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The Sage and The Sword Saint

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Chapter 1

The Forgotten Knight

 

The first thing that Reinhard noticed as he entered the prison cell of the presumed Sin Archbishop was the large amount of blood covering the floor. If not for the wheezing sounds coming from the corner of the room he would have no doubt believed that the owner of all that blood was dead.

 

The half dead boy was sleeping painfully on the ground and it was clear that he had cried himself to sleep. His clothes were torn and there were a number of scars on his body which seemed to have been recently closed by healing magic. Despite the way he was twisting and turning in his sleep, he must have been extremely tired, if even the sound of the metal door opening, which had loudly resonated throughout the underground layer, had failed to wake him up.

 

'What have you been doing, Ferris?'

 

Reinhard stood distressfully at the door in silence as he thought back to the incident that happened two months ago, after the Witch Cult attacked in Priestella. While he did not believe that the boy would be treated…… hospitably, he did not expect his own friends to go so far in their 'Interrogation'. He stood standstill thinking on what to say when the prisoner would wake up.

 

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"Don't come closer, in fact. When you reek of miasma rivalling that of a Sin Archbishop, it's hard to believe your claims, I suppose."

 

"Beatrice, please believe me! I really am your contractor and Emilia-tan's knight. I am not a Sin Archbishop."

 

The strange black haired boy, who had appeared out of nowhere in front of her and Emilia, had pleaded to Beatrice as she readied herself to attack him.

 

"Beatrice-sama, what seems to be the matter here?", asked Reinhard, who had just arrived there from the shelter.

 

"Reinhard, it's me, Natsuki Subaru! You remember me, right? Sorry for being so useless. I know I told you that you could rely on me, but I guess I'm the one asking you to save me again. But……", he paused for sometime as if having an epiphany.

 

As the strange black-haired mean-eyed boy spoke to him, Reinhard felt a throbbing headache.

 

'And sorry for always relying on you. I’ll be relying on your strength, but…… I’ll also try to fill in any parts where you’re lacking, so please look forward to it.' When had this happened? He didn't remember it but those words had made him incredibly happy.

 

"That's right! ……If it's you, I'm sure you must have some sort of outrageous divine protection that lets you remember me! ----Please tell her I'm not lying. That my 'Name' was eaten by Gluttony and I'm not lying. Please Reinhard!"

 

"-----"

 

"......Reinhard? You remember me, right?"

 

"----"

 

"Rein-"

 

"I am sorry. I, ……I don't know who you are."

 

Reinhard apologetically answered the boy. He did not know anyone by the name of Natsuki Subaru. He had honestly never met him before.

 

".......It's alright, Reinhard. You can't do everything. I was just getting my hopes up.", Subaru responded dejectedly.

 

And yet, why did he feel so hurt on seeing the boy's face filled with sadness and fear? In addition, his divine protections had not detected any falsehoods in the boy's words. 

 

"B, Beako, you can still feel our contract, can't you? Don't you remember? You chose me in that burning mansion! Don't you remember all the fun moments we had with everyone? Emilia-tan, don't you remember? Please remember! Don't leave me now! After all I've done for you!"

 

Emilia's face scrunched up into a frown while Beatrice's anger grew the more he kept talking.

 

"Who gave you permission to call Betty by that strange name, I suppose? Betty has no contractor, in fact. Even if Betty had chosen someone, it will certainly never be someone as disgusting as you! Greed tried to take Emilia once already, I suppose! Betty will not make the same mistake again! I will not let anyone hurt Emilia again, in fact."

 

As tears began flowing down the boy's face, doubt began brewing in Reinhard on whether he really was a Witch Cultist as Beatrice said. Why did he care so much about someone he had never met before?

 

"Hey Rein, what's going on here?"

 

"Emilia-san, fill us in on what's going on here, will ya?"

 

"Don't make such a racket in my absence, commoners."

 

"That's your concern in this situation, Princess!?"

 

As the commotion outside the shelter grew, more people began coming out and gathering around the four, including the other candidates barring Crusch, who immediately began questioning upon seeing the scene.

 

The red haired knight turned to meet his liege's eyes, his confliction clear on his face. Felt followed his eyes as his gaze shifted from her to Subaru kneeling on the ground. However, before she could begin questioning him more, the silver haired candidate finally broke her silence.

 

"Anastasia-san, this person suddenly approached us and began claiming he is ……my knight and Beatrice's contractor. He said he had his 'Name' eaten. But we have reasons to believe that he is a Sin Archbishop."

 

"----!!"

 

Upon hearing Emilia, Julius and Wilhelm immediately brought out their swords, prepared to attack him should he try anything. Felix, on the other hand, in contrast to the two elegant swordsmen, was in complete shambles as he began marching towards the presumed Archbishop demanding answers.

 

"YOU WITCH CULTIST, TELL ME WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO CRUSCH-SAMA NOW!! HEAL HER, THIS INSTANT!!"

 

"Ferris, wait!! Don't get too close! It's dangerous!", the purple haired knight called out to him as he pulled him back.

 

"LET GO OF ME, JULIUS! I NEED TO SAVE CRUSCH-SAMA!!"

 

While all of this was going on, a helmeted man suddenly called out to Emilia, "Hey, Miss Half-Elf Princess, what makes you think he is a Sin Archbishop? In my opinion, this person looks like your average everyday person to me."

 

"Saying that while hiding behind Julius and Wilhelm-san doesn't seem very convincing, don't ya think?", Anastasia pointed out.

 

"Well, better safe than sorry!" As Al responded as he turned towards Priscilla, only to find her glaring at Anastasia.

 

"Big Sis, Beatrice-chan, honestly, I have the same question? Why do you think he's a Sin Archbishop?", Felt repeated Al's question. There was no practical evidence incriminating him as an Archbishop besides the words of the half elf and the Spirit. Yet, almost everyone had simply accepted it as fact. 

 

"We intercepted the Sin Archbishop of Wrath and a blond girl, who were trying to escape the city, in fact. We failed to stop them, I suppose. But before they escaped, this person arrived there and we heard the blonde girl call him Pride, in fact."

 

Everyone's guard went up with what seemed to be confirmation for Beatrice's claim about him being a Sin Archbishop. With the exception of a few who were unsure of the fact, others got ready to attack him in case he tried something suspicious.

 

One of the few exceptions was Priscilla whose eyes widened. Al noticed her walking towards the mean-eyed boy. "Hey Princess, where are you going? Don't go too close-"

 

"Shut up, Al!", ordered Priscilla as she opened her fan and hit his helmet. "Fools who do not know anything should just shut their mouths.", she muttered inaudibly. Then bringing the fan in front of her face, she shifted her gaze towards the crying boy kneeling on the ground as she approached closer to him; her expression was unreadable behind the fan as she continued to be unusually quiet, in contrast to her usually pompous self. 

 

However, in contrast to Priscilla's calm demeanor, Reinhard panicked.

 

"Please wait, Beatrice-sama! This is the first I'm hearing of this. Is this true?". Reinhard asked the raven haired boy. Subaru flinched, but began answering----

 

"Yeah, but-"

 

"I see. In that case, I suggest we take him with us to the Capital and have the Royal Knights interrogate him. We may find a cure for the victims of the Witch Cult, including Crusch-sama."

 

----only to be interrupted by the purple haired knight.

 

"Hey wait! He wasn't done answering yet! Let him talk, damn it! Who the hell is this blonde girl and why should we trust anything she said?", Felt stepped in front of Julius to prevent him from going any closer.

 

"Felt-sama, I believe the blonde girl in question is the same person we met during our fight with Gluttony, the third Sin Archbishop of Gluttony. When Ricardo and I managed to corner Roy Alphard, he suddenly morphed into her. She called herself Louis Arneb and claimed she was his younger sister. She felt if the fight continued any longer, Alphard would lose and so she would be running away." He paused for a bit as he gripped the hilt of his sword. "We tried to chase after her but unfortunately, she slipped away. It was our carelessness that led to her escape.", he spoke with regret.

 

"That still doesn't answer my question. Why should we believe her when she said he is Pride? If she is Gluttony, she really could have eaten his name." Surprisingly, it seemed that Priscilla seemed to agree with Felt.

 

"That's because before she escaped, we had caught her saying this: the Gospel had instructed the two of them to rescue Wrath as everyone else was already gone."

 

"----"

 

"Felt-sama, if she is one, who is the second? He was the only other person who was present when Wrath was escaping. And he was identified as Pride in front of the Great Spirit. I am certain she was talking about him at that moment."

 

Felt still wasn't convinced. She felt that the people accusing him were being incredibly biased based on a suspicion and were simply presenting her evidence condemning him, when he hadn't even done anything until now.

 

"I see. Felt-chan, ya heard my knight. If I had to guess, that girl and this child here are probably responsible for breaking Wrath out. This child, …Pride here is probably distracting us from going after Wrath and probably taking advantage of this confusion caused due to the 'Nameless' to probably avoid suspicion and escape.", Anastasia theorised as she lightly stroked her scarf.

 

"That damned Fox Woman should really stop talking!", both Subaru and Priscilla reflexively muttered in annoyance under their breath in unison, while Al simply nodded at them. 

 

Having seemingly heard each other make the same comment, Priscilla looked at the raven haired boy in amusement, while Subaru panicked over his subconscious comment being heard.

 

The only other people to have heard their comment were Reinhard and Felt, who looked at the two in bewilderment.

 

But before Felt turned around to ask them what they meant by that, Beatrice continued in her accusation of the mean eyed boy.

 

"And that's not all. He reeks of miasma, in fact. The miasma around him is the same, if not greater than that of a Sin Archbishop, I suppose. That is proof that he has an Authority and is a Sin Archbishop, in fact."

 

"----", the boy simply stared at her in despair, unable to defend himself.

 

"What is an Authority, Beatrice-sama?", Julius asked.

 

"It's those disgusting abilities that the Archbishops have, I suppose. This Cultist definitely has it."

 

"Hey, do ya have an Authority? Don't try to lie. Reinhard here can detect lies, ya know?", Anastasia questioned.

 

"Wait! It's a misunderstanding! I swear I am not a Sin Archbishop! That girl, Louis Arneb, ate my 'Name'! I really am Emilia's knight-"

 

"Please stop!", a bell-like voice chimed in anger.

 

"Wh, what…?", Subaru stumbled in shock as he turned his gaze to the owner of the voice. 

 

"Please stop calling yourself my knight! I don't have a knight, but if there's anyone I can call that, it's Garfiel. He's worked reeeeally hard for the past year. When the city was under attack by your people, he fought his hardest to save Mimi and everyone else. I will not allow you to diminish his hard work and his achievements, villain!"

 

As he listened to all this, Subaru looked completely heartbroken as all his hopes were dashed.

 

"Ya didn't answer my question. Do ya have an Authority?", Anastasia repeated her question.

 

"B, Beatrice, please believe me! I know you can feel it as well! Our contract!", Subaru defended himself desperately.

 

"----This is your Authority, isn't it? To force a one-sided contract onto someone without their consent, I suppose.", Beatrice fumed. "How dare you, I suppose! HOW DARE YOU FORCE A CONTRACT ON A SPIRIT LIKE BETTY AND HUMILIATE HER, IN FACT!! MINYAAA!!"

 

As Beatrice incanted the spell, purple crystals began flowing out of her hands towards the raven haired boy. As he saw the Minya crystals approaching, "Why, Beatrice?", sobbed Subaru as he closed his tear-filled eyes and clutched his chest. Any contract that had existed between them had been broken by Beatrice as she shot the purple crystals at him.

 

Many voices could be heard in the background. Ferris was screaming, Felt was panicking, and Emilia, Julius and Wilhelm simply watched silently. 

 

But before the spell could kill him----

 

"Reinhard!" "Reinhard-dono!" "Sword Saint!"

 

----Reinhard saved him. 

 

Before he knew it, Reinhard had gotten in the way of the incoming attack and had defended the raven-haired boy. He didn't know why, but his body had moved even before he could have thought about it. Almost everyone was convinced that Subaru was a Sin Archbishop, including the Great Spirit. There was evidence pointing towards it. Yet, why couldn't he bring himself to believe it? All of Reinhard's instincts were screaming at him that the boy in front of him was a good person. 

 

"What is the meaning of this, I suppose! Are you trying to defend a Sin Archbishop, in fact?"

 

"Reinhard……", Felt whispered in pity as she watched her knight try to protect the boy. 

 

Priscilla simply smirked at the scene. "It looks like the Sword Saint and her Master are the only ones here capable of thinking for themselves."

 

"Sword Saint Reinhard-dono, the Great Spirit herself has confirmed that this person is an Archbishop. Even with this knowledge, you continue to protect him.", the old butler of the Crusch Camp spoke up upon witnessing the events, a hate filled glare directed towards his grandson.

 

"......Grandfather, I,... I don't know.... I'm just doing what I feel is right.", after much hesitation, Reinhard replied.

 

Wilhelm then turned to face Subaru. His expression changed from pity to disgust as he turned to Reinhard before he began speaking,

 

"Reinhard-dono, you feel protecting this Archbishop, verified by the Great Spirit herself, is right? You feel that this Cultist deserves to be saved and your grandmother deserved to be killed? ----You truly are a monster.", the last part muttered inaudibly that even Reinhard couldn't hear him.

 

"----!!"

 

While everyone looked around in confusion, all Reinhard could do was guiltily stare at the ground.

 

"If I may, Reinhard-dono, by aiding him, not only are you directly opposing most of the candidates present here and hindering the recovery of my master and the others afflicted by the Witch Cult, you are also putting your Lady and those you care about in danger!"

 

"Reinhard, you are too kind. So kind that you feel the need to protect everyone. But don't get caught in his act! He is a Sin Archbishop, verified by the Great Spirit herself. Please move aside so we can take him.", Julius appealed to Reinhard.

 

As Reinhard continued to be at a standstill, Julius walked past him towards Subaru. "I'm sorry, Beatrice-sama, but since the other Sin Archbishop escaped, we cannot kill him yet. We'll need to take him for interrogation."

 

"......Fine, I suppose.", Beatrice reluctantly agreed.

 

But before he could reach him----

 

"Stop right there, commoner! I have decided, this fool is coming with me.", Priscilla spoke as she blocked his approach.

 

"Eh!?", both Subaru and Al's jaw dropped at her declaration while everyone else looked at her with wide eyes.

 

"Princess, what are you thinking!? He is an Arch-!"

 

"I told you to shut up!", Priscilla smacked his helmet once more.

 

"Priscilla, why are you helping me?", Subaru questioned her, unsure of her intentions.

 

Priscilla silently looked at him in annoyance for some time. And then she whispered the words to him before turning around and facing everyone. Subaru's eyes widened upon hearing her words.

 

"You were unusually quiet during this entire discussion and now you want to take him? Is it love at first sight or something?", Anastasia joked.

 

"Don't you dare talk to me, fox woman!", Priscilla fumed. "All of you fool's long-winded blather could not be more tedious. I have decided to take this clown with me. So just move aside and let me take him.", she declared.

 

"Priscilla-sama, please move aside! Unfortunately, we need that piece of garbage to heal Crusch-sama. Because of these cultists, Crusch-sama is suffering. I will definitely find a way to heal her! Crusch-sama is…….", Ferris rambled on and on like a madman but Priscilla completely ignored him.

 

"Priscilla-sama, if I may, at least three out of five Camps here are in agreement that he should be taken for interrogation. If you continue to protect a Sin Archbishop, it will gravely affect your candidacy.", Julius spoke before being followed up by Anastasia.

 

"That's right! Let's not forget about the fact that Wrath was supposed to be captured by you, but she escaped. And knowing your personality, it seems strange you are protecting someone. A Sin Archbishop at that. It seems extremely suspicious, don't you think?"

 

Almost everyone turned to look at Priscilla suspiciously at Anastasia's insinuation. 

 

"----tch", Priscilla clicked her tongue as she glared at everyone.

 

"Do whatever you want for now, commoners.", she spoke furiously. "This world is designed to operate in the way that works best for me. So it's a given that even if you take him now, he will come to me someday." With that she stormed off angrily as Al followed behind her. "Al, let's go now! I do not wish to be involved with any of these disgusting pigs any longer." 

 

Julius restrained Subaru and handed him over to Ferris, who had a dark glint in his eyes and began smiling maniacally.

 

"Don't worry, dear Cultist~! Ferri-chan will take really good care of you~!"

 

Both Reinhard and Subaru flinched as they heard Ferris speak. Felt just watched the cat-eared knight take the boy away with disgust. 

 

Reinhard thought of what else he could do in this situation, but his thoughts were suddenly interrupted.

 

"In case interrogating that child doesn't work, I have a proposal.", Anastasia suddenly spoke up gathering everyone's attention.

 

"What do you have in mind, Anastasia-san?", asked Emilia.

 

"----The Sage Shaula."

 

"What?", murmurs could be heard going around the crowds as they began discussing Anastasia's proposal. 

 

"In case the Archbishop refuses to help, to save the victims of the Witch Cult as well as proving the Cultist's guilt, if they're the person of legend who knows everything about the world, it wouldn't be strange if they can fix everything, right? It will also put Reinhard's mind at ease. ----Let's make a group of people to head to the 'Pleiades Watchtower'. What do you think?"

 

"------------", everyone looked at each other doubtfully.

 

"I am fine with it, Anastasia-san. Let's do it.", Emilia was the first to break the silence and agree to the proposal.

 

Anastasia then turned to Felt. Felt hesitated a bit before finally responding, "Fine, I guess." She then walked towards Reinhard and told him, "Reinhard, …you should go." 

 

"Felt-sama?"

 

"This incident has left a really bad taste in my mouth. I don't want to think about it anymore.", Felt continued as she looked up at him. "I'll go back home with Gaston and the others. You remain here and see what you can do about the victims." 

 

"But Felt-sama-"

 

"You've already failed in getting to the Watchtower once, right? Well succeed this time save everyone like you're supposed to for once.", Felt punched him weakly in the stomach. 

 

As she walked away, Felt looked bitterly at everyone who were taking away the raven haired boy. She felt disappointed at the people she called her friends after they tried to throw Reinhard and Priscilla to the wolves, when all they were trying to do was defend someone who was being condemned simply because the Great Spirit said so. All the others had done was search for evidence that were in agreement with what Beatrice had said and refused to let him speak.

 

As Reinhard watched Felt leave, he couldn't help but feel he had disappointed her.

 

Reinhard vowed that he would do everything right the next time he met her.

 

And so, they had organised a team with Reinhard, Wilhem, Emilia, Beatrice, and Anastasia and headed for the Pleiades Watchtower. Julius had wanted to go with Anastasia, but had to remain behind to transport Subaru to the Capital, while Ferris was transporting Crusch.

 

At first, they had made good progress. Anastasia had revealed that she had a spirit with her that knew the way. However, after one day of travelling in the Augria Sand Dunes, they realised the tower was not getting any closer. 

 

Anastasia had theorised that the Sage had some mechanism in place, probably some kind of spatial distortion to avoid people from reaching the tower. She guessed that they might be able to reach the tower by breaking through Sand Time. However, after weeks of attempting to break through, they had to return empty handed.

 

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Reinhard had come to visit Subaru as soon as he had returned, only to be greeted by the sight of the half-dead boy sleeping painfully on the floor. 

 

As he continued to be lost in his own thoughts----

 

"Reinhard?", a weak voice called out to him. Subaru had stirred awake and was looking at him with his eyes widened.

 

As Subaru got up into a sitting position, his now slightly longer, unkempt hair brushed across his face, and Reinhard noticed that they had begun turning white. The mean eyed boy winced in pain as he used his scar-ridden arms to get up. As he tried to move further backwards, his back hit against the wall. His face was contorted in fear, as he folded his legs inwards and wrapped his hands around them. 

 

"......It seems you have woken up, ...Subaru." 

 

"What are you doing here, Reinhard?", with his voice laced with suspicion, Subaru asked Reinhard.

 

"........I'm sorry.", was the only reply he could muster out. 

 

"----??"

 

The confused white-haired boy stared at Reinhard for a while, before finally relaxing. He steadily got up and began limping towards Reinhard. As he got closer, Reinhard wondered what Subaru was trying to do. Then, to Reinhard's complete surprise, Subaru began patting his head. 

 

"It's alright, Reinhard. I'm here, so tell me what's wrong." 

 

".......Everything is fine. Why would anything be wrong?"

 

"It's just, you look like you're about to cry."

 

"----"

 

That's when tears began flowing down Reinhard's face and he truly did begin to cry.

 

Reinhard felt even more guilty. He truly was the worst. Subaru was the one in pain. He was hurt so badly that he could hardly stand, and yet, it was Reinhard that was crying. He quickly wiped away his tears and faced Subaru. 

 

"Are you alright now, Reinhard?", Subaru asked as he stopped patting him and put his hand down, and Reinhard couldn't help but feel disappointed. 

 

"I am fine now. I'm sorry-"

 

"I'm going to stop you right there. Someone who was important to me once told me that it's better to hear a thank you rather than a thousand sorrys.", Subaru paused, and then heartbrokenly continued, "She doesn't really remember me anymore though."

 

Reinhard looked worriedly at him. He didn't have any words of comfort so he just said, "Thank you."

 

Subaru smiled weakly and once again repeated his question,

 

"Why are you here, Reinhard? Honestly, I did not think Ferris and Julius would have let you in so easily. I mean, you were trying to protect me back in Priestella."

 

"No one is here right now. Our group has just returned from the trip to the Watchtower, so Julius and Ferris have gone to meet up with Anastasia-sama and…. Wilhelm-sama. So, no one knows I'm here."

 

Subaru pretended to not notice the pause before he addressed Wilhelm and instead asked him, "Watchtower?"

 

"The Sage's Watchtower."

 

Subaru tilted his head at the mention of a place he had never heard of before.

 

"You don't know the Sage's Watchtower?", Reinhard asked incredulously.

 

"I might have heard of it but can't seem to recall it. I'm actually a foreigner. I don't know too much about this place to be honest."

 

"I see. ….It doesn't matter anyways. We failed to reach the tower.", Reinhard said dejectedly. "This is the second time I've failed. No matter how much I travel, I can not seem to reach the tower."

 

"......"

 

"I…. didn't know how to face Felt-sama after disappointing her once again, and I don't know who else to talk to. So I came here. I am aware of how strange this sounds and I don't know why, but…. I thought I could rely on you.", Reinhard suddenly felt a headache as he spoke the last part. 

 

'For you… that would be no problem at all. ----Right, I will look forward to it. You filling in for me… the parts that I cannot reach.', who had he said those words to and when?

 

".....I'm happy you feel that way talking with me. But I really think you should talk it out with Felt as well. I don't think she would be disappointed-", as he was talking, Subaru suddenly stumbled and quickly propped himself against the wall.

 

"You don't mind if I sit down, right? I'm not really in a condition to be standing right now. Well, I'm not really in a condition where I could sit as well. But it'll have to do.", Subaru laughed weakly as he bent down to sit on the blood covered floor. This reminded Reinhard of a question he had been wanting to ask ever since he entered the prison cell.

 

"What happened here? Is all that blood yours?"

 

Subaru froze. 

 

"It's nothing, Reinhard. You should really talk to Felt-"

 

"I don't believe you are a bad person. Despite what Beatrice-sama said, I couldn't bring myself to believe it."

 

".......You really believe me?", Subaru asked in disbelief. Drops of tears rolled down his cheeks and fell into the puddle of blood on the floor.

 

"I have been talking to you all this time and you only ask me this question now? I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe you, Subaru.", Reinhard chuckled. 

 

Subaru let out a small laugh as he wiped his tears. As he wept, Reinhard stood quietly by his side, waiting for him to speak.

 

"You know, I really thought I would die here, after being betrayed by my own allies again. I was so scared! All this time, I was begging for someone, anyone to save me! But no help came. It hurt so much!"

 

The Sword Saint continued to listen to him as he cried his heart out.

 

"You have no idea how much just having you believe in me made me happy. It's not much, but it still saved me. Thank you for saving me, Reinhard."

 

"Not yet!", Reinhard stopped him.

 

"Huh?", Subaru exclaimed in bafflement. 

 

Reinhard smiled as the perplexed look on his face gave him a great deal of satisfaction. He walked closer to the white haired boy and lifted him into his arms, holding him in a princess carry.

 

"Don't thank me, yet! I still haven't saved you. ….I hope Felt-sama won't be mad if I brought a guest home today."

 

"Eh!?", Subaru blushed as he squirmed around in the arms of the handsome red haired knight. However, this ended up opening up some of his freshly closed wounds and he ended up grunting in pain. 

 

"Please don't move so much. Your wounds seem to be opening up. Also, try not to make much noise. The guards outside are drunk and asleep. We don't want them to wake up."

 

"Is this really alright? Won't you get into trouble with the Knights?", Subaru asked in concern. 

 

"It won't be a problem if they never find out it was me.", Reinhard winked as he walked out the cell and leaped into the air. 

 

The boy in his arms, finally safe from the horrors he had faced in the prison cell, relaxed as they made their way to the place that he would learn to call home.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

A Moment of Relief

 

As her golden locks swayed in the gentle breeze under the moonlit night, Felt let out a tired sigh. She was leaning on the railings of the rooftop of the Astrea Mansion, wondering what she had done to deserve this fate.

 

It had once again been a busy day for her. She had spent the entire day studying for the Royal Selection (that she didn't even want to be a part of) and helping in administering the Astrea domains as usual. 

 

But that wasn't even the worst part. She couldn't even go out alone anymore. Someone or the other would always be stalking her from behind making sure she's alright, like she's a little kid or something. It was fine if it was just Granny Carol, but the TonChinKan trio stood out too much.

 

'Heh! Whoever thought of the nickname TonChinKan for the three of them is a genius!' She massaged her temples, feeling a slight headache.

 

The absolute worst was when break time had finally arrived, and the members of her Camp had forced her to try on all kinds of stuffy dresses and took delight as she paraded around in them, especially that traitorous Old Man Rom.

 

Just what did they think she was, some kind of show animal!

 

"It's all his fault!", Felt thought aloud. It's all because that idiotic perfect knight of hers had abducted her and brought her here. 

 

As she thought back to the circumstances that led to her meeting him, she couldn't help but feel irritated. Sure she was happy at first when he saved everyone back in the Loot house, but now she just felt annoyed whenever he was with her. 

 

Now that she thought about it, why did she ask him for help? Hadn't she already escaped safely from that place? How did she escape from that spider woman in the first place? Was it Emilia? But she was busy fighting Elsa. And it couldn't have been Rom either, he was out cold.

 

As she thought harder about the inconsistencies in her memories, she felt a throbbing headache as the thoughts tugged at her chest. 

 

Suddenly, for an instant, her thoughts drifted to the raven-haired boy pleading for help back in Priestella. Recalling that ugly affair always left her feeling uneasy, so she quickly dismissed those thoughts from her head. She did however sincerely hope that the boy was still alive.

 

That incident was also the last time she'd seen Reinhard before he had left for the Watchtower. Speaking of which, he was supposed to have reached here by evening. At least, that's what he had written in the letter he had sent them that morning. 

 

He was late. Where was he and what was he doing?

 

"......Don't tell me, he's moping around somewhere after failing to reach the tower a second time." She felt a little bad for him. But only a little bit. "I guess I could go along with whatever he wants for a bit after he comes back." She'll still kick him though for making her worry about him.

 

"----Speak of the devil!"

 

As Felt continued to both worry and berate him in her mind, she noticed his crimson red locks flying towards the mansion. 

 

"Hey everyone! Reinhard's back!", she shouted as she went back in and ran down the stairs to the entrance.

 

"Please don't run down the stairs like that, Felt-sama. It's very unlady-like and you could fall down and get hurt.", Carol said as wiped her hand while coming out of the kitchen and followed behind her to the entrance. 

 

"Yeah, yeah, whatever!", she answered back completely ignoring the elderly lady's words while Carol just sighed.

 

She threw open the doors and ran outside as she watched him approach the gates. 

 

"It seems the Young Master has brought home a guest.", Carol's voice sounded from behind her.

 

On hearing her words, Felt noticed it as well. Reinhard was carrying someone in his arms as he was flying. 

 

"Huh? Did he kidnap someone again?", she wondered. As he got closer, she could see that the person he was carrying was injured. 

 

"Wait a minute! Is that----!?"

 

Once he had landed, Felt finally got a clearer view of the person he was carrying, only to find a face she didn't think she would ever see again.

 

As Reinhard walked towards them, he was taking absolute care not to hurt the asleep white haired boy in his arms any further than he already was. 

 

It was the same boy condemned by the Great Spirit back in Priestella. What had happened to him and why had Reinhard brought him here?

 

".....I don't know…… please stop…… it hurts… Ferris…. Julius…… don't know…. about Crusch-san…… Joshua…", he was mumbling painfully in his sleep.

 

"It's been a while, Young Master. Shall I have Flam and Grassis prepare a room for the guest?", Carol asked as she welcomed him back. Her tone was grave, seeing the condition the boy was in.

 

"Yes please. Also please call Ezzo and Rom-dono immediately. He needs treatment as soon as possible.", Reinhard said as he carefully handed the boy over to Carol.

 

Despite her age and stature, she was still far from being a frail old lady as she took the boy in her arms with ease. As if holding a newborn infant, she took great care to not hurt the boy sobbing in his sleep as she carried him inside.

 

Felt simply stood there speechlessly as she watched the exchange between her knight and the elderly lady. 

 

"Felt-sama", Reinhard called out to her after he had made sure the boy had been taken inside safely. "I know I am a Knight in service to the Kingdom and I shouldn't have broken him out, but both my instincts and divine protections were telling me he is innocent. I couldn't just leave him there to be tortured to death in that prison cell. ----I'll take any punishment you give me. But please help me protect him.", he bowed his head to Felt as he spoke.

 

"Reinhard, you broke him out?", Felt's voice was incredulous as she asked him. 

 

But then, the more she contemplated, something suddenly struck her mind. Why was she shocked that Reinhard had brought a wanted man back home? His house was full of outlaws. There was Felt herself, and then Rom, Gaston, Rachins, Camberley (Although it was she herself that had asked him to pick them up).

 

She realised she was getting sidetracked and brought her attention back to the situation at present. 

 

Reinhard continued to bow, waiting for her to continue.

 

".....Reinhard", she finally began to respond. He raised his head as he looked at her in anticipation of her answer. 

 

"You have no idea how happy I am!"

 

"----What!?", to his complete disbelief his Lady began slapping him on the back in joy.

 

"Good job, Rein! Seriously good job! I am so proud of you!"

 

"But Felt-sama, I failed to reach the Tower and brought a wanted man home which could endanger all of your lives."

 

"Who cares if you didn't reach a stupid unreachable tower! You saved an innocent man who was being subjected to torture simply because 'the Great Spirit said so'. If he's telling the truth, he is an ally who has helped us protect the people in Priestella. You saved him, Rein! Do you regret saving him?"

 

"----Absolutely not. I am certain that I have made the correct decision.", Reinhard spoke with a look of determination.

 

"Then there's nothing to get so worked up about. You did the right thing. And you know what's even better! You broke the law to do it!", Felt grinned in excitement. "I feel like a proud mother watching her kid grow up!"

 

".....That's not something to be proud of.", Reinhard frowned. "Besides, I'm older than you, Felt-sama."

 

"Shut up!"

 

With that Felt's annoyance at her knight returned as she tried to land a kick on his stomach, only to be blocked by his hand.

 

Realising it was futile to argue with him anymore, she sighed and put her foot down as she turned and marched back towards the mansion.

 

"What the hell are you waiting for! Let's go!"

 

Reinhard smiled as he followed behind her.

 

**************************************

**************************************

 

"Natsuki Subaru has had………"

 

----It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. 

 

These were the only thoughts in his head as the cat-eared healer fried his nerves once again. 

 

"Are you ready to tell me how to cure Crusch-sama nyow~? The faster you spill your secrets, the faster this'll end, you knyow~! Hurry up already!!"

 

----Maybe you should try asking the actual Cultists how to cure her instead of wasting your time on me! At least, I did something to help her by absorbing her curse that time, unlike you, who is clearly just enjoying torturing me instead of actually searching for a cure.

 

"I…. don't know how….. ", he coughed as he struggled to get the words out.

 

"How pathetic! Despite being offered to be liberated once you provide all information required by us, you continue to plead that you are unaware. After all that you have done, do you honestly believe it is noble of you to continue to protect your people this way?"

 

A familiar man with light purple hair taunted him as he begged desperately for even a moment of relief.

 

"Move aside Ferris. Let me try again.", the purple haired man requested the cat-eared boy (??). "What have you done to my brother and Crusch-sama? How do we fix it?" The purple-haired knight paused for sometime, waiting for him to reply. 

 

----How big of a hypocrite are you, you asshole! You didn't even know he was your brother until I pointed it out to you! How the hell should I know why I remember the victims of Gluttony! Now, you're beating me up to try to save him? I already saved him once from being abandoned by you when you forgot about him.

 

Compared to two minutes ago, he felt like he could at least talk now that his body didn't feel like it was on fire. He took a deep breath and began to answer. 

 

"I don't know how to fix th-"

 

He was sent flying and crashed against the walls of the prison cell as the wooden sword struck his stomach. His attempts to get up were followed by more beatings with the wooden sword and then more of whatever the healer was doing with his body. 

 

By the time they were done, they left him bleeding out on the floor. At least, he had hoped they would.

 

Suddenly, a warm but painful glow enveloped him.

 

----Nonononononononononononono!!

Pleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleasepleaseplease!!

Letmedieletmedieletmedieletmedieletmedieletmedieletmedieletmedie!!

 

"Oops~, we can nyot have you die so easily nyow, can we~! You still haven't given us anything useful."

 

As the cat-ears person healed him, he lay unmoving on the cold prison floor wondering what he had done to deserve this fate. 

 

About fifteen to twenty minutes after they had left, his cognition slowly returned to him. Until now, he had been in a partially befuddled state, unable to understand most of what was going on.

 

"Ferris…… Julius……", he whimpered as he finally remembered the names of the two who had been here questioning him for what seemed like forever.

 

Ferris had probably brainwashed him again to try and make the questioning easier. Just what kind of fools were they? After questioning him for God knows how many days (he hadn't really been in the condition to count), shouldn't they have realised by now that he didn't know anything?

 

Every single day ever since Louis Arneb ate his name, it was like this. They torture him for information, get nothing in return, heal him and then retire. He was completely useless to them.

 

----So, why won't you just let me die?

 

All of this could be solved if they had just let him die. No matter how bad the situation, he trusted that Satella would never put him in a situation where he could never recover from. 

 

So, why won't they let him die?

 

He had already tried to bite off his tongue at least three times before. But that detestable healer would arrive just in time to always heal him again. But never completely. Just enough so he won't die. 

 

As he lay there wondering if this will continue for the rest of his life, he suddenly felt it. The warm glow of healing. It was comforting, very unlike what the cat-eared knight had subjected him to. 

 

Then the sensation of someone holding his hands. The sensation of someone stroking his head. The sensation of someone comforting him as he slept.

 

As these warm feelings continued to fill him up, the prison cell around him began to crack, and was replaced by a completely dark void. 

 

Amidst the garden of shadows that surrounded him, a shadowy figure slowly walked up to him. 

 

The shadow slowly extended its arms towards him and softly caressed his cheeks.

 

"Don't worry, my love. You are safe now. Reid and Farsale's descendants are going to keep you safe. You can believe in them. …I think… I'll believe in them as well."

 

----That's surprising. They must be really good people if even Satella believes in them.

 

He slowly raised his hands and held her hand that was cupping his cheeks in his as warm tears of relief filled his eyes.

 

"----I love you.", the voice declared before disappearing. 

 

As he saw her disappear, he hoped she was right. That he would be saved.

 

With hope for the future, Natsuki Subaru finally opened his eyes.

 

**************************************

**************************************

 

"I don't know this ceiling."

 

As he opened his eyes, he was greeted with the sight of a room he had never seen before. But, it was definitely not the bloody prison cell he had been staying in since forever. 

 

"I see you're finally awake. You've been asleep for an entire day.", a familiar voice sounded from near the foot of the bed he was currently sleeping in. 

 

He curiously glanced over in the direction of the speaker, unable to immediately recall the events that had led to this situation.

 

"Reinhard?", Subaru stared in shock as the memories of the previous night, or rather two nights ago as Reinhard said, began flowing into him.

 

"Please wait here. I'll go get everyone else.", he said, walking out the guest room.

 

Watching him leave the room, Subaru felt extremely grateful to have finally left that hellhole. At the same time, he felt extremely guilty for having put Reinhard in trouble. 

 

As he sat up on the bed, he noticed many of his wounds had been healed and were wrapped in bandages. While the wounds were not completely healed, it was certainly better than before. Whoever had healed him had done it to the best of their abilities. Not everyone was as good as Ferris.

 

---Ferris. And Julius as well. 

 

Before all of this had happened, whenever he thought back to the beating Julius gave him during the beginning of the Royal Selection after he had embarrassed Emilia, he couldn't help but feel angry.

 

----So why was it that now, he didn't feel even the slightest bit of anger at either of those two knights. 

 

He should be furious. He should be screaming at them. He should resent them. But in the end, all he felt was indifference.

 

Well, even if he wanted to scream and shout at them, he would just be captured and tortured again. But, if by some miraculous turn of events his name were to return, he would want to have nothing to do with them.

 

Although, he had to give it to them. To have reached such great levels of pain second only to the rabbits was certainly an accomplishment. Ferris really is an amazing healer, to be able to so effortlessly mess with his head, increase his sensitivity to pain, and fry his nerves, only to undo it completely and heal him again.

 

It was a miracle his mind hadn't broken. Although it would have been better if it had. He wouldn't have had such a hard time then.

 

Who knew his own friends could be so cruel? ----Or rather, he had always known but had chosen to ignore it. 

 

A certain blue haired maid and her morning star came to his mind. But as soon as the thought entered his head, he scrunched up his face.

 

".....I really am disgusting."

 

He felt disgusted that even for a moment, he was glad that she was asleep. She was the same as him, forgotten by the world. Yet, he couldn't help but be curious, would she believe him? He quickly dismissed thoughts of her completely as soon as they came. Maybe because he already knew the answer to that question.

 

After all, even Otto had not believed in him that one day when Ram had almost beaten him to death after they visited him when it was revealed that he remembered the victims of Gluttony. Garfiel and Otto had to actively restrain her from killing their only source of information (he still doesn't understand that after days of torture, just why on earth did they still believe that?). 

 

'----Is it really that strange to help out a friend?'

 

'Please don't misunderstand. I am not stopping her from killing you because I believe in your lies. The only reason is because you are the only one who can provide us information, in case Emilia-sama and the others are unsuccessful in their ventures. With everything that's going on recently with Margrave Mathers, I am sure she is feeling extremely anxious. So stop enraging her any further. I absolutely won't forgive anyone who hurts my friends.'

 

He could still remember Otto's gaze filled with distrust directed towards him, scrutinizing his every move.

 

At least, Emilia and Beatrice weren't there. 

 

'Please stop calling yourself my knight!'

 

'Betty has no contractor, in fact. Even if Betty had chosen someone, it will certainly never be someone as disgusting as you!'

 

They had already abandoned him. 

 

The realisation hit him like a ton of bricks as he spiralled further into despair. His life had been a train wreck, but he had held himself together for the sake of his friends. Now, those very friends were the ones who had betrayed him.

 

"Emilia…. Beatrice…", he began sobbing once again. 

 

The thought of the people precious to him abandoning him hurt him more than the wounds on his body. 

 

His body began convulsing as the bandages on his arms felt tighter and tighter. He screamed and cried and thrashed around on the bed, trying to tear the bandages off. He had to take them off. 

 

"---------calm down.", a voice called out to him as he flailed around on the bed, but he couldn't comprehend it.

 

Suddenly, someone had wrapped their arms around him and was gently patting his head.

 

"It's alright. You are safe now. Please calm down, dear guest.", the unfamiliar voice tried to calm him down.

 

The comforting embrace and the gentle stroking of his head made him slowly relax. As he sniffled, he felt someone take his hands and fix his bandages.

 

Wiping his tears, he saw an old lady smiling sympathetically at him. There was also an elderly man fixing his bandages.

 

"Have you finally calmed down, dear guest?", the elderly lady asked him. He slowly nodded his head. 

 

Seeing as he had finally calmed down, the lady let go of him and turned around and nodded. Following her gaze, Subaru turned his head as well.

 

"Felt…..", it was the same blonde girl with the scarlet eyes and prominent canines he had met on his first day in Lugunica, watching him with concern. 

 

"I'm sorry. I should have considered your mental state and taken more care.", Reinhard mumbled dejectedly beside her, with guilt evident on his face. That look he had on his face, same as the one he had made the last night, seemed strangely familiar to him. Why does he have to ruin that charming face of his dwelling over matters that aren't even his fault? 

 

"No, I'm fine Reinhard. Thanks again for everything. It looks like I was saved by you once again.", Subaru mustered the brightest smile he could make before turning to Felt. "And to Felt as well, thank you. Glad to know you're doing well."

 

"Don't mention it, big bro. How are you feeling?"

 

"Better than before, I guess.", he laughed lightly. "Thanks to….." 

 

"Carol. Carol Remendis. And that's my husband, Grimm Fauzen. I'm glad I could help, dear guest.", the old lady smiled sweetly at the white haired boy.

 

"Thank you, Carol-san, Grimm-san.", he looked gratefully at them.

 

Soon, one after another, other members of the mansion arrived in his room. First, were the twin maids, Flam and Grassis Remendis. They did a small curtsy as they introduced themselves to him.

 

"Nice to meet you two.", he smiled at them and they nodded in unison. It reminded him of when he first met Ram and Rem, but he pushed that thought away.

 

"It seems like you're awake kid. I see you managed to ruin the bandages, I worked so hard to wrap around you.", a familiar face spoke walking into the room.

 

As soon as Subaru saw his face, he beamed with joy.

 

"Ah! Old man Rom! It's old man Rom! Glad to see you again! I hadn't seen you for a year! Seeing you here makes me feel all nostalgic!"

 

"Calm down there, kid! You seem too happy to meet me! Wait! How do you know my name?"

 

"How could I not? You and Felt were the first friends I made when I came here!" He quickly extinguished thoughts of Emilia as it came up in his mind. "When I hadn't seen you for over a year, I thought you were dead or something! I'm so glad to see you're alive!"

 

"I'm not surprised. I didn't think he'd live that long myself, bro. I'm kinda glad he's alive as well!"

 

"I ain't dying that easily!!", Rom quipped back at Subaru and Felt who had joined him as everyone in the room laughed.

 

"But coming back to what you said earlier, is that true? We were your first friends? How did we meet?", Felt asked excitedly.

 

As Subaru remembered his first meeting with Rom and Felt, he made a sad smile. He had barged into the Loothouse on his second loop and had bonded with them during their negotiation. But that timeline was now lost after Elsa had killed all of them.

 

Though, it wasn't as if they remembered him in the current timeline either.

 

"Felt and I first met in the slums and then I met the Old man in the Loothouse. It was the same day that Elsa had asked you to steal….", Subaru hesitated, his smile faltering a bit before he continued, "Emilia's insignia. I tried to trade it for my metia, which was worth about-"

 

"----Twenty holy gold coins!", Felt and Rom suddenly exclaimed in unison.

 

"Felt-sama!", Reinhard and Carol rushed to her in concern.

 

Subaru's eyes widened. Did they just remember an event related to him? He thought if he pressed them on further, they might remember. But upon seeing them holding their heads in pain forcibly trying to remember, he decided against it.

 

"Felt, old man, you can stop trying to remember. My 'Name' was eaten after all. If it comes to you naturally, that's great. But otherwise, trying to force yourself to remember is pointless.", he smiled bitterly.

 

"But bro-"

 

"It's fine, Felt. I'm just glad that you believe me."

 

Felt just looked down as Reinhard looked guiltily at her and Subaru.

 

But the entire conversation made him realise that this was new. This was different from the other victims of Gluttony. After Rem's 'Name' was eaten, no matter how many times he had told the story to Ram about the Ulgram forest, she couldn't recall any of the details properly. 

 

So why had Felt and Rom remembered that detail? The same thing had happened with Priscilla that day as well. Gluttony's effect was weaker.

 

----Would Ferris and Julius have remembered if he had appealed to them and tried to talk about familiar incidents with them? 

 

The more he thought about it, the more he thought that it was pointless to go on with this train of thought. It was impossible to convince them in the first place, when the most he could get out was five words before they beat him up again.

 

But it made him think, if the others had been patient enough to listen to him, would they have believed him? Was he that detestable that no one wanted to listen to him? If he was stronger, if was smarter, if he was more capable, would they have listened to him?

 

His mind spiralled further into despair as he kept his smile plastered on his face. 

 

But it looked like it wasn't fooling anyone around him as the people around him looked at him with worry. 

 

Soon, the TonChinKan trio and a mage named Ezzo Cadner arrived in the room and greeted him. It seemed that Ezzo was the one who had healed his wounds and as he shook his hand, Subaru kept wondering if he had met him before. 

 

"You've all been so helpful to me and I'm sorry for imposing on you-", Subaru began speaking after he had greeted everyone in the mansion.

 

"Before you say anything, I'd like to say that I believe it's better to hear a single thank you than a thousand sorrys.", Reinhard smirked.

 

Subaru looked at him with surprise before laughing lightly at his own words being returned at him. 

 

"Rein's right. We're hearing none of that. You aren't imposing on us in any way. You're staying with us right here. You don't have anywhere else to go, right? …And…. I know I don't remember you, but someone had saved my life in that Loothouse. And this doesn't make much sense, but I'm sure it was you."

 

"----"

 

"Hey everyone! I know the Kingdom thinks he's a Sin Archbishop. But I know he is innocent. So, if any of you bastards try to sell him out, I'll release Reinhard on you.", Felt declared loudly.

 

"Yeah, don't worry. Even if we were planning to do that, that's not going happen now after that threat.", Rachins retorted as everyone laughed.

 

"Oh, I almost forgot! We've all introduced ourselves but not once have you said your name. I mean it's not necessary as Reinhard already told us everything, but we'd still like to hear it from you."

 

As Subaru looked at all of them waiting eagerly for him to speak, he couldn't help but let out a chuckle.

 

While still sitting on his bed, he put one hand on his hips and pointed the other to the roof.

 

"My name is Natsuki Subaru. I've been forgotten and I'm broke beyond compare! So, thanks again for saving my lif- ouch, that hurt!", Subaru cried out in pain as extending his arms for too long caused sharp pain on his sides.

 

Felt laughed, Reinhard and Carol looked at him with concern, the twins' expression didn't change much but it felt like they were worried, and the others cringed.

 

"........don't…...move........sit…….still"

 

Finally, the hoarse voice of the old man, Grimm, beckoned him to lie down on the bed and tucked him in.

 

"We should probably leave while we let you rest here, Subaru. I'll go get breakfast for you. You must be hungry."

 

As soon as Reinhard said that, Subaru realised he hadn't eaten anything for a day and really was hungry. 

 

"You don't have to do that, Young Master. I can have Flam and Grassis do that."

 

"No, please let me. Felt-sama always says I don't do enough work around here. I brought him here, so the least I could do is this." Reinhard insisted. ".....Besides, I would like to talk more with him.", he muttered softly with excitement.

 

Reinhard truly was such a good person. And that extended to everyone else in the room as well. After all, they were treating Subaru, a suspected Sin Archbishop, and someone who most people seemed to hate at first sight, with such kindness.

 

Once again, flashbacks of his first week at the Roswaal Mansion surfaced in his mind. As everyone left the room, Subaru turned over to his sides as he laid on the bed.

 

Despite being saved, his soul was filled with a sense of dread.

 

----He can trust them, right?

 

'You can believe in them. …I think… I'll believe in them as well.'  

 

Silver bells echoed in his head. It was a voice that sounded very similar, and yet, very different from Emilia's. He couldn't remember very well when those words were said to him, but he knew he could trust that voice.

 

With lingering doubts, he closed his eyes trying to block out all pessimistic thoughts.

 

----Although, knowing his luck, he couldn't help but wonder how long this moment of relief will last before it comes crashing down again. Like it always has.



Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Life at the Astrea Mansion

 

"NOOOOOOOOO!!"

 

"YEESSSSSSSS!!"

 

Felt and Ezzo screamed out in unison.

 

"Big Bro, he cheated, didn't he? There's no way I would lose against someone like him!"

 

"What the hell is that supposed to mean!? I won fair and square! Subaru-san, tell her!"

 

As Ezzo defended himself against the blonde princess' accusation, both turned to look at the third person present in the room.

 

"From what I saw, I'm sure Ezzo didn't cheat. Sorry, but you lost this one, Felt.", Subaru smiled as he declared his verdict.

 

"See, I told you!", Ezzo smirked.

 

"Traitor!", Felt glared at Subaru as she gritted her teeth.

 

It had been about two days since Subaru had woken up and the three of them were currently in the guest room where he was recuperating. Subaru was sitting up on the bed, overlooking the two visitors in his room, while Felt and Ezzo were engaged in a game of Othello.

 

It was a strangely fun game that Subaru had introduced to them the previous day and Felt had loved it so much that she had gone around challenging everyone in the mansion. She had managed to beat Gaston, Camberley, Rachins, Grimm, Flam and Grassis. Unfortunately, her winning streak was cut short when she had challenged Ezzo.

 

Ezzo felt a great deal of satisfaction watching Felt sulk after defeating her. It wasn't often that he got a chance to gloat over her defeat.

 

"Let's go for another round! This time I'll definitely win!", Felt challenged him again.

 

"I think that's enough of interrupting everyone's work for now, Felt-sama. We should let Subaru rest. You also have to resume your studies, Felt-sama.", the flaming red haired knight stopped her as he walked into the room.

 

Felt stuck her tongue out at Reinhard and turned away from him pouting. 

 

"Ezzo, have you finished Subaru's treatment for today?" Reinhard's inquiry suddenly reminded Ezzo why he had come there in the first place before he was interrupted by Felt.

 

"I almost forgot! I'll do it now.", Ezzo turned to face Subaru and began his light glow of healing.

 

"Very well. Please finish your work. I'll come back after I have taken Felt-sama back to her room." And so, he dragged the protesting blonde candidate away.

 

As soon as they had left, an awkward silence filled the room. Ezzo felt the need to start a conversation, but he didn't know what to say. He looked up only to see Subaru occasionally opening his mouth as if to start a conversation and then quickly closing it. At least, it comforted him that the white-haired boy felt the same.

 

When he had first met Subaru, he was unsure of what to think about him. Both the Sword Saint, with all his divine protections, and the Felt herself seemed to believe he was innocent, with the latter even claiming that Subaru had saved her life at some point.

 

That old man, Grimm, with his unbelievably keen intuition for danger, too thought he was not a Sin Archbishop. So naturally, his wife and granddaughters trusted his judgement as well. 

 

But it would be a lie if Ezzo said he didn't harbour any doubts. He was a suspected Archbishop, after all. Yet, the more he interacted with him, the more he began to doubt the accusations. But that did not imply his suspicions were completely lifted and simply made him more curious about the boy's origin.

 

His white hair was rare and so were his black eyes. Reinhard had already confirmed that he was a foreigner. He didn't seem like someone from the merciless lands of Vollachia. His mannerisms did resemble someone from Kararagi, so maybe he was from there. His best bet however, was that Subaru was from Gusteko. His extremely high spiritual affinity that Ezzo had noticed during his treatments, seemed to support his theory.

 

"I'm done. How do you feel?", Ezzo finally broke the silence as he finished his healing.

 

"Thanks. My wounds are healing up fine. At this rate, I think I can even start running around in a day or two!"

 

"You won't do any such thing! Just because your wounds have closed up doesn't mean you have healed completely. I am not that great of a healer. Don't ruin my hard work! You need to rest!"

 

"I think you are a great healer though. You even managed to remove most of my scars!"

 

Ezzo sighed on hearing Subaru's praises.

 

"......And yet, I can't seem to get any of the colour titles though.", Ezzo muttered.

 

"Colour?", Subaru curiously asked.

 

"You heard that!?" Ezzo asked and Subaru nodded his head still waiting for him to explain what he meant.

 

"......A mage who is the best in a particular magic attribute is given the alias of that colour. Felix Argyle, who is the best Water mage in the Kingdom is given the alias of Blue. The Court Mage Margrave Mathers holds the title of the rest of three colours, Red, Green and Yellow.", Ezzo explained begrudgingly. 

 

"It's so unfair! That clown holds three titles and I am called Gray! I am…" Ezzo continued to complain when suddenly----

 

"That's it!!", Subaru exclaimed as his eyes widened in recognition. "I remember now! You were the one who had broken into the Roswaal Mansion to trap him in your weird metia that time!"

 

".....Huh!? Wait, how did you know….. that…..."

 

Ezzo held his head in pain as memories flowed into him. He had broken into the Roswaal Mansion and trapped Roswaal in his metia---- 'Nest of the White Fox', but he was unfortunately spotted by the half-witch, and invited inside to have tea with her, a great spirit and a blonde little super-child. As he was thinking of how to escape, the real Roswaal had arrived and he realized he had trapped----

 

"----You're the one I had trapped in my metia?"

 

"That's right! I was trying to cosplay as Roswaal, but you thought I was really him!", Subaru spoke gleefully. "You really remember me?"

 

"Kos-pley?", Ezzo curiously looked at him upon hearing the unfamiliar term. One thing he had noticed about the boy in front of him is that he had a tendency to use strange words no one besides him understood. They were probably from his homeland. It just made him more curious to know more about him. 

 

At least, the memory seemed to imply his claims of being a part of the Emilia Camp were true.

 

"It just means I was dressing up as Roswaal.", Subaru smiled bitterly. "Anyways, do you remember me?"

 

"Not much. I just remember I trapped a servant dressed like the Margrave and I got beaten up afterwards." Ezzo spoke as he tried to remember.

 

"Huh!? Just me? There was another maid trapped with me, right? Don't you remember?", Subaru suddenly leaned towards him, began rapidly questioning him.

 

The startled Ezzo looked at Subaru with shock, but upon seeing the desperate look on his face he apologetically answered, "Sorry. My memory of the incident is a bit hazy. I don't really remember."

 

Subaru shrunk back in disappointment. "I don't understand.", he muttered.

 

"Subaru-san?", Ezzo worriedly called out to the panicking boy.

 

This seemed to snap Subaru out of his daze as he turned to Ezzo and smiled bitterly.

 

"Sorry, I got distracted. ….Anyways, if I remember correctly, you wanted to prove that you were better than Roswaal, right? So it's because he holds three titles?"

 

"Yeah. I just wanted to show everyone I was better than him.", Ezzo sighed before looking up and stating firmly with determination, "I know I lost back then but …..I'm not giving up though. I'll definitely surpass the Margrave someday! Just you wait!"

 

Ezzo looked at Subaru, completely expecting him to laugh. But to his surprise,

 

"Really? That's awesome! I'm cheering for you!", the mean eyed boy grinned excitedly.

 

"----"

 

"I don't really like the clown either. I'd love to see him beaten anytime.", Subaru winked. "You know, I've seen you practicing in the garden every morning from the window, and from what I've seen, I think you're a better mage than most people I know. I'm sure you'll definitely surpass him someday."

 

".........Subaru-san!!", Ezzo shrieked suddenly, all teary eyed and touched upon listening to his praises.

 

"Eh!?" The startled Subaru jumped back slightly on his bed.

 

"You are the only person who has said that! Everyone else just laughs at me! Subaru-san is such a good----", As Ezzo happily cried out, he suddenly had a realisation and stopped. "Wait, what did you just say? You saw me practicing in the morning!?", he blushed furiously.

 

"I think everyone can see you practicing in the morning." Turning around to hear who had spoken, they saw Reinhard had returned. "Your fire magic is very conspicuous. Were you perhaps trying to hide it?"

 

"Why else do you think I practice early in the morning when everyone is supposed to be asleep!?"

 

"You are an idiot, aren't you?", Subaru asked with pity clear on his face to which Ezzo grunted.

 

"So, you wanted to talk to me?", Subaru turned to ask Reinhard who had grabbed a chair and seated himself near the bed.

 

"Yes. I wanted to inform you that I'll be away tomorrow visiting the Guard Station in the Royal Capital with Felt-sama.", Reinhard replied with a pained expression on his face, to which Subaru just looked at him in worry.

 

'It must be about that.' , Ezzo thought as he felt sorry for Reinhard. To have just returned from the tower three days ago and to find out what happened in his absence must have shaken him.

 

"So, will you be gone for too long?", Ezzo inquired.

 

"No, we'll try to be back by tomorrow evening itself. So, please rest assured. I'll drain Subaru's mana then.", Reinhard reassured them, while he drained Subaru's mana for that day.

 

During his treatment sessions, Ezzo had discovered that his patient had a broken Gate and was at risk of mana poisoning. The only reason the white haired boy had survived this long was because his torturer was also the greatest healer in the Kingdom. Now, Reinhard was in-charge of draining his excess mana.

 

"It wouldn't have been a problem if you'd just contract a spirit in the first place. You have such a high spiritual affinity, it's such a waste for you to not contract one."

 

While Subaru's expression hadn't changed much from before, Ezzo noticed the doubt that momentarily flashed across his face. He had noticed it multiple times before. He was sure that everyone else had noticed it as well. While the mean-eyed boy was indeed grateful to them, just as they doubted him, it seemed like he did not completely trust anyone as well.

 

Ezzo remembered what Felt had told him earlier that day. It was Subaru's own contracted spirit that had condemned him as an Archbishop. If it was true, then he could understand Subaru's refusal to make a contract every time it was suggested as well as his reluctance to completely trust anyone. He decided not to press him any further.

 

"I think that's all for today. We'll leave and let you rest now. If you need anything just call.", As Ezzo got up, ready to leave, he noticed Reinhard had not moved from his position.

 

"Do you need something Reinhard?", Subaru asked.

 

"Well, you see…..", Reinhard hesitated and then looked down at the coloured cardboard cutouts placed on the table beside Subaru's bed. "I saw everyone else playing it and Felt-sama said it was really fun. I don't really have anything to do right now, so.…. I was wondering if you'd play a game of Othello with me?", Reinhard asked in a soft voice.

 

".....Sure, why not?", Subaru smiled as he gathered the pieces littered around on the table and began arranging them.

 

As they got the board ready, Ezzo felt it wouldn't hurt watching a fifteen minute game, even though he was sure Reinhard would somehow win.

 

Three hours later----,

 

"How the hell did you manage to tie twenty times in a row!?", Ezzo cried out in disbelief.

 

"You're amazing, Big bro. How did you manage to do that?", Felt praised Subaru as he continued to play against Reinhard.

 

At first, it was just a fifteen minute game that ended in a draw. Ezzo, unsatisfied with the results, asked them to play once more, but once again, it was a tie. One game turned into two, two into four, and now even after twenty rounds, they still couldn't determine a winner.

 

They would have stopped playing after an hour, but Felt had arrived with Carol wondering where Reinhard had gone and found him playing the board game with Subaru, and forced them to continue until a winner was decided. But even, Felt was starting to grow impatient.

 

"I don't really know myself. I was just lucky, I guess.", Subaru said as he put another piece on the board and turned over more of Reinhard's pieces.

 

"Please don't call it luck, Subaru. You really are amazing to be able to keep up even with my divine protections.", Reinhard too praised Subaru as he tried to downplay himself.

 

".....For the first time in my life, my mind feels so clear and relaxed…. It's almost creepy.", Subaru muttered. 

 

He became silent for a while, his eyes darted over to the empty cup of tea on the bedside table. Carol had brought it for Subaru earlier that day along with breakfast. For a moment, disgust filled his face, before immediately softening as he whispered,  ".....I wonder if she remembers me."

 

"Huh? Did you say something?", Felt asked having heard his muttering.

 

"No. Not really.", he denied. "Anyways, this is just Othello. I doubt I'll be able to win against Reinhard in something like Shatranj, though.", Subaru answered.

 

"We won't know that without trying. Maybe you'd do just as well. …..Regarding your mind being relaxed, I guess I am responsible for that. I used one of my divine protections to calm you down after the mana drain since you looked very stressed. I am sorry if I inconvenienced you.", Reinhard responded as he continued to play.

 

"You have a divine protection for that!? But I guess it doesn't matter, it did help me so thanks, I guess. ----Wait, didn't you just say that you are using your divine protections to play this game? Isn't that cheating?", Subaru reproachfully looked up at Reinhard.

 

Reinhard flinched and smiled bitterly. "I wasn't doing it on purpose. It's just that I am unable to turn off most of my divine protections voluntarily."

 

"Hehe! So that means Rein would lose against Big Bro without them.", Felt happily inferred. 

 

"Looks like it's going to be a tie again, Young Master, Subaru-sama.", Carol observed from behind Felt as she looked down on the board as only a few more spaces were left but no clear winner was evident.

 

"----Argh! Give me that! I'm tired of this already! You! Take that side!", Felt snatched Reinhard's pieces and ordered Ezzo to play for Subaru.

 

Two minutes later----,

 

"NOOOOOOOOO!! NOT AGAIN!", Felt cried out in defeat.

 

"YEESSSSSSSSS!!", Ezzo screamed in delight.

 

"Young Master, Felt-sama, I believe it is getting late. You should be preparing for tomorrow. Subaru-sama, you must rest as well.", Carol pointed out to them, seeing that they were done with the game for that day. "I'll come help you in a while, Felt-sama. Ezzo-sama, could you please help Flam in feeding that ground dragon?", Carol gave a tired sigh.

 

"How are you going to go there? You said you'll be back by evening, right? Why are you going in the first place?", Subaru asked as they were getting ready to leave.

 

".....I'll fly there carrying Felt-sama.", Reinhard answered, his face growing upset.

 

"......I don't want to fly there with Reinhard. It's so uncomfortable!", Felt grumbled. But she quickly shut her mouth, after seeing his grim expression.

 

"As for why we're going-"

 

"Young Master, I'll explain it to him. Please just get ready for tomorrow."

 

Carol herself has a pained expression on her face as she made the Royal Candidate and her knight leave the room, and then walked closer to Subaru. 

 

"Subaru-sama, how much are you aware of what's going on with the Royal Selection right now?"

 

"Not very much. I was in prison for the last two months."

 

"I see. Subaru-sama, regarding the purpose of their trip, it's a rather difficult topic for the Young Master." 

 

Subaru worriedly looked at the leaving Reinhard and then turned his head back to Carol for answers.

 

"....It's regarding Heinkel-sama."

 

"Did something happen to him?", Subaru asked.

 

"Honestly, we don't really know either. We don't know where he is. Hopefully, we'll find out more about where he's gone after the Young Master's visit tomorrow.", Carol replied. She lowered her head anxiously. "The Young Master was also gone for two months. So, hearing this immediately after coming back must have been quite a shock."

 

".......I'm sure everything will be fine.", Subaru reassured her. "Reinhard was also gone for two months, right? So now that he's back, I'm sure he will fix everything. Please don't worry. …..I just wish I could do more to help."

 

"You have helped a lot, Subaru-sama. It looks like playing that game with you seems to have improved the Young Master's mood a lot. So, thank you.", Carol smiled lightly as she picked up the empty cup on the table and put it on a tray.

 

Helping her, Subaru also began keeping the empty dishes on the tray. As they were putting everything back, Subaru accidentally dropped a plate and a knife. Fortunately, he caught the plate before it could fall. But unfortunately, the knife was nowhere to be found.

 

"Ah, sorry. I think I dropped the knife somewhere. I can't find it anywhere.", Subaru said regretfully after his bedside table was completely cleaned. 

 

"While it is concerning, you don't have to worry. Please just be careful. The knife was rather sharp. We'll search for it later. Anyways, please just rest for now."

 

But as Carol turned around to leave, Subaru called out to her again.

 

"Actually, Carol-san, is it alright if I start helping around the mansion tomorrow? You've helped me so much and all I've done is eat and sleep all day and I even lost a knife. Please let me help. I used to be a butler, so I can do most tasks.", he asked Carol. 

 

But before Carol could answer----

 

"No, you can't! You have not healed completely. You are going to rest!", Ezzo, who had heard the entire conversation, scolded him.

 

"Please let me help. I promise I'll take care of myself, so please!", Subaru stared at him with pleading eyes. "Please, Ezzo, Carol-san!" He continued to beg unrelentingly until Ezzo finally surrendered.

 

"Fine! But you have to make sure to rest."

 

"Rest assured, Ezzo-sama. I'll make sure not to give him too much work.", Carol, who was also unsure whether to hand him any work, reluctantly agreed as well. 

 

With that their conversation came to an end as the two left the room while Subaru, satisfied, laid down on his bed.

 

**************************************

**************************************

 

"Shit! What do we do now? If that grandma sees this, she'll bite our heads off!", Rachins panicked as he looked around at his two companions.

 

Gaston looked at the obviously expensive golden dress hopelessly, wondering what he could do to fix this situation. They had been asked to bring some of Felt's dresses from the tailor that morning and all was fine until he had tripped on the stairs and accidentally ripped the skirt, also ruining the fine embroidery lining the edges.

 

"We could just keep it back and pretend nothing happened. You think she'll notice?", Camberley suggested.

 

"Of course she'll notice! It's too big! Anyone here know how to sew?", Rachins refuted.

 

They looked at each other waiting for an answer, but soon came to the realisation that it was impossible for them to fix this mess.

 

"......Maybe we should just tell the truth.", Gaston sighed defeatedly.

 

"Hey, what's going on?", a voice interrupted them as they were pondering on how to confess to the elderly lady while making sure she doesn't make their lives hell for the next week.

 

It was the same mean eyed boy that Reinhard had brought home a few days ago. He seemed to have healed completely and was walking around the mansion, having changed out of his patient robes and was currently dressed completely in black, in contrast to his snow-white hair. 

 

"Why are you just standing the-- Oh!", Subaru's questions were answered the moment he laid his eyes on the torn dress in Gaston's hands. "That looks bad."

 

"Hey, it's none of your business! Go away! Don't bother us while we're thinking of what to do!", Camberley retorted rudely.

 

They turned around to trying to ignore him, but to their surprise,

 

"I can fix that, you know.", the boy of black and white said, making them immediately turn and stare at him.

 

"Really?", Gaston asked hopefully.

 

"Yeah. Coincidentally, I happen to be extremely good at sewing.", Subaru answered rather proudly. "Can anyone bring me a sewing kit? We'll go to my room in the meantime.", he gestured to them to follow him.

 

".....Huh! Right, sewing kit! I'll go get it!", Rachins rushed to get a sewing kit as Gaston and Camberley followed behind him.

 

"Hey, Gaston! You sure this is a good idea? I mean, that guy is….", Camberley moved closer to Gaston and whispered his doubts.

 

"......Reinhard thinks the kid is alright. So, it's fine, I guess.", Gaston answered as they entered the boy's room behind him.

 

The boy brought out two chairs, and invited them to sit down as he sat down on the bed.

 

The two former thugs looked around the room as they sat down. They had only talked with him once immediately after he had woken up and had not visited this room since. The room was clean and devoid of any personal possessions except for a few coloured pieces of cardboard littered on the desk. It was that Othello game that the boy had introduced earlier.

 

Apparently, the kid was smart enough to have tied with Reinhard the previous day, despite all of the knight's divine protections. 

 

The red haired knight had left for the capital that morning with the blonde princess and had asked them to take care of the boy...... Subaru, in his absence. So it was a surprise to see him walking around the mansion when he was supposed to be resting.

 

"Aren't you supposed to be in bed? What were you doing outside?", Camberley questioned.

 

".......I couldn't stand just eating and sleeping all day, so …..I had asked Carol-san to let me help with some of the work in the mansion, but she sent me away as soon as I had finished peeling some vegetables. I did not want to just do nothing and sleep again, so I was going back to try and convince her. …..It was then that I met you."

 

"......You're weird.", Camberley commented.

 

"That's the first thing you thought of!?"

 

"If I was asked to eat and sleep all day, I would happily do it. You're the first person I know who's complaining about it."

 

"----"

 

"Found the sewing kit! Here!", Rachins burst in as they were talking and handed Subaru the sewing kit and the dress.

 

Subaru rolled up his sleeves as he took them and began to masterfully fix up the dress. The four continued to engage in some small talk as he was sewing.

 

"So, where're you from?", Gaston asked, having heard from Reinhard that he was a foreigner.

 

"......Sorry. I don't really know.", he stopped his work for a moment, turned to them to answer the question, and then resumed his stitching.

 

"Huh!?", all three exclaimed together.

 

".....I don't really know where my homeland is located with respect to Lugunica. So, I cannot really answer your question.", he explained.

 

"You say your existence has been erased and now you don't know where your homeland is? That's extremely convenient, don't you think?", Camberley questioned, completely sceptical of his words.

 

"Camberley, you should stop. He is helping us righ-", Gaston tried to stop him, but he was interrupted by Subaru himself.

 

".....No, it's fine. I don't mind. I understand why you'd be suspicious. …..But it's the truth. I really don't know where my homeland is and I am alone right now after my allies….. After my 'Name' was eaten. I am really grateful to all of you for saving me."

 

For a moment, Camberley felt bad for him, but he immediately drove that thought out. Just because Reinhard trusted him doesn't mean he should. But his two companions seemed to think otherwise. They were openly sympathizing with him and were very poorly trying to comfort him.

 

"Don't worry, bro. Reinhard is awesome. He'll protect you.", Rachins said as Gaston nodded.

 

"But I can't really trouble him all the time. If I go to him only when I need him, I wouldn't really be a very good friend. …..I just wish I could help him somehow. If I found out more, then maybe….."

 

"It's not like we can do anything though. Who knows where that drunk bastard ran off to?"

 

"Yeah, I kind of heard that Heinkel-san is missing, but how did this happen?"

 

"I think it was about a week after we had returned from Priestella and Reinhard had left for the Pleiades Watchtower. The Priscilla Camp-", Gaston answered.

 

"----What did you just say?", Subaru's hands suddenly stopped and his eyes widened.

 

"What!?", Rachins was startled by his sudden outburst.

 

"The name of the Watchtower. What was it again?"

 

"Pleiades Watchtower.", Rachins answered, tilting his head at the weird reaction.

 

"Is that the same tower that Reinhard failed to reach?"

 

".....Yeah …..The Sage Shaula lives there and prevents the shrine where the Witch of Envy is sealed from being broken. So, it's kind of difficult to reach him."

 

"Is that so?", Subaru laughed quietly. ".....How fitting! Satella sealed near a tower named Pleiades!", he muttered.

 

"Hey, did you just say something?", Gaston asked, slightly panicking. 

 

"Nothing. Just thinking how I got to a point in life where I am stitching dresses for the thugs that had once tried to rob me.", Subaru chuckled lightly.

 

"Huh?", the trio exclaimed together. 

 

"Have we met you before?", Camberley asked.

 

"Yeah. On my first day, I was in the Royal Capital and I somehow ended up in a back alley where you three tried to rob me. I called for help and Reinhard saved me."

 

"What!?", all three of them exclaimed together. Stunned by his answer, the trio looked at each other trying to recall if any such incident had happened. Although hazy, a memory of someone screaming for help in a girlish voice, with Reinhard coming to his rescue, did surface in their minds. However, a sharp pain followed as they tried to remember more.

 

"----You can stop, you know. Forcing yourself to remember isn't going to help.", Subaru stopped them, his face showing almost no emotion, with his eyes still glued to the work he was doing.

 

As the boy continued to sew and they continued to observe him, a growing sense of discomfort began to brew in them. The boy in front of them was an enigma. They realised the boy had not really revealed anything about himself except for things they should have already known. 

 

It felt like asking him more questions would only lead to more trouble. So, they decided to leave him be and just let Felt and Reinhard deal with him. 

 

".....What's that sound?", Rachins asked suddenly, after hearing faint sounds coming from the distance.

 

"Shit! Isn't that a dragon carriage? Do we have guests now? If that old lady comes, she'll find out about the dress!"

 

"Don't worry. It's done.", Subaru said as he plucked off the remaining thread with his teeth and handed them the dress.

 

"Thanks a lot!", Rachins said gratefully.

 

"…...Thanks, man! You're a lifesaver!", Camberley though initially reluctantly, after seeing the dress, genuinely thanked him.

 

They left the room after they had thanked him.

 

"That guy is amazing! It's like this dress was never torn in the first place.", Gaston remarked for the umpteenth time as they were putting the dresses in their place.

 

"Yeah, yeah! We get it!", Camberley responded somewhat annoyed. 

 

"So, what did you guys think of him?", Rachins asked.

 

"I don't know, man. He didn't seem like danger, but I'd still rather not talk to him that much."

 

"Huh! Why? He seemed like a nice guy!". While Gaston questioned Camberley, from the corner of his eyes, he could Rachins nodding, seemingly sharing Camberley's opinion.

 

"I know that, alright! That's not the problem. I don't believe him when he said he doesn't know where he's from. If he's not gonna trust us and lie to us, I don't think I can trust him either."

 

"----"

 

"Let's just tell Reinhard about this after he comes back. He'll decide what to do. We'll just avoid talking to him for now.", Rachins said, putting an end to the conversation.

 

Keeping everything back, they decided to head to the kitchen to ask for something to eat. The events of the day had made them hungry.

 

Just as they were heading out, a small figure bumped into Gaston.

 

"That's where you were! I was searching for you!", a panicking voice told them. The person, Ezzo Cadner, seemed to be in a hurry and was breathing slightly heavily.

 

"Hey, are you fine?", Rachins asked.

 

"----No! Three Royal Knights have arrived searching for the escaped Sin Archbishop!"

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

On the edge

 

It all began that afternoon, when suddenly they heard dragon carriages approaching the Mansion.

 

"Were we supposed to have guests now, Carol-san?", Ezzo asked.

 

"No, we haven't been informed of any guests arriving today, especially since both the Young Master and Felt-sama are absent today."

 

"Then who could it be?" Ezzo peaked curiously from inside the kitchen as Carol went to the entrance, to greet the uninvited guests.

 

As the guests entered the Mansion, Ezzo and Carol felt a surge of anxiety fill them as the guests' faces came into view.

 

"Carol-sama, it's been a while.", 'The Finest of Knights', Julius Juukulius, spoke as he gave an elegant bow. "I must say, it seems as though your loveliness has only further enhanced since the last time we met. It truly is quite hard to believe that you are no longer in your prime."

 

"Please stop with the flattery, Sir Juukulius. I believe it was informed to the Royal Knights two days ago that the Young Master was visiting the Royal Capital. So, what exactly is the purpose of your visit?", Carol narrowed her eyes as she sized up Julius and the knights behind him. 

 

Ezzo too felt it was incredibly suspicious that knights had arrived at a time when neither Reinhard nor Felt was present, when they had been already informed of their visit.

 

"I have no easy way to say this but…..", Julius spoke avoiding eye contact, "I regret to inform you that…. the Sin Archbishop we had captured in Priestella had escaped four days ago. ….That is the reason we are here."

 

While Carol managed to keep her stoic demeanour, Ezzo, who was overlooking the conversation from the kitchen, was terrified. He was glad that at least the knights couldn't see him.

 

"I am sorry, Sir Juukulius. I still fail to see the purpose of your visit."

 

"I apologise for not being very clear. …..But as I have mentioned before, we are here to search for Sin Archbishop."

 

"And as I have mentioned before, the Young Master had departed for the Royal Capital this morning. If you wish to request his assistance, you'll have a better chance if you return back to where you came from."

 

"Hey lady, aren't you being extremely impolite to your guests? It almost makes us believe that our suspicions are correct. If you are hiding that scum, confess now and we'll let you off. But, if you deny it and we find him in the Mansion, we'll make sure to arrest all of you.", a knight with blonde hair, standing beside Julius, threatened Carol.

 

"If that Sin Archbishop has managed to escape, it showcases your own incompetence. Now, not only have you arrived very conveniently during the Young Master's absence, you are also accusing him of harbouring a Sin Archbishop. I believe I have every reason to be angry." 

 

"I apologise for Finn's behaviour. And I understand your anger, but please understand. This Archbishop was extremely injured to have escaped on his own. One of the guards informed us he may have seen someone flying that day. Besides Margrave Mathers, Reinhard is the only person in the Kingdom who can fly. Honestly, it wouldn't be too surprising if Reinhard did save that Cultist after he had defended him back in Priestella."

 

"----" 

 

So, there was no actual evidence present. It was just speculation based on testimony by a guard.

 

"Unfortunately, we cannot bring a lot of knights to search this place simply on grounds of suspicion. So, only Finn and Zacharias have come here with me. Of course, Wilhelm-sama and another group of knights are on standby in Hakuchuri. We have communication mirrors to contact them immediately." 

 

'----That traitor!!' Carol thought as she silently cursed under her breath.

 

"If you are hiding him in this mansion, I suggest you surrender him immediately. If you don't and he is discovered here later, it will gravely affect Felt-sama's candidacy. …..There are already rumours of Felt-sama having connections to Valga Cromwell floating around the Sage Council. Bordeaux-sama seems especially angry by this. This could permanently disqualify her from the Royal Selection."

 

Carol had to desperately fight against the urge to facepalm. She wondered what she had done to have reached a point in life where her own friends were against her. While she was aware that most knights didn't really like Heinkel or Reinhard, she hadn't expected Julius of all people to be the one threatening them. 

 

"Please let us search the mansion. Your refusal will only serve to further confirm our suspicions, in which case, we will have to return back with more knights."

 

Carol's expression had not changed much since the beginning of the conversation, but Ezzo was sure she was boiling in anger at that point. Maybe because Ezzo felt the same way. He was now beginning to understand what had happened to that boy back in Priestella.

 

"Fine then. We will allow you to search the Mansion." As soon as Carol consented, albeit reluctantly, leading them into the parlour, while signalling Ezzo, who she was aware had heard the entire conversation. He began running the fastest he's ever ran before.

 

He soon managed to bump into Gaston and the others, and told them of the situation as they rushed into his room.

 

*******************************

*******************************

 

"Hey you, get up! No time to relax now! We're in big trouble!", Camberley said as they all suddenly burst into Subaru's room.

 

"Huh? What's going on?" Subaru looked at them in confusion, closing the book he was reading and putting it on top of the pile of books that Reinhard had given him in case he got bored. 

 

"Julius-san is here with two other Royal Knights looking for you! Please get up quick! We need to hide you!", Ezzo spoke, breathing heavily. 

 

"....Julius is here? ….How did he know where-", Subaru asked them guiltily but was stopped.

 

"That's not the problem right now! We need to hide you before they find out! If they find out, they might just arrest us as well!" Ezzo begged him to hurry up. "We'll head to the study for now. There's a secret passage to the outskirts of Flanders there." 

 

As he heard Ezzo explain about the secret passage while running, it reminded Subaru of the secret passage in the Roswaal Mansion. Apparently, the houses of most noblemen had secret passages that allowed them to escape in case of an emergency.

 

"Looks like someone's coming up. Hide!", Rachins suddenly pointed out as he pushed Ezzo and Subaru into a nearby empty guest room.

 

Although he was not spotted for now, it was only a matter of time before one of the knights arrived there, opened the door and saw Subaru inside. As they desperately looked around, searching for a hiding place, Subaru's gaze fell upon the bedsheets.

 

He silently walked over to the bed, while the other two inside the guest room silently listened through the door as one of the knights approached the two remaining members of the TonChinKan trio outside. 

 

Although they were doing their best to distract him, Ezzo and Rachins were at a loss on what to do. Hiding the boy under the bed was the best they could think of. However, when they turned to look at Subaru, to their complete surprise, he had tied one end of the sheets to the curtain rod while the other end was left dangling outside.

 

He partially pulled the curtains to cover the sheets from being seen. Then gripping on to the bedsheets, " Bon voyage! ", he said as he jumped out the window while the other two just watched him with their jaws dropped. 

 

Just as he jumped out, he heard the door open and the knight enter inside.

 

Hanging outside just below the window, he could see Rachins moving closer, probably to stop the knight from coming any closer. Honestly, they had nothing to worry about. He had made sure to properly hide the bedsheet from view and he was sure no one in their right minds would look for a missing person outside the window of a second floor bedroom.

 

And then it hit him. He was hanging on a bedsheet below the window of a bedroom on the second floor of the mansion! Glancing down, a shiver ran down his spine.

 

'This is definitely the stupidest thing I've ever done!' He paused for a second and shook his head vigorously. '.....No, scratch that, I've done a lot of stupid things. This is definitely one of the stupidest things I've ever done!'

 

Back at home, Subaru had watched a lot of anime where he'd seen characters use bedsheets as a rope and escape through a window and he admits that he had always wanted to try it out at least once. But now that he was actually doing it, he wanted to cry.

 

The sheets were not long enough to even reach the first floor like he had intended, his feet barely touching the first floor window. He had just recovered and his arms were already starting to get fatigued. At least, hanging on using sheets was a lot easier than hanging on by just gripping on the window sill.

 

'Hurry up and drive him away already!' He could hear them talking but he wasn't in the condition to be able to pay attention to their conversation.

 

As he hung on the edge hearing them talking, doubts began filling up his mind. They weren't planning on abandoning him now, were they? 

 

His grip was beginning to loosen. He looked down and two possibilities arose in his mind.

 

The best case scenario would be if he fell down and died. He would just Return by Death and maybe try to do everything better next loop.

 

The worst case scenario would be if he fell down and broke a few bones, but somehow ended up not dying. He had to prevent this possibility at all costs. 

 

Summoning all the strength he could, he climbed up slightly, wrapping his legs and one arm around his makeshift rope and steadied himself. But before he could release his other hand, he felt himself being pulled up along with the sheets.

 

It looked like the knight had left and he heaved a sigh of relief as his feet were once again on the firm ground. He was never going to do that ever again.

 

"Subaru-san, that was amazing!", Ezzo suddenly exclaimed, surprising Subaru.

 

"It was!?"

 

"Hey, keep your voices down!", Rachins warned them, but then immediately nodded his head. "But yeah! We were just thinking of hiding you under the bed or inside the closet, but those were like the first places they looked. Your idea was totally awesome!"

 

Well if that's what they thought, he definitely wasn't going to refute it.

 

"It looks like they're already gone from this floor.", the door opened and Rom came in.

 

"So quickly!"

 

"It was really weird! That brown-haired knight came here with that purple-haired knight, searched just this room and left. Not that I'm complaining. The path is clear to go down now.", Camberley said from behind Rom. "Follow us!"

 

As they were going down, Subaru, who had been hanging outside a window, was already tired and moving very sluggishly.

 

"That's it! If you run like that, we're definitely gonna get caught" Rom picked up Subaru as they ran away from his room.

 

"My pride as a man!"

 

"Kid, if being carried like this makes you lose your pride as a man, you lost it the day both Reinhard and Remendis carried you to bed after your rescue."

 

"----Ahh!? I was princess-carried by an old lady!? Why did you have to tell me Old Man Rom! I would have lived happily not knowing that!"

 

"Stop being so annoying! You can't run on your own so I have no choice but to carry you!"

 

"Hey, old man, that brown-haired knight is coming up again!", Camberley noticed as he peaked down from the top of the stairs.

 

They once again hurried into another room and closed the door as Rom put Subaru down.

 

"This is the first time in my life I'm glad that this mansion has so many rooms.", Rom said as he turned to Subaru. "But, where are we going to hide him?"

 

As he looked at their panicking faces, Subaru felt extremely guilty for giving them so much trouble.

 

"Should I surrender myself? …..Maybe they'll let you go after that?"

 

Camberley and Rom were shocked speechless on hearing Subaru's suggestion.

 

"If we weren't trying to hide right now, I would have smacked you, Subaru-sama!", an angry voice sounded from outside the window. 

 

"......Wha- …..Carol-san? You can fly?"

 

"Of course not! I'm on a ladder. They are most likely headed this way! Cromwell, open this window quickly and Subaru-sama, follow me!", Carol told them.

 

"Don't call me that!!", Rom glared as he opened the window. 

 

"I am serious! Why are you helping me? I am nothing but trouble! Just let me go, I'll fix everything somehow!", Subaru insisted.

 

"----Argh, just shut your mouth up! I don't know why I'm helping you, alright! I admit I don't know if I can trust you, but I'm not ungrateful! Just think of this as me repaying the debt from earlier today!", Camberley responded.

 

"----"

 

"Now's not the time to argue, Subaru-sama.", Carol said as she grabbed his arm and urged him to follow her.

 

"----. Carol-san, why are you helping me? All of you are in trouble because of me. You can just leave me here and I'll fix everything somehow.", Subaru reiterated his earlier proposal as they climbed down the ladder.

 

Carol kept quiet and didn't answer his question. When they finally reached the ground, "Flam, please take this ladder back to your grandfather. Grassis, please look out for the knights.", she said as they slowly moved along the walls of the mansion.

 

"Caro-"

 

"I know you have stolen the knife, Subaru-sama."

 

'She knows!' , Subaru gasped. He had stolen a knife and he was caught. He was now certain that she was going to hand him over to the knights. Maybe this was a good thing. They don't have to be troubled by him any longer.

 

"You are a suspected Archbishop and during your recovery, you stole a knife. No matter how you see it, it seems incredibly suspicious. In addition to that, we know absolutely nothing about your origins. So, in this situation the best course of action would be to offer you to the knights and when the Young Master and Felt-sama come back, convince them that it was the right decision."

 

"----"

 

"That's what you want us to do as well, correct?"

 

"....Y- yes."

 

"Subaru-sama, then why do you look so hurt right now, when I suggested it?"

 

"....No, th- ….that's no-"

 

"Subaru-sama, you're forty years too early to think you're capable of fooling me. You may think you've been hiding it well, but ever since you woke up, all I could see was a child afraid of getting hurt again. If you surrender yourself, no one else can betray you."

 

"----"

 

"It's not a crime to be afraid. If the knife with you makes you feel safe, please keep it with you. ----However, even if you do not completely trust us to protect you, we will still do it."

 

He could not understand. Why were they helping him so much? Rem and Ram didn't trust him back then. Garfiel didn't trust him in the Sanctuary. Emilia and Beatrice didn't believe him in Priestella. So why were these people being so kind to him?

 

"With how smart you are, I am sure you will be able to clear all of our names."

 

"Then-"

 

"However, I refuse to let you surrender yourself. Subaru-sama, whatever I am doing at this moment is based on what I have observed so far. I refuse to let preconceived notions of others dictate my actions. I am sure it is the same for all of us here. None of us, after interacting with you, believe you are an Archbishop."

 

"----"

 

"I do not deny the fact that you are a rather troublesome individual, but you certainly do not deserve the hell that is being presented to you."

 

Hot droplets fell down Subaru's cheeks. In his opinion, Subaru believed he deserved all the suffering given to him for failing everyone so many times. Yet, these people he had met very recently, believed he did not deserve it. Would they change their mind if they knew what kind of a disgusting person he was? 

 

"Also….", Carol opened her mouth but----,

 

"Grandmother, someone's here!" Grassis spotted the knights coming closer and told them to turn around.

 

Their conversation ended there as they moved as quietly as possible, ducking under the windows to avoid being seen, while Grassis checked inside each window, trying to find out how to get furthest away from the knights. 

 

However, everytime they thought they had managed to get away from them, the brown-haired knight would immediately show up followed by Julius, forcing them to turn around and move in the opposite direction.

 

"How on earth are they finding us so easily, in the first place? This mansion is huge and yet, they are narrowing down the areas to search so easily. We're already outside. Should I maybe try running away from the mansion?", Subaru asked.

 

"That is a bad idea. It will become easier to spot you the further you move away from the mansion. There's also an extra group of knights led by Wilhelm waiting a little distance away. So, you cannot run away from the mansion."

 

"But this doesn't seem to be leading us anywhere. Just how are they finding us?"

 

"It's probably that brown-haired knight, Zacharias' divine protection. I overheard them earlier talking about some sort of Divine Protection of the Wind where he is able to detect movement by reading the movement of the wind. I was hoping it would be harder to detect movement outside, but….." 

 

"Sorry to disappoint you, but my Divine Protection of Wind Tracing is a lot stronger than that."

 

"--!!"

 

The three of them immediately turned around to see the brown-haired knight leaning out of the window, smugly. He had green eyes and was probably around a year or two younger than Subaru. 

 

Grassis immediately got ready to fight him, but he stopped her.

 

"Yeah, I'm going to stop right there! Are you Flam or Grassis? Doesn't really matter. Anyways, just wanted to say I'm deadweight when it comes to fighting." He continued to smile and suddenly pointed towards Subaru. "In fact, I'm even weaker than Subaru-senpai here. You trying to fight me will only draw attention here."

 

"Wha-mmm" Just as Subaru opened his mouth to ask what he meant by that, Zacharias quickly shut his mouth, putting his hand over it and signalled them to duck down.

 

"Zacharias, did you find something?", Julius asked from behind.

 

"Nope. Nothing here either, Julius-senpai. This is so boring! Can I just have a quick break here? I need a breath of fresh air."

 

"The two of you are supposed to be knights, yet you don't seem like you intend to correct your behaviour anytime soon." He sighed. ".....Fine, but don't take too long." With that, Julius left the area.

 

"It's fine now." Zacharias said, allowing the three hiding members to finally relax.

 

"Why did you help us? I thought you were here to capture me.", Subaru asked.

 

"I'll distract him here. You go that way. There shouldn't be anyone there. Hurry up!" Without answering, he simply asked them to leave.

 

But just as they were leaving----,

 

"Natsuki Subaru!", Zacharias called out and Subaru turned to see him. "After this is over, I'd really like to talk to you." He grinned like a child as he waved at them.

 

Confused about what was going on but not wanting to ruin his mood, Subaru nodded, "Um…. Sure", at the knight before turning around and leaving the area.

 

"Is he someone you know, Subaru-sama?"

 

"No, I've never met him before. I don't know how he knows me though. …..This is just a hypothetical question but….. if he hadn't helped us there, and we were caught, would it have been possible to beat them and wait for Reinhard to come back? I mean, there are nine of us and three of them…."

 

"It might have been possible if that Wilhelm wasn't nearby.", Carol sighed. "I wish Theresia-sama was here.", she said as her lips curved downwards.

 

"Carol-san?", Subaru looked at her in concern.

 

"It's nothing. Please don't worry about it.", she said, composing herself. "These cowards have come here during the Young Master's absence because it is only during this period that they have a chance of victory. …..Bordeaux-sama is just using your presence here as an opportunity to capture Cromwell and eliminate Felt-sama from the Royal Selection. He seems to hate her as much as he hates that half-elf."

 

"But is this really such a good idea? Aren't they afraid that if Reinhard gets angry-"

 

"I wish he would. At least that way, they would be more afraid of him. But unfortunately, the Young Master is not the kind of person who would get angry at someone else. They are simply taking advantage of that. If they are able to capture everyone here, he won't be able to move a finger. It would have the added benefit of the Kingdom being able to keep him on a tight leash."

 

"Grandmother! Here!", Grassis pointed to an empty window, and after making sure no one was there, they began to silently climb back in.

 

Suddenly, the bathroom door opened up and the blonde knight, Finn, came out.

 

"That took longer than I thought. I gotta go meet up with the other two."

 

The three froze. The three were trying to stay as quiet as possible. Fortunately for them, Finn had his back towards them and hadn't seen them yet.

 

The three were wondering what they could do to hide Subaru in that situation. But just as the knight put his hand on the door knob, the door slammed open at his face, knocking him out.

 

"That was not what I was planning, but looks like I got better results than expected!", their saviour exclaimed proudly.

 

""Ezzo!"", the three silently screamed in unison. 

 

"Ezzo, you're the best! If I'm honest, you didn't really seem like the reliable kind of guy! I am so glad I was wrong!", Subaru gave him a thumbs up.

 

"What!?"

 

"I agree. I never thought a day would arrive where I would be happy to see Ezzo-sama!", Carol agreed while the little Grassis nodded vigorously.

 

"Even Carol-san!?", Ezzo exclaimed. Carol sighed at his reaction and began to check the unconscious knight's condition. 

 

"How did you even know we were here?", Subaru asked. 

 

His question was immediately answered when Flam entered the room behind him. Flam and Grassis had the Divine Protection of Mindspeak which allowed them to communicate with each other via telepathy. Grassis must have informed her and Flam, who was sticking close to them from inside the Mansion called Ezzo and immediately came to their rescue.

 

"It looks like this knight won't stay unconscious for too long. Ezzo-sama, please lead Subaru-sama to the study. I'll deal with this knight here.", Carol requested Ezzo, to which he nodded.

 

But before they could leave, Grassis walked up to Subaru and tugged at his sleeves. 

 

"Huh, do you want something Grassis?", Subaru asked.

 

Grassis nodded her head and gestured to him to bend down. So, he did.

 

And to his surprise, she raised her hands and began patting his head.

 

"It will be alright, Subaru onii-san. You'll be safe soon."

 

".....Grassis?"

 

Subaru looked at her in confusion, while Carol, Flam and Ezzo smiled warmly at the scene.

 

"I guess she was also worried about you, Subaru-sama. The entire time we were hiding, she was on lookout duty, so she couldn't do much to help you."

 

When Subaru looked at Grassis, she simply nodded her head in confirmation at Carol's words.

 

".....I see. Thank you for worrying about me. But I'm fine now.", Subaru smiled lightly at her and patted her head. Then, getting up, he turned to Ezzo.

 

"Subaru-san, follow me!"

 

Subaru tiptoed around the unconscious knight and followed behind Ezzo. As they were heading to the study, a question arose in his mind.

 

"Hey Ezzo, won't Wilhelm-san know about this escape route? There might be guards on the other side, you know."

 

"No, he doesn't know. This route was built only recently after…. After what happened to Louanna-san. The escape route was built to be close to her room. Besides us, only Heinkel-san knows of this route."

 

"Louanna-san?"

 

"Reinhard's mother. She-"

 

"Is someone there?" Julius's voice sounded from behind them.

 

"Hide somewhere!" The panicking Ezzo immediately shoved Subaru into the nearest room and shut the door behind him. 

 

As soon as he got in, Subaru looked around the room he had entered. The room was dark, with curtains covering the windows, except for a single candle dimly illuminating the room. But what Subaru saw in that dimly lit room left him completely surprised. 

 

There was a beautiful woman with long golden hair, who seemed to be in her late twenties, sleeping peacefully, showing no signs of ever waking up. But what stuck out the most to him was the woman's resemblance to Reinhard.

 

"......Louanna-san?"

 

The sight made him feel nostalgic. Memories of the nights he had spent talking to a sleeping beauty like the one in front of him bubbled up in his mind. 

 

Why was she asleep? Was she also a victim of Gluttony? Had Reinhard also lost someone precious to him just like he had the day after they had defeated Petelgeuse?

 

He walked closer to her, observing her quiet breathing. He could hear people arguing outside the door. He chuckled ruefully at the irony of the situation. The whole mansion was in turmoil, and yet, this woman was sleeping peacefully, unaffected by it all.

 

Subaru could see no hiding places in the room except underneath the bed of the Sleeping Beauty. 'Sorry for disturbing you.' , he mouthed as he reached into his shirt pocket and quickly got under the bed, slightly pulling the sheets down from the sides to prevent the knights from noticing his hiding spot when they came in.

 

The voice outside the door, probably Julius, was growing more agitated the more Ezzo was preventing him from entering. This was the end. He was going to get caught soon. 

 

'Better now than never!' , he thought as he brought the edge of the knife closer to his neck. But then, his hands stopped.

 

----Where would his savepoint be after he Returned by Death?

 

Will all the memories he had made for the past three days disappear again? Will these new friends of his forget him again? Will they trust him again?

 

Just then, the door to the room burst open and Julius walked in. 

 

"Julius-san, please stop. You can't go in there.", Ezzo said desperately, still trying to stop him.

 

'----However, even if you do not completely trust us to protect you, we will still do it.'

 

Subaru smiled. All the mansion residents were trying to help him, even though they knew nothing about him. Even now, Ezzo still hadn't given up, still trying to delay the purple-haired knight till the last second.

 

He should stop trying to convince himself that he'll be left behind again. Even if he were to meet them again, he'll make more memories with them. He'll just get them to trust him again. 

 

He raised the knife in his hands and took a deep breath.

 

"Please Julius-san, this place is extremely important to Reinhard. He's your friend, isn't he? Don't touch anything here. You won't find anything."

 

"I…. I have already lost the right to call him a friend, the moment I stepped foot in this place in his absence.", Julius said remorsefully.

 

"----Then why did you do it, Julius?", a new voice sounded from behind him.

 

Everyone stopped in their tracks including Subaru. His face lit up as he recognised the voice. He kept the knife back in his pocket and peaked from under the bed. With hair as red as a blazing fire and eyes as blue as the skies, he silently stood near the door, waiting patiently for Julius to speak.

 

".....Reinhard."

 

"Julius, I believe Ezzo already told you that this is my mother's room and it is not to be opened."

 

".....I wouldn't have had to do such a thing if you hadn't helped the Archbishop escape. …...You are too kind, Reinhard. However, that is your weakness as well, which the Archbishop has taken advantage of. By sympathising with an Archbishop and helping him escape, do you not realise what you have done?"

 

"Let us assume that I did help him. Was it really that huge of a crime that my own friends would come here and threaten the people I consider my family in my absence?", Reinhard asked, his face filled with sadness.

 

Julius flinched. But he did not back down.

 

"Reinhard, there's an entire city that has been affected by the Witch Cult, including my brother and Crusch-sama. By helping him escape you have taken away the means of curing-"

 

"I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR BULLSHIT!", an angry voice interrupted him, ordering him to stop.

 

The blonde princess marched inside the room and glared at the purple-haired knight.

 

"......Felt-sama.", Julius bowed. "It's been a while since-"

 

"SHUT UP! You cowards come here in our absence, threaten our loved ones and then have the audacity to say we're the ones at fault? You've had that person for two months and you still haven't gotten any information from him! That just proves he's most likely innocent. But you still kept torturing him!"

 

"Felt-sama, all we have done is interrogate-"

 

"Don't give me any of that nonsense! I know what 'Interrogation' means. Your two assistants outside, they're searching for a white-haired boy. When we had left him back in Priestella, his hair was black."

 

"----"

 

"Do you seriously think when Reinhard tried to protect him back in Priestella, he was just being kind? What about Priscilla? You seriously think she was doing it out of kindness? How dumb do you think they are? He can detect lies, you know."

 

"But-"

 

"I said shut up! After getting no information from him, it must have been obvious that he wasn't an Archbishop. So why did you continue to torture him?"

 

".....I didn't-"

 

"At least that cat-eared onii-san was helpful. But Mr. Finest of Knights, what did you do in Priestella? You were the one most influenced by Wrath's authority, you lost your assigned battle against Gluttony and you let him escape. You were completely useless in Priestella!"

 

".....I wasn't-"

 

"You couldn't do anything and you even lost your brother. So, when the person you thought was a Cultist was more helpful than you in rescuing the 'Nameless' including your own brother, he pissed you off, didn't he?"

 

Felt was unrelenting in her verbal beatdown of the knight. Even Subaru felt sorry for him.

 

"Envy is a ugly emotion, Julius Juukulius! What were you trying to prove by beating him up everyday? That you were doing something? That you still deserve to be the 'Finest of Knights'?"

 

"----" Unable to answer, Julius was just desperately shaking his head.

 

"You were just taking the frustrations of your inadequacy out on him, weren't you? You were beating him, simply because you could. Just like that time at the beginning of the Royal Selection when you beat up Big Bro and-" Felt suddenly stopped.

 

All of their eyes widened.

 

Usually, whenever someone remembered an incident involving him, he was one way or the other pressing them on. So, how did Felt remember that incident without any context?

 

".....I….hurt…..", Julius whispered softly as he held his forehead in pain.

 

"Julius, I think you should leave.", Reinhard said.

 

"Julius-senpai, I think our work here is done. Your Archbishop isn't here. Let's go.", Zacharias said, still having a smile on his face, as grabbed the dazed Julius' hand and ushered him out.

 

"Wait! Before you go, did Ana know about this?", Felt stopped them before they could leave and asked.

 

"With the exception of Miklotov-sama, and obviously, the missing Priscilla Camp, everyone else involved in the Royal Selection knew. Of course, not all of them contributed though. Just the Royal Knights, Anastasia Camp and the Crusch Camp." Julius, still in shock, was unable to answer, so Zacharias answered in his stead. It was the first time his expression changed to something other than a smile.

 

Subaru's eyes widened. The Priscilla Camp is missing? Not just Heinkel?

 

"I see. Now, get out!", Felt said.

 

Zacharias' smile returned as guided Julius out. 

 

"You can come out now, Subaru. They're gone.", Reinhard said.

 

As Subaru came out and walked to the door, he noticed a small smile on Reinhard's face.

 

"It seems even my mother has helped protect you."

 

Subaru was surprised but he immediately smiled. "Yeah….. she did."

 

"Thank you.", he turned around and bowed to her, before they all finally left the room and closed the door.

 

*******************************

*******************************

 

"That was an exhausting day!", Felt said as she plopped down on the sofa.

 

"No kidding!", Camberley responded.

 

Everyone, except Grimm who had gone to check around the mansion, was gathered in the parlour, relaxing with tea and snacks after having run around all day.

 

"But I still can't believe they would do something like this. Was I wrong in thinking that we were friends?", the red-haired knight looked down guiltily.

 

"It's not your fault, Reinhard. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. Because of me-" 

 

"Yeah, you should shut up as well. None of us are at fault here."

 

Subaru tried to comfort him but was stopped by Felt.

 

"Though seriously, every single one of them was in on it?"

 

"Miklotov-sama didn't know about it though. And not all of them contributed.", Reinhard interjected.

 

"I doubt that old geezer didn't know. He probably just didn't care enough to stop it."

 

"Or he let them do this knowing they'll be unsuccessful.", Carol said.

 

"Who knows? The point is I don't think we can get along with them anymore." Felt sighed. She lifted up a pastry and took a bite.

 

Following her, everyone else dropped the discussion for now and began enjoying the snacks.

 

As she was gobbling up the pastries one after another, she saw Grassis pick one up and run over to Subaru and extended it to him.

 

"......For me?", Subaru asked, surprised by her actions.

 

Grassis nodded. "I made it. Please eat."

 

"OK, sure!", Subaru said as Grassis fed it to him.

 

"Did you like it?"

 

"It's delicious!", Subaru smiled as he patted her head. 

 

Having completed her objective, Grassis happily ran over to her sister who also patted her. Then taking a tissue, Flam walked over to Subaru and gave it to him.

 

"There's cream on your face, Subaru onii-san."

 

"Oh, thanks.", he thanked Flam as he wiped his face.

 

Flam smiled and walked back to her sister.

 

'Huh! That's the most I've seen Flam and Grassis talk to someone. Do they like him?' , Felt wondered. Well, he really does look harmless. He seems friendly and easy to tease. And he's a lot more fun to be around than Reinhard. 

 

"Seriously, how did the people come to the conclusion that you're a Sin Archbishop?", Felt asked, suddenly drawing everyone's attention to her.

 

"What?", Subaru looked at her, confused.

 

"You look so weak, you don't even look like you can fight! How did a suspicion spiral out of control like this?"

 

"Were you defending me or insulting me!? …..But yeah, spiralling out of control is really the most accurate way to describe it.", he said, closing his eyes and taking a sip of his tea. Suddenly, his eyes widened and he kept the tea down.

 

".....a tiny suspicion compounded out of control.", he murmured to himself as he put a hand on his chin.

 

"Big bro, did you realise something?", Felt asked.

 

"Huh, what? …..Oh right! It's just a guess but, where were we when I was captured for being a Sin Archbishop? What had happened just before that?"

 

".....I see. I think I'm starting to understand what you mean.", Reinhard responded.

 

'How the hell did he understand from just that!? Since when did these two start reading each other's minds?'

 

"Stop being so confusing! What the hell is that supposed to mean?", Felt demanded them to explain so she could understand.

 

"----Wrath was escaping at the same time he was being suspected of being an Archbishop.", Reinhard explained.

 

".......Oh!" 

 

As soon as Felt heard it, she went quiet. After giving it some thought, she once again questioned,

 

"But then, after we left that place, why are they still….."

 

".....I'm sure that's all them. No outside influences. I guess, once that belief was planted in their minds, they decided not to question it. I don't really know why though. …..Wait, why the hell are you asking me that? After how brutal you were with Julius while exposing him!", Subaru responded.

 

"Yeah, I was just super pissed. I don't really know half of what I said. I don't even know if it's true. Though at the end there……"

 

".....I've been meaning to ask this, but Felt, how did you remember that incident? Me being beaten down by Julius?"

 

"I don't know. It just came naturally to me as I was shouting at him. I don't really remember very clearly. It's very hazy. Sorry."

 

"No, it's fine." Subaru smiled and shrunk back making Felt feel extremely guilty.

 

"But with this, I hope he'll at least come back to his senses and start questioning everything that's happening."

 

"Oh, he's questioning everything alright. I don't think he'll be coming back here anytime soon.", a new voice announced as he entered the room.

 

"You! How did you get in?", Felt asked angrily.

 

"...I…..let him…..in. …..He helped…..today.", Grimm answered, entering behind him.

 

"He did? Then, I must thank you, Zacharias. I am forever in your debt.", Reinhard spoke to the brown-haired knight that had entered.

 

"Please stop, Reinhard-senpai. I'll get really embarrassed if you continue.", the junior knight, Zacharias said, while grinning. "Anyways, I am Zacharias Lane. Junior Knight. Joined the Royal Knights last year. Pleasure to meet you. The moment I heard Ferris-senpai can't come due to being unable to leave Crusch-sama unattended, I begged them to let me come."

 

"Thank you for your help though. You seriously saved my life back there.", Subaru thanked him.

 

"......Not a problem. I just wish I could've seen Subaru-senpai hanging from the window though. That was honestly amazing!"

 

"Ahhhhh! You knew!!", Subaru suddenly stood up, his face as red as Reinhard's hair.

 

Ezzo and Rachins nodded agreement with Zacharias and laughed while everyone else was left wondering about what had happened.

 

"Zacharias, if you don't mind me asking, why did you help everyone here?", Reinhard asked, curious about his motives.

 

"Well, I had to. I couldn't just let them get away after disrespecting my idol like that."

 

"Oh look! What a surprise! Another Rein-", Felt began sarcastically but,

 

"Natsuki Subaru-senpai, Spirit Knight, Killer of Mabeasts, Slayer of Sin Archbishops, it's always been my dream to talk to you.", Zacharias jumped towards Subaru grabbing both his hands, and from where Felt was sitting, she swore she could see stars in his eyes.

 

"Ehhhhhhh?!", everyone exclaimed in unison.

 

"Wait, you remember who I am?", Subaru asked the junior knight nodded while continuing to hold his hands and staring at him in awe.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Those Who Remember Him

 

"What did you just say?", Felt asked in shock.

 

"Spirit Knight?"

 

"Killer of Mabeasts?"

 

"Slayer of Sin Archbishops!?"

 

The TonChinKan trio exclaimed at the ridiculously amazing epithets awarded to the white-haired boy in front of them.

 

"You've killed Sin Archbishops, Subaru? That's amazing!", Reinhard smiled, completely impressed.

 

"Don't say it like it's no big deal!", Felt threw a punch at Reinhard but he easily blocked it. "But seriously, you've killed Sin Archbishops, big bro? That's amazing!"

 

"I didn't do it on my own though. I had a lot of help. I'm sure that if it was someone like Reinhard or Roswaal, they would have done a much better job." Subaru smiled bitterly as the junior knight continued to hold his hand and stare at him with stars in his eyes. "Um… Could you please let go of my hands? It's getting a little creepy." 

 

Zacharias sadly let go of Subaru's hands. "You know, Subaru-senpai, I'm even weaker than you. But watching you was the reason I got the courage to join the Royal Knights.", he pouted.

 

"Also what you said earlier is not true.", Reinhard frowned. "I doubt I could have defeated Greed on my own without you figuring out his ability.", he praised Subaru. Maybe he could ask Subaru to help find his father. …..No, he shouldn't do that. Subaru had his own problems right now.

 

He looked up and to his complete surprise, everyone was staring at him in shock. He must have said something wrong.

 

"I'm sorry.", he apologized and looked down guiltily.

 

"Why the hell are you apologising!? No, before that, did you seriously not realise what you just said?" Subaru asked him in disbelief.

 

"Did I say something wrong?" Reinhard put his hand on his chin as he tried to recall what he said earlier. "All I was saying was how Subaru and I defeated Greed….. Oh, now I see." 

 

Reinhard didn't even realise that he had gotten those memories back until he consciously thought about it. He had broken into the church with Subaru to save Emilia. He remembered dying. He remembered Emilia freezing the wives. He remembered Subaru figuring out Regulus' ability. What had happened and how did Subaru figure it out?

 

Once again, he felt a throbbing headache. He tried to remember more but----,

 

"Reinhard, stop! There's no point in forcing yourself to remember. If it hurts-", Subaru tried to stop him but was interrupted.

 

"No, Subaru-senpai, don't stop him. No matter how much it hurts, please try to remember. Don't stop."

 

'--??' Reinhard realised he had gained a new Divine Protection. The entire crusade against Greed was beginning to flow into his memories, overwhelming him.

 

"Yeah, that used to happen to me a lot in the beginning. And it happened to Felt-sama earlier as well, when she remembered that duel at the beginning of the Royal Selection.", Zacharias said nostalgically.

 

"Hey you! Stop beating around the bush and tell us how you remember!", Felt demanded. "It feels disgusting knowing that a part of my memories is missing. I want it back now!"

 

"I'm not really trying to hide anything though. I also want everyone to remember how great Subaru-senpai is.", Zacharias said proudly. Seeing how much a junior knight seemed to admire his friend made Reinhard really happy.

 

"Anyways, before I explain it, you don't happen to have the edition of the 'Dragon News' which had the interviews with the Royal Candidates do you?", Zacharias asked.

 

"Huh! Why do you want that all of a sudden?", Felt questioned.

 

"Just tell me if you have it!"

 

"I don't think we do. It was published around a year ago. We might have a cutout of the interview with Felt-sama, though. Will that help?", Reinhard asked.

 

"No, it doesn't matter.", Zacharias sighed. "I wasn't really expecting you to have it in the first place. Just wanted to check."

 

"What does that newspaper have to do with getting memories of me back?", Subaru asked as he tilted his head.

 

".....Subaru-senpai, it has a picture of the entire Emilia Camp with you in it.", Zacharias had a satisfied grin as he watched everyone else stare at him in shock for the third time since he arrived.

 

".....I'm sorry, I think I didn't hear you correctly. What did you just say again?", Subaru was utterly dumbfounded as he asked Zacharias to repeat his statement.

 

"Subaru-senpai, there's a picture of you in that edition of the 'Dragon News'."

 

"----Reinhard, Granny, get in touch with the 'Dragon News' people as soon as you can and see if you can get your hands on that edition. We need to-" As Felt hurried to somehow get that newspaper, she was interrupted.

 

"Don't bother. I've already tried it. They don't have that newspaper either.", Zacharias once gave a tired sigh.

 

".....But how? …..My 'Name' .....it was erased and….", Subaru mumbled in disbelief.

 

"I'd like to correct you there, Subaru-senpai. Your existence wasn't erased. ----It was suppressed."

 

"What does that mean?", Ezzo asked. 

 

"It's true that everyone, including me, forgot about Subaru-senpai. But our memories are just suppressed. Just force yourself to remember, even if it hurts. It'll all come back naturally and you won't even know it.", Zacharias smiled. 

 

"It was that simple?", Felt asked.

 

Reinhard felt extremely happy. This meant that they would all eventually remember Subaru. Maybe others like Zacharias would also begin to remember as well. 

 

He remembered how Priscilla had tried to save Subaru back in Priestella. Maybe she would remember and show up here just like Zacharias. And then, Heinkel would come back as well.

 

"So, we should have just forced ourselves to remember despite the kid telling us to stop.", Rom concluded to which Zacharias nodded.

 

"But why….. The newspaper as well…..", Subaru asked in disbelief.

 

"…..It was that picture that triggered the return of my memories. From what I have heard, people who have had their 'Names' eaten, also have all evidence of their existence and their belongings erased. ….But, you seem to have some kind of immunity against Gluttony. None of your belongings have actually vanished."

 

"Then, how come no one except you remembers yet?" Felt questioned. "If these items have not vanished, then people who have this newspaper and the Emilia Camp members should remember who he is."

 

"That's exactly the problem! I'm not entirely sure, but I think there's something forcing everyone….. preventing them from noticing these items. It's like the entire world is conspiring against you!", Zacharias cried as he looked at Subaru with pity.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"Every time I ask someone if they have that newspaper, they either threw it away or they accidentally burned it. Last month, once I was beginning to remember everything, I had actually gone to the 'Dragon News' headquarters. Turns out a week earlier, their archive had caught on fire and all the previous editions of that newspaper were destroyed. …..I tried to talk to the artist if she had the picture but she completely ignored me."

 

"----"

 

"And that's not all, I even tried to visit Margrave Mathers's mansion once to see if your belongings are still there. ….Unfortunately, your room is locked and they lost the key. Whenever I reminded them to search for the key or break down the door, something would turn up and they would get distracted and leave. I tried to ask for Margrave Mathers but strangely, he had locked himself in his room for a month….. Anyways, with no other option, I tried to break down the door myself, but Garfiel threw me out for trying to destroy their property and then forgot about the door once again.", Zacharias explained, all teary-eyed.

 

".....I don't understand. Why did you go through all this trouble for me?", Subaru asked, unable to understand why a person he had never met before did all this just to remember him.

 

".....Like I said, I'm your biggest admirer, Subaru-senpai.", Zacharias grinned like an innocent child, with stars in his eyes.

 

While Reinhard was happy that there were people who really liked Subaru, something bothered him.

 

"Zacharias, may I ask you something if you don't mind?"

 

"Sure, go ahead! Ask me anything you like!"

 

"How did you know which room was Subaru's? No one remembers he exists. So, no one in the Emilia Camp could have told you which room was his."

 

At Reinhard's question, Subaru looked at the junior knight with curiosity while Felt glared at him with suspicion.

 

".....I just guessed it-" A telling wind blew around Zacharias.

 

"That is a lie.", Reinhard pointed out.

 

"Za-cha-ri-as", Felt glared even more angrily as he gulped.

 

"Crap, I forgot about his divine protection!", he muttered before he nervously began to answer, "Um….. you see….. I…. er….. When I first joined the Royal Knights, I was in Costuul for about three months and….. I may have ……followed you around …..a lot …..without your knowledge …..during those times."

 

"----", Subaru just watched him in a deadpan manner, unable to say a single word.

 

Honestly, Reinhard himself didn't know what to say. Before he knew it, he had grabbed Subaru's hand and pulled him to his side while Flam and Grassis stood guard in front of the white-haired boy.

 

"You stalked him!?", Felt exclaimed.

 

"Don't say it like that! I just wanted to see my hero up-close and it's not like anyone got hurt! I never broke into the mansion! All I did was just watch him from outside."

 

"How on earth did no one notice you!?", Subaru exclaimed, crossing his arms in front of himself as he took a step back. 

 

"Well, I have an amazing divine protection. I know where everyone is so- …...Wait, Subaru-senpai, I won't do it again! Don't go away!" Zacharias bragged, only to stop when he realised Subaru had taken another step back.

 

"--. ----. ---------. Fine! I guess I have no choice but to cooperate with you. You're the only one who remembers me.", Subaru gave a tired sigh.

 

Reinhard saw Subaru coming closer and moved aside to let Subaru sit. Following behind him, the twins came closer and stood in front of him as if trying to protect him.

 

"While I certainly do not wish to let something like this slide, I will let it go for now. Subaru-sama's 'Name' takes priority right now. Zacharias-sama, you said the picture in the newspaper triggered your memories to return. Do you have it with you?", Carol inquired.

 

".....Unfortunately, I lost it. I tried showing it to other people, but it was as if something was always forcing them to avoid looking at the picture. I'm so weak, I could not even force anyone to look at it.", Zacharias gave a piteous cry. "I tried to show it to Finn, but he had a cold that day. …..He sneezed on it and blew it away. It fell on the ground where a dragon carriage passed over it and ripped it up. I never wished I was stronger more than that day. I wanted to beat him up so badly.", he said as he clenched his fists in anger.

 

"Yeah yeah. So, in short, you lost that picture. What do we do now?", Felt spoke as she grit her teeth.

 

"That picture isn't really important for now. I told you, right? Just force yourself to remember! You're already starting to remember, so you'll probably remember everything by a month or so. Maybe longer. You know him more than I do."

 

"Then why the hell did you even need the newspaper?", Rachins asked.

 

"Getting just your memories of him back isn't enough you know. We need to remind everyone else as well."

 

"Ah!"

 

"No one else is willing to even listen. Maybe Julius-senpai might start remembering now, but that's not enough. So I thought, if we had it….."

 

"You seriously can't be thinking going around showing every person in the world a picture in a newspaper is actually going to work, right!?", Ezzo exclaimed.

 

"....."

 

"How did you even get that picture? I thought it was almost impossible to find.", Subaru questioned. 

 

".....A weird girl gave it to me. She told me you were a dear friend of hers."

 

".....Huh!? Who's that?", Subaru looked just as surprised as everyone else.

 

"It was really strange. It happened around a month ago." Zacharias began recollecting the incident----

 

"Say Mr Knight, you wouldn't happen to know who Natsuki Subaru is, do you?"

 

"Huh? Who?", Zacharias quizzically tilted his head.

 

"I see. I was originally planning to be uninvolved, but the situation seems to have become quite problematic. I suppose I cannot continue ignoring this any longer."

 

These were the words spoken by a girl dressed in a white robe who had suddenly approached Zacharias that day. She seemed to be around twelve years old. She had long pink hair and her pointed ears indicated she was an elf. She looked like Ryuzu from the Emilia Camp. 

 

----'Wait, why do I know that?'

 

"Hey, who are you and what do you want with me?", Zacharias asked rather angrily. 

 

He didn't know why he felt irritated by her presence. And it wasn't due to the fact that she was an elf. He honestly couldn't care less about her race. She looked like an innocent girl, and yet----

 

"Mr Knight, could you please take a look at this picture?"

 

"Stop bothering me!" He tried to ignore her and walk away but the girl grabbed his hands and didn't let him escape.

 

"How rude! An extremely cute, delicate little girl is asking something of you and yet you decide walking away is the best thing to do? You're going to make me cry.", she said, wiping fake tears from her eyes. "I will request again, please look at this picture."

 

----She was just repulsive. Every part of his soul was telling him to get away from her.

 

"Why ask me? There are plenty of other people around me! Go ask any one of them!", he said as he tried to get her to release his hand but failed.

 

"I did. Unfortunately, I was unable to force any of them to stop and listen to me. You are the only one I could stop. Now, would you please take a look at this picture?", she said as she pulled on his hair.

 

"Ow, ow, ow! What's your problem? Let me go!"

 

"I will let you go as soon as you take a look at this picture. It's really important to me as it concerns a very dear friend of mine. Hence, I cannot simply leave him in this situation. It would be a shame if I'm unable to have more Tea Parties with him in the future." 

 

The moment she said it, Zacharias was overcome with an urge to vomit. He knelt down and emptied the contents of his stomach. An overwhelming fear filled him up as he lost the courage to move or even look up. He instinctively knew. If he values his life, he should not look up. But even without looking at her face, he could tell she was no longer the pink-haired elf he was talking to earlier, but a teenage girl. He could also see strands of her long white hair blowing in the wind. 

 

"Mr Knight, could you please take a look at this picture?", she repeated her request once again.

 

Zacharias obediently nodded his head. If he wanted to escape from this girl, he had to do as she said. Which meant looking at the stupid picture she was going on and on about.

 

"Really, Mr Knight. That makes me glad. You should have just done this from the beginning. Here!", she said as she joyfully shoved the picture in his face.

 

"What's so special about this picture, that she was begging me to look at it? It's just a picture of the Emilia Camp!", Zacharias grumbled as he took the picture in his hands and looked at it. "There's Emilia-sama, Beatrice-sama,...... ", he paused for a minute before he suddenly realised. 

 

"Su…..baru….senpai…..", he held his head in pain. His memories were unclear, but he knew that this person was extremely important to him. 

 

"Wasn't he the Sin Archbishop that Julius-senpai and Ferris-senpai brought back from Priestella? What is happening? Hey you, where did you get this picture?", he turned around to face the girl. But unfortunately, the girl was nowhere to be found. 

 

"Huh! Where did she go?", he stood there silently wondering what had just happened.

 

"----And so, I started investigating and forcing myself to remember. Finally, I ended up here today.", Zacharias finished narrating his story, looking as clueless as everyone else in the room.

 

The room was completely silent as they were trying to process what they had just heard. Who was that girl and why did she remember Subaru?

 

".....A pink-haired elf?", Rom muttered.

 

"Hey Old Man Rom, is something wrong?", Felt, who was sitting beside him, asked.

 

"It's nothing you need to worry about, Felt-sama. It's just something from the past.", Carol dismissed her question, making her tilt her head in confusion. 

 

Reinhard turned to look at Subaru hoping for an answer. Subaru's eyes were wide open and there were tears rolling down his cheeks.

 

"Subaru?", Reinhard called out to him as everyone looked at him in concern.

 

"......She does remember me.", Subaru whispered. Then, putting his hands on his chin, he muttered, "No, I doubt she even forgot me in the first place."

 

"Subaru, are you alright?", Reinhard asked him once again.

 

"I'm fine, Reinhard. Just a little surprised, that's all.", Subaru smiled lightly as he wiped away his tears.

 

"You know who that girl is, big bro?", Felt asked him.

 

".....She is my benefactor, I guess. It looks like once again she has saved me.", Subaru said. Contrary to his words, he looked like he was in pain simply thinking about the girl.

 

"That girl was really scary, Subaru-senpai. Who was she and why did she look like Ryuzu-san?"

 

".....I don't know." A telling wind blew around Subaru.

 

"Subaru, do you really not know?" Reinhard felt hurt. Why did Subaru lie?

 

Subaru looked at Reinhard's expression and then realising the reason, he panicked and corrected himself.

 

"Wait, Reinhard! I didn't lie right now! I do have an idea, but without any proof, I don't really want to say anything. It's not because I don't trust you or anything!", Subaru desperately tried to console Reinhard. 

 

"Big bro, who exactly is this girl? Can't we ask her for help?"

 

"----Absolutely not!", Subaru shouted, making Felt flinch.

 

"....I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. ….It's just ......He told you, right? That girl is dangerous. Zacharias, if you ever see that white-haired girl again, do not try to talk to her under any circumstances. Do you understand?", Subaru warned him sternly.

 

".....Y- Yes. …..I'm not going to search for her anyways. I honestly thought I was going to die back then."

 

"How do you even know such a dangerous person? Big bro, honestly, if we didn't know you, you would have seemed really suspicious right now! It's fine if you don't want to tell us, but don't you dare lie to us!", Felt said. It looked like she had gotten rather annoyed at the secrets that Subaru seemed to be keeping from them.

 

"No, I'll answer. .....There was a time when I was going insane and my mind was breaking after I…. She saved me that time.", Subaru responded as he fiddled with his thumbs. Reinhard grew increasingly concerned at the implications of what he had just said. What had happened to Subaru for his mind to nearly break? Even the torture by his own allies had not broken his mind.

 

"I am grateful to her for everything she did for me, but I still hate her!" A slight breeze blew around Subaru. "I will never forgive her. She did a really terrible thing to Bea-...... Beatrice….." Pain flickered across Subaru's face once again.

 

Felt soon felt guilty about what she had said. "No wait, stop big bro! …..I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. You don't have to say anything if you don't want to."

 

"No, it's perfectly fine. If I avoid it now, I'll only look more suspicious later on." Subaru smiled bitterly. "----The last thing I want is to be ripped apart limb from limb by a morning star or have my throat gouged out.", he winced lightly as he muttered to himself.

 

Unfortunately, his mutters to himself were heard by every person in the room. The moment those words left his mouth, every single person in the room stared at Subaru in horror. Subaru himself seemed to be unaware that his words were heard by everyone. Looking at everyone else, he realised what had just happened and his eyes widened in horror.

 

"No, I didn't say that. I didn't say anything. Please, forget I ever said that.", he said frantically.

 

"No matter how suspicious you may seem, we're not going to do something that extreme, Subaru-san.", Ezzo responded uneasily. 

 

"Subaru, has someone ever tried to do that to you?", Reinhard asked. Hearing Subaru's words had made his hair stand up on the back of his neck. And from the way he said it, it seemed as if his own allies had tried to kill him out of suspicion. The thought of Subaru dying so brutally terrified him. A strange memory surfaced in his mind.

 

Subaru had been cleaved in two like a filleted fish, neatly severed from the left shoulder to the right flank. 

 

He could not recall anything else aside from that gruesome scene. But that's not possible. Subaru was alive. He was sitting beside Reinhard at this moment. He didn't want Subaru to die. He doesn't have too many memories of the white-haired boy, but he was already very fond of him. He will not let anything happen to Subaru. He will protect him.

 

"Reinhard, just forget what I said. We were talking about why she-" As Subaru was trying to distract everyone else from his earlier words, he felt a pair of arms wrap around him and embrace him tightly.

 

"Don't worry, big bro! Even if you don't tell us, we will still trust you. We won't let anything happen to you. You saved my life that day in the Loothouse. I'm sure, Old Man Rom and I would have died that day if you hadn't helped us. Thank you." Felt had walked up to him and was hugging him. 

 

"That's right, kid. I don't remember much from that day, but I am sure of this. You and that silver-haired half-elf saved us that day, even though we were the ones who had stolen the insignia. …..Thank you.", Rom agreed with Felt. 

 

"......Subaru-senpai, why'd you have to go and say something like that? You really don't know how to read the mood, do you?", Zacharias complained. Reinhard could see he was also quite shaken by Subaru's words.

 

"Being told that by you makes me extremely annoyed for some reason!", Subaru retorted. But he immediately smiled and returned Felt's hug, while using one hand to pat her head. "It was my bad. I'm sorry for saying something like that, Felt."

 

Felt let go and took a step back. It looked like she was about to cry. Then her expression changed to anger and she punched Subaru in the stomach.

 

"Ahhh! That hurts!", Subaru cried as he held his stomach. 

 

"Hmph!", Felt stomped her foot as she turned around and went back to her seat.

 

The TonChinKan trio laughed at the scene while Rom just patted his granddaughter as she came and sat down beside him.

 

"Consider that your punishment, Subaru-sama.", Carol sighed as Flam and Grassis tried to comfort him.

 

Watching those interactions had significantly improved the atmosphere of the room and Reinhard felt it was the appropriate time to bring back the conversation to the matter at hand.

 

".....So, about the girl that Zacharias met…..", Reinhard began asking but hesitated to continue.

 

".....About why she looked like a pink-haired half-elf in the beginning, I cannot tell you. It's a private matter for the Emilia Camp. …..Even if I'm no longer a part of that Camp….", Subaru looked down sadly, "I still do not wish to reveal their secrets."

 

".....That's completely fine, big bro.", Felt assured him. "So the girl is someone related to the Emilia Camp?"

 

"No. The Emilia Camp has no idea she exists."

 

"Huh? But you just said-"

 

"It's complicated, alright! Look, just forget about Ech-, that girl! If she wants to help, she'll come to us on her own. But don't go searching for her. She's dangerous!", Subaru finally put an end to the discussion about the girl.

 

"So what do you suggest we do now? We have no other leads to fix your condition. It's not possible to go to every person in the world and remind them of who you are.", Reinhard sighed.

 

"We don't really need to remind everyone, though. But still, going around trying to force just our acquaintances is also not possible. There's something I have in mind but…..", Subaru turned to look at Reinhard and he hesitated.

 

"Subaru?"

 

"....I don't think it's a good idea to suggest it again now after you've already failed.", he sighed as he whispered to himself. "I'll tell you later.", he said, refusing to elaborate any further. "For now, I don't think the knights are coming back anytime soon. We are in no hurry right now. First, your problem takes priority right now. We'll fix mine after that."

 

".....My problem? I don't-", Reinhard looked down, gripping his legs tightly. He knew exactly what Subaru was talking about but he couldn't bring himself to keep Subaru's situation unsolved because of him. But Subaru saw through him immediately.

 

"Reinhard, you helped me so much. I want to help you too. I told you, right? I'll fill in for the parts you are unable to do. So just rely on me.", Subaru smiled reassuringly at Reinhard.

 

"......Will we really be able to find Father?" Reinhard was a monster but his father did not deserve to be punished for his sins. 

 

Even after his father had found out what kind of a monster he was, his father had still taken care of him and called him his treasure. Whenever he was alone and scared, his father would come and erase all his fears away. 

 

If he wasn't such a huge failure, his father wouldn't have abandoned him. If he was better, would his father still be here with him now? Where had he gone? Was he safe?

 

But if he puts all his efforts into saving his father, what about Subaru? Wouldn't it be unfair? After he promised he would help Subaru. 

 

"....Of course. We will definitely find him.", Subaru replied, as he stroked Reinhard's back, breaking him out of his thoughts.

 

"Subaru-sama, is this really alright? Don't you want everyone to remember you?", Carol asked, unsure if that was truly the correct decision.

 

"Searching for my 'Name' isn't going anywhere. After what Zacharias told us, we have nothing to worry about for now. As long as all of you trust me, I'll be fine. So, let's put it aside for now.", Subaru said, making Reinhard's decision for him. "But Heinkel-san is missing. Every second is precious. So, let's focus on that first. I'll also try to help in any way I can."

 

".....But-", Reinhard tried to speak but Subaru interrupted him.

 

"We will definitely find him."

 

"----"

 

"Reinhard-senpai, you should probably listen to Subaru-senpai. He's got a track record of doing the impossible. I bet he can even destroy the sun if he tried!" Even Zacharias, who was here for Subaru, agreed to prioritise Reinhard first. 

 

"That's a lot of expectations you're putting on me! Sorry, I can't do the impossible!"

 

Watching their interactions made him smile. He felt truly blessed to have so many people who cared for him by his side. Even though he didn't deserve it.

 

"I think I should be leaving now.", Zacharias said after looking at the time crystals. It was getting really late.

 

"Won't you stay for dinner?", Reinhard asked.

 

"Thanks for asking but if I'm gone too long, Finn and the others would question where I was. I'm leaving for the Capital tomorrow morning, but I'll try to visit within the next three days. See you soon!" He waved his hands enthusiastically and left the room with Carol accompanying him.

 

"Big bro, are you sure it's fine?", Felt asked Subaru once again.

 

"Yeah. It's completely fine.", Subaru gave a thumbs up and stood up, but, "----Ugh! How hard did you hit me? It still hurts!"

 

"It's your fault for saying something stupid! You say something like that again, I'll hit you again." Felt stuck her tongue out at Subaru.

 

"Please don't! I still haven't recovered from my injuries completely yet!"

 

"Oh really! Then shouldn't you be resting like I told you instead of searching for work, Subaru-san!"

 

".....No, I…. er….. I am fine now-"

 

"That's a lie, Subaru."

 

"Reinhard, you're supposed to be on my side!"

 

"I agree with Ezzo. If you're not completely healed yet, you should rest."

 

"See! Even Reinhard-san agrees with me!"

 

"Ahahahaha!", Felt laughed and her mood seemed to have significantly improved.

 

"Stop laughing!"

 

"Now that I think about it, Subaru-san, you were also hanging from the window. That must have been really tiring. You really need to rest."

 

"What do you mean? Hanging from the window?"

 

Ezzo was just about to answer but Subaru, making full use of his mean eyes, glared at him and shut him up. So, Felt turned to the TonChinKan trio for answers.

 

"You should have seen it! When Zacharias entered the room to search it, Subaru used a bedsheet to hang outside the window and hide."

 

"Hahaha! No way! Is that true, big bro? That sounds super funny! I want to see it! Let's go do it again! Rachins, lead the way!", Felt grabbed Subaru's hand and pulled him behind her.

 

"Are you trying to kill me!? There's no way I'm hanging outside a window in my life ever again! And why the hell are you two following as well!?"

 

"Bro, we want to see it too."

 

"Yeah, it's not fair that only Rachins and Ezzo saw it."

 

"Why are you all hell-bent on making fun of me!?", Subaru blushed severely.

 

Completely ignoring him, Gaston and Camberley followed behind as well.

 

"Ahhh! Stop it all of you! Subaru-san needs to rest! Reinhard-san, do something!"

 

"Reinhard, save me!"

 

"Hey Rein, you should come as well. You know, to make sure he doesn't get hurt."

 

"Felt-sama, I don't think that's a good-"

 

"Relax! We're not going to hurt him! I'll tie a rope around him! I'm not cruel! So, just shut up and follow me!"

 

"Hahahaha!", Rom and Grimm were just laughing at everyone.

 

"Don't just sit there laughing! Do something to help me! Old man Rom, Grimm-san! This girl is completely crazy!", Subaru desperately cried out.

 

"You're on your own, kid!", Rom laughed.

 

But just as they were leaving the room, a silhouette blocked their path.

 

"Felt-sama, could you please tell me what is going on here?"

 

All laughter and crying in the room ceased. They turned to the doorway and saw the elderly maid being dragged into the room by the little twins. The twins were each holding one of Carol's hands and the other hand was pointing to Felt.

 

"----Tch! These two little snitches!", Felt clicked her tongue as she glared at the twins.

 

"What was that Felt-sama?"

 

"Nothing Granny!", Felt gulped.

 

"Where were you trying to drag the injured Subaru-sama against his will?"

 

"I wasn't doing anything, I swear! Tell her!", she turned to the TonChinKan trio to save her but the three looked away. 

 

"We have no idea what you're talking about."

 

"Why you….."

 

"Felt-sama.", Carol directed Felt's attention back to her. Her smile hadn't once left her face the entire time.

 

"….Y-...yes", Felt responded feebly.

 

"Today morning, Gaston and the others had brought back the new dresses we had selected for you. We'll have you try all of them tomorrow.", Carol smiled sweetly while Felt's mood instantly dropped.

 

".....These two little devils!", Felt glared at Flam and Grassis. 

 

At that moment, Subaru released himself from Felt's grip and walked over to the twins.

 

"Nope! These two are little angels!" Subaru picked them up one after another and spun them around, making them giggle.

 

Although initially angry, her anger immediately melted away on seeing the two beaming twins.

 

"Ah, whatever! I think I'll just go back to my room for now.", Felt yawned as she stretched her hands. "Today was an exhausting day!" And so, she was the first to leave the room.

 

"Gaston, Rachins, Camberley, you three follow me. I have work for you.", Carol monotonously called out.

 

The three looked at each other anxiously remembering every mistake they had made that day, wondering which one she was going to punish them for.

 

"Y- yes", the three fearfully followed behind her out of the room.

 

"Subaru-san, stop spinning around and put her down! How many times do I have to tell you to rest?", Ezzo scolded Subaru.

 

"She's not even that heavy. She's as light as a feather.", Subaru grumbled as he put down Flam, who he was holding at that moment. 

 

Flam and Grassis, although disappointed, nodded at Ezzo's words and each held one of his hands as they took him back to his room. 

 

Reinhard couldn't help but be surprised at how well the twins were getting along with him. 

 

'His title of lolimancer isn't just for show.' , he chuckled lightly. 

 

And then he froze. He found it disorienting how rapidly he was remembering details about Subaru. Of course, he doesn't remember everything completely, but whenever he tried to remember a particular incident, the memories would come flowing into him with terrifying clarity, completely unlike how hazy it was when he was trying to force himself to remember earlier.

 

And it wasn't just Subaru. If he wanted to remember something, memories of it would come flooding into his mind. Events from when he was four years old. Or, even the book he had read the previous night, word for word.

 

'Divine Protection of Perfect Recollection'

 

It was the name of the divine protection he had received when Zacharias encouraged him to force himself to remember.

 

"Reinhard-san, you should come as well. You need to drain Subaru-san's mana.", Ezzo called out to him.

 

Nodding, he got up from his seat and followed behind them.

 

"Are you staying here?", Ezzo asked the two old men who had not moved from their positions even though everyone else had left already.

 

"We'll leave after a couple of drinks.", Rom said as Grimm brought out a bottle of alcohol.

 

Reinhard and Ezzo left the two old men to themselves as they followed behind Subaru and the twins.

 

The divine protection he had received was extremely powerful. At that rate, he would probably remember everything he knew about Subaru within a week. 

 

That should make him happy. And yet, he could get his mind off of that terrifying memory that had surfaced in his mind earlier on hearing Subaru's comment. 

 

----Subaru was sawed in half, his charcoal-black hair and strange clothes drenched in blood. A city square, probably in Priestella, had become a lake of crimson, with the blood of not just Subaru, but several others.

 

No matter how much Reinhard tried to remember, he couldn't remember anything before or after that incident, even with his divine protections. There was also the fact that Subaru was alive, smiling in front of him right now. 

 

Therefore, that memory was nothing but a hallucination born out of Reinhard's fear. It was not real. Thus, there was no reason to pursue that memory any longer.

 

Forcing a smile on his face, he quietly watched as the four around him joked around with each other.

 

That memory was false. And he will ensure that the memory will never come to fruition.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

A New Beginning

 

"Disgusting pigs!", she said in disgust as she knocked down, with great difficulty, two of the river bandits who had escaped from the defenses of her two attendants and tried to attack her.

 

Al was engaged in battle with around three to four men, while Heinkel was single handedly holding back at least eighteen men, while managing to protect the little Schult who was grabbing on to him tightly. Even she had to admit she was impressed.

 

This was fine for now, but how long would it take before they managed to overwhelm them with their numbers. The river bandits just seemed to come more and more, almost as big as a little army.

 

This problem would be easily solved if she just went to the boss and revealed her identity. Selena's men would safely escort her to Vollachia. 

 

----But then what would she do? 

 

Until then, she was sure she would somehow manage. But now, after struggling against mere river bandits, she began to doubt it. Unsure if she still even had the Yang sword's protection, would she even be able to emerge victorious in Vollachia? While she was intelligent, what would she even do against the Witch Cult, who defied all logic, if they were truly involved in the uprising in Vollachia like she had suspected?

 

"Al, Schult, Heinkel, we're leaving this ship this instant!", the girl demanded. The best course of action would be a tactical retreat.

 

".....What!?" Her three attendants stared at her in shock.

 

"Princess, you do realise the situation we're in right now! Even if we want to leave, we're in the middle of a river and they've got the life boats. There's no way to do it!", her knight exclaimed as he blocked the attacks of the river bandits that had attacked their ship.

 

"Fool! Do you not understand or do I need to explain it to you! If we're in the middle of water, we'll obviously swim!"

 

".....Are you serious right now!? How the hell are we supposed to drive them away and safely escape at the same time? You and Schult can't fight, we've got our hands full just trying to protect you!", Heinkel said as he displayed his prowess with the sword, easily knocking down the attackers.

 

"Just knock them out and then jump while they're down!", she answered.

 

"That's easy for you to say when you're not the one fighting!" Heinkel retorted. "I regret the day I decided to join you!"

 

"The feeling is mutual, old man!", Al agreed.

 

"If you idiots have time to joke around, then I believe you certainly have the time to jump! Stop fooling around and just follow me!" With that, she dove off the ship and hit the water.

 

"Wait, Princess/Priscilla-sama!", she could hear the two grown men panicking from above.

 

"Schult, you hold on tightly to me! We're jumping now!" Knocking out the two men approaching them, Heinkel prepared himself to jump.

 

She heard the sound of her Camp members diving in behind her.

 

She had been holding her breath and was trying to move as far away from the ship before she surfaced. The water was rapid and it had become quite difficult for her to swim. However, she would survive. After all, the world was designed to operate in the way that works best for her. 

 

However, the same could not be said for the people on the ship. She could hear the commotion and was sure they believed she was drowning to death. She had made the decision to jump in a split second. 

 

But her plan seemed to be going smoothly. Once they inform Selena Dracroy of the tragedy, maybe the assassination attempts would stop. At the same time, she bought herself more time. All she had to do was wait for the Watchtower group to return. If they succeeded in bringing the Sage back, he could fix her situation. 

 

The momentary relief she had gained was immediately turned to horror when she realised that she had been going down instead of up. She pushed herself against the water trying to rise up, but as soon as she reached the surface, the waves coming from the sailing ship came crashing down on her and pushed her under once again. She had immensely underestimated the force of flowing water. The river was more turbulent than she had expected. 

 

She struggled for even a single breath of air in the rapids. She kicked with her feet trying to get her head above water, but everytime she reached the surface, the pressure of the waves would once again dunk her underwater.

 

Water filled her lungs and took away her ability to scream or even breathe. The time she spent underwater was so much longer than the time she managed to keep her head above water. She was suffocating. She was drowning. 

 

She cursed the world for her predicament. The world operated in her favour? What a joke! Her luck had run dry in Priestella, after it had saved her from her hopeless situation. First, Wrath had escaped, despite the efforts she had taken to secure her, and she had lost her Yang Sword and her luck. Then, the repeated assassination attempts when she returned back to her mansion. Now, even after being aware of it, she still tried to cross into Vollachia, realised just how disadvantaged she really was, made a bad decision and was currently drowning.

 

Where were those idiots? Hadn't they dived into the water behind her? What was taking them so long to save her? She thrashed around desperately trying to search for them.

 

What made her think jumping from a boat was a good idea? There were a million other methods to solve her problems. So why did she choose this? Was it really worth it?

 

She couldn't remember. She couldn't think. All she could do was struggle in vain as body felt like it was on fire. She was tired. She wanted to sleep. And so, she stopped moving. 

 

She was going to die right after her life was saved from a fate worse than death at the cost of someone else's, without ever saving him. Even now, she was just waiting for her companions to come save her, without once thinking if they were even alive. How did that make her any different from a parasite, leeching off of the good will of people? 

 

----No, this was unacceptable. She still had lots to do. She had to make sure those three were safe. She had to save that black-haired boy who saved her life in Priestella.

 

She jerked awake and once again, she kicked with her feet and pushed her hands against the water, desperately trying to break through the surface. For the brief moment that her head was in the air, she looked around, but she couldn't find any of her companions. Her head went under when another wave crashed down on her.

 

"PRISCILLA-SAMA! CAN YOU HEAR ME?", a desperate voice, other than the sound of the beating water, echoed in her ears.

 

Her face rose above the surface again. She was met with an unbelievable sight. The water was on fire. No, that's not possible. It was a man with flaming red hair. He had spotted her and was approaching her. There were two others tied behind and in front of him and he was swimming towards her with great difficulty.

 

'How foolish!', she thought. 'If only he dropped the two others behind, he would have been able to safely escape to the shore without a problem.'

 

As she went under once again, she was overcome with exhaustion.

 

"Priscilla-sama, the water has pushed us very close to the shore! We'll be saved soon. Don't sleep just yet!" 

 

Despite the man's advice to stay awake, she didn't have the strength to do so anymore. She was tired after being pounded by the water like a ragdoll.

 

----And so, Priscilla Barielle let go of her consciousness, just before she could have reached the safety of the shore.

 

**************************************

**************************************

 

"Has this room always existed?", the puzzled Ram stared at the door, holding a mop in one hand.

 

She had finished cleaning the area when a door had popped out of nowhere. 

 

She clicked her tongue at the extra work she had to do as she brought her hands to the doorknob and turned it.

 

----It was locked.

 

Just which useless person had locked an unused room! Now even more work was created for her by having to get the key to the room. 

 

'My uselessness is not an excuse for you to be slacking off on the job, Nee-sama!'

 

The retort that suddenly sounded in her mind surprised her as she felt a sharp sting in her forehead. She shook her head and massaged her temples as she dismissed her auditory hallucination as a product of her lack of sleep.

 

Once the pain subsided, she looked at the door once again. She should probably get the key. 

 

Resting the mop against the wall, she left the bucket in one corner of the corridor as she left the place to get the key to the mysterious room. She had worked in this mansion for at least a year and she doesn't remember ever encountering that room.

 

As she walked through the corridor, a small figure bumped into her. It was Petra who was rushing around trying to set up the table for dinner. She apologized and quickly ran to the dining room. 

 

The girl was cute, but when it came to her work, she was rather slow, unlike Ram herself. Unfortunately, it was upto Ram to teach her quickly, so that she doesn't somehow end up embarrassing Roswaal in the future. Frederica just spoiled her too much.

 

Speaking of Frederica, the blonde maid was carrying a tray of food in her direction and stopped on seeing Ram.

 

"Are you done with cleaning the mansion?", she asked.

 

"Of course! When Ram does a job, she does it to perfection. Her expert hands have left the mansion sparkling.", the pink haired maid boasted as she puffed out her chest in pride.

 

"Then why did you leave them there?", Frederica pointed to the mop and the bucket of dirty water resting on the far end of the corridor.

 

Turning around, Ram noticed it too and blushed slightly. Did she accidentally forget about it and leave it there? Whatever the case, there was no way she was going to admit that to Frederica.

 

Then looking at the tray of food, she frowned a bit. She took the tray from Frederica's hands.

 

"I'll take this to Roswaal-sama. You go pick that up over there. Try not to ruin Ram's hard work while keeping them back."

 

"......Unlike Petra, you're not cute at all.", Frederica sighed.

 

"Ha! Mere words cannot be used to describe Ram's cuteness." Ram turned around and left Frederica as she walked to her beloved Master's room.

 

However, unlike two month ago, she wasn't walking to his room with excitement, but rather with dread. Roswaal just suddenly lost all hope one day and simply shut himself in his room. In the beginning, he would at least occasionally come out but eventually, even that stopped.

 

Everyday, someone would take him his meals to his room. He would give a bare minimum response, but other than that he refused to interact with anyone else in the mansion.

 

Ram was frustrated at her inability to help the people she loved. Rem was asleep, with no signs of waking up. Even beating up that Sin Archbishop had given her no clues on how to wake up her sister. And now, her Master had fallen into despair and shut himself in his room, and she had no idea what had caused it.

 

"......Roswaal-sama.", she knocked. "I have your dinner. May I come in?"

 

Silence. 

 

Assuming that as permission, she opened the door and found him in the same condition she had left him that afternoon. He was leaning backwards against his chair and his eyes looked dead, not even acknowledging her existence.

 

The room was still messy. There were various books, crumpled scraps of paper, ink stains and various editions of the 'Dragon News', with one of them having a neatly cut rectangular hole in the middle, spread across the floor. Most of the text in them was smudged, and she was unable to read anything from them. 

 

Putting the tray down on his desk, she turned to face him.

 

"Roswaal-sama, I brought your dinner. Please eat."

 

"....."

 

"Emilia-sama and Beatrice-sama returned from the Capital yesterday, after failing to reach the Watchtower."

 

"....."

 

"You still haven't met yet after they've returned. Please, go talk to them once."

 

"....."

 

"......Also, regarding the Sin Archbishop of Pride captured in Priestella two months ago….." 

 

Roswaal's finger twitched.

 

".....Emilia-sama informed us he escaped while they were still at the Capital.", she looked down bitterly delivering the news. That piece of trash could remember the victims of Gluttony and now her only lead to save Rem was gone. 

 

But to her shock, when she had looked up, Roswaal had stood up and energetically walked towards her. Although initially happy at him finally responding to her, her joy vanished the moment she saw his face.

 

He was grinning from ear to ear like a madman. Ram felt extremely hurt. Roswaal knew how important Rem was to her. And yet, he was smiling at the news of the Archbishop escaping. 

 

She had really believed they had managed to correct him in the Sanctuary. Was she wrong in believing that?

 

Roswaal came close to her and grabbed her shoulders excitedly.

 

"How?", he asked. This was the first time in two months he was actually speaking to her, and the first thing he asked her was how the Sin Archbishop she detested had escaped. 

 

Ram was almost in tears, trying her best to not let them come out as she answered, "W- We don't know. The Royal Knights believed the Sword Saint had rescued him, but ……their search had turned up empty."

 

The moment she said this, Roswaal pushed Ram out of his room and shut the door. A little while later, he emerged dressed in his outdoor clothes and without his signature makeup.He walked through the hallway, with the confused Ram closely following behind him. 

 

The moon was high up in the sky but the world seemed darker than ever. Stepping outside the mansion, he walked in the darkness as Ram felt a sense of foreboding. He arrived at the stables where the ground dragons were kept. 

 

She spotted Otto inside the stables, desperately trying to feed the disobedient Patrasche, but was failing. It looked like Otto hadn't noticed them yet.

 

"Otto-kun, please move aside."

 

On hearing the voice he hadn't heard in a while, he turned around in astonishment.

 

"Margrave, when did you come out?", the gray-haired internal affairs officer asked, only to be ignored completely. As Roswaal got closer to Patrasche and tried to pat her head, "Wait Margrave! She's been in a really bad mood! If you get too close-"

 

The ground dragon bit Roswaal's hand.

 

As drops of blood trickled down his hand and to the ground, Ram glared at Patrasche furiously. That ground dragon was lucky enough to be given a home, fed and taken care of, and yet, she had so ungratefully bit the hand of the master who was simply trying to pat her head.

 

Roswaal, however, didn't seem to be affected by it at all and continued to stand there with a neutral expression on his face. He took out his hand from the ground dragon's mouth, revealing the grotesque and bloody bite mark. The two around him panicked seeing his wound.

 

Ram rushed to his side to try to stop the bleeding----,

 

"Roswaal-sama, I'll get Bea-" 

 

"Otto-kun, since when has she been like this? If I remember correctly, Patrasche-chan has never been so hostile.", he spoke without his usual accent.

 

----Only to be completely ignored by Roswaal.

 

Glancing back and forth between Ram and Roswaal with concern, he hesitatingly answered, ".......Around the time we returned from Priestella. Whenever I try to ask her why she's so uneasy, she just keeps screaming 'I don't know' over and over. ……I honestly have no idea what to do. She hardly eats and if this continues, it'll be really bad."

 

"----I see.", Roswaal said, closing his yellow eye. Wiping the blood off his hand with a handkerchief, he once again got closer to Patrasche. This time however, instead of trying to pat her head, he just bent closer.

 

"Patrasche-chan, eat now. We've a long journey to make. We're going to meet your master."

 

When the words left his mouth, both Otto and Ram stared at him in confusion. Patrasche herself stood still, and was looking at Roswaal.

 

Patrasche's master? What was that supposed to mean? Wasn't Roswaal technically Patrasche's master?

 

Patrasche, after a while, bent down and began eating, while Roswaal patted her head with his other hand.

 

"If you're ready, let's leave.", the blue-haired mage said as he got up on the ground dragon, soon after she was done eating.

 

"Wait, Roswaal-sama! Where are you going now? It's already Water Time and you've not had your dinn-"

 

"I'll be back by tomorrow.", Roswaal told her coldly, as Patrasche ran off into the distance leaving the two confused members of Emilia Camp behind.

 

"What just happened? I've been trying to feed Patrasche for two months and I failed, and he just comes out suddenly and does it in ten minutes and then, just leaves without telling us why!"

 

"Even Patrasche recognises how great the difference is between you and Roswaal-sama."

 

"What's that supposed to mean!? I was the one who-", Otto was going to defend himself further but looking at Ram's expression, he stopped.

 

"Ram-san, are you alright?", he asked in concern.

 

"......Disgusting! Using the excuse of being concerned to stare at the maidenly Ram with your perverted eyes!"

 

"........Let's go back inside.", Otto said, not retorting back against a single word she said.

 

They walked back to the mansion as an uneasy silence surrounded them. 

 

"Ram, was that Roswaal? Where did he go?", just as they were entering inside, her silver-haired liege asked her.

 

"How rude, I suppose! Betty and Emilia were gone for two months and he left without even meeting us, in fact!", the drill haired spirit beside Emilia puffed her cheeks angrily.

 

"Beatrice looks reaaaally cute when she's angry!", Emilia happily said as she pinched Beatrice's cheeks.

 

"Stop that, in fact!", she stomped her foot as she turned to Ram and Otto. "These two have yet to say where that clown left, I suppose."

 

"We don't know, Emilia-sama. He just left with Patrasche without telling us where he was going, just telling us he'll come back tomorrow.", Otto answered.

 

As Emilia turned to look at Ram, the happiness on her face was replaced with concern as she walked closer and hugged her.

 

".....Emilia-sama?"

 

"I don't know what happened, but you had a reaaaally sad expression on your face just now. If there's something bothering you, tell me. I will help in any way I can.", the silver-haired half-elf gently stroked her hair.

 

"I'm fine, Emilia-sama." Despite her words, Ram still gave in to the hug as she desperately tried not to cry.

 

**************************************

**************************************

 

The sword swung towards Subaru, with the full intention of sending him flying through the air. In an instant, he lunged forward to intercept it with his own sword. Although pushed back a few steps, he managed to successfully stop the attack directed towards him, generating loud cheers from behind him. 

 

His opponent, the handsome red-haired knight, too smiled, impressed by his performance.

 

"That was great, Subaru! Your skills in blocking my attacks have improved considerably, even though you have failed to land even a single attack on me."

 

"Why'd you have to phrase it like that!? I was feeling real proud of my progress until you said that!"

 

Reinhard's lips immediately curved downwards. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to demean your progress."

 

"And now you're apologizing again!"

 

Honestly, Reinhard's constant apologizing irritated Subaru. He had to do something about it in the future.

 

"Shall we put an end to this?"

 

"Maybe one more round, and then we'll call it a day. Is that OK ?"

 

"That's completely fine. Are you ready to begin?"

 

"Yup, here I come!"

 

And with that, Subaru gripped his wooden sword tightly as he rushed towards Reinhard. 

 

It had been a week since he had been rescued by Reinhard from the prison cell and about three days after the 'Surprise Visit' by the knights.

 

Having been healed by Ezzo and being unable to stay quietly indoors, he had begged Reinhard to train him, which he very reluctantly obliged.

 

While he had improved decently with a sword, he still hadn't managed to land a single hit on Reinhard. He dealt blow after blow, but all his attacks were effortlessly blocked. Well, he wasn't the Sword Saint for nothing. But still, his inability was causing him to grow more and more impatient.

 

"Subaru, your movements are becoming extremely wasteful. You're using too much force. Clear your head before striking, otherwise your attacks will become meaningless."

 

"I know that! You don't have to tell me that again and again!", Subaru barked angrily, surprising Reinhard. But as soon as he said that, he regretted it. Reinhard was helping him train and he was being extremely ungrateful.

 

Subaru stopped. Seeing the gap that existed between them, he couldn't help but feel useless. Maybe they should stop the session for that day. He's not going to improve any further any time soon.

 

"Hey Rein, I'm sorry for losing my cool. Maybe we should stop for now.", he smiled sadly.

 

No response.

 

Subaru had noticed it ever since the day Zacharias had visited. Reinhard had become increasingly distracted. Subaru couldn't help but feel concerned about it.

 

".....Rein?"

 

Still no response.

 

"Reinhard!", he shouted startling the red-haired knight, making him reflexively swing his sword towards Subaru.

 

Unable to dodge or block the blow in time, the sword made contact with Subaru, sending him flying backwards.

 

"Subaru!" "Subaru-san!" "Big bro!"

 

Fortunately for him, Subaru had already mastered the skill of falling about a year ago when Wilhelm had pounded him every day back at the Karsten villa. Combining that with his training in parkour, he tucked his head in, wrapped his arms around himself and easily executed a perfect roll, effectively neutralising the blow.

 

Coming to a stop, he laid down perfectly flat on the ground as the other three rushed to his location.

 

"Subaru, I'm extremely sorry! I wasn't paying attention and-"

 

"It's alright, Rein. I'm fine. …..Also, about earlier, I wasn't making any progress, so I was kind of getting frustrated. Sorry for that."

 

"No, I……", Reinhard looked at Subaru in concern. No, concern was an understatement. He looked like he had just killed someone. It made alarm bells ring in his head.

 

"Big bro, are you alright?", Felt asked as she and Ezzo helped him get up. "What the hell, Rein! Pay more attention!"

 

"I-… I'm…. sor-…."

 

"Don't worry about it. It was a mistake.", Subaru said as he rolled down the sleeves of his black dress shirt and began dusting off his clothes. 

 

"Are you hurt anywhere?", Ezzo asked.

 

"No, I don't think so. I don't feel hurt anywhere.", he replied as moved his limbs around trying to search for any injuries.

 

The three others heaved a sigh of relief after confirming he was fine. 

 

Suddenly----,

 

"Subaru-senpai! It's me. I'm back. What are you doing there?"

 

It was the junior knight they had met a few days ago, sprinting across the garden to them, with a troubled expression on his face.

 

"Hey Zacharias!", Subaru smiled as he waved at him. But noticing his expression, he asked, "Is something wrong?"

 

"Just got here from the Capital and came here as soon as I could. Grimm-san told me you were here.", Zacharias said, breathing heavily as he reached them.

 

"Glad to see you again, Zacharias. Shall we go inside?", Reinhard offered but Zacharias shook his head.

 

"No, let's just stay here for sometime.", he said as he looked guiltily at Reinhard. ".....I'll be leaving soon anyways. I have some work. I came because…...", As Zacharias said those words, he unhooked a very familiar item attached to his belt and threw it on the ground.

 

"My Guiltywhip!", Subaru excitedly picked it up and began happily swinging it around.

 

"That's yours, big bro?"

 

"You can use a whip, Subaru-san?"

 

"Yeah! Clind-san had taught me how to use this. Thanks a lot, Zacharias!"

 

"How did you even manage to get it?", Felt asked curiously.

 

"......I was actually doing something else and I remembered. It was just laying in the Knights Garrison after your arrest .......So, I stole it. I almost got caught, but somehow in the end it all worked out and I got it.", he said, rather uninterestedly. That was unexpected. Even though Subaru had met him only once, he had expected Zacharias to be more ……cheerful.

 

"Zacharias, what's wrong?", Subaru asked worriedly.

 

"It's nothing.", he dismissed. Smiling sadly, he asked, "So Subaru-senpai, did anything new happen in the last three days?"

 

"Well, I asked Reinhard to train me, and it seems to be going well. In fact, far better than I thought it would."

 

"That would be due to my 'Divine Protection of Training Mastery'."

 

".....That makes sense. There's no way I could have progressed even this much without it.", Subaru looked down in sadness.

 

"Big bro, you should stop saying that! You've done really well so far, blocking this idiot's attack.", Felt said, closing her fist and pointing at Reinhard. "It's just been two days! You'll do even better, I'm sure!"

 

"I'm sure about it too, Subaru-senpai!"

 

"By the way, did you manage to find anything about Subaru-san's memory or Heinkel-san?"

 

Zacharias smile fell instantly as he guiltily turned to Reinhard. "......Reinhard-senpai, I have information for you about the Deputy Commander."

 

All of their gazes immediately turned to face the junior knight as his expression turned bitter.

 

"What did you find?", Reinhard grabbed Zacharias' shoulder, desperate for any information he could get.

 

Zacharias adopted a more neutral expression, as he reported his findings. 

 

"I broke into the Commander's cabin and took a peek at the logs. Apparently, around a month ago, Priscilla-sama, her knight, her little butler and the Deputy Commander were last spotted on a ship on the Great Tigracy River near the Vollachian border. Later on, that ship was hijacked by river bandits from Vollachia."

 

"So, she's become a prisoner of war in another country?", Subaru asked in concern.

 

"Why was she even trying to get into the Empire?", Felt wondered.

 

"If they're in Vollachia, how can I….", Reinhard's hands shook as the only lead they had received indicated he was going to be unable to rescue them. 

 

"Wait, Reinhard-senpai! There's more. The river bandits seized the ship and let all the sailors return back on a small boat. I copied down the testimony of one of the sailors who had returned back. Here!"

 

He took out a sheet of paper from his shirt pocket, unfolded it and handed it to them.

 

(The ship departed as scheduled and everything was going normally. 

 

The members of the Priscilla Camp seemed to be getting along rather well with the crewmates. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary.

 

And then, around half a day after we had departed, river bandits hijacked the ship. 

 

Al-sama and Heinkel-sama managed to single-handedly hold them back. But there were too many of them and they were starting to get pushed back. Suddenly, Priscilla-sama demanded they jump from the ship and after some back and forth, they prepared to jump.

 

She jumped first. Her attendants, although reluctant, jumped into the water behind her. 

 

We tried to stop them, but they had already jumped. And we didn't see them surface after that. That was the last we had seen of them. Either she safely got to the shore or she drowned.) 

 

Subaru and the others looked at the paper in confusion. 

 

Why would Priscilla just jump from a ship at the first sign of trouble? It didn't seem like her. They were alive, right? She always said that the world works in her favour, so she had to be alive. Subaru sincerely prayed for their safety.

 

----If she was dead, what was even the point of losing his 'Name' and going through all of that pain? He had been betrayed by his own allies, but he had held himself together, believing that at least he had managed to save someone from a fate worse than death.

 

"The knights are still searching around the river for any signs of them, but....... the most they've been given is a month. If they're not found by then…… they'll be declared dead.", the brown-haired knight informed them sadly.

 

".....Reinhard?", Felt patted his back.

 

"Excuse me, Felt-sama.", Reinhard said as he turned around and began walking away.

 

".....Wait, Reinhard!", Subaru tried to stop him, but he was gone.

 

"I'm sorry. ……I should leave now.", Zacharias said guiltily as he began to leave.

 

"No, stay here! I'll go talk to him.", Felt told him.

 

"Wait, I'm coming with you! Ezzo, you stay here with Zacharias.", Subaru followed behind her as they entered the mansion.

 

"He's probably gone to his mother's room.", Felt said, unsure of what to do.

 

The previous day, Carol had told the two of them about the entire story of the Astrea family. Even Felt was surprised to hear about it. About how Heinkel used to be a good father, and defended Reinhard. That the reason he had become this way was simply due to his frustration of being unable to do anything, especially regarding his wife.

 

It still did not excuse him for neglecting and abusing his son, though.

 

But if they used to be close during Reinhard's childhood, it was understandable why Reinhard was so worried about his father, even though he didn't really deserve it.

 

He remembered the drill-haired little girl who used to sit on a step stool in front of the door. He started to feel guilty but soon dismissed the thoughts. 

 

Even though Echidna had condemned her to four hundred years of isolation inside that library for her curiosity, Beatrice still held her in high regard. She snapped back at anyone who insulted her mother, including Subaru himself.

 

It was hard for anyone to blame their own parents. If for some reason, Subaru's parents suddenly started hating him (even though it was what he wanted), he would have felt extremely sad. He would have thought that it was somehow his fault and that he did something wrong.

 

Considering Reinhard's personality, that was probably how he felt as well. And it pissed him off that the reason for that was the man he admired the most.

 

----Wilhelm had blamed his four year old grandson for murdering his grandmother.

 

He had done so in Priestella as well. Just three days ago, he had come to incriminate Reinhard again. He was making it harder for even Carol and Grimm, who were his friends, to defend his actions. It had completely shattered the image Subaru had of Wilhelm.

 

As they neared Louanna's room, Felt and Subaru wondered what they should say to Reinhard. But their thoughts were interrupted, when they heard a voice echo from the entrance of the mansion.

 

"-please let me see him!", a familiar voice reached Subaru's ear.

 

"I…. I'm…..", Carol stumbled.

 

"I'm not here to expose you. I just want to see if Subaru-kun is really safe."

 

Subaru's eyes widened. 

 

'.......You're kidding me, right? It can't be!'

 

"Who is that?", Felt asked as she changed her direction and headed towards the entrance.

 

**************************************

**************************************

 

"Patrasche-chan, wait here! I'll come back soon. With him.", Roswaal said as he walked to the door of the Astrea Mansion.

 

As soon as he opened them, it alerted the maids of the mansion, working in the kitchen, who immediately came out to greet him. 

 

Roswaal's eyes began to almost water on seeing the one who had come to greet him. She was someone he had once considered extremely important to him. A precious friend for whom he had once disobeyed the Tome of Wisdom to save. 

 

"Pleased to meet you ……Carol……san. I'm the current head of the Roswaal family. My name is Roswaal L Mathers. I believe my grandmother was an acquaintance of yours. I am extremely sorry for arriving on such short notice."

 

As Carol heard him introduce himself, her eyes shook with sadness and guilt as she held her hand near her chest.

 

".......Julia.", she whispered in grief.

 

Her whisper of that name, as if it was extremely important to her, made him immensely happy from the bottom of his heart. 

 

"Please forgive me, Margrave Mathers. ……I seem to have lost my composure. It's just…… Your grandmother was one of my best friends. I'm sorry that because of me-"

 

"Carol-san, Grandmother was blessed to have been adored so much by people like you. I'm sure she was glad she could protect you."

 

"Thank you, Margrave Mathers. Pleased to make your acquaintance. But……", she smiled sadly. But then immediately looking at him in confusion, she said, "Do you have any business with the Young Master?"

 

"----I'm here to meet Natsuki Subaru."

 

Carol's eyes widened in horror at his words. It made him feel guilty seeing that expression on her face, but he could not stop now.

 

"I heard the Sword Saint was the one who most likely rescued him. I know that he is innocent and he is Emilia-sama's knight. So, please let me see him!"

 

"I…. I'm…..", Carol stumbled.

 

"I'm not here to expose you. I just want to see if Subaru-kun is really safe."

 

"......I'm sorry, I do not understand what-"

 

"Carol-san, please-"

 

"Rozchi, you're supposed to look good without your clown makeup! How do you end up looking even creepier!?"

 

'He was alive! He was really alive!' As soon as Roswaal heard the voice, his eyes became filled with life after seeming dead for two months. 

 

From the back emerged the boy he had been desperate to see alive. However, his grin faded as soon as he came into view. The boy's hair was not raven-black like he had expected, but was instead a snow-white colour, similar to his teacher. 

 

"Subaru-kun...... your hair……."

 

"Ah, this?", he said, brushing his hair with his hand. "It's nothing worse than what happened in the Sanctuary. So, don't worry.", Subaru said sarcastically. 

 

Roswaal was once again overcome with guilt but quickly drove those thoughts away. It doesn't matter. Subaru was still alive. That was all that mattered. He plastered the smile back on his face.

 

"Hoooooow hurtful, Subaru-kun! I took all this effort to come here to see whether my cute subordinate was doing alright, but yoooouuu seem to be angry instead!", he faked being hurt, but it seemed to disgust him further.

 

"Hey, big bro, are you still sure we shouldn't throw him out?", a voice came from beside Subaru.

 

The blonde princess, Felt, that the Sword Saint had sworn to spoke out as she tightly held Subaru's sleeve. Was she standing beside him this entire time?

 

"No, it's fine. The creepy clown won't do anything for now."

 

"I am staaaanding in front of you, Subaru-kun!"

 

Felt still looked unconvinced, while Carol was watching their interactions with utter confusion.

 

"So, what do you want? Why the hell are you here?", Subaru asked Roswaal coldly.

 

".......I told you. I am here toooooo see you, Subaru-kun.", Roswaal paused for sometime before continuing, "……That half-devil just returned-"

 

"----Half-elf!", Subaru shouted angrily as he glared at Roswaal. "Don't you dare call her that again!"

 

The moment those words left his mouth, Roswaal broke into a mad grin. He was afraid that Subaru had begun to hate the Emilia Camp after his torture, but it looked like he had nothing to worry about. Natsuki Subaru would never stop loving Emilia. 

 

"I'm sorry about that. I may haaaaave gotten too emotional and said something rather unpleasant. I'll make sure to apooooologize to Emilia-sama once we return back."

 

The three of them around him were immediately stunned into silence on hearing his words.

 

".......What do you mean by 'we'?", Felt asked suspiciously.

 

"......It means exaaaaactly what it does, Felt-sama. I'm grateful to you for having taken care of our knight all this time, but I believe we've imposed on you long enough. It's tiiiiiime for him to come back.", Roswaal said happily.

 

"......Margrave Mathers, I don't think-", once again Carol tried to speak before being interrupted by Felt herself.

 

"You're not taking him anywhere!", she angrily glared at the margrave. "He's my big bro! He's part of my Camp now! After you people refused to even listen to him in Priestella, there's no way I'm letting you take him! Get out!", she protested, hugging the white- haired former knight possessively, while continuing to glare at Roswaal.

 

Roswaal, however, was not worried in any way whatsoever. He simply pointed his index finger at Subaru's face, causing Felt's eyes to widen in shock. 

 

It was obvious Subaru was considering whether to go back. Roswaal was confident Subaru would return to the Emilia Camp.

 

"Felt-sama, this is noooot about what you want. This is about what Subaru-kun wants. If you truuuuuly care about him, you should let him go back to the people he loves."

 

As soon as Roswaal said those words, Subaru looked at him with pity. "Is that really what you think I want, Roswaal?"

 

Roswaal's smile twitched slightly. "Whaaaaat do you mean?", Roswaal asked in confusion.

 

"Big bro, you're seriously not going to go, right?", Felt asked, almost in tears, while still hugging him. 

 

Subaru smiled and patted her head. And then, with a more serious expression, he turned to Roswaal.

 

"Let's talk, Roswaal. Just you and me."

 

Roswaal just cluelessly nodded his head, hoping Subaru would give him the answers he wanted.

 

They stepped outside into the garden to talk after excusing themselves. 

 

"Soooooo, what did you want to talk about, Subaru-kun?"

 

"......How are the others doing?"

 

"Nothing seems to have changed much, from what I heard from Ram. …….I haven't talked to them directly in a long time.", Roswaal replied regretfully.

 

"......Is that so? So, they're all happy. ……How did you remember me?"

 

"You seeeeem to forget I'm a Witch's apprentice.", Roswaal answered proudly, making Subaru hold his breath. 

 

"......I realised one day, I no longer had my Tome of Wisdom, aaaaand was bound by a contract to protect the Camp members. For me, it seemed as if my hard work of four hundred years was looooost in a single day. I desperately used all my knowledge in maaaaagic to try to understand what it was that I was forgetting. Combine that with your immunity against authorities, within a weeeeeek, I had all my memories of you restored."

 

"But then, if you remembered me, why didn't you do anything?", Subaru asked angrily.

 

"......I thought you would die before I could save you."

 

"....."

 

"I heard what happened in Priestella from Ram. …..And I heard she had gone to your prison cell.", Roswaal replied sadly.

 

"So you just gave up and locked yourself in your room?"

 

Roswaal didn't answer.

 

"......I can't believe you were the first person to remember me because of how important I am to your goals.", Subaru shuddered.

 

"But, nooooow that you're alive, it doesn't matter.", Roswaal grinned as he spread his arms. "Once we return, we can fooooocus completely on how to get your 'Name' back. Beatrice and Emilia-sama were extremely hasty. We'll also have to make sure they don't repeaaaat it in the future."

 

"...... I'm sorry but you're going to have to do it alone."

 

".......What did you just say?", Roswaal thought he had misheard Subaru.

 

"I'm not going back."

 

As soon as the words left Subaru's mouth, Roswaal started to panic.

 

"But don't you want to go back to Emilia-sama and Bea-"

 

"They are happy without me there. I don't want to go back and ruin it. I'd rather stay here where people actually want me here.", Subaru looked down as he answered sadly. 

 

"If you're worried about no one trusting you, I'll convince-"

 

"Yeah, and everyone in the mansion will immediately believe you because they trust you very much!", Subaru said sarcastically.

 

"Even if they don't trust me, as long as it's my orders, they won't-"

 

"Disobey you? Do you seriously think your maids will never try to go behind your back and try to get rid of a suspicious intruder?"

 

Was he talking about one of his loops? Had Ram or maybe even Rem, ever tried to kill him behind his back? Roswaal's guilt kept stockpiling but he continued to ignore it. He couldn't stop now. Not after he had come all this way.

 

"So, you are just going to abandon Emilia-sama and Rem, then? It is true that Emilia-sama did hurt you once, but that's all it takes for you to give up on her! What about Rem? She has done nothing to you. Was being hurt once all it took to stop loving-"

 

"JUST WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HOW MUCH IT TOOK!", Subaru screamed suddenly, shocking him. 

 

The white-haired boy was crying. It was the first time he had ever seen Subaru cry. He had seen Subaru become angry, become afraid, panic, smile and a plethora of other reactions. But he had never seen him cry. He had heard about it several times from Beatrice, but this was the first time he was actually seeing him cry. And now that he saw it, he realised it. Beatrice was right. ----Subaru was still a child. A child he had sought to break and use for his benefit.

 

"----I'm not made of stone, Roswaal.", Subaru said. 

 

"....."

 

"I waited a year for her to give me an answer! She didn't understand love, so she needed time to think. But she didn't even think twice before she called me a Witch Cultist! ……I think getting rejected once was enough for me."

 

Roswaal couldn't say anything and just listened silently as Subaru vented.

 

"And then there's Rem! You know, earlier I used to be sad about her coma. Now, somewhere in the back of my mind, I can't help but feel happy she is! I'm disgusting, aren't I? She has done nothing to me. And yet, I'm sure, if she was awake, she would definitely be the first to try to kill me. …...I don't want to feel this way about her. I really don't. But it's the truth. ……I'll be happy if she wakes up, but I just don't want to meet her."

 

".....Are you going to abandon Beatrice too? After you promised to not leave her lonely ever again.", Roswaal asked Subaru.

 

"I didn't abandon anyone! They're the ones who refused to believe me. She was the one who said even with the miasma, without the Gospel, that person can't be a Witch Cultist! ……For once, I want to believe what Carol-san and Felt have been trying to tell me. That it isn't my fault! It may not entirely be their fault, but it certainly wasn't mine!" 

 

And then, wiping his tears from his eyes, he looked at Roswaal with a determined expression.

 

"They made their choice. I made mine. I don't really have them. I know it wasn't entirely their fault. ----But I'm not going back.", the white-haired boy declared.

 

This was it. Roswaal had no other choice left.

 

"----If that is the case, I've decided as well. I will no longer be sponsoring the Candidate Emilia, in the Royal Selection."

 

The moment he said it, Subaru stared at him with complete horror.

 

"......W-Wait! ……You can't….. what about-"

 

"I've already told you before. The only reason I did it was not because of her, but because of the strongest card she holds, that is you Subaru-kun. Without you, she is guaranteed to lose the Royal Selection. I'm simply cutting off a useless asset."

 

"Don't you dare-"

 

"I have every right to do so. You defeated me in the Sanctuary and forced me to change my entire way of life. I am unable to do anything now due to the soul-binding contract I have with you. All of this was because of you. ----Even if you were to go to hell, I'll blindly follow behind you. If you have decided to abandon Emilia-sama, so have I."

 

"----", Subaru grit his teeth, unable to say anything.

 

"She can continue to stay in the mansion how she has been till now. However, I will no longer support her in the Royal Selection. ……Of course, you can still save her. All you need to do is come back.", Roswaal grinned widely. With this, Subaru would definitely come back.

 

But instead, he took a deep breath and glared at Roswaal.

 

"......I'm not going back. And you're going to continue supporting Emilia."

 

Roswaal felt himself growing more agitated as Subaru spoke.

 

"That's not going to happen. You can't have everything you want. That's too greedy."

 

"Heh! The man who wants to revive the Witch of Greed, is lecturing me about being too greedy. No wonder you're failing at it so badly."

 

"You should stop talking about things you don't understand!"

 

It seemed that Subaru had managed to get on Roswaal's nerves as he accidentally released a wave of Goa towards Subaru. By the time he realised it, to his horror, it was too late to stop it. Subaru was going to die because of him. 

 

But then, just before the fire could burn him to ashes----,

 

----A red dot materialized in front of Subaru and absorbed all the fire.

 

"A spirit?", Roswaal blurted in confusion.

 

"Not a waste of my Spirit affinity anymore, is she, Ezzo?", Subaru smirked as he mumbled to himself.

 

Then, the minor spirit hovering energetically in the air came back to rest on Subaru's arm and dematerialized. 

 

"Meet Antares. Or An as Felt calls her. She's my new spirit." 

 

"......what is….. going on?", a hoarse voice called out from behind.

 

"It's nothing, Grimm-san. I was just showing off my An in front of Roswaal.", Subaru smiled smugly.

 

Subaru had contracted another spirit. He had truly moved on. He really was not going to come back, no matter what Roswaal did. As soon as the realisation hit him, he felt the life drain from his soul. He had lost his strongest card. 

 

'Betty will be really sad once she remembers him again.'

 

"Grimm-san, please continue your work. I'm really sorry for disturbing you."

 

Grimm seemed unconvinced but Subaru managed to push him away. 

 

And then, turning towards Roswaal, he smiled sadly.

 

"It's not my fault. I wasn't the one who did anything wrong. I knew that before…… but I couldn't quite convince myself of it entirely…… That is until I talked to you. Thanks for that."

 

"....."

 

"Even after they knew how weak I was, do you know just how hard I had to work for Rem, Ram and Garfiel to not ki-", Subaru suddenly stopped and clutched his chest as he breathed heavily. What had just happened? A contract? He didn't know. He didn't care. 

 

Subaru shook his head and continued to speak. 

 

"No one trusted me. Not even Beatrice and Emilia. …….But the entire Felt Camp knew me as someone the Great Spirit accused as a Sin Archbishop. And they still helped me. I understand now that no matter what happens, they won't betray me. ……Or at least I hope so.", he muttered the last part out feebly.

 

"I'm not going back. I don't really hate Emilia and the others, but they're happy on their own and they never needed me. Felt and the others do. Because of them, I got a second chance at life after being betrayed by almost everyone I loved. So, I have made my decision."

 

"......"

 

"----This is my Zero. And I'll do everything right this time. Reinhard, Felt, Priscilla, and everyone who tried to protect me despite not knowing who I am, I will not disappoint any of them."

 

Roswaal remained unresponsive as it felt like his dreams were shattered. Both of his guides, The Tome of Wisdom and Subaru, were gone. What was he supposed to do now?

 

"Roswaal, your hand! That's a bite mark! What happened?", Subaru suddenly asked in concern. Roswaal laughed weakly. He was noticing it only now? 

 

"......Come with me.", Roswaal gestured as he trudged to where Patrasche was waiting.

 

As Subaru followed behind him in confusion, he soon spotted her.

 

".....Is that-"

 

The white-haired boy excitedly ran over to his ground dragon. Even though Patrasche had no idea who Subaru was, she still allowed him to pat her and hug her as she returned his affections. As he watched them, he wondered if Subaru would agree to come back once his 'Name' was restored properly. Once Emilia, Beatrice and the others remember him and beg him to come back, would he listen then?

 

"Rozchi, thank you! Thank you so much! Patrasche, I'm so happy to see you again.", Subaru laughed as Patrasche licked his cheeks. 

 

He looked so happy. Should Roswaal really destroy this happiness by forcing him back? But then Roswaal had destroyed the lives of a lot of people. What made Subaru any more special than them?

 

"Roswaal, you know, you didn't let me complete what I was saying before.", Subaru said suddenly, drawing Roswaal's attention.

 

"I'm not going back. And you're going to continue sponsoring Emilia."

 

"....."

 

"But you're pretty dumb, you know. Just because we're in different Camps doesn't mean I can't help you if you need it. I'd love to have another Tea Party with that wicked witch.", Subaru smirked.

 

Roswaal's eyes widened. Subaru still wanted to help him? He had obviously thought of what Subaru had proposed. But he dismissed it because it would be harder to keep an eye on Subaru. But if Subaru was volunteering to help…..

 

"Now, let's go find Ezzo and get your hand fixed. I'll go talk to Reinhard in the meantime.", he said as they walked back into the mansion.

 

**************************************

**************************************

 

"Reinhard, let's have a talk!", Subaru cheerfully burst into Louanna's room, surprising both Reinhard and Felt, as the two jumped up from their seats.

 

"What's with both of your faces? You were supposed to cheer him up, not join him, Felt!", Subaru reprimanded her, placing his hands on hips and giving a sigh.

 

"Cheering me up-", Reinhard was about to ask but was interrupted.

 

"Huh! You're the one who looks out of place here!" But Felt lips immediately curved downwards on seeing Subaru's complexion. "……But you look a lot better than you did the entire past week. I guess you're really going back."

 

"Of course not! What gave you that idea? After my cute little sister was begging 'Don't take my big bro away!', how could I even think about- ow!", Subaru said as he vigorously patted Felt's head, messing up her hair, but then cried out in pain.

 

"I-I never said anything like that! Stop that!", Felt blushed as she pouted and stepped on his feet. 

 

Even though he was sad, at that moment, watching his liege and his best friend bickering made Reinhard immediately break into a smile. He was sure if his mother was awake right now she would be smiling too. The only thing that would make this better if he knew his father was alive. 

 

Reinhard found himself mourning again when suddenly, he felt someone's hand brush through his hair gently. Looking up, he saw Subaru was once again patting his head. 

 

"Reinhard, we'll definitely find your father! I'm sure they're still alive. If they were really dead, the knights would not be searching for them. They must be receiving tips about their location. Besides, their …….corpses would have been found by now." Reinhard knew Subaru himself felt he was being too hopeful, but he wasn't entirely wrong. Their deaths weren't confirmed yet. They could still be alive.

 

"----And once we find them, you should really punch him!", Subaru said, surprising Reinhard.

 

"Wh-"

 

"----Big bro's right! That guy is an asshole! He neglected you, created trouble for us, and even held me hostage during the Witch Cult attack! We know you love him, but it's time for you to understand that it wasn't your fault!"

 

".....I-"

 

"Reinhard, we'll definitely help you find him. But the two of you really need to talk it out after that. I know how big of a hypocrite I am saying this, but……. instead of putting all the blame on yourselves, just tell him how you really feel." 

 

Subaru pulled a chair close to Reinhard and sat down, with his stomach hugging the backrest. He then turned to look at Louanna before he continued, ".....I understand he had his own problems, but it still doesn't excuse his actions." 

 

"It was his fault, not yours! You really need to give him a piece of your mind! If he really is a good father, he will listen to you. You might have a chance at improving your relationship with him."

 

As the two lectured him, he couldn't do anything but nod. But even if they told him that, he knew couldn't do it. Because it really was his fault. If he wasn't such a monster, his father and grandfather wouldn't have been so hurt.

 

Subaru and Felt seemed to know that Reinhard did not really get anything they said and sighed. But at least they tried. They just didn't want Reinhard to feel guilty or blame himself.

 

Reinhard felt really grateful that they really cared about him. From the very beginning, these two were the only people who saw him as Reinhard, not the Sword Saint. In fact, when he had first met Subaru, the raven-haired boy back then had completely ignored that fact. He still regretted the fact that he had let him go with Emilia back then. But now he was really glad that the white-haired boy was not leaving them. 

 

A few minutes earlier, just as he was about to leave the room hearing the sounds in the entrance, Felt had come running to him, almost in tears and hugged him tightly, explaining how Subaru may be leaving them. If Subaru was going to leave, how was he supposed to protect him? He didn't want to lose Subaru, right after he had thought he had lost his father.

 

"You're really not going to leave, are you?", he asked. He immediately regretted asking him that.

 

 "I'll stay here as long as you want me to. I won't go anywhere." Subaru didn't seem to mind Reinhard's question at all as he answered honestly while smiling.

 

".....But what about Emilia-sama? Don't you want to go back to the girl you're in love with?"

 

Both Subaru and Felt's eyes widened as he said it. 

 

"Big bro, you're in love with big sis?", Felt asked him in shock. Normally, she would have loved to tease him about it, but remembering that event made her feel even worse. 

 

----He was condemned as a Sin Archbishop by the girl he loved and his contracted spirit.

 

"Reinhard, how did you know that?", Subaru asked hopefully.

 

"......Doesn't everyone know about it? You yourself told everyone-"

 

"Yeah, I did. Before my 'Name' was eaten. But I have never once mentioned it after that. Do you remember more about me?"

 

"......I-I remember rescuing you in the back alley and the Loothouse…… and your……. declaration at the beginning of the Royal Selection……. and everything that happened in Priestella", Reinhard answered weakly.

 

"----What!!!", both of his closest friends exclaimed together.

 

"That's literally all the times we've met! What about the White Whale or any of the other events you weren't present at?"

 

"......The White Whale followed by the Sin Archbishop of Sloth, ……and the Great Rabbit a week later."

 

"Wait, so you remember everything about me!"

 

"How? Why? Since when? Why didn't you tell us before?", Felt immediately grabbed his collar and shook him back and forth as she interrogated him.

 

"......I-I received the Divine Protection of Perfect Recollection after Zacharias first arrived that day. It's when I began to remember everything. …….I didn't know I remembered everything until Subaru told me just now. ……It's why I didn't mention it."

 

Felt let go of him and began happily patting his back as she happily turned to Subaru. "Big bro, this is awesome! Rein remembers you! I'm so proud of you, Rein!"

 

However, as Subaru rested his chin on the backrest of the chair, he didn't look too happy. "Is there something else you're not telling us?"

 

"Big bro?", Felt looked at Subaru in puzzlement.

 

 ".....No.", Reinhard averted his eyes.

 

"Don't lie to me, Reinhard! You'd make a terrible Poker player!"

 

"Big bro, you're using words I don't understand again!", Felt pouted.

 

"If you don't want to tell me, that's alright. I'm not telling you tons of things either. ……But it's clearly something that's bothering you. If it becomes too much, just tell me." 

 

Reinhard debated in his mind whether he should ask about that memory he saw. Of Subaru dying. But in the end decided not to say anything. Subaru respected his decision. 

 

"Rein, if you're alright now, you think you can meet Roswaal now?"

 

"What! He's still here?", Felt exclaimed.

 

"He was injured, so Carol-san was searching for Ezzo. Besides, he still hasn't met the master of the mansion. Let's go!", Subaru said, as he got up from the chair and pushed it aside. 

 

The master and her knight followed behind him as they closed the room of the Sleeping Beauty. Reinhard hoped that the next time he entered this room, he would have better news about her husband.

 

**************************************

**************************************

 

"Will you two let go of my hands already!? I told you I'm not going anywhere!", Subaru's face was completely flushed as the princess and her knight sat on either side of him holding on to him, with the princess glaring at Roswaal.

 

"Myyyyyy, Subaru-kun seems to be so loved. Please don't worry, Felt-sama. I am nooooot taking him ba-", Roswaal stopped as Ezzo released his completely healed hand. "I seeeee that you have finished healing my hand. Thank you, Ezzo-kun."

 

"Heh! No matter how much you try, you can't beat me at healing magic.", Ezzo taunted Roswaal pettily, while Zacharias just looked at him in pity. The margrave however, did not seem to care very much about it.

 

"See, he said it as well! If he tries anything funny now, Rein can just beat him up! So please let go! Being held like a child is really embarrassing!" And with that, Felt and Reinhard reluctantly let go of his hands, but continued to be wary of Roswaal.

 

"I thought you were here to take big bro back. What made you decide to change your mind?", Felt asked suspiciously.

 

"......It's whaaaaat Subaru-kun wanted. But I'll be viiiiiiisiting him, of course, from time to time.", Roswaal replied. He seemed to look a lot better than he did about twenty minutes ago, when Subaru had left him to talk with Reinhard.

 

Subaru honestly did not know what to think about him. That man was prepared to sacrifice anything, if it meant fulfilling his goals. However, like Ram, Subaru also believed that beneath that cruel exterior was a man capable of redemption. Or at least he wanted to believe so. 

 

Most of the people he had come across had hurt him, but they weren't cold and heartless like he had originally assumed. He had even fallen in love with the girl who once murdered him. Even Priscilla, without any memory of him, had tried to protect him, because he was innocent.

 

He had heard that Roswaal had once sacrificed his own life to save Carol's. And today, if he was here to force Subaru back like he said……. Then why had he brought Patrasche here, even though he could have simply flown here on his own? Subaru realised there was no harm in helping Roswaal, as long as it didn't endanger anyone else.

 

"Soooooo, Subaru-kun. What do you plan on doing now?"

 

"Search for the Priscilla Camp obviously!", he answered, making everyone shift uncomfortably in their seats.

 

"Subaru, I know I'm the last person to be saying this…… but as Zacharias had informed us……"

 

"......They might really be dead.", Zacharias completed Reinhard's sentence. "Is it really alright to be delaying this for too long? You are accused of being a Sin Archbishop."

 

"......I….", Subaru hesitated.

 

"Subaru-sama, there are just three people that remember you, and it's because of rather extraordinary circumstances. Surely, you can't be satisfied with just that much. I doubt everyone will remember you so easily on their own."

 

"I have a proposal.", Roswaal interjected. "I will help seeeaaarch for the Priscilla Camp and Subaru-kun can focus on his 'Name'.", he announced. 

 

Listening to Roswaal's proposal, the others seemed to believe that it was the best course of action. The Margrave had a lot more connections than them and he wasn't being suspected by the Kingdom for harbouring a Sin Archbishop. He was better suited for the task. However, reversing the effect of Authorities was something they believed only Subaru could do.

 

"I agree with it as well. Besides, knowing that bastard, he might just barge into the house all drunk unannounced like he always does.", Felt joked.

 

"I…..", Subaru was still unsure but Reinhard reassured him.

 

"You had something in mind, didn't you? What did you want to do, Subaru?"

 

Subaru looked down for a bit, unable to meet his eyes, before finally announcing, "......I want to go to ……the 'Pleiades Watchtower'."

 

Everyone in the room was shocked by his suggestion. Subaru felt extremely guilty, suggesting it to Reinhard, who had already failed to reach it two times. But to his surprise----,

 

"Very well, then. We shall go to the Watchtower and meet the Sage. ……If it's you, I'm sure we'll reach it somehow. I trust you."

 

Although it should have made him happy, having the Sword Saint rely on him, weighed heavily on him.

 

"Thank you, Rein-"

 

"The hell is happening here? I just returned, expecting to see the servants welcoming me back. Instead, you're all gathered here neglecting your duties! I'll fire all of you!", a drunk voice suddenly cut through the parlour, startling them and making them all turn towards the door in shock.

 

The man was none other than Heinkel Astrea, the one they were trying to search for so desperately.

 

'He really did barge into the house all drunk unannounced!' , everyone, even Roswaal, exclaimed internally.

 

"Huh! What's your problem? You look like you've seen a hollow.", Heinkel said as he swung the bottle of alcohol in his hand. "You-"

 

However, before he could say anything else, he was suddenly tackled to the ground, barely balancing himself. 

 

Reinhard had ran over to him and hugged him tightly as Heinkel froze in shock. His bottle slipped from his hand and shattered to pieces on the ground. He seemed to have sobered up quickly as he stood wide-eyed wondering what the fuck was going on.

 

Seeing Heinkel's expression gave Subaru a strange sense of satisfaction, even with his dissatisfaction at this turn of events. 

 

And then----,

 

"Rejoice, commoners! Your favourite Princess has arrived to make your miserable lives wonderful again!", a voice boldly declared.

 

It was the missing Sun Princess, standing at the entrance with one hand removing the hood from her face and the other, pointing her open fan in their direction, with a bright and mischievous smile adorning her beautiful face.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

Before The Journey

 

"Rejoice, commoners! Your favourite Princess has arrived to make your miserable lives wonderful again!" the presumed missing Sun Princess brazenly declared.

 

All of them, with the exception of Reinhard, stared at her gobsmacked. 

 

Subaru finally broke the silence. "Priscilla, where were you? We were just about to go search for you!" 

 

"We-"

 

"Princess, I'm sorry for interrupting you, but right now, we need to treat Schult." her one-armed knight suddenly came up behind her, said pink-haired boy under his arm.

 

Carol immediately got up, beckoning the sick child into the mansion while calling for Ezzo.

 

"What happened to him?" Felt asked, concern clear on her face.

 

"We almost drowned, y’know, barely made it out alive. He’s had a fever ever since then." Al answered, handing Schult to Carol as she left the room with Ezzo.

 

Heinkel, meanwhile, had finally begun to recover from his son’s sudden hug, shoving him away. "I get it! That's enough!" 

 

Although disappointed at his rejection, Reinhard was nonetheless overjoyed that his father was safe and sound. 

 

"Don't you dare interrupt me again, Al, if you wish to keep your head attached to your body!" Priscilla threatened. 

 

"He was just trying to make sure your sick butler got treatment, you're the one unreasonable here!" Felt interjected, causing the arrogant matriarch to glare at her.

 

"Well, it's alright." Al half-joked. "The Princess’ been pretty kind as of late. Before, she would’ve beheaded me by now." he shuddered lightly as he spoke.

 

"I'm always kind, fools! You imbeciles are the ones unable to recognise my benevolence!" she stomped her foot angrily.

 

"As if that's true!" Felt retorted.

 

"I used to believe that too, but I guess she's not that heartless considering how she tried to save me in Priestella." Subaru smiled, making all of them, including Priscilla herself, look at him in surprise.

 

Soon a wicked smile came over her face as she went up to him and sat herself down beside him.

 

"See! Even this commoner knows it!" she said proudly while pointing at him with her closed fan. 

 

"....Big bro, you're going to regret trying to defend her, you know!"

 

"As much as I want to deny it, I'm pretty sure I will." Subaru sighed.

 

"So, bro, you're really not a Sin Archbishop?" Al questioned, curiosity in his voice.

 

Subaru opened his mouth to respond, only for Priscilla to interrupt him. 

 

"Of course not! I said so before, haven't I? Or do you doubt my judgement, Al?" Priscilla haughtily snapped, glaring angrily at her knight.

 

"....Princess, honestly I'm surprised you'd actually defend someone this much." Al said, confusion prevalent.

 

"I'm kind of suuuurprised as well, Priscilla-sama. But then again, it iiiiiiis our Subaru-kun. If I'm not wrong, has he perhaps helped you in sooooome manner?" Roswaal asked. Priscilla’s momentary silence seemed to answer his question for her.

 

"Clown, you don't sound like you're talking about a stranger. Do you remember who he is?" Priscilla questioned back.

 

"Of course, I dooooo, Priscilla-sama. He's a knight under myyyyy domain."

 

"He was a knight under your domain. Now he's one of my knights!" Felt corrected him. Subaru looked surprised while Roswaal grit his teeth and Reinhard smirked. 

 

"Felt, I'm not your-"

 

"You are now! As soon as you get your 'Name' back, I'm making you my second knight!" Felt smiled, 

 

"I-I…." Subaru looked completely speechless at her declaration while Priscilla just clicked her tongue.

 

"Subaru-senpai, you're going to become a knight again!" Zacharias said excitedly.

 

"I'm happy for you, bro! If you've really helped Princess, I'm seriously grateful!" Al said cheerfully, scratching the back of his neck, "But now that I think about it, when did he help you? The last time we’d met he’d already lost his 'Name'."

 

This made them all curious as they began to stare at her questioningly.

 

"Is thaaaaaat true, Priscilla-sama?" Roswaal stood up as if realising something, anger building up inside the Margrave. "From the stooooory I had heard, you were supposed to be guarding the Sin Archbishop of Wrath, but appaaaarently, Gluttony had helped her escape, and then Gluttony went on to eat Subaru-kun's 'Name'. Where were you when that happened? How exactly did Subaru-kun help you?"

 

At this point, most of the others had figured out what Roswaal was trying to imply. Subaru had most likely lost his 'Name' because of Priscilla's mistake. 

 

As the enraged Roswaal inched closer to the Sun Princess, Al and Heinkel blocked his path. 

 

"Even if such a thing did happen, I don't see how it's the Princess's fault. It's no one's fault but the Witch Cult's." Al said rather seriously.

 

"Then, how did Subaru-kun lose his-"

 

"....Nothing like that happened, Roswaal, you're jumping to conclusions. I’ve never helped Priscilla before—isn't that right, Reinhard?" Subaru deflected, staring at the red-haired knight, causing a torrent of emotions to flash through Reinhard's eyes. Priscilla herself seemed surprised by it. 

 

Finally, Reinhard answered, "....It's the truth, Roswaal-sama. Priscilla-sama had nothing to do with Subaru losing his 'Name.'" 

 

Felt could tell very well that Reinhard was lying, and she knew she was incredibly biased towards Subaru, but she couldn't help but blame Priscilla. Her arrogance had probably cost her, and Subaru was the one to face the consequences in her place by going through two months of torture at the hands of his own allies.

 

Subaru was extremely kind, he would definitely protect people like Priscilla and even forgive the ones who’d wronged him. But the same could not be said for Priscilla. With this revelation, it had finally become clear why someone like her had tried to protect Subaru.

 

Despite wanting to call her out, Felt kept her silence as she observed Priscilla stay uncharacteristically quiet. For the first time in her life, the arrogant princess looked conflicted, as she quickly unfurled her fan and hid her face behind it.

 

As soon as Subaru had managed to finally calm everyone down, they sat back at their seats while Reinhard stood beside Felt. 

 

"So, you were planning on going to the Watchtower?" Heinkel asked, finally breaking his silence to bring the conversation back on track.

 

"....Before we tell you about it, Priscilla-sama, this is something-"

 

Al responded first. "You don't have to worry about us exposing you—we're in an unfortunate situation ourselves. For now we'll be in your care!" 

 

All of them stayed quite unsure of what to say until Subaru finally broke the silence.

 

"....I guess it's fine then, isn't it?" He said as he looked at Felt and Reinhard. While Reinhard seemed to accept it, Felt seemed reluctant, though she stayed silent.

 

With seemingly no objections, Subaru continued. "We were thinking about ways to restore my 'Name,' and honestly, I can only think of the Watchtower. I tried to search for the Gluttonies for a year, but I couldn't find anything until they attacked in Priestella. So, this watchtower seems to be our best bet."

 

He mumbled. "Although going to a tower named 'Pleiades,' is setting up a lot of red flags in my head."

 

Felt didn't understand. What was wrong with the name of the Watchtower?

 

".....Oh, because your name is Subaru!" Al exclaimed, but then paused as if realising something. "Wait a minute, are you?-"

 

"Oh right, I lost my 'Name', so you don't remember it."

 

"What are you commoners going on about?"

 

"It's nothing, just that we have the same hometown." Subaru answered nonchalantly, making everyone widen their eyes in surprise. 

 

“Subaru’s hometown?!!” Reinhard thought, alarmed. 

 

"So, Rein, you know how to get to the Watchtower?" Subaru quickly diverted the topic. The Sword Saint wanted to ask more about his hometown but reluctantly decided to let it go; both Subaru and Al seemed like they did not want to talk about it. Maybe he'll ask once everything is fixed. 

 

"It wasn't as evident when I was flying there, but during the trip through the desert, it felt as if all of my divine protections were malfunctioning…If I am being honest, if we are travelling on the ground, I am unsure if I'll be able to direct you to the tower." Reinhard said regretfully.

 

"It's alright, Rein. We'll find a way." Felt tried to reassure him.

 

"....There's one more problem." Subaru added, looking dejected. "Remember the Witch's Scent around me that made Beatrice think I was a Sin Archbishop? It also makes me prime Mabeast bait, and from what I've heard that place is crawling with them." 

 

"Oh, I know about that! It's what you used to defeat the White Whale, didn't you Subaru-senpai?"

 

"I've heard about it from Julius and Ferris as well." Reinhard also confirmed.

 

Heinkel, on the other hand, looked astonished. "Wait a minute, kid! You defeated the White Whale?"

 

Subaru grimaced, "Yeah, but it wasn't just-"

 

"You have to tell me about it later, how you slew the monster that killed mo- Theresia van Astrea!" Heinkel demanded, his expression desperate.

 

Felt realised how easy it was to forget that the previous Sword Saint was his mother; of course he would want to know how that monster died. But now was not the time.

 

"We also have to decide who's going to the Watchtower." Felt pointed out, returning them back to the topic at hand.

 

"About the first problem, I remember Anastasia-sama had a map made which led to the tower. When I asked her about it, she said it was the one thing she couldn’t, under any circumstance, forget. Maybe we could…." Reinhard trailed off, but Felt clearly understood what he was implying, her mouth contorting into a mischievous smile. 

 

"I'm on it! Leave it to me!" Felt declared.

 

"Tsch, once a thief, always a thief!" Priscilla sneered, causing the former thief to glare at her angrily. 

 

"About that second problem; I'll be there to protect Subaru, and I'll make sure to train him as much as I can, to ensure that he can defend himself…it’s all I can do." Reinhard mumbled.

 

"That's not the problem here. No matter where we go, the Mabeasts will keep chasing us down as long as I'm with you.” the mean-eyed boy turned thoughtful. “Maybe we can ask Meili-"

 

"Rejected, Subaru-kun. She does nooooot know who you are. She is moooore likely to kill you than protect you."

 

Felt did not understand what they were talking about, but from their words, it seemed as if what Subaru had suggested was a bad idea.

 

"...Then, what do we do?"

 

"----If it is a proooooblem, in addition to the Sword Saint, I'm willing to accompany you to defend the caaaaarriage on the way to the Watchtower." Roswaal grinned like a madman at his proposition. 

 

The moment he said it, Felt instinctively knew it was a bad idea to let him come with them. 

 

"Yeah, about that, let's decide on who's going to the Watchtower later. First, let's solve the other two problems first." she said, wanting to avoid discussing the matter.

 

While she hated Reinhard forgiving his father so easily, she hated Subaru for agreeing to Roswaal's conditions even more. It was obvious from Subaru's words that he had once suffered due to that clown. And yet, he didn't seem to be particularly angry at him. 

 

And so, since Subaru wouldn't kick him out, she quickly wrapped up the meeting to drive him away. 

 

Unfortunately for her—-, 

 

"Commoners, we have decided! We will stay here until the Watchtower's capture." Priscilla declared as she walked out onto the parlour, as if it was her own mansion.

 

Felt cursed her luck for having to be stuck with that arrogant princess.

 

“It can’t get any worse than this…”

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

"OW!" Felt cried out as the fan once more struck her head.

 

"I have been lenient so far, but even I have my limits! You are greatly testing my patience and it is getting harder to ignore your mistakes. This sentence alone has ten!" Priscilla chided her.

 

"If this is you being lenient, I don't even want to think about you being strict!" Felt hopelessly stared at her merciless teacher, only to be completely ignored as all of her mistakes were pointed out to her.

 

"Why are you here? Where's Rein and Granny?" Felt whined.

 

"I overheard earlier about how you seem to be showing reduced interest in your studies with each passing day. Naturally, being the benevolent person I am, I volunteered to teach you." A smug grin found itself onto Priscilla, as she brought the fan she was holding up beside her face.

 

"I don't need your benevolence! Give it to someone else and stop annoying me! Because of you, I'm going to miss watching Big bro train!"

 

Priscilla sighed in disappointment. "How ungrateful! But I suppose that was to be expected from a lowly gutter rat." 

 

Felt's eye twitched as she glared at Priscilla. She had been tolerating Priscilla’s abuse so far, but being called a gutter rat rubbed her the wrong way. 

 

"TAKE THAT BACK!" she shouted. 

 

Priscilla was mildly surprised by her outburst, but she didn't say anything. Her expression hidden behind her fan, she quietly waited to listen to what Felt had to say.

 

"Don't you dare compare me with those losers! Those bums, who don’t even bother to try getting out of the poor district or better themselves, I hate them! I’ll never be like them!"

 

"----In that case, prove it to me."

 

Felt paused, looking up in surprise.

 

"Prove to me that you are not a gutter rat from the slums."

 

"----??"

 

"Despite plebeian stature, your Dragon has recognised you as a Candidate to be King. You have been given the opportunity to better yourself, and yet you continue to slack off when it comes to the duties you are supposed to perform."

 

Did Priscilla really think Felt didn't know that? Felt did not deny the fact that what Priscilla said was true, but she still disliked the fact that she had to run for King to achieve her goals. She would have been satisfied with a normal opportunity. 

 

However, now that Priscilla was forcing her to study, Felt regretted all the times she had tried to escape while Reinhard was still here. She would rather have had him as a teacher instead of this hag!

 

"Prove to me that you're not a gutter rat, but indeed a King Candidate worthy of standing against mineself. If you are able to do so, I'll take my words back and I'll even apologise."

 

Priscilla of all people would apologise to her? Felt thought she was joking at first, but then realised she was completely serious. 

 

Felt hated studying a lot . She didn't get how she could even apply a majority of the things she was forced to learn in her daily life. She would have much rather liked to watch Subaru, Ezzo and the others train and learn from them instead. But if it meant proving the arrogant woman beside her wrong, she'd gladly do it.

 

And so, her rigorous study session began as Priscilla ruthlessly drove her on, continuing to abuse her with every mistake. However, now that she was actually concentrating on her studies, she noticed that she was gradually making fewer mistakes, a fact emphasised by her hated teacher’s decreasing strikes. 

 

After she was done for the day, Priscilla took the book she was studying. Opening a page, she asked, "Which battle marked the first major victory for the Demihuman Alliance during the Demihuman War? Taking your lack of intelligence and poor memory into consideration, I'll give you a minute to answer. Prepare yourself for punishment if you fail."

 

'Oh that's easy!' Felt smirked as she quickly scribbled down, 'The Battle of Aihiya Swamp' , confident that it was correct. Rom had told her about the battle several times, so this was one answer she knew without even having to study.

 

Her confidence dissipated as Priscilla hit her head with her fan once again.

 

"Hey! What was that for? I was right!" Was this girl so petty, she wouldn't acknowledge Felt just because she didn't want to apologise? She puffed her cheeks in anger as she glared at the red-blonde princess. 

 

"Your handwriting is absolutely deplorable! I can't even read what you've written, fool!"

 

Felt took a look at her notes, and cringed at how illegible it looked. She begrudgingly wrote down the answer again in a clearer manner while grumbling under her breath.

 

"Look! I've written it correctly." she said smugly. "Go ahead! Apologise to me!"

 

There was no response. 

 

"Stop ignoring me, dammit! Apolo-", she shouted in annoyance and turned around to face Priscilla, only to realise she wasn't even looking her way. Rather, she was instead peeking out the window.

 

Curious to see what had piqued Priscilla's interest, she took a peek as well. 

 

Down in the garden, Reinhard and Subaru were training, with the latter struggling to defend himself while the former kept pounding him relentlessly with attack after attack.

 

"Oh good, they're not done! I can still go see them!" Felt exclaimed gleefully. 

 

"You wish to see that pathetic display of him being pounded by the Sword Saint? How barbaric!"

 

"Don't call it pathetic! Big bro's trying his hardest! And you're being a big hypocrite! Unlike you I don't like watching helpless people getting beaten up!"

 

"Do not cast your foolish delusions upon me. There have been only very few incidents that have managed to entertain me." she snapped, closing her fan before looking back out the window. "I do not deny that hard work deserves to be rewarded. However, claiming to work hard when you're unable to get results is a pointless endeavour."

 

"But he is getting results. Rein isn't going easy on him, and although he's struggling, big bro's managing to block and dodge his attacks, isn't he?" she answered proudly for her big bro.

 

"And what exactly is so impressive about that?"

 

"It's only his fourth day of training." she answered smugly as she saw Priscilla's eyes widen and her lips parted in surprise.

 

"He's never trained with a sword before?"

 

"No. Besides some basic training, he's never used a sword in his life."

 

Priscilla glanced at their training once again. "In that case, I suppose I owe him an apology."

 

Felt was momentarily surprised by hearing those words come out from Priscilla's mouth. Shaking off the shock, Felt shoved the answer paper in her hands into the matriarch’s face.

 

"And what about me! Apologise now!" she demanded.

 

Priscilla took the paper from her hand and read the answer. "You have indeed answered correctly. It was to be expected when the person teaching you was mineself. I will surely apologise.” she smiled devilishly. “ If you are able to perform equally well tomorrow."

 

"....Tomorrow!?"

 

"Obviously! It is insufficient to judge based on the results of a single day. In addition, teaching you has been extremely beneficial in staving off my boredom." Priscilla smirked, making Felt grit her teeth in anger.

 

"Why you…."

 

"Do you not wish to watch them train anymore? If you're late, they might finish for today." The Vollachian candidate walked out of the room, ignoring the angry blonde princess.

 

Stomping her feet, Felt exited the room behind Priscilla, while complaining the entire way. 

 

All of a sudden, Priscilla abruptly turned down a completely different direction. 

 

"Hey! Where're you going? The garden's this way!" Felt exclaimed in confusion.

 

"If you wish, you can go on ahead—I have something I must attend to." Priscilla promptly replied before leaving. 

 

Felt glanced back and forth between Priscilla and the way to the garden, curiosity pulling against her desire to see Rein and Big bro fighting. In the end, her curiosity won and she decided to follow the arrogant princess.

 

It didn't take her long to find out where they were headed. Soon, Priscilla knocked on a door further down the hall, the door opening to reveal Carol behind it.

 

“Ah, Priscilla-sama—please, come in.” The older lady warmly smiled. 

 

As they entered, Felt saw Priscilla's little pink-haired butler sitting up on the bed while Carol was feeding him.

 

"Priscilla-sama!" Schult exclaimed cheerfully upon seeing her.

 

"Are you doing well, Schult?" Priscilla asked, her tone gentle, something Felt had never expected to hear from the normally boisterous woman.

 

"Yes!" he said joyfully, before his expression saddened. "I'm sorry for troubling you so much. But I'll get well soon and work twice as hard!" Schult declared as he adorably pumped his fists in the air.

 

Priscilla laughed as she went to sit down beside him.

 

"In that case, make sure to rest properly and get well soon: that is your job as a child. You simply need to be cute and be spoiled by everyone. You have no other work that needs to be done." she said as she wrapped her arms around him and patted his head.

 

Schult leaned into head pat, reminding Felt awfully of a small puppy. "Yes, Priscilla-sama." 

 

"If you need anything, simply tell Al. If that fool dissatisfies you in any way, tell me—I'll punish him accordingly."

 

"Al-sama is a very nice person, though, I'm sure he'll take good care of me."

 

Priscilla ignored his defending of Al, and stood up from the bed. "I see you're having lunch. If there is nothing else, I'll take my leave." Then turning to Carol, she said, "If you need anything regarding him, please inform any member of my Camp. Make sure he gets the best treatment possible."

 

"As you wish, Priscilla-sama." Carol bowed as she, before moving to once again continue feeding Schult.

 

Priscilla walked out the room and began heading to the garden as Felt just speechlessly stared after her. 

 

To say she was surprised was an understatement. She had never thought that Priscilla was the kind of person who could care about someone other than herself. 

 

Even when trying to protect Subaru back in Priestella, she had assumed Priscilla was trying to absolve her own mistake in doing so. But here, what she saw had made her rethink her evaluation of the sun princess.

 

"Hey, wait up!" she shouted as she ran after Priscilla. 

 

"You dare make me wait, commoner! Your dawdling will make us miss their training!" she scowled as she tapped her heels in impatience.

 

And in a matter of seconds, she had once again ruined Felt's impression of her.

 

"Don't make this my fault!" the smaller princess yelled, stomping down towards the garden.

 

As they began walking together again, Priscilla spoke once again, "I'm surprised the Sword Saint can spend so much time this way instead of working towards the Royal Selection."

 

"I have no need for him right now, so he's free anyways. If he wasn't training big bro, I'd have made him do some gardening instead."

 

Priscilla gazed at Felt at that, her expression incredulous. "Gardening?" 

 

"He really likes flowers and he’s great at gardening. I can't think of a better job for him. Even Granny says that Sword Saints make excellent gardeners."

 

"....Your logic is as nonsensical as you are." Priscilla sighed. "It seems we're here." 

 

The two arrived out onto the mansion’s gardenscape. There was no one there except for Subaru and Reinhard training and neither seemed to have noticed the two princesses enter the garden.

 

As the two sat down on the grass, Priscilla suddenly asked her another question.

 

"He was supposed to be the half-witch's knight, wasn't he?" she said, pointing her finger at Subaru. "And yet, it seems like he doesn't even know how to fight."

 

Felt frowned as she heard Priscilla's question. 

 

"Actually, it bothers me too. I'm grateful to Big Sis for the Loothouse and everything but, it pissed me off that no one bothered to actually train him properly. The only thing he knows is how to use a whip and do some parkour."

 

Priscilla herself grimaced as she heard her answer.

 

"I don't want him to become a powerhouse capable of destroying the world or anything—his strengths lie elsewhere. I just want him to be able to protect himself, in case he gets in trouble and we're not with him. That's why I agreed to let Rein train him, even though he should be resting."

 

—-But apparently, the Emilia Camp had never thought about such a possibility.

 

It wasn't a bad thing to want to protect him themselves, but considering his reckless personality, did they seriously never consider the possibility of him running off alone somewhere he could possibly die? Were they seriously that naive to think that they'll always be there to help him? Even if he can't fight too well, he should’ve been capable of at least defending himself long enough for help to arrive.

 

Because of his situation, Subaru had over relied on magic he barely understood, which just ended up with him breaking his Gate. And to make matters worse, as part of his agreement with the great spirit which stated he could not contract with any minor spirits, he couldn’t use magic at all by himself, making him effectively useless in a fight without Beatrice.

 

In a lot of ways, the world had conspired to keep him weak. It must have discouraged him immensely, enough for him to choose to use a whip instead of a sword when finally given the choice. 

 

The Emilia Camp was supposed to take care of him and make him stronger, but had failed to do so. Felt did not know what horrors Subaru had faced, but she could not deny the fact that they were partly responsible for his low self-esteem and his disgusting habit of self-harm, that Reinhard and Ezzo had informed her about. 

 

"Honestly, I don't think he's weak or talentless like everyone else seemed to call him. I mean, just by contracting a single minor spirit that's not even the same attribute as him, and with Reinhard teaching him how to reinforce his body with mana, he's improving."

 

"I suppose he's…adequate." Priscilla mumbled, before harrumphing condescendingly. "If only you took from your two hardworking knights as examples, then perhaps you’d be less of a gutter rut."   

 

"Ugh! I hate you! I try to be proud about something, and then you just have to go and open your big mouth!"

 

"Hmph!" Priscilla furled out her fan and turned away.

 

"Felt, Priscilla, what are you doing here?" Subaru suddenly called out, having finally noticed them after finishing for the day.

 

"I was watching you train. You're doing an amazing job, big bro!" Felt cheered, pumping a fist into the air.

 

"Doesn't feel like it though. I feel like I'm getting pounded like mochi everyday." he replied in a depressed tone. 

 

"That's not true, Subaru. You're doing an extremely good job defending yourself. I'm sure you'll only improve in the future." Reinhard interjected as he began walking towards them.

 

As soon as she saw Reinhard, Felt ran over and tackled him, hugging him tightly. "Rein!! I won't complain anymore! Please come back to teaching me!"

 

"Felt-sama? What's wrong?" Reinhard asked, confused by his Lady's sudden display of affection. "Wait, why is your forehead so raw?"

 

"It's all that bitch's fault!" she growled, pointing at Priscilla.

 

Her sudden exclamation startled both Subaru and Priscilla, who were conversing with one another, as they turned to look at her.

 

Sparks flew between the two princesses as they glared at each other.

 

"How rude! Even though I rewarded you for your hard work!"

 

"What reward?!! All you did was smack me the entire time I was studying!"

 

"I allowed you to see his training because you wanted to, didn't I?"

 

"I would’ve gone to watch anyway, if you weren't here!"

 

Their argument grew increasingly heated, until.. 

 

"I hate you! Because of you, Big bro lost his-"

 

"Stop it both of you! You have to live together for a while, so just get along for now!" Subaru suddenly stepped in.

 

The two of them stopped and looked at him. They took a deep breath and turned away from each other. Despite how she was presenting herself, for an instant, Felt had noticed the hurt flash across Priscilla's face.

 

Very reluctantly, she began her apology, "I'm sorry about that big bro. I was here to support you, and not-!"

 

"AHHHHHHH!!" a scream suddenly reverbreated from the mansion. 

 

"Was that Ezzo?" Felt asked worriedly, as they rushed in.

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

"Hahaha! That's hilarious!" Felt laughed as Ezzo told her what had happened.

 

Apparently, Al had gone out to do some shopping for Schult, but if he’d worn his helmet, everyone would’ve recognised him. So he had the brilliant idea of disguising himself by wrapping his head with some bandages and headed out. 

 

When he returned, he’d tried to greet Ezzo, but when the mage saw the silhouette of the mummified one-armed man, he had screamed in terror and fainted, alerting everyone in the mansion.

 

"It might be funny to you but it’s hurtful to me, Felt-chan." Al responded in a dramatically heartbroken tone while clutching his chest.

 

"Was that seriously the best disguise you could think of?" Subaru asked, his eyes full of pity and incredulity.

 

"At least now you understand my decision to take this fool under me. He never fails to amuse me!" Priscilla said.

 

"I can totally see why now! Hahaha!" Felt agreed.

 

"You're hurting me, Prin-” Al perked up. “Wait, did you just praise me?" 

 

"Aren't you supposed to be the second best mage in the Kingdom?" Gaston asked with a raised brow.

 

"Ahhh! Please forget that ever happened!" Ezzo cried out in embarrassment, covering his face.

 

They all continued to make fun of the two until Carol walked in and interrupted them.

 

"Oh, it seems you're all here—Heinkel-sama has just sent a letter, it seems the Astrea mansion in the Capital has been cleaned. Cromwell has also confirmed that Anastasia-sama is in the Capital." 

 

"That's great! That means we can do it tonight! If we successfully steal the map, we can leave for the tower in the next two days." Felt said, gleefully rubbing her hands together.

 

All of them were anxious yet curious about the Watchtower. Obtaining the map would be the first step to reaching the tower, but would they be successful? They didn't know, but they wouldn't find out until they tried.

 

"Rachins, Camberley, you're coming with me! Reinhard too!" Felt ordered, before her expression turned mischievous. "I would have taken Ezzo as well, but I'm not so sure now after today." 

 

"Nooo! Please stop it!" Ezzo begged as they laughed.

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

"Julius, there's a new restaurant in town, and Mimi's been pesterin' me to go there since forever. Let's go together!" Anastasia grabbed Julius's hand and tried to force him up. 

 

But Julius brushed her off, and continued on with his paperwork.

 

"I am happy you thought of bringing me along, but I must refuse. I still have a lot of work to complete—please go on ahead without me, perhaps I will join you next time."

 

Anastasia pouted and pulled him by his hand once again. 

 

"Ya can always work later. Let's go!"

 

But Julius once again managed to release himself and resumed his work.

 

"I am extremely sorry, Anastasia-sama." he spoke in a sombre tone.

 

Anastasia was extremely worried about her knight. He'd been this way ever since they had returned from Flanders over a week ago.

 

They had gone there to search for the escaped Sin Archbishop in the Sword Saint's home, but had returned empty handed. There was no Cultist there and Julius had returned in a catatonic state. 

 

He had recovered by the next day, but ever since then he'd busied himself with training or work, not bothering to take even a single break. 

 

Echidna was already in bad condition after realising she was starting to forget details “she must not forget,” whatever that meant. Now, even Julius was making her worried.

 

"I swear, if that cat-eared knight of Crusch has done somethin', I'll make sure to give him a piece of my mind!"

 

"Why, Anastasia-sama? Ferris hasn't done anything wrong." Julius asked in puzzlement. 

 

"Why? Don't you remember how he had berated ya that day? If the Sin Archbishop wasn't at the Sword Saint's mansion, it wasn’t your fault!"

 

"I do not really mind it; Ferris only said it because he was worried about Crusch-sama." Julius answered, without looking up from the paperwork.

 

"Then what’s the problem?” Anastasia pleaded. “Julius, you're my knight. I want to help ya, but I can't do anything if ya don't tell me what’s wrong!"

 

Julius felt ashamed at having troubled his Lady this much, causing her to worry so much over him. He hesitated answering her question, but one glance at her concerned expression made him give in.

 

"It's not the Sin Archbishop escaping that is plaguing my mind."

 

"Then what is it?"

 

"Anastasia-sama, that person… he was a Sin Archbishop, wasn't he?" he asked, begging for reassurance to alleviate his doubt.

 

Anastasia looked gobsmacked. Of all the things she had expected him to say, that was certainly not it.

 

"Of course, he is! Beatrice-chan confirmed it, didn't she?"

 

"That's exactly it, Anastasia-sama. We have only the words of the Great Spirit to accuse him. There was no other evidence condemning him.…was I tormenting an innocent man for the last two months?"

 

Anastasia was surprised at this revelation. She now understood why Julius was working so hard—he wanted to distract himself from thinking about the consequences of such a thought, the prospect that he’d been torturing an innocent man. 

 

She did not understand why he’d begun to doubt himself, but she was sure his worries were pointless. After all----,

 

"Beatrice-chan is a Great Spirit. She’s been around for hundreds of years and is extremely knowledgeable. She wouldn't have accused someone of being a Witch Cultist without bein' sure of it, don't ya think?" she gave a light smile to cheer him up. 

 

Suddenly, she heard an irritated grunt. She quickly gazed around her surroundings in surprise, but found nothing. 

 

“Huh, must’ve been my imagination…”

 

"Ya have nothing to worry about. If ya can't believe her, then believe in me." she gave a light tap on his back, as she pulled his arm again, forcing him to get up. "Now stop working! Let's go out!" she said cheerfully as Julius began to give a weak smile.

 

"As you wish, Anastasia-sama." he said as Anastasia finally managed to get him out of the room.

 

Unbeknownst to the master and knight, a pair of crimson eyes glowed through the window of the room. The blonde thief had been lying in wait for this exact opportunity. She gave a ferocious smile as she slid the window open, as quietly as she could and climbed inside, inviting her companions in.

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

To say the atmosphere was uncomfortable was an understatement. The Vice-Captain of the Royal Guards stood around, his foot tapping the ground impatiently. It was then that a young redhead knight appeared out of practically thin air, glass in hand.   

 

"Do you need anything else, Father?" Reinhard asked happily, his sudden appearance making him flinch.

 

"Ah, no. It's fine." he answered uncomfortably, taking a sip from the glass of wine Reinhard had just served him.

 

Heinkel could have been in a bar, drinking his miseries away, but instead he’d been forced to be here because of this stupid Royal Selection. Why did he even bother to come at all if he was just gonna be forcefully saddled with his estranged son?

 

"Are you hungry, Father? Shall I prepare something for you?” Reinhard asked once again. 

 

"No, I'm not really hungry."

 

"I see, in that case, shall I prepare the bath for you?"

 

"Wha-? I mean…maybe later."

 

"Then should I-"

 

"MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS, DAMN IT!!"

 

Reinhard's expression turned from a smile to a hurt frown resembling that of a kicked puppy.

 

Seeing his expression grow dejected, Heinkel immediately regretted his outburst. 

 

"----Tch!" he clicked his tongue as he calmed down and responded. "I don't need anything. You can go ahead and do whatever you want."

 

Reinhard’s expression lit up "Yes, Father!" 

 

At this point, Heinkel couldn't ignore the fact that there was something seriously wrong with his child. Heinkel had neglected him for so long, ruined his reunion with his grandfather and held his Master hostage during the Witch Cult attack. And yet, Reinhard kept following him around like a lost duckling. 

 

He was a terrible father, so why didn’t Reinhard hate him? After all, Heinkel hated Wilhelm.

 

For as long as he could remember, Heinkel had always been incredibly scared of his father. When he was a child, he remembered all the times he was clobbered by Wilhelm, and his look of disappointment every time he made a mistake. He was the son of the Sword Saint and the Sword Demon. But unfortunately, he had neither of their talents with the sword. That fact had seemed to irritate Wilhelm even more.

 

Wilhelm was a terrible father. He was an excellent husband and an incredible hero, but a terrible father. 

 

Theresia, on the other hand, was the one he loved the most in the world, besides his Louanna. She was the most gentle person in the world and treated him with patience, no matter how many times he failed. 

 

----And he’d been the one who’d sent her off to her death.

 

He clenched his fist and grit his teeth as he recalled the events of that fateful day. He was supposed to be the one who fought the White Whale that day. 

 

But before he could have left, his mother had come begging him to stay instead. She’d kept warning how something terrible was going to happen, calling it her mother's intuition, should he go and had desperately tried to stop him. It had ended with her volunteering to go in place of him, dying to that monster and then becoming a puppet of the Witch Cult.

 

Every now and then, he still couldn't help but wonder how his family would have turned out if he had been the one to go fight the White Whale that day and died instead. Would Reinhard have grown up with loving grandparents instead of an alcoholic father?

 

Reinhard was the one who’d slayed Theresia in the end, and he hadn't even shed a single tear while killing his beloved grandmother. And yet, he’d cried tears of relief upon learning of his abusive father’s safety. 

 

Heinkel had sworn to be a better father to Reinhard than Wilhelm was to him. And he had managed to fail spectacularly. 

 

And yet, Reinhard had hugged him simply because Heinkel was safe. He had absolutely no idea how to respond to his son.

 

Maybe he should say something to him, but what? What was a parent who’d neglected his child for so long supposed to say?

 

"Reinha-"

 

"It seems Felt-sama is calling me. I'll take my leave now." Reinhard suddenly interrupted as one of his divine protections activated. But just before he left, he turned around and asked, "…Apologies, were you saying something, Father?" 

 

Heinkel thought for a moment, before he finally answered, "Take care, son…Now go!" He waved his hands, shooing him away as he then turned his face away.

 

"Yes! I will, Father!" Reinhard gave a bright smile as he flew off into the sky.

 

Heinkel was finally left alone in the mansion. 

 

"I wonder what trouble that brat got into." he sighed, as he took another sip of wine.

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

"This is seriously bad! They're everywhere! How do we even escape?" Rachins whispered as he peeked outside the room they were hiding.

 

Camberley grunted, turning to their esteemed thief leader. "Why’d you have to be so damn greedy? We could’ve escaped the moment we couldn’t find the map, but you just had to steal all that stuff! Now everyone's here!"

 

Felt, who was holding a huge bloated bag, the sack barely holding all the goods that’d been stuffed into it, hugged it defensively. 

 

"Can you blame me? Just look at this stuff!" she said, opening the bag and scouring through it. "Conversing mirrors, flash bombs, and… I don't know what this is, but I feel like it'll be useful! Ana’s been hoarding all of the stuff we got after defeating the Witch Cult—it's not fair! Reinhard said big bro was the leader in the Witch Cult hunt, so we deserve it too!"

 

"That's fine and everything, but how do we escape now! I don’t think they’ve noticed anything yet, but unless we do something, we’ll get caught!"

 

"Maybe if we hide long enough, they'll go away?" she sighed. "Should have brought Zacharias!" She paused, thought about what she'd said for a moment before shaking her head, "No, he's useless in this situation. Volcanica’s flaming ass, I wish Reinhard was here! He'd just knock them out and we wouldn't have anything to worry about!"

 

Suddenly, the door to the room they were hiding in opened up. Felt and the three thieves tensed up in panic, prepared to pounce as soon as the door opened before-

 

"You called for me, Felt-sama?" her red-haired knight asked in concern. "I've already knocked everyone out, so you don't have to worry about anything for now."

 

Felt stared at Reinhard, her eyes filled with a mix of palpable relief and fright as she calmed her rapidly beating heart. "How the hell did you get here so quickly!? Wait, don't answer that! Let's just leave…"

 

"Did you get the map, Felt-sama?"

 

"No, it's not in her room. She must be carrying it on her." Felt said in frustration. "We know where she went, but stealing it from her when she's surrounded by her bodyguards is impossible. What should we do?"

 

"Maybe we can wait for her to get alone and then, we'll steal it from her?" Camberley suggested.

 

"Felt-sama, I suggest we first check out the situation and then decide our course of action."

 

"Yeah, I guess. Let's go!"

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

"It's a bit windy today, don't ya think?" Anastasia commented as she held on to her hat that threatened to fly away at every gust of wind.

 

Julius held onto the cape draped around his shoulders as it flapped about him. "I do agree. The wind's rather strange today. I hope the weather won't become too bad." 

 

Another sudden breeze blew as Anastasia's hat went flying ahead. 

 

"Mimi will get it! Mimi will get it!" Mimi answered excitedly and ran ahead to jump and catch the flying hat ahead as she waited for the others to catch up to her.

 

"Caught it! Mimi wants hambulgar now! My Lady, hurry up! Captain, let's race!" 

 

"Sis, please wait! You're walking too fast!" Hetaro and Tivey were breathing heavily as they tried to catch up to her, with Anastasia, Julius and Ricardo walking slowly behind them.

 

"Hetaro's a weakling! But Mimi's super fast!" 

 

"Wahahaha! Ya sure are excited! Wait up for me!" Ricardo laughed as he walked towards her.

 

This was the first time in a while that Julius had left the Juukulius Mansion to enjoy a simple outing—he shouldn’t occupy his mind with pointless thoughts and unnecessarily worry her. 

 

After all, his worries were unfounded. Probably. His liege was confident he had done nothing wrong and he sincerely hoped she was right. 

 

He looked over at Anastasia as she was fixing her wind-jumbled hair, lips pursed and cheeks puffed out in annoyance. 

 

"Do you need some help, Anastasia-sama?" Julius asked.

 

"I'm fine, Julius. Let's just get there quickly before the wind becomes worse." Anastasia responded just as another gust of wind blew, messing up her hair once again.

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

"Rein, what the hell are you doing!!!" Felt yelped, breathing heavily as she and the others finally caught up to Reinhard.

 

"I'm sorry, Felt-sama. I could not retrieve the map." he answered, looking down gloomily, feeling disappointed in himself. 

 

This was something they absolutely had to succeed in. He had to get to the tower. He had to return Subaru's 'Name'. But how was he supposed to reach the tower if he was failing to steal a single map? 

 

"Of course, you can't! Are you trying to get us caught? How long do you think before Ana begins to suspect that there's something up with the wind?"

 

"How fast… are you, man?!! …I couldn't…. even see you….!" Rachins panted, doubling over with his hands on his knees.

 

Camberley, meanwhile, had collapsed face first onto the brick road, his voice muffled as he talked through the gravel. "I can't… walk anymore.…I wanna go home."

 

"Shut it, both of you! Look, they've gone inside." Felt pointed her finger at Anastasia and the others, as the purple haired merchant and her retainers entered the restaurant.

 

"Quickly, hide, before they spot us!" The blonde thief ordered as she kicked Camberley, rolling him over to some nearby bushes. 

 

"You're mean!" Camberley cried out in pain after they had hidden themselves properly, finally getting off the ground.

 

"Yeah! That sun bitch’s started rubbing off on you!" Rachins agreed, making her scrunch up her face in disgust.

 

"Don't you dare compare me with-"

 

"Felt-sama, it looks like they have settled in. What shall we do?"

 

Just as Felt was about to complain, Reinhard interrupted her. She turned to look at the restaurant that the Anastasia Camp had just entered. 

 

From their position in the bushes, Anastasia was clearly visible through a large window, her position right across the street from where they were. 

 

"Shall I try to steal it again?" Reinhard asked.

 

"Did you not learn your lesson earlier!? You can't just brute force it! Just snatching her purse would get us caught immediately!"

 

Reinhard looked remorsefully at Felt—he did not know what else he could do. Seeing his expression, Felt sighed as she patted his head.

 

"Reinhard, I know you're worried about Big Bro, but you need to be patient." 

 

Placing her hands on her hips, she puffed her chest proudly as she began, "From my years of experience as a thief, I’ve gotten tons of valuable thieving wisdom! If you want to steal something, you need to wait for the right time."

 

"....The right time?" Reinhard asked, curious about his liege’s supposed wisdom.

 

"Ana is an extremely cautious person, as you can see-” Felt began pointing out at the merchant princess across the street. “-She’s a merchant, she constantly has her hand on her purse. You can't steal something from her that easily without getting caught… I guess you've learnt that by now, Rein."

 

Reinhard nodded his head gloomily.

 

"To steal from her we need…."

 

".....A distraction." Reinhard completed her sentence.

 

"Exactly!" Felt smiled as she raised her index finger into the air. She turned to the window as her eyes darted everywhere searching for something she could use. 

 

And then—-,

 

"Mimi!" she exclaimed with a bright smile. "We have our distraction!" 

 

Reinhard watched his Master curiously wondering what she had thought of. To his surprise, she began opening up the bag of metia she was holding and picked out a few scraps of paper. Taking out a nifty self-filling metia pen, she began vigorously scrawling out onto the paper, her eyes narrowed and her tongue stuck out in concentration as she continued her sketch. 

 

"Felt, what are you doing?" Rachins asked, curious to know what she was planning with them.

 

"She's inside a restaurant. We steal the map, she puts her hand inside her purse trying to take out her money and finds out the map isn't there—we'll be caught immediately once they realise we're in the Capital." 

 

Satisfied, she blew on the ink before folding the sheet of paper, lifting it up in her hands and showing it to them. "After we steal it, we replace the map with this. She won't even know it was stolen unless she tries to open it." she explained with a mischievous smile.

 

As Felt then went on to explain her plan, Reinhard listened to her with awe when suddenly----,

 

' A new Divine Protection.' Reinhard thought as his eyes widened. 

 

Determined to steal the map, he clenched his fist and observed the positions of the people sitting inside the restaurant carefully. He had to be extremely fast if he wanted to enact Felt's plan successfully. 

 

And so, he dashed into the restaurant with the sheet of paper Felt had folded earlier, unnoticed by even Felt and the others.

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

"Hambulgar is here! Mimi's hungry! Let's eat!" Mimi rocked back and forth on her chair adorably as the food they'd ordered arrived.

 

"Mimi, be careful! With the way you’re shakin' the table, ya might drop the food." Anastasia warned.

 

"Mimi will be careful! Let's eat!"

 

Without a care in the world, Mimi had a bright smile as the waiter carefully placed their food on the table. 

 

Julius smiled as he watched her. He felt a little jealous, wishing he could be the same as her. To have no worries in the world, to simply enjoy the present to the fullest; indeed, it was a blessing only few in the world had. 

 

He wanted to enjoy the meal. He wanted to not worry his Lady. But the more he tried to ignore those thoughts, the more the cries of the accused Sin Archbishop came flooding in.

 

He was a Sin Archbishop, wasn't he? His Lady was sure of it. The Great Spirit Beatrice was sure of it. He himself was confident about it until last week. So why had that changed?

 

Why did what Felt say affect him so much? Who did he beat in the Royal Castle's ground that day? Why did it hurt so much remembering that detestable Sin Archbishop's face?

 

"Julius, you’re frownin' again!" Anastasia pointed out. "Smile a bit, won't ya? Just enjoy the time we're havin’ here. Ya have plenty of time to worry later!"

 

Julius smiled bitterly at her words. He was making her worried again. He should just stop thinking about it. He'll also have to apologise to Reinhard and Felt later.

 

He took a deep breath as he brought his attention back to the dinner table.

 

Mimi had happily picked up her hambulgar with both hands and brought it to her mouth to take a bite.

 

Just then----,

 

A strong gust of wind suddenly blew. As everyone looked around to see what had happened, Mimi took a bite. Only for her teeth to strike against each other after biting through the air. Her hands were empty and her hambulgar was gone.

 

"....Mimi's hambulgar?" she looked at her empty hands, tears beginning to fill her eyes. "Where did Mimi’s hambulgar go?" 

 

The others around her began to panic. 

 

"Sis, it's not a problem. We'll buy another one."

 

"Mimi, I'll buy as many hambulgars as ya want. Just don't cause a-"

 

"GIVE ME BACK MY HAMBULGAR!!!!" 

 

Just as they had feared, Mimi began rampaging in the restaurant, demanding her food back, while the Anastasia Camp desperately tried to control her.

 

Julius got up from his seat as well to help, when suddenly another breeze blew. He followed the path and to his surprise—-,

 

'Reinhard?!!'

 

He blinked his eyes and the figure standing behind Anastasia was gone. Stunned for a moment, he began vigorously rubbing his eyes. 

 

Julius was probably extremely tired. His guilt at having betrayed his own friend was causing him to hallucinate his presence. He should probably apologize to Reinhard as soon as possible.

 

With great difficulty, they managed to get everything back to normal as Anastasia ordered another hambulgar for Mimi.

 

As she opened her purse to pay for the food,

"Huh! Did I count wrong?" she questioned in surprise.

 

"What is it, Anastasia-sama?" Julius asked.

 

".....I think I may have miscounted the money I brought with me today. I seem to have some extra coins with me. Just enough to pay for another hambulgar."

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

"Father, we did it! We have everything we need!" Reinhard came back cheerfully an hour after he had left, as the others followed behind him with dumbfounded expressions, while Camberley happily munched on a hambulgar. 

 

"Finally! It’s about time we get going!" Heinkel sighed with relief. "The longer we're here, the greater chance there is of Da-, of Wilhelm finding out."

 

"Yeah, let's leave." Felt sighed with disappointment.

 

Heinkel raised his eyebrows at her lack of enthusiasm. "Huh, you don't seem too happy."

 

"....I feel really concerned about the future of your son." the blonde princess replied, her eyes dejected. 

 

"Me too, kid. Me too." Heinkel sighed. "So, what exactly did he do?" 

 

"In the blink of an eye, he stole the map in the middle of a restaurant after getting the Divine Protection of Thieving Mastery, and no one even noticed him!" she cried. "He even went back inside a second time to pay for the hambulgar Camberley’s eating!"

 

"What? I was hungry!" Camberley said with his mouth full as everyone turned to stare at him.

 

"I didn't even know that was possible. Also, stealing was supposed to be my thing!"

 

Heinkel stood silently for sometime before he finally burst into laughter.

 

"Ahahaha! The Sword Saint, the Hero of the Kingdom has become a pickpocket!"

 

"It's not funny!"

 

Felt shouted, Heinkel continued to laugh, and Reinhard, whose pride at having retrieved the map turned to embarrassment.

 

Heinkel laughed the entire way back to the mansion. 

Chapter Text

Interlude

The Sun Princess's Kindness

 

"Commoner, I have come to talk. Entertain me!" Priscilla kicked the door open as she barged into the room suddenly. The tea cups swerved precariously as she carelessly balanced the tray in her hands.

 

The startled Subaru dropped the book he was holding as he turned to look at the intruder in shock. The little spirit beside him jumped in the air as well.

 

"Priscilla?" He looked at her in astonishment. "What are you-" He stopped as he noticed the tray of tea cups in her hands. "Wait, let me help you!" he said, as he kept the fallen book back on his desk and got out of bed to take the tray from her hands to place it on his bedside table, while the spirit kept circling around him the entire time.

 

As she walked in, Priscilla took a look around the room, dimly lit by a single lantern and the minor spirit of fire, the moonlight entering from the open window barely providing any illumination. A cool breeze flew across the room, making her shiver slightly, in her loose red casual outfit. 

 

Seeing as the open window served no purpose other than her discomfort, she marched up to it and irritatedly closed it, all while the gazes of Subaru and the spirit kept following her in sync incredulously.

 

Now that she was more comfortable, she turned back to observe the room. With the exception of a few books and some coloured pieces of cardboard on his desk, the room was almost entirely empty, with no decorations or items that could give an insight into his likes and dislikes.

 

"Priscilla, what are you doing here?" he asked as he got over his initial surprise at seeing her this late at night. 

 

His eyes were drawn to the time crystal on the wall, glowing a bright green, indicating it was an hour before midnight. The spirit also bobbed up and down in the air, as if agreeing with Subaru.

 

"Can you not see, fool?" she responded curtly. "I have brought your tea for you."

 

"I can see that, but why the hell are you here? I'm sure Carol-san was supposed to come here, not you."

 

She ignored his question as she sat herself down comfortably in his bed beside him. Picking up one of the two steaming hot tea cups, she handed it to him. 

 

The spirit's attention was drawn to the cups as she flew over to them, floating from over one cup to another, as if basking in the heat.

 

"Here's the tea you requested. Go ahead. Drink it!" she ordered. 

 

"How do you know what I wanted? And why are you here!?" he exclaimed, as he took the cup from her hand. 

 

"----Tch. How annoying! Can't you simply accept my kindness without asking too many questions?" she said, but Subaru continued to stare questioningly at her. She sighed as she answered, "I was feeling rather energetic tonight, so I offered to make the tea for you myself. Now, drink quickly and tell me how it is!"

 

—-The truth was that she just wanted to talk to him. 

 

She had just left Schult in Al's care after spending some time with him, and was wandering around the mansion when she bumped into Carol. The elderly lady had informed her that Subaru wanted some tea and was heading to the kitchen to prepare some tea for him. Priscilla, who had nothing to do, had volunteered to make it for him and demanded Carol to teach her.

 

She still hadn't had the opportunity to talk to him properly since she came here. Felt had interrupted her in the morning, but now that she was out, Priscilla saw it as the perfect chance.

 

".....You made it? Is it safe?" he asked, wary of drinking the tea presented to him as the minor spirit of fire continued to blissfully enjoy the heat of the steam rising above the cup.

 

"What is that supposed to mean? Of course, it is!"

 

"I doubt a girl who had never seen an unpeeled appa before would know how to make tea." he said as he inspected the cup of tea in front of him. 

 

"A goddess such as mineself has granted you the honour of drinking tea made by herself. Instead, you decide to insult my kindness. You should be grateful I haven't lopped off your head yet." 

 

"Sorry, but my whole family's atheist to begin with, so I'm not particularly fond of goddesses! ……I really don't want to get sick and lie in bed all day again……"

 

"You are overreacting! No such thing is going to happen!" Priscilla stated angrily. "Now, stop complaining and drink it!"

 

".....If it's anything like what Emilia or Beatrice used to make……" he muttered as he cut off his words and trembled slightly. Shaking his head, he looked over to his spirit above the cup and asked, "An, what do you think? Is it alright?"

 

The spirit froze in the air as Subaru directed the question to her. The spirit, Antares, slowly hovered up and slowly bobbed up and down in the air, although she seemed doubtful herself.

 

"See! Even your spirit agrees! Now, stop stalling and drink!" Priscilla answered, annoyed that he would even dare compare her tea with someone else's. 

 

Subaru very reluctantly brought the cup of tea to his mouth and took a sip. 

 

"Ah-!" A sound briefly escaped his lips.

 

"So, how is it?" Priscilla asked smugly. "Is it not the most divine of teas capable of melting your tongue?"

 

However, Subaru's expression became unreadable as he turned to face her.

 

"Priscilla…" he began.

 

"What is it?" she said irritatedly as he continued to keep her in suspense.

 

"....Have you tasted the tea yet?" he asked, with pity clearly visible on his face.

 

"No, I have not. But I'm sure it is wonderful, since it was made by the hands of a goddess such as myself." she declared as she picked up the remaining cup of tea and took a sip.

 

The moment she did, her eyes widened and a faint blush appeared on her cheeks.

 

'Salty!!' she exclaimed internally, realising she had mixed up salt and sugar. She stands corrected. The Sword Saint's divine protection was indeed useful as Felt had said earlier in the day.

 

However—-,

 

"So, what do you think? You still think you did a good job?" Subaru smirked.

 

"Obviously!" Priscilla answered confidently. She was not going to let him have the satisfaction of having seen her ineptitude.

 

"Huh!? You really see nothing wrong with it? Like maybe a bit too much salt-" 

 

"And how are you so sure that it was not the way I intended for the tea to be?"

 

"You wanted the tea to be salty!?"

 

"I do not understand why you're so surprised. After all, you put that thing you call 'Mayonnaise' in your coff. While I do not mind its taste alone, putting it in coff did ruin it. In fact, Al was quite disgusted by it."

 

".....You really don't want to admit your mistake, do you?" Subaru narrowed his eyes at Priscilla as she continued to pretend to not know what he was talking about. 

 

He was about to put the cup of salty tea down when she grabbed his wrist to stop him. But just as she did, he winced in pain and a short grunt escaped his mouth as Antares panickingly flew towards him. 

 

Priscilla immediately let go in shock, as the cup of steaming hot tea threatened to spill over him. He immediately balanced the cup and turned his gaze towards her.

 

"What do you want?" he asked in annoyance.

 

".....I-I…." she hesitated for a bit after being caught off guard. Although curious about his reaction, put that train of thought aside as she took a deep breath to recompose herself and continued, "Commoner, I expect you to finish it. Not a single drop should be left behind. After all, that tea was made by my blood, sweat and tears."

 

"Didn't you just make a simple cup of tea!?"

 

Subaru sighed as he took another sip of the salty tea.

 

"For your first time making this, it's honestly not a bad attempt at all. In fact, if only you didn't mix up salt and sugar, it would have actually tasted good." he commented, making her smile brightly as she continued to drink her own cup of tea. It really was a terrible cup of tea.

 

As they continued to reluctantly drink their tea, Antares flew down to rest on his hand, the energy she had shown a few minutes prior was almost gone.

 

"An, you can sleep if you want to. I'll be fine." he smiled lovingly at the spirit.

 

The spirit flew up tiredly near his face, as she still seemed unsure.

 

"Don't worry. If I need anything, I'll call you. I promise." With those words, the spirit's worries were alleviated slightly as she hovered to the surface of his palm and disappeared.

 

Priscilla, who had watched the interaction silently, put down her empty cup on the tray, and said, "The spirit seemed tired. And so do you. You should be asleep. You won't grow any taller if you stay awake for too long."

 

"I don't think I'm growing any taller even if I do sleep." he chuckled as he put his own empty cup down as well. ".....I was asleep. I… just had a nightmare and woke up. Couldn't sleep again, and wanted to drink something. I went to make a cup of tea, but Carol-san saw me and insisted she would make it and bring it for me. ……And now, you're here." he sighed.

 

"A nightmare, is it?" Priscilla mumbled. Judging from his behaviour, it seemed to be a daily occurance. Al, who was from the same hometown as him, had nightmares frequently as well. 

 

"What kind of place is beyond the Great Waterfall?" she asked suddenly. There were many stories she had heard about what laid beyond it—and none of them were good. After seeing how nightmares seemed to affect both Al and Subaru, she wondered what kind of a horrible place it was. 

 

"Huh!?" he exclaimed, surprised by her sudden question.

 

"If I'm not wrong, you and Al are both from beyond the Great Waterfall, are you not?"

 

"......Y-Yeah, but how do you-"

 

"There are many people who claim to be from beyond the Great Waterfall. However, I believe the two of you are different in that regard."

 

"......Is it your intuition again?"

 

Priscilla was greatly surprised by his response. 

 

"It seems you are not as much of a fool as I thought you were.", she grinned, impressed by him.

 

"......I don't know how to feel about that.", he let out a deep breath as he continued, "Believe it or not, this is not the first time we're having this conversation. You've forgotten all about it though."

 

Priscilla's calm demeanor wavered momentarily before she began to ask, "Ah, I see. Your 'Name' was eaten so-"

 

"That's not what I'm talking about though. You had forgotten about me even without all that stuff."

 

Priscilla tilted her head in confusion. "What does that mean?"

 

Subaru's face became red as he scratched the back of his head. "......I kinda made a fool of myself in the beginning of the Royal Selection and got beaten up for it. I was so pathetic at that time, you probably forgot me because of that."

 

Priscilla thought about it and it definitely seemed like something that could happen. If he was uninteresting to her at that time, it was extremely likely she would forget about him. 

 

However----,

 

"That may be so in the past, but what matters to me is the present. So I suppose I won't be forgetting you anytime soon."

 

Subaru's eyes widened as a smile came over his lips.

 

"Priscilla….." he began, as Priscilla turned to look at him.

 

"What is it, commoner?" she asked. "Did you finally realise the tea I made was an exceptional item, you would only get to taste once in your lifetime?"

 

"No, it was terrible!" Subaru answered with a straight face almost instantly without hesitation, making her hit his head with her fan. He cried out in pain as he rubbed his forehead with his hands.

 

"Then what is it? I'll warn you, I can only be nice to you for so long and my patience is running thin." 

 

"......Thank you for trying to save me in Priestella. ……Even though you did not remember who I am. Even when the people I loved didn't believe in me." he smiled bitterly.

 

Priscilla honestly did not like being thanked by him for that reason. This situation had happened because he had saved her life. And instead of being rewarded, he had gotten punished for it.

 

"I expected you to be more angry at me." she said honestly. "Afterall, you lost your 'Name' protecting me."

 

Subaru's lips curved down as he asked him dismally, "......How do you even remember it? My 'Name' was eaten, wasn't it? So, why did you help me?" 

 

"I was about to have my own 'Name' eaten, but instead, I'm safe and someone else appeared who claimed he had his 'Name' eaten by that very same Archbishop. At this point, only a fool wouldn't have figured it out when it is so painfully obvious."

 

".....Priscilla, how did you manage to get cornered so badly? Why didn't you pull out the Yang Sword?"

 

"......I couldn't."

 

"What?"

 

"For some reason, ever since that day, I am unable to pull out my Yang Sword anymore."

 

'Prisca Benedict no longer has the protection of the Yang Sword and the world no longer operates in her favour.'  

 

A voice echoed in her mind. But just as the voice had surfaced in her mind, she forgot it just as quickly.

 

Her face scrunched up in disgust as she began narrating, "That day, Lust released Wrath after deceiving me by transforming into Al. I tried to summon my Yang Sword to burn that disgusting fly to cinders, but….." Priscilla's hand shook as she seethed with rage, recalling the incident. "....I couldn't."

 

As she recounted the events that happened at Priestella, she grew more and more agitated. 

 

"Priscilla, calm down. You don't have to-"

 

"THAT DISGUSTING FLY! HOW DARE SHE MAKE A FOOL OF ME! I SWEAR I'LL KILL HER WHEN-"

 

Just as she was about to throw the tea cups she had picked up, and smash them against the wall, Subaru hesitated a bit before wrapping his arm around her head. She did not resist as he pulled her close to his chest.

 

The moment he did, her anger slowly began to melt, replaced by a hazy memory.

 

"Have you calmed down now?" he asked in concern.

 

"Priscilla, are you alright?" a voice inquired as she was tackled to the ground just as she was about to have her 'Name' eaten.

 

She couldn't remember much about the voice or what it said but it continued to comfort her till she passed out.

 

A warmth she had never felt before began filling her chest.

 

She nodded her head against his chest as she reluctantly backed away.

 

"Soon Gluttony arrived and almost ate my 'Name'. Unfortunately, the memories of that incident are not very clear beyond that…… but I do remember, someone tackling me to the ground while Gluttony was suddenly thrown backwards into the air. —-That was you, wasn't it?" she inquired. 

 

"......I heard about the capture of Sirius and I was heading over to you. And then it happened……" 

 

"After the confrontation, I remember Al panicking while trying to wake me up. As I got up and we were heading back to the shelter, we heard the commotion that the half-wit and the spirit were causing. Just listening to all of your stories, it wasn't hard to guess what had happened."

 

"....."

 

"So, let me repeat what I said in Priestella. ----Thank you for saving me."

 

Subaru was struck speechless, seeing her smiling face as she thanked him. A light red dyed his face as he turned his head away from her. 

 

His reaction amused Priscilla greatly, as she slid closer to him. Wrapping her arms around his own, "What is it? Do you not like being thanked by a goddess such as mineself?" she teased him.

 

His face became even more red as he released his arm from her grasp and jumped back. 

 

"----Tch!" Priscilla clicked her tongue in annoyance as an awkward silence filled the room.

 

"So, you tried to save me in Priestella because I saved you?" Subaru finally broke the silence.

 

"That is one of the reasons, correct. If you hadn't done so, I would have simply observed you from afar to see what you would do."

 

"You're horrible, you know that!?" Subaru exclaimed as Priscilla smirked proudly. And then realising something, he asked curiously, "And what were the other reasons?"

 

"You seemed amusing." she answered nonchalantly. He sighed as if he already knew what her answer would be. 

 

"......Priscilla, can I ask you something?" he spoke up suddenly, remembering something.

 

"Go on. Just for today, I'll answer any questions you ask me today."

 

".....Prisca Benedict. That was what Louis Arneb called you as she was trying to eat your 'Name'." 

 

"......"

 

He was the one to save her that day. So she had expected him to have overheard her real name. But now that he had actually asked her about it, she didn't know how to start.

 

"If it's something hard for you to talk about, I'm sorry. You don't have to answer." he reassured her.

 

Taking a deep breath, she began to recount it. The tale of the Imperial Selection that the Crimson Countess had previously taken part in.

 

After finishing her story, she looked at him, curious to know his thoughts.

 

"......You're a Vollachian princess!?" he exclaimed after hearing her story. "Wait, if you faked your own death, why did you even participate in the Royal Selection? Isn't it dangerous?"

 

This was the second time she was hearing that question. The first time she had heard the question, she was surprised when Al had so easily agreed to her plans. Honestly, if he hadn't, she would have beheaded him immediately using Heinkel's sword. So, she was glad he had agreed. But in the end, it had all been a waste.

 

"I simply did not wish to live my life in fear.", she answered. "......And yet, I did the exact opposite on that river. After I lost the Yang Sword's protection, due to my cowardice, I jumped into the river, and almost drowned."

 

"......I don't think it's cowardice at all though.", Subaru responded, surprising her. "Is it really that bad to escape an overwhelming situation that you believe you have no chance of winning?"

 

Priscilla's eyes widened as she glared angrily at him. "How dare you even say that? Of course it is! Are you suggesting that it is better I keep my head down, eyes shut and ears plugged, while I live in fear for the rest of my life? If that is so, I believe I was mistaken in my assessment of you.", she spoke, with disappointment lacing her voice.

 

But to her surprise, Subaru simply chuckled at her words. "I'm not saying that at all. Knowing your personality, I know you'll never be satisfied with a life like that."

 

Priscilla still couldn't understand what he was trying to say. "Stop speaking in such a roundabout manner, commoner! Tell me clearly what you mean by that!"

 

"----You haven't actually run away at all, have you? All you've done is put the situation under hold until you're better prepared to face it."

 

Priscilla stared in shock for a second time as he spoke.

 

"I'm probably the biggest hypocrite while saying this, but no matter how you see it, it's stupid to recklessly charge into a situation you have no chance of winning. In that case, running away doesn't show you cowardice, it shows how smart you are."

 

Priscilla stared in shock at him for sometime, before bursting into laughter. 

 

"That is certainly a flowery way of describing the fact that I ran away. Be glad that if it was anyone other than you who had said that, I would have beheaded you this instant."

 

Subaru shuddered, while she continued to laugh.

 

After a while, Subaru put his hands on his chin and began to think as if realising something.

 

".....Priscilla" he called out to her slowly.

 

"What is it?"

 

"......How did the Witch Cult find out your real name?" he asked, having a horrified expression on his face.

 

".....It was Lust. She said one of her children told her."

 

As she answered, she was sure he also had the questions as her. Due to the Royal Selection, they were always in the spotlight, and it was hard to control the spread of information on them. Just how much about them does the Witch Cult actually know?

 

One of Lust's children had informed her. How many of them were there? Just how many members of the Witch Cult were hiding in plain sight, camouflaged among them and gathering information on them?

 

They absolutely could not let anyone know they were heading to the Watchtower. If the Witch Cult were able to reach the Watchtower and the seal after following them……

 

"Our group needs to be as small as possible, and we absolutely cannot let anyone find out." Priscilla spoke out. 

 

"So the ones that are going for sure are Rein, Felt, you and me, and maybe Roswaal-"

 

"We aren't taking the clown." she declared sternly.

 

Subaru's eyes widened as she looked at her in horror.

 

"What do you mean? If we leave him, then-"

 

"If you're worried about the Mabeasts, the Sword and Heinkel are coming with us. I am also capable of defending the carriage myself. There is no need for him to be present." 

 

Priscilla agreed with Felt on the opinion that Roswaal was untrustworthy. Even if he did not do anything against them, he gave off all the wrong vibes. Was Subaru really that blind to not see it?

 

"But if we don't, he might…."

 

"He might?"

 

"According to the contract, he might ki-" he suddenly stopped, and then corrected himself, "He might no longer support Emilia's candidacy."

 

So that was it. That was why he had agreed to help out Roswaal. But it still felt like Subaru wasn't telling the entire truth. But she didn't feel like prying any further.

 

"If the half-wit loses her sponsor, I do not see how it is your problem." 

 

"But because of me she might-"

 

"If he can so easily abandon her for you, it simply means her own sponsor does not believe her to be capable of winning the Royal Selection in the slightest. A person like that should not even be a Candidate in the first place. I had already believed so from the very beginning, but your words have just confirmed it for me." 

 

"How can you say that? Sure what she did in Priestella hurt me, but that doesn't mean I can stand by and not say anything when you belittle how she had worked for the past year-"

 

"Do you really have the luxury of being worried about her? You have a bigger problem than her. We are leaving for the tower to return your 'Name', not protect her candidacy." Priscilla spoke with annoyance as she crossed her legs and covered the lower half of her face with her handheld fan.

 

"But-"

 

"And it's not just that. I heard you were keeping the problem of getting your 'Name' back on hold, in favour of searching for us. Normally, I would have rewarded you in any other case, but this is just foolish. Do you not realise that until your 'Name' is returned, the world believes you are a Sin Archbishop and is trying to hunt you down?"

 

Subaru clenched his fist and simply looked down, unable to answer anything.

 

"......The discussion about who's going to the tower can wait until the thief and the sword saint are back. But there's something else I need to address."

 

"What is it?"

 

"You are one of those people, aren't you?" Priscilla asked, as she observed his reaction.

 

"What?" Subaru tilted his head in confusion.

 

"Those with a hero mentality." she answered.

 

"....." 

 

His silence was a more than enough answer for her. In addition to his low self-esteem, his desire to be a hero seemed to make him prioritise others over himself.

 

"In that case, I suggest you cease such an idiotic thought process immediately." she advised him harshly.

 

"It is not a bad thing to want to save someone else. In fact, I wouldn't be here safe and sound if it weren't for that mentality of yours."

 

As she continued to speak, she could notice his expression sadden, probably having figured out what she was trying to say.

 

"However, it is neither your responsibility nor are you obligated to do so. Especially if it comes at the cost of yourself."

 

"....."

 

"I don't know why you have developed this mentality, but it will inevitably get you killed someday. So, I suggest you stop your stupidity this instant." Her expression had turned neutral and not a hint of the soft tone she had shown while speaking with him earlier was present.

 

Subaru looked down sadly as his fingers fidgeted and he let out a deep breath.

 

".....I-I understand what you're trying to say." he stuttered slightly. "I've been trying to avoid it but…… I'm sure the girl who wanted me to be her hero, would probably not care about me, if she were awake now. But……" 

 

He stopped to turn and look at her. He had a pained expression on his face as tears ran down his cheeks as his body trembled in pain.

 

"......I don't know what else I'm supposed to do." he sobbed like a child. 

 

"Truly a fool!"

 

Priscilla boldly wrapped an arm around the back of his head, pulling him forward towards her before he had the time to even think. The moment she did so, a warmth filled her chest. His hot breath tickled her chest, his soft messy hair brushed against her skin, and his tears soaked her dress. 

 

Subaru completely froze up and his thoughts came to a halt. Priscilla smiled mischievously at his confusion as she hugged his head against her chest.

 

"......Wh-Why….are….." Subaru stuttered, as he wiped away his tears.

 

"This is the only time I'm ever going to comfort anyone this way. Consider yourself blessed."

 

Subaru's face was completely red as she gently stroked his hair. He tried to ask her to let him go but she refused. In the end, understanding how futile it was, he finally gave in. He seemed to calm down as his breathing became more and more steadier.

 

"......Your heartbeat is really soothing." he said. 

 

"Do you feel calmer now, being cradled in the arms of a goddess such as mineself?" she asked smugly. 

 

Subaru chuckled weakly at her words as nodded. He seemed to have gotten relaxed, so she was about to let go, when----,

 

".....Hey, Pris. Can we stay like this for some more time?", he asked, as he wrapped his arms around her and reciprocated her hug.

 

"How uncouth! Asking something like that of a goddess such as mineself!" And yet, she made no attempt to release him and continued to stroke his hair. ".....Pris?"

 

"Oh, it's a nickname, like Emi-..... like Rein or An."

 

"Is that so? In that case, I'll allow it. Be grateful, for I rarely allow commoners to address me so intimately.", Priscilla smirked.

 

"Thank you.", he said as the room became silent, they continued to enjoy the tranquility of the room. 

 

Soon enough, Subaru's steady and slow breathing indicated to her that he had fallen asleep, listening to the calming sounds of her heartbeat. She had a smile on her face as she yawned, feeling sleepy herself.

 

"You have some nerve getting too comfortable and falling asleep in my embrace. You're lucky I am in a good mood.", she scolded him as she gently hit his head with her fan, making him grimace in his sleep.

 

While she continued to softly run her fingers through his snow white hair, she found her eyelids drooping as she became drowsy.

 

".....Goodnight…… Subaru." she said as she drifted off to sleep herself.

 

**********************************

**********************************

 

Carol knocked on the door with a tray of tea cups in her hand. She had watched Priscilla mixing up salt and sugar in the tea earlier and had begun to prepare another batch of tea for them. 

 

She waited outside the door for a while, but there was no response. Subaru had probably gone to sleep and Priscilla had left already. Unsure of whether to disturb him, she stood still for sometime before she finally decided to open the door to check up on him.

 

"Excuse me." she said as she opened the door.

 

To her surprise, she found Subaru and Priscilla sleeping peacefully, snuggled up comfortably against each other.

 

Her initial surprise turned into a smile as she silently closed the door, leaving the two to themselves.

 

As she looked at the two cups of tea on the tray she was carrying, "I wonder if Grimm is awake." she said as she walked away, smiling.