Facing the mismatching color of the blue and yellow pair of eyes, Subaru felt as if they were drawing him into their depths, preventing him from thinking. Swallowing a breath, he clenched his teeth so that the atmosphere wouldn’t overwhelm him.
With his chin nestled on top of his clasped hands above the table, Roswaal said, “You appeaaaar to be raaather observant. You’ve done quiiite well by understanding what has been saiiid so far, for it iiiiis, quite frankly, uuuuncanny for an ordinary citizen to be able to do so.”
“I am greatly honored to receive your praise, so answer my goddamn question, guy with long, indigo-colored hair. If you don’t…”
“If I don’t, then what?”
At Roswaal, who had responded provocatively, the frustrated Subaru retorted, his teeth making a sound, “Then I’m gonna caress Emilia-tan with my hands, and as gut-wrenching as it is… I’ll devote myself to sexually harassing this girl! I’m gonna umph umph and make whoopie!”
Said with such force that it seemed as if she were going to bite through her lips, Emilia flinched involuntarily, stimulating Subaru’s sadistic heart.
In that moment, when his quick temper was about to erupt, and he might not even regret putting his words into action, he was interrupted by the clap of someone’s hands.
What had brought Subaru’s consciousness back to a state of balance when he was in danger of actually committing sexual harassment was the dry plosive sound of Roswaal, who had stood up.
“That was close, you saved me there, man.”
“Why are you expressing gratitude towards me…? Myyy ohhh myyyy, you are such a straaaange boy. I have never heaaaard of such an unuuuusual way of negotiating.”
“Ha, placing the best, highest-ranking girl here within my reach will be the cause of your downfall. No matter how much you scheme and plan, none of it will work. Even if it’s just a single moment, or a mere chance encounter, that alteration can infinitely extend that fleeting moment. —The genes that can do it, live within my people.”
“An eternal moment… Is that the highest level of Yin Magic…!?” Emilia asked.
He brushed Emilia’s head, who was at a loss for words because of how difficult his nonsense was to understand.
He had an undeniable feeling that he was being treated like someone with the ability to manipulate time, but it unexpectedly wasn’t really far off from the truth, so he decided to not explain.
Whether it be his ability to Return by Death, or the idiotic characteristics of the Japanese and their amazing quality of making insane modifications to their momentary delusions, neither were untrue.
Leaving the baffled Emilia be, Subaru hid such thoughts as he glared at Roswaal. Not forgetting to give him a fearless smile, he was quick to take on the role of a villain.
And yet, the countenance of the long-haired man remained unperturbed at him acting like a villain. He had a gentle smile on his face, free of all emotion, showing dignity aplenty, befitting one who was a great nobleman.
They exchanged gazes in silence, almost as if sparks were flying between them, assessing each other, and trying to get a read on one another. The victor of the stare-down was Subaru, who made Roswaal avert his gaze downwards.
Looking at Subaru, who had dry eyes because he had been reluctant to close them, Roswaal raised his hands slightly. “I concede, I concede.”
“I lost this one. Your gaze was rather impreeeesive. Right, if I don’t make my position clear, it wouldn’t be faiiiir to you, now would iiit?”
“Ow, Ow, my eyes hurt like hell. Rub them a bit more gently, Emilia-tan.”
“Are you fine with that being what you want as a reward?” Emilia asked.
“I’ll do it myself! That was super dangerous! This girl is unexpectedly pretty shrewd, huh!?”
In danger of losing his edge in the negotiations, Subaru jumped away and rubbed his eyes. He blinked, confirmed that the pain was receding, and then got ready to confront Roswaal once more.
“Weeeell, it’s not as if it was something that needs to be concealed, you seeee. I may have let a few things sliiiip, but I am in a position to support Lady Emilia’s candidacy to be queen. I am her backer…or perhaaaaps it would be better to say that I am her patron?”
So, the person right before his eyes, Roswaal, was the representative of Emilia’s supporters.
Subaru once more tried to confirm the unknowable nature of the tall man, and then nervously asked Emilia, “I’m not sure if I should be saying this, but…shouldn’t you be more careful with your choice in people, Emilia-tan?”
“It can’t be helped. There was no one in the royal capital I could turn to, and, in the first place, Roswaal was the only one with strange enough tastes to cooperate with someone like me, so…”
“I see. It was the process of elimination, huh.”
“You two must be unbelievaaably confident and without fear to be saying suuuuch things right in front of your patron, yes?”
Despite receiving such insulting comments, Roswaal didn’t seem to be unperturbed at all, the gentle expression on his face unchanging. Perhaps he was immeasurably tolerant of others, or… “He might be one of your typical M’s (masochists), huh.”
“‘Em’?” Emilia asked.
With both arms held in a circle, he made the shape of an M by having them meet on top of his head.
As Subaru was displaying a letter that couldn’t be understood by anyone in this world, Emilia tilted her head as he tried to come up with an explanation, “No, if I calm down and think about it, this is the second time I’ve made this joke. It’s going to lose its freshness, so saying it to the same person again would be a little…”
“Don’t just accept the situation in such a weird way. Can you tell me what you mean?”
“The you from yesterday knew it. That’s it! Live strong.”
*Pat Pat* Lightly patting her head as if to comfort her, Subaru chuckled emotionlessly.
Leaving the flabbergasted and confused Emilia to herself, Subaru felt his heart lighten up since he didn’t necessarily tell a lie.
Though, the Emilia of the world that knew it was no longer here. She was silently sleeping within his heart, along with a debt of gratitude he couldn’t repay.
He gave a thumbs up to the pouting Emilia, who seemed to be discontent, and then used the same hand, still held in the same position, to point at Roswaal. Afterwards, when he turned it upside down, Roswaal said, “Hmmm? All you did was turn it upside down, but it feels like a humiliating gesture. I wonder why?”
“Really? Where I come from, it’s a sign of deep affection that means, ‘I love you so much that I wanna make you lick my shoe’.”
“Subaru, in your hometown, licking someone’s shoe is an expression of deep affection…?” Emilia asked.
“It’s the ultimate expression of love, meaning, ‘Everything that represents you is precious’. I wouldn’t even hesitate to eat your hair or something if I feel like it, Emilia-tan.”
“I’m begging you. Definitely DON’T feel like it, alright?”
Seeing as she had found fault with what he’d said, Subaru shrugged. Roswaal unintentionally burst out into laugher after hearing their exchange, and Emilia was in a bad mood because of the way they reacted.
As the three of them each did their own thing, they didn’t make any progress at all with the conversation from before.
“Hey, we’re having a serious conversation, so can you stop sidetracking us?”
“You’re the last person I wanted to hear that from!” Emilia replied.
Emilia’s lamentation was dodged with an easygoing “Yeah, yeah,” and then Subaru once more directed his gaze at Roswaal to start things over again, getting to the main point. “So, about the main subject. I get that you’re Emilia-tan’s patron, Rosy. And it’s pretty cute how I could catch glimpses of her ‘bumpkin-ness’ from every aspect of her behavior, but her acting all on her own in the royal capital is a bit rare, right?”
“I doooo suppose this is the first time such a thing has happened, you seeee. Though Ram should have been with her…”
Roswaal made a strained smile as he fiddled with his collar and shifted the topic over to the pink-haired maid. When Subaru turned to look at the maid behind him with suspicion in his eyes, she remained nonchalant, having disguised herself as the blue-haired maid by flipping her bangs to the opposite side. Though he immediately noticed it because their hair color was different.
“Man, that face that says something like ‘I got away with it, just like I’d hoped’ really pisses me off.”
“Sister, Sister, the guest said such a thing like that.”
“Rem, Rem, the guest said such an empty-minded thing.”
“Hey, I can still tell who’s who based on Ram’s crude way of speaking!”
After having an exchange where they seemed like they had zero intention of glossing over their words, Subaru yelled that out angrily and let his shoulders droop. However, the one who nervously responded to that angry voice was Emilia.
With an awkward look on her face, the girl raised her hand slightly. “It’s not like it’s Ram’s fault. About that, I…guess I sort of gave in to my own curiosity. I wandered around aimlessly and then got separated from Ram.”
“What’s up with that Moe-character-like reason? What an unbeatable defense. That being the case, it’s true that she couldn’t fulfill her lord’s orders, right? Is that really okaaay?”
As he asked that question with good pronunciation and his lower lip jutted out, Roswaal responded with the turning of his neck. Prefacing it with a “You dooo have a point,” he continued, “Perhaps I maaaay share a responsibility in Ram’s failure to supervise. Hoooowever, on another note, what are you trying to say to me, I wooonder?”
“It’s simple, really. Emilia-tan forgot how to get back to where she was and then started wandering around aimlessly, and the fact that her attendant couldn’t find her is the most regrettable. And then, as a result... I, the villainous character, had taken advantage of that. So the right bad thing to do would be to wring as much as I can wring out of you, right?”
Grasping what had just been said, the facial expressions of everyone in the room changed.
Emilia’s face stiffened, the twins glared at Subaru with eyes that held both animosity and remorsefulness, Beatrice had an uninterested look on her face as she tilted her glass to drink, and Puck plunged head-first into the egg dish in front of him as if he had slipped, resulting in a total disaster.
And then Roswaal nodded over and over again while smiling, looking like he had understood.
“I seeee. On the topic of private funds, I, the patron, am more suited for you to ask for a reward from, rather than Lady Emilia, who is essentially penniless, is it nooot?”
“Right? And you shouldn’t be able to refuse me, either. A-f-t-e-r-a-l-l, I saved Emilia-tan’s life and contributed greatly to preventing her from dropping out of the royal selection! In short, I’m something like a savior for the Emilia-tan Camp in the royal selection!”
“I muuuust admit that it is the truth. Well then, allow me to ask you a question in addition to that.” Roswaal stood up, looking down at Subaru from his superior stature.
Not to be defeated by being below him, Subaru turned his gaze upwards. The way they looked now was similar to when Roswaal had surprised him with a kiss to the forehead at their first meeting, but the weight of the atmosphere they were now clad in was in a completely different league.
Anxious, Emilia clasped her hands together as she feared where the negotiations were headed. Feeling something like a prayer being directed at his back, Subaru nodded. “Say it. I’m all ears.”
“Whaaat do you desire from me? As it is, I cannot refuse your request. Even if you wish for any sort of treasure. Or perhaaaaps, even if you preferred something else… such as a luxurious banquet set up for yourself. If it is to conceal the truth of the lost insignia, then I am willing to do anything.”
“Hee-hee-hee, as one would expect from a great nobleman. You really speak my language.”
With a lewd smile on his face, Subaru tenderly poked his thin chest with his elbow.
It was painful to hear the sound of his popularity falling to pieces behind him, but this had all been for the sake of preparing for this. Bearing the image of a villain, he extended both hands out. “I will ask for any reward that my heart desires! And you cannot refuse me! This is a promise between me and you. If you break it, you’ll have to swallow 1,000 needles.”
“Seems like I’d be on the briiiink of deaaath by the 100th one. Well then, it is a promise.”
“A man doesn’t go back on his word, right!?”
“I must say, that iiis quite a saying. I see. A man mustn’t make excuses. I will not go back on my word.”
It was a negotiation with both of them presenting their strong-mindedness as a man.
Believing that it was worth placing his trust in a promise that was made on top of that, Subaru proudly crossed his arms. “Then, hire me to work in this mansion.”
Compared to how long he had built it up, Subaru’s declaration was said easily, without hesitation.
The girls behind him were dumbfounded by his request. The twins’ expression changed to that of slight bewilderment, whereas Beatrice was truly disgusted, her face adorned with a frown. Emilia, especially… “I-It isn’t really for me to say, but isn’t that a bit…”
Her beautiful face was restless, an astonished expression overtaking it, and she was opening and closing her mouth like a goldfish. The fervent discomposure was peeling away at her mystical disposition, making it fade away.
Looking back at the girl, Subaru shrugged in disappointment. “No, to be frank, I knew that you wouldn’t find the joke funny a second time, Emilia-tan. However, from my experience, there was no other way but to go with a method that already worked well, so…”
“That’s not what I’m saying…! No, it’s that you want so little!” As if feeling angry for him, Emilia slammed her hands against the table and advanced on Subaru. She then jutted her finger out at him and started poking his chest repeatedly. “Listen, It’s not just the thing with Puck, okay? I’m also talking about…something different. To begin with, it’s just like when you asked me for my name back in the royal capital.”
The girl listed off the times where Subaru could’ve claimed a reward to the best of her knowledge. Emilia was aware of everything he’d done to get those rewards; she shook her head as if she truly didn’t understand. “You don’t understand just how grateful I feel. Such a… such a thing isn’t enough to repay you at all for saving my life…”
As she ended her sentence weakly, the strength behind her pokes lessened, and then she left her palm on Subaru’s chest and hung her head.
Hearing her silent lamentation, Subaru cursed his own thoughtlessness.
She had always felt indebted to him, because of how disproportionate what he’d asked for in return for saving her was.
However, the same could be said of Subaru.
Subaru had always felt indebted to her. And it was a type of debt that he could never ask from her, ever again. And then there was Puck, too.
Near the two people who were presenting their inner thoughts to each other in silence, Roswaal sneakily moved over to where Beatrice was. Well, he was actually aiming for Puck, who was beside her, in order to strike up a conversation.
“Whaaat? Did you give that boy a reward, O’ Great Spirit?”
“Yeah. He just wanted to be able to pat my fluffy body as much as he wanted. He’s a first-class lover of fluffiness,” Puck replied.
“Bubby’s!? What an awful boy, I suppose… He should be driven out at once, in fact!”
Intentionally ignoring the “Operation: Drive Subaru Out” that was somehow making needless progress, Subaru placed his hand on the delicate shoulder in front of him. She looked up at him with her wet amethyst eyes, giving him an inquisitive look, her lips quivering.
—Oh no, she’s crazy cute.
He was in danger of unconsciously going with the flow and completely giving in to his urge to snatch away her lips, but he miraculously got himself under control by beating the urge to a pulp. And then he brought out his most sincere attitude to tell her how he truly felt.
“You don’t understand, Emilia-tan. At that time, at that very moment, that was what I truly wanted from the bottom of my heart, you see?”
“At the time, I wanted to know your name. So much that I could write down that it’s a ‘serious’ thing and read the word as ‘critically important’. I was super-duper hungry, I was anxious about this new world, my feet were unsteady beneath me, I was on the verge of losing it, and I think there were a lot of things I had to obtain. That’s only if I stopped to think about it, though. —But I’m a man who won’t lie to himself.”
He had died three times, just for that.
He had done so merely for the sake of seeing the smiling face of the silver-haired girl in front of his eyes and to know her name.
At that moment, there was no greater reward he could have wished for.
“My request to Roswaal is just like that as well. To be honest, I’m completely and utterly broke! I wouldn’t really be right in the head, and my financial status wouldn’t be faring much better if I were to just trade it for temporary pleasure. So as far as I’m concerned, this is the best option, right?”
“…You could have lived here as a guest instead of working, you know?” Emilia added.
“—Why didn’t I think of that!? How about it, Roswaal!?”
Upon hearing the teary-voiced retort, Subaru turned around as if he had bounced to look at Roswaal, who became his ray of hope. However, he crossed his hands in front of his face, forming the shape of a big X. “Your first request has taken effect. A man doesn’t go back on his word, now doooes he?”
“Waaaaaagh! Right, that’s right! A man doesn’t go back on his word, huh!?”
He tearfully found his request denied because someone just had to open their big mouth earlier. Backing down reluctantly, Subaru gave up and thought about his future work life. “I really wanna go back to that moment and say, ‘Take care of me!’ instead.”
“You know, for a moment, I thought that you were actually serious…but I guess it was just my imagination.”
“And then you just give me a lower rating like that, Emilia-tan! That’s kicking me while I’m down!”
Subaru realized that he had missed his chance to set up the perfect environment for a shut-in in another world because of his slip of the tongue. He had nothing to pick back up if he also lost his popularity with the beautiful girl on top of all that.
Emotionally anguished as if tears of blood were running down his face, Subaru bit his lip as he glared at Roswaal pitifully. “Anyway… That’s just how it is, so. Remrin and Ramchi must be having a hell of a time taking care of this mansion, so I’d like you to give me a suitable position under them, something like a manservant.”
“It iiiis true that this is a pressing issue… Though I beliiiieve it is as Lady Emilia said. Isn’t iiit asking for rather little?”
Placing his hands in the sleeves of his clownish clothing, Roswaal’s gentle expression darkened, showing a strained smile for once.
In response, Subaru stood up and wagged his finger at him with a “Tsk, tsk, tsk.”
“I’m a super greedy guy, you know. —You know that, right? I obtained a position where I could live under the same roof as the super adorable, super beautiful girl I like, through rational means. And by being in a servant’s position, I might even get blessed with chances to get lucky. There are infinite possibilities, and my heart is swelling with sooo much excitement about what might happen in the near future that it might burst!”
“…I see. It iiiis indeed as you say. It iiiis rather difficult to get to work close to the girl one likes, is it nooot? Sounds like quiiite a sweet deal for you then.”
“Well, and besides…”
He stopped wagging his finger and then used it to scratch haphazardly at his black hair. Averting his eyes away from everyone else, he looked up at the ceiling and continued, “And besides, with a guy you know nothing about, you should keep him close instead of leaving him alone without knowing anything about him. Furthermore, please make sure if I can be of use to Emilia-tan, or if I am a source of danger to her.”
He was declaring his belief that nothing good would come of it if he were to just leave the manor without any way to defend himself.
If he were to be honest about this, it wasn’t above his expectations, and he also felt slightly bad about testing Roswaal’s humanity like this.
There was no mistaking that Subaru was picking a quarrel, the type that would make Roswaal be at a loss for words if he had no idea of what Subaru was saying. However, contrary to Subaru’s awkward feelings about it, he said, “Then it shall be done. —I hope we can get along well together, alriiight?”
He couldn’t really get a read on what emotion was being exhibited in his different-colored eyes after that immediate reply.
Incidentally, Subaru was super embarrassed on the inside after unintentionally professing his love so strongly, but when he nervously turned his head to get a peek at Emilia’s expression, “You’re reaaally hopeless, Subaru… Is something the matter?”
He was somewhat puzzled by her calm response.
As one would expect from a beautiful girl, she was probably used to being flirted with, including people cracking jokes at her and behaving like a philanderer, so he trembled in trepidation in front of one who had so much experience.
“I’m not sure if I, have it in me to keep hitting on you, Emilia-tan.”
Subaru couldn’t help but sigh at all of the many difficulties in store for him.
While Subaru was feeling uneasy about the uncertain future of his life in another world, worrying about it from a more peculiar angle than one would expect, Emilia let out a quiet murmur. “How impure, wanting to work in the same workplace as girls. But I wonder which one is more of your type, Rem, or Ram?”
Emilia, who’d put a finger to her lips and inflated her imagination, had completely taken it the wrong way.