...When Subaru closed his eyes, a scene appeared in his mind.
In the middle of a densely wooded forest, he saw muddy dirt and felt the atmosphere of imposing men. The roar of a demon beast echoed throughout the air as if to cut straight through it, and its will to fight grew ever stronger at the start of the battle. Then, it turned its wicked nature towards Subaru, who had invited it.
It was an act that Subaru himself had consciously, with self awareness, decided to do, and so he did. He balanced the scales in his mind, compared what was important to him with what was not, and executed his plan. It was an act of determination to cause harm to others.
Those who were not used to fighting against demon beasts wouldn’t know what could happen when they fought against them. They could have overpowered it in an instant, or some of them could have been severely injured. He didn't want to think about it, but that’s not all, there were some who may have lost their lives.
...No, he should assume that there were.
He should justify what he did, and he should admit that he decided to do it. Natsuki Subaru tipped the scales and executed a plan that might have led to other people’s deaths.
They were not Witch Cultists, not Sin Archbishops, nor evildoers who harm others out of malice. He had attacked people who were following orders from the chain of command, people who had chosen to bear arms as a livelihood, people with whom he could have had a conversation, people with whom he could have built a friendship with in different circumstances.
If so, this was more than likely a natural, inevitable, and spontaneous event.
Natsuki Subaru will have to pay for the actions of Natsuki Subaru.
Flop: "...Husband-kun, you shouldn’t frown."
Flop: "Good fortune will not appear for those who don’t smile and don’t stay composed… H.., Husband-kun!"
Immediately after the tip of the axe sunk into Subaru’s skull, his vision cleared with a hard sound. As his vision cleared, what jumped into his view was the figure of Flop, who pressed his finger against his brow. A beautiful young man with long bangs and a thin face, Subaru recalled the events of ten seconds ago when the young man’s head had been smashed, and Subaru immediately covered his mouth and knelt down on the spot. The feeling of nausea came over him at the sequence of violent events that had befallen him, his heart jumped as if it was going to explode, the tightening of his guts and the noisy ringing in his ears tormented Subaru. Flop's voice, concerned for Subaru, was distant, and the sound didn't enter his mind at all.
Subaru's lips spun a short sound as he listened to the intense ringing in his ears and the screams of his internal organs. It was the name of the person he had met in the Vollachia Empire, the person to whom Natsuki Subaru had first turned his pure hostility towards, and...
He is the fiendish assailant who had carried out the terrible tragedy just before.
A burning tavern and a cloud of black smoke. One after another, drunks fell victim to the axe because of the pungent substance in the smoke. It was probably a simple tear gas bomb laced with potent spices, but the effects were extraordinary. The magic stone was used to start a fire, blocking the exit and leading the survivors to the back door. Standing in the doorway and, taking advantage of the relief that it was breached, he took the strongest man by surprise. Then he protected himself from the smoke with a wet cloth and directly killed Subaru.
The last words, the voice, and most importantly, the eyes that he saw through the cloth told Subaru who the man was. It was Todd. ...He was the man who was supposed to have died in the Buddheim Forest.
That, too, was unconfirmed information.
The encampment of Imperial soldiers had been devastated by the attack of the People of Shudrak led by Abel. Hearing that there had been many casualties, over a hundred, Subaru shut out any more information out of fear of being injured. And, he hurriedly made the decision to take Rem and leave Abel and the others.
So he didn't even think about the possibility that there were survivors from the raid on the encampment. The same was true for Todd and his men, who had nothing to do with the raid by the People of Shudrak, and whom Subaru had chosen to attack himself.
Subaru: "If this is the closest town to the forest, it's no wonder the survivors would run here."
It was inevitable that the Imperial soldiers who had been attacked at their encampment and escaped with their lives would head for Guaral. And yet, Subaru didn't even think about it as he walked into the city where the enemy was waiting for him. And he did that with Rem in tow.
That word came to his mind and left a taste of bitterness on his tongue. When Subaru was in his original world, the word enemy was only found in manga and video games. Even after he had been summoned to this other world, the only enemies he ever faced were witch cultists and demon beasts.
So this was the first time he ever called someone who isn't like that, an enemy. And this enemy was one that Natsuki Subaru had created through his own actions.
With a hard clacking sound, Subaru clamped down on his back teeth hard.
He bit the inside of his cheek, and the sharp pain and taste of blood grasped at the heart of his consciousness, forcing him back to reality. If that hadn't been enough, he could bite off all the flesh in his mouth. He didn't need his guts being squeezed, his ears ringing, his limbs trembling, nor his brain numb.
Now wasn’t the time for him to be overcome by evil spirits and dread. Even if it was all bravado, it cannot be stripped away until the situation changes.
Flop: "Husband-kun, hang on, Husband-kun! Do you want some water?"
Subaru: "...Tch, I'm fine. My bad, Flop-san, sorry for worrying you...!"
He didn’t look or sound okay at all, but Subaru told that to himself as he slowly stood up.
The trembling in his knees and the discomfort in his cowering guts remained. But he couldn't crouch down forever. Even as Subaru indulges his vulnerability like that, time is moving forward. During this time Todd's plan to attack was still in progress.
Subaru: "Hey, I need a favor, Flop-san. I need you to go back to the inn and get some medicine for my chronic illness from Rem."
Flop: "Medicine? Husband-kun, are you sick or something ?"
Subaru: "Yeah, my chronic shiny ankle disease is getting pretty bad."
Flop: "Oh my! That’s a strange name for an illness"
Flop's eyes widened in surprise as he was told the sloppy name for the illness. It doesn't feel good to take advantage of his good nature, but Subaru needed to turn a blind eye to that fact since he had no choice in this situation. Subaru’s priority right then was to get Flop away from him as soon as possible.
If Todd's goal is revenge, he will be forced to come after Subaru once Subaru and Flop separated. Once Flop was safe, Subaru could concentrate on protecting himself. He hadn't yet chosen what the right course of action would be, but...
Subaru: "I’ll meet up with Rowan at the tavern and then leave to avoid a surprise attack. After that, I can go to ..."
He had to act in a very haphazard manner. However, since there is no time to stop and carefully think, there is no choice but to implement the best move that comes to mind and in hopes of getting a lucky break.
Subaru: "If Rem..."
If Flop went back to the inn to get the medicine with a made up name, Rem would know that something was wrong with Subaru. Or rather, he’d like to think Rem would.
Subaru wants to believe that if she does, she won't send Flop back out, but will keep him there. It's all wishful thinking, but this was the limit of what Subaru could come up with right now.
Subaru: "Flop-san, please!"
Flop: "U-understood! Wait for me here! Stay strong, Husband-kun!"
Struck by Subaru's desperation, which was not an act, Flop headed the way he had come towards the inn. Seeing Flop off, Subaru decided to hurry to the bar instead.
The fastest way he could bring the drunken Rowan back to his senses, would be to throw some gold coin at him to hire him. He'd like to believe too, that Rowan was capable of going head-to-head, even when he was taken by surprise. He could only cling to fate, and hope that Rowan would be the strongest in Vollachia...
With something similar to a prayer, Subaru was about to run off, when he suddenly heard a snatched voice behind him.
Since it was a deserted alley, there was only one person to whom the voice he heard could belong to. The question was, what kind of emotion did the voice weave, and what could it be connected to? But he knew immediately that it would lead to an uncomfortable conclusion.
The hoarse voice was followed by Flop’s nervous scream. Quickly turning around, Subaru found Flop toppled down at the end of the road. A small knife had pierced the thigh of Fop's raised right thigh. The blade was buried deep, and it had taken away Flop's ability to run.
Subaru bit his lip as he turned around in a panic from his running stance and slipped on the ground. He kicked up off the ground as it was and ran up to Flop, who had been hit in the leg.
Once again, he was suddenly caught off-guard.. If they split into two groups, Subaru naturally assumed that he would be the priority. But the fact that Flop was suddenly targeted was beyond his calculations. In the first place, he hadn't expected to be attacked immediately here.
Subaru: "Flop-san I'll take you to a place where you can be treated immediately!"
With various regrets and remorse, Subaru rushed towards Flop's side. Flop writhed with pain in his leg, but there was no time for immediate medical attention. Lending him his shoulder, going to a place where there were people… no, it could lead up to the same situation of getting run over in the street again. The best thing to do would be to drag him to the bar, even if he had to force himself. The fortunate thing was that the knife had hit the leg. This meant that unless a large blood vessel was damaged, there was little danger of death.
As he thought about it, a question suddenly popped into Subaru's head. It was good news that Flop was not in a life-threatening condition. But why was that the case? Judging from the manner of the massacre in the tavern, the enemy was well versed in the art of killing. But why did he limit his attack on Flop to his legs?
This was manga knowledge, but a sniper's combat technique came to mind. Snipers, who hide in plain sight and attack their opponents from a distance, deliberately do not kill their targets when they take on a group, but only wound them. He would then lure out those who were trying to rescue their fallen comrades and bring them one by one into his clutches.
This was a nightmarish way of taking advantage of camaraderie and inability to abandon the wounded. Why did he remember that at this moment? It was...
Subaru: "Damn it!"
Just as he had a bad premonition, a dark light flashed in the alleyway right next to the fallen Flop. Immediately afterwards, Subaru raised his arm to protect his head, and a sharp blow that was thrust from in front of Subaru drove him back.
The back of Subaru's head hit the ground as he was blown away by the hard impact. As his vision blurred and his ears rang loudly, Subaru let his rolling momentum carry him backwards another full revolution. Keeping his distance from the source of the impact, he reaches for his forehead, which is burning from the blow that failed to kill him. Perhaps, his forehead was cut from the harsh blow...
His right hand, which he aimed to touch his forehead, had been blown off at the forearm area between his wrist and elbow.
The right arm, with its mutilated surface exposed, had white bones and peach-colored muscle fibers peeking out, and blood was spurting out vigorously with each heartbeat. Subaru hurriedly tried to stop the bleeding by pressing down on the wound, but his left hand was also wounded, with his palm split vertically and each of his disfigured fingers pointing in different directions. It was a sign that he had been hit awkwardly by his attacker. One could say it was a blunder to run up to Flop without any protection in the first place. A blunder, blunder, blunder, blunder, blunder blunder, mistake, mistake, mistake, mistake, mistake...
While pressing on the gushing blood, Subaru fell into panic from the pain and sense of loss. In front of Subaru, was a man who made a small sound with his throat, and an axe hanging from one hand--the one whose figure appeared from the alleyway was a young man with orange hair and a bandana, Todd.
This time, he didn't hide his face. The evil eyes Subaru had seen in the tavern were not a mistake. It was Todd, after all, who had attacked Subaru in order to kill him.
Subaru’s back teeth cracked as he bit down, as he glared at Todd with bloodshot eyes. He didn't know if it was out of anger, hatred, or a more pathetic plea for his life, but Todd's reaction was cold. Todd traces his fingers over the blade of the axe that destroyed Subaru's arms with an expression that shows no particular emotion.
Todd: "I'll have to sharpen it up better, my mistake, my mistake."
He said in a nonchalant manner, reflecting on what to do next.
Subaru: "Ka, ah......"
Todd: "Now then."
Subaru's eyes widened and he tried to speak with a trembling tongue. However, Todd paid no heed to Subaru's words and quickly raised his axe with a casual gesture. It was as if he had no interest in Subaru's words or identity.
???: "Uh, aaaaaah!"
But before Todd could drop the axe he had swung up, someone jumped on his body.
It wasn't Subaru, whose arm was mangled and who was moaning in pain. It was Flop, who jumped on Todd to protect Subaru, who was disabled by the ambush. The good merchant, who should have been fighting the intense pain from the knife in his right leg, clung to Todd's back and looked over his shoulder at Subaru.
Flop: "Husband-kun! Run! Run right now--"
With earnestness in his slender face,Flop's face was struck up by the chin as he appealed strongly. Todd, locked in place from his elbows, Flop, the young man who had never been the violent type, was easily ripped away. Then, turning to the downed Flop, Todd raises his axe.
There was no time to stop him, and a light shout was followed by a difficult, sharp mushy sound. Having been hit by an elbow, as Flop looked up, his face was hit by the blade of an axe, splitting his head open and turning the young man into a corpse. Blood flowed, brain matter spilt, and his limbs convulsed. Subaru's mouth dropped open as he watched the alleyway slowly become soaked in blood.
But the pain, confusion, and a resurgent fear robbed Subaru of normal thought. What the hell is this man in front of him?
Subaru: "I ..."
Subaru: "I, I know you have a grudge against me..."
Subaru said this to Todd, who turned around, dodging the blood from Flop’s corpse.
Worn out, tears and snot flowed out immensely. With blood pouring from his mouth, where his back teeth were shattered, and blood spurting from his right arm, Subaru's whole body was a mess. He had not defecated himself, but that was no consolation.
Once again, he had let Flop die. Subaru tried to save him, but he died because Subaru was not capable. He let him die like that, with a face he wouldn’t want Flop’s sister, Medium, to see.
Subaru: "But, a bystander... a bystander! Don't drag them into this ...!”
There were reasons for resentment. It was hard to say that it was justified, but there was a history between Subaru and Todd that made it natural. So it was inevitable that he would come after Subaru. But, it’s against the rules to involve a bystander. It was a cowardly act. It was far from being fair. It's bad. Isn't it evil?
Already, Subaru's denunciation of the other party was losing its theoretical basis. Hearing Subaru's complaint, Todd groaned.
Todd: "Aah, what do you mean, I have a grudge?"
Todd tilted his head curiously as he wiped the blood splattered on his cheek in the bloody alley. Subaru gulped for a moment at the bluntness of Todd’s attitude and reply, but he was immediately filled with unbearable rage and spat out...
Subaru: "You're joking! You ambush me, set up traps...me, relentlessly...!"
Relentlessly, he cornered him relentlessly. No matter what Subaru did, he would always be prepared ahead of time with a trap to make sure he could kill him. It would be a pointless waywardness to aim so hard at Subaru and then play dumb here. It's a blasphemy against Flop’s death. Was he trying to humiliate Subaru and relieve his resentment?
Todd: "I don't know what misunderstanding you have but there are no hard feelings about me killing you. I found a dangerous guy in town. Of course I'm going to kill him, no questions asked."
Todd: "I don’t kill venomous snakes out of resentment, I kill them out of fear. I'll use what I can get my hands on to kill them."
No more, no less, Todd carefully peeled the hair and skin from the axe. It may have been a piece of Flop's crushed head, but Subaru couldn't help but be stunned.
There was no lie in Todd's demeanor as he smiled and replied matter-of-factly. Todd's previous attacks on Subaru proved that he meant what he said.
Todd only wants to kill Subaru because he considers him to be dangerous. That's why he wouldn't ask anything, wouldn't let anything happen, wouldn't let anything be said. And he didn't even hate Subaru for what he did in the forest. The only impression Todd had of Subaru from that act was that Subaru was a dangerous person.
Therefore, Todd didn’t get emotional and tried to kill Subaru without hesitation.
Todd: "You're just like me...I won't give you the time of day."
As he said this, Todd placed the sole of his shoe on Subaru's chest and kicked him backwards. Unable to resist, Subaru fell on his back, and Todd stepped on top of him and raised his axe.
Subaru opened his eyes and searched for the right words.
Using Return by Death, and exploring possibilities leading back from every scene was Subaru's way of grasping victory. However, there are situations where this method did not work, even with a Sin Archbishop. That was...
Todd: "I won’t wait."
...That was the case, where the opponent is a ruthless killer.
Flop: “...Husband-kun, you shouldn't frown.”
Flop: “Good fortune will not appear for those who don’t smile… What’s wrong? You suddenly turned very pale.”
Surely, most people’s faces would turn pale after seeing an axe fall straight towards their face. Subaru put his hands to his face, and his emotions were filled with a mix of relief and fear as he felt the coldness of his would be bloody face and the fact that his hands were intact and well.
Subaru: "Enough, no more..."
Subaru had no idea what to do.
In terms of time, his last few loops had only taken about twenty minutes. In those twenty minutes, Subaru had already lost his life a total of five times. In the final phase of the Pleiades Watchtower, Subaru had experienced death more than fifteen times in order to secure victory, but he had been certain that he was making progress, step by step.
That was not the case this time. He didn’t feel that the accumulating corpses of Natsuki Subaru were contributing to his victory. If there was one thing he could say, it was this.
Subaru: "...Even now, I’m being watched."
Todd was already keeping an eye on Subaru and Flop. Consequently, the moment he and Flop split up, Todd would mercilessly use Flop as bait. It’d be a different story if Subaru was cold hearted enough to use Flop as a decoy, but since he wasn’t, if Flop was attacked, Subaru would do everything in his power to save him.
This wasn’t the same as when he had to weigh Rem’s safety against Todd and his men’s well-being. Flop had been nice to Subaru, Rem and Louis, even though they were complete strangers. There was no way Subaru could choose to leave him to die. Therefore, a plan that separated him from Flop wasn’t feasible.
At the same time, Subaru was deprived of the option of returning to the inn. It was unclear when Todd had discovered Subaru’s presence, but if Todd only saw him on the way to the tavern, the location of the inn and Rem’s whereabouts were not yet exposed.
Yes, Rem’s whereabouts haven’t been exposed. That was quite believable. If Rem’s location was known, Todd would have used her to kill Subaru in a more systematic way. It was ironic that his trust in Todd's cunningness was, on the contrary, proof that Rem hasn’t fallen into his hands.
Subaru: "In any case..."
Biting his lip and covering his face with his palm, Subaru’s mind churned frantically. Time. In any case, he doesn’t have enough time.
If he split with Flop, Todd would attack immediately. Since Subaru had no weapons, he had to take away his opponent’s fighting power in one blow. Which is impossible.
If he ran away to the main street, Todd would run him over and kill him. Even if he were to avoid the Imperial carriage, there was a high possibility that Todd would take advantage of the chaos happening on the main street to make his move. On top of that, the people around them, who had nothing to do with the loose ground dragon cart, would be involved. That was unjustifiable.
If they tried to take another path, every alleyway in the city would become a hunting ground for Todd. It was impossible for him to take every direction into account, and even if he could withstand the initial attack, Subaru would still have a lack of fighting power and be unable to construct a counter attack plan. That was impossible.
The best thing to do would be to rush to the tavern with Flop and prepare their forces to intercept Todd before he got ready to attack the tavern. It would be a challenge to get Rowan to take them seriously, but that was the best chance Subaru could find right now. He couldn’t think of anything else he could do.
Subaru: "Damn, damn...."
What a troublesome ally to have turned into an enemy. If this was against the Sin Archbishops, who relied on authorities, they had the charm of letting their strengths turn into their weaknesses. It was because their weaknesses would be brought to light by unraveling the trick behind their authorities. Todd, on the other hand, was nothing like that. He would use whatever he could. It’s as he had said.
He didn’t rely on anything, and he doesn't consider the damage he dealt to the people around him. After he killed Subaru, what would he say to the people around him? Even that was completely uncertain. He hadn’t considered the possibility of that. To kill what must be killed, Todd had a fear of harboring unnecessary thoughts.
Flop: “Husband-kun? Are you okay? If there’s something wrong, we’d better head back towards the inn…”
Subaru: “No, no!! That wouldn’t be good! That’s a big no-no.”
Having answered with great spirit, Flop looked at Subaru with surprise. After his outburst, Subaru seriously cursed himself and his mental weakness. If he displayed unusual behavior, Todd would get suspicious. If that happened, Subaru would lose the advantage of using Return by Death.
Since he was already being tracked, the only thing that would allow Subaru to have an advantage over Todd would be his preconceived idea that his location wasn’t known to Subaru. Whether he decided to ambush, trap, escape, or counterattack, Subaru couldn’t let Todd know that he knew Todd was tracking him. That’s...
Suddenly, a thought crossed Subaru's mind as he was desperately considering countermeasures against Todd. Todd was not constricted to only one method, nor did he care about the damage caused to the people around him. ...Though he didn’t care about others around him, Todd cared about the damage to himself.
Or rather, he wanted to reduce the damage to himself, which explained the surprise attacks. Todd said it himself, in his own words.
Todd: "I don’t kill venomous snakes out of resentment, I kill them out of fear.. .”
If that was the case...
Subaru: "...Todd! I know you're there!"
Subaru shouted, following a sudden thought. Immediately, Flop jumped in surprise at the suddenness of the situation. But Flop wasn't the only one who was surprised. Todd, who had been following and watching Subaru, must have been surprised as well.
Believing the fact that Todd would be surprised, Subaru's eyes sharpened, his cheeks twisted viciously, and he glared around in a circle, making the most evil face he could.
Subaru: "You're a stubborn son of a bitch! I thought you were dead after what happened to you, but you're still alive, you lucky bastard! But I'm not letting you go this time! I'll kill you!"
He yelled in a voice that was as sharp as he could make it, laced with a lot of malice and hostility. Whatever alley Todd was lurking in, he made sure his voice would reach him, so that he knew that Natsuki Subaru was aware of his presence.
Subaru: "You think you can beat me, huh? That's a terrible joke, man! I'm laughing at you, hahahahahaha! I can't wait to see you run around like a fool again!"
Subaru laughed loudly in the middle of the alley, using both provocation and mockery. Subaru was glad that he had confidence in his acting, and for once he was really grateful for his brazen nature. Otherwise, Todd would have heard the trembling in his voice, the fright on his face, and the fear in his eyes. It was thanks to Natsuki Subaru’s bad nature that it didn't come out.
Flop: "H..., Husband-kun ......?"
Subaru: "Shh, Flop-san, please stop talking."
Shutting Flop up, who was taken aback by Subaru's sudden change, Subaru began to walk off proudly, pulling on Flop’s arm. They weren’t going the same way they came from. Subaru was sure that Todd was lurking in that direction. So he stops midway through his walk, and turns his head to look behind him into the alley.
Subaru: “Oh, and if you want to try and set me up, you’re welcome to try. I’ll tear you to pieces if that’s what you want.”
He wasn’t sure whether this one would get through, but he dared himself to raise his middle finger as a final provocation. With that, Subaru walked to the end of the alley with a fearless smile, hiding the explosions happening in his heart.
To be honest, it was a complete gamble. He also thoroughly considered that there was a chance that Todd would go into a frenzy at Subaru’s provocation, jumping out of the alley and swinging his axe. ...But Subaru believed that wouldn’t happen. Todd wasn’t the type to get upset. He was the type of guy who just kept trying to figure out the best move.
That’s why Subaru thought that his bluff would work on Todd. If he traced back Todd’s thoughts, who was trying to kill Subaru when he caught sight of him downtown, the main idea was Subaru’s elimination as a risk factor. If a method to achieve that, such as a surprise attack, resulted in hauling victory, that would be good, but if not, he would find another way.
Todd wasn’t obsessed about how things got done. That’s what made him different from an Sin Archbishop. And therefore, Subaru would have to get that flexibility to be of use.
Subaru: "After this, is..."
Subaru started his plan in the spur of the moment, but what he was going to do next was unknown. If Todd raised his guard against Subaru, that would put more time until the next attack. During that time, Subaru would have to choose between fight or flight.
If he wanted to fight, he would have to get Rowan from the tavern, since he had no other choice. Getting Rowan’s help was the best option. If they were to escape, he’d have to head to the inn, grab Rem’s hand and get out of the city. He was sorry, but he’d have to ask Flop to accompany them, or else Flop and Medium would be in danger as well. And if he chose to flee the city, the only place Subaru could go is...
Subaru: "So, that's how it is."
During this, Subaru was on high alert on the alley behind him, but at that moment, his eyes went bloodshot.
At that moment, he forgot his fear of Todd, his apologeticness to Flop, his worry about Rem, his yearning for Emilia, his longing for Beatrice, and more or less everything. Forgetting, clutching at the feeling that came over him, Subaru shut his eyes tightly. And then...
Subaru: "We need to leave Guaral right now... Before my bluff is seen through."
After deciding what to do next, Subaru's actions were swift. Even when he left the alley and started to act, Todd didn’t trap him, and that provocation by Subaru had no doubt worked to increase his alertness. But a bluff like that was no more than a temporary fix.
Subaru: "He’ll surely see through it immediately... Right now, to a place out of that guy's reach…”
They have to escape. With that in mind, Subaru took Flop, with no explanation, back to the inn they had just left, the one they had left before the five deaths, and ran up the stairs. He then knocked on the door of the room where Rem and the other women were, and rushed in.
Subaru: "Rem! You're safe... woah!?"
Medium: "Oh, wow! What’s with you guys?! I almost killed you!"
As he opened the door, the cold blade of a barbaric sword was placed on Subaru's neck. Medium, who was holding the sword, retracted the weapon while apologizing, "Sorry sorry”. Behind Medium, at the back of the room, Rem rolls her eyes at the attack.
Rem: "Hey, what's happening all of a sudden? Just when I thought you had left, you came back this quickly…"
The surprised Rem hurled abusive insults at Subaru, whose expression had changed drastically. . However, Subaru didn't hear it all, and quickly ran over to Rem and hugged her body. As her slender body was being hugged from the front, Rem’s shoulders shrunk and she choked on her breath. Then...
Rem: "...Please let go of me."
Subaru: "...Oh, sorry. I just got so emotional…”
Rem: "That, I understand. With how you look now, I can see that this is a serious situation."
After confirming that she was safe, Subaru was overcome with emotion, but Rem calmly pulled him away. He was expecting Rem to call him out for his spur-of-the-moment behavior, but when she let out a long sigh, she didn't mention the rudeness of the moment.
Rem: "So, what happened?"
Subaru: "...A bad guy found me. We’ve managed to buy ourselves some time now. We can't stay long. I’m sorry, we just got here but...''
Rem: "Leaving town, huh? I understand. Louis-chan, please take my luggage."
Just as Subaru was thinking that he didn't have time to explain the details, as if sensing his feelings, Rem grasped the established situation without trouble. As if that weren't enough, even Louis, who was instructed by Rem, said “Woo!” and carried the luggage on her back. ...No, that's odd.
Subaru: "Why haven't you unpacked? We're in an inn..."
Subaru: "No way, Rem, you…”
Rem, who had fallen silent, said nothing to Subaru's suspicious gaze. However, her silent stance was as good as an affirmation of Subaru's suspicion.
Subaru: "So that's how it is… No wonder you were able to follow me so easily…”
Flop: "...Husband-kun, you seem to have a lot on your mind, but that's not the point, is it?"
Flop tapped Subaru on the shoulder, who had covered his forehead, savoring the indivisible feeling of Rem's attitude. The serious expression on Flop's face prompted Subaru to take action. He must not waste the time created by the great play of a lifetime.
Flop: "Sister, we're leaving town along with these three. I've heard that there's a dangerous paramour after this Husband-kun! We have to let his wife and niece come with us!"
Medium: "Oh, really, An-chan? But I've already taken off my boots!"
Flop: "Put them back on, little sister! You can use your shoes as many times as you like! That's their strength!"
Medium: "Ohh! That's awesome, An-chan! You're a genius with shoes!"
After Flop's brave persuasion, a convinced Medium hurriedly put her boots back on. Since it was between brother and sister, outsiders were not allowed to interfere, but Subaru picked up Rem's body, feeling very doubtful that the conversation had gone through.
Rem: "Hey! At least on your back..."
Subaru: "Emergency evacuation! My backpack is on Flop's cart… Flop! Where's the cart?!”
Flop: "The inn’s stables! And for the record, it’s no exaggeration to say that Botecliffe the falo is our third sibling! He's a sweet little brother that we can't leave behind!"
Medium: "An-chan! Botecliffe is girl!"
Flop: "Our sweet little sister!"
Louis: "Woo! Woo!"
Subaru ran downstairs with Rem in his arms in a great hurry, accompanied by a group of people who were making a tremendous amount of noise despite the impending situation.
Subaru: "Sorry about all the commotion! Please take the money for the room!”
Passing the reception desk of the inn, Subaru and the others run out without asking for a refund for not staying at the inn. They went straight to the stables and found Flop and his friends' things in a tethered cart.
Subaru: "How fast can a falo go when running with all their might?!"
Flop: "Haha, I haven’t let her run at full strength even once. Hey Little sister, how fast do you think she can go?"
Medium: "I don't know, but probably faster than you!"
While listening to the unreliable answer, Subaru pushed Rem up onto the back of the ox cart. He threw Louis, who was running in, next to Rem and opened the entrance to the stables. Once Flop and Medium were on board, they’ll be ready to escape. And then...
Rem: "Um, what is a paramour? What kind of explanation did you give Flop-san?"
Subaru: "Now’s not the time for that! Flop-san, get Botecliffe running at full throttle!"
Flop: "Yes! I know what to do! Run, Botecliffe!!"
As she climbed into the back of the truck, Rem appeared in Subaru’s eyes and pulled at his sleeve, but Subaru didn't answer her question and called out to Flop's back. In response, Flop swung the reins and strongly hit the back of the brave bull- Botecliffe. And the cart started to run. Slowly.
Subaru: "She’s extremely slow! She’s walking!"
Medium: "Botecliffe! Run! Listen to your brother, Botecliffe!"
Rem: "I don't think she believes you're her brother…”
With a feeling that there was truth to Rem’s brief comment, Botecliffe's running speed… no, walking speed, remains the same. At this rate, it would be much better for Subaru to carry Rem on his back and run with everyone else. And so, as Subaru's sense of urgency grew...
Medium: "Bote-chin! Run...! Or I'll make you dinner!"
Botecliff: “...Tsh tsch!"
Medium shouted as she raised the barbarian swords she had pulled out above her head, rubbing it together and making a sound. With a big smile on Medium’s face, she must have sensed the seriousness in Medium's attitude when she said that, because the next moment, Botecliff let out a big, fat squeal and started running down the road furiously.
Subaru screamed on the back of the cart as he was swept up by the tremendous acceleration and shaking. As Botecliffe ran out of the stables and into the main street, she drifted in the wrong direction and nearly threw Subaru out of the back of the cart, but Rem quickly grabbed his hand.
Subaru: "Oh, that was dangerous! Thank you, Rem! Your hands are so smooth...”
Subaru: "Don't let go so suddenly!"
With the course of events causing unnecessary thoughts to leak out, Subaru's head hit the back of the cart as she let go of his hand. But fortunately, he was not shaken off, and they were all in the running falo cart. As it was, the falo cart ran down the street at a vigorous pace, attracting a lot of attention as it went right and left, dodging other dragon carts, ox carts, and dog carts on its way to the main gate.
Subaru: "If we continue through the main street, we'll get to the main gate where the checkpoint was…”
Rem: "No, it doesn't look like it's going to be that easy."
Subaru: "What? Oh, oi, oi, oi, oi!"
Subaru's eyes widened when he saw what Rem was pointing to, ahead of the fast-moving falo cart. Men wearing armor inscribed with the national seal of the Sword Wolf were deployed as if blocking the main street on the way. Imperial soldiers were attempting to block the path of Subaru and the others.
Subaru: "Todd…! You changed your plan and called in your buddies!"
Although Todd was nowhere to be seen in the line of waiting Imperial soldiers, their attempt to block the way of Subaru and the others was undoubtedly due to Todd's involvement. After being challenged in the alley, Todd thought that he would not fare well alone, so he gathered his friends. It was a very rational and inevitable decision. It's so accurate, it was almost revolting...
???: “...You bastards! Don't you think you can escape!!”
And standing in for the absent Todd at the head of the deployed soldiers was a familiar face. A man with an eye patch over his right eye, who was the very picture of roughness and crudeness… Jamal. He was the man who had accompanied Todd and had been trapped by Subaru in the forest. Seeing that Todd was alive, it’s no mystery that he’s also alive but...
Jamal: "How dare you sic a demon beast on me! I’ll kill you!"
Subaru: "...He's simply got a grudge against me? I'm relieved to hear that."
His bloodshot eyes and screaming rage made Jamal's attitude more human and reassuring. However, that doesn't mean that Jamal's existence was no longer a threat. The Imperial Guard, including Jamal, are a genuine threat. How in the world can they break through that?
Medium: "An-chan, hold on to the reins tightly. I'm counting on you."
Flop: "Yeah, go for it, little sister!"
But, before Subaru could choose his next move in the limited time available, the siblings Flop and Medium O'Connell on the coachman’s side gave their answer. And before he had time to stop them, Medium, with her foot on the top of the platform, fell forward--
And with that, she kicked the platform with the sole of her shoe, and her body shot out with the speed of an arrow. Straight away, Medium, with her barbaric swords drawn, plunged into the ranks of the enemy in front of her.
Medium: "Come on~!!"
Gouging the ground with her heels, Medium, who had forcibly stopped the enemy in their tracks, swung her arms. The barbaric swords raged as they caressed the wind, creating a tremendous shockwave that sent the Imperial soldiers, wearing their suits armor, flying high into the air while spilling blood.
Subaru: "S...so strooong!!~!!"
Rem: "Is that really a compliment to say to a woman?"
Subaru: "What else would I say! This is a compliment! Medium, you're strong!"
While Rem coldly pointed out his honest impression, Subaru raised his voice at the unexpected strength. Hearing Subaru's voice, Flop on the platform proudly rubbed his nose with his finger.
Flop: "How about that, that's my sister's true strength! I'm not much of a fighter! Together with my sister, we complement each other…."
Subaru: "You're crushing your weaknesses! I know what that means!”
Flop: "You know what I'm talking about!?"
Flop's eyes lit up and he flashed his white teeth, as if he liked Subaru's answer. It was just what Flop had told him, but he saw with his own eyes that it was true. The rampaging Medium destroyed one Imperial soldier after another blocking the way, prying open the path for the falo cart to exit.
Subaru: "If this…”
Jamal: "...Don't get carried away, bitch."
Subaru had just tightened his fist when he saw a bright light. At that moment, a flashing white blade swooped down on Medium, and when she took it with her barbaric sword, her body was easily blown away. Medium was surprised by the impact. The one who knocked her away was a man who clutched a sword in both hands, just like her... Jamal.
Jamal: "Even though we've been reduced in numbers, we can't afford to be cut back because of this mess! Now, I want you all to grovel at my feet!!"
Medium: "Yikes! Whoa! An-chan, this guy's strong!"
Shouting angrily, Jamal wields his twin swords and sets them on Medium. Medium takes it, but even to the casual observer, the difference in strength was obvious. This was the first time he saw Jamal fight in person, but Jamal was much more skilled than Subaru anticipated. ...Perhaps the one who had turned the tables on the Elgina that Subaru set after them was none other than Jamal.
Subaru: "This isn't good! There's no distance!"
Thanks to Medium's fighting, the number of Imperial soldiers blocking the way had decreased. With the momentum of the falo cart, it would be possible to break through with a rush, but that was only if Jamal, who was standing in the middle of the road, wasn't there. As long as Jamal was there, it was unlikely that they would be able to escape.
At that moment, Flop shouted. The cornered Medium glanced towards her brother's high-pitched voice. Perhaps it was expected that he would be able to give some advice on how to get them back on track...
Flop: “...Keep at it!!"
What came out was an unmistakable belief that where there's a will, there's a way. In response, Subaru's thoughts went blank, even Jamal was taken aback. However, Medium O'Connell, who was bonded to him by blood, was different.
Medium: "I'll do my best...!!"
Medium's barbaric sword roared in response to her brother’s cheers. From her defensive posture, she moved to attack furiously, and the storm of barbaric swords she wielded struck Jamal's entire body.
Subaru: "Would a desperate heave work against an Imperial soldier…!?”
However, Jamal's counterattack stung Medium as he parried the fierce attack with his twin swords. She suffered lacerations on her arms and legs, bleeding and grimacing in pain, and yet she still turned the number of moves she was using for defense to attack, daring Jamal to halt her. Subaru tried desperately to shout, "No, you can't do that," as he wondered if she was going to stay behind to stall Jamal...
Subaru: "Whoa! Rem, what the… rope?"
As Subaru tried to scream, Rem pressed a rope from the back of the cart against his chest. It seemed to be thick and sturdy enough to hold the cargo in place. However, Subaru was puzzled as to what to do with it.
Rem: "...The one with the eye patch!"
Shouting this, Rem stood up, carried a crate loaded on the back of the truck, and threw it vigorously at Jamal. Jamal, who had been called, turned around and said, "Oh?" When he saw the crate approaching him, he swung his arm in an annoyed manner and easily cut the crate in half. His body was then bathed in the spices that were packed inside the crate.
Jamal: "Guoh!? Hey, this is…”
Jamal waved his arms in pain, his vision covered by the scattered powder. At that moment, Medium tried to take advantage of the opening created and aimed at his back with a barbarian sword, but...
Faster than that, the falo cart reached the battlefield of the Medium and Jamal. Subaru then swung the rope Rem had given him and threw it at Medium. Seeing this, Medium prioritized grabbing the rope instead of attacking Jamal.
Medium: "Got it!"
At the sound of Medium's voice, Subaru endured the weight on the rope with his whole body. He propped his feet up on the back of the cart, supporting Medium's weight and helping her return. Having lept for the rope, Medium stepped to return to the back of the falo cart. With that, they would retrieve Medium, break through the main gate, and head out...
Jamal: "I said, don't think you can escape!"
In an instant, a furious Jamal leapt out, cutting through the smoke of spices. As he did so, Jamal aimed at Medium's back as he lunged forward, and tried to slam his twin swords mercilessly into it. In a flash, Jamal's blow would send Medium into a pool of her own blood...
Rem: "This is payback for what happened at the river!"
Jamal's face was hit by a backpack thrown by Rem from the cargo area. The backpack, which should have been given over to Flop and his sister, crashed into Jamal's face and shattered into pieces, ending its life completely. Jamal turned over as Medium returned to the falo cart. She threw the barbaric swords she was holding onto the back of the truck and laid down on the spot in a big heap.
Medium: "Woah, whoa! That was close...! An-chan, that was dangerous!"
Flop: "Oh, yes, little sister! You and your wife did a great job! You saved us!"
Medium: "Really, really, thank you! You saved me...!"
Subaru: "N-not at all. It was totally us who were saved."
As Medium returned to the back of the cart, Flop cheered her on. But the siblings' gratitude was misplaced. In any case, the O'Connell siblings had been a great help to them from start to finish in this city. After all, they were involved in Subaru's situation, how could they apologize?
Guard: "Stop...! Stop! Sto... whoa!"
A gate guard who was trying to stop the fast-moving falo cart leapt sideways to avoid it. The carriage carrying Subaru and the others passed by at full speed and went to the main gate of Guaral. In a single bound, they flew out of the city, confusing the checkpoint queue.
It was an absurd situation, as their stay in Guaral was just a little under three hours. However, they managed to get through the checkpoint and through the main gate. Botecliffe would have to do his best to keep running for a while longer to shake off their pursuers. Then, Subaru will discuss what to do from then on with Flop and the others...
In the midst of the violent shaking, they pushed through the main gate and out of the city. With the view opening up, the sprawling plains and the horizon visible, it was the moment they’d finally escaped.
...Right at the top of the gate, the figure of a man wielding an axe suddenly dropped down from the sky.
A blow that was directly aimed towards Subaru’s head. Rem, Medium, and of course Flop, could not predict this nightmarish blow, but...
Subaru: "...I thought you’d come!"
The blow of the axe was successfully blocked by Subaru with the barbaric sword thrown down by Medium. Subaru had guessed that Todd would strike his head with his axe just when Subaru went out of the city and relaxed.
...If it was Todd, he’d definitely do that. The experience of Subaru's five previous deaths told him that clearly.
Todd: "I knew I should’ve killed you!"
Todd with a fierce gaze pressed the axe against Subaru with force, intending to split Subaru into halves directly. Even though Subaru successfully took the blow with the barbaric sword, his hands were paralyzed by the tremendous force, and it was only a matter of time before death would come.
Even if Rem and Medium would be too late to this fierce competition of life and death. He barely managed to escape the initial fatal blow, would he still die at the hands of Todd...?
The strength with which Todd pushed down the axe suddenly became weaker. When the scowling Subaru looked, Louis was clinging onto Todd's body, with her blonde hair fluttering, as she desperately flailed to stop Todd's act of brutality.
Todd: "Don’t get in the way, kid!"
Shaking off the hindrance that was Louis, he mercilessly struck the girl's face with his elbow. Louis, who took a blow from his iron-clad elbow, let out a sorrowful cry.
Subaru: "...Damn, bastard!"
Seeing this, Subaru gritted his teeth and pushed the axe back with the barbaric sword fiercely. For a moment, Todd stumbled back. However, that was within Todd’s range. Brandishing the long handle, the next strike was to come. Before that…
Subaru: “...You’re watching!! Do it, Kuna! Holly!!"
Before Todd's next blow came, Subaru shouted in the loudest voice he had in his whole life. He didn't know if his cry could be heard across this vast plain. He didn’t know, but...
Kuna: "Goodbye, Subaru, don’t forget, I’m watching you."
Holly: "Yes, nooo!"
With those voices reverberating in Subaru’s skull like a reply, a sound of wind tore through the air in an instant. Then, the windy sound was sucked directly into Todd’s side...
In a faint cry of pain, Todd's body blurred sideways with furious force and he was blown away. With nowhere left in the cargo compartment for his body to go, and, his fierce, rotating momentum continuing, he was thrown off the falo cart and tumbled onto the hard ground without even using an ukemi. He rolled twice, then thrice, rolling, far, far, away.
TL NOTE: Ukemi is a martial arts term, a technique of falling safely so that you don't injure yourself
Rem: "W... what was that just now?"
Todd was blown away and was no longer on the falo cart’s cargo tray. Subaru dropped the barbaric sword on the spot and fell to his knees and Rem lifted Louis, who had taken an elbow to the face, into her arms. Rem’s face showed that she too, didn’t understand what happened, but Subaru had some kind of belief that if he were able to break out of the gate, there would be support. The basis for this conviction was...
Subaru: "That damn Emperor with his evil personality... When we get back, I’ll definitely sock him."
Having fallen face down on the cargo tray with no strength remaining, Subaru spat that out hatefully, while recalling to mind the face of the ill-natured man who more than likely knew everything.