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Translated By :
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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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Beatrice: [――Listen, Subaru, I suppose. From now on, you need to understand that you’re always on the verge of death, in fact.]
Subaru: [Hey hey, this little girl-sama made a joke that’s quite unamusing.]
Beatrice: [Betty is not a little girl, and it’s not a joke either, I suppose! You need to take Betty seriously, in fact!]
As Beatrice said so with a reddened face, Subaru nodded with a “Got it, got it.”
He was sitting on the speckless carpet with his legs folded underneath him, in the middle of receiving a lecture from Beatrice-sensei, who was crossing her short arms, but it was simply going nowhere.
It was mainly because Subaru was butting into the lecture between her brief pauses, but――,
Subaru: [It’s all because of Beako’s cuteness. It’s not good……]
Beatrice: [Betty thought you finally put on a straight face, but what are you talking about, in fact!? ……Well, it’s common knowledge that Betty is cute, so that can’t be helped by now, I suppose……]
Subaru: [Your dere index is tremendous right after we got over the event……]
Beatrice: [You’re going too far in pulling the rug out from under Betty!]
Beatrice stomped on the ground, making her anger known to him. Her current attitude looked like it hadn’t changed from before, but on the other hand, Subaru’s feelings were largely different.
Until now, they had often clashed over their ideas and opinions, and she had the impression of a kitten in a neighborhood that didn’t warm up to him easily. However, to Subaru, the current Beatrice was――,
Subaru: [Like an adorable pet cat that I want to spend time with by burying my face into its stomach.]
Beatrice: [Take! Betty! Seriously! I suppose!]
Murmuring that out with deep emotion, he was then sent flying by Beatrice, who had held out her hand towards him. As he stuck to the wall before crumpling down onto the floor, Beatrice gave him an exasperated shrug of her shoulders.
Beatrice: [Don’t make Betty repeat herself, in fact. This is an important thing to talk about, I suppose. It’s something that’s really dangerous if you missed hearing it, in fact. ――It’s about the problem with your gate, I suppose.]
Subaru: [……It’s about my gate, huh.]
He lifted up his body abruptly, sitting down cross-legged right on the spot where he had fallen.
Placing a gentle hand against his chest, he thought about the organ that was on the inside ― something that he couldn’t see with his eyes, nor touch it either.
Gates were an important organ that existed within living things, utilized in order to use magic in the world that had differing ideas from Subaru’s common sense. Whether it was of decent quality or not apparently had to do with one’s aptitude for being a magic user, and in Subaru’s case, the quality of his gate hadn’t been very good.
“Hadn’t been”, because his gate was already lost and gone.
Beatrice: [To be specific, you didn’t lose it. You broke it, in fact.]
Subaru: [It’s because I used it recklessly even after being told to not use it. Oh well, the next time I see Ferris, I’m going to get far more than a huge scolding. I went ahead and ruined all the treatment he gave me.]
Beatrice: [Congratulations on your newfound worries, I suppose…… A “next time” for this isn’t guaranteed, in fact.]
It was the outcome of completely ignoring Ferris’s advice, who had been in charge of restoring Subaru’s gate that had been strained from being overused. He shrunk out of fear, certain that Ferris would be angry with him with the ferocity of an oni, but there was a look in Beatrice’s eyes that implied the situation was graver than it seemed.
Beatrice: [As a result of your broken gate, you became unable to release your mana properly, I suppose. Even with that, mana will keep being produced, or absorbed for as long as you live, continuing to accumulate in your body, in fact. But, because you don’t have a way to get it out……]
Subaru: [Surely you won’t say that I’ll be filled up with mana and burst apart?]
Subaru: [Wha, Beatrice-san!? It scares me when you become quiet!]
Subaru raised his voice when she averted her eyes, falling silent with an uneasy expression on her face. Seeing that he looked like he was finally paying serious attention to what she had to say, Beatrice raised a finger with a “Listen,”
Beatrice: [In all seriousness, your perception of it is correct, in fact. If things go on like this, your physical condition will deteriorate from the mana that gradually builds up in your body, and you’ll eventually go “boom” from the muddied mana, I suppose.]
Subaru: [So scary! Is there a way to do something about it!?]
Beatrice: [That’s where Betty comes in, in fact. Fortunately, Betty made a contract with you…… Subaru, and we connected ourselves to each other through our souls, I suppose. Just as Betty said, Betty is a little bit different from other Spirits, and requires receiving mana from other people, in fact. That means……]
Subaru: [――You’ll do something about the mana that’s piling up in my body, for me!]
Hearing Beatrice’s idea, one that was like a home run which turned the tide of a baseball match, Subaru stood up vigorously and lifted up her small body in his arms.
He continued to hold her up in the air as she cried out a “Nh, kyah!?”, starting to spin around on the spot,
Subaru: [You’re amazing, Beako! Actually, I owe your existence so much, I feel like I can’t stand on equal ground with you! With this, we’re in the same boat in both name and reality!]
Beatrice: [I-it can’t just be settled as that, I suppose! From now on, you must remember that every time you sour Betty’s mood, your life is going to be as flimsy as a bunch of foam, in fact. If you don’t want to die, continue to put your heart and soul into getting on Betty’s good side, I suppose.]
Subaru: [Heh, so you’re telling me to keep giving it my all in being affectionate with you. If anything, it depends on how long you can continue being spectacular and dazzling. That’s a big responsibility on your shoulders, Beako.]
Beako: [Why does Betty need to be told that, in fact! Betty can’t accept it, I suppose!]
Subaru kept spinning around while he listened to Beatrice’s red-faced shouting, with her still held up in his arms.
Spinning around, round and round.
Round and round, and round and round, and round and round――,
Like that, the sensation of his field of view being spun around suddenly came to an end, and his consciousness was awakened.
The agony he was suffering through just before, something similar to the feeling of drowning had vanished without warning, and Subaru was assaulted by the pain of the unbalanced rhythm of his breathing, as well as the size of the ground that he felt on his back.
Subaru: [――k, ah, ghagh,]
He sat up while rubbing his throat, retracing his memories of what happened to himself.
At the same time, when he glanced at the center of his chest, he didn’t see the arrow that was supposed to be sticking out from there. Aside from it, the scratches he had gotten from scraping his body against the trees had also disappeared.
It was only natural it turned out like this. His chest had been pierced by that single, frightening blow.
Subaru: [I… died……]
Experiencing a vague sensation which felt like the ground was crumbling away from under his feet, Subaru’s blood ran cold as he shuddered.
As for the events which led to this, he was swallowed by the black shadow at the Pleiades Watchtower, and only a few dozen minutes after he was whisked away from there――that was all it took for Subaru to lose his life.
Once again, he understood the severity of the position he was in, and stood up. Somehow managing to support his unsteady body, Subaru surveyed his surroundings.
Subaru: [Shit, this sucks……]
Confirming he was in the middle of a green, grassy plain that stretched far and wide, and also seeing the figure he wished would’ve stayed with him was nowhere to be found, Subaru cursed his misfortune.
This was unmistakably the grassland where he and the other two had been hurled to from the tower.
The problem was he couldn’t find Rem, who had been sent here together with him, and Louis was missing as well. To sum it up, the point in time where he had “Returned by Death” to was――,
Subaru: [After Rem choked me and made me pass out……!]
His restart point was the time after he had fallen unconscious, strangled by Rem who he had been carrying on his back.
It hadn’t brought him back far enough to make it so that Rem’s awakening never happened, and it also didn’t make it so that his final loop at the Pleiades Watchtower never existed, either. That in itself, was what Subaru wanted to say was good news.
Or, if he had been able to return to the final loop at the tower, it wasn’t like he didn’t hope for the possibility that he could’ve exchanged words with the missing Rem, a hope which only lasted for a fleeting moment, but――,
Subaru: [Am I an idiot? No, I am an idiot.]
If he bore the feelings of regret to such a large extent, he should’ve made more time for her while he could still afford to come into contact with her, while he still had the time to speak to her, and while he was still graced with the opportunity to listen to her about how she felt.
To Natsuki Subaru, who hadn’t done so, he had no right to be lamenting in that manner.
Anyhow, right now――,
Subaru: [――I’ll find Rem.]
He had to chase after the runaway girl, and he had to clear up her misunderstandings.
If the reason for Rem’s escape was the Witch’s miasma that encircled him, then since he had just “Returned by Death”, the intensity of the smell had probably gotten stronger.
It was very likely that she would heed his words even less compared to before. However, the one year Natsuki Subaru had spent wasn’t so meaningless, to the point he would give up on her because of something like that.
Subaru: [Also, there’s the one who killed me…… Though, the arrow shouldn’t be an attack from Rem.]
The worst case scenario would be Rem launching an attack on him, which was a possibility that existed, but he couldn’t imagine her being able to gather the tools she needed to do so in such a short time.
Even more so, a bow and arrow was something that couldn’t be prepared so easily and quickly.
Subaru: [The arrow that pierced into me had an arrowhead, and it also had feathers attached to it…… Might’ve been because it punched through my heart, but I didn’t feel too much pain. Even though……]
If Rem were to be struck by the heavy-hitting, powerful arrow that was fired from the bow, then she wouldn’t stand a chance against it even with her strength.
Since she was unable to move her legs around freely, it would be difficult for her escape to succeed. At any risk, Subaru had to rescue her out of this place before she fell victim to the arrow.
Even if the amnesiac Rem didn’t consider him as an ally, that was.
Subaru: [Time to go, Natsuki Subaru. ――Show ‘em how great you can be.]
Slapping his cheeks, what he temporarily dismissed from his mind was the shock of “death” from just before, and the sorrow he felt from being disliked by the girl that was important to him. It was unknown if he could join her even if he found her, but finding her came first before anything else.
Being woeful and being angry, were all things that could be done while one was alive.
Letting out a deep breath, in the same way as he had done previously, Subaru trailed after the footprints that he deduced Rem had followed, judging by the grass that was tipping downwards, and jumped into the forest.
However, he was undecided on the decision of whether he should raise his voice loudly while looking for her, or not.
He had gone through an initiation process courtesy of the arrow, probably because the enemy came across Subaru while he was defenseless.
Whoever they were, their identity and objective were both obscure, but it was difficult to think of them as an amicable person, seeing they aimed to kill him with a single blow. There would be “death” if they found him. He should regard them as that kind of enemy.
Subaru: [But, since they’re using tools…… a bow and arrow, It’s not a Witchbeast, but it’s a human I’m up against.]
If his opponent was a human, then there was a chance he could get out of this situation without trying to kill each other, depending on how he negotiated with them. Although, he didn’t know if they would even sit at the table of negotiations to start with.
For the most part, in the total number of times Subaru had “Returned by Death” so far, the percentage of his deaths that were caused by humans and Witchbeasts seemed like it was leaning slightly towards humans.
Just because his opponent was a human who could understand what he was saying, didn’t mean he thought he could blindly form friendly relations between them.
He did think the likelihood of finding Rem would increase, if there were more people that were looking for her, but――,
Subaru: [――Cor Leonis.]
Shutting his eyes, Subaru drove away his rambling thoughts, activating the Authority that rested within himself.
The brand new power which demonstrated its fierceness in the Pleiades Watchtower, “Cor Leonis” was a probing skill that enabled him to detect the locations of his companions, those who would support the “Little King”.
Using this, Subaru desperately clung onto the hope that he could pinpoint where Rem was at.
Subaru: [……It’s no good, there’s no reaction. She might’ve gone far away from me, or if that’s not it… is it because she doesn’t think of me as an ally?]
Little was known about the exact range of “Cor Leonis”, but Subaru didn’t see the pale light which indicated his allies in the area where the ability took effect.
Thinking of the cause of being unable to detect their locations, Subaru came up with the distance between them and his relationships with them.
Emilia and the others had once been the targets of its effects, but he currently couldn’t perceive them at all. Even if he personally knew both Reid and Gluttony, he didn’t know their locations as well.
He was certainly able to ascertain the activation of “Cor Leonis.”
If he were to say it, his ally radar was turned on, although it was in a nonreactive state. The reason why it became like that would be because Emilia and the others were outside of its range of effect, and Rem, who was supposed to be inside of its scope, didn’t place Subaru under her category of allies.
――The fact he also didn’t know the location of Louis, who was acting in unison to Rem, attested to his theory.
Subaru: [There’s no way I’ll ever treat her as an ally. It’s why she won’t appear on my radar that has my one-sided love for Rem.]
Coming to this point, Subaru regretted the poor communication that had occurred when he came into contact with Rem.
Since he was wrapped around in the Witch’s miasma, he was unsure of which words he could’ve chosen to say would’ve won over her trust. Despite that, even if he were to be deceitful, he was unable to say anything pertaining to protecting Louis nor bringing her along with them.
Subaru: [Shit, dammit…… why……!? Rem finally… finally woke up, so why do I have to……]
Play tag with her like this?
He had been waiting eagerly for the day Rem could stand up and move around freely on her own two legs, but when she actually sprang into motion like this, Subaru couldn’t help but resent it.
If he thought about who he should loathe as a result, all it did was make his anger surge up, directed towards the Sin Archbishops of Gluttony, involving Louis as well.
Keeping the thoughts in his mind that were going around in circles, Subaru gingerly moved through the forest.
He kept his body lowered as he walked because of the person that killed him once――he would be referring to them as a “hunter” since it was more convenient, but it was a desperate measure he took in order to avoid making contact with the hunter.
Subaru thought he should do something more, such as rubbing mud on his face, camouflaging his clothes with leaves, and applying the effects of deceptive colors onto himself, but he unfortunately couldn’t spend his time on those things.
If he at least precisely knew how much time passed after he was separated from Rem, his search for her would be getting somewhere.
Subaru: [Think, think…… It’s only during these times I can make use of my crafty mind. Rem forgot everything, and doesn’t remember. But, she still had the ability to hold me down and sense the Witch’s miasma. It means her episodic memories are missing.]
“Amnesia” often had an appearance in manga and games, but in most cases, the amnesia handled in these works corresponded to the lack of what were called episodic memories.
It was the same condition as Subaru, who lost his memories once in the tower as the consequence of coming across Gluttony ― no, that Subaru had only lost his memories which were made after arriving at the different world, so Rem wasn’t exactly in the same state as him, but it was something similar to that.
In other words, she was in a state where she knew the names of things, and she also remembered the reflexive actions absorbed into her body, but she lost the memories of her own name and the names of other people, as well as any details that tied into her recollections of the time she spent with them.
The evidence of Rem calling herself “I”, and being instinctively on her guard against Subaru because of the scent, was proof of that.
Subaru: [She must be confused. She can’t keep running away forever. If she separated herself from me to some extent, then she’ll make some time to calm down and reflect on herself. Even more so, if she took Louis with her.]
It was stupid of him to pray for such a thing, but he just wanted to wish Louis would be a grand hinderance and get in the way of Rem’s escape.
Throwing tantrums, refusing to walk sometimes, and continuing to cause Rem a lot of trouble, a chance for him to catch up to Rem would eventually come around if those things happened.
Or, it was also okay if Rem forsook her.
If Rem decided she wouldn’t be able to look after her because she couldn’t handle her, that could also――,
Subaru: [……Actually, I don’t know about that.]
He didn’t know if Rem would abandon Louis, seeing that she at least looked like a helpless infant.
Losing her episodic memories and being nobody in a sense, it could be said Rem didn’t have the inferiority complex she had from interacting with Ram, nor the establishment of her own identity.
Despite losing the existence of Rem, it was abnormal how Ram could remain stable, with there being no changes. He wondered if the same thing would happen to Rem.
She wasn’t sisters with Ram, her inferiority complex and her pride as a member of the Oni Clan was irrelevant to her, and she thought nothing of Natsuki Subaru. That Rem――,
As soon as he imagined it, Subaru felt a burning sensation in his chest, and took a large, mighty step forward.
The twigs he took his emotions out on by stepping on them creaked before snapping, and he leaned forward while walking around the tall grass that sat in front of him, nearly slipping on the muddy ground,
Unexpectedly, the forest had opened up into a different terrain, and Subaru found he had exited out of it into another grassy plain.
Thinking he might’ve gone around the forest in circles, only to end up in the same place, the color drained from Subaru’s face. However, when he observed the area attentively, he realized it wasn’t the case.
It was similar to the first grassland, but the height of the grass beneath his feet were different.
Compared to the grassy plain at the beginning, the grass here was slightly taller. Adding to it, that place was completely surrounded by forests at a 360 degree angle, but this area only had the forest Subaru had rushed out of.
In front of him with the forest at his back, he could see a large horizon between the rifts in the grassland. The sky looked terribly far away and high up in the air, and the illusion of mysteriously feeling like he was being sucked into it was making the ground beneath him unsteady.
However, it wasn’t only the far away sky that caught his eye.
Closer and nearer to him than that, there was a small, open area created by cutting apart the grassland, and the camping tools placed over there ― in short, it was a sign of someone previously having been here.
Instantaneously, caution swelled and bubbled all over Subaru’s body, and his field of view was narrowed drastically.
Fortunately, there weren’t any silhouettes at the place he should refer to as a simple camping ground. Only the possible traces of someone camping out here remained, and it was hard to think of it as a trap.
The problem was about who exactly created this camping site.
Subaru: [The highest possibility for that is the one who killed me…… right?]
He thought about the hunter that brought him down. Upon proceeding to carry out a hunt in the forest, the odds of them setting this place as their base camp were high.
If it came to that, then Subaru should immediately move away from here, and ensure his own safety.
Whether he came across them in the forest or on a plain, there was no doubt the hunter was a dangerous individual.
It was often said that the Matagi  shot humans by accident because they mistook them for deer, but mistakenly shooting someone that was looking for their acquaintance while shouting loudly, because one confused them for a deer, was simply impossible when Subaru took their skills into consideration.
The hunter was a threatening enemy. He needed to conclude it as such before acting.
Subaru: [……If I could filch at least one knife.]
In order to march through the close-knit trees of what he should call a dense forest, Subaru wanted the assistance of a tool. Unfortunately, the only item which was currently in his possession was the whip he used regularly ― the Guiltywhip, crafted out of the materials from a powerful enemy.
His outfit, one that was for conquering the sandy sea, was kind of coming in handy for the conquering of the dense forest. Nevertheless, his situation would change drastically if he had even one bladed tool to cut up the trees so he could get a move on.
Therefore, things would go rather differently if he could obtain a single tool that was something like it.
Viewing it as such, Subaru finished his short period of contemplation, and walked towards the camping grounds.
He also had the choice to immediately make a quick turn and return to the forest, but considering what he was after, he wanted to avoid going back there empty-handed.
While paying attention to his footsteps and surroundings, Subaru entered the site.
Subaru: [There’s marks left from when they made a fire, and it’s shoddy, but…… is this a bed?]
He knew the traces of a burning fire were left in the center of the camp, and also that there was something which looked like a bed next to it, lined up with cut grass. There was no doubt someone had been living here.
The bed was empty as well, and it seemed like there was nothing else in the area, but――,
Subaru: [If I could just find a knife, or something like that――]
[――Huh, so you want a blade. Well, you have made your appearance at the right time.]
The moment Subaru tried to find a tool he could use, going on a brief search around the camp, he stopped as he heard a voice speak behind him and felt something cold being held to his neck.
His breath catching in his throat, upon lowering his gaze slowly, Subaru saw that the object raised against the right side of his neck was the blade of a sword, polished and refined beautifully.
Holding his breath, Subaru understood that he had given his opponent the right to decide whether to kill him or let him live.
However, his head was in a state of confusion because of the fact he had been spoken to from behind. ――He was cautious. He was cautious, with calculations thrown out of the window, because he was in a situation with his life on the line.
Of course, among the superhumans that lived in this other world, he knew there were people who could move at a speed his eyes couldn’t catch up to, and there were also people who could even pull off the likes of teleportation.
Subaru: [Did I really manage to roll one of the few exceptions here, at this time? ……How unlucky can I be?]
[Fool. Who said you could speak? You are to choose each and every one of your words with utmost care. Do not forget that your life is within our…… my hands.]
Even as Subaru cursed his own misfortune, there was no mercy in the voice of the person behind him.
Just as they said, they would probably immediately send his head flying if he tried anything funny. Feeling the indubitable, overpowering pressure asserting that things would definitely turn out like that, Subaru desperately tried to think of any ways he could make a breakthrough.
Judging from the voice, the person was a man.
Because he sounded quite young, he could be around the same age as Subaru, or slightly older. The way the man chose his words was peculiar, but it strangely didn’t feel odd to him.
And, more than anything――,
Man: [I see you are racking your brains in deep thought whilst your mouth remains closed. However, you are not thinking of throwing away your life and attempting to strike back…… Hm.]
The man had the insight that allowed him to discern the silent Subaru’s inward thoughts.
It seemed like he had considered something while looking at Subaru’s back, as he let out a breath that sounded like he was mulling over his thoughts, and,
Man: [You are dressed in a style that I do not see around these places. I do not believe it is suitable for the climate in Buddheim, either. Pale hands and feet…… you are not from the local area.]
Subaru: [I’m…… woah!]
Man: [Silence. Who said you could open your mouth? If you are to incur my displeasure next time, I would like to see you try speaking even after your head is separated from your body.]
The man had no intention of engaging in the conversation. Subaru was forced to realize it when a shallow cut was delivered to his neck.
Along with the pain from the prickling sensation, blood gradually spilled over the wound and trickled down his neck, but the man wasn’t finished yet with his examination of Subaru.
Man: [The whip at your waist is also extremely, terribly inconvenient to use in a forest. Your arms and legs are also somewhat trained, but it is not so much as to arrange you into the line of wolves…… It seems like you did not come here chasing after me.]
Man: [Why is it that you have fallen silent? If you would not explain yourself, would you rather die here?]
Subaru: [Eeh!? I’m allowed to speak this time!? Isn’t that unreasonable!?]
When Subaru protested against the man’s unfairness, the stern gaze boring into the back of his head became sharper.
Subaru stiffened, grasping that he said something unnecessary, but the rigidity of his body was finally loosened as the sword against his neck was drawn back.
Man: [――Turn around slowly. If you try anything funny,]
Subaru: [You’ll lop off my head?]
Man: [No. I will sever your limbs, gouge out your heart, and incinerate it in front of your eyes.]
Subaru: [A threat that’s way too evil!]
Subaru got the message of the threat from its intensity, raising both of his hands, and started turning around bit by bit while proving he had no intention to counterattack.
And then, he took his time to set his eyes on the man that managed to get behind him――,
Subaru: [……Are you serious?]
――He came face to face with the man in front of him, whose face was hidden behind a rag wrapped around it.
He really was a strange-looking man.
His height was only slightly above Subaru’s, and his physique looked vaguely slim. Showing his slender limbs as he stood, he held something similar to a saber or a rapier in his hand, a thin-bladed sword that had given a shallow slice to Subaru’s neck.
The outfit he wore consisted of noble-like clothes of excellent quality, and it could be said his style was more out of place than Subaru’s appearance. If he looked closely, he could see that the rag wrapped around his face might’ve been a cape.
Whether he sustained an injury on his face, or whether he simply didn’t want to show his face, it wasn’t clear why he wore the rag on his face, but――,
Masked man: [What is it? With your idiotic face.]
Subaru: [Setting it aside if you meant “idiotic look” by that, I was born with this face, so doesn’t it count as bad-mouthing me……? There’s this and that, but my reaction can’t be helped especially after looking at your appearance.]
Masked man: [You are making assumptions. I am also looking at your face, currently being once again suspicious if you are an assassin or not.]
Subaru: [People don’t get jobs assigned to them because of what their eyes look like! My role is just the exact opposite of an assassin in the first place. Rather than going on the offensive, I’m more of a defensive kind of guy.]
Without loosening up his vigilance, the man ― no, the masked man continued to point his sword at Subaru.
Responding to his voice that was laced with doubt, Subaru looked at the masked man’s equipment, and then at his baggage which was placed behind him, before furrowing his brow.
The man’s outfit, ill-suited for any camping or activity in the forest, had attracted Subaru’s attention, but what drew his focus more than it was the sack lying down behind him ― Subaru could only see it as something that materialized into the clearing without any warning, the same as the man that had appeared behind his back.
Adding to that, it was about the masked man’s equipment. ――He didn’t have a bow, nor did he have any arrows.
Subaru: [……It seems like you’re probably not the hunter.]
Masked man: [Hunter?]
Subaru: [It’s a personal matter. By the way…… are you able to do things like crossing a distance instantaneously, or becoming invisible… stuff like that?]
Masked man: [――――]
The moment he asked the question, the man’s black eyes, able to be seen from the gap in his mask, were narrowed.
However, the masked man’s reaction wasn’t one of anger nor one thinking of deserting him, but it was a reaction showing he took an interest in Subaru.
In fact, when the man let out a small sigh with a “Huh,”
Masked man: [Why have you reached an idea such as that? State your reasoning.]
Subaru: [……I was cautious of my surroundings before coming closer to this place, just in case. Of course, I know there’s tons of people who can tear through anything as poor as my caution, but you’re not one of them.]
Masked man: [Why is that?]
Subaru: [I want you to listen without getting mad at me, but I had a lot of opportunities to coincidentally come across a bunch of skilled people, or what you would call superhumans. Comparing you to those crazy guys, I get the feeling from you that you’re…… uh, ordinary.]
If he was talking to a notable warrior, what he said would definitely offend him.
Even so, it was what Subaru felt after facing the masked man in a conversation. He observed that the man in front of him was unquestionably able to use a sword, but his skill was average, having gotten to that point with a certain amount of training.
Looking at him from Subaru’s eyes, who knew people such as Reinhardt, Garfiel, Wilhelm, and Julius, he could only say the masked man was inferior when he measured them side by side.
Subaru: [If that’s so, then the theory of you jumping here outside of my perception will be null and void. What’s left is the possibility of you instantly closing the distance and appearing behind me, or if that’s not it……]
Masked man: [It was either that, or I have disappeared from your sight by utilizing “Concealment”.]
Soon after, Subaru jolted with astonishment as the man vanished from his field of view, despite having been standing in front of him.
However, his surprise didn’t end there.
Subaru: [You disappeared…… but, are you right in front of me?]
Masked man: [――You are correct. “Concealment” cannot remove even my presence.]
Receiving Subaru’s question, the masked man blinked back into view the moment he replied, standing in the same exact place in the same posture as before.
As he thought, the man hadn’t disappeared in the sense of being gone, but he only disappeared in the sense of being invisible. And, the fact he returned from that state the moment he answered Subaru’s question meant――.
Subaru: [It gets cancelled if you touch someone, or they become aware of you?]
Masked man: [Although, it is the ideal tool for holding one’s breath and lying low whilst being hidden.]
Saying that, the masked man lowered the sword he was pointing at Subaru, and directed it at the edge of the camping grounds. He was aiming it towards where his sack was placed.
Masked man: [The bed is a decoy. I was holding my breath over there, just slightly far away from it. I saw you sneak into here from the very beginning. How humorous you were.]
Subaru: [Looking from the side, people look super dumb when they’re on alert…… wait, that’s not important right now! You lowered your sword, so that means……]
Masked man: [You are not my pursuer. I have no clue of how, nor your motives, but you must be someone that has gotten lost. If so, I have no reason to condemn you severely for that. Neither do I need to teach you a lesson with this blade.]
As if indicating he had no intention to fight, the masked man withdrew the bare sword back into the sheath at his waist. Seeing it through, the tension in Subaru’s body finally softened.
The moment he relaxed, he came to remember his original plan.
Subaru: [Agh, it’s not the time to be calming myself. Hey, sorry for all these questions, but did you see a blue-haired girl? We got separated around here.]
Masked man: [Blue hair? No, I have not. Rather, making my way to this place, the first thing I saw was your face. What are you going to do about this?]
Subaru: [I won’t do anything about it, though!? I won’t do anything about it, but…… shit, it ended in failure here too, huh. Hey, this is a maybe, but is it possible for you to help me look for……]
Masked man: [――――]
Subaru: [Yeah, just as I thought……]
He failed to obtain a witness statement, and his last resort, relying on the rope of human relations, had also been chopped off in front of him.
Subaru received the masked man’s icy glare, knifelike to the point that it might cut anything that touched it, as the answer to his request. Like that, in order to take back the time he lost, he tried to return to the forest,
Masked man: [Halt. If you were separated in this forest, then reuniting is not a feat that could be done so easily. Although, I believe the best course of action is for you to prioritize your survival?]
Subaru: [――. Sorry, but not a chance. It’s just that she’s more important than my life. I’ll reunite with her no matter what it takes. No, I need to bring her home.]
Masked man: [More than your life, huh. Setting aside the bardic poetry of songstresses, I can only imagine those as empty words if I hear it in reality. I can only imagine it as that, but what is interesting are your eyes.]
When the intensity of Subaru’s gaze sharpened from the man’s attitude of ridiculing his recklessness, the man exactly pointed a finger towards his eyes.
As Subaru drew back, thinking he was going to poke his eyes out, the masked man chuckled at him,
Masked man: [Those are eyes that do not tell lies nor slander. I do not know if it will remain the same when it is actually weighed on a scale with your life, but at this moment, it seems like you apparently did not line up any words of deceit.]
Subaru: [So…… so what? If what I’m saying is true, what will it,]
Masked man: [――It will more or less capture my interest. I shall allow you to borrow my intellect.]
With a finger, the masked man tapped the area around his temple.
Listening to his answer, Subaru thought he should just yell out, “Stop messing around!” at the man, but any harsh remarks such as that didn’t leap out of his throat.
Mysteriously, this was a strange thing as well, but he couldn’t find any feelings of suspicion he could direct towards the man. ――No, the man was shady. However, he had a persuasiveness that overpowered it.
It was most likely the effect of the natural-born charisma he held.
Masked man: [Describe the details of what exactly transpired. I will find you a way to search for her.]
Subaru: [……Me and her were suddenly hurled to this place.]
Before he knew it, Subaru was starting to answer the man’s question, slowly and steadily.
It wasn’t as if he actually believed in this guy, or trusted him either. ――It was just that he was desperate enough to be grasping at straws. When he felt like this, he wanted to rely on someone, even if they were less trustworthy than a pile of straw.
Maybe, it was just about that.
Masked man: [You were careless.]
Like that, having finished hearing Subaru’s explanation of his circumstances, the masked man’s first words in response were biting.
Just as he had been asked by the man, Subaru had given a clean description of what happened between him and Rem ― omitting the complicated situation which also surrounded them.
He told him that Rem’s memories were jumbled, and that she had escaped after knocking him out. And, he also included the part where she was acting together with a dangerous little girl.
Subaru: [I know. I know, I was being a huge idiot. But, you won’t stop there… right? Exposing my recently acquired dark past, and being done after making fun of me……]
Masked man: [Fool. How could I bother to go as far as using my precious time to deride a jester such as yourself? ――That girl, she is able to think on her feet to a certain degree, yes?]
Subaru: [Ah, yeah, I think so, maybe.]
Intimidated by the air the masked man was giving off, Subaru nodded truthfully.
As a versatile maid, Rem played an active part in the various moments of daily life, but an evaluation such as that couldn’t be obtained just by being skilled at doing housework.
Determining the abilities of different people and placing them where it would be appropriate for them, before letting them act. ――Even during fights, she predicted his movements and moved in sync with him, despite him not saying anything to invoke that.
Rem was smart. Even if her memories had been lost――,
Masked man: [If that is so, it is highly feasible that you have been plotted against.]
Subaru: [Pl, plotted against? You’re saying I got tricked? That’s… I don’t……]
Masked man: [In this case, whether she has her memories or not is not the problem. What is important is that the girl is aware she is being chased after, and she has the capability to come up with this and that against her pursuer. For example――]
Cutting off his words there, the masked man stared at Subaru from head to toe with his black eyes.
Feeling like his thoughtlessness was being criticized, Subaru drew his shoulders closer to himself.
Looking at Subaru, the masked man narrowed his eyes,
Masked man: [For example, something such as purposely leaving traces in the grassland, to disguise the direction she had escaped in.]
Masked man: [You must have been quite anxious, after you awakened from being knocked unconscious. When you felt like you needed to find her as soon as possible, what would you do if there were footsteps, placed there as if it was being shown off to you?]
Ardent and eager, Subaru had run after the traces like a mongrel.
It was what happened in reality, and it was the answer to the mocking gaze of the masked man. Of course, he could make a retort, saying that wasn’t it, but――,
Subaru: [――. Sure enough, I couldn’t find any more traces deeper into the forest, coming from the entrance. But, I thought it was because the path was unsteady and hard to walk on……]
Masked man: [You do not avert your eyes from the truth that is inconvenient to yourself.]
Subaru: [I’ve known that I’m stupid and an idiot for a long time. It’s only that I have a gift for adaptability and willpower, something I’m on the same page with the other me.]
It couldn’t be conveyed even if he said it, but Subaru replied to the masked man as such.
Truthfully, the man’s speculation made a lot of sense. Looking back on it, the traces left on top of the grass felt way too “obvious”.
Among wild animals such as foxes and rabbits, there were those that did things such as purposely leaving behind footprints and jumping into a clump of grass midway, utilizing techniques which confused their predators.
The marks Rem left on the grass were the same, so what if it was a cunning trap in order to deceive him?
Subaru: [She made me go to a different direction, and went the other way instead……?]
Masked man: [In that case, the direction one will choose to go would often be the exact opposite. It is reasonable to select the method in which she could keep away as far as she could, considering her state of mind. ――Do you understand?]
Subaru: [……It’s frustrating, but I get it. Damn! That Rem!]
Just as the masked man said, if Rem had deliberately left visible tracks as a decoy, there was a high possibility she had made her escape towards the opposite direction.
However, if Subaru managed to get a good guess on her actions and went to the forest on the other side, he might be able to work out something to catch her. He somewhat felt like a villain, but――,
Subaru: [I’m used to giving others a bad first impression because of stuff like my face and body odor. I’ll definitely catch up to her!]
Masked man: [How high-spirited. ――Here, take this with you.]
Standing up, as Subaru attempted to dash away, unable to stand still for any longer, the masked man threw something at him after palming his sack of his belongings.
As Subaru looked at the thing he just caught in his hands, he saw it was a small knife, fitted inside of a leather sheath.
When he widened his eyes at it, the masked man shrugged his shoulders,
Masked man: [It is not a forest you could confront with a single whip. Utilize it to the best of your ability.]
Subaru: [I’m really thankful for it, but…… are you sure? I can’t do anything in return right now.]
Masked man: [I do not mind. Sometimes, I would like to be the one who bestows to another. Or, will you make an effort to deprive me of every one of my belongings with the knife?]
It sounded like he was joking, but it was true that he had given Subaru the power to carry it out.
The masked man had a certain amount of skill, but it couldn’t be declared that Subaru didn’t have a chance against him, no matter how slim it was. In that sense, the man’s actions were akin to a type of gamble.
Subaru: [――My name is Natsuki Subaru. This is unmistakably a debt that I owe you. I’ll definitely return the favor that I was given. I won’t try anything ungrateful.]
Firmly fastening the knife he received on his waist, Subaru bowed deeply. Looking at that, the masked man let out a small scoff with a, “Hmph,”
Masked man: [I have already shown you the way. Get on with it and go. By all possible means, you are to make every effort in winning over the trust of the runaway girl.]
Subaru: [I totally agree. Thanks for the help! Oh wait, that’s that, but……]
Masked man: [What is it?]
Waving his hand to express his gratitude, Subaru paused right as he was about to rush into the forest. The masked man’s voice had a hint of exasperation in it because of how busy he looked, but Subaru pointed his finger at the forest in front of him,
Subaru: [I’m passing through here to go back to the grassland I was in, but you shouldn’t really use this path. There’s a frightening hunter in here. They’ll try to kill you from afar with a bow, so no matter how many lives you have, it won’t be enough against them. If you’re going somewhere, I recommend you to take a detour around the forest.]
Masked man: [――. I see. I understand. I will keep it in mind.]
Subaru: [Yeah, please do that. ――See you!]
Hearing the masked man’s response, Subaru succeeded in preventing his benefactor from immediately being killed by the hunter, avoiding a potential situation that left a bad taste in his mouth.
And then, racing into the forest as fast as he could, he started running for the first grassland with all his might.
Subaru: [――It cuts really well!]
Fortunately, Subaru didn’t have much trouble returning to the first grassland.
It was because the knife he received from the masked man had a sharp edge, giving him a huge boost in slicing off the branches and leaves that obstructed his path.
Normally, when it came to a knife like this, it seemed like its blade would be heavily chipped if it were to be overused, but he felt no inconveniences such as that. Perhaps it might be an excellent blade of the highest quality.
Subaru: [His clothes looked pretty expensive, too. Who exactly was that guy……?]
While wondering about it, Subaru returned to the original grassland with great haste. After that, when he searched around the area where he had been led towards the opposite way――,
Subaru: [――Found it. This must be it.]
Just now, on the other side of the marks placed for show, Subaru discovered a set of footsteps left in an uneven shape on the grass. It looked like Rem had tried her best to rub out the tracks, but it was very likely that she could only erase her own, and couldn’t fully erase Louis’s.
Since traces of the effort that was put into removing the tracks were there, it was implausible to think of this as an additional decoy.
Subaru: [Finally, I got something on you, Rem……!]
Although he was self-conscious of it earlier, he uttered the words that made him straight-up sound like a villain, running as fast as he could while chasing after the marks which became his newly discovered sign of Rem’s location.
The tracks which continued to the entrance of the forest were the same as last time. However, it wasn’t possible to disguise the broken twigs at the entrance, nor the footprints in the mud.
Subaru: [I found it! If I use this――]
I can catch up to Rem, Subaru thought as he attempted to track the footprints in the mud with eagerness.
It was the next moment.
As Subaru paid attention to the footprints, a tied vine broke apart below his feet. The recoil made the branch it was supporting shoot out towards him, and a powerful blow struck him from the side.
Subaru: [Gh, ugh,]
Receiving a horizontal lash from a branch about as thick as his arm, Subaru was sent flying at a long distance. A pained cry escaped from him as he rolled across the mud, unable to stand up from the impact of the blow.
His vision flashing and flickering between light and dark, and hit by a surprise attack that he wasn’t expecting, Subaru’s consciousness twirled around like the revolving light of a police car from the pain and the shock.
Subaru: [R-right now, could that be……]
When the pain was mitigated after a while, Subaru finally stood up on the spot. Though, he knew it was affecting his knees, and he also knew that a massive amount of internal damage was done on the side of his body.
However, his shock extended beyond that.
Subaru: [――A trap?]
Although she was running away, she wouldn’t end it with a simple escape.
Despite having lost her memories, she could exert herself to the fullest. That was how fearsome the girl ― Rem could be.
Natsuki Subaru finally realized it then and there.
――That this was the beginning of his second real, genuine battle with Rem, ever since he arrived at this world.
 – Matagi = A band of people in the Tohoku region that hunts for a living. They follow traditional teachings and values.