“—Bro, don’t go dazing now. Appa, you eating one?”
The instant he awoke to consciousness, Subaru had a red, ripe fruit before his eyes.
Looking at the apple look-alike, the words “Fruit of Knowledge” suddenly sprung to mind.
It was the forbidden fruit that expelled one from Eden for eating it.
If I bite this now, will I be saved from this incomprehensible situation?
A middle-aged man with a frown called out to Subaru, who did not reciprocate any reaction.
Slowly returning from the edge of his uncertain consciousness, his head snapped upwards. Gazing at his surroundings, he was aware of his ragged breathing and pounding heart.
It was afternoon, and he was in front of the fruit stall on the main street from before. Colorful vegetables and fruits were lined up, and in front of those goods stood the conspicuous and tough-looking stall owner with a white scar.
It was a familiar sight, this suffocation-inducing crowd. Subaru was tearing his hair out and mumbled, “I can’t understand what’s going on anymore…”
At the mercy of the dizziness and nausea that had accumulated, Subaru collapsed on the spot.
Shaking his head that was splashed with cold water, Subaru managed to reorganize his muddled consciousness.
An empty pitcher. It was something handed to him by the worried fruit stall owner while he was being taken care of after collapsing at the storefront.
Subaru was thankful for the owner’s thoughtful concern, but that kindness which in turn did not ask him about Satella, who should have been with him, struck a deep wound in Subaru’s heart.
Sitting on the floor and wiping the dripping water from his forelock with his hand, Subaru clenched his trembling teeth. The blade’s glint replayed in his mind, together with the glossy smile dancing across the stench of blood.
“Hiie……” twitched the back of Subaru’s throat as he hugged his knees and trembled nonstop.
That level of fear. That level of despair. Having lived a mundane life, it was something Subaru had never tasted.
I don’t want to think about anything anymore. I don’t even want to remember anything. I just want to hole myself up and forget it all.
The glistening of a blade. A thick arm blown away. A scream. The silver hair which sank into a pool of blood.
That which he tried so hard not to think of reestablished itself clearly in Subaru’s mind. He wanted to discharge his unbearable emotions through his mouth – to let out a scream that will echo through the main street. —Just before that,
The voice that should have been raised took on a doubtful tone as Subaru caught sight of something which stunned him.
Among those he saw in his field of view, there was a tall figure with reptile skin, a beastman whose height went up to Subaru’s waist, a young dancer with pink hair, a swordsman with six swords hung, and…
— wearing a white robe, the girl with her swaying silver hair was there.
The girl glanced at the sunken down Subaru with her bluish purple eyes but soon looked away in disinterest.
Like amethysts, which symbolize strong will, her eyes only looked straight ahead towards her path. Her dignified appearance and her beauty which would make others tremble, the figure which he continued to search for was unchanged.
Unable to immediately use his voice, Subaru dragged his feet after her with ragged breaths.
The girl weaved through the crowd smoothly as she continued walking. Bewildered and confused by the silver-haired girl that was running away, Subaru called out in a tearful voice while he was chasing her with his thoughts in chaos.
“Hold up…… wait up…… please, wait……”
For a split second, the girl reacted to Subaru’s voice with a glance. Her gaze was cold, as if she was looking at a stranger.
The girl’s sharp, cold stare pierced his heart. Unable to keep his promise, he had hurt her. He had yet to say a word of apology. There was no reason for him to be forgiven. Even so, Subaru chased after the girl. He did not know what she felt. So at the very least, he wanted to know what she was thinking.
If he were to be hurt, rather than by his imagination, it would be far better to feel it in the painful reality.
“Wait for me — Satella!”
After I stop Satella, what do I say?
The moment he had given himself a clear answer, Subaru shouted her name, Satella, as if he had just remembered it.
Did my cry reach her?
The figure that was leaving him immediately stopped.
Wading through the crowd, Subaru stopped in front of the girl and placed his hands on Satella’s slender shoulders.
“Please don’t ignore me. It’s my fault for suddenly disappearing and not listening to you. But I was desperate too. After that I went to the stolen goods storehouse, but I couldn’t find you……”
Looking at Subaru, who held her shoulders, Satella had a surprised expression on her face.
Just by opening his mouth, self-justifying-like excuses poured out towards Satella, who had turned around.
Subaru realized this because of her blank gaze. Her eyes were emotionless, but Subaru felt a sense of relief from it. After all, at first glance Satella had no noticeable injuries. He was relieved.
“Sorry for only talking about my own stuff…… still, I’m glad you’re unharmed.”
And for the two to be able to meet like this once again made him happy.
There were too many things he wanted to talk about, as well as things he needed to confirm. But before that, Subaru had felt his work paid off. At the very least, he should be able to enjoy this relief—
“You…… what are you doing?”
But as Subaru found relief, Satella directed an extraordinarily angry look at him.
Her white cheeks slightly flushed, Satella lightly twisted her body to shake off Subaru’s hands that were touching her shoulders. Her eyes were shining with strong hostility as she looked at Subaru while taking a step back, distancing herself from him.
This unexpectedly severe reaction led Subaru to gulp involuntarily.
Still, this was a natural reaction. In Satella’s point of view, I probably have no rights to meet her.
Therefore, it is only natural for me to be bombarded with whatever insult——
“I don’t know who you are, but to call someone by the name of ‘the Jealous Witch,’ what are you planning?!”
Her anger exceeded his imagination, shattering Subaru’s resolution into pieces. Those unexpected words gave Subaru the illusion that time had stopped.
The sounds from the crowd disappeared. All he could hear were his own violent heartbeats and the breathing of the girl who squared her shoulders. It was as if all other sounds had disappeared from his hallucination… no, it was not a hallucination.
Subaru had noticed it after choppily turning his neck.
All around them, the pedestrians and merchants that overflowed the street were watching them closely. A deep disturbance seems to have blanketed everyone as they stayed motionless and silent, appearing like all actions were forbidden.
It was as though the conversation between Subaru and Satella had dominated this place.
With her harsh gaze, Satella awaited for Subaru’s answer. However, Subaru had no impression of wrongdoing and could not reply. For the two, the key issue was different.
“I’ll ask once again. — Why do you call me by the name of ‘the Jealous Witch’?”
“No, I mean. I was told……”
“…… I don’t know who told you this, but that’s in extremely bad taste. The same goes for you too for going along with it. — ‘The Jealous Witch’ is the representation of everything taboo. Most people would hesitate to even say it, yet you chose to call me by it?!”
Satella— the silver-haired girl, revealed her disgust, pushing Subaru into a sea of confusion.
At the girl’s words, the surrounding crowd all nodded. In other words, they proved that the girl’s words were correct, throwing Subaru further into confusion.
I can’t understand what she’s saying.
Subaru had only called out her name.
Nevertheless, she denunciated it, and the crowd agreed it was correct.
“—— If you have nothing else to say, I’ll be leaving. I don’t have time to spare.”
With those words, she broke off from Subaru, who hung his head low, and began to walk away with her silver hair fluttering. He tried to call after her, but his mouth promptly froze at her name.
If I call her by that name, it would be the second time I make this mistake. But then, what do I call her?
That hesitation blunted Subaru’s judgement.
He let out a small gasp as, one head above his height — the canopy roof of a street vendor, stood it.
Leaping, the petite body, pulled down by gravity, fell lightly on the ground and accelerated along with the wind.
The gust wore dirty clothes, and had fluttering gold hair. It slipped through the crowd with god-like nimbleness and slipped its outstretched arm into a hawk-embroidered robe.
The contact was only a moment, but that brief encounter was enough for it.
The wind made the robe flap, and left the squirming girl by flying off.
“It can’t be— !”
The silver-haired girl raised her voice in surprise and stuck her hand inside her robe.
Unable to find what she was looking for, the girl, with wide eyes, tracked the speedily fleeing wind.
In the wind’s hand held a dragon-modeled insignia. Seeing its figure, Subaru immediately yelped, “Felt?!”
From his call, the wind swayed as if in puzzlement, but its speed did not lessen as it flew into the narrow alleyway from the main street in a flash. It was an amazing show of agility. Though I only saw a split second of it, that figure was probably—
“I’ve been had! For this reason I was stopped…… are you a group?!”
The girl growled in frustration at Subaru, who stood there.
She suddenly directed her palm at him, but, as if thinking better of it, quickly ran down the alleyway which the wind disappeared into.
“Oi, wait! It’s a misunderstanding! I……”
Trying to resolve the misunderstanding, Subaru chased after those two into the alleyway. While running, his head was filled with many unanswered questions.
There was too much information rushing inside, his head was unable to process it. Even without that, he had already experienced death twice today and was in confusion.
“Anyone will do, just please be more gentle with me! For what reason was I summoned to this other world!”
He complained at the unreasonableness as he ran, staggering into the dim alleyway.
He had no confidence in his stamina, but if it was a short distance sprint, he wouldn’t be outdone by those two girls. I’ll catch up quickly and resolve their misconceptions. — Was his intention as he ran, but…
“Shit! A wall!” spat Subaru, as the dead end of the blind alley greeted him before his eyes.
Those two were nowhere to be seen. With Felt’s agility, she could probably climb over such a wall easily; If Satella uses magic, this shouldn’t be unmanageable.
“I could climb it…… but I don’t think I would catch up.”
I can’t afford to waste time here. In an unfamiliar capital, it would be impossible for Subaru to chase down another party if he loses them once.
“If here is no good, then it’s the Stolen Goods Storehouse? Since Satella and Felt are alive, then Rom-ji should……”
While he muttered, a jumbled up mass of uncomfortable feelings grazed Subaru’s mind.
Felt, cut down in a clean sweep; Rom-ji, his neck sliced open; Satella, who sank into the sea of blood.
And above all, twice, Subaru had his stomach torn open. —Why am I still alive?
“No, what. Now’s not the time for that. Stop, don’t think. Anyway, right now—”
I should hurry and return to meet up with Rom-ji. The thinking can be postponed for later.
After exiting the blind alleyway, going to the slums should be my highest priority. As such, Subaru turned around.
“…… You’ve got to be kidding, oi!”
In front of his line of sight, the entrance of the alleyway was blocked by some figures.
They were three dingily dressed people that exuded a savage and barbaric atmosphere.
Today, it was the third time he encountered this group of three thugs who used the alleyway as their hunting ground.
“Enough is enough! How can you be so impenitent to this extent?!”
Sick of seeing those three faces, Subaru furiously stomped the ground.
It was the third encounter, and each time it was a three versus one situation in an alleyway. Even after their first and second time ended in such fruitlessness, their tenacity to still choose Subaru as their prey was admirable.
“I can’t afford to waste time dealing with you guys. Let me through right now!”
The urgent situation robbed Subaru of his composure. Even so, he figured because of their last brawl, they would be daunted by his strong threat.
“’Through’, he says. What an unlikeable attitude. Doesn’t look like you know who should be giving the commands.”
“After ungainly losing a three versus one, what dignity do you guys have to say that…… Even a loser would howl a little more apologetically.”
However, the men retorted without fearing Subaru. He chewed his lips at their unanticipated reactions. Even a minor villain has a minor villain’s pride, huh.
He wanted to avoid wasting time here and further lose sight of Satella and Felt. There was also the risk of the situation becoming a scuffle, so Subaru decided to accommodate them amicably in this situation.
“Got it. I won’t resist. I’ll leave all my belongings. Is this fine now?”
Bearing with his irritation, Subaru raised both his hands to appear without hostility. His conceding attitude led the men to look at each other, then all burst out laughing on the spot.
“What, if you were scared from the beginning then say so, stupid.”
“Fucker. Don’t open your big mouth if you’re intimidated.”
“Ain’t it fine. Didn’t he say he won’t resist and will listen? What a coward.”
“Ha ha ha,” he endured those offending words with a dry laugh. He secretly found gratification by naming the group of three who never learn as Ton, Qin and Kan, and muttered, “Once I reunite with Satella safely, with the help of Puck I’ll counter… attack?”
(TL Note: Subaru named the three thugs Ton, Qin, and Kan [pronounced: toh-nn, chi-nn, ka-nn] as such because 頓珍漢 means absurdity)
As to not provoke the men, Subaru was about to lay out his items on hand when he suddenly froze.
Since arriving to another world, this was the greatest sense of incongruity that Subaru was struck with.
“Why…?” groaned Subaru in a low voice. His fingertips had touched the snack food that was in his plastic bag. It was his favorite corn potage flavor, which he had grabbed from the convenience store instead of supper.
And then, at Rom-ji’s drinking bout place, he had flaunted it as a top-notch midnight snack – an action he regretted.
—That snack, in a state where its contents were full, was jammed inside the convenience bag.
“It should’ve been empty. When Rom-ji ate it all, I was complaining… I shouldn’t have left any. For sure.”
Why did the contents of the bag return? There was no evidence it was opened. This is an abnormal situation.
His thoughts were deadlocked. But in his blocked thoughts, Subaru had found a certain conclusion to this phenomenon. While he came to a conclusion, he did not accept the development because he thought the possibility of it was too absurd, so he denied it, reasoning it was impossible.
“Oi there! What are you doing?!”
Suddenly called out from nearby, Subaru responded in a daze.
Before he knew it, one of those men, Kan, the smallest one, was standing beside him with a hand on his shoulder. He twisted his shoulder and rolled off that hand.
“In many ways, I don’t have any more free time deal with you guys. If I don’t confirm…”
“Are you fucking with us?”
Subaru pushed aside Kan to leave the alleyway, but the remaining two people with murderous air stood in the way.
“You’re in the way! I’ve got somewhere I have to be!”
Too ridiculous. This is for the sake of denying my stupid thoughts that lack common sense.
The men were faintly daunted by Subaru’s bellow. If I dash through that gap in the alley and reach the main street, then I’ll be rid of this predicament. Concluding such, Subaru firmly stepped on the ground.
The leg he extended shook, and he stumbled as the strength from his knee disappeared. With a hand plunged forward, he scolded his own stupidity for falling at this timing.
“Huh, that’s strange…”
He put his back into to getting up, but his straightened arms trembled, hardly lifting himself. In fact, he couldn’t even raise his upper body.
“Aah, you’ve gone and done it…”
Subaru turned towards the voice that was tinged with anxiety, and then noticed.
—Piercing his fallen body, in the back of his waist, was a knife.
The moment he was made aware, an intolerable pain clogged his throat. It was an extremely pure and primitive impulse to the pain.
— I’ve been stabbed! Stabbedstabbedstabbedstabbedstabbedstabbed!
Qin, who had the knife, acted first. Unaware that Qin had pulled the weapon out earlier, Subaru was apparently stabbed when he tried to push them aside by force.
In these last few hours, he had tasted too many of these kinds of intense pain. However, no matter how many times I experience it, getting accustomed to this pain is impossible, even in the future.
“Oi! You actually stabbed ‘em?!”
“It couldn’t be helped! He tried to escape. If that happens, won’t it spell trouble?!”
“Stop, you idiot! Ah, it’s no good. Oi, his innards have been damaged so he’s dead.”
The large thug, Ton, moved Subaru’s body, and the knife stuck in the upturned body sank deeper inside.
Another pain overlapped on top of the already excruciating pain, canceling even his death throe cries.
Calling out for help, shouting in anger – Subaru had none of that left.
Drawing raspy breaths, he felt like he was drowning in the blood that gushed up. He gradually lost his limbs’ sensations; his thoughts flickered feebly, as if it would cut off at any moment.
Once again, his vision faded into darkness. Like last time, this was also the end.
— This time, what is it?
It was an absurd thought that he should’ve disregarded, yet he clung to it pitifully.
If he was going to cling to such a pathetic idea, he would rather cling to it until the bitter end.
—— Deflect my thoughts from death. Before I die, let’s focus on this world.
My eyes are dead. My limbs are also finished. All that remains are my nose and ears. No matter what kind of lingering scent I smell, or insults I hear, let’s abuse them both till the very bitter end. The smell of mud from the alleyway. The smell of metal from my gushing blood. Now, my nose is gone. Dead. Doubt my ears would work for long either.
“…nything valuable… grab…”
“…hit! The guards are… let’s… n!”
“…ail! Not good! …then there’ll be…!”
He could only pick up very little of the conversation. It’s great that he caught it, but the part of his brain used for understanding what it meant was already dead. Since it was dead, he only listened. Whether he would remember what he heard, he did not know. Why remember? Why do I want to remember? What is ‘want’? What—
Following after the brain that had died, his other functions stopped one after another. Lastly, like something was being pulled out of him, he exhaled a croak; Natsuki Subaru, for the third time, had lost his life.
When he regained consciousness, Subaru was in darkness.
Noticing that the darkness was his own doing, he gently opened his closed eyes. The dazzling sun burned his eyes, causing Subaru to groan a little as he made a shade with his hand.
“Bro, an appa?”
The familiar voice had casted a familiar question towards Subaru.
His ears were normal. The unchanging noisiness of the main street bustle was a far cry from the silence from his life on the verge of ending.
Looking at the difference in distance, he had only entered an alleyway just down the street, one turn away.
“I can’t even handle one alleyway, pretty pathetic.”
The fruit stall owner scowled at not receiving an answer to his question. Subaru saw the man’s white scar lengthen, giving him a downright heinous appearance. However, Subaru knew that he was actually a surprisingly meddlesome and fond person.
—Though Subaru believed that man wouldn’t remember any of that.
Thinking along those lines, Subaru faced the scarred shopkeeper.
“How many times have you seen my face?”
“What are you talking about ‘how many’? You’re a new face. Your conspicuous appearance and stare are hard to forget.”
“That thing about my stare was unnecessary. By the way, what is today’s month and date?”
“Tammuz month the 14th. Looking at the calendar, this year is already halfway through.”
“Oh, thanks. —I see. Tammuz month, huh.”
Even if he heard it, he didn’t understand. In the first place, I wonder how this world records its calendar. It’s probably unreasonable to expect them to use a solar calendar.
“Well, bro? How about the appa?”
For the shopkeeper who patiently accompanied Subaru, who lapsed into silence, his amiability towards Subaru lingering on a single apple was wearing thin. His cheeks began to twitch.
Even his smile did not suit his looks. His best attempts at a smile might instead have an adverse effect of keeping the customers away. God seemed to have given the shopkeeper a cruel destiny.
In response to the man, Subaru stuck his hands to his waist, and puffed his chest out, “Sorry, but I’ll be penniless till the end of time!”
Falling backwards from the angry shout, Subaru scrambled to flee.
I don’t think I’ll be able to visit that shop for a while, thought Subaru with two meanings in mind.