...After the battle in the Watergate City of Priestella ended, several days have passed since their departure from the Watergate City.
Driving the dragon carriage, Natsuki Subaru and his party’s goal is to head to the Augria Sand Dunes, which is located at the easternmost edge of the Kingdom of Lugunica. Their objective is to borrow wisdom from the "Sage''.
As the aftermath and effect of the fierce battle still remains, the journey will be correspondingly long. Of course, there may be various problems on the road ahead, but for the time being, the most urgent problem at hand is.
Julius: [...Anastasia-sama, please come this way. There are steps there.]
Anastasia: [...Hmm, thank you. I'm saved.]
Julius: [...Anastasia-sama, are you tired? I'm going to prepare some tea now.]
Anastasia: [Ah, really? I'm just about thirsty. How intimate.]
Julius: [...Anastasia-sama, it is a little windy, please walk behind me.]
Anastasia: [Ah, you’ve really been watching out for me, I'm really sorry.]
From anywhere, you can see the figures of Anastasia and Julius, who are in a state of constantly talking no matter what they’re doing. Subaru squinted his brown eyes, and stared at them with a complicated expression.
From the current situation, the communication between the master and servant seems very smooth, and there aren't any particularly large problems. Although they weren’t explicit, various ideas were intertwined behind their conversation.
Emilia: [Anastasia-san and Julius-san are already so close. It's great.]
Saying that, Emilia looked at them along with Subaru and smiled. Of course, the reason why she had such a reaction was that some complex circumstances hadn’t been disclosed to her. However, as far as Emilia is concerned, even if the truth was told to her, she would react in the exact same way.
Subaru: [Hmm, this aspect is also very E·M·T… Thank you for being born.]
Emilia: [Hm? Subaru, did you just say something?]
Subaru: [No, I am just very grateful for the fact that the being known as Emilia-tan exists and is breathing here, and calling my name. I am really moved.]
Emilia: [Sorry, I don't quite understand what you’re trying to say.]
Although she frowned inadvertently, these were Subaru’s candid words. In any case, let’s not talk about Subaru’s numerous attempts at flirting every day. From Subaru’s point of view, the dialogue between Anastasia and Julius is really disturbing.
As if perceiving Subaru's inner thoughts...
For a moment, Anastasia's eyes met Subaru's and she gently waved to him. After seeing that gesture, Subaru pulled his chin, coughed and said...
Subaru: [Emilia-tan, although it's a little sudden, can you call Julius over there to you?]
Emilia: [Huh? I can, but, what should I do?]
Subaru: [That guy, doesn't he often frown and stiffens his face? If this continues, sooner or later, he will have permanent wrinkles, so I want Emilia-tan to clear them all with her hands.]
Emilia: [Julius has that many wrinkles between his eyebrows...? Well, I understand. If there are permanent wrinkles on someone’s face, it would be troublesome. I will try my best.]
After listening to Subaru's request, Emilia walked towards Julius with an energetic expression. Subaru looked at her reliable back and winked at Anastasia.
After pulling her away from Emilia and Julius...
Anastasia: [Natsuki-kun... Julius is far too intimate.]
Anastasia's previously soft expression and comfortable Kararagi tone disappeared, then she softly complained with a serious expression.
If this was the usual Anastasia, she would never have such an accent and attitude. This is a matter of course, because she is both Anastasia and not Anastasia. Strictly speaking, although the physical body belongs to Anastasia, its interior is inhabited by another existence.
That existence is called "Echidna". The same name as the wicked witch known to Subaru, but she denies having a wicked personality and claims that she is a kind-hearted artificial spirit.
This spirit has borrowed Anastasia's body and was acting as a kind of accomplice with Subaru. They mainly share a relationship of sharing this secret.
Anastasia: [But, the ill-effects of this situation have been transferred to me so quickly...]
Subaru: [You say that as if it's someone else's business. This situation is not good for you. In order to avoid unnecessary confusion and suspicion, you and I have established a secret relationship.]
Anastasia: [Can you think about the way you phrased that? It sounds too suspicious.]
Subaru: [Oh, sorry, I will be careful.]
Anastasia lowered her voice while reverting to her original way of speaking. However, Echidna's attitude always gets on Subaru's nerves this way. If her wish for Subaru to believe that she has nothing to do with that devil comes true, then his attitude would change.
Anastasia: [Even if you say that, I don't know anything about the creator that you're speaking of. If we are like that, the foundation of my individuality will be shaken.]
Subaru: [Although your words were exaggerated, even your foundation is really shaky. Can't you get along with Julius more naturally? It's creepy to watch.]
Anastasia: [Isn't it impossible? I'm also trying to recall everything I can about Ana, paying special attention to her etiquette... But I still don't know how to get along with Julius.]
Facing Echidna, who lowered her head to argue, Subaru scratched his head.
Indeed, as she said, the current situation is very complicated. Affected by the authority of "Gluttony", one of the Sin Archbishops of the Witch Cult, Julius' "name" disappeared from this world. As a result, Julius, like Rem, was in the state of being forgotten by everyone.
Now the only ones that can remember Julius in the whole world are probably Julius himself and the foreign entity of this world, Subaru. Therefore, it was difficult for Echidna to decide what kind of attitude she should treat Julius with.
Subaru: [If he knew you were in Anastasia-san's body, I doubt he'd have the confidence to convince himself...]
Anastasia: [I also want to avoid injuring Ana's body unnecessarily. However, I don't know Julius’s flaws. This is where I have expectations of you.]
Subaru: [...You, aren't you actually enjoying this?]
Anastasia: [Of course not? I'm serious, very serious, very very serious. It's really quite a pity to be suspected.]
The more one argues, the more suspicious they seem, it's because the other party is Echidna. Without receiving a decent answer, Subaru sighed loudly.
Subaru: [I know, I know. First off, I will take a good look at the matter between you and Julius. Anyway, I will tell Julius after a while...]
Anastasia: [I'm sorry. But I can only rely on you.]
Subaru: [You really are Echidna and not Echidna, right?]
Anastasia: [Your contempt towards my creator is really serious!]
Tolerating his casual doubts to her limit, Echidna raised her voice. To Subaru, that kind of emotional response feels very unlikely for the witch who doesn't understand the human heart, so he can dispel his doubts for the time being.
Then, under the weight of Echidna's gaze and expectations, Subaru turned over to the problematic Julius and called him over. From Julius' perspective, because he shouldn't remember ever being called like this, their conversation will be a little unreasonable, but how well Subaru can speak depends on the following question.
Subaru: [Hey, Julius, I have something to say...]
Julius: [Hmm? Subaru? Can you tell Emilia-sama to stop worrying about my face...?]
Julius, who said this, asked him for help with a troubled expression. In front of Julius, Emilia is wearing an expression filled with determination and is trying to get closer to Julius. Julius stopped her advances, and the two held hands, as if they were dancing.
Emilia: [Please don’t be shy, Julius. I won't do anything bad! I just want to rub away the wrinkles between your eyebrows!]
Julius: [No, Emilia-sama, why on earth would you want to do something like that... Hey, Subaru, you tell Emilia-sama to stop too.]
Subaru: [You! Julius, you bastard! Why are you dancing with my Emilia-tan!]
Julius: [I am the one that doesn't want to dance, isn't your anger unreasonable!?]
Hearing Julius's troubled words, Subaru quickly squeezed between the two. In place of Julius, Subaru took up Emilia's hands.
Subaru: [Emilia-tan, calm down. Just leave Julius to me... Wow, your hands are so small! Your fingers are so thin! So cute!]
Emilia: [Ah, eh? But, Subaru said between Julius' eyebrows...]
Subaru: [Ah, that was a mistake. Take care of Anastasia-san for me. She seems a little tired. Help her relax her shoulders.]
Emilia: [...Is this really all right? How should I put it... Subaru, are you hiding something?]
Subaru: [Exposed!? Actually..., I really like Emilia-tan?]
Emilia: [That..., that I know. I know it well... Subaru is truly a dunderhead.]
Emilia's face flushed slightly, she turned her head and left in a hurry. She will probably run to Echidna's side. After entrusting Echidna to her, Subaru breathed a sigh of relief.
Subaru: [Fuu, I kind of passed the round by misleading her...]
Julius: [You truly did your very best. And, although I know how you think, to think that you can confess so effortlessly...]
Subaru: [What's the matter, is it unexpected? You think I don't know my place again, right?]
Julius: [No, I admire it. I can say that this is respectable. You truly are outstanding.]
He commented this way with a serious expression, and Subaru’ mouth puckered as he said nothing.
After being praised by him, instead of being happy, he felt very uncomfortable. Probably because Julius can truly understand the meaning of his confession better than Emilia.
Subaru: [Ah, forget about my passion for Emilia-tan. I have something else to say.]
Julius: [If it's the matter of Emilia-sama just now, it seems that the cause was you...]
Subaru: [You’re annoying, don't always just stick to the past. The most important thing is the present and the future... Uh, sorry, I didn't mean that just now.]
Stabbing at his sore spot, he apologized for what he couldn't help but blurt out. In response, Julius frowned his handsome eyebrows, while shrugging his slender shoulders.
Julius: [No. Actually, I think you are right. Even if I recall the past, I can't get back what I lost. I can’t just stop walking just to get back to the things I want.]
Subaru: [...Well, if you can think of it so positively, I won't say much. I am trying my best to not tell you, but I still have something that I noticed.]
Julius: [What is it that you noticed?]
Julius narrowed his yellow eyes and urged Subaru to speak. Just now, Subaru just chose the wrong wording. He chose his next words carefully while saying:
Subaru: [That is the sense of distance from Anastasia-san. I know that you and Anastasia-san have a master-servant relationship, and Anastasia-san also knows this information.]
Julius: [...Sure enough, did it seem unnatural to your eyes as well?]
Under Subaru's accusation, Julius took the lead as he knew it. Facing this answer, Subaru frowned, but he quickly changed his way of thinking.
This is the relationship between Julius and Anastasia. In this case, although the other party is Echidna it is impossible for him to not notice the trouble in her heart. Even if he is in a difficult situation, Julius will not change the quality of how much he cares about her.
Subaru: [If you understand, then I didn't have to say it. Your relationship with Anastasia-san needs to be rebuilt. When the foundation will be unstable, if you build strenuous blocks atop of it...]
Julius: [A collapse is inevitable. ...I understand your opinion, Subaru.]
Julius: [However, for me, there is indeed a path I have travelled. Even if it disappeared briefly, only a part of it is in me and you.]
Speaking in a calm voice, Julius, who seems to be reexamining himself, weaved words. Savoring the color of grief contained in his echo, Subaru could not continue and say the second sentence.
Subaru thought about Echidna. Given the situation between her and Anastasia, his priority was not to create unnecessary confusion among the group. Although the result of this behaviour is forcing Julius unreasonably. To Subaru, this is far too unreasonable.
Julius is also fighting a lonely battle that no one else knows about and is in a state of being injured.
And Subaru who knows his situation very well, if he forgets to be considerate for him, then who else will actually remember the fact that the existence known as Julius Juukulius certainly existed.
Julius: [If it makes Anastasia-sama feel troubled, it is due to my incompetence as a knight. But even if the people around me forget how they used to treat me, I will remember how I treat the people around me. I thought….. I won't lie about this feeling.]
Subaru: [...Even if it turns out to be blunt?]
Julius: [Even if the result of the behaviour appears to be blunt... I respect Anastasia-sama, have pledged my allegiance to her, and believe that I have established an amicable relationship with Ricardo and Mimi. I am reluctant to let go and turn a blind eye to all this… Is this greed?]
From his attitude towards this question, Subaru could feel Julius' honest thoughts.
If Subaru calls it "greed" to Julius here and makes him pay attention to his behaviour, Subaru thinks that he will probably accept it sincerely, and choose to leave after careful consideration.
Concern about one’s surroundings and restraining oneself. Moreover, what is the correct way of existence for a knight to serve his master to the best he can?
Subaru: [...No, it's not greed. Of course you can want more.]
Julius: [...Is this true?]
Subaru: [Of course. You are right. Why do you have to listen to the words of someone who is inexplicable and accept the loss you don't want to. That’s unreasonable.]
Facing Julius’ question, Subaru finally decided to answer with his own feelings. Hearing these words, Julius opened his eyes slightly, then nodded deeply. Then...
Julius: [If you say that to me, I would think so too. ...This is my wish.]
Subaru: [I feel like you're trying to put the responsibility on me? I am not responsible for your memory.]
Julius: [I don't want to hold you accountable. It's just that I want to remember what happened today.]
Julius said this while writing smoothly on the notebook he took out from his pocket. That thing is a "notebook" that Julius uses to record various things recently.
Subaru: [I heard that you are writing a notebook. It feels strange. What did you write?]
Julius: [Indeed... Your appearance frequency is quite high for the time being.]
Subaru: [You're not the kind of person who would describe a roast book as a notebook or something like that, are you?!]
Julius smiled faintly, and did not respond to Subaru's cry, and jotted down in his notebook. Seeing his somewhat happy look, Subaru stopped scratching his cheeks in protest and sighed.
Although he feels sorry for Echidna, it's best to let her suffer a little. ...Subaru will also work hard.