This part covers the beginning of the seventh volume of the original Re:Zero novels.
This part kicks off the third arc of the original novels. Two of the major things that happen, hunting the White Whale and later on a major upset, either cannot happen at all or will happen in a different way. We’ll see how that goes.
I thought this was going to be a dry entry, mostly because of the meeting, and that dealing with so many characters was going to tax my nerves, but in the end I loved writing it. I was going to leave it after the meeting, but then I came up with a few dialogues for the following scene and I figured that I could just add it to the same entry.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
You know where to find Old Man Wilhelm. At this hour of the day, Crusch’s bodyguard is swinging his sword for practice near the pond where you used to enjoy floating while drunk. Wilhelm is wearing his royal guard uniform, and he performs his swings with the seriousness of someone who expects needing to cut some fool down any day. Recently, at least in the confusing way that two days repeated many, many times can be considered ‘recently’, you have been that fool, although Wilhelm at least had contained himself to injuring you with a wooden sword.
You know damn well that the old man’s senses have picked up you walking towards him from quite a distance away, but you still approach him from an angle where you’ll appear fully in his field of view, as Wilhelm doesn’t turn while training.
“Sir Wilhelm”, you say with the most serious tone you can come up with. “I don’t wish to interrupt your training, but we must speak of something of the utmost importance.”
By how he glanced at you, you suppose that he was attempting to correlate your sudden demeanour to how idiotically he’s known you to act, and maybe to figure out if you were joking around.
“Mr. Natsuki. What is it?”
“I was introduced to you by my actions. I interrupted the royal summons and stepped into the line of royal candidates in order to harass the council members, whether or not those decrepit bastards deserved it. I ran my mouth and ended up getting beaten up by someone for whom beating me up to a pulp was as taxing as eating breakfast.”
“You have put it succinctly. I see you have a point to get at.”
“Although my fooling around ended up with the royal candidate my side backs exiling me from their camp, I was never booted by my lord himself, lord Roswaal, and I remain privy to information that most outside of his circle don’t have access to.”
You take a pause.
“I need to talk to you about Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti.”
Wilhelm, as you expected, furrows his brows. He knows the name, and he’s not fond of it.
“I see… and what would you like to speak about? My personal thoughts on him? My views on him are nothing of pleasant nature. I have no love for a man that would throw away his human nature for power, influence, and the favor of a dead witch who almost destroyed the world.”
It’s uncharted territory from now on. You’ve never known the old man to be surprised by anything, so you don’t know how he will react when you reveal information you shouldn’t have.
“You were assigned to assassinate him around a decade ago, weren’t you, Wilhelm? There was a peasant uprising, and Petelgeuse managed to destroy half of the rebel’s camp with some particularly nasty magic.”
Wilhelm stops mid-swing. He sheathes his sword and turns to you. His usual serious, collected expression doesn’t betray his thoughts.
“Lord Roswaal’s web of connections is more impressive than I would have thought. That was a highly classified operation. But yes, I see there’s no point in hiding it anymore. The late king sent a unit of some of his best men to stop the madman.”
“And you succeeded?”
“I expected you to know that. We did, although it was a far messier operation than anyone would have expected. He was able to wield some hellish magic we had never witnessed before.”
“By succeed, you mean that Petelgeuse is dead?”
“I’d say the measure of success of an assassination would require that outcome.”
“Like, you killed him very hard…?”
Wilhelm narrows his eyes and takes a couple of seconds to respond.
“The state of his corpse after our success would suggest so. What are you getting at, Mr. Natsuki?”
“You know the cultist bastards are going to attempt to murder Emilia, but we’ve gotten data that the situation is far worse than that. We have reliable information that a significant operation of the Witch’s Cult is going to hit Roswaal’s mansion as soon as tomorrow, with the hope of achieving their final goal of resurrecting Satella in Emilia’s body. The man leading that operation is none other than Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti.”
“You might imagine that I find that hard to believe. How accurate does Roswaal’s camp consider that information?”
“A hundred percent.”
Wilhelm shakes his head slightly, and then he glances over the pond.
“The notion of the Witch’s Cult assaulting lord Roswaal’s mansion is alarming enough, yet I have yet to know a man who can pursue his goals while lacking all of his limbs and his head.”
Wilhelm is your kind of guy, although you’d have probably attempted to blow up the Archbishop’s corpse as well.
“Wilhelm, is it possible that Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti is a title, not the name of a single individual?”
“Interesting, but not likely. While the Witch’s Cult organization is secretive, and many men have lost their lives to glean what we do know, we’ve gathered that they are divided into branches. Petelgeuse was the head of a branch they call Sloth. It’s unlikely that the branch dissolved, but if what you imply is that his successor would take the original Petelgeuse’s entire name, maybe as a way to pay homage to the madman’s legacy, all I can say is that we haven’t known any other cultist to act that way. If anything we know them to behave in the opposite manner: they fight for individuation, and the higher-ups even have to fear losing their seat to up-and-comers.”
Your stomach churns. A single branch. So there are potentially many others, that presumably have similarly superpowered madmen leading them.
“Wilhelm, did the Petelgeuse you killed have a bowl cut of dark green hair, and look like an emaciated man, cadaveric even, in his thirties?”
Wilhelm blinks and he furrows his brow for a moment.
“He was a bearded old man with grey hair. If your information is correct, there must truly be some other cultist calling himself Petelgeuse, given how unlikely it is that they happen to have the same name.”
“This bowl cut Petelgeuse is known to use an ability, an authority he calls it, named Unseen Hands. Apparently he can use a bunch of invisible, very strong hands with which he can grab people, twist their limbs off, crush their brains in, that sort of thing.”
Wilhelm’s eyes go wide and his mouth hangs open.
That’s it, old man, you think. I have finally disarmed you.
Wilhelm lowers his head as he frowns.
“I’ll locate the duchess and we’ll organize a meeting in the war room. We’ll send one of our staff to pick you up when we are ready.”
As he was about to pass you by, he takes one last look at you.
“Thank you. For the information.”
Once you’ve occupied your assigned armchair in the so called war room, you look at every person present: Ferris, who pretends not to be annoyed; Crusch, seated in the armchair opposite you, who looks so unapproachable and so unlike a mother in her military outfit that you want to turn away and cry; and Wilhelm, standing a few steps to your right, who is looking at you intensely as if wanting to talk as soon as possible.
“Mr. Natsuki,” Crusch begins, “sir Wilhelm explained to me in general terms that your camp has a serious problem in its hands.”
You notice, of course, that she assigned the problem to Roswaal’s people and not to everyone here. C’mon, Crush, after I’ve lived with you for so long?
“That’s right. The Witch’s Cult is a damnable pest.”
Crusch smiles softly, and you can tell that she’s containing herself because of the formal setting.
“Couldn’t have put it better myself. I’m surprised, though, that the official representative of Roswaal’s camp isn’t present. Wouldn’t you and miss Rem have approached us together in these circumstances?”
“Before I dared interrupt Wilhelm’s training, I asked Rem to locate and bring over someone who should attend this meeting as well.”
“Ah… Intriguing. Should we wait until they come, then?”
“No, I think we should put everything on the table as soon as possible. To summarize the situation, we have reliable information that several units led by a certain Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti, Archbishop of Sloth, are going to assault Roswaal’s mansion and murder everybody in it, particularly Emilia, because she will likely die in the process of them performing their deranged ritual in order to reincarnate their beloved Satella, who doesn’t give a shit about them, by the way. That ghost has lost her mind and got stuck in a way worse loop than any I’ve gone through. It’s pitiful, really. In addition, the cultists are also going to assault the village closest to the mansion and murder everyone in it, because as we all know, they’re complete cowards who’d rather kill defenseless people than fight fair.”
“Do we know how many units?”, Wilhelm asks.
“I believe the exact words we must rely on are ‘enough, hidden in the forest’, the forest being the one that surrounds most of the mansion’s grounds. We also know the location of Petelgeuse’s unit in particular: they are using a cave opened in a cliff wall somewhat deep into the forest. It takes a bit of walking to reach it, but we can get there.”
“That is good,” Wilhelm says, lowering his voice and seeming to think. “Very good.”
“Sir Wilhelm, have you heard the term Fingers being used by any of the cultists?”
The old man quickly looks at you, and a glint of respect flashes in his eyes. It makes you proud; apparently you seek the admiration of the guy who has little qualms about causing you serious internal bleeding. At least you’d prefer he didn’t think of you as a complete idiot.
“Indeed, by Petelgeuse himself. We attempted to figure out the exact meaning, but I didn’t receive any news on that front. We thought it was likely the Witch’s Cult term for each unit’s leader. However, we have never known other branches to refer to them that way. Maybe Sloth uses that term exclusively.” You were about to comment on his words when you realized that he was considering whether to continue. “Mr. Natsuki, did Roswaal figure out what category of magic does this so called Unseen Hands belong to? It was a mystery without an answer, one I’m eager to solve.”
“I don’t think it’s magic at all. Petelgeuse… It seems that the madman believed it to be a blessing granted to him by Satella herself. Whether or not that’s true…”
Crusch opened her mouth to speak, but someone knocked on the door and announced that Rem had arrived. Your heartbeat quickens. When the door opens, the demon servant enters. She’s holding her hands behind her back as she offers you a smile. It seems that everything went fine.
After Rem, Anastasia Hoshin enters the war room. She’s wearing her fur coat and fur hat, both white as snow. She’s accompanied by the tiny, orange half-beast Mimi, who holds a staff taller than herself.
“My, what a stuffy atmosphere”, the royal candidate says in her easygoing way. “This military bent. I’d say I’m mostly used to meetings around round tables.”
Without a place to sit, Anastasia and her bodyguard stand close to Ferris, whose face suggests she’d rather be doing her nails or something, and Rem stands by your side.
“You are one of the last people I would have expected to meet today, miss Hoshin”, Crusch says with some wariness.
“Well, I made the acquaintance of miss Rem only recently. Lovely girl, very polite manners. I had thought Roswaal’s camp would remain unapproachable, hidden in what I imagine to be a wonderland of magic. Best library of magical books in the kingdom, I heard? Things seem to be changing, and both you and I have reasons to approach the matter of this Witch’s Cult attack as partners, or at least not as opponents.”
Crusch stares at you while trying a smile.
“Mr. Natsuki, you are a man full of surprises. You haven’t, however, thought of adding baroness Barielle to our peculiar affairs, right?”
You suddenly want to cross your legs, although you contain yourself by shifting on the armchair.
“I’d prefer to walk on my feet rather than eat them.”
Anastasia Hoshin chuckles against her palm, although Crusch doesn’t seem to have gotten it.
“Miss Hoshin, are you planning on adding military force against the Witch’s Cult?”, Crusch asks with disbelief. “I fail to see what benefit you would gain from it.”
“I could say that the perspective of wiping out an entire branch of the infamous Witch’s Cult, a terrible bunch who have launched terror attacks in my very own native country, would be enough incentive. Would look fantastic for my prospects as a royal candidate, would it not? However, you know me well enough to know that it wouldn’t be enough. No, it turns out that Roswaal was seeking to make alliances, and he had juicy trades to offer.”
Early on, as you and Rem were arguing about what possibly could you offer Crusch, or whoever else, as incentives for mobilizing some of their forces to defend one of their political opponents, Rem opened up about her main purpose in the capital. After you had told her you loved her, it seems that Rem was eager to reveal any possible secret that you would want to know, whether it belonged to her or anyone else. Clown extraordinaire Roswaal had chosen Rem, of all people, as his emissary for securing alliances that could defend his domain from the inevitable ire that having presented a silver-haired half-elf at the royal summons would provoke. You love Rem as much as any person can love a demon, which turns out is a fuckton, but let’s face it, Rem’s at her best when she needs to flail through a bunch of enemies, or sacrifice her own life for those, or the single person, she cares about. She’s not a negotiator nor does she care about those matters. It’s just another in the long series of examples that suggest that the clown bastard has no clue about what he’s doing. The guy is probably an incompetent rich boy who inherited his mansion from his father, who maybe was also an idiot and got the mansion from his own father.
“Mining rights”, Anastasia says with a smile.
“Are you telling me that lord Roswaal is finally opening that treasure-trove? He’s going to allow others to extract from the reserves of magic crystals in his domain?”
“And we are opening them for you as well if you so wish, miss Karsten”, Rem says.
Crusch nods as she rubs her chin.
“It seems that the mysterious lord Roswaal has put backing the half-elf candidate above pretty much any other concern.”
“You’ve spoken with the guilds yourself”, Anastasia says, “Many suggest we are on the verge of an industrial revolution with crystal-powered machines at the center of it all. If he wanted, Roswaal could have cornered the market thanks to his family’s ancestral position. He could make a tremendous fortune. And yet, for some reason, the half-elf is more important.”
Yeah, because the guy is a fucking clown, you think.
Crusch turns to you as you were picking lint off your shirt.
“Mr. Natsuki, was your plan then was for me to lend you my military retinue, as well as some of Hoshin’s apparently, in order to crush the cultists when they attack some time tomorrow? And you wanted to convince me by granting me mining rights?”
“It would have been a hard sell for me even then, given that I’m very wary about marching my forces into an opponent’s domain. That doesn’t look good at all. However, I assume that Rem’s position as emissary will smooth out any possible diplomatic issues?”
“Of course, miss Karsten”, Rem says with a pleasant smile.
“Still, Mr. Natsuki, why did you assume that I have my army ready? I don’t recall ever mentioning anything in that regard.”
“The traffic going in and out of your mansion’s grounds and other nearby buildings of yours. You know, hauling metal to blacksmiths, returning weapons and armor, that kinda thing. It doesn’t look like the movement for an army that is standing down.”
Crusch takes a couple of seconds to disguise her surprise, and then she looks you over as if she had never met you before.
“Mr. Natsuki, with all due respects, who are you?”
You don’t like her looking at you like that. It’s me, Crusch, you want to tell her. You gave birth to me, I fed from your beautiful breasts for a few years longer than it was reasonable. But Emilia’s face flashes in your mind for a moment, from back in the clearing, when she had also asked you who you were as if you had been lying to her all along. Your mood sours.
“Ah… I understand that I was introduced to you lot as the idiot who insulted the council from the crowd, who then stepped forward into the line of royal candidates to piss on your parade, steal the spotlight, that kind of thing. And I did, of course. Plenty of silly shit leaked out of my mouth. I’m young, a bit of a hothead, and a bunch of idiots were insulting someone I’m very fond of. They were also insulting her for reasons she has no control over. I wanted to deflect their attention to someone who can take the abuse. I’m used to pain, and I even derive pleasure from it to a certain extent. My point is that maybe I was never as dumb as I look, and there are advantages in people seeing you that way.”
Ferris stifles a laugh, and Wilhelm has closed his eyes and is looking down with a soft smile in his otherwise hard face.
You want to sigh. Seems like the bluff worked. Sorry to all present, you wish you could admit, but in reality you are as dumb as they come. You’ll treat Satella extra nice the next time you are forced to pay attention to her unearned love.
You turn to Mimi, who is looking at some debris stuck in her soles.
“What do you say, Mimi? Can we count on the Iron Fang?”
The mostly orange half-beast’s big eyes beam, and her ears twitch.
“I met you before, mister? I don’t remember!”
“Ah… You are famous for your love of explosions. That tiny girl from the Iron Fang who explodes people, they said.”
Mimi giggles, and then throws her hands in the air.
“Yeah! I love it! I shout my booms at the bad guys and they explode. Big splashes on the walls! Then everybody is happy with Mimi.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
You feel a cold sweat on the back of the neck, and you make a note to interact with this creature as little as possible.
“Not to deflate our tiny Mimi,” Anastasia says, “but you’ll give orders to the Iron Fang’s captain, Ricardo Welkin. Quite the character! I look forward to what he’ll have to say about your command once that branch of the cult is done and gone.”
I’m going to command a mercenary band, you think. Even Crusch’s soldiers. You don’t have any qualifications. Are these people nuts? Don’t they realize who they are lending their power to?
As if sensing your nervousness, you feel Rem’s fingers touching yours. Can’t puss out at this point, you think. Worst case scenario, you die horribly.
You clear your throat.
“We need to act really quick. The average trip to Roswaal’s domains from the capital takes around a day and a half, if you aren’t pushing the dragons. Is that right? So we’ll either need to move through the slow route or through Flugel Road, the one with the big tree, right?”
“We aren’t working with your average ground dragons”, Anastasia says, checking something on a map that Ferris is holding for her. “We’ll pick tough, fast beasts.”
You lower your head as the events you experienced travelling that night through Flugel Road run through your mind. At least those merchants and travellers are alive. Hell, Otto Suwen will be drinking himself into oblivion next to that campfire whether you run into them or not.
“We’ll take Flugel Road”, Crusch says, and Ferris withdraws the map.
You shiver. You hope that nobody was paying too much attention to you.
“Shit, we better be sure we run ahead of that mist then, or we are whale food.”
You suddenly feel most of the eyes on you as if you had just farted, or mentioned Satella in public for that matter. You hear someone’s soles creaking as they shift their weight.
“… We’d be tremendously unlucky if this night, of all, the White Whale decided to make an appearance right on our route”, Crusch says.
“If I’ve learned anything, and I haven’t learned that much from all I’ve gone through to be honest, is that the only thing you can be sure of is that life will insist on shitting on you. And unfortunately the White Whale, that god-tier, people-erasing monster, will appear for sure on Flugel Road. Mist will cover a few kilometers, people who enter the mist end up disappearing from others’ memories, all that kind of garbage.”
Anastasia chuckles nervously, and then she looks at you from above as if you brought up a nasty topic during Christmas dinner.
“Nobody knows when the White Whale appears. That’s part of its thing, isn’t it? If we did, we could attempt to hunt it properly, which could end up freeing us from such a horrible obstacle for trade.”
“And, most importantly,” says Crusch, hardening her voice. “avenging the many, many people, citizens of our kingdom or otherwise, that this horrid beast has eaten, erasing them from the world.”
“Of course, of course! Hundreds of thousands of lives have been affected for hundreds of years.”
“So, Mr. Natsuki,” Crusch says, turning her frown towards you, “what is this about the whale appearing for sure on Flugel Road tonight? Why would you be so certain?”
You want to swallow your stale saliva. You hope that nobody that the various gazes fixed on you belong to realizes how much heat is escaping your body. You hadn’t predicted this, and you need to make up a lie on the spot. Or you could just run away while shouting incoherently and later on throw yourself off that roof to start all over again.
“It’s kind of a new thing. Lord Roswaal somehow managed to figure out the exact dates when the whale was going to appear, and as far as he told us, it has been successful a hundred percent of the times.”
“Really?”, Crusch says with a neutral tone.
“Must be due to his enormous library of magical books. The guy is one shady fucker. You never know what he knows, and he keeps surprising you with the wildest shit. So that’s what he told us, that in this night we shouldn’t travel through that area because of the damn whale.”
“That’s beyond interesting. I wonder if the cultists knew this as well and used it as a cover, because the traffic towards Roswaal’s domains would have either slowed down or completely stopped after certain hours of the night. Miss Rem, lord Roswaal told you as well, right? You must have spoken with him more recently, given that Mr. Natsuki has been technically exiled from his camp.”
You look up at Rem, who stands by your side, while a bead of hot sweat slides down your temple. I’m sorry, Rem.
The demon servant takes a few seconds to respond.
“That’s right.” She says calmly. “I was the one who informed Subaru about it.”
You want to cry. This girl would deceive the entire world as long as it helped you in any minimal way, or even if you just asked her to. Next time we are alone I’m going to eat you out so hard, you think.
As you were about to verbally support your personal demon, the atmosphere shifts, and it seems as if some dark energy is burning to your right. Everybody’s heads turn to Wilhelm, who is staring at both you and Rem as if you’ve just threatened to murder his parents.
“Wilhelm, w-what’s up?”, you say with a thin voice.
“Does lord Roswaal’s information include the exact time of when the demonic beast is going to appear?”
Rem looks at you, but you’ve just bitten your lower lip. She gazes back at Wilhelm with a calm expression.
“I’m afraid that the prophetic information that our great spirit librarian has learned only includes both the general area and the general time. Nothing as precise as the specific time, nor the particular stretch of a road.”
You close your eyes tight. If Beatrice finds out, she’s going to flip out.
“I see. It’s not good enough for tonight, given the nefarious operation we need to neutralize. However, I’m sure that lord Roswaal is aware of my need to destroy that demonic beast. Despite us being opponents in the technical sense, it seems to me a human flaw to deprive me of such opportunities.”
“That clown just keeps disappointing everybody, I hear you…”, you say with a shaky voice.
This is bad. Maybe when all this is over you’ll need to travel around the kingdom, venture into any mist you find, get eaten by the whale, and then report back to Wilhelm just to keep your story straight.
“Anyway, Wilhelm, what is your beef with that whale?”, you dare ask.
Crusch lets out a noise through her mouth.
“Wilhelm, you don’t hav-“, Crusch begins to say.
“The White Whale, that witch-created curse that has plagued both our kingdom and our neighbors for hundreds of years, slayed my wife, Thearesia van Astrea, former Sword Saint.”
All of you stare at Wilhelm for a few seconds as the man, despite not moving a muscle nor changing his usual serious expression, burns from inside out.
“I see how you’d be pissed”, you say, lowering your voice.
“Ever since I’ve only lived to annihilate that demonic beast.”
“So… you figure that you are going to stick around Flugel Road tonight and see where the mist pops up.”
Wilhelm lowers his head, and then sighs almost imperceptibly.
“That wouldn’t do. There’s a very short window of opportunity from the moment the White Whale manifests high in the air from whatever Hell it calls its home, and once the creature descends, it doesn’t take it much time to spew mist from the myriad of mouths that open along its foul body until the entire area becomes the whale’s hunting ground. Once the mist has set in, anyone who ventures into it will be lucky to escape with his life.”
“That’s unfo-“, you begin to say.
“I’m afraid I’m going to live through another night in which I do nothing but further my shame.”
“I get you. I know plenty about that. Sorry to hear that, Wilhelm.”
Wilhelm lowers his head and everybody waits in complete silence until he raises it again.
“Excuse my outburst.” Wilhelm says with a deep voice that only those who’ve known him for a while know that it betrays his usual stoicism. “Tomorrow we will erase from this world the stain that an entire branch of the Witch’s Cult represents. That is enough.”
Thankfully you aren’t in charge of the logistics machinery. Anastasia and her scary bodyguard departed to wherever the Iron Fang hang out these days, in order to mobilize them so they would join up with Crusch’s people along Flugel Road. After you took a few minutes in the privacy of your assigned bedroom to kneel before Rem and thank her properly for her support, you’ve been wandering around the yard and looking at the numerous carriages, troops, haulers and ground dragon handlers that move around. Crusch’s mansion staff are helping, and you’ve caught Crusch a couple of times as she supervised everything.
You haven’t seen Rem for a while. You were standing near the pond where you’ve gotten beaten up to a pulp numerous times, when Ferris of all people walks up towards you. She’s wearing a travelling robe with her hood down, but underneath she’s wearing black tights that accentuate her bubbly cat-girl butt. She reminds you of one of those girl bikers you’d see from time to time having stopped on a traffic light, and upon noticing how her ass rested on the seat, you’d wonder how far her legs could bend. As you think this, you remember that you haven’t even brushed your teeth since you met in private with your Rem.
Anyway, this broad is staring at you as if she intends to reproach you something you have no control over.
“Doing good, cat girl?”, you ask.
“I hope you know what you are doing, Mr. Natsuki.”
“You don’t trust me, Ferris?”
“Hard to trust the commanding ability of someone who has cried so much over a few broken bones.”
“H-Hey, that Wilhelm is a demon. You would have cried too!”
She looks to the side, as if looking for Crusch amongst the increasing crowd near the gate.
“These are good people. You have your camp and I have mine, but these people have families and dreams. The lady is good person, a fair duchess, and the future ruler of this kingdom, not to mention my best friend since we were children. If you think about giving up in the middle of it, or you fuck up bad because you were never ready for this, I’ll have you know that healing someone implies messing with their magic gate. After I touch a person for the first time, whenever I touch them again it’s barely an effort to increase the temperature of their blood until it boils. That’d be a justification to cry from pain.”
“What the fuck!? What about your Hippocratic Oath!?”
“I never belonged to any order”, she says as she turns away. She walks towards the crowd with her hands in the pockets of her robe, and after a few steps she looks over her shoulder. “Quit staring. It’s creepy.”
Some minutes later you were feeling so useless that you began to wander around the busy haulers as if you were actually contributing. You notice a figure standing near a line of ground dragons that are waiting as in an auction, and in less than a second you feel that the person is one of the coolest in the world. It’s none other than the most awesome duchess, who now is wearing a shiny breastplate, pauldrons and gauntlets over her military uniform. A fancy, expensive looking sword hangs from her belt, and a red cape waves in the slight wind. She has also collected her green hair in a ponytail. She’s like a fantasy world action hero.
As you approach her, you feel undeserving of doing so.
“You look as if you are going to defeat the Demon King.”
Crusch looks over to you and smiles.
“Hopefully this Archbishop of yours won’t give us headaches that bad.” She puts her hands on her hip and gazes at the formation of troops preparing themselves near the open gates. “We’ll head out in no time.”
“Listen, Crusch… There’s a chance that this all will work and I will never wake up again in one of your beds. I want you to know that you are the best mother I could ever wish for.”
The duchess makes a surprised noise. She arches an eyebrow and offers you a smile of disbelief.
“Of all the things that could have come out of your mouth… I guess I did serve that role to a certain extent. I didn’t prepare your breakfast, nor your meal, nor clean your clothes, nor make your bed, but my staff did. And I let you stay for free.”
“You are also running to become the mother of this entire kingdom.”
She looks up at the sky as if thinking about it.
“I’d prefer my subjects to be more independent than that, but I get what you mean. By the way, I didn’t want to bring it up in the war room, but your words about your public outburst at the royal summons don’t properly explain what happened there, nor the change I see in you from the broken man I found that day in the rain. Was the person that stands before me now underneath all along?”
“My dear duchess, it took gulping down tons of the best wine, and losing my head like a hundred fifty times, for me to finally snap the fuck out of it. But now I know what needs to be done. I don’t want to get stuck in a loop anymore.”
After she thinks about it, she looks satisfied with whatever conclusion she’s reached. She offers you a hand and you are eager to shake it.
“You have been an unruly, unpredictable child, but as your mother, I’ll fight the world for you.”
Your breath thickens, and you feel tingles all over. You hope your hand that holds Crusch’s hasn’t begun to sweat.
“Yeah, I’ve been a bad boy, Crusch. You can say that again…”
Crusch tilts her head as her lips separate slowly. You take your hand back.
“Ah… Well, I hope we meet again, duchess. If we don’t, I’ll keep you in my thoughts.”
“But I’m coming with you! I’m all dressed up and everything.”
You avert your gaze.
“This is beyond awkward, then.”
Crusch laughs. She puts a hand on your shoulder and then walks away. Her cape hits you in the face.
As you were walking up and down the line of ground dragons and staring them down to the extent that they were probably questioning what the fuck you were doing, someone hugs you from the side. You can tell it’s Rem by her smell.
“How’s my lovely man doing?”, she asks with a sweet voice. “Here, for your breath.”
She stuffs a couple of mints in your damn mouth. Then she grabs your arm and as she rests her head on your shoulder she makes you walk towards the first ground dragon of the line.
“Have you decided on one? You can pick whichever.”
“I don’t know shit about ground dragons. They look terrifying.”
“Oh come on. I’m not asking you to fondle them”, she says playfully. “Just choose whichever feels right.”
As you were walking down the line, a ground dragon leans forward and licks the side of your face. The long tongue is so rough that for a moment you feel as if your cheek has been flayed. You stare at the dragon, that has black scales except for its brown chest and belly. Its bright orange eyes look at you with a fondness you’ve done nothing to earn.
“Yeah, this one”, you say. “Any stranger that licks me without my consent is good enough for me.”
“What will you name her?”
“A female? And she licks me first? She must be crazy then. I love it! You are henceforth named Patrasche.”