This part covers a bit of the eight volume of the original Re:Zero novels.
Our main characters finally begin the operation to destroy an entire branch of the Witch’s Cult before the cultists murder Emilia, which will cause an Apocalypse.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
The sky keeps brightening, and it’s minutes before sunrise. Crusch ordered some of the merchant carriages to gather just before the road that leads straight into the village closest to Roswaal’s mansion, just in case there are cultist sentries looking out for intruders. Most of the remaining carriages, especially the ones belonging to Crusch’s army, have formed an irregular line near the outskirts of the forest that surrounds the mansion’s grounds. A few hundred meters across begins the approximate midpoint of the sea of trees, and if you were able to venture into it in a straight line and you wouldn’t get murdered doing so, you would eventually either reach the village or Roswaal’s mansion. In a few minutes, both armies are going to separate and cover half of the forest.
One of the scouts sent to figure out if there were cultists checking the forest border comes back running. He surrounds the line of carriages and meets with Crusch. You are nervous, because such a gathering of carriages will look shady as shit if some cultist wanders off to pee.
By now, light is beginning to seep through the horizon, tinging the sky with oranges and yellows, staining the trees that surround you in pastel colors. Crusch dismisses her scout.
“We are in the clear. Ferris, come here for a second.”
The cat-girl healer, who had been peering out from between two carriages, walks quickly up to her lady.
“You’ll go with Subaru and the Iron Fang to make sure we decapitate this branch first”, Crusch says with a hard voice. “We haven’t figured out how the distributed units communicate with each other. If we don’t take Petelgeuse immediately, all of their units might end up converging upon us.”
Ferris’ hands are shaking. She hunches over as she stares at her duchess pleadingly.
“But my lady, I want-…”
“I know. And I’m ordering you as your commanding officer. You are the best healer in this kingdom. The people who will execute that half of the operation are the priority.”
Ferris nods and steps back. She lowers her head, and her irises move around nervously.
“Don’t worry, Ferris, you’ll be in good hands”, you say.
“Anything that involves being in your hands isn’t safe”, Ferris shoots back sharply.
“And you, miss Rem,” Crusch says, turning towards the demon servant, who was holding her hands in front of her waist. “you’ll accompany my side. You don’t consider yourself to be that much of a healer, but we have managed to secure the services of very few magic users in such short notice. We’ll likely need you to fix up a few people along the way.”
Although Rem had answered in her practiced servile tone, she looks over to you. Her expression shares her worry as clear as any words.
“It’s fine, Rem. Look at these guys. Hell, look at this guy”, you say, pointing with your thumb at Ricardo, who is towering over you a few steps to your left. “The cultists are going to shit themselves the moment they see him.”
Ricardo closes his eyes, grins with his huge mouth full of teeth, and pounds himself on the chest a couple of times.
“We will storm through the units and paint the trees in blood, lady servant”, Ricardo says with a boisterous voice. “And I’ll take good care of your boy.”
As Ricardo’s huge hand closes over the back of your head in what he intended to be a reassuring interaction, you realize that the wolf man had seen you almost cuddling with Rem against Patrasche. Not that it was fair on you to have had imposed the title of general, but still you not only don’t act as one, but you sneak off to play boyfriend and girlfriend with Rem. They must think you are completely useless.
Crusch puts on a serious face and, as she’s resting her hand on the pommel of her fancy sword, she sweeps her soldiers with her gaze.
“This is it. Await in formation for our command.”
“You heard the lady, soldiers!”, Ricardo says, moving towards his group of white-robed, half-beast mercenaries. “Shortly we will be bathing in cultist blood.”
While the soldiers move around and stand in rows close to the carriages, you approach Crusch although you think you have no right to. She shoots you a comforting smile.
“I have a good feeling. We will meet again either in the road to the village or at the village itself, once we work through these cowards.”
“Yeah, I don’t doubt that you’ll come out alive. Any evil you come across will be blinded by the duchess of Karsten’s aura of goodness and motherly justice.”
She smiles for a moment with one half of her mouth, but she sighs and lowers her head slightly.
“I am not as honorable as you think. I won’t face those damnable cultists mainly because I want to secure the peace in the domain of whom I consider will become a vassal of mine. I have personal reasons that drive me to hunt down as many cultists as possible.”
“Yeah, they murdered your brother.”
Crusch snaps her head back in surprise, and then stares at you while arching one eyebrow.
“It seems that nothing gets past you, does it.”
“My dear Crusch, you are mistaken if you think that I will think less of you if you want to murder cultists to avenge your family member. I won’t think less of you if turns out you want to kill them because they smell bad. Hell, I wouldn’t think less of you if you chained me naked in your dungeon and ripped me open slowly and methodically with a scalpel.”
The duchess lets out a soft, nervous laugh, but then shoots you a look of concern.
“Subaru, there’s hardly a conversation between us that doesn’t make me worry about your well-being.”
“Ah, it’s fine. We better get this thing rolling, right? You be careful, mo-… I mean, I-I wish with the utmost sincerity that you accomplish your task and later join us safely.”
The thick tree tops are keeping you in the shadows as you steel yourself to advance the remaining meters to the border of the forest, and then to walk through the clearing until you reach that black maw opened in the cliff wall. With your heartbeat on your neck, you start walking. You listen closely to the birds chirping and the critters running around over the fallen leaves. You’ve exited to the clearing, and you feel exposed as if a bunch of arrows would fly towards you at any moment.
Your feet crunch some leaves, but then you stop. You only hear silence, as if some kind of spell had isolated a bubble of space from the surroundings. As the hair in your arm stands up, a veil slips and you are suddenly surrounded by black-robed figures that hold cross-shaped daggers.
“Finally I reach you”, you say with a surprisingly calm voice. “I am Natsuki Subaru, and I intend to join Sloth to further the cause of the Witch’s Cult.”
None of the cultists move, not even the idle movements of a regular person standing. You might as well be speaking to mannequins.
“The Archbishop is here, isn’t he?”, you try. “Call him over. I want to offer my services to Petelgeuse personally. I will wait.”
The cultists just stand there.
You shift your weight.
“I will wait some minutes, half an hour, or for however long.”
As suddenly as they came, the cultists not so much walk but glide around you towards the darkness inside the cave, and then disappear.
You are clenching your fists in case your hands decide to shake, and yet you don’t feel that nervous. You’ve lived through it. You know where the boundaries you can press with these lunatics are. But you have no clue how you are going to feel if Petelgeuse goes off the rails.
A figure that has intruded on your dreams emerges from the blackness. The man is wearing the same black robe as the other cultists, but he has his hood down. Under his bowl cut of green hair, if the man’s facial features didn’t tend to twitch, his paleness and boniness would suggest you are looking at an animated corpse.
“It is true. I feel it, I sense the devotion towards our beloved, as well as Her benevolent blessing, emanating from you. What a glorious day! A fellow lover treks through the wilderness, uncalled, unguided, until his faithful steps lead him to his brothers and sisters.”
You bow towards Petelgeuse.
“Great Archbishop of Sloth, my name is Natsuki Subaru. I have seen the light, I’ve heard the love that pours incessantly from our witch’s mouth to envelop someone as lowly as myself, and I wish to pledge my body and my soul to bring Satella back to where she belongs.”
Petelgeuse trembles as if overcome by a sudden flash of fever. He covers half of his face with his palm, and when he looks up towards you again, his eyes glisten.
“Your soul is already hers, only your body is yours to give, my fellow believer in Her love! You existed out there, you have spent your life until this moment separated from your brothers and sisters, because I had failed to see that a devoted servant like yourself remained abandoned in this rotting world of hollow men who can no longer feel the call of Her love! I am humbled! I am ashamed! How could I, Archbishop of Sloth, have been so slothful as to not scour the land until I came across you!”
“All the pain and disappointment and regret I have endured in this broken world are worth it now that I stand before you, Archbishop Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti.” You step forward and get down on one knee. “Please, add me as one of your Fingers. Together we can fulfill our destiny to procure our beloved Satella with a new body, so she can embrace all of humanity in her everlasting love.”
Are you laying it too thick? Petelgeuse looks as if you have given him the greatest Christmas gift. Tears jump from his eyes.
“I have failed! I am unworthy of you, my beloved! I abandoned one of your most devoted lovers in the darkened pit of this hollow, painful world!”
Petelgeuse yells incoherently with a teary voice, and then he lunges towards the wall of the cave and hits his head over and over, splashing blood from his forehead and imprinting a stain on the rock.
You raise your arm as if to calm him down, but he’s not looking at you. What a lonely, deluded fool. A fool who has likely been responsible for murdering hundreds of innocents, and who will sacrifice Emilia for nothing.
“Hey, nevermind the past, I am here. Don’t fall to the sloth of misery, you have a task ahead. You can still perform the ritual and return our beloved back to us.”
Petelgeuse lets out a noise of satisfaction, and he turns towards you. Blood is dripping from the open wound in his forehead towards his nose.
“You are absolutely right, my fellow believer! I thank you for not allowing me to be consumed by foul emotions. I am humbled again! But I must address your request, and unfortunately deny it! I cannot add more Fingers to the ranks of Sloth, as all the positions are filled. Though I cannot but thank you for your diligent intention.”
“You cannot make me a Finger even to make sure this ritual succeeds?”
“I want to, my fellow believer, but I cannot! I have reached the limit, I can’t hold more than ten. Once a position opens, I will promptly use your body and soul for Her cause.”
That would suggest there are ten other units hidden throughout the forest, unless for some reason Petelgeuse has grouped more than one of these Fingers, whoever those people are, in the same unit.
While you think, Petelgeuse gets so close that he would just need to stride around three times to reach you. You feel the same weird twitches in your back muscles that you had experienced on your way here.
“Speaking of positions to fill,” Petelgeuse continues. “you are special beyond your extraordinary devotion, are you not, fellow believer? I sense a Witch Factor in you.”
“That’s right. I was blessed by our beloved Satella herself.”
Petelgeuse grins as the blood drips from the tip of his nose.
“Our witch blesses us with Her eternal love! Have you been anointed as Pride?”
Again with this Pride business. Is there a Pride branch that doesn’t have a leader, and having a blessing given by Satella means you get to fill the position? Are you, according to this cult, obligated to fill the vacant seat?”
“I don’t believe I have, Archbishop. My intentions were to contribute to Sloth’s blessed goals of returning our Satella.”
You want to keep making shit up, but you fear saying something that will enrage the madman without you understanding why.
“How wonderfully diligent. My brain is trembling! I will read, I will learn what position you should fulfill in this operation, and I will promptly employ your eagerness so we can perform the ritual even faster!”
The madman steps back as his hand digs in a pocket of his robe and takes out a book the size of a novella. Petelgeuse flips through the pages until he finds some specific one, and then he follows the lines with his index finger. Suddenly his face changes into one of puzzlement, and he lifts his gaze towards you.
“You don’t appear in the Gospel. You must have received yours, have you not?”
You want to swallow, but it seems that you have learned from Wilhelm how to keep a poker face.
“Did you say Gospel?”
The blood dripping from his nose and his chin are staining the pages of the book, but the madman doesn’t seem to care. He closes his so called Gospel and stuffs it into the same pocket. He then takes a step forward and extends an arm with his palm up.
“Please, my fellow believer in Her love, produce your Gospel.”
Your heart beats louder, and the headache you’ve endured for a few hours is pulsing in your temples.
“Ah, yeah, you mean that book! I got it, yes. I was abandoned in that hollow world out there, with only my newly received Gospel for company. Ah, those lonely nights in the dark of my tiny, stuffy room! As I read through the Gospel’s pages I kept Satella’s image burned in my mind. Her pitch black shadow emerging from the dark, those hazy, glowing purple eyes, and especially the way she would hold me in her embrace. For how long I have heard those three words splashing against my lowly commoner’s face, until I understood that I am nothing except a servant of our Satella’s endless love. Night after night after night after night of visiting our beloved and warming myself in her embrace only for her to eventually pull away from me, returning me to the pain and loneliness of this broken world. I reread every word of the Gospel while Satella’s presence lighted my undeserving body, and in the dark her everlasting warmth concentrated in my loins until my devotion herniated into a holy pillar of love. Night after night I rubbed as I prayed to our witch until my devoted love sprayed and spouted all over the Gospel, and in my diligence I couldn’t stop myself from repeating it over and over until the remaining drips of love in my undeserving body blanched every printed word. By the end of that period of deep devotion, my Gospel’s pages were so soggy and stuck together and illegible that I sold it on the internet. I figured that if people can make a living selling used panties, at least I could get a few bucks out of a cum-ravaged Gospel.”
At some point of your tirade, the arm that Petelgeuse had extended went limb. When you finally close your mouth, the madman’s face remains locked with a expression of stupefaction, as if he couldn’t comprehend that the words that came out of your mouth could have been uttered together and in the order in which you used them. Then suddenly the veins in his face bulge, his facial muscles distort into rage and he shouts his lungs out.
“Authority of Sloth, Unseen Hands!”
The multiple smoky arms explode from Petelgeuse’s swollen shadow and they elongate and coordinate in order to crush you, but they aren’t that fast, so you evade them either by running or jumping out of the way.
Petelgeuse yells incoherently, surprised.
“It cannot be! Not even other Archbishops should be able to see my Authority! Who are you, blasphemer!?”
You consider that this is as much as you can stomach of Petelgeuse in this lifetime.
“Now!”, you shout towards the forest.
From the opposite side of the forest than where you are concentrating Petelgeuse’s attention, a child-like, mostly orange and furry creature sprints in an angle towards the cave opening. She moves far faster than her tiny legs should allow her to, and when she still had a few seconds to reach the cave, she leaps, points with her staff towards the cave entrance’s roof, and from the tiny half-beast’s wide open mouth emerges a sound so loud that your ears cannot register it, beyond a tingling in your bones. Space itself distorts in a wavy cone from her mouth to the cave’s roof, along the line that Mimi’s staff is pointing at, and when not even a second later the distortions reach the cave’s roof, it explodes as if due to a controlled detonation. The cave entrance collapses in a pile of boulders, along with part of the cliff face above the cave.
You are so disturbed that you barely manage to avoid getting hit by one of Petelgeuse’s smoky arms. The madman turns around quickly, and his ghostly arms lash around mindlessly as he realizes what happened.
“My fellow believers in Her love, crushed in an instant! What is this madness? What have they done to deserve this fate!? So close to meeting with our beloved, they dreams get cut short!”
As Petelgeuse trembles and claws at his own face, he staggers towards Mimi’s tiny figure, but the half-beast giggles and she flees towards the opposite side of the clearing.
With the madman distracted, Wilhelm emerges from the forest and runs so fast that you would have never believed it of an old man. He passes by behind your back, he strides towards Petelgeuse’s own back as Wilhelm closes his right hand around the grip of his sheathed sword, and when the old man reaches the right point, he unsheathes his sword at an angle that cuts Petelgeuse’s head clean off. While the detached head sails off, Wilhelm swings his sword in an arc that slices Petelgeuse’s both arms from his shoulders, and as the arms were falling to the ground, Wilhelm crouches and twists his torso so a horizontal swing with his sword removes the madman’s legs. Petelgeuse’s cut off limbs, his head and his torso fall to the grass with lifeless thuds.
Your legs wobble while you stare at the remains of the madman leaking blood into puddles. I trained against this old man and survived?, you think. I must be a god!
As you look at Petelgeuse’s frozen anguish in his decapitated head, the Iron Fang’s quartermaster, Ferris and Julius come out of the forest walking at a leisurely pace. Wilhelm is standing a few meters from the collapsed cliff face, cleaning the blood from his blade.
“It seems that the plan went off without a hitch”, Julius says with a serious voice as he observes the corpse from a distance.
Someone’s hand touches your arm. It’s Ferris, who looks at you with a hint of concern in her cat-girl face.
“That was one scary person to stand in front of. Did he hurt you with his ability?”
“Ah…” You look at your limbs and every part of your body you can see. “Not once, apparently. So, is that it? We have ended Petelgeuse?”
Both Mimi and Tivey have descendend upon the madman’s bloody remains like vultures. Mimi is playing around with one of his arms, while the quartermaster loots Petelgeuse’s torso. You’ve wandered towards them without noticing. Mimi lifts her beaming face towards you.
“Mister! Did you see how I exploded all that rock?”
“Yeah… I wouldn’t have thought such a noise could come out of something that exists outside of a nightmare.”
“And did you like it, mister?”
“It was an awe-inspiring mass murder of a bunch of people who did deserve it. You did good, Mimi.”
Mimi giggles and waves her arms around.
“You know, you would be so adorable if reckless homicide wasn’t so prevalent in your mind.”
Mimi lets out a joyous noise. She blushes and hugs herself.
“Oh, the mister called me adorable! I’m so happy! I’ll throw many other explosions, you’ll see. So you can praise Mimi a lot more!”
You shake your head.
After Tivey has pocketed a few items, he holds the madman’s book with curiosity. He adjusts his monocle.
“What is this, a book…? O-Oh, no! It’s a Gospel, is it not? It’s the Archbishop’s Gospel!”
He throws the book away and then he shivers and rubs his hand on the grass.
You bend down to pick the Gospel up. It’s dirty all over with old stains of blood and what you hope are tears. You flip through the pages. You can’t read anything in the regular scripts that every other person you’ve met along the way likely knows how to read, but this is a different script. When you try to focus on the words, they seem to shift around. Are you too tired?
“As far as I know,” Julius says near your shoulder, “their Gospels are magical items that only their owner can read. Supposedly it is able to predict the future. I couldn’t hear everything the madman was saying, despite how much he was shouting, but he did attempt to find you in the predictions, right?”
“Shit, if the Gospels can predict the future, we might be in a lot of trouble. For all we know these so called Fingers also have Gospels.”
“Petelgeuse didn’t know in advance we were going to come,” Ferris says, “nor that his body would be reduced in a second way beyond any magic’s ability to cure him.”
“Are you sure the guy is dead, Ferris? He looks the part and all, but this was red-flags-raising easy, wasn’t it?”
Ferris sighs, crouches next to the madman’s torso and illuminates it with some magical ability coming from her palm.
“I guarantee as the best healer in the kingdom that this Petelgeuse guy is as dead as can be. He won’t be able to hurt anybody ever again.”
Some seconds later you’ve wandered away from the corpse while you massage your temples. All the tension that you had contained while facing Petelgeuse was now running through your body, making your hands tremble. You notice that someone is standing right next to you, which startles you.
“I apologize, Mr. Natsuki”, Wilhelm says with a serious, but otherwise unemotional voice.
“Apologize? That was one hell of a murder, sir Wilhelm. That crazy guy didn’t see it coming.”
“Certainly, I don’t believe I need to regret my performance despite the years that I have accumulated in this body. No, I mean that I had failed my mission. Back when I received orders from the late king, I did eliminate one Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti, who had the same ability you have nearly been killed by, but I should have known that my hunt hadn’t ended there.”
“I understand that regret, but I don’t see how there’s any way you could have known. You went to kill a superpowered crazy guy, and you did kill him, I’m guessing as gruesomely as what I’ve witnessed. Something weird is going on. I understand that more than one person could have that same blessing or whatever it is, the Unseen Hands thing, but calling themselves with the same full name?”
Wilhelm shakes his head slightly.
“It’s worse than that, I’m afraid. Both madmen spoke exactly the same way.”
A shiver runs through you.
“What the hell is going on then? Were they the same person? Don’t tell me that whenever a Petelgeuse dies, a copy of him appears somewhere else! Can that happen in this fantasy world?”
“I don’t believe we have the answer at this moment, and yet I suspect that we will understand once we deal with these so called Fingers. We need to prepare those ambushes. Petelgeuse mentioned ten Fingers, did he not?”
“Yeah, so probably like ten units throughout the whole forest. That sounds like a lot.”
“We can do it, and we will.”
A couple of minutes after, when the half-beast siblings seemed content with how much they had messed with the corpse, you are all leaving the clearing towards the forest, but your nervousness only grows. You keep looking over your shoulder expecting Petelgeuse’s head to reanimate itself and grow alien crab-like legs and antennas or something. You approach Mimi, who is humming some song, and you are extending your hand to touch her head when you retract it as if you realized you were about to pet a cobra.
“Ah… Mimi, could you do me a solid?”
The half-beast lieutenant tilts her head in confusion.
“How does Mimi do that?”
“I mean, I need… I want you to explode Petelgeuse’s corpse until there’s nothing recognizable. That’s what I want. I want Mimi to blow that son of a bitch to pieces. Can you do that?”
“I will, mister! I always want to explode anything!”
As someone in the group begins objecting to your request, Mimi walks a bit closer to Petelgeuse’s remains and she shouts her horrifying supersonic boom thing. An area of around four meters in diameter, centered on the madman’s torso, explodes in a burst of grass, dirt, blood and guts. When the particles settle, a crater has opened where the madman used to remain, and you can’t locate any of his parts beyond some fist-sized, bloody lumps of meat. Mimi runs towards one of them.
“Oh, no! One explosion took care of everything!”
“You will be able to explode plenty of people later, Mimi. We have a few cultist units to run through.”
Mimi giggles. She picks up one of the lumps, she turns around and throws it at her brother. It hits him on the chest, leaving a bloody imprint on the robe. Tivey stutters and attempts to clean it with his hands, but he only smears it.
“Meat fight, Tivey!”, Mimi shouts joyously.
“N-Not now, Mimi, we have a lot of stuff to do. P-Please put that down.”
“Eww! It went down my throat! And it smells like grass.”
Tivey runs with his tiny legs towards his sister.
“Mimi! Stop that!”
“But it tastes good!”
She points at the bloody globs and swallows another mouthful of flesh. She opens her mouth so the rest can see.
You all stare at her in silence.
Some observations. In the original, Mimi and Tivey have another brother called Hetaro, but he seemed superfluous. You can just assign all of Hetaro’s interactions to this Tivey fella. And in the original Mimi wasn’t so hardcore psycho, but it does fit her general character, and for me it’s always more entertaining when you dial those kinds of traits up to eleven. However, I had intended to end the scene right after Mimi threw that lump of meat at her brother, but the AI came up with most of the remainder.
Petelgeuse, as always, is the hardest character to write. I usually feel the flow of how a character is supposed to talk, and the words come out naturally, but that guy’s mind is opaque. Maybe I should be glad about that.
In addition, by this point of the original, Crusch and her crew, most of them anyway, are no longer here. They had taken down the White Whale with a great amount of casualties, and they had decided to organize a new caravan to travel back to the capital and tend to the wounded. Crusch therefore never faced the cultists, but in the original she also wouldn’t do it for personal revenge, as her having a brother that the cultists killed was something that the AI came up with many parts ago. I just love having Crusch around. I have always considered her underused in the original and the anime adaptation.