Take Up the Cross – Chapter 43: Sublime Gold

“So, you only can offer secrets relating to what I have encountered, and only according to my capacity to understand? I can see why you were set on establishing our bond. I absolutely would’ve burned you had you told me that beforehand.”

[Rantil is sorry!]


(And of those opportunities, the only secrets allowed to be delved are those relating to… “fates altered” by me?)


Breaking through her dissembling, there’s enormous limits to her usefulness.


[All accomplished before now has been gifted to a black cross, so that one may rule in dark.]


Unwilling to elaborate, below this are his newest “accomplishments”:


[Earned the respect of a creature of many colors, which has never before been given.] (SECRETS, TRUTHS, FIRST AGE, ORIGIN)

[Allowed the Alchemaster’s ire to traverse from a place which is inescapable, forever changing the one who bears it.] (DARKNESS, LUSTER, CASTILLO, DIFFICULTY)


(… It still makes no sense. And the words at the end feel like… maybe scroll categories from the cloister?)


Head hurting at all of the nonsense which is ever cloaked in confusing horrors and the unknown, this Rantil is merely continuing a tradition.


“And your explanation of the pertinent points?”

[As was written, Rantil cannot explain, no matter how threatening the fire is. Only by understanding may one avoid dangers…]


(It’s not too late to dispose of her? No, but I sense a theme.)


Like with the ideas of Modi, Talents/Aptitudes, and Vigor, there is a distinct relationship between all. Even the unknowable darkness is bound by obscured rules, operating to ensure that everything functions “normally” to the satisfaction of its inhuman minder.


(Modi are a path, Talents and Aptitudes are goals on those paths, and Vigor allows one to live long enough to pursue them. Which fits with the Alchemaster’s mansion’s goals of punishing and enticing, driving people onward as they grow? … This whole world feels strange, but I can’t place why?)


A book called Rantilius might let him discover this overarching plot.


(Cethran harped on endlessly about truth. That what is hidden should be revealed and that only when understood is it truly wisdom. Then she’s the easy one, if these accomplishments are designed to be sacrificed!)




“Rantil, I demand the following:

With respect to that monster Cethran’s nature, I seek to uncover the truths of others that I meet, especially if they relate to me in a meaningful way!


I want to know about those girls and what makes them who they are, how they are bound to me!”


[OH!? Good job! … Kukuku, the bearer understands a meaningful secret, and with that… one may benefit! Now, place the cross upon me!]




Eying Rantil suspiciously, Adris slowly places the long end of the cross upon the page.


A swirling wind springs up immediately centered on the boy.

Picking up nearby books and carrying them into the vortex, whispers like those before combat join in. Instead of maddening him, they offer the sweetest promises, ever unintelligible but at the edge of understanding.




Are secrets not the enemy of truth, Adris? Even if we pursue them, is it not more like a hunt than a simple search? Will you not join me in slaying them, you who dwell in vanity?”

The voice of a hateful woman rings from the cross, full of affection and condescension.


(Not unless I’m forced to, Cethran! I’d rather hunt you!)




Blackness like ink flows from the cross to form words on the page, resulting in the wind dying and strewing the room’s stolen possessions about.


“Tell me if something like that is going to happen, you useless allip!”

Nearly hitting the book, he stops when the page shows Ave’s image again.




[The name of this girl is Avenalliah Aurmaris, in truth. Called Elf by Terror and reptile by Descendant, she is born as a “snake elf”, but one must know this as strange. Her age is of less than twenty and more than ten.


– Occupation of this girl may be said to be a delver as called, and not a slayer, yet her true occupation may have been witnessed in dreams. Her discipline, that which guides her path, has become [Rule in Dark], though it was once of the deep earth.


– Of her talents and aptitudes as shown, the one known as “Sylvan Calling” is foremost, but one must find it strange. More akin to the earth’s jealous gift, its caress and roar is what fixates on protecting her.

Competence with whip promotes extraordinary effects which often ignore lower-quality protections and avoidances.

Strength of this girl be of a type which may increase when needed, for her body is most magical and prone to instinctive enhancement.

Something about her nature has allowed her to survive despite all odds.

(Other powers remain untested.)


– Her standing with the world’s ways of living should be called neutral, for she easily sways between all paths available as according to her nature.


– The strength she bears be considered heroic, though she has reached her potential.

– The vitality she holds be considered peak of human, though it may become much greater.

– The dexterity she acts with be considered heroic, though it may yet rise again.

– The agility she moves with be considered heroic, though it may become much greater.

– The intelligence she thinks with be considered heroic, though she has reached her potential.

– The mentality she survives by be considered the weakest possible, though it may yet rise again.

– The luck she walks with be considered mythical, though she has reached her potential.

– The charisma she demonstrates be considered heroic, though it may yet rise again.


– Her deepest secrets are called as follows:



Other secrets live unnoticed by the Crossbearer.]






While it’s easily readable, just like the signs in the Wondrous Works Adris is left with the impression that the words are meaningless. Listing off information without a care, he cannot follow the flow that he thought he’d chanced upon when trying to join all the disparate elements of Zennia’s supernatural powers together.


“Rantil, how is my… body? In comparison to hers, I mean?”


Words forming at this question appear under her entry.


– The strength he bears be normal for humans, though it may yet rise again.

– The vitality he holds be normal for humans, though it may yet rise again.

– The dexterity he acts with be considered peak of human, though he has reached his potential.

– The agility he moves with be considered heroic, though he has reached his potential.

– The intelligence he thinks with be considered peak of human, though it may yet rise again.

– The mentality he survives by be considered heroic, though it may yet rise again.

– The luck he walks with be considered the weakest possible, though he has reached his potential.

– The charisma he demonstrates be considered peak of human, though it may become much greater.




“… Oh, Ave is way better than I am. That… girl is…”


Shaken to the core by this realization, he closes his eyes and recites a litany of the cloister while remembering that the girl can be mislead by simply flirting with her.


“Okay, nevermind. Back to Ave’s information.”


A single tear in the corner of an eye as he reads, with the next section stranger still.




[Synchronicity of the Soul:


Respect: 💖 💖 💖 💖 🤍

Obsession: 💖 💖 💖 💖 💖

Understanding: 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍


The girl known as Avenalliah bears great subservience to the Crossbearer, such that if he requested her, her body would comply while her mind would fry from the demand.]




Licking his lips, this section bears the most gain for him.

“What are the definitions of these three things…?”


[Respect is something like what you keep demanding from others, right~? Isn’t it sort of impressiveness? Maybe how important they think you are? Obsession is…? Kukukuku, would not Obsession be related to desire? If one is obsessed with you, oh Crossbearer, then is it not because they feel enamored by your existence and wish to become a part of it for their own gain?]

“Stop talking like Cethran!”

[BOO! Rantil isn’t that old goat! Rantil is much more honest! But okay…

Hmph, if those are true, then Understanding…


isn’t it simply… actually knowing the person? Comprehending their true nature through your own experiences?]


Throat tight, this single question unlocks many of his hidden worries.

“… I am a false god. They can never understand me. If they did, I wouldn’t be a false god. I’d be… dead meat.”

That admission causes his stomach to churn, the room feeling a bit claustrophobic at what that entails.

[Right? They can’t understand you… but Rantil can~! Rantil will love you in place of them, so just rely on her to solve allllll your probl-GYAH! (╥﹏ ╥ )]


Slamming the book, he smiles angrily.

“Stop flirting and give me the information I need to form a plan. I don’t intend to lose out to these girls! If they can’t understand me, then fine. Show the other’s thoughts toward me! I don’t have time for their summaries!”

[Ahaha, okay. Rantil likes that scheme~!]


With only a minute or more left, Adris knows that someone will enter the room, soon.


(I can’t dance forever in front of them. I need a plan for wrangling them in the long term. If I keep using random logic, I’ll have no consistency.)


Words swirl from the borders, growing to become the names of his other comrades.




[Neesiette vera Luna


Respect: 💖 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍

Obsession: 💖 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍

Understanding: 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍


The girl known as Neesiette obeys requests, but if you ask what she truly thinks of them, then towards the Crossbearer she demands a more equal relationship adhered to, at least until it comes time to press her own beliefs.




Respect: 💖 💖 💖 💖 💖

Obsession: 💖 💖 💖 💖 🤍

Understanding: 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍


The girl known as “Kol” has approached with challenges more than once, but has been balked every time. With this feeling of loss, her disposition towards a Crossbearer is one of both reluctant and energetic subservience, constantly at war with itself.




Respect: 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍

Obsession: 💖 💖 💖 🤍 🤍

Understanding: 💖 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍


The girl known as “Still” cannot be easily quantified, but of what presents in her behavior she responds only to an equal relationship with the Crossbearer, granting no submission while accomplishing no dominance.]




“Wow, Still really fucking hates me. No… why is her understanding that high!? Even Neesiette somehow gets me a bit!?” Folding over in dismay, the two girls most likely to see through his charade are proved by a cursed book to have peered into his true nature.

“Is lack of Respect bad…? It’s possible she just thinks little of me professionally? Rantil! Is Understanding a dangerous quality!?”

[Hmmm… Understanding is a three edged swo-okay, Rantil will stop! … Fumu… without Understanding, one cannot accomplish certain goals?

While one’s life talents rely on not being known, perhaps it’s the way in which you’re known that can make Understanding a useful tool among teammates?]

“Real helpful.”

[Rantil doesn’t get Adris completely, either, so leave her alone! But… since you seem interested…~!




Respect: 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍

Obsession: 💖 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍

Understanding: 💖 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍


The girl known as Rantil has joined with the Crossbearer in a relationship that can never be broken. As such, her subservience is based on the willingness of the Crossbearer to…]

“To what!?”

[Hum, hum, Adris will have to find out? Rantil doesn’t have to show you certain things that are dangerous for her~! … No, I don’t want to sit in the pile of parch-! PUHLEEAAASE! RANTIL IS ONLY PLAYING AROUND!?]


(This miserable girl! She can withhold information!? Knowing the girls’ individual thoughts about my nature is surprisingly helpful, though… No, wait. She can show me information about others, then why not her!)


He eagerly thinks about a woman that once gave him a crisis of faith.


“Rantil! Show me Lycia Vehrose’s disposition!”

[Eh… who is? Oh… she is… HIIIII!?


Lycia Vehrose


Respect: 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍

Obsession: 💛 💛 💛 💖 💖

Understanding: 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍


The woman known as Lycia Vehrose is driven by a hunger to continue her dominance of the Crossbearer, one that he would eagerly accept to the degree that if she sat upon a chair, slid her hips forward, and pulled her panties to the side, he would put his knees on the ground, plant his head between her thighs, and be lovingly slurping her wet folds within seconds of the offer being-







(Ah, I’m… really glad I didn’t go with you, big sis. Not only are you obsessed with me, but it’s become another color entirely!? Is that a higher category of obsession?)


Not actually threatening Rantil, Adris is instead sweating at the confirmation of something like emotional bondage in this world. Had he stayed, he’d be Lycia’s sexual puppet by now.


(She’s in the hallways hunting me right now. Guaranteed. Time to get them to take me outside!)


“… Rantil, though I can’t recall all of what happened in the chapel, I somehow encountered the Alchemaster personally or someone acting like her.”

[Rantil is aware~!]

“Don’t sound chipper! … Was that really… the Alchemaster herself?”


(If it was, then why did she melt?)


The strangest meeting of all, it was one completely uninitiated by him. Brought into the pillar by golden chains, he cannot understand how he arrived at the throne of the Alchemaster after.


[Fumu, Rantil can only say that not every meeting is as it appears. While she was definitely the Alchemaster, does it mean that you truly met her simply because you conversed with her?]

“So… it was both her and not her?”


Parsing her non-answer, Adris feels confident he has it right.


(Gods don’t die that easily. That was the Alchemaster, but more like… the aura phantoms I made when trapped within my own mind, perhaps? If that’s the case, then only a scrap of her power was that strong…!? Please, don’t let her smell stay on me.)


Picking Rantil up, he’s already moving towards the door.


“One last question! Do you have any… ‘advice’ on what to use the other ‘altered fate’ for?”

Knowing that this might be the last time for a while that he can converse with Rantil, he needs to plan ahead for when they’re alone.

[Umm… Kukuku, the Crossbearer is often interested in the Castillo? Would not secrets unknown to all be interesting tidbits to discover?]


(No! Worst idea! The Alchemaster specifically told me to look for them! I will absolutely die if you give me a map of… delicious things to find! I know myself…)


Gripping the book, he has to admit a problem.


“If I had that… I’d probably suffer for it.”

[Hm? Of course you would! Adris is really like an imp-HYAAH! WAAAAH! NONONO, DON’T PULL MY SPINE APART!?]


Finishing with her torment, he opens the door after pocketing her.


(I wish I had time to study all of them, but confirming what they focus on allows me to know what to appeal to for now. … Shit, only when I can have a day or so to prepare can I work a true plan for the future!)





Nodding at him, the impassive girl speaks the moment he enters, as she was almost to the study to gather him.

“Moments remain, a fortuitous completion of one’s work. To the entrance one must gather.”


Swishing as she turns, Neesiette accompanies him. Sighing, Adris walks towards the door, which before it lingers…




(… My group.)




{Ready for what’s ahead, you think?}

A lightly shaking hand from a girl leaning against the wall dares Adris to prognosticate on the future survival of the group. Fully cleaned and rested, this girl looks twice as deadly as before with her slightly curved shortsword already out.


“Ready for anything. After all, if Kol is my ‘right hand’, then it’s most likely that you are guardian of my…?”

Flinching, Still ignores him completely as she turns away.


(You don’t need to sulk. I still feel strangely in tempo with my role? Useful, but I didn’t think I’d found my muse so quickly.)


“No more may we return to this room, for alterations come with the changing of the Castillo’s schemes. Affirmed of ones’ possessions, let us-”

With Neesiette moving to the door, Adris strides past her to open it for her. Blinking at him, she lowers her arm.




“Let’s seek glory.”


(First step to wrangling them in: be ever at the forefront of their thoughts. Even if I’m guiding them from behind, I still am a strong man… or at least portraying one convincingly, at times.)


Thoughts grandiose, Adris puts his hand to the door.




When he grasps and turns it…


(… AH!?)


So, too, does something turn inside of his chest.




As his heart seems to stop, Adris feels the object within as unpleasant and foreign, but not painful. When it completes a quarter turn, the door makes a thunderous, mechanical sound of release.




From the breaking seal of the door, wind rushes into the room.

The door opens of its own accord, throwing his hand back when he releases it.




Ave shrieks a bit before clamping her own mouth, and Kol and Still brandish their weapons. Neesiette sways slightly, before creeping up next to Adris to peer outside the opened door.

Looking up, the girl of perfect construction narrows her eyes.

“Both air and nature of outside be quite different from earlier. Relationship to this linked with you, be this the truth of the matter, or claim…?”

Neesiette stops, widening her eyes as Adris looks down at her.




What you need is… to see those realms that I told her not to peer into. Where the real wonderland is to be found~.


“No, isn’t this what you should expect from association with me? From now on, Neesiette…”


(Whether we fucking want to or not, this is all much more dangerous! But I’m not going to let it imperil my position…! A black cross and four girls are my weapons, with a promise of growth beyond my wildest dreams if that jaguar thing was being truthful!)


Belying the hatred and fear he feels, he sweeps his hand with a grand gesture while setting a serious expression to his face.







“… From now on, we will see the true nature of the Castillo, for it has found its only real nemeses in us.”


(Bring it on, you Golden Bitch!)





The Castillo which had been a nightmarish place of enticing greed and degrading punishments has become something indescribably worse.


(That feeling of dread was being isolated by Cethran’s control of me, too! Being out in it again is truly awful, just like it was in the beginning!)


“Why is everything different!? N-N-N-… Neesiette, what’s going on?”

A shrill elf is beside herself with panic as the group traverses a hallway. Only her minute presence of mind keeps her from screaming.


(A supreme evil is creating a very targeted sort of experience, that’s what’s going on.)


Gone from the Guest Tombs are the false comfort and invitation to let go. Now, the softness seems less inviting and more threatening, as if the hallway promises to enrapture and encase those traveling it.

Rather than burning dimly, the blue lamps on the walls emit piercing light which fills the route, the furniture itself having morphed into more stately pieces with imperious lines and vibrant colors.

The ubiquitous red cushioning has turned to a sheen of gold, while the once blue waters run red, smelling of fruit and musk. Sensual architecture has turned truly erotic, interspersed with figures of armed maids tending the scenes as they bully the assembled fornicators.

The cold warmth is absent, replaced by an active draft that flows down the hall only ever in one direction, carrying with it the scents and occasional debris of the plates and containers that rest upon the furniture they pass by.


Only Still has been intrepid enough to stay ahead of the group while scouting. In her absence Ave has clung to Adris, making it difficult to walk. Flapping wall banners only add to the separation of space in these hallways, ever interrupting vision of the distance.


“‘Bizarre and unexplainable’ would be the answer to one’s question, newt. ‘A terrible omen’, a less technical answer may be.”

Even the all-knowing midget is unable to provide comforting information.


“No? Feel strong. Strong, good. Find strong enemies. Then, thrash!”


Of the party, only Kol seems happy with the change. Actively inspecting all of the new features of the Guest Tombs, she is currently smelling her fingers that were dipped into the red waters flowing from a wall grate.


“Smell wine, but not? Tasty~?”

“Avoid imbibing unknown liquids one should, Kol.” Neesiette shakes her head while trying to get the brave girl to stay on course.


(Always on point, Neesiette. Yet, why are you…?)


Like Ave, Neesiette is sticking closely to Adris. Less out of fear, her interest in proximity seems related to the cross he holds in his left hand. She stays next to it, sometimes peeking at it after moving her eyes from the hallway.


“Neesiette, as the one who is best equipped to traverse the Castillo, at the last intersection you…”

Unlike previously, where Neesiette had always chosen a route she felt confident in, the Neesiette of now seems terribly muted.

“… Categorization for all types of paths and rooms in the Castillo once existed, though of this knowledge it would be appropriate to say it be predominantly useless, now.

Through determining written distinctions in Artful weaving of the space and joiners of the Castillo’s connections, this lady once distinguished herself in navigating possibilities.”

Quietly speaking, Neesiette still has a hint of pride to her words.

No more does this utility exist, for a categorization system for rooms as discovered on all prior entries into the Castillo has given succession to truly opaque interpretations of Art in their new assignment.

Like a living, breathing creature of indiscernible inclination, become the Castillo has a beast that this lady can no longer quickly interpret. Only certain qualities and features resist total obscuration, some provisional information lingering with recognized traits. Only our entry into the Castillo be still detectable, a compass of sorts available.”


A proud girl goes soft as she announces her almost uselessness.


(Well, we’re all going to die. Ah, sorry: just me.)


With Neesiette as a necessary component of the group’s previous success in the Castillo, lacking it means that they’re wandering blindly in a general direction.


(It relies on only Still to…)




A splashing sound from ahead becomes a sizzling one. Adris’ eyes widen as smoke erupts from a wall at the corner before the group.

Around that corner…


A blue flash jumps to the wall above where the acid splashed, before running sideways on it toward the group. With the top of her hat and a bit of her leg chausses discoloring as they smoke, Still hustles at top speed.

Her quick, one-handed gestures as she runs nearly sideways are, understandably, flustered.


{Spiders! Golden spiders! Run!}




From around the corner, a wave of glinting gold fills the corridor. On every surface, numerous large, gold-plated spiders with multi-colored, gem-like eyes skitter into view.

The plating on them is irregular, leaving gaps where the ornate and aristocratic gilding does not touch, allowing horrible chitin and powerful arachnid flesh to show through.

All bear the emblem of the Alchemaster stamped on their abdomen’s backs made of grooves running through it.


“[Gilded Ctenidae]… be they not? ‘Impossible at this tier of the Castillo’ should be this lady’s assessment; and yet…”


(Oh, good. If it’s “impossible”, it’s powerful.)


Taking up position in front of Neesiette, her crackling rod bristles from behind him.


“Aaaah!? We’re not gonna…? Are you serious!?”

Even though she immediately whines, Ave, to her credit, pulls her whip free after letting go of Adris. Her eyes dart from the spiders to his face.


“Yes! ‘Perfect’! Kol, feel weird… Now, want understand why.”




Toward the assembling and hesitant spiders, Kol barrels forward, a reckless charge as enemies she’s likely never encountered fill the hallway.




(Right, she’s insane, too.)


Running past Still, the two exchange hateful glances: Kol’s eyes flaring with disdain towards the fleeing girl, while Still’s mask shows disbelief at Kol’s idiocy.




Blood and steel! For ‘false god’!”

With a leaping gait and axe high, their only frontliner of note meets the enemy head on.




Knowing they should flee, Adris’ heart is suddenly torn in two. As a heaviness surrounds it, he feels a dreadful power leaking from Kol.


(What she has… it reeks of aura! That must’ve come from the cross!)


Not a fake feeling like magic, this genuine impression escapes her like mist from a sealed pot. As she charges, that lingering feeling only thickens.




“Still! Neesiette! Ave! Support Kol!” Lunging forward, Adris barks “advice.” “Kol can hold the hallway as long as we keep her from being flanked! Meet the enemy!”


(This is insane, but I don’t think sanity is going to work. After three meetings with total evil, life is probably never going to be normal again…!)




Flinging himself into danger alongside Kol, he accepts his doom while resisting it. With the oncoming battle willingly met by him…




… a wave of darkness bursts from the cross he holds, overflowing Adris’ inner sense of self even as he feels chains wrapping around his heart. With the darkness comes manic and violent accusations from the night, a power cascading down the hall in the form of shining, black waves.


When they strike the spiders, the enemy’s bodies gain a golden glow briefly before the darkness resonates with it, exploding from them in showers of energy.

From Kol and the rest, they too glow black momentarily before the swirling dark settles into them.


Voices call from beyond without regard for comfort, a whole host of unseen observers gaining interest.




(What… what happened?)




Like when Adris faced a monster in purple in the vanishing chapel, everything about this situation becomes totally…


… uncertain.




“Unknown power be with us. In support of Kol, all forward!”

Neesiette’s crystal voice rises in the quiet afterward, prompting the golden spiders to resume their hunt after their trepidation at the darkness ends.


The foremost one points its abdomen forward as it raises on its legs, a burst of silver silk rushing to ensnare Kol. Not even thinking to dodge, Kol claws at the silk with her hand, letting it wrap around willingly.


(You stupid…!)


Almost about to yell, he stops when she does the most unbelievable thing he’s ever seen.




“HAH! Trap, mine!”

Planting her feet as if she intended this all along, she rakes into the stone floor as she yanks back with all her might.




Pulled from its purchase as its appendages can’t hold, the enormous tension on its silk strands brings it flying towards Kol. Flipping in mid-air as it flies, the silk gathers around it in a circle as a wound up punch slams into its face.

Shattering the gilding, the gold-bleeding spider’s Vigor coats both fist and floor as it rebounds away.


Grabbing onto closer silk from the monster, the mad kobold slingshots the wrapped, addled spider back toward her. Sailing by Kol…




Adris slides to avoid being hit by the savaged creature. Hafting the silk, the titanic shortie grabs even closer to the source and brings the spider into an overhead slam. Cracking the floor with the impact, she brings it back over her head to slam again, before pulling into a full body swing.






The violated arachnid ammunition barrels into one of its own stunned kind, cracking both with the impact as they roll down the hallway back to the corner. Leaving shattered gold pieces everywhere, the cackling girl quickly chops what’s left of the silk connected to her arm off while the whole hallway remains paralyzed by the display.

Freed from her assailant…


“Mm, feel weird, but… not bad! Kol, work with this!”


(It feels horrible. What have you become?)


After showing what she can do to these spiders and making them nervous, the dreadful feeling from her that he can detect only increases in leakage. As the miasma surrounds her, all he can sense is her dominant presence.


(… But that doesn’t matter, you are my ally and this is an opportunity!)




“Form up on Kol! Nothing gets by her that isn’t getting ‘gilded’, anyway!

Death to the Alchemaster! ”

Rising from his slide, he calls back to the others before pulling off a full-step hurtle of his cross.


“[Secret Skill of the Crossbearer – Brainfry]!”


Like it’s a thrown axe, the cross spins towards the nearest spider running on the ceiling that has recovered. Like a saw as it nears, the spider tenses only momentarily before losing fear of the attack.


(You don’t feel any power, but you will soon!)




Impacting on its face, the sound of peeling thunder and breaking glass is a welcome reminder that he isn’t incompetent by himself. Joining with it is a shrill scream of something from the dark finding its meal.

Seizing all at once, the spider falls to the ground with a crunch after slipping from the ceiling. Twitching on the ground, it tries to recover.


“Kol, crush it.”

Recovering the cross as he comes to be beside her, Adris smiles with the order. What he cannot do himself…






Jogging up, she cleaves down into it with a cackling laugh and zero technique.

Vigor splashes everything, as the gold-plated chitin explodes from the invisible force wrapped around her axe meeting it. So much stronger than any other swing she’s given before, the terribly dangerous spider “surrenders” with only these two strikes, becoming a pasted corpse on the floor.




Though impressive, the effect is short lived. Seeing their comrade become removed from contention, the other spiders immediately swarm towards Kol.


(But Kol is only getting stronger!)


With each impressive display that makes the spiders worry, Kol looks only mightier and more unyielding.

Unwilling to close, their foes spray more web or, to Adris’ horror, somehow shoot a boiling acid from their spinnerets with a hissing expulsion of air.


A vibrating screen of turquoise erupts from in front of Kol, the acid and silk impacting uselessly on it before falling to the ground and pooling, or exploding off of the destructive barrier. Vanishing a moment after defense, a spider on the left side of the wall is hit by a similarly colored beam, rocketing down the hallway with its assistance to bounce off the far wall.


“Keep anything from flanking her from overhead!”

Falling back from Kol as the spiders close, Adris watches as they hit her invisible presence when trying to get by or dogpile her. Left with only a few in front of her…


“Take all on! HYAH!”

Rushing air swirls around her, before a seismic stomp cracks the ground and sends the nearest spiders bouncing away. Rushing through the dust, the next contestant meets a wound-up axe swung with one hand rising from the floor to gore the creature into the ceiling.

After that comes an overhead smash of a white claw, with the girl marching forward while dragging the struggling victim with her.


“To me, Kol!”

Tossing her prey behind her with a grunt, Adris leaps in with a swing to drive the cross through its face, giving the surprised creature a quivering deathblow.

“‘Good teamwork’! Elf! Show spirit! Do thing!” Yelling behind her, Kol makes an alarmingly vicious demand.


Lashing wildly at approaching spiders, a green whip with a bluish-silver tip strikes gold. Somehow, the tip of the whip can hit one spider and then jerk around to strike another.

Where the tip of unknown metal strikes, gold is gouged out along with Vigor, the impacts appearing to instill far more harm to the Ctenidae than they should.

“EH!? THING!? What thing!?”

“‘What’!? Like train! GRAB, PULL, DO IT!” Throwing up her clenched hand in frustration, the loudness of Kol hurts Adris’ ears.


Streaking by Kol, a greenish whip slithers around the head of the spider charging her. Yanked toward Kol, the girl winds up in mid step, putting all of her weight and a ridiculous swing into her victim.

The axe cleaves it so hard that it is sent directly into the adjacent wall, smashing its carapace as it falls to the ground. Moving even after this, Adris’ rush to finish it is met by a skulking streak of blue descending upon it.

Stabbing a short sword between the gaps in its plates at just the optimum spot, its soft innards jerk when she twists it, accomplished even while she’s throwing dirks into the face of an approaching ally trying to stop her.

Black and blue exploding streams of energy accompany a crying sound erupting from the wounds of the shaking creature that sought to thwart Still. Collapsing to the ground, it seems temporarily stunned.


(Did your magic… get stronger!?)


“AAAHHH…! … Wait, that actually worked!?”

Ave’s surprised voice matches Adris’ own shock.


(They do train together!? That’s more than I even expected! Ah!)


A half dozen spiders remain, most of which begin to lift their abdomens and back legs up. The light glints off of their golden bodies as the tension builds.

Raising his cross, Adris anticipates the worst.


(This is what is going to be bad… or… huh?)


As he stares, the spiders remain in their strange position before…




They sway a bit, looking at each other.


Nothing happens.




At this failure to function, the spiders that attempted this…




… turn tail and skitter away at full speed.


Only a few remain to fight, all of which lunge for one final assault. Two pounce on Kol, while the last moves towards Still to corner her into a retreat.




The ones on Kol hiss and bite, overcoming her limited guard through sheer moxie.


“‘Annoying’! OFF!”

Dropping her axe, the girl dwarfed by two giant spiders begins…






Punching into their guts with short, driving blows, Adris hears cracking sounds as the biting spiders begin to curl from the attacks, growing weaker with each one as unrestrained fists pummel them.


Screaming into a spider, it rears back to bite in anger at the beating it’s receiving, before a breaking uppercut sends it flipping away. With one dealt with, Kol grabs the other by its legs and begins slamming it into the floor and the nearby wall with huge swings.

Broken and battered, it “surrenders” by bleeding out all over the floor before its head is stomped into by a furred foot.

While earlier enemies bore her blows easier, the terrified arachnid she squishes exhibits zero resistance to her rampage.


(… Insane. Still!)


Turning from this to Still, he sees the clever girl using her legwork to stay dancing out of reach of the lunging spider. Using its legs now to slash at a distance to pin her, one finally does hit her leg, forcing her down.

Throwing a hand forward in dismay as she’s trapped, Still’s body becomes full of fright.

Capitalizing on this, the spider’s jeweled eyes glow as it jumps.




Too far away, Adris is helpless to intervene even if he could throw in time.




As if moving without any bones in her body, Still plants two shortswords into the thing’s face while shooting up like Ave’s whip. Flashes of black and blue flare, as streams of energy race from the impacts to wrap over its flesh and burst into the air.

Leaving her weapons impaled in the vibrating spider, she flips overhead to effortlessly land on her feet after clearing it, while her dark magic leaves it skidding along the ground as she refuses to look back at her freshest victim.


(You produced the other sword in mid-flight to counter it?)


The girl adopts a laid-back pose as she leans against the wall. Turning toward him, she gives some flippant gestures, followed by a couple of seductive ones.


{Don’t you know by now: you shouldn’t worry about a girl this good?}


(You got me, I guess?)


While Kol has brute force, Still’s killer agility and finesse are incomparable, especially coupled with her ability to deceive her opponent.


(And for that moment, even me.)


Walking towards Adris, she claps him on the shoulder with a gentle smile on her mask, before viciously ripping her short swords out and flinging off the ichor on them.

Some quick gestures round out his eyes being unable to leave her.


{I’m not saying I don’t like the attention, though~.}


Moving off luxuriantly to check on the contented Neesiette and relieved Ave, Adris keeps finding himself thinking about the body always wrapped up in tight clothing he’s never had the opportunity to peel off. The only other person in the hallway while he smirks is…




“Gold! Gold! Mine, mine!”




Running between twitching spiders, she uses her axe to butcher them with comically brutal chops as they try to creep away. The mad knight seems disappointed when the gold from their armor doesn’t remain after they become disappearing metallic leaf, with only coins and pieces of chitin as rewards.


Even while she bleeds…


(Black… Vigor…)


… from new holes in her armor and no doubt has venom coursing through her body, Adris is forced to acknowledge one thing about the inexhaustible Kol and the rest of his team.




(I have no idea what just happened, but we just did “the impossible”, didn’t we?)






Name: Adris fehl Dain, “Boss”
Titles: Lycia’s Little Brother, True False God
Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
Sex: Male
Age: ?? – Young


Occupation: Crossbearer; “Star of Ruin, Cast Down from the Sky Upon a Dying World”
Discipline: [Rule in Dark]



[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!”


[Rule in Dark] – “They will all know my truth.”


[Brainfry] – “You’re still with me, right buddy? Yeah, you’re still there.”


[Refuse to Kneel] – “Ah, even the Alchemaster can’t make me submit! This is the one that’s saved me all those times!?”


[Tongue of Air and Darkness] – “What’s the difference between this and the old one? Why ‘air’?”


[Conceptual Refusal] – “How the fuck does dominating people’s minds turn into a weird statement like this!?”


[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 – “Even after all of that, Master is still an idiot!”


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 – “Much the same as before, but isn’t the way you look at others a bit more dashing, now? Forced to open yourself to the world, perhaps the gentleman may grow? That is likely impossible, isn’t it, Adris?”


“Giving yourself to this wolfish girl, are you okay with the monstrous features? Why do I sense that they are positives for you?”

“Having experienced only a taste of her bottomless hunger, is yours the equal? Would it be strange to think that it might be?”

“No longer allowed to sexually assault an imp, where will you find relief? Are you going back to the girl who almost broke you?”

“How does it feel? Being the leader of someone again? This thrill of combat, where beauties leap at your command? If anything, isn’t this the true Adris?”



“A boy who is a bit out of place as far as features, he descended from the top of the Castillo to the bottom by pluck, luck, and outrageous lying. Reborn into the world of Zennia, what can be said other than ‘he’s still exactly the same, but different’?”


“The first test of Adris’ new life is… of course proving his ability to ‘help’ his teammates. Luckily for Adris, he seems to have recovered some of that old spirit.”

“Letting go, he rediscovers how to bond with another physically, but at great cost of life and limb.”

“Upon receiving a new life, he realizes how difficult it is to make sense of it.”

“Going from an easy time to the worst nightmare available, the Castillo is no longer allowed to be a simple place.”



“I think everyone is on the lookout for people that complete them, no matter the strange form it takes.”



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


Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
Discipline: ???




[Invisible Edge] – “Kol, feel like blade stronger when they know it!”


[Unknown Aura of Dread] – “Stronger? Stronger… good.”


[Bulwark] – “Nobody get by Kol… ever. All belong, Kol!”


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…?”


“Having seen her true self, are you disappointed? While not the same level of beauty as Neesiette and lacking the elegant innocence of Ave, Kol is much more womanly in her own way, isn’t she?”

“The fact that she is beautiful… doesn’t it have little to do with how sacrificial you might be forced to become to obtain it?”

“No longer beautiful, she has returned to being rusted steel, correct? Just like the fairytales, your princess has turned back into the frog… or do I have them backwards?”



“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.”


“Because she believes ‘might makes right’ in her own way, she seems ready to also assume that ‘strong makes pleasurable’.”

“Because strength and pleasure are often together, she has learned nothing from the experience other than believing Adris possesses both.”

“In the end, Kol is what she chooses to be, in both the bedroom and the battlefield.”



“I still like her.”



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


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




[“Reprisal Strike”] – {You had it coming, deciding you could oppose me and walk away from it.}


[“Surprising Agility”] – {Is it honestly surprising by now? Walls are just another surface~!}


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?”


“Being spared thoughts of your survival being a good thing, if Still spared you after recognizing what you were doing, then perhaps she is beautiful underneath, too?”

“A girl who goes out of her way to reinforce her allure, isn’t she a fine woman?”

“An still you exuberantly bask in it, don’t you?



“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.”


“A girl that can recognize something going wrong, the fact that Adris was allowed to remain with the four means that she has a plan, doesn’t it?”

“Helping Adris, it cannot be said whether this is a plot of her own or a genuine willingness to let bygones be bygones.”

“If Kol is the right hand, then perhaps…?”



“I like big butt and booba.”



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

Occupation: Delver, Mystic
Discipline: ???



[Rod of Force] – “In what way would it be changed? As designed, so shall it function, correct?”


[“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?”


“The first thing you do is hug another young girl (in appearance)? Is this becoming an illness?”

“Abandoned as you were by her, does that cause you to feel more or less attracted? Not receiving her attention… does that entice you to try harder?”

“Still interrupting you whenever she can, maybe you should yield more to her to benefit?”



“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…?”


“Once she accepts someone, she is capable of gifting kindness. To offer to take care of Adris, that is more kindness than a man like him deserves.”

“Accepting someone isn’t the same as letting their weaknesses be forgiven without end.”

“The one most affected by what transpired so far, Adris has cost himself his most useful tool by choosing to insult the Origin of Greed.”



“She’s always there for you, unless you’re dumb.”




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

Occupation: Delver, Scared Girl
Discipline: ???



[“Sylvan Calling”] – “The spirits play when they want to! … They really do! Why are you looking at me like that!?”


[Preternatural Strikes] – “Um, I’ve always been pretty good with a whip? Elves use a lot of weapons! I just like… my whip…?”


[Monstrous Strength] – “EH!? Why is it monstrous!? Elves aren’t monsters!]


[“Unknown Angel”] – “Ave doesn’t feel especially blessed…”


Disposition: Joyful / Impressionable / Cowardly
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Crystal Green
Hair: Moss Green
Skin: White



Rantil Value –

Strength – C

Vitality – D

Dexterity – C

Intelligence – C

Mentality – F

Luck – A

Charisma – C




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?”


“To be scared of the armored girl’s sexual antagonism, would the pieces as to ‘why’ not be able to be lined up, now?”

“In the end, she is still a cute girl, yes? Listening to her sleep before you went out yourself, is this the sort of girl that you could grow to cherish?”

“Isn’t a girl desperate to prove herself a little sad? Or maybe it will appeal to you where no other sympathies would?”



“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?”


“While saying nothing, her body language accurately conveys how much danger Adris is in.”

“Wanting to be helpful… is still far from being so.”

“But even if she’s not the best, she will join in a fight, it seems. Working together with Kol, it seems that they have mutual training sessions.”



“Maybe not this part, but she’s not useless! That kill counts for half, right?”





Gilded Ctenidae – “Spiders from a place in the Castillo that has not been reached, they are known only by lore… At least to other slayers.”



Chapter 42         Table of Contents          Chapter 44