Take Up the Cross – Chapter 31: Creeping Doom

“Are you not the strangest of visitors?”


The Cethran appearing before him is a complete impostor, for her jovial voice full of goodwill and open arms brightly receiving them are a mockery of her true personality.

As she makes a point to ignore Adris, he throws himself tiredly onto a pew while Neesiette advances to greet the priestess.


(I’m not sure what your plan is, but let’s get some details by observing before…)


A completely unanticipated hand tapping his shoulder causes him to nearly jump. Turning to the source, a young lady pulls a small, sealed container from her belt, before tossing it to his waiting hand. Gestures subtly voice her hidden concerns.


{… You might want to freshen up~. You’re a little contrary to their hopes right now, which doesn’t help… me~.}


The almost motionless boy is currently too tired to reinforce his persona’s supremacy, thankful to receive any aid. Still shuddering from blows, the door to the chapel continues to withstand the rasselbock’s assault, a reminder of his near death experiences.

Only Still’s aid kept Adris from being a spot on the floor.


“… Is she okay?” Referring to the most abused member of the party, he winces while clumsily applying the orange liquid from Still’s medicine container.


Receiving only a headshake and a deep shrug, Still waves him off lazily before creeping over to join Ave, who is supine on another pew with her arms crossed over her breasts. Completely crashing as a person after assuring Adris’ safety, the elf girl’s suffering at the hands of the rabbits is likely a lasting wound.


Sighing, he turns to his right to take in his “guests”.

One is a stone statue of a man wearing a clown outfit that’s covered by spiked mail, his half-mask and dark smile showing his thirst for violence instead of humor.

Sitting next to this gentleman is another mail-covered terror who is intently glaring at him while hunched over.


Trying to start a conversation…

“Are you not concerned about Ave?”


“Elf? Not ‘rare’. Short time, be fine. Scared of rabbits, after.”


A plain response with an edge of anger downplays an event that must be all too common.

“Elf, strong. Weak, too. ‘Adventure’, want. Find, bad for her. Good girl, though. Smell, taste good~.”

Brightening momentarily at the odd observation, she then returns to being annoyed.


Finishing tending to his own wounds, Adris notices she’s done nothing for herself. Getting up with a creaking body and moving around to sit next to her while she stares, he takes the cloth from the container and reaches to dab the spots on her ruined armor where bright, red fluids show through holes.


“Ah? No! Not bad, leave… hey! Kol, say…!”

Protesting and ducking away at first while he applies medicine, the orange-soiled cloth grows ever redder despite her dislike. Though shedding this “blood” in many places, Kol’s energy remains peaked while her health suffers not a bit.


(The Vigor of Zennia… is it something like pure vital essence?)


He cannot comprehend how the numerous direct impacts from the wolf-sized rabbits’ sharp incisors left her armor wearable, much less how Kol is so relatively uninjured.


(I can’t have you falling, though. You’re an essential part of us not being wiped out.)


The girl’s constant “tsk”ing makes it sound as if Adris is attacking her.


“What magic does Still use when she produces weapons in her hands?” Speaking as if he’s uninterested, he tries to make “small talk” to expose his partner’s secrets.

“Puddle? Magic? Magic not do blades, blades just… there. Ah, ask Moon, explain. Puddle… Puddle?”


(Yes, thank you Kol.)


Abandoning the discussion, he finds it unlikely she can properly explain her knowledge given her confusion.


(The girl is apt in some cases and useless in others. Even if you stupidly refused to leave, you did your job, so I will praise that. The refusal needs to be addressed, however.)


“Kol, why were you reticent about leaving? Did you not see the situation clearly?”


“Hah!? Boss have rabbit, black rabbit, fight! Good plan! Wear down, Kol end. Small rabbits, beat. Giant, run. All fine! Big gain, lost.”

She lays her logic out in an abrupt way, completely overlooking what could’ve gone wrong.

“Boss, like Moon?! Pass up win! Glory, power! ‘Treasure’!!! All lost.”


Openly showing disrespect, she barks her disappointment with him loudly.

“Boss, say powerful! Show powerful! But, act like coward!”


(… I’m what!?)




“… Oh? A coward, am I?”




Stopping his light touches on her wounds, he instead grips her firmly by her helmet and pulls her head to face his.

Not flinching, Kol instead growls in indignation while her gaze burns.


“You feel you can show disrespect to the one who defeated you? … Do you require a second thrashing?”



Amping up, she seems ready to oblige as her hand creeps towards him.


(I need you to remember who is strongest, but not by clobbering you again…)


“… How strange, I’d considered you to be smart, Kol. No, you are smarter than your words suggest, meaning you misunderstand my actions.”

With a passive-aggressive compliment given after letting her go, the girl seems to calm as she crosses her arms.

“Huh, no one ever say… Kol, smart? Boss… first? Kol… try to do, smart thing, yes.”


(All she can intuit is “whether or not it is possible,” not “whether or not it will go wrong”, leading to her believing it’s smart to always “win big” when you can.)


“As you named me your Boss, instead of acting out…” Patting her on the shoulder, he loses the edge in his voice.

“Why not try to understand my tactics, since I know you can?”


(Though a fearless fighter, Kol demonstrates a lack of an essential survival skill: weighing complex odds. No wonder Still and she can’t get along. For Kol, it’s “black and white”, while Still does nothing without assurances, spending more time plotting than committing.)


“… Fine, Boss… Kol’s Boss. Kol, listen.”


With her husky voice a little probing beneath the disgust, she chooses wisdom instead of violence.


“Just because you can have more, doesn’t mean you necessarily should.” With a low voice, he speaks for only her to hear.


“No! Not make sense-!” The girl begins to contradict him, until he grips onto her wounded hand with the ointment-soaked cloth.

“Kol! Listen.” Speaking louder, he leans in close to her face. “As the one who beat you, don’t you want to know how I did it?”

“Boss, stronger! Faster, furious, smarter, and-” Listing off her observed reasons, she compliments him in error.





Holding up a finger as he lets her hand go, she focuses on it.

“There’s only one reason. I beat you because I had already won before fighting.”




“Huh? Beat before…?” The girl sounds lost, her rich voice subdued by the statement.


“I didn’t even need to fight you four. As I said, it was unnecessary and only delaying the inevitable. I had won before I said ‘begin.’” Smiling sagely, his confidence carries his next statement. “I knew what I was risking, what I wanted to gain, and how to balance both. That is victory.”


(Although things almost went wrong several times.)


Clapping her on the helmet, Adris gets up, looking down at her as she struggles to understand.

“We could’ve beaten the rasselbock, true…”


(We absolutely couldn’t have, I would’ve died. It would’ve chosen suicide, with me along with it.)


Denying himself in his mind, he continues.

“But, what was the original goal? Don’t you want my power? What happens if grabbing for more loses you what you already have?”

Shifting her armor noisily as she settles down, Kol’s tension is replaced by doubts.


“You could have the rasselbock, but what if the cost is the others?” In absolute pain as he gets up, Adris tries to sound cool as he begins to stagger off.

“By wasting my power to subdue it, would enough remain to sate you?”

Her fast-narrowing eyes show an avarice which denies this outcome’s permissibility.


“Right, being greedy isn’t good. Incautious desires will lose us everything. Kol: you’re here to win.”

Her hand rubs the haft of her axe as she looks away.


“When you have the choice to have more and risk everything, or win by taking what you have, always choose the latter, so long as nothing is forcing you to do otherwise.”


(I’m not actually a god, stop asking for miracles. Even though this isn’t a sure-fire rule, as long as it keeps you passive for…)


Moving off as he laments his powerlessness…




“… Got it. Kol, understand.”




Adris feels a chill run up his spine.

Turning around, he looks at the girl, both of her hands on her axe handle end as she stares out into the chapel.


(What… did you understand?)


As he tries to ask, someone calls for him.

“Attention one must provide, now.” Neesiette walks up, having finished her introductions of the group to Cethran.


(No, something seems a bit off and I would like to-)


Grabbing onto his hand to pull, the small girl is unable to force him, yet he relents. Her dress swishes along the floor as she brings him to the great door, which is still shaking as the rasselbock slams against it.


Looking hurried, her tics are easier to pick out as Adris interacts further. Her passive gaze always betrays subtle emotions when conversing.


“The… priestess refused us??” Without knowing Cethran’s story, only ignorance is allowed.

“On the contrary, agreed immediately, instead. A slayer, like us, one known as ‘The Ghost of the Chapel,’ for here she claims her own. A celebrity within Petripolis, though she never visits.” Neesiette seems unconcerned about the woman’s presence. “The solitude of an untraveled area, for no passage beyond be possible… though, one before this tool once claimed differently?”


(So you are a slayer and also well-known in Petripolis? All information you refused to elaborate on.)


“Did you tell her about our intentions?”


“Would not intentions need to be known to be conveyed?” As her passive voice digs at him, the real heart of the matter is reached.

With Still caring for Ave and Kol deep in thought, Neesiette has taken the opportunity of her own volition to isolate him.


(All that is missing is Cethran playing her organ to make this more dramatic.)


Smiling down at the girl as the thought amuses him, the people carved into the edifices above pay close attention to the secret conversation below, the star-carved columns flanking the doorway creating a private stage for two otherworldly beings that feels more formal than it needs to be.


“Remain still, one does, a contradiction.” Though her tone is dramatic, the words are soft.

“Allusions of power often spoken, and yet…” Rudely poking his injured arm, he winces as she brings back smudged, dried blood.


“The continued survival of one before this tool flits between impossible and inconceivable, for a boy named Adris possesses no Vigor.”


(Yes, that is a terrible fate for me. “One hit, one kill” Adris, please refer to me as such.)


As he loses energy at the silent admission, she instead gains it.

“Fleeing and plotting one does foremost, when in contest with powerful opponents? For ‘supreme power’ offered, one seems often at a loss…”


At first calling him weak, she then huffs.


“… And, yet… One proves the impossible by communicating with both Kol and Still with absolute ease, a feat most difficult considering their disabilities. Even the iguana behaves mostly correctly in one’s presence. Adding to all of this, a second time one has prevailed over an enemy which once thwarted our group, proving that one must be considered… an experienced slayer, with results thus demonstrated.”

Neesiette’s constantly probing thoughts sway between disbelief and possibility.


“As I’ve said, this vessel is-”


“‘Vessel’? For this ceremony, what change will come to this ‘vessel’? Though Still holds confidence in spoken agreement, and the others be too fascinated by one’s words and promises to consider difficult thoughts, even if offered such words have been in the manner of an untrustworthy tempter…”

Intensely staring, Neesiette puffs up a bit, her rigid posture becoming more animated. This affectation soon falls off, however.


“No, nothing wrong be found with one’s words or seductions. Our situation, truly dire as it be, leaves us to blame for succumbing.” Neesiette halts her own line of thought.


“Surely you would have options if you feel this path is wrong. Why are you so fatalistic about the outcome?” Her constant acquiescence is a stain on her otherwise perfect utility.

“What oft be called Fate be a force not accepted by this tool; yet, ‘that which is set in motion cannot be forestalled’ be a principle this tool understands. Once one’s machinations be set forth, with all just rationales one offered… too late a tool found to oppose one’s designs…”

Eyes softening while speaking, she sounds haunted by memories that cannot be shared. Inclining her head after…


“Expertly manipulated one’s prey’s weaknesses, one has.”




Adris turns away, a painful feeling assaulting him that breaks his concentration.

“… Correct she be proved, then. Possessing true ‘humanity’ one does, though such an assertion be not fully understood by this tool. If that be the case, then perhaps good from this be possible?”


(Shit. You…)


Even if he can keep himself from giving away tells the majority of the time, the success rate has dipped as of late.


“Young, yet showing world-wariness and an adult’s cunning? Possessing little of tangible use, but demonstrating extraordinary achievements? One’s approach so daring and open, yet dubiously charming and well played?”

Speaking of him familiarly, her descriptive words make him feel praised.


“A calculating rapport tailored for each of us, but neither altogether dissimilar nor forced? Even if one be thought of as charlatan, so committed one’s ploy be, that hateful does this tool’s scrutiny sound.”


Admitting her “faults” causes his heart to squirm.


“One, and only one, supremely important, unanswered question still lingers, oh ‘false god.’” With her tongue quick, and her subtle accusations abandoned for a direct one, Neesiette inches closer to Adris.


“Toying with us, using one against one another, convincing Still to tear at our unity…”

The most human emotion of all comes from her lips, her crystalline voice filled with apprehension and longing.

“Can you not inform this tool of the importance for such an action, claimed as one has to oppose the plots of the Alchemaster? What possible ambition drives one to choose… us?”




The question is painful. It should be easy to answer, but he cannot.


(The answer is… I need you! No, something is off about that…)


Caught off guard by a seemingly obvious question, something rails at his mind, the headaches growing worse with each unanswered query.


(This ceremony must occur. But… but…)




“What is wrong with any of you? Why should I not desire you, and only you? Who else can save Zennia but you four?” Aggressive as he belts out the questions, Neesiette withdraws as he leans in. Searching his face for understanding…


“Possessing a more extensive knowledge of us before meeting… such a question suggesting that only our suitability suffices might be plausible; yet, Still and this tool both concur that one’s interests grew organically, with each passing word shared.”

Fighting back against his presence, she seems like she’s made up her mind.

“So haphazard our meeting emerged, and with such stress our relationship developed, that only Fate’s decree could explain such an assertion; yet, a ‘false god’ completely denies Fate.”


(How, and for how long, has Still been observing me?)


“Possess useful traits our group does, yet far from the ‘elite’ we stand apart. Though this tool may interpret Art perfectly, such benefits provide difficult and limited use at present. This be reflected in all four assembled. A false god shows little discernible compassion for Zennia and foiling such a plot’s rewards be nebulous…”

Denying their utility and his motivations, a no-win situation for explaining his interests grates on him.


“… Would you not believe me if I said that, even if there was no pressing danger, I would choose you four?” His voice is level, yet he allows his desperation to show by letting go of his stiff posture.


(That is the truth. I am fine with anyone, so long as they can grow. I don’t truly wish to halt this plan. To sufficiently harass the Alchemaster is fine.)


But even with that, something is different, now. The desperation that was clawing at Adris only started to vanish when in these four’s presences. Only when he was admitted as a member of their group did the hatred and longing start to truly subside.


(Is it more than just needing someone in front of me?)


Looking at the girl before him, with her immaculate dress that makes her both beautiful and timelessly mystical, her enrapturing aura of fragile pricelessness enhances his impression of wanting her. He’s rarely met a woman who equals, and admittedly likely exceeds, his intellect.

Though Still is intelligent, she can’t match Neesiette. If the doll were more skilled at human interaction and aggressive in furthering her own agenda, Adris’ plans would’ve been ruined instantly.


What changed within the tomb with his death is something he cannot control now. Interacting with these girls is a fresher experience than any in recent memory. Even if they annoy him often, for various reasons he…


… feels finally alive, more so than when simply proving his superiority in games of wit on Xin.




“… Were you a man possessing interests in Art, that desire to possess this tool would be assuredly both predictable and irresistible. As a valuable assistant or fellow in matters of banal ‘magical’ purveyance, this tool would also be admittedly indispensable. Yet, possess such desires one does not, nor know of-”

His hand moves to brush her hair, feeling the delicate curls.




The violet increases in intensity as she stares him down for the rude act, her tongue stilled by his audacity.


“What is wrong with you as a girl? All four of you, are you not desirable for a multitude of reasons?”

Neesiette’s exotic appeal combines with a need he can’t define, his desire to have her growing with her resistance.


(None of this ends after the investment? So, feeling this way is… fine, right…? You can’t get away from me, I won’t let you. … No, none of you escape!)


“… A ‘girl’? In what way? Was one not both instructed and demonstrated?” The small existence with brilliant amber hair speaks passively, but there is an incredulity to her words. “A Lunamata be this tool, not a ‘girl’. Only a perfectly made tool, crafted by Luna.”

Denying her own femininity in its entirety, a raised chin challenges him.


(Refusing your qualities? I might have promised Still not to hurt you, but we’re equal now. You will see your appeal, as long as I claim to be a man!)


The touch of her hair is enticing and her body is more flesh than object. Her refusals make him feel like he’s on the hunt.

“No, you are a tool and a lady. For you to know so much about me in such a short time and list my faults so explicitly, I’m a little moved and also embarrassed by how exposed I am to a woman looking at me so closely. Yet, I feel we don’t understand each other…”


(You’re always oppositional, but being the first girl to ever examine me this closely makes you exhilarating, too. Even Still doesn’t give this much thought.)


Feeling mildly diminished each time he battles Neesiette in wits, wanting to overcome her feels like a worthy challenge.

Discord in his mind accompanies the dark desire to own this lady, one reaching maturity when he entered this chapel.


(A dangerous feeling. A woman I loved betrayed me, and I replace her with a woman who openly opposes me-?)




Neesiette slaps his hand away, a gesture without much force considering her physique but full of spirit.

“Illusions, such observations be stated as being. Designed as such, but no, a form consisting of nothing more.” Flatly denying him, Neesiette attempts to end the conversation.




An uncertain ember now flares into a wildfire.

“Oh, how so? Were you not ‘perfectly made’? Shaped into the image of a beautiful girl, are you saying that Luna…”

Smirking at his words as he challenges her,


“… erred in making you as such?”




Neesiette’s eyes grow hateful, the violet running bright and deep as her hands clench.


“… Words, tone, and intent should be chosen carefully.”




(Yes, you have emotion. You can be reached. If you feel emotion like that, then you are a girl.)


This conversation is foolish and dangerous at the cusp of Adris’ victory, yet it almost seems more important than winning.


“This creator, possessing such perfect hands and vision, made you in the shape of a woman, yet you seek to deny the perfection of the result? If you deny the appeal I find in you, then is that not… an insult to the one that made you?”

The tension leaves Neesiette’s gaze, with her moving a step closer to not have to speak loudly.

“… fallacious, such an argument be. While beautiful, a tool’s aesthetics do not necessarily change its nature or purpose. Treat a sword as a lover, one would? Such should be doubted.”


(I actually would. My dead wife was a spear, after all.)


“What were you created to do?” Such a relevant question leaps to his mind, the way to defeat her presenting itself to him with her own words.


Blinking, she passively answers his query, though her annoyance diminishes not a bit.

“… ‘Interpret Art and all that accompanies it, review its permutations and functioning, assist this One in arriving at the perfect and complete understanding of it’, such be a tool’s specifications.”

As if wondering why she answered, she returns to expressionlessness.

“This information enters irrelevancy, as-”


Interrupting her, Adris snaps his fingers.

“How odd, because you seem to be functioning far beyond your original purpose for this group? ‘Precise analysis with imprecise inputs,’ was it? Providing ‘advice’ about adventuring and danger?”

Bringing his hand to his chin to look mystified, Neesiette subtly balks at his line of thought. Silence continues for a minute, the doll girl staring up at him.


“… Following such logic, if specifications be exceeded in one way, then the aesthetics of a design allowing one to exceed them in another grants a choice, and possibly an imperative, to do so. Correct, be this interpretation?”


(Your gaze is captivating, more so than even Ave’s.)


“Very well, let us proceed then from such an idea: if a tool also be a lady, then logic dictates that only a gentleman should dare to approach.”

Words supremely haughty in tone and intent easily turn her truest thoughts towards his castigation.




A gentleman, stands not before this tool.”




Adris is dumbstruck by the accusation, before realizing she’s not wrong.

“Right, touching a lady’s hair so forcefully would be quite vulgar. For that, and that alone, I will apologize, Lady Neesiette.” A boyish accompanies a not so sincere apology.

He claps his hands together, a look of shocked realization on his face.

“Though I am powerful, I wasn’t raised to be a gentleman. As such, all I can offer you of a gentleman’s nature is… my deepest affection and esteem for you.”




“… Then, to travel with… ladies, instructions regarding this be paramount.” With a resolute inspection, she takes up the manner of a master instructing her stupid disciple.

“Consider a primary challenge as such: ‘identify when it is appropriate to touch a lady’. Consider this question, then tender your answer.

If failing to correctly answer on one’s first attempt, never speak to a lady again, for not grasping ‘how to know appropriateness’ denies the basis for talent in the first place.”


(… Is this?)


Pulling at her hair, she offers a promise.


“Attend to such a task with diligence, and this…”




“A truly inspiring, perfect lady wouldn’t refer to herself as a tool, you know?”




His bright voice stopping her in mid-sentence, she momentarily scowls.

“… A suitable education shall be provided for the benefit of one.”


Adris tries to let his tongue dance more in his victory, but her demeanor changes as she preempts him.


“As it is: one still answers nothing, yet only causes further consternation as just demonstrated. Know this, then: should one’s ambitions turn dire, a Lunamata’s ire may linger for ages to come; yet, fear not that in comparison to one who keeps to shadows, for her punishment will not be eternal, but immediately and justly malicious.”


Lowering her arm after pointing at him, her face and voice lose the previous iciness.


“Possess one does any doubts and show remorse about a path that might lead us to ruin, then before one begins on this dark path: seek help. Intercession shall be provided, even should it turn Still against you upon becoming known.”

After the previous threat, she immediately offers aid.


(I don’t need your help, but it’s still appreciated.)




“With that said, if one truly be what one claims, then concretely and unequivocally demonstrate it here. Do this and… no more shall one hear doubts voiced…”




Her steel-blue dress swishes as she mechanically walks away, exuding the grace of attendant to an Emperor while denying him a chance to respond. The wobbling ribbon at her waist adds that necessary touch of girlishness to balance out her prickly nature.


In the distance, Cethran’s eyes silently beckon him. Adris is left alone by the door, which still shakes with the monster outside beating against it, his own heart just as violent.


(Does “being useful” also entail forgiving others for something as large as this, or am I somehow special? … Still, I want to… make you succumb…)


This fetid thought grows stronger the closer to Cethran he comes.

With this thought, the feeling of disconnect between himself and his goals grows, for the doll’s words have pierced through to something that festers deep below all of the logical and calculating lies.





“Should you not feel free to carry out your services? Does this chapel not stand for all who enter it to use?” Cethran performs her role with exceptional flair, her voice kind as she fools these four without missing a beat.


Adris’ brief description of their needs very nearly matches the original plan. Subtle words conveyed have allowed Cethran to feel out the situation.


“Then will you not join me at the altar behind the pillar, should you need to use tools unpossessed by you?” Gesturing with her arm, Cethran indicates the walkway leading to the Spiraling Flesh.


(Excellent, as always Cethran. … But an altar? I don’t recall…)


His memory plays tricks on him, an experience easily explained by the discomfort he feels at another’s presence.


(I was not expecting this interruption!)


A great, big eye regards Adris. The razor-toothed beak tears up… or salivates a bit as the demonic servant bird watches him from a mere four feet away.


“[Dandy] like Boss? Boss, ‘cool’ for Dandy?” Kol pipes up with an amused quip, the girl regarding the hideous bird with no hostility.


(How can you not want to kill this thing?! And what about it is dandy?)


Sweating at the gaze, he nears Still to escape.

“Why do none of you want to kill this thing?”


An edge of urgency comes to the question, the presence of the Castillo’s spy joining with his realization that he cannot feel the ghostly awareness of the Castillo emanating from the walls, confirming his suspicions of the Chapel’s safety.


Turning her head away from him, Still regards him icily, a manner which unnerves him. Left unsure what he’s done to earn even more antagonism from her, she finally relents at silence and makes snippant gestures as she shifts her posture.

{‘Kill?’ You mean gild it? And why would you do that? Dandies are harmless. Trying to hurt them is the easiest way to… end your trip in the Castillo.}


(Of course it is, the thing is a spy! And “gilding”… refers to turning it into treasure?)


Still’s attention doesn’t turn from Adris, but her hidden gaze follows the stork. Its fore-and-aft-facing, misplaced wings ruffle a bit as it creeps forward to continue its single-minded study.


Still makes imperceptible gestures, the kind she saves for him, with an alarmed emphasis.

{Admittedly, I have never seen nor heard of one being this interested in anyone~. What did you do this time~?}

Rather than answer, he coughs and walks off, leaving the girl stewing in her curiosity.


(If Cethran didn’t want it here, it would be gone. Since I can’t make others remove it, then fine.)


Going to join Cethran behind the pillar, Adris addresses the girls before leaving.


“For the ceremony, I will begin my preparations. To do so requires isolation. Remain here…”

Looking at Ave, who is rubbing her hands on a statue of a girl wearing clothing that seems airy like hers; and Kol, who is eying Cethran’s pack left behind on the altar, he tacks on another instruction.


“… and be wary of trouble you might cause.”


“Ah, I won’t cause any trouble. Um, I’m sorry for… earlier… I will…”

Ave flinches when he addresses her with everyone.

Even though she acts as if she’s recovered, she still seems shy about her failure, with a depression that flares up when he gives her explicit attention.


(You won’t be useless forever, I will fix this.)


“Kol, not trouble. Others, trouble Kol.”

The terror instantly responds with a statement that sounds practiced to perfection, clomping off without acknowledging his instructions.


Suddenly genuinely worried, Adris appeals to the two responsible ones.


“… Still and Neesiette, will you…?”




“No misfortune will be permitted.” Neesiette answers with her eyes closed, the girl seated now on the altar by Still, patiently waiting.

Still makes looping gestures beside her, a hand on the shorter girl’s head.


{Shouldn’t you be more worried about yourself than… ladies?}




(… Huh?)


Her icy response carries an enunciated word that deeply bothers him.


(What did Neesiette tell you? No, she wouldn’t have had enough time to repeat everything…?)




With tiredness becoming an omnipresent feeling, he considers his successes and failures, realizing that his mysterious appeal is quickly expiring with results like the last “battle” detracting from it.




(I need to… prove something, anything to get them back in my pocket. I can’t keep showing weaknesses to them…)


His lapses in persona during the battle were noticed, at least by Still.


Walking off, the whole room seems closer as he stews in his inadequacies.




(… Is this… really going to… work…?)




His hand is taken up suddenly by another’s, her purple-gloved one firm and reassuring, as her much taller body invites him to reach out and receive comforting guidance from her.




“Though we have not met, I feel that you might need aid of my wisdom?”


A benevolent face matches not with the green, vigilant eyes full of ever-present condescension. With her scar still terribly outstanding, even a smile cannot save Adris’ impression of her.

But, even if he doesn’t trust her…




(… No, it… will be fine. Everything will be fine… Right, Cethran?)






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?”


“Even if they don’t find you handsome, isn’t there something still dashing about you…?”



“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.”


“No longer the king, perhaps your true nature is the whipping boy, Adris?”



“It all starts unraveling the closer you get to kick off time. I know how that feels. Today probably wasn’t fun.”





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?”


“Wounds would be considered decisively unsexy, but you still enjoyed your time together, didn’t you?”



“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.”


“If you have to remind her of her place, then you haven’t trained her correctly, yes?”



“Nobility often mixes with ignoble qualities. Greed and necessity are hard to separate. I like Kol, but she’s sometimes hard to write, because it’s hard to think with such absolute certainty.”





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 too late, right?”


“But if you are never given the chance for more… can you endure it?”



“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.”


“Oh, how terrible? Your partnership is dissolving before your eyes, is it?”



“She’s getting pissed at you because you keep doing stupid shit.”



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?”


“Was the previous question not foolish of me?”



“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.”


“In the end, the one most dissimilar from the rest… no, perhaps from all of the options presented is the one you are interested in? Or is this only the start, Adris?”



“Neesiette is someone that wants everyone to be a lot more perfect than they are, but she doesn’t mean it in a bad way. Probably.”




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?”


“Does the thought of her being ravaged by others unsettle or unshackle you?”



“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.”


“Isn’t this child the cruelest one to you, Adris? So terribly eager to have you, yet everything she does drives you away, doesn’t it? Is it because she’s more innocent than you could’ve ever claimed to be?”



“Adventuring out of your depth is an easy way to be disappointed in life. Everything sounds fun until the responsibilities and revelations pile up.”



Name: Cethran
Titles: ???
Race: Human
Sex: Female
Age: 40s

Occupation: Priestess
Discipline: ???




Disposition: Inquisitive / Condescending / Self-Reliant
Alignment: Chaotic

Eyes: Green
Hair: Brown
Skin: White



Cethran Value – “Do you not feel that you can just ask?”



Cethran Value – “Isn’t it a strange thing to ask a woman what she thinks of her own appearance? If you were to ask a woman what she thinks of herself, of the beauty of her form, then isn’t the answer simple: ‘am I not the most beautiful woman you’ve ever met, and shouldn’t you remind me of that so I believe it, too?’ Rather than asking a boorish question, why don’t you compliment me, Adris?”

“Perhaps if I am more beautiful now with a fuller smile, it’s because you’ve brought me out of my languishment?”



“Having seen the beauty that the Castillo and the outside has to offer in more detail, do you find me too mundane, now? Isn’t that quite tragic for me?”



“What is the nature of a person? If we all search for meaning in our lives, do we ever find it without first understanding who we are, first? Then, if you must ask what the nature of another is, perhaps you should do so only after understanding yourself? At the very least, being at ease within the chapel indicates it possesses no danger, right?”

“To search for answers is a noble goal? Then what goal is more noble than searching for the one answer behind everything…?”


“Though our goals are often not noble, perhaps somewhere deep down, our hearts are? Can we discover that together?”



“In the end, everything comes back to the person who gives you your guidance in life. Choose wisely.”







Chapter 30         Table of Contents          Chapter 32