This part covers the remainder of the seventh volume of the original Re:Zero novels.
This turned out to be a road trip episode. Lots of fun to write. One of my favorite things is tangling characters I like in conversations, and it just happens that I love almost every character in this retelling (as well as most in the original novels).
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
The caravan composed mostly of Crusch’s soldiers and supporting staff had reached the beginning of Flugel Road when Rem brought up to you, and then to Crusch, that you should attempt to hire plenty of merchant carriages along the way in order to evacuate the villagers that live close to lord Roswaal’s mansion. Rem had already come up with this idea in a previous lifetime, although you had completely forgotten, and you hadn’t either considered that the villagers needed to be pushed out of the way of danger. In any case, your beloved Rem as well as Ferris became the liaisons to add a few more carriages to your caravan, and most of the time Rem only had to show the pouch full of Roswaal’s money. The merchants then looked at the duchess of Karsten’s crew’s armorial bearings and they understood that they’d be well protected.
The vast expanse that Flugel Road cuts through was scary enough at night, and yet during this hour of the afternoon you can see monstrous beasts in the distance, roaming through the fields and hunting one another. Most of them don’t dare approach the road, you guess after many generations of travellers either killing those monsters or merely riding faster. However, a few spider-like creatures pursue some lagging carriages belonging to hired merchants, and Crusch’s crew entertain themselves killing the monsters.
At one point, some of the soldiers announce that you all have company: there is a big group waiting on a nearby promontory. It’s a bunch of half-beast people mounted on enormous grey wolves. As soon as your caravan begins to slow down, a big guy from that group of half-beast people shouts something loudly and the entire group rides towards the head of your caravan. The sound of so many enormous wolves pounding the ground as they run, along with the occasional shouting coming from that group, makes the hair on your arms stand up, yet it was nothing in comparison with the sight of the big guy that rides straight towards you. It’s a two meters tall wolf man with a big, dark brown mane and a maw full of sharp teeth. He’s only wearing a spauldron with a logo you’ve seen in Anastasia Hoshin’s stuff, some worn pants, and a belt to hang on his back a huge slab of sharpened iron that probably passes for a sword.
Your caravan stops immediately. You look around hoping that someone would tell you how to deal with this band of barbarians. The wolf man is shouting something loudly, but along with him approaching you that fast, you are petrified and can’t understand what he says. You look at him with your eyes wide open as his followers begin to mingle with Crusch’s soldiers. The wolf man stops the less anthropomorphic wolf he’s riding right next to your ground dragon Patrasche. As you were about to try a greeting, the terrifying half-beast’s huge mouth opens in a wide smile and he pats you so hard on your back that you feel as if you are going to cough out your lungs.
“Hello!”, the wolf man says with a loud, friendly voice. “You are the kid general that lady Hoshin told us to follow, right? The one who pushed for an assault on those cultist fiends? Nice to meet you! I’m Ricardo, Ricardo Welkin, captain of the Iron Fang! My people are at your service for some good old killing.”
As your heartbeats stabilize, you look over your shoulder and realize that all of this Ricardo guy’s half-beast crew are wearing the white, orange-lined robes that identify them as belonging to that mercenary band. Good to know, though, that if this had been an assault by a band of marauders, the people you are supposedly commanding would have been decimated.
Welkin strikes you as a bloodthirsty warrior who gets off on the battle, and killing, and you’ll likely just have to tell him the general idea of which group of cultists he should hunt. Then he’ll drive his crew on a murderous spree.
“Good to meet you, Ricardo. You are one scary motherfucker.”
Ricardo laughs so loud, opening wide that huge mouth full of teeth, that it makes your skin crawl.
“Scary, huh? That’s me! But one should always be true to themselves, don’t you agree? Wait until those cultist freaks get a load of us, and they’ll realize they only stuck their heads out for us to chop ‘em off! This will be a fun battle.”
You won’t disagree with him even if you have a reason to.
“I am looking forward to working with you and your men, or half-beasts, or however you freaks prefer to call yourselves, sir.”
“Freaks is fine!”
“Have you guys murdered cultists before?”
“Sure! They have assaulted some places in Kararagi. They come so suddenly, and they attack so cowardly, that they always kill a bunch of people. But that only makes it sweeter when you finally get to them and cut them in half! If there’s anything I can’t stand is people that don’t attack in the open. Just face each other on a field and charge against each other! What is it with all this underhanded crap?”
“I hear you. But then again, the cultists are so crazy that if they operated in the open, people would march with torches to where they lived and they would burn their houses down.”
Ricardo laughs again and squeezes your shoulder with his enormous hand. Your shoulder muscles creak with a burning sensation.
“Ah, this will be so much fun! I’ll find the duchess so all three can talk strategy. I’m tingling all over!”
When the scary wolf man comes back with your mother, both competent people decide on a plan of action to assault the Witch’s Cult units scattered throughout the forest. You only know the location of the unit that Petelgeuse himself leads, which is pretty good to begin with, and the experienced scouts in both armies will need to uncover where the remaining cultists have camped until their own assault starts. Then it’s a matter of ambushing the fuckers until everybody falls dead.
When Crusch and Ricardo bring up how to deal with Petelgeuse, you volunteer to speak to him one on one. Both Crusch and Ricardo are surprised, but you argue that you can just pretend that you live in the surroundings and that you want to join their cause to bring forth Satella’s resurrection. That you will use your knowledge of the cult’s internal workings and some of their concepts so Petelgeuse trusts you enough that he won’t expect someone who can actually fight to sneak behind him and tear his heart out. You would have never volunteered if you didn’t know from past failures that Petelgeuse is eager to talk to you, and won’t attack you until you give him a very good reason, like stabbing him in the heart.
In any case, Crusch and Ricardo are impressed. Crusch decides that you’ll go with the wolf man and his freaks to first take down Petelgeuse himself, and then you’ll ambush through the remainder of the cultists in that half of the forest, while Crusch and her crew handle the other half. Sounds pretty good, you argue, except that if your caravan doesn’t go past whatever stretch of Flugel Road will become the White Whale’s hunting grounds, none of this will matter. You figure that it’s hard for both of them to realize that the damned whale is going to appear, without a shadow of a doubt. In any case, they agree that you’ll need to quicken the pace.
Quite a few minutes have passed. You are exhausted by looking around for threats, and a headache is pulsing in your temples. As you ride along a merchant’s carriage, a cheerfully terrifying kid voice calls out your name. The mostly orange half-beast Mimi, along with another one of her kind who for some reason wears a monocle, catch up to you mounted on regular sized wolf-like beasts. When Mimi looks you in the eyes, you flinch.
“Mister! Thank you for praising Mimi before during all that talking! It made Mimi very happy.”
“Ah… I’m glad you are. That means that you aren’t that likely to blow me up.”
She giggles, then waves a hand. However, she’s clutching her staff with the other.
“I wouldn’t do that, mister! You are our friend! People who ride along the Iron Fang don’t need to explode.”
Her monocle-wearing companion, who seems to be a male about as orange as the other member of his race, clears his throat against his fist.
“Nice meeting you, sir. My name is Tivey Pearlbaton. I act as the Iron Fang’s quartermaster.” He hangs his hand towards you, but then realizes that not only Mimi is in the way, but that it would take a few times the span of his entire arm to reach you. He retracts his hand. “I-I am Mimi’s older brother. You can count on me with anything related to supplying our soldiers and moving them around. We’ve brought a big load of dried slime for when we decide to rest.”
“Sounds charmingly nauseating.”
You had assumed that Mimi was the pattern for her kind, but judging by her brother, that Iron Fang’s lieutenant is just a half-retarded psycho.
“Mister! Ricardo said we are going to kill the bad guys together! You can tell me who to explode and I will be happy to! You can count on me, mister. I will make everybody very happy.”
Mimi closes her big eyes and smiles sliding her upper lip over the bottom one.
You shiver. “Don’t uwu me,” you think, “you murderous freak”.
Mimi keeps babbling for a while to the extent that even her brother attempts to shut her up. You suddenly feel a weight on your shoulder. It’s a smallish white cat that has appeared out of nowhere. You are startled until you realize that you actually know him. You hadn’t seen Puck for so long that you forgot he existed.
“I wanted to see how you were innovating in the field of failure and disappointment,” Puck says, “and turns out you are riding towards Roswaal’s place along with two armies? What are you thinking?”
Without you even willing it, your hand moves by itself and gives Puck a push. He makes an ‘eh’ noise and falls from your shoulder, but immediately flies right back. Mimi has switched her staff to her other hand so she can aim at the cat sitting on your shoulder.
“Should I kill it, mister?”
Puck turns quickly towards the half-beast girl, and you can’t see the expression on his cat face.
“No! That won’t be necessary, Mimi”, you say. “This guy is a friend of mine. Just wanted to pay me a visit.”
The monocled half-beast guy puts a hand on his sister’s shoulder and offers an apologetic smile.
“M-Mimi, let’s go back to Ricardo and see how we can better plan all this future explodey stuff, okay?”
“Yes! We are going to explode so many!”
After they disappear behind you and you sigh out of relief, you realize that Puck is studying your expression with concern.
“A friend of yours, huh…?”
“And a big ol’ cunt. You are just one gigantic little cunt cat, ain’t ya?”
“You are acting really weird, Subaru. What is going on? What the hell are you doing?”
“I guess this is going to be the second time when your tendency towards appearing where you aren’t expected will do some good. Well, it might become the only time when it’s going to work.”
“Subaru, why are you accompanying two armies towards Roswaal’s domain?”
“Well, you see… It’s complicated.”
“It’s gotta be complicated when it seems as if you have allied with two opposing royal candidates to invade Roswaal’s domain, after you were told to never show your dumb face again. Should I start flinging ice magic around?”
“Yeah, Emilia is going to be mad and I’ll have to somehow play that out all over again, but that’s if we even get the chance to meet. Puck, it’s the Witch’s Cult.”
“You are worried because they might plan to hurt Emilia after she showed herself to the world at the royal summons?”
You shake your head. How many times do you need to work through the same conversations? Can’t people just do what you want and leave you the fuck alone?
“Look around, Puck. You think if it were mere worry we’d be marching two armies towards Roswaal’s domain? All of us have gotten reliable information that there are Witch’s Cult’s units hiding in the forest that surrounds most of the mansion’s grounds. We even know the name of the guy in charge, a certain Petelgeuse. Most importantly, we know that as soon as tomorrow they are going to attempt to kidnap Emilia and perform their ritual in Roswaal’s inner sanctum. That will kill our beloved half-elf, of course, which will end up with you turning into a humongous cunt-cat and destroying the world.”
Puck is so surprised that he almost falls off your shoulder. He jumps into the air and hovers a meter from your face as if to see your expression clearly.
“How do you know that if Emilia dies I… There’s no possible way you could have known.”
You cover half of your face with your palm as you feel that the rest of your unnatural life will be a litany of how-do-you-know-thats.
“What, that if Emilia dies you’ll become a huger cunt? Would that be a surprise?”
Puck narrows his eyes, but then shakes his head in confusion.
“If the other royal candidates have agreed to mobilize their armies… This isn’t one of your delusions.”
“One of them?”
He flies a bit higher to get an aerial view of the caravan members, and then he goes back down.
“Crusch is there. I met her a couple of times along with Emilia. She’s a cool gal, she wouldn’t do something as treacherous as invading an opponent’s domain, when the Witch’s Cult is moving pieces around no less. This is good then, Subaru.”
“That’s what I tried to tell you.”
“I’ll talk to Ram. I can’t imagine what she will do if she detects an army coming in, without knowing in advance.”
“We might reach the surrounding area of the mansion a couple of hours before sunrise. We hired some merchants so we could evacuate the villagers, because they are bound to get massacred during the assault.”
“It was Rem’s idea, though. I never thought of that, even when I had heard it before. Are you going to tell Emilia?”
Puck opened his mouth, but then he closed it and looked away.
“Not sure. I’ll think about it.”
“In any case, this might be it, Puck. We might save Emilia this time.”
Puck shoots you a puzzled look. He turns around to fly away and then vanishes.
Before you know it, the sun has set and the increasingly darkening sky gets speckled with what seems like a million stars, as well as crossed by a couple of nebula-looking blobs. You keep massaging your temples; one thing is having found the willpower to entangle yourself in such a mess, and the other is convincing your nerves to tolerate it properly. You are getting weird twitches in your back muscles.
Where is Rem? You look around as your newly named ground dragon, Patrasche, keeps running, but you don’t see Rem’s beautiful light blue hair anywhere. When you look over your shoulder you see something far worse: a young guy, maybe twenty one or twenty two, who has light purple hair down to his shoulders, the face of your average nobleman’s son, and the uniform of the Knights of Lugunica. It’s that Julius fucker, who probably has a dumb last name. He’s speeding up his dragon to catch up with you.
You close your eyes, hoping for a moment that the vision was a headache-induced hallucination. Why would that dickhead be here? You can still see him clearly standing in front of you at the royal summons. You have forgotten his words, but not how he made you feel: as if you had no talents, you had no abilities, and you weren’t worthy to stand next to someone you wanted to protect. And afterwards, even though he had trained for his entire life as a swordsman and you mostly knew of swords from manga, he beat you up with a wooden sword without basically any restraint. As you were bleeding from almost every orifice and you felt as if you were going to keel over from a brain aneurysm, you still refused to give up in case Emilia would think you were a pussy, but this Julius shithead kept hitting and hitting. You don’t remember the end of it, because the next thing you knew you woke up in what ended up becoming your favorite bed ever, back at Crusch’s mansion, as Emilia sat next to you in tears.
“I am glad to see you well, Subaru”, Julius says from your right.
As heat rises in your face, you stare at the guy with your best impression of pure anger.
“Why the fuck are you here, you piece of shit?”
Something like sadness flashes in his eyes for a second, which only makes you angrier. The guy is standing with his back straight on his ground dragon as if he had been told since he was a child that only lowly commoners don’t take care of their posture.
“The lady told me that you, whom we had met through the events at the royal summons, was spearheading an assault against a branch of the Witch’s Cult that would attempt to sacrifice Emilia. I had feared for your mental state after how you exited the palace, and I can only support, with my abilities if possible, any well-organized attack on such troublemakers.”
“You feared for my mental state, you say. You have some nerve.”
Julius stares forward and sighs slightly.
“I overstepped my boundaries. I shouldn’t have beaten you to such an extent. I look back upon my actions on that day and I can only feel shame.”
As you shake your head and repeat his words in your head to consider a response beyond incoherent yelling, a pang of headache makes you hunch over. You massage your left temple as if it would help.
“Who is the lady? You mentioned that the lady had told you about this operation.”
“Miss Anastasia Hoshin.”
“Isn’t she like from another country, and you a high-ranking member of the local knights?”
“She’s a royal candidate chosen by the royal medallions’ enchantment. I’ve heard others argue that because she was born in Kararagi she shouldn’t become Lugunica’s ruler, but I don’t see why that would be the case as long as the medallion identifies her as a worthy successor.”
You have no clue why all the people you’ve met consider reasonable to choose your rulers according to whether a piece of jewelry glows when you touch it, but you don’t really care either.
“I don’t understand why Anastasia would be leaking details of an operation this important, which needs to take place in less than twenty four hours, to an outsider. Maybe it was wrong to involve her. Although we do need the Iron Fang…”
He looks at you realizing that you didn’t know something important.
“I’m backing Anastasia for the throne. I have pledged as her knight. I decided to join the operation as part of the strength her household can lend.”
You stare at him as if he’s joking around.
“If I thought about you at all, and let me be explicit that I don’t, I wouldn’t have guessed that someone like you would have decided to back that Hoshin woman.”
“I don’t know what you mean by someone like me. Anastasia Hoshin built her commercial empire from the ground up in some of the poorest, least developed regions of Kararagi. She turned deserted areas into oases of prosperity. Where people could barely eat a meal a day and didn’t know how to read, Hoshin funded factories and schools, giving people work and allowing them to learn not only in general but specific trades. Wherever she has established her branches, people can dream of a better future. I have no doubt that she would achieve the same result in our kingdom.”
“Aren’t you like a noble and shit?”
His lips curl into a smile, although it gives you the feeling that he wants to reproach your choice of words but doesn’t want to upset you.
“A landed noble fights to increase his domain, to integrate more land into his de jure titles, to change his vassals’ contracts so they benefit their liege, often to the severe detriment of those vassals. How does the well-being of your average citizen factor into that? Does turning your economy to support war every few years produce lasting employment or raise literacy levels? Your average person is not fit to govern, that’s undeniable, and yet many nobles should never get their hands on power. We should find a system in which only the meritorious lead the future of our nation.”
You rub your eyes.
“You back Emilia, Subaru, and you clearly care a lot about her given that you decided to sacrifice your social status to defend your lady against undeserved harassment. What you did is admirable, even though I can’t condone many of the terms you used. Your heart was in the right place.”
“Why, thank you.”
He lowers his head slightly, as if deep in thought.
“Ultimately, I wouldn’t mind if Emilia wins, as unlikely as it is. She can hardly be more inexperienced, yet from what I’ve known of her personally she’s kind, honorable and fair. Still, she’s advised by someone as mysterious as lord Roswaal. The duchess is a wonderful woman, a safe bet, if a predictable one: she won’t shake anything up, but the kingdom would survive the same way it did during the late king’s reign. However…” Julius’ nostrils flare, and he makes an effort to compose himself. “If baroness Barielle were to sit on the throne, it would spell doom for this nation. Her goals are as naked as they come, she would only…”
When the words ‘Barielle’ and ‘naked’ connect in your brain, your mind paints a succession of pictures of Priscilla posing nude, deliciously tanned, on her recliner chair thing back at her mansion, shots imagined as if you were kneeling in front of her and she was resting her ankles on your back. Your crotch tingles. When you come back to your senses, Julius hasn’t shut up. What an annoying prick. You say his name.
“Listen, I could tell from the numerous injuries you caused me that you can handle a sword. If you want to use it to murder cultists, that’s alright with me. I’m going up ahead to enjoy some silence for a while.” You pat your ground dragon’s neck. “C’mon, Patrasche.”
“Very well, Subaru.”
Some more time has passed, but you can’t tell what hour it is beyond that for a good while the open grassland has been illuminated by the moonlight and the distant stars. Suddenly Rem’s sweet voice calls out your name, and she speeds up her ground dragon to ride next to you.
“We are approaching the Flugel Tree. You have never seen it before, I think. Look to your right. Over there.”
Out of the darkness, around two hundred meters to the right of the road, appears a tree so big that initially you believe it to be a mirage, but as the caravan gets closer, there’s no doubt that it’s a big ass tree as if someone had taken the image of your average tree in Photoshop and scaled it up irresponsibly to the size of a skyscraper. It has a long trunk and a slightly smaller crown. You can’t say anything more about it because you don’t know shit about trees. One of the most curious things about it, though, is that there’s not a single other tree in the vast expanse of grassland.
“That’s some legendary monster tree”, you say.
“It has been a landmark around here for a long time, hence the name of the road. Apparently some person named Flugel planted it. A great sage of some kind.”
“I have the feeling you have already told me this… Nevermind that, I agree that it’s big. I don’t know what else we can do with it. Is it going to play into this thing we are doing in any way?”
Rem laughs softly.
“Sometimes things just are and that’s all they need to be, Subaru.”
The further you ride into the night, the more nervous you get. At any point you expect the gigantic body of the whale to cut through the road and clothesline you with its flippers like a wrestler. You can’t tell if you’ve left the future whale’s hunting grounds behind, because you didn’t pay virtually any attention during your previous trek through this grassland. However, both Crusch and Ricardo approach you to tell you that they’ve decided to stop the caravan and rest for a while: the ground dragons need to eat and nap for a bit, and you guess that many of the humans, and half-beasts, will want to sleep for as long as they can before they fight. You have been yawning for a while, and you need to take a shit; still, you preferred to just ride it out until you get out of Flugel Road. But you don’t want to argue with the people who are actually competent, especially with Ricardo. After all, they do know how to lead an army.
You all leave the carriages near the road. As you are looking out at the sea of grass, the likes of which you had never seen, you hear Crusch and Ricardo ordering a few unlucky soldiers to scout ahead or stand guard.
You get the feeling that neither Crusch nor Ricardo truly expect you to give orders, and they take over your supposed rank in this operation without malice. You can only thank them for it.
After you took a shit and your ground dragon ate some dried meat, you are wandering into the sea of grass while holding on to Patrasche’s reins to guide her, although the intelligence you see in her eyes suggests it isn’t necessary, when Rem runs up to you and puts her hand on your waist. Looking at her smiling, beautiful face makes you feel warm.
“We can let Patrasche lie down to take a nap, and we will rest against her. And I look forward to sleeping even for a few minutes next to you.”
You swallow the warmth that had suddenly risen in your throat, and then hold on to Rem’s hand. As you were about to communicate to Patrasche that she can lie down, you are overwhelmed by how giddy it makes you to hold Rem’s warm hand and be alone with her. This is a woman who a few times when you were particularly horny had agreed to suck every drop of blood out of your body, which always ended up with her strong jaw crushing your throat. And yet, merely looking at her from this close, while fully clothed, makes you want to swoon. You embrace her and press your lips against hers. She lets out a little moan, closes her eyes and she caresses your tongue with hers for a while. When you both have had enough for now, you keep hugging as you feel your hearts beat against each others’ ribcages.
“Look up, Rem. There are so many stars. And despite everything that could happen, it’s so peaceful.”
Rem looks up, as do you. The sky is dark blue, and the stars fill the entire firmament. It’s one of the clearest skies you’ve ever seen.
A couple of minutes later Patrasche is curled up and breathing deeply, and you and Rem lean against each other as your bodies are lifted rhythmically by the ground dragon’s breathing. It feels like leaning against a rough pillow full of muscles, but it’s not that bad. You close your eyes while you play with Rem’s hand that you are holding.
“What a mess we’ve gotten into, huh?”, you say softly. “Having to stop a bunch of murderous freaks from killing people we care about, and involving armies that belong to Emilia’s opponents… I would have never imagined it.”
“This is just one of the many prices we pay for being Emilia’s allies. Not that I’d change that…”
“Quite a few of these people we are travelling with are going to die. That’s inevitable, right? It makes me feel so weird.”
“All you can hope is to die for a good cause. And killing as many cultists as possible is one of them.”
In the theater of your closed eyes you see Rem standing on the back of the half-destroyed carriage as she were about to leap into the mist, and therefore be erased from everyone’s memories, because she wanted to save your life. Your breathing gets denser, and you force yourself to shoo away those memories, which feel distant already, before you tear up.
“But none of that matters right now”, Rem says with a sigh. “To be honest, I’m just happy we can be like this, just the two of us.”
There goes your effort to avoid tearing up. When you manage to steel yourself, you put on a calm voice.
“You will get used to moments like these.”
At some point you opened your eyes without thinking, and you see a familiar figure moving around near some parked carriages. It’s Ferris, far enough that you can’t hear any words she’s exchanging with a tall, rough looking merchant in his forties. You recall that some of Crusch’s people stopped this man to hire him around thirty minutes ago. Ferris offers her hand for the guy to shake it, but the man either refuses or he doesn’t notice. After a few likely uncomfortable seconds, Ferris retracts her hand and then holds both of her hands behind her waist. Don’t look at her ass, think of Rem. Some seconds later, the conversation seems to have finished and the man turns to leave, but Ferris casually touches the merchant on the back of the neck as if sending him off in a familiar way. It bothers the guy, although he ends up walking away.
C’mon, Ferris! You just met this guy. Is Ferris like one of those women who hang around rest areas for trucks, hoping to end up getting rammed in some sleeper cab? What a little minx.
Both you and Rem must have fallen asleep, because you are waken up suddenly by a tumult. When you, half asleep, stand up quickly, you see that Ricardo is running towards you both with a big grin on his terrifying mouth full of teeth, or what you hope is a grin. Even though he looks friendly, he’s also a wolf man with arms two times and a half as wide as your thighs, and who clearly doesn’t understand how strong he is. He stops near you and points towards the opposite end of the stopped caravan.
“The mist has set in! The duchess told me that you guys could figure out when and where that huge beast would appear, and it seems to be true! That’s great!”
Your heartbeat quickens. You look back at Rem, who is still leaning against Patrasche. Rem is rubbing her eyes and yawning. You are about to say something when Ricardo pats your back to make you follow him.
You both stride along the line of parked caravans towards where most soldiers and some of the merchants have gathered. You spot the tiny quartermaster of the Iron Fang, Tivey, and the little guy motions towards his captain.
“Ricardo! I-I want to see too.”
“Let’s get going then, buddy.”
He grabs the tiny half-beast man and lifts him up to his shoulder. Tivey produces a handheld telescope like the ones a pirate would use, and he seems anxious to reach the front line of onlookers. When you finally get there, you approach the side of Crusch’s ground dragon. She’s mounted on it, and is looking through a telescope herself towards the darkened road that recedes in the distance.
When Crusch notices you, she smiles and passes you the telescope.
“Subaru, take a look.”
You swallow. When you put the lense to your eye, it’s hard to focus the distant image, but what initially seemed like a blurry background you end up recognizing as a wide wall of mist centered on the road. Exactly how you remembered. You pass the telescope back, and Crusch looks through it again with a smile plastered on her pretty face.
“It would be too much of a coincidence if this were a regular mist. Centered on the road like that, as well. The foul beast must be on the hunt inside.”
“Yeah… Has anybody seen it appear before it produced the mist?”
“I’ve asked around, but no. A soldier on guard duty noticed the situation when the mist had already settled. Nevermind that, we knew we weren’t going to hunt it down tonight. This is fantastic, Subaru. We can’t end this hundreds of years old menace yet, but with the mostly accurate predictions of where it’s going to appear, it’s only a matter of time before we rid the world of the White Whale for good.”
You feel a pit in your stomach, and you avert your gaze from the duchess. You had lied to her and to everybody else in this operation. You gave Crusch hope only to eventually have to take it away. What will she think the moment she understands that you deceived her, and that she cannot accomplish something as important for the nation she loves as erasing the White Whale from the world? You feel like the biggest piece of shit.
“Subaru, you don’t need to worry”, Crusch says with a kind voice. “Once the whale has produced its hunting ground, it has never been known to pop out of the mist. In the end the mist dissolves and there’s nothing inside, because the whale has left to whatever dimension, or Hell as Wilhelm would put it, it came from.”
You cough to clear your throat, but your voice still comes out raspy.
“We are way too close. If we had stopped to rest just half an hour earlier, we might have woken up surrounded by mist.”
“Seems luck is on our side. But we all knew what we were getting into.”
You take a deep breath.
“Ah, well… I guess we’ll avoid getting eaten out-… I mean, eaten by that monster tonight. Has… Has Wilhelm seen this?”
Crusch straightens her back and frowns slightly.
“He stood a few meters from me and stared into the distance. I didn’t dare offer him the telescope, to be honest… You can hardly read his expression, but I’m sure he isn’t happy about his most hated creature in the entire world having appeared so close, and yet himself being unable to kill it.”
“I’ll try to find him, see if he’s doing alright.”
Crusch looks into your eyes as if to reassure herself of something.
“Thank you, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the company.”
As you look around while distancing yourself from the crowd, you spot, around a hundred meters into the grassland, the recognizable silhouette of the old man bathed in moonlight. He’s standing still. You quicken your pace as you approach Wilhelm, who is looking in the opposite direction of the mist. When you get close enough, you see he’s resting his hand on the pommel of his sword as he stares down at a bloom of bright red flowers that sway in the slight wind.
You know that he’s noticed your presence, and you hope that your company is enough. Seconds later, Wilhelm speaks.
“My wife… she loved flowers.”
After a while, Wilhelm begins to move in a circle towards the road, walking slowly to step only on grass. You don’t move. When Wilhelm has distanced himself a bit, you call out to him.
“Sir Wilhelm, I am sure she knew.”
The old man stops. He takes his time to turn until he offers you his profile.
“Your wife. She knew.”
Wilhelm stares at some point in the distant horizon in front of him. Some seconds later he turns away from you and keeps walking.
So the crew cannot kill the White Whale in this strange AI-fueled roleplaying/retelling I’m doing. The whole thing has gone so much off the rails in general that quite a few of the recent parts couldn’t rely on the original setups, which is a good thing. In any case, this linked scene is the moment in the anime adaptation of the original novels when the crew does gather to fight the legendary monster. Unfortunately, Subaru lost his cellphone in the very first part of this retelling.