CH7 Deprecated

Adris lays on the ground bleeding out, watching Serras, the only person who has ever cared about him, leave. His blood is already cooling, though the warm stains on his hands are from the blood of the bodies around him.


The fog closes in all about him, a loud drone starting to sap his mind.


Almost content to die…




His body is now being dragged.


Opening his eyes, he sees still forms to his sides moving by.


With ears and tails, strange uniforms and weapons, and golden blood painting them and the floor…




Adris realizes that he is responsible for these bodies, but was neither touched by their blood, nor is he their reaper.

Looking above him, a stalking figure pulls his arm as it moves ever forward.




Pale, gaunt, and stained in gleaming red and gold, it…




picks him up, and pulls him around to behold its face.




The golden eyes are filled with affection, malice, and dark humor.

A womanly outfit designed to express sexuality covers a proud nightmare.


The creature doesn’t lay blame for their murders upon him. If anything, it seems quite happy to have carved them up.

As if it only lacked a proper reason before Adris appeared.




Adris’ body is reflected in its shining eyes.


The sins of this creature, and his, are likely very similar.

Just, one is more fortunate and efficient than the other.




Licking its red lips, the long, blood-stained tongue then enters his mouth…


whispers worm into his mind the longer they touch, the droning violently rejecting them as it vies for Adris’


as it kisses him lovingly.




It then pulls him away,…




See you soon, LiTtLe BrO…”




cackles, rears him back, and flings him to…





Adris finds himself floating face down in a stony pool, the shining surface of the bottom reflecting a dim blue glow from overhead.

He can hear rushing water around him, the movement of it slowly spinning him as he floats. Even face down in the pool, he can breath by inhaling.

The feeling is unusual, but not painful.


(What was that battle?)


Adris is perplexed by the atypical carnage of the fight: combatants signaling their attacks; strange aura techniques that summon fantastical doors to fell planes and call forth the spirits of the damned; transformations from human-like into chaotic fiend.

The cat woman Miria had used numerous aura tools, though no aura reaction had been felt, only the fake aura of these “spells.”

The bunny Hoime had used power like a master aura user would draw out of nature, yet its form was far more perverting of reality.


(A burst of pure intimidation that can cow committed attackers, form doors to block escape, and lock everyone into a dance of death?)


Lycia’s actions alone produce the most disconnect between this battle and one from his homeland.


(Lycia, when transformed, exuded an unassailable presence, as though any number of attackers might meet as equal a threat as one would. Xin was a place where even the mighty, save for truly ascended beings, could be brought down by the attrition of massed attacks.)


A power that grows with the threat facing it is illogical, but has a mysterious flavor to Adris.

The deeper Lycia descended into madness, the more she owned the room of rushing waters.


(Is this what she was referring to with the description of “one’s Odds”? The more one places on the line, the stronger the fight you may bring? The more you risk to lose…?)


It’s a tantalizing feature, though he cannot fully grasp how combat even works, yet.


Surviving a mortal blow is rare, even for aura users. A wound will weigh one down, regardless of where it is given.

But, not so on Zennia. Lycia had gotten stronger after taking several and a comparatively normal fighter like Miria had not slowed down after receiving mortal ones.


(Their tactics matched this, too. More daring. Less conservative in offense. Favoring the bold and impressive.)


Adris marked their dynamic leaps, dodges, and weaving, a style of combat Adris cultivated by necessity of his offensive weaknesses. In their hands…


Miria was a lunging, spinning dervish of death, while Lycia was a beast with sapience that could shift with jerking, inhuman movements at will. One flashed a weapon of black steel with beautiful precision, while the other whipped sharp claws at the perfect distance to deny counterattacks.

Their fight was far too beautiful and injurious. Acrobatic movements were turned into an offensive duel.


(All of the odd movements and the battle’s flow… I am missing terribly important information hidden in plain sight. Why did the bat girl go down in one hit, while others endured longer? Of nearly equal size, Lycia’s attacks were more destructive than Miria’s, though the mass should be similar. I felt no discernible power difference in martial prowess, and without aura…)


Despite what was witnessed murdering Adris’ sense of logic, he is…






But, also still breathing unknown water.


(A personality more terrible than first glance would give away, she at least wasn’t totally insane.)


The medicine she forced on him leaves his lungs feeling full, the strength in his muscles sapped by the cold water.

Dizzy, he paddles his arms to find the edge of the pool he’s in, hitting a hard side and pulling himself out lethargically.


The air is even colder on his soaked body, the clinging water an added burden.


He begins to choke as he tries to exhale. The water in his lungs is forced out as he gags, fear rising as he chokes.


Falling out due to his rush, he retches helplessly while lying on the floor, feeling a slimy substance coming from his lungs along with the exiting water.

It spatters out in thick globs to his side.


(That bitch… didn’t say it would hurt.)


A lasting soreness spreads through his chest. This discomfort might simply have fueled her satisfaction if she would’ve witnessed it.

Still, he is no longer thirsty.


(What I need is someone that can help me put the pieces together for everything I’ve seen since I first woke up. I need to know what I can do to have… equal strength and survive.)


Adris possesses disparate parts:


Oaths that bear consequences.

Contests designed to force what he can only call “interesting fights”.

A cross from another world that still functions.


(And, if I guess right…)


The darkness of the ceremony had pierced into the cross; yet, Adris feels no more powerful himself, excepting the “gifts” it has imparted.


(A reservoir of power with a jealous, yet enticing, defender is still a reservoir that can be tapped…)


Of the powers of this world, Lycia had told him that even hers are achievable through efforts made.


(“Gaining power by challenging this world and others”. That sounds far too appe-)




As he opens his eyes while thinking, figures loom before him.

Adris jumps up, adrenaline racing, as he readies to attack the…






… statue before him.


A statue of a woman wearing real, thin cloth over her privates is leading a man, similarly clothed.

They are carved to appear to be moving toward the pool Adris fell out of, a lifelike moment to them as if they were captured by a real person being replaced by stone.


Several pools of differing heights and floor strata are around him in this oval room, lit by a large, blue-fired crystal dome overhead. The polished surfaces of the room reflect blue glow all around, a sort of mystic, dreamy atmosphere inviting his rapture.

Everything smells like flowers, with the water itself seemingly infused with a perfume.


Numerous figures can be found all around: some in states of repose, bathing; others chatting with each other, silent conversations that will never end; a few couples are even in what appear to be amorous embraces.

Rushing water is the only sound, blue waterfalls descending into the pools which spill over in places into floor drains.


The largest wall’s art is a diver’s nightmare.


In an underwater scene, strange crustacean organisms of ponderous size swim about between kelp and coral.

The central wall behind the highest pool depicts a girl with golden hair dressed in a white dress, a bonnet low over her head, pouring a dark, purple fluid into the water. The crustaceans are fleeing the liquid as it mixes with their home, polluting it.

The underwater life caught in the purple cloud dies.



Adris can feel the timeless emptiness of this room. The living are replaced by perfect stone, frozen in a moment, while life is depicted as succumbing.

(This Alchemaster abhors living creatures?)


Shivering, Adris spots towels on a large stone shelf near a wall opposite the girl’s mural.

Creeping over, he sees that there is a door behind the imposing furniture, wary of it as he hides by the shelf.

He takes towels without reservation, wondering at the fate of someone as he dries himself.


(She wouldn’t lose.)


Having interacted with Lycia for even that short time, he sensed a personality that wouldn’t buckle to such opposition; though, he’s a little surprised that she didn’t choose to escape with him.


(Is it that she didn’t have a choice?)


An air had come upon them all that felt both ominous and final, as if those who chose to engage in violence had no exit other than to resolve it.

Lycia herself seemed to be the focal point of the binding struggle that gripped everyone but him.


(Is this what an “oath” means? Was her howl a promise to defeat them? No, an oath is something between two people, isn’t it?)

The Modi that guide the actions of this world’s residents lack concrete form for Adris, forced as he is to rely on descriptions and use inference.


(”Beast of Conquest,” was it? Having such a title, she felt like the enemy of everything that wasn’t her. Even I was almost… pulled in, towards the end. She held such a secret-)


While drying himself in his melancholy, Adris suddenly becomes agitated, a thought clicking in his mind.


“My pack!”


His previous thoughts cease, replaced by urgency.

Putting the pack on the shelf where he has emptied a space, he examines the contents.


Exposed to water, but not damaged, all of his possessions from Xin were already preserved in protective, water-resistant oiled cloth; but, the parchment and materials he stole are…




Gently rolling out Symphonia’s parchment, he checks the small portion that he exposes to see that it’s…








The woman’s ink was of poor quality and the water has ruined the text.

Adris slams his fist on the parchment, staining the underside of his hand.


(How the fuck am I supposed to reverse it now!)


Adris’ anger at the pig woman resurfaces, as the only reason he’d kept her chilling and cringe-inducing notes was that they might help him fix his accursed body.


Now they are completely illegible, leaving him without hope of remembering even half of the inane things she’d written down.

Only the plundered chemical reagents and powders that were sealed in containers escaped the water.


(And I still don’t have a single source of strength or leverage! No aura, no weapons, and now no Lycia!)


Calming himself after time passes, Adris resumes checking his inventory.


Aside from some rations and his permanent traveling gear, his only extraneous possessions are the four cups from the Way of Four sect he kept for drinking and the last small bottle of his honey wine. Mercifully, both items listed are intact.

Adris dries everything using the slightly dusty towels around him.




A small ticking sound begins to round the shelf on his left, causing him to freeze.


(I felt nothing!)


Adris is caught off guard yet again, a constant occurrence since arriving in this hellish place.




{Adris holds the cross before him. A creature rounds the corner, its eyesight taken from it as it pledges-}


(Fuck off!)


Adris’ splitting headache returns, the cross attempting to entice him in his distraction.




From around the corner, a bluish-orange beak pops out.


A strange, alien bird with two beaks and black feathers, a large beak in the front and a smaller one in the back angled diagonally up, sways out fully into view.

Oddly, the creature has no eyes.

Three-feet tall and wearing a gold-and-blue tie around its yellow bird neck, its comically thin body holds rolled towels to the front and back of it.


Its wings…


(Come from the wrong directions. How does it fly.)


The stork-like, vestigial black bird’s wings come out roughly from the front and back of its body, strong enough to hold four towels each.  Its four legs grant the creature a strange swaying motion as it moves, the back ones never fully leaving the ground as it shuffles forward.

Nearing Adris, its beak turns toward him.


Its front beak clatters for a moment, before opening.

Instead of a mouth, a large, yellow, blood-shot eye peers out, the saliva of the bird’s toothed beak actually the tears that moisturize it.


(How is it going to eat me, then?)




Adris stares at the bird, as it stares at him.

It makes no motion to attack and seems largely passive.


Taking a chance, Adris collects his gear back into his pack, putting it back around him and stepping away.


The bird stops looking at him, peering down at Adris’ feet.




Looking down, Adris sees the towels he used to dry himself.

Sensing an impropriety, he picks them up off the floor, which prompts the bird to look first to him, then behind him.

Adris turns to see a brass basket, tall and open.


The bird, again, stares.


Adris walks over slowly, staring back at the bird as he does so and drops the used towels within.


The bird inclines its head, giving a short nod, before walking up to the spot where the towels were taken from.

Depositing fresher ones there while slowly whirling, allowing its back wing to drop off, it finally sways back the direction it came from.


There’s silence as it leaves.




(Am I cowed by storks, now!?)


Adris cannot reclaim his concentration, nor stem his irritation. He’s unsure whether the demonic house servant bears him ill will or not.


(It could be going to get help.)


Adris traces its path, coming out into a grand hall, fashioned in the same way as the one at the Works’ exit.

Peering out from the marbled room he’s in, he looks right to see the bird trooping slowly down the dark and foreboding hall.


(Two paths, as Lycia said. The right path is the “correct” path, but only with Lycia.)


The voice from earlier had been quite thorough, very intimidating.

Her voice had tried to scare him.


(And the…)


Random images assault him as he falls to his knees with vertigo.




{An entire city bows to worship a man, soldiers like the Xin’Reh marching before him. Crazed people slit their bellies open, singing his praises. The man shifts like shadows weaving with shaking branches to become Adris, seated before legions of blue-coated or oddly uniformed creatures, who chant their supplications-}






Adris is too tired to properly resist, having no chance to rest since waking up on the table. He picks the cross up out of his bandoleer and slams it against the carpeted floor, a dim ring as he hits.


(Shut the fuck up! I’ll melt you down, the first chance I get, and buy grilled skewers with you!)


His anger only momentarily brings a pause to its attack, leading to Adris attempting to circulate aura to constrict it off.

The mutated aura finally circulates a bit after he intensely wills it, both easing his tiredness and calming him.




The foremost priority for Adris is permanently dealing with this cursed object.


Kneeling on the ground, Adris looks left.

(She implied I should not go this way.)


Pausing briefly, he considers his relationship with her after resuming standing.


(Lycia is dangerous. No matter how much she may… redeem herself by saving me, I can’t help but wonder if it was done only because she wants me for herself.)

The woman has aided him, but has also…


(Tried to steal my mind. Dug into my heart with false kindnesses. Proved how helpless I am against her.)


No matter how Adris feels about her, he cannot turn away from one, singular point of contention.


(Being fought over is not the same as being protected. If she truly cares about me, then that’s even worse, because she only prefers me for the reason that I’m… “perfect” for her tastes.)

Lycia believes Adris is a boy, one who has both amnesia and little ambition. Something to be coveted and protected.


(As a guardian for a moment she was excellent; but, as a long term companion? I can never make that woman mine. She succinctly implied that she will never be owned.)


Even if he puts up with her and pretends to be subservient for a while, she’ll see through it.

And she isn’t some naive, blushing virgin. She is a powerful, sexual creature. Adris will be, at best, a well-kept toy.


(She’ll find out one day that I’m much more than a lost child. On that day she will decide to mold me to fit her tastes, no matter the difficulty or my resistance. Her attitude was of a woman who has raped others often and with great skill, taken what she wanted without care and only tasted pleasure doing it. No matter how… exciting it was…?)

Adris recoils at his own admission, feeling that something has changed about his sexual tastes.


(That thought alone means I cannot be around her.)


The boy starts walking down the “wrong” hall.


Always leading him by the nose and controlling everything he does.

Staying ahead of any opportunities to break free from her.

Removing all of his personal choice…

Turning all situations to her advantage, primarily…


Treating him like a pet.




This is his [Fate] if he waits for her.




(I refuse to go back!)

No matter how lovely she is, Adris cannot endure a life of that again.


Adris made an oath to himself a long time ago.


On the night Fatso popped due to Serras’ tortured, yet gracious, gift of murdering him, Adris felt relief from being “owned” for the first time since he’d been sold out to the Xin’reh. He resolved to never lose that feeling.




Adris runs as fast as he can, the danger he feels from Lycia’s existence driving him on.




(Thank you, Lycia. For being right in believing you, that I will owe you for.)

The fact that he feels like he’s abandoning her, after she risked everything to save him, stings.




And also confirms his choice, after that feeling subsides.

(If I don’t break free now, I never will. Most of all…)


Their relationship will never be one that he desires, anyway.


(You introduced yourself as a sister, not a partner. I have no idea what having an older sister truly entails, however. Not that it matters… It’s a relationship created by the fires of a single, fearsome event, thus it could never last.)

Of sisters, Serras would have been considered a younger one, so having an older one might produce an equally inauspicious end.




(Although it’s… a bit sad that I never got to properly fuck her…)

The mansion’s constant air of temptation brings to Adris’ mind a dish he will never have the chance to sample.





Standing before a golden archway, Adris peers out into a grand stairway.


This hall had been a straight journey, no doors or branches off from it.

The only thing of note had been a feeling as if he’d crossed over into a new space as he passed between two, spaced stone archways.


A large, finely tailored blue carpet cascades down the entirety of the wide stairs ahead, the middle path of the spiraling stairway containing an oxidized copper banister at average height.

The walls of the stairway are mirrored gold the entire distance, flat and reflecting the surfaces within.

Blue drapes travel along from the top, becoming low-hanging in certain areas before lifting back to the ceiling.


The space seems oddly octagonal, more like a tube than Adris feels comfortable imagining. The golden ceiling does not even appear to be the underside of the next level of stairs.


(A winding stairway like this seems like a gross waste of space.)


The light filling the space is from an unknown source, for Adris sees none of the common blue sconces and lanterns.

The radiance seems to come from the gold walls, themselves.


Carved into the archway along the top, written into the solid gold, Adris discovered a written declaration upon arriving:




On spiraling flesh, you shall ascend. The summit of authority awaits: the [Decadence of Gold], eternal example of greed’s [form], guarding the Throne of the [Origin of Greed], proof of the [soul]’s immortality.”




A line placed underneath, separate from the first ones, reads:


Seek eternity, yet become only sustenance.”




It can be said that Adris has honed a sense of danger over his life, especially from being forced to deal with traps set by capricious and often malevolent men of learning.




“Yeah, this is literally a death chamber, right?”




Adris feels zero subtlety to this threat.


The stairway seems safe enough, for he can’t make out any imperfection in it that indicates a hidden panel or trap.



(It’s like it wants to point out how doomed you are.)


Unlike even the Emperor’s last trap, which was a deceptive contest of impish cruelty, this passage is an absolute challenge.

It makes neither an offer of possible safety, nor belies any existing danger.




It exists to be conquered, if you dare.




Another sign nearby does offer help, though.


Mid-tier.” On this brass plaque, an embellished rose lies next to these words.

Above it, “Upper-tier,” “Decadence of Gold,” and, finally, “Alchemaster’s Throne.”


(Yes, that seems like the safest direction.)


Below it?


Bottom-tier,” and “Pillar.”


(“Bottom-tier”, prepare yourself, I’m coming.)




Adris leans against the wall, considering his plan as he looks into the open stairway.


(… Eventually, at least. While I can return to the intersection… I run the risk of encountering Lycia. Assuming she regained her sanity, she may lose it again after seeing I ignored her orders. She’s even more likely to do something “rash”…)




A sound comes to his ears, muffled, but approaching him from the dark hallway behind.


A pattering of tiny feet.


Turning to look as he flattens himself against the wall, Adris sees a familiar outline exiting the darkness.


With two beaks, the swaying black stork comes out into the light of the stairway.


(How does it appear like that!?)


Adris is confident in his hearing, able to pick out sounds at great distances, especially when there’s no competing noises.

Even in this new world, he can somewhat make out the “auras” of creatures nearby, so long as they are within a perceptible location to him.




But this stork possesses no feeling of life.




At a distance of some thirty feet, the bird had simply appeared from the dark.

Bearing a stained, silver chalice in one wing and similarly metallic, tall candle-holders in the back, the bird troops onward, its destination the archway in front of Adris leading to the stairwell.


(It moves like a ghost until it’s upon you? Not likely.)


Though this mansion is much firmer in its dimensions than the great Expanse he’d left, Adris is certain that the space of the mansion in its entirety is equally as twisted.

It’s laid out as if something actively controls the areas themselves.


Ever since he’d left the Wondrous Works through that great gate, there has been a… presence just at the range of his senses, giving every room the quality of being a living creature in its own right.


(A presence which seems conscious of me, but not focused? How can I describe a sentience that exists only in space?)


As the bird nears Adris, it gives him a cursory nod while passing by him. Adris notices that it doesn’t have the same beak color as the previous one, being yellowish-red like a splash of fruit in juice, instead.


(There are more than one of these creatures.)


As it crosses the thresh hold of the stairwell with no hesitation, it walks to the center, before it turns right with great fanfare and begins descending it.


(These things are allowed?)


Adris’ hand is to his head, rubbing as he thinks.


(The other way will be Lycia, at best, and more monsters, at worst. This cross’ effects are growing. My only chance would seem to be seeking help outside of this place with actual humans. A town called Petripolis…)


Adris thinks of the numerous prisoners in the Works.


(It’s likely that there’s many people there. Someone powerful must exist that can deal with this burden.)


Images try to rise to his mind, though Adris is focusing more, now.

They fail to come to his sight, sinking back.


Wasting no more time, he gambles everything on a single thread, noticed by Adris even in the uncertainty of his situation.


(Lycia said… I have no power.)


The bird seems to possess nothing about it, whereas Lycia had a definite presence.

The bunny sage’s atmosphere had been overwhelming, in comparison to both.


If Adris can ascertain this feeling of “power” when viewing something, then it must be similar to Lycia’s measurements of him.


(It could be a trap, but the “presence” isn’t near. While the trap may exclude servants of this great evil, it’s also possible that it’s not easy to be noticed without this power?)




Adris steps through the arch, coming into the stairwell.


Quiet as a mouse, he examines his surroundings.

Touching the golden wall panel, its smooth surface is…


(Cold, as it should be.)


Moving his foot over the rich, blue carpet, it remains plush and gives way to his boot tip.


Adris whistles, ready to dive back to the archway.


The sound simply echoes up and down the stairway.

The bird he can see in the distance doesn’t stop descending.




Adris hurries after it.





This strange stairway never ate him.


As he descended with the bird, Adris’ nervousness never ceased.

Contained within this space with no other exit, the walls took on a strange appearance in his mind, feeling more like the inside of a creature than a stairway.

It was only after descending a hundred steps that he noticed something: the ever present ambiance of the mansion, queer whispers and faint drafts, was gone.


Within this space, only his heart beat and movement could be heard.




Much further down now, the pattering of the bird monster ahead has become a form of support: proof that Adris isn’t going to die.

(No, it’s not proof of any kind, but it certainly is comforting.)




A new sound joins the two’s march downward; quiet, at first, then growing in intensity with their descent into the unknown. All of the comfort Adris feels melts away.


The lush drone of an unknown instrument plays, its tune stable and reverent, yet also strangely harsh and clashing at times…

Hidden within the music is a growing sense of unease.

The notes are meant to convey majesty and beauty, like a worshipful melody begging for a chorus to join it, but Adris feels that it might be…




… wrong to feel that way.

There’s a spiteful feeling to it, darkly humorous in the harmony, almost counter to the objective of the rest of the piece.




(Questions only increase in number.)


As he descends, the attacking images and feeling of urgency increase with the rising volume, the cross sharing his uncertainties.


Growing in tension, the song approaches its precipice.

The grand, sharp notes of the droning pipe sounds dance with the lower notes interspersed, giving it a maddening sense of duality that joins with Adris footsteps.


An image comes to his mind as he nears an open doorway from which bright light floods out from.




{A man is choosing another path.}


(If you don’t like it, then that’s perfect!)




His head aching, Adris presses forward, coming to join the bird as it totters into the room.


The sight is… preposterous.




An enormous column rises up in the center of this grand room and disappears into the darkness of the unseen ceiling. Reliefs of scenes spiral up it, all too different to keep track of.

This preposterously open area resembles a stone amphitheater, except that its upper-story rows of seated people are only an illusion, one which makes the room seem much larger than it is.

Instead of true seats and depth, the upper stories are all carved stone walls, the seated individuals frozen reliefs. Their various unique designs and countenances are focused on the central column of the amphitheater.


(Nothing like this would be found on Xin. I cannot even imagine the architecture or skill required. How does it even fit within a residence? How big is this Castillo?)


Pipes run up this central column, from which the music being played bursts forth with great passion.


This grand space seems dedicated to these questioning figures on the walls and the wisdom they seek on the central column.


Rather than comfort and solemnity, as one might expect in some place of veneration, the figures instead share their uncertainty and discomfort.




(Who are all these people?)


Moving into the room, stone statues fill the the bottom level, their frozen living states similar to the ones in the bathing room.


Unlike those, these statues are strangely unique.

They resemble the same races and builds as the prisoners in the Works, wearing mismatched armor and clothing, and bearing strange weapons.

Their postures and faces frozen in place show the personality of the person they’re modeled after.


All remind Adris of the people who lived by the areas of fog and forest, the few intrepid enough to pursue the edges of Xin’s floating continents. In these places, the mists would roll in and people would vanish.

The peculiar quality of hardness and adventure-lust those people possessed is reflected proudly.


Arches and smaller columns of the room join together as he passes under them, running throughout to separate the great space into distinct areas.

The floor is open, separated into pews that surround the column. The majority are towards the end of this great amphitheater in front of large, golden doors opposite the stairway and coming into view as Adris walks around the column.


Dissimilar from the fully clothed statues, some of the statues he passes by wear costumes that are…


(Completely erotic.)


Seemingly nonfunctional armor and clothing barely conceals their flesh, yet they still maintain the prestige of being hunters of the unknown.


(I recognize those breasts.)


One such statue depicts one of the women imprisoned in the works. Like how she prayed in the cage, a clothed statue of her rests on a pew offering a silent prayer in still repose.

Her breasts aren’t concealed by much, with her outfit of leather strips and loose cloth a mockery of a saintly existence. It flaunts her thick, pleasing flesh for the onlooker, even as she appears reverent.


(Those who enter the Castillo are reflected here?)


It is only a supposition, but it seems to match the audacious nature of this mansion, permanently toying with those who would invade it by immortalizing them somewhere.




Something is pulling Adris onward.


(What is this presence up ahead?)


Adris can no longer contain his throbbing heart.

The images are trying to get to him as well; but, the closer he gets to the source of the music, the more panicked, but also weaker, those images become.




He closes the distance with a flat out run, finding the weakening threat preferable to dreading what might be around the column.


Before the music can reach its climax…




Adris bursts around the corner, the cross already in his hand, a mania to him that he can’t explain.




Seated on a blue-padded bench on a dais, a woman wearing purple vestments which cover her whole body is playing at an enormous, paneled instrument that is arrayed before her.


Or rather, she was.

Her hands have stopped in mid play.


The woman’s handsome face turns to meet his, though her handsomeness is slightly lessened by a flat nose and a faint, diagonal scar on her right cheek.

Her long, brown hair hangs behind her, folded into the cape of the purple cap she wears and swinging with her head. It ends in a braided, black spade hair piece at her waist.


While humble in appearance, her clothing takes nothing away from the dignity about her.

Appearing to be in her forties, she has a gentle smile and no lines as she peers unconcernedly at Adris.

There’s no eroticism about her practical outfit, a singular rarity as yet.




Utterly normal in appearance, she is the first human Adris has encountered that can be assigned that word.




Above her, a great statue bound to the pillar emerges with great presence.

The pipes go around the figure of an immensely tall man with billowing robes.


He extends a ghastly hand, holding an open book with a symbol on the first page.


A symbol of a circle, within a square, within a triangle, within a circle.




The tall, headless man is insane.

Even in his slightly delirious state, Adris can tell.




Something very deep within Adris rejects the meaning of this once intact icon.




Noticing the insanity of this man and recognizing how strange it is for the woman to be here playing…

A question leaves his lips unprompted.


“Who are you?”


Adris cannot fathom the reason for it…


The question just seemed… appropriate.




The woman blinks, her smile becoming kinder.


She gets up from the stone bench with some difficulty, her right hand on her hip as her left remains on the instrument.


Adris notices her vestments bear black markings on them, a stylized bone pattern that covers the entirety of her clothing.

The legs and torso bear what look like arms or legs in segmented sets; a set of jaws under her clavicle; and four eyes peer from her round cap.

The stylization of a spined tail on the cape of her hat makes it look alive.




Who?” She laughs, with a husky, alto voice ringing out.


“My, isn’t that a wonderful question?”




(No, something is wrong.)


The black stork, servant of the Alchemaster that it should be, ignores the woman completely as it goes about its work.

For a human openly occupying these hallowed grounds which it now tends, the stork registers no greeting.


Adris immediately feels an overwhelming sensation of unease in her presence, starting after hearing her voice and growing in intensity with each passing moment.


He finds himself considering things he has held certain.

Tries to recall why he believes in them.


(But, everything now seems more like my belief in…)




When the certainty of belief in a woman with long, glossy, black hair vanished.


This woman feels like she represents that emotion.




{Adris is running from a collapsing world, flinging his arms wildly at the disappearing reality around him, but he cannot hit anything, for nothing truly exists-}


The cross burns.


A fire like the sun roasts his palm, wracking his body with pain.




Adris can feel himself breaking down, irreversibly so if it continues, as the pain has taken his ability to see or hear.




(Are you scared?)


This question is his weapon against the cross as he lies twitching on the ground.


(I vanish now?)


Adris doesn’t particularly want to go out this way, at least.


The cross is giving everything in this assault.

There’s something about this situation that feels final.




(Losing now after putting up with Lycia and pinning my hopes on the stairs…)


The same drone as the shadow in that tomb fills his ears.




The drone of his second death is near.




Adris has been powerless this entire time, scrounging for something, anything to use.


All of his thoughts disappear with a feeling of perpetual helplessness aiding the attack.




(Wasn’t I close?)


It seems like he’s found his answer, only to have it be snatched away.

This woman… her presence is anathema to the cross.


Adris feels like he’s being picked up.

Time no longer works.

The pain is consuming him.


Placed onto something, he hears things being moved.

The sound of porcelain and a feeling of heat at his side.


The cross’ fear is Adris winning.

It has to be.


In Adris’ fevered thoughts, he was only a step from winning.


(I have to win, right? Or wait, isn’t that wrong?)


Along with the buzzing in his ears, he can hear dark whispers with his own internal question asking if this is correct.




(I think the point was… to always make others lose…?)




Adris, a long time ago, had decided it was easier that way.


(Why bother having a victory goal? Take what you can and relish others losing at the games they play.)




Just make others lose, then you win by default.




“… not…




… how about some tea?”




An unrecognizable voice cuts through the drone, while something is placed in a hand he can barely feel.


His mouth is very, very dry.

Like a man dying of thirst, Adris drinks down the liquid, assisted by unseen hands to get it down his throat.


(It tastes like… peak cider tea?)


It can’t be, that’s from Xin.


This is no longer Xin.

And Adris… didn’t bring any with… him?


(No, grayberry?)

(No. Redbark?)

(No. MAYBE duskroooot…?)


All wrong.

All impossible.


Because they’re all from Xin.

















His eyes open with difficulty.


The muscles in his back have seized in his unconsciousness. He can only gently massage them with his right hand to limber them up.


(She had a bench. Why here?)


Adris feels indignity at her option of where to store him.

The altar is the least comfortable spot to sleep, aside from the floor.


Pulling himself up, Adris can taste something lingering on his tongue, but the flavor escapes him.


The chapel is still around him, soft music from an instrument playing.

It is purely reverent now, lacking the previous hostility towards itself.


(What happened?)

Adris cannot explain the loss in time and memory. His last recollection is of rounding the pillar and meeting a woman in purple.

(The cross… was violent.)


Unsure of how much time has passed, Adris searches around.


His hand finds his pack next to him, still closed.

A heater with an unknown source of flame is on this long, stone altar at the opposite end, as are a pot and two tea cups.


An unknown, open satchel is next to the cups, with a pack of dark, dried brown leaves left beside it.


(What is this refreshing feeling?)

Adris’ mind is clear, or at least clearer than it’s been in over a day.


He considers questions now that he’d never considered before.

The thoughts don’t seem especially burdened or restricted.




His first thought is on escape.


(Where is the exit?)


Adris looks to his right, seeing the long rows of pews that go to the grand, gold double door.


So large that a giant should need to open it, there are two smaller doors built into the bottom that can open independently.

Figures are in states of contemplation in the pews, watching him.


(Hmm? I know that one.)


The man with the red swath of hair sits at the front pew, next to a woman wearing noble traveling clothes and another woman with a robe like the bunny sage was wearing.


Aside from a chest protector, groin plate, and impressive gauntlets, the red-haired man wears a few furs over his body, most of his muscle exposed to the air.

Two short-and-double-barreled guns hang from a waist belt, looking as if they flip open at the breech. Only a broad, leather bycock hat with a feather coming out from it seems out of place.

Arms crossed over his chest, his eyes are closed, but a confident smirk shows he is only waiting for the moment to act. In this pose, he looks far cooler than he did while standing behind metal bars with his dick hanging free.


The noble-looking woman to his left side has her hair braided in a bun, a fierce look to her; yet, her conservative men’s road dress is revealing in spots, her open window blouse showing tattooed glyphs on her skin. The culture of her clothing is different from Adris’, and so, too is her weapon: a slender saber at the ready she holds it before her pointed up, an odd affectation while seated.

The saber itself is like an extension, and also a companion, to the woman, though why Adris believes so is irrelevant to his realization of it being true. Her eyes are locked on the unique, expensive-looking saber, a grimace set in that makes Adris ponder what she truly feels about it.


The smaller, mousy-looking woman to his right wears a two-piece robe, her tousled hair and thin cheeks conveying a look of frailty, and no breasts show against her overly large robe. Only tight leg coverings and sandals cover her bottom. The round hat on her head is overly large and sports strange, girlish ribbons. The inside holds pages hanging from thin cloth, which obscure her face.

Though she gives a look of youth with her slight stature, her legs are crossed assertively, and her mouth has a disinterested smirk which shows through even as a statue. A hint of the unknown clings to her, with the book she reads from never turning a page, though Adris feels it might if he looked away.


These three are different from the rest of the statues, many of which also sit together, for these three sit at the first pew before the altar.


(The ones at front are… the most successful invaders of this mansion, by chance? If these Chosen are thought of as such terrible foes by the residents of this mansion, then let’s see what trouble I can bring by meeting with them.)

He makes a mental note of the outstanding characteristics of the forward statues while plotting avenues of revenge.




“Did you come seeking your copy?”




Music suddenly stopping, Adris whips his head left to see the priestess returning his gaze from her seat.


“How odd, is it not, that I’ve yet to see your statue? Choosing the beastly stairs, between ‘brave’ or ‘foolhardy’ to describe you, wherein would be the difference?”


She gets up again from her bench, moving slowly toward Adris.

Sitting up at the side of the altar, Adris pulls his pack with him as he prepares to greet this woman.


The sight of her smiling face, but inquisitive eyes, creates a strange impression in the boy.


(Any woman that plays an instrument alone here is…)


Adris brings the cross in his hand up to interpose between him and her as a ward.




Adris stares at the cross.






Instead of silver, Adris sees purple.


A long, purple cloth is cocooned around the cross, going up to his wrist and leaving his left hand completely hidden.

The cloth itself is embroidered with unknown glyphs.

Rather than having a message, the sharp and final style of the glyphs are completely illegible to him.


(Does that mean they have only a mystical purpose, without bearing a textual or idiomatic one? Or the cross can’t…)


The power the cross gave him still remains, as he can converse with the woman before him.




But, at least…




No images.


Adris feels no presence within him.

He realizes that he cannot even feel his left hand.

Below his wrist, it’s simply cut off.

No aura circulates to it, even if he attempts to.




(She saved me.)




Adris can feel relief flow through him. The memory of the assault on his mind seems distant.


“This, is your…?”


Speaking to the woman, he’s interrupted by an immediate question.


“It was a puzzling possession, yes? Where did you acquire so certain a specter?”


Whatever technique she used to bind the spirit within the cross, it hasn’t infringed on the “gift” conveyed by the cross to understand tongues and words.

(Is it a permanent gift, or does the binding only shut off the… curse within the cross?)


Adris looks at the first human he’s encountered that isn’t caged up.

She appears to have no oddities about her physical presence, but her isolation is still deathly suspicious.

In addition…


(She’s caged an aura tool from another world with her techniques. Although, what about this room that she’s in draws her here?)

Adris peers up at the desecrated statue. He’s overtaken by a question strong enough to force him to speak.


“What is this godless place?”


The smiling woman’s eyes narrow for a moment before she responds.


Godless? Is any chapel godless when you bring your faith into it?”


The question she asks him results in her smirking afterwards.


“However, [Godless Chapel] is surprisingly accurate, isn’t it? Did you come through here before? Is that how you climbed the stairs?”


Almost to Adris, she has stopped at the last step of the dais while looking down at him.


“… It’s not exactly a secret, but are you going to go up? If so, I would suggest against it.”

Adris offers what he hopes is helpful advice to his savior.


(Though if you intend to trick me, then please go get destroyed. I doubt you’ll have as easy a time as I did.)


Adris detects another subtle reaction when he speaks, her eyes narrowing again as she moves a few fingers as though sampling the open air.

The first time she reacted it was a minute one, but the second is…


(Suspicion and puzzlement? What am I saying that she’s picking up on?)


“What did you mean about the malevolence in this cross being… certain?”


“If a sentience is without any doubts about its existence, isn’t it far too certain? To that effect, can you call an existence without doubts a living being…?”

Walking down the steps, she deigns to join Adris, coming up to her own items and putting the pot back on the heater.


“Though, don’t you seem less doubtless? Of the two, aren’t you more interesting?”


She pulls a skin of some liquid out of her pack, opening it up and pouring it into the kettle.

With a short spoken word, which Adris cannot hear, the heater begins to emit heat.


“Do you know what it is?”


Adris cannot help himself, as the malevolence of the cross is the most dangerous opponent he faces and one of the worst hurdles in escaping from this hell.


“As it seemed close to you, are you sure you have no idea yourself?”


The woman has abandoned her gentle smile for one that, to Adris, seems more natural to her: a mildly dismissive smirk, like a knowing teacher chiding a student that repeatedly fails to correctly answer a question.


(Stubborn. And evasive. Or she’s not sure herself and she’s sounding out the solution from me?)


“For you to come down the stairway intact from the upper levels, wearing a uniform from the Works at that, wouldn’t one assume you are a resident of this mansion?”

She offers a long accusation.


Adris is tense, suddenly wondering if the cross can still fry people’s brains.

(I should’ve taken this damned blue robe off.)


“But, that doesn’t seem likely does it, as they don’t employ humans? So: would you be a challenger for [Aurumia]’s Throne, or a poor lamb who outran the wolves?”


She smiles broadly, though dismissively, as her eyes soften.

“Either way, why be on guard with me, young boy? Is a lamb afraid of a shepherd and her god?”


The liquid the woman put into the kettle begins to steam.


(“Your god?”)


Adris feels the question might be hazardous, and makes a point to ignore the jab at him.

(And you already know I’m human?)

The woman must’ve inspected his body when he was unconscious. Since she has already established a lack of fear of him, he decides to ask the question on his mind.




“Who is your god?”


(Gods for those of Xin are ancient beings that long since stopped caring about the world.)

With the age of aura and the Emperor, primitive animism and the worship of mysterious powers had passed almost completely out of existence.

(The residents of this world have such beings? Do they answer your prayers where ours didn’t?)


Without an understanding of the beliefs of this world’s inhabitants, he cannot hope to persuade or use them.


“My, that’s a wonderful question, isn’t it? You are quite inquisitive, aren’t you? Normally only the strange ones…”


She gestures towards the statues before them.


“… ask questions, yes? Yet, there’s are also quite limited in scope, aren’t they? Would you not be more inquisitive than most humans, for aren’t all others content to have the truth of their lives dictated to them?”


The woman grows more amiable with the increasing number of questions Adris asks, though the gentle smile has long since vanished.

Her attention on him is like Lycia’s was, yet this woman only feels curious, not controlling.


(All of her responses are questions themselves, but they also invite more from me?)


It’s a mildly infuriating form of conversation, but as it’s without danger so far, still a fulfilling one.

It is an unfortunate throwback to his teachers in the cloister: always asking questions, but never answering any.


“Though the name of a god might be important to others, perhaps for me it is less so? Isn’t what a god stands for the more beneficial and reverent part?”

Spreading leaves into the boiling liquid, she puts the top onto it before pulling it off the heater to set it down to steep.


She turns to Adris then, the tall woman stooping to give a formal bow with her hand over her vestments, like a courtier might give.




“I am Cethran.”


Her statement is abrupt, final.




Adris is shocked to hear her make a declarative statement.


Leaving her bow, she smirks again, yet she has an air of approachability to her as she extends her hand, her palm up.

Yet, even if she appears inviting, her manner is aloof.


“How might my god, of the unknown and unknowable, sate your wild curiosity?”


(”Unknown and unknowable?”)

Adris knows a con when it’s this open.

(Any mystery that doesn’t have a true name is begging to hustle you.)


“You have style.”

Smiling lightly, Adris sizes up the woman in front of him.


(No power I possess currently will save me from what is outside those doors. She might be a conwoman, but there’s something about her that seems legitimate. It’s time to make an ally, if one only of convenience.)


Any sort of learned person will do.

Basic information is needed, as is a thorough understanding of the Modi of this world, or at least a thorough explanation of how people behave when using them.


(And if aura is useless, I need… another strength.)


Someone who is intelligent can point him in the right direction. Lycia could’ve been that person, but…


(It seems humans are sources of amusement, not partners in ambition. So, I need a human.)




“Do I? Isn’t the most important question as yet unasked, though?”

Looking down while towering above him, Cethran’s extended hand lazily turns into a pointed finger.




The aroma of the tea begins to fill the area, clinging to Adris’ body.


An unknown smell; an unknowable flavor.




Who are you?”






Name: Adris fehl Dain; “Mister Meat”
Titles: Scholar Bound in Madness, Greedy Informant, Lycia’s Little Brother
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



Cethran Value – “At the very least, you’re not a weakling.”



Cethran 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?”

“If you’re appealing to a monster, wouldn’t that be detrimental in the long term?”

“Even in defeat, you cling to your stoic face, Adris? That might actually be attractive, in its own way…?”

“Having properly bathed, at least you can say you smell of roses and sunshine, yes? Perhaps it’s not your body you find beautiful, but your mind?”



“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?”

“Every new situation is a chance to demonstrate acting talent, and Adris’ is geared towards his own survival. If you need to play the fool, then be the best fool.”

“Getting lucky is also a form of success. We never know what the right words might be to win someone over, nor when they will pay off. Sometimes, we find ourselves in others in the oddest ways.”

“Lacking power is not the same as being powerless. Even if all you have is your wits and untapped potential, as long as you’re striving to utilize it, making those tough decisions to reach your potential, then you have a chance.”



“Every time you survive is a chance at starting over. Please don’t forget that.”




Name: Cethran
Titles: ???
Race: Human
Sex: Female
Age: 40s

Occupation: Priestess
Discipline: ???




Disposition: Inquisitive / Condescending / Self-Reliant
Alignment: Chaotic

Eyes: Red
Hair: Brown
Skin: White



Cethran Value – “Do you not feel that you can just ask?”



Cethran Value – “Isn’t it a strange thing to ask a woman what she thinks of her own appearance? If you were to ask a woman what she thinks of herself, of the beauty of her form, then isn’t the answer simple: ‘am I not the most beautiful woman you’ve ever met, and shouldn’t you remind me of that so I believe it, too?’ Rather than asking a boorish question, why don’t you compliment me, Adris?”



“What is the nature of a person? If we all search for meaning in our lives, do we ever find it without first understanding who we are, first? Then, if you must ask what the nature of another is, perhaps you should do so only after understanding yourself? At the very least, being at ease within the chapel indicates it possesses no danger, right?”



“When you’re looking for answers, go straight to the clergy. Even if they don’t have any, they’ll make you feel like you got some by the end.”




Demonic Stork – “Workhorses of the Castillo, if you need something moved, wait a few Quicks and it’ll be done.”


Upper Tier – “The section of the Castillo which houses the worst and most dangerous organizations, of which the Wondrous Works is one.”


Mid Tier – “The section of the Castillo which is the halfway point between those who delve and the owner of the mansion, coming in from the sides.”


Decadence of Gold – “Proof of the depravity and power of form, the absolute will of the Alchemaster shapes this realm.”


Alchemaster’s Throne – “The seat of the Origin of Greed, one of the true great evils of Zennia.”


Lower Tier – “The playground of Slayers. Where Adris got off.”


Pillar – “All great residencies have a central foundation upon which they sit. This could be one way of seeing it.”


Aurumia – “The true name of the Alchemaster. A word that is cursed by those who know it.”


God of the Unknown and Unknowable – “???”




Chapter 6         Table of Contents          Chapter 8