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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???: [Subaru, you sure are suuuch a busy bee, aren’t you?]
Subaru: [Huh, really?]
Subaru’s nostrils puffed out as he was praised by the silver bell-like voice.
He’d just finished wringing out a cloth that he’d pulled out from a bucket of water, enthusiastically wiping the floor with it, busy cleaning the room they used for guests, when Emilia, the one the voice belonged to, popped in.
She gave him a casual nod as she ran her fingers through her long silver hair,
Emilia: [Yeah. It’s like, you’ve only just recovered, and you’ve already started working. Even though it’s just after all that ruckus with those Witchbeasts. It really caught me off guard.]
Subaru: [Hehe, it’s nothing really… Wait, what!? Could it be that you’re lecturing me, telling me that those who are recovering mustn’t over do it!?]
Emilia: [Huh, that wasn’t my intention… But now that you mention it, I guess so. We can’t be having this, Subaru. You need to rest some more.]
Subaru: [Ghaa, I shot myself in the foot.]
Subaru rued how he’d read too much into it, thinking it would have been better if he’d just taken her compliment in stride.
However, a third voice came chiming in from Emilia’s shoulder, before Subaru could reflect on it. And there, a grey kitten squirmed out from amidst Emilia’s silver hair.
Puck: [Fufufu, took you long enough, Subaru. Here was I, thinking that if I allowed Lia to give you some honest praise, you’d try and read between the lines, and fall in way too deep. Just as I had intended.]
Subaru: [Puck, you little… What’s with these devious tricks! The heck do you want!?]
Puck: [Heh, it’s obvious, isn’t it? I’m a fickle cat spirit, that’s the reason. My nature is a mischievous one, leading the hearts of people astray with the help of my cuteness and furriness… Meowmeowmeow]
Emilia: [Jeez, come on Puck, you’re saying strange stuff again. Quit putting Subaru on the spot.]
The little cat spirit had quite the dastardly look on his face, yet defeated he was when Emilia pinched him by the ear halfway through confessing his wicked deeds. She apologised to Subaru, Puck still dangling from her hand by the ear.
Emilia: [I’m sorry, I’d just taken a break from studying, and was taking a stroll around the mansion, when Puck said he’d found you, so I…]
Subaru: [Oh, no, it’s completely fine. As far as I’m concerned, I want to spend as many seconds of the day as possible with you, Emilia-tan. I’ve gotta be thanking Puck here, for having devised that.]
Emilia: [Is that so? I don’t really get you, but I’m glad you’re not angry, what a relief.]
Subaru: [So she didn’t get me! Even though I told it to her straight, to the point it was embarrassing!?]
Abandoning the smile on her face, Emilia furrowed her shapely brows as she listened to Subaru complaining, before then tilting her head in confusion.
Though what he had expressed had been out of relative fondness, sadly, it didn’t look like it had gotten through properly to Emilia. So, he had no choice but to get even more direct, if he wanted to go further.
Subaru: [Wanting to choose the situation, the mood, and the right day to tell her, it’s all part of a young man’s disposition…]
Puck: [I’d recommend nighttime, otherwise if I’m up, I’d definitely get in the way.]
Subaru: [You sure are showing your upstanding paternal side more and more, ain’tcha.]
It was pretty common for the fathers in this generation to forbid their daughters from having relationships, however, he could clearly tell Puck was the same just by looking at him, fluffball from a different world or not.
As he looked at Puck reproachfully, the cat spirit puffed his chest out, still on Emilia’s shoulder.
Puck: [Of course, considering how cute Lia is, the sheer amount of flies hovering approaching her gets way over the top. There’d be no end to them if I don’t work hard to brush them away, no?]
Subaru: [Oh no, I just thought it’d be handy to pick out one of those flies here ahead of time.]
Puck: [I’ll pass on any flies with such ugly-looking eyes. Besides, it’d be weird for me to let any flies get close to Lia. I’ll search for a proper suitor for Lia, even if it takes me nigh a thousand years.]
Subaru: [That scale’s on the mythical level!]
Though it took the concept of being a doting father way too far, the problem remained that, considering they were a duo of half-elf and spirit, there was a chance they’d seriously end up waiting nigh a thousand years.
Unfortunately, Subaru was a human, so he couldn’t hold a candle to that order of magnitude.
Subaru: [I guess I could at most reach 120 if I really tried hard…]
Emilia: […? What do you mean?]
Subaru: [Oh, I was talking about my lifespan.]
Emilia: [Your lifespan… Quit it Subaru, that’s weird. You’re still a boy, it’s way too early to worry about these things.]
Subaru: [Well, depends how you look at it…]
Emilia placed a hand over her mouth, stifling a giggle, and then laughed as if she’d heard a joke of the highest quality.
He responded back to her smile with a strained one, however, the man in him was happy to see the girl who was always on his mind smiling. Things were complicated, but first things first, he needed her to recognise this.
Subaru: [At least I won’t need to step into the ring, so long as they keep treating me like a kid.]
Puck: [Pretty good attitude to have, huh, Subaru. Right, the first thing you gotta do is stand on your own two feet as an adult. If you can’t do that, I won’t let you set foot into my house.]
Emilia: [Isn’t this Roswaal’s mansion? What’s this about not letting him set foot there?]
Emilia posed her questions to Puck, who’d listened to Subaru’s quiet determination with his short arms folded.
With that all said and done, Subaru was not discouraged, even after hearing what Puck’d said. If what needed to be done had been decided, then all that was left for him was to make a beeline straight towards his goal.
Subaru: [Heh, look at me, Puck. You see, I’m the sort who has no qualms doing the same thing over and over again day in and day out. Like levelling up for a game!]
Puck: [Puahaha, foolish human. In that case, prove to me that you’re not just a rookie who’s all talk. I shall be waiting with the Princess in the innermost part of the castle. Let us go, Princess!]
Emilia: [Do you mean me? Hmph, but I’m aiming to be a King, not a Princess.]
As Subaru and Puck got worked up without caring about anyone around them, Emilia flashed Subaru a smile as the latter was busy wringing his cloth dry. All this, while dealing with the pair’s contrasting attitudes.
Emilia: [Even so, do your best at your work. If you give it your all, then surely someone will be there to see it.]
Subaru: [But I’d like it to be Emilia-tan, rather than some randomer…]
Emilia: [Yeah, yeah, I get that. I can’t watch over you all the time, but I’ll drop in every so often. Besides…]
Emilia lowered her brows slightly, and paused mid-sentence. Then, she turned towards Subaru, as he waited for her to continue, a charming smile appearing on her face,
Emilia: [You’re the one who sees your hard work the most, no? That’s why you’ve gotta give it your all, so that you don’t let yourself down.]
And so, while hitting the nail right on the head of what it meant to put effort in, she made Subaru fall in love with her anew.
Subaru: [Man, I just remembered that time I fell in love with Emilia again… Still, it’s getting tough.]
Subaru looked around the messy tent with a scratch of his head.
He’d found himself taken to an encampment of soldiers from the Vollachian Empire; there, he’d been put to work doing odd jobs, while waiting for the supply convoy headed to the village to come.
Subaru was devoting himself to his “He who does not work, shall not eat” mantra for Rem’s sake, who couldn’t move, as well as the freeloading Louis. Thus, he held no shred of hesitation in helping Todd and the other Imperials, since they’d provided him food and shelter, and had treated their injuries as well.
Subaru: [Gotta gear myself up, no matter what’s going on.]
Subaru muttered those words as he packed the content of their stockpiles, now scattered all over the ground, back into their sacks.
Of course, regardless of how disorderly and violent these Imperials were, there was no way they were storing the items that would be supporting their front-lines in such a “whatever works”, unorganised manner.
After all, Subaru had tidied the stockpiles within this tent the day before with great effort. The reason why it was in such a mess was but one.
Subaru: [I’m being harassed by a certain mean-spirited someone…]
Subaru: [Oh, I guess there’s also the chance you snuck out and caused this mess during the night. Are you feeling like revealing your vile, true nature, Sin Archbishop?]
He glared at Louis as he tidied up the stuff scattered about, her peering at his hand meanwhile.
However, Louis merely offered a vague reply to Subaru’s question, biting on her own finger. It looked like she still had no intention of revealing her true nature.
It sure would come in handy for him if she just kept it hidden away forever.
Subaru: […I have no idea what to think about what Rem told me yesterday.]
This morning as well, Louis had tottered along with Subaru from the moment he woke up.
The grim look he’d gotten from Rem, at the time they split up for her legs’ rehab, flashed through his mind. However it was unreasonable, considering Subaru was the one who found being followed like this bothersome.
In any case, another reason had been added as to why Subaru could barely handle her, compared to the previous day. And that was because of the information Rem had told him ― the testimony that she couldn’t sense the lingering scent of the Witch coming from Louis.
Although Subaru hadn’t given it much thought thus far, it was pretty unlikely that the lingering scent of the Witch was something only he had.
In fact, he felt like Rem had used those words before when facing Witch Cultists. She must have reacted like that against Petelgeuse, along with the Witch Cultists that man led.
In that respect, the fact that Subaru’s miasma grew stronger each time he Returned by Death seemed like something strange even from Rem’s point of view, back when she had been on good terms with him.
Subaru: [The power of my miasma has come in handy from time to time… Like against the Ulgarm and the White Whale. But, in the end, it’s basically just something that brings me way too many misfortunes.]
Even if there had been times where his miasma had come in handy, currently, it served merely as a reason to attract Rem’s ire. Thus, his impression towards it was at its absolute lowest.
And, no matter how much he tried to think about it…
Subaru: [There’s no damn way that the people in the Witch Cult… And the Sin Archbishops don’t have something to do with the miasma.]
That was the conclusion Subaru had reached.
Given that he did not know anything about the causes of the miasma, or anything about its finer details, he could only describe it as a theory on the table. Even so, it was something he found difficult to speak about.
The link between the Sin Archbishops and the Witch was plain and clear. The Witch Cultists were quintessentially the manifestation of evil.
Subaru: [As paradoxical as it may seem, can we really think that those who don’t emit miasma aren’t related to the Witch Cult? Like, when we’ve got this girl right in front of me, are we for real?]
Standing by Subaru’s side, as he brooded about the issue, Louis merely groaned with a blank look on her face.
Letting out a sigh, Subaru lifted himself up and began to tidy up the tent.
The tools he’d placed in an upright position had been knocked over, and the parcels he’d arranged in a row had been opened, the stuff inside scattered everywhere.
It was exactly like something a child would do.
Subaru: [Well, I guess this harassment must be something that’s not out of the ordinary…]
The reason why the tents he’d tidied up were in a state of disarray was not because of Louis sneaking off. It was more likely that someone else in the encampment was the one harrying him and interfering.
Obviously, since he was in an Imperial encampment, he’d come into contact with people other than Todd. And in most cases, he could hardly call the attitudes they had towards him amicable.
In that respect, it went as Todd had said; he was the odd one out.
Subaru: [That said, it’s still way better than getting socked all of a sudden, or being forced to eat a shoe.]
He couldn’t really deny that his standards in regards to happiness and normalcy had taken a hit, were he to say it out loud. But, the fact remained that it was safe to say that things were easier on account of not being treated to that painful of a welcome.
Though Subaru hated to admit it, he was well used to being shunned, or being disliked.
Like, it wasn’t as if he’d flubbed the battle of his debut during High School so gaudily, and gotten cut off from everyone for nearly two years and all. He’d never been bullied per se, but he was a pro at dealing with the mood around him being acrid.
Thinking about it, his classmates back in High School must have been pretty good people.
Even if they’d treat Subaru like he wasn’t there, it didn’t seem to him like they had harassed him, nor had they found pleasure in making him suffer.
Subaru: [I hope life’s worked out well for all you kind-hearted people out there on the other side. It would be nice if people like Inahata-kun, who went out of his way to give me those flyers, made it big.]
Subaru finished tidying up the tent quicker than he had the previous day, and to the same degree of quality, while recalling the vague memories of this classmate, his face a blur.
That said, it was like the hole had been filled, and he had to re-dig it again. So, the net of the work he had done today had swung into the negative.
Subaru wanted to use those words Emilia had told him before, that someone would see his hard work, or at least, he himself would. He wanted to use them as a prop as well. However.
Subaru: [Not like I can gear myself up if you’re the only one watching me right now. My mood would be a lot different if Rem was the one watching, but…]
Louis: [Ooh, uwaa]
Louis today wasn’t getting in the way of Subaru’s work for now, as if she’d learned from him being angry. While thankful for that, Subaru headed outside, off to the next tent…
He caught his foot on something just as left the tent, and fell over in a heap.
He reflexively pushed his hands against the ground, however, his right hand aside, his left still ached a bit. Even though it was healing up, the after-effects that Rem had left behind had yet to heal completely.
Hence, while groaning in pain, Subaru looked behind him,
???: [Heya, you pussy. What’re you doin’ grovelling down on the ground?]
Subaru widened his eyes in surprise. Standing before him, right by the entrance of the tent, was a vulgar-looking man.
He wore an eyepatch over his right eye, had a stubbled face, and his appearance was the epitome of roughness. And to boot, he was the guy who’d made Subaru eat his shoe, in this camp.
If he recalled correctly, Todd had said his name was…
Subaru: [He said it was Jamal, ri… Ghaaa!?]
Jamal: [That’s Jamal-san to you. You, along with those women who keep you company, y’all got no manners, huh. HEY.]
The instant he’d deemed that Subaru hadn’t been addressing him using “san”, the man, Jamal, immediately sprung into action.
Jamal stepped on the fingers of Subaru’s left hand, which were still wrapped up in bandages and fitted with their brace, and pushed his heel down as he lay on the floor.
The pain in his fingers returned to him once again as they were grated back and forth. Yet, Subaru endured it, stifling a scream that had been building inside his throat.
As she let out a yell, Louis clung to Jamal’s leg as he stomped on Subaru’s hand. She didn’t weigh much, and with how built Jamal was, he did not budge an inch.
And just like that, he grabbed Louis by her long hair and tore her off him by force.
Subaru: [Hey, she’s just a child!]
Seeing what was happening, Subaru flew into a rage and blurted that out without thinking.
Jamal frowned unpleasantly upon hearing his complaint. He firmly pulled Louis up by her hair, causing her to let out a scream.
Jamal: [Who gives a fuck if she’s just a kid? From what I’ve heard more or less, haven’t you been treating this kid awfully coldly? What’s with changing your mind all of a sudden?]
Subaru: [It’s not like tha… You’re going to be the one who’ll end up regretting it, if you provoke her too much.]
Jamal: [How the fuck do you have the gall to say that. Make up some better excuse.]
Jamal snorted, swung his arm and threw Louis down to the ground. The fallen Louis tugged at her hair which had previously been seized, clutched her head and glared at Jamal with tears in her eyes, letting out an “Uuuh”.
In all honesty, there was always the chance that Jamal’s act of violence could serve as the trigger that would turn Louis back to how she was previously. It wasn’t like the desperate words that Subaru had blurted out were completely ad hoc.
Luckily enough, it didn’t look like Louis’ pain and anger would serve to re-awaken her original personality. It was hard to judge for whom it was a blessing though.
Jamal: [What an ill-mannered brat. No, it ain’t just the damn brat. I don’t like you, nor the other girl, not a single one of you!]
As he was talking, Jamal grew angry and kicked the side of Subaru’s face. The unexpected blow caused Subaru’s mouth to open, the violent force cracking a tooth. Blood began to drip from his mouth. The moment the smell and taste of iron spread across his tongue, Subaru looked up at Jamal.
Subaru: [Ngghh… I guess we can say Todd-san is verifying my identity, or rather you’ve gotten permission to spend time here…]
Jamal: [Hmph, “Todd-san”, huh. He’s quite fond of you, ain’t he? That your last ray of hope?]
Jamal: [Sorry, but I outrank that guy. I listened to his request as a favor, but there’s no reason I gotta comply.]
Speaking in a rough voice, Jamal once again stepped on Subaru. Subaru curled up at once to protect his head, but this time a kick was thrust into his abdomen. The tip of Jamal’s boot caused Subaru’s stomach to churn and he groaned from the impact, but the relentless kicking went on.
Jamal: [First, that bitch of yours hurt two of my men. Those who can’t be useful anymore have to be sent back. Such bad luck. And instead of getting something to make up for it… that bastard Todd found something extra.]
Jamal: [If you hadn’t been carrying that knife, I would’ve torn you apart limb from limb on the spot. It’s tough to be a soldier, ain’t it?]
His persistent kicking and remarks struck a nerve. Even without looking up to meet Jamal’s one-eyed glare, his opponent’s aim was clear.
Jamal’s aim was not to hurt Subaru. It was beyond that.
Mostly, his goal was to rile Subaru up and provoke him into counterattacking, and he was likely being rude for that purpose too.
Jamal said he didn’t have to listen to Todd’s words, but the fact he couldn’t completely disregard them could be inferred from their interaction the first time Jamal dealt him a blow with his foot. That’s why Jamal wanted a reason. A reason to kill Subaru.
Not only that, but also a reason to carry out retaliation against Rem. Because of that, Subaru wouldn’t let himself be provoked. As long as Jamal didn’t turn his petty spite towards Rem, whether Subaru’s left-hand fingers were broken again or his remaining fingers were broken, it would be Subaru’s victory. For that reason, he would endure endure endure, endure――,
???: […Oi, what’re you doing over there?]
And like that, in the midst of Subaru continuing to endure, a particular voice came flying out to Jamal. At that moment, Jamal clicked his tongue and drew back his foot, and slowly backed off. Thereupon, with noisy footsteps came along an orange haired youth.
Todd: [Even though no one has any business here, when I heard something coming from over here I expected it had to be you.]
Jamal: [If it isn’t Todd. Aren’t you awfully overprotective. Have you really taken such a liking to that imperial dagger? So you’ll fawn over this coward until he sells it, huh.]
Squinting his eye, Jamal scowled at Todd. Between the two of them a dangerous air flowed, but that tension was cut by Jamal saying “I’ll stop.”
The one who single-handedly cleared the air was Jamal, who until just then had been kicking Subaru and looking down on him,
Jamal: [If you’ve learned your lesson, be careful not to get underfoot outside the range of my eye. If you fall over again like you did just now, who knows what will happen? Hahahahaha!]
Like that, without any concern for the show of extraordinary violence toward Subaru, he passed by Todd’s side and left. Subaru also had no words to stop him. If he were to bring attention to his injuries here, it would only provoke Jamal the same way.
As soon as Jamal’s back vanished from sight, Subaru lifted his body off the ground.
Subaru: [Ahh, shit… ow… That bastard, such a girly-lookin’ guy has no right to be so persistent. What he did was downright malicious…]
He made a show of being full of resentment towards Rem, but basically, he just had a nasty personality. In the first place, he said Rem attacked him at the start, but wouldn’t that be because he provoked Rem who was already in a high-stress situation?
Certainly, there was the possibility that because she had no memories Rem had jumped to the wrong conclusion when a hand reached out to her.
Subaru: [Well, Rem doesn’t know anything, so it can’t be helped.]
While passing kind judgment on Rem, Subaru spit out some of the blood mixed with saliva in his mouth, and slowly stood up on the spot.
Todd: [You alright? Getting mixed up with Jamal was bad luck, wasn’t it.]
To Subaru, who was in shaky condition, Todd frowned when greeting him. Had he not arrived, Jamal’s assault would still be ongoing.
Subaru was grateful for that interruption. But, leaving that aside――
Subaru: [I’m fine. More importantly, Rem…]
Todd: [If you’re talking about that young girl, she’s helping out with the cooking. It’s a task you can do sitting down. Jamal also won’t do anything in public view… surely.]
Todd’s words lacked conclusive proof, so Subaru couldn’t be reassured. Wiping blood from his mouth, Subaru looked at his own left hand. The brace had slipped off and the bandages had come undone. His fingers, which should have been left to heal for a while, began to turn an unpleasant color again.
Todd: [Ahh… If that’s how it is, guess I have to take care of you again. Seriously, that Jamal.]
Subaru: […That guy, what kind of man is he?]
Todd: [Jamal? He became a soldier at the same time as me, and he’s the most successful. He’s from a lower noble family, so promotion to Third-Class General isn’t just a dream as well… Ah, do you know what Third-Class General means?]
Subaru: [Nope, sure don’t. Is it a rank?]
When Subaru shook his head, Todd nodded and said “I see”, and put up his fingers.
According to his explanation, in the Imperial Army of Vollachia being called “General” was apparently part of their ranking system. Soldier, First-Class Soldier, Third-Class General, Second-Class General and above that――
Todd: [When it comes to First-Class Generals, there are only nine people in the empire who are extraordinary. The military personnel who serve the Emperor directly are called the Nine Divine Generals. Well, if you make it that far, it’s no longer a matter of lineage or achievement.]
Subaru: [Is it talent?]
Todd: [Yeah, that’s how it is. That’s why Third-Class General is the highest ordinary people like us can aim for.]
Listening to the story of the not miserable Todd, Subaru thought back on the behavior of Jamal from before.
“General” seemed to be a position that served the same function as an officer in the military, but Jamal hardly seemed to have that capacity. He was self-centered and his empathy was low by nature. It was easy to understand that he’d be the incompetent type of superior officer.
Subaru: [On the battlefield, they say quite a few soldiers die because they were hit from behind by a stray arrow. Tell that guy from your own mouth would you?]
Todd: [That’s an exaggeration. Anyway, shall we get your medical treatment?]
Subaru: [Can I ask a favor? …Before that, I’d like to see Rem’s face.]
Todd: [My my, aren’t you deeply in love… That poor young girl.]
Despite the pain in his fingers, confirming Rem’s safety was top priority. Todd shrugged his shoulders at Subaru’s attitude and drew his attention towards Louis, who was curled up in a ball in front of the tent.
She wrapped the hair Jamal had pulled around her fingers and growled low like a beast.
Todd: [Your deceptive face doesn’t suit your nature. I like strong children with fighting spirit.]
Louis: [Aahー! Ooh, aahー!]
Turning towards Todd’s laughter, Louis howled as if in response.
“If you like her, you can take her” was on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t want that to reach Rem’s ears and have her getting angry again, so Subaru kept his mouth shut.
Rem: [――That stench, have you gotten injured again?]
Subaru: [Oh… you knew?]
Rem: [I know. Since the child is watching, please keep in mind the behavior we spoke about.]
Saying that, as they gathered around the same table for lunchtime, Rem warned him.
Although there was a part of that matter he couldn’t agree to, there was no merit in going against her so he nodded his assent. At Subaru’s side, Louis mimicked him and nodded.
Subaru had been on the receiving end of Jamal’s vicious bullying and Todd’s kind offer of help after. Once Rem’s safety had been confirmed, Subaru accepted treatment at the medical tent.
――The person in charge of the medical tent had been shocked to see Subaru come again, but after that was taken care of, he finished up cleaning another tent, and they came together for lunch.
Since lunch at the encampment was rationed, a suitable amount was gathered from what had been made by the people at the distribution station, and the clean up system assigned sequentially.
With Rem helping to prepare and serve the meal, and since they were considered outsiders, Subaru’s group held back until the end and mostly ate what looked like leftovers.
Subaru: [Well, this can’t be called living in luxury. Eating as much as you can would be most satisfactory.]
Said Subaru, as he brought his and Rem’s portions and placed them on the small table. Louis too, cheekily set down her own portion in the same way as Subaru.
Like that, each of the three reluctantly sat down at the table to eat a somewhat late lunch.
Subaru: [How were you up till now? You didn’t run into any kind of trouble?]
Rem: [There was nothing in particular. I had to take care with my legs, so… The only thing I helped with was a bit of cooking. Besides, I’m helping while being taught.]
Subaru: [While being taught… Did your body remember how to do that sort of thing?]
In response to Subaru’s urgent question, Rem’s pale blue eyes narrowed and her lips pursed.
Subaru panicked as to whether he had put too much force into that reaction, but Rem immediately let out a sigh and said,
Rem: […If I said I didn’t hope for that, I’d be lying.]
Rem: [I thought if I tried doing this and that, maybe there would be things my hands are familiar with. But, that would be too convenient right?]
Quietly looking down at her own hands, Rem murmured as if ashamed of her own foolishness.
But who would deride Rem’s hopes as foolish? In a situation of being unable to remember the parts that make up oneself, Rem’s attitude of clinging onto a solution, who could tell her that?
Rem: […Why are you making such a bitter face?]
Subaru: [Why you ask, that’s…]
Rem: [――. You knew me before. I understand that. There’s no reason to doubt it.]
Fixing her gaze on Subaru who had cast down his eyes, Rem surprised him by saying that.
Until now, Rem had only expressed negative opinions of Subaru, but for the first time she made something of a concession.
Understanding that, hope sprouted in Subaru’s chest.
Rem: [But no matter how many times you call me Rem, I cannot accept that it is my name. I wonder what that even means.]
Rem: [If, by some chance, this child spoke to me, maybe it would be different but,]
While saying that, Rem looked happy as she stroked Louis’ hair. Being gently patted, Louis was absorbed in finishing up her own portion which lay under her nose.
Despite her carefree attitude, and unfortunately, even if she had a speck of self-consciousness, she would not be able to talk about Rem with her own mouth. Even supposing she was able to speak, Subaru would not let her. No matter what, Subaru’s unending hostility would make it so.
Todd: [What the heck, you’re scowling. You shouldn’t be so gloomy at the dinner table.]
Taking a seat at the dinner table of these three people, Todd cut in with a friendly tone.
An uneasy silence fell as a result of his intrusion. Relieved by the sudden change in atmosphere, Subaru looked at the man seated next to him, letting out a “Todd-san, huh”. After the aforementioned incident with Jamal, Subaru felt he was a nice guy for having saved him.
Subaru: [Thanks for looking out for me earlier, but shouldn’t you eat with your friends?]
Todd: [Hmm? Well, after socializing with the same guys for such a long time, not eating together for a day or two won’t change our relationship much. I’d rather gain influence with you lot.」
Subaru: [Even if you did, we don’t have much to offer.]
Todd: [That’s the idea of yield, or repaying a debt after achieving success. Think of it as in up-front investment.]
Though Todd spoke lightly, he changed the atmosphere whether he had been meaning to or not. And then, Todd said “At any rate”, and suddenly put his arm around Subaru’s shoulder.
As Subaru immediately drew back in surprise, he leaned in close to Subaru’s ear,
Todd: [Compared to yesterday, it looks like you can talk properly. Were you able to make up?]
Subaru: [Make up… I wonder. I want to think my sincerity was able to reach her a little but…]
Rem: [――. I can hear you. If you think you can speak freely without reserve you are mistaken.]
With a sharp look, Rem expressed her displeasure with the two men’s conversation. It looked like Louis was cooperating with her as she feigned innocence, perhaps because she intended to make Rem her ally. The synergistic effect of Rem’s cold answer and her acceptance of Louis made Subaru’s chest heavier.
It seemed that it was transmitted to Todd with his arm wrapped around Subaru, “Hey now,” he said, bringing his arm around to tap Subaru’s shoulder..
Todd: [This is depressing. At least you two are at a place and distance where you can speak. That alone would be much better than me.]
Subaru: [Ah, come to think of it, you did mention you’re separated from your fiancée.]
Todd: [Right, my fiancée is living in the imperial capital. It’s true that I have to complete this mission, but the time we’ve been separated is too long to begin with. Why oh why, do I have to be so lonely and suffer? Y’know?]
Subaru: [Is that loneliness the reason you’re keeping us company?]
Todd: [That’s right. So, let me do that as much as possible. It’s worth the trouble.]
It might be because he didn’t let things get out of hand here, but on the inside Subaru was grateful for Todd’s concern. It would be tactless to thank him directly though. He also benefited from the state of affairs. In that manner, the four of them went ahead with their meal but――,
Subaru: [Actually, we were told our group could catch a ride in the vehicle of the supply team, but how long is Todd’s group likely to stay on this mission?]
Todd: [Didn’t I say? Until we find the people of Shudraq hidden in the forest… If we don’t find them, we could be stuck here for years. It’s not easy to serve the palace.]
Subaru: [The people of Shudraq…]
Picking up his wooden spoon with a bitter face, Todd answered Subaru’s pondering.
People of Shudraq―― At first, when Todd told him at the encampment, Subaru guessed it was what the masked man he met in the woods was called. Thanks to him giving Subaru the knife, he owed him a debt of gratitude. So he didn’t tell Todd about his existence, but now that seemed ungrateful.
In terms of gratitude, Todd had helped just as much as the masked man.
Then, what was the reason honoring his debt to the masked man over Todd?
Subaru: [If Todd’s group finds those people of Shudraq, what will you do? You set up an encampment like this, so do you intend to… fight them?]
As best he could, Subaru tried to pose his query in an unconcerned manner. However, a sense of urgency he couldn’t hide remained in his voice.
In fact, though she didn’t go into the topic, Rem’s face expressed her reaction to what he said. Even if she wasn’t paying attention, there’s a reaction to avoiding the word ‘fight’.
And when asked, Todd closed his eyes to Subaru’s words,
Todd: [Nah, it seems the generals don’t want to fight if at all possible. I don’t know the details, but it seems the people of Shudraq are a very powerful tribe. It’s certain that we would have a very tough battle if we fought, so the objective this time is negotiations.]
Subaru: [Negotiations? What would you negotiate about with a forest tribe?]
Todd: [Don’t ask an underling like me so many questions okay!? …I’m not fully in-the-know but probably the capital or even the Emperor himself wants them as a vassal tribe of sorts.]
Subaru: [Do the people of Shudraq not obey the Emperor of Vollachia?]
Todd: [There are those who don’t. That’s just the Vollachian way.]
Laughing like a stereotypical soldier, Subaru could only raise his eyebrows in surprise at Todd’s reply. He quietly muttered to himself “Long Live Vollachia” and decided to leave the conversation at that. If he were to believe Todd’s words, the Imperial Army wanted to avoid conflict with the people of Shudraq as well. If that were the case, Subaru could avoid unnecessary bloodshed and conflict between the two groups if he were to offer information.
Even so, Subaru did not have information of much value and if he were to explain why he had hidden this information in the first place, he would have to explain why he had lied about his background.
Subaru: [Ugh, what a dilemma. Can’t get everything I want can I…]
Rem: […You know, your brows are always furrowed whenever I look at you. I cannot say that you have a very friendly looking face, so shouldn’t you at least try smiling to counteract that?]
Subaru: [That’s some harsh advice!…… So if I were to speak with you with a cheery face, would you talk to me in a more kind and cheery manner too?]
Rem’s genuinely baffled response hurt Subaru to his core. Seeing Subaru attempt to mask his dismay with a trembling smile, Todd laughed.
Todd: [Well, the journey won’t start if you don’t take the first step. I’ll watch your oh-so-noble efforts, so don’t worry about it.]
Subaru: [Thanks Todd……. So what’s the real reason you can’t meet your fiancée?]
Todd: [Hahaha, that’s right, suffer suffer.]
Subaru: [Damn it all!]
Was he getting consoled or teased?
Either way, it didn’t change the fact that it was this attitude of Todd’s that saved Subaru. There was no doubt that this crisis would be worse if not for him. That was why the least Subaru could do was to wish them a speedy completion of their mission.
Subaru: [How long is it actually going to take to clear the forest?]
Todd: [Once the other camps are set up, the plan’s to go all in. The jungle’s big and dense though, so the ground we can cover in a day isn’t much…….]
Subaru: [I see. Well, I guess you can’t just speed your way through the forest. You never know what’s inside it, and there’s huge Witchbeasts lurking about inside it and all.]
The masked man Subaru suspected to be a member of the people of Shudraq; the hunter who also had a chance to be a member of the tribe; the area in which the massive snake Witchbeast had appeared while Subaru was fighting the hunter was full of Rem’s traps as well.
Subaru could easily guess how much trouble Todd’s group were going to have, going through that jungle. Even if he couldn’t explain the context surrounding them, he should at least tell Todd about Rem’s traps. He didn’t want any unnecessary setbacks to――
Todd, who was drinking water while Subaru was lost in thought, widened his eyes in surprise. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he stared at Subaru with a startled expression.
Failing to understand why Todd was so surprised, Subaru could only stare back with a puzzled expression.
Todd: [Just now, you said Witchbeast right? You’re saying there’s a Witchbeast in that forest?]
Subaru: [Uh, well, yeah, I did say that but… Did I say something weird?]
Todd: [Of course you did. You don’t just run into a Witchbeast everyday do ya? Now it’s a different story if you’re talking about the Witchbeast Kingdom of Lugunica, but they don’t appear anywhere within Vollachia’s borders.]
Todd: [This isn’t a joke right? Right miss?]
Subaru was speechless and could only stay perplexed at Todd’s increasingly serious tone. Todd switched targets to Rem.
Finding herself to be the subject of questioning, Rem answered Todd with a simple “Yes”.
Todd: [Answer me miss. Did you see a Witchbeast too? In the Buddheim Jungle?]
Rem: [The Witchbeast, though I am not sure exactly what it was… I can say I definitely saw a large, green creature.]
Todd: [Was there a horn on its head?]
Rem: [A horn? …There was something white and crooked, for sure.]
Upon hearing that reply, a grimacing Todd leapt up. He looked over at Subaru again,
Todd: [What kind of Witchbeast was it? What’d it look like?]
Subaru: [A-a snake. A giant snake. About 10 metres. One super giant one.]
Todd: [One, just one is it… Shit, how’re we supposed to know if it’s just one lurking in this massive jungle? But, you don’t seem like you’re lying. The situation’s changed!]
Violently scratching his head, Todd faced away from them, his demeanour completely changed. He started walking off before stopping midway with an audible “Ah”, coming to a realisation of some sort. He turned around and returned to Subaru and the others,
Todd: [That was some important information. Things could’ve turned ugly if we didn’t know. You saved us.]
Subaru: [――Uh huh]
Todd proceeded to vigorously pat the still seated Subaru and Rem’s heads. Failing to react in time to the sudden patting, the duo could only look at him in shock. Paying no mind to their bewilderment, Todd turned away once again.
He then started moving towards the people still in the middle of their lunch.
Todd: [Camp Captains, gather up! We’re going to the general! It’s important news!]
He clapped his hands together as he started assembling some people. The sounds of many footsteps could be heard as the camp was whipped up into a frenzy. Todd continued on to a tent at the back – which was probably where war meetings and other such important discussions were held.
The two could only watch on absentmindedly at the intense energy that now took over the camp.
Rem: […That was quite the reaction. That creature…… Is a Witchbeast that important? Of course, I know that it is a dangerous being but.]
Subaru: [――. Actually, I might not have been properly acknowledging how dangerous it was.]
Rem: [I see….]
Rem was unconvinced, to say the least, but Subaru himself had yet to fully organise his thoughts in order.
That was how shocking this revelation had been to Subaru.
Subaru: [Witchbeasts are…..rare here.]
That had been unexpected to put it mildly, but moreover, it had never even crossed his mind.
To Subaru, life in another world and the existence of Witchbeasts were concepts inseparable from one another. One could not break this bond no matter how hard they tried. Excluding his first day at the capital, Witchbeasts had always been a major factor in the numerous events that unfolded after he was transported here.
The Witchbeast scuffle that Meili set in motion starred the Ulgarms, the White Whale that was needed to fulfill Wilheim’s deepest wish, and the Great Rabbit that had tried to devour the Sanctuary.
Though Witchbeasts were nowhere to be found in Priestella, the place he went to after – Pleiades Watchtower – could be called without exaggeration, Witchbeast headquarters.
Needless to say, the most memorable Witchbeast to Subaru would be the Crimson Scorpion.
Subaru: […I got myself a little down but, anyway… I arrived here with my own assumptions so I never would have thought that Witchbeasts were rare.]
He thought for sure that Witchbeasts would pop up anywhere in the world like a monster from an RPG. Yet, that did not seem to be the case.
If he thought about it, even back in his original world, it was not like you could find lions or giraffes anywhere in the world. So in a way, this should have been obvious.
Subaru: [I also found out for the first time that Lugunica’s called the Witchbeast Kingdom.]
Even if it was a large threat, Todd’s entire attitude did a complete one-eighty in reaction to one Witchbeast. If you compared that “normal reaction” in Vollachia to someone in Lugunica, it was no wonder why Lugunica was called the Witchbeast Kingdom.
Someone like Meili must sound like a fairy-tale.
Subaru: [So does that mean that if she went to a country or place with not that many Witchbeasts around, she could live like a normal child……?]
Rem: [Hey, excuse me.]
Rem called out to him while Subaru held his head at an angle, pondering about the future of Meili, who he was now separated from.
Wondering what was up, Subaru looked to see Rem pointing on top of the table. There, he found Louis sleeping with her plate empty.
Rem: [It seems she ate herself full and has fallen asleep. Though I despise it, could you please help me carry her.]
Subaru: [You’d go as far to say you despise it…]
Bitterly laughing at Rem’s words, Subaru cocked his head in resignation. After cleaning up four plates – the fourth being Todd’s forgotten lunch, Subaru reluctantly lifted Louis up.
He knew this because Louis would sometimes latch onto him but she was light. Her appearance made her look like a normal young girl. Honestly, only her appearance made her look like a normal young girl.
Subaru: [Are you good to go Rem? My back is free……]
Rem: [What a displeasing offer. There is no need for your assistance. I can at least take care of myself…]
Saying that, Rem took hold of a wooden cane leaning on the table ―― though, it was a “wooden cane” in name only, as it looked more like a random, thick branch that had been picked up somewhere.
The handle was wrapped in cloth, likely to prevent any splinters. It was a simple and improvised cane. Setting the cane, Rem stood up.
Her stance and gait still left much to be desired.
Rem: [――I’m, okay.]
Subaru: […Are you sure? There’s no need to be so stubborn you know. If you’re in trouble you can rely on me.]
Rem: [I will not rely on you. This is nothing. You make sure you do not drop her.]
Subaru: [Haih, alright. But, you should know this. The only reason I’m carrying this person is not because I want to, but because it’s for you.]
Rem: [What in the world is compelling you to say stuff like that….]
Simply, Subaru did not want Rem to find out his view of Louis was becoming positive of his own accord. Getting tired of his comments, Rem followed Subaru with her cane, albeit with some difficulty.
Subaru returned Rem and Louis to the tent they were borrowing. He would probably be going back to clean up the tents again. ―― Although, he was curious at what Todd’s group was going to do.
Rem: [――. Are you concerned about them?]
Subaru: […m? Uh, yeah, you could say that. It’s just that…even I have the self-awareness that I’m being dishonest towards our saviours. The talk about the witchbeast may have been careless from me too.]
Rem: [――our, saviours.]
Thinking on it, Subaru could only see himself as a scoundrel who kept on lying. He could only feel deflated and low-spirited on that thought.
However, while listening to Subaru, Rem muttered thoughtfully.
“Saviour”, the word she had taken out of Subaru’s speech was said in a tone that was hard to decipher. Though it definitely did not seem to have a positive emotion attached to it.
Rem: [ ――. No, it’s nothing. Please forget about it.]
Subaru: [Well, It’s impossible to forget about it now. The way this conversation is going, you’re gonna have to tell me.]
Rem: [Is that so. Would you kindly stop talking to me then.]
Subaru: [Isn’t the distance between us increasing! Don’t just leave me hanging, finish what you were going to say! I’m really curious!]
Subaru was matching his walk speed to Rem, so they were walking at a rather slow pace. It might have been her frustration towards Subaru walking with her, but for one reason or another, Rem let out a small sigh.
Sensing that Subaru was not going to back out, she slowly turned to face him,
Rem: [Um, Todd was it?…I do not hold such a good impression of him.]
Subaru: [Huh? Why? He let useless people like us stay at the camp. He even protects us from the bad guy who makes people eat shoes. I don’t see how you can’t feel grateful.]
Rem: [It is not that I don’t feel grateful. I am thankful of course. Just…]
Cutting off her sentence there, Rem showed slight hesitation as Subaru urged her on to continue. The silence that had fallen during the pause had only lasted two seconds when Rem with a deep exhale said,
Rem: [――People who do not ask for others’ names are difficult to trust in my opinion.]
Being told that, Subaru unconsciously stopped his breath.
Wanting to disprove her statement, he thought over the past few days.
――People who do not ask for others’ names, is what Rem said.
Keeping that in mind while reflecting back; technically it was correct.
Todd had, to this very day, not called Subaru by his name. He would always say “you” or something similar. If he didn’t know his name, that would be the obvious course of action.
Subaru: [Isn’t it just a coincidence? Even you Rem, you don’t call me by my name do――]
Rem: [――It’s Natsuki Subaru, correct? Knowing the name and choosing not to call it, and not even bothering to learn the others’ name have two different meanings. That is all.]
Rem: [That is just my opinion. There is no choice but to rely on them anyway.]
Saying that, Rem overtook a standstill Subaru and continued forward.
Watching Rem slowly advance on, Subaru found himself unable to say anything.
Unfortunately, Subaru didn’t have the solution to Rem’s hard-heartedness.
As it had been made clear with that exchange regarding the Witchbeast, Subaru was still ignorant about a lot of things in this world. He wasn’t completely satisfied with the Kingdom and yet, the unknown lands of the Empire were good in its own ways.
Maybe in here, asking for a name or not had a special meaning attached to it. Perhaps asking for a name before offering yours was considered rude.
Even if there was a rule like that in place, Subaru could not tell Rem about it. His lack of knowledge, his lack of cultural awareness, he hated those to no end.
Rem: […How long do you plan to stand there for?]
Glancing up at the voice, he saw Rem slightly ahead, facing back towards him.
With a hint of impatience in her expression, she leaned on her cane with both hands, glaring at Subaru. Seeing her wait for him, Subaru felt his chest tighten up.
His knees almost buckled.
Rem: [Are… Wh-what happened!? Don’t tell me your finger…..]
Subaru: [No, I just thought about how you were waiting for me and I…]
Rem: [I wasted my time.]
She said that with an expressionless voice and face. This time she turned her back on Subaru to truly leave him.
Frantically chasing after her, Subaru went to apologise to Rem. He thought back to their conversation before and smiled gently.
Rem’s probably just overthinking things, he debated to himself.
――Like that, the deep-seated doubt that lurked in the bottom of his heart was lifted the next day.
After Subaru and his group parted ways with Todd, the man had attended a meeting with the generals of the encampment, and the council of war had apparently dragged on until late at night.
Eventually, Subaru ended up bringing Rem and Louis back into their tent, and he had to engage in the tasks assigned to him, all the while saddled with uneasiness. To add to that, Rem had given him the cold shoulder more blatantly than the day before, making him feel like he didn’t belong anywhere.
???: [――Oi, wake up, wake up. Until when are you planning to sleep in?]
Subaru: [Nnh… Ah?]
Having his shoulder shaken, Subaru was jerked awake by someone.
Being woken up easily was one of Subaru’s few merits, but when he compared waking up on his own to being woken up by someone else, he could reaffirm that it was different from what he was used to. Once he blinked open his eyes, spinning his sluggish thoughts into motion, lying down on the ground, Todd’s face popped into his field of vision.
Todd: [Yeah, you look tired. I guess that’s reasonable, ‘cause we made you do jobs you weren’t used to. Anyway, thanks to you…]
Subaru: [――Natsuki Subaru.]
Todd spoke rapidly to Subaru, who sat up slowly, and he also widened his eyes as Subaru introduced himself to him.
For a moment, it seemed like he had not understood the meaning of Subaru’s introduction, but,
Subaru: [Natsuki Subaru, that’s my name.]
Todd: [Nn… Ahh, were you bothered that I kept referring to you as just “you” by any chance?]
Subaru: [Ah, no, it’s not to the point that it was bothering me, but… I haven’t introduced myself to you, so I thought I might’ve been super rude or something.]
Todd: [Haha, you think too much about it. But, Natsuki Subaru, right? I gotcha, I gotcha.]
While chuckling, Todd clapped the shoulder of Subaru, who lowered his gaze out of embarrassment. Seeing that he was acting the same as always, Subaru felt relieved to an extent.
Apparently, Rem’s worries from yesterday were simply her overthinking the situation, and Subaru’s uneasiness was also groundless.
Todd appeared to be just a careless person for real. Murmuring, “My mistake, my mistake,”
Todd: [Though, that’s an important topic, but I’m here to talk about something even more important. Thanks to what you told me yesterday, the generals’ plans changed course.]
Subaru: [Changed course… you mean, the conquering of the forest?]
Todd: [Yep, yep. At any rate, if it’s really Witchbeasts inhabiting the area, adding that to the reclamation of an unknown forest, then it becomes quite a different story. Even the casualties on our side will be by no means negligible. So…]
Taking a pause in his words, a wide grin spread across his face. And then, he took the half-awake Subaru’s face in his hands, and,
Todd: [Our military operations were called off immediately.]
Subaru: [Immediately? Then, Todd-san, does it mean you can return to your fiancée’s place?]
Todd: [Haha, that’s right!]
“Whoa!” Subaru exclaimed, sharing his joy with Todd, who nodded vigorously.
If the soldier-dispatching operation that would last for years had been changed, and Todd could return to his hometown, then he must’ve felt especially ecstatic. Subaru placed his hands together with the jubilant man, dancing inside of the tent with him.
???: […Um, can you be a little more quiet?]
Subaru: [Ah, sorry, Rem.]
Sitting up on her bed, Rem glared at the two men with a scowl on her face.
He guessed that her soured mood was not because of having just woken up. The reason was none other than her dreams being disrupted by the dance steps of the two men.
She then gave a light shake of her head, murmuring, “Oh well……”
Rem: [――? Doesn’t it smell… somewhat strange?]
Rem: [Yes. It’s different from your body odor.]
Sniffing at the air, Rem waved at Subaru as if she was brushing off a smelly object. Her gesture wounded him to a certain degree, but Todd immediately apologized with, “My bad, my bad.”
Todd: [I thought ‘twas alright because there’s some distance, but I guess you’d know if you have a good sense of smell. But, doesn’t it feel wrong to not hurry up and do something that has already been settled upon?]
Saying that, Todd opened the tent flap, and motioned with a hand for the two to come out.
So, Subaru exchanged glances with Rem, before handing her wooden cane over to her, moving towards the entrance.
They lined up next to Todd after that, and saw.
A dense plume of black smoke was being spouted with tremendous momentum, and a fierce smell of something burning hung in the air.
The great jungle that had filled up every inch of his vision left and right, no matter the distance or where he looked ― Subaru was greeted by the sight of the Buddheim Jungle engulfed in scarlet flames, burning and blazing furiously.
Rem: [This is…]
Next to Subaru who stood there in shock, Rem was left speechless by witnessing the same view as him.
Both Subaru and Rem stood still as a stone, staring at the forest that flared with red as if it were a nightmare, staring at the incinerated jungle, and staring at the world that was coming to an end.
Todd: [If it comes to Witchbeasts prowling around, there’s no telling the number of casualties on our side. When I insisted on that, Second-Class General Zikr, who commands us, agreed to it.]
Todd: [Thanks to the information you provided us, we ended up with no casualties. You’ve been very helpful.]
He laughed after he finished speaking, slapping Subaru on the back with the palm of his hand. Struck by the friendly impact of the blow, Subaru’s lips trembled. His lungs shivered, his throat shook, and his voice quivered as well.
Against Todd’s unchanging, amiable attitude, Subaru’s wavering voice formed the following words――,
Subaru: [Wh… why…?]
Todd: [Why? What do you mean by that?]
Subaru: [But, you said… you didn’t want to fight the Shudraqians… right?]
A difficult fight was inevitable if a battle was going to break out, and negotiations were the most desirable to make the people of Shudraq pledge their loyalty to the Emperor.
That was what Todd had told Subaru while they were eating yesterday.
If so, there wouldn’t be a battle. Relief had seeped into Subaru’s heart back then.
Subaru: [But, this… more so than battle, it’s…!]
Todd: [Yeah, we didn’t wanna fight them. We don’t know how many victims the battle will claim on our side. I could’ve died too. But, because I was able to obtain what’s needed to persuade the general, the issue was taken care of. The Shudraqians won’t be able to oppose His Imperial Excellency as well.]
Todd: [I can also go home early, back to my fiancée. Really, really, you were a great find. I told the generals about you, so you’ll definitely receive a medal.]
“Maybe you might be given a second dagger,” Todd joked, clapping Subaru on the back once more.
And then, as if he just remembered something, he murmured out an, “Oh,”
Todd: [I was told to return after showing you our military gains from this. Sorry, but I might be a little late to breakfast. But, you don’t have to tidy up the tents anymore. After a while, we’re gonna end up lifting the camp.]
Subaru: [――Ah, eh?]
Todd: [Well, well, get a hold of yourself. ――Don’t make the lil’ missy feel uneasy.]
Whispering his last sentence in Subaru’s ear, Todd gave him a genuine, well-intentioned smile before leaving the area.
In the end, Subaru could not utter a single word at the back of the man who was going far away in his line of sight, unable to do anything but remain silent.
However, no matter if he stayed quiet, or if he was tormented by the confusion whirling within his heart, the scene of the blazing forest both far away and in front of him would never change.
The erupting flames would consume everything, and it would eventually burn down every single sliver of life on the land here.
The gigantic snake Witchbeast, or the Masked Man who lived in the forest, and the hunter that had sought Subaru’s life weren’t exceptions, either. ――Everything would be reduced to ashes.
Next to Subaru, who grinded his teeth together from the shocking realization, Rem suddenly staggered.
When he instinctively supported her slender body with a hand, Rem stiffened the moment he touched her. And then, as she gazed up at him, fear and a sense of rejection began bubbling over into her expression.
Rem: [It’s not like this is your fault…… I know that. But,]
Rem: [Don’t… touch me.]
She stifled the fright that threatened to overwhelm her for a moment, slowly pushing Subaru’s hand away. She didn’t brush it off nor broke it, but she simply pushed it away.
Her words were her honest thoughts. Rem did understand that this situation wasn’t what Subaru intended to cause. However, it only brought a meager amount of comfort to him.
Like this, facing the incident that had actually occurred, the comfort was too small――.
Rem: [……It seems like she has woken up.]
Rem said, glancing away from Subaru, averting her eyes from the burning forest, and as if looking away from what she did not want to see, she turned to face Louis, who was inside the tent.
Staring at her back, Subaru couldn’t call for her immediately.
Even he had trouble wrapping his head around what had happened. As of now, only dialogue choices that would be incorrect no matter what he said came to his mind.
So, he could not stop Rem, who was leaving his side at the speed of a crawling infant with difficulty.
He couldn’t stop her――,
Subaru bit his lip, gazing at Rem’s petite back after being rejected by her. He then noticed the tiny sensation that suddenly thumped against his back, letting out a gasp in the process.
He spun around, wondering what had happened, but he did not see anything or anyone that could have touched him from behind. However, the moment he turned his body, he caught a glimpse of something zipping through the corner of his eyes.
It was almost as if it had pivoted around him just as he turned around――,
The next second, like an explosive fit of a child’s tantrum, Louis raised her voice inside the tent.
The Sin Archbishop was irritatingly loud from the moment she woke up, but there was a situation in front of him that he had to prioritize, more so than the Sin Archbishop who was no different than a toddler. Although, it wasn’t like he could do anything about it.
Louis: [Uah, Aaa! Aaaaa!!]
Subaru: [――kh, shut it! We’re in a dire situation right now! There’s no time to dote on,]
You, he tried to shout at the wailing Louis, and knitted his brows together.
He reacted like that because Rem, sitting on the floor and her arms locked around the thrashing child, also had a sudden change in her expression.
Different compared to the fear and sense of rejection from before, she displayed astonishment that purely asked, “Why?”. Her wide blue eyes honed in on Subaru ― no, it was not on him to be precise, but,
Subaru: [……My back?]
Judging from the slightly unaligned angle of her stare, Subaru deduced the target of the focus of her gaze. He followed her eyes and turned his head around, peering into his own back.
And then, he realized it too late. ――The true identity of the thing that had pivoted around him just a while ago.
Subaru: [――The… arrow’s feather,]
That was exactly what had whizzed past his sight.
Then it was only natural, but the actual arrow itself was attached to the feather, and if the feather was swaying on his back, then that meant――,
Simply, the released arrow had been shot straight into Subaru’s back.
Feeling dizzy, Subaru collapsed on the spot, unable to stand for any longer. His hand immediately shot out, grabbing onto the entrance of the tent, and the tent tilted sideways with the momentum of being toppled over.
However, he could not afford to be bothered by it, as his body had already fallen sideways.
Witnessing the ordeal, Rem let out a shrill scream.
His thoughts swirling inside his head, Subaru absently noted it was the first time he had ever heard Rem’s normal scream. The useless comment flooded the inside of his head, overflowing and spilling out of his ears.
Louis: [Aaa, Uuaaa!]
Scrambling up on all fours, Louis approached the fallen Subaru. She shook his body violently, but he was unable to reprimand her, nor did he have any strength to resist.
How could one arrow reduce him into this sorry state?
Rem: [Someone! Someone, please some――! …This… Something like this must be nothing! Such a… shallow injury from an arrow can’t possibly…!]
Rem tossed away her cane and rushed to his side as she fell, frantically called out to him while looking at the wound on his back.
Ahh, Rem is really kind, Subaru thought. Even if Rem could not bring herself to believe him because of the miasma, even if he had created a world set on fire with a careless word, if Subaru had collapsed before her eyes, despite all of it, she would raise her voice in an effort to save him.
Subaru thought he did not want to show his weak side in front of this Rem.
If it’s just a wound caused by an arrow, then why don’t you show ‘em by standing back up like it’s nothing, Natsuki Subaru.
When he watched long-running TV shows or historical dramas, he often believed the people who died or were immobilized from being stabbed by such thin arrows did not have enough willpower.
Well, even if he excluded the case where his chest had been penetrated by a large arrow, the arrow in his back was not really powerful, just as Rem said. In actuality, it bumped into him so gently that he thought he had been patted on the back.
Why would an arrow like that be――,
Subaru: [――Geh, bh, uehk,]
Rem: [――hk, could it be… poison?]
As Subaru retched out the scorching sensation rising up in his throat, Rem arrived at the same conclusion as him.
He was not going to be killed by the impact of the arrow. The poison slathered on the arrow was eating away at him.
His limbs no longer moved, and his mind was sluggish as if he had been struck by a high fever. Something flowed out of his eyes and nose and ears, and his whole body began convulsing.
His ears began ringing thunderously, and he could not hear the voice of the worried Rem. He could not hear Louis’s shrieking that hurt his ears. He could no longer hear them.
The poison, poison, the poison, who, why, the arrow, hunter, forest’s, burning, scorching and flaring, Subaru had unnecessarily, the Witchbeast, Todd, burning, Rem, Rem, Rem――.
His consciousness fading in and out, a groan escaped his throat as blood bubbled and frothed out of his lips. And then, opening his bloodshot eyes wide, he tried to take a look at Rem’s face no matter what it took, and noticed.
――Around thirty meters away from the tent, there was a tiny, tiny silhouette glowering at him in a location easily reachable in less than ten seconds if one ran for it.
A child. A small child who was not too different from Louis.
She was a small child with mean-looking eyes. ――No, that wasn’t it. She did not have mean-looking eyes. She was glaring at Subaru. With eyes clouded over by hatred, her gaze pierced through Subaru with the intent to kill.
Her hair and face dirtied with soot, it was a girl holding a small bow with hate-filled eyes.
With those fingers, that hand, and the will to do so, she had shot Subaru with a poisoned arrow.
It was natural that he was hated by her.
It was also natural for her to want to kill him.
The results Subaru had brought about caused the girl to pursue her hatred, a fate like that.
If so, this… the retribution that arrived before him――,
???: [――No! Wait! Please, wait. Wait……]
Beside his ear, he heard a desperate voice.
He wanted to wait for her. He wanted to stop in his tracks for her. He wanted to lead her by the hand, and smile at her.
He could not do any of those.
He remained unable to do any of those.
Bubbling and churning, he gurgled out blood-red foam, his body convulsed, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, urine seeped across the floor, and he threw up his guzzling, melting organs, while falling down towards the darkness.
The unsightly, filthy, and thoughtless fool plunged deeper into the darkness.