Take Up the Cross – Chapter 37: Near and the Nigh

The thin bunches of fabric breaking his fall and carressing him part unwillingly. A great conflagration of rainbow lights up the world beyond the obscuring, transparent material behind him.

The paranoia coursing through him as he traverses this soundless world in free fall frames the escaping starlight omen as an existential dread. Cloth tightening with the escaping force’s impact on it leaves a feeling of responsibility for what’s occurring outside of his understanding…





Staring up at the hanging drapes drifting freely, the lack of wind makes their contradictory buoyant lifts seem like the world is underwater.

A feverish, twitching heat runs through him that refuses to subside.




(What do I want?)




Only this is at the forefront of his thoughts, at first; but, though he cannot recall the nature of what attacked him, the boy named…


(… I’m Adris.)


… knows it nearly destroyed the core of who he is, gnawing aggressively at his identity. Disregarding the question, he collects himself.


(How am I capable of… even knowing who I am?)


“Healed” would be the incorrect word, by his estimation: rather than being fixed, the dive through the curtains simply stripped away that which he can’t recall. The pain of the assault by the things he summoned is absent from memory.

Like the fight with the monster in his inner world resulted in lost history, more has vanished and diminished his past. Though his moments with Rantil have perfect clarity, realizations about certain truths and the monster’s form are nearly gone.


(AH! Rantil! I was…)


Memories of his dance while in the guise of Rantil cause him to buck and cringe, wanting to immediately die.


(No, no, no… How could I do anything that embarrassing!? What was I thinking saying even a tenth of the things I did!? Ah, that stupid imp was becoming inseparable from me!? I almost… lost myself completely to her.)


The strange impulses and corruptions of Rantil no longer cling to him.

From this, he guesses that the curtain sucked from him without discrimination the mad insights that were nesting in his mind and what arose from the darkness he bathed in.


(There’s also… two worlds? I know there’s two, but… the first one was called… Xin? What is… the link?)




Pushing up to his side while the cloth draping over him attempts to encase him, the feverish feeling grows stronger. An oddly sluggish mind dwells on who could be responsible.






Hatred at this singular entity reaches out to drag back every other missing memory.

Grand realizations return as these memories re-connect. When they do, the ground composed of soft fabric feels unnecessarily comfortable and toxic.


(… I confronted her! I… called it! This! This is what I called to! But where is the cross!?)




Explosions of rainbow come to mind.




“… It did something. He did something. This was his reason for helping me…! Always ulterior motives, he rode me in!”

Mind on fire, a betrayal has occurred, except it cannot be called one. Merely using each other, he instinctively knows that whatever plan the Emperor concocted with Adris as the instrument to it, it was achieved when he entered this…




“Viscous Veil?” As silent as the question is…




Sharpness comes to his senses, as the whole world of shifting cloth that he exists in begins to open up.

Parting for him, he finds that the room he’s in is much larger than it appeared at first. Getting to his knees, the shifting space wavers in his sight, caused by the unknown sources of brightness peeking through the fabric walls at times altering the dimness. Strobes of luminance move, with shadows behind the drapes showing objects that appear and disappear at will.


Walking to the nearest, which appears to be a column heavily draped by the world’s softness, Adris pulls it aside with hesitation in his breath.




But behind the drape is nothing, only a sigh heard at the revelation.


(Then why are the objects sometimes moving…?)


Panic heightens at the disposition of this uncertain place, looking like an alleyway of sorts between adjoining, oddly-angled avenues seen down access routes. As he traverses it, watching the figures of shadows and contoured cloth acting, his paranoia deepens into mania. That which governs the darkness of the beyond appears cut off from both the real and unreal worlds, with the scenes lit outside viewable by him, but not reachable.


(… What did Cethran say? “A thing that hates truth more than anything else?” Even if she’s biased… maybe she meant that it abhors others attempting to define it?)


There is a total loneliness to this place formed of nothing but moving folds and sheets. Though full of covered objects like furniture and artworks as he navigates the corridors, he grows despondent at the moving humanoid shadows that ignore him. Even horrifying shapes flow by inattentive to him, fueling this isolation.


(But this thing is somehow trying to eat away the knowledge I’ve gathered.)


The nature of darkness; of interferences that birth nightmares; of worlds beyond Zennia; of the truth of the Beyond.

Each bit of wisdom, no matter how minute, causes the space he steps through to quiver when dwelt on, as he pieces them together in his mind anew and further irritates the place. The cloth around him appears to fray and discolor slowly in his presence.


(Perhaps it hates a truth which is counter to its own, “that things are fragile”?)


A lurching feeling comes to the floor, with the light shining through the cloth walls filling more space. A young boy walking in this foreign plane is all alone, yet now hunted once more.


(… I’m… in terrible danger!)




For Adris arrived with a chunk of [truth], and carries lesser wisdom within him in the form of Drops of Creation.

Knowing he needs to escape before whatever owns this space wakes up and notices him, a scratching feeling comes to his neck at the thought of running when so close to a meeting that might…




(… I came here for a reason. Where darkness failed and Emperor abandoned me, I need something else…!)




At the need to obtain, he feels the path to his ahead-right become more inviting.


Sweating as he moves unsteadily forward, that hesitation dies with his quick advance toward a feeling sensed with his aura sight.


(If I don’t get something now, I never will! Cethran is… waiting on the other side, isn’t she!? If I can’t find it… No, even the Castillo will kill me if I can’t get




and now! How can I endure without it?)




Deep breaths of desperation fill the room he arrives in.

Creeping past the entrance of this great, softly waving chamber, it opens to four conspicuous, stone seals planted into the folded ground and a shut gate at the far end.


The red light filling from beyond the gate is both baleful and invigorating.


(… power like… that.)


Smiling evilly as he approaches it, the other side holds promise beyond his wildest dreams. Gripping the black steel separating him from salvation, the thoughts of what he could accomplish with the beauty lodged in the ground provoke salivation.


(Everything you are about… is what I want! Pure, distilled… strength!)




With only one barrier between him and his new Fiance, the golden-spiral spear with a fiendishly sharp, crimson point contains so much power within it that a colored mist forms from its shaft and spills out around it. Flowing up to the gate and stopping there, Adris pokes his finger through to feel what he can see with awakened eyes.

The licking stuff in the mist feels like aura on his fingertips, resulting in instant ecstasy. He quivers with pleasure descending to his loins to stroke him before it drives into his brain to produce a narcotic fascination.

With darkness now nearly indistinguishable from aura to him, it’s a weapon that he instinctively knows can bridge the remaining gap.


(OOOOH! YES! That’s… brilliant! It feels exactly like an unattuned aura weapon! But this dignity is more like an ascendant spear!?)


A memory of an ascended being, such weapons once held by humans who achieved the impossible and reached the highest plane of consciousness are testaments left behind. The residual natures of new, godlike entities often create peak-tier aura tools and weapons by imprinting upon them.


(Not as powerful as the cross at its height, which I once thought might be such a thing, but at least this has no visible baggage!)


Even for the Adris whose Inner Expanse has been horribly wounded multiple times…

Even if he cannot determine how to cycle his aura and recover using it…


If Adris can obtain this, there’s possibly a return to his peak form, and better, if using it as a focus.


(Forget the cross! The things like techniques I can feel locked within… There’s so many! And they are far from weak…)


Licking his lips ever more hungrily, Adris can follow the movement of aura in the enclosed room. Instead of simply leaking aura, the spear is…


(Taking it in! The ambient energy is returning! AH! IT’S LIKE ME!)




Yanking on the door, a desperation overtakes him.


(IF IT CAN RECOVER AURA, I CAN…! Be on top, again… Oh Veil, is this…! What I asked for!? With this, claiming a Modus of my own is possible, too!

I don’t need…)


Falling to his knees, the boy pumps his shaking arms. After suffering for days in a strange land, living on the edge the whole time…


(Is someone… finally giving me what I deserve…? … How do I open it!? HOW!?)


Checking the gate with quick eyes and hands, he finds no access. The gate’s sides, however, hold four icons of stone which match in his memory.


(No, but these are the Alchemaster’s alchemical symbols?)


Tilting his head, he wonders at the randomness of it.


(… It is… random… right?)




Turning back to look at the seals in the floor, his mouth drops at the change in scenery.


Four girls lay on the ground, immediate recognition for all.






With each looking unharmed, his motley crew presents. Bearing no scars of abuse, they simply lay on the ground with breasts gently rising and falling.

Adris starts to move forward, before the sweating returns. Though all four are safe, the important part is the symbolic seal they each lay on. Such a detail drives into his mind immediately, a plot working out as he slowly approaches.


(… Ave is under the “wind” symbol. Kol under “fire”… Still… no, what is this? What is going on?)


Though he asks himself the question in his mind, one as quick as his is already working out the ritual.


(… four seals, four girls, one gate…)


“What the fuck is this!?” Calling out to no one present, the boy who’s been betrayed by too much lately already feels cornered.




An airless gust moves through the cloth-draped room, the answer to his question coming in the form of lights emitting from the seals the girls lie on, as the seals shudder and moan.

Blue, red, green, and yellow, each girl becomes lit by their own color.


When they do, the symbols next to the gate light…


… and the barrier makes a horrible creaking noise, as it begins to move ever so slowly. What he’d assumed were bracers for the gate turn out to be an intricate locking mechanism of bars that start to release.




(… I see?)


He flits his eyes between the group and the gate. Focusing his attention on the perfect spear beyond…




(… If they’re asleep, then… maybe it’s fine if they serve as keys … as long as they’re not hurt, of course?)


A decision is reached in his mind, even if the thoughts within still war. Calming down, the boy puts his hands together in front of him, spectating idly as the build up of power continues.


“… If I have that, I won’t need to hide or run.”

Smiling at the hope, Adris finally feels something from long ago peek out.


“… Rather than… ‘partnering’ with someone like Serras and having that sort of… bad relationship… what could I do if I didn’t need another…?”


Having the strength to stand on his own is what this spear represents…


“… Right? With the cross gone…?”


Flexing his fingers, he longs to hold the shaft of this madly powerful beast.


“… the curse probably is, too!? … Ahahaha!”


Laughing quietly, he begins to pace as he watches, the colors growing in intensity.


“… And I guess they’ll be fine, as well, so what else can be done? If I have the spear…?”


(Do I need them?)


A halting grinding comes to the gate.

The lights which were growing stop after reaching the halfway mark on the symbols beside the door.




Darting his head around and squatting, the usually composed boy begins inspecting the room to make sure nothing has gone wrong with the equipment. Hurrying over to Still, he checks the symbol she lays on and notes that nothing has changed with it.

Looking over her body, he starts feeling sick when he realizes he’s touching her to make sure she’s still serving as…


(… What the fuck am I doing!?)


When he tries to reach to pull her off, a metallic shrieking sound comes from the gate. Whipping his head back, his eyes widen as his smile returns.


(No problems! … Just a hitch!)


Rushing back over, he looks to see that a set of four gauges has been revealed with the symbols next to the door opening. Running his hand over them, they show a level of fullness that is, by his limited understanding, currently empty.


“What does this mean?”




A sighing sound comes from behind, with him turning back to find the surfaces beside the seals shifting. Rising from these areas are arms pushing out, shapes being born into this isolated world.


Beside Kol, a toned, wolf-like man wearing shredded clothing crawls up to sniff at her. A woman wirh a familiar blue coat, one whose hidden face is twisted by madness, comes to kneel beside Still as she runs her hand along Still’s thigh. Three laughing figures roll up from the cloth floor to hop over to Ave’s body, whispering to each other as they point. A muscular, brown-skinned man with curved goat horns, fur covering his limbs, and a bare, rippling body covered by only a thong crouches next to Neesiette.




Who the fuck do you think you are, haaaaah!? GET AWAY FROM MY…!”

Though bearing no weapon, the boy readies to throw himself at these new enemies with only his hand-to-hand expertise.

At least, until the gate shudders.




Stopping in mid-motion, he looks back to see that the gauges have begun to change, as the light on the symbols begins to brighten.


(… What is this… No, I know… what this is…?)


Heart in his chest, he looks back to the girls. Each is menaced.


“Ahhh… good?” The wolf man leans in, kneeling beside Kol, sniffing her butt as he salivates. The creature’s breathing is like Adris’, though the reason is far different. A canine dick, red and angry, begins to poke out from his ravaged shorts.


“My, such a pretty specimen~. You can tell, even with the clothes on.” The researcher lays next to Still, running her hands along the girl’s body and enjoying the texture of her clothing. Though Adris cannot see her eyes, the woman’s mouth is smiling. The researcher pulls her coat open and reaches in… to let out a long, pink cock with a flared head.


“Ahahaha! Isn’t she… kinda familiar?” An orange imp with short, curly hair rubs on Ave’s tail, moving up to her waist.

“Ah, hey, bro? Isn’t she the one that was flinging us a while ago?” Near Ave’s mouth, another imp is licking Ave’s cheek, her red eyes wide with anticipation, long red hair braided childishly and swaying about.

“Hm? Maybe I remember a snake, I think~?” On Ave’s stomach, the last imp with hair over his eyes is rubbing Ave’s breasts, and Adris can see a small, erect cock pushing against her stomach.


“Ho, how exactly is it going to fit?” The goat man lifts Neesiette with one hand, the unmoving doll held sagging like an object while the man inspects her. His large fingers reach under her dress to clumsily pull down something.




(Kill them! Now! Absolutely kill them!)

{… Well, why would I do that? It seems that they’re necessary for opening the gate… right?}




While his sweating worsens, the boy calmly takes in the scenario. Though his thoughts are running wild, his experiences over the years make this situation easily readable for him.


{This… evil thing has a condition. I get the spear, but I give up something else… is that how it is, huh?}

(There’s no way it will actually honor that! I can’t trust any of this! STOP IT! I HAVE AN OATH BINDING ME! THEY’RE MY… power!)


Horror Adris hasn’t felt within recent memory rises up.

Something he’s never had to face; or, rather, hasn’t faced since he was a child.

Everything he’s had has always been taken away.

Everything he’s cared about, save for one person, was the same.

Living without having to worry about having, a life devoted to avoiding the potential for that loss is now being tested.


The last time he failed this test, a loyal person threw him away with a bladed tip.


{How should I stop it? With what weapon? Any of those four groups could end me, as I don’t even have the cross.

No, this is a test, right? Of my suitability to have this spear… yeah? So if it’s the one testing me… then that oath… probably doesn’t matter anymore. At least I don’t feel compelled, yet.}

(No, it’s not a test! Nothing would offer a weapon like that in good faith on the condition of throwing away what I have! This is a sick joke! I’m not laughing!)

{Then why… is the door opening, if this is “bad”?}


As the molestations increase in intensity, clothing shuffling, the door’s gauges fill faster.


{It’s working just fine.}

(… No, this isn’t… right…!)


Adris screams at himself, denying the situation, but he more than anyone knows: you cannot oppose something stronger than you.




All you can do is smile and accept the reality of it.


Then, strike back later twice as hard when you have the strength to.




{… I can always rescue them after getting the spear.}

(That’s even crueler! It’s lying! I’m abandoning them!)

{… No, this thing actually… feels like it’s going to keep its word, when nothing else has.}



A final sort of feeling overtakes the room with a grinding gate and muttered jokes between attackers.


{They’re people who can always betray me if they find a way! Power now, stupid concerns later!}


{Shut up! I will survive. If the choice is to die for no reason, or to grasp what I want and throw away something in turn, I have only one choice.}


Adris fehl Dain… strikes down at his feelings, replacing them with something he has desired for a long time.


{… I have ambitions!}

Smirking, he recalls his original use for them, the unnatural nature of this room and its tumultuous contents pushing his emotions beyond being contained.

{They were tools in the first place. Supposed to stand in front of me. Useful shields, yeah? Going out of my way to fool them, it wasn’t for a trivial reason like… companionship or duty! They will se-!}




“… What? Where…? Huh!? N-n-n…”

A sweet voice comes to Adris’ ears.




“NOOOO! HEELLP!” Ave screams out at the top of her lungs.


“Ahaha, she’s awake, bro~!” The girl next to her laughs, watching the elf’s face as she awakens in total panic.


Before kissing Ave.


Something crawls up from Adris’ gut at the sight, a hand darting forward before it’s stopped.


“Ah, she’s moving! Stop it! It makes it hard!” The imp boy at her waist pushes aside clothing, the elf unable to free herself from them, moving his hips as if lining something up.

“Um, her tits are small, but I can still enjoy~?” The imp boy on her stomach uses his hands to… slide between them.


Looking past the imps, Ave’s crying face, lined with her terror, her eyes reddening and growing puffy…


… she sees Adris, and makes eye contact with the boy standing there only watching.





A kind girl… places faith in a boy.


“SAVE MEEEEEE!” She cries out with all her might.




(… This can’t…!)


“{As if I can do anything. You stupid girl, if you cared so much about your chastity, you would’ve never come to a demonic mansion; or, you would’ve found a nice, simple boy to throw yourself at and stayed with him. You have only yourself to blame for thinking that your mediocre potential could carry you through this hell unscarred.

‘Knocked up by stupid imps?’ Somehow… that seems fitting. If you survive, I’d suggest raising them instead of trying to be a delver, which you’re… sadly useless at.}”




At the sadistic response, Ave’s face turns white, before her eyes and cheeks tremble.


A crying, broken-faced girl is brutally held down, losing all hope after being cast aside. Arms uselessly flail as the imps get to work with childish laughter and moans.


When they advance, one of the gauges on the door fills rapidly.




“DIE! KOL! DESTROY! Kol strong, you! WEAK!”

With all her strength, Kol rampages against something she can’t beat. The silver-white tail thrashes, striking at the wolf-man behind her.

Only driving him onward, the wolf-man hunches behind her, kneeling and lining up with the girl who he has pushed onto her own knees. Like two stray dogs readying to mate, the wolf-man slobbers on her.


“Kol not mate! Never mate with weak! DIE! DESTROY!” No fear exists in the girl’s voice, only extreme hatred.


Looking to him, Kol cries out.


“BOSS! Kol, fight with! Save Elf!”






“{… Pass. I can’t even stop them. I have nothing. Besides, you’re the one most likely to get me killed. It doesn’t matter how brave you are, Kol. The way you fight, you will lose. Just like you did to me. I was benevolent. Any other man would’ve filled your womb full and used you as a footrest. My only regret is that I won’t get to find out for myself how you are before he’s done reaming you out.}”




Finally forced into compliance by the wolf man, the girl is forced to grind her teeth as the wolf man presses her helmed face into the symbol while finishing tearing off her pants.




The trashy justifications for withholding aid produce another filling gauge, watched by a boy shaking violently while standing firm at Kol’s indignity.


{Everything is working out.}

(… Die… I deserve to… die…)




“Ah, so soft~! I’ll get to enjoy you for a long time later! I have some things I want to try! But for now….~!”


The female researcher is laying on top of Still who is now awake. Unable to use signs while held down by arcane, shining chains, Still isn’t even looking at the researcher as she readies her long, unfeminine penis to strike into the depths of the bound girl.


Still’s mask is pointed squarely toward Adris.




A burning hatred of an intensity he’s never felt directed at him comes from behind the mask, which somehow clings to a neutral expression. Still’s whole body shakes with this heart-stopping chill. Adris knows that if she could, she would murder him first before even thinking of saving the others.




(… I’m sorry. I’m… a sinner…)


“{You know I can’t do anything, no matter how mad you are. You, more than the other three, know how life works. You know it’s pointless to hate me.


You lost, I won.


Rather than bully me needlessly, you should’ve paid more attention. Thinking you’re smarter than I am, that was your first mistake. Everything after is fucking predictable.

Sorry, Still. I like you, actually quite a bit, but not enough to pass up on what I’m getting.}”




The girl’s undying hatred doesn’t grow. Forced to step back unwillingly by its radiating intensity, Adris understands that whatever Still’s hatred for the Alchemaster, it pales in comparison to her thoughts on him.


Yet for all of her anger, her gauge fills with the woman’s soft sighs.




{See, it’s working! Only good times ahead!}



Growing calmer with the effect, Adris sneers as he watches the door, trying his best not to pay attention to what’s going on as his back grows colder.




“Ah, so small! But… still might work.”




But the fate of Neesiette pulls back watery eyes to witness it.


Turning her around, Neesiette is held with one hand.

The doll is… awake now.


Implacable and utterly expressionless, Neesiette’s deep, soul-eating violet eyes are locked onto Adris’. As the foot-long, inches thick dick of the goat man lines up and prepares to push into her nethers, the dress hiding the entry, something stops the monstrous man’s advance. He puts a hand on Neesiette’s head, roughing up her beautiful hair as he gets ready to commit with full force.


As if she’s not present, Neesiette offers only choice words directed at Adris in a dead voice, ignoring her plight and the others’.




“… Betrayal ever too likely, for it be an easy calculation to conceive and simpler action to carry out. Hope for otherwise be found to rank as ever unlikely, which means…”

Misery comes to her eyes a bit, Neesiette offering a small, sad accusation as the goat man grunts deeply.

“… no hope existed from the start.”


Though she offers no tears, his vision grows a bit watery.




“… Asked where a tool’s fatalism derives from, presented to one be the reason: the existence of things like you, Adris fehl Dain.”

The only girl who has ever spared time to study Adris as a person calls him a thing.




(… I have to die. It’s the only way. I can’t… ever… justify this… They’ve never done anything wrong to me, no matter the annoyances. They wanted to… save me…)


“{Who cares what you think. No matter how precious you think you are, you’re just a doll. A jik’shewa? If this were Xin, I might deign to save you. Here? You carry a book that you let me try to destroy my mind with, probably knowing it was dangerous. When you’re not spending your time sticking knives into me, you’re trying to prove you’re smart by eagerly accusing me of being dumb.

If you’re so smart, then why are you the one suffering? If anyone deserves this, it’s you: they’re here because you failed.}”




This response produces the greatest impact on Neesiette, who looks disgusted enough to vomit, before simply letting her head fall to the side. Releasing all control, emotions fade away as seeming unconsciousness sets in… though her eyes never leave him.




{… Che, and she runs from the repercussions.}



With all of the gauges now filling to the sounds of crying and jubilation, Adris marches up to the gate. Putting his hands to it as the final sealing bars begin to part, he smiles with a shit-eating grin.




The dry voice of a tired man, one full of cynicism and ambition, gives up and accepts the end.

“{It’s not as if they couldn’t be useful later, but I won’t bother begging for them. I already know the outcome. Whatever is watching is trying to prove a point. If what you want is what you want… there’s always sacrifices.}”


The lesson isn’t lost on the boy.

Everything that occurred with Serras is because he didn’t see the problems inherent in what he was trying to do, hopelessly putting emphasis on being with her despite the eternal problems she plagued him with. If he had been looking rationally at their relationship from the beginning, he would’ve never been betrayed, because he would’ve “fixed” her years ago or cast her away.


“{Why do I need to hide behind anyone if I’m the one with the power? I don’t have to be a king, right? But if it’s… real fucking power… then it’s… about time.}”


The gate begins to open, lifting into the cloth wall as he breathes in relief.


“{It’s always like this, anyway~. The more you try to hold on to, the more something always goes-}”








The boy chokes on blood, his breath stolen from him in a second.


Looking down, he sees… a scarred, twisted spearhead and its shaft sticking out from where his heart once was. A gaping hole is left in his body when it’s withdrawn, blood spurting as he feels faint.


“{… wrong?}”




A dying boy hits the floor face first, bleeding out ignominiously onto the multi-colored cloth of the room. His vacant eyes turn up to focus onto a disappearing golden spear with the last of his energy.


Adris fehl Dain dies. Again.

The worst boy ever born is left to rot on the floor.








An enraged boy named Adris fehl Dain attacks the thing he hates the most, before charging at full speed towards his party, aiming at their attackers with a spear he shouldn’t possess.


His eyes are wide with fury, outrage, shame, and disbelief as he leaps at the first of his victims.








But it’s too late.

They are already being savaged, hard cocks pushed deep into them, laughs being offered to their refusals.


The law of this world is being carried out.

Even as Adris accepts the nature, and necessity, of this outcome in comparison to death and dying, he fundamentally rejects it happening to those he cares for.


Even as he stabs at their attackers, they finish within his erstwhile allies, shuddering with victory as if to punish him for waiting.


Torrents of semen rushing out from the battered holes of his teammates mix with the multi-colored, pooled blood of their attackers.


Adris is a blur as he tries to rescue all four at once, lunging out to stab and swinging with the dulled edge of the head, aiming for vital points with no resistance being offered to his strikes.




As the fever grows to boil his blood, Adris screams at the top of his lungs, his fervor breaking arteries and tearing muscles by his overactive movements. The last of his trivial aura is dumped into his killing rampage.


With all of his heart and desires, he rejects this from happening, demanding that it never occur, absolutely forsaking all else but saving these girls as he brutally murders-





A robed, blue puppet made of cloth collapses to the ground with enormous dramatic flourish as the spear-holding one stands over it, victorious. A blue-covered angel’s body is left there, with the boy puppet crouching beside the other, its head tilting up as if it’s wailing.




The boy blinks as he watches this, the entire display of multi-colored cloth dolls finishing up an epic scene of betrayal and a pointless climax.

Tears running down his face lined with anger and shame, he suddenly realizes that the show is over. Even if it ends, the raw panic and guilt cannot cease. Blood flows from his clenched palms, with his sight still a tunnel of red as he shakes.




(… What?)




Looking around with a darting head, he finds himself in a circular room of cloth with a starry ceiling and a floor of soft silk painted like the rocky earth. Shelves all about hold fabric dolls of endless varieties and numbers. Not fully articulable, they are crude simulacrums that await a breath to give their simple arms and legs motion.


Before the boy is that breath.


Wearing the closed-mouthed head of a monster orange cat with black spots in strange circular patterns, this middling figure sitting Indian-style wears a jade-colored robe with black stripes across it that reflects like a wet reptile’s hide. Huddled over the assembled dolls with wooden manipulators it is holding and using to put on its show, it lifts its head to regard its spectator as its four-taloned, black lizard hands go still.




Laying beside the kneeling Adris in a circle are four girls who appear asleep, curled up like children.




(… AH! THEY’RE… safe…!?)


Feeling enormous relief that he cannot properly explain, the girls not only appear safe but also unmolested. Though he witnessed an event…


(That never happened!? Was there… no spear…?)




But the scenario that occurred prompts an understanding from the cowed boy as he takes in the renewed, dancing figures in front of this cat-like puppeteer.




(… I chose something else. It was a test.)


The doll that looks like Adris is kneeling beside four girls, holding them closely among a sea of unmoving dolls laying in multi-colored confetti.

Another doll walks away from the girls being swarmed by figures, holding a golden spear aloft while strutting triumphantly.


(This thing… was finding out… what I wanted!? Ah… I had… a chance at… everything I’ve ever wanted before landing on this stupid world!?)


The doll holding the spear proudly drops to the ground, lifeless after the question in his mind is voiced.




Fists slamming into the yielding silk floor, the boy unleashes streams of tears that soak it. Nearly wailing…


“Ah fuck, I threw away real power for them!? REALLY!? Why the fuck did I do that!?”




In the end, immediate gain was abandoned.




“NO, NO, NO… Why!? THAT’S THE STUPIDEST THING! Who the fuck cares if they get hurt!? Everyone suffers! Everyone loses! Am I not the important part in this deal!?”

Looking to the creature before him for an answer, the black, glassy stone mirror behind the thing appears smoking.

Within this mirror, Adris sees himself improbably reflected.




Rather than being alone in the shadows and smoke, there are four girls standing beside him, crowding around far too closely and uninvited for him.

They bicker and fight, while jockeying to get his attention.

Every step he tries to take, they’re underfoot.


Only a cross is in his hand, no spear as he is forced to be at their center.




(… Fuck…!)


Calming at this sight, his hands tremble as he looks at the sleeping girls beside him.


(Nothing of what I said about each was a lie! They’re still dangerous, idiosyncratic screw ups in waiting!)


But, when the sight of them, even having ruined his chances at perfection, doesn’t provoke revulsion…




“Oh. I’ve really lost my mind. Everything broke back there, huh, Serras?”




Tears dry up when he realizes that he no longer knows what he really wants, or is willing to do to obtain it.

He’s no longer even certain who he is.


“… Why can’t I just… not care? There’s nothing I can do for them… All I can do is use them, so why… choose them!?”


Pointing at the jaguar thing with a shaking hand, he screams out the accusation that comes to mind.




Aren’t you supposed to give me what I want!? What the fuck do I want if I ended up with this!?”




While Cethran offered to explain his desires with time, this creature merely answers them without explaining what they are.

The swaying room fills without air being added, the cloth expanding with an unseen force.




“‘No, better than ruling in front of others and becoming their target… is running the show from behind the scenes.’”

A voice that sounds familiar, but different because he’s hearing it on the outside, comes from the mirror. The boy’s eyes widen while watching the smoke reveal a familiar lad talking to a purple-clad, smirking priestess.

“‘Only a supreme fool would seek supreme power. What I want is… power I can control. Power that will never get loose. Power that will bring to me what I want, while making life as easy as possible…’”


(… Oh no.)


“‘Instead of power which comes solely from depriving others or denying yourself, I choose instead to offer one that comes from pursuing only one’s desires in earnest!




A path to power which throws off the notion that the strongest shall always win, guaranteed by the machinations of the all-mighty in clearing a path for their favorites!




… Long not for their Modi or ways of life, but choose only a path which agrees with you! Be selfish and discerning! I state that the world as you know it, and especially as you perceive it, is inherently crumbling around you at this very moment!

Why pine for false assurances of security, when you can embrace… the absolute darkness of possibility and potential!? Why choose what you call reality when you can instead have all of your desires,






Conversations from his past, words joined together into a single, insane idea drill into his skull. Though the creature says nothing, it needs not do so, for Adris has said everything worth saying already.




“‘Rather than serving in Light of either good or evil,




why not simply rule in dark,








Hands on his head, Adris tries to shut out the words.

“… Please, stop!”




“‘All your…

deepest desires shall be fulfilled…






Reaching behind itself as its arm moves inhumanly, the fell puppeteer whips forth a long, purple cloth with black glyphs sewn into it. Tied to the end is an object that hits Adris heavily in the chest before falling to the ground.

A black, glassy cross lies in front of him. All of the shining rainbow has vanished, leaving only a void-like vessel which feels inextricably tied to him.




Without needing to ask, Adris knows what is about to happen as the thing stares at him. The “truths” within him are shaking in the presence of the thing that regulates the [unknown and unknowable], mortal enemy to certainty.

Having peeked beyond the curtain, that curtain is now aware of the problem called Adris and is prepared to remedy it.




(It’s going to give me what I asked for. All of it. As interpreted by… it. It hates truth… so… if you hated truth you would…)


Immediately turning around and trying to crawl away…


(… offer an outcome that makes that “truth” you hate into a co-conspirator, turning it into an uncertainty! It’s going to force me to answer for all of my lying offers while sealing my lips with this “gift”! One dyed by my own… fears!?)


… the ground becomes liquid, as he starts to fall into it.


“No, no, no!”


“‘If this darkness can give me power… then let’s force the issue, even if it requires a bit of honesty! A Modus that makes it impossible for them to escape from me could also bring me closer to them, letting me have all of them!? How perfect!











The black-glass mirror shines, smoke in the surface slowly parting to reveal the soon to be unknowable form of Adris.

Unseen bells clang endlessly, deafening him as their powerful notes obliterate his resistance.


From the room he lies in, a terrible, inhuman moan issues forth, a screeching and cascading series of voices full of contempt.

The light that was merely peeking through becomes a shower of gleaming darkness that causes Adris’ skin to itch.


The sinking cloth begins to carry away the bodies of his party after his disembodied voice promises they can’t escape, with all of the surfaces barely containing the nightmarish hands reaching out.






Jumping toward Still, he grabs onto her as he pulls on the oatmeal-like floor.

Legs float along the fluid cloth to lock onto Kol’s head, dragging her with him.

Somehow, Neesiette is brought between Still and himself, mashed into his body as he pulls on Ave’s scale bodysuit’s cuff with his last free appendage.

Holding onto all of them…




“STOP! Not them! I don’t have anything left!”

Staring at the monster that plays with dolls, he begs openly.


“They didn’t do anything! … I… did this, not them! They had nothing-!”




But the creature before him loses all presence, becoming a lifeless husk in a moment after collapsing.

When it crumbles, its visible joints become noticeable.




“… Oh, Cethran was actually… telling the truth. You’re just a… thing.”




The creature is not a creature, but a law which interprets mystery.

With the avatar losing life, it begins to retract up joltingly toward the ceiling like an unneeded attendant, invisible lines attached to its form how it moved.

When it reaches the starry ceiling, the black and white parts for the large doll to be allowed through.




The Veil is all around Adris.

Nothing like a person, it is a pure force that answers desires and fears in kind.


And he’s voiced both already and is having them answered, so he no longer matters to it. This Veil which exceeds all human thought is a suitable governor for that which is born of it.




At the center of the four, he begins to cry as he finally breaks down completely as a person.




Swirling cloth caresses him as he’s carried through the Veil, slipping past and falling into the shining darkness. As his body grows hot and cold at the same time, the black cross begins to shine with the room.


“WHY!? Why does everything always go…?”


When it shines, he feels the bodies of the girls growing far closer to him, his consciousness being invaded in mid drop.








Chapter 36         Table of Contents          Chapter 38