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It’s with great thanks to TruestAmericanAaron who has allowed WCT to use his commission that we can provide this chapter for you all to read! All credits for his donation rest with him!
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Commission Translated By :
- LoremIpsumVerb (Ice)
Art Sources :
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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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The giant scorpion was the one who fired off the first blow to start the battle.
Its red compound eyes glittered brightly, and immediately afterwards, a white ray of light gushed forth from its swinging tail. What was terrifying about that, was that its blow, meant as a fatal one for them, had been fired off without even one of its typical cries. With nary even a hiss, the giant scorpion nonchalantly rained death down towards them.
Subaru had tons of bad memories associated with that white light. Specifically, he’d been killed by it in around half of his fifteen plus attempts inside the tower.
Nevertheless, given that he’d been killed so much by it, he did learn a thing or two, despite how much he despised it.
Subaru: [The time it takes to charge up and the signs it shows when it’s about to attack…!]
The scorpion’s compound eyes and stinger both glowed a smidgen more when it was about to unleash an attack. These signs were so subtle, to the point he’d thought he was just seeing things, but this eye for survival was what Subaru had developed through his mortal trial and errors.
Making full use of it, Subaru ran with Beatrice in his arms, taking it upon himself to close the gap between them and the giant scorpion. Reason being…
Subaru: [Its charging speed is pretty damn slow…!]
With a twist of his body, he dodged the white ray light that had welled forth as he said that.
Even if he’d called the ray of light slow, it was still much faster than a pitch from a shoddy high-school baseball player. Fortunately though, he was confident in his ability to tell whether a pitch was good or not. And in any case, there was no way he was going to stay alive without being able to do that.
A great man had once said that life was all about trial and error. Though, he probably hadn’t been envisioning these life or death situations when he’d said that.
Even so, you learn by making mistakes. That was an immutable truth. Subaru “luckily” had the ability to go through trial and error in life or death situations.
He’d made full use of that to find his eye for survival. ――Thus this was Natsuki Subaru’s arena.
Subaru: [I’m sorry for not being able to live up to all your expectations, other me!]
(TL Note: Subaru in fact refers to himself using 俺 here. I opted to use “other me” purely because it sounds crisper in English, but he literally is just saying “me”)
Subaru dished out a heartfelt apology to his other self who’d sought out an almighty Natsuki Subaru. It was like he was saying to them, “I’m sorry for only being able to fight dirty.” Beatrice though reacted with a snorted “Hmph”. She was still held tightly in between his arms, dancing this jig of life and death with him.
Beatrice: [What are you talking about, in fact. You’ve never failed to live up to our expectations, I suppose.]
Beatrice spoke up, then raised her hand up in a flash. From her thin lips, she chanted the word “Murak”; a kind of Yin Magic that tampered with the law of gravity.
The giant scorpion had once been hit with its effects and pushed far away below them. So this time, the scorpion braced its jet-black shell and planted its legs firmly so that it wouldn’t go through the same thing again.
Meili: [You’re just playing into my hands if you’re going to stay sti~ll!]
A barrage of Witchbeasts began to assail the unmoving giant scorpion.
The strange-looking Witchbeasts Meili had ordered the attack from were called “Hanemogura”. They looked like what you’d get if you crossed wings and horns together. And just like bullets that held no fear of death, they shot towards the giant scorpion and unhesitatingly struck its tough shell with their horns. The sounds of them crashing against it overlapped with the sounds of shattering.
The giant scorpion writhed in pain and raised its large pincers in retaliation.
???: [...ϡ ϡ]
What followed the attack in their stead was the bizarrest of all bizzare-looking figures. A being that was the very manifestation of a nightmare-ridden night, the Centaur that was a cross between man and horse: the “Hungry Horse King”.
The terrible wail of babies swept through the watchtower’s balcony. Along with it came a grating roar that made him want to cover his ears up, and then a burst of flames which violently filled the area around them, almost all the way up to the sky.
Hungry Horse King: [...ϡ ϡ]
The Hungry Horse King didn’t hesitate and thrust its fiery spear right into the heart of the flames. Its red-hot tip was going to land a critical hit that would burn through even the scorpion’s iron-like shell.
The giant scorpion was overwhelmingly strong when it came to plain fighting strength. However, that didn’t mean attacks wouldn’t work against it. It felt pain if struck, just like any living creature.
It felt pain if struck. If struck.
Thus the giant scorpion embodied the “Then everything’s hunky dory so long as I’m not hit” sort of mantra.
It caught the fiery spear with one of its enormous pincers and severed the Hungry Horse King’s arm in one swoop. The Horse King tried to regenerate its wound, but it had been ruthlessly cauterised by its own fiery spear. The squirming, bubbling flesh of its wound trying to regenerate itself stopped in its tracks.
Subaru had been able to obtain an unnecessary tidbit from this; namely, that it wouldn’t be able to regenerate its burnt wounds. The Hungry Horse King was now stopped in its tracks, but then, the giant scorpion’s stinger went off with a bang into the Hungry Horse King’s body, causing its large body to burst open from within.
The Hungry Horse King’s flesh and blood scattered everywhere, and along with it went its life.
Even the Hanemogura who’d been smashed against the scorpion’s shell ended up dead when their horn, which was fused with their head, broke. The way they fought by tragically throwing away their lives was one that could naturally be cursed as utterly barbaric.
It would be wrong of Subaru to close his eyes to this and dismiss it as “There’s no problem with that since they’re a Witchbeast.” However, he also wasn’t planning on glossing things over by saying “All lives are created equally.”
Life had value to it, and without a doubt, there were differences in their values.
There were clear differences in the way he felt about the weight of the lives of those who were precious to him and those who weren’t. He wasn’t going to hide that behind any deceptions. That’s why he was going to make full use of the Witchbeasts’ lives to win this fight.
Subaru: [Though you’re doing the right thing overlooking me, you’re still making a big mistake!]
With the Witchbeast vanguard repelled, Subaru confidently stepped through the floor which was now coated red. Carrying Beatrice in his left arm, he drew out his whip with his right and swung it up.
Dubbed the Guiltywhip, its blasphemous finishing touches had been done using the corpse of his former foe―― Natsuki Subaru cracked it through the air, his super-quick whiplash scored a direct hit on the giant scorpion’s shell.
The scorpion let out a thunderous cry and glared at Subaru with its red compound eyes. There were no signs that he’d caused any damage to it, nor that it was feeling any pain.
But he was fine with that. His aim hadn’t been to inflict any damage on it. That had probably been why it had put off dealing with Subaru until last, after the other Witchbeasts.
The great scorpion’s decision was both right, and wrong.
Beatrice: [We caught a big one, in fact!!]
His whip had snared itself around the scorpion’s shell. With that, the scorpion’s massive body would shoot up when he tugged with all his might, thanks to the recoil. This was made possible by the fact that the effects of Beatrice’s Yin Magic were still in play, drastically decreasing the weight of the titanic beast.
The giant scorpion immediately tried to plant itself firmly on the ground. However, the vast quantities of blood and entrails at its feet made the conditions extremely poor for getting a firm grip. Subaru reeled the scorpion up in one swoop as it tried to cling onto the floor with its sharp talons.
From an outsider’s perspective, the situation almost looked like Subaru was swinging the giant beast about using some form of superhuman strength. But this grandiose spectacle on display had only been made possible thanks to Beatrice’s help. And so he kept swinging the giant scorpion’s body as much as he could with his whip, until finally, he hurled it away.
Subaru: [BOOON VOOOOYAGE――!!]
The giant scorpion’s body spun around in midair, carrying its super-giant swinging momentum.
As it spun around uncontrollably, it tried to hit Subaru with a white ray of light, showing pinpoint targeting. However, Beatrice raised her hand up to knock it away.
She materialised glowing purple crystals in midair, and used them to shoot the white ray of light down head-on. As their coordination sprung to life, Subaru released the giant scorpion from his whip and it flew away towards the sky once more.
Subaru: [This should buy us more…]
Subaru found a reprieve out of this mess with this precarious attack, although he had to allow some concessions to win out in the end. However, his eyes widened in surprise before he could finish what he was saying.
Right before his eyes, the giant scorpion began to perform an astonishing feat of acrobatics as it hurtled away.
With a slash from its enormous pincers, it severed its own tail at the root. Just like that, its tail flew away, scattering dark-red bodily fluids in its wake. Yet, a white ray of light was fired off from the very tip of it.
It slammed against the now tailless scorpion and blew it back towards the balcony of the watchtower with tremendous force. All that work in making it lighter and practically weightless―― and now it had made it back to the balcony, bringing a shockwave with it. It dug its enormous pincers into the floor to stop its momentum, before then pointing its glare at them.
Subaru: [T-Those were some acrobatics you did. But if that means you’ve lost your tail, then all the better for us…]
Subaru: [Like, I mean, hey, wait a sec, wait a sec, wait a sec, wait a sec!]
The giant scorpion had landed and lowered its body, putting itself on guard as more darkish-red blood poured out from its tail. But its wound hadn’t gotten any deeper. Quite the opposite in fact. ――Its severed tail was regrowing from its stump.
And it wasn’t only its tail. The cracks in its shell that had come from firing the white ray of light at itself, so to blow it back, were also bubbling away. He could see those wounds filling in as well.
Subaru: [It’s tough, smart and heals; aren’t we just getting more and more of these un-Shaula like features!?]
Healing aside, Shaula’s body was soft, and she wasn’t in the least bit smart. Nevertheless, the giant scorpion had shed all of these traits and was now coming at them with its overwhelming killing power.
It haphazardly swung its newly-grown tail about, releasing its stingers all around into the surroundings. Its attack was a ranged one, that showed no signs of its typical tells; so it was safe to say that it was the worst kind of attack for Subaru and Beatrice to be subjected to, given how much they fell short in strength.
Beatrice: [Gh… Subaru, we’ll have to fly, I suppose!!]
They had no means to escape from the white rays of light the scorpion had fired off, at least on terra firma. That said, a means of escape had presented itself in the skies. Beatrice quickly released her magic from the scorpion and called back to Subaru.
Subaru kicked off from the ground and jumped up into the air with all his might, trusting in his partner, regardless of whether her magic was actually going to work. The white rays of light began to shatter the balcony, with one of them just barely grazing his feet.
Subaru: [That was really close…]
Beatrice: [Don’t speak so soon, in fact…!]
They’d literally jumped over the possibility of death, but they had no time for relief.
The same thing had happened as before when Subaru and Beatrice had laid their attack onto the giant scorpion. Escaping up to the skies meant that they’d lost both their foothold and escape route. ――All that was left for them was to be destroyed by one of the scorpion’s attacks.
Subaru: [Beako! Original Spell, Part 2――!]
Although this trump card could only be used three times a day, there was no way they could risk messing up by not using it and dying as a result. The moment Subaru squeezed her shoulders tightly, Beatrice came to the same conclusion as well.
She’d have their special technique ready for deployment in a jiffy, which would make Subaru invincible for a set amount of time…
???: [...ϡ ϡ]
She and Subaru were grabbed from the side before she could cast the technique. A white ray of light passed through the space which they’d been in a moment ago, almost evaporating them.
The only thing that had saved them from that demise, and was keeping them from being pursued by the great scorpion was…
Subaru: [T-That was close. What even happened… Ghe!?]
Beatrice: [I suppose!?]
Subaru checked to see what was going on as he clinged to something rubbery. His voice caught in astonishment; likewise Beatrice also had quite the frown on her face.
This was because the one who’d saved them from the giant scorpion’s attack, and was still giving it their all to protect them, was a mauve-coloured, vicious-looking Witchbeast: a Hungry Horse King.
Subaru: [I never thought we’d be here fighting together at the climax when I first saw you down in the underground!]
Hungry Horse King: [...ϡ ϡ]
The Hungry Horse King let out an ear-splitting cry in reply to Subaru’s bluff. His face tensed up at that; then, another Hungry Horse King pulled over next to them. Clinging to that Horse King’s back was Meili’s small body.
Meili: [It looked to me like you were about to pull out your trump card, we~ren’t you? Try to be a li~ttle more careful. Onii-san’s and Beatrice-chan’s trump card is a lifeline for me as well after a~ll!]
Subaru: [Nice save! Nice support! You did well Meili! Can we change the field of battle at this rate?]
Meili: [You mean, you want us to cha~nge locations? I sure can, bu~t…]
Subaru: [Then please go for it! We have too few escape routes here for starters!]
Scanning the surroundings, Subaru decided to beat a retreat from the balcony, since there weren’t many places left to stand on. Tons of Witchbeast corpses were already littered about there, and with how things were, weird accidents would be prone to happen.
Meili gave some thought to the efficiency of his decision and then nodded. She clapped her Hungry Horse King on its back and gave the two of them their orders. As soon as they heard her words, the two Horse Kings picked up their pace and jumped down from the balcony, onto the wall of the watchtower. They began to run down it without wasting any time, at breakneck speeds.
Beatrice: [WABABABABABABA, IN FACT!?]
Subaru and Beatrice yelled out in tandem, hugging each other as they faced this unexpected hard ride. At the same time though, he could only take his hat off at Meili, for being able to tame Hungry Horse Kings of all things, and have them be part of their troops.
With the supremely-powerful Hungry Horse Kings at their head, the Hanemogura flying through the skies, the colossal sandworms, courtesan bears and other countless Witchbeasts on the ground as their allies, they had quite a wide range of strategy available to them.
It could be said that they were the ideal partners for Subaru, since his plan was to keep stalling for time by dishing out one delay tactic after the other.
Subaru: [We’re really being spoilt for choice with how many ways we have to attack! You and I may be way more compatible than I’d ever thought Meili!]
Meili: [Do~n’t say that, Onii-san. I really wouldn’t want Petra and Beatrice-chan gla~ring at me!]
Subaru exchanged shouts with Meili as they galloped down the watchtower in vertical fashion. The latter gave Subaru a sullen frown in response to his casual chit-chat as she clung onto her Hungry Horse King’s back. Her reaction slightly hurt his innocent male sensibilities, but right now was the time to ignore such trivial wounds.
Subaru: [Round two’s gonna start when we drop onto the sand sea. She’s gonna come after me! So for the time being, she shouldn’t interfere with anyone inside the tower…]
Meili: [Bu~t, we’re still stuck without a way to beat her, yeah? No matter how much time we spend running around, we’re not gonna be able to grab a win, ri~ght?]
Since they were in the Augria Sand Dunes, they had Witchbeasts in endless supply. Thus their Witchbeast ammo. wasn’t ever going to run out. However, all that gave them was the ability to continue waging their battle, rather than a surefire way to beat the scorpion.
He glanced over at Meili. Sweat was dripping from her forehead, which she was wiping away at, and her breaths were slightly laboured.
That was in part due to how strained she was, being caught smack dab in between the hammer and anvil that was the battlefield. However, he couldn’t help but think that it was also in part due to the toll which controlling Witchbeasts had on her. Though this was something which Subaru couldn’t really comprehend, since he didn’t hold a Divine Protection, there was enough of a chance for a Divine Protection to become toxic when overused.
Subaru: [Otto did joke about this, saying stuff like the world was hellish back when he couldn’t control his Divine Protection…]
Maybe those words that Otto had spluttered out when drunk were nothing to sneeze at.
If Divine Protections became burdensome like Otto had said, then there’d be a limit to how much Meili could fight as well. Their defeat would instantly be set in stone were Meili to fall in battle.
In other words…
Subaru: [Indeed, this battle will be decided by how much I coddle Meili as a princess――!]
Beatrice: [What an inexcusable plan, I suppose!]
Right after Beatrice raised her eyebrows in response to Subaru’s declaration, a shock ran through their entire bodies. It served as a sign that the Hungry Horse Kings had reached their final stop after running down the tower at breakneck speeds.
Meaning they’d broken past the vertical wall of the watchtower and arrived back at the sand sea.
Subaru: [It’s not like it’s gone anywhere at the end of the day… But when you drop down to it like this, it feels way more different.]
Beatrice: [How does it feel, in fact?]
Subaru: [Absolutely awful, I hate how deserts are just full of sand. It reminds me of how I never liked the desert stages you often got in games as well.]
Sometimes, depending on the game’s system, the HP of his character would start ticking down by doing nothing but walking in the searing heat. This sand sea had nothing to do with the scorching sand you got in those, but even so, he didn’t have any fond memories of it.
Made all the worse by the fact that they were surrounded by countless swarms of Witchbeasts.
Subaru: [Though, I know they aren’t going to attack us…]
A sickly-sweet aroma that made him want to wrinkle his nose was floating about, accompanied by a far worse beastly stench; he could pretty much say that the air around the sand sea was one of the crummiest in the world. Though with the environment being filled with tons of Witchbeasts, some familiar, others not; perhaps Witchbeast Researchers or whatever would drool over that?
Unfortunately it only made Subaru and his team feel uneasy.
Meili: [S~o, what’s your answer to my question?]
Meili rode her Hungry Horse King over to Subaru and Beatrice as the former shuddered. She wanted an answer to her question. Subaru glanced up at the tower, and then replied,
Subaru: [It’s as you say, we can’t do anything about the giant scorpion… about Shaula. That’s why Emilia-tan holds the key to everything.]
Meili: [Are you talking about that silver-haired Onee-san from earlier?]
Subaru: [Yeah. Emilia-tan and the fifth rule are the key to everything.]
Subaru gave the puzzled Meili a nod before sticking his palm up in front of her. He spread out all five of his fingers, marking the rules imposed on them as challengers of the Pleiades Watchtower.
Subaru: [We can’t leave without completing the “Trials”. We can’t break the “Trial” rules. We aren’t allowed to disrespect the “Libraries”. We mustn’t damage the tower. And finally…]
Meili should have heard the first four rules.
But she didn’t know the fifth one. Shaula had been trying to hide it, so only Subaru, who’d “Returned by Death”, knew what it was. As well as Shaula herself of course.
The fifth rule that Shaula had zipped her lips shut and refused to tell them was…
Subaru: […It is not forbidden to destroy the “Trials”. Meaning we can destroy the rules of this tower.]
As challengers, the “Trials” constrained their actions. At the same time though, the rules also constrained Shaula’s actions since she was one of their examiners.
Shaula was bound by the rules of the tower. So, even though she didn’t want to kill them, she couldn’t escape from the fate that bound her to try and do so through her giant scorpion transformation.
If those shackles had been binding her for over four hundred years, then…
Beatrice: […tch. She’s coming, I suppose!]
A great plume of smoke rose before their eyes just after her warning.
An accompanying shockwave came from the giant silhouette that had leaped down from the balcony without any hesitation, rather than running straight down the tower.
He could hear the heavy grating sound of its large pincers coming from the thick of the smoke. The giant scorpion slowly emerged from within, its compound eyes were pointed directly at Subaru instead of at the countless enemies around them.
Subaru: [Beako, Meili! We need to buy some time! Emilia-tan’s victory is the condition for our’s!]
Beatrice: [I get you loud and clear, in fact!]
Meili: [And exactly how long is she going to take to achieve tha~t?]
Subaru: [As fast as she possibly can.]
Emilia was always earnest and extremely hardworking.
Thus, there was no way she was going to compromise or slack off with the problems they were facing. The results she delivered were always the best she could give, and with it came the highest firepower she could muster.
Subaru believed in that, he loved that, he cherished that. That’s why he was going to be able to stand his ground here.
Subaru: [Now then, let’s do this. We’re gonna break fate… No, we’re gonna break the tower’s system!]
???: [I see, so that’s why you’re…]
???: [Yeah, it’s like that! Subaru told me that I’d definitely find a way to rewrite the situation we’re in if I go up to the very top of the tower!]
Emilia focused on running as fast as she could, giving her only a brisk reply. She was holding Echidna in her arms as she ran, with the latter trying to make her body as small as possible.
At first Emilia had taken her by the hand as they ran; but being slowed down by her, she’d ended up picking her up partway through, and she’d remained like that ever since.
In fact, it was much faster this way and it strained her body far less, so it was a huge help. Even so…
Echidna: [Shouldn’t it be you who needs to save their strength? You haven’t got a clue what’s lying in wait for you, right?]
Emilia: [Huh? Oh, you don’t need to worry! Anastasia-san’s body is reaaally light, and it’s not like it’s gotten any heavier even with you in it. It’s no sweat off my back!]
Echidna: [My presence doesn’t really have anything to do with Ana’s weight… Like, not at all.]
Faced with those slightly amiss answers, Echidna looked at Emilia, rather, at the beauty of the unfamiliar half-elf as she felt the struggles within herself.
This unfamiliar half-elf was one of her companions who’d had her very “name” stolen away by the authority of “Gluttony”. Her circumstances were pretty much like Julius’, but the way she was behaving was far different compared to him. Were their intrinsic personalities different? Or was it perhaps a difference in the people who were there to support them?
Echidna: [Doesn’t it terrify you that you’ve been forgotten?]
Emilia: [It’s reaaaaally scary, and lonely. But I don’t have the time to sit down and curl up in fear, wouldn’t you think?]
Emilia gave a brutally honest reply to Echidna’s hushed question. The strength behind her change seemed like a testament of her mental fortitude, or perhaps it was down to some other factor.
Emilia had said before, “I’m not worried because Subaru remembers me.”
They’d been awfully simple words, the stuff you’d see in dreams. Yet, at the same time, they seemed to be the truth.
It wasn’t clear what made Natsuki Subaru impervious to the effects of the authority of “Gluttony”. Though strictly speaking it wasn’t like even he was completely impervious to it. In fact, hadn’t he said that the reason he’d lost his “memories” had been due to an unexpected encounter with “Gluttony”?
So Echidna couldn’t definitively say that Subaru’s specialness was the main cause behind everything that occurred. Meaning, there should have still been a certain possibility.
As in, couldn’t they have protected their “names” and “memories” somehow?
If they could have done that, then both Anastasia and Julius…
When she stopped to think about how Julius felt, having been forgotten by everyone, could anyone even blame him for faltering? Though, when she looked at Emilia’s strength after she’d been placed in the same situation, she couldn’t help but wonder what was different between the two.
The difference must have come in who was at their side. The difference must have been in who was beside them, supporting them.
Likewise, wouldn’t Julius not have collapsed if he’d had some support? And shouldn’t someone have been there like Natsuki Subaru had for Emilia?
Echidna: [What should I…]
“What should I do?” Echidna couldn’t find an answer to that question within herself.
It was so bad that she felt like this may have been the first time in her life as an empty Artificial Spirit where she’d been at such a loss with herself.
Echidna: […It’s nothing. More importantly, is it true? That you managed to find a way through Reid Astrea’s violence… and passed the Second Floor’s “Trial” before?]
Emilia: [Yeah, it is. It’s reaaally hard to explain now that you’ve forgotten.]
Emilia gave her an adorable puff of her cheeks. But, the fact of the matter was, she was embarrassed by how she’d beaten the “trial” of that man, who was the very picture of “violence” itself.
Echidna never for one moment imagined that she’d be lying in this situation. Despite only knowing her for a short time, Echidna could tell that her nature wasn’t suited to telling fibs. So everything must have been true. It’d only been for a few moments, but judging by how she’d stood up against the giant scorpion on the balcony, there was no doubt that she was quite the capable fighter.
So, the only remaining issue was…
Echidna: [So, you can find a way to fix this situation if you go up to the very top of the tower. What’s your basis for that?]
Emilia: [Subaru told me that he heard what the fifth rule was from Shaula. Plus, Subaru’s thought long and hard about this before coming up with the idea, so I’m pretty sure it’s the right way to go about things.]
Echidna: [To me that seems like an idea based on excessive blind faith, but…]
Emilia: [If you’re still full of doubts, we can address them, but I don’t think now’s the time for it… That, and didn’t you come here with me because you believe in Subaru as well?]
Echidna was lost for words as Emilia turned her crystal-clear eyes over to her. Seeing Echidna’s reaction, Emilia gave her a smile that was tinged with delight, even if it seemed a tad out of place.
Emilia: [You see, my esteemed knight is reaaaally giving it his all for us.]
Emilia showed with her attitude that she was proud of the fact that their hard work was being appreciated. In response to that, Echidna likewise felt an odd pang of emotion. She placed her palm over Anastasia’s flat chest and breathed out a sigh.
“These sorts of emotions are dangerous”, Echidna warned herself.
They were completely irrational and out of place. At the very least, it wasn’t something she ought to feel at a time like this. She needed to forget them if she could, and if not, then at the very least she should forget them for the time being.
Emilia: […Subaru’s relying on me!]
Echidna felt, amongst other things, envious of her. She, who believed so, so much in her companion, who was that much closer to her.
“I need to forget this present moment and focus on overcoming the situation we’re in”, Echidna thought to herself.
Emilia’s long legs moved gracefully as she flew up the stairs. Then, after they’d climbed up what should have been quite a lot of steps, a tremendous flash of silver came into view, scattering sparks everywhere.
With their vision now unobstructed, they saw a battle unfolding wherever they looked. With his lilac hair aflutter, and white uniform stained with blood, stood Julius Euculius.
And, the person he was up against was…
Julius: [Gh, khh…!]
???: [Whoawhoawhoawhoawhoa! Doesn’ look like ya can do anythin’ about me like that, ya prick. Don’t go underestimatin’ me, ya prick. Did ya come here to mess about? If ya wanna mess about then go put on some makeup. When ya do, I’m gonna step on ya, bully ya and ruffle ya about, ya damn prick.]
The very embodiment of violence, Reid Astrea, let loose a nightmarish slash with the pair of chopsticks he held in his hands as he swore. He was dancing a danse macabre, with the second floor as his stage.
Theirs was a battle that transcended what humanity could fathom; even so, the fact that Julius was far inferior in strength to him was something that was so sadly obvious, that it could be grasped instantly, even to the untrained eye.
Dealing with the flurry of slashes and kicks coming from Reid, Julius countered by spinning his Knight Sword around and thrusting it into one of the gaps.
His sharp thrust derived from extraordinary technique seemed to be nothing more than a blur of light. Yet Reid easily avoided it with a yawn, and that was with his eyepatch blocking part of his sight.
Julius looked on, stunned that Reid had avoided his thrust. Immediately afterwards, a casual-looking kick slammed into Julius’ torso, with the soles of his zōri digging straight into his abdominal muscles. Julius took a few steps back and let out a pained cry.
Then, a blow from one of his chopsticks dropped down towards his head…
Reid: [Get pulverised, ya prick.]
With a vertical flash, his slash, which came with a shockwave, cut through the air, space and reason itself.
His sword slash was so overwhelming that ways to even express it no longer came to their minds. It was so beautiful, that even though his weapon had been a chopstick, one couldn’t help but be captivated by it, even if they were an amateur at swordplay―― It was the pinnacle of swordplay, the very culmination of it which was what was being manifested there.
A slash so beautiful, that you would probably die from just admiring it.
Julius leapt aside, dodging it. The hem of his cloak didn’t make it in time and was swallowed by Reid’s blade, evaporating. A vertical groove was left carved into the second floor of the watchtower, which was made of unknown materials, as if it were all a jape.
And to make matters worse…
Reid: [Heyheyhey, arent’cha bein’ naive if yer thinkin’ you’ve escaped with that?]
Giving him a mocking smile, the air he’d cut through in the room warped and bent, with a gust of wind starting to roar.
Julius, who should have managed to jump aside, gulped, and then was instantly dragged back to his feet, as if he were being pulled back towards the torn space – back into the range of Reid’s sword slashes.
To their disbelief, this was due to the force of gravity from the torn space restoring itself. It was pulling Julius back after his narrow brush with death straight into the range of the next blow.
Reid began to throw a punch at Julius, unable to move due to what was happening…
Emilia: […That’s enough.]
A split second before he released his punch, the sound of a chiming silver bell interjected between the two swordsmen.
However, in contrast to the beautiful chime of her voice, the way she’d joined the fight was rather audacious. Echidna became lost for words, faced with that extreme spectacle in front of her.
Reid looked up above him, unable to conceal the suspicion in his voice. Julius on the other hand opened his eyes wide in surprise, utterly speechless.
They were looking at the strange thing that had appeared above them―― A block of ice that was so big that it covered the ceiling.
This block of destruction that could instantly shatter even a Dragon Carriage into smithereens fell down towards the two swordsmen.
Reid and Julius’ reactions were contrastingly different. Julius leapt away to avoid the hurtling ice block, while Reid curved his lips up into a smile and laughed.
With a fierce smile on his face, Reid thrust up one of his chopsticks at the falling block of ice. His raised chopstick collided with the point of fall of the block. By some miracle, the forces between the two points stood at an equilibrium with each other, causing Reid’s chopstick to bend, but preventing its fall.
Reid stamped his zōri down firmly onto the floor; the force of it travelled through his chopstick and flowed into the ice block which was still being held up by said chopstick. A crack began to run up the block as his chopstick snapped in half.
Reid: […Now wasn’ that somethin’]
Reid spat those words out, and a split second later, the block of ice with a crack running through its centre, shattered in the blink of an eye.
Chunks of ice began to rain down, and while basking in them, Reid slowly turned himself around. Receiving the piercing gaze from his blue, uncovered eye, Emilia pointed her palm at him, with a look of resolve setting in on her face.
Their gazes crossed each other’s, causing Reid to ogle at her in surprise.
Reid: [Yer a real feisty one, ain’tcha. It’s not like I dislike women like you, but… Huh!? What the hell, ya twat, yer really damn hot ain’tcha!? One helluva smokin’ hottie! Why the hell’s there such a smokin’ hottie in the middle of this sand sea! C’mon, yer gonna be my opponent, ya twat]
Emilia: [My apologies, I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I do need to get Julius to beat you…]
Emilia paid no heed to Reid’s egoistic talk, and instead continued with a troubled look appearing on her face. Reid frowned at what she had said, but Julius was the one who was far more bewildered, having just been rescued.
Though he’d managed to escape from the block of ice that Emilia had unleashed, he couldn’t hide his suspicion towards the fact that she’d suddenly appeared. Keeping himself at a distance from Reid, he turned his yellow eyes to look over at Echidna, who was standing beside her, and spoke,
Julius: [I get that she helped me, but… who on earth is she Echidna?]
Echidna: [It’s kinda hard for me to explain her identity. But, if I may put it simply, she’s someone who’s in the same boat as you Julius.]
Julius: [What the…?]
Julius stared at Emilia once again, with his eyes widening slightly, probably because her features coincided with a being he knew about.
Julius: [A silver-haired, amethyst eyed elf… No, I find it hard to believe that such a distinctive being would have suddenly turned up in the tower. Then, could it be that she’s…]
In light of the situation in the tower, as well as the peculiarities of her appearance, and the fact that her presence was nowhere to be found within him, Julius felt, out of his own accord, that something was not quite right.
Julius came to the answer by himself. Seeing his startled eyes, Emilia gave him a firm nod.
Emilia: [Julius, right now I know exactly how you feel.]
Julius: [Then you indeed are…]
Given that they’d both had their “names” snatched away by Gluttony, Julius immediately grasped what was going on. And as soon as he did, his conviction that Emilia was their ally appeared to grow.
He stood in front of both Echidna and Emilia, protecting them, once again pointing his sword at Reid.
Julius: [You have my thanks for helping me out earlier. But I still don’t quite get why you two have come rushing here considering what’s going on in the tower. What’s happening with the “Taygeta” library, and with Miss Rem and the situation outside?]
Echidna: [There’s an attempt underway to try and bring all these matters together so to deal with them all at once. The idea is Natsuki-kun’s, and the ones helping him with it are all of us in the tower.]
Julius: [It’s Subaru’s? But he’s…]
A puzzled frown appeared on Julius’ face as he heard Subaru’s name wedged in the middle of her explanation.
As far as he knew, Subaru should have faced Reid’s “Book of the Dead” in the “Taygeta” library, and his consciousness should have been in a state of disarray from his return. Beatrice had told him that his return had been difficult, thus, Julius had continued to fight against Reid so that they could overcome the turmoil in the tower in his own way.
Therefore, even if she was saying Subaru had woken up and came up with this idea, you could say it was only natural that there was no real link between spontaneity and recognition. Nevertheless…
Reid: [I haven’ got anythin’ against y’all gettin’ all chummy with each other, but don’t ya pricks go jabberin’ away while ignorin’ me!]
The floor exploded with a loud bang, resulting in Julius receiving a blow from the intruding Reid’s chopstick. Although he’d lost one chopstick, he still had another one left. And it wasn’t like he had to use them. Even if he just fought empty handed, it wasn’t like his strength was going to diminish.
While buffeted by Reid’s sharp attacks, Julius rallied himself and focused on keeping his desperate defence up. Seeing that, Reid unleashed a blow with one of his hands that could have literally felled even a dragon. At the same time, he stuck out his spare hand at Emilia as she searched for an opening, thrusting his fingers out at her.
Reid: [I ain’t got a clue what yer tryin’ to pull off, but I don’t think I’m gonna let you do as ya please, ya twat. I’m gonna be your opponent after I’m done dealing with this novice… Huh?]
Reid abruptly tilted his head in doubt mid-sentence. He then brought his fingers of his spare hand to his eyepatched left eye and spat out a venomous tirade of: [HeyHeyHeyHey]’s.
Reid: [The hell, ya twat. For some reason my hand ain’t movin’ to stop ya. Unless I’ve like suddenly become smitten by ya… No way, ya must have passed the “Trial”!]
Emilia: [Yeah, I did! You lost because you touched my chest with your chopsticks!]
Reid: [Kah! Now that’s one way of losing that I can really get behind! What a huge waste that I can’t even remember it, ya smokin’ hottie!]
Reid clucked his tongue. His words indicated that there was some shackle on him that wouldn’t let him stop Emilia. In other words, it meant that the obstruction standing in between her and her duty was now gone.
Emilia: [Julius, I…]
Julius: [You may go my lovely lady; you, who like me, are of unknown name.]
Turning only his head around, he interrupted Emilia as she was about to say something. Seeing his Knight Sword now held at the ready again, Emilia kept her silence at his words.
Seeing the surprise on her face, Julius gave her a gallant smile,
Julius: [You have your duty to carry out. I know it’s something I won’t be able to help you with, but that’s fine with me. ――I pray everything goes well.]
Emilia: […Yeah, for you too!]
Receiving Julius’ encouragement, Emilia nodded at him and then broke out into a run. Reid didn’t make any attempt at stopping her. The one-eyed red lion let her pass by him and saw her off.
Then, as Emilia reached the front of the staircase in the innermost part of the second floor that would lead the way up, she stopped in her tracks and turned around,
Emilia: [It’s Emilia.]
Emilia: [My name is Emilia, just Emilia. ――I’ll definitely see you again later!]
Leaving her name behind, Emilia ran up the stairs with an air of elegance about her. Echidna let out a long, long sigh as she watched her disappear from sight.
From here on out, Emilia’s duty was to head to the top. So, Echidna’s duty was to…
Julius: [You’re not going anywhere? Are you planning on watching me fight?]
Echidna: [Only if you’ll let me do so… Well, no, I suppose not. I’m the one who’s decided to do that.]
Julius glanced towards Echidna, who was standing by the wall, and then pursed his lips together. She took a quick gasp of air as she witnessed all kinds of emotions flitting across the profile of his face.
Echidna: [It’s not like I can do anything, but if Ana were here, she would have probably done this. No matter where I am in this tower, I will always be subject to danger. Given that, I shall stand behind you out of my own volition. Because…]
Echidna: […Because you are Anastasia Hoshin’s knight. Isn’t that right?]
It took a tremendous amount of courage to believe in something that didn’t feel real.
It was nigh impossible to grasp just how much strength it took to believe in something that had no concrete basis, to the point that it would make her feel relieved; at least when compared to believing in something that was actually tangible.
Regardless, Echidna spoke those words to the man before her eyes, his back facing away from her, while believing in that uncertainty.
Julius lowered his long-lashed eyes in response and softly let out a deep, long sigh.
Julius: [You’re able to give me more strength than you give yourself credit for. Merely from the fact that someone went and summoned their courage to believe, and hold expectations, in a me who may not be anyone anymore.]
For Julius, the footing he’d lost had become uncertain.
For Echidna, the bonds which she was supposed to know had become ambiguous.
The two of them had to rely on something so shaky to build this relationship which altogether differed to the one that they should have been bound by. Nevertheless, at this very moment, the two of them must have surely been seeing the same thing.
So for that reason…
Echidna: […Julius, I have a message for you.]
Julius: [A message?]
Echidna: [Yeah. Everyone’s fighting all over the tower, so… he said to “Hurry your ass and settle things here, then come help the others”]
Echidna could tell that this was his kind of encouragement, thus she conveyed it to him exactly as she’d heard. Julius’ slender shoulders tensed slightly after he heard it.
He digested the contents of the message and took it on board. His response following it was loud and clear.
It almost seemed like he’d let out a short, sharp gasp of air, but it wasn’t like that at all.
He’d let out a laugh. He’d breathed out a single gasp of air from the pit of his stomach to wheeze out that laugh.
The fact that Julius Euculius was facing battle with a smile on his face would have been a thing to marvel about, had there been anyone here who knew Julius.
Julius: […If he’s broken out of his shell, then I mustn’t lose here either.]
His expression of determination was quiet, yet full of hidden zeal.
Julius raised his Knight Sword in front of him and faced his foe, reflecting himself in his blade. Reid had been lodging a bored look on his face for a while… But now, he was grinning like a shark.
Reid: [Ya really kicked into gear, didn’t ya, ya prick.]
Julius: [Pardon me, but when it comes to fighting, I always take it seriously.]
Reid: [Nono, that ain’t what I mean. You get it right? Even if I don’t spell it out for ya, ya prick.]
Reid lifted his left hand up with a grin still plastered on his face. He flipped his eyepatch up and uncovered his eye. Thus, with his perfectly functioning blue eyes, the peak of all swordsmen pointed his cheerful murderous intent towards his challenger.
His sword spirit was so formidable that anyone faint of heart would have been killed by the glint in his eyes alone. However, Julius met that sharp glint of his head-on, and Echidna behind him likewise braced herself and endured it.
Seeing the two of them endure the raging storm of his sword spirit, Reid loudly clacked his fangs together.
Reid: [I am the “Stick Swinger” Reid. Remember only my name, before you disappear.]
Exchanging one’s name in battle before crossing swords was a sign of recognising a warrior as their equal. There was no knowing how much Reid really cared about that norm, but regardless of what he thought, the considerations of the person who’d basked in that had changed dramatically.
Julius took a breath and prepared himself, stilling his raging heart.
Julius: [I shall give you my name once again. I am Julius Euculius. One and only knight to Anastasia Hoshin-sama, who stands as a Royal Selection Candidate in the Kingdom of Lugunica. ――It’s time for me to give up acting the part of a nameless knight.]
He magnificently proclaimed his “name” so that it would be engraved in both he, and the world itself.
Leaving behind Julius and Echidna downstairs, Emilia continued to run up the steps.
Her long legs were moving as fast as she could muster, skipping up the stairs two or three steps at a time. Though the speed she was going at was inordinate, her own thoughts were screaming at her to go faster and faster.
Emilia strongly gritted her teeth; a look of desperation was adorning her beautiful face in profile.
She was worried about the two she’d left behind downstairs on the second floor. Reid was extremely strong, foulmouthed and a thug to boot. The two of them could easily get hurt both physically and mentally dealing with him.
Naturally Emilia’s worries didn’t just stop at Julius and Echidna. Would Subaru, Beatrice and Meili manage to keep Shaula in check? Would Ram be able to play her part too? Would Patrasche keep guard over Rem?
Her anxieties, such as whether she was going to have to rebuild all her relationships from scratch with her “name” eaten, were never-ending. She felt like she was going to burst into tears if she took a moment to stop.
However, she didn’t stop. She didn’t shed any tears either. She endured the tingling-sensation at the back of her throat.
Emilia: [Nothing is over yet after all…!]
The fact that they believed in her, and that they were able to believe in her, was what was propping Emilia’s entirety up right now.
She was full of worries, brimming with anxiety, but she was also full of “I believe in you”’s, which trumped over those emotions.
Emilia: […hk! There’s a light!]
As she continued to pour her heart and soul in running up the stairs, Emilia’s amethyst eyes caught a glimpse of a white glow at the far end of her field of view. She realised that it was coming from the end of this extremely long staircase, and that it would lead to the unknown first floor.
The moment she comprehended that, she firmly kicked off from the floor and sped up even more.
Emilia: […I made it out!]
Emilia broke through into the light, where the staircase had ended in front of her. What unfurled itself before her eyes that instant wasn’t an area that you could call a “floor”.
Emilia stopped in her tracks, completely flabbergasted, and unintentionally let out her surprise at the scene she was faced with. Reflected in her amethyst eyes, was not the next part of the familiar watchtower she’d come to expect.
The walls had disappeared, as had the ceiling; spread out all around her lay the vibrant blue sky―― Emilia wasn’t standing inside the building, but rather, she was outside. She’d ended up emerging right on the rooftop at the top of the tower after running up the second floor’s stairs.
Emilia: [The first floor’s outside…? This place is up even higher than the clouds…]
There was a vast, circular floor at the summit of the tower with no other partitions or anything that looked like a handrail at its edge. Therefore, she could easily look down below by going over to the edge of the floor.
Clouds which should have been far above in the sky were brushing against the tower. Emilia’s breath caught as she realised she’d come all the way up to the clouds, or was even above them.
It was the first time Emilia had ever come to a place as high as this. However, despite receiving such a shock, she was quickly distracted by another profound emotion.
…There was a presence there, that she hadn’t been able to notice on account of how still and grand it kept itself.
Emilia had been busy looking at stuff like where she was, the height of the clouds and what the situation was like on the first floor. She’d been late in noticing the being that had swept past the corner of her eyes. She slowly turned around and let out a large gasp.
Even though Emilia had almost fallen into despair from being forgotten by the world with her “name” being taken from her, her heart had still stood firm in the end. ――But even that Emilia was lost for words in sheer awe.
The “being” that had appeared before her eyes was utterly beyond the pale of her imagination.
Because that being was…
???: [――Thou, who hath reached the top of the tower. Step forth through the first floor, almighty petitioner.]
Its voice was solemn, and it felt like it was being roared directly into her soul. She realised that her voice was trembling.
Was there anyone who could fault Emilia and call her weak-minded? No one would be able to. It would be impossible. Because all living creatures had no choice but to prostrate themselves before this being.
Because this being’s name was…
???: [――I, am Volcanica. In accordance with the ancient covenant, I ask the will of thee who hath reached the summit.]
With his huge body covered in glittering blue scales, the “Divine Dragon” Volcanica looked down upon Emilia and declared that while exerting a presence that seemed like it would blow even her very soul out of existence.
Outside of the tower, commenced the battle of Shaula, who had transformed into the titanic scorpion, against Subaru and the rest.
In the second floor of the tower, the sword play of the grinning wielder of violence, Reid Astrea and Julius reopened.
On the first floor of the tower, Emilia achieved an unforeseen encounter with the mighty existence awaiting there.
And, on the spiral staircase connecting the fourth floor and sixth floor of the towerーー,
???: [A~h, damn it ~tsu! Even after stealing it and everything, it just feels like not having put it to decent use, doesn’t it, gee~z us!]
Spitting away in irritation, the young boy clicked his tongue whilst tearing at his dark brown hair. Upon swinging down the hand scratching his head, what had been generated therein was a beautiful, ornate sword shaped with ice.
With the stolen “Name” as the foundation, it was a special power which he had reconstructed, but contrary to its appearance its regulation of Mana was exquisitely arduous, and was quite difficult to use jointly with other “Memories”. In the first place, combining the skills of multiple others required a suitable sense, and that was something which Roy and Louis were maladroit at.
???: [We~ll, it’s because we excel in it that we are so able, but you kno~w.]
Even within the trio of siblings possessing the Authority of ”Gluttony”, each one’s way of using the Authority subtly differed. Amongst them, as one who took pride in being “Gourmet”, the points he would like to object to in his younger brother and sister’s ways weren’t few. ーーFortes connected to sense of superiority. Though something like advice, was unbefitting of him.
???: [The message won’t get across to dear cute Louis, or that chap Roy…… a~h, it can’t be helped ~tsu! If the two of them are saying they can’t do anything then it can’t be helped! That means that we can thoroughly lick the feasts present inside this tower down to the roots ~tsu! How nice, so nice, quite nice, very nice, as it’s nice, it certainly is nice, surely it is nice, surely it must be nice, as it must be nice! Gluttonous drinking ~tsu! Gluttony ~tsu!]
Crunching the sword of ice in his hand, with his sharp fangs unraveled, “Gluttony” ーー Ley Batenkaitos decided to itemize all of the targets inside the tower for his own platter, without leaving a single one.
Fortunately, the situation had been served. What remained was to simply select the order, and what was to be the main courseーー,
???: [ーーDo you think you have the privilege to be choosing that? How very easygoing.]
Upon the voice descending from the top of the spiral staircase, Ley seized chewing the ice, and raised his head. Overhead, on the fourth floor were light crimson eyes looking at Ley, who was standing on the staircase between the fourth floor and the fifth floor.
With the same hue as blood or blaze, eyes with terribly icy heat, were looking down upon Ley’s ferocious hunger as if pitying.
Ram: [From what was said, it seems you were the one who tore apart Ram and Rem’s sisterly love, isn’t it. ーーKindly die whilst baying like a pig.]