Take Up the Cross – Chapter 16: Artful Malice

The Chapel, rather than being a sanctuary within reach of the residents of this mansion, is actually a spot furthest from the rest. The spiraling stairs within leading to the Alchemaster’s throne are only reachable from a very long hall leading to the master foyer.


Standing within this grand foyer hall, Adris is…


(Surprisingly good.)


Examining his form within the polished-gold wall panel, even as hard as it is with the wavering light from the enormous, wandering chandelier overhead constantly twirling through the hall, Cethran’s handiwork has certainly improved his image.

Adris had resorted to thinly disguised begging to entice her to tailor the bagginess out of his clothing, but she’d even been kind enough to clean it using a strange cloth that cleansed grime almost completely from the material by applying only minute quantities of water.

Even his gloves and shoes were serviced, tightening them at the wrists and ankles. It’d almost been worth the humiliation of her forcing him to stand mostly naked while taking measurements and using him as a mannequin, humming to herself the whole time as she groped him…


(But I told her I didn’t want a half-shoulder cloak!)


Yet, the style Cethran has crafted frames him perfectly, the asymmetry of his cloak letting the potion bandolier artfully stand out with his bound cross on the same side adding to his sophistication.

The lingering bloodstains on his cloak give him the daunting effect of “a killer on the run”, while the silver mask strangely magnifies his overall impression in a way Adris can’t define.


Forced to sacrifice a tunic sleeve and have the blue coat’s arm massacred, wearing his only disguise has been tricky, for Cethran had possessed only enough skill to add a few buttons to keep it bound on the left arm.


(Still, I at least look strong.)


The time utilized inspecting himself in the open like this would normally be dangerous, yet…


Nobody wants to meet others in so conspicuous a spot, so why worry? Wouldn’t the foyer be one of the least traveled spots by the residents?


As Cethran said, the hallway containing only carpeting, pillars, and ominous statues is vacant; yet, Adris’ “good luck charm” still restlessly rolls between his fingers as he listens out for dangers.

The small, flattish piece of black, bark-like substance within a glassy resin is Adris’ only remaining “trick”. It was a hidden boon discovered by Cethran from Symphonia’s materials Adris had liberated.


This is? Of those creatures born of darkest wishes and worst thoughts, would this preserved piece of their passing not be a residual testament to their power and evil? Were you to damage its seal, would you be able to stand in its effect without quaking, too?”


Though her knowledge has been immensely useful, her strange amiability resulted in the mysterious, impressive sage transforming into a sarcastic, overbearing minder in the span of mere hours.


If you end up coming home with an imp after being attacked, does my promise to officiate the marriage of the two of you give you ‘comfort’ for your journey?”


Slamming his fist on the panel with veins on his head throbbing, Adris then starts down the hall.




(Being useful is fine, but stop acting like we’re close. The moment you outlive your utility and I break free, we’re parting ways, old woman.)


Behind him are stairs leading upward to an area Cethran called the [Servant’s Circle].


(Thoroughly guarded, it’s the approach to the Decadence of Gold without using the stairs, one of four ways up to see the evil bitch herself… It looks?)


Curious, he turns around.

At the top of the stairs leading to this area… an enormous, glinting-framed portrait hangs, looking like a window into the artist’s vision of depraved avarice…



The girl lounging on the throne of liquid, shifting silver laughs at him as she reclines in her coy pose, her blue eyes staring back. All of the wealth around her drives Adris’ heart wild with jealousy, yet she cares not about it.

Though she seems to be Adris’ apparent age or a even bit younger, her eyes have all of the malevolence of an adult’s at the precipice of their acknowledged, supreme authority.

Her smile is every nightmare Adris has ever dreamt of about the purposeful evil perpetrated by those holding irreproachable power, made all the more terrible by the calculated, girlish charm that lingers in it.




(You are utterly sickening, the cause of all of my problems.)


Adris’ revulsion has never been this strong towards anything in his life, with thoughts of defacing it only barely pushed away, a fear for his safety stronger than his outrage.




(But I have to admit… she nails the part. If I needed someone to exemplify “supreme evil”, she’s perfect in every aspect.)




Creeping down the hall, Adris moves between the rows of large statues. Created all in the same general design, the figures of them are impossibly perfect females in frozen movement and contemplations, a unified group in appearance that exudes a stately presence.

Fifteen such statues line the central path, all wearing uniforms similar to the Alchemaster’s minions on the top floor, yet theirs are far more unique and stylized.


(All are tempting with their various displayed personalities and revealed flesh, but their weapons and armor are more concerning.)


Yet, even if he tries to focus on their weapons Adris can’t help looking up their various skirts as he walks by, noticing that the sculptor went to the effort of even creating them with undergarments and lingerie.


Nothing here feels dormant, with the dinginess of the upper levels replaced by crisp, clean walls and carpeting.

A gentle smell grips him as he moves forward, a citrus scent wafting on the still air, though there are no flowers to be seen. The upper floors that had been filled with the smell of damp decay are now tinged by a falsely warming one.

Though the air is cold, Adris can feel the surfaces of this room radiate invisible energy that invigorates his soul. Indeed, it seems to exude from everything, this lustful feeling that imperils him.


(The presence of dominant cruelty…?)


That presence comes most from the giant doorway Adris reaches. So large that no men could ever hope to open it, the old, metal-banded, blue-stained wood bears a golden emblem embossed on it, the same as the one in the book.


(The symbol of the Alchemaster’s glory. The pinnacle of alchemy.)


Taut, blood-red iron chains attach to the barrier, leading up to large, geared spindles set into the vaulted, arched roof above.

The entrance door is flanked by enormous stained-glass windows, filled with botanical imagery and glyphs on a sea of blood that gives the light filtering through into the hall a grim hue on its floor, far stronger in intensity than the pale light of the blue flames from the wandering chandelier.


The gold embedded in the door is of such quantity that Adris’ throat is dry from the uncharacteristic greed it instills in him.


If it isn’t offered, should your hands touch it?”


Cethran implied the Castillo beggars thieves.

Only those who claim rightful conquests may profit.


A presence which once slept at the periphery of his senses is awake here. Though Adris doesn’t feel eyes on himself yet…


(The evil of this hell is active on the lowest floors, and I am between two areas in the only safe spot.)


The exit of the mansion presents itself, but even absent a means of opening it…


Have you ever heard of a gate guard as dangerous as the owner of the gate?


Cethran had indicated that the cruel presence outside is far worse than the danger within, proving he cannot possibly escape through the front door.

It can be neither reasoned with nor fooled. A monster in the shape of a human, it had recently appeared and is unspoken of in the existing lore of this place, capable of wiping out any slayer that challenges it with absolute ease.


(This is getting to be far too ominous. If I’m sent out into an environment like this… even if it’s me, this is getting to be too much.)


Walking to the grand arch to his left and peering beyond, Adris finds his expectations sorely dashed.

Though Cethran had warned him of the nature of the mansion, he was still holding onto the idea that logic and reason would somehow prevail over fantasy.

Instead, what greets him is far worse than her words could prepare him for.


A concourse is before him, with carpeted and brightly paneled connected hallways that stretch out into darkness.

The hallway to his immediate right is the most contradictory: it stretches to well beyond the location of the front door of the mansion, a geometric impossibility were anything to be beyond it.


There is a clanking as some great, shadowed giant of a figure marches methodically down one of the branching hallways, its rough movements sounding like metal scraping against itself.


(This is exactly what I’m talking about. The moment I meet something unexpected, I’m a goner. I need to find something to get me through, and fast. Alright, then let’s test your knowledge, Cethran. You are my only hope.)


Adris ascends stairs to the next level, grasping the worn copper banister to move quietly. At the top of the stairs, he looks up through the broken ceiling above, seeing a great height reached by stairs cut into the wall ahead. A glass dome caps the roof of this area, leaving Adris pondering how the room could be so tall, but be only the ground floor.


Stuck in a state of awe, he refocuses himself to test Cethran’s guidance. Looking to a mirror-like surface on the wall above the landing to examine the floor below, he refuses to peek openly.

He sees what was promised:


A giant, oval crystal eye with a black pupil floats between irregularly leveled, hanging lamps; a piercing central gaze surrounded by winking, fiery companions. It revolves, slowly covering the entirety of the space with its lidless gaze.


Are you afraid of shadows? If yours despises you, wouldn’t that be concerning?


As the stairs exit the eye’s peripheral view, Adris peeks over the top and peers into the lounge area on this floor.


Unused sofas and tables fill it, positioned under golden-framed windows which allow red light in from outside of the mansion. Adris looks to the nearest sofa and proves Cethran’s information true.


(If the furniture has no shadows, then does that mean murderous, inky sofas roam these halls looking for victims?)


Dashing out from the stairs at full speed, he leaps onto a long table and runs across it. His breathing is fast as he moves at a breakneck pace, diving into the hallway ahead before the eye can complete its turn.

Sweating a bit as he catches up to his racing heart, Adris puts a finger to his temple. Being shorter has stunted his swiftness.


(So, her information can be trusted? Still, something about her is…?)


Despite the staggering quantity of information Cethran related, Adris had doubted the veracity of some of it as fantastical as it sounded; but, now, he finds himself opening up to the idea of accepting it as true, though he is unwilling not to confirm riskier details.


If you have no stone self in the chapel, is the Castillo even truly aware of you?


This thought is Adris’ only hope. He’d noticed it himself, that a lack of presence implies a chance to avoid danger. The mansion’s dangers thus far have been quite impersonal.


The winding hall ahead beckons.





The sword skewered into the skeleton had been shockingly tempting. Its hilt and cross guard jeweled, and blade edge silvered, it was the most depressingly transparent trap Adris had ever encountered. The pressure plate under the corpse could be discerned by the raised carpet above it.


Even when Adris had reminded himself of his inability to use the blade and the stupidity of taking it, the temptation had still endured, a testament to the effect of the mansion on the usually cautious Adris.


Falling off the path Cethran had suggested, Adris realizes that the mansion has changed to make his directions false. Following them perfectly, the rooms he has arrived at now bear no description to Cethran’s reconnaissance.


“Meeh, don’t you ever get tired of this?”


A voice calls out between the moaning and viscous squelching sounds. A young, slightly bratty, bored voice of a girl carries to his ears. She stands just within the exit of the hallway Adris is hiding in.

The small wings, nubby horns, and dual, flicking spade tails betray her danger.


“No, why~? This is what we’re supposed to do~. ‘Make more!’”

A stupid sounding boy responds to the earlier question from the bratty girl as they stand side by side looking down the hallway.

The girl flips her one of her short, dark-purple ponytails in annoyance at his shallow intellect, casting a disgusted look at her company.


(“Making more” is a bit of an understatement.)


From the shadows, Adris can see part of the scene ahead.


In the small intersection, an enormous gathering is ongoing. What probably once had the appearance of a small area has two once-hidden walls opened, revealing spectators’ seats where small individuals lounge while drinking and laughing.

Two humans are the source of the revelry’s entertainment: one, a naked young woman with green hair and an athletic body a bit taller than Adris, whose only remaining clothing is a revealing bolero shirt that her perky breasts pop out from as they wobble; the other, a larger man wearing what’s left of an open, ornate gray robe binding his hands as chattering girls climb over him.


The monsters assaulting them wear black clothing that resembles wax dropped upon a surface and dried, a patchwork of thick bands that conform to their bodies and cover seemingly random areas.

Their skin is inhuman in color, tinged by shades of blue, orange, and other impossible colors for humans, while their slit-irised eyes are similarly inhuman reds or greens.


Though they appear to be quite young, their flesh has a suppleness in places that gives them a purely sexual vibe. While the girls have tiny or small breasts on average, their hips are slightly full.

Most peculiarly, their facial features bear a striking similarity to each other, even between sexes.


Within this soft room with heavily draped walls, they are all milling about watching, urging those acting to hurry up or abuse their captives harder while sharing small glass bottles of an unknown beverage.


“Ah, big sis’ insides are soooo tight! Even though you’ve gotten so many! Haha, it’s even spilling out as I pump into you~! Ah!”


Caught up in his own growing pleasure…


(Imps are… bizarre.)


The crowd’s shifting restlessness lets Adris watch the lithe demon slam himself against the girl’s bottom as he has a death grip on her waist. The girl is laying on her back with her legs over the imp’s shoulders, only moving as she twitches. With her head fallen back in this pose, Adris can see another imp plunging deep into her throat with every thrust.


The scene is made so much more absurd by the fact that the “table” she rests on is composed of other imps straining to maintain their human platforms, imp stacked on imp so she can lay across them. The ones being used as furniture grind their teeth in frustration and have tears to their eyes.


“Oooh! It’s coming~! I’m gonna be the one! I’ll make you have my kid, then I can finally be a dad, too! Ahh, so warm!”


When the boy slams to the hilt, he shudders while throwing his head back a bit, his testicles clenching before he unloads his seed deep into her. The surrounding boys and girls seem ecstatic as he unleashes himself in the abused human, either rubbing their dicks against her skin, too, or reaching in to fondle her as she seemingly climaxes.


With the one at her mouth still huffing in pleasure as he deepthroats her, the boy pulls out from her abused pussy as fresh, white liquid drips from her hole. He rubs his shining, orange forehead with his arm while a girl kneels down to suck on his freshly basted dick.


Next to the human woman, an imp uses a clawed finger to rub paint on her leg.


(There’s… twelve lines…?)


With a much easier position, the man on the ground…


“Yeah! Marry meeeee~! I love beards, they feel so tickly! Old man, old man, give me a baby! If you give me… a baby… I’ll make you mine~!!”


Slamming onto him, the young girl with monstrous features has a pace that would be dangerous if she missed her strokes. The moaning girl riding the man squeals as he cums hard, his semen spilling out from her tight passage as she slams down on him a final time.

He cries out into the juicy cunny of the imp on top of his face, eliciting a yelp and laughter from her as she moans, with the male imp slamming into her ass simply picking up the pace.


As the girl on his dick is filled up, she suddenly shivers wildly with pleasure before pulling herself off and dancing out of the orgy writhing on top of the man.


“Ahh! Y~E~S~! He did ittttt! I’m gonna marry him~! Hee heeee! GYAH!”


As the green-skinned, dancing girl boasts about something while dripping semen on the floor, two other female imps jump her while pulling at her hair.


“Stealing my baby! You’ll get yours!”

“You’re not even nearly the oldest sisterrrr~! Give meeeeee~!!!!”




The unbridled orgy continues in earnest, with imps who cannot directly participate comforting each other.


The woman has a fresh imp at her, eagerly using her stuffed, lubricated cunt to slam swiftly to the hilt as if she’s only a tool. The imp furniture underneath bickers and whines, as the line to use her never seems to diminish so they can trade jobs.


The man is no longer of interest to some of the girls, but four still cling to him. The one that claimed victory finally escapes torment to hang around him while romantically kissing the man’s wet face.


Both cannot even manage to speak, only grunt in pleasure.


Their possessions are still being picked through by the chattering imps, with the clothing reminding Adris of the walkers of the misted forests of Xin, all rich furs and oiled leathers.

It reminds him also of…


(So, slayers are as weak as imps? Or rather, there were simply too many?)


Though he is unsure how they were defeated, Adris burns this scene into his mind.




This is what defeat means within the Castillo.


This would have been Adris’ fate, had Lycia not intervened to save him.




“Why can’t we do more than this? Why can’t we go outside~!” The bratty girl continues to whine as Adris creeps closer. He considers his options as he approaches.


“Because you’d just get beaten up~!”

The boy laughs, while pointing at the girl’s face.


He barely dodges the fist of the girl, before running off while mocking her with “scary, scary!” He runs back to the circle of imps lounging about in the center of the room to wait for his turn.

The girl “on guard” turns her back, making a dismissive snort while leaning on the wall.


“Shut up Rantil and stand guard! Or I’ll show you what idle thoughts get you~.”


The girl flinches at a boy’s imperious voice coming from the room, looking sharp as she scans the dim hall ahead.


(That voice is from… someone not participating.)


Hidden from Adris, there’s someone overseeing and directing these proceedings.


(It’s him I need to deal with. Time for me to work.)




Unlike the abyssal dimension he’d been thrown into…


Unlike Lycia and Cethran…


Adris knows how to properly interact with these “youths.” And he has the tools to accomplish his ambition.




(After all, I know what I am.)




Buttoning his blue coat tightly, Adris changes his posture to reflect the sum of what he’s seen. He lets his muscles relax, before slightly stooping. He tousles his hair and pulls the hood further down.

Taking some of the materials from Symphonia, he liberally re-applies them to his blue coat, making sure to avoid letting them touch any of his underclothing.


He lightly grips the resin-covered bark in his hand, making sure the spot to hide it is still there in his sleeve.




(I am a [Scholar Bound in Madness]. And the concept of my existence is far stronger than yours.)




The simple narrative is calculated quite easily, Adris’ plan already complete before the imps can fill the woman again.


(If I need a way through the mansion, then give me a guide.)


Striding out from the shadows of the corridor into this intersection, Adris’ movements are furtive, and his gaze suspicious.

Most importantly, he shows no fear as he approaches, only displaying an obsessive, worrying interest in an unknown objective.


The purple-haired imp girl finally notices him leaving his corner, her suspicious eyes going wide with recognition while staring at Adris’ derisive, sneering face and blue coat.


Adris looks her up and down while approaching, with her in distress as she tries to back away. Wild-eyed and unreasoning, Adris commands her.




“Move, flesh.”






The adventure-seeking imp flings herself through the crowd at full speed, her whipping tails striking others as she cowardly flees.


(Understand what I am. Let it seep into your bones. I am one of those who called you here and I can uncall you. If that calamitous display of power in the Expanse was only theatrical and not befitting of the feeling of true contest, then I can bring so much more.)


As frightened as Adris was of these things in blue, he intends to make others share his fear. The rest of the imps are all staring at him now, an assembly of astonished, youthful faces all now sharing the previous girl’s fright.


The assault on the two humans has stopped, the monsters involved too focused on Adris to continue. Even the human girl seems confused, her vapidness from the assault lessening as she studies Adris.

She actively licks the semen off of her face as she watches, her pretty, roguish features flush with something like understanding of her situation. The hunger in her eyes transfers a bit to Adris…


(Oh, you really are a slayer like those above. It’s… strange to think you’d enjoy this at all.)


An imp girl comically quivers, frozen in mid thrust on the robed man’s cock, squatting over it while showing discomfort and embarrassment. Taking in the moment, Adris lets the silence linger, until…


“Do you not have business you are attending to? Or…”


Leaning toward them, he slightly moves his bound cross, instantly asserting authority.




Did you wish to volunteer instead?”




The girl drops back onto the cock at full speed, moaning in forced pleasure and shaking in horror, trying to avoid Adris’ attention as she rocks on the man.

The boys with the human girl return to their work as she whines in surprise, the slapping sounds returning in earnest.


The imps all pretend not to see Adris, turning their backs on him in an instant as he marches past them straight towards one of the opened walls.


(There you are. My “prey”.)


Lounging on a chair, a boy larger than the rest glares at Adris, his slightly more masculine features contorted in dismay and agitation. With fingers tapping on the chair, the imp girls next to him immediately jump up and run, taking the liquor with them.


Regarding the blue ghoul before him…


“It’s you I need, after all!”


Adris puts his hand to his own chin, looking at the imp whose body is rigid, muscles tensed in preparation to escape. Standing before his “prey,” Adris adopts a languid posture, but puts intensity into his persona.

He shifts his muscles subtly, as if uncomfortable with his own body, the flesh underneath perhaps the real danger posed to others.


The imp’s body language changes with each instant, his first attempts to size up Adris and intimidate him with a confident posture having failed, moving to uncomfortably crossed arms as the imp gives up trying to preserve authority.


The imp’s eyes flit between Adris’ concealed face, the bound cross, and the floor.


(You can’t oppose the one that made you; the one who called you here.)


“… What do you want?” The imp leader finally relents.


(And now you lose.)


Tilting his head, Adris looks at the imp. “A certain lack of respect in you lesser products, yes? To be sent out with such misgivings about your quality…” Adris shrugs.


“It’s a bit disconcerting.”


Adris strikes at the imp’s pride. Before all of its “followers,” a trap is laid out.


(Strike first, fool. I need to know something.)


“Huh!? With this many kin, you say I’m bad?!” The youth loses a bit of composure in anger at being insulted.

“Look how many children there are!” Anger in his eyes spills over into a revealed snarl.


Rubbing his shoulder, Adris sighs.


“Huh, and yet they’re all as worthless as the sire.”


Gnashing his teeth, the imp finds some pride in an unknown place. When it bucks up, the rest of the imps all turn at once to size up Adris with creepy, turned glances.


“What are you saying!?” The imp moves a hand before it, shaking it slightly at Adris while clenched in a fist, then points his finger at Adris’ face. “Just because you’re from there doesn’t make you my boss!”


Narrowing his eyes, the boy even smirks.




“And I don’t even feel any reason to think you should be~!”


(Just because I don’t exude an aura of power now, doesn’t mean that you won’t feel it later. Please, think you can intimidate me.)




Adris looms before the imp, an unconstrained smile of beneficence to his expression, purposefully tainted by the same madness he’d noted afflicting his “peers.”


(If you openly challenge me, then Golden Luster will punish you that much harder.)

This is one of the nuances of the world’s competitions: the one who initiates will often answer harder for losing.


To gain, you must risk, and the one who risks first answers for all that happens after.




“Oh, you think you’re strong, then? Well, that’s good! That’s good!”


Adris claps the imp on the shoulder lightly with his right hand, stunning the creature with the gesture.


“Actually, strength of body and mind is what I was looking for! You see, there was an… unfortunate…”


Looking concerned momentarily, Adris purses his lips, letting the imp hang on the silence.


“Incident, with my last assistant. Shame, he had just been loaned out, too.”


The imp’s eyes go wet and shake as the boy stares at Adris’ partially hidden face, the silver of the mask barely reflecting out from under the hood an ominous affectation.


Remembering the heathen Symphonia’s terminology and phrasing, Adris falls into the depravity of his role.




“Yes, all of the musculature was nice, but the overall symmetry was slightly bizarre even for my usual standards! When the legs split and grew blades of bone, that was an interesting feature, though? You know…”


Putting his arm around the boy, Adris pulls the distraught leader into a conspiratorial embrace.


“It’s such fascinating research! I was looking to discuss my results with someone… Wouldn’t you…”


Smiling widely, Adris offers a job.




“… love to tag along to hear more about it!?”




The leader is caught by all the force Adris can muster, an immediate attempt on the boy’s part to escape from the developing nightmare thwarted by Adris’ stiff grip.

The other imps are pretending to not be present, crowded as they are around the humans and carrying out Adris’ last order.


“N-n-no… no, I have… duties…” The imp’s blue skin is sleek with sweat, looking away from Adris while attempting to refuse.


(You can’t deflect to her.)


“Duties? To who?” Adris growls at the boy, eliciting a whimper. “That golden bitch and her pawns?”


The words cause everyone around to flinch.


“You… you can’t say that… we… belong to the Alche-”


Adris leans straight into the boy’s face.




“There is only one Mother. And all flesh belongs to her.”


(Thank you, Cethran, for giving me ideas.)


The stresses from the past day flow out in Adris’ words. All of his disconcerting thoughts and suffering lingers in them, becoming a weapon he uses against his foe.


“And, as you should understand… I am not simply flesh.” Adris smiles at the assertion of being the imp’s master.


The imp’s gaze wavers as its mouth opens to deliver unsaid words. Adris sneers at him openly, daring him to oppose him.


The cross in hand sways.




“… Maybe… but… you know…? It’s a long way from Mother…~!”


The imp’s eyes go hard with sudden determination, a beast-like calculation completed in the creature’s mind at this moment.

Adris can hear movement as the other imps methodically surround him with no orders issued, postures now ready to bring harm as they lift clawed hands.


(Taking your chances, are you? I can understand not wanting to be a test case. If you can control your “subjects” with only thoughts, that explains these two…)


Between the fear of disobeying the Mother and that of being a subject, this imp leader has decided to risk the former, giving in to his own terror and lashing out at the source of it.


All the imps have hard smiles on their faces matching their leader’s. The leader imp’s nails extend as he begins to give off a strange, carnal atmosphere to the air about him.

Caught up in it this close, Adris’ lust spikes, but he temporarily tamps it down with no distractions erupting from the cross.




In this moment, there’s a feeling of conflict in the air, Adris’ skin crawling with the sudden coldness assailing him.

Whispers sound out around him, scratching at his psyche.




The same feeling as when Lycia threatened him returns. Adris marks this sensation, burning it into his mind as the moment a battle has begun.


(Good, now I know what it feels like for sure, this “formal contest.” Time to test the other part…)


The creatures of the Castillo can apparently resist, to a degree, and they hate each other. They hate the Works’ researchers, most of all.


And Adris bears no obvious power, only authority.


“Oh, my, this is what I meant about you lacking respect.” Adris hand slowly comes off of the imp, returning to his body as the imp lowers into a posture to leap upon him from the chair. “After all, lowly flesh such as you should…”


A snapping sensation runs through Adris’ hand, as he breaks the black bark’s sealing resin that drops back into his hand.




Remember its place.”




From Adris’ hand, a great cloud of dark gas explodes out and writhes around his arm, before an all-despoiling stench assaults Adris’ nostrils.

Mustering all of his concentration to avoid collapsing, the smell of rank brimstone fills the air, encasing Adris’ vicinity in the fearsome carnage of the terrifying odor.


Despite being only a smell, Adris swears that the air itself wavers. Without origin, wind roars briefly at the edges of the room, flailing the drapes about as their maddening whipping cows the assembled victims.


(That is…)


Adris nearly swoons.




Remembering his trade, Adris mimics Lycia, contorting his body to appear more bestial, even if it is only a ruse. He smiles with Cethran’s fitting grin of geniality and condescension, peering straight into the heart of the imp boy that is suddenly wracked by fright.


If the creatures of the Castillo could be properly categorized, wouldn’t that miss the point? All of our darkest emotions, thoughts, and dreams: are these not where true monsters arise from?


(Right. Show me how you can match this.)


Adris takes Cethran’s lecture on things from the depths of dark desires to heart. If imps are incarnations of lesser depravity and abuse, then whatever left this residue is, by the smell alone…




(If imps are an incarnation of evil, then I am supreme evil, you fool!)




It doesn’t matter if Adris truly has power or not.

The perception, the innuendo alone…




Adris’ mind is boiling with lust from the suffusing smell. Even now, he feels compelled to consider pinning down this imp and opening the monster’s cheeks, forcing himself into…


(But I will endure, so…!)


In this contest of wills within a small room which seems to darken with Adris’ presence…




“No! Sorry! I didn’t know! Please, spare me!”


The imp shakes, his knees almost knocking as he quakes in the chair.


The other imps are on their knees, bowing in completely servile positions while also shivering. The humans are curled up, watching Adris with terror in their own eyes as they try to slide away from the imps kneeling almost on top of them in order to escape.




Adris is drunk on the feeling of superiority.


This is what he’s been searching for this whole time. The brimstone that attacks his lungs also excites his desires, even as he resists the urge to cough.


With the leader’s pleas for mercy and his followers’ worship, the feeling of conflict in the air ceases immediately. Instead, Adris feels somewhat… empowered to act, a state he can’t define.




For the first time in what seems like a long time…




… he’s unequivocally made someone lose by only his own cunning.






(Ah, Serras… this was the feeling I missed the most. I’ll never let you or anyone else take this from me again…!)

Worshiped by creatures far more powerful than he currently is, Adris feels true happiness, successfully balancing once more on the edge of that blade called “danger”.







Name: Adris fehl Dain; “Mister Meat”
Titles: Scholar Bound in Madness, Greedy Informant, Lycia’s Little Brother
Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
Sex: Male
Age: ?? – Young

Occupation: Crossbearer; Charlatan/Swindler; Xin’Reh (former); Soldier of Fortune (former); Bounty Hunter (former)
Discipline: Crossbearer – Cursed Aura User; Spear Veteran (former); Aura Warrior, School/Specialization: Self-Taught (former)


[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!”


[Unknown Protection from Poisons/Compelling] – {A MAN WALKS, HIS STEPS UNWEARIED AND RESOLUTE. NONE CAN STOP HIM.}


[Unknown Mental Domination] – {A MAN DEMANDS. THOSE WHO HE DEMANDS OF, OBEY.}


Disposition: Resilient / Adaptable / Sinner
Alignment: Chaotic

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



Rantil Value – “Oh yes, we’re getting theeeeere~!”



Cethran Value – “If all men looked like him, it might not be odd for women to think that the gods had painted the world in only the drab color brown? While not ugly, would he not exemplify the idea that ‘normal’ is perhaps indistinguishable from ‘undesirable’?”


“Does missing half of your body increase the rarity of what remains, thereby increasing its inherent beauty?”

“Being a child again, can you see the difference that being an adult adds? No longer possessing the work put into improving features, will Adris understand that being plain as a child lacks the poise and stature of adulthood? Even as an older boy, isn’t it hard to be… ‘dashing’?”

“Clothing, is it? Yes, clothing is a fine answer to all problems, is it not? Even an ape may appear more dashing if he is wearing a suit, isn’t that right, Adris?”

“If you’re appealing to a monster, wouldn’t that be detrimental in the long term?”

“Even in defeat, you cling to your stoic face, Adris? That might actually be attractive, in its own way…?”

“Having properly bathed, at least you can say you smell of roses and sunshine, yes? Perhaps it’s not your body you find beautiful, but your mind?”




“A rather plain-looking man wearing traveling robes, what he carries hidden is far more dangerous than his appearance lets on. A disarming smile, leads to you being suckered. A clever tongue, leads to your sorrow. Possessing quick wit and intellect, hubris and arrogance are certain to follow. Well known across the floating islands of Xin, but not by name, only by reputation. Owed many favors, but not with great joy, and certainly not love. The only person he seems to care about other than himself is his lifelong partner.”


“It can be said that Adris has done a lot of things in his life. Good, bad, evil, and unkind, all of what he has done has been done with the assumption that he will never have to worry about heaven or hell. Now that he’s lost the only thing he’s ever cared about, what is left? Perhaps he will get his chance to discover what it means to be free?”

“Turned into a kid again, how is Adris handling this? Thrust into a dimension beyond his ability to cope with, especially after being abandoned by Serras and murdered, only his attachment to his own sense of self… or finding it again, is driving him. Now that he is young, he can only survive by his wits, seeing as his aura has been taken from him. Will he succumb to his thirst for female flesh? Will this cross claim his mind and make him its meat puppet?”

“Even if there’s a distinct lack of total sanity in him, at the moment, he still seems able to function quite well. If you don’t have to dwell on your problems, you can devote yourself quite effectively to a single goal, ignoring all extraneous information. Though, isn’t the idea of [Oath] a little too…? And what’s with him pretending to be completely different people?”

“Every new situation is a chance to demonstrate acting talent, and Adris’ is geared towards his own survival. If you need to play the fool, then be the best fool.”

“Getting lucky is also a form of success. We never know what the right words might be to win someone over, nor when they will pay off. Sometimes, we find ourselves in others in the oddest ways.”

“Lacking power is not the same as being powerless. Even if all you have is your wits and untapped potential, as long as you’re striving to utilize it, making those tough decisions to reach your potential, then you have a chance.”

“A man with a plan is a dangerous force of nature, especially when he has neither morals nor a lack of vision to halt him.”



“Deciding to become a god wasn’t necessarily the lifestyle choice I anticipated you taking. In this case, it might be your only path. Try not to regret it too much.”





Imp – “A summoned creature from another place, brought forth from desire and given form by humans. They are terribly naive, but the evil that dwells in them suffers not a bit for it. Innocence is a weapon they use to destroy you.”





Chapter 15         Table of Contents          Chapter 17