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Various discussions were had, along with some confusion when taking a decision on the travelers; many problems arose when bidding the people left behind farewell, but still, the morning of their departure had finally arrived.
Subaru: “It turned out to be a bigger group than I thought, but…”
Folding his arms, Subaru gazed at the people who would travel alongside him in the “Tour to Conquer the Sage’s Tower”.
The two camps to participate were the Emilia Camp and Anastasia Camp. The Emilia Camp was represented by, of course, Subaru, Emilia, and Beatrice, along with Rem, the perpetual sleeper, and Ram, who accompanied her. There was Anastasia, the guide for the Augria Sand Dunes, and her Knight, Julius. Including Meili, who was brought along as the Beastmaster so they could pass by the hordes of Witchbeasts that lived in the dunes, that made up for a total of eight people.
If their aim was to have a simple plan for their movement, then they had a lot of the people involved in reclaiming Pristella, and in regards to commanding people, Subaru had experience with the subjugation of the White Whale, as well as the battle against Sloth.
However, when it came to moving towards that faraway land―― these eight key people, despite being a large number of people on the road, no experience.
Subaru: “Wonder if it’ll actually be fine…”
???: “Worried about something, Subaru?”
He twisted his neck while imagining the distant future, and saw Emilia pop up in his vision. Subaru cleared his throat with a “Ahem”, directed at the girl wearing a lightweight dress for traveling afar and spoke,
Subaru: “When I think about the place we’re going to, I can’t stop being nervous. Other than that… I feel afraid about going to a dangerous place with such a large group, since it’s hard to protect so many people.”
Emilia: “You may be right. Rem and Ram are coming along too. Subaru will have to be protected by Meili and Anastasia.”
Subaru: “What the!? I’m already being treated as a non-combatant!?”
Emilia: “Come on, Subaru. Obviously it’s just a joke. You’re being taken seriously, after all.”
When Subaru suddenly screeched at Emilia, whose fists were balled up, she began laughing, being unable to contain it. Subaru too laughed after that reaction, but the stiffness of his slight smile was forgiving of her joke.
To tell the truth, Subaru’s combat ability was overwhelmingly inferior to Emilia’s. From Emilia’s point of view, Subaru was the one who should be protected― Of course, she didn’t mean to think of him only as that.
Subaru: “The next specific thing to feel uneasy about would be…”
When Subaru took a breather from his conversation with Emilia, he turned his attention towards the front.
They were already at the Roswaal residence’s front garden, and the preparations to depart were going swimmingly. Beyond Subaru’s line of sight, was a passenger carriage, large enough to carry ten people or thereabouts. The heads of two ground dragons were connected, for the purpose of pulling the dragon carriage. Both were races that were adequate to travel long distances.
The problem would be the situation next to the dragon carriage. There, was a jet-black ground dragon, casually standing still, and a small silhouette that had come face-to-face with the ground dragon’s snout, the latter glaring at the former.
Exhaling a stunned sigh at the situation, Subaru cut in between the two staring at each other.
Subaru: “You’ve been exaggerated as a Witchbeast user, but you can’t even get along with ground dragons?”
Meili: “Come on, onii-san. Can you not misunderstand me? The only animals I can discipline are ones that are bad and have horns. Any other animal won’t like me, as I smell like those children.”
Subaru: “So that’s how it is… Isn’t it rough like that?”
Subaru shrugged his shoulders at Meili’s explanation, and stroked Patrasche’s snout, still glaring at the girl. When Subaru touched this very prideful female ground dragon, it took a blunt sniff of his hand’s stink.
It was as if she was doing this to override the stink of the girl in front of her with Subaru’s own stench.
Subaru: “It’s really unusual to see Patrasche be this blunt, as someone tolerant and good at being considerate… Seems like you’re really incompatible.”
Meili: “I can be kinda friendly with other animals, but that ground dragon is too attached to onii-san. She’s so attached that it feels like if I let my guard down, I will get bitten. Onii-san, if you don’t discipline her properly, I’ll become that animal’s food, so be careful.”
Subaru: “Don’t say such scary things like it’s nothing… Here, Patrasche, go with her.”
Calming down the slightly agitated but very loving dragon, Subaru quickly put Meili on the dragon carriage. Furthermore, this Beastmaster, who would travel along, had little luggage. She was a girl who rarely carried any belongings to start with. But even then, she had brought the stuffed panda Subaru had craft. The childish charm she had was indeed lovely.
???: “Looks like you’re havin’ trouble Natsuki-kun, always tryin’ to put girls in a good mood.”
Subaru: “…If you think so, then it’d make me happy if you didn’t bother me.”
As Meili was pushed onto the dragon carriage, Anastasia called out to him with a teasing tone. Anastasia―― However, inside was the white fox, Echidna.
In the twenty days from Pristella to the mansion, most of the differences had been smoothed out. If she resumed playing the role of Anastasia, it seemed like it would eventually become hard to tell them apart.
Anastasia: “I’d appreciate it if ya wouldn’t doubt me like that. Didn’t I tell ya that I’ve got no motivation to do it? That’s why I’ve volunteered to be ya guys’ guide for a dangerous path.”
Subaru: “That bit too, considering your creator, my stance’s that there’s a possibility of you having various plans. I’ve said this many times too, so remember it. It’s not like I don’t want to believe you. It would make me feel a lot more at ease if I could believe you.”
Anastasia: “It is not amusing, being at such a disadvantage because of someone I do not recall. It seems like this creator, of whom I have no recollection, has quite displeased you.”
Anastasia: “Don’t get so mad at me. Geez, how frightenin’.”
When he glared at Eridna, she went back to disguising herself as Anastasia and pursed her lips, returning to her original state. With that, she passed by Subaru and stepped into the dragon carriage. After that, the number of people was――
???: “Subaru-kun, can I speak to yooou~ for a bit as weeell~?”
Having been beckoned verbally, he turned around, witnessing Roswaal at the mansion’s entranceway.
Next to the Margrave dressed in a clown outfit, were two people, Emilia and Julius. Thinking about the oddness of the combination, Roswaal turned to the three people as he closed one eye.
Roswaal: “First off, I imagine that this journey will take almost two months. Because of that, I’m thinking that there might be some unforeseen situations along midway. Emilia-sama and Anastasia-sama surely shall be able to deal with each of the problems that arise, buuuut~…”
Emilia: “Mhm, you can count on me. It’s not like I sat around being idle either, after all.”
Roswaal: “Those words are reassuring. I’m honestly pleased with Emilia-sama’s growth… Alright, putting aside the anxieties of the journey as something to be taken care of by each of you, there is one importaaaant~ thing to note―― It’s Ram.”
Roswaal said that with a lower voice, and it made Subaru and the others’ expressions changed.
Emilia’s long eyelashes twitched, while Subaru’s cheeks stiffened as if sinking into deep thought. And then Julius, the only person unrelated to the camp at this place, frowned slightly.
Julius: “Regarding what you are saying, is it truly fine if I am present? Mathers-kyo, as Anastasia’s Knight, to discuss the state of camp affairs is… Although I am a mere servant, you should understand that revealing them would not be a good idea.”
Roswaal: “It’s not like I proposed the idea without caring about anything and anyboooody~. Julius Juukulius-dono. After seeing your behavior at your mansion, and the way you behave with Subaru-kun, I have come to understand that you are a reliable person. I would like you to believe that, and so that’s why I am requesting a favor of you.”
Subaru: “This is the shadiest you’ve sounded in a long time, Ros-chi.”
Emilia: “Sorry, I kinda thought so too…”
When Roswaal replied to Julius’s worry with a serious voice, Subaru and Emilia both raised their hands up almost in tandem and teased him.
Even ignoring his past criminal offenses, what Roswaal had stated was too uncharacteristic of himself. He said “It’s not liiike~ that”, perhaps because he himself was aware of how atypical he had been. Sending a wry smile at Subaru and the others’ way, he then continued,
Roswaal: “Weeell~, maybe my lack of persuasion just can’t be helped. Julius-kun is doing everything he can so other camps can find faults… I really do think you do not possess a lowly personality. That’s why I want you to listen too. This is a life-threatening matter, after all.”
Julius: “Life …”
When Julius whispered that with an extremely serious face, Roswaal said “Yes, life”, and nodded.
Roswaal: “As Subaru-kun and Emilia-sama know, Ram’s constitution is just a little special. Her body cannot withstand the talent that was poured onto her. Or perhaps, you could say that her body cannot provide the fuel proper for the flame called talent.”
Subaru: “…You know, I’ve never heard about it in such detail.”
Roswaal: “Is that so? Theeen~, how about her being an Oni?”
Subaru: “Well, that’s…”
Of course, he knew that Ram and Rem were both Onis.
More than twice now, he had been saved by Rem, who could exert her Oni power to her heart’s content by growing her horn. He had also heard from Ram herself about how she lost her horn and was “hornless”.
Therefore, Subaru thought that it really was not something surprising,
Julius: “――An Oni, you say?”
The person who lowered his voice and revealed his astonishment was the person next to him, Julius. On his handsome face, his eyebrows had been lifted, a disturbance visible in his yellow eyes.
Julius: “I have heard that the Oni Clan has been destroyed.”
Roswaal: “About ten years ago, their last settlement was burnt down, and Ram was the last survivor… Sorry, including Rem, the two sisters are the last survivors.”
It was a loaded statement, but Subaru did not butt into the conversation. He was more surprised at how those sisters were part of a rarer species than expected, more than irritated.
Emilia: “Is there a reason as to why the Onis have perished?”
Roswaal: “…Rest assured, Emilia-sama. The downfall of the Onis was inevitable because of natural selection. It was a result of them not going along with the flow of the times and clinging onto old customs. They didn’t lower in numbers because of discrimination and prejudice, consequently being destroyed, assuredly.”
Emilia: “…I see.”
Emilia made an understanding, melancholic look at Roswaal’s explanation.
She too was of a rare birthplace; Emilia was a half-elf. It was natural for her to feel unease and some sympathy for the Oni Clan that had perished, having left the two of them behind.
Subaru: “We get that those two are all the members of the Oni Clan. So what?”
Subaru sensed the conversation starting to stagnate, so he moved the conversation with an intentionally loud voice. When Emilia and Julius lifted their faces in response to that voice, Roswaal touched his chin and spoke,
Roswaal: “Putting aside Rem, whose bodily activity has ceased, there is a deficiency in Ram’s body, just like I said earlier. Thiiis~ is because she lost an organ that is important for the Oni Clan. That organ is the horn. Essentially, the enormous amount of Mana that powers her body, which should be supplied by her horn―― isn’t readily available, and so her body is constantly plagued by pain and fatigue.”
Emilia: “That’s how it is…!?”
Roswaal: “It’s no wonder that Emilia-same is surprised. That girl is too strong. Not once has that caused her to have a frown on her face, after aaall~.”
In response to Emilia, whose throat had caught, Roswaal shook his head slowly.
Emilia’s shock was shared by Subaru. He was aware that Ram had no horn. From Rem’s words, he also knew that Ram had possessed outstanding abilities before losing her horn.
It was just that, he had not realized that there was a penalty for lacking a horn beyond the decline of ability and that it was eroding her, even now.
Julius: “――I see. I have come to understand Mathers-kyo’s thoughts.”
Then, Julius suddenly spoke, having only heard the conversation until then, and nodded. Roswaal raises his eyebrows and hummed in response to that, and then Subaru and Emilia looked at each other as well.
The flow of the conversation had only them confirming Ram’s constitution. Julius adjusted his bangs in front of Subaru and the others, who were shocked, as if he understood Roswaal’s request.
Julius: “The Oni Clan possess traits like the ability to manipulate an enormous amount of Mana, and possess a strong body boasting quite the fighting strength. The essential thing that supports those two traits is the horn, which no other species possesses―― If an Oni’s horn fails to fulfill its role and they suffer for it, there must be a replacement that fulfills the role of a horn.”
Roswaal: “I can only lament not knowing your name, seeing how intelligent you are. Being seen through that much from so little is a gooood feeling.”
Emilia: “Oh, so that’s how it is…”
Roswaal admired Julius for his explanation. Emilia also clapped her hands from achieving understanding. On the hand, Subaru was the one person still perplexed and left behind. When the situation came to magical powers, Subaru was nothing but slow to understand them, as he was an amateur.
Subaru: “Don’t just understand it by yourselves like that. What exactly does this mean?”
Julius: “It is a simple affair. Miss Ram’s body is seeking the same amount of Mana from the outside as it did back when she had a horn. She lost her horn, and as she cannot find the Mana, then someone else is required to provide a means for an external source… That is where we may come in.”
Roswaal: “Although, normally I would take that role and supply her secretly at niiight~.”
Inside Subaru, Julius’s lecture and Roswaal’s words allow the cogwheels of his brains to catch.
Every night, he would see Ram rush to Roswaal’s location with excitement. To be honest, Subaru looked away from the vividness of the suspicious relationship between a master and a maid.
After understanding the circumstances, thinking back on it, perhaps this was all there was?
Roswaal: “Something come to your mind, Subaru-kun?”
Subaru: “N-no, nothing important. Go ahead and continue.”
Roswaal: “You sure?”
Even though the misunderstanding he had held for over a year had been cleared up, it still was not enough to correct it.
In the first place, Roswaal’s family were a bunch bursting with shadiness, with how they had tried to meet with the Witch Echidna for generations and generations. Roswaal himself was remarkably attached to Echidna, something that was difficult to forget. Upon finding out that he was not cheating on her with Ram, he became even more convinced of his obsession.
Julius: “Though, there is one caveat, Mathers-kyo. Regarding that request, I feel like I am not competent enough to take it up.”
To Subaru’s side, who was having useless thoughts, Julius shook his head apologetically. That action made Roswaal squint his eyes.
Roswaal: “It doesn’t seem that it is not a reason borne of humbleness, or out of a wish to not support people from a different camp… Offering Ram Mana would require Fire, Water, Wind, and Earth attributes. Just from those, you would be more fit for the job than Emilia-sama.”
Julius: “Mathers-kyo, you probably hold these expectations because of these girls around me.”
With that said, Julius loosened his lips with a frail smile. Then, the man who had responded revealed faint lights flying around, six kinds of light being visible.
They were known as the six Quasi Spirits that Julius had contracted with―― However, as of right now,
Julius: “About my buds… As of now, their connection with me is gone. Though, if their original titles still remained, I would not have any qualms in accepting a request.”
Roswaal: “Your Contract with the Spirits has been severed from having your Name taken away… huh. That being said, it seems like the Spirits aren’t trying to leeeave~ you.”
Julius: “Perhaps there are remains of the lost connection inside of them. Or perhaps it was bleached over, and the Contract is still there, albeit invisible… Either way, I am only being saved by these buds’ kindness, with how they are not abandoning someone unskilled like myself. There is little left in this body, so I wonder if my poor abilities would be able to help.”
Julius exposed the connection with the Quasi Spirits, and sighed. After that, he looked at Subaru for nary a second. Subaru could not instantly figure out what he wanted with that look, so all he could do was to look troubled.
Julius: “――As of right now, I am merely a devoted Knight. My apologies.”
Roswaal: “I seeee~. That’s too bad. It is serious damage, but…”
Emilia: “It’s fine. If Julius can’t do it, then leave it up to me.”
Roswaal also lowered his tone due to Julius’s sadness, but the person who took his place, puffed up with pride, was Emilia. Energetically moving forward, she brought out her own Micro Spirits around her.
Emilia: “They’re a little different from Julius’s Quasi Spirits, but I can borrow the powers of the Micro Spirits too. The Fire attribute is too strong with just my magic, but if the Micro Spirits can lend me their powers, then I can use magic of different affinities too. How’s that sound?”
Roswaal: “Of course, I had thought of asking not only him but Emilia-sama as well, so there shouldn’t be a problem if you are willing to do it. Hooowever~, I believe there will be extreme trouble at first with stabilizing your magic. For assistance with that, please borrow Beatrice’s abilities for help.”
Roswaal: “Beatrice really is excelleeeent~ with magic theory and employing it, wouldn’t you agree? Right now she is connected to Subaru-kun, so I feel like there is some wasted talent, but things are working out despite the lacking magical power, right? In regards to that knowledge, I would like you to refer yourself to Emilia-sama for that.”
Subaru: “Don’t call it lacking magic. But, I understand.”
There was no problem if Ram’s burden became lighter through Emilia and Beatrice’s cooperation. Subaru had begun to be convinced, but right after he nodded, he cocked his head in puzzlement.
Subaru: “No, wait. If that’s the case, then why are you telling me this, instead of saying it directly to Beatrice? I mean, I want to listen too, but it would be logical to tell this to Beako.”
Roswaal: “Because if I talk to Beatrice, obviooously~ she will say it’s meaningless and refuse. Beatrice is more bitter with me than you think. Perhaps you could tell her to be a bit mooore~ lenient with her criticism towards me?”
Subaru: “Ah, not happening. If I had to say which side I’m on, I would say that I’m completely on Beako’s side, after all.”
He declined Roswaal’s request with ease, who had a pitiful look on his face.
Things were done and that fact could not be changed. It was no trench that would be filled up in just a year, give or take. The times were not so nice that she would simply open her heart with someone who would have had her killed, had the events been a bit different.
Subaru: “Now that I think about it, isn’t it a bit troubling how I am doing things with people who’ve killed me and people who’ve beaten me up…?”
Emilia: “Ah, Subaru, you’ve got that look like you’re getting carried away with yourself.”
Subaru: “Do I really look like that sometimes!?”
Anyhow, he had accepted Roswaal’s request.
As for Ram, Emilia and Beatrice would handle her. Emilia was motivated to do it, so there shouldn’t be any problem if Subaru talked to Beatrice later.
Roswaal: “I’m counting on you, Subaru-kun.”
Subaru: “Huh, this really is special. You rarely ever say things like that.”
Roswaal: “You are becoming admirable―― This is the first time Ram has requested to leave my side, after all.”
That was the only thing Roswaal said that didn’t give off a joking feeling, instead speaking with seriousness.
Removing his gaze from Subaru’s face, he looked up at the blue sky.
Roswaal: “Ram and I have no memory of her younger twin sister. But, I suppose the people involved still hold some feelings. Seeing Ram emotionally going against my opinion like that is chilling―― So, I want to ask you guys to talk to her.”
Subaru: “…Yeah, I’ll remember that.”
Even after the incident at Sanctuary that had taken place a year ago, Ram devoted herself to Roswaal. Despite Roswaal saying that anything and everything came second after the one and only thing that was most important, he still held a soft spot for Ram, as someone who had gone to such lengths to devote herself.
If that could be called a change, then by no means was it a bad one.
Or at least, it was far better being human and worrying with unmanageable emotions, than it was burdening friends as an incomprehensible monster.
Roswaal: “――Seems like it’s time.”
Before he could speak further, Roswaal turned around.
The mansion’s door opened behind him, and four girls appeared on the other side. All of them made up for the entirety of the maids of Roswaal’s mansion. Seeing them all together was a pretty magnificent view.
That being said, one of the girls was sleeping, and another girl, who looked extremely similar to the sleeping one, had an appearance of having prepared for a journey, so their beauty was slightly lacking.
Frederica: “Master, the preparations for the two are set.”
Roswaal: “I appreciate your diligence―― Ram, be careful on the trip.”
Roswaal replied to Frederica, who had given her report very quietly, and called out to Ram, who was equipped for the journey. Upon hearing that, Ram pinched the edge of her skirt and bowed politely.
Ram: “Roswaal-sama, thank you for granting my selfish request. I will definitely bring back results you deserve.”
Roswaal: “I’ll be looking forward to it. Although, make sure you don’t do anything unreasonaaable~. Also, make sure the two of them, Emilia-sama and Subaru-kun, don’t do anything unreasonable either. That is also part of your role as well, after aaaall~.”
Ram: “I am fully aware of that.”
He wanted to retort to those words, but Ram’s glare silenced him. Subaru gave in to that look, and looked at the short figure next to Ram.
There, was Rem. She was in clothes suitable for the trip, and was now being carried in a wheelchair driven by Petra―― Subaru had relied on his memory to replicate something from his original work.
A model of the wheelchair already existed in this world, but quite an amount of work had been put into remodeling it; it possessed caster-like front wheels that wouldn’t pose a hindrance when changing directions, along with a scaffold and a modified seat. Of course, seat belts and cushions to protect her head had been implemented as well.
It was a one-of-a-kind wheelchair that Subaru had had Roswaal produce by spending Subaru’s own salary.
Subaru: “I’m worried about the maintenance when we get far, but…”
Frederica: “Subaru-sama is clever, and the materials are what they are, so I believe it could handle being used for two months. Of course, please do not do anything unreasonable.”
Petra: “Please be careful, Subaru…-sama.”
Receiving Frederica’s endorsement, he took over the wheelchair’s handle from Petra. Accepting it, and going behind Rem, he felt a lot more ease this way compared to carrying her on his back.
This was because the road was pavement. It wouldn’t be effective in the desert, on grass, or on gravel.
Subaru: “Yoshi, looks like it’ll work. Petra, Frederica, you guys take care too.”
Frederica: “Please leave the Master to us.”
Petra: “We’ll be taking care of Otto-san and Garfiel-san too.”
Petra and Frederica replied to Subaru accompanied with a nod while he moved the wheelchair.
Even if the trip were to take a couple of months, Otto and the others at Pristella would probably be healed up, and so they should be coming back to the Roswaal residence.
He left that up to the maids, who would take care of stuff while they were gone. Subaru pushed the wheelchair and turned towards the dragon carriage.
Subaru: “Alright then, it’s a shame, but I guess we should depart now.”
Ram: “Why must Barusu boss people around? Don’t get so full of yourself.”
Subaru: “I’m not bossing you around, though. How about you take over then?”
Ram: “Does Ram appear to have such ill manners to you? Ram would appreciate it if you don’t make her behave like that, as a maid who needs to be graceful and considerate.”
Subaru: “What’s up with you? Are you at that age where you can do nothing but complain?”
Ram: “It is not the case. It’s just that…”
Then, she cut off her sentence, and Ram threw a meaningful look at Subaru’s hand. As of right now, Subaru was pushing Rem’s wheelchair. He guessed the meaning of that look, and let out a deep sigh.
Subaru: “If you want to switch places, then just say so…”
Ram: “Given the meaning and purpose of Ram coming along, it is only natural to give that up to me… As for guessing what Ram wanted without having her put it into words, you are now seen in a better light.”
With Subaru reluctantly giving up his position, Ram took his place and pushed the wheelchair. She showed care for her sleeping sister sitting on the wheelchair as it slowly headed forward toward the dragon carriage.
Subaru opened and closed his hand for no reason as saw their backs take off. Then, a small hand gently grabbed his own from the side.
Subaru: “Oh, it’s Beako.”
Beatrice: “You don’t have to make a pathetic look like that, it’s not that you have to worry because your feelings for that girl are weaker than the feelings her sister has, so you don’t have to worry, in fact. Subaru should just be himself, and do what he can do, I suppose.”
Subaru: “That’s not quite… Or well, that’s how it is?”
It wasn’t as if he felt like his role had been taken away from him, but looking from the outside, perhaps the look on his face could be understand in such a manner.
Subaru touched his cheek with his free hand, pulled on it, and pinched it. Then, this time his hand was snatched away by a different white hand.
Emilia: “Yeah, yeah, I’ll take that hand.”
Subaru: “Oh, Emilia-tan…”
Beatrice: “After that girl wakes up, we’ll have to see what Subaru will do with both his hands taken, in fact.”
Emilia: “Ah, I might be interested in that too.”
Subaru had been caught in between Emilia and Beatrice, looking at them with embarrassment. However, he was only returned with two things, a serious look and an anticipating look. To make matters worse, Petra’s own gaze was piercing him from behind, and even Ram was throwing him a cold, scornful look, having turned around in front of the dragon carriage.
He was being unbelievably surrounded on all sides―― Then, Julius let out a “Hmm” accompanied with a nod, while witnessing that. In response to that craving for a reaction, Subaru’s lips slanted grandly.
Subaru: “What is it? If you have something to say, say it. Go ahead!”
Julius: “Really? Alright then, I shall say merely one thing―― You really could not be more blessed as a man, being surrounded by beautiful girls like that. I cannot help but feel a lot of doubt on whether your hands are able to satisfy all of those flowers.”
Subaru: “What’s this, I’m being blamed!? Did I do something wrong!?”
Julius shrugged his shoulders with a shocked face, as the pathetic shout Subaru replied him with soared towards the heavens.
Unfortunately for him, at this place were neither the Internal Affairs Minister nor the Head Military Officer to follow up on his statement.
Subaru had no choice but to fight alone in this upcoming two-month journey.
Understanding that reality, he felt the trust and the deep affection of the warmth being transmitted into his hands fill up his chest. He felt anxiety in his chest about not falling behind. That was the type of morning it was, the one they had departed on.
 – The «-kyo» honorific (卿) equates the English «sir».
 – Engrish flip. Means “okay/alright” (よし), originally “OK”.