Take Up the Cross – Chapter 66: Bayonne of Bankruptcy

A rough swaying can’t keep careful eyes from inspecting the scene.


(One commandeered enclosed carriage with a destination in mind; a driver imperiled by fear of pursuit sufficiently enough to trust me is navigating it; a bottle of whiskey for our half-way point drink to offer a human touch; one open pack of Castillo gold to my side to incriminate him…)


With the other seat taken up by a slumped figure with a red knot on his forehead, the boy checking his own clothing for imperfections expects company, causing him to hurry in applying healing balm to the poor fool’s wounds.


(… and one unconscious old man with the medicine in my hand to fix that! I stayed apart from Still, so Reverend wouldn’t see us together at the scene of the crime and will hopefully remain ignorant when Still goes all out to cover her tracks upon escaping.)


The moment the driver saw Bayonne being carried by Adris and heard a rushed explanation that they’d been ambushed for a “hot item” in his possession, the driver had easily let Adris convince him to swing by to pick up “Cherie” before going to their safe house.


(Fortunately, Still investigated his escorts, too~.)


Left to his work, the optimum first impression in any interrogation or forced meeting is the most important part. While Bayonne and he have technically met before, that persona lacked Adris’ true charm.


(We have so little time, Bayonne! Still will be joining us in a bit, so let’s get to know each other first before she does her part.)


Fatso’s lessons on human fear, ones proved true by Adris’ lived experiences, will soon play out once more.


(Despite the extra touches, I’ve already won~. This session merely seeks to establish a better relationship in the glory of my victory!)




Rough coughing comes as the “old salt” is forced to breathe Still’s wake-up concoction, with the gentleman falling over as the carriage sways on its chains.


“HAH!? HAK! … Is this that dreadful mansion!?”


A brutal hit on the head wakes up Bayonne when the man tries to rise, earning him another mild concussion and wincing hands over the injury.

“Merciless Fate, that hurts!? Where are…!? … Oh… oh…?”




An arrogant leg crossed over a seated one and a masked, grinning face partially hidden by shadow earns the man’s attention as he realizes their location.

Within his own carriage, Bayonne has become bound to a lonesome ride through Petripolis at the encroachment of nightfall.


“Greetings, oh brave entrepreneur. Worry not, your carriage is as it was left, though I believe it’s a poor risk relying on an escape route that is so obvious.”


(A lonely, waiting carriage screams out to me. Though drab on the outside, the moment you look within you discover the creature comforts like feather pillows. Poor form for a spy, Bayonne!)


A wheezing whine is the only response as the man stares hard at the pack full of Castillo gold that’s opened next to Adris. Clattering hooves and a creaking carriage cut into the pause in conversation as Bayonne nervously shakes before reaching into his robes.

But the desperate grimace he shows turns into understanding dread when Adris pulls a yellow candy from his own vest to offer it to him with two fingers.


“Such a difficult life you must lead, Bayonne, to be addicted to ‘sweets’.”


Hesitant at first, the man then quietly takes the candy before popping it into his mouth. Sucking on it takes the edge off his fear.


“… Might I have the honor of knowing who you are, since you don’t appear to be a monster…?”


Laughing at the polite question is Adris’ reply before he leans forward.


“Certainly. Though we’ve made passing acquaintance, you may know me now as a false god.” Cracking open a rune-covered box, Adris pulls out his fog tool to restrap it to his arm as Bayonne grinds his teeth.

“Not everything is as it appears, correct, Master Bayonne? Care to discuss the apocalypse?”

“… Ugh. Who are you with…?” A resigned look comes to the man as he strokes his beard nervously, but eyes are hopeful and still canny with how they inspect Adris. “I have no interest in… the affairs of kingdom and country, I’m merely a merchant. If I’ve information you want about them, then I offer it.

Just… let me…”


Reaching out as if to grasp the man’s throat, Adris whispers to him.


There’s no escape for anyone present, Master Bayonne…”

“… Huuuh…”




When Adris increases his presence with powerful body language, Bayonne shivers appropriately.

A mask that once inspired admiration and idolization now breeds pure terror of the inescapable dark.


(I like that far better.)




“… How could anyone escape from a business as excellent as yours? As profitable as it is, I still comprehend the morass that it drops you into when you consider who your customers are.”

A lightening of his tone provokes Bayonne to calm the moment the word “business” is spoken.

“… You’re not… a spy or foreign agent? Nor a slayer…?” Giving disbelief to the situation at first, Bayonne adjusts his track when Adris nods his head.


“What I represent, Master Bayonne, is service to the grandest and most illustrious interest you will ever discover on Zennia…”

Offering Bayonne a polite bow of his head, Adris then mockingly grins as he exuberantly names his faction.




“I serve my own immeasurable power and esteem! Hahaha!”


Quick, unsettling laughs bring a dark touch to the jostling carriage ride, for Bayonne has no idea how to interpret this strange boy that whips out a black cross to set into his lap.




(Good, let’s unsettle your expectations before making this lucrative. While Still and I can be chummy and pretend we’re equals, you must buy into the image permanently and without question.)


“For you to have noticed something amiss about me even within the Call proves that your fate will be anything but average, Bayonne. Though you rightfully fear the Alchemaster, in my presence that fear is pointless…”


Bayonne grinds his teeth further, unsure if that’s because he’s safe or because Adris is worse.


“Don’t look so glum. You have both talent and a plan worthy of praise. The work you’ve done winning over those slayers is quite laudable. Tell me, though, why do you seem displeased when you’ve achieved so much…?”

“What? Achieved…?”

“Yes. Though you reap powerful rewards for little work, you seem quite frustrated with…?”


Slapping his thighs, Bayonne shakes when words start tumbling out from his blubbering lips.


Frustrated!? Driven to my limits is what I am! And why wouldn’t I be!?” Crushing his palms together, the fake mystic’s eyes bulge with anger. “Do you know what it’s like… being treated like you’re a… a dummy for them to vent at, day in and out!? They’re just a bunch of heathens with too many blessings and not enough morals!”

“… I couldn’t imagine. How do they act towards you, Master Bayonne?”

“They act like I’m a child they can mock at their leisure! I was a respected member of the [Brothers of the Silver Way]! I carry the Coin, even now, for I earned it! … I am not some… brat that profligates who pine for debauched pleasures of the flesh like they can… can…”


The man blinks when a glass is gently nudged into his wizened hands. Smelling its odor, this once-proud merchant’s eyes narrow sinisterly at Adris.

At least until Adris drinks from the same bottle.


“Poison would be a little uncouth for my style, Master Bayonne.”

“… Hah! ‘Uncouth’? As if… No intelligent man has limits to seeking success… I have sunk quite low if I’m sharing my former affiliations this soon. That’s what those idiots do to you! They drain your wits…” Such musings are on point, for the man gave away much in his outburst.


Backed into a corner, Bayonne sips on the whiskey, suddenly noticing that no bonds are affixed to him even on his legs.

Clever eyes flash to the front of the carriage…


“It would be a shame to repeat my performance.” Tapping his cross, Adris’ threat earns a cough from the man. “Not all meetings are as dangerous as they appear, Master Bayonne. I simply don’t understand how your lucrative profits haven’t earned you more support.”


Gesturing with a wide hand, Adris’ questions are stiff.


“Why so few guards to cover you? Why don’t you simply pressure the slayers for what you’re looking for? If you have such wealth, then why not buy the open or covert support of the mayor?”


(It doesn’t make sense for you to skulk around with demi-humans as your only protectors!)


Certain key details of Bayonne’s business elude Adris in understanding. Until he grasps those things, he might be forcing himself into some sorry state of affairs without knowing it.


“… Hohoho. Not a local faction, are you?” Cheering up at Adris’ ignorance, Bayonne gives a grandfatherly smile before continuing.

“What guards will I find? The slayers wiped out everyone operating in the open, leaving them simpering wretches weeping about rods and holes! I’m left only with outcasts like my [ratfolk] contacts to draw help from…

As to… ‘asking’ those simpletons for specific goods, the moment I violate the ‘sanctity’ of my position by acting too aggressively in asserting my own will, they all flow up to me in a great wave when my words are new to them…!”

Bayonne’s eyes quiver as he rubs his temples in pain.

“‘EVENT! EVENT! EVENT!’ THEY SCREAM IT AT ME! DEMANDING DETAILS FOR SOMETHING! … What do they want!? I don’t know! Tell me, and I’ll fool them with it!”


Tears come to the corner of the man’s eyes.

For all of his wealth, every day he earns it is another that breaks him down.




(Slayers don’t treat humans as humans.)


A clear delineation exists between “slayer” and “everyone else”, leaving Adris certain now that non-existent communication and a divergent worldview are at least two of the reasons.




“You have no idea what it is like to wake up one morning to the crisp mountain air and walk down to your thriving expeditionary corps…”

Throwing himself into a monologue, Bayonne seems to forget that Adris even exists. His dark voice joins with the approaching night to convey long-felt suffering.

“… To greet your workers and prepare for the groundbreaking dive to a crèche you’ve sought for decades, only to have a moron with a club march into your office and demand your tools, weapons, and materiel…!”

When Bayonne begs for another drink, Adris obliges with a solemn expression.

“… No idea what it’s like to be cast from your place of work by brutes who storm in looking for a fight or sordid assault, forced to escape on your own…! To receive no help from others, for even the soldiery assigned to protect you has succumbed to these wanton raiders!

… Wandering through chaotic streets in a daze as the whole world you woke to dies around you, knowing that the only reason you are not a part of the carnival of slapping flesh, and confusing screams and moans is because you’re too old for anyone to care about!”

The tale he describes from his point of view is similar to Neesiette’s, but it means much more related by another human.


(“History is only as powerful as the one who lived it recounts it.”)


Flooding into the city on the same morning, an army of random travelers from afar sought to talk to and meet with people in strange and off-putting ways. Composed of humans, and also demi-humans like elves and dwarves, they clearly violated a legal ban with the “monstrous races” tagging along behind them, too.

Average citizens could not cope with the dire change and raised an alarm at the influx of vagabonds.


“Once… once the citizenry refused to associate with them, they became… savage and indignant! They’d walk into people’s homes without a care, combing through their possessions! Making gross carnal advances on men, women, and youths! Inviting the noble people to engage in sinister copulations and festivities for fun…!”

His sputtering words result in him turning red-faced again, breathing roughly before he calms himself.

“Flagrant vandals would walk off with things in broad daylight if you refused to put a price to it! But they only wanted to pay with the cursed gold which comes from the evil mansion above us!”

“No one would take it, I imagine?”

“Who would willingly be cursed by a Great Evil!? The treasures of the mansion are said to bring only misfortune to those who steal them…!

… I should know, my whole life now is a living curse!”


“… Yet, haven’t you jumped at the opportunity to ride it out?”




Bayonne shuts his mouth quickly, eying Adris critically again after his roaring condemnation is abruptly cut short.


“… Haha… yes, well… I am a Silver Brother! After I lost practically everything, I realized that the ash pile that Petripolis had become represented a new chance.”


With the madness in his voice fading, the man sounds embarrassed, but his proud nose is held up as he explains his methods.

“As strange as it sounds, these madmen are quite easy to inculcate yourself with, so long as you do it dramatically enough and prolong their interest. Though there was… a rough start, a red-haired gentleman among them named Castile proved to be a suitable man to lead them after the…”


A long pause in his tale coincides with Bayonne’s eyes lightening considerably.

“After the…?”


Grinning ear to ear, this sweet memory brings back his unsteady voice.

“After the slayers had their little schism, they began brutalizing each other instead of us!

At the end of that hellish week where they ran rampant, the mayor finally sought out this Castile who everyone saw living the legend of a knight errant, no matter if he looks like a barbarian…!”


(… Boy does he have them fooled. The man is just a hopeless romantic.)


The carriage makes a sudden turn to the left, closing toward the detour stop Adris informed the driver to make. Taking them through the broken outer quarters, Bayonne calmly takes in the abandoned scenery as his voice stays rough.


“The city council, mayor, and lord’s reeve had such high hopes for reclaiming the city, once…

That Castile united the slayers against the worst of their brethren, driving off the unrepentant ravagers of women and the defenseless!

Outside the walls, to hide in shadows!

It was joyous, watching them rape each other in the streets! Bah, though our own crowded to engage in frivolities against them, too, leading to more disorder!”


A long sigh spells the end of his reminiscence.


“It took a while, but eventually we had our city back…


… I say that, but it’s not my city!”


Waggling his finger at Adris, Bayonne’s tone becomes despondent and forlorn again, yet his sanity is much recovered.


“All I wanted was to break through to the crèche at the bottom of the dry lake mine! To seek out my heritage! No matter how much money I save up, I can’t figure out how to put a bounty in with Master Drache for that…!”


“Hold, Bayonne. Let’s discuss one thing at a time.”

“Discuss what!? You’re just here to rip me off, correct!? Who cares if I ramble now!”


Hostility flows from the man’s pores, a knowing smile full of self-hate on his face.


“Don’t treat me like a child, too, foreigner! I might be a bit addled by their lifestyle, but I still know a dead end when it sits before me! You’re taking me for a ‘discussion’ that won’t result in my good health, no matter how much the [Light’s Grace] (VIGOR) protects me…”

“Are you so sure? I’d expect you to be a bit more coy if you truly thought that.”


(Sharing too much is a tell. No matter how frightening your situation is, you’re not keeping enough of the tiles hidden to cash in later. You sound more like you’re selling the value of yourself and your information than…)


The old man’s eyes do seem rather confident as Adris wonders why. Though his wits are maddened, Bayonne still has tricks in store.




When the brakes catch and throw them forward, Adris stops Bayonne from rocketing into him with a quick hand to his shoulder.

“Don’t look surprised, Bayonne. We’re merely picking up our dates for the evening.”

The mysterious comment does nothing to enlighten him, but the ill-fitting carriage door opening with a pop does.




One dizzy, mousy sneak with bound hands is the first to enter, thrust into Adris’ waiting arms by a girl with blue doublet sleeves. Putting her next to himself, Adris’ hand then aids the hesitant lady of the evening in climbing in.


{… Thanks.}

“Of course.”


(There’s zero chance you’d lose against anyone you’re confident of beating.)


“… Ah! You’re that…!”

“Say hello to my wonderful partner, Master Bayonne.”

{Charmed, I know you are~!}


While Bayonne cringes and escapes to the corner of the carriage, Still pleasantly sits beside him, leaning in while offering a gleeful mask. She begins dusting off her clothing, before moving to cleaning his playfully while he shakes in terror.


To his right, Adris looks over the mouse woman wearing a tight, stained dark-gray surcoat over a pristine shirt of mail.


(Much like Kol, a blend of beast and humanoid. Much finer fur? Her ears seem out of place to replace a human’s, unlike how Kol’s do. They’re set higher… I’m glad she’s mostly human, I’d hate to have a walking, talking, furry rat—!)


A trail of dripping Vigor marks her wound patterns as she slumps into the seat. Hacked hard leather bracers over wrists and shredded cuffed pants reveal how a duelist’s precise strikes whittled her down by striking at mobility, leaving her hobbled.


“Is Cherie safe!? Just… take your divine justice (RECOMPENSE) from her and leave her to heal!”


Mentally nodding at Bayonne’s attachment to the woman, Adris begins tending to her.


“Let’s leave Recompense on the table for later. She’s in pretty bad shape, partner?”

{If she didn’t want to be, then she shouldn’t have wasted so much time.}


Adris is quick to apply healing balm after wiping off her neon-red Vigor and cleaning her multiple sword wounds.


{I’ve already given her an all-around pill, so just give her a few ten-turns and she’ll be squeaking again~.}

Quick hands deliver signs like a ball, three-to-four, and a wave of distaste. Every sign is watched by Bayonne, but his wide eyes show disbelief after the boy nods.


“… You… understand… this…?”

“‘This’ what? I would be careful how you address my date, Bayonne.”

{… I didn’t bring clothes for that, Adris…}


Adris’ assertive suggestion earns Bayonne’s mouth closing, but Still suddenly launches into more gestures.


{This is business, right?}

“We can make it business and pleasure, provided Master Bayonne is agreeable.”

{If so, then… I don’t mind doubling up~.}


Different from this morning, Still’s supple body becomes a seductive treat with her permission given for him to enjoy it. The thrill of this hunt has “earned” Adris a taste as she brushes over her breasts to emphasize her lack of proper attire.


(I see why I’ve been so obsessive. Why I was so pathetic the night before… and so ignorantly petty this morning with how I spoke to her. I grew up without having to face new, challenging long-term relationships, didn’t I? There was only Serras, Fatso, and the old man, and… two out of three died horribly.)




Adris has worked with others many times, but one in particular spoiled him forever. Even if Serras wasn’t good for conversation most days, her presence in his affairs was the anvil that let him work his opposition into the right shape with a promise of security aiding him.

Serras couldn’t be bought or intimidated.


She would never abandon him.

Nor he, her.


(I want someone I can trust much too desperately… Serras broke that, but I think I’m ready to… chance it again. Different women demand novel approaches to relating to them.)


There will be no more stupid, irrational fears about Still.

No thoughtless bickering from him about trivial topics like their “relationship”.

Though he will still bend her behind the scenes to his will with tools like the Reverend, it’s not necessary to break her or doubt her own goals.


(This girl made a choice, too. She shows hesitation daily, sometimes even by the minute, but she’s… trying to have faith, as well. Only a simpering wretch would spoil that chance.)


When Adris nods his head to Still, she pulls her head back in confusion, finally tilting it a bit to show her curiosity at his thoughts.




“… Our rat friend is clean, right?”

{No weapons left~.}

“Good, then we can dispose of her.”


Still waves goodbye to Cherie, while Bayonne extends his arm.


“WAIT! Dispose of…!?”


When Bayonne tries to move, he ends up restrained by fast hands.


Flashing steel drawn from Adris’ purple sash moves towards the back of the still addled Cherie, trailed by fear-struck eyes before a swift motion cuts through…




A strange boy rubs the woman’s wrists where they were bound, making sure that the fur isn’t still tight to her body, before dabbing more healing balm.


“… Why would… someone who associates with the hated undead treat…?”




Bayonne’s immense fear of Still is suddenly explained, for the man picks out immediately what took Adris a week to figure out. A blue angel leans in closer to Bayonne’s face while he pulls away, peering deeply before she gives up with a shrug.


{He’s no mystic or sky worshiper, Adris! Zero talent for magic, probably… What’s his story?}

“Did you notice Bayonne do anything strange when you set off the ambush?”

The man flinches at the question, but Still is quick on the uptake.

{Yeah. He noticed the voids in the walls before I’d even added anything to them… Almost as if he could see through the stone.}

“So that’s how you know what the tasty treasures are, Bayonne? You can pick them out with your special insight?”


Staying silent at the question, the man sweats while trying to avoid giving up his secret.


“By now you can guess I’m not just here to rob you. Let’s show some equity. Here, I believe this date is yours.”

“… Huh… where…?”


Adris picks up the small sneak with a long tail, gently pushing her into Bayonne’s eager arms. Still effortlessly tosses herself into the seat Cherie vacates, crossing her legs while grinning evilly.


“… Anaxis, get your hands off my butt! Horny devil! Wait, where are we!?”

“Shut up, Cherie! Don’t say stupid shit! Just sit and let me negotiate!”

At first pawed in the face by her, Bayonne shunts his escort to the seat beside him before she starts hissing at Still.

“Fuck that! Wait… you bitch! Where’s my cutter…!?”


The blade demanded is swung in front of Cherie’s face by Still.



Very obvious gestures can be understood even by them.

{Your cutter? No. My cutter~.}

“… Don’t worry! It’ll be your present after I leave it wrapped up in your neck!”

A desperate old man holds back a rambunctious mass of round ears and sharp front teeth.

“LADIES! Stop! Men are talking!”

“You’re next with that sort of shit coming from your lips, Anaxis! AH!? Ah…”


The rat woman punches the old man in the shoulder once, before she sighs in pain and stops moving.

Huffing at the sudden strike to his old body, Bayonne, now identified as…




“Master Anaxis, we now have little time before we arrive at your safehouse. Would you care to answer a few things with firm candor now?”

“… And if I don’t?”

Gesturing to his wonderful companion, Adris identifies the “stick” in this arrangement.

“Then I leave you to this beauty’s hands instead of my more preferable means.”


Cherie’s cutter is twirled menacingly in the small carriage by a deft hand.

{Have you ever wondered how long a human can last before their Vigor can’t prevent a Transference?}


“… What are the questions?”


“What is your relationship to the Master of the Slayer’s Call?”


“Drache? Hoh, it’s not a relationship. … You’re truly ignorant of a lot, despite how impressive you appear.”

Meager grumbling is the first thing Adris is forced to receive, but Anaxis quickly gets to his point when Still leans in.


“… Since you don’t seem like you’ll break confidence with anyone, I can tell you this:


[Rainart Drache], the Master of Slayer’s Call as you name him, is one of the shadow rulers of Petripolis. With his clever manipulations of the slayers, he can have the half-wits do his dirty work by tossing a single crystal at them to clamor over.

Cross him and you’ll be raped into a stupor before the end of the day.”


(That makes perfect sense. That’s… definitely how I would run things.)


“He knows all about me but has declined to intervene, demanding only a tidy sum of gross profits for tenancy rights. Master Drache does nothing that does not relate to the preservation of the slayers, despite appearing to loathe them as much as I do!”


(I will have to be… extremely careful in how I deal with Master Drache.)


Even if Adris has Castile as a buffer, the old man doesn’t seem to respect Castile very much from first impressions of him.


“I see. My next question is this:


What Talent do you hold that lets you conduct your business so well?”


“[Gift of Grace] (TALENT)? … It matters not if I tell you. Knowing my true name now, it is public record you may easily learn from. I should know, for its far spread was my first ruin!”

“Stop being so fuckin’ dramatic, Anaxis! It’s not even that impressive! Hurry up!”

Flicking him in the head with her tail, Cherie urges the conversation to get over with.

“… Buh!? Ignore this… dismissive woman! It is very impressive.”

Anaxis sneers at Adris while crossing his arms, puffing himself up with his self-assessment.

“‘Flashes of knowledge are gifted to me when seeing things, such that what may bring me future success catches my eyes’It’s an instinctive feeling I gain related to the fortune of my future. The more potent that feeling, the stronger the impact on my fortunes; the more immediate it comes on, the sooner it will become relevant…”


{So that’s how he knew I was about to put bombs into those holes. I was wondering why you flinched.}

“I see. It only works when viewing the object in question, right? And if you give a single tell, then spies around you become aware of how to sabotage you…?”

“… GUH!? … Huh, truly insightful of you. That is the limit and, yes, why I was undone by people’s understanding of how it works…!”

Pulling on his beard, Anaxis quietly fumes at old ghosts while Adris and Still share private words.


{Could be useful.}

“… Depends.”


(“Limited fortune telling about one’s avarices”? Prognostication was an aura technique…)


While not omniscient, powerful aura users could trace the future to limited degrees. Many were hunted down by users of different schools of thought, with the justification being that the future would doom people if it was defined by human foresight.


(… The wisest aura masters believed that “fortune telling” was only a form of “self-fulling prophecy”, an idea that made itself true when released to the people’s ears…)


“How does that help you know what my friend is?”

“The feelings sometimes come with inner imagery. The moment your… friend appeared, it was like I was facing… my own mortality superimposed over her if I resisted!”


Still nervously pulls back as the carriage bounces around, unwilling to engage with the man whose eyes are locked on her while wide with understanding.


(… “Zaarin”, Gravemonger and lord of the dead, yes? Not just foresight, but degrees of recognizing “gods” working? Interesting.)


“If you don’t want to risk incurring the potential wrath of the slayers or the citizens of Petripolis, then why do you work with your associate?”

“Cherie? There’s… nothing wrong with her!”

“… You’re the only one that would say that Anaxis!”

Rolling her eyes while blushing a bit, the cagey woman understands Adris’ question while Bayonne just blusters.


“You don’t mind non-humans?”

The old codger pounds his leg with his fist while pointing at Still.

“… Don’t make me out to sound like a heathen, you! I… I don’t… I just don’t think that… all non-humans are the same…

They’re not all dangerous like your friend is! Cherie is just an outcast trying to survive! The Lords of Light can hardly… condemn that…”

“Saying things like that is gonna get you imprisoned one day, love.”


(Hah, whatever. He’s not just greedy. So long as he has attachments, I can use them.)




When the carriage begins to slow, Adris looks out the window ahead before coming back with a gentle smile.

“Well, if you can glimpse the future, then the reason you’re so willing to talk to me is clear.”


“… It is, is it?” For the first time since awakening, Anaxis, also known as Dirty Bayonne, gains serious self-confidence. “Huh, you’re not wrong about that. You’ve an effective network of spies, sir, but they lack quite a lot if you’re so intent on blackmailing me or raiding my stockpiles despite the futility of it…”


“Don’t play coy! I’m not so over the hill that I can’t recognize the manipulations you’ve used on me! I don’t disapprove of them at all, but I’ve no intention of negotiating with a man who still holds the threat of divine justice over me.

Just use it and be done with—!”




“This one known as Adris fehl Dain abandons right to Recompense over Anaxis and Cherie.”




A sharp wind rocks the carriage as whispers sound out, before the buzzing feeling at the back of Adris’ thoughts vanishes.

The old man is rocked by something flowing through him, striking his head once more on the carriage roof as he hisses.


“… What!? Why would… you? You could potentially just order me… to aid you for a time!?”

“This is supposed to be equitable. If I truly wanted to ruin you, I would just tell the slayers what you’re doing and end this whole affair in one go.”


Opening the door, Adris readies to step out while offering a hand to the old man. Nearly freed from his imprisonment, the feeling of the fresh wind and the closeness of the stone building that their driver has pulled them to reinvigorates the crusty soul of Anaxis.




“Show me why you’re not worth blackmailing and let me prove you wrong! I’m good at designing solutions to problems and streamlining efficiencies. So long as I increase your profits by a significant factor, you won’t notice a bit of a loss, right?


… But, choose quickly.”


A quick motion to his “date” brings her alluring body to life again, with her steepled hat and womanly movements blocking out the light from her side of the carriage to inflict a slasher shadow on the other occupants.

The scything blade is drawing closer as Cherie puts her chilled, defeated body between Still and Anaxis, desperate to forestall their fates, yet having no means to.




“If we’re not to be partners in robbing the slayers blind, then…”


Red eyes burn bright behind a black mask with a curious sigil engraved into it.

His winning smile morphs slowly into a displeased sneer.


“… you are a rival.





After securing the silence of the carriage driver by introducing Adris as a business associate, Anaxis was quick to invite them past his bored ratkin guards.


“Needa stop babysitting the old man, Cherie.”

“Unless you’ve gone soft on him!”


Left under Still’s constant supervision, Cherie’s gloomy face only elicits jeering and laughter, for the spare cloak Cherie is forced to wear covers where she was wounded.


“… They… noticed nothing. Not even my signals…”

{Train them better~.}


Though solid stone, the building their group chose is nothing more than a grain storehouse converted into a hidden lockup.


{Huh, delicate warding. No wonder I couldn’t find it…}

Drawing Adris’ attention to the walls, Still’s pointers toward inscribed glyph patterns are things he could sense about the building minutely as he closed on it. Within it, the entire room buzzes like a lightning storm is about.


(Curiously, the cross creates a slight void in its presence. My senses don’t detect it until I’m feeling a bit away from this space…)


“Blasted dwarven piece of shit! HHHHHUUUUUUHHHH!”


At first watching Anaxis with some concern, Adris becomes sure of the man’s servility enough to step in.


“… Move over.”


The giant, mechanical doorway barring Anaxis from his trove features a large locking lever, one which is stuck partway through its unsealing.





When old man and boy both yank, it cycles to its unlocked state with a giant clanging noise. Mechanisms within its black-box interior activate, before the geared walls swivel away from the door.

Letting go of it, the door opens up towards the ceiling to hang from above, while a wave of dire, familiar spirituality billows out from the unsealed room to lick at Adris’ heart.


“… I should’ve never had that local dwarf install it…!”


(I’m going to regret buying armor from Crackbrass, aren’t I?)




The glinting sconces that inflame in succession blind Adris momentarily with the glow reflected. One called the Origin of Greed has her own shrine established for her within Petripolis, maintained in secret by a fake mystic and his ratty entourage.


(What is this hot mess!?)




Within the eighty-plus-foot square storehouse of Anaxis, sole exchanger for Castillo treasures, are piles of stacked, solid gold coins in rows.

Mystical looking items such as a serrated sword whose teeth move on their own, a shield that gathers the light around it, and a shoulder sash made of glittering fish scales are only minor demonstrations of the variety of the magical goods here. All are cataloged, and placed on wooden shelves and racks.


Thick-plated steel with familiar-looking etched runes protect the inner walls, while stout-and-short earthen men in non-metallic armor maintaining festive and ridiculous poses eerily stand as sentinels.


(Those bizarre statues again! These thrum with power, too…!)


Despite Adris’ suspicions, his partner in crime only flashes hidden gestures without growing alarmed.


{I know their activation mechanism and can defeat them.}


Taking in the spectacle…




“Why are you keeping this much treasure in one place!? This is a nightmare! If word leaked of this, you’d have armies on your—!?”


“Don’t I know!?” This screaming interruption comes with the older man’s figure contorting with sudden mental suffering revealing itself. “The problem is, oh future partner of mine, that I’m so fucking rich that I can’t get rid of it all!”




Stamping up to the first pile, Anaxis picks up the top layer to throw the coins into the air.


They glitter as they fall, before ringing loudly on hitting to roll everywhere.


“This accursed gold constitutes my sole funding source aside from selling artifacts (MAGICAL ITEMS)! But, I can only exchange trivial quantities per week, smuggled out of the city to be melted down with secret methods of destroying the curse afflicting it! The price to ship it out was driven up the moment the Granescians arrived on the heels of the slayers’ deprivations, for the religious bastards watch every outgoing party for ‘monstrous interferences’!”


Rows of marks on a nearby wall are his next exuberant demonstration of his frustration.


“Using the goods bought with the melted gold, which loses a considerable value after the fence’s share, I must use my associates like Cherie to exchange with the local people for what the slayers want! [Succor] (DEVOTION) cannot be bought in quantities from the Granescians without special dispensation, so I must secretly trade for single tablets, of which there are never enough…!”


A golden chair with ivory backing and legs becomes his seat as he collapses and begins to stain his face with bitter tears.


“I’ve got capital, but I can’t expend it! Adding to this, I have to buy the gold of the other merchants at the Call, too, so that they can fund their own businesses!”

Rough hands grind into the man’s thick beard. His mumbling and ravings increase for a moment, before a candy is popped into his mouth.


“MMm… nnnrn, nvery… Every day, the slayers bring more gold, yet the Succor I can exchange for it is almost fixed! That rack is my total budget, and look how empty it is! They’re starting to get angry, but I can’t do anything about it…!

It’s a total wash if I can’t break the deadlock soon, because overhead is starting to accrue! Already, I’m sick of the color of this shining swamp I’ve cast myself into!




I’ll be the richest pauper in Petripolis!

Completely fucking insolvent with a vault full of pure gold!”




(… Supply and demand are uneven, with no chance to acquire more legitimate capital. No wonder the slayers are fine with the unfair exchange rates. If they weren’t, they’d get nothing more, anyway!)


“… Surely you can sell… these magical items you’ve been accruing?”

“HOW!? I don’t know what they do! I’ve already sold all the goods that appeared non-magical, and believe you that was harder later when some of them turned out to be mildly cursed!”

“The moment you lose your reputation, you can’t…”

“Huh, you get passing marks on understanding economics! The last grand sage that was given dispensation by the mayor to inspect the goods found by foreigners locally was abducted by a monster in the dead of night, likely to become her husband!”


Rushing to Adris, Anaxis is awestruck by a dark ray of hope.


“BUT, YOU!? The moment I woke up in the carriage I got a feeling! If I can start selling artifacts to the collectors that pile into Petripolis, I might be able to recover enough liquidity of Succor or peca to smuggle more gold out per trip! At least then, I can sell it for peca once more!

Can you help!?”


(… That’s… not actually… impossible?)


Taking in the sights with him, Still shakes her head in disbelief and hides her flexing fingers. Her greed seems just as peaked as Adris’ is.

{Should we have just robbed them?}


(It’s not a very good long term investment…)


As if she reads his thoughts, she waggles assent, before she reaches his own unspoken solution…


{Neesitte, right?}

“Yeah, basically…

If I fix this, I have certain terms, Anaxis.”


“As long as they don’t include my bum being broken in or you robbing me blind, I agree! Just fix this first problem and we’ll see what contractual agreement we can come to after!”

The tired man takes up Adris’ hand, quickly shaking it while Cherie slaps her head in disgust.




“These ‘candies’ are the only thing keeping what’s between my ears from melting out! If I lose any more hair or sleep over these infernal slayers, I’m gonna neck myself, regardless of what the Lords of Light say about it!”





A stunning steel-blue dress earns Anaxis’ undivided attention as he inspects the moon fairy who tiptoes through his aisles.


“… What be this… insane catastrophe of supposed organization?”


“Nothing but an opportunity, Neesiette! As the foremost mind on Zennia and seeker of True Art, only you can unravel the secrets of this trove.”


Adris carries her tome for her as he obediently escorts her through the storehouse. Promising her certain things just to get her to leave Welcome Web, she’d remained doubtful of his reasons.


“… One’s words prove that sincerity and sarcasm may be ever similar to each other, though even by the grace of being constructed by Luna this lady be incapable of separating them at times…”

Pulled from her wide-eyed appreciation of the trove, Neesiette dumps verbal cold water over Adris’ head.

“… however…”




Vividly shining violet eyes sweep the sum of the room, taking in every object as if nothing can be hidden.


A dainty smile shines forth like the blessing of on high, for the lady that will be their savior turns and gives an impressive curtsy.




“‘Neesiette vera Luna be this lady’s name. A problem such as this be trivial.

Reserve room in one’s pitiable memories to inscribe the name of one’s salvation eternally into them.”

Kneeling in praise, the merchant who once shied away from this doll-maiden offers his heart and hands.

“… OH!? THANK—!”




A gentle slap removes his hands from her presence.

She lifts her chin with her usual aristocratic grace to look down on him.




“This lady’s payment for services to be rendered, discuss now we shall before beginning?”






Name: Adris fehl Dain, “Boss”, “Starr”
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]



[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!”


[Verisimilitude] – “Stop giving weird names to what I do! But if my imaginative truths are more believable now, I’m not gonna complain.”


[A WONDERFUL CURSE] – “If that old corpse wasn’t already dead, I’d definitely kill him!”


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?”

“This sort of man is the one you’ve always longed to be, yes? While others would prefer outright power, it doesn’t do for you unless you live on the edge of destruction, correct?”

“Do you think a man that hides all his pain is seductive? Isn’t it the opposite? Shouldn’t you lay it out on them?”

“Should I expect anything less than total surrender by this point?”

“Let the games begin, oh beautiful boy?”


“Isn’t it simply precious how eagerly you bully people with a high perch to thrust down at them? Aren’t spear users well known for enjoying the distance their weapon provides?”



“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’?”

“Taking advantage of his notoriety, he throws himself into his new role. Already plotting their heaven or hell, Adris thinks he can take on every last slayer in Petripolis.”

“Forces himself to take on the task of solving all problems, but is he really up to the task?”

“Even if he’s a false god and a conman, he’s still a man.”

“As a consummate trickster and impersonator, giving him a legend he’s encouraged to build for his own benefit is a terrible idea.”


“Establishing himself within the black market and underworld was once Adris’ first goal in every new place…”



“This is the part where he plots your doom.”



Name: Still, “Cyrene Stillwater”
Titles: Puddle
Race: Undead?
Sex: Female
Age: Young Lady?


Occupation: Delver, Trickster/Outfighter
Discipline: Accursed Avenger




[“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”!?}


[Delusional Movement] – {How did you forget that shadows are also a doorway, Adris?}


[Undead Fortitude?] – {Do you think that what has no life cares about your pathetic strikes?}


Disposition: Playful / Sadistic / Skulking
Alignment: Chaotic

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



Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Strength – E

Vitality – E

Dexterity – C

Agility – C

Intelligence – C

Mentality – D

Charisma – E




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?”

“My, after learning only a bit about her, you threw yourself back into her embrace? Who is the winner in this, Adris?”

“When will you get the hint that you’re moving too quickly, Adris? Do you believe women approve of a man too desperate? In this case, might your desperation not be the intended result?”


“How does it feel getting her back, Adris? Finding that special place of security once more? Will you hold onto it?”



“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.”

“Though useful, that’s not the same as saying she’s completely reliable. What goes through her mind as she leads Adris on? This is the important question.”

“A mercurial girl who isn’t always sure what she wants at a given time, but definitely wants it.”


“It is easy for people to underestimate Still when first viewing her, precisely because she presents herself with a style of clothing and posture which invites misunderstanding. Within the original group of the four idiots who marched into the Castillo, however, Still is by far the closest to being a peak slayer on her own.”



“Relationships between two people who are crazy about each other, but also are crazy and don’t like each other, are interesting things.”



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

Charisma – 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?”

“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?”

“Though not as tyrannical as Kol, doesn’t she appear to be almost as recalcitrant?”


“My, won’t a bit of greed go a long way in reassuring you of her worth, Adris?”



“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.”

“Even when she approves of your methods, she will grade your means.”


“Though she is helpful to others, that doesn’t mean she does it for free. Even for a girl that needs little, you make a mistake in thinking she wants nothing.”



“Only gets a few lines, but is the essences of Neesiette in all of them.”




Brothers of the Silver Way – “A notorious merchant fraternity or guild, it is difficult to say how they operate because it is never allowed to discuss their operations. The only thing one may do is identify membership in and offer the services of it.”


Ratfolk – “A very ignorant way of referring to Cherie and her comrades.”


Light’s Grace – “While Vigor is a word which appeals to the science of existence, identifying it as ‘grace’ is how humans show that they wallow in ignorance of the workings of the world around them…”


Rainart Drache – “The master of Slayer’s call. This name would not be considered a local one.”


Gift of Grace – “How humans seem to know the concept of a Talent. The very way in which we think of ideas shapes how they work…”


Succor – “The human term for Devotion, which appears related to the Lords of Light.”



Chapter 65         Table of Contents          Chapter 67