Take Up the Cross – Chapter 92: Best-Laid Plans

Bubbling and gurgling ease a boy’s thoughts as he is slipped into tepid water. While Welcome Web is unassuming in most aspects, its facilities below Meltisha Salmeron’s rising roost bear the hallmarks of her own unique needs. A bathing room in most inns would be merely a barrel or wooden tub, slatted together and swelled so that nothing will leak out; yet, the place of fine tiles and stone walls that Adris accustoms himself to holds two different submerged areas.


(Were I to linger in my own filth while soaking, I might cry.)


The pool that he runs his fingers along the lip of, a great basin with a drain against the far wall, is proved to be for the purposes of scrubbing him clean, for his attendant demurely lays beside him as she throws a pinch of dust upon a jar of thick, perfumed oil.

When the dust strikes, a ghostly flame bursts into being before sputtering lower. Adris closes his eyes while its unique floral depths fill the room, leaving him mentally convinced that he’s within a life oasis, deep within the impassable forests of Xin’s deadlands, once the scents saturate.


(Just like there, the waters which teemed with unseen life could spellbind a man. Skin could change, aura channels misaligning, becoming—



A torrent dumps over his reclining head, leaving him sputtering before calming again. If this were only a place of repose, then the carved depictions of monstrous spiders and webs over scenes of normal home life filling the walls wouldn’t be here.

For they only aid in the discomfort growing within him in how he’s being treated.


“This is the part where you ‘turn me into mush with your ministrations’, or did I miss that part?”

The naked boy opens one eye as the moisture blinks away from it, looking sidelong at his attendant, a woman who promised eager touches.

{How else do I wash this crop of spikes you call hair if it’s not soaked first?}


Still’s curvy, black mesh soaks up the drops of moisture that fall onto her, while her incense creates a magical atmosphere that excite his senses. In contrast with that fine sensual fulfillment, her flippant gestures harsh his pleasure, proving that the coquettish rogue is hardly only kind.


Many strange ointments and tonics are arrayed around her in crystal bottles, but her fast hands move first to feel along his head and back.


{… A kid’s fine, thin neck. So, not just a midget.}

“I’m ever more than either, as you well know. Now, how about the next document?”


She pulls up a slip of parchment, handing it to his shaking hands so that he can flick over it with eyes which can unravel all written truths.

“Worthless. Just a debt owed by a businessman, one who Fimbo has already basically ruined for failing to pay caravan protection funds.


{Yes, yes.}




Like he’s done for the past three days, Adris continues inspecting documents liberated from the hidden storeroom of Black Birch. These secret missives and intelligence reports outline the exact nature of Petripolis’ underground and the organizations which operate within it.


(Which can be summed up as… “there are none left, we’re the only ones who survived, isn’t Black Birch great?” What a useless haul, so far! All I’ve learned is mostly what I already knew, or about organizations not even bothering to return to here.)


Because only he can read the cypher, and…


(Because I can’t write a key to a cypher without anyone being able to read it…)


Only Adris can go through the documents that he wishes to be the first to know the truths contained within. With Anaxis and his messages passed between, Adris has had to rely upon the hands of two others to write them for him.


(Neesiette for the regular cypher and… Ave for the secret one that Still shouldn’t know.)


But as Still’s hands begin to coat his hair with a sticky gel and scrub his scalp, Adris sighs while relaxing while considering the inevitable.


(A beauty as intelligent as she is already knows my cypher, I imagine.)


The idea that his partner can already see through many of his plots was originally quite frightening to a boy who has ever plotted alone.

So frightening that he set others against her.


(I still haven’t heard back from Reverend. The only message waiting at the bounty board was “Changed plans. Wait longer. Great expectations.” And that means…?)




However, on the night that Lycia accepted the “real” him, Adris’ thoughts took a strange turn.

A tingling head is manipulated by professional hands, the very hands of the person who his relationship with must also change.


When Adris weakly runs his shaking hand over her mesh-covered wrist to show affection, she stops scrubbing him…




Just long enough to bat it away before continuing.




(This was your idea! Is that shy—? No, you can’t be shy.)


This woman who lies without wasting a breath to do it just merrily produces bubbles, leaving him moving on to the next document from a stack he must draw from now.


“The experience is thrilling, no matter how you coat it in excuses. Aren’t you having fun?”

Even if he voices it as suavely as possible, his thanks only results in Still drumming her fingers on his head, as if impatient.

“Oh? Am I…? AH!”


Adris gulps down air as fast as possible before his head is pushed beneath the surface. Only when crystal clear water is dyed pinkish with the shampoo washing out with her fast rubbing is he allowed to resurface.


Gah… Well, how effective was your work?”

{To my amazement, you’re not actually part porcupine~.}

While he stews in resentment, she happily signs about her success, stroking the back of his head and now flat, black hair.

{The black with white strands is… Are you really going to waste time on pleasantries?} She halts in mid-sentence to move on to sarcasm, ruining their moment. {I don’t think you begged me for “touch time” simply because the rest are “busy”.}


(You’re too observant and impatient! Give in to the thrill of the chase a bit… I’m trying to get to know you. And I didn’t beg, you offered!)


Those squishy thighs of hers shift intentionally as she lays on her side, giving him a show while Still hands a suspicious book to him.


{Get to working. You promised “secrets” about the others.}

“No time for banter?”

A “zero” gesture accompanies her forcefully opening the book for him.

{Ave is only gone for a quick brunch at the Bumbling Bee with Kol. When both “kids” return, free time will be lost forever for the “parents”.}




Adris puts his “journal” on the dry tile floor next to him, quickly writing down information from the latest intelligence deciphered.


“Black Birch did have some powerful enemies. Those peoples’ contacts will soon spread word that they’re broken here.”

{But not who did it~! I’ll credit the audacity of your attack. Involving… her along with the kobolds makes it a cinch that they’ll blame monsters.}

Being honestly congratulated sends a thrill up Adris’ spine, leaving him unable to suppress his grin.

“Of course. A plan I orchestrate can’t go wrong. I am a man addicted to details…”




One of those “details” earns his hand a pinching when he rubs along their inviting thickness, before her legs scoot away.


(Stop tempting me with them if they’re not for me to taste!)


This attendant of his is almost naked, save for a flounced bodice and her head wear. Not even a dress is bothered with, for a body-tight suit covers all else, even that exposed area which he’d love to get a taste of should she put her thighs around his head.

His hissing at being denied is funny to Still, who shakes her hand while “laughing” before making a curious, curling gesture.


{You mentioned “questions and answers”, so I assume you want to know something that only I can divulge during this?}

With Codex Rantilius opened to a page that only Adris can understand to “remind” him, he laughs before running his damp finger along a set of words.


(Very good to trade for. Secrets are what I have, after all…)


Almost imperceptibly, some of those glyphs change form…




[Stupid Crossbearer! Don’t get Rantil wet! Everything will melt if Rantil gets ewie and gooey!]


(Shut up! You’re not made of sugar!)







Beware that creature that has possessed you, little brother.


Discussing a secret while playing through the streets, Lycia had very serious advice concerning the means by which Adris won in her black-and-white world, even when the boy had been reluctant to discuss it.


An allip is far from just an undead specter. It is a spirit overtaken by madness, such that its tormented death gives birth to a shadowed form that is merely a fragmented facade. When you listen to its words, the insanity of all of Beyond is hurled at you.


(“And what should I do with her”? Of course, I asked.)


Adris had remained quiet while seriously awaiting advice, which seemed difficult for the sinisterly smiling woman to convey given her new attachment to him.


Burn the book. Scatter a quarter each of its total ashes to the four winds. Go to the temple in Zarkhael to the far east and chant the creature’s name forty-four times, before slicing your own tongue off and offering it to the idol there.

If you do that, you might be freed of it and the terrible secrets it longs to share~.


With Adris unable to promise this, or even consider it, Lycia had let the discussion lapse while staring at him with disapproving eyes.







[Rantil helped save your life, and that bitch thinks she can just trash your favorite heroine in front of your face!? Adris, you should’ve—!]


(You’re made of suffering.)


Covering up the section of the page that continues to fill with new glyphs, Adris seamlessly moves into his prepared topic.


“Being from another world, I find myself constantly frustrated by the novel hardships of this world’s ‘rationality’.”

As if it’s not truly his fault, Adris “tsks” while frowning at the difficulties he’s forced to endure.

Still only shakes her head before flipping around like a cat, laying on her arms and leaving her hat awkwardly bent against the ground. A porcelain mask has a bored smirk painted on it, while one hand just insults him.


{This world is normal. Everything from outside of it, with you as the representative, is the weird part.}


(You say that, but explain these things!)


“So normal, is it? Is it normal that increments of time should be measured so… sinisterly?”

{What’s so strange?}

“Why are there special lengths of time that do mystical things?”

{You mean a [turn]? [Short]? [Long]? How are they “mystical”?}


(How are they not mystical!? Why bother having seconds, minutes, and hours when practically everything is done in increments of six seconds!?)




It had been gnawing at him.

The sense that actions people undertake always seem to fit within specific times, and that people are aware of this fact. Adding to that is the way in which these multiples of uniform lengths govern how supernatural abilities function and renew.


(No matter what I make or do, why is it always completed within six seconds or a multiple thereof!? Why do [shorts] and [longs] renew the body and its spiritual power!?)


Their refusal to explain it was because it was simply normal, leaving Adris as a man reminded that common sense for them is that every day they should arise anew, feeling refreshed of all prior abuse.

A benefit he hardly enjoys, for he lacks Vigor which peaks with each dawn.




(Only a body that burns with endless energy, even if paralyzed by weakness!)


The channels his aura would travel, were he not relinquished of it, are the place this zestful stamina traverses.

Running, fighting, fucking… all pursuits are eagerly fueled.




{“It’s always worked that way”… or so you should live with that being the answer. Incredulity about it is understandable, but…} Still gives one of her patented dismissals before hammering her own question back at him.

{Aren’t you just trying to avoid better topics? “Why are you suddenly a complete pauper” being the better one?}


(Leave me and my poverty alone!)


“Wouldn’t ‘because I gave it all to you’ answer that? You can’t be seriously disappointed, because you demonstrated the value of that investment against Lycia.”

The sneaky compliment earns a coy waggle of her finger at his attempt to elude the reason.

{You ain’t seen nothing yet~. No, but… is there a reason you don’t hold any wealth at all?}

Her surety makes Adris click his tongue, now scared for his coin purse’s safety.

“Are you going through my pockets, now?”

{Of course. I sew them back on, after all.}

His irritation dies with the matter-of-fact statement reminding Adris how much the sneak does for him.




“… There’s a curse associated with wealth and my fortunes, such that I can never hold treasure. Only investing it circumvents my limitations.” No guile lingers in his voice as he answers, treating it as a simple reality while she wipes his face with a fruity-smelling cloth.




Still does a second take when he quietly finishes, before scooting closer to him.


(Do you like the truth sometimes? Or is it so rare from me?)


His musing questions are rewarded when she waves a hand over her mask, revealing an innocent grin.

{A part of your tragic circumstances? Okay, okay~ I’ll accept that, since it’s easy enough to ignore~.}


(Thanks for being so kind.)


“[Fate] and [Odds] are next, because you Zennians wage battles that grow in risk with each step! So much so that it seems far more cursed than not holding treasure, for you four never tell me when it becomes worse!”


(What decides Odds!? Please show me how to avoid losing everything…)


“All I feel is that combat is upon us, never what is at stake.”

{Because we never know ourselves. All battle is governed by emotion and stake. If you try to define the limits, you’ll find there are never certainties to them…}


(“Every fight is unique” isn’t a good answer!)


“Is there no way to… play these odds in your favor?”

{Of course there are: don’t bring anything you don’t intend to lose. On Zennia, your… body is always collateral.}


Still pulls up his arm out of the water after commenting darkly, pulling a bar of some solid, fatty substance to rub over it. Adris closes his mouth while watching, enjoying the gentle scrubbing over facing the lack of useful information, before moving on to the next topic from his book.


“Fine… Are there any peculiarities of [oaths] that I should know about, in order to be wary? While I know quite a lot—?”




{[A promise to a witch that is broken means the loss of a future filled with promise.]}


The evil fingers which waggle out this decree cause Adris to stiffen, for they creep over his forehead like a monster holding a grudge that prepares to drag him down into the water.


(Did you… change… personalities…?)


Like many times before, this strange girl who hides her true body and self often flits between moods, leading Adris to feel like she can’t make up her mind…




A moment later, she lightly taps the forehead of a boy expecting imminent doom.


{An oath without a divine backer still has meaning to pure… [sorcery] (VAGARIES OF TRUTH-SEEKING MAGIC).}

“I see. I was right to seek you out, it seems.”

{Be wary of magic users, for they have awful tricks for sinners like you~.}


The cunning woman’s arms move down his chest from behind his head, leaving his skin tickled by her fingers as she massages tight muscles. Every time she pulls them back, she intentionally brushes over his nipples, leaving him twitching at the “unintentional” touches.


{Seeking me isn’t bad, but how about having something to offer for my troubles~?}

“Troubles? We always have those. Why don’t you share yours with me?”


With as much energy as he can spare, Adris tugs on Still’s thigh as she kneels behind him. Stopping her arms, she mulls the invitation for a moment.




Lithe legs slip behind his back, forcing him forward as she seats herself behind him in the bath. The hat of the taller girl shades him from the fairy light sconces, while one of her hands reaches down to rub his hip with the same fatty cleanser.

{My trouble is… I always seem to be getting only part of what you know or plan. Even this thing with… her left off one important detail~.}


(Siblings, we are…)


“I see. Women always desire more, don’t they?”


Leaning into her body, Adris relishes in the squishiness of her as he feels her legs lift up to squeeze on his torso. Having a woman wrapped around his back, with her arms flowing over him…


(But I don’t need more! This is paradise! It doesn’t even have to be erotic. This is… “closeness”… isn’t it, Lycia?)


A word that causes him to swoon every time he examines it in his thoughts is on the tip of his tongue, almost becoming an admission before he stops himself.


(Feels good.)




“Wanting more is admirable. I am a man that longs to grant more.”

Adris smiles while flipping a page, letting his attendant play with his body in her tantalizingly torturous manner.

“It just so happens that I agree with your assessment.”

Her fingers slide down his crotch and around his base, washing the flesh around where his rod attaches before rushing along his flaccid length with a quick squeeze.

{Agree with what? That I should keep touching you here to make you talk~?}

“… Yes, but also that you… deserve more.”

{Yes, yes… I’m sure you’re ready to give me allllllllll your secrets~.}


A flippant dismissal goes along with her touch suddenly weakening, almost as if she’s reminded of how little they get along except when teasing each other.


(No! Don’t lose that closeness. Can I not just admit that you’re right!?)




His hand wraps up with hers underwater, making her stop moving while he squeezes hard. That powerful voice of his goes lower, becoming more intimate.


“I’ve never had another I could depend on to do this ‘planning’ with me. Not on Xin, not even earlier on Zennia…”

Fingers lace up as Adris appeals to the woman he can’t see, only feel the coldness of her body as the pool’s waters lap about with their movements.

Two fingers tap his.


{And… now?}

“Now? An excellent question…”


Adris pulls her legs to encircle him and rest over his lap while he gets more comfortable.


“What if I’ve been overlooking a treasure that doesn’t curse me? Can I have that one to myself?”

Waving his book in front of her, he then begins to read from it.

“[How to accommodate a team that can’t be expected to win right now, but shows promise.]”

His soothing tone is intentionally sweet, causing her to shift uncomfortably at his playing.

“All of my ideas of how to ‘fix’ this situation are worthless without a partner that understands them. Where is… that partner?”




Such a statement leaves them silent for a long time.

As Adris accepts her touches over his legs when he pulls them up, he lets go of his inhibitions about not seeking out the kind of relationship he wants to reach.


(If Serras is someone I would bathe with without questioning it, then Still is someone who deserves that spot much more. She’s saved me plenty of times to be worth it… Why not start with Lycia’s advice right now?)


After some time, her covered hand rises above the water, slowly spelling out a question.




{Don’t you have choices… now?}

The “who” is left trailing, showing the hidden turmoil beneath Still’s placid surface. A painful scar is seemingly forming regarding his choice of company.


(Lycia can’t do what you do! Look, you guys fought and you lost, I get it; but, if I had to compare…)




“When have I ever had a choice? Despite being so powerful, I end up being chased by someone far faster than I am… Only that person who keeps catching me is worth the job.”

Some male bravado goes into that question as he rubs her wrist, before she jerks it away.

{… Shut up, you fuckin’…!}




As though she can’t decide what about his words is the truth, Still just hugs him for a long time while they continue to soak.

While he stays silent and lets her make her own decisions, she finally relents.




{… Fine.}

Adris huffs as she squeezes, before she dismissively pats him on the cheeks with both hands.

{If you want my “everything” about your plans, I’m gonna throw all my thoughts at your “brilliance” and tear it a new one.}

“Perfect! How could I justify a partner that didn’t do that. Then, let’s…”

She slaps his side, before continuing.




{So long as you quit flirting all the time. I don’t care about your games right now, so stop playing me.}


(Games!? I’m not playing…!)




“… Nothing I’ve said was to mis—LEAD? Mmgh!?

The older girl forcefully squeezes his cheeks, causing him to slur his words without escape being possible.

{I don’t have time for you to prove how s~m~a~r~t you are by failing to turn me on. Let’s just get on with your presentation so I can say “yea” or “nay”.}


Pointing toward the heated pool, one big enough for a whole host of people to enter together, Still then hoists him up out of the water.


“This is…!”



Still swings him around like a pet as she holds on, dragging the naked boy to the cleansing pool and settling him into the much warmer one.


“Hot, hot! That’s much warmer…”




The two get used it it, sitting side-by-side after Still pulls free her bodice and throws it away.

Adris has to admit that the sight of himself sitting next to a girl wearing a mask and a blue, steepled hat and cowl is humorous when all that covers her otherwise is that mesh she wears.

But not humorous enough to take his eyes off of her breasts which bob lightly in the water when she moves.


“In order to explain the development plan, I must clarify my understandings of things in the way of finalizing it.”

{Feel free to ask~.}


The girl lets her head roll as the steaming bath warms her cold body, seemingly ignoring Adris otherwise.


(I see. I’m not going to find real closeness that quickly, am I?)




Even if Still is bound to him through plot and ploy, she isn’t like Lycia.


(We “know each other” too well. We’ve made constant threats, allusions, temptations, and promises…)


Any form of affection is only a weapon he might be using against her, if he judges her revulsion toward his touches.


(You’re so jaded. Can’t you let go, just a little bit? Oh, I’m the reason you can’t? Ah, sorry, but…)


Holding up Rantil’s codex, he focuses on the first subject of study.


(Not sorry.)




“[Vim], [Vigor], and [Attributes]. On Xin, heaven of warring god-beings who rule the clouds, none of these things exist.”

{Really? How does it… work, then?}

When Adris brings up Xin, Still scoots closer and brings her hand to his bare thigh.


(Temptation isn’t a weapon for me, but for you? You’re evil…)


{Is there… sorcery there?}

“That’s another topic I’ll get to, but there exist similar effects. Only if I understand how my teammates keep from splitting apart with blades through their guts can I comprehend the future.”


(So you are interested… Then prepare to learn.)


“If I say that Vigor is the tendency for a creature to stay intact when the fight concludes, Vim is the ability of a creature to use metaphysical abilities not tied to ‘magic’, and Attributes are the guiding principles behind a creature’s prowess with abilities… do I miss anything important?”

Still nods her head, lifting one finger.

{Vigor and Vim are tied to Recompense, the ability of a creature to pay out for losses. Should one lose it entirely, then one also loses those “metaphysical” qualities.}


(Then explain m—!)


{Ah, you operate under a different paradigm.} Patting his shoulder, Still preempts his very thoughts. {I can only guess you’re… a ‘way of living’ incarnated? A Modus’ origination is a completely unknown facet of Zennia, even to…}

“Someone as brilliant as y—?”



Adris goes silent, surprised that even Neesiette doesn’t understand how he functions by now.


“Then with those subjects in mind, let’s discuss who embodies them the most. Both resemble where I arose from, so this girl is an easy discussion…”




On the page in Rantil’s book, a great list is shown which Adris begins to read from.




[The name of this girl is Kol fehl Dain, in essential truth. Called brick by Avenger and mutt by Sister, she is born as a kobold, but one must know that her nature has stepped away from the simplicity of birth.


– Occupation of this girl may be said to be a delver as called, and not a slayer, but she aspires to be a Knight, though will be called a Terror Squire for lack of officiation. Her discipline, that which guides her path, has become [Rule in Dark], though it was once [Battle Pressure].


– Of her Talents and Aptitudes as shown, the one known as [Ride on Dread] is foremost. As if the entirety of her existence is dedicated to being a nightmare for all who live, she can never be stopped so long as those who fear her are her sustenance.

– Attacks which carry their own invisible effect of brutality and claws which can almost never be thrown off serve as her weapons against the world.

– When the fear of this girl reaches its peak, she manifests that fear into proof of her supremacy over all that is terrified of the eternal dark, becoming a brutal admission of her [Tyranny] over life.



(Other powers remain untested.)


– Her standing with the world’s ways of living should be called neutral, for she chooses a path forward which entirely ignores the contests of wills of Zennia.


– The strength she bears be considered heroic, though it may become much greater.

– The vitality she holds be considered heroic, though it may become much greater.

– The dexterity she acts with be considered normal for humans, though she has reached her potential.

– The agility she moves with be considered the weakest possible, though she has reached her potential.

– The intelligence she thinks with be considered the weakest possible, though she has reached her potential.

– The mentality she survives by be considered heroic, though it may become much greater.

– The luck she walks with be considered peak of human, though it may become much greater.

– The charisma she demonstrates be peak of human, though it may yet rise again.


– Her deepest secrets are called as follows:


Other secrets live unnoticed by the Crossbearer.]


[Synchronicity of the Soul:

Respect: 💛 💛 💖 💖 🤍

Obsession: 💖 💖 💖 🤍 🤍

Understanding: 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍 🤍


The girl known as Kol bears great reverence for the Crossbearer, such that if he requested veneration, the squire sworn to him would perform her duties while still seeking to surpass him.]




(“When all barriers of rationality are abandoned”? What the hell have you become!? Is Kol now like one of those creatures from the Chapel’s dark world!?)


In addition to this change, she has completely morphed into an impregnable fighter.


(And also one whose respect for me is becoming unshakable? Though… she understands literally nothing about me…)


Ignoring that part, Adris focuses on the good. Though unable to mount any sort of chase or ranged offense, Kol is undoubtedly…


“Kol is the linchpin of our team.”

While Still flinches at that assessment, Adris lays out her points in simple terms.


“She cannot be stopped so long as she’s properly supported and allowed to face the enemy. If we cannot tame her, we will never have the essential element we need to defeat the Alchemaster, because she charges straight at the enemy.”

{… No shit. She’s incapable of anything else.}


“I don’t believe that. I believe, like Neesiette, that she can change, too.”


While Still only shakes in “laughter” at this, Adris thinks back to the first day after overcoming Kol…





“Boss, really strong? Very ‘unusual’. Kol, could hardly believe it when Boss grew perfect…”

“I appreciate your respect, but you’re currently supposed to be meditating, not trying to mate with me, yes?”


While one hand is pulling on his trousers, the white-haired beauty’s other hand is on his chest while she tries to position herself over his crotch.


“… Ah? Boss, really meant, ‘meditation’? Kol, thought Boss meant… ‘nevermind’.”

Her hand comes off of his dick, though it twitches to return.


(What did you think I meant!? No… I guess I did muddy the waters when I did that last time…)


The slightly drooling girl’s pink eyes squirm in a hurt way, but she blinks away the frustration before sitting back. Briefly showing her delicious pussy before folding her legs up, the girl wearing only a tunic closes her eyes and begins to try to “not think”.


(With only you able to move, I wonder if my words alone can aid you?)


Completely paralyzed by pain, Adris has been forced to endure unending attention by the kobold who keeps trying to make him forget about her “lesson” through compliments.


“Umu, Kol… supposed to think…?”


“Think about what defines you at your core. Consider only the one idea that you relate to most of all. But don’t allow your inner fire to come out: keep it contained while you do this.”




(Even if it takes a thousand years, you can’t develop further with “aura” until you secure this image.)




Like a central piece that allows the rest to glue to it, aura users require a central sense of self that becomes their Inner Expanse’s resolute shape.

Even if the darkness that Kol cultivates is something named differently, the form is absolutely similar enough to try using aura cultivation training to harness it.


“Oh? ‘What is Kol’? Weird question, but easy…!”


(Don’t get it that fast! Please don’t ruin my self esteem further!)


“Kol is…!”


While Adris cringes at the wunderkind becoming the first aura user to firm their Inner Expanse in one try, Kol’s arrogant smile begins to turn harsher.




“Kol is… Umu…

… um… ‘Who is Kol’? Kol, doesn’t… know?”


An answer she brags about instead becomes one of the first questions Kol has asked that sounded intelligent.


“That’s fine. You will discover that answer, though usually the question is ‘what is your essential nature’, not ‘who are you’.”


(You’re trying to decide what I’m asking you to…?)


“Umu, aren’t they the same questions?”

Kol’s loud reply causes Adris to swallow his own lesson, because the girl’s inquisitive eyes deny him an easy escape from a revelation foisted on him.




(… Is “Who is Kol”… the same as “What is Kol’s essential nature”?)


That question causes Adris’ mood to shift, and, with it…




The cross’ subtle ringing starts, joined by whispers from the shadows of the room which weave with the vines coming in from the outside to merge with the walls.

Even Kol seems to hear something, as her ears perk up and turn around, searching for the source of an unknown sound as Adris’ heart grows chiller.


When both dwell upon this question,


The world begins to dwell upon it with them.




(No! Stop! Can we figure this out later!?)


Adris wills this idea out of his mind, agreeing to seek it out later if it will vanish.

When he promises that to himself, it does so.




“‘What is Kol’s essential nature’ is what you should concentrate on. When you think of what defines you, can you explain with words?”

The most confused girl in the world rubs behind her head with both hands, distraught at being stuck on this specific question re-spoken.

“… Uh… Kol… is… likes… winning?”


(Not “what you like”… Well, at least with this, I’m allowed to tell you what my own is.)


Though defining the nature of aura is forbidden because it can forever change a person, sharing one’s personal worldview will always lead to rejection with others.

Because, a worldview is unique




“Kol, your nature is similar to mine, which is… an existence which requires no ‘definite path’.”

“Oh? Is that… sneaky or strong?”


(It’s both.)


“As your instructor, listen to these ideas:

Health of Body is what governs one’s form, giving a guiding principle to your way of moving, breathing, and fighting; Power of Spirit is a way of understanding the energy to bring change that flows through your body. On the mystical world of Xin, these aided one in discovering their essential nature.”

“Oh? Like… Vigor? Vim? Things, that make Kol burn for fighting!”

“Perhaps? What about fighting relates to you?”

“Ah! Moon always say, Kol should keep image of what Kol wants to be! Moon says, ‘Kol fights well, but fighting can’t be turned to being noble’!”


(That’s certainly true… AH!)


The exuberant girl hops on top of him, staring down with undisguised glee. Her powerful hands massage his chest, as her teeth reveal.

Something connects within her mind, allowing Adris’ invisible senses to feel a fundamental shift in her nascent Inner Expanse.




“Kol, likes that idea! Find a way, for ‘the right way’ Moon keeps talking about to be the same way Kol does everything else!”

“A… unified style, perhaps? What do you mean?”

“‘Unified’? Huh, what’s that?

… Well, Kol thinks that she wants to start learning more about ‘dueling’ and ‘speaking to people’…!”





“Kol’s essential nature, or the precursor to it, is to be a fighter that never resorts to deception. That every move she makes is honest to her, and by being honest it can never be deceived. She wants that to be her ‘unifying principle’.”

{Then she’s even more braindead than I thought possible.}


While Adris begins listing out all of Kol’s abilities and Attributes, following it up with a mental assessment of her manner of fighting and desires, Still goes along with an open mind, at least until reaching this point.


“Her poleaxe’s enchantment can’t overcome the fatal weakness of distance. While Kol can hold down any foe within her… aura, that which is beyond is a threat.” Reaching for Still’s hand, Adris closes around it while finishing his thought.


“She needs to be trained to understand offense and defense. Maybe if that girl had a ‘dancing partner’ that could—?”




His hand is flung away, before Still angrily informs him of his fatal conceit.


{I’ll never dance with that girl. Only on her grave. Don’t you dare ask me to be her “tackler” or her trainer.}


(So, you’ve heard the slayer’s lingo? I get the impression you know them quite well…)


Finished with this ultimatum, Still puts her arms against her breasts, squeezing tightly and hiding the tips of them.


“You’ll end up having to be, eventually, because Ave can’t do it. Neesiette will be too busy defending at times to aid Kol, and she doesn’t understand combat tactics. So, only one person is left—?”

{You lose.}


When she declares his loss, Still pats him on the head while smirking at him.


{You were supposed to impress me~! If that’s all you can manage, then I’m claiming victory: I know faaaaaaar more about that retard’s weaknesses than you do. And I know why she can’t be teamed up with or ‘made to listen’, even if you want things to change~!}

“What is…?”


(Tell me what her weaknesses are, so I can use them!)



Still flippantly taunts him by poking his cheek, before stopping when the boy’s face reveals his displeasure with hard eyes.

{You won’t get them from me. I’m saving them. Now, for answers to your questions… [Vigor] and [Vim] can be given a proper quantity measurement by the churches which serve the divine called [Covell, Bearer of the Priceless Vessel]. One small shrine lies in Petripolis, a place…}

Still’s finger turns the page Rantil is open to, before flicking one finger away from Adris.

{Neesiette will take you to, soon, though it’s likely pointless. Once we see where you lie, we can talk again. Moving on~.}




(You’re… pretty bitchy today, aren’t you? You think you’re going to “win”, too?)


Starting as his bath attendant, Still brings more fight than he was anticipating. Something about their time alone is unraveling, but Adris isn’t conscious of the reason yet.


(It started when…? Ah, I left off…)




Without realizing it, Adris omitted key information about Kol. The reason for her sudden boost in strength and personality changes.

Through unknown means, the girl that is following along caught on to his slip.


(Or… she thinks I don’t know?)


Still’s thoughts are unreadable on the subject, with her mask only revealing a tight, impatient mouth.




“Next, magic is a multitude of competing systems and theorems which I have no way of quantifying or qualifying…”

Starting off like this, Adris is interrupted once more by her waving hand.


{Give up~. Smarter men than you… and even I, have tried. You might as well just link it to something you already know to satisfy for an explanation?}

“Then that would be the practice of using techniques, utilizing tools, and performing rituals… Acuity of Mind is a branch of the power I use which deals with imagination and conceptual formulation of mystical abilities into tangible effects. There’s many similarities, but, also…”

Finding it quite disappointing that he has to admit his lack of knowledge, Still’s reply isn’t catty.


{Even with just that you’re already more learned than three-quarters of Zennia. Neesiette can help with any relevant mysteries, so bother her, not me. I only know sorcery, which is a school of thought which is far different from most of what Neesiette calls “degenerate magic”, ya know~?}

If anything, Still seems proud of Adris as she nudges her elbow into his side.

{… Meltisha can teach you, if you have an Aptitude?}


(NO! Spare me!)


The evil spider landlady’s first, brutal lesson was sufficient to send Adris jumping for safety if she came looking to teach him more.


“I bring this up because I have… a problem with Neesiette, stemming from when I asked her… well, let’s just examine her abilities, first.”




[The name of this girl is Neesiette vera Luna in truth. Called Moon by Terror and doll by Elf, she is a Lunamata, a tool made perfectly by a truly perfect being. Her age is impossible to determine, but should be considered far older than any other’s a Crossbearer has met, though what amount of time has been spent living?


– Occupation of this girl may be said to be a delver as called, and not a slayer, instead being called an Allcaster. Her discipline, that which guides her path, has become [Rule in Dark], though it was once simply to live upon the traveling wonder in the night sky.


– Of her talents and aptitudes as shown, her only forte found relevant be in identifying, understanding, and utilizing all forms of Art as called by her. From these understandings, nature of runes and magical alteration be known to her, allowing for her to use all manner of devices.


(Other powers remain untested.)


– Her standing with the world’s ways of living should be called ordered, for she walks the path set forth by her creator in all ways.


– The strength she bears be considered the weakest possible, though she has reached her potential.

– The vitality she holds be considered the weakest possible, though she has reached her potential.

– The dexterity she acts with be considered peak of human, though it may yet rise again.

– The agility she moves with be considered normal for humans, though she has reached her potential.

– The intelligence she thinks with be considered approaching mythical, though it may yet rise again.

– The mentality she survives by be considered heroic, though it may yet rise again.

– The luck she walks with be considered the weakest possible, though she has reached her potential.

– The charisma she demonstrates be heroic, though she has reached her potential.


– Her deepest secrets are called as follows:


Other secrets live unnoticed by the Crossbearer.]


[Synchronicity of the Soul:


Respect: 💖 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍

Obsession: 💖 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍

Understanding: 💖 💖 🤍 🤍 🤍


The girl known as Neesiette has reached an accord with the Crossbearer, but the relationship fails to achieve the balance both seek, for each continues to press their own claim when facing the other.]




(Neesiette is solely usable for the one role she excels at, because she’s one swat from destruction!)


While Kol’s weakness is being suited only for breaking down whatever is within reach, Neesiette’s is that she can be swiftly defeated by even Ave if the hapless elf is within distance to strike.




Neesiette’s broken form lingers in Adris’ thoughts, a testament to both Lycia’s cruelty and the mystic’s inability to handle threats beyond her established means.


(I won’t witness that again…)




“Neesiette is somehow less enduring than Ave.”

{That… sounds about right.}

While listening to Adris explain Neesiette’s metrics, Still’s smile turns sad as she sinks further into the pool up to her neck.


{Don’t count her out!} Still uncharacteristically slaps the water after jumping up. {After all, Neesiette’s knowledge of Art is—!}

“No, it’s fine. I don’t need more excuses that center on ‘Art’. I’ve heard enough…”


Adris coughs, letting Still freak out, signing vigorously as the boy just begins his story.


“I’ve already asked her for ‘tutelage’…”





“Therefore, inaccurate it be to label a tool’s discomfort as ‘temporary madness’, for [Brings An End]’s true nature merely escaped being grasped momentarily in the cusp of its reawakening into this age, only due to trivial desynchronization of revealed terminal truths granted by Investiture of Earth in contrast with absolute truths revealed by the termination witnessed by the recorder of the Art.”


While Adris tries to follow along, dutifully and with enthusiasm, he would rather be anywhere but laying helplessly on a bed.

For she won’t shut up.




Neesiette, can you explain magic and Art to me?




These words started the waking nightmare he now endures, for a petite, violet gem of a mystic has arrayed numerous parchments around him.

Drawn on each is a veritable life’s work of a Xin aura scholar, so thickly written and with such minute characters that Adris’ brain threatens to melt from merely attempting to read them. Yet, they were written by her on this very day, using the aura quill she refuses to part with after becoming attached to it.


(I will be getting that back!)


Between them stalks this cadre officer, her spine ramrod straight as she displays only a taciturn frown, ever present the whole time, while awaiting his response.


“I see. A miscalculation? … I didn’t think you could make those.”

Be this sarcasm, jest, or lack of attention to detail?

Neesiette suddenly hovers over him while gracefully concentrating on preventing him from peeking under her dress.

There is no humor on her face when she seeks “clarification”, only a deep luminance in her eyes.


“Desynchronization be squarely blamed upon from where it originates, correct? [Investiture of Earth], be this not granted by the one currently below this tool?


(I see. Everything is my fault. That’s fine, I’m used to it.)


“As demonstrated to the utter failure of a listener who still refuses to comprehend, ‘magic’ be a term which encompasses ten-thousand, five-hundred and sixty-four different divergent paths as recorded by this tool and the esteemed Creator who once sought to identify all forms of Art.”

Neesiette’s silvered rod, the one which “reimagines” other people’s magic in new ways, points to a single sheet showing four elements and four joint elements.

“Without narrowing the field of interest, explaining all facets of even ‘magic’ be impossible for this tool to undertake, for one’s lifetime remains too short to be worthy of investment of time.”

Around these four and four elements, two more encircle, refusing to congregate as she speaks lower.




“[Antipode] be the name of the destructive force one witnessed twice, an answer to one’s earlier question. Though unrecorded by lesser Zennian ‘dabblers’ and ‘fumblers’, such a joinder of Fire and Water be the antithesis of existence, resulting in—”

“Total annihilation?”


At first furiously staring at him with the icy disapproval of an interrupted instructor, the doll’s eyes grow softer while she ponders his proposition.


“Apt that be in description of the event; refraining from corporeal punishment this tool shall.”

Her rod points to the next glyph while Adris’ smile shakes.








A false god that can barely feel his legs past the pain is an easy target for a prideful teacher’s wrath, leaving Adris suffering from memories of Fatso’s “lessons”.


“[Exclusion Zone] be the name of the antithetical force culminating from the forced joinder of Earth and Wind, for within its effect no elemental forces may respond to attempts to incite them.”

“… It can completely exclude magic?”





A quick thwack on his knee results in Adris closing his eyes, concentrating on his aura training methods before he finds himself lashing out verbally.


“As stated five [ten-turns] ago, ‘magic’ cannot be stated to encompass only, nor draw solely from, degenerate alchemical-elemental designs. Though powerful, an Alchemaster ill be fit to be the sole progenitor of pseudo-Art.”

“Is there a… reason you keep hitting me?”


Neesiette’s mouth closes when he asks this with barely constrained anger in his voice, leading to her squinting her eyes in confusion.


“Excellence with acquisition of information be demonstrated to be linked to positive and negative physical stimulus, according to this tool’s experiences.”

“Experiences with who?”

“Who else? With K—”




His pint-sized instructor stops in mid-sentence, before closing her mouth and pondering their situation.


“Excluding physical reproachment for mistakes, one possibly suggests?”

“You’ll find that I’m… a much more astute pupil than Kol is.”

“Indeed? Then… one’s request may be fulfilled without delay.”


Neesiette relaxes her arm which holds her “scolding tool”, waiting for Adris’ next question.


“… Then this… ‘Exclusion Zone’ excludes all elemental magic?”

“Still ‘naive’ such a statement be, but ‘accurate enough for current lessons’ an unworthy pupil finds solace in such a fact.”




The barest hint of a smile floats across her face as Neesiette’s imposing stature diminishes, becoming more alike the usually tolerant lady Adris is used to.


“Perhaps a frame of reference for the glory of true Art be the missing element necessary to obliterate disgraceful misconceptions brought on by ‘magic’s heresy?”

“… Excuse me?”


As Adris misses her point, Neesiette quickly steps over him to reach the side of the bed, before cutely taking her time jumping down.


Ascending to her throne, the moon fairy taps a section of it in many spots with her silver rod. When the crystalline tones sounding out match a strange melody, a cracking sound comes from the bottom of it.




Remember not such things.

“I’m not a thief.”


(Toward my friends.)


A stern admonition is sent his way because of his attention given, before the pupil eagerly awaits his teacher’s return trip.

For she reached within a hidden compartment to retrieve something that glows mysteriously like phosphorus amber.


(… I feel something… ancient. That’s the only word I can find…)


When Neesiette climbs back up with great difficulty, Adris is able to see the piece of sculpted stonework she carries.

The atmosphere of the room is more like the Emperor’s tomb now, choked on the overflow of a new energy which forcibly fills it. As if made of amber itself, the glowing, irregularly shaped object is a single…




(Character!? NO!?)


Upon laying his eyes on it, Adris’ mind begins to swell.




The “glyph/character” he witnesses becomes all that is contained within his thoughts, with light stronger than either world’s suns threatening to burn out his brain.


When that light notices his attention, it buzzes in his mind, desiring to become more than just inanimate.









A jolt to his head brings him roughly out of his suffering, with a beautiful, pale face with perfect features staring down into his.

Surprising him with how she saved him, a black cross is clutched tightly in her hands.




“… One proves beyond understanding yet again. Look not upon this precious treasure, nor attempt to interpret its existence. Especially not within, for that be quite dangerous with Art.”

Soothing words come along with her rubbing of his forehead.


(You hit me with my own cross!? You can use it!?)


The sweat that came to coat him in the lost time between witnessing the amber piece of stone and now is thick enough to leave him drenched.


“I keep… telling you that… I’m not…”

“‘Average’, this tool understands; yet, ‘beyond unique’ one did not specify…”


(Beyond unique…?)


As the panting boy huffs while staring at her, Neesiette finally buckles from the pressure and pulls away.


“… Apologetic for one’s suffering a tool be.”


Though not admitting fault, Neesiette looks contrite enough as she brushes aside equally amber hair which has escaped from her crown of horns.

“Examine result, if not means for it, then. In witnessing, one may find beauty.”




While hiding the amber behind her back, Neesiette stands proudly before him on the bed.

Her hand lifts into the air, leaving the picturesque girl resembling a statue locked in movement.


“Behold: true Art.”




The air deforms, growing heavier.

Amber light which shines behind her illuminates the entire room, joining with Neesiette’s dress which begins to glow. Spreading like freezing ice or crystallizing sugar, this ancient, shining force accepts no limitations.


Violet half moons upon her clothing burn bright, just as they did when she “brought an end” to the horrible monster from the distant past.


(This is an insane amount of pseudo-aura!? No… it’s much purer!)




From the air around her, space seems to be drawn like grasped bubbles to her raised hand.


{Interpret -> [Art: Friend Light]}


The shortest chant she’s ever spoken consists of only one word from her and the “truth” of the amber’s name.


(Ahhhh! It’s…!)




Adris cannot even flee as reality groans from the demand.

When the Lady of Violet Moons speaks, the universe itself obeys, causing the room to vibrate.


As even the cross’ ringing is drowned out by the rushing air which converges upon a single glowing point, everything changes!







Managing to shield his eyes from the glow, Adris blinks while straining from the pain of lifting his arms.

“… It… what?”

“Allowed, one such as you be to partake in this.

Behold its… grandeur.”


A dreamlike sigh comes after the girl’s announcement.

Chancing to obey, Adris lets his arms drop so that he can take in the result.


Above the glowing girl, locked in an artistic stretching of her body toward the ceiling…




Is a single glowing dot whose shine lights the room, bobbing in the air as it coalesces further.





“Understandable it be, one’s incapacity to properly articulate one’s impression.”

Neesiette responds for him, lowering her body as she sweeps her hand into a dramatic gesture similar to one Adris has made before.

When she does so, the glowing light zips to float near her shoulder that she moves her arm toward.


“True Art be as such: possessing grandeur beyond comparison.”

“… It’s… a…?”





The energized doll turns her head, focusing on Ave’s root-filled window.

Like a dart, the light flies to the point, perfectly illuminating the area.


As if her sight is its key, it fulfills its duty without failure.


“Unsurpassed it be, the culmination of perfect illumination that [Friend Light] represents. As true Art, no other manifestation of illumination shall ever…!”




“It’s just a light?”


Neesiette flinches back, staring at Adris with horror-filled eyes.


Before a living light blinds the boy by smacking into his face.




“GYAH!? Neesiette…! Control it…!”

“… According to its intended purposes it be fulfilling its duties. Ever according to its design…”

Only intense enough to briefly disorient him, the brightly angry firefly refuses to leave his face no matter how much he tries to swat it.




At least, until it tastes obsidian.




The sound of crystal shattering and a thunderstrike joins with a roar of a thousand voices.

All artificial light vanishes from the room for a moment when Adris breaks this spell, before softly flickering back to life.




Such brutishness. True Art be demonstrated to one, yet in apish ignorance one brings only ruin to…!

“Get it out of my face, then!”

As Adris blinks in pain, a girl goes almost lifeless with a rage which leaks from her artificial body.


(Ah… that… might have been…)


After calming down, Adris is faced with an opponent whose expression does not change, even when she kneels down like a prim lady.

The moon-touched wonder only stares at him, growing creepier by the moment.


(Are you not capable of speaking…?)


“… Well, such childishness on my part was unbecoming of my majesty.”


His first attempt at apologizing results in Neesiette’s eyes only growing fiercer, the pale violet so incensed that he peeks to her throne to make sure that “Brings An End” is still out of reach.




(Did I perhaps earn her eternal hatred by rejecting “Art”? Was she… happy to show me it?)




“I’m… sorry if it is broken forever. It was definitely beautiful.”

While genuinely apologetic, Adris’ apology results in Neesiette only blinking once after accepting it, before tilting her head.

“Broke? True Art cannot be broken. Derived from the very existence of the world it be.”



Shaking her head, Neesiette’s features lose some of their stiffness, before she lifts her hand once more.


“Observe, if a baboon lacks suitable understanding:


{Interpret -> [Art: Friend Light]},

{Copy and Interpret -> [Art: Friend Light]},

{Copy and Interpret -> [Art: Friend Light]}”




Space deforms once more, the world itself groaning, as lights spring perfectly into being.


Three fireflies hover briefly, before zipping to take up positions around Neesiette, one at each hand and the last over her head.


“… You can summon more?”

“Summon? Be this not the most incorrect terminology possible? ‘Born from the fabric of existence’ be more accurate.”




Her interpretation does seem more accurate, given how his gut churns with the energies she demanded. They seem ripped from the firmament of creation, the rawest stuff of the world that Adris’ aura senses can only barely perceive.

Calling three lights turns the space around Neesiette and Adris into a pseudo-aura wasteland, where only their “concepts” seem to remain at the moment.


“Without limit such contrivances may be created. To destroy one… be uncouth, but not irrecoverable. Uncouth and—”

“… Wait, wait: without limit!?”




Somehow leaping up to grab onto her, Adris finds three lights flashing him in the face for his efforts.

“Call them off!”

“R-R-Release this tool!”


Like guard dogs, the lights circle around Adris, leaving him excited but also frustrated with them.


“Doesn’t… doesn’t magic have a limit? Of one’s sanity, at least?”

“Degrading the minds of lesser beings does pseudo-Art.” Nodding appreciatively at his point, Neesiette then inspects his sudden change in mood.


(Am I… too interested…?)


“But… ‘Art’ this be.

True in origin and form. A perfect concept, encapsulated.”

“… Meaning that… it…?”

“Oh? Noticing the perfection inherent, only now does one?”


With the smuggest smile he’s ever seen her use, Neesiette clasps her hands before her while lifting her chin.

“Why should the utilization of Art have limits? Art may be used at all times, in all places, without chance of being inhibited. Certainly without limit, so long as one perfectly interprets it.”


(… So, you…)


“This tool did fail to announce its named design, therefore understandable one’s disconnect be with its purpose.”

Neesiette stands and performs a gentle curtsy, joined by the three lights which gracefully dip in time with her.




“This tool, Neesiette vera Luna, be termed an [Allcaster], for in addition to investigation of True Art, its purpose be interpretation of it as well.”




(Never-ending technique usage is possible!? What bullshit is this!)


While at first rejecting it…


“I get it! I’m finally being blessed! You really are the perfect tool, Neesiette!”

“That…! That… be… true…”


At first wanting to deny his appreciation, Neesiette shifts her eyes away from it, before finally turning her face.


“So… you can cast any Art without end!? That’s… indescribably useful!”

“Rapidly does one grasp the importance of such a talent. Exuberance missing earlier be discovered, be this the case?”

“Of course! If you can do this, then what else should I expect but perfection!?”

“… Indeed!”


When he congratulates her, Neesiette’s smugness begins to lessen as her eyes grow softer. Stroking her shoulder-length hair, she basks in adoration that Adris only now realizes she was longing for.


(Ah, I forgot how much you like this sort of attention…)




“This spell is useful, but I can’t wait to see the rest. Someone as efficient as you are should have quite a collection!”


Turning his sight to Neesiette’s throne, Adris is almost giddy as he thinks of what else she’ll pull out.


(I wish I’d known this sooner! Why didn’t she mention it…!? No… why didn’t she…?)


When Neesiette’s face remains blank at his gushing and the three lights zip to hide behind her, Adris gets an uncomfortable sense of dread.




(Why didn’t she use any Art to save us?)

“Why didn’t you use any Art to save us, Neesiette?”


At his blunt question, the doll’s actions turn quite wooden, followed by her answering only by force of necessity when he refuses to stop staring at her.
With a voice just as lifeless as when she lost all hope within Lycia’s past…


“Would not Art, being exceedingly rare, not also be difficult to come into possession of? Priceless as well, too priceless to be taken into the dangers of combat and to chance being lost. Too much expectation one places upon the resources of a tool which only recently awakened into this age, for artifacts which be rarer than ‘legendary weapons’ be—”


“… Hey, Neesiette~?”


Her flat tone and elusive, long-winded response earn her a jovial interruption from Adris, before he leans in to stroke her hair for her, freeing her nervous hand from having to perform the action.




“How many pieces of Art do you have, then?”



… The number one wishes to hear: including does it, in its total, [Friend Light]?”





“So, the girl I thought was most useful after you turned out to be… even… even if you… do this…”

{I won’t let you dare say something bad about her.}

“But she’s missing the entire point…!”




Adris feels quite hunted by how Still leans over him.


With one hand on the pool’s side for support and her other clutching somewhere else, his bathroom attendant has morphed into his bathroom warden.


{You’ve no idea how hard I’ve worked with her. I don’t need you ruining the priceless enthusiasm of a girl who’s suffered enough already…!}

“I get that, but you’re letting her be awfully prideful about only having… Ugh, one spell she can cast! Then saying ‘magic is something which damages the integrity of this tool, therefore never shall it pass through to be interpreted’!?

Even Ave can—!”


When another girl’s name comes up, Still’s dexterous thumb and forefinger slip over the back of his crown, stroking a most pleasurable spot for Adris.


“OOOH…! Stop!”


(You… you turn into this the moment I show doubts about Neesiette…!? But.. It’s not like I wasn’t hoping… no, I would never get rid of her…!)




Though inviting Still to bathe with him for plotting, many parts of Adris were definitely hoping for more.

As she keeps seductively turning her body to show off what’s been freed from all but stretchy darkness, the girl’s evil expression is proof of how far she’ll go to head off any discussion that doesn’t match what she wants.

Tits bounce as she leans in to hold them over his head, almost dropping them on his face as he begins to pant.


{Fine, let’s say she’s a “work in progress”!}

“She’s more than that! Do you know what she said after?

‘Fear not, [Brings An End], that which be proved as true Art, also be revised in utilization sufficiently enough to operate on a reduced scale. Look forward to its unveiling.’”

{That’s… not…}

“That’s a nightmare! She’s got to be stopped!”

Screaming this out, Adris hopes for sense to win out against Still’s favoritism for Neesiette, but rather than that…


{Ugh! You’re just… looking for excuses to…!}


Still flinches at this, briefly losing her cool before stroking Adris’ dick faster.


(Ahh, that does feel… good. Have you gotten better…!?)




{I don’t need a manwhore like you, he who hides behind others like they’re puppets, talking about how useless my protégé is to your plans!}


With this grand insult spewing out, Still’s demeanor darkens and swirls like released poison as her body’s posture shifts.

Her hand grips his cock roughly, bringing pain instead of pleasure.


(ARGH! I’m not going that route! I want to improve…!)




{Tell me: how eager are you to share a bed with girls you’re misleading!?}

“… They… were the ones that refused to let me get another room!”

{‘They’? How convenient, passing off blame to others.}


(When did you go crazy!? No, why!?)


Like in many other cases, the Still before him seems more like a zealous woman fueled by hatred and less like a saucy young lady. The way she moves becomes unsubtle, full of fury and undisguised disgust transferring with the touches she places upon a male’s skin.




{If you wonder why I’m always disgusted, perhaps it’s because you’re so disgusting! Sleazing around with them…! Like a common whore, you ply your trade with their hearts, just like you try with me!}


(What a piece of shit you can be sometimes!?)


Still’s outburst sets Adris’ own heart burning, scrounging for something to throw back at her.

Until, he finds it.


“… If… you are going to call me something…!”


While they face off, with her mask a show of venom and his countenance changing into an impish smile, the situation reverses in an instant.




“I… am not a whore… I’m more like… a gigolo, right…!?”





At the self-deprecation, Still stops moving, losing all of her fury as Adris just sighs with the attention.


“A gigolo is someone that’s held in service to a woman’s pleasures for money…! I… like that title better… because that’s often how I feel when I’m sought out by you four! Except… because sex costs others [Recompense], but sex with me doesn’t, aren’t you four the only ones who ‘benefit’ financially?”


Whatever impetus drives her falters when faced with something outside of her expectations, leaving Adris free to fight back.


“Kol’s little honesties finally added up! I figured out why I’m special. Why they force me to sleep beside them… because they know how valuable I am! Just like… you’ve known the whole time.”

Becoming self-assured, Adris starts to taunt her with a pleasant tone as she gives up ground to his advance.

Even if she can destroy Adris with him as disarmed as he is and unable to move, not even now does a knife seem like it will aid her.


“That mask you wear can’t hide an omission like this one, partner. It wasn’t just my usefulness in helping you escape that brought you to favor me, right? You recruited me in the Castillo because you know how valuable a man like me is to everyone. Especially…”

It becomes time for his dark eyes to accuse her, now.

Piercing with it, he whispers her intended, later betrayal.


“… the monsters you might have needed to make deals with to get to the Alchemaster?”


(Their ambitions are easy reflections of their greed, but you’re just as bad, if not worse, for wanting to have me for more! It’s not like I missed your reactions when Lycia accused you all of using me.)




“Even if I don’t mind something like that on principle… I mind—!”

{It’s your fault for not noticing it then, not mine.}




Still backs off quickly, folding her arms across her breasts.

Her mask is neutral in tone, a sure sign that her thoughts aren’t quite settled, even as their confrontation falls off abruptly.


“Are you okay now?”

{… Haaah, yeah. Sorry. For this… not about knowing how valuable you are~!}




Like it was all just a dream,


(No! You’re still sitting…!)


Still kneels on his lap, riding him as two bodies cling together to equalize temperatures.


“I don’t… dislike this… but, why the change?”

{You’re too exhausting. Seems like I jumped to conclusions, so let’s try something else…}




Rather than disgust, Still’s body seems to be heating up. Whether it’s the bath or their proximity…


“Didn’t… you say no to temptations!? I’ve got a lot more to say…! Ugh!”


Adris feels a softness push up against his dick, riding against the length ever so invitingly. As if behind the mesh is a place ready to open up for him.


{… I thought so, too. But…}




The mercurial girl pulls her mask free, before tossing it aside.

Wine-colored eyes are full of the same subdued hunger she showed on the rooftops of Petripolis during a night past. Bluish-painted lips part to let her teasing tongue poke out, making light of Adris’ predicament.


{A woman is allowed to change her mind whenever she wants to. I knew… you would be a gigolo after we talked that night. After you… wanted me.}

A little distance is revealed as being between them when she fluidly signs this admission, before she accepts one possible resolution.

{Couldn’t have you figuring it out, because I knew at least one of your heads would get too big for you to handle~! As long as you intend to… not spread your legs for just anyone, I plan to keep you on retainer~?}


(I… can’t…)




Death will come for Adris if he promises this.

Eventually, if not soon.

Because a curse demands something more.




“… I… am not used to sleeping without someone else by my side.”


When his smiling face breaks, Adris reveals a pain he never intended to show to another.




(… At least it’s being intentionally shown! But pain is something that binds others to you, if used correctly!)


That pain begins resonating with the girl’s sinking shoulders and relaxing neck, precisely how he knew it would.

Though agreeing with Lycia that he should seek truth whenever possible, the way that her arms almost move to wrap around him earns what he wants…


(If deception saves our relationship, then drink in my suffering! Commiserating about misery seems to be something you enjoy, so let it become something I enjoy, too!)


“Only rarely have I ever been apart from someone important, so losing that from Xin… drove me to consider looking for it elsewhere. If you’re looking for why I enjoy it, that’s the truth.”


(I’m not a slut! But I also can’t just… abandon all avenues of survival! I see your deception, damn you, Still!)




The woman that bites her lip before him, showing him human emotions despite the paleness of her skin, must be trying to fool him.

After all, she declared what promises will mean earlier…




(“If you make a promise to a witch, you have to keep it!” She’s a witch, no doubt about it! This woman will curse me the moment my agreement is spoken!)




“So, it’s not like a man of my esteem would commonly seek company without there being meaning to it.”

{… Who do you want beside you when you sleep, then?}


Pushing against him once more, the evil temptress tries to spring a trap before giving him the release she is already looking to claim.

Her luscious body is a weapon he can hardly resist.


(You hate me for manipulating others, but do this instead!? Ah, I’m so easily conned! But… how about an answer you’ll refuse!?)




A woman with blond hair had given him an ironic gesture of laying her head upon her hands some days before, then leaving him feeling a deep sympathy for her with the emotionless words she shared with a wry smile before closing her door.


Sleep is a form of death. The undead can never again claim what they’ve escaped. So, that means you can always come see your big sis when you need me, Adris~.




“If it was a woman like you, I’d be hard pressed to fault you for joining me.”

“Yeah, yeah… now, about that plan.”




The air is not cold, but being pulled out of the hot water leaves Adris momentarily shocked.

A soft towel is pulled over the floor, before the boy is laid on it and the conversation changes entirely.


(What? She gave up… pretty easily.)


“Weren’t… you wanting more?”

{Of course. I’m waiting for you to start with your grand design…}

“But, are you seriously going to… AH!?”


As if to answer, she flicks her tongue across the tip of his dick, licking up the moisture that comes from the pool and within him.

Her hand wags, humored now instead of indignant.




{I’m still listening~.}





Name: Adris fehl Dain, “Boss”, “Starr”
Titles: Lycia’s Little Brother, True False God, Slayer, Gigolo (Self-Admitted)
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?”


[The Mountain King] – “[Honor the gods, inheritor, and ever seek victory for their sake.]


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?”

“Are you ready to be passed around?”


“You are ready to be passed around, aren’t you? Wouldn’t you run screaming from your new ‘title’ if you had pride?”



“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’?”

“Gets to see how the girls act around him.”


“Because he ever had to plot alone and then share the finished plan, he might not know how to share the details well.”



“Learns some lessons, decides to fail others.”



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!




[ ?DARKNESS? ] – “▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒……!!!”




[“Dreadful Armor”] – “This is where Kol will live and die. When Kol roars, armor roars, too!”


[Halberd of the Whirlwind] – “GET OVER HERE!”


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…?”

“Discovering pride? Isn’t that like asking for her to leave you?”

“How do you feel to know what she’s looking for in a man?”

“Who will you go for first, Adris?”


“Shouldn’t you just create a way of cultivating aura that becomes the same as having sex? Or is this too foreshadowing of the future to be permitted to say…?”



“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.”

“With pride comes self-worth that one can understand and convey to others.”

“Despite losing, she also wins.”

“Not afraid to stake a claim, Kol will take what she wants, even without understanding the consequences of the assertions she makes.”


“By being shown too many confusing things, simple, straight-forward people tend to be unsure of how to act when expected to.”



“Wanting things is a way forward.”



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?”

“What do you think, after seeing who she lost to? Does failure make her more or less approachable?”


“Are you ready to struggle once more?”



“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.”

“If you had to compare them, one coming up short might just be the luck of the draw.”


“The trouble with putting two similar people together is that they can clash.”



“You can plot with her, but that’s not the same as her being your helper.”



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?”

“Aren’t you glad that she wasn’t revolved?”

“Is a girl who doesn’t bend or break when faced with horrors of the past not a solid foundation for your interests?”


“Why are you so disappointed to find something that she becomes excited over?”



“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…?”

“Ever the scholar, to the bitter end.”

“Once she sees through the social bluster, she easily ignores it.”


“To tread on what she loves more than anything else is to invite your doom.”








Chapter 91         Table of Contents          Chapter 93