Emilia sighed as she looked down at Subaru, who was still prostrating himself, and put a finger to her lips as if she had just remembered something. “That reminds me…”
The gestures she made sometimes looked strangely childish and cute in the eyes of Subaru. As he leapt up off the ground, Emilia removed her finger from her lips and pointed at her eyes. “You’ve never seen a spirit before, right? So do you know how to use mana then?”
“How do you use mana?”
“It’s as simple as focusing your eyes, right? What else is there…”
“Lia. It’s not that simple. You’ve only ever seen humans who are pretty good at using mana. Well, apart from that, Subaru’s situation is a little bit special.”
Emilia tilted her head and asked, “Special?”
Puck crossed his arms and nodded at Emilia. “From what I’ve seen after taking a quick glance, Subaru’s Gate is basically shut tight. Even if he has never seen a spirit or magic before, isn’t it too closed? It’s on that level.”
“That’s strange… Even if you only lived a normal life, that wouldn’t happen, right?”
“Yep, that’s why it’s strange. Subaru didn’t live a normal life.”
After they nodded to each other with their gazes linked, they looked at Subaru at the exact same time with bated breath. Subaru, who was being stared at by them, responded. “I can’t help but hesitate to interrupt you two when you’re in your own little world… I’m sooo jealous.”
“Well, well, I know it’s not normal.”
“Your definition of normal is totally wrong! I mean, isn’t it pretty rude to look at someone’s face and say they’re normal or not normal? How about your daughter then, huh?”
“I’m happy to say that she is growing up to be a kind and honest girl.”
“The stupid cat-parent has arrived!” Subaru covered his face with his palm at Puck’s attitude, which was nothing short of sweet to his daughter.
When Emilia saw that overreaction, she said, “I’m not sure why, but they seem really close.” Murmuring that, she looked at them back and forth.
After they heard her murmur, Subaru and Puck looked at each other, nodded, and then gave each other a high five. “Ohhh, definitely, we’re best buds! We’re on the same wavelength. Why don’t you come join me and then aim to be the world’s best comedy duo!?”
“You say that, but I’m sure you’re only after my body, right?” Puck replied.
“Whether it’s for love or your fluffiness, they are two different things, but I’m sure I’ll come back to you in the end. I’ll even tolerate a little bit of cheating if I’m feeling generous, tickle tickle tickle.”
They were interrupted by the touch of someone’s palms, and Subaru seemingly forgot about the conversation they were having since he was fully focused on playing with Puck with a grin on his face. Emilia then decided to leave Puck with Subaru for a while. “Puck, go play with Subaru over there. I’m going to go talk to the spirits now. I reaaally don’t want to be disturbed anymore, okay?”
“She’s thrown us away…”
“We’ve been thrown away…”
Emilia silently ignored the two of them who shrugged their shoulders in a joking manner. As soon as she gained some distance, she began to immerse herself in the spirits she brought along with her, which seemed to be the continuation of what she was doing before.
The scene of her talking to the spirits was just like the one he saw before—a fantastic sight to see. Subaru wanted to get a glimpse of it, which was why he had acted like that.
“Anyways, that wasn’t my real intention, so please understand that.”
“Don’t worry about it. Well, I don’t want to keep getting scolded, so I’ll just tell you about it myself. She’s in the middle of an important ceremony with the spirits, so I can’t overlook it any longer.”
“But you just can’t seem to stop yourself from interrupting it, though… What’s the big deal with it, anyways?”
“The ceremonial contract with a spirit—the forging of a covenant.”
Subaru scowled in confusion in response to hearing a lot of unfamiliar words. Puck, as if trying to find the right way to explain it, started by saying, “Let me see…”
“First of all, a spirit arts user needs to form contracts with spirits before they can use spirit magic. And the content of the contract varies from spirit to spirit. Are you still with me?”
“So it’s different from interest and collateral for a bank loan. OK.”
“My name isn’t OK, but I’ll proceed. The content that the spirits ask for is different for each individual spirit, but when it comes to minor spirits, they only want simple things like direct access to the caster’s mana. That’s why it’s rather easy to get them to cooperate with you.”
“OK, got it. But based on what you said, true spirits are different, right? How about explaining that one, Mr. Spirit?”
“Smart kids talk fast and are helpful…but we won’t get very far if you keep going off on tangents, though.”
Subaru scratched his head in embarrassment. Then Puck looked at him warmly while stroking his whiskers. “As you said, spirits who have minds of their own are more demanding, like me for example. Although, I’d like to strike a good deal with the contract maker if I can. Even so, I’m still a powerful spirit in my own right, so the contract conditions with Lia are rather strict.”
“I’ve been thinking about that for a while now, but Lia is a pretty cute nickname.”
“Your Emilia-tan is even cuter. Maybe I’ll call her that next time.”
“—I’m begging you, please don’t do that.” Puck agreed with Subaru’s choice of nickname, and then Emilia cut into their conversation with an angry look on her face.
While they were looking at her, the dim glow of the spirits that had been surrounding her disappeared as she glared at them.
—Looks like the Spirit Talk Show is over.
As Subaru stood up, he brushed the grass off his butt. “Is the party over? That felt like a piece of cake.”
“I cut it short because you two were interrupting me and it was sooo distracting. You’re able to get on people’s nerves even when you’re far away from them… It’s quite the talent.”
“Two people who shouldn’t have met have now met… I have a feeling that something is about to happen. I can’t stop thinking about it and my heart is pounding.”
As Subaru pounded his chest to the rhythm of his own heartbeat, Emilia held out her hand to him, and Puck jumped up from where Subaru was and landed there. He looked up at Emilia with his round black eyes with a somewhat satisfied smile on his face.
“It’s okay. From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t sense any malice, hostility, or ill-intent in Subaru. His personality is a bit weird, but he’s a good boy.”
“Wha…?” Emilia was at a loss for words after hearing Puck’s poor assessment.
She snapped at Puck in a hurried tone while she looked at Subaru to see how he reacted. “Why did you make that kind of comment in front of him… And even if it’s true, wouldn’t it be hurtful to be told that?”
“Oh, that’s alright. I must be a complete stranger to you, so it makes sense. It’s only natural to be suspicious of a nice guy like me whose name cannot even be verified… Though that part at the end really hurt, Emilia-tan!”
Emilia quickly covered her mouth with her hand, and Subaru chuckled bitterly at her honest reaction.
Subaru had expected this to happen, which was why he spent so much time with Puck in order to prepare for this exact moment. They were not so careless as to accept him, who hadn’t given out a single piece of decent information so far, without caution. The sudden appearance of Ram and Rem earlier, too, was a trick that was probably due to the fact that they were keeping an eye on his movements from somewhere.
“Although, I’m really not sure how to explain it.” The Subaru of this world existed in people’s memories, but no preexisting records existed. It was difficult to explain, and there was a good chance he’d be treated like a lunatic. With that being the case, letting Puck give his own judgement was the best choice.
Subaru hoped that with the help of the exchange just now that Puck, being able to read minds to a certain extent, would be able to convey his situation more convincingly than he himself could.
It was a gamble of sorts, but Puck laughed after realizing what Subaru was trying to do. “It’s alright, Lia. I mean, Subaru knows that too. You’re a naughty boy for taking advantage of my mind reading skills like that, you know.”
“It’s an honor. Let’s just get along perfectly, my friend.”
A look of shock appeared on Puck’s face after hearing Subaru address him like that. Then he burst into laughter and grinned. “It’s been a really long time since I’ve been treated like that. I like it.”
Subaru could understand why Puck was so happy, but before he could even mention it, Puck floated up in front of Emilia’s face. Then their foreheads met as she closed her eyes, which made for a strangely surreal sight.
“Eat this! Puck’s super mysterious technique called ‘Cat’s Forehead Impact’!!”
Subaru couldn’t help but feel lonely when the two of them remained silent, and in his own desolation, he tried to get their attention. But the two of them were in such a deep state of concentration that they didn’t react, so his loneliness increased exponentially.
“Damn it! I feel so helpless… I can’t think of any more ways to get your attention. I’m starting to tear up.”
“…Mhm, I get it. Wow, and I ‘ve been thinking a lot about you too… Why are you sitting on the ground crying like a girl?”
“Don’t—worry—about—it! So what was that, anyways?”
“It’s more like a shared consciousness. It’s easier to explain things to you if you just feel what I feel, rather than having to explain it with words, right?”
Having answered Subaru’s question in a straightforward manner, Puck sat next to the silver-haired girl. She put her hand on Puck’s shoulder and nodded with, “That’s how it is.”
“It was through Puck, but I got the message about you… I’m soooo sorry for doubting you. I know the truth now, and I feel reaaally bad about it.”
“The thought of being explored by a beautiful woman is rather exciting, isn’t it? Next time, by all means, you, not Puck, can enter my mind directly.” Subaru gave a thumbs up and flashed his teeth, and Emilia looked so disappointed in him at this moment. Seeing her reaction, Subaru’s inward regret began to run full speed ahead, and he thought, oh no…I’ve done it again.
Subaru had a bad habit of spitting out nonsense when he was in a good mood. “No, no, no, not in a perverted way, but yes…in our industry, that kind of pain is a reward.”
It was also Subaru’s bad habit to screw up his own follow-up.
With a tight smile, Subaru felt a cold sweat flowing down his face. Sweat, tears, rain, or slobber, a liquid that was sure to make him feel like a donkey in three quarters of a second, was now running down his chin.
Emilia tilted her head slightly at Subaru, who was a terrible actor. “—You are really strange, Subaru.”
“Playing with a real spirit as if it’s normal, and…even setting your sights on a half-elf like me.”
“It surprised me, even if it was just a joke,” she chuckled quietly.
Would you be that surprised if it wasn’t a joke? Subaru thought to himself, but he even forgot about that and just admired her charming smile in silence.
That smile was as clear and pure as the one he’d seen in that alleyway in the royal capital. It was neither fleeting nor sad, and he was very happy to see it.
—Subaru realized how much he loved her expression for the first time. “Oh no!”
“No, I mean, I haven’t felt like this in a long time… No, seriously.”
Subaru’s heartbeat quickened, his mouth became dry, and his breathing became labored.
Subaru’s eyes began to lose focus and he had difficulty holding his head up. Then he lost control of his emotions and felt like he was burning up, which caused his neck and face to turn bright red.
“What’s the matter? Are you okay?” Emilia, who asked Subaru that question, looked up at his face from below. That face, which wore a worried expression, looked absolutely adorable to him. “Woooooohoooooo!”
After that loud shout, Subaru suddenly jumped backwards and tried to do a backflip to escape the situation. He landed on the ground in an upside-down position with his hand beneath him to break his fall, but his hand slipped due to the grass still being wet, and he fell on his head. He then slid across the grass on his head for a few feet before coming to a stop.
“Woah, what happened to you all of a sudden?!”
“Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow. Holy crap, I’m not bald now, am I…? Oh…they’re white.”
Emilia rushed to Subaru, who was rolling on the ground holding his head, and fumbled with her hands trying to figure out what to do. He had said those words when he looked up at her from the ground.
Emilia’s face, which had originally looked puzzled, instantly turned bright red as she realized what it meant. It was because she had walked in front of him wearing a short skirt while he was rolling on the ground.
“Force majeure, force majeure! That wasn’t what I was trying to do!”
“Are you telling the truth?”
“—Thank you for the eye feast.” Sitting in a seiza position, Subaru clasped his hands together and bowed his head to the silver-haired goddess.
When he looked up, Emilia smiled at him. —Unlike the smile from earlier, it had a sadistic nature to it. “That kind of face is also lovely—oh shit.”
“—Reflect on what you’ve done.”
Even considering what he had done, Subaru felt like the balls of ice that rained down on him were rather large.
“Ah, that hurt…. I wonder if I’m really starting to go bald now. Is it gonna be okay?”
“It’s just a little bump on the head. —I think you should reaaaaally be thankful for my kindness.”
Subaru stroked his injured head while sitting on the ground. He was on the verge of tears, and Emilia, who had turned away from him, had responded in a cold manner.
They were separated by a distance of several yards now, and it was as if the gap created by his earlier actions was reflected in reality.
Subaru glanced at her white profile and then turned his face away.
*Glance*, *turn away*. *Glance*, *turn away*. *Glance glance*, *turn away turn away*.
“Don’t play around. I’m still mad at you.”
“C’mon, it was just an accident. It’s just a minor misunderstanding that got blown out of proportion.”
If he were to use manga terms, the bump was so big that you would want to put a band-aid on it.
Subaru felt like he really did see his life flash before his eyes at the moment of impact with the ground. It was so powerful that he thought he might get sent back the convenience store if he wasn’t careful.
Subaru felt fine now, but he had felt really dizzy after it happened. It was possible that she thought she had overdone it, but Emilia was looking down at the collapsed Subaru, and he thought she looked like an adorable little animal.
When Emilia discovered that Subaru was looking at her out of the corners of his eyes, she became angry again. “Your personality is sooo hard to deal with. I wish you could make it easier for me.”
“I’m the type of guy who cuts corners in life to live comfortably. You’re too optimistic.”
Just ahead of Subaru’s envious gaze was Puck, who was relaxing in Emilia’s lap. He had been the size of a person’s palm just a moment ago, but was now the size of an infant, and she was petting him in her lap.
“Such disgusting feelings have nothing to do with me.”
“Shut up and don’t read people’s minds. It’s in the mind of a teenage boy, you know, and it’s a great thing. Emilia-tan is no exception.”
“If you have too many dirty thoughts about my daughter, I’ll erase you.”
“You would try to kill me just because I made you angry?!” Subaru was just joking, but he had a feeling that Puck was being serious.
Subaru looked at the two of them. “Even so…”
“Make sure you groom yourself every morning, okay? You know, it seems like the obligations of the spirt in this contract are too small.”
“Not really. Some spirits are more demanding than others. They may demand many times the amount of mana that a normal person has, or they may ask for one kill a day if it’s a really aggressive one.”
“That comparison is way too brutal…and you spoil your daughter too much.”
Compared with his example, the terms of the contract were way too good. Subaru wondered if it was the same in every world when it came to giving family members favorable terms in business contracts and such. Long live nepotism!
Subaru gazed at Emilia and Puck’s playtime in a rare moment of silence as he thought about the concept of nepotism.
The reason why Subaru kept chattering on and on about whatever came to mind in the first place was because it was hard for him to be silent when he was around other people.
Subaru’s silence in the presence of others gave him a “Since you’ve decided to stay quiet, then stay quiet” kind of feeling. It was strange how his usual personality was nowhere to be seen at this moment.
—It was just completely silent.
It was perhaps because of how heartwarming the scene in front of him was.
The movement of Emilia’s fingers as she combed Puck’s fur was very gentle. She seemed to be forgetting about her altercation with Subaru since her expression was starting to change, and the way she looked as she immersed herself in the grooming process was serious yet calm, and was absolutely mesmerizing.
Oh, I think I’m going blind, Subaru thought.
Subaru really hated that mind-reading cat who was looking at him with a grin on his face. That cat, which could pick up on people’s emotions without touching them, would know the true nature of Subaru’s complex feelings that occupied his heart at this very moment. His weakness had been discovered unexpectedly, and he didn’t think it was funny at all.
—Subaru felt as if he had chosen a very thorny path.
Her beautiful, flowing silver hair was as magical as dew in the moonlight. Her white skin was as pale as fresh snow, and her amethyst eyes seemed to capture his attention as if he were under a spell. He was also aware that her delicate body equipped with long, thin limbs was so fragile that it might break if he were to hold her in his arms, but he also knew she had a heart of gold wrapped around an unbreakable core. She was noble, beautiful, and an ideal woman.
No matter how Subaru looked at it, there was no way she would show interest in a smelly shut-in from another world. “Just doing this is a luxury, isn’t it?”
Subaru began experiencing strange emotions that left him in a stupor just thinking about them. Soon after, he stood up and started swinging his wooden sword again in an attempt to shake those feelings off.
The last time Subaru had felt an emotion like this was in elementary school. What’s more, even after 10 years, he had kept his feelings bottled up and never told anyone about them.
Every time he thought about those bottled-up feelings, the speed of his swings became quicker. “Disappear! Fuck you, stupid regrets! I don’t care if there are a 108 of them! I’m gonna destroy them all! Bring it on!” Subaru cut down his invisible regrets and made a bullish comment after each strike.
It wasn’t like Subaru to have regrets. It was in his nature to make choices without looking back. That was what the man named Natsuki Subaru was all about.
“Ohhh, this boy. Hee-hee-hee, I never get tired of watching him.”
“Yes, yes, it doesn’t seem to be working… But you can say that again.”
The two of them looked at Subaru, who continued to cut down his invisible enemies, and made such comments.
Emilia gently loosened her lips as she looked at his back. On that face of hers, the awkward anger from earlier was nowhere to be seen. The reason she seemed to have forgotten about it was because of Subaru being Subaru. “Huh. What’s going on with those two?”
At the sound of Emilia’s voice, who seemed to have noticed something, Subaru stopped his mock battle and looked in the direction of the manor. The twin maids with their prominent pink and light blue hair came towards them from the mansion. They both calmly gave formal bows.
““Master Roswaal, lord of the manor, has returned. Please come to the mansion.””
They spoke in perfect unison without making a single mistake.
Their perfect combination surprised Subaru, but what surprised him even more was their change in demeanor.
Unlike before, when they had joked around with each other, the two girls standing in front of him now looked like proper servants of a mansion. In short, they went from private-mode to work-mode.
“I see. Roswaal… Then we had best go see him then.
““Yes, and he said to bring the guest as well, if he is awake.””
Puck shrank and dived into Emilia’s silver hair. She patted down her hair and accepted it, and then got up with a slightly calmer expression on her face.
Subaru, who had been brought up in the conversation, wiped the sweat from his face due to being uncomfortable with his appearance. Shortly after, the blue-haired maid quickly moved closer to him, brought out a handkerchief from her bosom, and finished tidying up his appearance for him. “Sorry.”
“No, as a servant, it’s my duty, sir.”
“No, as a servant, it’s my job, sir.”
Even though it was the blue-haired maid that did it, the pink-haired maid butted in as well as if it were only natural. Subaru felt relieved that their demeanor had returned to what he had seen earlier, and then said, “So, who’s Roswaal?”
“The lord of this manor… Ah, I guess I never explained it.” Emilia put her palm to her mouth as if realizing her mistake. Then she frowned and wondered how she should respond. “Well, yes. Roswaal is… You’ll understand when you meet him.”
“You’re giving up too soon! What, he’s too plain to describe?!”
““““No, just the opposite.””””
After that four-person rebuttal, Subaru was so shaken that he dropped his wooden sword.
The blue-haired maid kicked the wooden sword up with her foot and caught it and then solemnly bowed before meeting up with her sister. Then the pink-haired maid standing next to her motioned towards the mansion. “There’s no point in trying to describe him with words. You will understand Master Roswaal’s personality once you meet him, sir. It will be okay.”
The pink-haired maid and light blue-haired maid looked at each other and nodded, and Emilia reluctantly agreed with them. While Subaru was still in a perplexed state, Emilia lightly tapped him on the shoulder as she headed towards the mansion. “—I’m sure you two will get along just fine, Subaru. He’s just a bit of a headache, though.”
Subaru could only murmur a “yes” with a depressing tone of voice in response.