Beatrice: [Listen, Subaru. You must understand that you’re always on the verge of death now, I suppose.]
Subaru: [Hey! A little girl like you shouldn't be making jokes like that.]
Beatrice: [I'm not a little girl and I'm not joking! I'm being serious in fact!]
Subaru nodded seriously with a “Yes, of course you are”, making Beatrice’s face turn red.
Beatrice, who was sitting upright on the carpet with her small arms crossed, was lecturing him. It wasn't going well.
It was mostly due to Subaru’s constant interruptions.
Subaru: [I can’t help myself, my Beako is just too cute...]
Beako: [Just when I thought you were about to say something serious, you always pull something like this in fact...! Well, it’s no secret that Betty is the cutest, so I can forgive you, I suppose...]
Subaru: [The second I start teasing you, you really show off your tsundere side...]
Beatrice: [That's going too far, in fact!]
Beatrice stomped on the carpet in rage. From their interaction, it looked as though nothing had changed from their previous relationship, but both of their feelings had changed tremendously over the time they had spent bonding.
In the past, they often clashed with each other, like dogs who didn’t want to share their owners' attention. But the Beatrice of today was more like...
Subaru: [You are more like a cute cat that I can’t help but pet and hug.]
Beatrice: [Take this seriously! I wonder if you’ll ever take me seriously, I suppose!]
Subaru: [I am taking this seriously!]
Subaru tried to appeal to Beatrice, but she used her magic to blow him away. As Subaru hit the wall and fell to the floor, she simply shrugged her shoulders.
Beatrice: [Don’t make me say it over and over again! This is important. It would be really dangerous if you ignored this. It’s about your gate, in fact.]
Subaru: [My gate?]
He sat upright and crossed his legs.
Subaru put his hand on his chest and thought about his gate. It’s a magical organ that can’t be seen or touched.
The gate is an organ that all beings have. It’s a passageway in which mana is channeled through, which allows organisms to harness the power of magic in this fantasy world. Strength in one’s gate is determined by their aptitude in magic, and like in everything else, Subaru’s potential is painfully low.
Subaru’s gate is spoken of in the past tense. The reason being that Subaru’s gate had been lost.
Beatrice: [Well technically, you didn’t lose it, you destroyed it.]
Subaru: [I was told not to use it, but I did. The next time I see Ferris, I'm going to be in for a world of hurt. I've ruined the whole treatment.]
Beatrice: [Congratulations on your anxiety, I suppose. There's no guarantee that there will be another...]
Ferris, who was in charge of repairing Subaru’s oversued gate, had his advice completely disregarded. Subaru shrugged, jokingly thinking that her cute face and voice would make her look especially demonic, but Beatrice's gaze implied something more serious.
Beatrice: [With a broken gate, you won’t be able to dissipate mana properly. Still, so long as you’re alive, mana is created, absorbed, and stored in your body. The issue is, you’ve no way to get it out... ]
Subaru: [You're not going to tell me that I’m going to explode... are you?]
Subaru: [Hey, Beatrice! I'm scared of the silent treatment!]
As Beatrice turned away, Subaru’s voice rose, but when he saw the awkward look on her face, he was quickly silenced. With Subaru giving an expression that might imply seriousness, Beatrice held up a finger and said...
Beatrice: [May I? Betty is not joking, you're right about that. At this rate, the mana that's slowly building up will cause you to get sick, and eventually you'll end up with mana poisoning.]
Subaru: [That’s way too scary!! Is there some kind of way to fix that?]
Beatrice: [That's where Betty comes in. Fortunately, Betty has made a contract with you, meaning... Subaru, your soul and mine... our souls are connected, I suppose. As Betty told you, Betty is somewhat different from normal spirits, in that Betty must get her mana from other people. In other words...]
Subaru: [...So you're going to take care of my mana buildup?]
Hearing Beatrice's solution, Subaru vigorously stood up and picked up Beatrice's small body at once.
With Beatrice screaming as she was thrust into the air, Subaru started spinning around.
Subaru: [That’s great Beako! I mean, I can’t even believe you exist, you’re so amazing... Now you and I are one and the same, both in name and reality!]
Beatrice: [That is all it takes, I suppose! From now on, every time you displease Betty, you must remember that your life will be in danger, in fact. If you don't want to die, you'd better do everything in your power to keep Betty in a good mood.]
Subaru: [Hmm, does that mean I ought to keep loving you with all my might? That rather depends on how long I can keep shining... that’s a lot of responsibility, Beako.]
Beatrice: [Why does Betty have to be the one to say that?! You're convinced, I suppose!]
Subaru sees Beatrice’s face turn bright red and hears her begin to scream. There, they spun. Around and around and around.
Round and round, round and round, round and round...
The dizzying sense was abruptly halted as Subaru’s consciousness awoke. The sensation of his untimely demise suddenly disappears, and he’s striked with the pain associated with a shortness of breath, and the feeling of the ground pressing into his back.
Subaru: [... Ah, shit.]
Slowly rubbing his throat, Subaru sits up and recalls the events that had just arised. Simultaneously, he glanced down to the center of his chest, finding no arrow piercing his ribs. Additionally, the marks and scrapes on the trees had disappeared. And obviously, he had been pierced through the chest by a tremendous force.
Subaru: [I… died.]
Subaru felt this creepy, uncertain sensation, as if his own feet were about to crumble away beneath him. He took notice of this, and thinking back to previous events, his blood ran cold. As he pondered, he remembered the black shadow that has swallowed him whole in the Pleiades Watchtower. Then, after waking up, not even 10 minutes had passed since… That was all the time he needed in order to lose his life. Somehow, managing to support his wobbly body, Subaru stood up, gazing at his surroundings. And…
Subaru: [Damn, this sucks...]
Cursing himself for his bad luck, he realized that he was in the middle of a grassy field, and that he wouldn't be able to find the person he was looking for. This place was definitely the grassland where Subaru and the others had been sent to from the tower. The problem was that Rem and Louis, who had been sent with him, were nowhere to be found. In other words, the time when Subaru had “Returned by Death” was...
Subaru: [After Rem choked me and left me here...!]
His restart point had changed to after Rem had strangled him unconscious. The fact that Rem had finally awakened, and that he didn't have to redo the final loop of the Pleiades Watchtower, is good news in itself, or so he would like to think. If Subaru could have gone back to the final loop of the tower, he might have had another chance to speak to her again, but that was a fleeting hope.
Subaru: [I’m an idiot. Not even that, I’m a dumbass.]
If he was so desperate, he should have made more time to talk to her, to touch her, and to listen to her feelings while he still had time to do so. Natsuki Subaru, who had not done so, had no right to lament in such a manner. So for now, anyway...
Subaru: [I'll find Rem.]
Subaru must chase after Rem in order to clear up her misunderstanding. If the reason for Rem’s escape was the “Witch’s Scent” enveloping Subaru, then that rancid odor, which had most definitely gotten more potent now that he had used “Return by Death”, did not help any matters. Most likely, Rem would be even less cooperative in hearing Subaru out than before. Even still, Subaru Natsuki is not such a man who would give up on her because of that.
Subaru: [And then there's the guy who killed me... Indeed, there's no way that arrow was an attack from Rem.]
In the absolute worst case scenario, it is possible that Rem had attacked Subaru, but it is also unlikely that she would have the tools to do so in such a short amount of time. It isn’t easy to procure a bow and arrows quickly, after all..
Subaru: [The arrow that pierced me had an arrowhead and feathers. I didn't feel much pain, probably because I was shot through the heart, but...]
If Rem was struck with that strong arrow, even she would have her difficulties. It wouldn’t be feasible for her to escape, as she’s lost the power in her legs. Subaru knew he had to get to Rem before she falls victim to that arrow, even if the amnesiac Rem doesn’t consider Subaru an ally.
Subaru: [Alrighty then. Let’s go, Natsuki Subaru… Let’s see how awesome you truly are.]
He tenses his cheeks and pushes the shocks of his previous “death” and the sadness stemming from being hated by a girl he cares for. Subaru isn’t sure if he can find and join her, but he knows he only has to find her first. Lamenting and anger are all a part of life, after all.
Letting out a deep breath, Subaru follows Rem’s footsteps, along with the trampled grass she left in her wake before entering into the forest. However, he was extremely wary of the consequences of shouting loudly in search of Rem.
The bow and arrow attack earlier was probably due to the fact that the enemy had found Subaru defenseless. The attacker's identity and purpose were unknown, but as long as they aimed to kill Subaru with a single blow, it was difficult to consider them as a friendly opponent. The attacker should be regarded as an enemy that will kill Subaru if they find him.
Subaru: [But since the attacker uses a bow and arrow, it's not a demon beast, but rather a human.]
If the other party is also human, there is a possibility that they can avoid killing each other through negotiation. However, it is unknown whether the other party would be willing to come to the table to negotiate. Of the total number of times Subaru has used "Return By Death", the percentage of deaths caused by humans and demon beasts has been roughly even, with human-caused deaths barely in the lead. Subaru hesitates on letting go of the fact that the other party is indeed a human who can speak his language; he hopes he and the hunter could form an amicable relationship. Afterall, the more manpower he has, the better chance he has of finding Rem.
Subaru: [... “Cor Leonis.”]
Closing his eyes, Subaru invoked his inner authority, disregarding all distractions. The new power that awakened from his time in the Pleiades Watchtower, Cor Leonis, is a technique that locates Subaru's allies around him, those who can support the "Little King". He hoped that he could use it to locate Rem. But...
Subaru: [...No, there's no response. I'm not sure if it's because she's too far away or because she doesn't think I'm her ally.]
Although the exact range of "Cor Leonis'' was unknown, he definitely knew that the pale light that would represent the position of the hunter, who Subaru might be able to persuade to be friendly, is not in the area of effect. Subaru can only think of two reasons why he wouldn’t be able to locate the hunter: the distance from Subaru and the other person's relationship relative to Subaru.
Subaru can’t sense Emilia and the others, who he was previously able to detect using “Cor Leonis”. Additionally, figures he was familiar with, but enemies with, such as Reid Astrea or the “Gluttony” siblings, were not detectable even when they were all in the watchtower.
He was certain that he had activated “Cor Leonis”. In other words, the radar used to find his allies was turned on, but a response never came. The reason for this is that Emilia and the others are outside the area of effect, and Rem, who is supposed to be within range, does not think of Subaru as an ally.
The fact that he doesn't even know the location of Louis, who is working with Rem, is proof of this.
Subaru: [Even if it was a mistake, I'm not going to treat Louis as an ally. However, because of that mistake, I can’t detect Rem with “Cor Leonis”, even if I do care for her greatly.]
Upon this revelation, Subaru suddenly despises the mistakes he had made in his previous conversation with Rem. Since he’s doused in the “Witch’s Scent”, he can’t think of what he could’ve even said to win Rem’s trust. Regardless, Subaru could’ve said that he would protect Louis, or take her with him, even if it was a lie.
Subaru: [Shit, damn it ... why the hell...! Why did I have to go through all this trouble with Rem when she just woke up...?]
He has to continue the chase. He had longed for the day when she would be able to stand up and move around freely on her feet, but now that she was actually moving, Subaru couldn't help but curse her. When he thought about who he should hate for that, he could only direct his anger towards the Sin Archbishop of “Gluttony”, Louis Arneb.
With his thoughts running in circles, Subaru carefully made his way through the forest. Keeping low is painstaking, but a necessary measure to avoid meeting with the person who once killed him. Let's call him "The Hunter" for convenience. He thinks he should paint his face with mud, cover his clothes with leaves, or camouflage himself in some other way, but he doesn't have the time to do that. If he could at least find out exactly how long he had been separated from Rem, it would make his search much easier.
Subaru: [Think, think, think... This is the only way to make use of my clever mind. Rem forgot everything and doesn't remember me. But she still had the ability to subdue me and sense the “Witch's Scent”. So, it's episodic memory loss.]
Amnesia is often mentioned in manga and video games, but in most cases, the amnesia is referred to as episodic memory loss. This is the same condition that Subaru had when he lost his memory after an encounter with "Gluttony" in the tower - no, he had only lost the memories he gained coming to this world, so it's not exactly the same condition, but it's close.
In other words, those with episodic memory loss can remember the names of things and the reflexes that are ingrained in their mind, but they have lost the names of themselves and others, as well as the contents of such memories. The fact that Rem referred to herself as "I", and was instinctively wary of Subaru’s smell, was proof of this.
Subaru: [Rem must be confused. She can't run away forever. Once she gets far enough away from me, she'll have time to calm down and reflect on herself. Especially if she has Louis with her.]
It would be foolish to pray for such a thing, but Subaru hopes that Louis is being annoying and pulling on Rem's legs. If Louis whines, sometimes refuses to walk, or bothers Rem, Subaru might be able to catch up with her. Alternatively, Rem could have given up on Louis. If Louis is too much for her to handle and she can't take care of her...
Subaru: [I don't know...]
It is not clear whether Rem will abandon Louis, who at least looks like a helpless infant. Losing her episodic memory and gaining a sense of being a nobody, Rem can be said to have lost her inferiority complex and self-establishment from her innate relationship with Ram. Ram, who forgot the existence of Rem, yet did not change, gives proof to her extraordinary stability, but it makes Subaru wonder if the same thing will happen to Rem.
This Rem, who is not Ram’s sister, who has no inferiority complex or pride of the oni, and who thinks nothing of Natsuki Subaru...
As soon as he imagined it, he felt a burning sensation in his chest and took a strong step forward. The branch he stepped on creaked and snapped, and he almost fell onto the muddy ground.
Subaru: [.... What?]
Suddenly, the forest opened up, and Subaru found himself in a meadow again. His blood started to boil, thinking that he had gone around the forest and ended up circling around to his starting point, but upon closer inspection, he realized that this was not the case.
It was similar to the first meadow, but the grass under his feet was different in height. Here, the grass was slightly taller. Also, this meadow was not surrounded by trees, but this one only had trees behind him. Through the grass, Subaru could see an expansive horizon. The sky seemed awfully wide, and the illusion of being sucked into the sky made him want to stop walking.
However, it was not only the sky that caught Subaru's attention. Nearby, he could see a small space carved out of the grassland, and various camping tools were strewn around the area ... traces of someone who had been here.
Instantly, Subaru's whole body was alert, and his vision narrowed. Fortunately, it didn't look much like an encampment. There were only a few traces of a possible camp, and it was hard to imagine that it was a trap. The question was, who built this?
Subaru: [The most likely person, is the one who killed me ... right?]
There is a high possibility that the hunter who killed Subaru is the one who set up this camp as a base camp for hunting in the forest. If that is the case, Subaru should immediately leave this place and secure his safety. Regardless of whether he encountered the hunter in the forest or in the field, there was no doubt that the hunter was a dangerous person.
There is a common story about a matagi mistaking a human for a deer in the mountains, but it would be impossible for the hunter to have mistakenly shot a person that was shouting and yelling, especially with his skill. He came to the same conclusion that the hunter is a dangerous enemy, and he should act accordingly. But…
TL Note: Matagi are traditional winter hunters in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan.
Subaru: [...But if I could just steal one of those knifes.]
In order to move through the dense forest, Subaru needs the help of tools. The only thing in his possession is his beloved whip, Guiltywhip, made from the material scavenged from a powerful demon beast Subaru once fought. His outfit for conquering the sandy sea is subtly helping him conquer the jungle, but it would be a great help if he had a blade to cut through the dense foliage. Therefore, if he could get one of those tools from the camp, his chances of survival would surely increase.
With this in mind, Subaru finished his brief contemplation and proceeded to the camp. There was the option to immediately turn around and head back into the forest, but considering Subaru's goal, he didn't want to return empty-handed. Paying attention to his footsteps and surroundings, Subaru walked towards the camp.
Subaru: [There were signs of a small campfire ... is this a bed?]
There were traces of a campfire in the center of the camp, and beside it was something that looked like a bed made of cut grass. There was no doubt that someone had been spending time here. There was nothing on top of the bed, and there seemed to be nothing else there.
Subaru: [At least, if I can find a knife or something like that...]
???: [Oh, you want a blade? Well, you've come to the right place at the right time.]
After a quick inspection of the camp, Subaru was about to look for any tools he could use when he stopped, hearing a voice behind him and feeling something cold press against him. He stifled a gasp and slowly lowered his gaze to see the blade of a beautifully polished sword against the right side of his neck.
With a deep gulp, Subaru understands that his fate lies in the hands of the person behind him. But at the same time, he was confused that he was approached from behind. He was alarmed. It was a life-threatening situation, so he had taken precautions and made some calculations. Of course, he knew that among the superhumans living in this world, there were those who could move at speeds that Subaru's eyes could not follow, and even those who could achieve instantaneous movement. However...
Subaru: [Not supposing you make any exceptions around here? ...Just how out of luck am I?]
???: [Fool. Who said it was okay to talk? Be mindful of every word and action you choose. Don't lose sight of the fact that your life is in my hands right now...]
As Subaru curses his own bad luck, his opponent's voice grows more relentless. As this person said, if Subaru did anything wrong, he would immediately have his head sliced off. Feeling pressured, Subaru desperately thought of a way out of this life or death situation.
From the sound of his voice, it was a man. He sounded reasonably young, so he was probably the same age as Subaru, or slightly older. He had a peculiar choice of words, but strangely enough, he didn't give off any malice. And above all...
Mysterious Man: [It appears that you are pondering your thoughts since your mouth is closed. But there is no need for you to give up your life and try to fight back ... hmm.]
He had the insight to read Subaru’s mind based on his observation of Subaru’s silent mood.
The mysterious man, letting out a sigh, was apparently pondering something behind Subaru's back, and said...
Mysterious Man: [That's not an outfit you see around here. I don't even think it's suitable for the climate in Buddheim. Your skin is also white ... you're not a local.]
Subaru: [I'm ... whoa!]
Mysterious Man: [Shut up. Who said you can open your mouth? Next time, if I’m in a bad mood, try to see if you can still talk after your head gets cut off.]
A shallow cut across his neck reminds Subaru that he wasn't going to be able to engage in conversation. A stinging pain and a steady stream of blood trickled down his neck, but his opponent's assessment of Subaru was not about to end.
Mysterious Man: [The whip on your waist is not very convenient to use in the forest. Your arms and legs are reasonably well trained, but not well enough to keep up with the wolves. You don't seem to have been following me.]
TL Note: Can’t tell if wolves are a metaphor for something or if it is some organization or group.
Mysterious Man: [What are you not telling me? If you don't explain yourself, you will die here.]
Subaru: [What? Now it’s okay to talk? This is so fucked up!]
When Subaru protests the unreasonableness of his opponent, the steely gaze that pierces the back of his head sharpened. Subaru stiffened, thinking that he had said something unnecessary, but that stiffness was finally broken when the sword on his neck was drawn away from him. However...
Mysterious Man: [...Turn around slowly. If you do anything crazy...]
Subaru: [You’ll cut off my head?]
Mysterious Man: [No, I'll cut off your limbs, gut your heart, and burn it right in front of your eyes.]
Subaru: [That's too evil of a threat!]
In response to his opponent's intense threat, Subaru raised his hands and slowly turned around, proving that he had no intention of attacking back. He then looked carefully at the person who had stood behind him...
He came face to face with the man in front of him, whose face was hidden by a rolled up rag.
He was a man with a very strange appearance. He was slightly taller than Subaru, and vaguely appeared to be of thin build. He had long, slender, arms and legs, and was holding a thin sword with a saber or rapier-like blade, which left a shallow cut on Subaru’s neck.He was dressed in a fine nobleman's attire, and it could be said that he looked even more out of place than Subaru. Looking closely, Subaru notices that the rags around his face most likely used to be a cloak. Subaru is not sure if he covered his face because of an injury, or he just didn't want to show his face, but...
Masked Man: [What is it? What's with the dumb look on your face?]
Subaru: [I don't care if it's a dumb face, this is the face I was born with. I can't help it if I look like this.]
Masked Man: [That's selfish. Just looking at your face made me wonder again if you are an assassin.]
Subaru: [The way I look doesn't determine my job! My role is the exact opposite of an assassin. I'm not an attacker, I'm more of a defender.]
The man ... no, the masked man .... had not lowered his guard and kept his sword pointed at Subaru. In response to his suspicious voice, Subaru raised an eyebrow at the masked man’s equipment and the luggage behind him.
Aside from the unsuitable attire for camping and traversing a forest, what caught Subaru’s eye was the bag behind the masked man. It seemed to have appeared just as fast as the masked man that had appeared behind Subaru.. On top of that, the masked man had no bow and arrow.
Subaru: [...Looks like you're not the hunter.]
Masked Man: [Hunter?]
Subaru: [I'm talking here. By the way... are you able to teleport or become invisible?]
Masked Man: [....]
The moment Subaru asks this question, the man's black eyes narrow as they peek out from behind the mask. His reaction was not one of anger or resignation, but one of interest in Subaru.
Masked Man: [Hhm... How did you come up with that idea? Give me a reason.]
Subaru: [...Since you asked, I diligently checked my surroundings before approaching this place. Of course, I know there are a lot of people out there who can surpass my precautions, but not you.]
Masked Man: [Why not?]
Subaru: [Don't get mad at me, but I have happened to run into a lot of skilled people, so-called superhumans. Compared to those extraordinary people, the vibe I get from you is... well, normal.]
It was a statement that would definitely incur the wrath of the masked man if he were a warrior of a high rank. However, that was how Subaru felt when he confronted this masked man. The atmosphere he felt from the man in front of him was that of a normal person with a certain amount of training, although he could certainly handle a sword. In the eyes of Subaru, who knew Reinhardt, Garfield, Wilhelm, and Julius, he could only say that he was inferior.
Subaru: [That would eliminate the theory that you came in from outside my perception. Now all I need to know is how you appeared behind me by teleportation, or...]
Masked Man: [“Hidden Figure” Either that, or I really am invisible.]
TL Note: Hidden Figure is what I got out of 『姿隠し』, it seems to be the name of the ability. I checked the wiki to see if it had been used in a side story. It had not been used before, at least according to my research.
Subaru: [... Hmm!]
Immediately afterwards, to Subaru’s astonishment, the figure of the man disappeared from Subaru's sight. However, the surprise did not stop there.
Subaru: [ He's gone... but he's right in front of me?]
Masked Man: [...You are correct. "Hidden Figure” can't erase one’s presence.]
As soon as he answered Subaru's question, the masked man reappeared before him. After all, he hadn't disappeared, he had just become invisible. The fact that he came back the moment he answered Subaru's question...
Subaru: [Does it deactivate if someone touches you or becomes aware of your presence?]
Masked Man: [It’s activation is tied to my breath being held. It's a perfect tool for hiding, though.]
The masked man then lowers the sword he had pointed at Subaru and pointed it towards the edge of the encampment. That's where the man’s belongings are.
Masked Man: [The bedding is a decoy. I was hiding over there, a short distance from the bed. I knew from the start that you were sneaking up on me. It was hilarious.]
Subaru: [It's very easy to look dumb when you're on guard... but that's not the point! You lowered your sword, which means that...]
Masked Man: [You're not a pursuer, you're a wanderer, with reasons and intentions unknown to me. There's no reason for me to denounce you out loud, and any need for me to aim my blade at you.]
As if to show that he had no intention of fighting, the masked man put his sword into the sheath at his waist. Watching this, Subaru relaxed and let the tension leave his body. As soon as Subaru was calm, he remembered his original purpose.
Subaru: [It's not the time to be calm. I'm sorry for asking so many questions, but have you seen a girl with blue hair? She got lost around here.]
Masked Man: [Blue hair? No, I haven't seen her. Rather, the first thing I saw when I came to this place was your face. What are you doing?]
Subaru: [I don't know! I don't know... shit, what do I make of this? Hey, I was wondering if you could help me find someone...]
Masked Man: [....]
His questions came up empty, and his best hope was slashed in front of him. The masked man's cold gaze, which seemed sharp enough to cut, was taken as an answer. Subaru then turns back towards the forest with the intention of making up lost time.
Masked Man: [Wait. If you got separated in this forest, it won't be easy for you to find her. I think it's best for you to prioritize your own survival, don't you think?]
Subaru: [...I'm sorry, but that's not going to happen. She's more important to me than my life. I'll definitely find her no matter what. I have to bring her home.]
Masked Man: [More than your life you say. Hearing those words, without the voice of a songstress, one would think those are empty words. However, because of your eyes, I don't think they are.]
When Subaru's eyes sharpen at the mockery of his recklessness, the masked man points to Subaru’s eyes. The masked man gave a small laugh as Subaru backed away, thinking that he was about to be poked.
Masked Man: [Those are not eyes that tell lies. I don't know if I could actually stake them against my own life, but at least you don’t display any deception here..]
Subaru: [Then… what is it? If what you're saying is true, then...]
Masked Man: [...This will give me some entertainment. I'll lend you my wisdom.]
The masked man tapped his temple with his finger. When Subaru heard the masked man’s answer, he was tempted to yell at him and tell him to stop screwing around, but no such abuse came out of Subaru's mouth. Strangely, he did not feel suspicious of the man. ...No, he seems fishy. However, something was compelling Subaru’s trust. Perhaps it was the natural charisma the man possessed.
Masked Man: [Give me the details of what happened. I'll think of a way to help you.]
Subaru: [...The girl and I were suddenly sent away.]
Subaru began to answer the man's questions, one by one. It's not that Subaru trusted or mistrusted the masked man... He was just clinging to a straw. When someone feels hopeless, one wants to cling to someone, even if they are less trustworthy than a straw. Maybe that was why he told his story.
Masked Man: [You did something dumb.]
That was the first thing the maked man said when he heard the full story.
Subaru had done as the masked man had asked and carefully explained the situation between him and Rem, but he left out the complicated details.
He explained that Rem’s memory had been messed up and that she had rendered him unconscious before running away from him. Subaru also included the fact that a dangerous little girl was working with her.
Subaru: [I know, I know, I was dumb, but what happened, happened. You’re not going to expose me and laugh at me, right?
Masked Man: [Yeah right. I’m not going to waste my precious time making a fool out of a clown like you. That girl has a good head on her shoulders doesn’t she?]
Subaru: [Oh, yeah, she does.]
Because of the atmosphere around the masked man, Subaru instinctively agreed with the man and nodded along.
Rem always kept an eye on the people around her and when Subaru had become a butler. She had easily grasped his abilities and given him the most suitable job. That skill translated to her battle prowess, as she had been able to read Subaru’s breathing and find the best time to take him out.
Rem is smart. Even if she had lost her memory, she had kept her intelligence.
Masked Man: [If that's the case, there's a good chance you've been conspired against.]
Subaru: [Conspired against? You mean I've been tricked? Why would you say that?]
Masked Man: [Right now it doesn’t matter if she remembers or not. The important thing is that the girl knows that she’s being chased and that she knows what her pursuer is like. For example...]
The masked man's dark eyes looked at Subaru from top to bottom.
Subaru dropped his shoulders, knowing that he was about to be blamed for his carelessness.
Masked Man: [For example, she could’ve left fake traces on the grass to disguise her escape and send you far away.]
Masked Man: [From what you told me, you must’ve been in a hurry when you woke after you got knocked out, so what would you do if you spotted a trail leading into the forest?]
He had started running into the forest, like a hunting dog who found a rabbit.
That was what had actually happened, and the answer to the masked man's mocking look.
Subaru could just say that it was a mistake but..
Subaru: [But... I couldn’t find any other traces near the entrance and inside the forest, so I couldn’t think of anywhere else she could be...]
Masked Man: [Do you always turn away from your problems?]
Subaru: [I’ve know for a long time now that I’m stupid and dumb. My only redeeming qualities are that I have a high level of adaptability and guts.]
Subaru replied to the masked man, even though he won’t understand it.
What the masked man had said did make sense. The traces left on the grass had seemed too “normal” to be real.
Some wild animals like foxes and rabbits would use the same technique to distract their predators while they jumped into tall grass and run away.
What if the tracks left by Rem were a cunning trap to trick Subaru?
Subaru: [She made me go in the forest, but she went the opposite way…?]
Masked Man: [In situations like this, the other side would most likely head in the exact opposite direction. Psychologically, it makes the most sense to put as much space between you and your pursuer. Do you get it?
Subaru: [...It's frustrating, but it makes sense. Shit! Rem!]
If the masked man was right and Rem deliberately left a trail as a decoy, it was highly likely that she escaped in the opposite direction. To catch up Subaru would have to run all the way back and hope she didn’t get too far. Subaru was starting to feel a bit like a villain...
Subaru: [I'm used to making a bad first impression with my scary face and my scent. I'll find a way to catch up!]
Masked Man: [That’s admirable of you. ...Here, take this.]
As he was about to start running, the Masked man took something out of his bag and threw it to Subaru.
Looking at the object, it was a small knife in a leather scabbard. When Subaru glanced at the man, he just shrugged.
Masked Man: [It's not a forest that can be confronted with a single whip. Use it well.]
Subaru: [That’s very nice of you, but... are you sure? I don’t have anything to give you.].
Masked Man: [I don't care about that. I just like to be charitable every once in a while. Or are you going to use that knife to take all of my belongings?]
He said that as a joke, but it's true that Subaru had the ability to do so.
The Man's skills are adequate, but they’re not enough to guarantee that he could beat Subaru in a fight. In that sense, the man was taking a gamble.
Subaru: [My name is Natsuki Subaru. And I am now in your debt. I will definitely repay the favor I received.]
He put the knife he received firmly on his waist and bowed deeply. The masked man saw this and gave a small snort in response.
Masked Man: [I’ve already told you what you need to do, so go ahead and do it. Best case scenario, you should be able to win the trust of the girl who ran away.
Subaru: [That's exactly what I'm going to do. Thank you! Oh, actually...]
Masked Man: [What?]
He had been waving his hand but stopped right in front of the forest. The masked man's voice sounded slightly annoyed since he was busy, but Subaru pointed to the forest in front of him.
Subaru: [I’m going in there to get back to the meadow, but you probably shouldn't go there too much. There’s this scary hunter inside the forest, and he’ll shoot you from far away using his bow and you’ll definitely die. If you have to go somewhere over there, try taking a detour.]
Masked Man: [I understand. I’ll stay out of there.]
Subaru: [Yeah, do that. ...See you later!]
Hearing the masked man’s reply, Subaru realized that he succeeded in avoiding a future where his trusted benefactor died at the hands of the hunter.
He then ran into the forest and headed back towards the meadow as fast as he could.
Subaru: [This knife cuts amazingly!]
Fortunately, Subaru didn’t have much trouble returning to the meadow.
The knife he had received from the masked man was sharpened exquisitely, and it easily chopped down all the branches and leaves that blocked his way.
Normally, a knife of its size would be dull if it got overused, but even after cutting down so many things, it maintained its pristine sharpness. It must’ve been forged by a very good blacksmith.
Subaru: [Who was that guy? He was wearing some high quality clothing that looked expensive.]
Thinking about the man, Subaru arrived in the meadow. Then, he started looking around for any traces he may have missed.
Subaru: [I found it. This is real right?]
In the opposite direction of the first trail, he found some unevenly shaped footprint in the grass. Rem had tried to erase as many traces as possible, but she hadn't been able to fully get rid of Louis’s small footsteps.
Subaru: [Since I can see traces of Rem trying to erase these, I don’t think this one is another decoy.]
In other words...
Subaru: [Finally, I have a trail, Rem...!]
Again, Subaru thought he was starting to feel like a villain, and he started running to where the footprint led. He went some time without seeing any more tracks, but he followed broken branches until he found some footprints in some mud that couldn’t be hidden..
Subaru: [I found it! She should be...]
After catching up with Rem, Subaru tried to follow the footprints in the mud.
While Subaru had been distracted by the footprints in the mud, he stepped on a piece of ivy, breaking it. From the side, a large branch was released, and it struck him with the force of one of Ram’s punches.
Subaru's body was blown away by a branch that was as thick as his arm. Rolling in the mud, he let out a scream of pain, and lay unmoving, shocked. His vision flickered from the blow, and his consciousness flushed in and out, from both pain and shock.
Subaru: [Not right now...]
After a while, the pain eased and Subaru tried to stand up. He knelt on his knee, noticing that his side had suffered an extensive amount of damage.
But what shocked him even more...
Subaru: [A trap?]
Rem hadn’t only run away, she had set traps to slow him down.
Even after she lost her memories, Rem was still a terrifying opponent.
And then Natsuki Subaru finally realized it.
...Since coming to this other world, this was the second time he had been put in a serious battle against Rem.