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――Natsuki Subaru’s group continued to head directly east upon leaving the city of Pristella.
They were heading towards the eastern edge of the world—— the area in which the Augria Sand Dunes were contained, a plot of land with a rich history of having the Witchbeasts that have existed there for hundreds of years reject every existence from stepping foot onto their territory.
It contained Miasma that would cause travelers to lose their sense of direction and gnawed at their hearts.
It contained groups of Witchbeasts as evil vanguards, who would indulge themselves in devouring human lives.
And then, there was the person who sought world peace—— the person at the Watchtower, who determined each and every one of the successes and failures made by those who came close. This person was the Sage, Shaula.
???: “Knowing that alone, it feels like we’re lining up for suicide.”
Just being reminded of the obstacles that were ahead was enough to cause dejection.
In reality, those that journeyed towards this place, while fully knowing what awaited them, were perhaps beings like suicidal people, or perhaps Witch Cultists. At any rate, it seemed like they were nothing but people with brain abnormalities.
However, these people were neither of the above, and possessed no intention to die. It was rather the opposite; they intended to live.
They would provide a path of life, to each and every one of the people who had lost their way of living.
They had begun this expedition in order to obtain this seed of hope.
???: “…Nevertheless, it’s strange.”
While imagining the swaying of the dragon carriage, Subaru whispered these words to the faces in front of them. When the people in the guest room heard his whisper, every single one of them had their eyes turn towards Subaru.
A total of four glances came his way―― adding in Subaru to the other people in this carriage, would make for a final sum of five passengers. This was what the situation looked like.
???: “Strange? Did something happen?”
Subaru: “No, it’s nothing important, Emilia-tan. It’s just, wellll~, it’s just that I feel it’s quite unexpected all these faces to be sharing the same dragon carriage and getting along so well.”
Subaru responded this way as he brushed off Emilia’s question.
To Subaru’s right and left, securing both his sides, were Emilia and Beatrice. These were his allies. It was a given that these two would be with Subaru, but still, the question at hand would regard the two people up front.
???: “Well, it may be normal for ya to feel like that. Actually, I thought it was really surprisin’ too. So it’d be natural for Natsuki-kun to feel uncomfortable, huh.”
???: “…Ahh, that is correct.”
The person who let out a high-pitched laughter and spoke with a Kansai dialect, or rather, Kararagi dialect, was Anastasia. After her reply in fake Kansai dialect, she gazed towards him with a meaningful look while feeling her hair.
Anastasia: “Though, if we’re gonna talk exclusively ‘bout bein’ uncomfortable, I ain’t so sure ya can beat Julius-san here.”
Julius: “How harsh. However, please do not worry―― I am also a Knight at heart. Just a single night is enough for me to adjust my heart. Not to mention that a few days have already passed… I promise to never to show a sight similar to the shamefulness I displayed the other day ever again.”
Anastasia: “So graceful. I’ll be takin’ ya on yer word, then.”
The manner in which Julius bowed in reply to Anastasia’s banter-like remark was much like how he acted previously.
But of course he would. He had sustained damage incurred by the Authority of Gluttony; but to be specific, it had borne effects on everyone around his person, rather than on himself.
Thus, the people that had changed their behavior had been his friends, rather than himself. He could not conceal just how upset he was upon receiving these reactions. But as he himself had just stated, he seemed to have accepted it with ease.
Subaru: “…You’re outrageous.”
Albeit he would not let his voice carry such praise, it was a pretty big deal.
That weak part of his heart was not able to clearly express great praise. It was not as if Subaru was unfamiliar with that feeling as well―― the feeling of having your own existence being left behind, having nobody around that shared his own memories.
Natsuki Subaru, able to go back in time with Return by Death as he was, definitely possessed recollections of worlds that nobody else remembered.
If he were to recall a single experience in which he had built up relationships only to have them lost, that would perhaps be the initial days at Roswaal mansion―― those repeated days of his beginning at the Roswaal mansion.
He had been summoned to another world, had struggled at the Royal Capital with the objective of helping Emilia, and then as a result, he had been invited to Roswaal’s mansion. He then proceeded to experience four iterations of events before stepping foot into the fifth world.
The memories of the four worlds up until then, were held within Subaru and nowhere else.
Even now, it was difficult to forget the shock he had experienced from being treated as a stranger by the very same people with whom he had built relations with during those days at the mansion.
That pain and sadness would never fade away.
???: “…What is it, I suppose? Subaru, why have you suddenly started petting Betty’s head, in fact?”
Subaru: “Don’t worry about it. It’s just, I’m deeply emotional by the fact you seriously saved me back then. Thankyou thankyou.”
Beatrice: “I don’t understand, I suppose. Also, my hair is getting messed up so sto… you don’t have to stop, but pet it just a little softer, in fact.”
Beatrice tilted her head towards Subaru as she occupied the seat half-an-ass away. Just like she had requested of him, Subaru delivered some pats to her head, not allowing him to forget his state of mind at the time he was truly saved.
The only person whose feelings towards Subaru did not change during the loop of days at the mansion, was Beatrice. They had met before Return by Death’s save point. So after that, she remained as the one person whose manner of coming into contact with Subaru did not alter.
Moreover, the way he had been saved would also stay a secret to her, for a long, long time.
Subaru: “After that, Emilia-tan saved me, huh.”
Emilia made a curious face in response to Subaru’s reminiscence.
Subaru was right here, right now, because he had been saved by her kindness, voice, attitude, as well as the warmth of the lap that she had lent him.
That was why Subaru was able to recognize how impressive it was that Julius had actually accomplished it all on his lonesome. It had taken so much help, and so many times, four times’ worth of time in fact, for Subaru to overcome what Julius had.
Or maybe, it was because a certain someone was there to lend him a helping hand.
A certain someone that was forgotten by Anastasia; a certain someone that did not seek for help from anyone in his own camp; a certain someone who had his ties severed with the Quasi Spirits whom he contracted with; a certain someone that did not recall his blood brother either.
If that were the case, then he would be grateful.
Julius: “Staring at people’s faces for quite a while now… Is there something wrong, Subaru?”
Subaru: “I’m doing nothing wrong. I was just thinking that it’s not pleasant to see you smiling with such elegance after someone calls you graceful.”
Julius: “Beautifully elegant, that indeed has a splendid sound to it. I had never expected that I would receive praise from you. I am pleasantly surprised… Or well, that may be an exaggeration. Well, is it not a given?”
Subaru: “I didn’t mean to praise you, and it does piss me off to hear you put it like that!”
With his same manner from the past―― Or rather, with his reaction that made it seem as if he had become even more skilled with his tongue slips, Subaru ended up being the one annoyed.
The evident frailness on his face back when in his brother’s hospital room at Pristella had been hard to digest. Subaru had recollections of that time, when a lack of satisfaction was evident in his expression prompting Subaru to complain. However, all of that seemed like completely forgotten history now.
Emilia: “You and Julius, get along. Hmm, were you like this before the way you are right now?”
Subaru: “Emilia-tan, you got it wrong. There is no way me and this guy get along well. Did you see my face? My eyes had the scariest look ever. Although, that’s just my viewpoint.”
Emilia: “Really? I don’t think you’re right, but… Ah, I’m not talking about the look you had in your eyes. I’m talking about you saying that you two don’t get along well. Subaru’s eyes were the same as ever, they were reaaally scary.”
Subaru: “The same as ever, reaaally scary!?”
Emilia: “Well for me, I like Subaru’s eyes. I’m being truthfully truthful.”
Subaru: “Ah, dammit. How I wish that part about my eyes was cut out from the audio recording…”
Emilia let out a wry smile as she filled Subaru with regret. She then turned towards Julius with an inquisitive look, causing him to take a glance towards Subaru.
Julius: “I myself have no room to deny those words. In reality, to say that me and him are close… would not be the most correct statement. Although in my eyes, we are compromising with each other, despite how things may look.”
Subaru: “To put it as compromising, that’s already condescending. Humble down there a bit… it’s going to piss me off even more.”
Julius: “What an abrasive point of view. Can you tell him that too?”
Julius sought Emilia’s agreement on the matter, but she reacted to their exchanges by brushing up her hair and,
Emilia: “Just as I thought, you are reaaally close, right…?”
Subaru: “Come on, it should be already clear.”
Emilia: “Eh? Well, I guess you are close then…”
There was a slight disagreement with Emilia, but Subaru and Julius acted as if nothing had happened. This made Emilia become more and more baffled. Anastasia tried to restrain herself from laughing, letting out chuckles with a smile.
Anastasia’s reaction caused Julius to suddenly loosen his lips, as if indicating that he had calmed down―― That transient master-servant relationship was hardly strange to Subaru, being someone who was familiar with the other side of it.
The Anastasia at hand differed from the genuine Anastasia Hoshin, and was a fake, merely a fake.
Anastasia’s body was currently being used by the Artificial Spirit Echidna―― otherwise known as Eridna. This so-called Eridna had no intentions of taking over her body, but he was unsure of how much he could trust her. Being someone who was aware of this situation, the one thing that Subaru did not fail to do was to prevent those unaware of the situation, like Emilia and Julius, from realizing it.
Beatrice: “…Subaru, cut it out, in fact.”
Beatrice called out to Subaru, who was surely in a state of deep thought. This girl’s hair was in a messy state, as Subaru was petting her head all throughout this period of silence. Her cute face had a sour look.
Subaru: “Ohhh!? My bad, Beako! Your cute appearance is a mess… your hair’s all messed up now.”
Beatrice: “Perhaps you shouldn’t make it sound like Betty’s cuteness is ruined from just her hairdo, I suppose! Moreover, your face is starting to look scary, in fact.”
Half-an-ass away from Subaru, Beatrice spoke while frantically fixing her messed-up hair with her hands. Subaru let out an “Oh”, preventing himself from talking, as Beatrice held a face that made it look like she thought him helpless.
Beatrice: “There’s no point in making such an excessively worrisome face, I suppose… Betty will take care of it, in fact. If something happens, Betty will notice it much faster than Subaru, I suppose.”
Beatrice spoke these words in response to Subaru’s anxiety. Beatrice―― the other person besides Subaru who was aware of Eridna and how she was replacing Anastasia.
Originally, Subaru had promised to keep it a secret for two reasons: first, to avoid causing any unnecessary commotion about it; second, because Eridna had claimed to have no intentions to snatch control of Anastasia’s body. However, Beatrice would be the only one to realize if something happened, albeit belatedly.
They both were the same type of Artificial Spirit, two beings sharing a relationship with the Witch Echidna. If it seemed like Eridna was planning something, Beatrice would surely sense it.
Although, if he were to consider Beatrice’s emotions, he did not feel like it was very advisable for Beatrice to get involved with Echidna, but,
Beatrice: “Putting your unnecessary suspicions aside, it’s fine that Subaru acted like Subaru and sought help from anybody without caring about who it was, just like you always have, instead of worrying about it alone, in fact. Though, you came to Betty first, I suppose. I’ll give you my praise this time for that, in fact.”
She replied with this, so that was the end of that.
Emilia: “――I see it.”
Just when he thought that the dragon carriage had fallen into a state of silence, Emilia suddenly whispered these words.
It seemed that Emilia had seen their destination afar, as she gazed out the window of the dragon carriage. Subaru also understood that the view out the window was changing into familiar scenery.
Subaru: “What a nostalgic road. We’ll arrive at Roswaal’s mansion soon, huh.”
He murmured these words, first making sure to restrain his feelings from being near their first checkpoint, remembering their original goal.
This group’s destination, as mentioned before, were the Augria Sand Dunes―― the place where they would seek to consult Sage Shaula. However, they had already arranged to stop by Roswaal’s mansion on the way, as so to prepare for their trip and to make a stop in their long expedition.
There were many things that they wanted to talk to the fellow member of their camp about, including the incident at Pristella and the occasion of getting to speak with the Sage.
Subaru: “It’s not just a simple stop.”
There was meaning in dropping by Roswaal’s mansion before beginning their expedition to meet the Sage.
When looking at the big picture, its meaning would be meager, and small to the world. However, through Natsuki Subaru’s small human eyes, it possessed great potential.
Subaru squinted his eyes to envision the Roswaal mansion, so distant that could not yet be seen.
Each of the four people inside the dragon carriage were looking at Subaru. Various emotions were held by the colors of their eyes, but Subaru had no composure to take notice of any of their glances.
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When the dragon carriage arrived at Roswaal’s mansion, more than one hour had gone by past noon.
The long migration from the city of Pristella, which had taken about ten days, went on a temporary hold.
Subaru: “Ohh, Petra, woahwah!?”
They rode the ground dragons towards Roswaal’s mansion, gave their thanks to the coachman, and then got off the carriage. A petite maid rushed towards Subaru from the mansion, and jumped at him with unrestrained force.
She came into his chest with might and force, and Subaru somehow managed to catch her while backing up. He then petted the head of the girl who had flown into his arms.
Subaru: “Petra, if you do that so suddenly, you’ll startle me, you know. I’ve been gone for nearly a month now, but have you been doing well?”
Petra: “I’ve been fine, as you can tell. However, Subaru…-sama has been having it rough, right? I’ve been worried ever since that letter came in two days ago. You were injured so much again, right? Can you handle the pain?”
Subaru: “Embarassing, embarassing.”
Petra touched Subaru’s body to confirm his pain as her reddish brown-colored hair swung back and forth. As subaru reacted to this with a wry smile, other people got off the dragon carriage.
Subaru: “Hey, Petra. Do your job as a maid of the mansion properly. If you don’t, Ram and Frederica will get mad at you.”
Petra: “…Okay. Tell me about what happened later.”
She returned promptly, but it seemed like Petra’s trust had been thoroughly damaged.
Petra’s worry would be inevitable if he told her about how he got involved in what seemed to be a city-wide uproar to try and obtain the crystal. Though, it was not something that Subaru intended to cause for the Witch Cult. However, that excuse would also be meaningless.
It would be pointless, considering the truth was that most of the Witch Cult’s purposes were related to Emilia’s camp.
Petra: “Welcome guests. Compliments to your efforts to make this long trip. I am Petra Leyte, a maid of this residence. I will be your guide towards the mansion.”
Subaru’s recollections were put aside, and then Petra let out a vocal message coupled with a dignified gesture.
Julius took Anastasia’s hand to help her descend the carriage, and they both had looks of admiration on their face. Also visible was a somewhat prideful look on Emilia’s and Beatrice’s faces.
Anastasia: “Quite the well-behaved child, even though you’re little, huh. You’re being thorough with yer trainin’.”
Julius: “It certainly seemed like she was a completely different person, with her attitude of jumping at Subaru upon first sight.”
Petra: “――How embarrassing.”
Julius agreed with the smiling Anastasia, and then Petra’s face grew redder and redder from their remarks. Julius looked down at her, then proceeded to look at Subaru, and,
Julius: “I see… I understand the reason why you are given the moniker of Lolimancer.”
Subaru: “I’ll have you know, Petra isn’t as small as a little girl, and even if you call me that, the only loli I will «mance» is Beako. Get your facts straight.”
Beatrice: “Betty also isn’t a girl that works hard to be used by Subaru at his convenience, I suppose. Subaru, you should get your facts straight as well, in fact.”
Subaru replied to Julius’s banter in a cold way, and then Beatrice rebuked Subaru in an even more glacial manner.
Subaru’s mouth turned into a frown, falling silent, and Beatrice let out a sigh. She then looked at Petra’s lower area. She stood aside her, and then made a slight movement to grab onto the edge of the skirt of the latter’s maid outfit.
Beatrice: “Also, look, not much has changed throughout Betty and Petra’s time, I suppo… Wait a second. Betty feels like Petra has grown a bit, in fact. Her hair has grown a bit too, I suppose…!”
Petra: “It’s because one month has passed, and it’s also my growth period right now. I will grow, and my hair will grow too, if I don’t cut it. Beatrice-chan will stay small, though.”
Beatrice: “Wha-what in tarnation, in fact…!”
Petra smiled as she hugged an astonished Beatrice tightly. Continuing to embrace the pouty-faced Beatrice for a sufficient amount of time, she then walked away, speaking, “Well then, allow me to guide you all”.
Subaru: “Alright, we’ll finally be going to the… Mmgah.”
He sought to follow her, but then someone’s hand grabbed onto the back of his collar. Upon raising a choked voice, he looked back, only to be surprised by the fact that Emilia was the one who had reached out to his scruff.
Emilia jerked Subaru’s chin while holding onto the back of his neck, and directed him towards the dragon carriage behind him.
Emilia: “Subaru, Patrasche doesn’t seem to be happy.”
Anastasia: “Hm… ‘Tis has become a selfish affair, huh.”
If one were to throw their gaze towards the ground dragons as per Emilia’s point, out of the two ground dragons that they traveled with, it would be noticeable that the beautiful, jet-black ground dragon was glaring at Subaru with frightfully piercing eyes.
That was Subaru’s beloved dragon, Patrasche. When Subaru tried to return her look, she turned away bluntly, then letting out a light but very displeased sound.
Emilia: “You seriously weren’t able to make up with her, even though you had ten days, huh.”
Subaru: “Yeah, I know, but I really don’t think it’s my fault this time…”
Subaru scratched his head as he thought of what to do about Patrasche, who was leaning onto his belly.
Ever since they’d left the city of Pristella, Patrasche had been giving Subaru the cold shoulder―― or rather, a bit before that. When he went to the ground dragon’s stable to pick her up, after the defensive battle against the Witch Cult was done and dusted, she was already in a bad mood.
He didn’t talk to Patrasche, as Otto was out-of-commission because of his injuries. However, he had a long-standing relationship with Patrasche. It was about time that Subaru found out what this beloved dragon was so angry about.
Subaru: “That’s, well, I know I neglected her during the uproar, and that I even made her feel lonely, but… Guh, foahhh!?”
Subaru was on the very end of his statement when Patrasche lashed out her tail at him, causing him to become covered in dirt after taking a direct hit. As expected, Patrasche had no mercy in her aggressive response. If he were to reply to her in a deceitful way, she would come to strike him without any hesitation.
Subaru: “I would’ve never expected it… To think that I was able to avoid Regulus’s attacks before, but can’t avoid this, is just…”
Emilia: “Are you alright? Patrasche decided to suddenly wave her tail again, doesn’t this mean that you’ll get hit once more if you don’t say the right thing?”
Emilia made that terrifying point as she went on one knee to lend him a hand. He looked at Patrasche, and she certainly was there, shaking her long tail. She sliced through the air with the end of her tail as if to threaten Subaru. It felt like she was saying that she’d double the power for each mistake he’d make.
He unconsciously lost the ability to speak properly, and his throat became cramped as he realized that he couldn’t afford to reply carelessly.
Julius: “Even if you’re careless like that, your ground dragon has an overwhelming amount of sympathy towards you anyway.”
However, that statement made by Julius, who was disheartened by the guidance’s lack of success, would cause the undesirable effect that she would come at Subaru. Subaru pointed at himself and Patrasche in response to Julius’s argument, and,
Subaru: “Really? I’m kinda covered in all this dirt, you know? You call this sympathy?”
Julius: “Can you not even feel the proof of deep affection with your own eyes? She is a kind-hearted ground dragon. She is mostly aggravated that she was unable able to help you during that turmoil, and she is mad at you for not seeking for her help. So it might just be indignance, rather than anger, towards you.”
Subaru: “What are you saying? Just how high are you going to make her heroine power? Stop it.”
The level of correctness of Julius’s points was unknown, but at the very least, his words made Patrasche’s tail swinging come to an end. Subaru looked at Patrasche once again, and she turned away, just like always, but――
Emilia: “Looking at her now, it seems like she’s somewhat embarrassed after hearing that.”
Subaru: “Emilia-tan, you noticed that too? I also noticed that. It makes my heart flutter, so don’t do that too often please, Patrasche.”
He said these words, reached out nervously with his hand, and then Patrasche finally lowered her head, allowing Subaru to touch her body covered with tough scales. And with this, it seemed like the cold war where he had 10 days to make mends ended on a good note.
Petra: “Isn’t that enough? Is everything fine now?”
Petra was letting her impatience show through her shouts, as they continued to remain at the mansion’s front garden without paying attention to the time. She had come out here having been instructed to guide them, and yet they were still taking so much time.
Petra: “If we don’t return soon, Ram-neesama will get mad again and…”
Ram: “――If you can worry about such thngs, that means you were just a little bit short on your efforts.”
Petra, who had been making light sounds with her footsteps, let out a shriek and then straightened her back due to that voice. Upon turning back, she saw a pink-haired maid far away, coming from the direction of the mansion.
It was Ram, no mistake nor doubt about it. Ram slowly turned her gaze towards Subaru’s group and the guests after Petra became as still as a stone statue because of her glare, and――
Ram: “Even when I thought that Petra had gotten better at her tasks, seeing this situation on the cusp of recognizing your efforts… Ram is really disappointed.”
Petra: “S-sorry Ram-neesama… about my work, you were about to recognize me?”
Ram: “Yes. Your cooking is better than Ram’s, your cleaning is more sensible than Ram’s, you’re better at doing laundry than Ram; and you wake up earlier than Ram, so I was close to recognizing you.”
Subaru: “You should have more self-doubt when you point these things out!”
Just how bad was this veteran maid in comparison with this girl who held one year of experience as a maid under her belt? Even if one were to take Petra’s ability to learn quickly into account, the hurdle was so low that it wasn’t even worth considering.
In response to his shout, Ram snorted her nose with a “Haa”, in a way that Subaru was completely familiar with, and,
Ram: “How does one proceed to have doubt about oneself? Ram only holds expectations and self-confidence for herself.”
Subaru: “I always felt like that part about you is the one thing that really deserves respect.”
Subaru thus responded to Ram’s majestic declaration while being astounded.
In reality, there was reason to emulate Ram’s optimism―― or rather, there was reason in emulating her fortitude. He just wished that she would be a bit more reflective of herself, but,
Subaru: “If you did that, I guess it wouldn’t really feel like you’d be the real Ram, huh.”
Ram: “That is a scary thought. Moreover, I do not think it would be ideal to leave guests out here for so long. Let us hurry up and enter the mansion.”
Subaru agreed with Ram’s dismissive words.
They had taken too much time outside the mansion. It wouldn’t be surprising for Frederica or even Roswaal to show up eventually, if they wasted any more time.
The Royal Candidates and the Margrave were all to gather here, to talk about what they would be doing.
Emilia: “Is Roswaal at the mansion proper, right now?”
Ram, who had begun walking to guide the others, tapped Petra’s shoulder to relieve her stiffness. At Emilia’s call from behind, Ram replied with a “Yes” without taking a look back.
Ram: “Fortunately, he was sojourning at this residence when the letter arrived, so he has remained here. There was a summary in the letter about the Pristella affair… and there should be details to discuss.”
Subaru: “Yeah there should be, considering a lot of things did happen…”
Ram: “The number of people here now in comparison to when you first left has changed, huh―― Did Garf and Otto die?”
Subaru: “Like hell I’d let them die! They aren’t dead! They’re just coming back home later because of their injuries!”
Just as Subaru was about to breach the topic of the letter, his charge was countered. Ram let out a shrug with an indifferent manner in response.
Ram: “I am all too familiar with the depths of men who lack composure. Barusu’s especially is one that has an open hole from which his contents are being poured out, so you should be careful. To have people become aware of your depths and then finding out you are empty inside is the worst.”
Subaru: “That really hurts, so cut that out! Also, moreover…”
If the letter that had been sent to the mansion before their departure from Pristella―― if those details were written in the letter, they should understand that this was no simple trip back for Subaru and the others.
Therefore, when Subaru attempted to confirm the contents of the second half of the letter, and upon settling the words he would speak, Ram readily raised her finger.
Ram: “I told you, didn’t I? Rest assured. Roswaal-sama is at this mansion… Also, preparations have been made for both the Sleeping Beauty and the Confinement Room. Although――”
Ram cut off her words towards Subaru at the end and then gently licked her lips.
She wet her lips with the red tip of her tongue, with a gesture that had a sense of gracefulness embellished somewhere in it, and said this,
Ram: “Although, neither of them were Ram’s doings. It was Frederica and Petra’s job.”
Subaru: “Why did you make a prideful face there?”
Anyhow, even though a whole month had passed until he had met her again, she still remained to be the same.
 – Please let me know if there’s an alternate translation for “お尻半個分”, which is literally “half-an-ass”. Because the use of “half-an-ass” as a unit of measurement is downright hilarious.
 – Localization, and punny at it. This is written “襟ドナ”, where “襟”, read “eri”, means “scarf”, and “ドナ” is the “-dona” part of Echidna’s name, “エキドナ”