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ALL RIGHTS BELONG TO TAPPEI NAGATSUKI, THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR OF RE:ZERO STARTING A LIFE IN A DIFFERENT WORLD FROM ZERO, THIS IS A TRANSLATION OF THE FREE JAPANESE WEB NOVEL INTO ENGLISH: JAPANESE WEB NOVEL SOURCE
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The warmth coming off from Ram’s palm contrasted with the scorn of the cold sand. Both of those were the realities which Natsuki Subaru was faced with now; that was the『present』that he should accept.
Subaru:「Your fingers sure do feel nice and smooth…..It’s as―― bbubeeeeh!」
Ram:「This Barusu sure pushes his luck, doesn’t he?」
Subaru:「Will you ever stop using people’s nicknames as curses!?」
Subaru voiced out his complaints with tears in his eyes after having had his cheeks slapped in recompense for his careless remark. However, Ram, who held a lantern in her hand, did not reply to him. Instead, she hurriedly moved off, keeping her distance away from him.
It was something cold from her, even though up until now, she had shown him a kindness which was seldom seen. ――Though, if things stayed like this, since Subaru would be unable to even have an awkward conversation about it. Part of his true intention had been to go back to how they usually interacted.
Subaru:「Right here, we’re……」
Ram:「It’s pitch black absolutely everywhere. You remember the crevices opening up in the sand sea, and our dragon carriages being swallowed up by them, I presume? I don’t want to have to explain more than that.」
Subaru:「Nono, I’m fine with hearing just that. I get it.」
Subaru received an outline of the current situation from Ram as he took a deep breath. He understood that he had『Returned by Death』and that his『Returned by Death』point had been changed already.
――Subaru had met『death』three times in these sand dunes with this.
Twice he had been killed above-ground by the flashes of light, which had likely been fired from the Watchtower. However, this time, this third time was far different to the other two. He had died from being attacked by a monster at the underground.
He could barely keep his body from shaking as he recalled the manner of his death that he’d experienced just a minute ago.
Subaru:「I never thought I’d die like that……」
The manner in which Subaru had died now was what you would call a fiery death. His whole body had been scorched by crimson flames, and he had been burnt to death still without understanding everything that was going on. It was hard to forget that his whole body had been licked by red-hot tongues, and that every part of him had melted rather than burnt.
He knew from knowledge that the human body was a lump of fat. However, was it really something that melted away so easily and runnily like that? That his burnt remains were tragic, was something which he would indeed agree with.
Ram:「Barusu, have you calmed down yet? If you’ve settled down, we need to talk.」
Subaru:「Ah, aah. Yeah, I’m okay……Is it just me and you here?」
Ram:「If that was the case, Barusu, I would be ditching you and running away for my own safety. Since I haven’t……well you understand what that means, don’t you?」
Subaru:「Did you just show a Part Two to the kindness you seldom show?」
Ram:「You sure do say a lot of disrespectful things towards the bundle of love and compassion which is me, don’t you? ――She came back whilst you were spouting out nonsense.」
Looking to his left at the lantern―― and then looking at where it was pointing from Ram’s right, he saw the glow of a lamplight approaching from deeper within the cave. The lantern was swaying back and forth at around head-height; and just as he expected, the source of light was held by Anastasia who was riding Patrasche.
Anastasia:「Ram-san, Natsuki-kun, ‘t seems yer conversation’s finished, right?」
Subaru:「……Anastasia, Patrasche, is that you?」
Anastasia, who was riding on Patrasche, spoke out the same greeting as she had before as she flashed him a grim. And, to those words, Ram pinched the hem of her skirt like before and bowed.
Ram:「Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Anastasia-sama. May I ask, what do the surroundings look like?」
Anastasia:「I jus’ went ta look a lil’ further inside, but I couldn’ find any of the other young’ens. It’s jus’ the three of us who were hurled down aroun’ here…… ‘n this young’en lookin’ one.」
Anastasia:「Ya gotta keep yer chin up, though mayhaps that in itself ain’t gonna be of any use ta us.」
Ram:「Thank you for your concern. Indeed, I understand…. I’ll make sure to do so.」
Anastasia voiced her apprehensions from dragonback. To which, Ram replied in the likeness of how she would usually speak, different to how she spoke to Subaru. Anastasia’s face was clearly visible this time since Ram was the one holding the lantern.
Everything Anastasia had said was exactly the same as last time. The fact that Ram was upset at being separated from Rem was clearly shown from her face in profile, in which the slight exhaustion therein could be seen.
(TL Note: In the Japanese it certainly is, but I may have translated things differently to Chapter 13 since that Chapter had a different translator.)
Subaru:「So for now, the only ones that were able to join up is just us four? ….Pretty damn awful that we have no fighting strength.」
Anastasia:「We ain’t as scattered as we thought, eh, Natsuki-kun? What special good luck charm did ya even get Ram-san to cast us?」
Ram:「Unfortunately, nothing would happen even if it has to decide between just me and Barusu. Only Barusu would end up dead when he would be found the next day.」
Subaru:「What do you mean? Do you mean like the werewolf in a game of werewolf? Scary.」
Their comments were not meant as a show of bravado, but rather, Anastasia and Ram exchanged words in such as way as to calm Subaru, who had just woken up. Though his grasp of the situation was quick since it was the second time around, they were still in a place where it paid dividends in getting a move on immediately, even now.
Subaru:「Ram, just to make sure, you don’t know where Rem is using your synthesia, right?」
Ram:「That’s correct, it’s no use. Since I feel the link, I have no doubt that at least she’s alive….. But, I don’t know any more than that. All we can do is pray that she’s not alone.」
Subaru:「Given that my everyday deeds are tied to fortune and misfortune, Rem’s deeds will just be good ones, make no mistake in that…… I absolutely believe in her safety.」
If this theory was right, it was entirely because of his own deeds that he was going through an absurd amount of suffering and death. He wanted to go and close his eyes to that.
Subaru「On top of that……」
Subaru absolutely couldn’t let Ram and Anastasia know; that was his greatest anxiety. It seemed like everyone he wanted to save had been scattered away from him thanks to his『Return by Death』point having been updated. It was just like when he couldn’t use his『Return by Death』to get Rem’s name back.
What if tragedy had struck his companions due to his『Return by Death』updating now?
Subaru:「I absolutely won’t allow that…..!」
For those who weren’t here. Emilia, Beatrice, Julius, Meili. And Rem. He prayed that nothing disastrous had happened to them. Natsuki Subaru prayed that they weren’t hurt, even if they weren’t in his reach.
Ram:「Barusu. ――Aren’t you connected with Beatrice-sama?」
Subaru:「I’ve tried, but it’s no good. As long as there’s a path between us, Beako herself should be able to sense me….. But even if I try to call her, the connection is pretty weak.」
Anastasia:「Might be due to the miasma. Even spirits can’t keep their breath held long, even my Echidna’s grumblin’ every so often……It was jus’ Emilia-san who was fine ta it.」
Subaru:「I guess it was the same for you as well, eh, Beako?」
Beatrice, stout-hearted as she was, probably wouldn’t let out any complaints even if she was in a bad state. Were that to happen, Subaru would have absolutely noticed it. Beatrice being in a bad state would influence everyone else’s safety as well. When they safely reunited, he’d have to tell her off.
Subaru:「That’s why, for that too, we need to rejoin with the other guys. ――Let’s go deeper into the cave!」
It was likely that they’d come across the monster which had burned him once again if they went towards its depths.
But, even so, there was no other way but to go forward.
So to reunite with his precious companions as well, there was no other way but to go forward.
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Anastasia:「Yer the only one walkin’ Natsuki-kun, ain’t yer footin’ gettin’ worse?」
Subaru:「I’m fine. Do take care though since Patrasche won’t welcome anyone with open arms except me. Every time, it seems like she’s about to bite off one of Beako’s drill curls.」
Anastasia:「Ahahaha, what a great joke. Patrasche-chan is a good girl, she wouldn’ do that. Ain’t that right?」
Patrasche gave a quick grunt at Subaru, who was leading them with his lantern whilst they made their way deeper into the cave. Her grunt was the sort she made when she had no complaints.
Patrasche was still a hard-worker, even in spite of her carrying other people who weren’t Subaru, since she knew it was an emergency. As expected, she was a woman worthy of being part of the Emilia Camp.
Having placed Ram and Anastasia on Patrasche, Subaru was the only who traversed the maze of sand on foot. They followed the same way as last time, with the four of them moving forward towards the depths of the cave. They may have left dozens of minutes earlier than last time, but since he didn’t know when that monster would appear down here, it’d all be down to nothing more than a margin of error.
Subaru:「Its lair is way over there…..Maybe it’s its feeding ground, or its playground…..」
What couldn’t be called “Feed” was the sheer amount of burnt corpses which had littered that area. The charred corpse which Subaru had accidentally grabbed had probably been an animal’s―― From its shape it seemed like he’d grabbed the hind-leg of a four-legged creature, but there weren’t any indications that it had been eaten. The amount of charred corpses over there had been countless.
He could even have appreciated its cuisine as being Simply Gourmet Witchbeast if it was using fire to just prepare its meal. However, it merely burnt its prey and left their corpses behind untouched. That monster possessed a cruel nature that delighted itself in burning its prey to death; it made sense that it had a way to capture it and a place to burn it.
It was a grotesque figure, munitioned with abnormal amounts of heat. Subaru also feared the Witchbeast itself which existed with a wrong form as a living creature, at the same time as he recalled the moment he had burned to death.
Anastasia:「……From what I can see, we should still be in the san’ dunes aroun’ here, but maybe underneath it. What’dya think, Natsuki-kun?」
Subaru:「Eh? Ah? Aah, that’s right. I think so too.」
Ram:「Did you actually hear what she said? You’re being rude if you think that response adequate.」
Ram swiftly exposed Subaru’s mindless agreement. However, Subaru hastily shook his hands and head in denial.
Subaru:「No way, I heard everything properly. And what’s more is that I’m sticking with my stance of absolute agreement.」
Ram:「Really, when you take off your bra when you go to bed, your breasts don’t sag an inch, is that what you’re saying? You’re affirming it? Disgusting.」
(TL Note: Roughly in Japanese, that’s what Ram is saying, she’s basically calling Subaru a bullshitter with this colourful anecdote.)
Subaru:「Isn’t the way you’re bringing that up to me disgusting!? Or rather, it’s not like what she’s saying, don’t you agree with me!?」
Subaru, in a state of disbelief, turned towards Anastasia for help. She gave him a wry smile, and then spoke out saying,「You shouldn’ worry」
Anastasia:「Ram-san was messin’ about jus’ now. I don’ think it’s proper to speak like this in this terrible situation.」
Subaru:「Y-yeah? Yeah, that’s right. I was in a hurry. And in the first place, neither Ram or Anastasia’s breasts would sag, nor do they have enough to even notice…..」
Anastasia:「Whoopsy, sorry Natsuki-kun. My hand slipped.」
Subaru:「Why the past tense, and why so hot!?」
Her lantern was pressed to the nape of his neck, and the heat coming off from its Magical Ore burnt his neck. With the sensation of his fiery death resuscitated within him, he shuddered and rolled down onto the cold sand, shouting and screaming as he relieved himself from the pain. And as he did so, still collapsed with the back of his body lying on top of the sand, he glared at the two of them on dragon-back.
Subaru:「I-isn’t that cruel doing that all of a sudden? I would have liked at least a chance to explain.」
Anastasia:「You can’t go criticisin’ people’s physical characteristics ‘n then showing contempt for ‘em. You absolutely can’t do that unless yer masochistic. If this was Kararagi, yer’d lose all yer reputation ‘n become broke. Don’t ya agree, Ram-san?」
Ram:「I don’t mind. Besides, Rem’s are bigger, so we keep the balance between us. It’s no issue for me.」
If he went and spoke out on their beautiful sisterly love which complemented each other, he’d once again provoke their ire. Thus, he kept quiet. Subaru grimaced, his nape tingled in slight pain. He stood up and coughed, brushing away sand.
Subaru:「Anyways, let’s get down to business. We’re underground here, that’s what you said right?」
Anastasia:「What, y’actually heard me? That’s right, I think so. The reason why is ‘cause the air is heavier than above ground, ‘n the temperature is lower. Don’t ya agree?」
Ram:「Underneath the sand dunes…. We’ll have to pray that this isn’t a Sandworms’ burrow.」
Subaru:「……It could also be worse than that.」
Anastasia pulled her robe in tighter, appealing to the chill, a gesture which Ram followed suit in. Subaru subtly weaved in the reality of the situation, while he agreed with their opinions.
Of course, even if there were Sandworms here, it would be a herculean task to beat them back with the meagre fighting strength they had available amongst them. Even so, Sandworms were still better as they somewhat had a strategy to deal with them.
That Witchbeast―― which for now he’d call a Centaur for convenience, was something which Subaru had no idea of how to deal with in battle. He had come across it and been immediately burnt on the spot.
He was sure he’d meet the same manner of death, if he bumped into it like last time.
Subaru:「Practically, it’s likely we’ll come across Witchbeasts other than the Sandworms. Even though they’re Witchbeasts which roam these sand dunes, I think it’s a good idea if we came up with a plan for them for later.」
Ram:「Yes…… Nonetheless, I can only say that I just know what I heard Meili speaking about on the way here. And other than that, perhaps how a typical Witchbeast lives.」
Anastasia:「The Witchbeasts of the Augria Sand Dunes are far more aggressive due ta the effects of the miasma, and there are also Witchbeasts that shouldn’ be livin’ here in the first place. Even so, knowin’ is better than not knowin’.」
When Subaru put out his suggestion, Ram and Anastasia both nodded in agreement. As a result, they talked about the Witchbeasts whilst they continued their search forward into the depths of the cave.
Ram:「Sandworms stand out due to their stench and ugliness, but in contrast to their aggressive nature, their bodies aren’t that strong. Even if their bodies are large, my magic can kill them easily…If anything, your whip may actually be useful, Barusu.」
Subaru:「Seriously? My whip would damage them?」
Anastasia:「It’s said they tend ta be cowardly and if they feel pain it’d seem like they’d back away. It’d depen’ on the type of pain they’d feel, but at least the chance ain’t zero, wouldn’t ya think?」
Ram:「I don’t want to come across a Banassi, if possible.」
Subaru:「Is that a vicious Witchbeast despite it having the name of a rodent?」
Anastasia:「Nah, it ain’t got any fighting strength. Buut, it fights dirty. It puffs itself up until its body goes Kapow, blowin’ up anyone near it. An’ with that, its blood ‘n guts will shower its enemy. 」
Subaru:「……Then, is its blood poisonous or something?」
Ram:「It’s not like that. It’s just pestering…..But, once one of them does that and their stench pours out, other Banassi flock over and do the same thing. You end up becoming smeared in blood.」
(TL Note: 袋鼠 is the Kanji for “Banassi” which is a term used for Opossums. I am guessing Tappei gave these Kanji special Furigana when they were introduced, as that’s how it’s written on the Wikia. But that is why Subaru mentions the word rodent.)
As expected, there were a lot of Witchbeasts which were unfamiliar to him, and there were many things which made him want to frown when listening to their composition. After they finished their discussion on those Witchbeasts, Subaru felt like the time had come, and chose the topic.
Subaru:「So, the next one is about a Witchbeast I saw in the distance back at the sand dunes…. Do you know about a Witchbeast which has a human body attached to the body of a horse that spouts flames from its back?」
Ram & Anastasia「――――」
Subaru told them about the Centaur, keeping in tune with the discussion which they’d had so far regarding the mode of life of Witchbeasts. It was a distinct Witchbeast. Even if this Witchbeast was one of the more aggressive varieties which were native to these sand dunes, if there was an origin to it, he should be able to make a breakthrough on it. It’d be ideal if there were weak points to it which were easy to understand, such as being weak to water due to its fire――.
Anastasia:「……Sorry, but I ain’t got a clue. What about ya, Ram-san?」
Ram:「I’m sorry as well, but this Witchbeast invites only revulsion even in just listening to this. 」
Subaru:「You both don’t know, huh…..」
However, he only got those answers from both of them. It seemed that neither of them had any knowledge of the Centaur or a different kind of them with those abnormal characteristics.
But, that was the Witchbeast they’d likely first come across. He didn’t want to give up on finding a breakthrough with only the answers he’d received now.
Subaru:「You really don’t know? Like, part of Patrasche’s head becoming a human body, and two arms sticking out from there. And a mouth stretching vertically across part of its body. And finally, a horn growing from its neck of its human body instead of a head…..」
Anastasia:「Eeeh…. What the hell. That’s soo gross….」
Ram:「Honestly, that’s so off-putting.」
The more details he put into his explanation, the more he put off the women. Seeing even Patrasche’s face looking disgusted after she received Subaru’s semblance of an explanation, Subaru dropped his shoulders in defeat. It genuinely seemed like they all had no clue about it.
Ram:「If you happened to catch a glimpse of a Witchbeast like that in the first place, you needed to report it back then. Why did you let such a seemingly dangerous Witchbeast go by?」
Subaru:「No, that’s not…. It’s because it was nighttime. Maybe it was because Meili’s Divine Protection was active, so I just saw it in the distance not approaching us from all the way over there. It was like, when you were being treated by Emilia-tan inside of the dragon carriage.」
Subaru:「So that’s all you’re gonna be saying?」
Subaru was discouraged by the lack of a response as he fumbled around for a suitable excuse. With it ending up like this, they had no means capable of striking first against the Centaur. All he could do was search for a plan to avoid meeting the real thing whilst he spelled out its danger in anticipation.
Subaru:「For now I’ll call it a Centaur, but…. I reckon it’s a really dangerous thing. A mane grew from the back of its human body, and it was burning like fire. It had quite a tenacious look to it…. I don’t know how since it didn’t have a face, but that’s the feeling it gave off, so it’s likely that if we don’t take care, it’ll come and chase us.」
Ram:「Then why did you ignore it? Do you have a death wish?」
Subaru:「I think there were misleading words in the explanation right now as well.」
He couldn’t deny that his explanation had become fairly absurd in wanting to let them know of the danger. However, by telling them this as a precaution, the girls would likely be able to keep themselves on guard for danger in regards to an encounter with an actual Centaur.
That’s all he had managed. He hadn’t managed to tell them about when he had really met the Centaur, and they had no counter-measures against it. Subaru thought about a more fundamental approach as well. That was――
Anastasia:「Natsuki-kun, Ram-san. ――Can ya stop the chatter for just a mo’?」
Anastasia said that, and motioned for Patrasche to stop. The clever Earth Dragon had stopped before she had been told to, but she drooped her head as if she understood what Anastasia meant. And then, Anastasia held out her lantern in front of her and said,
Anastasia:「There’s a fork ‘n the road」
――Before his eyes was the first part of his plan to avoid meeting the Centaur.
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As before, a dread hung in the air at the fork, enough to make one grimace. And, that dread came clearly flowing in from the right path.
Anastasia:「Left or right, which way do ya want ta go?」
Subaru:「If we follow Kurapika’s theory, going to the right is the correct option.」
(TL Note: Kurapika is a character from HxH. I haven’t watched that anime, so I don’t know exactly what the reference is, but it’s easy enough to figure out what it means.)
As before, Subaru’s knowledge was nothing but foreign in this other world. Subaru had already experienced it with his body, so his words weren’t unsubstantiated.
Subaru:「In times like these, people tend to unconsciously want to pick the left side. Though various factors are at play like one’s dominant hand or eye, ethology has shown actual evidence of that, especially when there are no additional conditions attached.」
Ram:「Ethology… What a smart word came out of your mouth….. However, are you ignoring this horrible presentiment which you can feel coming from the right path? Isn’t this a condition?」
Whether it would be correct or not to take the right path―― this time, they had to take it. Having deemed so, Subaru would have to try and persuade the others with logic, however he felt a strong feeling of aversion to the horrible sensation that was drifting in from the right path.
If they could, both Ram and Anastasia, didn’t want to take the right path; he could see that from the look in their eyes. Persuading them and making them take the right path was what Subaru had to do. He wouldn’t let them go towards their『death』so easily after getting the chance from『Returning by Death.』
Subaru:「It’s true that a blatantly horrible atmosphere is coming from the right. But, I think it’s just a little too blatant. It’s as if it’s saying, don’t come here, right?」
Subaru:「It’s exactly like the mechanism which breaks through that『Sand Time』and the flower garden of Witchbeasts before the Watchtower. They’re far too intricate to be something that cropped up naturally. Didn’t you think so?」
Anastasia:「’n other words, Natsuki-kun, ya want to say that the San’ Time, the Flower Garden and this cave as well are things of artifice?」
In contrast to Ram who had sunk into silence, Anastasia followed what Subaru had been trying to say. Subaru cracked his fingers at hearing her response and voiced his agreement with a「That’s right.」
Subaru:「They’ve set a bunch of traps since they want to keep us away. Why haven’t we come across a single Witchbeast here in nearly an hour if this wasn’t something artificial? We all seem to agree that this is part of the Augria Sand Dunes. And though Meili’s not here, we haven’t encountered any Witchbeast lairs. That’s unnatural.」
Ram:「So, here we’re in a place where someone’s hand…. No, where the Sage’s hand came into play.」
Subaru:「With that, we know that the Sage’s personality isn’t very pleasant.」
Although it was an opinion which was half coated in truth, Subaru admired that even if he spoke himself, it didn’t mean that he hadn’t been able to sound persuasive. In fact, when he looked back on the journey through the Augria Sand Dunes up until now, there had been many things set which could certainly be called traps that were there to impede their journey towards the Watchtower―― It could even be called a『Trial.』And, it was a fact as well that they hadn’t come across any Witchbeasts yet in this cave.
Of course, Subaru’s thoughts were incorrect in the end as he knew that they would come across the Centaur at the end, however――No, perhaps that Centaur was the last guard. There was a chance that its presence was a mechanism that denoted a last show of strength to those who came to enter the Watchtower.
In that case, he just had no way to express the malice in their choice of guardian; however.
Ram:「……There’s certainly logic even in Barusu’s point.」
Anastasia:「Why are ya actin’ so surprised? ‘s it strange?」
Subaru instinctively reacted with surprise at Ram’s words, who had sunk into pensive silence. And after that, Anastasia, who had seen that response, gave a wry smile and lifted up the pom-poms on her hat with both of her hands.
Anastasia:「To tell ya the truth, I really don’t want ta go to the right. But, now that ya said that our opinions have been induced ta form up ‘n pick the left…… I don’t want ta go with it anymore.」
Subaru:「That’s an opinion that doesn’t seem like you, who lived by your do-or-die intuition. You sure have been swept away.」
Anastasia:「Are ya jus’ sayin’ even I’ll do it if yer opinion becomes approved?」
The wry smile on her face grew deeper, which as a matter of fact, probably indicated that Eridna was unable to imitate the vital point that had been Anastasia’s『Do-or-die Intuition.』This was a last resort for her too. She should have had a difficult time deciding whether or not to get on board with Subaru’s point.
Subaru:「So, what about you Ram?」
Ram:「It’s as I said. I can understand Barusu’s point too, considering how things went in the Sand Dunes up until here. We can just agree that apart from the Sage’s wicked disposition, there’s also the harsh environments that those who can’t reach the Watchtower are subject to one after the other……. That’s why it’s obvious that someone has meddled.」
Subaru:「Mhm, I sure don’t agree with calling them natural things…」
Ram:「So, although I don’t fully agree with your point, Barusu, it doesn’t mean that I don’t agree with some parts of it. With that said, there’s no hesitation in checking the right path.」
Subaru:「……What do you mean?」
Anastasia:「It’s annoyin’ for her ta do what Natsuki-kun says, but she’s goin’ to go along with it, is what she’s sayin’.」
Anastasia politely interpreted what Ram had meant to say. In fact, it seemed like it was the correct interpretation considering that Ram didn’t correct any of it. In short, it meant that both Ram and Anastasia had accepted Subaru’s cajolery.
Subaru:「――Alright! Excellent, muchas gracias. I won’t make either of you regret it.」
(TL Note: Subaru actually says “Thank you” in Engrish. Decided to use Spanish to mark the difference in language here considering this is an English Translation.)
Ram:「I will take at least some share of the responsibility in my choice. Don’t you go trying to carry my share of the burden on your back as you please. Focus your useless resourcefulness only on Rem.」
Anastasia:「Ah, if you make me regret it, I’m gonna let ya take the responsibility for it. If that happens, we’ll hafta consult with the abacus for how much it’s gonna be, don’t ya think?」
Subaru:「Both of you are so damn scathing!」
His delight was short lived, and his speech in which he had taken responsibility for the choice was quickly assailed by the both of them. Although he didn’t know how serious Eridna’s trace of Anastasia was, Eridna was putting in great efforts so that things wouldn’t end up in regret. Only that feeling was genuine.
Subaru:「Plus, it’s not like the obstacles end with just their persuasion.」
Indeed, that was right. In the end, all Subaru had got was the right to make a challenge. The challenge against the real hurdles started from here on out.
――The fork in the road awaited their decision as it exuded an overwhelming negative atmosphere out.
They were going to take the right path where the air lay thick and visible, ever worsening. If this was a trial which the Sage had prepared, he wondered what they were thinking by opting to make this path its start.
Subaru:「If he’s waiting for us beyond this point, then let’s give him as much of a surprise as possible. ――I’m gonna slap his face and make him apologise over and over, and after that, I’m gonna make him find Emilia and the others.」
(TL Note: No gender pronouns are included when talking about the Sage, a more accurate TL would be using “they”, but if I am recalling correctly Subaru presumes the Sage is a male at this point in the story.)
Determining that, Subaru turned towards the right path and brandished his lantern there, having declared that. And then, Ram gave a soft sigh, behind Subaru’s back,
Ram:「I agree with you, but there’s still a chance that Emilia-sama, along with everyone else, will make it to the Watchtower before us.」
Subaru:「Honestly, wasn’t this a good spot to show off…?」
Subaru, whose spirit was being strained even before the challenge began, voiced out his disgruntlement.
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After those exchanges, the three of them and their earth dragon―― the group of four went into the right path. He still had a bad feeling, even now. That feeling seemed to make even the sand underneath his feet feel different. Whilst tasting this discomfort, Subaru wiped the cold sweat that trickled down his forehead and grinned at Patrasche.
Subaru:「Come to think of it, I was wrong to decide which way to take without hearing your opinion.」
Subaru:「Huh? Where you’re going is the road I will take? And whatever road it is, no matter how harsh, you’ll believe in me since I always weather through? Heyhey, you’re way too handsome, I’m falling in love!」
(TL Note: When Subaru is pretending to speak for Patrasche he’s using 私 as Patrasche’s personal pronoun whilst using his usual 俺 to refer to himself.)
Ram:「He’s being nonsensical, but he doesn’t seem to be doing it by mistake, so he’s being sinful, don’t you think? What good do you see in him?」
Ram muttered that out as if she were shocked when she saw Subaru rambling on about Patrasche’s feelings as if he was her, whilst she remained taciturn. Though Patrasche would usually immediately rebuff such talk, right now she had remained composed as if he hadn’t said anything wrong. Or, she had thought it foolish to waste strength doing that, so she was saving it for until they reached a safer place. One of the two. Likely the latter.
Subaru:「Even if so, can you go easy on me, if possible?」
Subaru:「Was that a voice of denial just now?」
Despite having chosen silence until now, she abruptly let off an impatient bark of denial at what he’d said. But then, having the mettle to first of all escape safely from here before berating him was quite the good thing. Because that meant Patrasche believed that they could get out of here safely.
They kept on walking without any change, with Subaru at the head, and Patrasche at the back. The lantern’s light illuminated the way several metres ahead; making sure to tread carefully, their exploration continued.
Their pace, however, had definitely slowed down compared to their way here. It was even slower than when they’d taken the left road before he had『Returned by Death.』The reason why was simple.
Subaru:「My body… is so heavy……」
It wasn’t that his weight had increased, or that an invisible Yōkai had climbed onto his back. And, in practice, it definitely wasn’t any sort of issue that affected his actual corporeal self.
(TL Note: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y%C5%8Dkai Roughly, spectre, but I wanted to keep it like in the Japanese.)
That both his body was heavy and his feet unmoving was entirely a mental problem.
Sure enough, the right path was brimming with a negative sensation that had caused his feet to seize up. He hoped this was one of the Sage’s detestable trials, and that if they came out of the forked road, they’d find a safe spot awaiting them ahead―― Of these hopes, he didn’t hold a single one. But unfortunately, even those hopes were fleeting and quickly turned. Rather, his negative thoughts, which felt like a curse, grew ever stronger.
Gulping down some saliva, still keeping his silence, Subaru took a step forward so to move his leaden feet from the sand. His feet were frozen in place; he wouldn’t move. Even if in his heart, Subaru knew just how weak and fragile he was, he shouldn’t have felt like cowering in this passageway of sand, where nothing had happened yet. Indeed, he felt no fear at heart, and even his head felt clear.
Just, his limbs didn’t try to move in line with that purpose. His flesh and body, only, were acting against his reason and the course of his soul. His body instinctually rejected it, and tried to stop him from moving forward.
It cost Subaru twice as much time, strength and willpower to move forward. And even he couldn’t help but feel tired.
Subaru:「Fool. Can I really whine this much?」
Violently shaking his head, Subaru tried to forget the feeling of tiredness that ladened his body. Choosing the right path had been no one but Subaru’s decision. Even though it had been, he couldn’t permit himself to try and whine, or such, before the two behind him did.
Subaru:「Well, this walk sure may be a little difficult, but it’s no big deal. Surprisingly, our goal may be getting closer……」
Subaru:「Oh, what’s up?」
His attempt at trying to drive away his whining with a show of bravado was shot down by Ram’s curt toxicity. Their pace had fallen drastically, and their fear of the surroundings had also only increased. It seemed like probably even Ram was being taxed mentally. That her words were more toxic and curter than usual was proof of that.
Subaru:「Heey, I get what you’re feeling, but I think I suck at walking in silence.」
Ram:「Are you walking to enjoy yourself? Remember why we’re doing this.」
Subaru:「Well, no, but like…」
Ram:「Be silent and walk.」
An unapproachable, obstinate attitude. Of course, though Ram’s opinion was correct, Subaru had a point as well.
Right now, the weight of his body was pulling into sync with the weight on his mind. In other words, it had become a vicious circle where the heavier his mood got, the heavier his body became. He’d wanted to take their minds off it a bit so that things wouldn’t end up like that.
Keeping on guard was important, as well as wanting to show some consideration, but he wanted them to show that they’d understood that and taken it on board. Or rather, Ram especially should take it on board. She always showed consideration. Still, she might be really struggling.
Subaru:「Do you reckon we should move faster?」
Subaru called out trying to determine how urgent the conditions had got, but Ram didn’t bother to reply to his words at all. The light from the two lanterns, one of which was illuminating the path ahead of Subaru, and the other which was illuminating their surroundings from Patrasche’s neck, didn’t allow the particulars of Ram’s expression to be seen.
With her hood pulled over her head, Ram cast her eyes down to look at Anastasia’s back. Her face wasn’t visible.
Anastasia:「Natsuki-kun, is that quite enough?」
Stopping in his tracks, Subaru turned his head around to try and look at her expression. But Ram, stubborn as she was, didn’t let him see her face, and on top of that Anastasia had defended her. Seeing Subaru’s lips bend in frustration, Anastasia scratched her cheek, with a troubled expression adorning her face.
Anastasia:「I hadn’ mentioned it but, Ram-san was considerably flustered after she woke up in the undergroun’. Her composure seemed ta have come back because of how plucky she is, but I guess it still looks like she hasn’ fully regained it.」
Subaru:「――tch! You’re saying too much……!」
Anastasia:「Look, will ya leave this ta me?」
While Anastasia had put some consideration to Ram’s feelings, her words lacked in it. Having just had her hidden innermost thoughts divulged, Ram gritting her teeth could be heard all around them, but Anastasia took no notice of it. She raised one of her small hands and pointed it in front of her so that Subaru could see it.
Anastasia:「We shouldn’ talk right now. When yer nerves are frayed ta the limit, no matta’ who says what, nothin’ good will come out of it. Isn’ that right?」
Anastasia:「Isn’ that right?」
Though it annoyed him, Anastasia = Eridna had a point. He had put too much priority in trying to move forward and getting out of the cave safely. Subaru this time definitely hadn’t been able to consider Ram’s feelings much. The price for doing that had come to bite him back here, and mayhaps had ended up expressed in Ram’s attitude. Now that he thought about, it was overly hasty of him to assume that there was a problem there because of Ram.
Subaru:「……You’re right. You’re definitely right. It was my bad.」
Ram:「Reflect on it.」
Subaru:「――tch! Hey, you!」
Anastasia:「Stop that, no fightin’. C’mon, Natsuki-kun, keep movin’ forward, keep movin’ forward.」
Subaru’s nerves had become frayed on seeing Ram’s attitude, which gave no signs of letting up. However, Anastasia had gotten in between them and somehow stopped him there. She then pointed at Subaru motioning him to move forward. She nudged the lantern that was fastened around Patrasche’s neck with her feet, rocking it about.
Seeing the silhouettes of the passageway of sand flickering across his sight, Subaru clicked his tongue.
Although he couldn’t stomach her attitude, there would be no point in them falling into strife here. Fortunately, he could excuse it as the unpleasant atmosphere influencing the highs and lows in their mood. While he could lay the blame on something, there was no need to worsen their relations with such an unnecessary thing. They could talk about their current foul attitudes when they made it safely out from here.
Subaru:「……Let’s get going.」
Once again, the search spearheaded by Subaru resumed. However, their pace was still slow, and didn’t get any faster. In the end, his so called attempt at picking up their spirits and removing the loads from their body had failed. Since nothing had changed for the better, the chances of the situation improving had naturally become zilch.
Even so, when it came to change, there had been some. And it wasn’t a change with Subaru and the others, but rather a change with the maze of sand itself.
Subaru:「No matter how you look at it, the path has become narrower.」
They had probably spent nearly an hour steadily advancing through the right path. The pathway of sand was narrowing from the left, right, top and bottom. The height and width of the path was reaching a size that would make it impossible for large Witchbeasts to pass through. There was just enough space for Patrasche to squeeze through.
However, it was at a size where it wasn’t wide enough to accommodate the Dragon Carriage which Gyan pulled. Likely, it was impossible for Sandworms and Centaurs to pass through too.
At least in other words, when it came to the worst situation, i.e. a Centaur lying in wait ahead on the path―― that situation seemed to have been avoided. Compared to that, no matter what was awaiting ahead, at least they seemed to have avoided going towards that terrible direction.
Subaru:「But, it looks like we’ll have to be more cautious since the path’s become narrower. We’ll probably end up unable to move without any warning; you guys will need to be on your guard too.」
Subaru, who had said that thinking about what would happen soon, raised one of his eyebrows at the sudden sound. Turning his head back, he looked at the two on dragonback who were illuminated by their lantern. No one responded to his shout. However, he knew that Anastasia, who was sitting at the front on top of Patrasche, had covered her face with the palm of her hands.
That seemed natural for Anastasia who wanted in one way or another to move forward and keep things rolling along smoothly. Anyway, what Ram had done now was that she had tsk’ed at Subaru’s words.
Subaru:「What have you really been planning from the start?」
Subaru:「It ain’t nothing! I asked you what have you been planning!」
Raising his voice at the limit of his patience, Subaru kicked at the wall of sand beside him. Part of the surface of the fragile wall came loose, but Subaru didn’t care at all about the sand which sprinkled down on him. All that Subaru saw right now was the insolent Ram.
Subaru:「All I can hear is you butting in over and over again when people are walking in silence. It seems like this isn’t the first time you clicked your tongue at me, isn’t that right? Hey, OY, what are you planning!」
Ram:「Nothing in particular. I have nothing at all to say to you, Barusu.」
Subaru:「Nothing at all, and yet aren’t you clicking your tongue at me year after year going tchtchtchtchtchtch? Aren’t you doing that? There’s got to be a reason for you to be saying that you aren’t doing that, even though you are, hasn’t there?!」
Subaru’s fervour continued to grow stronger than before, in contrast to the cold Ram’s attitude. It seemed natural. Everything which Ram had shown was cold and one-sided in contrast to the exertions which Subaru had made up until now. Subaru did not know why he was being looked down upon and rebuked.
Subaru:「If there’s something you want to say, then say it! Go and say it since I’ll listen!」
Ram:「――That’s why I have nothing to say.」
Subaru:「LIAR! ARE YOU STUPID? IF YOU FEEL LIKE HIDING STUFF THEN HIDE IT ALL! NOW THAT YOU’VE SLIPPED UP, FLAUNT IT ALL OFF… YOU SAY THERE’S NOTHING? THAT’S A FUCKING IDIOT’S EXPRESSION, HUH, DUMBASS!」
Ram’s mood changed at seeing Subaru hurling insults at her, spittle flying from his mouth. Sat behind Anastasia, she leaned her body out and glared at Subaru. He was unsatisfied with where she sat as well. Hiding behind others, looking down at him from above.
Was she planning to rise above them all by borrowing something’s strength?
Ram:「It seems like you’ve really gotten yourself all worked about moving forward, haven’t you, Barusu?」
Subaru:「THAT’S TO BE EXPECTED THOUGH ISN’T IT! WHAT DO YOU THINK WE CAME HERE FOR? WE CAME TO MEET THE SAGE, DIDN’T WE!? ALL THE HARDSHIPS WE FACED FOR THIS, AND ALL THE PROGRESS WE MADE, WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT IT!?」
Ram:「You’re wrong. ――We didn’t come here to meet the sage.」
Ram:「We came here to return Rem back to how she was.」
Ram clearly asserted this, all the while glaring at Subaru. Overwhelmed by the sharpness and pressure that emanated from her eyes, Subaru (who had been seething)’s conviction weakened a little.
Saving Rem = Meeting the Sage, wasn’t it like that?
Subaru:「IT’S THE SAME THING, ISN’T IT!? MEET THE SAGE AND THEN SAVE REM! IT’S CONNECTED!」
Ram:「IT ISN’T. SAVING REM COMES FIRST, AND MEETING THE SAGE COMES AFTER THAT. YOU’VE GOT YOUR PRIORITIES WRONG……Yes, you’ve got them all wrong.」
Ram’s voice trembled as she spoke the last of those words. The fury she had voiced was a wrath that burnt like an unquenchable raging fire that brought together everything the emotionless girl had felt up until now. In the underground area of these cold sand dunes, Ram continued to speak, her words still full to the brim with the fever of wrath.
Ram:「I came here for Rem, I came here to remember my little sister. And yet, what are we doing now? Rem isn’t even here…… so stop messing about idly in this place.」
Subaru:「No one’s messing about……! Because things ended up like this; now that things ended up like this, there’s nothing else we can do at the time it did. Am I wrong?」
Ram:「Yes, maybe so. But, before we make sure of that, Barusu, have you ever worried about Rem even once?」
Ram:「Ever since you woke up below ground, Barusu, have you ever worried about Rem? Or about Emilia-sama? Or about Beatrice-sama? Have you ever at all worried about those who are missing?」
Ram showered those questions at him, but he kept silent, speaking not a single word in return. Certainly this time around, unlike the last, Subaru hadn’t tried to check how everyone else was doing, after he had woken up from『Returning by Death.』
However, this absolutely wasn’t because he wasn’t worried about them, but rather because he knew that Ram and Anastasia didn’t know anything about them. It was Subaru’s consideration. It was care. And despite that,
Ram:「No, you never did, did you. You never did, Barusu. You don’t care at all about Rem, Barusu, because your head is full of Emilia-sama and Beatrice-sama. Well, so be it, you’re just that kind of man. But, I feel bad for Rem.」
Ram:「Didn’t Rem believe in you, Barusu? Ah, though I don’t know since that too is a convenient story which I’ve just heard from you, Barusu. Maybe you were just saying whatever popped into your head. You only say what’s convenient in front of women. I feel bad for Emilia-sama and Beatrice-sama as well, deceived by such a man!」
Subaru:「SHUT THE HELL UP!」
Ram:「No, I will not. How many times must I repeat myself. ――Barusu, you don’t care about Rem at all. Even if she isn’t found, you would just feel glad.」
Subaru:「――DON’T YOU MESS ABOUT WITH ME!!」
His field of view was died in crimson, and his nerves had flared up hearing her vent those thoughtless remarks. His anger at the arrogant woman, who had vented out those selfish words whilst looking down upon him from her perch, exploded.
He would grab her and drag her down―― Though the time it would take to do that wasn’t quick enough.
Subaru dropped that darkish sensation which swirled through his brain down to his chest, and let it loose. The black palm which had come into being cried out in joy and smoothly stretched itself out. It crept up to the rear of the Earth Dragon’s back, where it threw down the pink-haired girl who had denounced him.
Letting off a shriek, Ram wildly tumbled onto the sand. Confusion racked Ram’s face, indicating she had no idea what had happened after she had been hit by the demonic hand which wasn’t visible to the naked eye. Subaru rushed over next to where Ram was lying down atop of the sand. And then,
Subaru:「Don’t you mess about with me.」
Saying that he didn’t think at all about Rem, saying things like that, was no joke. Consumed by anger, everything had become like whichever way he looked at it from, following his overheated thoughts.
――Subaru leaned down over the supine Ram and began to strangle her slender neck.
Creak, Creak, Creak.