Take Up the Cross – Chapter 33: Investiture

(Creation, essence, and base…)


Adris works feverishly, using Symphonia’s carving knife to engrave the cups. Precise and exacting hands replicate the strange ideograms of the Alchemaster’s emblem.


The whistling sound from Cethran’s kettle leads to her picking it up, pouring the liquid into the container with the previously mixed ingredients. Using a metallic spoon, she begins stirring according to Adris’ specifications.


“Symbolism and intent, right, Cethran? Perfect fabrications.” Picking one up and peering at the details, she nods slowly, setting it back down and returning to her task.


(And with these, we’re done!)


The small wooden tray that she produced easily carries the cups. Pouring into each from the larger one as he measures the remaining liquid, they all get the same amount and density of mixture.


(So long as they get the minimum amount, anything after is wasted.)


The techniques he’s had to dig up from his mind, ones unused since Serras’ development, were shockingly easy to reach.

A separate cup holds the base mixture of the Drop of Creation absent his “gift” added in, which is knocked back in one shot after readying for its effects.


A gagging feeling immediately assaults him, the boy leaning over as it washes down. His body rejects the mixture at first, pain receptors firing as Cethran steadies his wavering body. Shivering and sweating, his dry heaves continue as the rainbow poison completes its rampage.

Experiencing extreme synesthesia towards the end, he retreats into his mind and cuts off his senses to maintain his sanity. When the disused aura core within him draws the rainbow to coil around it, the concoction finally settles with its reactivation.


(Now I understand… the hatred of how it escalates! How do later ascendants manage!?)


Having ingested this liquid twice before, once when awakening to Clear Mind as is standard and second when pairing with Serras, he finds the disparity between second and third enough to never consider a fourth.


“From my perspective, aren’t you fluctuating…?” A quiet, yet eager sounding, question comes before it’s abandoned.

Before he can respond, she releases him to lean against the table.


“… It’s not usually hazardous until the fourth time.”


When she offers to carry the tray, he shrugs her off and picks it up himself to begin his march around the pillar.


(I am not cowed by pain! This is my show, old woman. Everything from now is proof of my power!)





Re-entering the altar area, he takes in the girls’ various activities.

Ave has a finger on the organ’s keys as she tepidly examines it, while Kol is making strange twisting motions in front of the Dandy bird, which mirrors the movements to the best of its ability. Still stares up at the headless statue holding a book, making small gestures as Neesiette and she converse about it.


Still and Ave notice him first, with only the latter deciding to greet him.


“That didn’t take long~! Hmm, was that already prepared?”


“… Your sense of the passage of time is uncertain, is it?”

A smirk accompanies his dismissal of her. With the preparations, including Cethran’s molestations of him, taking twenty minutes, the rituals of Zennia sound much simpler than the enlightened ones of Xin.




Looking perplexed, Ave seeks help from Kol, but even the armored girl seems confused by his statement as she finishes her game with the bird.

A demonic watcher that returns to its duty of spying on him.


(You want a show, you evil creature, then prepare for one.)


Setting the tray down on the altar after motioning the girls to stand before it, Still assists Neesiette in hopping down before they stand in a line. The fake priestess and Lord of Purple moves off to climb the dais, coming to sit on the bench with her hands placed upon the organ.


Everything that is to happen, doesn’t it rest solely on you now?”

These were the final words Cethran shared.


(Play your tunes and stay enigmatic.)


Scanning the four young explorers arrayed before him, he truly takes in their qualities for the first time absent all extraneous worries.


(Even if it’s not a massive improvement, this lie born of the cross should provide, with sufficient training on teamwork and specialization, a considerable-enough advancement to make this all suffice.)


Within this grand chapel dedicated to nothing but questioning faces, the walls’ open dismissal and disbelief will soon be destroyed by the boy’s plot. A real enough investiture, joined with blurring the line between truth and fiction, will turn the theatrical into reality.


(Real and unreal will soon be the same thing. I’d like to see even you dismiss the effect I can weave from the right words, Cethran!)


As Adris dwells on this, he feels a sudden shift in the air of the chapel, as if a great breath passes through it.

The invigorating atmosphere is noticed by his astute senses for the first time, a perception of what could be pushing away the mansion’s usual mind-bending scents.


“What was that!?” Ave shivers as she looks around with sudden fright.

Even the deadpan Neesiette seems on guard, lifting her right hand with the feeling of the wind, then letting it fall when nothing comes to her.


Tension like that before combat fills the four girls.




“Are you so scared of possibility?”




When the organ starts with its reverent notes, expertly produced by the hands of a woman given to questioning the nature of life at every turn…

Adris’ equally questioning hand is raised to the missing black heavens, his pose daring as it invites them to be enthralled by this starting play.


“Within a place known as a Godless Chapel, one dedicated to the unknown within a monstrous mansion, surely you must understand the events that can transpire?

Why is a little wind so unsettling, since you reside in the shadow of the Alchemaster herself?”


Adris takes back the initiative by moving the cups forward, looking down on the girls dramatically as he begins the ceremony in earnest. Throwing his arms wide and lifted, he lets his cape fly with the motion and roars out:




“You who seek the power borne by a false god, the Star of Ruin cast down from another world!” With a sweeping arm brought up into a clenched fist, he finishes quietly.


“Step up, and claim thy boon.”




With them eying Adris with much more uncertainty as they approach the altar, only Neesiette remains unchanged as he continues:


“Pillars of wind, fire, earth, and water sit before you. Power shall pass in the form of an oath made to the one who holds power over them. The oath is made by drinking the contents and receiving your authority.”


He sweeps his finger over the group.


“If you desire to overthrow Fate, then step forward and claim that authority! Even the Alchemaster you fear is no threat if you follow this path to its end.

Become those who fight only for your own desires!”


The final sentence challenges the quiet of the Chapel, before succumbing to it as he muses internally.


(As you surrender yourselves unwittingly to mine, as I am the center of this formation!)


Hiding laughter at this trick, this investiture’s rituals are all designed to function only if he is ensconced as their arbiter.


(You can’t cast away the physical core! I don’t know what form this link will take… but it will happen!)


Still cocks her head with a deceiving look drawn upon her mask, though he knows enough now about the girl to infer that she is immediately deciphering his plans.

In contrast to her reticence, Kol’s tail moves swiftly, her shining pink eyes lost completely in what she stands to gain.

Ave looks both awed and desperate, smiling and nodding her head as if she’s having a conversation with herself about what is occurring. The elf ever seems to see the world only through her own hopes and fears.

Only Neesiette is imperceptible, her arms crossed before her lazily, though Adris feels her piercing, violet gaze as a weight on his mental health.


(You’re the one that has to be most impressed, not Still! You will believe!)


After Adris says nothing more, Ave curiously asks,

“And… now what?”


(Your innocence is ever my ally!)


Leaning forward, he intones his offer.

“… Only one may be blessed by the wind-”



Ave shouts suddenly as she tries to rush the altar, before Kol jumps her and drags the struggling girl back to her spot even as her tail resists uselessly. Adris, receiving a pleading look from the snake girl to show favoritism, almost loses his flow.


“… Or fire, or earth, or water. Each holds a different place in my plan to crush our enemy. Before you choose, know what you desire. This desire will become your focus…”


As Kol tilts her head in ignorance, he clicks his tongue and thinks.

“Your purpose and commitment to a path! Once you take this path, you can never return from it. You will be bound to this power and to each other.”


Still tenses at this part, but doesn’t contradict him. Kol releases Ave then, causing the girl to fall to the ground and yelp.

Walking fearlessly up to the altar, Kol grips it while raking her claws on the stone.


“Kol have power, win against all? Never lose?”


“Power which will well up from within, born of your longing and potential! So long as ‘never losing’ is your desire… then such a possibility exists should you grasp it to its fullest.”


(Whatever you want! Even if it’s a half-truth, it can be made real with sufficient words, actions, and efforts!)


Sweating at the thoughts streaming from a dark place, the boy’s tongue dances with ease, stringing together the honeyed lies necessary to win them over.

The shorter girl’s body is still clad in leather and metal, yet Adris salivates at that which is hidden beneath.


(… You have such an interesting smell, even from this distance, Kol.)


“But remember who is the intercessor for this power and that, while it may belong to you, understanding its nature is likely only through me.”


Nodding, Kol is joined by the others as they close in. Left mute, they contemplate the cups while also sizing each other up.


Ave finally breaks the silence.

“I-If I take wind… then who is taking the others?” Plainly seeking to establish her choice, Ave meekly appeals to Still with a cheesy smile. Still ignores her desperation and doesn’t hesitate, going straight for the water cup.


“AH, Puddle stop!” Kol moves in, slapping away the taller girl’s arm.


As the two square off at each other, Kol getting big and Still looking languid, Ave begins to fret and slides in to stop them, while also making sure to stay out of a direct fight.


“Puddle try take, take without talk!” Kol accuses Still, while the other makes the motion of a headache and dancing in place.


{You just want to talk instead of making a decision.}


“I-It’s okay… there are still three after wind…” When Ave tries to unsubtly influence the discussion, Kol then menaces her.


“Want wind, give what? Dust! Where wind, when Boss crown Kol?”


Ave looks stabbed in the chest then tries to slink back, but Kol follows her, saying “Kol front, maybe wind fast? Elf already wind, right? Why need more?”

Trying to respond, but stared down brutally, Ave’s words are lost as this elf frog stares down a rusty serpent.


Adris watches this, before noticing Still standing before him, wearing a face on her mask that seems bored.


“Made your choice, have you? Choose wisely.”




With a fast hand and no reply, she nicks the water cup before lifting it to her face, pulling up her mask and downing the contents while turned away from his view.


“Sneak Puddle!”


Swinging her axe diagonally, it lodges into the altar after missing the surefooted girl that casually flings herself to the side at the last moment.




Hastily keeping the spinning cups from spilling as they clatter, Adris yells at Kol.

“Causing havoc in such a momentous moment, do you not understand what dangers you risk!?”

Pointing the bound cross at her, Kol furtively grinds on her axe handle while staring at Still, yet the dark girl only seems locked in place…


… until she begins twitching violently, before calming moments later.


(… What is this?)


Bringing her hand to her stomach, she manages to balance the cup on one hand after turning to Adris, making a couple of gestures.


{… And… what is the secret, all-powerful ingredient to this fabulous concoction, partner?}




“… Proof of existence, of course. Should you have doubts of the benefit, offer them to the results forthcoming, girl.”


With a level voice and dry tone, Adris completely disregards her.


The effect is that Still quietly puts the cup back on the altar, slinking away while glaring at him icily; yet, also “saying nothing”, almost as if spooked.

When Neesiette looks surprised at the testy exchange, Still simply hovers over her to ward away unseen dangers.


(No more games. No more jokes.)


Regarding Kol with a piercing glare, Adris then smiles self-importantly, offering a question with the implication of already knowing the answer.


“And which for you, Ravager?”


Perking at the title, Kol happily barks a query over her back.

“Moon, which strongest?”

Silent until now, the brilliant scholar in steel-blue only blinks before responding succinctly.

“As unrelenting and inexhaustible as a wild blaze be one’s nature, Kol.”


“So… fire?”


Not the least perturbed at the lack of full comprehension, Neesiette confirms with a slight nod.


Rubbing her hands with immediate happiness, Ave brightly smiles and affirms her choice. “Kol is very passionate, fire is a warrior’s element!”


Picking up the cup, Kol sniffs it briefly.

“Smell good!”

Instead of being offended, she hungrily gulps down the contents poured from above through her visor.


(… If you like the flavor, there is plenty more waiting for you, you monster with a sexy voice.)


Leaving Ave to stare down Neesiette, Kol returns to her original spot while glaring at Still.

Coming to stand together by necessity, the defensive elf looks down at the prideful automaton and squeakily scrambles for supremacy.

“Hmph, you obviously know what you are, right?”




Unbothered, Neesiette looks forward and quips at Adris.


“Wind, correct?”




Choked up and crying, Ave blubbers at Neesiette, “No! If anyone is wind, it would be an elf, not a… a… short, flat pipsqueak!”

With a dismissive, lazy gesture, Neesiette sweeps her arm around the room before returning.




“Where be the elf? Would ‘flat’ not refer to a reptile’s physiology, too? Be this not one’s natural state?”




Briefly collapsing as a person, Ave quickly reconstitutes herself and hisses at Neesiette, exclaiming “There’s only one elf here! I’m here! H-E-R-E!”

With even shriller emphasis while cupping her own breasts, she tacks on “Also, I’m bigger than you are!” while leering at Neesiette’s cutting board chest.

Seeking validation, the self-proclaimed elf begs toward Adris with a wavering look while emphasizing her meager bosom with both hands.




Briefly thrown off by the question, he refuses to be swayed by the cute, yet troubled, look. Flashing handsome eyes, he makes her the sum of his gaze as he leans toward her.

“Should you truly not know, perhaps I can aid you with the measurement, but… are you resolved for my help to leave you breathless?”


Gaping at the response, her blushing confusion gives way to a bubbly exhilaration. Rather than receiving immediate affirmation, a hint at something far more carnal leads to her moving her hands to her breasts and mouth, shifting in place while avoiding his attention.

The tiny, well-dressed doll’s face sours as she huffs.




“Were you truly an elf, would your wind not aid us instead of our enemies? More care be given to one’s petty attractiveness than usefulness, as ever. A boy’s equal pettiness in leading on inexperienced bundles of lewdity grows ever more revolting, as well.”




Shrinking back, Ave tries to think of a retort, but can’t. Alternating between anger and sadness before loudly screaming…


“AH! Wind waits for no one!!!”


Stealing the wind cup with a streaking hand, she escapes from Neesiette at full speed, gulping down the contents greedily. With a look of genuine pity offered to her, Neesiette then acknowledges the boy she just insulted.


“One’s ritual remains bizarre. A grand tool’s design exists far beyond the trivial mundanity of an ‘element’, yet this tool be left with ‘earth’ as the option. An insult this might be taken as, considering the destitute nature of Zennia’s firmament…”


Chuckling, the boy with pretenses of being a master ritual overseer chooses a direct jab instead of banter.




“Ever are you undone by your lack of initiative, oh perfect lady.”




Flashing anger at this momentarily, she then immediately calms as she rubs the edge of her large book.

“… Though rude, admittedly not inaccurate; yet, worthless be this charade, so the choice be equally worthless. Nothing of this matches with the reality of Art, as this tool shall note for one’s last sake.”


She picks up the earth cup and gingerly inspects it, before drinking it with an apparently unpracticed swallow. He wonders if this creature is even properly designed to ingest fluids, as he has yet to see her eat.

Perfunctory in motion, she sets the cup back into its original spot, turns, and walks away.


With all four returned to their line, Adris declares victory.




(Now it doesn’t matter what the outcome is. After imbibing of the mixture, you’re all bound by the destruction of the cross the same as I am. One way or another, this ends.)




The reverent music from behind begins to clash as his thoughts elevate. A cheerful, joyous sound wars with darker notes of descent into desperation.

Holding the cross before him, the litany comes to his thoughts as he uses his last moments to try and define the nature of the world’s fragility he’s witnessed from the corner of his eyes so often.


“As was promised before, the end of the Alchemaster shall be offered. More importantly, however… I offer the end of all your previously held beliefs about the unchangeable nature of Zennia.”

With open candor instead of veiled aspirations, Adris addresses all present, including the demonic stork whose feathers ruffle with the random air drafts.


“Rather than the cruelty of Modi which demand subservience, pure violence, or base greed, I instead offer this-”




Crossing his arms over his chest, he calls out for what he wants from this darkness.




“An end to all certainties! A path to power which throws off the notion that the strongest shall always win, guaranteed by the machinations of the all-mighty in clearing a path for their favorites!”


(I despise all of you who are born under fortunate stars! Those who have fates foretold by ascended beings and perfect routes to glory!)


Sweating as he speaks, all pretense exits, every roadblock between himself, and his deepest regrets and wants clearing. Even if these girls before him are to be his pawns, he longs to convince them of the justness of his thoughts.


“Every last one of you appears imprisoned by Fate! These chains are not self-made, though! They were cast and affixed without your knowledge or consent!”

At the intensity of his words, an elf grows fearful while rubbing the bracer on her wrist.


(Are those your chains, Ave?)


Slamming the cross’ long end on the altar, he takes on a religious vocation, letting the image of Cethran from his dream take over his mannerisms.

“Instead of power which comes solely from depriving others or denying yourself, I choose instead to offer one that comes from pursuing only one’s desires in earnest! While alike with the Alchemaster’s corrupting enticements, it differs in not wanting treasures external, but rather internal! Each of us has something within dying every day as it struggles to break out!”


(… I am tired of living in the shadows of others, but equally tired of them trying to force me into their mold! If you call impersonation and trickery lies, then I say…


Who decided that one’s power is solely in the ability of handling a blade or in lording over others through divine authority!?)


A boy lost in his own desires seeks to mold theirs to his.




“So: break out!”




As a child, he was locked within the cloister to rot for eternity, then escaping, only to struggle to survive in a gang of other kids that talked of brotherhood, but who would’ve let him starve if he hadn’t played them against each other.

As a youth, he was pressed into service by cruel superiors, who treated him as disposable if he didn’t get results and stroked their egos by placing his successes on their shoulders, all while caring for a girl who he could never really understand.

As an adult, he survives by carving out his own path through lies and half truths, being a charlatan who weaves his own version of what it means to be heroic, a tale built on the tears of those who fail to use him and the palms of those who need him, working towards goals ever bigger than previously.


And, now, as a kid again, he will entrust himself to these desperate, yet willful, girls, as they latch onto him while looking for any leg up.


(No more despair, this time I can make something permanent. I never have to worry about them getting away!)


Throwing the cross wide with an overly energetic swing, he is almost carried by it. Offering his free hand to be taken up by them, he promises everything.




“Deny their rules entirely! Long not for their Modi or ways of life, but choose only a path which agrees with you! Be selfish and discerning! I state that the world as you know it, and especially as you perceive it, is inherently crumbling around you at this very moment!


Though this form appears frail, it is the emblem of this offer! Only those who seek to grow may achieve limitless outcomes! While mortals led by gods and great evils gain power by divine or fell whimsy, we who carve our own path outside of the ‘correct’ Fate can reorder the world while laughing at them crying for our subordination!


Why pine for false assurances of security, when you can embrace… the absolute darkness of possibility and potential!? Why choose what you call reality when you can instead have all of your desires, even if they appear as lies to others!?”




Flinching at this statement, the cowled killer suddenly understands something realized far too late as she looks around for a way out.


(Yes, so you know what I’m talking about! Then it is real, isn’t it, Still!?)




“Rather than serving in Light of either good or evil, why not simply rule in dark!?”


Before she can act to stop him.


(Truth and lie, let’s mix them up a bit.)




To the bombastic sound of a collapsing song as long fingers hold powerful keys with great emphasis…


… Adris pulls free a purple cloth, which unravels in only a moment by its own strength the instant his intention is to liberate its captive.




A silver cross, so bright that its gleam seems to wash away one’s mind, assaults everyone in the room with its presence.




(GAH, but you’ll… take way too long!)


As the awakened and mystified object directs its anger at the boy holding it, he is already reciting his litany as his meager aura pushes back against the cross’ influence.


Its foretold death has arrived.




Oh, terrible fate, you remnant of death and starlight.


Give up your power, for it is unwanted for you.


Return it to your requester and be lost.




The cross quivers, assaulted by the demand. Its silver tarnishes and gems chip as Adris’ empty body joins with the words to begin to suck at its aura marrow. As the incredible quantities of aura begin to move, Adris creates the jury-rigged path to traverse.

Merging disparate rituals, the boy prays he’s half the genius he knows himself to be.




The soul is a star, burning bright!


Let that brightness flow to become yours!


Take warmth and guidance offered of a snuffed star,




The star is now a heart, and not a star,


At the center of two breaths which flow to two hands!




With the sudden jump in the rituals, Adris’ already ruined Inner Expanse begins to fold and rip. Two Xin rituals from distinctly different disciplines, one of his own making and the other of a sect he knows nothing about, carry meanings that war with each other.


(SHIT! It will work!)


Keeping his breath, he muscles on as his limbs start to vibrate, the aura circulating threatening to rip out of him.




A perfect circle connects all and joins around this heart,


As the circle becomes a dance of elements!


Wind fuels the fire,

Fire heats the earth,

Earth moves the water,

Water births the wind!


Breaths and hands in perfect harmony,


Carry, too, the life of all!




As on Xin, so is it reflected on Zennia, sister world across the beyond!”




(The two… are the same!)


Unlike the rest of the litany, the last words produce interest…




… from the Chapel.


Adris blinks as tears form at the corners of his eyes, while all the faces in the Chapel seem to be staring at him now. Wind whips up around him, joining with sounds at the edge of his hearing. The entire room seems to spin slightly, as if his equilibrium is constantly pulling him to turn to the left.


The cross which was resisting his attempts to crush it almost entirely now seems to quiver in horror. No longer indomitable, the cross suffers with the maddening fascination of these faces staring at it, as its desecration increases exponentially.


Though Still’s shortsword is out finally, she doesn’t rush him, leaving Adris reassured by the world distorting before him at his beseeching.




(Why… isn’t she moving, though? No, it doesn’t matter! Complete this!)


All of the statues and edifices join with the eyes of the girls, merging with the droning music that seems to be nearing its climax.

No longer in contrast, the song’s verse is but one message.


What is darkness, but the fascination we have with the unknown? If it is unknown, then does it not grow stronger the nearer we reach the core of the mystery?”


A lesson Adris does not remember receiving prompts him to finalize his thoughts.




He calls out to the unreal, letting the guise of his mentor take over his image as he owns it, letting her voice come out while speaking his thoughts. The quaking cross, which still tries to lunge at his mind even as the web of the litany he spoke crushes it, is held before him.




“Darkness which arises from interference! Desire and emotion which gives it life, answer now the calling of those who wish to overturn Fate! Only a miracle can change our paths! Only the unknown and unknowable can provide a solution! Only the horrors of the unpierceable night can bind us together, equally!”


Still radiates strong emotion at these words, something like hatred and awe mixing together. The look on Neesiette’s face is bleak, as she understands he is successfully calling to something powerful.


(I will risk everything! This power will be yours or I will die!)


With the cross finally succumbing, the impossible aura within beings to radiate physically from it. Tendrils of shining darkness lance out, slashing into the altar and floor as Adris struggles to keep himself from its wrath.


(Whatever this power is, it’s waiting for me! This is finally my payoff!)


The nearness of aura excites his senses, as the same force present at Rantil’s end seems to gather at the edge of recognition. Though he can use no aura from his body, the room feels like an Inner Expanse as it breathes around him.

Begging him to give it form.


“Descend upon us, oh unconquerable, yet unseen, truth! Hidden from view only by thin obfuscation of our sight! Crack the barriers between what is real and what isn’t! Peek out and give guidance! Show us once and for all the nature of our path!”


(Give me everything that I long for, if you are so powerful!)




With Adris’ demands, what follows after is…




… only silence after powerful chords end.




The wind dies in a moment, all energy stolen from it as the Chapel’s artworks cease to show interest.


Standing before four shocked girls while holding a cross that burns with anger and a power that can incinerate aura users in one glancing blow, Adris suddenly feels very abandoned.


(… No, inconceivable. Something, anything should’ve happened!)


The boy’s heart sinks.

With the appeal to darkness to forcefully guide the cross failing, the makeshift conduit for its power will be completely unsupported, with its malevolence allowed to warp and destroy both him and his chosen targets.


(The aura is…! Wait… why can’t I feel it?)


Despite no longer having the power to stop it, the cross struggles against not the boy’s meager resistance….




… but against the space it appears frozen in.




“Ah… isn’t this superb?”

A reverent voice comes from the dais.


When trying to turn to look at her, Adris finds that his body no longer responds. Frozen in place, he notices that Neesiette, Ave, Still, and Kol appear equally locked in the last state of their defensive motions during the chaotic speech he gave…




“To be honest, how could I have truly believed that you would deliver as well as you have? To place faith in a one-in-a-million chance, one so vague in likelihood of success that even freeing you of inhibitions would seem unlikely to aid much, is it possible you are the one I’ve been waiting for?”


The kindness and cruelty in her voice become the same thing, as Adris hears footsteps approaching him.


(… Have I… screwed up…?)




“Shouldn’t you not feel bad, I think? To be honest once more, wasn’t there quite a lot that was removed by me in order to push you into the correct frame of mind? While it’s fair to say that you are essentially greedy, you are certainly also not… stupid, correct? If allowed to progress as you normally are, wouldn’t you easily see the flaws?”

For the first time, he receives a compliment from his haughty benefactor that sounds like actual praise.


“And so… with all interferences removed and only obsession remaining, even if one tempered by me, aren’t you still missing something?”


(… No, I’m not missing anything! My solution was…!)


“Perfect, yes?”


A reverberating laughter accompanies the sudden horror he feels at being preempted.


“But aren’t you still missing an important component?”




With the Chapel’s atmosphere frozen, its suffocating feeling is one of expectation now rather than outright failure.

Almost as if what was designed to happen is in the process of occurring, but missing a catalyst.


“Even if you have obsession, Adris, what is… darkness?”


(Desire, obsession… and…)


The other parts don’t come to mind, almost as if something is obstructing them.




Yes, desire, obsession, but also… mystery, fear, and most importantly…”




Pain flows through the heretic boy’s body as he becomes acutely aware of a foreign entity snaking through his veins. A splitting headache grows while the tendrils in his body withdraw from his brain.

With a chuckle from the old woman, Adris’ mind finally uncoils.




How did Still not know about the oath, despite spying on me the whole time?

The oath made with the “unknown and unknowable?”

The oath that I had already made, guaranteeing that nobody but Cethran and her god would know about my conversations or plans?

Isn’t it obvious!? She didn’t know because something was already interceding! An oath I made originally never ended!

Why does she know my true name, when it was never spoken in front of her?

How can anyone possibly be so ahead of someone else’s thinking, despite supposedly knowing nothing about them? She’s been inside my thoughts somehow, the whole time!?

Why did I let her prepare the mixture!? She obviously could’ve tainted it!? No, WHY WAS I DRINKING HER TEA IN THE FIRST PLACE!? AM I FUCKING RETARDED!?

The most dangerous thing of all is… this woman!


This whole time, isn’t she the thing I should’ve been escaping from!?


What fills his right now is the strongest and most inescapable…




“How is watching the entire world crumble before your eyes, as everything you know is proved wrong?”




(… Only someone truly insane would willingly call forth this thing called darkness and believe it’s a fake, just because she is!)


His hubris played him into the hands of another, bringing about his own destruction.




“Isn’t it wonderful? This terrible sense of doubt?”




The air in the Chapel ceases to be frozen as his fear at the uncertainty of the mystery before him finally being revealed flays his confidence, causing him to question all of his motivations for doing this.

When he questions the core of his ambitions, he feels something run down his face.


The same feeling is on his hands, as well, as he watches the silver from the cross run away, like water cascading slowly down a fountain.

Underneath the silver…




Is the largest, purest chunk of auraic alloy he’s ever seen. The gems set into it fall off, shattering on the floor as the cross’ functioning suddenly makes sense to Adris.




(Oh stars, it’s a synchronizing tool, designed to be a pure reservoir for power that connects outward. It’s just… a solid piece of Creation.)




The amount of aura that could be contained within this cross is too much for anyone to handle, much less steal. Even if he relies on another to help control the flow, what comes out will soon ream him more hollow than the giant rabbit’s dick would’ve.

Left about to die, he wonders how such a seemingly purposeless tool could offer such wonderful gifts that it has.




The auraic alloy flares.


Rainbow light bursts out with a droning sound, as the shining darkness from the Emperor’s tomb explodes from the cross to whip about.


Pain assails the boy without end, the conduit between him and the girls open and now filling with the force of the release.


As the rainbow from the cross attacks him, he sees the girls become consumed by whirlpools of the same stuff, it flowing out of their bodies from gleaming, newly forming cores within.




And in response to this transfer…


The sounds of dolorous bells, mad beyond words, ring out without ending.


… The entire Chapel begins to darken.




A great groan is heard, as the arches and unseen ceiling above begin to lose support. The very walls buckle and collapse as they become fluid.


Great cracks in the floor and walls offer a torrent of ephemeral sludge from beyond that once Adris demanded, now spilling into the room without cessation.




It flows towards the boy.

Blackness is only what it appears to be on the surface.




The moment Adris’ senses are applied to it, the blackness both rejects and assaults him.

The moment he tries to interpret it, his mind longs to fall into depravity and be liberated.

The moment it touches his body, he will succumb to it and change.


Like a technique, all of the darkness bears wisdom, but its nature is clearly that of lessons on the depths of the uninterpretable truths of the world and especially that from outside of it which shouldn’t be known.




The entire Chapel quakes with the descent of this unknowable entity, as every object and surface within it sloshes about.

No longer whispers, unintelligible ravings exist all about, their words promises of fulfillment for wants he can neither describe nor name.


Even the demonic stork is carried away by the tide, its eye locked on him the whole time as it turns black and begins to deform.




“… Ah, how many years has it been since I’ve witnessed this? Adris fehl Dain, Star of Ruin, false god from another world, I thank you from the bottom of my heart… for reuniting me with the one who pretends to replace me before my God.”

Cethran’s last words are full of true happiness and gratefulness, offered to the boy that will now be sacrificed.


“The darkness you have called, done without name but with conviction and sufficient insight, how far will it spread before He’s forced to advent?


Ah, how will He regard me when He arrives?

Will He be full of wonder at my actions?

Will He not see the difference in quality between this… trash and I?


I long to know…”


(How is this not what you worship!? Cethran, do you believe in something even worse!?)


Mind burning at the sight and sound and sensations of the Zennian darkness’ arrival here, a fear like that of primal night drives him crazy.

He longs to die to escape from it, somehow feeling that it’s his only way out.




Great shapes begin to crawl out from the space around him.

The figures on the walls cry out for release, plunging like corpses into the mass below, before returning to life and flailing in it.

The golden doors ahead stain with dark shadows, darker liquid flowing through the crevices.






The Emperor’s cross’ blazing starlight and darkness does not aid the approaching darkness in destroying Adris, as he thought it would.




Instead, it wars with it.

The droning darkness lashes out at the liquefying world around Adris, connecting with the girls in front of him and sheltering them from it, Adris feeling the cross reinforcing the link he made. Arcing, shining energy forms an aura barrier around his body, lancing at the masses of rolling, corpulent black corruption flowing all around.




“Oh? Perhaps you have a chance, lamb? If that is the case, then am I not obliged to offer you a choice in how you proceed, yes?”


Released from the shock and horror that has paralyzed him, the doubts and evil thoughts subside momentarily as the snaking thing within his veins goes completely inert.


“If it is possible for you to not only survive but also to thrive, then…”

The old woman muses softly, but her words regain affection.




“‘Within this deluge of the beyond, a hopeless fool from another world discovers the missing thing his whole life has pursued without realizing it’, would this also not be an acceptable mystery to pursue, you who would rule, unseen and unnoticed?”






There is no way out on the outside, trapped inside like this.




All Adris knows is that this darkness preys on the mind explicitly, seeking to ride his senses to his very essence and make him see the world in its horrifically twisted ways.

Only the cross’ power prevents it from immediately flowing into him.




(Darkness is desire, doubt, obsession, and mystery! How can you survive within it and keep it out!? Remove your ability to feel it or bring it within, and refuse to acknowledge what it is…!?)


Adris thinks of two items, then.


(And if we’re joined by the aura synchronization, now, I can reach them through the link!)


Pulling up Cethran’s cloth to his chest, he touches a book hidden underneath his jerkin with his free hand.




After yelling the oath that a cheap villain from Xin would offer while fleeing a deserved death, she begins to laugh uproariously in her husky, yet sultry manner as he chants evil words.




“From the deepest depths of desire, through curtain unseen, darkness, to me, become one and join with me, for your name is…!”




The name he screams is drowned out by the droning cross and roiling darkness that consumes the entire room, with the second slamming through the cross’ hasty barriers to pick him up into its whirlpool.


But in place of these barriers…


A cloth wraps around his head, proving that he and everyone connected with him by a cross from another world cease to perceive this thing called reality.






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


[Familiar] – “Through means unknown, a familiar has been acquired. Aren’t familiars a kind of tool? Isn’t this sort of strange to consider a ‘power’?”


[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…?”



Disposition: Resilient / Adaptable / Sinner
Alignment: Chaotic

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



Rantil Value – “Idiot master receives idiot information~”


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 – “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’?”

“There’s little to say, isn’t there? Aren’t you truly beautiful when you’re honest?”

“Playing up the mystery too much might prove troublesome? A man of only mystery can be angel or devil, yes?”

“Success breeds confidence, but is confidence always handsome? It might depend on how you assert it, a lesson you might be lacking expertise in?”

“Even if they don’t find you handsome, isn’t there something still dashing about you…?”

“Being used by older women seems to be your fate, isn’t it?”


“Will you be more appealing as a monster?”



“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.”

“Losing everything is often an impetus to descend deeper into bad things. In Adris’ case, it certainly amped up his energy for harming others.”

“Nothing is off the table for a man with nothing to lose.”

“Winning finally, Adris feels like he should be king of the world, but his tower is crumbling already as four girls keep destroying its foundation.”

“No longer the king, perhaps your true nature is the whipping boy, Adris?”

“The more you try to gain, the less you’re able to hold on to. At least in Adris’ case, he seems to be trying to hold onto the things he might care about?”


“When finally presented with the option of succeeding, he did.”



“You got what you asked for, in spades.”



Name: “Kol”
Titles: Idiot
Race: ???
Sex: Female?
Age: ???


Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
Discipline: ???



[Great Round Eater] – “Find enemy, get between all, swing!”


[Energized Edge] – “Kol, not need worry: every swing, good swing.”


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…?”

“Is forthrightness an attractive quality? What is the difference between truth-seeking as a subject and living a lifestyle of it?”

“Perhaps an uncomplicated female would be useful for a man that seems so interested in complicating life himself? But why are you fooled into believing she’s simple?”

“If she feels excitement looking at you, then perhaps she isn’t as pretty as you’re thinking she is?”

“Vetted by the erotic thief, I would assume that you are already slavering to see her face, yes?”


“Wounds would be considered decisively unsexy, but you still enjoyed your time together, didn’t you?”



“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.”

“In addition to being honest, she is also obsessive about certain things, least of which is deciding who is stronger than others.”

“Not worrying about details, Kol prefers to let others deal with them for her, so that she can concentrate on what she cares about.”

“While somewhat behind in intellect, she is far from witless.”

“Having officially lost, she considers it only a win. With Adris as her Boss, she already seeks to direct him at his next ‘goal’, which is hers.”


“If you have to remind her of her place, then you haven’t trained her correctly, yes?”



“Nobility often mixes with ignoble qualities. Greed and necessity are hard to separate. I like Kol, but she’s sometimes hard to write, because it’s hard to think with such absolute certainty.”



Name: Still
Titles: Puddle
Race: Human?
Sex: Female
Age: Young Lady


Occupation: Delver, Trickster/Outfighter
Discipline: ???



[Perfect Throw] – {I’m going to turn you into a pegboard~.}


Disposition: Playful / Sadistic / Skulking
Alignment: Chaotic

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



Rantil Value –

Attributes by Grade:

Dexterity – C

Agility – C

Intelligence – C




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?”

“While you don’t get to see much of her, it may be that her lifestyle is the most appealing thing, perhaps? If she’s always surprising you, doesn’t that create an appeal of danger?”

“Possessing feminine pursuits such as sewing and toxicology, isn’t she perfect for you?”

“Do you find yourself losing focus in her presence? You might be weaker to seduction than you think? Or is it something else…?”

“Given yourself to her already? Even if you say that you’re not weak to sexual favors, the fact that you went back for more already means it’s too late, right?”


“But if you are never given the chance for more… can you endure it?”



“A mute girl who says much with gestures, she also has more going on than she seems to. Though not outwardly aggressive, there’s an atmosphere of danger about her. Opposite of Kol, hers is subtle… Yet, she also can protect others. Given to acrobatics, it matches with her dark, but flamboyant, colors.”

“Self composed as always, it won’t be easy for Adris to get into her head.”

“Not interfering unless she has to, Still appears to be mild-mannered, but such a misunderstanding might be dangerous.”

“Showing something of her true nature, the girl that says little can surprisingly say a lot when she needs to.”

“Confidently sexual, yet also refusing to let Adris be the aggressor, their relationship seems to move from one extreme to the other as they get past their first agreement and discover more truthful things about each other.”


“Oh, how terrible? Your partnership is dissolving before your eyes, is it?”



“She’s getting pissed at you because you keep doing stupid shit.”



Name: Neesiette vera Luna
Titles: “Moon”
Race: Lunamata
Sex: Female
Age: ???

Occupation: Delver, Mystic
Discipline: ???


[Rod of Force] – “A rod capable of exciting and shooting a ray of pure force. Being struck produces immense kinetic transference. Be this not obvious?”


[“Brings An End”] – “Would the title not signify its use?”


Disposition: Impassive / Calculating / Curious
Alignment: Ordered

Eyes: Pale Violet
Hair: Amber
Skin: Pale White



Rantil Value –

Strength – F

Agility – E

Intelligence – B

Mentality – 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?”

“Having her rebut all of your words so desperately, is it her intellect you’re falling for? Are you sure that’s wise, considering she could dethrone the wisest person you know…?”

“Having a woman stand up to you… isn’t this a strange fetish for you to discover?”

“A doll? How do you define the limits of your tastes? Or are they ‘unknown and unknowable’?”

“Do you get off on a lady devoting so much of her time to thinking about you?”


“Was the previous question not foolish of me?”



“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…?”

“Given to only worrying about what she can demonstrate as true, how does such an uncompromising and uninterested person lead a group of four girls through situations that cannot be easily explained?”

“The reasoning member of the group, all of her questions are direct and impossible to sneak away from.”

“Finally revealed, her interest in Adris is inextricably tied to the book that he has proved capable of reading. For what reason does one desire to bring an end?”

“The true Neesiette, one no longer afraid to speak around someone for fear that she will be forced to fight them later, is actually a very nosy and hovering girl.”


“In the end, the one most dissimilar from the rest… no, perhaps from all of the options presented is the one you are interested in? Or is this only the start, Adris?”



“Neesiette is someone that wants everyone to be a lot more perfect than they are, but she doesn’t mean it in a bad way. Probably.”




Name: Avenalliah Aurmaris
Titles: Lustful Lizard, Elf
Race: Elf
Sex: Female
Age: Young

Occupation: Delver, Scared Girl
Discipline: ???


[Sylvan Calling] – “Hey, hey, come out and play! Spirits rise, prance and bay! If nature is here, it’s my friend! Um, why am I flying!?”


Disposition: Joyful / Impressionable / Cowardly
Alignment: Neutral

Eyes: Crystal Green
Hair: Moss Green
Skin: White



Rantil Value –

Strength – C

Dexterity – C

Intelligence – C

Mentality – F




Cethran Value – “While not possessing your newly favorite curves, isn’t a girl with a naive charm also fine? Because she covers so little, you are also left without having to imagine what you could possess, yes?”

“If you’re looking for a girl to protect and curl up with, where else could you find a girl as clingy as this? Does being innocent entice men? Isn’t that a stupid question, Mr. Star?”

“Not being afraid to flaunt her beauty if she doesn’t notice that she is, yet cowering at exposure… isn’t this a gap?”

“Another girl that won’t shut up, is it? Shouldn’t that dissuade you? Or is it okay if it’s her bubbly voice?”

“Isn’t it a bit irresponsible to run away from the events you’ve set in motion, Adris? If a girl falls for you, shouldn’t you welcome it? Or do you begin to broaden your understanding of a female world you never knew, even back on Xin?”


“Does the thought of her being ravaged by others unsettle or unshackle you?”



“As cheerful as she is skittish, Avenalliah fits an unknown position within the four delvers’ group. Though she carries a large sack, that would hardly count as a position… right?”

“Prone to fits of panic, there’s a lot she needs to do to prove her worth…”

“While a master of avoiding confrontation, she finally finds a backbone after being kicked around enough.”

“The one thing in the world she loves the most is her own people, which makes her a master of everything related to them.”

“Having been both wooed, defeated, freed, and ignored, it’s impossible to tell how she’ll react to anything said by the boy she’s set her eyes on.”


“Isn’t this child the cruelest one to you, Adris? So terribly eager to have you, yet everything she does drives you away, doesn’t it? Is it because she’s more innocent than you could’ve ever claimed to be?”



“Adventuring out of your depth is an easy way to be disappointed in life. Everything sounds fun until the responsibilities and revelations pile up.”



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

Occupation: Priestess
Discipline: ???




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

Eyes: ???
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?”

“Perhaps if I am more beautiful now with a fuller smile, it’s because you’ve brought me out of my languishment?”

“Having seen the beauty that the Castillo and the outside has to offer in more detail, do you find me too mundane, now? Isn’t that quite tragic for me?”

“Despite not desiring me, you certainly seemed content enough to fake it, didn’t you?”


“Can you really call this a betrayal? Why do you scowl so much?”



“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?”

“To search for answers is a noble goal? Then what goal is more noble than searching for the one answer behind everything…?”

“Though our goals are often not noble, perhaps somewhere deep down, our hearts are? Can we discover that together?”

“Isn’t it nice that we can work together?”


“Won’t you show me the nature of a false god, as I demonstrate the nature of a priestess of My God?”



“If you ask why the MC sometimes does strange things, always seek why.”





“Darkness” – “What is truly feared by all. Everything that is hidden, but desperately sought, it is a nebulous word that describes nothing and everything, all at once.”


Cethran’s God – “Everything is wrong.”



Chapter 32         Table of Contents          Chapter 34