“...!” Waking to the sound of your own screaming is one of the worst things you can experience. Subaru sent the blanket flying as his hand immediately shot up. He gasped haggardly as he absorbed the shock. “My left arm…is still there…right?”
His left hand was raised in the air as if reaching out for something. His previously obliterated left side was again intact. Despite having lost a limb for only a short time, the feeling of loss hit Subaru like nothing else.
He raised himself up and rotated his left shoulder to make sure it still functioned as normal. No trace of damage remained on his left side, and there was no sign of the dog bite on his reattached left hand. If my scars were still there, I could’ve passed off this terrible feeling as a nightmare after passing out, but…
“I came back… No, I made it back.”
That’s what the missing scars mean. Fate got the better of me and I was forced back in time. In that case, it's better to say I lost but was given another go at it.
With all that squared away, Subaru realized he needed the day and time. According to his experience with Return by Death, he should have returned to his first day at Roswaal Manor. But it was possible he’d been sent back to a different point in time, so he first had to confirm this detail.
“Ah, sorry. Good morning.”
It was at that moment he noticed the presence of the twins holding each other’s hands off to the side of the room. An unconscious man had suddenly awoken screaming; of course they’d be scared. Even with his relaxed greeting, the twins didn’t respond. They remained huddled together like small animals protecting each other.
Scratching his head, Subaru wondered what he should do. The twins probably forgot all about me, huh? The thought pierced his heart, but he suppressed the pain and formed a smile. He’d have to first show goodwill in order to get along with them. Even if they had forgotten him, he remembered them clearly.
“Sorry for the trouble I’ve caused. Natsuki Subaru, ready to go!”
Subaru leaped up from the bed and raised his arms and leg into a flying crane pose. It intimidated the twins, but he remained like that as he asked, “By the way, could ya tell me the day and time?”
And so began his first day at Roswaal Manor for the third time.
Subaru thought back to what happened on the night of the fourth day. It was after I made my promise with Emilia, and it was most likely in the dead of night. Suddenly I got hit by chills and my strength totally drained away. The effect was potent enough to rapidly trigger asthenia. And that was while I was awake. Meaning...
“The first death was from asthenia while I was sleeping…”
Like a thread slowly curling around your neck, it was a slow but certain method of killing. If that’s what had happened while asleep and defenseless, then his consciousness would be swallowed up and he’d never wake again.
“The sound of a chain…”
The possibility of asthenia is merely conjecture for now, but this new mystery is far more important. The peculiar sound of a long chain clanking about. He clearly remembered that dreadful sound reverberating in his ears. It was immediately after he heard this that he was attacked and lost half his torso.
Just remembering that scene caused his left side to throb. Though his present body hadn’t experienced it, his soul fought against that painful memory.
Without knowing, he grabbed his left arm. “Meaning that there was an attacker. I don’t know if they were the same person who weakened me, but they’re probably working together at least.”
Subaru reasoned that there was at least one person involved during an attack on the mansion on the fourth night, and he just happened to be another victim. There’s no proof that the other inhabitants of the mansion were targets, but…
“If I was targeted, then everyone was probably a target. This is probably related to Emilia-tan’s royal selection, like with the loot house.”
I don’t know if the surrounding nobles have developed a grudge against Roswaal, so I should ignore that for now. If I’m going to get involved, I’d rather be involved in a cute girl’s business.
Subaru clutched his head as he gathered his thoughts. I’ve figured out there’ll be an attack and that Emilia will be targeted. That should be a big step forward. But…
“Even knowing that, I have no proof to explain it with and no real way to prevent it either.”
One problem with Return by Death was that it couldn’t be explained to others. That was the same for this attack on the mansion. If I desperately plead with Roswaal and get him to prepare for the attack, will the attacker see the preparations and just call it off? Where would my proof be in this case?
In the worst case, he was prepared to be branded the boy who cried wolf if it meant protecting Emilia and the others.
And facing the attacker himself was definitely not an option. Firstly, Subaru knew that he didn’t have that sort of power, and on top of that, he didn’t know anything about his attacker.
It would probably end with him crying like a baby while being brutally killed. A poor way to go.
“And I didn’t even see their face or their weapon. A completely meaningless death.”
If he didn’t know anything about his attacker, then there was no way to even begin a counterplan.
He folded his arms, tilted his neck, rotated his hips, and began to moonwalk around in a circle.
At the center of the room, in the middle of Subaru’s moonwalking circle, a young girl spoke up in irritation. “You’re irritating Betty to death, so either leave or Betty will kill you.”
Subaru turned towards the volatile girl and said, “Sorry, sorry. When I get things moving around other than my head, for some reason makes my brain works better. So let it slide, okay? We’re friends, aren’t we?”
“Betty doesn’t recall creating that relationship with you, I suppose. This is only the second time we’ve met.”
“Actions speak louder than words, and you did just let me in here.”
“You just broke through the Door Crossing on your own. What’s going on here, I suppose? Unbelievable.”
As always, Beatrice did nothing to hide her animosity towards Subaru. He initially came to the forbidden library because of this, in fact. He felt he would find some safety and solace in her reliably cold demeanor.
Part of the reason was to clear things up and organize his thoughts, but he also found it difficult to handle Ram and Rem keeping their distance from him like strangers. Unlike before, he properly excused himself before leaving the room this time and came to the only place he felt he could rely on.
“Well, I’m not here to cause any trouble. Just serve some tea and let me chill here.”
“Betty will do no such thing. You are truly irritating, in fact.” Playing with one of the curls in her hair, Beatrice’s lips curled up in annoyance.
A thought occurred to Subaru. “Come to think of it, you’re a magic user, right? Even though you don’t look it.”
“What do you think magic users are? And being compared to those second-rate users is troubling, I suppose.” Beatrice pouted with her nose pointed upwards.
She must have real confidence in herself. Based on that haughty attitude… “You don’t have many friends, do you?”
“Where did that come from?!”
“Well, I don’t have any friends either so I can tell, but that’s not good for you. Being so high and mighty at that age is gonna cause all kinds of trouble going forward.”
Beatrice just sighed at Subaru’s constant teasing. Seeing that reaction out of her made him cut off that topic and switch to the main issue at hand. Right, what I wanted to ask a magic user to begin with…
“Is there magic that can weaken someone until they die?”
Subaru’s sudden asthenia. He wanted to confirm whether it was by poison or disease, or perhaps by magic. My current theory is that the cause for my sudden chills and fatigue was magic. After all, there was no obvious source for a disease to spread that quickly, and the effects were too delayed for me to have ingested poison. Especially in the case of poison, I can’t think of a time I could have ingested it. Dinner was served communally; for example, the soup was served in one bowl and split between all of us. The other possibility is that it was laced in the tea and snacks I had with Emilia.
“In that case, the perpetrator can’t predict when I’ll have the snacks or the tea. ”
That method can be crossed out by running a probability check. Taking the existence of the intruder during the second loop into account, they’d have to have known about my weakened state, so there’d be no reason for them to use poison.
Beatrice frowned at Subaru’s question. She most likely wondered about the reason behind such a question. But seeing the rare seriousness in his expression, she sighed slightly and replied, “If it was a question of whether it exists, then it does.”
“So it does.”
“It is closer to a curse than magic, I suppose. There are more shamans that are familiar with it than magic users. It is a more nefarious method, I suppose.”
Subaru became confused by the appearance of this new job by the name of shaman. In response, Beatrice raised a finger as if presenting a lecture. “Curse-users, or shamans, come from the northern country of Gusteko. It is a subvariant of magic and spirit arts. However, it is full of defective techniques and not something to take seriously, I suppose.”
“But they can still curse someone to death, right?”
“That’s the defective part. There are many paths, but all they can do is cause harm to others. Out of all the mana users, they are the most irritating, I suppose.”
The hatred Beatrice showed towards the curse arts was so deeply ingrained that she showed no signs of willingness to compromise her point. Subaru held no appreciation for curses either. Right now he just needed more information.
“Anyway, so with that curse art thing, you can do what I said before?”
“You can, I believe. But rather than learning a curse, there’s a much simpler method, I suppose.”
Subaru furrowed his brows, at which Beatrice smiled amusingly. She then opened up her small palm and covered Subaru’s eyes. The next moment…
Subaru’s upper body quivered and collapsed at the sudden feeling of loss. He fell down to one knee, dangerously close to losing consciousness. His eyes fluttered as he felt the fatigue coursing through his body.
“How was it? Feeling it with your own body?”
Beatrice looked down at Subaru, giggling condescendingly. The back of her hand was elegantly placed at her lips, but Subaru couldn’t laugh it off and call her pose adorable with her actions still fresh in his mind.
“Dammit, what did you…”
“Simply put, Betty just drained the mana from your body. Simply drain some more and you would reach the same condition, I suppose. Rather than relying on some curse, this way is much easier.”
Subaru could do nothing more than look up maliciously at the triumphant Beatrice. This triggered a sudden thought for him. In the current timeline, I received my first mana-drain from Beatrice right before I passed out. Meaning I was mana-drained right before sleeping, then mana-drained right after waking up.
“Are you trying to kill me?!”
“Betty held back. If you were to turn into a husk here, then Betty would have to deal with your husk every time she wants a book.”
“Husk? What am I, a bug?”
When seeing her expression that seemed to confirm this, Subaru began to question why he thought this was a safe place. Confirming that he still had feeling in his arms and legs, he mustered his strength, stood up, and lightly tapped his foot against the floor. “Don’t tell me that you’re the one who killed me.”
“If you died then we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and it would be more peaceful. Unfortunately, Betty is busy and doesn’t have time to kill you.” She folded her arms behind her and moved away from Subaru to a bookshelf. Her gothic lolita dress fluttered as she struggled to grasp a book just barely out of reach. And so…
“...The one next to it. Hurry and hand it over, in fact.”
He grabbed the surprisingly thick book off the shelf and passed it to the sulking girl. Remaining displeased as she took it from him, she again moved away from him and towards a stepladder. Her small stature looked more suited to sitting on that stepladder than on a chair, and without fail, whenever Subaru wandered into the Forbidden Library she was sitting in that same spot with a book in hand.
“What book are you reading there?”
“A book that mentions how to get rid of bugs.”
“You have bugs in the library? That’s the worst. What kind?”
“It’s big and black, with a foul expression and mouth. And it thinks highly of itself, I suppose.”
“That’s a very peculiar bug there.”
Something you'd wanna check for and get rid of as quickly as possible. Most of the books here are probably way beyond me, but as a book lover, I can't forgive anything that damages books.
That’s what Subaru truly thought.
Upon seeing that, Beatrice sighed lightly. “Do you have any other business, I suppose? If not then please leave.”
“Ah, um…right. So that thing where you slurp out someone’s mana, can anyone do that?”
“That term feels inappropriate, I suppose… In this mansion, only Betty and Bubby can use that. Roswaal doesn’t have the talent for it, I suppose.”
“Really? I heard he was all-powerful.” Maybe he was just putting on a show? Subaru formed a rude thought about the manor’s lord. He gave himself a pass, however, since he technically hadn’t met him in this timeline, yet. “Anyway, about that. Could you not just take so much when you do that mana-drain? Both you and Puck.”
“...I suppose Bubby has extracted mana from you as well?”
“Yeah, that bastard. He said I was full of mana, and he just kept asking and asking and forcefully… What’s wrong?”
As Subaru continued his rant, a bit of crimson appeared beneath Beatrice’s eyes. She placed both hands on her cheeks and muttered, “Ah, what a thing, I suppose. Betty and Bubby had an indirect mana-drain.”
“What’s with that bittersweet, indirect kiss-like reaction!” Stop that! I feel like a can that’s been passed around!”
“With that in mind, it was quite a rich flavor… Can Betty do it again, I suppose?”
“I’ll shrivel up like a prune! I don’t have much blood right now!”
“Ah, right. Everything important was put back, but your blood wasn’t returned, I suppose. Well, even Betty isn’t that all-powerful.”
Beatrice sighed in disappointment, but Subaru could only tilt his head in confusion. Her statement didn’t match up with his memory.
“That makes it sound like it was you who patched me up. It’s not good to try and steal credit from Emilia-tan.”
“That half-blooded girl doesn’t have the power to fix fatal wounds yet, in fact. She and Bubby closed the wound, and Betty healed it… What’s wrong, I suppose?”
“I just don’t know how to feel.”
A hidden side of what happened back then had just unexpectedly come to light.
He assumed that Emilia had healed him, just like she did back in the alleyway. He glared at the girl in front of him suspiciously; she didn’t falter and eyed him back just the same. Unless she’s a big fat liar, her words can be taken as truth. That means that Beatrice is…
“You big fat liar. You have the worst personality!”
“Says the one who can’t take kindness from another person!”
The verbal battle began and quickly escalated to the verge of a physical one. But before Subaru could grab her, he found himself flying through the air by Beatrice’s magic. She played with one of her curls as he found himself hitting the now upside-down door.
“It’s about time for you to leave, I suppose. The shaking in your hands has stopped, so your fear must’ve left you.”
“...You noticed it?”
“You were trying to hide it, I suppose? It’s vexing to be treated so conveniently.”
Beatrice turned her nose up and waved her hand as if to shoo away a bug. Subaru accepted this gesture, righted himself, and stood up. He then brought his hand up to his face—the shaking had indeed stopped.
It may have been his fifth death, but it wasn’t something that he could get used to. In fact, as the number rose and his experiences increased, he could feel his legs shaking at the thought of feeling that terror again.
On top of that was the way he died this last time. Who could blame him for feeling terror deep in his soul—so deep that no trace of courage remained in his body once he returned?
“I guess the time for excuses is over. Jeez, you’re not kind at all.” He smiled bitterly. With that last excuse over, Subaru raised his head. Placing his hand on the doorknob, he turned back to the girl one last time. “Sorry. But thanks. I’ll come again.”
“Your payment was the indirect mana-drain. Next time Betty will drain the rest of it, I suppose. So don’t come here again.”
Beatrice cut him off with that curt line as she dropped her eyes back to her book. Smiling so that she wouldn’t see it, Subaru turned the doorknob and passed through the Door Crossing.
“Wait, was that bug you were talking about me!?”
“Hurry up and leave! You wish to be blown away, I suppose!”
And thus he was blown past the Door Crossing.
“Umm, can I ask if you’re okay?”
“Damn, that kindness is my only solaaace. This is so great.”
Meeting the silver-haired girl in the garden, Subaru relaxed. He had been struck by Beatrice’s magic and launched out the door. From there, his body kept going past the second-floor terrace until finally landing in a flower bed below. Luckily the ground was soft enough to cushion his fall, but depending on how he fell he could have easily had to restart for the third time. The reason? His smart mouth.
“It keeps seeming more likely that she’s the one who killed me…”
“Can you stand? Is your tummy ok?”
“For now my stomach doesn’t appear to have reopened. It wouldn’t be very funny if the one who closed it up just opened it again. Man, sorry, but could you give me a hand getting up?”
“That’s the flower bed that Rem spread manure over yesterday, isn’t it…?”
“Aaaaaah! Abnormal Play!!”
He quickly withdrew the half of his body that had been dug into the flower bed and rolled out. Emilia, strangely far away, came closer as Subaru frantically wiped the mud and what might not be mud from his clothing.
“That doesn’t count! That doesn’t count, right!? It was yesterday, so it’s just dirt by now, right!?”
“Um, well, Subaru… Good soil grows good plants, so maybe you can take this as a sign of good luck…”
“Emilia-tan has already shifted into consideration mode!?”
Meaning it definitely counts.
Subaru wanted to cry at his pitiful state as he wrung out his sleeve. Meanwhile, Emilia watched that figure with a pained smile before reaching up to her chest. “Puck, wake up.”
In the palm of her hand lay a brightly shining green crystal. The light coming from the crystal formed a shape, and soon after the light solidified, a small gray cat appeared on top of her hand. The cat stretched, yawning widely. “Umm, morning, Lia. Ah, Subaru, you’re awake.”
“Morning, Puck. Sorry to ask this of you when you just woke up, but could you wash Subaru for me?” Emilia asked as she raised Puck in front of her face, one eye closed.
Subaru found himself enchanted by her demeanor. Puck nonchalantly turned around, noticed Subaru’s state, and nodded in understanding. “Alright, I’ll wash him. Here!”
“Wash me? What does that—ughr!?”
Puck turned both of his palms towards Subaru. From his palms appeared a magic circle, from which a continuous burst of water erupted. The water blasted Subaru’s right side with enough force that it seemed like Puck was trying to wipe all filth in the world from existence.
“Is this a flash flood!!” cried Subaru, as the force of the water caused his body to spin.
“Oh sorry, I should balance it,” Puck said, before changing the direction of the water. With the water now hitting his left side, Subaru began to spin in the opposite direction.
Puck fine-tuned the direction from there.
“There, now you’re all clean,” declared Puck.
“Right to left…my heart…goes round and round…” Falling to his knees and arms on the water-soaked ground, the overwhelming urge to vomit came over Subaru. But with an empty stomach, all that came out was spit.
Despite the torturous treatment, he did feel a little better. Wiping away the spit from his mouth, he slowly got up. “My first flash flood was dangerous… I thought my arm was going to come off. Hey, you aren’t actually the culprit here, are you?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but do I look like someone who would do such an evil thing? That hurts,” Puck pouted in defiance, his hands on his hips, despite having just nearly drowned Subaru.
In response, Subaru just flicked him on the forehead and turned back to Emilia. It was the worst reunion yet, but his negotiating power going forward depended on how well he could recover from this. Despite everything, he had managed to make it work the first and second times, so he decided to push forward based on that. But as he was thinking about how to make the first step...
“Ahaha! Sorry, no, ahahaha! What are you two doing… Ahaha! Ah, I’m dying.”
In the face of such laughter, his resolve went flying away. Pointing towards Subaru’s soaked figure, Emilia burst into uncontrollable laughter. If they weren’t outside she’d be rolling on the floor.
Subaru could only stand there dumbfounded. Then he faced Puck, who had at some point started flying. “Anyway, first contact: success! Thanks for the assist, Father!”
“Who are you calling Father? I won’t hand over my daughter so easily,” Puck declared, puffing out his chest.
Upon hearing that, Emilia burst out into laughter once again.