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Reflecting upon the unbelievable truth, Subaru could feel his entire body awash with cold sweat.
As far as Subaru knew, this was one of the most terrifying situations he could be in.
A scenery he remembered, a conversation he had already heard before. This was not something like déjà vu.
This was not an event that he thought had happened before, it was an event he was actually reliving. The reason for that was only one――He had Returned by Death.
Subaru: [But, why…?]
There was absolutely zero warning.
Particularly for Subaru, it felt like the world had switched out in a blink of an eye.
It felt so unreal to the point that it was enough to question whether the Authority he carried had misactivated. And that for some reason, the “Death” part of Return by Death had been dropped and only the “Return” part had activated.
Subaru: [Am I an idiot? No, I am an idiot.]
Subaru disciplined himself as he attempted to look at this situation optimistically.
It was a stupid statement, but he had to trust Return by Death. The power to reverse time that Subaru held had never once been activated without death as a trigger.
By losing his life, Subaru would go back in time. That was a certainty.
Subaru: [――OK, I’ll accept it. I’ve accepted it. Now, me, what do I do.]
Pushing his fist into his forehead, Subaru told his panicked self to be calm.
Now that he accepted that he had Returned by Death, the next point to focus on was his cause of death. He thought back to the events that had occured only a few dozen seconds ago.
Subaru: [… I can’t think of anything.]
However, even when reflecting back on the time he had met his demise, he could not recall anything.
He searched for the tiniest of clues in his memory, but turned up empty-handed.
The bar which was their destination; a talking Flop; the hustle and bustle of the main road getting quieter; the slight, unique smell of the shade in the alleyway; a faint, hard sound――that was all he could scrounge up.
None of them were linked to the reason as to why Subaru’s life was in danger.
Subaru: [Fuck, why am I always like this…!]
If Subaru had been watchful regarding changes in his surroundings, he would not be exposed to this misery. He detested and cursed his own carelessness.
However, the logical part of him understood that that was an impossible demand and it turned an unamused eye towards himself.
He was not a security camera. It was impossible to stay alert of his surroundings twenty-four-seven. He was not a genius that could take in the small changes in his environment and be able to form a plan to deal with them immediately.
Natsuki Subaru was undoubtedly an ordinary person.
That was the unchanging assessment he had given himself, even after experiencing his memories vicariously from the eyes of an outsider and seeing himself in a new light..
That was why he could not stop thinking and moving forward.
Subaru: [――The situation is similar to when Shaula first killed me.]
Along the path to Pleiades Watchtower, Subaru’s group, who was challenging the sand wind at the Augria Sand Dunes, had been annihilated by Shaula, who was guarding the area from the Watchtower to the sand sea.
The sand sea’s rite of passage had begun with a white light that could not be reacted to. It was that first strike which blew Subaru away and started the infernal fight afterwards.
What had occurred, what was the cause of death. The situation where it was uncertain if he had died or not could be said to be a mercy bestowed by his first death at the sand sea.
However, unlike then, he was currently in the middle of a town.
The environment was fundamentally different from the sand sea where he had the conviction to face the various dangers to his life.
Subaru: [What’s going to take my life in this situation…?]
A death with no forewarning. The only thing he could think of that fit the bill was still Shaula’s snipe, as it left a strong impression.
That was why he may have been shot this time too. Subaru had died inside the alleyway――although they were not tall, the surrounding buildings sandwiched them and created a space with poor visibility.
If one were to shoot here, they could only do it from the front or back, but this was not the most ideal place for shooting, was what he thought. Of course, since Subaru did not know how accurate his memory was, the possibility that this position actually allowed an ideal line of sight was――,
Flop: [――Mister? Why is your brow more wrinkled than before?]
Flop: [Weren’t you listening to my advice? Your fortune will run away if you don’t erase those wrinkles! To chase something that’s run away is an arduous task! Cause I’m usually on an ox cart!]
Hitting his hand on his chest, Flop exaggeratedly gestured in front of Subaru.
Sensing that this overaction of his had the purpose of cheering up Subaru’s grimacing face, Subaru could not help but freeze up at his actions.
To find his cause of death, he would have to investigate the suspect that was travelling with him at the time too.
In the case that Subaru’s cause of death was not by shooting, the most likely culprit was Flop――the person who was travelling with him, and the person that was nearest to him.
However, at Subaru’s time of death, Flop had been within his field of vision and there was no sign that Flop had taken action to attack him.
Needless to say, Subaru knew that in this world, there was a plethora of attacks that could reap his life in a single strike without him noticing at all. Nevertheless, Flop did not seem like someone who could do that.
First of all――,
Subaru: [Does Flop-san have a reason to kill me?]
The most likely possibility was that he had faked goodwill and was trying to mug Subaru. However, Subaru thought that doing so, purposefully, in the middle of a town, was a poor decision.
They had met the O’Connell siblings for the first time at the queue outside the gate.
If they wanted to do their deed without detection, all they had to do was to deceive and invite them somewhere outside the gate. All could be done before entering Guaral, a place with guards. Even if their objective was the money they could get by selling the Witchbeast’s horn, in the end, the reason Subaru had not been cheated out when selling it was none other than Flop’s help. ――There was no reason to trap Subaru.
All they needed was to trick Subaru outside and steal the horn, and sell it once they got inside the city.
There was no logical explanation for their motive.
Quite a lot of people had killed Subaru until now, but they all possessed a rational explanation for doing so. Excluding Witchbeasts where communication was non-existent, that was a solid rule.
That was why――,
Subaru: [Flop-san? Why are you so nice to us?]
Flop: [Hm? That’s a sudden question.]
Subaru: [Yeah, sorry about that. Just, I got a bit worried.]
Flop raised his nicely-shaped eyebrows in surprise at Subaru’s abrupt question.
Faking a chuckle at this reaction, Subaru held his breath, waiting for Flop’s response. ――Logically, he did not doubt Flop. All that was left was whether he could believe him or not.
Flop, who acted cordially and had performed various deeds to help them out.
Subaru sought peace of mind, to believe that Flop and his sister Medium were not two-faced and that they could be trusted.
Subaru did not know if his eyes betrayed his true feelings, but Flop narrowed his handsome eyes as if he could see those emotions.
The expression he told Subaru to adopt before, a look overflowing with confidence and carefreeness yet devoid of any grounds for that, disappeared from his face, and was instead replaced with the face of an intellectual gentleman.
And then he shook his head at the frozen Subaru,
Flop: [It’s not a complex thing. It’s simple. What my sister and I are doing by being good to Mister and Missus and Niece-y is…]
Flop: [――Is revenge!]
Raising his hands, Flop proclaimed that out loud.
The strong and merry tone used, and the disturbing contents of the proclamation clashed with each other so much that, for one moment, Subaru could not take it in. Shocked, his eyes went wide.
In front of the stiff Subaru, Flop brushed his fringe, and said “Listen, okay?”,
Flop: [Long ago, my sister and I were living on the edge of life and death! Thrown away by our parents, we grew up in a home that adopts orphans… That place was pretty terrible!]
Subaru: [A home for orphans…]
At the back of Subaru’s mind, an image of a home vaguely resembling an orphanage came up.
However, it was not difficult to imagine that the facilities and equipment of this world’s orphanages were much different than the modern buildings Subaru was thinking of.
That terrible environment was probably something far worse than he could imagine.
While revealing to Subaru the kind of environment he had grown up in, Flop gestured.
Flop: [Every night, huddling with the other kids in the same boat as us, I decided in my heart to escape from that situation. And then, my sister and I got the chance, and were able to escape from there. For the first time ever, living through a night without being beat up, I vowed. ――revenge, that is.]
Subaru: [Revenge as in… against the people at the home for orphans?]
Flop: [No, not them. ――At the world.]
Having the same expression as before when proclaiming revenge, Flop hardened his fists.
Towards the intimidated Subaru, Flop put his passionate face upfront and,
Flop: [My sister and I grew up being beaten by the adults at that place. But, were the adults that punched us happy while they were punching me? No, they weren’t. They were unhappy too. Unhappy adults were beating unhappy children. Is this kind of hopeless situation even real?]
Flop: [Even adults who choose violence are unhappy. So I became a merchant to lift me and my sister out of misfortune. And as much as I could, we would bring others out of unhappiness as well. Just like how on that night, those people brought us out of it.]
Subaru: [That’s your revenge against the world?]
Flop: [That’s right. Me and my sister are resisting against the world which pushes misfortune onto us for revenge. Helping you and your Missus is also a part of that.]
After declaring that, Flop scratched his nose in slight embarrassment.
Receiving the fire in his words and actions, Subaru lost the ability to speak. The heat from that fire slowly seeped into his brain, and there, he came to a snap decision.
Subaru: [Thank you, Flop-san. I’m glad I met you siblings, Flop-san and Medium-san, at the queue.]
Whether he could believe them or not, he wished for a response that would point to the answer of that question.
And, the response he had received was far more than he expected. And so it was decided.
Subaru would not doubt Flop O’Connell’s goodwill.
He decided he would trust it to the end, his noble, vengeful heart which had decided to resist against the unfairness of the world.
Meaning, all that was left was to――,
Subaru: [Flop-san, this street isn’t really giving off a good Keh in the Feng Shui way. So is it alright if we could use a different path?] 
Flop: [Keh? What is Keh? Actually, is that the reason for the wrinkles in your brow and your eyes?]
Subaru: [It’s more like a fortune-telling item for good omens. It’s got nothing to do with my eyes! I think! But yeah, this street’s no good. I don’t mind if we go the long way, so please?]
Depending on Flop’s goodwill, Subaru forcefully advanced the conversation.
Deciding that Flop was not the culprit, the next thing to do was to avoid the incoming death. Whether it was a ranged snipe or not, it was no mistake that this was an attack.
If he were able to avoid the attack’s condition for occurrence, that would result in him being able to avoid this death.
To do that, first, it was crucial that he did not follow the same actions as he did before.
Changing paths, delaying the timings, he would avoid the disaster that would occur to him before it happened.
If he could do that, he should be able to dodge the unwanted death.
Subaru: [Well to begin with, I’ve never wanted to die in the firs… Well, only once or twice.]
And in addition to that, it was an unavoidable option due to the imminent state of affairs.
When cornered in a situation where the only way to save someone was to die, in those times Subaru had chosen death. Yes, Subaru also desired revenge on the world.
Flop: [I don’t know about that Keh thing but I like your earnest expression. It’ll be a bit of a detour, but why don’t we take a different path?]
Subaru: [That’d be a great help! Let’s go to a main street with as many people as possible.]
Fortunately, Flop listened to Subaru’s unnatural suggestion without opposition.
Following his lead, the plan for which way to go to the bar was changed. They turned back from the path they would have continued on and took a route to the tavern that would go through the main street, with minimal alleys.
Ultimately, if they passed through the line of fire before the tavern, it was possible that it still would not change the fact someone was after Subaru. However, if he knew the attack were to happen in the alleys in front of the tavern, there would be many ways to deal with it.
In the worst case, there was also the possibility his opponent might withdraw upon witnessing Subaru’s vigilant look――.
Flop: [Well then Mister, this way――]
Passing by Subaru’s side, Flop began leading him down a different road.
It was in that instant. ――By accident Flop looked over Subaru’s shoulder, and his eyes widened as if he had just noticed something.
What, he attempted to ascertain from Flop’s response, but that was not realized.
The reason being that, instead of a question coming from Subaru’s mouth, his mouth had opened fully to spit out the blood it was teeming with.
Subaru: [Ah, uh!?]
It was a feat of a single moment.
Subaru felt something seize the back of his head, forcing him to look up. Then, a hot sensation passed over his bare throat, and blood burst forth.
Drowning in the overflowing blood and pain, Subaru understood his throat had been cut open.
Both hands pressed to the wound on his neck, amidst the intense pain and blood loss, Subaru sought for a breakthrough solution.
The wound was deep and wide, cutting through major blood vessels, blood gushing out. He would take off his outer garment and wrap it around his neck to halt the bleeding―― No, the first priority here had to be to get away from the enemy behind him.
Moreover, Flop was right there. He was wrong to have doubted him. Afterwards he would have faith in him, he might not be forgiven, but right here, was Flop.
Subaru: [Ah, nghh…]
Rem was at the inn. One way or another, even with blood flowing from his neck, he had to make it back to her.
Go back, take her away, it’s not safe, withdraw. Even if she hated him, drag her away. For Rem to live. She had to live. For that, the neck’s bleeding, stop it.
The blood, the blood, bloodbloodbloodbloodbloodblood, the blood, stop, stop it, stopstopstopstooooo――,
Flop: [――Mister, it’s no good to have a scowl on your face.]
Flop: [Good fortune won’t come to anyone who doesn’t have the time to smile. You’re going to try and find companions for your journey now, aren’t you? Then, you need to find someone good.]
In front, Flop emphasized his point while grinding his finger against his own brow.
While watching that man’s gesture, Subaru promptly put both his hands to his own neck. He did not feel that hot sensation or the heat of life flowing out. The feeling of blood gushing forth with every heartbeat.
Of his own life pouring out, the pulsation of despair approaching Death.
Flop: [If that’s the case, then erase those wrinkles on your brow… What’s the matter, Mister, your face has gone pale.]
Seeing Subaru keep silent, Flop looked surprised and became concerned.
Despite that earnest gaze of his, just before Subaru, he was reminded of the moment his throat had been slashed open.
Right, his throat had been cut.
His throat was cut, blood spurted out, his instincts sounded the alarm that he had to get away, however, even if he could not hear those alarm bells, he came back to that moment.
In other words, he had died. He had once again Returned by Death.
In addition to that, this time was different with instant death from the outset. More explicit, in the form of hostility.
With his hands on his throat, Subaru had forgotten to breathe, which he remembered in a hurry. Subaru raised his shoulders up and down with deep breaths, Flop touched his shoulder and asked if he was alright, but Subaru had no room to respond.
However, he could not stay here either.
Subaru: [Haah, Flop-san, today, it’s, a terrible day for Feng Shui. Let’s return at once…!]
Flop: [Fuusooey? Although, considering that pallor to rest a bit would be…]
Subaru: [No, resting would be a waste of time! This is a fit that won’t stop until Rem holds my hand!]
Flop: [I-is that right… What an affliction that is!]
With a sense of uneasiness and urgency burning in his heart, he had blurted out nonsense, but the good-natured Flop gave more importance to the atmosphere than the content of words.
The hand that had grasped his shoulder was grabbed in turn, and Flop nodded in surprise. Pulling on that hand of Flop’s, Subaru hesitated as to whether to head forward or back.
If they went forward they would be on route, but if they went back they would go by where he had had his throat slit.
He felt he was at an impasse where whichever way they went his life would be in danger, so rather than forward or backward, he would return to the main street via some other alleyway.
He had failed before, but his opponent would try not to kill them――No, kill Subaru, somewhere in the public eye. If he was going to alert his opponent, getting to the main road was imperative.
Flop: [Mister! Your hand is super cold! We should get your wife to warm them up soon!]
Subaru: [Ahh, as soon as possible, I want to see Rem’s face.]
As a result, he did not care about the abuse he would face for returning without accomplishing his goal.
At any rate, to that place with Rem――,
Can I go back? The question swirled in Subaru’s mind.
In a situation where he had not yet grasped his enemy’s true nature, he thought about the danger of going back to Rem. He was unaware of when his opponent had begun targeting him, but if they returned to the inn, he may be kindly revealing the location to his foe.
Cursing his lack of thought, Subaru bit his lip and at the same time, his field of vision opened.
Exiting the alleyway, Subaru and Flop had made it to the main streets of the city. On the right and the left, the number of people coming and going could not be compared to a metropolis, but it was a hell of a lot better than the alleyways with their hideout-like taverns.
Nonetheless, it would take some nerve to dive into the crowd of people. To avoid that, he would have to decide on a guideline for their next course of action.
Flop: [If we’re on this street here, that means the inn should be over there. So then, this way…]
Subaru: [That’s no good, Flop-san! We can’t go back to the inn. To see Rem, such a thing would be inexcusable!]
Flop: [Isn’t that different from what you just said?!]
His conduct ended up being that of an emotionally unstable person, but his anxiety from before made it so he was incapable of returning to Rem’s side. That being said, it was also ungrateful to keep manipulating Flop without giving him any information.
But, what could he say to make him understand?
He was not an associate of the Emilia Camp, nor a long-time traveling companion like Anastasia or Julius. He had no powers of persuasion or grounds to make him take Subaru’s opinion seriously.
Even for this, it would be asking too much to pin his hopes on Flop’s innate goodness.
To break the deadlock of the situation, currently Subaru’s hand was sorely lacking.
He was separated from his precious Rem, and was being hunted down in a strange town. He was with the virtuous Flop, but he lacked fighting strength. Subaru himself had no strong point to show.
Without knowing who was attacking him, he did not know who to be wary of.
Subaru: [No way, the hunter…!?]
When he defined his opponent as an invisible assassin, the first possibility that came to Subaru’s mind was the Hunter.
They were a dangerous person who had killed Subaru once in the Buddheim Jungle, and after that as well, they had aimed at him while he was with Rem on one occasion. Ultimately, he had not run into them even once since then, but what if they were still meticulously continuing to hunt Subaru?
In the Buddheim Jungle, the military encampment, and the Shudraqian village, there had always been someone acting with Subaru. To avoid a set up with combat-ready opponents, they may have changed their timing until Subaru was with the powerless Flop.
Subaru: [If that’s how it is, it’s like you have the tenacity of a bear robbed of its prey. Why go this far to aim at me? What about me is the reason for…]
Flop: [Mister? You alright? What are you so worried about? If there’s something I can help you with, you can try talking to me first. You’re acting strange.]
While Subaru was looking left and right down the street and losing his nerve, Flop called out to him in that voice.
Directly across from him Flop seized both his shoulders, his earnest gaze and offer made Subaru want to depend on him, and Subaru seriously considered if he should try gambling on his innate goodness.
If it was Flop, he might have the faith to believe in Subaru and lend him a hand.
Subaru: [Flop-san, sorry to keep relying on you, but can I ask you something?]
Flop: [Ah, of course, certainly! Whatever it is, even if I can’t help, my sister might be able to. After all, my sister and I have the kind of bond where we can cover for each other’s weak points, you know.]
Subaru: [In truth, between the two of you this might be a matter for Medium-san though…]
If his opponent violently struck without mercy, there may be no choice but to respond with greater force. Medium’s strength was much greater than Subaru’s or Flop’s.
With that in mind, Subaru would try to explain the situation to Flop. Firstly, he would have to hide the matter of Return by Death, and explain that someone was relentlessly targeting him.
Subaru: [Actually, someone is presently…]
Flop: [――What the?]
His mind made up, while being careful not to trigger the penalty of mentioning Return by Death, Subaru was going to try to explain the circumstances to Flop.
However, just as he was about to speak, Flop’s gaze turned toward the wrong direction. He raised his well-shaped brows and squinted in the direction of the street.
By his reaction he seemed to have noticed something, and Subaru belatedly became aware of the same thing.
A long way off, someone was screaming.
And it was not just one person, several people shouted in shrieks and angry roars. Then the voices gradually increased in urgency, and sounds that differed from screams multiplied――,
Eyes wide, Flop’s throat closed, and Subaru also turned in the same direction.
Immediately, witnessing what Flop had, the same scene before his eyes also left Subaru at a loss for words.
――A giant wheel was headed right for Flop and Subaru.
Flop: [Mister, watch ou――]
Flop’s voice was cut off too early, the impact engulfed Subaru’s entire body with its intensity. His body was totally blown away, it hit the hard ground and tumbled many times.
The momentum did not stop, and he crashed into a wall. But that was not the end. ――Back-to-back, another successive impact hit the collapsed Subaru, and once more his body was blown away.
Subaru: [――a, guh]
Having been sent somersaulting and tumbling, Subaru’s field of vision was dyed black as his body hit the ground.
It was not as if the sky had suddenly been covered in clouds. It was something else, his field of view had been destroyed for a different reason. The cause he did not know, and even if he found out what it was, nothing good would come out of it.
However, if there was something he could say――
Death, that was something every cell in his whole body had been proclaiming towards Subaru’s instinct.
Up until this point, as someone who had experienced Death over thirty times, Subaru was somewhat conscious of just how much damage his body was able to withstand before he lost his life.
This time, it was clearly over the limit it could endure.
A festering pain.
Yet, that was something on a whole other level compared to merely localized pain. This aching assaulted his entire body. The existence named Subaru was synchronized with the phenomenon called pain.
This was not mere localized pain. Natsuki Subaru was precisely Pain itself. Pain was what he was, and therefore it was only natural to be in pain. Anywhere and everywhere hurt. The pain did not disappear.
From a distance rang a sound like that of tinnitus or similar to the whistle of a train, reverberating inside his head.
Amidst that, the sounds which can be heard were, the joys and sorrows of the people hurled into a maelstrom――nay, there wasn’t any joy. It was more fitting to call it a pandemonium. Pandemonium, hah. What a word.
Contrary to the echo of sounds, the events that unfolded were overwhelmingly grave.
Subaru: [Ahii, ouh, ah….]
He could not produce any syllables.
The mouth that attempted to enunciate words was in tatters. Without any teeth remaining, it had decent ventilation. Somewhere had been ripped apart and air was leaking through it. There was blood, sound, and pain.
Something, something, something――
Subaru: [Oh, ah]
Something had killed Natsuki Subaru again.
Flop: [――Mister, it’s no good to have a scowl on your face.]
Flop: [Good fortune won’t come to anyone who doesn’t have the time to smile. You’re going to try and find companions for your journey now, aren’t you? Then, you need to find someone good.]
Putting his finger in between his eyebrows, Flop rubbed the skin and flesh to relax them.
Watching the man’s performance unfold in front of his eyes, Subaru hugged his own two shoulders. Then, he recalled his mouth which air no longer escaped from, as well as the pain that had vanished.
――It can’t be, I died again.
Subaru: [Moreover… this time, it was… a dragon carriage, was it….?]
Pulverized by the impact, sent flying and rendered immobile, the candle of life thinned and vanished.
While dominated by the pain proclaimed by every inch of his body, Subaru had been killed. He had lost his life.
Clattering, the shoulders in his own grip trembled, and his knees began to shudder.
Even if his body did not recall the disaster that had befallen it, his soul remembered. The impact and pain inflicted upon his whole body as if tearing it to pieces, even if it no longer remained, still gnawed at his soul.
At last, Subaru could not conceal his fear towards the looming evil that befell upon him.
First time was instant-death, the second was being beheaded, the third was being run over by a dragon carriage――it could no longer be just a mere coincidence. No doubt, the aim was to kill Natsuki Subaru.
It had killed Subaru mercilessly. The most frightening thing of it all was that, despite Return by Death having been triggered thrice, Subaru had obtained no further information other than the fact an enemy existed.
The opponent would not leave behind any information for the lifeless Subaru.
Flop: [If that’s the case, then erase those wrinkles on your brow… What’s wrong, Mister? You don’t look so well.]
Subaru: [Flop, -san…]
Once again, Flop had shown concern towards Subaru, the latter’s facial expression having changed.
Earlier, the chaos on the main street was most likely the result of the dragon carriage going berserk. Then, in the instant before the collision, Flop had extended his hand in an attempt to save Subaru.
Not making it on time, Subaru had received the deadly impact head on, and it was unthinkable that Flop, nearby as he was, would have gotten off scratch free. ――he would have been dragged into the collateral damages as well.
Subaru: [In the first place, up until now…]
The enemy would not necessarily retreat in content after killing Subaru.
Flop had been there at the scene, and had witnessed the occurrences on both the first and second time. If the opponent was someone of caution, it would be natural for them to seal Flop’s mouth, as he was a witness.
Would it not mean that, up until now, Subaru’s death would be accompanied by Flop’s murder?
Would it not mean that Flop had already been dragged into the situation Subaru was put in?
“I won’t allow that”, thought Subaru as he gritted the back of his teeth.
Subaru: [――Kh! Flop-san!]
Killing any cowardice by gritting the back of his teeth, Subaru faced forward courageously.
Next, with that enthusiasm Subaru grabbed Flop by the hand, catching him by surprise. However, he did not have the leisure to take Flop’s bewilderment into account.
Considering what had happened so far, the countdown to death had already begun.
A situation of dead-end times three, where moving forward meant hell, heading back meant hell, going around still meant hell.
Even then, he must search for the path towards survival. ――not just Subaru and Rem, but also the kind older brother who had helped them and return him to his sister’s side.
That was why――
Subaru: [Flop-san, let’s run!]
Flop: [That’s sudden!? What happened!?]
Subaru: [There’s no hows or whats, life is finite! We can’t waste even a second, right?!]
It would be a bad move to stop here and earnestly try to persuade the other.
Subaru made such a judgement, same as previous times, he would use forceful reasoning to destroy Flop’s resistance. Sure enough, swallowed up by the momentum, Flop just nodded in agreement and voiced, “That’s true!”.
Flop: [Life is short. For the sake of achieving my sister and I’s goal, although time should indeed be treasured…]
Subaru: [Let’s run! Run towards the bar immediately! The trivial matters can be discussed later!]
Flop: [U-understood! I understand already, so stop dragging me! My bangs will get messed up!]
Forcefully dragged away by his arm, Flop cried out as he stumbled over his feet.
Listening to Flop’s shriek-like voice, Subaru advanced toward the road he once took――with the same goal of getting a bodyguard, he hurried toward the bar.
However, the goal was not to get a bodyguard for the sake of their travels.
For the salvation from this series of unavoidable Deaths, for the sake of obtaining the necessary help as soon as possible, they ran.
???: [――You want to hire the strongest one here?]
The barkeep they finally found raised his eyebrows in response to Subaru’s ragged breath inquiry.
The middle-aged barkeep, whose hair had started to gray, stared at the panting Subaru from top to bottom with somewhat skeptical eyes.
With his demeanor and his age, Subaru too realized that he was lacking in persuasiveness. Moreover he had barged into the bar, and suddenly brought up a question like that.
You could even say he had been generous enough to not immediately jump to the conclusion that Subaru was messing with him.
Currently, Subaru and Flop are inside the bar which was their original destination.
At first Subaru had been killed instantly by some unknown method in the alleyway within the immediate vicinity of the bar. That in of itself had been unsettling, but perhaps because rushing things turned out to be effective, the clutches of the devil that would have stopped Subaru and Flop who instead hurriedly hastened toward the bar had not made their appearance.
However, it would be premature to assume that they had escaped from danger on the basis of that argument.
Subaru: [That’s why, I have to borrow the strength of the strongest one here.]
Barkeeper: […If we’re talking about the strongest one here, that’d probably be Rowan.]
The barkeep shrugged his shoulders at Subaru, who had asked again while gathering his breath. Then, he proceeded to look at the other person besides Subaru, Flop, who was also out of breath.
Barkeeper: [Flop, here I thought you haven’t shown your face around in a while, and here you are helping someone again huh. Even though you won’t get a single penny out of it anyways]
Flop: [Hey now, I’m just doing whatever kind of deals I want to partake in. Those whom I partake in deals with aren’t limited to just people. At times, I take on unfavorable deals against the world itself.]
Barkeeper: [I’m saying there’s no profit in doing that, you softy.]
Perhaps because the barkeeper had been on quite familiar terms with him, he commented on Flop’s actions with a speechless tone.
Despite hearing directly from Flop why he had helped Subaru’s group, it seemed his kind nature was a well-known fact to someone who knew him beforehand.
While the barkeeper polished a glass cup, he shot a sharp glance towards Subaru,
Barkeeper: [He’s a real softy like you’ve heard. But, don’t you get the wrong idea here. This dumbass and his sister are softies that will help anyone regardless of who they might be, in turn, there are a lot of people that are indebted to them.]
Subaru: […I don’t have any intention of being an ungrateful bastard either, I’ll pamper him back just as much as I have been pampered.]
Flop: [Hahaha, I shall look forward to that! The day I’m going to be pampered that is!]
While fixing his bangs with a comb he took out of his pocket, Flop returned a candid response.
Feeling saved by Flop’s kindness and magnanimity, Subaru turned towards the inside of the bar, and asked “Which one is Rowan?”.
Barkeeper: [Ahh, Rowan’s passed out over there at the uh, corner over there.]
Subaru: [Passed out at a corner…? That doesn’t sound like good news.]
While saying so, Subaru looked nervously at the direction the barkeeper pointed at. Upon which, within the dim bar, and amongst several men that chattered drunkenly, he found a man who was slumped over at a table in the corner.
It was a man in his fifties, his long and disheveled hair tied up sloppily, along with his weapon of choice――a katana sheathed by the waist.
The table he had slumped over on was lined with several empty glasses; one can tell he really knocked himself out in every sense of the word before the sun had even set.
Subaru: […That’s the strongest, you say?]
Barkeeper: [There’s no doubt he’s got a terrible drinking habit but, he’s a master of his trade. Though he’s got a terrible drinking habit.]
Subaru: [You mentioning that about him twice only makes me even more worried.]
Subaru received the barkeeper’s warning about him having a bad drinking habit, two times consecutively.
Though he had been considered as quite the drunkard, beggars couldn’t be choosers. Right now, what was most important was not his personal conduct or the toughness of his liver, but his prowess in combat.
That of the person who possessed the ability to save the desperate Subaru from his impending doom.
Subaru: [Hey, Rowan-san, could you hear me out for a bit?]
Subaru steeled his resolve and headed towards the table Rowan passed out on along with Flop. As he spoke to the collapsed man while shaking him by his shoulders, Rowan responded in a stupefied voice and raised his head.
Face flushed completely red paired with a sleepy gaze, as well as facial features that would have been rather discernable if it weren’t ruined by a reddened nose.
Rowan: [What’s up, bro. Whaddya want from me…?]
Subaru: [This dude’s wasted… Anyways, listen to me. I have a job for…You reek!!]
Rowan: [Oioi, ain’t ya a rude one…]
After getting up wobbly, Rowan exhaled a drawn-out breath which Subaru had to turn his face away from.
As the dreadful stench of alcohol wafted, it even created an illusion that his vision had somehow been warped. It was not something as simple as drinking during the day. There should be a limit to how heavy of an alcoholic a person was.
Subaru: [Come to think of it, because there isn’t anyone I already know to be a heavy drinker, this is my first time dealing with this type… Roswaal and Otto too would only drink in moderation…]
The people in the Emilia camp who habitually drank alcohol were Roswaal and Otto. Ram and Frederica would drink too, but only if invited. Besides them, nobody else drank.
Subaru was also apparently of drinking age in this other world, but he had more or less gone until now without feeling the need to drink.
Subaru: [So honestly, I don’t really have a good impression of drunks but… Hey, this guy’s really the best one here right!? I’m not playing around here.]
Barkeeper: [What a coincidence. I don’t have this place open to play around either. There’s no mistake, it’s him.]
Subaru: [Shit, you’re serious…]
Receiving the barkeeper’s reassurance, Subaru turned back to Rowan with a bitter look.
Rowan was sitting sloppily in his chair and shaking an empty glass upside-down above his head, desperately trying to taste any droplets of alcohol left with his tongue.
Rowan: [Tsk, ain’t enough booze. Oi, ya bros, treat me to a drink why don’tcha.]
Flop: [Hm, you want a drink? Okay. Barkeep, A drink for him…]
Subaru: [Wait a sec, wait a sec, Flop-san! I really shouldn’t be saying this since I’ve been saved by your kindness but just for a little bit, keep your good will in your wallet!]
Shutting down Flop, who was about to treat someone just because they requested it, Subaru positioned himself in front of a displeased-looking Rowan. Then, he placed his hands on the table with force,
Subaru: [Rowan-san, let’s get straight to the point. We won’t be treating you to a drink. But, I can pay you the money you need to buy drinks. I want you to take a job.]
Rowan: [Aahn, a job…?]
Subaru: [That’s right. I’d like you to be an escort. And also, starting right this very second.]
Getting close to the stink of alcohol, Subaru boldly laid out those conditions.
Hearing his talk, Rowan stared back at Subaru with sleepy eyes.
Rowan: […Yer tone’s pretty panicked. Ya bros are in quite a dangerous situation, aren’tcha?]
Subaru: [Yeah, it’s no laughing matter. What do you think? The amount I can pay, this is my limit.]
Flop: [Mister, that’s…]
Widening his eyes in surprise, Flop attempted to stop Subaru’s action. However, Subaru halted Flop, who was trying to restrain him, instead and assertively put on the table a bag――the bag which contained all of the money he got after selling the Witchbeast’s horn.
As a precaution, he had not split and pass some amount to Rem.
This was genuinely everything Subaru’s group had on hand. There was no more money that he could pay beyond this.
Rowan: [Woah woah, this is…]
Subaru: [This is everything I can pay with. What do you think? Will you take it?]
Opening the mouth of the bag, Rowan went silent as he confirmed the contents with a quick glance. His face was still red but the drunken look in his eyes from before was now gone, a look of serious scrutiny replacing it.
Of course, an escort that could be hired at a bar――to show someone like Rowan, who worked as a knock-off mercenary, all of the funds that Subaru walked around with was a fairly large gamble.
Having crossed national borders, Subaru was not well-informed on the value of goods in the Empire. However, he felt that the value of currency was not so different from the Kingdom of Lugunica.
With the money Subaru had offered up, one could easily live a year just monkeying around.
Rowan: [My skills are first rate… I thought of saying that but, this amount upfront…] 
Subaru: [I’ll say this now, but I can’t negotiate any increase in payment.]
Rowan: [I ain’t doubting ya. Ya’ve said y’ain’t playing around, it seems you’re serious about it.]
Scratching his scarlet-turned nose with his finger, Rowan slowly stood up on the spot. He picked up the money bag Subaru had handed out and carefully kept it in his pocket.
Rowan: [I ain’t giving this back even if ya tell me to give it back.]
Subaru: [It’s a shame, but I won’t tell you to return it. If you do your job right.]
A breath reeking of alcohol being let out by his laugh, Rowan accepted Subaru’s job.
Hearing his answer, the tension in Subaru’s shoulders, present for all this time, faded away. His nervousness would not go away and uncertainty endlessly circled his insides but――,
Flop: [Mister, was that alright? That money was…]
Subaru: [It’s fine. It’s nothing if it means we’re safe now. I’m sorry for scaring Flop like that, and also thank you for introducing me to this place.]
Flop: [――. If you say it’s okay then I’m okay too. Thankfully, we paid for the inn in advance!]
In terms of the accommodation bill, Subaru had already paid for it, including Flop and Medium’s part, who they shared rooms with, under Subaru’s group’s name.
It seemed like he avoided the dishonour of passing the bill off to them by not thinking ahead when hiring Rowan.
Rowan: [So, employer. How shall I address ya?.]
Subaru: [Oh, right. My bad. I was in a rush. My name is――]
Asked about his name, Subaru panicked as he thought he disrespected Rowan. And as he was about to name himself, Rowan stopped him.
He thrusted his hand in front of Subaru’s face and directed his sharp gaze behind Subaru――towards the bar’s windows.
Rowan: [… It’s a weird feeling. Say bro, you were tailed weren’t ya?]
Rowan’s low and quiet voice made Subaru swallow his breath.
Beside him, Flop, confused, said “What does that mean?”, but Subaru had a general idea on the presence Rowan had detected.
It was not a what-if scenario, it was definite. The weird feeling Rowan had gotten was the being that tailed Subaru; the enemy that had attacked Subaru in the alleyway.
The enemy who had killed Subaru three times had not given up on Subaru this time as well.
Flop: [Just who are you being chased by?]
Subaru: [… I’m not kidding when I say this, I don’t know. I just thought that if we stayed outside, they would come after us. That’s why I hired you.]
Rowan: [I see. They shoulda picked a better fight.]
It was a situation where they had nothing to work with, yet Rowan said that in a joking manner.
However, even if Rowan’s tone had a hint of nervousness and seriousness, there was no worry in his voice. That probably meant he had reasonable confidence in his skill.
In reality, the drunkenness had disappeared from Rowan’s eyes and the atmosphere he gave off was now that of a strong individual.
Rowan’s specialised weapon was a singular katana sheathed on the left side of his waist.
It was late saying this now, but to see a katana as a sword-of-choice was rare in this other world. Rowan’s weapon was a distinct irregularity against the western-style swords that were the norm.
Looking closely, together with the atmosphere emanating from his disheveled hair, Rowan’s appearance somewhat resembled that of a samurai. However, he lacked a certain intensity, so maybe a ronin was a better description for him. 
Subaru: [Rowan-san, they are…]
Rowan: [There’s no need to be a scaredy-cat. No matter who they are, if they’re gonna stand in front of me, all that is needed is to cut them in two. There’s alcohol in my belly and my sword’s in top shape.]
Subaru: [So this isn’t drunken fist but drunken sword? Can’t say I’ve heard of that.]
Nevertheless, it did not sound like a lie and Subaru put his faith in Rowan’s self-confidence.
Moving around to the opposite side of where Rowan was glaring at the window, Subaru pulled on the sleeve of the Flop, who had still not fully taken in the situation.
Subaru: [Flop-san, let’s have Rowan-san handle this.]
Flop: [Handling things and whatnot, I still don’t quite understand the situation! What are Mister and Bodyguard-kun fighting with exactly?]
Subaru: [That’s something I still――]
“don’t know yet.” Faster than Subaru could reply with a statement which would only arouse Flop’s worry, the situation changed.
However, the situation did not develop in a manner in which the enemy had charged in from the front and Rowan had burst out for a counter attack.
Spilling those cries of pain, a man with a large build fell at the entrance of the bar.
With that sudden occurrence, Subaru literally jumped up in surprise. However, the other customers in the bar who saw the man had a shallow reaction, as if they were used to the sight.
The drunken customers besides Rowan――They probably worked doing mercenary-like activities as well. Those people simply stared at the fallen man with little reaction.
The only people who rushed to the fallen man’s side were Flop and the barkeeper.
Only, the one who was actually worried about the man was Flop, and it was obvious on the face of the barkeeper that he just did not want his floor to be dirtied.
Flop: [Hey, you! Are you alright? Get a hold of yourself!]
Large Man: [Fu, fuga, fuga…]
Flop: [Fugafuga!? Is that your name? Get a hold of yourself Fugafuga-kun!]
Subaru: [Er, no, Flop-san, that person’s…]
Flop tried to get the fallen man up but the man responded with a groan. It was not like the man was courteously introducing himself to a person he met for the first time.
Adding on to that, a man entering this bar in this situation meant that――,
Large Man: [Fuga…]
Subaru: [――m! Flop-san! Get away!]
Flop was leaning down, endeavoring to get the face-down man up by pulling on his arm.
Having gotten a terrible feeling, Subaru immediately pulled Flop back down onto the ground and got him away from the man.
――On the very next moment.
Large Man: [――!!!]
The body of the man who was groaning and saying “Fugafuga” expanded, and for a brief flash, shone bright scarlet.
Then, the expanded body of the man ruptured and a great explosion threw the inside of the bar into chaos.
Screams echoed inside the bar and red flecks of light scattered around the area. Right after, they became flames that burned and spread. Subaru came to the realisation that the man who had blown up had been used as a human bomb.
Flop: [I-I’m fine Mister! But, this is…]
Subaru and Flop, who had been juggled around by the blast wave, stared in shock at the state of pandemonium inside the bar.
The reason the man’s body had exploded was most likely because he had been forced to hold onto Fire Magic Stones. ――Looking at his anguished face, the Fire Magic Stones may have been inside his body.
Those detonated, and fire scattered about. Additionally, that was not all――,
Customer: [Cough! Wha, What the hell!? My eyes, my eyeeeeessss!]
Inside the overflowing inferno, one of the drunken customers who had gotten caught up in the mess covered his face and screamed out. Looking around, that man was not the only one who was screaming, the other men were doing the same too.
Having been blown away, the men who were engulfed in the lingering smoke from the explosion at the centre of the bar covered their eyes and nose, shouting in great pain.
???: [It’s no good if we stay in the bar! Everyone, hurry up and get out!]
A man shouted while tears poured down his face, and several men, with their faces covered, rushed for the entrance all at once. Looking at the men jostling against each other, Subaru tried to raise his voice in an effort to tell them to stop.
The man who had exploded, and the smoke accompanied with pain after that. Subaru felt like both of those had contributed to the disorder within the bar, and were attempting to guide people into escaping outside.
However, even if Subaru were to raise his voice out of desperation, it would not halt the footsteps of those men driven by pain.
As a result――,
A second explosion occurred, blowing away the men flooding the entrance altogether.
The second one was larger than the first, and the men caught in its radius were unable to even protect each other as they were charred black, scorched from the front by the bursting flames.
The explosive heat and the blast wave surged towards them, and Subaru was petrified by the gruesome scene.
Nightmarish sights taking place one after another ― it all seemed unreal.
Rowan: [Get a hold of yourself, client! It’s gonna be troublesome for me if ya collapse right here!]
Whilst Subaru remained petrified and dumbfounded, he was seized by the back of his collar and was forcefully dragged to his feet. The person responsible for it was Rowan, who had his face covered with the sleeve of his clothes.
He gestured for Subaru to keep a low posture, ensuring he would not inhale the same smoke that had tormented the other men, and,
Rowan: [Barkeep! We’ll head out from the back! The front side’s under watch!]
Barkeeper: [G-got it! It’s this way…!]
Listening to Rowan’s instructions, the manager nodded obediently as blood flowed down his forehead.
Like that, Rowan made a sign with his hand behind the bartender, who was moving as if he were crawling across the floor, and slapped Subaru’s back, shouting, “Go!”
Rowan: [Client, and the young man over there! Get moving right now if ya don’t wanna die!]
Flop: [O-of course, I can’t afford to die! Both my little sister and I are still in the middle of our journey…!]
Receiving Rowan’s encouragement, Subaru and Flop pursued the manager ahead of them. While chasing after him, Subaru’s mind was filled with confusion and rage directed at both himself and the enemy.
Of course, there was anger towards the enemy who had committed such atrocious deeds. However, he was also angry with himself, as he had failed to recognize the threat level of the enemy, even though he had known the enemy was present.
To begin with, the enemy had done something to cause a dragon carriage to go out of control in the main street.
A considerable number of people must have been caught up in that. If that was so, Subaru should have been more earnest with his thoughts. He should have acknowledged the fellow as someone who did not pay any heed to the damage to their surroundings.
Because of that, the men, who had only been at the bar, had gotten entangled in――,
Barkeeper: [――! The backdoor won’t open!]
Having arrived first at the backdoor, the manager cried out in front of the self-reproaching Subaru.
He was desperately trying to open the door, but it would not answer his panicked calls. Perhaps the damage from the explosion had bent the door out of shape, or――,
Flop: [This is bad! The front entrance is already demolished! If this goes on…]
Rowan: [Argh, outta the way! A door like this is――]
In the bar, the vermillion flames were growing intense, and in a situation in which the black smoke was about to swallow them, Rowan had leapt out, almost as if he were thrashing out Flop’s shout. And then, upon placing a hand on the katana by his waist, he drew and slashed it at the unopening door with great force, with nary a single flash of his blade――,
The silver gleam shot forward, cutting away the closed door with a slash.
It was a sword skill similar to Iai, one which Subaru knew. Despite performing a slash that caused Subaru to be mesmerized involuntarily, Rowan did not show his pride for it, and kicked down the remainder of the door. 
Rowan: [Aight! It opened! Everyone, keep low!]
Freeing the backdoor that had previously been sealed, Rowan called out to Subaru and the others behind himself.
An enormous amount of confusion was spreading far and wide, but it looked like they would be able to get away from the inescapable situation that was the bar in flames, at least.
Subaru had also understood that Rowan’s judgement in battle, as well as his skills, were trustworthy. All they needed to do was to distance themselves from this place, and for their evil opponent――,
Suddenly, Subaru held his breath.
Something was nagging at the back of his mind. ――He attempted to predict the thoughts of his scrupulous, ruthless enemy.
They had thrown a man-turned-human-bomb into the bar, lured out the people inside using smoke containing stimulants, and blew them away at once with the Mana Stones they had set up at the entrance.
And then, they had obstructed the entrance, and utilized some method to seal off the backdoor as well. Subaru and his group had broken through that blockade, and were able to escape through the backdoor, but――,
Something is wrong, Subaru attempted to put his minuscule feeling of discomfort into words.
If his opponent were a thorough one, then it would be impossible to think they would let up their offensive. In order to convey that eeriness, Subaru called for Rowan. There was no reply.
Leaning forward from the backdoor, Rowan’s body teetered backwards, then fell.
Subaru, Flop, and the barkeeper stared at the fallen Rowan, shocked. His head, specifically the area starting from his forehead and above, had been destroyed, and his eyes were hanging out, having been extruded.
No matter who looked at it, Rowan had died, his head pulverized.
Gazing at Rowan’s appalling state of death, the bartender widened his eyes, attempting to scream.
However, he could not even do that. A single blow was swung with the other side of the flames, piercing through the chest of the manager who had taken a deep breath, viciously tearing apart the upper half of his body. Scattering the bones and organs from inside his body, the barkeeper rolled straight into the fire.
The scent of burning flesh immediately reached Subaru’s nose, but the barkeeper did not scream. He had been killed instantly.
Beyond the flames and the smoke that filled the area, something gradually made its appearance.
Stepping over the slashed, torn down door, the silhouette of a man with damp cloth wrapped around his face had appeared.
He had a firm grip on the long-handled axe in his hands, and Subaru understood that it was the weapon that had crushed Rowan’s head and given the bartender an instant death. However, his understanding ended there.
Flop: [Wh-who in the world, are you? Why are you doing this?]
Having watched the deaths of Rowan and the barkeeper just like Subaru, who was unable to move out of dismay, Flop spoke with a trembling voice beside him. Although he was swamped by fear, he was glaring at the silhouette among the flames with a solemn gaze.
As if he were directing his animosity towards the villainous man, who had massacred the people in the bar one after another with such viciousness.
Flop: [Don’t think you can get away with thi――]
Flop, while attempting to condemn the man’s wrongdoings with a firm attitude, received a direct strike to his head from the man’s axe.
The man would not do anything meaningless, such as bashing him with the back of his axe without aligning the edge of the blade. He adjusted the angle of the blade, slamming it into Flop’s forehead where his long bangs were draped over, and spilled the contents outside.
Brain matter flew about, and Flop died as the crimson hue of his blood blended together with the red flames.
His body crumpled into a heap while making a loud splash. Blood slowly flowed out, staining Subaru’s bottom as he sank down onto the floor. ――No, Subaru’s pants were already soiled by something vastly different. Out of fear, he had been unable to control his bladder.
Subaru was frightened by the terrifying appearance of the man that held a bloodstained axe amidst the inferno.
His soul quivered at his vindictiveness, his persistence, his dreadfulness.
It was an awfully foolish question.
Flop had been killed unsparingly after asking a similar question. Of course, there was no reason for the man to be merciful only towards Subaru. He would likewise perish. He would be killed.
Subaru did not possess the strength to draw back, nor the courage to crawl away. Right now, he was unable to take his eyes off the man.
Even if gazing at the man filled his being with terror, he could not look away because that was equally as horrifying.
Subaru: [Why… Why!]
Just like an idiot who only ever repeated what he knew, Subaru yelled out with desperation.
The man did not respond despite hearing him shout. He slowly lifted up his axe, his face remaining hidden, and positioned it straight above the sitting Subaru’s head.
???: [――I won’t tell you anything. Won’t it be troublesome if you run away again?]
As Subaru shouted out with a bleeding heart, the man at last gave a reply.
Listening to the man’s tone and voice, which sounded as if he was only stating the obvious, Subaru’s breath caught in his throat.
He attempted to match the voice with a voice he had heard somewhere, and,
The axe swung down faster than he could do so, splitting his skull in a single blow.
There was a small, hard sound.
 – 卦 (read Keh like the start of Ketchup) is an ancient Chinese hexagram used for divination. So Subaru is saying the street is not giving off good omens/fortune after using Keh.
 – Rowan refers to himself using 某 (read Soregashi/Nanigashi), which is an archaic pronoun samurais used to refer to themselves. It’s difficult to preserve that in English because of the lack of variety in pronouns in English compared to Japanese so hopefully this explanation will do.
Eg. 「某の腕は高い」 –> “My skills are first rate”
 – Ronin means wanderer or Samurai without a master https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rōnin
 – Iai (or Iaijutsu) is a Japanese sword technique. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iaijutsu