Take Up the Cross – Chapter 55: Second Darkness of the World

“Visiting depravities upon one’s own kindred, despite aspiring to be a knight? Be this not the definition of blackguard behavior?”

“… No, Kol try—!”

“Tried to avoid the responsibility of conforming to one’s moral aspirations via the use of a proxy one did, seeking to divest of culpability by separat—”

“No, ‘justice’! Boss, did the thing, proper punish—!”

Conforming to knightly etiquette in what way does forcing sexual intercourse upon another for the purposes of corporeal punishment?

Denying the willingness of victim in such a matter be known as ‘rape’, an action well beyond the justice of a kn—”

“No, Kol, touch Echo, be okay! Because Echo, Kol, close, don’t need permission! Boss, touch Echo, also okay! Because Echo wanted it! A lot!”


The kneeling girl’s justifications spew forth without end. Raising her fist, Kol cheers for a crime while wagging her tail.


“When female want, male take!

Both, Kol and Boss, ‘inno’—!”


Be silent.”


Sighing after shutting up, the failed knight tilts over to the side in dismay while Neesiette crosses her arms and grimaces.


“… From the very beginning shall we rework your understanding of ethics and chivalry, so that—”

“Again!? WHY!? Boss, do thing, too!?”


Pointing at a boy trying his best to escape notice, Kol is ignored as she tries to drag him down.




Too busy pushing away overeager, furred sycophants begging for his attention, Adris can only praise the timing of Neesiette’s inquisition.


“Black explosion!? Aren’t they stronger? Cutter, want!”

“Why help them!? … We’re cuter. Hey, we’ll do something for you…!”


(As long as Neesiette is involved with Kol, she won’t notice what’s about to transpire until it’s too late!)


Irate males and desperate females crowd around Adris, pawing at him until he sweeps his cross menacingly, nearly clipping the one named Cutter.




Know your place, fools!




Only at this screaming order do they cry and fall back, respecting a show of intimidation much more than reason.

Speaking very lowly as he leans in, they lean away.


“I am far from amused at such solicitous behavior. Perhaps the annoying beggars who can only plead instead of patiently kneeling should simply be reduced to coinage?”



They all fall into a rough semicircle in front of him, minding their manners finally as they kneel down.


(… It’s okay. At heart, they’re cowardly opportunists who respect the strong. They’re simple to deal with; though, we have to get this done with, before someone arrives.)


After witnessing what happened to Chill and Kindle, the tribe lost their minds with envy, believing that he’d abandoned his veiled offer to them.

Fearing that changing locations might give them time to think past their emotions, Adris also cannot risk Castillo or slayer interlopers investigating the flash of darkness from earlier.


(And the feeling of the Chapel has been reproduced here. Birthed by Kol’s show and the tribe’s joy at overthrowing the twins, I could never reproduce this later. Best use it now!)


Eying his party, Neesiette immediately returns his gaze for a moment, consternation showing with the fine lines of her unamused face. Having investigated what transpired, the abusive orgy from earlier crossed a line which Adris was unsure existed with her.


(First you tell me to take my fill in the Castillo, then this was too much? … Or maybe I changed her mind about me after I declined?)


Amazingly, she seems to regard Adris as partly a victim of circumstance in Kol’s degenerate gambit.


(I’m not that sort of person, as normally demonstrated. It makes sense to simply blame Kol for all of this, since it is her fault. What fault does Neesiette assign to me, though?)


Straining to listen, he’s rewarded with that knowledge.


“Dragging others forcefully into one’s plots be beneath a knight as well, Kol. Value others one should, without seeking to use them through despicable entanglements.”

“But!? Boss, enjoy!”

“All males enjoy such activities, even if entrapped into them; however, gentlemen do conduct themselves with more restraint even when imperiled, thus indicating a lapse in character with one…”

{When did we add a gentleman to the party, Neesiette~?}

Huffing with this retort from Still, the well-dressed instructor seems more disappointed with Adris than angry.


(Ah, so I failed a test? Well, let’s consider that later. As long as I don’t appear to be a mindless brute or completely dickless, I can land somewhere inbetween just fine. Only Ave matters for this!)




Rather than confide in Neesiette and have the doll reject his time-sensitive plans out of hand, his outlier choice is earning her keep well. Using these distractions, his elvish ambassador is inculcating herself with a very attentive Echo. Borrowing another kobold who speaks a mutual language she calls “Weyntish” (LANGUAGE OF DEEP CAVERNS)…


“Yes!? He needs her to agree, but also to convince them right away when it comes up! We only get one chance… is that how to phrase this?”

“Huh? Chance, one? Okay.”


The male who only knows choice words translates, with Echo eagerly nodding her head. Seeking to exclude Kol, this relay game earns no notice.


“Sounds weaselly.” Though polite, Echo’s dark look as she shifts her eyes comes with a muffled follow-up that his excellent hearing picks up. “… That shitbag better be for real…”


(I’m actually not going to screw you— no, I already did? This isn’t designed to take advantage of— no, I suppose that’s not true either?)


Stuck as she is with Kol otherwise, Echo shrugs with a non-committal frown before nodding her head.




(Okay, then let’s begin.)






Speaking with a low voice, the remaining kobolds all come to join the rest before him.


“… What be the nature of…?”

“Ah! Moon, listen! Good plan…!”

Gaining Neesiette’s focus now, Adris hurries through the deal while Kol intervenes as he predicted.


(Yes, convince her this was your glorious idea. Take both hits!)


Although Still did not agree with it when he explained it briefly earlier before rousing Neesiette, she’s also not trying to foil his plan.


{You sure? … Then feel free. Good luck.}

More than a little insecure with her waving gestures, Still’s mood remains unreadable.


(Why do I need luck?)


The opportunity to ask that question doesn’t exist, for a false god should never fear his own power.




“Kobolds of the Castillo known as Red Tide.

The impression you may have of me as a somewhat unusual figure of great power could conceivably invite fear toward my goals, correct?”


Nodding their heads swiftly before realizing that it might be rude, many then squeamishly flatten their ears.


“Though I can claim to have defeated Kol, it is not the same as saying that I am controlling her. Nor do I claim her as a treasure.

Instead, I assert that I treasure her.”


Murmuring at this, the lines only cause confusion.


“You don’t run things? Then what business do you have with us?”

Standing before him with Stalker at her side, Echo refuses to kneel.

As the head of the tribe once more, only she and the lead fighter are allowed to show its pride.


“… Why are you wearing that headguard again?”

Taken aback, Adris’ question prompts Echo to blush.

Though not wearing the rest of the ornamental set she’d been fitted with for her previous figurehead position, the bronze, curving forehead armor does return a semblance of authority to her.


“This!? Why does it—!?”

“Echo, too cute without. Wearing, still cute, but also strong.”


Interrupting her, Stalker, now wearing his trademark cloak once more sans epaulettes, brings only flinches from the leader of Red Tide every time his pleasant voice calls her cute.

Mouth left open, she tries to form words before closing it and offering constricted pupils in her bloodshot eyes, daring Adris to comment.


Grinning subtly at the misery she’s enduring, Adris then nods his head.


“The answer to your question is easy: I am here to make possible what is impossible and defy what fate demands. Ruling others is…”




(Completely impossible for me!)




Remembering the curse laid on him, the moment he tries to own someone, the Emperor’s pronouncement will probably horribly maim him, at best.


(Rather than ruling you, I intend to simply bind you to a similar path; then, let words, innuendo, and threat do the rest! Under the cross’ Modus, you can’t escape associating with me if you wish to understand it!)


“… far outside of my desires, and are not desires what we have plenty of?”




Earning a queer look with this declarative question, Echo focuses on the four girls before coming to some realization.


Tsk. Huh, knew it. You’re that kinda guy…!” Though not loud, the dismissal isn’t inaccurate.


(Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.)


Being her senior in using others, she’s still smart enough to grasp that spoiling the mood or trying to undercut their benefactor before they get something out of him is pointless.


“… Adris!”


Earning the ire of Neesiette finally when she hears enough from Kol, Adris clicks his tongue.


(Though potentially hazardous, I must know how others may be added to this little conspiracy before I reach civilization! We… no, I don’t have enough power! And four strange girls are deadly!


First barrier, go!)




“Reptile, remove oneself.”

“… M-M-Make me, pipsqueak!”


Sliding in front of Neesiette, the brave elf manages to look down on the much scarier Lunamata while making ineffectual clawing motions.

Using her interference, Adris lifts the cross and readies his messianic appeal.




(Darkness is desire, obsession, mystery, fear, and doubt.)


This lesson was learned by hardship within a vanishing chapel.

Though clearly inferior in presentation and impression, the fountain outside shows a girl he presumes to be the Alchemaster reaching for an impossible castle just out of reach.

Offering his cross to the heavens, he interposes himself between the kobolds and this girl when he stands on the fountain’s edge, replacing her in their eyes as the one reaching toward that castle.


(I don’t need Kol’s goal. I need theirs. The stronger the desire and obsession, the stronger the gift! Unlike with those four, I will appeal purely to impression.

Becoming someone who shares their feelings; yet, also invokes terror by uncertainty of motivation! Asserting authority in rolling waves before inviting their contribution!)




Are all before me not tired… of being pushed around?”

A direct, inquisitive voice ends with a slight tremble, as if he feels their own suffering.





Earning an immediate outburst from Echo, she reaches over and grips Stalker’s arm. Pulling the shocked kobold closer while turning to glare at Kol, naked jealousy burns in Echo’s eyes, until she gulps and remembers who Adris really is.


(Good! Embrace that feeling. So, you feel it the strongest?)


Though far from the only one, Echo resonates most strongly with this first question, thus making Adris’ choice of supporting her correct.


(Fear: “are we doomed to suffer, never having the opportunity to oppose those who come for us or take for ourselves?”

Desire: finding the strength to overcome this unfairness and defend their own interests!)




“Deprived of even a place to rest your worn feet, does this not seem wrong?”




Growling at him, Echo then calms herself when those lesser intellects around her question her malice with frightened looks. As hypocritical a question as is possible, considering he’s the reason they got kicked out, it stabs at her.


(Really, this is the easiest thing in the world to run as a scam; though, I suppose this black cross isn’t actually a scam now, is it?)


Pacing on the edge of the fountain, he puts his hand over his heart as he leisurely calls out to them.




“Does a prison that you beg from another count as a home? Are you not merely a tenant… or a slave? Don’t you want what others possess?”




Groans and whispers come from the crowd, for they are nothing if not envious of what others have.

[Dining Hell] was an outcast place that they squatted in, not ruled.


“How can we find better!?”


Screaming at him, Echo threatens to break the spell…


“… Who can help us find it?” Speaking sadly, Echo’s intentional vulnerability infects the rest.


(Or not? Thanks for the assistance!)


Nodding their heads at her, the tribe looks to where her pained face seeks help.

Noticing that it’s Adris, they start closing on him after standing.


“Power! We need the power to fight back!”

“People like Scurry, can’t be beat otherwise!”

“… Where can we find a place when they always make us leave!?”




Desperation floods forth from a gaggle of rejects. A tribe of the downtrodden begs for a hand up, revealing that under the aggression, they’re just…




“… Hah, what losers.”


“AH!? You!?”

“… Shitty…!”


Though Echo and Stalker stay silent at his chuckling insult, the rest immediately get pissed off. The indignation the tribe feels does not find a place in these two.


(They know what you have to do to survive and get a leg up. They took the poisoned hand that reached down to them, then supped on their tears after. The rest of you must internalize that pain to grow from it!)


Both angry and sad, the growling and yowling ankle-biters both plead and threaten.
















Perfectly mimicking the Emperor’s voice, most of the kobolds fall over backwards and scoot away in panic. Even Echo seems taken aback, briefly reaching for her knife in self defense despite being in on the plan.


“Do you feel comfortable begging for the same deal from me, one that once came from the Alchemaster who left you to rot in grudging servitude? Will you add your pathetic banner to my service for mere alms?”

Arms wide, he then reaches forward to curl his fingers invitingly.

Adris gauges the situation as they meekly reject obeying.


(Resist at first. Fear the unknown, then break later, giving yourself to it with the right intent!

… Ave is doing well.)




“K-k-kicking and screaming and acting like you were queen of the world, what a delightful little dolly you were!


‘Oh, my name is Neeeeeeesiette! I was made peeeeerfectly~! I’m from Luuuuuuna~! I’m sooooooo important.

Let me prove it by trying to mash everyone who puts up with me to bits~!’


… That’s you, hmph!”


Sounding like a child insulting another one, Ave has her hands on her hips as she hisses.


“… One’s brain did liquefy and evaporate, then? Very well, intentions for this intercession be unnecessary to comprehend. In order to tidy this world a bit more, a lizard’s carcass need only be sent to rejoin what be already lost.”



Producing her rod finally, it sparks as Neesiette simply closes on the shaking elf.

The time for petty insults is past; yet, for fear of hitting those behind the snake, the one bearing the rod is unable to cleanly fire as the terrified Ave jukes and jives in place.




“From where does power derive!? If it is obtained from another, to whom, then, does it truly belong!?”

Pounding his chest, he then points the cross at them.

Looking skittish, only a few of them seem to grasp the question.


“Is it yours, or are you theirs? Shall I take the place of laughing sisters, who speak with two mouths while robbing you of the fruits of your deeds?

Perhaps this is what you prefer? Surrendering to another tyrant after just throwing off the previous ones?”


Gnashing their teeth, these kobolds finally understand the problem and stew in having no solution to it.


(Doubt established in more than half! Let’s hope that’s enough!)


Working his way down the list, the easily swayed simpletons require no further convincing.

Flicking his eyes to Echo, her pale face hardens as she makes a subtle nod.


(Anything for power, right? Even if you hate me, you know what this cross can do! We destroyed a true monster!)




“If you want it… then why don’t you earn it? Who said the weak can’t fight back and win!?


Some cling to each other, calming in the clutches of a brother or sister.

Others raise their hands, feeling a chance on the wind.

A couple draw kitchen knives, gaining hope in this dangerous gesture.


“If I said that power could be taken without enslaving yourselves to me, would you think it a trap… or an opportunity?”


Despite their cowardly nature, he feels an amazing surge of both respect and passion.

Receiving no complaints, he knows avarice outweighs caution.




“What I… offer is a chance.

If you will cast away the belief that you are simply weak, no matter how much you fear trying to change it, and commit to the hard path of rising above the muck, then that action alone will make the rich and powerful shiver! Rather than looking up to the clouds which obscure what you can’t reach…”

Smiling pleasantly at the assembly, he finally hops down to join them on the same level.


Why don’t you concentrate on the ground, finding your next victims’ tracks?




(Sheer rebellion is enough! They’re always described as ambushers, but there’s nothing wrong with that! The darkness that appeals to them is one where they claw back from nothing!

Crash the system that oppresses you, stuck in an endless revolution! Be bound to what my power gives you! Hahaha!)




“Cunning, patience, and unity: these are the weapons of kobolds!


When humans come as parties to take you, overrun them as a tide. When humans rage as brutes, entrap them with your genius. When humans rush to corner you, wait and corner them, instead.”


Yelling out, Stalker smiles while baring his teeth and raising his firearm.

“Right! Always win, when prepared! Like Scurry said, but we make perfect!”


(Good lad. There’s opportunities for you with a certain girl if you seem like you can contain her.)


The tribe rallies at their fighting leader’s claim, with other voices joining in.


“Right! Cutter say: old ways, best ways!”

Pointing at the ugly kobold, the man jumps back at being singled out.


“Yes! The old ways are the best, so long as you refine them!

Instead of turning on the strong right away, why not undermine them from the inside?

Forsaking the Alchemaster as your first target, why not start with easier prey?




Why conquer in the open, when you can rule in dark!?”




Wolf-like eyes gleam at the opportunity of being in charge for once.




“Ah, what!? No, Kol say—!”

At this explosive interruption by a girl who wants an army, Adris sweats as he moves into the finale.






“I hold a path for you should you hold in your heart a burning, all-consuming ambition for what you can reach! But… who will be the ones to walk it?

Do I have enough potential for all of you, I wonder…?”

Scratching his chin, he appears as uncertain as they are.


When all hesitate despite the inherent threat of missing out, Echo confidently runs forward.


“Kaka, Echo will be first to take whatever you’ve got… asshole~!”


(You already have.)


“No, not just to her!”


“Need it! No more Castillo!”




Encircling Adris, they form a scalewolf barricade as they jockey for position, yanking each other out of the way to be first in line. Unable to simply slip past, Kol growls while reaching out.







Wrecking the ones on the outside, the fervor of the kobolds is too much to quench just by bullying. Jumping at her as if she’s interrupting their just rewards, Kol returns the favor by introducing them face-first to the ground.

While they resist, they fall all too easily.


However, to their rescue an ally leaps forth…




Elf. Move.”

“AYAAAA!? Um… NO!? I can’t! Ave was, no, I’m being relied on!”

“By any means necessary, remove the gecko with full blessings, Kol.”


Putting Kol between her and Neesiette’s energetic weapon, Ave shakes as she puts everything on the line for Adris’ request.




“No way out!? No way… out…!





Losing her mind from desperation, the air fluctuates around Ave as her muscles enhance with instinctive magic. Simply springing forward, the forest-loving missile earns genuine shock from the white terror before they collide.

Barreling backward noisily from the sheer impact of the super-powered Elf, the approaching Neesiette falls lightly to the ground when she’s deflected, losing her rod as it rolls away.




Immediately mounting the weeping, green-clad coward after completing their roll, Kol loses her original train of thought as Ave’s tail reflexively coils around the kobold.


“Oh, Elf, finally try, huh?”

With a rough tone at first, Kol then cackles. Easily bursting Ave’s coils off by simply throwing out her appendages, the timid girl is quickly pinned to the ground.


“Kol, proud~! Fight!”



Licking Ave’s face, Kol burns with passion.


“Elf always say, ‘good luck’?”

“Ave isn’t… actually trying to beat Kol… NOOOO!? AHHHHHHH!!!???”


Being brutally wrestled with by an overzealous warlord, an elf rapidly becomes a casualty with cracking noises heard over her own cries.




(Only their inner qualities can give birth to something beyond what is known, Kol!)


When Kol gave up the precedence in deciding the rewards, it became too late to change her mind without physically intervening.


“Adris! Desist!”


(No way, Neesiette! All or nothing! Cross: show me your true power once more!)




Swear to the one who offers this power that you will abide by an oath as spoken! Swear to seek your desires by your own efforts and let no other stop you!


“““““““WE SWEAR!”””””””




Being lifted into the air by thirty kobolds who clamber around him, Echo is tsking again as she clings to Adris’ body.

Guaranteeing that she’ll be number one no matter what the order of granting the coming power, the revulsion she feels for the man who claimed full ownership of her body and forced unwilling moans from it sends a novel pleasure through Adris’ thoughts.


(There’s something darkly energizing about having a woman’s body, regardless of the way she feels about it. … I was right. It’s degenerate… but I can’t stop thinking about what happened.)


Trying not to plumb further depths of immorality than he normally descends to, the warmth of the body clinging to him, one whose smell has been deeply ingrained into him as he ingrained himself into her, still brings a smile to his face.


(I could probably make you mine again, couldn’t I?)


“Shitty human. Echo knows your looks. Will get you.”

Picking up on his thoughts, likely from some smell known only to her sensitive nose, Adris is only further tickled by her resistance.

“Nothing but hate for me? Strange, because… I think you did enjoy it.”



Grinning at her fetching face as it warps in embarrassment, she doesn’t refute his assertion…


(Haha, so this is the attraction that women feel for powerful— GAAAH!?)


… at least not until she starts gnawing on his arm while blushing like a tomato. Withstanding the intense pain, he jumps into the oath before he loses his momentum.




“Oh black cross which opposes fate!

Answer the call of those who would escape it!

Grant them power by the same path as what four brave souls once sought!

Let them be bound up to the one they pledged to, as she is pledged to me; yet, let none interfere with their goal!

Send them searching for their home by their own strengths, granting the seed of strength which will grow within their bodies and be owned solely by them!


Let there be darkness, so that they may be bound to it as one!




Crying out in rage, screaming for mercy, and demanding help, Red Tide acquits themselves by their desperation, if nothing else.







Making a shaking, piercing ring, the black cross begins to shine as it waves in the air.




Trying to scatter at this noise, frightened kobolds are blown down by the wave of darkness which blasts through the area, before the pressure of the shining night that escapes from the artifact holds down anyone not strong enough to withstand its escalating presence.




Gripped by the howling Echo and Stalker, Adris is seconds from soiling himself with the quantity of power streaming out. It flicks at his skin before scraping deep inside, becoming a phantasmal presence coursing through his body.


(WHAT!? Is it somehow more than the Chapel’s time!? OR DID I MISS THIS PART!?)


Deaf from the raving screams and screeching sound of its darklight, the fountain water turns from blue to roiling gray as the colors bleach from the world.

Only shadows retain their distinctive blackness within the negative incandescence, stretching and warping as they move to turn back on their creators.




Kobold bodies begin to shine with a golden light, before they gain black cracks and then explode. The glittering pieces are absorbed by the starry tendrils which whip out from their shadows to grab them, pulling them to the ground and, like spilled ink running back into a bottle, feeding into the outlines that were their forms.


Perfectly reconstructed, only shining bodies remain in this temporary eclipse of colors.




Just as quickly as it began…




The cross’ ringing stops, with the wave of darkness that spread out being sucked back into its gleaming form.




Laying on top of a groaning Stalker and Echo, Adris blinks while looking out. Somehow staying awake the entire time, the first thing he can experience as a sensation other than hearing suffering and seeing despair is a burning pain from his finger.


Bringing his exposed left hand into view, he watches Kol’s glyphs that encircle his finger gain a new banding around it, one which permanently encases this prior oath.




Examining it, he instinctively knows that no other part may be added to this perfect circle.


(… Ah… ah, did I… potentially use something irreplaceable…?)




Yet as he watches the circle, the golden sands pooling up from the ground begin to flow behind his body.


Much like with the advent of the creature Gallus, these whirling, converging sands form objects in front of the fountain as Adris crawls away.




From the sands that deplete upon becoming real objects, clinking of rolling coins is heard. One that falls from the pile hits Adris’ foot after traveling, bearing a familiar seal upon it as it settles.




Hastily stacked coins collapse, with other objects of either beauty or power joining, too. Though a middling amount in comparison to the hoard of the Alchemaster’s portrait, this bounty is more than what they claimed from giant spiders by far.

A fashionable, shoulder-strapped, clasping trapeze bag opens as it falls. Composed of sewn leaves and whitish-blue metal pieces, revealed within is a deep darkness. The outside bears a silverish emblem reminiscent of one used by pointed-eared people from a familiar mural.

A shining helmet rolls forth from the opposite side of the pile, seeming crafted from the same metal as the armor worn by evil wraiths of scorching light. Its feathery tail crest is a frightening memory, but only an imperious pride leaks from this helmet.

With a book bound in dark leather beautified with golden filigree and a crystal orb holding a floating drop of a viscous, shining red liquid at its core landing in the coin pile, the filthy lucre amounts to four rare gifts plus stamped Castillo gold pieces.




When the trove completes its appearance, the buzzing feeling of power departs completely.


(We got paid out.)


The kobolds that once gathered near him are shaking their heads as they try to cast off their dizziness. They can be forgiven for feeling ill, as everything about them has abandoned what once was.




Competent black servants’ uniforms, accented by smart red-and-yellow stripes, are both well-fitted and immaculate as they wear them. With working dresses for females and simple suits for men, dark-steel knives in hip sheathes are strapped to all.


As with the twins, ubiquitous red fur gains black highlights and fringe, though no signs of potential bondage are visible. If Echo and Stalker are any indication as they rise to look at him…


“… We’re… good?”

Wearing a fine, heavy fur cloak now instead of his trash one, the handsome Stalker hefts a well assembled, breech-loading firearm which mixes the metallurgy of Zennia with the style of the southern barbarian’s weapons.


(More is bleeding over from Xin!?)


His uniform is slightly sharper than the others’, though not ostentatious. It complements the flamboyance of the one beside him.


“Human, what are you…? ACK!?”

A beauty who wears finely wrought bronze armor and a spiral-layered gown with submissive, red vibes quickly doubles over while clutching her somewhat exposed breasts. Frills scrape the ground again as she struggles to breathe.




When she does, Adris’ own heart notices a draining feeling that’s been creeping up on him.

Everything begins to lose solidity.


(… I’m…?)




His head hits the ground, watching as a silver bell with a stick handle begins to form in her hands from darkness flowing from Echo’s shadow and the black cross. Quite different in nature from the original, Adris’ aura senses read it as “unity” instead of “longing”.




The bells that are currently ringing, familiar ones in service to the unknown and unknowable, claim his senses.





The whole world spins around his orientation, yet in this collapsing world of raving winds and impossible wisdom, the great, stone tower he is pulled to from miles away to witness refuses not to gain his appreciation. Though no colors besides gray are given, the finesse with which the details are carved bring all to life.




Exposed to the world so that he might understand it, the inner contents of this supreme noble’s tower show a shifting throne at the top level of its impossibly designed tiers. Composed of a semi-solid like mercury, the watcher is surprised to discover that its owner stands mutely beside it.


Though the Alchemaster is as impeccably beautiful as always in her own horrific style, she looks almost glum to be standing with her arm resting against the throne, rather than proudly seated on it. A contemptuous chin refuses to be looked down on, though, even if it is filled more with spite than absolute supremacy. Caught in mid stride, shining light from her three living, flowing cloaks could slay him at any time.


On the opposite side of the throne, a perfect dandy of an old gentleman smiles, offering sharp fangs and reverse-toned eyes. His garb, though stylish, evokes a past age beyond possible modern memory. The ground smolders where his feet rest, cries of phantasmal suffering seeming to swirl all around him; yet, all he does is slick a hand over his immaculate mane of hair and hold a bottle at the ready for his mistress.


All of her servants are similarly witnessed at attention as the tower spirals down.

With statue battle maids, inhuman attendants, and monsters driven by loyalty…




Legion beyond compare, this is her true army.

Waiting to be called upon.




And at her entrance, a man in a hooded, long trench coat stands with his back to the watcher.

His aura denies all refusal for his mistress’ plans.

His clenched, gloved hand demands that all surrender to her ownership of the world.


The emblem on his back is the Alchemaster’s symbol, with the words




drawn around it in lively script.


Climbing over his shoulder to view the watcher, a doppelganger born of shadow shows piercing eyes, ruffled hair bearing laurels, and a childish smile that haunts his dreams. Every bit as imposing as the original, this phantom stretches for the watcher’s invisible heart.




(Impossible. Nothing can conquer that.)




The watcher manages thoughts while lingering in this non-existent place, but he has no time for more as the ground beneath his view breaks apart.




Rising from it is a black cross, much smaller in scale than the Alchemaster’s tower, yet still as domineering.


With four figures hoisted up by its ends, they all hold poses which match their contradictory personalities.

Fearful, yet hopeful; ruthless, yet brave; arrogant, yet reverent; and spiteful, yet masterful.

Their faces are blocked from view by veil, helmet, glow, or mask, disallowing any to recognize them.


Stylized clothing marks them as separate from their normal selves, looking as if they instead match their ideal in this strange world between.


Though it should stop rising with these four revealed, the cross continues.

Borne on the backs of a multitude of short creatures, these wolf-like rebels hoist it up, silently joining in the cries of the armored bruiser who refuses to cower.




As this new player opposes the tower…


(What have I done?)







The storm stops.




Falling away, five more towers are revealed.


Though all are far in the distance and cannot be fully discerned for what they are, two are black as night and three glow white.


The closest black one appears like a banner unfurling, flapping in the wind as it refuses the end.

The white ones receive twirling, luminous tendrils from the above, winding down to constrain them.




Yet it’s the gigantic statues which dwarf the rest of the assembled players, partially revealed right next to the watcher, that signal the nature of this game.


Two attendants flank a titanic one.

Only one of the statues is truly visible, one of the attendants whose own misleading potential is underestimated at one’s mortality.

Her handsome face smirks at him in that smug manner which demonstrates how she views all life other than her and her god.




Yet of all the enemies assembled here, her eyes are still the kindest.

Inviting, even, as her bone-embroidered vestments shine in darkness with her hand extended toward the watcher.

Though she should be a statue, her hand still closes.




All of the powers of this place turn their gaze to the rising cross.

Though they cannot tell what it is, they are now…








The titanic figure next to the priestess begins to reveal.


But it’s the priestess who grabs him before the watcher is exposed to the growing insanity of this central figure…!




“Still searching for rare truths are we, my [vain-dwelling] kin? I wonder: will you not regret the haste with which you have done so…?”


With darkness approaching once more, the watcher’s viewpoint is snuffed out.




“… Oh false god?”








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…?”


[Marital Arts – Self-taught] – “Hoh, even if it’s dangerous to use, it feels good to prove to myself that the body is still as willing as the mind! Even if I can’t call it aura, something is inside me now!”



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?”

“Is this perhaps the first time a woman has tried to give you what she thinks you want? Or the first time you’ve noticed?”

“How does it feel to finally just let go, fellow seeker of rare truths?”

“Aren’t you getting a little too old to be starting an army?”


“Bypassing army, you go straight for crime lord? How amusing, isn’t this distinction?”



“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’?”

“Being elevated means accepting responsibility for those who venerate you.”

“Taking control is not the same as keeping control.”

“Discovers that the cross still offers gifts, but at what price?”


“Weighing the odds, Adris is not one to let an opportunity pass. At heart, he is a gambler who refuses to gamble if he thinks the house will always win.”



“Immediately does another thing with enormous consequences.”



Name: “Kol” fehl Dain
Titles: Idiot, “Tyrant Knight”
Race: Kobold
Sex: Female
Age: ???


Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
Discipline: ???




[Invisible Edge] – “Axe goes through everything?”


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


[Unknown Aura of Dread] – “Huge blade, not dangerous?”


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


[Fire Resistance?] – “Huh, after big dark, Kol get fire, right? ‘Big deal’, flames!”


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…?”

“Oh, a lover of dominating others? How shocking this is, isn’t it? Isn’t this matching with your tastes in general?”

“How does it feel to know doubt again, Adris?”

“If you see her as a princess to be saved, then why haven’t you jumped in?”


“Less the princess and more the villain, perhaps you have much in common?”



“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.”

“Seeking power so that she might force others to act, she also seeks the authority to defend them. The most paradoxical people are the ones who do dubious and mean-spirited things in the belief that they are doing the right thing.”

“Possessing a sexuality that is not easily defined, the act of taking measures highly for her.”

“A girl that puts herself on the outside, she’s not afraid to do what’s necessary to save others, even if it means being the brunt of their anger.”


“Immediately defeated by certain people, Kol is still too proud to admit fault if she feels even a sliver of justification.”



“There are a lot of people that feel like ‘justice’ is doing what everyone else around you feels like is fine, because everyone is doing it.”



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~!}


[Nectar] – {How does my suffering taste, spawn ofcursed blood”!?}


Disposition: Playful / Sadistic / Skulking
Alignment: Chaotic

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



Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Strength – E

Vitality – 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?”

“If she says that they have plans for you, then isn’t it simply fair that you should answer to them? Is this not your definition of beauty: endless plans?”

“If she speaks of justice, does that not ring true?”

“Yet if justice is truly what she desires, then why does she take pleasure in wrong?”


“Will you be kind to her at some point?”



“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.”

“Whether or not she would truly wish Kol to leave is up to debate, but she can play her quite easily when Kol doesn’t bother to gauge her mannerisms.”

“A master of potions, perhaps. It’s hard to know what delvers and slayers will have access to.”

“Cannot claim to be a master of puppets.”


“Showing unusual willingness to let others act as they will, perhaps she cannot stop it, even if she wanted to?”



“I know she’s hard to read, but women like that always are. Is this why writers don’t do women that have their own secret ambitions?”



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?”


[Rod of Respelling] – “A lady be every ready to instruct regarding what be in error.”


[“Brings An End” – Ponderous] – “[Ponderous was the end, for the unfair passage of time finally brought even earth to its conclusion]…”


Disposition: Impassive / Calculating / Curious
Alignment: Ordered

Eyes: Pale Violet
Hair: Amber
Skin: Pale White



Rantil Value –

Strength – F

Vitality – F

Dexterity – D

Agility – E

Intelligence – B

Mentality – C

Luck – F




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?”

“Isn’t it doubtful that you would get along with her if she was like this all the time?”

“How differently would this have turned out had she been aware of it?”

“In the end, doesn’t her mysteriousness only increase?”


“Not ready to match wits with her again? Feel you might come up short, this time?”



“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…?”

“Driven wild by what she called forth, she’s hellbent on pointing out the flaws of Zennia.”

“Perhaps not all spells are meant to be cast.”

“A girl that recites strange instructions upon awakening, has anyone actually ever seen her sleep?”


“Is the one that carries the stick when concerning Kol.”



“Most people who don’t spend the time to explain why they don’t want to do something come off sounding like they’re just imposing their will on others. It’s a psychological failure.”



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?”

“Perhaps she doesn’t wear all her emotions on her sleeve?”

“It might be up to a man to show her how life works, yes?”

“Shouldn’t you burn alive treating a girl like this?”


“Of course you would treat her like this right after that question, wouldn’t you?”



“As cheerful as she is skittish, Avenalliah fits an unknown position within the four delvers’ group. Though she carries a large sack, that would hardly count as a position… right?”

“Rather than trying to push a tiresome presence out, she caves and invites her back in. Such is the nature of an elf named Avenalliah: she can’t quit her friends.”

“Cannot find love, nor love to accept sex.”

“Possessing something like normality is bizarre for a girl that… nevermind.”


“Choosing to stand for Adris means that she is putting herself at odds with three other girls.”



“Is finally learning to take risks.”



Name: “Echo”
Titles: “Pet”
Race: Kobold
Sex: Female
Age: Young

Occupation: Leader (Former/Current), Figurehead
Discipline: ???





Disposition: Triangulating / Longing / Cowardly
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Dark Blue
Hair: Red
Skin: Light Tan



Rantil Value –

Intelligence – D

Charisma – D




Cethran Value – “Do you feel that perhaps you’ve solved the issue of their relationship or set yourself between it for the worse? If not for them, then perhaps for you?”

“Are you jealous that she can surmount obstacles you can’t?”


“Still more of a woman than Kol, is it no wonder she dresses more like one?”



“Once the leader of Red Tide, she has now become the leader of Red Tide once more. Originally the tag-along of Kol, in her absence Echo found power and control of others through an interesting form of triangulation.”

“In the end, she’s still the better choice just by what the alternatives are.”


“Will throw others under the bus to stay ahead.”



“I think women, like men, respect power no matter how it’s used against them. Or maybe because they have it used on them, they learn to respect it.”






Chapter 54         Table of Contents          Chapter 56