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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
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ーーA woman, a sole woman existed.
The woman was a commonplace village girl, one with an ordinary birth and growth. Loved by her parents, loved by her siblings, the woman too loved her family, she was an extremely normal woman.
With a fiancé decided by her household, she shall end her established lifetime in a corner of a poor village, identical to many other village girls. For the woman, that meant life, the paved order of things having no room for doubt.
Such ordinarity of the woman was crushed at the hands of sleazy powerful men who appeared in the village. What made her fit, or was it merely the vice of humans, unknowing of the eventual truth, the woman was coercively desired by the powerful men.
No matter it being a poor village of a small country, there existed a disparity impossible to eliminate with the powerful men. The woman was unable to oppose the demand of the powerful men. She had no choice but to yield to the irrationality of fate.
However, the woman was loved. By her family, by her fiancé, by the people of her village.
Braving the oppression of the powerful men, the people’s rage flared up, giving birth to flames of war before long.
The fire spread, the residents of the village organised into an army, and at last, the powerful men along with the small castle were scorched to the ground.
In naught but a single evening, the woman’s position changed vastly.
A mere ordinary village girl, her fiancé the ringleader of a single group of troops.
The raging of the unremitting blaze, the surrounding ones who regarded that as hazardous turned to their own troops from one to the next.
That proved as being beaten at their own game for those who roused themselves claiming it was all for the sake of the woman.
The fire spread whilst the flames of war coruscated, burning the small country, neighbouring countries, and the great country to nothing before long.
The existence of the woman, who was made to be the origin of it all, was renowned, the people rumoured her to be a beautiful maiden of the heavens.
Illusions piled over illusions, and due to the interest and expectations, the woman’s petite body was about to shatter.
Nobody took notice of that. Neither her family, nor her fiancé, nor the people, no one was looking at the woman.
Cheers when she moved a hand, stampedes when she walked a street, tears of joy when she spoke a word, were all turned towards the woman.
The Woman:「This, is…… strange. Y-You’re, wro…… ng……」
Shrouding her face, she denied. That this wasn’t possible, that this wasn’t supposed to be.
Her self was a mere village girl, neither a beauty of the heavens nor a charming siren, but a single meagre village girl.
Where in her lay such worth.
The people were intoxicated with dreams. Misled by illusions, dancing with ideals.
Before long, without adhering to any curtailments, even the great country was burnt to ash with the woman at its origin.
The ruined great country, the robbed castle, at its summit the fiancé knelt before the woman. And, informed her.
???:「――I love you. This triumph, the smiles of the people, are all things given by you.」
The flaring capital city, heaps of corpses, the people trembling moved with ecstasy. The villagers she lived with too, the family who loved her too, the fiancé who wished for well-being too.
No longer was anyone anywhere.
――Without responding to the fiancé, the woman left. Abandoning her family, the villagers, anything and everything.
She was not supposed to have been bestowed with it. Never had she wished for it. The woman merely lost everything.
Having lost the days she was loved which certainly existed, the woman, alone, proceeded to the burnt fields.
Yet, the dreams, the illusions, the ideals did not let the woman escape.
Wherever she proceeded to, anyone and everyone loved the woman, crushed by the woman, desired the woman, everything was brought to ruin.
Anyone and everyone loved the woman. Like a curse. Whilst unaware of true love inside.
The『Witch of Lust』sought the love she lost, and continued to be loved by the love summoning ruin.
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(TL Note: I wanted to give some more flair to the Man’s オメエ quirk, so I will translate this as “ya prick” when he speaks to males/collectively and “ya twat” when speaking to females – he can be a 400 year old chav now.)
――The swordsmanship brimming out of him pierced without restraint towards Subaru and the others who had challenged『Electra』.
The man was garbed in a crimson robe with both of his arms outside of his sleeves, and his upper torso lay bare other than the sarashi wrapped around it.
There was a glint of madness in the『Stick Swinger’s』eyes after he’d given them that dire proclamation.
The『Trial』of the Second Floor―― Which in short was making their examiner, the『Stick Swinger』, recognise their qualifications to proceed up to the upper floor. That had already ended up with two people dropping out due to the atypical skill of the man.
Even under these conditions Emilia had somehow managed to snatch away victory thanks to her fighting strength along with her characteristic pluckiness, tenacity and use of numerous weapons. However――,
Subaru:「――Don’t the conditions say that it’s fine if just one person clears it!?」
The Stick Swinger:「Huuuh? Who the hell said that, stop pullin’ stuff out of yer ass, ya prick. Why would it be that if one person can go up, then all the rest of ya can. Use yer common sense, use it! Is the inside of yer head also like that of a small fry, ya prick.」
Subaru:「Y-you’re making this point to the guy who doesn’t wanna be told the most in the world about common sense……!」
Subaru groaned at the perfectly reasonable point which the man had made, who’d now crossed his chopsticks over, one held in each hand, with a clack.
In actual fact, the one who’d jumped to conclusions about the clear-conditions of the『Trial』had been Subaru himself.
The Trial on the Third Floor had involved solving a puzzle and when it had been solved the structure of the room itself had changed; so it was possible to say that he’d jumped to that conclusion. He’d incorrectly assumed that a new Library would materialise if one of them cleared the『Trial』of the Second Floor.
If his assumption had collapsed and clearing the Trial would require each of their strengths in battle, then it was pretty safe to say that beating this『Trial』would be futile.
The condition which Emilia had managed to achieve―― Namely,『To move the man even one step』, they’d seen now just how hard achieving that was in stark contrast to its seeming simplicity.
Speaking clearly about it, Emilia was currently the strongest amongst everyone who’d come to challenge the Pleiades Watchtower along with Julius―― Though as long as Julius’ contract with his Quasi-Spirits was gone he could objectively say that she was the strongest amongst them.
The man had been extremely negligent in their first bout, and that had ended up allowing Emilia to defeat him.
In summary, they’d pitted their strongest vanguard against their enemy when he was at his weakest.
They had managed to beat him once, but now that it had become a tournament where everyone had to beat him they would have to pit everyone else, who weren’t as good at fighting, against this man who had no more chinks in his armour.
Move the man one step―― Were they really going to be able to achieve a victory like the one Emilia had snatched away from of a combination of good fortune and an attack of that calibre?
Beatrice:「――Wait up, in fact. There’s a key mistake in what you’re saying, I suppose.」
The Stick Swinger:「A mistake?」
Shuddering at the prospect, Subaru tried to look for a glimmer of victory amidst their terrible predicament. Beatrice, who was right beside him, firmly squeezed his hand so to calm him down and spoke out to the man.
The man grew sullen as he heard her words and pointed his uncovered eye towards Beatrice,
The Stick Swinger:「What’rya sayin’ ya twat. Yer’ve come 10 years too early ya twat. No, at least 5 ya twat. Ye can come here after yer legs, arms ‘n body grow ‘n after y’get some tits ‘n ass ya twat.]
Beatrice:「……I never had any intentions of playing along with your crap, but right now you’ve made me part with those intentions completely, in fact. That’s why I’m going to knock this into that thick skull of yours, I suppose.]
The Stick Swinger:「My thick skull…, The hell you mean?]
Beatrice:「It’s already been decided, in fact. ――Emilia told you if you were moved even one step then it’d be our victory, I suppose. In other words, Emilia’s victory was a victory for all of us, in fact!」
Subaru held his breath and instinctively looked over at Emilia.
He’d never expected that she would’ve planned that far ahead during their brash negotiations; he was surprised by the shrewish nature she concealed underneath. From the corner of his eye, Emilia placed her hand against her mouth and said「Oh.」No she wasn’t shrewish. She was pure. She was EMT.
Emilia:「Yeah, now that you mention it, I did say that! I did say “our”! How about it? When you take that into consideration doesn’t that mean that we’ve all passed your『Trial』?」
The Stick Swinger:「That’s an issue of semantics ya twat. It doesn’ mean that at all.」
Emilia:「Oh… I see. Subaru, Beatrice, I’m sorry. He said it’s not going to work…」
Beatrice:「You’re giving up far too quickly!!」
Beatrice yelled out at Emilia, who had dropped her shoulders in a crestfallen fashion and signalled her giving up with a meek look on her face. Although, Subaru too had thought it an unreasonable turn of wit when he stopped to think about it.
And that was because he’d been in so much despair about the height of the wall in front of them that he’d wanted to cling onto the possibility.
The Stick Swinger:「Well, there is some sense to what that runt is sayin’. I also seem to recall it at first bein’ that you can take on as many people as you like so long as you try ‘n get past me. ――Though followin’ the rules is kinda borin’ so I had to drag myself awake.」
Subaru:「When you say you had to drag yourself awake….. You mean that stuff at the beginning was you hacking the system!?」
The Stick Swinger:「I dunno ya prick. Use words I can understand ya prick. We ain’t talkin’ like our hair’s goin’ grey early ya prick.」
The man kept flitting back and forth between good and bad moods. As Subaru nodded lazily at the man’s words to show he was paying attention, he managed to deduce something about the system part of the『Trial』―― Something about the man’s true nature.
His deduction came from observing the『Trials』on the Third and Second Floor, and then from observing the stuff which the man, who seemed to be devoid of sanity, said following his appearance and his behaviour after. His inference was drawn from the things that felt out of place from each of those points.
In short, there was a vital discrepancy between the original『Trial』and the『Trial』that was going on now.
Subaru:「In truth it should have been a『Trial』where things would have been fine if everyone worked together to fulfill its condition, but because you “Woke up” it’s now become that we each have to fulfill the condition?」
The Stick Swinger:「Kah! Hell as if I’d know, ya prick. But, I ain’t got a clue which one of ‘em would’ve been easier. No idea which out of killin’ me using all your combined efforts or lettin’ me fondle yer tits ‘n hittin’ me once would’ve been easier…!]
Subaru:「――Don’t you go saying such careless things, you perverted bastard. I’ll shut you right up.]
Subaru reached out for his whip so that he could lash out at him in anger for his callous words. He pulled it out from the back of his waist and cracked it as fast as he could using only his forearm. However, the man easily caught the whip, which should have been travelling nigh at the speed of sound, in between his chopsticks and gave it a shake.
The chances that he would’ve been able to hit him had been low, but his surprise attack had ended up failing so spectacularly――,
The Stick Swinger:「Kah! I didn’t think you were the type to be swingin’ sticks, but really, a whip, ya prick? What kinda taste is that, ya prick. Whip lashes‘re only only good for yer enemies ‘n yer woman.」
Subaru:「It sure as hell looks like you’re my enemy though! Besides, I plan to go up the bases properly when it comes to Emilia, and that leaves me no options for using whips before going through them all!」
Beatrice:「Subaru, Subaru, calm down in fact. I can barely understand what you’re saying, I suppose. And what’s more you’re getting swept up by the enemy’s pace, in fact!」
Emilia「That’s right Subaru! You mustn’t get so upset! He just touched my chest, it’s not like he did anything weird.」
Subaru:「That is something that’s weird Emilia-tan!」
The Stick Swinger:「In general it is somethin’ to get upset at smokin’ hottie」
Both the man and Subaru replied to Emilia, who had been trying to calm them down, at the same time. Emilia widened her eyes at their in-sync-suggestions and Beatrice gave a deep sigh.
???:「――I wo~nder, may I say something really quickly?」
After keeping her silence for so long, someone finally spoke out in a trembling voice over to the four of them who’d been caught up in their exchange, now all looking rather taken aback.
???:「……I don’t like say~ing this but I thi~nk we should turn back.」
The little girl who had spoken out and lifted her tiny hand up had dark blue braided hair―― Meili. She slowly shook her head, still perched on Shaula’s shoulders (who had crumpled down to her knees fainted).
Meili’s olive green eyes were full of unmistakable fear of the man reflected in them who stood further back, but yet she spoke.
Meili:「I don’t know how you can speak so fluidly with that guy Onii-sa~n… Our knightley Onii-san, our scarf-wearing Onee-san and even our naked Onee-san have been hurt by him.」
Subaru:「Out of those Shaula did collapse because of other reasons, but… it’s definitely weird.」
Though Meili’s view was pessimistic, her assessment was natural when taking into account their current fighting strength. Rather, it was Subaru that in trying to remain here and continue their challenge had completely lost his composure. They’d been completely flattened by the『Stick Swinger’s』swordsmanship.
He hadn’t been able to remain objective with how much influence Anastasia and Julius’ collapse and Emilia’s sexual harassment had had on him, however――,
Subaru:「――This is just hypothetically speaking, but if we were to leave and come back again later would you still recognise her victory?」
The Stick Swinger:「――――」
He could even say that his sportsmanship in having recognised Emilia clearing the Trial was unretractable―― But, even though he had shown as much the other parts that came with it weren’t so easy to understand.
Even in carrying out Meili’s reasonable conclusion, if their opponent didn’t accept it then they wouldn’t be able to avoid having to fight. Up until a short while ago their opponent had taken care not to kill them. But now that he was behaving like he’d just shifted up a gear they had no surefire guarantee that their lives wouldn’t be in danger the next time they challenged him.
If it came to that then challenging him would be out of the question. Instead, he would have to use every last inch of his strength to get them out of here.
Without any exaggeration, the『Stick Swinger’s』true strength approached cataclysmic levels.
He’d made short work of Julius with his chopsticks, fought with Emilia and still had plenty of energy left to spare―― His true strength was without exaggeration Reinhardt-grade.
What sort of intention did this tower’s overlord have in placing such a monster here?
It seemed to him like they had no intention of letting it be cleared when taking into account the solution to the『Constellation』themed puzzle of the Third Floor as well.
Subaru:「Well, what’ll it be?」
Shifting his heels as he showed signs of his patience running out he approached the collapsed figures of Julius and Anastasia. Taking notice of what Subaru was doing, Beatrice and Emilia subtly took up their positions as well.
If the『Stick Swinger』bared his fangs, Emilia would once again instantly cast her Icicle Line and they’d have no choice but to pick up the three which had collapsed using Beatrice’s Murak and sprint away. In the worst case, he’d have to consider casting the yet incomplete third trump card with Beatrice as well――,
The Stick Swinger:「――Enough」
The Stick Swinger:「E-N-O-U-G-H! EnoughEnoughEnoughEnoughEnoughEnoughEnough! I ain’t in the mood for this!」
The man abruptly spat that out at them as they’d set their mind and body wholeheartedly onto their escape plan. As they goggled at his childish attitude, the man put his arm back in his left sleeve again and straightened up his Haori back to how it was when he’d first wore it. Then he started to walk away moodily, away from Subaru and the others who remained on their guard―― He grumpily made his way to the Sword of Selection which had been kicked away.
The man stepped on the fallen sword, flicked it up and lazily took hold of it. Then he vigorously thrust its tip down onto the white floor and the sword returned to the same state it had been when the『Trial』had started.
The Stick Swinger:「I’m closin’ up shop. Scram ya pricks. I’m tired of this. Hurry the hell up.」
He flumped down on the spot with a thunk and spat those words out, sitting with one knee raised up.
Subaru:「――. W-waitwaitwait! You’re freewheeling far too much, what the hell’s this about!? Are you really going to haphazardly decide the particulars of the『Trial』depending on your mood!?」
The Stick Swinger:「You sure are noisy ya prick. The discretion here has been left to me from the start ya prick. If I say no, then it’s a no.」
Subaru instinctively became speechless at hearing his arrogant manner of speaking. At Subaru’s surprise, the man continued and said「Besides.」
The Stick Swinger:「――When I don’t feel like doin’ something I don’t mess about. So, ya prick, are ya gonna do what I said?」
Subaru’s whole body was bathed in chills from an intense gust of wind whooshing by.
The man had cast aside all of his weapons and even tucked away his chopsticks in his bosom pocket; and, his lips had curled. It did certainly look like a smile, but it was of a different nature to the one which he’d been showing so far.
Ferocious as it was, it wasn’t a smile that gave off a sunny atmosphere. Rather his smile was like that of a crazed beast exuding a dark, sanguine, gruesome intent to kill.
A small groan could be heard.
Not from Subaru, but from Emilia who should have been by his side. She had one of her hands against her pale throat and her jewel-like eyes were widened in surprise.
Her knees fell from beneath her and she sunk down onto the floor. It was as if she had noticed in that moment that she was unable to stand up by herself and forgotten how to breathe――,
And it was the same for Subaru as well, who’d suddenly become “Aware” of his breathing as soon as he saw Emilia’s reaction. Before he could even notice, Subaru had dropped to his knees in pain and his whole body was drenched in sweat.
He was in the same state as Emilia―― No, he was worse off than her; he’d been completely daunted by the man’s presence.
It’s as if he’d started to forget even that his heart was beating, and that he was starting to be killed.
If there’d been no one around him to make him remember about that in the surroundings he would have died from the power in the man’s eyes alone.
The Stick Swinger:「Go rack your brains ‘n see if y’can find a way to win ya prick. The same trick the smokin’ hottie used ain’t gonna cut it. Not even from the sleepin’ hot stuff. Now get out of my sight, I’m going to bed.」
His voice grew low indicating he was not messing about when he said that, and following that, his head dozily jerked down. After a little bit, they could gradually hear the man’s snoring which sounded as deafening as him when awake.
In that sense his loud snoring wasn’t at all contrary to his personality―― However, none of those who were left standing here were able to laugh about it.
Meili:「Let’s turn back from here as quickly as possi~ble」
He wanted to leave this place as quickly as possible.
Making good on Meili’s words who’d insisted they do just that, Subaru and the others slowly grabbed their fallen members and were forced to retreat from the『Trial.』
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???:「――I see. So that’s the reason why you scurried back looking so glum from the Second 『Trial』」
Subaru:「……As harsh as ever, eh, Nee-sama?」
Ram:「Stop talking like that. Every time you do, the “Master-sama Theory” of the sleeping woman holds more weight to it.」
Subaru:「That’s crazy talk! Mind what you say.」
Ram gave a short sigh as he feebly shrugged his shoulders at her unappealing warning.
They were on the Fourth Floor, in the room adjacent to the Green Room. Subaru and Ram were vis-a-vis with each other, and Emilia, Beatrice and Meili were there too. The number became 6 when you included Shaula, who they’d rolled in here as the final member.
The group had climbed down the long, long staircase and fled from the Second Floor. The first thing they’d done was carry their wounded to the Green Room and entrust them to the Spirit’s treatment.
Their diagnosis on the way was that Julius had simply only fainted, whereas with Anastasia the underlying reason was exhaustion due to having used too much magic; in all, their lives weren’t in danger.
Therefore he’d placed them in bed and moved rooms with Ram so that he could explain the situation to her, that and to get around the room’s people-limit as well. However――,
Ram:「I heard that there was a ridiculous Examiner too, but… It was just Emilia-sama that was acknowledged by him, right? Was it not possible for just the one person to see the library?」
Emilia:「Oh, I hadn’t thought about that now that you mention it. Right, I may have been able to go up to the First Floor if it was just me…. Should we try asking the『Stick Swinger-san』if I can…?」
Subaru:「…No, let’s not. I don’t want to stir up the hornet’s nest and risk him getting irritated again; and even if he told Emilia-tan that she can go up by herself, that… That would be dangerous.」
Emilia:「I’ll be reaaaally careful you know?」
Ram:「It is dangerous.」
Beatrice:「It’s dangerous, I suppose.」
Subaru, Ram and Beatrice immediately put a damper on Emilia’s determination. Emilia dejectedly stood down after she heard their concerns, but it wasn’t like Subaru had been stamping out her willingness out of being overprotective.
Right now he didn’t want to aggravate that『Stick Swinger』for no good reason. This he was absolutely sure about.
It’s true that he felt like he wanted to say something to that untrammelled individual, but it would be suicidal to challenge him when he was in a bad mood irregardless of when the『Trial』would recommence.
And the fact was right now they weren’t even seeing the man taking up the sword.
Even if only Emilia had been able to get past that man――,
Subaru:「I’m doubtful about whether The『Trial』of the Second Floor truly is just the one part. He could easily be playing us the foo… No, it may just seem like that to me because Emilia-tan overcame it without much issue but I wonder if that’s truly the end of it; that’s what’s weighing on my mind」
Emilia:「I think you’re thinking too much about it. That individual… Though the things he says may be a little strange and rude sometimes it doesn’t seem like he’d lie. No, it’s because it seems like he’s a person who can’t lie.」
Subaru:「The jury’s split right through the middle here on whether it’s just you having faith in him or good shrewdness being the reason he can’t tell lies…」
Whatever the case may be he had no grounds to brush aside Emilia’s point. If anything he agreed with the assessment she’d given regarding that『Stick Swinger.』
Were he to look at it from a different angle, the reason she’d overcome the『Trial』so readily could also be because Emilia was the strongest out of them. So when it came to Julius right now, the fact that he’d collapsed meant that――,
Subaru:「I hope he’s not depressed as hell about it…」
Emilia:「Are you worried about Julius?」
Subaru:「I’m not entirely sure. You see, when it comes to being worried, I guess I am… But, it’s not as easy as that.」
Julius’ duel head on with the『Stick Swinger』, his subsequent defeat and his beaten figure had been seared into his mind. He probably wasn’t overthinking his anxiety when he looked back on how Julius had looked in his last moments.
His skill with the sword had been nowhere near his opponents, he’d been toyed with like it had been child’s play and finally even his Knightly Sword had been broken――,
Subaru:「There’s another sword in our Dragon Carriage, but that isn’t going to be the issue here I imagine」
Beatrice:「Swords can be reforged. I really don’t get all the fuss, I suppose.」
Subaru:「But Beako, don’t you take good care of the Handkerchief, Mittens and Apron I made you? What I’m saying is that those things are more special, and it’s as if they were torn.」
Beatrice:「…I apologise for saying something so stupid, in fact.」
Beatrice meekly took back her callous remark and Subaru stroked her head, letting out a sigh.
It was hard to imagine how Julius would react when he’d wake up in the Green Room. Even though he didn’t know whether he’d get depressed (unlike his usual self) or whether he’d try act strong like he usually did, Subaru had no clue what he’d say to him when he eventually did; for that reason he was feeling quite downhearted.
And when it came to things to worry about, that didn’t stop only with Julius.
Subaru:「Anastasia… Echidna’s…, That desperation, what on earth was she thinking…」
One doubt that firmly clung to Subaru’s mind was Anastasia, aka Eridna’s decision when she’d butted in Julius’ duel with the『Stick Swinger』and provided him support.
There was no question that in that moment she’d been providing backup for Julius. The reason why she had tried her utmost to help him when he’d been overwhelmed like that was one which everyone, including Subaru, would have been feeling as well.
Nevertheless touching on the matter briefly, that which Echidna had done, considering that she was moving about using Anastasia’s body who’d remained a bystander in all this, went beyond being surprising and more so warranted fright.
Even during their journey and after arriving at the Watchtower Echidna hadn’t forgotten to behave like Anastasia; she’d kept asserting that she’d do her very best to act with due consideration for her body. He’d figured that at least in his eyes that she wouldn’t have turned against that.
What meaning did she have in coming here and all of a sudden behaving like that――?
Beatrice:「That girl’s indisposition is gravely different to a little overuse of magic, I suppose.」
Subaru:「――Then what is it?」
Beatrice was the only one who shared knowledge of the situation regarding Anastasia and Echidna, and she quietly whispered those words into the brooding Subaru’s ear.
When Subaru posed his question, Beatrice continued her words by saying「To put it simply,」
Beatrice:「Bubby, Betty and that Scarf are special among Spirits, in fact. We’re all more powerful than lots of other kinds of Spirits, but we make up for it by having other restrictions instead, I suppose. I needn’t have to explain it to you now, in fact.」
Subaru:「Mhm. Since you want me all to yourself by me signing a contract with you I cannot sign a contract with other spirits. You can rest assured that I’m yours, Beako.」
Beatrice:「It’s, It’s nothing as cheerful as that, I suppose. This is more about that Scarf-Spirit, in fact. It’s true that she’s borrowing that girl’s body… But, I realised something as we made our way here, I suppose. That girl has no magic to her which she can use other than her Od, in fact.」
Subaru:「None other than her… Od?」
Beatrice:「She’s the same as you, there’s a defect in her Gate, I suppose. Its valve is broken and its ability of drawing in Mana from the outside is kaput, in fact. So she can’t use magic unless she whittles down her own life, I suppose.」
Subaru:「Then that means……」
It can be fatal, Subaru gulped at that realisation.
Subaru was in shock of the problems which Anastasia’s body bore. They would be severe handicaps in a world like this. He recalled the words which Anastasia a.k.a Eridna had said before, “My trump card whittles at my body.” She’d meant those words literally. And now that this fact had become clear, Subaru had ended up becoming more and more bewildered.
If in fact Echidna’s misuse of Anastasia’s body had been for nothing other than to shorten her host’s life, then――,
Subaru:「Why did she always try to help Julius?」
It didn’t look like this was something she’d done out of some intricate plan. Undoubtedly taking this risk from worry of Julius’ condition must have been behind that act of desperation.
Was Echidna attracted to Julius? Was that one of the powers of his『Divine Protection of Gathering Spirits』as well?
Ram:「――I’m worried about Anastasia-sama and the Knight Julius as well, but we have other issues that we need to deal with, don’t we?」
Subaru:「I guess you mean that『Stick Swinger』」
Ram:「That’s right. It may seem cold hearted, but for me what we’ll do about the『Trial』is more important. ――If we can’t get past it then we aren’t going to find a way to get Rem back.」
Ram interrupted Subaru’s thoughts and, in a sense, voiced quite a cold hearted opinion.
Just as she’d acknowledged, her words were a little lacking in consideration. But, Subaru wasn’t going to blame her for that.
He couldn’t see it, but he could feel a tinge of irritation concealed behind Ram’s stiff expression. That was because she was frustrated that she had the possibility of getting back her lost little sister and she was now an arm’s reach away but yet still so far; Subaru could sympathise with that.
Emilia:「He dressed casually, had an eyepatch, red hair, blue eyes… He had an awfully self-assertive, violent physique though.」
Subaru:「Did anyone familiar come to your mind? If you don’t see the real thing you probably won’t be able to imagine him, but he’s with no exaggeration strong as a monster. Maybe around Reinhardt-grade.」
Ram:「A real nightmare, huh.」
Emilia:「Though what Subaru’s saying is no lie. I’ve never seen Reinhardt’s true strength… But, well, I think he was as strong as that.」
Emilia followed up Ram’s words, detailing her thoughts having actually fought the man.
There was no benefit in telling lies here. From her judgement, Ram wearily placed her hand against her forehead, and said,
Ram:「If we put confidence in Barusu and Emilia-sama’s words then our enemy is of the same caliber as the Knight Reinhardt… If as said they truly are equal to the world’s strongest man, then there’s one that’s at least close to his level in every part of the world.」
Subaru:「So essentially Reinhardt is the strongest in the Kingdom and each of the other three countries have their own strongest.」
Ram:「In the Vollachian Empire there’s the First General, the『Blue Lightning』Cecilus Segmunt; in the Holy Kingdom of Gusteko there’s the『Crazed Prince』; and in the Kararagi City States there’s the『Admirer』Halibel. But each have different traits to them.」
Subaru:「None of them have long red hair?」
Ram:「I’m not sure because we only don’t know what the Holy Kingdom of Gusteko’s『Crazed Prince』looks like」
Subaru:「Prince, a prince huh…? I guess he didn’t give off that kind of feeling?」
But then, he wasn’t so sure if he was a complete mismatch with that individual when he took into account the『Crazed』part. Although he had quite handsome features he couldn’t say he had any royal elegance to him.
It was the sort of beauty you’d find in the plains, the kind you’d find in the wilderness so it was a work of art of the kind that was permitted.
Subaru:「And to add to that, he’s a master of martial arts whose name isn’t known in the world…」
Beatrice:「The clothes he was wearing were the Kararagian native dress, in fact. He was using chopsticks too, I suppose.」
Subaru:「Oh boy was he using them, though way too differently to the way they’re supposed to be used…」
Besides, no matter how much Subaru strained himself, he was unlikely to find a connection between “A master of martial arts who was unknown to the world” and that man.
The man was a bit older than Subaru―― Most likely in his mid-twenties. However he felt that something was not quite right in regards to there being such a skilled man of that age with such a twisted nature ending up being unknown, and that feeling took precedence.
There was still a doubt troubling him regarding whether the man who’d been placed there by this Pleiades Watchtower’s strange mechanism was really just some randomer――,
Meili:「Ah, Onii-san, can I butt in for a se~c?」
Meili:「Doesn’t it look like naked Onee-san’s about to wake u~p?」
Meili, who’d been busy giving Shaula a lap-pillow, raised her hand up from a corner of the room. And just as she’d said, Shaula, with her head still resting against Meili’s lap, captivatingly stretched out her body and started to groan,「Ummph, auuun.」
Then she slowly opened her eyes as everyone else looked on at her――,
Shaula:「Maaaster… Don’t leave me alone please… I don’t wanna be alone anymore…」
Subaru:「Stop acting so miserable from the get go! You were up all along weren’t you!」
Shaula:「Jeez. In a strange way I thought you might show your affection Master, but it turns out you’re meeeean as always. Butbut, I loooove that part of you too.」
Subaru:「Looks like I was worried for nothing…」
Shaula lifted her long legs up, swung them down and nimbly got up. She shook her so-called Scorpion Tail about and looked around the room; then she cocked her head and said「Oh?」
Shaula:「Huh? Why are we here? If I’m not mistaken we got through the『Trial』with one of Master’s dramatic flashes and made it up…」
Subaru:「Oy this isn’t a dream. This is reality.」
Shaula:「You were hugging meeeee Master and you started to laugh, telling me to not let go again…」
Subaru:「That was a dream! You fainted straight after the second『Trial』started!」
Subaru shouted that at Shaula as she recited the contents of her horrifying dream. Then he tried to remind her about what had happened just before she’d fainted. However Shaula snorted her nose and said「Fainted~?」as if she was playing dumb,
Shaula:「Meee, faint? There’s no way I’d do something so shameful. Even after I reunited with you Master after so many centuries I didn’t end up fainting ya know? Meee, fainting, you’re gonna reduce me to tears sayin’ something so absurd!」
Emilia:「Um, I get that you’re tempted to doubt this, but you really did faint. Subaru and Meili were reaaally worried about you. Believe you me.」
Shaula:「Huuuh! Master worried about me!? Dhehehe, I believe you.」
Subaru:「That was easy…」
Meili:「Me being tacked on like an extra, now that’s a li~ttle unexpected.」
Both Subaru and Meili looked troubled as they witnessed Shaula fawningly express her opinion as she slackened her expression. Nevertheless, after she acknowledged the reality of the present, Shaula cocked her head the other way and said「Huuuh?」
Shaula:「But what caused me to faint? It ain’t usual for meee to collapse. In those kinds of situations it wouldn’t be strange if everyone ended up dead other than Master…」
Ram:「I get that you’re pinning too much hope on Barusu… Sorry, on your Master, but that’s what I’ve heard really happened. Take your time and think back to earlier… Picture the long, long staircase in front of your eyes」
Emilia:「The long, long staircase…」
Was Ram trying to get her to follow her memories and recall what had happened? She spoke in a hushed voice as if she was hypnotising her. There should have been a hitch in Ram’s plan in that she hadn’t witnessed that scene but she slowly unravelled Shaula’s locked memories as if she’d been there to see it.
Ram:「You’re greeted by a white room with a steel sword thrust down into the floor. The moment someone lays their hands on it a strange voice echoes in everyone’s minds who’s there――」
Emilia:「My heart’s pounding……」
Both Shaula and Emilia were reliving the experience thanks to Ram’s emotional recitation. Setting Shaula aside, Emilia ought to know about what had happened in detail; but Subaru didn’t interject in fear that he’d break the mould of the conversation.
Finally, her recitation approached Shaula’s sealed memories――,
Ram:「Right then, the silhouette of a person materialises at the back of the room. A man with red, long hair, blue eyes and dressed in exotic garb…」
Shaula jumped back and let out a shriek the moment Ram reached that crucial scene. She turned to face Subaru, preparing to jump towards him; however he’d anticipated it. He bent his knees and caught her. This time he didn’t fall.
Instead he was pressed against Shaula’s soft skin as if he were in a vice.
Subaru:「OWOWOWOW! I, I guess you remembered! You remembered right!?」
Shaula:「W-w-w-why is that guy here!? In spite of all of you telling me he was dead! He survived! I knew he was a guy who’s nigh unkillable!」
Subaru:「Huuuh!? What are you sayi…」
As his eyes teared up in pain, Subaru tried to ask Shaula what she was talking about―― And then, it dawned on him.
He realised what Shaula’s words meant.
The person in question that corresponded to what she’d said since they’d come to the tower was only one.
And that person was――,
Shaula:「The『Stick Swinger』! The『Stick Swinger』Reid! That savage! That demon! He’s come back to life to fondle my chest againーーー!」
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That was the name of the swordsman who’d gone down in legend. A great swordsman who was said to have killed Witchbeasts, master swordsmen, dragons and finally even Witches.
He was the first person to have received the name『Sword Saint』and was also one of the Three Great Heroes who saved the world.
He’d kickstarted the glory of the Astrea family, lineage of the『Sword Saint』which Reinhardt van Astrea was a part of; even now he was the highest aspiration of those who lived by the sword――.
The situation was hard to believe. His name was the name of a life that should have perished 400 years ago. He probably would have laughed at the possibility existing if this place hadn’t existed for centuries with a tower that had been built by those connected to the Witch.
Nevertheless, there was a living witness who knew about 400 hundred years ago here.
Nevertheless, they were in a tower that the『Sage』who’d lived 400 years ago had built here.
When he took into consideration his poor character, didn’t he seem to be saying something like “I’ve placed the First Generation『Sword Saint』as『The Strongest Guard』here, now surpass him.”――.
(TL Note: Referring to the Sage by “he/his” here.)
Subaru and the others hurriedly went back to the Green Room with the facts they’d gathered.
They would have to come up with a game plan now that they knew that their enemy was Reid Astrea. Luckily he’d heard that that particular『Sword Saint』had been a man who wasn’t lacking in anecdotes.
And luckily they had a talented person in their group who was well read on the greats of bygone days.
Of course he would imagine that the aftereffects of his defeat lingered within him. But once he found out about his opponent’s identity the shame he probably harboured should vanish too. After all their opponent was to blame for this.
At any rate, their enemy was the『Sword Saint』―― A man who held the same family name as Reinhardt and became its founder, building the name up.
When you think of it like that, he should be able to easily digest even his defeat to him――,
Subaru had made his way back to the Green Room harbouring those words of comfort. But when he got there he spoke those words out in a hushed tone.
There were beds of grass at the back of the room which the Spirit had laid out for the wounded―― There were four of them in total, and laying in them were Rem, Anastasia and Patrasche in the backmost one.
Only one of those beds were empty, the one between Patrasche and Anastasia.
And on top of that ivy-woven bed, lay merely his broken Knightly Sword.
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――The man slowly opened his eyes to the sound of footsteps clambering up the stairs and the aura of a man readying himself to fight piercing through his skin.
He felt no anger at having his sleep interrupted. After all, life was a constant battle.
When you come to the resolution that your flesh and blood is always walking the tightrope between life and death, you end up living without any turmoil in your heart no matter what transpires.
Gradually the figure of the man who was climbing up the stairs came into view. He could remember that man’s swordsmanship. He could even remember that man’s footsteps and his footwork. It had only been a short while ago. There was no way he could forget.
Only, that should have been the same for his opponent too, so he thought it was strange.
He’d thought that his opponent was a little smarter than this, nevertheless――,
He lost that impression as soon as he looked at his opponent’s eyes. An impulse had surged through him that had led him to scoff instead.
He sumptuously let it echo on top of his tongue and then briskly scratched his red hair.
The Man:「I ain’t gonna be jus’ playin’ about this time ya prick」
He didn’t think there’d be any meaning to saying that but he cast his words out of courtesy, just in case. When his opponent received them, he closed his eyes for a moment and instantly threw away all of this emotion.
Then, his opponent stretched out his hand without any hesitation―― And pulled out the sword that had been thrust down into the floor and held it out in front of him.
Julius:「Knight of the Royal Order of the Kingdom of Lugnica―― Julius Euculius.」
After he gave his name, the Knight broke into a fierce run as a result of his own eyes narrowing. The man―― Reid Astrea bent his lips into a twisted smile.
Reid:「You couldn’ even hope to be my playmate s’long ‘s you keep usin’ that borin’ title.」
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Author Note from Tappei:
Perhaps, when they retreated from the room Subaru carried Julius on his back, Emilia princess-carried Anastasia, and Beako and Meili carried Shaula together by her arms and legs sort of like a stretcher.
Shaula felt lighter but Beako and Meili were exhausted and dropped her half-way down the stairs and Emilia-tan had to frantically catch her as she tumbled down. In the end, Emilia-tan carried both Anastasia and Shaula against both of her shoulders, and it appeared like she went downstairs with them whilst keeping Beako and Meili’s spirits up.