Take Up the Cross – Chapter 69: Dread Rider in a Wonderland for Elves

“Thank you for seeing me out, Adris! With how busy you are—


No, no!”


Shaking her head in mid sentence, the exuberant girl stumbles into an annoying complaint before tapping her chin nervously and then bowing her head.


“How busy everyone is! I miss being able to chat like we did inside.”


A distance between them is maintained briefly, before her embarrassment pushes her closer to him. Close is how they have to remain, for the morning fog that rolls down from the mountains is thick in Petripolis despite it being the warmer seasons.


“It’s fine, so long as you feel engaged with talking to me.”

“Why wouldn’t I—!? … Ah… ah… w-w-w-well… no, that was…!”


Pulling away again, the blushing snake elf slithers indecisively.

An annoyed sigh to Adris’ left proves how disappointed the steely figure is watching this scene.


“Have I unnerved you?”

“No! I don’t think it was wrong, either!?”


That nervous smile she has while claiming that fades a moment later when she looks away.


“… No… I suppose it was a bit…? But, I’m not saying I hate you!”

“Elf, stop whimpering. Show commitment!”

“… Hiee!? S-sorry.”

“Hah, not ‘sorry’!”




The intrepid band seeks out only glory as they invade Petripolis’ human center again. With Kol and Adris heading to Crackbrass’, and Ave going off on her own unknown business, she had wanted to go together…


Shouldn’t… friends be together on the move?




Enjoying each other as they travel, Adris’ mind is still on last night.


(I can’t help but feel comfortable with our arrangement, even if I give her the “fruit instead of the branch”. That might bite me if she misconstrues our “trysts” as more than they are… Or if I do.)


A marriage-mad allip already revolts him at times with this old familiarity bordering on “fated lovers”.


(I’m not saying it isn’t always… incredibly pleasurable, but that’s not the same as “closeness”. Sometimes, I wish I could smite her instead of listening to her cheeky bitching!)


His throat tightens at the thought of that sounding familiar to how he felt about another woman.


(Serras at that… “age” was a different girl. No matter how aggressive I might’ve been at times, Serras was even worse when she got an itch, because she was…)


Even back then, she was physically stronger than Adris when she pushed. When he wouldn’t give her what she wanted, she would brutally flip their roles just for that night. Adris was forced to play along, lest he reveal his inferiority.


(Maybe that’s when I started finding strong women… nevermind. Intimacy without anyone to show us what it was took a while to discover. All we had was stupid passion and a “family” relationship.)


Being hoodwinked by the evil spirit resurfaced those long forgotten emotions.


(… It did feel good to be the “strong” one… Shit! She did that on purpose, didn’t she? Giving me a taste of something forbidden, while praising me for it! She took advantage of my emotions to put me on the offensive…)


An allip knows all of Adris’ soft spots. She’s a perfect “outlet” for them, too.


(That gives her power over me if I fall into her grasp.)


The oath she swore to still makes it impossible to harm him unless she’s planning a joint suicide, so her minor treacheries, which would normally send his blood cold and earn Rantil a quick end, produce different impulses.

No matter how creepy or obsessive she is, the slutty allip directs everything at “claiming” him.


(Even if I let our relationship develop, it might become dangerous, but I doubt it would be? Being wanted so desperately… feels like a first.

… No, a second.)


A silent swordmaiden on Xin had revealed lethal jealousy missed by him many times.


The idea of Rantil eying him jealously…




“Nn? Boss? Why smiling like that?”


(Observant to a fault, Kol is!)


“… I’m just saying that I don’t mind you—”

“You seem a bit pale, Ave. Are you okay?”



A boy’s enticing smile attempts to make his all his actions acceptable as they come to a brief stop. Checking her pulse at her wrists while she stares wide-eyed at him quickly turns into him holding her hand in a deliberately inoffensive way.


“Oh…!? Yes… I’m fine, I just have… a lot to do today on my mind…”

“Anything exciting?”

“… Exciting? In its own way… it… might be?”

Indeed, her bubbly face, yet quivering eyes, show she’s both for and against what’s about to transpire. She taps her cheek nervously before commenting again.

“I guess it is exciting… That’s strange to say?”


Looking far more outlandish than normal, she wears her delving ribbon tops and earthen bracers, switching her pleated skirt and ornate leather lengths for a revealing green pareo with a silvered-leaf clasp and foresty-peacock patterns.


This enticing ensemble would only be tempting, if not for one detail…


(I still don’t understand why you’re not wearing your bodysuit!? I can almost see them.)


The airy, partially transparent green dancer’s clothing barely obscures her milky breasts. Where the bodysuit would cover, her bare skin draws his gaze to her delicate shoulders and slender belly. A naked navel is the focal point of the soft, emerald scales which creep up her sides.

When her thin pareo shifts around, the scales revealed underneath are awfully close to paradise.


“… Is… something wrong!?”


Checking her body with quick hands when he lingers for too long, she then covers up her stomach with the new bag she gained from the Castillo.


“No. You just seem especially… pure today.”

“Huh!? ‘Pure’? Oh… thanks! I hope so…”


(How strange. What are you up to? Well, it’s not my business if you act a bit overly flamboyant…?)


With these two girls still mysterious in many ways, he falls back into introspection.

The irrational paranoia he’s sworn to eliminate regarding Still manages to infect every one of his relationships without him completely understanding why, except that it has always kept him alive to hold onto doubts.


(As usual, I don’t trust anyone totally. Though Rantil seems authentically in my corner and it’s not like I can hide my true self from her, even she isn’t a “pass”. Not if Serras wasn’t…)


Though she still seems convinced that Adris is a “great evil” of some sort, she also knows about his former life through their shared “secrets”.

Four girls elude his grasp, though.




(In the end, the only thing I trust is this cross.)


A black cross, despite its annoying intricacies, can never betray him.

Instinctively, he understands that he and it are even more intrinsically bound than Rantil is to himself.


( Because she is bound to it.)




“That shitty dwarf is more important than Elf’s stuff, Boss!”

Kol’s voice has been warped by needy restlessness since last night when she attacked him.




(Well, let’s start making them fall for me permanently. “Adris fehl Dain” is still an existence that commands respect, awe, and certain attractions. Kol is bound by carnal pursuit of my body; Still by our mutual designs, “styles”, and rhythm; and Neesiette by an odd sort of affection for me?)




“I understand that you’ve waited for a long time. There’s no justice in sending you away to fetch me, Kol. You’re far too important to turn away.”

Trying to tamp down her anger, while also gaining her favor, results in Kol nodding appreciatively.

“Boss, understands everything!”

His rich tone full of dark compassion shared throughout the morning earns him another slap on the back.


(That hurts every time, though!)


“I do; however, do you feel it’s wise to let that frustration morph into something else?”

“Kol, already said she’s sorry! Dwarf said ‘no’ for a stupid reason, so all those feelings burned… then that burning made Kol think about Boss! Got ‘itch’ about it!

Kol, ‘sorry’ again! Happy!?”


Driven to the point of either hacking someone up or breaking buildings, the irate kobold had sought out Adris without realizing she’d grown aroused enough to want a “contest” for petty reasons.


(How easily anger can turn into sexual energy! Ave knows…)


The timid girl who avoids Kol’s wrath gives furtive glances full of fear until Kol sighs and lets go of dark thoughts.


“… Kol, I still can’t believe you! Going after Adris like that!”



Kol’s surprise matches Adris’, for the elf maiden rarely gives cross words.


“Good teammates are the most important resource and relationship a delver in Petripolis can have! Like you keep telling me, you need to show sincerity!” Coming to the front of them, the girl half coils up as she looks down at her friend.

“Trying to force yourself on another is… well… wrong!”


(… Even though I just did that to you, you’ll forgive me without a real apology?)


“What you two did…!?”

“Huh? Boss and Kol didn’t do anything, though?”


Ave is shocked stiff, gasping while looking between the two of them.


“Huh!? That isn’t…? But it… smelled like…!?”


(… You’ve got good senses, too.)


“Oh? Boss couldn’t wait, so—?”

Stepping in front of Kol, Adris waves his hand negatively while the girl barks in annoyance.

“As I indicated last night, your misunderstanding doesn’t make reality, Kol!


… Enough with this, we have business.”


Walking past the frozen Ave, they leave her to quickly recover and join them again.


“‘Nevermind’ is right! For next Castillo dive, Kol has many plans…!”

“It… smelled for sure like…?”

“Umu, Kol has to say Elf is doing a good job recently! Planning for big tree as next stop, she’s trying hard, Boss!”

“… Yes!? I’m trying… haha…”


Many times a week, a slender, timid snake is tricked into going out by praises and stories of heroism spoken by an exuberant instructor.

When she returns two “shorts” later, she is either dragged in unconscious or limps over to the inn’s couch before collapsing. Only capable of accepting water and hand-fed food, she must hope Roberto’s magical healing is available to provide fast relief.


This trauma silences Ave for a bit as they continue.




Still forced to keep to abandoned areas and difficult shortcuts, Adris admits that the journey with Ave along is much more pleasant. Her beauty makes the bland fog and stone acceptable, while her sweet voice…


“… And if you go there just before dusk, they have delicious little cakes that taste of svelte lemon and Palpas sugar! I bought one to save for you when I went out after getting back…


… and then Kol ate it! … I’m sorry.”

“The thought is the most important part. When someone like you talks of valuing teammates and then proves it, it makes me feel the same drive.”

“… Yes… yes… well, that’s…”


Still falling for the easiest flattery, Ave dodges a nearby wall that she was closing on while yelping.

Ducking her head after this latest misstep, Adris continues their conversation without missing a beat.




At least until…


“Huh, Crackbrass not far, now. That way. Elf wants to go this way, right?”

“… Hmm!? Yes! I’ll take most of the day…”




“Doing what?”


Finally genuinely interested in her plans, the question brings a stunned look from the girl before she smiles wider.


“Oh!? Well… it’s not very humble of me to say, but thanks to my efforts my dear god Pellaeon has found a small following in Petripolis!”




(… What?)


Immediately, an alarm is sounded in Adris’ mind by just her opening explanation.


(Humans on Zennia would never worship a foreign god.)


“Your efforts?”

“Hah, Elf always talking about pansy god. Ignore. Come on, Boss.”




“He’s not a pansy!!! Take that back!”

This hissing demand starts off full of spirit as the girl shakes both of her arms in anger…




“… Umu?”

For a brief moment, hot air blows through the stonework alley.

The scrap-iron terror shambles toward this challenge, while the smiling snake falls back.


“Sorry! He’s very… distinct, so I can understand how that misinterpretation could come about. Everyone has their own opinions about religion, Kol… haha…”




Bowing her head, Ave earns only a click of disappointment from Kol.

“Hah, whatever.”


“By ‘followers’, do you perhaps mean you are an adviser for them?”

“Ah…? Ah, yes!”

Shifting to stand between them defuses their pissing match, resulting in Ave closing on Adris for comfort.

“As the eldest worshiper of Pellaeon in Petripolis, I have the duty of sharing his happiness and philosophical beauty! Only I know all of the rites and songs and… well, actually only I know anything about him! He’s very much a novel sensation among the humans.”


Gushing happily about this sweeping change, Ave’s picture of the townspeople is far better than any other’s Adris has met except Anaxis’. While the slayers brought only havoc and heartache, for some reason Pellaeon’s introduction has brought happiness to…




“… the humans of the poorer and middle districts around this main street banded together to allow the introduction of foreign deities! … I was… shocked when they asked me to come counsel them every fourth-night, but good things happen in the star-struck shadow of the Green King!”

“Of course they do. Ave is proof that his watchful eye promotes health for his children.”

“RIGHT!? You get it! We’re all children of Pellaeon, so long as we have a song in our hearts, joy in our steps, and love on our minds!”




(There’s no way they figured her out too, but I need to make sure.)


Something is fishy about this sudden religious fervor.




While Ave’s mood goes to its maximum exuberance, a tugging on Adris’ cloak brings the problem with his new goal.


Ignore. Elf.”

“I’m sorry!”

“Kol! Stop antagonizing Ave. Ave, stop apologizing to Kol.”


Already succumbing, Ave’s quivering brings another sigh from the would-be knight, before Kol walks up and gently pats her on the head.


“… Kol, not feeling great. Elf, isn’t bad. Just have important things.”

“Y-yeah, I know. … Well, I didn’t know about your armor…”

A raised white fist shakes as the knight reignites her anger.

“NAH!? Wrong! Kol already said you did! Almost a whole season ago while we were at Bumbling Bee, Kol told you! Plus more times later!”

“I don’t remember!?”


(You knew this whole time!?)




TSK! Stupid! Whole thing! Kol, going! Boss, follow!”

Braving the city alone is the wanted outcast’s answer to Ave’s inability to keep her wits.




When Adris and Ave are left alone, she folds up into herself with dead eyes and tight lips. Misery exudes from her at being considered beneath Kol’s notice.

At least, until she remembers Adris is there.


“Everything is fine! Go with Kol. I’ve got work to do!”

Smiling gaily at him, the chatty elf disallows her internal world to register on the outside.

Though she says that, he knows she’s unhappy to part with him.




(At her lowest is the perfect opportunity to start shaping Ave. Why not do both? Avenalliah is bound by the need for a romantic cornering.

She wants a male to notice and pursue her, to become the “victim” by her own designs…? So, I must become…)




“… Well, Kol’s business is important, but I’m disappointed in one aspect.”

His voice drops, with naked dissatisfaction creeping into it bringing concern from his confidant.

“What’s wrong?”

“Though it’s… not exactly impressive to say given my position…”


Looking down the alley intersection toward Ave’s destination, longing shows as he takes in a stall in view. The noise of the crowd is a siren’s call.


“I’ve been dying to go and meet people. Crackbrass isn’t as friendly as I’m used to. Kol isn’t sociable enough to take into crowds, but even someone like I at times desires…?”


“I get that!”

Briskly nodding as she nears him, Ave takes up his hand with hers and squeezes.

“Taking her anywhere is a huge problem! Do you know how hard it is to get a girl who can hardly talk to do so with humans, or to take her helmet off in a place she doesn’t think is ‘safe’!?”

“It must be hard with her wearing armor all the time.”

“IT IS! Everyone points or runs. But I’ve gotten a lot of places to accept her as long as she minds her manners…!”


More disturbing revelations about Kol’s behavior flow out when the elf unseals her loose lips, a dainty hand waving around in front of her fine face while she does so.


“… It’s just… I never have a chance to go alone!? Rarely does she let me, except for this! … No, but I love going places with her… it’s always an adventure, it’s just… she’s just…!”

“Oh? Do we have the same problem?”

“Hmm!? How so?”


Adris leans against a wall while musingly smiling, further pulling Ave into their private bubble.


“Well, Kol doesn’t let me go anywhere without providing a ‘proper escort’, but she can’t go openly near the human district with her current bounty. I’d like to visit, but I have nobody to show me around.

I’m not sure what to do, except to unsettle them with my imposing, foreign presence. The thrill of a market is calling to me…”


(So… will you recall who offered to show me around?)




Time ticks by as Adris “thinks”, with Ave’s eyes flitting about as she tries to say what’s on her mind.




“… I c-c-could…”


When she chokes on the words at the crucial moment, he jumps at the invitation.


“Oh? Right. I forgot such a wonderful teammate named Avenalliah already offered to give me a tour!”

“… AH?”


Adris enters her personal space with a grin, an enthusiastic energy to him as he pats her side.


(… Very smooth skin. You can’t fault the power that youth has to forgive any action!)


“If it’s with someone who possesses a calming, cheerful presence, then my own might be…?”

Their faces being so close lets him read every detail of hers. The idea of supporting him seems to send a jolt through her.


(I love being able to read another person so well. This is impossible with Neesiette or Still.)


“Hey, it might sound mean, but why don’t we slip away from Kol and have some fun?”

“… Just… the two of us? … I can do that!”

Excitement flashes in her eyes, before she lays out her own hidden plan with a conspiratorial bent.

“If you want to go so badly, then why not today!? Adris, go… go do your thing with Kol! I can take you with me to see all the townspeople! I know everyone, so we can do introductions for you while also enjoying a walk!”


(Now you’re getting it!)


Whispering to herself as he nods his head, suddenly “hidden” words make him flinch.

“… Old Getha will probably make fun of me, though, if I have a ‘boy’ who is a ‘friend’!? I’m not sure I want to… make this awkward for him with what seems like a…!”

Ave’s energy levels plummet during this self-recrimination time, until Adris leans in.




(… Sure. Why not a date? … I haven’t had one in… over two years, probably.)


A date with a young girl is an invigorating idea.


(I will become “the man that offers a friendly hand, but cannot control it from becoming more if you show me those stunning eyes of crystal longing.” And into my arms you will willingly fall.)




“Hmm? If it’s just the two of us, we might draw some eyes?”

“That’s bad, right!?”

“It’s not ‘bad’, but… if that’s the case, why not make a show of it?”

“A show!?”


She fires back up when he whispers, letting a “false god’s” assurance drop for a more playful tone.


“Let’s see what sort of impact we can leave on them? A new person showing up in town must leave an impression, somehow. I’m sure there’s some men I can make jealous walking side-by-side with you.”

“Eh!? Nobody… looks at me like that…!”

“Haha, impossible. Someone… exciting like Ave can’t not draw eyes.”

The shock she shows disappears quickly, followed by a saucy whisper of her own.

“… And you want to see… how many girls you can… m-m-make cry by having me beside you instead of them~?


… No, but inviting that sort of rumor about you and me, that…!”


Terribly alarmed by the scene Adris describes, but also still having that pining gasp of “what-if” in her words, his next line sells it.


“It’s something friends can do, right?”

“… is true! … It’s fine as a joke between friends!”

This special word sends her thoughts in a safe direction.


“Like you say, it’s harmless. Think of how different it will be having everyone wonder about who I am, what we are, and what’s going on?

‘A couple draws a crowd’, haven’t you heard that saying?”

“No! But, that sounds like it might improve getting people to listen, too!? Are you sure you want the attention, though?”

“Of course. Don’t you know…”


A more evil grin brings a flushing of her face, followed by her body subtly gravitating toward his.


“… the kind of presence I can bring? Without anyone getting hurt, we can pull a… ‘fey’ prank on them all.”




That one word seals it.

When he gives her room by pulling back, she claps her hands while shaking with excitement, then quickly turns and slithers away while waving.


“Go do Kol’s thing! Ave has to go back to the inn for… some stuff!”


“Meet me here when you’re done, Adris~!”




The two part ways with the best “date” planned.


(An exciting, fun-filled adventure is what Ave dreams of every day. Going together with me allows a “jest” we pull on them, creating a situation where we “pretend to date” without ever actually doing so in front of them. This girl is…)


In the end, Avenalliah Aurmaris might be a would-be socialite and a dreamer.


(Eye-catching clothing, needing approval from others, and crowd-pleasing mannerisms all state that she enjoys being in the limelight, even if she’s terrified of it. No… maybe…?)




Perhaps fear and attention mix to produce a special pleasure in her.




“Either way, as long as I phrase it correctly she’s dying to have some fun.”

Resisting the urge to tumble as he chases Kol, Adris has to mentally correct himself.




(… I might be dying for some, too? Let’s not lose sight of the goal.)


If Adris guages this venture correctly, Ave’s powers will soon be demonstrated.





The now smokeless shop of Crackbrass proves to be a different beast upon entering its depths again.


“Shitty dwarf! Boss is here! Now let Kol go put it on!”

“… Huh.”




While still full of destroyed armor and smithing tools all about, the shop that was once consumed by obsessive zaniness has been tidied up some; yet, even if it’s cleaner, a feeling like “aura” leaks from a door nearby and fills the space.


Adris carefully approaches the owner of it while watching his kobold angrily rip off her armor.


“… Heyo, foreign brat.”

“Good morning, Master Crackbrass. Was there some complication…?”

“You could say that, yes.”


With his glowing apron and firearm hanging up on a wall, the old dwarf lays back in a thick, plush chair with scorch marks all over it. Like a man who spent a never-ending evening with a woman, his spirit is sapped, but his mood is pleasant.

Gone is the madness that once afflicted him.


“I’ve told the white dung the problem, but she don’t believe me. It’s on you to decide for her. Not my place.”

“What is the problem?”


Slinking mail rings out, before stomping feet return to the conversation.


“Kol says there isn’t one! Crackbrass says the armor is super strong! How is that a problem!?”

“… Hah, stupid dog. Well, she ain’t lying…”

“Boss! Say yes.”




With more menace in her voice than even in the overlook of the Castillo, Kol cannot survive much longer without rampaging. Sweat on her face is falling to her neck, while pink eyes shake with anticipation.

Ears flat and out to the side aid her canines in getting across this limit.


(She’ll never accept anything else.)


“Do you need help putting it on?”

“… Wouldn’t go in there, whelp!”


Hasty advice from the dwarf goes with Kol rapidly twisting her head.


“NOPE! Crackbrass’ armor, always easy to put on! Wants to be worn! Dwarf secret!”




Kol runs to a thick steel door with runes engraved around and onto it, then releases the multiple locks with surprising foresight.




Breaking the seal between rooms causes Adris to flinch, because the flow of energy rushing out eagerly tests the defenses of his inner expanse. Even the dwarf cringes at the feeling.


“… UMU! … Kol… likes it…! Waited forever…!”




With her tongue sticking out from her lips, the eager girl rushes into the room to close the door behind her.




Time is passing quickly.

This danger will soon be upon Adris.




“… What did you do?”

“‘What’? Boy, I made a… masterpiece. … No, I made two!”


The chair creaks as Crackbrass rises from it to stride over to a nearby table. Pulling a sheet off of it, a coppery shine brings Adris’ heart racing.


(… Impossible!)




Revealed on the table is a perfect variant of a Xin’Reh lamellar chest coat. Its glinting panels carry the same hint of special protection, while it’s just as light and flexible when Adris pulls it up to inspect it.


“Where did you learn to make this? The process for refining the copper isn’t…”

“It’s known now, brat! Hah, that’s the rub I gotta discuss with you. Go ahead and put it on.”




As Kol said, Crackbrass’ armor has a mystical quality which aids in the wearer donning it, for moments are needed to slip it over him before it self-ties.

The invisible energies flowing through Adris’ body lick at the armor when it presses onto him. Though no longer strictly “aura”, what possesses him is just as pleased.


“… The cross?”

“Yes, I got… a little inspiration when that devious little belgond (PLEDGE) got waved in my face.”







Thick hands land on his shoulders.

Adris stares into the man’s beady eyes as some of the madness returns.


Before suddenly it vanishes.




“… Well. Old Crackbrass knows a binding force when it’s in front of him. You don’t wanna talk about it, fine. Your armor is free, anyway, with a caveat.”


(Free is always good!)


At least it should be. The dwarf’s shit-eating grin proves that Adris might be losing out in a second.


Dûrgrimst (OUR HALL) be dômar (WEAK), but I respect one aspect: secret formulas must remain as such. You know the method for making this?”

“… I’ve learned certain aspects over the years. Not the full process.”

“Hoh? So, that cross is from your homeland. I see. Write down what they are.”

“It does no good to try to claim it forever, as it’s a known technique there.”

“Hah, no trade secret lasts forever! I get first spread! I don’t mind owing you some favors for it, but this process is now mine.”

That claim makes sense to Adris, as market introduction and brand is more important than the secret.




(So you’ll market it as your own for as long as you can? Good luck. I honestly don’t care. I’ll never be making my own armor. How does it hold up to…?)


“What’s the effectiveness of this armor?”

Far from shining, the glint of it is easy to obscure with oils. Flexibility and the ability to hold aura techniques applied were the hallmarks of Xin’Reh armor.

“Bizarre, that is. Less protective than even shitty steel, but far lighter. Agility isn’t impacted at all. Plus, it has a weird property…”




Picking up a red gem from the table, the dwarf takes advantage of Adris’ inspection to aim it at his chest.








A stream of flame shoots from the gem’s facet, dousing Adris’ chest in heat. Throwing himself away from the blaze, he quickly rolls on the ground to put out the…




“… Shitty dwarf!? Where’s the fire!?”

“GAHAHAHA! There ain’t one, you square-faced monkey! … It’s beautiful, in its own twisted way.”


Contrary to his expectations, the lamellar armor isn’t damaged at all. The flames that should’ve clung to him flowed away.


“It’s immune to magic!?”

“Not so nice. Simply resistant to a high degree. The important part is that it’s a mundane resistance.”


The dwarf pulls Adris up before clapping him on the shoulder.


“Mundane resistance has only ever been found with the material for armor, not with the process of making it, lad! Took me a number of ‘shorts’ to get the formula of acids and stabilizers right like I saw. Still a flawed process.”

“… Wait… if it’s resistant to magic, then…?”

“Right! Unfortunately, the only enchanting (ENSORCELLMENT) that can be applied to it is in the undercoat. The copper mix absolutely refuses the breath of the earth I use to make my mojo happen.”


(So it can never grow stronger than what it is? That “jackpot juice” is useless for this armor!)


AND IT’S MINE, BOY. ALL MINE.” The man with gigantic strength isn’t threatening, merely stating the truth of the gods. “… I’ll… owe you some favors?”


(I prefer those, anyway. My bribe for not sharing any information is “free armor and unspecified aid”, is it?)


“That’s agreeable. It’s a secret from my homeland, but I don’t feel like a traitor by sharing it with a man of unsurpassed talent.”

Pushed away rudely, the compliment sorely misses its mark as the old man curses and waves a shaking hand at him.


“Shut up, boy! Don’t come on to me like that!? … I like my companionship thick, not runty!”

“I already have Kol, you weird old dwarf!”

“… Then let me rephrase that, lad: I like my companionship sane.”


Nodding his head, the old man then looks embarrassed before turning stern.


“Never compliment a dwarf unless you’re asking to slap cheeks! I keep telling that runt that, too, but I’d never be interested anyway so it’s moot by now…”


(Dwarves are so strange.)




The whole world changes in intensity in that moment of their stand off.


Both turn to the closed door, watching as its runes glow red.




Its seal breaks, allowing a heatwave to fill the room. Though the underground fires that fuel the forge are absent, phantasmal flames are set ablaze in Crackbrass’ shop as an uncontrolled storm of energy rages.


The source of that inferno walks out, with white fur and glowing blue eyes for a head over a steel grate. A metallic shell encasing her is the living heartbeat of the doom unfolding.








Adris can’t speak as he falls against the table, joined by the dwarf who is scratching at his own head.


Though far from passing out, he can’t fully withstand the presence of this mind-shattering illusion. A heartbeat of life comes from the quaking armor, which appears to amplify Kol’s acquired Talent to inflict dread on others.






Her once womanly voice sounds like a beast’s roar in his mind’s eye, further destabilizing his fight against the rushing “darkness” around him.





The horror clad in armor’s legs begin to try and stumble in different directions, while her helmet creaks as it turns.




A white wolf’s head is used as the crowning piece of her armor.

One whose eyes turn their hunt on Adris.




“… gggggrrrrraaaaaaaa————AAAAAHHHHHHHH~!

A deep, cascading shriek of rage comes from the helmet, which echoes from every corner as the armor begins to tense with power.







The dumbstruck dwarf recovers enough to start hopping over to his wall, ripping off his culverin. Pulling a lever, the back opens and he slaps in a charge.



Jumping in front of Kol and the dwarf, Adris faces the phantasmal storm coming from his subordinate.



This yell full of incensed outraged brings a blink from the pink eyes glowing behind the grate.





More power rushes out as pure terror that stabs at Adris’ soul. The girl’s concentration has the opposite effect of restraining the armor, which is now forcing her arms to reach for him.




The lessons for a Xin’Reh on Xin for applying a body technique to his protection is only barely conveyed to the girl who will do anything he talks about on the first try.








Having a philosophical quandary while lunging for Adris, Kol’s enveloping “aura” causes him to lose feeling in his legs and fall.

The armor takes note of this, lifting up her bare foot over him.








The rush winks out in an instant, so quickly that a boom fills the room to replace it.



Pieces of the ceiling drop down on top of Kol as the quivering dwarf accidentally discharges into it.


“… Umu, everything seems to move, now?”

While Adris crawls away to stand up, the eager tomboy starts jumping around and stretching while dust falls off of her.

“… OH! Kol forgot the best part!”




Rushing back into the room she incarnated from as a lord of terror, the kobold comes back with a long polearm.


With an axe on one side of its head, a hammer on the other, and a spike at fore and aft of the pole, she shows off the important part by twisting it almost towards the end.



The poleaxe’s sound matches her voiced one as the back spike and length retracts into the weapon, giving it the same stature as a two-handed war axe after.

“KAKAKA! Perfect! Kol loves this~!”




Still speechless, Adris just stares up from the floor at the demonic figure wearing black, rough steel plates and mail. Red tinges come as light glints off at angles, being either an optical illusion or a magical effect.

At the plate under her neck, three red opals burn like eyes. From them, energy like a living heartbeat flows through the armor that is different from Kol’s lifeforce.


(… This… this fucking dwarf made… a living…)


Barzûlegûr (A CURSE)! I did make one! Hahaha!”


Laughing while crying, the dwarf points at the black omen picking up Adris.






… Ahhhh, I love a good day’s work.”





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!”




[“Rabbit Boots”] – “Providing increased agility while moving as a passive boon, they also allow actively to bound great distances with surprising grace. What do they cost though, I wonder?”


[“Metallic Bracer”] – “I can punch Kol into a wall with this!? But it hurts like shit!”


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?”

“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?”

“Eagerly brutalizing little girls seems to be your style, after all, doesn’t it? My, in one respect I must call you beautiful, yes? Having accepted your own darkness as existing, won’t you sort it out, now?”


“You are willing to trust a being from nightmares, but not your own blood and flesh fellows?”



“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’?”

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

“Even if time is running out, Adris leaves nothing about the future to chance if he can. Seeds of distant victories are planted now.”

“Is quickly realizing that he can’t blame everything on an imp. Since she is only showing him the way, that means that the one responsible for his thoughts is…?”


“There is the world, and then there is Adris.”



“Shaken up, he’s still always looking out for the master plan. It’s just, the tiles keep doing bizarre things.”



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


Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
Discipline: Tyrant Squire




[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



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…?”

“Why do you think it’s odd that she likes you more for hitting her? Do you not understand the kind of man she’s looking for, by now? The more you assert yourself, the more she’ll hunt you, yes?”


“Isn’t it this? The intricate and simple beauty of unbridled aggression? Black and white: which do you prefer, Adris?”



“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.”

“Though usually forthright, she is also forthright about looking for what she wants. If you refuse her, you’d better be ready to back it up.”


“Once she has the target within sight, not even a living curse can stop her from taking it.”



“We all know the person who wants something and will do anything to have it, even if it’s bad for them.”



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?”

“How do you feel about her eccentricities, now that you are freed from your libido?”

“Why didn’t you join her?”

“Are you going to keep running from the inevitable?”

“Though you throw yourself on top of her, you back away at the last moment?”


“Oh? She has a sort of gusto about her when it comes to adventure, does she?”



“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?”

“Though she’s kind, she doesn’t let others try and take what she’s claimed.”

“An elf in all ways, she is also their biggest fangirl.”

“Finding her home again, she has regained some of her bravado and adventurousness.”

“Having faced what gave her deep scars, it’s wise not to resurface those memories.”


“While a pure coward at times, when she shows the briefest hints of self-assurance she can turn into a different girl.”



“Let’s have a chapter for Ave. I’ve been neglecting her. Romance is something I like, but who knows if I’m getting it right? One can only try.”






Chapter 68         Table of Contents          Chapter 70