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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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――He’d ran up the long, long staircase to reach him, but by the time he did it was already too late.
He’d forced out a shout despite his heavy panting, overworking his already strained lungs.
But neither his voice or his words held the power to change the situation. The lack of power words held here was growing into more of an issue, especially now where the two of them were pitting techniques of the sword against each other.
Though he didn’t even know if he could call it something like “Pitting techniques of the sword against each other”.
Because things had been so one-sided, and no matter how much he embellished it, the weapons that one of them wielded were naught but sticks.
――The white light spread out, dying the already white room in a more brilliant white.
What was causing it wasn’t clear. Regardless of whether it was something sired from the nature of this aberration of a Swordsman or down to it being a swing which he’d boasted could even cut light, the blow brought a shockwave along with it that swept across the room.
The individual caught in the attack’s line of fire was engulfed by the light as well and blown away without being able to do anything about it.
Then literally in the blink of an eye, the light vanished and the tall figure of the one-sleeved red-haired man filled the room―― Along with the figure of the purple haired Swordsman who’d collapsed like a corpse.
???:「Hey, aren’t ya that small fry, ya prick.」
The red-haired man called out casually to Subaru who was at a loss for words at what he’d just witnessed. Without missing a beat, the man smiled at him like a shark as if he’d forgotten all about the duel he’d just been having.
Then he pointed at the fallen Swordsman―― At Julius.
???:「Yer too late ya prick. I’ve already cleaned up here, ‘n I’m gettin’ the whiff that you’re gonna be a pain in the ass, so hurry ‘n pick him up ‘n get yer ass out of here.」
Reid:「The hell, ya prick. Don’t go stickin’ your nose into people’s names ya prick. Don’t rain on my parade, it’s way cooler to not give out names ya prick.」
The『Stick Swinger』――i.e. Reid’s mood had taken a turn for the worse when he’d been called by his name.
Though Subaru felt annoyed at how completely beside the point his remarks were, he didn’t dare take any rash actions. He instead slowly moved his gaze away from Reid towards the still collapsed Julius.
Reid:「I ain’t gonna grab ya and gobble ya up ya know, ya prick. Ya don’ have to keep starin’ at me.」
Subaru:「I’m sorry but it’s common sense where I’m from to not look away when you’ve ran into a bear. As for Julius…」
With his gaze still set on Reid and his guard up, Subaru leaned down and made sure that Julius was still breathing. He’d lost consciousness but he could feel him breathing on his palm when he’d placed it just above his mouth.
It looked like he was still alive despite taking that sword slash full-on. Subaru was relieved by that.
Subaru:「Isn’t this pretty kind of you, considering you’d said that the next time you wouldn’t be going easy on us.」
Reid:「Not really. Bein’ defeated by chopsticks ‘n scurryin’ back home is lamer than being killed by ‘em, don’cha think? That’s what I think. I’d rather die than show my miserable self to anyone. So I defeat ‘em with my chopsticks ‘n let ‘em scurry back home.」
Subaru:「Let me take back what I said about you being kind, fucking asshole.」
Reid:「Kah! Y’never make any sort of impression, no matter what it is ya say small fry. Besides, I have no intention to test y’all anymore today. Though, I’ll beat ya up if ya wanna try me. Like that guy below ya.」
Reid scratched his abs with his right hand and pointed at Subaru and Julius respectively with the chopsticks in his left.
Regardless of how angry he was at Reid’s attitude right now, Subaru didn’t have any way of making him take back his rudeness.
Reid:「Oh, ohh, go on. Don’t just stay silent while carrying your comrade, go ahead ‘n behave like a sore loser. That’s the smart ‘n easy thing to do if it makes ya feel any better. As bad as it is though.」
Reid narrowed his cold blue eyes and spat that out as he sat himself down with a thunk. Meanwhile, Subaru somehow managed to hoist the collapsed Julius up whilst being subjected to the victor’s delight.
Subaru was forced to carry Julius on his back just like he’d had to an hour ago. His unconscious body was quite heavy, not to mention he was taller than him. It was a complete mess but in times of difficulty you have to make some sacrifices.
Because leaving Julius behind here by himself wasn’t an option.
Reid:「――Next time, bring one of those good lookin’ women along, ya prick. Like that smokin’ hottie even for example.」
Without mentioning any of their names even once, Reid waved them goodbye.
Faced with Reid’s flippant attitude, Subaru could literally do nothing more than just retreat from here wordlessly.
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One foot after the other, step by step, Subaru went down the staircase whilst taking care of where he was placing his feet.
Though the staircase was fairly wide he still felt quite claustrophobic with being surrounded by the stone walls. This was the second time he’d gone up and down this particular staircase, but he still had no clues which would help him shed light on the unnaturality of the staircase’s structure in regards to why it didn’t shoot out of the tower despite them being straight.
Subaru:「Why did you even consider doing such a stupid thing… I’m at my breaking point here…」
It went without saying just how tough it was to carry him on his back down the long staircase.
Especially since there were 444 steps to this long staircase (by Emilia’s count). It’s not like Subaru held any animosity towards Emilia for telling him that, but in times like these where the actual number of stairs kept popping into his head, he did feel an urge of wanting to pinch her cheeks and tell her off.
Of course Emilia would definitely look cute if he tried to pinch her cheeks――,
Subaru:「Both Emilia and Beako are gonna be worried… if I don’t hurry up and get him back」
They had noticed Julius’ absence in the Green Room and they’d all ended up going around the Watchtower to look for him. They’d gone to the Third Floor as well as the rooms on the Fourth Floor whilst they’d made Shaula go downstairs to check on Gyan and the Dragon Carriage on the Ground Floor.
Everyone was worried about Julius. Worried about what he was feeling in his heart due to his defeat to Reid and having vanished leaving behind his broken Knight Sword,
For sure, they were all the types to worry themselves sick with that anxiety weighing on them.
Subaru:「But, you know…」
――Nevertheless, only Subaru differed from them. Only Subaru was able to immediately understand what lay in his heart.
Where had Julius gone without his Knight Sword, and for what purpose?
Only Subaru had known the answers to those questions for sure――,
Julius:「――Everything’s shaking about.」
Subaru:「――tch! Did you just notice!?」
Subaru stopped mid-step when he heard the voice coming from his back. Julius, who was being carried by him on his shoulders, stirred at his voice and said「Aah」
Julius:「Where are we……」
Subaru:「Vaguely speaking, we’re halfway down some stairs, a bit more precisely speaking, we’re halfway down a long staircase, and even more precisely we’re halfway fleeing down the staircase between the Second and Fourth Floors.」
Julius:「You’re being pretty vague about it, aren’t you… You’re carrying me on your back?」
Subaru:「Yes I am. And let me just say that this is the second time this has happened in this short period of time. I’m having to do this again 30 minutes after I’d thought I’d never like to do this again; do you get how I am feeling about this?」
Julius:「It’s no wonder that the ride’s been a bumpy one……」
Subaru:「Do you want me to throw you off?」
Subaru could sense Julius’ wheezed laughter coming from his back. He ignored the sarcasm in his words and untensed himself a little.
In all honesty Subaru hadn’t gandered any predictions at what Julius’ first words would have been when he woke up. He wouldn’t be exaggerating if he said that he’d even been fearing what he would say, truthfully speaking.
That’s why Subaru had been relieved that the sort of conversation he’d gleaned from Julius’ first couple of words after he’d woken up hadn’t been the despair-filled sort.
Subaru:「Do you remember what happened?」
Julius:「…Sad as it is, I do. I was easily defeated by our enemy, and in the end I was still shown sympathy, causing trouble for you, Anastasia-sama and everyone else.」
Subaru:「…I ain’t some kind of demon who’d blame you for losing against an opponent like that.」
Julius sounded awfully like himself, and for that Subaru let out a sigh and started going down the staircase once more.
Having regained his consciousness, Julius was much easier to carry than before. He’d also cleared up some of his anxieties which had been ladenening his step, so thanks to that he could tackle the remaining steps with renewed vigour.
Julius:「…Anastasia-sama is out of harm’s way, right? I saw that she’d collapsed and now that she’s being treated in that Spirit’s room.」
Subaru:「The present diagnosis on her is that her life isn’t in danger. You on the other hand were pretty close to dying. That guy… That eye-patched bastard, I’d be surprised if you knew who he is.」
His voice was brimming with confidence in his response. Subaru was so surprised for a second that both his feet and breath caught in their tracks. However, he quickly brought both his feet and breath back into motion so to not let him onto his surprise.
Subaru carefully chose his words so that Julius wouldn’t sense his flustered state.
Subaru:「So, so you knew all along? He’s that thing. Shaula said she knows him. Makes sense that she does ‘cause she seems acquainted with him from 400 years ago… But, it looks like she was telling the truth when she alluded that he’s someone that’s hard to deal with. I say that since she fainted right after she saw his face.」
Julius:「Huh, there were a ton of things which tipped me off. He has flaming red hair and blue eyes. His technique with the sword really stood out… If you can even call it a technique with the sword. He didn’t even let himself swing his sword against me. I should just simply say he’s a powerful person. Even the term『Stick Swinger』is one that denotes him from what I’ve seen in literature」
Subaru:「So he’s been called a『Stick Swinger』since olden times because he fights with those chopsticks!?」
Julius:「Actually, the nuance of it is that he didn’t choose a weapon he specialised with. I had my thoughts about him when he introduced himself as a『Stick Swinger』… But, I wasn’t sure. I apologise for not mentioning them to you.」
Subaru had no reply for Julius’ apologetic words. Though he’d said that there’d been tons of things which had tipped him off, Subaru thought he was stretching it too much.
Reid Astrea, the man who was known as the First『Sword Saint』, should have died 400 years ago.
Just because some of his features matched doesn’t mean that you can easily come to the conclusion of having encountered that hero of yore whose name had gone down in fairytale and legend.
If there’d been a chance that he could have noticed that, then he, Subaru, should have been able to come to that conclusion. After all he and Emilia had agreed that the『Trials』which had been put forward by this Watchtower were similarish to the『Ordeals』they’d taken at Echidna’s graveyard.
With that said, Subaru should have given more thought about the contents of the『Trials』set out by this tower and raised as many possibilities as he could.
Neglecting that had led to their defeat on the Second Floor,『Electra』
Julius:「Hmmh. How on earth did we end up coming across this Swordsman of legend brought back from the past…? Originally, I would have been delighted in having been granted this boon, but all things considered…」
Subaru:「I get how you feel. These heroes of legend are all good at being disappointing in reality. This Watchtower is full of let downs like with Shaula who’d been judged as a『Sage.』」
Julius:「…You get… how I feel…?」
His voice was cracked and it felt full of self-derision. Subaru inconsiderately gritted his teeth when he heard close up what Julius had moaned out. But he chose not to touch on that, opting instead to say,「Even so,」
Subaru:「If I’m recalling correctly, the First『Sword Saint』is engraved on the Gold Coins, but there’s a pretty big difference between that and the actual guy. Shaula also differed in her gender, so even though we can’t do much about it, there’s a considerable gap between them two too. The guy on the Gold Coin looked more like a middle-aged dude…」
Julius:「Just a quick historical tidbit, it was when he was older that Reid accomplished his deeds that led him to be counted as one of the Three Great Heroes. The figure depicted on the Gold Coins is probably correct. The him up above is younger than the one from recorded history.」
Subaru:「Come to mention it, Reid didn’t seem like he recognised Shaula…」
He’d planned to change the subject, but they’d per chance ended up touching on another issue.
Compared to what Julius had said, there’d definitely been too much of a difference of hot and cold between the two of Reid and Shaula for there to have been some sort of friendship between them. If he assumed that “This guy was the Reid before he’d met Shaula” then there’d be some parts he could agree with regarding the two’s differences in recognising each other.
But, when he took into consideration Shaula’s overreaction and the high likelihood that Reid hadn’t remembered her name or face due to how he was, the basis of his hypothesis weakened.
Subaru:「If we take that as correct, doesn’t that mean that they would have fought against the Witch after their prime days? Meaning we’d have to beat Reid in his prime.」
Julius:「Feels to me like that’s going to be really though, or nigh impossible.」
Subaru:「Yeah for sure it’s gonna be an exhausting mess. But I’m sure that there’ll be some way of getting around this if we come up with a plan. As things stand…」
Subaru hesitated as he looked for anything that could help them against Reid.
Right now, at this moment, he should have told Julius what was weighing on his mind, but he hadn’t because his heart had stopped him in his tracks.
Yet he’d been a little too slow.
Julius:「As things stand… What do you mean?」
Subaru:「Ah, it’s nothing…」
If he made any excuses saying that he’d observed Reid and noticed a chink in his armour they’d be immediately spotted by him. In actual fact, right now, he hadn’t found anything that’d let them get past Reid or anything that looked like a weak point; that was for sure.
Thus Subaru had resigned himself when he’d had his name curtly called out.
Subaru:「…Emilia passed the『Trial』after you and Anastasia lost consciousness.」
Subaru:「That’s all. The reason why she beat the guy down wasn’t due to her being stronger than him. Let’s just say that lady luck was at her side… Because Emilia is well, unique like that.」
It was a bit difficult to call the end result a mere victory.
Emilia had just barely had her resolve and ability recognised by their examiner, Reid, in the『Trial.』However, the circumstances that had led to her achieving that were hard to explain to anyone who hadn’t witnessed them.
Because, even if they tried to beat him in the same way, it wouldn’t be possible by anyone other than Emilia.
Subaru:「Anyways, as a result of having various complex stuff click into place for her, Emilia cleared the『Trial.』Despite that, the guy said that he’d only let those who cleared the Trial pass through, so all of us will have to beat him to go upstairs… Rather wicked of him.」
Subaru:「So we’ll need to work out a battle plan. Regardless of fighting dignity, I can’t even talk unless I force him to recognise the fighting duo that is me and Beatrice. And as for Meili, she has no reason to take the『Trial』in the first place. I guess she’ll understand after we talk about it… Though I guess she’ll be bummed out.」
Subaru:「That’s why, well, you too won’t be going in blind when we rematch him. I’m not stretching things here, I mean it. We won’t tackle him like we did this time around. We’ll work out a plan and mode of approach after we have a far clearer picture of him. This time one which is in my style…」
Subaru:「…Hey, are you listening? Hey, Julius?」
Subaru felt suspicious that Julius hadn’t replied to any of his rapid-fire explanations. When he called out to him (Julius still being slung over his back), Julius paused for a moment, and then said,
Julius:「Yeah, yeah, everything’s alright. I’m listening of course… I see, Emilia managed it」
Subaru:「Well I mentioned that slightly earlier… But yeah. Since that happened this means clearing the Trial isn’t a futile hope. Aren’t you going too hard on yourself?」
Julius:「Too hard on myself? Huh, you really needn’t worry so much. ――Everything is exactly as you say. If Emilia’s been able to pass the『Trial』then he’s… Then the『Sword Saint』Reid is not an insurmountable obstacle. Us knowing that is incredibly beneficial.」
Subaru:「Y-yeah, right. That’s right… I’m glad we’re on the same page.」
Julius had unexpectedly accepted the fact that Emilia had passed the『Trial』rather flexibly. Subaru had nervously explained it to him, but he sensed that Julius was sidestepping his question from his reaction. ――No, things were fine.
Julius had been informed that someone had cleared the obstacle he’d slammed face first into before him.
But it was pointless for Julius to worry himself sick over that. Subaru could say that he was taking a bit too much of a naive look at him. Or by his own measure, he guessed that he shouldn’t have leapt to conclusions about the Knight named Julius Euculius.
As Subaru found himself embroiled by these profound feelings, Julius let out a long sigh and casually spoke out saying,「So then,」
Julius:「Isn’t it high time you put me down? I’m going to get motion sickness if I keep staying on your back. It’s not like you have the『Divine Protection of Wind Evasion』like Earth Dragons do, right?」
Subaru:「Be patient with the breeze and all the shaking, and be grateful that I’m carrying you. It’s certainly tiring work, but I can’t be so coldhearted as to make you walk on your own when you’re injured. Emilia-tan would tell me off.」
Subaru shook his head at Julius’ proposal and jiggled his body, readjusting Julius on his back.
Julius wasn’t at all in a good condition right now. No matter how skilled the room’s Spirit was at its work and how much treatment Julius, whose whole body had been knocked about, had been able to receive, he’d only spent a few dozen minutes in the Green Room.
That, and he hadn’t been able to receive any treatment from his second defeat.
If he was suffering from stuff like cuts or fractures then Subaru could have put his skills into work with the first aid treatment techniques of the Clind variety; but, unfortunately, Julius didn’t have any such obvious wounds.
Reid’s blows had been the kind that had been designed to tear through Julius’ heart.
Of course, there didn’t seem to be any doubt that he’d accumulated damage that wasn’t visible on the surface, but that was no excuse to make him do anything that would exert him.
That’s why Subaru had resolved to go down the whole staircase with Julius on his back, with half of it remaining – probably about 200 more steps; yet despite that――,
Julius「――No, I can’t keep causing you trouble. It’d be fine if I was still fainted but luckily I’ve woken up. I can go down the rest of the stairs by myself.」
Subaru:「Don’t be so ridiculously stubborn. It’s too late for that, even if you insist. If you’re saying you’re embarrassed at being seen carried on my back, everyone who was with me already saw that… Only Shaula and Anastasia didn’t on account of having fainted.」
Julius:「Then that’s the reason why. There’s no way I can show myself like this to those two… Especially to Anastasia-sama. Put me down」
Subaru:「Don’t say such forced things. To start with, you…」
Julius:「――I SAID PUT ME DOWN!」
――His outburst was quite abrupt.
Subaru’s shoulder struck against the staircase wall straight after Julius’ strained voice had thudded against his earlobe.
That was thanks to Julius twisting himself off by force from his back. Subaru had immediately turned to face the wall so that he’d keep himself safe, but it wouldn’t have been unlikely if he’d ended up nearly falling down the stairs.
However, he’d avoided that fate thanks to his quick thinking――,
Subaru:「You fucking idiot! What the hell were you thinking!?」
He leaned against the wall and when he turned around, he found Julius lying down a few stairs below him. He’d fallen from Subaru’s back and slid down them.
He was lying face down, propping himself up on his elbows, wheezing in pain with a deep look of agony about him. Clearly not only from falling down the stairs.
Subaru:「I told you to quit it! HEY, stay right there you dumbass. I’m coming over to you…」
Julius:「You don’t need to!」
Julius:「…I can stand by myself. I don’t need you to help me」
Subaru had tried to run down to him as quickly as he could, but he was stopped in his tracks.
Julius had stretched out his hand in front of him as he propped himself up against the floor and stopped him from running over. Still panting heavily, he scrunched his face and managed to raise his body up.
He leaned against the wall and slowly lifted his lower back up, stretched up his knees and stood up, though still using the wall to prop himself up.
Julius:「See, didn’t I tell you so? That it’d be easy for me to stand by myself.」
Subaru was at a loss for words at what Julius had said, who in some respects sounded like he was casting everything aside. Julius turned himself around and with the right side of his body pressed up against the wall, he began to slowly climb down the stairs at the same speed that a baby crawling along the floor would.
One step at a time, as if he was forcing himself――.
Julius:「It looks like it’ll take me a bit more time, but this way I won’t cause you any trouble. More importantly, the girls downstairs are worried. I’m grateful that you seem to be looking past what I’ve done, but it wasn’t just you who went out looking for where I was, right?」
Step by step.
Julius:「If possible, would you be able to go downstairs before me and explain to them what happened? Though I think it’s probably best you leave the full story and apologising to me. You just need to tell them that you found me and try to make them feel less worried」
Slowly, slowly, one step at a time.
Julius:「…I admit that apologising is going to be pretty depressing, but avoiding that is a road I can’t walk down. After you calm the waters down, even if it’s just by a little, I’ll really owe you a huge debt of gratitude. You know, you may even want to think about adding to the debt I owe you.」
Julius continued to speak without looking over at him as he tried to make his way down the stairs by himself. Indeed, a gap had started to form between him and the immobile Subaru despite how slow he was going about it.
He could close the distance between them immediately if he so desired. If he were to grant his wish, he still needed to walk past him once. ――So Subaru set his feet into motion.
Subaru:「I guess I should speak to Emilia’s side first.」
Julius:「…Yeah, oh, that’s right, if Anastasia-sama’s woken up… Ah wait, no, let’s not. Anyways, I’d like to depend on you.」
Subaru hurried down the stairs and easily caught up to Julius. He let out a sigh that resembled one of relief as he heard Subaru’s footsteps echoing around the staircase and encouraged him to vamoose off ahead.
――No, not “vamoose off ahead.” More like he’d encouraged him to “not wait up on me.”
Subaru could understand a little about what lay in Julius’ innermost thoughts with what he’d said. The reason why he was able to was the same one why only he, and no one else, had immediately gotten the hunch that Julius had gone to challenge Reid――.
There was unmistakably something in common between that which Subaru had felt back then and this somewhat similar incident. That’s why, back then, Subaru had――,
Subaru:「――tch! God damn this! Damnthisdamnthisdamnthis! Dumbass! We’re both huge dumbasses! For fuck’s sake!」
Subaru spat out his frustrations, kicked the staircase and then made his way towards Julius.
He was not going to walk past him (now flustered, leaning against the wall), instead he grabbed his left arm and propped him up by unceremoniously draping his arm over his shoulder.
Julius:「Hey…Subaru, what are you…」
Subaru:「SHUT UP! What are you doing, standing up by yourself! It’s plain as day that you’re struggling to stand up straight! Like I’d ever be able to let myself prance off and leave a guy in your state here! I’d be first in line to say just how disgusted I am at myself before Emilia even has a chance to tell me off!」
Subaru:「THIS IS ME WE’RE TALKING ABOUT, I wouldn’t lend you a hand if you didn’t really need one. Even under normal circumstances, my hands are always filled with this, that and the other. If you seriously don’t want to borrow my strength then quit hobbling about so miserably, it’s really trying my patience!」
Julius remained silent as Subaru shouted at him with spittle flying out from his mouth.
As soon as Subaru saw that Julius had hesitated in going against him, and that, for now, he’d lost the strength to shake him off as he’d been doing, he started to walk again whilst still lending his shoulder to Julius whether he liked it or not.
Julius had no time to go against him, now that he’d set the pace like that.
Subaru:「I’m not going to act like I know or understand what’s going through your heart.」
Subaru:「But, right now, you needn’t walk down these stairs, these long-ass stairs alone, all by yourself. I will lend you my shoulder and I won’t think of it as a debt either.」
Talking about lending, borrowing and debts was ridiculous.
If he put it like that, then how much did he owe Julius?
Surely his first debt to him would have started in the Training Ground at the Royal Castle.
――He knew the reason why Julius had challenged Reid even though he knew he couldn’t win.
He’d… he’d acted the same as Subaru back then.
Back then, Subaru had challenged Julius even though he knew he couldn’t win. No matter how many times he’d been knocked down, no matter how many times he’d been struck, he’d picked himself up without learning his lesson and kept challenging him.
Because he’d had no other way to hurl out the tempestuous emotions that had built up inside his heart other than by doing that.
And, back then, Subaru had ended up “Alone” at that place where everything had ended for him, at that place where he’d argued with Emilia and she’d said goodbye to him. That had been agonising. That had made him want to cry.
――So how could he leave Julius all alone on this staircase.
His heart must be set ablaze. Just like him back then. But unlike him, he still didn’t know where he could hurl out his tempestuous emotions.
Subaru:「What is it」
He replied with that, hoping he wouldn’t perceive it as a fit of anger.
And like that, the two of them slowly climbed down the stairs and made it back to the Fourth Floor.
――Emilia found them a little over ten minutes later, clasping her chest in relief.