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――The sound of something breaking, only the consciousness continued to hear endlessly.
Bones were being chewed, gray matter being flattened, eyeballs cracking, the liquid therein contained overflowing.
The cranium, the bones of the head were being crushed. The important part on the inside was thoroughly overwhelmed by the pressure of sharp fangs, and it was clear that it was all turning into a pulpy mess.
Gray matter and spinal fluid flowed out together, mingling with an unknown yellow liquid pooling on the forehead, where blood vessels with the appearance of a thin mesh were torn apart, causing red blood to gush forth.
With all of that joining together, consciousness and memory transformed into flesh-colored vomit.
Pain, there was pain. Trouble breathing, too.
The pain in his head creaked like it was splitting his cranium apart―― and thinking so, his consciousness bitterly smiled.
That splitting was not what this was all about.
There was nothing left to split, and everything important was already smashed. Besides, even with the part that registered pain having been squashed, so what was left to say, even?
The organ that accumulated memories and was used for thinking, the brain, had been destroyed; the parts necessary for maintaining life in the first place, had been completely ravaged. What would occur after that happened?
Once such a thing took place, humans would experience Death. So, naturally, him too――
???: “――rusu. Barusu. Get yourself together.”
Grabbed by the scruff of its neck, the intensely muddled consciousness was forcefully brought into light.
The first thing he felt upon returning was someone’s voice close to his ears, scolding him with a stern face. The voice was not only accompanied by the trembling of sound, but also by a slight feeling on his face as if it had been slapped.
???: “Barusu, if you do not get up, I will burn off your eyelids.”
With his sleeping mind hearing that terrifying statement, his consciousness rapidly rose to the surface.
As the voice called and dragged it out of that dark world, his consciousness passed through a suffocating environment that appeared like the surface of water. And so, opening his eyelids before they were scorched by flame,
???: “――Barusu, are you awake?”
Immediately he encountered Ram’s face in front of him, her light-crimson eyes narrowed.
He could hear her breathing, her face was so close that he could touch her lips if he raised his mouth a bit. Of course, such colorful situation could not exist. The reason Ram was leaning down so close was because the surroundings were so dark that they could not see each other’s faces unless they looked at one another from close-range; that was all there was to it.
Upon becoming aware of Ram in front of him, his sense of touch began registering the feeling under his buttocks immediately, among others. Fine particles of sand rolled out from atop his body. Subaru had been lying spread-eagled on the sand sea.
With a breath, air leaked out of Subaru’s mouth, and Ram seemed to stare deep into his eyes for a short moment, and then slowly with the other hand she shined a lantern upon his body. From the girl’s hand, an orange light cut through the darkness, and Subaru understood that he was still trapped in the labyrinth of sand―― No, he understood he had Returned by Death.
Looking around the darkness, Subaru gradually remembered what happened.
The shock at the moment of death was always vivid, and there was nothing to indicate he had gotten used to shaking off the memories at all. Immersed in the trembling field of his memories, he struggled to remember the meaning of his certain death, and Subaru’s last moments grazed past his fingertips as he remembered it.
Recollecting the awful situation, the image of Ram’s expression of hatred illuminated by the lantern appeared yet again in his mind with a tremendous impact.
And then, the murder spree that had originated from the insults and abuse he had hurled at her, a killing rampage with no meaning nor significance, and the horrendous conclusion of it all.
Subaru: “Ubu… Hk.”
As Ram displayed a confused expression, Subaru involuntarily put his hand over his mouth.
Remembering the reality of Ram’s death that had occurred just a couple of minutes ago, and the desire to scream―― was not it. In fact, facing Ram and remembering her gruesome last moments, caused a vomiting urge.
Subaru: “Ugh, eh… Geh.”
Subaru’s deaths had already exceeded the number that could be counted by the fingers on both hands.
And in this world with Return by Death, it could be said that the experience of losing a close friend like Emilia or Beatrice was nearly the same as his own death.
However, Subaru himself had never got used to death. For his own, or the death of someone else, was one and the same. The fear of being dead himself, or thinking that someone close to him might die, shredded his heart.
――Indeed, in the last loop, the tragedy of Ram’s brutal death was a shock he had experienced for the first time.
He had seen her figure having had its stomach cut open, its neck severed, her whole body mercilessly wounded, and then dead.
Each death was full of anguish and grief, and Subaru was unable of putting people’s deaths on a scale and compare them. It did not feel right.
However, it was the first time he had had his head crushed, chewed up and ruined in that manner.
He had also witnessed Ram’s beautiful face being crushed by fangs without mercy.
That was also a tragedy enacted by Patrasche, one of the beings Subaru most trusted.
Subaru: “…Oh, geh. Geh, gah.”
Desperately attempting not to remember it was no different from remembering.
The more he tried to forget Ram’s miserable end, the clearer the pink hair and the remnants of her head in the mouth of the ground dragon were carved into Subaru’s head.
As a result, it was not possible to get over the urge to vomit, so Subaru turned toward the sand.
However, his throat and stomach had yet to recover from the impact of having Returned by Death, and so they just cramped, not obeying Subaru’s will.
Subaru: “Geh, eh…”
Ram: “…Is this just because you woke up suddenly? Miserable.”
Tackling the ground, desperately attempting to vomit the contents of his stomach, but nothing exited. That his throat was dry and that not even a drop of saliva had come out was vexing.
He could not gaze at Ram’s expression looking at him with a lantern in one hand, but the surprised tone in her voice was easily conveyed to the panting Subaru.
Naturally, the coldness reminded him of the events just before that death.
The violent passion that led to the murderous intent was rising for no reason, as did the abuse that had triggered the emotional outburst―― the impulse that had driven him to do so urged inside his chest, it was dreadful. However,
Ram: “――Do not bite down.”
With that sentence of preamble, Ram sat down beside Subaru and lifted his chin.
The kneeling Subaru was surprised for a moment, and Ram opened Subaru’s mouth with no worry as to his reaction, with the same uninterested look as always―― then thrust her own white fingers into the back of Subaru’s throat.
Subaru: “…!? Oh, ehk.”
Ram: “That Barusu is this severely inept was already known, but this is at the level of a baby.”
Having someone else’s fingers entering his throat, Subaru felt like his esophagus was being rudely violated.
But then, his stomach and throat, which had resisted vomiting until then, accepted that surprise. This time, both began pushing out gastric juice and saliva at once in a desperate action.
With tearful eyes, Subaru got rid of his urge to retch by letting out his stomach’s content on the sand. Only gastric juice and drool had been vomited, but it was still much better than it had been before.
Subaru: “Eh, geh… Haa, buh… Sorry, I’m fine… Hk.”
Ram: “So? I’m happy that you’re pleased.”
Subaru wiping his mouth with a sleeve, Ram shrugged her shoulders and replied with childish language.
Despite her attitude, it was true that he had made an impression that was roughly at the level of a baby. There was no room to refuse that, and Ram’s palm was still gently stroking Subaru’s back.
It was hard to understand, her scathing thoughtfulness.
Subaru: “The hand, it’s all right. More than that, this place…”
Ram: “You remember that the barrier got broken and the sandy sea cracked in front of us? The dragon carriage was swallowed up, and as a result we got thrown in here.”
Ignoring Ram’s consideration, Subaru spoke while looking at his surroundings. In response to her remark, Subaru was hesitant as to whether he should be relieved or anxious that the Return by Death point had remained the same.
However, in either case, action must be taken quickly.
According to that judgment, he tried to continue speaking――
Ram: “Ever since you woke up below ground, Barusu, have you ever worried about Rem? Or about Emilia-sama? Or about Beatrice-sama? Have you ever at all worried about those who are missing?”
What resuscitated in his mind were those bladelike words of Rem, both terribly sharp and heart-rending.
The discord that had invited the previous end―― the situation where allies killed one another, was obviously abnormal.
He must come back to his senses, but recalling the situation, it was hard to imagine that he had been in a normal state of mind. In the first place, the trigger was abnormal. It was absurd that something such as negative emotions had been amplified and evolved into the exchange of insults and then into mortal combat.
Ram tilted her head at Subaru’s visage, as his words would not come out.
The last time they had talked, discord sowed by an aberrant situation had followed suit. So of course, there was no meaning in being concerned about the words Ram had spoken in such a state―― But it was inaccurate to say that everything that had been said was a lie.
The fact was that the dissatisfaction and indignation Subaru had felt towards Ram had not been fake, but true. Even though they had been augmented to a point that they would not have in normal circumstances. But it was not that everything had been untruthful.
Then, it was also true that Ram had held some inexpressible discomfort over the fact that Subaru’s attitude seemed like he had no concern regarding about Emilia and the others. If consideration were given to that feeling, Subaru should be worried about Emilia here in any shape.
Actually, he was worried, so it was not a lie to act that way.
However, he just knew that he could not do anything about the target of his worry.
At this time, yes, at this time, did Subaru realize that he was at a loss for words for that.
He knew it was necessary to avoid conflict, but still hesitated to deceive Ram by lying. Worrying about his peers and deceiving others by being calculative―― disgusting, it was.
Naturally, that hesitation had to be swallowed down. It was not worth getting someone displeased for that reason.
Subaru: “That… everyone…”
Ram: “――It is useless to blame yourself so much. There is no point in pursuing who is responsible. There should be something else to give priority to, rather than wasting time like that.”
However, before Subaru could speak his words of worry, Ram reached her own conclusion on Subaru’s feelings. That being said, she had misread the serious expression in Subaru’s face.
That was something rare, for Ram’s insight. She would sometimes say and do things as if she could see through people’s hearts; her error here was evidence that she was impatient deep down inside.
Ram: “Besides, we have already wasted time with Barusu’s vomiting.”
Of course, Ram would never display such stormy behavior of her own heart.
Because of Ram’s attitude, which could not be described as headstrong but rather as a bluff, Subaru was at a loss for words. After that, Ram moved first without saying anything.
While she wiped the finger which had been jabbed into Subaru’s mouth, she turned the lantern towards the back of the labyrinth.
Ram: “We cannot stay here, Ram must be with Rem and… we have to join up with Emilia-sama and the others.”
Subaru: “I know… Who else is here?”
Ram: “Besides Ram and Barusu… it seems like they have just returned.”
With Ram glossing over that confirmation, she turned back, and he followed her words and gaze.
Coming from the other side of the maze with a swaying flickering light, were Anastasia and Patrasche. Subaru’s eyes shook slightly, as he gazed at the jet-black dragon that melted into the dark.
That dignified and ferocious beautiful face, illuminated by the flickering orange light.
A row of fangs that could be mistaken for blades were present within that closed mouth, which had crushed the girl’s head, which had even crushed Subaru himself all of a sudden――
That would not occur in normal circumstances.
Subaru: “Am I an idiot…? No, I am definitely an idiot.”
Clenching his teeth, Subaru tried to stifle his fear.
In that abnormal friction, the murderous intention that had been directed could not be genuine. The experience of being killed by Patrasche was carved into Subaru’s heart, as a scar that could not be healed.
Still, Subaru had supposedly been faced with existences that had murdered him time and time again.
Subaru: “Yeah, even Rem and Ram, at first …”
Even Ram, who had just now displayed her affection.
Even Rem, who had supported and forgiven Subaru with her devotion.
His relationships with them had been the worst at first, there had been times his life had been targeted, there had been times he had been deprived of it.
Compared to that, the events from just before, which had not been intentional, were adorable.
Subaru: “That’s right. That’s very right… It has to be, right?”
He embraced his shoulders and grabbed his skin as if feeling cold.
In the basement of the sand sea, in this place dominated by sand and darkness, it was certainly cold. However, the reason as to why he felt those chills was different from the ambient air.
Anastasia: “――Natsuki-kun, ya seem to have woken up.”
Ram: “――With some assistance. So, how is the vicinity?”
In front, Ram and Anastasia were talking.
They should be fine-tuning a strategy for conquering this labyrinth of sand based on the information they had just obtained. Originally, Subaru had blended in there, with many things he had to communicate.
But now, the priority was to calm his mind and to stop the quaking of his knees.
With Return by Death, the events and impacts immediately before death should have been left behind. But even if he tried to quench it, the fear emerged, and the passion of that moment revived.
Subaru kept resisting, endlessly so, as to disperse those feelings.
With Subaru in such a state, the jet-black ground dragon seemed lonely as it watched him attentively.
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――The heart of Subaru, who had supposedly Returned by Death just now, had yet to be restored wholly.
Apart from that particular aspect, the four-person exploration of the sand maze proceeded in almost identical fashion as before.
In search of their allies, the group headed by Subaru slowly moved in the cold darkness. With the lantern lighting up the corridor, the journey was slow and frustrating, keeping an eyes for any shadows lying along the road.
Truth be told, Subaru wished to skip this checking process.
Subaru had gone through this way twice already. There was no way Emilia and the rest were strolling in the area that he could see. However, there was no point in appealing to the two people behind him. There was no defense to the argument that it was something that had been overlooked.
As a result, the frustrating march did not pick up its pace, Subaru’s impatience only rose as time went by.
Anastasia: “Everyone else’s prolly okay… In our case, we’re just barely in luck to have Patrasche-chan here.”
Subaru & Ram: “――――”
Anastasia: “If ya think ‘bout it, it’d be hell to have no ride in the sand sea. As expected, the only thing to be worried ‘bout’s the lack of strength…”
Subaru & Ram: “――――”
Anastasia: “If push comes to shove, I won’t hesitate to use my trump card, but if I don’t use it sparingly, I’m afraid we’ll end up havin’ our backs to the wall. So can I rely on the two of ya?”
Subaru & Ram: “――――”
Anastasia: “…Hey, are ya listenin’ to me, Natsuki-kun, Ram-san? For a while now I’ve been talkin’ to ya all by myself.”
As their search journey resumed, Anastasia chatted continuously, but she seemed to have become cross with them. Subaru stopped and looked back at her, who had complained about getting the silent treatment.
Then brightening Anastasia’s face with the lamp, he took a deep breath, and spoke,
Subaru: “How can you go on and on without running out of things to say…? For now, we are sort of desperate to find the other guys. We don’t have time to chatter uselessly.”
Anastasia: “There’s no waste nor anythin’. I’m talkin’ ‘bout things related to our future plans. ‘Sides, it’s usually Natsuki-kun’s role to continue chattin’. Without that, the two girls… No, us four’s anxieties’ll be goin’ up.”
Subaru: “Four, huh?”
As Subaru pouted his lips, Anastasia’s mouth went on and on.
The “two girls” here referred to Ram and Anastasia, but with it being rephrased to “four people”, it would result in adding Eridna and Patrasche. Strictly because Anastasia was Eridna, that should be rephrased as “three people”―― but it was not something to correct in the first place.
Subaru thought, narrowing his black eyes at Anastasia, who was puffing her cheeks.
The real Anastasia was dormant, and now, Eridna was donning her appearance. Even so, her behavior had become so familiar, it seemed as if she had blended in.
It was unfortunate that, independently of which one of them was in control, it was still impossible to see through her facial expressions, words, and behavior to see her true intentions.
――In the disagreement that had culminated in them killing each other last time around, though he was conscious about Ram and Patrasche because of how horrifying that ending had been, Anastasia’s attitude also brought forth a sense of discomfort.
Ram’s enmity and Patrasche’s attack were easy to understand; the two had apparently gone crazy.
However, at first sight, it was hard to judge whether Anastasia had fallen into insanity, and whether what had laid within her heart had been indiscernible until the very end.
Of course, due to their difference in strength, Anastasia had been slain by Ram, but her cunning was dangerous. She had concealed a knife in an emergency bag, and had looked for a weak spot by feigning mediation. If he were not wary, he could be caught and murdered in his sleep at any time.
Subaru: “…Whatever it takes.”
――He wondered, had they always been hostile to him?
Facing the passage ahead, Subaru punched his cheek in a way so that Ram and Anastasia would be unable to see it.
His mouth was cut with that unrestrained blow, and he felt a sharp pain as the tip of his tongue became acquainted with the taste of blood. He would hurt himself to correct the cloudiness of his consciousness.
Ram and Anastasia, they were not acting abnormally.
It was Subaru, who was not able to let go of the abnormality now.
Subaru: “Great, understanding that I’m being weird all by myself, I’m shuddering.”
Had he gone insane, or was everyone else insane?
There had been a time when Subaru had become so conceited as to believe that everything except him was wrong.
Ultimately, of course, it had all been a mistake. Subaru himself, a lost cause as he was, had tasted the foolish experience of arrogantly assuming that he was in the right, and in the process, he denied all that surrounded him.
He had known all along that he had been in the wrong, and in the end, he was able to indicate that and admit it. It was an accurate, vivid memory.
However, the current Subaru acknowledged his own abnormality in normalcy. On top of that, it was terrible that he was not managing to tame his abnormality. Just awful.
At this point, Subaru remembered.
This desolate sensation in his heart, where the loneliness would drive one into craving madness.
This was the horizon that the madman, Petelgeuse Romanée-Conti, had reached. Being aware of his own madness, recognizing his abnormality with normalcy, this was what that madman had gazed upon.
Ram: “Barusu, what’s wrong?”
While he was feeling disgusting empathy, Ram’s voice fell upon the trembling Subaru’s back. Subaru swallowed the blood mixed with saliva and looked back at those two, acting like nothing happened.
Subaru: “Nothing, just sand in my shoes making me feel uncomfortable.”
Ram: “…Ram’s heart doesn’t care even a bit about you in particular being silent, Barusu, but Anastasia-sama’s words do also have a point.”
Subaru: “What do you mean?”
Ram: “Even if you are the one shutting up, holding back something will not ease a woman’s anxiety. If you wish to do so, then hide it better.”
To those words, Subaru once again bent his lips.
The meaning of Ram’s words was obvious, difficult to be mistaken about. Then he also noticed that Ram’s words were translations of Anastasia’s hard-to-understand words.
It seemed as if he was being seen through, and his heart rather began to scatter.
Subaru: “It’s vague, I don’t think I can explain by saying it.”
Ram: “It is too late for incomprehensible statements like those from you, isn’t it, Barusu? If there is a matter of concern, it is normal that arrangements are made regarding it.”
Anastasia: “Ram-san’s really an unforgivin’ opponent for Natsuki-kun.”
Tutting at Subaru’s words, Ram’s usual sharp tongue struck back. With bitterness and sharpness close to being poisonous, Anastasia gave a bitter smile.
To Anastasia’s calm composure, Ram shrugged her shoulders,
Ram: “Please be relieved, Barusu is pretty happy, because he is a deviant who enjoys suffering.”
Subaru: “The fuck are you talking about? Why on earth are you judging on what I am? Don’t turn me into a punching bag so freely, okay? You know what? You can only hit someone if you’re prepared to be hit yourself, yeah?”
Snorting her nose, Ram’s attitude was almost that of her usual self.
Unlike Subaru’s mood, that she had already been able to return to her self-indulgent self was envious and hateful. He felt disgusted just for thinking so.
However, even though they were having the usual chit-chats, the shade of the shadows of discord would be dimmed like this. During his daily life with those girls, that had undoubtedly been the light that Subaru had created.
Subaru: “If I somehow explain something that’s difficult to explain… I’m just a little paranoid now.”
Ram & Anastasia: “――――”
After putting into words, it sounded more futile than he had imagined. It was no wonder that Ram and Anastasia both had bent their lips in response to that.
Looking at her, even Patrasche seemed to be somewhat taken aback.
For Patrasche, who was clever and able to discern the reason behind things, it was possible that she regarded Subaru as good-for-nothing now. Rather, if she gave up on Subaru and replaced him with a proper owner, it would be way better for her.
Actually, he felt like even Ram and Anastasia were better at handling Patrasche. If she believed him to be a hindrance, it was only natural that she would open her fangs wide towards Subaru――
Subaru: “Stop, stop…”
Anastasia: “I understand it’s more serious than first thought, given how stupid it sounds.”
Anastasia commented on Subaru’s self-deprecation as he stared at Patrasche. Upon their realization that the reason was ridiculous, relief and anxiety simultaneously increased.
In other words, one of their options was to eliminate Subaru. Before that happened, still――
Subaru: “I, really am a pain in the ass.”
Anastasia: “Perhaps it’d be easier if we tied him up and carried him for real, no?”
His face turning red then pale as his face controted into several different expressions on its own, Anastasia threw in the towel regarding Subaru. Ram curled her eyebrow at Anastasia’s observation, thinking out loud, “However”,
Ram: “Even if we do tie up Barusu’s hands and legs, it would not solve the situation at its core.”
Subaru: “Don’t use such strong words. You might make an enemy out of me.”
Ram: “It is not that much of a big threat, but Ram does not wish to turn herself into an enemy of Emilia-sama and Beatrice-sama… I would not be able to face Rem again.”
As Ram was ruminating, Subaru struggled not to harbor any hostility towards her. While fighting such emotions, there was in fact something he was wondering about.
In reality, there was nothing to think about in this situation.
However, now that they had embarked on a journey to reach Pleiades Watchtower, having Returned by Death twice now in that maze of sand, a question had to be asked.
――When it came to the matter of Rem, Ram reacted awfully sensitively.
Of course, for Subaru, it was a good sign that Ram cared about Rem.
For Rem, who had been erased from everyone’s memory other than Subaru, only Subaru held a two-way bond with her. Although, it certainly caused a special feeling in Subaru, but it had no meaning in a practical sense.
As for Rem’s circumstances of isolation, Ram was trying to get closer to her family as much as possible.
Of course, no memory of Rem remained in her. That sad fact, he had come to learn over the past year. On the other hand, however, there was no doubt that Ram accepted the existence of another girl like herself, Rem, more seriously than “the truth Subaru had informed her of”.
And apparently those feelings were so much “beyond Subaru’s imagination”, that perhaps the actual feelings were being brought back to Ram.
That could be seen from the explosion of discontent in the previous loop within the labyrinth―― which had triggered the outburst for Subaru’s lack of consideration.
She did not remember. Yet, Ram’s feelings were comparable to what he could remember.
The feeling was deeper than what Subaru had believed it to be.
――But in reality, was that all it was?
Subaru: “No, it’s not disgusting. Not looking at you with those eyes. You’re being paranoid!”
Ram: “Have you gotten yourself up on a pedestal? There is no use.”
Subaru: “If I’m on a pedestal, aren’t you putting yourself on a kamidana and looking down on others?”
Ergo, it was safe to say that the relationships had not deviated from their routine of light-hearted conversations.
Even though the mood could change instantaneously, and those warm feelings could turn into cold-hearted hostility.
For the time being, they could not help but not hate the other.
Anastasia: “Be careful ‘bout Natsuki-kun’s behavior. I wonder what’s the cause?”
Ram: “Did you also notice that, Anastasia-sama?”
Anastasia: “Well, seems that Natsuki-kun’s obviously affected to some extent. I think.”
Subaru was being invaded by the paranoia of suspecting anything and everything, Ram and Anastasia looked at each other as if they had an inkling of what was going on with him. Rather, only Subaru knew the real reason.
With the perception and insight the two had, they were becoming even more wary. Alas, it was clear that Subaru’s every move was being carefully observed to an annoying extent as they were conversing.
Subaru: “Annoying… I’m an idiot.”
Anastasia: “Did’cha say somethin’?”
Subaru: “Just the extent of my stupidity. So, what do you think?”
As he wrapped his head about his own sensibilities, Ram and Anastasia’s heads puzzled over it. Then, in response to Subaru’s question, they both turned towards the front.
By looking ahead according to that movement, it was plain to see what was meant by that.
――A fork had appeared in front of their eyes.
Anastasia: “I’ve felt a disgustin’ wind flowin’ in for a while now… Now I realize why.”
Ram: “This bad wind invokes discord. As Meili described it, Barusu’s body odor seems to summon Witchbeasts. And by nature, their affinity is bad… No, I wonder if it’s good.”
Subaru: “Do you know what this disgusting feeling is?”
Ram: “Multiplying Barusu’s present condition with Barusu’s body odor would yield the same.”
Subaru: “Don’t say «body odor» so many times.”
In the past two loops, they had unanimously agreed on the “bad feeling” subject. Then, Subaru’s current physical condition and present circumstances were intertwined. Thus, a different opinion was born.
Ram and Anastasia looked at each other and nodded together,
Ram & Anastasia: “Miasma.”
Subaru: “The Witch’s, huh. Then, going ahead would mean…”
Anastasia: “Tho’ I ain’t sure, it’s a well-known fact that the Witch’s Shrine lies beyond the Sand Dunes. Oh, and since the distortion of the sand sea’s been solved, and it’s now connected by some accident…”
Ram: “It turned out to be an unexpected shortcut, something like that. And because of that.”
It had been determined that the cause of their souls becoming corrupted, and the discord that was stirred up, concluding in having them killing each other, was the Miasma.
On top of that, Anastasia pointed at that way with an ironic smile, speaking of the possibility of a terrifying existence.
A two-way fork, with Miasma drifting from the right, and the Centaur’s lair on the left.
Of course, he intended to smoothly explain the threats lurking in the left road after this―― But for the time being, which way should they go?
Anastasia: “So, which way do ya think is the right answer?”
At Anastasia’s question, Subaru and Ram exchanged glances.
But, without the slightest deviation in their voices’ synchronicity, they spoke.
Subaru & Ram: “――Left.”
That was how it went down.
 A bit difficult to replicate this in English, but hopefully contractions and simple language work here.
 A kamidana is a miniature altar in Shinto religion, one to have at home, to enshrine a deity in the home of a believer. For more information, see here.
 A bit of a pun here, as the same verb (捻る) can be used for “wrapping one’s head around something”, “wrapping something around something” (like a cord around a pole), and “being puzzled over”. Thought it was neat.