative. His [Chronomancer] capstone allowed Akhenapep to return from death by unwinding time, as long as he had enough SP to fuel his Perk. As a purely arcane build, the more the mummy had to cast powerful spells, the faster his reserves would dwindle.
Of course, no sooner did the thought crossed his mind that the Ur-Pharaoh shattered Victor’s hope. One scroll making up his mummy’s bandages shone bright, its runes vanishing.
|Akhenapep’s [Scrolls of Fomor Cheatery] allowed him to recover 999 SP!|
That optimizing bastard! And he looked at Victor with smugness too!
However, the sound of battle horns filled him with hope.
A new army came from the east, cavalry on the ground, their horses pounding the sand; griffins, flying mages, and pegasi in the air. Their spears hit the fomor forces’ flank, while their flying forces backed up the dragons.
All of them proudly wore white armor and the flag of Mithras.
“The Gardemagnian Army!” Allison rejoiced behind Victor, clearly happy to see reinforcements.
Kia’s ally, the dark elf archmage Kevin, left the bulk of the army to fly straight to the Vizier’s rescue. He pointed his palm at Akhenapep and cast a spell. “[Enhanced Polar Blizzard]!”
The archmage unleashed a mighty beam of blue energy from his hand, which turned into a powerful freezing blast. Akhenapep [Time Leaped] once more to dodge, the attack phasing through him and turning an entire span of the sea to ice.
“Where’s Kia?” the dark elf archmage asked, flying down towards Victor and Allison while their mount skidded on the new floe with grace. Akhenapep reappeared on the other side of the makeshift arctic, hovering above the ice a few meters away from the group.
“He teleported her away!” Allison protested.
“What? This again?” Clearly this was nothing new to Kia’s allies. Akhenapep quickly interrupted their discussion by gathering a [Black Hole] in his palm. “Raid boss?”
“Raid boss. Akhenapep. Can’t kill him without depleting his SP, and he has items to recover them.” Victor shook his head. “I don’t see many options.”
“I have a tactic. The same we used to demolish every high-level spellcaster so far,” Kevin replied, landing upon the ice and joining his hands to unleash a mighty Tier X spell. “[Enhanced Magic Eater].”
A feeling of emptiness spread across Victor’s surroundings, almost all his magical enhancements vanishing. Noirceur’s water mantle, which had allowed the horse to walk on the sea, vanished at once; the nightmare’s fiery hooves regained their brightness as they slowly melted the ice below her feet.
Akhenapep’s [Black Hole] collapsed into nothingness in his hand, while the sandstorm carrying him above the ground vanished. The mummy managed to land on the iced sea, although Kevin’s attack stripped him of his radioactive aura and other enhancements.
|Intelligence check failed! You cannot use spells or SP-based abilities within two hundred meters of [Kevin Nostredame]! All magical buffs are dispelled, and the effects of non-artifacts will be temporarily suppressed!|
That was why he had turned the sea to ice first, that clever bastard. To give them a space to stand on the water.
Considering Akhenapep’s sheer level, Victor doubted anyone else could have pulled off this strategy; someone with a level short of [Epic] would have failed to affect the mummy. Even then, Kevin had clearly optimized his Perks or equipment to raise the power of his antimagic ability.
Even deprived of his overwhelming arcane might, Akhenapep remained a deadly combatant and a powerful mummy. The second he got back on his feet, he rushed at Kevin with astonishing speed, clearly intending to crush his neck and undo the magical field before physical fighters closed in. Since his revival needed SP to activate, this was the first time he was truly vulnerable.
Victor guessed that Kia’s team usually trusted her to finish off the weakened spellcaster, but with her absence, the duty fell on the Vizier instead.
While she had slowed down without her buffs, Victor’s nightmare horse still moved faster than Akhenapep. The horse reached the mummy before he could come anywhere close to threatening Kevin.
|[Red Rider] activated!|
Thankfully, Victor’s build may be all over the place… many of his Perks didn’t need SP to activate. And as artifacts, both his scythe and armor still worked fine.
Like a truck racing toward a helpless granny, Victor ran over Akhenapep and hit him with his scythe [Harvest].
Much to Victor’s astonishment, the mummy, showing some of his Rogue levels, dived below the phantom blade and kept running towards Kevin. The Vizier hurriedly had his horse turn around, but immediately knew he wouldn’t catch up to his former mentor in time.
Fortunately, this was a raid boss… and one never solos a raid boss.
A shadow grew above Akhenapep’s head, as he was within an inch of grabbing Kevin and crushing his skull.
Akhenapep barely had the time to look up before a rusty iron golem landed on his back, shattering his dusty spine. The aftershock was so great, that it caused the ice to fracture below them.
“Release me, golem!” Akhenapep ordered, unable to move under the golem’s sheer weight and might. “I always treated your kind with kindness!”
Rolo, who clearly hadn’t heard about Vizier Stratagem Forty-Eight, grabbed the helpless mummy and threw him straight in Victor’s direction. The Vizier raised his blade high, while Allison cheered him on.
Akhenapep accepted his fate with grim resignation, a second before the blade hit him in the face. “I was a better teacher than I thought.”
Victor beheaded the Ur-Pharaoh, trapping the mummy’s soul inside his scythe Harvest—the only place that would ensure Sablar could not revive him. Without his buffs or the necessary SP to fuel his ability, the weapon killed the Ur-Pharaoh in one strike.
Victor’s victory was short-lived though, as a rumbling noise shook the sea and the world.
It emerged from the distant island with a great rumbling, casting the sea in its dreadful shadow.
Its sight and appearance brought a temporary end to the fighting, paralyzing all creatures present. Even Vainqueur, who feared nothing, paused in astonishment.
An enormous castle had risen, an omen of the end.
A massive fortress of steel, glass, and spikes, its size put Vainqueur’s own domain to shame. All of Murmurin probably could fit within its thick walls. Cannons and harpoons covered its surface, manned by golems, while every dragon for miles could smell the stench of fomor lords within the structure.
The castle itself rested on a flying rock almost as big as it, equipped with steel cylinders the size of hills; all of them unleashed white hot streams of fire, lifting the entire construct in its ascent.
A purple shield surrounded the enormous fortress, fueled by the howls of trapped souls. Its baleful energy cleared the skies of Manling Victor’s thunderclouds, only to turn them red. Vampires and sun-fearing creatures immediately took cover or caught fire.
|[Crom Cruach] transformed the Weather into [Blood Skies]! Everyone will take 20 percent more damage, and healing effects will be greatly weakened!|
Within seconds, lifted by its fiery propellers, the castle ascended through the skies, pulverizing the wards which had protected its island from attack. Its flames and smokes vaporized anything unlucky to be in their vicinity, from warbeasts to pegasi riders.
Vainqueur chased after the castle, intent on destroying it. His fellow dragons followed his lead, unleashing their breaths at the castle while it was still within range; their attacks were easily repelled by the shield.
"Kill them all!" Odieuse ordered her voice echoing from the fortress above.
One of the castle's towers fired an arrow of light, the shield briefly opening to let it through.
Realizing the danger, Vainqueur immediately flew after the projectile and attempted to blast it with his flames.
It was in vain. As his fireball approached it, the missile broke into ten tinier arrows, each of them carrying a deadly kind of power.
Vainqueur did his best to destroy them before they could fall on his minions, but they were fast; much faster than the wind spears, faster than sound, faster than any other dragon could move. Seven of them detonated in the heavens, spraying the skies with light, but three more escaped destruction; they were now too close to detonate safely.
None of his kindred could stop them, and neither could Vainqueur. Even if the dragon destroyed them, at so close a range, the explosion would vaporize his soldiers.
|Intelligence check successful! [Dragon Honor] activated!|
There was only one solution to save them.
Vainqueur flew straight at the missiles, and at the last second, uttered fateful words. “[Glitzy Theater]!”
A golden arena formed around himself, a golden sphere over a mile in radius...
Trapping the missiles inside with the dragon emperor.
The great red wyrm roared and detonated the projectiles with a defiant stream of fire, as they were within an inch of his face.
The world flashed bright, and the light swallowed Vainqueur whole.