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The journey had begun with a morning filled with unease, and the journey, which had lasted for about a month, had been long. However, no significant accidents happened along the way.
They went straight along the main road towards the east. It was a boring journey, in which nothing had happened.
Subaru: “It was like that with the round trip to Pristella, and it was like that with the Lifaus Plains… But Kingdom of Lugunica’s pretty safe when on the road, eh?”
Julius: “Maintaining the roads and patrolling them to maintain the public order is essential to protect the Kingdom’s peace. Lugunica is particularly thorough with such aspects, even when compared to other countries. There should be low rates of damage from groups of bandits and Witchbeasts.”
Subaru: “Are you saying other countries aren’t like that?”
Julius: “In the Holy Kingdom of Gusteko, being always covered in ice and snow, it is impossible to properly maintain the roads in the first place. The roads are deep in the snow that was there from the start. As for the Vollachian Empire and the Kararagi City States, there are many people of all sorts of different races and customs. Such cultural differences may lead to quarrels. In that sense, it may be hard to say that public order is kept there.”
Subaru: “I see.”
As Subaru and Julius had their conversation, the two ground dragons’ were running energetically, their heads side-by-side as they cut through the wind.
Subaru’s Patrasche and Julius’ blue cavalry dragon were leading them ahead, the two pulling the large dragon carriage.
Everyone in the dragon carriage would be late to react to the occasion of emergencies. That was the arrangement they had, but as was noticeable from the conversation they were having out of boredom, the journey was peaceful.
On top of the journey being boring, with how the scenery wasn’t changing, he started to yawn. Subaru put his hand on his mouth and became full of drowsiness, as Julius gave him a blaming look.
While entrusting his weight to his beloved dragon, he quickly lifted his bangs that were kept from swaying through the Divine Protection of Wind Evasion.
Julius: “I understand that you want to get rid of this feeling of tension, but the moments you loosen your stiffness are the most dangerous ones. I am not saying that you are allowing your mind to wander off, to act in a way that anyone witnessing would perceive as lazy is unacceptable.”
Subaru: “Just how much are you gonna say just because of one yawn? Even you at least yawn too. Right?”
Julius: “Of course I have those kind of bodily functions. But, if you possess the self-consciousness of a Knight, then it should be possible to hold it in when in front of other people, you know? That is what you still lack.”
Subaru: “Yeah, yeah.”
He was pressing for a reaction with piercingly sarcastic force, but Subaru was already becoming a master of parrying it. It was already nearing twenty days in this journey accompanied by Julius. From Pristella to the mansion, and now on their way to the Augria Sand Dunes, they had been making the ground dragons run side-by-side. And so, he had learned how to deal with him.
Julius: “I thought it was a part of manners to look at the person you are talking with when having a serious conversation?”
Subaru: “The person is looking away during the serious conversation because he hadn’t asked to have said conversation. You should take it easy too. You’re straining yourself too much.”
Julius: “You and I are on watchout duty, that is why…”
Subaru: “You don’t have to be so nervous; they won’t attack us just like that. If anyone tries to jump us, they’re not gonna do it in the middle of nowhere.”
Subaru interrupted him, speaking as he cracked his head. Julius blinked his eyes, as if Subaru had said something unexpected. After that, this handsome man let out a small sigh.
Julius: “Is it clear that I am impatient right now, in your eyes?”
Subaru: “Yeah, I have a feeling it’s a shot in the dark, though. But, I feel like everyone thinks you’re straining yourself. More than usu… Actually, you might just be acting like your usual self…”
Julius: “As of right now, you are the only person who knows that I am being my usual self, after all.”
When Julius’s lowered his tone, Subaru also naturally dropped his.
They couldn’t hear the girls’ conversations back in the dragon carriage, so the girls should not be able to hear their conversation either.
It was a complicated relationship between two men, but as of right now, they were working together. Perhaps this was a time when they should speak a little more frankly.
Subaru: “It’s been talked about with Roswaal before, but how are your Quasi Spirits?”
Julius: “It is as I have stated previously. The buds are gathered around me, but they will not rest their feathers on the arm I hold out as a perch. It seems my words do not reach them either.”
Julius raised his arm in response to Subaru’s question, and the Quasi Spirits came into view.
The six Quasi Spirits shining faintly still remained floating around Julius, as he made the ground dragons run. However, they flickered on the hand he had held out as if in confusion, and attempted to move away.
Indeed, it seemed that the bond between Julius and his Quasi Spirits had been severed.
Subaru: “Can you not contract them yet again? You’re attracting them somehow, so doesn’t that mean your Divine Protection is working?”
Julius: “It seems like my Divine Protection of Gathering Spirits is still going strong. And in turn, it contributes to these girls’ incomprehensible awareness. It is like certain large, incomprehensible, unmanageable emotions are present.”
Subaru: “Not sure if I should say it like this, but how about taking measures through other Spirits?”
Julius: “I would have considered that idea, were I a Spiritual Arts User that could borrow the powers of Micro Spirits present everywhere, much in the vein of Emilia-sama… But I cannot bring out the Spirits’ utmost abilities in such a way. I needed a few years to bind with these buds too, after all.”
Subaru: “…Well, it is true that Emilia-tan can’t bring out Puck’s average power from other Spirits too. I guess becoming aikata with a Spirit is a special thing after all.”
Julius: “Emilia-sama and the Great Spirit. And like you and Beatrice-sama.”
It was rough. As a fellow Spiritual Arts User, Subaru was unable to say something like “Go find the next Spirits” right away. It would be like asking him to let go of Beatrice even after their bond had been cut off. Of course, he would raise his middle finger and refuse as a response. As for Julius, his relationship with the six Quasi Spirits was the exact same thing.
Julius: “Therefore, as of right now, I can only use swordsmanship to fulfill my duties as a Knight. Of course, I do not believe the sword inferior to the Spiritual Arts, but it is true that my abilities make it insufficient.”
Subaru: “This is also a journey to get that back, and with your sword skills you saying that is mere sarcasm. And if it’s me who you’re fighting against, it’s even more sarcastic.”
As Julius had mentioned, there was his insufficient ability aside the Spiritual Arts.
A year ago, at the Royal Capital’s Training Ground, that ability had been the one that had ravaged Subaru. Subaru did become better compared to back then, but it did not feel like the distance had been fully covered. From Julius’s point of view, fighting Subaru at that time was like taking candy from a baby. The current Subaru was as difficult as dealing with a five-year-old. That was just about how different they were.
Subaru: “Reinhard is also like that, you guys have a bad habit of underestimating yourselves. Too much humility turns into poison! I think that type of words is used everywhere.”
Julius: “I want to return the same phrase to you, but hmm―― You and I aside, Reinhard most likely is not being humble or underestimating of himself.”
Subaru: “Not being humble or underestimating…?”
That instant, he imagined the redhead hero, but he cocked his head at the difference in his perception of the man.
He had never thought that he would run into differing opinions on Reinhard, because from anyone’s perspective, he was the strongest, completely peerless, a superman.
In response to Subaru’s doubt, Julius spoke a “No”, shaking his head.
Julius: “In regards to Reinhard’s true strength, you and I both rate it highly. Most likely, everyone who is aware of him shares the same sentiment. They all think that that he is the peak of humans, or that perhaps that he transcends humans.”
Subaru: “It’s amazing how that isn’t an overstatement.”
Julius: “Not only his real ability, but his way of being has likewise been perfected. I first met him when I was around ten years old… But it has never changed.”
Subaru: “Ever since you were ten? Are you for real?”
As he gripped onto Patrasche’s bridle, Subaru was astonished by Julius’s recollections.
Just when had Reinhard become the person he was now? He thought it was quite the philosophical question, but at the very least, it seemed that the version of himself from about a decade ago had been completed.
Which meant, that boy had carried a very heroic fate on his shoulders.
Subaru: “Reinhard has been the Sword Saint since then?”
Julius: “He was five years of age when the Divine Protection of the Sword Saint was inherited by him. The previous Sword Saint was Thearesia van Astrea-sama… Reinhard’s grandmother. She passed away in the Great Subjugation fifteen years ago, and the Divine Protection was transferred to him.”
Subaru: “Yeah, I was aware of that.”
The previous Sword Saint, who had perished in battle with the White Whale, yet still was humiliated after death. Reinhard’s grandmother, Wilhelm’s wife, but this time, at Pristella, the soul of that woman finally returned to the heavens.
However, fifteen years ago, Reinhard had inherited that Divine Protection.
Subaru: “How does he feel…”
Subaru: “He received his grandmother’s Divine Protection at the age of five, and to make matters worse, he is descended from the blood of a legendary hero? I can’t imagine how he feels.”
――Subaru somewhat understood the weight of holding up to parental expectations.
Subaru could empathize with the the pain of being crushed by the weight of the expectations of those surrounding him.
Of course, the weight and the responsibilities Subaru and Reinhard carried were extremely different, so comparing himself to Reinhard may have been rude in itself.
Subaru: “I honestly am so weak. I’m so weak that I’m always frustrated because I’m weak and not good enough, there’s not a night that goes by without me wishing to be strong enough to hold my own.”
Julius: “I feel like that’s pretty groundless.”
Subaru: “Shut up.”
In the middle of his important speech, Subaru was made fun of, causing him to click his tongue.
Subaru: “Anyhow, I personally feel his worries despite being on the polar opposite. I don’t think Reinhard is the same as he was when he was five, but I do wonder how he felt back then.”
Julius: “As you would expect, I also do not know what he felt back in those days. But…”
Cutting off his words, Julius then lifted his face. Gripping tightly onto the bridle, looking in front of him, Julius squinted at the sunlight that bathed him in a daze.
Julius: “――The time I first saw Reinhard was the big turning point for me.”
Somewhere from those words, pride was oozing out. Julius was squinting from the sunlight, but perhaps he may have not been squinting because of the sun.
Perhaps, back then, he had gazed at Reinhard in the same way.
Subaru: “Which means that you and Reinhard have known each other for about a decade, I guess. I do think that barely satisfies the requirements for you guys to be childhood friends, but is that right?”
Julius: “No? Yes, that was when I became aware of Reinhard, but he only found out about me long after… When I was appointed as a Royal Guard. That happened when I was sixteen, so I have known him personally for six years.”
Subaru: “…That’s a very big empty period of time, isn’t it?”
Julius: “At the time, I was not qualified enough to stand alongside someone who had just taken over as the Sword Saint. The fact that he was younger than me too was a painful reminder, and that was my beginning.”
Julius said his words quietly, while his tone of voice was passionate on the contrary.
In response to the distant look his yellow eyes contained, Subaru nodded at that one word, “beginning”.
Despite the vague wording, that day was probably vivid within Julius. If that was Julius’s beginning, then it was a given for it to be clear in his memory.
Subaru’s memory of his own beginning was hot in his chest, seared into his soul.
The time he was saved by Emilia in a different world, the time Rem supported his back about to collapse, the time he took Beatrice’s hand amidst the flames, all those times, to Subaru, were “beginning”.
Subaru: “When you say that was your beginning, does that mean you were surprisingly naughty as a kid? Like debauched aristocrat or a son of loose morals.”
He went against the flow of emotions in the other person’s affair, and spoke with an intentionally teasing voice.
There was no way that was Julius’s case, but upon first meeting him, he really did think that the latter was a young gaudy noble. And if it were to be a story, it was seemingly a given that this young noble had lived a haughty life in his boyhood.
With those feelings in mind, Subaru changed the topic to alter the flow of the conversation, which made Julius suddenly loosen his lips,
Julius: “I would prefer if you changed the way you express it. Just a little… but there are parts that I cannot deny.”
Subaru: “Seriously!? You really were a gaudy noble!? Did you kick commoners from the top of a horse, and persistently pressure servants by bullying them!?”
Julius: “I cannot help but wonder as to why you are expressing such glee.”
Julius sent a cold look at Subaru, who got excited. After that, Julius peeked behind himself.
Perhaps he was concerned about not only the dragon carriage, but the girls in it as well. Of course, to go to such lengths to confirm that they were uncapable of hearing their conversation was unnecessary, but it was a matter of him feeling like doing it.
Julius: “How much do you know about the Juukulius Family?”
Subaru: “Nothing at all.”
Julius: “You answered so immediately that it seems you feel pleased about it.”
He really did have zero background knowledge.
Subaru threw out his chest, dexterously on top of the dragon, and Julius displayed a strained smile. After that, he felt his Knight’s sword on his waist. Perhaps it was handed down through Julius’s family. From his face, it was plain for all to say that he felt some trepidation about having the qualifications to wield it himself at this time.
Julius: “――I am not the original heir of the Juukulius Family.”
Julius: “To put it more accurately, I should say that I am not the official heir. Alviero Juukulius is the current Head of the House of Juukulius. My father, Klein Juukulius, was his younger brother. As he has already passed away, I have been adopted by the Family Head.”
Subaru did not respond to those words, as they had been more surprising than expected.
It was difficult to say how much the structure of this world’s noble society meshed with Subaru’s knowledge of the society he knew, but Julius’s position definitely was complicated.
Also, in that case, then what was the position of his younger brother, Joshua Juukulius? That young man, who adored his older brother Julius, was now lost from the memories of the world.
Julius: “I do not know what is the actual natural of the relationship I have with Joshua, left back at Pristella. Is he my own younger brother that has inherited the blood of my real father, Klein Juukulius? Or is he a true, legitimate child that inherited the blood of my foster father, Alviero Juukulius?”
Subaru: “…What’s the difference?”
Julius: “«Siblings» is merely a figure of speech, so perhaps our relationship would essentially be cousins. In that case, the position of Head of the House of Juukulius would be inherited by Joshua Juukulius, most likely.”
Julius had delivered those words in a flat manner, and just from that, he was convinced of their veracity.
Even though this pertained to himself, this conversation was complex because Julius himself was unaware of his position. If Julius and Joshua were real siblings, then Julius would be the one in succession for the House of Juukulius. However, if Julius and Joshua were not blood brothers, then it would be correct to say that Joshua would be the one in succession for the House of Juukulius.
And then Julius did not know how to confirm that; Joshua’s existence had been wiped from the world, and Julius had lost his memories of his brother. For that reason, he was cognizant of where he stood.
Julius: “It is somewhat unavoidable, but when I think about it, my position has become very complicated. Not knowing about your own tomorrow is not very appealing, although as of now, I should worry more about myself being unable to ground myself, than I should about the House of Juukulius’s leadership.”
Julius said that in a seemingly joking way, perhaps because Subaru had received a surprising shock.
Subaru’s mouth was dry, grinding his teeth while feeling irritation in his stomach. He was ridiculously worried about Julius, with how he was right now.
Julius: “Because of my upbringing, at the time, I was unconfident. My foster father led me to the Royal Castle, and that was when I showed the poor etiquette I had been taught just as we were about to depart. There, I laid my eyes on Reinhard, who was an eight-year-old―― That’s all there is to it.”
Albeit forcefully, Julius chose to end the conversation.
There was no courage to deliver a retort or even some sort of clever remark. Subaru saw Julius look ahead in a lonesome way, and he stopped biting his molars.
And then, what came out right away was a question.
Subaru: “Why’d you suddenly feel like telling that to me?”
Julius: “I believe you were the one who enquired. Perhaps I was mistaken?”
Subaru: “No, that’s true and all… that’s my bad, but that’s not where I’m getting at. Isn’t it weird for you to have this kind of talk with me?”
Julius: “No, it is not. This affair was common knowledge for Reinhard and Ferris… For people among the Royal Guards. Of course, Anastasia-sama also knows too. It’s nothing special.”
Subaru did not understand one bit, as his face turned into a frown.
Even if he said that it was something everyone was aware of, that did not mean it was something he could spread around. After all, those words sounded unnatural.
Perhaps Julius understood Subaru’s discontent from his frown. He pulled onto the bridle, and quickened the beloved dragon’s pace just a bit.
Julius: “Yes, it is something everyone is aware of―― So that was why I might have wished for you to know about it just now. You, the person who remembers the most about me in this world, right now.”
The blue ground dragon accelerated while swinging its tail, and Julius’s expression could no longer be seen.
That being said, he was not going so fast as to leave him behind in the dirt. It was his way of smugly declaring the end of the conversation, as usual, simple as that.
Subaru: “Hmm, it’s fine. Thanks for the concern, Patrasche.”
The running jet-black ground dragon had raised her head, glancing at Subaru. In response to her gesture, which said “Shall we rival the ground dragon ahead?”, Subaru showed his thanks and petted the head of that lady.
Subaru: “…That was uncharacteristic of me.”
Those small, sullen words poured out from his mouth.
Was he becoming weak? Or perhaps, was he putting on airs as a protagonist of a tragedy?
As a matter of fact, “irritating” was the only word his feelings could be expressed.
Subaru: “Ahh, dammit. Am I an idiot? No, I am definitely an idiot…”
Subaru scratched his head, and he released his irritation only from his mouth.
In the end, he had not found any accurate response to what Julius had spoken this time.
And he would have no accurate response until they had just reached the Augria Sand Dunes.
Said answer would not come, even after the party had arrived at the town of Mirula, the nearest one to the Sand Dunes.
 – Engrish flip. Means “partner (who shares one’s load)” (相肩), originally “パートナー” (partner). The word chosen isn’t the best here, but given Subaru and Beatrice’s deep relationship, it feels fitting.