Take Up the Cross – Chapter 25: A View of Luna

In a semi-conscious state, the lessons of those days play out.

The night with Serras in the wake of the battle at the steps of Ulicha, a meaningless conflict where the only benefit was possible promotion. Passion that had made him feel like a king had given way to the realities of life among soldiers.


(One of the worst things I’ve ever done was turned into an embrace, while the best sex I can recall became… horrifying. … There was never a promotion…)


Hands twitch, the sensation of gripping her neck still fresh. Feelings of love and attraction play upon him, curious thoughts coming in this moment.


(Can I still succeed with women? With Ave, it was a heart strike and a failure to understand: she’s fallen for the image completely, but knows nothing about me. With Still, it felt like we saw eye to eye for a moment, almost as if I was more interesting than the image. With Kol… all she sees is what I can offer…)


Trying to rise, the sleepiness still refuses to leave him. More than sleepiness, he feels absolutely drained.


(… Even if the plan is going perfectly… that dream is a bad omen. How am I still so tired after sleeping? If I don’t watch out, my body will succumb without aura to bolster it.)


Stuck as he is in this charade, the hatred has had no time to eat at him.


(But… it’s odd… even though I still hate her, the pain from my death… isn’t as bad…? Almost as if it’s been sucked-)


Aura senses finally awaken, with a bright, familiar presence near him appearing at that moment. Eyes peeling wide, the dimly lit room shows his guest that was present the whole time.

Moving her hand towards his bound wrists, a kneeling girl with strangely pale skin stops when her ensnaring violet eyes register his consciousness. With no word uttered, they stare, though only he is shocked.


(… Was she the one responsible for the dream!? No, I can’t show fear. If she were responsible, I wouldn’t have woken up with her next to me.)


Sitting up slowly, Adris smiles tightly while controlling his rushing blood.


“Indeed, it would only be natural for the one most… curious about me to appear, yet I expected a grander entrance from someone of your character. Sneaking in to join me is beyond my expectations.”


To answer the tease, placid eyes blink once, before the girl calmly reaches back to his wrists. Allowing the work, he watches with fascination as the silver seal flows into a vial she opens next to it.


(Why are you removing your safety net?)


Trying one more time…


“… If we’re alone, then this is the very point where introductions must be made, before misunderstandings arise with the others.”


Finishing her work of unbinding him, she stands once more.

With a perfect flourish, the girl lightly grabs the hem of her dress and curtsies. The mechanically perfect gesture accompanies her bell-like voice, which is neither childish nor fully womanly, but ever gratifying to hear.




“Neesiette ‘vera Luna’ (CREATED BY LUNA), greetings.”




Left speechless by her emotionless grace…


(Our “Lunastra” is a Neesiette, Still.)


… he ponders her detachment. So full of fire earlier, she appears only perfunctory in private.


“So, it seems I have the pleasure of being demonstrated perfect etiquette. I trust you remember me?”


“Indubitably so. ‘Adris fehl Dain, self-proclaimed true false god, self-proclaimed traveler from another world, self-proclaimed catastrophe slayer.’ Remembered without fault, all said.”


Pulling a knee up for more comfort, he is bothered by the situation.


“Though you claim me no danger, in spite of reality, to remove bonds even from a helpless man implies trust that you have demonstrated not to possess… for what-?”


“An action performed without failure, according to conveyed instructions. According to nothing more.” Her cold and unfeeling response dictates that Adris is still considered dangerous by this girl.


A hand to his chin, he smiles.


(See, the plan is already bearing fruit, Neesiette. Even prisoners hold exceptional power.)


“Though it might not be sought by you, you have my support in your advice and actions. Clearly, you look out for all of them. Could you not refuse?”


Her bright eyes harden at the last question.


“Advice refused be advice unfollowed… Freedom for one before this tool be requested by all three, somehow. ‘He’s nice, stop being mean’, ever foolish be amphibians. ‘He’s no immediate danger’, assessment made contrary to this tool’s own. ‘Let go, Kol handled’, strangest of all, for in absolute confidence be how one stated it.”


Producing the slightest of huffing sighs, Neesiette leans closer, her hauntingly perfect face nearer to him than ever.


“Charmed or imperiled them, be this the nature of one’s actions?”


Laughing reservedly, he throws back her own question as he adopts a friendlier posture.


“Given your exceptional talent with Art, shouldn’t you know? If you can’t detect it, then how did I? Am I not… powerless?”


“Correct. One be observably powerless, yet in action proved otherwise. Adris fehl Dain: contradiction. Be a danger, or a helpless soul lost to madness within a fell Castillo?”


(Good, you can’t escape it either. This sense of mystery and seductive promise. Even if you seem emotionless, I’ve found your weakspot, too.)




The plan has worked.


Ave provided all of their weaknesses and wonderfully returned an ally to him.

Kol provided commitment to his battle plan, an inescapable bond.


(Still…? A dangerous wild card. The most foolhardy plan I could commit to is now in its final stages. While unnecessary, since you provide the opportunity, let’s discover more about my opponent?)


A girl that suddenly defies his mental assessment provokes his own curiosity.


“Your advice is seemingly the best, Ms. Neesiette, but sage wisdom is ever ignored.” Trying to console her, he receives no feedback from her placid gaze. “Yet I understand your… need, considering the situation you four find yourselves in.”


The sharp gaze returns at this comment.


“Words and whispers, be this not the nature of one’s true power? Kol refusing to talk, for what reason comes this situation? Dancing iguanas that blush and strut, explain how the continued loss of mental faculties where further loss should not be possible? How much learned by a lizard’s loose lips does one seek to use? For what purpose and gain?”


(Kol has already decided how this is going to be resolved. Talking is… pointless. Ave is… Ave. And I’m not going to try to win you over, I know it’s impossible.)


This Neesiette is far too intelligent and indignant to fall for the straightforward plan he’s committed to.


(Sorry, I don’t have time to woo you, as much as I want to. You, most of all, I relish the opportunity. We’re all going to lose if you don’t. Rather than aid me, please be my spoiler.)


“Should you not take them to task yourself, for allowing such a situation to develop? As the one with the correct opinion, the safety of the others is for you to lead them to, yes?”


(Give me more to divide you four with.)


Instead of riling her up, she becomes far stiller. An icy look is the only thing spared for him.


“… For what purpose would a tool lead? For the benefits of others, actions by this tool be undertaken only for this. Unneeded be a tool when its advice ends up discarded, no matter the danger.”


(… Do you not have agency? Aren’t you… What is going on?)


“You’re not the one truly pressing decisions… correct?” Acting mysterious, he hopes the question that sounds like foreknowledge hides his doubts.


Neesiette’s eyes grow brighter, her attention and suspicion inflamed.


“… Be this so readily observable?

‘Keep us safe’, an open-ended and earnest request given to this tool, so ill-defined that understanding its meaning becomes impossible. Offering well-timed advice, precise analysis with missing facts, task-managing, decision-making, be these not the most vexing things to request, with them so unsure and ill-quantified? Yet, if it be asked…”

A softening face lets go of her thoughts on Adris, a resolved look coming to her.


“Fulfilling this tool’s design… no other path exists but to fulfill, for fulfilling be the purpose for existing. Even should a decision doom this tool, it be not the place of a tool to balk the course the user commits to.”


Neesiette, the most arrogant girl Adris has potentially ever met, offers to succumb to whatever future her teammates choose.


(Something is wrong with this girl. She’s obviously not human, but what am I missing about this fatalism and lack of agency? Looking out for the most complicated scenarios she is, but it’s not solely by her interest… Who is the hidden…? AH!)


Smiling jovially, he pieces together the very last part of this puzzle.


(… You’re cruel for making this girl your proxy, but can I see why.)


“… ‘Totally helpless’ be the determination of one called Adris fehl Dain, yet such a determination be regularly cast aside by the very subject. Vexing, be this.” Moving closer and narrowing her eyes, she tilts her head cutely.


Smirking, Adris searches his new interviewee instead of responding to her complaint. Still thrown off by the immaculate richness of her clothes, the softness of it is confirmed by how it folds up on the floor.


(But more than that, this is the closest I’ve been to…)


The platinum-bound book is still with her, ever carried by the girl. With its cover appearing to be some cut and smoothed stone, the title engraved into it is in runes he’s never seen before.


A book that can make the earth cry out in pain is called…








“… Brings an end?” Quiet as a mouse, he’s unnerved enough by the brutal simplicity of it to speak.


Soft hands dart in to grip Adris’ cheeks, turning his face to hers. Full of tension, this once emotionless Neesiette puts all of her inner turmoil into her face and words.


Repeat.” The collected girl is unnerved enough to make a demand.


“… Your book’s title is ‘Brings an End’, is it not?”


This unblinking gaze lingers on him, only her mouth opening without words before closing. Hands move up to his mask. Sensing the danger of direct inspection, he begins to move before she issues another order.


“Indicate one’s understanding with absolute diligence. Speak now the word: ‘impossible’.” Rapid words issue an order he balks at.


(Something about my nature is understood by her. This is dangerous, however… I have no choice.)


Reaching up to lightly touch one of her hands, he smiles before repeating the word, earning true surprise with both actions.





The word issues forth like song, lingering powerfully.




Nodding quickly, she pulls away in a rush.


“Yes, impossible. So impossible be such a thing, that the word ill defines the extent. Impossible, that the Creator’s tongue be both understood and repeated by a mortal. Infinitely impossible, as it has been locked in time, lost long before one’s possible birth.”


(That clears that up.)


The hidden dilemma’s resolution forces sweat from him. While everything sounds like Xin’el to Adris…


(When I speak, it’s in their tongue to them. And the form of the tongue changes depending on person and perception. Lycia noticed that I shouldn’t speak her language. Cethran probably… used more than one to test me… I must determine how this works and watch who I talk to. Another ridiculous obstacle!)


Feeling he’s dodged an arrow, Neesiette confuses him by calming immensely. The girl lets go of her frigid face and posture, adopting one that seems more caring.


“… Very well. Be you truly of another world, then consider advice from one sharing in this foreign strangeness: go back; or, to a quiet, hidden place. Anathema be this land called ‘Zennia’ to ones such as… we. Common sense be ever devoured, replaced by impossibility and nonsense never to be understood.”


In yet another shocking reversal, the once emotionless girl becomes frustratingly kind.


(Thanks, but… it’s already too late for me.)


Not only does he not intend to leave, he has nothing to go back to.




“‘One sharing in foreign strangeness’? Are you claiming to be as well traveled as I?” With a joke, he tries to calm both himself and her, afraid that the conversation is leaving his control.



With this plain answer, the stunning girl raises a hand and pulls free her glove slowly. Watching with enormous suspense, his mouth drops when the flesh underneath is revealed.


Where wrist and fingers are, joints are found. Unlike the internal ones of a human, there are grooves in her soft flesh where the pieces glide, just like a doll’s hand.




Grasping her hand rudely to bring it to his face, he feverishly studies it.

“Jik’shewa (LIVING SPIRIT DOLL TOOL)!?” Like glass plates his eyes are, all pretense and acting dropping from the boy. Feeling this warm yet inhuman hand, he excites his senses to the fullest to study her. Having full motion, this not-flesh and joints respond like a human’s would.


A true legend is before him.


“… Call this, does one, the grace of a false god? ‘Oh being from another world’?” Purely indignant now, her clear voice shreds him.




Whipping up to look at her, the girl was pulled toward him with his sudden grip. The absolutely perfect symmetry of her proportions and features is now explained to the tool maniac aggressively cradling her hand.


“Grace? Ah…” Mind rushing to play this off…


“… How can any man show grace in your presence!? You’re the perfect tool.”


Sitting before the ultimate aura tool, Adris again loses his script. This living vessel given true life by a false aura soul is the final evolution, the stage before joining tool and man.


(You don’t understand! Not even the Emperor could possess you, girl! Only one was ever made in all of Xin’s history, and the Emperor obliterated it and its creator when he was refused!)


“You’re the pinnacle of toolmaking, the masterpiece sought by every aura tool maker and user…!” The legend told to him by Fatso in his training had once consumed him, this eternally distant promise that fired his making of aura tools.

He stops babbling when the hand he holds fails to tug out of his grasp, yet she continues to try.


(You have such little strength.)


“Lunamata (ANIMATED BY LUNA). Not ‘aura tool’ (DEVICE OF MYSTERY). Ingrain within oneself the absolute distinction in order to properly appreciate it.”


Though her response is plain and carries overwhelming dignity, the expression on her face is overly proud and also shook by his words. The violet windows to her artificial soul hold him entirely in their reflection.


“I see. Apologies, you are a Lunamata.” Feeling he’s losing something when he lets go of her hand, he struggles to regain his composure.


“Hm, wouldn’t you be to blame for the intensity of my response? Beautiful and unique enough to move even me, you can’t expect a man to remain passionless.” Turning the situation back on her, he chooses to look out of control by choice.


“… Be that the truth? Then…” At this uncertain response, she calms. A small girl lit by blue sconce lights looks ever fragile and ephemeral, now verified as the greatest treasure in all of Xin’s history.


(“Can cast any spell?” No, far too similar. Xin… Zennia… there is a connection. What is it?)


While he dwells on the deepest thoughts, she puts her gloveless hand to her tome, rubbing the edge.


“… Possessing the capability of reading any language, perhaps, if one proves capable of understanding the perfect speech of Luna?” Stopping briefly with that sentence, Adris picks up on her implication.


“Clearly interpreting the words contained within a particular tome… would one surpass all expectation?”




(Got you! I got you. You’ve given me my ‘in’. Mystery conquers all hearts!)


With the most tempting face he can manage, he raises an upturned hand to demonstrate the possibility.




“Nothing in this world escapes my understanding, if needed. Will you entrust your… desire to me…?”




Opening her mouth before closing it once more, time passes in quiet thought before she finally blinks.




Retrieving it from her satchel, the girl slowly removes the clasp of the, for her, overly large tome.


“… Prove it, if it be possible?”


Placing it in his hand, he dramatically holds it before himself.


With the name staring up at him, the book is strangely alluring. Though Ave fears it terribly, its dangerous aura is not like the Castillo. As unique as the girl next to him, the light, gray stone slightly worn by time holds words Adris now wants to test.

Putting it to the ground, the need to prove his worth to Neesiette compels him to open the cover…




A cover that rips itself from his right hand the moment it is opened, pages turning wildly-





The ground beneath him is hard, old, and has given all it can.

All that was within has been taken.

The depths no longer hold fire.

Those who cared for it have long since deserted it.


Even the memories themselves, once flowing through the stone, have ossified.


Though it has been long coming, this ponderous passage of time has culminated in what transpires.


All cares this land held have vanished with its last groan.


The ground quakes, the will to exist itself now deprived.

The ground sinks, drawn into itself, the pressure upon it finally becoming total.

The ground rises above itself, the pieces drawn in forcing the rest to erupt out.

The ground grinds itself to nothing, unable to escape from its own body’s death throes.


The intense pressure on this dead world sets it to tearing apart, the very firmament shaking violently as it tries to quell its own suffering.


Everything ends with a final-





Hand to his face, vertigo assaults him. The feeling of needing to throw up only subsides when Adris leans over. A clasping sound accompanies the dragging of the book, a spinning girl in a fantastical blue dress joining with the twirling room.


(Stupid! I am so fucking stupid! Never open mystical tomes, Adris! Ah, fuck! It hurts!)


“Interpret the end you do? Absent power and Art, experience it within? Impossible.”


“… What was that…?” Trying to stand, he falls to his side. As he lays there, a hand comes to his forehead and lingers briefly, before departing to re-enter a glove.


“Empirical evidence of one’s uniqueness; which, of the options presented…”


Pale, violet eyes burn with renewed suspicion, except it is joined now by dismay.


“… be the worst possible outcome.”


Walking toward the door with ribbons bouncing and leaving Adris to recover alone, the girl who jerks around in his twisted vision spares an ultimatum.




“All care and safety will be afforded to one who departs willingly with our group; yet, should such a route be cast aside, one shall discover our willingness to force the issue.”


Nervously toying with her cravat, he sees kindness peek through the previous hostility.


“… Far too dangerous to these three be this tool, already. No further fortune exists to shelter you, as well; yet, a promise be given: deliverance in good health be offered and assured, so long as a tool endures.”


Exiting quickly, he closes his eyes after and rides the nausea. The beautiful girl plucked from a dreamlike world finally succumbed to her temptations. Chuckling quietly, he laments that she is his childhood ambition, one lost when life murdered such ambitions one by one.




(Except… now all the pieces are together. Even this girl is in play.)


The one girl he thought would never budge not only did, but has the absolute deepest attachment to Adris, now.


(She’ll never let me go. If she does manage to get me out, she’ll come for me. I can do it. That book is… her one desire. Ahhhh, it’s all coming up right, for once in my fucking life!)


Taking advantage of his freed hands, he reaches into his pocket, pulling free the last vitality pill left from Xin.


(All this can do is alleviate physical limitations for a bit. I won’t make it if I can’t get real rest…)


Time passes as he recovers, entrusting himself to the healing pill.

Coughing hideously as he nearly vomits, his burning head only barely feels like it will split into two pieces and beat him to death, now.


(If I can just get over this, then I can go outside and start this show-)


A knock a moment later returns him to the Castillo. As he lays there while failing to look intentionally lazy, a figure enters while bringing a familiar, cloth-wrapped package.


(Not many left of those.)


As they close the door, they move closer, before…




Motioning for him to listen.






Name: Adris fehl Dain; “Mister Meat”
Titles: Scholar Bound in Madness, Greedy Informant, Lycia’s Little Brother, True False God
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.}


[Familiar] – “Through means unknown, a familiar has been acquired. Aren’t familiars a kind of tool? Isn’t this sort of strange to consider a ‘power’?”



Disposition: Resilient / Adaptable / Sinner
Alignment: Chaotic

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



Rantil Value – “Idiot master receives idiot information~”


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 – “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’?”

“There’s little to say, isn’t there? Aren’t you truly beautiful when you’re honest?”

“Playing up the mystery too much might prove troublesome? A man of only mystery can be angel or devil, yes?”



“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.”

“Losing everything is often an impetus to descend deeper into bad things. In Adris’ case, it certainly amped up his energy for harming others.”

“Nothing is off the table for a man with nothing to lose.”



“Not everything works out, but if you have a plan and enough daring, it will at least occur.”





Name: Neesiette vera Luna
Titles: “Moon”
Race: Lunamata
Sex: Female
Age: ???

Occupation: Delver, Mystic
Discipline: ???


[Sparking Rod] – “The danger inherent be apparent, even if not demonstrated.”


Disposition: Impassive / Calculating / Curious
Alignment: Ordered

Eyes: Pale Violet
Hair: Amber
Skin: Pale White



Rantil Value –

Agility – E

Intelligence – B




Cethran Value – “First imps, and now short girls? This is certainly becoming a pattern, isn’t it? Though you might not fare badly with a girl as beautiful as this, yes? Though she’s a little perfect, doesn’t she seem oddly demure?”

“Having her rebut all of your words so desperately, is it her intellect you’re falling for? Are you sure that’s wise, considering she could dethrone the wisest person you know…?”

“Having a woman stand up to you… isn’t this a strange fetish for you to discover?”

“A doll? How do you define the limits of your tastes? Or are they ‘unknown and unknowable’?”



“An otherworldly existence, she wears clothing that doesn’t fit with the Castillo. With mannerisms quite distinct from all others, even the girls she travels with seem incomparable to her uniqueness. Yet, she definitely seems to be in charge…?”

“Given to only worrying about what she can demonstrate as true, how does such an uncompromising and uninterested person lead a group of four girls through situations that cannot be easily explained?”

“The reasoning member of the group, all of her questions are direct and impossible to sneak away from.”

“Finally revealed, her interest in Adris is inextricably tied to the book that he has proved capable of reading. For what reason does one desire to bring an end?”



“Someone who has desires and can fall to temptation is a person.”





Lunamata – “One created by Luna, designed and made perfectly.”


Luna – “A mysterious being which might not be well known, implied to be from another world.”


Brings an End – “A namesake tome that probably does what it implies, though Neesiette seems incapable of using it.”



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