Arc 7, Chapter 71 – “Water”

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――The “curse rule” that should not have been there, had been activated to kill everyone on the Gladiator Island.

At the final moment, what had taken Subaru’s life was the sharpness of a cold knife.

However, just before that, the sensation of slowly dying from edges of his body, without any room for doubt, ate into Subaru, and worked to ensure he died a cruel death.

Ultimately, other than Subaru, all the people―― The gladiators, including Tanza and the others, the guards and Gladiator Beasts which should have been on the management side of the island, and even Cecilus, had died in an instant, the reason for that was unknown.

As somewhat of an exception, Subaru had been the only one to outlive it, but just why in the world was that?

Perhaps it was a question that even if one thought about it, an answer could not be produced.

There was no person he could ask for the answer, and he thought it was not worth it to spend his time or brain cells on.

Instead, he needed to focus on the information he could reliably gather.

Subaru: [That reaction of Todd’s… The answer, it’s the curse rule.]

On the verge of death, with a brain short of blood, he had to choose between two options, but he got the right answer.

If Subaru had not rethought things there, and had been obsessed by the idea that it was Arakiya’s magic, he would not have been able to return with conviction.

Precisely because he had been struck at the bull’s-eye, Todd had made the decision to kill Subaru in that split second.

He had concluded that Subaru was not a child on the verge of death, but a risk which he must kill immediately.

The speed with which Todd changed gears, was the basis for Subaru’s conclusion that it had been the curse rule.

Subaru: [Only, why was it the curse rule?]

Now that the possibility of poison gas had been eliminated and evidence in favor of the curse rule had emerged, he no longer intended on entertaining the idea that the curse rule was just a scare tactic and did not exist.

But if that were the case, then Gustav’s behavior was now far too unnatural.

The basis for Subaru concluding that there was no curse rule, was that Gustav did not punish him using the curse rule, even though the Subaru had defied the rules of the Gladiator Island and had dangerously tried to destroy order.

Certainly, Gustav did not seem eager to let the gladiators die, but when comparing the Island’s order to Subaru alone, it made no sense for him to hesitate to make use of the curse rule.

That was why, thinking about it the other way――,

Subaru: [――When I provoked him, even though Gustav-san wanted to use the curse rule, he did not use it. But, when everyone on the island was killed, had the conditions to use it been fulfilled?]

For the time being, that was the sorting of the events that had taken place, after considering the current information.

Subaru: […Is Gustav-san, an enemy?]

Since the curse rule was used, nine times out of ten, the Chief Gustav was an enemy to Subaru and the others.

In other words, with Gustav joining Todd and Arakiya, and it could be said that those were the three enemies. It was good to know with certainty that Cecilus was not an enemy, but at the same time, it was not enough for him to be pleased.

Since that curse rule was such a threat, that it had even taken the life of Cecilus.

Subaru: [――――]

In exchange for the information he had obtained, more and more bad ingredients were thrown into the cauldron.

Was it possible to filter through the contents of a gently boiling cauldron of darkness and see all the way through to the bottom?

Thus, regarding the bad ingredients, those were things he had to get rid of.

The reason was――,

???: [Schwartz… hk]

Subaru: [――Hk.]

???: [This shaking is…]

Subaru was crunching down, clutching his chest where no wound had been present, only the leftover shock of being stabbed.

Weitz, who was worrying about Subaru, was surprised to feel a tremor coming up from under his feet. Of course, Subaru had known this was coming, and what the reason for this shaking was.

He had known, but there was a big problem.

――The grace period until the drawbridge would begin to move, it had been shorter than it had been when he restarted from the previous death.

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If he turned away from what he did not want to think about and covered his ears, the matter would be settled without him having to feel down.

But if he did that and turned his mindset into one of a loser, there was no way to overcome the impending defeat.

That was why, no matter how unpleasant the reality was, he could not close his eyes and cover his ears.

――For example, even if the restart point had moved forward by ten seconds.

Subaru: [――――]

The abnormality of the “Return by Death” Authority Subaru possessed had been particularly acting up recently.

In addition to setting an unusual restart point, this time there was a slight time discrepancy―― the grace period was shortened by ten seconds.

This was an anomaly that was different one from previous cases in which grace periods were extremely limited, and it was a situation that was perfect for fueling Subaru’s sense of anxiety and despair.

This time it was about ten seconds, but there was no guarantee that it would not shorten further.

If this anomaly continued to occur over and over again, until finally the time to death became less than a second, or if it wasn’t even possible to Return by Death in the first place anymore, what would be left that Subaru could do?

Even if he did not want to use Return by Death as an option, he would still consider the possibility of using Return by Death.

Now that he was smaller, Subaru was more helpless than before he shrank. The land of this Empire was not kind enough to allow him to rest on his laurels only because he was adorable.

Therefore――,

×  ×  ×

Hiain: [Hey, hey, Schwartz… are we seriously just gonna sit there?]

Subaru: [I’m serious. I’m begging you, this is a big one, don’t freak out this time, Hiain.]

Hiain: [I won’t! I won’t, but…]

Thus, Hiain, who was right beside Subaru, bit his teeth and hesitated to speak, his voice trembling so much that everyone could tell he was just acting strong.

Subaru could understand why Hiain would be frightened and was trying to get him to reconsider.

If they were found, they would not get a free pass; Hiain had no idea why Subaru would want to do such a reckless thing.

However, if Subaru honestly talked about the events that would happen, whether he believed it or not, there was no doubt that Hiain would not cooperate with Subaru.

For that reason, Subaru tricked Hiain into cooperating with false reasons.

He was willing to be somewhat reckless with Hiain in order to obtain information that he could not ignore.

That information that Hiain also could not ignore was――,

Hiain: [Shit, the envoys from the Imperial Capital are coming to talk about the show…? You’ve gotta be kidding me…!]

Subaru: [――. I’ve asked Weitz to buy us some time. We’re going to go get the details.]

Hiain: [I know, I know, I get it, I really do…]

Impatient and frustrated, Hiain was concerned about the island’s event―― a showcase of gladiators’ death matches, the primary reason why Ginunhive was being run.

After having survived Sparka, and having been provided with an environment in which it was difficult to die in a death match between gladiators for the purpose of training, the most life-threatening event would be the one to be held.

Falsely claiming to have information about the upcoming show, Subaru asked Hiain for help.

As a result――,

???: [――Come in. Allow me to hear what you have to say.]

With a stern voice, the sound of a door being opened echoed through the room.

Two log-like arms threw the entrance open, and the atmosphere turned heavy with the return of the room’s master.

Subaru: [――――]

Subaru shut his mouth at their entrance and tapped the shoulder of Hiain beside him. Hiain too, responded silently, as if resolving himself in a situation they could no longer back out of.

It was only natural. Subaru and Hiain could no longer afford to screw up.

The reason was――,

???: [General First-Class Arakiya, and…]

???: [Todd.]

A straightforward female voice answered the words of Gustav, the person of a large build who had opened the door. There was a hint of a strained smile at that short, unkind answer,

Todd: [Private First-Class Todd Fang. For the time being, just until this job is finished.]

So followed the voice of a man, as if it were crushing Subaru’s very soul.

With no regard for Subaru’s feelings, two people being guided――Todd and the brown-skinned woman with an eye patch, Arakiya, entered the room.

This was Gustav’s office. The room where Subaru had also been summoned for a stern warning the other day, as emissaries from the Imperial Capital, Todd and Arakiya stepped in.

Todd: [Though it’s for something like the position of Governor, it’s a terribly plain room.]

In the middle of the room, standing to the side of the guest sofa, Todd surveyed the surroundings.

Admittedly, the things contained within Gustav’s room were few. With a work desk and bookcase, it could be said to be a room that matched the name of an office, containing naught but the necessities for carrying out his work.

It was understandable why he was paying attention to that point. But, Subaru wished that he would not look around.

The bookshelf in the corner of the room, that direction, especially.

×  ×  ×

Gustav: [――. It’s an office. I have assembled everything I need in my capacity. Are you here to conduct an inspection?]

Todd: [Not at all, I’m just General First-Class Arakiya’s assistant. The General is very particular and has no subordinates but me.]

Arakiya: [Few in number, but elite.]

Todd: [Saying I’m elite, I feel that evaluation is a bit impolite to my superiors.]

Todd shrugged at Gustav, who closed the door to his room and headed for his work desk. He slowly sat down on the sofa, his expression unchanged by Arakiya’s subsequent words.

With that gaze now removed from the bookshelf, deep down, Subaru took a very, very big sigh of relief.

It had been an unthinkably tense moment.

No matter how much he thought about it, the one who had repainted the worst situation with fear had been Todd.

That was why, from the bottom of his heart, he was afraid that he might be noticed again.

――Beside the bookcase, being covered by Hiain camouflaging with the surrounding scenery, Subaru was listening intently to this situation.

Subaru: [――――]

Subaru asked Weitz to stall the arriving Imperial Carriage, during which time he and Hiain trespassed into Gustav’s office and hid in a hiding place using camouflage.

While there was a precedent of stalling successfully, whether or not the camouflage could be detected was something that could not be known without trying. Hiain’s camouflage, he had thought he understood the mechanism through the first Sparka and their conversations afterwards, but his conviction in that was a different matter.

The precision of Hiain’s camouflage was influenced more by the courage he had to be motionless, rather than the state of his mind and body.  If he had the guts to stay still, he was almost invisible as he assimilated into the scenery. He could hug Subaru’s small body so that he would receive the same effect.

However, as soon as he moved, the ambience of the camouflaged scales would become disorderly, and it would become a child’s hide-and-seek state, where one could see them there in full view.

In their fight with that lion-like Gladiator Beast, his scaredy-cat nature caused him to die many times. It was Hiain’s own weak heart that killed his strong points.

――However, the camouflage this time should be able to grapple with those weak points to better them.

Subaru: [If they don’t find us, we won’t have to worry about them doing anything to us. The coming emissaries are one of the Nine Divine Generals and her sharp-eyed second-in-command, but as long as your camouflage doesn’t waver, you’ll be fine. Besides――]

Hiain: [B-Besides…?]

Subaru: [――I’ll be with you.]

Before they went into the office, Subaru looked him firmly in the eye and told him so.

Even though they were the words of an audacious child with short arms and legs and a voice that had yet to break, they had reached Hiain, whose friends he had saved the lives of. Indeed, it seemed to resonate.

――That was why, this was the “first time” that Hiain’s camouflage went undetected.

Beyond this point, just what had Arakiya, and her second-in-command Todd, have come to the island to discuss with Gustav, this was the first time that conversation was able to begin.

Gustav: [General First-Class Arakiya, would you care to take a seat?]

Arakiya: […I’ll stand. Since, I can’t settle in.]

Gustav: [You cannot settle in?]

Arakiya: [It seems there have been various things since I came to the island. I guess, because the Dragon’s Nest is nearby.]

Even when encouraged to take a seat, Arakiya shook her head and remained standing.

When asked to be seated, Arakiya shook her head and remained standing. The second-in-command, Todd, sat on the sofa, with Arakiya standing behind him.

Even so, the picture of Todd with his boss behind him did not feel out of place to Subaru, perhaps because he had too much of an image of Todd as someone very powerful and dreadful.

The moment Hiain’s camouflage had slightly distorted, he had gone straight for the kill, it was impossible to not be cautious of someone like that. but――.

Gustav: [If that is fine with you, then it is no problem to me, as the official. So, the purpose of this visit is…]

Todd: [I appreciate being able to get right to work. We don’t want to take too long either. General First-Class, permission to hand over the letter?]

Arakiya: [Do as you please.]

Todd: [I’m grateful. Governor, this is a letter from the Prime Minister of the Imperial Capital.]

While Arakiya was quite literally standing there like a decoration, Todd took the letter out of his pocket and handed it over to Gustav. In Gustav’s hand, the letter was sealed with wax and a proper seal to indicate the sender.

Though Subaru couldn’t confirm the imprint mark.

Gustav: [Imperial, Prime Minister…]

As Todd explained who entrusted him with the letter, his words made Subaru’s tongue dry.

As he recalled, according to what Subaru had heard from the disagreeable Abel, the person in the position of Prime Minister was one of the main culprits who had driven Abel out of the Imperial Capital.

Gustav received a letter from the wicked Prime Minister who had chased out the Emperor of poor character. Moreover, the one who had delivered the letter was the human devil, Todd.

Considering the massacre that would occur on the Gladiator Island after this, this letter was nothing but a bad premonition.

Todd: [High Count Gustav Morello, I heard that you were assigned to this island as Governor by the order of His Excellency the Emperor, Vincent Vollachia.]

Gustav: [There are no discrepancies with your understanding.]

Todd: [Even though it was by the order of His Excellency the Emperor, a loathed job such as the management of the Gladiator Island Ginunhive, it isn’t suitable for someone like a blood relative of the hero of Vollachia, Kurgan, the Eight-Arms.]

As if to support Subaru’s premonition, the atmosphere of the room tingled with an intent to kill.

The cause was Todd’s rude, rambling manner of speaking. And Subaru knew what made Gustav the angriest based on their previous encounters.

The reason behind Gustav’s anger, more so than what was said about himself was――,

Gustav: [――That manner of speaking, do you doubt the honorable judgment of His Excellency the Emperor?]

That anger was due to disloyalty towards His Excellency the Emperor, that is to say, disloyalty towards Abel=Vincent.

×  ×  ×

Todd: [――――]

At the stern air Gustav emitted, Arakiya suddenly moved up to Todd’s side.

Arakiya’s face did not show what she was thinking, but that action alone made Subaru think that Gustav’s extreme loyalty would be crushed with force.

However, saying “General First-Class” while holding up his hand, it was none other than Todd himself who stopped Arakiya’s threat.

Todd: [Just now, I went too far with my words. The Governor’s anger is justified.]

Arakiya: […But, I won’t let you die. Your friend, you need vengeance for him. Right?]

Todd: [――. Ah, of course that’s right. Right now, that’s the purpose I live for.]

Despite reprimanding Arakiya’s attitude, Todd’s face showed sadness as he answered.

Vengeance for his friend, at Todd’s state as Arakiya pointed that out to him, Subaru could not help but bend his lips as he tried to not miss a single thing they said.

Todd and vengeance, such words had terribly poor compatibility.

Subaru did not know Todd well enough to say that, but he guessed it meant that Todd had people who were important to him.

Neglecting his fiancée, despite wanting to see her so badly, he came to this island to kill a lot of people.

Todd: [I’m sorry for speaking so thoughtlessly, Governor. General First-Class Arakiya and I have some external concerns. With that, my behavior was poor. I apologize.]

Gustav: […I accept your apology. But, going too far with what you say can invite disaster.]

Todd: [In relation to that, it’s painfully true to hear. I’m very, very aware of that.]

Todd, who had held Arakiya back, made a bitter face at Gustav’s advice. Aside from Todd’s reaction, Gustav cracked the wax seal with his thick fingers, and opened the letter.

The Imperial Prime Minister, the person who was responsible for the current havoc within the Empire, the contents of his letter were――,

Gustav: [――This is.]

Todd: [It was the intention of my impolite talk earlier, I didn’t mean to offend. I just wanted to say that if the Governor is tired of managing the Gladiator Island, that’s completely fine.]

As Gustav ran his eyes over the letter, small wrinkles were notched into his rock-like face.

Gustav ran his eyes over the letter and carved little wrinkles in his rock-like face. Todd closed one eye as it seemed like a crack had been made on a real rock, and that crack was spreading.

Leaving Arakiya silent, Todd continued, appearing as if he was the main representative emissary.

Todd: [The gladiators of this island are liable to internal conflict. In accordance with His Excellency the Emperor’s wishes, they are to be disposed of all at once.]

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×  ×  ×

Matter-of-factly, with a deadpan delivery as if he was just talking about throwing out the trash on garbage collection day, Todd had firmly made a request to Gustav for the gladiators of the Gladiator Island―― for several hundreds of people to be disposed of.

Subaru: [――――]

The only reason Subaru had been able to stomach that forecast of the worst outcome being right on the mark, was that he had already seen the massacre which actually killed everyone on the island, and had henceforth steeled his heart.

Thus, it was a miracle that Hiain, who had received a bolt from the blue, did not scream.

Although, it would be more accurate to say that he was far too dumbfounded to grasp the situation.

Subaru: [――――]

It was a singular voice so devoid of any sense of reality that Hiain forgot to even move.

However, although they had gotten past through the lucky brake of the camouflage not coming undone, Subaru could not help but bite down on his molars.

This request, it had connected to activating the curse rule that would kill everyone on the island.

As expected, it was just as he feared, Todd and Arakiya, and now Gustav had become his enemies.

As long as he could not stop those three from committing those heinous acts, he would not be able to prevent that massacre.

Gustav: [Fear of internal trouble, you say…]

Todd: [Internal trouble is internal trouble, it’s something that insolently darkens the gracious influence of His Excellency the Emperor. Be that as it may, the Prime Minister does not believe that it is something Gustav is sheltering. The Governor’s loyalty is the real thing.]

Gustav: [――――]

Todd: [For that reason, it must cause your heart to anguish. I am told that since the Governor was appointed to this island, the quality of the gladiators unveiled at the shows is incomparable to what it used to be.]

While ordering the disposal of those gladiators, Todd’s attitude had been one of showing appreciation for Gustav’s work.

As he looked down at the letter, Gustav’s expression did not shift. Just how had Todd’s words been resonating within him? Lacking freedom as he watched the situation, Subaru had not known.

Gustav: [――. If we decrease the risk of needless deaths, allow them to acquire the foundations of how to fight, and stand side by side instead of outmaneuvering others, the quality of the gladiators who survive will improve.]

Only, within Gustav’s philosophy, having managed the Gladiator Island, it felt as if there had been something like pride in the tone of his voice as he calmly responded.

Instead of making the gladiators into a mere spectacle, Gustav trained them, nurtured them, and reformed the rules of the island in order to win the favor of the Emperor the Imperial subjects.

Probably, gentleness akin to attachment or affection towards the gladiators had not been included there.

Only, it was Gustav’s decision as the person placed in the position of Governor.

Arakiya: [Finished? Talking, that is.]

Arakiya asked Gustav, who had placed all four of his hands atop the desk on which he had placed the letter as he closed his eyes.

It was an insensitive question that completely ignored the flow of the conversation, something that Subaru might have reacted to with anger and a flushed face if he had been in Gustav’s position.

But, Gustav did not refute, and Todd simply took it as a given.

Todd: [I’ve heard talk of a curse rule that would be very convenient for the disposal. It also seems that you have a curse tool given to you by the General First-Class, Groovy Gumlet of the Nine Divine Generals. Using that, you can get them all out in one go, or something.]

×  ×  ×

Gustav: [It is possible.]

Todd: [Then this’ll be a quick chat. Let’s get this over with and head back to the Imperial Capital together. We’ll need some time to prepare the new gladiators, so we’ll have to shut down Ginunhive for a while――]

Todd spoke as one might at the end of a class, putting away all the supplies he had used. The lack of seriousness in the way he spoke interfered with Hiain’s ability to reboot, his thinking still shut down.

However, even if Hiain had yet to reboot, it seemed like they were running out of time towards the great impetus.

In accordance with the written decree brought by Todd and Arakiya, if Gustav activated the curse rule, total annihilation would follow.

Knowing that it was a capricious and unstoppable future, the only way to stop it was for Subaru to make a move here. But, just how should he act?

He already fully understood that if he revealed himself with no plan, he would be killed on the spot.

Having said that, even if they tried to take Gustav hostage, who could probably make use of the curse rule, Gustav was significantly stronger than both Subaru and Hiain――.

Gustav: [――I refuse.]

Indeed, Gustav declined Todd and Arakiya’s demands, so taking advantage of that. Taking advantage.

Advantage, to take advantage, what would that mean?

Todd: […What?]

Subaru, desperately trying to wrack his brain, was just as scrambled in his thoughts as Hiain was.

In contrast to Subaru, who had lost his train of thought, Todd’s voice was unfeeling and sharp.

Subaru felt as if the atmosphere in the room had become more thick and viscous.

That change in temperature was fundamentally different to the time Gustav had gotten offended by Todd’s manner of speaking. It was not the heat or humidity, but rather, what had changed was the very color of the atmosphere.

Clad in that atmosphere, staring at Gustav, who had his hands on his desk, Todd said,

Todd: [Is there any discrepancy between the contents of the written decree and what you understand from our end?]

Gustav: [No. The letter contains the same information that you have just given me. The Prime Minister’s name and his seal are not misprinted.]

Todd: [If that’s the case, then what kind of intent are you expressing?]

Spreading his arms out, Todd asked this of Gustav, who had thrust aside his demands.

Subaru, too, did not understand anything that was going on. Gustav had rejected the demands Todd had brought from the Imperial Capital to use the curse rule to purge all the gladiators on Gladiator Island.

Just why? The reason was――,

Gustav: [――As the official, I have been ordered by His Excellency the Emperor. In preparation for emergencies, strive to develop the gladiators, trained in both body and mind.]

Todd: [The seal of the Prime Minister reflects the will of His Excellency the Emperor. Are you saying that because it conflicts with what your orders from beforehand, you are unable to make a decision? The written decree is the real thing you know.]

Gustav: [I do not suspect forgery. I accept it as a written decree from the Prime Minister.]

Todd: […But it’s still not worth considering?]

Frowning, Todd turned his discerning eyes toward Gustav, someone who he could not understand.

For just this time, Subaru shared the same opinion as Todd. Even though he was grateful that Gustav warded off the demands, he had no idea of the true motives behind that.

Then, in front of Subaru and Todd, who were harboring identical bewilderment, Gustav continued.

Gustav: [From His Excellency the Emperor, I have directly been given orders.]

Todd: [Like I said, the written decree is retracting that, and telling you to obey the next orders…]

Gustav: [By order of His Excellency the Emperor, it was when I was installed as the Governor of this island.]

Interrupting Todd’s words, Gustav was stating the basis for his choice. Several years ago, the time when Gustav was appointed as Governor of the Gladiator Island.

That was――,

Gustav: [His Excellency the Emperor told this to me. “――Even if you receive orders from me, do not disobey this first order.”]

Todd: [――――]

Those were undoubtedly the words that would guide Gustav, who had been placed in this situation.

Those words had foreseen that Gustav would be placed in this situation, and since just being thoroughly prepared words would never have been enough, it was an order that could not have been established without prescient foresight.

The Vollachian Emperor, because of Vincent―― no, because of Abel, there had been preparations for the future.

Todd: [So, what you’re saying is because you have previous orders from His Excellency the Emperor,  you can’t obey His Excellency the Emperor’s current orders?]

Gustav: [He also told me that I do not need to know the reason. As the official, I agree. Regardless of whether or not I know, the duties that I, in my capacity, must carry out do not change.]

Shaking his head, Gustav firmly responded to Todd’s question.

Todd slightly narrowed his eyes at Gustav, who maintained his stubborn attitude. That his gaze was trying to somehow persuade Gustav, was not what his face suggested he was thinking.

After all, he no longer had any reason to exhaust his words trying to persuade the stubborn man who refused to listen.

In other words――,

Todd: [Arakiya. ――Negotiations have broken down.]

Gustav: [――Hk!]

Like that, Todd spoke to Arakiya in a flat voice.

The subsequent instant, before the fatal situation arrived, Gustav grabbed all four sides of the desk with all four of his arms, and was about to lift it up and throw it at the two visitors.

As the muscles in his thick, strong arms bulged, he easily lifted the desk, which seemed to weigh close to a hundred kilograms――,

Arakiya: [Slosh――]

Together with the unfeeling chant, Arakiya pointed the wooden branch she held towards Gustav.

Immediately following, an immensely powerful jet of water spurted out from the tip of the wand, blowing away Gustav’s stone-like face in its entirety along with everything else above his neck, and that life of his transformed into a deceased one.

△▼△▼△▼△

There was a heavy thud, and the desk whose legs had been lifted for a moment fell to the floor. A beat later, as if trying to throw the desk using his entire being, Gustav’s body, having lost everything upwards of the neck, collapsed to the ground.

A large amount of blood gushed from the wound on his neck where he had lost his head, which relentlessly dirtied the floor of the office.

The fresh blood that spread seemed to insist on Gustav’s quick death, which did not feel real.

Todd: [People of the Multi-Arm Tribe, it sure is the same no matter how many arms they have. If anything, just go and get some more heads.]

Todd cracked the bones in his neck while he looked at the dead Gustav. Then he looked back at Arakiya, who was staring intently at the tip of her branch, and asked “What’s wrong?” as he tilted his head.

Todd: [No way, you couldn’t be surprised by your own power, right?]

Arakiya: [Incorrect. But, I’m surprised. …With mere water, so much power.]

Todd: [Oh, that, huh. If you’re aiming for a crowd of people who are spread out, then fire is better, but if your opponent is one person, then it’s definitely water. Next time, just put one glass of water’s worth or thereabouts inside your opponent’s head, that’d be enough.]

Arakiya: [Understood. …Todd?]

While suggesting some frightening things, Todd walked up to Gustav’s corpse. As she cast her eyebrows down, Arakiya called out to him, who had drawn a somewhat large knife from his side.

Not answering her call, Todd went around behind the corpse atop the desk, and mercilessly thrusting his knife into its thick back, he sliced it open vertically.

It was a method lacking all mercy, as if carving up a fish.

There was a large quantity of blood flowing from the neck, but the spurts of blood from the already dead body were minimal; even so, while basking in an amount of blood that was not negligible, Todd dissected the body of Gustav.

Subaru: [――――]

Reflexively averting his eyes from that scene, Subaru became aware of his own trembling.

Until now, Subaru had considered Todd to be a dreadful enemy, but this was the first time he had seen him involved in such grotesque conduct. ――To think that he would take a person, and dissect them as if they were an animal.

Todd’s violence was consistently focused straight on the goal of eliminating enemies and danger.

If he had such a liking towards defiling a corpse in this way, Subaru wondered if all the times after Todd had killed him, his own corpse had been defiled in the same fashion.

Thinking this, an unbearable sense of dread and feelings of revulsion dominated his entire body.

Amidst the unpleasant noises that made him want to plug his ears, Subaru was unable to do so.

Even in a scenario that instinctively made you want to stifle your emotions, you never knew what could be lurking there. Perhaps when running away from Todd, if there were corpses nearby, then he might get distracted by them.

Why he was thinking about such a stupid thing was――,

Todd: [――There it is.]

Arakiya: [――? What is?]

Suddenly, that unpleasant wet sound came to an end, and Todd and Arakiya’s conversation shifted.

Arakiya, too, had lowered her voice at Todd’s vulgar taste, to which Todd replied quite indifferently, wiping the blood splattered on his cheek with the back of his hand.

Todd: [It’s the curse tool, you know, the curse tool. I figured this kind of guy would keep it embedded in his body somehow.]

Arakiya: [Curse tool…]

Todd: [It’s necessary to activate the curse rule… Ah, it’s fine if you don’t know. Anyhow.]

While saying that, what Todd had pulled out of Gustav’s body was what appeared to be a black orb which had been embedded right in the center of his large body.

At most, the orb was around the size of a golf ball, and Todd had called it a curse tool.

Even so, it was the curse tool necessary to activate the curse rule.

In other words――,

Todd: [As long as I have this thing, it doesn’t matter whether the owner lives or dies. ――He sure did some foolish things.]

Fiddling with the curse tool in his hand, Todd moved away from the back, and called out to Gustav’s corpse, which had lost its head under heroic circumstances.

There was neither pity nor sympathy in his voice. Instead, there was a tinge of indifference and disgust.

Todd: [It’s strange that you thought you could compete against a monster.]

Todd muttered as he tilted his head, presumably referring to Arakiya, who had killed Gustav in a single breath.

However, neither Gustav, who had lost his life, nor Subaru, who had been present at the scene, could help but think that the “monster” in question was undoubtedly Todd.

Subaru: [――――]

――Thus, by any means necessary, he must steal the curse tool from that “monster.”

Todd: [Arakiya, give me water. I need to rinse off the blood, then, for the guys on the island――]

Todd’s attention turned to Arakiya after tearing Gustav’s corpse open, wanting to wash his bloody knife and hands.

Putting the curse tool in his hand onto the work desk for one moment, Todd turned to Arakiya’s side.

――Instinctively, Subaru decided that it had to be then.

Arakiya: [Ah.]

And, at Arakiya’s words, her mouth wide open, Todd turned back around. Detecting the child that had suddenly appeared in the middle of the room, reaching his hand out to the curse tool on the desk, those eyes of Todd’s opened wide.

Hiain’s camouflage came to an end, having completed its job.

So much so that neither the meticulous Todd nor the monster-grade Arakiya had noticed the presence of Subaru and Hiain.

Subaru: [Hiain!]

The instant he caught onto the curse tool with his fingertips, Subaru called out to Hiain, who had concealed himself by assimilating with the floor he lay down on.

However, his gaze was in a completely different direction―― the entrance to the office.

Facing that way, he raised his voice,

Subaru: [Blow away the whole room!!]

Todd: [――Hk, Arakiya!]

Hearing Subaru’s strained shout, Todd immediately called out for Arakiya. While also keeping vigilance towards the door, Arakiya clung close by Todd’s side.

If there was an outrageous attack that smashed right into the side of the door, they would be able to respond to it.

However――,

Todd: [――It’s a bluff!?]

In one second, the moment nothing happened, Todd saw through Subaru’s intention. But even given just that second, Subaru was able to fulfill his objective.

He grasped the cursed tool, and just after――,

Hiain: [Wooooooaaaah!]

While howling, Hiain came flying at the waist of Subaru, who had grabbed the curse tool, and grappled him. Just after, Hiain held Subaru in his arms as they plunged into the side of the room opposite to the entrance―― the window of the office.

Their full body weight plunged into it, and Subaru and Hiain jumped out as the window frame was destroyed.

The moment they jumped out――,

Arakiya: [Splash――]

And, with an power unimaginable from such an unfeeling chant, a flash flood devastated the office.

The tremendous water pressure blew away the upper stratum of the Gladiator Island, and the furniture and bookcases that Gustav, the master of the room, had so meticulously arranged, were swept away without mercy.

However――,

Arakiya: [They’re gone.]

Watching as one by one, the items in the room streamed out of the broken walls, Arakiya, the one responsible, stepped on the wet floor and muttered so.

Looking down below the exterior of the broken office, a white cloth tied along the wall could be seen.

If one were to grab it and let their hands glide, they would be able to descend to the bottom.

Arakiya: [This…]

Todd: [So they were all fully prepared to ambush us, huh? ――That kid, what is he.]

Next to Arakiya, also looking out to the wall, Todd put his hand over his mouth and muttered.

Narrowing his eyes, Todd, in careful thought, let out a small sigh,

Todd: [Arakiya, go recover the curse tool. It’s alright to kill.]

Arakiya: [Understood. What about you, Todd?]

Todd: [The things that I’m going to do, you don’t need to know about them.]

With a shake of his head, Todd brushed off Arakiya’s question like that. However, Arakiya was unbothered by that, and instead leaned out of the broken wall and dropped straight down.

No cheap tricks, from dozens of meters high, without any assistance.

Like that, seeing Arakiya off as she chased after the intruder, Todd heaved a sigh and,

Todd: […That brat sure had a nasty smell.]

And, muttering with his eyes lacking any expression, he clicked his tongue in annoyance.

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30 thoughts on “Arc 7, Chapter 71 – “Water””

  1. Hmm… my assumption was that Subaru would be killed and have to gather his allies and protect Gustav. This development does eliminate the unforeseen circumstances surrounding Gustav’s obstinate character. Still this possibility remains depending on if Subaru gets killed and the new rules of return by death apply.

    With the curse rule Subaru could effectively gain the entire island’s inhabitants under his thumb, given time. For the time being survival is necessary, Ceci will be needed to stall/defeat Arakiya… For all intents and purposes she seems like a meathead power type with decent instincts but weak emotional stability. Todd is a perfect adversary to Subaru- he’s calculative and strong, highly capable of planning on the fly. Lastly his raw instincts are no joke, he is all but confirmed to have a sixth sense of at least smell the witches miasma, possibly both. His strengths all outclass Subaru save for ingenuity. Still his instincts to keep his guard up at all times are his ultimate trump card- often forcing Subaru to use his Return by Death to bear witness to his unconventional and ruthless plans.

    Now if I were Todd and scary brat as ominous as my worst nightmare leapt out of nowhere to intercept my plans that he should not have been prepared for… First things first I can’t let him off the island or that’s game over, so I’m heading to secure the drawbridge first- Destroying it if necessary. From there I would try to deceive the gladiators to help me catch the boy, strength in numbers and it would speed up the process. For example, I could tell them that boy killed Gustav and emperor would reward his capture. Regardless of my success with that I would need to prepare to capture the boy myself or find one of his weaknesses like a hostage as a contingency plan. That last one is far more opportunistic and more information about the boy would need to be made available. Tanza is the most obvious target should he suspect she is a weakness to Subaru.

    Well at least that’s how I would interpret Todd’s next couple of moves since he’s a nasty bastard. It’s interesting that he’s become so twisted by his brother and law’s death, (was his name Jamal? Don’t remember)… Perhaps that was the impetus for him hardening and going full genocide who’s to say. Considering that he didn’t immediately recognize Subaru I wonder what the false Abel/prime minister after… My initial impression was that Abel’s plan backfired and rumors of Subaru reached them, but that is clearly not the case. What tipped them off to the gladiator island… The orders Todd revealed sounded almost prophetic, an insurgence from the island? That’s TOO ambiguous… My hunch is that it was actually prophetic- I can’t think of any other reason for such a serious and drastic action with such ambiguous reasoning would happen this quickly at this timing otherwise.

    The only other thing on my mind is the connection between Subaru’s infantalization and Return by Death acting against him… Is his vessel too weak or is Satella negatively impacted herself? Could she be more intimately linked to Subaru then the curse let on? Clearly it’s unstable the question is why? Satella has never been presented as a coherent or stable so it’s difficult to have any actual read on that, I just find this development interesting.

    Well that was a super pleasant read, it’s been a long time since I shared my thoughts. I can’t wait to see how Subaru continues to deal with all of these uncertainties, always love to see it.

    1. My best guess would be distance/signal strength. He’s as far away from Pleiades watchtower/The WoE’s tomb as possible + Infantilization is fucking with his gate. I’m surprised he hasn’t tried “breaking the taboo” as a way to test his signal essentially.

      Other less plausible theory would be the WoE simply losing interest in him. My guess is that something similar happened with Al, who’s got a history with WoE and death related time powers to a lesser degree than Subaru. WoE doesn’t care about him anymore, but he’s still got some authority. Who knows? Maybe his authority was far stronger back when he first got Isekai’d and it got diminished to what we see now over time after the WoE lost interest in him.

      1. The theory about the WoE losing interest is kinda debunked by the fact that as soon as Olbart was about to undo the infantilization, the witch’s darkness immediately broke out of Subaru and swallowed an entire city.

        1. Exactly. You’d think the “found you” would make it obvious she’d been searching for him ever since their connection was disrupted as a result of Olbart. Have to say I’m loving this development though

      2. I think that subaru may have lost his ability completely while his odd is reseted, as subaru said within the 10s loop of DemonCity that this “is not my ability” and was debating why it felt diffrent. I expect it to be Al authority as it was teasered that he has a similar ability as Subaru. Further it was shown that Al lost his authority while Infantiztion, during the massacre within the “hotel”. Maybe this ability was copied by the Young Subarus odd without ability, as the original user lost the ability, placing the seed within his odd in the process.
        Since the copied authorities are may or may not be identically with the original ones and Al authority/ability as is, is still not completly revealed, this could be entirely wrong.
        Just my guess.

        But trying to break the taboo would be an interesting topic, hopefully the young subaru is not to forgetfull to do that.

      3. First, Satella/WoE PULLED SUBARU ACROSS DIMENSIONS to get him here in the first place. Physical distance does not matter to her.

        Second, she will never lose interest in him, ever. Echidna says as much in Arc 4, something along the lines of “The stars themselves will die before she ceases to love you.”

    2. In my view Todd is just a psychopath… Remember when he stated that he didn’t remember of which side Jamal’s scar is after spending years with the guy? He said that statement in an aloof manner after Jamal sacrificed himself to stall some time for him.

  2. Thanks for the Translation

    This sounds like a promising loop but there’s probably going to be some death by Todd in the aftermath.

  3. Since the curse tool is inside Gustav he is likely to just die in all possible scenarios. I’m kinda hoping he would live. In the future, I want him to face the reanimated corpse of his ancestor Kurgan the Eight Arms which I think was last seen accompanying Pandora with the reanimated corpse of Theresia van Astrea.

  4. I love how Abel just knows things sometimes, and how he has the foresight to make a contingency for if he was ever overthrown with this Gladiator Island which is for all intents and purposes a very minor facility to the Empire as a whole. Like, it doesn’t even really count towards foreshadowing because its retroactive, but it makes him FEEL like a really smart character. EX4 also goes a long way to displaying his intelligence. It really feels like sometimes he just says something absolutely outrageous, and it just ends up being right. Once again, I wouldn’t even really bat an eye if Vincent staged his own throne being usurped and ends up being the mastermind of this arc or something. Do I think it will happen? No, but could Vincent Vollachia pull it off? Absolutely.

    Anyways, analysis time. Apparently, the curse rule seems to just, like, kill everyone rather than specific targets, which would be a great explanation for why Gustav didn’t think to use it against Subaru. Curses need the user to physically touch the victim, but either it may not be a curse, exactly, or Subaru and Tanza were cursed while they were unconscious. The cursed tool was made by Groovy Gumlet, who is known as the Master of Enchanted Items – checks out – but I fail to see how someone unrelated to a curse could make a tool that can trigger the curse en masse. I just said it would kill everyone, but after re-reading a bit, it seems like the tool itself is the reason it happens to everyone. The rule can probably kill an individual.

    Next, I want to bring up the reason the curse rule doesn’t have as much impact on Subaru. It’s most likely because he already has 2 curses fighting inside his body. We see much much earlier, in like chapter 10 of this arc, somewhere around then, that the cursed blood from Capella and the Ulgarm curse from Arc 2 are both still around and can interact with one another. This lays a precedent that curses can not only coexist but influence each other. It makes sense with the information that each Ulgarm that cursed Subaru probably counted as a slightly different curse, which is why it would be impossible to remove them all, because it would be like untying a knot made of a dozen different ropes rather than one rope really complexly tied. Anyways, the curse rule would be trying to kill Subaru, but we know the cursed blood and Ulgarm curse don’t want him to die because they would lose a vessel. This probably means he has a moderate curse resistance, which also retroactively could explain why Crusch got so hurt from the same blood that Subaru was mostly fine from. I’ve never quite figured out why Capella would give him something that would reform his leg, but if it was just intended to make him suffer, then it’s exactly something Capella might do. Anyways, that’s my theory and I’m quite confident in it, although I was quite confident in some quite wrong theories before.

    Also, someone mentioned that thinking there would be an insurgence in the Gladiator Island was pretty much prophetic, while there are Stargazers that could recommend that, I don’t know if it would be that, or if it’s more likely the Prime Minister wanted to get rid of Cecilus, who may or may not be known to be on this island. He could probably leave whenever he wants if not for the curse rule, so the other side is probably wary of him.

    As for RBD getting shorter – this is really subtly horrifying, actually. I’m kind of surprised Subaru isn’t absolutely losing it just from losing 10 seconds. I don’t have a consistent theory, but I have a lot of threads that may add up to something. We know generally Authorities aren’t at-will abilities, even if there are exceptions. Cor Leonis and Lion’s Heart don’t follow this because they put the burden of use onto another, so Regulus can constantly use his, and Cor Leonis doesn’t put any burdens on the ones it protects. Unseen Hand and Invisible Providence put varying amounts of strain on the user – Petelgeuse is probably a lot more experienced with it, but Subaru literally coughs up blood every time he uses it. We don’t see the other Archbishops really struggling with the SP of their authorities because they’re not going to get exhausted on something they rely on heavily. However, there’s reason to suspect that Satella could potentially have like an SP bar for Return by Death, and Subaru, using it relentlessly and mercilessly for a while, while he may not have as solid a connection as he usually does to her due to the infantilization, she might not be able to long rest his Authority back up to its full potential. To say it more simply, RBD may be getting overused, and with such little time between resets, it might lose some of its strength. To those that would argue that Ayamatsu and Kasaneru have significantly higher death counts, yes, you’re right, but Subaru has spent more time dying this week than living. I don’t really even know if that’s an exaggeration. He may have unironically spent a week in death loops in the past 5 days or so. All of which were about 3 minutes or less, most likely. So while the quantity might be lower than in the IF routes, the frequency is probably much higher. Kasaneru Subaru literally relives months at a time and dies to give a good weather forecast, and a lot of his deaths were probably trying to satisfy Echidna to get out of Arc 4, which had like 3 or 4 days of downtime. I’m getting off topic. The point is, that’s the first thing that comes to my mind, that his Authority has been going too long without a Witch of Envy gas station to refuel. (Or, you know, maybe the answer is that he’s actually still somehow Al, who knows?)

    This concludes my analysis of this chapter, it’s been really great to see these past 3 back-to-back (I hadn’t checked in a few days) and there’s some solid ground for theorycrafting here, great job to everyone on the translation team, and I hope to see you all in a few days for the next chapter.

  5. It’s strange how Todd is like the boss one here and Arakiya is the subordinate one. Like how Todd just casually ordering Arakiya and Arakiya being meek.

    Todd: [Private First-Class Todd Fang. For the time being, just until this job is finished.]

    This line of Todd makes me wonder if Todd is hiding his true name or identity.

    I may be crazy but I feel Todd is a very important figure in Vollachia or maybe a noble. I can’t help but think that he is somehow connected to Priscilla because they have the same hair color and of all the colors of hair, why it would be orange? which is the same as Priscilla? maybe its just a coincidence but what is bothering me the most is how Todd acting like the boss one here instead of Arakiya, he even ordered Arakiya to chase after Subaru and Hiain. Isn’t it natural for a divine general to say “how dare you order me and speak to me so casually” instead of “understood” to a private-first class considering she is the 2nd in the rank of the divine generals or even the 2nd strongest in the Empire?

    I don’t know if you guys also noticed these details or maybe you guys already did but thought of them as negliglible. Let me know your thoughts but please no hate, just a healthy and friendly discussion.

    Also, thanks for the translations!

    1. Arakya is the weakest of the nine generals as she’s the 9th but the reason she follow order that easily is probably because she has the mind of a child and it got worse after Priscilla rejected her.

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