This part, like the previous one, covers a small portion of the sixth volume of the original Re:Zero series, although virtually everything in it is new material, given that the actions so far in this weird roleplaying/retelling thing have changed certain significant events of the original.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
Otto must have noticed that you were rendered useless, because he asks and follows the directions given to him by people in a couple of towns your carriage passes by. Although the young merchant attempted some small talk a few minutes after leaving the mist, at the beginning you could barely force yourself to say yes or no, and after a while your mouth went so dry, and your mind so numb, that you couldn’t muster to even acknowledge the merchant’s existence.
It is over, isn’t it? How could you continue when Rem is gone? Weren’t you struggling to save everyone? If Rem has left this world, then your efforts have failed, and you remain in a world you need to abandon. As the certainty locks in your brain, you look around at the sights, the countryside and the towns with its busy inhabitants, as if they belonged to a faded movie. Is this how terminally ill people resting in their hospital beds feel about their surroundings? You now exist in a reality, a life, that will end for you, and will have to end soon. You think that even if Satella herself reappeared and swallowed half of the world again, you wouldn’t care.
A small sound, just a little too childish for the setting, tears you from your thoughts. It comes again, and you find it to be rather familiar. Looking around, your eyes scan the carriage and land on the merchant’s bag, which has a weird bulge in it. The sound comes once more, and you recognize it to be coming from a meow.
“Hey…” Otto mutters, touching the bag, “What is inside it?”
Otto pries the bag open and looks inside, to find a cat. It stares at you and mews again.
“Why is there a cat in my bag?”
The bag seems rather cramped for the feline, who is squished by the various bottles and jars inside.
“What’s this? A stowaway?”, Otto asks to nobody in particular.
“Ah…”, you begin to say with a broken voice. “I guess it was time for you to do something, huh? Even if it just involves appearing in weird places when you aren’t needed.”
Otto, first surprised that you even talked, raises his face towards you while maybe thinking that you have finally lost it, because you were addressing the feline.
“I’m not crazy, I’m just talking to a cat”, you say.
Otto then raises an eyebrow and smirks, relieved, as if you have said something funny.
In any case, the cat seems to have heard you and opens its mouth.
“Guess you intend to pay us a visit”, Puck says as he flies out of the bag and floats near your face.
Otto is so surprised that he makes the carriage swerve, and it takes you mumbling that it is okay for the merchant to compose himself.
“Lord Roswaal is an eccentric man,” you say, “as you knew. This is one of his eccentricities: allowing a talking, lowlife cat to live in his mansion.”
“Someone is jealous”, Puck says, bitter. “Because I’m a cat, I don’t have to do anything boring, like politics.”
“Nor the most boring part: protecting the only person on Earth who depends on you.”
“Hey, we can joke around and all that…”
“No, we can’t.”
“… But don’t you diss my service to Emilia. You know that anybody who threatens her will need to deal with me.”
“I know that’s the worst lie I’ve heard in my life.”
Puck crosses his arms and flies in a couple of circles around you as if he intended to find something wrong, and then comes back to his original place. He frowns, half confused.
“What’s the deal? I supposed you were going to act apologetic to have the most minimal chance to rejoin us. Threaten lives, insult Emilia, all that is fine,” Puck says, “but question my dedication to her? No.”
You shake your head and breathe deeply. You want to die.
“I know it’s no use talking to you about anything. You people don’t understand a thing. No amount of contradicting what I know to be true is going to change the future. I guess I know how that Cassandra felt.”
“Don’t know no Cassandra”, Puck says.
“I know, you don’t know shit.”
“I know shit!”
You groan. You even attempt to slap Puck away, but he avoids your hand and it only seems to amuse him.
It takes some seconds for your throat to loosen up.
“I can’t believe I’m just sitting here, talking to a magical flying cat, when Rem just died.”
“It seems that a lot of things have happened in the capital since Emilia exiled you from paradise. Was that Rem part of Crusch’s camp?”
You want to yell. The White Whale’s magic, or whatever it is, also works on a spirit that refers to himself as ‘of the Apocalypse’, someone who according to Beatrice was genuinely able to entomb the world in frost if Emilia died?
“I’m just tired of all this. It’s been hell since the day I got this stupid power. It was hell even before that, actually…”
“Oh? If you believe you have it rough, perhaps you should tell that to someone who cares.”
“Puck, do you ever scout Emilia’s surroundings for threats? You know, to actually figure out if someone or many people are rushing to murder her?”
“I do, yes, although I can only jump to the location of people that I’ve met before.”
“That does make sense…”
“What about you?” Puck says, flying onto the floor. “You have become entangled in two camps belonging to royal candidates. What have you learned?”
“I wasn’t involved with any of them, not really. But are you actually scouting for information right now?”
“Why not? You decided to come back although you were told to never show your dumb face again, didn’t you?”
Otto keeps glancing at you while arching his eyebrows. He’s getting the picture.
“Puck, are you genuinely invested in saving Emilia’s life?”, you ask seriously.
“Don’t I keep repeating that? Like I said, our contract states that if she dies, I die.”
“So you have no reason to protect her just because you like her?”
Puck shakes a finger, as if denying you a ‘gotcha’.
“Emilia is a sweet kid. She’s had it rough, she’ll always have trouble handling or connecting with her emotions.”
Otto is captivated by your conversation with Puck.
You close your eyes and lower your head. You want to just let it all out, just start crying and mumbling Rem’s name and later just plunge a knife into your own throat, but what would Rem think if she understood what you were going through, and you just left this world without learning anything new that could save all of your lives in your next one?
“Puck… I must inform you that I consider you the second biggest cunt I’ve ever met.”
“What?”, Puck says, elongating the a. “Someone has taken my place?”
“Yeah. Someone else went from cunt to super-cunt.”
“Although I am intrigued, I’m not sure I like your tone. I’m a powerful spirit, you know.”
“Do you even know what a cunt is? Is that a word that someone invented in this fantasy world?”
“Of course. It’s a female dog, a foolish or despicable person, or a hindrance.”
“The last one is correct. Cunts are hindrances.”
You continue to glare at Puck, who stares back with equal intensity. Puck breaks first, looking away and letting out a little chuckle.
“I haven’t intervened in your crush for our princess. No need. She’s way above your station. Even if she were a regular half-elf, she would be leagues above you. You understand that much, right? Besides, I didn’t have to do shit. You stepped into the line of royal candidates and fucked everything up for yourself.”
“Glad I could entertain you.”
“You could still entertain me. Tell me about this cunt that went from being a regular one to a super-cunt.”
“… Maybe later. Puck, where on Earth is that clown bastard?”
Puck lets out a sigh, turning his head in the general direction of Roswaal’s domains.
“He’s messing around in Sanctuary. Weren’t you informed about that?”
“And what about the Witch’s Cult?”, you demand to know as your voice grows more and more annoyed, if possible.
Puck leaps back into the air and furrows his brow.
“What’s with these jumping topics? What about the Witch’s Cult? You are worried because Emilia attended the royal summons and that paints a target on her?”
“That is exactly the case!”
“Well, they haven’t been doing anything out of the ordinary for decades. The cult is either dead or dying out. I’d bet on the latter. I’ve seen them in action for a long time. They used to be big shits, but these days most of the cultists are stoned on sleep potions and only awake when a caravan comes by with tribute or something. If it comes to their ears that Emilia is the famous Witch of Frost, the silver-haired half-elf that matches their idol, it’ll take quite a bit of time for them to organize an offensive. And even if they do, you don’t have to worry!” Puck strikes a pose and points to himself with one of his cat paws. “Emilia has me as her protector. I see that you are concerned, and that’s good… You do care for Emi, even though you are stupid and can’t do anything right. No worries! The Witch’s Cult attacks but I go pow, pow, pow! Ice shards! They get icy and then I explode them into bits. It’s quite the spectacle.”
You stare in silence at the little cunt for so long that Puck deflates and gets uncomfortable.
“I guess we are both completely useless”, you say drily.
“Hey, kid, bow your head or something, really. Aren’t you coming back because you want to be let in again? I might start taking offence.”
“I’m not bowing. And don’t call me kid.”
“What should I call you? Mr. Knight?”
This cat is so damn smug, and it smells like rotten eggs…
“How about you address me as lord and savior?”
“Heard you taught the children at the village that… Kind of explains your actions.”
“Because that’s why I’m coming back. To save Emilia, and everybody else.”
Puck scoffs and rolls his eyes as he starts jumping around.
“That’s what you think. You’re coming back because you’re a damn fool who wants to save his great love!”
You clench your fists and roar.
“I come back, you useless cunt, because tomorrow Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti of the Witch’s Cult is going to murder Emilia in that clown bastard’s inner sanctum!”
Puck narrows his cat eyes and puts on a serious tone you’ve never heard.
“Is this something you’ve learned at the capital? Is this a new development?”
“Let’s say I have, yeah. I’m telling you with a hundred percent certainty. Listen, Puck, stop wasting your time with me and protect Emilia right this second. I think Roswaal has ordered her to go into the inner sanctum to hide in case the Witch’s Cult comes, but somehow they know how to get in. I think I’m going to reach the mansion around sunrise and the attack won’t have started by then, but in any case… Protect Emilia at all costs having in mind that if we don’t prevent it, she will die tomorrow.”
Puck crouches, lowers his head and shuts his eyes. After a brief moment, he opens his eyes again and stands up.
“It feels like you’ve gone through shit since we left Lugunica, even though very little time has passed… I’ll trust your information for now. We’ll kill every invader we find.”
With this, Puck leaps away into the night and vanishes.
You find yourself clenching your fist over your thigh, and your heartbeat accelerates. This is progress, you think. But then you remember that it doesn’t truly matter that you warned Puck of an attack: you aren’t going to remain in a world that no longer contains Rem. This power that, if what Petelgeuse suggested is true, was given to you by Satella herself, allows you to overcome your powerlessness and uselessness as a human being in a single way: that of collecting as much information about the future as possible so next time you can act accordingly. Now you know that Puck isn’t as idiotic as his face and entire demeanour suggest; he simply was predisposed not to know how soon and hard the Witch’s Cult was going to hit.
When you return to reality from your thoughts, Otto looks as if he had been waiting for you to come to your senses.
“So… Your lord is not actually a betting man, I gather?”, Otto says. “Nor is he your lord any longer?”
You stare at him blankly, your face having lost most of its colour after your encounter with Puck.
“Wait, who was the one to tell you about the Glorious Races thing…?”
Otto gives you a sympathetic smile.
“You did. Don’t worry, though. I’m surprised I haven’t forgotten my own name after running into the whale. Roswaal’s people must lead interesting lives if they are used to magical, flying cats.”
“It’s alright, I suppose. Sorry about lying, man.”
“If we had died I would have been mad and I would have beat you up in the afterlife, but all’s well that ends well. The other merchants are going to flip when I tell them we outran the White Whale. That said,” he clears his throat, “I am a merchant through and through, and there’s the matter of payment…”
“Ah… You’ll get paid, of course.”
You remember then that Rem was the one handling her lord’s money. When you look over the wooden separation to the half destroyed back of the carriage, you only see your luggage. Any trace of Rem’s stuff has disappeared. A pang of pain almost makes you double over. When you recover, you realize that your luggage looks bigger than it used to. You jump over the separation and pry loose your bags, and you find travelling material that you know it wasn’t in your luggage before, but in Rem’s, and stuffed along with some clothes of yours you find Rem’s pouch full of money. Rem had disappeared not only from the world, not only from everyone else’s memories, but reality had also been rewritten so everything she possessed and she had affected had been assigned to someone else. This was the power of those ancient witches. And if that Witch of Gluttony’s enchantment, or whatever, had worked on you, you wouldn’t have a clue, and you would have pushed forward condemning Rem to oblivion forever.
You vault over the separation onto the driver’s seat while holding the pouch. Otto eyes it curiously, and after considering it for a moment, you hand the entire pouch to the man.
Otto orders the ground dragons to stop, and as he rests the pouch on his lap, he opens it and inspects its contents. His eyes glisten.
“M-Mr. Subaru, this is a small fortune. You are not seriously suggesting that I should keep all of it, right?”
“I’m going to my former lord’s mansion to repent to my princess. That’s the end of the road for me. I lied to you, convinced you to go through hell. Keep the damn thing.”
While he orders the ground dragons to move again, he nods a few times as he tries to prevent himself from tearing up.
Close to sunrise, your carriage ventures through the road surrounded by forest that leads to the village closest to Roswaal’s place. A few villagers are already moving around, hauling material or merely speaking with each other.
“You can leave me here if you want. I’ll walk my way up”, you say.
“No way! I’ll drive you to Roswaal’s gate. I won’t waste this opportunity to glance at the famous lord’s mansion from up close.”
As the half-destroyed dragon carriage follows the ascending road, you keep reminding yourself that you aren’t dreaming or hallucinating. You feel the pull of your mind towards going over the edge. This life will likely also end in extreme pain, but that is your lot in life now. You have to soldier through.
Parked in front of the mansion’s gate, with Roswaal’s expensive palace in the background, Otto praises the view while you grab your luggage and disembark. You sigh and offer your hand to the guy who had helped you twice.
“Hope your people take you in again, Mr. Subaru. And thank you again for changing my fortune.”
“See you in another life, buddy.”
You walk the long path lined with statues, hedges and magical streetlights towards the mansion’s entrance. There’s no hint of movement, but you are pretty sure the Witch’s Cult is not going to hit for a few hours. You feel your heartbeat on your neck, and you fight to clear your mind of the invading images from the trip you just survived. When you reach the tall main doors, you take a deep breath and ring the bell. It barely takes twenty seconds for someone to come.
“An unwelcome guest arrives”, Ram says with a deadpan expression.
“So nice to see you well, Ram.”
“Always nice to see me. I heard from the lady of the house that you weren’t to return due to your outrageous, shameful actions. Did I hear that incorrectly?”
“No, they were as outrageous and shameful as they can be. Still, could you let me in?”
She sighs and moves aside. When you enter, you feel a warmth filling you up. You look around at the familiar sights you had missed.
“Did Puck inform you that I was on the way?”, you ask.
“That he did. He also seemed to trust in your information regarding an impending attack, even though we’ve only known you to be unreliable and useless.”
“Has Emilia found out…?”
“That’s your bridge to cross. Until she humiliates you and exiles you again, I’ll treat you as our guest. Do you want me to serve you breakfast, Mr. Natsuki?”
“What would I do without you, Ram?”
“Starve and die, Mr. Natsuki.”
As you were following her confident steps, you stop and call out to her. She stops and looks over her shoulder.
“Ram… Didn’t you expect me to come accompanied?”
“Who would have wanted to accompany you?”
“Your little sister.”
She turns and stares at you as if you are playing a bad joke on her, or you’ve lost your mind. A few seconds after, she speaks.
“Why are you…? Dry those tears, Mr. Natsuki. It’s unsightly.”
After the somewhat uncomfortable breakfast with a side of Ram’s disrespect, you head to locate Beatrice’s magical library. You keep sneaking around, because you aren’t prepared to run into Emilia yet. This time it takes you opening five doors until your intuition kicks in and you locate the one in which Beatrice has set her Passage spell. The familiar musty aroma of all books, as well of the sight of the various filled bookshelves, make you want to pass the time in peace. No chance, though. Beatrice is sitting in her usual chair, and when she realizes it’s you, the faint ghost of a surprise flashes on her face before she offers you her usual mask of indifference.
“You’ve come to interrupt me again, I wonder…?”
A smile comes to your lips.
“Yeah. Couldn’t stay in the capital and leave you alone.”
“I heard you made the silly girl mad.”
“I’ve made plenty of people mad, other people have made me mad… It’s a carousel of annoyance. But yes, I’ve returned! I’m the human equivalent of herpes.”
“I am not acquainted with that reference, I suppose.”
“It’s an ancient curse where I come from.”
Beatrice makes an expression that you can’t quite identify, but it catches you a little off guard.
“Well, I suppose it can’t be helped”, she says.
You walk over to her, go down on one knee and grab her small hand. She gets surprised, but she doesn’t retract her hand.
“Beatrice, I’d love to stick around and just shoot the shit with you, but I require your knowledge on various matters. Why… Why are you wrinkling your nose?”
“You smell like her”, she says, somewhat perplexed.
“Ram, I suppose…? No, I meant like the witch.”
So even a hundreds of years old spirit isn’t immune to the Witch of Gluttony’s dark arts. You shake your head.
“You mean Satella?”
Beatrice nods slowly, but then she looks back up at you. She’s still confused about something.
“When anyone these days mentions a witch, unless they are using it incorrectly or despectively to refer to a magician, they always mean Satella, the Witch of Envy, I suppose. It didn’t use to be that way… Back before the good world ended.”
Beatrice looks back up at the vaulted ceiling, her mind drifting far away.
“There was a time when I did not have to worry about the Earth being engulfed by shadows, I suppose. The past and present blend together at times… But the future is an inevitability no matter what.”
“How old are you exactly, Beatrice?”
“Is it proper to question a female about her age, I wonder…?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to trample over your extremely old values and customs.”
Beatrice almost pouts.
“Why did you want that information, I wonder…?”
“I’m not sure. Beatrice, what does it mean? I’ve been told before that I smell like Satella. What’s the deal with that?”
Beatrice’s eyes narrow.
“It means Satella has affected you. She has left a part of her essence inside of you, touched you with her power, I suppose.”
“Isn’t she, like, super dead?”
“To put it simply for you, I suppose, they were too powerful to die entirely. Their restless spirits remain at Mother’s…”
She seems annoyed.
“Even Satella’s spirit is very powerful is what I meant to say, I suppose!”
“Why would she want anything to do with me?”
“Why would anyone want anything to do with you, I wonder…?” Beatrice turns to you with a cutesy frown. “You’re too insecure, I suppose.”
“If she’s so powerful, then why doesn’t she just destroy this world again?”
“Is this really a conversation that needs to be had, I wonder…? Satella does what she does. Not even the other witches could understand her, and were afraid of her when she became the Witch of Envy. But never mind that, I suppose.”
“Beatrice, does Satella have the power to return back in time?”
Beatrice’s eyes narrow.
“No, I don’t believe she does, I suppose.”
“Because she doesn’t want to, I suppose. It would be too… inconvenient for her.”
You frown. You don’t know what to think about that.
“There’s no easy way of putting this out there… I can return back in time, Beatrice. I’ve done so twice. In fact, you were the one who led me to my death that very first time. Not that I’m mad about that.”
Beatrice arches her eyebrows.
“What kind of nonsense is coming out of your mouth, I wonder…?”
“I’ve gotten some of that as well. I’ve died, and then when I return to the past, I get glimpses of a darkness, of the thick black between life and coming back to life again, and there’s someone there.”
“This person, do they have a name?”
“Unless their name is ‘I love you’, I wouldn’t be sure.”
Beatrice opens her eyes wide and separates her lips. When she recovers, she nods slightly.
“You said you only remember about that darkness in between when you come back?”
“You weren’t present, lucid, at the moment of meeting her, I wonder…?”
“Thankfully I wasn’t. I think I might have shat myself if that were the case.”
Beatrice gets down from her chair and turns towards the depths of the library.
“Follow me, I suppose.”
You stand surprised for a few seconds, and then you catch up to her. You both head out of the main room, then walk up a set of stairs to the second floor. Before you enter the room you know you are going to see a series of corpses, mostly of what you would generally describe as half-beast villagers, lying on tables. They are preserved as if they died a day before, but they might as well have gathered dust there for a thousand years.
“You aren’t planning to kill me, right…?”, you ask nervously. “This smelling like Satella isn’t like a death sentence or something.”
“Don’t be silly, I suppose. Now push off one of the corpses, whichever you prefer.”
“Are you going to make me repeat myself, I wonder…?”
There’s no arguing with the librarian, so you shrug and choose the smallish corpse of a half-koala. It thuds as it hits the ground.
“I hope this isn’t a sacrilege.”
“Shut up, I suppose. Now lie in his place.”
“Are you really asking me that?”
“Ah… You want to show off your magic tricks, don’t you?”
“Is there a more irritating man in this world, I wonder…? Do as I said or don’t bother me, I suppose!”
You stare at the girl with a deadpan expression. Finally, you start to undress, but Beatrice lets out a noise of surprise.
“You misheard me, I suppose!”
When you lie fully dressed on the table, she approaches the side of your torso. She closes her eyes and extends one palm over your heart. A dark, purplish light emerges from the tips of her fingers and converge in a churning ball a few centimeters under her palm.
You grow nervous, but after a few seconds you don’t feel anything in particular. Although you believe that she’s preparing something, suddenly the purplish light goes out, and Beatrice turns away from the table.
“That’s all, I suppose.”
You sit up.
“Are you sure that did anything?”
“Do I need to suffer you questioning my methods, I wonder…? There’s indeed a witch’s scent embedded in you. My magic served to… How to put it into terms you would understand, I wonder? It calibrated the essence, so you are attuned to it.”
“How disrespectful, I suppose.”
“Is it like a bad thing to have a witch’s essence inside?”
“How would having Satella’s essence inside be a good thing, I wonder…? The witch’s essence is usually associated with the Witch’s Cult. Their higher-ups call it a Witch Factor. They are blessings, I suppose, that grant them power.”
“So I was given the blessing to go back in time whenever I die?”
“That’s what you said, I suppose.”
You massage your chin for a moment.
“Well, I don’t know why.”
“Should I know, I wonder…? If what you are saying is true, then the next time you die you will face the presence while fully lucid. Will you avoid soiling yourself, I wonder?”
“That’s a nasty expression, Beatrice. You shouldn’t repeat it.”
“I’m much older than you, I suppose!”
You follow her back down to the library, and after she seats in her chair and grabs her antique book, she seems to expect you to have left already.
“Beatrice… If anyone attacked this mansion, would you help?”, you ask cautiously.
“If I deemed it necessary, I suppose.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means if your actions are rash or unwise, then I won’t help, I suppose. But if it seems like you’re doing something right and proper, then I will help.”
Beatrice gives you a creepy smile as she says this. You have a feeling she was trying to say something else though. You need to be more careful with your words… And more patient.
“Well I’ll be off now, then. I’ve put off my main goal here too long. It was nice seeing you again, Beatrice.”
Beatrice says nothing more as you leave the library. You take one last lingering look back at the bookshelves and at the small figure sitting on the chair, knowing that it’s the last time you are going to see them in this life.