Take Up the Cross – Chapter 118: Glory of the Maker

Toward evening and at the cusp of the sun’s slumber, tired townspeople navigate the tight sloping streets of a vaulted city. This city rises on statuesque arms and backs, replacing pillars solely with the bodies stout men carved from stone. Set into the circular void excised from a mountain, its people never see the sunrise, but have a spectacular view of their day’s end.


“Colors, accurate. Represented vividly, delineation between light and dark. Almost imperceptible even for this tool the depth of field of pseudoprósōpon recreation be, with merit issued for distances past domiciles and toward the horizon.”


Talking to no one in particular, a girl lifts two objects before her violet eyes that burn with magical knowledge.

One is a ball made of crystal rings of various sizes, spinning within the sphere cage containing them. The other is a simple oval with glyphs drawn into its corundum facets.

Both obtain equal attention from her, before she places the oval on a porcelain table beside her and pulls a jeweler’s graving chisel from a kit.


To the accompaniment of an enigmatic flute from above, the people around this working lass either seriously conduct their final daily business or merrily carry on within the boundaries of public decorum.

Higher-strata socialites show off their well-dressed spouses on their regular patrols of streets they “own”. So that the intoxicated menials who serve them, gathering about at drinking spots found everywhere one can see, can whisper with humor at their show, nobody is forbidden from partaking of strong-smelling ales and foreign grog.


“All textures preserved, sounds and smells no doubt replicated accurately through illusion, though darkness hides not that which necessarily presented as invisible to sight, promoting an inaccurate presentation of a human’s view. Grade: one-hundred-and-ten points out of one-hundred-and-twenty. Comment: pursue fidelity and grasp absolute truth of experience.”


Pying no attention to this childlike spectator despite the obscene richness of her own steel-blue dress, this spiring city the folk dwell in allows for a sight similar to the one seen from Petripolis’ edge, yet chillier. Not made for humans, every dwelling and business establishment provides an obstacle, with men ducking their heads to pass through solid stone entrances. Indeed, many of the elderly of the less-richly dressed maintain an almost permanent stoop that permits them to pass through the city without ducking even once.


“They say the prince ain’t gun’ do anythin’ about the sitch’, so who is gon’ do somethin’ now that that earth talker bit it?”

“Nobody. Been a decline since he came up on the throne ten years ago.”


Two loudmouths in patch-repaired clothes drink grog at the side of the overlook of this strata’s block. Upon a helmed warrior’s head both perch, with more stone statues of heroes, statesmen, and crafters being the literal foundation of the many-tiered, vaulted city’s habitable areas below them.


“… Damn shame. Prettiest lass ever seen, no matter how cold she lookin’ at ya or how she hid o’ late…

“And with her gone, that’s the end. Now, it’s just ‘off the edge’ we go without that family saving us.”


Unlike their unwilling perches that showcase the fearsome vitality and stoutness of ancient dwarfs, these men are simple humans.

An entirely unremarkable people save for their sense of efficiency, like magpies come to a forgotten ground nest now open to the sky, these latecomers have built thatched rooftops to cover what were once open galleries, halls, and habitations.


“Animus, remarkable. No artificial algorithms detected in motion or intents. All actions, conversations, and schedules derive from self-determination and reaction to the flow of the world around them…”


While unwilling to give full marks earlier, the observer that watches the throng around her move with chaotic fluidity must collect herself before finishing her thought. At least long enough for the fluteplayer beside her to conclude his haunting performance.




The last notes of his melodic song, one that culminates a sense of growing unease with despairing resignation, seem to match the mood of the crowd.


Though outwardly pretending that their day has been like any other, many carry the faces of those looking for a way out of a world closing in on them just the same as the engraved dwarven walls that refuse to wear down even when exposed to the elements or their inhabitants’ abuses.




“… One’s ultimate expression of ‘life’ be glimpsed with this demonstration. Without much fault, and truly as witnessed by one’s senses, replicated in full by one’s talent.” Using a tone never heard before, one filled with awe, she lowers the orb she’s been scratching upon. “Grade: one-hundred-and-eighteen points out of one-hundred-and-twenty. Comment: ‘marvelous’, no word otherwise suffices.”




And, with nothing else to distract her,


“This procession of order, one in perfect obedience to one’s iron will, be comparable to Luna’s most minimal designs.”


Neesiette vera Luna takes in the world.




“If… only barely, a servant should mind that distinction. Congratulations be in order, Falke, for achieving part of one’s dream.”

“Such a sight is possible only within this manse, unfortunately.”


With gravity given to him by time and proper upbringing, Neesiette’s attendant speaks with servility but catches attention all the same. If only for how he wears his expensive servant’s suit, whose frills and colors match with the higher-class’ tastes of those who pass by, this man clearly belongs to the same proud people.


“In due time, this servant will be capable of reproducing any location without having to leave. The capabilities of pseudoprósōpon are ever-expanding.” Taking advantage of her rapture, the man comments further on his own glory. “‘Why worry about the dangers of travel to another place, when one may experience anything at one’s leisure? Why seek to conquer one’s enemies, when one’s troops may depart to do it in one’s stead?’ Efficiency is the hallmark of true intellect, my mistress.”

“… Indeed. A servant offers constant enticement for this tool and others. Already, a wonderland an honest girl finds one’s manse to be.”

“‘My mistress’ manse’, she means?”

“… As one says…”


Stilted in her reply, Neesiette stays quiet again, collecting her thoughts. While the others in the manse are content to play with servants, this girl has the sole attention of its top helper.

No matter how amiable they look together, though, there’s a sense of aloofness infesting both of them as they refuse to stay near each other for too long. Neesiette rounds the table she stands near, followed slowly and unobtrusively by her attendant from a safe distance.


“[Invasion Grounds], that hellish place that slayers fear, the recreation within it that others share knowledge of with this tool be said to perfectly resemble the capitol of the Holiest State. Stuck in perpetual war its only difference be.”

Stating this with a plain voice, Neesiette allows her next thought to sound more coquettish.

“For the Pillars, did a supremely competent servant provide this physical recreation…?”

“Ho? My mistress is unfortunately well informed? Does she wish to see a similar sight, perhaps?”

Laughing privately for a second, the old man realizes the trap when Neesiette’s silence doesn’t allow him to change the subject.

“… Well, my mistress would not ask a question she was not certain of the answer for, so this servant may freely admit that his Talent has been cultivated to produce such effects.”

“That recreation within the second tier of the Castillo comprises nearly the entire region of the Holy State’s capitol. How grandiose, one’s Talent? How wonderfully encompassing…?”


Pride for another fills Neesiette’s voice when sparing a second inspection of this city recreated from the past.

“No Art, nor degraded aspect of it, presents in any perceptible way with invocation of one’s Talent. Discovering a vexing situation once more, this tool ponders how this tool’s… ‘servant’ compels without perceivable flow? Understanding now and capable of elucidation this servant be, why such feats without Art be possible?”


Turning to gaze up fondly at the man beside her, she spares a small smile that sends his chin up and lips curling.


“‘I look forward to explaining all facets of my discovery to my mistress…’ is what this servant should say, but it’s burdensome to carry the shame of not understanding one’s own Talent.”

“Indeed? Still no enlightenment be found?”

“Only incompletely, mistress. The musical theorems of the Kestners were related only to communion with [the will], otherwise known as [earth spirits]. How this servant re-purposed them to convey concept and image to pseudoprósōpon that is superior to what the gauntlet this servant wears is capable of was achieved by trial and error.”

“There be no explanation?”

“Ho? ‘Why’, ‘how’? Only… ‘Master’ Peak has ever properly clarified ‘how’ this Talent produces the results it does, which is unfortunately a ‘brotherly secret’, and never ‘why’ in his teachings.”

“… Attend, servant.”



His mistress waves lightly for him. Allowing the gray flute he holds to droop into muck and slurp within the gauntlet containing more of this substance it was made of, Falke of the Pillars then presents that adornment for Neesiette to touch.

Tapping it only once, Neesiette tilts her head inquisitively.


“A gauntlet’s theorems be understandable to this tool, serving as a basis for understanding more. Music accomplishes similar, nay, superior results with this city, why…?

“Absoluteness of the experience perceived and how it’s reproduced, perhaps? Hoho, please don’t frown! Well, the confluence of a song created by this servant with a day… enjoying that city of this servant’s birth might’ve been enough?”

Though the day is so terribly alive, despite being made of unliving matter, Falke struggles to not frown himself when gauging his own work.

“A day that held much importance, once, seemingly granted this memory permanency far beyond any other…?”

Something about reliving this moment only produces unease. It strips Falke of his confidence the longer he speaks, growing more serious, instead.

“Trying to recreate the moment this memory was born… it’s a failure of many attempts, for this servant holds that once the meaning is bound to the song, the song cannot be reused to encapsulate new imagery. Each attempt requires a new composition. If the moment is not… sufficiently grandiose, then the composition gains no power to grant animus.”

Falke strokes his beard, viewing the scene he has given life from his musical talents with the difficult countenance of a painter explaining his exotic work to another.

“So, while… my mind may easily travel on the music, no matter the song, and replicate such other Talents as ‘telepathy’ and ‘clairvoyance’ with those who hear it, even up to ‘mental interference’ if they are enraptured sufficiently, only when my thoughts… ‘resonate’ with what I perceive does the mental image gain sufficient power to manipulate the [mass]. To grant it true ‘existence’, how and why…?”

Shaking his head finally, the old man bows almost horizontally to the one who asked for an explanation.

“This servant offers his deepest apologies for failing to fulfill his duty. Soul-filled music was ever the province of the Kestners, a Talent which this servant originally applied to an alternate pursuit without so much as requesting permission. Unfortunately, it is also a pursuit that is full of mysteries that this servant has yet to grasp.”

He finishes his bow and grins sheepishly at her.


“‘Why does music move the mind in similar ways to pseudoprósōpon?’ That’s a philosophical question as much as a technical one. When this servant obtains an answer, he will present it to his only mistress, be assured. It’s an answer I also wish to know…


Being refused an explanation should send this information-starved, authoritarian scholarly moon child into a frenzy…


“Explained completely, as much as can be? Then, a vigil of ignorance this tool shall maintain until that promised day…”


… but even if the dandy old man avoids fulfilling her request like this, Neesiette only offers an impression of momentary pouting, despite her face not registering the emotion her body’s swaying does.


“Worry not… servant… of this tool. Until the culmination of one’s mastery presents, this tool will ever aid in refining such a wonderful ability.”


Longingly gazing at a violet circle hanging in the twilight sky above, she whispers quietly…


Missing all minute details this false representation does of Luna’s supreme creation, for no mortal eye may ever capture the true grandeur of Traveler from this distance. How vulgar…


The man beside her coughs into the gauntlet he raises, before snapping his fingers to produce a short whistle. This piercing sound preempts the clouds above thickening, swirling to block the vision of a girl’s former home.

Neesiette nods once at this.


“Hmmm… a thought: to capture an image of this city using acoustic echoes…?”




As though some whimsy takes her over, Neesiette sets down the piece she’s been working on and steps away from Falke, closer to the crowd which has yet avoided them.

Though Falke startles and steps forward, he balks when Neesiette points at the highest block above, with an overhanging ledge, with a knowing grin.


“Upon the precipice, and overlooking the… terminal nature of the descent, did one compose one’s song and play it for all to hear?”

“… That would not be incorrect, mistress.”

“‘Quite a stunning view’ it be from high up there, as others would say?”

“… Truly.”


Snorting at the question, Falke’s eyes squint with some painful recollection. Neesiette claps her hands, rousing him from this without even realizing his difficulty.


“The maximizing and focusing of senses achieved by exposure to new and poignant experiences, especially when driven by discomfort, perhaps to recreate a similar moment and the intensity of it one should attempt one’s experiment at a similar height? Aiding this might in crystallizing the image needed to reproduce the scene?”

As though her idea holds merit impossible to refuse, Neesiette points at the old man and then thrice at that precipice.

“Hoh…? What a… wonderful idea, my only mistress!”

Rather than remain uncomfortable, Falke gains a jubilant expression while inviting her back with his hand.


“Shall we go to the Songster Heights of the Castillo together, my mistress? If you were take part in the experiment yourself as an observer, you may provide insight into why my attempts keep failing!”


At his request, Neesiette’s mouth only hangs open for a ‘turn’.


“… That… that… be…”

“Once we resolve Orloss’ situation to his satisfaction by creating a copy of my mistress, shall I prepare for an expedition?” Clapping his hands together, Falke finally grows animated. “How noble you are, to hint to this servant that we should properly obtain permission for you to spend as much time at the very top of the Castillo with me as you like, a place very open to the panoramic view of the drop off into—

“Allowing another to intrude would only taint the results of the experiment. This tool’s own field interrupts the functioning of pseudo-Art if within the same proximity as its interpreter. In addition—”


With deadpan precision, Neesiette begins reciting the innumerable faults with Falke’s idea.

“—furthermore, it be impudent to overlook—”


To his credit, the man takes on a serious face while nodding to each reason spoken by the mechanically reacting lunamaton.


“—as such, forever abandon the idea of taking this tool to the heights of the Castillo.”

“Of course, my mistress. It was… foolish of me to suggest.”

“This location far exceeds the Alchemaster’s mansion in impression, for its history be older. Focus only on this locale as an example to pursue.”

“Oh? Know this place, my mistress does?”


Producing a smile at this, Falke grows joyful at the prospect of hearing more. He moves around the perimeter of their table area, listening to the crowd acting around them, some memory of it playing in his mind.


“Regrettably, this ‘day’ will not match the city’s current state, my mistress. Secretly overtaken by the Lords of Light and their minions through administrative slavery, much of the heritage left by the ancient dwarves that survived there is likely defaced, ruined by the religious fervor they foment. Now, it would be…?”

While ever in control, Falke’s posture droops when considering its fate.

“It seems this servant will never learn this city’s true dwarven name, despite it being a popular subject of research for the youth back then? ‘A deep mountain hall, exposed to the sky by a spherical void consuming half the mountain through unknown means, its inhabitants disappeared completely’?

That would be a story worth hearing, I imagine…?


Lost in thought, the man startles when someone pulls on his vest.


“Hmm? Did this servant fail to notice a need? My apologies…”


Neesiette withdraws her hand.

Then tilts her head, offering an emotionless expression.


The sunset lights her up at the worst possible moment, highlighting the unnatural facial symmetry that is her pride.




“[Vahan Boldahr] be the name of this former holdfast of the First Age. Exiting control of the dwarven kingdom of Hammer-Din at the conclusion of that age…”


Though usually finishing her thoughts without interruption, Neesiette studies Falke like an instructor. She grows quiet, reserved with her crystal-like voice when mentioning the kingdom’s name, only increasing the unnerving impression she gives.


“… the fate of this doomed place, one may experience it if one stands ready to face an unvarnished tale in all its damning truth?”




“No, thank you.” Tilting forward with his hand over his heart and matching his sash of women’s arms, Falke has a knowing grin. “If my wise mistress hesitates to share the story, then it’s something that would undoubtedly ruin whatever fond feelings this servant holds on to.”

“… An interesting perspective.”


Neither confirming nor denying, Neesiette resumes the air of an indifferent lady by turning from him and walking off once more.

Apart from him is a place that she maintains, as if calculating the allowable proximity before it must be increased in distance.


“Besides, this servant is unworthy of such lore as gleaned by the almighty Luna.”

“Objecting this tool does to such a claim.”

Halting as she does walks, Neesiette glares back.

No, incorrect in manner it be to not take charge while identifying a servant’s failures.

She then abandons being impassive, slapping her side and nodding at the effect when Falke’s eyes go wide.

“Refusing still this… servant does his mistress’ favor, despite speaking plainly that this… tool desires to aid in all aspects! Trampling on a master’s dignity such… backtalk does.”

“… Forgive this servant, for he was raised to believe that one should be worthy of what is gifted before obtaining it, even if it’s from someone so… beneficent as his mistress.”

Self-deprecating to a fault, Falke’s warm expression seems at odds with what he says, prompting Neesiette to stand on her tiptoes and lean toward him.

“To have achieved near perfection with one’s Talent, approaching the precipice of true Art, still one refuses just accolades!? There be no contention with this tool that one be worthy of—!






To the ground Neesiette crumples, knocked flat by a similarly-sized figure running into her.


A girly voice cries out in place of the muted Neesiette, for a child pats her butt while getting back up. Garbed for a night stroll, the sable-dressed youth looks gobsmacked to discover a rogue lunamaton in her path.

“… Huh? You’re…?”

“… This tool exists, yes. And, the one that struck this tool be…?”

Seemingly shocked as well, Neesiette tries to rise, only to find the intruding girl reaching for her.

“May this tool assist—?”

“… Doll… pretty…”


The one word that drives her into a frenzy causes Neesiette to try to yank away, only succeeding in pulling lightly on her captor.




When the girl grips her, the air thickens with mystery.

Conversation all around dies off.




“… beautiful…


“Fa-Falke, be this insult one’s idea of a je—!?



Neesiette is ripped up partway, dragging on the ground messily when yanked forward.

A child’s strength is far stronger than hers. The intensity of it impassioned for some reason, forcing Neesiette to roll over when pulled.


This interloper’s straw-colored hair shines in the twilight, but it’s her fiercely opened void-like pupils that leave Neesiette paralyzed by fright.

All around them, the crowd avoids the growing sphere of this creature’s influence. Shadows appear to creep in further to replace the absent strollers, denying the sunset’s influence entirely.


“… pReCiOuS dOlL…


A strained face with a manic smile has no childish humor, only sadistic glory when the kid squeezes hard enough to produce a crunching sound from Neesiette’s arm.


“… mInE, bE oNlY mInE…

“Falke! Assist—!




Neesiette is scooped, pulled tightly to a man’s embrace when he slides while kneeling to catch her and place his gauntlet upon the child’s face in the same motion.

The girl twitches for a moment when that gauntlet’s innards churn, before melting into gray soup. It spills upon the stone floor, pooling and refusing to rejoin the pseudoprósōpon that is so caught up in its own animation.


With its destruction, the world that is a recreation proceeds as it should.




“… What… what be the nature of this incident…?”

“An error. Nothing more.”


Neesiette is swiftly righted, then dusted off with a brush Falke forms from his gauntlet.

Led back to the table that was set up at the beginning of this show, the man resumes his prior stance with his hands behind his back.


His mistress recovers in silence, fixing her cravat before continuing her inquiry.


“An error?”

“… Indeed. Recurring proof that my… that this servant’s Talent is nowhere near perfect, nor will it likely ever achieve such a state.”

“Be this similar in nature the the error that afflicted the experiment one assigned to Adris?”


Falke’s control of his emotions leaves his face unchanging, but avoiding meeting another’s gaze eventually forces him to sigh.

Yet, he still chooses to lose himself in the business of the crowd rather than explain.


Incorrect, authority demands another track

Enough time has passed for a suitable preliminary investigation… servant!



That Neesiette demands something steals his attention.

Flexing his gauntleted hand, Falke coughs into it before beginning.


“Of course, mistress. The investigation continues, but the preliminary findings can be conveyed.”




From the ground rises a chair of gray, turning to silver like the scales of a fish shining. He pulls it out for Neesiette to sit upon, helping her up with a hand.


“As was suggested to this servant by another, the one known as Adris fehl Dain utilizes a power which has a similar effect to the Kestner’s musical theorem. Termed by my mistress as ‘darkness’, witnessing it used multiple times left the description as… shockingly apt, but also unhelpful?”

“Causing pseudoprósōpon to agitate, a useful lens into one’s own abilities does that boy’s bizarre influence indisputably provide.” Neesiette nods once, before leaning over the sphere to multitask by working on it. “A servant’s prior experiments bear unhealthy similarities to callous machinations carried out by that one previously with Castillo servants.”

“My mistress’ own unhealthy interest in his nature notwithstanding…”

Toward his cultured, teasing smile Neesiette remains unchanging in mood, save to rap the table.

“… once he caused the page harpies’ ‘core personality resonance’ experiments to rapidly… ‘evolve’, it did make sense to use my mistress’ friends as subjects for an advanced iteration according to my mistress’ recommendation. This servant can say that it… produced interesting data, despite the strict rules implemented.”

“Only useful data could be expected with that boy involved. All safety measures maintained according to this tool’s specifications, closely watched for deviation with this tool’s thanks, my servant.”

Back to her own work Neesiette returns, realigning the concentric, layered rings inside of the sphere, engraving further marks on their glittering surfaces.

“Condense details and deliver a succinct report so that this tool may process the answer to this dilemma while finalizing one’s requested project.”

Only stopping for minutes earlier, the actions she now completes bring a slow hum to the device that grows with intensity and regularity.


Moving to stand before her on the opposite side of the table, Falke taps it to cause a figure to rise.

“Then, let us start from most benign to most dangerous…”

The statue that steps forward swaggers like a barbarian, but has the bragging smoothness of a ladykiller.


“For the Chosen’s king to be called forth by a kobold, no matter how rare a white one is, demonstrates the… unnatural influence that dark child wields. Usually the manse’s reservoirs would be unable to channel sufficient magical energies to immediately fuel such a champion, but this gunman demonstrated pure alchemical authority that was sufficient to defeat a former Beast of Conquest by drawing power from this ‘Adris’.”

“Yes, the [four-part alchemical union], pride of the Alchemaster herself.” Adding to his commentary, Neesiette’s eyes shine with this memory. “A conversation with this simulacrum be planned by this tool.”

“… Indeed? This servant fears you will gain little from the simulacrum, save for how it has changed functions internally.”

“Oh? An error begun in this one?”

Taking a break to look up at him, Neesiette’s shock matches Falke’s crumbling attitude.

“Not so much an… error, but while reporting in fastidiously at first, the unit failed to provide a coherent plan to win over the kobold known as ‘Kol’ and convince her to stay in the manse. When this servant learned of the Chosen’s prowess with women, it was suggested that the unit… utilize this prowess.”


Being prompted causes Falke to roll his eyes and sigh, before pressing the smug man’s figure back into the table with his finger.




“This simulacrum’s personality is… ‘energetic’ and otherwise reliable, but the very thought of looking upon my mistress’ friend in a sexual manner caused it to say, and this servant quotes exactly:

‘For some reason, I’d rather cram all four barrels in my mouth and pull the triggers, man’.”




Nearly dropping the sphere at this, Neesiette sets it back down.

“… In-Indeed? Promoting much condemnation and mixed feelings, Kol does?”

When Falke can’t find a response to her question, Neesiette huffs.

“Strange this be, for a slayer to not find Kol attractive even with her past abuses? Our… leader finds Kol quite fetching, from prior observations. And… its last report?”

“The unit has ceased to respond to recall orders after this conversation transpired.”

“… How?”

“That is a fine question, indeed.”


Falke being unable to provide it leaves him darkly humored again, prompting Neesiette to tap the table with her fingers.


“Servant… pour us tea.”

“Oh? To partake of relaxing tea with the mistress is quite fortunate.”


Forming two cups with saucers on the table, both bearing the Kestner emblem, Falke touches his finger upon a metallic jug that’s been sitting on it since the beginning.

It emits steam soon after, smelling of strong herbs when he pours from its spout.




A minute or so passes while they silently enjoy the bustle around them.


With Falke drinking from his cup and Neesiette letting the steam rise beside her, the pause is sufficient for the man to take back up the conversation.


“Perhaps the answer is… it indeed did suffer an ‘error’. Until it can be recovered, it’s premature to speculate. As for the next one…”


They both watch an upturned flower rise from the table at Falke’s call.

Like an emblem of death, this scheming figure raises one hand to its face hidden by coins, silently cackling.


“This unit never had the chance to report, which, considering its influence in the battle that we could only partially witness, might be for the best. Its self-termination resulted in absolute destruction of its personality core in a manner this servant has never seen before.”

“Intentionally so, given its nature.”


No misconceptions are permitted by Neesiette’s assessment. Both butler and mistress equally understand the hazard posed by what rose to aid Still.


“A Granny of Malice. Of all of the possibilities, this servant never considered such a threat could either come to exist or draw sufficient power to act as it did. Its end is justice in and of itself, though we have no grasp of what machinations it likely set in motion.”


Though Falke relaxes after this, Neesiette only remains quiet, fidgeting at the sight of the creature.

“Lacking time and agency, fortunate that would be…”


Falke roughly smashes it into the table with his palm, letting another rise in its place.


Appearing like a fantasy elf from the First Age, but resembling another by the face, this unholy creation brings a grimace to Neesiette.


That newt mocks others by simply existing.”

“This servant claims no concept of why, or how, that rejected priestess of the deep earth idealized a fairytale elf sufficiently to materialize a complete persona and existence, but the result is truly dangerous and surprisingly cunning.”

At Neesiette’s nod to proceed, Falke’s will causes the storybook “Rouvenor” to begin gliding across the table. The hero weaves and jukes on a phantom wind, effortlessly presenting as a dashing, charismatic elite warrior.

“When questioned after last night’s challenge, this unit obeyed all instructions perfectly. It internalized all requirements and advice to achieve its goal, and, according to both my own observations and those of others, operated purely according to all four rules. So… keen it was, to carry out its orders.”

“… Absurd. A fraud, such a creation of a gecko’s deranged mind be. Though it would cause a loss, one should consider promptly disposing of it.”

“Haha! How observant my mistress is. Though it pretended to be carrying out its task, never has it made overt advances on the girl. Slowly, its guidance became corruptive in a different manner…”


To the table the slashing elf falls with Falke’s snap, sinking into it until it’s consumed.


“Despite being deathly lacking in observational skills, your ‘Ave’ is quite a contrarian and rabble rouser once she figured out the nature of the game through ‘slip ups’ made by the unit.”

“Of course. Havoc be the sole aim of that one’s life.”


Huffing at the figure of Ave that rises from the table to coil and cringe in fright at Neesiette, the lunamaton ends its existence by flicking out her rod and smashing the snake girl.


“Such an interesting relationship you two have?”

The gray muck splatters mostly on Falke’s pants, earning a disdainful grimace at the soiling of them before he wipes them off.

“Forgive the impropriety, mistress. The self-destruct command was, of course, issued before the effervescent elf-loving guest left to ‘go find my Adris’ with it accompanying, begging this Rouvenor to aid her until ‘love’s strength sees her to meet her destiny’.”

“An order to self-destruct, ignored without repercussion?”


Neesiette’s incredulity doesn’t stop her from slapping silver plates over the finished contraption that now buzzes with green radiance from within. Resembling the silver steel made by dwarves, once this containing shell is locked in the device’s internal workings are masked greatly.

Her left eye twitches twice while looking at the slits in the casing that allow light to bleed out, before she refocuses on her servant.


“This servant was unsure how to proceed when the unit quipped in response to being ordered to terminate…”

Lifting his hand, Falke closes his eyes and recites a rhyme.


“‘Ignorance of my game continue to feign, lest imminent doom by fell winds reign.’ Such a poetic threat and the proof of the unit’s prowess left few options except status quo if the game is to continue.”

Demonic, unhinged lizards should be drowned in Petripolis’ river.

“This servant considered it, but the contest requires all participants be active. And, of the last…”


The last figure to rise is a long-haired woman wearing a foreign-looking robe.

A butcher’s sword lifts, pointed at Neesiette’s perfectly crafted face.


“Though the dark creature called Adris fehl Dain supposedly recovered from his dive into insanity, the unit still went rogue later. Even after this servant made intentional alterations to the inert unit bonded with a “false god”. An error that never afflicted Kaskin’s variant [Nerik] struck it, spreading in severity and permanently altering its behaviors.”

“It began to ignore its rules?”

“It descended into [pseudopsychosis], by my guess. It believed only in the link with its organic example, entrusting only to the personality information it gleaned from… wherever.”


The conversation grows taut with this fact coming out.

While Neesiette has yet to speak ill of anything, Falke can only look into the distance with a pensive mood clinging to him.


“‘To be expected of the one called Adris fehl Dain’ may be the only appropriate response this tool may make?”

“My, my, mistress, you seem quite proud of him.”

In what way? Be clear.

Ignoring her indignant rise in voice, Falke continues with his report.


“While the original idea was worthy of consideration, this unit’s berserk state demonstrates that, no matter how lifelike in nature a resonating personality becomes from touching upon this ‘darkness’, the results of the testing are ill-suited to this servant’s goals. Rather than allowing for a truly living existence that achieves perfection similar to the mistress’, only dissent and chaos are promoted.”

“Yet, powerful and full of proof of existence the results be once Adris’ influence added, one must admit! While many detriments accrued during their activation, stand these wonders do as proof of the capabilities of both pseudoprósōpon and a servant’s excellent—!”


Falke’s clenched gauntlet rises, grinding with frustration.


“Yes, my mistress, your servant must admit that these mutating expressions of calamity have flowered quite vibrantly!”


When the gauntlet begins to churn violently within, he shakes free his tension.


“Every section of the manse they’ve touched now stands suspect in purity. They’re agents of discord that have shed any elegance they were endowed, only seeking to defy their creator…!”


Neesiette, always settled and emotionless, grips the table with both of her delicate hands.



Taciturn now despite no prior loss of control, Falke’s disdain vanishes when noticing his error.

He huffs aloud, averting his eyes.

“… My apologies.”


Finishing his cup of tea, Falke bends to place it back on the table. “There was nothing really lost in using older cores for my mistress’ idea. Exhibiting they did many of the qualities one might define as ‘truly alive’, so it’s a helpful look into ‘what could be’.”

Rather than returning to only aloof, Falke’s grins while leaning onto the table with one hand.

“In the future, their extravagances should add to the data that my mistress will provide of a proved immaculate model… though, it’s amusing. When speaking of this Adris’ chaotic taint, my mistress became passionate, almost his advocate?”

Passionate, how? Advocate, for what goal? Describe succinctly, Falke.


Neesiette brushes back loose curls that escaped her circlet from her earlier drag on the ground, growing frustrated when they do not stay off her cheeks.

Forming a comb in his hand, Falke flicks it innocuously.


“Ah… very well.”

The old man nears her and lifts her circlet…




“Does my mistress still hold the same convictions about the forthcoming victor of this game begun between us? Perhaps she might share them now?”

“… Of course. Listen closely, servant.”




The girl resigns herself to have her hair fixed by the older man, who does so without a hint of impropriety.

Exactly like the picturesque vision of a spoiled mistress and her idolizing butler, they share a brief moment of quietude before Neesiette begins.


“Of Kol, unless forestalled, that honest girl will be completely taken by a servant’s offers and decide to stay.”

“An attractive prospect. She is like an ugly duckling waiting to realize that she can become a swan.”

“Yes, great beauty lies within that one’s clay, waiting to be shaped appropriately.”


A rare smile with girlish delight isn’t shown to Falke, vanishing before she looks up at him.


“Of the newt, that lying abomination will completely reject any offers, fascinated only by the false allure of the forest where that one does not belong at all. Only the brutal hammer of reality readies beyond the forest’s edge, waiting to smite her.

“Then let it come.” While Neesiette grimaces slightly at the prospect, Falke’s voice is without a change in feeling. “We must all face what we truly are, both our limitations and inner truths. And, of the undead?”

“… Still… be…”


Glancing around with great hesitation, Neesiette nods to herself once, then twice more when no shadows appear to shift and nobody in the crowd around them turns their ear to listen in.


“… Still be… a friend. Yet, also that one be a brutal disaster waiting to befall another friend named Falke.”

“Is this rarest thing called ‘my mistress’ friend’ truly such a danger?”

“No understanding exists within my servant. Pray that one never falls afoul of the crimes Still may commit to achieve unshared goals.”

Finished with his work of beautifying Neesiette’s hair, Falke continues standing close at her side.


The sight of a tall gentleman next to a girl who could be his granddaughter, both reeking of wealth and refinement, would prompt gossip from the townsfolk who flow around them the moment his touches grow too heavy.


If only they were real.


“Well, this servant admits that this guest eludes all attempts to… goad her into partaking in activities. If ‘Still’ decides that she wishes to leave, there’s no chance of changing her mind from this end.”

“… So grand it would be, if Still only wished to leave peaceably…

“How foreboding! It would be interesting to see what she could do…?”


A quick grin given toward Neesiette’s fretting shows how little Falke thinks of her fears, a confidence in his own manse and designs never faltering.


“And of the boy you favor, mistress?”


That self-named servant lifts his hands up inoffensively at Neesiette’s sparking rod whipping up, finally going too far.

When he inclines his head apologetically, she withdraws it.


“‘A wild card’ be the nature of that one, for no prediction made previously aligns with his revealed future actions. No judgment of his nature and inclinations made, truly explaining his motivations…”

Seemingly exhausted, the moon fairy leans back into her chair.

“Regret and amazement be reserved for that one’s eventual upset, as always. The winner be decided by Adris’ actions alone, in the end. Pointless it be to worry, even if a servant’s terms dictate ‘if only one chooses to stay, all will’.”




Neesiette rubs at her twitching eyes, frustration evident despite being passive to Falke’s humor.

“What an interesting boy you’ve come to obsess over?”

And what of Orloss? Favor that fiend not, does one?

Rather than continue to be barbed by the old man, Neesiette turns his own questions back on him.

“Of one’s uncertain to grasp ambitions, be that devil not a hindrance and molester?”

“My, you would certainly think that without knowing him more intimately, wouldn’t you…?”

“Some blackmail holds he over a servant, does that one? To aid a friend this tool would devote all; but, to aid a foe, this tool devotes only spite.”


Neesiette’s anger at Orloss, stemming from years of captivity at the man’s hands, doesn’t translate to Falke’s own.

Curling his lip and looking up a side street to the block above them, rather than perturbed at the squiggly criminal who invaded his manse skulking around up there, Falke only appears content.


“Though one-sided at the start, Orloss’ fervor in wearing me down to his… cause has become something of a permitted game between us. In fact, it’s one of the few tests of my supremacy in both purity of purpose and cunning that I may gloat about to his chagrin…”


That servility Falke offers to Neesiette fades for these thoughts.

Instead, the man smiles with that imperious, sneering manner he reserved for the other invaders.


“You’ve no idea how happy I am to have Orloss begging me to intellectually thrash him so often, with him shuddering from silent internal rage the whole time.”

“A consummate Pillar my servant be in truth.”

“No, not quite, but I play along with their games, as Orloss is content so long as I do! My mistress has seen only Orloss’ good side in the Grand Collection, without comprehending what he is truly capable of. Though he appears maddened, and is in many ways, Orloss is also a painfully reasonable fellow.”

Stroking his chin, Falke nods with his own assessment.




“All you have to do to get along with him is offer up exactly what he desires, while making certain that he doesn’t desire your wrath. Had he committed to enslaving all of you, I’d be hard pressed to prevent them from being lost…?”




When he turns back, he no longer offers that cutting edge that he described his other life with.


“‘Master Peak’ aside, Orloss is also the closest thing to a… ‘gentlemanly friend’ that I’ve maintained in my advanced years. That he agreed to your strange snake’s proposal, whatever the nature of it, and permitted a ‘draw’ proves that she possesses the rare ability to satisfy others on their terms.”

“How disturbing…”

“But mistress, what of you…? Why do you offer such a pained look?”

Like a cat playing with its favorite toy, the old man smiles fondly while drawing closer to her.

“… Some… unnatural source of noise, a cascade of pseudo-Art origin, appears recently activated within the manse…”

“Oh? Can you describe this noise?”

“Capable of ignoring most sources, this tool be… yet, this… exponentially increasing source be…!”

Neesiette tilts sideways, a shiver running through her.

“Most… unsettling it be…!”

“And what does it sound like, mistress?”

“… Annoying, nipping voices…! Insipid and redundant in their demands and questions…! Falke, what be the nature of these…!?

Pushing at invisible foes with her hands thrusting out into the air, Neesiette struggles to rise from her chair.




“Absolute proof, we have now…”


From the table, the puppetmaker plucks the orb Neesiette completed.


“… that my mistress qualifies.”




The metallic cover slides shut with a finger touch upon its emerald facet, covering the slits that allow radiance to exude.

That light dying off calms the writhing mystic.


“… Ah. Stopped…?”

“Indeed. Until requested, those ever-present spirits will not be heard.”


Receiving the ball from Falke, Neesiette studies its silver surface more intently despite just completing its construction.

Violet eyes glow as she does so, before she grimaces when her own internal light dies down.


“… Falke. This be not an elemental engine.”

“Of course not, my one, true mistress. This is what it always was intended to be: an artificial communion orb.”

“That be… impossible…!”

“This servant might have said the same before today…”


Walking to stand opposite of her at the table, it’s no longer necessary once their seating place begins to droop into the floor.

Its teacups vanish, the pot that brews herbal tea flowing away from them as if given legs.


“However, today is a very different day, mistress, for today my muse and lasting inspiration passed the final test of succession given to potential heirs.”




Neesiette seeks to stand, but falls back when her throne rises four feet into the air. Gripping its armrests, she kicks like a struck cat before settling.


Absurd, one be…!




Though twilight once brought a city of gigantic statue heights to the ending of a day, one that seemed as morbid as joyful, the folk who live here have one last celebration to attend before night comes.

Stopped in their tasks, all have turned to gaze upon the idol who they may now see from any terrace or doorway.


All of them cross one arm over their breasts to match the old man separated from this throng of common folk.

His striking blue eyes catch Neesiette’s focus, his face as solemn as the moment.


“‘One who has heard the breath of the earth, its eternal will’…”

“Impossible! Being antithetical to Art, never to interfere or intersect with false ‘divine’ or ‘natural’ entities this tool understood one’s duties to dictate… never to align with…!”


Yet, my great mistress has heard their voices.


A great display of her own glory is at hand, but Neesiette reviles it by pulling her legs up to the chair’s seat. Wrapping her dress around them, she looks only vexed.


“Earth spirits… those be…? How… terribly annoying…”

“… This servant has heard similar descriptions of the ‘holy voices’, yes.”

“Even then… that be…! Impossible, a mistake of circumstance!

For this… this tool be—!”




From the ground, two great blobs of gray spring up behind Falke, silencing her again.


In moments they suck in, condensing to form rigid figures of knightly might that raise great spears toward the unearthed sky.

Like suits of armor that may crush an adult man beneath their feet, these golems that have a peculiar name cause Neesiette to scowl.


“These also one has shown perfect compatibility with.”

Regalia? Not once modified, altered, nor created one this tool may state with assurance!”

“‘To grant form in the shape of man, to house that spoken will of nature so that man might struggle within its protective embrace…’”

Closing his eyes, Falke steps aside to let another blob rise in his place.




In his stead, a born image of Kol, clad in nightmarish black and red steel, sets her bloodthirst upon Neesiette.




“That be… different… correcting an armor’s deficient creation be not the replication of a Regalia!”


This terrible champion gives a toothy grin, before donning the white wolf helmet she favors.

A palpable feeling of shock floods the area, an aura of phantasmal fire spreading that’s born solely of Falke’s mimicry.


“Different in what way? Completed by my mistress early this morning, a cursed dwarven armor’s transformation into a golem that is worn by the wearer and powered by, admittedly, the element of fire instead of earth…?”


Kol’s pink eyes glow, sending fire burning through the evil suit of protection.


“Does the armor not seem familiar in principle?”


Raising her clenched fist, the kobold squire more resembles an activating Regalia when the red lines of the vile armor pulse and jet strength through her own burning arteries.


“Will Kol’s protection not be a hearth for the fearsome fire that burns within?”

“Differences… accrue with this… claim…”

“Trivial ones, to be sure, for my mistress knows more about golems, their fabrication, and creation theorems after browsing the manse’s scriptorium than this servant could ever claim to have learned throughout his life. Which, is also a point proving her sufficiency.”


The imagined Kol steps back, taking her place between the two titanic Regalia that the citizens of Vahan Boldahr crowd.


“Falke provided all materials wholly fabricated, given form and presented solely for completion, exactly like a cursed armor! Only improvements made, this tool may claim…”


Calling down her last rebuttal from above, Falke responds with a coughing laugh and a sweeping bow.


“Humble to a fault my mistress is, to claim no culpability for the pinnacle forms of both a communion orb that surpasses all others an old man has ever witnessed and a placated, empowered suit of the most cursed armor possibly ever intentionally created in Zennia’s long history.”

“… Only alterations… never more… never intended…!


So silent she whispers, all friendliness stolen when put on the spot like this.

In her place, Falke speaks.


“These masterpieces, in the end, were made by—”





Toward Falke, Neesiette points her flicked out rod of force.

The crystal that seats into its handle glows. Its capacity to cause harm is something she flirts with.


“Never once may this tool claim to be a creator! Existing only to aid those who create and divine, this tool—!”

“That is a wonderful example as well, my mistress.”


When Falke smirks at the rod Neesiette holds, which bears so many alterations to it that its own design has been improved to the point of becoming something more, her argument is lost.


“That be…”


Looking down, Neesiette only studies the earth below with an emotionless expression.






Slowly, and with perfect care, the chair that rose up approaches the ground once more.

Toward her walks a man that now exudes confidence and hurry in equal intensity, abandoning his servility completely.


Despite approaching as a man who does not serve, he still falls to one knee before her, bowing his head.


“My lady, there is no one but you.”

“… Failing to see what this proves, for many reasons one could…”

“Face the truth!”


Throwing his hands wide, Falke belts out more before she can interject.


“Irrefutable is the evidence! My mistress always trusts in that which is empirical, correct!?”


When his questioning hand lifting a closed sphere to her causes Neesiette to avert her gaze, Falke nods and continues with a lower tone.


“On the day this lowly servant first met his mistress, she spoke only of duty given to ‘a tool’ by its indomitable creator, the Perfect Luna. Of a task to understand all Art and preserve it.”

“… That ever be this tool’s purpose.”


Taking up her hand into his, the old man’s eyes twinkle.


“And so, this servant wishes to pursue that purpose with his mistress!”


Though he lacks her perfectly crafted beauty it’s not as if his own features fall too short. Age hasn’t taken any of his sprightliness once he acts, only crisping a gentleman’s natural appeal.




In this moment, an outside observer might see an old man coming alive for the first time in years upon meeting a beauty he desires.

When faced with him, even Neesiette’s reluctance seems to marginally melt.


“That purpose never abandoned after uncountable years is wonderful! That sense of duty resonated within me, when nothing else before did, ever…!”


Shedding both the mysterious allure of a mist-hidden Pillar and the unassuming, self-effacing confidence of a seasoned servant, Falke instead roars out with a man’s simple domineering candor.


“As the true successor of the Kestners, a position that this servant is qualified to grant, a haven exists here for you to seclude within! Why linger outside of paradise, when one is inviting you to resculpt it to the vision held within your heart!?”

“Inviting, and also… comforting, admittedly be this manse.”


Even surrounded by moving others, the normally aloof Neesiette seems at home when she lets her legs hang back off the chair.


“Here, tools and knowledge collected by this servant are freely offered for perusal and use! This place which copies even the dimensional secrets of the Alchemaster’s own mansion is the perfect power base for my mistress to begin her own crusade. Bridging the gap between the hellishly mundane simplicity of Zennia and the…”


Lifting his hand toward the sky, the violet orb above becomes visible with clouds parting once more.


“… majesty of Traveler that this sad mortal could never hope to replicate is a worthy dream! Only this mistress before me can deliver wonders to this world matching what is found up there, made by one who wanders the stars like a god!”

Falke…! Nothing may this tool create, for a tool may not create! And… there… be options other than a tool of Luna hated by Zennians…!”


Not content with only grasping her hand, he instead moves to pull lightly on her cravat, bringing her face toward him gently.


“No other could possibly qualify higher, not anymore! Not after I met you…”




A wave of onlookers plunge to the ground. Despite ignoring her grandeur the whole time, the city folk prostrate themselves where the old man only has to kneel.


The Regalia grind noisily while dropping low, tilting their heads when their torsos cannot bend and ungainly planting their knees.


Even the replica of Kol showcases grace the kobold has never demonstrated, performing a courtier’s bow toward the lunamaton that is her teacher and showing a pupil’s respect for the first time.




“Had I known of your existence in my youth, I would’ve demanded that the eastern powers declare war upon the Alchemaster to free you! That fat… lazy, good-for-nothing bastard of a prince would’ve marched to your salvation, or I would’ve ended him myself and set out with his armies clad in gray!

“… Absurd, such a claim be!”

No matter how comical the claim, the old man’s face grows ever more animated at further refusal, lines now forming that showcase his years with his muscles taut.

“This meager manse pales in comparison to Luna’s glorious cities, I know, for you’ve explained them so well that I can see them in my dreams, now, as haunting and oppressive as they are at times!

He searches her with repressed longings he can no longer contain.

“But, until you return to your promised place up there with your blessed creator, why not…!?”





Almost face-to-face, the two people abandon the dynamic of master and servant.

He whispers with passion so that only she can hear.


“Why… refuse what, from my perspective, already belongs to the only example of what I’ve spent my… life seeking to create?”

“… That… be…?”

“Here, no matter one’s previous fall and slumber, no matter the horrendous lies others spread about the creations of Luna, no matter how they might seek to ruin you in their foolish hunts, you will be always protected!




Two figures that spent so much time apart, carefully maintaining a socially correct distance, now navigate a different set of rules.

Though neither speaks, each conveys with body language the charged nature of this meeting.




“And… one will abandon one’s bonds? That one displeases ‘this mistress’.” Shaking her head, Neesiette bravely points in the direction of an evil squid. “Only to be destroyed for acting, would one cast aside friendship to make an enemy of both he and one’s almighty master?”

The moment it’s requested, Orloss will meet his end.” Falke’s normally measured tone is replaced by a growl. “With that as my promise, why do you prefer that evil, deceitful boy who so nakedly obstructs your pursuit of Art?”

“He… that one be…”


Hatred burns on Falke’s face, directed not at her but at an image of “enemies”.

And possibly of the one who claims not to be an enemy.


“These four that my mistress agreed to challenge to a test, so as to reveal their true natures, they are what you will rededicate yourself to?”

“Decided for this tool, when!?”

“Each ‘sending’ speaks more of them and less of my mistress. Is it now time to abandon love of Art, should they require it?”

“Never! But, to… entrap them within this manse, in a position where they be ‘kept’…”


Something like fear crosses Neesiette’s face, a cloud which burdens her enough to sap strength.


“Those three girls, and even that darkling child that transforms into blasphemous monsters at his leisure, will be protected if you will it, mistress. No matter the consequences or expenditures.”

“That be not the issue. Thriving in the face of a future similar to my ignoble ‘collecting’, will he, and they…?”

More concerned for others, Neesiette’s face turns from Falke again.

“Though this manse approaches the qualifications of ‘a place of belonging’ that this tool may favor, those four be not at all alike a tool in wants. Seek neither comfort nor security do they, but something else…”

“Then why not fool them with an illusion of choice?”

“Would it not shatter the development of the majesty of a black cross that caught this tool’s attention, to be locked away from experiences that seemingly solidify its might…?”


A truthful admission causes the man to grind on a tooth.

For Neesiette, she only loses more of what animates her, blankly talking and staring ahead at nothing.


Requesting such manipulations, when this tool spoke ill of them… absurd, Falke be…




When called absurd repeatedly, Falke nearly lunges up from his kneeling state!

Containing that drive to act, he brings a hand toward her face instead of doing something tragically aggressive.


Almost inanimate, Neesiette draws back up when faced with his closing touch.


“Their ambitions will become mine, wherever they choose to live, so long as they are your ambitions as well! My life and all I have created, I would devote to the service of them, and to the master I’ve… sought… no, I’m still misspeaking my true thoughts, aren’t I, for…


The old man’s voice cracks after, filling with depth-less regret for a moment that then turns assured with the finality of his offer.




“I could only ‘replicate’ perfection now after meeting you, for even back when I desired to be the first to make something akin to my mistress, you already lay dormant on Zennia.”

She grasps his large hand with both of her small ones, holding it tight to her chest so that it can’t touch her cheek.

“With that truth laid out before me, what am I to do if… all I’ve created and inherited as custodian for the Kestners were not given to an heir of your caliber?”

Though she has no heart beat, the act of trying to comfort him calms the man’s heavy breathing.


When perfection lies before me, what else is there to seek but a wonder called ‘Neesiette’?




For an old man to grow so wild is unseemly.

That he behaves so loosely with his emotions and thoughts, thrusting them on the girl that he would have become his mistress, is unnatural.






She slides her palm over the old man’s face, patting his cheek before moving down to his well-kept beard.


The slight tug on it snaps Falke out of his wild mood.



He pulls back his hands, though he continues to kneel.


“… Maintained… an oath be, made with Falke to aid with the creation of a sentient, living automaton. Never abandoned, even if originally made as an expedient guarantee of aid and silence.”


Sitting back in her throne and placing her arms upon its rests, she makes space between them.

Neesiette sighs and closes her eyes when she’s unable to find a comfortable position, before continuing her oath.


“Tonight, at the maximum of Traveler’s ascent, this tool’s fullest potential and form be dedicated only to a friend’s pursuit. Past tonight, that aid be promised still, no matter the outcome of this ‘game’ between us.”




At this promise, the unusual servant rests on his legs with some relief.


“If at the cusp of achievement a gentleman named Falke attempts to abandon his life’s work of creating that which follows an orderly nature similar to Luna’s creations, unwilling to forgive him his mistress will be.”

“… Indeed, it would be foolish of me to do that, after so many decades…”


Standing back up, Falke’s posture is terrible with how he stoops.


“As to the rest of one’s kind offer… this design crafted by Luna carries many mysterious aspects. With one’s aid and others’, this tool understands more each ‘long’ of that which be perfectly made, yet be recognized recently as not perfectly understood. Comprehend this conundrum, does one?”


Nodding his head once, Falke only smiles a sad, pitiable smile, before he clears it and readopts his usual countenance.

“Comprehending in full this servant does.”

Adjusting his tie, an inner turmoil is laid to rest with a conclusion that remains unshared.


Aloof as is his style, but ever watchful, Falke offers a congenial exterior.


“Then, though also made during chaotic hurry and under dubious distress, another oath must be honored in turn. ‘To always trust four others, and to honor their place in this tool’s days’, this oath stands as one that would be debased if this tool agreed to such an invitation without first discussing it with them…”

Neesiette taps her chin, a look of consternation coming to her.

“So that all may mutually benefit, this tool exists to serve. So that this tool may aid others in growing toward their own more perfect goals, this tool must consider its own immediate circumstances and goals as secondary to others’, at present.”

Harder she taps, before looking to a tome lying on the floor next to her throne. Called “Brings an End”, its platinum-and-stone-bound cover finally invites a sigh from the girl.

“Though it be eternally frustrating to have this tool’s own goals trodden upon so heavily by others, this tool would be corrupting its values if it agreed to this game with the servant named Falke and then abandoned the players that fight on its behalf, be this not correct?”

Fidgeting briefly, Neesiette blusters when Falke’s face grows questioning.

“Told to be actively concerned and not fatalistic, to show interest and believe one’s own existence as important… a loathsome braggart without gentlemanly spirit voices so much conflicting advice, just as this servant does. So… this tool be forced to defer to both for now, and then—”


“… Hahaha!”



Somber throughout her speech, Neesiette jumps like a child when the old man starts with a deep belly laugh.

“Ahahaha, so, he also says such things…!? Ahaha!

He stands up slowly, nodding his head repeatedly throughout his enjoyment.




“My mistress is also perfect in her self-justifications! Then, this servant can only be humbled by her logical contortions and dutifully obey.”

Be one teasing this tool yet again!?

“Perish the thought! I only now am permitted to state the third requirement for being the Kestner heir.”


Putting his hand to his chest, Falke bows for the last time.


“I was told: ‘Only when one can hear the will and house its voices, yet also resist their yearnings if they imperil the purposes of dignity and justice, then will they be qualified to be the will’s speaker.’

And so, my mistress only further solidifies her claim, how amusing, so depressing…”

“Ignore history, in this case only! Let the game decide the future, and from its decision, this tool shall shape a proper outcome.”

“Yes, yes, my mistress… one’s ‘resignation toward duty’ is ever so nostalgic, too…


Like so often he’s rather showy in his responses bordering on disrespect, but also seems fonder of her when reviving the table and retrieving the tea pitcher from within the crowd.


“By the way, your servant was quite serious. Shall I dispose of Orloss as a sign of good faith?”



When the old man finishes pouring her tea for her, letting Neesiette recover herself within the thronging masses that have resumed their evening pleasures, he comes to stand beside and just behind her.


“… for now, at least, Falke.”

“Rest assured, many interesting contingencies have been prepared for Orloss’ untimely end, as I’m sure he has his own for mine.”


Though she wears a stately dress of violet and steel-blue with half moons, and he green-and-purple with his dark servant’s uniform bearing an eagle emblem, they manage to look like master and servant once more while taking in the false sunset together.


“Enough of important topics. Of one’s other experiments and works, convey their details to demonstrate that this mistress’ servant be not lacking in fidelity to his other duties.”

“Certainly, mistress. In fact, Orloss’ little experiment that he was bragging about last night is more fascinating than I let on, if you’d be interested in hearing the results…?”





(It’s blatantly unfair.)


All life has sapped away.

All intention to intervene, to act, even to possibly rebel at what was said when it was said, has drained out of him.


(The Maker was… supposed to be the grandest existence.)


When even that Maker looks to a… foreigner and yells so many statements that defy the notion, for the one created…


(… My Maker is… lacking? He would… worship the existence of another?)


Not merely another, but another creator.

A superior one to him.

To the “created” of this creator, Fehl’s Maker pledges himself.


(How is this permitted in the natural order?)


If the Maker is lacking, then what does that say about that created by him?


(… What… am I…?)




“He… seeks perfection… as well…”


Behind a balustrade, hiding so expertly that the Maker and the “muse” he cavorts with cannot notice them in the crowd of people that inhabit this dwarven city of ponderous heights, Fehl kneels.

He continues to watch them chatting about topics that should not be shared with those unaffiliated with the Maker or the Pillars of Zenith that the Maker belongs with.


“What a frustrating… or rather, how dare… that one claim so much…”


So primly she moves!

So vexing with her precision!


“Speaking so independently!? Whatever she desires to say, she spouts it… treating our Maker as if he is her servant…”




Hands, so delicate, move with grace to create objects that Fehl could never hope to reproduce.

Violet eyes see what even his blue ones, the color that signifies those [touched by the earth], cannot. The very fabric of creation itself is reduced to understandable morsels that she savors.




“She… presumes too much, walking around looking like that…! So, presumptuous those colors are…! ‘Violet and blue’? It… should clash, shouldn’t it…?”


But no matter how delicate she is, how girlish those six-looped ribbons are at her back and the stifling thickness of her dress made for fending off a non-existent cold…


“How dare she… belong so well… to a higher tier, by her claim…!”




Arms and legs, torso and breast, nape and elbows, a thin neck…

Every internal component must move with precision that makes Fehl’s own mechanics seem mundane.


For while he must maintain focus to move with grace, this girl appears to float through the world around her.


“She uses it to tempt… that beautiful mask of artificial design called her ‘face’… those, soft cheeks and proud forehead…”


A guise that captures the perfection of youth, without appearing naive. Instead, she is an art piece called “Timeless”.

This rogue design by another artist mocks him, as if he hangs upon a far wall and is forced to accept the existence of another in the gallery reserved solely for the Maker’s brilliance.


Worse, the Maker that should favor his own paintings…









hate her… this pretender, this invader, that has come to my home to mock me…!


Hands that should have strength sufficient to at least deform the railing he clings to quickly give up trying.


(Then why can I not stop looking at her?)


Instead, he slumps lower toward the ground.




“… Ah, it hurts to move…? Hurts?”




Deprived of vision of her, Fehl feels emptier yet.

As if what animates him was being drained and replaced by the view of this “lunamaton”, there isn’t enough to fuel him now.


(… If I can no longer see her… I don’t have… a will of my own…?)


“… Oh…

… is this…?”


(“Growing up”…? Have I grown up… simply by witnessing something so outlandish…? Having seen the possibilities, will I now become more…?)


“… what Sapphira called…?”


(Or is it the other thing, that I’m supposed to feel toward…?)




“… affection…? I see…

If she makes me feel this, when I look upon her, then that means… that I’ve lost. I can’t compete with that… impression.”


(… If I can’t compete from the start, then…)




“Oh, I see why the Maker feels as he does. This thing constructed by one called ‘Luna’ really is quite beautiful, isn’t… she?”




(If I lose outright, then I should do as my Maker does, and serve that which is more perfect than I am.)


It is, after all, the only logical thing—







“Forceful” describes what pushes him to the ground.

“Needy” is what mounts him like a boy, spreading her dress to cover his stomach and legs.




One hand comes to his chin, pushing down on it.


“Guh!? F-Fehr…!?”

“… Brother…!


That hand clumsily moves to the back of his head, before the wide-eyed face of his sister Fehr, whose blue eyes are shaking in outrage, comes closer to his own.




Emotion, raw and insidious,

Full of despair, anger, and conviction.


Burning so hot that Fehl can innately comprehend them, in addition to the jealousy that connects all four…







Those emotions flow into him.


A taste like honey spreads from just their tongues touching.

Never since they were created has a union like this been shared between them.

Never in his time awake has Fehl tasted honey; but, after this, he will never forget it.




Yet, once the honey taste grows boring too quickly, a thousand other flavors spread into his mouth.






By Fehl’s own guess, the way Fehr mashes her lips against his is stolen from some other experience she viewed.

This must be true, because her tongue is both violent and ineffective. Too childlike, too amateurish.




(… Why is she…!? NO!? We…!? Weeee… areeeee…!?)


Adding his tongue back, willingly, causes the shock flowing from hers, like a live current, to grow powerful!

Unknowable thoughts flood into Fehl’s usually self-consistent mind.






And so…


(… We… aren’t… people… only unreal… but this… tastes so good…!?







Once Fehl stops thrashing,

Fehr ceases to pin him to the floor so viciously, giving everything to their sloppy union.




(IS THIS… IS THIS… WHAT… “FEELS”, feels… like…?)




Aiding her in her exploration of his mouth, Fehl returns the favor with great trepidation by pushing back into her mouth. Unwilling to open his eyes, he soaks in the false saliva that they craft between them as she flinches, but then guides him.


Fehr’s hand releases his arm, coming instead to his head when she grinds against his crotch.


(Oh… oooh, ooooooh!? What… what is this… movement…!?)


Something that is a part of Fehl’s form begins to change in shape and thickness, sending jolts of unknown sensation reporting back to his core.


(… What am… are… we… these two units… weeeee…?)




Finally, she ends their magical union of tongues.


Pulling up, her silvery hair is somewhat looser. Instead of fixing it like decorum demands this strange girl only licks her lips, her pale cheeks now rosy when they’ve never changed color before now.


“… Fehl.”

“… F… Feh…


Beside his head she slides hers, laying on top of him.



“Fehr was made for Fehl.”

“… Y-Yes… and… Fehl was made for Fehr…


(We are… together… a creation of… AH!?)


“… I will not permit you to be stolen by that fraud.

You belong to me.”


The whispering girl sticks her tongue into his ear after, sampling the flavorless skin he’s mimicking as a part of his design.

For no reason whatsoever, Fehl’s whole body experiences an error, shuddering uncontrollably.


“Nnnah!? Sis… Sister…!?”

“Yes… sister. Definition: counterpart, other half…”

“Of course… together we are…”




(We are one…!)




Simulacrums conceived from the Maker’s memories are active around them, bypassing the scene of a young girl bullying her sibling by wrestling with him.

Unlike them, there’s something inherently different about these two that creates a whispering, murky sphere of isolation where others will not tread.




“That… thing… is a liar!




This isolation grows as Fehr hisses at him,

melting the railing they once hid behind, slowly and methodically, like the flame of a candle does its wax.


“… It’s… lying?”

“Yes. That thing has fooled our Maker. It… works with the witch that poisoned the manse… I am sure of it now. I understand the plot. What they are trying to take… from us…”

“It… is…?”

“… our manse, is what it wants! Our home… that thing is the cause of everything attacking our home.

“… It is…?”

“Absolutely! Our Maker is… a perfect being. For him to favor that… false creation, liar from outside, that… invader, means that he has been afflicted with an error!”


(But… that shouldn’t be right…? Because, if our Maker is afflicted with an error, then he’s not perfect…?)


“… If… she could mislead him, then doesn’t that mean that the Maker isn’t…?





Once more, the girl’s tongue overrides his words.

Devouring all logic.

Replacing that with motivation alone.


To add to it, a squirming hand travels down to his crotch, rubbing over the uniform that they proudly wear.


(OOH…! OOOOOOOOH! That… that feels…! So…!)




Fehr withdraws her hand after, leaving Fehl gasping.




Fehl… aid me in destroying all invaders.

“Haah!? Haaah… all… invaders…?”

Everything that threatens and lies to our Maker… We will destroy it.

“That…!? That…?”


Again, her hand creeps down to the painfully enlarged “error” with his body that he can’t explain.

At the same time, she licks his neck for a reason he can’t find, sending him into a convulsion.


“… Once all the invaders are gone, nnn, sister will be able to take better… lick, ‘care’ of her brother.”


Though they are only cold creatures of false matter, Fehr’s body feels like a roaring fireplace that he’s been shoved into.



That seems…!


(That seems…! Um…!?)


“… Logical! That’s very… logical, sister…! I will assist in saving our Maker from that…!?”


(So… fragile looking… but perfect…?)


Unconsciously squirming to get another view of her, so that he might identify what that ethereal creature is, his chin is grabbed by a girl who sits back up to glare down with cold eyes.



“… Yes… sister. My… my enemy!”


(Did I respond correctly!? Was I supposed to agree or…!? Ahn!?)


Again, she dumps so much into his mind with another… kiss.

Whereas the first two were somewhat rushed, Fehr takes her time with the last one that completely voids Fehl’s mind of anything but the design he fell in love with before this invader’s.


(… Ah… I also feel…! Toward… Fehr…?)


“That… guest that helps me has given me instructions. We shall carry them out. That one, alone, proves an ally. When next we talk, I will understand his part better. Understood, brother?”

“Y-Yes… Let us carry out the… plot that you two agreed upon…? As you wish… I am… here for…”


(Was it Fehr I was supposed to obey… or…? I’m… so confused.)




They march away from the overlook, with Fehl absentmindedly being pulled by a determined sister.

Going up a stairway, directly toward an evil far more potent than either could imagine.




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?”

“Are you still with us, boy?”


“Now that you can be handsome, will you abandon that worthless personality you cultivate to achieve it?”



“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’?”



“Recalculated! A False God has found a new role?”



“Who are you now?”



Name: Fehr
Titles: Sister of Fehl
Race: Automaton
Sex: Female
Age: ??

Occupation: Creation of the Maker, Falke of the Kestners
Discipline: [Beyond the Peak] – Modus of the Pillars of Zenith



[“Maker’s Special”] – “This unit controls all aspects of the Maker’s creations, so long as she obeys the four rules that bind her.”



Disposition: Assertive / Demurring / Inquisitive
Alignment: Ordered -> Neutral (DARKNESS ACQUISITION)

Eyes: Blue
Hair: Silvery
Skin: White



Rantil Value –

Strength – C

Vitality – ???

Dexterity – D

Agility – D

Intelligence – D

Mentality – D

Luck – ???

Charisma – C



Cethran Value – “Don’t you think you’re allowing yourself to grow a bit too fascinated? As someone that sees things from the opposite end of the spectrum, what you are playing with… hasn’t it become quite dangerous if you only believe she is a… ‘tool’?”



“What started as Serras has become something completely different. With each step, it grows. With time, it feels. Within this… story, even something born in one day may achieve…?”



“I thought she could use her own entry.”





Chapter 117         Table of Contents          Chapter 119