Wormhole Ch.10 (Updated)


Author’s Note:

Don’t know how many people will read it but here is the revamped version of Wormhole Chapters 10 of 11. I’m getting ready for a release on other sites so I felt it had to be done. Chapter 12 will be coming soon.

Enjoy and comment. Even pointing out typos with your comments helps.

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Dammit, I ran into another stalactite sprouting up from the ground. I wish I could turn on my flashlight as I made my way through the cave, 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 but the cave lack just enough light to turn me into a Klutz. It was even more fun trying to stay stealthy whenever I stubbed my toe into a big ass rock or bump my face into a low-hanging stalactite. Man, did I want to break out the obscenities but I couldn’t. What a pain in the ass.

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

Now able to see clearly, I could see that the cave was actually pretty expansive. Kind of dome shaped at the top with lots of rock formations scattered about. The stalactites on the ceiling and on the ground reminded me of fangs, like they were ready to chew my tiny ass up.

And it wasn’t just dark inside here, it was cold as well; a small chilly breeze seemed to always be constantly embracing me despite not being outside anymore. Being armorless only made it worse. Then I thought back to that nice bed I left behind with that busty snake girl Sateen in it to snuggle up with. Sure, her embrace may not have been exactly toasty, but she would have been cozy to curl up with right now.

Fortunately as I ventured, something was gained. I found an old rusted armor gathering dust and cobwebs on top of a pile of other random pottery and objects. I had to kick a spider out of his home inside the chest but screw him, I’m going to need this more than he will.

The armor was composed of the torso piece, the gauntlets and the helmet. Well, my helmet beat the shit out of this crappy helmet, and the gauntlets didn’t fit me, so the hell with them. But at least the plated, chain mail torso armor would fit me good enough to cover my shoulders and hips. As complete as it may have been, it looked ugly as hell, just like all the other objects in the pile it was sitting on. That might explain why this haughty Dragon had left the junk out of her collection. At least there was no skeletons among the junk. There’s a relief.

Given the terrible shape it was in, this thing was probably 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. I damned my sense of fashion, that is if I ever had any to begin with, and slid the armor on. Dusty and uncomfortable, with a jagged piece digging into my side. Oh well, some of the best plans can be unpleasant. But then again, so can the bad plans.

Sure this dam thing was all but tuned up for war but at least it’s poor state didn’t make it too heavy to hinder my mobility. Pretty useless as it was, however, 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 was specifically designed to 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? I’d been told that the magic would last about twenty minutes or so; even less depending on how much abuse it would be put 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 then I could use it to sneak out like Solid Snake.

All this means is that time wasn’t on my side. Better try to end the fight as fast as possible.

Isn’t it sad that this plan was still the best option I had? 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 stir up some major shit.

While chilly, the cave was pretty dry, so my footsteps weren’t quite as loud. That was a nice little perk since I spotted some light rounding the corner. It was leading to another ‘room’, so to speak. Better keep “Metal Gear” in mind when I sneak into that room.

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 your ass all the way up here; braving the cliffs, dodging the Harpies, and probably shredded all the skin off of your hands. You’re not getting cold feet now are you? A little late, motherfucker.

What are you afraid of? She’s got claws, super strength, wings, teeth, and more firepower than you do. Okay, that’s a lot to shit your pants over, but you’ve got morale on your side this time… yeah try throwing that in She Hulk’s face in there. See how long it takes until she roles over dead. 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. And stop talking to yourself again, dumb shit.

I sneakily rounded the corner and looked around. With no one in sight, I walked in 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. Thank God. Torches were spread around the area, giving me the ability to see everywhere 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 a ton of menacing stalactites hanging from the ceiling, just waiting to give someone one hell of a tragic albeit hilarious 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 tip toe around to search for my armor. Maybe the Dragon wasn’t here. I’d have believed it if Lady Luck hadn’t put me on the blacklist for life.

Even with the smell of embers and cinders permeating through the cave, I could smell the carcass of a dead deer laying on a rock pile ‘table’ across the room near some smaller rocks and a small bonfire. How’s that for a dining room? I might end up lying on that table with an apple shoved into my mouth as the second course in a few hours.

The next thing to easily catch my eye was a shimmering light. Piled into a corner was a a huge pile of gold, jewels, and pretty much any other shiny trinkets you could imagine. It shined like an attention whore. So tempting isn’t it? The flashy 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. Regardless, you’re going to end up with one hell of a sore body.

Several elaborately decorated armors and weapons were neatly displayed nearby. It appears that she’s done this before. They all looked like knight’s armor completely assembled from head to toe, giving off the impression of a line formation of soldiers. There were no skeletons inside them, only mannequin-like stands. Again, there’s a relief.

Across the room from her bed pile laid a much smaller pile of dirty treasures. No kind of bling like the other pile. In the same area was a small stream of water drizzling into the room like a faucet. It must drain to somewhere outside. No bathtub in sight. Instead, there was a bucket, a torch, a pile of cloth materials, and two little stacks of treasures; one shiny like the big pile, one less so, like the smaller pile. It was then that I spotted part of my armor set; I’d know it anywhere. It was sitting in the shiny stack. Bingo. Rapture almost made me dash 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, was sitting right in between the two stacks with their back turned to me. They were busy cleaning up the dirty treasures until they sparkled bright enough to join the shiny stack and eventually the big pile. 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. Even at this distance, I could tell they weren’t a little pipsqueak that’d be easy for me to bully.

After I stopped in my tracks, I decided that I should go prone, sneak away to a hiding place, wait until they left or fell asleep, nab my armor, and then scram. I felt that was my best move. Would it have worked? Who knows. Either way, it was too late at that point. They perked up their head and stood up, dropping a piece of armor and the rag as well.

Well shit, there goes my element of surprise. No, I didn’t make any noise. I wasn’t sure 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 bodingly at full attention, immediately ready to intimidate its intruder.

It was a mamono and it was pretty easy to confirm that it was the Dragon that I’d been looking for. I’ve got to say, I was kind of taken aback at my first time seeing this kind of mamono. Overly hyping something can often fail to deliver on expectations, but, as much as I wished it had, this was not one of those cases. Like before, I noticed those big green wings, only now they were outspread ferociously. Scaly armor covered her forearms and hands with massive claws sprouting from the ends. They looked like they could turn metal into Swiss cheese. The same combat features applied to her shins and feet. She didn’t look to be wearing too much clothing. Her chest was covered by kind of a neck piece and transparent bra made out of fabric and claw-like green scales. It looked like another dragon was cupping her tits from behind her. A green, loincloth and claw-scale combo flowed from her hips, leaving her stomach and legs exposed. I’d seen enough armor in my life to know that the scales scattered across various parts of her body were as strong as steel.

Speaking of her body, holy hot damn. Talk about living up to her reputation of 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. The Jinko was second place for those keeping score. Her muscles bulged out on her ripped arms and legs like swelled fruit beneath her skin. Fuck, how many squats have those huge legs done? Those powerful abs of hers looked like a carton of eggs that you could grate cheese on. No amount of sit-ups could give a human a pack like that. Despite my preview earlier, I could only imagine how round and succulent her ass must be. No silicone or steroid manufactured muscle here; it was all natural. She was unbelievably defined but not like a freaky, broad-shouldered, steroid woman trying so desperately to change gender. My best description would be 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 any guy drool just by looking at her. This was especially true in the chest area. Man or woman, many eyes would turn green with envy. Oh boy. What a killer body.

Interesting choice of words, I must say. That wasn’t going to bode well for me ladies and gentlemen.

Ripping my focus off her smoldering sex appeal, my eyes shot up to toward her face… only to find other nubile features. Two scaly ears flared out from the sides of her head as well as two fierce horns protruding out from under her sugilite colored hair which draped down to her toned hips. Even in the dark, I could see her golden eyes shining as bright as any of her golden treasures. She was as breath-taking 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 extraordinary on the peepers. Great cheek bones and luscious lips perfectly complimented her pretty eyes… that were coincidentally glaring red hot daggers at me through her bangs.

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 foul sight?” she boomed 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.

I steeled my nerves and put my game face on for some pre-match trash-talk.

“Don’t recognize me?”

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

Wow. I guess mamono 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 with hers with no barrier protecting her from my slandering 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 along the road. 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 like a horny shithead” 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 like visiting the market place?”

“You Order mercenaries are without honor and humanity. The only way a disgusting dog like you could have acquired an armor of that caliber is to have stolen it. You’re unworthy to have it”

“I’m not a mercenary, Dragon” I guess in a way, I sort of am, but I’m still calling myself 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, roughshod brigade, I’d have brought a battalion of other meatheads fully equipped with trademark Order armor”

Beginning to wish I had brought an army with me.

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

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

“If you think I’m here to ass-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”

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 disregarded me with an insulting wave of her hand.

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

Her eyes popped with audacity.

“Do you not know who you are talking to? We Dragons make demands; not bow to demands. Especially not to a child like you”

And 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 fumed, restraining most of my anger. Considering that she was likely much stronger than that Amazon I shot up, I wasn’t too keen on spitting fire with someone who could actually spit fire.

“A puny human daring to threaten someone as mighty as I? Ha! I can’t tell if you are crazy stupid or brave. Though brave is unlikely. Someone with my skills shouldn’t waste their time on worthless adventure-seekers like you. That is 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, D-bag. You’re all smoke but no fire. And you know, a horde this big will get you buried by 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 rolled my eyes. “I’m saying that you’re horde is big enough as it is. You can part with some of it”

“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. My piss was at a boil.

“I’m not a goddamn charity worker. And you’re more of a cat burglar than any kind of a goddess”

“I am no cat, human!”

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

The Dragon’s eyes glared wide 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? I’m a Dragon. Do you not know what serious danger you’ve put your life in by insulting my race, boy?”

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

“I don’t give a shit if I caught you in the middle of shedding season. Talk is cheap. Now… let’s get serious, lizard-brain. 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, you over-stuffed sack of lizard shit” 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. My apprehension to facing off against a Dragon dissolved along with my sensibility. 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 blazed as bright as a Hellhound’s. “Leave… now…” she growled as she narrowed her eyes at me. She looked as if she was barely holding back the urge to launch at me like a bull. 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?”

“It’d be a shame to have to put you down but if it comes down to that, yes” I confirmed with a crack of my knuckles.

Just then, her wings spread to their full span and she balled up her clawed fists at her sides. Smoke began to trickle out of her like mouthful of Marlboros. “I warned you about stealing from a Dragon. Now you’ve sealed your doom” she said, voice filling with rage the longer she spoke.

My hands were already on my guns before she answered.

With one flap of her wings, she was airborne. Her armor scales expanded instantly to cover up most of her exposed parts, effectively entering “combat mode”. Her eyes burned, quite literally, with fury as her mouth really started firing up like a Balrog.

Negotiations are fucking over.

Taking the hint, I made a break for some nearby boulders and barely managed to hide myself from the incoming hellfire. 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’ I thought to myself. ‘Brilliant plan. Piss off the stronger, smoldering hot Dragon’. Hahaha but this is no time to laugh. As I mentally kicked myself for the crappy double meaning joke, the hottie looked ready to blow me away again. Oops, there’s another one.

Quickly, 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, if my hunch was right, her scales would make Kevlar look like a tuxedo. This definitely called for some heavy artillery.

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 take a massive divot out of solid steel. I’ll experiment with how much power I should use along the way. I hadn’t forgotten Sateen’s words about this grumpy Dragon. I didn’t want to kill her unless I had to. But when I say “kill” her, that was hypothetical. Because right now I’d be satisfied if I could manage to give 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 like I was in an after-school meetup with a bully who I didn’t let cheat off my algebra test. Although being so up close and personal to the hottest bully ever wasn’t without its perks. Her beautiful albeit piercing eyes glared at me. The fire in her iris’ lit up mine as she furiously held me by the collar. Her breath was warm and pleasant; like burning charcoal in a campfire. Figures, because she seemed ready to turn my ass into a roaring, or rather screaming, campfire. 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 was one hell of a bombshell.

But her smolder wasn’t going to derail me this time. She underestimated me, so don’t waste the opportunity. Immediately, I threw caution to the wind and activated one of my prototypes; an old armored gauntlet. Some wiring, some mechanisms, and that Dark Mage’s special gunpowder-Hellhound cocktail I had whipped up amounted to this world’s first ever concentrated nitroglycerin fist. It should be handled 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.

With one swift motion, I delivered a sharp body-blow to her gut. What followed was a concentrated explosion, causing the Dragon to yowl out in pain and send her tumbling back about seven feet, right on to her ass. Maybe she should consider some scales on that “non-scaly” ass of hers.

I looked down and thankfully found that I still had my arm, so I could still give her the double-bird if I had to. And even my gauntlet was still in tact for round two. Good craftsmanship on my part. The explosive impact from the glove was just small and controlled enough so that the only one that felt the burn was my hot-headed adversary.

‘How’s that for a field test?’, I thought to myself.

The Dragon groaned as she started getting back to her feet. Now that we’ve sized each other up, she knew she was in for a 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. This was going to be an uphill battle so that’s all the optimism I could muster up right now. How pathetic.

Not even close to surrendering under my firestorm, 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.

God, 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 fourteen feet into the wall. Honestly, she was just returning the favor; fair enough. Inside I rejoiced to the pearly gates that I was able to pull myself up with little effort; my body still in less than two pieces. My armor was also still in one piece and giving off a bit of a sparkle. Oh tickle me and call me ‘Spanky’, I owe that Dark Mage a tall one, actually two tall ones. This potion worked better than I thought. Don’t get me wrong, that punch still hurt like hell but it was no worse than a dumb move in a bar fight with a three-hundred pounder. Nothing I couldn’t handle. For a little while anyway.

“Your magic won’t save you, mage. I’ll break that armor yet” she bellowed, probably noticing my armor’s ability to emulate her scales’ shine and how it lacked that run-over tin can look.

She thinks I’m a mage? So be it. Who says you need to wear crescent moon pajamas and a dunce cap in order to use magic?

“That’s what you get for underestimating me, princess” I cursed arrogantly. “Want to give up now or should I tear off your tail? That way you’ll have something to go fuck yourself with”

Her surrendering? Now that’s wishful thinking on my part.

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

Go figure that she wouldn’t throw in the towel that easily. But I can dream, can’t I?

“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. It was some crossbow parts that I modified into a little contraption which allowed me to load my elemental potions and launch them like a gun; vile and all. In a swift move, I fired a potion at her. She instinctively braced herself as the vile shattered against her arms in brown liquid. She couldn’t even chew me out before the liquid began engulfing her whole body and swelling up into solid rock. Within seconds, she was fully covered in clamps of rock. Looked like a emperor-sized Baby Ruth 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’ll just leave her a note with my wise-crack on it. I breathed a sigh of relief as I figured I could now reclaim my real armor and beat it before the stuff wore off.

However, I hadn’t even taken ten steps before a sharp cracking sound reached my eardrums. Dammit to fuck, I hoped that wasn’t what I thought it was. Turning around I saw an ever growing crack forming on newest geological addition to the cave. Son of a bitch. It appears like I didn’t get her stoned enough.

There was a piercing burst, accompanied by a furious and familiar roar. The rocks burst apart in all directions, including in my direction. Naturally covering my face had prevented me from seeing her flying in and ramming me against the wall. “I too have many surprises” she hissed before she swung me off the wall and drove her fist into my chest again. Eighteen feet later, I was coughing hard and flat on my back. As I sat up, she pounced and took me into her claws. There was no way of knowing what was happening as she carried me into the air where she promptly tossed me down about fifteen feet to the unforgiving Earth below. I crashed flat on my back, bouncing from the impact.

Ow. Just… ow.

Armor or not, my body was starting to feel enough of the pain. However, it would have been much worse without it. So yay, a little more optimism from me.

With what wind I had left in my chest, I had just managed to roll over enough to spot an incoming light. The light at the end of the tunnel? Fat chance. It was a fireball… balling it’s way toward me. Great. Time for me to suffer a sick burn…

Gathering 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. Once again, the impact sent me rolling but I managed to catch myself on my hands and knees to skid myself to a stop. The impact was worse than the flames, 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 did those knights defeat those dragons in the fairy tales in their quest for pussy? I could use all the help I could get.

This time, I saw her charging down at me like a missile. Fighting through my increasingly aching body, I took aim and nailed her with a few shots 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 in pain but forged ahead blindly, giving me a chance to dive out of the way in time. She 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.

With as much momentum as I could, I rushed her put my weight behind a gauntlet blow to her stomach. Despite my efforts, she wasn’t caught off guard as the blast didn’t throw her back this time. But it, nonetheless, still did some damage and left her staggered. Following up, I slid in close and concentrated six shots to the same spot right on her abdomen. My shots dug deep into her scales but not deep enough for me to see her skin. And no, it wasn’t because I wanted another look at those chiseled abs. I wanted to make a weak spot that I could exploit. If I was starting to hurt, I wanted to make damn sure that she was too.

But unfortunately, she retaliated faster than I expected and lashed back at me with her claw. The intensely vicious swipe could have taken my head off like a cork but it streaked across my armor and knocked me backwards. She proved that her muscles weren’t just for show with a vicious combo of slashes and strikes with her clawed hands and feet, gracefully yet efficiently exerting her fighting prowess on me like a UFC champ. She didn’t do any favors for my magicless helmet-visor, which offered only some protection against her onslaught.

Maybe I would admire her skills if I wasn’t on the receiving end.

Well, we’ve already established that my magic armor was tough and kept my core relatively protected, but it wouldn’t last forever and as a result, I’d get more worn down over time. And when she occasionally caught me in my less protected areas, like my biceps or thighs, the pain only served to speed up the process. The last thing I wanted was the humiliation of dropping before the magical warranty on my armor expired.

“Fist fight, eh? Well game on, you fiery fuckered floozie!” I snarled as charged back at her.

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. “On your right!” I shouted. I almost yelled ‘combo breaker!’ instead. My hit, however, didn’t daze her as much as I had wished it would have, nor did it completely stop her return strikes. Well, guess what? I wasn’t going to stop either.

And just like that, we were off and running into a fisticuff flow, dodging and countering each other’s attacks as best we could. As my strategy goes when I fought a bigger opponent, I stayed a bit more on the defense against her. She was obviously bigger and stronger than I was, even with my weapons, but speed was also on her side… only slightly though. Not even getting stuck in the face broke her form. Absolutely at the top of her game. I was putting everything into my strikes when I had the chance, hopelessly wanting each hit to be the one that dropped her.

But strangely, in between us both getting whacked in the head, I got this feeling that she was kind of holding back. Oh, she was pissed and definitely wasn’t giving me love-taps, but she already showed how much she dwarfed me in raw power. With that still fresh in my mind, and body, it was a mystery as to how I was staying on my feet against her attacks. While nonetheless unpleasant, she kept her focus on slashing my armor rather than my exposed flesh or using pure blunt force to send me flying like it did before. This was the better alternative. Here, I could at least stay on my feet and give as good as I got. Well, give some of what I got.

It could have been the magic on the armor, I suppose. Because why wouldn’t she be painting her cave red with my brains by now? But that wasn’t all. The other reason I was able to keep pace with her offensive was because of my gauntlet and guns. I kept alternating between my power glove and gun-kata to keep her mind guessing on which attack was coming next. The faith I put into my weapons was happily well placed. It worked pretty well in damaging her, especially when I was able to fake her out and score a solid hit to the target on her stomach, causing her to wince harder than before.

In the long run, I held my ground. Until my gun ran out of ammo. My reaction was what you’d expect.

“Aww shit…” I squeaked while out of breath.

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

Upon hearing my weapon 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, folks. Anyway, her attack shot me clean across the room before I crashed into the wall, practically leaving a cartoonish indent.

There’s that blunt force I wished I’d never had to feel again.

The deafening impact caused my helmet visor to begin flickering. ‘Come on, gear. Don’t crap out on me now’ I thought. But being realistic 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, long ago, I lost track of how much longer the magic on my armor might be 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 its shit out and lowandbehold, it worked. Oh no, she split into five Dragons. How the hell did- Huh? Oh wait, that’s just the mountain air playing with me like before. Now don’t start that again.

Once the illusion off, I got a fairly clear image of the ceiling. Then I glanced back down to see the big bitch walking toward me. Holy shit. She was actually panting… sort of anyway. Even better, she was trying to hide the fact that she was slightly favoring the part of her stomach that I had strategically targeted. Yes! Call me a shark, because I smell a bloody snack.

My enthusiasm aside, I was panting heavier and favoring my injuries more than she was. So I didn’t see a reason to feel that upbeat, but I didn’t see a reason to quit either.

“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.

At last. I always wanted to be the class clown, instead of the class ass.

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 party trick before he had to reload.

After I made a quick adjustment to my gun’s settings, I answered. “Alright, I surrender. How about I raise my hands?” I chimed in a wheeze as I raised my arms with my gun in hand.

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

Clearly, 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.

“Sure, I’ll drop something, firefly” 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 directed upwards. It cut into the massive rock, splitting it from its foundation, and letting gravity deliver it on the hapless Dragon below. I should get an achievement for that well placed shot.

Echoing with a thunderous crash, the stalactite shook the cave as it landed on the Dragon. It was a badass moment, but I wasn’t going to fool myself. That rock was only twice as big as she was. This chick wasn’t going to be defeated by something as trivial as a giant rock. I’d need to drop the rest of the mountain on her before delivering a victory speech.

Not wasting any time, I quickly ran to the back of the Dragon pancake and waited. Seconds later, 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 as her eyes jumped about trying to find that ‘slimy rat’. Before she found me, 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 notion, again, was a dream itself. Her scales had no give in them whatsoever under my strength. Try as I might, she was too strong and solid to effectively halt the circulation to her brain. Seriously, I felt like I was rock-climbing again. It was hard to hang on, especially since she started thrashing around.

Haven’t I been in this piggy-back spot before? Well, Giddy-up.

“Get your wretched hands off me, you insect!” she grunted as she swung me around. In the commotion, I felt her tail latch onto my leg.

“Just go… the fuck to… sleep and I’ll… be gone… when you… wake… up!” I cried as I was jerked around. Even if her claws were too thick to dig in between my bicep and her neck, she was putting up a hell of an effort to buck me off. Her thick wings brushed hard against my back, her tail yanked down almost to the point of pulling my pants down, and the back of her skull butted me in the forehead. That’s good, because I’d rather have her head hit me than her two horns gouge into my eyes. With all this, I barely managed to hang on to this rodeo. If her own efforts to pull me off wasn’t putting such strain on her own neck, she would easily have been able pull me off and toss me aside like that stalactite. I’d be impressed with my smarts 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 launched us both into the air. It took me a moment to realize that we had left the ground, but when I did, I felt my heart shrink into a pea. I clenched her even tighter. My heart was beating so hard, she might mistake it for me punching her from behind. I might have screamed if given enough time before we were soaring around the cave.

I held on for dear life. One nasty fall was good enough for me, much less being impaled on a stalactite on the way down.

You know, this would have been pretty fun under difference circumstances; like if I had a seat belt and was flying over some mountains instead of inside the mountains. I guess I never thought about how fun it would be to be able to fly. Now I get why so many people want to have flight as a superpower. I liked it, too. Maybe if I get out of this in three pieces or less, I’ll rent myself a Gryphon joyride… I mean the scenic joyride, not the other kind.

After 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 Star Fox “barrel roll”, I held on. With the next couple wall collisions, my grip loosened more each time. This plan failed, so I had to think of my next move before I departed.

Pulling my armed hand back, I repeatedly drove my gauntlet into the small of her back. Each blast sent so many sparks gushing into the air, you’d think we were cracking up in landing. Her flight faltered as she grunted in pain.

Not long after the most recent crash, she started dragging my body against the wall of the cave, causing plenty more sparks to grind off of my armor and helmet. My arm was pinned down against the wall, preventing me from punching her more. With no way to fight back, that finally got me to break.

Since were still flying at such high speed when she threw me off, I hit the ground at an angle and rolled until screeching to a slow before stopping as I hit a boulder. I thought I might have actually left a trench in the ground behind me.

Shit, I’ll make her pay for that… just as soon as I can move.

Lizard Lips had landed further away and began power-walking toward me with those volcanic eyes. 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.

Jumping to my feet, I quickly ran up a rock pile and around the back of the boulder for cover. At least from another fireball, that is. There was no point in trying to hide from her but survival, remember? My footing gave way as I staggered and fell into a small crevice, well hidden by the dark. Quick decision, so 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.

As I hoped, it wasn’t long before she stepped directly above me, still thinking I would be at her eye level. Sucker. Let’s show her what we do to suckers.

I was already primed to jump into action, so I sprang up and rammed my gauntlet into her chin with a perfect uppercut. “Suck it, green horn!” I arrogantly shouted. The impact knocked her off the rocks and onto the ground. With her face down and on her knees, I sensed an opportunity to rush her with another falcon punch. Though that turned out to be a serious miscalculation of her vulnerability on my part. After stopping my arm with a firm grip, she shot me one hell of a furious glare, triggering a nervous smile on my face as if to call ‘Time out’ before the killing commenced. I gasped as she yanked and tossed me overhead. I sailed at damning speed and smashing through three stalactites protruding from the floor. Oh what fun, huh?

My landing spot was 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 as the rest of the cave. On top of that, it wasn’t just a simple pile of that was dumped here without thought. It was all coins and other treasures carefully laid out to be flat on top like a collage.

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

I didn’t even lift my head up before she began yelling at me again. “First you defile me, then you taint my horde with your revolting stench!? You son of a whore!”

You threw me over here, dumbass!” 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. But that can be arranged. 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 me DBZ-style again.

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

Surprise had overtaken me. I guess I was just too shocked to taunt her for a moment, but that soon turned into that tickling feeling that precedes laughter, especially when I saw her face pale before bursting into beet-red. Her hot eyes went so massively wide you’d swear that you could have toasted a marshmallow under her gaze.

I couldn’t help but bellow out a deep, throaty chuckle. “Let me guess. This belonged to the previous tenant. They were actually the one who was the slave to their baser instincts, right? Or… does your narcissistic chastity belt have a hole in it?” I mocked her.

“Why you little…” she snarled venomously as anger and embarrassment turned her face even more red.

“Then at least give me three chances to guess what it is that’s making your face that color. And if I get it right, I win back my armor” I taunted her again. I couldn’t resist. I was long past the point of caring what Hell I’d catch for it.

You know, I was one to talk. I slept next to that big dildo plushy that I won in Gamberton.

Ha… it was bigger than hers.

That comment did it. She roared and dashed toward me with a full head of steam. Unlucky for her, as 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 grunting in pain. Not down for the count just yet.

Her down time gave me 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 climbed around the side of the mountain of gold, somehow still able to move at this point. You know what they say about the healing power of laughter.

Based on what I knew, she’s the type that learns from her mistakes. The best way around that is to cloud her judgement. Time for some mind games. If I could just get her over here, this could work.

Now in position behind the tower of gold, I called down to the Dragon who had gotten back to her feet by that point. “Well lookie here! I think this diamond scepter will buy me a cannon and crew for my Castle Greyskull!”

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

Now that the bait was set, I backed up a bit and waited with the scepter in my hands. When she rounded the corner, with that beautifully fuming mug of hers, I swiftly tossed the scepter at her. She was baffled but caught it regardless. Even more baffling for her was the shocking voltage that assaulted her with a blinding display of lights and sparks as the scepter landed in her claws. She gasped in pain as the jolt dropped her to her knees.

That’s what happens when you touch a scepter that’s still dripping with the electrical elixir that a wise ass just poured on it. She may have stolen my armored forearms, but I still had the standard issue gloves that just so happen to be insulated.

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

Once I landed and turned around, the gold wave had completely devoured the Dragon out of sight. Now that was like Duck Tales. I breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s why you can’t have nice things” I huffed under my breath.

At last. Can I finally call it a day, Lady Luck? You’d better cut me some slack because I was really running out of ideas… and probably my limbs. Now that this game was set, all I need to do is grab my armor and pray that I can find a hotel on my way back down the mountain. With an open bar, too.

I’d begun walking toward my armor in her “cleaning station” when I heard an impact followed by a lot of clattering and clanging. Some gold coins hit my shoulders and a ruby nailed the back of my head. Damn. I didn’t even get a chance to celebrate with a touchdown dance before something else happened. But I didn’t need to be a genius to figure out what was coming: overtime.

Mother fucking dog turds in a meat grinder. What does it take to put her down? I repeat: I’d admire that if she wasn’t my opponent.

Still going off of the adrenaline I had left, I whipped around and let loose my barrel on my irate and incoming doom. Everything went from zero to ten in two seconds so didn’t try to take a shot at the weak spot on her stomach; I just fired away.

“Enough of this!” she shouted while closing in. My second gun needed a few seconds to charge; seconds that were in short supply. I kept firing with my other gun and backed up. I just had to hold off a little longer. But my blasts didn’t do too much to halt her progress. Fuck, with how fast she was gaining on me, it was going to be close.

As my gun beeped, ready to go, I took aim and fired fast. But the fiery gila monster ducked the shot at the last second. My blast collided with the wall, leaving a big indent. She surfaced right in my face. 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 sharp pain hurt enough that I dropped both of my weapons. Oh God, that’s bad.

Trying not to make things too easy for her, I locked my arm under hers and up around her opposite collarbone as I tried to trip her with my leg to throw her to the ground. It was all I could do to try and buy time to retrieve my guns, but it proved to be too ill-conceived as I guess she saw it coming. With very little effort, the Dragon kept her footing and forcefully untangled herself from my hold. Next thing I knew, I was jerked downward where my stomach met a knee in the harshest of collisions. 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.

Stumbling around while trying to stay on my feet, I tried to regroup. Before my visor cleared its vision for me, the Dragon took ahold of my coat from behind and pulled it off in one clean motion. Gone were my potions and other gadgets. The only other thing I had to defend myself was the old armor.

I couldn’t afford to wait until my vision completely cleared, so I swiftly retaliated with a powered up gut punch right in her weak spot. I welcomed the sound of her agonizing shriek, so I opted to deliver a followup to her cheek. But to my horror, my next punch with my gauntlet didn’t result in that big impact that had become my new favorite sound. It reminded me of my fist fight with that first Skarlik. Below average damage and maybe hilarious for my opponent. Terrific. My gauntlet’s run out of juice. Son of a bitch! This shit always happens at the worst times.

Imagine how fucked I felt before I got 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. Good move, it kept my mouth shut. She then proceeded to repeatedly slam me back and forth between two nearby boulders, causing my visor to start flickering non stop. She bashed me around so hard, my ears were ringing like an elf in cement mixer. They eventually started to sound like a pinball game. And she had a boat-load of TILTs against her.

Through the bumps and bruises, my visor finally cleared just after she stopped, still holding me in her grip. Good, I like to see when my ass is getting kicked. Now I could identify her gleaming eyes burning holes into me as she puffed smoke into my face. The fire lit up her whole throat on its way up. Oh man, this is gonna hurt. And I wasn’t numb enough not to feel it.

She fired off another fireball, only this time holding her target at point blank range. Again, it was more impact than incineration. Yeah, that made it much better, right? Like getting punched in the face instead of getting smacked in the back 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 newest unique wave of pain and instinctively pat out any flames roasting 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.

In my attempt to get up, I fell under my own weight. I didn’t feel like wasting any kind of a timeout, so I laid back for a few seconds to contemplate how big of a turn for the worse this became. I lost my guns, ran out of juice for my gauntlet, lost my coat with whatever elixirs I had left, and now, to top all off, the magic had finally worn off on my rented armor. It served me well, but could only take so much. Speaking of which, I also could only take so much. No matter how many fights I had conditioned myself to over the years, this kind of ambition was way over my head. And as much pain as I was in now, things were going to get a whole lot worse next time she shitmixed me.

Peering down at my adversary, I could at least take some comfort in the fact that she looked noticeably battered like I was. She still looked fierce and ready for another five rounds, but hopefully, half of that was a bold front. Lots of scales had been chipped off of her, exposing her superb skin underneath, as well as various cuts and bruises decorating her body. She walked confidently, but slowly. Her panting looking more labored; a sign of fatigue.

She was also going to need a shower after our play-date. This once smug lizard was in as bad of shape as I was. I was amused when I pictured her shrieking at her reflection in the mirror. “Ha ha ha- ooohhh” I chuckled quietly until I winced in pain. No, scratch that. I was definitely in far worse shape than her.

One consolation was that I’ll always have the image of this wounded Dragon preserved in my brain for the rest of my life… all five minutes of it.

Not willing 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 felt that now 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 strolled after me, not looking to be in much of a hurry. She was even smiling a little.

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

I reactivated my night vision as I crawled back into the other room and cutting myself off from her sight. Before she rounded the corner from her ‘trophy room’, I made a small leap and rolled before coming to a stop, posing myself in a pitiful position for when she locked onto me again.

Sure enough, she entered the room and our eyes met. “You can’t run from me coward. Though without your weapons, I can’t blame you losing your will to fight. 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 back. “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 over.

Gotcha, bitch.

This was the last ace I had up my sleeve. Some would call it a last ditch effort, but I’m calling it a backup plan. 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’s foot just snagged the wire.

This chick is toast!

But dammit again, she wasn’t lost in her own arrogance. She was smart and alert, probably expecting me to lead her into a trap. Hearing the tiny beep from the switch once her foot tripped the wire was like an alarm. That small window of activation was all she needed to take 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. Now I got to see her sail over my head for once. The sounds of her moaning on the ground were emphatic to the effect of my trap, despite a slight misfire.

Suddenly, she was the one who was down while I was on my feet. This presented me another chance to capitalize on. Should I go for my guns? No, I can’t move fast enough to get into the trophy room and find them before she recovered. Hell, after getting smacked around so much, I’m not even sure I remember where they landed. So without much else to fight with, I grabbed a broken stalactite and immediately closed in on her while she made her way back up. I channeled Babe Ruth and nailed her with a big baseball swing to the head. After she fell back down, I repeatedly hammered her back and head with my impromptu bat. I feel pathetic that I had to resort to fighting like a literal caveman.

But my ‘high ground’ 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. While I recovered, I did a quick tooth count. Still all thirty-two, but I’m going to find a dentist for a jaw replacement.

I was waiting for the stars to clear when I felt something press ever so hard 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 get used to this”. During this humiliation, I felt her claws digging into the back of my helmet. But at least I was face down. After all I’d been through, I didn’t want to have to lick her toes.

At that moment, I knew she was looking down at me, so another quick decision came to me.

Before she could deliver a major league curb stomp, I closed my eyes and detonated the last piece of equipment I still had on my belt, a flashbomb. All I had left was some useless ammo rounds and my dagger.

She predictably stepped off my head and rubbed her star-studded eyes. It had to be her raw defensive instincts that had her flying straight up into the air to avoid a counterattack. It would have worked if she hadn’t rose up right next to a not too steep rock formation. Yeah, I could climb that. And luckily, she was still in a position with no way to see me. Fuck it. I had to attack before she could see again, so I guess I’ll resume my rock climbing sooner than I thought.

With great haste, I scaled the rock to the top, exactly at the height she was currently hovering at. Her focus was returning to her, at least from what I could tell. My time was short, so I charged her with as much momentum as I could build.

Here goes nothing.

Okay, I never played football in school, so I’m not sure how good my form was when I dived off the top of the rock and tackled her injured stomach midair. Good or bad, I knocked her out of orbit and we both plummeted down fifteen feet to the ground like two meteors.

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

We hit and we hit hard. She grunted as loud and clear as the impact on the ground. Understandable since she got the worst of it. Being the cheeky son of a bitch that I was, I held her tight and used her body as cushion for the inevitable touchdown. Her scales weren’t exactly a soft landing pad but I was in it for the damage it would do to her. Even so, without a proper cushion, the impact hurt me pretty bad as well. It was hard just to roll myself 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. I’d better drag myself into the other room to get my weap-

Then, the Dragon seized my leg and yanked me off my feet.

Oh, for fuck’s sake…

The Dragon had then rose to her feet, faster than I had, to administer some payback. Lifting me into the air by the leg, she swung me in an arc overhead like I had done with my rock-bat earlier. Only this time, it wasn’t stone being swung onto flesh; this was flesh being swung onto stone. Flesh loses every time.

I crashed so hard onto the ground that the pain sent my mind into a blur. In fact, the slam was strong enough to split 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 dropped my leg then sat herself on my chest and gripped my throat, ready to snap it, no doubt. Plus, she was heavy just like I thought. As a final 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 either case, she caught the blade and yanked it from my hand. It was tossed across the room along with my chances of success.

My eyelids grew as heavy as the Dragon sat on me. I just wanted to sleep; damned if I ever woke up again.

“Any last words, human?” she snarled like a rabid animal as she held me in place. It wasn’t quite choking to the point of restricting my voice, but definitely effective in showing who was in control. Her face bore a twisted smile, not in joy but in aggressive satisfaction at my misfortune. Beads of sweat trailed down her face with her big chest inflating to her breaths.

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 mankind. We really were pathetically outclassed by the strength of nearly any mamono, especially a Dragon. Not to mention I kind of cheesed her off. So I had no way out of this. No tricks left in my bag. I had no chance of beating her.

Well… I might as well muster up whatever wit I had left and die like a boss. 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. How’s that for some last words?

“Just as I expected, no honor even in death” she scoffed as she whipped a bit of her hair out of her face.

“Oh like you 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 one hundred human lives”. Her claws were began to pierce my skin.

“Yeah, right. How grand do you have to be to take advantage of someone with a fancy suit of armor 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 to have found that armor abandoned rather than in the hands of a disdainful mercenary. Your loyalty is cheap and your life even cheaper. That makes you disposable. You make me sick” she spat, her voice thick with spite. Her grip on my jugular grew even harder.

“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.

Air returned as a dearly needed comfort to my lungs. “I said I just want my armor back”. My voice still had a high-pitched squawk to it.

The Dragon pulled me right up to her squinting face. “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”

And if my memory serves me, she… was absolutely right. I didn’t exactly say ‘please’ before running my mouth off.

“Oh uh, hehe, 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. And, well, I tend to fly off the handle and do stupid things sometimes. So I guess it was my fault for not making myself clear. We had a serious failure to communicate”

Uhh, now that I got a chance to catch my breath, I realized that this whole thing was absolutely ridiculous. If I didn’t want to laugh, I’d cry. It felt like one of those times where you want to hang on the shoulder of a buddy and stupidly scoff together until you both got kicked out once the bar closed. To share a fun laugh with someone. But somehow or another, I doubt this Dragon would go for that.

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. Why is my mouth always my first and last resort?

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

“Trench talk, right? I’m a real Buddy Rich when I fly off the handle. Hey, you said yourself that I was a fool” I confessed with a shrug.

“True… I suppose” she uttered after a brief moment of contemplation. Wouldn’t be the first time I did something dumbass. Or the last time… hopefully. “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 a sentimentalist. Besides, it’s not even going to fit you, idiot”

Maybe 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 before 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 worshipped by humans” she yelled.

“And what if someone stole it from you, hmm? 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 on. So what would you do?”

The salty little gecko pursed her lips at me before directing her blazing gaze past me, complete with a pouty expression. Clearly, she was playing out my little scenario in her head. And judging by the scowl on her face, she had a vivid imagination.

“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 hissed.

“I’m sure you’d be happy to blaze that trail”. I was growing ever more concerned that she sat in silent rage while having her scaly hands unknowingly twisting my neck.

“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”

“And I have seen more than enough mercenaries in my time. They all drool like lusty Jubjubs at the thought of claiming my horde”

“Look, how exactly did you think I was going to steal this pirate’s cove? This lair isn’t exactly a skip and a jump away, you know? I’d need a fortress on wheels to haul this much treasure away”

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

“You think you’re the only one who has to fight their way through life? Guess again. I’ve got my own battles and they’re not against mamono. You think you’re hot shit, but you’re just a pain in the ass detour for me. It’s the only thing I stormed up here for because, just like yourself, I don’t like having my stuff stolen from me. That armor has saved me countless times and I’m not going to give it up. I need it the same way you need those scales. What if some puny mortal came up here and shaved off those almighty scales of yours, leaving you in all your bare naked glory for all your “Dragon Tales” friends to see-” I taunted while mocking her overly mighty voice. Immature? Sure. I have no regrets.

The Dragon ferociously silenced me with her reptilian palm gripping my mouth closed.

“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.

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

“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 are willing to sacrifice your own well-being to see justice. Tell me, are you willing to die for your armor as I am willing to die for my horde, human?” she questioned, the foreboding tone in her voice unwavering. Her grip tensed around 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, you stupid bitch. Do your worst” I beckoned, admittedly saying it overly dramatically. But hey, spur of the moment. In my eyes, I had a job to do and I never liked the word ‘submit’. 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 remained trained on my eyes for several seconds. I might have seen a slight blush forming as she sighed heavily. Before I confirmed, she unexpectedly flipped me onto my stomach and latched on a sleeper hold of her own. My voice squawked like Donald Duck being hung. Her hard, smooth bicep squeezed just tight enough to make me feel like I was going pale in the face. My eyeballs went panic-stricken as I flailed my arms above me at her face. But I could do fuck all to break her hold. I doubt even Tony Atlas 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 like a bottle cap. Part of me was happy to see my demise coming, just so I could give it the finger. 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.

—–

Next thing I knew, I sprung awake with a jolt. After few breaths of composure, I realized I was laying on the bed-level pile of gold I’d seen earlier. The Dragon was sitting nearby and profoundly studying me with her cheek irritably resting against her clawed fist. She raked her claws repeatedly into her gold bed, ruining her neatly arranged mattress. But she was too deep in thought care.

This was definitely a surprise. I thought I’d wake up splattered on the bottom of the lair’s cliff, or maybe as a skin rug by the Dragon’s bed. 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 in a sauna… with Veina. Yeah, yeah enough said, you perverted dickheads. It was really good, but having found out that the Dragon was watching me, I’m thankful that it 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”

One thing that I took note of was the bandages on my body. Someone had given me a little TLC while I was out. Nothing special, just some homemade cloth 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 no hangover this time.

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

Still, she still looked as appealing as ever.

“You didn’t kill me? Ah-ha, you fell into my scheme of letting you beat me down just so I could exploit your sympathy and spare me?” I said with deadpan in my voice.

Snarky witticism: fully operational.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Fine with me. As long as you gave me a Mortal Kombat style ‘Fatality!’ once I was reduced to a skeleton”

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

“In that case, 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. I sense some looming punishment. “Low-life scum are to be strictly dealt with. And you would quiver in fear if you knew what I’ve considering doing 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 and a huff of smoke from her exhale. 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 sickly drunk. I’d really ruffle your scales and make you wish you had a shit-ton of sawdust” I chuckled and my past memories of vomiting on my friend’s carpet.

“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.

I do that rather well with people, don’t I?

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

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

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

“Perhaps…”

Wow… you can mark me down as surprised. I really didn’t see that possibility in the cards.

“Thanks. Send me your bill and I send you back a diamond earring by carrier Harpy. Now if you don’t mind I’ll just slip it on 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. An imbecile like you is in no condition for combat or to go off and get yourself into more trouble”

Boy, I fucking hate lectures right after I wake up. Not letting her deter me, I attempted to get up again. “Trouble is a hobby of mine. 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 get to clean up the mess”

She yanked me down again, harder. Then, she held me down by sitting on my throbbing stomach and pinned my shoulders down with her hands.

Not much on bedside manners is she? She’d make a terrible nurse.

“Stop being such a damn dullard. Don’t risk your life on such headstrong notions. You’ll get yourself killed for nothing” she barked as she fastened her grip on me.

Knowing full well that I couldn’t lift her off of me, nor did I want to start all over again, I was convinced to chat some more.

“I can take it, okay? Now please get off me”. See? I remembered to say “please” this time.

“Don’t try to act stronger than you are. You’re just a feeble human. Your bodies are easy to harm with no ability to recover fast”

“You’re not in much better shape than I am. You look like someone dumped a mountain of gold onto you” I vocalized my objection to her belittlement of me.

She growled bitterly at the memory.

“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?”

Yeah, I bet if she gets the hiccups, she recreate the seventh plague of Egypt.

“As I’ve said, you know nothing, simpleton. Our own natural fire doesn’t help us after it’s already been absorbed into our body. It must be fresh, untainted heat. Your kind doesn’t eat food that’s already been digested, do they?”

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. And another thing, 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 treacherous trickster, you are quite a capable knight”

“I’m not a knight”

“Then you are quite a capable crusader”

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

“A mage?”

“Nope. There go your three guesses”

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

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

“At last, you’re correct about something”

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 on my own”

“You think that pardons you, peasant? You intruded into my lair, insulted my lineage, challenged my might, struck me shamefully, and even touched my horde. Your crimes should be punished, or worse, made an example of. 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”

Ah-ha! Slavery is not above the mamono race, after all.

“A slave? You think I want to spend the rest of my days licking the shit off your feet? Oh fuck off. I’d just assume 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 flossing your teeth with a jackhammer. And after what I did, she probably has lots of fun ideas in mind; like using my face to vacuum the cave floor.

“You turn down the honor of serving me, you despicable pile of Orc waste? Then you really are a useless buffoon! Perhaps I expected too much of your pitiful brain to recognize such an esteemed privilege presented before your eyes. If you refuse, then there will be no choice but to suffer the consequences. 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 endless cravings. Or maybe I’ll punish you myself; personally. That said, 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 you?”

“Silence yourself, lest I rip out your perverted 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 interjected.

“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 with my index finger and the ‘O’ in the ‘OK’ hand sign.

“I said shut up! Stop trying to put those kinds of 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 Shirohebi”

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 make me your next affair, you filthy animal. I don’t have those kinds of desires! They’re beneath me!” she said as she furiously shook me again.

Joking aside, I didn’t exactly believe her and her bad case of denial. Sure Dragons have the reputation of riding that “god complex” into the ground, but she is a mamono after all. And, of course, I’ve come to expect those kinds of carnal wants from a mamono, especially after Veina drove into my head the notion that mamono have feelings for people they “spread” for. As if that crown-jewel man-sausage wasn’t a dead giveaway to this Dragon’s leisure time. Though maybe that blush wasn’t because I stirred up an influx of hormones. This dame gobbles up fire like hot cakes, so she probably always has a red face. Not to mention, I punched her half as many times that I’ve been slapped by girls, along with all the other exhausting slapstick we’ve been through. And I wasn’t exactly wooing her with my finely tuned romance talk. A real turn-on, stud.

In regards to all this inadvertent foreplay, I found myself taking an unavoidable glance at her fantastic body pinning me down. A glance that she was quick to take offense to and whack me in the chin.

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

Through some clever deduction, I decided it was best to avoid admiring her ‘hard’ work from then on. Just focus on her face… yeah, like there’s nothing to be aroused by there.

No matter where my eyes went, it didn’t matter because, unfortunately for her, I’d already gotten the image of her chiseled yet sensuous body burned into my memory. The way her thick and powerful legs clung my waist. Her muscular abdomen. The way her breasts- Fuck! Stop perving out, you moron. Think about how scary a prospect this is. Her legs are so thick and muscled, she could probably shatter a cannonball between them if she so desired. You really want to be next?

She was stronger than timid little Sateen was. And remember what she did to you?

But it was too late. The mental image alone was enough to feel a certain part of me start to grow. All I can say is that I hope this hot-tempered girl didn’t notice. Otherwise she might rip that out too. Afterwards, she can retire that other dildo of hers.

“If you’re not looking for attention, then mounting my lap is sure the darndest way to hold someone down. And is that your tail wrapping around my leg or did you give me a knee brace when I wasn’t looking?”

My little epiphany melted her agitated glare.

“So I am…” she bafflingly admitted upon me forcing her to self reflect. As she thought for a few moments, I could see her sorting through all the possible explanations in her head. Finally, she fired back, “You put a spell on me, didn’t you? Remove it now!”

That’s the conclusion she went with?

“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?”

The Dragon delivered a firm but non-bruising smack across my face. And here I thought I only brought that out in women back on Earth. “Well, it seems your attempt to corrupt my mind with your magical tricks has failed you. Try as you might, but I will never consider you a lover. You can 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. With me out, she could drop that bloated ego of hers and go nuts… with no witnesses. Geez, I’d been out once already. Well, I hope she didn’t do anything to me already. Aw, fuck me. Oh shit, that too!

Now, it didn’t exactly take my college education to figure out that this bitch wasn’t the lovey dovey type. 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 mamono of all along. I was just a piece of meat to play with then throw him to the wolves like a used… boner. Hell, she actually might toss my ass to a pack of Werewolves as punishment for not being her slave. The whole “worthy opponent” spiel probably just meant that we weren’t going to use any safe words 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!

Before I made my next move, 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 pushed me back down yet gain. Then she nimbly climbed off of me and disappeared into the other room. I could tell by her walk that she was still hurting.

Ever the asshole, I ignored her and proceeded to get to my feet after she left. 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. I did, however, still have a large surplus of deep bruises and sprains. Just more injuries to write about in my novel… or obituary.

I eagerly went about recollecting my weapons, coat, dagger, and other gear. Lastly I very eage- no, gleefully reunited with my original series armor suit. Everything was here; the vest, the arms, the hips, and the legs. Interestingly, they all had been polished. They sparkled into my eyes as if it was greeting its daddy’s return. This Dragon does good work. I’ll be sure to give her a generous tip. Like a jar of Tabasco sauce.

Being back into my armor suit was like embracing a long lost lover. At last, I was complete again.

It wasn’t long after I fully suited up that I heard the unmistakable sounds of laser fire accompanied by a few explosions. I could see lights flashing from 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. From what I could tell, she must have been surprised by an energy grenade then curb-stomped with suppressive fire almost to the point of unconsciousness. She wasn’t near death, but she was on the ropes in a big way.

Being a judge of Skarliks, which I am, this group looked like a recon team that could have been in the area when they heard the noise of our scuffle echo throughout the mountain acoustics. Being nothing more than a pack of vultures, their goal was to scout and salvage whatever they could. And I damn well knew that this Dragon didn’t take too well to them entering her cave. You do the math.

Even with them having the upper hand, the Dragon 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 they would act quick to pillage the place. That also meant that they would inevitably come my way.

They still didn’t know I was here, so I could easily hide and wait until they left. But if I waited, they would probably kill the Dragon. That might actually bode well for me. Not only was taking on these Skarliks in my shape a bad idea, but it would also let me escape her “punishment”… and then some. In that case, laying low rather than jumping into a straight up fight with the Skarliks was damn sure tempting. But fuck me, Sateen’s words came back to haunt me. Hell, they never really left my mind. This Dragon was an all around arrogant bitch, but she wasn’t inherently evil, per say. She only defended her home against me and had shown me mercy despite my intrusion. If that wasn’t enough guilt on me, it was me that got her into this situation. I was the reason our noisy battle got started in the first place. It was also me that had wounded her to the point that she couldn’t defend against an eight-on-one ambush.

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. You still had the element of surprise, so you could ambush them as they came through. But that still wouldn’t tip the odds in your favor. How do you plan to win this?

By making a teammate.

A Skarlik was approaching the Dragon, ready to deliver the killing blow. Her growling got louder as he closed in.

It was now or never.

Before he could make it to her, I loaded up and fired a potion from my slingshot. It shattered against the Dragon and engulfed her body in flames. “Did I catch you fuckers at a bad time?” I hissed at the unsuspecting Skarliks. Knowing that my cover was blown, I ran behind a rock and fired on the Skarliks. I didn’t score a hit, though. Unsurprisingly, they immediately responded by firing back and taking cover like me. I found it difficult to return fire with eight guns firing with no room for me to maneuver.

Now that I was back in action, I confirmed that my body was not quite ready for another fight. This was going to be Hell to win. Sure I was able run now but a few hours of rest is not what you would call attentive care. The adrenaline was slower to start, so I wasn’t going to 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 like a flaming Phoenix. Her scales had healed as they furiously radiated small flames, matching the ones in her eyes. From across the room, I could feel the heat of her pyrotechnics as if I was a foot away. Good, she achieved Super Saiyan and 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 as she wasted no time in speeding like a missile toward a rock where two Skarliks were hiding behind, smashing hard straight through it and likewise right through one of them. The Skarlik was squashed like a juicy blueberry pancake before he even got off a shot. The impact was so powerful, it left a seven foot crater in the ground.

Alright, one down.

Without hesitation, she bolted to the other Skarlik, shrugging off his shots like a champ before violently slashing his throat and torso with her claws. Finishing with a backflip, she caught him with a sharp slice to the face with her foot. I could see his bluish blood splashed from his body onto the cave wall as he fell backwards; dead.

Her combinations were far more brutal than what she used on me. Now, I swallowed my pride and thanked God that she had held back with me.

She couldn’t react fast enough before another Skarlik’s frag grenade hit her and detonated in a blast of blue energy. Despite her boost in power, the bomb knocked her back and left her wide open for another attack. It didn’t look like her flare lowered but whether she, in fact, needed help or not, I jumped in as her backup.

While they were distracted by her, I had already begun to move from my cover to a better angle. The first clear shot I had 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. I lost all visual contact on the grunt as he disappeared but I knew he was moving toward me. After I scurried to another cover position, I spotted him coming around the corner. But before I could fire, someone rammed into my back, forcing me to the ground on my stomach. Facedown, my guns were smacked from my hands with a big meaty arm bounding my neck and pulling me to my feet. The metal point digging into my right temple was likely a gun.

It was another Skarlik that had snuck up on me while I spied the first Skarlik, who by now had rounded the corner. He called out to the Dragon to get her attention while holding me visibly at gunpoint.

The Dragon stopped her assault on the other three Skarliks. She was agasped upon realizing my predicament.

“On your knees, monster! Or your slave dies!” the leader shouted as his men trained their guns on her. Oh fuck you. I’m not her damn slave. Not yet anyway. The bewildered Dragon hesitated in making her next move as she glanced back and forth between me and the other Skarliks. It was painful to have seen the Dragon unsure of what to do. If I was able to shout, I would have cheered her on to keep shredding up the place. Not that I could tell what she was going to do, but I wouldn’t let her surrender this fight.

Even after all my effort, I still ended up playing a hostage after all. But I wasn’t too good at that role. 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 squawked in pain and released me. Then I quickly turned around and jabbed the knife into his chin, killing him instantly.

The nearby Skarlik hadn’t noticed my escape in time to shoot me down. That gave me the opportunity to leap toward him and cut his wrist to de-arm him. Even though it worked, he lashed out and scored a hard right hook to my face then 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 all I could with both hands 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. Godammit, I’d take a Naidy shave over this.

His dagger was about two millimeters from my throat before it was abruptly whisked clean away along with the attacking Skarlik. With a huge sense of relief, I looked up to see the Dragon had yanked the bastard off of me. “Get off of him, you fucking pig!” she snarled. Nice f-bomb. I didn’t think she had it in her. And with one huge thrust, the motherfucker went airborne 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 heard the Skarlik leader yelling at his comrades in his own native tongue again. Okay, I only speak English and bad English but he wasn’t fooling me. I knew he was signaling for a retreat. Cowardice transcends all languages.

My guns could wait. I wanted to be rid of these guys, but I wasn’t going to let him leave…yet.

While the other two Skarliks tried to hold off the Dragon with more impact frags and gunfire, I made my move on the chicken-shit leader who was stupid enough to turn his back to me. Seizing him in a half-nelson hold, I held on tight with one arm as I reached into my coat with the other. Out I pulled a prototype tracking device that I’d scrambled together just for shits and giggles. I really didn’t think I would be needing it when went to fight the Dragon but expect the worst and prepare for the worst, then you’ll never go disappointed. Okay, you may still be disappointed but right now I wasn’t.

There was a good, tight spot in his armor to wedge my tracker into. Lovely, finally something that makes my life a little easier. After setting the bug in place, I loosened my grip, which he was quick to struggle out of and knock the side of my head with his elbow. Ouch. If I didn’t need him, I’d kill him.

I rolled back behind a rock in case he fired on me. Thankfully, he didn’t come after me. Instead, he abandoned his allies and ducked out of the cave. See? He’s a coward like I said. Covertly I followed him, emerging into the blinding sunlight once again. It took a several seconds before my eyes adjusted to the change in light. Once they cleared, I peered over and saw the creep making his getaway. The Skarliks had set up a mechanical zipline at the edge of the Dragon’s lair 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. Perfect. That leaves behind a ‘slime trail’ for me to follow with my tracker.

After I reentered the cave, I retrieved my weapons. Now ready for combat again, I turned toward the Dragon and confirmed that she already had the situation well under control. As she held one ravaged Skarlik by the neck, she turned toward the second downed Skarlik. Laying in a puddle of his own blood, his sliced skin and broken arm was all the explanation I needed. In his last desperate attempt at survival, he readied another explosive to lob at her. My gun raised to stop him but the Dragon was way ahead of me. Like in our battle, she caught on to their tactics quickly and wouldn’t give him the chance. 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 heat from the torrent felt like a hot brick wall slamming into me. It made a fourth of July firework finale feel like a firecracker. Once it simmered, there was nothing but a trail of embers along with a pile of ashes where the pile of shit Skarlik used to be.

Holy hot damn. She wasn’t joking earlier. I guess he got more than a puff from her. Fuck it, I’ll say it. Fatality!

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. A primitive but classical finisher.

Seven down, but that’s game.

“Did you finish off the last one?” she requested, the fire still flaring away in her eyes.

“You bet; I knocked his ass off the cliff. Gave him the chance to find out if his friend that you threw out had survived the fall” I lied. Yeah sure, 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 I arrived. And with my portal tracker destroyed, there wasn’t any other way of finding the rest of them. That was my only chance.

“Hmmph” she grunted arrogantly. “Yes, the one that I had granted the gift of flight. 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…”

Shit. I bet this chick would want royalties for telling campfire stories about her.

“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 I wandered off to start my routine ritual of scavenging for gear. This Dragon left very little of the Skarliks to be salvaged and what there often had to be dug out from the disgusting remains.

“It appears that I overestimated you. Even as divinity like me stands here, you still can’t resist your own bottom-feeding lifestyle. Shameful display…” she said, expressing her disdain for my looting.

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

No response. Hehe.

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. It was frustrating that their ammo wasn’t compatible with my sidearms, so I had no choice but to use their weapons, at least until they ran out. I kept only two of their handguns. 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. In my mind, maybe that would act as reparations. As long as I got to keep mine, she could skin these guys 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 were stuffed into the bag. Life as a scavenger is demeaning but it gives you a bigger appreciation for the little things. And it puts your creativity to the test. Even if this guy had a pack of gum, I’d take it.

With no warning, the Dragon’s taloned foot stomped into my field of view. I was so preoccupied that I didn’t even hear her walk up on me. She made sure I looked at her before she spoke in a stoic voice. “So who are they?”

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

“You are quite a trickster, but you are not deceiving me with your lies, clown” she said sternly. 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 notice 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. If you say I’m wrong, then enlighten me as to why you are securing their stolen weapons next to yours in that belt instead of placing them in the bag with the other goods that I presume are not for combat?”

My jaw slacked and my eyes went blank, coming up short with a way out of this. 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. No point in fibbing now. “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 you already know how dangerous they can be. So if you see another one, you should kill it. Like I’m off to do right now. Get it, Miss Komodo?”

Wasn’t the whole story but maybe she wouldn’t notice.

“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”

Shit.

“Okay, fine. Let me put it this way. I don’t want to tell you everything. My business is my business, as nasty as it may be. I’m not happy about it”

“You warn me of their threat, yet a degenerate like you feels the need to stop them alone? 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 what you think. 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. And if your victory here makes you think this was the best they got, then I’ve got a moat to sell you. They have way more firepower and numbers than what you just saw, so don’t take them lightly or it might cost you more than just your treasure. But what do I know? I’m a brain-dead human who can’t comprehend his own existence in this world, remember? So what does it matter if I get myself killed? I’m just a spec in the universe. Now if you don’t mind, there’s a whole bunch of shit waiting for me to come along and start. One way or another, I’m taking this armor back, so if you want to have another throw down for it, then fine. I’ve got plenty of ammo now. If not, just stay the fuck out of my way” I asserted boldly. The seriousness in my demeanor took her slightly 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 the silence. These Skarliks were serious business to me and I wanted her to know it. I’d had enough of justifying myself to this fucking prima donna. This, despite my smaller size. Kind of 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 huge clawed hand on my shoulder. Turning to her, I found that her hard glare had softened into a more inquisitive stare.

Again, we stared at each other for a few more seconds, except she didn’t look as authoritative as she did before. Even I began to lose 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, vulgar, classless, brash, moronic, low-life scoundrel I have ever seen”

I leave quite an impression, don’t I?

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

“-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 and die for it, even more than 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” she gently touched right where my heart was. But with that massive claw, her motion worried me way more than flatter me.

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

‘Warrior’? A 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.

“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. Strong enough to be a warrior’s”

Oh yeah. She probably took a good whiff as she patched up my… hey! Maybe she did actually grope me when I was out! What a creep.

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

She paused for a moment as some thought went through her head. “That means nothing to me. 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, okay. So I’m some big-shot warrior. The next Hakutaku I meet, I’ll get it tattooed onto my chest, alright? You’ve made you point that I’m strong as all hell”

“Well, strong for a mere human. Don’t overestimate yourself. You are merely a fragment of dust compared to the strength of a Dragon” she boasted. Oh boy. And here I thought Veina was competitive. “Even though I had to rescue you from death, I still respect your bravery in assisting me defeat these monsters”

Ouch. That hurt as much as her punches did.

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

“You don’t think that I had it under control, you miscreant?”

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

The Dragon bellowed in a pompous laugh. “Ha! You’ve finally amused me with your repartee. If you truly believe that you almost beat me, perhaps I injured your head more than I thought. 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 mouth 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 day. Barely even worth remembering, much less exerting the low effort to snuff out their fragile life. You should be honored that I even considered your skills in combat. As meager as they are, they nearly granted you a most glorious death at my hands”

Yup. It was a compliment, from a certain point of view.

“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 I was actually trying to kill you? I merely wanted to beat you into submission; to have you grovel at my feet and beg for mercy. I may have administered some discipline but I assure you that you still 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 aggravating, particularly your unrelenting audacity. It was most challenging to restrain my rage for your sake. If we’d met at another time and another place, I would have likely 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 for my sake?” I questioned her.

Her animosity softened on 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?” I asked. She answered with a shake her head.

How about that? Greenie 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, 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.

“Have Dragons killed humans before?”

“It’s not so simple to avoid. With the Order still maintaining power, battling mankind is inevitable for us Dragons. In war, there will most certainly be human blood on our claws”

She had a type of troubled look on her face that she tried to hide. Interesting indeed.

“Maybe working for the Demon Lord has given you a soft spot for us”

“Demon Lord? Dragons answer to no one but our own kind. We are not concerned with the Demon Lord’s problems. Nor do we share her vision between humans and mamono. 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 conquest. To uphold our honor, we seek the strongest enemies to battle then to claim more treasure for our own. And our service is not without compensation. Yes, our price is quite heavy indeed. We demand offerings for 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 what was in it”

‘What was in it’? 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 too disgusting to touch after mounting me, then murder these freaks only to confess that murder isn’t really your thing”

I may have not got my psychiatrist license, 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? Well good. Admittance is the first step to recovery”

“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 planned to do with me.

Just let me walk out. Come on, please just let me walk out of here.

“Don’t tempt me. You have angered me far worse than what would be tolerated by other Dragons. 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, you don’t deserve my pardon. However, you have demonstrated your fighting 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 technique, I shall let you keep it. And I’ve wasted enough of my precious time on you and that tainted treasure. There are more important matters on my mind. I need to be alone so that I may meditate in peace. I want you to leave… now!”

Look, whatever she does in private is her concern. But given the clues I’ve collected, I call into question just how noble her private activities are.

However, I could tell that she wasn’t bullshiting me; she actually did open up a bit back there. I sure didn’t feel qualified for this since I had unloaded more than obscenities at this girl. And now here we are confiding in each other like a fucking support group for marriage counseling. The whole thing definitely baffled me. I’m not so sure she even knew why she felt the way she did. Maybe it was some kind of strange instinct regarding humanity. Something that she couldn’t really go against. But I suppose that going from a monstrous, flesh-eating Dragon to a sexy, estrogen-breathing Dragon must have some particular ‘biological’ effects.

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. I go my way and she makes her way the opposite direction. That’s one kind of therapy that I’m always on board for. I wish some of my breakups went this easily. Actually with all the fighting, this in fact did feel like some of my breakups… only easier.

Despite all the bruises and insults, I kind of liked her. A bit full of herself maybe, well okay, extremely full of herself but she had an odd kind of morality and was admirably confident. She sure as fuck could back up her words, unlike those would-be tough girl types back on Earth. I knew first hand that this vixen was tough as nails and had a mean swing. She also had a body just as badass as her bite; I damn well knew that for sure. Plus, she could decently trash talk. 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.

“The name’s Jason”

“Mmmm” she sighed seemingly with mild satisfaction before abruptly shifting back to a glare. “Listen carefully, Jason. Don’t you dare tell anyone what happened between us after you woke up. If you do… I will find you” she threatened me as some embers flickered from her scales.

“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 to make more of a mess with me than have the place cleaned, if you get my drift.

“I’m warning you. Hold your tongue or I will hold your severed head!” she roared as she dug her index claw into my chest.

“Cool. Fine with me” I agreed earnestly.

After my compliance, she held her usual contemptuous glare, as well as her claw on me. I was growing more and more used to both of them, however I think I saw something deeper in her unwavering, reptilian eyes. They had slightly glazed over which in turn lost some of their focused hostility. The intensity was definitely still there but now I could see a bit of curiosity, similar to what I had seen in Veina and Sateen. Great, I better wake her up from my mana-induced 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. She might have blushed again.

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

“Enough of your acrid derision. My name is Karvale and you will address me as such. Consider yourself fortunate that I have given an undeserving cur like you the privilege to use it. But only this one time”

“If that’s the way you want it, Karvale. But if you’re smart, you’ll find another cave. Whenever these bastards return, they do in greater numbers. Now I know you can handle yourself just fine, but… just consider the peaceful route this time. You might not be so lucky next time. And… 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.

Karvale 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 you be aided by the the spirits of the Dragon ancestors, you despicable maggot”

She then turned and promptly marched back into the cave.

I was left too confused to start walking again. What the actual fuck was that about? You know what, fuck it. It was the best ‘goodbye’ I’d get from her. Just get the Hell out of here already.

Eventually 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, thanks in no small part to the attachment that I lifted off of one of the Skarliks.

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

—–

Following the signal led me down toward the South-West side of the mountains. Even newer territory for me. On my gentle joyride, I took the time to add to Karvale’s injury patch work with some of my own remedies. You can understand that I was a little envious of her. When all she needed was to suck on a blowtorch to recuperate, I needed makeshift bandages. And while I appreciated the effort, her medical skills didn’t have much on Sateen’s sauna-like serpent half. But at least, I had better medical gear than the inside of a cave could offer. Now I could really patch myself up. Well, at least patch myself up to about sixty-five percent give or take. Not ready to ‘storm the castle’ so to speak but maybe I could still storm a camp. Hopefully.

She wasn’t the type to blow smoke up my ass, so she was being brutally honest about my chances. 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 had me out-gunned. A few extra hands could go a long way.

Sounded good on paper, 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. 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. Next thing you know, the Demon Lord has me locked up for insubordination and dances off with my technology. I vowed not to help either side of this war again 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 anxiously pessimistic mind. I couldn’t convince myself that any other action was a good idea, 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? Yeah, you would wonder, you stubborn bastard.

Even though I persisted on this course of… what did she call it? Oh yeah, “self-isolation”. Yeah that’s a pitiful way of putting it. Despite my course of self-isolating stubbornness, I couldn’t forget her advice. That little voice in the back of my head continuously scolded my single member clubhouse mentality, so to speak. I can thank Veina for putting that voice there and now I can thank Karvale for making it louder. It’s enough to give me another headache.

But now that she came up again, thoughts of Veina began to overtake 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, Druella. Self isolation or gambling with my free will. Those were my two options. I’d come out looking like a fool either way, so I went with the lesser of two fools.

It was becoming harder and harder for me to see the line between smart and dumb.

Now 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. It looked like a round patch of trees and other 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. The trees were twisted into cartoonish shapes with even more outlandish colorations patched here and there. No rhyme or reason. The sporadic pigments were in contrast against the dark density within. It sort of reminded me of…

Oh fuck 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 sense and reason, also self control, are all drowned in a bottomless cup of artificially sweetened tea…

Wonderland…

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8 thoughts on “Wormhole Ch.10 (Updated)

  1. it was much better than the original, I feel that Karvale after finishing his meditation goes after him, and I must say that my harem sense has been whistling since the moment that Shirohebi appeared (the harem sense is like the spider sense of Peter Parker, however it only works to detect harens, he has a proven efficiency of at least 80%)

  2. I thought that chapter 10 couldn’t get any better and you surprised me. I also think that chapter 11 can’t get any better, I hope to be surprised too, you are a king of fanfics

  3. Haha! I am quite intelligent after all! I found you (after you provided me with a username, obviously)!
    Anyways, hope to see the updated version of Ch 11 soon!

    -le Dodo

  4. Hello man, how long ago, I would like your opinion for one thing:
    I’m planning an Isekai fanfic, and of course the protagonist will be a badass (but in the beginning he will be weak and fearful of course), and obviously he will have a giant harem, I want you to see this harem that I set up for him (the red part are transformations that some girls will undergo, including 4 human {3 human and 1 Dhampir})
    I would like to know your opinion about the harem, if there is a girl or something missing (I know there are many, but I love all MGs, and when I speak all of them, they are all, so it is difficult to choose only 10 or 20 ): https://i.pinimg.com/originals/4d/ce/64/4dce64e42a0469370d8a181c924e7fcb.png

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