Chapter 5

"Men are Hard to Find"

Subaru: [Wah!!!]

Petra: [Ah! I’m sorry Subaru-sama!]

A high-pitched voice gave an apology to Subaru, who screamed as he got splashed with water from above. Shaking his head, Subaru lifted his head to look at the open window, where he met Petra’s gaze in between the swaying curtains. Petra had just dumped some water out from the window.

Of course she hadn’t meant to splash him. Normally that water would go straight into the garden where no one would be splashed.

Subaru: [But I just so happened to be working in the gardens, unluckily…]

Petra: [I'm sorry Subaru-sama! I'll bring you a change of clothes right away…]

Subaru: [Oh, no, no, I'm just a bit wet. ...... It stinks! What did you soak me with!?!]

Petra: [Because that’s the water from the room I was cleaning … anyway! I’ll be down soon, just wait for me near the well]

Petra apologized to Subaru, who was surprised by the nasty smell that he had been splashed with. Then her pretty face disappeared from behind the window as she ran off to get a change of clothes for Subaru. Laughing at her panic and grimacing at his own bad luck, Subaru headed to the well in the garden.

Subaru: [Well, I was going to change after I finished with the garden anyways…]

He reassured himself by saying that it was just sooner than he had expected. If Petra was going to bring Subaru a change of clothes, he should probably clean the dirt off of his current clothes first. Before pumping water from the well, Subaru quickly took off his shirt….

Ryuzu: [Hmm, suddenly stripping, you're quite bold, aren't you, Subo]

Subaru: [Kyaaaaaaaaaaa!!!]

Ryuzu: [Oh, you scream just like a girl…aren’t the roles usually reversed?]

The person who was looking at Subaru is a peach-haired girl who was sitting on a stone in the garden, right beside the well. the peach-haired girl who was sitting on the garden stone by the watering hole - old mannered loli, Ryuzu. She looked at Subaru, who was hiding his bare upper body with his shirt, her intelligent eyes contrasting with her young body.

Ryuzu: [You don't have to hide yourself, I'm used to seeing boys undress. I used to live with Garbo after all.]

Subaru: [No, even if that is true, embarrassing things are still embarrassing, right?]

Ryuzu: [There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Besides, Subo has a nice body. It’s a sight for sore eyes.]

Subaru: [Even then, it’s still embarrassing, and Ryuzu-san isn’t your character totally wrong!?!]

With her relaxed and calm way of speaking, Ryuzu’s behavior was off-put by her immature appearance. But everything other than her appearance gave the impression that she was a hard and loyal worker. Which is why it was surprising that she would mention Subaru’s naked body and tease him.

Subaru: [Was it rough being released from the responsibility of being the leader of Sanctuary?]

Ryuzu: [I suppose there are some aspects that were. But even after I left Sanctuary, I decided to go on the land Rosbo had prepared for me and was given a similar role there. It’s taken a load off of my shoulder to be sure. But...

As she said this, Ryuzu turned her head and looked at the mansion right behind her. Technically she wasn’t looking at the mansion but at the people living inside of it. And even more specifically, she was looking at the brother and sister, who she loved as if they were her own grandchildren.

After Garfield and Frederica made up, Garfield was released from the burden he had chosen to carry for so many years. It had been a surprise when he turned into a more mischievous boy than Subaru could’ve imagined.

Subaru: [Doesn't it get lonely, Ryuzu, living away from Garfield and Frederica?]

Ryuzu: [Hmm ...... why’d you ask that all of a sudden Subo?]

Subaru: [Was it sudden? Well, I was thinking. It would be better for Emilia-tan if the two of them stayed together in the mansion. But ......]

Ryuzu: [It can't be helped, you know. I, as well as the other copies ...... my sisters, would cause too many problems living in the mansion. I don’t think we’d be of much use.]

Subaru: [....]

Subaru pursed his lips as Ryuzu answered like it was something trivial.

The emotional part of Subaru wanted to scream that they didn’t care about those problems or her usefulness. However, he understood that this wasn’t something that could be solved with a tantrum. Only those who had a role to play are allowed to stay in the Roswaal mansion. Such strict measures were necessary right now.

Subaru: [..... Still, Garfiel is fourteen, isn’t he? He’s still a kid.]

Ryuzu: [Subo you’re a sweet kid. Are you worried about Garbo?]

Subaru: [Of course I am. When I was 14 I was a snot-nosed brat. Even now I haven’t stopped being a little shit, only a bit less than back then. Perhaps if I had separated from home, I wouldn’t hate myself for never doing anything.]

Of course, compared to the everyday life in this world, the days that Subaru had spent holed up in his room weren’t difficult, but were so peaceful that it was as if he had been a baby in a cradle.

Even if Garfiel was fourteen, which is about the age of a middle schooler, this world was completely different, and Garfiel had become much more mature than Subaru ever was at that age. But still...

Subaru: [I just don’t want to ask too much of the people who’ve helped me…]

Ryuzu: [Fufufu, let me rephrase what I said earlier. You're not only kind but also sweet and thoughtful.]

Subaru: [One of the best sayings I know is that a man should be kind as well as strong…wait? Since I’m weak doesn’t that mean I’m not a man?]

Subaru struggled to find a way to defend himself, making Ryuzu start to laugh. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she apologized with a smile.

Ryuzu: [I understand what Subo wants to say. Whenever I get lonely, I’ll come to see Frederica and Garbo. Is that enough for you?]

Subaru: [Sort of, but maybe it’s bad to meddle in other people’s affairs.]

Ryuzu: [There’s nothing wrong with worrying about people, but if you’re worried about children leaving their families behind, isn’t there a child younger than Garbo living in this mansion?]

Subaru: [That's .......]

The sound of footsteps approached just as he understood what she had been talking about. When both Ryuzu and Subaru turn around in the direction of the noise, they see Petra running towards the well.

Petra, holding a change of clothes with both her hands, ran up to them with a smile as she started talking,

Petra: [Subaru-sama-! I’ve brought you a change of clothes. Subaru-sama!]

The young maid’s feet stopped as she looked up.

Petra: [Kya! Subaru why are you naked!?!]

Subaru [Oh right, I was about to wash myself off but then I started talking.]

A blushing Petra mentioned Subaru’s lack of clothes. She covers her eyes with both hands, however, from the gaps between her fingers, she tries her hardest to see everything she can.

Petra: [Wow, wow!]

The young maid says excitedly.

Subaru: [Did you see that Ryuzu? That’s the kind of cute reaction a girl your age should have.]

Ryuzu: [You can’t expect me to act like that Subo… I don’t even know if I could act that way. I’m an old lady.]

Subaru: [Well except for your old-timey way of speaking, you don’t seem very old at all.]

Subaru replied to Ryuzu’s casual words and pulled the bucket up from the well. Then he emptied the bucket of cold water.

Subaru: [TIBET! By the way, isn’t Petra's reaction quite grown-up!?.]

Petra: [Subaru-sama, you're treating me like a child again. For the record, I turned thirteen the other day, which means I’m only one year shy of Garf-san!"

Subaru: [I think it’s interesting how both of you and Garfiel are one year apart, even if it is just because of your birthdays…]

Putting Garfield's personality aside, his fighting prowess and his appearance made him look far from a regular fourteen-year-old, and Petra's adorable young appearance is slowly blossoming into a beautiful flower. It’s only natural that he couldn’t stop the time from passing, but her growth was a precious thing

Subaru: [I'm already eighteen, and Emilia-tan and Beako won’t look any different than they do now. On that note, I see great potential in Petra. ......]

Ryuzu: [Subo, Subo, I wonder if a teenager should be thinking about those things.]

Subaru: [I’ve been told… Oops, Petra thanks for the change of clothes. It kinda went out of my head when you looked at me naked.]

Shaking his head to get rid of the water, Subaru picked up the shirt at Petra's feet, brushed off the dirt, and put it on. Realizing now that she had dropped his change of clothes, Petra blushed at her mistake.

Petra: [I’m sorry, first I splashed water on you and now I dropped your clothes…..]

Subaru: [Nah, it was just a cute mistake. Putting the clothes aside, it’s just my rotten luck that I got splashed with water. Thanks to that, I was able to speak to two maidens.]

Ryuzu: [Calling me a maiden too… You’re quite good at hitting on old people aren’t you?]

He shook his head and laughed at Ryuzu’s comment. Then he pats Petra on the head, who had a guilty look on her face, and reassured her.

Subaru: [It’s okay. We all make mistakes, and it's not like someone got hurt. It’s fine, it’s fine.]

Petra: [..... Yes, I understand. I’ll write it down in my journal tonight.]

Subaru: [Keeping a diary is great, I wonder if I'm the kind of person that could profit on keeping up with a diary every day, but, the one thing I have never been able to continue is a diary.]

Even though Subaru could keep up with training and jogging every day, he has never been able to keep up with a diary. Then when he stopped going to school, he didn’t have anything to write about.

Subaru: [Although I am still writing “Beako’s Growth Diary”.....]

Petra: [Will you show it to Beatrice-chan later?]

Subaru: [Of course, I want to show Beako how much I love her on a daily basis.]

Also, Beatrice's reactions are mega cute. Though Subaru does write it to show Beatrice his affection, the diary being secret can't stay a weakness of his as well so he will persevere and show it to her,


Petra: [So, what were Subaru-sama and Ryuzu-sama talking about?]

Subaru: [I was just asking if Ryuzu was lonely being away from Garfiel….. But Petra’s also away from her family. Aren’t you homesick?]

Petra: [Homesick ...... you’re asking if I miss my home?]

Petra raised her eyebrows and put a finger to her lips as she deciphered Subaru's words. Then she stops for a second to think…

Petra: [Hmm… There are times when I feel lonely, you know? But it’s something that I’ve decided to do, so I can’t quit in the middle and whine about it now can I?]

Subaru: [Oh, you’re such an adult now… Did you hear her Ryuzu?]

Ryuzu: [Yes, I heard. She sure looks proud of herself.]

Petra puffed her chest out as she put a proud look on her face, as Ryuzu nodded to his statement

“It’s something that I’ve decided to do, so I can’t quit in the middle and whine about it now can I?” Those words made Subaru give a small chuckle and cover his mouth with his hand.

Petra: [Subaru-sama, are you satisfied with my answer?]

Subaru: [Yea, of course I am. That’s my girl Petra! Exactly what I expected of you!]

Petra: [What?]

Subaru responded to Petra's anxious question by picking her up in his arms. It was the same thing he usually did with Beatrice, but Petra felt heavier than Beatrice... probably because Petra was still growing up.

Petra: [Aren’t I too old for you to be doing this…]

Subaru: [Of course! But since you’re feeling lonely, I’ll do it for a bit longer.]

Petra: [Oh, thanks.]

Petra turns her face away, but forgives Subaru’s selfishness. Taking advantage of Petra’s kindness, he used this opportunity to play with the young Petra one last time.

And while looking at both of them play…

Ryuzu: [I don’t know which one of us is the child.]

On Ryuzu’s face was a young smile.


…. With a splash of black blood on the top of his head, Subaru’s escape was interrupted.

The only thing this event had in common was that a liquid covering him from head to toe, but if Subaru told her he still remembered now, Petra would be very angry with him. However, he won’t be able to hear her complain if he stops here now.

Subaru: [What, the hunter's arrow hit that giant snake ......?]

Despite feelings of disgust, Subaru carried Louis in his arms to make his escape, but then a huge snake that was hiding in the forest interrupted their escape. Subaru was about to be swallowed by the serpent's mouth when a powerful attack struck the snake, narrowly saving his life.

Subaru: [....]

Just before it was about to attack them, the giant snake that was probably as thick as 3 Subarus, was hit by the hunter’s arrow. Subaru didn’t think he fired there by accident because the arrow landed right in the center of the snake’s body, and the chances of him accidentally shooting there was extremely small, in other words...

Subaru: [He saved me ......!]

Subaru couldn't make sense of it, but he couldn't come up with any other answer. It's hard to imagine that the hunter was freaked out, or that he was about to go into an “I'm the one who's going to kill you” mood one would read in a shonen manga. However, if he only thinks about what just happened, Subaru was saved. And the arrow did more than just stop the snake’s teeth from sinking into him.

Subaru: [...!!!]

The arrow went through the snake’s body, and as it reeled from the wound it let out a sky shattering cry.

Instead of following Subaru as he tried to escape, the serpent began to crawl furiously through the forest, aiming for the archer who had shot the arrow.

The sight of a ten-meter-long snake crawling on the ground and closing in on its prey was a breathtaking sight to behold. The speed that the snake glided across the ground was unbefitting of its huge body and made Subaru feel as if the forest ground itself was moving. As the serpent approached, the hunter fired once more with his bow, but he missed his mark.

Hunter: [....!!!]

The giant snake bears its drooling fangs and attacks the hunter. The hunter jumps out of the way and shoots an arrow at close range to try to finish the demon beast.

Beyond the trees, a fierce battle between man and demon beast unfolds.Violent sounds of impact after impact come from the battle, with neither side giving an inch, as Subaru, holding Louis, returns to the large hole where Rem is. And then...

Subaru: [Rem, give me your hand! Let's get out of here while we still can!]

Rem: [... Hey, is the girl okay?]

Subaru: [Yeah, this irritating girl is sleeping! Come on, hurry up!]

Subaru reaches out his hand to Rem, who leans her back against the wall of the big hole. However, after seeing Subaru's hand, Rem shook her head "No" and put her hand on the edge by herself. She was adamant that she would not ask for Subaru's help. Subaru retracts his hand and uses the whip he pulled out to tie Louis' body to his back. If Subaru threw Louis out, he would have a fight with Rem again. He wanted to avoid that.

Subaru: [On top of that...!]

Rem: [Hey!]

After securing Louis' body to his back and making sure he didn't drop her, Subaru forcefully picked up Rem who had just crawled out of the big hole. Rem, who was being carried like a princess, had a tense expression on her face. But...

Subaru: [Now think about which one of us you are better off with, me, the hunter, or the snake!]

Rem: [... If I could communicate with it, I would be with the snake.]

Subaru: [Well you can't talk to snakes, so you'll have to settle for me, the runner-up! Let's go!]

With the hunter and the giant snake continuing to fight, Subaru left the battlefield as fast as he could, he felt it was natural, but as he averted his eyes to glance behind him, Rem couldn't hide her troubled face. Regardless of who wins, the hunter or the giant snake, they will probably come after Subaru and the others. Subaru doesn't know if that battle will be settled quickly or not, but he wants to gain as much distance as possible.

Rem: [...What are we going to do?]

Subaru: [Both of them are much more familiar with the forest than we are. ......! We'll need a way to disperse our tracks, but with my stench, escaping the snake is probably hopeless. So at least ......]

Subaru hopes it is the hunter who wins. If the opponent is a tracker that has no means to track with the “Witch’s scent” surrounding Subaru, there are ways to shake them off the trail.

Subaru: [Preferably, pick a path that doesn't have any tracks on it, we cover our tracks, and then we'll be on our way .......]

Rem: [Leave a trail in another direction ......, yes!]

While saying this, Rem snaps a branch off a branch of a nearby tree and throws it far away, damaging the trees in a different direction from where they are escaping to. If there are broken branches and trails in two directions, will it be enough to confuse their pursuer?

Subaru: [...]

As he ran with Rem in his arms, a feeling of nostalgia passed through his mind, even though it was out of place. There was a time when he had run through the forest while being chased by demon beasts like this. However, it was Ram, not Rem, who he was holding in his arms at that time.

Subaru: [Onee-san forgot about her too, sigh... Now I’m the only one who remembers…..]

Rem: [You’re running out of breath. If you keep this up, they'll catch up with us.]

Subaru: [I know I know! Geez, you sisters are the same, you have no mercy!]

Even though the girl he was dealing with was different, their harsh way of speaking was the same. Pressed by this sentiment, Subaru scolded himself for running out of breath and ran frantically through the forest, with Rem as the rear guard.

Anyway, they’ve been on the move all day. Physically and mentally, he's a wreck, and if he could, he'd throw his arms and legs out and lie down. Or rather, once he has evaded his pursuers, Subaru would lie down and sleep for eight hours.

Subaru: [So, hold on until then, body...!]

Rem: [... Hey, wait!]

Subaru: [OW, OW, OW! What?]

The Rem in his arms tugged hard on Subaru's ear as he cried out in excitement. When Subaru frowned at the pain, Rem pointed to a direction out of the way and said ...

Rem: [I hear the sound of water. A flowing ...... river? Wouldn't that erase any trace of us? Besides, you also said you needed water.]

Subaru: [You heard it? My survival knowledge ...... we’ll get to that later, but a river would certainly help! Once we've crossed the river, it shouldn't be easy for us to be followed......!]

Unfortunately, Subaru couldn't hear the sound of the water due to the loudness of his own heartbeat and breathing, but there was no reason to doubt Rem's hearing in this situation.

Rem: [That way!]

Rem pointed, and Subaru changed course and ran off in search of the river. Then, after passing a cluster of trees, jumping over a patch of grass, and finding a clear path...

Subaru: [A river! ......, but?]

The moment the forest opened up and his view widened, Subaru could finally hear the sound of powerful water ... yes, the sound of powerful water, at last. As expected, the sound of water was coming from a large river. It was flowing under a cliff, almost ten meters below them. He scoffed at the thought that he could just cross over the river and cover his tracks.

Rem: [This, no matter how you look at it.......]

In Subaru’s arms, Rem chokes at the sight of the great river below. Considering the force of the current and how high up they were from the cascading water below, it was no wonder she was in despair. She must be blaming herself for leading them here, for relying on her intuition. But there was no time to blame her for regret, or conversely, to comfort her.

Subaru: [...Shit, it's settled, isn't it!]

In the forest behind them, somewhere in the distance, a tremendous roar raged into the sky. It sounded like the emotional cry of a serpent, and whether it was a cry of victory or defeat, the one who survived was coming towards them.

Subaru: [But first, from here......]

Rem: [...Leave me, please.]

Rem told Subaru to get away, while being held close to his chest. At the sound of Rem's tense voice, Subaru exhaled.

Subaru: [What?]

Rem: [Please leave me. I've caused you to take an unnecessary detour. There's not a moment to lose. I'll try to stall whoever is chasing us somehow. ......]

Subaru: [Don't be ridiculous! I'm not leaving you here. ......]

Rem: [Then what are you going to do!?! You're already out of breath and your knees are shaking. With a limping woman and a child, what more can you do!?]

Subaru: [...]

Right in front of him, a red-faced Rem appealed to Subaru. Although not overwhelmed by Rem's spirit, Subaru was unable to reply immediately. Subaru isn’t smart enough to come up with a quick alternative when asked what to do. But because he wasn't smart enough, he could quickly come up with an answer that didn't require thinking.

Subaru: [... No, I’m not doing that. I'm not leaving you.]

Rem: [.... Oh, you're so stubborn ......]

Subaru: [Who's the stubborn one!? I get that you feel responsible, but this isn’t the time and place to try and take responsibility! How do you expect me to leave you behind like this?]

Rem: [Hey .......]

Subaru: [What's the point if you're not there! I'd rather die than have you die. How can I make you understand!]

Subaru tries to retract his opinion of Rem, giving her his true feelings without joking.

He meant what he said. Of course, Subaru doesn't want to die either. He doesn't want to die, even if "Return by Death" gives him an opportunity to redo. So, it’s just a matter of choosing the better of two terrible options. Still...

Subaru: [I'll choose the way that doesn't kill me or you.]

Rem: [.... What about that girl, on your back?]

Subaru: [If I can use her as bait, I would, but I don't want to make things difficult and cause trouble by doing that. So for now, I'll just take her with us.]

He can't stand Louis, who was always getting in the way of Subaru’s and Rem’s troubles. But if he threw Louis out now, his relationship with Rem would be irreparable. He doesn't have that option. So, even though he hates her, he won't throw her out.

Rem: [...]

Hearing Subaru's firm intention, Rem opened her eyes and fell silent. In her mind, she was still struggling with how to judge Subaru, who was surrounded by an unacceptably evil scent. Keeping this inner conflict to the side for now, Subaru looks around and searches for an escape route. However, it is not so easy to find a way to survive. It was no wonder that Rem wanted to be used as a decoy. Then there was only one thing left to do...

Subaru: [... We have to jump.]

Rem: [...... Huh, please wait! That would be reckless! In this situation!?]

Subaru: [I've got a dead weight strapped to my back, you can't move your legs, and I'm exhausted with three broken fingers and some questionable ribs. ......]

Rem: [The fingers thing is ...... anyway! This is absurd. From such a height …. the moment you jump in the water, you'll lose consciousness and drown!]

Pointing to the great river below, Rem makes a practical objection. The jump is ten meters high, and here they are in a situation where the injured Subaru has to carry two people who can hardly move. They would have to somehow reach the other side of the river while enduring the swift current of water, so naturally, it would seem like suicide.

Subaru: [But it's not suicide. Even if it is, at least we'll be together when we die.]

Rem: [I absolutely hate that idea!]

Subaru: [Oww!!!]

Subaru's toothy grin was met with a powerful slap from Rem. Subaru's head was twisted by the force of the blow, and his cheek turned red.

Subaru: [Ouch. All right. Since you say so I'm not going to die.]

Rem: [...]

Subaru: [Whatever you want, I'll give it to you. ...because I'm your hero.]

Rem was blindsided when she heard him say that. It wasn't because her memory was tingling, but because she was surprised that the suspicious remark made right after she woke up was being repeated so often.

But that's okay. Right now, what she thinks about it doesn’t matter. ...he just wanted to cast a spell on the man who was reflected in Rem's pale blue eyes, the man whose pettiness was masked by his vanity.

Subaru: [Hold on tight.]

Subaru tells her, exhaling as he senses the impending danger.

Rem tried to resist, but before she could choose the words to stop him, Subaru's feet were kicking the ground. The feeling of falling, and Rem's hand grabbing Subaru's clothes tightly, envelope him. And then...

Rem: [...I won't forgive you if you die!]

Oh, that is why he can't die now, Subaru kicked the cliff hard, chuckling at that.


He felt a shock and a column of water rise up, and his whole body was engulfed by the fierce momentum, spinning around and around.

Thankfully he had managed to jump into the water feet first, so the damage he sustained was minimal. However, even that was more than enough, and Subaru, whose energy gauge was already in the red, could not wipe away the impression that he had bitten off more than he could chew.

Subaru: [Gabo!]

Without even bothering to dispel such an impression, suddenly Subaru's whole body was soaked with water. Just like a washcloth being swirled around in a washing machine, he was tossed about by the momentum and swept away.

He needed to surface and breathe somehow. But he couldn’t control himself. He wanted to flap his arms and legs to float up, but he couldn’t because he had something more important than his life in his arms.

Subaru: [---]

Although the water was making him squirm, he could still feel the thing he loves against his chest and the thing he hates on his back. Neither the whip that bound one nor the arms that held the other loosened at all.

Subaru: [Gabogabo!]

The shock of jumping into the water caused him to exhale a lot of the oxygen that he had wanted to hold in. Although he was not a swimmer, he needed both energy and oxygen to stay sane. As both of them were on the verge of depletion, he couldn't afford to take his time.

Subaru: [Gabogabo.]

He felt water pouring in through his nose, mouth, eyes, and ears. His struggling hands and feet scraped the water uselessly, and he felt like he was being carried helplessly through the body of a giant creature called a river. Once he got ‘there’, there was no going back. He had to do something before it was too late.

Subaru: [Gabogobo!]

As he struggled to wade through the water, a lot of unnecessary thoughts stirred in his head. Just as he remembered Petra and Ryuzu while he was covered in blood and holding Ram while he was running around in the forest, so many thoughts came to mind. He wondered if Emilia, Beatrice, Ram, and Meili were safe. Julius, Anatasia, and Echidna are probably getting by fine. Everyone would be safe with Patrasche. If Patrasche had been here, she would have helped him. This whole time, he's been helping and being helped, and now he's doing it all over again, and the person who should be helping him the most, Rem, was the reason he broke three of his fingers...Even now, it hurts like hell, but he doesn’t cry out. Great. He doesn't want to be uncool in front of Rem. Nor in front of Emilia, or Beatrice, or Petra, or Garfield. Otto, Clind, and Frederica already know he is pathetic, and that’s alright... But he would be afraid if Roswaal ever found out, so he has to hide it somehow. Returning to Pristella as soon as possible, helping the people in need, the Royal Selection, tomorrow, and everyone was--

Subaru: [Gabogobo.]



Subaru: [...Gagh!]

He reached out with all his might and managed to pull himself up to the branch he had grabbed. It was his left hand that grabbed the branch, and his three broken fingers screamed in pain, but he didn't care. His whole body was chilled, his senses distant and dull. Perhaps all the fingers on his left hand were broken, not just three, but that was a distant thought.

Subaru: [Woah, aagh...]

He coughed and spit out a large amount of water that was filling his stomach.

As he did so, he somehow managed to hug the weight on his right arm and force her face above the water. He stares at her limp, unconscious profile and desperately crawls to the shore, pulling on the branches.

[Gagh, haha!]

At the shore where he managed to crawl up, he vomited out a large amount of water, letting nature take its course. Then, fighting against the sensation of water still inside his body, he laid the girl, he had pulled up, on the ground.

Subaru: [...]

He puts his ear to her mouth and checks the girl's breathing. There was no response. Biting his lip, he presses down on the girl's chest and performs CPR.

But she doesn't come back. He bends down to give her artificial respiration, but as he got close to her face, her head tilted to the side and she started coughing out water.

Subaru: [Hah, hah. ......]

As he endured the weariness in his body, Subaru removed the whip from his body and lowered the dead weight off his back. Perhaps it was fortunate that she had been unconscious from the start, but the girl was breathing weakly. In other words, they were all safe and sound...

Subaru: [Argh, ha......]

His head jolts and he falls to the ground.

Somehow, he had to get away from the shore, or at least hide in the bushes, but his body wouldn't listen to him. He was completely drained of energy. He couldn't move a single finger, and his consciousness fell into darkness.

It was as if he was trapped in an antlion pit, falling into a dark world that went on and on and on. The only thing he can hope for before he loses consciousness is that someone else, not the hunter or the snake .....

Subaru [Re….m......]

The only thing he wished for was for someone else to save her, at least.





Subaru: [...ah.]

Slowly, Subaru's consciousness is lifted from the depths of the cold darkness.

Quietly, his brain remembered how to breathe, and Subaru desperately tried to fill his lungs. He opened his mouth wide, seeking more and more oxygen, as if he was drowning...

???: [...Shut the fuck up, man!.]

Subaru: [Mogah!]

Something was forcibly shoved into his open mouth, and someone cursed him.

He opened his eyes to see what was going on, but he couldn't see anything. Apparently, something was wrapped around his face, blocking his eyes.

The taste of dirt and grass, and a large, hard texture … he immediately guessed it was a shoe.

Someone was twisting the toe of their shoe into Subaru's mouth.

Subaru: [Ogg! Buh! What the ...... hell!]

???: [Are you trying to fight back? Do you not understand your position?]

Subaru: [Ugh.., Ugh...]

As soon as he spits out the shoe, he was kicked in the center of his chest by the shoe. While Subaru was choking and coughing from the impact, the man looking down at him and spit on him. As he did so, Subaru's mind was in a state of great confusion.

He couldn't see, didn't know what was going on, and was suddenly attacked. In addition, since his arms were tied behind his back, he couldn't rub his aching chest. His legs seemed to be bound as well, so he couldn't even stand up to escape.

???: [What, what is ......]

Violent Man: [Oh? You've got to be kidding me. ......]

???: [...Calm down, calm down! I don't know what's going on! It can't be helped! Look at that! More importantly, Let's get this blindfold off him!]

Violent Man: [Tsk.]

Two men were arguing in front of Subaru, who was drooling and crouching. The one who came in later persuaded the violent man to leave, and he could see the presence of the violent man move away, clicking his tongue.

Then he heard a man's gentle voice say, "Good grief."

Gentle Man: [I'm sorry about all this. I know you're probably wondering what's going on, but let's just get this blindfold off, okay? I can't take the ropes off your hands and feet, so don't bother.]

Subaru: [...]

When Subaru didn't answer, the man slowly put his hands on his head and removed the blindfold that was binding him tightly. There was a feeling of release along with slight pain, and Subaru took a deep breath, enduring the pain in his chest as he quietly waited for his vision to return.

And then...

Subaru: [What the hell?]

The sight that appeared before him was of a number of tents and campfires. Then there was the wild atmosphere of men with swords and armor, who were busily going about their surroundings. Subaru was speechless, and the most appropriate image to describe the scene in his mind was...

Subaru: [...... I've seen something like this in a Taiga drama.]

TL Note: Taiga Drama is the name NHK gives to the annual year-long historical drama TV series it broadcasts in Japan.

It wasn't because he had seen a Taiga drama recently, but what passed through his mind was a scene from the Taiga drama, a battlefield being prepared before a battle begins. It was as if it was a reenactment of a scene... but it wasn't.

Gentle Man: [We were just fetching water when we found you. Sorry, but you're our prisoner.]

Subaru wondered if it was the same man who had removed his blindfold who came to the waterfront where Subaru passed out. He put his hands on his hips and spoke to Subaru with an annoyed look on his face. ...Natsuki Subaru was taken prisoner.