—The prolonged breakfast had come to an end. I thought it was the norm for everyone to go about their business as soon as breakfast ends, Subaru thought. But…
“For the time beiiing, Lady Emilia, please follow your usual schedule. And Ram, show him—Subaru—around the manor. Rem, you can follow your usual routine… But before that.”
As the master of the manor, Roswaal gave orders crisply, his posture and gestures full of dignity, though the size of his collar tended to obscure his grandeur. He then grinned widely at Subaru as if he had read his mind. “Buuut before that, you neeed to introduce yourself first. Luckily, all of the residents of the manor have gathered here.”
“That’s lucky alright…” Subaru commented. “But seriously, the number of people here is super small! There are only five people and a cat living here, excluding me!”
“Counting Bubby as a cat is extremely disrespectful, in fact.” Beatrice interrupted Subaru’s surprise, clearly unhappy with him.
Subaru raised his hand in a cumbersome manner and responded to her words. “Alright, alright,” he replied. “Excluding me, there are four people living in this mansion along with a furball and a drill… Are you happy now?”
“...I’ve heard you say that several times, but what’s that “drill” you speak of, I wonder?”
“A drill is a man’s soul, a man’s dream.”
“It was stupid of Betty to ask you that, I suppose. Roswaal, is it fine for Betty to return now? She wants to relax with Bubby.”
Beatrice rubbed her eyes and turned towards Roswaal, her gestures not matching her age. In front of her was Puck, still on the dining table. He placed his hand on his hip and threw his chest out. “I’m super fluffy, yes.”
Just looking at him is kinda pleasant.
“I knooow you two aren’t veeery compatible,” said Roswaal, “but you guys are going to be working together from now on, so be a bit friendlier, please.”
“Betty has made all the possible concessions, I suppose,” replied Beatrice. “Asking for more wouldn’t leave even the head of the Mather’s family unharmed.”
Suddenly, Beatrice threatened Roswaal in a quiet tone. The sudden change in atmosphere made Subaru feel like the air in the room had become heavy. The cause was, of course, Beatrice, but the change was unnatural.
He’d felt it when he met her for the first time, but there was more to this young girl with chestnut-colored hair than met the eye.
It wasn’t just that she spoke in a sarcastic tone or the fact that she drank, it was something on a completely different level. Something was fundamentally off about her. So, he asked, “Sorry for interrupting your fun time, but what are you? You seem like you belong here, but as far as what your role is, I don’t have a clue what it could be.”
“Betty is in a bad mood at the moment, I suppose. You’d better watch your mouth, human. Betty could turn you into stone and shatter you into pieces if she so desired, in fact,” she replied with lowered brows after Subaru failed to read the mood and questioned her.
Subaru gasped at the little girl’s intimidating aura that made him almost reflexively get in a defensive position.
“Betty is the caretaker of the Forbidden Library in Roswaal’s manor.”
However, such an atmosphere was dissipated by the comment of the grey cat who had leisurely intervened. The kitten was biting on a corner of something close to a rusk made by frying the bread’s crust with sugar-like seasoning sprinkled on it.
“Sweet! Delicious! Meooow!”
“Sorry to bother you when you’ve lost your sanity due to the sweetness, but can you tell me about that in detai…oh, you’re just so soft and fluffy.” Subaru had approached Puck to question him, but his hands reflexively went towards his ears and began petting them. Puck gobbled down the rusk speedily while he petted him to his heart’s content.
“Roswaal is ‘somewhat’ of a magician,” Puck explained. “The Mathers have a long history, so there are books they don’t want others to see. So, Betty is guarding the Forbidden Library according to her contract with him so that such books stay away from the public eye. Is that right?”
“Yes, that’s right,” confirmed Beatrice. “Everything Bubby says is always right, in fact.”
“Communicating becomes easy when Puck enters the frame, fluffy,” added Subaru. “All are equal in front of a fuzzball, after all, fluffy.”
“Your sentences are ending in fluffy,” Emilia informed him.
Subaru hastily let go of Puck’s ears after Emilia coldly pointed out that his sentences were ending in a funny manner. He had just proved how addictive petting could be.
The tragedy of loving a fuzzball. How ironic.
“The addictiveness of a fuzzball has backfired on me… Hey, wait!”
As Subaru was acting like a tragic character, Beatrice ignored it and fearfully reached out her hand, touching Puck’s ear. The sensation surprised her, and her cute face drooped as the feeling on her fingertips sent her into a state of bliss.
Subaru gasped at how adorable she looked, her expressions now befitting her age. Puck gobbled down the rusk, not paying any mind to her fingertips playing with his ears.
Subaru turned his head away and looked at them from the corner of his eyes. “Hm-Hmph. I’m not jealous that Puck is cheating on me.”
“Stop being so cold, Subaru,” said Puck. “It’s between you and I, isn’t it, meow? I’ll throw this girl away after she gives me all the money she has.”
“Bubby, you are being so mean, in fact…but you’re so soft.”
“Oh, sorry, my lovely Betty. Of course, it is a lie. It’s obvious you are the most important to me. You, and you alone, are special.”
Puck was just a palm-sized pet cat, but he was acting like a player playing with their feelings. They both felt all fuzzy inside looking at him do his bad-guy act, but Emilia, who had placed her hands on her hips, came in between them.
She pinched Puck’s head between her fingers and picked him up, making him scream like a cat in bliss. “Meowh!”
“Puck, don’t get carried away,” Emilia chided. “And stop eating that many sweets. I won’t let you stay on my shoulder if you get really fat because of it.”
“Hahaha, are you jealous? You want to be the most important person, don’t you, Lia? Worry not, for the place where my heart returns to is always you. Even if I waver like a floating cloud during a windy day, I’ll always return to…meow, meow, meow, meow!”
The force pinching Puck’s head increased as he said his cheesy pick-up line, making him give up. She looked at the limp Puck and sighed, then begrudgingly looked at Subaru. “My child got this bad influence from you, Subaru…” lamented Emilia.
“Is it, though? Isn’t this how he naturally is? And you tamed him by doing an iron claw. I feel like I just witnessed the dark side of a Journey to the West-like household.”
It’s like watching Master Triptikia and Sun Wukong from up close, he thought. Although, I guess their parent-child role did a complete 180 here. —Well, that’s just how Puck usually is if the situation isn’t serious. It isn’t much of an issue as long as he’s serious when he needs to be, though.
“But then, you were useless yesterday when you were needed… Hey, you’ll end up being a useless cat who’s all talk and no bite at this rate.”
“Bubby is fine like that, in fact!” retorted Beatrice. “He just needs to exist and that makes everything better! The rest of the things are just a part of Bubby’s charm, I suppose!”
“Your worship of him is extreme, isn’t it!?” exclaimed Subaru. “That being said, “Guardian of the Forbidden Library” stimulates my nerdy mind. More about that in detail.”
He held both hands in the shape of a pistol and pointed his fingers at Beatrice. She played with her drills while looking disgusted by his gesture, then spoke up softly, though she looked reluctant. “What Bubby told you is everything about it. If Betty has to spell it out for you… It is that room you entered, I suppose.”
“Oh, that place filled with books.”
That reminds me of the room that made me worry the floor might give out due to the large number of books in it. On the other hand, if all of them were Librorum Prohibitorum that weren’t supposed to be in circulation, it would be criminal, wouldn’t it?
Librorum Prohibitorum—it was a wonderful word that grabbed a man’s heart, shook it, and forever remained.
Come to think of it, when he was in middle school, when he was mentally unripe and was in the middle of his youth, he referred to books that stimulated and released his young desires as Librorum Prohibitorum.
For some reason, the kendo club that Subaru belonged to boasted an overwhelmingly large number of such books. There was even a special storage room under the floor of the kendo club room in the club activity complex.
The information regarding it got leaked due to a dispute with the baseball club—during the cultural festival when students from other schools visited—and the book depository got caught up in cancel culture before graduation.
The story goes that the kendo club room was closed down because of that. The obscene literature survived, but they had no place to store them and were thus scattered all over the place.
“Come to think of it, we did our juniors dirty,” Subaru reflected. “They were passed down from one generation to another and had a rich history. They were sorted out orderly by era and genre. It’s really nostalgic…”
“Betty answered your question, but Betty feels that you are thinking of the dumbest thing in the world, and that’s making her flare up with rage, in fact.”
“Don’t let the anger consume you. Eat some small fish. Consuming calcium will make you calmer, and who knows, you might grow a bit taller. I think the height difference between Emilia-tan and I is perfect for hugging and doing stuff from love-comedy’s…”
He pretended to give the indignant Beatrice a piece of advice, dropping hints of him liking Emilia, but Emilia ignored Subaru’s fantasies and pointed her finger at something else entirely.
“Wait a minute, Subaru,” Emilia began. “Did you just say you’ve entered the Forbidden Library?”
“Yeah, I did enter it. I was on my way back to my room so I could sulk in my bed and sleep. But that drill loli had turned my room into her workplace. On top of that, she took my energy from me… It’s the shitty yakuza way.”
Subaru’s sanpaku eyes turned even sharper while complaining, but Beatrice turned away and ignored him. Emilia now turned to her to ask something. “Beatrice…you didn’t invite Subaru into the Forbidden Library, did you?”
“Not in a million years, I suppose. Why would Betty want to invite a lowlife like him? …He got the right answer to the Door Crossing, in fact.”
“The elegance is slipping from your tone, my lady,” teased Subaru. “Ohohohoho.”
Subaru placed his hand on his mouth and started laughing elegantly, making Beatrice silently furious with him. In the background of their heartwarming conversation, Roswaal, who had been silent until then, touched his nose and exclaimed in surprise.
“It takes me a whiiile to reach the Forbidden Library if I try opening up the doors randomly, but you were able to enter it without her permission. You two must be quiiite compatible with one another.”
““Haaah!?”” they both exclaimed simultaneously and turned towards Roswaal while frowning. They looked at each other, mirroring each other’s movements, and started glaring. They followed the same flow and curved their lips into a pout.
“Your faces are mirror images of each other, you two,” commented Emilia.
“Adorable, adorable Betty and this thing?” huffed Beatrice. “That’s a bad joke, in fact.”
“Same here,” seconded Subaru. “I’m not into lolis to begin with. I can’t laugh at it either. I wouldn’t be able to laugh…”
“Why do you have to act so serious? Betty has had enough of this, I suppose! I’ll leave you guys on your own, in fact!”
Beatrice had finally lost her patience with Subaru and had completely erupted after witnessing his masterful acting skill of making himself look gloomy.
She stood up, walked to the door of the dining room, and violently pushed it open.
But Subaru noticed something there. “What? Where’s the hallway?” he wondered.
It couldn’t be helped that he asked such a question. That’s because the door was supposed to be connected to the corridor that led to the center of the manor. Instead, he saw the library behind the door; the very same library he’d visited previously.
Beatrice, who had stepped into the forest of jam-packed bookshelves, looked triumphantly at Subaru. “This is Door Crossing. Burn this noble sight into your eyes and tremble. —I don’t want to see your face for a while.”
The door slammed shut, and the small girl disappeared behind it. Subaru was bewildered by it, and he was surprised further when Ram opened the door again after it had been shut.
The door that had gotten violently slammed shut opened slowly. Behind it was a vast corridor that Subaru had walked through to reach the dining room. It was hard to believe it had been connected to the library a moment ago.
“I see, so her magic can connect any door in this mansion to her room,” Subaru observed. “Seems perfect for a shut-in.”
“You are quiiick at understanding,” replied Roswaal. “Though I’m not sure what “shut-in” means.”
“They are parasites that don’t come out of their room except when they need to eat and bathe.”
“I seeee. Then yes, Beatrice is a shut-in.”
“I can hear the both of you, in fact,” said Beatrice, who had creaked the door that Ram had just closed open and was peeping her face out from behind it, looking at them.
This happened right after she said she didn’t want to see his face for a while. Subaru placed his hands on his hips. He moved his arms, mimicking the flapping of a bird, and hopped here and there from time to time.
“Well, well, well. What happened? What happened? You just went away quite energetically, so why are you here again? Did something happen? Did you forget something? That’s quite unfortunate. Hey, how do you feel? How are you feeling now?”
The HHN (Hey, how are you feeling, now) dance exploded right in front of Beatrice.
The reply to it was simple yet powerful. In short, he got blown away by Beatrice’s magical power after she had extended her palm from behind the door.
“Buon giorno!” he yelled.
Subaru got hit by an invisible mass of air, and his body, which wasn’t light in the slightest, was easily blown away. He lost his sense of direction and collided with the wall after flying over the dining table. The two maids, who had rushed there immediately, did an excellent job of keeping the pictures and furnishings on the wall in place after they had begun to shake.
As they did so, they kicked Subaru, who was lying near their feet, without mercy.