Biting back the unbelievable truth, Subaru felt a cold sweat wetting his entire body. As far as Subaru knew, this was one of the most terrifying situations he had ever faced.
A scene he recognized, a conversation he heard, it's not a moment of déjà vu. It was not an event that felt like it had already happened, but a repetition of what had actually happened. It meant one thing: He had used Return by Death.
Subaru: "But why...?"
There was no warning at all. For Subaru, it was as if the world had switched right after he had blinked. He was so unaware of it that he suspected a malfunction of the power that resided within him. He thought that for some reason, the Death part of Return by Death had been left out, and only the Return had been activated.
Subaru: "Am I an idiot? No, I'm definitely an idiot."
Subaru restrained himself from trying to be optimistic about the situation he was facing at this point. It may sound silly, but he must trust in Return by Death. So far, Subaru's power to travel back in time had never been triggered by anything other than death. As long as he went back in time, Subaru had lost his life. That was an absolute rule.
Subaru: "...Okay, I've understood it. Now that I get it, what's next, me?"
Pressing his fist to his forehead, Subaru appealed to his agitated self to remain calm. Once he accepted that he had Return by Death, the next thing to focus on was figuring out the cause of death. Looking back to the last ten seconds or so, and remembering what happened.
Subaru: "...Nothing's coming up."
However, even when rethinking back to the moment he could’ve died, nothing came to his mind. Even as Subaru fumbled through his memory for even the slightest clue, nothing came up.
The bar he was looking for, the person he was talking to, Flop-san, the bustle of the main street a little far away, the faint smell of the shady alleyway, the faint hard sound he heard… that was about all he could pick up. None of it connected to the reason why Subaru's life was in danger.
Subaru: "Damn, why do I always have to be like this...!"
Subaru poured curse upon curse his own carelessness, thinking that if he had been more sensitive to the changes in his surroundings, he would not have gotten into such a mess. But a part of his reasoning turned a blank eye to himself, realizing how absurd of a request this was. He was not a surveillance camera. He couldn't possibly keep an eye on his surroundings at all times. Nor was he skilled enough to sense the slightest change in his surroundings to respond immediately.
Natsuki Subaru was undeniably an ordinary person. This was an assessment that had not changed even now that he had re-lived his own memories and re-examined himself.
That is why he must never stop thinking and acting.
Subaru: "The situation is similar to when I was first killed by Shaula."
On the way to the Pleiades Watchtower, Subaru and the others who challenged the "Sandstorm" of the Augurian Sand Dunes were destroyed by a blow from Shaula, who was defending the sand dunes from atop the Watchtower. A white light that he could not even react to, the first blow on the sand dunes marked a hellish battle that began when Subaru was blown away by that light.
What happened? What was the cause of death? In this situation, the only thing he could confirm was that he had died. This was truly a refrain of that first death he had experienced in the Sea of Sands. However, unlike that time, now he was in the city. The environment was fundamentally different from that of the Sea of Sand, where he was prepared to face the danger of death.
Subaru: "What's going to take my life in these circumstances...?"
When he thought of death without warning, he had a strong impression of Shaula's sniping. But the place where Subaru was killed was in an alley... not high up, but with buildings on either side and poor visibility. It is hard to imagine that the terrain was suitable for sniping, since the line of fire was only back and forth. Of course, since Subaru didn't know how correct his memory was, it was possible that he was in a sniper's favorite spot with a clean line of fire.
Flop: "...Husband-kun? What's wrong? You've been wrinkling your brows for a while."
Flop: "Didn't you listen to my advice? If you keep wrinkling your brow, good fortune will escape! To chase after something that's run away is a nearly impossible job! For me, this is fundamental, since I ride a cart!"
Flop took his hand to his chest and gestured exaggeratedly in front of Subaru. Sensing that this was an overreaction to cheer up the frowning Subaru, Subaru couldn't help but stiffen at that gesture.
If he wanted to find out the cause of death, he had to find out about the offender at the same time. In that case, if the cause of death was not from sniper fire, the strongest suspect would be Flop, who had been working with Subaru and was the closest to him. However, at the moment of Subaru's death, Flop was in Subaru's line of sight, and there was no indication that he was going to attack him. Of course, he knew that there were many people in this world who were capable of taking his life with a single blow, without making Subaru notice anything. But Subaru didn't think Flop was one of them. First...
Subaru: "What reason would Flop-san have to kill me?"
The most likely scenario was that he was just posing as a good guy, trying to scam Subaru. However, there seemed to be little reason to do that in the city. Originally, he met the O'Connell siblings outside the gate, in the queue. If Flop wanted to get things done without being exposed, he could have somehow deceived them and lured them outside of the gate, before entering Guaral, which is guarded. In the end, it was only because of Flop's help that Subaru was able to avoid being tripped up by the buyer, even if it was for the money he had exchanged for the horn of a demon beast. There was no point in putting Subaru between them. He could simply trick Subaru and the others outside to take the horn and exchange it for cash inside the city.
There was no rational explanation for the motive. There have been many people who have killed Subaru, but they always had a rational reason. Unless it was a demon beast that can't communicate, it should be an absolute rule. So...
Subaru: "Flop-san, why are you being so nice to us?"
Flop: "Hmm? That's another abrupt question, isn't it?"
Subaru: "Yeah, I'm sorry it's so sudden. I was just a little nervous."
Flop raised a shapely eyebrow in surprise at Subaru's seemingly abrupt question. Feigning a weary smile at that reaction, Subaru waited with bated breath for Flop's reply... He didn't have a reasonable doubt. So all that remained was to see if he could believe it.
Flop had been so kind to him and taken care of him in so many ways. Subaru wanted the reassurance that he and his sister, Medium, were not two faced and that he could trust them.
Flop's neat-faced eyes narrowed, as if he was trying to see Subaru's true motives. When his own expression of unfounded confidence and reserve disappeared, what was there was a beautiful man with an intelligent appearance. He then shook his head in front of Subaru, who stiffened.
Flop: "It's not a complicated story. It's simple. What my sister and I are doing for you, your wife, and your niece is ...!"
Flop: "You could say ...revenge!"
With his hands outstretched, Flop said that to Subaru in a loud voice. The discrepancy between the vigorous cheerfulness of the statement and the boisterousness of the content of the statement was so great. For a moment, Subaru couldn't take it in. He was stunned and widened his eyes. In front of the stiffened Subaru, Flop stroked his forelock..
Flop: "Mind you, my sister and I used to live at the edge of life and death, you know! Our parents abandoned us and we grew up in an orphanage that took in orphans... It was a terrible place!"
Subaru: "A home for abandoned children..."
Vaguely, the image of an orphanage-like facility came to Subaru's mind. However, it was not hard to imagine that the environment and facilities of an orphanage in this world would be very different from what Subaru imagined in modern society. The poor environment would probably be a world beyond Subaru's comprehension. Flop revealed to Subaru with gestures that he had grown up there.
Flop: "Every night, I would huddle with other kids who were in the same situation, and we were determined to get out of there. And my sister and I got the chance to escape. It was the first night I experienced without getting hit, and I swore... revenge."
Subaru: "Revenge... You mean, on the people of the orphanage?"
Flop: "No, no... On the world."
Flop clenched his fists, he had the same look on his face as when he had just said "revenge" out loud. Toward a sniffling Subaru, he leaned forward with a feverish expression on his face.
Flop: "My sister and I grew up being beaten by adults in the orphanage. But were the adults who beat me happy while beating me? No, they weren't. They were unhappy, too. They were unhappy adults beating up unhappy children. What could be so irredeemable?"
Flop: "Even the most violent adults are not happy. I've decided to become a merchant and put myself and my sister out of our misery. And I want as many people as possible to get out of their misery, too. Like the one who took us out that night."
Subaru: "So that's your revenge on the world?"
Flop: "Yes and no. My sister and I are scrambling to get revenge on the world for forcing misery on us. Saving you and your wife was part of that."
After he finished, Flop rubbed his nose a little embarrassed. The gesture, and the heat of Flop's words, rendered Subaru speechless. Slowly, as the heat permeated his brain, Subaru's stomach instantly settled.
Subaru: "Thank you, Flop-san. I'm glad it was the older brother Flop-san and younger sister Medium-san that I met at the checkpoint."
He had asked for an answer, hoping for some guidance as to whether he could believe it or not. And the answer he got was more than Subaru had asked for. In that case, it was settled.
Subaru did not doubt the good intentions of Flop O'Connell. He decided to trust the noble vengeful spirit that had decided to fight against the absurdity of the world. Then all that remained was...
Subaru: "Flop-san, as far as Feng Shui is concerned, this road isn’t letting out a very good divination sign... So, can we use a different path?"
TL Note: Feng Shui is "a Chinese geomantic practice in which a structure or site is chosen or configured so as to harmonize with the spiritual forces that inhabit it"
Flop: "Divination sign? What's a divination sign? Is that the reason for the wrinkles between your eyebrows and the look in your eyes?"
Subaru: "It’s a kind of item that predicts good omens, but it has nothing to do with my eyes! Also, this road is not good. It’s alright if we have to take a roundabout way, so please."
Taking advantage of Flop's good will, Subaru proceeded rather forcefully. Having decided that the offender was not Flop, the next problem was to avoid the impending death. Whether it was a sniper or not, it was still an attack. If he could avoid the conditions under which the attack occurred, he would be able to avoid death. In order to do so, it was important not to repeat the same actions as before.
Change the path, shift the timing, and avoid the damage that could befall him. If he can do that, he will be able to avoid an unwanted death.
Subaru: "In the first place, I've only had one or two... deaths that I wanted."
It was a choice he had to make because the situation was imminent. If he hadn't been forced into a situation where he could only be saved by dying, he wouldn't have chosen death even then. Yes, Subaru wants revenge on the world, too.
Flop: "I don't know about that divination thing, but you do have a serious look on your face. And I think we should take a different route, even if it's a bit of a detour."
Subaru: "That would be great! Let's take the main street, as crowded as possible."
Flop: "You got it."
Fortunately, Flop did not balk at Subaru's unnatural words and listened to him. Following his guidance, they changed the route they were planning to take to the tavern. They turned back the way they were supposed to go and took a route that would take them from the main street to the tavern with a minimum of alleyways. After all, if there was a line of fire in front of the tavern, Subaru might still be targeted. However, if they knew that they would be attacked in the alley in front of the bar, there were many ways they could deal with the situation. Worst of all, there was a possibility that the attackers would back off if they saw Subaru on guard.
Flop: "Well, Husband-kun, let's go this way…"
Passing next to Subaru, Flop was about to start leading the way from a different path. That was the moment. It was at that moment that Flop looked back at Subaru, and his eyes widened as if he had noticed something.
He tried to see what Flop's reaction was, but it didn't happen. Because Subaru's mouth had been fully opened to spit out the overflowing blood, before he asked Flop a question.
Subaru: "Ah, ka!"
It was a split second of quick work. Subaru felt something grab the back of his head, forcing him to look up. Then, a hot sensation passed over his exposed throat, and blood shot out. Drowning in the blood and pain, Subaru realized that his throat had been ripped open.
Holding the wound on his neck with both hands, Subaru searched for a way to break through the intense pain and loss of blood. The wound was deep and wide, blood gushing out as vital blood vessels were cut. He took off his jacket and wrapped it around his neck to stop the bleeding, but first, he had to get out of here, away from the enemy that was behind him. Besides, Flop was here. He was sorry to have doubted him, not sure he'd forgive him even if he believed him again, but Flop was here.
Subaru: "Yeah, m..."
Rem was at the inn. He had to get back to her somehow, even if it meant bleeding to death from his neck. Go back, take her out, it's not safe, take her hand. Even if she doesn't want him to, he’ll drag her. If Rem is alive. He has to keep her alive. That's why he has to stop the blood from his neck. The blood, the blood, b-b-b-b-b-b, the blood, sto-, stop, stop the, stop stop stop ...op ...op…….
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Flop: "...Husband-kun, you shouldn't frown."
Flop: “Good fortune will not appear for those who don’t smile and don’t stay composed. Husband-kun, your group is looking for an escort on your journey, aren't you? In that case, we need to look for a suitable candidate.”
In front of Subaru, Flop put his finger between his eyebrows and emphasized what he said. Watching the man's gesture, Subaru quickly put his hands on his neck. He couldn't feel the hot sensation nor the heat of life flowing out of him. He did not feel his blood gushing out every time his heart beated. The pulsation of despair as his life was flowing out of him as Subaru approached death.
Flop: "If that’s true, erase the wrinkles between your eyebrows... What’s wrong, why is your face all pale, Husband-kun?"
Seeing the silent Subaru, Flop looked at him with both surprise and concern. That serious look in his eyes reminded Subaru of the moment just before his throat was opened.
Yes, his throat was cut. His throat was cut, blood spurted out, his instincts rang out like an alarm bell, telling him that he had to escape, but he couldn't hear the alarm bell anymore, and he had come back to this moment. In other words, he died. He had used Return by Death once more. In addition, it was different from his first instant death. In the form of clear, cold hostility.
As he touched his throat, Subaru hastily remembered to breathe, something he had forgotten. Flop asked him "Are you okay?" as he held the panting Subaru’s shoulder. But he wasn’t able to respond right away. Subaru couldn’t stay in this place.
Subaru: "Huh, well, Flop-san, today is, uh, a bad day Feng Shui wise. Let’s go back right away…!"
Flop: "Fesui? But looking at your complexion, you should sit down and rest…"
Subaru: "No, resting won’t help! They’re spasms that won’t subside unless I get Rem to hold my hand!"
Flop: "Is-is that so?.... That's bad!"
Subaru’s sense of urgency clouded his mind as he muttered something unintelligible, but Flop, who was good with people, seemed to place importance not on the content of his words, but the atmosphere. Subaru grasped the hand on his shoulder, and though Flop was surprised, he gave him a nod. Leading Flop by the hand, Subaru couldn’t decide whether he wanted to go forwards or backwards.
If they went forward, he would be following the original route, but if they went backward, they would be going back to the place where he got his throat cut. Feeling as though they would be stuck in a deadly cul-de-sac in either direction, Subaru tries to go back on the main road through another alley, going neither backwards or forward. Although he had failed to do this the last time, Subaru knew that the enemy party wouldn’t try to kill him in a public place. If he wanted to escape, it was imperative that he headed back to the main street.
Flop: "Husband-kun! Your hands are really cold! You’d better get to your wife quickly to warm them up!"
Subaru: "Yeah, I want to see Rem’s face as soon as possible."
As a result, he didn’t mind if he got cursed at for leaving without fulfilling the original purpose.
Anyway, now Subaru was going back to Rem...
A question swirled in Subaru's mind, could he go back? Subaru wondered about the dangers of going back to Rem when they still didn’t know who they were dealing with. He doesn’t know where the enemy had come from, and why they had targeted him, and if they went back to the inn now, they would be giving the enemy more information.
Cursing himself for his lack of thinking, Subaru bit his lip at the same time as his vision filled up. Through the alleyway, Subaru and Flop had reached the main street of the city. The number of people passing by on both sides of the street was nothing compared to the streets of the capital, but it was much better than the alleyways with their hidden bars. However, it took courage to jump into the crowd. To avoid that, he would have to decide on the next course of action.
Flop: "If we’re here on the street, the inn should be over there. So let’s start heading that way…"
Subaru: "No, Flop-san! I can’t go back to the inn, meeting with Rem right now is outrageous!"
Flop: "Isn’t that the opposite of what you just said before?"
His words and actions resembled those of an emotionally unstable person right now, but his earlier concern wouldn’t let him go back to Rem’s side. On the other hand, it would be dumb to not give a proper explanation to Flop. But what could he do to convince him? Flop isn’t a member of the Emilia camp nor the Anastasia camp, with whom he had travelled on a long journey, so Flop doesn’t have enough faith or evidence to fully trust Subaru. It would be too much to expect Flop to believe him out of the goodness of his heart.
There were just too few cards in Subaru's hand right now to defuse the situation.
He was separated from his precious Rem, and the place where he was being attacked was a strange new city. With him is Flop, who was good-hearted but possessed no fighting prowess. Subaru himself didn’t have strong abilities. As long as he didn’t know who was after him, he didn’t know who to look out for.
Subaru: "No way, is it the hunter…!?"
When he thought of his opponent as an invisible killer, the first possibility that came to Subaru’s mind was the hunter. A dangerous individual who had killed Subaru once in the Budheim forest, and had tried to kill once more after that when he was with Rem. After that, he hadn’t run into them again, but what if they were still carefully trying to hunt down Subaru?
In the Budheim forest, the Imperial encampment, and the Shudrak settlement, someone had always been working alongside Subaru. Perhaps timing his actions while Subaru was with Flop would help him to avoid facing a dangerous opponent.
Subaru: "If that's the case, you're as obsessed as a bear that's been robbed of its prey. Why are you coming after me so hard? What's your reason for...?"
Flop: "Husband-kun? Are you okay? What in the world is troubling you? If there's anything I can help you with, you should talk to me. You're acting weird."
Flop calls out to Subaru, who's nerves are overtaking him as he looks both ways down the street. Flop grabs him by both shoulders, and with his serious look and offers to help him, Subaru seriously considers whether he should bet on Flop’s good nature. Maybe Flop would believe in him and lend him a helping hand.
Subaru: "Flop-san, I'm sorry for relying on you, but can I ask you something?"
Flop: "Yes, of course! If it’s something I can’t help you with, my sister might be able to. You see, my sister and I are in a relationship where we make up for each other's shortcomings."
Subaru: "Actually, this might be more for Medium…"
If the other party was an unrelenting force of violence, then maybe the only way would be to get an even stronger force, one that was clearly stronger than both Subaru and Flop, Medium.
With that in mind, Subaru tried to explain the situation to Flop. First, he told Flop that someone was trying to kill him, while not mentioning that he could Return by Death.
Subaru: "Truth is, someone is after me…"
Making up his mind, Subaru tried to explain the situation to Flop, being careful not to trigger
Return by Death’s penalty. But as soon as he began to speak, Flop's gaze turned to look somewhere, seemingly far away. He raised his bushy eyebrows as he squinted down the street. Flop seemed to have noticed something, and Subaru belatedly noticed the same thing that caused Flop’s reaction.
In the distance, someone was screaming. It wasn’t only one person, but several people screaming, shouting, and shrieking loudly. The voices gradually multiplied, adding a sense of urgency to the screams, and they started to hear another sound amidst the screams...
Flop’s throat chokes up as his eyes widen, and Subaru turns to face the same direction. Immediately after turning his head, Subaru also exclaims as he sees what Flop had seen.
...A huge wheel was coming straight towards Subaru and Flop.
Flop: "Husband-kun, it’s dangero..."
No sooner had Flop’s voice called out to Subaru, it impacted Subaru’s entire body. His body was blown away, and he bounced and rolled over and over on the hard ground. The momentum kept him rolling as he crashed through a wall. But that wasn’t the end, as he continued to roll, Subaru was hit by another impact, and his body was blown away once again.
Subaru’s vision turned black as he rolled over one final time and layed on the ground. It wasn’t that the sky had suddenly clouded over. It was something else, something else was clouding his vision. He didn’t know what caused that, but he also knew that trying to figure that out right now would be a waste of time. But if there’s something he could say, then all he managed to say was...
Subaru: "I-, will-…"
Die...is what every cell in Subaru’s body was telling him.
Having experienced death more than thirty times by now, Natsuki Subaru had a vague idea of how much damage his body could take before it died. This time, his body had clearly exceeded the limit of what it could handle.
Pain was oozing. But it wasn’t only a certain part of his body that ached, it was his whole body, and the existence of Subaru was assimilated into pain. It didn’t hurt somewhere specific, but instead Natsuki Subaru was pain. Since he had become pain, the pain was natural. Everything hurts. It hurts. The pain wouldn’t go away.
There was a distant ringing in his ears that reminded him of a train whistle in his head. Furthermore, in the midst of what he could hear was the joy and sorrow of the people flying about around him, no, there was no joy. Pandemonium is more appropriate.. Pandemonium, hah... What a funny word. Contrary to the sounds, the events that were happening were heavy and hard.
Subaru: "Ahii, oh, aho ..."
He can't pronounce it. His mouth was shredded from trying to say the words. his teeth were gone and his mouth was airy. Somewhere his throat was ripped open and air was leaking out. There was blood, sound, and pain. Something, something, something...
Subaru: "Ah, ah..."
Something had killed Natsuki Subaru once again.
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Flop: "...Husband-kun, you shouldn't frown."
Flop: “Good fortune will not appear for those who don’t smile and don’t stay composed. Husband-kun, your group is looking for an escort on your journey, aren't you? In that case, we need to look for a suitable candidate.”
Flop placed his fingers in the space between his eyebrows and massaged his skin, relaxing his face. As he watched Flop demonstrate, Subaru hugged both of his shoulders. His thoughts turned to the absence of breath passing through his mouth and the pain that had now disappeared. ...He had died once again.
Subaru: "And... and this time, it was a dragon carriage, or...?"
He was chewed up by the impact and blown away so he couldn’t move, his extinguished candle of life being left to turn thin. Subaru was killed while overcome with the pain his entire body suffered through. He had died.
His shoulders shook and his knees began to buckle. Even though his body didn’t remember the disaster that befell him, his soul did. The shock and pain that tore through his whole body was still eating away at his soul even though it had disappeared.
Finally, Subaru couldn’t hide his fear of the evil that was about to befall him. The first was instantaneous, the second decapitation, and the third being run over by a dragon carriage... none of them could be a coincidence. There was undoubtedly the intention to kill Natsuki Subaru. It killed Subaru without mercy. The most terrifying part was that, despite having Return by Death three times, he still had no more information than that there is an enemy. The enemy had left no information behind for the dying Subaru.
Flop: "If that’s true, erase the wrinkles between your eyebrows... What’s wrong, why is your face all pale, Husband-kun?"
Subaru: "Flop... san...."
Flop was concerned about the change in Subaru’s complexion once again. Just moments beforehand, the frenzy on the main street must have been a reaction to the dragon carriage going out of control. And at the moment of the crash, Flop was reaching out to save Subaru. He didn't make it in time... and Subaru was crushed to death, but it was difficult to believe that Flop, who had been right beside him, went completely unharmed. He should have been caught up as collateral damage.
Subaru: "From the beginning, until now..."
The enemy wouldn’t be satisfied with just killing Subaru and withdrawing. Flop had been witness to both the first and second attacks. If the opponent was cautious, it would be natural for them to silence the eyewitness. In other words, Flop was probably killed in conjunction with Subaru's death. Flop may have already been dragged into the situation that Subaru was in.
Subaru bit on his rear teeth. He will not allow that.
Subaru: "-! Flop-san!"
Flop: "Wh-what is it!?"
Biting down on his cowardice with his clenched inner teeth, Subaru firmly faced ahead. Then, with all the energy he could muster, he grabbed Flop's hand, catching him by surprise. But there was no time to be considerate of Flop's reaction. Despite what he’s been through, the countdown to death had already begun.
Even if he went somewhere else it’d be hell, going back was also hell, trying to avoid it was hell. All three led to suffering. Even so, he had to find a way to survive. Not only did Subaru need to reunite with Rem, he needed to return the good-natured elder brother who had helped him to his younger sister. So...
Subaru: "...Flop-san, run!"
Flop: "All of a sudden!? What happened!?"
Subaru: "I can’t help it, my life is limited! I can't waste a single second of it!"
Stopping and pleading was a bad idea here. Subaru decided to try to break Flop’s resistance with forceful logic, as before. Sure enough, Flop, swept up in the momentum, nodded.
Flop: "That’s true! Life is short. I should value my time in order for my sister and I to reach our goals…"
Subaru: "We have to move! We need to run to the tavern right now! We can worry about the details later!"
Flop: "Okay, okay! I understand, so just don't yank me! You're ruining my bangs!"
Flop yelped as his arms were forcibly pulled along and his legs tangled up. As he listened to Flop’s shouts, Subaru hurried forward along the path he had taken once before, hurrying to the tavern to hire a guard as he had originally intended. The purpose, though, wasn’t to have them protect him on a journey.
To rescue him from this series of hopeless deaths, to gain the assistance he needed as soon as possible, he ran.
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Tavern Owner: "You want to hire the most capable person here?"
The owner of the tavern at which they’d finally arrived, raised his eyebrows at the panting Subaru, who asked the question. The almost middle-aged shop owner, whose hair was starting to turn gray, gazed at Subaru, who was panting excessively, from top to bottom, as if he was looking at something suspicious. Subaru himself had also realized that his figure and age were not convincing to the other party. Not to mention, as soon as he walked into the tavern, he suddenly made such a statement. The fact that he hadn't been judged as someone just looking for a laugh was probably a sign of sympathy.
Right now, Subaru and Flop are in their original destination ...inside the tavern. In the beginning, Subaru was in the alley in front of the tavern and died on the spot in some way. Because of this, he felt quite uneasy, but maybe because of the action he took of immediately rushing onto the road, no demonic claws appeared and prevented Subaru from rushing into the tavern. However, it is too early to use this as a reason to judge that he has gotten out of the predicament.
Subaru: "So, we must rely on the power of a skilled person."
Tavern Owner: "...The most capable person here, that should be Rowan.".
Subaru adjusted his breathing and asked again, the shopkeeper shrugged. Then, the shopkeeper turned his gaze to Flop, who was also panting beside Subaru.
Tavern Owner: "Flop, I would like to say that I haven't seen you for a long time. But in the end, you're still helping other people. Anyhow, I’m sure you’re not even earning a cent."
Flop: "I'm just doing the business that I want to do. My business partners aren’t limited to just people... Sometimes, we even offer unbalanced transactions that go against the world itself.
Tavern Owner: "I already told you there’s no benefit from that, you benign man."
Perhaps he had an amicable relationship with the owner, he evaluated Flop's behavior while being astonished. Although the owner directly asked Flop about the reason as to why he was helping Subaru, it was apparent that his kindness seemed to be a well-known fact to those who knew him. The tavern owner gazed at Subaru sharply while wiping a cup.
Owner: "As you have heard, they are good people. But don't think of them as being too convenient. This idiot and his sister are foolish good people who are willing to help anyone, which means there are many people who owe them."
Subaru: "...I don't plan to be ungrateful, I intend to pamper them as much as they’ve pampered me."
Flop: "Haha, then I'll look forward to that! To the day where I get pampered!"
Flop replied frankly while tidying up the messy bangs with the comb he got out of his pocket. Subaru was saved by Flop's ample magnanimity, and turned around and asked the shop owner
Subaru: "Who is Rowan?".
Owner: "Ah, if it's Rowan, then over there, the one who looks like he’s on the verge of collapsing ."
Subaru: "On the verge of collapse? That’s something I don’t really want to hear."
As he said, Subaru looked in the direction of the shop owner's finger with anxiety. And so, in the dimly lit shop, with several men in a circle, a man lying on the corner table could be found. It was a man in his fifties with a dagger in his waist with long, messy hair. There were several empty mugs on the table where he was lying on his stomach, and it could be seen that he had already been drinking very vigorously before dawn.
Subaru: "...Is that the skilled person?"
Tavern Owner: "No doubt he has terrible drinking habits, but he is skilled. But terrible drinking habits."
Subaru: "Having been told that twice, my heart is being shrouded in nothing but anxiety."
The tavern owner said that he had poor drinking habits and reminded him twice about it. Although he was a very drunk person, it couldn't be helped, right now, what was needed was not someone with human nature nor a strong liver, but the ability that could be displayed in combat. It was the strength that could save Subaru from this extremely urgent predicament.
Subaru: "Now, Rowan-san, can you hear me?"
Accompanying Flop, Subaru made up his mind and came to the table where Rowan was laying on. Shaking the collapsed man's shoulders he raised his head up in response and replied with a simple minded voice. His face was red and had drowsy eyes. His appearance that could barely be seen, were all ruined by his red nose.
Rowan: "What it is, fella? What business do you ha...ve wit-h, mee?"
Subaru: "Oh he’s dead drunk, huh? ...Anyways, listen to me. I have a job for you... you reek of alcohol!"
Rowan: "Oioi, what a rude fellow..."
Rowan shakily picked up his body, let out a long exhale, and turned his face to Subaru.
The intense odor of alcohol wafted and created an illusion that looked as if his field of vision was warping. This is not a matter of drinking before dawn. Even heavy drinkers should have limits.
Subaru: "Ah right, there haven’t been any alcoholics in my circle, so this is the first time I have encountered this... Roswaal and Otto also only drink a little..."
In the Emilia camp, the ones with drinking habits were Roswaal and Otto. Ram and Frederica only drank when they were socializing, other than those scenarios, they didn't drink. Subaru seemed to have reached the age of drinking in another world, but he never thought about it until today.
Subaru: "So to be honest, I don't have a good impression of drunkards...Oi, is this person really the most capable?! I’m not playing around here.."
Tavern Owner: "What a coincidence. I didn’t open this shop to play around either. There’s no doubt it’s him. "
Subaru: "Damn, you are serious..."
Gaining the reassurance from the shop owner, Subaru turned to Rowan with a bitter expression. Rowan sat loosely on his chair and turned the empty glass upside down to his face, trying to taste the dripping wine with his tongue.
Rowan: "Oi, there is not enough wine. Oi, fellas, buy me a drink."
Flop: "I see, do you want more wine? I see, owner, give him a glass of wine..."
Subaru: "Wait, wait a minute, Flop-san! I’d say I’ve been saved by your kindness, but right now keep your good will in your wallet!!"
Flop, who seemed to be going to buy a drink as requested, became silent, and Subaru who was opposite of Rowan, curled up his lips with disapproval and placed his hand on the table with strength.
Subaru: "Rowan-san, I'll just say it straightforwardly. We won’t treat you to a free drink. But we’ll pay you a reward so you can get your drinks. I hope you can accept this job."
Rowan: "Ah, job..."
Subaru: "That’s right. What I’d like to request is a guard. That too, starts from this moment."
Facing the close stink of wine, Subaru boldly stated that… After hearing that, Rowan fixed his drowsy eyes as he was upon Subaru.
Rowan: "...Your tone is awfully harsh. I take it you fellas are in quite a dangerous situation?"
Subaru: "Ah, this is no laughing matter. What do you think? This is the maximum amount that I can pay."
Flop: "Husband-kun, that is..."
Flop's eyes widened, trying to stop Subaru's actions. However, stopping Flop’s opposition, Subaru placed the bag where all the money that the horn of the demon beast sold for onto the table.
To be cautious, no money was allocated to Rem. This is everything Subaru and company had. The amount of money that could be paid cannot be more.
Rowan: "Oi oi, this is..."
Subaru: "This is the card that I can play. How about it, will you accept it?"
Rowan, who opened the mouth of the bag and glanced inwardly fell into silence. Although his face was still flushed red, his eyes that had been blurred by the alcohol before had disappeared, and showed a serious look. Of course, coming to the tavern to hire a guard, letting Rowan who was a mercenary see all the possessions that Subaru carried with him was a pretty huge bet. Although he didn't know much about the situation of crossing borders and the prices of the Empire, he didn't feel that there was that much of a difference between the currency value compared to the Kingdom of Lugnica. With the amount given by Subaru, it should be easy to relax and have fun for one year.
Rowan: "My skills are high level... is what I thought I'd say... but this is the first time I've encountered something like this."
Subaru: "Let me tell you in advance, I cannot accept a raise."
Rowan: "I don't doubt it. You aren’t playing around, it seems that you're serious."
Rubbing his finger against his red nose, Rowan slowly stood up. He picked up the gold coin bag that Subaru took out and quietly slipped it into his pocket.
Rowan: "Even if you tell me to return it, I won't return it."
Subaru: "It’s unfortunate, but I won't ask you to return it. If you do your job."
Rowan: "Hm hah!"
With a drunken laugh, Rowan accepted Subaru's job. Hearing this answer, Subaru couldn't help but relax. But his tension did not disappear, his anxiety still dominated his chest...
Flop: "Husband-kun, is that alright? That money is..."
Subaru: "It doesn't matter. Right now, there is no substitute for safety required at this moment. I am sorry that I surprised you Flop-san, thank you for introducing me."
Flop: "If you think this is okay, I am fine with it. Fortunately, the accommodation fee had already been paid!"
As for the cost of accommodation, the portion where Flop and Medium's room fee has already been paid in the form of Subaru. Hiring Rowan without worrying about the future and letting him pay for the accommodation would be an ungrateful behavior.
Rowan: "So, Mr. Employer, may I ask your name?"
Subaru: "Ah, is that so? I'm sorry, it’s because I was in a hurry. My name is..."
Asked for his name, Subaru tensed up immediately, he thought he had done something unrighteous to Rowan and flurried. Just as he was about to give out his name, Rowan told him to wait. He stretched his hand to Subaru's face and turned his sharp gaze to the back side of the tavern window.
Rowan: "...Have a strange feeling.. Fella, I take it you’re being followed?"
The deep and low voice made Subaru hold his breath.
Although Flop who was next to him felt perplexed and asked "What's the matter?", only Subaru had a clue as to what Rowan felt. It's not impossible, it should be said that it is probably true. The strange feeling that Rowan felt, the existence attached to Subaru, was the enemy who assaulted Subaru in the alleyway. The enemy that killed Subaru three times, did not give up on him this time either.
Rowan: "Who the hell is chasing after you?"
Subaru: "...No kidding, I don't know who the other party is. It's just that I thought that he’d set traps if I was outside. So I hurriedly hired you."
Rowan: "I see, maybe it would've been better to raise the price a little more."
Even though he fell over without sleeves, Rowan said in a light-hearted tone. However, although there was a hint of tension and seriousness in Rowan's tone, he was not uneasy. This is likely an indication of self-confidence in his abilities. In fact, from the look in Rowan's eyes that showed a faded tipsiness, he felt the unique temperament of the strong.
Rowan's weapon was a knife on his left waist.
Nowadays, it was rare to see a knife being used as a sword in another world. While Western Swords are more prominent, Rowan's style is clearly unique. A closer look, his figure with a combination of fluffy hair and a robe, makes people think of samurais. However, because he lacked the intensity it would be better to call him a ronin.
Subaru: "Rowan-san, the opponent is ......"
Rowan: "There is no need to be afraid. No matter who the opponent is, if they stand in front of me, I'll slice them in half. Even with alcohol in me, my sword is in excellent condition."
Subaru: "Not drunken boxing, but drunken sword fighting?? Never heard of it."
However, without even saying it was a bluff, Subaru believed in Rowan’s confidence. Subaru turned to the opposite direction of the window he was staring at and pulled at Flop, who had not yet understood the situation.
Subaru: "Flop-san, leave this to Rowan-san."
Flop: "Leaving it to him and all that, I don't know what's going on! What are Husband-kun and Guard-kun fighting against?"
Subaru: "That, I too..."
He doesn’t know. Just as he was about to reply with an answer that would only increase Flop's anxiety, the situation advanced even faster than that. However, it wasn't that the enemy launched a frontal attack, nor was it Rowan rushing out to engage the enemy.
Yes, a large man complained in pain while entering the tavern and collapsed inside the store. To this sudden incident, Subaru literally jumped in fright. However, the other people in the store saw this scene and reacted indifferently.
The drunkards except for Rowan were also engaged in mercenary-like activities, they just looked at the man who fell and reacted subtly. Only Flop and the tavern owner ran to the fallen man. However, only Flop was worried about the man, and the owner's face clearly showed how unwilling he was to let the floor get soiled.
Flop: "Hey, you! Are you okay, hang in there!"
Flop: "Mygut!? Is this your name? Pull it together, Mygut!"
Subaru: "No, Flop-san, that man..."
He wanted to help the fallen man sit up, but the man's answers were just groans, and he didn't truthfully report his name to the person he met for the first time.
Moreover, the man who entered the tavern in this situation...
???: "My gut……"
Subaru: "...! Flop-san! Get away from him now!"
The man lying on the ground grabbed the arm of Flop, who was squatting on the ground, wanting to stand up. In an instant, Subaru, who had an ominous premonition, pulled Flop back away from the man. ...Just after that.
The body of the man who was groaning "My gut" swelled up, and in an instant, a bright red light flashed. Then, the swelling man's body ruptured, and the terrifying explosion turned the inside of the shop chaotic.
Screams echoed in the store, red light could be seen all around. He immediately understood that it was a burning flame, and the man's body that had been blown away, was a human bomb.
Flop: "I-I'm fine, Subaru-kun! But this, this is..."
Subaru and Flop, who were pushed against each other due to the explosion, couldn't help but be dumbstruck when they saw the screaming in the store. The mechanism which blew the man's body away was caused by him carrying a fire magic stone. ...Looking at his anguished look, the fire magic stone was probably buried within the man's body. That exploded. And like that, the fire spread everywhere. And, not only that...
???: "Kah, what is this!? My eyes, my eyes!"
In this situation where the flames are surging, a drunk man who was thrown into the chaos of the store covered his face and screamed. Looking around, it was not only him who was screaming, but the men around him were as well. In the center of the shop, which was the center of the explosion, a group of men were bathed in smoke, covering their eyes and noses, and screamed in absolute agony. Then...
???: "W-we can't stay in the store! Everyone, quick, get outside!!"
Countless men with teary eyes screamed, as they all rushed towards the entrance, covering their faces. Seeing these men pushing against each other, Subaru wanted to tell them to stop immediately. After the man exploded, smoke came out accompanied by pain. In both cases, this gave the feeling that it encouraged chaos in the store, guiding the customers to flee outside the store. However, no matter how hard Subaru tried to raise his voice, he couldn't stop the men who were pressured by pain. As a result...
After the second explosion, the men who flocked towards the entrance were all blown away. The second explosion was bigger than the first explosion. Before the men thrown into chaos could protect each other, they were scorched black from the flames of the explosion upfront.
With the heat of the explosion and the blast surging, Subaru stiffened at the tragic scene. Nightmarish scenes occurred one after another making it impossible for people to to think that this is reality.
Subaru: "This, this..."
Rowan: "Pull it together, employer! If you fall here, even I’d be in trouble!"
Rowan, who covered his face with the sleeves of his clothes, grabbed the stiffened and dumbfounded Subaru by the collar and forcibly pulled him up. He motioned with his hand not to inhale the smoke that tormented those men, and instructed them to lower their posture.
Rowan: "Shop owner! Go out through the back door! The front is being watched!"
Tavern Owner: "G...got it! Over here...!"
Following Rowan's instructions, the shop owner with blood on his forehead nodded frankly. And like this, the shop owner crawled on the floor, and Rowan tapped his back with his hand, and said, "Go!" then slapped Subaru on the back.
Rowan: "The employer and the fella over there too! If you don't want to die, act now!"
Flop: "T...there’s no way I can die! My sister and I are still on our journey...!"
Under Rowan's rebuke, Subaru and Flop also followed the shop owner's back, who was in front of them. As he followed, Subaru's head was filled with chaos and anger towards himself and his enemy. Of course, he was angry at the enemy for taking such tomfoolery actions. However, Subaru was angry at himself because despite knowing that there was an enemy, he misjudged the degree of danger.
Not to mention the enemy is someone who would let a dragon carriage run wild on a large street. That should've caused quite a lot of people to be involved. In that case, he should've considered more seriously that this is an approach that ignores the loss of surrounding bystanders. Therefore, the men who were just drinking in the tavern were involved in it...
Owner: "...! The back door won't open!"
In front of Subaru, who was criticizing himself, the shop owner who arrived at the back door first, screamed. He desperately tried to open the door, but the most vital door did not respond to his call. Was it distorted due to the damage of the explosion, or...
Flop: "This is bad! The front entrance has already been destroyed! If this goes on..."
Rowan: "Oi, move away! Such a big door..."
At this situation, in which the inside of the store was burning with growing red flames and being engulfed by black smoke, Rowan rushed out, as if to paint over Flop's cries. Then he placed his hand onto the knife on his waist, aiming at the door which couldn't be forcefully opened with his knife, in a flash...
With a rushing silver light, the closed door was slashed open with one strike. His sword skills were similar to the ones that Subaru knew. A strike that would fascinate people, but Rowan was not proud of it and just kicked open the remains of the door.
Rowan: "Alright! Opened it! Everyone, lower your posture!"
Opening the closed back door, Rowan shouted at Subaru and the others behind him. Although the spreading chaos was unimaginable, it seemed that they could now escape from the dead-end that was the burning tavern for now. And thus, he now knew that Rowan's judgment and skills in combat situations were reliable. Next, leave here immediately, and this ferocious opponent...
Then suddenly, Subaru held his breath. Something was bothering him. ...To predict this meticulous enemy’s merciless way of thinking.
Throwing a man who was transformed into a humanoid bomb into the shop, luring the people out of the shop with smoke-containing irritants, and blowing them away with magic stones set at the entrance in a breath. Then he blocked the entrance, and he locked the back door in some way. After breaking through the lock, Subaru and the others would escape through the back door...
Something is very strange, is what Subaru decided to speak about with trifling unease.
If the opponent was very careful, it was impossible to relax for an imminent attack. To convey this uncomfortable feeling, Subaru called Rowan, but there was no response.
Shaking violently, Rowan, who was leaning forward from the exit, leaned his body back, and collapsed. Subaru, Flop, and the shop owner fixed their eyes and mouth on the fallen Rowan. Rowan's head was smashed from top to bottom, and his eyeballs which were squished dropped out. No matter who looked at it. They knew that Rowan, whose head had been crushed flat, was dead.
Tavern Owner: "Hh!"
Seeing his fierce death, the shop owner opened his eyes wide and wanted to scream. But he couldn't do it. A blow struck from the opposite side of the flame and pierced into the chest of the shop owner who took a deep breath, mercilessly ripping apart his upper body. His chest was forcibly torn off, and his internal bones and organs were scattered all over the floor. The owner fell over, rolling into the flames.. Subaru could immediately smell the smell of burning flesh, but the owner died on the spot without screaming. Instant death.
From the opposite side of the diffusing black smoke and flames, something slowly appeared. Beyond the slashed and kicked door, a man with a wet cloth wrapped around his face appeared. Subaru understood that the man was holding a long-handled axe in his hand, that axe shattered Rowan's head and killed the shopkeeper on the spot. However, his understanding ends there.
Flop: "Y...you, who the hell are you? Why would you..."
Right next to the astonished Subaru, who couldn't move a step, was Flop, who had also witnessed the death of Rowan and the shop owner. He quivered his voice. Despite being consumed by fear, he glared at the figure in the flames with serious eyes. As if hating a villian who mercilessly killed people in the tavern one after another. But...
Flop: "For me to allow such a thing would... Ah."
Flop intended to resolutely condemn these evil deeds but was directly struck with an axe by the man. Not speaking, nor doing anything meaningless such as beating him with his axe. The man took his weapon and struck Flop’s forehead, with it’s long bangs, sending the contents inside flushing out.
With his brain matter splattering, and with his red blood and red flames mixing, Flop was dead. With the ear-piercing sound of flowing water, Flop's body collapsed. The flowing blood was oozing slowly, soiling Subaru's butt which was on the floor. No, Subaru's pants were already soiled by other things. Incontinence at fear...
The terrifying figure of the man dragging the bloody axe in the flame made Subaru feel terrified. That persistence, stubbornness, and dread shook his very soul.
That was a terribly foolish question. Flop, who asked the same question, was mercilessly killed. Of course, there is no reason for the man to be merciful to Subaru only. Subaru will die too. He will be killed. He did not have the strength to move back, nor the courage to move forward. Right now, his eyes cannot leave the man.
Even though he was afraid of looking at the man, he was also afraid to look away.
Like a mere fool, Subaru yelled that desperately. Even after hearing his screams, the man answered nothing. He continued to cover his face, and slowly raised his axe, straight towards the head of Subaru who had lost all strength in his body. And then...
???: "I won't tell you anything, yeah? If you run away again, it would be very troublesome, right?"
To Subaru, who was screaming like he was vomiting blood, the man finally responded. At hearing that way of announcing things as though they were natural, along with that tone of voice, Subaru held his breath. He wanted to compare that voice with another voice he heard somewhere before.
However, the axe was rapidly swung downard in one strike, splitting Subaru’s cranium. A small, hard sound echoed.