Take Up the Cross – Chapter 27: Proof of a False God

Calmly analyzing the scene, all of his predictions line up.


With Kol as vanguard, Ave as buffer, and Still ready to interdict or outflank him, Neesiette is prepared to bombard him from a great distance.

In order to defeat Neesiette, the real target, he must defeat all between.


This problem has an easy solution, though, specific predictions ringing out for the first time since the Emperor’s tomb. The madness of the mansion fades, all of the conflict and helplessness vanishing.


Adris enters a proper state of Clear Mind.

There will be no errors.


(Kol charges without care for any plan, seeking single combat.)




A rampaging bull, red-and-black-colored death, trundles forth with a deadly axe high.

Blood and steel!” A now familiar war cry fills the room.


Nobody comments on her tactic, because nobody anticipated her doing anything else.

No one can stop Kol from tearing Adris apart.




Lifting his arm prompts Neesiette to raise her silver rod, eyes shining. As spoken of by Ave, she is ever ready to unmake magic.


(More than just imagination. What was it like? The memories were vivid, once… I hope this is something you can’t make vanish.)


Recalling his march through the woods, when the cadre had approached them, great sheets of fear billowed out from the darkness and growth, consuming everyone…




[Obscuring Sonjil!]




Bringing his arm sweeping forward in an arc instead of straight down, that memory comes to life. A wall of gray scythes from his arm towards his prey, consuming the rushing red juggernaut.


(Cross goes in front, middle of body.)


Holding it forth as if to cover himself, he races to meet Kol as a loud crack is heard from beyond the writhing gray tide.

A brilliant, scintillating and waving beam of turquoise blue blinds Adris for a moment as it strikes the cross, a weight on his arm briefly before it reflects with a droning sound accompanying its return to roughly where it originated.


(But I was off.)


“Kyaaaa!” A scream, followed by a heavy plop, echoes, before another cracking sound resounds from the end of the room.


(She’ll attack me with excellent prescience… to her… LEFT.)


Heavy, clanking footsteps come with the sound of whistling air. Ducking a bit to the right, he instead throws himself to the left at the last moment.




The mad girl’s chop slams into the ground where he was about to roll, even as her eyes follow his roll. Faking her at the last moment, he rises behind and shoots towards her.


(One hit, return shot?)


An impossible rotating swing meets his lunge, raw strength carrying the axe blade towards his midsection as she pulls in. Throwing his body to the ground and ducking it, she overshoots wildly as Adris thrusts the cross at her head.


Taking her in the bevor and striking her chin, a peel of thunder and shattering glass proves the victor of this dance.




The girl keeps her posture, her body only momentarily quivering.

“SPLIT!” The girl’s deafening scream accompanies a quick lift and chop.


(One hit, another trick card?)


Adris jukes only slightly, emulating the imp from yesterday. The swing without any technique misses him by centimeters, though the pressure of the swing…


(That’s no joke!)


Blots of blood appear on his torn sleeve, the periphery of the attack delivering absurd damage.


“Retarded reptile. A useful wind for once would be too much, yes?”


(Ave clears the fog. But, first…)


The destructive force jars him, but he sidesteps quickly like a fencer toward Kol. In close, his body twists like wound rubber to slam the cross into her temple.

The flanked girl staggers with this blow, her body vibrating as Adris dances away. Narrowly avoiding a surprise grasping claw that shoots out in retaliation, he prepares for her final blow.


Called by an unseen force, wind rushes in, pulling along the fluffy white fog towards the monster twice struck. Kol’s body is enveloped in a haze as she becomes the sole spectacle of this room.


(Last hit! Trick card!)


Kol’s body contorts inhumanly, an enormous wind up of the axe beginning. Her legs begin to dance, carrying her in spinning circles.




“[Great Round Eater.]”


(To the sky!)


Bending, Adris snaps off the ground and launches towards the ceiling, his white-furred boots finally used. The floor below his feet is carved clean by a shining, spinning axe that completes four revolutions in the span of only seconds. A tornado of metallic death sucks on his escaping form.

Landing on the ceiling after inverting his body in mid air, he springboards off to aim at the unseen figure he can only feel with his aura senses.


(Good game, Kol.)


Nearing the ground, he readies his final trick…


An axe exits the fog with great speed, embedding into the wall next to the golden brazier.

Through the fog, a powerful clawed hand reaches straight for him, the girl jumping up to mimic him. Powerful legs accomplish for her what only a magical item can for Adris.

Air, like a vacuum, is drawn towards her hand, the boy’s body gravitating, too. Grasping onto an approaching shadow in the fog, she yanks with all her might.


Pink eyes shining with unbreakable focus coincide with a cackling laugh…




… until she sees what she’s stolen.




A wooden chair leg wrapped in part of a blood-stained cloak is what’s in her hand as Adris lets go of it. Using an unnatural technique to try to fling him murderously to the earth in mid-air, she instead revolves to put her back to the falling boy.


(Excellent smell and hearing, but you can’t see, can you? An arm and a piece of wood aren’t so dissimilar in blinding fog!)


“… ‘Annoying’!”


Stuck as she is in the turn, the wrapped cross drives toward the back of her head unopposed.


“[Secret Skill of the Crossbearer: Brainfry.]”


Throwing in his falling momentum, a lightning strike booms out.




Hitting the ground at almost the same time she does, his boots absorb the landing completely, while her heavy armor adds to her flopping impact. Throwing up pieces of stone, Adris pales when he studies the outcome.


(Absolutely impossible. What sort of monster are you?)


Immediately after impact, the shaking girl tries to right herself while breathing unsteadily; but, a knee is all she can manage before the quivering becomes a full blown seizure.

Stiff now, she falls face first to the ground.




“Ah! Kol! Where are youuu!” An isolated voice calls out after the impact, before he hears chanting.


(There you are.)


“[Playful spirits, rise and dance! A joyful song, be light and prance! A wind for me, a slight request! That plays like you, with equal zest!]”

Cheery lyrics come from a tongue dyed with growing fear. Accompanying the singing tongue, his perception feels…


An imprisoning feeling weighing on him.

Rather than the wildness of wind, a great stone tomb is constructed all around as the ground swells with power.

A horrible closeness of the deepest depths of the earth floods forth, feeling terribly pure and full of furious sanctity.


(What is this presence!? This feels more like… the Emperor’s dignity!?)




In response to this feeling…


… the air goes completely insane.


Fog is torn apart, with the once draft-less room swirling immediately into a wild storm that lashes at itself and all present. A decapitated stone head rolls by the boy, before a distorted blade of air gouges out the floor. The clearing fog is joined by dust from all surfaces of the room, changing into a blinding mass.


Yet revealed during this time is a cute girl with a twitching emerald tail, watching the wind move with trepidation as her ponytail blows around. When she notices Adris, she looks then at the inert Kol.


“Ah… AH!”

Prompted by impending doom, the green whip in her hand finally strikes.


Adris’ feet leave the earth, his boots throwing him to the side in mid run with a springing sound, leaving him closely resembling a hopping rabbit. This rabbit only barely avoids his head being cut off by the bladed tip of the mad snake.

Even though her technique is now inexpert with fear, the dust and fog is cleanly sliced as she wildly tries to sting him.


With the boy quickly in range to strike, her attacks stop as she uselessly lifts her arms to block her white face, mouthing her last plea.


“N-noo… please!”


Adris corners the elf girl, so shaken she is that she can’t even smash him with her inhuman strength.


(You lose.)


As she closes her eyes while her teeth chatter, her face frozen in regret…




Adris slides into her, looping his arm around her outstretched one. Contorting with her, he twirls her into an embrace. Putting his cross arm under her body to support her, he sweeps her off her tail.


(If attacking you brings misfortune, then I will give you what you want.)


Her mouth is open in shock as Adris stares, eyes smouldering behind his gleaming, silver mask.




“Even now, I find I could never bring harm to a girl as wondrously beautiful and fey as you are.” Speaking with a regretful tone, his face nears hers as he uses terminology gleaned from his discussions with her about elves.

Leaving her wordlessly stammering, her slightly angular cheeks unconsciously flush as he peers into her heart. Changing his expression to be arrogant and above challenge, he delivers his ultimatum.


“As such, you must… submit, and give yourself to me.”


Voice deep and passionate, he punctuates her inability to refuse by pulling her into a kiss.

Tensing at first, her unknowable rationality for forgiving Adris’ actions quickly leads her rigid body to relax. When he finishes a simple kiss by pushing his tongue into her mouth, hers readily joins with it.

A longer tongue plays with his if only briefly, before the affection ends when he pulls away.


Mouth left sloppily hanging open, she can only give a couple of words in response to his demand.

“……………………… yeah, okay.”


The quaking, silent voice like spilled honey accompanies dream-filled, teary crystal-green eyes, before said eyes roll up into her head as she faints.




No longer mostly holding herself up, Adris crashes to the ground with the girl. Barely wrenching his arms free of the heavy elf as they fall, a crackling, vibrating turquoise beam flies through the space where they once inhabited.


“Again, opportunities lost due to insipid interferences.” A familiar arrogant tone accompanies the near-perfect shot, leaving Adris shivering as he lays on top of Ave’s small breasts.


(She was willing to hit both of us!)


Composing himself, he jumps up to start toward the remaining foes.




Whistling sounds are heard.


Sweeping his cross as he flings himself sideways with his boots, a number of dirks nearly shishkabob him. Deflecting the one left in his escape route, he follows their trajectory back to the dust settling at Neesiette’s right side.

A steepled hat and cowl emerge from the falling cloud, short sword pointing at him as she creeps forward while crouched. Both ready to finish him off.


(Looks impressive, but I win.)


With him taking up a grandiose pose hinting at hidden power, the midget hesitates to attack him, staring at the cross he holds.


“Yes, you understand that you cannot affect me, correct?” Boasting with full confidence of winning over her, she merely tilts her head as she lowers the rod.


“One who stands as our enemy be ‘correct’ in such a regard.” Obediently giving up, she turns to address Still.


“Still, as follows: less agile; few weapons, of much shorter reach; no ranged weapons visible; vexing boots near the end of usefulness; cross be dangerous, but likely only when touched; still no Art. Such an opponent be inherently easy for a duelist of one’s caliber to defeat.”


Making an “ok” gesture, a mask filled with sadistic joy agrees.

{Seems fine, let’s wrap this up together, Neesiette~!}


The girl catches her sword after a single fixed flip before easily continuing forward. Neesiette trots mechanically alongside her, rod once again raised to take advantage of a distraction.


(Shut up! Stop giving advice this scarily accurate without sounding like you care! Well, I still have my trick card in case this little scenario goes wrong…)


He passively waits while rubbing his jerkin, pretending to be unconcerned, but also happy Neesiette will never again be his foe.

As they close the distance, Neesiette is left forward of Still as the cloaked girl’s stride shifts unnoticed to everyone else but an observant boy.


“Close enough. Provide assistance, this tool shall. Wearing one down with-”




The doll girl is suddenly cut off, a clattering sound coinciding with her words stopping.

Surprised, her mouth is stuck in mid movement as a short sword lies on the floor.


Blinking once, she shuts her mouth before calming.




Taking Neesiette’s rod from her gently, Still puts the once crackling weapon into her belt before bringing her hand to pet the small girl. Held in a one-armed embrace, Neesiette’s amber hair is stroked lovingly as the supreme intellect glares at Adris.

A proud eyebrow lifts, a silent accusation leveled at him.


To his credit, Adris refrains from smiling, choosing to shrug instead.


“… Be this one’s true plot? Then, congratulations be in order, evil plotter.”


Words of acceptance come from her, though there’s no real humility or grace to them. They are, as the girl normally is, devoid of strong emotion, even though she clearly insults him.

Walking towards him while holding onto now passive luggage, Still makes a few gestures while brushing Neesiette’s dress off, before giving a thumbs up.


{Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? I commend you for your acting talent~!}


(No, the dedication and skill with which you devoted yourself to your role is… frankly terrifying.)


Had he been a step too late, Adris would’ve died from blood loss after being turned into a pincushion. Refraining from insulting or complaining to his new partner, he instead surveys the cooked gooses on the floor.

Shaking his head…




It suddenly hurts, a migraine splitting it in two.




A wondrous mirth taints the room, as if the walls themselves laugh with appropriate, measured abandon.

It has a tittering, melodic quality, fitting for a room which houses an unmoving waltz.


Finally, it vanishes, leaving the air lighter.


With only Adris’ secret dancing partner remaining upright, they seek to conclude their business.

Still moves her hand to make a couple of gestures.

{I agree to a draw.}


Nodding, he concurs.

“This one agrees to a draw.”




Unlike with the Castillo’s rules, this private feud attracted no whispers or thrill of battle. Free of a Modus, this personal agreement watched over only by darkness, death, and desire ends. Finally victorious, he feels confident saying that…


“Shall we move on to the despoiling of one’s gains, with one’s dubious victory finalized? The barbaric intentions of a lying boy be uninteresting to consider. Merely force upon us one’s terms, so we may dispense with further dissembling.”


A small gloved hand pats Still’s thigh, prompting the masked girl let her go.

Setting her down, Still looks unconcerned as the girl ignores her. Still points to the two defeated members still lying on the marble floor, peppy gestures rolling out.


{How confident do you feel after the fight? Even if you handled them alone, Neesiette and I, aren’t we a little…?}


Handing back Neesiette’s rod, Still seems quite smug. When Neesiette receives her property, she looks taken aback briefly, looking to Adris for confirmation.

Continuing to survey the scene, Adris moves his eyes back to her mask, finding the look too much like Cethran’s.


(I could’ve, though it wouldn’t have been nearly as pleasant an outcome, I imagine.)


“I am quite sure, Still. As impressed as I am, you still don’t understand my limits.”

Fakely yawning at this, her reply is adeptly bored.


Looking down, Adris searches Neesiette’s face for clues to her own thoughts.

“… No necessity exists in sharing a… valued comrade’s involvement in such a ploy. No doubt a fraud named Adris utilized nefarious leverage to goad such a conclusion into effect. A shameful secret shall not pass the lips of a tool, for only discord no doubt favorable to a devilish boy would be the result of such words.”

Though her tone doesn’t change, she lays all blame upon him, even as she looks ever more curious.


(If you have questions, then find the time later.)


Now that they belong, or rather, will belong to him, he has much fewer secrets to keep from them. The current environment is simply not conducive to sharing them.


(Although I will keep at least a couple.)


Walking over to Ave while Neesiette moves over to Kol, he crouches beside her while Still keeps a big distance from the passed out elf.

Gently rubbing her cheeks to wake her, her eyelids twitch before opening. Confused briefly, the sight of a silver mask and male face causes her to flush, while her hands move to check the state of her clothing.

After confirming nothing’s happened, a finger comes to her rich lips, before her eyes dart past Adris to catch sight of Still waving at her.


Shivering, Ave looks horribly confused, but then a serious expression comes to her. Bringing her hands to her breasts, she looks demure while her voice cracks while stuttering.


“… Um… g-g-g-gentle…! No… um, rather… Use… me instead of…!” Clutching Adris’ jerkin, he pales as something overtakes her.




“… Don’t hurt any of them, please, they’re my only friends…! I’ll… s-s-s-s-serve youuuuuu…!? … instead, so please be nice…!”


With Adris left unsure if she’s frightened of potentially being assaulted, exhilarated, or some manic combination of the two, her red face finally turns away from him as she begins to pull the sashes over her breasts open and to slowly lift up her heavy skirt.

The thin bodysuit hides nothing, leaving an undulating tail joining with the juicy imagery to create an innocent sexuality that clobbers him upside the head. Nearly exposing her most vulnerable part, Adris’ hand stops her before she can commit to being violated.

She yelps when his hand grabs hers, but she only freezes while short breaths are heard.


(You should be glad it’s me. I doubt there’s any other true man that would refrain from forcing himself on you after witnessing this.)


“… Nobody is violating anyone. … What I did earlier wasn’t because of… well, wanting to ‘ravish’ you, okay?”


Catching his own breath while swearing it’s the fault of the Castillo’s poison, the shocked girl whips back to discover him trying his best to smile dashingly.


“… Huh? You’re not going to throw yourself on me!? … Oh…! Good! … um… good…? … Ah… did I… misunderstand…!?”

With hands moving to cover her mouth, Ave suddenly looks both relieved and frustrated, before embarrassment causes her to turn over to hide from him.

“… um… I’m not… disappointing, right? … is it because I’m a bad… prize…?”


Speechless at first, his mind races at the girl’s whispered, distraught question. The answer leaves his lips before he has time to consider its ramifications.


“… In the future, it’s not… unlikely I’d think of you in such a manner…”


(Fucking, stop talking! This is surprisingly awkward, for a world full of wanton sex… Why is it always hard with you?)


Pulling himself away as she mysteriously squirms at the admission, he keeps his face as neutral as possible, something that becomes tormentingly difficult as Still’s mask of quiet disgust hovers beside him.

The older girl with whom he’s shared something quite personal appears disappointed with his admitted taste for elf flesh.


(What do you expect me to say!? No!? I’m playing a long game!)


Rubbing his hand through his hair, his thoughts go then to his hidden trick card, the elf before him an intricate part of a plan now unnecessary.


(This girl really is bad news. But if your mind is this easily frayed, I suppose you would’ve been a good “tool.”)





“So, elves fought against…. dark creatures of the Evils?”


While drinking tea and endlessly discussing elves, the subject of nightmarish creatures similar to imps arose.


“Hm? Yes! Elves have long been the enemies of the vile creatures from the Reflected-Yet-Shaded World! You’ll find no better source of information than us! Um, except maybe… but they’re not…” While bright at first, she suddenly cringes.

“Discussing such topics is… actively discouraged, you know, so let’s talk about…”


(No, tell me more.)


“Oh, such a dire secret that a foremost authority would balk at the topic?” Teasing her in a coaxing voice, he feels a hidden gold lode near.

“I had an encounter with a… vexing creature. Its abilities left me wondering.”

Adris nods his head, leaving her confused before gasping. Pouring him more tea, she hurriedly lets this self-proclaimed false god sip.

Treating him as an honored dignitary…


(Or husband…)


Her skittishness continues, the dark atmosphere of the topic contributing to the manipulating menace rising in his voice.


“The creature used a particular incantation. A rather dark-sounding demand. While performing some strange…”


(What did the midget call this “magic?”)


“… Art, a dark wind of some kind collected, and brought out a form. This form was one of terrible presence and stature, its disposition malevolent.”

Studying her, her tics give away her fearful recognition.


“Though I handily defeated the creature…” As he says this, Ave relaxes quite a bit, her breathing returning to normal as she smiles, her eyes shining a little at his enthralling story.

“… I could not hear the entirety of the incantation. For the sake of avoiding such a danger in the future, could you relate the method of conjuring to me, so that I might recognize and defend against it?”


“Um… that’s… a bit…” Paling at the question, she attempts to reject it politely.


(You know something or you’d simply claim ignorance.)


“Ah, no, perhaps I just put too much faith in the knowledge you might possess.” Apologizing for her, he puts his hand to his chin. “If you don’t know, it’s fine. As I recall, isn’t…”


Looking bored with the elf now, Adris starts to move to rise.


“The other girl, isn’t she quite versed in magic? I suppose I can request her knowledge and owe her a favor, instead…”


Freezing briefly, Ave then becomes animated, putting her hand on his chest to keep him down.


“No~! No, sylvan lore is far more thorough than that midget’s self-proclaimed genius!” Scrunching her face at this perceived insult, she then relaxes, getting closer and looking eager to please as she starts whispering.

“It’s… it’s not that I don’t know, but rather…”


Paying her attention now, Adris smiles, letting the girl bask in his warmth.


“… Um, it’s just… don’t tell anybody else, okay? There’s people that are really against anyone talking about anything like this?”


With a brief nod, she seems relieved.

“Among the slayers, there’s a girl whose reputation is… well, really bad! She’s the definition of what the [Granescians] mean when they say ‘smite evil where you find it’! But… don’t tell her that…”

Holding onto Adris’ arm, she then gasps and lets it go, as if her grip is poisonous.

“Unlike calling spirits, like I do~, or even forming things from proper magic like the Castillo or magi can, I’ve seen her instead… pull something from a book, a page…”


(YES. Though, who are these Granescians?)


“A page? How quaint.” Smiling dismissively, Adris toys with her to disguise his interest.


“No! It’s not quaint! She… she said some stuff, and the page… well, it exploded into a burst of darkness, with loud, unseen, ringing bells all around. Then!”

Shaking, she continues her story while looking haunted.

“Then something… it just… ripped through? I don’t know!? There was no magic, no feeling of spiritual presence! Much like… like the monsters that aren’t real, but still walk…”

She silently folds in on herself.


“If it’s that frightening, then don’t tell me what it looked like or did. It suffices to know how she called it.”

Adris feels his excitement boiling over. “What were the words, Avenalliah?”


He realizes suddenly that he’s leaned in, looking into the girl’s eyes as she stares at him, a little surprised at the closeness.


“Huh!? Oh, words? I… couldn’t understand them?” Her eyes move to escape him.




“Repeat them, please.” Adris’ commanding and omnipotent voice causes Ave to stroke her hair idly, unnerved and twitchy movements.




Opening her lips, she finally tastes the air with her tongue before talking.


“O-okay… I’m really good at remembering things, at least!” Psyching herself up, Ave plays off things like it’s all a big joke, even as her strained smile slowly turns into a frown.


“It, sounded like…”





(“From the deepest depths of desire, through curtain unseen, darkness, to me, take incarnation and root in mind, for your name is…” And, if I wanted it to “possess” me, then I assume “become one and join with me, for your name is…”?)


Releasing his touch on the hidden folio, applying to this “magic” the same intellectual pursuit he once gave to the secrets of aura leaves him enraptured by the mystery. As long as she repeated the words, the words themselves carried their meanings.

The words of another person come to him, too, the purple of her clothing very regal in contrast to her purported station.


Isn’t what is called darkness quite dangerous, yet also insidiously powerful? To call it to you, to be possessed by it, is what it grants worth the cost?


The fake priestess Cethran had indicated, indirectly, that darkness could “join” with the one who called upon it.


(Even if it means summoning Rantil, a weapon is a weapon. An imp, capable of manipulating the mind. Ave, susceptible to manipulation? I wouldn’t have had to beat her, Still. She would’ve helped beat you.)


Adris would’ve risked a lot, but it would’ve been a plan involving a creature he has ownership of and whose powers he has been taught.

An important clue also comes: “curtain unseen.”


(At the time I was talking with Cethran, I had no idea what “darkness” was, nor what it means to know what it is…)


Ave’s incantation, in particular the command that the darkness “root” in the mind of the person, explains it.


(That is fundamentally no different from aura.)


Not merely the Emperor’s aura, but aura in general. Experiences or pondered thoughts that, when a person with a Clear Mind reaches out with their externalized senses to touch and explore them, permanently stay within the mind of the user to become a technique.

Aura, a power which grows with one’s expanding spirituality and understanding of the world, appears to be identical to the darkness of Zennia’s fascination with the mysteriousness of unseen truths and to-be-revealed horrors, merely portrayed in a different way.


(This is becoming deeply concerning. Being similar would be fine, but too many parts are mirroring one another… I feel something dangerous about this that I can’t explain.)


But that thought and feeling quickly vanishes.


The sound of metal moving across stone brings his eyes to the girl under him.

Bright pink eyes stare beneath a dented sallet, studying him as she rises to her knee without aid.

When Neesiette checks her, Kol merely nods before shooing her.


(You are up in less than three minutes? Please, never be my enemy again.)


The cross that has laid out numerous other creatures for likely longer durations, and had struck Kol three times, fails to keep the girl down for long.


(How will you deal with… true loss, again?)


But there’s no rage or indignation, merely a calm and collected gravitas to her.


“… Strong human, why want Kol?”

The simple question goes straight to the heart of Adris’ desires. If asked why he wants the chaotic and boyish would-be knight…




(… I want all of you because… I have no power of my own. You will be that power.)


“What you are is what I need.”


An enigmatic tone accompanies an answer that hides his true intentions; yet, Kol appears unperturbed by the lack of explanation.


“… Kol, understand. Okay, strong human: give Kol power, what for?”


A voice he’s never heard her use, one of genuine interest and humor, goes along with her claw slapping her raised leg; yet, subtle dignity also wells up in her, as if what she will be allowed to become will dictate her response to his goals.


(… I… I need you for…)




Even as an impetus to take her to the investiture overwhelms him, he can’t place why.

As the girl becomes unsure at his silence, he raises his hand weakly towards her.




(… No, I need you for the same reason I’ve always needed power… I’m tired of being pushed around! This world in this respect is the same as Xin! Full of people who have too much power and too little justification for having it!)




“… Aren’t you a bit tired of fools presuming to try to rule you, Kol?”




At the question, she gains energy. Grinding as she readjusts her posture…


“… Okay, what ‘fools’? … Kakaka… who, Kol gonna crush!?”


Catching on to something, Adris smiles as he feels a kinship brewing with her. Unlike the others, Kol’s motivations are easy…

They’re much like his, in the end.


“Since you seem to possess keen insight, Kol, I feel I can share my truest objective.”


Lifting the cross level to her face, he again adopts Cethran’s self-importance. What’s left of his cloak flaps with a gust that blows through, one that should be absent.




“There’s only one objective for any true revolutionary, bravest Kol:


To destroy the Alchemaster, and make an example of her for any who would seek to bind us.”


(I despise all of you monsters… those who think they can play around with others without taking any risks. If you want to play… then come down here and dance with us.)




Laughing wildly, the girl slaps her mail covered thigh, leaving Neesiette standing beside her looking aghast at the lone boy who promises to take down a godlike being.


“AH! GOOD! Kol, like. Fine, understand. Mhmm.”


The girl adjusts her armor and jacket, dusting them with her hands, inspecting the ring sleeves and her leggings. Her slightly askew helmet is moved back into position.

Slowly adjusting her kneeling stance to be far more courteous, she places one arm before her breasts and the other behind her back. She then bows her body a bit, her head drooping low.


“Kol, swear, follow [Boss]: fight for, win for! ‘Protect’! Never lose!”


Her vow complete, the girl lifts her head back up, thrusting her right hand into the air before yelling proudly.






In the end, Adris acquires another title.




“Boss, want beat greatest evil? Fine. Kol agree!” Chuckling, she pumps her fist.

“All of us… aim at top! Maybe Boss… better evil? Things, still ‘weird’, but ok! Kol, get what want, anyway! Kakakaka! Kol, always win!”


Getting up, Kol runs off to collect her axe, letting loose her strange laugh the whole time.

Stunned, Adris can only watch, as a much more relaxed doll treads closer.


“… Be you truly insane, then? Perhaps some measure of truth lies in one’s deranged words…”


(… Recently, I’m no longer certain if I’m not crazy.)


Adris is left standing in the center of a circle of horribly abused stone dancers, feeling in passing like he should ask the prickly lady before him to take his mind off of his worries by going for a twirl.





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.”



“In the end, wanting a fight is the same as saying that you’re the bad guy. By this point, you might be…”





Name: “Kol”
Titles: Idiot
Race: ???
Sex: Female?
Age: ???


Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
Discipline: ???





Disposition: Straightforward / Confrontational / Respectful
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Pink
Hair: White
Skin: Tanned



Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Strength – C

Dexterity – E

Agility – F




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

“Is forthrightness an attractive quality? What is the difference between truth-seeking as a subject and living a lifestyle of it?”

“Perhaps an uncomplicated female would be useful for a man that seems so interested in complicating life himself? But why are you fooled into believing she’s simple?”

“If she feels excitement looking at you, then perhaps she isn’t as pretty as you’re thinking she is?”



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

“In addition to being honest, she is also obsessive about certain things, least of which is deciding who is stronger than others.”

“Not worrying about details, Kol prefers to let others deal with them for her, so that she can concentrate on what she cares about.”

“While somewhat behind in intellect, she is far from witless.”



“Even if she’s responsible for this, she’s the only one willing to do something about it, so you can’t really feel like it’s her fault.”





Name: Still
Titles: Puddle
Race: Human?
Sex: Female
Age: Young Lady


Occupation: Delver, Trickster/Outfighter
Discipline: ???





Disposition: Playful / Sadistic / Skulking
Alignment: Chaotic

Eyes: ???
Hair: ???
Skin: ???



Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Agility – C




Cethran Value – “Do you really think it’s not obvious? What she possesses is what you’ve missed all your life, yes? Breasts and curves… are these not a new fruit for you to taste?”

“While you don’t get to see much of her, it may be that her lifestyle is the most appealing thing, perhaps? If she’s always surprising you, doesn’t that create an appeal of danger?”

“Possessing feminine pursuits such as sewing and toxicology, isn’t she perfect for you?”

“Do you find yourself losing focus in her presence? You might be weaker to seduction than you think? Or is it something else…?”



“A mute girl who says much with gestures, she also has more going on than she seems to. Though not outwardly aggressive, there’s an atmosphere of danger about her. Opposite of Kol, hers is subtle… Yet, she also can protect others. Given to acrobatics, it matches with her dark, but flamboyant, colors.”

“Self composed as always, it won’t be easy for Adris to get into her head.”

“Not interfering unless she has to, Still appears to be mild-mannered, but such a misunderstanding might be dangerous.”

“Showing something of her true nature, the girl that says little can surprisingly say a lot when she needs to.”



“Got one pulled over on her, she looks ready for revenge.”





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?”



“From kind to heartless, it’s easy to step on a lady’s goodwill.”




Name: Avenalliah Aurmaris
Titles: Lustful Lizard, Elf
Race: Elf
Sex: Female
Age: Young

Occupation: Delver, Scared Girl
Discipline: ???




Disposition: Joyful / Impressionable / Cowardly
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Crystal Green
Hair: Moss Green
Skin: White



Rantil Value –

Intelligence – C

Mentality – F




Cethran Value – “While not possessing your newly favorite curves, isn’t a girl with a naive charm also fine? Because she covers so little, you are also left without having to imagine what you could possess, yes?”

“If you’re looking for a girl to protect and curl up with, where else could you find a girl as clingy as this? Does being innocent entice men? Isn’t that a stupid question, Mr. Star?”

“Not being afraid to flaunt her beauty if she doesn’t notice that she is, yet cowering at exposure… isn’t this a gap?”

“Another girl that won’t shut up, is it? Shouldn’t that dissuade you? Or is it okay if it’s her bubbly voice?”



“As cheerful as she is skittish, Avenalliah fits an unknown position within the four delvers’ group. Though she carries a large sack, that would hardly count as a position… right?”

“Prone to fits of panic, there’s a lot she needs to do to prove her worth…”

“While a master of avoiding confrontation, she finally finds a backbone after being kicked around enough.”

“The one thing in the world she loves the most is her own people, which makes her a master of everything related to them.”



“Even if you’re trying to be a carefree person, isn’t it a little much to cheer for your enemy? Or is he your enemy…?”







Chapter 26         Table of Contents          Chapter 28