Wormhole Ch.10

I’m back!  Sorry that this took WAY too long.  But having a perforated appendix burst on you out of nowhere kind of derails your creative juices.  Not to mention that this chapter turned out to be really long.  But hey,  I’m all better now and here it is.

 

Enjoy 

 

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Damn, I wish I had something to light my way. I mean I had a few light sources on me, but an approaching light would ruin my element of surprise. So trudging my way through the dark made much more sense, right? I mean it wasn’t pitch black yet but just enough lack of light for me to stub my toe on a rock or bump my face into a low-hanging stalactite, making it so very tempting to bust out my obscenities.

Then I stupidly remembered that my visor had night vision. Deadbeat.

The cave was actually pretty expansive. And it wasn’t just dark, it was kinda cold as well; a small chilly breeze seemed to always be constantly embracing me. Being armorless only made it worse. If only I could have somehow worn Sateen’s large body around me for this encounter. Her embrace may not have been exactly toasty, but she would have been cozy to snuggle with right now.

Fortunately as I ventured, something was gained. I found an old rusted armor sitting in the corner gathering dust and cobwebs. It looked ugly as hell, which might explain why this haughty Dragon had left it out of her collection.

It was probably about as effective Arthur’s non-bird-proof armor from Ghost N’ Goblins. But seeing as how I never felt like I was prepared enough, I took the armor anyway. Sure it was all but tuned up for war but I just so happened to have a nice little repair kit in my pocket. Specifically, a little potion from that Dark Mage’s shop. One that could magically repair and boost the defensive stats of armor. But only temporarily. Of course; we wouldn’t want to make things too easy now would we? It would last about fifteen minutes or so; even less depending on how much abuse you were to put it through. Being that my opponent was a Dragon, I’d say that it would last less than half that time before the magic wore off, making it as useful as a cardboard box. Maybe I could use it to sneak out like Solid Snake.

Isn’t it sad that this plan was still the best option I had? Oh well. I damned my sense of fashion, if I ever had any to begin with, that is, and slid the armor on. Dusty and uncomfortable, but some of the best plans can be unpleasant. But then again, so can the bad plans. Regardless, I pressed on. Given the time constraint on my potion, I’d wait until the right time to use it. Like after I go and find myself some major trouble.

While chilly, the cave was pretty dry, so my footsteps weren’t quite as loud. That was a nice little perk since I could see some light rounding the corner to another ‘room’, so to speak. Might just help me pull off some of those Metal Gear skills and sneak up on someone.

After I… arranged a few things in the area, I moved toward the next ‘room’ of this Zelda dungeon. Just before I stepped into the light, I stopped for a second. I took a deep breath; a breath that was filled with unpleasant apprehension.

You ready, soldier-boy? You climbed all the way up here; you’re not getting cold feet now are you? You’ve got morale on your side this time… yeah and a lot of good it’ll do against She-Hulk in there. But at least this is just another troublesome predicament you’ve found yourself in; nothing new, so don’t worry about it. Whatever doesn’t kill you, right?

So are you ready? No. Good, get going.

I turned the corner and looked around with all the visual confidence of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the internal confidence of Woody Allen. Instantly, I noticed that this area of the cave was much warmer than the rest. Torches were spread around the room, giving me the ability to see without having to use my night vision. As cliched as it was, this would definitely be called a treasure-chamber. A big open cavern probably about forty to fifty feet high and as wide as a high society theater. Basically a monstrous, fuck off opera house except with those menacing stalactites hanging from the ceiling, just waiting to give someone one hell of a tragic death. Then get the Skankspeare of this dimension to write a pretentious play and be lorded as the most poetic double-talker of all time.

I began to quietly walk into the room and look around. Even at the entrance, I could smell the carcass of a dead deer laying on a table across the room near some smaller rocks and a small bonfire. How’s that for a dining room? Piled into a corner was a a huge pile of gold, jewels, and pretty much any other shiny trinkets you could imagine. Elaborately decorated armors and weapons were neatly displayed nearby. The pile of valuables reached about twenty-five feet high but had a smaller pile about four feet high at its base. This smaller pile wasn’t too wide but was pretty flat on the top. And if the large ruby sitting on one side looked like a pillow, then my guess was that it had to be her bed. Of course. Scrooge McDuck had it wrong; you don’t swim in gold, you sleep on it. Oh well. Either way, you’re going to end up with one hell of a sore body.

Across the room from her bed pile was a much smaller pile of valuables that weren’t nearly as shiny as the other pile. In between both piles was a smaller area. Still a little difficult to make it out but there looked to be a bucket, a torch, a pile of cloth materials and two more even smaller piles of treasures; one shiny, one less so. It was here that I spotted part of my armor set. It was sitting in the pile of shiny toys. I would have dashed toward it like a seven-year old on Christmas morning.

Except that I halted myself once I spotted the lady of the house.

Whoever it was, had their back turned to me. Two large, green wings folded up against their back with an identical green tail calmly twitching on the floor. The rest of the body was covered with similar green scales, except for its glistening purple hair.

After I stopped in my tracks, I decided to try and sneak up on them. But it was too late at that point. I could see them perk up their head and stand up, dropping a piece of armor and a rag as well. Well shit, there goes my element of surprise. I don’t know if they detected me through some kind of serpent smelling shit or if my mana had stunk up the joint. I mean, Veina told me my mana was pungent.

The creature turned around and stood at full attention, immediately ready to intimidate its intruder.

Standing before me was definitely a mamano, big shock. It was pretty easy to confirm that she was a Dragon. I’ve got to say, I was kind of taken aback at my first time seeing this kind of mamano. Like before, I noticed her large green wings, only now they were outspread ferociously. Green scales covered her forearms and her large clawed hands which looked like they could turn metal into Swiss cheese. The same thing went for her shins and feet. She didn’t look to be wearing too much clothing. Kind of like a chest-covering bra partially made out of her own green scales. A long green cloth flowed from her hips, leaving her stomach and legs exposed. Various other bits of scales were scattered around the rest of her body. Speaking of her body, holy shit. Talk about living up to her reputation as being well in doubt. Now I’d seen the buffness of an Amazoness, a Minotaur, and even a Jinko. But this Dragon had them all beat. Her muscles bulged out on her arms and legs like swelled fruit beneath her skin, and her abs looked like a carton of eggs. She was definitely defined but not like a freaky, broad-shouldered, steroid woman trying so desperately to change gender. She was what you would probably call the most elite fitness model you’ve ever seen. Somehow looking muscular as hell, but undeniably managed to maintain more than enough feminine curves and charm to make every guy stand at attention. This was especially true in the chest area. Anyone, man or woman, would turn green with envy. Oh boy. What a killer body. Yeah…

And that wasn’t going to bode well for me ladies and gentlemen.

Upon this realization, I glanced up toward her face. Two scaly ears flared out from the sides of her head as well as two fierce horns protruding from her purple hair that draped down to her lovely hips. Even in the dark, I could have seen her golden eyes shine as much as any of her golden treasures. She was as gorgeous as any playboy model, further proving that her muscular physique didn’t do a damn thing to take away the fact that she was very, very female. I mean she really was a beautiful girl. Great cheek bones and luscious lips perfectly complimented her pretty eyes… that were coincidentally glaring red hot daggers at me.

Oh yeah, I’m here to fight this chick. I forgot. Damn her charms for distracting me a second time. Focus, jackoff!

“You dare enter my lair, Dragon slayer? Who are you to insult me with your presence?” she growled at me. While her voice was deep and alluring, it wasn’t exactly gentle, either. I can only imagine what it would be like if she actually yelled. Correction; what it will be like when she yells.

“Don’t recognize me?”

“All of you wretched mercenaries look alike to me” she slandered me as she haughtily placed her clawed hands on her curved hips.

Ouch. I guess mamano can be prejudice too.

“Fine, let me jog your memory” I fired back as I disengaged my helmet. Now revealing my face, my eyes locked on hers, accompanied by a pompous grin. “Remember me? Or are you too easily distracted by shiny objects to remember?”

She cocked her head like a confused animal before coming to the realization. “Ah, yes. I recall you. The weakling that I found beaten and alone. I assumed you would have been dragged off by a heat-crazed Harpy by now”

“You left out the part where you ransacked me and probably groped me as well” I sneered back.

“Silence! You dare call me a slave to my baser instincts, you insolent little mouse? I am too mighty for that” she shouted in a voice that was every bit as fierce as I imagined.

“Oh really? You’re too mighty to cop a feel but stealing is just another day at the market place?”

“It doesn’t matter. You Order mercenaries are without honor and humanity. You’ll just steal another set”

“I’m not a mercenary, Dragon” I guess in a way, I sort of am, but I’m still calling it a survivor. It sounds more noble that way.

“Then you must be one of the Order’s knights. Even worse”

“Guess again, horn head. If I worked for that fucking self-righteous, coward-circus, I’d have brought a battalion of other meatheads fully equipped with trademark Order armor”

“Then you must be just another would-be suitor trying to win the right to be my first-hand servant. Forget it, fool. You are not worthy or humble enough to live under the same roof as me. I wouldn’t even keep you as a pet. Leave, I have no use for you or your type”

Uh… I think that’s her way of saying that she doesn’t want me as a husband. Man, talk about an ego as big as a blimp. Yet, filled with even more hot air.

“If you think I’m here to butt-fuck your scaly butt, think again. Stick to your ‘hands-on’ romance, Queen D” I taunted her.

“How dare you!? I am not a mere queen. And my bu-, uh, rump does not have scales” she loathsomely gasped.

Above baser instincts my ass.

“Prove it. Bend over and let me see the moon rise” I mocked as I took great pleasure in embarrassing her.

“You test my patience, you insipid insect. Leave now and I will mercifully pretend this never happened” she touted with an insulting wave of her hand.

“Sure, as soon as you give me what I came for”

Her eyes widened with audacity.

“Do you not know who you are talking to? We Dragons never part with our horde. Especially not to a puny child like you”

Here we go again. I can deal with trash-talking any day. But something about degrading my maturity has really been getting under my skin since I landed in this fucking dimension. Call me an SJW, cause now I’m triggered. Seriously, I had my finger on my gun’s trigger. I never planned on killing her, but I was entertaining the thought in my head.

“Do you know what happened to the last jacked-up girl that called me that?” I growled back, restraining most of my anger. Considering that she was likely much stronger than that Amazon I shot up, let’s not start spitting fire at each other yet. Literally in her case.

“A puny human daring to threaten someone as mighty as I? Ha! Someone as skilled as me shouldn’t waste their time on worthless adventure-seekers like you. Unless you choose to get between me and my horde. If you do, there will be consequences” she threatened pompously.

Okay I may have kind of liked it before, but her fiery disposition was starting to piss me off.

“‘Mighty’? Get real, gecko. You’re all smoke but no fire. And you know, a horde this big will get you into trouble with the IRS. Why don’t you just cough up some back-payment and we’ll call it even?”

“What kind of drivel do you speak, jester? Are you mad?” she asked, clearly confused by my Earthly dialect.

“I’m saying that you’re horde is big enough as it is. You can part with some of it” I said with a roll of the eyes.

“My horde is the greatest in all the lands. Consider that armor an offering to me. For that, you should be honored that I’ve found your tribute worthy of my horde, boy” she scoffed.

That did it.

“Really? You act more like a cat burglar than goddess to me”

“I am no cat, human!”

“Of course not. You’re just a filthy lizard who needs to be taken down a couple pegs”

Her eyes widened again, this time filled with what I could only describe as flames. A vicious scowl crept onto her face.

“You… you dare to call me that?” she whispered angrily. “In my own lair? Do you not know what serious danger you’ve put your life in by insulting my race, boy?”

Oh baby. I think found a raw nerve. Quick, give me a stick to poke with.

“I don’t give a shit if I caught you in the middle of shedding season. Talk is cheap, iguana lips. Now… let’s get serious, you over-stuffed sack of lizard shit. Back off and go find a dick to shove up your ass. God knows you could really let off some steam with that fiery attitude of yours, lizard-brain” I hissed back at her in an equally menacing tone.

A little gasoline on this fire? Why not?

We glared at each other in silent rage for almost minute, with neither of us backing down. We both managed to really piss each other off but that was fine with me. I may not have been a mercenary or some goose-stepping Order knight, but I finally got her to start taking me seriously. She wants a fight, well I’m the only other one here now, aren’t I?

She broke the tension-filled silence as her fiery eyes burned as bright as a Hellhound’s. “Leave… now…” she growled as she narrowed her eyes at me. She looked as if still she was trying to hold back the urge to launch at me right there. Apparently, this was my last chance.

“Not until I get what I came for” I growled right back at her.

“So you’re foolish enough to battle me?”

“If it comes down to that, yes” I confirmed with a crack of my knuckles.

Her wings spread to their full span and she balled up her clawed fists. Smoke began to trickle out of her mouth. “You apparently don’t know what happens when you steal from a Dragon. Now you’ve sealed your doom” she said, voice filled with rage.

She took to the air with one flap of her wings. Her armor scales expanded to cover up most of her exposed parts, effectively entering “combat mode”. Her eyes burned, quite literally, with rage as her mouth really started smoking like a Marlboros PR representative.

Negotiations are fucking over.

Taking the hint, I made a break for some nearby boulders and barely managed to shield myself against the incoming hell-fire. It impacted against the rock with an audible intensity. While I started to work on a half-baked plan of attack, I peaked around the corner with my gun drawn. As I expected she wasn’t finished with her pyrotechnics.

That’s it, Jason. Brilliant plan. Piss off the stronger, smoldering hot Dragon. Haha. As I mentally kicked myself for the crappy double meaning joke, she looked ready to blow me away again. Oops, there’s another one.

Instantly, I pulled back and began my ever common process of thinking on my feet. Like it or not, I not only had a fight on my hands, but I had one hell of a pissed off opponent. And when she was done letting out some opening fight steam, she would probably get up close and personal. Even worse, I’d felt a Dragon’s scales before; it made Kevlar look like a tuxedo. This definitely called for some heavy weapons.

My first course of action was to engage my helmet-visor and then use my defense buff on my old armor. Time to begin the countdown. I could go for a bazooka right about now, but all I had were my trusty handguns. I’d already cranked up the power level high enough to be able to penetrate solid steel. We’ll experiment with how much power I should use along the way. I hadn’t forgotten Sateen’s words about this Dragon. I didn’t want to kill her unless I had to. But right now I’d be satisfied if just gave her a nasty bruise. Besides the potion depot in my coat, I also had a few prototype weapons on me. Ideally, I would have wanted some more time to test these toys out safely but given the circumstances, I think this Dragon will make a fine little guinea pig.

Suddenly, the Dragon grabbed me from behind and yanked me forward as if I didn’t let her cheat off my algebra test back in high school. Although being so up close and personal to the hottest bully ever wasn’t without its perks. Her beautiful albeit narrowly slitted eyes glared at me. The fire in her iris’ emanated into mine as she furiously held me by the collar. Her breath was pleasant; like burning charcoal in a campfire. Figures, because she seemed ready to turn my ass into a roaring, or perhaps screaming, campfire. And only now did I realize how big she was. I may have been 6’3, but she must have around 6’10 to 7’0; making me look like a peanut. Even without her firebreath, she sure was a bombshell.

But her sensuality wasn’t going to derail me this time. Immediately, I threw caution to the wind and activated one of my prototypes; an old armored gauntlet, some wiring, and that Dark Mage’s little gunpowder-Hellhound cocktail that basically amounted to this world’s first ever concentrated nitroglycerin; handle with kid gloves. But my glove was meant for serving knuckle sandwiches. And no I didn’t ask what specific Hellhound “juices” she had used, but I was just dying to see how much kick it had.

What have I got to lose… except my arm? Let’s find out.

In one swift motion, I delivered a sharp body-blow to her gut. What followed was a mini explosion, causing the Dragon to gasp out in pain and send her flying back about seven feet, right on to her “non-scaly” ass.

Well, I still had my arm, so I could still give her the double-bird. And even my gauntlet was still in tact. Lucky for me, the impact was just small and controlled enough that the only one that felt the burn was my hot-headed adversary.

‘How’s that for a field test’, I thought to myself. She groaned as she started getting back to her feet. Now she knows she’s in for a real fight. So I’d better damn sure deliver.

I decided to act before she fully got back on her feet. I took aim and began firing on her, catching her in the arms and torso. Just as I suspected, even my high-powered shouts didn’t go straight through her like shit through a duck. However, seeing chips of her scales fly off meant that my shots weren’t completely harmless. Even a little damage was better than nothing. And if I have to take that attitude, then I guess that tells how much of an uphill battle this was going to be.

Not even close to surrendering, the Dragon gave another hard flap of her wings and took to the sky again. Call it instincts, but something between my ears told me that she was going to charge me. I can’t say how but I just had a feeling that she was pissed enough to lash out. Switching from offensive to defensive, I held up my hands and braced for impact.

Fuck, I hope this works.

As sure as a Thunderbird hates metal doorknobs, she did indeed charge at me and delivered a vicious punch to my chest, this time sending me flying back about twelve feet. Honestly, she was just returning the favor. Pulling myself up, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that not only was my armor still in one piece and giving off a bit of a shine, but I was also still in one piece. Don’t get me wrong, that punch still hurt like hell but it was no worse than a dumb move in a bar brawl. Nothing I couldn’t handle. For a little while anyway.

“Your magic won’t save you, mage” she bellowed, probably noticing my armor’s little light show and the fact that it didn’t look like a run-over tin can.

If she thinks I’m a mage, so be it. Who says you need to wear pajamas in order to use magic.

“That’s what you get for underestimating me, bitch” I cursed arrogantly. “Want to give up now or should I cut off your tail so you can use it to go fuck yourself?”

Wishful thinking on my part.

“Not how I envision it, vile wretch. Your fall is imminent”

Go figure she wouldn’t throw in the towel that easily. But can’t blame a guy for dreaming.

“Well now that I got your head out of your scaly ass, you’ll find that I’m full of surprises. Like this” I hollered as I whipped out a prototype slingshot and swiftly fired a potion at her. She braced herself as the vile shattered against her arms. Immediately, the brown liquid began rapidly engulfing her whole body before swelling up and solidifying into solid rock. Within seconds, she was fully covered in clamps of rock like a big ass Baby Ruth candy bar, with her as the hot fudge center. If only I could have seen her face and got a good laugh before she was fully fossilized into the stone age. But fuck it. I breathed a sigh of relief as I figured I could now find my real armor and beat it before the stuff wore off.

Though I hadn’t even taken three steps before I heard a cracking sound. Damn, I hoped that wasn’t what I thought it was. Turning around I saw an ever growing crack forming on newest rocky addition to the cave. Yep it was what I thought it was.

With a piercing crack, accompanied by a furious and familiar roar, the rocks burst apart in all directions, including in my direction. I covered my face instinctively, but wasn’t able to see her flying at me before ramming me against the wall. “I too have surprises” she hissed before carrying me into the air where she promptly tossed me down about fifteen feet to the unforgiving Earth below where I crashed flat on my back.

Ow. Just… ow.

Magic or not, my body could still feel enough of the pain under the armor. However, it would have been much worse without it. So yay I guess.

Gathering what bearing I had left, I had just managed to roll over before I noticed an incoming light. The light at the end of the tunnel? Not quite. It was a fireball… balling it’s way toward me. Great. Mustering my strength, I curled into a ball and positioned myself so that my magic armor would take the brunt of the force. It proved effective. I mean, as effective as tanking the force of a linebacker can be. Again, the impact sent me rolling but I managed to catch myself on my hands and knees as I skidded to a stop. The impact was worse, but I still felt a bit singed from the heat.

Toasty!

My coat would have probably still been burning if I hadn’t already stopped, dropped, and then rolled out the flames. Now if only I remembered some other things from elementary school; like how the fuck those knights defeated those dragons in the fairy tales. I could use all the help I could get.

Now on full alert, I saw her charging at me like a missile. Fighting through my increasingly aching body, I took aim and nailed her with a few shots from my gun which may have chipped away some more of her scales but did fuck all to stop her momentum. So opting to at least fuck up her precision, I caught her in the head with a shot. She grunted out in pain, giving me a chance to dive out of the way in time. She nevertheless committed to her attack and delivered a huge punch to my former location. The impact from her strike echoed throughout the cave, crumbling the surrounding ground.

Pulling myself up as fast as I could, I rushed her and delivered blow to her chest with my gauntlet. She may have not been thrown back this time, but it still did some good damage and left her staggered. Following up, I pressed my gun against her stomach and concentrated six shots to the same spot on her abdomen. My shots dug deep into her scales like I had hoped. And no, it wasn’t because I wanted another look at her chiseled abs. I wanted to make a weak spot that I could exploit. If I was starting to hurt under my temporary armor, I wanted to make damn sure that she was too.

But unfortunately, she retaliated faster than I expected and lashed back at my armor with her claw. The sharp swipe caught me off guard and knocked me backwards. She continued with a vicious combo of slashes with her clawed hands and feet, gracefully yet efficiently exerting her fighting prowess like a UFC champ. She didn’t do any favors for my magicless helmet-visor, which offered only some protection against her onslaught. Now, my magic armor was tough and kept my core relatively protected, but it wouldn’t last forever. And when she occasionally caught me in my less protected areas, like my biceps or thighs, the pain only served to wear me down faster. I knew I’d probably drop before the magical warranty on my armor expired.

But strangely, I got this feeling that she was kind of holding back. Oh, she was pissed and definitely wasn’t going easy on me, but knowing how strong she was, I was surprised that I was staying on my feet. Maybe it was just the magic on the armor, I guess. Because why wouldn’t she want to literally bash my brains out?

“Fist fight, eh? Well game on, pomposaurus!” I snarled.

Trying to build up my offense, I dodged a strike and then delivered a good back-hand to the side of her face with my gauntlet. “You like that!?” I shouted. I almost wanted to yell out “combo breaker!” but it didn’t daze her as much as I had hoped, nor did it completely stop her assault. Well, guess what? I wasn’t going to stop either.

We started brawling with each other, ducking and dodging half of each others’ blows while connecting with the rest of them. With my slight speed advantage over her, I had to stay a bit more on the defense since she was obviously bigger and stronger than I was. Strangely, she seemed to be more focused on slashing my armor than using pure blunt force which would have really sent me flying like it did before. I could at least stay on my feet. The only other reason I was able to keep relative pace with her offensively was because of my gauntlet and guns. I had to alternate between them to keep her guessing on how I would attack next. It worked pretty well, especially when I was able to score a hit on her stomach, causing her to groan louder than before. Overall, it worked pretty well. Until my gun ran out of energy. Red flag.

“You talk too much” she seethed, probably sensing my vulnerability.

Following my weapon’s clicking, she swiftly spun herself around and smashed her tail right into me with more force than the time I got hit by a golf cart. Story for another time. Anyway, the attack shot me clean across the room before I crashed into the wall, practically leaving a cartoonish indent.

The painful impact caused my helmet visor to begin flickering. Come on, gear. Don’t crap out on me now. But in all honesty with how this battle was playing out, I wasn’t sure how much longer my visor or I, for that matter, could hold out. My body was really beginning to ache and I long ago lost count on how long the magic on my armor probably had left. If it isn’t clear to you folks at home, I’ve been in plenty of fights before; pain was an old friend of mine. Nonetheless everyone has a limit. Hopefully I could find hers before she found mine. Maybe if I could get into my real armor, I could win this.

I gave my visors a smack, hoping that would sort it out and lowandbehold, it worked. Bringing back a fairly clear image of the ceiling, I glanced forward to see the big bitch walking toward me. Holy shit. She was actually panting… sort of. Even better, she was trying to hide the fact that she was slightly favoring the part of her stomach that I strategically targeted. Call me a shark, because I smell a bloody snack.

“Now that you’ve got a taste of my superior power, do you yield jester? Or do I need to further teach you your place?” she glowered through slightly labored breath.

At last. I always wanted to be the class clown.

One of my guns was empty and the other was a little less than half drained. Just enough for this clown to do one more trick before he had to reload.

“Alright, I surrender. How about I raise my hands” I chimed as I raised my arms with my gun in hand. Fortunately, she didn’t notice me make a little adjustment to my gun.

“Do you take me for a fool? The word of a dishonorable thug is worth less to me than a wooden fork. First, drop those pitiful weapons and remove your coat or I shall force you to”

Wow, she catches on quick.

“‘Pitiful’? I noticed they did a number on you, Smog”

“Mere scratches, you pathetic scum! Now drop your weapons or face my hellfire again” she roared, eyes flaring up again at my jab to her pride.

“How about I drop something else, bitch?” I sneered with my hands still raised. That wasn’t a sign of surrender on my part. No, I was too stubborn to die at this point. I just needed a reason to aim my gun toward the ceiling without her suspecting something. My target: the sword of Damocles or rather the ten foot stalactite of Damocles hanging over her head. Before she could respond, I emptied the rest of my magazine with a single charged shot at my target. It cut into the massive rock, splitting it from its foundation, and causing it to drop toward the hapless Dragon down below. I should get an achievement for that well placed shot.

With a thunderous crash, the stalactite shook the cave as landed on the Dragon. I would have commended myself for that one, but I wasn’t going to fool myself. That rock was only twice as big than she was. This chick wasn’t going to be defeated by something as trivial as a giant rock falling on her. Really, why did fate have to force me to pick a fight with someone like her?

Not wasting any time, I quickly pulled myself out of the wall and ran to the back of the Dragon pancake. Soon after, my suspicions about her unwillingness to be defeated by a schmuck like me proved justified. She lifted up and tossed the stalactite off to the side with a loud grunt.

“You slimy rat! I’m going to pulverize you!” she roared in rage. Before she noticed that I had moved, I raced up behind her and pounced on her back, grabbing her in a solid sleeper hold.

“Better watch that scaly ass of yours!” I yelled as I tried my best to choke her into dream land.

That again was sure wishful thinking on my part. Her scales had no give in them whatsoever. Try as I might, she was too strong and solid to effectively hault the circulation to her brain. Seriously, I felt like I was rock-climbing again. It was especially hard to hang on. Especially since she started thrashing her body around.

Haven’t I been in this spot before?

Giddy-up.

“Unhand me, you insect!” she grunted as she swung me around. She then latched her tail onto my leg and tried to yank me off.

“Just go… the fuck to… sleep and I’ll… be gone when you… wake… up!” I cried as I was jerked around, barely managing to keep my grip on her neck. If her own efforts to pull me off wasn’t putting such strain on her own neck, she would have been able to toss me aside like that stalactite. I’d be impressed with myself if that was actually part of my plan; not just a happy coincidence.

“Well, let’s see how strong your fortitude really is, scoundrel” she hissed. Next, her wings gracefully propelled both of us into the air and then proceeded to soar us around the cave. I held on for dear life, seeing as how I had already taken a nasty fall once before. Actually, this would have been pretty fun under difference circumstances; like if I had a seat belt and was flying over some mountains. I guess I never thought about how fun it would be to be able to fly. I liked it. Maybe if I get out of this in three pieces or less, I’ll rent myself a Gryphon joyride. Not that kind of joyride. Perverts.

Finally ending my strange interlude, I was reminded that my life was in danger when we both slammed into a wall with skull-rattling thud. She frustratingly grunted as she shook her body as hard as she could, trying to end my piggy-back ride. Even when she did a “barrel roll”, Star Fox joke haha, I held on. While I was able to hold on for a few wall collisions, my grip was loosening. I had to think of something fast. Not long after the last crash, she then began to drag my body against the wall of the cave, causing some sparks to grind off of my armor and helmet. That finally got me to loosen up enough.

We were still flying at such high speed that when she threw me off of her, I hit the ground at an angle and proceeded to roll along the ground until screeching to a halt as I hit a boulder. Oh, I’ll make her pay for that… just as soon as I can move.

She landed about fifteen feet away and began power-walking toward me with that fire in her eyes still glowing. But that was about the only thing on her that looked glowing. She may have walked with a purpose, but her slightly awkward stride meant that my labor was starting to bear fruit. Good, I just need to keep it up.

Picking my ass up, I quickly ran around the back of the boulder and found a small crevice that I could fit in. Quick decision. I ducked down and waited.

“So you’ve taken up hiding you cowardly scum!?” she called out. I could tell that her voice was getting closer, so it was best to keep my mouth shut for once. Not for too long, though.

It wasn’t long before she stepped directly above me, still thinking I was on the other edge of the boulder. Now’s a good a time as any.

I sprang up and rammed my gauntlet into her chin with a perfect uppercut. “How about that, green horn!” I arrogantly shouted. The impact knocked her off the rock and on to the ground. Sensing an opportunity, I rushed her and prepared for another falcon punch. Though she proved to not be as vulnerable as I hoped. After catching and stopping my arm with a firm grip, she shot me one hell of a pissed off glare before she yanked and tossed me overhead. I flew, again, and smashed through three ground stalactites, quite unpleasant, and landed on her golden “bed” across the room. Fuck you Scrooge McDuck for training me to think that I’d splash into the gold like a pool. It sure as shit was as solid the rest of the cave.

More pain and more agony. Repetition breeds familiarity… but not endurance.

I hadn’t completely pulled myself up before she began yelling at me again. “First you defile me, then you taint my horde with your revolting stench!?”

“Hey you threw me over here, idiot!” I yelled back as my hand came to rest on something interesting.

“Apparently, I didn’t throw you hard enough to knock any sense into you. I warned you about a Dragon’s treasure. Let me teach you just how precious a horde is to a Dragon” she snarled as she began to hover off her feet and poised herself to charge again.

“Why don’t you start with this?” I inquired as I held up a long, toy dildo that radiated with some blue sparks. Wait, didn’t Veina tell me about some kind of special Raiju-fused toy? Holy shit! I knew Dragons loved their horde but…

Bewilderment had overtaken me. I guess I was just too shocked to taunt her. She answered with a beet-red face and a massively wide-eyed expression.

I couldn’t help but let a smirk creep onto my face. “Let me guess. This belonged to to the previous tenant who just happen to be a slave to their baser instincts, right? Or does your narcissistic chastity belt have a hole in it?” I taunted her.

“Why you little…” she snarled venomously as her face grew even more red.

“Then at least give me three chances to guess what it is that’s making your face so red; the first two don’t count” I taunted her again. I couldn’t resist. Nor could I even be bothered to give a damn as to how much hell it would bring me.

Though I was one to talk. I myself had that big dildo plushy that I won in Gamberton.

… it was bigger than hers.

With that, she roared and dashed toward me with a full head of steam. Unlucky for her that I already anticipated her move and had planned ahead. I clicked my remote and detonated a mine that I’d placed on her back while I accumulated some flyer mileage. The explosion blasted her to the ground hard. She was still moving but also groaning in pain. Not likely down for the count just yet.

I used her down time as a chance to reload both of my firearms. By the time that I was locked and loaded, another lightbulb went off in my head. I began to climb around to the side of the mountain of gold, somehow still able to move at this point. Based on what I knew, I thinks she’s the type that learns from their mistakes. I needed to get her over here. Time for some mind games. Now in position, I called down to the Dragon who had gotten back to her feet at this point.

“Well lookie here! I think this diamond scepter will buy me a cannon for my castle!”

“Drop that, you filthy bastard!” she cursed as I saw her coming my way again. Perfect.

With the bait set, I backed up a bit and waited with the scepter in my hands. When she rounded the corner, with that beautifully pissed off mug of hers, I swiftly tossed the scepter at her feet. She looked down, baffled at my action. Yeah, just long enough to distract her while I fired another potion from my slingshot. This time, it was an electrical elixir. The glass shattered against her and released an brief but blinding display of lights and sparks. The shock stunned her as she dropped to her knees.

“There,” I said as readied my gun. “you can have your horde… all of it!” I sneered and then fired a fully charged shot onto the side of her gold pile. The impact caused the shiny tower to avalanche down onto the Dragon’s position. I dived out of the way before I was buried alongside the Dragon.

By the time I had landed and turned around, the wave of gold, again fuck you Duck Tales, had completely devoured the Dragon out of sight. I breathed a sigh of relief. Shit. Can I finally call it a day, Lady Luck? You’d better cut me some slack because I was running out of ideas… and probably limbs to stay in this fight much longer. Now that this game was set, all I need to do is grab my armor and hope that I can find a hotel on my way back down the mountain. It better have an open bar, too.

I’d gotten back up and began walking toward my armor in her “cleaning station” when I heard something burst followed by a lot of clattering and clanging. Motherfucker. I couldn’t even enjoy my false win for a full minute. And I didn’t need to be a genius to figure out what was coming: overtime.

Holy dog turds in a fucking fan. What does it take to put her down? Again, I’d admire that if she wasn’t my opponent.

Using what adrenaline I still had, I whipped around with both guns drawn and went full Devil May Cry on my irate and incoming doom. I didn’t have a clear shot at the weak spot on her stomach so I just fired away.

“Enough of this!” she shouted as my blasts didn’t do too much to halt her progress. Changing tactics, I quickly switched one of my guns to charged mode. Since I had to wait a few seconds until it was ready to fire, I kept firing with my other gun and walked backwards, I just had to hold off a little longer. Fuck, with how fast she was gaining on me, it was going to be close.

Finally as my gun beeped, ready to go, I quickly took aim and fired. But the fiery gila monster dodged the shot. Oh boy, I was going to regret that fuck up.

She gripped both of my wrists and twisted hard. Somehow, my wrists weren’t broken but the pain fucking hurt bad enough to make me drop both of my weapons. That’s wasn’t good. Not releasing her grip, she yanked me forward and delivered a stiff headbutt. Her horns against my helmet; logic says I should have won that exchange. Guess what? I didn’t.

I stumbled while trying to stay on my feet. Before my visor cleared its vision for me, the Dragon pulled my coat off in one clean motion. I couldn’t wait until my vision completely cleared, so I swiftly retaliated and I gave a gut punch with my gauntlet right in her weak spot. I welcomed the sound of her agonizing grunt, opting to deliver another one. But to my surprise, my next punch with my gauntlet didn’t result in that big impact that I’d grown to love so much. It reminded me of my fist fight with that first Skarlik. Low damage and maybe hilarious for my opponent. Terrific. My gauntlet’s run out of juice. Son of a bitch!

Before I could change tactics thanks to how fucked I was, I felt a heavy blow to my chest, sending me back into the corner not too far away. The Dragon was immediately on top of me.

“My weapons are permanent, yours are not fool. Incidentally, how is your magic armor holding up?” she blustered while lifting me by the throat like a feather-weight. She then proceeded to repeatedly slam me back and forth between two nearby boulders, causing my visor to start flickering even more. She bashed me around so hard, I think I could hear pinball sound-effects. But maybe that was just the ringing in my ears. Not much of an improvement is it?

Through the bumps and bruises, my visor finally cleared just as she stopped, still holding me in her grip. Good. Now I could see her raging glare as smoke fumed from her mouth and her eyes continued burning holes into me. Dammit, this is gonna hurt.

She fired off another fireball, only this time at point blank range. Again, it was more impact than incineration. Yeah, that made it better. That was like getting punched in the face instead of getting smacked in the head with a chair. Big fucking improvement.

Since it’s a recurring theme here, I was sent sailing again and landed near the entrance to the room. Naturally, I was hurting like a motherfucker, but I still had somehow managed to fight through the new pain and instinctively pat out any flames on my clothes. In the process however, I noticed that my magic armor had lost its fancy shine. Also, there was a crack down the center. Gulp.

I laid on the ground for a few seconds to determine how badly I was fucked. I lost my guns, ran out of juice for my gauntlet, lost my coat of whatever elixirs I had left, and now, to top all off, the magic had finally wore off on my armor. It served me well, but could only take so much. Speaking of which, I also could only take so much. And as much pain as I was in now, things were going to get a whole lot worse next time she shitmixed me.

Glancing up toward the Dragon, I could at least take some comfort in the fact that she looked noticeably battered like I was. She still looked fierce and able to kick my ass, but, hopefully, half of that had to be a bold front. Lots of scales had been broken off of her, exposing her skin underneath as well as various cuts and bruises covered her body. She walked confidently, but slowly toward me. Maybe her slow speed was due to fatigue.

Now I was definitely in far worse shape than her, but at least I was generous enough to share the pain around.

Not wanting to wait for her to arrive, I rolled onto my hands and knees and began to crawl out of the room like a battered dog. I could have gotten up and ran… well, maybe I could have ran but I felt this gave off a better appearance. Providing I could keep some distance ahead of her.

“So the sniveling false-slayer finally surrenders. Just like the rest…” she taunted as she followed me.

Well she wasn’t wrong by saying “false-slayer”, I’ll give her that. “Sniveling”, however, I resented.

I had to activate my night vision as I crawled back into the other room. Before she rounded the corner, I made a small leap and rolled before coming to a stop, posing myself in a pitiful position for when she saw me again.

Soon enough, she entered the room and then we locked eyes. “You can’t run from me coward. Though without your weapons, I can’t blame you. But you’ve become quite the pest. So don’t expect mercy”

“Just let me go. If not, then just finish the job, you filthy slut!” I egged her on. If I was going down, I wanted to go down while trash-talking.

Her frown grew even more. “I’ll start with that disparaging tongue of yours” she growled as she continued forward. That is until she reached the point that I had leaped. Gotcha, bitch.

My last ace up my sleeve. Some would call it a backup plan, but I’m calling it a last ditch effort. A proximity switch that was wired to a couple of mines and one of the batteries I’d found at the Skarlik camp. The Dragon was in for quite a big bang.

But dammit. She was smart and alert, probably expecting me to lead her into a trap. Hearing the tiny beep from the switch, she had instantly took off to the air to try and escape. While she did escape the worst part of the explosion, she still got hit pretty good by the impact and knocked across the room. I could hear her moaning in pain on the ground. At least she didn’t completely escape the impact.

Now she was the one who was down while I was on my feet. Without much else to fight with, I grabbed a fallen smaller fallen stalactite and quickly approached her as she made her way back up. I went all Babe Ruth on her and delivered a big baseball swing and nailed her in the head. After she fell back down, I continued hammering her back and head with my impromptu bat. I felt pathetic now that I resorted to fighting like a literal caveman.

It didn’t last long though, as she answered my assault with a well placed back-hand to my face that sent me into a spin and back on to the ground, nearly knocking me out. As I counted my teeth, I felt something slam into the back of my head. That big, clawed cement block she called a foot had pinned my head to the ground; force-feeding me the dirt

“You look good in this position, imbecile” she mocked pompously. I could feel her claws digging into the back of my helmet. But at least I was face down. I wouldn’t want to have to lick her feet.

Now that I knew she was looking at me, quick decision time again.

Before she delivered a major league curb stomp, I closed my eyes and detonated my last flash bomb, which coincidentally was the last piece of equipment I luckily still had on my belt, besides some ammo rounds and my dagger.

She quickly released me and rubbed her star-studded eyes. Probably instinctively, she flew straight up into the air to avoid a counterattack. But I noticed that she had rose up right next to a rock formation that didn’t look all that steep. Yeah, I could climb that. And luckily, she still couldn’t see just yet. Fuck it. I had no other plan to attack before she could see again, so I guess I’ll be rock climbing sooner than I thought.

As fast as I could, I scaled the rock to the top, exactly at the height she was currently at. Well here goes nothing. So with as much speed as I had left in me, I charged her before she rubbed her eyes clear again. Now I never played football in school, but I dived off the top of the rock and tackled her inured stomach as hard as I could. I knocked her out of orbit as we both were sent down fifteen feet to the ground like two meteors.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be experiencing quite a bit of fucking turbulence.

We hit and we hit hard. Being the cheeky son of a bitch that I was, I used her body as cushion for the inevitable touchdown. She grunted loud and clear, understandably since she got the worst of it. Despite my cushion, the impact hurt me pretty bad as well. It was hard to even roll off of her. Maybe I finally got her this time. Fingers crossed.

After almost a minute of recuperating, I pulled myself to my feet. The Dragon was still breathing, but hadn’t gotten up yet. Thank God. Better drag myself into the other room to get my weap-

Suddenly, the Dragon seized my leg and yanked me off my feet. Oh, come on…

The Dragon had then rose to her feet to administer some payback. Lifting me into the air, she swung me in an arc overhead like I had done with my rock-bat earlier. Only this time, there wasn’t stone being swung onto flesh; this was flesh being swung onto stone. I hit as hard as you would expect. In fact, the slam was strong enough to shatter my now magicless armor in half, leaving me completely exposed and with even less means of defense.

But that was alright. That impact did it. I was done. Finished. I gave it my best shot.

Sorry, Veina.

She then sat herself on my chest and gripped my throat, ready to snap it, no doubt. As a last ditch effort, I retrieved a dagger from my belt and aimed at her stomach. Either I was too slow or she was too fast, but in any case, she caught the blade and yanked it from my hand and tossed it across the room. Damn.

“Any last words, human?” she snarled like a rabid animal as she gripped even harder.

Even if she really was holding back, a human couldn’t go toe to toe with a Dragon. I hate to admit it but Dragons did have good reason to look down on us. We really were pathetically outclassed by mostly any mamano’s strength, especially a Dragon. So I had no way out of this. No tricks left in my bag. I had no chance of overpowering her.

Not to mention I kinda cheesed her off.

I deactivated my face mask to look her in the eye. With a little luck, I would haunt her for the rest of her life. “When you eat me, I hope I give you the shits” I sneered back. Fine last words, right?

“Just as I expected, no honor even in death” she scoffed as her grip tightened slightly.

“Oh like you do have any so called ‘honor’, asshole”

“A vermin like you couldn’t possibly recognize such a grand being, even as you gaze upon one. A Dragon’s very presence is worth more than ten human lives” she scoffed as her claws began to pierce my skin.

“Yeah, right. How grand do you have to be to take advantage of someone with a fancy toy and shit out of luck?”

“Don’t lecture me about honor, wretch. Your kind steal whatever they touch. I would bet that everything you own is in someone else’s blood. Your existence is worth so little in my eyes that you aren’t even worth a second thought. Since you live your life through other’s blood, you are meaningless to me. I would just assume that I found that armor abandoned rather than in the hands of a disdainful mercenary. Your loyalty is cheap. That makes you disposable. You make me sick” she spat, her voice thick with spite.

“I said I’m not a fucking mercenary!” I wheezed through my lack of oxygen.

“You’re still lowly trash; just a thief trying to steal my entire treasure horde for your own benefit. That armor was too good for the likes of you”

“Keep your fucking horde! I don’t want it! I only came to this shithole for my armor that you stole from me!”

Her grip loosened but didn’t release me. The fire in her eyes died down only slightly.

“What?” she questioned with a cock of her head.

“I said I just want my armor back”

“You think that I’m that foolish? If my memory serves me, and it does, you stormed into my domain, not to offer tribute to my treasure, but to incite my wrath with brash demands”

Well if my memory is still functioning, she… was absolutely right. I didn’t exactly say ‘please’.

“Uh, yeah about that” I stupidly chuckled, somehow finding some much needed humor in this situation, as well as some self-reflection. “Well I guess we’re alike; bad tempers and suck ass at negotiating. We had a failure to communicate. And, well, I tend to fly off the handle. So I guess it was my fault for not making myself clear”

Her face turned from suspicious to curious. Hopefully my words were getting through this time. My mouth got me into this, hopefully it could get me out. After all, I had nothing else at my disposal.

Several seconds passed with no response from her. She gawked bafflingly at my admittance of… well stupidity.

“Trench talk, right? Hey, you said yourself that I was a fool” I confessed.

“True… I suppose” she uttered after a brief moment of contemplation.

“Wouldn’t be the first time I did something dumbass”

“Yet here you lie defeated after you fought to the brink of your pitiful life. And you expect me to believe that it was just to reclaim a single piece of armor?”

“Hey, that armor’s gotten me through thick and thin. It’s one of a kind. Just call me sentimentalist. Besides, it wouldn’t even fit you, idiot”

Shit I probably shouldn’t have said that it was one of a kind.

“To be that sentimental is a sign of weakness. You are the only fool here, human”

“Oh yeah? Well you seem awfully sentimental over your horde to defend it like you do” I argued against her.

She hesitated her next sentence as her eyes briefly wandered aimlessly. Ha! I got her there.

“That is about more than ridiculous sentiments. My horde is my creation. No human is worthy enough to touch it. It is the reflection of my status and power. That which is worshiped by humans.” she yelled.

“Yeah and what if someone stole it from you? You’re definitely not the type to curl up and cry yourself to sleep. Hell, without it, you wouldn’t have a fucking bed to cry yourself to sleep. So what would you do? “

She glared at me before averting her eyes from me, complete with a pouty expression.

“Yeah, I thought so” I boasted as my logic hit her bitterly.

“I would chase them straight into the very pits of Hell itself” she murmured.

“I’m sure you’d be happy to blaze that trail” I chimed in.

“Shut up. You don’t know anything about me. Nor how much we Dragons value our horde”

“I know enough. Enough to know a greedy elitist when I see one. Besides if I did come here for that fucking pirate cove, I’d need a fortress on wheels to haul it off with me. And this lair isn’t exactly a skip and a jump away”

“You can’t trick me again, human. If you’re not a mercenary, then why are you equipped with such formidable weapons?”

“You think you’re the only one who has a responsibility to fight? Guess again. I’ve got my own battles to fight and they’re not against mamano. You’re just a roadblock. Because I need all the tools I can get if I want to stand a chance. After all, I’m just a puny little mortal remember? How else am I to maintain my ever-fleeting life? I need my armor to protect my un-divine body” I taunted while mocking her overly mighty voice. Immature? Sure. I have no regrets.

The Dragon ferociously silenced me as her reptilian palm gripped my mouth.

“Continue that verbal mockery and I will tear off your head and use it as a wine glass” she seethed.

I snickered to myself at the thought but nonetheless complied with a tacky thumbs up sign.

“So you’re telling me that this duel was for nothing!?” she hissed as she released my mouth.

“Please, if you say it like that it makes us both look like dumbasses”

“I should kill you for squandering my precious time. But, if you speak the truth, then I deduce that you must be willing to sacrifice your own well-being to see justice. Tell me, are willing to die for your armor as I am willing to die for my horde, human?” she questioned, her foreboding tone unwavering. Her grip tightened on my throat again. At least this time I was able to refuel on air before the pressure came back.

Sounds pretty conclusive to me; my armor or my life. Well I needed my armor as much as this cave needed a vault door. Then fuck it. Balls to the wall.

“Absolutely I would die for my armor, ya stupid bitch. Do your worst” I fired back, admittedly saying it overly dramatically. But hey, spur of the moment. In my eyes, I had a job to do and I just didn’t know when to quit. Couple that with a bitter, cynical disposition, and you’ve got the story of my life. Not a classy story, but there it is.

The Dragon said nothing but focused into my eyes for several seconds. I thought I saw a slight blush forming as she sighed heavily before unexpectedly flipping me onto my stomach and catching me in a sleeper hold of her own. Her hard bicep squeezed just tight enough to make me feel like I was going pail in the face. Pretty fucking tight, as I would have expected from someone as ripped as her. I could do fuck all to break her hold. I doubt even Tony Atlus could’ve overpowered her, let alone a beaten down bastard like me.

This is it. She’s going to end it. Probably twist my head clean off. Part of me was happy to see my demise coming, just so I could shoot it the double bird. So in a way, I welcomed it. But dammit all, I would black out from the pressure before death punched my one way ticket. Fuck, man. That’s not going out with a bang.

I awoke with a jolt, laying on the small pile of gold I’d seen earlier. The Dragon was sitting nearby and profoundly staring at me with her cheek irritably resting against her clawed fist.

This was definitely a surprise. I didn’t expect to wake up here of all places, actually I didn’t expect to wake up at all. Regardless, while I was out, I had a dream. I was alone… with Veina. Yeah, yeah enough said you perverted dickhead. With the Dragon watching me, it thankfully wasn’t a wet-dream. Now that would have been embarrassing.

“Took you long enough to wake up, human. I was beginning to think that I choked you too hard”

The first thing I noticed was the bandages on my body. Someone had given me a little TLC while I was out. Nothing special, just some homemade bandages and, if my eyes aren’t busted, some salve bottles were nearby. While not nearly “ready for round two”, I felt noticeably better than before. I would say deja vu but I could move this time.

The Dragon had receded most of her scales, revealing her jacked body again. She also carried some of her own bandages. Awesome. I left my mark after all.

“You didn’t want to kill me? Or did you fall into my scheme of letting you beat me down just so I could exploit your sympathy and spare me?” I chimed back.

Snarky witticism: fully operational.

I checked my bandages. All good except that my back was probably worse off since I was sleeping on a pile of gold. And didn’t she have a fit the last time I touched her gold?

“Don’t test me, dog. Your vitriol offers you no defense against my mighty claws, remember? You’re lucky to be alive right now” she intoned.

“Oh that was nothing new to me. If I had a nickel for every fireball that I survived…”

I’d have change for twenty cents. What a shit bluff.

“You survived nothing. I let you live. My fire could have reduced you to ashes if I chose to. Count your blessings that you were only hit with a mere puff of firepower. Otherwise, you would be unrecognizable right now”

Why would she only want to give me just a puff? Wasn’t I worth the full ‘trial by fire’?

“Fine thing. I’ve stumbled into a tanning booth run by a pyromaniac”

“Any more of your ill-mannered babbling and I’ll break your jaw”

“Fine then let’s cut the bullshit. Why isn’t my head mounted on the wall right now?” I demanded as I glared back at her. Sure I was ready to get serious, but her threats of leaving me literally jaw-dropped wasn’t going to keep my brashness bottled.

She exhaled heavily before responding. “Low-life scum are to be strictly dealt with. And you would quiver in fear if you knew what I’m considering to do with you. But… a worthy adversary is to be treated with more respect”

“And which category of torture do I fall in?”

“That is for me to determine. However I find you… quite difficult to judge”

“For what? My skills in sweet talking?”

She let her disapproval of my big mouth be known through her slitted eyes burning through me. Nevertheless, she resumed.

“Your vulgarity and lack of respect deem you as unworthy to even be in my presence”

“You should see me when I’m drunk. I’d really ruffle your scales and make you wish you had a shit-ton of sawdust” I chuckled.

“Must you always talk? Your accursed tongue is precisely why I silenced you; so I could think clearly” she spat, evidently irritated by my irreverence before composing herself.

“Was it your little brainstorm that told you patch up my wounds?”

“I haven’t decided what to do with you yet. So I couldn’t have you bleed to death on me, could I? I granted you that chance”

“Is there a chance that you’ll hand over my armor?”

“Perhaps…” she said with a snooty expression.

“Thanks. Send me your bill and I send back a diamond earring by carrier Harpy. Now if you don’t mind I’ll just take it and hit the road”. I started to get up before her big hand forced me back onto the gold bed. Ow, I wish it was a real bed.

“I almost killed you. A fool like you is in no condition for combat or to go and get yourself into more trouble”

Not letting her deter me, I proceeded to get up again. “Trouble is just another hobby of mine. Yeah I’m a regular gorilla in China shop. Just stand clear and you might get a laugh or two. Besides, you’ve got a cave to clean. You threw the party, so you clean up the mess”

She yanked me down again. Not much on bedside manners is she? Then, she sat herself on my stomach. Heavy, just as I thought.

“Stop being such a damn dullard. Don’t risk your life on such headstrong notions to get yourself killed” she barked as she pinned my shoulders down.

Knowing full well that I couldn’t lift her off of me, nor did I want to start all over again, I opted to talk my way out.

“I’m good, okay?”

“Don’t try to act stronger than you are. You’re just a feeble human. Easy to harm and slow to recover”

“Oh really? I noticed that you’re not in much better shape than me” I vocalized her belittlement of me.

“Well… I have yet to build a new fire to help heal my wounds”

“What? That heals you?”

“Indeed. It, at least, can give us a boost in strength”

“You breath fire. Since when do you need a box of matches to heat things up?”

“Enough gibberish from you, fool. Our own natural fire doesn’t help us after it’s already been absorbed into our system. It must be fresh, untainted heat. Your kind doesn’t eat food that’s already been digested”

I wonder if she gets the same effect if she dines at a spicy Mexican restaurant.

“Then go grab some sticks and get rubbing, don’t let me stop you. Besides, we just beat the shit out of each other. Why would my well-being be of concern to you?”

“I’ve already told you. You are a worthy adversary. Though a trickster, you are quite a fierce knight”

“I’m not a knight”

“Then you are quite a fierce crusader”

“I’m not a crusader”. Well I guess I was in a way.

“A mage?”

“I’m not a mage”

“Then what the hell are you!?” she irritably groaned with a good shake to my shoulders and rattling me against the gold ‘cushions’. Thanks, I needed that.

“A stupid bastard who never learned what ‘surrender’ meant”

That was never in doubt”

Bam! In your face dumbass.

“Hey, I’m a ‘worthy adversary’, right? Then let me march off and go do some more ‘worthy adversary’ stuff”

“You think that pardons you, peasant? You intruded into my lair, insulted my lineage, challenged my might, and even touched my horde. Your crimes should be punished. But still, a worthy adversary does deserve more. So… I offer you the honor of being my servant. To serve me in my cave with all of my needs”

So slavery is not above the mamano race, after all.

“A slave? You think I want to spend the rest of my days licking the shit off your feet? Fuck off. I’d rather dish out another ass-kicking then serve a pompous, self-grandizing, trashbag shitlord like you”. If she thinks I’m gonna be her whipping boy, she’d better reevaluate that little proposition. Sounds as much fun as a slide made of cheese-graders. And after what I did, she probably has lots of fun ideas in mind; like using my face as a vacuum cleaner for the cave floor.

“You turn down the honor of serving me, you despicable pile of Orc waste? Then you really are a fool! Perhaps I expected too much of your pitiful brain to recognize such an esteemed privilege. If you refuse, then I’ll let you choose the manner in which you will be punished. I warn you, I command a wealth of endless punishment. I could throw you into a swarm of hungry Hornets to drain you of every last drop of seed. I could also have a Mindflayer turn you into a bigger fool than you are now. Or I could hand you over to a barbaric Wurm to satisfy her own cravings. Or maybe I’ll punish you myself; personally. That said, maybe I shall let you choose your fate…” she firmly addressed me with a scornful glare. “…later”

Maybe I would have shit myself right there but despite her scowl, I think I saw a slight blush forming on her face?

“You’re not planning on having me replace that fancy dildo of yours, are ya?”

“Silence yourself, lest I rip out your tongue! You think I wish to taint myself with the scent of a man’s seed? Are you daft? I told you, those instincts have no hold over me! I am in control over any of those urges. The day I let a man soil my glorious self with his ejaculated essence, I’ll-“

“Your scales will be much more white than green” I cheekily joked.

“Shut up, you unsightly clown!”

“Need a guy to mix some of his baby batter into that Dragon egg omelet of yours, huh?” I continually teased.

“I said shut up! Stop trying to put thoughts in my head. Don’t mistake me for that harlot Demon who’s unmistakable scent I can still smell on you. And… there is also a curiously genteel scent on you. Likely a lamia”

Wow she’s good. Should be on a panel show.

“Hey! I’m not a man-whore. I haven’t hammered anyone”

“And you will not take me, you filthy animal. I don’t have those kinds of needs! I am in control! she said as she furiously shook me again.

Joking aside, I didn’t exactly believe her. Sure Dragons have the reputation of riding that “god complex” into the ground, but she is a mamano after all. And, of course, I’ve come to expect that kind of stuff from a mamano, especially after Veina drove into my head the notion that mamano have feelings for people they “spread” for. As if that fancy man-sausage wasn’t a dead giveaway. Though maybe that blush wasn’t because I stirred up an influx of hormones. This dame gobbles up fire like hot cakes. She probably always has a red face. Besides, I punched her in the face half as many times that I’ve been slapped by girls, not to mention all the other slapstick we’ve been through. And I wasn’t exactly wooing her with my finely tuned romance talk. A real turn-on, stud.

Although in regards to all this inadvertent foreplay, I found myself taking a quick glance at her fantastic body as she pinned me down. A glance that she was quick to take offense to and wack me in the chin.

“Don’t gaze upon my body with your filthy eyes. Unless you want me to claw them out” she blustered… through a hard blush.

Through some clever deduction, I decided it was best to avoid admiring her ‘hard’ work from then on.

Unfortunately for her, I’d already gotten the image of her chiseled yet sensuous body hovering over mine burned into my memory. The way her thick and powerful legs clung my waist. The way her breasts- Fuck! Cut out that shit, moron.

But it was too late. That was enough to feel a certain part of me start to grow. I hope she didn’t notice. Otherwise she might rip that out too. Yeah then she can retire that other dildo of hers.

“If you’re not looking for attention, mounting my lap is sure the darnest way to hold someone down. And your tail wrapping around my leg isn’t because I need a knee brace”

My little epiphany caused her menacing glare to melt away.

“So I am…” she bafflingly admitted upon me forcing her to self reflect. She thought for a few moments then fired back, “Alright, what spell did you put on me now? Remove it!”

So that’s her conclusion?

“You mean remove my pants, don’t you?” I egged her on, simply for my amusement.

“Don’t twist my words!”

“You don’t date much, huh? Why don’t you skip a day at the gym and work on your romance skills?”

She delivered a firm but non-bruising smack across my face. And here I thought I only brought that out in women back on Earth. “I will never consider you a lover. You’ll never be more than a pet in my eyes. Now sit still and be quiet or I will have to silence you… again. I need to figure out what I’m going to do with you”

Oh, I think I get her plan now. By “silence” she meant knocking me out again. Then she could drop that bloated ego of hers and… go nuts. With no witnesses. Geez, I hoped she didn’t do anything already. Fuck me. Oh shit, that too!

And it didn’t exactly take my college education to figure out that this bitch did not look like she was in a lovey dovey mood. If I had to guess, she was just looking to take out some frustrations after a rough day at the office. Now see? This is exactly what the kind of ‘fuck em and forget em’ shit I suspected mamano of. I was just a piece of meat to play with then throw him to the wolves like a used… boner. Hell, she actually could throw me to a pack of Werewolves as punishment for not being her slave. Her calling me a “worthy opponent” probably just meant that we wouldn’t have to make a safe word during our bedroom role-playing game. In that case, how about I assume the role of a hostage… with a lack of Stockholm syndrome?

I had to get out of here. Now!

It was then we heard a sharp sound from the other room near the cave entrance. Her ears pricked up as she stared toward the entrance to her lair. She was suddenly on full alert.

“Wait here” she sternly ordered me before she nimbly climbed off of me and hurried to the other room and disappeared. I could tell by her walk that she was still hurting.

Ever the asshole, I ignored her and proceeded to get to my feet. I also used the opportunity to stretch out and survey the damages. Better than I was before but I still could use a vacation. My various cuts were patched up and from what I could tell, nothing was broken, miraculously. But deep bruises and sprains? Those I had a large surplus of. Just more injuries to write about in my novel.

I eagerly went about recollecting my weapons, coat, dagger, and other gear. And I very eage- no, gleefully reclaimed my original series armor. Interestingly, I found it now polished and sparkly. This Dragon does good work. I’ll have be sure to give her a generous tip. Like a jar of Tabasco sauce. Boy it felt great to be back in style. At last, I was complete again.

It wasn’t long after I fully suited up that I heard the unmistakable sounds of laser fire, followed by a few explosions. I could see lights flashing in the other room. Oh no. Oh fuck no. Could it be…

I scurried to the other room as I reloaded my weapons, ready to defend my broken ass. What I found as I peered around the corner was sucky, to put it mildly. The Dragon laid wounded on the ground with eight Skarliks training their smoking guns on her. If she looked uneasy before, she now looked like she was knocking on Death’s door. From what I could tell, she must have been hit with an energy grenade then curb-stomped with suppressive fire to the point of near death. This group of Skarliks looked like a recon group that happen to be passing by. Scouting and salvaging whatever they could. And I damn well knew that this Dragon didn’t take too well to them entering her cave. She never quit though; continuing to bravely growl and threaten them even in the face of defeat.

I couldn’t understand their native tongue but Skarliks being Skarliks meant that they were here to pillage the place. That also meant that they would inevitably come my way. I still had the element of surprise, so if I played this smart, I could ambush them as they came through. But if I waited, they would probably kill the Dragon. That might actually bode well for me, as it would let me escape her “punishment”… and then some. A straight up fight with the Skarliks wouldn’t tip the odds in my favor, so it was tempting. But fuck me, Sateen’s words came back into my mind. Hell they never really left. This Dragon was arrogant, but she only defended her home and had shown me mercy despite my intrusion. She wasn’t inherently evil, per say. Besides that, it was me that got her into this situation. It was probably the sound of our battle that echoed through the mountains and drew these rats to the cave. It was also me that wounded her to the point that she could no longer defend herself properly. And this time, it was eight on one.

You selfish son of a bitch. What are you going to do? You won’t be able to live with yourself if you take the bench but a head to head fight with the Skarliks is suicide. You’ve only got some handguns, a few elixirs, and no reinforcements like usual. How do you plan to win?

By making a teammate.

One Skarlik approached the Dragon, ready to deliver the killing blow. Before he could make it to her, I fired a potion from my slingshot. It shattered against her and engulfed her body in flames. “I catch you fuckers at a bad time?” I hissed at the Skarliks. Knowing that my cover was blown, I began firing on the Skarliks but missed. What a surprise, they immediately responded by firing back and taking cover. I also ducked behind a rock and tried to return fire. Difficult with eight guns firing on you and no room to maneuver. Damn I felt like hell. Sure I was able run now but a few hours of rest is not what you would call attentive care. I wouldn’t last too long. But I just needed to hold out until my plan went into effect.

Just as I had hoped, the roaring fired died down as the Dragon absorbed the flames into her body. Once all the flames were gone, she burst into the air. Her scales had healed as they radiated small flames, matching the ones in her eyes. Good she was ready to rock and roll again. That was my apple to her for the day, now make these Skarliks go away.

“Now you will feel my wrath!” she roared before she sped toward a Skarlik like a missile smashing straight through the rock two Skarliks were hiding behind and right into one of them hard. The Skarlik was flattened onto the ground before he even got off a shot. The impact was so big, it left a huge indent in the ground. Well, one down. Without hesitation, she bolted to the other Skarlik, tanking his shots before violently slashing his throat and torso in a combination of slices with her claws. With a powerful backflip, she caught him with a, literally, sharp kick to the face. I could see his bluish blood splashed from his body as he fell backwards; dead.

She couldn’t react fast enough before a Skarlik’s impact frag hit her and detonated in a blast of blue energy. Despite her boost in power, the bomb knocked her back and wide open for another attack. That left me as her backup. While they were distracted, I had already begun to move from my cover to a better angle. As soon as I had a clear shot at one of them, I took it, nailing him in the head before he turned around.

Three down.

Next, the leader Skarlik ordered a grunt to flank me. There wasn’t a clean shot but I knew he was moving toward me. At last I could see him coming around the corner. But before I could fire, I suddenly felt something ram into my back, forcing me to the ground on my stomach. I felt my guns pulled from my hands before I was pulled up with a big meaty arm around my throat. Fuck me, another Skarlik had managed to sneak up on me while I spied the other Skarlik, who by now had rounded the corner. He called out to the Dragon to get her attention while I was held at gunpoint.

The Dragon stopped her assault on the other three Skarliks as her eyes widened with shock and dread upon realizing my predicament. “On your knees, monster!” the leader shouted as his men trained their guns on her. The bewildered Dragon hesitated in making her next move as she glanced back and forth between me and the other Skarliks.

Great, I still ended up playing a hostage after all. But I wasn’t too good at that role. I couldn’t let her surrender this fight. So without drawing too much attention, I slid out my knife that I had hidden up my sleeve instead of my belt and jabbed it into my captor’s stomach. He grunted in pain and released me. Then I quickly turned around and jabbed the knife into his chin, killing him instantly.

Next I leaped toward the other Skarlik and cut his wrist to de-arm him. Even though it worked, he lashed out and scored a hard right hook and tackled me to the ground. This son of a bitch knew what he was doing as he twisted the dagger in my hand back toward my throat. I did what I could to halt the dagger from giving me a new airhole, but it was still closing in on me. I didn’t have the strength to fend him off. Shit, I’d take a Naidy shave over this.

The dagger was about two millimeters from my throat before it was abruptly whisked clean away along with the Skarlik. With a huge sense of relief, I looked up to see the Dragon had yanked the bastard off of me. “I grant you the gift of flight” she snarled. And with one huge thrust, the motherfucker went airborne. He flew in a straight line right out the cave entrance and presumably onto the waiting rocks far below.

Five down.

“Stop pretending to be injured. I’ve done worse to you than that. Now get up and fight!” she scolded me before taking to the air again and back into the incoming fire. For once, I followed orders and got up. Quite a motivator isn’t she?

As I looked around for my guns, I noticed the Skarlik leader yelling at his comrades in his own native tongue again. Now I only know English and bad English but that wasn’t fooling me. I knew he was signaling for a retreat. Cowardice transcends all languages. But I couldn’t let him leave…yet.

As the two other Skarliks held off the Dragon with more impact frags and gunfire, I made my move on the chicken-shit leader. Jumping on his back, I held on tight with one arm as I reached into my coat with the other and pulled out a prototype tracking device that I’d scrambled together. I really didn’t think I would be needing it when I came up here but expect the worst and prepare for the worst, then you’ll never go disappointed. Okay the last part wasn’t true.

His armor had a good, tight spot to wedge my tracker into. Lovely, finally something to make my life a little easier. After setting the bug in place, I loosened my grip, which he was quick to take advantage of as he knocked me off with an elbow to the side of my head. Ouch. If only I could have killed him now.

I rolled back behind a rock before he could fire on me. And thankfully, he didn’t come after me. Instead, he abandoned his allies and ducked out of the cave. Covertly I followed him. Emerging into the sunlight once again, I peered over and saw the creep making his getaway. The Skarliks had set up a zipline that reached down to the base of the mountain. The son of a bitch had already begun to descend his slimy ass down the zipline. Yeah and leave behind a slime trail for me to follow with my tracker.

I reentered the cave and went to retrieve my weapons. Afterwards, I turned toward the Dragon and confirmed that she had the situation well under control. As she held one ravaged Skarlik by the neck, she turned toward the second downed Skarlik who was about to desperately lob another explosive at her. Like with me, she caught on to their tactics quickly. With all the power of a napalm bomb, she unleashed a wave of firebreath at the hapless Skarlik before the bomb even left his hand. The fire was so hot and bright that I had to cover up. It made Earth’s fourth of July feel like a firecracker. Once it died down, I looked to see nothing but a trail of fire along with a pile of ashes where the pile of shit Skarlik used to be. How about that? She wasn’t joking earlier. I guess he got more than a puff.

In a much less flashy finale, she gripped the last Skarlik’s head and gave it a hard twist. I could hear the hardwood-like snap sound clear as day. Primitive but classical.

Seven down, but that’s game.

“Did you finish off the last one?” she requested, the fire not dying down in her eyes.

“You bet; I knocked his ass off the cliff. Gave him the chance to find out if his friend survived the fall” I lied. Okay that’s a lousy course of action but I needed him alive. At least alive long enough to lead me to the others. Apparently, that camp that I redecorated either had survivors or not all of the Skarliks were there at the time. And with my portal tracker destroyed, I didn’t have any other way to try and find the rest of them. That was my only chance.

“Hmmph” she grunted arrogantly. “Perhaps I should have let one of them live. To send a message to his people that I am not to be  crossed. That their ignorance in the face of my awesome power proved costly indeed. Their scribes would spend generations telling stories about my legendary prowess…”

Wow. Bet this chick would want royalties for telling campfire stories about her.

“I guess your message is already en route” I whispered under my breath. She was too busy honoring herself to notice.

“But if those barbarians ever return to my sacred lair…”

“I know, I know. You’ll gobble down a couple of campfires and put on your own little light show” I sneered sarcastically as wandered off to start my routine ritual of scavenging for gear.

“Perhaps I overestimated you. Even as divinity stands before, you still can’t resist your own bottom-feeding lifestyle” she said, expressing her disdain for my looting.

“When opportunity knocks…” I mused as I administered my ‘dry cleaning’ services to the dead Skarliks. “You should know”

No response. Hehe.

While there wasn’t much to salvage from the Skarliks who were crushed, incinerated, or escaped, I did get a nice little nest egg of equipment from the other bodies. Unfortunately, the Dragon was so badass that they blew through a lot of their load in trying to stop her. My takeaway was three impact bombs, two radios comms, two more batteries, a bag full of miscellaneous tools and tech, and four ammo clips. Frustratingly, their ammo wasn’t compatible with my sidearms, so I had no choice but to use their weapons, at least until they ran out. So I only took two of their handguns. I wouldn’t want to have to haul around six handguns, right?

“Good news; I have some more assholes that you can strip the armor from” I called to the Dragon. As long as I got to keep mine, she could skin them and turn them into bed sheets for all I care. She could use them.

The Dragon said nothing, so I continued frisking the last Skarlik. Any little trinkets I found I stuffed into the bag. Even if this guy had a pack of gum, I’d take it.

I was so preoccupied that I didn’t even hear the Dragon walk up on me before she spoke. “So who are they?” she questioned in a stoic voice.

“No clue, greenie. But they’re still good for a little charity” I scoffed.

“You are quite a trickster, but you are not fooling me with your lies, clown.” she hissed back, causing me to look up at her. With her arms crossed she shot me an evil eye. She looked like a parent who caught their kid browsing on a porn site. “Talk”

“Well we both fought them just now. Why should I know any more than the mighty Dragon?”

“Don’t insult my intelligence, human. You believe I didn’t take notice of how you battled them? You knew their tactics and countered them accordingly. And it’s no coincidence that your weapons mirror theirs. I should know. So perhaps you’d care to tell me as to why you are securing their stolen weapons next to yours instead of placing them in the bag with the other stolen goods?”

My jaw slacked and my eyes went blank. Fuck, maybe I was wrong to call her a lizard-brain.

“Tell me who they are… now” she ordered with an even more demanding tone.

Well, that cat wants out of the bag. But let’s just give it a peak.

I sighed heavily. “Alright, broad strokes. They’re bastards; bastards from far across the land, as am I. And if you couldn’t tell, they’re not into exchanging new cultural ideas. They never give, they only take. And if you see another one, you should kill it. Like I’m off to do right now. Get it, Miss Komodo?”

Hey I wasn’t lying… completely.

“I told you not to mock my intellect. I’m aware you are not telling me your whole story. You clearly have secrets that you are hiding”

“Yeah, well my business is my business, as nasty as it may be. I’m not happy about it”

“A degenerate like you feels the need to stop them? They likely have vast numbers over you. Are you not afraid?”

“Doesn’t matter if I shit my pants. Call it a sense of duty or just plain dumbass syndrome, I don’t give a shit. It’s a messy job, but someone’s got to do it. If not, there’s going to be a repeat of what happened here, except on a much larger scale. But what do I know? I’m a fool, remember? So what does it matter if I get myself killed? Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got my own fucking battles to fight. And if you still want to have another throw down for this armor of mine, then fine. I’ve got plenty of ammo. If not, just stay the fuck out of my way” I asserted boldly. The seriousness in my demeanor took her off guard. At least I hoped it did.

We glared at each other for maybe ten seconds, with neither of us backing down nor breaking eye contact. I was determined to hold my ground against her. This, despite my smaller size. Kinda hard to look intimidating when my face barely passed her bountiful chest.

Isn’t this mean-spirited staring contest where we came in?

Finally, I decided to stomp past her and hit the road before things heated up again. Before my badass exit was complete, I was abruptly stopped by her clawed hand on my shoulder from behind. Turning to her, I saw that her hard glare had softened into a more inquisitive stare.

Again, we stared each other down for several seconds, except she didn’t look as authoritary as she did before. Even I lost more and more of my confrontational fire as more and more awkwardness built up.

“Where does your strength come from, human?” she asked, thankfully shattering the uncomfortable silence.

“What?”

“Don’t misunderstand me, maggot. You are the most disrespectful, nefarious, vile, contemptible, classless, brash, low-life scoundrel I have ever seen”

I leave quite an impression, don’t I?

“Please, don’t hold back for my sake-” I sarcastically said.

“But… you possess a strange form of conviction”

“So? What’s it to you?”

“Are you daft? I already told you that honor means everything to a Dragon. We live for it. And we know it better than even the Demon Lord herself. But you are quite puzzling. I didn’t expect any kind of moral compass from a degenerate like you. The fact that I sense the spirit of a warrior within you baffles me”

‘Warrior’? Soldier sure, but I’m no warrior. I don’t have a speedo or boots made out of beast fur and my hair is too short.

“Don’t be so over-dramatic” I scoffed.

“Do you question my judgement? A Dragon never mistakes a warrior’s spirit. I sensed it in your mana as I bandaged your wounds from our duel. It’s… quite strong”

Oh yeah. She probably got a whiff of my smelly ass mana as she patched up my… hey! Maybe she did actually grope me when I was out!? What a perv.

“Well I did win the ‘Sexiest Man of Gamberton’ contest this year” I boasted though only in a joking manner.

“Is that so, hum-, uh, well that means nothing to me” she stuttered. “Stop joking! The strength of a warrior is nothing to laugh at. I’ve seen mercenaries run in the face of such daunting odds. Yet you wouldn’t abandon your cause, even in the face of death”

“Okay, okay. So I’m a warrior. The next Hakutaku I meet, I’ll get it tattooed onto my chest, alright? You’ve made you point. I’m strong as all hell”

“Well, strong for a mere human. You should know that you are merely a spec of dust compared to the strength of a Dragon”

Oh boy. And here I thought Veina was competitive.

“And even though I had to rescue you from death, I still respect your bravery in assisting me defeating these monsters”

That hurt as much as her punches did.

“‘Assist’? I also saved your hoity-toity ass too”

“I had it under control, you miscreant”

“Yeah right. Don’t forget that I took you to the limit all by myself”

“Ha!” she bellowed in a pompously mighty laugh. “You’ve finally amused me with your repartee. Perhaps I injured your head more than I thought if you truly believe that you almost beat me” she blatantly belittled me. “However I will admit that you have outshined most other insignificant humans that have challenged me, as minuscule an accomplishment as it is. Though your tricks and disparaging tongue were quite infuriating. I… I was actually considering killing you” she admitted begrudgingly.

Was that a compliment?

“Uhhhh, okay… You wouldn’t be the first”

“Don’t compare me to common street scum you’ve no doubt shared company with, human. Most who challenge me are not worth my time of the day. Barely even worth remembering. You should be honored that I even considered your skills in combat. As meager as they are, they nearly granted you a most honorable death at my hands”

Yep, it was a compliment. Sort of.

“Yeah, it would have looked great on my tombstone. Somehow, I wasn’t too thrilled when you tried to rearrange my body like Mr Potatohead”

“You blabbering nitwit. You still believe that was me actually trying to kill you? I merely wanted to beat you into submission; to have you grovel at my feet while begging for mercy. I may have administered some discipline but I assure you that you haven’t seen even half of my true power. If you did bear witness to my wrath, you would have been reduced to a quivering mass of flesh long ago. In truth, you are quite infuriating. Although, I found it quite challenging to have to restrain myself for your sake. If we’d met at another time and another place, I likely would have demonstrated my true power” she cautioned balefully.

Point taken.

Sateen was right. This scaly gal really didn’t want to go all Godzilla when she’s in her lair.

“Well with my natural charms, I usually find plenty of death threats in my inbox. So what stopped you, if you’re so butch? Why would you hold back?” I questioned her.

The animosity quickly disappeared from her face as she then averted her eyes from mine. Interesting. Makes me want to probe deeper.

“You don’t like to kill humans, do you?” She answered with a shake her head. How about that? She Hulk here has a soft spot. “You’ve got a horde of treasure. I thought you’d have to kill so many gold-diggers that you’d have furniture made out of skulls”

“Killing is… too barbaric. There’s not much pride to be gained or sport in killing beings so much weaker than us Dragons. There’s nothing to prove in it. However with the Order still maintaining power, battling mankind is inevitable for us Dragons. In war, there will most certainly be human blood on the hands of a Dragon. So to uphold our honor, we seek the strongest enemies to battle. Besides war, humans are greedy enough to unwisely challenge us for our treasure. Such insolence is not to be tolerated. We Dragons may dispose of them as strictly as we please. But never by slaughtering. Killing humans is just… wrong” she mused.

Interesting indeed.

“Maybe working for the Demon Lord has something to do with it”

“Demon Lord? Dragons answer to no one but others of our kind. We are not concerned with the Demon Lord’s problems. Nor do we share her vision between humans and mamano. Unlike her and her kin, we are not desperate to satisfy our genitals with a man’s shameful essence, like a thirsty whore. No. Our alliance with the Demon Lord is driven purely to better our skills and for the rewards of conquest. To claim more treasure for our own. And our service is not without compensation. Yes, our price is quite heavy indeed. We demand offerings to add to our horde if we are to consider aiding her”

And we’re right back to that damn horde again. And she calls me a mercenary?

Capitalism, kids. Get used to it.

But that still begs the question.

“You say you don’t prefer to kill. But I noticed that you took care of these bastards without much hesitation” I interjected into our little psychiatric session.

“This was different! They were clearly not humans. Nor were they even remotely willing to communicate before they attacked. I sensed no humanity in them. And I… I… strangely, I felt more… protective. To defend my home and its contents”

‘Contents’? Funny how she didn’t just say ‘treasure’ or ‘horde’. Oh well.

“‘Strange’ is putting it mildly. You whip my ass, then patch me up, then call me disgusting after mounting me, then murder these creeps only to confess that murder isn’t really your thing”

I’m no psychiatrist but the word “bipolar” comes to mind.

“I’ve trained my mind to never be clouded by such nonsense. Though even with such discipline, one can slip up from time to time. Like earlier…” she muttered. She may be honest, but I don’t think she wanted me to hear her.

“Oh, is that a fact?”

“I… just haven’t felt like myself since our duel. I didn’t even realize my behavior after I defeated you. But combat helps clear my mind. This battle has helped me gather my thoughts”

“I hope you’re not expecting this ‘slave’ to rub your talons while you relax” I retorted, fishing for an answer as to whether or not she’d made up her mind about what she plans to do with me.

Just let me walk out. Oh please just let me walk out of here.

“Don’t tempt me. You have angered me far worse than what should be tolerated. Despite my feelings toward murder, you most certainly deserve to be exterminated like the pest you are. However, count your blessings that I am feeling merciful. For defiling my body and treasure, I don’t expect someone like you to deserve my pardon. However, you have demonstrated your warrior’s spirit to me by standing by my side against these creatures. So I shall allow you to walk out of my sacred lair in one piece. Since you’ve muddied that troublesome armor once again with your undisciplined skills, I shall let you keep it. And I’ve wasted enough of my precious time on you and that tainted treasure. Besides… I want to be alone so that I may meditate in peace. I want you to leave… now!”

Look, whatever she does in private is her business. But after gathering some clues, I might call into question just how noble her private activities are.

Regardless, I could tell that she wasn’t bullshiting me; she actually did open up a bit back there. Strange. I had unloaded more than obscenities at this girl and now we had confided in each other like a fucking support group for marriage counseling. The whole thing baffled me, that’s for damn sure. And I’m not so sure she even knew why she felt the way she did. Maybe it was some kind of strange instincts regarding humanity. Something that she couldn’t really go against.

But if you think I wanted to help her sort out her little angsty dilemma, you’ve got another thing coming. She wants me to leave, I’m gone. She goes her way, I go my way. That’s one kind of therapy that I’m always on board for. I wish some of my breakups went that easily. Actually with all the fighting, this in fact did feel like some of my breakups.

Though despite all the bruises and insults, I kind of liked her. A bit full of herself, well okay really full of herself but she had a strange kind of morality and was admirably confident. Also, she could definitely back it up, unlike those bimbo cheerleader-types back on Earth. I knew first hand that this chick was tough as nails and had a mean swing. She also had a body just as badass as her bite. And she could decently trash talk as well. Yeah, so what if I found that hot in a woman?

But this wasn’t the time for admiration. There was shit to do.

“As long as you let me take back my armor, I’d be more than happy to leave. In fact, I’d gleefully skip my way out of here and back down the mountain” I touted cheekily.

For once she ignored my snarky nature and maintained her composure.

“You may keep that armor on one condition” she declared, causing me to cock a brow at her. “If you tell me your name, human”

I’m not signing any IOU.

“Call me Jason”

“Mmmhmm” she sighed with seemingly satisfaction before abruptly shifting back to a glare. “Don’t you dare tell anyone what happened between us after you woke up, Jason. If you do… I will find you” she threatened me as the fire in her eyes began to flare up yet again.

“It’s a date. And after round two, I’ll wake up in a Kikimora’s outfit, ready to help with your ‘Spring cleaning'” I teased.

If her antics earlier were anything to go by, she may actually want me to make more of a mess with me than clean the place up, if you know what I mean.

“Promise!” she roared.

“Alright! Fine with me” I agreed earnestly.

Despite my compliance, she held her usual contemptuous glare. I was growing more and more used to it but this time, I think I could see something deeper in her unwavering, reptilian eyes. They had slightly glazed over which in turn lost some of their hostility. Yeah, intensity was definitely still there but now I could see a slight bit of curiosity, not too different from what I had seen in Veina and Sateen. Great. I better wake her up from my mana-haze.

“What? You want to break my finger in a pinky swear?” I jabbed.

“Get out before I do, you vagrant!” she exclaimed after snapping out of her one-sided staring contest. I think I made her blush a bit.

“You got it, kiwi. But take my advice-“

“Enough of your acrid derision. My name is Karvale and you will address me as such.

“Fine, Karvale. But if you’re smart, you’ll find another cave. If these bastards do return, they will in greater numbers. Now I know you can handle yourself just fine, but… just consider the peaceful route. You might not be so lucky next time. And just… pretend that you never saw me. It’ll be better for you”

As I began exiting the cave, I heard Karvale coming up on me from behind again. Once I turned, she had already grabbed my shoulders and gazed into my eyes boldly. Just how many times were we gonna play this damn game?

“Listen carefully, human. I grant you the divine wisdom of a Dragon. You may possess conviction and courage, that is to be admired. But you are too stubborn and headstrong for your own good. I know a stubborn fool when I see one. It has brought you considerable trouble that you are fortunate to have avoided this time. But if you continue this path alone, you will also meet your demise… alone. Humans need companions for strength in their conquests, and so do you”

“You’re not exactly festival material yourself” I chimed back at her.

“That does not apply to us Dragons. We are mighty and all powerful. We need no assistance in pursuing our goals like you feeble humans do”

What a pompous, hypocritical bitch. But food for thought, if nothing else.

She then quickly delivered a stiff bump to my forehead with her palm. I grunted in the dull pain as she spoke. “Heed my words, Jason. I also ask you to think upon your self-inflicted isolation. Now on with your quest. And may the spirits of the Dragon ancestors be with you”

She then turned and promptly marched back into the cave.

I was too confused to start walking again. What the actual fuck was that about? You know what? Fuck it. Don’t even try to figure it out. Just get the hell out of here.

Finally taking my leave, I was excited not to have to drag my ass back down the mountain. Now I had a zipline straight back down to the base of the mountain. Man, now I’m really glad that I let that son of a bitch go.

After my well-deserved ride back down, I regrouped with my cart and set out on the hunt. I was gonna track this piece of shit straight to their toilet HQ.

I followed the signal down toward the South-West side of the mountains. New territory for me. On my gentle joyride, I took the time to patch myself up even more than Karvale did. When all she needed was to suck on a blowtorch to recuperate, her medical skills didn’t have much on Sateen’s sauna-like serpent half. But I also had much better medical gear than the inside of a cave could offer. Now I could really do some patching up. Well at least patch myself up to about sixty-five percent. Not ready to ‘storm the castle’ so to speak but maybe I could still storm a camp. Hopefully.

Karvale wasn’t blowing smoke up my ass. Maybe I should have gotten some help on my little crusade. Especially after what happened last time. I wasn’t at one-hundred percent and, despite my newly acquired weapons, they still were going to have me out-gunned. A few extra hands could go a long way.

Sounded good, until I remembered what world I was in. Veina already knew who I was and even that I considered too much. Luckily she seemed too selfish to blow the whistle on me and bring down other whistle “blowers” down on me. But if I went to others for help, then they start asking questions and drawing their own conclusions. Like how my world could help them eliminate the other side. I vowed not to help either side but I couldn’t let the Skarliks repeat history…

Too many questions, too many untrustworthy people on both sides, too many things for me to lose, and too many bad scenarios brewing in my pessimistic mind. So fuck em. I’m staying as anonymous as I can. It’s my problem to handle exclusively.

Didn’t Karvale accuse me of being headstrong? What ever could have made her think that? Stubborn bastard.

Even though I persisted on this, what did she call it? Oh yeah; “self-isolation”. Yeah that’s a pitiful way of putting it. Despite my stubbornness, I didn’t really put it behind me. That little voice in the back of my head continuously scolded my one member club mentality, so to speak. I can thank Veina for putting that voice there and now Karvale for making it louder. It’s enough to give me a headache.

Thoughts of Veina began to flood my mind, and not all of them necessarily clean. How the hell did she put up with this hard-head of mine? And how did I resist her for so long? The Demon Lord, that’s how. That’s who she works for. Specifically the Maou’s fucking radical daughter. Isolation or gambling with my free will. Those were my options. I’d come out looking like a fool either way, so I went with the lesser of two fools.

But it was becoming harder for me to see the line between right and dumb.

But getting back to business, I must have traveled for about three hours before the signal brought me upon a forest. Or at least I think it was a forest. However, it looked a round patch of foliage with a diameter about half as long as a football field. It was pretty dark within the fog-covered treeline, offering no way to see more than ten feet ahead. In contrast to the darkness, the trees were twisted into cartoonish shapes with even more outlandish colorations patched here and there. The sporadic pigments were bright and vibrant against the dark density of the forest. It sort of reminded me of…

Oh no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Not here. Anywhere but here. The one place that I hoped I’d never have to mess with. The place where all sense and reason, also self control, all drowned in a bottomless cup of artificially sweet tea…

Wonderland.

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7 thoughts on “Wormhole Ch.10”

  1. It lives! I always just forget about this fic when you update it.

    Onto the meat of the story; loved the fight with the dragon. Very tense, but still managed to keep a level of light heartedness. Loved the balance between the serious dialogue frame everyone else and Jason being… Jason. All we need is James Gunn to give us a soundtrack and it’s basically a Guardians of the Galaxy spin off starring Star Lord. Writing-wise I can’t find any particular flaws. No major grammatical errors or tense troubles, and no incorrectly used words- I’m a bit of a grammar nazi so that matters a lot more than you’d think to me.

    Still, you’d think Jason would tell her that the Skaarliks have more dangerous weapons than what that squad was packing. If she was able to be damaged by a single squad with infantry tools, then a full artillery barrage would definitely do her in. I mean, he doesn’t really care if she lives or dies, but it would be easier for him if she was willing to take them seriously as a threat and try to eliminate any that got near her territory. Kind of just use her as a way to kill them off when he can’t. Meh, that’s what I would do, but then again I’m way more pragmatic than he is.

    Nice to see you again bro. Hope you can post more.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, man. Yeah I also realized that Jason was kind of turning into Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy. I swear it was unintentional. But when I looked back on it, I was shocked. I had to be subconsciously doing it. But as long as he’s still enjoyable, that’s what matters to me.
      In terms of Jason telling her about the Skarliks, I agree with you but that’s what I’m going for. That’s why the Dragon lectured him like she did. Jason is too stubborn and doesn’t always make the best calls, such as in this case. He has flaws. He also doesn’t want to see her die which is why he said she should move. He has nobility, like she and Veina imply, it’s just buried deep. As of now, his stubbornness and self-isolation is problematic and deep down, he knows it. Don’t worry, though. I’m going somewhere with this stubbornness angle. But I can’t spoil it now.
      This was the longest and hardest chapter that I’ve worked on. But I don’t think that the next chapters will take as long to come out. So stay tuned.
      Glad you’re still enjoying it.

      1. Ah. A well-implemented character flaw. Now you have my attention. And please don’t say ‘I’m going somewhere with this’. It’s kinda obvious you are otherwise you wouldn’t be doing it. It’s a bit of a ‘show don’t tell’ thing that always irks me when I read stories where people say that about certain things. I know you are going somewhere with a thing, I’m just giving my opinion on how it looks at the moment.

        Apologies if I came off as rude, but it’s a big cliche that always ruins my suspense.

        1. Sorry, I’ll keep the show-don’t-tell in mind. But in my case, after seeing so many movies where characters do stupid shit or act foolishly but it goes nowhere, well I guess I get over-zealous to ensure that I don’t do the same. Thanks again.

  2. That was a pretty good fight, wonder how Jason would have stacked up with his proper gear? Did find it pretty funny that the fight happened because both Man and Dragon have people skills that if given a numerical ranking, would both get negative numbers.

    Wonderland is gonna be a ton of fun, looking forward to seeing how that turns out, and I wonder what Veina has been up to. I’m still waiting to see if and how they develop a real relationship, since despite being on jason’s side she’s not on humanity’s side.

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