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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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――Swaying, tottering, wobbling.
His consciousness wavered slowly.
Like a ship traveling across the vast ocean, it wobbled to the right, and to the left.
His consciousness teetered, its feeling heavy, and it felt as if he were going to become dizzy, despite his eyes being closed.
It was not enough. He did not have enough of everything.
Blood, flesh, bones, peace, anger, and happiness. Of those various things that formed a human, there was not enough.
He did not have enough of them, almost as if everything had been spilled somewhere, falling apart like droplets.
He had to gather them up, he thought.
He had to pick them up again, pack them in again, and then he had to stand up once again.
There was a place where he had to go. He had a desire that yearned to go there.
There was a reason why he had to live. He had a wish that cried out, I want to live.
That’s why, that’s why, that’s why…
Even if there was not enough of everything in him, even if he remained flawed and imperfect, he had to keep moving.
For that reason, Natsuki Subaru would――,
As soon as he awoke, Natsuki Subaru curled his lip at the sticky sensation on his face.
It felt like the area from his face to his chest was drenched. Its lukewarm sensation seemed similar to the sweat he would feel, on the morning after he had had a nightmare.
Combined with him spacing out with his head feeling heavy, he thought he might have had a fever, perhaps.
Subaru: […The ceiling is unfamiliar.]
Subaru mumbled out what he saw in his field of vision, a shabby wooden ceiling, with the intent of making it sound like a cliché.
He was in a shack, built by putting wooden materials together in a crude manner, and far from adhering to any architectural style. Subaru was confused on what to think of it for a while, looking at the masterpiece that compensated for its inexperienced technique with raw muscle.
What had caused him to be in this shack? To remember that, Subaru recalled his memories at a gradual pace.
Subaru: [If I remember correctly, after I exited the convenience store and blinked, I found myself in another world, I met Emilia-tan there, and ― it’s a bit long, so let’s omit the rest of the details.]
It was a monologue he would not let anyone else hear, but as he continued to joke around, the speed at which he could process his thoughts returned to him.
Yes, after young Natsuki Subaru had been summoned to a different world, he had met a super beautiful silver-haired girl, had gone on various great adventures after that, finally conquered the tower of sand, and had been sent away to a neighboring country.
Subaru: [I have no idea what I’m talking about…]
Anyway, the real situation at hand was how these bizarre situations kept persisting, almost to the point he wanted to bemoan his current predicament.
And then, although he searched through his own memories, he did not remember seeing this shabby ceiling, as expected.
Subaru: [Somewhere like the place in the Sanctuary is a narrow possibility, but the building from the time I was imprisoned by Garfiel was decent.]
Nowadays, the adorable Garfiel admired him and called him “Captain”, but the memory of being imprisoned by him, with his hands and feet tied together, lingered inside of Subaru, despite it being a memory from a world that was lost.
It was not as if Subaru held it against him, but being imprisoned was a valuable experience, so he could not quite forget it even if he tried.
However, the memories he had of his ceiling did not match the poor environment from back then.
He had been living life in a different world, in a place where the level of civilization was rather high, after all. Subaru, a man from the modern era, realized one of his few occasions of fortune right there and then.
While he was in filled with deep emotion, thinking about how he wanted to make that realization in a better environment――,
As he organized the disorderly contents of what went through his head like that, one by one, a sudden realization pierced through him without warning, almost like a clap of thunder.
Yes, this was not the Lugunican Kingdom, but this was the Vollachian Empire.
In the neighboring country where he had been unexpectedly thrown into, the people he could rely on were not there――,
The girl who he had to protect no matter what had arrived in this country, together with him.
In addition to that, Subaru had been separated from her, and she was still with the dangerous men――,
Subaru: [Am I an idiot? No, I am an idiot…! This isn’t the time to…]
???: [――What are you busying yourself and making a racket for?]
As Subaru immediately sat upright on the verge of going out to look for Rem with great determination, upon hearing a stiff voice thrown towards him from the side, his breath caught in his throat.
Subaru only noticed it as he sat up, but it seemed like he had been placed in a bed just as shabby as the ceiling. His eyes met with a pair of blue ones beside him, staring at him with a scornful gaze.
The eyes belonged to a girl with rather short blue hair, who was looking at him, her pretty eyes narrowed in a stern manner.
Subaru: [Re… m…?]
Rem: [――. I’m not really positive about answering, “yes” to that. I still haven’t acknowledged that I am this person you call Rem, after all.]
Subaru widened his eyes as Rem spoke to him stiffly, sounding as if she were trying to sound impassive to the best of her ability.
However, she was right in front of him, she was speaking, and he could also feel her warmth and sense the gentle fragrance that wafted from her, as evidence of this being neither a dream nor an illusion. Yes, the warmness of her hand also counted.
Subaru: [Huh? A hand?]
Suddenly, Subaru was stunned as he realized his right hand was holding the girl’s ― Rem’s hand, under the ragged cloth covering his body.
He had no recollection of what had exactly happened, however.
Subaru: [Wait, were you holding my hand until I woke up?]
Rem: [Huh? Don’t say something so disgusting. You can tell by looking at it. You seized my hand and refused to let go.]
Subaru: [O-oh, I see. I guess that’s right. Yeah, I’m the one who was grabbing your hand…]
He had spurred Rem’s souring mood, unable to tell the difference between expectations and reality.
Apparently, he had been grasping Rem’s hand the whole time he had been unconscious. ――Even so, the fact she had not shaken him off weighed on his mind.
Rem: [What’s that look in your eyes?]
Subaru: [N-no, no, it’s nothing. Yes, it’s nothing.]
Rem: [I see. Let go of me already. Your hand is slimy with sweat.]
Subaru: [An enormous amount of damage done to an adolescent boy…!]
When said by a cute girl, it was a blow that would inflict an incurable wound, depending on the person receiving it.
Fortunately, Subaru only got away with nearly dying because he was made of tough stuff, but when he timidly let go of Rem’s hand, she brought her hand to her chest and wiped it on her clothes, resulting in him being hit by a follow-up attack.
Anyhow, aside from Subaru’s inner feelings――,
Subaru: [Rem, are you hurt anywhere? If you are hurt anywhere, please don’t hide it and tell me.]
Subaru: [Eh, what’s that face for…? Did I say anything weird…?]
Setting aside their first interaction, Subaru wanted to be certain of Rem’s safety. However, despite his question being rooted out of concern for her wellbeing, Rem’s reaction was terribly frosty.
Subaru spontaneously panicked, wondering if he had said something he should not have, but he did not have the faintest idea of what it was.
All he had stated had been about his worry for Rem, without anything out of the ordinary.
Rem: […You’re the one who was seriously injured. You aren’t aware of it, even though you were at death’s door?]
Subaru: [Aware…? Umm, that’s…]
Rem: [I see, it seems like you aren’t. ――You can’t be trusted, just as I thought.]
Subaru swallowed as she met his eyes, all the while flinging out words of rejection at him.
She had lost her Memories, the smell of the miasma that encircled Subaru had been of assistance in making a bad impression of him, and Rem’s attitude towards him had remained consistently stand-offish and cold.
Much more than that, he had been unable to create an opportunity to bridge the rift between her and himself this time.
Subaru had been really desperate, trying his best to save Rem from the Empire’s camp――,
Another piece of his deficient memory was filled, and it felt as if he were under an illusion that caused his brain to tremble.
The astonishment he currently felt was special to the point it rivaled Rem’s existence.
Subaru had risked everything to save Rem, after he had been captured by the Empire’s camp.
In the end, he had come across the tribe in the forest ― the People of Shudraq, and underwent their ritual, along with the prisoner of war who had been placed in the same cage with him.
Subaru: […I have a right hand… And it’s not black.]
Subaru mumbled as he lifted his right arm, looking at the torn sleeve and the arm that peeked out from there.
A dreadfully dark pattern that had surfaced on his right arm. An aftereffect of an encounter with the Sin Archbishops at the Watergate City of Pristella, but it was gone without a trace, despite having been indelible until now.
――That black pattern had treated the wounds of his tattered right arm.
It was an event he remembered as a horrible memory, but it seemed like it was neither a dream nor a nightmare. No, it was a nightmare, but it appeared to be something that had really occurred.
His crippled right arm had been healed, and Rem was at his bedside.
That meant Subaru had finished the Lifeblood Ritual without dying, and he was also successful in taking back Rem. ――Causing many casualties in return.
Rem: […You look pale. I think… you should stay in bed.]
She declared that as she looked as Subaru, who grew silent as he glanced down at his unnaturally taintless arm.
Showing her concern to someone when they looked ill, even if she did not have a good opinion of them, was probably a result of her innate kindness. Or it may have been because Subaru’s expression looked like a dead man’s.
A part of him wanted to depend on her kindness.
However, he could not do that. There were too many things he had to make sure of.
Subaru: [Thanks for worrying about me. But, I have a lot of things I need to ask you about… Just asking, but this house belongs to someone from the People of Shudraq, right?]
Rem: [They were calling themselves that, it seems.]
Subaru: [I see… If that’s the case, I want to see Mizelda-san and the others. Also,]
It was a subject he did not want to ask her about, but he could not afford to not verify it.
Rem, who had been imprisoned in the Empire’s camp, was here. If so, he was also curious about the person ― Louis, who was similarly held captive over there.
To put it bluntly, he was worried.
Not about Louis’s safety, but more about the damage that would be caused if she were to be left alone.
Subaru: [I’m gonna be honest with you, but where’s that girl… Louis?]
Rem: [――. You have a disgruntled look on your face. Why do you keep her at a distance?]
Subaru: [It’s hard to explain. And I have reasons you probably won’t understand even if I did.]
Any conversations regarding Louis would always incur Rem’s displeasure.
Subaru felt pained by that, but he also thought of it as a matter that could not be communicated by talking about it.
Subaru: [Anyway, where’s she? Was she left in the ca…]
Rem: [――You’d know if you looked to your left.]
Pondering over what she had told him, Subaru widened his eyes, and directed them to his left ― towards the side opposite to Rem, who was at his right.
And then, glancing over, Subaru’s face grew stiff from the delayed bewilderment.
Laying there was――,
???: [Zzz… zzz…]
Louis was sleeping soundly, showing off her innocent, sleeping face.
She was at his left side, sleeping in the same bed and wrapped in the same, ragged cloth. Saliva dripped down from her wide open mouth, and looking at her shameless display, Subaru finally caught onto the situation.
The identity of the stickiness and wet sensation on his chest and face, when he had awoken was――,
Subaru let out a soundless scream.
???: [Oh, Subaru! It seems like you’ve woken up without any problem.]
The person who welcomed Subaru as he showed up at the clearing, guided by Rem, was Mizelda.
Her black hair dyed red, the young matriarch of the People of Shudraq walked over to Subaru, who exited the shack, and double-checked his condition from head to toe.
He let out a small, dry laugh at Mizelda’s unreserved, yet powerful demeanor that felt rather refreshing.
Subaru: [I made it back alive, thanks to you. It seems like I’ve made you worry, too.]
Mizelda: [Don’t worry about it. If you were to die, all we have to do is return the soul of our brave comrade to the skies, and bury your corpse under the soil as we mourn. It’s a good thing your soul remained instead of that happening.]
Crossing her muscular arms, the olive-skinned, tall Mizelda held her head high.
Her unpretentious words bore into his chest, and Subaru felt quietly, and deeply impressed by them. Although, to be honest, back when he had been captured by the Shudraq and placed inside that prison, he had steeled himself for another death.
Like that, while Subaru was impressed by her, Mizelda narrowed her eyes with a, “By the way,”
Mizelda: [It’s too bad you’re taken. Rem and Louis… will you add at least one more person?]
Next to Subaru, Rem raised her voice at Mizelda’s somewhat mischievous-sounding offer.
She had a stern expression on her face, still shaky on her feet as she walked with her new wooden cane. Having woken up just a little while ago, Louis was clinging onto her arm, her eyes widening out of surprise at Rem’s voice.
While caressing Louis’s blonde hair, Rem called Mizelda by name once again, and then,
Rem: [You shouldn’t say that. I do not trust, or understand this person.]
Mizelda: [Then, could he be given to me?]
Rem: [Yes, of course. I will give him to you.]
Subaru: [The conversation isn’t reflecting my will!]
Louis: [Aaa! Uuu!]
With a prickly attitude, Rem agreed to the proposal to transfer Subaru.
When Subaru rushed to put a stop to it, Louis shouted as well, going along with the momentum of the atmosphere.
“I’m only joking,” Mizelda laughed as she heard him, but Subaru could not hold back his astonishment once he saw her affable disposition.
He could barely remember what had happened right after the Lifeblood Ritual.
Even after that, he still could not define the line that distinguished his memories from his desires, made to be favorable to him. Seeing how Mizelda was acting, it did not seem like a fantasy, however.
Subaru: [So, for once, I was able to build a good relationship with someone I’ve met for the first time. That’s great, but…]
Mizelda: [Mh, you look pale. Are you feeling unwell? I can cut off any impaired parts on your body.]
Subaru: [I feel like it’s going to turn out to be a disaster if I carelessly say, “Yes, please!”, so I’ll decline.]
It was not a joke, but an earnest offer, probably.
He figured it could be a fatal mistake if he were to say, “Yes, please!” without thinking it through.
Subaru: [Last time, I didn’t have the time to look around leisurely, but…]
Going around in a circle to observe the village of the Shudraqians, Subaru muttered.
The village existed deep inside a vast forest, and it looked like a world where the level of civilization’s improvement had come to a halt, including the shack where Subaru had awoken.
It was a sight befitting the impression of what would be called an ethnic minority, living in an uncultivated jungle.
Amazons who lived their lives while taking part in hunting, with no male workers ― it seemed like an undeveloped area, indeed, as Subaru saw no signs of civilization in the village.
Subaru: [Their numbers are few, so they can keep living by going hunting everyday… but, I…]
Subaru murmured, knitting his eyebrows in a distressed manner while biting his lip.
Rem was wordlessly staring at his face from the side, with a cross look on her face. Whatever she was thinking in the depths of her blue eyes, the current Subaru was unable to perceive it.
He was scared of being unable to read her thoughts. He also could not smile back with ease at Mizelda, who had smiled at him.
That was why, in order to overcome this situation――,
Subaru: [I want to talk to you, Mizelda-san. ――I think I also need to speak to that guy… as well.]
Mizelda: […Yeah. You said it at a good time. He’s probably at the meeting area with Taritta and the others right now.]
Hearing Subaru’s words, Mizelda nodded and jerked her chin.
She was pointing towards a large building at the back of the clearing ― a place that had been referred to as the meeting area. It was most likely a place that fulfilled its role as its name suggested, and setting aside whether it was the most fine-looking construct in the village or not, it seemed as if the role had been assigned to the largest building.
Subaru: [――Let’s go.]
Locating his destination, Subaru began walking in that direction.
He held out his hand to be of assistance to Rem, just in case, but she had rejected it. Taking Louis with her, she indicated that she would walk on her own with her attitude.
Laughing dryly at the invariable response Rem sent towards him, Subaru tightened his expression.
And then, the group passed through the entrance of the meeting area, and went inside.
???: [It seems like you are finally awake. Have you enjoyed yourself, Natsuki Subaru?]
Yes, he was greeted by a masked man, who sat on the ground of the meeting area with one knee raised.
Amidst the Shudraqians, who were surrounding a fire, a man had slipped into the center of the meeting place.
Subaru’s cheeks twitched at his reception, and he was also at a loss for words.
???: [What is it? Surely, you shall not declare that you have lost your voice, in return for barely returning alive? A price such as that… Perhaps, it was an appropriate one to pay, looking at the results.]
Subaru: [No, I haven’t lost my voice. My voice isn’t gone, but I’m at a loss for words. What’s with that mask of yours?]
Having said that, Subaru pointed at the man who spoke in an arrogant manner.
Placed on the man’s face, where Subaru’s finger was pointing at, was what looked like an Oni mask, painted in red and white. However, since the Oni existed as a race in this world, it could not be an actual Oni mask.
A mask that simply resembled the face of something frightening. That was what the man was wearing.
The man, sounding disinterested, responded to Subaru’s indication with a, “Yes,”
???: [It is an offering. Originally, I had the intention of keeping my face hidden going forward. I suppose it will do. It was troublesome to re-wrap my face every time I washed it.]
Subaru: [Yeah, it looks like you might get itchy if it gets dirty… Wait, it’s not the time to be talking about that.]
Grimacing at the man’s indifference, Subaru walked towards him from the front without hesitating.
And then, seated in a circle together with the man, Taritta attempted to stop him with a, “Hey.”
???: [Halt, Taritta. It seems as if this person has business with me.]
Taritta: [Y-yes… however…]
???: [When I say it is fine, then it is fine. Are there any other words that are necessary?]
Held back by none other than the man, Taritta shook her head and backed off.
It seemed like the man had won over a hefty amount of trust from the People of Shudraq, all within a short time period. ――No, considering that attitude, “control” was more appropriate than “trust”.
Taritta neither acted out of fear nor trust, but respect. The same applied to the other Shudraqians that surrounded the same area, at least.
Subaru had no idea what sort of method the man had used in order to do that, however.
Subaru: [For now, I just want to speak to you, one-on-one. ――Vincent Abellux.]
Subaru declared, standing in front of the man who was sitting, gazing down at him. He could not see how the man’s expression had shifted behind his mask upon hearing Subaru’s words.
However, the air around the meeting place grew tense, and it was almost as if he could feel that the temperature had decreased.
The pressure in the atmosphere almost made him inadvertently hold his breath, but Subaru endured it with willpower alone.
Vincent: [I shall overlook the first time because of your befuddlement, so do not make me repeat myself. Therefore, know that there shall not be a third time. You shall withhold yourself from uttering my name indiscreetly.] 
Subaru: […What if I say, I don’t want to?]
Vincent: [I shall administer punishment accordingly. I know a great number of ways to force you to surrender.]
The man stood up on the spot, glaring at Subaru while facing him directly.
Judging from the feeling of his proclamation and his demeanor, there were no falsehoods within the man’s words. There was no possibility of them being a bluff, either. Even if the number of moves he could make and the measures he could take were limited, Subaru was sure the man could implement the punishment he had been talking about.
Subaru: [You’re an annoying guy…]
Vincent: [Then, will you make me say it a third time?]
Subaru: [――. No, I’ll pass. I didn’t come here to argue. ――Abel.]
It’s meaningless to remain stubborn, Subaru thought, giving in first.
Like that ― Subaru decided he would heed the advice of the masked man and call him Abel. Drawing his chin back at Subaru’s decision, Abel commented, “A wise choice.”
Abel: [Had you not withdrawn, then there would have been an instance of bloodshed.]
Subaru: [Ha, you wish. I’ll probably offend you if I say this, but I think it’ll be just barely an even match if we both went at it.]
Abel: [If that is the case, you are the one who should look behind himself.]
Subaru: [Behind myself…?]
Abel said to Subaru, who had received his earlier words as provocation and crinkled up his nose. When he complied and turned around, his shoulders shook as he exclaimed, “Uweh!”.
Rem was standing there, watching the argument unfold between the two men with an icy stare.
Subaru: [U-umm, Rem-san? Your face…]
Rem: [No? It’s just… Even after you were about to die, having been asleep for three days, it seems like you’re ridiculously stubborn, refusing to take good care of your own body. Why don’t you just drop dead at the side of the road, then?]
Subaru: [Sorry! I’m sorry, I won’t do it again!]
Giving in to Rem’s cold eyes, Subaru apologized desperately.
In the end, he could not make any changes to Rem’s disappointed expression, but he had a sudden realization.
It came out of the blue, but there was a high possibility that the reason why Subaru had been able to survive, narrowly escaping from his death, was thanks to Healing Magic, unless there was some sort of miraculous elixir.
If that was the case, the person who did that was――,
Abel: [Including that, I must speak with you.]
Abel had apparently deciphered Subaru’s feelings after seeing him hold his breath. He shrugged his shoulders lightly, then turned his face in Mizelda’s direction.
Abel: [Mizelda, make everyone leave. I only require myself and this man to be here.]
Mizelda: [Well, well, you’re just doing as you please, now. I would’ve been angry if you weren’t handsome.]
Taritta: [Sister, please get angry even if you’re up against a handsome man…]
While Mizelda obeyed Abel’s orders without any resistance, Taritta’s shoulders dropped as she looked at her sister.
However, Taritta had also followed Abel’s command earlier, so her words were unconvincing.
Once Mizelda, the chief of the tribe, had been persuaded, the other People of Shudraq would not stay put.
All of them streamed out of the meeting place, one after another. The problem was whether Rem, and in addition, Louis should be placed among the wave of Shudraqians, but――,
Abel: [It is inconvenient for you to speak about your desired topic if that woman is here, is it not?]
He saw through the reason of my hesitation, Subaru thought, his breath catching in his throat from Abel’s words.
However, in the end, what Abel had said was correct. Subaru did not want Rem to hear the conversation that would come after this.
Subaru: [Rem, can you step outside with everyone else? It’ll be over soon… Or, well, I don’t know if we’ll get it done soon, but we won’t take too long.]
Rem: [When you put that way, it sounds like I’m the one who’s behaving like a spoiled child.]
Subaru: [I didn’t mean it like that… Then, can you step outside for now?]
Rem: […What would you do if I were to say, “I don’t want to”?]
He was astonished by Rem’s response, having believed his hands to be already full from dealing with Abel.
Subaru immediately understood she was ridiculing his interaction with Abel from a short while ago, but he was a complete pushover whenever Rem held her ground.
If it were possible, he wanted to grant any of her wishes and let her do whatever she wanted to do.
Subaru: [――. ――――. I think… I don’t want you to… listen to this.]
Rem: [I could remain here by force.]
Subaru: [Then…. Then, I’m being cheap, but I’ll run away in that case.]
If Subaru started running, then Rem would not be able to catch up to him with her speed, since she had to use a cane.
That was the only point where Subaru could clearly surpass her right now. He had to say it was rather shameful of him, as Subaru could not think of anything else other than that.
Louis groaned as she pulled Rem’s arm, in front of the distressed Subaru. Apparently, she was trying to take Rem out of the meeting place.
Looking at Louis, Rem chuckled,
Rem: [I’m sorry, I must’ve made you worry. It’s just… I wanted to say mean things to this smelly person, just a little bit.]
Subaru: [Smelly person…]
The term pierced him, deep and razor-sharp, more so than any other “mean things”, but that was currently not of importance.
Just as she had told Louis, Rem quickly withdrew with a, “Well then”, and left the meeting place with the blonde girl in tow, while using her cane.
Subaru scratched his cheek as he watched Rem’s back, with it never turning around for her to look back at him.
Whether Rem seriously did not have any interest in Subaru, or whether she had said that out of consideration, it was hard for him to make a judgement.
Of course, he would be happier if it were the latter, however.
Subaru: [She was brought here with the worst impression of me. I won’t wish for more, that’s my lifestyle.]
Abel: [You have downright ridiculous perseverance and vanity. ――Sit, I shall listen to what you have to say.]
And so, the two were left alone in the meeting area. Following what Abel said, Subaru dropped himself onto the ground, sitting cross-legged.
In front of him, Abel also seated himself on the ground, with one knee up. He watched Subaru through his mask.
Sitting opposite of the burning bonfire in the middle, the two men faced off against each other.
Subaru: [First thing I want to ask, how much of it was a dream, and how much of it was real.]
Abel: [Hm. I suppose that is a question no one but you would ask. How would you like me to answer? Everything was a dream, we avoided utter catastrophe and the situation is approaching a peaceful conclusion. Would hearing that satisfy you?]
Subaru: [You know Utakata and utter cata-strophe kinda sound similar, you might confuse me with the girl if you say that…]
(TL Note: In the Japanese text, Abel uses the word 泡沫。Subaru is making a joke/pun out of it because 泡沫 (the word) and ウタカタ (the girl) are both pronounced as “Utakata”.)
A young girl, one of the People of Shudraq. Subaru was pretty sure her name was Utakata.
The unintentional pun was confusing, but that was not the true meaning behind Abel’s words. ――No, Subaru understood what Abel had meant, and used that light joke as a brief escape.
Abel did not overlook Subaru’s timidity.
Abel: [I do not plan to keep up with your cowardice, Natsuki Subaru.]
Subaru: […Yeah, I know. ――Attacking the Empire’s camp, that was real, correct?]
Abel: [Of course, that is correct. The Empire’s camp deployed outside of Buddheim was completely destroyed with the power of the Shudraq. The scene you saw was no illusion.]
――Again, Abel confirmed the reality of that scene.
Hearing that, Subaru felt something profoundly heavy pierce the back of his chest. Tightly biting his lips, he used the pain to keep his consciousness from fading.
That kind of easy escape was not permitted for Natsuki Subaru.
Subaru: [… I, I understand the situation now. You commanded the people of Shudraq and attacked the Empire’s campsite, chasing them away. That’s the jist of it.]
Abel: [Yes. However, that explanation is lacking. Let me supplement.]
Abel: [I commanded the Shudraq to destroy the encampment. Moreover, that was done with no casualties suffered on our side.]
Subaru: [――. So, is that you just bragging about how amazing your commanding ability is?]
Abel: [No, that is not the case. ――This feat is your achievement.]
TowardsAbel, who shook his head, Subaru widened his eyes in surprise with an audible “Ah?”.
It was a completely unexpected statement. Abel actually acknowledging Subaru’s achievements was one thing in and of itself, but Subaru could not even fathom as to why he was getting any sort of credit.
What in the world was was he talking about――
Abel: [Do you not understand? The reason why the Shudraq and I could achieve a flawless victory was because we had detailed knowledge of the enemy’s organisation. We got this information from none other than you yourself.]
On top of his raised knee, Abel spoke with his chin rested on his hand. Meanwhile, Subaru’s thoughts came to a standstill.
Those words were completely contrary to his expectations. It did not just come out of left field, it gut-punched him from left field. Finding it difficult to accept the implications behind those words, Subaru opened and closed his mouth silently like a fish――,
Abel: [If you roughly know the enemy’s stationing, layout and personnel, the probability of success of a siege rises. In reality, we won with no casualties. That was your contribution. You even received a reward.]
Subaru: [Re… ward…?]
Abel: [We safely rescued your woman. I reward work. I do not have the ability to reward the dead. I thought that only while you still drew breath but… hm, the devil’s luck in you is strong.]
Although he had been told that he had extremely good luck, Subaru was still in a state of shock.
It could be that, as far as Abel was concerned, those words were supposed to be considered a compliment or praise. However, unfortunately, Subaru did not have the capacity to accept them, nor did he have the mores rooted in him to do so.
That was natural, of course. ――Why did he have to be happy about being useful as a tool of war.
Subaru: [Why did I, even talk about the campsite…]
Abel: [It was the side-effects of the medicine. After finishing the Lifeblood Ritual, you were on the verge of death. There was a need to keep you alive until the takeover of the campsite and the rescue of the woman was complete. The medicine used kept your mind in a clouded state. Hence why you spoke.]
Subaru: [I just blabbed about anything that was asked of me…?]
Aghast, Subaru held his face in his hands, his voice trembling.
It was true, Subaru had a general understanding of the particulars inside the encampment. He had once spent several days in the camp as a choreboy after all.
He knew what was where and the rough number of people that were there. He also knew where their weapons and tools were stored, so if one were to crush those locations as a first strike, it was no question that they would get the overwhelming advantage. He understood that.
He understood, but so what if he did.
Subaru: [Medicine!? Are you messing with me!? Using that kind of thing without asking me! You…!]
Abel: [However, without it, you would have died, unable to reunite with the woman. It means the woman’s Healing Magic would not have reached you, either. There is no reason for you to speak ill of me, who let a dead man live.]
Subaru: [O-of course there is…! I… I didn’t want to assist in a war! So many people… died… but, you’re…!]
Abel: [――It seems like you are misunderstanding something.]
He said bluntly to Subaru, who was breathing heavily, positioned in a stance to denounce evil.
Pierced by the coldness in Abel’s tone, Subaru stiffened his cheeks.
Subaru: [Misunderstand, you say? What am I misunderstanding, exactly?]
Abel: [For example, we shall pretend your consciousness was not befuddled by the medicine. In order to rescue that woman, you would still need the aid of the Shudraq, nevertheless. Naturally, you would disclose what you know, and give it your all… If so, you would have spoken about who is assigned to where in the camping grounds.]
Subaru: [Ah, uh…]
Abel: [You understand it, do you not? The result would be the same. Whether you were on the verge of death or not, the secrets of the encampment would be exposed by your knowledge, and those soldiers would perish.]
Receiving Abel’s indication, Subaru searched for a way to protest against it.
However, Abel was correct, and Subaru could imagine what would have happened in that case, off the top of his head.
In fact, had he lived through the Lifeblood Ritual in a better state, and had there been a discussion on forming a plan to save Rem, then Subaru would have talked about the Empire’s camp.
He would have divulged the positions of the soldiers, as well as their numbers, and he would have used his knowledge to aid him in thinking up any measures to save Rem.
Subaru: [But, I would be a part of the council of war in that case. I would’ve definitely been against a strategy that would result in casualties. So…]
Abel: [You claim you would have been able to convince them? Would it have been possible for you to convince the people who do not know, nor have any other means aside from bloodshed, find a more appropriate method of carrying things out, and save the woman without any casualties, peacefully and civilly?]
Abel: [I will tell you this. ――That… is what would be called a pipe dream.]
Pierced by Abel’s words, Subaru’s soul shrieked as it bled out.
No!, he wanted to yell, wanted to deny Abel’s words. However, everything that came out of his mouth was baseless, driven by emotion, and it would not be able to inflict a single crack on Abel’s mask, nor make his expression waver.
The things they saw were different from one another. They led their own lives differently.
Contrasting views on life and death laid within Subaru and Abel, as well as the People of Shudraq. And, it was impossible to remove and break through such a wall.
During the short time in which he had lost Rem, at the very least. Certainly.
Subaru was sure of it.
Subaru: […I didn’t want to give up just because of that.]
Abel: [In return for your perseverance, someone other than you would die. Perhaps, that person may be a complete stranger to you. Or they could be someone who may be akin to your other half. When you stand still and indulge in your foolish thoughts, it means you are allowing that to happen.]
Abel carried on with shoving it into his face, despite Subaru cursing the unforgivable reality while grinding his teeth.
Perhaps, in exchange for the harsh, unmerciful way of how things had been done, Abel had reeled in a definite result. However, why did he have the privilege of selecting which lives would be lost in return?
Subaru: [Who do you think you are? Do you think you’ve become a God or something……?]
Abel: [Fool. I am neither a God nor a Hero. Naturally, I am also different from those wicked Observers who look down on this world. ――I am a King. A King amongst Kings.]
Abel: [The one who stands at the apex is called the Emperor by their people. ――I, am that.]
Abel announced, placing a hand on his chest daringly.
Subaru could not see his expression beyond the mask that hid his face. However, Subaru imagined Abel’s face, a face he had only seen once, displaying a bold smile, a bright fire lit within his eyes.
Emperor. Hearing that, the thought of holding his breath completely slipped from his mind.
The man had proved his existence with his own words, in such an imposing, majestic way.
And then, Abel ― Vincent Abellux continued speaking to Subaru, the latter shell-shocked, the former maintaining the dignified tone of his voice.
Vincent: [――The seventy-seventh Emperor of the Sacred Empire of Vollachia. That is me.]
Vincent: [However, I have left my position as of now, having been ousted from the apex.]
 – Vincent may be referring to the time when Subaru was drugged.