—I can hear something that sounds like a bell ringing from far away. The sound of the bell rushes fiercely towards me, then recedes like a wave, over and over again.
Subaru, who was wailing continuously, didn’t realize that the painful sound in his ears was a kind of tinnitus.
He felt a terrible ache in his temples and a burning sensation deep inside his nose. However, he bit his tongue and lip and used the taste of his blood to focus on that sharp pain.
He masked out all of it—the pain that made him feel like the contents of his chest were being scooped out, the sense of loss that didn’t feel real, and the rage that made him howl at the unreasonableness—with the taste of the blood in his mouth.
“Sir, you seem like you are in pain. Are you okay?”
“Sir, you seem like you have a stomachache. Did you defecate?”
I can hear two people nearby calling out to me with voices of concern. It hasn’t been long, but they were voices I’d gotten used to hearing. They are sometimes noisy, sometimes annoying, sometimes relieving, and sometimes it felt like I could trust them.
—But now they sounded completely different, ringing cruelly against Subaru’s eardrums.
“—Yeah, I’m fine,” he replied.
He gave a short answer while under their gaze, then raised his face while keeping his eyes shut.
The reason he’d pushed the blanket against his face was because the strong emotion that had been gushing out from within had somehow disappeared behind the curtains. If he opened his eyes, they might be slightly red, a remnant of his emotions.
But they won’t figure it out if I keep my eyes shut.
Subaru breathed quietly, again and again. He tried to keep his mind calm.
He had survived the initial shock of being forgotten and gradually gotten over the despair that had been tormenting him, but his heart was still crying out in pain at the sense of loss.
But even so, I can at least take my fate into my own hands and find a way to move forward.
“I’m sorry, about well, making you guys worried. It’s just that, I’m still half asleep.”
Subaru had a glib tongue that could spit words out like there was no tomorrow. His dry lips had produced a frivolous lie that didn’t reflect what was in his heart.
“Ha-ha.” Subaru faked a laugh in a husky voice. —Still, he couldn’t open his eyes.
I wish the world would go back to normal while I close my eyes and stare at the darkness. I’d be okay with it if this is all just a fleeting dream and none of this is happening, though.
Aah, how wonderful, annoying, and joyous is the thought that all of this is just Roswaal’s plan to trick me.
Such excuses seemed like great ideas to Subaru, and he thought they had a possibility of being true. He felt the thing blocking his chest disappearing.
Now feeling relieved thanks to his excuses, Subaru let out a small, clear sigh.
“—Yeah, that’s it.”
He opened his trembling eyelids, and the world in front of him that had been temporarily blurred expanded, making him see things as they were.
The twins were standing at both sides of the bed with their hands rested on it, looking at him. Ram and Rem’s familiar faces were looking at him with indifference just like before. Subaru couldn’t see any sort of emotion in them. Everything he’d built up with them until now had all but disappeared.
““Sir—?”” they said simultaneously with a confused tone of voice.
Their gaze moved and followed Subaru as he jumped out of the bed. He put some distance between them, hastened by the fear he was feeling.
“Sir, you must not move so suddenly. You still need to rest.”
“Sir, it is dangerous to move suddenly. You still need to rest properly.”
Subaru twisted reflexively and dodged the fingers that were being extended towards him. The twins’ eyes narrowed in pain, but he wasn’t in the right state of mind to notice that change.
It was an unbearable sensation.
The feeling of being treated like a stranger by someone you knew. He had experienced the same feeling just the other day, in a crowded street, in a back alley, in an abandoned house. But it was most certainly different from those times. The situation was different, the time was different, the experience was different.
It isn’t like doing it all over again with people I barely knew. This is like a one-sided do-over with the people I’d definitely formed a bond with.
He felt nauseous and wanted to puke due to how odd it felt for someone he once knew to become somebody else entirely.
The twin maids had begun to notice something peculiar about Subaru, who was staring at them with a feeling similar to fear in his trembling eyes.
A slight silence fell in the room. Neither party could act, waiting to see what the other party would do. So… “I’m sorry—I can’t do this right now.”
Subaru’s action was only a split second faster than the twins, who tried to stop him as he got ahold of the doorknob and rushed out into the hallway. While feeling the cold floor of the hallway under his feet, Subaru exhaled loudly and ran furiously, blindly rushing forward.
He didn’t know what he was running from. He didn’t know why he had to run. But he kept running. His instincts told him that they would catch up to him if he stopped.
There’s just no way I can stay in that place. An alarm is ringing loudly in my head. My heart, my instincts, and my soul are screaming that I shouldn’t stay there. I don’t know why, but they just keep screaming.
He ran past a number of similar doors, haphazardly running through the hallway as if he was going to fall miserably at any moment.
While gasping, he placed his hand on a door as if he had been led to it and opened it.
—He slipped into the forbidden library, where a large number of books were lined up on shelves.
Once the door closes, the library will be completely cut off from the outside world. After which, people will have to open every door in the mansion to find the one that leads here.
Breathing heavily, he rested his back against the door and sank down to the floor. Even though he had sat down, his knees were trembling. He extended his fingers towards them to stop them from shaking miserably, but even his fingers were trembling uncontrollably as if they belonged to a drunk who’d run out of alcohol.
“I might be able to perform well if I play paper sumo, ha-ha.”
His self-mockery lacked sharpness, and the dry laughter only accentuated the emptiness he was feeling.
The air in the tranquil library was filled with the smell of old paper, and it flooded Subaru’s tense heart with relief. The only comfort he could get now was by clinging to it, even though he knew it was something that wouldn’t last. He took deep breaths repeatedly, again and again. And then…
“—You are truly rude to enter without knocking.”
A taunting voice reached Subaru, who was repeatedly catching his breath like a fish out of water, from far behind the shelves.
Sitting on a wooden chair in the back of the dimly lit room was a young girl with cream-colored hair. It was Beatrice, the guardian of the Forbidden Library at Roswaal Manor—she never changed, never budged, and maintained her distance from Subaru. She closed the book in her hand with a plop. Then, with the book that was too large for her tiny body still in her hand, she asked, “How did you break the Door Crossing, I wonder… Back then, and now.”
“I’m sorry but let me stay for a bit. Please.”
He pleaded by joining both his hands and started meditating without waiting for her reply.
—I need to face reality and myself in a quiet place where nobody can disturb me.
I need to calm down. Accept reality. I am Natsuki Subaru. This is another world. I’m in Roswaal’s mansion. The names of the twins are Ram and Rem and the girl in front of me is Beatrice. And this is the forbidden library of this mansion. I can enter it quite easily due to my intuition that I’ve named ‘Door Breaker’. I don’t have a wound on my left hand. I don’t have proof of my effort. The promised morning won’t come. The promise I made. That I have to go somewhere with someone—
“Oh yeah, Emilia…”
He recalled her silver hair shimmering in the moonlight and her shy smile. He recalled the promise he’d made with the girl under the moon, with the girl that shone equally as bright as the stars in the sky.
“...You aren’t adding any honorifics, I suppose.”
“What’s today’s month and date…? Do you know what the time is?”
Subaru, who had been quiet for a while, started asking questions one-sidedly without pausing. Beatrice seemed offended by it. She looked at his behavior with annoyance and then snorted. “Time, dates, and months are meaningless to Betty since she spends her time in a library with frozen time, I suppose.”
“What’s your point?” Subaru asked.
“It’s none of Betty’s business, I suppose.”
“Damn it! You are useless! I was an idiot to have expected anything from you!”
“This boy, saying whatever he wants to…”
Beatrice crinkled up her nose after hearing Subaru’s unfiltered words that lacked any sort of consideration for others.
“But,” Subaru continued talking to the girl who had a frown on her pretty face, “at least you didn’t treat me like a creep. And you mentioned how I broke the door back then. Shit, you are confusing!”
“What’s up with your noisy monologues… Betty doesn’t want you to be noisy in the library. It ruins the tranquil atmosphere, I suppose,” Beatrice replied with a sigh, looking fed up with his attitude as he glared at her in silence. “It was just three or four hours ago that I teased you for being ill-mannered.”
“What happened to the whole the library’s time is frozen thing…?”
Subaru didn’t forget to jump at her mistake even though he was completely spent. After acting upon his urge, he thought about what Beatrice had just said.
—Beatrice and Subaru’s encounter three or four hours ago.
What it means is that this is when I first woke up in the mansion. I had just broken the infinite hallway illusion and found the right door on my first try.
Back then, Beatrice pulled out a huge chunk of something like mental power against my will, leaving me unconscious.
When I woke up the next time, I was on the bed and Ram and Rem were there—
“So, in short, this is the second time I’ve woken up in the mansion.”
Things made sense after Subaru was able to remember the scenes in his vague memory. That was the only day when the twin maids came together to wake him up. On top of that, the first day was the only time he’d been in a position to use the guestroom bed.
So… “I went back four days from five days in the future. Is that what it means…?”
Subaru defined his current state after looking properly into the situation he was in. He had travelled back in time once again under the guidance of some mysterious power; in a way he didn’t want, on a time axis he didn’t wish to be in.
He could understand what had happened, but accepting it was a different story. Subaru held his head and started thinking of the reason why he had gone back like this. He had only been going back in time for a day, which happened to be the day he had been summoned to this word. Using the experience from his three deaths, he was able to save Emilia. He thought he had escaped the loop by doing so.
In fact, the phenomenon in which I travel back in time, which I named Return by Death, hasn’t happened until now, and my five days in the mansion went by very peacefully.
And now I travelled back in time out of the blue—there wasn’t any sort of a sign, either.
“The conditions are different from last time, huh? I just assumed I went back in time when I died, but does it actually occur after a week…? No, if that’s the case, then…”
It wouldn’t explain why it chose this day to return me to. I’m not sure what sort of theory is behind me going back in time, but if I think about the times I repeated things, then there must be some set of rules that it follows. And one of those deals with the place I return to.
If Subaru hadn’t escaped that loop, then he’d have woken up in front of that scar-faced grocer again.
“But in reality, the view in front of me went from a middle-aged guy with a scar to two angelic maids. But I, on the receiving end, experienced hell instead of heaven.”
While saying that, Subaru touched his body here and there, making sure everything was in order. If it was following the same rule till now, then the reason why he had travelled back in time was clear. Which is—Subaru had died.
But the problem with that is… “Suppose I did die, but then how did I die? Nothing was out of the ordinary before I fell asleep. Even after I fell asleep, I never felt like I was going to die or anything.”
Even if I was guided into a deep sleep, is it even possible to get killed without you knowing?
There was a possibility that he had been killed by a poisonous gas while he was asleep. But in that case, it would mean that he had been assassinated, and it didn’t make any sense if there was no reason for it.
I don’t think I’m worth that much at the moment at all.
“If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s a forced loop due to failing to meet the clear conditions.”
If we consider this a game, then it’s the effect of not triggering the necessary flags. But I don’t know who planted them, so I have no idea what the trigger is for this one. Beating a game with unclear triggers is hard. Without caring much, I’d always end up relying on strategy sites to beat games, which was a bad aspect of the internet.
“Talking with friends, exchanging information by word of mouth, sometimes getting false info, and then moving forward step-by-step... That’s how it’s supposed to be done.”
“I thought I heard you mumbling a while ago. Now the atmosphere has been ruined, in fact,” muttered Beatrice in an unamused tone as she watched Subaru sink into a sea of thoughts.
Subaru lifted his head up and saw the girl, her lips curled as if to say she was frustrated at him for ignoring her. “Life and Death—such dull, insignificant things are only measured in human terms. All that resulted from your incessant mumbling was a bunch of delusional ramblings. It is not even something worth discussing, in fact.”
The girl shrugged her shoulders and brushed him off dismissively. Subaru stood up, somewhat relieved by her unchanging hostility towards him.
He brushed the dust off his bottom and reached for the doorknob, but then heard a voice from behind. “You are going, I suppose?”
“I have something to confirm,” he replied. “I’ll do the sulking after I’m done with that. Thanks for the help.”
“I didn’t do anything... Hurry up and leave. I need to shift the door again.” Her tone had no sign of gentleness, but it felt quite pleasant for Subaru now.
Beatrice hadn’t intended on doing so, but Subaru felt like her words had given him the push he needed to take a step forward. He turned the doorknob and took a step into the cold breeze blowing his way. The wind jostled his short bangs, and his eyes hurt a little, so he shielded them with an arm. After the wind died down, he felt the grass under his bare feet—and the thing that came into his view was…
“Ah, she really is beautiful.”
My heart has been beating out of my chest ever since the silver-haired girl panting in the garden came into my view.
How very thoughtful of her, Subaru commented sarcastically at the cocky girl internally. And then…
Upon noticing him, the girl widened her amethyst eyes and rushed towards him without a second to lose. The word that spilled from her lips made up of three syllables and rang like a silver bell made Subaru’s heart tingle no matter how many times he heard it.
Naturally, Subaru’s legs gravitated towards the girl rushing his way. They were now facing each other, and the girl lowered her eyes in relief after looking his whole body up and down. However, she quickly regained her composure and straightened her posture.
“Hey, you made me worry. Rem and Ram were in a panic searching for you all over the manor, saying you had disappeared not too long after you woke up.”
“Mm, sorry. I got caught by Beatrice for a bit.”
“Again? I heard she pulled a prank on you not too long ago…”
Subaru almost reached his hand out at Emilia involuntarily at the sight of her beauty. She was leaning towards him in a concerned manner, but he restrained his weak heart.
If I do this here, it would be far too thoughtless of me. It would mean that me disturbing the tranquility of Beatrice’s room was meaningless. My objective wasn’t just to frame her.
Subaru could only respond to Emilia’s sorrowful face with a vague smile. Despite his uncharacteristic attitude, she was somewhat distant and didn’t press him.
It was obvious since there was no way a girl who had only spent less than an hour with Subaru would know that it was uncharacteristic of the current Subaru to do so.
There is an unfillable gap of four days between her and I. There are obviously four days that only I know of.
“It seems as if my thoughts are being influenced by extraterrestrials,” Subaru commented.
“Extra, terrestrials…?” Emilia asked. “What, what does that mean?”
“It just means the poet in me got a little too carried away. Leaving that aside, well, I’m glad you’re safe.”
A skirt above the knees and black knee socks. It was a sporty style with black as the base color; it was the same as the one that had delighted him on the first day.
Naturally, the body beneath her outfit made it through the whole loot house fiasco without getting a scratch on it.
“‘Body beneath her outfit’... The thought of that really gets me going, if you know what I mean.”
“Thank you for saving me… That’s what I wanted to say, but I reaaally don’t like those eyes.”
Being glared at by Emilia, Subaru was able to put on a natural wry smile.
His condition was returning to normal, albeit gradually.
I need to rev up the gears, lick my lips, and get off my ass and move forward. Come to think of it, I am a lucky guy. I didn’t start over from the grocer this time. There’s no dying a dog’s death flag by the hands of Ton-Chin-Kan, and neither is there starting from the point where Emilia’s likability for me is at its lowest because I said something stupid to her. Elsa’s gutting festival end is also out of the equation. After overcoming the battle in the loot house and sharing a life and death situation together, we must have developed a passionate, fiery bond that no one can interfere with. Though only a tiny flame now, it won’t take much for it to instantly burst into an enormous blaze.
“I am a positive thinker.”
And so, looking back at things with a positive outlook made the current situation feel like an opportunity.
Unlike last time, in that loot house where I had to make it through an absolute life or death crisis, there is nothing at stake this time until I come across the direct cause of this loop.
In other words, all Subaru had to do was calmly follow the route that he had already experienced and modify it so that it became his ideal route. By taking the same steps as before, he’d be able to make the promise of that moonlit night.
—If that’s the case, then how much more promising would the promise of the moonlit night be if I took a far better route?
“Ha, this time I am at the climax from the start,” Subaru said.
“Seems like you are getting pumped up, but is your body fine?” Emilia asked.
“Hm? Oh yeah, I am in my super dooper best condition. I am a little short on blood, my life force has been taken away from me, my mental power and physical strength were greatly drained when I woke up, and I feel like my mind was beaten with a bat, but I’m fine!”
“Isn’t that called being wounded all over?”
“A pinch is an opportunity, and a baseball game only really starts when there are two outs in the ninth inning and you’re the last one up to bat.”
Subaru snapped his fingers and gave a thumbs up. In the face of his attitude, Emilia relaxed her shoulders as if her worries had melted away.
“Anyway, it’s fine if you are well. Well, do you want to go back inside? I’ve got a bit of business to attend to here, so I’m staying.”
“Oh, talk time with the spirits, right? I won’t disturb you, so can I stay? Wake up Puck, too. I want to pet him in that state.”
“I don’t mind, but you really shouldn’t interrupt, alright? Since it isn’t a game.” Emilia tilted her head at Subaru as he wiggled his fingers, telling him not to interrupt her like she was speaking to a child.
Subaru found her elder sister-like gesture endearing—lighting the fire of determination up in his heart.
“Alright then, let’s go, let’s go. Time is limited and the world is vast. And mine and Emilia-tan’s has just begun.”
“That’s right… What? What did you just say? Where did ‘Emilia-tan’ come from?”
Although Emilia objected, she said, “It’s alright, it’s alright.” Subaru then pushed on her back and led her to the usual place. He knew she would lose her will to correct him after he called out to her like that. And even that was one of the bonds that had been formed during the four days that had been lost.
“—I’ll take it back,” Subaru murmured as he followed the back of the girl who was moving deeper into the garden with a disgruntled look. He stopped and looked at the silver-haired girl as she moved away, then gazed towards the sky.
—I can see the despicable sun rising, still low in the eastern sky.
I gotta do this all over again. And I don’t mind one bit as long as I can make it to the time of the promise. It’d be great if I could see the sunrise with the girl I made a promise with, with the girl that looks good under the moon.
—I have time, and I know the answer.
“I don’t know who’s harassing me, but I’ll take everything back and make you cry. Never underestimate a modern teenager’s temper.”
He clenched his fist against the sky and declared war on an unknown entity. It was a clear declaration of rebellion for the first time since he had come to this world, against the being that had thrown him into the loop and had summoned him here.
The second loop, and the battle to get past the week at Roswaal Manor and see where those days would take him, began. In order to fulfill the promise made that night—
“Bring it on, oh inevitable fate!”