This part, like the previous one, covers a small portion of the sixth volume of the original Re:Zero series. The part deals, of course, with a couple of our dear protagonists meeting White “White Whale” Whaleson in the mist.
From the perspective of this weird AI-fueled roleplaying/retelling I’m doing, this scene, which I love in general, is just one that for the most part I had to “get through”. It plays out so perfectly in the original novel that I couldn’t think of doing anything differently. However, I already know the following parts are going to deviate from the original. For starters, I didn’t think that the version of the protagonist in this retelling wouldn’t have catched up to the fact that people disappearing from memories is the White Whale’s fault. So there’s no fighting Otto, getting pushed off the carriage to die, etc., like in the original.
The artificial intelligence didn’t do that much. It kept trying to produce assaults from fantasy creatures on the caravan, or otherwise have the main characters jump out of the carriage to look around in the mist. Didn’t fit.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
The group of carriages approaches the cloudy wall of mist, the approximate center of which covered the path off ahead as far as you could see. It took one of the carriage drivers that had agreed to help just a minute for him to announce that this was a terrible mistake, and to turn back to safety. Your hands are trembling, and you must admit that your underwear is probably stained with the piss drips you can’t contain. The brave carriage drivers are advancing through the all-encompassing mist at a relatively low speed. You feel your face get moist from the condensation.
Around five minutes later you get the idea that you are afraid of a meteorological phenomenon. Hell, maybe the whole White Whale thing was a hallucination of the bunch of lunatics that chose to follow you.
You lean towards your carriage driver, who happens to be a cute demon servant called Rem.
“No, but really. Why would a whale fly? Did nature break along the way in your fantasy world?”
“It is our world, not just mine. Don’t know why you keep adding fantasy in front of it… But the infamous White Whale is not a product of nature.”
Rem shakes her head as she scans the misty surroundings.
“Beatrice told me some time ago that it’s the product of a very powerful and nasty witch of old, from before the last Apocalypse.”
Rem shoots you a confused look.
“Our child-like librarian…?”
You chuckle nervously.
“Sorry, I guess that when I’m terrified for my life, I forget people I shouldn’t be able to forget.”
“She might not be too fond of you anyway. You’re the guy who keeps bursting into her library.”
“But why would Satella create a flying whale? Was she sympathetic with the whales’ envy of birds?”
Rem shrinks her shoulders for a moment when she hears the Witch of Envy’s name.
“It wasn’t Satella. Beatrice mentioned that the Witch of Gluttony, one of the various very powerful witches that lived back then, was responsible.”
“That makes even less sense, and should open a whole new line of questioning, but… Man, this fantasy world used to be even more terrifying before the last reset.”
“There you go again with the fantasy stuff.”
Your group of carriages continues, and you focus on listening to the ground dragons breathing and the carriages’ wheels creaking. You turn to the back of the carriage to see if Otto hasn’t had a heart attack. Rem is driving the carriage that Anastasia procured for you both, but you had figured that you could use a backup driver in case Rem needed to flail someone, and the young merchant Otto, despite his perennial drunkness, was the only one you trusted out of this group of lunatics.
“… Are we there yet?”, he asks sheepishly.
“No, we’ve still got a while.”
You cross your arms in silence. The touch of the mist on your face is refreshing and comfortable, even with the threat that some gigantic, mythical whale might decide to swallow you at any moment.
At some point, Rem starts moving around on her seat. You follow her gaze. The two ground dragons of your carriage are shaking their heads and looking around warily.
“Rem, what’s wrong?”, you ask.
“They are scared”, Rem says, lowering her voice.
You lean towards your side of the carriage to see if you can spot any of the carriages following you. You see the faint glow of the magical crystals from the carriage that follows from that side, and the hint of the bestial creatures that pull it.
“Nothing out of the ordinary so far”, you say.
“I can’t hear the ground dragon’s noisy breathing anymore…”, Rem says.
“Help!”, you hear as faint cry from one of the carriages behind you. It’s immediately followed by a more serious cry for help from another carriage. Soon, the sounds of struggling and people yelling for help are joined by crunching and horrible shrieks of pain.
Rem perks up and orders the ground dragons to run faster. You hear the sound of fabric rustling, as Rem prepares to launch herself out of the carriage.
“Rem, wait!”, you say, grabbing her arm.
Rem calls out to Otto.
“You, merchant, grab the reins. I’m needed back.”
Otto, terrified by the shouting that escapes from the wall of mist you are leaving behind, climbs over the separation to the driver’s seat and grabs on to the reins. That seems to give him confidence. Rem stands on the back of the carriage, with her own back to you both.
You glimpse movement coming up from your right, but you realize it’s another carriage catching up. Its driver’s seat appears. You recognize the blonde caravan guard that had believed that the White Whale might have been a human for some reason.
“You guys alright?”, the caravan guard asks. “We heard a terrible commotion a moment ago.”
“We’re fine and dandy, but some people aren’t”, you reply.
You hear horrible whimpers, and then a loud thump as something or someone hits the ground with a heavy thud. The caravan guard shoots a look over his shoulder, scared, but in a couple of seconds he recomposes himself and looks forward as if he hadn’t heard anything.
You spend around a minute feeling your heartbeats on your neck, and when Rem puts a hand on your shoulder, you almost shriek.
“I apologize, Rem. I should just be overjoyed that you decide to touch me.”
“I was a worry-wart. It seems that this mist is just that, not a cover for something terrible.”
You look over your shoulder at Rem, who smiles at you calmly.
“What about that crunching and shrieking from before, Rem?”, you ask dumbfounded. “Or did I just made it up in my mind?”
Rem looks confused.
“I didn’t hear anything. Did you, Otto?”
The young merchant shakes his head.
“It was probably just an animal”, Rem says.
“It was people, and more concisely the other merchants and travellers who chose to follow us through the mist. It sounded like a few carriages were involved”, you say nervously.
“What are you on about, bodyguard?”, Otto says, alternating between glancing at the ground dragons and at you. “There’s no one out here in this mist aside from us. Nobody else would be so crazy as to agree to follow you like I did.”
You shake your head, confused and scared.
“Rem, I… I think we should turn back”, you say.
“We can’t turn back, friend!”, Otto says incredulously. “You should follow only your initial direction once you venture into the mist.”
You look back at Rem to find some support.
“Rem, do you seriously didn’t hear anything? Can you figure out if you see the hint of any carriage from the end of your own?”
Rem shakes her head slightly, and narrows her brow.
“What other carriages? Did you see anybody else travelling through the mist as we were passing by?”
You stare at her with your mouth open.
“What about that old man with the purple eye, and Liliana, and the others for whom we didn’t even get a name?”
You wait for an answer as you feel the cold shoulder of your coat touching against your neck, which contributes to your shivers. Rem first rubs your shoulders for a moment, and then gives you a quick hug pressing her cheek against yours, maybe to calm you. You are glad to feel her contact, except that you shouldn’t feel glad about anything right now.
“This is, like, really bad”, you mutter.
“Don’t worry, mister bodyguard”, Otto says, offering you a smile. “We’ll get out of the mist in no time. We’ll get through another night!”
“Otto, how did you get your bruises? That black eye, and your swollen lip?”
Otto touches his eye, and smiles even wider.
“It’s not a big deal. This big guy hit me.”
“Some black-hooded man. I was on my way to go to the restroom, like, you know, pee, but I had had a bit too much to drink…”
You remember the carriage that had catched up to yours on your right. You turn to look across that side of your carriage, but you only see a dense wall of mist in the dark.
“Rem…”, you say with a thin voice, “the only reasonable explanation is that every other carriage and their occupants have been erased, right?”
She holds your hand with her left one, and strokes your hair with her right.
“If we had travelled with other people and they had been erased, you wouldn’t remember either. We need to keep it together for just a while longer, Subaru.” Rem lets go of your hand, and looks straight at you. “We’re going to be fine. We just have to ride it out.”
You turn to look out of your side of the carriage, and you face an opaque white wall instead of the shreds of mist that had been floating before. Before you can think about what you are seeing, a lid larger than your ground dragons opens up, revealing a gigantic red iris, which immediately focuses on you and narrows.
“Wh…”, you murmur as you feel a force slamming the shell of your carriage, sending it off course. Otto somehow manages to order the ground dragons to return to the road, as the young merchant shrieks in terror.
“That can’t be natural!”, you cry.
Although don’t want to see it again, you look to your right to figure out if the eye is still there, but it has disappeared. However, you feel the weight of something immense shifting the mist, and even dragging all of you towards it.
“We’re not going to make it, are we, Subaru…?”, you hear Rem say as your carriage trembles and some part of the shell is torn apart.
You attempt to grasp at Rem, but she’s moved back. You maneuver to jump over the separation, if only because being close to her would make you feel safer.
“That’s… That’s the White Whale, I’m guessing.”
Rem is staring at the darkened mist beyond the back of the carriage.
“I can’t imagine it being anything else. Subaru, you need to be ready.”
The mist is churning and shifting.
“What in the world could I possibly do?”, you say with a shaky voice.
“Whatever you need to do to stay alive, yourself alone”, Rem says, with fear in her eyes.
You grasp at her arm.
“Don’t tell me you are thinking something crazy, Rem!”
Something like a serrated wall of flesh emerges from the mist at the back of the carriage, and in a sudden movement, half of the back of the carriage’s roof is gone as if something had taken a chunk out of it. You grab the wooden separation to avoid falling. Rem does fall to her knees, but she stands up almost immediately.
“This is the end!”, Otto cries.
As you were blinking away the tears and trying to prevent your teeth from clacking together, Rem grabs onto your shoulders and forces you to look her in the eye from up close.
“Subaru, listen to me for a moment.”
Rem’s face is so close to yours that you can feel her breath on your face as she speaks.
“It’s just you and me here now. There’s no other person in the entire world. You will survive, do you hear me?”
“I had only kept living to repent for what I had thought that one time, my sister… This was my punishment. I was never needed nor wanted, and I only occupied space that should have been given to others. It would have been better if I had never existed. But, you… When I’m with you, I’m home.”
A warmth rushes to your eyes, and you swallow to clear your throat.
Rem embraces you and kisses you in the mouth. It’s so sudden and forward, it takes you a moment to realize that you’re being kissed. Rem’s tongue separates from yours.
“I’m sorry… I can’t spend years and years with you, but… At least I can do this much.”
Rem jumps towards the back of the carriage. You hear a clink of chains, and before you know it, Rem’s holding to her flail’s handle with one hand, and to the enormous spiked ball with the other. Beyond her, the serrated wall of teeth and white flesh disturbs the shreds of mist, which disappear into the black of its gargantuan mouth.
As you were lunging towards Rem, she springs several meters in the air while launching the spiked ball towards the white flesh. Taken aback, the gigantic mass of the White Whale slows down, and the mist surrounds you again as if you had never seen either of them.
You don’t know how many seconds you’ve stood there with your mouth open and tears jumping from your eyes. When you recover, you turn to Otto, who is working the reins to demand the ground dragons to go faster.
“Otto! Rem has jumped off the carriage!”
Otto doesn’t answer. He only shakes his head.
You jump over the separation and onto the free side of the driver’s seat.
“Turn back immediately!”, you order him angrily.
“I will do no such thing! I heard her loud and clear. That wonderful lady who loves you is saving both our lives. Don’t waste it!”
Otto spurs the ground dragons to go faster. You realize what he’s saying is right, and you frown from the pain.
“I can’t just…”
Otto’s intense expression goes blurry. Your chest has filled with something dense that makes it harder for you to breathe.
You can only hear the ground dragons as the carriage races away. Some time after, Otto points to the mist ahead of you both.
“It’s clearing up! We made it!”, he says with a triumphant voice.
When you look again, you see the opening of the mist. Beyond, the moonlight falls on the vast fields.
“I can’t believe it! We came across the White Whale and survived!”, Otto yells and cheers. “I thought I was the unluckiest man in the world, but not only I survived a legendary monster, I’m also going to get paid three times all my oil’s market value!”
You snap at him with a teary voice.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, dickhead?”
Otto looks at you with a frown.
“You’re cheering your lucky stars when we just left her to die!”
Otto stares at you dumbfounded.
“What are you talking about? It’s just us both. Did we actually pass someone in the mist?”
You look at him with a mixture of horror and disgust. The numbness turns to anger as you realize what had happened, and your hand clenches into a fist. However, your anger slowly melts into pain. You sink in your seat. You can’t look up, but you feel Otto glancing at you.
“You are right”, Otto says with an understanding tone. “How could I cheer when that monster has taken the lives of so many over hundreds of years? It’s so disrespectful. I apologize, and I will do so over and over. I’m ashamed.”
Some minutes later, as you leave behind the dangerous fields for some more populated areas, Otto insists on asking you for the directions to Roswaal’s village. You tear from yourself the words that he should just head in the general direction of the lord’s domain.
Some observations regarding GPT-3’s behavior for this one.
-It was GPT-3’s decision again to forget who Beatrice was. I think it’s become sort of a running joke thing.
-Rem’s ominious phrase ‘”I can’t hear the ground dragon’s noisy breathing anymore…”‘ is verbatim from GPT-3.
-With some minor editing, the following came from GPT-3: ‘”Help!”, you hear as faint cry from one of the carriages behind you. It’s immediately followed by a more serious cry for help from another carriage. Soon, the sounds of struggling and people yelling for help are joined by crunching and horrible shrieks of pain.'”
-The sentences ‘You hear horrible whimpers, and then a loud thump as something or someone hits the ground with a heavy thud.’ came verbatim from the AI.
-Otto’s alternate origin story for his bruises, ‘”Some black-hooded man. I was on my way to go to the restroom, like, you know, pee, but I had had a bit too much to drink…”‘, mostly came from GPT-3.
-Otto’s reaction, ‘Otto doesn’t answer. He only shakes his head.’, at the protagonist’s insistence is verbatim from GPT-3.
-The sentences ‘Otto spurs the ground dragons to go faster. You realize what he’s saying is right, and you frown from the pain.’ came verbatim from GPT-3.
-The protagonist’s precise reproach, ‘”You’re cheering your lucky stars when we just left her to die!”‘, was verbatim from GPT-3.
Incidentally, this link is a short YouTube video of the moment in the anime adaptation of the novel series when Rem decides how to handle the whale.