Take Up the Cross – Chapter 60: Cracked Slayers

Traveling through Petripolis on foot should be easy even with some fog, but it becomes vastly more difficult when following an excited kobold.

 

“Boss, keep up.” Ducking through another low, broken opening in a stone wall, Adris can’t follow Kol’s navigation of the city. While Kol can carry her battered axe and helmet easily, it slows their progress every time she has to throw it over small gaps, leaving him wondering at other options.

“Will they try to wipe you out the moment you’re glimpsed?”

“Hm? Can try, kaka! Boss here, everything will be fine. The way Kol is now, can beat up any ‘prissy’ people.”

Even though Kol wears a plain, hooded cloak lent by Still, he admits she stands out enough to draw alarm. She can’t move as expertly as he can, revealing her inhuman clawed hands.

 

(While still in the outskirts, we have to creep into the human areas through a gap…? Blasted Still! I can’t believe she got me!)

 

Adris had never conceived of a plan to forcefully rocket him to leadership, even if it’s obvious now. Deferring to his orders without negotiating first is beyond her mentality, or so he thought.

 

(I get why you’re doing it! I’m easier to snoop on if I’m forced to take direct command. Any plans I come up with have to be twice as innocuous, now. I was happier with the democracy we both loved!)

 

Yet, Still was very eager in elevating him, making him understand why after.

 

(She’s made a calculation that states that I’m more effective as a leader, so she’ll adopt a position as my direct subordinate in effect! While she acts as my “adviser”, I’m the regent she’ll hollow into a dancing puppet out of sight! It will be more difficult for me to be out of sight with the other three constantly coming to find me!)

 

 

 

Even if he finds her vexing, Still’s efforts immensely increase efficiency. Far from being just a useful collaborator, she’s integral to all his plans.

Their brief, flirtatious episodes also stick with him despite his rationality.

 

(Fine, let’s see where this takes us. Don’t think I won’t get you for this! Especially for holding this back!)

 

 

 

Tied around his waist is a familiar purple cloth, last seen in a distorted dream where a monster turned him into something unfamiliar; but, in his pack is the more useful revelation provided by Cethran that changes his entire plan for infiltrating the slayers.

 

 


 

 

“‘Perhaps one should understand the nature of your benefactor before presenting what can offer them much more freedom?’, a priestess conveyed words as such before transferring these items to this lady.”

 

Brought to a secluded area of Welcome Web, Neesiette presented him with a familiar purple cloth and a sealed letter.

 

“Was what you said before in the room untrue? Why withhold this until now!? Either could’ve proved important had I known about them!”

Unable to hold back his contempt as he towered over her, his anger left the girl’s doll-like posture conveying mixed feelings as she tugged on her cravat.

“Items gifted by a priestess appeared dangerous after one made innuendo of her duplicity. In addition, no matter how proved misplaced by now, lingering doubts existed after investiture because of one’s unexplained power—”

 

When his hand slammed against the wall, the frustration of being cornered bled over.

“It’s not something that can be explained! Its essence is the unknowable! Why can’t you just believe in results!?”

 

Though he hissed at his smaller companion, she refused to shirk back.

“… Unknowable be the concern at the time. Why would this lady agree to one’s leadership now if that one be still untrusted? This lady merely sought to forestall the potential harm of such gifts until a later date.

In order to aid one, such a decision taken meant.”

 

With her voice now perturbed, he crossed his arms and sighed, finally having understood that he was the problem.

 

(This bickering is my fault. But I don’t like secrets being kept over me!)

 

With the tension between the two at the thickest since the Castillo study room, Neesiette, too, appeared to be at a loss to continue the conversation.

 

(So, Neesiette did this for kind reasons, which means she isn’t Still.)

 

“My lack of Vigor and oath to all of you proves that I take an equal stake in any dangers. Don’t try to protect me from what I need to know, much less from that woman’s lies.”

“It be easy to assume one possesses no limitations, for one rarely demonstrates them. Adris, a true gentleman would be wary of his health and not succumb to the expectations of others, and certainly not overlook Still and this lady’s keeping of his secrets.”

In a surprising display, she slapped the items into his chest after reaching up.

“One uses the appearance of being unconcerned to coddle us! Does one deny a helping hand out of pride, or fear? Ridiculous, both be! With approval of one’s revealed qualities already spoken before, a boy rudely ignores observations shared by this lady to your detriment!

 

Very well, stew in ungentlemanly ignorance alone.”

 

Neesiette huffed as she walked off, leaving him stunned at the outburst.

 

 


 

 

(“Stop taking crazy risks?” As if I can manage that without actual plans! Admittedly, improvisation isn’t my strong point.)

 

A ramshackle shop whose smokestacks release intensely visible heat turns out to be their destination. Adris finds it even harder to trust after Still’s latest maneuver.

 

(Trusting isn’t what I do, Neesiette. I have my own way. I do feel bad about not taking advantage of your kindness to learn more about you, though.)

 

“This isn’t native, Kol.”

 

Examining the stonework that’s been put into repairing the building, the craftsmanship and materials are far superior to the original, intact walls. Though there’s no sign outside, various metallic scrap weapons have been left to rot up against it, free for the taking.

Most out of place is the sturdy rampart built around the business, one which activates his aura senses. So, too, do various stone statues of squat men in non-metallic armor stuck in campy poses of revelry.

 

(The stone thrums with life!? That’s pseudo aura!)

 

“Hah, Crackbrass isn’t human. Hmm, difficult to explain. In Petripolis, he’s very unique, like Kol.”

Cackling a bit at that thought, the fearless girl walks up to the stout iron door and starts banging her ruined axe against it.

 

(If this shopkeeper is pissed, we’re going to get it! Nobody else lives on this dead end!)

 

 

 

STOP RINGING, YOU MANGY, CLABBERED PIECE OF WHITE DUNG!”

 

 

 

At the demand of the frazzled male voice that sounds like a piece of twisting, squealing iron, an elaborate locking mechanism in the door and frame releases with a thunk.

 

The door is flung open.

A disheveled, crazed-looking squat man wearing red-brown, slightly glowing blacksmith’s leathers levels a gigantic hand cannon at Kol as he steps into view.

Beady, red-veined eyes glare from behind the sighting for it.

 

“Heyo, shitty dwarf.”

HEYO TO YOU, TOO, YOU HALF-PINT, WHIPPED POODLE! WHERE’S YOUR PISS POT AND RUSTED NET, TITANIC MORON!? YOU SLAG THEM, TOO!?

 

Raising her axe while roaring, Kol announces her victory.

 

“Completely ruined! All gone! Melted! Even axe, broke it! Kol, got nothing!”

 

He takes in the view while blinking…

 

DAMN GOOD SIGHT! THAT AXE AIN’T NOTHING MORE THAN A COOKED SKEWER AND A MANTLE ORNAMENT! THE FEELING OF LOSS IS ALWAYS INDESCRIBABLE WHEN I SEE YOUR STUPID FACE MARCHING IN AFTER BREAKING MY WORKS!

 

… Get inside, you retard. It’s cold outside! I don’t want to have to warm up by shooting you!”

 

 

 

After announcing his approval of Kol, he reaches behind the door frame to pull back a frothing mug. Only the tomboy is allowed to amble in, for the man tilts his head as he levels his gun at Adris next, sending tied locks of white hair covered in metallic soot over his eyes.

A solid, red tattoo under his left eye reads “shattered”, rounding out the image.

 

 

 

In this moment, the thrill of combat comes from all around Adris.

No longer whispers, it feels more like Lycia’s roaring invitation for madness and carnage.

 

Yet, even as it comes, it hesitates while wavering in intensity.

 

 

 

WHO THE FECK ARE YOU, MANCHILD!? WILL YOUR HEAD HOLLOW OUT ENOUGH IN TIME TO ANSWER, OR IS THE COULVERINE GONNA DO IT FOR ME!?

 

Against a boy with the appearance of being mostly innocent, the equally stubby man threatens to fire at point blank.

 

“I am a false god from beyond this world, bearer of powers beyond mortal keen and capable of delivering true terror to your doorstep. Even the Alchemaster fears and respects my existence.

 

Learn your place.

 

Though he’s about to piss himself, Adris’ persona rages forth to deliver the line that will either bring salvation or doom.

 

(That wasn’t how I wanted to introduce myself, though!)

 

 

 

A vacant, confused look comes to the gunner for a moment, before the dwarf then breaks into a toothy smile missing several pieces to the puzzle.

“Well, why didn’t you just say so the first time I asked, lad? Get inside, you pale, square-faced foreign tadpole, and buy something!”

 

Instantly, the battle fervor evaporates, with the man grabbing Adris eagerly by the shoulder to pull him into a new crazy world.

 

 


 

 

“As you can see, all the finest in dwarven craft, since I ain’t one of those crooked bastards that has unrealistic standards. You buy it, you better break it, or I’ll break you.”

 

 

 

With a forge in the corner that seems powered by flames coming from the earth beneath the shop, and countless broken weapons and armors hung up everywhere with placards that indicate how they were destroyed, this armorer is already sending signals for Adris to shop elsewhere.

 

“Like Kol is saying, giant bird thing. Really hot eye beams. Everything melted.”

 

Taking time to elaborate the story properly, the man is crying by the time she finishes.

“It shined like that accursed helmet? Born of flesh, fire, and steel!? That’s an abomination!

 

WHY DIDN’T YOU GET MURDERED BY IT, YOU MIDGET!? I WOULD’VE LOVED TO HEAR HOW IT BROKE A MUTANT LIKE YOU!

 

The broken man with a screw loose drowns his sorrow… or victory with more ale.

 

“Ah, they died with such grace, yet I gave you trash to break!? If I’d known you were gonna get blown up by something of that scale, I’d have let you borrow something appropriate!”

 

“Umu, make up to Kol. Finish armor! Kol, get blown up wearing it!”

“Well, you got the kind of helmet I need, that’s for sure, but… I just ain’t feeling it, mongrel.”

 

 

(Help me.)

 

Their insane dialogue allows the full extent of the dwarf’s madness to manifest. While Neesiette had explained that their race favors producing the finest quality works that will withstand the test of time, this Forulundt Crackbrass pines for the opposite dream.

 

While his selection of equipment is good, it’s all geared towards being destroyed.

No special design touch is given, nor beauty in his craft.

 

Practical pieces await the misfortune of their users.

 

(He’s the only armorer I have an introduction to, though. And his craftsmanship is far beyond Xin. For being made to be broken, his work is highly practical… Except for those items!)

 

In a section of their own, many metallic and textile armor sets reveal the body in a way that immediately alerts Adris to them being related to the slayers in the Chapel. Designed to flaunt the body more as they’re destroyed, such protection should offer no salvation against weapons.

 

“Mr… Crackbrass. In addition to outfitting Kol, I was looking for armor of my own. Though, not like those over there.”

“Huh? You don’t want a superlative set of sensual armor? Not a slayer who knows how to use it?

 

Then fuck off.”

 

Burping loudly, the man shows no more interest in Adris.

 

“You ain’t gonna get my legit armor destroyed. I know your type, kid.”

“What type would that be…?”

 

 

 

A hammer is brandished by muscles that grow three times bigger, before the madman hurls it at Adris, bringing the roar of uncertain combat with its flight.

 

Throwing himself sideways, Adris rolls over a table while knocking everything off of it. The hammer impacts a hanging piece of armor after, cracking the stone wall behind it before falling noisily to the ground.

 

 

 

PRETTY SELF-EXPLANATORY, AIN’T IT BOOKWORM!? … A legendary trimorph chimera, and I gave you that rusted net!? Ah, it’s too sad.”

 

Flipping himself up, Adris sweats as he considers cutting his losses and leaving, while the man returns to sobbing.

 

(The crazy coot’s armor is good, though!)

 

The armor the man hit with the hammer resisted most of the unimaginable strength used in the throw.

 

 

 

“Shitty dwarf!? Why, throw hammer!? AH!”

The yelling Kol is picked up and thrown into a wall, shattering the man’s shelves.

 

I AIN’T GOT ANY INSPIRATION! AND YOUR STORY JUST MAKES IT WORSE!

 

… Anyway, you wanted to buy armor, but you can’t ruin it, so fuck off. As for you, dog, you’re trouble around Petripolis since about eight ‘longs’ ago. Got people trying to grill me about you.

You gotta make me want to do it pretty desperately, with as much trouble as you are.”

 

(What did Kol do!?)

 

“Master dwarf, don’t consider me some non-combatant. I am a consummate soldier, even if I now bear a stronger power. Though I can’t present it, the last set of clothes I wore were completely ruined. I regularly encounter monsters begging to destroy me!”

Showing unrestrained obsession, Adris marches up to the dwarf who has unmatchable strength.

 

“Don’t underestimate me, you rock eater.”

OH? GOT SOME MUSH INSTEAD OF BRAINS? AM I GONNA EAT LUNCH AFTER CRACKING YOUR SKULL OPEN FOR THE PORRIDGE?

 

As the two face off, the man instinctively summons forth the scent of the earth from all around his disorderly workshop, turning his fist iron-colored as it becomes like a mace.

 

In turn, Adris brandishes the cross.

 

 

 

Both freeze during this standoff, while the growing thrill of battle fades completely.

 

(What am I doing here? This is Kol’s fault. … But you no longer want to fight?)

 

Kol deserves full blame for taking Adris to this deadend store. While he thinks that, Adris finally twitches the cross.

When he does so, the man’s eyes dance to follow it.

 

(Hmmm?)

 

 

 

“… Oh, have you noticed my power, old man?”

 

I… I… CAN… SEE… OH, IT’S SO… PERFECT.

 

Whatever he sees lies within the black obsidian that makes up the cross, leaving Adris ignored as the man claws at his eyes mometarily, before…

 

 

 

“Oh, so sorry to bother you, lad. I’ve a bit of a temper sometimes!”

 

 

 

Kol rushes to Adris’ side just as the man starts kindly smiling. The squealing sound turns into a soothing, grandfatherly voice.

 

“Huh!? You… oh… shitty dwarf, got that itch! Kakaka! Boss, did good!”

 

When the man lowers his fist, he hops up to walk over to the helmet.

“Ah, I can see it! Alright, little kobold girl, I’ve got a vision! You made the primary payment for me readying all the random pieces, so show up with the rest and we’re good. A suit of armor made from a bunch of scraps, readied again to break… ah, what a joyous philosophy.”

“Don’t forget the new weapon! Three uses! Kol, studied! Best kind!”

Flicking her tail, Kol points to a long polearm on the wall.

“No problem. Pick any scrap set out as a loaner, girl. If you bring it back intact, you pay extra. Oh, the skinny lad wanted some armor, too? I’ve got an idea on that! You’ll pay me at the same time…”

 

“What? We haven’t even discussed the details of what I want.”

“BOSS! Shut up! Dwarf got mood, don’t argue!”

 

 

 

Cracking sounds come as the dwarf turns his head, still smiling even as his neck muscles bulge. His workshop begins to darken and smell of crushed stone as the fire in the forge paradoxically grows hotter.

The bloodshot eyes, now revealed as a blazing gold, show the true madness that was lingering underneath the lesser one.

 

 

 

“What you want now, lad? Input?

Right, right! The customer should… be a part of what they want made, is that it, lad?”

The man’s strong hands start reaching for Adris as golden eyes derange.

 

 

 

Already walking to the door, Kol waves goodbye as she drags Adris away.

 

“Shitty dwarf is the best! See you tomorrow!”

 

(What? How can a dwarf, even one taken by insanity, have a whole suit of armor ready by tomorrow!?)

 

 

 

Ahhhh, but the lass seems different, too. What if, like her, the armor wasn’t the thing that broke…?

 

 


 

 

Hurrying away from the armorer, Adris is now committed to a payment for an item that has never been drawn up or explained.

 

“Kol, that dwarf is absolutely insane.”

“Umu, Crackbrass, cracked in the head; but, he always makes the best stuff if you can afford it! Kol, saved up a lot for this!”

 

(How can someone who doesn’t understand how money works save it?)

 

Taken in the opposite direction of Crackbrass’ unnamed shop, Kol’s seemingly random meanderings down lonesome alleys and through abandoned structures brought them back to the street which was indicated to be owned by the slayers.

A rusted full-helmet that hides her ears and jangling mail scraps fashioned into a coat allow her to almost pass for human, excepting for her tail and appendages.

 

Adris wonders about his party’s reasons for being so close to an abandoned area that smells of constant danger.

 

“Is Petripolis a place you like, Kol?”

“Hm? … Kol, not sure. City, Castillo, all the same. Dangerous if you are weak, fine if you’re not.”

Coming to stand before him, she looks curious.

“Why?”

 

(I don’t know what you get out of this, aside from power and prestige.)

 

“Even the strongest fighters seek out a place they want to be. Is Petripolis a place of convenience or a home for you, like it is for Ave?”

“Hah, weird question. Well, Kol used to think the city was stupid. Humans won’t talk to Kol, no matter how powerful she becomes. Ran off tribe, refuse to let us stay anywhere.”

 

The usually tyrannical girl then sighs, before making everything worse with her next comments.

“All Kol can do is hurt them when they whine. They always listen after, but not for long. Eventually, Kol will beat sense into them!”

“… Have you tried appealing to them with a more friendly manner?”

Tutting at Adris, she resumes walking.

“Friendly? Humans, can’t understand when Kol tries to show respect! When Kol wants to wrestle, they all get ‘pissy’, unless a warrior! Then, they want to beat Kol no matter what, when she defeats them! Huh, worthless.”

 

(That’s not how the average person does things! No wonder they’re… nevermind.)

 

“Ah! But, some humans, Kol likes!” Flicking her tail in a direction, she gets excited. “Kids like Kol! Especially males! When she tries to teach them things, usually they listen! Do contests and training!”

“What kind of contests?”

“Hm? Not real contests, but sort of. Kol, not care about winning or not, except wanting to win!

Things like run around with a ball, throw it, try to keep away, weird ‘games’. When Kol loses at times, they want to touch Kol’s ears, tail, and sometimes other places! Weird when they get excited, but Kol doesn’t care, she makes them buy things when they lose!

Sweets and meat, best things in life! Kakaka!”

 

Adris brings her to a sudden stop with a powerful tug to her shoulder.

 

“… Have you never thought of getting support with those contests?”

“Hmm? … Ah! Not a bad idea! Took Elf once, but they made her run away when they wanted to feel her chest and tail. Boss, want to come along, fight them, too!?”

“Though that’s a bit of an inconvenience, so be it. I’m oath-bound to support my teammates, after all…”

“HOH! Right! … Hm? Why, Boss, smell angry? See slayer?”

 

 

 

(These shitty brats are molesting my kobold! … I need to be more involved in their lives, it seems. More than that, if they aren’t afraid of Kol, then they’re… “special” like me, which makes them research.)

 

 


 

 

In the city of Petripolis, home of the slayers, lies a place called Slayer’s Call.

 

On a desolate street which lies replete with randomly lined up carriages and carts, very unsavory people congregate at a large public building taking up the entirety of the plaza around it.

 

Exactly like they appeared in the Chapel, these men and women of unending variety all cling to the style of dress of the rovers of the misted woods, favoring weatherized leathers, strange folded hats, and macabre ornamentation. No rhyme or reason or standardization exists for them, with every individual their own king and vision of style.

Swords, spears, axes, bows and firearms, and all sorts of inbetween weapons like Mantecado’s shears prove their individual fighting styles. So, too, do the burdening armors they relax in without care, ranging from full plate with esoteric adornments to padded trenchcoats.

 

Seen from behind masks, scarfs, veils, and strange glasses, Adris finds himself sized up the moment he turns the corner, for they’re perched from various overhangs and statues that make up the front of the building, or lounging at the carts around it.

 

(This is a criminal underground, except it’s full of battle-mad veterans.)

 

“Boss, sure? Letter, fine? If not sure, say now. Kol can handle herself, but Boss’ power is weird, because Boss is weird. Boss strong, but not always?”

“I’m perfectly fine, Kol. No matter the threat, I can overcome it.”

 

Though Adris can make little sense of the letter Cethran gave him, the desperate plea contained within along with her instructions has prepped him for certain key answers.

 

(But who I run into first will decide the real business of the day. I need to get to the exchanger without being roped into any challenges or bad business.)

 

“Okay. Kol smells tribe around. Gonna go check in with them, first. Will follow in a bit. Not many slayers here at this time, like Kol said! Still sure, they won’t hate Boss?”

“That’s no issue. After all, I am one of them, Kol.”

“Weird! Boss said, not slayer! Why, slayer now!?”

 

This key point has caused Kol to eye Adris more critically, but after reading the letter he understands well enough to defuse her.

 

“Kol, what is a slayer?”

“Hm? Umu, Kol say, ‘violent rapist who wants treasure’?”

 

(That’s not inaccurate! But, it’s more than that…)

 

Waving the letter at her, he then walks toward his goal.

 

 

 

“A slayer is whoever was called to this place to slay a certain someone. Think about who it would be…!”

 

 


 

 

(A slayer is a persona I will wear… as a false god. A persona that will… be an extension of what I’m trying to do!)

 

Fighting against a raging headache, the cross burns and rings, even slipped into his belt. Tottering a bit as he walks, he summons all of his mental discipline to fight the discord.

 

(… Shut up! I am still a false god as long as my… lies further the goals of a false god! Accept this! I am… not a charlatan, but a real power who acts as one when it suits him! I’m not trying to avoid being what I am, merely empower that existence!)

 

The same logic that he’d used when defining his role during the assault on Kindle and Chill causes his mind to buckle a bit, until the cross finally relents to it.

 

 

 

Walking past the loiterers outside of the large, stone building with a dome-like roof, its steps up bring a half-dozen curious, hard, or lewd gazes. Because the stone wilderness encasing the structure, a forest of vines that were petrified with its original death, allows no easy access elsewhere, he’s forced in through the front.

In the mists rolling from the Castillo that sweep through Petripolis during the early and late hours, they stalk him through it as they follow along.

Grand, open doors have an overhanging plaque which proudly names this Call.

 

(Skyless Amphitheater?)

 

Within and at the end of a long tunnel, the name is proved wrong.

 

Though left to time’s wear, the large amphitheater stretches above and below with dozens of levels of intact seats, moving to the far end beyond the entrance to showcase a glorious stage with backrooms and balconies.

Statues of figures wearing tunics form the supports of the roof, eternally supplicating to the revealed heavens above, for the room is partially caved in. Looking below, only the darkness of the depths shows where the bottom-most floor once was.

 

(It’s collapsed into the subfloors? Is it as deep as the mining pit outside of the city?)

 

Floating, magical fairy lights illuminate spots claimed by those sitting in groups or alone. Around this grand ring of seats at different strata, numerous packs and equipment lay where they were abandoned or are guarded by slayers.

 

While the slayers claim the ring surrounding the abyss, Adris’ true goal is a man standing behind a fallen column on the stage, one shop among others that serves the community.

 

 

 

Shifting his eyes to take in his potential opposition, no chance comes to avoid the first hurdle. From behind comes the outside watchers, while getting up with a start are more interested new friends surrounding him.

 

(Time for testing?)

 

“… No way. Youngblood!? … Haha, he looks the part, too!”

“~NOVICES~ ain’t gonna happen. Been waaaay too long since the ~THE CHOOSING~. Some weird ~PEON~ or ~TOWNIE~. Just gank him or take a ride.”

“Style is different. ~OUTSIDER~? Get out, we ain’t got room!”

“Find your own ~DARK DEPTHS~! Alkem is ours, ~BOY BAIT~! … Though, he’d look pretty cute being dominated by the imps?”

 

“NO! Stay! Finally!”

 

A woman wearing a warrior-like priestess’ gown rushes up and throws herself casually to sit beside Adris where he stands, staring up at him with green eyes as she brushes her lavender-colored hair away.

 

“Ahh, you look lost, but still so brave! Share with big sis what troubles you! A bad monster, perhaps…?”

Though her cherry lips are smiling, she swallows with a hideous gulp while checking over his body.

 

(AH, this one is like Lycia, except way more crazy!)

 

Though not groping him yet, the woman has to restrain herself from trying to as he edges away from her.

 

 

 

Before he can deal with her, the whole crowd is around him, sizing him up as they chat among themselves.

 

(Don’t panic. From what Kol said, appearance and reputation are everything. The slayers aren’t… completely outrageous. They have ways.)

 

Ways Adris must learn.

As everyone leans in silently, praises his appearance or their own sexual proclivities, or threatens him while sneering and laughing, he notices that most of it comes from a deep place of…

 

(Boredom? Nobody here is angry. They’re genuinely interested.)

 

This is proved by how eagerly the spectators in the distance watch.

 

“Hah, give em to the ~CARNIVORES~. Got a buncha girls over there that like boys, right?”

“This ain’t real! It’s been forever since someone just walked in!”

“Hey, maybe it’s a ~EVENT~! Oy, who was the last ~END OF TRY~ outta the Castillo? Get your butt over here! Check your ~HISTORY~!”

 

Allowing the fervor to pick up, Adris stays silent while maintaining his composure.

Still, he purposefully appears uncertain.

 

 

 

When he shows this uncertainty, the crowd of mismatched psychos grows wilder.

 

“Haha, what’s your name, kid!? Got a ~EVENT~ or ~BOUNTY~ need done, or were you just lookin’ to get your rocks off with one of the crazy bitches here?”

“You’re the crazy bitch, Xleb! Come here and let me sauce your face after toasting you!”

“Want to carry our stuff, kid? Monsters ain’t that scary, you even look like you might enjoy ‘em. We’ll knock a nice girl down for you to bust your first into.”

 

 

 

(None of these people have their appearances.)

 

Those three who rule the top are absent. Remembering them from the Chapel, he’s lost an opportunity to be greeted by them.

 

 

 

“… Is this how slayers greet each other?”

 

 

 

“Y’what!? Hey, you think you’re a slayer, kid!?”

When a rough man wearing banded steel spikes and a leather catsuit leans in, Adris stares him back while leaning forward.

 

“I am… a slayer…”

 

The cross remains completely silent at his declaration.

 

(… so long as it brings me to my goals! Haha! With this, can I overcome always calling myself a false god!?)

 

 

 

Lifting his hand up, he grips his cross strongly.

 

“I heard the call, and so I’ve come.”

“… Oh!? Really…? Then let’s hear it, the call~!”

 

When the crowd quiets, they stop joking around.

Upon making this assertion, the whole room grows tenser as they lose all emotion except for menace that assures his punishment if lying.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t it fine if you simply pretend to be new, Adris? While slayers are the sum total of every dive into the megalomaniacal castle of Aurumia, can you claim to be different? So long as you are fair when speaking of your baser desires and use the correct jargon, will they hardly even notice any discrepancies?

 

Aren’t slayers a complicated, yet simple, form of life? Let a fellow delver of rare truths provide some for you out of the goodness of her heart, won’t you?

 

 

 

(That assumes I believe you. But, having read the letter, I understand it can’t be false.)

 

 

 

“‘And so it came to pass that a great evil chose to dwell here, brought by our greed and indolence. Though my ancestors sought to curtail its capricious interests, the purity of its malice forces me to shamefully seek help from afar.’ …”

 

Upon beginning his recitation, all of the slayers present look shocked, although some quickly smirk or smile with his spoken words.

A very few even look somewhat proud.

 

“… ‘Though I specify not your name, I know your skills and mettle. Oh hunter from the furthest reaches, survivor of all of night’s worst horrors, and warden against the black moon which signals the nearing end…”

 

(Every slayer comes for the same thing.)

 

“… Sever this depraved man’s last attachment, and free this land by slaying the golden monster which dwells high in the mansion overlooking it. One which laughs with the face of a young girl, but deserves a painful death for a thousand years of cruelty.

 

I beseech you in the name of worthless vengeance, oh merciful slayer.”

 

 

 

After reciting the last word,

Adris has no time to act…

 

 

 

“Fucks sakes, a new slayer!?”

“MINE! MINE! JOIN UP WITH ME!”

“OY! WHAT KINDA GIRLS YOU LIKE!? BIG OLE TITTIES OR THEM FLATTIES!? ANSWER CORRECTLY, BOY!”

“Say ‘flatty’ one more time and I’ll flatten your heartbeat, Darkshine! We’re petite!”

“Need gear, ~BOY BAIT~? I got a lot of hand-me-downs. All you gotta do is be my wingman with this weird lady who wants a big and small dude at once…!”

 

 

 

With everyone yelling over each other and ripping at Adris, they keep just below the limit of harming him to not force a fight.

 

Anarchy descends upon Slayer’s Call as a fresh face shows himself.

 

(This isn’t working!? I’m not a novice! You need to know—! AH!? I’ve already been inside!)

 

 

 

Picked up by the priestess woman, he wrestles with her as she pants while trying to carry him off.

“I’m not a novice! I’ve raided the Castillo already! Put me down! I already have a party!”

“Bullshit! Dump them! Big sis is all you need, I’ll prove it! Just pull your pants off~!”

 

(Crazy woman! Fine, see my authority—!)

 

 

 

Before he can raise his cross, a handsome voice halts all present with a crashing declaration.

 

 

 

“~OMNIVOROUS~… ~GENTLEMAN~!

 

THAT’S HIS ENLIGHTENED NATURE!

 

 

 

“EH!? Get away! I only want ~HERBIVORES~!

AHHH! WHY DID YOU TURN OUT TO BE WRONG!?”

Cast aside by the priestess, she begins kicking the nearest statue, before turning back with dangerous eyes. Long hairs hang in front of her face as they stick to her lips.

“… Are you sure you won’t change for big sis…?”

 

(Help!)

 

“For fuck’s sake, another ~GENTLEMAN~!? Fucking Castile! I bet you like flatties and big titties, ~BOY BAIT~!”

“Make a choice, loser. A ‘switch’ is worth nothing. You’re dead to me.”

“Castile gets another one!? We’re still deadlocked!”

“Fucking ~OMNIVORES~!”

 

 

 

Many of the slayers stalk away from Adris, thoroughly disabused of his presence. Of those that remain, they seem eager to ask more questions, but defer to the man hotfooting his way across from the stage along the steps.

Some look worried as he approaches, trying to place the connection between him and Adris, if he understands their looks correctly.

 

(Ah, I know this guy! He’s the one!)

 

The red-haired barbarian of a man’s muscles are mostly exposed by the chest protector and groin plate he wears. Though he should appear physically imposing, Adris’ perception of his aura and menace relates to his pure charisma more than offensive strength.

 

(He’s as stunning as the torch-like sun.)

 

Completely dissimilar to when he was naked and caged, whatever technique the man uses leaks authority that forces the other slayers to acknowledge him. If they don’t, they have to answer to the double-barreled guns hanging from his belt, which one hand lingers near as he approaches.

 

Finally within feet of Adris, an ungainly jog ends with him coming into an assertive stance. Adjusting his bycock hat, the towering man claps Adris’ shoulder.

 

 

 

“Took you long enough to get here, ‘frater’! I sent you word I needed a companion at the start of this long night, but you kept me waiting! Momma kept you busy with your work out at the farm!”

Grinning gallantly at Adris, the man’s rich, debonair voice turns decidedly more hungry.

“Isn’t it time to be a real man and embrace a gentleman’s hungers?”

 

When a nonsensical stream of assertions ends in a question, the remaining slayers around Adris mostly flee.

 

“Another ~TRUE TO ONE’S NATURE~ jerkoff!? The story ain’t even that good!”

“Ahh, what a waste of time. He’s Castile’s brother.”

“Oh, you handle him then, Castile. Hook him up with me later, man! This lady I’m talking about is sexy, has big breasts, sleek feathers, and wants both holes at the same time!”

 

 

 

Parting at kthis champion’s presence, the entire Call lets Adris be roped into some sort of scheme.

Though the man’s smile is easy and jovial, his eyes flash a request.

 

 

 

“… Sup, frater. Took a while, but I’m here.”

“Obvious enough to see!” Snorting at him, the man points to the stage.

 

 

 

“While I’d love to regale you with the lore of this land, you’re not a real slayer until you drink to the dream of claiming the Alchemaster herself!”

 

 


 

Characters:

Characters:

Name: Adris fehl Dain, “Boss”
Titles: Lycia’s Little Brother, True False God, Slayer
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”, Slayer of Petripolis
Discipline: [Rule in Dark]

 

Powers:

[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

 

Statistics:

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

Stats

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!”

 

Beauty:

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?”

“My, aren’t you getting quite ahead of yourself? Rather than worrying about the plans of others, shouldn’t you be drafting your own?”

“Will you go after women who are taken already? Isn’t that quite vulgar? No, but aren’t you a vulgar man, originally?”

“Didn’t you want to be in charge? How can a man be handsome if he doesn’t lead?”

 

“Learning the loopholes is very entertaining, isn’t it?”

 

Description:

“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’?”

“Relieved of the effects of the Castillo, what will he do?”

“Easily throws off suspicion by casting it upon others.”

“Can no longer run from what he is, now that others have seen fit to make him their spokesman.”

 

“Even if he can’t run, he can throw up a barrier.”

 

Commentary:

“Lying is a tool that can never be abandoned.”

 


 

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

 

Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
Discipline: Tyrant Squire

 

Powers:

 

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

 

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

 

[“Ride on Dread“] – “THE WORLD, BELONG KOL! KAKAKA!

 

Disposition: Straightforward / Confrontational / Respectful
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Pink
Hair: White
Skin: Tanned

 

Statistics:

Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Strength – C-?!?

Vitality – C-?!?

Dexterity – E

Agility – F

Intelligence – F

Mentality – C

???

 

Beauty:

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…?”

“Will you not check up on her?”

“If she suddenly starts using aura techniques, will you be content or pull your hair out, Adris?”

“Isn’t such jealousy unbecoming, all powerful false god? Now that she’s the perfect replacement, what reason could you have not to want her?”

“Does she become a danger if she’s more aware?”

 

“Being sought by others is quite cruel, isn’t it?”

 

Description:

“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.”

“Denied of what should’ve been hers, she took treasure to compensate.”

“Having displayed strange abilities for quite a while, they had always seemed incomplete. Now, it might be understood why.”

“In one night, a kobold without training acquires aura… would not be the case, in most circumstances. Rather than aura, fear born of darkness is what leaked out.”

“Upon cleansing herself of something, she grows more cognizant of the world around her.”

 

“Knows how to deal with difficult people.”

 

Commentary:

“I like her better this way.”

 


 

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

Occupation: Delver, Mystic
Discipline: ???

Powers:

 

[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

 

Statistics:

Rantil Value –

Strength – F

Vitality – F

Dexterity – D

Agility – E

Intelligence – B

Mentality – C

Luck – F

???

 

Beauty:

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?”

“Is Petripolis the place to find other charming ladies like this one?”

“Do you not feel she regards herself as royalty in many ways?”

“If she believes in you, isn’t this a sign that you’ve increased your standing with her?”

 

“Believes in you, but you don’t believe in her?”

 

Description:

“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…?”

“Though not the leader of the party, she seems most eager to be at the side of…?”

“Within a room owned by two girls mostly, she claims only one spot, a throne made for her.”

“Quickly abandons responsibilities that force her to make decisions.”

 

“When bearing gifts, is perhaps not aware that most people don’t just accept them.”

 

Commentary:

“Often we push people away by forgetting we’re not supposed to be manipulating them, but rather understanding them.”

 

 

Glossary:

 

 

 

 

Chapter 59         Table of Contents          Chapter 61