Chapter 2 – Late Resistance



2-1

“What’s the matter, bro?  You suddenly had a blank look.”

“Wuh——?”

Called out by a stern-faced man with a conspicuous white scar, he unintentionally reacted foolishly.  His reply caused the man’s scar to distort greatly.

“Like.  I.  Said.  What is your decision?  Appa, will you buy it or not?”

“Huh——?”

“Appa!  You want to eat it, right?  You said so yourself, then suddenly your eyes became scared……Well, what is it?”

The muscular, scar-faced man held up a pretty looking red fruit, which closely resembled an apple.  He stared at the fruit, and looked back at the man.

“No, after all, I’m genuinely penniless, like I said.”

“What!  Aren’t you just an ordinary window shopper?  Then go away, go away.  I don’t have time to deal with window shoppers.”

Driven away by the perfunctory hand gesture, he staggered across to the next shop.  And then he, Subaru, looked around.

“Eh?  Eh—?  What is going on?”

Bewildered, he asked this question.  It was not directed towards anyone since it took all his effort to utter it.


2-2

The main street, per usual, was crowded with people.  With the exception of the occasional lizard carriage passing by, the entire street was crammed full of pedestrians.

The sun was still bright at this time.  It could not be said that the temperature was high, but looking at the fur of the werewolf-like races pass by, an idle thought like “Uwah, it looks hot” would surface.

“Speaking of which, right now is not the time to be wasting my time dazing around like a bumpkin!”

Holding his head and twisting his body backwards, Subaru had a pose that displayed all of his distress on the spot.  Because of his strangeness, he drew the curious gaze of those around him.  But he could not afford to pay attention to that right now.

“I mean…… it was night just a moment ago, right?”

The sun was high up.  At the very least, Subaru believed he should have been greeted with the night sky.  The night becoming day in an instant — for Subaru, it served to remind him that he was summoned to another world.  However, this time clearly had different conditions from last time.

“The wound on my stomach……gone.”

Rolling up the hem of his jersey, Subaru confirmed the state of his abdomen.

He should have been cut by a large knife of sort, and bled a large enough quantity that it would be difficult to avoid death.  But there was no trace of blood on his abdomen, let alone a scar.

In fact, none of the dust and mud from earlier was found on his favorite jersey.

The convenience store’s bag in his hand was in good shape, and his cellphone and wallet placed in the pockets of his pants were unaffected.  He had completely returned to his original state in every possible way.

I think I’m going crazy.

Aware of his fuzzy memory, Subaru tried his best to recall what happened just before he lost consciousness.

Right, my stomach was cut and I was just about to be killed.  I think that voice came from a woman.

After discovering the corpse in the storehouse, Subaru was attacked by a person who was supposedly the opponent of this dead person.  And when he was about to face death—

“…That’s right, Satella!”

Satella, who was worried about Subaru and thus had entered the storehouse, also fell prey to the assassin’s knife.  The moment he recalled that, Subaru felt a squeezing pain overwhelm his body.  Compared to being aware of his own wounds, this was much worse when he realized it was his fault.

“Take care of Satella… wasn’t I entrusted with this task, me.”

Subaru said while recalling Puck’s figure telling him that before disappearing.

The promise he made with the cat, it was definitely not an exchange of light words.  Yet Subaru, despite repeated advice, failed because of a simple oversight.

Satella’s words — to call out if there was anything.  He even neglected to follow these instructions.

“Aren’t I a fool? … No, I am a fool.  I don’t have the time to be feeling dejected right now.  Anyways, if I don’t look for Satella and Puck…”

The two of them might be dead.  Subaru shook his head and dismissed such thoughts.

Without any merit, he was not useful in the least.  In other words, his life was that of a background character in charge of enlivening everything.

(TL Note: In Japanese, they use the term ‘mob chara,’ but we don’t use the term mob the same way they do.  For more info use Google Translate on this Wikipedia Page.)

If it’s that person, who can use magic, who is a good-natured busybody, who is a beauty that cannot be honest with herself but is very upright, it is unimaginable for her and that easygoing, illusory oddball of a spirit to die.

… No, it’s that I don’t want them to die.

“Anyway, if I don’t go to the warehouse right now…”

That place was where his consciousness ended.  He felt that there would be a hint there.

He immediately acted on his thoughts, the speed at which Subaru set his determination shone here.  In his original world, it was exclusively used for the decision “let’s not go to school today,” and giving up, but right now it was important for Subaru in the sense that it allowed him to break free of his hesitation.

While Subaru was riding the momentum of his decision—

“Yo, bro.  Come play with us for a bit.”

He was met with misfortune as three men obstructed him by standing in the way and blocking up the alleyway.  Looking at the person who spoke, Subaru was stunned as he unintentionally let his jaw drop.

“Oi oi, what’s with the dumbfounded look?”

“You probably don’t understand the situation.  How about we explain it to you?”

The three men ridiculed Subaru while flashing vulgar smiles.  Watching their figures steadily, Subaru was in a state of mind where he was shown an almost comical play.

The men were numbered at three.  Even as a compliment it could not be said that they were well-dressed; their typical thug looks exuded their nefarious upbringing and personality.

Towards all of this, Subaru felt a familiar feeling of helplessness.

“You guys… don’t tell me you went somewhere I didn’t know and got hit in the head.”

They were the people who, just several hours ago, created the opportunity for Subaru to meet Satella and Puck.

These guys haven’t mistaken their small-fry positions, have they?  But no matter how you look at it, having another group of three people with similar appearances performing the same crime is difficult to imagine.

“That means, you saw I was alone and wanted revenge from before… right?  I understand your feeling of wanting to aim for the weak, but your timing is so bad it’s like you’re possessed by a demon.  You guys…”

(TL Note: 鬼がかって is used here, which is a play on the term 神がかって which means “Divine Possession from a god”)

“What are you saying?  You sure your head doesn’t feel funny somewhere?”

The men spoke in a friendly tone to mock Subaru.  Their attitude was something that even Subaru was infuriated by.  He wanted to finish this nicely because he was in a situation that required him to hurry, but Subaru was first a considerably short-tempered person.

“That’s right, bro.  For the time being, leave all your belongings.  Then we’ll let you go.”

“Ah, alright, alright.  All of my belongings, right?  I’m in a hurry so this is fine, really.”

“Afterwards imitate a dog!  You should be on all fours when you imitate a dog, and make sure to call out ‘please help me!’”

“Hey, don’t get carried away—!”

Because the men got too carried away and threw out such remarks, his patience soon wore out.

Subaru, who suddenly became berserk, shocked the men with his movements.  He aimed at the skinny man among the stunned gang, as that man was the cause of Subaru’s defeat in the strife a while ago.  That man was in possession of a knife.

“You’re first!  A guy who doesn’t understand the importance of life can drop dead!”

Springing forward, Subaru used all his strength to palm that thug’s jaw, and followed it up by driving a fist into the thug’s wide-open abdomen.  The thug was flung into the wall and sank to the ground.  Subaru then immediately swept his legs towards the next one.

The one who received the kick fell down as he was unable to react to the sudden change in situation.  During that opening, Subaru rushed towards the last person.  He tackled the man from below with his shoulders, and shoved the body against the wall.  As the man groaned, Subaru delivered a kick to his back — a coup de grâce.

Subaru turned around and, in a provoking manner, beckoned the man who fell.

“Now, let’s fight man-to-man!  Bring it on fair and square!”

“After pulling that kind of surprise shit, you still expect us to be fair and square?!  You little shit!”

The man’s face reddened with anger, he grabbed Subaru’s collar, who was strengthened by his adrenaline-induced state.  Just when he was about to force Subaru into the wall—

“Too weak!”

Gripping the wrists of the man who held his shoulders, Subaru overpowered the man through brute strength, peeling him off.

Seeing the man’s blatant shock, Subaru’s vicious face distorted heinously.

“Don’t look down on a truant with extra time!  Every day, for no reason, I would swing a wooden sword, which trained my grip strength to be over seventy kilos!  I can also bench press up to eighty kilos!”

Having his wrist crushed, the man cried out from the pain.  The moment the man lost his balance, Subaru kneed him.  The thug fainted in agony.  Subaru then quickly wrapped around the rear and placed his hands on his opponent’s waist.

“Don’t curse me if you die, alright?  I always wanted to try this once, German suplex!”

(TL Note: The actual term he used was ‘back on the ground throw’)

Lifting the other party in the manner of a back-drop, Subaru threw him away in the middle of the back-drop.  The thug’s head helplessly collided with the wall and fell onto the ground, motionless.

Confirming the other two men were silenced, Subaru finally walked towards the man with the knife who tried to kill him the first time.

Greasy from sweat, the knife-man had taken relatively little damage and was going to pull a knife at the approaching Subaru.  Since he tried to overpower Subaru, Subaru mercilessly kicked his face.  K.O.

“—and, easy victory!  I will never let evil attempt to thrive in this world!”

Having decided his gutsy pose, Natsuki Subaru celebrated his victory on the spot alone.

Making sure the three men were not dead, Subaru hastily left the alleyway.

“It doesn’t seem like the situation has changed at all.  Anyway, I need to hurry to the storehouse.”

Coming out of the alley unscathed, Subaru heard a subtle “oh” coming from passersby which sounded as if it was unexpected.  If you noticed the bandits then report it! is what he wanted to preach.

Of course, right now time was precious and he could only flee the scene with a jog.


2-3

After achieving his revenge in the back alley, Subaru arrived at the innermost area of the slums — in front of the Stolen Goods Storehouse.  It was already evening, the sun was large and on the horizon.

“F-finally, I found it… It took a seriously long time, dammit!”

Wiping away the sweat off his brows, Subaru finally reached his destination and slumped to the ground.

It seems that I somehow wasted two hours running around in circles before coming here.

“Because I came here only a while ago, I thought I could get here without getting lost…”

After all, being unable to read the words on signs was a major obstacle for Subaru, nor could he openly state the storehouse’s name outside of the slums.  Subaru had to rely on his memories to reach this point.

“I was too engrossed in talking with Satella last time.  Well, that’s probably why I only have faint memories of the road,”  Subaru joked while sweating.

But right now, in front of Subaru was the scene of his biggest crime, which he could not avert his eyes from.  Even if he could deceive himself with his frivolous monologues, he could not possibly deceive his heart.  Heart pounding, Subaru’s hands grew heavier as his heartbeat increased.  His tongue tingled from parchedness, and the terrible ringing in his ears seemed to strike his head over and over again.

Inside this storehouse was the answer Subaru sought.

For a brief moment, the scene which he saw flashed in front of his eyelids.  The corpse of an old man, his torn up abdomen, and the dreadful figure of Satella who was dragged into this because of himself.

“Don’t be scared, don’t be scared, don’t be scared me.  Am I an idiot?  No, I am an idiot.  I came all this way and I’m about to go home without looking for answers.”

To begin with, there was no place to return to.  There was only one thing he could rely on.

Making up his mind, Subaru looked ahead.  As he was about to walk, he noticed his knees were trembling.  Subaru thumped his quivering legs to calm them, took a deep breath, and pushed forward.

Under the orange sunlight, the storehouse’s rustic door seemed to silently refuse Subaru.

“Is anyone there?”

Suppressing thoughts about himself being weak, Subaru spoke while knocking on the door.

A dull sound echoed, but there was no response.  The returned silence made Subaru unable to stay put; the quietness frightened him, which made him knock on the door faster.

“Someone… someone’s in there, right?!  Please, answer me… please!”

He clung onto his vain hope and wanted to believe the scene he saw was a mistake.

Unable to handle Subaru’s passion, the door creaked and the hinges began to turn.  Then—

“—Yer annoying!  You don’t even know the signal or password, are you tryin’ to bust my door!”

The door before his eyes swung open.  Subaru, who couldn’t move due to fatigue, was blown away.  

Blown five meters away from the storehouse entrance, Subaru rolled awkwardly on the ground and looked up, his eyes spinning in bewilderment.  A startling sight lay before him, there stood a bald, old man with a flushed face.  The muscular, gigantic figure was wrapped in dingy rags, and had a polished, bald-head that reflected the sunset’s red glow.  In short, a huge, bald old man who seemed absolutely fine was standing there.

“What’s with you?!  I don’t even know you!  Who do you think you are!  How did you learn of this place?!  Or get here?!  Who introduced you?!”

The old man closed the distance at furious speed and effortlessly lifted Subaru by the scruff of his neck.

Feeling his two legs dangling, Subaru learned to know his place.  He originally thought he would not lose as long as it was not an outstanding opponent, but this was an outstanding opponent among opponents.

Carried by the old man who was over two meters tall, Subaru completely lost the will to resist.

“……My name is Natsuki Subaru, an extremely busy vagabond… For the time being, could you let me down?”

I want my feet to touch the ground before talking.

He used his utmost effort to request this indirectly.


2-4

It was an encounter that began with an extremely bad impression, but Subaru was successfully invited into the storehouse.  This was thanks to Subaru explaining that the introduction came from the man who offered the information to get to the storehouse, and describing that man’s appearance.

After entering, they immediately went towards the counter.  There, Subaru sat on the fixed chairs fitted there for visitors.  Because part of the seat was frayed, it was uncomfortable.  He could only correct the position of his buttocks, but each time he would feel a sharp sting.   If it happened when he relaxed his anus, it would trigger something dangerous.

“What’re you fidgeting around since a while ago?  Are your balls chafin’ you that much?”

“I’m not concerned about my son’s position!  Rather, don’t start talking about my privates!”

Rather than tall, describing the old man as large would be more fitting.  The old man, with his waist bent in the tight space, took out a bottle of liquor from under the counter, poured the content into a cup, and brought it to his lips.

“My evening drinking was disturbed by a noisy person.  If it’s about something boring, then I’ll do something terrible to you.”

“Drinking even though the sun only just began to sink, you’ll die early, you know.”

While criticizing with harsh words, Subaru rested his cheek on his hand and briefly looked around the inside of the storehouse.

The evening of the storehouse — traces of the tragedy that Subaru experienced were not found at all.  He was unable to distinguish whether the stolen goods were in disarray or crudely arranged.

Noticing Subaru’s line of sight, the old man narrowed his eyes and smiled.

“What is it, boy?… You interested in stolen goods?”

Thus, the conversation was brought to the point.

Surprisingly, the negotiation advanced smoothly with the bulky old man——Rom-ji, he introduced himself as.  It looked like Subaru’s decision to introduce himself first had paid off.

(TL Note: Rom-ji means “Old Man Rom” in Japanese)

On the other side of the counter, Rom-ji laughed a little while pouring more liquor in the moderately dirty glass.

“Well, the people who come here only have one of two purposes.  Bringing in stolen goods, or finding a use for the stolen good.  Which are you?”

“… Indeed, one of my goals is the latter.”

“One of them, huh.  Well then, what is the other business you came here for?”

Wanting to confirm Subaru’s demand, Rom-ji raised his eyebrows.  Subaru nodded, then hesitantly asked it at the risk of being made a fool.

“This is a ridiculous question, but… old man, have you died recently?”

Your neck and right arm were chopped, was what he wanted to add, but decided against it.

Rom-ji opened his greyish eyes wide for a while, before time seemed to move again as he broke into a smile.

“Gahahaha!  And here I was, wondering what you were about to say.  I’ll admit, it’s true that I’m an old man near death’s door, but unfortunately I haven’t had the experience of being dead.  Though at my age, I don’t think that’ll be far off.”

Laughing as if he heard delightful joke, Rom-ji offered the glass to Subaru and said “Want a drink?”

Refusing the drink with his hand gestures, Subaru dryly apologized “Sorry.”

Even though he apologized, Subaru’s sense of discomfort did nothing but grow.  The corpse he found in the storehouse — it was without a doubt the old man in front of him.

It was in the dark, and he was surprised at seeing a dead body for the first time, so it could not be said that Subaru was calm.  Still, it is difficult to mistake the old man’s characteristics.   Yet, this old man was still very lively.  Conversely, the same could also be said for Subaru.  He was mortally wounded, but was now the same.  

Wondering if what he saw was from daydreaming or not, Subaru couldn’t trust the contents in his head.

“Those feelings were all from a dream…?  Then when and up until what point was a dream?  Why am I in this world?”

The burning pain, the warmth from the girl’s slight touch, even the guilty conscience which made him want to die of regret.  If they were only remnants of his dream, then why was he here?

If that’s the case, it’s best to just consider everything starting from being summoned to another world as a dream.

“Rom-ji, did you happen to see a silver-haired girl here?”

“Silver hair…?  Nah, haven’t seen one.  Something like silver hair has a bad meaning which makes that feature stand out.  Even for me, with how degenerated my brain might be, it’s something not easily forgotten.”

“Gahaha,”  Rom-ji laughed it off dauntlessly, but Subaru’s expression was not well after hearing that.

Noticing Subaru’s serious attitude, Rom-ji stopped his laughter suddenly.

“Drink.”

The glass was pushed before Subaru again.  

The bottle of liquor was tilted towards the empty glass, an amber liquid poured out and filled the glass to the brim.  Towards Subaru, who watched it in silence, Rom-ji uttered the word “drink” once again.

“Sorry, but I’m not in that kind of mood.  Besides, I’m not the kind of kid that would act evil after drinking alcohol.”

“Fool.  Who said brats would have to act evil after drinking.  Gulp it down and try having it burn your stomach.  If you can’t stand the heat, then just spill out whatever is inside. So, drink,” insisted Rom-ji for the third time as he pushed the glass towards Subaru.

Overwhelmed by the hard line attitude, Subaru took the glass in his hand and brought the amber liquid close to his nose.  An alcohol-rich odor struck his nose sharply, and Subaru grimaced as he nearly choked involuntarily.  Though he was against it, Subaru was also driven by the urge to follow Rom-ji’s words.   Escaping reality through drinking, what a representation of an uncool adult, thought Subaru.

“Right…down it goes!”

Tilting the glass, Subaru poured the liquor down his throat in one go.

“Puhaa! Gah! Bad! Hot! Ridiculously bad! Hey, it’s bad!”

“How many times are you going to say it, you’ll get cursed!  People who don’t understand the taste of liquor are wasting half their lives!”

Subaru vented the welling heat, during which Rom-ji angrily shouted while consuming more liquor— he daringly flipped the liquor bottle upside down and drank from it.  

Drinking more than three times the amount Subaru had, the old man belched coarsely and laughed.

“But you took it well!  Feel like yer gonna puke yet?”

“…Ah!  Just a tiny bit!  Old man, I want to take care of my other objective.”

Returning the old man’s smile with a poor one, Subaru pointed at the depths of the storehouse while using his sleeve to wipe the spilled liquor from his mouth.  Goods with some form of value seemed to be gathered in the back of the storehouse.

Looking at the serious expression on Rom-ji’s face, Subaru asked frankly.

“I’m looking for an insignia with a jewel embedded in it… I want you to hand it over.”

His original objective — apart from confirming Satella’s safety, was the initial reason they came here.  Satella’s insignia that had a gem in it was stolen.  Though he did not hear the details of the circumstance, it was something she needed to recover even at her own risk.  Although her safety remains unclear, at least the insignia’s existence was certainly a clue.

Towards Subaru’s hopeful request, Rom-ji had a difficult look on his face.

“An insignia with an emblem in it… No, sorry but there ain’t any goods like that brought in.”

“…Really?  Think carefully.  Don’t tell me you’ve gone senile at your age.”

“If I ain’t recalling it when I’m at my top form from consuming alcohol, then I can only say ‘I dunno,’ though.”

When it looked like Subaru’s last hope was going to be severed, Rom-ji grinned meaningfully.

“Later today, there’s still an appointment for bringing in goods.  Plus, I was told about the object beforehand… The chances of it being the thing yer looking for is pretty likely.”

“Is the person bringing it in possibly……that kid, Felt?”

“That’s right, but…hey.  You already knew the thief’s name.”

The path he followed which he thought was a complete dead end seemed to have pulled him through.  It seems the girl that stole the insignia was Felt, as her name was confirmed here.  And naturally, this also proved the existence of the girl named Satella who had her insignia stolen.

At the very least, it’s good that it is no longer possible for that silver-haired girl to be a convenient event character produced from my delusions.

“I got worried because I thought my love towards silver-haired heroines was reflected onto her……”

“Sorry to disturb you while you’re relieved about something strange, but whether you can afford the item brought in is another story, yeah?  If the item comes with a jewel, then its value is quite high.”

“Ha!  It’s useless no matter how you try to play it up.  After all, I’m as broke as they come.”

“Ain’t no reason to talk about it then,” the disappointed Rom-ji bellowed.

There, Subaru put up his finger for Rom-ji and wagged his finger left and right.

“Tsk tsk tsk.  It’s certainly true that I don’t have money.  B-U-T!  There are means of getting things without using money in this world.  The primitive ways of bartering work, right?”

There was no objection from Rom-ji, he responded silently with a nod to continue.  Subaru fumbled around in his pant’s pocket, and what was held in the pulled out hand was…

“Whuzzat?  This is the first time I’ve seen this.”

“This thing I’ve taken out here, it’s a magic item that can freeze the time of all things, called ‘cell phone’!”

A compact size, white, flat-screen mobile phone.

Towards Rom-ji, whose eyes were wide open in bewilderment from seeing this mysterious object for the first time, Subaru quickly input an operation——Immediately after, the inside of the dim store was lit up by white light.

Ka-ching, rang the photo capturing sound.  Rom-ji, surprised by the chain of light and sound, rolled over on the other side of the counter.  At his exaggerated reaction, Subaru couldn’t help but laugh.  Rom-ji, on the other hand, was quite angry.

“What’s that just now?!  You tryin’ ta kill me?!  Making such a strange move, don’t you look down on an old man!”

“Hold on, hold on.  Calm down, take a deep breath, and make a hop.  Then come take a look.”

Because of the alcohol, Rom-ji’s face on the cellphone screen was reddened.  Then, the old man’s suspicious eyes widened after seeing it.

“This is……my face, yeah?  What kinda trick is this?”

“I told you before.  This is a mysterious item that captures and freezes time.  I used this tool and captured your time just now, that’s why it’s trapped in here.”

While saying that, Subaru changed the camera angle, and this time took a photo of himself.  Once again, he showed the screen to Rom-ji.  A still image of Subaru with a peace sign was displayed.

“Capturing time like this.  What do you think?  Unusual, right?”

“Though the way your face and posture appears is very lame, that is certainly…mhmm…”

While Subaru was dissed for posing, Rom-ji’s gaze and interest were glued on the mobile phone.

Because the bait was taken more strongly than expected, Subaru clenched his fist right there.

“It’s my first time seeing it, but……this must be the rumored 『Meteor』, or so they call it.”

“『Meteor』?”

No, it’s just a Galapagos phone, Subaru wanted to reply, as Rom-ji nodded with an “Mhm.”

(TL Note: Galapagos phones are called ガラケー, or Garake which is short for Galapagos Keitaidenwa.  More info here.)

“It’s the generic term for tools that makes it possible for you to use magic without opening your gate like a magician.  Originally, it seems to mean a gift that fell from the sky.”

Magic-based items are called 『Meteor』.  Hearing those strange yet familiar words, Subaru nodded.  Rom-ji, after scrutinizing the mobile phone in his hands, placed it back on the counter.

“This thing’s value is certainly immense.  Even for me, who has worked in the stolen goods business, this is the first time I’ve negotiated anything related to a 『Meteor』……There’s no doubt it’ll fetch a high price.”

The urge to get involved in handling rare commodities, it seems it was the same in the black market business.  Rom-ji, who spoke quickly from excitement, placed a hand on his chin while observing Subaru.

“If that’s the case, even if that item contains a jewel, exchanging yers for a mere ornament is quite a big loss.  If it’s this, it could be worth much more.  No, you won’t even have to get involved with the likes of these stolen goods businesses.”

For a rogue who exchanges stolen goods for money, it was strangely caring advice to put forth.

Before the old man’s charming advice, Subaru smiled wryly.  Certainly, if you looked from afar, Subaru’s actions would no doubt look ridiculous.  But he didn’t care.

“Ah, that’s fine.  I’ll use this 『Meteor』 to exchange for the insignia Felt is bringing.”

“Why would you go to that extent?  Isn’t this 『Meteor』 much more expensive?  Or do you intend to say its value does not lie in its worth?”

Rom-ji’s words indicated his amazement.  As for Subaru, he also agreed that if he was a third party, he would have also had the same judgement as the old man’s.

“Well… to be honest, I haven’t actually seen the item in question.  And in terms of worth, it is not something that is more than this cellphone, so I will definitely take a big loss.”

“If you already understood it to that extent, why would you do such a thing?”

“I already decided —— I wanted to take a loss.”

Rom-ji blinked three times at Subaru, who followed up with a forthright response.

That’s right, that’s my answer.

“I want to repay a favor.  I’m just returning what I borrowed.  After all, I’m a highly strung modern kid.  If I don’t do this, I won’t be able to sleep feeling good about myself.  —— That’s why, even if I am to lose big, I have to take back the insignia.”

“Hm… I heard what you just said.  Do you mean to say the insignia is not originally yers?”

“It belongs to a beautiful, silver-haired girl who helped me.  I don’t know the reason why, but I’m told it’s something important.”

“And yer benefactor?  Ain’t you together?”

“Currently in the middle of searching for her!  Or rather, the existence of that beautiful girl who helped me might not be a delusion born from my lonesomeness!”

Clenching his fist, Subaru denied the uneasiness he muttered from earlier by laughing it off.

Once I get the insignia in my hand, I’m sure, once more, that I’ll meet that girl.  I want to see her smile.

“——Yer quite the fool aren’t cha?”

Watching Subaru solidify his resolve, Rom-ji laughed merrily.


2-5

Before the serious negotiations came, Subaru spent a while pleasantly talking with Rom-ji.  Especially in regard to the 『Meteor』, which Rom-ji was interested in.

Even in another world, the feeling of high-tech stuff being a man’s romance is something we share, thought Subaru.

“Not just your clothes, the stuff you’re carrying are also very strange.  This as well, delish delish.”

“It’s tasty right? … Hey, you’re eating too much!  My Konpota!  You should be holding back a bit!”

(TL Note: Konpota is the abbreviated nickname they use for Corn Potage flavor snack.  Example here)

“Leave the complaining fer later.  Hoarding such a delish treat for yourself, you’ll go to hell you know.”

“And the old man who eats the delish treat without the owner’s permissions doesn’t go to hell?  Complaining while you turn a blind eyes to your own misdeeds, this is a bad habit from the baby boomers……Stop eating!”

(TL Note: Baby boomers is referring to the baby boom of post-WWII where boomers “tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before.”  Source from Wikipedia)

In an act of displaying compassion, he showed off his snack food.  The result, which led to it being mostly eaten, caused his eyes to water in regret as he put the emptied confectionery bag away in his convenience store bag.

—And then, the storehouse’s door was knocked on.  It was at a time where the sun was at a considerably low incline.

Subaru, whose body was lying on the counter and was dozing off, lifted his head, while Rom-ji’s giant body nimbly headed towards the door in response to the knock.  The old man, with a serious look, placed his ear on the door.

“For a large rat…”

“Poison.”

“For a white whale…”

“Hook.”

“To the noble Dragon-sama, we are…”

“Shitheads.”

Rom-ji’s short questions were all answered in a flash.

What a peculiar argot.  That’s probably their signal and password, I think.

Satisfied, Rom-ji removed the lock on the door.  Staring from behind his back was Subaru, who swallowed as the time had come.

“—Sorry ta keep ya waitin’, Rom-ji.  My opponent was surprisingly persistent.  I had to waste quite a bit of time.”

Intimately triumphing over her spoils, a girl walked past Rom-ji’s side and entered the storehouse.  She was a girl with disorderly, semi-long hair.  Her pupils were red like a rabbit’s, and from her mouth protruded a mischievous fang.  Her small, seemingly dextrous body was, frankly speaking, wrapped in worn-out clothes.

Subaru stood up unintentionally.  Clatter.  Noticing Subaru and the noise he made, the girl unexpectedly lost her smile.

“Ah?  Oi, who are ya?  Rom-ji, I told ya I was bringing in something big, shouldn’t ya have cleared out the room?”

“I understand your feelings very well, but that kid is here for you, Felt.  Though, the reason he’s here isn’t unrelated to that big thing.”

[Illustration]

Felt’s face increasingly contorted in suspicion from Rom-ji’s answer.

Subaru looked at the place she unconsciously placed her hand on — her pocket, it seems like the insignia is there.  Felt then gave Subaru a vigilant look.

“What is it with that Nii-chan?  No way, I wasn’t sold was I?”

(TL Note: Felt calls Subaru the same way other thugs call him, using “bro.”  But I thought it would be more fitting to keep it as “Nii-chan” for just her.)

“My acquaintance with you is not that dishonorable.  Besides, I let ’em in because I thought it wouldn’t be bad deal for you.”

“Aye?” Rom-ji said while winking at Subaru for an agreement.

Experiencing this rare and disgusting feeling of being winked by an old man, Subaru disguised his nervousness by putting on a light act.  While under Rom-ji’s withering gaze, Subaru turned towards the girl.

“Don’t put on such a scary face.  First, since you rushed here, how about a cup of milk?”

“Every part of ya reeks of idiocy……Though I don’t care about whatever yer planning, anything ya talk about aside from money, I have no interest in.  Main topic, it’s fine for ya to start it,” reacted Felt coldly.

While shrugging off the bad first impression he received, Subaru replied.

“I know I made an unreasonable demand to the old man to give me some time, but……in short, I have a use for that insignia with a jewel in it which is stored in that pocket.”

Twitch.  The girl raised her eyebrows.  Subaru’s knowledge about the theft, as well as the details of the stolen object seem to have increased her caution by a level.  He held up his hands in order to relieve her vigilance.

“I won’t use my hands or legs, only my mouth.  In other words, let’s negotiate.”

With his two raised hands’ fingers, Subaru pointed at a small table besides the counter.

“You and I both won’t suffer a loss.  Let’s aim for a Win Win resolution, ‘kay?”

(TL Note: Subaru uses English here for “Win Win”)

Felt soon agreed at Subaru’s desire towards a discussion.  From there, they sat across from each other at the designated table.  The tactful Rom-ji poured a glass of milk and set it before the two.

“I provided the place and the milk, but yer on your own for negotiations.  Ain’t my business.”

“I’ve prepared myself to get robbed in this negotiation.  Just watch my negotiations as I get ripped-off.”

His palm sounding as he punched it, Subaru spoke with confidence about something he should not be proud of.  Rom-ji snorted at Subaru, while Felt, on the other hand, tilted back the glass of milk and grimaced.

“Oi, Rom-ji.  This milk, it’s been diluted with water, right?  Tastes horrible.”

“Why does everyone respond to the goodwill I put out with ‘it’s bad, it’s bad’……”

Rom-ji, accepting the rude words, stroked the foul mood Felt’s head with his large palm.  It was a scene which looked like Felt’s neck would come off, but one look at the old man’s soft expression as he patted her and it was clear that Rom-ji bore no malicious intent.  Felt, as well, seemed accustomed as she accepted it.

“You two are much closer than I thought.  I feel kind of lonely being left out.”

“Your heinous face is comparable to that of Rom-ji’s, don’t talk like a sissy.”

“I’ve been told many things until now, but you’re saying I can compete with this old man!?”

Appalled by Felt’s words, Subaru, in devastation, looked up at the balding old man.

Although it was true that my eyes were slightly scary, and could cause a misunderstanding, I couldn’t imagine being on the same comparable level as the two meter tall, giant old man.

“Ah, what I just said really was too much.  Sorry, Nii-chan.”

“Though I want to settle this by having you call me ‘Onii-chan’ in cute manner, for the moment I’ll forgive you.  In the future, heartless words that hurt people are……What’s wrong, Rom-ji?”

“You guys, you two aren’t conspiring to anger me, are you?”

Though he was smiling, Rom-ji had a blue vein pop appear on his forehead.  To which Subaru and Felt looked at each other, and shrugged.  In response to their synchronized action, Rom-ji sighed deeply.

“Good grief……now that I think about it, Felt’s acquaintances of her age are all ruffians, aren’t they.”

“……Rom-ji, I’m begging ya, so could the embarrassing talk about when I was little stop now?”

“As for being the same age……Well, that’s because I’m an old man so everyone looks the same.”

Subaru glanced at Felt once again in observation.  Taking into account her poor stature, her age looked to be twelve or thirteen.  Even if she was looked at in the best possible light, she would be, at most, fourteen.  Getting along as her friend or acquaintance, their age-gap made him embarrassed.

While Subaru was analyzing such, Felt sulked, still arguing with Rom-ji.

“What are you going to do, keeping up that lone wolf attitude of yours?  Someday my body won’t hold up, and when the time comes, I can’t keep you company.  If that happens, are you gonna live alone?”

“How many years ago have ya started saying that?  Aside from thinking about saying the same thing over and over again, ya don’t come across as senile at all, Rom-ji.  Before that happens…”

“Before?”

Having her fading words picked up by Subaru, Felt gave him a childish look.

Feeling like he should not have been listening based on the unwelcoming mood, Subaru cleared his throat.  Including the part which deviated from the main subject considerably, it’s about time I corrected it.

“Well then, let’s once again move to starting negotiations.  Um, Felt.  You have the insignia, yeah?”

“……Y-yeah, I got it.”

Felt tersely affirmed in a frank manner as Subaru cut to the main subject in a single stroke.  She stuck her hand in her pocket, extracted the content, and quietly placed it on top of the table.

—The insignia Subaru has been searching for, it had a design that modelled a dragon.  A distinctive badge.

The insignia was about a size that it would fit in one’s palm.  He couldn’t speak for its material, but the design, which modeled a wyvern, was quite elaborate.  A red jewel in the dragon’s open mouth, it had quite the unique appearance.

(TL Note: In Asian culture, wyvern and the likes are all considered subspecies of dragons.  Though it is less accepted in Western culture, it is also the case in literature.  Quote from Wikipedia – The wyvern is regarded, moreover, as the distant, lesser cousin to the dragon)

“Now…”

Falling silent, Subaru was pulled back into reality by Felt’s call.  As if to show the insignia to him, whose mind had just returned, Felt pushed it to the end of the table.

“It’s your turn to let me see your cards.  This insignia is not an ordinary thing, plus, I had a hard time getting my hands on it.  If your card can match that, then we’ll both be happy, right?”

“Sorry to disappoint your evil, testing smile, but I’ve only got one card to take out.  After all, I am, regardless of my ups and downs in life, penniless!”

Felt made a bitter face as Subaru stuck his chest out.

As per usual, as soon as everyone hears “penniless,” they would have unpleasant looks on their faces, thought Subaru.

Setting aside those feelings in his chest, he acted according to his declaration and took out his strongest card.  Looking at the cellphone that was slammed onto the table, Felt was, as expected, puzzled.   While pleased at the reaction, Subaru activated the cellphone’s camera feature.

“Take this!  Nine shots per second: Burst Mode!”

(TL Note: He actually says 連続撮影 which means Continuous Shooting, but it’s commonly called Burst Mode in English)

“Wah, wawawawawawa!  Oi, what’s that sound and eye glarin’ thing!”

Flashes of white light and mechanical shutter sounds continuously occurred at tremendous speed.

Felt had a look that wanted to object to Subaru’s breach of manners, but before her mouth opened, the screen he held was thrust at her.  She widened her eyes at her own figure on display.

“Is this…?”

“Yeah, you were copied!  This can capture time and give it a form, a 『Meteor』.  I propose to barter for that insignia, with this 『Meteor』.”

Playing your best card on the opening move, and advancing negotiations with your dominant momentum.   It’s one of the standard tactics of negotiation.  In some cases, that assertive action tends to determine an outcome with just that.

However, this method is the same as declaring to the opponent that one does not have a more powerful card.  In reality, Subaru was going to use his verbal skills to make it through.

“I see, that’s great then.  Well, Rom-ji?  How much would sellin’ this 『Meteor』 earn?”

Peeking at the screen, Felt reacted with a nod and “uh-huh” which stunned Subaru due to her terrible indifference.  Her eyes were not sparkling; she didn’t even take the mobile phone in her hand.  Her interest was not in the mobile phone’s functions or rarity.  Fittingly, her only concern was how much money it would fetch.

“Even high-tech romance is only limited to males in another world!  It feels lonely!”

“Yer noisy, don’t chirp excitedly.  As for me, this 『Meteor』?  If it can be sold for more than this insignia, then ten thousand cheers to that.  But I only trust Rom-ji around here.”

(TL Note: Felt actually says ‘Banbanzai’ or ‘万々歳.’  It is also known as 万万歳.  They all mean ‘ten thousand cheers.’  You probably hear the term ‘Banzai’ more often, this is the same except the 万 means adding ten thousand to it.)

“Well, I don’t know the exact worth.  But from the conclusion, they ain’t comparable.  Though I’m sure that insignia is worth quite a bit…it’s inferior to a 『Meteor』.  In other words, I concluded that this negotiation, Felt, will be quite lucrative for you.”

“I see, I see.  Well then, isn’t that fine then.”

Rom-ji’s vouching brought Felt into a good mood.

Although the plan was slightly changed because of the unexpected reaction, Subaru was delighted with joy as he seemed to have achieved his goal.  However, just as Subaru was about to extend his hand to take care of things immediately, Felt stopped him with a “wait”.

“We finished showing each other’s hand, but I’m still not done price gouging yet?”

“… Don’t go declaring that you’ll be price gouging.  Besides, even if you tell me to raise it further, it’s impossible.  After all, I’m uniquely penniless.”

“Even I’m not as cruel as that.  Rom-ji did say this much.  Rather than this insignia’s value, that 『Meteor』‘s value is higher.  That, I admit.  —Though, ya having no more cards to play is probably a lie.”

Felt stood up and looked down at Subaru, who sat on a chair.  

Being stared at by those pair of red eyes with an appraisal-like gleam, Subaru had cold sweat running down his back.  The strongest card for negotiating, the mobile phone, was already played.  But Subaru still had some things at hand.  What remained were things that would have some value in this world.  At worst, aside from the offered phone, he had plans to show some—

“Don’t worry, didn’t I say?  I don’t intend to take anymore from ya.  I’m satisfied as long as I can exchange this for money.”

Smiling at Subaru’s anxiousness, Felt lightly clapped her hands.  Her reaction caused Subaru to hold his breath before he looked away and took deep breaths to avoid showing his composure lost.  

“Then, what do you mean by price gouging?”

“Hm?  Ah, simple.  It means my negotiating partner is not just ya, Nii-chan.”

Subaru had a question mark on his face.  

To answer that question, Felt raised her finger.

“To begin with, I nicked this insignia because it was asked of me.  I was told, with one of these I could exchange it for ten holy coins.”

“You had a prior arrangement with the theft requester!  Ten gold coins, huh, I don’t know the market that well though…”

Subaru glanced at Rom-ji, who grasped his intentions and nodded.

“This insignia, for me if all goes well, it’ll go four, five gold coins.  There is also the possibility it is beaten down to three gold coins.”

“Then, it’s a simple buyback for double the price?”

“No, didn’t she say holy gold coins?  Unlike gold coins that flow in the market, because holy gold coins’ materials are made of rare holy gold, ten holy gold coins’ worth would be near twenty gold coins.”

“Quadrupled!?”

“Whaddaya so surprised about.  The 『Meteor』 you brought, at worst is worth twenty holy gold coins.  In some cases, a connoisseur would bring out more.  They ain’t the same level of talk.”

It’s a world where he had difficulty understanding the valuation of things.  When a currency above gold coins, which he thought was the highest, popped up, and he was told his item was worth twenty of those coins, Subaru was surprised.  

“If this 『Meteor』 is so valuable, just tell your theft requester something to refuse.”

“That’s why I said price gouging.”

Felt’s cheeky look on her face distorted further into an evil smile.

“Since Nii-chan issued such a stupidly high offer, if they want the insignia they may or may not add some rewards too.”

“…In other words, it’s that?  If the other party offers up more than twenty holy gold coins.”

“If Nii-chan doesn’t show me the rest of your cards, we can’t have a match.”

She is an evil-looking… correction, she straight up is a demon.

Since arriving, the worse turn of events caused Subaru’s complexion to begin to be clouded.

“Well then, where is that requester?  When is the meeting scheduled at?  You’ll allow us all to negotiate on the table together, right?”

“Of course.  It’ll only be a one-sided disadvantage for Nii-chan.  Though my profit may also be reduced.  Also, don’t worry about the negotiation location — it’s right here.”

Tapping the edge of the table with her finger, Felt looked up at Rom-ji while leaning back on the backrest.

“If Rom-ji is here, most other parties would cancel the option to use violence after all.  To have a quarrel with an old man with this kind of appearance, just the thought of it would discourage them.”

Felt sought for Subaru’s agreement.  With a glance at Rom-ji, Subaru agreed with a “yep, yep.”

On the other hand, Rom-ji didn’t seem bothered by the two’s poor evaluation.

“Without me around, nothin’ can get done, huh.  Truly, pitiful.  Want more milk?  It’ll be slightly sweeter.”

It looked as if Rom-ji was a stupid old man treating his granddaughter like a cute kitten.  

In high spirits, Rom-ji poured the milk to the brim for Felt.  While watching her, Subaru noticed she spilled an exasperated sigh.  

“Still, if you called them here in the first place, even if I wasn’t here you fully planned to negotiate the price didn’t you.”

“Naturally so.  How hard do ya think I had to work to steal this?  Plus, what should I do if a weak person like me were to meet them and was bilked on.  I’ll lose my honor, right?”

“Weak, huh…”

Felt had a delicate and petite appearance, judging by that, it was not a wrong description at all, but after a taste of her stubborn and bold spirit, Subaru had a considerable resistance towards describing her as ‘weak.’  In addition, thinking back, when she was in the process of struggling to steal this insignia, she deserted Subaru, who was in a pinch with his life about to end.    Remembering that brought out his anger, so much so that he wanted to say at least one word of dissatisfaction.  

“Rather, could you have possibly forgotten about me?”

“——?  Where’d we meet?  Though it has to be quite a shocking encounter, or I won’t remember it, since I don’t have the free time to do so.  In the first place, Nii-chan is considerably plain looking.  Only your hair color and clothes are conspicuous,” Felt laughed aloud mockingly.  

Her attitude didn’t seem like she was lying, and at the same time, discovering how ordinary his appearance was appalled Subaru.  Perhaps the word empathy is completely obsolete in this other world.  Her mental strength to easily forget an (attempted) robbery and murder was evidence.  On the other hand, there was Satella, who helped Subaru in a situation where she would gain nothing, and Rom-ji, who, in spite of being a rogue, he could not bring himself to hate.  Therefore, he didn’t know what to think.  Even in another world, the individual people are still different.  To only evaluate based on the bad ones is not proper.  

“Well, it’s fine if Felt’s memory is terrible.  So, when is the other party coming?”

“That’s some irritating way of speakin’.  I said my work would end by sunset, so we agreed to meet after sunset……The sun is about to set, should be about time they came?”

This conversation might have set off a flag.  

A sharp knocking suddenly resounded from the door.  The three looked at each other.

“Tha password?”

“Ah, I didn’t tell them.  It’s probably my guest, I’ll go check.”

Felt stuck her tongue out at Rom-ji’s words, then leaped up towards the entrance of the storehouse.  Subaru got the feeling of Felt behaving selfishly in another person’s home.  

“Is that fine?  Letting her act so freely.”

“Eh, not like we’re strangers.  Our acquaintance ain’t short either… and she’s relyin’ on me to take care of things.”

Subaru thought the old man seemed happy to be relied upon, as the old man brought out a club from the back of the storehouse.  It was the length of a bamboo sword, and was probably made of wood.  But the tip had some spikes sticking out here and there.  Looking at it, it’s something that would cause a fatal wound if hit.  

“A nail bat or something.  As expected of another world, a club is the standard equipment……”

The macho old man’s equipment was more than two meters.  Subaru thought the figure met his expectations, but it would be perfect if the old man was in a half-naked state with torn rags and a loincloth.  

“Upon seeing this uncivilized person’s figure, even for me, Subaru, I can only return a bitter smile.”

“You sure like to blab yer mouth.  I wonder who was it thanks to that got you this far?” lamented Rom-ji as he shook his head.  

Subaru lowered his gaze at the old man’s attitude.  

“Well, truly, I’m thankful.  The talk is still not over yet, but for it to have gotten to this point, it is definitely thanks to you, old man.  Thank you.”

“……Suddenly becoming so gentle, have you gone crazy?”

Rom-ji scratched his bald head with his finger at Subaru’s gratitude, and then took a deep breath.  

“It was a situation where you found this place, and ya offered goods that belonged to you.  There’s nothing I’ve done that deserves thanking.”

“What’re you talking about?  After all, Rom-ji, didn’t you already know Felt had an appointment here to trade the insignia?  If that’s the case, I’m sure you had the choice to throw me out without listening to me in the first place.”

“…………”

“Without a doubt, it was you, old man, who gave me a chance to speak.  Though, after taking the chance, it was all my accomplishments.  My!  Accomplishments!  Right!”

Because it was important, Subaru repeated himself and declared it twice.  

Subaru’s remark while pointing his thumb at himself caused Rom-ji to keep silent with a difficult expression.  It seems Subaru was disgusted with, as he regretted the remarks he just spouted out.  

“Thanks… this is a bit wrong, if someone were to be told it, shouldn’t I be the one to receive it?”

Subaru was reflecting on his actions when Rom-ji suddenly grumbled at him.  The old man’s wrinkled face distorted as he laughed and deepened the wrinkles on his face further, “You got a 『Meteor』 with you, and the look of yer clothes and appearance as well… Yer actually from a pretty nice background, right?”

“No, I wouldn’t say that…”

“It’s fine to hide it.  The fact that the insignia was stolen by Felt, it’s something ya don’t want to publicize, right?  I’m just thankful that you attempted to recover it amicably.”

Towards Subaru, who he was unable to discern his disposition, Rom-ji seem to have formed his own impression of Subaru one way or another.  In the old man’s mind, Subaru seemed to be a pretty attentive gentleman.  

“Felt and I, since the time as far as she could remember, we have formed this relationship.”

“Ah, it felt like that from your conversations……Have you two lived here all this time?”

Subaru lifted his chin, implying he was indicating the slums.  

Rom-ji nodded.  “A place like this, no matter who, everyone is desperate to survive.  To live, children of similar circumstances usually form cliques, but……Felt is not suited for it.”

“If she had that attitude towards everyone, I can see that kind of thing happening.”

It’s fine to be call it strong-willed, but Felt’s attitude is that of selfishness.  If relationships are connected based on interests, that way of life cannot be seen as favorable, thought Subaru.  

“But, if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be an issue of your approach?  How should I say, I think it’s because there’s a pampering Rom-ji here that she grew so impudent.”

“……I have nothing to retort with.  Because it’s true that I am partial towards that child.”

Rom-ji calmly muttered while rubbing his bald head.  Looking at the side of the old man’s face that had downcast eyes, Subaru perceived that Rom-ji held Felt as dear as family.  Even if they were not related by blood, at least Rom-ji held a bond with her.  

“As long as it’s not a one-sided love, it would be fine.”

“Even if that’s the case, I don’t mind…… No, it would be better that way, ” hearing Subaru’s muttering that had no subject, Rom-ji responded softly.  

Subaru was about to continue the conversation on another subject due to Rom-ji’s demeanor, but it seems like their time was up.

“Dun ya two guys talk in a low voice, feels disgusting.”

Felt, who returned, criticized Subaru and Rom-ji with abusive words while they were holding a conversation.  

Behind Felt, who had a clumsy fake smile on, stood another figure.

“It was, as I thought, my guest.  Here, take a seat.”

Subaru was motioned to move aside by Felt as she amicably turned back towards the other party.  Subaru tensely raised his line of sight towards the other party, and was slightly surprised.

That’s because the person Felt invited was… a beautiful woman.  

She was a tall woman, about the same height as Subaru, and she seemed to be around her early twenties.  She was a beauty with eyes that had their edges mellowed.  Her morbidly white skin stood out terribly in the dim storehouse.  She wore a black cloak, yet her front, which was open, showed her attire was of the same color and tightly fitted to her skin.  Though she was slender, she had a nice body that stuck out where it should.

(TL Note: Subaru used English when he said ‘nice body’ to describe her)

And, like Subaru, she had black hair which was rare in this world.  With a long, braided hair that reached past her back and to her waist, she was playing with its ends using her fingers.

She was a mature Onee-san with a vaguely bewitching appearance.  For Subaru, who had no experience with females, the presence of an unknown existence couldn’t help but lose his composure.  

(TL Note: The term Onee-san in Japanese refers to any female older than you, but not so old that she could be your bloody grandmother.)

Losing his collectedness, Subaru obediently ceded his seat.  Felt sat in the empty seat, with Rom-ji holding a club to her left, and Subaru, who could not hide his nervousness, standing on her right.  Receiving such a heavy welcoming, the woman did not seem to show displeasure as she tilted her head.

“I feel like there are quite a few outsiders.”

“I’ll be troubled if ya bilked after all.  It’s the wisdom of the weak.  Also, Nii-chan get us somethin’ to drink.”

Unable to refute Felt’s bossy hand gesture, Subaru chose some relatively clean glasses from the shelf, brought them over, and poured milk for the two.

After saying “thank you” to the serving Subaru, the woman then spoke appraisingly, “I know the old fellow over there, but this young man is?”

From his behavior and demeanor, she probably noticed Subaru was not accustomed to his role.  Rather than out of caution, it was purely an innocent question; to which Felt smiled a villainous smile.

“This Nii-chan is your rival.  My other negotiator, ya see.”

Thus, her declaration started the price gouging.


2-6

“I see.  I understand the situation now.”

After tilting the glass for a drink, the woman licked the thin, white trace on her lips.

Elsa, as she identified herself, was erotic in her every gesture.  Even while Felt was briefing her, she would often cast flirtatious glances which left Subaru embarrassed.  

“Well, this is why this is a price raisin’ negotiation.  After all, I dun really care who gets the insignia, so I’ll sell it to the highest bidder.”

“That’s a nice personality, I don’t hate it.  —And so, how much did the young man over there offer?”

Ten holy gold coins — that was the amount Elsa previously offered.  

Naturally, because he was able to compete with it, the other side must have thought he had offered a larger amount of money.  

Deciding it would be unwise to take a wait-and-see attitude, Subaru, for the third time, activated the mobile phone’s photographing feature.  

A bright flash tore through the storehouse, capturing Elsa’s figure on the screen.  

Elsa raised her eyebrows at the sudden action, to which Subaru showed off his phone’s screen.

[Illustration]

“What I offered is this 『Meteor』.  This is probably a one of a kind rare item in this world.  According to that muscular old man’s appraisal, its bottom of the barrel price is at least twenty holy gold coins.”

“『Meteor』…”

Looking at her own figure reflected on the screen, Elsa gave an assenting nod.

Subaru’s approach was bartering, and his conveyance did not seem like a bluff.  

Elsa took out a small leather pouch from her pocket, inside was most likely – the reward of holy gold coins.  

The leather pouch was placed on the table, and a solid clanging noise of metals impacting resonated.

Felt’s pupils contracted like that of a cat as Rom-ji silently reprimanded her.  Elsa then folded her white hands on the table.  

“In fact, I was handed some extra money to an extent by my client.  Should the other party be hesitant, then it was meant to be a little addition for you to rethink things.”

“Client… that means Elsa-san was just asked to receive the insignia?”

(TL Note: In Japanese, people use –san as a way of politely calling them.  Think “Mr.” or “Ms.”)

“This is the case.  My client is the one who wants it…… You, might you be in the same trade?”

“Being in the same trade as me means they’re unemployed!”

“So, this unemployed Nii-chan offered an exorbitant amount.  What’s the price yer owner is willin’ to pay?”

In response to Felt’s provocative words, Elsa opened her pouch in silence.

The leather pouch was turned upside down, and out came holy gold coins that emitted dazzling silver shines.

Felt’s eyes brightened at the overlapping metallic clank; even Rom-ji’s throat faintly let out some noise.  On the other hand, Subaru’s eyes were not occupied by their luster.  If there’s no mistaking it, then the count is—

“Twenty coins, just.”

“This is all of the holy gold coins my employer provided.  It seems the offer from higher-up is the same as your appraisal……Is it a bit of an issue?”

The question was directed to the person next to Felt, Rom-ji.

After Rom-ji counted the number of holy gold coins, he looked down at the anxious Subaru and smiled.

“Dun put on that childish face.  A man shouldn’t look undignified after all… Twenty holy gold coins is certainly an outrageous reward, but I did say the bottom of the barrel value is twenty holy gold coins for it.”

A huge, rugged palm violently ruffled Subaru’s short, black hair.

“How I see it, this negotiation leans towards the boy.  I apologize to you and yer employer, but you better bag up these holy gold coins and return.”

With those words, Rom-ji pushed the holy gold coins back with his rugged palm and Subaru shouted in delight.

Felt, without any objection, threw her hands up, while Elsa also didn’t seem disappointed at all as she shrugged.  Because Subaru spontaneously decided pumped his fist in the air, his surroundings reacted by giving him some attention.

“W-what!  Isn’t it fine?!  I’m happy after all!  In some sense, it’s my first time achieving a goal here!  I can at least have a victory pose, right?!”

“I didn’t really say anythin’ though.  Celebrate as ya wish.  Since I’m fine as long as I profit.”

“Same goes for my employer.  Because it is not necessary for them to have the insignia, there is no need to continue.”

Towards the blushing Subaru, Felt and Elsa took a matter-of-fact stance.

Though he did not have such a bad personality that he was expecting words of defeat, Elsa’s attitude was that of not minding that she could not fulfill her request.  

“Ah, sorry Elsa-san.  It looks like you might get yelled at.”

“It can’t be helped.  If it was my fault, it would be different, but in this case it was my employer’s blunder for thinking they could get away with paying so little.”

“Havin’ twenty holy gold coins ain’t little, I’d lose a bit of pride.”

“Well, my luck is at its peak today!  Has my time finally come?”

Contrary to the man who was sympathetic towards Elsa, Felt’s attitude was that of truly being unable to read the mood.

Anyhow, Subaru was able to realize his objective by coming to this place.  In doing so, a seed of hope was planted for him to be able to return his gratitude to Satella.  

By all rights, he should report Felt, who stole the insignia, and Elsa, who requested the theft, to Satella, but Subaru did not have the mental toughness to throw them into jail.  

He decided to be opportunistic here.

“Now then, although the results of the negotiation were regrettable, I shall excuse myself.”

The now standing Elsa drank the remaining milk.  She licked the drops of milk in an erotic way again, and suddenly looked at Subaru.  

——Her black pupils fastened upon him, and Subaru felt as if he was entangled.

“—By the way, once that insignia is in your hand, what will you do with it?”

It somehow felt like a dark, cold-blooded question was asked.  

Its sound euphoniously reverberated through Subaru’s eardrums, giving him the illusion that he was forbidden from perjury.

“… Oh, I was gonna find and return it to the original owner.”

Once he said it, Subaru noticed his obvious faux pas.

He declared he was going to return it to its owner in front of the thief girl and the theft client.  Those words,

“—Oh, so you have ties with them.”

held enough meaning to cause Elsa to release her cold murderous intent.  

“Oof—!?”

Subaru received a sudden impact on his flank.

His body slid sideways from the impact, and Subaru, unable to brace himself, rolled on the floor.  Pained and shocked, his eyes swam as he slammed onto the ground.  Raising his head, he noticed Felt clinging to his waist.

“What are —”

“Ya an idiot!?  Dodge it!  Ya want to die!?”

“you doing!?”  His outburst was drowned out by a louder shout.

Subaru was startled.  From his low position he could visibly see Elsa facing him.

“Ara, it was avoided,” noted Elsa wonderingly as she tilted her head.

Elsa’s hand held a disproportionate weapon which emitted a dull shine.  

——Kukri knife, was this weapon’s name as Subaru’s knowledge of it surfaced.  The knife neared thirty centimeters long, and its blade is bent in the shape of the character く, which is why it’s a bladed weapon commonly known as the inwardly curved blade.  It’s a weapon that is heavy on the front end and can be used like an axe to chop apart its prey.  It’s easy to imagine its power and savagery.

Brandishing her knife, Elsa’s smile from before was unchanged.

Judging by her posture, the knife was used once.  If that’s the case, that means I was saved by being sent into orbit when Felt leaped to protect me.  

His fear, finally catching up with him, caused his arms and legs to tremble, and filled him with nausea.  But the situation did not wait for him.

“RRRAAAAAAAAAAAAH—!!”

Roaring, Rom-ji charged at the assassin knife wielding Elsa.

Swinging the club that he did not let go of even during the negotiations, Rom-ji aimed the spiked part of the weapon at Elsa’s skull.  Ten kilos were being lifted effortlessly like a twig as it tore through the wind and hit the storehouse floor.

The floor reverberated from the impact, giving the impression that the entire building was shaking.  The scattered stolen goods around the two were blown away after the first move, and so the fight began in front of Subaru, who had sunk onto the floor.  

“This is my first time battling a giant to the death.”

“Go ahead an’ keep talkin’ little girl.  — I’ll make you into minced meat and feed you to large rats!”

Rom-ji’s club sped up considerably as he shouted insults.  Up against such power, a clumsy defense would be worse than a paper shield.  With so little footing in the middle of the storehouse, to be cornered by the club’s attacks was a fatal threat.  However, his opponent was Elsa, whose ability was abnormal.  

Swaying the kukri that hung upon her hand, Elsa’s shadow slid around the lethal tempest.  In the truest sense, she was walking on a fine line between life and death; yet Rom-ji was the one dancing in Elsa’s palm.  

This is bad, Subaru instinctively thought.  —Something was setting off his alarm bells.

“Not good…”

“It’s all right.  Rom-ji won’t get done in!  Ever since I was old enough ta talk, I ain’t seen Rom-ji ever lose a fight!”

In accord with Subaru, whose lips were trembling from uneasiness, Felt hollered her confidence as if to encourage herself.

There was a trust that could not be overthrown behind Felt’s words which was formed over the years.  Subaru believed in it without needing to be told as their bickering showed the two’s intimate relationship.  But unlike the girl shouting her trust, Subaru was pessimistic.  Though, he didn’t know the reason why.

“—Take this!”

A change had occurred in the direction of the battle before Subaru’s anxiety had taken shape.

With a roar, Rom-ji had kicked up a table.  The wooden table, which up until a moment ago had been the stage of the negotiation, splintered and scattered.  Backed against a wall, Elsa had her sight blocked by the debris.

The club was brought down with all of its wielder’s force.  If it was a direct hit, death was inevitable.  However,

“—Rom-ji!!”

Felt’s heartbroken cry shook the storehouse’s air.

And then Subaru saw the results of the cry.

Something flew away while spinning round and round.

It was Rom-ji’s right arm, which still grasped the club.

The arm which had been cut from its shoulder danced in the air and was flung against the wall while scattering blood.  It rained blood inside the room – both Subaru and Felt’s heads were showered by it.  

Felt screamed.

“At the very least, I’ll take you with me—”

With his right shoulder’s arm cut off, blood spewed out like water from a hose.  Instead of pressing the wound, Rom-ji leaped forward with his giant body and aimed at Elsa with his remaining arm.  

The pulverized table fell to the floor, with Elsa on the other side still in her through-swing’s posture.

Before the kukri blade could be flipped around, Rom-ji moved quickly to crush the slender body with his large frame.  

In the midst of Rom-ji’s fleeting, life-risking shout,

“I forgot to tell you, but… thank you, the milk was delicious.”

Elsa’s other hand held a broken glass, and in a flash, ended it.

Drops of blood appeared on the sharp tip of the glass as it ended up in Rom-ji’s throat.  With an arm lost, and his throat torn, the old man spewed large amounts of blood from his mouth and fell to the floor as his grey irises lost their luster.  The convulsing body already seemed to have lost all its strength as his life faded away like a fog lifting.  

Towards the fallen giant, Elsa bowed gracefully as if paying tribute.

She gently placed her last murder weapon, the glass, next to the still faintly twitching feet of Rom-ji.   

“I’ll return this, as I have no need for it anymore,” Elsa remarked in cold-bloodedness while turning the kukri in her hand.  The blood stained blade was once again turned towards Subaru, but he was still paralyzed, unable to speak.

He had simply drawn a blank at the brutal murder that took place in front of his eyes.

Someone he had been exchanging words with until just a few minutes ago was now dead.  Not by an accident or a disease, but rather by a clear malicious intent from another person.

“—Ara, it seems you’re the one with the courage.”

Subaru, immobile, raised his head after hearing Elsa’s impressed voice.  

In front of the Subaru in a stupor stood Felt’s figure patting her trembling knees to motivate herself.  She then smoothed her blond hair that was stuck together with blood.  

“How dare ya.  Ya really done it now…”

Though Subaru could not see Felt’s expression from behind, her voice was definitely not tearful.

“You may get hurt if you resist unnecessarily.”

“Even if we dun fight back yer gonna kill us, ya crazy bitch…!”

“If you move around, my hands might slip.  I’m quite rough at handling cutleries, you see.”

Elsa, who spun the knife skillfully in her hand, imitated the cutting of ingredients.

(TL Note: The ingredients referred here was actually a specific dish called “Kuai” which consists of finely cut strips of raw fish or meat.  More on it here)

With both of her hands empty, Felt didn’t seem like she had any chance of winning.

Subaru’s brain concluded that he should say something.  Even if it’s a little bit, he needed to draw Elsa’s attention to earn some time for Felt to escape.  He had to make time for Felt to call for help, or at least let Felt get away.

Even though he was cognizant of his conclusion, Subaru’s body could only tremble and rattle.

“…Sorry for dragging you in this.”

Felt casted a softly spoken apology at Subaru, who could not move.  

“I-I…”

Hearing those words, Subaru’s head snapped upwards.  He even forgot the words he had to shout and could only let out a begging for forgiveness-like choke.

Thus, leaving behind Subaru’s sentiment forever, Felt bolted forth.

A loud sound was produced as she took off, and a gust of wind swept through the storehouse immediately after.  The moment the speeding figure of Felt seemed to have disappeared from Subaru’s sight, Elsa twisted her body.

A high-pitched sound resonated as Felt appeared beside Elsa while clicking her tongue.  Without Subaru noticing when, Felt’s hand now held a knife.  Elsa had narrowly dodged the surprise attack with her extraordinary reaction.

Retreating, Felt’s body acted as if she was riding the wind.  Inside this storehouse’s limited space, for the walls to be traversable to her is abnormal.  Even Elsa marveled at her acrobatic skills.

“Blessing of the Wind.  Ah, how nice.  You must be loved by the world.  — I’m envious.”

The smile that was fraught with ecstasy suddenly changed.  With dark hatred harbored in her eyes, Elsa bent her arm and growled.

“—Ah.”

—Her shoulder cut in mid-air, Felt had no chance to protect herself as she somersaulted onto the floor and went rolling.

The wound extended from her left shoulder to her right flank and ran deep past her bones into her organs.

Falling onto her back, blood began spurting like a fountain in accordance with her heartbeat.  Felt had probably already lost consciousness from the shock of the slash’s pain.  She did not move even an inch.

Just like that, after a few seconds the blood lost its force; the end of her life was clearly indicated by the silence.

His body would not move.

I want to go beside where Felt fell and hold her wound.

If it’s too late, I want to at least close her open eyelids.  

Still, Subaru’s limbs refused as they displayed their unsightly trembles without accomplishing anything.

“The old man and little girl have fallen, yet you do not move.  Have you given up?”

Elsa spoke in a sympathetic tone as she looked at Subaru with disinterest.

She only had to close in with the knife and everything would end in a flash.  Probably because she could already see the outcome, Elsa’s behavior did not have a shred of tension.  Rather, her attitude was that of trying to suppress a yawn.

Her demeanor caused Subaru to feel an irrepressible anger.

He had only met those two recently and interacted for about an hour.  But they had conversed.  They had shared their sentiments.  To take those two away from Subaru effortlessly through murder, and to feel no guilt, that attitude was in no way excusable.  

And above all, to watch those two die at the hands of this vile person without helping, he could not forgive himself.  

“Ah, you finally stood up.  You were slow, so it’s boring, but not bad.”

His slow to come feelings of anger had become the driving force for Subaru’s limbs to move.

His limbs trembling on the ground, he somehow managed to stand up in a beast-like posture.  He wondered whether the reason for his trembling body was out of fear or anger.  Or was it both?  —No matter.

Towards the kukri readied Elsa, Subaru bared his teeth and attacked with all his might.

Pounce and use the strength that surpasses my own limits to defeat her.  With that momentum he bellowed.

“Sadly you’re no good.”

His attack was stopped dead in its tracks as Elsa crushed his nose with her elbow.

With minimal movement, she rotated her body – slamming her elbow into Subaru while arcing her slim leg to directly hit while he was thrown off balance.  Subaru was easily blown away as he crashed into the shelves of pottery, tipping them over.  

In just one exchange, his nose and front teeth were broken.  His flank, which received a direct hit from her kick, was also in rather extraordinary pain.  It was a feeling that pierced all the way to his bones.  

Still, he struck his fist against the ground and stood up immediately.  The endorphins from his brain had already flowed through his body, making him unable to perceive the unprecedented pain.

In his excited state filled with rough breaths, Subaru performed a suicidal attack without a second thought – but he was repelled.  

His flailing arms failed reach Elsa; arching her arm, she used the back edge of her knife to break Subaru’s shoulder.  

As if annoyed by his pained screams, Elsa forcibly interrupted a cry by kicking right below his chin.  His broken teeth spilled out, and Elsa looked at the now collapsed Subaru.  

“You are entirely no good.  I can see you’re an amateur from your rough moments.  You have no blessings, nor skill.  I thought you could at least squeeze out your wisdom, but you lacked that too.  Why would you challenge me?”

“Shuss uff… ish ma desermination… how mush oo you sink I’ve been through?!”

Because his nose was broken, he could not even return a decent insult.  

His arm had been done in by the counter just now, and his left shoulder had been swaying without strength from earlier.  Though he could not feel pain, his ears rang severely.  An intense nausea threatened to escape with his fury from the corner of his mouth.  

Subaru was covered in wounds.  His chances at winning were zero.  Even the odds of getting a hit in were one in a million.

“I will acknowledge your remarkable resolve.  If you had done that earlier, things might have gone a bit different for these two.”

Lowering the knife she held, Elsa showed him the corpses of the two that were cut down.

Following Elsa’s movements, Subaru eyed the corpse and was suddenly struck by a strange feeling.

I wonder why.  I feel like I remember this scene.

The Stolen Goods Storehouse which had become a sea of blood.  The corpse of a giant figure who had lost an arm.  The dull sheen of a coppery blade.

Like lightning, a thought shot through Subaru’s mind.  It was—

“Let us end this.  I shall let you meet the angels.”

Elsa licked her crimson lips with her tongue and melted into the darkness with an alluring smile.  

With her unbelievable footwork, she looked like she had sank into the shadows.  Losing sight of the danger, Subaru looked left and right vigilantly.  

“W-weh ah you……!?”

He restlessly scanned his surroundings, keeping a nervous eye out for any sound or movement.

He looked exactly like that of a prey waiting to be hunted by a beast in this situation.

In Elsa’s perspective, this shameful sight is enough to make her lose interest.  Therefore, in a quick, linear slash…

“Wha—!?”

Subaru had concluded she would aim at his abdomen and narrowly managed to avoid it in the nick of time.

Leaping a short distance back, he pulled his body back and retracted his stomach, letting the side sweeping blade only graze him.  He grit his teeth as he endured the sharp pain of his stomach’s skin being lightly torn.  

“OOOOOORYYAAAHH—!!”

And then he performed a roundhouse kick, hitting Elsa’s upper body from the side.  

The satisfaction of landing a blow with the twisting of his waist convinced Subaru that he had returned a blow.  However,

“Ah~, I certainly felt that just now.”

Elsa had pulled out a second kukri from her waist and sliced seventy percent of his torso, causing his blood and organs to splatter about.

“—Oh?”

One step.  Two steps.  While tottering and staggering, he hit a wall and collapsed, sliding down on his shoulder.  Looking down below, blood continuously streamed forth from his abdomen as the floor was gradually dyed by the fresh blood.  

With a quivering hand, he attempted to return his outflowing blood back to his abdomen but was intercepted by the blood clots surging out.  

“Surprised?  I opened up your stomach when we passed each other.  This is my specialty after all,” explained Elsa with a smile as she walked through the sea of blood, creating the sound of dripping water.

Without a word, she came beside Subaru, who could only spit out screams of pain, and dreamily stared on in love at the contents of the stomach that spilled onto the dark red blood.

“Ah~, it was as I thought… Your guts have such a lovely color.”

This woman is abnormal.  She’s crazy.

Even the endorphins from his brain could not mask the excruciating pain, his consciousness blurred as Subaru’s body made its way onto the floor without him realizing.  Remaining in that position, his trembling fingers feebly touched Elsa’s foot.

“Au……Ua……”

“Does it hurt?  Is it agonizing?  Painful?  Sad?  Do you want to die?”

Her ankle remained held, Elsa crouched down and matched Subaru’s gaze.  Her eyes were desolate and did not hold the slightest emotions for claiming a human’s life.  No, she certainly had a deep emotion.

—She was extremely blissful.

“Slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, you will slowly lose your body heat and grow colder.”

Teasingly, savouringly, mourningly, pamperingly, and cherishingly, Elsa’s soothing voice caressed Subaru’s ears.

When he realized it, his vision had already been lost.  He was bleeding profusely, his body dying little by little.

I can’t hear any sound.  I can’t sense taste or smell.  Nor can my eyes see.  However, my body growing colder, and myself dying, I can at least feel that much.  Fear had nestled itself onto Subaru.

[Illustration]

He did not know when his candle of life would blow out in this world, and could not depart from the dread of death’s attack.

When will I die?  When’ll I die?  Am I still alive?  Am I still not dead?

What is considered alive?  Can this state that is worse than an insect be considered alive?  What’s life and death?  Why is dying scary?  Is there a need to live?  Is there not?

I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared I’mscared.

His instincts rejected the oncoming, absolute death.

Struggling until the end, Subaru’s vision was finally dyed white.

—Ah.  I died.

At his last moments among such strong feelings, Natsuki Subaru’s life blew out.  



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