OUTROS

arc 4 cap 83 -

Author

ARC 4: ETERNAL CONTRACT PHASE 4

CHAPTER 83: MUTUAL CONFESSIONS

Feeling the prickling pressure on his skin, Subaru understands that his statement has touched on the core of Roswaal's motives.

Roswaal's smile now was the same breed of grin that he had given before being devoured by hares in the snow, as he revealed a portion of his plans.

Roswaal: Noooooooow why is it you think that?

Although late, Roswaal's obfuscations show no desire to move the conversation forward. Subaru clicks his tongue.

Subaru: Say why or say whatever,

Subaru: It's cause the way you're turning down my proposal doesn't feel sincere. When you throw on a condition right at the start that freeing SANCTUARY's required, of course I'm gonna suspect something.

Roswaal: Which is why I believe I followed on the subject with a logical eeeeeeeeexplanation. Further, it is also essential that I receive proof for our henceforth collaborations. Emilia-sama's persistent foundation and aidthat being, you and your guidance to the most appropriate solutions standing at her side. It is in this that I want you to make me believe. The requirement for that is liberating SANCTUARY.

Subaru: But my thinking's that it doesn't have to be liberation, whatever methods to escape from here'd be fine. If you're looking for chances for me to prove myself, we can prepare lots of opportunities for it later, and...

Roswaal: Actually I would like to ask you.

In rebuttal to Subaru, Roswaal raises a finger. Subaru, interrupted, falls silent as Roswaal gives a collected nod.

Roswaal: You dooooooo seem dreadfully timid aaaaaaabout the TRIAL. Almost as if there is some reason in it for you to not desire to free SANCTUARY?

Subaru: Like hell I don't want to! I wanna get this barrier open fast and drag the problems unsolvable inside to the outside... but.

Roswaal: But?

Words piling up on each other before he can notice it, Subaru realises that he is close to getting sucked into Roswaal's rhythm. If he starts chatting, yelling without thinking, the con is going to fall into Roswaal's victory.

As calm as he can, Subaru chooses his words.

Subaru: I don't wanna see Emilia's heart wounded from challenging that TRIAL.

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Roswaal: Which is exactly what your authority's for? Should Emilia-sama stumble with the TRIAL, all you need to do is substitute for her. This is without issue. The important thing is the actuality of the liberation, would be your logic.

Subaru: Nh, guh...

Near-convinced by words he himself had spoken, Subaru bites his lip as he searches for something to say. But, advocating ridiculousness atop ridiculousness would not not lead to him saying anything particularly sensible.

Subaru: Of course I know that it's fine whether it's me or Emilia who beats the TRIAL. That thing bringing up past wounds is too hard for Emilia. I know I should be substituting... but.

Roswaal: Please don't start spouting any naivety about the TRIAL being too painful for yourself as well, and so yooooooou're searching for a bypath.

Roswaal's gaze harshens, his words compound in sharpness.

Roswaal: Your own piteousness, and the pain for yourself... if that is why you mean to find an alternate method, then that's all your feelings for Emilia-sama aaaaaaaaamount to?

Subaru: That's not..!

Roswaal: What it is? Truly? How can you possibly assert that? How can you make anyone believe that? When you think of Emilia-sama, then you should naturally swallow down all hurt and pain and suffering. Supposing you love Emilia-sama, naturally you should be capable of this. Should you hold Emilia-sama dearer than anything, prioritise Emilia-sama over everything, regard all other as miniscule existences present for the sake of bolstering Emilia-sama to greater heights... surely there would be no issue?

Roswaal's fluently-spoken words and instructive tempo threaten to engulf Subaru.

While Roswaal's statements are the very image of extreme logic, should one understand Subaru's RETURN BY DEATH, then this is an obvious conclusion to reach.

Had this been an earlier Subaru, before Satella had revealed his true feelings at the tea party, then he ultimately might find himself agreeing with this logic.

—Right. That was it.

Subaru had intended to declare to Roswaal that he would never be like him.

But, assuming for hypothesis that he had taken Echidna's hand at the tea party, then surely he would be living exactly the lifestyle Roswaal desired.

Abandoning all thought, picking through his options, seeking only the results, slighting absolutely everything.

No matter how much I am injured, so long as Emilia and everyone else is smiling in the desired future beyond, that is finewas what he had thought.

But would that Natsuki Subaru, having elected only to withstanding suffering, ultimately be able to

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smile at their side as they were?

—Would he be capable of anything more than something faint and dry, spurred by the obligation that he needed to smile?

Subaru: ...What you're saying's, in a sense, probably correct, Roswaal.

Roswaal: In a sense?

Closing his eye, Roswaal tilts his head at Subaru's meaningful reply.

With his yellow gaze staring at him, Subaru spits his words.

Subaru: As you say, if I throw away everything and try protecting only Emilia... she's almost guaranteed to be within saving. But that's not enough.

Roswaal: Not enough...

Subaru: I'll save Emilia. But saving just Emilia isn't enough to satisfy me. Rem, and Beatrice, the SANCTUARY guys and mansion guys, all the people who helped me in the Capital... I want to save everyone together.

Roswaal: “—”

Subaru: Your lifestyle of being satisfied with just one person isn't possible for me. Honestly right now I can't tell whether it's you or me who's the greedy one.

The attitude of persistently loving a single person, and abandoning everything for them was in a way, beautiful.

Describe it as being in LOVE, and that is exactly the noble deed it is.

Roswaal's methods might be the absolute in perfection for a single man's lifestyle.

But to pull this off required horrifying resolve. A soul-whittling life of scouring away everything except his precious one was likely impossible for Subaru.

Subaru's capabilities remained minuscule as everand Subaru remained just as much a selfish child as ever.

Roswaal: ...It seeeeeeeems your methods for polishing your resolve yet remain iiiiiiiinsufficient.

Subaru says nothing.

Roswaal: For a slight... yes, for just a slight, I had hopes. That peeeeeeerhaps, I might see my desired future. But... it doesn't seem like that's poooooossible.

Unfortunate, says the shake of Roswaal's head.

Their exchange had just revealed to Roswaal that Subaru was undecided on whether he possessed the resolve that Roswaal intended.

For a Roswaal who desired a Subaru ready to conquer with unfeeling resolve, this present Subaru was disappointing and defective. It simultaneously meant he was witnessing the endpoint of his life.

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Roswaal: I wonder just how many more times... are you going tooooooo discourage me.

Subaru: If that's what you think then I'd say it's fine for you to be more cooperative with me. If you could be more unsparing with helping me out, that solves the majority of the problems.

Announces Subaru rather ironically to the disappointed Roswaal.

Subaru, devoid of any combat ability, desperately craved Roswaal's assistance. His incredible magic which rained fire on a forest of witchbeasts, and skills which accurately scorched the attacking haresfor countering the Sizeable Hare, Roswaal was indispensable.

Said the other way around, if Subaru could secure Roswaal as an ally then that alone would resolve most of the problems in SANCTUARY.

But Roswaal shakes his head at Subaru's cheap-but-reliable request.

Roswaal: My apologies for the disappointment, but I cannot. Collaborating with the present you presents far too few benefits fooooooor me. Hypothetically... yes, let's hypothetically say that I assist you, and by that you overcome this situation. Your resolve will remain uncertain, and in the future you and Emilia-sama will assuredly crash into further obstacles... will you then rely on me again? Postponing the resolve that you truly should have sorted out here, and panicking bewildered once you fall into an unrecoverable situation?

Subaru says nothing.

Roswaal: You see, Subaru-kun, I... cannot give my assistance unless it is to someone I can trust for achieving my goal. A relationship entirely of your dependence is unneeded for my purposes. And so I want you to do whatever you can to convince me, and show me you have the resolve to go forward.

Subaru: Your, goal...

Roswaal: In this attempt it appears it will go unfulfilled, and that is a regret. I am placing my hopes in the next opportunity. When you are truly, and correctly capable of accepting your power.

This talk is over, says Roswaal's posture as his body loses its strength, and he lies down on the bed. Roswaal had just lost any meaning for his PRESENT self to live. Likely his intentions are to resignedly watch Subaru proceed to fail and redo, to conclusion.

Should the conversation end on him here, Subaru will remain without achieving a single one of the purposes he came here for.

Watching as Roswaal waves his hand to urge Subaru out of the room, Subaru frantically forces himself to think.

Subaru: ...What's a way I can demonstrate my resolve that'll convince you?

Roswaal: Hrm... sincerely speaking, I would prefer you surmise that by your ongoing interactions with me, but no matter how many reattempts you make for that purpose it will be a completely pointless waste of time.

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Putting his hand to his chin, Roswaal again uprights himself.

Roswaal: The framework is that liberating SANCTUARY would achieve that. But your actions are essential for liberating SANCTUARY, and you must be fit with the resolve to not mind reattempting regardless the number of tries. SANCTUARY being liberated of itself is proof of your hardened resolve.

Subaru: But why is that? While yeah when it comes to answers that might be the closest you can get, but if it's only that... if it's just surmounting the TRIAL, then how does that connect to me being resolved to throw away everything? Potential for Emilia to overcome the TRIAL herself..

Roswaal: Is non-existent.

Sensing that Roswaal's statements are incredibly extreme, Subaru impulsively lines up the rebuttals.

But Roswaal's response is cutting, and entirely cold.

The sharpness of the reply daunts Subaru. Roswaal wags his finger.

Roswaal: Your flickering hopes will not come to fruition. Emilia-sama will never overcome the TRIAL. That thing has too weak a nature for it.

Subaru: ...That thing?

Roswaal: Entirely. I'm sure some of it is from circumstances of her upbringing and traditions, but that thing is useless. She can't even stand by herself, she is a small, weak, brittle child. Watching her act out of guilt and remorse is so courageous I even feel pity.

Having never heard Roswaal judge Emilia in this way before, Subaru is speechless.

Courageous, tenacious, soft-hearted and eager Emilia. Right now she was caught in a bad turn of fate and unable to solve the TRIAL. But, Subaru believed that given her time she would assuredly conquer her past, and that she had the strength to lead SANCTUARY to its freedom.

That Subaru was thinking to take over the TRIAL in Emilia's place was because the necessary time wasn't there, and he couldn't bear seeing a wounded Emilia.

Not because he had given up, and judged that Emilia was incapable of beating the TRIAL.

Subaru: And you still think Emilia can't... then why, so then why did you bring her!?

Roswaal: Because you're here. With your presence, even a weak, powerless half-elf can aim for the throne. No, they will take the throne. Of course. You'll remove all contrary paths, and make her desires come realised. That is the power vested in you. If Emilia-sama is to have any value, it is in holding the strongest card, which is you, in hand.

Subaru: I'm... the strongest, card?

Roswaal's piling and dizzying statements, these fantastical words about him being strongest, lead Subaru into utter confusion.

These are adjectives foreign to his powerless self. And Roswaal's words are quite incredibly insulting toward Emilia, and unforgivable.

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Subaru: Just fuck off! How much do you think Emilia's... that Emilia's pushed herself, thought things over, suffered in challenging this fucking TRIAL! Forced to look at a past she doesn't want to see, but still she... she's trying so hard! And you're saying!

Roswaal: All is worthless without results. And that these results arent coming, you should know far, faaaaaaaaar better thaaaaaaaaan I. If Emilia-sama's efforts had produced results, then you would've had no reason to reeeeeeeturn here.

Subaru: “—hk!

Subaru can shout himself ragged in rage, but Roswaal's composure remains unassailed. Far the oppositeas if his superheated thoughts have been doused in water, Subaru reaches a conclusion of utter speechlessness.

Roswaal's statement had captured a portion of the truth.

As far as Subaru had seen, there would be no attempt where Emilia would overcome the TRIAL. The barricade of the past would stand in her way through her continued challenges, and every time she hit it, her heart would fold and abrade.

Unable to lean on her relied-upon Puck, a fully-abraded Emilia would eventually mistake her dependency on Subaru for love, and break.

And because Subaru knew that future, he couldn't rebut Roswaal even with an emotional argument.

But there was no way he could stay silent and ignore insults to Emilia.

Roswaal, looking down on Emilia and expecting far too much of Subaru's RETURN BY DEATH. How best to dispirit himthe instant he thinks it, Subaru shouts.

Subaru: Fine, yeah, I get what you're saying! But y'know! Your plan's still going nowhere!

Roswaal: Hm, and what would you...

Subaru: So here you want me to beat the TRIAL instead of Emilia... but Echidna revoked my qualifications to take the TRIAL! You're not gonna be getting the outcome you're hoping for from me! Too bad, huh!

Yells Subaru with his hand to his chest, aiming his words at Roswaal composed face.

It was a painful affair for Subaru himself, but it should be a devastating blow for Roswaal and his plans. No way even Roswaal could keep calm faced with this, says the crooked smile Subaru intends to make, when

Roswaal: “—Revoked, your qualifications?

The sound is muttered, desolate, and feeblethat Subaru is slow to realise it came from Roswaal.

Roswaal, right there leaned on the bed, has frozen rigid. His eyes stand open still and wide, lips trembling as he looks at Subaru.

As if his usual composed attitude, all-knowing air, and untouchable queernesshad all peeled away.

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Roswaal: What could it mean...

Subaru: What could it? ...It means what it means.

Called upon in faltering voice, Subaru unwittingly answers with his own tone unstrung. Overwhelmed by a diction which sounds nothing like the Roswaal he knows, Subaru wets his thirsting throat with spit.

Subaru: Echidna disqualified me. Forget the doubles' command right, I'm in a situation where just trying to enter the tomb is vertigo. ...I'm in the same position as you, of being rejected if I try going in.

Roswaal: How, come... no, why had this... You take the TRIAL in the tomb... otherwise, this SANCTUARY's liberation, her wish...

Hand to his mouth, Roswaal mutters in empty voice, his expression one of disbelief.

Seeing this unexpectedly intense reaction, Subaru senses his statement had more effect than just

revenge, himself falling lost for words. Roswaal panicking was something he had never seen in this

loop series, or more rather never seen at all, and he was beginning to lose sight of what part of their

conversation could have such an impact on him.

Subaru swallows his breath.

Subaru: Does your gospel say that I beat the TRIAL?

Roswaal: “—”

Subaru: I know that if doesn't go according to the writ, you're ready to abandon everything. If you've decided that defeating SANCTUARY is my role... now, it won't happen.

Like how his victory over the first TRIAL carried over, like how the witches could share his memories happening across RETURN BY DEATHS, the Witch of Greed's castle was separated from the principles of this world.

Even should he RETURN BY DEATH, that would not weaken the memories or feelings from there. Which was why Subaru had felt saved there, and had harboured more than a little fondness for Echidna. Thus, he knows now.

Even should he hypothetically die and return to the tomb, Subaru would not regain his qualifications.

He would need Echidna's permission to reattain them, he would need to enter the tomb to gain Echidna's permission, and he would need the qualifications to enter the tomb.

—In short, Subaru had perfectly lost means to challenge the tomb's TRIAL.

Roswaal: Ways to regain the qualifications...

Subaru: If there are any, you'd know better than me. If you're saying you don't know it, I don't know it.

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Although answering to Roswaal's faint voice, Subaru internally does notice a possibility.

Most likely, Echidna was even now watching Subaru's struggles and hardships from inside her tomb. She probably revoked the qualifications in something of a bedevilment toward Subaru who had rejected her hand, and was looking to see what a Subaru who had taken Satella's hand could do. If along that process the failures piled up on Subaru, and without any cards left to play he came crying and clinging back to Echidna, the witch would probably offer him her hand.

—But should he take Echidna's hand the next time she presents it, that would mean throwing away every syllable of Satella's words, and every feeling his heart harboured even now in this moment.

A conclusion entirely of sending Emilia off to the optimum future.

But even that may be preferable to a conclusion of being torn to smithereens halfway.

Roswaal: Using your redo to return before the qualifications were revoked...?

Subaru: Looks like you're misunderstanding, it's not that infallible of a power. It's not something you can so freely treat as returns without compensation... and besides, the return point's too late. If I go back, it'll be to after the disqualification. Nothing changes about me being unable to enter the tomb.

Roswaal: I, see...

Roswaal's voice as he replies is weak, and his visage feels to have aged entirely all in one moment. Roswaal had always acted in a way which was young, or more rather that gave no sense of his actual age, but with how his shoulders are now drooped down small, even that atmosphere is gone. This was the human expression of a man who had held a delusional and obstinate belief for a long, long time, suffering as his wishes are fully hindered in a manner he can do nothing about.

This was the first time Subaru had managed to feel that Roswaal was something of a fellow human.

But this fact solved nothing, and was likely entirely involuntary on Roswaal's part.

Subaru: The stalemate's same for both of us, Roswaal. I think we should have a more proper talk, to search for countermeasures.

Roswaal says nothing.

Subaru: It might be rough to get the results your gospel tells in it, but it's not like the writ can just be the end of everything. If we just follow the general plot... well you might not agree with that, but if we can come up with a plan for compromise...

Roswaal: ...Weren't enough.

Subaru: “—Huh?

Subaru presents his proposal, using words to prompt Roswaal to concede. But with eyes so hollow

he may as well not be hearing Subaru, he murmurs something. Unwittingly giving out a noise,

Subaru takes one step forth.

Did he just mishear Roswaal?

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Roswaal's whispers sneak into Subaru's ear.

Roswaal: “—The methods I used for my cornering weren't enough.

Subaru: What the?

Roswaal: The details aren't clear, but Echidna going back on decisions means you and her had an exchange befitting that. Fundamentally it's that before those fissures between you and her could form, you steel your resolve, and then the TRIAL... I didn't succeed.

Subaru: “—”

Roswaal: If I had just cornered you further... if I had just shown you that reaching out here and there for everything would mean losing what's important... then this wouldn't...

Subaru: Wait, Roswaal. Wait.

Although sensing that what Roswaal's about to say will be something absolutely conclusive, and that he must hear it, for some reason Subaru hesitates.

Should he wind up hearing those next words, Subaru surely would not be able to keep standing here.

Absolute conviction.

Or really, rather, he'd already been having suspicions in this vein.

That those quizzical suspicions hadn't taken tangible form was because Subaru's thoughts had frozen on the idea that Roswaal had no reason to do this, and because of the thin but present trust he had in him.

The words Roswaal are about to say will conclusively sever that.

Subaru needs to say something before that can happen. But no matter how hard he looks for the words he can't find them, and time flows on.

Roswaal: Summoning yourself and Emilia-sama to SANCTUARY while aware of Garfiel's disposition.

Subaru: “—”

Roswaal: Forcing Emilia-sama to challenge the TRIAL while myself knowing how terrifying it is, showing you her wounded, stirring you up...

Subaru: Wait, please wait. Wa—”

And,

Roswaal: Perfecting you by having you lose those precious to you in a place beyond your reach... everything, all of it, and it still wasn't enough.

—Roswaal confesses that the trigger-puller on the mansion murders was himself.

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CHAPTER 84: DENIED X DENIED X DENIED

—Crumbling, crumbling, the earth beneath him crumbling.

Losing sight of his supposedly-present footing, Subaru senses he is falling from someplace high. In reality Subaru stands still and straight inside the middle of the room, his eyes open wide and petrified.

That he regardless feels that sensation is because Roswaal's confession was that incredible of an impact.

Subaru: Beyond, my reach means...

Roswaal: You would've already figured the answer. When one important thing and another important thing are simultaneously faced with peril, people are forced to make choices. You choose which of them is more precious to you, living so as to lose the unchosen. In doing this all except the single, solely precious one is scoured away, and there is perfected the chosen being which you are.

Subaru: How stupid are you? Perfected being!? Only way I see it is an incredible moron drowning in wounds standing by himself in a gale-swept wasteland!

Roswaal: However, your precious one can remain held in a place abounding with verdancy, their purity and beauty preserved. You do prioritize this higher than your own self going uninjured, yes?

Subaru finds himself stuck silence as Roswaal begins regaining his calm.

It isn't that Roswaal has convinced him, or that he's lost for words to rebut him.

His fuming emotions are simply too incredible in volume, and won't turn into words.

This incomprehensible logic, this gospel and its self-authored enumerations of events, the consequence of this utter neglect to think, was the slaughter at the mansion?

Frederica, Petra, even Beatrice died for this selfish reason?

For this imbecilic goal of perfecting Subaru did their supposedly-trusting master betray them, and so they lost their lives?

Subaru: Roswaal... are you actually, insane?

Roswaal: ...Exactly yes, I am extensively insane. Ever since those eyes charmed me four hundred years ago, I have always been insane.

Subaru: Four hundred...?

Unable to swallow down the words flung at him, Subaru parrots Roswaal back with his face scrunched up in confusion.

Again it's four hundred years agobut for Roswaal to be voicing this comes accordant with an incredible unnaturalness. There should be no way for him to know about four hundred years ago. And doubly so with his current phrasing, almost implying that he had existed continuously for four hundred years

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Roswaal: Natsuki Subaru-kun.

A nearby voice calls on Subaru, his pupils wavering in bewilderment.

Subaru looks to find Roswaal, suddenly standing exactly in front of him. Away from this presence standing tall and within breathing range does Subaru step backwhen hands grab his collar, and he is barred from retreat. He is pulled forward, forehead pressed to forehead.

Roswaal: You have judged me as insane. I will agree with that. Beyond any doubt, I am insane. I am without sanity. A very long time ago, my heart was claimed from me.

Subaru: Ah, auh...

Roswaal: But why is it that you are not insane eeeeeeenough? You should be as insaneno, even more insane than I. Your situation requires insanity to attempt. Because the place you are seeking is far higher than the place I am. For traversing a path of solitude beyond any comprehension or sympathy you have no need for a human heart. Your heart must be strong, solid, as ironyes?

Subaru: Auh, ue.. sh-shut up!

Every word of Roswaal's as it soaks into Subaru's mind hosts a power to near drag him into the pit of darkness. Subaru shakes his head to dispel the sensation, shoving Roswaal's chest away. Jabbing his finger at him as he stumbles back, and unable to hide his voice's shaking as he bluffs,

Subaru: Whatever comes, whatever is, your plans were crushed the moment I was disqualified! These intentions of yours in the mansion, everything, all of your actions are pointless, meaningless sacrifices! If you understand that, stop this second right now with the stupidity you're pulling!

Roswaal: Declined. Seeing your insufficient resolve, I've come to more keenly understand the necessity. There is absolutely no need for you to be human. I'll corner you, wound you, make you so dependant on Emilia-sama that you shed and lose your humanity. I'll make Emilia-sama, too, a being that needs you as she drowns in an entirely dependant love. I'll travel the path where you sink in a relationship of needing only each other as you mindlessly drown. That is the single and only pathway to realising my goal.

Subaru: Wh, at is the point in any of that! No amount of whittling me down will make those missing qualifications come back! It's a vain effort, you're not getting anything from it!

Roswaal: You should know best whether that is truly what you believe.

Roswaal's frigid voice strikes the shouting Subaru.

The single, strong thud in his heart is because he understands what Roswaal is saying. It's nothing incredible, and in fact simple.

Just as Subaru had figuredif Subaru truly and seriously rethought matters and sought help from Echidna, she would offer him her hand. If he entirely and wholly was caught in a checkmate, and he was content merely to proceed forward, then that method would be available to him.

Roswaal: Should the being you are return to her, Echidna would gladly reinstate your

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qualifications or anything else. When you consider her nature that is a natural outcome, and even I can at least understand that much.

Subaru says nothing.

Roswaal: Hold your conceit, Natsuki Subaru. You are not the only one who understands Echidna.

Spoken in a diction quite unlike Roswaal, flowing to the brim with hatred and malice.

The intensity of the animosity flung directly at him leads Subaru to stiffen. Digesting the meaning of Roswaal's words, for the first time, Subaru feels he understands Roswaal's goal.

Subaru: You're putting precedence on SANCTUARY's freedom because... that's Echidna's wish.

Roswaal says nothing.

Subaru: Having the tomb's TRIALS she designed cleared, having SANCTUARY freed... and that ties into her funerary rites or something, is that how you're thinking?

Roswaal: ...In life, Echidna worried about how this place would meet its end after her death. With that worry she left the tomb's mechanisms behind, and had her soul lodged there. But even with four hundred years gone, the end she sought hasn't come to this place.

The barrier surrounding SANCTUARY has not been broken since it was placed four hundred years ago.

The ending that Echidna desired and wished to see still hasn't come. What Roswaal wants is to show that end to Echidna, and give her soul repose?

The idea itself is not beyond Subaru's understanding. While he had never believed in ghosts back in the old world, in this world he had interacted with Echidna and the other witches.

Should it be that the witches still had some attachment to this land, then wanting to grant their wish would evoke a feeling close to gratitude.

But living entirely for that purpose while disregarding everyone else was preposterous.

Subaru: That story's separate from this one. Roswaal, I'll ready a different chance for Echidna's repose. I can promise that I'll endeavour my best for that. So pull back from the mansion.

Roswaal: Declined. I am going to fulfil my desire and Echidna's wish. I'll take the measures I require. I'll ruin all those I need to, wound you, be the villain.

Subaru: Stop dragging others into your own self-satisfactions! If there's something you wanna pull her out and tell her, goddamn do it yourself! Don't make sacrifices of someone trying to create a future, a child who still has her future, and a girl withdrawn who can't believe in the future!

There is no need for Frederica, Petra, Beatrice to be sacrificed to this plan.

Neither is there reason to entertain Roswaal's complacency, especially when the reason for it has nothing to do with the humanity of the girls, and is instead to wound Subaru.

Roswaal: Declined. The only offer I'll heed is I'LL DO EVERYTHING EXACTLY AS ROSWAAL SAYS

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TO. Everything but that I will reject. Their sacrifices are inevitable.

Subaru: Fuck off. I'm fine with revealing just what you're plotting and what the results of it'll be.

Roswaal: Or rather, you stop acting without consideration to consequences. What is the purpose in doing that? Making public my misdeeds will change not a single thing about the situation around SANCTUARY. Emilia-sama loses her backer for the Royal Selection, and relations with the evacuees and the SANCTUARY dwellers unmistakably worsen. Do you believe Emilia-sama can challenge the TRIAL to produce results with an emnity-laden bomb at her back? How many times now have you seen Emilia-sama crumble?

Subaru: I-if, Garfiel learns Frederica... that his sister was sacrificed for your plan, you won't be getting off cheap...

Roswaal: If you're putting your hopes in that thing, then your discernment truly is lacking. There will never be any such thing of Garfiel exiting SANCTUARY to rush in aiding Frederica. Prisoner to non-existent terrors of what may happen to SANCTUARY in his absence, petrified, is the sad and foolish existence called Garfiel. His perspective is narrow, he is stubborn, and despite it he still manages to have brute strength and only brute strength. For how wanting his intelligence is, his thoughts would regardless figure the risk in what would happen to SANCTUARY should I be gone. Because he is capable of nothing but protecting his weak and brittle world, and a desperate child.

A desperate child, is the descriptor which stabs Subaru in the chest.

That was the same opinion the witches had passed on Subaru, as he attempted to make a sacrifice of himself. Apparently, Roswaal views Garfiel in an identical fashion.

Unaware of this, or perhaps even aware of it, Garfiel must have wholeheartedly persevered in his goals.

Roswaal: Garfiel will not ally with you. I have no intention to stop in my plans. All you need to do is have circumstances beyond your ability degrade your heart, polish it, and perfect it. Anything more is unnecessary. Accept this rationalization, Natsuki Subaru. Accept that the death of anyone but Emilia-sama means nothing.

Subaru: Just fucking stop! I! Am never going to be like you! Someone like you, thoughts like yours... I'm never gonna have them! That isn't how a human being thinks!

Roswaal says nothing.

Subaru: I am human. No matter what weird, incomprehensible power I get given, no matter how much pain and suffering I experience, that isn't changing. I am human. And I'm going to keep being human.

Subaru backs off to put distance between himself and Roswaal. For a single instant some complex emotion run across his noble face, but he immediately shrugs.

Roswaal: Weeeeeell, doesn't bother me. So long as you have infinite opportunities, then it is the same case for me. For this attempt we'll have me give up oooooooon persuading you. I'll be leaving it to the next me.

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Subaru: Saying that this attempt didn't work... supposing it's the next time, or the time after that, I am still never going to agree with your proposals. I won't be like you.

Roswaal: “—Leave the room. Living in this life no longer has meaning.

Returning to the bed, Roswaal leaves Subaru with only this as he diverts his attention away. He closes his eyes in an attempt to sleep, indeed rejecting any parley with Subaru. Subaru goes to open his mouth to address Roswaal's attitude, but finding no words,

Subaru: “—”

Subaru silently leaves the room, feeling himself the defeated.

※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Exiting Roswaal's sleeping place, Subaru wanders beneath the moonlight.

Subaru: “—What should I do?

This question out his mouth is directed at an impenetrable problem, spoken with the exact same phrasing had repeated and repeated and repeated in his head, but the answer comes back to him like no echo.

His question reaches nobody, disappearing into nothingness as vacancy alone lies heavy in his throat.

All there is to call this is deadlocked.

Neither Roswaal nor Echidna seem likely sources of help any more.

Collaborating with Echidna was physically, and collaborating with Roswaal was sentimentally, impossible.

Subaru had conceived of this possibility.

That perhaps Roswaal was Elsa's employer, and had had her attack the mansion for the sake of Emilia'sthough really aimed at Subaru in this caseTRIAL.

Elsa seemed to appear according to when Subaru arrived at the mansion. Then was the death of potential-instigator Frederica, and Elsa's knowledge of the hidden passage and Beatrice's Forbidden Archive. If he aligned everything and considered it, the only likely suspects remaining were Ram or Roswaal.

Ram with her utter adoration of Roswaal had no need to do anything disadvantageous to him, so by process of elimination only Roswaal is left. That said, this possibility was one he avoided thinking about outside a crevice of his mind, more due to the sense of 'it can't be like this', than not wanting it to be like this.

Subaru: If Elsa's employer is Roswaal, then...

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The theft of Emilia's insignia in the Capital on the first day of Subaru's summons here may have also been due to Roswaal.

Should the gospel have written beforehand of the appearance of Subaruof a presence possessing the authority to RETURN BY DEATHand that this presence was needed for Emilia's victory, the ruckus that day would have then been necessary to drag Subaru in as an ally.

His frantic efforts that day, his three deaths in saving Emilia, his asking of Emilia's name alongside her smile, had all been playing into Roswaal's hands.

Subaru: He knew all of everything beforehand... then you're saying Rem's existence getting stolen, and this deadlock in SANCTUARY, all of it is according to someone's plan?

If so, then even Subaru's frantic will to do something was simply playing along on the strings that somebody was controlling.

Was the fundamental answer only to throw away everything except Emilia and proceed forward?

Was this present situation where he was unable to do that really nothing more than a stalemate?

Subaru: Am I stupid? ...No, I am stupid. It's this stuck-still brainless thinking which's how you probably get Roswaal... what am I gonna do if even I get sucked in...

The one who understood best that gospels were not absolute was Subaru, who had overwritten the events dictated in Betelgeux's gospel.

The writ of the future-instructing gospels is not infallible. In situations where events differing from the writ occurred, Roswaal would give up on the world, flinging his hopes over for the next atte

Subaru: “—huh?

Right now, just then, he hit on something peculiar.

While thinking carefully about Roswaal's gospel and going over events in sequence, Subaru definitely hit on something awry. But what it was exactly was taking no comprehensible form.

Subaru: What? What... something's strange. But, what is it!?

As if sprung with a puzzle with no visible answer, Subaru searches through the mist for the light. Roswaal's gospel. Acting according to the writ. Beatrice's gospel. The Witch Cult GOSPELS. Prophecies which told nothing after their owner's deaths. Blank pages. Results according to prophecy. Results not according to prophecy. The present, deviating from the writ.

Subaru: No luck. It's one step away, but not coming.

While sensing that he's pieced some portions of the scattered puzzle together, it fails to tie into concrete form before dispersing. But this tug was one he must not overlook.

In the stalemates he had been thus far, he would always wrest the answer out from smaller clues, open a pathway and escape.

It was the same now, as these fragments bit-by-bit surely tied to the answer, and ???: “—Subaru?

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Subaru: Weh?

The call of his name drags Subaru's attention out from his sea of thought.

Subaru breaks his face from the water's surface, to find himself amid a dusk lit by a downpour of moonlight, and Emilia gazing at him with her silver hair glimmering.

Subaru: Oh, Emilia... -tan. What're you doing here. Pretty late out, y'know?

Emilia: But that's the same for you too, Subaru. If you stay up too late, you won't grow any taller.

Subaru: I think I've about finished puberty, so not super worried about that...

Emilia comes in with a topic diverging a little from the point as always. Regaining some of his calm thanks to her reply, Subaru's feet naturally take him over to Emilia's side.

This was in the middle of SANCTUARY, something of an open plaza. Leaning herself against a stone-made, moss-grown, dried-out fountain-looking thing, Emilia's silver hair sways in the night wind as she glances at the Subaru beside her.

Seeing an allure in her gloomy amethyst eyes brings sweet, achy impulse to his downcast heart.

Emilia: I couldn't get to sleep, so I kinda went out for a walk... what happened with you, Subaru?

Subaru: ...Nope, same thing for me. I'm the type where I can't really get to sleep if you swap out my pillow, and also Otto snores surprisingly loud.

Emilia: It's sooo surprising that you've got that daintiness.

Emilia gives a quiet laugh as she puts her hand to her mouth. Gazing at her from aside, Subaru reflects on this being the night that he RETURNED BY DEATH, and the first time he has reunited with Emilia.

In the places with no connection to Subaru, fundamentally people's actions follow a generally set path despite the loops. Meaning that Emilia would without fail come out here for a walk on the night of her first day challenging the TRIAL, unable to sleep.

Invited to the tea party, had Garfiel threaten him, learned about the Lewes facility deep in the woods, learned that Roswaal is the mastermind, during all the time that Subaru has been pulling these stunts, Emilia's been faced with changes too.

Emilia: ...You seem down, Subaru.

Subaru: I, guess. Not trying to be though.

Emilia: Not really, that's a lie. If you were the usual Subaru, you'd be more... zany?

Subaru: Who says zany any more?

Been a while since we've done those lines, thinks Subaru as his cheeks loosen in relief. Emilia

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points at Subaru's cheeks, smiling,

Emilia: There, you smiled. Subaru, you're always trying to show me your smiles, but right now you couldn't do it.

Subaru: “—”

Emilia: Did something... painful happen? If you're worried about something... if you don't mind it being me, I'll listen.

Having the relaxing of his once-tense cheeks pointed out and words of concern flung at him, Subaru frantically withstands the heat building up beneath his eyelids.

Her kind, compassionate words permeate his body. In this deadlocked, unworkable situation where even the glimmer of hope he saw is lost, he could almost wind up clinging to this darling hand kindly presented to him.

He can't stick through with the will he had resolved himself to just a little while ago. His wavering conviction is pathetic, frustrating.

Subaru: It's... this's my problem. I can't pull anything that'd put a burden on you, Emilia.

Emilia says nothing.

Subaru: You're having a way harder time than me, yeah? The TRIAL messed you up that much... erm, are you feeling better now?

Emilia: Right, I have caused you very much trouble. I'm sorry for the unsightly fuss. ...I think I ran into a problem I wasn't mentally ready for at all.

Subaru looks away as he changes the topic. Emilia gives a powerless, breathy smile.

She leans back against the fountain, looking up at the night sky to avert her gaze.

Emilia: Really... I have to think I wasn't prepared for it at all. That I've gotten this far by running away from so many things I have to face.

Subaru: I don't really think that's a bad thing though. What's so wrong about running from things you don't like? Does continually facing things you don't like mean eventually you'll be able to beat them? Are you obligated to beat them? If there where you run you find a disparate path, and decide to go down that road... is that something people have to fault you for?

Emilia: Subaru?

Emilia scrunches her pretty eyebrows as Subaru lets his tongue keep slipping, talking quickly and with no real summation of what he's trying to say. Although Emilia is confused, Subaru continues without noticing her reaction.

Subaru: Echidna who put the TRIAL in the tomb, Roswaal who dragged us in here knowing the TRIAL was there, Garfiel who knows we have to overcome it but's getting in the way, anyone and everyone they're all just goddamn selfish. You all go doing whatever the hell you like, addressing us

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however the hell you like, and why do we have to be tossed around by that? And if we try doing things our own way they bitch that we're not doing it how they wanted... hell are we meant to do here.

Emilia: “—”

Subaru: My head could burst, I feel I could go crazy. It's just more and more and more and more the problems keep piling up into this mountain... and to top it off, the reason for it's me, just fuck off. Just fuck off. Just fuck—”

It happens the moment that his emotions seethe, when his incomprehensible indignation starts making him dizzy.

Soft hands loop around to the back of his head, his body pulled down with a tug. His head thrusts into the softness directly before him, his breath unwittingly catching.

Subaru's head is buried in a terribly hot, tender touch.

Hearing the thudding of a heartbeat beyond the warmth of their touch, his blank mind slowly is forced to recognize the realitythat he is being cradled to Emilia's breast.

Subaru: Ah, auh?

Emilia: Take it slow. Quietly now. Take it slowly, listen to the sound of my heart.

Subaru: “—Mm.

Emilia: Leave yourself to my steady heartbeat, quietly take a breath in, out... in, out, repeat. Once you're calm, tap me on the back. We can stay like this until then.

His spine tingling with pleasure at the whisper to his ear, Subaru's breathing involuntarily accelerates. While the shock blasted away his high-strung emotions, now he is tormented by the sense that all of the blood in his body is boiling hot.

How and why did he plummet into this situation? While he listens to Emilia's quiet pulse, his own heart strikes against his ribs in an entirely disparate, violent rhythm.

But even his clamorous pulse is undone by Emilia's breathing and her soft palm stroking his head, the beat naturally slowing down. He takes deeps breaths just as instructed, repeated inhales and exhales, putting his breath and heart in order.

Quietly, he taps Emilia's back. The hand at his head moves away at the signal, Subaru uprighting himself as he withstands his reluctance to part.

Emilia: Calmed down?

Subaru: ...Somehow.

Faced with the gleam of amethyst before him, Subaru gives a small sigh.

A relieved smile arises on Emilia's face. Enduring the awkwardness threatening to make him blush, Subaru gives a small shake of the head.

Subaru: I'm sorry for flipping out. I didn't even want to cause you problems like that.

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Emilia: I don't think they're problems at all.

Subaru: But you have to be having a much harder time than me, Emilia. That's the truth. If I could, I'd want to save you from suffering this... is what I'd thought.

Emilia: Subaru...

Subaru had a self who wanted to always be a cool Subaru when around Emilia.

While thinking that truthfully he was disgraceful, weak and complacent, never good enough at anything and constantly straining for his absolute best, wanting to be at her side.

Subaru: Just nothing ever goes well, I really am... I just had a talk with Roswaal. To see if there's some way to get through SANCTUARY without the TRIAL.

Emilia: Huh?

Subaru: The truth is what's best is if I can take the TRIAL as substitute, but... but, I don't think I can any more. And so I was frantically looking for at least maybe there's some sidepath somewhere but even that's difficult too. What should I do... I'm sorry I'm useless.

Emilia: Subaru—”

He hangs his head. His thoughtless self, unable to find even one single prudent method despite his ability to infinitely do things over, is pathetic.

There were lots of cases where if he had just done better, it would've all ended without creating any sorrowful worlds like the ones he had to see in the second TRIAL.

There had to have been a way for him to do something about this miserable situation

Subaru: But I will do something. I will do something so you'll suffer no pain or badness, Emilia. Please believe in me.

Emilia: ...Subaru.

Subaru: Yeah.

Emilia looks up at Subaru with her eyes teary.

Gazing back at her wetted eyes, his heart jolting, Subaru steels his resolve to ensure the most important parts alone go without distortion.

He protects Emilia, overcomes SANCTUARY, saves the mansion, recovers everything.

There was not a single glimmer of hope he saw on the road ahead, but surely something would Emilia: I'm happy you feel this way. I'm truly happy. But, I can't accept your kindness.

—When the resolve he had supposedly steeled is, from the mouth of the darling girl and the strong conviction in her eyes, flat-out rejected.