Take Up the Cross – Chapter 29: Discussion On Form

Watching the girls lorded over by gilded suits of ponderous armor, Adris feels contentment being allowed to rest. Lounging under the overhang of this odd, multi-tiered nexus of corridors is his reward, his plan concluded now that others do his work for him.


(I don’t want the spotlight all the time, Still. You dance in it, as I prefer the shadows and acting as someone else’s “guide”.)


Peering down two routes, Neesiette searches out the difference as Kol enthusiastically guards her. The shyest girl inspects the suits of armor with a careful touch, though the green eyes reflected in the mirror-polished shield are drooling over Adris.


(Phase one of… a plan that really has no end is complete?)


Though inexpert and rushed, his charlatanry has earned him a spot on their team. Hands folded together, he knows he should be ecstatic inside, but the tiresomeness of their idiosyncrasies contrasts with the upbeat, hopeful vibe the party now has.


(The worst part is their enthusiasm. Kol immediately tried to…)




Stick in cloak, good trick. Kol, hate tricks, but say ‘smart’. Now: show true power! Want see!

Enamored with his victory, her first actions were to seek private demonstration of his “might” while clinging to his tunic.

Indeed, of great interest be a victorious boy’s ‘true power’. Invite such a demonstration, a tool does.”


(Annoying, but it proved one absolutely important boon.)


When Kol had clung to him, he was able to force her to release him by ripping himself away.


(As a “part of your group”, your insane abilities no longer automatically target me!)


Walking from his spot, he waves at the other person with folded arms in the intersection. Not meeting his gaze and leaning against a wall after scouting, her head is down as he joins her. Quietly whispering beside her, he speaks at a volume he hopes Kol cannot hear.

“All in all, a perfect outcome, right? I told you the chair leg would work.” Though not bragging outright, his adaptability justifies mentioning. “Now that things are on track for uplifting everyone, maybe we can discuss some more of the mansion’s-?”


Cocking her head, a tight, painted mouth on white causes him to shut up. With lazy gestures…


{Oooh, “on track”, huh? Cute little plan, that we need to go to the chapel for this fabulous gift to work. Buys you a couple of hours. Neesiette doesn’t believe you, though, so you’ll need a new lie pretty fast once we get there~.}

Though it sounds like only sarcasm, her staunchly open support of him is thorny in private.


Sharing secrets, a victory, and the first intentional sexual encounter he’s had, no matter how brief, Adris thought that something real was blossoming. Always unopposed to him, after defying her expectations of his apparent level of scumbaggery she’s become dour.

The one girl he was growing friendly with on more than a surface level is going cold.


(I’d thought you’d be happy that I’m not trash? … No matter how seductive you can be, pouting after “winning” reminds me that you’re just a smooth-talking young lady.)


Even as he thinks that, he recalls her swearing to an entity which governs death.


(… We need to discuss that.)


{… Oh, did I get it wrong?}

Seeing through his facade to his hidden discontent, Still puts a hand to her mask.

{Fighting Kol and Ave heated you up, that it?}


(Not really, though Ave’s reaction didn’t help; but, if you want to do something for me…)


Worshipping her fleshy figure with lecherous eyes, memories of their encounter mix with the poisonous air to reignite him. With Ave finally looking away, he hides a hand behind Still’s butt.

“No, I find that someone else does that for me.” Starting to pull himself closer to the quietly amorous girl, a smile comes to her mask before she reaches down to return the favor.




A fierce finger flick strikes him precisely on the tip of his dick with as much power as can be put into it.

Hissing in pure pain, his hand retracts while she smiles innocently at him.


Using the same hand to rudely point down another hallway, she squirms while mimicking a familiar form.


{A bunch of imps down that way, if you’re looking for lovers on your level~. Found them just for you~.}


(… What?)


Preventing himself from getting angry, he wonders if he’s mistakenly insulted her, but then she leans closer and puts him in her shadow.


{… You weren’t supposed to be like this. You get nothing special from this deal, which… isn’t natural for someone as smart as you. So if it seems weird, it’s probably because you’re trying to get one over on me~. Even if we’re called “partners”, Neesiette and I run things. The moment you stray…}


Blinking in shock, Adris suffers through the usually composed girl listing the innumerable, vicious ways she can foil him, playful fingers counting each set.


{… and hang you from the ceiling, so the flying slut maids can take turns with you. Only after you’re bone dry will you be allowed to touch the ground, again~.}

Driving her finger into his chest as he remains passive…

{Managing to “wow” them, I will absolutely revoke this contract if I’m not one-thousand-percent satisfied. The moment you try to hoodwink me, I will end you~. That… mask and what you “must” be… you can’t hide from that need! We’re… the same with that… You will-!}


“A likely way forward presents itself. Still?” Neesiette finishes dowsing, calling for the other half of their secret weapon.


(Even now, you don’t think I’d want you guys for the sake of having you? That contractual caveat about satisfaction is also annoyingly firm!)


Caught in mid-conversation, Still switches to friendly mannerisms. Waving at Neesiette, she readies to move off, until Adris pats her butt surreptitiously.

Pausing in stride, she turns back, a slasher smile challenging him.


“… Why so angry with me? A total victory isn’t enough? I thought you’d be pleased with the caliber of man you have to comfort you?”


Teasing her more aggressively now, she lurches forward at the question, trying to preserve her composure as she lifts her hand.

{… I can understand what you might be expecting, but you’re seeing something in our relationship that you haven’t earned, yet~.}


(“Earned”? I’ve given up a lot for…! No, it’s fine. This is the kind of girl you are and I don’t dislike it.)


Leaning next to her face, he grins boyishly while laying it on thick.

“Ahh, sorry, is it rude not to refer to you correctly while discussing business? ‘Partner’?”

Head stooping, she shakes at the appellation.


(You can dish it out, but you can’t take it? How “cute”. Oh, or is this about…?)


“Is that thing with Ave the problem, then? Not wanting to ‘hurt’ her, I can hardly call her unappealing, right? Oh, rather than it being about me hurting her…”

Rubbing his chin while acting suave, his tone then becomes intentionally surprised.


“Were you perhaps jea-?”




A blurring fist drives squarely into his kidney, before she whips away and skips off to cheerfully converse with Neesiette.


(… I guess I pushed a little too far, but… hngh, you need to understand that we might be partners, but it’s only due to mutual desperation. In the end, I’m a man with decades of experience in manipulating others, while you’re just a novice girl. Realize the difference.)


Hand covering the impact spot while he bends his knees, Ave slithers over with a quizzical look, before brightly engaging in conversation.


“Hey, hey, Adris! I can… get Kol and definitely Neesiette, but how did you beat Still?”

Having “prevailed” over her idol, the elf’s new focus is on a rising hero.


(Huff… technically I didn’t. I just signed a contract that… lets her practice “tough love”, apparently. The most powerful, dangerous technique in the world is luring people into a trap that doesn’t exist, leaving them convinced that you’re bluffing right up until the end…)





“By what mechanism would they recover? Such items do not renew when worn by powerless boys.” Explaining to him as if he’s a child why his fur boots seem weaker now, Neesiette is his bosom company as they approach their destination.

“A false god’s no doubt immense knowledge encompasses not the simplest topic of Elucidation of Basic Arts, be this the situation?”


(No, in fact it doesn’t. The recovery of magical items was conveniently left out by Cethran.)


“From my perspective, power is either possessed or not. Not being lost, it merely returns naturally when expended.”

Though a weapon may break, aura and especially techniques are eternal unless one’s Inner Expanse is ruined.


“Then, in simplest terms for a strangely simple boy: any Art, or object writ by Art, degrades as used, according to the natural inclination of the world. Art willed by mind warps pathways of interpretation, eventually bringing mania, madness, and malice. Upon object, it brings its self-ruin. Only with time and presence of power may one reform both, mending with active intent before their destruction be total.”


“Kol, not follow.” A dull voice, one bored beyond reason, tries to join in.


“A relatable metaphor be: ‘an axe may wear and, unmaintained, break; yet, when sharpened and mended regularly, long may endure’.”


“Ah, ‘thank you’.” Nodding sagely, Kol immediately wanders off to escape.


(Like with that rabbit sage, magic drives your mind to bizarre places? Lycia’s tools emitted enormous heat or required ammunition. Yet, my fog tool takes in nothing…)


However, the device has changed: no longer brass, the metal is off-white with an odd texture. Visibly smoothed, but feeling fuzzy when touched, the overall shape has shrunk and closely resembles something perhaps designed by the madmen of the Wondrous Works.


(… I’ll deal with this later, as horrifying as it is to witness and not understand; but, magic as explained…?)


“You never become incapable of casting magic?”


“‘Incapable’ be a purely imprecise state, for Art interpreted beyond one’s capacity to do so shall mutate avenues traversed, destroying one’s rationality and potentially corrupting one’s body.

‘A stream that overflows the banks shall muddy and wash away ground it splashes upon…’ That which lets Art flow through it ceases to use it when it ceases to be, correct?”


(Scary, that’s fucking scary. Aura can’t kill a person, unless you fail an ascension or do something stupid.)


His logical mind rebels at an eternal font of power that exists as long as sanity is sacrificed. Aura may make monsters, but not with this potent regularity.


“Misunderstand not: Art, first and foremost, reflects correct methods of interpreting how the world might change. What one has demonstrated…”

Face pinching at this thought, her eyes reflect a boy whose actions thoroughly displease her.

“… Utterly ridiculous one’s ‘power’ be, more like the taint of fools who exclaim ‘it’s magic!’, when in truth they merely interpret imprecise nonsense and force the world to enact it, harming themselves and it… True Art when interpreted accurately breaks not from its course.”


Smiling at the idea that “nonsense” and “uncertainty” sound similar in practice, he calls ahead to Kol.


“What of you, Kol? How would you define your power? Ave, channeling spirits you do, yet you never struggle? And… Still?”


Continuing to walk, Still merely turns to look over her shoulder.

“Though I’ve not seen your magic, possess it you no doubt-”


Suddenly giving him full attention as she hops back toward him…

{What magic would that be~?}


(You swore on your magic! Or, wait…)


Producing a green stone set into a brass ring from nowhere, she holds it up for Adris and Neesiette to inspect.


“… A body illuminating ring.”


Promptly identifying the item while sounding like the first time she has done so, Neesiette is uncertain of the presentation’s point.


(… you.)


When Still tilts her head a bit, a deep, bluish-green light swirls around her, the stone on the ring glowing. The girl palms the deactivating ring before bowing gracefully, a winning smile on her mask as she rises.

She “says” a few words, before she produces a gold coin in her hand, letting it roll between her fingers.


{If not magic, then hoooooow?}


Cursing himself, anger flares before he quickly pours sand over it. Increasing his pace down the lavish hallway formed entirely of almost-naked, stone humanoids  laying artistically beside each other and accentuated by real cloth, he tries to close on her as she effortlessly stays out of reach.


Refocusing on the next person to save face, Adris invites with a forced smile the captivated Ave to answer.


“… AH!? Oh, magic? Oh, no, spirit calling doesn’t use one’s internal will! Much more efficient, it borrows from nature!” Smiling proudly, she takes up a self-confident pose as she continues slithering. Arms artfully raised and eyes closed, she praises the world.

“Nature itself is my best friend~! The stronger it is in an area, the more powerful the help~! … Once sufficient help is given, though, the spirits become bored and lose attention for some time…”

Opening one eye a bit, she peeks to see if he is impressed with her answer, all while subconsciously moving to be nearer to him.


(I… might have made a mistake.)


In addition to annoying Still, Adris’ attempt to overcome Ave’s “misfortune” through seduction sidestepped the problem while creating a far worse one. As if committing to a terribly dark path, Neesiette’s dire warning becomes true with the snake elf doing all in her power to appeal to him.

Stupidly putting on displays of femininity that aren’t subtle at all, he’s felt the need to avoid being alone with her.


Frowning at Ave, the tiny master of magic pats his hand to get his attention.

“Incidentally, divine power’s degradation be borne by the… ‘god’ that provides it. From the sanctity of worship directed at them or their domain, the truly ‘devout’ calls upon nigh limitless power to travel across the bridge that be as wide as their faith and bond.

Proof of this bridge lies with the person, a physical covenant to bare and proof of a god’s jealous favoritism for-”



Screaming with a crying voice, Ave “dashes” ahead to join Still while hiding her arms in front of her. Pulling up to the cloaked girl, Still immediately dodges from an unseen threat.


(… I don’t understand.)


Shaking her head, Neesiette concludes her lecture.


“In truth, Art be but one, and only one, thing: a single explanatory theory and method by which to interpret the function of the world in a manner fit to perfectly alter it. Corrupted needlessly by the passage of time and the foolish idiocy of lesser… lifeforms, the unwise are left to overlook the original perfect form while stumbling in the dark to feast upon scraps.”

Bowing lightly to him, dismissive words both praise and ridicule.


“Though one’s pursuits of wisdom be worthwhile, a non-existent education and sorely lacking fundamentals forever doom a boy possessing sadly limited prospects.”


(Just how smug can one girl be!?)


Head grinding, Adris turns to Kol, who immediately perks up upon being focused on.

“Your prodigious blows and dangerous spin… can you describe the source of your power for them?”


(Though Cethran mentioned that warriors have uncanny abilities, they, in practice, seem not unlike aura techniques of the body.)


Tilting her head confusedly, Kol taps on her axe held before her while clanking.


“Kol say, body feeling? Very energetic before, not energetic after?” Looking down at her axe, she finds new inspiration.

“Focus on weapon, become fun battle? More swing, better feel? Feel good, then…” She uses one of her fingers to make a twirling motion. “Easier spin, feel stronger. Tired, less.”


Sighing, she puts her hand to her sallet.

“Kol, not know. Feeling. ‘Sorry.’” Apologizing to Adris, Kol’s eyes inquire as to whether he needs more information.


“Your explanation was helpful. I believe I understand.” His deep voice congratulates her instead of berating her.




(I don’t understand a fucking thing. If I take the words literally, then “I’m more tired if I swing before trying to hurt people, but I’m tired either way” is the summary?)


Using his other battles as a guide, he realizes it might not be far off.


(Both Lycia and the cat servant didn’t start using powerful techniques until deeper into their combat. Even Lycia required exposed Vigor for one.)




With all four people roughly within earshot, Adris decides to improve the party’s understanding of its own problems.

“Each one of you has something special that serves as a cornerstone of the group’s survival. Rather than expecting you to change your basic style of functioning and way of living, it would be better to ask this: ‘how does a group survive and thrive’?”


“By smashing, not group.”

Kol’s completely truthful, but also incredibly stupid, answer causes him physical pain. Seeming very pleased with herself, her tail waves as she waits to be praised.


“… Incredibly naive.”

“AH!? ‘Naive’? Kol, not…!”

“Be silent, Kol.”

“Moon, too!?”


Aiding him unprompted for the first time, Neesiette offers her own answer in her gratifying voice.

“‘Combining disparate styles, talents, inclinations, and natures into a cooperative manner allows for the many to elevate themselves into a greater whole’, though terribly imprecise, be this not an answer suitable for your thoughts?”


(… Sure. You win.)


Still condescending, the doll girl is at least no longer overtly cruel.

“Yes, a perfect response, as expected of a girl who spends so much time… thinking.”

Taking back control of the discussion, Adris raises a clenched fist to join with his outline of their situation.


“Without sacrificing what is the essence of each member, power and especially… joint training must combine with a willingness to work together for common goals, for this is sorely lacking with you four.”


“‘Common goal’? Beating everyone?”

Kol sounds hopeful.


(NO! Getting ahead of everyone else, by any means necessary! Not just fighting! The most important part of this show is going to be linking the cross’ power to some concept they understand, though.)


A key part of the upcoming investiture is missing, leaving Adris grasping for a replacement for an obviously lacking Xin ritual.


To understand magic, the form of alchemy which predates so many other currently practiced mystical arts might serve as a more universal foundation?

Snippets of his lessons with Cethran creep out, as always.


“Neesiette, what would be your explanation of alchemy?”


“Alchemy? The distribution of the world into ‘elements’? How vexing.”

Blinking once, Neesiette’s explanation sounds agonized at first.


“Would not ‘element’ be a fundamental misunderstanding of the true meaning of Art? Then, shall we speak in terms of the tainted ‘magic’ which beguiles the thoughts of this world’s people?

Elements there be: four which cycle through, one giving up to another and feeding the next.


[‘Wind fuels the fire,’] [‘fire heats the earth,’] [‘earth moves the water,’] [‘water births the wind,’]


a pattern represented, conforming to the heretical knowledge of Alchemy first observing these patterns.”


(So the Alchemaster is a progenitoress of sorts?)


“Denoted, too, be the ‘victor’ and ‘loser’ for each struggle, in general. What defers to, will be the subject of. Though, even by tainted standards such as Zennia’s magic, there be more complex elements.

Wind and fire become [‘rage’]; water and wind become [‘mute’]; earth and water become [‘soul’]; and fire and earth become [‘form’]. Form be the element associated with the Alchemaster and, supposedly, she be the pinnacle of it.”

Ceasing briefly, Neesiette studies Adris, seemingly seeking to assure herself that he’s understanding.


“All magic of Zennia flows from these elements?” Having seen magic which doesn’t fit into any of this, he hopes to understand the dissimilarities.


“‘Magic’ claims shapes infinitely varied and absurd, all enslaved by the imperfect nature of their derivation; yet, to say that the elements are thematic guides for all ‘magic’ be an accurate assessment. The word ‘thematic’ be duly stressed, though.”

Stopping again, she looks inquisitive.


“Lacking basics, perhaps one searches for personal training from a much more learned source? Would one be underhandedly seeking grossly undeserved tutelage without deigning to ask…?”


(Are you fucking offering or just gloating!?)


{As I’ve said, you should teach, not delve.}

A cloaked girl pops up in the conversation unnoticed, with Still waiting to walk beside Neesiette and patting her head.

Adris remains ignored.


Mildly agitated at being treated like a kid, but then quickly calming, Neesiette huffs.

“Though desiring to be useful, a tool’s self-respect forfends such a base thing. While a tool may guide ‘magic’ to a superior and more complete form, refuse this tool does to instill such a capricious, corruptive concept as ‘magic’ itself into a pure mind.”


Offering a cool and thankful smile, his mind races to make the appropriate thematic changes to the ritual he has in mind.


(It’s a little last minute, but I love the idea! “Two hands and two breaths”… morphing it into some crazy balance of nature matches with the four cups and the number of girls. This could actually appear relatively-)


“Overlook may one… an interruption, Adris. As yet, still no power be felt. Clarify, if possible, the nature of what one can offer?” Neesiette attacks this point again, even though she’s technically been beaten by him.

Making signs and speaking up, both Still and Kol interrupt each other while responding.


{No, his power is real-}

“AH, Moon, cross has-!”


Stopping, the two look tense.


“Kol, you first, then Still.” Jumping in seamlessly, Adris cuts through the roadblock. Still stares at him for a second before relenting.


“Ah, good!” Leering at Still, Kol then begins. “Kol, cross hit. Um… feel power. Very strong. Kol, see…”


(… See? You see something when I hit you with this!?)


Sweating a bit, he pays close attention as she finally comes to the word she’s looking for.

“Big ‘gathering.’ Loud voices, all speak. All scream, name. Too much. All hits, same. Same place, same voices, same people. Build up. Forget who, who ‘Kol.’ Kol, ‘vanish’, sleep.” Nodding three times, Kol seems happy.

“Knock out Kol, Boss strong!”


(What was the name being called. Isn’t that creepy!?)


Adris desperately wants to ask, but a “false god” who is also master of the weapon she was smashed by won’t be allowed to. Dwelling on the demonstrated inadequacies of his position, he grows a bit unsure…


(It will be fine.)




All of his insecurities fade away.

Only his need to complete the ceremony remains.




With Kol finished, Still “speaks” directly to Neesiette, her gestures explicit.


{The power he has will not be known by you, Neesiette. Think not of this as anything you lack, it’s simply a difference in perspective. I will vouch for him.}


Scowling a bit at this, Neesiette quickly returns to being impassive, her gaze on Adris less annoyed now.

“Very well. Reflecting this tool’s Rod of Force and demonstrating fell, seemingly non-magical fog, a hidden facet be accepted as evident even if unexplainable.”

The ease with which Neesiette accepts her fate is a great feeling, with Adris now freed from being implied to be crippled.


Leaning in toward her, his smile a bit dark and mysterious, a palm is turned up, as if holding an invisible object.




“Will you accept what I offer if you admit the potential?”




Pumping her hand, Kol immediately answers for everyone.

“Any power, good! Boss strong. If Kol stronger, beat Boss, work out!” Her attention toward his status instantly turns into a bloody fate for him if something positive does occur.


(What. No, that-)


“Ave! … I, really want to see what sort of wind I can call upon with more strength!” Cheery now, Ave’s eyes lock hungrily on the cross, a bit of drool on an exposed fang.


(No, the wind you called was already insane enough!)


Snippy gestures are given, before Still shrugs.

{We’ll see, I guess. I know the results will be vigorously and fairly evaluated~!}


Neesiette’s words are final, too.

“Boons as vague as proposed by one beg the question: does one recall the contract made with Kol and…” Narrowing her eyes, Neesiette stares through Adris’ soul.

“… amended with parties to provide sufficient guarantees? Should this power become self-destructive… be one aware of the outcome?”


(… that is something to consider. It shouldn’t be suicidal, what I have planned. But, if…)


A doubt creeps to his mind about needing a contingency for this, before it…




… IS


















“No, everything will be fine, Neesiette. I guarantee, what is coming will far surpass anything you expect.”

Adris smiles benevolently as he speaks, quite sure of his mad designs. His grip tightens on the cross in anticipation, though a slight shaking to his body seems out of place.


Lit ominously and in changing shadow by the passing blue lights, a smiling boy feels at ease. After all, all of the details are lining up perfectly, even if the mansion watches his every move with growing joy.




(Everything I desire, and, by extension, everything you all desire… I will demand of this “unknowable darkness” myself; because, while Cethran may revere and possibly fear it… I think it’s simply quite convenient”.)





“A main passage?” An incredulous question comes with Neesiette’s revelation.


With hard eyes, she is silent for a moment. Though fairer to him now, the short girl still feels little for his worth.

“… Indeed. Of the changing passages throughout the mansion, some certain ones shall ever endure. Non-random in nature, the effectiveness of traversing them renders them equally seductive.”


(If they exist, then why wouldn’t slayers simply use them instead of wandering randomly?)


Neesiette’s face darkens while judging him.

“For such allusions to intelligence and astuteness, an obvious answer be missed for the question one no doubt dwells upon so intently. Consider the nature of the Castillo’s games. For what purpose would an area be left unchanging as such?”


(Because it wants you there, and if it wants you there, there is an enormous danger.)


“What creature guards it?” Adris curves his lips, even as he feels like clipping Neesiette upside the head.


“Though one arrives at the correct answer, should the unhurried way one realizes his answer not be considered concerning? Understanding all relevancies before asking a question, attempt this one should.” Neesiette’s short footsteps cause Adris to struggle to walk beside her.

While brief and standoffish before, the Neesiette of now is no longer distant, but rather…


(Please stop using every conversation to grade me. I will die. No, I’ll bury you in a wall!)


Still motions from far ahead.

{Nothing so far, we ready?}




As Neesiette calls it, this familiar, fateful spot called the [Corner of Meetings and Sorrows] is quite concerning. The stronger one’s karma with another, the more likely you shall run into them.

The beginning of Adris’ encounter with the four was here.


(Though at least the thing responsible is gone and its damage repaired.)


“Kol, ready.” A swift nod and a raised axe shows how much she’s looking forward to this.


“Um, we’re going to run, right!?” Ave is sweating at the thought of going through here.


“If the form of an arriving visitor may be foul, fair, or something inbetween, then readiness be the only defense.”




Adris’ nervousness as he walks down the familiar, draped halls with plush carpeting is peaked. As they approach the corner, he tries to focus his mind on something other than impending doom.


“Incidentally, what creature do we need to be concerned with in this set passage? And how does one reach it?”


Neesiette keeps walking with her eyes straight, rod out, but she manages to give him a succinct answer.


“Our way be the passage right at the ahead junction, just past the entrance to the Forbidding Quarters from here. [White Tail Run], a course of death. Multi-tiered, the winding passage be dedicated to, and favors, a more cherished creature of the Alchemaster.”


Rounding the corner now, the air grows heavy as they pass below the great white wings affixed with golden rivets. They appear to almost flutter, even as they’re lodged in the wall.


“Quite familiar a guardian, as well. Such a creature ‘dealt with’ personally by our aspiring ‘executor’. With its destruction, time sufficient exists before reconstituting, the smaller creatures more easily avoided than it.”


Adris recoils at the statement, only one creature coming to mind.


“I see, then I suppose that’s perfect… wait, ‘reconstitu-’?”




Adris’ sentence is cut off by a sudden feeling of vertigo.









Wobbling, he uses the wall for support. Ave screams as she falls to the ground, with Still tumbling with Ave before rolling up to her knees.

Only Neesiette and Kol remain unshaken.


“W-w-w-what is this? Nothing like this happened any… huh?” Ave’s questions are cut off, too, as she hears something grind overhead, the sound of stone wrenching loose.




Looking up, he sees stone parting and gold appearing, cradling brown fur, mad pink eyes showing through the fingers.


Screaming ravings call from all around the boy, the wind rushing into the room to join with the creature’s anger.




A terrible hunt is at hand.




The boy is already moving during this event. As he runs under the descending hand, a great cry erupts from the struggling figure cradled by it.




A furred abomination rips itself free from the gripping gold, diving to the floor head first to gore Adris. Its furred ear nearly swats him as it flops down when he leaps forward.

The floor explodes with the antlers’ impacts, ripped carpet being pulled up along with stone chips as it withdraws.




Adris’ arms pump and his legs fly as he runs, the boy using his white-furred magic boots to somehow stay ahead of the creature charging after him.


“AH! Rabbit! YES, WIN TWICE! Uh… come back!” Kol yells a happy challenge that’s immediately ignored.








His only request before concentrating on breathing sets off the girls to attack his pursuer.

Four smaller figures scamper after a gigantic, rampaging one, a tittering laughter accompanying the madcap chase.






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’?”


[Obscuring Sonjil] – “Man, this thing has gotten pretty strong on Zennia. At first only creating an area of fog, it can now cover a direction? Is something wrong…?”



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?”


“Success breeds confidence, but is confidence always handsome? It might depend on how you assert it, a lesson you might be lacking expertise in?”



“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.”


“Winning finally, Adris feels like he should be king of the world, but his tower is crumbling already as four girls keep destroying its foundation.”



“Getting what you want doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it.”





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


Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
Discipline: ???



[Great Round Eater] – “Find enemy, get between all, swing!”


[Energized Edge] – “Kol, not need worry: every swing, good swing.”


Disposition: Straightforward / Confrontational / Respectful
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Pink
Hair: White
Skin: Tanned



Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Strength – C

Vitality – C

Dexterity – E

Agility – F

Intelligence – F

Mentality – C




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?”


“Vetted by the erotic thief, I would assume that you are already slavering to see her face, yes?”



“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.”


“Having officially lost, she considers it only a win. With Adris as her Boss, she already seeks to direct him at his next ‘goal’, which is hers.”



“It’s easy to forget that Kol is a big ball of rage, but let’s keep that in mind, always. Even if she’s nice sometimes, her end goal is not.”





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


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



[Perfect Throw] – {I’m going to turn you into a pegboard~.}


Disposition: Playful / Sadistic / Skulking
Alignment: Chaotic

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



Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Dexterity – C

Agility – C

Intelligence – 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…?”


“Given yourself to her already? Even if you say that you’re not weak to sexual favors, the fact that you went back for more already means it’s already too late, right?”



“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.”


“Confidently sexual, yet also refusing to let Adris be the aggressor, their relationship seems to move from one extreme to the other as they get past their first agreement and discover more truthful things about each other.”



“Rather than being pulled over, she pulled over. But in the end, she also fell for her own beliefs about Adris’ true intentions. How does she think she knows so much about him, anyway. If you know, post in the comments!”





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

Occupation: Delver, Mystic
Discipline: ???


[Rod of Force] – “A rod capable of exciting and shooting a ray of pure force. Being struck produces immense kinetic transference. Be this not obvious?”


[“Brings An End”] – “Would the title not signify its use?”


Disposition: Impassive / Calculating / Curious
Alignment: Ordered

Eyes: Pale Violet
Hair: Amber
Skin: Pale White



Rantil Value –

Strength – F

Agility – E

Intelligence – B

Mentality – C




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’?”


“Do you get off on a lady devoting so much of her time to thinking about you?”



“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?”


“The true Neesiette, one no longer afraid to speak around someone for fear that she will be forced to fight them later, is actually a very nosy and hovering girl.”



“Now that you’re no longer hated, you get to be a lab rat, a disciple, and a permanent target of criticism.”




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

Occupation: Delver, Scared Girl
Discipline: ???


[Sylvan Calling] – “Hey, hey, come out and play! Spirits rise, prance and bay! If nature is here, it’s my friend! Um, why am I flying!?”


Disposition: Joyful / Impressionable / Cowardly
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Crystal Green
Hair: Moss Green
Skin: White



Rantil Value –

Strength – C

Dexterity – C

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?”


“Isn’t it a bit irresponsible to run away from the events you’ve set in motion, Adris? If a girl falls for you, shouldn’t you welcome it? Or do you begin to broaden your understanding of a female world you never knew, even back on Xin?”



“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.”


“Having been both wooed, defeated, freed, and ignored, it’s impossible to tell how she’ll react to anything said by the boy she’s set her eyes on.”



“In the end, a girl who has fallen for someone is both incurable and impractical. Please wake up, Ave!”







Chapter 28         Table of Contents          Chapter 30