This part covers a bit of the eight volume of the original Re:Zero novels.
The previous entry was centered around Crusch’s camp’s healer, Ferris, and the protagonist dealing with the aftermath of a blast that almost killed them, and that seemed to signal for the Witch’s Cult to attack. Ferris has ended up significantly injured to the extent that the protagonist needs to save her ass. We also learned that the half-beast lieutenant of the Iron Fang is an automatic turret.
This entry ended up becoming an almost seven thousand words long beast, and one of my favorite ones in this strange retelling I’m doing.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
You have wandered a couple of streets away from Mimi’s kill zone, following the tumult of clashing metal, war cries and pain. They seem to come from the village’s plaza. Even though you clutch the dagger you stole from that cultist you killed, you doubt that it will help you at all if you come across anyone who intends to kill you.
You are leaning around a corner of a street that if you follow it to the end, you’ll get a glimpse of the fighting at the plaza. You are surrounded by plenty of corpses, of black-robed cultists, of Crusch’s crew, a few mercenaries and some villagers. Blood is flowing downhill from numerous puddles. You look around in case you recognize any of the corpses. One of the dead villagers is a meek woman that had asked you a question when you spoke to them; someone had stabbed her in the heart.
After you swallow and try to concentrate on your intention although your fast heartbeats demand that you run away, you choose to exchange your small dagger with one of the dead mercenaries’ swords.
As you were shaking the blood from your new weapon, you hear the noise of big mounts pounding the dirt. You attempt to hide, but three half-beast mercenaries riding their big wolves are coming towards you, in the direction of the village center. When the wolves come close enough they snarl at you, blowing saliva. However, the mercenaries tell them to calm down.
“General”, says a half-boar mercenary you recognize.
You wouldn’t have been surprised if the rank and file of the Iron Fang would have run you over without caring a bit if you survived. You are the person who pushed for this battle to happen, and it has resulted on quite a few of their comrades-in-arms dying.
“Glad to see you well”, you say warily. “Have you seen your captain around, or even the couple of high-ranking humans from Crusch’s camp? I mean that old man with the white hair, and the purple-haired young guy dressed in white.”
The half-boar merc looks towards the center of the village.
“We saw the captain a few minutes ago. He was taking care of some crazies. We can’t find the lieutenant anywhere.”
“Ah, Mimi and her brother are fine. Unharmed. I just talked to them.”
The half-boar’s expression brightens, and he grins.
“That’s great, general. We’ll ride into the fight to see how many we can kill.”
“You do that.”
After they leave, you stand close to the front of a house, unsure of what to do. You recall that you also don’t know if Ram is alive, but you had to focus on recalling the people you know until she popped up in your mind as someone to save. After listening to the horrifying war sounds, you figure that you might as well go where the fight is. At least you will be able to figure out if any of your people are still kicking.
You had forced your trembling legs to lead you towards the plaza when you hear someone approaching from behind. You almost piss yourself. You turn around while wielding your sword, in case you need to thrust it into a body immediately, but a huge, brown and furry hand, half stained with blood, closes around your wrist as if he was grabbing a little branch. You look up towards a big mouth full of teeth, and on top of the wolf head, a dark brown mane that vaguely looks like a mohawk.
“I thought you were food for the scavengers, general!”, Ricardo says cheerfully. “You heard the boom some time ago? I went to see whose head I had to chop, and suddenly a lot of those madmen were running through the streets! They didn’t come from the forest we swept before, that’s for sure.”
Ricardo frees your wrist, which hurts as if the wolf man would have had to squeeze a little bit more to break your bones. The guy wasn’t even fazed that you almost stabbed him; he stopped you by instinct. For a second you think about asking him for a status report, but one look at his face clarifies that he’s happy about being able to kill a new bunch of people.
“Ricardo, have you seen Wilhelm, that old man with the white hair, or Julius, the one with the purple hair?”
“I did see the old man. He was running towards the center of the village, and he asked me for you. I hadn’t found you yet, though.” A sudden worry narrows his mouth. “General, have you seen Mimi anywhere? She’s always running around, and I don’t want to imagine what those fiends would do to her.”
They all seem to love that little psycho. An appropriate mascot for such a mercenary band, you suppose.
“She’s fine! She set up a little kill zone in a dead end street, and she’s been exploding pretty much everyone who comes in, as far as I can tell.”
“Great! Ah, I’m so happy! When I don’t know where people are, it distracts me from fighting.”
“Ricardo,” you say with a serious voice. “I emphasize that she seems to be exploding anyone who comes in. There were pieces of corpses that clearly didn’t belong to cultists.”
You have no clue if this wolf man is going to consider his lieutenant’s behavior a problem, but he furrows his brow and shakes his head slightly.
“That girl… She needs a serious spanking one of these days.”
You take a deep breath.
“Yeah, one of these days. So, where are you going?”
Ricardo perks up and grins. He points with his furry thumb to the enormous blade hung on his back.
“I’ll move up to the first line of enemies and kill as many as I can! Follow me! We’ll have a great time!”
He is already running off. You sigh, but follow him. Although his legs are longer and more powerful, you are content with remaining at an increasingly greater distance. It’s not as if you are going to charge into the line of cultists yourself.
Now that someone else is worrying about the enemies you could run into, not even two minutes after you catch Ricardo cleaving through a fallen cultist’s torso. The enormous greatsword, more a huge slab of sharpened iron than a proper weapon, gets stuck in the dirt and whatever rock lies underneath, and Ricardo has to strain his muscles a bit to pull it out. Beyond him, a few mercenaries mounted on wolves, maybe the same ones from before, are picking off cultists that are trying to retreat from their assault on the village’s plaza. It seems that you inadvertently flanked the enemy. A few of the cultists are turned away from you as they attempt to stab a line of Crusch’s people.
You hear the whoosh of some wind magic coming from further into the plaza. Ram must be alive. You’d say to yourself that such a bitch wouldn’t die easily, but you’ve already known her to die in previous attempts.
A couple of cultists turn the corner, apparently coming from another side of the plaza. When they see Ricardo’s two meters tall frame and the weapon nobody should be able to hold, they stop on their tracks for a moment, but you guess that their hexes have programmed them for suicide attacks. They first throw their daggers at him, which Ricardo deflects with his blade effortlessly, making ding noises. Both cultists each draw another dagger and charge at the wolf man. He twists around and chops through them diagonally, which hurls away the top halves of their bodies as they expel a stream of blood.
Ricardo shouts over his sholder.
“Did you see that!? This time they flew farther than usual!”
“Yeah, if I was as strong as you I’d probably run around just chopping people in half as if I were mowing the lawn.”
Ricardo laughs loudly.
“Ah, what a great day! But come over here, general! Don’t need to stay behind!”
You run up to him. You figure that standing slightly behind Ricardo is the safest place in this battlefield.
The line of Crusch’s soldiers got reinforcements from a few half-beast mercenaries that must have dealt with the cultists assaulting the area from another direction. Two cultists nicked and pushed off by the attacking line tried to charge into the defense again, but for the second of those cultists his own line got closed, and he would have had to jump over his mates. He turns around and notices you both. He clutches his dagger at the side and marches towards you.
You were about to take a few steps backwards when Ricardo puts his huge hand on your back. He’s moved behind you. You look at him in confusion, and you find him staring back with a smile like a father that wants his son to jump in a pool for the first time.
“Ricardo!”, you say with a panicky voice. “This is probably not the time to be fucking around!”
He nods with his head to his sword. He’s rested the edge on the dirt, with the blade at an angle, as if it were a platform.
“Stand on it! Quick, the fiend is coming!”
A glance at the cultist clarifies that it will take a few seconds for him to plunge his dagger into your heart, and you aren’t sure that Ricardo would prevent it. Also, you realize that you were about to argue with a two meters tall wolf man with an entire average man’s weight in muscles alone.
You step back so you stand unsteadily on the blade. When you were about to question Ricardo’s intention, he roars and swings the sword quickly so you find yourself launched in the air towards the cultist. You are clutching your sword as if to a climbing hold in a rock wall. The cultist’s image, centered on the darkness inside his hood, grows as if you are about to crash headfirst into him.
You get a glimpse of the nose, the lips and the eyes in that darkness. When you are about to collide, you twist your torso to swing the blade and feel the pressure against your hand when the edge of your sword hacks into something solid. You fall on the dirt and roll a couple of times. You don’t wait a second to jump back to your feet, and retreat towards where you must have dropped your weapon.
The cultist lies on his back. The sword’s blade is stuck in his head at the height of his eyes, which must have chopped into his brain. In any case, the guy has dropped his dagger, and the dark blood pouring from the wound tells you he’s dead. You run up to him and pull the sword out.
Ricardo laughs from behind you and pats you on the shoulder, which almost makes you fall onto the cultist’s corpse.
“Your first kill! Our general has grown up! No longer a whelp.”
His smile is sincere. You feel weird electrical pangs in your chest as if you are about to have a heart attack. As you breathe out of your mouth, you blow sweat.
“I feel pretty much the same, though. Similarly terrible.”
Ricardo laughs loudly.
“That’s how it starts. A dozen more and it brings you joy!”
You rest on your knees for a moment, and motion with your head towards the line of cultists attacking your people to overrun the plaza. The backs of your enemies are vulnerable to the merest stabbing, not to mention being cut in half by this barbarian.
“I suppose that as a general I must suggest that you charge at that line’s rear and cut them all down in a couple of seconds. Some of our people might get fatally stabbed if we just play around.”
Ricardo stares at the enemy as if he needed to consider it.
“They are offering their backs and they haven’t noticed me, but I guess that’s their fault.”
He plants his feet and wields his enormous sword properly. You step out of the way.
“And I’m going to run around town to get a general picture of the situation. Have fun, Ricardo.”
Ricardo roars and charges into the doomed cultists. As you turn and run away from the whole mess, you get a glimpse of startled cultists that a second ago had no clue that such a monster existed in this world.
You are running through streets that you believe will lead you to the area where Crusch had distributed the wounded, before they were evacuated. You feel yourself losing it. You slip on some half-dried blood and roll, getting a mouthful of dirt, before you stand up and run again. You feel as if you took a bath in sweat, you are dirty, your head hurts. As your legs burn, you fantasize that you’ve returned to Crusch’s place and that you have closed the door to your bedroom, where Rem waits for you. Ah, how you wish you were there already. Not pushing your lungs to the limit as you hope to run into Wilhelm or Julius, the only ones who would share your dismay at how this peaceful village has been turned upside down. What kind of life is this? How did you end up having to deal with such madness?
As your thoughts swirled around in your head, you notice some beast running around up ahead, in an area of the village where the gaps between the houses offer you a view of the forest where your crew ambushed through a bunch of crazy people. It’s a black ground dragon, that seems to be looking around frantically like a mother who has lost her child. It’s Patrasche! You call out to her, and she perks up. When she spots you, she sprints towards you. You stop in case the excited beast ends up charging into you. When she reaches you she whines as she nuzzles your face and your shoulders, breathing quickly against your skin.
You let out a tired laugh as you stroke her rough scales.
“What have I done for you to like me this much, Patrasche?”
The ground dragon lowers herself to the ground and looks over her shoulder at you.
You feel safer already. If a bunch of cultists run into you, your ground dragon can help you flee in a moment. You sit on the saddle and pat Patrasche’s neck.
“Can’t say no to you when you are offering yourself so openly. Don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.”
Patrasche either doesn’t comprehend your tone, or doesn’t care, or likes it, because she stands up proudly and then runs in the direction you are suggesting.
Less than a minute later you reach the area where the wounded had rested before, and you see the outside table where Crusch had been enjoying a home-cooked meal. Above the distant racket of battle you hear young people crying and yelling, maybe children. They sound close. You pull on the reins to guide Patrasche towards the source.
You first see two male teenagers, maybe sixteen or seventeen years old, who are moving quickly towards the fence that separates the village from the nearby field where the Iron Fang left their mounts. One of those teenagers is naked from the waist up for some reason, and has a bleeding wound on his back, maybe from having gotten stabbed. They are accompanying a bunch of people. Another teenager is a very pretty blonde girl who wears some Victorian-looking long, white underwear, as if she had been pulled from bed, and the rest are either children or tweens. One of them, a skinny tween with reddish-brown hair down to her shoulders, is crying in fear as she flees from a lone cultist who is power walking towards her like a horror movie villain.
A rage swells in your chest. These pieces of garbage, soiling and ruining everything wherever they go, now pursuing unarmed children. No way, bitch. Not on my watch!
You lean forward and point with the end of your sword at the cultist.
“That one, Patrasche! Fuck him up!”
Patrasche bursts straight into a full-on charge. The cultist hears you coming and turns around. He attempts to raise his dagger, but the ground dragon rams him on the side of the torso, making him spin around wildly, and when he hits the ground he keeps rolling while getting covered with dirt. Patrasche drifts as she maneuvers to return to the fallen cultist without slowing down, and then she sprints and leaps onto the bastard as he was attempting to stand up. Patrasche jumps on him twice, caving his torso in with horrible crunches, and as the ground dragon jumps, your ass leaps off the saddle and then you slam down hard on your balls. When Patrasche steps away from the corpse, you are twisting your toes, clenching your teeth. Your sweat has turned cold, and an electric shiver is propagating from your crotch to the rest of your body.
The two male teens run up to you as they cheer. When they see you suffering, they get concerned.
“What happened, sir? Are you injured?”
“I hit… my balls… on the way… down…”
The two teens grimace in sympathy.
“We appreciate your sacrifice, sir.”
They give you a moment, but then they go on.
“Don’t know where that man came from. We were moving from a bad area of the village to a house that we believe is much safer, but we ran into that guy along the way.”
“Glad… to help…”
“You work for the lord, right? I recall seeing you come with those pretty servants.”
You take a deep breath and try to pretend that your balls haven’t been obliterated.
“Yeah, more or less… Listen, are you sure that house you mentioned is safe?”
“It should be”, the topless teenager says while looking around nervously. “It seemed like the fighting at the plaza is dying down. Maybe we just need to hide for a while.”
The guy is patting absent-mindedly a maybe ten year old kid who is crying and holding on to the teenager for protection. The teenager gives off the vibe that he might sacrifice himself to save these kids. You look at each of them to get a feel of the situation, and your gaze stops on the pretty teenage girl, maybe sixteen years old, who is wearing long underwear under the midday sun. Her long, beautiful hair is sunflower blonde, and she has a beautiful, healthy looking face and kind eyes. You imagine her walking through some field as she crouches occasionally to pick up some pretty flower. She’s staring at you expressionless, as if she has no clue how to deal with this situation and is just going through the motions.
Someone approaches you bashfully. It’s the skinny tween that the cultist was pursuing. She has dried her tears, and now looks up at you with adoring eyes.
“Thank you for saving me, sir! And sorry about your testicles!”
“Ah, don’t mention it.” You turn around the sword in your hand so you hold it by the bloodied blade, and you signal the topless teenager. “Use my sword and keep them safe.”
The teenager, surprised and thankful, reaches for your sword, but stops as he was about to grab the grip.
“Are you sure? How will you defend yourself?”
You pat Patrasche’s neck.
“I have this badass dragon. Don’t worry and protect these people.”
He grabs the sword and holds it with renewed determination. He looks up at you almost teary eyed.
“Now get going”, you say. “I’ll run around and figure out if anyone else needs help.”
Both male teenagers guide the mostly crying kids towards another street, but after a few steps, one of them stops and looks around confused.
“Where is that girl?”
That pretty teenager hasn’t followed them. She’s jumped the fence and is walking briskly through the field, amongst the big wolves, who only look at her as a distraction. She seems to be headed to a nearby woods, maybe a hundred meters away from the fence.
“She might think that those woods are safer, but I don’t like that she’s alone… Don’t worry, you go up ahead. I’ll talk to her and figure out what we can do.”
The topless teenager nods and addresses the kids for them to follow him. You turn towards the fence, and Patrasche jumps it effortlessly. The ground dragon walks at a brisk pace amongst the wolves, some of which have stood up and are retreating calmly, but still surprised that a ground dragon passes through their area.
You contain a couple of shivers as you focus on the blonde teenager. She’s halfway across the field. You call out to her, but she doesn’t slow down. You order Patrasche to follow her. The girl has probably panicked and thought that the village isn’t a safe place to remain in, and you can’t blame her. However, you have no clue what’s in those woods. Other cultists might be hiding there for all you know.
When the blonde teenager reaches the edge of the woods, she turns around and stands with her arms at her side. You are stricken again by how beautiful she is; in your previous world she would have seemed at home on a billboard, promoting some beauty products.
“Hey,” you begin to say tentatively, “are you looking to hide in the woods? I don’t live here and I wouldn’t know which place is the safest at this moment, but I want to figure out if you’ll probably be okay.”
You freeze with your mouth open. Your body knows before your mind has realized it. The blonde teenager is smiling at you as if she had never smiled genuinely in her life, and her eyes are dead. You feel like a rat who has figured out way too late that nobody would just leave a piece of cheese on a weird contraption in the middle of the kitchen.
You order Patrasche to turn around and run back towards the fence, but after a moment, the teenager shouts behind you.
“Authority of Sloth, Unseen Hands!”
You hunch over and look over your shoulder, but it feels as if you’ve merely glanced at the ghostly arms elongating in the air towards you when you are picked up from the saddle by the back of your clothes, and a tremendous force throws you backwards towards the trees. You yell and brace yourself. You hit some branches, which scratch your back and hit you in the head, but as you were falling from that treetop, you manage to hold on to a branch. Although it breaks, you fall to the shaded ground on your feet.
The blonde teenager, that you have to remind yourself is actually Petelgeuse, is still standing on the border of the woods, and is currently focused on the field. Your yells as well as seeing you fly through the air seemingly startled the wolves, some of which are snarling towards the teenager. Patrasche is shaking her head and clawing at the grass. When her reptilian gaze finds yours, she runs towards you, but Petelgeuse sweeps the field backwards with one of his ghostly arms and slaps the ground dragon away as if she were a fly, flinging her towards the village.
“No! Patrasche!”, you yell.
You don’t even see the ground dragon land, because you notice that the ghostly arms are coordinating towards the source of your voice. You’re shaking. Your heart beats rapidly. You turn and run deeper into the forest. You can’t think clearly not only because of the headache, but because it’s just been too much. You are too tired, you are freaking out, and for a while you have been restraining an urge to find some isolated house in the village and hide in a corner.
You hear the noise of wood splitting, branches breaking, leaves shaking. The ghostly arms must be passing through the treetops.
“Are you running away, blasphemer!?” The teenager’s voice is incongruous, as if she had been incompentently cast as the villain in a play. “After you shamefully deceived me back at that clearing so that old lackey could murder me!? How can you stand, how can you breathe, when you can’t have any pride!? A lowly thief, stealing the predictions granted by our witch, even though as someone blessed by Her, he should know how important they are for the believer!”
As you hide amongst the trees, avoiding the sound of crunching branches, you shout in a rage.
“Petelgeuse! I swear, if you have killed my ground dragon, I’m going to kick you in the cunt!”
“You will produce my Gospel!”, the teenager shouts, sounding closer. “You will bring me the Gospel you stole, or else I will have you witness every person you know getting crushed as they cry for you to obey me! Tell me, show me where my book is, you rotten unbeliever!”
You rush through the forest, running without any regard to stealth. You figure that these woods can’t be that large, and it isn’t safer to run through whatever field awaits you on the other side, not with Petelgeuse pursuing you. You are breathing hard.
“Every time I meet you I assume you are going to ask for your worthless book. You should assume I won’t say shit about it. Let’s leave it at that.”
You don’t hear any movement in the woods anymore. You lean your back against a trunk, and dare look back towards the shaded trees you’ve left behind. You see the teenager. She’s standing plenty of meters behind you, between two trees and with a fern bush hiding the lower half of her body. Her pretty face is just staring at you, her arms limp at her side. You feel a pang in your heart, as if there was someone else inside that body, another consciousness that is witnessing powerless how the madman, whoever or whatever Petelgeuse actually is, puppeteering her.
“Why are you using that body, Petelgeuse? She must have had a life before. How did you end up possessing her?”
Petelgeuse lowers his head slightly. Is he coordinating his ghostly arms above the treetops towards you, so he can pick you up like the claw in an arcade machine?
“But you know already, blasphemer! Before she became a esteemed, useful Finger, she felt abandoned, untouched, unloved, lost in this cold and hollow world! None of the rotten unbelievers that surrounded her could understand her yearning, her knowledge that the world owed her more! True love! An eternal embrace that would repay her faith and never let her go! Satella, our beloved, heard her prayers, and a Gospel found its way to the abandoned believer. This body wasn’t lonely anymore! The pain, the tears she had endured had a reason for existing! Her goal, her purpose had been revealed! She made her way, against the wishes of the filthy unbelievers, back to us. She understood then that this world, that offers nothing but pain after pain as the perishable bodies decay towards their inevitable ends, is but an illusion, a blindfold put over her eyes so she couldn’t look towards the eternal love that would save her! She had wished for love! She had pleaded for love! Now she had the answer. She merely had to follow what the Gospel predicted, and she found where she belonged. Now she helps us on our way to grant not only believers like her, but the entire world, the love that will free every single being from their loneliness and their pain!”
Some nearby treetops shake, disturbing the leaves. You push yourself off the trunk you were leaning against and run in perpendicular towards another. Along the way you see how Petelgeuse, standing still, follows you with the teenager’s eyes. You rest against another tree. What can you do? Petelgeuse isn’t that eager to kill you, not when that means losing his book forever. You have knowledge that he needs, but you suppose he won’t have issues torturing you again, maybe going as far as tearing limbs off you, as long as you remain alive. What if you lose some piece of yourself? What part of you would you lose and yet decide to continue in this life without resetting? Maybe just a pinky.
“You aren’t a human being, are you, Petelgeuse? Not in the same way that I am.”
“You believe yourself greater than me even in that regard! You contemptible pissant! I have occupied and experienced the lives of many human bodies! I have seen, heard, felt, breathed through these bodies for hundreds of years, far longer than you have existed or will exist! But that still dwarfs the uncountable span of time I experienced before. Years passed by in impotence, unable to affect the course of lives, shackled by the belief that I wasn’t to interfere in the rising and decaying of peoples, of cultures, of civilizations. So much time shackled by such disgraceful, shameful sloth, while yearning to find what I needed and nothing, nobody could provide! But our witch does! Satella always has, always will! And the same way she had embraced in her love half of this rotten world, she would forgive my shameful sloth!”
You keep blinking to keep the sweat from irritating your eyes. Your increasing nervousness is tingling in your legs like white noise.
“Unless every person I’ve met in this world has lied to me, four hundred years ago that Satella didn’t embrace shit. She drowned people in her shadows, as many as half of everybody alive back then. That doesn’t sound like love, Petelgeuse! Those people were murdered!”
“Murdered, you unbelievers repeat! Shameless fools! Those people were saved!”
“Ah, of course!”
“You keep mocking Her, who granted your blessing. Half of the world back then never died. They remain inside of our witch, freed from their perishable carcasses, dissolved into their essences, and to this day they experience the Witch of Envy’s eternal, loving embrace! Is that death? Murder, you said! That was your choice of words, you hollow unbeliever! You talk to me about murder!? What have you done, what have you savages done to my fellow believers in Her love? You ran them through, mutilated them, exploded them, caused them untold pain, and when they writhed on the ground in agony, unable to defend themselves, did you extend your hand to them? Did you soothe their pain? Where was your mercy as you plunged your swords into their hearts, as you crushed the brains out of their skulls? You speak to me of murder, you question our witch’s love, when you do nothing but destroy, when you know nothing but hate!”
You are as tense as a stretched rubber band about to break. Above the birdsongs and the critters and the buzzing insects you imagine the ghostly arms stalking you, waiting for any opening.
“You weave a convenient tale, Petelgeuse. If the armies of this world hadn’t acted against you, you and your followers would have murdered countless innocents. Even if you argue that attacking the village was done as a retribution for our ambushes in the forest, that doesn’t change that if we weren’t here, you would have massacred everybody, killed Emilia and destroyed the world as a consequence. You can and will spin it however you want, but that’s evil stuff.”
You don’t hear a peep from Petelgeuse for a few seconds, and you were about to move to another tree, just in case Petelgeuse is trying to flank you, when he speaks again with the teenager’s voice.
“Our witch desires everyone. She wants, She accepts everyone. No matter your sins, no matter your pains, She will embrace you and pour into you Her eternal love. You have received Her blessing, and yet you doubt this!”
“I don’t need to doubt what I know is true. She does love unconditionally. I am sure that no matter how much time passed in that darkness, she would never tire of offering her love.”
“Then why would you mock and belittle and rebel against Her!?”
“You would feel her love eternally, and yet would be unable to do or be anything else than Satella’s beloved ever again.”
The teenager’s bitter laugh flows between the trees, an aching echo of how she must have sounded before Petelgeuse got anywhere near her.
“What else would you need!? You want despair!? You want pain!? What else awaits you in this world!? Satella’s eternal love is the solution! Not only for your lifetime, but preserved inside her shadow, for the rest of time! You, shameless, rotten unbeliever, were blessed by Satella. She must have had a reason! She must have felt you calling Her, yearning for Her love, and She found Her way to you! Beyond that, She gave you one of Her blessings, as if you were special amongst the believers! Maybe at the core of your hollow self remains a sliver that understands. You must have gone astray!”
Although you don’t want to consider Petelgeuse’s words, you do wonder again, like you have many, many times, and even asked Satella directly, why would she grant you that ability. Why does she care? But maybe you are questioning something that happened by mistake.
“I never received a Gospel. All that stuff about jerking off, I made it up, in case you ended up believing it. So Satella never found her way to me, not how you believe it happens.”
Petelgeuse goes quiet again. You attempt to sneak towards another tree that might allow you to figure out where the teenager is standing. Every dry leaf on the ground betrays you as you step on it. While you hide behind a new tree, you lean towards the shadows and you spot the teenager’s nose and lips, as well as her white underwear, at an angle of around forty five degrees from your position.
“Unbeliever,” Petelgeuse starts with a conciliatory tone. “I need my Gospel back. It contains all the predictions about my role in Her plans. There’s no other copy.”
You laugh, but you only need to remember the recent events to get enraged again.
“More reason not to give it to you then! Why would you try to appeal to my sympathy? But the funniest thing in all this nonsense is that your book actually doesn’t work! I assume that it must have told you you needed to assault the mansion today, and access Roswaal’s inner sanctum to perform the ritual, because that’ll resurrect our witch in my friend’s body! But that doesn’t happen! Emilia dies, and as a result, her great spirit destroys the world!”
“Your words are not going to confuse me, unbeliever! What merit would I give such a rotten tale against the predictions She had put on my hands!?”
You were about to retort with something resembling an insult, and yet a genuine laugh pours from your mouth. Is that it, Satella? Was that your intention? You don’t know if you even believe it, but you want to push it into Petelgeuse’s brain, if only because it will hurt him.
“You know Satella gave me a blessing. That’s undeniable, I believe you said. And yet you failed to predict that I would come here to thwart your plans. Your predictions didn’t warn you, didn’t they? Maybe you aren’t as favored by our witch as you think!”
Petelgeuse produces the sound of anguished pain through the stolen body, which would had made you want to hug that girl until she didn’t feel it anymore. You leave your hiding spot and stand between two trees. You see the front half of the girl behind a tree, and she’s trembling. Petelgeuse turns his head towards you and steps into the narrow corridor of trees, maybe fifteen meters in front of you. From the swollen shadow churning over her shoulders wave arms that lose themselves in the treetops, disturbing the leaves.
“I have done so much for Her, and yet it is as you said! Why would Satella give a blessing to you, even one that allows you to see my Authority!?”
You are pretty sure that being able to see the invisible hands is Beatrice’s doing. Not that you want to correct Petelgeuse’s self-doubt.
“You are clearly a servant of the Witch of Envy. If you haven’t been alerted of my intervention by a book that predicts the future, that means that the presence that writes those predictions, or had written them long ago, doesn’t want you to know. Isn’t that reasonable?”
The teenager is clenching her teeth as she trembles. Tears are growing in the corners of her eyes.
“It is! You undeserving, rotten unbeliever, it is just as you said! The predictions should have alerted me, and they didn’t! Why would that be!?”
“Because you fell out of favor, of course. Satella gave me a blessing that allows me to see your Authority, which is your most powerful weapon. That means that she intended me to stop you. If you don’t quit your plans, you would be working against Satella’s wishes.”
Petelgeuse groans in pain as tears jump from his eyes.
“Damn you, rotten vermin! There’s no way that Satella wouldn’t want to return, and that’s my only goal by performing the ritual!”
“Maybe it’s not that she doesn’t want to return, but that the ritual performed on Emilia will fail, as I told you, and that will destroy the world. If the world is destroyed, our witch cannot return. Wouldn’t it make sense for her to want me, her new champion, to stop you?”
“Stop lying! You’re trying to confuse me, unbeliever! I know Satella’s will better than anyone else, even if She changed it! You said that you never received your Gospel, that means you couldn’t have received that prediction! You shameful, lying refuse of this hollow world…!”
You go quiet for a moment. The teenager has finished talking, and although she’s breathing heavily and tears run down through her face, she returns her gaze to your eyes, waiting for you to certify that you were selling nothing but lies, that she doesn’t have to doubt herself again.
“Petelgeuse,” you begin calmly, “do you want to know what blessing Satella bestowed upon me? Every time I die, I return to the past, which means that I get to relive the same events but with the foreknowledge. I don’t need a Gospel, Petelgeuse. I am the Gospel.”
The teenager snaps her head back, and she narrows her eyes at you.
“That can’t be true! That’s the only…!”
“The only explanation.” You advance step by step while staring at her. Over her shoulder, the arms are waving nervously, and yet there’s fear in her lovely eyes, as if you could crush her in an instant. “I can meet Satella whenever I want and bathe in her endless love. I have done so over and over. Her ghostly presence, with those hazy purple eyes, embraces me as her bell-like voice pledges her love to me. Have you ever seen her ghost, Petelgeuse? Have you heard her beautiful voice?”
You stand a couple of meters from the wide-eyed teenager, whose expression has frozen as her tears drip off her chin.
“I am now Satella’s lover”, you say, “You have disgraced her with your actions, and she doesn’t accept you any longer.”
The teenager shakes her head. She lets out an anguished cry as she retreats.
You hear the crunching leaves again, something stalking in the shadows. A deep breathing you recognize.
“You know, Petelgeuse, I might be useless myself beyond the ability to know the future. My witch could have given me some physical ability that would allow me to put you down like she intended, but turns out that in this world there are many powerful people who want to help me. And even the animals around here are more clever, resourceful and stronger than me.” You turn your head towards the shaded trees to Petelgeuse’s left. “Now!”
Patrasche bursts out of the shadows and charges in a rage against the teenager, crashing into her like a truck. The teenager smashes her shoulder and her head against a tree, imprinting a bloody splodge on the trunk, and bounces to the grass a few meters away. You can see the damage from where you are standing. Half of her face is gone. Her crushed, bloodied eye stares at you as in shock, and her burst head has belched her brain.
You walk towards the teenager and kneel besides her. You tilt your head and shut your eyes, listening to the world as it keeps turning. You stand up and swallow the painful mass that had closed your throat.
Patrasche approaches you and rubs her muzzle against your tears. You stroke her black, rough scales.
“It’s okay, girl. It’s okay.”
Petelgeuse had always been the most difficult character to write in the previous 24 parts, but he flowed perfectly here. This conversation ended up becoming one of my favorites due to its depth, the couple of gotchas that I hadn’t even anticipated as I started writing it, and the reversal of power as the conversation deepens.
One of my main interests in spending my time in this retelling of one of my favorite fictional series is that the AI suggesting stuff would end up, I hoped, changing the events to an extent that very few things, beyond the really big plot points you just have to add, would remain of the original. And that has been the case. Very little since the protagonist left Crusch’s place in the capital towards Roswaal’s domain has happened like in the original novels. Maybe the biggest of those deviations in that stretch is that the White Whale was never killed, while in the originals it’s a huge success that reverberates through what I know of the following arcs.
Also, I like to imagine that this video is what Patrasche aspires to become.