Take Up the Cross – Chapter 115: Endless Duel!

“Okay! Kol, likes here, too!”


To prove how comfortable the octangular statuary hall makes her, Kol leans into her stretching and loosens muscles soon to showcase raw power. That overly tight vest has popped open, with only a tight tunic clinging to her upper body hiding what is obvious now.

More alike the sensual figures locked in motion in this hall, this battle tiger only lacks a pedestal.


(… always a treat…!)

[So vulgar, to prepare before others.]


The only male present has eyes that disobey contrary thoughts, fluidly following with each twist and bend. They refuse to miss a single spectacular angle of a youthful body proudly displayed toward opponents.

All are quiet as this kobold girl plops onto the floor, reaching up to pull on her feet with a big yawn.

Hmmm! Everything feels fine. Kol, thought ‘wine’ might make Kol…?”

Instead of hands, a muscular tail pushes her upright when she completes her set. She flexes with a lurch forward, curling her arms while whistling.

“But, instead, Kol only feels energy! Big energy, for a big moment!”

“Are you certain you wish to carry through with this?”


A boy’s voice carries a hint of resignation, but also care.

The guest that they’ve been assigned to studies him momentarily with narrowed eyes, then laughs uproariously.

“KAKAKA! Oh, see Kol and how Kol can move, then suddenly wanna back out!? Huh, being afraid of Kol… ‘proper response’! Kol can forgive lies from earlier, then…~?”




“Nothing said earlier was a lie.”

In place of the boy, a girl cuts down the boast.

Lacking an outfit more regal than any other’s, the once demure twin’s voice gains an edge.

Even if a servant, we will prove our worth.”

“Kol, gonna hold Cute to that!”




This boasting knight’s time to shine is now, if legends tell the truth.


Even a servant without care for stories admits that the sight of stark white hair and fur, a rarity for any demi-human species, leaves one swallowing with slight anticipation as the handsome tomboy emotionally towers over her spectators further with every limbering motion.

Like a fearsome beast, hungry and waiting for only this moment, is ready to throw off its costume and charge.




“All good! No complaints! Cute, made challenge, so…”


Marching up thick stone steps, this challenger nods toward the three birds and a set of twins standing beneath a gargantuan statue set in a pose similar to the one she assumed while stretching.


“… Kol will answer it…!




… Why spears, though?”


These brutal points steal Kol’s fascination, forcing others to answer for the style of the statue they reside under.

A fat man wearing flowing robes is trapped by them as he’s frozen in terror.

Innumerable dual-spiraled points bear down on him from above, floating in the air and leaving no escape for the cringing bastard of a fat noble whose many-pointed crown has already fallen off.

The pudgy palm he impotently presses against the first point is already pierced, soon to have his pincushion of a hide following.


“Not all rulers are allowed to meet their ends in bed, little firestarter.”


Bemused at this, a harem harpy ticks forward to brush her wing over the crown that lies between guest and servants.

On its side, it is taller than the harpy and only slightly shorter than the quiet matron who is stroking a young boy with her thick black wing. Its weight is conspicuous even to a passive appreciation, so much so that the bird-boned harem harpy wouldn’t be expected to even budge it should she try to.


“The end’s gotta come sometime, too! Ain’t nobody gonna… save tyrants that deserve it, even if they claim to be descended from dragons~!” Kachua spreads her other wing toward the emblem of a serpent breathing fire at the crown’s other side, a symbol that is replicated on the busy dead man’s robes. “When it’s humans against humans, no matter how ‘vast the history’, a prince can lose everything…?”

“Oh? Well, if someone, gets proved ‘weak’…”


Pulling up on the balls of her feet, the knight rips at the lace around her neck. It tears free and flutters away, loosening the last bit of good behavior left in its former wearer.


“… then, they deserve to lose! Kol, is fine with that [fate]! Give everything, honestly, and throw at Kol all that isn’t cheating!”

Clenching her fist, the kobold pumps her arm toward the heavens.




A broad smiling face ignores the harpy servant’s clicking tongue as the history-oriented threat is glossed over, gazing only at the real target as she claps once.


“Moon says, ‘one who makes challenge goes first’! So, let’s see your ‘guts’! Lift this crown with spirit, if can!”


With the terms dictated, Kol crosses her arms and leans back, huffing through her nose while wagging her dull, silvery tail.


Moving past the ignored harpy, a little girl brushes back her shining silver, fluffy hair to answer Kol’s boastful posture. Her movements are both inhuman with their precision and childish with their hurry to self-assert.


“… According to such logic, shouldn’t the challenger also choose the contest? Then why are we here? There are many ways that I can best a disagreeable guest.”


(… Still familiar. I can only say it’s… her influence…)

[A peculiar habit that reeks of vanity. “Disagreeable”? I’ll need to correct you with care, sister.]


Such a distinctive gesture brings attention to her countenance, locked in an unacceptable, derisive mood ever since the kitchens.


A quick pat on the side causes Kachua to bow her head and step back so that Fehr may take over the contest.

“Why does the duel suit the one who is challenged, especially with such a brutish method picked to determine the winner?”

“Nah!? Again, whining? Tut…!

One girl waggles her furry finger at the other.

It’s an infuriating gesture Kol seems eager to use, given how she grins ear-to-ear when Fehr jolts at it.

“If everyone in this place, so wonderful, then they can meet Kol head on in anything. So, does it really matter what sort of things we play~?”


[Circular logic. Not that it matters, that is agreed. We exist to answer the call of other’s needs, not our own.]


Even if he disapproves privately, a boy named Fehl only nods his head in agreement before interrupting. “If this is what the guest desires, then we shall answer that need. Win or lose, you will receive no less than our best.”


A blankness comes over Fehr for a moment when she swings around in a rush at this order, before she turns back and steels herself without a word.


(… you can’t deny her anymore with words…!)

[Remember our duty and understand without rejecting. We are not incapable in any match.

… Hmm?]




As though he has become the challenger instead, the other servants now stare down at Fehl.

Despite his only stating the obvious, they appear shocked by his simplicity of purpose, even though they should understand implicitly.

After all, Fehr is newly made, even if Fehl can draw upon more embedded experiences. Veteran servants such as these lesser ones should…?


[No matter.]




“Let us proceed. Fehr: demonstrate our superior crafting and carry out the guest’s order.


The sister grows shocked by the emotionless command, a great deal of her drive seemingly vanishing as she slumps.

“… Yes, brother.”


[Why do you seem dejected?]




While the guest quietly cackles to herself, Fehr steps up to place a dainty hand upon the overly large crown.


“Oh, you seem to be missing something important, Miss Representative. Wouldn’t want you damaged…”

To her side the muscular harpy rushes, tapping Fehr’s hands while leaning in to whisper at her ear.

“Gloves would protect as well as providing a good grip, also…”



[What is this servant doing?]


When the brash voice of the harpy woman goes lower, Fehl feels a subtle fluctuation in the air. An instinctive alteration of the [Design] muffles the acoustics surrounding his sister unit.


[The usage of arcane talents to disguise words said before a guest? Most improper. Why do this?]

(… Let’s find out…!)




Fehl’s own senses adjust, certain ideas going through his mind that have no apparent meaning at the forefront of his consciousness.

But, when he examines them in his thoughts, his eyesight alters to become sharper than ever.

Pupils narrow and focus to reveal the very words leaving the woman’s lips.


[Fascinating, my design turns out to be…?]


“… and if you change the direction of the material’s vital flow…”


“… then you can reconfigure it to excel in moving in one particular direction… you see~?”

“… ah, yes! That is… permissible. Understood, and… thank you.”


[She knows so much…?]

(… How does a harpy know how to use it in such a technically advantageous way…?)


A rather interesting question comes from that inner voice Fehl is beginning to pay heed to.


[How, indeed?]


While Kol patiently watches, Fehr moves her hands toward the crown’s edges.

Gloves weave into being on her skin before touching.


At one end of it, the little girl squats to take up the gigantic headpiece in one straight lift.




Nothing outward betrays the changes beneath, but Fehl doesn’t need to see skin ripple to comprehend the fluctuations. While the girlish servant’s outer layer of pseudoprósōpon remains identical, down to her very core mechanism the internals adopt a different paradigm.


[Refocusing her musculature and the flow of material?]


Calm as ever, this girl’s mouth still breaks into a smug grin.

The innocent guise of a child about to pull a prank!


Beneath her feet, pressure gathers.


[Fehr’s lift will be aided by the manse’ reservoir itself…!]


Without a creak, the crown leaves the ground.

In a draw to her body, Fehr lays it upon her chest before heaving the false golden icon skyward.


Fehl feels the pressure welling up in the floor flood through his sister’s body, turning rigid muscles that fill with the fluid without over-inflating.


(… What is this…!?)

[Principle of hydraulic pressure?]


This principle known to one created with its use leaves solid joints popping as the liquid pseudoprósōpon displaces briefly when gravity settles the weight from above downward; yet, the inspiring champion of the manse shifts her hand holds under its mass until she can face Kol with great glee.




An unbroken circle glints in the light from the glass windows.

Perfect teeth catch a bit of this glare as the servant “demurely” speaks.


“With nary an issue, and perfect uniformity in lift, this servant overcomes the challenged task.”


The crown then crashes to the ground, slammed back without care and refused to roll by one hand yanking.

Fehr turns to side-eye the challenged kobold, nodding her head before speaking.


“Eager are we to witness the guest demonstrate the same with even more ‘spirit’.”


[Far too offending!]





The overseer for this sister unit has his mouth open to reproach her, but gets preempted by the offended party starting up the steps to join Fehr.

“Very good! Kol… felt Cute’s guts.”


[To utilize such alterations without announcing them is in violation of the spirit of the contest, as well!]


Only a step from cheating, utilizing the manse’ own attributes is still within the capabilities of Fehr.


[This guest did suggest giving everything to the challenge, so that is permissible…? Hmm?]


Before the guest can begin her warmup, though, Fehl’s preternatural senses notice a trailing fluctuation beginning from his sister’s feet.

The pseudoprósōpon travels outward, gathering up more of itself and winding toward the crown.




Unbeknown to the next challenger, the pseudoprósōpon that makes it the crown compresses within, filling with more mass without altering size. Even the ground itself seeks to impose further herculean difficulty, tightening its bond with the surface area where object and floor connect.


(… Now that’s some impressive…)

[Cheating! How dare—!?]




“Do you notice everything?


Again, a damnable interference draws the butler-to-be back into her embrace the moment he intuits the plot.

The feeling of magic similar to the other harpy’s steals away his voice by stifling the air’s vibrations.


“It’s remarkable how observant he made you? Equally cute, the copied sense of justice instilled…”


[Not justice! Our honor is at stake should this farce be discovered!]


To Fehl’s horror, his grinning sister unit is committing outright fabrication. Using one’s own abilities to their best is commendable, but this unsettles the challenge by placing it in one party’s favor.

“Such haste is wonderful, but you must understand how the guest perceives even the things they ‘don’t notice’.”


[Sophistry! Release me!]


Alluring whispers of a sweet voice that doesn’t match the age of the speaker are a temptation that only further antagonizes the boy who must intervene.

Yet, he’s locked in this course, for thrashing would not only be imprudent, but also betray the plot.

When he remains calm, the thick woman he’s pulled so closely to chuckles and coos.

“Right, the ‘best path’ is simply to pretend nothing is happening? Don’t overly concern yourself. Your care for the guest will likely be wasted on her.”




“Nnn? So, Kol is wondering…”

Tapping the crown once with her claw, Kol pulls it along the surface and produces a shrieking sound.


“… Yes, honored guest?”

Though the muscular harpy beside Fehr winces at the contact, there’s no change with the girl’s face.


[How vulgar, this is!]

(… But hilarious…!)


“If Cute lifted the crown with ‘spirit’, then… anything Kol lifts, that’s heavier than the crown, would also count as a ‘win’, hmm?”


Kol’s hand leaves the crown, as the knight resumes her arrogant march from earlier through the halls. Swinging her arms, she passes by Fehr and storms through the crowd, forcing the harpies nearby to step back.


“… That… would seem correct.”

Though she cannot sweat, Fehr’s eyes widen as Kol nears another object of ponderous mass. She refuses to turn around, unwilling to look at Kol as a fearsome presence begins to exude from the kobold.


[What is she going to do? Surely, not…?]

(… Yes, Kol will do anything she sets her mind to…!)


Fehl’s heart stops when the girl’s body begins to burn.


More protectively than luridly, Sapphira’s wings hide all but his face as both he and Fehr uncontrollably shiver when exposed to the radiance.




Along with the walls.

And frosted windows.


And the floor of the statuary hall itself.


“… As I thought, this one is going to be difficult.”

Sapphira hisses as the first shockwave of shaking fear strikes her, too!




“Okay! Kol, agrees!”




Beneath the cringing statue, Kol’s hands firmly plant as she squats in closely to it.

The heat haze summoned by concentration demands all eyes to never leave her.


“If Kol wants to prove who is the best, then, why think like humans do!?


What began as only a haze quickly grows to become a wildfire that spreads from Kol to every surface around her.

Solid matter squirms in pain and hunger as some unnatural force that beats with the kobold’s heart thrums.









A statue locked in terror of descending spears is given life by an even greater dread.

Tiny hands planted on its backside defy reality as they lift the titanic object skyward with the start of a violent toss.







Strength to conquer all fills the atmosphere with her yell!




“What’s this flameee!?”

“This is like before, but worse!”


It devours heat and energies down to the very expectations of their psyches, only burning hotter as harpies exposed to it previously suffer again.

While they watch in disbelief, the distance Kol rises from the ground, mere inches at first, provides more fuel for the midget lifter.


“She’s actually…”

“… lifting it…!?”




A cataclysmic wave of white phantasmal fire spills through the room with the effort that sends the enormous, fat prince lunging to his doom, liquefying gray surfaces and putrefying the very supporting structure of the manse!




When Kol’s body reaches its apex extension, the kobold loses her grip and flips herself over her own head.




The tosser tumbles comically even as an inferno spirals around her and outward,


while the poor coward that feared being gored impales himself willingly upon his murderers’ weapons.


[What is this creature!?]

(… My Inheritor of Fire…!)


Protected by black wings as the height of this emission crashes, Fehl forcibly imagines concepts that should be either unknown to him or unworthy of consideration.


The blaze inflicts glimpses of a scene as his eyes are scorched forever by it…!




Where Fehr has stumbled to her knees, covered by two harem harpies that throw themselves upon her to be burned instead…?



… why are you… unmoving…?]







The body lies as still as the day before.

More like a twisting branch than a woman, fair skin is gnarled and weathered, while her gentle curves are replaced by garish angles.

The treatments to forestall the growths’ spread left much of the surface still human, though beneath…?

Even if he kneels at a bedside in horror of the truth, quietly telling himself that only another day was all he needed to find the perfect mixture, the same mantra he’s repeated for thirty and more, he can’t shut out how peaceful *****’s face looks when the end he rejected, and she bluntly affirmed with a disapproving frown, finally came to fruition with their lineage’s… —







[… “Don’t pretend that you truly desire it, when you’ve never felt its curse”…?]


Those vile words leave him lifeless.

Collapsing into the empty gulf left after the fires peter out.


[Why was… her proud face so ravaged…?]

(… Ahhh, her aura hurts so much…!)


Pain is the least of his concerns, since his senses blur and darken. Something shakes his body, yet he cannot feel the strength to respond.




[… Even though nothing is wrong?]

(… There’s plenty supposed to be wrong, so sit still…!)


A self-assessment that finds no fault vanishes from Fehl’s mind.

Some voice at the edges is demanding inaction, even though he must…!






[A… speaker? I am being called? Then, I will—!]




Blinking away the darkness,


Fehl jolts upright, nearly colliding with another’s face.




“Boy…!? Calm down.”

“… I was reques—”



Again he’s smothered, prevented from rising further.

But, he’s still allowed to witness the aftermath.




“Hooh, Kol, felt that one, but… turned out good!”


An arrogant sort cracks her neck with her furry hands, stuck gazing upwards at a candle-wax figure drooping after the flames departed. What’s left of a humanoid shape and loose raiment is skewered like boiled meat upon points that have also melted.

A gargantuan sculpture defied gravity and altered its very composition to rise on its own, morphing into an impressionistic piece instead of an historical one at the end.


“Kol… calls this, umm… [Roasted Prince]~?”

At first grinning widely, the girl’s sweating face clouds with dissatisfaction as she stumbles backward to collapse beside a heart-shaped band that’s sagged. “Hmmm…? Will ask Moon, better name… haaah…”


[… She’s winded.]


Though still a guest, such an observation is key to reigning her in.


[That expenditure comprised everything this guest possessed in her Vim reserves.]


To be expended after this means that—!




[Should this be turned around, Fehr can still conquer—!]

(… Shut up and forget…)








“What’s wrong? Was something knocked loose, Fehl?”

On his feet again, Fehl can assess his internals with supreme accuracy. To answer the usually playful woman that crowds around him, nearly roosting on top of him with the abhorrent neediness in her voice, is easy.

“… Am I… damaged, is it? … No?”

Unlike the rest of the statuary hall there is no discernible impact from the flames on his form.

At least not physically.


[…? What was I…?]


“So, like Kol said, ‘Kol wins’!”

“The guest did not utilize only strength to move the statue! This violates the terms of the contest!


Undamaged, he is also the last to recover. Before he’s even assessed the conversation, his sister unit Fehr is ready to physically accost their guest.

Clenched fists raise, then lower as the shaking servant doll fails to perturb the kobold still lounging on the ground with her legs spread wide to recline against the destroyed crown.


“Hah? ‘Strength’? Muscle, Cute means? Kakaka…” Betraying that condescending nature again, the knight claimant chuckles, rolling her shoulders. “Kol said, ‘show guts, lift with spirit’! So… Kol lifted with spirit!

“That’s ridiculous!”

Beside Fehr, Kachua cranes down to stare at Kol with thinly veiled hate.

“We can barely understand what the ‘mighty’ guest is saying even when she speaks words slowly, so how can just saying ‘show spirit’ mean ‘throwing a tantrum with metaphysical forces’ is allowed!?”


Kol is up in an instant, pointing a clawed finger at Kachua’s face.

“… Shut up, muscle bird.”


That claw wisps with heat as the kobold’s pink eyes menacingly glint.

“Only challenger… ‘Cute’, not muscle bird. Only one opinion, matters.”


… ugh.”


The shaking harpy loses this standoff, retreating from the fear wafting from their guest.


“… Then, this challenger will say, that this is not proper. It’s a—”

“Cute, gonna say… cheat, maybe~?”


Such a shit-eating grin, as if it’s knowing of a secret, silences the next words.


“Why is this bad~? Because… Cute, thought Kol was dumb, but was wrong~? Hah, take advantage of Kol, but fail, then whine, so ‘vain’!?”

A gloriously smug remark is followed by the kobold twirling once and pointing toward the heavens as her inner power recedes.


“Kol, moved the earth, so, explain to Kol, how Kol isn’t the winn—!?”




“The guest is the clear winner.”



Even Fehl is shocked along with Kol, left frowning when his sister turns with watery eyes and screams at him while shaking her arms.


“Brother!? Why!?”

“Right!? Stud, gets it!”


[Why are you… how are you… so emotional?]


“Accept the obvious outcome, Fehr. Defy not the inherent reality.”

We will not be found lacking as servants, brother!


Though introduced as completely in sync, twins now simmer in disagreement publicly.


[Unforgiveable! We cannot differ…! No, in this I agree, we will not be found lacking… but…?]




It’s clear who prevailed.


The one who accomplished the insurmountable task, even if she’s preening behind his sister by rubbing her chin and winking, proved true.




[… How can we… still win…? Turn her words, her logic, back on…?]




From deep within,


A vicious demon whispers a hint.




“… Ah!”

Slapping his hands together, Fehl screws his face up with confidence then raises his voice with due seriousness.

“Fehr! One challenge’s result does not constitute the sum of a contest if only testing one aspect of superiority!”

He raises a finger, mimicking their guest.

“We only concede defeat regarding ‘spirit’, without admitting inferiority overall.”

Rushing up to him, Fehr hugs her brother around the neck.

“… Yes! Wonderful wisdom, brother, deserving of praise to the Maker! The contest is not finished, this is obvious.”

This raw praise leaves Fehl grinning, despite his best efforts, before he adopts a suitable face for an impartial judge.


[Indeed, it is a strangely accurate, that voice’s—!]





“Ple-please remain calm, hono—!?”


Off the ground is where he finds himself, lifted into the air as three females crowd him.


One is inches from his face, her tomboyish beauty shaking with apoplectic rage.

Kol, feels like this same ‘bullshit’ happened, before!?



Another impotently pulls on this kobold’s shoulders, trying to free him, while the last towers overhead with a smile full of hidden misgivings.

“Perhaps the guest would like to calm herself first before something rash happens to—?

No, before committing a rash action?”

“SHUT UP, THICK BIRD! Kol, ‘clearly won’, so why…!?”


[Arrogant piece of…!]


An ungentlemanly and improper thought crosses Fehl’s mind, before he snuffs it.


[… It’s… only…!]


“The first… the first challenge concludes, so we shall…!”

“DO WHAT!? Kol, won ‘spirit’, so what—!?”


A daunting voice cuts in, with an icy tone that Fehl has only heard once before when she was dissatisfied.


“… The guest… likes to fight, correct?

“Hmm!? Kol, not like fighting, like winning—!

As if the difference matters, Kol ignores the provocation until receiving a slap on the back.


“Then, would the guest like to participate in a… ‘sparring match’ with… me—?”






Fehl strikes the ground, almost crying out in panic as his captor turns and sweeps up his sister.




Into a princess carry Fehr finds herself drawn, her dress inartfully wrapped up around the kobold knight’s arms. With silver tail wagging, Kol’s eyes dart around, looking for something.


“Kol, wants to fight Cute a lot~! Though, Kol wanted to fight Blackie a lot more… So, Kol will… get axe, and then—!”

“… K-Kol!? This servant… No…! I have a means of dueling superior to naked arms…!”


Squealing aloud, Kol leaves both skipping about with zest.

“Kol, very much is looking forward to a new way of fighting, knew there was something swordbird was holding out on Kol, when swordbird refused to talk about dueling here! Kol, will GET SWORDBIRD—!


Lovestruck, or axemad, all take in this guest of theirs whose anger swiftly turns to open anticipation as she begins drooling.


[… What… what are we doing…?]


Tactfully, they recompose themselves and refrain from commenting as the guest is led away, with Fehr still tightly clung to as either a friend or hostage.

While the kobold keeps yammering full speed, they’re stopped by a voice coughing from behind.




Sweeping a ring around the room which now resembles a cavern made of yogurt, the easy-going harpy maid tilts her head.


“Who… who is going to clean this up, first~?”




Without missing a beat, Sapphira scoffs and then resumes strutting.


“Just leave it to Falke, child. That man lives for the chance to clean up others’ messes.”




The head maid forgives all disorder, strutting up to the room’s gateway and calling out words that Fehr takes time remembering.


[“Leave it to…”? M-Maker… I do not doubt your orders, and certainly not your wisdom, but…?]


A name given to the twins as an inspiration for proper service, Miss Sapphira is their chosen instructor; yet, she leaves such devastation to rot with a cheery smile…?




“NOW! Kol, conditions, battle!


Stud, gonna be the judge this time.


[Hmm!? … As it should be.]




Though he stays silent, ever humble,

A small servant can only grin with confidence at this demanding position.





“Pull, this stick, this way…?”


From within an encasement, the sound of a clicking echoes

With a painful grinding sound, the arm connected to the large torso around that encasement lifts.


“Arm, goes up!? Umu, umu, Kol, understands!





[How does Fehr know about the Regalia…? And why do these historical Regalia bear a strange emblem upon their chests?]


Rather than the tree, bird of prey, and flute, there is a tree with a bird clutching a…?


[Why a violin? Why have… I seen this before?]

(… I wonder…!)


This nauseating question lingers, with the current topic of Regalia being of great interest to the other observer of this “sparring session”.

“Regalia are things that my Dearest has spoken of, about why he sought to serve your Maker, Noble Representative. That anyone who could make such perfect dueling armors is deserving of subservience! Also, Gran—ah!”

Catching herself in a near mistake, the maid sitting on the shoulder of a twenty-foot giant slows down and speaks more properly after.

“The head maid has said some things, too, stating that the Kestner Regalia were a backbone of the fallen Vohldok principality where we once roosted. That they brought the family we serve great honor~?”

“More than just dueling contrivances, they were also tools of war against the inhuman powers of the Three Evils.”


A long courtyard allows for two of the twenty-foot tall combatants to stand ready to engage, while the walls allow the rest of the dozen gathered to remain standing to spectate for the chosen duelists who stand below the waning afternoon sunlight.


The variants watching all bear different raiments of solid protective armor and weaponry of immense size at the ready, but are also quite different from the combatants.


“Though Fehr’s design is quite simplistic, it is also made with the principles instilled within us by a master Maker.”

“Hmmm? … Cer-Certainly…?”

Possessing freely moving arms and legs that are like wrapped sausages linked to a round container, the domes atop the centers of the strangely shaped giants that the duelists have entered host a gem within a fluid-filled enclosure. From this enclosure, undulating tendrils spread over the surfaces of the Regalias.




“Then, consider the matching lever on the opposite end of the panel.”

An assertive, yet kind, voice calls back from inside the beast opposite the first, continuing the lesson taking place on the long stretch of green turf below.

“If one pulls on it, then—?”


Before her advice finishes, Kol’s Regalia’s arm begins rapidly spinning in a circle, before screeching to a halt.


“UMU! Kol, SEES! KAKAKAKA! Very nice, kinda touchy? But… there are… umu, these are only, two sticks Kol understands? There are… many other sticks?”

When presumably another is touched, the Regalia twists in place 90 degrees before jarring to a halt with a whole body shake.

“Ugh!? Fast…!? And… circles? And… turning things?

“Those are buttons and dials. Each serves a function in controlling the automaton.”

“Umu… um…? Move stick, with foot… does the leg, maybe?”

As a leg ponderously lifts and nearly sends the titan toppling over, the other Regalia begins clapping its meaty arms.

“Correct. Excellent application, honored guest.”

“OOOOOOH! VERY NICE! Kol, be ready fast!”


Patiently, ever so painstakingly slowly, control of a bland titanic walker is established. Fitfully obeying Kol with each motion learned, the combatants continue to ready for their climactic fight.




Why should we help the guest in using the Regalia? Is she not ‘competent’? Surely, superior to us? If she requires instruction, then has she not already conceded the contest by the necessity to grovel before us for aid in winning?

Oh, Cute, tryn’a be cute, huh!?




An almost refusal to aid Kol in the first place had nearly ended in an immediate duel with hands, before Fehl resorted to explicitly ordering his sister in the name of the Maker to comply.


[Fehr is behaving erratically? Why?]


“… Honored Representative?” A curious voice sounds unusually interested in Fehl. “Have I… this servant, perhaps…?”


[No, irrelevant. I have failed to respond in time due to uncertainty. Continue the conversation with the servant.]


Protected by columns between which a translucent mesh hangs, Fehl, chosen as judge for this match, sits upon the shoulder of a Kestner-made Regalia with ambivalence.


[Surely, the ground is far away? So… why does it appear to be coming for me…?]


No dust is permitted to coat these machines, for they are princely creations that deserve as much allegiance and faith as the lost mother state that Kachua speaks of where they were made.

But, Fehl still feels the shoulder could use some dust, given how sleek it is.





[I… I see?]


The voice within turns disturbingly exuberant, maniacal even, with a cackling laughter bothering Fehl.


While he should feel only pride in these towering creations, he instead scoots away from the edge of the pauldron that is his seat. Something about the voice’s glee and the height makes his balance seem off?


[What is this malfunction plaguing me…?]


Instead of pondering it, he turns back to his partner.

“To have continued the conversation with me for this long, it is only prudent to call me ‘Fehl’, Miss Kachua.”

“… Yes! I’m… glad to be valued with the chance to have a name spoken to me, too!”


Though the great helm of the Regalia separates them, how the giant leans back with pride in its chest grants the ability to see the harpy maid who has eagerly been sharing his duties.

And the honor of learning from Fehl!


“When Talents do not suffice, Regalia and Aptitudes with them accomplish much more. But, Regalia pale in comparison to the worth of the chosen servants of a household, for they are the foundation of that family’s ascent to greatness.”


[It is with great joy that I take on the task of bolstering the lesser servants’ devotion to you, great Maker!]


“It is superb bodies, full of equal parts grace and refined talent willingly offered to the noble Maker, such as the beautiful you…

“B-B-Beautiful… me…!?”

“… that constitute the true treasures of this manse, second only to the Maker’s works.”


Of the page harpies, this Kachua and her sibling Restia have both been revealed by the discussion to be particularly blessed.

Because, they received something that marks them forever.


“Ahhh… aha…! Well… I am… overwhelmed…”

Even at her illogical agitation, Fehl must share the worth he sees in her without interruption!

“As I shall prove with Fehr, as our Maker wills it, we shall learn from wonderful examples such as Kachua and Miss Sapphira as to how to achieve a greatness of existence far surpassing the average human.”


Bragging earlier about many things, now this energetic harpy has grown somewhat reticent around Fehl.


[I don’t comprehend the change in her behavior?]

(… Are you fucking serious…?)


The voice inside that whispers interesting things speaks with deadness before the maidservant finally manages to return his compliment.

“You’re… far… far too kind to me. None of us have ever even been permitted to enter this room, never once in many years, save for the head maid, by Meister F—

AHHH, the Maker’s orders! It would be nice if… we had as much value as the Regalia that I’ve finally seen?”


“I’m sorry!?”


When Fehl rises from his seat to shout at her, Kachua shifts, readying to take wing and drop to the ground that seems far too close.

“I apologize for believing I had a chance to be—!?”

There is no servant that lacks value, and certainly not one granted the honor of receiving a simulacrum of themselves!


[Who has filled your head full of lies? You are… wonderful! Have pride!]

(… Yes, have ‘pride’, you little loser! Hahaha! …)


“Ah? Well, that would hopefully be true, but… we ended up… damaging that honor by losing to that…”

Though losing her skittishness, the bejeweled maid scratches at the statue’s pauldron despondently with her talons, before cringing and turning her faceless gaze toward the wildly dancing Regalia below.


[Losing to the guest, is it?]




Brother, Fehr… failed to answer expectations. As such, Fehr will correct assumptions of our competency made in error by the guest.


Matching this feeling of loss, another shares the same contrition.

The penitence that his sister unit seeks…?


“… Brother’s capabilities are not the ones that stand as being in question!

I’ will prove my design’s superiority, and thus that the Maker’s genius is infallible.


When he’d attempted to rebut this claim immediately, sure of her worth and that there’s no need to harangue a guest about it, his sister’s frown had deepened considerably as she planted her hand firmly over his mouth to shut up the compliments he offered.


[Certainly… I cannot question that logic and need… But…?]


Although ever understanding of each other, for a moment Fehl had felt a coldness upon the back of his neck. It had grown colder when Fehr leaned in and stared hard enough to bore into his skull with her piercing blue eyes.


Before, she simply sighed and left his side to join with the guest.


Though always lovely and fragile looking, nothing about this aggressive action suggested his obedient sister would be… obedient toward his suggestions.


[Why does it seem like you were blaming me?]




“Dwell not on past losses! Honor the original intent of replicating the peerless depths of potential that sits across from me!”

He drops his clenched fist toward her, letting this passion hopefully transfer to her!

“… Ah!?”

“Strive to make the guest realize that nothing is more valuable to this manse…!”


A small boy’s finger points at her, with the wind sweeping by to blow by him and carry peerless energy to rejuvenate her own!


[Than a servant possessed of a love for the Maker!]

“… than ‘you’, Kachua.”


To his passionate plea for her to regain her honor and excel…


“Hmmm…!? Oh…? Well, that’s…”

More than just her neck growing red, now her affliction seems to be spreading as her breathing grows ragged?

“… That’s… not something that… anyone but Dearest has ever told to me, little Fehl…?

Don’t… don’t do anything stupid, Kachua…! He’s not… someone that you can… haaah…!?


And with the affliction spreading, the usually stoic harpy woman’s attention can hardly leave Fehl’s body. Almost like an illusion with a gap bridging them, she feels so close that he could touch her.


[Did I misspeak? Am I misrepresenting myself? I thought my passion was conveyed…?]

(… Fuck you, die, you little show off fag—! …)


“R-R-Restia and the guest really seem to be two peas in a pod…? Maybe they have the same mental malfunction, yeah…!? Ha-ha-ha!?

Kachua sways in place nervously while jabbing a wing, turning Fehl back to the show.






Sitting on top of the steel giant, a whimsical harpy uses tendrils of iridescent blue to press a stick of sharpened charcoal to an open page of canvas. Magic is her method of making art, an idea taking shape from an awkward discussion ongoing now.



“Riiiight~? Bruiser-type~? What weapon, then~? How about ‘chop, chop’?”

“Bird, understand! Hnnn…?”

Though indefatigable, the voice yelling out suddenly sounds disgruntled, stuck clicking her tongue as she tries to find an answer.

“Kol, likes, ‘haaah, SHA’! Or, maybe… ‘bang’!?

“‘Bang’? Can’t ‘bang’~. How about… ‘zooooooom~’ or ‘nuuuurrrr~’?”

“Oh!? Like ‘nurrrr’!

Using only sounds now, the misshappen armor’s arms start swinging around as its wearer yaps louder.

“Maybe, ‘ZAAAAAAAH’! Bird, same?”

“Hmm~? Kinda? What if it’s… ‘whiiiir’?”

“What!? What, sounds like after hitting!? ‘CHING’!?

“Noooo, it goes ‘jagajagajagajaga’, ‘reeeeeeeeen’~!”

“KAKAKAKA! Sound, STRONG! Kol, wants two!

While the statue cackles obnoxiously, the harpy continues to scribble while swaying around with the whole body, ugly twisting motions.

“Hmmm, okay, how about ‘flash’!? ‘Whoosh’? ‘Raaaaawr’?”

“Kol, likes ‘raaaawr’!”


[They’re reduced to simply making animal calls.]


“So, thiiiis?”

Allowing the canvas’ progress to be viewed earns the effect of the Regalia spasming violently.




A shrieking voice suddenly goes much lower.

Simply the growl of a ravenous beast.


“… Do it. Give Kol, this beautiful thing.






[Truly bizarre, this guest is.]


Fehl finds himself unable to contradict the assessment of his compatriot, no matter how much he wishes he could.


Even if he could, the harpy named Kachua, one who shows promise, is instead leaning conspiratorially across the face of the Regalia’s helmet.

Whispering softly.

“You’ve been quite, I don’t know, interested in me since earlier, with how you talk…”

“Of course? How could I not be interested by such an interesting woman?”


[You’ve taught me so much and made me happy for our Maker!]



“When… Meister Falke called us to his inner garden for the first… ah, my first time~…?”

Almost the sound of silence itself, Kachua’s voice grows melodic and magical while recounting a story.

“… ‘testament to our very existence, a shining beacon grown from our seed, proof of the earth’s voice’, that’s what it said so mysteriously before I found myself looking at… a girl dressed like me, with the same… sturdy shoulders and thick neck, haa~h… from afar.”

Disappointment colors her fairytale, before she studies the boy even more closely. “A truly handsome man, so… strong in how he stood, so different even from my Dearest, had his hand on my—HER, shoulder…!”

Deeper now, the whispers of this woman are so fetching as she stares only at Fehl.


[Oh? That would’ve surely been the—]



“Then he… asked to see my face. So improper, so… intimate! But, then that girl was a reflection of me when I showed him my face, like magic~?”

“The Maker needed your counterpart to be as perfect as you are!”


[A wonderful design, full of—?]


“How do you know that my… ‘beauty’ is perfect… Fehl?


A simple line almost stops the boy’s heart.


“… If you promise not to tell… Dearest or Grandmother…”

Her wing lifts toward her hanging cape, ready to drag the cloth from hiding the redness of her skin beneath.

“… I’ll show only you, to see if you feel the same way after? Since… you, that look and smile you offer, reminds me so much of that magical moment when he touched the ‘other me’ with a gliding hand…!?




[… Why would I want to see your face?]





“Are you two enjoying yourselves~?”


Shaking so hard that it’s a wonder the statue doesn’t vibrate, Fehl’s conversation partner takes one look at the full-figured woman who seemingly apparates behind the boy, towering over even the Regalia’s helm, her wings spread as wide as her fetching smile…




Kachua screeches so piercingly loud that Fehl winces, then falls from the statue like a dead canary before blurring away feet above the ground.




A trail of seawater jets through the gateway in the distance, with Kachua’s screams echoing down the hallways of the manse.




“That girl has always been a little too loose. Likes to gyrate with men a little too romantically in the struggle!”

Beside Fehl, a thicker variety of page harpy settles in to crowd him, crushing him against the statue’s helmet with the volume of fat hanging from her front.

“I’ll be certain to punish her by leading on that girlish sword-stroker a bit more strongly for a season~. Fufufu…”



(… “Grandmother” is confirmed as Sapphira…)


Again, Fehl finds himself too warm for his own comfort.

Stuck next to a woman who seems unwilling to admit she’s overstepping her own station and his boundaries.


[What a hazardous presence.]

(… Women who naturally smell nice without perfume are always revealed as evil temptresses…)

[Hmm, there is logic in that, I think…?]


“Kachua is a very efficient servant, no matter her loss. I am proud to have become acquainted with her.” Feeling it necessary to maintain the conversation, Fehl starts relaying it to his newest target for increasing loyalty. “Restia, too, has such useful talents as painting and drawing, which I’m sure the Maker—?”

“Don’t you move a little fast, child?”

“… Pardon? I don’t understand.”

The matron looks down on him, a frown on her plump face.

“First you’re after Kachua, and now Restia? You lead on that idiot girl so well, then expect me to…?”

“Lead on? But… she’s definitely excellent!? I’m sure that Fehr and I could even improve her!”

“… What?”

When faced with his exuberance, the strangely-acting Sapphira seems to finally get his purpose.

“Are you… really so similar?”


[Similar to what?]


“I was constructed by the Maker?”

“So… disturbingly pure—?”

“Oh, very—!”

“—in your idiocy?”

“… What!?”


[I did nothing wrong—!?]

(… Are you being serious…? Kill yourself—no, not me…!?)


A worthwhile conversation ends in an unbelievable insult, shutting Fehl up completely.

Only then can Sapphira sigh, before lightening her imposing presence.


“Nevermind, he created you too well, so it’s Falke’s fault. Yes, at least that girl can think about more than mating and fighting, though only one thing at a time. Still, both girls… have their uses~?”

Sapphira makes a cooing laugh before listening in on the finished preparations below.




“Here’s the final design, little Rep~!”

Soaring from Kol to Fehr’s Regalia, the dreamy harpy drops the parchment into a hole that sucks away to reveal the interior.

“Thank you, lesser servant. Then… how would you rate this design?

“Four-outta-five… on bein’ a challen-giiiing ride, since we’re making it juuuuust the way she wants it, riiiight~?”

“… Of course. Exactly as the guest described it and without any unasked for alterations.”


The chattering servant is unusually happy to deliver her work, sailing away with more sass than normal.

“Gooooood luuuuuck, you two~!”


[That harpy is suspicious for some reason. As suspicious as my sister is becoming after her first loss…?]


Fluctuations within Fehr’s unit flow outward through the false turf, connecting to its mirrored unit.

Though not sure of what, Fehl comprehends that the instructions for operation and functioning are being implemented into both of them.

“Ah, we will be beginning, Sapphira. There will be no mistakes in judgment of the winner with my oversight.”


Fehl readies himself to step in, while the woman behind him just lightly laughs.




“Kol, do you now understand how to use the machine I’ve made for you… sufficiently well?

“Umu! Cute, very helpful! Love it! Perfect help, very knowledgeable! Thank you, for teaching Kol to use such a nice ‘tribute’!”

“… Of course. Kol is… an important guest to me, despite this unfortunate disagreement. It is—”


A fierce jab is followed by a crisp cross, even if the movements are totally predictable when performed by the giant that blows the wind with the combination.

Kol’s Regalia’s sausage-like wrist nub lifts to pump toward the glorious sky above.


“Now: Kol will thoroughly destroy Cute. Forever.

“… my pleasure to immensely disappoint such a ‘guest’.”




Pleasant voices grow cold.


Horrifying to suffer.


“Why do females seem so frightening at times, Miss Sapphira? So… contrary? Unpredictable, even?”

“It’s because we have a lot on our minds, dear, while men often don’t, as proved by my dearest little Fehl~.”

Patient and understanding, Sapphira cradles the tiny servant with her wing.

“Now, pay attention to what’s coming up. This is where the efforts of… everyone pay dividends and you learn something very instructive, Fehl.”

“Of course. Given the guest’s unnatural cunning as relayed to me by Kachua, any fight should be most interesting.”


(… That’s not what she means, idiot…)

[Now you—!?]




There’s no time for private rebuttal when the meaty masses below start to pulsate.

Veins running below and under the flesh fill, secreting a gray mass from perforations in them.



One girl screams with all her guts, cheering on the shaking that overtakes the Regalia encasing her.



The other patiently waits, knowing that nothing will change if you add your voice to the transformation.


Steam rises from the turf around them when the green vegetation turns gray and begins popping! An immense flow of the manse’ magical currents gathers beneath the feet of the morphing armors.


“Though requiring little actual mass, a Regalia, as designed by my sister using important specifications gleaned from me mind you, that is coated and powered by pseudoprósōpon requires ample—!”

“Be silent with explanations.”

“But, my contribution—!?”

“Little boys should just enjoy boyish things without trying to take credit for them, Fehl~.”


When one swirling cloud ceases agitating, beneath it is an orthodox form!

A dark figure lifts a long black bar.


When it leaves the dissipating cloud, the flamberge raised up gleams in the afternoon sunlight.


“My sister chose a two-handed outfighter? Curious.”



Rather than heavy raiment, all extravagances are left off of the skeletal white figure of Fehr’s Regalia.

Soothing lines of pseudoprósōpon curved plating protect only the legs and arms. The rest bears the trailings of ribbons matching what Fehr wears on her own uniform, wrapped up like a page harpy’s sashes cling.

A strangely reductionist, and provocative, design leaves her incredibly nimble at the expense of all defense. The only ornamentation hides the Regalia’s face, a pointed steeple helm with a horizontal visor and darkness behind it.


“How she holds the blade…?”

“Like a warrior, not like a duelist.”

There’s only merciless violence locked within this flamberge’s gripping that Sapphira comments on.


Pulled back and high into a guard pointed at the opponent’s upper chest, it reminds Fehl of—?


(… That’s… that’s a… that’s an orthodox…!?)



Fehl raises his hand to his chest, feeling a coldness settling in that has no cause.


(… Nononononono, it can’t be a… pursuit… stance…)









The other cloud explodes when a whirring begins and doesn’t stop.


Revealed within is a hunched figure, nearly falling over onto its face before its hind legs lurch forward.

Two turning spikes plunge into the ground!

The entire arena seems like it’s being launched to the stars by the destructive weapons attached to this wolf-like monster’s…!


“NAH!? Hard to stand!?



Jerked controls send the stumbling monster back upright.

Once there, the nightmarish creature that appears to be growling endlessly lifts its giant twin drills diagonally to keep them aloft.


“KAKAKAKA! Kol, wants everyone to meet:






With a wolf’s head appearing to devour another’s, worn like it’s decapitated, the darkness within hides the Regalia’s core. Beneath that, there is an impossibly muscular, but also gangly, were creature trying not to stumble around.

Sleek plating covers only the front of the Regalia, with zero defense otherwise. Huge legs constitute most of the actual musculature of the beast, rearing to charge while pulsating nakedly in front of witnesses.


The most important feature is, of course, the twin drills with miniature spiked teeth on the sides.

Such a drone stifles thought itself. As if the beast itself will die if the drills stop twirling, Kol tempts fate by letting them knock against each other.


They jolt apart on contact, sending sparks fluttering!


Kaaa… KaKaKaKa,

kaaa, kakakakaa!


An obnoxiously nervous sort of cackling commences after witnessing the destructive potency of her weapons.


[What is this abom—?]





With both Regalia prepared, they turn their heads toward Fehl above.


A blue orb blazes after in the horizontal visor socket of Fehr’s armor, rapidly moving left and right before correcting and centering on him.

Kol’s darkness births three pink globes, pulsating as they congregate to look at him from within a wolf’s salivating mouth.


[Great Maker, is it really okay to let these… girls, right? Let these girls duel?]




“For the glory of the Maker, I shall adjudicate this duel. And…”


Drills roar even louder!



What they beg to impale hones the lethality of its glinting sword, all while leaning back like a lazy fencer.


(… A FEINT! No, more…!)




“… let this duel: commence!






Clawed feet send the beast of devastation that Kol lives within awkwardly pouncing!

Distance means nothing to this short-duration runner that moves with absolutely no grace.




Its only form of real attack is to angle its drilling arms, and then extend!

Though she can barely keep the Regalia standing, Kol has no need to master difficult controls if the first attack prevails.


And so, the wolf towers over its prey, desiring to hollow it out.




(… Ahh, Kol got conned big. It’s a total fix…)

[… What?]




When the points of the drills lunge in, the flamberge turns its blade.

It’s an awkward motion with the Regalia attempting to replicate a parry, but its timing is good enough to send the drill deflecting off and grinding only lightly on the side of the blade itself.


[The blade’s mass is highly condensed…]

(… Yeah, and that’s why she leans so weirdly, to make sure she doesn’t go off balance…)


A highly offensive weapon turns out to also be a shield that can survive contact with the drills.


But, only one drill is deflected.



[She is…]

(… moving faster, yep…)


Fehr’s sword dancer reverses its angle with a rough juke, using its length to keep distance enough to both react and modify.

The second drill goes wide.




And before Kol can recover balance from the lunge,

Fehr’s Regalia has used its backward lean to pick up and jump out of range.


(… AAAAAH, she got played…)

[They both have the same agility!]

(… Stop believing the hype, kid…)


Pressing into the rush, Kol does the only thing she can to overcome this distance.

Fixing her three pink eyes, the rampaging werewolf begins its flurry of stabs.



A cracking sound announces the next meeting, with one drill, then the next going wide.



More impacts meet shrieking grinding, leaving the flamberge’s once-shining blade dull but functional.




Somehow the wearer’s voice can always be heard over the roars of the Regalia’s armaments clashing, but it does nothing to increase Kol’s chances of winning when these strikes are sent careening away with even less energy needed on Fehr’s part.

Because their clashes cease to be violent affairs that favor the drills when the parries grow more fluid with each crossing.


[Is Fehr… adapting?]

(… You’re as dense as their armors…)


Though equally agile at the start, over time Fehr’s Regalia responds more like a human in how it moves. Footwork accelerates, with her balance easily settling in.


[She intends to counterattack when she matches rhythm.]

(… Shut up and do your job…)


And it might’ve worked with Fehr’s manipulations becoming less mechanical, if the turf did not start to run out.

With her plodding foot nearly over the edge of the false grass, Fehr’s Regalia suddenly cannot back up without disqualifying.


“Got you, CUUUUUUTE!”


Kol’s Regalia rears back its spinning doom and then lunges straight at Fehr without any future strikes planned.

The colossal figures will finally meet.


[Bigger Kol—!]


Whirring points aim for head and heart!




Even if the dancer has the outfighting advantage, the werewolf’s fury lunges for the kill.


[The guest will—!]

(… Lose…)




A brilliant blue at first, Fehr’s Regalia’s orb eye is now almost a chilly white.

Its mono-sight sharpens at both the killing intent and the finesse of its movements.


Slow no longer, the flamberge zags between the two drills and sends them wide.

Then, becomes a shooting snake.




Thinking only to armor the chest that protects the wearer’s enclosure and the sides facing the enemy, to Kol’s chagrin the wavy blade slides beneath the Regalia’s armpit and then slices upward.

Razor-sharp still on its edges with its beatings being taken on the sides, the keenness easily separates a limb like lopping a chicken’s wing off.


“Fu—! GRAH!?”


A fast return chop, utilizing the full strength of gravity and Fehr’s Regalia’s weight, hacks through the relatively thinner armor of Kol’s other arm. Unnatural precision for a large armor discovers the joint.


Both drills uselessly hit the turf, chopping up the ground before spiraling away.



(… She was jobbing the whole time, you fucking idiot…)


Like a vicious reaper, Fehr’s expertly crafted Regalia turns out to also be commanded by a peerless wearer.

Its eye shines brighter as Kol’s disarmed werewolf still closes.




A crystal-clear command from the little girl within does not go unanswered.




White fire burns through all the cracks in the Regalia, consuming the afternoon light!

As its thick heat rushes toward the head with three eyes, the pseudoprósōpon drinking deeply swells into a cancerous mass of rage.




Like a howling wolf, the already decapitated head’s slavering fangs lengthen as it tries to tear itself free. It aims to bite through Fehr’s Regalia at Kol’s howl, carve into the neck and rip free the helmet above to disconnect the Regalia’s core!



(… That lovable idiot always has a trick tile down her throat to vomit into someone’s face…!)


A true monster was conceived of by Kol, and then given birth by the kobold’s aura.


(… But, my current protege is a better cheater, Kol~…!)




That cheater aims her Regalia to hurl at the ground with the fluidity of an acrobat, rolling through the legs of the werewolf.



Crumbling to the earth right before the boundary of loss, Kol’s overweight and mis-planned monstrosity flails its legs wildly as a shadow rises to cover it.


But, only for a moment.




Flashing steel sends both limbs clear of the main body, before the mighty two-hander is lazily rammed through the wolf’s head, nailing the psychopathic monster to the earth.


In the aftermath of having its core finally pierced, the Regalia corrupted by an outburst of aura sloughs off its gray matter as the internals spill out from where it was butchered.




“An excellent fight, honored guest.”


Toward the werewolf corpse that slowly reduces to a meaty cylinder, Fehr’s elegant dancer extends a hand.


“Now that you’ve seen absolute proof of this manse’s, and of my, abilities, we can all move on to calm—ereeeh!?”


The sweetly placating offer cuts off with a cry from his sister that Fehl has never heard uttered. Though fearless previously, Fehr’s Regalia sharply jumps back from the spray of gray fluids that erupt from the back of its battered kin.



“What unnatural experiment of the Castillo created this kobold?”




A white-furred hand that shines with the alchemical glyph of Fire rips out the back, carving through the soft bits, and yanks hard to help a face escape the molten mass!


This monster, more horrible than any other ever conceived by violence and nursed on dread, emerges from its cocoon with the fires of the scaled lizard hells blazing, howling its fury upon the treasonous world!











“Kol shoulda done this from the start… HAAH!”


Clanking, endless and monotonous and utterly predictable, leaves all straining to hear.


“After making everyone, do [oath], like Boss did, everything after… simple.”


But the cacophonous noise doesn’t hinder the one that the white titan lunges at.

Instead, this boy simply grabs onto a passing chain to be carried away, right before a wildling’s arms could wrap around.



This of course leaves the kobold flipping over her face when she strikes the ground after missing, kicking her feet wildly as she scratches to right herself on a sleek spinning dial.



[And next will be the vertical motion transfer juncture.]


Bored of this useless performance, Fehl walks up to three gears currently vibrating in place. Surrounded by an enigmatic assortment of constellation shapes, they are at present being resorted by numerous black, spider-like pincers as an eternal calculation continues its course.


“FINALLY! This, where Kol is, now the way out, Stud! Only way up, through Kol!

“According to what is true at the moment, you are correct, honored guest.”

“… Kol, dealt with ‘cheating’ finally—! Ah!”

Before leaping at him, the salivating kobold makes a candid wave and nods her head.

“Again, Kol, wants to thank Stud for standing up for Kol, even if Cute hates Stud, now.”

“Though it was my sister’s clear victory, the means, ‘fooling another by allowing them to fool themselves’, are contrary to our duties as servants, even if a completely legal maneuver for that particular contest. To lure someone into a contest they couldn’t possibly win is wrong.”


[And so here we go again.]


Arms crossed as he sighs, Fehl takes in the sights around him.




A mechanical monstrosity to dwarf any sight, save for what may be found within the depths of the Castillo, is in perpetual motion as they play within its unknowable innards.


Tensors, gears, chains, sprockets, and every manner of mechanical transfer moderate and direct the goal of this device. It is contained within a room constructed solely for it, built along the bottom and rising up its walls with a great spire in the center.

Up and down its spire’s length do metaphysical emblems and portents play out, both as enormous canvas cards bearing runes and as great spheres of kaleidoscopic lights.


Though, all that is visible now would be the deeply protruding sections from the wall and the mechanisms which hover briefly within the open spaces, connected by gargantuan supports that also move with their own timings.


[Darkness without end, a game played only within the waning light that ends when a set time transpires or she claims a victim…?]

(… Unusually smart of Kol…!)




All the participants are trapped within a shrinking sphere centered around a floating hourglass made of swirling water.

This is Rule One.


“Call for me, Fehl! I’ll take you to freedom!”

“Choose meeee~!”


Flying above the diminutive servant are two harpies, now identified as the principal contributors to the ever-intensifying game of “who can cheat better”.

Kachua and Restia soar delicately through the labyrinth of dangerous impediments in their flightpaths, staying just within range of Fehl should he run out of places to flee from the monster chasing him.


[All of the people who she dislikes are now a part of the game, thus making them equal. The one that helps Kol win when called upon will be aided if Kol wins, while both will be punished if she loses because they throw the game…]

(… Hmm, not too…

… that part, something…



Rule Two pertains mostly to the silver-haired child awkwardly climbing a towering cliff of gears at the moment.

Though not shaking in fright, it’s difficult for Fehr to attain ever-more difficult perches away from Kol when she’s disallowed to use her control over pseudoprósōpon.



Looking down prompts her to scream, for Kol is feet from reaching Fehl with a lunging grab.

“If the guest catches you, the game also ends—!?”

“Don’t worry, I will be sa—!”


“… Am I so unneeded? No, uncared for?”


Momentarily paralyzed by the familial impiety, Fehl sighs and lifts his hand.


“Kakaka! Stud, Kol likes good sports, so… Kol might just… have some fun with you of Kol’s own kind after winning~!

“Though a delightful offer…”




Into the air the servant of the Maker levitates, going straight toward the hidden ceiling.




“… Nah?

‘FUCK’!? WHAT!?”


Even with prodigious strength, the kobold’s jump fails to achieve the same departure speed as the repurposed calendar gears Fehl grabs onto.


“Kyahahaha! The guest is so stupid! She keeps thinking the intelligent boy is trapped, and then makes this ghastly face when she’s wrong every time!

Flapping beside Fehl, Kachua stays within reach to save him should he drop.

“Haaah, what can you say, right Fehl? You’re just that good with the timing~!”

“And you are ever at arm’s reach, with my thanks.”


[Precisely the correct timing, yes. My Maker produces such… beautiful craft. His designs are… so…!]

(… Fucking cr—)




As something tries to insult his maker, its words vanish, leaving only Fehl to finish his short chat before he hops from the gears onto a higher mechanism.

The calendar enters the darkness, the one place that spells ‘death’.




(What an unusual voice that one was?)




“Please see to my sister’s needs with your capable self, Kachua.”

Talking to the lethal harpy while he spins around is somewhat odd, but the woman eagerly pursues his turning front to keep facing him.

“Of course, I protect a set~!”

She flips over, giving a flirty show of her strong legs before she dives into a phantasmal ocean current and soars to hover over the scaling Fehr.


“‘Anything that touches or enters the darkness cast by Sapphira’s waterlight will lose.’ ‘The monster (guest) only has half a short to catch the scamps (servants)?’ What else was there…?”


(Oh, yes.)


Thinking about it, it’s easy to see the problem, for though Fehl has already determined the course of this contraptions great crusade against the mystery it intends to unravel…


(There is a counterpart who seems somewhat lacking in the ability to chart a safe path, despite my attempts to buy as much time as possible?)




“C’mere, Cute! Let Kol give ya a hug!”

“… L-L-Leave me alone.”


Now that she’s alone, and without her prodigious talents to place her on a higher tier…


“Don’t keep looking down, you’ll move faster~.”


A madly grinning kobold that can simply climb any mechanism by sinking her sharp claws into them and riding them out, no matter how ungainly she looks doing it, is a difficult “monster” to escape in a towering playground such as this.


“Go away! Go chase my brother! This… this is his fault!”

“Cute keeps cheating, but, blames Stud for doing ‘right thing’? So weird, but, Kol likes cheeky, weird girls that remind Kol of Echo the best!”

Slurping out her tongue, the tomboyish wolf girl looks more like a village rapist when she throws herself up the side to swing over onto the spinning platform Fehr trembles on.

They taste~so~goooood! KAKAKAKA!”

“… He—



Unable to handle even a moment further around the salivating guest, Fehr folds her arms around herself and shakes while waiting for…




“LAST ONE! Kol, remembers!”


On a wing and a prayer, Fehr takes flight with Kachua’s talons gently holding her.


“Get three times! Cute, last one! No more! So…”

Kol’s face turns stern, her eyes violently looking for another soaring figure.

Finding that target, Kol grins.

“Now… Kol’s destiny.”


Out into the void, Kol crosses her arms before leaping feet first.


“So weeeeird~!”

“KAKAKAKA! Don’t lose them!”




As Fehl watches without comment, two harpies begin a mid-air duel to the death.

Both carry a passenger, though only one is chased as they weave through the encroaching hazards of the [clock room].


“[Tragic Arroooows]~!”

“[Siphon Edge]!”


Seeking bolts of sharpened water are sliced in twine by a dancing saber that trails its flying owner. Quick as sparrows, the two fast allies—


“When I beat you up, Kaskin will pat my head a lot~!”

“Fuck off, Restia! Let me cure what’s wrong with your brain!”


—former allies let off their own steam by flinging lethal implements made of moisture, more at each other than the passengers.


“Be sure not to damage any mechanisms! This is crucial!”

“Yes, Fehl!”



As they pass by, he cries out this one rule that he set in place.


(This room is important, unlike the others. Something… insanely important is at work in here.)


A servant attempted to refuse them using it…


(But Sapphira promised… it was fine to “play” here…)





“Shut up! I know… I know how long I have!”



With only six [turns] allowed in an escape flight, the roughly even skills of the harem harpies disallows Fehr from finding a more favorable escape point to drop to.

And, with a “loss” if she’s still airborne at “zero”…





Fehr rolls off the winding tape she impacts, falling onto a safer dial turning beneath. Her plunge sends her leg through the thin material.



“She’s fine.”

It’s useless to call out, since there’s a rescuer in the wing should the clambering Fehr slide through the opened hole.

At a distance, the sizable Sapphira lazily flaps her wings while grinning like a mother watching her children fight.




(No, she damaged it!)


When it continues its proper motion, Fehl relaxes his tension.


(Oh, good, it didn’t reduce its efficiency, so it’s still fine…)




“… I am… perfectly in control, brother, so… leave me…!”

“… Cooooming…





A terrible shrieking noise sends Fehr rolling, desperate to get free of the monster sliding down a sheer wall of pale glass as easily as if she were drinking afternoon tea.

The frightened servant leaps from the edge of the dial, using her hands to keep her dress from blowing up.


“AH!? This… this…!”


She lands upon a once-level, flat disk that ominously begins to tilt in one direction with her weight upon it…


Then stops when another figure lands nearby, claws up and towering ominously.


“Hmm… ‘growl’!”



Fehr swats uselessly at the air, threatening the beast as they both turn endlessly within the shrinking world of the clock room.


“… Kakaka! Kol, likes that look!”

“Huh!? What… look…?”

The shock sends Fehr into a fit, examining her gentle clothing with deep concentration to make sure everything is present and modest.

Pulling on her sash of a woman’s hand to right it over her heart, Fehr nods once approvingly before blinking.


“Kakaka! That look! That look, that says, ‘What, going on? Why, here!?’”

“… M-Mocking…? You’re mocking… me…!?



(This is most painful… but… perhaps this is right.)




Right back at the start of all this.

Two girls are facing off, while Fehl is left completely out of it.


(“Not all lessons are prompt, fair, or easy”, as you’ve said, mighty Maker. One might also say, this lesson was prepared only for Fehr.)




One girl wrings her hands while shaking in petulant rage, while the other has a deep belly laugh going by the time Fehr stomps her foot forward.

“I am… a servant of the Maker…”



Though she should be fleeing, the “scamp” stomps right up to the “monster” and screams in her face.


You will not heckle a superior creation!


At this uncute scream, the kobold finally stops laughing…


“Oh, Kol, won’t?”

… and crosses her arms showily while smirking.


“NO! A guest… is a guest of the Maker! Show deference to the Created!

“‘Maker’? Keep hearing word? That mean, Big Bird?”

“… How… dare you… call…!”

“KAKAKA! Kol, not care, what Big Bird think!


With her hair needing to be pushed away after her fall, Fehr goes wild, pointing at herself while jeering.

“I am… a perfect servant! Made to exacting specifications! For a grand purpose! For… the Great Maker’s needs, to serve him… without a chance for failure! And you insult that Maker!?

“Hah! Kol, likes what Kol, finally hearing for real…!”


Almost touching her, ready to end the game, Kol leans in to chat.




“So… Cute saying… that… Cute, better than Kol, maybe~?”

“… I…

… I…!”


(What a shameful question?)




Fehl can barely refrain from grinning, shrugging his arms at the audacity of the guest.

Asking a question which has only one answer.

Only one allowable affirmation of the grand truth, for it must be spoken to match the Will and Vision of the Maker who made this great room’s work as well as themselves.


(This is why people who don’t understand the rules are so droll. Trying to goad my sister? It won’t work, no matter how vile you might be! We were made with rules, by rules, and for rules; and, those rules state, without allowance for indiscretion or abrogation, that “guests we are assigned to are—!”)




“… This servant is better than some… ungracious tramp, one that steals food, ruins the furniture and halls, assaults our servants upon entering the premises, burns their homes to the ground, flaunts their goodwill and… and… the goodwill of the owner of this manse, the glorious Falke Kestner, My…!





… W-What…?)




The world spins with this scream that is in his sister’s voice, but carries nothing of the Truth in it.

Only after he finds himself staring into infinity below, does Fehl realize he’s on his knees.


(… Huh…?)




“Yeah, Cute, actually really good! Kol, loves hearing Cute tell it like it is! Finally!?”

“… YOU ARE—!

… Huh!?”

“Cute is a lot better than Kol at some stuff, too, don’t forget that!”


Thumbing her nose at the doll, the abominable guest named Kol then grins with a sort of primitive charisma that only brutal conquerors have.


“Cute being good, ain’t got anything to do with Big Bird, though! All Kol wanted, was to be honest!”

“… Honest?”

“Yeah! Because, we can’t finish this, without ‘honesty’, and… Kol ain’t, a ‘guest’ anyway!”

“… What?



Both twins offer the same query, which sends Kol into a fit, slapping her knees as she howls. Wide-eyed and tearing up, the kobold looks as if the day is finally worth it.


“AAAH! This, this gotta be what Boss feels!? Seeing what people look like, do, say, after Kol was winning from the start, and they didn’t know!?”

“… Winning…?”

“Ah, yeah… well, Kol ain’t gotta ‘ask’ for anything, Cute… ‘cause…”




From within her Kestner vest, Kol pulls out a white tabard and struggles to throw it over herself.

An emblem that resembles nothing like the Kestner one proudly displays a black cross over a violet half moon and silver shield…

For some reason…


(It suits her.)


Fehl is forced to admit that this choice in unknown allegiance more fits the brash girl.




“Kol, servant of Moon…”

The kobold slaps her ample breasts.

“And Moon… owner of this place now!


“… Huh?”

The stupidest voice she can muster escapes from Fehr’s mouth, leaving the once confident girl slumping as her head tilts.

Like Fehl, life seems to just drain out as emotion vanishes.


“No… that’s… not true!”

“Uwaah… this is the worst.”


Above, two harpies begin falling as they lose the will to stay aloft, too.


“KAKAKA! Big Bird, not own this place! HE SAID, BEFORE ALL:



Even if Kol lost…”


Starting to move, to embrace Fehr…


“… Kol, still wins, ‘cause—





Off the mostly level disc they stand on,

the kobold violently loses her balance and tumbles.


(… AAAH!)


Fehl’s soul burns painfully, driving him to leap from his perch, no matter how far up he is, to dive after the falling ‘owner’.


But, he crashes instead into the very spinning platform he was standing on.




As if his feet were stuck to the ground when he attempted to jump, all of his force was stolen, but now they’re free…!?





Fehl hears the first cracking sound with the screams, clawing his way to the edge.







Just above the darkness still contracting toward them is a fast-moving gear that she’s splayed on.

Between two teeth, the braggart is currently coating them black with Vigor spurting from a huge gash on her head.


No matter how hearty she can claim to be, the impact jostles and confuses.





Wobbling upright as the gear reaches its apex, she opens her eyes wide when noticing the tooth from above coming down.






Powerful claws lock on,

and the deafening racket of grinding grows louder when the titan crushed between heaven and earth resists.




Flames coat the world in Fehl’s eyes.

Even though Kol lets none of them out.




This kobold cannot endure.

She can only stop the contraption with her tiny body for an instant in the span of its calculation of many lifetimes.


The tooth that is forestalled by sheer audacious might…






Kol calls out, before releasing her shaking arms and falling onto the tooth she stands on.


“HAAAAAH!? Kol, survived…? No, that, impossible?”

Disbelieving of her own miracle, the kobold punches herself in the head.


… YAY, KOL SURVIVED! Kol, actually strongest!? KAKAKAKAKAKA!


Though much of her body is dyed black, the kobold starts laughing in the face of her almost demise.




Defying the distance, a little girl drops roughly beside this brutalized monster and clutches her.


“… Nahaha! Cute, stopped, everything!?”

“What!? Of course I did, you were going to be crushed!”


(Turn it back on…)


The doll, normally refusing to touch others but favoring Kol, brushes the shitty knight’s blackened hair out of Kol’s face.

“Bad girl! Cute, broke rules…! Kakaka!”

“Be silent! We have to help… AH!?”


Strong arms drag the automaton into an embrace.


“Kol… caught Cute!”

“… Ah?”

“Cute, broke rules, used ‘power’! Double loss! Stopped gizmo! Triple loss!”

“… Ah…”






Stroking through her silver hair, the unusually gentle knight then screams.



Oath, over! Fuck off~!”


Nothing occurs.

No voice responds.

Not even a movement of the wind answers, leaving the darkness of Sapphira’s light to absorb Kol’s command.






Within Fehl’s frozen heart though,

something uncoils as the black cross bound up in his sash subtly rings out.




“… Why…? This is… a surrender…?”

“Kakaka… well, ‘cause, whole time… unnngh…

The wounded knight finally collapses into Fehr’s lap, groaning in agony as the doll hurriedly pulls her into a more comfortable position.

“What Kol really wanted… was to see Cute, cry…~!”

“… I’m not crying… servants of the Maker cannot cry.”

“Ahh, yeah, Kol noticed… so, Kol will settle for, Cute hugging Kol… please, ow…!

Drawing Kol in even more tightly and welcoming the blackness further staining her perfect attire, the doll that has gained an innocent smile also seems…

“… Request granted.”

Pain, Kol, feels a great pain!? Very bad, Kol, most unlike…! Also, where’s Kol’s ear?




Within the frozen gears of the behemoth, perhaps something like a friendly pair is finally discovered?






A rivalry begun in one day, also ends on the same. —

AND, THUS, the story progresses down the APPROPRIATE…—













Name: Adris fehl Dain, “Boss”, “Starr” Fehl
Titles: Lycia’s Little Brother, Slayer, Gigolo (Self-Admitted) Servant of the Maker
Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human), ??? Self-Aware Independent Automaton
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?”

“Weren’t you supposed to be answering ‘who is Adris’ instead of ‘who is Fehl’?”


“Are you still with us, boy?”



“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.”

“In the end, he’s falling deeply into his own vision of his role.”





“Wait, where is Adris going?”



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

Charisma – D -> C (RANK UP)




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?”

“Perhaps she can be as dislikable as you are?”


“Was this what you were hoping for, Adris? A woman to rise to your standards, rather than you lowering your own?”



“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?”

“Less like Adris and more like a person who sees the world gifted to her… no, isn’t that Adris?”


“She achieves everything she ever wanted and more.”



“Kol is just violent charisma thrown into a bag and then beaten until it claws its way out.”





Regalia – “An armor larger than any other, suitable only against another Regalia if one cares for such things as ‘fair play’. Endlessly customizable, they utilize a power source other than alchemical magic.”



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