Take Up the Cross – CH7: Sand, Phoenix, and Shooting Stars

“Blaming us for doing our jobs, and whining about how we’ve accomplished our success! Only the phoenix you possess serves as a proper contribution from your organization. Tell us!” He demands, in a teasing voice, “How goes your research with said phoenix?”


(Not well, if it’s gone.)


Adris can already see where this confrontation will go.

The man on the stage is attempting to persuade the audience to reject the woman below him. The admission of loss must eventually be made, for details have already leaked.


This confrontation is a trap, one designed to destroy her influence.


A trap that will work, as the woman’s voice vanishes from the debate. She looks angry, but unable to admit to her loss.


Adris looks for someone within the woman’s entourage who he can speak to, someone who looks like they are apart from the rest.

The boy needs someone like himself. Even if the woman is trapped, if provided with the right ammunition, she’ll strike back if he can pass it along.

The excited crowd might want the powerful to bleed, but it’s not evident if they mind which party sacrifices it.


(She has to attack, I need an escape.)


Looking down at those assembled at the door, Adris bets on something.


(If I can cause a commotion here, they might hurry along the opening of the door. I need them to strike.)


Whispers return to his mind, and an image appears before his eyes.


{Adris stands on the dais, instead of the man. The woman on the ground is being fucked by Adris on the stage while standing, her skin wet with the sweat of her diligent service. The swarthy man is kneeling, as people below prepare to cut his head off-}


(You can’t be trusted, you fucking chunk of silver!)

Adris reels a bit, the images accompanied by vertigo.


Recovering, Adris finds the man he’s looking for. He thinks on Tishia’s and this golden man’s words.


(The only “undead” I know of are aura revenants and the creatures of the far ice. And I have never heard of an “Alchemaster.”)

The concept of “alchemy” only lies within the mystical brewing of potions for aura users or the chemistry of the physical trades. If someone were a master of it, then it would imply an ascended being.

(Yet… absolutely nothing comes to mind, and I am far from an unlearned bumpkin! Such a puzzling, yet powerful, faction…)


“I, Heleton, say that leaving the Castillo is a mistake! We must defend!” The man with a honeyed voice suddenly becomes animated, sensing the opportunity to strike.

“Mother’s path towards a perfect life form depends on the security of the mansion, not contact with the outside world!”


The man takes on a religious tone, inviting others around him to also worship.

“When the reawakened Alchemaster began actively recruiting for a defense against invasion only months ago, Mother came to an agreement with the [Gate Guardian] due to our assistance. Even now, the Wondrous Works, under our leadership, is reviving the Castillo’s oldest parts. The war that is coming will be met in the Castillo! Not outside!”


The audience looks bored, but otherwise agrees with the man when he says that danger is ahead.

Adris approaches his target stealthily from behind.

When the man turns to glare at Adris from the corner of his eye, face still mostly hidden, Adris knows that his choice is correct.


(I am Adris fehl Dain, [Greedy Informant])

Adris adopts a new persona, his thought processes instantly switching over to a common disguise.


Now openly approaching this man with pale blue hair over his purple eyes, ivory skin, and pointed ears, Adris puts his head close to the man’s body and whispers.


“… I am a traveler coming from the Aurelian depths. I have information related to the theft.”


(Simplicity is best.)


Heleton’s eyes turn serious, as he stares hatefully at the woman before him.

“You, Tishia, have been making serious accusations in the dark, despite offering little for our benefit.”

He taps his foot, then says, “How could we be guilty of stealing something that you still have?”


While the two people argue, Adris considers the evidence he is prepared to present.


Unsure how the woman named Symphonia found the stolen object, Adris cannot comprehend viewing things from far away.

Even though an aura technique exists for this, it only allows for remote viewing in an open, clear space.

He can only hope that Symphonia’s assertion is backed by the capabilities of those living in this hell.


The ivory man, his mouth hidden by a purple, wrapped cloth up to his nose, quickly looks Adris over.

The look is unusually paranoid and fearful. Adris is concerned at first, but the man then silently inclines his head, the previous emotions vanishing.


“These are papers and proof of conspiracy by the Neo-Askelon sect.”

The man’s eyes visibly tense at the word used. Adris berates himself for using a word that doesn’t fit.

Too tired to think properly, Adris cannot properly exceed the truth, while still keeping it real.


“I make no accusations, only state truths!” Tishia refuses to go further, changing the subject.

“If we don’t claim the town of Petripolis, these Chosen will never give up! Only taking the town itself will stop them!”


(These “Chosen” are a danger to all of you? Then good. They’re going to be my first stop.)


Adris is invigorated now.

An escape is all that matters.


{The whole room is gathered in a circle, bowing to a man holding a cross. The doors open as he walks toward them, as the guards sing his praises.}


The images return.

Adris shakes his head slightly, nausea coming with them.


The ivory man reaches out his hand.


Adris jumps at this, proffering the note pages listing Symphonia’s procurement of materials, while keeping the ones that contain her formulas and mentions of Adris as a test subject.

He next hands over the silvered canister with the fiery chicken on it. The man opens up the canister carefully, looking inside, then quickly shutting it.

He reads the notes at a blistering speed, taking only seconds to finish a page.


The ivory man audibly clicks his voice, seemingly displeased by the contents.


(I share this disappointment.)


“Obtained how?” The man questions him brusquely, as Adris expected.


(The truth will suffice.)


“Symphonia Dupres was forcibly experimenting on subjects in hiding. … I recovered things from her that she’d stolen from me. I took her notes when I read what they said, and the proof.”


“Stolen from you?”


“Personal affects.” Adris produces the quill and shows him the fog trinket.

The man’s purple eyes narrow.


“Why bring this proof?”


Adris puts on at conspiratorial face and smiles.

Exuding arrogance, he speaks the universal language of traitors and sellouts.




“For profit. If you run things and retrieve the phoenix, I know who I can go to for feathers.”




The man’s eyes relax.

Meanwhile, the confrontation between the two groups prepares to reach its highest point of tension.


“It doesn’t matter what you or Tempesta Universalis wants! This Wondrous Works ill needs an organization that seeks to extend beyond these grounds!” Heleton throws his arms wide. “I already have a solution for the world outside of this place!”


(There’s danger to the outside, too.)


The ivory-skinned man opens his eyes after thinking.


“Kejourou (HAIR DEMON). Where?”


Adris blinks, not sure what the word means, but seeming to understand the intent. His answer should be…


“Symphonia was left incapacitated in her lab. On the outer walkways of the Aurelian area. She stole a wandering research room from Mother. She’s been unconscious for…”

Adris can’t answer, for time in this place lost meaning when he was forced to wander the non-euclidean hallways.


Nodding, the man finishes his interrogation. “Suffices. Timing irrelevant. Can find her. Useless to run. Remain. Reward.”


The man is already planning to determine Adris’ identity.

Only the immediacy of the need to pass along information is preventing discovery.


This is an immense gamble.

If the man can find him outside of the gate ahead…


(Though this is hardly my first long shot…)


All this Tishia needs is the slightest casus belli. Fresh phoenix feathers, where none should be available, are sufficient proof.

The man probably thinks that Adris is a double agent, but Adris knows his designs.


(The fact that his boss wants a fight means that my loyalties are irrelevant. The evidence is… “sufficient.”)


Swiftly walking over, the man nods to the woman in a feather cloak behind Tishia before joining them. There is murmuring.


A look of victory comes to Tishia’s face as she listens.

The cloaked man ceases speaking. Adris makes out his furtive movements under his coat…


(Weapons are coming out.)


Adris tenses, glancing over at the big doorway.

The guards are still preparing to open it, activating some large levers etched with mystic characters.

The process seems inordinately complex, taking several people numerous, precise steps. No hurry is upon them, yet.


(Hurry and begin.)


The foreign feeling is creeping back into Adris’ mind.


“I have neither talent nor tongue for honeyed words of pure dissembling like you, Heleton, so let us cut to the chase.” She smiles viciously. “You abducted our phoenix for the purpose of acquiring feathers, and sell them now on the Narrow Line.”


Heleton’s eyes narrow, a suspicious look to them.


“How is irrelevant. Why, is. At the hidden shrine of Tigis, you unearthed the ancient queen Aeferis, your ancestor.” Tishia growls.

“She is the mummy lord you smuggled into the Castillo, in dereliction of Mother’s guidance, and it’s for her you intend to use my phoenix’s feathers to change her from her dormant state into a quasi-resurrected one! You plan to give her control of the middle tier of the Castillo, turning it into a permanent extension of your organization! The proof is easy.”


A broad smile shows a row of sharp teeth in the woman’s mouth. “We have a buyer of phoenix feathers, and can trace the sale back to you, with it occurring after the theft.”


As the rest of the room goes quiet, people suddenly intently listen to the proceedings.


(There’s no outrage.)


Adris feels cold, as he notes that nobody is shocked, only interested in how this turns out.

He can’t follow their thinking. Several key parts of the culture of these creatures approach the absurd.

Though powerful figures are given to boasting, the artful and dramatic confrontation between these two groups is theatrical to the extreme.


“… Yes, congratulations. You have seen through my plans, Tishia. OH, WOE UPON ME. I am… undone.” The man named Heleton makes a dramatic pose as if he is about to faint, then whips up into a towering posture.


“Except you’re wrong about one part.” He smiles, his eyes arrogant.


“I don’t intend to do it.”


Clicking her tongue, Tishia pulls out a white-red rod shaped like a solid lightning bolt.


“He’s already revived her!”


Holding his hands up in the air with his rod in one hand, Heleton has his eyes closed while smiling.


“Yes, the seed of Neo-Askelon will join with the seedbed of the ancient kingdom. My… GOD-LIKE wisdom will unite with her impossibly beautiful body and power. Petripolis and the rest of the world of [Zennia] will know our might, when Aeferis blocks out the sun and claims the entire land for the reawakened Alchemaster!


The Chosen will have no choice but to accept our dominion, or suffer without the sun for eternity! In less than a month, Petripolis will be a dark necropolis!”

He laughs openly at his apparent victory.


(”World of Zennia,” what does that mean? Is that the name of this foreign plane of Xin?)


Adris is assaulted by information relating to concepts he’s not familiar with.

The only thing he can tell is that powerful, unknown organizations ready to assault using fell powers outside of his experiences.

Though not a patriot, Adris’ first thoughts go to warning others, a defense of the floating continents perhaps his best chance for personal survival. Snuffing the torch-like sun will kill the entire world, though Adris is at a loss as to how they plan to do it.


Laughing in a reserved fashion, Heleton points his golden rod at Tishia as his followers all do the same thing.


“The phoenix will rise again, as always! Give me back my man, you incestuous mummy fucker! You can’t block out the sun, that is the sign of the phoenix!” Tishia screams out in disgust.

The ivory-skinned man stands beside her, a curved blade whipped out.

All of her men march to the front of her, forming rows of men at arms.


As the two groups face each other, ready for combat… applause and cheers ring out from outside of the gathering.


Adris looks beyond the group, seeing the people skulking among piles hooting and hollering.

Many have what look like paper gambling tickets.

No, Adris sees a man accepting what looks like vials and boxes for such a ballot, jotting down information.


(Is this a joke or a drama? Are they fucking betting on this!?)


“You pretentious, fop pretender! ‘… Wandering red which rises from sulfurous mines, oh great ravager of nights and even day, fearless eater of skies who is born with the death of the sun…’”

Tishia chants, as her skin catches ablaze, fire running up her horns to appear like waving feathers hanging off the tips behind her head.


As she chants, six reddish-white disks appear above her, glyphs spinning and forming lattices as the air from the room condenses into these disks.

Fire radiates at a temperature Adris has never felt, as though they are six floating suns about to flare out and incinerate him.


(What in the hell is this!? This isn’t an aura technique!)


Adris watches in horror as the woman calls forth fire from an unknown source, feeling the air as it rushes by him.

A strange sensation flows through him, his internal aura shaking as it is buffeted by the rushing current. What he is watching defies his understanding of expressing aura.


The two figures are surrounded by an invisible feeling of power, almost like Adris’ sensation of the aura of others, but still totally alien.


“When Askelon rises again, and I construct a grand temple within the Castillo to house my new bride and I, I will… keep you there as a concubine to bear my children, little phoenix sleeve. For I have always found your beauty sufficient enough…”

The man licks his androgynous lips.


“To improve upon…”


He then begins chanting in kind.

Golden sands of timeless Askelon, flensing grains that whip and roar, answer the true inheritor, to hide your secrets and bury these mortals in eternal ignominy…


Before Heleton, the ground itself rips up, turning into golden sand in flight. It becomes an enormous, undulating, amorphous, twenty-foot-high, forty-foot-wide wave of gold that sprouts razor edges along its gleaming mass.


It begins to roil forward, seeking to consume all before it.


{Adris holds his cross before him. The people direct their powers against others wearing blue coats. These madmen are his most loyal slaves.}


An image offers him an idea, the center of his head splitting with pain.


(That… might not…)


But while he considers the offer, he suddenly realizes the danger surrounding him.




Every blue-coated observer in the crowd begins to animate, turning towards each other or the two groups.

Like the groups, they pull out weapons, rods, or wave their hands in strange manners.


(… Oh. It’s an ambush.)


Surprised, but not paralyzed, Adris ducks, before he is deafened by an explosion of flashing energy next to him.


Everyone in the crowd is attacking.

Fire, wind, burning tar, glowing images forming from thin air to lash out, swords that float independently of their owner, the manner of murder is different for each…


The ambushers are in turn ambushed.

People wearing bright-red armbands that materialize from nowhere on their bodies strike out at those now wearing dusky-gold ones.


Adris is no longer sure who is ambushing whom.


All he knows is that space and people are exploding next to him, or flying, or being driven into the ground.

He weaves and dances through the swirling storm of fake aura, brushing past instant death as he jumps over a prone, melting body writhing on the ground.


Landing in front of a masked woman with four, yellow eyes, he only has time to note her dusky gold armband before she raises a red gem to point it at his face.


(Fuck you.)


Adris moves in, quick as a monkey.

Cross swinging, he smashes her pointed arm, deflecting the gem, which explodes with a red, flaring beam of death from it shooting past his head.

The moment the cross strikes, a blue shell encasing her body appears and explodes outward, vanishing.


Smaller than her, he rapidly shuffles closer before slamming his shin between her unguarded legs.

Her immediate reaction is to scream out and drop her head in pain.

Adris’ free hand reaches up to grab her, pulling her head towards the left-handed cross he drives into her face.


A shattering of her face results in her falling to the ground, completely unconscious.

Finishing her off, Adris looks for other opponents.


But those nearby simply jerk their heads back in horror, before meekly shuffling off to visit death on their neighbors, or to be exploded in turn.


(What else can go wrong?)



[Soul-Eating Phoenix!]


[Infinite Golden Sea.]



Everything is covered in blinding light.


Adris looks back to see that the figures from before have completed their aura techniques.


Tishia releases her white suns, rays of pure fire shooting out. They meet the massive wall of golden sand, striking it.


It, and everything around it, glows white hot with a terrible hissing and crackling.

There’s an enormous blast of concussive heat that picks Adris up and flings him into the air, the boy barely able to shield his face with his arms before it hits.


Adris lands on the ground with a thud as he rolls, his coat burning in spots.

Others like him, perhaps unable to use their aura to shield themselves, flop around like broken dolls.

The two “great minds” continue to insult each other like children as they commit attempted murder, their displays of power destroying the entire area, though their insults now get drowned out by the raining impacts of collapsing stone from overhead…


Their factional warfare becomes the talk of the area, wary scholars nearby making last minute bets and licking their lips in anticipation of how it ends.


Adris knows this because he has crawled out of the melee to rest beside them, completely ignored now as he tries to recover.


The guards are finally moving away from the door, intent on going towards the devastation that has already consumed half of this great hallway.

Though he cannot see their faces, their body language is neutral and their speed is unhurried.

This cataclysm is apparently not an uncommon occurrence, even though the blasts of fire from Tishia have set the junk piles ablaze, and Heleton’s golden sandstorm is tearing through people who can’t shield themselves.


The air in the hallway itself is growing thick with heat and sand, reaching unbreathable levels of discomfort.

There’s no words to describe the otherworldliness of this exchange.


(All eyes are now off me, though.)


Adris runs towards the large doors, which are now being swiftly opened to allow researchers to depart this place. The cataclysm at hand has produced the desired result.


Shuffling through the noisy crowd, Adris is almost free. Even though he arrives late, there are no guards left to care.


Crossing past the tentacled statues that put him on edge, they bring to mind his recent exposure to the phantom fog. While more secure in appearance than the rest of this abyssal dimension, this area grows thicker with the smell of the deep unknown as he nears the doors.


Whispers come all around, almost as if something is calling his name.


There’s a strange feeling as he crosses between the statues, and he looks down to see a great seal gradually appear, light beginning to travel its squiggling glyphs and lines.

He can read part of the glyphs, only barely: “You who dwell in vanity, came to my domain from beyond the stars…




… I long to embrace you, and bear your young.




The whole room starts to shake.


Adris is shocked, as he hears the sound of rock cracking around him.


The large, stone figures begin to shudder and move, the stone falling off to reveal… hideous flesh underneath.

Adris falls to the ground as the shaking intensifies, unable to find the strength in his weakened, battered state.


What should be lifeless constructs now have malign, quivering animus.


“Why are the guardians coming to life?!”

Everyone around him is equally disturbed.


The upper, gangly appendages of the monstrosities form together to become massive arms, as the thundering nightmares wobble… turning to look straight down at Adris.


Adris flips himself up, willing energy to his body as he tries to escape.

The closest thing whips a massive arm toward him.


Adris moves behind a blue coated scholar, diving out of the way, as the arm instead grabs the scapegoat.

The arm lifts up, with the figure yelling and flailing in fear, before the monstrosity chucks the man forty-feet away to crash screaming into an armoire in a burning junk pile.

Adris and the others assembled are speechless at this display of strength.


“The guardians are attacking!” A voice cries out.


Adris’ blank mind seizes on it.

“Heleton and Tishia’s fighting has set off the guardians!”

Yelling loudly, he tries to deflect blame.


As the starfish horror moves its arm forward again, it lunges a second time at Adris.

He dodges past another scholar, the poor woman spitting out her breath, blue particles with it, as she’s picked up by the enormous, sweeping arm.

Adris uses the oncoming wall to jump over the tentacle at the last moment by rebounding off of the flat surface.


The woman and several other people are crushed against the wall like flies, falling unconscious to the ground when the tentacles pull off.


A panic goes out.


Scholars begin yelling, prompting the guards to look back from walking towards the ongoing inferno, though they are too far down the hallway to intervene.


One of the people near Adris intones a technique of some sort, as water swirls around the rightmost giant, restraining its movement when the water curls back on the giant to ensnare it.

He then throws a potion at it, impacting the giant and releasing a gout of acid, which begins to eat deeply into its flesh.


When the man starts cheering at his attack, both horrors regard this as a problem, and the free one squirms forward and promptly grinds him into the ground. His body sprays blue particles as he becomes one with the carpet.


With the dust rising…


… all hell breaks loose.


Every scholar in the open room begins fleeing, fighting, or calling for backup.

A woman carrying a large box in the same area as Adris pulls the cloth off of it, aiming the wooden box with holes in the end at the beast which is moving straight for him.

Adris huddles next to her as the giant is about to attack, intent on using her as a shield.




The blond, deathly pale-skinned woman with green-speckled-gold, slit irises for eyes and visibly sharp teeth, screams loudly.

The box’s end glows bright white and flaring stars start streaking from the shaking box.

Dozens of them fly to impact on the horror, cracking its slimy exterior skin and kicking up glittering dust everywhere as they burst.


It’s pushed back dozens of feet from the force of the onslaught, temporarily losing its balance.

Adris looks to his savior, her breasts underneath her loose coat shaking in her tight-fitting, white ruffled shirt as the recoil flows through her body.

Her tressed, medium-length waving hair doesn’t hide her eyes, and hers notice Adris’ lingering where they shouldn’t. He feels his lust catching up to him, so he focuses on the still-glowing wooden box, instead.


(That was stronger than any aura tool I’ve ever held…)


She just saved his life; and, for some reason, called out with her attack.


The woman reveals a look of mistrust.

She moves away, putting her box down on the ground, fiddling with it quickly as the giant recovers, all while watching Adris out of the corner of her eye.

He sees fear and…




Interest in what Adris holds in his hand.


Adris takes in the tactical situation, but can’t keep up with the number of exclamations or intonations, as water, fire, wind, and earth all move in this place.

Space itself warps down the hallway to grab one of the giants, the creature wobbling as it’s crushed by the spacial force.

Great metal shackles clamp onto the starfish that attacked Adris, dragging it in place, before the air around the monster spontaneously combusts with white fire, as numerous scholars also catch ablaze, running around helplessly as the creature burns.

Adris avoids it by only a few feet of distance from the blast radius’s edge.


In the fierce combat, Adris looks up to see more betrayal occurring.

Taking advantage of the confusion, blue coats are “accidentally” hitting others.

A woman next to Adris is struck by a purple, vibrating ray launched at her by a small figure with a hidden face, her body flying a great distance to impact on a wall hard enough to crack the stone. Far from being an ambush…


(They’re betraying each other with certain death at hand!?)


A slam is heard behind him.

He whips his head around to see the blond woman defending against a humanoid pile of trash that tries to crush her. She uses the long wooden box as a bludgeoning weapon, resisting the attacking pile with inhuman strength of her own.

The trash is bound by quivering, black flesh forming a mass between the solid parts.

A hostile woman with silver hair, pale-blue skin, a button nose, gaunt cheeks, and pointed ears stands behind the monstrosity.


“AHHH, I didn’t see you there, Lycia Vehrose. You’re always so unnoticeable… You’ll be even more unnoticeable as a fine paste. ♥”

The woman named Lycia dodges the hulking figure, pulling out some canister to try to slam it into a port that opens in her wooden box, as the monster lumbers after her.


Adris can’t think well, trapped by an unknown feeling.

The woman called Lycia had prevented him from being killed by the monster, and now she’s being betrayed by a random assailant.


There’s pain in Adris’ right side. He remembers an attack on himself, very recent.


Very painful.


He pulls out a stolen knife from the book-reading scholar, secretly readying to throw it at this hateful betrayer, a need to bring harm on his thoughts…


But finds he can’t.


Nor can he hold the knife.

It simply drops from his hands the moment he turns hostility toward the woman while holding it.




He tries to pick up a twisted, serpentine sword that’s fallen nearby, but can’t grab it to use it.


(I can’t use weapons?)


Looking to the cross, he finds this is the only thing he can hold.

This mystical artifact keeps doing infuriating things.


(You took away my ability… to fight…!?)


Without the ability to defend himself, save with his own body, he can do nothing in this hell.

He’ll be just as powerless as in his fight with Serras. Guile and surprise can only take him so far.


The woman named Lycia trips on another scholar, falling over. She is about to be smashed by the charging monstrosity, as it rears back its fists.


Enraged, fighting back long held onto tears, he rears back, too… and chucks the cross at the woman.

It turns end over end as it travels in an arc.


“Then stay in hell!”

Adris pointlessly yells at his possession as it soars away.


The cross, amazingly, flies straight and true.

The woman turns to look at the words Adris spoke, then notices the flying cross.


“[Protection of Necessity!]”

She calls out a familiar phrase, finally seeing the threat.


A roar of cracking glass and thunder is the response, as the cross cleanly penetrates the green, scintillating barrier that appears.

Bouncing off her head after striking her between the eyes, a burst of blue erupts from her face.

The woman collapses ungainly on the floor, all life taken from her movements.


A great crash comes from Adris’ side, and he turns to see the trash monster hitting the stone floor, furniture and parts spilling everywhere as it loses its form. The woman named Lycia clears debris off herself, gets up, and returns to servicing her aura tool after confirming her attacker isn’t moving.


Adris hears the sound of something flying, and then an object enters his hand.

Blinking in shock, he looks down to see that the cross he threw… has returned to his hand, demanding to be held.


(… That’s a lot to take in.)


Adris hurries over to the blond woman.

The pretty, yet frightening, lady has one knee down, working her contraption.

She looks at him with a suspicious expression when he approaches, but then it changes to an overly tempting one.


“Help from strangers is incredibly… rare; or, did you… see something you wanted to save for yourself?”

The woman, still in the aftermath of her panic, immediately tries to charm him with her body.


Her hand goes to her breasts as though she is trying to catch her breath, flashing a needy look with her fascinating eyes.

Adris sees that those eyes still hold concealed paranoia, even as something like an inner light flares in them.




The look brings to mind a woman with long, black hair, gazing at him as she makes accusations.




“No, I got what I needed.”

(One traitor, brutally punished.)

The slit-irises of her eyes widen as she tries to follow his comment.

“Though if you get the chance to tell me how that wonderful contraption works, one day, I’d love to hear it.”


Adris turns and runs off, the door his only real goal.

The woman looks confused, as though she expected something else to happen.


Adris moves through the crowd around him, but then stops suddenly when he notices a man has returned to throwing vials of acid at a giant.


(He was smashed into the ground!)


Looking at the spot where he should still lie, Adris sees no corpse.

Instead, the man looks beaten, but still energetic, as he runs around lobbing concoctions of suffering at his foes.


Adris looks to where the others were slammed into the wall, but sees no bodies.

It’s the same with the woman hit by the purple beam: she’s back up, chasing after the midget that struck her while waving a two-handed, notched long blade that she’s produced from nowhere.


(Is nothing fatal to these creatures!?)


Adris can’t afford to waste any more time.


With the giants slightly damaged and distracted by the maddened figures dancing beneath them, Adris lunges towards the open doors, running for the inky darkness beyond them.


He weaves past fighting scholars and flings himself headlong into the exit.




But… is caught on something invisible.


While people run by him out the door and vanish into the darkness, Adris is caught in mid-air unable to push forward, no matter how hard he struggles.

The barrier catches only him, a gel-like feeling of moving resistance on his clothes and skin.


(There’s an invisible aura barrier.)


Adris has run into these before while liberating priceless secrets in powerful temples. He had been able to deal with them, then.


When he had aura.


But Adris’ aura is not recovering.

He tries to break through with the silver cross, but only gets his arm past it, which is then rejected.

The invisible field is not destroyed like the protective shells were.


(I can’t be stuck here!)


The betrayal by Serras.

Being turned into a boy.

Being assaulted by that trash-brained hair devil.

This labyrinth and its depredations.


He can hear ponderous movement behind him, the area brightening with white light.

Adris is completely out of tricks, for the second time in the same week, as he refuses to turn his head to look.


(I don’t want to die. Again.)


Something grabs him.

And hoists him up.




Blond hair, slit irises, and a friendly, tempting smile filled with amusement are what he sees above his head when he finally looks.

Carrying a large, cloth-covered box and a full-grown boy at the same time…




“If you wanted to leave, you could’ve just asked big sis.”




… a blue-coated woman strides through the dark gate, as a huge appendage barely misses them, the mad riot fading out of Adris’ ears.




(V2, revised for grammar and readability by an amateur writer)



Name: Adris fehl Dain; “Mister Meat”
Titles: Scholar Bound in Madness, Greedy Informant
Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
Sex: Male
Age: ?? – Young

Occupation: Crossbearer; Charlatan/Swindler; Xin’Reh (former); Soldier of Fortune (former); Bounty Hunter (former)
Discipline: Crossbearer – Cursed Aura User; Spear Veteran (former); Aura Warrior, School/Specialization: Self-Taught (former)


[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!”


[Unknown Protection from Poisons/Compelling] – {A MAN WALKS, HIS STEPS UNWEARIED AND RESOLUTE. NONE CAN STOP HIM.}


[Unknown Mental Domination] – {A MAN DEMANDS. THOSE WHO HE DEMANDS OF, OBEY.}


Disposition: Resilient / Adaptable / Sinner
Alignment: Chaotic

Eyes: Black
Hair: Black, with strands of White
Skin: Tanned



R-Value – “Why have I not showed up yet, Adris? You’re taking too long.”



C-Value – “If all men looked like him, it might not be odd for women to think that the gods had painted the world in only the drab color brown? While not ugly, would he not exemplify the idea that ‘normal’ is perhaps indistinguishable from ‘undesirable’?”

“Does missing half of your body increase the rarity of what remains, thereby increasing its inherent beauty?”

“Being a child again, can you see the difference that being an adult adds? No longer possessing the work put into improving features, will Adris understand that being plain as a child lacks the poise and stature of adulthood? Even as an older boy, isn’t it hard to be… ‘dashing’?”

“Clothing, is it? Yes, clothing is a fine answer to all problems, is it not? Even an ape may appear more dashing if he is wearing a suit, isn’t that right, Adris?”



“A rather plain-looking man wearing traveling robes, what he carries hidden is far more dangerous than his appearance lets on. A disarming smile, leads to you being suckered. A clever tongue, leads to your sorrow. Possessing quick wit and intellect, hubris and arrogance are certain to follow. Well known across the floating islands of Xin, but not by name, only by reputation. Owed many favors, but not with great joy, and certainly not love. The only person he seems to care about other than himself is his lifelong partner.”

“It can be said that Adris has done a lot of things in his life. Good, bad, evil, and unkind, all of what he has done has been done with the assumption that he will never have to worry about heaven or hell. Now that he’s lost the only thing he’s ever cared about, what is left? Perhaps he will get his chance to discover what it means to be free?”

“Turned into a kid again, how is Adris handling this? Thrust into a dimension beyond his ability to cope with, especially after being abandoned by Serras and murdered, only his attachment to his own sense of self… or finding it again, is driving him. Now that he is young, he can only survive by his wits, seeing as his aura has been taken from him. Will he succumb to his thirst for female flesh? Will this cross claim his mind and make him its meat puppet?”

“Even if there’s a distinct lack of total sanity in him, at the moment, he still seems able to function quite well. If you don’t have to dwell on your problems, you can devote yourself quite effectively to a single goal, ignoring all extraneous information. Though, isn’t the idea of [Oath] a little too…? And what’s with him pretending to be completely different people?”



“Even if the odds are stacked against a main character, and even if he is a complete asshole, I must respect someone that refuses to quit.”



Name: Lycia Vehrose
Race: ???
Sex: Female
Age: ??

Occupation: Wondrous Works Scholar
Discipline: ???


[Shooting Stars] – “A strange, wooden box with holes in the end produces a stream of missile-like light, which explodes with enormous force on the chosen target. I, of course, want it desperately. Hooray for aura tools.”


Disposition: Sultry / Intelligent / Vicious
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Gold, Speckled Green
Hair: Blond
Skin: Deathly White



R-Value – “Please unlock me, Adris~.”



C-Value – “Perhaps you have a fascination for that which seems human, but whose qualities deviate far from it when inspected? Even if she’s your ideal figure, Adris, won’t it be a problem if she decides to eat you up?”



“A woman whose first instinct is to not trust you, and to trust only in herself. A fairly good perspective and outlook on life, in a blue abyss filled with lunatics. The obvious question is: how sane can she be if she willingly lives there?”



“Women who are strong are justice. Viva, tits. Please be mine, delicious ass.”




Petripolis – “A town beyond the crazy place Adris is found in. If civilization exists, then is it hell?”


Alchemaster – “An odd word, what do you get when you mix alchemy with complete mastery?”


Gate Guardian – “All mansions have gates, right? How strong is your gate guard? On the Chuugoku Scale, 1-10, this one is…”




Chapter 6         Table of Contents          Chapter 8