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The moment he threw that punch, it was the moment he felt the most frustrated about having become smaller.
Even more so than the tragedy of the Gladiator Island, in which he had been able to unite everyone in order to prevent something; even more so than the Sparka used to win Gustav over to his side; even more so than his dialogue with Cecilus under the moon; at this very moment, that he could have punched him a just a little bit harder were he to have a larger body, made him frustrated.
Taking the blow from the young Subaru’s fist on his left cheek, the Emperor, his face soiled with blood, widened his eyes.
His gaze was directed at his own feet, observing Subaru after the latter had failed to land, tumbling down onto the floor. However, though his face held shock, it was bereft of indignation. More so than the humiliation he felt, his astonishment had been stronger.
The Emperor, having been given more shock than pain from Subaru’s fist, while pressing his hand against where it had struck,
Vincent: [Do you not hold your life dear!? If I were to raise mine hand, the Flame of the Yang Sword would scorch your very being…]
Subaru: [Yup, it’s not dear to me! Compared to letting you go without giving you a wallop right here and now, something like burning to death isn’t scary or anything at all!]
Receiving a scowl from the Emperor, Subaru jumped up before his eyes, and riposted, firmly.
Just then, fatigue yet remaining in his body, he lost his balance and fell backwards, slamming against the door, but that was just right. Leaning against the door like that, Subaru spread his arms, thus obstructing the Emperor from proceeding.
That he did not hold his life dear to him, such a thing was a downright lie.
But, in this tit-for-tat, he did not want to show even a hint of weakness.
This Emperor was spouting everything he had to say without holding back, so whether it be with fists or words, Subaru would not be satisfied unless he fired back.
Subaru: [It’s just as you guys say. I think, I can’t be understood. After all, even I myself don’t really understand what my criteria is for taking action.]
Vincent: […“You guys”, you say?]
Biting his lip, the Emperor frowned as Subaru glared at him.
Lowering his hand from his cheek, his face defiled with blood trickling from Subaru’s hand, the Emperor was at a loss from the fact that Subaru’s statement had been aimed at multiple targets, possibly being directed at someone aside from himself.
Though, no matter how much he pondered it over, there was no way he could understand. The man before Subaru’s eyes was the Emperor, the other man nothing more than a foot soldier without an officer rank.
And yet, the wounds that both had given Subaru, the scars they had both pointed out, were one and the same.
Subaru: [I want to prioritize the people I like, the people I hold dear, and protect them. Those are my honest feelings. But, even if it’s someone I hate or someone I don’t know, and they’re put into danger right in front of me, then I…]
Todd had said, that Subaru would choose who to save based on his subjective likes and dislikes.
Abel had said, that Subaru would recklessly choose who to save regardless of likes or dislikes.
Both of those were correct, and since both were correct, they were mistaken.
Subaru: [But… is that really such a bad thing…?]
Subaru: [Is that so bad? Without the resolve to try and carry the whole world on my back, and without any grand significance, is it really so bad if I save those who are right in front of me on impulse!?]
As Subaru rose his voice, violently stomping his feet, and the Emperor widened his sable eyes.
Though still amidst a rapid sequence of expression and demeanors uncharacteristic of him, Subaru yet pressed him for an answer.
Subaru: [It’s just as you said! I consider the things within my own range of vision, I reach as far out as I can, that’s what I’ve been doing until today. What’s so bad about that!?]
Vincent: [You dare now object!? What is so bad, you say? Is it not obvious!? For what reason do you focus not on the greater picture, and instead act upon your selfish emotions? The Authority bestowed upon you, for what reason do you not put it to good use!?]
Subaru: [I use absolutely everything! I’m standing here because I put it to good use! Don’t get emotional, huh!? Stop talking like an idiot! The way I choose to use my own emotions, is up to me!]
Vincent: [Then at least act in accordance with those emotions! If you are to decide between somebody’s life or death based on your likes and dislikes, do not deviate from that method in any sort of way. Your way of being, is riddled with distortions.]
Subaru: [If that’s your conclusion from me leading a righteous life, I’m all for having a warped personality!]
As the Emperor still continued to rebuke Subaru’s attitude, the latter delivered a powerful kick as he replied. Kicking the Emperor’s shin over and over again, his anger, too much to be contained, erupted in full.
As Subaru unleashed kicks charged with his foul temper, the Emperor contorted his cheeks, and,
Vincent: [We shall speak no further.]
With that, he attempted to terminate the conversation one-sidedly. Once more, he did it one-sidedly.
Trying to leave behind the divide between their sense of values in that manner, the Emperor seized Subaru’s shoulders. The Emperor tried to move him out of the way, and with the physical strength of a child, he could not go against an adult.
That was why, Subaru bit down on that hand with all of his might.
Vincent: [――Hk, you!]
Subaru: [Schtop beain sho selfesh!]
Biting down without restraint, he engraved the Emperor’s right hand with a bite wound. His right hand, bleeding as he forcibly shook it free, together with the one bearing a wound from the knife, both of the Emperor’s hands were shedding blood.
Causing the great and noble apex of the Empire to shed blood, Subaru would be unable to avoid the death penalty.
Subaru: [That’ll only happen if the country still exists, you stupid idiot!]
Vincent: [What are you… Guh!!]
The moment he had been shaken off, Subaru’s small body grabbed the Emperor from the front, pressed his head against the latter’s abdomen, and clipped his knees. A fighting style he had learned from Weitz, who had devised it himself.
Proceeding to apply Weitz’s teachings even further, he took a mounted position, and attained dominance through street rules.
With the Emperor having fallen onto his back, sitting upon his chest as to weigh him down, Subaru grabbed him by the collar and slammed him into the floor. Were the back of one’s head to be struck over and over again, no matter who it was, they would be knocked-out instantly.
Vincent: [Do not get carried away!]
The first time, shock; the second time, confusion; the third time, although he had been successful in bringing the back of his head to the ground, he was stopped by a simple difference in strength. Furthermore, he was thrown off the Emperor’s body, having been grabbed by his hair.
Screaming out with a “Gyaaaargh!” as he tumbled to the floor, Subaru saw the Emperor stand back up in his peripheral vision, and once again, the latter attempted to head for the door.
Subaru: [Like I’d let you!]
Jumping onto the Emperor’s knees from behind, by means of sheer force he halted the body moving towards the door. Due to Subaru’s excessive momentum however, the Emperor was knocked over forwards.
Then, with a dull thud, the Emperor crashed face-first into the cabin’s door.
A firm sound echoed, the sound of him placing his hands against the door his face had been pressed against, and thus the Emperor rose to his feet once more, after having fallen face-first onto it. Then, turning around, the Emperor seized Subaru by the collar with both his hands, hoisting him up.
The two’s bodies spinning around to switch places, Subaru’s back was slammed against the door, pressed against it with force, as he leaked out “Uah”s of pain.
Before his eyes, the nose and forehead of the Emperor were reddened; from point-blank range he glared at Subaru, the latter’s legs suspended.
Vincent: [You, what do you want? What is your objective? What is it that you desire!?]
Subaru: [I want to hit you! My objective is to hit you! My desire is to hit you!]
Subaru: [What about you, what do you want? What is your objective? Just what the hell is it that you desire!?]
Caught by his collar, clawing at the Emperor’s hands, Subaru’s spittle flew as he shouted in reply.
Then twisting his head, he opened his mouth in an attempt to bite the Emperor’s hand one more time, but no matter how hard he tried, he was unable to reach it. At the very least, drool amassed in the Emperor’s hand as he spat.
In that way, while having his hand sullied by Subaru’s saliva, the Emperor’s cheek stiffened for a reason separate to that disgrace; he muttered.
Vincent: [My, desire…?]
Subaru: [That’s right. There’s gotta be something you wanted to do apart from spouting grandiose and meaningless words at me. If not, you wouldn’t go out of your way to come to me at such a busy time.]
Subaru: [Aren’t you the one that doesn’t understand yourself the most? While you were talking just now, there was something you put the most energy into, something you put the most emotion into. That’s what’s most important for you.]
The topic of evacuating from the Imperial Capital, or the topic of suspecting Subaru being a Stargazer. The topic of dealing with Emilia and the others, who had hailed from the Kingdom, to the topic of the divide stemming from being unable to understand Subaru’s way of being.
Now that he thought of it, there had been no words expressing sympathy for Subaru after his recovery from having fallen unconscious; in the first place, this bastard had not said anything in regards to this being their first meeting after the Demon City either.
But putting all those numerous affairs aside, the one topic he was most passionate about was obvious.
Vincent: […Why, Natsuki Subaru.]
The heat that had boiled over just before during their grappling match, disappeared, however, in its place was a cold heat, a heat set alight by that question, now uttered once more.
If that which accompanied violence was a scarlet flame, then that question had come accompanied by a flame of azure hue.
That azure glow blazing in his eyes, it scorched Subaru as he stood before the Emperor, while the latter posed his question.
Vincent: [I was the one who trained him. If it were him, he would have been able to do the same work as me without even the slightest deviation. It could even be said that he was superior in regards to military power, depending on the circumstances.]
Vincent: [There was no difference between mine and that damned Chisha’s ability. Whichever of us remained would take over the fight to oppose the Great Disaster, seeing it through to completion. ――Why.]
Staring directly into Subaru’s black eyes, the Emperor’s―― No, Abel’s black eyes wavered.
The mask of Emperor, which he had likely worn alongside a resolve to never again remove it, was ripped off of him not long after he had steeled himself like so. And thus, Subaru gazed upon Abel’s face.
And finally, not as the Emperor of this country, but as a single person who had been bereaved of someone dear, Abel could not help but question Subaru.
Vincent: [Why, did you let me live despite your loathing, and let Chisha die, Natsuki Subaru.]
After gaining self-awareness of what he had wanted to ask Subaru himself, Abel hurled the same question towards Subaru as he had done before their scuffle had broken out.
The sorrow, the fragility contained within that voice, were incomparable to what they had been just before.
The Emperor known as Vincent Vollachia, utilized absolutely everything in his possession for the sake of the Empire.
Ruling over the great country that possessed the vastest lands among those known in this world as the Four Great Countries, Vincent Vollachia reigned as Emperor, an omnipresent and all-seeing existence.
For that Emperor known as Vincent Vollachia to issue that question not for the sake of the Empire, but rather as a mere single person, was evidence that this singular question carried a weight rivaling that of the Empire itself.
Perceiving that in his skin, his blood, his brain, his very soul, Subaru’s heart trembled.
At the same time, in contrast to Abel’s swell of emotion, Subaru’s emotions were tranquil.
Just why was it that the person known as Chisha had to die?
Unbeknownst to Subaru, Abel and Chisha had each been placed on different plates of a scale, and one of those two sides had fallen into a situation beyond saving.
Thus, Abel had intended to share in the fate of the scale as his own side tipped into perdition.
That envisioning had been painted over. ――Most likely, by the deceased Chisha himself.
――Abel had likely prepared for his own death since long ago.
If one was born, someday, their life would assuredly reach its end. All were aware of such a fact. But it was just as if Abel’s situation was completely different to the reality everybody unconsciously ignored.
Resolve towards destined death, that was no different from Subaru confronting the trigger of his Return by Death.
Always, Abel had been squaring off against his own forthcoming death.
With the same resolve as Subaru, who fought to the bitter end while believing that the arrival of Death was something that could be changed, that it was something that must be changed no matter what, Abel had continued to fight.
If Subaru were to go without dying, Emilia, Rem, and Beatrice would end up dying.
Otto and everyone else, Tanza and everyone else, all of the Shudraq, Flop and Medium, a great number of people would end up dying. In exchange for his own life, he attempted to allow everyone to survive.
If he had come to expend the entirety of his resolve for that purpose, then it must have been the same for Abel.
Vincent: [I completed all preparations with that end in sight. But even so――]
Emilia, Rem, and Beatrice, they had all taken Subaru’s place, permitting his survival.
In order to let Subaru live, Otto and everyone else, Tanza and everyone else, all of the Shudraq, Flop and Medium, a great number of other people, had become sacrifices so he could survive.
Even if nobody else was capable of understanding that despair, Natsuki Subaru was the single person who had to keep it in mind.
Nullifying that possibility, painting over that reality by means of his Authority, Natsuki Subaru was the single person who would not deny the despair that Abel was going through without paying any heed.
Understanding, gulping down, there was something he must say in addition.
Subaru: [――I’m not a Stargazer, Abel.]
The words he spoke, they probably seemed like a betrayal to Abel, this late in the game.
This late in the game, Subaru had not returned the reply of Abel’s desire, instead keeping it to himself. But, however much Abel suspected Subaru, reality would not budge.
Perhaps Subaru was able to do the same things a Stargazer could.
Perhaps Subaru possessed means with which to intervene with fate to an extent greater than a Stargazer’s own means.
Even so, he was not omnipotent. He could never be omnipotent.
It would be nice if he were omnipotent, he could never be sufficient as to aspire to be omnipotent.
Subaru: [That’s why, I couldn’t save this Chisha person you talked about. I wouldn’t know how to save him, either. But, I’ll just say this one thing…]
Vincent: […What is it.]
Subaru: […Supposing I really did have a power like the one you speak of, even then, I’d choose to save you, who I hate, rather than someone I don’t know. Without reasons like seeing ahead to what lies in the future, that’s what I would do. That’s what I will do.]
Truly, even he himself thought his nature was a helpless one.
But, that was the result that Natsuki Subaru, by consulting with the abilities he possessed, within what he understood to be the realms of what were his own capabilities, had reached.
Slowly, strength left Abel’s hold on his collar, and Subaru’s body was released.
While his back rubbed against the door, Subaru’s body slid down. Even now, Abel’s hands were holding on to Subaru’s collar, but those fingers, white from the strength that had been put into them, now lost their pale coloration alongside said strength.
If he truly wished to remove those hands, he could have done it easily; however, Subaru did not do so.
With them still seizing his collar, Subaru merely called his name out with “Abel”――.
Vincent: [If you claim to not be a Stargazer…]
Such was the frail sound produced by Abel’s lips.
But, Abel himself had not been satisfied with the sound he had uttered, and continued no further. Abel’s black eyes began to wander, in search of the words he truly desired.
He would put his emotions into words.
Perhaps the Emperor of the Empire, who had not once done such a thing till this day, who had not once done something that even a toddler was capable of, would now do so.
Vincent: [You… would try and save me no matter what…]
Vincent: [In a situation where the survival of the Empire is at stake, you occupy me with trifles of such insignificance…]
Vincent: [I… I! Even since I laid eyes upon your way of being…]
Each time, his words would get stuck halfway through.
No matter the words, no matter the emotions, they were not enough to express what Abel felt in his heart of hearts. Repeatedly, Abel ceased speaking, revised his words, and corrected himself; yet Subaru did not rush him.
Vincent: [You… detest me, view me as an enemy…]
His intelligent self realizing that the response of his desires lay not beyond his faltering words, Abel started the words he ought to say anew, over and over again.
He, known as the wisest Emperor since the inception of the Vollachian Empire, a man whose wisdom was respected by everyone, did so.
And thus, after repetitions upon repetitions, he finally managed to do it.
Vincent: [I… had resolved myself for my own death… I had not resolved myself… to lose someone dear.]
Having only forged his resolve to be the one leaving the rest behind, his resolve for being left behind had not been cultivated.
Perhaps he had even gone as far as to think about what words he would leave behind in his final moments. There was even the possibility one would find notes here and there left for after his death, if they were to search.
All had been done for the sake of entrusting the matter to those who would continue forth, done with a resolve that had not even considered the possibility he would be on the side being entrusted.
A quavering voice, questioned so.
While speaking in a quavering voice, Abel detached his hands from Subaru’s collar. Those hands, his own very blood-stained hands, he brought them to his face, and concealed his expression.
The Emperor, who would by no means even close both his eyes in front of others, covered his face with both his hands.
Vincent: [Why, did you leave me behind and die, Chisha…!?]
His face in his hands, his voice trembling, his black eyes potentially even tearing up, Vincent Vollachia fell to his knees.
Having lost a very, very important person, the man who had likely not had even the time to grieve, not needing to wear the mask of Emperor in front of a rude and disrespectful individual whom he hated, fell to his knees.
Witnessing just that, Subaru, taking a very long, and immensely deep breath――,
Subaru: [――I’m sorry.]
With that, as a fellow struggler fighting against an unreasonable fate, he faced the fellow struggler who had been wounded while earnestly continuing to fight, and imparted words that would never be able to serve as comfort.
When swinging at Abel as he tried to leave, what came to Subaru’s mind was the memory of the time Otto had once punched him in a similar manner.
Subaru: [You’re incredible, man. I could never be as smart as you… I’ll never say that to his face, though.]
Since he would feel embarrassed and annoyed, he really did not wish to state so directly to that very person.
The most he was willing to consider was that one day, once Otto was dying of old age, he would sit at the side of the bed and say, “To be honest, I thought you were incredible”. If he were to really go through with it, he had faith that Otto, even in his dying moments, would retort with “Then why have you been keeping silent about it until now!?”.
With a thud, Abel leaned his back against the wall of the cabin as he sat on the ground, observing the dim interior of the cabin as he hugged one of his knees.
Subaru, too, absentmindedly savored the silence while sitting next to him with legs crossed.
From the outset, Subaru’s true feelings were undoubtedly feelings of gratitude towards Otto, alongside a wish to mess with him a bit.
Some time ago, at a time Subaru had been on the verge of buckling under the weight of attempting to carry anything and everything by his lonesome, Otto had given a wallop to Subaru’s cheek, had lambasted him with words he needed to hear.
That he was keeping up useless airs in front of his friends, so he was told. ――That experience had given Subaru the courage to spring off the bed.
But then again――,
Subaru: [Not like you and I are friends or anything.]
Vincent: [――. Of course. Speak not of such repulsive things. Being a friend of yours… No, I simply have no need for the likes of friends. Nor shall I ever want them.]
Subaru: [So your reasoning isn’t that you can’t make friends, but that you won’t make them? I also did that when I pretended to be a proud lone wolf, but it’s completely obvious to the people around you.]
Vincent: [Your disrespect knows no bounds, now does it?]
Seated close to each other yet without looking towards the other, Subaru and Abel exchanged words.
No longer were the heated emotions from their grappling scuffle present, but on the other hand, they were not vanished to the point that they would abort their conversation midway, nor were they able to feign civility.
Subaru’s face, clothes, and hands were stained with blood all over.
Of course, Abel’s face, hair, and clothes were also stained with blood all over.
Inside the cabin, the sheets were stained with blood, and the knife had fallen to the ground. Blots of scattered blood were present here and there, and evidence of damage and of blood having been shed was everywhere.
The amount of blood was not enough for this place to be dubbed a murder scene, but it sure was enough for it to look like a crime scene.
Subaru: [But, even if we thrash around, we could never destroy the whole cabin. That’s what our individual limit is, you and I.]
Even with Subaru and Abel having gone into a no-holds-barred rampage, the most they had been able to do was break the furnishings.
Were the ones to go on a rampage the truly dangerous people present in this world, the cabin would probably be destroyed in the blink of an eye, no traces of it being left behind. How much time would it take for Emilia, with that adorable face and those adorable hands of hers, to adorably dismantle this cabin.
Subaru: [Even if you and I throw down, it’s nothing so adorable, even.]
Vincent: […Just what in the world is your problem?]
Subaru: [What about you, what the hell’s your problem? I’ll tell you what, your story’s all over the goddamn place, I can’t even tell what you wanna talk about.]
Abel remained silent, and pondered.
The reason he had held his tongue was likely because he had been made aware of how scattered the topics were. It was the result of plugging his ears to the appeals of his true intentions, and only choosing the topics that felt good to his ears, and flowed nicely; since he had been on edge, there had not been a single topic that was sincere.
That was the essence of Abel’s speech till just before, and he had also now become aware of that lapse of his.
Thence, how he would recover from that, Subaru waited to see――,
Vincent: [Natsuki Subaru, is it the truth that you are not a Stargazer?]
Subaru: […It’s true. I’m not a Stargazer or anything like that. Stuff like premonitions of the future, that fits the Witch Cult more than it fits me. I don’t really get along with those guys.]
Vincent: [I did happen to hear that you have felled two Sin Archbishops, in Lugunica.]
Subaru: [It’s not public, but it’s actually been three. Gluttony’s been as well… Nah, it’s kinda difficult to say whether Gluttony’s been defeated or not, so forget about that. Louis’s situation is also… AH!]
Vincent: [What is it?]
Subaru: [You didn’t do anything to Louis, right? After all, I still haven’t forgiven you for that time you said Louis was to be killed.]
In the Demon City of Chaosflame, Abel’s firm stance towards Louis had been what had triggered Subaru’s separation from Abel and the rest, going on to act independently.
When her identity as a Sin Archbishop came to light, Abel had declared that she would not be tolerated.
With that as the reason, Subaru had moved separately from Abel and the rest of their group; the pair of him and Louis isolated and without assistance then headed towards Yorna’s Castle――,
Subaru: [Though stuff’s happened until now, I still won’t forgive you.]
Vincent: [Speak not of foolish things. Though, was it not you who thoroughly hated that girl?]
Subaru: [Before is before, now is now. To begin with, if you’ve kept your impression of me from our first meeting, you’d doubt my sanity considering the members I get along with.]
Vincent: [Your sanity is something I have doubted since the Shudraqian village. ――Your concern is unnecessary.]
Vincent: [No harm has been inflicted upon that girl. After all, what I had been trying to say back then was not that we ought to execute someone whose apparent identity was that of a Sin Archbishop right there and then.]
Vincent: [You jumped to a hasty conclusion. Diligently reflect upon this.]
Having been told that his worries were needless, Subaru was at a loss for words. But, even supposing that were true, Abel’s coldhearted and indifferent attitude had been part of the reason for Subaru making a conclusion so hastily.
Adding up Abel’s attitude up until then had led to his distrust back then.
Subaru: [That… was an issue of your attitude…]
Vincent: [It was necessary. It was just in case, so you would not wish for my survival.]
Vincent: [All grounded on the conjecture that you were a Stargazer, that included. You, who continues to produce results unprecedented within the Kingdom, have performed deeds no ordinary person would be able to.]
Vincent: [Although, there was no need for me to go out of my way to worsen your impression of me. Even if I did not act as such, you are the type of person who would detest me the most. Abhorrence and disdain, they both overflow from your heart.]
Subaru: [YOU! DAMN! BASTARD…!]
Whether it was a lie, the truth, good, or bad, Abel’s words caused veins to bulge in Subaru’s forehead.
But, as Subaru explored his relationship with Abel while treading on thin ice, Abel had come into contact with Subaru with a mental state akin to treading a tightrope.
With Subaru on ice, and Abel walking a tightrope, no interaction of the sort could ever proceed smoothly.
After all, each of them went without looking at anything but their own feet; they did not even regard the other’s face.
Subaru: […I, don’t know anything about that Chisha guy. He kicked you out from the throne, and turned himself into you pretending to be Emperor. I only happened upon him in Chaosflame, when he was posing as Emperor.]
Subaru: [I don’t get what that person was thinking, or what he had been scheming in driving you away from the Palace. But, you got frustrated in such a way because that person died, and if he really did die when you were supposed to, I do get that. Therefore…]
Falteringly, Subaru spoke of what he thought as he thought it.
Since they had an unspoken agreement to not face each other, Subaru could not see Abel’s expression as he spoke those words. A tad frightening, that was.
That person was someone who Abel lamented losing to an extent such that he could not preserve the equilibrium of his heart.
For Subaru, speaking about that person while knowing nothing about them, his remarks could perhaps trample upon Abel’s heart far too much.
But, he thought.
Though it had not been for a very long time, having been embroiled in a situation that concerned the survival of the nation, having been completely manipulated by this man who gave his name as Abel, Subaru, thought.
Subaru: [That Chisha person, he sure was incredible.]
Though perhaps inappropriate, as he lifted his face, he produced a spirited voice.
It had been no forceful attempt to brighten things, it had been praise, praise overflowing from Subaru’s heart.
In reality, just how many of them were there? People who could betray the predictions of the man renowned as the wisest Emperor since the inception of this Vollachian Empire, who molded just about every last thing merely within his own mind, who valued things proceeding as per his expectations; just how many people could go against that, and fulfill their own goals in such spectacular fashion?
Just that was more than enough to earn Subaru’s praise.
Moreover, he had performed to the extent that Abel, having been left behind, was left hesitant and disheartened. He did not know if that was in accordance to the expectations held.
Subaru: [You said there wouldn’t be a big difference whether you or that person was left behind. If that’s true, then there’s only one reason why that person made this situation.]
Subaru spoke as he thought, and without facing him, Abel let out a muted voice.
He was not so sure if anger had been present in that timbre or not, especially because he went without verbally assaulting Subaru in the way the latter had grown familiar with,
Vincent: [You, are you saying that you understand? The reason why Chisha plotted against me?]
Indeed, it was rather something to urge Subaru to voice the conclusion he had reached.
Abel desired an answer.
An answer that even his own, that even Abel’s own clever brain could not come up with. For something like that to come out of the mouth of Subaru, who did not even know the person known as Chisha, even if Abel had no expectations, he had begun to have expectations.
He could not help but think of those expectations as added pressure, but,
Subaru: [Well, no matter what you’ll think of me, we’re already this far in…]
Once he had stood up in defiance, there remained no reason to hesitate in speaking exactly what he thought.
The reason as to why Chisha had left not himself, but Abel, behind, that Subaru had thought of.
Subaru: [With fate trying to kill you, you resigned yourself to the opponent that was fate. That’s gotta have irritated him.]
Subaru: [There’s also a pattern of like, wanting someone to live even at the expense of your own life. But, I don’t think that’s the case here. After all, the way you live wouldn’t have anyone do anything of the sort for you.]
He could understand the feeling that one might want another person to live even if it meant they themselves would die.
But, in order to harbor a feeling of the sort, they must greatly think of the other person as dear, and they need a reason to be made to think that way.
Prepared for his own destined death, desperate to pave the path for the sake of those who would continue after him, it was implausible that Abel would have anyone think of him in such a way.
Therefore, Subaru’s answer was that.
Subaru: [Chisha got irritated because of you. After all, he even proved it.]
Vincent: [Proved it, you say? Proved what? …Proved that I was plotted against, and that I was a fool?]
Subaru: [Flop-san and Mizelda-san have probably also realized that you’re a moron with a good head on him. What I mean is… the reach of the thing known as fate.]
As though vocalizing that word for the first time, Abel’s tongue became acquainted with that unfamiliar concept, muttering so.
In reality, for Abel, who confronted everything head-on, who resisted endlessly armed with his own predictions, all impediments could be put into words. Likely, he had not realized his opponent was something so absurd, so formless as “fate”.
But, beyond all doubts, the enemy to which Abel had unconsciously accepted defeat was fate.
At the same time, Chisha had proved that very thing by using his own life, and letting Abel live.
Subaru: [Fate can be fought. ――There’s no reason to give up, not even a single one.]
Faintly catching his breath, Abel kept silent as if the words he had been told had struck his very heart.
Had he not believed his enemy to be “fate”, likely, he would not have thought to fight it, or to even resist it. It would not have been something he had even considered.
However, supposing he were to know just what exactly that “enemy” was, what could possibly ensue?
If he, the wisest Emperor since the inception of the Vollachian Empire, were to know the true identity of his “enemy”, just what would he do?
Subaru: [――Abel, I’m not a Stargazer.]
Adjacent to Abel, who remained silent, Subaru spoke as he placed his hands on the knees of his crossed legs.
Upon being accused, he denied it, only to be accused again. Upon denying it, he was accused, only to deny it again.
Although explaining or affirming the matter of his own Authority, the matter of Return by Death, was something he was not able to do, Subaru had also resolved his heart on something, during this dialogue.
That something was that which would have been his likely answer to Todd Fang, who had cornered him with words completely, leaving him unable to riposte in clear terms before their parting.
Subaru: [I’ll save as many people as I possibly can, as long as they’re within range of my hand. Even so, if there truly are still lives I’m not able to save, that’s…]
Vincent: […A defeat served to you by fate, would it not be so?]
Subaru: [――. I can’t get a complete victory. After all, it’s not just me who’s fighting fate.]
He had not been able to save everything.
Thus, Subaru was unable to declare that he was going to save everything, even from here onwards.
While roaring for that inevitable fate to bring it on, while vowing to continue fighting against fate, yet still being faced with the loss of lives, Natsuki Subaru would mourn and lament, only to then continue to declare such things.
And in that manner, for the sake of diminishing the chances for him to lament, for the sake of diminishing the chances for him to shed tears――.
Subaru: [Lend me your strength, Abel. If you do that, I’ll also lend you mine.]
Subaru: [From this point onwards, I’ll cooperate in full…! That said, I won’t say selfish things without consulting with Emilia and the others, but that’s just how passionate I am. That’s why…]
Saying that, Subaru firmly clapped his knees, and stood up.
Then, without looking at Abel’s face, he slowly advanced to the middle of the cabin, to the side of the bed. With a sidelong glance at the disheveled and bloodstained sheets, Subaru reached his hand into the basket of fruits.
Inside, was the appa which Abel had abandoned after splitting it in half. The cross-section of its white insides were turning to a light-brown coloration due to being exposed to the air, but not concerning himself with that, Subaru picked the halves up.
Subaru: [Help me finish eating the appa you cut in half.]
Tossing a half of the appa over to Abel, he sunk his teeth into the half he held onto.
With a pleasant sound, the sweet juice of the fruit slowly filled his mouth, and Subaru looked into the face of Abel, still plopped down on the floor.
Having caught the appa thrown at him, Abel brought his eyes down towards it, and after a moment of hesitation, he bit into it.
With a similarly pleasant sound, the sweet and sour flavor ought to have filled his mouth as well.
Whether he liked it or disliked it, hated it or loved it, was completely unrelated to that flavor.
As fellow living beings, there would be no difference in the flavor of the appa that they shared.
Vincent: [Natsuki Subaru.]
Subaru: [What’s up?]
Vincent: [I am not fond of you.]
Vincent: [――But, I require your strength.]
Declaring so, Abel slowly stood up. With the half-eaten appa in his hand, Abel trained his sable eyes upon Subaru.
Once again he hid all the hues of uncharacteristic emotions that he had displayed within the cabin behind his consciousness as the Emperor; however, while those yet revealed themselves ever-so-slightly via his eyes and voice,
Vincent: [Apologies for mine many acts of rudeness. O Knight of the Kingdom.]
With that, upon seeing the Emperor of the Sacred Vollachian Empire bow his head, Subaru smiled.
Smiling, while biting into what remained of the appa,
Subaru: [I won’t apologize for my many acts of disrespect, Emperor of the Empire.]
And with that, the first step to rectify the discrepancies in their relationship, which had been mistaken ever since its very start, was taken.