Ultimate Level 1

Chapter 161: A Game
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Chapter 161: A Game

Max stood there, stunned, trying to ensure he had heard the dragon correctly.

Turning to look at Talina and the others, Max saw that each had their mouths open and then checked his, finding that his, too, was open in shock.

“I’m sorry? You want me to attack you?”

“I did not stutter, did I?

“No, I mean… why? Why would you want me to attack you?”

The dragon laughed, his body sending waves out again, and once more, they groaned under its force. Grunting, the dragon stopped itself again.

“I have not experienced the touch of actual battle in so long. Part of the problem of being me is that I am bound by rules and contracts. Even as powerful as I am, to break those would invite others of similar power and strength to work together and openly assault me and my kind. That could mean the end of me. Do you understand?”

“He’s bored?” Fowl asked.

“To put it in terms you understand, then yes, dwarf, I am bored.”

The pair of silver eyes watched Max as he turned and looked at the rest of his group.

“So we attack you, but you won’t attack us?”

“Correct, I have struck that bargain.”

“And, depending on how that attack goes, determines any potential prize you might give?”

The dragon began to thrum slightly at Max’s words. “A gift… to say a prize makes this feel like some game, and trust me, this is no game. Depending on how you perform, I will determine the choices I must make in the coming time. Do you understand?”

Max nodded and moved to where Talina was, motioning for the dwarves to join them.

“It's serious, isn’t it?” Batrire asked, glancing at the dragon as they began to chat.” It really wants you to hit it.”

“Just Seth though… doesn’t seem fair,” Fowl complained even though he winked as he said it.

“Are you okay with doing this?” Talina asked, studying Max’s expression.

He grimaced and nodded. “I’d rather not fight a dragon and put any of you at risk if we can gain the boon and a scale without risk. My real question is his end game… why see what I can do?”

“He told you,” Tanila replied. “He wants to see what you are capable of. Prove that you’re worthy, and he will take part in whatever game must be taking place by things we don’t even know of.”

“You’re talking about gods!” Fowl exclaimed. “Are you saying gods are really this involved in our lives?”

Batrire shook her head and pointed a finger at Max. “They’re involved in his… we are somehow tied to him… why I’m not certain, but we’ve all known in for a while now. Whatever this game the dragon has mentioned multiple times, Seth is a piece that is going to gather a lot of attention, and if we can have the items the dragon has promised, those will be a massive reward on top of the boon.”

Max sighed as he realized the truth he had avoided believing for so long. He was just a piece in some game that the gods played, and worse, he didn’t have a say in it. All he could do was try to get strong enough to protect them.

“I’ll do it. Hopefully, I can impress him.”

“How many attempts will I get?”

The dragon stared at Max, who had taken out his halberd and was moving toward it.

“I will give you three chances. Use any skill you deem worthy to use. Don’t hold back. Trust me, I can take it.”

The confidence of the voice in Max’s head from the dragon made him wonder how he could impress the beast at all.

“I would suggest you have your friend enchant you with her spell I sensed when you first came in. Perhaps it will help a little.”

Batrire began casting her enchantment, and Max snorted, shaking his head as if a dragon that was greater than any legend he could recall was asking him to attack.

Max rubbed his chin with his left hand while he leaned against his weapon. His mind wanted to figure out the best options, and staring at the scales wider than he was and at least half his height, Max studied where they came together.

I know you’re there… tell me, will you help?

Silence was there for a moment, and then Max felt the presence he was becoming used to.

I will take the last attack. Do what you can first. The plan you are thinking of is a smart one.

Grinning, Max took a deep breath.

This tale has been unlawfully lifted from Royal Road; report any instances of this story if found elsewhere.

“I realized I never asked your name yet,” Max said as he began to rotate his shoulders and shake his legs a little.

“I cannot share because doing so would break a rule. Knowing my name right now would be like having a light from the heavens shining on you every second of every day. Others in this game would know you immediately, and you are not strong enough for that yet.”

Max nodded. “Very well, I will start now if that is okay. Ignore the first attack; I just want to get an idea of how hard your scales are.”

The dragon snorted, thrumming slightly, and watched with his eyes as Max moved up next to his neck.

“Very well, let us see what you can do.”

Max took a few steps back, planted his feet, and focused on a spot where two scales came together. Dashing forward, he planted his feet in the perfect position, used his hips, and sliced his axe against the dragon’s scales.

The impact made barely any noise, yet Max felt like his arms and hands were going to shatter. The force of the vibrations almost caused him to drop his weapon.

“If that was the best you can do I should try to go back on my word. Now, stop playing around and show me what you are capable of!”

The noise from how the dragon spoke in his head almost brought Max to his knees.

“Very well, can you close your eyes and let me use a Stealth skill?”

The dragon coughed, almost as if it was choking.

“You have a Stealth skill? A warrior?! Oh, this should be delightful… very well, I shall close my eyes and deactivate my ability to sense you.”

A gentle thrum came from the dragon as Max moved close to the spot he had struck before.

“One last thing, I… I may not be able to stop myself for a few attacks… I have a skill that–”

“Do not worry. I shall endure whatever you throw at me.”

Planting his feet, Max nodded and activated Stealth, seeing that the dragon still had its eyes shut.

[ Stealth ]

[ Weakness ]

[ Power Strike ]

[ Rampage ]

[ Berserker ]

He had begun to thrust his weapon forward, aiming the sharp tip of his weapon at the same spot where the two scales overlapped when Max activated every skill.

There was no time for the red vision to take effect when the weapon connected. The first strike hit its target, and two more attacks struck so fast that none of Max’s allies could see the halberd move. The dragon moved slightly as he continued to attack the neck of the dragon, red rage overwhelming him.

Suddenly, his vision returned, and Max blinked, looking at the spot where he had attacked. A tiny piece of the scale he had attacked was gone, no bigger than his fingernail.

“Impressive,” the lord of the dungeon said as it turned its head back toward Max and grinned. “I am impressed at the strength you have hidden inside you… Not many will be able to stand against such an attack if they are foolish enough to give you their neck so easily as I have.”

“Now then, it is time I gave you your reward,” the dragon declared as it started to rise.

“Wait! I get one more attack!”

Pausing, the gold dragon angled its head and studied Max, seeing the determination in the man’s stance.

“You think you can do better?” it asked, laughing and shaking the area where Max stood. “Should we really waste either of our time with such–”

“One more attack. I promise I can do better.”

They stood there for a few moments, each staring at the other, neither moving.

“Very well,” the dragon replied, returning to the position it had held before. “Do not disappoint me, or I will reconsider if I am impressed at all.”

Max nodded. “I understand. It's the same thing as before if you will. I’m going to stealth again.”

Snorting as if annoyed, the dragon growled for a moment. “Very well.”

“I’ll need a moment to prepare, so I apologize for the wait.”

Grunting, the gold dragon turned its head and went silent. Max could see that the scale he had damaged was completely healed; the tiny piece was no longer missing.

Are you ready for this?

I will show this old one why even their kind fears me. Now listen, you must not try to take control back at all. I will do things you cannot do, but we will fail if you ask questions or try to take over.

You swear to only attack the dragon and then, when you are done, return control to me?

Dissatisfaction at that request came through the tone when Max heard the voice in his head.

I swear. Now close your eyes and let go. Do not try to watch or understand. No matter what you feel or experience, know that I will never harm you because doing so would hurt me.

Max nodded, taking a deep breath. Closing his eyes, Max let the breath out slowly.

Then, the world went dark.

“HOW! HOW!”

Max went to grab his head but could not. His sonar and vision returned, and he found himself pinned by the gold dragon’s front talons to the stone floor.

“What?” Max gasped, the pain of the dragon’s shouting making his head feel like it was going to split open.

“You drew blood! My blood! Blood that has not been spilled long before the god who controls your planet was born or the god before him! HOW!?”

Max winced, his eyes watering as he felt the dragon's weight pressing on him.

“I don’t know,” he forced out, trying to breathe. “I can’t breathe! Our promise!”

When those last two words were spoken, the pressure on his body was immediately gone, and Max took deep breaths, trying to fill his lungs, which felt like they would be crushed.

Turning his head, he saw his three friends, each holding their heads, trying to stand, and struggling as he was.

A roar echoed through the air and the dungeon, shaking the ground as he lay on it.

Movement out of the corner of his eye made him turn, and Max felt and saw the gold dragon’s head mere feet away from his, the silver eye that was as large as his body shaking.

“Who… what are you?”

Its voice was quieter, no longer making him feel like someone was beating his skull with a hammer.

“I am Seth –.”

“Your real name!”

The voice thundered through his head again, and Max winced.

“Max Hoste.”

As the dragon’s head pulled back, a talon appeared, pressing into his forehead. Max wanted to turn or fight back, but he knew that if the dragon wanted to kill him, there would be nothing he could do.

Suddenly, an explosion of light and something else erupted in his brain. It tore at the fabric of his mind and then was pushed back.

“Impossible…”

“The… promise… our deal…” Max groaned, his mind feeling like someone was trying to cut it open.

Growling, the dragon pulled its talon from Max’s head and moved back.

“Very well, you have earned your rewards. Come, let us finish this game.”

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