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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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――In the end, it was decided via meeting that the conquest of the 2nd Floor『Electra』would have to be put on hold.
Although they failed to come up with an idea that would allow everyone to break through their current situation, the biggest factor in their decision to postpone everything was but one―― Subaru’s stomach had begun growling.
Subaru: “Looking back, I was unconscious for two entire days before I got up, and immediately got to tackling the tower’s trials… No wonder my stomach was almost touching my back.”
It was only when the conversations died down that Subaru’s stomach roared, and for the first time did he realize exactly how famished he was.
To be unable to fight on an empty stomach, was not actually true, but what was true was that it affected one’s ability to think properly. As a result, once Subaru’s stomach started growling to make its dissatisfaction known, everyone took it as a chance to sum up their discussions for the time being.
Subaru: “Honestly, some part of me feels kinda relieved because of that…”
Leaving aside the breakthrough plan for the 2nd Floor, there was a certain pattern observed in the questions proposed by the『Trials』of the Watchtower.
Alongside the realization of the pettiness of the questioner, the exact nature of the danger Shaula posed also came to light―― From the start, everyone was supposed to be wary of her because of her fighting prowess, but because her head was empty and she was overly clingy towards Subaru, no one stayed on guard around her.
『――It’s fine to just stay here and have fun with me!』
No matter how many days, years, or even hundreds of years――.
Indeed, Shaula’s audacious declaration had reminded everyone of exactly what danger she posed. As it likely should be.
Subaru: “It’s not like I’m planning on it or anything, but if we make a break for it in the middle of our tower conquest, it seems like there’s a rule to make it so she’ll definitely become our enemy, right…”
Sifting through his mind, he recalled one of the many rules Shaula had spoken of.
Dropping out in the middle of the『Trial』, violating any of the『Trial』’s rules, disrespecting the Library, and destroying the Tower. If any of these are broken, then Shaula will once more become the enemy she was when they first tried to enter the Watchtower.
Subaru wanted to avoid that. Be it in terms of war tactics or out of simple sentimentalism.
Subaru: “But, you know. Just sticking around here for years on end like how Shaula put it, doesn’t seem really realistic, so I’d really like a pass on that but…”
Once he looked straight at the tower conquest, all sorts of anxieties will naturally rear their ugly heads from a lot of directions.
Everyone had already spent over a month on their path to get to the Pleiades Watchtower. Even if they clear the『Trials』one after another without a hitch and conquer the Tower, and if they take that same amount of time to get back to Priestella, it’ll become a journey of around three months.
Of course, withdrawing halfway was, because it would make Shaula an enemy, an undesirable decision to come to, but the Royal Election deadline needed to be kept in consideration as Emilia and Anastasia were participants.
Three years in total―― A bit over one year had already passed, leaving only less than two years at hand.
Of course, the time one can accumulate and the time one can spend, were in fact both impossibly limited.
Beatrice: “But if you keep worrying about tomorrow’s tomorrow, you won’t get anywhere in fact. For now, the tomorrow that is based on today is important, I suppose. For that…”
Subaru: “I gotta eat till I’m full now. Right.”
Beatrice: “That is so, in fact.”
She pointed her finger at him as he spoke those words.
As the discussions were halted in lieu of preparing their meals, Subaru took this chance to go and stroll through the various parts of the Tower―― Spending his free time wandering through the area everyone designated as their residential quarters.
And accompanying him, holding his hand as tightly as she could, was Beatrice.
The reason they held hands every now and then was because Subaru’s gate was busted, and as his contracted Spirit, Beatrice collected his pent up mana. But even putting that reason aside, Subaru wanted to hold Beatrice’s hand, and Beatrice herself never refused.
Subaru: “Besides, you were really worried about me when I was out cold for two whole days, right? So just relax for today and let me spoil you.”
Beatrice: “Stop it with your stupid comments, I suppose. I’m only collecting the Mana I didn’t bother collecting when you were sleeping, in fact. Betty wants to always be at her best, especially in this Tower, I suppose. I want to avoid a lack of preparation, in fact.”
Subaru: “You say that, but weren’t you the one in the end who held my hand while I was sleeping, even though you didn’t collect my Mana?”
Beatrice: “That was indeed unrelated to Mana but acts that are for the purpose of recharging Betty’s heart are always so, I suppose.”
Subaru smiled as Beatrice puffed her chest as she proudly stated her Mana-unrelated intentions, and decided not to point out how it was a much more embarrassing thing.
In any case, Subaru raised his hand in agreement with her.
They had to keep the 2nd Floor『Trial』in consideration. By no means did he want to think that the 1st Floor’s Trial also required heavy combat power, but he could not exclude the possibility.
Moreover, the Subaru and Beatrice duo had functionality even outside of battle. And for that, he needed Beatrice to be at peak condition at all times.
Subaru: “Alright, Beako! I’m good now so you don’t have to mind me. Just keep on sucking out my Mana till you’re round and plum…!”
Beatrice: “Betty’s not going to puff up like a ball even if I collect a lot of Mana, in fact! Moreover, I wonder if you are aware of how much Mana you have even if you are feeling good, I suppose. I can’t have you collapsing again because I took from what little Mana you already have, I suppose.”
Subaru: “Oi oi, if that’s the case, what’d you suggest doing?”
Beatrice: “Just listen-to-me! At the very least, you need to eat your fill, rest up, recover your strength and Mana, and also work hard and keep Betty company. That is your mission, in fact.”
Subaru: “I’m pretty sure I’m all good now, and I’m also pretty sure you just want me to keep you from feeling lonely… ah.”
He deftly bore a complicated mix of chagrin and charm on his face. He stopped walking when he heard the footsteps of someone coming from further back in the passage.
Noticing Subaru and Beatrice there, Emilia approached, surprised.
In her hands she held a metal container painted silver―― A bucket.
Subaru: “A bucket, huh. Even at times like this, Emilia-tan’s giving her best, eh. Gonna practice singing?”
Emilia: “Fufu, what are you saying, Subaru, you. I sure do get a lot of help from Bucket-sensei when I’m practicing singing, now’s not really the time for it, you know?”
Subaru: “Right, right. So what’s with the bucket again?”
Emilia: “Well.. I’m getting Bucket-sensei to do his usual job, of course.”
Smiling at Subaru’s question, Emilia thrust the bucket to him. And, it was full of water, so indeed, Bucket-sensei was doing his usual job well.
However, even if the bucket fulfilled its purpose, there rose a question in that itself.
Subaru: “Uh, but, where’s the water from? The Tower is surrounded by desert, right?”
Emilia: “Oh, no no, that’s where you’re wrong, Subaru. If you go past the Tower, really reeeally far, the Great Waterfall’s supposed to be there. And there’s a looot of water there, so…”
Subaru: “You went all the way, just for a bucket of water. All for me.”
Emilia: “If it’s for you, Subaru, I wouldn’t mind doing that at all, but that’s not it. To tell you the truth, the spirit in the Green Room can give us fresh and clean water.”
She wore pride on her face as she spoke for some reason, but Subaru felt giddy for that little bit of what she said before giving him the truth of the situation.
That if it were for Subaru, she would go fetch water from even the Great Waterfall. It made him incredibly happy.
Subaru: “While we’re at it, happy and all, ya know… Those spirits are really something. Going all the way even outside of healing injuries and all, aren’t they.”
Emilia: “If it’s just making water, Beatrice and I can do it too with magic but…”
Beatrice: “The Miasma is too thick around the Sand Dunes and the Tower, I suppose. It would be much wiser to avoid drinking the water created from Mana affected by it, in fact.”
Emilia: “That’s how it is.”
Subaru: “I see, I see.”
Beatrice weighed on Emilia’s reluctance, and Subaru recognized the problem.
The problem of securing a source of drinking water for the journey up to that point, which should be regarded as important if it were a normal journey, had been cleared more or less by relying on magic.
As long as one had Mana, there was no need to carry a large amount of drinking water as it could be produced as much as needed, only the containers. Magic made things extremely convenient in this case.
Subaru: “It’s not air pollution, but more like Mana pollution, huh. So it’s like, bad for you? Drinking that water?”
Beatrice: “I do not know if any immediate changes will be seen in the body, I suppose. But the more you drink, the more that much Miasma enters you, in fact. If that happens, at the very worst, developing a physical condition like Subaru and earning special attention from Witchbeasts may be possible, I suppose. I’m getting shivers just thinking about it, in fact.
Subaru: “It’s weird coming from me, but it really is kinda hard, living with it and all…”
He often made use of this specific property of his at various times, but it was more of a last resort and not something that could be used often. Even beyond that, if he went hiking in the mountains for whatever reason, there would be a risk of accidentally getting surrounded by Demon Beasts.
If given a choice, not having such a physical condition would be much better than having it.
Emilia: “And so we’re using the Green Room spirit’s purified spring water as much as possible. We did the same thing when Subaru was sleeping for two days straight.”
Subaru: “Hmmmー, so that’s how it was.”
He felt impressed by the living conditions of the Pleiades Watchtower.
And, as he mulled over the talk of spring water, something hit Subaru. It even had to do with the caution he felt towards Shaula from just before.
Subaru: “Putting aside the water stuff, how’re we doing with the food? We did fill up on supplies at that city beyond the desert, but we did have a hard time with it.”
Emilia: “You can relax, Subaru, no need to worry about that. Even if it was a little bit of a hassle, the food didn’t just fly off somewhere. All of it is still in the dragon carriage. But, um….”
Subaru: “No matter how you cut it, it’s not gonna last maybe even a month, is it.”
Even if drinking water was put aside, there was a weight limit on what could be carried on the dragon carriage. Moreover, food needs were not limited to Subaru and the gang. Their partner dragons, Patrasche and Gyan needed food as well. Keeping that fact in mind, they had stocked up on a month’s worth of food.
To escape only with their lives in hand, was not the goal they were aiming for with the Tower’s trials. Thus, they had only a month’s time to properly conquer the Pleiades Watchtower and head off to the nearest town.
Their deadline was just that one month.
Subaru: “That said, I really don’t plan on being here for the whole month.”
Noticing a hint of worry in her eyes, Subaru smiled.
They had a deadline and their challenges were many, but if they shied away from them, nothing would start.
Subaru: “Anyhow, in just one day… Ah, well, I got us off to a late start, so to be fair, it’s the third day since we got to the Tower but, we’ve already cleared the first『Trial』and Emilia-tan easily nabbed her victory in the second.”
Emilia: “It, it really wasn’t ‘easily nabbed’, though…
Subaru: “You’re supposed to season this part with a good bluff, so it’s completely fine.”
He pointed his finger at Emilia, arrogance at full throttle, then pulled Beatrice closer to him and placed his chin on top of her head.
That way, both Subaru and Beatrice were looking up at Emilia.
Subaru: “Doesn’t matter if the opponent’s the former strongest『Sword Saint』or whatever. Beako and I are gonna lambast one-eyed skirt chasing chopsticks bastard’s face in with our brilliant strategies.
Beatrice: “That is so, I suppose. Lambast his face in, in fact.”
Subaru: “No one really says lambast anymore these days.”
Emilia: “No count! That’s so unfair! You two kept saying it so..!”
Having fallen into their trap, Emilia puffed up her red-dyed cheeks.
As they added in a new pattern to their usual back and forth, Emilia sighed as her worry faded a bit more.
Emilia: “Un, fine I get it, I get it just fine. Hearing it coming from Subaru makes it feel like it was really easy. But that makes you sound just as reliable.”
Subaru: “Yeah, just have faith, keep on hoping and keep on loving me. That’s why I’m your knight, after all.”
Emilia: “That’s right, isn’t it? I’ll be in your care, then, my dearest knight.”
Subaru: “Uh, just now, you didn’t deny the love part so I’m kinda giddy…”
The whisper of love he had mixed into their usual banter seemed to have slipped off, so he felt slightly disappointed. Well, even if he had been properly answered, his feeling of being flustered would not have gone away, so it was actually better this way.
In any case――,
Subaru: “I know it’s a bit late to ask, but isn’t it kinda weird that Emilia-tan’s the one who was told to bring the water? This is the kind of work that’s supposed to be… not really done by your Knight but, isn’t it supposed to be the kind of work that underlings do?”
Emilia: “It’s really fine. You might be my Knight, but I don’t want our relationship to be that of a master and servant’s. I just want you to keep this in mind, so just quietly be spoiled. You’re recovering right now.”
Subaru: “What’s up with that, Emilia-tan!? If you’re gonna pamper me so much, I’m gonna die from happiness!”
Emilia: “Besides that, I’m in charge of today’s dinner! I want to do everything by myself!”
Beatrice: “It seems like she is serious about both statements. That is what makes her so hard to read, I suppose.”
Beatrice let out a short sigh at Emilia’s statement. And then, as Subaru kept his chin on her head, she waved to Emilia,
Beatrice: “Look, Emilia. Subaru isn’t going to relax as long as you’re here, in fact. You’re delaying preparations for our meal as well, so hurry and be off, I suppose.”
Emilia: “Really? Okay. I’ll see you later then. Look forward to it, kay?”
Beatrice: “We’ll be waiting with『glee』.”
Beatrice sent Emilia off in spineless Subaru’s place. Her response to Emilia’s words reflected a subtle difference in their perceptions.
Emilia: “I’ll call you when it’s done, so don’t go off too far, okay?”
Beatrice: “We’ll be going to the 4th Floor, I suppose. As for if we can hear your calls or not…
Emilia: “Gotcha. I’ll use a louder voice.”
Beatrice: “…okay, okay in fact.”
After exchanging smiles, Emilia went off on her way, bucket in hand, waving her hand as she disappeared around the corner. Once she was sure Emilia was gone, Beatrice looked up to Subaru, who was still resting his chin on her head.
Beatrice: “Now then, I hope you have calmed down, I suppose.”
Subaru: “…Yeah I’m good now. I don’t really get it, but I suddenly thought Emilia-tan was really cute, ya know. Like everything else but Emilia doesn’t have color anymore, so I feel all better now that I got to see her really smile.”
Beatrice: “I don’t understand a word of what you’re saying, it’s worse than usual, in fact! And besides that…”
Subaru: “Besides that?”
He had told Emilia his true feelings in poem format with a straight face. So Beatrice pressed her back against Subaru’s chest and,
Beatrice: “It’s unfair you’re so full of Emilia, I suppose. Your partner is Betty, in fact. Please act with awareness of this fact, I suppose.”
Subaru: “You, you’re really a cute little thing aren’t ya.”
Beatrice: “Mmgyah-! In fact!”
As she seemed too sweet all of a sudden, Subaru picked her up and spun round and round as he rubbed his cheeks against hers.
Subaru: “It’s fine, relax. You’re really important to me too. How do I put it, uh, right now, everything around me looks so beautiful, but you’re looking particularly spectacular. I love you, Beako!”
Beatrice: “W-wawa-Wait! I get it, I get it okay? So let me go already! Let me down, I suppose! I got it already, so let me down, in fact!”
But even as Beatrice shouted, her face beet red, Subaru would not let her down.
And so, he wandered around the halls of the 4th Floor, spinning through each space available, Beatrice still in his arms, with glee.
There was still plenty of time till Emilia would call them for their meal, so their voices would continue painting the halls with cries of joy for some time more.
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Now then, the total time before their meal was not literally spent spinning.
Subaru took his chance to learn from the 4th Floor graded course, presented by Beatrice. She was his senior here, having spent two more days than him actively living in the Tower, so he had a lot to learn.
Though as it may be, in the first place, this place was called a ‘Watchtower’.
However, there was no need to be concerned about it’s habitability, and in fact, nothing extra needed to be done to improve the comfort of living, even in the 4th Floor residential area. The only special rooms were the Green Room, which had become their treatment facility, and the large room which housed the stairs leading to the 3rd and 2nd Floors
Apart from the large stairs leading to the floor below, there were many smaller rooms scattered here and there, with no visible pattern to them.
Subaru: “It feels weird to not have a map, but I’m sure I’d feel even weirder if we had one. This Tower definitely has a creepy design, I’m absolutely sure of it. Really not a fan of these kinds of rattled arrangements of buildings.”
Beatrice: “I wonder what you are even talking about… Usually one would assume the worst of everything, seeing as how distasteful the contents of the『Trials』are, I suppose. Condemning the soul of the creator is a given at this point, in fact.”
Shaula: “Ah! That right there, that’s talking bad about my Master! You ankle-biter, you’re badmouthing my Master! He’s the one who built this Tower, you know! Are you okay with this, Master!? If you’re spoiling her just because she’s little, she’ll grow up all rotten, you know! This’ one of the times you scold them silly! And then, and then, you can spoil me as much as you want after! Come on over here!”
Subaru: “Just shut it already….”
Running her mouth as if she’d slain an ogre(1), Shaula tried finding fault in Beatrice. But in fact, Beatrice said nothing particularly bad, but he felt it was a pain to explain.
There was no point in trying to differentiate between the Subaru, her Master and the『Sage』each and every time. Even more since they were using that misunderstanding to their benefit.
Emilia: “Heeey, stop fooling around all the time. Shaula too, please, be quiet.”
Shaula: “Eeー, I can’t take thiss. This is disscrimination. Discrimination between ankle-biterss.”
Emilia: “If she really does something bad, Subaru will properly scold her and not just spoil her. And since he’s not, it means Beatrice did nothing to get scolded. And besides, it’s only natural that the younger ones are treasured more. We have to be patient, Shaula.”
Beatrice: “Even though Betty is older than everyone else, it does not sit well with me that I am always treated as a child, I suppose…”
Subaru: “Yeah, yeah, just show off how old you are.”
He smiled as he petted Beatrice’s head to calm her down.
In response to Emilia’s call for their meal, all parties concerned gathered in the large room on the 4th Floor―― The place where the dragon carriages and their cargo were being kept.
Everyone but Rem and Anastasia, due to both being unconscious, were present. All sat facing each other.
Everyone except those two, which meant――,
Julius: “――Before we begin, would it be permissible for me to speak for a bit, Emilia-sama?”
He said, being the last one to arrive at the room.
While Julius had been practically thrown into the Green Room to recover from his injuries, his reason for appearing was definitely not limited to partaking in the meal.
He had refused the proposal of having his food being carried to the Green Room.
And to his answer his question, Emilia, who was managing the place, nodded,
Emilia: “Of course, by all means. But, you don’t really need to ask for my permission, you know.”
Julius: “As Anastasia-sama is currently absent, the one who ought to be respected the most is Emilia-sama. Moreover, my selfish attitude has already inconvenienced you. That it is only limited to this occasion, is something I cannot certainly say.”
He responded to her, everything articulated elegantly as he shook his head.
His humble mannerisms and his honest disposition were both part of his usual nature. However, individuals who would not take his speech in a favorable manner were present as well.
Ram: “How admirable. If you only acted as such beforehand.”
Ram: “We have enough recklessness and stubbornness with Barusu over there. In fact, it is far more natural to be disappointed in a person who seemed sane. I hope you will take care not to repeat this in the future.”
Ram sharply evaluated Julius’ arbitrary actions.
A chill in her voice and eyes were her usual features, but this particular time, Subaru felt her expression was much more stiff. Even if she was harsh as usual, there was a certain hint of concern mixed into her words.
Emilia: “Ram, you went a bit too far this time.”
Ram: “…please accept my sincere apologies, Emilia-sama. From hereafter, I will take more care.”
She immediately apologized for her bitterness, then gave a fleeting nod to Julius. As such, there was no point in further pulling this topic around.
Besides, it wasn’t right to blame Ram for not being as level-headed. He held no grudge, nor felt any hate for Julius. She simply wished to save Rem, and was doing everything in her power to do so.
Julius: “My sincerest apologies to both Madame Ram, and everyone else. I have caused everyone much worry.”
Understanding fully well that Ram’s words were only him reaping what he sowed, Julius bowed his head and dropped the matter from his side as well.
This was what Julius wanted to do before starting their meal.
Subaru did have an inkling for Julius’ previous behavior. So he had already forgiven him for it, but whether Julius forgave himself was an entirely different matter.
This was the first step he took, in order to start the ritual to absolve himself.
Emilia: “Okay! Julius apologized. I accept that apology. With that, I’m all done with this matter.”
Clapping her hands together, Emilia summed up her feelings on the matter. Subaru, followed by Beatrice, nodded.
Subaru: “Well, I’ve already let him have it from my part, so any more would be an embarrassment to our samurai ways.”
Beatrice: “Betty is, I have a similar opinion as well, in fact. It is fine if you simply regain face with future actions, I suppose.”
Julius: “――My thanks.”
He whispered under his breath.
Meili suddenly responded to his whisper of gratitude. While sitting on the floor with her legs stretched out, she fiddled with her braid as she spoke,
Meili: “Isn’t it fine~? He didn’t die after all~ And I’m not particularly concerned about Mr. Knight either way~”
Shaula: “Master’s saying no problem ‘ere, so I’ve got no problemss either. No-pass~”
Subaru: “Yeah no, no pass is something entirely different…”
Meili’s thoughts were likely exactly as she put them, rather than consideration for Julius. Shaula, who agreed, was in the same boat.
Apart from Shaula, who was affiliated with the Tower and whose true standing was still a mystery, Meili’s position in all of this was vague as well.
Only Ram did not respond directly to Julius’ apology, not saying a word about whether she forgave him or not.
She simply put her white robe over her head and stared down at her meal.
Julius wordlessly accepted that. Everyone did the same. This alone was a personal matter, everyone felt it would be best to leave it at that.
Emilia: “――Well then, let’s dig in. Ram and I were cooks for today.”
Ram: “We couldn’t use fire, so we put a bit of our manliness into it. Otherwise, it should be decent.”
Emilia: “Hmm, that’s right. It’s reeally decent…. Doesn’t decent sound a bit weird?”
Her voice reminded everyone of their current state. Even though she tilted her head to pose the question, neither Ram nor anyone else followed up on it.
Anyhow, following this exchange, everyone sat to have their precious meal.
Most of the food being carried in the dragon carried were either smoked or dried rations, so naturally, the food would be coarse and tough―― However, magic proved to be of great use here as well.
Through the use of Emilia’s special Ice Magic, it was possible to create a pocket refrigerator in the dragon carriage, allowing fresh ingredients to be stored for long periods of time.
Because of this, the party was able to have plenty of fresh fruits, balancing their diet with the steady slew of dry meat.
Emilia: “We still have to use the foodstuff that spoils easily fast.”
Subaru: “We’re really lucky to even be able to worry about that, you know. Really, you’re E-M-S (Emilia-tan, Maji Shoku no Megami)! With this journey and all, I’m sure your cooking’s gotten even better, so maybe make miso soup every morning for the rest of my life?”
Emilia: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
It was true, however, the rise in Emilia’s cooking skills.
At the request of Emilia herself, cooking on this journey, was being done in rotations. Of course, it was a given that Emilia never cooked by herself, instead learning by following another cook’s footsteps.
Thanks to that, there was no one who kept burning their daisukiyaki platter pitch black.
Because she was put in charge of the part of cooking that did not involve platter.
By the way, the only people who could actually cook, among the members partaking in this journey, were Subaru, who picked up this skill over his year of being a servant at the mansion, Julius, who apparently could do whatever he set his mind to, and finally Ram, whose cooking was surprisingly decent.
Even on their way to Priestella, the only people who put themselves on cooking duty were the male trio of Subaru, Otto and Garfiel, who then decided their order through rock-paper-scissors.
Leaving that aside――,
Ram: “――staring at me like that, do you have anything to say?”
Subaru: “…nah, like, I know it’s been over a month now, since we’ve started this journey and all but, I still can’t really believe it. That Ram can cook.”
Ram: “I was wondering what you were going to say but this is just…”
Using his meaningful stare as an excuse, Ram sighed, unwilling to hide any of her distaste for him.
Ram: “The only reason Ram doesn’t go near the kitchen is not because Ram can’t cook, but because she doesn’t want to. I’m not going to touch any kind of cooking that does not involve steamed sweet potatoes.”
Subaru: “So that’s why…. Well, that’s that then.”
Ram: “Hmm, that’s that… I wonder why I make an exception just for steamed sweet potatoes though.”
Her face crumbled into a complex expression as she questioned her own preferences herself. As Subaru gazed at her profile, he let out his own sigh.
No matter what household chore it was, Ram was always behind Rem.
Now, as all traces of Rem was erased from the world, Subaru observed that their sisterly bond might have not been the same as their face-value.
In truth, Ram was supposed to be able to perform any kind of task assigned to her, regardless of whether it was present in her list of duties as a maid. Thus it may be that Rem’s absence has nothing to do with her abilities in the first place.
In other words, if Ram thought about doing it, she could do whatever she wanted when Rem was still in good health. The reason she did not was most likely related to―― Not her laziness.
Subaru felt like he should not dig up those particular things.
The present Ram certainly knew nothing of that. And if Rem returns, he felt it would be unnecessary to bring it up anyway.
When she returns, that is.
Subaru: “I kinda guessed that’s how it’s gonna be, but you really have no table manners, do you?”
Shaula: “*munch, munch*… Huh? Master, Did you just say ssomething?”
She blinked a few times at Subaru, who looked at her with a scowl.
In this world, there were not few in number, top-class beauties who completely wasted their good looks. Shaula had to be the top-class of that top-class, to the point that she was on par with Liliana.
As she brought food to her mouth, Shaula scratched her head with her other hand.
Subaru: “Oi, don’t talk with food in your mouth. Eat or talk, do one.”
Shaula: “Okaay, then I’ll talk with Master! I can talk to my Master for all eternity.”
Subaru: “Who’d wanna get into a chat with you like this!… Just be quiet and eat.”
While he had to feel a bit of respect for her level of loyalty, wanting to prioritise talking to Subaru above eating and such, he also felt that precisely because she was so ready to obey that her risk level was actually so low.
Indeed, her nature as a person and her ability in every other respect and the level of danger she posed to everyone was in utter imbalance.
Meili: “Say, barely-clothed onee-san~ You really have a, um, voracious way of eating, were you really that hungry~?
Shaula: “Nah, it’s just that this food’s ssuper tasty! I didn’t really think eating’s that big of a deal, just get something in and be done with it if I get a say, but if it’s really this tassty, I wouldn’t mind becoming that half-devil’s disciple!
Emilia: “Eh? My disciple? As in, in cooking?”
Instead of stopping at Meili’s point, she went beyond the topic and snapped her finger to Emilia as she swallowed down whatever she was munching on. Emilia jumped, startled, while Shaula continued to shake her head up and down,
Shaula: “This cooking’ss pretty good. You can’t fool me. I’m gonna take up cooking too, get good at it right away and make my way into Master’s heart through his stomach, and not let him get any sleep tonight!”
Meili: “Your real intentions are leaking there~”
Emilia: “Shaula, I understand your feelings. But you know, the way of the cook is a hard-trodden path. If you’re really ready, I’ll put some serious thought into taking you in as my disciple.”
Subaru: “Emilia-tan, you’re really cheeky about the weirdest things, ya know.”
Besides, 70% of today’s cooking was likely the result of Ram’s work. So it was hilarious to watch Emilia act like she had figured out everything there was to cooking, and Shaula who was a bit too taken in by amateur-level cooking.
Subaru: “I feel like I gotta get this out here, but there’s a lotta tasty stuff out there. Emilia-tan’s cooking is, uh… Well, it gets full marks just because she did it but, putting that aside, it’s pretty average. What are you usually eating anyway?”
Shaula: “Thank you for asking me, Masster. My eating habits aren’t really anything special. I’m usually filling myself by roasting whatever I take down.”
Subaru: “Whatever you take down… Eh, wait, do you mean those Demon Beasts from outside?”
Shaula listened to Subaru’s question, then folded her arms under her voluptuous mounds and nodded repeatedly
To have a steady diet of Demon Beasts was too weird to be a normal thing. So to take the advice of a specialist, Subaru turned to Beatrice and posed the natural question with his look.
Subaru: “I know we just talked about not drinking water that’s mixed with the Miasma a while ago but,”
Beatrice: “I don’t even want to think if Demon Beast meat is good for the body or not, in fact. It’s only that, it’s not something that’s so dangerous, that it’ll have an immediate bad effect, I suppose.”
Julius: “According to certain records, there were a few researchers who had set out to eat Demon Beast meat in the past.”
As Subaru undid the wrinkles between Beatrice’s brows with his fingers, Julius brought up an interesting piece of information.
As everyone’s expressions urged him to continue after he stopped, Julius closed one eye and began anew,
Julius: “As we are already aware, Demon Beasts have a habit of attacking people. Be it in the middle of their march or during a long journey, if one were hard-pressed enough for food, they could find Demon Beasts aplenty, wandering within restricted territories. After all, they never think of hiding. Demon Beasts will always come to attack. If one defeats them, then it was obvious that a good source of food would be obtained. There should be no doubt that there were individuals who truly thought this.”
Subaru: “Well, did that go end well for them?”
Julius: “To improve their situation for nourishment, they had apparently faced many twists and turns, gone through many trials and errors. However, no such improvement was found. Of course, those who ate it found it to not be poisonous but…”
Julius: “It seems there is a problem with the taste.”
Subaru looked amazed, that it turned out to be a problem of taste.
If it tasted bad, then it was fine to cover it up with various spices or other condiments. It was true that the meat of wild beasts had this raw and earthy taste, but if it wasn’t poisonous, then they ought to have at least tried a bit harder.
Julius: “That was as far as it was recorded in literature. Miss Shaula, what is your personal experience with it?”
Shaula: “It tastes like sand that’s been rinsed in ssewage water. Totally.”
Subaru: “Ah, it’s the kind where spices won’t help.”
Shaula: “If Master wants to try some, I’ll whole roast a Hungry Horse King. It’s so disgusting, you get super addicted. I’m lying.”
After finding out what unimaginable thing her 400 year diet was, everyone unanimously decided to no longer blame her poor table manners.
Subaru politely declined the whole roasted Hungry Horse King offer. In the first place, that particularly disturbing Demon Beast was already on fire.
Subaru: “I thought having to worry about food was an actual problem, but…”
He popped himself down and covered his face.
At the end of his vision, there was Shaula, her entire face lit with a smile so bright, it could bring tears to others as she stuffed a variety of food into her mouth, and Emilia, who looked on as Shaula ate, her feelings of motherhood being further stimulated, which could potentially lead her to further improve her cooking.
One month, that was the amount of time left to them, which accounted for all of their food, including their excess.
And if Shaula kept up the pace at which she ate, their time limit might just decrease even further, Subaru thought.
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Once their meal was over and they had their baths in the spring water (consisting of mainly wiping their bodies), the day was over and it was time to go to bed.
In light of their present situation, it could be said that the Tower Conquest Team ought to spend the night trying to come up with a plan to break through their current stalemate, but at present, everyone felt that it would not work like that.
To expect tomorrow’s matters to be solved by their tomorrow’s selves―― Might have been more appropriate than given credit for.
Subaru: “Not like we’re just gonna get smacked in the face with it. Let’s take a bit more time.”
Given what the contents of the 2nd Floor’s『Trial』was, worst case scenario, they might have to go in again the next day without a plan at all.
Instead of thinking up a workaround, hit it with all you have―― Though in truth, they all wanted to avoid actually breaking him apart. At the very least their examiner, the First Generation『Sword Saint』, had no intention of killing them.
Or maybe they could even find a way to overcome this particular obstacle simply from conversing with him. Just like how Emilia had pried out her winning conditions from him simply by talking.
Subaru: “Well, gotta do what I gotta do to keep my head straight. So I have to eat well, rest well, and always be at peak performance.”
He thought as he pinched both his cheeks, then put all his worries away for the day.
For the most part, Emilia and the others agreed with Subaru’s point―― or rather, they were so demotivated, they had no choice but to.
And with that, the night’s meeting was over. Each left for a dragon carriage, which they were using as a makeshift bedroom, to rest and prepare for the next day. At least, that was supposed to be the case.
Beatrice: “Subaru, Betty will be with Emilia and the others, in fact.”
Subaru: “O-oh, gotcha. Sorry for making you worry, Beako. Don’t stay up too late. You’ll stop growing and get stuck in your small size… Wait, that’s pretty cute. Alright, Beako, remember to stay up late.”
Beatrice: “You don’t have to worry, Betty won’t grow any taller than this, I suppose. I’ll be cute forever, in fact. So I’ll be like this even if I sleep early, I suppose.”
After yawning, Subaru waved to Beatrice before she parted, led by Emilia as she held her hand.
Subaru: “Emilia-tan, take care of Beako. See ya tomorrow.”
Emilia: “Un, see you tomorrow…. Subaru, don’t stay up too late either, okay?”
Instead of directly telling him not to, Emilia said her piece and headed down the Great Stairway to the lower floor. Once she was out of sight, Subaru stretched a few times, then walked down the 4th Floor’s passage.
His destination was obvious. A door that was covered in ivy, the entrance to the Green Room.
Julius: “Is that you, Subaru?”
Subaru: “…ah, it’s you.”
In front of the room, Subaru ran into Julius, who watched him with eyes wide.
Just when he was about to enter the room, Subaru arrived, so he squinted at him for a good moment, then immediately pulled back his chin knowingly.
Julius: “I understand. It seems we share the same reason for entering this room.”
Subaru: “I’m pretty sure we have different people in mind… So, should I give it up to you tonight?”
Julius: “No need…”
Shaking his head at Subaru’s proposal, Julius looked to the closed door. A moment of silence followed, then the pair of yellow eyes were once again pointed at Subaru.
And then he took a step back from the door.
Julius: “This time, it is I who ought to give it up for you. Thinking back, you were unconscious for two entire days until this morning. I did inform her of your well being afterwards, but I’m sure she yearned for your presence at night nevertheless.”
Subaru: “…yeah, well, if you’re giving it up for me, I’ll just gladly take you up on your offer.”
Imitating his elegant style, Subaru scratched his head while stealing quick glances at Julius.
He found no signs of displeasure in Julius’ expression, but Subaru was bad at trying to find out someone else’s feelings in the first place. That went double for anyone who hid their true feelings. It was practically impossible for him at that point.
Subaru: “You okay? I’m pretty sure you want to tag along.”
So he sighed and simply spoke what was on his mind.
Julius gave a thin smile,
Julius: “If possible, I would most definitely want to be at Anastasia-sama’s side when she wakes up…. It’s only that, I feel I will be unable to find the words to speak to her when she does. It is true that I am feeling lost about this aspect. It is most deplorable.”
Subaru: “It’s fine if you open with ‘I was very worried, so I’m glad you’ve awakened’. The problem is with what comes next. That… uh, well, I’ll leave that to you.”
Subaru: “Oi, why’d you laugh. I’m being pretty serious ya know.”
Even if he was being serious, it seemed that Julius did not take too fondly to it. He then turned on his heels, turning his back to Subaru, who wore a surprised expression.
Julius: “You’re able to freely say what you want.―― I envy that.”
Subaru: “Kinda feels more like you’re calling me an idiot. Oi, where’re you going.”
Julius: “I’m relinquishing my time to you. I’ll return to the dragon carriage and take rest. I feel slightly worn-out from today’s activities.”
Raising his hand while keeping Subaru at his back, Julius told him before leaving.
Whether he felt well enough to joke about the『Trial』tiring him slightly, or whether he was simply putting up a front, was something Subaru could not tell.
He couldn’t tell but――,
Subaru: “――Julius, it’s better if you’re there when Anastasia wakes up after all. When I’m done with my stuff, I’ll head over to get you, so you better do just that.”
Subaru: “I’ll let ya know beforehand, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got a lot more regrets on my back than you. So this is my advice. Just take it.”
He shouted at the back that disappeared into the hallway. Whether Julius heard or not, he was unsure as there was no reply. However, Julius would definitely not take it the wrong way. At least, Subaru believed that.
Subaru: “I’m coming in.”
With a shake of his head, he threw away all considerations he had for Julius, Subaru pushed the door open and took a step into the Green Room. The room, illuminated by a dim and faint glow, still remained dominated by greenery, with two girls who lay asleep on a bed of ivy.
Anastasia on the bed near the entrance, and Rem on the bed further back.
Subaru: “And you’re at the back too, huh.”
She let out a low growl for the visiting Subaru. As if the jet-black dragon knew he would come.
Maybe she did know. Spontaneously, she moved away to make space for Subaru to sit on her bed of ivy.
Subaru: “Really, you’re one hell of a girl… Those wounds are healing up nicely too, eh.”
With a bitter smile, Subaru traced her black scales with his hands.
The wounds she had received during the time they were fighting against the Hungry Horse King underground had healed nicely over the past three days. Normally, she wouldn’t let Subaru know the true extent of her injuries. Now, however, she was genuinely focused on recovering instead of putting up a strong front.
Subaru: “Really, can’t thank this spirit enough. If it weren’t for this room, who knows how hard this whole thing would’ve turned out to be.”
Even at the risk of losing his life, Subaru would never voice that it was good Patrasche got off with shallow wounds. No wounds would always be the best outcome, but he did feel lucky that that was the extent of injuries anyone had received during their ride through the Augria Sand Dunes.
The only ones injured in that event were only Subaru and Patrasche. That they were able to come back up to above-functioning standard was all thanks to this Green Room.
Adding the injured duo of Julius and Anastasia from the 2nd Floor’s Trial『Trial』, the existence of the Green Room was indeed miraculous. As if someone had known this might happen and left it prepared beforehand.
Subaru: “Well then.”
Once he was done affirming his love for Patrasche, Subaru took a deep breath before heading towards the bed further inside the room―― Towards Rem.
When there, the ivy shifted like flowing silk, gathering into a spot to make a sort-of chair for him to sit on.
Subaru: “Really, man, there should be a limit to how nice you can be.”
Even though he had just expressed his everlasting gratitude for the Green Room’s spirit, he felt like it was taken as flattery for even better treatment.
That was far from his intention, but he took the offer anyway.
Subaru: “Julius did mention Rem’s been missing me at night, huh…”
That was his mistake.
That wasn’t the case at all. Because, the one who was waiting to speak late at night, when no one would bother them, wasn’t but Rem, but it was surely Subaru.
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――Subaru noticed something was off when he felt his shoulders being lightly shaken.
Raising his face from the bed, he blinked several times. Contrary to physical reactions, the mind was usually much slower to react.
And slowly, his mind returned to him. Then he noticed.
Subaru: “Did… Did I fall asleep?”
Hand on his chin, Subaru pondered the surprising fact that he actually fell asleep.
It seemed that he was still in the Green Room, still sitting on that ivy chair right beside Rem’s bed, and it seemed he had fallen asleep in that very position. However, he felt that the shape of his chair was somehow different from what he remembered.
The chair in his memories had no backside. But now, the chair had a large backside to support him in his sleep, and it had taken an almost egg-like shape to conform to his comfort as much as possible. The spirit was just too damn nice.
It was so comfortable, it turned yawns into actual sleep.
Subaru: “Means I was pretty tired too… Eh, Patrasche?”
Muttering about him dozing off, Subaru turned to Patrasche―― The kind lady who had nudged him with her long tail to wake him.
Curled up over the ivy bed, his beloved dragon likely woke him to alert him to something. Subaru squinted at where she was staring and…
Subaru: “――uwah, no way.”
…jumped off his chair and rushed over to the bed that was by the Green Room’s entrance door―― The one Anastasia was supposed to be occupying.
It’s ‘supposed to be’ because she was not there. And once it hit Subaru, his face lost color.
Subaru: “E-even though I gave Julius an earful about this…”
Only because he dozed off, Julius could not greet Anastasia when she woke up. He couldn’t even face him if he wanted to with this.
――Unfortunately, that was not the only problem.
Subaru: “She got up, and then…? Where’d she go? The toilet? Without waking me?”
It wasn’t really a matter of whether she had actually gone to the toilet. It was that Anastasia―― No, more like Echidna, had woken up and snuck out of the room without so much as a word of notice to Subaru, who was right there.
To think she disappeared right after the 2nd Floor『Trial』―― Did she go to challenge Reid again, just like Julius? Man I don’t wanna imagine that.
Subaru: “The bed’s still warm… Gotta go look for her.”
Her bed was still slightly warm. There was the fact that Patrasche had woken him up as well.
Meant it hasn’t been too long since Anastasia left, most likely.
Subaru: “Patrasche! I’m leaving Rem to you! And, right, thanks for waking me!”
Shortening his reply as much as he could, Subaru waved to Patrasche before heading out.
Unable to figure out where exactly she could even go, his heart throbbed faster. If it were Subaru in her place, he’d first want to make sure Emilia and Beatrice were okay―― If so, then naturally, she would be heading towards where Julius was.
Subaru: “No, wait, it’s Scarf-Dona who’s inside her right now. No way it’s gonna be anything simple. But then…”
He did not have enough manpower to tackle this problem. Even if it meant exposing his embarrassment of dozing off to others, for now, he needed to reach out to the others and get their help in finding Anastasia――.
And on his way down the stairs to call the others, he stopped.
He was dumbfounded. He found something incredibly abnormal, something that should definitely not be inside of the tower.
That something swiftly flew across Subaru’s stunned face.
With white wings spread wide in the narrow hallway, a bird attempted to find it’s way out.
Subaru: “Why’s there a bird… inside the tower?”
The words rolled out of his mouth at the sight of a bird, an existence that shouldn’t be inside of the tower.
The Watch Tower Pleiades had no windows. It was a building that was completely closed off from the outside world, with the only connection being the giant door on the 5th Floor.
At the very least, Subaru thought as much, and his guide for the 4th Floor, Beatrice herself had said she could not even sense the presence of a window that could lead outside.
Subaru: “――tch! W-wait up!”
Feeling something was very off, right before he started rushing after the bird, for a moment, he hesitated. Should he follow after the bird, or should he call someone and find Anastasia first, then discuss the bird issue?
He chose to follow the bird, however. To lose sight of that bird here, he felt, might lead to an even greater danger down the road. Simply put, it was a gut feeling.
Of course, birds were not such gentle creatures, to listen to Subaru and stop flying simply because he called after them. Gently it flew away from Subaru, further and further, deeper into the hallway.
He chased and chased and chased, and before long――.
Subaru: “――!? It disappeared?! Wh-the hell!”
He shouted when he reached the end of the hallway.
The hallway itself was circular, taking after the shape of the tower. However, it was not connected like that, because at around half-circle, a wall stopped further progression.
It was like a clock. If one started at 12:00, they could go till 06:00 both clockwise and counter-clockwise, but no more than that either way.
Subaru knew that, and as long as none of the doors were opened, he was certain he could catch the bird, but――.
Subaru: “Doesn’t look like it slammed into the wall and fell. What the hell’s going on here?”
Confused as to where that pair of wings had disappeared, he surveyed his surroundings over and over.
Unfortunately, there were no open rooms the bird could enter. It appeared suddenly and disappeared just as suddenly. He felt like he was wrapped around the smoky veil of a dream.
But he soon confirmed he was not dreaming.
Subar: “These―― These are feathers, right?”
On his way back out of the hallway, he found white feathers fallen on the ground. While he still held his doubts, looking at it from a situational perspective, these white feathers definitely belonged to that bird he was chasing.
They were proof the bird definitely existed. He could very well take them to Emilia and the others and say ‘There was a bird inside of the tower!’, but it would ultimately lead to nothing.
Most of all, it wouldn’t lead to where Anastasia disappeared off to――,
Subaru: “Wait, wait… If there’s feathers lying around here, then-”
There should be something here.
He searched the wall and floor around the place where the feathers had fallen while thinking that. He examined the stone floor and ceiling, checked the nearby rooms, and even pressed the stone bricks of the walls.
However, nothing came of it, and he only felt his pulse quicken with each passing moment.
I should really go get help――
It was precisely at that moment,
It was when he was moving his palm over the place the feathers had fallen. His fingers had brushed against the wall right beside there, or so he had thought. In reality, he realized his fingers had slipped through the wall, as if it were an illusion.
Even when he carefully tried to press his fingers against it, they went through, so he wasn’t seeing things.
Subaru: “But, I’m pretty sure I’ve checked the walls around here pretty well.”
That was not to say he had failed in searching properly, but only that the wall above his waist, from where it was an illusion, was solid.
An illusionary wall that covered up the entrance―― The last time he saw something like this was back when Petelgeuse and the Witch Cult were hiding in that cavern.
Subaru: “Risk it all to win it all, huh.”
If one went into a crawl, they could pass through the illusionary wall.
After a good moment of hesitation, he decided to crawl through and get to the other side. The bird had gotten in through this way, most likely.
If this led to the outside of the tower, or maybe to another part of the tower, then――.
The darkness beyond the wall did not last as long as he expected.
He dove out of the illusionary wall and took a deep breath, like someone coming back up from a dive underwater. He was holding his breath while inside that darkness for no apparent reason.
He quickly noticed the outside air―― A cool breeze flew across his face.
He opened his eyes, slowly adjusting them to the darkness of the outside world.
Spreading out in all directions over the vast horizon was a sea of sand, the Augria Sand Dunes, seen from a height unfathomable by Subaru. And watching over this spectacle was the dark sky, spotted with countless twinkling stars.
In the place that was supposedly the Tower’s balcony, her purple hair shining under starlight, surrounded by flocks of birds, was Anastasia.
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- This phrase means that someone is acting prideful or boastful but hasn’t done anything to warrant it.