Novel Take Up the Cross (R18)

Discussion in 'Community Fictions' started by nonothing, May 20, 2021.

  1. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Take Up the Cross

    [​IMG]
    by: nonothing

    editors: zirrboy, Kermit the Frog


    Synopsis:

    “The ultimate payoff is here: lifelong scoundrel and swindler Adris fehl Dain, with his brutal partner of many decades Serras fehr Almet, descends into the lost crypt of the Immortal First Emperor. The once all-powerful tyrant, and eternal lord of the floating continents of Xin, lies within a coffin of solid agate. An emperor’s legacy awaits who finds it…!

    … excepting for one problem: Adris fehl Dain is plagued by a life of recurring misfortunes.

    And no misfortune could be greater than a lust-mad, demonic castle beyond the impassable clouds owned by a supreme evil.”

    Genre:
    Action, Adventure, Battle, Fantasy, Harem, Romance, Smut, Tragedy

    Release Schedule:

    Updates Mondays and Thursdays

    Content Warnings:
    Sexual Content, Strong Language

    A protagonist who starts with very little, and claws tooth and nail to protect what he wants. The protagonist doesn't start as a particularly good person, but he eventually stops being a self-absorbed asshole. It is harem, but the emphasis is only one four girls total. The world he lands in is a harsh place, so in place of death you may find that sex is a punishment. Be aware that this is that kind of story.

    Battle, adventure, party growth through tribulations.
    Story and lore development that can be slow.
    Long-term romances, as well as short term conquests.
    The world is not always what it seems.

    NO NTR, at least of anyone the MC cares about.

    All being sex. There is sex, but by a chapter-to-chapter basis, it's a lot less than I initially planned. The focus is on character arcs and understanding the world.

    Even if there is something like rape, I by and large refuse to do anything abusive. The world is such that people basically end up accepting the nature of it. You are warned, though.

    I don't like weird things like corruption or anything like that.

    Greetings, I am an amateur writer who writes solely as a hobby. I hope that the story ends up being something you enjoy. If you enjoy it, please let me know why! If it's not something you enjoy, feel free to let me know why!

    (The story begins at chapter 1-3, which is a lead up to the main story. It defines the main character and his mentality. If you don't need to see that, you may skip to chapter 4 for the beginning of the main story.)

    This story is also published to http://www.machineslicedbread.xyz/tutc/


    Characters:
    [​IMG]
    Adris fehl Dain

    [​IMG]
    "Kol"

    [​IMG]
    ???

    [​IMG]
    Avenalliah Aurmaris - "Ave"

    [​IMG]
    ???

    Table of Contents:

    (☆ denotes a chapter with erotic content, please be advised. Loli/Shota seeming content is possible.)
    (line breaks fixed, BB is different spacing than usual)


    Chapter 1: Tomb of the First Emperor
    Chapter 2: First Fight
    Chapter 3: Final Farewell
    Chapter 4: Bizarre Research ☆
    Chapter 5: Awakening Silver
    Chapter 6: Wondrous Works
    Chapter 7: Sand, Phoenix, and Shooting Stars ☆
    Chapter 8: Up the Castillo in Twenty Minutes
    Chapter 9: Up the Castillo in Twenty Minutes - Cold-Warming Touch ☆
    Chapter 10: Down the Castillo in Two Minutes ☆
    Chapter 11: Down the Castillo in Two Minutes - Mad Rave
    Chapter 12: Flesh Stairs
    Chapter 13: Godless Chapel
    Chapter 14: Oath with the Unknown
    Chapter 15: A Path to Power
    Chapter 16: Artful Malice
    Chapter 17: Emergency Imp ☆
    Chapter 18: Corner of Meeting and Sorrow
    Chapter 19: Unfated Meeting
    Chapter 20: Strange Beginnings
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021 at 11:30 PM
  2. nonothing

    nonothing Member

    Joined:
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    Chapter 1: Tomb of the First Emperor

    Tip-toeing over trapped tiles, the lithe man, wearing a traveling cloak and ragged merchant’s robes, picks through a pile of bones and rubble with his foot. In dripping darkness under hollowed-out stone, a flitterlight hanging from his neck reveals the characters chiseled into the floor before him.

    Crumbs of bread lie behind in this narrow tunnel, marking the safe passage over the tiles, one step off path a certain demise by his reckoning.

    He is now sure of the tunnel’s destination, briefly stuck within as he marvels at the malice of the tomb’s builder.

    In one hand, he holds a plain, poorly bound book with complicated characters filling its rough pages. His hand quickly thumbs between pages, searching for the ones which hold matching characters and definitions to those inscribed on the floor.

    Eating bread with his other hand, he chuckles.

    (The elemental siphon traps were easier. Serras could just destroy them.)

    A nearby mural had listed specific rules for crossing. Given the charred bones filling the hallway, of which there are both animal and human, the effectiveness of the trap is nearly foolproof.


    If triggered, all in the corridor will die.


    (Trying to destroy it could potentially collapse the entire hall. Not to mention the mad fool built this complex branching from the barrow of his most dangerous enemy. Who knows what chaos a single blocked hallway could cause to the overall flow of [Aura] down here?)

    The location alone would dissuade discovery, as the First Emperor, uniter of Xin and its greatest tyrant, had laid a still-intact curse upon the lands of this former arch-rival.

    Adris can feel its effects creeping upon his [Inner Expanse], the interior world of an aura user’s body where his aura flows.

    The talismans he wears for protection are failing, many of them shriveled and turned useless over the two days spent within the complex.


    If the flow of aura, the power contained within people and nature that is used to alter the world itself, was to suddenly warp and wildly manifest, the talismans could prematurely fail.

    On a sure timetable to death, Adris has only a day before his body will begin to liquefy, degenerating into a formless amoeba comprised of corporeal aura. His mind, his favorite part, will go first.


    (One day is more than enough!)


    The First Emperor was cruel and mischievous, indeed, with only a man like Adris likely to see the signs. The long stairway landing before the bottom-most levels was not an obvious place for a secret entrance, but his genius had discovered it.

    Largely indefensible and offering little accommodation, the uninteresting landing bore litanies carved incorrectly into one of the statues, a desecration the First Emperor would’ve never permitted.

    (It was a beautifully hidden door.)


    Smiling at his own wit, Adris pokes the next tile, moving debris from it, when -


    “We are running out of time.”


    A deep, assertive female voice catches him off guard. As his footing suffers from the jolt of surprise, Adris uses his arms to regain balance, book and bread spread wide in the tunnel.

    The man looks over his shoulder at the stern, but beautiful, woman standing a tile behind.


    Possessing flowing, black hair that mysteriously follows her body curves, the thin figure wearing a simple, dark-blue caftan has no emotion on her face.

    The tense hand on her curved sword and her black, almond-shaped eyes, narrowed at him in suspicion, indicate her doubts towards Adris’ progress.


    “Serras, you can’t leap it. We’ll both die.” Adris smiles, stating what he had hoped was the obvious. “The trap specifically excludes it. You saw the characters, yeah? They’re the instructions for crossing.”


    The woman, annoyed, leans in and asks, “If you’ve figured out the mural, then why is it taking so long? The Xin’Reh detachment High Benefactor Soldon sent cannot be far off.”


    (Yes, a tricky thing, that detachment.)

    Adris sighs, his mind now lingering on the otherwise ignored threat.

    The Xin’Reh, elite soldiers of the existing imperial successor states, are truly elite in comparison to local, conscripted peasant garrisons. Soldon, the regent in charge of a nearby province, has likely sent his best cadre of them after the two tomb plunderers.


    (It shouldn’t be possible for that fat simpleton Soldon to know where we are, yet…)

    Adris’ merry escape through the province had failed to throw off the hounds nipping at them.


    “It’s likely that our pursuit has drawn the attention of a higher, ascended being.”

    Ascended beings possess mysterious powers, a likely explanation for all occurrences. As Soldon's boss is one, feeding information from the world above would make a lasting escape nigh impossible.

    “The moment we ‘borrowed’ Soldon’s Treatise on Domination, it could be expected that he would cry to his master. Only someone interested in the First Emperor’s personal thoughts would want the book, as it was written by him.”

    Adris frowns, narrowing his own eyes at Serras before continuing,

    “And since someone decided to destroy the west wing of Soldon’s estate, I can guess his interest is quite personal. We’ll be lucky if he kills us outright.”


    (There are worse things than death that can happen to captured aura users.)


    Serras curtly nods.

    “I had no other option. The destruction was minor, considering what I am capable of.” Showing rare interest, Serras uncivily barks a question.

    “What does this trap even do?”


    Adris’ eyes stare blankly at her in response, his frustration with her lack of care only hidden by the facade that is his winning smile.

    (Minor only in comparison to your talents, not in effect.)

    Adris quietly turns back to his book, flipping to a new page.


    (You may have grown taller and stronger with age, my beautiful Serras, but wisdom is ever far off. In addition, your curiosity will kill us both.)


    In the past year, she has grown ever more temperamental and violent.

    He’s seen her reduce men to limbs and chopped pieces for the slightest provocations, with still more simply disappearing to never be seen again, their ill comments towards her warrants for their silent deaths.

    Though he’d finally confronted her about it, telling her that her actions make it impossible to cover their tracks, it has done little to dissuade her blood lust.


    (Haven’t we grown sadly distant?)

    Adris lingers on the thought, before brushing it aside.


    While Adris’ progress should be a grand victory for both of them, it is proving to be an unfulfilling expedition, with them hardly ever speaking civilly.

    (No, speaking at all would be an improvement given the past two weeks.)


    Completely clearing the tile with his foot while carefully avoiding touching it, he is finally satisfied by his examination.

    Adris laughs, bringing Serras’ attention to him anew as she expects her answer is forthcoming. Instead of giving one, Adris flips the book closed, stands up, and


    moves across the tiles without looking at them, swaying in the manner of a lewd dancer. Waving his arms while holding the bread and book, he twists and turns across the tiles.


    Serras grips her sword, alert and helpless, as the lithe man dances his way easily across the trap tunnel to the door at the end.

    Turning to her and clapping his own applause with objects still in hand, Adris takes a bow as Serras shakes, lips tight at the display.


    “A particularly cruel trap.” Adris begins his explanation, long after it was requested. “It starts as a guidance on the proper elevation of Power of Spirit, but it’s only an illusion. The real message of the trap is…”

    As he moves his feet to dance in place, finishing the movement with a spin, he smiles widely.

    “A fucking dance. It’s the Movement of Weaving Beauty. And the failure to dance it is… immolation.”


    Closing her eyes, Serras opens them a moment later with an ignorant look.

    “I was never instructed in this dance?”


    (Of course not. It’s the dance of a whore before the consummate act. The last twirl before the pillow.)

    The Emperor had pretended that the characters added up to an ascension poem, but the characters actually formed a vocal accompaniment to a dance.


    This difference became evident when the next characters were a choice between excellent moral choices or “a woman’s invitations to mortal embrace.” Any astute scholar would overlook those characters’ suggestion of carnal fondness and instead choose a tile that represents certain doom.

    [Power of Spirit], the aura training of elevating one’s spirit to rise above a mortal outlook and achieve a divine one, excludes lewd inclinations on the path to ascension.


    (Really explains the pile of human bones at this juncture of the hallway, doesn’t it? Victims of the asshole’s debauched joke.)

    “It’s a bit esoteric.” Adris says, smiling inwardly. “Don’t worry. Follow these steps…!”


    Adris explains the movements, enjoying the sight of his chilly and stoic childhood partner of over twenty years dancing like a woman of pleasure across the tiles, accompanied by Adris’ hands clapping the tempo. With only Adris’ neck light to illuminate her, the outline of her lithe body takes on a sensual flavor Adris never experiences often enough.

    He offers his hand to her at the end of the trap, hoping the darkness hides any lewdness on his face.


    “How was it?”

    “Vile feeling.” Her response goes in hand with her eyes full of disgust directed at Adris.

    (Don’t concern yourself, I’d give you an eight out of ten, and a tip.)

    Fighting back a feeling of arousal at the spectacle, Adris turns to face the door.


    Its graven, solid form reflects the Conquest period of the Emperor’s reign. The martial pride etched into it is a memory of that warring era, for the Conquest architecture style reveres the act of killing.

    Ornamentation and raised surfaces cast a strange shadow play, showing figures that are hidden unless revealed by light at the proper angle.

    It's a feature most people do not notice. The ideas of warring light and darkness reflected by the style are a dance, too, which hides the door’s locking mechanism: the etched temple door cut into the larger door itself.

    The larger door’s border designs contain easy-to-read pictographs in metallic colors, offering the secret to the lock when dwelt upon.

    Artistic scenes surrounding the characters convey important ideas to what, when the door was carved, had been a mostly illiterate public. This makes the pictographic characters seem unimportant to understanding the messages portrayed, effectively hiding the solution in plain sight while also excluding plundering peasants.


    (Aura users were rare in the Emperor’s time, presumably due to him culling them. Without the pursuit of aura as an offer of power, most people wouldn’t deign to learn to read advanced characters.)


    Adris remembers now the scholars’ many stories, detailing the Emperor’s love of martial conquest and his deification of rulership. His decision not to fund the scholars led to their wide denunciations of his rule and lineage, immortalizing his failures for all time.

    At least, according to them.


    (“The temple door is the key, yet no intellect is locked within.”)

    Adris snarks inwardly, remembering his disdain for the scholars of his cloistered youth, perhaps the one feeling he and the Emperor share.


    Pressing on the temple door, however, reveals no mechanism.

    Instead, the temple door is just a part of the whole: a wall, and not a door.


    (That’s new.)


    Adris attempts to locate a secret switch, but can’t. He sweats a bit while Serras watches, before remembering her utility in such situations.

    (She is the ultimate lock-pick, after all. And this “door” isn’t trapped, which means it’s… “fair game.”)

    Turning to her, he smiles and offers his solution.


    “This door is the final test. See here? The artwork depicting the soldier weathering the storm, only to then blow it away, is the key. Only someone with sufficient [Acuity of Mind] can open the door. I’m afraid that you, Serras, must prove your worth to the First Emperor using -”


    Before he can finish, he’s moved out of the way by a stiff hand. The stern beauty brushes her hair back, then adopts a posture of a warrior preparing to draw her sword to slash.

    Adris watches in fascination as transparent, almost milky, iridescent, scarlet fluid seems to collect on her now glowing body. It falls upwards like reverse rain drops to dissipate in the air.

    The air grows heavier than Adris can stand, as the walls seem to beat in time with an invisible heart.


    Her hand extends to open facing the door; then, in only one breath, she pulls free her sword from its scabbard with a flash of death filling the tunnel. A serpent-like whip of pure, scarlet aura escapes the drawing cut.

    A stream like living lightning impacts on the door and disintegrates all it touches, as anything near the direct impact superheats before exploding into the room ahead.


    Adris grimaces at the spectacle, pulled forward a bit with the wind itself as it rushes into the new room, the traveling wave so much stronger than it needed to be.


    (As always, superb. Destroying a thick wall of granite with barely a few moments of circulation. With how much aura she expended, it’s always impressive to see such a mental strike issued so quickly.)


    Acuity of Mind relates to techniques concerning the externalization of one’s aura, and these techniques require as much concentration as they do power.

    Serras is a monster who can imagine the end of an opponent in mere moments.


    Clapping her on the shoulder, Adris smiles broadly, the woman flinching at his action.

    “Man, the Emperor might’ve expected anyone but you to show up. I think he might’ve given up his secrets willingly if he’d known you’d be the one knocking on his door.”

    She doesn’t respond to his compliment, but Adris isn’t concerned.


    He is, however, slightly alarmed once her technique dissipates, as it is replaced by a huge outflow of ambient aura from the room ahead.

    The thicker air is far more intoxicating than expected. Suddenly drunk on the rushing power, Adris thinks about how he’d found Serras after returning from his scouting expeditions.


    Men, torn to shreds and hanging from trees.


    His scouting had forced him to often separate from her, his efforts put into misleading oncoming patrols, driving them astray. When he would return, at least one body of a Xin’Reh scout was always discovered, brutally dispatched by a dispassionate beauty.


    (Though, it’s odd that none bore Soldon’s colors.)

    Adris pushes this thought aside.


    Serras had resisted their trip to the tomb, even at the point of reaching it, saying that it was too dangerous. When they’d entered, she’d completely given in, with all resistance and objections abandoned.

    (But, it hardly seems dangerous with her along.)

    Adris has handled most of the tomb’s traps with quick hands and eyes. Destroying walls and a few traps are Serras’ greatest contributions so far.


    “The main chamber should be ahead!” Adris laughs, Serras' only response a curt nod.

    Adris’ waving flitterlight dimly illuminates the new room.

    Though detecting no danger in the outflow of power from the room, it still sets him on edge for an unknown reason.


    Walking into this once-hidden procession hall, Adris now has not even a shred of doubt regarding the tomb’s owner.

    The Conquest style is replaced by the Pinnacle style, the personal architecture of the Emperor and his direct line.


    Gold trim, jade carvings, and red markings bearing the Emperor’s family sigil cover every surface.

    The man who was obsessed with name recognition was vain, but his mastery of the play of light and shadow is superb.


    Adris’ radiance creates specters on the room’s surfaces, bringing new horror to the long-dead place. If the Conquest style plays with shadows, then the Pinnacle style is like a puppeteer demonstrating a grand, terrifying spectacle.


    The lack of prior entry into the room is proved by the dust everywhere, with lingering clouds of particles thrown up by the previous conflagration. Along with it, the smell of old decay wrinkles Adris’ nose.

    A small door at the end of the hall is their goal. To Adris’ left, he sees a lever set into the wall, the end of it cast in brass and in the shape of a great fireball.


    Adris glances behind.

    (… This must control the previous trap.)


    Serras stares with impatience as he looks back.

    When Adris creeps forward to examine the room for dangers, his concentration is broken by her.


    “What are you worried about, ‘partner?’ Wasn’t the door the final test?”

    His self-proclaimed partner whispers with uncharacteristic sarcasm, flecked with a hint of malice.

    Adris can only grimace at the comment, before shrugging his shoulders and smiling.


    The two enter cautiously, moving up the center of the procession path.

    The large, marble-tiled walkway in the center is flanked by headless statues of warriors. Offering mute salute to those who walk underneath, they hold long, faded banners crossing overhead.

    This wide hallway has no apparent ceiling, only infinite darkness overhead.


    As they get halfway into the room, an unusual wind whips up. It buffets them and sets the banners flapping wildly, dry-rotted pieces of them tearing off with the sudden gust.

    Serra’s blade is free in a moment, while Adris puts his back to hers and whips out a small pole that elongates into a full-length spear when turned. Serras’ eyes dart around, searching the shadows for enemies.

    She grows tense with her inability to locate the danger, before calming a bit when Adris pats her back with five fingers, then raps her twice with his knuckles.


    [Five enemies, both sides of the hall.]


    Adris has already extended his aura senses using his Power of Spirit, eliminating the need for eyes and ears. He now feels the leak of the enemy’s aura as they move.

    When the entities begin to close in, Adris is shocked, rapidly striking Serras’ back with a hand gesture he has only used once before.


    Serras goes rigid with recognition, then excites visibly as her aura is let to flow without limit, no worry of waste for the coming confrontation.

    Adris considers voiding his bladder at the despair of his own discovery.


    (Memories chained by a total madman.)


    A strangled groan and a chortling cacophony fill the room, as their enemies notice Adris’ perception of them now.

    Their hostility peaks by being spied upon.

    (The Emperor’s tomb guards are tortured revenants, unliving bodies of those who failed their ascensions!)


    A flash of light fills the chamber, then Adris hears Serras move.

    The shining, rising slash doesn’t advance onward, though Adris hears a thud from a furry, boned creature’s knees impacting the ground before her.


    Her body crouches low after this technique, allowing a lightning-fast spear to clear her head as Adris vaults over her, plunging into the creature at the spot of Serras’ deep cut into its flesh. The spear punctures its aura core, the central spot where aura circulates within an inner expanse, then the spearhead radiates the aura technique Adris had primed it with.


    Blades of energy erupt out of the creature, its juicy insides spraying out around it.


    Serras rolls to Adris’ side as he lands, her body narrowly avoiding two creatures with bladed arms, their weapons awash with lightning and fire, respectively. She turns from her roll, rising with an enormous wave of shaking aura blowing out from her blade, washing over and lifting the creatures up.

    They're flung moaning back into the darkness.

    As they fly, Adris twists his spear before removing it, fully destroying the core of the creature they struck together.


    With the spearhead freed, the monster falls to the ground while gushing ephemeral fluids onto the stone floor, its wound somehow gasping in agony.


    With the three creatures temporarily dealt with, Serras faces the entry door while Adris faces their destination, backs to each other once more.


    Adris examines the struck enemy, revealing it to be a mass of flesh with mystical characters carved into it.

    While its aura core bleeds out, the dying creature struggles to right itself even with its death evident, clutching its wound to hold back the tide.

    The vaguely humanoid shape more closely resembles a living tree made of bone and stone, thick skin left to be covered in mossy fur.


    The sentience that drives it…

    (Cannot be a brain.)


    For the creature has no head.


    The passage of time is possibly these creatures’ truest enemy, as the monstrosity's body is decayed and in disrepair, potentially reducing its original strength considerably.


    Being pulled back into the fight, Adris hears Serras tap her right foot.

    He instinctively shifts right, facing the statues along the side wall. Behind him, he feels an unknown force circulate a massive quantity of aura from above, likely from on top of a statue.


    Adris’ body feels liquid then, a hostile technique washing through him and forcing him to grit his teeth to resist passing out. He struggles to correct the flow of his internal expanse, which feels to be melting.


    (High level! My insides will escape!)

    The excruciating pain ceases when the room grows colder.

    Adris feels his partner activate a technique of her own, the growing coldness forcing an inferior technique from her area.


    Left with no time to consider her next movement, a monster larger than the headless one rushes out toward him from between the shadows of two statues.

    Looking like an ape with four arms and two legs, this tortured body with nightmarish legs made of its own mummified, internal organs trundles at full speed towards Adris.


    He feels a sinister aura from the sword-like tips of the creature’s appendages, purple flames licking off the blades.


    Rapidly knocking the ground three times with the butt of his spear, Adris then pulls a charm from his robe, rubbing the six-sided gem against his spear.

    As it dissolves like sugar dipped in water, the spearhead becomes electrified.


    Adris lunges forward to intercept the monster, but the blow is deflected by sweeping arms against his precise thrust, as Adris predicted.

    Arcing lightning meets fire, the shock of the resulting clash stalling the creature’s charge, allowing Adris to retreat to his original position.


    A green flash lights up the room accompanied by a winter chill. Adris is confident that the west wall has been consumed by near-permanent ice.

    The creature he is facing ignores this and resumes its charge.


    Adris’ shaft deflects the first strike, but his impaling counter-attack is met by the monster's own parry as it blindly seeks to close the distance to rend into him from zero range. When its claws come in all at once with its large body following, Adris leaps upwards with all of his might.

    The creature strikes empty ground, looking up after to follow a sky-borne Adris, attempting to use its advantage to catch him on the way down.


    A flowing blade emerges from thin air.

    Serras brings down her sword with both hands, no care for guile, entrusting the strike to overpowering strength. The creature’s fatal mistake is perfectly capitalized on by Adris’ partner.

    The glowing-blue sword shines like the Sea of Stars, the only sea of Xin, as it mows through the creature’s hasty block. Accompanied by a phantasmal sound of ocean spray, the monster’s haphazard defense ends in a bisecting explosion, with the titanic strike sending chunks of desiccated flesh into the darkness behind the statues.


    Landing adeptly on Serras’ shoulders, Adris looks to the entry door to see the twin creatures of fire and lightning closing on them once more.

    The creatures begin to circulate hostile techniques as Adris leaps back into the air, facing them.


    (Too late, bastards.)

    Adris grins, pulling out a brown ball and crushing it in his hand.

    Dust erupts and surrounds his body.


    Rearing back with his spear in his left hand, Adris’ muscles grow thick like cord wood as he combines a body aura technique with his own weapon.

    The dusty air becomes a perch, his body moving like a whip as he winds up his spear.


    “My wife takes flight!” Adris screams, dumping half of his total aura reserves into the spear’s point.


    ([Piercing Death].)


    The spear screams like a shrill bird as it flies inexorably toward its target, closing on the wight at the front of the charge.

    The creature feels it coming, uncertain whether to dodge or deflect, finally choosing to intercept it with its bladed arm to knock it wide.


    (Perfect. Good game.)


    The spear is redirected by the curving blade arm, but not to the right side of the creature as it intended. Instead, it spirals to its left with a snake-like twist, impaling itself in the chest of the creature’s ally behind it.

    The first revenant looks back, stunned, to see its ally erupt into ichor and gore as the impaling spear manifests an aura explosion.

    The spectral blades and residual lightning nearly kill it outright.


    Turning back towards Adris to seek revenge, the single, blinded torso eye of the revenant is instead confronted by a phantasmal killer from the dark.

    Rushing darkness forms into a bladed assassin that pierces it through its eye. At the same time, a shadow also in the shape of this assassin flies towards the nearly dead monster bearing Adris’ spear, cleaving it in half before vanishing. Its aura core is sliced through as it's ended rightly.


    The bloated eye of the creature Serras is stabbing pops as she pulls her blade out.

    She turns away from it, her victim motionless, before a dozen shadows emerge from the darkness to follow her attack.


    These phantom assailants carve up the monster and the floor itself, sending the chunks end-over-end into the entry door of the hallway. Adris lands in time to watch an immense flash from the hall disintegrate the pieces that spill over into it.


    The entire walkway in front of Serras is a spray of ichor.


    Name: Adris fehl Dain
    Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
    Sex: Male
    Age: 3*

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

    Powers:

    [Piercing Death] - “Produces blade-like aura at the point of penetration, destroying a creature from the inside. Of no use if you can’t hit, it’s a mortally wounding strike, otherwise.”

    [Tool Savant] - “Adris is a tool-collecting-and-utilizing fanatic. Most men would consider him disgusting for loving tools more than his own partner.”

    Disposition: Deplorable / Adaptable / Sarcastic
    Alignment: Chaotic

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

    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please load additional feature.”

    Beauty:

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

    Description:

    “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.”

    Commentary:

    “Surely this is the protagonist. Or did I mix him up with the antagonist? It might be a bit odd, but he is surely the focus of the story from the perspective of the reader. Neither devil nor saint, he’s consistently Adris. Perhaps that should be his alignment, instead… Though the author might borrow the name, this character is considered to be the epitome of what the author would not do, so please enjoy his suffering.”


    Name: Serras fehr Almet
    Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
    Sex: Female
    Age: 3*

    Occupation: Manslayer; Xin’Reh (former/disavowed); Soldier of Fortune; Bounty Hunter
    Discipline: Sword Warlord; Aura Warrior, School/Discipline: Self-Taught

    Disposition: Chilling / Hateful / Nostalgic
    Alignment: Chaotic

    Eyes: Black
    Hair: Shining Black
    Skin: Tanned

    Powers:

    [Unnamed Techniques] - “Serras has mastered many annoyingly powerful techniques over her lifetime, though I wonder if she’ll ever thank the person who helped her do it?”

    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please load additional feature.”

    Beauty:

    C-Value - “Her beauty is perhaps like the lingering and deathly frostbite of a frozen winter night? While you might seek out her slender, yet womanly, body, mayhaps all you shall taste is the dirt? Unless your name is Adris, in which case you still might taste your own blood? A solid, desirable nightmare clad in flesh, like moths, men are drawn, but is it the beauty that calls to them or the hatred underneath...? Is it any wonder that she has never married?”

    Description:

    “A cold beauty who rejects pleasantries, she seems more committed to her blade than to belonging to humanity. Why she follows Adris can be explained by the tortuous path their relationship has taken to reach the tomb they are in. Though they fight like more than siblings, and have committed to the future together, perhaps there’s more to be said and little time to say it? If Adris is the brains, then Serras is surely… The only person she seems to care about other than herself is, oh… nevermind.”

    Commentary:

    “Surely she is the primary heroine! No? What, she’s moe, ain’t she!? I’ll fucking murder you, you little piece of-!”

    Flitter Light - “ Relatively cheap aura tool which uses contained aura to produce a light that is invisible to anyone without at least marginal aura sensitivity.”

    Inner Expanse - “The interior world of an aura user, where the techniques they claim reside in, and where their aura circulates around in. It can be best understood as being a mental body overlapping their physical one.”

    Xin - “World of the main character’s origin. A broken, floating continent contained within the clouds that never part. A place where aura reigns, and life is harsh.”

    Xin’El - “The people of Xin. Of them, the two mentioned are the Emperor’s Children (unmentioned, but comprising the populace of the Emperor’s domains) and the Southern Barbarians, who reside more towards the great torch sun and live in warmer lands.”

    First Emperor - “The true lord of Xin, the uniter of all Xin’El, and the absolute tyrant of a long-lost period. Nobody recalls his name, and for that, we should be grateful.”

    Aura - “The power of the world of Xin. A strength obtained by reaching out to the environment and allowing the secrets of the world into your own body. Allows the user to produce many strange and supernatural effects. Decides the person’s place in the world, as only the strongest users of aura can be said to be secure.”

    Clear Mind - “The mental state reached when one becomes perfectly serene and wrenches free their own aura, giving it form for the first time and allowing them to utilize it. This is the first thing a prospective aura user must achieve.”

    Power of Spirit - “The discipline of training related to the soul, of which Adris is proficient. The aura training of elevating one’s spirit to rise above a mortal outlook and achieve a divine one, so as to grow in ability.”

    Acuity of Mind - “The discipline of training related to externalizing power, of which Serras is a master of. Techniques related to the externalization of one’s aura, requiring as much concentration as they do power.”

    High Benefactor Soldon - “The foremost collector of the Emperor’s artifacts, and the man that Adris and Serras rolled over to obtain the book needed to find the tomb.”

    Aura Revenant- “Undead-like creatures created by the mixing of two great fetishes: failing to properly ascend in power, and corpse repurposing for tomb guarding. They have all of their powers in mortal life, plus unyielding bodies that fear no death. If they were not in disrepair, not even Serras could’ve beaten them.”

    Spear Veteran - “One whose capacity with the spear relates not to developed raw talent, but rather to constant life and death struggle with the weapon. If you use a weapon for long enough in combat, congratulations, you’ve survived for a reason. Often self-taught, these veterans make use of any dirty trick and technique at their disposal to live another day longer.”

    Sword Warlord - “One whose capacity with the sword extends beyond mere talent, merging with plentiful combat and duel experience to become a force on the battlefield. Unlike saints, who receive proper instruction, warlords are often self-taught or of poor instructors, consigned to survive by equal parts developed talent, and a veteran fighter’s developed guile and intuition.”
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  3. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 2: First Fight

    Walking up while drenched in sweat, but trying to appear casual, Adris plucks his own spear from the bisected corpse of his opponent. The adrenaline and loss of aura leaves his head buzzing. He sniffs the air, smelling the odor of burnt meat from the trap hall.


    “Serras, you just destroyed our trail! Those bread crumbs are ash, now! What am I supposed to do, dance backwards?” Adris falsely complains at first, then tries to level off the complaint with his joke. “Do you like seeing me shake my ass that much?”

    Serras looks unamused, dark even, as she ignores the jest.


    As the only other creature in the room dies with a pathetic death rattle, Serras’ sword briefly glows red, evaporating the gore on it.

    Adris automatically flicks his own spear, throwing off the partially wet ichor, before reducing its size and sheathing it.


    As he uncomfortably waits for a response, she simply walks off, moving back toward their entry point to gaze within it.


    (Do we not even have time for humor anymore? It’s not as if I can’t throw the lever.)


    Adris thinks back on older days. When forced to kill together, his levity after the fact has always brought some release from it.

    He and she have often had only each other to lean on in the aftermath, his voice a balm for their tiredness.


    Walking down the hallway and concentrating on her handiwork, he is a bit worried by his discovery.

    A great sheet of green ice has overtaken the entire wall, sealing a disgusting lifeform within. The technique only thaws with the absolute death of its drained victim.


    (In and of itself, that is normal. What is not, is its potency.)

    The extra aura in the air is causing the green ice to expand as it’s absorbed.

    (She shouldn’t be using this within the thick, ambient energy of this tomb. It could grow without end, sealing us inside.)


    “All in all, hardly a threat. Even monsters like that aren’t much on ice! Though I wouldn’t use more of it…” Adris cheerfully boasts, waving his hand towards Serras contribution. She looks back at him while standing next to the trap tunnel, then glances at the ice.

    Examining the ichor and destruction in the room, Serras shows a displeased face again, lips tight and jaw clenched.


    (What is this? The one who likes violence is you, right…?)


    Adris is discouraged, unable to get even a retort from her.

    Always unhappy with his words, but ever silent to them, Adris is no longer capable of getting the woman he’s fought by his entire adult life to respond to his jests.


    She barely even listens to his suggestions, now.


    The year-long trek to discover the Emperor’s inheritance has bleached the last joy from their partnership.

    The last time he held her was… weeks ago.


    Adris focuses on the thick aura flowing from the antechamber ahead.

    Even more pronounced than the rapture of Serras’ own aura during her childhood awakening, the ambient air in the burial complex is energizing and lingering.


    Passively absorbing it as he walks, his peculiar body constitution helps him to recover from the great expenditure of his relatively meager aura reserves.

    He thinks about the Serras who has no such ability and wonders if she has saved enough of her energy for the possible dangers ahead.


    His drunkenness increases as he continues forward, scouting out the hallway himself before letting Serras follow…




    Entering the dark hallway, Adris’ light barely illuminates the walls, much less ahead.


    (That was a hell of an awakening. Even Fatso was dumbstruck.)


    It’s an ancient memory.
    Old memories are surfacing in this buried tomb, the shadows playing about him now bringing to the surface things Adris rarely recalls.


    In their childhood, Adris had been Serras’ impromptu teacher; her, his first pupil, yet also his only hope for survival.

    The fat bastard that had owned them both had given him a year and a day to awaken her to [clear mind]. Such a mental state is only reached when one becomes perfectly serene and wrenches free their own aura, giving it form for the first time and allowing development.


    (How bizarre it is, to define myself by the most hellish time in my life? Nothing has ever been like those days.)


    Adris had possessed no real options then, other than to direct his sense of urgency at the young, mute Serras.

    Other instructors had beaten their students into submission or formed longer-term trusts to help them cultivate.

    He was forced to make Serras dependent on him in every way to forcibly gain her trust.


    Their tempos had fused into one during that year. With her a brute even at that age, she’d awakened incredible power only with equally brutal efforts.


    Fatso, their purported overseer, had inculcated in Adris one talent: manipulating others to his own ends, using their weaknesses and strengths equally.


    They had achieved enormous success as a false family, but only Serras and he had remained together: one body and mind, but increasingly distant hearts.

    (To go from total strangers to family is… completely odd.)


    Even for Adris, who was already missing something important as a human when Fatso had picked him up, their whirlwind youth seems strange to reflect on.


    Which is why they never do.


    Adris had made steep promises and told her of awful horrors for her failure.

    He’d protected her from other students seeking revenge.

    Had taken her place for beatings, both real and imaginary.


    Fatso had given Adris free reign and ample support to motivate her, as long as the process showed results.


    They’d survived and escaped, even after being forced to kill: him, by necessity; her, out of perhaps anger.


    (The air smells like then, when she killed Fatso.)


    There had been little left of the corpse when Adris had arrived, only Serras standing drenched in blood in a tent painted red.

    Adris’ own arm was dripping the life of the other instructor, Fatso’s rival.


    He’d always wondered what had transpired between the two.

    She’d borne no signs of assault, but also had never spoken of that night again.

    Not even while drinking would she relax enough to remember it, except to say that he’d never touched her.


    Neither of them have ever really been liberated from the heaviness of those murders, even though they escaped the Xin’Reh detachment thanks to them.

    Not even killing later for survival could replace that night in his nightmares.


    He’d never wanted Serras to have to kill Fatso.

    That was Adris’ ambition.
    Fatso and he had agreed on that, a private matter between gentlemen.


    In the end, the battle in the statue room is just another feather in their caps. Even something as horrifying as aura revenants can be overcome through Serras’ power and his support.


    (“Serras is the sword; Adris is the hand that guides the sword.”)

    Adris replays a line from his memories, spoken to him so often. Repeated even more times than forced on him to say, it is like a religious rite, even now.


    Look out for her.
    Take care of her.
    Think ahead for her.
    Keep others from finding out about her.

    Without her-


    Adris is brought out of his deep thoughts by abruptly reaching a closed door.

    Surprised, he turns. He's startled to find that Serras is behind him, gazing at him with a haunted look. Shaking her head, she returns to her imperceptible, stoic face.


    He sighs, tired from the stress of his thoughts.

    (Isn’t the stress close by?)


    The thought that comes to him… he buries.


    Getting over his shock of zoning out from the aura drenching him, he discovers the door is a typical temple lock.

    The door frees itself with great difficulty when he presses the mechanism.


    Pushing open the heavy stone door, the exposed room beyond is lit for the first time in over four centuries. Within the room, as Adris swears he hears whispers subside, is…


    … a complete lack of opulence.


    While the earlier chamber was ornate and priceless, this one’s spartan nature makes the procession hall seem like a sick joke.

    Its architecture is unfinished, imprecise stonework. The only thing of worth in the room is a sarcophagus made entirely of an agate.

    Its short, fifteen-foot roof frames the eighty-square-foot room, the sarcophagus at the edge of a radial wall face beginning halfway in.


    “Empty.” Says Serras behind him, with almost a growl. “Destroyed.”


    Adris is forced to concur, scanning the room for traps as he also surveys the wreckage.

    The top of the sarcophagus is missing from it, chunks of it strewn about the room. The walls are scored and crumbling in spots.


    The thick aura is obviously leaking from the open sarcophagus, so thick that a wavering cloud forms above the place of internment.

    Only a simple meditation circle in the center of the room is safe from the unknown carnage.


    As for personal effects? There are none.

    The Emperor who had loved women, food, opulence, and bloodshed was buried with neither finery nor funerary gifts.

    Not even the massacred dead, which Adris had always secretly believed the Emperor would choose to be damned forever with, are to be found here.


    Believing the room free of traps, Adris sneaks up to the sarcophagus itself while Serras stays at the entrance.

    He peers into the ripped sarcophagus…


    A fully preserved body wrapped in fabric lies in its original state of internment. The cloth has survived the passage of time, suffering no degradation.

    The only contents apart from the body are an adjustable mask which covers the eyes and forehead, and a silver cross on top of its chest. Its gleaming form is embedded with four gems, one at each arm.


    Adris picks up both, pocketing the strange, silver mask as he looks over the cross.

    The flowing aura brings to realization the reason for the carnage.


    “The preserved body retained all of its aura within the fossilizing internal expanse. Over time, leakage built up…”

    Adris laughs uneasily. He’d expected an inheritance, but this is…


    (Serras is like a shallow pool in comparison.)


    Adris' mind boggles at the discovery.

    No feeling before this one could have prepared him for the shock he feels now.


    As though an ant has crept upon a god’s bed, Adris cannot find adequate words to describe the immense impression lashing at his mind as he stares down.

    (This sea of authority, even if only a fraction of it can be reclaimed, would make her substantially stronger.)


    When Adris began seeking the Emperor’s tomb after the rumor shared by his over-the-hill adorer Lady Yehrlis, a self-purported direct descendant of the Emperor’s lineage, he’d had little to go on but the novel idea that the Emperor had hidden his tomb within an enemy’s territory.

    Serras had considered it an idiotic pursuit when he’d approached her and vigorously attempted to dissuade him; but, his subtle manipulations in secret had turned up priceless information.

    The months taken and the small fortune spent to discover the first clue had pissed Serras off so much that she couldn’t talk. Only their joint conversation with the scholar whose debts Adris had repaid lightened her attitude.


    (Even I was surprised to discover they’d buried him alive as some sort of plot.)


    Adris grins wryly.

    The scholar had said that the Emperor laying before Adris had been interred alive, spells and tinctures used to preserve him for all time.

    Clues had taken Adris through multiple hostile temples, the last one being the Solar Ire sect, a hated foe. Serras had been forced to break him out after he’d been captured.


    “Soldon had a priceless artifact, yeah?”

    High Benefactor Soldon, the foremost collector of the Emperor’s artifacts, was a backwater regent, so getting in and out of his mansion was easy.


    (Though it was…)

    Strange how Serras didn’t show up at the meeting place, even though she’d annihilated most of the mansion and the situation was quite desperate. Instead, she’d sent word from outside of town on where to meet up.


    (Then again, she’s been oddly paranoid for years. Perhaps it’s good that she’s being more cautious?)


    Adris examines the cross in the light coming from his neck.


    Serras has never appreciated his way of life.

    When Adris smooth talks people and back stabs those who cross them, she historically would protest.

    At first, Adris thought it was a good thing, that the girl might have some principles greater than his own. He’d been secretly proud of her.


    When he was forced to carry out his deeds with more guile and surreptitious carefulness, he’d been surprised by the way she changed throughout their partnership.


    She grew…

    (Ever more brutal.)


    Bile is in Adris’ mouth as he considers how easy cruelty comes to her, even when she had been a child.

    Since she has always been strong, growing older never had a chance of changing her.


    Unlike Adris, who can pretend subservience, Serras has always been slow on words and fast to cut, seeing no point in manipulating others.

    She simply assigns them to “right” and “wrong.”


    Adris hasn’t been able to change this stance, forced to watch her kill, but…

    (How can I oppose it? I’m no saint.)

    He smirks, gazing longingly at the cross.


    While he rarely kills for gain when other options present, there is no harm in taking pleasure from ruining evil men.

    In fact, he takes pride in being an accomplished sinner and a professional liar.


    After all, he is manipulating them for Serras’ benefit, first and foremost.

    If he enjoys it and personally profits, it’s simply a bonus.


    Their differences in lifestyle are a topic they never discuss. They’d never agreed on how they should live, in the first place.


    They are simply together and always will be.


    It is strange, for Adris, to think that he has been the driving force for retrieving the Emperor’s remains, considering he will not be using them.

    (All I want is for us to be able to live openly.)

    If Serras is strong enough, then they won’t need to hide. In fact, they can simply hire on with a powerful faction and live a relatively easy life.


    She’d opposed him at first, but he’d roped her in, as always.

    (In the end, I was right. This year has become immensely profitable.)


    Adris smiles contentedly, as giving Serras a proper gift after all these lean years will feel quite delectable.

    When she takes the inheritance for herself, she’ll never have to be afraid of anyone.


    He puts the silver cross in the inner pocket of his robe, deciding to keep it as his prize. Finishing the inspection, he prepares to call back to Serras.


    Slamming his hand on the sarcophagus hard, he loudly says,

    “No problem~! With materials like these, anyone could become stronger, maybe even stronger than you, Serras~!” He lets a little sarcasm out to lighten the mood.


    His back hairs suddenly stand on end


    as he automatically flings himself at the far left wall, mustering all of the aura in his body to defend against an attack that slices through the skin at the right of his chest.


    In mid flight, he flips around to stare back at his previous spot.


    A sword is thrust lazily through empty air.

    A beautiful, emotionless face with black, gleaming, full-length hair is turned towards him, watching his flight.



    The woman's face is unreadable, even after trying to kill Adris.



    The buzzing in his ears from the sudden movement, combined with the intoxication of the air, makes it hard to vocally respond to this attack, especially while airborne.

    Adris' body decides to let his actions speak for him.


    Flinging out his arm, the sleeve rips apart violently.

    Dozens of razor-sharp projectiles swarm out from a hidden launcher strapped to his arm. The aura-powered blades whistle noisily as they fly to carve up his attacker.

    The woman agrees with his decision, chambering her sword to her lower right while leaning in, the blade glowing scarlet red.


    Adris reacts to the immense danger by running on the curved wall as he lands against it, his aura-lightened body scampering along it as red light quickly fills the room.

    A snake of scarlet aura disintegrates the blades in flight, before impacting with a floundering splash on the wall behind him. The wall explodes with the serpentine energy gouging into it, a great line of destruction following behind a running man defying gravity.

    When he rounds the end of the curve, he leaps towards the center of the room with all of his strength.

    Drawing his spear as he hits the ground, his back is slightly singed by his second near-death experience.


    Ears ringing from the deafening roar of the red snake, a non-functioning mind is ignored by his well-trained body. His defenses are now mostly solid, even if his spear thrust out before him quivers slightly.

    The girl turns like clockwork to face him, lifting her sword slowly and high with two, white-knuckled hands gripping firmly, entering into her chasing stance.


    Adris can’t make out what she is thinking, even though it should be considered one of his most well-mastered skills.

    All he can feel is numb fear and horrible confusion.

    With spear now filled with his aura, his tense body is ready to kick off. The woman is prepared in the same way, her sword glowing an ocean blue as she awaits his attack.


    After a moment passes, Adris’ mouth finally functions.


    “What are you doing?” The question is a choked whisper, completely failing to carry his disbelief.


    The woman blinks at the question, only lightly inclining her head, her stony face refusing to betray her thoughts.


    The two stand facing each other as the dust from the woman’s aura whip finally settles.

    Quiet fills the room.

    Fighting the urge to charge forward and gain the advantage, Adris’ spear is heavy, more a solid tree than a metal pole. The lack of breathing between them as the anticipation grows is becoming...



    “What the fuck are you doing! SERRAS!”

    Yelling out finally, Adris addresses his ambusher by name.



    Serras doesn't acknowledge her name at first, but then stares at him sharply, her eyes growing dark as her face contorts in anger.


    “Surviving.”


    Adris is confused at the response. Mental conditioning is telling him to flee, while his body tells him to both stand at Serras’ back and also to put his spear through her heart.


    “Did you think I’d let you get to it? To take it for yourself, so that you can throw me away? Like you’ve always tried to?”


    His eyes look past her to the sarcophagus, then back. Understanding his moving gaze, her lips go into a sneer, an expression Adris has never seen.


    “You thought I was dumb to your plans?”


    (Which ones?)

    Adris retorts to himself, lacking the ability to throw the question at her.


    “I can see it. You used to only look at others with those eyes. And now, you look at me with them. You think you’re clever. That I don’t know what you’re doing. What you’re thinking.”

    She brandishes her sword threateningly. Adris thrusts his spear out to menace her.

    The two shuffle their feet while changing stances, testing each other, as they tempt the other to close.


    “I know how you live. You’re just a thief and a liar.”


    Adris feels strange, for he’s never heard words like these from his partner. Serras doesn’t look like Serras: her face is the same, but everything else is dissimilar.

    He knows that he should say something, but he can’t determine what. Trying to convince her of anything is impossible when he has no plan.

    (No, what conceivable plan would fix this situation?)


    “I can’t trust you.” Serras spits, growing more furious at his lack of response. “I won’t let you lead me around anymore!”


    Adris feels hot.

    It might be the room, the succulent aura from the Emperor’s corpse, or something deeper, but he feels a dam long stoppered break in an instant.


    “'You can’t trust me'? Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to, you brat?” Adris growls, a voice he’s never directed at her before openly challenging her slander.

    Serras tenses when his voice deepens.


    Adris reaches in and hastily flings three daggers pulled from his robe, the sweeping movement resulting in pathetic throws by his usual, sharp standards.

    They fly screaming through the air, as her eyes narrow while tracking them.


    Serras easily dodges two of them with a sidestep, deflecting the third with a sharp juke of her blade. It bounces away, clanging loudly in the small room.


    “Huh? You think you’re tough shit because you can slaughter weaklings?!” Adris swaggers, looming larger, while venom comes to his words quite easily.

    “While you’re out butchering malcontents for mouthing off at you, I’ve been the one doing everything to keep you alive behind the scenes! If any of the hundreds of people who hate you were half as competent as me, you’d have been dead years ago!”


    Serras rushes him finally, sword flashing as she tries to enter the center between them. Adris moves in to keep her from taking it, thrusting sharply toward her.

    Catching her off guard with his longer reach, she clumsily kicks away, surrendering the center without forcing a confrontation.


    “You filled graveyards and painted walls red all across Sinli province, while I was getting us food and jobs! We’d have starved a dozen times if you couldn’t trust me!”

    (Wait. That’s not what I mean.)

    Adris tries to interject, to stop himself. His mouth is moving independently of his brain, a strange occurrence.


    As he resets his stance and glares her down, Serras begins to stare down at the floor, though Adris can’t understand why.

    Taking your eyes off the enemy is wrong.


    (Wait, does that make me the enemy?)

    The situation doesn't match Adris' definition of their relationship. The whole plan is coming undone and he doesn't know why.


    “Huh? You think you’re hot shit, now? Who had your back when ten families all came to flay you alive for killing their sons at a party, just because one of them tried to taste a cold beauty?” Adris sneers, bringing up an old memory he’s often reminded her of.

    “I guess I did screw up if you never learned how to say ‘no, thank you, sir, I find you ugly’ using words, instead of getting the message across by opening his throat with your blade.”


    Serras lifts her head to lock eyes with his, her countenance suddenly as vicious as Adris'.

    “What did you teach me? I watch you con people that you offer to help. You take a reward with one hand and stab them in the back with the other!”


    When she moves to close in again, Adris kicks dust up at her, lunging forward stupidly after distracting her only to be rebuffed by her blade. Falling back with an expletive, he gets back into a defensive posture, confused to see that she hasn’t pursued to capitalize on his sloppy mistake.

    “And who gets to survive because of it? It’s not like we have a lot of options. You’ve got us on every provincial bounty roll in most of Xin!”

    His grip has his knuckles white, too, as he holds onto his spear, still shaking as he mocks her. Angry, scared, confused, and vindictive, the only face Adris can manage now is one that he hopes will cowl her.


    “Survive? I don’t need you to survive.”

    Serras’ dispassionate response causes Adris’ knees go weak for a moment, feeling his heart stop briefly with immense pain. But the acid soon fills his throat, followed by rage.

    He lashes out, feinting his spear wildly, moving in to get through a dropped guard. His partner ignores a feint she's seen a few hundred times, batting away his spear and shuffling to close as he retreats.


    “You’d be dead already if I didn’t constantly save you.”

    His cold statement results in Serras’ hateful glare, her response a surprise.

    “Like you saved Torrel?” The deep hatred in her eyes is inextricably tied to a long dead name.

    Adris’ mind thinks back on that name, as Adris’ body continues to move on its own.


    “Torrel?” Adris laughs, for the man had died for interesting reasons. “Save him?” He sneers, dismissing outright the idea of “salvation” for the man in question. “No, no, he’s the best example of what I mean.”

    A quick jab sparks off Serras’ sword as Adris attempts to circle her, but he dives back when Serras’ answer is a vertical line of death.

    The wild wave of aura slashing out from her blade cuts a trough in the floor, chips and pieces striking Adris as he rolls up into a guard.


    Serras bares her teeth. “Example? Saving him would mean that… you hadn’t…”


    “Let him die?” Adris asks monotonously. “If we’re going to…” He chokes, momentarily. “… be honest, then: sure.”

    Adris starts to feel a little emotional about this story, as he taps his spear’s butt on the stonework.

    “Except I didn’t let him die. I specifically killed him.”


    Serras lurches forward with her aura leaking uncontrollable malevolence, as Adris instantly assumes a deeper stance. She throws another wild wave of raw aura at him, a screaming, bright blade beam which he avoids by inverting himself with an aura-infused jump to touch the ceiling.

    Launching off of it to strike at Serras, his well-timed counter goes wide as she nimbly escapes with a speed Adris rarely sees equal his. As the usually aggressive woman retreats, he also retreats upon landing.

    They exit threat of each other for yet another reset.


    “And it saved your life, you stupid bitch.”


    Serras stops her next charge, confused by the insulting revelation delivered with a breathless, rasping voice.

    “Well, yeah, beauty of my dreams.” Adris starts rambling, beside himself with indignation at Serras’ stupidity, while also using the lull to recover his own stamina.

    “Torrel might’ve been a good man to look at, but what was inside was decayed. While you were flashing innocent eyes at him, all he was wondering was how he was going to get your body.” Adris laughs rudely, as Serras incenses further at the allusion to betrayal by her.


    “Problem is, he wanted it two ways.” Adris says, as he swings his spear around and then points it at her. “After he would’ve had you, he’d have had his second helping… of your heart.”


    A blank look of confusion comes to Serras, as she for some reason prepares to guard against an unseen attack.

    “Torrel was a spy, you idiot, one for the Empty Crypt sect. He didn’t want you. He just wanted your particulars. ‘Heart of Serras’.” Adris sighs, wondering why she still hasn’t figured this out after so many years.

    “Getting to taste your other parts, that would’ve just been a bonus.”

    As Serras looks shocked, Adris finishes her off with the man's fate, “So I let him taste something nice..." Adris snarls through clenched teeth.


    "I cut off his legs and arms, and buried him alive.”


    When Serras flinches, Adris feels happy for the first time in recent memory.


    “’Empty Crypt’ became ‘occupied barrow’!”


    He laughs madly at his own joke, as Serras goes white.


    “Called it an attack by bounty hunters, fluffed the details a little, and everything worked out.”

    (I still have the scar from faking it.)

    “I’m so terribly sorry for not letting you sleep with him first…” Adris apologizes, though feels no real shame at his actions. “I suppose you had gotten tired of me? Or maybe you thought that liar was a good man where I am not? Sorry, but he managed to be… even more disappointing than I am.”


    Shaking in embarrassment, Serras’ eyes go unfocused while Adris looks pleased.


    Then, the same snarl as before returns to her mouth, her body visibly calming.

    “That’s okay. I saved you, too.” She purrs, with suddenly soft eyes filled with something much crueler than love.


    Adris freezes. The blood drains from his mind.


    (The smell was awfully familiar.)


    “What did you do.” Not so much a question as an accusation, Adris already knows the answer.

    “You thought of a way out, too. With all your petty schemes. I’d follow you, you know.” Serras speaks, a wistful voice Adris has never heard before coming out. “The village of Ner’ja hurt me.”


    Without any control over it, Adris' spear lashes out three times. Serras effortlessly parries the strikes while still smiling, her nimble footwork almost a joyful prance.

    (Stop smiling.)

    “Yes, even you have to admit it now. That girl and her father, you had plans with them, right?” A terribly unnerving smile, animated in a way she rarely is, prompts Adris to confirm an old plot.


    Wellek and his daughter Vishra.

    A merchant and his spoiled princess in the Spine of Divinity region. Moderately wealthy. Very pliable.

    Adris had considered going on with Wellek, to stay. To escape being hunted.


    He wasn’t trying to… leave Serras. He’d planned for her to stay, too, as a bodyguard to the family.


    “I’d never seen you truly smile as often as while we stayed in that town.”

    (A terrible smell. Very familiar. Always close. Like when I hold her.)


    “The problem with your love,” Serras starts, speaking more words today than in months. “Was it being all in your head. The merchant wanted your brain. And the daughter wanted a bad man. You were… dashing. You are always dashing.”

    Looking drunk on her story, Serras begins walking towards him with no defense, her calmness more powerful than any of her deadly techniques. Adris falls back, overwhelmed by her open guard.


    “So… I came with a fat bounty notice, and asked if he had seen it. He said yes.”


    (I see. So I was played. Good game.)

    Adris’ stomach knots, even as his survival instincts are secretly thankful.


    “The daughter was happy, too. They offered to help. The merchant had poison.”

    (All too realistic.)


    Adris falls deeper into his misery, finding the memory of Vishra’s face revolting now.


    “When he asked if poison was fine,”

    Serras closes her eyes and smiles amiably.




    “I couldn’t help myself.”

    (I know.)




    A feint thrust at her face turns into a thrust to her torso, but Adris can’t find his footing or aim. She stops moving towards him, dodging both thrusts by simply turning her body as she pulls back, but makes no attempt to return the blows.

    Adris can’t feel his legs as he tries to recover.


    When Adris had gone back to discuss finalizing a business transaction, he had found the merchant and Vishra.

    All of their loose money had been taken. Their sitting room had been repainted; but, they had been in one piece.

    He’d run away, only to have Serras find him later, asking where he’d been during their stay in the town.

    (Which is why… I didn’t think… it was you.)


    Because Serras doesn’t mislead. She’s not… smart enough to hide a lie...


    “Ahahahaha!”

    Adris is startled from his despair, when Serras laughs crazily after opening her eyes. Her laugh, too, is something he hasn’t heard in… ages.

    “Maybe I am dumb, but you know.” Serras words are teasing, all of Adris’ humor having rubbed off on her. “It’s not like you’re god, brother. You didn’t think it was me. When I found you trying to run away from me, I was a bit angry.”

    (But I wasn’t going to run away from you.)


    He was only hedging his bets. Like he has always done. Like he knows he has to do.

    Set them up now, son, to use them later.” That was how he’d been taught.

    Fatso had been strict and informative.


    Serras, drunk on her reverie, continues to hurl abuse in an uncharacteristic tirade.

    “Getting angry at me for killing? It’s what I do best! You lie to officials. You steal from them for fun. Every night after you win, you laugh and talk and drink and brag. You are happier to rob them than to taste my body on the same night!” She yells petulantly, shaking her sword.


    “At least I rob rich men, instead of cutting up soldiers for fun! Or is it more than fun? Is that how you feel joy?”

    It's a thought Adris has kept to himself for a long time, suddenly freed to be used as a weapon against her.


    “What do you care? We were never really soldiers. At least killing is honest, unlike you! For you to play around with our money, using it on... just ridiculous schemes to swindle powerful men...” Serras' leering face has a childish anger to it that Adris can't explain.

    "Are you really going to be a hypocrite about me cutting up scum? 'They deserved it!' That's always your justification! Why don't the ones I cut up deserve it, brother? Because it inconveniences you!?"


    Adris reaches into his robe, searching for a trinket. When Serras readies her sword in response finally, his hand comes back with nothing, taking back up his spear.

    “I spend most of our money buying off pursuers! Putting down suspicion! Bribing town watches and elders!” Adris spits, his mind on fire as he thinks of how to win this confrontation. “At least when I swindle someone, they don’t know who I am! You just march out and leave heads in the dirt! You malevolent wildcat!”


    He stabs like a fool at nothing in particular.


    “Arrogant, self-absorbed liar!”


    She parries his spear, but doesn’t riposte.


    “Witless, battle drunk, spoiled whelp!”


    He somehow comes within her close range. Unsure how, he resorts to rudely punching her in the face, while she counters by kneeing him in the stomach. They both stagger back, bruised by the powerful blows.


    “Ha, ha! You should know, you raised me!” She growls, slashing her sword wide with a laugh, as a bit of blood leaks onto her red lips. “Am I not the perfect weapon? Isn’t that what you and Jilahn wanted?”


    Adris grows fearful at this accusation. He has never spoken of…

    “‘Perfect talent and peerless blade.’ Jilahn called me ‘bloody little war goddess.’ He and you both let me crush any other slave I wanted to in sparring. They’d be tatters by the end.” Suddenly curious, she asks, “You never had a title, though. Why?”


    (Because I wasn’t important. I was “assistant.”)


    “You spent a year making me trust you. I believed in you.” Serras looks almost longingly at Adris. “You and I had our first time together.”

    She moves forward, leveling her blade at his neck, ready to thrust.

    “How useful was that to reaching ‘clear mind?’ Jilahn told me a lot the night he popped.”

    (I don’t know. I did what Fatso told me to do. It seemed… fine. Wouldn’t his explanation have been sufficient? Fatso’s explanations were ever thorough.)


    “When you pushed me down while I was wearing the necklace you gave me, what were you thinking when you kissed me? Was it how useful I’d be in saving your life?”

    “Yes… no…” Adris blurts out, an admission streaming without guile. “At first, I didn’t understand what I wanted, but then I held you and I was scared. Then, you held me back. I don’t know what I was thinking. Whatever I thought at first, by the end...”


    Lowering his spear, Adris tries to find the words to say that will solve this, but instead only random thoughts appear.

    (I’m usually more articulate than this.)


    “I just… wanted you.”


    Looking at him silently as he admits disconnected truths, Serras asks a hard question.

    “Is it a lie, or the truth? I’ve known you my whole life and…”

    With a sad look, Serras attacks Adris’ very soul.


    “I don’t know.”

    Adris almost wretches at those words, with them cutting far deeper than he imagined possible.


    Looking behind her, finally completely taking her eyes off of him for the first time since this began, she asks a quiet question.

    "Why would I think you want me to have this... power, when it's what you've wanted your whole life?"

    (... No... That's, not... untrue, but it's also not...)


    "Stupid! Why would I come down here with you if I was going to steal it for myself!?"

    (Excepting the revenants... everything else I could deal with... right?)


    Adris suddenly considers that that was always an option.

    Looking to where her eyes go, the drunken feeling assaulting him is enticing beyond his capability to hide.


    "Right. Even if you say you need me, the moment I take my eyes off of your quick hands... If it's you, I bet you could do it."

    Serras voice is chilly as Adris' eyes lock back on her. She'd been waiting for him to look too, so she could gauge his true feelings.

    The disappointed look on her face is her verdict.


    "I would never throw you away!"

    A yell fills the small chamber, the man's voice desperate.


    Tilting her head, mouth firm, her eyes soften as she considers the statement.


    “Is that the truth? Do even you know what is a lie and what isn't, anymore?” She asks, curious at who Adris really is. “Are you sure you'd let me have it?"

    Looking sad again when all Adris can do is let his mouth hang open stupidly, she asks the worst question yet.


    "What am I? A tool? Or a partner?”

    Adris is silent. It hurts too much to try to retort or explain himself.

    This question makes Adris conflicted, indignant, self-loathing, and angry.


    “If you really trust me,”

    Her eyes are unwavering.


    “Then how did you know to dodge?”


    Before he can muster an articulate response, a commotion comes from behind him.


    “They're up ahead!”


    Name: Adris fehl Dain
    Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
    Sex: Male
    Age: 3*

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



    Powers:

    [Piercing Death] - “Produces blade-like aura at the point of penetration, destroying a creature from the inside. Of no use if you can’t hit, it’s a mortally wounding strike, otherwise.”

    [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.”



    Disposition: Deplorable / Adaptable / Sarcastic
    Alignment: Chaotic

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



    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please load additional feature.”



    Beauty:

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

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



    Description:

    “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?”



    Commentary:

    “Well, apparently he is the protagonist. If he thinks he’s getting out of this alive, he’s wrong at least once. Was what was said about him correct? Perhaps…?”





    Name: Serras fehr Almet
    Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
    Sex: Female
    Age: 3*

    Occupation: Manslayer; Xin’Reh (former/disavowed); Soldier of Fortune; Bounty Hunter
    Discipline: Sword Warlord; Aura Warrior, School/Discipline: Self-Taught

    Disposition: Chilling / Hateful / Nostalgic
    Alignment: Chaotic

    Eyes: Black
    Hair: Shining Black
    Skin: Tanned



    Powers:

    [Rising Wave] - “In contrast to neutral, unformed waves, this one was specifically designed by her to deal little damage, but have the highest kinetic impact. Useful for clearing the area.”

    [Eternal Ice] - “A prison of ice which leaches aura from the one frozen within, killing them like a spider as it sucks them dry. Because it is not discriminate, in areas of high aura, it will expand until it fills the area, only crumbling when the aura within depletes.”

    [Shadows Converge] - “Calling forth aura to create duplicates made of the very shadows around her, Serras is capable of engaging multiple foes at once. Truly, this is the pinnacle of her fighting style: overwhelming her enemy and butchering them without affording a defense.”

    [Oceanic Might] - “Nothing more than a titanic club, there is no subtlety or style to this technique. It will simply absolutely destroy what it hits, like an ocean wave dashing a ship upon the rocks.”



    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please load additional feature.”



    Beauty:

    C-Value - “Her beauty is perhaps like the lingering and deathly frostbite of a frozen winter night? While you might seek out her slender, yet womanly, body, mayhaps all you shall taste is the dirt? Unless your name is Adris, in which case you still might taste your own blood? A solid, desirable nightmare clad in flesh, like moths, men are drawn, but is it the beauty that calls to them or the hatred underneath...? Is it any wonder that she has never married?”



    Description:

    “A cold beauty who rejects pleasantries, she seems more committed to her blade than to belonging to humanity. Why she follows Adris can be summarized by the tortuous path their relationship has taken to reach the tomb they are in. Though they fight like more than siblings, and have committed to the future together, perhaps there’s more to be said and little time to say it? If Adris is the brains, then Serras is surely… The only person she seems to care about other than herself is, oh… nevermind.”

    “As it is, all of her misgivings towards Adris seem to be very old wounds that never had the time, nor reason, to heal. If even half of what she said was true, then what does that say about him? And herself…? I suppose we’ll never know.”



    Commentary:

    “Well, well, well, how the turn tables. Did you think she was the primary heroine? Though that might be interesting… sadly, the world is cruel to our protagonist. By the end, he will probably wish she was.”

    Torrel - “A member of the Empty Crypt sect. Tried to take Serras into his accompaniment, was murdered by Adris for his efforts.”

    Wellek and Yishra - “A wealthy merchant and his spoiled daughter. Were murdered by Serras for trying to steal Adris away from her.”

    Internal Expanse - “The place within an aura user which constitutes their inner world and where their aura gathers. It can be said to be their true soul.”

    Jilahn/Fatso - "A terrible man who is to blame for everything. At the very least, he's where things started to go definitively astray for both of them?"

    Silver Cross and Mask - “The last possessions of the First Emperor. These must be of minor importance.”
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  4. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 3: Final Farewell

    Turning to look, Adris sees armor he recognizes entering the room.

    Throwing himself to a wall and his pack towards the Emperor's sarcophagus, he points his spear at the door as five Xin’Reh soldiers charge in and take up aggressive stances towards him.

    Their swords and spears glow faintly, hinting at the aura alloy composing them. Their coppery, lamellar chest protectors and fitted, ceramic body armor gleam in the flitterlight.


    A full team of militant aura users catches Adris off guard.

    His worst nightmare is now complete.

    (How the fuck did you-)


    Adris’ mind clears in an instant. The most dangerous one is wearing a commander's sash with a green, leafless tree on a red background.

    (Fuck you, you should be dead!)

    Soldon's adjutant stands before him, the ugly man's beady eyes burning with anger as he points his green spear at Adris' neck. When last Adris saw the man's bruised, but now healing, face, Serras was thoroughly humiliating him in a one-sided brawl.

    There's hesitation in the man's gaze, though. The anger doesn't translate to a lethal bloodlust, yet. The man looks more inclined to try to...


    Adris moves himself in front of the soldiers, standing between them and Serras.

    Trying to protect her, he prepares to charge in when -


    “Lady Serras, we’re here to back you up.”


    The leader.


    “Capture him!”


    Wearing Soldon’s colors,


    speaks.





    Adris’ eyes glaze over.

    The soldiers before him are hostile towards him. When they entered, none were hostile towards Serras, a fact yet unchanged.


    Adris is no longer shaking, for the nervousness disappears completely. The events of the past few minutes drop from his mind as he decides solely to survive.

    It all vanishes away, leaving only a burning pain.


    (All of Serras’ victims were other provinces’ soldiers. Serras disappeared after the assault on Soldon. The detachment always managed to find us, no matter how hard I tried. Facts that I was purposefully not connecting.)

    There was the trap tunnel, too. The trail vanished when the fire incinerated it halfway. It was never completed, meaning their presence here is intended.

    (She noticed the lever. And this idiot is alive.)

    She’d led them straight to him, guessing what the switch’s function was. And this man is serving her.


    He is already moving towards the Soldon guards before his mind and body reach agreement. Adris resorts to expending all of his emergency tricks: aura tools, mystical artifacts that can focus a user’s aura to create a defined effect.

    Pulling free an aura tool shaped like a brass funnel, and bearing the Emperor’s sigil, he puts the small end to his mouth and injects a third of his remaining aura into it through his lips.


    No sound comes out, but the air shakes. Even the walls quiver.


    The soldiers are buffeted by the unheard, yet discordant, noise.

    Their ears start to bleed, their consciousnesses wavering as they lose balance. Only the commander, whose aura control is superior to the effect, ignores its devastating noise. A brief distraction is the only effect on him.

    Adris pounces like a tiger, capitalizing on the disruption and making an audacious preemptive attack. Planting spear point into the face of one of the stunned guards, the man's right eye bursts as his socket is hollowed out.

    Dipping into his brain, Adris is sure of this kill.


    Adris yanks his spear out as he kicks the man away like trash, bringing the sharp edge of the spear down into the leg of the man cowering next to his first victim, striking on the backside of the man’s armored shinguard. Slashing at a tendon, he drops the cursing soldier to the ground with the sweep.

    Before Adris can land his feet, the commander thrusts his shining, green spear for Adris’ chest.


    The man's evil eyes show no hesitation, now. Nobody left alive and upright still intends to capture Adris, especially not this bastard.


    Adris interposes his left hand between himself and the green spear, a piece of metal folding out from his sleeve.

    A metal barrier appears before him, capturing the attacking spear and wrapping around it. Tying up like wrapping cloth and rendering it mostly useless, it drastically increases the weight of the spear, dropping it to the ground with a metallic thud.


    Landing in a guard, Adris prepares to attack, but the commander circulates his own aura, a shining burst ripping the tool off of the spear’s head.

    Another thrust begins for Adris as the enemy spear rises, just as swift as Adris' own would be.


    Adris is already injecting aura into a small ball he’s produced in his palm, flicking it towards the man while Adris closes his eyes.

    The ball explodes into a blinding flash of light, the incoming thrust of the commander’s spear going wide with a jerk as a spectral, green-turtle’s mouth gouges out the entire area to the left of Adris.


    (If you're not going to die easily, then die horribly.)

    As the flash persists, Adris pulls out a wrapped, paper circle bound in string, throwing it towards the burning flash. He pulls the string in mid flight, releasing a red disk that explodes violently upon meeting the floating flames.

    Adris throws himself out of the activated disk’s rapidly expanding red mist, rolling to safety as the soldiers within the obscuring cloud begin to violently cough.


    (Serras was behaving strangely? Not a big surprise. She was never good at hiding anything she was thinking about. At least the traps I left delayed excess reinforcements.)

    Adris had secretly re-activated a number of the traps that Serras thought were disabled.

    (Five soldiers out of a detachment? Unlikely. More on the way. I need to run.)

    Adris cannot beat a detachment of Xin’Reh and their supporters. Defeating five in an instant used all of his deadly trinkets, and relied upon them being incapable of responding.

    Serras might be able to defeat a detachment if she has sufficient territorial advantage and ambush, but only an ascended being could defeat a complex full of angry, trained aura users who can coordinate.


    Rather than run, though, his body turns, moving towards Serras.

    He levels his spear at the girl and charges.


    (I can’t win.)

    Adris’ mind is rejecting this charge. But, he can’t stop his own body.

    Something within him is crumbling, the logic he prides himself on being murdered by the appalling feelings he now holds towards his partner.


    As he hears the liquids spilling onto the floor at the soldiers’ feet confirming his flank's safety, Adris moves with all of the speed he can muster.

    A short distance grows ever shorter, Serras' face stupidly blank as he approaches.


    He calculates his only chance for victory, a process that takes surprisingly little time, and begins his mental countdown.


    ([Rising Wave] loses to [Impossible Pivot].)


    Serras, suddenly with steel in her strike as death approaches, pulls an aura wave from the ground with her blazing sword.

    Adris’ right foot catches to the ground as he rushes in and his whole leg twists inhumanly. Dragging his body to throw him to the right as he rolls on the ground, this movement bypasses the wave. Stumbling up, he charges again from a new vector.


    ([Eternal Ice] cannot be used due to the concentration of aura in the room. The range dictates [Shadows Converge].)


    Serras brings darkness out of the room lit by the flashing bomb, her swaying body momentarily wavering as she prepares to charge with the shadows.

    Plentiful shadows exist to be used, lit as the room is by the lingering flash bomb. Adris pulls out a rare Acuity of Mind technique from his repertoire, one he had… coincidentally learned from the Solar Ire sect.

    From him issues a scintillating light accompanied by a ringing bell, an expanding force that consumes every shadow in the room. The technique, stunning him for a second from the recoil. It leaves Serras with time to attack before he does, even as her shadows are consumed around her.

    She moves toward him with a familiar, blue aura winding up around her sword, looking like a mountain giant preparing to squash him flat.


    ([Oceanic Might] will fall to [Flea Flicker].)


    As Serras’ blue-bound blade slams into the ground in front of Adris, absolutely pulverizing the space where he once was, Adris is already flying directly backwards at enormous speeds by utilizing a technique he has kept hidden, even from Serras.

    Pulling free his last trinket, he flicks a paper doll in Serras’ direction. As he hits the wall and climbs it like an escaping roach, easily maintaining his momentum, the paper doll folds out like reverse origami, becoming a doppelganger of him that charges through the dust kicked up from Serras’ strike.

    Reaching the top of the room, Adris flings himself over to the Emperor’s sarcophagus, while Serras bisects the doppelganger in place of him.


    Adris prepares to throw his spear.

    Even as he still wants to stand next to her, Adris is instead preparing to end her life. His heart is melting from the stress of his emotions and the aura rapidly draining from him.

    (Why am I killing you, Serras?)

    Adris rears back with all of his might, adding an enormous amount of aura from the room to his spear. His spear wobbles and groans with a metallic, wrenching sound as it accepts un-attuned aura straight from the environment.


    Only someone with low Acuity of Mind, but high Power of Spirit, can serve as a tuning fork for external aura, at the cost of his internal organs distorting along with his energizing spear.

    The weapon, his only wife for sixteen years, will never be useful again. Its internal mechanism completely deforms as the pole begins to twist.


    (I don’t want to kill you, but also…)

    Adris can’t not do it. It’s just…


    … principle, at this point.





    Betrayal is betrayal.





    As Adris prepares to release his technique, he feels a terror that brings him back to the day of Serras’ awakening.


    Even though she isn’t looking at him, her body has become a writhing mass of red aura, droplets of it filling the air around her and hanging solid.

    The air in the room falls to the ground, weighed down all at once.


    Adris can no longer breathe as he feels submerged deep beneath the sea, though in this case it would be a red one full of gore.

    (Serras’ favorite color.)

    While she should be winded from all of the fighting and travel, she instead exhibits unbridled power. Adris’ own aura is pathetically dwarfed by the expanding wave.

    The great tide he has always felt from her now becomes one that rivals the ambient outflow from the Emperor’s remnants. The girl he thought he knew inside and out has depths of talent that he’s never glimpsed and he instinctively knows they will shortly devour him.


    All this time, her enemies were only throwing themselves at a tidal wave hidden along the ocean floor ready to surface.


    (You’ve never trusted me our whole lives!?)

    Adris releases his spear early in abject fear and a sense of total betrayal, hurtling it at Serras with no care for her survival.


    The screaming spear carries all of his frustrations and outrage.



    But... those emotions prove far too ineffectual against a true monster.



    An unknown technique fills the air, Serras’ aura blossoming out to wrap around the oncoming spear without her even looking at it.

    She drops her sword as she begins to dance, twirling in place as the storm of aura races around her, pulling Adris spear into a spiral around her body. It increases in speed, his own power merging with hers, as she finishes her deathly dance by flinging her arms out toward him.


    Adris’ own spear flies like a ray of light, piercing through his chest and connecting him to the wall over the Emperor’s sarcophagus. Serras’ wave of aura follows behind it, guided like a frenzy of sharks along a trail of fresh blood.


    The spear explodes his abdomen, piercing his spine as it slams him into the wall.

    His organs, already weakened by his heretical technique, are completely crushed by Serras’ tag-along wave of aura. His internal expanse is permanently wounded.

    Only his lungs, heart, head, and left arm survive the assault by din of Adris reflexively reinforcing them. Pinned to the wall by the pressure of the attack, Adris’ now blood-filled eyes watch as Serras walks up to him. He's only barely able to see after cracking his head against the wall.


    The spear only barely missed his lungs, yet something within them has burst, a heavy feeling coming to his chest as he can no longer breathe correctly. His body, resting on what’s left of his rib cage, leaks all over the floor.

    (Hey, where did you learn that, beauty of mine? That was a good technique.)


    Red on red, a blossom of death, like a hungry flytrap that seeks out its own prey.


    (You always had a good imagination.)

    Serras stands before him to look into his eyes, her liquid aura receding while scratching at the ground. Adris can’t make out her expression because of the sudden shock to his body.

    (You hid how powerful you were the whole time. If you knew I had no chance, then why did you even play with me? What did you need me for?)

    Adris is insulted and humbled.

    Every fight they’ve ever shared together now seems like a lie and bit of a waste. All of his precious guile seems pointless, given that she could overwhelm any single, non-ascended opponent Adris can conceive of.


    Guarding her back?

    Wasn’t Adris just hiding in her shadow?


    The girl he’d called a whelp is actually a bizarrely powerful threat. The obsession he’d had with mastering his talents and supplementing them to stand at her side now seems rather pathetic.

    His mind boggles at how powerful she will be if she claims the Emperor’s inheritance. Missing seeing this hidden potential the whole time, Adris laments his overconfidence.


    There was no chance from the beginning for him to stand beside her.


    All of the rage has vanished like smoke from an extinguished candle before he even notices.


    Attempting to seek vengeance was the stupidest answer he could have arrived at.

    There’s no point in being angry at something that is as honest as this situation.


    It's just… when it came time to run, Adris couldn’t think of where to go.

    Outside of the room and away from her, there’s nothing waiting for him.


    He opens his mouth to speak, but only blood rushes out, falling like a gout to the ground below him. He wants to ask why they traveled together. What their partnership meant.

    Like her, he’s not sure, now; but, he wants to believe it was once real, even as he uselessly dies.

    In contrast to this hope...


    (I hope that hit you in the face.)

    ... Adris is ever possessed by petty thoughts of vengeance and punishing transgressions.

    Nothing, not even death, will cure it. He’s always been consumed by a feeling of rebellion against the impossibly strong, those who can trample others without a consideration given.


    Serras will, soon, firmly fit into that category.


    In response to his futile attack, he can make out a voice, still lovely to hear.

    “I wouldn’t find the tomb. I wouldn’t know how to explore it. I’d never be safe.”

    (That makes sense. But that’s not exactly my real question. Maybe I did it faster, but it’s not like you couldn’t…)


    She says more, but his head beats too hard for him to hear. Putting all of his aura into stabilizing his body makes it impossible for him to concentrate on anything else.

    Using what’s left of his guts to breathe out air full of phlegm and blood, Adris opens his mouth to offer his last thoughts.



    “Traitor.”



    That word is all he can manage before his withheld blood drains out of him to spill onto the sarcophagus below, an event like incontinence as he loses control of the aura dam blocking his grievous wounds.

    Then, he passes out.







    Yer not much to look at, even after me trainin’ ye a bit.

    The old mercenary eyed him with a look of disgust. Adris had asked for the man to tell him if he had talent, using Adris’ work for him as leverage for a friendly personal chat.

    The mercenary was the only man Adris had ever respected as a boy and also the first aura user the boy had met.

    When Adris had encroached on the territory of the people who employed the old man, he’d beaten Adris senseless for an hour to instill proper respect for territory into the young lad. Only a promise to owe the man a useful debt had kept him from breaking Adris’ spiteful mouth permanently open, too.

    When were ye born, runt? Ye never said.

    Upon having heard the date, the old mercenary laughed hysterically, and regained a touch of youth as he cried. It was amazing how someone so ugly could look so mirthful.

    That’s great. The mix is excellent, too. I love it.

    Adris was confused as the old man pulled out another bottle with amber-colored liquid and started to drink it. When the man offered him a glass, Adris jumped at the gift.


    The two shared a drink... no, a friendly interaction for the first time since Adris had met him.


    Ye won’t make it if ye don’t learn any history, fool. Adris means starin the old scant tongue. Practically unchanged from when men were livin’ in caves.


    Aren’t stars lucky?


    Yeah, if they shine on good times.

    He then eyed Adris with some pity, rare for a man who had lived a life as hard as his reputation suggested. The man had never shown compassion to Adris before now, yet here he was sparing him a drink and a look.

    Boy, y’were born on the anniversary of the day the First Bastard died. Yer practically a curse. A livin’ testament to bad luck.

    Taking a swig, the man concluded his thoughts. Adris couldn’t speak, his hand having stopped in mid motion when he tried to drink from his own glass.

    Yer talent is weak, at best, I’d wager. And yer name? Loosely speakin’, to base it on yer day of birth like the robes do for clanless bastards, it’d be: Adris fehl Dain.



    “‘Star of ruin.’”







    Time seems immaterial.

    Adris’ thoughts linger between life and death, an old memory the only thing that cares about him.

    He can hear something happening around him, but not make out what.


    His life has become a flickering flame, left as a crippled man, barely kept alive by his own tenacity.

    The only thing that can heal is his body above his chest. Breathing is hard, as is thinking. The healing has reached its limit now that his aura has completely exhausted, with only his intact aura core preventing his death.

    He can no longer draw in power from outside of himself. Maintaining only minutes left to live on, he resolves to enjoy that hard bought time.


    He opens his eyes, looking around. Realizing that he is still upright, he recognizes that he’s somewhat embedded in the wall itself, not merely up against it.

    (A wonderful shot.)

    At the center of the room, he sees soldiers preparing a ritual.


    A lot of them fill the room, the reinforcements having arrived to take part in the ceremony. More likely remain in the procession hall outside.

    There’s a wrapped body in an inked oval, mystic characters drawn out with rare inks that are easy for him to interpret. Candles burn in an orthodox pattern.

    Only… the air of the room is gripped with a feeling that Adris has never experienced before, memories of past ceremonies failing to compare to the dread lingering here.


    The Soldon commander is reciting a litany and leading the ritual. His skin is pale and slightly mottled, but otherwise he is healthy. The red cloud of death failed to take out the one man Adris genuinely wanted to kill.

    (A lot harder to think now with no blood in my body, but that looks like the ritual I “borrowed.” Serras remembered the parts I told her, and even managed to fill in the ones I didn’t.)


    Serras is… present.

    Wearing only white ritual garb, with her unsheathed sword laid before her, she kneels with her eyes shut while facing toward the sarcophagus wall that Adris hangs from.


    (I’m a little proud of you for listening. You look beautiful, even if you're a murderer.)

    Her face is blank and Adris feels no emotion from her.

    Behaving like always, the image of the raving Serras is like a distant memory, or a bad dream.


    (She thinks it’s too dangerous to move the body. So she’ll get what she can from it here, without being greedy. Very shrewd. You learned well.)

    It had been an easy way to live that he’d taught her, living without being greedy.

    When Adris had instructed Serras on how to awaken her power, his own studies had favored immediate practicality over future gain. The technique that Fatso had helped him develop, using his own aura to guide the development of others’, had been a novel breakthrough.


    But also a form of suicide.

    By empowering others with his aura, Adris had suffered a great deal, permanently scarring his own internal expanse. His mediocre talents were made even more mediocre, snuffed from the start.


    He’d never told Serras about where the support for her early training had come from.


    He didn’t want to appear weak.


    Even now, Serras is living proof of what he’d lost in order to obtain immediate power, a sword maiden he had thought belonged to him.

    (And I never told anyone how to do it. So I won’t even go down in history for it.)

    Adris’ own unique advancement makes it possible, the same sort of technique as drawing in aura from external sources. Only someone that would bother to help another would find it useful; and, in a world full of people attempting to become ascended beings, betrayal is omnipresent.


    (But I was forward thinking. And never wanted to ascend.)

    Adris had taken to heart Fatso’s teachings, working to stay ahead of the present. Adris hated only living in the moment and wanted a future that was free of the designs of others.

    Taking Serras to this tomb was just a step toward a better future for both of them. She was never supposed to…


    But, now it’s just useless.


    He tries to speak, but finds he can’t. He tries to do…

    … anything to spite her, useless as it may be. All that’s left are the petty feelings.

    Reaching into his robe, or what is left of it, he searches for one of his wonderful trinkets with the only arm that remains functional.

    Using these because he cannot fight like Serras, a trickster’s game is all he’s ever had.


    (But all my tricks are used up.)

    His trinkets are either destroyed or missing, as the pockets inside his robe vanished with the robe itself. The only thing he finds is a metallic object, clinging to the pieces of his exposed ribcage.

    Pulling it out of his tattered robe, he holds it up while the guard commander intones the main part of the ritual spell.


    The silver cross is beautiful. Not as beautiful as Serras, but still quite nice.

    Shockingly unmarred, its gleaming surface hasn’t a speck of dirt on it.


    (She’ll be okay.)

    Adris silently laughs to himself, scornfully, as he looks back to her.


    (And I hate her for it.)


    The girl he’d wanted to grow stronger, strong enough to survive even if he died, will live on.


    (Apparently, I didn’t know her at all; or, rather, I knew her all too well and just wasn’t going to admit it.)


    He thinks of the shame at not being able to see how powerful she will become.

    The shame of not putting his spear through her ice-like beauty of a face.


    (Ah, my wife.)


    Adris looks down to see his favorite weapon, now reduced to a twisted scrap of metal.

    (I am a widower, now.)

    If Adris had tears to cry, this would be a proper reason.


    Full of spite, self-loathing, and sadness, Adris ponders useless questions.

    He wonders why the Emperor wanted to be buried alive. Maybe the Emperor was as pathetic a man as Adris is?

    One of his wives could’ve orchestrated the act to avenge herself upon the faithless bastard. It wouldn’t be a surprise, for women are powerful when mad.


    The air grows heavy and baleful as the corpse stirs to life, power surging from it like tendrils where an absence of light manifests. They originate from a translucent, rainbow orb within the corpse where a human’s aura core would be.

    Serras’ skin begins to pale as the emanation from the corpse rises in intensity to move towards her, seemingly obeying and shifting with the chanting of the soldiers.

    Squinting, Adris is buffeted by the wind whipping up.


    The aura of the Emperor being dark is unique. Adris has never heard of a dark aura.

    (Is this dark aura what you found with your living death, you old bastard?)


    Adris thinks about their partnership, watching as Serras grows a bit frightened by the proceedings.


    She was the butcher girl, always smelling like the same day he had met her, the only one to survive the group she’d been captured in.

    He was the sold out scoundrel, clinging to any vain hope, as yet another situation turned against him when his luck predictably soured.


    But now?


    Adris fehl Dain’s identity as [Serras fehr Almet’s Partner] is dead forever.

    Adris’ identity now is [Nothing].


    All that remains of this shattered, beaten persona are conflicting emotions.

    The realization finishes off what was left of his struggle.

    Now, all he can do is embrace the conclusion of his life.


    (I just wish…)

    He grips the silver cross with the last energy, venting his frustration.

    (… that we could’ve escaped from all of this.)


    A pathetic wish that he’d held onto for a long time. Even when they’d run away together, they’d never been free. Even before that, Adris had always been bound to run into catastrophes, no matter how hard he tried to stay ahead of them...







    The wind stops.


    Adris, who was passing out, reopens his eyes in surprise. Feeling like he should have dropped the cross, he finds it still in his hands, mystified by that fact.

    Even if he tries to let go, it remains there.


    As he dumbly waves the cross in front of him while trying to release it, the soldiers scream as arcing darkness fills the room.

    It lances through them as they briefly glow, before disassembling into flying, whitely burning chunks of flesh, their screams entirely consumed by the sonorous drone issuing from the darkness lashing about.


    The rising night begins to turn from Serras, who falls back mystified, as she watches it undulate and weave.

    Finally noticing Adris, she is shocked to see him moving.


    (Yes, I’m alive.)


    Before she can begin the sentence forming on her lips, Serras is blown away by a rush of power from the corpse. Adris can’t make out her fate, the darkness becoming a winding coil which fills the whole room, rather than being a mere tendril or weaving storm.


    From the corpse it unfolds, suddenly aiming violently towards him and the cross he holds.

    The drone becomes an undulating cry when it strikes silver.

    Space itself begins to warp as Adris feels his body fold up, his head going dark.

    Nerves cry out in pain as they catch on fire, before even the pain is devoured by the droning abyss.


    (Okay, I was wrong! Apparently, I have killed myself somehow!)


    All light vanishes as the dark cascading from the cross envelops him completely, ending Adris’ silent screaming.


    (Sorry, Serras. If I’m going to hell, I’m sure we’ll meet again.)



    The world explodes with a white flash, as everything is unmade.







    What he hears before the end are two voices.


    One screams

    “What did you demand?!”

    in a fierce, groggy, masculine voice, full of unmatched self-importance flecked with horror.




    The other,




    infinitely more frightening than the first,




    quips like an old scholar

    from the nightmares of his cloister days,

    mildly expectant and entirely congenial.




    “Oh, good.

    A fresh perspective!”


    Name: Adris fehl Dain
    Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
    Sex: Male
    Age: 3* (Deceased)

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

    Powers:

    [Piercing Death] - “Produces blade-like aura at the point of penetration, destroying a creature from the inside. Of no use if you can’t hit, it’s a mortally wounding strike, otherwise.”

    [Flea Flicker] - “Bug-like movements which enable him to climb walls and move at high speeds. He cannot attack or interact with anything during these movements, only able to act once freed of his rapid rush. Hidden from everyone that Adris has not already killed, it is his ultimate escape technique.”

    [Unnamed Solar Ire Technique] - “Stolen from one of the schools that hates him the most, with a ringing bell accompanying it, it devours all shadows around it. That’s it. It is made to consume darkness, revealing areas. No greater purpose. Why is it so oddly useful against Serras’ most favored technique…?”

    [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.”

    Disposition: Deplorable / Adaptable / Sarcastic
    Alignment: Chaotic

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

    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please load additional feature.”

    Beauty:

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

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

    Description:

    “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?”

    Commentary:

    “Well, apparently he is the protagonist. If he thinks he’s getting out of this alive, he’s wrong at least once. Was what was said about him correct? Perhaps…?”





    Name: Serras fehr Almet
    Race: Xin’El, Emperor’s Child (Human)
    Sex: Female
    Age: 3*

    Occupation: Manslayer; Xin’Reh (former/disavowed); Soldier of Fortune; Bounty Hunter
    Discipline: Sword Warlord; Aura Warrior, School/Discipline: Self-Taught

    Disposition: Chilling / Hateful / Nostalgic
    Alignment: Chaotic

    Eyes: Black
    Hair: Shining Black
    Skin: Tanned

    Powers:

    [Rising Wave] - “In contrast to neutral, unformed waves, this one was specifically designed by her to deal little damage, but have the highest kinetic impact. Useful for clearing the area.”

    [Eternal Ice] - “A prison of ice which leaches aura from the one frozen within, killing them like a spider as it sucks them dry. Because it is not discriminate, in areas of high aura, it will expand until it fills the area, only crumbling when the aura within depletes.”

    [Shadows Converge] - “Calling forth aura to create duplicates made of the very shadows around her, Serras is capable of engaging multiple foes at once. Truly, this is the pinnacle of her fighting style: overwhelming her enemy and butchering them without affording a defense.”

    [Oceanic Might] - “Nothing more than a titanic club, there is no subtlety or style to this technique. It will simply absolutely destroy what it hits, like an ocean wave dashing a ship upon the rocks.”

    ["Red Blooming Fly Trap?"] - “A technique designed solely to defeat Adris, it takes advantage of his signature attack to kill him with it. Can you feel the love she has for the man she’s always been with? Surely we would all feel complete if someone created a technique solely to end us with it.”

    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please load additional feature.”

    Beauty:

    C-Value - “Her beauty is perhaps like the lingering and deathly frostbite of a frozen winter night? While you might seek out her slender, yet womanly, body, mayhaps all you shall taste is the dirt? Unless your name is Adris, in which case you still might taste your own blood? A solid, desirable nightmare clad in flesh, like moths, men are drawn, but is it the beauty that calls to them or the hatred underneath...? Is it any wonder that she has never married?”

    Description:

    “A cold beauty who rejects pleasantries, she seems more committed to her blade than to belonging to humanity. Why she follows Adris can be summarized by the tortuous path their relationship has taken to reach the tomb they are in. Though they fight like more than siblings, and have committed to the future together, perhaps there’s more to be said and little time to say it? If Adris is the brains, then Serras is surely… The only person she seems to care about other than herself is, oh… nevermind.”

    “As it is, all of her misgivings towards Adris seem to be very old wounds that never had the time, nor reason, to heal. If even half of what she said was true, then what does that say about him? And herself…? I suppose we’ll never know.”

    Commentary:

    “Well, well, well, how the turn tables. Did you think she was the primary heroine? Though that might be interesting… sadly, the world is cruel to our protagonist. By the end, he will probably wish she was.”

    Emperor’s Cross - “Okay, so it’s not so minor. Everything that was left in the Emperor… where did it go?”

    First Voice - “While he sounds angry, he also sounds like he’s important, right?”

    Second… Voice? - "WERE THERE TWOOOOO VOICES? SURELY THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE. THERE'S NO SECOND VOICE. PERHAPS WHAT YOU HEARD INSTEAD WAS THE CRY OF A DYING UNIVERSE...?
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  5. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 4: Bizarre Research ☆

    You’ll never gain anything without the right motivation, hee.


    Fatso brewed something while Adris listened attentively.

    Having pored over all of Fatso’s manuals, Adris became stressed by the lack of advancement Serras showed. Her current plateau was a danger, considering the limited time remaining.

    Though Fatso has been only creepy and not malicious, Adris has known the pig long enough to have known that every word of advice was a pronouncement of death if unfollowed.


    Princess just lacks the reason, hee. Haven’t you noticed her looks?Fatso wheezed as Adris related that she only stuck closer to him, lately.


    Ah, young and oblivious, hee. The innocence of unconquered flesh, hee hee! Though I wouldn’t know…Fatso winked as he laughed noisily at his own statement. The man had never commented directly, but his prodigious size and baby-like face led to Fatso’s rival making regular comments behind his back.

    Adris possessed enough understanding of life to have deduced the likely reason.


    And how does that matter for what I’m doing? Adris’ questions have never been directly answered.


    She’s wearing the necklace, cheap as it is, right? Are you really that dull? Or do you not like her like that, hee? You’re not… into men, are you?

    Fatso made a show of covering his own sizable bottom, a maiden-like, hideous expression on his fat face.


    The obvious taunt ignored, a question like the former was difficult to answer, as Adris had never had the opportunity to consider it.


    What am I supposed to do?


    Fatso moved like a snake, completely belying his size. The man mangled the boy’s head with a cracking sound, the fat hand gripped on top and having enveloped him totally.

    As Adris gasped in pain, he was lifted off the ground.

    The potion was left on the fire, as the shadows of the two struggling figures were painted on the wall.


    The fat bastard reached down to roughly clench Adris’ manhood.


    Use it, heeee! What is it there for if you don’t use it, heeeeeeee!Fatso rasped as he then twisted, which caused Adris to contort in immense pain.

    Adris' neck was also in great distress, one of his hands pulling down on a large arm for relief as the other went to the arm holding onto his penis, pulling in horror at the assault.


    The ponderous man dropped him quickly, though it’d seemed like an eternity of suffering. As Adris held back tears while he twitched on the ground, Fatso looked contemplatively at the writhing boy.


    You’re overthinking it, too, hee! Don’t think, do! You’re a man! Men and women just... do these things, heee! It’s not like you need a plan.Fatso dryly commented, before he walked back to his work.


    Worst case scenario, she gets mad and makes you like her playthings, heee heeeeeee! Best case, you make her yours.Shrill, choked laughter came from the man as he had his back turned. Just remember: I don’t keep you around to let you two mate.


    Turned back toward Adris, who had just gotten to a kneeling position, Fatso handed him a stoppered vial which contained an unknown liquid.


    Your success is mine, son.The fat man cooed, having handed the vial to Adris.

    A tight grip was given on delivery.

    Whatever you do, make sure it takes you to your goal, and not away. Hee, besides, what do you care? You have a future to make. You can’t care about everything along the way, heee!


    When Adris willingly took the vial, the big man patted him on the head roughly, but with a hint of affection. The lingering pain made Adris wince at the display.


    Remember: she’s a tool. Lovely? Yes, and still in the daintiness of her youth; but, always keep in mind she is a weapon. You, hee? You are my assistant. Both of your are, hee, irreplaceable. But you… You understand the goal. When I need a brain, hee, it’s you I will always need.


    Adris left the tent after, while the fat man made lewd gestures with his hands and hips. The choking laughter lingered as the boy departed.

    The display made the boy uncomfortable in ways he could never hope to discuss with another.


    But, it also made Adris realize his own desires as he walked towards Serras’ tent.







    The vial?


    It had never been necessary.


    When pushed down, Serras had been filled with a quiet hunger Adris had never dreamed of. She had inflicted it on him, as he had inflicted himself on her.

    Adris never found out what the vile concoction Fatso had brewed even did. He’d thrown it into the cooking fire the next day, a rash act that he’s always reproached himself for.


    (“Never throw away what has utility.”)


    The memory and the dream both end, as Adris’ consciousness returns.

    Adris’ aura, if the man can call it that with how it currently feels, circulates at his command, though its path is confusing and limited.

    He attempts to flex his muscles, but finds that he can’t move. Absolute paralysis grips him. Only his unconscious body movements, breathing and a heartbeat, confirm he's still alive.


    (Is this hell? Where is Fatso? I want to ask him what the potion did.)


    Adris opens his eyes by forcing his aura to accomplish the task that his muscles cannot.

    A dim, blue glow is what meets his enlarging pupils. The view of a close ceiling, with an oddly speckled texture, is his only frame of reference.


    What catches his eyes are moving strands of darkness above him.


    Fear immediately comes to him, the memory of his death to a similar darkness foremost... but...


    Instead of a shining, menacing darkness, he wants to call it serpent-like. Weaving strands move about, separating at times as if the darkness is alive and composed of individual, finer strands.

    Some tool is pulled overhead, carried by thick lengths which cradle it.


    A disgusting voice oozes out, an unknown tongue obscuring the depravity Adris can feel in the tone.

    Its choppy sound digs up an old memory, forcing Adris to think of the degenerate scholars who had hidden within their labyrinths of moldering scrolls.


    (Hell is an odd place.)


    Adris feels empty.

    Everything he had within him before arriving in hell vanished with his death.


    Even now, he struggles to care about his fate.

    If his death occurred, then perhaps he deserves what’s coming.



    Still, Adris attempts to move again, an ember burning within him forcing himself to struggle.



    His senses have returned only slightly, leaving him with a feeling of numbness across his whole body.

    It’s an impression of poison that his aura senses detect, and Adris can only attempt to circulate more vigorously to flush it.


    When he resolves to do so, the aura in his body moves at once to his left hand, a rush of pain accompanying it.

    Adris feels his mind become hazy, as though the blood has drained from it.


    Aura rushes back from his hand, traveling along pathways that actively warp with this return.

    It no longer feels like his own self, more like an external creature. It obeys him, but the subtle qualities are gone.


    (What was left of my body?)


    The poison clears as quickly as he attempted to flush it, the strange aura working far more effectively than his own.

    The room now feels deathly cold, the stone he is lying on so unforgiving that his muscles cry out. Shivering a bit, he tries to lift his head, a task performed with great difficulty.

    Scanning the room he is in, he finds it very unlike the Xin he knows.


    More similar to what the southern barbarians closer to the Great Sun use, brick and mortared stone meets his eyes, crumbling and decaying edifices for walls.

    In this small room, barely accommodating ten people, the queer lighting makes it impossible to know its true dimensions.

    Various tables and shelves stand next to the walls, giving him the impression of a cloister repository, but the tables hold contraptions Adris doesn’t recognize. The walls are covered with parchment, tacked up and displaying unknown glyphs, and strange, childish drawings.


    These normal details belie the hellish nature suffusing it, which matches his concept of an afterlife for sinners.


    Where brickwork ends, great shell-like structures have grown through the wall itself. Pale white and speckled, a third of the room seems to be the sea bed rather than a residence.

    The irregular walls and corners are asymmetrical, and the furniture itself is warped and knotted, the non-true nature of the room playing havoc on his spatial senses.


    The most frightening feature though remains the moving darkness above him, skulking along the entire room.

    Small and great woven strands of rich black move about, picking up and depositing various effects.


    He traces them back to their origin, a sitting female with long hair, fuller than even Serras’.


    She wears a strange, blue overcoat with long sleeves, which hangs loosely open draped upon her. Her pale neck is covered by a reddish kerchief.

    When she turns towards him, she wears an ankle-length, red slitted skirt with a red bodice for her top. A sensual, black leather wrap with ties meets over these layers.

    The style of her clothing is unlike any Adris has witnessed or heard of. It's too sexually charged to be casual, intentionally designed to bring one's eyes to her curves. Even a courtesan would fail to dream up this loose style, much less wear it willingly.

    When she gets up and paces about on her exquisite legs clad in black stockings, Adris hears slippers scrape the floor.

    The glossy hair is possessed of its own life, still wicking about the room as if it’s tasting it.


    She would be cute, except for a serious flaw…


    (… She is personally disgusting.)


    Curled upward like a snarl, her expression is that of a woman who openly dismisses others and believes only in her own superiority.

    Her fair features are ruined by this demeanor, as is his impression of her femininity, with her clothing slovenly worn and obviously dirty.

    She perfectly brings to mind his trashy, older roommate from his youth in the cloister. The man had spent months convinced that the secret to success with females was to upset the natural order and cast down the “heathen” elder scholars, becoming the wisest of all.


    All the man had upset was the stomachs of anyone within smell of him.


    She chatters to herself at times in her repulsive voice while examining parchment, her tone every bit the match to the man’s own porcine one.

    Turning suddenly to stare at Adris, he closes his eyes and resumes his previously unconscious posture.


    (It's a... monster? Then this is hell? I need to find a door.)


    Though still empty, a new, growing sense of danger drives Adris to act.


    A door wasn't within view, the only indication of a possible one being a strange, shell-like panel on the wall with crystals embedded into it. The spot next to it was devoid of furniture.


    Adris feels swishing over him, suddenly.


    (If I can’t understand this thing, I can’t defeat it.)


    Thinking of the language being spoken, he tries to match it to any he knows. He wills himself to remember even the closest match to this language, but none of the tones sound correct.


    The horrible feeling returns, his aura going torpid, before rushing to his left hand. When it washes back through his body, his mind buckles from the alien feeling accompanying it.

    His thoughts are attacked all at once, something now actively latching onto his thoughts.

    Adris wretches at this assault, being brought out of his stupor by the ensuing pain.


    “Oh, oh, oh, a strange reaction? Did something go amiss? Impossible. My sublime existence can’t make a mistake, fufu.”


    The ugly voice that he hears… suddenly becomes intelligible.

    Accompanying the voice focusing on him, tickling sensations can be felt with more vigor to them, brush-like touches at multiple points of his body.

    Her voice is somehow worse, now that Adris has confirmed her rotten personality.


    (Bare skin?)


    Adris feels shock, the hair on his groin and armpits forcing the unwelcome realization.


    “A temporary reaction to the serum? The musculature must be settling in; though, it’s odd how this remains so large? Isn’t this strange for their stock? The statistics don’t support this. What size does she even like, again? Mother has never said~.”


    The foul woman… grabs onto his dick with a ginger hand, pulling it gently to and fro as she inspects it while chortling.

    Adris has never received this kind of disgusting molestation before.


    “Arrived in poor condition, but the stock is niceeeee~. AAH, I’m so terribly brilliant. You know, the others weren’t even paying attention to you when you arrived, dragged in almost naked by the collection crews.”

    The repugnant voice seems to be directed at Adris, but him being supposedly unconscious means she’s just bragging.

    “Only my exquisite mind noticed the pearl hidden beneath your ugly shell.”


    Adris feels emotion, now: anger at being belittled.

    Even if he’s mostly broken after Serras destroyed his life, this abusive cretin is too irritating to possibly ignore.


    But, even if he despises her, the sensation is… good.


    The woman has a practiced hand. As he opens his eyes a bit to peek at her, he’s repulsed to see the self-proclaimed genius drooling slightly from scrunched lips, as she continues to leer at his crotch.

    His thoughts muddle, caught between an unknown feeling of lust that is overtaking him and his nearly exhausted sense of self worth threatening to disappear if he allows her to continue.


    (I don’t want this woman enjoying me.)


    Adris resists this abuse in his mind, before the thought is swept aside by something else.


    {There is a difference to her actions-}


    The alien feeling in his body flexes as his thoughts diverge, a brief flash of an image in his mind, a thought of foreign origin.


    “Where are you from, little experiment~? I want to know.” She moves her fingers along his rapidly engorging dick. “Oh, it’s functional? His physiology is recovering at a non-standard rate.”

    Adris hears scribbling from somewhere as she continues.

    The brush-like feeling becomes stronger as the woman’s hair starts floating over his body.


    The smell of lust comes to Adris' nose.

    A lust that isn't his.


    “Uhu, it’s a bit impressive for his physique~.” A nasty compliment is given, before Adris hears scraping, and then the woman seems to sit down.

    “There’s a stronger reaction than I’d anticipate?”


    A sudden, stark silence punctuates her question.



    “Is it purely physiological…?”



    The hairs stop moving with this serious statement, her voice suddenly authoritative and measured, losing its disgusting nature entirely.

    A businesslike tone, completely dissimilar from her earlier interest, sounds well practiced.

    Adris goes completely still, willing his body to be dead.


    As the woman continues to stroke him, slower than before but still unceasing, moments of silence pass.


    “Seems like it~☆!”

    A sultry feeling comes to her voice when it returns to normal, as the unsettling, wavering lilt of her voice continues to become more porcine.


    Adris hears the movement of fabric.


    “Uh… right. Could my brilliance required for such tests?” Though she sounds unsure, her hand, exquisite in movement, grips him slightly harder and increases in speed.

    Adris, though he hates the woman’s personality, can’t help but feel a rising pleasure, as the muscles of his loins begin to contract in time with her movement.


    “Ehe, it’s okay for the researcher to do a bit of her own work… ah~☆!”

    A wet, squelching sound is heard as skin moves between fabric.


    Adris opens his eyes with fearful curiosity, looking over to see the woman with face-covering hair lolling her tongue out, as though she doesn’t notice it escaping from her mouth.

    She flicks the tip of her tongue, stroking his dick with more focus and concentration.

    Hunched forward as she sits beside him, her hair quivers slightly, sending vibrations across the room. The pig scholar has one hand on him as the other is between a slit in her skirt, her arm moving slightly as the squelching noise from her crotch increases with regularity and loudness.


    (Is this bitch... pleasuring herself to me?)


    Adris is horrified, confused, and excited, in that order.


    Only minutes before, he’d seemingly died in a burial chamber, betrayed by the only partner he’s ever had.

    Now, a sow in a coat is fingering herself with great gusto, as she expertly rubs the full length of his dick. Her hand pays beautiful attention to the crown of his penis at just the right intensity.

    Adris notices that he is breathing heavily at this stimulation, his own body betraying his mind as the wandering hair teasing his skin only further divides his concentration.


    A thought comes to him from an unknown place, his head throbbing with its presence.


    {The woman kneels, her head to the ground, his foot on her head, before he-}


    “Hm, hmmm, ah, response is excellent~. Full extension and rigidity, even while unconscious. The smell…?” Her face comes right next to the head of his penis dripping liquid, as she…


    Draws in a deep, animalistic breath.

    Adris almost cringes, aghast as he is from the sight.


    “Hah, hah, that’s, quite good for a human. What is that unique smell? AHH, I’m so brillia-ahhh!”

    She bites her tongue in mid self-congratulation as her arm seems to shake, her unseen hand moving faster. “… smart! This is better than normal for appeal. Mother will be impressed, right~?”


    Adris, unsure of who “mother” is, is left in despair as the woman continues to minister him.

    While the pig continues to pleasure herself using him as a dish, Adris fights back the urge to aid in release.

    He realizes, with great sadness, that he’s been backed up for two weeks since they’d escaped Soldon. Serras had… simply never been interested, and he’d never asked.


    “UH, heheheeee, for a first try, my superior intellect nailed it~! Ah, that serum and the timing of this meat’s arrival… ah, it’s like [Fate] (ABSOLUTE DISCRETION OF THE FUTURE). The size of the body is just right, just like Mother loves~! Fairly tall when he came in… the actuals I don’t have, but I’d guess better than average."

    The woman talks to herself without stopping, a string of self-congratulations further enraging Adris at his misfortune being the source of her self-worth.

    "Look how dainty you are, now~! If I can do this to all of the [Chosen] (SLAYERS), just think! Their jaunts into the Castillo will end in a single day! Rather than just disappearing after a while to raid again, they’ll come back as midgets barely capable of combat~! AH, I’M BRILLIANT!”


    (Dainty. Why would I be dainty?)


    Her words carry strange meanings as he listens to them. Words are becoming... self-explanatory in his own mind.

    Adris’ body does feel foreign, as though there’s a difference in size. The flow of the aura is also off in such a manner.


    (Has she used some aura weapon or technique on me?)


    With the schlicking sound growing more pronounced, Adris is surprised by the patter of liquid hitting the floor.


    “Hah, it’s been a while… I haven’t had any release. ALWAYS STUCK WITH THESE SUB INTELLECTS!”

    She grips his dick harshly, though not harshly enough to crush it. Adris tenses at a shameful pleasure.

    “Why should I fuck… ah… any of you~. I’m too good for it. I’m brilliant… all of you… are just beetles~! Ehehehehehe! Ahh!”


    (What did this miscreant do!?)


    Adris grows furious at his ignorance, truly caring for the first time since his arrival, as the woman quips “Scurry away, hehehe…” under her breath.


    “Um… I shouldn’t… but…” She sounds mournful, then hopeful. “Maybe if I just… feel this... inside, I can get some better information on Mother’s tastes. Is it different if a woman does it with a kid~? I need to know for… making the serum better…”

    Adris feels drool land on his body. “I haven’t had a penis inside of me in a bit~.”


    A wet tongue is on his penis, a slurping on the head the only worthwhile contribution this woman has made to Adris' plight.

    An immense wave of unwanted pleasure strikes up into Adris.


    Lust, rejection, and the alien need for dominance all wage against each other. Adris can’t think, as he feels three separate thoughts in his mind.

    His body needs release, his sense of self wants away from her, but this...


    ... foreign feeling, of cold hunger for control, desires something else from her.


    (What is this? I don’t want to have sex with…)


    Her mouth is incredibly warm as she continues. She moves away after lubricating his cock with a swirling tongue.


    “… Hah, I can’t handle… idiots. At least when they’re unconscious like this, I don’t have to worry about anything happening to me…” She sounds fearful as she speaks, though also tinged with a growing lust and some submerged desire. “N-no worries… I can take him, as small as he is... hehehe...”


    Something she said before, suddenly clicks with Adris.



    A kid.”



    (A kid!?)



    He throws his eyes open, lifting up his body to look down at himself.


    He sees his body there, intact. Without wounds. And…


    Significantly smaller.





    He looks up to see the pig woman staring at him, her mouth open in shock. Her hand on his dick has stopped moving, but the woman’s hand in her dress hasn’t stopped at all, her dress shaking as she seems to increase in intensity while being watched.


    Adris looks at his arms. His left hand is still…


    Holding the cross.


    He looks back to the woman, whose lips are starting to quiver a bit.


    “Nwah, wah, what are…” She stumbles over the words. From his memory of Serras and their pleasures together, the woman is clearly very close to climax.



    (She turned me into a…


    … kid.)


    With a spiring penis.


    (How… dare…)



    The image boldly storms into his mind. It kicks away Adris' own thoughts, becoming all he can see.



    {She supplicates herself before a figure holding a cross.}



    Three thoughts all fuse: outrage, desire, and a hunger to dominate this fool.


    His left hand aches as his muscles go numb, his body heating up when he feels an absence of control sweep over him.


    Adris watches as his right free, right hand moves without him needing to think or act.

    He grabs onto the woman’s hunched over head, her throat producing a stupid "DUFU!" sound when he yanks on her soft hair.




    Something howls in his mind.


    {This terrible woman is accepting a dick down her throat, willingly and happily. There’s no light in her eyes.}




    He moves the pig’s face over his dick.

    With her hair pulled back a bit, he can see her purple eyes, wide with uncertainty as she darts to look at him, and then back to his dick.


    She tries to protest with moving lips -


    Pig, let go of your resistance. Accept what you are and desire to be.”

    A voice that sounds like Adris', but ignores his own thoughts, issues a command.


    Her mouth still open in shock, the woman’s face immediately goes slack with her lust and an absence of mind as he hears her breathe more heavily. Her tongue creeps out a bit from her lush, red lips, hovering over his dick.

    Her hand is the only sound in the room as she slams her fingers into her own hidden, but obviously soaked, pussy. Her body is shivering as she speaks drunkenly.


    “Hah, hah, I, have to serve...? Right? ... Yeah? Of course! Are you going to… use me? … are you going…” She speaks haltingly, unsure of her own words, her eyes trembling as her spirit succumbs.

    Something deep within her psyche is breaking out, let free by the command issued to her.


    “… To mess me up? ♥”


    The proud bitch speaks with a subservient voice. Her face flushes as she melts into her needy arousal, her eyes searching for permission.


    Adris' hand applies downward force, shoving her mouth onto his dick.


    Adris’ dick goes all the way in to the hilt, the boy turning his body slightly to keep his dick from bending harshly, as he forces it down her now broken in throat.

    The woman that was already close to orgasm makes a choking sound as her eyes roll back into her head.


    A sound like a flowing stream can be heard while she spasms, as the air in the room gains a musty smell.


    (… wait, stop.)


    With the ensuing smell jolting him, Adris tries to gain back his conscious control. The absurdity of his actions and his revulsion make him realize something dangerous is upon him.

    The alien images are removing his agency, directing his thoughts and ignoring his conscious desires. Only now does he realize how much is disappearing as he gives into them.


    She gasps for air as he quickly yanks her off of his dick, her saliva going everywhere, while her nose runs onto her face.

    Her wide eyes regain focus as she looks at him. The feeling of pain from his left hand momentarily lessens.


    “Y—ghk… huh? What… Y-y-you… bastard… how dare you, to this brillia-GHK!”

    She regains consciousness briefly when he pulls out, an accusation rolling arrogantly from her tongue, before her insult brushes away Adris’ attempts to regain control.

    In response to her idiocy, Adris slams his dick back into her spiteful mouth, the rage he feels blowing away his mental discipline.


    Adris spares her no mercy.

    He continues pulling her head off and then slamming back in. The woman tries to breathe while he’s doing it, but only phlegm comes from her nose, a free route for air provided only when he withdraws.


    (It… feels good…)


    The image changes.


    {The woman before him is a tool that follows him, offering its body when needed.}


    Adris thoughts’ continue to darken, as the lust grows.

    The sound of her squelching mouth and choking is still matched by the beastly woman’s now resumed masturbation.

    While the woman’s eyes are unfocused, both of her hands are in her skirt, dress pulled away so that Adris can see her rubbing her juicy hole. She slams her fingers into her narrow, pink cunt, intentionally putting it on display for Adris by spreading her legs further apart.

    A fading consciousness quivers when the voice that’s not his speaks again.


    You wanted this. I can feel it.” She twitches as Adris speaks, still slamming his cock into her. “Accept that your need is now mine, and let my will be yours.


    Her unfocused eyes melt further at this proposal, with Adris picking up the pace, choosing to push all the way in and leave his cock lodged inside of her.

    This attempt to punish her is met by her wrapping her tongue greedily around his cock, trying to milk it as her throat squeezes along his length.


    (Ah, fuck, she’s actually impossibly good! This slut is far better than Serras. The only time that Serras would agree to do this was when she was drunk, and she had never been very good at it...)

    Serras seemed… needy, but always inexperienced.


    A dark image projects onto his thoughts when Serras comes to mind.


    {Serras is thrown aside, a man standing over her. Rather than winning, she is beaten and bloodied. The man leaves her behind. She perishes, unneeded.}


    It's a tempting offer to Adris.


    (... Not needing Serras... but still feeling pleasure... what is this? It's completely logical, but it feels... strange.)


    This spiteful and disgusting woman's warm mouth and throat are a pure pleasure, a rare taste of something other than his partner.

    He can't help but compare it, even as something feels guilty about the flesh sliding over his length. Saliva from her drips down his skin, a raw contact with a woman other than Serras causing him to feel...


    (Ah, fuck. Why does it feel good!? I don't want anything to do with her! But... all I can think to do is... just grab her head and slam into her for eternity!)

    Adris' mind and body have different inclinations.

    (... If her mouth is this good, then...)

    He listens to the fingers working, the woman not stopping for a single moment as she seeks her own pleasure, too.

    (If I can paint her throat... then I can also use her lower hole however I want to... fill it up with...)


    Surrendering to the tightness and need, he turns a woman into a masturbation tool. He can feel his seed rising, making his prior rejection seem comical.

    The woman's attractive body overwrites the effect of her voice on him, now that it's mercifully blocked. Even now, her hair is jealously clinging to Adris’ skin. Not seeking to stop him in any way, it only rubs against him, like a lover’s hands trying to urge stronger affection.


    (... I don't... want this thing.)

    Even as he enjoys the pleasure, the fact that it's with someone who is wrong is scratching at his mind.

    (Being with another woman... even after everything, or rather because of it...)

    Adris' mind is starting to reject both the images and his lust.


    The woman slobbers over him, drenching his groin with her saliva, her legs spread wide as she furiously abuses herself. Her mouth and throat are hollowed out by rapid thrusts, a disgusting, fleshy sound of slobbering and sucking removing all traces of pride from her.

    Adris stops briefly. Her eyes lock onto him, surprised, yet still purely submissive.

    Overriding his dismay, the voice speaks for him, knowing his own situation better than him.


    Prepare. It’s going down your throat.


    The woman tenses, but then a dopey smile comes to her face, even as her mouth is filled by him.


    Adris' body shows her no mercy, plunging a hard cock into her throat even faster and harder than before.

    Her tongue can’t catch up with the thrusting to provide the pleasure it had previously offered. It is simply trodden upon by his dick on the way to scrape against her throat.

    Going wild, her hair flails around stupidly like drunks in a tavern, unsure of what to cling to.

    With one final slam, Adris puts his dick up to the base, as he exhales in release.


    His balls constrict, his seed shooting up, exiting his dick to begin coating the woman’s throat in a torrent of his one-sided passion.


    The sow convulses the moment she feels it in her throat, thick semen being pumped down into her needy stomach.

    Her cup-able breasts twitch with her body’s jerking movement, her hands now shaking, as her voice box transfers a bestial growl that vibrates Adris’ penis. It enhances his pleasurable release, as she purrs in worship of the cock he is blessing her with.

    The eyes Adris can barely see, a beautiful shade of purple for the irises, roll straight back into her head as she passes out from her own pleasure, Adris’ abuse, and the growing lack of air in her lungs.


    Adris feels the woman go limp, quickly pulling her head off of his dick and releasing it, just in time for her to fall out of the chair.

    Hitting her face on the examination table Adris is on, she falls brokenly to the floor.

    He can hear her coughing and belching, her body struggling for air, and a strange whimpering sound rising after, as the woman lays in a puddle of her own urine and saliva.


    Characters:

    Name: Adris fehl Dain; “Mister Meat”
    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)

    Powers:

    [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?”

    [Unknown Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

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



    Disposition: Defeated / Adaptable / Sinner
    Alignment: Chaotic

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

    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please load additional feature.”



    Beauty:

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

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

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

    Description:

    “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?"

    Commentary:

    “Cast into another world, now we get to find out who the true Adris is, starting at page 1. It’s always interesting to see what happens when a person’s world is turned inside out. How can a guy from another world truly be expected to survive in one he knows nothing about? Isn’t it more interesting if the odds are stacked against him?”



    Name: ???
    Race: Hair Monster / "Sow"
    Sex: Female
    Age: ??

    Occupation: Scholar (dispossessed)
    Discipline: Genius (Self-Professed)

    Powers:

    [Hair Manipulation] - “Has the power sufficient to pick up objects and bind things with her hair. Her hair operates independently of her thoughts, but it’s not always smart. Seemingly cannot intercept the attack of someone right next to her. This is probably related to how focused she is on something at hand, as her emotional state impacts her ability to her user hair.”



    Disposition: Self-aggrandizing / Scatterbrained / Piggish
    Alignment: Chaotic

    Eyes: Purple
    Hair: Black
    Skin: White

    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please unlock me, Adris~.”

    Beauty:

    C-Value - “While she is outwardly beautiful in the manner of a cool and pretty older sister, isn't being slovenly a sort of immense turnoff? Her own voice will drive people away, perhaps leading to the desperation she feels? Still, if your only choice is your hand or her pussy, it might be worth dumping a load in her just to see how it feels?”

    Description:

    “A slob, to the core. Scatterbrained and pompous, she is the epitome of the researcher who believes she is far smarter than others, but cannot actually invent something because of how pathetic she is. Adris cumming down her throat would be the highlight of her career within recent memory. Still, she is intelligent, in her own way, and creating a youthening potion like she did is something to be commended. If it was used on her, what would happen?”

    Commentary:

    “She’s just too tsundere to admit that she wants to be pounded, and Adris is too disgusted to give it to her. I sometimes wonder if he should’ve mating pressed her on the way out. Perhaps the future holds opportunities for her to display just how dumb she is before he does so?”

    Fate - “Absolute discretion of the future. This is what defines the future of those who are bound to it. The only way to avoid it…? Don’t be bound.”



    Chosen/Slayers - “Those who storm the Castillo; the fighters from outside who the Castillo stands against.”



    Wondrous Works - “The organization which runs the strange dimension that Adris finds himself in.”



    Mother - “The entity which commands utmost respect within the Wondrous Works, and leads it. A direct subordinate of the Alchemaster. A creature which cannot be human, and is dangerous for humanity.”
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  6. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 5: Awakening Silver

    Adris feels his own body rise up, independent of his will. The cross is before him, hauntingly powerful in his mind, as an image overwhelms his control.


    {This woman’s mind is broken, as she licks his feet. Any order the man gives, she obeys without question. She slits her own throat when he commands it.}


    Something tries to make him act.

    Adris can’t tell what the action is, but it comes to his tongue even as he fights it back.


    (So… just use them? If they don’t have a mind, it’s not necessary? What is necessary?)


    Things he’s never considered before well up to fight against this logic.


    Whatever you do, make sure it takes you to your goal, and not away. Besides, what do you care? You have a future to make. You can’t care about everything along the way…”


    (I did that and died, Fatso. Your way of life was pointless. It wasn’t kinder, but I had a better way of living, most days...)


    Even if he manipulates others, they still have a chance.

    It is something he’s never considered: his games are fair, he can lose, and they are only enjoyable because he struggles for victory. If his prey are drones, it would be worthless.

    Even if he ruins others who he thinks deserve it, they still have a chance to change their fate. He respects those who can resist him, even if he hates them for what they stand for.


    (What I hate are the ones who just walk over people, people who could never win... Where is the fun in ruling? Won’t I be a monster like Jilahn? What’s the fun in making them cry if they don’t deserve it!?)


    What am I? A tool or a partner?


    (I don’t know, but at least I loved having a partner who had her own mind.)


    Serras wasn’t a good person.

    She was one that provokes in him many mixed feelings; but, she was also better as someone who disagreed with him, than she would’ve been as a mindless shell that obeyed.

    Even if he manipulated her, she still resisted in her own way, and the contest was what was fun.


    What was the point of having her if there was nothing inside?

    The passion they’d shared was real. It had to be. That passion would’ve been meaningless without a mind.


    (The enslaver is as empty an existence as the enslaved... Whatever our mutual hatreds, as a real person… a genuine one, she was a part of my life…)


    And, more than that…


    (If it wasn’t her choice, then there’s no point in punishing her!)


    Contradictions play out: slightly noble thoughts struggling with much darker ones, doubt and havoc raging across his trained mind.

    The struggle rolls into the path of the certain imagery trying to take over, the contradictions warring with its absolute purity of purpose.


    The contradictions he feels... feel...



    Powerful.

    And there's a feeling of purpose to them...



    Another image arrives, quick and shaking.


    {Adris holds the cross before him. Where it goes, he follows.}


    The image tries to push out all of Adris’ other thoughts.


    {The cross is before Adris, as both are on a tall dais. Adris is bowing to it. The people under the dais are legion. They all bow to the cross.}


    It rips at his questions, trying to throw them away, to remove all doubts, as it compels him to obey.


    A place deep in Adris breaks, a dam that releases an uncontrollable outrage.

    This outrage meets the unnamed, alien, powerful feeling that was born with his doubts, bolstering it.

    Feelings rise up, unspoken to anyone for nearly thirty years, becoming a weapon against a controlling force.



    “FUCK YOU, THE ONE THING I DO CARE ABOUT IS DECIDING MY OWN LIFE!”



    Adris fehl Dain abandons the role of [Nothing].

    Instead, he resolves to discover a new identity.


    Adris screams as he attempts to circulate all of his aura, directing it to his arm to intercept the foreign presence and reject it.

    With Adris’ lust subsiding, he can think more clearly. He wrestles with this unknown domination, forcing it back, as deep as possible into the place that it comes from, willing it to be gone.


    Reciting the cloister’s liturgy against self-possession, a spiritual exercise from his youthful studies designed to prevent one from being manipulated by their own out of control mentality, he tries a last ditch effort to clear his soul.

    Mind and body both burn alive with the thing's arrogance lashing back at him.


    An image appears, before it’s ripped away.


    {Adris is being killed, holding onto the cross as he bleeds out, all around him are butchering him…}


    The image recedes with great anger.

    Something within his mind snaps loose, the external presence forced out as it claws at his soul to remain.


    Adris vomits dark blood, suddenly, and falls to his side.

    He lays on the stone table, drained.




    Before he passes out, he hears whispers, laughing at...







    Adris lays still for a time after his climax. It has been a while, so the feeling, mixed with a suddenly intense headache, is overwhelming.


    (What happened?)


    The boy experiences a brief collapse of his memory, only the assault on the woman and the danger of what occurred still fresh in his mind.


    (I can’t circulate my aura properly.)


    Adris’ aura is even more wrong now, and it does not appear to be recovering with time.

    In fact, he currently has less active aura than when he awoke.


    But something of himself has returned.

    He no longer feels as empty.


    The pain of Serras’ betrayal is lessened, somewhat, and this new, hellish world awaits.


    (... The one thing I do is endure. Same as always.)


    The naked boy sits up on the table, looking around the room openly with the threat vanquished.

    Adris realizes that the shells themselves are the source of the blue ambient light filling the space.

    His lost height can't be gauged due to the room’s bizarre dimensions, even while sitting at the table's edge. Upon hitting the floor with his feet, he is unbalanced, the depraved scholar's poison still affecting his muscles.


    (I need clothes.)


    The area contains odd glass vessels, strange spindles, and metal baskets with prongs coming off of them.

    What look like familiar mystical character and aura device tools are arrayed everywhere; though, when he pulls a graving chisel out, he discovers it instead functions like a tuning fork.

    A hell he finds himself landed in after dying seems oddly...


    (Geared towards divining mysteries. Why does hell care about secrets? Isn't evil all knowing, since it sees our hearts?)


    Examining the standing shelves against the wall, Adris finds a familiar pack, last left beside the sarcophagus and seemingly carried with him into the afterlife.

    Beside the pack is what’s left of his clothing and the remnants of his spear. The pack has been mildly damaged, but is usable.

    Only his traveling cloak is wearable, soaked in his own blood. The spear…


    Adris’ abdominal pain briefly resurfaces in this moment.

    The memory of his anti-climactic fight against Serras dredges up all of his doubts and self-loathing. He pushes it from his mind, reaching for the scholar’s tools to avert his interest from dark thoughts.

    Picking up a pointed tool of some sort, he thrusts it into the bolt catch of the spear head. Luckily, the bolt itself was thoroughly destroyed, coming loose and making it easy to push the remnants out. He applies a great deal of strength, wrenching the spear head free from the shaft.


    The head itself is ruined, but still shines rainbow a bit beneath the blackened surface.

    (I’m not leaving without something to remember by, and what’s within is still a useful rainbow star.)


    He goes to put the cloak around himself, until he notices the smell of his dried blood is pungent.

    Looking around, he finds a round, silver case full of some type of white-and-red feathers, as well as ground up powders and herbs nearby. They all have parchment pasted onto them, with hand drawn pictures of animals, plants, rocks, and creatures he doesn’t recognize.

    The picture on the outside of the silver tube is a comical looking bird, one on fire.

    He pulls out one the various powders, with it smelling of earthen salts, then rubs it on the cloak using a nearby rag until he can’t smell the blood over it. He shakes the whole time, the room quite cold and him still naked, the saliva of the female pig making his condition worse as it evaporates.


    Affixing his clothing, he notes that the items here look expensive. He stuffs the better looking ones into his pack.


    (If hell values things, then valuables are a start for survival. Now, I need to escape.)


    He turns to look at the bare wall he noticed earlier. Stuck in the wall beside it is a metal dome, with crystals vertically piercing through it. He thinks to touch it, then decides not to.


    (The Solar Ire sect had a similar contraption, one which only responded to aura circulated using their special vitality.)


    At first considering breaking it with the cross he holds, he instead turns to the woman who is still passed out.


    (She’ll be able to open it with something on her.)


    He walks up to and bends down beside the woman, deftly searching through her clothing and along her body.

    He finds small, loose papers in her great coat’s pocket, as legible as the parchment on the walls. The information seems to relate to a physical description of him, as well as notations and time-keeping, minutes that dictate her observances of him.


    “[Ten-Turn] (RESOLUTION OF A SINGLE STRUGGLE) 16, [TURN] (RESOLUTION OF A SINGLE MOVEMENT) 5:

    Fufu, Mister Meat is muscled, yet lean. His weight is 0.64 stones (BODY WEIGHT) under the expected total for his age. Ridiculous clothing and substandard weaponry indicate a warrior of considerable poverty. My esteemed brilliance anticipates equally substandard intelligence.”


    Fighting back the urge to punch the unconscious bitch, Adris pockets the notes in his pack, then continues looking.


    (What is a “turn?” Is this a unit of time-keeping? How does "resolution" relate to it?)


    Underneath her coat, he finds a sample bandoleer strapped to her left side. There’s only one stoppered vial inside of it, greenish with purple streams coursing actively inside of it. Unsure of the utility of it, he leaves it for the moment.

    Grabbing onto her breasts, he checks to see if she’s hiding anything in the small valley between them. His other hand pats her strong-smelling, damp crotch, feeling underneath her skirt and touching her slick lips by mistake, thinking that she could've hidden something at the side of…


    … but, then he feels something grab onto him.


    His eyes dart to his right leg.

    Black hair has begun to creep around his leg as he squats, going taut an instant later.


    Larger strands wrap around his right arm and his torso, yanking on him.


    The gripping hair violently constricts him, leaving him gasping for breath. He directs his fearful focus to the woman lying under him, noticing two, bright purple eyes looking at him beneath the now moving hair.


    “You… you vile creature.”


    An authoritative and deep voice rises from her throat, full of dignity and rage.

    Adris is pulled off the floor, gasping. The woman, still somewhat disheveled, struggles to stand.

    When she gets up to look at him, he stares back in frustration, as she tries to clumsily pull her clothing back into a presentable state.


    “How dare you! To this enlightened sage, you manhandled my divine ha-GHK!”

    The woman goes into a coughing fit, putting her hand to her mouth as she heaves, before hacking up something.


    “Huhh…?!” The woman looks down at what she spit out, saliva with a bit of white in it, then back up to Adris.

    She tries to put on a strong face, but her pale skin grows red like a tomato.


    They quietly examine each other.

    The absurdity of the situation is too much for Adris. He feels something let loose, a feeling that this entire comedic tragedy is too much for him to maintain his sanity in without embracing the humor of it.


    Adris begins to heartily laugh, as the woman’s face pales.


    “Don’t even bother, you sow!” Adris says, smirking at her when she snarls. “After hearing you the whole time, well… that mannered, imperious fake voice of yours doesn’t sound threatening.”

    Her face puffing up in rage, she starts shaking.


    “You know, you declaring yourself a genius, before slobbering all over my cock like a needy whore, is faaaaaar scarier than being wrapped up in soft hair.”


    The woman’s veins pop up on her face as she bares her teeth at him, before she reels Adris in closer.


    “YOU… YOU MISCREANT! … SUB-INTELLECT! … MUTANT-DICKED!… MOUTH RAPIST!”


    Adris does the only thing he knows will tip her over and make her lose control.

    He sticks out his tongue at the woman, while winking an eye and tilting his head.


    “'Dufu~☆'”


    “KIIIIEEEE!”

    The woman screams like a monkey, petulantly choking him with unskilled hands, her eyes two streams of tears.


    While Adris begins to choke, his free left hand starts to wind up out of sight, taking advantage of their new closeness.


    (I’m going to fry your brains like scrambled eggs.)


    As Adris lifts the cross in his left hand to strike her, he feels his aura rush toward it, leaving him more breathless than the woman’s pathetic attempt to strangle him.

    An image briefly assaults his mind.


    {A man holds a cross. All before the cross bow to-}


    Head reeling, Adris shuts his mind's eye against the image.

    Whispers from the shadows join in, as Adris feels something slipping away from him briefly before regaining control.


    (What, what… is this?!)



    He has no time to ponder it, as he swings the shining silver cross with all of his might, aiming for her head.

    The woman, too caught up in her focus on punishing Adris, never sees it coming.




    The sound of glass breaking and thunder peeling sounds out as it strikes, and blue light flashes at the point of impact.




    The woman shudders and shakes at the strike, Adris feeling it transmit through the strands of her hair, which go slack all at once a moment later.

    Her eyes roll back into her head for the third time today, as she immediately collapses like a puppet whose strings are cut.


    There’s not even a last word from her as she crumples.


    Adris collapses on top of her supple body, as she folds up under him.

    Breathing with great pleasure after having no chance to, Adris’ accidentally drools onto the woman’s face as he stares at her.

    Though resting on her body, she doesn’t move, even when he pushes off of her breasts in order to get up. Wondering if he has killed her, he puts his hand to her silky smooth neck under her kerchief.

    There’s a pulse of life, but no reaction.


    Adris looks at the cross he hit her with, then to where he hit her. Lifting up her hair, there’s only a red bruise.

    There is a surety of one thing regarding it.


    (This fucking thing is the cause of it all. The Emperor’s cross is a cursed aura tool!)


    His grip tightens.

    Every time his aura flows into the cross, a bizarre benefit arises from it; but, his aura also never returns returns the same way it left, leaving an unknown presence to strengthen in response to the gift.


    Adris stalks off from the woman, her face frozen in realization of her own stupidity, as he looks at the potion he pulled out of her bandoleer.

    He sees that only half of the potion is still in it. Wanting to know what the potion is, he goes to where the woman was working, his eyes searching the mismanaged documents as he sorts them for her.

    They detail formulas he can’t comprehend, even with Fatso’s generous instructions on herbology and toxins.

    The surprising part is that, in addition to being able to understand the monster, he can also read all of her writing, despite recognizing that the characters should be unknown to him. Even dissimilar kinds of characters seem to have the same prose.


    The legible information is…


    Mother is looking for a way of acquiring younger boys in greater numbers, but also wants to solve the threat of the Chosen. A sublime wisdom arrives at the obvious solution: why worry about them being young when they get here, and if they leave young, then how are they a problem? Kehehehe~!


    Adris shakes in fury, turning around to race over to the unconscious woman.

    He stomps on her face with his foot, but all she does is make a “ghk” sound as he grinds his foot on her nose.


    (I am not a test subject, you bitch!)


    Taking his foot off, he walks back to the notes.


    It was a flash of brilliance, streaming from my star-like mind~! SPARKLE! Out of the twenty-three experimental batches I prepared this morning, I produced results in one of them... though I can’t figure out why. Because I have issues with remembering exact quantities, the formulas listed here preserve my success!


    When I remember which one this sample is from, I can begin full scale testing! Until then, I have to try the concoction in a live test~! Luckily, today is 'Free Access Day'! These simpletons will lick my feet when I march a kid through on a leash to be tasted by Mother!


    AH, SCIENCE! I MUST KNOW~☆!


    The next page is trivial minutiae, though something does stick out:


    When my exalted mind sought to procure the phoenix (BIRD OF REVIVING FIRE) feathers for the essential youthening effect, it seemed unlikely I’d obtain them. Tempesta Universalis possessed the only full-blooded phoenix until it was nicked, and that windbag Tishia doesn’t share materials.

    Even my intellect couldn’t predict that they would be available on the Narrow Line, the expanse’s black network, shortly after the bird was bagged. When I offered one of my supremely rare focusing matrices, the seller of course couldn’t refuse. Without a doubt~☆!"


    Adris is stunned for a moment, as again a word he shouldn’t understand is accompanied by a general, mental understanding of the word.


    (Is this, too, because of the cross?)


    "As… luck would have it, there was a teeny, inconsequential feature added to the crystal. One of my divine hairs was layered into the finished product, reducing its output by a measly 12%, but brand is better than performance! When this genius used clairvoyance to search for it out of… curiosity, I followed the spell all the way to Neo-Askelon division’s area, where it was blocked…


    This poor, oppressed visionary is content to leave this fact unmentioned to others, and with no further investigation. These two groups already plan to expand the war going on outside, and a beautiful researcher need not be a casualty of intrigue.


    (Then don’t write it down, you moron!)


    Adris’ face is blank as he finishes the note.

    Looking to a small shelf containing bound books of notes, he sees that they're all titled in various ways.


    "Grand Experiments of Sublime Importance: Vol III"

    "... Importance: Vol X"
    "... Vol XIV
    "


    Understanding now the woman's pathetic vanity, Adris pushes it from his mind. Instead, he concentrates on odd words such as “clairvoyance” and “spells.”

    These words seem familiar as possible aura technique terms, but the idea of a “spell” is superstition believed in only by unlearned peasants.


    (These organizations, even though I don’t understand their definition, are accompanied by no further knowledge or understanding of their names. Perhaps only words with self-contained meanings allow for explanation?)


    He quietly rolls up all of her research notes, taking down the parchments on the wall that seem related, and puts it all in his pack.


    Walking over to the woman who now has a red nose, he contemplates that it doesn’t seem broken, even though he stepped on her quite hard.

    Only a bit of bluish liquid leaks from a nostril, curiously evaporating as Adris watches.

    Giving the idiot’s clothing one final try, he still doesn’t find any key.


    (Okay, then we have one option.)


    He picks the woman up by the arm and begins dragging her toward the wall.

    Getting there, putting her arm against the crystals causes them to turn various colors with a soft hum, before all change to red. The wall ceases to be smooth with a single sound like a cracking nut, lines appearing in it, opening with a wet, slurching sound to slide out to reveal the unknown.

    Pulling the woman out of sight of the door, Adris makes one last glance around the room, finding nothing else usable.


    Before walking out, he kneels beside the woman.

    He removes and straps her bandoleer around his chest.


    Staring at her hateful face, he holds the cross with a white-knuckled grip.


    (... You, more than anyone, should drop dead.)


    But bludgeoning her to death doesn't solve the problem of needing to actively punish her.

    Worse, Adris feels like something might grow stronger if he loses control of himself.

    Instead of ending the life of the bizarre creature and possibly earning a more hellish punishment for the crime if discovered, Adris resolves to another path.


    Opening her mouth with his hand, he unstoppers the vial and thrusts it into her mouth, inclining her head with his other hand to force her to swallow the concoction.


    Adris lets her head drop with a thud after she finishes swallowing it and leaves the vial in her hand, so that anyone walking inside will believe that she drank it herself.


    Characters:

    Name: Adris fehl Dain; “Mister Meat”
    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)

    Powers:

    [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?”

    [Unknown Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

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



    Disposition: Defeated / Adaptable / Sinner
    Alignment: Chaotic

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

    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please load additional feature.”



    Beauty:

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

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

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

    Description:

    “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?"

    Commentary:

    “Cast into another world, now we get to find out who the true Adris is, starting at page 1. It’s always interesting to see what happens when a person’s world is turned inside out. How can a guy from another world truly be expected to survive in one he knows nothing about? Isn’t it more interesting if the odds are stacked against him?”





    Name: Symphonia Dupres
    Race: Hair Monster / "Sow"
    Sex: Female
    Age: ??

    Occupation: Scholar (dispossessed)
    Discipline: Genius (Self-Professed)

    Powers:

    [Hair Manipulation] - “Has the power sufficient to pick up objects and bind things with her hair. Her hair operates independently of her thoughts, but it’s not always smart. Seemingly cannot intercept the attack of someone right next to her. This is probably related to how focused she is on something at hand, as her emotional state impacts her ability to her user hair.”



    Disposition: Self-aggrandizing / Scatterbrained / Piggish
    Alignment: Chaotic

    Eyes: Purple
    Hair: Black
    Skin: White

    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please unlock me, Adris~.”

    Beauty:

    C-Value - “While she is outwardly beautiful in the manner of a cool and pretty older sister, isn't being slovenly a sort of immense turnoff? Her own voice will drive people away, perhaps leading to the desperation she feels? Still, if your only choice is your hand or her pussy, it might be worth dumping a load in her just to see how it feels?”

    Description:

    “A slob, to the core. Scatterbrained and pompous, she is the epitome of the researcher who believes she is far smarter than others, but cannot actually invent something because of how pathetic she is. Adris cumming down her throat would be the highlight of her career within recent memory. Still, she is intelligent, in her own way, and creating a youthening potion like she did is something to be commended. If it was used on her, what would happen?”

    Commentary:

    “She’s just too tsundere to admit that she wants to be pounded, and Adris is too disgusted to give it to her. I sometimes wonder if he should’ve mating pressed her on the way out. Perhaps the future holds opportunities for her to display just how dumb she is before he does so?”

    Phoenix - “Bird of reviving fire, the creature responsible for the essential ingredient of the potion that Adris is afflicted by.”

    Tempesta Universalis - “The organization that owned the phoenix.”

    Neo-Askelon - “An organization that stole the phoenix.”

    Narrow Line - “An underground black network within the Works, which claims that it can obtain anything you desire, for the right price.”

    Spells - “The aura of the new world? What is a spell? How does one explain it…”
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  7. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 6: Wondrous Works

    Adris rounds a dark corner, a walkway stretching out before him.


    All around him is space.


    Great, floating shelves full of books stretch vertically in both directions, without symmetry or planning given to their placement. Pillars change elevation freely in the air, in many cases shaped like organic life dredged from the sea floor. Lanterns without fire burn with bright light, flitting in and out of existence while weaving between bookshelves.


    Enclaves of brick, stone, and shell fill the void. Separated, but for narrow walkways, they reside between runs of tubes, pipes, and decorative glass works that wind haphazardly through the area.


    Sound is both muffled and amplified, conversations from afar heard close, while his own footsteps fail to echo.


    The proportions of the various structures are strange, like the blue room behind him. The space twists in such a way that platforms can seemingly invert in the distances; yet, people walk on them, when they should be falling to their deaths.





    Where no structures reside, fog is the god of this sundered land.





    Adris retreats back into the comforting darkness behind him.


    “Hmmm? Hmmmmm?” Adris stupidly hums to himself, his normally adaptive mind overloaded by the sight.


    (So, I am in hell, though one distinct from the compacted depths where scaled monsters supposedly dwell. If it's not the hell I've been taught is real, then where is this?)


    Moving tepidly out onto the walkway, he peers over it, seeing that the same scenery continues much further down until it, too, is devoured by fog. As he cannot fly, Adris has few, sane options to choose from.

    Ahead, he sees a sign at a crossway. What it says provides no difficulty in reading, but also offers no help.


    <= Subsection 54-B: Aurelian Crossbreeding Society/Aurelian Purity Cadre: Contested Sector (Hazard Level: A)

    => Cross-Section 22-Lucent: Council of Dark Elders (Tentative Name) (Hazard Level: ???), Main Artery Access: Lambda/Delta-Echelons


    Adris’ brain isn’t working, the only plausible explanation for how nonsensical the words are.


    (“Hazard level” sounds important, and “contested” means fighting. Of the two directions, right seems less immediately dangerous.)


    Adris looks behind, seeing a sign above the corner he exited.


    Tertiary Testing Adjunct 993: Condemned/Misplaced,

    WHERE AM I? ERROR ZED-00-GSA-SOMNI-REDWING/LABORATORIES: CODE 12

    PLEASE REPORT ME TO MOTHER


    A sign below this one, made of cheaper materials, reads:


    Main Laboratory of the Theoretical Heretical Alchemies Department

    Dept Head: Symphonia Dupres

    NOT CONDEMNED!”


    Squinting at this, Adris notices that the room, itself a floating building, appears to be encased in constricting vines attached to the walkway under him.

    The walkway has buckled at the tension placed on it, as the floating building attempts to free itself even now.


    (What the hell is wrong with this hell?)


    Adris quickly departs the ongoing crime scene, choosing to take the right path. It winds through shelves, floating jagged walls, and now unholy statues, idly hovering, stretching out into fog…



    ...



    A boy tumbles along the ground, barely tucking on impact to roll, rather than smashing his face against the floor. Barreling along it out of control, he finally comes to a stop upon hitting a wall.


    Panting heavily, he looks up into what is now the sky.


    A walkway hangs inverted overhead. Gravity changed the moment he jumped from it, throwing him at the island he now rests on.


    (This is madness.)


    It's the only word Adris possesses to describe his situation.

    Almost naked, hungry and thirsty, and nearly dying at the slightest change in environmental gravity, the foggy abyss he traverses has begun to scratch at his already damaged mind.


    (I'm not... going to lose.)


    Getting up slowly and checking to make sure that nothing has broken, Adris moves towards an opening in the wall of this island's building.


    A sign next to the entrance says “Bypass.”


    Within, a pathway exists between two seemingly disconnected areas, the sounds of activity coming from the walls he walks between.

    Hearing whispering ahead, conversation closer than what came from the fog outside, Adris moves forward covertly.


    “Time is limited. A homunculus (FALSE FLESH SERVANT), even one made by my brilliance, won’t survive close circumspection.”

    An annoyingly high, female voice speaks.


    Adris creeps behind bookcases pulled out from the wall in this low-ceiling, dead end of a room. When he comes to the edge of the last of the bookcases...


    “Four [Quicks] (RESTFUL VIGORS) and speak the recall command, or your safety is forfeit. They’ll never discover who did it, only find you with the cat.”


    The room Adris peers into is dimly lit by a fire burning on open floor, no visible fuel feeding it.

    The brick-and-stone connecting passage leads to a door full of darkness ahead, while two ramps go up and down to the left and right. The ramp down leads deep into the unknown, while the ramp upwards ends brokenly into open space, almost as if it’s been consumed by the fog.


    Blue-coated figures, all wearing black masks that conceal their identities, stand in an equidistant circle around the fire.


    The woman that spoke is of average height, with long, blue hair curling out of her cowl, her body overly curvaceous. She rests her hand on a large cage holding a depressed, monstrous black jungle cat, one with four ears, two tails, sharp teeth, and a languid expression on its face.


    (Human!?)


    “It’s your word that it’s the real thing, yes?” Sneers a portly man with a thick, red beard braided into two weaves ending in silver knobs, open suspicion to his tone. “So brilliant you are that you might con me with a copy?”

    Unlike the others, Adris' feels a sense of physical danger to him, as though his smaller size belies prodigious strength.

    He carries a large satchel over his shoulder, and Adris is able to see a glimpse of filled, glass jars within.


    The blue-haired woman scoffs at his accusation.

    “No mere genius can replicate the brand used by my leader, examine it if you desire. And the meat?”


    “Doubt me?” Says the the last figure, a red-skinned woman with a deep, lusty voice.

    A sharp horn poking through her mask and odd, sandy hair rolling out from behind it, these features instantly destroy Adris' hopes. Her breasts are bigger than the blue-haired woman’s, barely contained by her blue coat, though her ass is not as prodigious.


    “I’ll make you eat your doubts as you lick my... No, nevermind, you might enjoy that. The meat is exactly to height, weight, and build. Your list is complete on all metrics, even her hairstyle.”


    She stands beside a naked woman kneeling on the ground: a platinum-blond girl with ringlet hair, perky breasts, fair skin, a young, noble face with blue eyes, and red, kissable lips.

    The odd contrast to this is her toned ass and muscles, and almost perfectly, artificially cut scars into her body, giving her a look of danger that is supported by neither her expression nor demeanor.

    The woman with overly perfect, conflicting features is bound by chains bearing mystical characters engraved into them, with her trying to cover her breasts and hidden crevice, but failing to do so.


    She looks ashamed; but, also… expectant.


    The red woman pulls the girl forward, making her crawl forward, naked, to be seen more clearly.


    “What is this? What are you doing!? You’re not going to… put me with that, horrible beast, are you…? There’s no way it can… fit! Hah…!”

    The human girl’s face flushes as she asks, her hand going up from her breasts to pull at her ringlets idly. Her words belie her obvious interest in the cat.


    Adris stares on with dead eyes, reminded of the black-haired trollop’s assault on him.


    “Eh… It would be more enjoyable if she wasn’t so…”

    Even the blue-haired woman sounds disappointed, put off by the neediness.





    In this hidden space, the shadows move on their own as everyone is momentarily silent.





    (Is this a secret exchange... or a minstrel show...?)


    “As if I care about your commitment to non-consent! You’re getting an excellent deal, for so useless an experiment!”

    Frustrated, the red-skinned woman screams this, before looking towards the man, asking, “You have the lubricants and tonics?”


    “The newest.” The man chuckles sardonically. “Unlike the woman who can’t study something unless it’s forced, I am capable of some measure of professionalism, so long as you can match it.”


    The horned woman clicks her tongue, and then inquires in a curious tone, “… what subject are you testing the cat on?”

    When the man doesn’t answer, instead looking idly to the side, she asks in a depressed voice, “There is a real test subject, right…?”


    “Why do you care!? My research has actual applications! We all intimately understand how you spawn whelps! No mystery there. Only the quantity of pups you could spit out before you croak would impress me.”


    The air is tense, as the tall woman and short man stare at each other, with the blue-haired woman leaning over a bit to inspect the ringlet girl, saying, “She looks an awful lot like a Chosen…”


    “Take it or leave it!” The horned woman makes a clear ultimatum.

    Adris senses some duplicity in her suddenly nervous voice.

    The portly man nods, noting, “Time is a factor…”


    The blue-haired woman looks at the caged cat, the cat looking away as it tries to be unseen, before speaking.

    “The expedition out into the Castillo will begin today. Everyone going will be assembling… Ah, those idiots from Tempesta called out Neo-Askelon, too. If you're going that way, try not to explode.”


    (... Those names are familiar. No, more than familiar... Useful.)


    Adris focuses now, picking out who is going where.


    The horned woman startles a bit at the statement, and says, “... I’ll be leaving with the expedition. There will be no further exchanges until I return.”


    (You.)


    Adris chooses his target.


    “Are you two done? Can we begin the [Oath]?” The portly man whines.

    Nodding silently, they hold up chains, a multitude of them tied together in a mass, in their right hands before them.


    The three speak at the same time.


    “““A known deal, for unknown agency, yet for emerging wisdom. Great Mother, witness our transaction, and let no one speak of it.”””


    The chains glow deep blue, as the shadows whisper and move, with air rushing down the lower ramp. Adris feels colder, heat sucked out from his body and surroundings.


    His own aura wavers with the external feeling. Something in the air feels heavy, like when powerful aura expands to fill it.


    “““Deal.”””


    The glowing ceases with the same word spoken in three voices. The three figures relax their tension, looking lazy now as they lose their formality and take up natural postures.


    The portly man deposits the satchel in front of the red woman, the blue woman releases a complex lock on the wheels of the cat’s cage using a brass key, and the red-haired woman speaks the word “Exchange” as she points at the blue-haired woman, an act which causes ringlet girl’s mystical chains to glow green for a moment.


    “A pleasure, as always. Come, cutie. Kekekeke…~” The blue-haired woman distastefully laughs as she takes the ringlet girl’s chains, rubbing her hand between the enslaved woman’s butt from behind, causing the girl to shriek a bit as she’s led ahead of her new master.

    “No women! NO!” They walk down the ramp, the ringlet girl uselessly resisting and whining as she cringes.


    The red-haired girl picks up the satchel, looking lost in thought, rubbing her stomach before nodding to herself.

    “No matter how large… A worthy challenge…”

    She exits through the door behind them, silent as a ghost as she vanishes into the deep gloom.


    “Hello, pretty cat… I have wanted to meet you for a. Long. Time.” The portly man laughs creepily as he inspects his prize.

    Adris tenses, full of terror at the depraved voice, hiding himself back behind the bookcase.


    When he calms down a second later, he peers around the bookcase…


    … and makes eye contact with the cat. Which opens its fanged mouth.


    “Help me.”

    The monstrous black cat begs, its voice high. Its eyes are hard and full of despair.


    Adris ignores the beast. The cat huffs and then lays down, resigned to its fate.


    “Hmm, strong voice. Oh, glorious Mother, if only I could be as graceful as a cat… At least there’s other parts that I can acquire… Fufu…”

    The portly man trundles off while laughing, pulling the cat’s large cage easily. They disappear down the lower ramp.


    Time passes as the light they set before them using some power extinguishes.


    Adris says a silent remembrance for the cat before creeping ahead into the maddening presence of foul fog roiling into the room, entering the darkness of the far door.

    Seeking to tail the red scholar that left to join some expedition, his practiced, silent steps let him move quickly.


    (What was that oath? There was a great deal of power in what occurred…)


    Adris has never witnessed such a ritual, its bizarre form of great interest. His long subdued curiosity awakens.


    (For them to agree to it and place their anonymity on it, does it bind them, somehow? Is it a true contract? How does it function? How... useful would that be?)


    External chains that hold participants to their word.


    A word that can't be broken without suffering.





    ... Free of betrayal?





    (Curiosity kills.)


    Reminding himself of a maxim, Adris still cannot stop himself from dwelling on it.


    (But more than that... you are going somewhere I need to be. And there's an... opportunity if those organizations are having a "showdown.")


    Because Adris is carrying something that one of them will want.



    ..



    Swinging around a big wall, he comes out around the corner to see an enclosed room with connecting doors within, several large pipes weaving in from the space outside to plunge within.

    Unknown machinery and contrivances are built around portals into these pipes, which lie open to entry.

    The end points of these pipes vanish into the fog in the distance.


    The woman walks up to one of them, inserting a flat key into a panel. Adris makes note of the key's shape, while a great vacuum noise begins in response to her turn.

    A moment later, she is pulled upward into the tube by the air, shooting up at a speed Adris gawks at.


    (This is a way of traveling?)


    Adris looks carefully at the pipes as he creeps in.

    They don’t bear any words indicating where they go, and the panels themselves are mystical contrivances that defy easy explanation.


    (If I wait here, someone will come.)


    Adris grips his cross, resolved to wait for as long as it takes, shivering as he hides out of sight of the entrance to the room.


    Hunger and thirst grow, but the worst feeling is not these.

    A growing lust assaults him, one that pervades every part of him. Like what he felt with the hair woman, he can feel his body heating up as he waits.


    (Was some drug used on me...? But the... cross flushed the poison. If it's not a poison, it is...)


    His wait doesn’t take too long, as something is deposited out of one of the pipes to his right, a deafening rush of air exploding out from the pipe.


    In front of Adris, a figure about his size is now standing, having landed on its feet with an open book in front of its face.


    “Rouvelt won’t work, absorbs too slowly… Humans and demi-humans lack the capacity for enlightened orgasm, to bind and retain potency long enough for use is a bit…”

    An airy, dry male voice comes out from behind the book, one titled “Cheaper Reagants and Cheapskates Like You, Ninety-Fifth Edition.


    The figure slams the book shut with one hand, letting it fall to his side as he brings his arm up to rub his forehead, massaging to reduce the stress of his closed and dark eyes.

    The hand above holds a chain, from which curious, familiar keys hang wobbling.





    Adris charges the figure.

    The young-looking male with small, nubby horns and slightly bluish skin reopens his eyes, blinking in confusion when he sees Adris closing from his corner.


    Still naked and wearing a bloody cloak, the distance vanishes in a moment.

    The silver cross is already descending towards the hateful enemy before Adris.


    “… What? [Protection of Necessity]!”

    A phrase is all the scholar is able to manage, with some green, shimmering shell of light appearing around him, before the hammer of death pierces through it with no resistance.


    The cross wallops him on the forehead, a cracking sound accompanying it, one which echoes throughout the area. The enemy violently seizes, then falls to his knees and crumples forward.


    Pieces of the mystical shield he called forth tumble along the floor before vanishing as Adris' victim lies completely still, a lasting slumber delivered to him.


    His sanity temporarily bolstered by the satiated bloodlust, Adris drags the scholar and the book, pulling the body along the walkway to a dark corner he had previously found while stalking the red woman.


    Adris’ eyes dart around to make sure he hasn’t been noticed…



    ...



    (A bit baggy.)


    Adris tests his limbs, trying to find where the clothing should be tightened.


    The scholar's black, supple leather jerkin and black pants fit loosely under the blue robe.

    The plain, gray tunic underneath the jerkin is a bit short.

    A roguish, red-loop belt holds up his pants, and his hard shoes are plated with protective iron.


    The outfit seals his body well, despite being baggy, and the chill of the great space outside is lessened dramatically.

    The potion satchel underneath his coat adds an air of legitimacy to his look.


    Though he can’t see his reflection, wearing clothing again, even if not his style, makes Adris feel surprisingly human.


    Adris sighs in relief, as he reforms his mental image and focuses his mind.


    A human is whatever he’s wearing, son. You can be whatever others expect you to be, hee, as long as the fashion is right.

    Adris recalls an ironic lesson from a man who barely fit his own clothes.

    A very old ritual plays out in Adris' mind, one he's relied on for survival for his whole life.





    Completing it, his identity becomes a [Scholar Bound in Madness].





    The fear and insecurity fades away with the adoption of his new persona.

    (We’re all mad, anyway.)

    Adris can’t claim to be totally sane, especially with his struggle against the emotional turbulence from recent tragedies.


    Feeling his face, Adris recalls that all of these creatures have inhuman characteristics and skin colors.

    Looking in the outer pocket of his pack, he sees the silver mask that he found in the Emperor’s sarcophagus.


    (Covering my face may make me appear more inhuman?)


    He examines it, the silver light glinting off of it disturbing his thoughts when he does so.

    Paying closer attention to it, he feels that something might be wrong with his intentions, but he can't determine what.


    Putting it over his face, he adjusts it.

    The mask comfortably covers the upper part of his face quite well.

    It’s an excellent disguise.


    (… what?)


    Adris pales, noticing that he’s wearing the mask, even though he was only considering it as an option.

    When he tries to take it off…


    The boy yanks at it, trying to remove it off with all of his might, but…


    (… it won’t.)


    Not just the cross…


    (Fuck! They’re both cursed!)



    ...



    Adris has no time to consider the ramifications of his most recent misfortune as he walks back to the pipe chamber.

    He can feel his lust developing into an existential concern.


    {A man holds... before him...}


    With his rising lust, images are beginning to appear before his eyes. Flashes only, now, but growing with intensity.


    Peering up and down into a pipe, there’s no floor, yet travel has been demonstrated as possible.


    The scholar’s keyring features irregularly shaped keys with no clue to their functioning, but one stands out.

    Clover-shaped at the end, and with an image of a grand doorway with flanking statues engraved into its handle, this was the key the red woman used.


    From his pack, Adris looks inside to recover some items he’d yet to find a chance to wear.


    The only remaining “trinkets” still in Adris’ possession are a tool which creates a temporary fog by using aura, and his mystical writing tool which deposits ink from a supposedly inexhaustible well.

    Of them, the fog around him is thicker than what the tool can usually make, and he has no use for the quill at present.


    (Better this, than nothing.)


    He is unsure if the fog trinket can even be used, and is unwilling to test it, lest it potentially never work again.


    The metal panel possesses various holes and knobs, but only one slot fits his chosen key. Putting it in, he turns the key, pulling it back when it’s forced out of the hole.


    The pipe fills with deafening, rushing air.


    Some unknown force, other than the air, grabs Adris before he can scream, yanking him into the pipe.

    Traveling at enormous speeds, the foggy hellscape rushing by, he promptly passes out from the pressure on his body as he's thrown around...



    ...



    Adris refocuses to find an unfamiliar bustle, his spinning equilibrium correcting itself enough for consciousness.


    Passing out during the trip leaves him unaware of how far he has traveled, though he is oddly still standing upon arrival. The area is much larger than the previous tube room, instead being an enormous brick-and-stone hallway wrenched loose from a larger enclosure, floating within the abyss.


    Passerbys traverse a winding walkway, a maze of junk laid over damaged, once-fine carpeting. The piles of scrap and junk obscure sight, and where they do not, the shell-like constructs found in this room, which itself is partially submerged with brackish water, complete the claustrophobic effect.

    A thin layer of viscous slime coats most surfaces, and the breeze that wafts through is cold.


    The largest shell formations form a large dais at the center of the hallway, directly across from the row of misaligned tubes he stands near.

    Nearby, a throng of people congregate. A meeting is at hand.


    (Blue coats, everywhere…)


    Rousing at the potential danger, he focuses on the those who walk by him, scholars arriving from other tubes or passing by the trash heaped next to him.

    The menagerie of this area catches him by surprise. Posts with monstrous creatures tied to them, and cages trapping human-looking creatures within, fill this meeting place.


    (Or is it a trading post?)


    The refuse in piles seems hazardous to Adris, but utterly normal for everyone else, a source of interest rather than scorn. These pernicious junk heaps form unsorted rows of paraphernalia and miscellanies, featuring impromptu stalls next to them, “owners” closely watching others pick through them.

    Hiding in the shadows of these grand piles and sitting at ramshackle tables are people for whom the word “conspiracy” was invented, their conversations hushed and their eyes mistrustful.


    A state of undisguised paranoia taints the atmosphere, as everyone who isn’t chained up is…


    (Of course, wearing a blue coat.)


    Adris grips his newly acquired coat more closely to his body.


    Walking up to a wall nearby, Adris inspects layers of parchment with various messages, a confusing mix of new, with old and faded.

    They denote offers for trade or information exchange, even challenges being made openly. Demands for duels in professional contests are listed, mixed with scrawled guarantees of vengeance.

    Advertisements, bounties for unheard of beasts, and, most importantly, warnings for “the outside.”


    (That is my destination!)


    Moving further into the crowd, Adris arrives at a nearby stall, examining some of the creatures.


    All of them are docile: drugged or bound creatures waiting to be used for nefarious experiments, or alert and rested ones being displayed as finished products.

    Many have human-like forms mixed with beast.

    The finished products possess the same mental malignancy as the scholars standing around them, the madmen proudly discussing the specifications of the creatures. Such finished products look… hungry, but not for meat.


    (Do they await outside, too? As guards, or predators?)


    These monsters resemble nothing seen on Xin. Fashioned as if from drunken nightmares, they take Adris further from normalcy.

    If he were to be attacked by these naked, female monsters, for instance, what would happen?


    Adris looks up, then, as he hears something flap heavily in the air.


    Where the ceiling is still completely intact, a gargantuan banner proudly hangs. The sigil on it is a gray, conical tower, collapsing and being drawn into a great, blue-swirling void.


    (Completely unknown heraldry. Not even what I’ve read of the southern barbarians seems to relate to this sigil.)


    Adris minds his expression and gaze, now, aware that he is in a place he has never heard of, among creatures never before seen on Xin's islands.

    His addled mind has missed such an obvious necessity as this, the fatigue too much for him to operate efficiently.


    (Any sort of incorrect gaze can give me away.)


    He furtively sizes up the people around him; but, strangely, everyone who makes eye contact with him quickly looks away, unwilling to meet his gaze. They go on about their business, ignoring him completely or giving him wide berth.

    Adris is uncertain at the response, but doesn’t reject it since it benefits him greatly.


    (All of the conversations I can hear sound the same.)


    The cross' dubious gift of speech and reading had left Adris confused as to how it worked.

    No more, for among this distinctive and unique group, all of the conversations sound different, but within his mind are understood as the Xin trader’s dialect.


    (I cannot even concentrate on the language itself, as the understanding preempts the ability of my mind to analyze the sounds.)


    Peering through this crowd, his eyes widen with naked glee.





    At the end of the long hall, he sees...


    (My salvation.)


    … a grand doorway, the behemothian metal doors engraved with something like a scholar’s mystical character notations.


    (“Power which forfends, separating dimension, in accordance with the will of the Ones Beyond, against the will of the Golden Soul…” It’s an incredibly complex and long sentence?)





    The doorway has designs like the Emperor’s Conquest style engraved in it, but instead of simple characters which tell simple stories, this door is a woven tale that would take him days to unravel. The words cling to his mind as he follows them, visible even at this great distance.

    Adris understands their meaning, though Adris instinctively feels an important component is missing. While he can read them, he doesn’t understand their intent or purpose.


    (If they have a deeper meaning, then perhaps it requires a requisite understanding of the way they should be understood?)


    If the glyphs don’t make sense, then what is adjacent makes even less, being only hideous in nature.


    Large, stone statues flank the door. Resembling carved octopuses, except that their construction is more like starfish stacked on top of each other, the rubber-like mass is quite disgusting.

    Their blossom-like, thick tentacles serve as legs, while the upper body possesses gangly, long appendages surrounding a great, central eye.

    They stand roughly seventeen-feet tall, and are six-feet thick across their top. Frozen tentacles menace those who walk beneath them.


    Blue-cloaked individuals with the postures of guards, and wearing pauldrons and ear-length caps instead of cowls, stand facing a line stretching before them.

    The line comprises cloaked individuals readying to leave, a palpable sense of irritation to the assembly.


    This is the largest doorway Adris has ever seen. Beyond it, possibly freedom.

    But, a freedom that is dangerous to approach, because the guards are checking papers and talking to scholars lining up.


    (I will never pass inspection.)


    Adris needs... a distraction.


    Walking through the area, he looks for potential help.

    Behind steel bars, there are... humans.


    (Can they be allies?)


    The human prisoners in the metal enclosures are… all either strangely handsome men or beautiful women of various unknown ethnicities, or an odd mix of human and some beast.

    Humans indistinguishable from him are penned in together, with some showing strange, pointed ears and lithe figures; but, there are also winged and clawed women; people with animal ears and tails; scaled warriors with inhuman appendages; even a horse woman with large, exposed breasts that she can only support with her human arms.

    The strangest part is that they look content, even bored; though, the less beautiful examples are horrified as they huddle together, shaking in fear as a naked, praying woman with enormous pillow breasts and a pert butt kneels beside them.


    Next to this cage, he sees through a gathered crowd that two humans are bound: a woman strapped into a pillory and a man lashed to a wooden bench.


    (Is this… what they have to look forward to? ... No, what I would have to look forward to...?)


    A girl, only slightly taller than Adris, has a sign hanging down around her neck that says “Free Sample.”

    She is being pounded from behind as her small breasts wobble, a wolf-like man with thick, black hair, and claws for hands and feet lolling his tongue as he powerfully ravishes her.

    Her blue eyes shine with satisfaction as she moans, her cute face flushed with arousal. The thick layer of white semen coating her is unlikely to belong to only the wolfman, as there is a line behind him of blue-coated rapists, all idly discussing different topics while stroking their cocks to ready them.


    The bound man’s face cannot be seen, but Adris hears his moans as a brown-skinned woman with a long, spade-capped tail slams herself onto his cock.

    Her sturdy, cloven-footed goat legs support her endeavor, and her open coat lets her partially-exposed, large breasts jiggle as she insults him. He begs for more abuse in response, his cries for attention prompting the woman to massage his balls with affection.

    When he shakes, the woman licks her lips with satisfaction. Lifting up off of his girthy dick, her spread snatch drips copious white liquid, while her hand lovingly strokes the man’s still climaxing dick.

    She negotiates with his owner as his cock shoots one last, thick rope when she squeezes hard.


    (Is this punishment, experiment, or recreation…?)


    Adris is no longer certain about protocol.

    He feels dizzy. People being openly raped in front of him is rare, but bearable.

    This scene, however, defies his expectations in a way which makes him doubt his sanity, as if this is all an illusion.


    A rough-looking, youthful man with a swath of long, unevenly-cut red hair matches Adris’ gaze with his own when Adris focuses on the cages.


    His taciturn face looks cool as he holds his arms before his muscular chest, though his eyes go wide when they lock onto each other.

    An aura of dignity clings to him, his unkempt stubble and powerful build making him look like the manly Xin’Reh squad leaders Adris had met on the battlefield long ago as a young teenager.


    (Is he their leader? Perhaps if it's him, he could-)


    His hopeful thoughts are instantly dashed when the man lifts his arm in a thumbs up, offering a cheery grin while completely naked.

    The man's dick hangs out for the whole world to see as he stands proudly behind the metal bars.


    (... Perhaps not.)


    It’s hard for Adris to understand this realm of the dead, but at the very least, these prisoners do not look useful.


    “Oh, Tishia, for what reason do you inflict your persecutions on me?” A swarthy man speaks with a honeyed tongue, light and carefree, but with obvious disregard. “Rather than your petty accusations, shall I remind you of your own failures?”


    Atop the central, fifteen-foot, sea-shell dais of irregular shape and inhuman construction, Adris sees people wearing dusky-gold armbands on their coats.

    Standing in front of them and talking loudly is a tall man, his blue cowl down and his coat loosely draped upon his back with arms freed.

    Underneath the coat, he wears a transparent, black-linen bodysuit that opens down the middle, for which he would be naked save for an impressive panel of woven gold in the shape of a long cartouche, covered in strange glyphs and hanging from his neck.

    His beautiful, androgynous, painted face, combined with his amiable smile, would normally hide his dangerous nature quite well.


    But, Adris has seen this kind of man many times.

    Looking beyond the paint and foppish appearance, Adris has already marked him as a charismatic leader, and utterly amoral.

    The man sweeps his hand through his hair, addressing the crowd instead of this "Tishia."


    “Whereas our Neo-Askelon has been at the forefront of the defense against the invading Chosen, providing new defenders born from the offspring of the enemy, our…”

    He lazily waves towards the seething woman below him.

    “’Competitors’ have focused on unnecessary research. What use is 'giant avian mating' for defense within an enclosed building?”

    He strikes his golden stick out to address the gathered people.


    “When you think of the future of the Castillo and our war against the outside world, the choice is obvious: only I can lead us to a future where we are free of interruptions from the Chosen!”


    Pointing at the woman, Heleton sneers slightly.


    "Only Tishia can destroy our bright future with her incompetence."


    ("Tishia" is a name that I know, and it belongs to...)


    “You say you fight for the defense of the Castillo, but you’ve squandered our resources in a faraway desert!”

    A woman speaks with a deep, rich voice, commanding like the fop's, but also on edge.

    “Mother has already rejected further use of the undead! Only the…” She points towards the people in the cages.

    “Fools locked up over there bother with them; and, even then, the undead cannot invade Petripolis! The [Alchemaster] specified that we needed a lasting solution! The strongest defense is the elimination of the fools outside!”


    Flanked by much more formal attendants wearing white-and-red armbands, the woman with three ruddy, spiky horns has her hair lightly brushed by a woman behind her. She has deep emerald eyes, a sharp, tomboyish face, and human-looking, tanned skin, with a voluptuous body filling out even the closed blue coat she wears.

    The armband on her coat is of a bird on fire. Adris remembers the container he found in Symphonia’s room.


    (If I guess the organizations correctly, then hers is the one I need to use.)

    He feels in his pack for the silver container.


    Characters:

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

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

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

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



    Beauty:

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

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

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

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



    Description:

    “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?"



    Commentary:

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

    Mother - "A being which all in the abyss seem to revere, and whose presence can be described as 'everything here'."

    Quick - "Denotes the passing of time, with an unknown quantity. Said to be related to the rate at which one recovers one's strength."

    Castillo - "A place beyond the abyss, where others speak of reverently."

    Oath - "A contract that is absolutely binding according to its terms. Practiced by the evil creatures which live in a blue hell."

    Transfer Pipes - "Connecting tubes which allow anyone to effortlessly travel through the abyss, only keys held by madmen can activate them."

    Silver Mask of the Emperor - "Okay, yes, it's cursed, too. But at least nobody can easily discern his identity."

    Fog and Quill Trinkets - "As yet unused trinkets that survived the destruction of the rest, because they were in his pack at the time of his death."
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  8. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 7: Sand, Phoenix, and Shooting Stars

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


    (Not well, if it’s gone.)


    Adris can already see where this confrontation will go.

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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

    Adris reels a bit, the images accompanied by vertigo.


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

    Adris approaches his target stealthily from behind.

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


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

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


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


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


    (Simplicity is best.)


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


    Adris is invigorated now.

    An escape is all that matters.


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


    The images return.

    Adris shakes his head slightly, nausea coming with them.


    The ivory man reaches out his hand.


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

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

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


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


    (I share this disappointment.)


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


    (The truth will suffice.)


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


    “Stolen from you?”


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

    The man’s purple eyes narrow.


    “Why bring this proof?”


    Adris puts on at conspiratorial face and smiles.

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





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





    The man’s eyes relax.

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


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


    (There’s danger to the outside, too.)


    The ivory-skinned man opens his eyes after thinking.


    “Kejourou (HAIR DEMON). Where?”


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


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

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


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


    The man is already planning to determine Adris’ identity.

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


    This is an immense gamble.

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


    (Though this is hardly my first long shot…)


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

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


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


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


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

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


    (Weapons are coming out.)


    Adris tenses, glancing over at the big doorway.

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

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


    (Hurry and begin.)


    The foreign feeling is creeping back into Adris’ mind.


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


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


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

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


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


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


    (There’s no outrage.)


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

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

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


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


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


    “I don’t intend to do it.”


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


    “He’s already revived her!”


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


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


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

    He laughs openly at his apparent victory.


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

    Many have what look like paper gambling tickets.

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

    The man licks his androgynous lips.


    “To improve upon…”


    He then begins chanting in kind.

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


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


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


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


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


    (That... might not...)


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





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

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


    (... Oh. It's an ambush.)


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


    Everyone in the crowd is attacking.

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


    The ambushers are in turn ambushed.

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


    Adris is no longer sure who is ambushing whom.


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

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


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


    (Fuck you.)


    Adris moves in, quick as a monkey.

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

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


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

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

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


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

    Finishing her off, Adris looks for other opponents.


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


    (What else can go wrong?)



    [Soul-Eating Phoenix!]


    [Infinite Golden Sea.]



    Everything is covered in blinding light.


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


    (All eyes are now off me, though.)


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


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


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


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


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

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





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





    The whole room starts to shake.


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


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

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


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


    “Why are the guardians coming to life?!”

    Everyone around him is equally disturbed.


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


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

    The closest thing whips a massive arm toward him.


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

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

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


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


    Adris’ blank mind seizes on it.

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

    Yelling loudly, he tries to deflect blame.


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

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

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


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


    A panic goes out.


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


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

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


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


    With the dust rising…


    … all hell breaks loose.


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

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

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


    “[SHOOTING STARS!]”


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


    The woman reveals a look of mistrust.

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

    He sees fear and…


    (Interest?)


    Interest in what Adris holds in his hand.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


    A slam is heard behind him.

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


    Very painful.


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


    But finds he can’t.


    Nor can he hold the knife.

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


    (What…?)


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


    (I can’t use weapons?)


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

    This mystical artifact keeps doing infuriating things.


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


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

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


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


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

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


    “Then stay in hell!”

    Adris pointlessly yells at his possession as it soars away.


    The cross, amazingly, flies straight and true.

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


    “[Protection of Necessity!]”

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


    (… That’s a lot to take in.)


    Adris hurries over to the blond woman.

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

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


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

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


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

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





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





    "No, I got what I needed."

    (One traitor, brutally punished.)

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

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


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

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


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


    (He was smashed into the ground!)


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

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


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

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


    (Is nothing fatal to these creatures!?)


    Adris can’t afford to waste any more time.


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


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





    But... is caught on something invisible.


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

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


    (There’s an invisible aura barrier.)


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


    When he had aura.


    But Adris’ aura is not recovering.

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

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


    (I can’t be stuck here!)


    The betrayal by Serras.

    Being turned into a boy.

    Being assaulted by that trash-brained hair devil.

    This labyrinth and its depredations.


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

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


    (I don’t want to die. Again.)


    Something grabs him.

    And hoists him up.





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

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





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





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


    Characters:

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

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

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

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



    Beauty:

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

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

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

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



    Description:

    “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?"



    Commentary:

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





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

    Occupation: Wondrous Works Scholar
    Discipline: ???

    Powers:

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



    Disposition: Sultry / Intelligent / Vicious
    Alignment: Neutral

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



    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please unlock me, Adris~.”



    Beauty:

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



    Description:

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



    Commentary:

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

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

    Alchemaster - "An odd word, what do you get when you mix alchemy with complete mastery?"

    Gate Guardian - "All mansions have gates, right? How strong is your gate guard? On the Chuugoku Scale, 1-10, this one is..."
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  9. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 8: Up the Castillo in Twenty Minutes

    The feeling of being turned inside out assaults Adris, one similar to when the black specter in the Emperor's tomb killed him.

    The darkness beyond the door wasn’t a path, but a great, dark hole. Adris feels the puzzling madness of the abyss receding, replaced by an onrush of something else.


    Sheer malevolence and dark, tormented fascination linger at the furthest possible distance of his perception, hidden within the total darkness of this new area.


    Recovering from the strange feeling of forced movement, Adris’ aura senses quake with a sudden awakening. The fascination at the edge of his mind seems to feel him, too, and it closes to surround him in an instant.


    As the rudely disturbed sleeper awakens, sconces in the wall spark and begin to burn a dull blue. Rather than warmth, a cold light illuminates a hall far richer than the abyss.


    The disgusting wealth here is etched into its architecture: sharp, immense columns that meet as lancet arches overhead; marbled stone walls with soft, wooden panels at mid-level in a checkerboard pattern, wavy and fluted; long, dark-gold carpeting; and a raised, recessed, vaulted ceiling with ornate friezes and mouldings.


    The prevailing colors are gray, blue, and gold, but without luster due to the meager illumination of the hall.


    (Somehow… I prefer the void.)


    Looking more like a great residency’s main hall, large paintings hang on the walls in gaudy frames: various inhuman figures in states of both dress and undress, their poses often tempting, but never purely carnal; scenes of violent carnage intermix with oases of common activity and recreation; and strange depictions, such as fruits made of glass instead of flesh, complete the oddity of the various artists’ styles.


    With suits of uniformly designed armor hafting sharp spears while standing at grim attention, this guarded space is both wide and high for a corridor, and extends far out into the darkness in both directions.


    The misleadingly normal door behind him closes with the sharp sound of a latch going down.


    Adris is still being carried like a bundle. He again looks up at the woman holding him.

    Her eyes are narrowed, shining in this dark space, as she peers down both directions of the hall. Concentration is writ on her face, with a little uncertainty creeping through her expression.


    (Is this not where she expected to end up?)


    Adris uses his right hand to pat her thigh, hitting on something that isn’t flesh, but rather irregular and hard. Curious, he starts to ask something…


    “Hold, for a minute, little brother. No words, or I’ll take your tongue for myself~”


    The woman is still concentrating, but her mouth becomes a sneer when she sets him down. Pulling out a piece of folded parchment from inside her coat and flicking it open, she reads it with swiftly darting eyes.


    (Little brother?)


    Adris ponders the words while standing next to the taller woman, trusted by her enough not to wander off or bolt for freedom.

    (This... Lycia desires to address me as such?)

    Adris wonders if she has determined anything about him. Needing her neutrality, and possibly her aid, Adris bets on rewards for obedience.


    Adris fehl Dain becomes [Lycia’s Little Brother].

    (A part I don’t know how to play.)


    Relaxing finally, she taps the parchment, which folds itself back up. Depositing the square inside her coat, she smiles broadly at Adris with amused eyes.


    “Carried like a log… or riding on my back? Which is your preference, lil’ bro?”


    Startled by the question, Adris unintentionally steps back a bit.

    Glancing at her breasts, he thinks of how to hold on.


    His choice makes her chuckle.



    ...



    Bounding down hallways, the scenery becomes a blur.

    Much of it is darkness that Adris’ eyes can’t penetrate, yet Lycia sees through clearly.

    Arms hooked over Lycia’s shoulder and under her armpit, Adris grips while brushing against her generous breasts.


    They move down twisting corridors, her choosing adjoining paths after a moment’s trepidation.


    A large, blue-glowing fireplace lights the room ahead, the room within a picturesque resting place surrounded by bookshelves and furniture along the walls, storing obscenely expensive porcelain plates and other dust-covered treasures.


    Adris catches sight of a girl lying on a red, claw-footed sofa as they barrel through.


    Around her are stuffed animals and toys. Resting, with her eyes closed and turned towards him, her long, tousled, pink hair flows over her body’s length.


    Her clothing is fluffy and cute, looking like doll’s clothes made by the southern barbarians, though the clothing lets her legs, upper arms, and torso show through. The pale, soft, delectable skin underneath the thick clothes is far too appealing to Adris.


    As they fly past, the girl mechanically opens her eyes and locks onto him. Her pink eyes on her perfectly symmetrical face are filled with fathomless lust, as her arm moves slightly to lift herself.


    Adris feels fear as he notices a detail: the woman has doll-like joints where her elbows, shoulders, and knees are. Her body is dangerously inhuman, and an equally inhuman presence leaks from it as she rouses.


    When she rouses, a rush of whispers sounds all around Adris, with a feeling of terror gripping his heart.


    The pale Lycia doesn’t slow at all when assaulted by these sounds, simply charging out the room’s exit, barely avoiding a portcullis that slams down behind her as her speed increases at the last moment.


    A sad voice sounds out behind as Adris tries to hang onto a rampaging jungle cat.


    “Oh… but I wanted to play~.”


    While Lycia bounds down the hall, Adris’ heart calms with the disappearance of the sudden sense of struggle that came to him.

    He becomes aware of how inescapable this mansion might be without Lycia’s aid.



    ...



    Within this evil place, Lycia searches for something.


    Adris hangs on as she checks doors and passages, finally discovering a room to her liking.

    She carries him inside and throws her large, wooden contraption to the side, closing the door with her foot before bolting it. She deposits Adris into a chair next to a wall, before finally relaxing herself.


    This small room, possessing only two chairs and a table, resembles a waiting room within a large home.

    The noticeable dissimilarity is the left corner of the room being absent, instead opening into a circular, plaster-walled void with carved reliefs along its walls. Only a low, brass railing would keep the viewer from plunging into the darkness below.

    Adris can hear subtle music entering from this space, as if someone is playing for them from a distant place.

    A black candle in an ornate, brass frame burns with a non-existent flame, Lycia's body lit by its waving light.


    (Aura tools all about. No normality at all. Sheer decadence! Unfair!)


    Stewing in his jealousy, Adris' mind is finally taken off of the tools by Lycia stretching like a cat in front of him, her body taut as she shows off her butt against her overcoat.


    Adris follows its movement, until he sees her green-golden eyes watching him.

    Swiftly taking off her coat, she throws it into the other chair. Walking up to stand in front of him, she puts both gloved hands on the arms of the chair, locking Adris in as she leans forward.


    Lycia's beautiful, if slightly gaunt, face comes closer to his.


    The boy can now make out her inner outfit. A white, armless ruffled shirt tight to her bustline and showing cleavage. Golden stripes in a stylized flower design fill the lower left of the shirt, with the hem cutting off at her waist.

    A large belt holds up short, flared pants that cling to her ass, the belt also supporting two leather panels that run down her thighs to the top of her knees. These panels hold numerous pouches, containers, instruments, and tools.


    But the most interesting part of his view is open and on display.


    The front of the pants are missing at her crotch.

    (Just how obscene are you creatures?)

    Instead, her red, silky lace hip-hugger panties are readily visible, thin enough that Adris can make out the shape of her lips.


    Her riding boots can be heard as she taps her foot, bringing Adris’ attention away from her barely covered treasure to the black, silk socks running up her legs into her pants, which accentuate her meat as they hold tight against it.

    “If you stare that hard, you might not be able to answer my questions.”

    The woman coos as she speaks, her hand going to Adris’ head, pushing back his cowl when she lightly grips him around the back.


    (Ah.)


    Adris was too preoccupied to notice her moving to expose his face.

    She peers down at him with his humanity fully revealed. Her smile is teasing, but also domineering, and a hint of malice lingers in her eyes.

    Realizing that the woman has potentially exposed his deception, Adris can’t help but sweat.


    “When did they start letting such de~li~cious little boys into the Wondrous Works?”

    She enunciates her favorite word.


    (No choice but ignorance?)


    Adris has no plan for fooling her.

    Though he needs the woman to escape, he can’t determine how to make her his.


    “… Today, at the very least.” He replies, bringing a chuckle to her.

    Lycia rubs his hair gently as she stands relaxed before him, her thick hips moving slightly as she emphasizes them.


    Adris is worried by the temperature of her hands: barely the same warmth as the room, cold even in these strange halls.


    “Is there an issue with a fellow scholar being a boy?”


    “Not at all, I prefer it~. Mother’s tastes mean more young colleagues like you.”

    Unlike the kejourou, this woman isn’t grossly blatant or ugly. Adris can feel her seduction, but it is gentle so far as she continues.

    “Still, a mask on a young boy is a bit presumptuous, even if you’re trying to appear mysterious.”


    (But she’s not seducing, she’s interrogating.)


    Something about this style of appealing to him seems familiar.


    (And she is interested in the mask.)


    “… It sure was a fierce struggle.” Adris says, trying to regain control of the conversation. “Your device was really excellent.”

    He looks to the covered box she’s set on the floor.

    The woman’s eyes are wide as he looks back, her face soft. She looks pleased for a moment, before recovering her seductive gaze.


    “Ahaha, what an unusual compliment.” She lovingly pats his head.

    “But do you really think that little bit of stage theater was that fierce?” Even as she pats him, her dimly shining eyes take on a more sadistic look. “Them doing that before the election is a guaranteed event~.”


    (Was that… not considered a “fierce battle?”)


    Adris can’t follow, as he doesn’t know the customs or expectations.


    “Mm, your look is excellent~. I like how you try to hide it.” Speaking abruptly, the woman bends down and…

    “Disregarding the advertising that you call a battle, the truly strange part of the day was the guardians awakening to try and swipe my precious stowaway.”


    … kisses Adris on the cheek.


    Confused, his expression turns surprised before he can stop it.

    She then licks his cheek where she had kissed it, her pale skin a bit flushed.


    “… But, you don’t smell too frightened? Barely escaping from the Wondrous Works, shouldn’t a…"


    Kissing him lightly on the lips with a pause in her sentence, shocking Adris to the core, she pulls back suddenly.


    "… subject (prey) be a little more worried around the researcher (wolf)?”


    Adris tenses, trying to move subtly to take back up his cross. There’s nowhere to escape to in this closed room.





    As his hand moves, the woman’s own on the chair goes to his arm, clamping onto it.


    (Absolutely… monstrous strength.)


    Adris’ arm can’t even squirm as the woman’s cold hand grips it.





    “Your little cross is quite curious. I loved it when Ishia fell. It was a manly throw. Yelling 'go to hell' as you defended me~. Kyaa~!”

    Lycia fakes a maidenly scream, her eyes still serious. Adris notes that her gaze lingers on the shining silver as she holds down his arm.


    (That… wasn’t really directed at her. And you are very curious.)


    This woman before him, who seems to favor tools, is interested in him because of them.


    “Is it not strange for you to be betrayed by someone else like that?”


    Lycia looks genuinely confused, before smiling gleefully.

    “The idea that anyone in the Works could be betrayed by another member is absolutely hilarious~! You can’t betray people who are your natural enemies! If anything, only one person trying to ambush me would be considered a great success! I wonder if I've managed to be forgotten, lately...?”


    (As an organization, you all seek to thwart each other? How do you function, then!?)


    Adris is silent in thought as she stares. Since Adris’ deception is already finished, he finds himself at her mercy.


    As if she senses his distress, Lycia relaxes her grip a bit. Smiling kindly before him, her next words give him hope.

    "It's not as if you need to be worried about me. I have no reason to return you to the Works, nor 'punish' you for escaping, little brother. If you went that far to get out, then it's not my place to ruin your fun~."

    Finally breathing again, Adris falls back into his chair.


    “… But, you know, my debt has already been repaid from... earlier. I carried you out. So…”


    She stands back up, releasing Adris with a slight pat.


    “… Our business is done?”

    She leaves off with an open ended question.


    Adris is confused, then realizes the implication.


    (She’s going to let me go, but also...)

    He swallows hard.

    (She…)


    She will abandon Adris.


    Even now, she gets ready to leave, looking at her coat on the other chair.

    (I see. She already has control of the situation, and by extension, me. "Mercy" is leaving me alone. Anything further, I have to bargain for.)


    Adris runs out of options instantly.


    (But she is interested in me, a queer mystery that is dumped before her.)

    A stranger escaping with at least two bizarre mystical artifacts. This woman is watching how he reacts with a passive face, but sharp eyes.

    (If I can’t appear to be in charge of myself, then I choose to let you pretend to be in charge.)


    “Wait.”

    Adris quickly pleads, with a low voice.


    “Hm? Did you need something, cutie?” The woman purrs as she turns back to him, her hands checking a tube on her thigh satchel, an object that looks like the one she used earlier on the device.


    (Appeal to her need to be in control.)


    “I need to get out.”


    “Get out? From where?”

    Her question attacks Adris at a sore point. She studies him, while Adris remains silent. When he doesn't respond, she appears more curious.

    “… Do you even know where you are?”


    The woman kneels in front of Adris then, letting her breasts fall onto his legs, her face close to his and looking up at him.

    Her beautiful skin and eyes compliment her full, red lips, even with the sharp teeth behind them. As she stares into him, Adris feels… aroused.


    “I doubt I can answer any questions you have about this place, or why I am in it. I wouldn’t know where to begin.”


    Her hands on him, running under his coat to feel him, she says nothing until she takes a deep breath next to him, seemingly smelling him again.


    “Hmmm… as I thought, a human, but subtly different? The taste was different, too. And something… foreign clings to you?”

    Adris is mystified as she continues listing details about him, her sultry voice more relaxed and natural with each question.

    “Who caught you?”


    “Nobody caught me.” Refusing to give too much information, he plays it safe, instead.

    “When I woke up, I was being experimented on by a woman.”


    “Who was it? Share everything with me.

    She looks focused, her eyes shining bright as she runs her hand up to his face.


    (What is she doing?)


    “Why would I tell you that?”


    She opens her mouth a bit, stunned. She then…


    Rises from Adris’ lap with an inhuman movement, as if every part of her body is a separate organism.

    As she whips up, her right leg lifts and kicks into the wall.

    Hearing it crack, Adris goes pale as she grabs onto his head with her hand, leering down at him with her fascinating eyes still glowing.


    “Hey, I thought it was weird, but… HeY? WhY aRe YoU…?”

    She growls like a beast, her voice shrill and wavering, then becomes stiller when Adris’ eyes shake in response.


    “… Why are you ignoring my [Heart Taking]?” Lycia puffs her cheeks out. “Shouldn’t you be my dutiful little brother? In body and heart?”





    Adris is shocked by her blatant admission of trying to somehow mesmerize him.


    (I'm in mortal danger.)


    “Isn’t it weird? What kind of human are you?” She has a device from her belt out now, a rod with a feather-like crystal attached.

    “My detector shows no internal power at all? Isn't that... actually impossible!?”

    She pokes and prods him with various tools, her leg still trapping him. Adris blushes at being treated with such indignity, taking his revenge by staring straight at her soft pussy.


    (Better to be interested in something else.)


    But, not only for the reason of hiding his dissatisfaction.

    Adris feels the lust from before returning quicker the longer he’s near her. The strange lust that overtook him began when he awoke in this insane place, but her smell is what’s driving that lust to even further heights than the hair bitch did.


    After a minute of her satisfying her curiousity with unrecognizable implements, she sighs.

    “Can you even defend yourself?”

    When Adris shakes his head "no" with a dark expression, she looks pained. She rubs his head more amiably.


    (Yes, I am defenseless. Please, "protect" me, if you will.)

    Adris' escape depends on this person, no matter his personal feelings on the matter.


    “How did a human with no magic escape to the Wracked Void Gate? Much less bag a researcher? You should be some monster’s husband in the Expanse.”


    “… It was a harrowing experience.”

    Cutely scrunching and shifting her lips a bit as she thinks, she finally gives him a kind smile with pitying eyes.


    “Well… I don’t mind helping a bit. The place you find yourself in would be considered a hell for your kind, but also a paradise. You have the privilege of being stuck within…”

    Letting her leg rest on the armrest of his chair, she holds her hands up dramatically, inviting Adris to take in the room.




    “… the [Gran Castillo], the impossible mansion of the [Golden Sky Alchemaster], one of the three surviving great evils of the world.”


    Adris comes to a realization.

    (I’m no longer on Xin. Likely in totality.)

    It is the only explanation for the people he has witnessed with his own eyes.


    The strange way this world works. Especially this enormous structure, so lavish and expensive that it would have made the First Emperor jealous, so jealous that he would have either claimed it for himself or died trying.


    (The southern barbarians are powerful, but they have no powers such as glimpsed here. Their understanding of aura is incredibly limited, and I've heard no stories of them having access to other abilities.)


    The eldritch existences within the great, torn-asunder library that he had escaped from are beyond his understanding, and Adris is considered a learned man by his peers.


    (This isn’t the hell described in the Wandering Spirits written by generations of scholars studying the divine. If this is an afterlife, then it still resides in another realm.)


    Things click together.

    The voice at the climax of his “death” had been…


    ... welcoming.





    Being put into an entirely new world makes Adris…

    Incredibly stressed.


    “What kingdom are you from, then? Or were you nabbed from Petripolis?”


    Adris starts to respond, but can’t think fast enough, her catching onto his rush for an excuse.


    “… You aren’t from a kingdom, are you?” She smiles broader, amused at his helplessness.

    “Where are you from, unique little stowaway? What is your story?”


    “… My story is that the way things work here makes no sense. Especially not the power those two people showed.”


    “'Power'? Magic (WORLD SHAPING)? Two people meaning... Tishia and Heleton? And... the way things work (MODUS VIVENDI)? What about Modi are strange? Modi are…”

    She blinks, catching on. “You have no knowledge of Modi?”


    Looking supremely annoyed, Adris vents his frustrations.

    “I have no knowledge of who or what any of you are, nor what this place is! If a woman such as you existed, she should, by my knowledge, be considered a monster beyond even a hermit’s fever dreams. She would be hunted down, no matter how beautiful she is. I simply don’t…”


    (No, that’s perfect.)


    “… I don’t remember. No, none of this is familiar. Everything here is wrong. It's not what I should know.”

    Making his voice sound a bit haunted, Adris tries to convey the despondency of his situation.


    “Oh? How could you not know about even such basic things? The most ignorant human trash know about at least one Modus...”

    Lycia’s eyes narrow, her hands on his cheeks now, rubbing them.


    "... Amnesia?"

    Her wild speculation gives him an out, finally.


    (Yes, please fill in the gap however you would like.)


    The fewer questions he has to answer, the better. The more questions she answers, the more knowledge he will possess.

    "Amnesia" is an absolutely wonderful, golden rescue rope dangled before him.


    Nodding vigorously at the word while maintaining a pained look, he confirms her theory.


    “Amnesia from experimentation... is it? That's not... implausible. But it doesn't explain..."

    Smiling as if she doubts him, she loses her edge when Adris remains firm in his conviction.

    "Well, let’s go with that. Certain things seem strange, but your reactions don't seem fake, at least.”


    She relaxes, taking on an instructor's tone before continuing.

    “The basics you should know for immediate survival are thus:


    Modi determine how things function. Belonging to a Modus is your way of interacting and living in the world.

    The one that governs me would be [Golden Luster], though [Blue Abyss], the [Mother of Monsters]' private Modus, affects me within the Works.”


    Stopping for a moment, she looks bothered.

    “Golden Luster is the Modus of the Alchemaster, Supreme Owner of the Gran Castillo. Anyone who belongs to the Castillo functions on this Modus, and it is unique to this demesne.”


    With a disgusted look, she admits,

    “Here, we belong to her.”


    (Not fond of this grand villainess, are you?)


    With a more devilish look, she tacks on,


    "Here, it is your enemy. Technically... I should be, too, as I am a part of it. But..."


    As Adris sweats at the idea of having her as an enemy, wondering how she'll finish her statement...


    "... It's annoying to work for another, so let's just ignore what boring people call 'responsibility'~"


    She starts rubbing his head while explaining more.


    “The one for humans would be either [Pure Devotion]; or, for weirdos like the Chosen and other human deviants, [Battle Pressure]. The second, though, also applies to a large number of barbarous and warrior-like demi-humans, and also monsters…”

    Lycia’s voice lingers on the last part, though Adris can’t infer why.

    “If you’ve lived to your age, then you already belong to a Modus, even if you can’t recall it. By your nature, I almost guarantee it's Pure Devotion.”


    She grows amused at explaining something so trivial to her.


    “Well, it suffices that if you wander the Castillo alone, the first thing that will happen is that you will be assaulted by one of the Alchemaster’s minions. Once you are unable to defend yourself, you will be… tasted.”

    She flicks her tongue out, then laughs as he winces a bit.

    “Especially a boy with 'amnesia' like you. If you can’t assert a challenge, it’ll be assumed you’re surrendering, and your Modus will allow for you to be violated to the contentment of your attacker at that moment~.”


    (What bullshit is this?)


    “How can I be violated if I’m bashed to pieces by the person attacking me?!”

    She looks confused, then smiles again at his ignorant remark.


    “It’s not like you die when you’re incapacitated. If you don't understand, then imagine that you have a thing called [Vigor] (ABSOLUTENESS OF FORM) within you, that which will preserve you from true, lasting harm.

    Assuming sufficient [Devotion] (PROOF OF OBEDIENCE) remains within, too, you’ll be transposed outside of the mansion after you deduct your [Recompense] (SURRENDERED REWARD) from it for losing all of your Vigor. Your cute form will endure, okay?

    Only if the [Odds] (DYNAMICS OF STRUGGLE) of the challenge result in you having a deficit of Devotion will you be potentially left at the lasting mercies of your captor; or, worse, [Fate]. Even the Chosen, those absolute weirdos, will just... escape, somehow, after their time of contrition passes, freed anew to return to seek their demented objectives..."


    Speaking of these things called "the Chosen" makes Lycia wrinkle her beautiful face.


    "As for you…?”

    She sizes him up openly, before putting her hand to her mouth and snorting.


    “Well, someone that poses no challenge wagers next to nothing, meaning that some female is going to play with you for a while before you get transposed out of the Castillo. Though, you should hope it is a female…”

    She snickers, fluffing his hair when he looks resentful.

    “Those who fight under any Modus do so for the benefits provided by winning: all Modi interact on some level, and defeating an opponent of another Modus or making them submit will increase your growth with what you serve.”


    Tapping the chair, Lycia concludes her thoughts.

    “Obtaining a strength that one could never hope to grasp in one's own society is the honeyed, enticing poison that draws you humans here. If that's what you originally came for... then you have only yourself to blame for the situation you find yourself in~”


    Adris sinks into the chair, his thoughts a mess as he loses tension. The woman before him keeps paying him close attention, her hands rubbing against him playfully as she comforts him.





    (This is absurd bullshit.)





    Even if the details as explained match his experiences in this new world, hearing them said out loud only makes him reject them even more.

    (Please, give me back my aura.)

    Breaking down and openly weeping would be the obvious solution to all of Adris' problems, but he doubts Lycia would respond favorably.

    (No, she actually might. She seems to like me, the more useless I appear... But I can't determine how to... operate within the way this Zennia works. Gaining power within such a system... how is it even possible? Would it even be possible for an outsider like me!?)


    The immediate goal, getting out of this demonic mansion to freedom, now seems impossibly distant.

    Though she offers that he has the option of being beaten up and raped mercilessly in order to escape...


    (Lycia… assumes… that I have a proper Modus, much less this Vigor.)

    Adris feels genuine fear at the thought that he has none.

    (If one has no Modus governing them when they lose, will they simply perish...? Or, worse, become slaves of the one who beats them?)


    [Aura user from another world] is unlikely to be counted as a proper way of living, and he has zero safe ways to test his problem's parameters.


    “What about the Modus that governs humans?”


    “Devotion is a fickle thing.” Lycia looks dismissive of it as she speaks.


    “All humans are bound to those more favored than them. They are,” She seems stuck for a comparison, then says,

    “Cattle within a closed system. Only the ‘deities’ which claim to control the light, and Fate itself, can be said to have truly free will. Everyone else is bound by the directions of those who accrue more Devotion than they possess. It is the power, and also livelihood, of those who own it. As long as you follow your set path in life, and especially the rules…”

    She looks disgusted at the thought of obeying others.


    “Well, you can live, if grazing grass before you’re slaughtered is what you consider living.”

    Lycia’s eyes narrow a bit at Adris in pity.

    “The humans take pride in bullying those less fortunate, often for no reason. Advancement is always through subservience and degradation.”


    (Pathetic.)

    Adris is immensely disappointed in the humanity of this "Zennia," resolving not to include himself as a part of it.


    “As far as magic is concerned, the way of putting will to power, to change the world itself as it were, is as varied as you can imagine. There’s no one, true path. Also, only those with power within, or special training to stand in for lacking such power, can use it.”

    Shaking her head, Lycia denies Adris’ unspoken thoughts with a flat tone. “For you, possessing not even a glimmer, it would surely be impossible?”


    Adris grips onto her hand, trembling. She looks curious in response. His act is part deception and part truth.


    (Without Devotion, there can be no Recompense, is that it? So I’ll just…)


    Die.


    “… Help me escape…” Adris chokes on his next word. “… Please.”


    “Hmm? Hmmmmm?” She makes a quizzical sound as she smiles, taking on a truly youthful look. “You want to escape with Big Sis? Have you... fallen for me~?”


    Adris swallows.


    “… I need big sister’s help.”


    “♥”

    She grins from ear to ear, her sharp teeth bright. “Hmmmm, okay… but…”


    She leans down.


    “Big sis needs something in return…” She smiles maliciously, before whispering into his ear.

    “She needs to know that her little brother… will listen to her.”


    (This…)


    Listen to her.”


    (… this woman is familiar.)

    The way she acts sets Adris on edge.

    (She intends to help me. And after…?)


    The woman named Lycia is blatantly maneuvering to indebt Adris to her, and also manipulate his emotions to rely on her for support.


    (Trying to make me dependent, isn’t that the first step towards…?)

    His head hurts.


    The cross burns.


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

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



    Beauty:

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

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

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

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

    "If you're appealing to a monster, wouldn't that be detrimental in the long term?"



    Description:

    “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."



    Commentary:

    "Weakness is never forgiven."





    Name: Lycia Vehrose
    Race: Ghoul
    Sex: Female
    Age: ?? (Old Lady)

    Occupation: Wondrous Works Scholar; Tool Creator
    Discipline: ???

    Powers:

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

    [Pocket Belmont] - "A spiked chain that flies with great force to strike out, before returning. It explodes with flame on impact, destroying whatever is around its point of release. Is this love? Am I in love?"

    [Heart Taking] - "Hey, won't you give yourself to me~? Completely and absolutely."



    Disposition: Sultry / Intelligent / Vicious
    Alignment: Neutral

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



    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please unlock me, Adris~.”



    Beauty:

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

    "Is she more beautiful because she's so willing to be amoral, or in spite of it? Showing so many wonderful expressions, are you captivated by the face, or the evil light in her eyes?"



    Description:

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

    "While willing to help and showing a proclivity towards honoring deals, she's seemingly not above taking what she can get."



    Commentary:

    "Heroines sure seem brutal on Zennia. Is this a world crossover fad? But a woman that knows what she likes and is willing to gently stroke your head to receive it... It is both maternal and carnal. This is my fetish. Oh well, time to die."

    Modus/Modi Vivendi - "An important concept, for, on Zennia, all things conform to a way of living. There is no such thing as not being represented or guided."

    Magic - "That all-encompassing word which is thoroughly unscientific, it refers to any sort of fantastical ability to reshape the world as you please. What are the consequences?"

    Gran Castillo - "The mansion of the Alchemaster, a site of supreme evil and malevolence, and the physical location of this story. A demonic mansion, found far beyond the clouds of Xin."

    Golden Luster - "The Modus of the Alchemaster. Its defining characteristics? Knowledge of greed, acceptance of greed, and pursuit of greed."

    Blue Abyss - "The Modus of the Mother of Monsters, ruler of the Wondrous Works and the Expanse. All life is heading for a single purpose: why not be the one that births it?"

    Pure Devotion - "The Modus of humans, miserable wretches who cling to the idea of subservience for those less fortunate, and supreme control for those in charge."

    Battle Pressure - "The Modus of those taken with the thrill of combat, this would essentially be Serras' way of life, writ large. To the winner, glory; to the loser, a lesson on losing."

    Devotion - "The currency of Pure Devotion and of faithful humans."

    Vigor - "That which is within which flows without, and keeps one from being a fine paste on the floor. Evaporates as expended, to ensure a wound does not kill."

    Recompense - "That which is owed upon losing, and that which must be repaid."

    Odds - "A simple, yet infinitely complex, concept related to combat. Those odds of winning, and what is wagered, which is decided by who, exactly? Defines the outcome of battle when winners and losers are chosen."
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  10. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 9: Up the Castillo in Twenty Minutes - Cold-Warming Touch

    His left hand throbs, even without holding the cross, the pain riding it all the way to his brain.


    There is an image.


    {This woman has her head to the ground facing away from Adris. She’s turned to watch behind her as she pulls her panties to the side. Adris brings his cock to her pussy, free to use her as he wishes.}

    Adris shakes his head violently, trying to shut it out.


    {Lycia is crying out in pleasure, promising to serve Adris for all eter-}


    Adris puts his hands on his head to fight the pain, but finds it not working.


    His head is suddenly gripped, firmly, but gently. He opens his eyes to look at a woman before him.


    “… Are you okay?”

    The woman named Lycia looks at him with uncertainty, interest, and… concern.


    (Ah. She’s… still a genuine person.)


    The longer he looks at her, the more his desire grows. Even now, he wants to feel the leg beside his head.


    (The thought that she’s a “genuine person,” where does that come from?)


    {Lycia is naked and bound, offering herself like a whore-}


    Lycia strokes his head with cold hands.

    The images vanish as she comforts him. Adris feels hot, the manipulating power of the cross blocked by his own neglected needs.

    It’s difficult to think, but as long as it's about Lycia, he can reject the images.


    Having seen Lycia in his own mind, naked and inviting, is far too much, however.


    (These… monsters seem to be enthralled with carnal pleasures.)


    The situation.. should dictate his actions, or so he thinks in his hazy state.

    Adris relaxes a bit, content to express his feelings about this woman, now.


    (It’s not like she’s unenjoyable.)


    Her personality needs to own him, but she does understand the back and forth of word games, and also of playful deceit.

    Adris feels comfortable with her, a familiar feeling to the way she acts and the looks she gives.

    She’s attentive and manipulating, but she seems to be fond of him…


    Rolling her eyes a bit, she looks at a distant place while thinking, smiling a little naughtily before speaking.


    “Yeah, if little brother would be willing to, say, help sis with understanding that cross- Huh?”


    Lycia's eyes go back to Adris as he creeps his head forward. Silently watching him, she doesn't appear to understand his intentions.


    (Honestly, I’d rather her than the other woman…)


    Adris pulls his head free of her hands, her letting go reluctantly, as he leans his face in.

    A small tongue darts out to lick her silk-covered leg, then he moves his head towards the middle of her pants.


    “Ah! What are… y-AH!” She cries out a bit as Adris licks directly onto her pussy through her panties.

    The musky smell boiling Adris' mind is coming from here.


    (This is how to make her mine...)


    Adris is drunk as he puts his face against it.

    He grabs onto her thighs softly with his arms and pulls his face into the embrace of her crotch.

    She twitches as he begins to lick. Letting his nose rub against the fabric, he pushes his tongue against the silk, pressing into her lips underneath.


    At no point does she stop him.


    He rubs the back of her thigh, the leg still up, increasing the pressure with his tongue. Finding himself suddenly desperate to locate the pearl above her engorging lips that should be there, he breathes more deeply and intensely.

    The warmth of his breath causes a bump to become more apparent under the moistened panties. He puts his tongue directly to it.


    “HYAH~♥!” Lycia gasps a bit, enjoying the sudden affection.


    Adris is confident in his service now, as the cold-feeling woman warms to his tongue’s touch.

    He can even smell the musky scent growing, as the panties themselves slowly become wet with more than just the saliva from his tongue.


    Two hands with a calloused touch come to grip his head through his hair.

    He looks up, concerned. Seeing shining-green, gold-speckled eyes staring back, the slit irises loose, he realizes her demeanor is completely different.

    Her tongue is between her lips as she looks at him, then retracts into her mouth as she opens it to speak.


    “… You… want to do this?”

    She asks the question with a lustful voice, naturally sultry now; but, her eyes reveal her total confusion at Adris' actions.


    (Didn’t you want me to obey?)


    Adris’ pants are now far too tight.

    Rather than answering, he reaches up with his hand to roughly pull to the side the thin fabric of her panties, eliciting another gasp.


    (If I’m going to give myself to someone, I’d rather it be a good, “bad” woman.)


    This Lycia has yet to show him any true maliciousness.

    Though she might betray or hurt him later… for now…


    Even with the thought of Serras betraying him, and what she meant, his lust and desire for having another fill that space is enormously strong, coming from a place of need he can’t identify.


    Thrusting his face into her now bare crotch, he brings his mouth and tongue to her alluring, exposed, engorged lips.

    He licks along them, before putting his nose against her and sucking on the lips with his mouth.


    “Why… you are…?”

    She moans lightly, while trying to resist with more questions.

    Adris dips his tongue in between her lips, darting it about.


    Serras had always enjoyed this, when she felt comfortable with it.


    Now, someone else will.

    He increases his ferocity, the thought of owning… or being owned by another the strangest idea, but also exciting.


    “Haa … yeah, right there, boy.”

    The woman’s grip grows tighter, pulling him against her as she moans, her voice inexplicably powerful and demanding in contrast to her previous anxiety.

    Already shifting to give him better access, she gives herself to his willing service. The juices cling heavily against his face as her arousal increases.


    Adris can’t breathe easily as he sets his tongue to her, finding that she's unwilling to let him leave, physically holding his head close with her death grip.

    When he feels the urge to breathe, he pats her thigh. She releases her grip a moment later, a subtle whining sound let out in disappointment.

    Adris breathes, and then latches onto her now-revealed pink button lightly, licking on it gently and flicking it with his tongue.

    He moves his free right hand up to her pussy, thrusting a finger in slowly to scrape against the upper, interior flesh.


    She spasms as he does this, her grip getting tighter again as she rubs him against her pussy, her body bending a bit.


    “HAH, HAH, … why is little bro… so dedicated… so…?” Adris hears her lick her lips.

    “… loving and thorough…?”


    Adris can feel her muscles shake with his touch.

    Though she’s speaking, her body apparently won’t last.


    (She was also holding back? Am I not the only creature affected by this place...?)


    Time passes as she quakes before him with the touch of his tongue.

    The faint music is drowned out by his slurping; her, moaning in the candlelight, as he pulls on her lips with his mouth.

    An eternity of a moment leaves him locked in this wet embrace, his own discomfort a silent tease as he longs to put his dick between the lips he is servicing.


    Yet, the task at hand is its own reward. Tasting this teasing woman and stealing her breath, Adris feels empowered, as if he’s winning the struggle now that he couldn’t win earlier.


    (The flesh is soft. She’s…)


    Tasty.

    His tongue washes over her lips and dips inside as he continues. Other men might hate this, but Adris has always found it an interesting exercise.

    Always appreciating little details, Adris is ever attentive. Every sigh and movement is an indication of how to proceed, how intense to make the experience right then.


    (As far as I know, it’s always appreciated.)


    There is no bad taste or smell, though the feeling of coldness from her thighs does unsettle Adris. The texture of her socks on her legs makes him forget the coldness.


    “Hah, you wanted to taste me that badly?” She moans out, goading Adris on, establishing her dominance over him.

    “Why does a boy like you know, HAH, how to move your tongue like that...!? No, don't answer, just keep doing it~! A delicious thing like you... giving AH, everything... is... so very...~”

    She changes tone as she speaks, her voice too loving to be merely appreciative of him.

    "... Perfect~. You're exactly the sort of little brother I needed!"


    (Do women lust for boys like I appear to be? I’d somehow felt that was only a thing a man would do…? It’s… strangely satisfying, but also frightening.)


    Adris moves his whole face against her pussy and skin, the strange feeling only adding to his lust, as he is forced to breathe her in so deeply that he feels like the smell will be etched into his brain.

    She never lets his tongue stop for even a second, any sign of Adris slowing down accompanied by a change in her grip to reproach him. Moving her hands through his hair, her touch urges him to dedicate himself to her even more than he already has.


    (In what way am I "perfect" for her?)


    Adris is momentarily worried.


    “AH! You can worship it~! I’ll let you have it! I won’t take it away, as long as you, HAH, promise to keep doing it~!”

    She keeps talking while moaning. The strength seems to fade from her grip on his head, but none of the need subsides.


    Adris can barely think as he surrenders to the warmth of her juices on his tongue and fingers.

    Scraping inside of her as deep as his knuckles, the woman moves her hips in time with his assault on the pleasure point he concentrates on.

    Her clit is already extremely hard, bigger than he remembers Serras’ being.


    The woman moans, but it seems like a conscious effort. Rather than a regular panting, she doesn’t breathe often, though her body is just as animated even if she remains breathless.


    “It’s strong, right there! Pay attention to it~! Make me feel it!”


    He feels her rising tension, and answers it by gripping her clit between his tongue and lips, crushing it gently.

    As he harshly tastes her clit, he increases the intensity within, until he pushes strongly against her wall with curving fingers.

    The tightness of her muscles clamping feels like a vice on his smaller fingers.


    The thick sound of wet slurping wars with her strangely paced panting. Adris drinks up juices as they gather.

    There is heat from her now, even sweat appearing on her pale body. It makes Adris feel that she’s being filled with life as he pleasures her.


    The deep embrace is overwhelming Adris’ mind, the rewarding experience of successfully pleasuring her making him unwilling to quit for any reason.

    In this moment, she’s showing him love that he would never expect from her, even as she demands his attention in return.

    Her engorged clit is what she obeys, his tongue circling it as she shivers. All of her manipulating ends as she seeks to answer her own needs, letting Adris serve her.

    Then, she tenses, and her hands...


    Crush around his head.


    Adris feels trapped as he struggles against this pressure, losing his grip on her panties and being ground against her crotch as she shudders, her rubbing his face forcefully against her pussy.

    Only the chair keeps him from falling over in the awkward position she holds him in. The woman treats him like a tool, Adris’ previous thoughts of supremacy disappearing as she outright uses him.


    “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!”

    She releases a bestial, growling scream. Adris is fearful that the wild woman’s prodigious strength will kill him by crushing his head like a fruit.


    (I always seem to die in ridiculous ways.)

    Though, technically, one time is not a pattern.


    As juices cling to his abused face, Adris is left to fall back into the chair.

    The woman collapses onto the ground in an awkward, kneeling position, her breasts bouncing as she lands.


    Her face is a mess, a sloppy expression on it. She looks almost dead, as Adris drunkenly watches her.


    Then, she oddly returns to life, gaining power back to her body all at once.


    “… Hm… you…” She tries to speak, but has no breath in her lungs to expel.

    Adris goes to say something himself, but is obstructed as the mature woman suddenly reaches her face in, kissing him on the lips.


    She’s not even the second woman Adris has kissed, yet her passion is certainly the highest.

    Adris feels something like love from her tongue as she slips it in. Even if he wanted to resist the affection, her grasping hands don’t permit it.


    After tasting him inside, she begins licking his face, lapping up her own juices and his spit that collected by his efforts. When she does it…


    (It’s… erotic…)


    Adris strains against the feeling of his imprisoned erection, her hand on it as her neediness mounts, instead of subsiding.


    (She doesn’t seem like the kind of woman that shows real affection…)


    Adris is surprised by the embrace, but secretly longs for it. Even now, she seems to move to release the loop holding his pants up, getting ready to reach in.

    She goes to kiss him on the neck, reaching in and sucking… far too hard.


    (Painful!)


    He pats her shoulder to stop, the pain a bit much. She pulls back suddenly, looking at him with a hungry, severe expression, before she suddenly puffs her cheeks with a flushed, relaxing face.


    “You… why did you do that?”


    “… Was that not what I was supposed to do? Didn’t big sister want me?”

    He puts on a smug grin, trying to appear confident with his response.


    She’s shocked, horrified, then…


    Deeply curious.


    “You wanted to taste me? Without any compulsion? It was of your own free will?”

    She licks her lips, traces of her own juices still clinging to them from their kiss.


    “You desired me?”


    Adris blinks, finding it difficult to understand why she asks the obvious.


    (Why does the idea that I would do that willingly seem like the deepest mystery to you?)


    “You sound a little too cheeky saying it like that, but it’s not untrue.”


    “Absurd, you’re not even a Chosen...” She gets up swiftly, picking Adris up to hug him, burying his face in her breasts as his engorged penis uselessly rubs against her wet legs.


    (Whoa, wait, that’s… tender!)


    Adris can’t speak as she embraces him, left to swing like a favorite toy being crushed by its playful owner.


    “Okay, okay~! I’ll help you! I was planning to leave, anyway! How could I not help such a wonderful brother who knows how to properly exchange favors~!”

    Adris is startled by her sudden, obsessive voice. She coos at him, as she grips his butt with a free hand, his covered penis still rubbing against her.


    “Nooooo, don’t be scared, little bro, big sis will protect you. I promise.”

    She winks her left eye at him with a comical smile.

    “I wouldn’t leave you to these…”


    She puts him down and collects her gear while humming cheerfully, an awkward twitch to her movement as she bends over.


    "... other monsters~."


    (You… suddenly want to help me a hundred percent after hearing that? Is willingness for these creatures a valuable commodity?)


    “Hey, hey, where did you find that cross of yours…?”

    Lycia now sweetly asks questions Adris plans not to answer.



    ...



    Running through the halls, Lycia avoids numerous dangerous situations with only her outlandish speed.

    They pass through rooms so fast that Adris can’t pick out details: bounding over empty pits, avoiding ensnaring chains, ducking disembodied hands that reach up from the darkness of the floor, and surviving other odd traps that Adris likely wouldn’t be able to avoid.


    With her cloth box in her arms before her, Adris hangs from her neck like a satchel bag.

    Her waist is gripped by his legs, an action which doesn’t reduce the woman’s speed in the slightest.


    (General appearances aside, she is truly inhuman underneath.)


    Adris is glad that the woman seems content to help him, even if it carries risks.


    (Is it possible that she’s stronger than most of the creatures here?)


    “A boy like you would be eaten up immediately~.”


    She muses at an intersection, an octagonal room with a silver, irregular chandelier with flashing crystals looming overhead.

    Mirrors on the wall reflect the light, a brightness that seems almost mesmerizing.

    Four statues of various humanoid creatures watch the room while sitting in front of the intersecting entrances to it. Adris feels as though they could come to life at any time.


    “[Pocket Belmont!]”


    Lycia pulls a cylinder from her leg holster after she sets the box down, an item which morphs into a flying, metal, spiked chain as she flings her arm toward the chandelier.

    Her weapon shoots past the werewolf-like statue in front of them and strikes one of the center crystals of the hanging light source.


    The chandelier shatters in a great cacophony of falling pieces when the spiked head glows red with fire while striking. The pieces all crack noisily on the ground as she whips the chain back, returning it to its original form with a hearty, metallic grating sound.


    The lingering presence from the intersection vanishes.

    The cylinder releases steam before going totally inert, and Lycia deposits it back into her left thigh satchel.


    “There’s not many options for you to escape the upper levels. We’re a little safer because there’s almost no pawns patrolling above the second tier. I can’t conceal you, though. You smell too… wonderful.”

    Adris fights back his lust, his erection still rubbing against her back through the thin silk of her shirt.

    As she adjusts him while still humming, his member jabs against her back.


    She seems to shiver.

    “Oh, are you enjoying your perch? Or are you… thinking about getting caught~?”


    “You sure do have interesting gadgets.” Adris says, trying to deflect from his penis.


    She tenses, but then relaxes.

    Adris feels her free hand slap his butt.


    “You are a flirt~.”

    (What did I say?)


    Adris clings on tighter, pulling at the woman’s neck.


    “Choosing my neck instead, are they not supple enough…?”

    The woman idly teases him with a throaty whisper, Adris head on her right shoulder.


    (As if I could grip your tits and control myself. How would I hold myself up?)


    “No, your aura tools really are interesting.” Adris tries to deflect once again, but is still genuine in his appreciation.


    (They all seem… self made. Sadly, I am not your equal in this…)


    Adris has only ever had the talent and resources to make a few aura tools in his life.

    Like his self-made fog tool, the rest were quite average in utility.


    “Is that so…? They’re quite standard… a bit too mundane, even.”

    Her voice is dark as she dismisses his compliment. Adris smiles internally, finding the dismissal cute.


    “I’ve never seen anything as spectacular as the cannon that shot exploding stars.” Adris continues.

    “What do you do here in this place? Are you…?”


    (Like the others…?)


    “Hm? Ha, ha! No, I’m a bit of an eccentric.”

    Lycia seems to hear the doubt in Adris’ voice, reassuring him that her future designs don’t include what would be the norm.

    “The others are all looking for ways to breed themselves a super weapon. Mother’s private struggle is amusing~, but… that’s not… a viable option for me.”

    Her voice is calm, but low.


    The environment becomes a blur again, as Lycia bounds down the left passage.


    “Individuals like me are not regarded highly within the Works! We focus on more practical research, rather than long-term eugenics or other carnal studies~!”


    (Eugenics? Like aura blood lines?)


    Adris thinks of the families who mingle blood, believing that aura use is determined by lineage.


    “I spend more time outside of the Works than within…” She sighs while running.

    “Taking my prototype [Starshooter] outside to show it off, you forced me to expend one of my expensive reloaders.”


    “… I can’t pay you back.” Adris preempts her.


    “Lies~. You can’t right now, but you will be able to later!” She cheerfully assures him of her belief in his value.


    Adris struggles to ask his next question.


    “Why did you help me?”


    She stops suddenly in the long hall they’re in. Adris wonders at the reason, as she's been able to talk while effortlessly running.


    “… Well, a debt is a debt. You saved me from Ishia, right? Then you pre-paid me in another way ♥.”

    She whispers the last part.


    (Except, that’s wrong. You saved me first when you shot the monster, and you know it, so the balance is actually…)


    In your favor.


    “Why are you so worried… I happen to like you well enough.”

    Her voice is cheery as she resumes her movement.


    “I won’t hurt you, you know…”


    Cheery, but inviting.

    Seductive and cloying.

    Seeking his trust, her voice is a weapon against him.


    Adris clutches onto her as she continues to run, thinking about their relationship.


    (This woman isn’t planning to leave me alone.)


    He can see how she views others. It is something Adris can intimately understand.


    (This woman thinks I’m… an interesting subject.)


    What’s more, she seems to possess a principle of repaying debts, and expecting repayment for his.

    Adris’ thoughts are dark as he realizes her unspoken motivations.


    Even if he gets free of this Castillo, it doesn’t change the fact that something about him has caught her interest, and she intends to seek compensation from him for her help.


    “Is having no magical power considered an oddity?”


    Stopping abruptly like she's overcome by something, she asks her own counter question with a very serious tone instead of answering his.


    “Is having a silver cross that can knock out someone in a single blow…”


    Footsteps loud, she completes the somewhat grave question while tearing through darkness once more.





    “… considered an oddity?”





    (Shit.)


    “Well, don’t worry about it! All your questions I will be more than happy to answer after we get you out!”

    Lycia seems amused again, speaking brightly.





    “We’ll get to know each other over a long time!





    Adris tries to remain calm, but finds that hard.


    ("Don’t let go of anything useful." In the end, to this woman, I’m a mystery to be solved, not a potential partner.)

    Adris is only a possession. At best, a favored one.


    His mind threatens to shatter, as an image takes over his entire sight, leaving him unable to see or hear the outside world.


    {Adris is leading Lycia before him. She is naked, chained by the neck, moving on all fours.}


    (Stop.)


    {He walks down the halls of this demonic mansion, everything in his path bowing, until he comes to a room with spectators. There, Lycia readies herself, whining, begging for him to-}


    Adris holds onto her tighter.


    When his mind clears a bit, he feels her stiffening, then relaxing when he stops gripping so tightly.

    Suddenly, her attention moves from him to something else.


    “Okay~! We’re almost free~!”


    She races up a winding stairway she comes upon.



    ...



    Lycia comes to the top of the stairway, entering an arched, palatial landing with multiple exits.

    The walls are covered in wallpaper depicting four seasons, the subject of the wallpaper ever a golden-haired girl wearing a white dress playing among desolate fields and an empty town.

    Decay has eaten into the borders of the paper, the whole room dripping with moisture.


    (How is it even creepier than the Works? Who the hell is this girl?)


    The rust-covered, iron walls glow with blue lamps, and the flooring is a single piece of marble covered in dark-gold, ruined rugs that make paths between the rooms.


    Chairs, drawers, and other furniture are organized in the landing, in haphazard collections near the doors to the other rooms here.


    A blue, quartzite hallway with white flagstones and the same embellishments as the rest of this mansion is before them, leading into another large, open area where Adris can hear rushing water coming from.


    “[Cascading Water] connects to many areas in the Castillo, though it's not an average way of traveling. All we have to do is go down the right drain and we’ll save a trip.”

    Lycia speaks softly, but with enthusiasm.


    (How do I breathe in water?)


    “When you make it to the end, do not rush off. Wait for me. The right path is where we need to go. Only I can get you through there. If you go down the left, you'll regret..."


    Lycia makes an error as she moves toward this exit, going quiet suddenly as she hears something.

    To the right of it, walking out from a separate room, a creature appears.


    A short woman with deep-blue bat wings for arms walks out. A black, tight-fitting bodice, with a blue-gold neck tie, covers her small breasts, and a light mini-skirt barely hides her juicy bottom.

    The frills and style of it make it appear like a maid uniform, though its disrepair and ad-hoc fitting fit with her strikingly inhuman features. Clawed, half-human bat legs, covered with black stockings held by lace ties, scrape the floor as she walks out.

    She’s holding onto a pot-shaped device with one of her clawed wings. Her blue, medium-length bobbed hair obscures her eyes, but her young face gazes at them with her mouth locked in an “O” of surprise, her bat-like ears angling towards them.


    “What is this? I thought I heard something! Intruders!?”

    Lycia holds the box with her left arm, as her open-fingered, leather-gloved right hand comes up in a claw-like gesture in defense.

    The girl notices the blue coat Lycia is carrying wrapped around her box.


    “Eh, you’re from the Works? Why are you here? An inspection of Cascading Water isn’t due for…”

    The woman tenses when she focuses on Adris. Tilting her head quizzically, her mouth then curls into a smile, a cute, pink tongue peeking out from between her sharp fangs.


    “Oh! Have you perhaps… brought a [Guest]!? My, if you wanted to share a visitor, then I won’t say no~!”

    The bat-winged woman sets the pot down on a silvered push cart holding other cleaning tools, then begins to sway lewdly as she walks towards Lycia with a hungry expression, her clawed feet still scraping against the floor as she moves.


    (This damned hood!)


    Adris’ hood had fallen back as they ran, leaving his face exposed.





    “gEt YoUr OwN, pAwN.

    A deep, bestial threat rolls out from Lycia’s throat.





    Adris can’t see Lycia’s expression, but the air is clammy and his stomach tightens when she speaks.

    The cute woman falls back, her mouth quivering in terror for a moment, before she sneers while shaking.


    “Huh, you thought you could come up here to eat alone? That it’d be abandoned? Sorry~! The Great Mistress has plans for this area! A little bookworm like you has to listen to us~!”

    Before Lycia can move, the woman breathes in a great deal of air and then expels it all from her mouth with no sound issued, yet Adris can hear speech.


    INTRUDERS! COME AND GET THEM!


    Adris is unsure of what is happening, but Lycia wretches at these unspoken words, before jumping forward in the air and slamming her booted foot into the woman’s cowardly face.


    The bat girl unwillingly flies back into the room she came out of with golden particles spraying from her face, ramming into the desk within the room and tumbling over its cracking wood, while screaming bloody murder the whole flight.


    Loud voices respond from adjoining rooms.


    “Ferthia, there can’t be intruders this high up~!”

    “If it’s stupid, I’m going to rape you.”

    “Trouble?”


    Adris hears stomping feet.


    A door in the landing opens, as a tall, black-ponytailed woman wearing a butler’s gray uniform enters the room.

    A full figure with curvy mounds, the uniform meant for a man is tight to her body. A great, blue-gold scarf hangs over her front and back, covering her neck and some of her body, giving her the look of a hunter during winter.

    Old stains cling to her outfit, which bears sliced tear marks in places and is frayed in many spots.

    Her slight, catlike features seem sharp on her fine face as she focuses on Lycia, her black cat ears and twin cat tails straight and confident.


    Sizing the situation up in an instant…


    “I see, someone brought recreation.”

    The woman’s orange, cat-slit eyes narrow threateningly, though her expression remains gentle and her pleasant voice confident.

    From her waist, she pulls out a contraption with a sawblade. It folds out with a snapping sound into a black, serrated, crooked sword as she whips it to the side.


    Two more people show up from other rooms.


    One is a huge, muscled man with curved goat horns and brown hair, his tiny bell-boy hat comical in comparison to his ponderous size.

    His body sports a gray, sleeveless, porter’s uniform jacket and long pants. Very little is left of his outfit, it mostly ruined by mud and abraded holes.

    Barely able to leave the room he is in, he has to turn sideways to walk out.

    His square face and jaw show mad, brown eyes as he clenches his teeth. He pulls his stylized, cracked, black-iron-padded gloves tight as he enters.


    "Oh, why rape Ferthia? You're cuter."


    The last responder is a woman whose partially covering body fur looks cream colored. She wears a faded, green robe with emblems of falling creatures embellished on it, looking as if they are plummeting to their doom from the open sky.

    Rabbit ears rise up from where human ones should be, going up beside a small, green hat that drapes most of its top behind her head.

    It looks like a bed cap, but ends in hanging, brass trinkets that threaten to pull it off her head.

    Her feet are human like, black-leather boots going up inside her long robe.


    She smiles with a slightly ditzy expression, her face having an adorable, pert nose and sharp incisors for her front teeth.

    Adris notes her ditziness is a total deception, as her pink eyes blaze with a cruel intellect. A slowly-writhing, obsidian rod and a bound book are clutched jealously close in her hands.


    "Heeee, intruders there are, there are! How... strange."


    “Che.”

    Lycia dismisses them, flinging Adris and herself toward the blue hallway.

    The blue stones shift in color as they run through.


    Adris looks behind to see the robed bunny girl pop out of thick, greenish smoke right where they were, her rod coming up lazily.


    Eyes that view from beyond, see my foe and peer deep within, share your sight and render them insensate.” [Transfixing Green~!]


    The rod collects an emerald fire. Lycia is still running, trying to outpace the threat.

    A ray bursts out with a scattering of a green eyes flaring up around it, its beam inexorably flying toward them.


    (Their barriers were no defense.)


    Adris grabs his cross in an instant, interposing it between Lycia and the ray.


    The ray sings as it flies, striking the cross… and reflects back with an arc, running across the white tiles as it returns to its sender.

    The glittering sound is replaced with a low, maddening drone.


    The bunny girl clicks her tongue, sweeping her rod and striking the ray, dissolving it in an explosion of green particles and sickly smoke.


    “Nice work, little bro.”

    Lycia bursts into the new room carrying him. Before he can respond, she pulls him in front of her.


    Putting something up to his mouth with lightning speed, she cracks it and clamps it over him.


    “Breathe~.”

    Lycia holds her hand over his mouth and nose, forcing Adris to inhale a foul, herbal-smelling smoke. His lungs feel as though he has fluid on them, like when Serras wounded him.


    As he has a coughing fit, he looks at the room around him.


    Like its name, the entire room is full of coruscating and cascading water.


    Up above, a gargantuan, blue, serpent-like leviathan lies within a massive, crystal-glass tank.

    It is held in place by a slate, herculean statue, noble-looking and clad in flowing robes. Four great supports come from the walls to meet the statue’s base.


    Water flows out from a long gash in this seemingly dead creature’s length, the endless gush of water flowing down intricate chutes and slides.


    It flows into and fills other tanks in the room, tanks holding waters of various colors and opacities, with things like stones and crystals laid within them.

    The waters obey a complex system of gravity and direction control, flowing past open walkways and down glass tubes, to empty below in an equally complex system of drains.


    The tanks read different descriptions, the closest saying “Second Tier, [Grand Collection]: Fresh Water - Neutral Alkalinity.”


    The rush of water that should be deafening is muffled a great deal by the crystal glass enclosing the falling streams.

    The light in the room comes from the dead creature above, no darkness allowed as its presence controls the whole room.


    Adris notes that the moist walls squirm a bit, being the only surfaces not brightly lit by the leviathan.


    Lycia runs up a walkway, her eyes searching for something, but she has no time to act as a green cloud erupts to her right.

    The cloud grows solid and reaches out to restrain her as she ducks it, leaping back towards the entrance of the room.

    She tosses Adris to the nearby wall gently, rolling him safely to come up beside it.


    Lycia aims for the cloud with a monstrous leap, whipping her uncovered box to hit the appearing bunny girl in the face.

    The attack strikes a whispering wall of air to the smirking mystic’s left side, vibrating in the air as it's held by the invisible screen.


    The catgirl butler streaks into the room, faster than Adris’ eyes can follow, flanking Lycia with an overhead swing.

    It bites into the intercepting wooden box, with the blade’s serrated edge sending sparks as the butler retracts her strike.


    The blond scholar dances away, jumping on the railing and running. She retreats to stand before Adris in a defensive stance as he looks up, crouching low.


    The goat man trundles into the room, staring down at Lycia as he towers over her, before looking to Adris and preparing to charge the boy.


    Lycia growls and jumps toward the robed bunny once more out of desperation, arcing through the air with her box held overhead with both hands, gripping it like a tree-trunk-thick club.


    The bunny’s passive grin becomes a devilish one, as her rod goes up in the air with a swish of her hand and is then whipped down to the earth.

    The faded, green robe’s falling creatures become colored, frightened, rotating images on the waving cloth.


    What is up must now return, even birds will be undone; you who soar with graceful joy, a sure defeat is now begun.


    “[Falling Down~!]”


    The space around the airborne Lycia contorts, sucked above in an instant.


    Adris is mystified when she streaks up into the air, as though her whole form stretches towards the ceiling, and is then flung to the ground at terminal velocity like a snapping band.

    Her body strikes with a grotesque, meaty flop accompanied by cracking sounds, shards from shattering white flagstones flying out as her bones shake and rattle.


    Before the assembled attackers can act, Lycia’s body moves inhumanly, a clawed hand grasping the ground and yanking.

    She flings herself toward Adris, as she awkwardly rolls into a standing position.


    With all three arrayed before her, Lycia doesn’t act, patiently waiting to counter any attack.

    Gold fluids leak from her mouth and spots on her bruised body.

    Adris is surprised she is still active, but glad. Brandishing his cross secretly, he readies to attack them when she does.


    “While not allies in the strictest sense, what reason exists for greed?”

    The black-ponytailed butler woman speaks amiably, while letting her saw sword hang low against the ground.

    “I don’t wish to take your meal, only share at your table. Why escalate to a formal test of arms when we could be as brethren?”


    “Yeah, there’s no reason for fighting, yeah! Why, why would you fight~? A delicious boy can be shared by all, riiiight?”

    The rabbit girl energetically speaks, contrary to her sleepy style.

    “The Wondrous Works has plenty of Guests. Why hog the ones that make it here!?”


    The girl glares at Adris, her pink eyes sinister.

    “This lady wants to ask where he comes from, while entertaining him~.”


    “No women if share. Do I fuck Ferthia? Sounds boring.”

    The man grumbles, disillusioned at not being allowed to rape Lycia.


    “I wouldn’t fuck you for any reason, you ugly giant!”

    The bat girl flies into the room, flipping overhead and landing on a railing above, looking down at the bleeding Lycia.

    Her nose is red, with a bit of gold leaking from a nostril. She looks quite angry as she glares.

    Underneath her mini-skirt… a bald, clamshell pussy is proudly displayed to Adris as she perches.

    “But, I certainly deserve a taste of that cute penis after putting up with you, old ghoul lady.”


    Adris pales, certain that they’re doomed.

    Lycia is strong, but these three, disregarding the bat girl, look powerful, too.


    As he tenses…


    … a box drops, and a sweeping hand grabs him by his jerkin, pulling him up and pinning him against the wall.

    Roughly pushed up against it, his breath is forced out by the impact.


    “We shall not take the first bite, so enjoy your portion. The newcomer shall dine first, while we graciously host.”

    The butler has a congenial smile with closed eyes, content with the changed dynamic.


    Adris looks at the woman before him.


    Lycia’s eyes are opened wide, a blazing green, the frightening radiance returned to them.


    Her mouth is pulled up into a cheshire grin, all of her pointed teeth gleaming as she wipes away the golden blood with her free hand.


    A madness is set to her face that he’s never seen previously.

    It forces him to recall that she isn't human.


    “Sorry, it’s a little too hard for big sis to stop these guys~!” She says, before she cackles disconcertingly.

    Might as well taste you while you’re still fresh.”


    Adris’ throat goes dry.

    She reaches to his pants, then, loosening the looping belt as the voyeurs snicker or whistle.


    “Like I said, little brother...”

    She leans in with her mad grin and dark, monstrous voice, breathing roughly.


    “lIkE I SaId!”

    With a deathly rattle, she moans words into his left ear with her face beside his, her eyes closed in appreciation of his scent.


    YoU jUsT sMeLl ToO gOoD…”


    She then kisses him deeply, using her tongue to seize Adris’, pulling his rapidly expanding penis out from his open pants and holding it in her hand, as she prepares to ravage him.


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

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



    Beauty:

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

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

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

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

    "If you're appealing to a monster, wouldn't that be detrimental in the long term?"



    Description:

    “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."



    Commentary:

    "Weakness is never forgiven."





    Name: Lycia Vehrose
    Race: Ghoul
    Sex: Female
    Age: ?? (Old Lady)

    Occupation: Wondrous Works Scholar; Tool Creator
    Discipline: ???

    Powers:

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

    [Pocket Belmont] - "A spiked chain that flies with great force to strike out, before returning. It explodes with flame on impact, destroying whatever is around its point of release. Is this love? Am I in love?"

    [Heart Taking] - "Hey, won't you give yourself to me~? Completely and absolutely."



    Disposition: Sultry / Intelligent / Vicious
    Alignment: Neutral

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



    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please unlock me, Adris~.”



    Beauty:

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

    "Is she more beautiful because she's so willing to be amoral, or in spite of it? Showing so many wonderful expressions, are you captivated by the face, or the evil light in her eyes?"



    Description:

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

    "While willing to help and showing a proclivity towards honoring deals, she's seemingly not above taking what she can get."



    Commentary:

    "Heroines sure seem brutal on Zennia. Is this a world crossover fad? But a woman that knows what she likes and is willing to gently stroke your head to receive it... It is both maternal and carnal. This is my fetish. Oh well, time to die."

    Cascading Water - "The source of waters for the Castillo, perhaps. A great serpent's perpetual death is where the waters that feed life come from?"

    "Guest" - "The name given to anyone in the Castillo by servants of the Alchemaster who is treated as an honored invader."
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  11. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 10: Down the Castillo in Two Minutes

    Stealing her lips away as quickly as she gave them, Lycia resumes staring into Adris eyes, smiling balefully as she continues to stroke his hardening cock.

    Her expression is befitting of what she is.


    Ghoul.

    A word that needs no translation for Adris, for the concept is known on Xin, though the word is likely different and the true definition might be dissimilar.


    (Those driven mad with a disease. Raving seekers of flesh. Fitting for what she’s showing now.)


    The cold wall and Lycia’s hand steal away Adris’ body heat, even as his face and crotch grow hotter to fight it. Lycia’s attention is now totally predatory, ready to do to him first what the others intend to do after she finishes.


    (… This is about what I expected.)


    Adris had never hoped for Lycia to defend him to her death, even if “death” doesn’t mean as much for her; but, he’d held out hope that she wouldn’t be as cruel as the rest.


    “Hmm, hmmmm, something is… wrong, though, isn’t it?” Though content to not interfere, the bunny girl in the robe narrows her eyes in suspicion.

    “… Wearing a Works overcoat and traveling with a Works witch, for what reason is this? Were you simply enjoying a Guest, no need would there be for such a strange setup, riiiight?”


    As the sage takes in the situation after hostilities cease, questions seem to come to her.


    “Hah! More than that! Even if I couldn’t understand all the human words, she sure sounded chummy with him! Maybe even trying to help him get out!”


    Up high, the blue-haired kicking bag leans forward, providing her own helpful observations. She has a bitchy smile as she tries to make things worse for Lycia.


    With this said, the bunny sage starts sneering, her eyes moving from Adris’ mask to the cross in his hand.


    “Carrying some valuable looking goods, he is, for so powerless a presence! A spell-turning cross, it seemed? … Just what are you up to, you toothy, sneaky degenerate?”


    When the butler rubs her chin and her tails go stiff, her sword lifts up, again.

    “… Fair questions, these are. Ms. Works Ghoul, might you be…?”


    (Uh oh, you’re in trouble, Lycia!)


    Adris feels great happiness at her turncoat decision going awry, looking forward to Lycia suffering with him.

    (Yes, cat woman. We’re quite “acquainted”. Of course, Lycia won’t be able to admit it, because if she-)





    “… I just couldn’t see a boy like him being left alone... cast into this mansion and left to be sacrificed to its hunger.”





    A soft voice comes from Lycia. No longer grinning at Adris, she now has a slight smile and a look of pity in her eyes.


    (What?)


    Adris is surprised by her sudden change in tone. So, too, are the assembled minions of the mansion, discontent registering on their faces.


    “An experimental subject, probably one used to test magical items of dubious provenance…” Sounding heartbroken, Lycia continues to narrate Adris’ journey as seen through her eyes.

    “Somehow escaping from the clutches of the one using him… Searching so desperately for someone to save him. Finding only me, I just couldn’t… abandon him.”


    (… Lycia? You…)


    “Lost your mind have you, perhaps, maybe… or addled your consciousness he has…?”

    The bunny’s grip on her rod firms up, raising it a bit, her head ducking lower as she looks disgusted.

    “Careful, Miria… a trifle wrong this is…”


    As the observers get ready to take up arms again…


    “All alone in the world, only me there to save him… Only I could ease his pain.”


    Putting her hand to her chest, Lycia’s face is smiling carefree, full of wonder at her own words.


    “So I offered to help! To shepherd him through the horrors! To watch, as his spirits rouse! As he grows hopeful, once more! To see him seek to bond with me, despite his fears and misgivings! Desperate for love and safety…!”


    (… What? What are you saying…?)


    She puts her hand to his face, and her expression… turns much more content.

    “Ahh! To fend off danger, to become his only support, in turn! Bringing him to the border of paradise, it lying just beyond the open door to the outside world! I wanted to see his face…!”


    With a look of pure,...


    “… as I grabbed him up just at that precipice, ripped off his pants, pinned him to the ground, and rode his delicious cock to climax!

    I wanted to know what his face would look like as he cried out in anger or terror, unwillingly losing himself inside of me!”


    ... evil ecstasy, Lycia announces her true intentions.





    (… You… disgusting…!)


    Lycia puts her cold hand into Adris’ mouth, pushing down on his tongue as he tries to pull it away.


    “To stain the golden carpets white with his semen dripping from me, as I drag him back to the deep blue to be eaten up by Mother, in turn!”


    Adris bites down hard on Lycia’s finger, completely unable to penetrate her skin or crush the cold flesh. She giggles, as she watches him gnaw on her finger.

    (FUCK YOU!)


    “The greatest experiment’s sought result:


    ‘What will a young boy look like when all of his dreams are permanently crushed, with freedom only feet away?’ My ambition was fulfilling that moment~…”


    Lycia looks mildly satisfied when Adris’ eyes start shaking, blind hatred filling him.





    Then, she turns her face to the bunny and vents her frustrations.

    “And now that will never happen, because you lot couldn’t help yourselves~!”


    Mouth now open in complete disbelief, the bunny sage soon rolls her eyes and takes on a disappointed look.


    “… How so very stupid. The Wondrous Works is always failing because of this, it is! Two magical tools and a subject loose in the wild, the credibility of Mother in difficulty, and a weirdo wants to do a psychological conditioning experiment… Tempted, tempted I am to spank you with the floor, once more!”


    The cat woman, Miria, chuckles as she pats the bunny’s shoulder.

    “No, I think it’s quite romantic? It has a ring of innocence to it?”


    (Ah, die, all of you die.)


    Lycia rubs her face against Adris’, her favorite captive pet, as he starts losing all of his energy. The shock of Lycia’s revealed plot threatens to cut into his will to live.


    “Rules and caution exist for a reason, they do! The Great Mistress won’t be happy, unhappy with a speck like-!”





    “… What will the Alchemaster say to Mother, when I tell her you lot are setting up in our tier? I may not be active politically, but even I know you’re not supposed to be here. Instead of questioning my research methods, why don’t you consider the implications of your actions becoming known by all~?”





    A challenging question is given to the unfinished threat.

    Tension returns immediately to the gathering.


    To the rising hostility Adris can feel in the air and see on the faces of the Alchemaster’s minions, Lycia shrugs her shoulders, offering a helpful substitute resolution.


    “Or? You can leave him to me at the conclusion of this, and I’ll return him, saying nothing to Mother about your presence.

    You might earn my silence through crushing me, but I’ll take at least one of you, too, during a true contest. Open violence between our groups will always be noticed by the Gate Guardian, leading to... questions.”


    While the bunny girl twitches her evil eyes in annoyance at being openly blackmailed by Lycia, the butler Miria nods with a smile and swishing tails.


    “Point made. No dispute from us is relevant, nor report of our meeting truly needed. Artifacts recovered and escaped cattle caught, all is returned to normal with his return. Neither your activities, nor ours, are in need of further inspection.”


    As though the butler finds the situation somewhat more delicate now, she decides to be politer.

    “Bad blood between the Works and our Great Mistress should ever be avoided, so he’ll be yours to dispense with after our joint luncheon.”


    “Miriaaaaa! She’s making a mockery of-!”


    As the bunny sage tries to interject, the butler’s eyes open with a violent intensity to stare her back.


    “Leave off, Hoime.”


    Choking on her next words, the bunny sage Hoime closes her mouth, looking frustrated at Lycia.


    “Hoime, you’re a valued servant of the Alchemaster, not a member of the Works. Leave their business to them, and remember you belong with us.”





    The assembled players agree to leave the report of Adris’ fate between them, so that nobody in power need know a mere human inconvenienced any of them by being where he shouldn’t have been, with an item he shouldn’t have, at a place that others shouldn’t have been found.


    (How nice for you. You get your out and sweep clean this whole mess at the same time. I’d rather you have killed each other.)


    Eyes back on his penis again, Lycia nods approvingly.

    “Hum, it’s quite delectable~. I made the right choice, didn’t I, little bro? Doing good deeds earns rewards~!”


    She teases him while tilting her head, inspecting his face as she gently tugs on the tip of his dick, letting the rest hang loose as she massages.

    Her calloused fingers are a bit rough, yet the depravity of the situation, combined with his helplessness, is a new, exciting feeling burning within Adris’ chest.

    One that wars with the revulsion he feels for Lycia, now.


    “For our honored, truly young guest to have trusted you even a little, you are quite gifted with your tongue, Ms. Works Ghoul. Having made him feel at home during your journey… it will no doubt be an even greater shock to see the true hospitality in store for him now.”

    Miria the butler, unlike the green-robed mystic, seems to approve of Lycia’s manipulations.


    (I must be losing my touch if I ever believed in you. No, I definitely am. This whole outcome is because I’ve lost my edge. I should’ve beaten your head in the first chance I had.)


    His chest is tight with his depression and the pressure of his twisted jerkin.


    “Hey~! Why are you getting hard, boy? Is it the fear? Or does discomfort give you pleasure?”


    Lycia laughs while pushing him up harder against the wall, her grip suddenly along his whole length, abusive and tight.

    The glove is rough as she yanks on him, causing Adris to fear for his dick. She leans in again, bringing her face to his neck and chewing roughly on his skin with her front teeth, leaving marks on him as he squirms in pain.

    Pulling him lower and to herself, she lets her body rub against the tip as she strokes, causing Adris to jolt in pleasure, leaving him shamefully wanting to push forward against her stomach.

    The feeling of her shirt and belly as he presses against it is enchanting.


    The sleepy rabbit sage chuckles while covering her mouth.


    “To react to abuse and betrayal with such obsequience, he’s pathetic, he is! A bonafide masochist!” Though still angry, her disposition improves as Adris’ discomfort increases.

    “My, you have excellent technique, Ms. Ghoul, even if I find your… work ethic a bit lacking. May his mind melt admirably under your ministrations! But, but, it’s a bit boring just to watch until my turn~…”


    The woman reaches out from under her robe, going to the crotch of the hulking man beside her. When she pats it, he gets animated.

    Ugly face softening, a look of reverence replaces his previous boredom.


    “Oh! Lady Hoime, are you offering…? You are a saintess!”

    He is quick, uncinching his belt and letting his own torn pants drop free, pulling his foot out of one end as an enormous, flared dick wobbles, rapidly hardening as she rubs it with her satin-gloved hand.


    Disregarding her audience completely, Lycia continues to suck on his neck even as she picks up the pace of her hand.

    Pulling her mouth back, she looks up at Adris with her shining eyes. Adris’ mouth is a grimace as he silently accepts his circumstances.


    (I’m not being betrayed. She was never my ally. She was an enemy hiding in plain sight, one I wasn’t even truly overlooking. I simply had no other options.)


    This woman had helped him of her own volition, so obviously she had her own designs. To sacrifice him when cornered is the smartest thing to do, and the fact that her designs were evil fits with this place.


    (Feeling even a bit… disappointed by this would be-)


    “Hey, hEy? Why do you look like you want to cry?” She purrs, her mouth becoming a false smile of comfort.

    “Were you… truly enamored with me?”


    (This outcome is probably less… crushing than the one she was dreaming of.)


    Adris squares his jaw, looking down, forced to watch her stroke him against his will, his eyes dark as he avoids hers. There’s no point in giving any more emotional consideration to her actions.


    (I can’t change any of this.)


    “That’s not an unpracticed look you have, either! Even if you try to hide it, I can smell the pain on you~! HEY!”

    She brings him close, suddenly, his rock hard erection brought to her crotch as she embraces him roughly.


    Looking down into his face…


    “… Who hurt you before me?” She coos, her eyes playful.


    (You!)


    There’s no way this woman can know.


    Adris is far too… good at hiding things for her to notice.


    That she could know anything about his losses angers him.


    “… It wasn’t the one that put that mask on you, was it…? What was... her name, then~?”


    He tries to raise the cross, but a powerful hand moves to capture his arm before it can even lift. Forcing his hand to his chest, she slips the cross into his coat before…


    “… No, I need your hands free for this~. And you need to hold on to such a… dubious object until we can have a closer look at it back at the Works~”

    Her soft whisper coincides with his wrist flaring up in pain from a crushing grip.

    Slipping the cross into his potion bandoleer as the pain frees it, Lycia pulls his hand back out, wrapping hers up with his. Locking fingers, she gives another smile of false comfort.


    “Isn’t it better to hold hands with big sis? Or have you stopped loving her? How sad~”


    (Before this is done, I’m going to hit you with something!)


    He thinks to rear back and force his head into the woman’s face, but knows it’s futile. Anyone that can impact the floor as hard as she did and simply roll out of it would be unfazed by such a gesture.

    When he opens his mouth to hurl abuse, she pulls him up and sticks her tongue back in, catching his words with her own passionate french kiss.


    (Fuck! Stop…)


    Being kissed so passionately by a woman tormenting him feels disgusting to Adris, no matter how fair her face is.

    It’s unpleasant to be used this way.


    With her finally pulling away, his face openly contorts with his disgust.


    “♥! Right, RIGHT! That’s the kind of look I like~!” Pleased, she smiles while crushing him tightly to herself, forcing his dick between her closed hips again as she holds him with both arms now.

    Positioning him, she makes him rub cruelly against her barely covered mound, Adris’ dick moving through the slight gap in her thighs. He can feel her moist lips rub on the top of his cock, only the thin fabric separating their sexual organs.

    The heat there is just as hot as when his tongue was upon it, and the pleasure he feels after simmering in lust for so long is too much to resist.


    “Don’t think you can just stay silent! I want to know how you feel~. I want to taste your hate. If I don’t get to taste the meat after it’s been properly spiced and seasoned, then I want a bloody, fresh flavor, instead~!”


    (… Fuck off! Why would… I give you what you want!?)


    Adris hears the sound of clothing shifting and looks to his left.


    A round, white ass with a cream-colored rabbit tail is what he sees, the sage woman bent over against the wall next to Adris, watching him with sharp, lustful eyes as he’s assaulted.

    Her robe has split down the back, letting her body peek out, her booted feet wide as she pulls her ass open with one hand.


    (I am not a side show!)


    “Cathar, you have my permission to use anything but my pussy, okay, okay? If I let you in the front, I won’t be able to feel our little dear later-”

    She speaks lazily, but her eyes go wide a bit as she stops midway through her sentence, focusing on Adris’ penis slipping between Lycia’s soaking thighs.

    “- Oh, oh, nevermind, he’s not too lacking, so maybe not! Odd, that size is! Still, best to be consistent…”


    The large man named Cathar walks up behind the woman, snorting with impatience, even as he tries to be polite to the woman he respects.

    “Yes, thank you, Lady Hoime! If only Ferthia, might just choose not to.”


    “Shut up, you ogre! Considering how you treat women, she should be hollowing out your ass, instead!”

    The bat maid shrieks from the hanging walkway, disgruntled at being thought of so poorly.


    Pulling a vial of clear liquid out, Cathar opens it with a large fingernail and hastily shakes it out onto his cock. Once lubricated by his own hand, he pushes his large, pre-cum spurting head against her tiny red rose, massaging the outside with it as she pants in anticipation.


    Adris can see her body relaxing, both hands on the wall now as his are on her waist with a death grip, hands large enough to almost meet over her flesh.

    He inches into her rectum, her tongue floating out of her open mouth, before he loses his temper and slams straight into her, the full nine inch length buried inside as he cries out in victory.


    (How can she fit it in, much less to the end…)


    “… Hieee, you are quite the gentleman, Cathar, ah, yes!”


    Contrary to Adris’ expectations of reality, the woman is pleased by the sudden intrusion.

    One of his large hands reaches around, gripping a breast underneath her robe as he leans over her, and begins pounding against her juicy, bouncing butt.


    While they go to work, Adris…


    “Where are you looking, little brother? Who said you could look away, huh!?


    His head is wrenched to look up at Lycia, still holding him.


    “Don’t you have something you should be doing?” Her anger subsiding, she presses him forward, threatening to tear off a cheek if he doesn’t start moving on his own.


    “… I guess the real you is a lot uglier than the outside is?”


    His quiet quip results in his head being tweaked again, a movement which he cries out in pain at.





    “You don’t need words, unless they’re to beg.”

    Her face is stern as she lets his head go.


    “You’re supposed to succumb, not talk back. You have no idea what ‘the real me’ is, anyway, and you’ll never be smart enough to figure it out.”


    Her thighs tighten around his trapped dick, her muscles flexing as she speaks in a cold voice.


    “You’re a dish, not a person, meat. Food doesn’t get an opinion~!”

    A toothy smile is all she spares for him as she resumes grinding against his dick.





    Adris is stunned.

    This woman who was always only teasing before this situation… easily turned out to be one whose cruelty wouldn’t be lacking among the worst wasteland tyrants of Xin.


    (The you inside is even worse than I could’ve ever imagined.)


    He subconsciously aids in grinding between her thighs, pushing forward and then pulling back.

    The woman who has led him on refuses to give him even a moment of respite, the warmth on his dick growing as he is forced to pleasure her. Her thin panties do nothing to disguise the texture of moving against her lips.


    “Ah, see~? As long as you stop thinking, you can do it! Don’t worry about what you want or the fear you feel~. Just do what I want~!”


    Holding him tenderly, she lets her voice finally become kind again.


    “Give yourself, totally, to me.”


    (This is a form of “genuine,” after all. At least I wasn’t wrong about that. Only being a tool to her is…?)





    An image fills his mind.


    {Adris fehl Dain is a god before these fools, using them in turn, their bodies laid out for him to feast upon.}





    Adris rejects the idea of using a tool that he knows will destroy his mind, even if it means losing. While the situation is desperate, the cross is still just as evil as Lycia is.


    (Someone else simply won this battle. The match didn’t go to me.)


    Adris will survive this, somehow. Believing that some of the information she gave him about this world is true, he believes there’s still a chance of escaping, as long as he doesn’t lose all hope.





    (Being raped is just rape. The body endures, the mind moves on.)


    Even after her manipulations, compared to being murdered by Serras, this woman’s torments are hardly equal…

    After all, there was no real trust, anyway. Adris can’t lose anything he didn’t leave available to steal.


    (She simply seemed familiar…)





    The cat butler Miria’s tails swish about as she watches the show, her posture attentive and formal, her left hand behind her back as she has her right to her chin, fascinated by the performance.


    The woman named Hoime has her insides brutalized and her breasts manhandled by the large, oblivious giant, concentrated as he is on burying himself in quick motions as deep as possible.

    Her malicious eyes watch with rapt attention as Adris produces quiet rubbing sounds with Lycia’s thigh socks, grinding over the ghoul’s completely wet crotch as Lycia begins to silently pant.


    Lycia’s breathless moaning drives Adris’ brain wild, especially with how her breasts squish him as he presses close. She strokes the back of his head as he grabs behind her back, picking up speed while still held up by her.


    “Good, isn’t this what you should be doing? Submitting to me? Just give up everything… ♥”


    Her words fill him with disobedience, no matter what decision his mind has arrived at, and he latches onto her ass with one hand, rubbing more tightly against her pussy with the increased leverage.

    (Why are you acting needy? I’m the one who never got to- GYAH!)





    She roughly grabs his hand, yanking it off and pulling her body back from his.


    Using her leverage, she whips Adris’ whole body around after letting go of him, putting him into an arm lock behind his back as he cries out in pain.


    (My arm… is going to break!)


    Adris tries to circulate his aura to strengthen the ligaments, but his aura refuses to obey his commands. None of it truly belongs to him, now.


    It’s all a mutated mass, thoroughly corrupted by the cross.


    The only thing listening to him, waiting at the edge of his mind and begging him to be used, is the cross.





    “Oh, my, AH!”

    The bunny lady yells in pleasure as Cathar reacts to this abuse, suddenly slamming into the woman harder to match Lycia’s display of violence. A thick penis drills into a loose ass, the slapping sound of her butt being impacted joining with Adris’ painful hissing.


    Lycia pulls Adris away from the wall, forcing him to a nearby railing as the cat butler nimbly sidesteps her path.

    When he’s brought up over it, he nearly falls forward, bent as he is over the edge of the railing with his guts being pushed in.





    “Who said you could touch me on your own, meat?”


    Before he can respond, she pulls his legs wide with her free hand, reaching past and gripping his cock in this awkward posture of his. Pointing it toward the floor, she furiously strokes the hard member. Wet as it is with her own juices, the pleasure is much stronger than earlier.

    Despite his predicament, his impending ejaculation merely grows closer and stronger.

    Her expert hand rubs his length as her thumb massages around his crown. Her arm brushes against his balls, occasionally, her cold arm a strange sensation.


    Deprived of his ability to resist, Adris is embarrassed at his posture. If not for Lycia being behind him, his naked ass would be on display to everyone.


    He is keenly aware of the other people watching him.


    The bunny woman’s panting is obnoxiously loud as the slapping against her ass continues without mercy, the large man grunting as he’s captivated by her tight sphincter and muscles.

    Adris shrinks from Lycia touching his defenseless ass, scared that the woman might do something similar to him.


    (… Even if I have to endure it, it’s still…!)


    “Shit! Stop!” He cries out, finally.


    “Oh? OH!? You want me to stop? Why~?” Her voice goes heavy and sultry, suddenly pleased with his objections.

    Her hand slows down.


    (I don’t want to let go like this. That would be… too embarrassing. No, nothing will be right! Why am I feeling any of this!?)


    Adris finds himself unwillingly being drawn into her abuse now, letting her control the flow.

    Always in charge with Serras, even when she supposedly “took” him, he knew how to bring her low and make her dance on his fingertips.


    But this woman is making a mockery of Adris, and something about it is both frustrating him and toying with his thoughts. His body is coming to eagerly welcome it, despite his total hatred of her.


    (And yet you were the one depending on my tongue earlier… This fascination is so foreign, and it seeps in without allowing for resistance!)


    Angrily, Adris gives her the answer she’s waiting for.


    “… If I let go, I don’t want it to be like this.”


    “Hm? You mean bent like a child ready to be spanked, your semen about to be uselessly wasted on the floor?”

    She sticks her tongue out after asking, mocking his situation.

    “Okay, I can be generous. So, I’ll ask: where would you like to release it?”


    She lets go of his dick and brings him back fully to the ground, leaning over and letting her teeth bite onto his shoulder playfully as she lets him decide.


    (What…?)


    Adris is taken aback, never thinking he’d truly have a choice.

    (Isn’t there only one place that’s worth it? Right, I…)

    Even if he’s thoroughly beaten as a person by recent events…


    “… I want to cum inside of you.”


    (I want to taste the depths I had my tongue to. Even if… this is who you are, I want to taste you with my dick, feel the heat for myself. If only for your body, I don’t want all of this to be… worthless.)


    The lust is simply overwhelming him.

    While Lycia had found release, he never truly did.


    (... Damn it, I hate this!)


    “Oh? Oooooh? Inside? Have you lost your mind, child? To desire to loose yourself inside the monster playing with you… Is this the form of your love?”

    She lets go of him, letting the boy turn around to look at her.


    “… Well, no problem~. The Castillo’s presence will always win, that’s what greed and desire mean, boy…”


    Glancing back at the butler Miria, Lycia spares her some observations.


    “… The important part is knowing what will break them, how much it will take, and how to progress toward it~. You have to know when to be watching~. Feel free to look more closely, I guarantee it will be good.”


    (You bitch. Even now, you… No, she’s saying something that… I shouldn’t be able to hear, maybe?)


    While he’s assumed that the language they speak to each other isn’t likely to be one that a human would understand, Lycia’s tone during her abuse had a need for him to understand her.


    (But those words weren’t designed for me, only speaking about me as an observer…)


    He sees Lycia’s hand go down to her crotch, pulling her panties aside and slipping into the slit revealed, a wet sound as she rubs inside with two fingers while leaving her palm against her mons.

    With her leaning back a bit, Adris can slightly see her spreading her lips.

    Her gaze welcomes his inspection.


    “Come, isn’t this what you want?”


    The cat butler watches from the side, close now, her congenial smile and almost-closed eyelids now a mocking expression matching Lycia’s.

    “Hee, he is quite addled. How wonderful. The succulent air of the mansion breaks them all, eventually.”


    As they converse, Adris sees Lycia’s eyes softening as she looks at him.


    (What are you doing…?)


    “Right, then~! I believe it was the Alchemaster who decreed that “every Guest deserves what they truly desire”… Keeping that in mind: I’ll let you cum inside me, just as you want!”


    Still mentally confused, his body moves on its own. He absentmindedly tries to place his hand on her hips to position her…


    Until she manhandles him.


    Lifted up by the ghoul’s unbelievable strength, he’s placed down hard on the brass railing as he screams out in pain. Left to almost fall over backwards, Lycia kneels before him. At a level to have her head before him, she adjusts her body so she can contort his legs to hold them under her armpits, keeping him from falling.


    As he feels like he's falling, anyway, he reaches out to grab something, and grabs onto Lycia’s head by mistake.


    Looking in terror at the woman, unsure if she’s going to let him go as punishment for grabbing her, he sees her smiling coquettishly.

    He grabs on with his other hand, getting some balance.


    “Don’t worry, don’t worry~. Little brother isn’t something to be thrown away~.”


    She coos up to him, her eyes soft as she smiles. Adris is shaken and uncertain as he holds on for his life.





    “I’ve taken a liking to you. When I deliver you to Mother, I’ll beg her to be gentle.”


    Giving one last, playful smile, she…





    “I won’t let anything bad happen to you. I promise.”


    … winks her left eye, with great emphasis.





    Adris’ mind goes blank.


    He controls his expression, thinking hard on Lycia’s actions.


    The cat butler, just out of focus of Lycia’s face, is watching him, too. Much closer now, this Miria is gazing intently, waiting at Lycia’s suggestion to see Adris break.


    (… How many of your words are ever true? What is real, for you?)


    He ponders what she said before, when they’d talked in the waiting room...





    “… big sis will protect you. I promise.”


    Words can mean whatever they need to, their true intentions tailored for that moment.

    They can craft a winning solution from a losing situation.


    (Is it possible there is a “real” you in all of this, looking for a way to save more than yourself?)





    Though his mind is addled, he can still see the hint of a plan in action, one hidden behind layers of deception.


    On the stage called Cascading Waters, Lycia has been weaving an impressive tale. One that redeemed her as being Adris’ truest enemy.


    (But now you’re controlling their actions with the words you use.)

    Adris can’t tell whether this hint, if it even is one, is a lie or the truth. Realizing that fact…


    (Oh, I know who you are, now.)


    That strange feeling he’d had in her presence, danger and attraction mixed together, now makes sense. The smile usually found on the beautiful woman’s face would probably be a match to one he could see in a mirror.


    This Lycia Vehrose is quite similar, after all.


    There’s not that much difference between what she does…





    … and how Adris has lived his whole life.





    (You’re synonymous with deception, too, aren’t you?)


    The attraction was a little too on the nose. A woman that plays with people and aggressively worms her way into their hearts, isn’t much different from a man who often does the same thing.

    It’s similar if she’s weaving a plot only she can see, too.


    When she does it, it’s just… a little more attractive.





    (I’m willing to gamble.)





    If she’s truly like Adris, and she’s walking a very narrow path to her true goal, then she’ll somehow rebel. She has been trying to get Adris to notice and help.

    (And I was missing it earlier. So what she needs from me now is…?)


    To give into her, totally.

    To give her what she keeps demanding, and show it to them.





    Adris finds a place to draw inspiration from. The next action he commits to must seem real.

    It has to fool even him.


    He thinks about…





    The way she’d looked at him the night they’d both murdered someone.


    How he’d held her many times after, the frustration on her face fighting against the pleasure.


    The way she’d looked when she’d, finally, murdered him.





    All those times he’d felt like something was wrong, like maybe something was his fault, but he never really knew what to do about it.





    … and he starts crying.


    As tears begin falling down his cheeks, as his face breaks down…





    … Miria begins to chortle.


    “Very good, very good. Ah, this young man has such a savory expression. Ms. Works Ghoul is an excellent servant of our Mistress. Having heard you describe your experiment, I offer now my deepest apologies regarding our… interruption.”

    Smiling broadly while watching, the butler now completely approves of Lycia.


    The woman reaches down to daintily touch the crotch of her pants, with a quick rub given.


    “You’ve managed to arouse even I. How commendable.”


    After the woman’s appreciative comments, the cruelty on Lycia’s face vanishes.

    Instead, there’s a hint of kindness and appreciation.


    The butler has now stopped being alert, watching Lycia abuse Adris with an eager expression. While she agreed to Lycia’s first taste of Adris, this cat woman’s eyes had never left Lycia, and the woman has always seemed capable of striking at any moment.


    The hand on her sword has relaxed, with Adris watching it swing loosely as Miria playfully taps it.


    At a front-row seat to Adris’ execution, the greatest danger has become a passive spectator. With the last person in the room no longer expecting treachery, Adris knows that Lycia’s plan, if she truly has one, will soon begin.





    “Oh nonononononono, don’t cry little brother.”


    She plaintively tries to calm him, an evil tone to her voice that doesn’t match her face.


    “Big sister will make everything better.”


    A long tongue pokes out from between her opening lips, flicking at Adris as she smiles, before Lycia moves her face toward Adris’ unprotected dick.


    This tongue, far longer than a human should possess, snakes out to hang in the air and lick at his cock.


    (Wait, where do you hide - AH!?)





    She gulps his cock into her throat with one quick, practiced motion. Her long tongue rests along the bottom of his cock as she pulls it into her mouth, the tip of her tongue moving down to lick at his balls.





    “AH! Too warm!”


    Crying out as he’s swallowed up, Adris is forced to hang onto her shoulders as her head moves.


    Though he’d expected the woman’s mouth to be cold like her body, there’s an inexhaustible heat instead.

    He watches with terror as, with each movement, her sharp teeth only narrowly avoid piercing him. The exquisite tightness of her lips constricting around his shaft, even while her tongue escapes to play with him, is a completely novel sensation.

    Adris feels like his whole dick is being cocooned.


    She wastes zero time, bringing his head to her throat each time she thrusts her own head forward, bobbing back and forth as she consumes him.


    The long tongue is skilled in a way he can no longer claim to say his is any contender to, and her throat has zero gag reflex.


    (This is, far better than Symphonia!)


    Adris’ mouth is open, his tears drying as his expression is replaced by undisguised satisfaction.


    A vacuum tension of this intensity on his penis is a first experience, a feeling that no previous one can top. Even Serras’ tight, muscular pussy is only good as a separate activity.


    If he had to choose between them, he would never leave Lycia.


    The lips are too soft, too strong. Her tongue is a living creature unto itself, wrapping around his cock outside of her mouth as if it belongs to the coiling muscle, jealous of not possessing it entirely.

    The saliva within her mouth coats everything thoroughly, and he feels like he’ll melt with its slightly tingling effect on his skin.


    “Oh, oh, oh! Look, Cathar! He has such a wonderful expression for a boy being ‘eaten’!”


    The rabbit lady is bouncing a good distance behind Lycia, held up in a standing position by two strong arms as she’s rammed onto a hard shaft.

    She has one arm holding onto Cathar’s big ones as the other hand is to her empty pussy, rubbing her clit vigorously as Cathar pounds into her wet asshole.

    Her ears flop around as her hat threatens to fall off, the ears brushing against Cathar's chin as the ugly man's face shows his pleasure.


    While Hoime should be worrying about her own brutal punishment, her appreciative eyes are instead locked on Adris’ face.

    Cathar, instead of staring at Adris, is unabashedly glaring at Lycia’s round ass. Adris grips Lycia tighter in resentment, bringing a harder, more devious light to Lycia’s eyes.


    “Hah! Hurry up, bitch!”


    Adris looks up drunkenly at another voice, seeing the batgirl with hidden eyes still perched overhead, her legs wide now as she squats like a bitch.

    Her clamshell pussy is now engorged and soaked, lips flowering as she impatiently waits to use him.


    “After seeing how big it is, I want to ride it. I want him to hold me as I rape him. Can’t you just lay him down to do this? I could sit on his face…”

    The cute, bitchy woman drips as she looks in annoyance at the time it’s taking to finish.


    Lycia ignores her, sucking faster, stopping and pulling out at times to let her tongue work the head of the shaft all the way down to the base.

    Adris can barely hold on, feeling like he’s falling the entire time. With this feeling of falling, comes fear.


    The fear gives way to reliance on Lycia’s mouth for comfort. He finds himself falling both over the railing and for this terrible woman.


    (Shit, she’s still trying to brainwash me.)


    It had been a part of how he’d appealed to Serras, letting their combined terror force them to work together and grow closer.


    When Lycia opens her eyes again and sees Adris glaring at her, she looks amused and winks again, her mouth disgustingly slurping as she brings him over.

    Even if Adris knows her game, he’s absolutely helpless to stop it.


    All his body can feel for Lycia now is a man’s lust and desire for a woman he wants, despite his mind telling him not to fall for her.

    The renewed hope that this is all to save him is toying with his emotions even more than her earlier declarations.


    She pulls his cock out, putting her hand around it to violently stroke it, while she licks the head with a rotating tongue.

    The woman can use her arm in such a way even with Adris’ leg hooked underneath it.


    It’s a wonderful feeling, as fulfilling as his own masturbation. He can’t understand how a woman would know what to do, sliding evenly over the shaft without pulling on it too tightly, the perfect gentle pressure encompassing his girth.

    Even the roughness of her callouses and glove is excused by the technique she demonstrates.

    Her lips take in only his head, wrapping around his glans and pulling on them as she puts her tongue against the slit of his head, loosely pushing it open as she strokes him.


    He feels a little saliva at the side of his mouth, feeling stupid for losing himself completely to this pleasure.





    This is the first time in Adris’ life that he’s been completely defeated sexually by a woman.

    Adris had always loved Serras’ body, but now his own body feels like a puppet that exists to dance solely to the movements of Lycia’s dexterous tongue.


    If anything, he’s beginning to think he is her pet.


    (Ah, I can’t handle this, I’m done for.)


    Adris feels his semen rising and can’t even think of stopping it.

    His muscles have no time to assist him in resisting the feeling, stuck as he is between the pain of hanging on the railing, the fear of being let go, and the lust he feels for the woman before him.


    He tenses his hands, gripping as he moans out loud, an embarrassing whimper in a young boy’s foreign voice as he loses control.


    Hearing him gasp, Lycia shares her thoughts as she smiles.


    “Look at how pathetic you are. Hanging on for dear life, not with your legs, but with your dick. Squirming like you are, you’ll never have a mouth like mine anywhere else.”


    She kisses the head of his penis, with him moaning as he longs for release instead of words.


    “You’ll have to live your whole life with the memory of this paradise~. Of pleasure given to you by an evil bitch you revile!”


    Opening her mouth wide to let him look within, even the sharp teeth dripping saliva seem erotic to Adris, now.

    She licks his head lovingly, penetrating pleasure driving deep into Adris.


    “Every time another woman tastes you, I will have been there, first~! Every time she pretends to pleasure you like only I can…”


    Kissing the head of his penis like it’s his own lips, she smiles gaily at his suffering. Adris realizes this isn’t a jest:


    Lycia is truly enjoying herself. Even if she is planning to save him, Adris' current situation brings her extreme bliss.


    “… you’ll be thinking of me, instead ♥.”





    (Maybe I will be. But, I don’t think that they will be thoughts filled with love… Only appreciation of how good you are at what you do.)





    Lycia doesn’t need to look as she brings his cock all the way back down her throat and moves swiftly, knowing that Adris’ eyes are fixed on her.


    “Ah, I’m… going to come!”


    Adris moans, giving away his surrender.


    “My, simply exquisite.” The butler purrs.


    “Oh, oh, oh, yes, YES!” The bunny woman calls out, her climax coming when she sees Adris give up.


    She has her fingers over her clit, rubbing quickly as she’s held aloft. She closes her eyes and begins to shudder, as the man named Cathar lets out a deep growl, his balls twitching as Hoime milks his over-sized cock, making him a slave to her body.

    Letting out juices herself as she’s embraced powerfully from behind, her insides are displaced by the gargantuan dick forced into her as he unleashes his seed uselessly inside of her intestines.


    Adris begins to climax as he watches the devious woman get filled, closing his eyes involuntarily and shaking a bit when Lycia squeezes on his cock.


    Lycia sucks down the white semen flowing from Adris’ dick, her tongue unable to sample it as it goes straight down her throat.

    It lashes out with outrage, massaging his cock along the bottom, even as the tip licks his lifting balls.

    Her sharp teeth graze ever so lightly against him, a cruel feeling while hot with his own release.


    This pleasure is an eternity all to itself, his cock alive in her mouth as his balls surrender themselves completely.

    He’s no longer in control of his own body, his hands on her head now as he holds onto her, afraid that he might pass out and fall to his death if he lets go.


    Adris moans weakly as she sucks down his spray, pulling her mouth off his cock slightly to begin licking the head abusively when he finishes, milking him further with excessive stimulation.


    Adris tears up at this, his orgasm lingering as she continues.

    When she’s sure that he’s let out everything easy to release, she pulls off of his dick with a meaty pop, her saliva spraying around it.

    Letting his cock rub up against her face as she leans in to grab his balls with her serpentine tongue, this elicits a painful sigh from Adris.


    As she cups them with only her tongue and lightly squeezes, he lets out a little more of his white gift, coating her face a bit with the remnants of his orgasm.


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

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

    "Please don't summon me around her."



    Beauty:

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

    ...

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

    Description:

    “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.”

    ...

    "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."



    Commentary:

    "You're on your own again, already? Wonder if you had a plan for this one, in the event she wasn't ready to help. Who am I kidding, of course you did: gangrape is always an option!"







    Name: Lycia Vehrose
    Titles: Beast of Conquest
    Race: Blood-Stained Ghoul
    Sex: Female
    Age: ?? (Old Lady)

    Occupation: Wondrous Works Researcher; Tool Creator; Total Monster
    Discipline: Battle Pressure - Mad Ghoul

    Powers:

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

    [Pocket Belmont] - "A spiked chain that flies with great force to strike out, before returning. It explodes with flame on impact, destroying whatever is around its point of release. Is this love? Am I in love?"

    [Heart Taking] - "Hey, won't you give yourself to me~? Completely and absolutely."



    Disposition: Sultry / Intelligent / Vicious |-| Insane
    Alignment: Neutral

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



    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please unlock me, Adris~.”

    "Just not if it's about her!"



    Beauty:

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

    "Is she more beautiful because she's so willing to be amoral, or in spite of it? Showing so many wonderful expressions, are you captivated by the face, or the evil light in her eyes?"

    "Still attracted to her now? You are incorrigible, aren't you, Adris? Red and gold on white, if a living corpse can excite you, then we'll have to start taking this section down a stranger path, won't we?"



    Description:

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

    "While willing to help and showing a proclivity towards honoring deals, she's seemingly not above taking what she can get."

    "A true monster in the classical sense, in both mind and body. Perhaps only her soul is near enough to human to redeem her a bit. A Bloodstained Ghoul is something truly awful, an enemy from the past returned to haunt the living. Doubly so when she's experienced at it."



    Commentary:

    "She most assuredly is not the heroine. It's not even a joke, by this point. If she were the heroine, the genre of this story would be very different. She is, at least, a dark reflection... A very sexy one!"
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  12. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 11: Down the Castillo in Two Minutes - Mad Rave

    Lycia looks drunk as she stares up at him, the same sort of expression she had when she had kissed him in the chair.


    She pulls him off of the railing, letting him fall onto her as she holds him against her heated body.


    “Finally! My turn!” Adris hears a swooping sound from the air.


    “Ah… do be a dear and clean that up.”


    The bunny woman speaks before lifting herself off of Cathar’s shriveling dick, him having sat down with her still on him, panting at the pleasure that’s overcome him.

    She totters forward on unsure legs, a white puddle beneath her having leaked out from her abused hole, unable to hold the torrent of the large man’s deposit left in her.





    Lycia clings to Adris, bringing his face to hers.

    Her expression is troubled, hollow, and a bit… frightening.


    Strangely, the beaten body in Adris’ arms looks anything but absent vitality.


    In fact…


    (Where are her wounds?)


    The moment she swallowed his semen, something began to change.


    Adris can see the wounds from earlier, the ones that linger with the touch of golden blood still upon them, simply vanishing.


    There is no pain to her expression, only strength, as she quickly rouses.

    Adris feels that her grip is even more powerful, now, as she jealously holds him.


    (You dope yourself with the essence of…?)


    Pulled toward her lips, she forcefully kisses him while he’s locked in thought, pushing her tongue into his mouth even as he wretches at the experience, completely unwilling to taste his own semen.


    (What are you doing! Let… OW!)


    Lycia… bites his tongue; then, her own tongue grips his like a death struggle is taking place.

    Adris’ tongue becomes a live wire of pain, an iron taste entering his mouth a bit as he feels drops collecting, before being slurped by Lycia.





    With outrage in his eyes, Adris stares into hers and…


    Feels deep, all-consuming fear.





    Lycia’s eyes are shining with a light that far exceeds an idea like sanity.


    Slit irises tight.

    Eyes wide open and shaking slightly.


    Gold, speckled green, now.


    No joyful or teasing expression remains, only a cheshire grin of madness on her face as she pulls out of their passionate kiss.


    Completely bloodshot eyes.


    From her mouth, a throaty breath comes out.

    Malevolent and fetid, rather than the smell of semen, she smells of blood and violence.





    i PrOmIsE.


    Those are the only words she can give to Adris.





    He feels her body… subtly shifting.


    The pompous bat maid saunters up to Lycia’s back, coming closer to Lycia than Miria is.


    “What are you going to do, old lady, marry him?! Let him go so I can have some-”


    The girl’s voice is cut off completely when…





    Lycia grabs her by the face, after rising up from the ground like an uncoiling snake.


    A long, clawed hand is wrapped around the bat’s head.


    The small, quivering girl is trapped in this grasp, too scared to move.





    Before the terrified girl, a beast wearing the guise of a humanoid called Lycia…


    … smiles proudly, as if she’s finally free.





    “aaaa——————AAAA‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾!!!!”





    Lycia unleashes a terrible wail, stunning everything in the room with its ferocity.


    Her body explodes with a burst of energy and air, the roaring force knocking the cat woman back and ramming Adris into the rail behind him, before the cheeky maid is lifted up by the monster now standing where Lycia was…





    … and has her head mashed into the stone floor with a massive cracking noise, as her body flops along after it.





    Golden particles spray out from the impact as the girl goes completely still.


    Lycia lets go of her head, reaches in with elongated, clawed arms…





    … and mercilessly tears into the poor girl’s back while ripping outward, splashing shining, golden blood on everything in the area.





    “… What?”


    The dazed cat butler, licking spattered drops of gold off her face with her tongue, suddenly flings herself backward as Lycia leaps forward like a rabid animal and slashes at where the butler’s face used to be.


    A singing blade whips out, its serrated edge trying to sever Lycia’s arm; instead, it slices through empty air, its target jumping away, too.





    In the aftermath of her transformation, the air rushing from Lycia’s body fills the room with a reddish haze. Her presence overtakes the room, as if she has become the only danger present.


    The environment darkens. Even the glowing, blue serpent overhead is diminished by Lycia’s presence as she takes center stage.


    At the entrance to the enormous room, the sight of the entrance hallway vanishes as a red-iron portcullis forms from condensing droplets of crystal red and falls into place before it.





    The once playful body of the ghoul woman has become quite fearsome.


    Still beautiful, the effect is somewhat lessened by the clawed feet that have burst from her shoes, and the long and sharp fingers that stretch from the open gloves of her now elongated arms.

    Her deathly pale skin is striated and woven with artery-like red lines, her visage sinister as she bares her razor teeth.

    Even her cute ears have stretched a bit, looking like they come to a greater point as the skin strains against the cartilage.





    A womanly body has grown slightly taller, but also looks much more gaunt. Her posture turns totally feral as she leans forward.


    The only vestige of Lycia’s teasing personality left is the slashing smile, morphed into the most frightening of her features.


    Ahahahahahahaha haaaaaaaaaa!”


    Lycia cackles like a madwoman while drunkenly flailing about, causing Adris’ ears to ring from the loudness as he timidly crawls away to escape her vicinity.


    Taking on a higher posture, she leans in with enormous confidence, her bloodshot eyes whipping between the assembled prey.





    Her plan, if it can be called one, was simple.


    (Lycia… needed something other than me within reach to attack after deranging!)


    Had Ferthia not walked up at the last moment, the one who would now be embedded in the ground would be…





    The butler rushes Lycia, her sawblade singing as she expertly enters into close range.


    A wide, swinging arm is juked by Lycia, but the woman’s second strike flashes like moving shadows when Miria lunges forward, the first one only a feint to distract the ghoul.

    Neon red “blood” sprays from Lycia’s stomach as the sawblade cuts through her, her flesh ripping out slightly with the blade before the sword snaps loose of what it’s pulling.


    Adris would think such an attack would be lethal, but Vigor denies his logic.

    Instead of being daunted by the tearing wound she receives, Lycia slams her arms into the ground, narrowly missing crushing the butler when she sways to the side.


    (Creatures of this world can take damage like that and not even flinch!?)


    “This ghoul recovers much faster from impacts than…! … No, wait, something’s wrong, Miria! She’s not a normal ghoul!”

    Hoime cries out, still awkwardly leaking white droplets, even as she aims her wand.


    Muscles taut, Lycia seems to ripple with power. Her clawed feet dig into the stone.


    (She’s beyond a “monster”. She’s an abject nightmare.)


    Adris is dumbstruck, frightened that this is the same woman that he’d just unloaded his semen into moments earlier.

    He bleeds a bit from his lips, the wound on his tongue not having closed yet.


    (It should be clotting.)


    The woman who had bitten him has changed from tasting his blood. Ferthia’s essence, as well as Lycia’s own, clings heavily to her body and discolors her. She is…


    “Shit, she’s a [Bloodstained Ghoul!]”


    Hoime yells out a warning and then vanishes in an explosion of green, billowing smoke, right before Lycia…





    … puts her hand over her face, then moves it away, her wide eyes a source of pure fascination.





    “[HEART… TAKING…!]”


    The monstrous woman moans.


    A flash of goldish-green light radiates in front of her.





    The giant Cathar falls to his knees, shaking, as he holds his head with his hands. With the man’s eyes locked on Lycia, Adris notes no life in them.

    He’s simply frozen in place, like his mind has been stolen.


    The cat butler quivers a bit, but…


    [Hunter’s Oath!]


    … her unfocused eyes gain new life when the woman slices her own leg with her blade, causing a gold-spewing wound to appear.

    Her eyes then take on a pained edge, a stony look coming to her face as she stares down her enemy.


    “It’s Battle Pressure! And she’s a [Beast of Conquest] (TRUE MONSTER), too! Hoime! Annihilate her, I’ll support!”

    The cat butler issues orders, readying her blade to assault the beast before her. Her sharp teeth are bared as she grimaces.


    “[Rouse!] Cathar!”

    The word she speaks with authority carries power with it. The man’s eyes return to life, but his body still can’t move effectively as he stumbles while rising.


    “Tsk”ing at this, Miria charges Lycia alone, taking the ghoul’s attention away from the still dazed giant.


    Adris reties his pants and gets up, moving out to a nearby walkway to get away from the mad Lycia and impending carnage, before he ends up being seen as a target by either side.


    Lycia rears back comically with a free hand and leaps toward the butler who comes within her range.


    Accompanied by a raucous scream, blood flows from Lycia’s wound to her own arm, merging with the golden blood from the reaved Ferthia.

    A sanguine, blade-like emission flares around her claw, gouging the floor under the dodging Miria, before Lycia pulls her claw along to follow the now rolling butler.


    “Fast!” Miria jumps from the end of her roll, leaping ten feet into the air as the ground is scooped up by the chasing ghoul.


    Blood splatters everywhere, a hissing sound as it boils on the discoloring flagstones.


    In the air, the cat woman somersaults, tossing out filled, opaque bottles during her odd flight.

    The bottles impact in front of Lycia as she yanks herself backward.

    They burst into purple flames that expand over the entire area, consuming the light around the fire and emitting dimness instead.


    The fire separates Lycia from Cathar and Miria.


    Miria pulls out a large, single-shot black iron pistol with a cracked, walnut frame. She tries to aim through the fire at a rapidly approaching shadow, but instead jumps toward it after lowering her pistol.


    “How vile.”


    The unconscious, and now burning, bat girl flies through the smoky flames. Miria jumps up to bring her to ground safely, before she can sail forward to splatter on the wall ahead.

    Miria is caught up with the girl as they roll, losing focus on the battle when she stops to put out the fire burning on the girl.

    With the beast Lycia circling the flames quickly to take advantage of her opponent’s sudden helplessness, Miria is too caught up to notice.


    Lycia picks up speed as she claws into the ground like an animal, rushing them with murderous intent and pinning both women to the ground.

    Putting both claws into the cat woman, the sharp hands sink into her body before tearing violently back out, spraying golden blood that stains both predator and prey.

    The woman’s chest and leg are brutally maimed.


    (But, she’s still moving.)


    What should be a mortal blow is both suffered and endured. Miria feels pain, but refuses to leave the maid under her unprotected.


    As Lycia attempts to savage her again, Miria counters her first, striking Lycia’s incoming arm with the singing sawblade. The hit redirects the blow, with Lycia’s spilling flesh the reward, and then seamlessly follows up with a slash at Lycia’s exposed chest.

    Undaunted, Lycia’s sends another strike with her other hand, but it meets with Miria’s aimed pistol. A cracking sound comes from it as the burning projectile pierces Lycia’s wrist, blowing her hand back and sending red misting into the air.


    Even while Lycia’s red essence flows in copious quantities…


    KYAHAHAHAHA!”


    She doesn’t slow down.

    If anything, damage to the laughing Lycia only excites her, enticing her to stand firm and claw to pieces her still disadvantaged foe.


    (Is she going to win? No, what is that feeling?)


    Adris feels the feeling of fake aura moving. Like with Tishia and Heleton, something powerful is gathering.


    Looking up to follow the flow, Adris sees the sage Hoime on a high walkway above, her low voice intoning while her wand floats before her.

    The bunny sage’s now unbound book is floating above her, its pages turning themselves.


    Adris’ aura senses detect a great vortex of energy where she stands.


    Power unwavering and unlimited, drawn from the dreams of dead gods, manifest as form unknowable to the unenlightened, as you who dwelt in death since before creation are now finally born!” [Realm of Mysteries!]


    “Lycia! Above! RUN!”

    Adris screams as loud as he can, hoping Lycia can hear him through her mania.


    Lycia does look up, noticing the woman who had escaped her radiant eyes.


    A large, black-iron double door appears beside Hoime from a ripping tear, the surface of it writ with emerald lines and glyphs. Its presence is a blinding beacon for Adris’ aura sight.


    The sound of a ship breaking up accompanies the distortion it forms from.


    Robe whipping to and fro, exposing her bare, still-dripping crotch, Hoime is grinning madly as the double doors open with a hideous clanging and creaking sound.


    As Adris peers inside the opening doors…





    His mind is assaulted by possibilities.

    Consciousness burning, he sees a true darkness beyond it.


    (What is it inside that is familiar?)


    This space beyond saps his mind, but also fills him with thoughts which drive him wild, bringing forth memories…

    Of his “death.”

    And of his “rebirth” here.


    Of dark whispers and the unknown.


    Of droning and shining black…





    A squelching roar and squirming sounds interrupt his fascination.


    From this shining dark space, festering, opaque tendrils rush out, pulling on each other and racing to fill the room.

    Gel-like extrusions of phantasmal goo splash all around Lycia, who escapes by precisely dodging between the impacting streams.


    The sludge is alive as it flails around trying to capture her, the stone that it rests on warping, curdling, and turning black as it sticks.


    “Miserable, miserable boy! If you want to be loved by the mad beast so much, then join her in demise, please~!”


    Taking up her floating rod, the bunny girl flicks it to point toward Adris.

    In response, tendrils freed from the door become living missiles, homing in as they throw themselves at this new, helpless foe.


    (No hope, there-)





    Only having a brief moment to think before his death, Adris’ view becomes a sudden blur.


    The tendrils strike the walkway he was previously standing on. Adris watches it melt, noticing that it’s upside down to his view now.


    Held by Lycia, the crazed woman is, herself, hanging from a tank twenty feet above the vanishing walkway.


    Sensing danger, she leaps from one walkway to the next, dodging streaking, black death. Bouncing off sheer walls of glass as she ascends the room, Lycia interposes tanks and walkways to block the hungry phantasms as she climbs.


    (Still sane enough to save me? That is…)


    A silver bullet impacts on the glass beside Adris’ head, the shot ricocheting off to fly into a nearby tank.

    Blinking at the second near death, Adris traces it to its source.


    Miria has recovered, standing on the ground level with her pistol aimed at them. It leaks foul, black smoke from its barrel, the butler’s eyes merciless as she calmly loads another shot.


    Sensing the danger of this joint attack, Lycia cackles and descends to fight them.


    The tendrils that follow Lycia’s climb are cut in twine by sharp claws, disappearing when she severs them.


    “Stand still, stand still, I have so many secrets to share with you, Works bitch!”

    Hoime the mad sage twirls her rod, fresh tendrils shooting from the door as she tries to capture Lycia.


    (What is this?)


    He can’t keep up with the combat, barely able to keep from falling to his own death, helped to hold on by the woman he’s clinging to.

    Lycia has already been hit by the goo once, sock melted and her leg slightly darkened as she failed to break free fast enough. She can’t effectively dodge while also holding onto Adris.


    “[Crowkill.]”


    The bleeding butler whispers after taking a while to aim, her gun obscured by a purple flame wicking off of it.


    Lycia tenses when she notices it.


    (That thing is deadly! And I’m going to… kill Lycia if she can’t fight!)


    Adris tries to let go, so that Lycia can move more freely. Aiming for a tank of water, he releases his hold on her and drops, but she instead grabs him in mid fall and whips him around to hold him in an arm.


    (Fuck, let me go! I don’t want you to die… or me to die with you!)


    Flying into the air, she pulls a red gem from her thigh satchel with great effort, the madness consuming her making it difficult for her to focus.

    Put between the tips of her claws, it easily shatters when squeezed. Red lightning erupts, thick smoke rushing out.





    Miria fires her shot, the bullet shooting like a bolt of silver as it flies towards Lycia without error.


    The bullet enters the cloud, and the sound of a dying crow rings out as it impacts something, a great wooden sound of splintering resounding.





    From out of the cloud, Lycia and Adris emerge.



    The bullet missed.

    It instead lodged into a great, rectangular box with holes at the end.





    Miria looks to her right, to the spot where Lycia had left her aura tool.


    “Hoime, watch out! It’s a magic item!”


    But, it’s too late.


    Hoime’s attention is consumed by her effort to catch Lycia, directing the tendrils rushing toward the two jumping opponents.

    A wicked smile is plastered onto her face, every bit as insane as Lycia’s. The effect of the bizarre technique has sapped her ability to think clearly.





    Lycia levels her powerful weapon, pointing it at whipping bunny ears as black sludge flies past.


    [SHOOTING… STARS…!]





    A great cataclysm erupts from the end.

    Even though the device is damaged from a silver bullet embedded into it, most of the tubes function properly, dozens of white stars streaming out towards Hoime with a great cacophony.


    A perfect shot, even in mid air, Lycia’s strength allows her to aim the box while rocking in flight from the recoil.


    The stars start with a slower, rocket-like momentum; but, as they travel, their speed impossibly increases.

    (What increases in speed as it travels like this? It defies logic.)

    Not even an arrow increases with speed so quickly while falling.


    What’s more, the attack is far stronger than when used previously. The entire room is alight with the white rockets.


    (How is Lycia more powerful now?)





    “Huh…”

    Hoime makes a muted sound as she watches the stars demolish the tendrils she sent toward Lycia, enormous white explosions vaporizing the goo and pressing ever on as the area is deafened by the roar of impact.


    The great rocketing stars of death push through until they impact on a green shield Hoime raises, enveloping her, and the entire walkway and wall, in complete devastation.


    It’s a popping display, smoke billowing out from the path of the stars, filling most of the immense room at the level Hoime once inhabited.

    Scatters of tiny, iridescent star pieces shoot out from the explosions, lingering radiances that also gain in speed as they travel out while also falling, impacting and exploding on surfaces.


    The destruction leaves the entire area to wrench itself lose from the wall, falling down with a clanging and squealing storm of noise.





    Hoime disappears under the barrage, only for the thinning smoke to reveal her trapped, face down, under a chunk of metal on the level below.





    Lycia lands suddenly on the edge of a water reservoir, recovering her vitality while watching Miria rescue both Cathar and the fallen Hoime.

    Miria drags the woman with the green, and now blackened, robe toward the giant, pulling out a rough, orange stone and slapping Hoime's face with it. The stone explodes into a mist, which then rapidly rushes back to cling to the bunny's body, disappearing quickly as the golden Vigor on her evaporates.

    Miria then hits the giant in the face with the pommel of her crooked sawsword multiple times, ceasing only when he blocks it with his hand.


    Lycia stares at Adris. Her bloodshot eyes are twitching as she looks at him, the gold in them almost completely eating away the green spots.


    She is beautiful, in a murderous fashion.

    As controlling as he knows her to be, her presence is still stunning, this rampage burning in his mind.


    (Far too attractive.)


    Adris knows there’s very little time remaining before Lycia loses all of her faculties and becomes a threat to even him.

    He can already smell the odor of pure insanity leaking more heavily from her, the fear it brings smothering any other thought he has about her.



    As the green starts to disappear completely from her eyes, Adris feels like he’s starting to hear whispers from both her and all around him.





    She holds him closer to her, an act he doesn’t reject, even with fear gripping him.


    “… wE’lL mEeT aGaIn… little bro.”


    The woman smiles with a strained face as she haltingly speaks.


    Lycia leaps quickly then, moving down towards the enemy rallying to confront her.





    Cathar is active now, his fists to the ground, stone moving up to cover his body until only his violent eyes can be seen.

    Hoime is no longer unconscious and is standing while wobbling, intoning some spell while her creepy wand writhes energetically in her hand.

    Miria is coating her sawblade with Vigor from the hand she’s cutting on it, the blade bursting into a purple flame as the saw teeth begin to vibrate hungrily.





    As they fall, Lycia tosses Adris toward a tank she passes by.


    Adris hits the water, being pulled quickly to a drain he lands by, dragged underneath into a clear, crystal-glass tube that’s going toward the writhing stone floor below.


    He holds his breath as he watches Lycia descend, the ghoulish woman hopping from walkway to walkway.


    She extends her free hand languidly while in mid air, whipping it palm up with a flourish as darkness rises up around her side.





    Her blond hair streaks like a falling star.

    “[HUNGER OF THE STARS.]”





    Spectral, headless skeletal creatures of dark light and smoke burst from her hand, a torrent moving with immense speed as it rushes towards enemies Adris can no longer perceive.

    It’s a gout like a dying flame rushing out, enrapturing and revolting. Each skeleton flails in apparent pain, appearing briefly before the darkness consumes it again, only to eject more ghostly images ahead as it perishes.


    The ghastly images cling to everything they touch, then explode out to consume the space around them, like a billow of the dark devouring all life.





    The entire room shakes at the impact of this mass…


    … as Adris is pulled down a drain.


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

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

    "Please don't summon me around her."



    Beauty:

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

    ...

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

    Description:

    “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.”

    ...

    "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."



    Commentary:

    "You're on your own again, already? Wonder if you had a plan for this one, in the event she wasn't ready to help. Who am I kidding, of course you did: gangrape is always an option!"







    Name: Lycia Vehrose
    Titles: Beast of Conquest
    Race: Blood-Stained Ghoul
    Sex: Female
    Age: ?? (Old Lady)

    Occupation: Wondrous Works Researcher; Tool Creator; Total Monster
    Discipline: Battle Pressure - Mad Ghoul

    Powers:

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

    [Pocket Belmont] - "A spiked chain that flies with great force to strike out, before returning. It explodes with flame on impact, destroying whatever is around its point of release. Is this love? Am I in love?"

    [Heart Taking] - "Hey, won't you give yourself to me~? Completely and absolutely."

    [True Form] - "aaaa——————AAAA‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾!!!!"

    [Unknown Blood Manipulation] - "AHAHAHAHAHAHA HAAAAAAAAA! fEaR tHe BlOoD, cAt!"

    [Hunger of the Stars] - "Those who are dead are the ones who feel hunger the deepest, as they can never taste what the living can, ever again. A hunger instilled in a corpse by knowledge of beyond this world, merging death and eldritch longing, this might be the worst form of it possible."



    Disposition: Sultry / Intelligent / Vicious |-| Insane
    Alignment: Neutral

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



    Statistics:

    R-Value - “Please unlock me, Adris~.”

    "Just not if it's about her!"



    Beauty:

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

    "Is she more beautiful because she's so willing to be amoral, or in spite of it? Showing so many wonderful expressions, are you captivated by the face, or the evil light in her eyes?"

    "Still attracted to her now? You are incorrigible, aren't you, Adris? Red and gold on white, if a living corpse can excite you, then we'll have to start taking this section down a stranger path, won't we?"



    Description:

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

    "While willing to help and showing a proclivity towards honoring deals, she's seemingly not above taking what she can get."

    "A true monster in the classical sense, in both mind and body. Perhaps only her soul is near enough to human to redeem her a bit. A Bloodstained Ghoul is something truly awful, an enemy from the past returned to haunt the living. Doubly so when she's experienced at it."



    Commentary:

    "She most assuredly is not the heroine. It's not even a joke, by this point. If she were the heroine, the genre of this story would be very different. She is, at least, a dark reflection... A very sexy one!"
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  13. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 12: Flesh Stairs

    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…


    Fascinated.





    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…





    (What?)


    … 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...


    “No.”


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





    Blurry.





    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.


    (What?)


    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-}





    (Fuck!)


    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.

    Yet…


    (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.


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

    Cethran Value - "At the very least, you're not a weakling."



    Beauty:

    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'?”

    [expandsub1 title="2-6" tag = "h3"]
    "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...?"

    [/expandsub1]
    "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?"



    Description:

    “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.”

    [expandsub1 title="2-6" tag = "h3"]
    “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."

    [/expandsub1]
    "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."



    Commentary:

    "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: ???

    Powers:

    ???



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

    Eyes: Red
    Hair: Brown
    Skin: White



    Statistics:

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



    Beauty:

    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?"



    Description:

    "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?"



    Commentary:

    "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."

    Aurumia - "The true name of the Alchemaster. A word that is cursed by those who know it."

    God of the Unknown and Unknowable - "???"
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  14. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 13: Godless Chapel

    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…

    but…​

    … 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.


    (No.)


    (Nonononono)


    (WROOOOOONG)


    (IT SIMPLY





    TASTES…!)



    ...



    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.


    (Danger-…)


    Adris stares at the cross.


    (…ous?)





    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?”


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

    Cethran Value - "At the very least, you're not a weakling."



    Beauty:

    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'?”

    ...

    "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?"



    Description:

    “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.”

    ...

    "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."



    Commentary:

    "Every time you survive is a chance at starting over. Please don't forget that."

    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."
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2021
  15. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 14: Oath with the Unknown

    (What sort of question is that? If you want a name, any will suffice.)


    Unlike this Cethran, it’s not a matter of a “who” for Adris.


    (To establish the best relationship, it might be fortuitous to choose a way of interacting which gives you the appearance of superiority? As a kid, my choices are limited. Some of the prisoners were smaller than others? It might be easy to pass off as a…)





    Adris adopts the persona of [A Haunted “Slayer”.]

    (A part which is quite easy to play, now. “Adris fehl Dain, being hunted by impossible odds” is just like my last job.)





    “Ah, that’s a little dangerous. Every creature you talk to in this Castillo tries to take advantage of you… When not trying to rape you…” Looking suddenly worried, Adris taints the rest of the conversation with his fear.


    (The only way to overcome this fear is… an oath.)


    “… Getting away from them at great risk, I’m not about to agree to tell my tales without some assurances. Besides, who are you, really, and what are you doing in the enemy’s holy place?”


    Giving the woman hard eyes, Adris needs to know how to attack…


    “‘Holy place’? Isn’t that a novel concept for the Castillo? As for myself… my origin would be a church, but would it be one you would ever visit or have heard of? As to my intentions here, is this the relevant question?

    Have you…?”


    Looking toward the headless statue, Cethran’s husky voice becomes lower than normal, a feeling of longing to her tone.

    A strange vulnerability lingers in the air.





    “… never sought inspiration?”





    (This is why I hate scholars.)


    The woman’s answer is informative, but nebulous.


    (She’s seeking something from her seclusion in this place? Then leave off the sanctimony and tell me what you’re looking for!

    Knowledge exists to be used, not venerated. If you want to have a soul finding expedition, please do not include me.)


    Adris’ soul is in too much distress to take on the burdens of another, especially an old woman’s.


    “Not in a demonic mansion. Treasure? Yeah. Wisdom? No. As for now? I could use comfort.”

    Adris lets his dark eyes shift about the room, hinting at the troubles plaguing him.


    “No, wouldn’t that be wrong? Anyone who seeks comfort in the Castillo… how would they discover it?” Smiling conspiratorially at this, the woman’s toothy grin punctuates her denial of that benefit.

    “However, arriving at an impasse such as this, what then might make us equal in your eyes? Such that you may feel… ‘comfortable’?”


    (Oh? You’re interested enough to seek information from me on your own? How exciting. This works so much better when people fall into the routine willingly.)


    But the general knowledge of these oaths is lacking for Adris.


    (Do humans know of them? Or is it an invention of these monsters?)


    Testing the waters…


    “Given your station, I’m sure you know the way to make sure nobody else hears of this and we give honest words to each other?”


    (This is a long shot, but it’s better to act knowledgeable than ignorant of certain things.)


    Tapping the altar, Adris hopes she makes the offer herself.


    “Have you a secret that might ruin you if shared?”

    Cethran picks up the tea she’s allowed to steep, pouring it into two cups. The steam rises as she watches Adris from the corner of her eyes.

    “Secrets are best kept, but accommodations can be made if sharing them would… relieve you of your burden? … Shall we make a pledge of truthful silence, then?”


    (Yes, let us! Unlike your voice and face, your eyes aren’t calm.)


    Adris sees them blaze with interest. Nodding his head, Adris waits.


    “What do you wish for in this, slayer?”


    Leaving the terms with Adris, she continues smirking while he thinks.


    “… I’ll share who I am and what I know about the dangers brewing in the Castillo, if you give me truthful answers to questions I have concerning the Castillo and the world.”


    Raising an eyebrow, Cethran’s interest lingers on the last word.


    “… What questions about the world bear relation to your plight?”


    (Ah, fair point.)


    “The scale of the disaster way eclipses my understanding of what’s involved.”


    Waving his hand, Adris tries to look disturbed by his hidden knowledge. “It’s not like I care about the world at large, so I’m lost as to how things weave together in this conspiracy. I can’t hope to deal with the problem effectively. Everyone’s in trouble, that’s for sure, and I need to know why.”


    Accepting this explanation, Cethran nods slowly.


    “Very well, isn’t that fine? Are we not destined to act according to our roles? Then shall I offer the first kindness in this meeting?”

    Cethran extends a hand, grasping at the air before her before drawing it back with a tight gesture.


    This one, Cethran, most faithful of the god which controls the unknown, will swear to offer explanations to the questions of this wayward lamb as he dictated, so long as it truthfully explains who it is and offers the secrets it intends to share regarding the Castillo’s danger. Furthermore, this most faithful will promise that what is shared with those present will never be known to another not present.”


    Neutral in expression, her second true declaration of this conversation is just as impactful as the first.


    To the unknown and unknowable, this one swears it.”





    Adris waits.


    (No wind, whispers, or moving shadows?)


    There had been a strange display when the others had sworn.


    (Is she just a hustler?)


    Looking at the woman, Adris contains his doubts.


    (“Those present?” Then she intends to include her god in this, perhaps?)


    Considering the oath…


    (She’s counting on her god to enforce it?)


    The powers of Zennia aren’t easily explained.

    While aura users and their techniques can be readily classified and qualified, the mysticism inherent in the way the powers of this world work makes such things impossible.

    An oath with a human is even more unexplained, as Adris imagines humans are much weaker than the monsters he’s faced.


    (I will have to chance it.)


    Though it might be a sacrifice play, Adris hopes that she made a mistake in reading him that he can take advantage of. The terms seem good.


    “This one, who shall be named…”


    (“Supplicant to?”)


    How one phrases such a thing is a question Adris is making up as he goes.


    “… in deference to this unknown and unknowable, will swear to truthfully explain who he is and…”


    (The secrets I “intend” to share? Isn’t that most… generous?)


    This is the part that seems to be strange.


    “… offer the secrets he intends to share regarding the Castillo’s dangers, so long as Cethran offers truthful explanations to his questions in turn.”


    Adris ends his sentence and waits. He studies his heart and body, paying close attention to what changes.

    His mutated aura is active, moving as best he can make it.





    Time passes, though, with no apparent change.


    (Is this?)


    Adris shifts his eyes, examining the area.


    (It?)


    Cethran seats herself upon the altar, offering Adris a cup as she prepares to take her own.





    “Then, will you not unburden yourself? Won’t you tell me who you are and what wonders you have witnessed?”

    Adris accepts the cup from her, holding the steaming porcelain cup by the handle in his right hand as he considers her question.





    (I expected…)


    Something, anything.


    (Still… a test is possible. You want my name?)


    Adris thinks of any of his numerous aliases.





    (I was a linen seller, then. An alias is still who I am. Let’s try that.)


    Letting himself smile a bit, he begins to speak.





    “Well, where to begin? I am -”









    AH









    ???





    “Is something wrong?”

    Cethran is smirking, sipping her tea as she watches him idly.


    Adris meant to say something, but finds he can’t.


    He takes a sip from the cup he holds in his left hand. It’s an unknown flavor to him.


    “No, apologies, my throat was just dry!”


    (I tried to give her a name. But nothing came to mind.)


    Adris knows there’s something wrong. A feeling of discord is assaulting him. His attempt to indirectly fool her simply didn’t occur.


    (Then how about… my name? Or a derivation thereof?)


    “I am…”


    (Will a literal interpretation suffice?)





    “Ruinous Star.”





    Cethran nods in response, unchanged in expression, even though Adris has technically deceived her.

    “Such a strange name, isn’t it? Yet, all [Slayers] have such strange names, though I wonder how you all invent them? It’s pleasant to speak while sharing the comfort of tea, yes?

    What do you wish to discuss, Mr. Star?”





    (That works?)


    Adris considers his success, wondering if he can build from it.


    (Shouldn’t an alias be considered a proper response if it was used? What decides what is and isn’t an untruth? What is the difference between “Ruinous Star” and an alias?)


    There’s a cold feeling to him as he stands on the dais, looking down at Cethran who is seated on the altar.

    The pattern of the stone is a bit wet as she sits on it. Her legs are crossed while waiting.


    “The Wondrous Works intend to block out the torch-like sun using an ancient creature from the desert. Even now, they’re readying the second-tier of the Castillo for this. Petripolis is in danger.”

    Adris watches her face, seeking insight into her motivations.

    “How should I go about getting this information out and preparing a defense?”


    “Wouldn’t the Mayor of Petripolis suffice? Simply telling her should absolve you of all further responsibility in this matter, yes?”

    Cethran seems bored as she responds lightly.


    (You don’t much care about the world, do you.)


    “I see.”


    (Now for the next test.)


    “Can you help me to relay the message?”


    Cethran sips her tea with her eyes closed.


    “Why would I?”

    Neither smiling nor smirking, her eyes are now sharp as she opens them. “My business here is my own, right? What does the rest of the world have to do with it?”


    Adris is calm, despite being refused.


    (If you won’t help me, then what if I intend to do it myself?)


    “Then… will you tell me the safest route to relay the message myself?”


    (Knowledge like that is an explanation I require.)


    Cethran waves a hand dismissively, her eyes humored at the question.


    “Isn’t leaving the Castillo a little ahead of your present situation…?”





    She denies any chance of avoiding his fate.


    “What use is it until you complete your side of the oath?”





    A cold response. Her body language is soft, but it’s an absolute denial of his attempt to garner the information to depart from here.


    (What?)


    “No, but I told you who I am and my secret concerns the danger I’m explaining. How could I not be carrying out my side of it, when you’re the one refusing to care? If anything, sharing the danger with the outside should give me more information to bring back to-”


    Setting her cup on the steps, Cethran looks down on Adris, who is sitting on the altar.


    (???)


    Adris feels something is wrong with her look.


    “Why do you think the oath is complete for your part? Sharing this danger’s nature was sufficient in and of itself; but, for explaining who you are, don’t you feel it’s imprecise? Lacking?”


    Cethran is looking straight into him as she smirks.





    “Who are you?”

    The words now seem terribly dangerous.





    “No, I told you, I am ‘Ruinous Star.’”


    That was his answer.

    It is who he is.


    (Right?)


    Or is it not correct?


    Who is Adris fehl Dain?”


    What sort of question is this, anyway? Adris might be forced to question it, himself, if dwelling on his life in retrospective.


    “No, that is a name, isn’t it? How can that be a proper response to defining who you are?”


    Walking closer to Adris, who is standing next to the altar where Cethran is also standing at, she puts her hand on his head as he attempts to shrink back.


    “The oath was for you to tell me ‘who you are,’ yes? Then, the oath for you isn’t complete until you do so, right? I give you explanations for your worries, grant you this comfort you seek, and you tell me who you are, correct?”


    A grip not unkind, but still strong, keeps him close as she looks at him. When he tries to avoid her gaze, his head is gently turned back by her firm hand.


    (What is this? Is “who” such a big question?)


    This is outside of Adris’ understanding.

    The explicit wording of the oath was that he answer “who.”


    (Who decided that “who” was more than a name!?)


    “Since you seem to be misunderstanding, should I not ‘explain’, as this was my promise? Consider who adjudicates the oath you make, won’t you? Doesn’t absolute meaning derive from true knowledge of all aspects of the agreement?”


    Cethran smiles still, yet it is an expression full of dark humor and condescension.





    “If you ask for the definitions of the terms of an oath to be decided, aren’t they interpreted by something other than the ones making the oath?”





    Adris understands now.

    If the explicit is determined by the ones who make the oath…


    (Then the implicit is determined by the one the oath is made to. If you make an oath, the entity you make it upon is the important part!)


    This understanding is too late to help him after the oath has been made, though.





    “If you’re bound by the same oath, then how can you be so evasive!”

    He yells at her, suddenly unreasonably fearful of the result of his agreement.





    “Ho, but what is an explanation other than a means to understand the truth?”


    The priestess rubs his head, a look of victory on her face.


    “Are not truths what you so fervently desire? Without a guiding principle given to the answers you receive… especially absent the wisdom within you to understand them, how can it be said that I have given you a truthful answer?

    How can I answer you truthfully, in full, without understanding what you know and properly guiding you…?”


    Adris shakes, angry at this capriciousness.





    “That’s semantical bullshit!”





    The sound of the unknown instrument filling the chamber is dark and brooding.


    As Adris watches, Cethran’s dexterous fingers play the keys and her foot rests on the pedal. The headless statue offering knowledge overhead shares their experience.


    “‘Semantical’, is it? Isn’t the truth we experience often unkind and bleak? Knowledge, is it not the hardest treasure to grasp?”

    Cethran seems somewhat subdued as she speaks, especially on the idea of “knowledge”.

    “Though it might sound unfair, understanding not gained through your own efforts bears risk of significant suffering, doesn’t it?”


    Adris is full of frustration as he sits in her comfortable lap.


    (For a situation like this, didn’t I strike out?)


    Even if she tries to make it sound like she’s helping him, he still fell into a sort of snare.


    This is why Adris needs information.

    If he can’t understand key parts of this world’s functioning, then he can’t survive it. Yet again, someone has an advantage on him.


    “My, my, why are you so unhappy? Have I at any point indicated that I will not aid you?”


    Her hands fly as she plays without sheet music.


    “Rather than worrying about trying to… influence and stay ahead of me…”


    She stops playing, her hands frozen in mid key as the pipes continue to burst with the last note.





    “… why not simply just talk?”





    Adris is stunned by the offer.


    Nobody has ever been interested in just talking. Everyone always has an angle.


    (Just… talk? And share what? Even if I try to explain what’s happened to me in this world, it won’t matter unless you know about before.)


    Adris is fearful of exposing too much, but determines that the answers he needs require her to understand his frame of reference.


    “It’s not as if we don’t have time, right? If you desire truth, then shouldn’t you have an inkling as to my stance on providing it? So long as our oath remains, why should I ever balk at honoring the terms?”

    A somber voice is heard above his head.





    “Are we not equally bound together, now?”





    The great contraption before Adris is only dripping a bit.

    The statue is only offering the book to Adris slightly.


    Though her hands have stopped, the music still plays, filled with grandiosity which is misplaced in this quiet conversation.





    “I’m not sure you’ll believe me?”


    Adris finally relates his deepest insecurity.





    Nodding her head poignantly, Cethran makes one promise.





    “This one named Cethran, in pursuit of the truth of all… I, at least, will believe the truths you convey to me of yourself and another world…


    … or is that not sufficient?”





    Relenting, Adris shares many of his secrets with her, starting from the beginning.


    But, not all of them.


    Even if it sounds reasonable to him now, there are secrets he will never part with. They define who he is and how he understands the true nature of the world around him, as constantly reinforced by his life.


    For her part, she shares her truths in turn, wisdom tempered by a bizarre impression of gravitas that clings to every one of her questions.





    (Isn’t it odd that someone seeking truth never relays a her truth without using a question?)





    This thought is swiftly tossed aside.







    An unbroken world called Zennia. In contrast to Xin, it’s a large continent full of disparate peoples and innumerable lives.


    Human cultures which dwell in almost total stagnation, with demi-humans often living apart from them. Monstrous tribes of sentient lifeforms making their own way in defiance of a “natural order” preached by the lords which rule humanity.

    Their struggles against each other fuel centuries of conflicts, many of which continue even now.


    Kingdoms of often unknown scale, changing as they fight against their neighbors and the darkness at their borders. Never for the good of their own, but rather to assert the ever grander ambitions of their leadership.


    Magic more varied than any scholar could hope to record, taught under wildly differing doctrines and means of inheritance, from instructor to pupil only being the most common form.

    Powers capable of subverting the very rules of reality to one’s own ends. The cataclysmic clashes of different magical users are the nightmares spoken of by the fearful public.


    Creatures which defy the imagination: soaring, burrowing, swimming, and racing across the world.

    In many cases, they share humanoid attributes. Arising sometimes from the nightmarish and unknown, they prey on others, though they also inhabit places inviting outsiders to invade.

    These spots hold treasures from the past or possessions of the powerful creatures within, ample enticements for the hungry and desperate.


    Modi which govern the way all interactions take place: from politics; to economics; to families; and, especially, to fighting.

    Mysterious and opaque, they refuse direct classification. An individual could gain a similar, but different, benefit depending on the Modus and circumstances.

    Each Modus abhors others, for they give favors to those who seek to destroy their opposites and expand their presence.


    Struggle, especially, is only permitted in the manner in which one’s Modus allows.


    Fights like Lycia’s that will never conform to Adris’ concept of “normal.” Instead, they are all whimsical and fantastical.


    It is possible to be able to never thwart an opponent if they outclass you in boons gifted by petulant divines, especially related to Fate, and one can not simply lift a weapon and hope to win by chance.

    Yet, many Modi reward those who seek to breach their limits, a paradoxical thought given the existence of a Fate which exists to bind all souls to one, set path.


    This contradiction marks the conflict between those who rule with the blessing of the sky and the monsters which oppose them.

    Combat which rewards struggle and, to the vexation of humans, punishes that which isn’t… brave on the part of the ones contesting, or against dramatic odds when fighting monsters.


    Power that is obtained through contest, gained only rarely in different ways, usually through direct bestowment by one’s “betters” for humans.

    A world largely without death from violence, the largest loss from those dying of poverty or the lack of ability to compensate for defeat, ground down as slaves of their own Fates.


    Most everything carnal is hated by human religion… but…





    Monsters live to taste and share it.





    In keeping with all of this knowledge, a fundamental rule of this world could be distilled to one explanation for its functioning:


    "All one's truest desires must be either aggressively sought or not at all, regardless of who objects."





    Adris himself struggled to keep up, an entire lifetime of education being conveyed through questions in the course of the discussion, so much missing that only the barest of information could be gleaned.


    As it might be said on Xin: “Ten-thousand questions arise from one observation.”







    The initial conversation finishes as the two sit side by side on the bench in front of the organ, an instrument introduced to Adris by his would-be mentor.


    (Without a clear view or corollary, I don’t understand it. Many of the things of the Castillo were somewhat understood, despite never having been exposed to them, because I had a basis for understanding them.)


    The cross’ gift of speech and reading also relates to basic ideas, only becoming understood when viewed through a reference.


    (I don’t know what an organ is, but having been explained it, it now exists as a concept? It’s a strange feeling, knowing that my understanding of it has altered through a simple explanation and true name. I can… somewhat understand its full existence? How do I describe this situation!?)





    Cethran had only asked questions, seeking to understand events as they transpired.

    For each secret, she would offer an explanation about the world, though in the form of questions of her own.


    Of herself, her questions gave away very little.


    For Adris, it felt more like a class than a conversation.





    He’d been gifted a blank parchment book from the priestess, using his aura quill to write down as much as possible using his personal notation system.

    The fact that it still functions is one of the only shining thoughts in his mind after the lesson ends.





    (What an absurd fucking world!)





    Adris feels disgusted by the contradictions and illogic inherent in many of the explanations, even more so by how jaded the humanity of this world is.

    He chews on hard bread provided by Cethran, dipping it into his tea to soften it.


    (Though I understand why you would want to keep your head down.)


    Lycia's "three great evils” was not incorrect.

    A brief world history shows that more often than not, this Zennia is wracked by inescapable cataclysms.


    The survivalist world of Xin, as Adris must consider it now, was nothing special to live in, in comparison to this strange land.


    (And I can’t hope to properly utilize even a tenth of what I’ve heard, as yet!)





    “‘One who dwells in vanity?’ Isn’t this quite accurate?”


    The tall woman examines her fingers, her other hand massaging the joints of them.

    This one event stuck with her, the question coming up at the conclusion of the interview.


    Cethran’s questions have been odd, thus far, focusing on specific bits of information or concepts, narrowed like a knife tip and just as exacting on Adris’ concentration.


    “Is that phrase an assignment to a person who has crossed worlds?”

    Adris wonders at this, hoping that it doesn’t imply this Mother will come after him.


    (I could’ve told her about all the true wonders of Xin, but she cared more about mundane details. Like… the language and the sky? And now she focuses on a phrase?)


    “Oh, no, wouldn’t that be a bit redundant? How could the romance of being an off-worlder be reduced to such a epithet?”

    Cethran rejects the idea outright, a bit of humor in her tone.

    “‘One who dwells in vanity,’ would that not refer to a person that sets themselves apart from others, living within their own heretical world view? One whose thoughts mark them as something… truly divergent?”


    Adris thinks of her idea of “the heretical.” From her explanations, the deities of this world are reclusive existences, giving strength but also staying far away from view. It’s odd for him to be compared as such.


    (No, mysticism itself might be a guiding principle of the “magic” of this world, too.)


    Unlike aura which seeks concrete definitions, the magic of this world languishes when inspected.


    (That a power is stronger when it forms a concept that is both unique and not easily explained is a bit odd.)


    It reeks of some sort of convoluted, master design. The powers he’d witnessed himself could only be said to be varied and plentiful. They didn’t have a singular, guiding principle.





    Blood, flesh, stone, fire, sand, mental attacks.





    Doors to oblivion from which festering darkness emerges?





    This is far beyond easy quantification or qualification.

    Their use of chants and naming schemes gives concreteness to their presentations, even as the origin and function of such powers resist explanation when witnessed.


    Aura draws from well-trodden paths around which entire sects form, augmenting one’s body and altering the world in predictable ways.

    The “magical tools” of this world are the only part of the design that seems familiar to Adris. Aura tools are capable of more varied, but definite, effects due to the way they are created, often using the remnants of a deceased aura user to create permanence.


    The method of understanding aura is a pursuit of describing life and one’s environment, then meditating on it while one’s spirit probes the world outside of one’s inner expanse. Only the pursuit of knowledge described by cultivating aura applies, now.


    (Aura is dead… I need power here. This woman proves it.)





    “Perhaps just one whose insight into the world makes it impossible for them to be a true part of it?”


    Smirking more joyfully at the thought, she continues her line of thought with her follow-up comment quite dark.


    “Isn’t it amusing that this Mother is on the lookout for such entities as ill-defined as they are, yet sought with a warning trap like that?”


    (Then I resolve to never meet her.)


    If Adris is an existence which is considered heretical, he can only agree with the designation.

    His mentality was already odd enough on Xin and considering his new location it can only be said to be even stranger.


    “Still, you are quite interesting from my perspective, aren’t you? From another world and bearing its knowledge…?”

    Cethran’s amiability has reached its highest during their long discussion. She’s paid close attention to Adris, showing a patience he didn’t expect with his inquiries so unending.

    “You are a rare existence, aren’t you? Whatever you have to share, won’t it be novel? And for you to be so interested in understanding this world… Might you be a delver into secrets, yourself?”


    (An off-worlder with a unique perspective? Isn’t that…)





    Much like what the voice said?





    (Does my perspective make me useful, but also dangerous? If not to others, then at least to myself?)


    A universal experience thus far is being found “interesting.” Not as a person, but as a subject.

    Cethran is the first to be interested in his knowledge, but even she…


    “I still don’t understand your place in all of this, Cethran. Are you, or are you not, a Slayer? What do you get from all of this?”


    (More than that, what do you gain from helping me?)


    Even if Adris stumbled into a trap of his own making, she sprang it.


    “‘What I get’, is it? Is it not missing the point to overlook that true knowledge can, in itself, be a proper reward?”

    Denying that her help is purely benevolent, she goes then to her unstated motivations.

    Letting her finger rub around the lip of her porcelain cup, she gives a clear, but unhelpful, answer.


    “So long as I leave this Chapel with more reverence and insight than I entered into it with, can I not claim to have been fruitful in my pursuit into understanding the questions that exist without easy forms and which have only harder answers?”


    (Then share your hard-won answers.)





    “Cethran, how does one become governed by a Modus? How do they… seek growth on this world?”


    The question lingering in Adris’ mind is the immediate next step after the oath which blew up on him.


    (This is the only way I’ll be able to live, at all.)


    Looking at him with an unsure expression, she finally smirks.


    “… Ah, that was a part that was misleading, wasn’t it? [Aura user from another world]? Yes, that would be difficult, wouldn’t it, and yet…?”


    Getting up, Cethran walks away before turning to look back at him.


    (Who was misleading who?)


    “The bloodstained ghoul, Lycia? While her opinion would be shared by the vast majority of this world, isn’t it completely wrong in regards to how Modi work?”


    Sweeping her hand toward the statue.


    “As the best explanation possible for what I mean: have you yet considered what this statue represents?”





    Turned, she gestures upwards to the statue.


    Adris peers up at the headless statue in a tattered, twisted robe, offering a book with its pages open.

    The statue which emerges from the pillar is ghastly, but it also feels expectant and generous in how it cradles its offering.





    “How would your world be shaken if you were to learn that a single girl, through the application of basic knowledge gifted to her, rose to obtain immortality and endless splendor?

    That all the horrors of this place grew from the way of life she set forth on one fateful day? That a Golden Luster’s endless splendor was born of the twinkling in a girl’s crazed, blue eyes?”


    Cethran smirks as she waits for him to understand.





    (Impossible.)


    Adris is shaking at this revelation, an easy one once he follows her line of thought.


    (The Alchemaster, once a child, created all of this herself starting from nothing? She made a Modus that grew this powerful!?)


    Thoughts clicking quickly, things begin to become clearer.





    “Modi are made by people, not the other way around!?”





    Rather than Modi being what others belong to, people create Modi through their way of living. Rather than the egg coming first, the chicken always lays it.


    “[Golden Luster] was born from the [Origin of Greed], yes? Which means?”


    Cethran sets Adris up for his next realization, looking fondly at him as she speaks.





    Adris smiles, a deranged expression.





    (Easy. It can all begin with me. I don’t even need someone else to list the steps.)


    The path to power becomes so very clear, whereas before meeting Cethran it had been obscured.

    Even the ingredients quickly line up in his mind, obeying Adris’ desires like soldiers pledging their lives to him.


    Somehow, a hand that he can’t feel grips a cross much more firmly.


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

    Cethran Value - "At the very least, you're not a weakling."



    Beauty:

    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'?”

    ...

    "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?"



    Description:

    “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.”

    ...

    "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."



    Commentary:

    "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: ???

    Powers:

    ???



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

    Eyes: Yellow
    Hair: Brown
    Skin: White



    Statistics:

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



    Beauty:

    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?"



    Description:

    "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?"



    Commentary:

    "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."
     
  16. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 15: A Path to Power

    “Is that not an interesting expression you have? For the form that you have been cursed with, a smile such as yours… wouldn’t it be the purest proof that you aren’t a mere boy?”


    Adris’ concentration is wrecked by Cethran’s question. Noticing her gaze, they lock eyes.


    (There’s a lot of things I’ve told you that you promised to believe.)


    Though the woman has shared many of Adris’ secrets, their relationship is tenuous.


    (You approve of me because what I tell you is fascinating, because you want to see more, right?)


    No matter the danger she represents, a human is still a human. Adris’ epiphany needs certain examination in order to be used.

    As the woman shifts while waiting for him, lazily resting her hand on the altar…


    (You’re the closest thing I have to a “teacher”, here.)




    “Since you’re so interested in truths, why not search for one with me?”


    Abandoning all pretense, Adris smiles at this vexing priestess before him.


    “… This is not a simple question, is it? Have you some specific truth in mind?”

    As if approving of the invitation, Cethran’s words flow straight into the discussion Adris has set without resistance.


    (Good, this should actually be easy…)





    “If a being from another world wants to live here… How would you describe their chances if they sought a normal path?”


    (I need to know if you think the same way.)


    Taking a moment to ponder the question, Cethran strokes her covered neck with her pointer finger. Her brown eyes no longer seem amused, only serious.


    “… Would it not be trivially easy to expose the unsuitability of a being from this… ‘Xin’ if they tried to blend in? For the lack of a Modus is the single, largest tell, but isn’t it far from the only one?”


    Humming a bit, she smiles at the conclusion she reaches.


    “One could not live on Zennia as a being from Xin without admitting to their origin… is this the conclusion you reached? Especially in regards to one’s… vitality?”


    (Of course. It’s the easiest question in the world to answer if you think for even one second.)


    Getting up, Adris takes his cup with him as he walks toward the altar.


    “A lifetime of missing knowledge about a system of living which so wildly differs from your own, that even the simplest questions would betray ignorance? Not even the greatest conman could convince a peasant of their provenance. You can’t fake common sense.”


    Reaching into his bag, he takes out his possessions to show them to her.


    “Everything I have and everything I am, it’s totally foreign. A lie, no matter how small, has to start with some grain of truth. If it isn’t the truth of the person’s words, then it’s the truth of their existence.”


    Hearing the woman’s footsteps, Adris finishes his thought.





    “Someone who never belongs on Zennia in the first place has no hope of convincing others that they belong. At some point, their ignorance will be known. Even if they have a teacher and the time to craft a perfect story, it’s not one they’ve lived. They will…”


    (Grow tired.)





    “‘Lose the narrative’, is it?”





    A bit startled by the question, Adris wonders how different their viewpoints are.


    “That’s another way of looking at it, yeah.”


    (Growing frayed and, by extension, losing their story. It’s a cursed life.)


    Looking at the sickening splendor of this room, Adris has a revulsion to share.


    “Being unable to admit their own thoughts in any form by being forced to blend in with ‘cattle’, this is also what they lose: themselves.”


    Folding his arms in front of himself, a boy wearing a silver mask flaunts his own merits.





    “I am not cattle. I am a traveler from another world. I am something.”


    (I am a survivor! The terror of rich, old men from Urshu to Remi-bi! Unlike these Zennian humans, I have a brain and ambitions. Even if they’ve been…)





    Hand to his chest, he suddenly feels a bit tired.


    (Having had them put on hold for a bit, I know what I can do, now. Let’s… start over.)





    “I see, plans you have, then? How will you choose to live in this world you consider ‘new’ to you?”


    With a renewed interest, Cethran seats herself back on the altar. Adris swallows a bit looking at her face, as her eyes are piercing in how much attention she’s giving.

    The older woman’s face has gained something like… vitality to it. Having met Adris, she seems renewed.


    (… That’s fine. Having someone interested in me… isn’t a bad thing. I usually work best with an audience, anyway. If you want drama to convince you of what I need, then have it.)





    Arm flashing out, like Cethran did, Adris grasps the air.


    “By my own power and by no one else’s. Much like I did on Xin.”





    “Hmm? ‘Like on Xin’? If I recall, did you not mention a certain manslayer…?”


    (… Serras was always my…)





    “She was my power. A partner I could always rely on… for the most part. I just… misused her.”


    It’s a terrible admission, one that hurts him deeply.


    “Because I stopped caring about her, it’s utterly simple to see why it happened. Something about those last few years… We weren’t of one heart and mind, anymore.

    There were probably many things I did to give her anger cause. Even if she wasn’t a great person… I probably mistreated her a good bit.”


    Gritting his teeth, Adris feels anger grow at the image of her.


    “It doesn’t excuse her trying to murder me…!”


    (That rage will never die.)


    “… but it’s not like it matters, anymore…”


    (Because I can’t go back-)





    “Who tried to murder who?”


    The husky voice sounds astonished with this question, interrupting Adris’ own line of thought.


    “… What? She did, in the burial chamber.”


    Squaring to face Cethran, she is rubbing her chin as her eyes look humored.





    “… How fascinating, isn’t it? Considering the way you recounted the fight, isn’t it odd how you didn’t die much earlier?”


    Mouth opening to answer her, Adris finds he has no voice, until a question comes out instead.


    “Certainly she seemed… off balance? Well, we both were…?”


    The swift and sure Adris was nowhere to be seen in that fight, at least at the beginning.


    (But, why did she never just show her full strength? Why didn’t she capitalize on my obvious errors?)


    Nodding her head as if she understands, Cethran smirks again, getting up to look down on Adris.


    “Is that not amusing? Then shall we ask questions in a way that will unite the details currently left disconnected from each other:


    If you lost your tempo, then why did she?

    If the soldiers came to capture you, then why did she not aid them?

    If the soldiers answered to her, then who did they truly serve?

    If she was far stronger than you, then why did she hold back?

    If she only defended for the most part, then when did that change…?”


    Putting her hand on the shoulder that is shaking, Cethran seeks to comfort the uncertain Adris, while her words do nothing but discomfort him.





    “If she betrayed you, then why does it seem like she did everything but try to kill you? ‘What was the deepest desire she held in that tomb and what motivated her’?


    Who betrayed who?


    If you attempt to answer each question in order, you might…?”





    Slapping her hand off of his shoulder, Adris staggers back.


    (I lost my tempo because I couldn’t understand what was going on, but she knew what was going on because she planned it. Then why was she hesitating? Was it because she didn’t plan to try to stab me right there?)





    “Leading Soldon’s soldiers to us is clear enough to prove who betrayed who! Shut up! Xin is dead! I died there! Now, I’m here. ‘Why did she betray me’!?”


    Throat tight, Adris is exasperated by the stupidity of the questions.


    “Who the fuck cares, anymore!?”


    Adris watches Cethran’s eyes narrow, before she chuckles softly at his outburst. The loudness of his voice surprises even him.





    (If she wasn’t trying to stab me right there… then why did she do it? … No, fuck off! It doesn’t matter why!)





    “Well, as was conveyed to you earlier, true knowledge arrives only with the wisdom to build the foundation for it, yes? Then for now, isn’t it fine not to worry?”


    Becoming lazy, Cethran’ gloating face hints at her knowledge of the “why” for these bloody questions.


    (… Manipulating old woman, you’re the one who needs to answer my questions, not the other way around!)


    Stomping up the dais while pissed, Adris begins smiling when he realizes the way to win against her.


    (You think you’re smart? Then follow this.)





    “… Going back to the original question, someone from another world doesn’t need to blend in, Cethran!”

    Gesturing toward a familiar statue, Adris smiles bravely while basking in his own solution.


    “Did you not already prove that? Can’t you see why, fairly easily?”


    Cethran is quiet while she looks up, not rising to the open challenge. Only her bright, yellow eyes betray her emotional state.


    Pacing about the dais, Adris begins his explanation to this enraptured woman.





    “You’re looking at it from the perspective of someone from Zennia, Cethran. Instead, you need to look at it from my perspective! If I want power here, why bother with blending in? Why try to feign that I belong?”


    Pointing toward a book…


    “She never belonged, did she? Why should I bother, if she succeeded?”





    “… You intend to make your otherworldliness a part of your appeal? From your explanations… perhaps you seek power outside of yourself?”


    (Of course I do. The only power I have can’t be used by me!)





    Raising a purple-covered cross, Adris grins as he lays out his ambition.


    “A power that can’t be used by me can be used by another. Thanks to your… ‘wisdom’, I know that oaths can be used to bind others to you. If a cursed cross holds power untapped, then I merely need tap it.”


    Pointing his finger at Cethran with a thumb raised, Adris feels cocky as he leads he helps his mentor understand.


    “Cethran: these Modi are made by people, yes? Then why not simply make one for yourself instead of choosing another?”


    (Though I can guess why…)


    With a slight turn of her head, Cethran gives him the Zennian reason.


    “… A Modus, when followed by only one and just born, would it not be quite weak? If a Modus is the sum of one’s actions over a grander time, a way of life that is weakest at birth, then what benefit for the average person would an unnamed, untested, and unexamined Modus bring?”


    Nodding patiently, Adris agrees with her.

    “Exactly. There’s no basis for it, for someone that is born here. So what you need is either time and small increments for growing up with it… or…”


    Raising the cross above his head while sweeping his free hand, Adris has the look of a prophet.





    A grand and unique action. An event, with participants, so powerful that it produces an immediate effect that immediately binds all involved to its outcome.”


    (An inescapable impact that will bloat this Modus with its power!)





    “Ho, your expression is truly entertaining, isn’t it? Don’t you seem quite intoxicated with this unshared plot you’ve devised?”

    Shifting her legs to cross them in a feminine manner, Cethran approves of his thinking.

    Or so it seems to Adris.


    “If a Modus is powered by participants and inputs, then I will make others partake in the sharing of power from another world!”

    Moving his leg back, he gestures all around him.


    “This entire world, right? Doesn’t it linger in this thing you called ‘mystery’, Cethran? No lie can ever be made without a truth, so why not create a glorious scenario from my otherworldliness? Binding the rituals of two worlds, oath and aura investment, could I not create something truly… novel?”


    Eyes widening, Cethran grows much more motivated. Her smirk changes to a genuine smile, then deepens back to a smirk that shows lines on her face.


    “… Is that so? Building a native barrier between you and this world? Isn’t this actually an elegant design? For this, you intend to create a… ‘mysterious incident’, is it? Yet who will you involve in it? Who can you trust to stand between you and your inevitable enemies…?”


    (Trust? I don’t need that. I have…)


    “An oath, if properly used, will solve everything. What need is trust?”


    Standing before her, Adris is more animated than he’s been in years.


    (I’m tired of this powerlessness! This world is interesting and has potential, but I need surety regarding what’s around me!)


    Adris has nobody to put between the world and him.


    (And it’s not like I can use this cross, anyway. My inner expanse is terribly ruined. If I were to try and claim it, especially as mutated as it seems… I would likely die. But others…)


    “‘Between being cattle under Pure Devotion, being a chaotic soldier of war under Battle Pressure, or being a slave of the Alchemaster under Golden Luster, why not make your own path?’ This is a temptation that will appeal to anyone, won’t it, Cethran?”


    Laughing, Cethran nods, amused at her dismissal of his idea even as she plays along.


    “And who exactly would follow a human boy in a silver mask from another world? Who would shed their Vigor in place of a human who likely has none?”





    “Human? Where is the human, Cethran?”


    Staring down at her with powerful eyes, Adris firms his mouth and towers over her, putting on his ultimate act with all of his energy and conviction.

    When Cethran’s countenance becomes more serious, Adris knows he has the right look.


    (There’s no need to hold back for this little joke. I can finally let go…)





    “Human? Are you not speaking to a god, Cethran?”





    Suddenly at a loss for words, the purple-covered woman simply blinks at him, standing as he is in a pose full of grandeur and awe with the cross held before him.


    “… Is that so? … Hahahaha!”





    Adris loses his posture completely when the woman starts laughing. Hand to her breasts, Cethran is still chuckling after twelve or so seconds, not sparing another word.


    (… Is it impossible-)





    “Isn’t that fine!? How vague, yet isn’t the impression correct? No, the base details are perfect too, are they not?”

    Quickly recovering, Cethran paces about below the stairs.


    “… All of the metrics line up with the truth, yes? The only lie… wouldn’t it be that you’re a god? But no, what god would walk the earth, Mr. Star? On this alone, am I not required to find you lacking?”


    (Gods do not walk the earth, is that it?)


    “God” has a nebulous definition on Xin.


    When Adris thinks of divine beings, in the cosmology of the Emperor’s ascent, there were powerful, quasi-divine creatures that opposed him.


    They traveled the broken continents, preaching that men should seek their own fates through their teachings, and that the Emperor’s path to ascension was a lie.

    The Emperor had fought these creatures, finally defeating them after routing their armies of followers.


    The last living one had been dragged before the Imperial Court…

    After denouncing the Emperor, the creature had been put to death. What had the Emperor called them?


    You, [ziahlen], will be the first to arrive in the new hell I make, but certainly not the last!”

    The Emperor’s purge was, as promised, a nightmare. All adherents of these beings had been beheaded, their remains interred in a special pit along with their ziahlen mentors.





    “Do the people of this world have the concept of a ‘ziahlen?’” Adris asks, curious of the difference in faith.

    “One who opposes fate?”


    And not just fate, but also the Emperor’s ideology and religious beliefs.


    (Why was the Emperor so focused on the intersection of viewpoints and light, to produce imagery in shadows? Unreal existences made manifest by the perspective? The mad sage’s door had shining darkness behind it…)


    Adris feels it’s a similar theme to this world.


    (Is your… unknown and unknowable something born of the same idea?)


    The cross and the inheritance must’ve come from a supreme realization the Emperor had made.

    Its form seemed to be a boundary between what is perceived and what is not.


    That Adris ended up in this queer world when exposed to the Emperor’s vestige doesn’t seem so random, now. To share in that revelation, might…


    “Ziahlen (FALSE GOD)? A being that opposes Fate? Is this a jest?”


    Cethran’s look is dark, before her lips curl approvingly.


    “No, but such a [false god] would be welcome, wouldn’t it? Aren’t all these people complaining about their Fates just waiting to worship you?”

    She claps her hands, returning to his original point.


    “If you possess the… personage to convince them with, then you shall need to consider the oath and Modus, yes? More than that, what power do you intend to call upon for your little ritual?”


    (You’re still not following, I already have almost everything.)


    [Oath], which binds people.

    [Modus], which enables growth, gives concrete existence.

    [“False God”], a persona to impress with and define the core of this pact:


    Adris himself.


    (A source of power is easy.)


    Adris peers at the cross he’s stuck to, a hungry look in Adris’ eyes and a sneer on his face.


    (Oh, little cross, I have a use for you.)





    Adris’ technique of empowering others with external aura gifted to them is a means of suicide for the one using it if done long enough. Stealing one’s own aura from their internal expanse will destroy it over time. With his inner expanse terribly mangled, he can no longer channel anything through it.

    However, Adris had learned that the crafting of aura tools uses similar techniques to his heretical art, the craft of it not even requiring high-level cultivation of aura in order to achieve results.

    To devise something that would let him drain this cross dry and transfer it is not impossible, for a ceremony to destroy aura tools exists. Adris, who is a novice at creating them, was taught it…


    (But you have to have a way of neutralizing the outflow or it could destroy you.)





    “You intend to use this cursed object, is it? Should I warn you once more what will happen when you remove the seal on it?”

    Cethran reads his gaze, left curious at being unable to see his intentions without a working knowledge of aura.


    (I will shortly go insane and my mind will die.)


    Cethran had shared the functioning of this cross-killing wrap. Though he can steel himself against it, once removed the cross will be able to overtake him.


    (But I cannot access its source of power without removing it.)


    It will be a desperate gambit.


    (And I still don’t technically have all of the parts in full. In order to make the oath, I must understand this… unknowable unknown, because I intend to make your god answer for what you’ve done, Cethran…)





    “Worry not about that, Cethran. Let me just ask you this: were I to create a ritual like what I have hinted at and bring others into it, would the outcome of such an oath and birth of a Modus be beneficial? Would it be powerful?”


    (No, more than that…)


    “Would something happen? Will it work the way I want it to?”


    Clapping her hands once, Cethran seems appreciative of this question.


    “… huhuhu, ‘the way I want it to’? Do you really think merging the knowledge of two worlds will produce a coherent, predictable result? Isn’t it safe to assume that the result will be interesting, no matter what…?”

    Cethran shows Adris a face he wasn’t aware she could make.


    Her smile has warped into something truly sinister: expectation and fascination, mixed with the smile a human might make when they see the object of their truest desires before them.


    She must’ve noticed Adris' inspection, because her expression changes, reverting to a more stoic appearance.


    (I see, you’re just as hungry as I am?)


    The mania Adris had felt walking into this chamber has never gone away.

    His idea had begun before entering it, but only taken shape after meeting this woman.





    And this woman appreciates his idea.





    “Where could I begin to speculate? Does it suffice to say that something will happen, regardless of the result?”

    Cethran openly eyes the cross’ sealing wrap.

    “Though I don’t know what mystery you intend to invoke, the ritual you outlined is clearly a conduit for a great occurrence, is it not? As you said during our discussion, the nature of this ‘aura’ you possess has changed; therefore, it would be correct that whatever flows from the cross will also take a different shape, yes?”


    (That’s the problem.)


    Adris can’t say what the shape or form or content of the “aura” left within the object will take.

    Adris has noticed that everything he is and had brought with him fundamentally changed upon his arrival. Warped and distorted, even this mighty cross is a victim of the transference.


    “Well, if that is the case, then are you prepared for my final lesson on ‘mystery’ before your scheme begins?”

    Cethran’s husky voice is resolute, unamused now, returning to something approaching reverence as her eyes are firm.


    (Whatever she intends to say will be a secret worth sharing.)


    “As you say, ‘mystery’ is it? Wouldn’t that be the best description? If the world rewards one thing, then it’s certainly action with meaning and imagination, right?”

    Cethran starts her monologue.


    Walking up to the organ on the platform, she turns to speak loudly, her voice filling this amphitheater.

    “Mystery would indicate an action or principle that has yet to be examined or carried out, possibly? Or one that has been carried out, but lies buried, waiting to be uncovered?”


    A brief pause comes, as she looks Adris up and down unexpectedly. The boy doesn’t know how to interpret the action.


    “… As long as the oath fulfills your essential needs… your desires… shouldn’t it be fine to leave some things to chance? If mystery is determined by lack of manipulation of its inherent qualities, then aren’t you limited in how you can actively shape the result?

    The more you interfere with the shape of this power, this way of life, the weaker it will become, yes? So why not let go?”


    Pausing briefly again, she then offers her final thoughts on his plan’s parameters.


    “If you are attempting something this complicated, then the result will likely be as you say: an oath coinciding with a newborn Modus, adhered to by at least the ones agreeing to it, perhaps as you desire?

    Though this novel Modus would likely be weak, it would still be yours, so isn’t that fine?”

    Looking satisfied with their discussion, Cethran speaks the most relevant question.





    “Who, then, will you share this gift with, oh false god from another world?”





    (That is the biggest problem, as you are not a candidate.)


    “Preferably, whoever I bring in should be easily pliable. They have to also be somewhat worthwhile as far as goals. If they don’t have strong desires and equally strong desperation, then they won’t jump at a chance to acquire easy power.”


    Adris cannot technically guarantee the kind of benefit from the form the Emperor’s aura transformed into.


    (But it should be strong.)


    The remnant outflows of it were still strong next to Serras and she had been perfectly quelled by the awakened specter.





    “Is it fine to choose just anyone?”


    Cethran’s tone is light as she talks, but her eyes are curious at his desired traits.


    “Shouldn’t you be looking for… people that match who you are?”


    Adris blinks, confused by the question.





    “Who cares, as long as they serve their part? I can fit into any role I need to fill that is left over.”


    Adris considers it an easy question.


    (Leader. Visionary. Adventurer. Tagalong. Supplier. Confidant. Seducer. As long as they don’t betray me, whatever they are will suffice.

    I need only take them on the correct path to what they’re looking to become and grow them to their fullest potential.)





    It’s not like he’ll ever get good choices. Anyone who jumps at a self-proclaimed god cannot be counted on to be normal in the first place.


    This is all that is needed, right?





    “… Are you perhaps mad?”


    Cethran’s question sounds like an accusation, her expression flat as she voices it.





    Adris is confused by the strange tone. This is not a typical response for her.


    He opens his mouth -


    “No, isn’t that fine, too? After all, we arrive at the truth at our own pace, yes? It’s the job of the priestess to listen, not to judge, right?”


    (That’s right. Do your job. I will do mine.)


    Adris’ resolution is firm.

    He’s learned his lesson from Serras, taken it to heart.


    “So long as my goals and ambitions are to enable theirs to come to fruition, then I will never be betrayed again.”


    (That was how I lost Serras. I stopped caring about what she wanted.)


    “Rather than manipulating them with a lie to destroy them, I will simply be leading them on the correct path… one that’s in line with their own needs. And… I won’t misuse them, this time.”


    “You believe that they will follow you? Are you terribly confident with your acting ability, Mr. Star, that you can pretend to be a god?”


    Smiling at that question, Adris winks at Cethran.


    “The easiest scheme to sell is not the one that makes sense, Cethran. It’s the one that appeals to the wonder and imagination of the other person. Humans… no, sentient beings don’t want facts or inconvenient truths…


    They want to be the heroes.

    They want to be the villains.


    They want to be anything that isn’t a victim.”


    (They want power. It doesn’t matter how. As long as they aren’t harmed by it; no, as long as they don’t know they are harmed by it.)


    “As long as I present things correctly, I won’t even need to lie to them, Cethran… As comical as it might sound to you since you seek the truth, the average person is perfectly fine with being mislead, as long as they benefit from it and never find out about the misleading parts…”


    Smiling beneficently, Cethran nods vigorously at this statement.


    “This might universally be the case? If so, then would it help if I knew where four such prospects are currently?”

    Cethran offers astonishing new information.


    “What? You have people in mind?”


    Adris is shocked and a little suspicious. She couldn’t have planned for this contingency, as Adris himself didn’t know of his full plan until talking to Cethran.


    “How do you know about them?”


    Walking down to the altar with Adris in tow, Cethran pulls out a book from her pack, opening up to a page and giving it to Adris to read.


    “When you arrive at the Castillo, isn’t the first course of action reconnaissance? With the mansion’s constant reformation into new rooms, paths, and spaces, how else will you get around without looking?”


    (The mansion changes.)


    A constantly reforming demonic mansion sounds like an unconquerable hell.


    Cethran had provided numerous key details about how to navigate it in their discussion, as well as mentioning some of its dangers, especially those of this tier.


    Reading the passage in her book, Adris is pleased with the contents.





    Party of four:

    Short, tailed, armor-bearing warrior with a two-handed axe, demi-human, unknown gender.

    Cloaked and masked scout, lithe and using twin swords, unusually agile, female?

    Snake woman wearing elven clothing with a ponytail, using a whip and talks a lot, female.

    Short, well-dressed book-holding spellcaster, strange features and body movements, female.


    Witnessed fighting imps (LESSER TRICKSTER DEMONS) (M/F), slight advantage pressed by the four until total rout of the party, fast escape.


    Location: [Forbidding Quarters] - [Guest Tombs]





    (Is this it?)


    Adris has little else to go on. Cethran had not mentioned many creatures by name, only that the lower tier was considered much easier to survive in. Of these imps, he knows that they have the power to manipulate minds with lust and attack with magical abilities.


    (They lose to them, then?)


    “Would they win against you, these imps?”

    Adris asks what might be a stupid question, but while his impromptu teacher seems strong, he has yet to see that power exerted.


    “Perhaps if I decided to end myself for them?”

    Cethran seems amused at the question.


    “Weren’t the capacities of these imps properly conveyed to you?”


    (Yes, but I don’t know their strength in relation to…)


    “The delving party didn’t appear to follow Pure Devotion, especially given that at least one of them is from a monstrous race, so perhaps Battle Pressure? There are alternate Modi, yes? Perhaps one similar to another mentioned in passing?”


    “So, they’re like Lycia?”


    Adris considers that a danger. If they could turn into super powerful foes when cornered…


    “Ah, I forgot to mention, didn’t I?”

    Cethran interrupts his thoughts, as if she’s aware of the way he thinks.


    “This ghoul you relied upon, to be a Beast of Conquest is somewhat of a rarity, isn’t it? If you were to consider an analogy, the owner of the Castillo or her lieutenants, wouldn’t they be similar champions in presence? Though the scale of power would be totally dissimilar, correct?

    In addition, If I said that a [blood-stained ghoul] is a creature created for long-ended catastrophic wars, a monster that only rarely walks the earth now, would that help in creating the proper image of this lady you rightly escaped?”


    (Serving three Modi, what was her way of life?)


    Adris is suddenly impressed; but, not impressed enough to seek out the crazed researcher again and risk being made into her permanent pet “sibling.”


    “Do you think these delvers would be in search of the power I have to offer, Cethran?”

    Adris needs to know whether his appeal is likely to find purchase among fellow slayers.


    Cethran closes her eyes for a moment, before opening them, loosely lifting her arms to the obscured heavens, finding only the darkness of the hidden ceiling.


    “Wouldn’t it be the case in every world? If you offer power and can provide proof of it, then who aside from those too aloof or certain of their own success would refuse you? Isn’t everyone looking for advancement?”


    (Everyone desires something.)


    Her amiableness at its highest, Cethran’s voice is light as she seems to congratulate him.

    “Isn’t this a surprisingly ambitious plan? Yet, the taste of victory already covers it, yes? Do you feel reassured that someone of my resourcefulness will help in something so positively entertaining, as long as it helps fulfill your debt?”


    (I see, it’s a spectator’s sport for you. This is your desire? And I have to show you who I am, still.)


    Cethran has given him a hint, that “who you are” is defined by what you do.


    (Can a Modus be said to be “who?”)


    His eyes lingering on the woman as she seems to find value in him, he wonders how much of what she says has hidden messages.


    (Perhaps what we do defines us to this unknowable god?)





    Adris looks to the wall quickly, something catching his eye. A column looks out of…





    "Though should you obtain the power you seek, what then?”


    The curious woman’s deep, lilting voice asks a question Adris has yet to consider, interrupting his inspection. Turned back toward her, she acts solemn, even if her expression is almost loving.


    “Will you, like so many others, seek Aurumia’s throne to become the master of this place? How about to obtain power within the Castillo and take it outside to carve out your own rule?”


    Narrowing her eyes, her voice becomes more accusative.


    “Perhaps claim for yourself the female flesh within this mansion, as the slayers are fond of?”


    (That’s a dangerous proposition considering what’s happened to me! It’s not… impossible to consider, but no thank you.)


    All of the options presented sound horrible to Adris.





    “Who wants to rule?”





    His flippant question seems to stun her, a stoic face quickly replacing her somewhat tempting one.


    “… You desire nothing from the Castillo?”


    (That’s not it… How to explain?)


    Returning to his aristocratic mannerisms, Adris makes a show of walking towards Cethran.


    “How could you misunderstand what true power is, Cethran? Only a fool sits on a throne. This… Alchemaster and every other king… someday, someone will knock them off of their perch.”


    (Just like every regent. Just like… the First Emperor, even if it was intentional.)


    “No, better than ruling in front of others and becoming their target… is running the show from behind the scenes.”


    Shifting to the altar and holding the cross up, he makes a display of wiggling it as his free hand moves underneath it. Miming the action of playing with a puppet, Adris grins as his hand dances and moves along with the cross.

    With her eyes locked onto his display, Cethran smirks as she moves her hand to rest near his dancing one.


    “Only a supreme fool would seek supreme power. What I want is… power I can control. Power that will never get loose. Power that will bring to me what I want, while making life as easy as possible… Unless I don’t want it to be at that particular moment.”


    All he has to do is meet these four people, worm his way into their company, and pry free their ambitions to make them offer themselves to Adris. The hardest part will be finding them and singling them out for “questions.”


    (Once I have people in front of me… No one will ever catch me again. I’ll dance around their ambitions and grind them to dust.)


    Chuckling, Cethran finally grows bored with his fake show.


    “Very well, how laudable your goal is. Well, you’ve told me the parts you intend to use and your objective, but you still haven’t told me the guiding principle or nature of the oath, have you? Nor have you told me who you intend to offer it to, yes?”


    Cethran is seeking to gain an understanding of the nature of the Modus he intends to create, as well as how they will be bound to him.





    Adris “tsk”s at Cethran, giving a look of a prestidigitator asked to betray his secrets to the crowd.

    She raises an eyebrow at the display.





    “If you want to know all of that, don’t you have to watch the show? Where do you think I’m going to conduct the ritual at?”





    An unused chapel, one heavy with the air of the unknown, is the only correct spot to choose.





    “If I give away the truth, won’t it destroy the mystery, Cethran?”


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

    Cethran Value - "At the very least, you're not a weakling."



    Beauty:

    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'?”

    ...

    "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 man with confidence and an audience to make him feel important can shine, where otherwise he would be overlooked like all the other smooth stones by the river."



    Description:

    “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.”

    ...

    "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."

    "Desiring to control everything from behind the scenes, but desperate to dance in the limelight, isn't this the perfect conflict?"



    Commentary:

    "Starting over by trying to become a god is certainly a first."







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

    Occupation: Priestess
    Discipline: ???

    Powers:

    ???



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

    Eyes: Brown
    Hair: Brown
    Skin: White



    Statistics:

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



    Beauty:

    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?"



    Description:

    "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...?"



    Commentary:

    "Do you feel like you got answers from her?"

    Ziahlen - "In the terminology of Zennia, it would refer to a "false god," one that invites worship but does not truly reach divinity. On Xin... it perhaps had much deeper meaning, lost to understanding?"
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2021
  17. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 16: Artful Malice

    The Chapel, rather than being a sanctuary within reach of the residents of this mansion, is actually a spot furthest from the rest. The spiraling stairs within leading to the Alchemaster’s throne are only reachable from a very long hall leading to the master foyer.


    Standing within this grand foyer hall, Adris is…


    (Surprisingly good.)


    Examining his form within the polished-gold wall panel, even as hard as it is with the wavering light from the enormous, wandering chandelier overhead constantly twirling through the hall, Cethran’s handiwork has certainly improved his image.

    Adris had resorted to thinly disguised begging to entice her to tailor the bagginess out of his clothing, but she’d even been kind enough to clean it using a strange cloth that cleansed grime almost completely from the material by applying only minute quantities of water.

    Even his gloves and shoes were serviced, tightening them at the wrists and ankles. It’d almost been worth the humiliation of her forcing him to stand mostly naked while taking measurements and using him as a mannequin, humming to herself the whole time as she groped him…


    (But I told her I didn’t want a half-shoulder cloak!)


    Yet, the style Cethran has crafted frames him perfectly, the asymmetry of his cloak letting the potion bandolier artfully stand out with his bound cross on the same side adding to his sophistication.

    The lingering bloodstains on his cloak give him the daunting effect of “a killer on the run”, while the silver mask strangely magnifies his overall impression in a way Adris can’t define.


    Forced to sacrifice a tunic sleeve and have the blue coat’s arm massacred, wearing his only disguise has been tricky, for Cethran had possessed only enough skill to add a few buttons to keep it bound on the left arm.


    (Still, I at least look strong.)


    The time utilized inspecting himself in the open like this would normally be dangerous, yet…


    Nobody wants to meet others in so conspicuous a spot, so why worry? Wouldn’t the foyer be one of the least traveled spots by the residents?


    As Cethran said, the hallway containing only carpeting, pillars, and ominous statues is vacant; yet, Adris’ “good luck charm” still restlessly rolls between his fingers as he listens out for dangers.

    The small, flattish piece of black, bark-like substance within a glassy resin is Adris’ only remaining “trick”. It was a hidden boon discovered by Cethran from Symphonia's materials Adris had liberated.


    This is? Of those creatures born of darkest wishes and worst thoughts, would this preserved piece of their passing not be a residual testament to their power and evil? Were you to damage its seal, would you be able to stand in its effect without quaking, too?”


    Though her knowledge has been immensely useful, her strange amiability resulted in the mysterious, impressive sage transforming into a sarcastic, overbearing minder in the span of mere hours.


    If you end up coming home with an imp after being attacked, does my promise to officiate the marriage of the two of you give you ‘comfort’ for your journey?”


    Slamming his fist on the panel with veins on his head throbbing, Adris then starts down the hall.





    (Being useful is fine, but stop acting like we’re close. The moment you outlive your utility and I break free, we’re parting ways, old woman.)


    Behind him are stairs leading upward to an area Cethran called the [Servant’s Circle].


    (Thoroughly guarded, it’s the approach to the Decadence of Gold without using the stairs, one of four ways up to see the evil bitch herself… It looks?)


    Curious, he turns around.

    At the top of the stairs leading to this area… an enormous, glinting-framed portrait hangs, looking like a window into the artist’s vision of depraved avarice…


    [​IMG]


    The girl lounging on the throne of liquid, shifting silver laughs at him as she reclines in her coy pose, her blue eyes staring back. All of the wealth around her drives Adris’ heart wild with jealousy, yet she cares not about it.

    Though she seems to be Adris’ apparent age or a even bit younger, her eyes have all of the malevolence of an adult’s at the precipice of their acknowledged, supreme authority.

    Her smile is every nightmare Adris has ever dreamt of about the purposeful evil perpetrated by those holding irreproachable power, made all the more terrible by the calculated, girlish charm that lingers in it.



    (You are utterly sickening, the cause of all of my problems.)

    Adris’ revulsion has never been this strong towards anything in his life, with thoughts of defacing it only barely pushed away, a fear for his safety stronger than his outrage.



    (But I have to admit… she nails the part. If I needed someone to exemplify “supreme evil”, she’s perfect in every aspect.)



    Creeping down the hall, Adris moves between the rows of large statues. Created all in the same general design, the figures of them are impossibly perfect females in frozen movement and contemplations, a unified group in appearance that exudes a stately presence.

    Fifteen such statues line the central path, all wearing uniforms similar to the Alchemaster’s minions on the top floor, yet theirs are far more unique and stylized.

    (All are tempting with their various displayed personalities and revealed flesh, but their weapons and armor are more concerning.)


    Yet, even if he tries to focus on their weapons Adris can’t help looking up their various skirts as he walks by, noticing that the sculptor went to the effort of even creating them with undergarments and lingerie.


    Nothing here feels dormant, with the dinginess of the upper levels replaced by crisp, clean walls and carpeting.

    A gentle smell grips him as he moves forward, a citrus scent wafting on the still air, though there are no flowers to be seen. The upper floors that had been filled with the smell of damp decay are now tinged by a falsely warming one.

    Though the air is cold, Adris can feel the surfaces of this room radiate invisible energy that invigorates his soul. Indeed, it seems to exude from everything, this lustful feeling that imperils him.


    (The presence of dominant cruelty…?)


    That presence comes most from the giant doorway Adris reaches. So large that no men could ever hope to open it, the old, metal-banded, blue-stained wood bears a golden emblem embossed on it, the same as the one in the book.


    (The symbol of the Alchemaster’s glory. The pinnacle of alchemy.)


    Taut, blood-red iron chains attach to the barrier, leading up to large, geared spindles set into the vaulted, arched roof above.

    The entrance door is flanked by enormous stained-glass windows, filled with botanical imagery and glyphs on a sea of blood that gives the light filtering through into the hall a grim hue on its floor, far stronger in intensity than the pale light of the blue flames from the wandering chandelier.


    The gold embedded in the door is of such quantity that Adris’ throat is dry from the uncharacteristic greed it instills in him.


    If it isn’t offered, should your hands touch it?”


    Cethran implied the Castillo beggars thieves.

    Only those who claim rightful conquests may profit.


    A presence which once slept at the periphery of his senses is awake here. Though Adris doesn’t feel eyes on himself yet…


    (The evil of this hell is active on the lowest floors, and I am between two areas in the only safe spot.)


    The exit of the mansion presents itself, but even absent a means of opening it…


    Have you ever heard of a gate guard as dangerous as the owner of the gate?


    Cethran had indicated that the cruel presence outside is far worse than the danger within, proving he cannot possibly escape through the front door.

    It can be neither reasoned with nor fooled. A monster in the shape of a human, it had recently appeared and is unspoken of in the existing lore of this place, capable of wiping out any slayer that challenges it with absolute ease.


    (This is getting to be far too ominous. If I’m sent out into an environment like this… even if it’s me, this is getting to be too much.)


    Walking to the grand arch to his left and peering beyond, Adris finds his expectations sorely dashed.

    Though Cethran had warned him of the nature of the mansion, he was still holding onto the idea that logic and reason would somehow prevail over fantasy.

    Instead, what greets him is far worse than her words could prepare him for.


    A concourse is before him, with carpeted and brightly paneled connected hallways that stretch out into darkness.

    The hallway to his immediate right is the most contradictory: it stretches to well beyond the location of the front door of the mansion, a geometric impossibility were anything to be beyond it.


    There is a clanking as some great, shadowed giant of a figure marches methodically down one of the branching hallways, its rough movements sounding like metal scraping against itself.


    (This is exactly what I’m talking about. The moment I meet something unexpected, I’m a goner. I need to find something to get me through, and fast. Alright, then let’s test your knowledge, Cethran. You are my only hope.)


    Adris ascends stairs to the next level, grasping the worn copper banister to move quietly. At the top of the stairs, he looks up through the broken ceiling above, seeing a great height reached by stairs cut into the wall ahead. A glass dome caps the roof of this area, leaving Adris pondering how the room could be so tall, but be only the ground floor.


    Stuck in a state of awe, he refocuses himself to test Cethran’s guidance. Looking to a mirror-like surface on the wall above the landing to examine the floor below, he refuses to peek openly.

    He sees what was promised:


    A giant, oval crystal eye with a black pupil floats between irregularly leveled, hanging lamps; a piercing central gaze surrounded by winking, fiery companions. It revolves, slowly covering the entirety of the space with its lidless gaze.


    Are you afraid of shadows? If yours despises you, wouldn’t that be concerning?


    As the stairs exit the eye’s peripheral view, Adris peeks over the top and peers into the lounge area on this floor.


    Unused sofas and tables fill it, positioned under golden-framed windows which allow red light in from outside of the mansion. Adris looks to the nearest sofa and proves Cethran’s information true.


    (If the furniture has no shadows, then does that mean murderous, inky sofas roam these halls looking for victims?)


    Dashing out from the stairs at full speed, he leaps onto a long table and runs across it. His breathing is fast as he moves at a breakneck pace, diving into the hallway ahead before the eye can complete its turn.

    Sweating a bit as he catches up to his racing heart, Adris puts a finger to his temple. Being shorter has stunted his swiftness.


    (So, her information can be trusted? Still, something about her is…?)


    Despite the staggering quantity of information Cethran related, Adris had doubted the veracity of some of it as fantastical as it sounded; but, now, he finds himself opening up to the idea of accepting it as true, though he is unwilling not to confirm riskier details.


    If you have no stone self in the chapel, is the Castillo even truly aware of you?


    This thought is Adris’ only hope. He’d noticed it himself, that a lack of presence implies a chance to avoid danger. The mansion’s dangers thus far have been quite impersonal.


    The winding hall ahead beckons.







    The sword skewered into the skeleton had been shockingly tempting. Its hilt and cross guard jeweled, and blade edge silvered, it was the most depressingly transparent trap Adris had ever encountered. The pressure plate under the corpse could be discerned by the raised carpet above it.


    Even when Adris had reminded himself of his inability to use the blade and the stupidity of taking it, the temptation had still endured, a testament to the effect of the mansion on the usually cautious Adris.


    Falling off the path Cethran had suggested, Adris realizes that the mansion has changed to make his directions false. Following them perfectly, the rooms he has arrived at now bear no description to Cethran’s reconnaissance.


    “Meeh, don’t you ever get tired of this?”


    A voice calls out between the moaning and viscous squelching sounds. A young, slightly bratty, bored voice of a girl carries to his ears. She stands just within the exit of the hallway Adris is hiding in.

    The small wings, nubby horns, and dual, flicking spade tails betray her danger.


    “No, why~? This is what we’re supposed to do~. ‘Make more!’”

    A stupid sounding boy responds to the earlier question from the bratty girl as they stand side by side looking down the hallway.

    The girl flips her one of her short, dark-purple ponytails in annoyance at his shallow intellect, casting a disgusted look at her company.


    (“Making more” is a bit of an understatement.)


    From the shadows, Adris can see part of the scene ahead.


    In the small intersection, an enormous gathering is ongoing. What probably once had the appearance of a small area has two once-hidden walls opened, revealing spectators’ seats where small individuals lounge while drinking and laughing.

    Two humans are the source of the revelry’s entertainment: one, a naked young woman with green hair and an athletic body a bit taller than Adris, whose only remaining clothing is a revealing bolero shirt that her perky breasts pop out from as they wobble; the other, a larger man wearing what’s left of an open, ornate gray robe binding his hands as chattering girls climb over him.


    The monsters assaulting them wear black clothing that resembles wax dropped upon a surface and dried, a patchwork of thick bands that conform to their bodies and cover seemingly random areas.

    Their skin is inhuman in color, tinged by shades of blue, orange, and other impossible colors for humans, while their slit-irised eyes are similarly inhuman reds or greens.


    Though they appear to be quite young, their flesh has a suppleness in places that gives them a purely sexual vibe. While the girls have tiny or small breasts on average, their hips are slightly full.

    Most peculiarly, their facial features bear a striking similarity to each other, even between sexes.


    Within this soft room with heavily draped walls, they are all milling about watching, urging those acting to hurry up or abuse their captives harder while sharing small glass bottles of an unknown beverage.


    “Ah, big sis’ insides are soooo tight! Even though you’ve gotten so many! Haha, it’s even spilling out as I pump into you~! Ah!”


    Caught up in his own growing pleasure…


    (Imps are… bizarre.)


    The crowd’s shifting restlessness lets Adris watch the lithe demon slam himself against the girl’s bottom as he has a death grip on her waist. The girl is laying on her back with her legs over the imp’s shoulders, only moving as she twitches. With her head fallen back in this pose, Adris can see another imp plunging deep into her throat with every thrust.


    The scene is made so much more absurd by the fact that the “table” she rests on is composed of other imps straining to maintain their human platforms, imp stacked on imp so she can lay across them. The ones being used as furniture grind their teeth in frustration and have tears to their eyes.


    “Oooh! It’s coming~! I’m gonna be the one! I’ll make you have my kid, then I can finally be a dad, too! Ahh, so warm!”


    When the boy slams to the hilt, he shudders while throwing his head back a bit, his testicles clenching before he unloads his seed deep into her. The surrounding boys and girls seem ecstatic as he unleashes himself in the abused human, either rubbing their dicks against her skin, too, or reaching in to fondle her as she seemingly climaxes.


    With the one at her mouth still huffing in pleasure as he deepthroats her, the boy pulls out from her abused pussy as fresh, white liquid drips from her hole. He rubs his shining, orange forehead with his arm while a girl kneels down to suck on his freshly basted dick.


    Next to the human woman, an imp uses a clawed finger to rub paint on her leg.


    (There’s… twelve lines…?)


    With a much easier position, the man on the ground…


    “Yeah! Marry meeeee~! I love beards, they feel so tickly! Old man, old man, give me a baby! If you give me… a baby… I’ll make you mine~!!”


    Slamming onto him, the young girl with monstrous features has a pace that would be dangerous if she missed her strokes. The moaning girl riding the man squeals as he cums hard, his semen spilling out from her tight passage as she slams down on him a final time.

    He cries out into the juicy cunny of the imp on top of his face, eliciting a yelp and laughter from her as she moans, with the male imp slamming into her ass simply picking up the pace.


    As the girl on his dick is filled up, she suddenly shivers wildly with pleasure before pulling herself off and dancing out of the orgy writhing on top of the man.


    “Ahh! Y~E~S~! He did ittttt! I’m gonna marry him~! Hee heeee! GYAH!”


    As the green-skinned, dancing girl boasts about something while dripping semen on the floor, two other female imps jump her while pulling at her hair.


    “Stealing my baby! You’ll get yours!”

    “You’re not even nearly the oldest sisterrrr~! Give meeeeee~!!!!”





    The unbridled orgy continues in earnest, with imps who cannot directly participate comforting each other.


    The woman has a fresh imp at her, eagerly using her stuffed, lubricated cunt to slam swiftly to the hilt as if she’s only a tool. The imp furniture underneath bickers and whines, as the line to use her never seems to diminish so they can trade jobs.


    The man is no longer of interest to some of the girls, but four still cling to him. The one that claimed victory finally escapes torment to hang around him while romantically kissing the man’s wet face.


    Both cannot even manage to speak, only grunt in pleasure.


    Their possessions are still being picked through by the chattering imps, with the clothing reminding Adris of the walkers of the misted forests of Xin, all rich furs and oiled leathers.

    It reminds him also of…


    (So, slayers are as weak as imps? Or rather, there were simply too many?)


    Though he is unsure how they were defeated, Adris burns this scene into his mind.





    This is what defeat means within the Castillo.


    This would have been Adris’ fate, had Lycia not intervened to save him.





    “Why can’t we do more than this? Why can’t we go outside~!” The bratty girl continues to whine as Adris creeps closer. He considers his options as he approaches.


    “Because you’d just get beaten up~!”

    The boy laughs, while pointing at the girl’s face.


    He barely dodges the fist of the girl, before running off while mocking her with “scary, scary!” He runs back to the circle of imps lounging about in the center of the room to wait for his turn.

    The girl “on guard” turns her back, making a dismissive snort while leaning on the wall.


    “Shut up Rantil and stand guard! Or I’ll show you what idle thoughts get you~.”


    The girl flinches at a boy’s imperious voice coming from the room, looking sharp as she scans the dim hall ahead.


    (That voice is from… someone not participating.)


    Hidden from Adris, there’s someone overseeing and directing these proceedings.


    (It’s him I need to deal with. Time for me to work.)





    Unlike the abyssal dimension he’d been thrown into…


    Unlike Lycia and Cethran…


    Adris knows how to properly interact with these “youths.” And he has the tools to accomplish his ambition.





    (After all, I know what I am.)





    Buttoning his blue coat tightly, Adris changes his posture to reflect the sum of what he’s seen. He lets his muscles relax, before slightly stooping. He tousles his hair and pulls the hood further down.

    Taking some of the materials from Symphonia, he liberally re-applies them to his blue coat, making sure to avoid letting them touch any of his underclothing.


    He lightly grips the resin-covered bark in his hand, making sure the spot to hide it is still there in his sleeve.





    (I am a [Scholar Bound in Madness]. And the concept of my existence is far stronger than yours.)





    The simple narrative is calculated quite easily, Adris’ plan already complete before the imps can fill the woman again.


    (If I need a way through the mansion, then give me a guide.)


    Striding out from the shadows of the corridor into this intersection, Adris’ movements are furtive, and his gaze suspicious.

    Most importantly, he shows no fear as he approaches, only displaying an obsessive, worrying interest in an unknown objective.


    The purple-haired imp girl finally notices him leaving his corner, her suspicious eyes going wide with recognition while staring at Adris’ derisive, sneering face and blue coat.


    Adris looks her up and down while approaching, with her in distress as she tries to back away. Wild-eyed and unreasoning, Adris commands her.





    “Move, flesh.”





    HIII!


    The adventure-seeking imp flings herself through the crowd at full speed, her whipping tails striking others as she cowardly flees.


    (Understand what I am. Let it seep into your bones. I am one of those who called you here and I can uncall you. If that calamitous display of power in the Expanse was only theatrical and not befitting of the feeling of true contest, then I can bring so much more.)


    As frightened as Adris was of these things in blue, he intends to make others share his fear. The rest of the imps are all staring at him now, an assembly of astonished, youthful faces all now sharing the previous girl’s fright.


    The assault on the two humans has stopped, the monsters involved too focused on Adris to continue. Even the human girl seems confused, her vapidness from the assault lessening as she studies Adris.

    She actively licks the semen off of her face as she watches, her pretty, roguish features flush with something like understanding of her situation. The hunger in her eyes transfers a bit to Adris…


    (Oh, you really are a slayer like those above. It’s… strange to think you’d enjoy this at all.)


    An imp girl comically quivers, frozen in mid thrust on the robed man’s cock, squatting over it while showing discomfort and embarrassment. Taking in the moment, Adris lets the silence linger, until…


    “Do you not have business you are attending to? Or…”


    Leaning toward them, he slightly moves his bound cross, instantly asserting authority.





    Did you wish to volunteer instead?”





    The girl drops back onto the cock at full speed, moaning in forced pleasure and shaking in horror, trying to avoid Adris’ attention as she rocks on the man.

    The boys with the human girl return to their work as she whines in surprise, the slapping sounds returning in earnest.


    The imps all pretend not to see Adris, turning their backs on him in an instant as he marches past them straight towards one of the opened walls.


    (There you are. My “prey”.)


    Lounging on a chair, a boy larger than the rest glares at Adris, his slightly more masculine features contorted in dismay and agitation. With fingers tapping on the chair, the imp girls next to him immediately jump up and run, taking the liquor with them.


    Regarding the blue ghoul before him…


    “It’s you I need, after all!”


    Adris puts his hand to his own chin, looking at the imp whose body is rigid, muscles tensed in preparation to escape. Standing before his “prey,” Adris adopts a languid posture, but puts intensity into his persona.

    He shifts his muscles subtly, as if uncomfortable with his own body, the flesh underneath perhaps the real danger posed to others.


    The imp’s body language changes with each instant, his first attempts to size up Adris and intimidate him with a confident posture having failed, moving to uncomfortably crossed arms as the imp gives up trying to preserve authority.


    The imp’s eyes flit between Adris’ concealed face, the bound cross, and the floor.


    (You can’t oppose the one that made you; the one who called you here.)


    “… What do you want?” The imp leader finally relents.


    (And now you lose.)


    Tilting his head, Adris looks at the imp. “A certain lack of respect in you lesser products, yes? To be sent out with such misgivings about your quality…” Adris shrugs.


    “It’s a bit disconcerting.”


    Adris strikes at the imp’s pride. Before all of its “followers,” a trap is laid out.


    (Strike first, fool. I need to know something.)


    “Huh!? With this many kin, you say I’m bad?!” The youth loses a bit of composure in anger at being insulted.

    “Look how many children there are!” Anger in his eyes spills over into a revealed snarl.


    Rubbing his shoulder, Adris sighs.


    “Huh, and yet they’re all as worthless as the sire.”


    Gnashing his teeth, the imp finds some pride in an unknown place. When it bucks up, the rest of the imps all turn at once to size up Adris with creepy, turned glances.


    “What are you saying!?” The imp moves a hand before it, shaking it slightly at Adris while clenched in a fist, then points his finger at Adris’ face. “Just because you’re from there doesn’t make you my boss!”


    Narrowing his eyes, the boy even smirks.





    “And I don’t even feel any reason to think you should be~!”


    (Just because I don’t exude an aura of power now, doesn’t mean that you won’t feel it later. Please, think you can intimidate me.)





    Adris looms before the imp, an unconstrained smile of beneficence to his expression, purposefully tainted by the same madness he’d noted afflicting his “peers.”


    (If you openly challenge me, then Golden Luster will punish you that much harder.)

    This is one of the nuances of the world’s competitions: the one who initiates will often answer harder for losing.


    To gain, you must risk, and the one who risks first answers for all that happens after.





    “Oh, you think you’re strong, then? Well, that’s good! That’s good!”


    Adris claps the imp on the shoulder lightly with his right hand, stunning the creature with the gesture.


    “Actually, strength of body and mind is what I was looking for! You see, there was an… unfortunate…”


    Looking concerned momentarily, Adris purses his lips, letting the imp hang on the silence.


    “Incident, with my last assistant. Shame, he had just been loaned out, too.”


    The imp’s eyes go wet and shake as the boy stares at Adris’ partially hidden face, the silver of the mask barely reflecting out from under the hood an ominous affectation.


    Remembering the heathen Symphonia’s terminology and phrasing, Adris falls into the depravity of his role.





    “Yes, all of the musculature was nice, but the overall symmetry was slightly bizarre even for my usual standards! When the legs split and grew blades of bone, that was an interesting feature, though? You know…”


    Putting his arm around the boy, Adris pulls the distraught leader into a conspiratorial embrace.


    “It’s such fascinating research! I was looking to discuss my results with someone… Wouldn’t you…”


    Smiling widely, Adris offers a job.





    “... love to tag along to hear more about it!?”





    The leader is caught by all the force Adris can muster, an immediate attempt on the boy’s part to escape from the developing nightmare thwarted by Adris’ stiff grip.

    The other imps are pretending to not be present, crowded as they are around the humans and carrying out Adris’ last order.


    “N-n-no… no, I have… duties…” The imp’s blue skin is sleek with sweat, looking away from Adris while attempting to refuse.


    (You can’t deflect to her.)


    “Duties? To who?” Adris growls at the boy, eliciting a whimper. “That golden bitch and her pawns?”


    The words cause everyone around to flinch.


    “You… you can’t say that… we… belong to the Alche-”


    Adris leans straight into the boy’s face.





    “There is only one Mother. And all flesh belongs to her.”


    (Thank you, Cethran, for giving me ideas.)


    The stresses from the past day flow out in Adris’ words. All of his disconcerting thoughts and suffering lingers in them, becoming a weapon he uses against his foe.


    “And, as you should understand… I am not simply flesh.” Adris smiles at the assertion of being the imp’s master.


    The imp’s gaze wavers as its mouth opens to deliver unsaid words. Adris sneers at him openly, daring him to oppose him.


    The cross in hand sways.





    “… Maybe… but… you know…? It’s a long way from Mother…~!”


    The imp’s eyes go hard with sudden determination, a beast-like calculation completed in the creature’s mind at this moment.

    Adris can hear movement as the other imps methodically surround him with no orders issued, postures now ready to bring harm as they lift clawed hands.


    (Taking your chances, are you? I can understand not wanting to be a test case. If you can control your “subjects” with only thoughts, that explains these two…)


    Between the fear of disobeying the Mother and that of being a subject, this imp leader has decided to risk the former, giving in to his own terror and lashing out at the source of it.


    All the imps have hard smiles on their faces matching their leader’s. The leader imp’s nails extend as he begins to give off a strange, carnal atmosphere to the air about him.

    Caught up in it this close, Adris’ lust spikes, but he temporarily tamps it down with no distractions erupting from the cross.





    In this moment, there’s a feeling of conflict in the air, Adris’ skin crawling with the sudden coldness assailing him.

    Whispers sound out around him, scratching at his psyche.





    The same feeling as when Lycia threatened him returns. Adris marks this sensation, burning it into his mind as the moment a battle has begun.


    (Good, now I know what it feels like for sure, this “formal contest.” Time to test the other part…)


    The creatures of the Castillo can apparently resist, to a degree, and they hate each other. They hate the Works’ researchers, most of all.


    And Adris bears no obvious power, only authority.


    “Oh, my, this is what I meant about you lacking respect.” Adris hand slowly comes off of the imp, returning to his body as the imp lowers into a posture to leap upon him from the chair. “After all, lowly flesh such as you should…”


    A snapping sensation runs through Adris’ hand, as he breaks the black bark’s sealing resin that drops back into his hand.





    Remember its place.”





    From Adris’ hand, a great cloud of dark gas explodes out and writhes around his arm, before an all-despoiling stench assaults Adris’ nostrils.

    Mustering all of his concentration to avoid collapsing, the smell of rank brimstone fills the air, encasing Adris’ vicinity in the fearsome carnage of the terrifying odor.


    Despite being only a smell, Adris swears that the air itself wavers. Without origin, wind roars briefly at the edges of the room, flailing the drapes about as their maddening whipping cows the assembled victims.


    (That is…)


    Adris nearly swoons.


    (Vile.)


    Remembering his trade, Adris mimics Lycia, contorting his body to appear more bestial, even if it is only a ruse. He smiles with Cethran’s fitting grin of geniality and condescension, peering straight into the heart of the imp boy that is suddenly wracked by fright.


    If the creatures of the Castillo could be properly categorized, wouldn’t that miss the point? All of our darkest emotions, thoughts, and dreams: are these not where true monsters arise from?


    (Right. Show me how you can match this.)


    Adris takes Cethran’s lecture on things from the depths of dark desires to heart. If imps are incarnations of lesser depravity and abuse, then whatever left this residue is, by the smell alone…





    (If imps are an incarnation of evil, then I am supreme evil, you fool!)





    It doesn’t matter if Adris truly has power or not.

    The perception, the innuendo alone…





    Adris’ mind is boiling with lust from the suffusing smell. Even now, he feels compelled to consider pinning down this imp and opening the monster’s cheeks, forcing himself into…


    (But I will endure, so…!)


    In this contest of wills within a small room which seems to darken with Adris’ presence…





    “No! Sorry! I didn’t know! Please, spare me!”


    The imp shakes, his knees almost knocking as he quakes in the chair.


    The other imps are on their knees, bowing in completely servile positions while also shivering. The humans are curled up, watching Adris with terror in their own eyes as they try to slide away from the imps kneeling almost on top of them in order to escape.





    Adris is drunk on the feeling of superiority.


    This is what he’s been searching for this whole time. The brimstone that attacks his lungs also excites his desires, even as he resists the urge to cough.


    With the leader’s pleas for mercy and his followers’ worship, the feeling of conflict in the air ceases immediately. Instead, Adris feels somewhat… empowered to act, a state he can’t define.





    For the first time in what seems like a long time…





    … he’s unequivocally made someone lose by only his own cunning.







    (Ah, Serras… this was the feeling I missed the most. I’ll never let you or anyone else take this from me again…!)

    Worshiped by creatures far more powerful than he currently is, Adris feels true happiness, successfully balancing once more on the edge of that blade called "danger".


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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



    Statistics:

    Rantil Value - "Oh yes, we're getting theeeeere~!"



    Beauty:

    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?"



    Description:

    “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."

    "A man with a plan is a dangerous force of nature, especially when he has neither morals nor a lack of vision to halt him."



    Commentary:

    "Deciding to become a god wasn't necessarily the lifestyle choice I anticipated you taking. In this case, it might be your only path. Try not to regret it too much."

    Imp - "A summoned creature from another place, brought forth from desire and given form by humans. They are terribly naive, but the evil that dwells in them suffers not a bit for it. Innocence is a weapon they use to destroy you."
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2021
  18. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 17: Emergency Imp ☆

    Standing before the supplicating imp leader, Adris is still high on the feeling of victory; yet, beneath that feeling another one is growing.


    (… I don’t have time to bask in my own success. That resin was perhaps a terrible mistake…)



    With the impressively dramatic effect comes the price: Adris’ lust is spiking to levels he cannot suppress. He can only launch himself into his persona to hide from it, trying to ignore the blood rushing to his cock.


    “Yes, yes, mercy is fine.” Adris laughs once, before waving his hand with disinterest at the imp’s supplications. Animated smoke still clings to his body as he adopts a kinder pose.


    “Oh, you will be a lovely assistant!”


    (Except you won’t be. There’s a level of desperation you possess I don’t want to deal with.)


    With the imp choosing to surrender a smaller compensation rather than be totally wiped out, Adris has proved his hidden conjecture true with this test.


    (As Cethran said, if Odds grow with expenditure… then surrender reduces your losses. In addition, you can force a surrender with only pure deception. Guile and intimidation can win a contest, something Cethran… didn’t mention.)


    “Huuuuuuuu, no, umm…” The boy looks around, searching for help. His eyes brighten on the discovery of two good distractions.

    “No, human subjects would be better assistants, right! You get the freshest fodder!”


    Turning to look, Adris wonders if he might be right.


    The older, intellectual-looking man with blond hair is still mostly naked, on his side while he pants in exhaustion. With a tight look on his face, the man regards Adris with a contemptuous sneer. He seems more content shielding the shivering imp girl behind him with his surprisingly built body.


    The younger woman, however…


    Is looking at Adris very intently. Glazed as she is in white, her red skin shows she’s still deeply aroused. Her heart-shaped face hides silver eyes under wild, green bangs, with Adris noticing curiosity in them which seems placed solely on trying to see his face.

    When he stares for too long, she grins a bit while licking some semen off her lips. More muscularly lean than full in figure, there’s still tempting sensuality to the hand she moves along her side, with her showcasing her flesh to Adris as she recovers during this break.


    (No, used goods won’t do, especially if it’s humans traveling with a hidden human. That girl in particular is dangerous!)


    Adris has neither time nor compassion for these defeated fighters, as the Castillo will give none to Adris if they ruin his plans. Stripped of weapons and dignity, they’re a liability if he’s forced to defend them. He sees no convincing means of stealing back their gear from the greedy imps.


    (I’d be demanding too much if I don’t let him save face with the loot. There’s no lasting profit in balancing filthy water buckets across your shoulders.)


    “No, no, I need something like our kind. My experiment will result in… an unknown change? But a useful one!” Adris decides to ramp up his attack and permanently destroy the imp’s will to resist.

    “Only one application will give you a completely new form! You might even rise in ranking!”


    Adris smiles at the imp, who is now crying.





    “… if you survive intact…”





    Producing his finest look of sheer malicious madness, Adris considers himself the greatest researcher in all of Zennia as he reports his “findings,” using his arm to again draw in the imp so that only he can hear Adris.


    “After all, I already have one valuable result. If he ever regains his sanity, he’ll be able to use all seven of his arms~! Imagine how you might turn out!”


    The boy stops moving. He can’t speak, only face his fate, which right now is a silver-masked lunatic happily wondering what he will morph into.





    “……. No, please don’t.”


    (Okay, then here is your way out.)


    “Oh? You really don’t want to? YOU REALLY DON’T?” Adris lays it on thickly, his truth-seeking Works’ persona appearing truly disappointed.





    “Well… I suppose it would create a problem to take such an accomplished leader away from his pack.”


    Pretending to think for a moment, Adris suggests a compromise.


    “How about one of your pawns? One almost as useful as you?”





    Adris’ comrade “in arm” looks upbeat with sudden appreciation, shaking a little less as he latches onto the hope being offered.


    Numerous shouts of surprise and horror ring up from around the two.

    The assembled imps cower and look to flee, even as Adris stops them from escaping by gazing longingly at them with powerful eyes.


    “Oh…? OH! Okay! Yes! Please, sir, take them!”


    The imp leader gets up from his chair, adopting a courtier’s bow as he sells out his own kin. The imp’s “offspring” all look in hate and shock at their “father.”


    (… All born from a bizarre summoning ritual, there’s no kinship here. You’re all pure malice from some unknown realm. But… what is the catalyst, Cethran…?)


    Though Adris doesn’t know the particulars, Cethran had warned him that they are totally unnatural existences wrought into physical form from phantasmal essence.


    (… and where do they come from?)


    Stuck for a moment in this fascinating question…





    “… OH! I know just who you can take! She’s very useful!”


    A dark expression flashes, his eyes shining with his brilliant thought.


    Adris lets the imp run off, the boy moving through the pack of minions surrounding them and into the far exit corridor.


    A yelp followed by a choking sound is heard, as two figures struggle in the darkness.


    “Nonononononononononono! Rantil… Rantil doesn’t want…!”


    A girl is pulled unwillingly in a headlock, the boy clearly straining to keep the girl from escaping. This imp girl seems to resist him just fine.


    “Feel free to take her~!”


    The leading imp speaks the sentence quite menacingly and in a low voice, as the rest of the group looks towards Rantil with either fake concern, or outright hostility and mocking smiles.


    Adris swallows uncomfortably at this… hateful display of open betrayal.





    “Forever~.”





    There is a strange feeling in Adris’ body when the imp says the words. Adris almost gasps at the spreading cold within his chest, as if something has squirmed into it and lodged there.


    The feeling of victory ceases at this moment, the air returning to normal while empowering thoughts vanish from him.


    (What? What is this absurd…?)


    While Adris tries to understand what’s happening, he becomes acutely aware of the timid, purple-twin-tailed young girl trying not to see him as she seeks to disappear in plain sight.






    “Hic…”


    The path had strayed quite a bit from Cethran’s guidance, but he eventually found his way back to landmarks described in the book he still holds before him.


    (This mansion reforms at an amazing speed. But what prompts it? And how is it achieved?)


    His eyes flit between the book’s pages and the swaying hair of the girl in front of him.


    Having passed by many strange rooms and possible traps, the “respites” mentioned by Cethran are such easy tricks as fresh food on rolling carts and lush rooms with comfortable sofas.

    For the food, an ominous glyph was drawn on the platter, and the room betrayed unseen movement within it as Adris passed by.


    “Sob…”


    Despite her unbecoming bearing, Rantil turned out to be an excellent guide through the dizzying architecture. Her presence alone seems to avert graver dangers.


    Adris’ eyes trace the wildly swinging tails back to their root. Her slender limbs move stiffly in forced movement, leaving Adris to watch the girl’s childish figure, yet pert butt, sway.


    (Even if you clear a path, you’re more a liability than a prize. As always, he “lost”, I didn’t win. In her presence I can barely keep focus…)


    As with Lycia and other creatures of this mansion, the proximity of this devilish girl is giving him a concise target for his boiling sexual needs.


    (A debauched display like what she was guarding is something I could never think of seeing on Xin, even in a pleasure city. At least not through any connections I could think of.)


    The sight of slender figures assaulting others in a festival-like atmosphere is a scene Adris has no safe avenue to put his thoughts into words to describe. It was exciting in its own right, though not because of any particular inclination Adris has, but rather because of its sheer novelty and sense of amorality.


    (If I let myself get dragged down to that level, I’m done for. So you, Ms. “Rantil”, need to…)





    “Hurry up, flesh. You’re keeping me from my goal.”





    Crying harder at the order, the girl in front picks up the pace, her unsteady trot increasing slightly as she huddles tighter. The image of a crying imp stalked by a mad researcher is hopefully sufficient to scare away the shadows lurking in ambush.


    She’s cried the entire way, yet Adris can easily tell it’s only half truth, proved once more when she peeks back to glare at him while pretending to sob.


    (Can’t ignore an order from me… is that it? The control that leader had was transferred to me. She’s my “property”?)


    If Cethran’s teachings are a guide, then this is similar to Pure Devotion’s idea of “just subservience,” the inability to resist the orders of one with direct power that you cannot “buy” off. It’s the secret to the humans’ inhumane societal caste hierarchy.

    "Slavery" being the proper term in Adris' estimation.


    (I just need to concentrate…)


    But there’s no ability to, with Adris noting that he cannot stop looking at or thinking about her butt. Like greed, the Castillo amplifies lust. His own repressed carnal thoughts are swimming in his head. Even for a girl he feels nothing for, besides maybe a bit of pity, Adris can hardly keep his hands off of her.


    “Uuu… we’re finally here… master…”


    Adris’ attention is brought back to his surroundings as the girl turns her head to look, her soft lips pursed and cheeks pale with stress, errant tears being wiped away.


    The Guest Tombs were the ordered destination.


    The corridor ahead is in open conflict with the previous style of the mansion. Here, drapes over smooth, white plaster part for large, living flower wreaths to climb the walls. Pillars are cut into sensual human shapes with flowing, partially exposing robes.

    Rushing water flows from copper grates in the walls, cascading down chutes to flow along the floor until it spills over the side of the bridge or into drains. With corners padded with red cushioning everywhere, this mind-boggling extravagance is also replete with…


    Approaching the grand entrance, they walk over an open bridge separating the two Castillo regions.


    The space between the two corridors is empty, a drop off to the left and right as brass railings prevent the walkers on this bridge from spilling into the darkness beyond and below, a vast distance unreached by the blue lamps glowing nearby.


    (Perfume clings everywhere, it’s so sweet…)


    Adris wobbles a bit as he crosses the bridge, his vision a tunnel surrounded by red. It’s difficult for him to walk while trying to conceal his hard length straining against the no longer baggy pants.


    “W-w-what now…?”


    In front of the entrance, the girl is staring at him with teary eyes while avoiding looking at the cross. The waxy substance she wears hardly covers her pert breasts, with most of it running along her hips and left leg.


    Adris’ hand is to her beautiful neck before he even realizes it, with the terrified, pouting face of this bratty girl suddenly becoming frozen with shock. Moving his hand to her face while staring into her green eyes…


    (The sweetest smell is coming from you, though. Why do you look so good…?)


    When his thumb moves up to her mouth and dips past her lips, she gasps a bit as he feels the moist warmth within, slowly reaching toward her tongue as her head shifts a bit towards his hand.


    Adris’ body is already against hers now, the girl unsure of his intentions. Her heavier breathing and slightly softer face match well with her eyes focused on him.


    “Huh.. Huwhat… huwhy?”


    A confused voice, slightly pitched and annoying, but also enthralling and now filled with conflicted arousal, brings Adris’ focus on the girl to an absolute clarity. She lightly curls her tongue against his finger.


    (A good question.)


    Adris doesn’t feel any particular attraction to his girl other than physically. Even if she has his empathy for being betrayed, she’s still an imp.


    A monster who has no doubt savaged countless men. Using them as toys as she lowers her hips upon them, she has no reason to be shown mercy.


    But his lips are to hers while he ponders why. His tongue pushes through little resistance, meeting her slimy one that’s shy at first, before it rushes to wrestle his. Her saliva has an exotic flavor that stimulates his melting brain.


    The whole area buzzes when he reopens his eyes, staring at the flushing face of the imp when he pulls back. Her face reminds of the ubiquitous beauty here.

    The model forms of Zennia’s monsters unsettle his common sense, so used he is to the mundane, even ugly, faces of Xin. His hand runs along the side of her head, moving to feel her hair.


    Pulling a bit on a twin-tail, Adris relishes the silky feeling.


    “… Ummm…. Ummmm… m-master? Why are you… bothering with…?”


    Still shaking a bit, the imp’s fear is being colored by something else as she searches his gaze for answers. While her face is youthful, the slit-green eyes have a cunning glint as she wets her lightly colored lips. She looks busy trying to calculate how to take advantage of the changing situation.


    (Do I want her? Why? What’s the meaning? What makes her worth it? Isn’t this pointless?)


    Doubts fill Adris as his body moves ahead of him.


    Everything that has been denied by others becomes what he wants to inflict on her, even if it goes against his principles.


    “Why would… a great evil want something like Rantil…?” The girl’s tone is bewildered, though her body is already enticing him. The sweet smell is similar to the imp leader’s, but hers is submissive rather than hostile.


    “No, aren’t you fine? Ambitious, full of adventure… A little morsel who wants to taste freedom?” Adris spits out what sounds appropriate, grandiose-sounding impressions designed to wrap her up in his voice.


    (But mainly I want to see you… cry? Punish you? You remind me of a girl I knew back in that damned city, one who would always bully me…)


    A yelping sound makes Adris recognize he’s pushed and turned her toward the nearby wall. With a hand on her back applying pressure, she bends over slowly.

    He leans over her and whispers.


    “If I want you, then why does it matter if you know the reason or not? Do you plan to resist? Don’t you know it’s pointless?” The girl sighs, her body losing strength as Adris pushes her into the wall more incessantly.


    (Right, she’s mine now. If this lust can’t be stopped, then why try. I have an appointment ahead and I won’t last if I don’t end this. Besides, she’s… actually quite beautiful.)


    All of the abuse inflicted on Adris thus far feels like a dark hole ready to overflow its contents, able to hold no more when faced with this girl. Opening his coat and wrestling with the buttons, he grinds his crotch against her ass. The height difference is non-existent between the two of them.


    Having listened to her sobbing the entire way in her vexing voice, he can’t decide what exactly about her excites him.


    (Maybe it’s just that I want to give you back some of what you’ve given!)


    The thought of punishing her is what his beating heart has settled on. In his drunk state, it’s the supreme justification.


    “Hyah! Master… likes Rantil… is that it~? Then… you won’t… hurt Rantil…? Kiya!”


    Reaching his own head to hers as he leans over her, Adris nibbles on her slightly pointed ear.


    “I’d like you a lot more if you’d learn to be obedient!”


    When he pulls away while smelling her hair, her face turns a bit to look behind her. Eyes shaking with her forehead glistening, her tongue is visible in her open mouth.

    The roughly breathing girl spreads her legs, her butt swaying to entice him…


    (Creatures of evil? Cethran called them “demons”. She doesn’t look powerful now.)


    Unaware of it, he’s already dropped his pants. The imp is moaning in a high voice as Adris’ left hand explores her body while he licks the back of her neck and bites her shoulder. The taste of her skin is purely poisonous to his mind, drawing him further away from composure with every bite.

    Rather than fright, her reactions are precocious and coy, pretending to be scared. He remembers that she wasn’t taking part in the assault from before.


    (She wants it? This wicked girl is turned on by someone dominating her?)


    Clumsily, he tries to find the hair fiend’s miscellanies. He saw a thick, jelly-like liquid that Cethran had declared safe, a viscosity likely perfect for his haste.

    Adris’ exposed penis is already grinding into Rantil’s crotch even as he searches his body. The waxy clothing is pliable and sleek, the imp’s thighs supple and smooth.

    He finds the vial, distracted by her affectionate, impatient moans, and pours it liberally onto his penis. The cold-feeling liquid instantly warms his skin as he drops the vial, letting it roll away from him with a noisy clink.


    (This is what I get for using things I don’t fully understand! That resin was… ah, a two-edged sword I just impaled myself on!)


    Adris is trying to peel away the clothing on the imp’s crotch to get to the soft, warm hole he knows is hidden; but, it won’t move easily.


    In outrage and frustration, Adris slaps her ass hard with his open hand when it doesn’t come free.


    “HIEEE!” Rantil responds with a shaking body, whipping her head back a bit in pain.


    The annoyances accumulated in the Castillo roll out, Adris’ heart free to release it on someone weaker than him.

    Adris is spanking the imp’s butt with fore and back hand, the girl yelping with every hit. Her tails twitch with her agony and passion, and then accidentally hit Adris in the face as they rise up his chest.


    “What is this? A futile attempt to stop me?” Adris grabs onto a tail hard, pulling it before him to inspect it.


    “No! Please! AH! Please don’t pullllllll!”


    Rantil moves her ass against Adris’ cock, rubbing up against the head of his penis even as she protests the abuse. The evil glint in her eyes is still there, making her look pleased at the pain rather than unhappy.


    “If you didn’t like it, you wouldn’t be shaking.”

    Adris licks her tail before letting it go, receiving an open-throated moan in return, going back to her crotch with his hand. Feverish now, he grabs onto the nearest piece of wax and gets his fingernail under it.


    (Yes! Now move!)


    He rips on the waxy clothing, pulling it free. With the girl shaking and panting, the clothing has become more pliable.


    “Coming off now, is it? Find you can’t resist your need, slave?” His persona on auto-pilot, Adris is confused by the disappearing substance.


    (I have… to be… inside…)


    “Rantil wants to feel good, too~… Please… don’t hurt Rantil~...” Her last words are pathetic, but stoke Adris’ desire to make her his.


    “How many people have cried out at you with the same words, but actually meant them?!”


    His balls are already tight, the imp’s proximity peaking his lust. The world spins a bit as he presses his engorged member against her bottom, running up against more of the waxy substance.


    Moving the tip in the same area, he finally finds flesh and a slight depression…


    “That’s…! Wait! Wawawawa~!” Rantil tries to dissuade this, but Adris doesn’t register the complaint.





    Thrusting inside, Adris feels a supreme tightness and bodily warmth comfortable beyond words, even as the entrance actively rejects him.


    (Ah, for a slut, even a smaller one… she’s tight! What is this texture?)


    Adris’ dick is gripped so tightly all over that the hole feels like a snake swallowing him. He leans over and grabs onto the girl, using her to push all the way in.

    He pants as he listens to her, her breathing now strangely tight and irregular. The girl’s tails are arched against him, cringing while frozen.


    Pulling out and pushing back hard, Rantil’s head arches as she breathes with discomfort, before moaning a bit.


    “Nah… huwhhyyy…”


    Adris moves, slowly at first due to the tightness, but as the lubrication from Symphonia’s vial produces a slick guard against resistance, he picks up the pace.


    (You would do the same to me! Doesn’t the winner take all!?)


    “EH!? S-sl-slowwwwer! Nyah!”


    Adris’ dark thoughts boil as he pounds into the girl in this strange hallway, rejecting her plea.


    (Cethran’s stupid questions! Lycia’s overbearing manipulations! Being turned into basically a kid!)


    For the man that always throws away dark thoughts once done with them unless they’re useful to recall later, all of his “lost” misgivings and resentments rise up as he lays claim to his prize. In place of his vaunted mental conditioning and objective detachment, a wild passion grips him.


    (I won! That idiot bought it! Even you still do! A guy with no real power is using you! And it feels wonderful.)


    Adris yanks on dark-purple hair, even though it should be shining black, causing the girl with orange-tinted skin to yelp louder. Adris has lost control of his own body, slamming against her without mercy as he nears a release he intends to obey.


    “I’ll… make you mine, inside and out!” Adris lets his weight fall onto her as he gloats, asserting an authority he shouldn’t possess.

    All of his past successes rise in his mind, as every flashing memory of when he fooled someone powerful becomes a narcotic feeling of ecstasy, the girl’s flesh tightening to praise his wit.


    Rantil hums in apparent pleasure, her grip on him increasing exponentially. Adris sees only one hand on the wall, now. He can hear a wet gliding movement from her crotch, looking down to see Rantil’s arm going to where they’re meeting.


    (Ah, you’re pleasuring yourself to such abuse!? Depraved girl!)


    As time passes with both grunting with Adris’ endless pistoning, he can feel his dick warming too much with the entombing feeling. The pleasure going up his spine is in time with his clenching muscles, all of his dark thoughts making his brain burn with the ecstasy of his domination.

    Between the two of them, it feels like a closeness is forming as he uses her and she welcomes being used. As he falls ever more into this depraved feeling, she goes wild.


    “Hah! Hah! Master shines too musch! Fehls too gud!” The girl with swaying twintails breathes into the wall as she’s pounded against it. The sickeningly sweet smell from her causes Adris to pull himself tight to hug her, using her own body as leverage to rapidly pump with short thrusts as they cling together.


    (Whoa, no… it’s too good. She can’t be doing this intentionally!? How does she squeeze in separate spots like that all along my length? It feels like a hand moving along it!)


    “Nyah, mahstur! Nooo~!” Pushing up against his face as he licks her, Rantil’s high-pitched and breathy voice keeps rising as Adris slams against her butt. He ruts like a freshly liberated virgin, with the equally sloppy imp giving back in the same manner.


    (Ah, I’m…!)


    “Inshide!”


    Feeling his tension, Rantil screams a single word before Adris curses under his breath and clings to the girl’s body. He instinctively pushes as far as he can into her to make sure his seed goes deep.

    With no control over when it happens, he becomes a slave to his release.


    All of his dark thoughts and misgivings drain into her, along with the burning, ecstatic pleasure of his previous victories. With that draining feeling, the imp girl arches her back as she moans.


    “EEHHH!!? STROHNG!? C-C-CUHMMING! RANTIL! HAH! … Fuh… fuuuuu…”


    With her pleasure lasting far longer than his, she quivers with satisfaction while being held. Feeling his vitality leaving him with the sexual tension, Adris begins to feel weak.





    The justification for the act that took such a short time to finish vanishes with the arrival of the afterglow.

    Adris’ sagacity increases ten-fold.


    (… what am I doing!?)


    Adris becomes conscious of the situation as he pants from being overheated. His cock already starting to soften, the girl he’s holding onto wobbles in his grasp.

    The pain of the tightness replacing the pleasure, Adris winces as he pulls out of her. A popping sound is accompanied by a splattering, his seed falling out onto the floor.


    The sudden clearheadedness makes Adris embarrassed at his previous actions.


    (Yet again, I give in the first chance I get! First, that piglet Symphonia. That can be attributed to the cross, right? Next, the admittedly much more lovely Lycia… I can forgive that, I would probably still willingly give myself to her company for a good time… Were she unlikely to kill me before, during, or after…


    … But… to you!?)


    To a creature he’s never met before now, she was made of eager use by him.


    Though not a good man, Adris has never fancied himself the type that would let passion and need lead him to assault another. Even when Serras refused, it was never difficult to handle such urges himself.


    Indeed, the abusive manner in which they’d copulated and how Adris feels that she enjoyed it is an overwhelming peek into a facet of pleasure he doesn’t feel comfortable exploring, especially with a creature who isn’t truly real like he is.


    (No, being unreal is fine! But you’re like a pit of unspeakable desires!)


    She is unbottling these thoughts by proximity, his fall into depravity increasing with the attention she gives him. Having experienced her once, he already feels a desire to share the same forceful carnal embrace again.


    Though he wants to drop the unstable imp… he instead uncharacteristically brings her down to the floor gently.


    (Maybe if I do the opposite of what I want to do, you’ll stop baking my thoughts!)


    The girl’s eyes are closed while she pants a bit, a look of pain mixed with pleasure on a clenched face.

    She coos while breathing unsteadily, basking in the success of the act while still tense, her hands on her bottom as if trying to soothe it.


    Yet, her lips are disgustingly smiling…


    (But why would there be pain?)


    Looking down, Adris realizes that her somewhat uncovered pussy lips are still mostly shut and not leaking. The white juices flow instead from…


    (Ah, that would be…)


    A first for Adris. He marvels at the tightness, understanding now what other men in the past had to say about it. A slightly unclean feeling comes to him, but he recalls Cethran’s thoughts on fiendish incarnations.


    They have no true physicality, right? As simply corporeal concepts, what drives them?


    Taking advantage of his recent acquisition in such a way and not having an answer for it, Adris’ thoughts on the indiscretion revert to his old ways. If there’s no real harm to anything Adris cares about, he can just overlook it.





    (Right, getting rid of lust in the Castillo is hardly bad. Her? She’s just a tool, no worries-)





    But, his mind freezes at the thought, squatting while staring at the girl slightly shaking on the floor.





    Just a tool.


    (Cast away as easily as I was.)





    Pulling his pants back up after wiping himself off with a wet rag from his pack, he looks down at the tired creature.


    “Hey.”


    Adris kicks Rantil slightly with his boot, just enough to shock the imp into focusing. Her naked, sweating orange body turns over, staring at Adris with lingering lust and affection, before seeing the cross still in his hand.


    She starts shaking, her teeth clattering as her fear revives.


    With a rare feeling of pity, Adris considers what to do with her.


    (It’s not like I can take her along any further, since my destination holds delvers I need to meet. I doubt they will accept someone wearing a blue coat who is wrangling an…)





    “PLEASE DON’T TURN RANTIL INTO A MONSTER!”


    The girl begs now while on her knees, her two tails straight in the air as she leaks out onto the floor.





    “You already are a monster!”





    In the span of a moment, Adris receives an absurd outburst and retorts to it.


    His thoughts interrupted by her scream, Adris tries to recall his thoughts. The small ember of empathy born of his self-loathing at what he’s done nearly extinguishes with only one exclamation from her.


    “… Can you give me any reason to care about you as anything more than raw materials?”

    Adris decides to toy with the girl a bit, regardless of his final decision.





    “NUMBER 1: I AM SMART!

    NUMBER 2: I AM OBEDIENT!

    NUMBER 3: I DON’T WANT TO BE A MONSTER!”





    The bratty girl is in full form, a string of loose reasoning issuing from her mouth that’s running at full speed.


    “I just said you already are one! You don’t know anything about my needs, so it’s not as if you can provide immediate benefit to me.”


    “You’re right, I don’t! But I don’t even know your name! All I know is that you like being inside me!


    … Which was admittedly nice, master’s essence feels sort of like a human’s~? A great evil with a truly human form~…?”


    (Observant weirdo!)


    The girl’s interrupting monologue is very quiet, but Adris’s sharp ears easily catch it.


    “… anyway… You just showed up and made Cybero sell me out for good, and now I’m gonna be chopped up if I can’t convince you not to~!”

    Crying pathetically, the girl is looking at him with a face also wet with snot as she rails against her situation.

    “You march me all around without telling me why! Then you stuck your big dick up my butt and now it’s coming ouuuutttttt~!!! This isn’t faiiiiiirrrrrrrr~!!!”


    (… as if you weren’t moaning.)


    The girl cries while lightly hitting the floor with her hands, secretly watching him as she tries to ply for sympathies in Adris that simply don’t exist.

    Her fear has turned into a desperate gambit to make him feel sorry enough for her existence to spare her, banking on his disgust with her to force a premature departure on her behalf.


    (But, it honestly just makes me want to bully you more.)


    “Name?”


    (Since we’re here, now is as good a time as any to test my introduction. Cethran had been quite explicit. The stronger the appellation, the stronger the impact. Since she’s a captive audience, I can… dispose of her if this is received poorly.)


    Towering over the prone imp on this bridge between hellish regions, Adris thinks of the persona he’s still constructing for his destined meeting. Even now, he hasn’t settled on the final details of what a “false god” entails.


    (What sort of showmanship do I display? How do I phrase things? What do I believe in?)


    In addition to setting the “mystery”, an introduction will establish the mood and draw in his intended servants.


    “… Then listen well, peon. I know not what you think I am, but my true existence is far beyond that of a mere tool of the Mother.”


    Adris’ cross goes up before him.


    He adjust his profile as he looks down on her. As if compelling her to disappear with the raised cross, he sharpens his tension as much as he can, drawing on all of his previous acting experience.





    (“I am Adris fehl Dain, ziahlen, of the world of Xin, stuck now on a world about to be destroyed by eternal night…” Going with that might work…?)





    The wind howls as he narrows his eyes, smiling proudly at the twin-tailed girl now gazing reverently.





    “[I am a star of ruin, a true false god, cast down from the sky upon a dying world]!”





    Adris yells this out towards the darkness, staring down at this supplicant with his introduction given.

    The wind dies at this very moment.





    Silence consumes the gravity of his pronouncement.









    (That… that… sounded okay… right?)


    Arriving in a world full of pomp and grandeur, even the names of techniques are called out here. On Xin, Adris was prone to such flights of embarrassing speech when having fun in combat, but not to the same level of sophistication as these creatures.


    He certainly didn’t believe then that it made his attacks more potent.





    That which is declaimed, is it not more striking? Why shouldn’t it be stronger?


    (I don’t feel like it’s stronger, Cethran! I just feel like a retard and it’s your fault! Why are you Zennians all weird!?)





    As the small girl looks up at him with eyes full of wonder, Adris feels more insipid than anything. He can’t determine whether she’s full of thoughts of praise; or, inspired by the idea that Adris is actually insane, and that she could soon beat him up and escape.


    (Please say- )


    “How shining~! And you want to… do that!? Merge natures with Rantil!? … Really!? O-okay! I won’t disappoint you~!”


    Adris blinks as she begins to smile with sudden, relieved glee, her hands shaking as she makes excited “Kyaa~!” sounds.


    (What the fuck are you…?)





    “I am Rantil, [Evil Innocence], [Forever alone at the edge of acceptance while staring in at it longingly], and I answer your offer!”


    The girl, like Adris, screams out something incomprehensible and embarrassing while making a formal bow, her twin tails flicking once. With a soft smile, but hard eyes, ambition is plain on her face as she gazes at him.


    (Okay, but why tho-?)





    Pausing in mid thought, he feels something tug at his coat. Sleeves flapping suddenly, the pressure of this fissure alters.


    With a crisp, flowing sound...


    … he is nearly pushed over by the tumultuous rush.

    The air and darkness which had devoured his embarrassing pronouncement now roars back with much crueler life. Adris’ thoughts go wild with a replay of an earlier scene.





    “Ah, AH!”


    Rantil rises into the air, the shadows flooding in join with the air and become a great vortex enveloping her. The blue lamps on the walls extinguish, the whole area suddenly pitch black.


    She begins to glow dimly with a pale white light, whipping her legs and arms about as she tumbles in the air.


    (No, not again.)


    “Wait, why am I becoming less~!? That’s not supposed to happen~! I should be being added to master’s -!?”


    The girl can’t finish her sentence as the deafening roar claims it. Using a breaststroke to try to swim towards Adris while stuck in the air, her desperate, shining eyes beg Adris to save her, yet he can do nothing without knowing how to.





    With a grating, crumbling sound…


    Rantil vanishes into shaking motes of light, the pale luminance being consumed by the dark torrent as her body slowly disintegrates while violently shaking.


    Adris interposes the cross between him and her destruction, but the whirlwind simply bypasses it as it rushes past him.


    Malevolent voices torment his ears with indecipherable ravings, their words scarring his soul even as he rejects them.


    Wind throws his clothing and hair about until it begins to subside, the winds returning the direction they came from to meet where Rantil used to be.





    Great, dolorous bells ring out deep from the darkness all around him.





    The blue light returns, the lamps automatically relighting.





    Standing alone on the bridge, his eyes sting a bit from the impact of the wind. He wrestles with his coat to right it on his body, a dizzy feeling remaining from the voices scratching at his mind and the ringing in his ears from the winds.


    Hearing a fluttering sound, he looks to see a piece of parchment landing on the bridge in front of him.


    Appearing in the form of a folio, Adris peers down at a picture on it…





    … which contains a figure that looks like Rantil’s.


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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'?"


    Disposition: Resilient / Adaptable / Sinner
    Alignment: Chaotic

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


    Statistics:

    Rantil Value - "With such limited information, isn't master at least fairly agile and observant? No, disregarding this abusive master, why am I vanishing!?"


    Beauty:

    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'?”

    ---

    "My, are you perhaps trying for a different kind of handsomeness? Will you go for the classic Byronic presence, full of submerged violence and domineering lust?"


    Description:

    “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.”

    ---

    "Improvising with what's available is one of Adris' best qualities... but even he is unlikely to want to sink to the level of the Castillo's residents."


    Commentary:

    "Guess you found your first victim. How does it feel bullying... well, she actually deserves it. Keeping calm in this Castillo seems impossible. How do you contain your lust if you have no one to share it with?"





    Name: Rantil
    Titles: Slave
    Race: Imp
    Sex: Female
    Age: Old As Human Fears

    Occupation: Castillo Guardian; Slave
    Discipline: ???

    Powers:

    [Unknown Attraction] - "Rantil doesn't smell anything weird, though? You think Rantil is sweet? Hum~hum~, thanks~!"


    Disposition: Whiny / Deceitful / Sweet
    Alignment: Chaotic

    Eyes: Slit-Green
    Hair: Purple
    Skin: Orange-Tinted


    Statistics:

    Rantil Value - "Rantil is indescribably strong. As the true heroine, Rantil is obviously going to exceed the capabilities of any other female... Why didn't you help Rantil, master!? HIEEEEE!"


    Beauty:

    Cethran Value - “Do words exist to describe how low you will plumb for comfort from women, Adris? At least the imp you are fated to marry isn't that dumb, yes? Perhaps her beauty might end up complimenting your decisive lack?”


    Description:

    "Born of contradiction and fear, imps are creatures that have the appearance of what they, at their core, can never be. Even if she's capable of appearing nice, an imp is designed to lead you astray. But if it's a man who is already the definition of 'astray', then how will this relationship unfold?"


    Commentary:

    "Every MC needs his loli familiar. Gotta be conservative about this. Although I guess if they're pretty much the same height it's a strange matchup. Bratty girls excited one of my readers, let me know what you think."
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2021
  19. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 18: Corner of Meeting and Sorrow

    “… Rantil?”


    Addressing the folio held in his hand, his mind is racing with the events just witnessed. His new “property” has transformed into a parchment folio with a a glyph at the top that Adris reads as her name. Reading it activates a sense he has rarely used in its proper form on Zennia.


    His aura senses register the glyph as something not dissimilar to the mystical energy of his homeland.


    (No, not the glyph, but what’s leaking out. From it and the image!)


    Though somewhat hazy, the image of Rantil wells up in Adris’ mind as he stares at it, the concept of her existence infringing on his brain. The figure appears as though it could come to life at any moment.


    Averting his eyes, Adris broods on the girl’s introduction.


    (“Evil innocence?” Isn’t that a concise description of an imp’s nature?)


    The imps’ personalities had seemed wholly innocent in disposition, yet a gaggle of them had forcefully gang raped two people for their own humor, toying with them like a child might with an insect by yanking off its legs to study what happens.

    The oppositional and malicious terms associated with this monster give Adris pause as he calmly analyzes his near miss. Unlike with Cethran, Rantil was the loser of this incident. Adris is left alone in the chill air to comprehend why, thankful that it wasn’t him.


    The second part of her introduction reminds Adris of the imp’s personal mentality: an outcast, and perhaps proud to be.


    But the idea of a creature born of a concept and the unknown mingling, and being reduced to a page, is somehow fitting.


    (Returning to where you are pulled from? This was your fate, Rantil?)


    The darkness that had consumed Rantil was also…





    (How was that any different from the Emperor’s tomb!?)


    The thoughts on shadow and unknown rage in his mind, his long-held observations of the Emperor’s style of shadow play now wrestling with the purposefully obscuring mystery worshiped by Cethran, a supposedly powerful force in this world.


    Between the two of them, the uniting theme seems to be an object or effect created by manipulating the flow from a source.


    (This is more than a similarity, isn’t it?)


    Though Adris cannot understand the Emperor’s technique, an all-compelling power born of an other-worldy source sounds accurate, now. The images from the cross seek to bend his mind to their ideas and destroy his free will.


    When Adris considers it, the Conquest style architecture’s hidden usage of shadows, a style that was once omnipresent on Xin, might be connected to how this power functioned during the Emperor’s age. He regrets that he can never test his theory.


    (The birth of things like imps on Zennia might be related to a similar, grand interference on this world. Who, or what, determines how these things enter from their own realm?)


    Silent, he walks into the Guest Tombs while puzzling over the mystery.


    (Do humans give them existence? What is the shared source? Is reality so fragile?)


    If the cross carried Adris to Zennia, then through what did he travel? A name and definition is needed, and the brief insight Adris felt within the chapel upon meeting Cethran is blurry, for some reason.


    (What is the uniting theme?)


    As Adris thumbs the folio, Cethran’s wisdom seems less preternatural and more grounded, her game of standing in for an unknowable god quite amusing. Her position of priestess of mystery is the perfect con: just accurate enough to escape circumspection, but vague enough to allow maneuvering.


    “Assuming this folio is ‘interference,’ then Rantil isn’t dead?”


    Not that he’d feel guilty if she was, as she’d done it to herself. At least now, she’s easy to carry; though, Adris has lost his first shield against others, as inconvenient as she was.


    The idea that he might have been the victim with the wrong word said gnaws at him. Adris puts her folio into Cethran’s bound book, the only place firm enough to keep it from being crushed.


    (The danger posed by the slightest actions… How am I supposed to survive! I need… someone. Cethran cannot protect me. If my indiscretion with that imp girl is any indication, soon I won’t even be able to protect myself!)


    Adris has a strange, almost burning feeling in his chest as he walks alone down the plush hallway. The hurriedness afflicting his thoughts returns. Adris removes the blue coat, throwing it into a corner as he readies to meet his prey.


    More concerning than the imp are the strange erotic inclinations that came upon him during the act. Though he enjoys sex immensely, to throw himself upon a monster with enthusiasm is bad enough; but, Adris also felt emotions naturally flow out that he wasn’t aware his heart was stewing in.


    He pushes down those worries, along with the emotions that rose up while abusing the imp girl.


    All that remains is a growing obsession with his plan.





    If the Forbidding Quarters were inviting, then the Guest Tombs are smothering.


    The first area past the bridge shows the opulence laid out for “guests” of the Alchemaster. The long lounge has fine furniture, cushioned and covered with fluffy furs, suggesting one could wait forever upon them. Books on shelves and bottles of unknown liquor complete the scene, leaving Adris unwilling to accept that this comfortable place of repose is the same demonic mansion he’s almost been lost to several times now.


    Two brass-plated fireplaces roar with blue flame in this gallery hall, the air absent the usual chill. Great artworks, of complex scenes of life in alien towns, have soft chairs arrayed before them, suggesting that longer inspection is welcome.


    Adris is assailed by tiredness.


    (There’s nothing ordinary about this. Each area is striking at something different! And it’s not a creeping feeling upon the mind that seeks to control you, but on your very soul. The cross isn’t… defending against this!)


    Brief anger wells up as he realizes a repeating pattern, that all areas of the mansion aim at a different human vice. The Works targeted envy and paranoia, and now base greed has given way to sloth, Adris’ will to continue starting to vanish.


    Chancing danger, he rushes ahead, his heavy footsteps echoing through this empty gallery.


    (It’s not like I’m far! Cethran’s destination is ahead. A place I’m guaranteed to meet them if they wander through the Guest Tombs on their quest further into the mansion!)


    Because they seemed to have their own designs, if they remain in the Castillo for this long, shouldn’t it be assumed they’re looking for something specific? Was it not the Forbidding Quarters that they were trying to reach?


    (They won’t leave until they find it, so I have to find them, first!)


    Better to meet them with a clear mind than to risk losing his concentration.





    Through the exit of the lounge, her directions indicate a turn ahead. Thoughts of the four slayers are at the forefront of Adris’ mind, their meager physical details at the ready should he run into them.


    Around the turn, Adris comes to a wide, long wall with heavy drapes on the left side, sewn into the pattern of great white wings, affixed with golden rivets. The wall is overly ornate for a mere passage, the plaster giving way to intricate stonework under the wings.


    Clinging to the area is a subtle heaviness in the air that flows from those wings.


    (This foreboding feeling… it feels different from the normal Castillo… and aura…?)


    Adris begins to move through this passage, but wobbles a third of the way down it, falling to his knee with sudden vertigo. The air around him grows unbearably heavy, as his balance vanishes with a sudden change in perceived gravity and orientation.


    An impossible chill encroaches on him. Clutching his face with his free hand, Adris looks ahead with bleary sight as his white breath fills the air.





    A strange, black, stork-like bird wearing a blue and gold tie is standing near the end of the hall. Its reddish-gold, forward beak cocks slightly, before opening.


    A baleful, red-veined eye stares at Adris with absolute attention.





    Something far deeper than its solitary gaze is focused on Adris. A feeling of absolute malevolence fills the hallway, exuding from the very walls and ceiling more so than emitting from the stork.


    A horribly capricious sentience washes over, so potent that Adris can feel its intent without it needing to be present, as though his own soul buckles under its thoughts.


    The impression that stands out most is that the omnipresent entity peering at him from all directions seems…





    Surprised.


    Adris clutches himself in the presence of this alien mind, knowing without explanation needed what this thing is. Uncharacteristically paralyzed by total fear of what this indirect, one-on-one meeting entails, Adris wonders if he now has a stone copy.


    (I’m no longer a hidden mouse.)





    Before Adris can act, the bird moves its legs, crossing them and bending low while its wings make a sweeping motion.


    The demonic stork performs an elegant curtsy.


    And then its body warps, spiraling up into the air like a cloth being wrung, vanishing into an explosion of black feathers.





    Adris steps forward, with a thought to run, but a groaning sound from above freezes him again, his mouth wide as he looks.





    The ceiling divides, the stonework pulling away like moving parts to allow a great figure to descend. The giant beast is gently placed upon the stone floor by a shining, feminine hand made of pure gold, larger than even the monster.


    The horned behemoth is still as the hand releases it, the shining appendage pulling back slowly into the ceiling. The stone spills back to fill the void it leaves, before settling with nary a piece out of place.


    Shaking its head briskly and causing its long ears to flop about, the four legged beast rises in the large passageway, its pink eyes locking onto Adris.


    (This isn’t fair.)





    A stupid thought is all Adris can manage as he inspects his oncoming doom.


    The clanking sound from its body is distracting, a barbaric coat of ravaged shields and pieces of armor bound by golden chains laced about it. Its powerful head circles briefly as it stretches, its proud, black, multi-pronged antlers menacing him.


    A long, two-handed axe is painfully lodged in its neck at the side.





    The brown-furred creature gets ready to leap, its long haunches tensing with powerful muscles. It opens its mouth, incredibly sharp teeth protruding, as a heavy mist of its warm breath briefly clouds before it.


    (No, but rabbits don’t eat meat.)





    A giant, horned rabbit stands before him.


    Far from fat like the rabbits Adris ate on Xin, it instead looks rather predatory and gaunt, its anger joining with its leanness to give it an apex hunter’s semblance. The creature’s hairs hackle as it readies to leap.





    The exultation of battle fills the air with cascading whispers from the reaches of the room, the air rushing about as Adris feels the same tension with the imps.


    The feeling here, however, absolutely dwarfs the previous challenge.





    Adris charges.


    No thoughts exist in his mind other than grasping survival, even if it means risking immediate death.


    The creature accepts his challenge, air going into its lungs before being expelled.





    “AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”





    Adris has heard rabbits squeaking as he ended their lives, but never once heard one scream like a cannibal thirsting for flesh.


    The great creature springs forward like a boulder careening off the bottom of a rock slide, leveling its horns at Adris as it flies.





    “… [Brainfry!]”


    Adris screams out an embarrassing word while diving straight at the creature’s head, barely weaving between the antlers and leaping in. The loping, behemothian rabbit tries to correct for Adris’ sudden movement, opening its toothy mouth to welcome him inside.





    The cross slams into the rabbit’s nose, its wide jaws ready to eat him slackening, before the rabbit’s body slams into Adris.


    A confusing crash occurs, with the cross’ shattering sound mixing with Adris’ impact on the immediately stunned creature’s face. Adris can hear something in his body crack followed by extreme pain, as he is deflected from the rabbit. Spinning out and slamming into the ground, he skids along it as he barely avoids being stepped on.


    The monumental creature continues forward, staggering and shaking as it moves, before slowing down to a stop and shivering where it stands. Trying to turn around, it can’t find the footing to do so.





    The creature does not fall.

    Only stunned, it quickly starts to shake it off.





    (Run. Run… Have to…)


    Adris circulates his aura, sluggish and non-responsive as it is, to intercept the pain coming from his broken ribs. Getting to his feet, Adris runs unsteadily down the hall that the rabbit was blocking.

    His pace is slower than normal, his body feeling like he exited a house through a solid wall. Breathing is almost impossible.


    Under the watch of the Castillo’s poisonous gaze, Adris stumbles from the scene.


    Rounding the corner, Adris is moving at his fastest clip. Down a hall with pillars filling it, Adris breathes painfully as his footsteps echo. The pain and fear narrows his view, the room a blur as he runs.


    Behind him, he can hear a “whomp” sound, as a four-footed trot grows closer. With tears in his eyes, Adris aims his body toward the two close pillars ahead, diving through the space between them as he twists his body in mid-air.


    A crash resounds as Adris rolls on the floor, wincing as he rises to continue running. Looking behind him out of curiosity, Adris is wide-eyed at the killer rabbit’s sharp horns lodged in the stone, pieces of the pillars sheared off by the impact and tumbling after Adris.


    The rabbit’s eyes burn with absolute hatred.


    (How the fuck do I beat this thing!?)






    Adris is tearing down hallways, choosing random passages to try to shake off the creature. His mind is racing, but he has no solution.

    The rabbit is simply too fast and agile to lose. While some of the passages aren’t made for the creature to easily traverse, it squeezes through while tearing away obstacles.


    A metallic lurching sound comes from the floor, as Adris’ foot sinks into a falling depression.


    (Annoying!)


    Adris slides along the floor as a whip of fire comes from a wall, attempting to bisect him.


    Instead of hitting him, the whip impacts on the rabbit’s head, a slapping sound as the creature screams in pain, its head only feet away from catching up to the running boy.

    Whips of fire ahead blaze out, with Adris trying not to pass out as he acrobatically moves through the flailing death all around him.


    The broken ribs deprive him of oxygen from one of his lungs, and Adris is beginning to pale and tire. Diving past the last whip, Adris rests for a moment at the end of this trapped hall.


    He looks behind him to see if his enemy will pursue.





    “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”





    The rabbit is goring the walls with its horns while screaming, the flaming lashes whipping against its black antlers. Its violent thrashing is destroying the trap system entirely, methodically working its way down as it lays its outrage upon the mansion it supposedly guards, leaving the hallway in shambles as it progresses.


    Adris takes off, not as fast now, but still hoping to increase the distance. The hall’s path leads up a stairway, a difficult progression for the wounded boy.


    Huffing with pain, he nears the top, only to feel something above him as the wind stirs.


    A great heaviness throws him against the ground as the floor shakes.


    Slightly burning and singed brown fur releases him, as the creature lifts its body back up. Adris instinctively rolls his body over to get his face upright, ready to defend himself.

    An angry, pink eye regards him from the side, the creature’s head tilted. A loud, groaning noise sounds from its throat, its head leaned right over Adris’ body.


    Its mouth opens slightly as it drools.


    (I have nothing.)


    Adris has no weapon to use. He looks the beast over as he lies under it. The only weapon nearby is…





    Lodged into the creature.





    Adris shoots his hand out with lightning speed, his body following with it. Grabbing onto the axe, Adris pulls himself up into the creature, which screams in shock at the sudden assault while lifting up on its legs.


    (I can’t use it, but I sure as hell can tear it through you!)


    Grabbing onto it with his hand and putting his feet against the monster, Adris flexes with all of his strength, resisting the urge to cry out as he feels something in his chest pop again. The adrenaline and anger Adris feels towards his misfortune carries him through his gambit.


    The axe tears through more flesh as Adris pulls it towards the floor, flying out with a great splash of gold issuing forth, the weapon clanging down the steps when released. The axe had been deeply lodged straight into the creature’s patchwork armor at its neck, having cleaved through chain to bite.

    Adris falls with the axe, landing roughly on the ground.


    (If I don’t intend to wield it myself, I can still pull it out? How stupid are your rules, you hunk of silver?!)


    Adris giggles a bit, the fear tipping him over into mania. The creature begins to thrash above him, sliding down the stairs after losing its balance.





    He climbs the steps on four limbs as fast as he can, feeling with his hands the slick gout of gold left flowing down the stairs.


    (I’m going to live!)


    Adris pants as he stands, making it to a room constructed in a circle, two chairs in the center around a table with a board on it, strange pieces set upon it. Adris moves around it, coming to the opening in the wall ahead to…


    Grinding to a halt, his full run stopping as he prevents himself from being thrown off the edge.


    Below him is a quick death.





    “Hahahaha!”


    The room he stands in is an overlook, the space ahead open as he peers out into the chasm.

    This area is some central courtyard, the multitudes of floors with overseeing balconies surrounding a garden area below with a pavilion set up, pillars creating an area for performance.

    The whole floor is overgrown with vicious vines and flowers, entombed by nature for all eternity, with the roof missing as the sky overhead is Adris’ first sight of the world outside.

    A layer of mist creeps through the area.


    The distance down is, paradoxically, over a fifty feet, even though this area of the mansion is supposed to be the ground floor.


    Adris is doomed by the mansion’s layout. There’s no way that he can hope to climb down the stonework below, as sheer as it is.


    (Think. You can do this.)


    Some clutch effort. Something unexpected. This isn’t the first time Adris has been close to death.


    Adris runs back to the entrance of the small room. Big enough for the monster to enter, he cannot hope to hole up in it.


    Peering down the stairs, he sees the rabbit rousing, its head whipping around in pain as it tries to find the source of its consternation.


    An idea comes to mind, something that relies on a tool he knows well. Adris’ goes to his left arm with his bruised hand, checking the contraption strapped on. Made of laminated wood and bronze tubes, Adris makes sure the spun crystalline thread is still wrapped onto his skin.


    (If I can’t defeat you, I’ll invite you to what can… As long as this damned thing still works!)


    Forcing his aura to move, he goes through the mental process of aligning with the tool.


    When nothing happens, Adris blinks, before remembering the way Cethran had relayed the apparent disconnect between aura and “magic.”


    You imagine the result, but not how you arrive at it? Isn’t the process necessary for the effect?”


    Adris imagines the process itself and includes the entire scene, performing a dramatic sweep. Sending the feeling of the performance through to the device with the aura he can muster, he aims his arm at the ground. The name of the device is non-specific, so he invents one to share.


    Adris remembers the misted forests of…





    “[Obscuring Sonjil!]”


    A great wall of fog explodes into the room, swirling out from his arm as it clings to the floor and walls while centering on Adris’s location.

    In accordance with the device’s workings, the cloud doesn’t depart the area, becoming a lingering cover that fills the space before the excess spills over, gravity pulling it down to roil about the stairs.





    The device consumed a bit of Adris’ almost depleted aura, but not as much as he expected. Adris stands within the cloud, the fog leaving only him visible, standing at the landing. The room now appears to be a gateway into the unknown in the same manner as the Expanse he’d originally been cast into.


    The rabbit is looking up at him, suddenly alert at this display of power.


    (No, you can’t be alert. That just won’t do. Get angry.)


    Adris grins and adopts a cocky posture, hiding the pain, leering down at the enemy lurking at the bottom of the stairs.





    “… Not much to look at, are you? Under all the armor, you still bleed like an inferior creature, cowering beneath me.”


    Openly taunting it, Adris narrows his eyes while asserting dominance.





    The creature tenses. Its paws rake the floor as it looks up at him, razor-sharp claws gouging into solid stone.


    Its eyes are horridly wide and inflamed.





    (Oh, you can understand me.)


    The ability to talk to intelligent creatures is one of the cross’ gifts. This apparently sentient monster is enraged by his accusation.





    It creeps towards him.


    (Faster!)





    “You miserable vermin. I’ve killed and eaten hundreds of your kind.” Adris points his cross at the beast, causing it to stop momentarily. It is wary of the tool, even as it shakes in fury at his words.


    Adris smirks, the mist caressing him as he delights in his taunting.


    “Of all the creatures in this place…”


    (Especially if it’s a lie, it’s easy to say.)





    “You have to be the most pathetic, by far. You’re nothing.


    Just dinner and a new pelt.”





    The rabbit’s body vibrates, its hairs going stiff. A rasping breath can be heard as it clings to the stairs.





    Not immediately killing Adris, but instead cornering him on the steps so it could loom over him and make him feel weak, this rabbit was sloppy.


    Toying with him and wanting to see the boy’s fear, Adris took advantage of its mistake and wounded it, a reversal which attacked its sense of authority.





    Climbing at full speed without a care for danger, the rabbit charges him to regain its sense of supremacy.





    I’LL HOLLOW OUT YOUR ASS AND WEAR YOU AS A SLEEVE, YOU MONKEY!





    The rabbit yells as it rampages upward with all the clarity of a mad bull. Its saliva slathers onto the floor.


    Adris almost falls down, the intelligible promise to rape him beyond his predictions, but instead disappears into the mist behind him.


    (Fuck!)


    The giant is faster than Adris thought possible, its heightened speed pulling itself over the landing with its front paws just as Adris runs past the table and chairs.

    Hearing the pieces break as they’re bulldozed, splinters flying from the ornate wood, Adris dives forward.


    Sliding along the slick stone, he whips his body around as he comes to the end of the overlook, falling off the edge slowly as he hangs on for his life.





    AH.


    The rabbit’s confused voice comes as it nears the edge, suddenly able to see beyond into the garden below instead of another passage.


    It tries to stop, its paws scratching against the stone, but its forward momentum to claim Adris’ life ensures its doom.





    Plunging over the open edge, the behemoth rabbit hurdles forward, its ears flopping about as it tumbles in a falling arc.


    It screams just before impacting the pillars of the pavilion nearest to the overlook, rolling off the pillar and dropping into it.





    Adris hangs onto the edge unsteadily, a pleasant crunching sound coming to his ears. Below him…


    The rabbit writhes, still alive. But the reason for its writhing isn’t the pain of impact, but rather what it landed in.





    The forest of vines and flowers comes to life, leviathan plant appendages rising from the carpeted, misted ground to wrap around the intruder.


    Singing comes to the garden as the sound of a choir issues from the flowers, benevolent and divine.

    The rabbit thrashes as it gores and bites its attackers. It even breathes some sort of cloud upon the vines, a blackness which causes them to shrivel and burst, only for more to join in.

    With the rabbit falling into the heart of the assembled mass, it has no hope of escape. Its movement through the covered area is impeded by the writhing appendages. No matter how it jumps around, it’s followed.


    Adris climbs up while using the cross as a hook, pulling himself over despite the pain and laying on his side, watching the fight unfold.


    The two titanic forces struggle for a couple of minutes, the rabbit’s screams and breaths met with implacable vines. As the singing intensifies and the damage to the creature increases, the rabbit goes torpid and twitches on the ground.





    In time with the choir, the appendages begin striking and ripping the subdued creature.


    I’LL END YOU, YOU BRAAAAAAAT…!”


    The monster manages one last scream before vines clamp its mouth.





    The fight finishes with the rabbit being beaten and constricted into a fine pulp, golden particles spewing about. The supine monster becomes ensnared in gold replacing its flesh, its gilded form cracking and shattering into fragments that are absorbed into the grounds of the Castillo.





    The singing stops when the creature disappears, as the garden slowly returns to its slumber.





    Moaning in pain, Adris’ chest is in a bad state as he lays on the floor.


    With broken ribs and an exhausted body, “victory” seems like the wrong word to use. But the feeling of climax in the air endures.


    (What now?)


    He closes his eyes to stabilize his body, but his aura isn’t working.


    Instead, whispers in the distance grow. The air is thick as the room weighs upon his body. Getting up slowly, he rises to his knee in the evaporating fog, then freezes before standing.





    The table and chairs are returned, reformed completely; however, in place of the original board on the table, a tarnished silver platter lays with a pair of stylized, furred-leather boots resting atop it, flanked by a vial of liquid and a familiar orange stone.


    Adris looks around, but sees not even a black stork.





    On guard as he creeps towards them, Adris inspects them carefully. Though the boots and the vials seem unfamiliar, the orange stone with winking stardust floating within it is the same design and color as what the feline butler put against the body of her injured comrade.


    Were the Castillo solely a place of betrayal and deceit, would anyone enter it? Though the Recompense for victory might vex you at times, wouldn’t it have to be safe enough to successfully tempt outsiders?


    Seating himself in a chair with the pain in his chest staggering, Adris entrusts himself to Cethran’s advice one more time, slapping his body with the stone as the butler did.


    It shatters into sparkling pieces and dust, the remnants hanging in the air briefly while shining. The mass of floating orange then twirls to weave around his body, a feeling of penetrating cold on his skin as it enters him with nothing left outside.


    (She seemed to be fine after… AH.)


    His heart races as his body turns into a furnace, a few seconds becoming a minute or more as he is paralyzed in the chair. As he sweats, he can feel his body moving inside. The flesh shifts, both in his chest and over his body where he’d been bruised.


    There is a popping sound from his chest, causing Adris to slam his arms and head on the table to resist falling out of the chair from the pain. The sharp pain disappears, though, as the flashing heat subsides.


    Tentatively feeling the location of his wound, Adris encounters lingering soreness sufficient to make him wheeze. His hand and arms, scuffed from falling and tumbling, now show only fading bruises.


    The damage isn’t completely mended, only set and treated, aged instantly with the effect of long-term healing. The second problem now is a sense of overwhelming tiredness, as if he’s wretched for a long time after drinking alcohol.


    The healing drained his body as a whole.


    He now considers the white-furred boots. They seem to be about his size.


    (Too dangerous to try on now.)


    Though he’d used the stone because he recognized the effect, he refuses to put on the boots or test the vial without safety in reach. Lacing the boots to hang from his pack, Adris considers the outcome of the battle.


    (The Castillo gives out rewards this unsubtly after trying to murder you? How can slayers put up with being toyed with like this?)


    Plundering the possessions of others after a battle is understandable, but this is more like a regent gifting the last fighter standing in an arena with a reward. It’s an infuriating outcome, almost as if it’s mocking his life and death struggle.

    Especially when it is capable of dropping death before him, potentially at any time. A constantly reforming mansion is also apparently a self-trapping one, in some cases.


    Even now, the feeling of being monitored hasn’t passed. A hidden eye is focused on him, a mix of mirth, annoyance, and curiosity seeping into Adris’ bones.


    (If it can destroy you quickly, then why doesn’t it? It doesn’t make sense to… test and reward those who enter, unless that is its goal. But what is the purpose of…?)


    “Winning” over the giant rabbit has exhausted him and sapped his willpower. Every contest thus far has nearly ended with his death, or worse.


    (Still, in comparison to running from regents and bounties in Xin, the variety of all of this is…)


    Adris’ eyes are lidded as he leans on the table, thinking of this new place called Zennia.


    (… somehow refreshing? My life was almost over, but it’s not… the first… time…)


    The vial he holds in his hand twirls as he slowly spins it while watching, until it stops moving entirely.


    Though the world is dangerous, at least his ability to overcome the odds under duress hasn’t been lost, a thought that makes Adris happy…


    Characters:

    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)

    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] - {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}

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

    [Unknown Communication Assistance] - {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}

    [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'?"



    Disposition: Resilient / Adaptable / Sinner
    Alignment: Chaotic

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



    Statistics:

    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!"


    Beauty:

    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'?”

    ---

    "How do you feel, being so attractive that even rabbits desire you?"



    Description:

    “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.”

    ---

    "Even without aura or assistance, Adris is an accomplished tumbler. His expertise lies in being quick and fast. This might be the only effective weapon he has: running."



    Commentary:

    "Bullying someone normally leads to others deciding to bully you. With the Castillo's eyes now upon you, how will you survive?"

    Corner of Meeting and Sorrow - "A place in the Castillo where you may run into anything. Potentially a TPK."



    Orange Stone of Healing - "An unknown alchemical item, its apparent effects are to leech the body's vitality in order to restore wounds."



    Grade - "When speaking of inherent attributes and other such things, a grade is an entire gap between tiers of competence. If E is considered normal, then everything above and below..."
     
  20. nonothing

    nonothing Member

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    Chapter 19: Unfated Meeting

    As Cethran speaks, all of the knowledge of the world is made clear by her questions. Adris watches her sweep her arms grandly, this unpaid lecturer putting on the finest of performances. With all of the mysteries of existence laid bare by her words, a bright smile on her aged face begs the heavens to dare deny her conclusions.


    It is a wonderful presentation, though Adris can understand none of the words. To him, they are only indecipherable whispers which sound like they come from within his skull. To the multitude of unseen voices which respond all around her, though, her questions give sustenance to their existences.


    As she continues to move with an animated and unusual passion, the walls begin to run down to the floor like wet paint. From the ceiling overhead, this endless void which towers over Adris, black drippings fall like a tar rain, beginning to fill the chapel as the writhing masses pool unto themselves in ever-thickening layers.


    The headless man’s statue falls, the mass too warped and squirming to remain attached to the wall. Adris sees beyond into its now open base to discover…




    “Ah, Elf! Kol found!”


    A deep, rich voice shatters the vision of the darkening chapel.


    “Trail here! Smell strong!”


    Footsteps hurriedly ascend the stairway, metal tinkling and clanking with the climb. Rousing, Adris moves with a start, danger throwing off the deep stupor that clings to him. Forehead dripping wet, he’s disturbed by his sweat soaked clothing.


    (I fell asleep.)


    For the first time since waking in the Castillo, Adris slept, confronted by a dream now quickly vanishing. His anger is hot, feeling shame at his lapse in protocol for dozing off in such an exposed location. Already, the figure approaching has him cornered, with no possible avenue of escape except down the stairs it’s arriving from.


    (I see, I’m left with “conversation”, then.)


    Adris remains in his chair, automatically adjusting his posture and clothing to present the best impression. He wipes his face with a piece of cloth and straightens his hair.


    (Let’s see who troubles me now, after a bloodthirsty rabbit was my last guest.)


    Tramping up the stairs, a short, armored warrior crests the top and arrives on the landing.


    [​IMG]


    Adris begins his assessment.


    Its rust-red hauberk jangles as it moves, stopping suddenly to turn after noticing him, its heavily dented sallet and bevor creaking as it locks onto him.

    Neither the ripped, black jacket buttoned over armor and gambeson nor the poorly maintained pauldrons, bracers, or shinguards bear heraldry.


    (You seem quite impoverished for the quality of your armor; but, any armor exceeds my current protection and methods of harming you, making you a difficult target for anything but the cross...)


    Curiously bestial, but still mostly human-like, feet and hands are left unprotected, with soft white fur showing. The dark silver, swishing reptilian tail has its own short coat running up from the end, though the tail stiffens after Adris is noticed. The skin that he can see appears a tanned white, with the creature an obvious mix of human and beast.


    (Like the wolfman in the Expanse, perhaps? But you're a good bit shorter and not as... offensive to look at. Yet without seeing your face, I can't...)


    Pink eyes stare at him menacingly, reflecting the reddish light leaking into the room from the overlook. The power in those eyes matches the hands which tighten around its familiar, two-handed long axe as it's readied.


    (That axe was pretty helpful, you have my thanks. But…)


    Adris recalls details which push away all that remains of his drowsy state.


    (Don’t you look familiar?)


    The prickled fighter takes a long minute examining the unknown Adris at the end of this long climb. The boy’s heart beats much faster with recognition of the warrior, thoughts of his chosen persona coming rapidly to his mind.


    (My prey is here.)


    As limited as they currently are, he adopts the mannerisms, words, and motivations of his grandest role; but, when he begins to move his hand to greet the warrior, the one named “Kol” offers no such opportunity.





    Blood and steel!”


    Hefting its axe up high, “Kol” charges. The crude, toothy white snarl drawn on its bevor becomes fiercer as it closes.





    The uttered oath is terribly loud, matched by the resounding clanking of the charging creature.


    Whispers reach out from all around him...


    (I don't want to fight!)


    Adris rejects this sense of battle, the whispers dying in the air; instead, he...





    ... leaps from the chair with an acrobatic flourish to easily avoid the axe slamming into it. Landing to the side, Adris avoids pieces of the floor which fly up with dust to cloud the area, as he retreats to the overlook to regroup.


    The axe’s head has a nearly invisible shimmer surrounding it, which disappears after striking.


    (Stop, wait, at least listen!)


    Thoughts well up, but Adris is unable to voice them. The persona he must develop won’t permit it. He can be neither surprised nor inconvenienced by even a lethal ambush.


    “Oh, move like Puddle. 'Annoying'.”


    A disappointed comment comes from the faceless warrior, directed at his manner of escape.


    (I’ll give it to you, you have the right idea of how to act when meeting dangerous people. Though, your exuberance is like…)





    A girl with shining black hair, who always let her sword speak first.





    At this moment, unease assaults him, worsened when the short person effortlessly pulls its axe from the deep trench it is embedded in. His only solace is that the attack was terribly sloppy and the creature itself is slower than him, even while charging.


    (I can beat this thing one on one, as long as it has no extending strikes...)





    “Kol! Who are you fighting!” A sweet but also squeaky and troubled voice calls out from down the stairs. A sliding sound is climbing.


    (At least three more, please.)


    Adris’ can barely contain his glee, for the axe lodged in the creature had belonged to the group he was searching for.


    Moving to take up position between Adris and the stairs, the first assailant waits for its party to form up with it. The wait is short, as a cloaked, dark lurker crests the stairs, a white mask peering from beneath a steepled hat and cowl. Hanging from this new addition is a smaller girl behind her neck.





    Swiftly moving forward with a practiced advance, the…


    [​IMG]


    (Definitely a girl, with breasts like those.)


    … young lady wearing a short black cloak over a brass-buttoned, blue fencing doublet points a flame-bladed shortsword at Adris. Dropping the smaller girl to the ground, she then creeps to the side of the armored warrior on long, shapely legs protected by chausses. Her slightly torn, purple-paneled short skirt allows her to move with ease, a feature found with all of her clothing.

    Leaning forward as if preparing to leap at him, her shoeless feet match with her hands. Instead of clothing, a tight, night-dark mesh over her skin muffles all of her movements.

    The clothing she wears is protective enough for a minor scuffle, but is absent any armor necessary for a fierce melee. Any bladed strike made on her would definitely deliver immense harm, unless the mesh is special.


    (Save for the hat, any Last Word of the Emperor would wear similar clothing and disguise. Less a warrior, she's more like a prowling murderer. I've never fought one of those fanatics and I never will.)


    A dark smile is expertly painted on her eyeless white mask, though it’s her hanging breasts which draw Adris’ attention. Her pleasing curves and no-nonsense, yet still appealing, style tickle his nostalgia for Xin.


    (This girl has a proper body. Even if she's curvy, I might lose in a contest of agility with her. If I can't strike her, I can't...)


    As his eyes linger, the girl reacts with a start, before her body begins subtly emphasizing her figure with slight shifts.


    (She’s also observant and proactive!?)



    "Be on guard, for strange items be borne by one before us."


    The smaller girl dropped next to her methodically rises and turns toward him, looking as if she is ripped from some Xinian fairy story.


    [​IMG]


    Standing three-feet tall, she elegantly exhibits an overly complex, lacy blue dress with a ruffled skirt. The skirt parts high at the front as her slender legs in white socks mechanically carry her forward. A trimmed short cape parts at her sternum, with two violet half-circles that open toward her swaying white cravat, refusing to meet and exemplifying the mystery of her style.


    (I don’t recognize the material, but this girl is filthy rich to wear clothing this fine. Aristocratic in garments and manner, perhaps she's the group's leader?)


    A gloved hand extending out of her frilled sleeves holds a metallic rod with a jeweled handle, the embedded emerald shining as the rod is leveled. Her body turns as she aims it, the large back ribbon tied around her waist swishing with the movement. Its airy and tiered nature perfectly encapsulates the frailty that clings to her.


    (As Cethran noted, a mystic. More focused on craft than body, she will buckle if I can nail her first… and I don't fear magic.)


    But her clothes are the least fantastical feature, for her facial features and body are too perfect, appearing crafted rather than made by chance. Pale, white skin contrasts against her pale violet theme, the vivid eyes of the same color made so much more emblematic of her as they seem to glow with an inner light.

    A golden circlet opening at the front of her temples and curving out like tiny horns barely contains her amber hair that spills over onto her shoulders.


    (Her expression is impassive, but there's a presence to her that the other two can't match. For looking human, the shortness of this girl isn't like a child's, especially not with the maturity evident. If that bunny sage's book is any indication, hers could be just as dangerous...)


    Adris shifts as his eyes onto the large tome she carries, so large this platinum-bound tome is that she must use a carrying strap to hang it from her shoulder. Even standing still, it makes her regimented appearance awkward as she leans in the direction of its weight.

    Her eyes dart from Adris’ body, to his face, and finally to the wrapped cross.


    “No Art be sensed within, merely low quality ‘enhancement’ upon garments identified.” With a bell-like tone lacking strong emotion, the girl methodically reports her results.

    “Rather, not even a hint of power be discovered, as peculiar as it be to state such a finding.”


    (Dangerously accurate! All without a tool like Lycia would need to use, unless it’s that rod. But that seems unlikely, seeing as she regards it as a weapon…?)


    The doll-like girl is marked as his number one threat, her gaze far too perceptive for his, at present, limited persona. Her ability to gauge his lack of power at a glance reminds him of his own practiced sensitivity to aura.


    Leaning down, the cloaked girl taps the shorter one on the shoulder, receiving attention before making an “o” with her fingers and pointing at Adris. She then gestures by rubbing her chin and waving her hand, before ending by flipping her sword.


    {Absolutely no power? But he definitely “exists”. Why is the idiot attacking, then?}


    Startled beyond belief, Adris intuitively understands this bizarre sign language.


    (A cross that interprets such non-specific sign language? Even if you can do it, how do you do it?)

    He wonders what else is yet to be revealed to him.


    “Not idiot! Smell big rabbit! All over him!”

    Kol finishes its exclamation after listening in on the conversation, its axe ready to swing as the tension remains high.


    (That’s not wrong, he was all over me.)


    “… no, but… just because he smells like the rasselbock (HORNED RABBIT)…”





    From behind the lithe girl in blue, a creature inexpertly sneaks forward. Looking past, Adris sees an emerald mass on the ground, slinking a bit as a girl attached to the mass attempts to stay hidden while talking.


    [​IMG]


    She gasps when she notices Adris looking at her face peeking out. The cloaked girl then shivers, quickly hopping out of the way as if bitten by something and leaving the newest addition exposed. Shaking where she stands, this timid girl’s mouth is open, revealing short, sharp fangs as she makes a strangled cry of discomfort.


    “Umm, I’m not… dangerous…!”


    Human-looking halfway up, the long tail and pointed ears demonstrate her true dissimilarity and belie that claim.


    (You’re like the Castillo’s defenders, so forgive me if I don't believe you.)


    Very airy clothing juxtaposes her efforts to hide her exposed body, with only the whitish-blue, scale-metal bodysuit she wears accomplishing this task. While it covers everything but her head and hands, she still sports green, gossamer sashes like a dancer’s wrapping over her breasts and arms. A peculiar, wild dress with ornate leather panels hanging over the cardinal directions covers where her snake body would meet with human flesh.


    (How can you wear clothing that revealing, yet pretend to be embarrassed by it? A shy exhibitionist? But that mesh armor looks deceptively strong, matching with your emerald scales looking like a natural armor.)


    An artful ponytail of moss green hair with wing-like silver ornaments swings along with the large pack she carries with one hand. Though it should weigh heavy for her, the only discomfort reflected on her cute face seems related to Adris' presence. Beautiful, crystal green eyes quiver as his gaze lingers on her slightly angular features.


    (Fair of face, is green your whole existence? Though you are… quite kissable…?)


    Thin arms raise up to block view of her blushing face, sporting conspicuous earthen-bracers made of rough, unpolished metal and gems. These bangles clash with the rest of her outfit, firing Adris' imagination.


    (Does she even have a proper weapon, or is she a magic user, too? Still, she is attractive, even if her breasts are somewhat small... The sort of girl you might want to protect...? No, what even is that thought?)


    Only a green whip with a whitish-blue, bladed tip coiled around her waist seems useful. More alarming is the emerald-scaled tail filling the floor beneath her. This snake girl “crouches” where she stands, yet when she coils in place while looking for somewhere to hide, Adris feels she could easily dwarf and constrict him if she chose to.





    Finishing his inspection, Adris formulates a plan of attack and appeal at the same time.


    (All four are present... but it's a little awkward trying to win over four women at once. I'm not suited for this sort of gathering.)


    A lifestyle of chicanery and protecting Serras provided no opportunity to approach groups of women, except with a very thorough plan.


    (Fooling women in groups is easy, but not with this kind of motivation. No, I suppose even this might be simple if I approach it correctly...)





    Unsure of what to think of their qualities, Adris at least knows their intentions. Hunting the creature that tried to hunt him, he feels confident that this “coincidental” meeting was orchestrated.


    (Possibly Cethran, but also potentially the Castillo itself. Desire is its focus. If I desired to meet them…)


    The power of the wing-walled room has united them, though it also nearly resulted in his demise. That the Castillo gave him what he was seeking, even if in a roundabout way…





    (The Castillo knows what I want. It can sense it.)





    Possessing the ability to peer into his deepest ambitions chills Adris to the bone. Even now, the passive presence of the mansion’s consciousness is watching the encounter with growing interest.


    (I can only hope that all it can see is the nature of desire, and not the plan associated with it.)


    Breathing slowly, Adris closes his eyes briefly, collecting his thoughts before committing.





    (Though you may end up not being worth it…)


    Smiling darkly, Adris stares down his targets.


    (Let us begin this charade.)





    Adris fehl Dain finally becomes [A false god].


    He throws off all doubts and commits to this path.





    Four delvers of unknown esteem and talent watch him, with only seconds having passed since all four arrived.


    As their initial words fade, the warrior Kol slides a clawed foot forward, eagerness for violence still in its atmosphere.





    (Cow and impress, allude.)


    “No, it would be untrue to say I merely smell of it.”


    Adris projects his most powerful voice, with his posture shifting to a completely relaxed stance.





    “AH! See! Strong!” Kol cheers at this admission, its voice becoming much more insistent.


    “Merely drawn into bravado be you, Kol. Stand down, lest deceived you may be.” The doll-like girl pats the armored bruiser's side.

    “Believe not those words spoken without proof.”


    As the two talk and the snake girl quivers, Adris watches the fourth from the corner of his eyes. The girl with the blade creeps slowly and unassumingly, beginning to circle him as she leaves the pack.

    She stops suddenly, aware of his gaze focused on her.


    (Okay, you’re the second most dangerous.)


    Already trying to set up a pincer, this quiet girl is obviously clever, performing an action Adris would undertake himself given the distractions available.





    (Present an air of mystery and sophistication. Danger without confidence and poise is disgusting to women.)


    “Proof? Before that, aren’t you four forgetting etiquette?” Adris reproaches their way of greeting him, earning slightly raised eyebrows from the short girl, while the dancing snake looks ashamed.


    “‘Etiquette?’ Kol, speak challenge. Then, fight.” The axe-mad creature tilts its head as it speaks, before looking down at the amber-haired midget for clarification.

    “Wrong?”


    (You don’t even know my name!)


    Nobody in this Castillo seems interested in names. The hair demon had given him a number, while Lycia had assigned him a title. Only Cethran had bothered asking.


    (Even then, she was fine with a false name without much further concern… more interested in my hopes and dreams than the persona. Even the imp could only call me “master.” Why do none of the creatures of this world care about details?)





    “I see that manners are lacking… in this world.” Adris pauses, letting the severity of the statement sink in as he crosses his arms.


    The doll girl blinks, almost as if the action of blinking is perfunctory, while nobody else seems to understand his implication.





    (From innuendo to threat, let's advance. Present the hidden power which fills me...)

    Adris must suggest danger without inviting violence, a difficult task with a charged atmosphere.


    “Ho, how strange to consider. You four do have the immense honor of being the first to be greeted by me, yet so many others have already fallen before my influence...”


    Rubbing his chin while watching the effect of the words, Adris is pleased when everyone becomes more threatened. While the rest ready at this renewed tension, the snake girl shivers more desperately.





    (Though it seems... insane, only someone who is larger than life will linger in their thoughts. In order to accomplish my goal, I must replace their definition of "mystery" in their minds. Even if it causes confusion and distrust, I must appear to be a potential terror from beyond their possible understanding...)


    Adris flings his cape aside as he holds his cross before him, adopting the pose he’d practiced in the halls before meeting Rantil.


    (Only when I am in the guise of the limitless unknown will all of the incongruities seem explainable and excusable by my origin!)


    The wind blows softly, his hair loosely lifting with it. The lighting from behind him, a pale, reddish twilight from outside, produces the strongest effect.

    Amusingly, Adris thinks of Cethran when he considers his act.





    “Know my name, children of Zennia, for I am a false god without peer: Adris fehl Dain, the Star of Ruin, cast down from the sky upon this dying world.”





    Said with as much grace and depth as he can muster, he has even adjusted his voice to be more adult, a feat quite difficult for his body’s current age.





    One who dwells in vanity has arrived from beyond this world, a harbinger of true power and insight for those who seek it… An ill fate shall belong to those who seek to deny the world beyond...”





    Silence meets his final pronouncement, cross still held before him, until…





    “Un, very cool! Nice!”


    His armored foe barks happily while whipping its tail, ruining his self-respect in an instant.


    “Sound strong! Beat you, great payout! ‘Lucky day’!”


    The green girl’s fear vanishes in an instant, instead becoming a deep awe and reverence. Her body darts around, letting her eyes shine at Adris from multiple angles as she inspects him, all while smiling gaily and chatting to herself quietly.


    Lowering her sword a bit, the cloaked girl seems desperately uncertain at this introduction, still ready to attack but also losing all motivation to do so. Moments later, she cringes a bit before finally relaxing with a rolling shrug. Even as she seems to dismiss his imposing speech, her eyeless gaze is focused on his face.


    The small girl leaves her sparking rod pointed at him, but loses her battle posture, too. Her narrowing eyes seem very unimpressed, as she purses her red lips in dissatisfaction.





    (All in all, a highly imperfect outcome. Two impressed, two unimpressed. The introduction is over, no matter the effect... Now comes the development of this inculcated idea.)





    “… Met the creature, then?” The doll-like girl finds her voice after some difficulty, moving swiftly into Adris' next plan.


    (Oh, good. Our uniting factor. I will happily share that thing's saddest day!)





    “If you ask what became of the… ‘rasselbock’, then I must say that it… failed to greet me properly and answered for its slight.”

    A malevolent, yet happy, smile comes to Adris' face, as inwardly and outwardly glad as he is to take credit for its demise.





    “Destruction of it claimed by you, be this the nature of one’s words?”


    “Yes, I had a hand in its downfall.” Adris refrains from laughing at his own in-joke.


    Lazily pointing to the shoes hanging from his sack, Adris offers proof.





    Walking up to the table, the girl in the blue dress picks up the shoes and inspects them. Holding up a crystal she pulls from her dress, she compares the two, the crystal glowing white a bit. She blinks once, nodding her head before speaking.


    “Relationship be true as spoken, exceeding all predictions. Recompense confirmed, for such boots found bear definite reaction to a target once sought.”

    Turning to the rest of her party, the emotionless inquisitor voices her verdict.





    “No completion possible, lacking the presence of this one before us.”


    The armored warrior grunts, then looks to the cloaked girl and voices a low growl.


    The cloaked girl makes an “ok” hand gesture to Kol, before using her hand to indicate winding to the snake girl.


    {Get him, tie him, roll him out.}


    “Ah? O-ok?” Setting the pack down, the snake girl hurriedly searches for something within.





    The sudden unity of this group makes Adris pale.


    (Quite an intelligent decision! But also inglorious... and desperately rushing our conversation!)





    “You feel comfortable seeking to bind a being such as I?”





    The snake girl nearly falls to the ground in shock at the sudden change in tone: a deepening, menacing voice carrying great self-importance.


    “Uhn, right, beat! Fight!” Kol stomps its foot once, the impact louder than Adris would expect. “Strong enough, beat rabbit, prove stronger!”


    A voice of something like respect comes from the armored… girl? The voice of the girl is low, but Adris feels confident at her gender. Rather than disinterest like the other two, she is ready to “honor” him with a proper thrashing.


    (Fear and respect are both proof of being impressed… what about you two? Can this conversation advance our relationship a little more...?)


    Snorting, Adris dismisses the renewed threat.


    “Stay such a meaningless action. The world outside of this… mansion, such a place holds interest to me. With you four being the first to be met by me, given the chance to share in my company…”


    Letting the cross drop, Adris visibly relaxes. He shamelessly "borrows" words from a particularly impressive butler.





    “… why show hostility, when we could simply greet as fellow travelers?”





    Tilting her head, the short girl’s bell-like voice raises the obvious.


    “… One found before this assembly being suspicious beyond words... Would this not be sufficient reason?”





    (Can’t fault that! You’re way too reasonable. She's not going to be fooled easily.)


    “… eh, but… if he wants to come along, then why tie him up?” The green-haired girl speaks up as she moves closer to Adris.

    Her eyes are still filled with something like wonder as she looks at him, a carefree smile on her face that lasts until his gaze meets hers, whereupon she begins to lightly shiver again.


    “Unwise and foolish, be this not the usual description of a newt’s nature?” The violet-eyed, bossy girl marches up to the snake, leering up as she continues.

    “Do lizard loins function in place of lizard brain, believing a man no danger simply upon meeting? Of amorous impetuses or rational impulses, which be more prevalent in you?”


    Gasping, the snake girl’s response is stuck in her throat as she stars at Adris. Now completely red-faced, she shakes her arms as she vents at the midget.


    “U-unlike you, I’m simply not afraid of him! If he does anything, um, I can just…!” She pauses, looking at her long tail, before flexing it with a whipping motion while looking smug.


    “Wrap him up~!”


    The small girl suddenly looks at the snake with moderate pity.





    “Terribly lonely a snake’s body be, then? How disconcerting, yet understandable.”


    “Why is this about my body!?” The snake girl hisses, tears finally welling in her eyes.





    “What, why no fight?” The armored girl sounds disappointed, looking to converse with Adris.


    Her sharp, pink eyes are locked onto him, the boy immediately adjusting his stance to go toe to toe with her.


    “Want fight, right, strong human? Solve everything, real fast.”


    (A simple, yet accurate, outlook on life.)


    Serras would be proud of this walking contraption of scrap steel.

    Without noticing her rapid approach, Adris sees a curled hat before him, the girl now standing in as a guardian.


    The cloaked girl points to her own short sword, then to her mask where eyes would be before tapping her head, finally shaking her finger while twirling her sword with two fingers up.


    {Fight? With what? Are you blind and retarded? No, sorry~, super obvious: you're both.}


    Displaying prodigious strength by leveling her long axe with one hand at the dismissive gestures, a feisty growl is the response.

    “Hah? Kol, not dumb! If say strong, then see strong! Maybe Puddle, jealous, him not coward, like Puddle!?”


    (Between bravery and prudence, I have a personal preference.)


    Adris is silent as he watches, receiving misinformed compliments from the girl that wants to end his life, while the one that thinks he’s helpless tries to intervene to save it.

    With the snake girl and the midget still uselessly bickering, only the cloaked girl is left with a cool head.


    “Maybe fool sneaky Puddle, not Kol! Smell rabbit, human standing, have treasure, human defeat!” Growling as she approaches, “Now, Kol defeat rabbit defeater! Win by two!”


    A subtle sneak attack meets her advance: a rock flies directly for her face.


    Interposing a slow hand as if predicting the strike, Kol deflects it while lowering her face, only for a second rock to ricochet from the floor to strike her between the eyes after slipping into her helm.


    The rock rolls around in the steel bevor, while the girl begins to buck up and strangle her axe handle.


    From Adris’ eyes, the cloaked girl flung two rocks at the same time with a whip-like movement of her arm, using the delay of the ricochet to land the second rock in her helmet. After pelting Kol, the cloaked assailant presents a face on her mask extending a tongue, mocking the armored girl.


    (How did the expression change?)





    “You want be crushed first, huh?”


    Rumbling after the cloaked girl with her axe high, the two start a chase.


    Kol swings with wild abandon at the cloaked girl, who effortlessly stays dancing outside of reach as they bound around the room. Running up a wall, the agile, blue trickster jumps away moments before Kol slams her axe into it, shattering the face of the wall before resuming her hunt.





    As one girl escapes being cornered by another, and the snake and the shorty keep bickering, Adris has the thought that he could sneak away at this very moment, as nobody in the room is paying him any more attention.





    (What have I walked into? No, they’re not incompetent… but they certainly aren’t meeting my expectations, so far.)


    Even as he loses his hope, he feels this group of four weirdos is the closest he’s come to anyone approachable since he awoke in this nightmarish mansion.


    (Cethran is greatly excluded from my list of preferable company. At least these four… might have potential…?)


    Adris feels a sudden headache at his decision to become involved with them, considering whether being Lycia’s pet might have been the better choice.





    “Stay your boring infighting!”





    Sweeping his cross, Adris yells his demands to those who would capture him.


    The four girls instantly shift their attentions back to him. Kol holds an aggressive posture with her chase ended, though the other girl doesn’t seem hostile. Instead, a curious expression is on her mask, as if she’s interested in Adris’ next actions.


    The snake girl winces and goes silent as she tries to hide behind her “hateful” rival. The shorter girl wears a neutral expression, but her eyes follow the bound cross Adris holds out.





    Walking between the four to stand at the table, Adris tries to sound magnanimous.


    “Bind me, if this allowance offers you a feeling of security. Know that I mean you no ill intent, else I would simply show it.”


    Nodding once, the blue-dressed girl stops insulting the snake girl and goes silent. With the cloaked girl slinking away, Kol makes a clicking sound, clearly discouraged at not ending their “disagreement” in the manner she prefers to.


    The cloaked girl flanks the slithering emerald one, the long-tailed girl looking at Adris with a little trepidation, but mostly curiosity.


    With a swaying gait, a masked face looks him up and down as this dark figure begins to circle him, expertly patting down his body. The first item to go is his fog tool, a brief look given before it’s crammed inside Adris’ carried pack.


    As Adris bears with the indignity of his various possessions being removed, the girl finally puts a hand on the cross, lightly pulling on it. When he can’t let go, she moves her hand to her face momentarily, the previously bored expression on her mask replaced by a businesslike smile as she waves over it.


    The girl points to herself and then to the cross, before flicking her index finger a few times.


    {Let go~, I’ll hold onto it for you~.}


    Knowing he can’t, Adris instead tries to warn her.


    “This cross is a sealed artifact of extreme power. As an extension of my incarnation in this world, you cannot remove – AH!”


    He nearly falls over as the girl tries to yank it from him, going with the cross a bit before he pulls back. Getting into a brief tug of war, her sudden yank with proper leverage trips him up and results in him falling into her. He suffers surprisingly little shock from landing on her.

    As he stares in surprise at the masked face, he notices her expression is truly neutral, her body as frozen as his. Only a moment later does she shift, a soft hand moving to intentionally touch his body. Rubbing along it with a gentle touch, Adris’ face becomes confused without his permission.


    (What is she…?)


    Upon seeing his expression, her hand immediately squirms between his legs and begins massaging his crotch.


    Staring at the girl with a calm expression while his dick begins to harden at her soft touch, she flinches again and ceases. Only when he tries to pull back to prevent the snake girl from seeing what’s happening does she act, clinging to and gyrating against his muscled body. Hand back on his dick…


    (Let go! You… are coming on a bit strong!)


    … she applies firmer pressure to his member, seeking to grasp it through his pants as his body balance is thrown off, making it difficult for him to exit her grasp.


    “Are you okay?”


    The snake girl leans in from behind, distracting him. With Adris’ penis rapidly hardening, he looks back to see that her masked expression is now a smiling one.

    With a slight hint of sadism.


    “A cursed or attuned item be the impression. Leave under observation, if relinquished it cannot be made.”

    The midget's eyes are incredibly focused as she studies the glyphs that not even Adris can read.


    This piercing violet continues to excite him, along with the subdued expression on her face, now: one of slight curiosity. When this curiosity transfers to examine his face...


    “Worse monsters than rasselbock will shortly arrive, if tarry longer one does.”


    With this wisdom offered, she walks away with no more attention given. The snake girl frightens again, shrilly issuing an order.


    “OK! Back to the room!”


    He feels himself grasped lightly from behind, lifting himself with this support. The cloaked girl ceases her assault as he's pulled away, waving her hand at him.

    Adris winces at the grip on his sore chest; but, as he turns to look, the pale-faced snake girl holding him suddenly realizes that he is staring… prompting her to blush and quickly release her grip.

    Stammering in surprise, she finds words slowly.


    “Ah, ah, fine now? I-If it… pleases you, sir… um, Adris?” Her long tongue tastes his name as she speaks it.


    Motioning for his hands, Adris gifts them to her with as much benevolence as he can muster.


    “Um… thank you for your help.” Almost as if she’s avoiding contact with him, she weakly smiles… before beginning to tie him up.


    While the cloaked girl effortlessly flips herself upright like a monkey and the armored girl looks longingly at Adris, the snake girl pulls him gently by the loosely-tied rope and urges him to follow her after the overdressed midget moving towards the stairs.


    (Somehow, this isn't going as I'd intended, but it's still a better outcome than fighting.)


    Adris is thoroughly tired, but notices he's joined at the side by the cloaked girl. She looks at him with a seductive mouth on her mask, surreptitiously demonstrating the softness of her figure with lewd pats while pretending to dust herself off.


    Some quick gestures with her hands voice her coy thoughts.


    {Are you… “offended”? If your eyes were interested, why shouldn’t I have been, too…?}


    Before he can comment, she skips ahead.


    (I’m not… offended, but your interest is quite heated for a first encounter.)


    Humans are still far better company than ravenous Castillo monsters.


    (Perhaps they’re affected by the Castillo, too? That might be a way of appealing to them...?)


    Sighing a bit…


    “Ah, we’re not going to do anything to hurt… I m-mean, offend you, sir!” The snake girl whispers a promise to him, before smiling more deeply. “And… and… I-I’m pleased to make your acquaintance~!”


    Bowing her head with flourish as they reach the stairs, the bright, green-haired snake girl smiles.





    “I am Avenalliah Aurmaris, an… elf [FOREST CHILD] of the deep earth! Though it is us inconveniencing you, I bid you welcome to our group!”





    (What a kind girl. No, what a very impressionable girl.)


    Even if she seems a bit off, Adris gives her a soft look. This overly scared girl is the first person to seem genuinely happy to meet him.


    (She's also the perfect one to start with. Always with a smile...)





    “It will be my first time meeting an elf, consider it an honor to receive my greeting.” Giving her a wry grin, Adris bows his head a bit.





    As he continues forward, he passes by the halted Avenalliah. He peers at her face, blank as it is with shock as she stares at him.


    (Did I say something…?)


    “Uhn… yeah, I’m an elf! Thank… thank you, for greeting me!”

    Avenalliah’s eyes are slightly teary as she wipes them with her free hand, her expression going from blank to highly emotional, an almost fulfilled expression to her now.





    “… please, call me ‘Ave’ if it’s too long for you…!” She cheerily offers him a simpler name, humming merrily as her eyes cease tearing up, moving down the steps while leading him.





    “Waste time. Settle fast? Everything, complicated.”

    The helmeted girl bringing up the rear suffers discontent, and Adris can only speculate she is the reason for his sweating as she clanks along behind him, her gaze piercing the back of his head.





    In the company of four girls with wildly opposing personalities, Adris notices now that his tiredness has doubled.


    Characters:

    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)



    Powers:

    [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 Cross Smash] – {A MAN STRIKES ANOTHER WITH SHINING SILVER. THE MAN WHO IS STRUCK SMILES, HIS MIND AWAKENED.}



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



    [Unknown Communication Assistance] – {THE MAN HAS NO DIFFICULTY SPEAKING TO THOSE WHO ARE ALL DISSIMILAR. HE UNDERSTANDS THEIR SUPPLICATIONS.}



    [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’?”





    Disposition: Resilient / Adaptable / Sinner
    Alignment: Chaotic

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



    Statistics:

    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!”



    Beauty:

    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’?”

    “What do you think these four girls each find attractive? Isn’t this the question you should ask?”



    Description:

    “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.”

    “Only now does Adris appreciate his finer qualities. Pretending to be something you aren’t is a talent that takes a long time and hard practice. It also takes a willingness to submit without appearing to, all while becoming in truth something you aren't.”



    Commentary:

    “Now begins the truest test of what Adris has learned in both lives: uniting four strange people under his dream. It’s a good thing sex is a weapon!”





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



    Occupation: Delver, Frontliner
    Discipline: ???



    Powers:

    ???



    Disposition: Straightforward / Confrontational / Respectful
    Alignment: Neutral

    Eyes: Pink
    Hair: White
    Skin: Tanned



    Statistics:

    Rantil Value –

    Attributes by Grade:

    Strength - C

    Agility - F

    ???



    Beauty:

    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...?”



    Description:

    "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."



    Commentary:

    "It is difficult to talk about new characters without spoiling things, right? But in Kol's case, I think what you see is what you get, with her story being the more complex experience. There's nothing wrong with a girl who doesn't lie to you."





    Name: Cloaked Girl
    Titles: Sneaky
    Race: Human?
    Sex: Female
    Age: Young Lady



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



    Powers:

    ???



    Disposition: Playful / Sadistic / Skulking
    Alignment: Chaotic

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



    Statistics:

    Rantil Value –

    Attributes by Grade:

    Agility - C

    ???



    Beauty:

    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?"



    Description:

    "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."



    Commentary:

    "Everybody loves curves, but what happens when you give them to a girl that also speaks with them? Though her clothing might seem strange, there's also a sexiness to what you desire being unavailable to you until you... claim it. She also won't give it up easy!"







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

    Occupation: Delver, Scared Girl
    Discipline: ???

    Powers:

    ???



    Disposition: Joyful / Impressionable / Cowardly
    Alignment: Neutral

    Eyes: Crystal Green
    Hair: Moss Green
    Skin: White



    Statistics:

    Rantil Value –

    ???



    Beauty:

    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?"



    Description:

    "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?"



    Commentary:

    "Elves are nice, provided you use them well. My favorite thing about elves is their long, agile tails. Something about merging snake and human makes elves... what do you mean 'she's not an elf'? She said she is, you racist."









    Name: Shorty
    Titles: ???
    Race: Human?
    Sex: Female
    Age: Young?

    Occupation: Delver, Mystic
    Discipline: ???

    Powers:

    [Sparking Rod] - "The danger inherent be apparent, even if not demonstrated."



    Disposition: Impassive / Calculating / Curious
    Alignment: Ordered

    Eyes: Pale Violet
    Hair: Amber
    Skin: Pale White



    Statistics:

    Rantil Value –

    Agility - E

    Intelligence - B

    ???



    Beauty:

    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?"



    Description:

    "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...?"



    Commentary:

    "I hate Ayanami Rei, but I love the quiet archetype. In this girl's case, it's not exactly the same thing, but the important part is that the interactions work similarly. Though she is three-feetish tall, she is obviously a bit odd. Come on, people love gnomes and hobbits, at least she's not annoying."
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021 at 9:30 PM