Take Up the Cross – Chapter 113: Birds of Black Feather, Flocking into the Fire

(A feeling more savory than any cut of fresh game! Sweeter than the finest honey wine.)


Before Adris, his complementary support’s concentration is tight on the etched glyphs in the door’s arch. Within sequence, their grooves morph to describe a new idea as the gray alchemical material thrums where the doll’s fingers touch.


(“A place of family and feather, roost for generations of the loyal”.)


This is the stage that begins the ending of this story.

A chapter which will throw Adris toward the conclusion without failure or mercy permitted, hinging solely on a successful performance.


That is the sublime feeling of dread and anticipation which demands momentary silence to take in its solemnity, leaving Adris hovering behind and out of earshot with a recovered Kol.


Fully-clothed and dried, this kobold’s inherent qualities still need a few fluffs to achieve the perfect impression, for Adris alone can identify the small details that are “essential for legitimacy” on her part.

Messy hair succumbs to Adris’ fingers, made wilder but also debonair in how it’s layered outside of her ponytail.

A vest that’s too tight already is pulled still more, because why not showcase feminine barbarity.


Slovenly while also regal, it’s a difficult look for someone to adopt without embodying it oneself.


(Mmm, she definitely has enough to be proud of up top and down back, even if she doesn’t understand why? Her dusky skin captures the truths she can’t share, too…)




An Exemplar which may captivate a Star —


The black lines on Kol’s body have settled on a single idea. No longer an obstacle, she’s instead established as this spinning tale’s ally.


(Kol is the key…!)




“Brevity is beautiful, my would-be disciple. What it means to be ‘noble’, the centerpiece that explains the convoluted puzzle, is that [introduction] and [reception] are indistinguishable from each other, Kol.”

Pomposity is missing from Adris’ usual repertoire, instead serious and to the point.


(I’ve no time to lead her to the answer. We’ll survive by me purely asserting how things work, then having her test the accuracy of my words with action.)


“Is this understandable to you?”

“… Kol, understood what Boss’ words meant.” A stress at the end makes the sheer blankness on the girl’s blinking face even more comical.


(I didn’t understand the meaning at first, either, even after living the lesson as rooftop scum before hearing it said! It means that “how we present ourselves is how we are received by others”. Technically, I’ve already taught you this lesson once before, too…)




Within the mansion at an overlook above a singing garden of violent vines, four girls fell under the spell of a nearly wordless performance.

That Kol doesn’t realize the implications of Adris’ words is because she is still totally fooled by the narrative cemented that day, a fact which brings a slight nod from the boy that laid that foundation.


Remembering how this one in particular exuberantly accepted his self-importance curls his lips. At least until touching Kol’s chest at the “wrong” spot brings a huff from the still tender bruiser.

“Mmm… Boss’ fingers, dangerous~!”

That she smiles lecherously in return for the public touch sends Adris’ hands leaping back, sabotaging his flow.


(I’m sorry!)


“Hnn? Dangerous, here?”

When he vacates, she brings her paws up to check, finding only that her neck loop is more flamboyantly tied when her claws tug at it.


(… Why am I so skittish?)




With the raunchy images flitting through his mind while so close to the object of his prior obsession, indeed strengthening as her reciprocating play only escalates, ties into his spiraling disorder.

This wildfire beauty displays no hatred for him when she should be furious for how she was rammed into a door and fiercely demeaned. He’d hollowed her out until he unleashed the burning, eager hate that he loved to feel about her treachery, reminding her of who will always own her just as she rejected him.


(Why not revulsion!? Or… bleakness…?)


Such spiritual rejection would justify the guilt Adris has rarely felt, if ever, about what should’ve been a “proper” punishment, but now seems only to be the result of his petty needs.


(Constantly pushing me… ignoring our safety and needs… this bully, she’s still…!)




“Mmm, Boss, smell weird? Enjoying touching Kol~?”

Adris turns his face and hides it with a contemplative hand to cease being stared at by the overly observant kobold. More so than before, the moment his emotions fluctuate, her keen sniffing lays them bare.


(I can’t even hide! Why thank me after…!?)




If it’s Boss… that ‘rapes’ Kol, everything only feels way better!


Such a callous, accurate, and impersonal way to refer to an attack made on her own body, especially by one that offered only loyalty and kindness behind the veneer of absolute power, leaves Adris unsettled.


(Am I a revolting monster or not!?)


Even after his brutal punishment of the kobold twins and the weaselly Echo, he’s only ignored the reality of his forceful sexual encounters other than to consider them arbitrarily carried out according to “fate”. The ones with Rantil, too, had been egged on by either the Castillo’s foul air or the allip’s own corruption, begging for her to be punished as if it was a gift…


(But, with you… what should I think?)




“Boss, looks ‘strong’ with hair different, too.” The very cause of his troubles runs her hands through his now curly locks to mimic his own affections, damaging his persona to the point that he reflexively throws them off. “Nnn… Kol likes, spiky before, though…”




This compliment makes him remember the heat in his heart at her buckling to another’s authority, finally unable to mount any sort of resistance as he claimed everything…!


(Far too entertaining and painful, all at once! I don’t understand what motivates her to enjoy it…?)




“Pay attention to how changes to what presents about someone fundamentally alters the reality around them, before imposing your own likes and dislikes into how you judge that change!”

A lesson distracts, giving feverish intellect an outlet as he exhales slowly.

“… Kol, doesn’t understand, anything more than the words.”


(But you’re no longer touching me, so it’s fine! I can’t believe I’m giving Kol something so hazardous, so capable of ruining my own existence if turned on me…)


Finished with his adjustments to Kol’s vest, hair, and even the fluff of her tail, as she makes a strange growling sound when he strokes the fine fur, Adris takes those confusing truths about how rampant he ran…




and marches them out from his path to victory, summarily executing, dissecting, and burying them in spots he forgets about forever.


(Unmarked graves are the best solution, every time.)




He whips his index finger toward her face, bouncing it with certain words as he gifts a secret weapon he rarely duplicates for another’s mental armaments.

“That’s why you must incorporate one idea into how you perceive your world: observe and understand e~ve~ry-thing. Do not separate action from motivation! See them only as equal components for properly cultivating senses that reveal others’ weaknesses, particularly without revealing that you’ve fully mastered your opponent.”


(Motivation can be twisted to control all further actions. The ones revealed as fools believe they are wise men, instead, which I will shortly demonstrate…!)


“Hm? Like, when Kol watches the enemy… then knows what to do and does it then, even if Kol doesn’t understand why?”

Gaining a grin which stinks of subdued carnage, Kol’s tail wags as a topic she understands offers an example.

“No. That’s intuition, that which guides instinct. You must develop discernment, that which informs design.”


(I’m surprised I can recall ancient teachings so distinctly…)


“Kol, doesn’t understand, really… but, somehow, it seems like when Kol thinks about everything just heard…”

A hopeful look comes along with her scrunching thick eyebrows, an expression that Adris knows by now means “I am at the precipice of understanding, but I just leapt past the steps to comprehension and am ready to murder the conclusion”.


“Kol only sees Boss waving at Kol with that smile that makes Kol want to grip cool poleaxe more tightly, with heart beating fast? Like, an enemy, around?”




(Your intuition is way too powerful!)


One simple tool is already turning into a clumsy maul, barely missing his coffin’s nails poking up as she wildly swings it.




“Mmm… Boss, about enemy… Rooster, okay?”


Nodding lethargically, the usually uncaring knight stares back in the direction they walked from. Energetic to a fault otherwise, she sounds muted.

“Rooster… Kol, has never seen Rooster… ever look sad, unhappy, or seem… weird, like that?”


(Do you mean “look lost”…? Lose his confidence? Is Kol worried about him…?)


While Adris might think to be jealous of such concern, he can’t be that petty when it’s about a man who he’s quickly coming to think of as a role model for what he hopes to find in Zennia.

Instead, he simply shares his own hopes while patting Kol’s shoulder. The idea of Kol feeling empathy even while denied the ability to feel fear causes Adris to worry less about her own curious disability.


(Caring about others even without fear provoking that is admirable. More admirable than my own motivations are, at least.)


“That Castile might not be the same one you’re thinking about, but he definitely has the same spirit. He’ll be fine, Kol. In fact, he’s probably having that harpy nurse his heart…”

“NAH!? Rooster, always have something going on, with female! Hah, Kol, stupid, worry about…!

“Are you worried, or annoyed at who he had in his grip when he left?”

“… Umu, Kol, wonder if, Boss, got something to say that ain’t being openly said?

Before the irate girl can switch gears at the perceived implication, a gentle voice interrupts.


“Brother, the gate lies prepared.”

“Oh, ‘Cute’, ready? Kakaka…”

The only barrier enforcing isolation after the gateway’s realignment concludes is the doll’s timidity, leaning back with reluctance when Kol pats her own side and tilts aggressively to take in the quiet automaton’s behavior.


(“Don’t see male or female”? More like both make you hot! “Cute” is what you’re going to call her…?)


The longer Adris avoids confronting this curiousness, the easier his life will be, he hopes. This leaves the “cutie” fending for herself as Kol cackles softly.


(Anyway, here is the distilled wisdom and the manipulation you will eat before we start.)




Quieter, so that only Kol’s bestial hearing can register it, Adris whispers to her after surreptitiously raising his hand to stop Kol.

“Kol, do not repeat this, but ‘nobles’ are simply pack animals whose predatory instincts are more malicious and ostentatious. Not sated only by ‘food’, they prefer rarer things and especially ‘play’.”

“Animals? … Umu, like, lionesses (SAVANNA HAREM CATS) act?”

Though she seems thrown off at first, how she grows emboldened after finding a familiar point of view proves an important lesson to Adris about teaching this kobold.


(Disregard expanding her base knowledge as a useless idea, I see? Kol hacks off the gristle and bone, eating only the easily digestible points of what I say.)


This information makes Neesiette’s likely lessons useless, prompting Adris to change his tack.


(What are “harem cats” [COMMUNAL FEMALES]? No, what is a “savanna” [FLAT GRASSLANDS BAKED BY THE SUN]!? Zennia is so confusing!)


Excellent questions don’t feed Kol’s enthusiasm like they do an exaggerating boy’s, though.

If she’s to excel, she must feel the same motivation that Adris does, for this white terror surpasses all others only when properly driven to succeed.


“Understanding my talents starts with comprehending lesser opponents. From here on out, you must ‘fight’ in a special way, and only this way.”

“Oh? Fight, how!?”




(By stealing the stage and making others both loathe and obsess about you!)




Only when Kol’s fire draws out others’ will Adris witness the truth of the “story” develop.

All Kol can do is fuel anger, resentment, fascination, and envy, anyway, so why not utilize these?


“Make certain that their eyes capture you, and only you, by emulating Neesiette and I in our mannerisms and grandiose presentations. Make their heated blood race, draining their cunning and replacing their idea of ‘master’ with an image of you that they cannot resist.”

“Hmm!? Boss… want… Kol to be seen? Do things so that nobody can ignore Kol, to be… seen more than Boss!?

Teeth bare at the idea. Not in a savage way, but with the same envious sentiment that Adris hopes to stoke in others.

“UMU! Kol, approve! Kakaka!”


(Kol wants to have the qualities of leadership, even if she doesn’t use them or yet know what they are.)




Like a little kid, this pint-sized, scaled wolf girl sees the Dark Lord of the Mountain staring back at her as she peers at the sky.

Offering to give even a bit of His time as she hungers for the chance to strike beyond that perch, being able to stand in for her idol is a wonderful treat.


(I’m getting too accustomed to this, having a ‘rival’ constantly tailing me.)




“‘Leave an impression without causing harm’, make them acknowledge your supremacy absent the use of force.”

A clenched fist shuts noisily before pulling in towards Adris’ guts. He lets his own enthusiasm bleed over, infecting the pink-eyed rampager who longs to earn victory too.

“Strive for elegance and accept only victory. Use your… aura however you see fit, but leave them feeling awed rather than terrified! By the end of tonight, I want you to tell me what it is I am instructing you in and how you learned to grasp it.


(So long as you follow your gut and act like us, you can do it, Kol! I have confidence in…)


Absolutely make them notice how Kol ‘shines’ like Boss!

Kol’s hands lift up toward the ceiling, momentarily adopting the clambering largeness of a great ape with sharp claws.


(… you being able to rankle them so much that they molt all their feathers, lining up to want to maim you, but pissing themselves when they finally confront you! Lest they end up like they did before, cooking alive—! Ah…)


Recalling why they should fear Kol revitalizes his own dread.

He slaps his hands on her shoulders, leaning in to assert the authority of a prospective teacher.


Just remember that an inferno is impressive, but cold ashes aren’t a victory.

“Kol, wasn’t going to use fire to win…?”

Flames also fail to leave a civilized impression…

“Mmmm, Moon, also told Kol, that fire is bad for art…? Wonder why, when it’s veeeery pretty…?”

How downcast Kol becomes threatens to kill her enthusiasm, so Adris coughs once and then makes a promise.

“I’ll get you some paints from these elves who adore the arts. They’re supposed to be very vibrant, too.”

“Oh!? ‘Paint’, like in Castillo?”

“Correct. Though it will be time consuming, I’ll also deign to instruct you in how to mix and maintain them. I believe that you have the…?”


(Let’s move on to the next thread in this plot?)


Turning back to the doll, Adris’ expression droops in dismay while finishing his thought.

“Vision and drive to create great artworks and lead minions. But, I worry about our other associate…?”

“Hmm? Cute? What about?”




(The longer you two are together, the increasing impact you have on her part in the story!)




Knowing that it’s an easy sham to hook her with, Adris simply raises his arms with a shrug and shakes his head.

“She reminds me so much of Ave, with how she seems to lack the confident stature of a leader? I don’t have the time to waste instilling that in her, even though I would like for her to learn how to stand up and show spirit—

“UMU! Boss, say no more! Kol, handle.”


(Oh, I adore you even more for how easily you bite on bait that Serras would’ve turned her nose up at.)


“I’m relying on you to be the instrument of my purpose and to provide the opportunities for me to carry out my plan. Always listen out for my hidden instructions!”


(I believe in enticements…)


Showing a rare smile full of avarice, Adris eyes Kol up and down, earning the shorter girl’s interest.

However you choose to act, do so with the intent of aiding what I state are my objectives while also embodying my dignity and purity of purpose, [Kol fehl Dain]. I don’t have a… true favorite amongst you four, but I do reward based on contribution.”

“Hmmm!? Reward, more than paints!?”

“… Though you may not recognize it… you have already benefited from one such reward granting increased strength…? If my designs were to succeed beyond my expectations, perhaps…?”


A strong hand slaps on Kol’s chest after his tickling words are acknowledged.

Her ears confidently angle out, while pink eyes focus forward.




“Boss’ plan, will fly, right toward the sun! Starting… NOW!




Toward the gateway Kol strides, legs confidently stomping in step as she twists her arms and chest arrogantly. It’s unknown from whom she learned to swagger like this, for its raw thuggishness seems like it glides to an unheard but energized beat that doesn’t match either Castile or Adris’ tempos.


(Make me fall for you, Kol!)


The machismo of every slayer in the Call seemingly pumps through her arteries, for her spirit burns with a taste Adris has never experienced from her aura. Rather than a devouring heat haze, the white kobold starts to grow lofty and unapproachable. Airy, yet heavy, as her fur gains a luster to it that easily matches Castile’s red hair.


(Not sexy, but definitely can’t be overlooked.)



“… Yes!?”

Past “Cute” Kol approaches the enemy,

ferrying Adris within her broiling wake and leaving the automaton to shakily wash along beside him.




(GOOD! Let’s begin…!)


The magical translocator that should only open for those “granted permission” shivers in Kol’s mere presence, for torrents of menace roll out from the grinning tyrant as she “chooses to pause” for Adris to place the unlocking chain against it…




(… this manse’s ruination.)





The smell of roses is tainted by the stench of damnation.

Of the two, the presence which spreads into the overlooking roosts of the page harpies’ heaven definitively favors brimstone.


“KAKAKAKA! Hm, Kol’s masterpiece no longer exists? Very sad, very sad.”


An offending voice also permits no rebuttal as it fills the ears of half a hundred harpies.

Its owner strides out from beneath an archway of an open gate, with tail cracking once in the air before Kol’s lifted arm sags.


Toward the meeting-place of numerous branches she aims for without seeking permission to be here.


“Kol, would’ve liked to have enjoyed the glow for longer, but… sometimes, Kol thinks things are ‘beautiful’ because they can only be enjoyed once?

… Hnn?”


As feathers ruffle and talons dig into wood, the boisterous invader of others’ sanctums does finally pause to take in the remnants of an entire wall.

Where the kobold’s alchemical fire climbed, charcoal and rubble lies after.


(They have strong spirits.)


So thinks one of the innocuous members entering this scene of dead carnage.

Waters sweeping through the trash carry it away, called forth into living currents by the harpies which are stuck with a quarter of their homes suffering immense harm.

With the time since last night used judiciously, they’re pretty far along in clearing.


(And there’s less damage than I’d expected? They seem to have doused it before losing everything.)


These former inhabitants continue to scrub through to reveal possessions that survive in some form: charred vases, ashen metallic items, and glassworks that refused to be cracked by flame. Page harpies with fine ribbons of purple soiled by soot stop in their work to return a would-be knight’s interest.


The entire burnt tree-top wall simmers in dark-hearted rage as the cause reappears in the distance. Were it not for the clothing bearing the same Kestner emblem that Kol proudly sports, they would likely be tearing her apart as a flock.


(I see. This is exciting! I understand how to proceed, at least for this [scene]. Now, I just need Kol to—!)


“… What Moon said… ‘the fire burns bright and pretty for the kindler; but, the moths’ love for it expresses differently’…”

Murmuring to herself in a way very reminiscent to someone else in Adris’ heart, Kol looks positively contemplative as she taps her cheek.

“Umu, Kol, understands, some. Kol, needs to be careful with ‘art’, huh?”







— Before the servant in her wake can even speak, the master has arrived at an understanding of prior actions bordering on insight. She avoids further insult, no matter how veiled, even when it would now be deserved.

Always assertive under the sunlight, this girl on the cusp of womanhood starts to speak with a voice taking an edge of caution with the ideas shared. With that change and the emotional confusion it brings after, spoken of openly as she reviles having to change, the servant displays no thoughts on how the master grows. He only privately enjoys the candor…—




(… Huh?)


A vision of another open scene, much lower to the ground and in a hallway filled with hundreds of banners, flashes over this one briefly.

In place of Kol, another girl was speaking to men wearing silver armor emblazoned with a Kestner coat of arms that was…


(There was… no flute…? There was another object standing in for it…)


In a moment, Adris nearly forgets that daydream.

The details slip away, replaced by the story ongoing.




“Haaah… ‘being knight’, very difficult!”

Like that other girl, this one seems torn by what she’s realized.


(… I knew it. Kol changed dramatically, ever since she became that… creature that fought with Lycia.)


Unlike that daydream mistress, this firebrand’s indecision lasts only for a moment before she regains self-assurance.

Without the ability to feel fear, there is little to chip away at confidence even with a whole room ready to murder her.


“… Well, Kol got told to ‘learn from others’, so, Kol will learn the same things!”

Nodding proudly, the kobold pulls up her sleeves and awaits the chance to act.


(… How did you arrive at what I needed!? Are you linked with me…!?)


Far from passive and awaiting instructions, Kol is instead setting the tone and direction of the plot!

Were it not in Adris’ desired direction, he’d already be hard pressed to intervene.


“Kol, can definitely do better cleaning up than any bird~!”


Especially since a swooping storm of page harpies encircles the three of them, hatefully idling above on oceanic riptides before descending to confront such a boast.

Landing in front of Kol, those who had their paradise assaulted fold their wings into servile poses only because of fine breeding and training given to ensure compliance.


(Ave said that “the page harpies’ home is valued first and foremost”, so to attack this… hahaha, it produces such visceral feelings!)


So visceral they are, that the boy who led this arsonist into delivering her fire escapes all notice, even though he stands before them wearing the same mask.

Again, no bile is directed at Adris. Instead, those page harpies who are off duty only direct interest and subtle glances of pity toward dual servant children assigned to a hated guest.


(This Talent is amazing when combined with the Emperor’s curses!)




“How may we, lowly servants…”


Through the crowd two harpies push with their fellows jumping out of the way.

Wearing jewelry like bangles and headbands, they seem muscularly familiar, as well.


“… assist the honored guest of the Manse?


(Ah, two of the three members of Kaskin’s harem? Where is the third…?)


The harpies of wing plating and talon maces stride up, showcasing both more restraint with how they deign to deeply bow…


(… and also more open despise than their fellows.)


For their words are without any emotion. Not even begrudging respect or venomous obsequience is offered as they treat Kol as if she’s a stray animal that wandered in. They only seek to quickly fulfill her desires so that she will leave.

Anger isn’t bothered with, though Adris should think these two hold even more than any others.


(This is my cue. And I’m glad that “sister” is fast with her own.)




Before Kol can even think to speak, Adris is sliding past her.

With perfect timing, his “sister” matches his action.

Instead of only a guest, there are also two chaperons.


“Ah, honored… Representatives are you two, is it?”

“Oh~? Such cute little kids~?”


Though they haltingly bow once more, they fail to capture the spirit of submission required for showing…




A failure to properly show respect commensurate to position deserves only…


“Do you not lack proper awareness?”

“Do you not lack proper deference?”




“… Huh!?”

Two youthful voices sound like one with this question until the very end, where they both offer a different take on failures observed.

Menacing as they close on the arrogant harpy in a slow, marching pincer, with stares full of curiosity made horrendous by voices that lack any emotion, their effect is instantaneous.


“I’m… no! Please overlook our lapse!


So impressive is the weird threat that the gussied-up harem harpy puts her wing around her less-observant comrade and lowers both with an improper cry.


“How may we thankful housekeepers assist the honored Representatives of the Maker with fulfilling the guest’s needs…?”

“… Y-Yes~! We’re pleased to have the opportunity to assist the Maker, in any way we can?”

Coolly spoken, lifelong training reasserts at the right moment to “save these women’s lives”.


(A fine recovery. How predictable it was that I needed to teach that line to Fehr.)


As Adris speculated, a lack of proper exposure to Falke has made some of these servants too prideful.


(… But we don’t need leftovers. What I need is the leader of these—! Hmm!?)




Roving with his eyes for the right target, Adris instead spots his sister wandering off toward harpy bystanders.






“… Eh? EH!?”

A small-looking waif wearing the same loose outfit as the others is pulled by her wings into the open. Though young, the light clothing reveals generous hips that will one-day be a source of pride.

“… Re-Re-Representative…!? Did I… no! Did this servant, do something… wrong…!?”


(What are you doing!? Nnn—!?)


“Serras” stares at the sweating harpy child as the adults single her out, backing away in fright.

More than just from the surprise and potential lethality of earning attention, Adris sees what they cannot.


(Your existence is changing!?)


“Oh!? Cute, getting pretty strong…?”


That thickness of pure black, the milky aura of Beyond that lingers within this newborn doll, seeps out. It is a power that practitioners of “magic” can sense to some degree and Kol can accurately gauge, especially when it deepens in severity by the ‘turn’.


(It’s this child’s doing!?)



… Phira. Found you.”


The harpy apparently named Phira is pulled into a sisterly embrace, all pretense of superiority vanishing as the two glue to one another. Adris’ sister begins stroking the other girl’s head, bringing more gasps from onlookers.

“Why is Phira smaller than before?”

“I’m not!?”


(How can you know this harpy!?)


That thought prompts another bout of vertigo in Adris when the darkness spreading from the two touches him.




— “Why does the perfect wife have to be a maid? Why shouldn’t I make you a lady, Phira!?” —




(“Because we do not decide our places in the order of the world. We recognize our roles and excel in them, or we fail and are dragged from our perches.”)


Wisdom Adris has never heard spoken is suddenly in his mind, useful advice that this doll should be following.


“Wait, ‘Phira’!? No, I… no, this servant, isn’t…!”


“… Help! Granny’s who you want! Please help, Granny!

The crazed kid shrieks with a musical voice before losing all strength and crumbling into the affection being forced on her. Resistance only enticed the doll to cradle the harpy child more tenderly, leaving Adris rigid in shock himself.

“Please… don’t pat me…! I just… earned the right to work, so I’m… an adult, now…!”

“Phira is very cute. Pretending to be an adult. Now, hug back.”

“Uh…!? No…! Uuuh…!

Finally starting to cry now that all chance of being taken seriously is destroyed, the kid’s shaking despair only earns more furious petting.


“… Should we not release the lesser servant.”

Intervening at this excess, Adris’ hand on his sister only earns a negatively shaking head.

“Phira is not a lesser, like brother suggests. Not worthless, like the rest so far. Very special.

“… Servants of the Maker are never worthless, unless they render themselves as such.”


(Stop objecting! Who is Phira!? How do you know this harpy!?)


The sight of Representatives disagreeing openly further unsettles the aviary, though Kol only seems interested. While he’d been fearful of Kol screwing things up, the shadow Adris has needed to maintain his legitimacy is losing herself instead, clinging to another like she’s holding a stuffed animal toy…!


(This shouldn’t be happening? You’re just awakened, what experiences could you have to drive this? Why are you being so obstinate… UGH!?)




From the distance, a subtle tremor in the air unnerves Adris.

At the central bathing area one taller harpy nakedly soaking stands up, a circling wall of mist growing around her.


(Pseudo aura!? Higher tier magic!)


A moment later, this tornadic mist’s sibling springs up next to them!

Sight disappears as the gentle gray swirls, and then vanishes to reveal…


“My, my, have you made your first mistake already~?”


As gentle as the mists she called, this plush woman’s kind taunt prompts the much tinier girl to cease crying.

“… Uh, Granny! Help!


(Strong! Was she here when we came through last time!?)




A foot taller than every woman around her, this harpy maid now magically wears a uniform no different from the rest. But where theirs are fancifully revealing, her sashes barely contain wobbling melons as she struts forward, and dig tighter into supple skin where they are supposed to only softly cling.

Ridiculously wide hips afford a generous gap between her thunderous thighs, a sure sign of a goddess-like breeding prowess. Plumage that’s black with whitish tips also seems softer than the rest, provoking the image of an aged bird who overlooks the more sprightly members of her family.


(How can she fly with thickness like that dragging her down, even if using magic?)


“Mmm, Kol… likes this one!” Both sultry and vicious, the kobold titan crosses her arms with generous approval while taking in the harpy who could be turned into the perfect bed. “That’s how you should make a strong bird! ‘Not shallow like little lake, but swell like deep ocean’, Moon would say!”


(That’s not what that aphorism means! Tastes… good, though…!)


Exactly like a crisp lake teeming with fish and bordered by wildflowers, even if he can’t see her face, Adris is drawn toward the motherly smell sweeping around her body. Droplets of water hang on her milky skin, fresh from the baths and inviting him to lick them off. He can only wish he’d been joining her, as he only caught the briefest glimpse of this queen’s naked self.


(She’s right at the cusp of where her strength is hidden like with Meltisha, but she still can’t prevent certain tells from leaking out…)


“While sweet to see, would you please release this little one, honored Representative?”

“… Keeping Phira. Finally found her.”

“Oh…?” Genuine amazement floods into the aged honey voice of this giant roost leader. She draws the doll’s attention by brushing a wing against her face. “While quite alike in appearance, this child’s name among her sisters is actually ‘Namia’.”

“Hm!? Not Phira…?”


Instead of the harpy being picked up, Adris’ sister is hoisted up by currents of water that condensate around her. They gently sweep the misbehaving doll back to him, where he catches and sets her down without a spot of moisture remaining.


(All without a chant!)


“If you’re looking for a ‘Phira’, then there can only be one who would’ve given you that name…?”




Every other harpy gives ample deference for this one to take center stage.

Despite “all being equal” by Adris’ guess, she is special, for even Kaskin’s harem mates eagerly grant space.


(How old are you? You seem familiar…?)




“I am the one called Sapphira, though only by the rest, and serve as their… well, isn’t ‘exemplar’ fine~?”

While she admits this, she also declines to bow, only extending her wings to showily dip before refolding them.

“I have the joy of having been chosen to serve the Kestners without a name, as we all have… oh?”

Side-by-side now, Adris and his sister now get to be appraised by the aged leader. Adris feels pseudo-aura wavering, touching upon his skin.


(Magical inspection? She’s examining my veracity.)


“My, my, joint units? Such wonderful creations Falke has made this time? It’s been so long since he gave… interesting life to something! I apologize, but this will be the first time for most of the others to have seen true Representatives~.”

Whatever she learned, the harpy only titters and then grows more familiar. Tilting her head, the woman’s voice takes on a lethal tone without changing in the slightest.




“… That would be why they didn’t give it their all with proper greetings, correct?




All heads lower at this remark, unseen faces tight with fright.

Silence falls over the whole roost, as even the real crows and ravens crowding around by the hundreds shut up.




It’s hard for Adris to not fall for this gentle tyrant who easily flexes her will over others, especially as she seems to value sincerity more than cruelty.


“Now, now, Namia~. You messed up, so go sit out your shame~.”

“… Yes, Gra— I mean, matron.”

“You’ll get another chance, soon~.”


Only the child clinging to Sapphira’s leg is spared abuse, nodding while pulling off her page cap with its hanging forward cape. Revealed beneath is a teary-eyed girl with short black hair who gives Adris’ sister a sad stare, before flying off toward a house cut into the surviving tree limbs.


“Now, how may we…?”




(Not lose momentum!?)


Toward such a powerful personage, Adris gently pulls on his sister’s hand and prepares to name her for the first time before others.

He’d not appreciated the danger of waltzing into the roost to discover such a discerning foe, but finds now that it only excites him even more.


(We can do this, as long as you obey!)


As though her fever has almost passed, the doll that tried to steal a harpy child is staring at Sapphira with a confused expression.

But, she then looks to Adris, and both nod in unison.




Standing proudly, the children weave their free arms around in a fluid dance, before bringing them to rest over the sashes made of painted arms where they should be placed.


“I am called ‘Fehl’ (SEED OF [Male]), Servant of the Maker.”

“I am called ‘Fehr’ (SEED OF [Female]), Servant of the Maker.”


Refusing to bow, they only need proclaim why they belong over the others with matching tempos.


(Like I found with Kol’s strange dialogues, terminology from Xin has limitations. The meanings don’t fluidly transfer in all cases, only as vague hints or generalities… So, it presents a useful exotic lexicon!)


Just as Adris instructed, his sister called “Fehr” begins to concentrate on stimulating her “aura” just as he does.




Since Adris’ ascension, he can feel it lingering there, now.

Gathering in his reservoir like it used to.


Rantil had told him with her pages.




-Min- (🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸🩸———————) -Max-


Rantil’s Advice: “So long as you plug the hole, won’t the rain basin eventually refill~?”]


(Even if I can’t force it to obey, it’s gathering! No… maybe I did force it…?)


Thinking back, there was that gateway which had a door which never seemed to open as smoothly as it did before he kicked it.


(… It felt my power! It succumbed…~! And, so will all of you!)




After their silent show of building presence, Sapphira leans closer, tilting her head curiously before she laughs.

“Hahaha! Oh, under the masks, you two are…!? Oh, my! Falke was taken by an… interesting artistic spirit in the way he shaped you two!”

Still overly familiar with her master, Sapphira’s inspection narrows in appreciation. Adris hesitates at how her laugh seemed half-hearted, and her tone a bit sad before she finished.

The other harpies harden their respectful poses at this introduction’s good reception, but also lose their apprehension of the two “dolls”.

“How worringly nostalgic, but perhaps in one’s later years it’s fine to brood over such things…? And what can we do for such wonderful little servants of the Kestners?”


(Did we fail? Why “nostalgic” in grading my original design…? And, “Of the Kestners”?)


The way she phrases this sticks in Adris’ mind for a moment, before he moves to speak for the sake of the kobold who is staring at Adris with undisguised fascination.


“The honored guest we’ve been chosen to serve has expressed interest in learning about this Manse, and especially of what it means to be truly ‘noble’ which she believes it may teach her…”


(Succumb to my perfect show.)


Fehr finishes her line, before another seamlessly follows up.

“… She desires to drink of the beauty of its arts, and be granted passage to inspect them at her leisure…”


(Give me the keys to unlock all rooms and passages.)


Again to Fehr it goes after Fehl concludes.

“To understand what she cannot defeat more intimately, she wishes to test the unsurpassable works of our glorious Maker within the central garden…”


(Unlock the false garden! Unbar your master’s workshops!)


And by involving others in the plot being spun against the delvers, Fehl melodically shares the subversion’s design with a harpy intelligent enough to understand, using more of a whisper than an announcement for this part.

“… And to be… further tempted with that which is beyond her wildest dreams, oh exemplary servant Sapphira…”


(Give me every opportunity I need to play this out to the conclusion I desire…)


“… Our Maker dictated to us only one lesson, so that we should learn: ‘seek out another who may answer your needs better than you can, and observe how they do so’. To that end, he named ‘Sapphira’ as our guide.”


Dual-spoken lines further harass the page harpies, leaving them aware of the two in white and black masks that act nothing like humans.


(Remember what we are!)




“Such a strange task, and he named me…? What a waste of such good kids!” Further explanation seemingly unneeded, the great harpy grows bored with their self-important request while approaching.

“I see, he’s still playing his strange game, is he~? An equal squandering of his own remaining youth, too!”


The cap that she wears to mask herself is tossed away, revealing a warm, motherly smiling face that has more than a hint of fat to her rounded cheeks. Instead of blue like her name would imply, hers are a deep red of the same color that flecks the others.


(Why are you dismissive of…!? Familiarity was not what I expected!)




Before he can respond, he and his sister are swooped up by warm feathers.

A beautiful feeling of comfort wraps around, with a suffocating sweet heat baking him alive!


(Hmm!? You’re… friendly! And…!)


“Okay, I’ll assist you with everything per-so-nally~!”




Less lewd and more terribly indulgent, the matron starts to fuss over the servants who had their creepy introduction spoiled.

“I’ve been needing a day off from these devilish nest hens for a while, anyway~? So, let’s share a name and let Miss Sapphira show you three around as much as you want, okay?”


Dragging them up to Kol, the matron addresses her personally.


“Well, well, Miss Arsonist, what sort of fun would you like to have first?”

“… KAKAKAKA! Kol, definitely likes you! ‘Sorry, not sorry’, Kol just had to ‘paint’ last night!”

Rather than fire back or antagonize, Kol just excitedly points toward the charred wall.

“Moon said, Kol should learn to clean up after ‘painting’, so, Kol wants to start here, first.”


(Hah…! Hah…! Good, job… Kol…! Arrogant, yet… obliging…!)


Or so Adris thinks while pleasantly roasting, folded up in a feathery paradise along with his stunned sister “unit”.


(She’s doing great… she has the first impression set! “The arrogant guest” keeps their eyes on you, and now they can discover what they are lacking by being locked away in a place that receives no warmth of life…)


It’s time to upend their idyllic vision of their own competency with a kobold’s and false god’s joint charisma.


(I want them to dream of…?)




He searches his feelings, angling for the guidance that a new Talent feeds him bite by bite with the small minnows adding up to the full meal.


(… to dream of “a world after stagnancy”? Oh? Hmmm… that’s an interesting goal…)


One that the boy longs to understand, himself.

It’s unfortunate, but the plots are working faster than his mind can piece them together.


The goal was decided before the means were determined, a reversion of everything Adris believes in that forces him to trust a Talent that reminds him of Ave’s annoyingly unpredictable luck.

(… But, I’m better than the challenge. Let me demonstrate my superior design.)





Name: Adris fehl Dain, “Boss”, “Starr”
Titles: Lycia’s Little Brother, Slayer, Gigolo (Self-Admitted)
Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human), ???
Sex: Male
Age: ?? – Young


Occupation: Crossbearer; “Star of Ruin, Cast Down from the Sky Upon a Dying World”, Slayer of Petripolis, [True False God] Discipline: [Rule in Dark]



[Tool Savant] – “Adris is a tool-collecting-and-utilizing fanatic. Most men would consider him disgusting for loving tools more than his own partner. Has so many tools that it can be said to be his true power. What does he do when he has no tools left? He seeks to acquire more, obviously!”


[Rule in Dark – Wave of Darkness] – “Making victory possible? No, no, no. That thing isn’t that kind! There’s more than that!”


[Brainfry] – “You’re still with me, right buddy? Yeah, you’re still there.”


[Refuse to Kneel] – “Ah, even the Alchemaster can’t make me submit! This is the one that’s saved me all those times!?”


[Tongue of Air and Darkness] – “What’s the difference between this and the old one? Why ‘air’?”


[Conceptual Refusal] – “How the fuck does dominating people’s minds turn into a weird statement like this!?”


[Obscuring Sonjil] – “Man, this thing has gotten pretty strong on Zennia. At first only creating an area of fog, it can now cover a direction? Is something wrong…?”


[Marital Arts – Self-taught] – “Hoh, even if it’s dangerous to use, it feels good to prove to myself that the body is still as willing as the mind! Even if I can’t call it aura, something is inside me now!”


[Verisimilitude] – “Stop giving weird names to what I do! But if my imaginative truths are more believable now, I’m not gonna complain.”


[A WONDERFUL CURSE] – “If that old corpse wasn’t already dead, I’d definitely kill him!”


[Authentic Fiction] – “All tales eventually gain sufficient truth if retold often enough, right? Why shouldn’t my fiction be better than ‘reality’?”






[The Mountain King] – “[Honor the gods, inheritor, and ever seek victory for their sake.]


Disposition: Resilient / Adaptable / Sinner
Alignment: Chaotic

Eyes: Black
Hair: Black, with strands of White
Skin: Tanned



Rantil Value – “Even after all of that, Master is still an idiot!”


Attributes by Grade:

Strength – E

Vitality – E

Dexterity – D

Agility – C

Intelligence – D

Mentality – C

Luck – F

Charisma – D


“If you want more, stop being mean to Rantil!”



Cethran Value – “Much the same as before, but isn’t the way you look at others a bit more dashing, now? Forced to open yourself to the world, perhaps the gentleman may grow? That is likely impossible, isn’t it, Adris?”

“One step forward, two steps into iredeemable vice?”

“Can you understand the difference between ‘contact that is forced, but welcomed’ and ‘that which inflicts mental harm’? On Zennia, aren’t these two things muddied?”


“Aren’t you more docile when pretending to be a servant? Or perhaps more alike your previous master?”



“A boy who is a bit out of place as far as features, he descended from the top of the Castillo to the bottom by pluck, luck, and outrageous lying. Reborn into the world of Zennia, what can be said other than ‘he’s still exactly the same, but different’?”

“To use a Talent upon others would normally make them an enemy, but if the Talent is designed to unlock their deepest desires, then…?”

“Choosing to take on a disciple, Adris has begun to walk an old path. How will this future differ from history?”


“As someone that originally was the ‘assistant’, it’s not a place that needs to be taught again.”



“Being able to serve others is essential for knowing how to use others.”



Name: “Kol” fehl Dain, “Pink”
Titles: Idiot, “Tyrant Knight”
Race: Kobold, ???
Sex: Female
Age: ???


Occupation: Delver, Frontliner, ???
Discipline: Tyrant Squire




[Invisible Edge] – “Axe goes through everything?”


[Full Contact] – “Wanna go!? Kol, let fists talk!”


[“Ride on Dread“] – “THE WORLD, BELONG KOL! KAKAKA!






[ ?DARKNESS? ] – “▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒……!!!”




[“Dreadful Armor”] – “This is where Kol will live and die. When Kol roars, armor roars, too!”


[Halberd of the Whirlwind] – “GET OVER HERE!”


Disposition: Straightforward / Confrontational / Respectful
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Pink
Hair: White
Skin: Tanned



Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Strength – C-?!?

Vitality – C-?!?

Dexterity – E

Agility – F

Intelligence – F

Mentality – C




Cethran Value – “Are you attracted to rampaging metal? Though in your case, you appreciate the voice, don’t you? Do you long to see more? If she reminds you of a certain someone, then…?”

“Why do you flee from genuinity the moment you see its result?”


“What happens if she does a better job than you do?”



“Brash and forthright, a warrior wielding an axe with two hands forsakes protection to deliver only harm. Contrary to this impression, she also seems interested in a straight up fight. If her words are any indication, she offers little thought to her actions.”

“And now, the disciple has become the master!”


“But if she’s trying to emulate Adris, what is her impression of him going to look like?”



“A smarter Kol is a scary subject.”







Chapter 112         Table of Contents          Chapter 114