This part, like the previous one, covers a small portion of the sixth volume of the original Re:Zero series, although this is all material that doesn’t appear in the original; the story has diverted quite a bit already in this strange AI-fueled roleplaying/retelling thing.
By the end of the previous part, the protagonist had experienced his biggest failure yet. He had never struggled as hard before, but everything came crashing down as if nothing he did mattered at all. Now he’ll need to deal with the mental consequences of his continuous failures and the hurt he keeps causing to others, deliberately or not. I had intended for this part and the following to belong in the same entry, but I think they would grow past eight thousand words together.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
You are immersed in an opaque blackness. You try to test if closing your eyes changes anything, but you can’t find your eyelids. You try to move, but nothing happens, and it’s not that you can’t move: you can’t feel your body at all. It should suck, but along with not being burdened with commanding a mecha made of a skeleton and muscles, you also seem to lack emotions like fear or pain. And the warmth that overwhelms you feels like returning to your early days of being embraced by an unconditionally loving mother. As warm as a womb. You want to stay here forever. You want to sink into the blackness and let the world turn without you.
There’s a presence some distance in front of you. You feel it to be a female presence, yet you don’t know how you know it. As you are thinking about her, trying to find details in the uniform blackness, two smoky hands form from nowhere. They extend towards your sides, followed by slender arms. While you feel as if you are floating closer to the source of the arms, they close around you. The tips of its smoky hands touch a back that you lack. As the presence embraces you, you distinguish the silhouette of a head with long hair, and on its upper half two hazy purple lights glow like distant lighthouses through the mist.
Despite the love that this presence exudes, you don’t understand. You feel as if you are peering into a vast darkness that you will never comprehend. The child-like face of Beatrice comes to your mind, and you want to apologize. If you could feel fear at this moment, you would have discharged the contents of your bowels into the void.
You hear something. Some words emerge from the presence as in a constant prayer.
“I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I-“
“Do you hear me?”, you say, or think.
The flood of her words keeps breaking all over you.
“Is this really you, Satella…? The Witch of Envy?”
“I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I lo-“
“This is all you say, I guess. All that remains of you. How much time has it been since apparently you engulfed half of the world in shadows? Four hundred years? What sanity can remain of a ghost after so much time in this darkness? Or of any living person, for that matter?”
“I love you I love you I-“
“How long do you think will it take for me to go insane? I mean if I just stick around here with you, in your loving, ghostly arms, you mass murderer.”
“I love you I lov-“
“Are you something to worship? People might as well worship the sun. Heard they did that for a while.”
“I love you-“
“Enough! No more! Please, just leave me be. I don’t want your love. You know how much trouble you’ve caused? You know the lives and futures of people that you destroyed, so many stories that will never get told because of… what? And what about Emilia? Everybody who remotely resembles you will keep being hated for hundreds and hundreds of years because you ruined everything!”
“I love you I love you I love-“
As the voice continues, you try to block it out. You want to listen, but at the same time you just can’t stand it. Why? Why is Satella doing this to you? But most importantly, why do you feel this unconditional love towards her despite everything you know, despite this unearned love she keeps bathing you in?
You feel that she’s holding back, that she needs to embrace you further, to press your consciousness into her and integrate you, dissolve you in her. She wants everything of you, she loves everything of you. Everything you’ve felt, thought, she needs it inside of herself. And four hundred years ago she wouldn’t have stopped if it weren’t because, like the story books said, the heroes of the day put her to an end.
“You are an echo in the dark. And yet, you gave me a gift. I wonder if you even know you did. Nevertheless, I will put it to good use. You want to spread your love. I might have some of mine to spread as well.”
“I love you I love you I love you I l-“
“So thank you, Witch of Envy.”
A sudden silence overwhelms you. The presence has gone quiet. Although the properties of the bath of love haven’t changed, if you still had a body you would feel a chill running through it.
“Natsuki Subaru”, the presence says with a soft, bell-like voice.
“Ah… Yes, I am Subaru. Please tell me your name.”
You wait in silence for what your consciousness interprets as a few seconds, and then…
“I love you I love you I love you I love you I l-“
“We circle back to that, huh?”
“I love you I love you I love you I love you I lo-“
“Are you a NPC? Is this fantasy world also a videogame?”
As her words keep washing over you, you feel a pull back that you recognize. As her still extended arms distance themselves from you, you feel a sudden panic that you shouldn’t have been able to experience. You want to remain here. You don’t want to endure pain, nor regret, nor disappointment, and there’s little else waiting for you outside of this dark. But as the presence merges back into the blackness, it seems you have no choice.
“See you soon, Satella. Keep the oven warm. Not like in a sexual way.”
It’s like the feeling of falling while you sleep. Something solid awaits you on the other side.
You grasp at something. Sheets. You are covered by soft, warm cloth, and your head rests on a pillow. Coming like a wave splashing on the shore, you feel everything else. Pain from the bruises of some training you can’t remember. Further bruises and maybe some half-broken bone from that worse beating that the captain of the Knights of Lugunica gave you because you ran your mouth. Without much effort, you can locate every part of your body. You are alive. It makes you sick.
Before you know it, you are sitting on the edge of your bed, feeling every nighttime noise from outside, as well as the moonlight that comes through the window, as intrusions. You are back at Crusch’s. The last hours of your life haven’t happened, and yet that’s not true, is it? You retain everything in your mind. You remember pushing a dagger through Petelgeuse’s ribcage. You remember your leg crumbling into bits. You remember…
Barely dressed and barefoot, you step into the darkened corridor. After you stand in place for a few seconds, your mind blank, you head to Crusch’s bedroom. You open the door and in the little moonlight that pours in you distinguish the duchess sleeping comfortably in her four-poster bed.
“Hey, Crusch. You awake?”, you say.
After you repeat it for the third time, Crusch wakes up confused. She rubs her eyes and lights a lamp.
“Mr. Natsuki, what hour… This is a troublesome way to approach a lady, barging in when she is sleeping”, she says with a calm voice, but somewhat weirded out.
She’s resting on an elbow as her long, soft green hair falls on the pillow. Her right breast is bulging in the cleavage of her nightgown. She looks so gorgeous you just want to go over, get in her sheets and cuddle with her all night. She has that sort of motherly vibe going on with her, despite that she must be twenty two tops. God, I wish she were my mother, you think. You’d do little else than accumulate shame every night.
“I need to apologize to you, Crusch. You’ve been hosting me here, you picked me up when I was all wounded, and still I chose to hurt you.”
Crusch narrows her eyes slightly, and moves her sheets aside so she sits on the edge of her bed.
“What are you talking about, Subaru? Hurt me how?”
“I sold you out for a fast carriage. I told Hoshin everything you were doing.”
“Fast carriage? I haven’t… You haven’t even left this house since you wandered outside in the rain.”
“It’s something that happened in another life.”
She lowers her head, and then stands up and walks slowly towards you.
“It’s alright. No harm done. I trust you, Subaru.”
She puts a hand on your shoulder and stares into your eyes.
“Bad night, huh?”
“Bad everything. You look great, though.”
She tilts her head and raises one side of her lips.
“Was that why you opened the door to a lady’s bedroom in the middle of the night? Were you attempting to court me?”, she says with soft but playful tone.
“I’ve gotten somewhat used to attempting nightmare level endeavours, and yet I wouldn’t try courting you, duchess. It would be absurd to attempt something with a zero percent success chance. Even I’m not as dumb as that. There must be a line of landed nobles out there who are waiting for your hand, and you are for sure going to choose one amongst them.”
“Well, I’m not opposed to getting to know you better. You’re showing the right attitude for a change.”
She looks at you in a slightly different way than she usually does, but it isn’t any kind of look that makes you uncomfortable.
“That’ll run through my mind in future lives, I’m sure.”
She doesn’t know how to answer to that except smiling and slowly shaking her head. She begins to turn towards her bed.
“The nobility are for marriage, Subaru. Love… That is something else. Now, go to bed, you big weirdo.”
As she makes her way back to her sheets and she slowly bends over to arrange them, you wish to tell her that you’d rather stay for a bit longer and talk to her. Then again, you do love when Crusch walks away from you. That militarily raised, firm ass.
After you close her bedroom door, you head straight to her wine cellar while touching the walls to guide yourself in the dark. You ransack the wine bottles until you find the one that seems like the most expensive, although you can’t quite tell because you can’t read for shit. You move through the halls until you reach the shaded patio at the edge of the manor. You sit in the same chair you sat that one time, during this same night, when Crusch spoke to you about the Witch’s Cult’s purpose. A night that never happened. You hear the wind blow, as well as a couple of owls hooting. When you concentrate more, you distinguish some dragon carriages moving slowly through streets illuminated by magical streetlights.
You pop open the bottle and you drink it all in four or five gulps. You wait for a while, feeling yourself getting light-headed and woozy, occasionally containing some burps in case you end up vomiting the contents of your stomach. Then you move the chair backwards a bit. When you hit the bottle against the table, the bottle crashes loudly, breaking in half. You observe the sharp edges of the half you are holding. As you slide a finger through them, it leaves a cut. You take a deep breath, aim the sharp edges towards yourself, and plunge the bottle into your carotid artery.
The shock of pain, as well as the warm blood that pours down your throat and that makes you cough, makes you want to cry out, but you clench your teeth. The carotid is pumping through the bottle, which pours from the neck onto your lap. It won’t take much longer.
You don’t even blink as you lose vision. You just continue holding the bottle in place, despite it being slippery from blood. Suddenly someone grabs you from the side and attempts at the same time to make you stand up from the chair, as well as remove the bottle from the mangled wound in your throat.
“What are you doing!? Why did you do this!?”
You don’t want to look at Crusch’s face. You would probably see it double and blurry anyway. You rest a hand on her forearm to calm her.
“Don’t worry”. You are surprised that your vocal cords still work, although your voice sounds as if you’ve smoked for decades. “I meant to do it.”
“I can tell you meant to do it. I can’t believe… I should have paid attention. This isn’t… Oh no. Ferr-!”
In a swift movement you turn the duchess around, then you hold her head against your clavicle while pressing down on her mouth with your bloodied palm. She lets out a muffled yelp. The open wound is pumping blood all over her nightgown. You have to cough a few times before you can speak again.
“Sorry for bothering you, Crusch. I didn’t meant for you to find me until it was done.”
Crusch struggles to free herself, but she’s in an awkward pose to gain some leverage. However, she’s stronger than you, and you are getting weaker by the second.
“Just stay with me a while longer”, you ask with a thin voice. “The pain never gets better, you know? You just learn that it doesn’t matter.”
You must have lost grip on your consciousness for a moment, because next thing you know, Crusch is standing up in front of you, somewhat hunched over, and she’s tearing a piece of her nightgown. Her face, her beautiful hair, her cleavage, her nightgown are splattered and stained in blood. What a waste. She makes a ball with the torn piece of cloth, she puts it forcefully in your open hand, and guides your hand to the mangled wound so you press the cloth against it. Then she lowers her face to your level. She’s attempting to remain determined above the horror she must be feeling, and tears are jumping from the corners of her eyes.
You’ve done this to her, you think. You weren’t careful, didn’t wander away to do it alone. You’ve hurt someone else.
“Press it”, she says with a shaky voice. “Keep pressing it. That’s it. Wait right here for a moment, I’ll go grab Ferris. Don’t go to sleep.”
Before you know it she’s ran out of the patio. You shake your bloodied hand until the ball of cloth gets unstuck and flies out. Ah, what a mess. You grab the bottle with your shaky hand and then you stab yourself again, this time in the other side of your throat, and then in the previous one, and then in the other for good measure. You twist the bottle, tearing apart muscles, tendons and whatever there is inside.
You’ve lost plenty of blood already and you can’t tell exactly where the pain is coming from. Beyond the burning sensation behind your nose, that along with your mouth keep leaking blood, you feel colder and colder. You support yourself on the table to stand up, and then you stagger to the railing.
You had wanted to at least take a good look of the nighttime view, but no luck. Everything is blurry, just hazy points of light here and there. You attempt to lean on the metal that you can barely feel, but then the view swings and you feel weightless. Something stops you suddenly, a pain that reverberates through your back. You know better than to move your limbs at this point. Every breath spits blood that drips down all over your nose and mouth.
The noises you hear get further and further away. Everything would be so peaceful if it wasn’t for the pain that you feel right now.
Two figures are leaning on the railing above. You can distinguish enough to see the duchess; it doesn’t take her even a second for her to run back towards the interior of the mansion again. Ferris, however, stares at you with a mixture of horror and anger in her cat-girl face, as if you’ve imposed on her a terrible task.
Your arm weights ten, twenty times more than it should, but you manage to wave her goodbye.
You focus on the presence’s hazy purple lights that you imagine this mindless ghost is staring at you through. Her loving embrace is like being picked up from an injury to reassure you that everything is going to be alright. Her words keep pouring incessantly out of her mouth.
“Tell me something else, Satella”, you say, or think. “You managed to say my name. I want you to tell me anything else than those three words over and over. Do me a solid here. I need to know you are really there.”
“I love you I love you I love you I-“
“Try something else”, you plead. “If you are really there, tell me something about yourself, I don’t care what it is.”
“I love you I love you I lov-“
“We are going to spend a lot of time together, witch. You better get interesting quick.”
In your next life you come out of your bedroom at around eleven in the morning. You feel like avoiding Crusch, although she might get weird if you did, but she seems to have left the mansion. As you wander into the kitchen area you see that Ferris has just returned from some client. She’s left her bag on a table and, while she eats an apple, is leaning over to observe the view of the yard through the window, abstracted. She’s wearing a red and black dress that hugs her slender frame and her small tits, and her waist keeps moving slightly.
“Heya, Ferris”, you say, which makes her turn around a bit startled.
“Our wounded guest. What’s up?”
“If I were to pet you all over, would that be considered sexual harrassment in this fantasy world?”
She almost chokes on a piece of apple. She leaves the fruit on the table, and then, despite her bewilderment, she attempts a smirk and strikes a ‘look how hot I am’ pose.
“I’m not the kind of girl that gives herself that easily. Besides, it would probably be considered sexual assault, not harassment, and it wouldn’t do you any good, being a guest of someone as important as the lady and all. Could get really serious.”
“Where I come from, most of the cats love getting scratched and caressed. They get all purry and usually come back for more.”
“Then I’m ashamed that some out there have lowered themselves to such standards. That kind of deal won’t work in Lugunica. We are more civilized.”
“It’s that bubbly cat-girl tush of yours, Ferris. I know I made a bit deal out of it, but truth is, I wouldn’t mind even if you had male parts.”
A noise escapes from Ferris mouth, and then she throws her hands in the air. She walks away while shaking her head.
“I can’t deal with this right now!”, she says.
You don’t know the street you are walking through, except that it generally falls on the downtown area. Quite a few fancy restaurants. Noble-like couples taking walks, sometimes with their children. The dragon carriages have gotten more expensive. The more downtown you get, the fewer demi-humans you see.
You wonder when you are going to attempt to return to Crusch’s place this time; you can hardly orient yourself, as you can’t read any sign, and you don’t feel as if you can approach anybody. Everyone you see feels as if they belong to a movie playing on a screen. It would make as much sense to communicate with Lugunica’s denizens as with the actors in the movie.
A parked dragon carriage attracts your gaze, as well as that of most people passing by. What isn’t black is gilded, displaying curved, ribbon-like motifs you can’t even describe, to an extent that it seems like it could be displayed in some museum. As you walk around towards it, standing on the other side of the carriage is none other than the baroness Priscilla Barielle, who is wearing a black party dress that shows plenty of her impossibly hot figure. Her orange hair, done up in a hairstyle that must have required a few servants, glistens in the sun. She’s absent-mindedly fanning herself as she seems to wait for someone.
Before you know it you’ve appeared in her line of view, and caught her eye.
“What’s up, your highness?”, you say.
“Is this what people do now, approach those way above their station while greeting them without the appropriate respect?”, she says with a sharp tone.
“You mean like calling you ‘your highness’?”
“It would be acceptable if that was your form of address, but don’t think I haven’t caught the inappropriate tone.”
“I was just being a bit casual with a past playmate.”
She lowers her fan and slowly narrows her eyes while glaring at you.
“You must believe that I’m a girl you can just hit on. You better convince me that I’m mistaken.”
You can’t help but smile, even though that will probably fuel her murderous instincts.
“We met before even in this life. Back at the royal summons. Recall the guy who stepped into the line of candidates and started insulting those decrepit fools of the council, as you put it…?”
Her brow softens a bit, and she looks you over.
“Now I recall. It did entertain me, which granted you a little space in my memory. You should be grateful for that.”
“I’m surprised your highness would deign to keep the memory of a commoner, no matter his deeds.”
“Anyone can gain points with me as long as they entertain me. I’m good like that. Now, did you approach me as a social occasion?”
“Well, I thought your highness might be bored. But now that I have your attention… How is Mimi doing? Fingers still good?”
A smile grows on her mouth, and as she keeps it fixed in place, she walks around you while eyeing you over as if studying you. When she stops, she walks a step towards you. Although you are a bit taller than her, in her presence you feel as if she can crush you like a can whenever she pleases, which is likely true.
“You belong to lord Roswaal’s camp. I remember correctly, right? What did Roswaal intend with this message?”
“You would never know what that clown intended if he had actually sent me. But that’s not the case, though. I’m just interested in whether Mimi is still around, doing good. Maybe an old flame sort of thing, you know?”
“Except that nobody outside of my household knows about the slave girl’s existence. Perhaps I should work through my staff to see who has been spilling to the enemy.”
You show your palms, although you are surprised by how little you care about the implications of Priscilla’s icy words.
“Don’t go around torturing people or burying them in some corner of your yard because I just asked for the well-being one of your girls. She’s just cool and all, she did me a solid during a hard time. It’s a human interest kind of thing. I suppose that you do the same from time to time.”
Priscilla snorts, which somehow looks hot when she does it.
“That girl is not a person. She’s part of what happens when one army wins over another. Nevermind that, don’t attempt to distract me from your clumsy attempt at espionage.”
“I’d like to think that nobody is so stupid to approach someone as terrifying as Priscilla Barielle and reveal that there are traitors amongst her staff, who are supposed to be working for the person revealing the information no less. You need to look on the bright side of life, Priscilla. I told you, you seemed bored and I thought you would want to reminisce about good times, whether they happened in this lifetime or not.”
Facing Priscilla is so far, in capital at least, the only instance during which your heart races like when you look down from that roof to the quick, safe death waiting for you below. It’s intoxicating. You maintain a composed, detached exterior that perhaps only you know hides a racing heart and cold sweat.
Priscilla chuckles, which is more of an evil sound than a pleasant one. Then she stares at you unblinkingly with warm eyes and rubs the cloth of your shirt as if valuing its quality.
“You are an amusing, odd little man. Maybe I should send a messenger to lord Roswaal and negotiate a price for you to join my household, along with that Mimi of yours.”
You shiver. Most of the blood in your body flows down to your crotch, and your pants get dangerously tight. However, you doubt Priscilla’s intentions are as savory as quote unquote forcing you to eat her out like four times a day.
“That’s something to consider, for sure. It’s been good seeing you again, Priscilla. Would never get tired of it. Now, I will excuse myself and flee as fast as humanly possible.”