Take Up the Cross – Chapter 45: Luck Can’t Save You From the Cook

Green hair lifts as the young elf tips forward.


A grinding sound reveals a maw opening in the parting floor, the darkness beneath squirming.




Sliding towards them as the opening grows, the brooch falls while she attempts to bridge the gap. Ave’s screaming only increases in shrillness when a pink, whip-like thing with odd bumps snatches it before it hits the ground.




A shrieking metallic jolt joins with the elf’s sweet scream as the floor which was dropping stops with a shudder, lurching sounds coming from within the walls. Though her body droops into the pit, her strong arms and s-shaped tail saves her. Slashing blades converge overhead to cover all avenues of escape as they repeatedly swing.






(The trap malfunctioned!?)


Resisting the urge to jump down to save her…




“Elf! Don’t move!”

Kol screams directions and then runs towards the slashing blades.






But a blue blur is already ahead of Kol.


Head almost to the ground, the spider-like Still scurries under the hazards. Reaching the pit edge, she flings out metallic chunks that rocket towards the slits in the walls from where the blades reach.

Crunching sounds join with tremors as the entire line of blades begins to slow and grind, the mechanisms jamming with her sly sabotage.






Jumping from the edge in a running leap, Kol deforms the nearest blade with a full swing of her axe. The sheer impact traverses the length, causing the mechanism hidden in the wall to make springing and popping sounds as airborne shrapnel erupts from stone.


(I was wrong, they’re all insane.)


{Up and over!}

Jumping to the still exploding wall, Still perches on it while next to the blade Kol just stopped. Motioning with her hand, she awaits to help Adris up to it.


Kol, however, doesn’t follow this route.

Falling onto the angled floor trap still stuck in place, she scampers along on clawed feet toward the stuck elf.





Screaming meaningless things, Ave is yanked by Kol as the hotfooted fiend somehow traverses the chasm, bouncing between the two quaking sides while the yelping elf keeps striking them as she’s dragged.


(Do you really think I’m going to jump over a-!?)


Thinking is interrupted as the floor he’s standing on drops, angling towards the opening pit.


“Little time remains to commit to one’s jump-”

With a calm voice coming from the bundle in his arms…


(Shut up, Neesiette!)




Adris runs at full speed, looking to the girl he must reach somehow kneeling on the wall…


(I’ll never make that while carrying this doll! Not without…)


Trying to summon strength from his boots, he ignores that they should be near empty.


(Fucking rabbit boots, make me fly!)




His aura senses dip into them, searching for anything left…






… then recoil, as something latches onto his thoughts with red eyes glaring and screeching voice piercing.




To his amazement, Adris finds that he’s already airborne, a bounding flip added to his effortless jump. Ignoring Still completely, he acrobatically sticks the landing of the first blade, hopping off of it with a single foot to stick the next seven feet ahead.

Like a rabbit jumping between fence posts, he traverses the hall as it begins to collapse, his surprised cohort following behind as she hustles.




The wall rips out from the first damaged blade and continues down in sequence, tension in the contraption erupting into shrapnel and unwinding, lancing coils. The whole room begins to twist, with the corridor creaking as whatever is supporting it breaks.


With Still and Adris hopping from blade to blade, Kol below them winds up and…




Flings a screaming snake girl through the air like a ball.




Loosed by the angry girl, Ave sails to the end of the room-length pit, sliding along the floor as she tumbles over herself.

Still, whose much superior agility carries her ahead of Adris, leaps nimbly from the last stuck blade, tumbling along the floor before running back to the edge.




The blade Adris lands on begins to move as his weight hits it…


“Oh, good!”

Flung up by the suddenly moving blade, the great height forces him to flip over to touch the ceiling and leap off of it. Aiming for the edge while clutching Neesiette tighter, he barely sticks the landing.

Arching his back, Still pulls him to her before he is cleaved by the blade he sought to dodge.




“Ah, Kol stuck…”

Hearing the bouncing Kol speak, Adris turns to see the floor suddenly unsticking and dropping. The rust-red golem jumps one last time before she has nothing to land on. Starting to fall, dozens of tendrils reach out for her…


(She’s doomed. Nobody can…)




Neesiette leaps from Adris’ arms, whipping her wrist to produce her rod. Standing at the edge with a calm expression while aiming, a coruscating blast flies out toward Kol. The bolt flies just under Kol’s trajectory, bursting on the monstrous appendages to knock them back into the dark.

Rocketing off of this turquoise explosion, Kol soars through the air while reeling, her loosed axe twirling beside her in flight.




Looking up from the ground, the shell-shocked Ave witnesses something approaching.


An axehead lodges into the ground beside the shrieking elf’s body, before a white-furred boulder lands dead center.





“Sorry! I’m sorry! Ave… did it again! Thank you, thank you for saving meeee!”


A crying elf is laying her heart bare to her “rescuers” in the velveted room they hide in.

While she cries, Ave clings to Still, who has her arms and legs stretched out like she’s burning alive.




{Not so bad if you know what to do – AH!}

The bragging girl had been caught off guard by an emerald rush, clenched and wrapped up by the weeping elf.


(So, Ave is your nemesis. I wonder… is pain normal from only proximity to a person?)


With the lithe girl weakening, Neesiette walks up, rises on her tiptoes, and thwacks Ave in the face with her rod.


“AH!? Why!? You self-righteous bully!” Letting go of Still while holding her struck face, Ave turns her attention to her attacker.

“Missing the devastation one wreaks in all aspects, gecko, so unobservant one be that harm to a savior be thought of as thanks.”

“SHAAAA!? You get carried like a princess while I’m about to… lose everything to a bunch of squirmies…! Getting an experience you won’t appreciate in the least, how are you the one that suffered!?”

Going from crying in fear, to crying in thanks, to crying in outrage, Ave begins verbally sparring with Neesiette while Still takes the opportunity to slink away while shaking.




Adris stands with his arms crossed watching the strange scene. Kol is next to him, thumbing the new chip in her axe from mangling the trap.

“Uhn, very fun. Good memory!”

Cackling once, she then pats Adris.

“Carry Moon, good work. Boss fast, look cool, better than Puddle~!”

While Adris thinks of what to say… Kol’s hand falls down Adris’ back, until she grips his butt.


Adris twitches forward, her touch leaving him.

Turning back in surprise while keeping his face neutral…


“What do you think you’re doing?”


Bringing her hand back, the girl wags her tail while looking at it.


“Umu… Kol, ‘sorry’? Keep happening? Not know why?”

Shrugging, Kol stomps off after voicing some confused words.


(Just how strong is your sex drive!? How have you been containing it before me!?)


“Were one half as complex as one pretends to be, would not one’s simplistic mistakes vanish? Or be one’s nature only complicated when involving one’s erotic inclinations?”

To a motionless automaton, Ave points between the two of them rapidly.

“I am not simple! I am… I am an elf! Ave is a complex being! And I’m not… erotic! You’re the one that’s always talking about ero! Erodoll!”

“One’s own race be at the pinnacle of supremacy regarding the erotic arts, as they be quick to boast and others to agree with while fleeing.

Does one deny one’s supposed inherent racial mastery?”


With Neesiette finally striking home in a way Adris can’t comprehend, Ave looks around for help. Seeing him, she slithers up meekly, slightly taller than him as she seeks to hide using him.


“… Adris… am I only…!?”


(No, you’re not. She’s just messing with you. You are… a “good luck charm”.)


Adris gives a knowing smile, a genuine happiness at what this girl represents.


“Your very presence is fortunate, Ave.”




(Ave’s contribution to the party is sheer, dumb luck.)




Understanding now what Neesiette and Still both meant, all of Ave’s dangerous antics, yet also surprising survivability, make sense.


(She’s gotten this far because she’s blessed by a fortunate star. Which she apparently doesn’t understand, nor is she aware of its impact. Do you not tell her because you…?)


Brightening up, Ave shuffles closer while looking down and letting her hand hang open next to the boy. When Adris’ eyes go wide at the display, she whips her hand back behind her, hiding it while stupidly smiling.


(… because she’s never going to understand, right? Maybe she is a bit simple in her concerns…?)


Rubbing his head, he avoids the awkward moment.

Sensing something is wrong, Ave whistles while the silence endures.


Neesiette shakes her head before speaking.

“Attentiveness and focus from all be pressing, for the distance to our destination grows quite short with this ‘fortunate’ avenue…”


Looking at Ave with narrowed eyes full of pity…

“Speak now one’s needs for release, horned lizard, should one be unable to-”

“I’m totally in control! AHH! Stop speaking to me! Forever! Unless you’re going to accept me!”


Whipping her tail in displeasure, Ave avoids further discussion.




Neesiette departs shortly after, joining the recovering Still as they move on.


“… Shall we talk as we walk, Avenalliah?”

Making a “hick” noise at her full name, Ave nods weakly before the two set off.




Journeying while left alone by the rest, the two walk between murals showing a variety of figures, always in pairs of two. Painted with almost realistic colors, each depicts a moment in a progressive scene, a man and a woman moving toward a distant hill.


Ave finally broaches the subject she’s obviously been saving, as Adris realizes each man and woman is a different race between the still shots, intermixed with blended forms of the Castillo substituting for fully human at times.


“… Um… Thank you… for… um… the thing… that is… I am…?”

Repeatedly trying to find words that are stuck in her boiling mind, Ave’s cheeks are flushed.


(Oh no, no, no, don’t bring that up.)


Already following her line of thought, he considers how to deflect from this.


(The last thing I need is a weird talk with you after… Kol…)


“Thanking me? For what? The power you gained… no, the power that sleeps within you waiting to be claimed is something you earned.”

Waving off the thanks, Adris hopes she’ll focus more on his masculine charms than that night as he glances at her.

“… Power? No! No… the…” Hands before her, Ave slithers along with an unhappy look. “No, what you did… in the… room… thank you! Ave is… sorry, I…!”


Apologizing while bowing her head, the girl shakes in embarrassment.




Putting his hand to his chin, Adris looks…


“In the room? Last night? Did I do something for you?”


Appearing confused by the statement, Adris searches Ave’s face for understanding. Realizing that Adris doesn’t seem to know what she’s talking about, Ave’s mouth opens as she tries to explain.

Preempting her…


“With how exhausting Kol was, even after claiming it to be no issue, I find it mortifying to say that I cannot recall much of what happened later in the night given how… strenuously pleasureful it was.”

Stressing the words, they cause Ave’s eyes to shift around, though she closes her mouth.


“I could hardly take my eyes off of her, as troublesome and demanding as she was. After she woke me up in the middle of the night for more attention… well, it was-”




“Yes. Kol is very… demanding. I’m sorry she woke you up. Yes, that’s very bad.”

Nodding, Ave monotonously gives her agreement with his remembrance of events.

“Ave is… sorry that you had to go through that… too…”

Genuinely thankful, Ave identifies herself as the other “comforter”.


(… I’m truly empathetic to your plight; though, I never figured either of you to be…)


Squinting at the thought, Adris also feels strangely annoyed.


“I didn’t realize you two had such a relationship.”

“… Hm? NO, NO! WROOOOOOONG! I’m not like that! She is, maybe… probably… but not me!”

Screaming while putting her hands to his chest to beg, this single point unhinges her.


“Elf, quiet!”

Kol barks loudly at her, eliciting a sharp jab from Still and mixed gestures.

{You’re no better, you tin-plated, clay-brained mongrel!}


Menacing Still by hefting her axe, these two reignite their rivalry fueled by the jackalmen before Neesiette steps in.


Smiling in pain, Ave is sweating as he stares at her.


(No, but this is the perfect time since obsession is your weakness. Let’s fire you up until you can only see your feelings and not through lies.)




“With how oppressive and omnipresent the Castillo is, especially in the ways it seeks to corrupt one, I find myself… envious of a girl like you.”

Wistful as he talks, Adris makes sure that his face appropriately moves with every word and thought. Ending with a mournful smile, Ave stares in surprise at the statement.

“… Eh? Envious? Me? … Huh!?”

“Being around you makes me feel… very different from the other girls. Where they are quite serious in manner, only you have provided the one thing ever deprived from me.” With a thankful, serious face, Adris points to her bag.

“When things are dark, I ever feel them grow brighter when you speak of tales of the world outside. A respite of tea within a study might be my favorite moment of my travels thus far. Only there did I experience… belonging and closeness.”

“… Oh…?”

At the choice of words, Ave grows both distant and embarrassed.

“But… you were… powerful over in that sky world, right?” Giving him the fullest attention, her hand pulls on her hair as she listens to the words that work a trap. “Coming here… I don’t know why you would? Why leave that for an unknown land? … Adventure, maybe?”


Adopting the most tragic look he can summon, Adris looks hurt by the question in a way that invites her to drink in the silence he’s mired in. Moving his hand to his chest, a pensive look is returned, before becoming a certain one.

Ave’s eyes change with each expression.


(Good, you’re almost there.)


“To achieve what I did there forced me to make… sacrifices that were most unpleasant. Coming to the Castillo for various reasons, only when exposed to its effects did I understand how lacking my heart is in many ways once tested, explaining the… impacts of my choices.”

Hand moving to her face as if he’s possessed, he stops it before touching her, bringing a jolt as she stares in confusion. Bringing it back reluctantly…


“Well, I can’t claim to be… just, Ave.”

“Huh!? No, you’ve already done… a lot for us, right? Never once have you mistreated us. You even kept your promise! People here… would’ve hurt me…”


“Perhaps, but my reasons aren’t nearly as pure as the ones I know drive you. Seeking to recover a priceless treasure for your people is a noble ambition that leaves me breathless. In contrast, a desire like vengeance… is hardly as beautiful.”

“Eh? N-No, I’m…”


Moving subtly closer to her, she starts to buckle to pressure she’s not aware of as he leads her on.


“Your strength of character causes my blood to burn as it rushes. Despite having difficulties in traversing the Castillo…” Bringing her down with that, she bites her lip as she looks frustrated.

“You have never quit. Being around you leaves me emboldened. A struggle like yours is vibrant and artistic, a piercing light that shines within an unwelcoming fortress of evil.

As if as long as you are there… no, well.”



With her hanging on his words again, he aims for the deepest strike.


“Such an example makes me question my resolve; whether, despite all my power, I have the will to see through that which must be done. But it also reinforces it at the same time. Providing support for your friends when they need it is a touching glimpse into what I don’t possess and perhaps may… not find here, despite all I’ve sought to obtain.”

Leaving off at that, Adris brushes his hair as he looks subdued, almost calculatingly naked in his admission.

“For you can stir the soul with joyful words. Despite all my power, why is it I can’t claim to have that capacity…?”


Starting to move off in the silence after…




A hand swiftly grasps his arm, pulling him back with surprising strength.


(GAH!? You… hmm!?)


Brought into a closer presence to the maiden, she’s terribly awkward as she tries to be private with him. Head down, only green hair that smells deliriously pleasant is offered.


“… Ave will… support you, too. Not just… a party… maybe, can we be… umm…?”

Stuck for the word, or too scared to say it, Adris’ throat is tight as he waits to see the result.


Peripheral sight taking in the left and right murals to make sure the scene they stopped at doesn’t somehow match the moment…


“… Can we be lo-?”


Biting her tongue and causing her head to jerk, she immediately corrects herself.


“Fwiendth!? … I’ll… be there for you, like you are for me? I won’t let you ever think that Zennia is a depressing place, no matter how wretched the Castillo is!”

Putting her hand to her heart, the girl suddenly gushes with a vibrancy that briefly enlivens Adris.

“True heroes are like this, united by friendship and finding power in it, just like the stories say! Like you promised… together, we can banish even the… Alchemaster, right!?”

As though her face and heart are made of glass that threatens to shatter if he refuses this request, the smile she gives is still ever hopeful.

“The rest of Zennia is a nice world! I can show you… some of it, I mean!? Oh, especially the old forests, the elves’ home…! Oh, no… isn’t that too far?

Isn’t that… too much… starting off, Ave?”

Losing track of her own thoughts, she sounds out what she needs to say to convince him.


“No, if you want, Petripolis is an amazing place, despite being next to the Castillo!? I’ll show you around, personally! Please come and see my home?”


(Jackpot! … You even make it sound fun.)


“… Haha, if you would be willing to be intimate with a man like me, then I can only be honored to make my first elven friend.”

“… ‘Intimate’!?”

Smiling handsomely at the offer, the closeness of the two suddenly sets her off. Pulling back, her ponytail sways while she fans her hand as if the air is hot.

“Hm? Was I… wrong? Ah, you’ll have to forgive my ignorance of the subject. I don’t understand the social customs or… relationships of this world.” Purely unbothered but interested, Adris tilts his head as he seeks her clarification.

“How should I compose myself with a friend, then, Avenalliah?”


“It’s not like that!? No… it’s… not, not like that…? Uh, I don’t… No… I mean…”

Drawing closer, Adris feels her quickened breath as her hand moves back to his. With her eyes soft and face defenseless…




“… If… you really… can’t hold out… maybe…


sometimes… Ave…




can try to help?”




With her face within easy reach of kissing, the odd tongue hidden within remains a most tempting target. Remembering what Rantil said about her willingness to please, his next is her soft neck and breasts as he strips her of her bodysuit while she makes helpless noises.

Every secret of her body that lies unrevealed is one he wishes to uncover.


(… No, don’t fall into this. The idea is to wrap her up, not me.)







Jumping at the sudden intrusion, Adris smirks to himself as Ave cowers before her smaller friend.


“… Nn, why Elf scared? Get ready, big area.”


Reaching up to pat Ave’s head roughly, the elf grimaces at the display before sighing when Kol stomps off.


“… Hah, she is my friend… always

Hm? Ahh! But good work, Ave! A friend after this long, and he even thinks I’m good!? Oh, I proved that midget wrong! If she can talk so much without needing to stop, I’ll make her spend an entire ‘short’ admitting it, too…!”

Talking to herself quietly in front of the very boy she speaks of impressing…


(She’s speaking another language… and she still doesn’t know I can understand her. I sort of want to die in her place. This is going to be hazardous when she finds out!)


Noticing Adris’ lifted eyebrow, Ave brings her attention back to him.

“Ah! Sorry! Oh, let’s work together, Adris: sylvan wind and shining darkness! How impossibly fantastical…!


… I’m not disrespecting you by using your first name, right!? I can’t believe I never asked…”


“Not at all. Friends shouldn’t rest on formalities, right?”

“Ah! True~! I’m in your care~!”


Ave smiles and gives a light bow of her head to the boy who spent their traveling time wooing her without her knowledge.

Slithering off with happiness shedding from her body, Adris’ plan is assured of success when he knows the word “friend” can leverage any discussion with her.




(If this “protector” surrounding you likes making you happy, then the friendlier we are, the more likely I benefit when it goes off, right~? Ah, I want you to always watch over me. Just don’t… make this awkward.)




Chuckling darkly and bringing Still’s critical gaze, he minds his mannerisms more closely after, though the pep is back in his step as they approach a small antechamber into the next area.





“And you don’t think to explain even a measure of her actual use to her? You just let her think she’s pointless? Do you know how much less depressed she’d be…?”

Stiffening at this, her mask has a conciliatory turned-up corner to her mouth.

Waving a bit before pointing to Ave, a circular sign accompanies explanatory gestures.

{Luck is… something easily abused and just as quickly squandered. A “fool’s luck” is the most fragile of all. Fate hates intentional usurpers and “luck” is only barely tolerated when “coincidental”.}


Talking in secret while Neesiette fiddles with moving tiles on a great stone door, Adris confronts the person most abusing Ave.

Hurriedly continuing, Still tries to mollify his annoyance.


{Look, you see how she is. If she knew she had a secret wild card and guardian, what do you think she’d do?}

“Jump headlong into danger trying to prove she’s valuable, then get viciously harmed.”

{Right? You get her pretty well~.}

“Luck as you explain it is a bizarre concept, though. Capable of altering reality unnoticed? How did you three know what to do when she triggered this boon?”


Cocking her head, Still’s hands are scary.

{“Know?” We never know. We just… act efficiently and it normally works out fine, as long as what we do tries to save her, too.}


(Wrong! That’s wrong!)


When Adris is silent, Still follows with choice gestures.


{Luck is powerful and insidious. Never oppose or abuse it, or you’ll get burned. Luck will absolutely sacrifice you to save her if you try to avoid helping.}


(Then if she tried to use it all the time…)


Looking at the now upbeat elf…




“No, that tile obviously goes with the other two! What do you even think the sentence means!?”

Trying to “aid” Neesiette, Ave is acting smug while asserting her translation is more accurate.

“Be as illiterate as one be enamored with male flesh, lustful lizard? ‘Darkened herald of winter’s sorrow’, as obvious as one who be truly learned should see it.”

“WHUUUAAAAHHHT!? It obviously reads ‘Lambent messenger of spring’s joy’! Put it over there – AH, Kol, let me gooooo!”


Dragged away by Neesiette’s silent guardian when Ave tries to move the tile, the doll girl finally completes the puzzle a minute later using her rod to push the tiles into precisely the opposite direction of Ave’s guidance.


The heavy, five-foot thick stone door grinds open as Neesiette quietly huffs.


“Missing a blatant inverse negation, be this ‘shockingly’ ignorant…?”

“Wh-what!? It just… I didn’t see it in that order when it was all jumbled!? Ugh!”

Cowed by the display, Ave smiles awkwardly while trying to vanish in plain sight, finally moving to lean against a wall with a collapsing expression as her tail goes still.




“Allowed to think that she’s invulnerable and helpful, her fear is the only thing that keeps her grounded.”

{Yeah, once her luck runs out… she’ll be minced meat. I won’t let her discover the truth, nor be broken by anything bad while using her. Believe in me, partner~.

However, as long as she’s useful…}

Making a tight fist, Still slams it against her hand.


{… She will pull her own weight. Horrible traps, uncertain treasures, and the direst of circumstances. At least on this, all three of us agree:

Ave first. Viva the Fool~.}


There’s a soft smile to her mask as she relaxes with Adris’ relenting understanding.

“… You know, as much as you’ve joked about her being soft, you’re the one who seems awfully soft on her, instead.”


Flinching, Still’s mask is neutral, but her invisible glare is hot as her body bows up on him.

Hitting him on the chest, she makes wild gestures…


{Shut up! You’re just… always lookin’ for some way to annoy me, huh~!? Make sure you don’t end up like Kol will, eh~!? After makin’ me go to the trouble of explainin’…}

… before marching off, all of her womanly charm replaced in a moment by childish outrage. Even so, Adris watches her thick legs and butt wiggle as she leaves.


Walking up to join Neesiette, he takes in their tactical situation.

“And the passages ahead? Were we not close-”

“Be this not what was promised?”




Moving through this great stone barrier seemingly conjured in place, the newer area has the same presence as the concourse adjacent to the great foyer. Though possessing no guard, the many and irregular passages are just as confusing; yet, instead of remaining on the same level, these passages exit at ascending or descending inclines with no consideration for their expected exit’s elevation.


Immediately above a pointing girl is a sign next to a spiraling stairwell that’s lit by its own sconce.

Though having no words writ upon it, the image on the sign is bizarrely casual.


A man sits in a chair before a table, one pilled with various foods. Flames leap up all around him, the red of them appearing to course through the wooden board.

Residing on a metallic floor, a great, red-scaled reptilian claw holds this scene over the inferno.




(I don’t get any of this!)


“… Now that we’re here, as you indicated…?”

Unwilling to enter the velvet-padded stairway until the air is cleared, Neesiette had promised a summary of what they stand to encounter.


“With frame of reference lacking, words fail even this lady. Of dangers one might be unduly alarmed by with a sign indicating such ideas, a great cataclysm, no matter how possible, in truth should not be considered likely, for not once has it arisen in prior memory or rumor.”


(Don’t say something like that! I… I will make it happen. No, I don’t even know what the trigger is!)


Looking to Kol, Neesiette huffs while consternated for the first time to this degree.


“Hm? Problem?”

“… No, merely that one’s nature proves difficult for comparison.”

Grabbing onto Adris’ hand, Neesiette decides to launch into her explanation before he can respond.




“Within the [Demesne] (PRIVATELY OWNED AREA) known as [Dining Hell], what truly vexes can be named easily:


Innumerable kobolds.”




Dragging Neesiette with him as she futilely resists, Adris is already moving for a new set of stairs.

“Such a shame. An alternate route may be discovered, given my-”

“Desist! An explanation be still in-!”

{You don’t get it, partner…}


Pulled by Still back to the stairwell as Neesiette totters along for the ride, Adris calms himself.




(NO WAY. I’m not fighting an army of Kols! I don’t care how slow they are! Ah shit, they got me!)


Though he controls his breathing and sweating, his head is already swimming with his fate of being smashed to pieces against a wall, either by weapon or fist.


“… One misunderstands. A boy from another world knows only Kol, for he has met no other; yet, Kol be… an ill-considered example…?”

{More like “ill-formed during gestation”.}

“Hm? What, ‘ill-considered’ mean, Boss? … Huh, what… talking about!?” Wagging her tail softly at first, it then stiffens as she becomes aware three people are discussing her.

“… Huh!? Want talk about Kol, include Kol!”


Barging in, the bruiser snorts in derision before glaring at Still. With both girls in blue sighing, Adris takes up Kol’s demand.


“Kol… how would you describe others of your race?”

“… Weak, shifty backstabbers! Kol, champion of all like Kol.”

Slapping her axe-butt to the ground and raising her head, she smugly declares herself the epitome of kobold-kind.


“Oh, so they’re not strong like you?”

“Hm? No. Weak.”


“They can’t throw boulders?”

Hand to her bevor, she considers the possibility.

“… Maybe if, have someone else? Could push off ledge?”


Brandishing his cross lightly, he strokes it.

“If I hit them with this cross…?”

“Huh, one shot, easy. Cross, strong!”




“Why were you four so reticent about escaping through here, then?”

Calming completely, he goes through the many possible explanations.


{Ah, if it were just the kobolds that would be one thing. It’s more… the environment that proves… challenging. They’ve also become used to it, while we’re…?}

The ever boastful Still has difficulty coming up with the words.


(Even if there’s fire, it can’t be total if they made it through.)


Noting that the girls, especially Ave, seem ever more fractured the longer he looks indecisive, Adris knows he has to act soon.




Flipping the cross once in the air, he smirks at Still while letting confidence fill his conquering stance.

“Then let’s see what presented such a formidable barrier… before you gained the aid of one as indefatigable as a false god?”


“OH! Good! Huh, Puddle, Elf, always worry. Kol knew, be easy, no matter how thick, fire.”


Trooping down the stairs, Kol’s ominous words stab into him.


(… This will work. It has to.)


Following behind her as an inspiration for the others, he believes that he can resolve any problem.




As soon as he steps foot on the stairs, the feeling in his heart returns.


Except instead of turning the first way, it unwillingly is forced back into its original position.


Staggering with the railing to hold him up, the air releases its flowing, seductive smell and begins to grow heated.





(What is this fresh nightmare!?)




Exiting the spiral staircase onto a hanging landing, the steel construction of the area is coated with soot. Air is hard to breathe, forced as he is to inhale the smell of sulfur.


Innumerable platforms and gantries fit within this cylinder of a room. Great lifts, tackles, ropes, and support struts either connect or hold up the many levels that descend this great area.


Columns of stone with sections carved out for impeccable facilities to be contained within, three of them, are suspended by enormous chains and connected by walkways. Hooked to immense contraptions, Adris watches separate walkways grind as they traverse up and down these columns, connecting the different floors together. Along the walls lie innumerable doorways, closed and sealed, except where from the columns the walkways roll into place to link with equally rolling walkways coming from the outer wall.


At the middle height of this cylinder along the wall is where he’s located, staring down at the source of the superheated streams of flames rising up within glinting tubes that weave through the center of the room.




Connecting to all of the levels of the grand columns, at the bottom these tubes of force join around a burned winch gently swaying over a mass of sharp, crimson rock that curls from the center of the room outward into huge croppings.


Only, this rock rises and falls with the sound of great quantities of air pulled towards it before it flows back out. From two flaring holes, the earth-fire of the planet’s depths emerges to be captured by the tubes above, being supplied to this horrific…








Gripping the hot railing and getting his hands filthy, a hand is pulling on him already.

Giving in to it, he turns to see Still making fast signs.


{Give up, don’t try. It doesn’t make any sense. We can’t stay here forever. The worst is to come, probably. Stay close to me.}




While Kol mumbles to herself as if she’s inspecting the establishment that continues both upward and downward, she leads the pack of hapless invaders through what looks like a supply point of meeting stairways leading from the rest of the Castillo.


Forced to walk over a rickety, blasted bridge two-human-breadths wide to reach the column connecting sixty or more feet ahead of him, he stops when only Still and Kol are with him. Turning back…




Ave is frozen, a fake smile on her face as her eyes are locked on him. Whip already out, it’s lazing on the floor.

Beside her, Neesiette is equally fixated, though no emotion shows. Rod out, she seems to be just as lost.




(… You’ve got to be…)


“… You’re not incapable of following, are you?”


More worried about the tree of flames connecting through the area, barely contained by the mystical fields surrounding them, Adris wonders if they’re afraid of…


“… This tool… this lady be perfectly functional in all aspects.”


Striding forward without concern, Neesiette proudly lifts her impassive face to judge him, the golden horns of her circlet now a bright orange that reflects the source of the hell below. Moving past him, she hurries to join Still when the bridge makes a squealing noise.


When Ave raises her hand and starts shivering, Adris makes a decision.




“An elf fears flames? Shall we face them together?”

“… AH!? Yes!? Flames! Definitely flames! Wind hates fire! … But, I’m not afraid!”


Slithering, or rather rocketing, for him, the elf almost collides as she grabs onto his jerkin. Willing to cross as long as it’s beside him, Adris grimaces as they traverse.


“Adris shouldn’t be afraid either, right!? Because, I’m here. Yes, Ave is here.”

Refusing to shut up, the elf tries to “support” him the whole time.




(Shit! Two afraid of heights!? This is going to be terrible!)


“… Can we move between levels in those columns- no, buildings?”

“HEE!? YES!? Yes… you can… move… in them… up and dooooowwwnnn…?”


Swaying as she crosses, the girl looks nauseatingly pale of face. Forcing him to the side as she completely hogs the center of the walkway, she focuses on the solid steel right below them, seeing only it and refusing to acknowledge the edge.




Entering the column completely exposed to the outside inferno, Adris feels as if he passes through a huge bubble. With many stone rooms and stacks of various kitchen scullery around, he finds to his relief that the interior of the columns appear protected from the heat and at a passable climate.

Encountering no enemies in this naturally cavernous-in-appearance, yet immaculately carved to be so, locale, Kol is his first destination after setting the almost senseless Ave next to Neesiette, who is sitting on a chair pulled down for her.

Mutely staring at him, Neesiette only grants a nod of acknowledgement.


“Hm, not normal, this be here.”

{I thought they hadn’t moved over here yet, huh~!? Suddenly changed their minds, just because you strode through~?}

Nearly at the point of meltdown, Still towers over Kol, who is rocking back and forth while looking at some sort of totem made from small animal bones, wooden poles, and torn cloth. On the long towel of blue and gold draped from the top, a red wolf head surrounded by a silver tail is crudely scrawled.


“Hm? Well, Kol hurt bunch of them. Not impossible after, kakakaka!”

{Stop with that annoying laugh, you cackling freak!}

“HUH!? Puddle, freak!”


Lunging for the irate skulker and nearly stumbling when Still slips back like quicksilver out of her grasp, the taller fighter thumbs an obscene gesture before whipping her arm to the side, bringing out her short sword from its hidden location.


“OH!? Really!? See Puddle try!”


Both hands on her axe, Kol is already trying to corner her.




Jumping in between them, a black cross points at Kol’s visor.





Adris stays quiet as he waves for them to come close. Finally agreeing to, both near as they watch for signs of treachery.




“Ave and Neesiette cannot be counted on completely. Ave, perhaps not at all if we’re forced into the open air. Neesiette, I assume will be mostly fine but I don’t intend to chance that. Without them, only the bravest can win the day.”

With a kind, quiet voice, his dire warning prompts Still to let her sword-hand drop.

Making curt signs…


{Yeah… sorry. Not productive, right? I know the path back, even if this… if Kol might have forgotten.}

“Huh, not forget. Know way. Kol found, remember?”


Finally shocked by something that isn’t the room, Adris lightly points at her.

“What? You found this place?”

“‘You’? … Boss, sound rude! Umu, Kol discover. Kol, reason we come through~!”

{Don’t sound pleased! You mean “Kol is the reason we’re trapped on our first trip inside”!}




Hand to this face, Adris finally breaks character, pure suffering on his face.


“Wait, you guys were following… Kol’s route? This is… the first time you’ve been inside the Castillo?”


Looking to the ceiling, the floor, the various cooking contraptions, or to Neesiette, Still avoids his gaze as he gets closer to her.

Hand moving covertly, she refuses to apologize.


{Just… just look out for anything that looks like it could hide something Kol’s size… and we’ll be fine, right~?}

“Are they ambushers?”


Examining the clutter filling this communal area of unkempt cooking tables, enormous shelves, and wild gathering piles, Adris realizes the immense miscalculation he made. Filling in all the details that were lacking, he immediately remembers a season spent in the misted forests, nearly dying every night as the trees seemingly came to life to try to murder him.


Hustling over to Neesiette, he scoops her up before she has time to protest. Putting her around his back as she mumbles “… this be uncouth”, he pats Ave’s head to bring her out of her malaise.


“Up, we’re moving. Stay beside… Still, the whole time if possible. But not too close.”


Looking at Kol, who bobs in genuine amusement and is cackling lightly as if she’s awaiting a big show, Adris knows how to handle this.




“Kol, to the front. You’re scouting. Way ahead. We’ll be behind you. I’m counting on you, since you’re the only one that can do this.”

“OH!? Kol… ‘scout’? Hoh, Kol… never scout? Boss, need? Kol can do!”




Rushing up, a blue angel appears outwardly calm, but her gestures further encroaching on his face with each one given are incensed.


{Haveyougonecompletelyinsanealready? That iron suit full of rocks is a noise maker that couldn’t “scout” through the sound of a rockslide during a thunderstorm at midnight! What could you…?}


Stopping in mid thought, the two share a moment of silence, before Still turns to Kol and begins threatening her.


{How dare you try to take my work, you buffoon!? If he weren’t here, I’d already stick you! Don’t think I’ll let you off for this!}

“Boss, pick Kol! Puddle, big loser? Huh, lick Kol’s feet. Kakakaka!”


Stalking forward without a shred of grace, Kol’s tail is proudly high, giving no care for cover or the loudness of a womanly voice laughing in enemy territory.




When she becomes thoroughly soaked up in her new “job”, Still makes a “thumbs-up” gesture which Adris nods to.


{I’ll watch the right side, you watch the left. If you hear anything creeping up… no, if you… “feel it”, is that a little better? Just give a-?}


{… the heck? Fine. For me… just listen for the “click” you’ve heard before~. Or the screaming, whichever comes first~?

If you suddenly don’t see me, don’t worry: they won’t, either.}


Strutting forward with a grand smile when she sweeps her hand over her mask, she twirls her sword before coming to creep silently down Kol’s trail with more professionalism than Adris could match with.


(They hate Kol specifically? Good.)


With Ave looking confused, but happy, to have the chance to leave and…


“How tragically deplorable, the level one sinks to as one drags others down, too; yet, be there another choice…? Our salvation be at the very bottom of Dining Hell. Reach it, and all shall be overlooked. This lady be prepared, before such a query be necessary.”

… Neesiette insulting him with whispered directions before going silent, Adris accepts the game plan he’s come up with to solve the descent through this inferno.




(Begin operation: live bait.)






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 – Wave of Darkness] – “Making victory possible? No, no, no. That thing isn’t that kind! There’s more than that!”


[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?”

“Even a boy like you can provide a handsome image while in the middle of combat, yes?”



“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.”

“Presenting a new force, Adris’ gifts keep mystifying him, even as they seem to diminish.”



“While not a natural leader, you can usually goad people into doing something when pressed.”



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


Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
Discipline: ???




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


[Full Contact] – “Wanna go!? Kol, let fists talk!”


[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?”

“As long as she’s your barrier between you and the world, isn’t she perfect?”



“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.”

“You can’t stop a titan.”



“While not a total idiot, she’s one-track minded to the point that it’s hard to bring her around to your thinking.”



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:

Strength – E

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?”

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

“Being deadly is its own form of appeal, correct? If a woman is confident, then doesn’t that mean you need to find new ways of reassuring her?”



“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…?”

“The one you can most rely upon is usually the hardest to deal with in other cases.”



“Maybe she’s too much of a trickster?”



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?”

“Oddly enough, she seems just as prone to obsession as the rest, yes?”



“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.”

“Even if she’s diminished, she is still a girl who prides herself on her utility.”



“Mature and patient women are a rarity.”




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 long as you have hope, won’t you aspire to be more than you are?”



“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.”

“If a whip is powerful, then that means a weapon with longer reach might always be preferable.”



“Still as awkward as ever.”





Dining Hell – “A privately owned location, if one calls it private then does that imply the ownership of an entity greater than the Alchemaster, or a great entity that offers service in exchange for ownership?”



Chapter 44         Table of Contents          Chapter 46