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――There was a woman, all by herself.
Sensitive to pain, she was always crying, always emotional.
The sole reason for her grief, was that she could not forgive her own lack of strength. All around her, was always a world full of strife, of violence, of war.
No matter how much she pleaded, no matter how much cried out, no matter how much she tried, no matter how much she prayed, the sorrow never ended. So, she began to curse fate.
While cursing it over and over and over, she noticed; It was pointless, no matter how many tears she shed. And when she realized, she began wishing for something else.
To obtain power that would let her throw all away, that would let her overwhelm all others, she struggled to her limits and ran, heading towards the power she so desired.
She was not chasing after the power to harm, nor the power to take. She had no use for that.
She chased power no one could catch up to, which she believed she could use to put an end to violence.
The woman who cried so much, wanted the power to stop crying.
She knew she that if she remained powerless, she could never stop a fight where power was pitted against power.
Her voice remained silent. Her wishes went unfulfilled. Even if her own sorrows were kept distant, sadness still clouded the sky.
How could they be okay? How could they hurt one another? How could they think to live with those scars? How, how, how? Why could they not realize they have other ways to live?
Woman: “Children are crying. The elderly are crying. Men are crying. Women are crying. Everyone is crying. Then, why――!!”
To stop exactly that, she solely desired for power.
Training herself, she endured all pains to finally obtain an iron―clad will.
Eventually, she found the end of her path. The pinnacle of strength where none else could reach.
Standing on the battlefield, she shouted to stop the fight.
To overwhelm all other powers with her own, to crush all grief, shatter all malice and to stop before her, the endless stream of tears, she struggled to her utmost.
Punching those who brandished their swords, kicking those who flung magic, breaking those who bared their fangs, she pulverized all and any who came to seek battle.
But, the more the woman fought, the stronger became the swordsmen, the mages and the bearer of fangs, ever increasing their numbers.
As if she had entered a never―ending spiral of violence.
No one knew how to save themselves other than to answer violence with violence. That was why, no one knew of a way to save themselves aside from victory in battle.
In the end, the woman herself, despite knowing this, also answered with violence. Lowering her fist that dripped crimson, she turned her blood―smeared face to the sky, and wailed.
The fighting would not stop. Her efforts, her hard work, all had been in vain; neither others nor her own tears would stop flowing.
Finally, in the chest of the woman who had been ceaselessly running, despair crept in.
Dripping down her cheeks, tears overflowed.
The tears that continuously streamed were not warm, but rather cold, the tears of someone powerless, drowning in despair.
However, alongside them flowed out a different, deep emotion.
Dyeing her heart pitch black, her vision red and her mind white, a tempest awakened within.
Face still wet with tears, the woman came to know of that emotion.
As she came to know its name, its origins, she came to understand it.
She had not been shedding tears of sadness.
She had merely been drowning in the madness of rage.
People called that emotion Fury ――no, they called it『Wrath』.
To this world that forced others to tears, to those who refuse to stop fighting, to the absurd unfairness that is the end of life.
――Let them, have a taste of my iron fists.
At some point, she stood up, wiped the dirt off her knees, and took off running.
Diving into the fray of the still ongoing battle, she punched everyone’s faces whilst shouting.
Stop fighting. Look at the sky. Feel the breeze. Smell the flowers. Live, with your families and loved ones.
For the first time, the woman’s voice swept unrest throughout the battlefield.
Fists that could break apart the Earth, kicks that could cause the heavens to roar, all only to let others live.
Wounds closed, screams silenced and knees bent in the face of the spreading warmth as battle lost its meaning.
Soon the voices that weeped disappeared from the battlefield, life returned to the mundane.
When the people’s tears stopped, they felt gratitude towards her. They raised their voices, waved their hands and smiled.
However, the woman was suddenly no longer there.
That was only natural.
The woman still had things to do. She had no reason to turn back, no reason to stop walking.
To fulfill her desire to create a world where no one cries, where there is no conflict, where no one has to take from one another, she ran, and ran, and kept running, as she threw around her fists.
Till the day everyone stops crying. Till the day the warm droplets rolling down her cheeks stop.
――The『Witch of Wrath』, who had declared war on sadness itself, continued to run ever, evermore.
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Yet again, after finding a Book of the Dead and gaining the knowledge it held, Subaru returned to reality.
From within the confines of its bindings had poured out the name of whose life it recorded, the many battlefields she had crossed through, and the conviction she once held when she was alive, albeit, all of it being only a drop in the ocean of her entire life.
Even though he understood that――,
Subaru: “……that was heavy.”
He felt as if a lump of dense, heavy lead was clogging up his chest.
For humans, no matter who, a second is a second, a minute is a minute, a year is a year. There is no scale that can measure the weight of a life differently, and thus time flows equally for all.
Such a scale of time, could not simply be contained within such flimsy paper, nor could it be transferred to the mind from it, no matter how special the technology.
Still, even though he had simply touched it, Subaru had to clench his teeth to keep his mind, so as to not be swept away by the rush of memories that flowed in.
The footprints of their lives that one left behind, were indeed great and heavy.
Emilia: “Subaru, are you okay?”
Subaru: “……ah, yeah, I’m fine. Feeling okay. My head just took a spin, that’s all.”
Emilia: “That’s not what feeling okay means……”
Closing the book in hand, he returned it to the shelf as Emilia watched. Meeting her gaze with one eye closed, Subaru pointed to the book he just put back,
Subaru: “I found another volume of the Witches’ books. This time, well, it was one of the better Witches, if that’s possible. She was still a little weird, though.”
Emilia: “The weird one…… Sekhmet?”
Subaru: “Hey, that’s one of the weirdest of the bunch. Wait, you know Sekhmet?”
Back at the Tomb of the『Sanctuary』, Emilia was supposed to have met Echidna in the Witch’s Tea Party, but Subaru never asked if she had met the others. He had assumed Echidna made an exception for him, and so, had not allowed Emilia to meet the other five Witches. So it startled Subaru when Sekhmet’s name slipped from her mouth.
The『Witch of Sloth』Sekhmet, was a woman with long, flowing magenta hair, owner of a deeply self―indulgent personality. Putting that and her demeanor aside, she was the most reasonable person among the Witches.
Subaru: “If you know Sekhmet, what about the other witches? Like, the one from this book, Minerva, or something.”
Emilia: “Er, no, sorry. I didn’t meet anyone else but Echidna and Sekhmet at the Tomb. I didn’t talk to Sekhmet all that much either.”
Subaru: “That so. No, it’s fine either way. Even if you did know her, this wasn’t something you’d enjoy seeing anyway.”
Flashing a dry smile at Emilia who hung her head, Subaru tapped the side of the bookshelf lightly.
The shelves that stored the memories of the dead were made of a strange material. Under his palm was not the sensation of wood, nor of iron, and the bookcase itself refused to budge when pressed.
Currently, while going through the Library on the 3rd Floor 『Taygeta』, Subaru and co. came to understand that the numerous books that were stuffed into the bookshelves both recorded and invoked the memories of the dead. Despite that, they steadily continued their search for something very simple.
Emilia: “That aside, I wonder where the stairs to get to the upper floor are?”
Subaru: “Right now, I have zero leads on that.”
Emilia tilted her head, deep in thought, while Subaru stood opposite, gazing downward as he sighed.
At present, everyone was worrying their heads over, not on how to get past the 3rd Floor『Taygeta』’s next『Trial』, but on where the location of the stairway that led to the 2nd floor would be.
The white area where the Monolith was had faded, leaving open『Taygeta』’s Great Library.
Thanks to that, they now had access to the memories of the dead, a concept that was surely very desirable, which was good and all but,
Subaru: “Well, for now, we don’t really have a use for this place.”
To search for the information everyone wanted by digging through the memories of the dead would be a herculean task, given its nature, as one could not even choose the memories they wanted to see, due to the absurd amount of time, and even luck, it would take.
Neither of those could be spared at the moment. Time was obviously short, but also that Subaru did not have enough faith in his own luck, no matter how much he was blessed with it.
Subaru: “So that’s why the info we want might be on the upper floors. It’s supposed to be.”
Emilia: “But, there’s no way to get upstairs. I tried to get on top of the bookcases, but it didn’t work out.”
Subaru: “You’re pretty bold, aren’t you, Emilia-tan….”
Emilia pointed to the ceiling while recalling what she had tried to do.
In the midst of their brain―wracking search for the staircase that led to the upper floor, she had climbed up on top of the tallest bookcase there was in the Library. The cases were arranged in a circular fashion, with small steps elevated to lead inward, placing the tallest bookcase at the centre. However, even that had not reached the ceiling of the room.
It should be noted that, despite how Emilia had climbed the bookcase, and despite how her short skirt was waving about boldly during the action itself, her movements were such that nothing was visible underneath, strangely enough.
When Subaru poked at it in a roundabout manner, Emilia simply touched the hem of her skirt and,
Emilia: “Puck taught me. Um, what was it again? A lady must always act with beauty and grace? I’m always careful about it, don’t worry.”
Subaru: “I feel kinda conflicted about this. I want to praise him, but I want to blame him too…. Anyway,”
Emilia had already failed in her attempt to physically force a way to the next floor.
In other words, there was a hidden gimmick to the appearance of the staircase. This was not only limited to the appearance of the Library, but extended to the process of going up further.
If it were too hard, the challenger’s motivation would likely fall, but the creator of the Watchtower, Flugel, must have taken that into account as well. The nerve.
Subaru: “Man, I really wanna see this guy’s face…. But how he looks is a mystery too, damnit.”
Julius: “――Subaru, can you come here a bit?”
While he grumbled, a voice called from behind him. On the opposite side of Subaru and co., rummaging through a separate bookcase, was Julius. Seeing him approach with Anastasia in tow, Subaru raised his hand.
Subaru: “Sure, what’s up. You found something?”
Julius: “Unfortunately, nothing worth mentioning. I have not been able to find a single volume with a name I know, since that first one. Your side seems to be in a similar situation as well.”
Emilia: “That’s not really accurate. Subaru did a good job, he really did find another volume, then looked through it and started looking kinda wobbly. Right, Subaru?”
Subaru: “I’ll take Emilia-tan’s praise to heart, but that’s how it is.”
Julius: “I see. Please take care of yourself.”
Subaru knotted his brows as Julius turned away from him, disinterested. While watching the two from aside, Emilia spoke,
Emilia: “But, Julius and the others haven’t found the stairs too, huh. We’re really in trouble.”
Julius: “I understand where Emilia-sama is coming from. However, if we are to believe that this Library does indeed record the names of all the dead, from the past to the present, although it is quite hard to digest, I’m afraid we alone cannot make much progress. We need many more people, like the entire population of a country, or so.”
Julius proposed with a serious face. Subaru had no objections with the proposal’s idea, feeling that such a number was more or less necessary. The Augria Sand Dunes have already been conquered, and if one needed to only reach the Watchtower, one only had to avoid the nest of Witch Beasts. That alone could be a great adventure by itself but――
Julius: “Unlike before, the way to the Tower is as good as open. I believe that it is worthwhile to report the existence of this mysterious Library to the capital. We could make much more effective use of it that way.”
Subaru: “The value of this information is definitely nothing to joke about…. But I’m also pretty sure a lot of history buffs just like you will be born from this, eh.”
At Subaru’s rapid fire words, Julius stopped, and after a moment, shut his eyes and sighed,
Julius: “…to say I am not expecting that, would be a lie. Apologies. I had a selfish motive for that proposal.”
Subaru: “Come on, don’t get down like that. What’s wrong with being self―centered? If you’re feeling so sorry for that, what are you gonna make of me? I’m working just for my own sake, 100% of the time.”
Never truly acting out of duty, always expecting some kind of reward, that was how Subaru behaved. It was already his way of life, his philosophy.
That was why he could not compare to knights like Julius or Reinhardt.
Subaru: “Anyway, there’s no point in keeping yourself from it. I mean, the reason Anastasia-san herself wants to become the Monarch is pretty self-centered, right?”
Anastasia: “Yup, that’s right. I want to become the Monarch because I want to satisfy my greed. If I do, I can profit a lot more. That’s all there is to it.”
Anastasia laughed at Subaru’s crass remark, then softly patted the white fur of her scarf.
Anastasia: “That’s why I think it’s so amusing that Julius became my Knight. At least, I think that way. Is that so for Emilia-san too?”
Subaru: “Personally, it’s better for us if you guys’ paces don’t match, so just go along that and fall apart― Ouch! Emilia-tan, it hurts!”
Emilia: “Don’t say mean things――I’m personally not acquainted with Anastasia-san and her faction from before, so I can’t say anything carelessly. But, no matter how better my opponents are, I’ll win my way, alongside my knights.”
At the part about her knights, Emilia tugged at Subaru’s sleeve and puffed up her chest. Looking at that face from the side, Subaru exhaled a long sigh.
Emilia: “We might be greenhorns, but we won’t lose!”
Subaru: “No one says greenhorn anymore these days… Ouch! It hurts!”
Emilia pinched Subaru’s arm for making fun of her, so he quickly bounced away to escape the punishment. Looking at the two’s behavior, Julius and Anastasia’s expressions relaxed.
Especially Julius, who looked to have dropped his air of self-reflection.
Julius: “Sometimes, I truly do feel afraid of you two. How much is an act, and how much is genuine, I can never tell.”
Subaru: “My case aside, Emilia-tan is always serious. That’s what makes her so cute, right?”
Julius: “I’ll take it to heart.”
As Julius pulled in his chin, the derailed conversation came to a stop. Instead, Anastasia clapped to bring everyone back on topic.
Anastasia: “Anyway, bringing it back to where we were… We’re short on people, so there was talk of bringing in others from the outside, right?”
Julius: “Yes, that is so. Right now, as there are few things to worry about for the Dunes, I believe it would be possible to bring a large investigation team into the Tower. It would not only help with solving the mystery of this Library, but also further in as we go above…”
Anastasia: “That’s right, but I feel a tad bit anxious.”
Julius: “Anxious, you say?”
Cutting off Julius’ fervent speech, Anastasia nodded. Julius frowned as she raised her finger to point.
Anastasia: “I’d welcome an increase in helping hands, been wondering about that myself. Going around this Library’s taking a toll on my neck. Ya know, I’m small and all, so it’s a real pain.”
She spoke as she rubbed her nape,
Anastasia: “But, in the first place, I’m wondering if it’s possible to even fit a lot of people into the tower.”
Anastasia: “Thinking about what’s in it for the other party’s one of the basics of business. Well, I might be calling it business basics, but it’ll come in handy no matter where you are in life. So, let’s start thinking along those lines.”
Julius: “Think about where the other party stands? But, who’s that?”
Anastaia: “The one who built this tower and set up the『Trial』, and left behind Shaula-san… That one. Let’s think about being in his shoes for a moment. You’ll see.”
Subaru: “That, his personality’s crap?”
Anastasia: “Yup, I think he’s completely out of it.”
As Subaru’s lips twisted, Anastasia nodded in affirmation.
Upon hearing those words, the always―serious Emilia and Julius became stiff. But, with how twisted Subaru and Anastasia’s personalities were, they both seemed to be in perfect sync.
Anastasia’s opinion seemed to be the most apparent case, if the person with the awful personality really did try to raise the difficulty of conquering the Tower.
Subaru: “Shaula! I’ve got something to ask. Come here.”
Shaula: “Master? Aye, aye―! Coming right away!”
Once called, Shaula hopped over from the other side of the large bookcase, her figure leaping up.
Arms outstretched, her long ponytail waving in the air, she grinned as she jumped towards Subaru’s chest―――,
With a nimble step, Subaru dodged the incoming glomp. However, as Shaula was still going, she dove face―first onto the floor, her arms splayed across. She quickly turned to shoot a glare at him.
Shaula: “Uu―, Master is super mean.”
Subaru: “No, no, I didn’t move away because it was you, but because you were gonna crash into me full force, so my reflexes kicked in.”
Shaula: “So you’ll let me hug you if I come at you slowly!?”
Subaru: “Eh? Don’t wanna, though.”
Shaula:“Why not! What part of me is lacking! Even though I look this glamorous! Even though I’m this bitchy!”
Subaru: “You’re bitchy, huh… Then that’s why.”
Whining at the top of her voice, Shaura boo-ed at Subaru’s cold attitude. And, while she pouted, two small girls came around from where she had jumped.
Beatrice and Meili, foregoing their appearance, were an uncommon pairing indeed.
As if noticing Subaru’s thoughts through his gaze, or maybe having realized it on her own, Beatrice put a bit more distance between herself and Meili.
Beatrice behaved that way with Petra as well, even though they were around the same age (outwardly). She maintained a clear line between herself and Meili.
Of course, it would be impossible for her to treat Petra and Meili in the same way. Petra was an ally from the same camp, while Meili was originally sent as an assassin from somewhere, who was even involved in the burning of the Forbidden Library and the Roswaal Mansion.
Subaru: “If you keep shying away from people like that, you’re never gonna make friends, you know.”
Beatrice: “What are you spouting all of a sudden, I suppose. Anyway, Shaula disappeared in the middle of talking, so we quietly came back, in fact.”
Subaru: “Ah―, I ruined the convo over there, my bad my bad. Well, did you guys find anything good?”
Beatrice: “…There was nothing in particular, I suppose. And, thinking back, it might’ve not even been worth calling a conversation, in fact. Yup, that’s all that was, I suppose.”
Snapping away her face, Beatrice cut off answering Subaru’s question.
Before the alienated Subaru could further question her cold response, Shaula had gotten back to her usual self.
She stood upright by the strength of her abs alone and,
Shaula: “Well, Master being mean isn’t anything new. I can pull myself together alone. Getting back up fast is one of my selling points.”
Julius: “That, alongside your cooperation, Miss Shaula, is something that helps us. By the way, may I ask something?”
Shaula: “What’s up? I’ll warn you beforehand, I won’t fall for someone who’s not Master.”
Julius: “I admit that you are an attractive woman, but I’m afraid I’ll have to take a rain check on our date for now.―― I would like to ask and confirm a few things about this Tower.”
Julius elegantly added in a few sweet words but tastefully avoided the topic altogether. This surprised Shaula, who lauded herself as being stubborn as a bitch. As she was not expecting such an answer, her eyes widened, something that was very unlike her usual self, and meekly gave a “Um, sure,”
Julius: “My thanks. Then I begin. Firstly… Do you know the location of the stairs to the 2nd Floor?”
Shaula: “The stairs to the 2nd Floor,『Electra』? No clue. Never went up beyond the 4th. So don’t know.”
Julius: “That by itself is quite the shocking statement.”
If she was to be trusted, then Shaula had been at the Watchtower for about 400 years.
If, within that time, she had not once gone off to explore the Tower she lived in, but instead focused on keeping the Sand Dunes under her observation, then she was just too loyal to the one she followed.
Frankly, Subaru felt very conflicted about being mistaken for that same Master.
Anastasia: “Julius, if you’ll let me interrupt for a moment.”
This time, replacing her knight was Anastasia. Standing in front of her, Anastasia’s light blue eyes reflected Shaula’s figure.
Anastasia: “Shaula-san’s position is that, right? To be accurate, you’re the watchman of the Watchtower… No, of the Great Library Pleiades, right?”
Anastasia: “I see. Then, according to my calculation… It’s four, no, five?”
Anastasia lifted her right hand up to show five fingers. Shaula, who could not grasp what she was getting at, simply stared down at her and blinked.
Anastasia: “―――the secrets Shaula-san was told to keep, to protect the Tower, there’s five of em, right?”
Anastasia beamed widely as Shaula fell silent, coming at a loss for words.
As the two stared at one another, eye to eye, all it took was but a slight jerk of her shoulders to tell Anastasia that she was completely correct.
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Shaula: “In the first place, I wasn’t really hiding anything. I just didn’t say anything because I wasn’t asked. I want that on paper, please.”
Subaru: “Just spit everything out already.”
While Anastasia brought her secret―keeping to light, it was Subaru who crushed what few excuses Shaula was trying to make.
In response to his forced demeanor, Shaula pressed the tip of her fingers together and answered,
Shaula: “Like, for example, if Master and everyone secretly tried to get out of the Tower, I’d have to kill everyone, no mercy.”
Subaru: “The hell, what’s with you suddenly!?”
Shaula: “I wouldn’t do it because I wanted to! We’re just talking about what-ifs. In the first place, I can’t even go against that order.”
At the sudden revelation of hostile intentions, Subaru intently stared at Shaula, who shrunk back as she shook her head. Her bountiful chest pressed against her knees, she cradled herself into a ball.
Shaula: “I can’t even kill you in the first place, Master. I’d get killed before that even happens, and it’ll be over with that, so the whole order’s messed up…”
Subaru: “If you’re really that against it, why not just… not?… Unless, wait, you’re not gonna say it’s a Contract, right?”
Feeling something off, Subaru brought those words to his lips.
In the first place, if one thought about Shaula’s identity, then it would be very clear. For 400 years, in place of the『Sage』, she lived at the Tower, looking over the Witch’s Seal as the Tower’s watchman.
Given such a role, and actually having acted upon it for the past several centuries―――, Neither her lifestyle nor her lifespan were humane.
Subaru: “You, are you a spirit just like Beako?”
In lieu of a fake promise, Beatrice was locked up inside of the Forbidden Library for 400 years.
If, just like her, Shaula had spent the past 400 years shooting down any who dared approach the Watchtower, waiting for those who would fulfill the conditions, then possibly, she and Beatrice were the same kind of existence―――.
Shaula: ”No way. Not gonna stand being compared to those fluff―ball things called spirits. I absolutely refuse… Everyone’s eyes are looking pretty scary suddenly!”
Subaru: “That’s because 80% of everyone present here is related to spirits!”
As it stood, counting the amateur as well, there were three Spirit Users. Furthermore, one particular young girl was a Spirit herself, and another who was possessed by an Artificial Spirit herself. The only ones unrelated to Spirits were the Oni sisters who waited downstairs, and the small girl who was looking at Shaula with a mischievous expression for some reason, Meili.None of what Shaula said had sat well most with those who were present.
Subaru: “Let’s leave that at that, anyway, what the hell are you. If you’re not a Spirit, then I don’t see why you’d so desperately keep up your Contract.”
Emilia: “What are you saying, Subaru. Even if you are not a Spirit or a Spirit User, if you make a promise, you have to keep it. Promises are important. Now, repeat after me.”
Subaru: “No, wait, that was my bad just now. It was just a figure of speech and…”
Emilia: “Promises are important. Three times.”
Subaru: “Promises are important. Promises are important. Promises are important.”
Getting unexpectedly rebuked by Emilia, he repeated her words three times to get forgiveness.
Either way, both Emilia’s and Subaru’s unwitting charade, and Shaula’s strictly obstinate attitude, were difficult to understand by outsiders.
It was not simply a matter of messed up sense of duty, too.
Julius: “Right now, what is important is to learn more about the orders Miss Shaula had received. It’s a bad habit of yours to derail the conversation. Be aware of it.”
Subaru: “Like all of it’s my fault… Fine! That was my bad, all of it was my bad! I’ll admit it was my fault, so just leave it at that, damn you!”
Shaula: “Wow, that’s totally a big outburst, but that’s just expected of Master! I’ll talk.”
To Subaru who approached with a pathetic and sour face, Shaula beamed and dealt her hand. Then, she cleared her throat, and in a strangely decent manner, “Now then,” she opened her mouth,
Shaula: “I humbly present that, I will now speak of the orders I was given. First, I am to never let the challenger of the Great Library Pleiades get out.”
Subaru: “We’re suddenly stuck here!”
Shaula: “It’s alright! There’s a proper way out! As long as you properly clear the Great Library’s『Trial』, and reach the 1st Floor『Maia』, there’s no problem. It’s all OK.”
Shaula said as she gave a thumbs up.
Shaula: “By the way, if this condition is violated, then I’ll turn into a cold―blooded killing machine pretty quick, so it’ll invalidate my promise with Master. I’ll get in the way.”
Subaru: “That’s got a bigger priority than my promise, huh? Kinda hurts.”
Shaula: “Ooo―, to think I’ve managed to hurt Master, I must’ve gotten stronger~! This is clearly an evolution! The fruits of 400 years!”
Subaru: “I’m joking!”
Shaula: “Me too~!”
After indulging in the fast back and forth, Shaula raised a second finger and waved around her hand and spoke,
Shaula: “Continuing, well, I’m getting tired of this, so I’ll rush it. First, it’s forbidden to leave without completing the『Trial』 . Second, it’s forbidden to break the rules of the 『Trial』. Third, it’s forbidden to disrespect the Library. Fourth, it’s forbidden to try to destroy the Tower itself. Fifth, ah―, fifth was…. Oh. There’s no fifth.”
Emilia: “All of that makes four rules… but,”
Somewhat taking in Shaula and her butchered explanation, Emilia turned towards Subaru and the others. The anxieties and fears she embraced, were ones Subaru understood too.
The rules Shaula spoke of were, roughly, easy to stand by, but there were several curious statements mixed in. The problem was especially with―――,
Subaru: “I’m really curious about the ‘It’s forbidden to violate the rules of the『Trial』’ bit.”
Julius: “Seems like it is a hidden rule we are unaware of.”
Julius agreed with Subaru, who touched his chin, lost in thought.
At least, for the『Trial』of the 3rd Floor,『Taygeta』, Subaru and co. had not received any information about the Rules during it, and had not faced any problems with the Monolith and its Asterism.
Speaking of which, the moment anyone touched the wrong Monolith, they were disqualified.
Anastasia: “Rules, regulations… they all sorta sound like bad news, at least to me.”
Emilia: “…The『Ordeal』from back at the Tomb would close down for the day if the challenger failed to pass it. It somewhat seems quite similar to how we redid the『Trial』from earlier, so maybe―”
Emilia stopped herself at that point, and bit her lip. Her trembling purple eyes darted to Subaru, who gave a slight nod.
Subaru: “If you’ve got anything on your mind, now’s the best time to speak up. Don’t worry, I won’t make fun of you, no matter what you say.”
Emilia: “Mmh, I know. Um, you see, Subaru and Anastasia―san were saying that, the person who made this Tower is reeally mean… right?”
Subaru: “Your choice of words is turning pretty cute, but that’s right. What about it?”
Emilia: “Thinking from the point of view of the other party is also important. In other words, if you try to look at what Shaula said, while imagining how that reeally mean person felt, it’s kinda like―”
As everyone’s gazes turned to Emilia, she licked her lips, then she clapped together her hands, and pointed to the ceiling.
Emilia: “There are rules we have to follow, but we don’t know what those rules are… That’s really mean, isn’t it?”
Subaru: “…in other words,”
Emilia: “We have to imagine what could be the possible rules, and go on without breaking them.”
Everyone’s faces tightened with anxiety at Emilia’s words.
To their response, Emilia’s long eyelashes fringed as she looked down.
Emilia: “I feel like, Echidna would do something like this.”
Subaru: “….Emilia―tan, to think we’d think of the same person when it comes to crappy personalities. We think alike.”
That one sentence lent a bit more credibility to Subaru’s own thoughts, at the very least.
The owner of the malicious personality Emilia mentioned――― He felt it was close to being right.
Establishing rules that were not meant to be broken, but not telling the Challenger themselves the contents of the rules.
It was quite the distasteful disposition.
Subaru: “By the way, are you the one who’s going to judge whether the rules are broken or not?”
Shaula: “You’re coming to get the hang of it. All the stuff I just said, I’m supposed to just get it if there’s any violation of them. Absolutely no way to trick me. Goes for both Master, and his friends.”
The meek voice expressed a mysterious power in the latter half of her words.
That was not the physical prowess of Shaula, but rather the opposite.
――That there was someone much stronger than Shaula, who could make her act like that.
Subaru: “It was already a bad joke, but now another bad joke got piled on top of it. Too late anyway.”
Julius: “At times, I feel envious of the frivolous way you speak.”
Julius sighed as he spoke. Looking at his handsome profile, Subaru shrugged.
Julius: “Perhaps it is because of how you’re always looking up, that you developed such a persona. If that is so, then I am afraid I will never be able to gain such an experience.”
Subaru: “You need to be more afraid of what’s around your feet. You’ll stub your toe on the corner of a desk. I really hope you do.”
Anastasia: “Yes, yes, good friends getting into arguing’s fine and all, but let’s not be forgetting our main topic.”
Splitting Julius and Subaru up, Anastasia stepped up to gaze down upon Shaula.
Subaru: “That’s all there is? It’s all fine till now, right?”
Shaula: “Cross my heart. Not lying this time. Besides, so long as the rules aren’t broken, my body’s still gonna be mine. No wait, that’s wrong. It’ll still be Master’s.”
Subaru: “Don’t want it.”
Shaula: “I got rejected! But, my heart’s always with Master!”
Subaru: “Don’t want that either.”
Hands on her waist, Anastasia reconfirmed everything Shaula had spoken of in short, with a few unnecessary words added by Shaula, alongside her own position in recent events. It took a while, but she managed to confirm that Subaru’s promise with her――― To not harm him or his comrades, remained intact, and she planned on keeping it.
Of course, with the condition that none of the rules have yet been broken.
Emilia: “Either way, to think we can’t get out unless we complete the『Trial』… It’s coming to look pretty similar to the『Ordeal』from back at the Tomb.”
Subaru: “Nah, worst case scenario, so long as we beat this here, we all get to go home, right? That’s a lot easier than the one at the Tomb.”
Shaula: “Master would never do anything like that! He was the kindest ever! Had the biggest heart ever! Uwah, my body’s itchy because I lied!”
Shaula fluttered around, reaping what she sowed, as Emilia and Subaru looked on with disappointed expressions.
For the time being, that was all they got from Shaula.
Meili: “Are you all finished talking? Can I go get on the barely clothed Onee―san now?”
Subaru: “We’re done, we’re done. Go ahead. Do what you want. Wait, you’ve already gotten super attached to her.”
Judging that the talk was over, Meili, who had been staying out of the conversation, ran up to Shaula and climbed on top of her thin shoulders.
That was the place Meili felt most comfortable, ever since arriving at the Tower. To Shaula, who had lifted the dragon carriage like it was no big deal, Meili ought to be as light as a feather.
Meili: “Whenever I’m with Onee―san, I feel kinda safer.”
Shaula: “Well, I don’t think much of it. I can look after ankle―biter number two just fine.”
Subaru: “Number two?”
Shaula: “Ankle―biter number two’s this one here, and number one is that one over there.”
With Meili still on her back, Shaula pointed to Beatrice as number one.
Beatrice made no comment on Shaula’s belittling remark. Normally, considering her personality, she would have snapped at her at full force, face red and puffy.
Subaru: “Wait a sec, she hasn’t been talking for a while now. Is everything okay?”
Subaru: “Beako? Oii, Beatrice. Pay attention, come on. I’ll kiss your forehead if you don’t.”
Beatrice: “…do what you want, in fact.”
As if barely listening, Beatrice answered. Finding it unamusing, Subaru frowned.
Beatrice: “Ngyah― I suppose!?”
Feeling somewhat annoyed, he really kissed her forehead. Immediately, Beatrice came to her senses, covered her forehead and leapt away. Then tripped. Then got up. Then tripped again.
Subaru: “You’re overreacting…”
Beatrice: “Wha, wha, wha, what are you doing all of a sudden, in fact!? Your train of thought makes no sense, I suppose!”
Subaru: “My train of thought makes perfect sense. I even got permission from you. Are you really okay?”
Feeling a little hurt at how she desperately scrubbed the part where he had kissed, Subaru worried about the little girl.
Putting in a little thought, this Tower, a place with a shady backstory, was in the middle of the Sand Dunes. Subaru did not understand it very well, but there was some kind of Miasma flowing through here, so that might be the cause.
Subaru: “If you’re not feeling good, just hold my hand. You get better that way, right.”
Beatrice: “That’s impossible, it won’t happen, in fact! Give me a little time to calm down, I suppose!”
Her face beet―red, Beatrice squealed at Subaru, so he turned away with a shrug. That she refused to hold hands came as a bit of a shock, but the rest of her attitude was that of her usual self.
If there was something really worrying about her, he would just ask again later.
Subaru: “Now then, the problem is…”
Julius: “That in the end, we have no choice but to fumble through the unknown in search of the stairs to the 2nd Floor, is it.”
Julius finished Subaru’s sentence as the two turned to face the bookcases once more.
The reason they looked a bit down was that, they needed a bit more manpower to tackle this, but because of the orders Shaula had been given, they had to relinquish the thought.
If they did not clear the『Trial』, they would not be allowed to get out of the Tower. Naturally, one could not go out to beyond the Sand Dunes to call for help.
Ultimately, there was no choice but to continue the search with the members present.
Subaru: “Will you get it if I say, ‘It’s like looking for a single grain of gold in a mountain of sand.’?”
Julius: “Speaking in such poetic words is unlike you. However, I can honestly agree with them.”
Rare as it was, faced with the great hurdle that obstructed them, Subaru and Julius got along.
Nothing could be accomplished by dawdling, so they prepared to dive once more into the sea of books to find a way to the next floor, or so they had decided when,
Emilia: “Heey, I put a little thought into it, and,”
Emilia interrupted the two who were going back into the Library with a slightly raised hand.
She tilted her head towards them, put a finger to her lips, and spoke,
Emilia: “I thought about how the person who built this tower, his personality is a little dishonest, right?”
Subaru: “Your word choice is turning adorable again, but that’s right. So?”
Putting together everything that was discussed from the previous conversation, Emilia added “So,” and continued,
Emilia: “The staircase, I think it might just be at that spot――”
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
Subaru: “I’ll say it again. The guy who made this Tower has the shittiest personality ever!!”
Standing in front of the long and winding staircase that led to the 2nd Floor『Electra』, Subaru spat out various colors of abuse.
The staircase that led to the 2nd Floor, the location which Emilia had thought of, was――,
Emilia: “I thought it’d be in the places where we hadn’t looked, like maybe on the 4th or 5th Floors.”
Emilia spoke, feeling elated, yet somewhat perplexed.
Her guess had hit the nail squarely on its head. The staircase had appeared right beside the Green Room, where Rem and Ram were waiting, in a previously blank space.