Khrx was greeted by the screams and wails of dying people, the crackling of flaming buildings and sizzling flesh, and the mad laughter of the angel holding his limp body in her arms. Wind swirled around him, pushing his limbs back and forth in the air as he dangled from Lorin’s grasp. His tail twitched a few times. “Uh, Lorin?”
The fallen angel’s laughter ceased. The screams and wails continued, but they were growing weaker than the sound of the flames. Lorin hovered in the air as she turned Khrx around to face her. “Khrx? You’re alive! Are you alright? Is everything okay? How do you feel? Don’t worry. Those underhanded crooks who poisoned you have all been burned alive.”
“Crooks? Poisoned?” Khrx pressed Lorin’s nose with his finger, causing her to flinch and let out a strange gasping sound. “You read my skills. I have Poison Body; I can’t be poisoned.”
“Eh?” Lorin asked, blinking away the tears that had formed. “You’re right. But why did you collapse after eating their candy then? Was it a paralyzing agent then? An anesthetic?”
“No, I was logged out by a cow,” Khrx said. He sighed as he wiggled around to face the burning city beneath them. His expression darkened. “Why did you immediately resort to violence?”
Lorin let out a wry laugh as she scratched the back of her head. “I overreacted a tiny bit.” She pointed her free palm towards the city and said, “Ice Cage!”
Tendrils of ice rose out of the flames before melting down into water. Within moments, the fire came to a halt, replaced by the hissing and rising of steam. The whimpers of the Tahenians filled the air, followed by aggrieved cries. Lorin bit her lower lip. “Do you think they accept apologies? It was just a misunderstanding.”
Khrx smacked his forehead with his palm. Over two-thirds of the city had been destroyed, leaving the walls and the buildings near them intact. The ground was scorched black, and skeletal, coal-like frames protruded out of rubble. There was one patch of untouched land near the center of the city with a group of seven people huddling together, a barrier of light surrounding them. Khrx pointed at the barrier. “Those seem like the leaders. Land by them.”
Lorin nodded and descended, not questioning Khrx’s decisions because she knew she had made a mistake. The seven people screamed and huddled closer together like penguins when they saw Lorin tap on their barrier like she was knocking on a door. When they didn’t respond after closing their eyes, Lorin snorted and pressed a glowing finger against the white light. “Barrier Crusher.” Like paper, her finger tore through and ripped the protective magic to shreds.
Khrx covered his ears as the Tahenians’ screams were no longer suppressed by the barrier. “Shut up!”
“P-please, don’t kill us! We surrender!”
The seven people dropped to their knees, their foreheads pressed to the ground. A rectangular box appeared in front of Khrx.
[You’ve conquered the city-state of Tahens!]
There were two buttons beneath it: [Keep], [Raze].
Khrx pressed [Keep]. Wouldn’t razing their city be too cruel? Besides, there wouldn’t be any candy if he did.
[The empire I Can Pick has conquered the city-state of Tahens!]
[City-states that have knowledge of I Can Pick and Tahens grow wary.]
Khrx sighed and answered the phone. “Hey, Luke. What’s up?”
“Hey, Luke, what’s up!? I should be asking you that! What the hell are you doing to my empire!?”
Khrx reared his head away from the floating call interface. “There should be a way to lower the volume…”
“No! You don’t get to cheapen my anger by reducing the volume of my shouting,” Luke said. A sigh came after. “Alright. I can forgive your terrible, terrible naming sense. But what the hell are you doing conquering city-states? Are you trying to portray Paradise as a warmongering guild? I’m trying to establish a positive image here.”
“Yeah…, that was an accident,” Khrx said. “Things just kind of happened that way, you know? I logged out for five minutes, logged back in, and what do you know, the city’s on fire. It couldn’t be helped.”
A string of curses filled the air.
Khrx coughed. “Anyway, did you know skills carry over from here to reality?”
“Skills? Of course. Why wouldn’t they?” Luke asked. “Your skills carried over from reality to here after all.”
“Huh? None of my skills carried over though,” Khrx said, furrowing his brow. “And my strength didn’t carry over either. Which was completely your fault. You knew the cooldown for my transformation skill was a century-long, but you made me turn into this adorable bundle of helpless cuteness.”
“None of your skills carried over, but you burned down a city-state, what?”
“No, that was Lorin,” Khrx said. “She burned down the city-state because she thought they poisoned me. I saved the city-state, and they gave me the option to keep the city or raze it. Being the savior that I am, I chose to keep it. The selfless dragon who saved a city full of people. Mm, I like the sound of that.”
“You’re an idiot,” Luke said. “The city-state wouldn’t have been in danger in the first place if it weren’t for you. But why were you asking about skills carrying over? Did you learn some?”
“Yeah, I learned four mythic skills and that one legendary one from being Theda’s champion, but I already knew how to do Blissful Rest,” Khrx said. “So I guess I learned four new skills. Where can I learn more? You’re number two on the achievement points’ leaderboard. You should know, right?”
“Four mythic skills? What the hell. I’ve only learned a common skill, horseback riding,” Luke said. “And that one you got for being Theda’s champion. Just how did you do that? Didn’t you spend more time out of game than in game?”
“I was kidnapped to the underworld because I died three times,” Khrx said. “Which was your fault. Things happened, and now the goddess of the underworld is roaming reality. She’s the one who turned the moon into a mana vessel.”
“…You really are the dragon of the apocalypse,” Luke muttered. “Terrible things always happen to the world when you wake up.”
“No, that’s not right,” Khrx said, furrowing his brow. “I wake up due to terrible things happening in the world, and I always swoop in at the last moment to save it. Though I made up my mind to do nothing the next time the world starts to end.”
The seven people exchanged glances and stared at Khrx while Lorin watched over them with her arms crossed. “O mighty leader,” one of the seven said, bowing towards Lorin. “What are your orders?”
Lorin glanced at Khrx, but he was too preoccupied with his phone call. She nodded at the kneeling man. “Rebuild. From now on, you’re part of the empire of I Can Pick.”
“Tell them I’ll send a governor after they’re done rebuilding,” Luke said, cutting in.
“After you’re done rebuilding, a governor will take command of the city,” Lorin said. She glared at the men, causing lightning to trickle down her body. “If you dare rebel, know that today can easily be repeated.”
“We understand, O might one!”
Lorin scratched her head. She wanted to apologize, but the mood had turned solemn and it wouldn’t feel appropriate to bring up the misunderstanding. So instead, she nodded again before retreating behind Khrx.
Khrx ended his call with Luke and opened up his favorite search engine, Bongle. “List … of … discovered … skills … in … [Resolution].” The interface flickered, and Khrx pressed on the first result. “It’d be nice if I obtained a faster typing skill, but I’ll take what I can get. Let’s see…”
Lorin smiled as Khrx’s eyes lit up.