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A dream, I saw a dream.
A dream that wouldn’t fade, a dream that kept repeating, a dream with no end, a dream that wouldn’t end――
Over and over again, many many times over, repeating mistakes over and over, correcting them more and more. 1000 times, spinning. 10,000 times, connecting. 100 million times, overcoming them. And before knowing it, losing count.
Agony, terror, turbidity, ruin, hatred, madness.
Exhausted, shaken, twisted, corrupted, contorted, decayed, anguished; a heart smashed to pieces.
And yet, there was still a place I wanted to reach.
And yet, there was still a wish I wanted to protect.
Even if no one knew about the endless tragedies that repeated over and over, I will not forget. Even if no one notices, only I am unable to forget.
――Even if the people I want to save wept, I still want to save them.
So, even now, I don’t regret having taken that hand. If there is something I regret, it would be the frustration in my own weak, fragile heart that I couldn’t steel, that hesitated in taking that hand.
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――Waking up from the empty dream, the first thing he always felt was a strong, throbbing headache.
Opening his eyes, trying to stave off his sleepiness, he blinked rapidly in an attempt to wake himself up. Though his consciousness hung in a bleary haze, his sluggishness only lasted for a few seconds. Immediately after his consciousness came to from his sleep, his waking brought energy back into his body.
[Subaru: Ah, Aaah]
In contrast to his body being awake, all that escaped from his mouth was a dullish voice. At a glimpse, it seemed like he was still half-asleep, but this was one of the most important rituals he did in the morning. By laying on his back with head up, in that manner, a lot of information could be conveyed through his voice.
The tone of his voice, the establishment of consciousness, the safety of his limbs, sorting his thoughts out, what he’ll do today, and the existence of his life――
He made sure to undertake each of these actions every morning.
This was the proof that Natsuki Subaru had reached the morning without making any grave mistakes.
Taking off his blankets as he yawned, he lifted his body up, swivelling his feet down off of the bed. As he looked around the room he was in, he roughly scratched his head. It was a room he had become used to seeing―― it was luxuriously furnished, and included a canopy bed in the room in which he entered from. But, where Subaru had woken up was not the canopy bed, but rather a sofa placed further within the room. He passed the nights as of late there, wrapped up in a futon, curled up into a ball.
――Actually, no, this had been a bedtime habit of Natsuki Subaru’s in these years.
Be as it may, there wasn’t any big reason for him not to sleep in his bed. Even if it was only for a little, it was quite difficult to prepare a good environment for sleeping. As a result of trial and error, he had learnt that he felt more comfortable by lying down and sleeping on the sofa than sleeping in a bed. And ever since, he kept doing that. And that was the whole story.
Rubbing his eyes, Subaru got off from the sofa that he had made into a bed and went to the bathroom so he could get dressed. As he washed his face in the bathroom that was adjacent to his bedroom, he deliberately looked at his soaked face reflected in the mirror. His face looked tired, and gave the impression that he was about to collapse. His face looked frayed with dejection. These three things gave him the impression that he lacked guts.
In an attempt to stiffen that expression, Subaru clapped his face with both hands using all of his strength. A dry sound accompanied the tears that welled up; in order to wash away them, Subaru poured cold water onto his face. Once again, he looked at his wet face in the mirror. And whilst carefully looking at both his face, and cheeks, he said,
[Subaru: Smile…you gotta smile, if you can’t, then… die.]
Chanting this incantation, Subaru bent his mouth into a brilliant, crooked smile. He flashed his white teeth, his smile narrowing his eyes so the whites weren’t visible all around anymore. His own countenance was like that of a villain’s he had been friends with for a bit more than 18 years. He could camouflage his eyes, his facial expression, and his countenance with no issues.
[Subaru: Oookay, okay. Keep it like this.]
After making sure of his smile, Subaru dried his face with a towel and hurriedly changed into his clothes. When he spent time at the Mansion, Subaru’s appearance was not garbed in a servant’s uniform… rather, he wore the formal attire of a noble. Even if he took off his jacket, he would keep snug in a casual white shirt with its sleeves rolled up. However, such appearances were now naturally required. They were quite stuffy, but he really couldn’t do anything about it. He was obligated to have an appearance appropriate to his position, because it was the position Subaru himself wanted.
[Subaru: Soon it’ll be the usual time.]
Straight after he had changed into his clothes, he looked up to the Magic Hour Crystal that had been furnished above the room’s door. It had a brilliant green hue, signifying that it was morning. It showed that his time for getting out of bed was soon. In some way, it seemed like this morning he had spent just a little bit too much time in practising his smile. In a few minutes, a punctual girl would knock on his door as scheduled. Before that, he needed to finish everything he hadn’t done yet.
Moving his attention, Subaru shifted the collar of his shirt. There, attached by a thin chain was a pendant fastened to the “Black Crystal” which he never removed, even when sleeping. A mysterious, sparkling black crystal. Squeezing it in the palm of his hand, Subaru closed his eyes. The crystal stone was cold and hard to the touch―― when it was tucked into the palm of Subaru’s hand, its presence grew stronger as if burning red hot; and it started to pulse as if a living thing.
Naturally, the strange beat throbbing in the palm of his hand, unconsciously counted his own heartbeat’s rhythm and frequency.
With a stronger beat as it reached its full power, the crystal stone’s beat grew stronger, and faster. Without even realising it, its pulse perfectly overlapped with the pulse of Subaru’s own heartbeat, until the beat of his heart and the beat of the crystal jewel became equal. When his brain realised that, Subaru’s consciousness was released from the yoke of his body and was invited to another area which could not by any means be real.
And in that moment, there were no sounds or signs from the world; instead, a dazzling light enveloped his consciousness.
His consciousness was formed by the light, which slowly guided him to his awakening. As he opened his closed eyelids, something that felt like sunshine pierced straight into his eyes. What he saw in front of him as he blinked his eyes was a beautiful grassy plain with the wind blowing through it.
It was a vast green plain which spread out as far as the eyes could see. The sea of grass stretched on and on further than his eyes could see. Short blades of grass gently swayed in the breeze. Up overheard, the sky was clear with not even a wisp of cloud present. The sunshine glistened like a gemstone. The blue of the sky and the green of the earth went on forevermore, up until they hazily intersected in the distant horizon. It was appropriate for a dreamworld that lacked any semblance of reality; there was a certain stillness there that seemed eternal.
Splendid, perfectly clear, empty space. ――There was just one part that was different to that in this world.
Right at the heart of the plain, when Subaru stands there and looks back, there was a gently sloping hill immediately behind which continued to form the shape of a slightly elevated hillock. Up on the hillock, there was a modest garden full of flowers. Right next to those beautiful flowers that were basking in the sun, was a parasol and a white table.
Without speaking even a word, Subaru climbed up the hill, and squeezed himself under the parasol. Steaming cups had been placed on the white table, their ceramic interiors filled with a warm, amber liquid. Two cups had been set upon the table, and a white chair had been left set next to the table.
Since one of the sides had been prepared for him, Subaru sat down on the chair without confirming it. Thinking the tea had just recently finished brewing, he drank some of the tea, wetting his throat with its amber goodness.
――As always, it was an unusual tea which tasted neither delicious nor unappetising.
Nevertheless, without fail, he always drank this tea from the moment he sat down. He had a meeting with the mistress of this place, the tea was a substitute for any introductions in this strange relationship. However,
Subaru: [Ah, I drank it, I drank it, thanks for the drink. Alright, let’s quickly move onto the main subject.]
???: [Of course, I did say that the first sip worked as a greeting. However, I don’t think that means that you shouldn’t ever give me a simple hello, mhm?]
Finishing his tea, Subaru placed his cup back on the table with these few words. And to what he had said, the one who sat opposite to him at the table gave him a weak smile, whilst voicing out her complaint. Receiving her complaint, Subaru scratched the tip of his nose whilst saying:
[Subaru: …There’s no real reason to greet you, is there? After all, since you’re prying inside my head day and night, there’s no meaning in saying hello or goodbye to you.]
[???: That’s a different story, you know? First of all, day and night, I’d like for you not to speak of it in such a scandalous manner. Even if it is true, even I am still a shy, young maiden girl, as delicate as a flower. Wouldn’t my reputation become all the more worse if it became known that I am always staring into a boy’s mind?]
[Subaru: A shy, young maiden girl as delicate as a flower… Did the meaning of those words change without me noticing?]
[???: How scathing of you. Well, maybe it is unreasonable at my age to insist on calling myself that.]
Saying that, the girl relaxed her mouth into a smile; quite in contrast to the contents of her complaints. Completely used to these sorts of exchanges, the girl was quite tolerant towards Subaru’s impolite behaviour―― Or rather, it seemed as if she was enjoying herself exchanging these sorts of conversations with him.
Subaru’s heart cannot help but feel the distorted feelings of guilt in his heart intensify when seeing that smile. In any case, he doesn’t know which way of acting is the right one. Only with the person right in front of his eyes, can he find the optimal solution.
[Subaru: As I thought, you’re such an unpleasant woman.]
[???: That makes me glad. For you, who is kind and greedy. Rather than being kind towards everyone, rather than being someone so apathetic who doesn’t find any value in having others help him, I always take great delight in becoming someone who cruelly wounds your heart, or the unpleasant someone who lodges an immovable thorn in your heart.]
Neither sarcasm or irony worked against her. Before she had answered him, Subaru had made quite an unpleasant face, but that had only resulted in making her more pleased.
[???: Now my heart is pained in buying your contempt and ever-increasing hate. Let’s try and achieve what we set out to do for this morning’s meeting soon.]
[Subaru: Didn’t you want to be hated?]
[???: It was a girl’s cute bluff, you know? This is what I want you to see and accept.]
Subaru doubted this from the bottom of his heart. He leaned his head in doubt. As for his companion she merely gave a ironic smile. And then…,
[???: You’re truly a man who never at all feels any bashfulness. As the 『Witch of Greed』, I’m pleased with that part of you. ――Natsuki Subaru]
Suited to be a contractor, the『Witch of Greed』, Echidna narrowed her eyes with a sweet smile, a smile that rose from the depths of her heart.
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[Subaru: Today’s the 14th of Kisdam……right?]
[Echidna: You can rest assured. You fell asleep last night without any issues, and you woke up this morning without anything eventful happening. The worst case scenario didn’t happen whilst you were asleep overnight. So you don’t have to worry, everything is okay.]
[Subaru: Those are foolish words. If I went to sleep thinking nothing would eventful would happen, I’d end up waking up dead. I don’t know when and where I’ll die, or when it’ll stop.]
Clicking his tongue at the optimism of the witch, Subaru recalled the desperate feeling of loss of his『Deaths』.
Without aim or direction, he had no doubt it could visit him even tomorrow―― When the fact is that he abruptly『Returns by Death』, deprived of it without any premonition. The fact is that the time he spends with people will be forgotten, the fear and despair that it had brung him would never be forgotten.
[Echidna: That’s correct. I was being rash right now. My apologies for that.]
[Subaru: …Aren’t you being terribly meek right now?]
[Echidna: I apologise if you thought of it as a bad thing. I am not that bad of a woman… even though I show myself like that.]
Seeing the discomfort in Subaru who had replied with hurt in his voice, the girl garbed in black gave him a wink as she said that. When talking to that girl, the first thing he noticed was how captivating her eyes are, and how her devilish beauty seems as if it would steal people’s hearts.
It’s amazing that just two colours express this beauty.
Long, beautiful white hair like snow cascaded down to her back, and her slender limbs are garbed in a black dress, typical of one seen when mourning. Sitting on her chair, her long legs were crossed together; a somewhat degenerate feeling floated around in that. On her thin lips that were drinking from her cup, there was a strangely arousing gloss to them.
She was a perverse, demonic figure that exuded a sensation of inescapable ruin and destruction were you to provoke her―― Regardless of this, there are anecdotes of those who have tried to approach this Witch of Calamity that brings about the end.
That was the identity of the white haired girl, who was completely garbed in black, Echidna. She, who had forged a contract with Subaru.
[Echidna: …? What’s the matter? You’re staring at my face. Do I have something on it?]
[Subaru: Aaah, just hair, and ears, and a mouth, and a nose, and eyes…]
[Echidna: …Hm why? Even if you’re saying something completely obvious, I feel rather insulted.]
Echidna frowned, furrowing her eyebrows at Subaru’s answer. Seeing that, Subaru lifted his hand up and said: [Waitwait,]
[Subaru: I didn’t mean to insult you! It’s just that even with your reputation as a witch, people still end up surprising you… that’s what I was thinking.]
Even if up until a moment ago she had expressed all kinds of degeneracy and perversions, in reality, she did have a few bad habits, but she was still an ordinary girl who you could even go as far as calling good-natured.
Of course, this doesn’t deny that there were crooked, warped parts that were witch-like.
[Echidna: Hehe, that’s quite an unusual opinion huh?]
Saying that, Echidna relaxed her lips, and gave a little smile upon hearing Subaru’s thoughts. Placing her cup on the table, she shifted her long legs and fiddled with her long white hair.
[Echidna: Even though I might look like this right now, I was one of the witches that left behind such stories, in various places 400 years ago. Were you to catch me, that version of me was unpardonable.]
[Subaru: You’re speaking like you’re a junior high student looking for special treatment.]
[Echidna: In any case, you know how I feel quite well… But, it isn’t just that. I should have talked about this stuff when we first met.]
[Subaru: Ah… what was it you said…? Certainly, if you were a person without any tolerances, you would have vomited the first time you saw me…]
[Echidna: When you’re cutting it down to just that, I feel that my nature is greatly misunderstood]
The majestic witch’s appearance completely changed. Echidna looked annoyed hearing Subaru’s answer. To that reply, Subaru replied suitably with [N-now now,] to deal with the shift in topic. Nonetheless, what they had spoke was enough for the morning routine.
[Subaru: It’s not like us to delve down into idle gossip. I’ll be going back to reality soon.]
[Echidna: Are you leaving already? Stay here a little more, no one will mind if you do so. As you know, the time you spend here does not affect reality. You can rest all the time you want… that’s what I hope]
Echidna said this so to restrain Subaru who had stretched up and stood from his chair. Subaru cracked the bones of his necks at hearing the witch’s cajolery.
[Subaru: That’s right. To be honest, I know you’re trying to help me in offering me to stay here, but…]
Cutting off his words there, Subaru turned his head to look down towards Echidna. The black irises of the witch and Subaru met each other. However―
[Subaru: It’s not my plan to depend on you all the time. You should know that it’s not that kind of contract.]
[Echidna: Good grief, you really aren’t being honest with yourself. Even when I am the only one in this world that can be your accomplice in helping you bear your anguish and sorrow.]
[Subaru: I don’t intend to entrust my anguish and sorrow to anyone. This is something that’s just for me; it’s how I overcome them. That’s the reason behind the contract between me and you. Isn’t that so?]
With a low tone of voice, Subaru declared this firmly to the still annoyed Echidna who was shrugging her shoulders. To that reply, Echidna cast her eyes down, drinking from her cup in silence.
When she stopped talking, it was a declaration of her intention that she had lost her reason to continue conversing. Making sure of this, Subaru turned his back to the woman, and started to walk down the hillock. But first, he stopped and turned his head back to look at the witch.
[Subaru: By the way, just a moment ago, you didn’t deny that you’re always spying on me day and night?]
[Echidna:… Hm? I thought I’d said ‘even if’?]
[Subaru :…Even if that’s true, I think it’s in my capacity to recognise the context in that implicit way of speaking!]
Being hounded by Subaru, Echidna let out a small sigh. And then she put her cup to her mouth again. It was a declaration that there was no meaning in continuing their conversation――
[Subaru: I guess you thought I’d just leave it if you kept doing that, right? Are you going to ever stop doing such an unethical thing? Hmph, so are you?]
[Echidna: Is it not normal? I am not so vulgar to spy on you when you’re taking a bath or using the bathroom. It’s just that unless you’re convinced that nothing will happen in these vulnerable situations, I think that it’s impossible for me as your contractor to avert my eyes. In the end, it’s my obligation as the『Witch of Greed』to faithfully uphold the contract――]
[Subaru: From now on, I’m removing the pendant when I go to the bathroom or wash myself.]
Saying this to the witches rapid-fire excuses, Subaru went down the hill, all the whilst biting down his embarrassment. At the bottom of the hillock, in the place in which Subaru first entered the grassy plain, a door materialised without warning. A single door free of any support. It was the only door that allowed him to go in and out to the outside world.
Arriving in front of the door, Subaru placed his hand on the doorknob, turning himself so he couldn’t see anything. Echidna was looking at Subaru’s back, her hair fluttering in the wind all the way on the hillock.
When seeing Subaru looking down away from her, with only a slight bit of hesitation, she gave him a small wave. And without giving anything back, Subaru went through the door, leaving behind just a sigh.
――And straight after, his consciousness that had been captured by the dream world was released and returned back to reality.
When his consciousness came back to reality, Subaru was still standing in the middle of his own room, holding the black crystal. Breathing out a long sigh, he looked towards the Magic Hour Crystal on top of the door. There was no change in its green hue. That was proof that the time he spent in the dream world was only a few seconds.
[Subaru: Still, I’ll never get used to it…]
It was routine every morning to go to the dream world to spend some time at Echidna’s tea party. But from there, when he’d come back to reality, he still hadn’t become familiar with the discomfort that was produced from the gap of these two worlds. It was a feeling that differed from『Return by Death』. Subaru sighed, and
“Echidna: What would you say to changing your mind and getting used to not getting used to it? Even if it’s no more than for your peace of mind, maybe it’ll make you feel a bit more at ease?”
As if it was a whisper in his ear, the voice of the witch he had said goodbye to a moment ago rung out. Well, in fact it wasn’t whispered into his ear. That voice came from his contractor; the thoughts of the witch flowed via the crystal stone which hung from his neck.
Both of their paths were entwined by the contract even when he wasn’t in the dream world. That made it possible for the witch to talk directly to Subaru from the dream world.
[Subaru: I thought I told you not to speak to me without thinking when there’s nothing important. ]
“Echidna: There’s no one around. I don’t think anyone is going to care you if you’re directing your attention to me when you’re alone in the room.”
[Subaru: What would you do, if you did the same thing in public without thinking, and people saw me speaking to someone who isn’t there and thought I was a weirdo?]
“Echidna: I feel like that’s a new evaluation. But, besides, it’s not unusual for spirits to converse their thoughts with their spirit-user. That isn’t really suspicious.”
[Subaru: With spirit-users, both use their thoughts to communicate. In my case, it’s just you and I’m stuck speaking aloud to myself. If you look at it from that way, it’s pretty annoying]
“Echidna: Yeah yeah, I get it. As you wish, I’ll be silent except for when necessary. You managed to make a witch obey… you’re a master at this.”
[Subaru: SHUT THE HELL UP]
“Echidna: My my. Please don’t hesitate to call me if you need me, contractor-dono.”
With both anger and mockery in her voice, Echidna slinked back leaving behind those theatrical words of farewell. Even so, the witch should still be peeping into this world via the pendant, however, for the moment, Subaru pushed the notion away from his head and he breathed out a long sigh. From now on, he would definitely shove the pendant into his back-pocket when taking a bath or going to the toilet…
[???: … Subaru-sama, are you awake?]
There was a knock on the door from outside, which informed him of his usual wake up time. Subaru cleared his throat as he heard the gentle voice that had asked him that. Then, clapping his hands to his face, and making sure he was smiling using the mirror, he gave a very dispirited reply of: [Coome in],
Hearing that, the door slowly opened, and a young girl entered the room.
[???: Good morning, Subaru-sama. Today is once again a splendid morning y’know.]
Saying that while smiling, was the little girl in her maid uniform―― Petra Leyte, Subaru’s personal maid.
When he had met her, she had still been a young bud yet to flower. But now she was entering the growing season, and was in the process of blooming beautifully. Her height, and arms, and legs had grown a lot compared to before, and she was increasingly becoming more and more suited to her pretty maid dress too.
That behaviour and conduction was not lost against her cute dress. From the start, she was a good girl who was well-taught and quick-to-learn. And now, as a maid, Petra had reached top notch levels.
A 14 year old flower… Seeing Petra’s matured smile, Subaru replied with a smile.
[Subaru: A good morning to you too, Petra. I agree, it’s indeed a splendid morning. Today too, I was able to see Petra’s cute face in the morning. I’m pretty satisfied too.]
[Petra: Subaru’s still saying such things. … Ah, but there are clouds hanging over the sky beyond the forest, it seems that the weather may get worse this afternoon. I have plans to go shopping this afternoon, I hope it’ll stay sunnyyyyyy.]
Inclining her head towards Subaru’s greeting, Petra turned her eyes towards the window and muttered that out. In those words, there was a trace of her childish immaturity in them, and Subaru gave a small chuckle.
[Petra: Ah! No, Subaru-sama.]
[Subaru: Nono, just now, the beautiful shell of a Maid was broken just a little. How very like you, Petra.]
[Petra: Jeez, please stop treating me like a kid like that. I’m totally grown up. I’ve been a maid already for two years… cuz of that I’ve become an adult!]
Shaking her auburn hair, Petra’s cheeks blushed and her lips tapered in embarrassment. In front of the figure of his cute little sister, Subaru stroked the smiling girl’s head. Petra narrowed her eyes in happiness and let out a reluctant sigh as Subaru stroked her head.
[Petra: So, what will you be doing this morning? It’s still early for breakfast, but…]
[Subaru: Ahh, for the time being I’ll just finish my usual routine and then if it goes well, we can have breakfast with everyone. If it doesn’t go well… then, the usual.]
Casting her eyes down slightly at Subaru’s reply, Petra’s face turned quite serious. Shedding silent tears at making such a young sweet girl make such a face, Subaru stroked the cute girl’s head as she made this face,
[Subaru: Anyhow, thank you for today as well. Especially for coming to wake me up.]
[Petra: Subaru-sama really is clumsy.]
Saying that to Subaru, who was trying to awkwardly change topic, Petra gave an exasperated sigh. And then the girl shook her head, putting on a smile like a bloomed flower.
[Petra: No, even this is my job. Besides, it’s far better because Subaru-sama won’t sleep too much….. Even if he shouldn’t be so careless.]
[Petra: It’s nothing. Well then, I’ll see you later. Excuse me.]
Every morning, after acting as Subaru’s alarm clock Petra would give him a curtsy with her skirt. And then, after seeing off Subaru, she’d leave the room. The door would close, and Subaru would nod his head in satisfaction seeing Petra’s growth. .
[Subaru: Petra has become splendid as well. As a big brother, I am proud.]
“Echidna: But from her side, she doesn’t seem to think of you as a big brother.”
[Subaru: Didn’t I tell you to be silent except for when I need you? Witch-sama sure is quick to break promises.]
In her monologue, Subaru was struck by the witch’s persistence and weakness to not be able to tolerate the silence. But, leaving behind a resigned sigh, he turned around to look at the door Petra had disappeared through.
[Subaru: I’m that girl’s big brother, you know? So, Petra’s my cute little sister. That’s why I will make that girl happy. ――That much I will absolutely do.]
“Echidna: You’ll absolutely make her happy you say…? Those words might unexpectedly become terrible words.”
Hearing Subaru’s firm tone, Echidna said that without poking any fun at him. Ignoring the words of the witch, Subaru left the room, lightly stretching himself. The mansion’s corridor had become quite cold as a sign that it was early morning . Shivering, Subaru walked out.
―― His everyday『routine』was about to start.
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Since a few months ago, mornings in the Roswaal mansion had began with an intense『Slaughter.』Though, calling it『Slaughter』may have been quite surprising when it came to the people concerned.
Still, as far as Subaru was concerned, who witnessed it, the exchanges were violent enough to be called『Slaughter.』 In fact, there was no doubt that one of the two who clashed together was challenging the other to the death. But unfortunately, the other person who was challenging them evaded that ferocious fighting spirit with ease.
The disparity of power between the two of them was completely evident in the eyes of anyone who cared to look. Of course, there was no doubt that they’d keep up this dangerous routine every morning because of this,
A fierce howl of rage, accompanied by an explosion at the feet that blew away the lawn on the courtyard. Digging his foot in deeply, with that tempestuous propulsion the golden silhouette charged forward, his beastly claws driving straight toward the figure of his opponent.
It was a blow that could rend thick steel plate, a blow which could turn a human body into mince meat―― The claws of the beast delivered a myriad of violent attacks, assailing its prey in an attempt to forbid it from escaping. However,
???: [I am sorry, but the gap is too great.]
???: [GHHA― !?]
The other silhouette easily avoided the downpour of fatal attacks coming from the claws of the beast. And immediately after, the long legs which were jumping up gave out a loud yell, and the body of the beast was pierced from below.
The beast raised a cry in anguish at receiving that blow, and the side that was stuck arced upwards―
???: [GHHAGHK― !?]
――Or rather, that was what should have happened, but it didn’t happen like so.
The body that was launched skywards was intercepted by the opponent’s heel which swung downwards like he had waited in ambush, and sent him down crashing into the ground. The impact produced a circular crater upon the lawn’s surface, leaving the beast perfectly silent, spread-eagled on the floor unmoving.
???: [Do you want to continue?]
The victor asked him whether he wanted to continue as the loser let out a groan. There was neither sarcasm or cynicism when asking that; they were words spoken only towards the battle. That’s why those words deeply wounded the loser’s spirit. Thus,
[Subaru: You probably don’t even realise it, but words like that are demeaning you know. Stop with the damn Samurai’s pity.]
Entering the scene in which victory and defeat had already been decided, Subaru said this as he scratched his head. Hearing those words, the young man who had been overlooking his spread-eagled opponent turned to look back at him with a smile appearing on his face.
The young man with hair of red flame raised his hand towards Subaru.
[???: ‘ello, good morning, Subaru. You’re up early this morning, huh?]
[Subaru: Not as early as the two of you. Even so, don’t you get bored or have enough of doing this everyday…… You don’t have to always act so frank, Reinhardt.]
[Reinhardt: There’s nothing wrong with his ambition burning strong. Besides, it’s also true that he’s getting stronger and stronger each day. Before long, won’t there come a time where he will catch up with me?]
[Subaru: Is that so? I’m having a bit of a hard time picturing that.]
The red-haired youth―― Reinhardt’s words didn’t give off the feeling that they were either a joke or an act of humility. Closing one of his eyes at this estimation, Subaru looked down at the figure that was still lying down on the ground.
A boy with short golden hair was rolling in pain there. Wheezing in anguish, he was still not at a level in which he could wage battle, but still, the fighting spirit dwelling in his green eyes had not wavered at all.
Though his body could not obey his intentions, all he could do was grit his teeth in frustration. Grasping the feelings of bitterness he was feeling, Subaru extended his hand to that boy.
[Subaru: Hey, can you get up, Garfiel. Don’t give up just yet. You’re…]
[Garfiel: …Don’t touch me so casually. ‘ don’t need t’ stand by yer fuckin’ hand y’know.]
Not taking Subaru’s outstretched hand, the blonde haired boy, Garfiel, bared his fangs at him. However, it was obvious in anyone’s eyes that it was just a bravado. Pain was etched on his face, and his breathing was rough. Nevertheless, Subaru was not so childish as to point this out.
Slightly shaking the arm that had been brushed aside, Subaru sighed at the Garfiel who climbed to his feet.
[Subaru: Well, if you say so, do as you like. But, go take a bath before breakfast, and try to clean yourself of the sweat and mud. Otherwise, Ram will come to dislike you.]
[Garfiel: … ut yer trap. ‘ know wi’out you needin’ to tell me.]
Shaking his head at Subaru’s suggestion, Garfiel knitted his eyebrows into an angry scowl and stood up. His knees were still trembling, but it wasn’t to the extent where he couldn’t walk. Having recovered with his amazing resilience, Garfiel glared at Reinhardt who was standing there as unperturbed as ever.
[Garfiel: Nex’ time, ’m gonna fuckin’ beat ya.]
[Reinhardt: I will be looking forward to it.]
Garfiel snorted at Reinhardt’s reply which had no traces of a lie in it. And after that, the boy started to trudge away, and as he passed by Subaru, he gave a fleeting glance his way.
Smacking his lips in irritation, he continued to trudge away from the courtyard to the mansion. With a wry smile on his face, Subaru watched him walk away like that; he shook his head.
He must be feeling quite hurt with his pride wounded. Still, his sour feelings should go away along with his sweat when he washed himself before breakfast. Really, he was at a troublesome age.
[Subaru: That guy, sorry for leaving him all to you. You must be tired too, feel free to go wash up… Speaking of which, running in to him in the bath would be troublesome.]
[Reinhardt: That’s right, it’d be tough for him. Fortunately, I didn’t move enough to break out into a sweat, so I’ll refrain from doing that. It would be a shame to put Garfiel caked in mud in front of Ram-san.]
Having seen Garfiel walk off, Reinhardt smiled at Subaru who had raised those words. Just as he had thought, the effects of the morning sparring couldn’t be seen on the『Sword Saint』. He was dealing with a child, Garfiel, who challenged him in ‘anger’; he was perfectly capable of killing him if he so desired. And to make matters worse, he was making a nonchalant face whilst pushing down his feet on the part of the lawn in which Garfiel had been knocked down on. And, by some way, the grass returned back to how it had been in its original, clean state.
Was this also one of the countless Divine Protections he possessed? ――More and more, the thought of him as an enemy brought chills.
Therefore doing as much as having made him leave his own camp was probably Subaru’s greatest achievement.
The『Sword Saint』Reinhardt Van Astrea.
Where he now belonged, was the camp supporting Emilia as king candidate, backed by Roswaal. Shortly after the Royal Selection had started, the『Sword Saint』had become Felt’s knight. He had been the greatest adversary he would’ve had to contend with, and because of his distinguished prominence in the kingdom, he’d have been their greatest threat… but――
[Subaru: ――All that said, but, if Felt were to return, we’d once against stand as friends who are enemies, the thought of it brings shudders.]
[Subaru: What’s the matter?]
[Reinhardt: No, nothing, I understand your concern, but I dare say I would be unable to go back to being Felt-Sama’s knight. That lady judged me as unworthy. Were it not so, she wouldn’t have tossed me aside to vanish to whereabouts unknown.]
Reinhardt shook his head, turning away from Subaru’s words. Closing his eyes to that reply, Subaru concealed his innermost thoughts and let out a long sigh.
――Already, nearly a year had passed since Reinhardt’s master, one of the Royal Election Candidates, Felt, had disappeared from her knight.
The feline girl left the Astrea House, taking with her only the old man she regarded as family, and ran away from the Royal Selection. Thus, she cast aside the『Sword Saint』who had pledged himself to her.
Those were the rumours circulating around the country, and was almost identical to the truth.
In fact, Reinhardt had heard nothing from Felt, before being driven from the Royal Election. The fact that the master he’d sworn his loyalty to had vanished without word, brought an immeasurable sense of helplessness to the『Sword Saint』.
Subaru had extended his arm out to this, and had dragged him over to this new camp. With his conscience sullied, and him feeling a great sense of responsibility, Reinhardt had taken Subaru’s desperate plea, and offered his sword to Emilia as his new king.
And since, the『Sword Saint』had become the sword of the Emilia camp. He was playing a big part in the Royal Selection. As the descendant of the『Sword Saint』who had sealed『The Witch of Envy』up, he joined to support the much despised Emilia, the Half-Witch. The implications of that was greater than he imagined.
Besides, Reinhardt being around helped a lot in more things than just the Royal Selection. By belonging to the same camp, Reinhardt helped out with the rebellious Garfiel.
[Subaru: I can’t raise my head to you and Ram. I can’t imagine how many times Garfiel would have crushed me by now.]
[Reinhardt: There’s hardly any such thing. Indeed, on the surface Garfiel is harsh, which is in fact an indication that he recognizes your strength. But, your strength is not one he can understand, and this, no matter what, he cannot find himself able to accept.]
[Subaru: Well, no one would particularly enjoy being confused by so many cheap conjurer’s tricks. Though, there was no other way, so it’s not like I’ve dwelled upon or regretted it.]
Shrugging at Reinhardt’s defence, Subaru recalled the events that had transpired in the 『Sanctuary』. Back at the『Sanctuary』, the residents’ escape had been impossible due to the barrier connected to the graveyard. Then, there was the threat of the『Sizeable Hare』Witchbeast swarming there―― to break through those issues, Subaru had used a lot of tricks.
It could be said that the one who feared『Sanctuary’s』liberation the most was Garfiel, and that he was the one who did his utmost to stop Subaru. Whereas, Emilia and the others were the ones who picked up the fruits of his『Return by Death』with all his soul.
That was precisely what originated the contract between Subaru and Echidna. Subaru had chosen to take the witch’s hand, and repeated his ‘Return by Death’ an unimaginable number of times, and went through all possible trial and error back at the『Sanctuary』.
And the result of that was Subaru had been able to take control of the actions of everyone staying in『Sanctuary』and by placing Garfiel outside the mosquito net (TL Note: isolating/setting him against from the other villagers) he prevented him from interfering with the events.
He overcame the Graveyard’s『Trials』and broke the barrier. Meanwhile, Roswaal made the necessary preparations concerning Lewes, and led the evacuation. The inhabitants were set free before the threat of the Sizeable Hare had assailed the『Sanctuary』. Meanwhile, Garfiel struggled to keep the time of release at bay, but his struggles were in vain.
After all, it was after everything had ended that Garfiel understood everything that happened. Even when he knew that it was too late to help, after the evacuation of the inhabitants of the『Sanctuary』had ended, Garfiel had still tried to resist leaving the『Sanctuary』.
However, the『Sanctuary』was attacked by The Sizeable Hare and the young man would have been driven to the verge of death if he hadn’t been saved by the hands of Subaru and Roswaal.
Lacking strength and making misjudgments, the problems that had weighed stubbornly on his young heart for more than a decade had been solved by outsiders, excluding him entirely. Garfiel’s willpower was greatly wounded.
After that, his feelings of depression became rage, and it was only natural that he come to bear hatred for Subaru. Without the persuasions of Ram and his big sister, Frederica, Garfiel may not have made the choice to join the Emilia camp. The newcomer Reinhardt became an outlet of anger for Garfiel.
In the end, it was probably his own lack of strength which Garfiel couldn’t forgive the most. By understanding the strength of the『Sword Saint』as his objective, little by little, signs of change were born in Garfiel, who continuously worked to become stronger.
Through this way, perhaps he would arrive at the answer that he couldn’t acquire back at the『Sanctuary』.
[Subaru: Well, I’d be quite happy if he were a little more open with me.]
[Reinhardt: One day he’ll understand your feelings. There’s no need to be impatient.]
Reinhardt shook his head in a gesture that looked like consolation at Subaru’s half-hearted conclusion. And then, the red-haired knight turned his eyes towards the mansion.
[Reinhardt: I want you to leave Garfiel to me for just a little while longer. …That’s if you still have any expectations from me, I, who was not even able to acquire Felt-sama’s trust.]
[Subaru: Don’t be so pitiful. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t believe in you. Yeah, I have expectations of you.]
[Reinhardt: Understood. Then, you too should do what is expected of you… That is the duty of a best knight.]
It was only in those last words, in which Reinhardt had shown some kind of emotion in.
The『Best Knight』, that term was permitted only in master-servant relationships which were tied together by the strongest of bonds. Reinhardt had not been able to become that for Felt.
He didn’t wish to become so to Subaru, that’s what he felt.
[Reinhardt: Well, I’ll see you later.]
Without even revealing a bit of those emotions on his facial expression, Reinhardt gave Subaru a clap on his shoulder and left the garden. As he walked, there were no signs of the fight which had taken place a few moments ago, on the lawn underneath his feet which should have been dented.
Whilst standing on lawn that had gone back to normal, Subaru made sure that Reinhardt had completely left the garden and let out a long sigh.
[Subaru: I left Garfiel to… you, huh.]
“Echidna: My, what skilled acting. Your skin grows thicker by the day.”
Once again, he heard the voice of the witch who kept breaking her promise. But, Subaru didn’t say anything back. Taking his silence as an acknowledgement, Echidna transmitted her thought-waves from her crystal stone,
“Echidna: Pitying Garfiel is your prerogative. But let’s discuss the solution of『Sanctuary』. Repeating attempt after attempt, you found the optimum solution. Keeping anyone from hurting, from dying… and finally saving everyone’s life. Isn’t that so?”
[Subaru: I know. That’s why I didn’t say anything.]
“Echidna: Reinhardt as well, absolve yourself from guilt. Originally, that girl—— Felt wasn’t interested in the election in the slightest. So, you pointed out an escape path for her, so she would need not trouble herself. And now, she’s living peacefully with that old giant in Kararagi.”
Echidna carefully affirmed Natsuki Subaru’s choices, as if caressing old wounds.
Garfiel’s stagnation, Reinhardt’s anguish―― all of these were as a result of Subaru’s choices. Garfiel’s situation had been okay. It had been the necessary process for resolving the problems in the『Sanctuary』without having to sacrifice anyone. But, Reinhardt’s situation was different.
It was a plot of Natsuki Subaru to completely separate him from his master. He wouldn’t be able to avoid blame and disdain if they knew the facts. It was that kind of a plan. But even so――
“Echidna: In order to drive away the malicious Witch Cult targeting Emilia, you need real power. Just charm isn’t enough. So in the end, you made the right choice.”
“Echidna: Successfully saving Pristella, was allowed only because of that choice. Dealing with the disaster that swept the Watergate City, how would your odds have been without Reinhardt?”
“Echidna: Of course, if you’d concentrated your fighting power there, you may found a way to repel them by some other means. However, to be able to defeat Sin Archbishops in the plural with no victims, was precisely because you had Reinhardt available to you.”
Repeated and relentless were Echidna’s words, and yet that attempt to console was met with the opposite effect. An attempt to justify his deeds, falling hundreds upon thousands of times was that blade known as words. Using this method to cut his heart into jagged pieces was not her goal, but it certainly felt so. Using a blade of language, she condemned the deeds and deceits of Natsuki Subaru.
No matter how many times, no matter how many dozen times, no matter how much she repeated it, it was never enough.
His strength was overwhelmingly insufficient. And that power never compensated for the experiences of Subaru, who kept repeating『Return by Death』several times.
Memories and experiences of the future, in this world there was despair that could not be overcome with that alone. Still, maybe the difficulties could have been overcome if he had committed himself. But Subaru regretted that he could not be neither strong enough or weak enough to allow sacrifices.
It’d be meaningless if he closed his eyes to people falling victim, it’d be meaningless if he accepted condolences, it’d be meaningless if he allowed compromises. If he stopped putting his life on the line, he’d lose meaning in having taken the witch’s hand.
Therefore, he did everything he could to get the necessary power and the necessary fighting strength. As a result, he had caught the strongest sword, Reinhardt van Astrea and made him into an ally.
When it came to Felt’s withdrawal from the Royal Selection―― It was not possible to describe all of his tries, and all of his errors that he had repeated so that this would have been realised.
Under Reinhardt’s enmity, under that sword, falling even ten or twenty times was insufficient. Still, finally he had accomplished it quite peacefully without sacrificing anyone. Only that outcome was salvation for Natsuki Subaru.
It didn’t matter how many times his heart would be wounded, as long as he could save their lives――
[Subaru: There’s life, if there’s life, there’s a future, if there’s a future, there’s hope, if there’s hope, then there are possibilities. If there are possibilities, then――]
“Echidna: Then people will be saved. You’re in the right. You aren’t wrong. I promise so.”
[Subaru: I don’t particularly need your guarantees, you know…]
Subaru spoke out his innermost thoughts to both cheer himself up, and to caution himself. The witch affirmed, understood, shared and admired that.
While responding aggressively to his words, it was a fact that the witch’s words helped him.
Life, was life.
If he was alive, he could start over. He had possibilities. It yielded hope.
Sacrifices were things that were different to Subaru’s life. It was worth continuing to keep using『Returning by Death』all the time if it protected everyone except Subaru’s own life, which was no longer included in his calculations.
――Even if those who I want to save weep, I still want to save them.
That was the salvation that Subaru had decided to receive by taking the witch’s hand.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Having received the witch’s cruel comfort, Subaru left the courtyard. Witnessing the morning exercises of Reinhardt and Garfiel, had in fact nothing to do with Subaru’s daily routine. He just happened to pass by the scene, and he had no choice but to call out to them. Subaru’s proper daily routine started in the mansion’s library.
[Subaru: ――Heya, Beatrice. Sorry to intrude.]
Deep within the easternmost part of the mansion, stood a neat library. When you pushed open one of the heavy double-doors, the first thing that leaped out from the inside was the overwhelming scent of paper. In the dim light of a magic crystal, the narrow shelves were completely filled, drowned under thick stacks of heavy books
The amount of books could be said to be no inferior to what once existed in the『Forbidden Library.』
So, in that case.
Even while knowing that this place wasn’t the『Forbidden Library』that she should be guarding, the little girl remained here, able to see the fragments of her old home within the debris.
In the depths of the dark room, in a corner of the library rested the figure of a young girl who hugged her knees to her chest. As soon as he entered the room, he saw her sat on a wooden stepladder. This still vivid memory of her squatting posture, that sense of violation would not vanish, continuing to burn and erode through Subaru’s heart.
Beatrice had pressed her forehead into her knees, still wearing her same dress. Scrunched up like this, the little girl didn’t stir, react or even say anything to Subaru as he entered her room.
But she was not asleep, that much was clear from the fingers of her little body, which were clenched with so much force that they were whitened.
Back then, she had greeted Subaru with poor temperament, but at least when she had greeted him then, it had been with the dignity of a librarian. There were no traces remaining of that frigid expression which had been sustained by the pride of her responsibility.
Scrunching up his eyes at seeing the girl in such a sorry state, Subaru rapidly blinked his eyes to get rid of the emotions that had flitted there for just a moment. Then after putting on a ridiculously animated smile, he threw open the curtains of the library.
Unlike the forbidden library, the room had a physical existence. Naturally, since there was a window, the door couldn’t act as a barrier to prevent trespass. Therefore――
[Subaru: Heyy, Beako. Today’s a splendid morning. There’s a pleasant wind blowing by. You should stop hiding in this musty old room; don’t you feel like playing outside?]
[Subaru: If you don’t want to muddy your dress up by playing outside, then at the very least let’s eat together with everyone. Come to the dining hall like before. It’s not too much to ask, right?]
The curtains of the library were torn wide open, and sunlight streamed into the room. Just like the streaming sunlight, Beatrice kept her silence, tilting down her head to Subaru’s requests, who was still smiling quite openly. It felt to Subaru that her arms that were still clutching her knees were as if she was punishing herself.
[Subaru: Hey, Beako….]
[Beatrice: … just shut the hell up, in fact.]
Unable to bear looking at him, Beatrice spoke this out quite loudly as Subaru tried to approach her.
Her voice sank heavily, as it grew hoarse. But, after hearing her voice, Subaru felt relieved. Because recently, just hearing her voice was a rare occurrence.
When she was depressed, the days were quite many in which he couldn’t exchange even a single word with her. Even words of rejection and denial pleased him.
Casting aside what Subaru was thinking, Beatrice continued without lifting up her face.
[Beatrice: Betty is tired. I’ve already given up, I suppose. I went against mother’s instructions… I broke the contract… and despite that, I’m still alive… why?]
[Beatrice : If only you just ditched me back then… Why did you come to help me? Clearly, you’re not… you’re not『They!』]
It’s a resentment that will never disappear, a resentment that can never fade, a penitence that she could never forgive――
In her four hundred years, Beatrice had bore those feelings alone, her heroic consciousness that had refused to relinquish such thoughts had been trampled upon, naturally bringing hatred.
Within the Forbidden Library, was a spirit who had given up her life for her mission, with no room in her heart for hope.
Her eternal life had stripped hope from her, and all she had been given was time to live a life devoid of meaning.
When the Forbidden Library burned down along with the mansion, the place in which she had been indicated to stay was lost forever.
But even so, Beatrice had never once forgotten her responsibility, the one that been abandoned. Her heart which had bore such a relentless sense of responsibility, had been scarred by permanent wounds, steeped in misery.
That is why ever since the night when the Forbidden Library had burnt to ashes, all she could do was crouch in a corner of the library, endlessly sobbing in helplessness.
[Beatrice: ――hk! Go away! Let go of me, I suppose! Don’t you touch Betty… ―tch!]
Unable to see her small figure, Subaru had wrapped her small body into a hug. Shouting at him when she felt his arm hugging her, Beatrice made no attempt to hide her disgust and rage, scoring Subaru’s neck with her nails. Caught in her merciless attack, drops of blood oozed out of his wound. But still, he didn’t let go.
He hugged her in an attempt to comfort her shivering body. But maybe it was actually Subaru who was looking for comfort by doing that.
[Beatrice: Why did you come to see me, I suppose…! You’re so….you’re so…!]
[Subaru: I’ll be like this no matter how many times you vent your anger at me, it’s fine. Even if the flames of regret don’t seem like they’re vanishing right now, if you keep pouring them out maybe they’ll vanish someday.]
[Beatrice: They’re not… supposed to vanish…! Betty is!]
[Subaru: I’m so glad that you’re alive. So, I’ll always look forward to the day where you’ll once again get sulky in front of me. ――Because that hope still lives in me.]
Quietly, after those sincere words were exhausted, Beatrice’s resistance subsided. Making a surprised face, Beatrice started to sob, there in body but not in spirit. It was a sign that he couldn’t continue this conversation anymore.
――Once every two weeks, Subaru and Beatrice would exchange anger and stillness like so.
After letting go of her, Beatrice once again buried her forehead into her knees. And after that Subaru couldn’t say anything more to the girl who had retreated into her own shell. Subaru’s words still weren’t able to manage to open the door to her stubborn heart.
Nevertheless, if he beat relentlessly against those doors, maybe one day, they would open. ――The mere possibility of this hope, was hope itself.
[Subaru:… Back then, I wonder if I should have told her I was『They』even if it was a lie.]
Exiting the library and leaving Beatrice behind, whilst keeping his back to the door, Subaru recollected this.
Beatrice had been broken clinging to the hope that Subaru was the『They』in question back during the attack on the mansion. She had been prepared for the end of her long, long mission, but both her fragile hopes and her sorrowful acceptance were smashed to pieces.
Would Subaru have been able to lie to her who had longed for the visit of『They』for 400 years about being『They』just because he could? And in that case, could her heart have been protected without burning it along with the burning Forbidden Library?
“Echidna: The fact that the Forbidden Archive was lost can’t be undone. Accepting the irretrievable loss of all the knowledge without inheritance is quite painful for me, but it couldn’t be helped. Though for you, compared to that knowledge, that Beatrice’s life was saved is what matters most.”
[Subaru: It’s inappropriate that you’d say so. It should be that you alone, have no right to say this.]
Echidna, who was still in the dream world, protested to Subaru who had mentioned his regrets in passing.
But, hadn’t it been Echidna who had entrusted the Forbidden Library to Beatrice, and let her have such a lonely existence for 400 years?
As a result of Echidna setting this duty out to her, Beatrice’s heart had gradually crumbled to pieces. And despite that――
[Subaru: If you hadn’t told her to wait for『They』…!]
“Echidna: Wait a second. No matter how you look at it, isn’t that sidestepping logic? I had my own reasons, and there was a need for it to be done. Of course, responsibility for Beatrice’s long solitude does have to do with me. But, my intent was certainly not one of forcing misfortune upon that child. I do hope you understand.”
Receiving Echidna’s objections, Subaru hesitated in bursting out in anger. The witch’s words were correct. In the end, when he blamed Echidna, he was just shifting the responsibility from what he couldn’t do himself.
[Subaru: …In the end, who was『They』?]
“Echidna: Regretfully, I can’t let that slip from my mouth. Since the Forbidden Archive is lost, discussing it would be meaningless. Even if『They』were to be found, she wouldn’t know it was him.”
[Subaru: Him… so it’s a man?]
“Echidna: ――Did my mouth slip? But, every way of finding him is gone now. In the first place, say you found them, what would you do? Let Beatrice see them? Or do you intend to impose a sanction on them? In that case, what crime would it be under. The party in concern would certainly be unaware of it, a crime that doesn’t exist can’t be sanctioned. Moreover, it’s not like you have the leisure.”
Irrefutable were Echidna’s conversational tactics, leading Subaru to click his tongue.
As a matter of fact, everything spoken from the Witch were probably correct. He couldn’t find any errors. He couldn’t judge them. Subaru didn’t have the time to do such a thing.
“Echidna: Beatrice truly did spend that time in pity. But, that isn’t to say the future would remain so, and there’s no indication we should think thus. How unexpected, it’s just as you said.”
“Echidna: Even if devastated by regret right now, there will come a day where that child will be freed. At the time, someone will come to accept that child. Perhaps someone that is you, perhaps someone that isn’t. That is the possibility that living offers.”
It was sophistry.
It was merely a front of benevolence.
But, that doubtlessly was also hope.
It seemed like cajolery from Echidna, but if there was that possibility, Subaru had no choice but to believe them.
Thus, the witch he was contracted with, no matter how clearly he could see that she cajoled him, he could not deny what she was saying. He could only cling to her, rely on her. As his only accomplice, keeping Subaru from forgetting his sins, was her constant presence.
[Subaru: Just like parallel lines]
[Echidna: Ah, like parallel lines indeed]
In the end, finishing their conversation thus, were Subaru and Echidna’s manner of confronting their sins. They entrusted hope to the future, believing in the paths to possibility, awaiting the arrival of the ideal day.
It didn’t matter how many chances he had, Subaru would always find himself back in this place. He had dragged out the despairing Beatrice as she tried to stay in the burning mansion, even if she’d lost her Forbidden Library, even if her every day were to be met with relentless tears; he still had wanted her to live.
Even with repeated trial and error in many thousands repetitions of this world, Subaru hadn’t found a way of rescuing Beatrice without letting anyone to die.
Thus, clinging onto hope, he kept walking forward through thick and thin, through thick and thin.
I saved them, I saved them.
Today as well, he made these words his motivation for the future; he wanted hope to flourish.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
[???: Oh myyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! But if it isn’t Subaru-samaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Did you come from visiting Beatrice?]
Suddenly, he heard a voice from behind him as he walked through the corridor. Subaru reflexively stopped in his tracks. He immediately realised who it belonged to from the tone of his voice. It was because of that he regretted stopping, but he couldn’t ignore it because he had already stopped walking. Reluctantly turning around, the other figure stood leisurely, directly behind Subaru.
[Subaru: Is that you, Roswaal?]
[Roswaal: Mhhm. That’s me of course. Good morning. How was Beatrice today?]
[Subaru: …It had been a while since she’s treated me so haughtily. Well, anticipate some progress from now on.]
[Roswaal: I see. … Looks like you took quiiiiiite the beating, though?]
Roswaal narrowed his differently coloured eyes as he received Subaru’s dispirited reply. He was looking at Subaru’s face and neck. On them, were the painful scratches Beatrice had given him with her nails a short while ago.
[Roswaal: Unfortunately, I’ve never been skilled at treating injuries, and I won’t be able to treat those wounds. The ones who can use Healing Magic are just… Beatrice, Garfiel and Emilia-sama.]
[Subaru: It’d be a little difficult to ask it from the first two. I could ask Emilia… well I’ll think about it.]
[Roswaal: If you ask her, I am sure she’ll definitely heal you up. Or perhaps, could it be that maybe your aching wounds give you some comfort right now?]
In place of the reticent Subaru, each of Roswaal’s discursive words were as painfully sharp as a razor. It was especially so when Roswaal spoke his last words; Subaru narrowed his eyes to it, and Roswaal shrugged his shoulders up in a clown-like gesture.
The clown’s makeup and exotic attire, Roswaal’s appearance and attitude had in no way changed, but he was also decisively different.
Behind the way he addressed Subaru and his attitude towards him there was a certain respect. That served as Roswaal’s, toward the unpredictable existence of Natsuki Subaru, proof that he recognized his utility.
[Roswaal: But, please don’t worry about it. If you make use of your time, I am sure you’ll find a solution; no matter what the method, you will dedicate yourself in finding the optimal way. If your desire is to save Beatrice’s heart, such a method will one day fall within your grasp. There’s no need at all to feeeeeeel anxious.]
[Subaru: It’s hardly as easy done as said. There isn’t anything so convenient.]
[Roswaal: You’re too modest. ――Besides, I don’t think that it’s easy, yes? But, that mere fact doesn’t cloud all of your achievements so far, that’s all I was saying.]
Respectfully giving a bow, Roswaal gave thorough praise for Subaru’s achievements.
As a matter of fact, only Echidna who was contracted with Subaru knew about his ability of 『Return by Death.』But, Roswaal had an understanding of his ability to be similar to『Redoing.』 Roswaal evaluated that fact and his achievements together.
As Echidna didn’t have any realistic power in the real world, it it was no exaggeration to say that Roswaal that valued Subaru the most in the truest sense.
[Roswaal: At the Royal Capital, at my mansion, and once again at the Royal Capital. And then, at『Sanctuary』, at Pristella. ――You survived those without fail, without loss. Indisputable, are the feats of your achievement. There will come a day, when you will fulfill my long-cherished wish, and for that I will do my utmost to support you. Please make use of it.]
[Subaru: You sure are optimistic. …Don’t be so sure that you can grasp me in the palm of your hands.]
[Roswaal: But, you need the blood of the dragon. Without it, that girl―― Rem will never awaken. Having reached that conclusion, you need Emilia-sama to become king. Isn’t that right?]
Subaru returned the stare with a sharp, cold look to Roswaal’s searching expression,.
It’s a relationship of mutual cooperation established on choppy waters, in which both of them knew each other’s critical points.
Roswaal would accomplish his goal by utilising Subaru’s『Return by Death』as he put Subaru in situations whereby he could achieve this. And though Subaru knew of those intentions, he didn’t have any choice but to advance by them for the sake of saving Rem, who was still sleeping.
[Roswaal: In no way is it a bad deal. You do you, I do me, and in any case we’ll both have our desires become reality. That’s why we make use of each other to that end. That’s all.]
[Roswaal: My strength should be useful. I devoted about 400 years awaiting this time. And to me, your power is the same… isn’t that so?]
Subaru couldn’t give any objections to Roswaal’s conviction. That was the answer that came out from when he found out about Roswaal’s treachery way back at the『Sanctuary』. Whether for the sake of the Royal Election, or as a means of blocking against coming hindrances, being without Roswaal’s presence, was absolutely unallowable.
Even if he was just planning on using Subaru to make his own wishes come true.
[Subaru: If you were honest about your true intentions, and you told me what you wanted, I wouldn’t be so stubborn, I would maybe even be willing to help.]
[Roswaal: What a shame, I’m afraid that’s impossible. You’ve already lost that choice.]
Slightly easing the sense of urgency, to the approaching Subaru, Roswaal gave him his rejection. Roswaal gave a ostentatious smile towards the Subaru who heard that with widened eyes.
[Roswaal: Being conscious of it would be a disaster, you must always exalt your sole priority. Any obstructions, reasons for stumbling, everything will be judged, and no matter what can be discarded without second thought. And if done, that would be the end. This was all already decided, hence why you’ve become my trump card.]
[Roswaal: Isn’t this wonderful? I’ll take care of my side, you’ll take care of yours, freely fulfilling our wishes. If it’s impossible even like this, that merely indicates the desire to reach the wish was insufficient.]
[Subaru: …Ah, is that so?]
Crazed dedication, was why Roswaal supported his, that much had already been clear. Then, where the root of it came from, his refusal to speak honestly about it was also thus. With this in mind, Subaru ended the conversation with Roswaal and finally started to walk away. With a posture that showed just how much Roswaal was detached from his heart, Roswaal stopped walking,
[Roswaal: Ahhh, yes. Right about now, Ram will be in Rem’s room. I’m letting you know, just in case.]
Unable to respond, Subaru turned the corner and escaped from his gaze.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
[Ram: Thank you very much for taking the trouble to visit my lonely sister, Natsuki Subaru-sama]
Ever since the agreement in『Sanctuary』, or perhaps, it might be more accurate to say ever since Natsuki Subaru decided to do things this way.
Ever since that, it was inevitable that numerous changes had occured in the mansion, and on the outside, but amongst them, the biggest change was perhaps hers.
The one who had greeted Subaru as he entered the room was a pink-haired maid who had given him a most profound bow. The one who had spoke this greeting was most certainly Ram.
Though she had been a girl with that had been the very picture of arrogance, after he had overcome the events of『Sanctuary』, she had a sudden shift in her attitude towards Subaru.
[Subaru: No matter how much time passes, I never get used to your attitude.]
[Ram : Again, I am really sorry for how rude I was in the past. Ram’s ignorance and discourtesies caused great inconveniences to Natsuki Subaru-sama. But since Roswaal-sama and Emilia-sama have ordered me to show Natsuki-sama the highest of respect, it won’t happen again; please rest assured]
Without changing her expression, Ram replied to Subaru in a manner dignified as any maid would be. There were no traces of familiarity or a sense of closeness which could be interpreted as friendliness in her behaviour, as there had been once before. There was a wall―― No, if there was a wall he’d be able to climb over it. Here, there was no way of overcoming it; more precisely, it was a distance between worlds than a wall.
Ram held Roswaal in high esteem and adored him. When Roswaal had changed the way he acted towards Subaru, Subaru’s value also greatly changed for Ram. The result was that she now regarded Subaru as someone she showed respect to.
Turning his attention away from that Ram, Subaru walked towards the middle of the room―― the reason why he had came to this room was the blue-haired girl who was sleeping in the bed.
She was lying on her back, her figure unchanged after 2 years―― that girl, was Rem. He had vowed to wake her up, and now he still hadn’t reached the conviction that he’d fulfill that vow. Just time was cruelly leaving the girl behind.
[Subaru: Are there any changes in Rem?]
[Ram: No I’m afraid. She still continues to sleep… There are a lot of problems on your mind, Ram doesn’t have the time to give any attention to her little sister.]
[Subaru: Don’t say such things. There’s absolutely… there’s absolutely no futility in thinking about Rem. Never say that again.]
[Ram: ――Understood sir.]
Ram responded curtly to Subaru’s firm order. Neither dissatisfaction or complaints were there, and neither was relief or gratitude. In regards to her younger sister called Rem, Ram had no actual feelings or appreciation for her. She recognised formally that Rem was her sister, but in the depths of her heart she probably had no room for Rem.
Her heart was completely based on loyalty to Roswaal. Having involved her in Roswaal’s plans, having decided to curb the wishes Ram clung onto, the effects of Subaru’s actions were strong indeed.
Even if Rem were to awaken, would her heart once again have room for her little sister? Would those sisters go back to being the much loved big sister, and her cute little sister.
[Subaru: ――Ukh. Ram, sorry, but let me be alone with Rem.]
[Ram: …as you wish. Please call me if you need anything.]
Grinding his teeth at the shuddering thought, Subaru felt terrified at being in the same room as Ram. Miraculously, before his trembling voice was let out, she had left the room. Fortunately, Ram had left gracefully, leaving him behind only an elegant curtsy without giving any objections to Subaru’s words. And so, only the two of Subaru and Rem were left in the room.
Lying on the bed, the girl simply breathed over and over again in a manner which could not be mere sleep; she doesn’t reply. The fact that her chest was gently rising and falling, and that the blood in her body was warm were the only signs of life within Rem.
All that Subaru could do for Rem when visiting this place was to take her hand and check her weak pulse. And that’s all Subaru can find comfort in, in this moment.
“Echidna: For you to call me, is truly a rarity.”
Echidna replied to his call as he sat down by Rem’s bedside, gently holding her hand. The witch who seemed to know all too well about how she would speak without necessarily being called, silently waited for Subaru’s words to be submerged in the warm water of his emotions. The silence would end after ten or so minutes.
[Subaru: What were the ways you said before that could help Rem wake up?]
“Echidna: Hmmm. You could question the Sin Archbishop of『Gluttony』that put her in this sleep. But, I have to say, the likelihood of that is quite low. Finding those guys is next to impossible, and even if you do catch them, finding a way to beat their secrets out of them… Even if you were to just able to find a way to talk to them, maybe it would be easy to find a way to make them open their mouth, if you had the power…”
[Subaru: Ah, that’s right. That’s right of course. If I manage to find them, and catch them, and beat their secrets out of them to reawaken Rem, I can challenge them ten thousands of times. Even so…]
They were nowhere to be found. The Sin Archbishop of Gluttony, those despicable blasphemers never showed up anywhere. Even when the Sin Archbishops『Wrath』, 『Lust』and 『Greed』 gathered in the Watergate City of Pristella, the Sin Archbishop of『Gluttony』did not show up.
Why, why, why, why, why, why, why――
[Subaru: If tracking down『Gluttony』is hopeless, what about the Sage’s tower? If the『Sage』Shaula knows everything, then…]
“Echidna: As a witch, I will say this. Even if you do go to the Pleiades Watchtower, you’ll just be going on a fool’s errand. The『Sage』will not correspond to your expectations. On the contrary, there’s even the possibility that the『Sage』will not allow your presence. Even you should not wish to drop in there to die in vain, right?”
He was denied once. He was denied twice. He was stuck. Getting help from the『Sage』was a no go. The Archbishops of『Gluttony』were nowhere to be found. Subaru’s wishes were denied politely by the『Witch of Greed』. Then, what on earth should he do――
“Echidna: So, you have no choice but to get the blood of the dragon”
[Subaru: If I get the blood of the dragon, I can wake up Rem.]
“Echidna: I refer to the Divine Dragon’s. Using its omnipotent power kept in its blood, I think you should be able to release the girl’s soul from her sleep.”
Echidna’s words were no more than a conjecture. But it was a convincing conjecture. Though she had said them with an air of avoiding them as being fact, the witch’s words were fairly encouraging. Thus for now, Subaru believed that this was the way to save Rem.
The blood of the dragon was considered one of the treasures which the『Divine Dragon』Volcanica granted to the Kingdom of Lugnica. It brought plentiful harvest to the lands, and kept away every disease, and had the possibility to grant miracles.
It could only be used by people with the highest pedigrees of social status in the kingdom. In other words it was those who――
[Subaru: Those who ascend the throne.]
“Echidna: Of course. That’s why you have to make her.. You absolutely must make Emilia king.”
“Echidna: Back Emilia, back her and make her king whilst you help the people you wish to save. And when you get ahold of the dragon’s blood, you will be able to save Rem.”
Echidna’s words pour into Subaru’s mind like poison. He has to make Emilia king in order to save Rem. Making Emilia king was one of Subaru’s aims that he wanted to meet to fulfill Emilia’s wishes.
It was of utmost importance. Supporting Emilia would lead to saving Rem.
To make Emilia king, to save Rem. As a result, Rem would be saved thanks to Subaru wanting to make Emilia king. Therefore――
[Subaru: Stop, you idiot. … Don’t try and swing my determination like that every time you can. Why are you trying to place Emilia under me?]
“Echidna: But that wasn’t my intention?”
[Subaru: You have no persuasive power. We’ve repeated this conversation many times, tens of times, hundreds of times.]
The witch often times poured poison into his mind similar as if she was brainwashing him. In a way to change Subaru’s aims, and lessen the value of Emilia. But that was something that Subaru could not let go. It they differed in this, Natsuki Subaru would lose his qualification to step on his own corpses that have been slaughtered so far.
[Subaru: You won’t enclose my heart. No matter what you harbour against Emilia.]
“Echidna: That’s simply a misunderstanding. Well, it doesn’t matter how much I say, you won’t believe it… just like parallel lines.”
[Subaru: It’s better to say that we never agree with each other, like parallel lines, even if it’s a conversation that we repeat a lot.]
There were things which could not be relinquished in his cooperative relationship with Echidna. The witch claimed to be Subaru’s accomplice, and by lending Subaru her wisdom as a contribution, she planned to use not only Subaru’s 『Return by Death』, but also his way of life. Although, thanks to her ingenuous side, those poisonous fangs did not reach him, and thus they were in a state of stalemate.
[Subaru: I’ll get my hands on the dragon’s blood. I’ll make Emilia king. ――But, it wasn’t originally just about saving Rem. Even though making Emilia king was directly linked with saving Rem, my original intentions haven’t changed. I am sure of that.]
“Echidna: Mymy. I wouldn’t complain at all if I were allowed a little freedom of movement from time to time. I have to show my flawed side, otherwise I can’t save face as a witch.”
[Subaru: The way you execute your endgame is soft. Or rather, perhaps, when it comes to you, I’d say you’re soft at the core. You’re not suited to be a complete villain. That’s how I am saved.]
“Echidna: I see. I will try to keep that in mind.”
Echidna admitted her defeat with no great objection. Even if she could made use of this lesson next time, she probably wouldn’t be able to. To ask why, the answer would be that. Because it’s not something that can be changed.
Natsuki Subaru was Natsuki Subaru no matter what befell him.
The『Witch of Greed』Echidna could only be the『Witch of Greed』Echidna.
Using the nature that they could never be capable of changing as weapons.
Because in life, victory or defeat could only be found in the cards they were dealt.
[Subaru: ――Wait for me, Rem. For sure, I will wake you up. That’s why…]
――No matter how many times he dies.
His resolve was no exaggeration, the stakes he presented were quite trivial. Regardless of how many times he threw it away, he would continue giving his inextinguishable life away. If that eventually led to her waking up, he would feel no regrets.
Just that much, just that much, just that would be good enough.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――After returning from visiting Beatrice’s library, and Rem’s bedroom, he had now reached the end of his daily routine.
Subaru knocked on the room’s door with a rap-rap-rap. Then there was a knock from the inside that returned the knock. Without replying, they knocked. Replying to it, Subaru once again gave another knock. And that was met by the other person immediately knocking back. Knock knock knock knock knock――
???: [――Jeez, how long are you going to do that for! It’s making me reaaaaally anxious]
The one who who had lost their patience just a few moments ago was the one in the room. The door opened from the inside, and the face of a beautiful girl with amethyst eyes and silver hair could be seen―― she was the embodiment of supreme beauty that forever continued to encaptivate everything.
If she showed her face whilst puffing her rosy cheeks, she would give an impression of tenderness rather than of beauty. Suddenly, Subaru started to laugh.
[Emilia: Ah, what are you laughing for? Ugh, Subaru’s such a twit.]
[Subaru: Twit… no one says that word anymore these days. It was Emilia-tan that started to return the knocks just before. I just went with the flow.]
[Emilia: You say it like that. Hmph, whatever. Then if it’s like that, I just won’t let Subaru into my room.]
Emilia tried to close the door, her face etched with annoyance when she heard Subaru speaking through his laughter. Seeing that, Subaru became anxious and put his hand in between the door――
[Emilia: Ah! Subaru, are you okay!?]
Emilia jumped at Subaru’s over-exaggerated shriek of pain after having had his fingers jammed in the door. Quickly jumping out of the room, she hurriedly grabbed Subaru’s aching right hand, and,
[Emilia: *Nom nom nom*]
[Subaru: Ehh, Emilia-tan!? Isn’t that a little bold!?]
[Emilia: Mmphphnn, mmhmhhmhpphhnomnomnomnomnom]
Whatever he was saying was muffled by Emilia’s angered reaction, and by her sharp amethyst eyes. Emilia’s soft lips wrapped themselves around the sore fingers of Subaru’s right hand. In between her soft lips, he realised that Emilia’s warm tongue was gently tracing the numb pain which racked Subaru’s fingers.
A sensual shiver traveled up Subaru’s spine.
[Emilia: Mhm….that should be fine I think. Subaru, it must’ve hurt…. Hey, why is your face bright red?]
[Subaru: I can’t help acting like a young teen, or how should I put it… it was such an unexpected development… uhh, well, I’m okay. Thank you very much. This should be good enough for me.]
[Emilia: ――? I’m not sure if I understood that, but I should start using my healing magic, right?]
Emilia’s face broke out in confusion as Subaru bowed down his head, sticking up his fingers which had been licked. However, she immediately changed her awareness, and began to heal Subaru’s fingers with a light blue surge of magic. She completely cured the pain that had been softened by Emilia’s tongue.
After that…all that remained for Subaru was how he would clean up his fingers which were drenched in saliva.
[Subaru: I’ll wipe them on my clothes… Wait no, that would be gross. Having said that, I’m not advanced enough to lick them so majestically…!? But, if I let this chance escape…]
[Emilia: Ah, sorry. I got them covered in my drool. Yep, all clean now.]
[Subaru: Damnit――!? It was a choice with a time restriction――!?]
Not even taking note of the astonished Subaru, Emilia wiped Subaru’s fingers with her handkerchief with great delight. And after that, she suddenly looked at Subaru’s neck; her eyes blinked rapidly.
Beatrice’s scratchmarks had been left there without curing them. Emilia had noticed them with her sharp eyes, she gently placed her white fingers on those wounds,
[Emilia: Subaru, that looks painful. What happened here?]
[Subaru: Ah, Aaaah, This? I just got my neck caught on something on the way here…]
She interrupted Subaru’s words as he had been trying to smooth over the situation; Emilia spoke just that one word. She opened her eyes wide open and stroked Subaru’s wounds with her fingers over and over again. And then, she muttered just one thing.
[Emilia: It was Beatrice, wasn’t it?]
Suddenly saying that, Emilia’s voice was frozen of all emotion.
In an instant, a large quantity of pure white strength surged from Emilia’s body. It swept down the mansion’s hallway in one fell swoop and Subaru’s skin was caressed by a great burning cold.
The air froze, the chill caused the air to crackle, and Subaru said in a panic:
[Subaru: Emilia! Emilia, calm down! Everything is okay, everything is okay!]
[Subaru: Emilia! Look at me!]
He forcibly stretched his arms out and hugged the girl’s trembling body as he called out to her. He called out Emilia’s name many many times to her ear. He was pressed up right next to her as he shouted with his own reflection visible in her amethyst eyes.
To his voice, Emilia’s eyes shifted out of focus and a small whimper leaked out of her voice.
In an instant, the cold air that was spreading out all around the mansion’s top floor vanished. And even the overwhelming pressure surrounding everything vanished. Things went back to as they were before.
[Subaru: Th― That was dangerous. A little more of that, and Reinhardt would have come rushing in…]
[Emilia I… I… n-now… eh…?]
[Subaru: It’s okay, it’s okay. Emilia-tan is a good girl, a good girl, everything is okay.]
Rolling his eyes, Subaru sat down to face Emilia who had sat down on the floor. As she clutched her head, unable to digest what had happened, Subaru patted her on the back many times in an attempt to calm her down.
Gradually, Emilia’s breathing regained its composure, and then she looked at Subaru’s face timidly and said:
[Emilia: S-sorry? I.. acted weird again…]
[Subaru: It’s alright. Because any troubles hoisted by Emilia-tan aren’t troubles at all. That’s the role I want to take. Don’t worry.]
Emilia nodded happily at Subaru’s words. Subaru would not let go of her body until her heart truly settled down.
――Emilia’s emotional instability was influenced by the fact that she couldn’t surmount the『Trials』of the『Sanctuary』.
In the end, he didn’t know what she saw in the First『Trial』which showed glimpses of one’s past. Nevertheless, whatever memories she saw broke Emilia’s heart into pieces and crushed her strength to stand up strong. And as she couldn’t overcome the trials, Subaru completed them himself.
Therefore, Emilia’s progress was probably still trapped in the graveyard even now.
But, no matter for how long she rejects everything, and no matter how long she mourns, time kept going on. And neither the world, nor her surroundings, nor anyone would let her off with her stagnation. That’s why Subaru continued to take Emilia by the hand, even when she’d halted to a stop.
[Emilia: Sorry, Subaru. I’m still causing Subaru trouble…]
[Subaru: It’s okay, it’s no problemo, no problem at all. Rather, it makes me feel welcome.]
[Emilia: …hehe, aww, Subaru. Mhm, thank you. I’m okay, I’ve calmed down.]
With a brief hug, Emilia lifted her face from Subaru’s chest. The girl’s warmth left his chest, and Subaru stiffened his lips with a regretful look.
[Subaru: Damnit. I wanted to enjoy Emilia-tan’s softness just a little while more.]
[Emilia: Huuh, would that be better? If Subaru says so, I will do so.]
[Subaru: Nononono, it’s fine. You see, this is a trick I use quite often to cope with dissatisfaction. Gorging yourself until full is for cattle. I think rather than a pig in its sty, I’m more like a wolf who is chasing after its prey.]
[Emilia: That may be so. I also think Subaru is closer to a dog than a pig.]
[Subaru: But, isn’t it a whole different story when it comes to dogs and pigs!?]
Subaru calmed down Emilia with this absurd exchange. She now had a smile back on her face. Luckily, it seemed like she had forgotten the anger she had shown just a few moments ago at his wounds.
“Echidna: I can’t bear to look at this.”
[Subaru: Shut up.]
[Subaru: Ah, I wasn’t saying that to Emilia-tan. Sorry, I was talking to myself.]
Subaru instinctively replied to Echidna’s sudden thought waves, surprising Emilia. Naturally, the thoughts through the crystal stone reached only Subaru. Echidna’s contempt and disdain, who openly expressed her dislike for the state Emilia was in, also only reached Subaru.
[Emilia: W― would it be better for me to shut up? If that’s what Subaru wants, I will do my best to stay quiet…]
[Subaru: It’s not like that! It’s fine, so let’s talk a lot, okay? It’s okay if you talk.]
Emilia’s amethyst eyes started to swell with tears. And when Subaru nodded, Emilia let out a sigh of relief, once again taking Subaru’s hand.
[Emilia: Well then, tell me Subaru. ――What should I do today?]
[Emilia: Yesterday, I finished studying in my room as you told me to do. If it’s something Subaru says, there’s no doubt I will do it. So, can you tell me what should I do today?]
――She does what Subaru says, if it’s Subaru she will make no mistakes, she believed in Subaru.
Subaru struggled to keep his fake smile from disappearing from his face when he heard those words slip out of Emilia’s mouth. The efficacy of his smile which he had practised in front of the mirror was shown here. Thanks to that, Emilia didn’t harbour any distrust or suspicion; she was just waiting with her eyes shining brightly for Subaru’s response.
Emilia, who had been setback by the『Trials』of the Graveyard was trying to protect her heart by completely relying on Subaru.
It was quite natural.
By using the power of『Return by Death』, Subaru had completely eliminated all the obstacles that stood before Emilia. He had understood that Emilia had not contradicted how she had gained his trust―― he had gotten this far doing that. Emilia’s heart clung to Subaru, and having recognised that she was in such a terribly unstable state he had tried to 『Return by Death』, but no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t return back to the『Sanctuary』.
But still, Subaru didn’t think this situation was the worst.
[Subaru: Well then, I’ll please ask this of Emilia-tan. Today, just like yesterday, keep up your studies! If I do something important again, I’ll let you know beforehand.]
[Emilia: Like in Pristella?]
[Subaru: Yeah, like in Pristella. Until then, you need to keep learning. Preparing for an emergency, and boosting your own morale, those are assuredly the most important things Emilia-tan can do now.]
[Emilia: Mhm, yup, understood Subaru-sensei. I will do as ordered. So could you――]
Emilia enthusiastically agreed with Subaru, who had put on this dramatic spiel. Emilia had accepted his command with something resembling a salute trailed off her words at the end…
[Emilia: So could you stroke my head, if I do that?]
Emilia said this with embarrassment and a trace of anxiety in her eyes which were peeking at Subaru. Subaru gulped seeing her figure, and just for a moment he stood stock still. If that moment continued for any longer, it’d be easy to imagine the despair creeping into her eyes.
But, luckily Subaru had put on a smile before that could happen.
[Subaru: Of course? But what if I ask for permission to touch Emilia-tan’s silver hair?]
[Emilia: ――? If Subaru wants to touch it, he can touch it any time he wants…]
[Subaru: S―i―n―c―e! Since it mustn’t come as a reward. When good things happen, then I can promise to. I will stroke Emilia-tan. Okay?]
[Emilia: Mhm, oookay]
Emilia awkwardly nodded to Subaru’s confirmation as he gave her a thumbs up and smiled showing his brilliant teeth. And then, still holding Subaru’s hand without wanting to let go――
[Emilia: Alright, I’ll go back to my room.]
[Subaru: Aaah, since Petra will bring the food up, let’s eat together.]
[Emilia: Yeah, I’ll be waiting. Well, I’ll see you later!]
Moving her hand away, Emilia went back into her room. ――Seeing her silver hair which had now been cut short which moved as one, Subaru resisted the urge to let out a long sigh. When the door shut behind her, Subaru and Emilia’s connection was physically cut away.
“Echidna: Good grief, there are bounds even for ugliness.”
As soon as Emilia’s figure disappeared, Echidna started her abuse. Subaru does not deign to reply to her words smeared in revulsion. He had learnt to never say anything about it from the time he had entered this relationship with Echidna, it was a way to cope with how Echidna treat her.
Don’t talk back, and she won’t talk back to you.
By maintaining that stubborn attitude, the witch would perceive it as a waste to open her mouth and would stay silent.
Only when it came to Emilia could Echidna absolutely not be counted on. And when it came to the relationship between Subaru and Echidna, though it didn’t seem as if it had changed from before, it was still different, and right now he didn’t have time to fix it.
“Echidna: It would be more convenient for you if she was a doll who would just do what you said, isn’t that right?”
His throat clogged up at her cruel observation, Subaru regretted that he had shown a reaction to it. They were words he shouldn’t give any reaction to, however, they were words that he wasn’t able to deny.
Protecting their lives, protecting the future, protecting hope, and protecting the possibility.
That’s why he was sacrificing Emilia’s heart of『now.』Because Subaru was aware that he would not stop at just Emilia.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
He declined to join breakfast at the dining hall with the Emilia camp, Petra who had been on meal duty looked disappointed but, she carried the meals up to the room for Emilia and Subaru.
While they eat, Subaru followed up what the mentally unstable Emilia had been doing and when finally dinner came to an end, Emilia obediently headed to her desk as instructed by Subaru.
[Emilia: I need to do what Subaru says to become a good king.]
Saying that, Emilia psyched herself up, and Subaru left her room. Having delegated some of Roswaal’s Official Work to her, Emilia’s knowledge for the Royal Selection was a lot better than the first time he had met her. The fruits of her effort were proven day by day.
“Echidna: For anything that happens, in the end she’ll always come to seek your approval. An awfully interesting way to raise a king.”
[Subaru: Shut up]
“Echidna: You’re harbouring unease for it, allowing her to sit on the throne in that state, you know it’ll always be turbulent. However, you have no other choice but to do so.”
Having left Emilia’s room, Echidna’s words dripped poison into Subaru’s ears as he walked down the mansion’s corridors. It was true that Emilia’s soul had become unstable, and the willpower she had at the start of the Royal Selection had been greatly shook. But still, she would definitely sit upon The Kingdom of Lugnica’s throne.
And Natsuki Subaru will make sure he does that.
Repeatedly『Returning by Death』and removing every hardship that crop up in front of her, he will be able to dismiss any kind of impediments in her way and make it so that Emilia’s ambitions are fulfilled.
And doing so is not just related to Emilia’s desires, but also to saving Rem. Supporting Emilia, saving Rem, keeping the people close to him away from pain. ――Wasn’t this exactly the very future Natsuki Subaru wanted when he made the contract with the witch?
――I’m sorry, Natsuki-san. This is farewell.
Suddenly, a voice rang out, not within his eardrums, but within his mind. Subaru stopped in his tracks. Turning his head back, he saw no one in his surroundings. He thought it may have been the bad tastes of the witch, but that couldn’t have been her thought waves. It was something far different, it was a call from his own memories.
The voice continued to speak.
――I uhm, Natsuki-san. Even though things are like this, I thought of you as my benefactor. I thought of you as a person I owed a great debt to which I wanted to pay as soon as possible.
The voice continued to speak.
――But, I saw your decision and I understand it. You don’t want anyone’s help, and on the contrary, you do just about everything alone, and you can do it.
The voice continued to speak.
――Therefore, this is my way of returning the favour. Since you probably will try to protect everyone who you are close to, I will take my leave.
The voice continued to speak.
――Well then, goodbye, Natsuki-san. Take care of yourself.
The voice continued to speak.
――I thought of you as my friend.
The voice continued to speak.
――You wouldn’t have thought that though.
Just as the last of his words resounded in his mind, Subaru punched the wall next to him with all his might. A dull clunking sound resounded throughout the corridor, and Subaru’s hand cracked pitifully. As blood spread down his fist, Subaru breathed out a ragged sigh and put his other hand to his head.
Those were the words that Otto Suwen left behind that he would never forget. Subaru made it through the『Sanctuary』, chased away the Sizeable Hare Witchbeast, took Beatrice out of the burning mansion and overcame all of these events. And then Otto said that to him and left the mansion.
And even if more than a year had passed since then, his back in the moment he left never disappeared from Subaru’s mind. It seemed as if he’d condemned Subaru for choosing to save everyone.
“Echidna: But, you didn’t stop him. The fact that there were fewer people to protect would have been a blessing for you.”
[Subaru: No. Such a motive spurn from just calculation wasn’t the reason why I didn’t stop him. It was just because I respected the guy’s intention. From the start, he was a guy who had no reason to stay here.]
He was trying to repay him for purchasing his cargo and saving him from the Witch Cult. But, he had already repaid Subaru by having driven the Dragon Carriage to where Emilia was about to be blown up.
And when it came to the cargo, even when they had exchanged the right amount of money, it hadn’t been a loan.
Otto Suwen had no reason to cooperate with the Emilia camp. If he had stayed here without reason, he wouldn’t leave the place anymore, and would continue being a merchant only for himself here.
Therefore, he did not stop him when he decided to leave. Besides, even though Otto’s『Divine Protection of Soul Language』was useful, it was not indispensable to win the Royal Selection.
In the first place, if he continued to be associated with the Emilia Camp, he’d still be in the danger from both the『Witch Cult』and the『Royal Selection.』It was better for Otto to have left here. After that, he didn’t ever hear of him again. They had talked to each other only for two weeks, so it wasn’t that that big of a deal.
Natsuki Subaru had others he had to protect by throwing away his life.
Stepping on the blood that was dripping down his shoes, Subaru shook his head and started to walk. Recently, a number of thoughts had been perturbing his thoughts. It was frustrating. It was irritating. More than anything, Echidna was taking advantage of it.
There were countless things to think about. He had no time to remain shut within his own mind.
He must choose the best, the very best, the ideal, the optimum choice.
And despite that he――
He came out of the corridor at a brisk pace, and found himself back at his own room. He couldn’t let anyone see his face right now. Natsuki Subaru was calm, Natsuki Subaru was rational, Natsuki Subaru was optimistic, there was nothing different about him than usual. As things are, everyone in the mansion must believe these things. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to protect those he wanted to protect――
[???: Oh my, it seems like you came back in a hurry.]
He went into the room, and closed the door behind him. Subaru lifted his head up towards the voice that was coming from within the room. Gazing at Subaru, the『Dark-haired Woman』was sitting on his bed smiling sweetly. She gently brushed her hand across her long, braided black hair.
[*Dark-haired Woman*: I should have been back on time, seeing you here, it seems I’m in quite the pickle.]
[Elsa: Yeah, that’s right. The『Bowel Hunter』, Elsa Granhiert; I immediately came running, as Master ordered. ――I wonder, is there trouble?]
Saying that, the beautiful woman clad in a rather revealing black garment that exposed her feminine body alluringly tilted her head towards him―― It was Elsa, the alluring assassin whose figure emitted a poisonous aura.
Subaru easily accepted the woman who had entered the room without giving off any sounds or traces; he was not at all surprised. And that’s because it was…
It was natural. She was not an enemy. Even though she wasn’t an ally he could relax his guard around, she was still an ally.
In any case――
[Subaru: I helped you out of the burning mansion. I give you work because of that.]
[Elsa: I understand. I don’t have any issues with you now that you’re my employer. I request only that you chose things that don’t go as far as being against my hobbies …but for now, I have no complaints.]
Pulling out her Kukri Knife holstered at her waist, Elsa burst out laughing, emitting a rather dark radiance. She was currently collaborating to provide information for the camp by working behind the scenes.
Emilia who stood as the head of the camp, an incorruptible symbol.
Reinhardt who was the『Sword Saint』, subject to unwavering public opinion.
And, Natsuki Subaru, who had surmounted and stopped many difficult situations with zero damage.
Unlike those three, who couldn’t act freely lest they tarnish their reputation, Elsa had many opportunities to get her dirty hands dirty. Of course, although you could call it dirty work, the work she did wasn’t necessarily evil――
[Subaru: So, how did it go?]
[Elsa: I’m sorry to report, but, it seems like『Gluttony』was nowhere to be seen at the place you sent me to. There was nothing but rabbles of ordinary Witch Cultists there… although, I did set them all free.]
[Subaru: Aah. You can do as you like. …But… In the end, it was a dud?]
Subaru frowned, and sighed at Elsa’s report who had delivered it whilst licking her red lips. Again, he hadn’t been able to reach the limit. Even if he was trying to capture the Sin Archbishop of『Gluttony』, he couldn’t reach them no matter how much he tried.
[Subaru: In the end, only『Greed』has been killed.]
[Elsa: That, and『Wrath』was captured. I think that was a success, but I guess it might not be for you.]
[Subaru: …Anyway, I understood your report. For now, stay on standby until I need you again. I will get in touch with you from here once more when I want to request something of you again.]
[Elsa: Okay. ――Well, I suppose I’ll have to wait.]
Without further replying to Elsa’s words, Subaru quickly gave her his instructions. Receiving his instructions, she stood up without any particular care to them, and walked towards the window.
Since Subaru’s room was on the third floor of the mansion, she had probably came in through the window. Subaru felt no surprise at her acrobatics――
[Subaru: Ah, wait, Elsa. There’s one more thing I want you to tell me.]
[Elsa: ――? What may that be, I don’t really know anything of much importance.]
[Subaru: This isn’t anything too important. If you came from outside… how was the weather beyond the forest? Was it raining or was it clear?]
[Elsa: The weather? Eeh, there was no particular issue with it. Although there are clouds out, there’s no need to worry about it getting worse. Is that all?]
Cocking his head to the side, Subaru gazed at the Magic Hour Crystal in his room. Right now, it was already the time of fire―― It had already gone past 7 O’clock Solartime and was now way past noon.
To make sure of this, Subaru walked towards where Elsa was, her feet placed on the windowsill.
[Subaru: I want to ask you to do something. ――Please lop off my head with that knife.]
[Elsa: ――Your head… I wonder… have you lost it already?]
[Subaru: Are you calling me insane? I’m just asking you to do something that has to be done.]
Elsa curiously widened her eyes at Subaru’s remarks, and then let out a ferocious presence. But, Subaru’s attitude remained unflinching as the sun’s rays bathed him. Seeing that, Elsa shrugged her shoulders.
[Elsa: As a rule of thumb, people who have their heads lopped off typically die you know.]
[Subaru: I suppose I also apply to that rule. I don’t know about you though.]
[Elsa: I think I would also die if my head were to come off. …Are you sure about this?]
[Subaru: I should have said this when I helped you. ――I will ask for a single unrelated thing, so listen to what I have to say then. Right now’s the time.]
All of a sudden, Elsa narrowed her eyes at Subaru repeating himself. And then, picking up her arme de guerre, she started to twirl the sharp blade of her Kukri Knife around the palm of her hand,
[Elsa: Any last words?]
[Subaru: Make it painless.]
[Subaru: Ah, also, after I die you can do whatever you want with my guts, but don’t lay a finger on anyone in the mansion. Well in any case, that’s why I have Reinhardt arou―]
Before he could finish his words, Elsa’s arm cut through the wind. For a moment, Subaru’s field of vision was toppled over. As the view around the room spun around, he saw blood splashing in the familiar room, and
――Aah, cleaning the room is going to be hard on Petra.
As he thought that, Subaru’s life blinked out.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――When he woke up from his empty dream, Subaru always experienced a suffocating sensation.
However, his release from there was too early. Perhaps, it was because Natsuki Subaru was reconstructed in a different way when waking from his sleep.
Subaru jerked up violently, placing his hand against his forehead which was drenched in sweat. It was colder than the sweat you get when sleeping, closer to the cold sweat he’d get when losing his life.
In any case, Subaru’s body was on top of the sofa in his own room, and the sunshine was streaming in from the window.
[Subaru: Is it… morning?]
Touching his neck which should have been cut, Subaru rose slowly. Cocking his head, he checked to make sure that his head wasn’t lolling about somewhere on the floor, he checked the time using the Magical Hour Crystal which was above his door.
The crystal was glowing a light green, showing that the time was was early morning. Then the question that remained was『Which』morning was it?
To find that out, Subaru touched the pendant he was wearing. The black crystal was fastened by a chain which connected Subaru’s reality with the Dream Castle.
A warm sensation and a pulse streamed through the crystal which he held in the palm of his hand. When Subaru’s pulse coincided with it, and when the white light appeared, it was proof that the world had completely changed.
When he opened his eyes, Subaru once again was standing in the middle of the vast grassy plain. When he turned his head back, the hillock was there. Right besides the flower garden, underneath the parasol, on the other side of the white table, he could see the witch garbed in black clothes facing towards the white table sipping from her cup.
Going up the hill, he headed down towards where the witch was.
[Subaru: Hey, what day…]
Placing his hands on the table, he snarled this at the witch who was gracefully continuing her tea-time. However, she didn’t say anything back, she simply silently pointed at the seat across from her. That chair was empty, and a cup of tea had been prepared for the visitor. That was the minimum condition for participating in her tea party presented to Subaru――
[Subaru: Damn it, I’ll drink it, I’ll drink it!]
Grabbing the cup whilst smacking his lips, Subaru gulped down all of his tea in one swig. And just when he opened his eyes wide open from the warmth of the freshly prepared tea,
[Echidna: Whoaa―!? Just a second, just a second. You do know that you didn’t really have to do that?]
[Subaru: Shut up! Playing the part of a witch that’s difficult to please, this only happened because you insist on such problematic processes…. ――Ghha, ghhk gh]
Subaru was choking on his tea which had gone down his windpipe, even Echidna stood up from her seat in a rush. Then she put her hand on Subaru’s back and continued rubbing his back until his cough subsided. Whilst vomiting, Subaru,
[Subaru: Eh, where’s the tea?]
[Echidna: Hh, this time it was fine. Also, the tea I worked so hard to brew, was puked out by you, I really can’t put anything past you. And the table too, letting it stay dirtied like this is a pity.]
Echidna shook her head at Subaru trying to correct his transgression whilst he wiped his mouth. The witch looked at the table that had been stained by the tea Subaru spat out and lightly clicked her fingers. And then, the table started to come apart as if it was melting, until it vanished into dust.
[Echidna: Come now, you even dirtied the chair a bit. A man who’d dare to make me stand while talking is rare indeed… truly, you’re a sinful man.]
[Subaru: Choking and spitting out the tea is no big deal! ――Compared to that, we have more important things to discuss.]
Casting aside his banter with Echidna who teased him, Subaru pointed his finger up. What he had to confirm was just one thing.
[Subaru: What day is it today? It must be.. The 14th of Kisdam, right?]
[Echidna: I just wanted to make you a bit anxious. If you are too impatient, things will escape from you.]
He had no time for the witch’s games. Echidna responded to Subaru with a shrug of her shoulders and said,
[Echidna: That’s correct. Don’t worry. Your『Death』brought you back to the morning of this day. It looks like your latest starting point was affixed to the morning of this day. Were you sure of that?]
Answering Subaru’s question, Echidna counterattacked it from her own side. On the other hand, Subaru was relieved that he had confirmed it was the same morning that he had『Returned by Death』to. And with that peace of mind, he shook his head at Echidna’s question.
[Subaru: No, I wasn’t particularly sure. At the worst, I thought I’d gone back to the previous save point.]
[Echidna: Your previous one was set at two months ago. You did so many good things using your powers.]
[Subaru: Maybe. Even Elsa is surprised every time, what an unfathomable feeling.]
Nonetheless, even the assassin Elsa questioned the sanity of her employer, when he asked her to kill him. Even so, she immediately put aside her indecision and obeyed; she was an excellent means of using『Return by Death』in an emergency.
[Subaru: It’s just that my『Return by Death』led back to this morning.]
[Echidna: That’s right. So it seems… If that’s the case, it looks like problems may soon spring forth again.]
Closing her eyes, Echidna agreed with the frowning Subaru’s remarks. The starting point of his 『Return by Death』, and the shift of his new save point. That was the harbinger of hardships ahead which couldn’t be overcome without having『Return by Death』
In other words, that meant――
[Subaru: I’ll still have to borrow your strength, right?]
[Echidna: It’s nothing, that’s our contract. Besides, to date, lending you my strength hasn’t done much. ――At best, I can try and meddle for you from here with all of my might.]
[Subaru: With all your might… it’d be nice if you could help me with just that]
[Echidna: …A witch wouldn’t fall under someone’s palm. If I simply do as instructed, it’ll set a poor example for the other witches.]
Averting her gaze, Echidna let out her words in with something like embarrassment as she streamed her fingers through her long white hair. Although Subaru didn’t remember perceiving in her figure something like the ringing of her chest, he felt as if he had seen something nice before the eves of battle.
[Subaru: Anyhow, I will count on you,『Witch of Greed.』]
[Echidna: I am sure you will. I will wait here for you to affront the impending turmoil. If you are able to, being more cooperative in satisfying my endless curiosity would make me happy indeed…]
[Subaru: I refuse to do that. If I went along with satisfying your endless curiosity, it’d be just a matter of time until the human parts of me wither and die. Who would try to satisfy you in trying out infinite choices?]
[Echidna: Truly a pity.]
It seemed that, with Echidna’s light-hearted gesture, the tea break before the upcoming battle had ended. The point of『Return by Death』had changed unexpectedly, but in a sense, this meant he had gotten a chance to give the first strike.
[Subaru: If I use『Return by Death』to make the first strike, could I make a surprise attack?]
Musing about this, Subaru went down the hill and moved towards the door that would take him back to reality. Echidna softly raised her voice to him, behind his back.
[Echidna: Come to think of it…]
[Echidna: If you hadn’t grasped that the point of『Return by Death』changed, why did you expressly use『Return by Death』?]
[Subaru: Aah, that was because――]
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Going through the dream world’s door, Natsuki Subaru consciousness spiraled back towards reality.
Looking up at above the door, the time shown by the Magical Hour Crystal hadn’t changed since before. As always, Subaru headed towards the bathroom. He washed his face, brushed his teeth, took the trouble to put on his fake smile, and finally quickly changed his clothes. And, just as he finished…
[???: … Subaru-sama, are you awake?]
The sound of a knock from outside his room reached him, and Subaru got up from the sofa on-time. Then, putting his hand on the door, he opened the door.
[Subaru: Hey, good morning, Petra. You look cute this morning too.]
The door opened abruptly and Petra stood on the other side, her eyes wide open. But, after realising that Subaru was just teasing her, she laughed.
[Petra: Jeez, please don’t surprise me like that.]
[Subaru: I’m sorry I’m sorry. Well, Petra. Aren’t you going to greet me?]
[Petra: Really, you can’t regret it even a little? Hmph… okay, good morning, Subaru-sama. Today is once again a splendid morning you know.]
Without mentioning Subaru’s frivolous attitude, Petra continued to give him her lovely smile. Her words were exactly the same as the morning before『Returning by Death』. That being so, the next things she would say be exactly the same.
[Subaru: I agree, it’s a splendid morning. Today too, Petra looks cute, I don’t even need to say it.]
[Petra: Subaru’s still saying such things.… Ah, but there are clouds hanging over the sky beyond the forest, it seems that the weather may get worse this afternoon. I have plans to go shopping this afternoon, I hope it’ll stay sunnyyyyyy]
He listened to the girl talk about what she wanted to do, speaking in a manner which befitted her age. Subaru started to laugh. Seeing that, Petra puffed out her cheeks, but Subaru hastily replied with a, [I’m sorry, I’m sorry] and continued to speak,
[Subaru: But, rest assured Petra. Today will stay sunny. The clouds give off a false impression and won’t be a problem. I can say that for definite.]
[Petra: Huh? Really? That’s super helpful. … But, how do you know?]
[Subaru: Well, that’s because…]
Petra inclined her head in doubt and widened her eyes at Subaru’s assertion. Giving her a full-toothed smile, Subaru answered the girl’s query.
[Subaru: ――Because I just returned for this, risking life and death.]
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
A meadow of green, a garden’s fragrance drifting through the hillock, a white parasol and white table in fixed position, a black dress as if in mourning, a girl with white hair elegantly tilting her teacup.
As she relished the warm taste of the tea, the witch allowed an insouciant sigh to escape.
[Echidna: Using one’s own life, to save them, to protect them, to keep someone from them, contributing it thus. How virtuous, how noble, surely deserving of everyone’s exaltation. Furthermore, not just the once, but challenging an endless cycle of hardships, is the impression it can’t help but give.]
Pressing her hands to her chest, the witch considered the boy with whom she’d had a contract.
Desperately seeking his ideal, pressing onward despite being struck endlessly by reality. Possessing the most wretched power of『Return by Death』as his own, all in order to love someone.
[Echidna: ――However, dedicating life to『Return by Death』, to protect one’s surroundings, is a double-edged sword. Too disdainful of one’s own life, too stubborn about the value of other lives. Because the value of one’s own life can no longer be seen, the lives of those precious others become too desperately consequential. This time, anything that isn’t the lives of those precious others『aside』, is unseeable. That is, downright…]
No matter when, no matter where, that singular attitude of clinging to what could absolutely not be scoured, was downright foolish.
[Echidna: ——You truly are, someone who can satisfy me.]
Cheeks reddened as if a maiden in the throes of infatuation, the witch longed for the absent boy.
Through the crystal gemstone, he crossed the gate, bringing absolutely everything of the world into her palm. And when the afflictions and hardship shattered him, every time, he unconsciously came to rely on the witch.
To keep his spirit afloat, enduring the temptation of a witch, even if he became a marionette.
In order merely to check the weather, adapting a mentality which was unhesitating to use『Return by Death』, even that had gone unnoticed.
[Echidna: But, I want you to rest assured. The lives of those who you prize, I will also wholeheartedly gamble my very wisdom on protecting them. So, for this you too—―]
―To satisfy this inexhaustible curiosity of a witch, I want to continue as your accomplice.
Suffering and unreasonable fate, from now forth would equally descend endlessly upon the boy.
Though the hardships be arduous, though the heights be insurmountable, the boy with the witch’s aid, lending one another strength and wisdom, found themselves able to cross.
Presented by the『Witch of Greed』was that love of scorching flame.
[Echidna: Ah, even so――]
The boy crossed the grand gate, the boy sprinted to offer protection, the boy’s guardianship bore fruit; feeling many scarred hearts resulting from the boy’s protection, the witch sighed.
A proposition that would remain sempiternally unsolved, and yet an enigma that would eternally enthrall her, even were she to die.
Ah, even so――
[Echidna: ――Why does love, always fade?]