This part covers a bit of the eight volume of the original Re:Zero novels.
I have felt like shit since I woke up this morning, for some reason, and I didn’t think I was going to get anything done today. Thankfully I’m a masochist, so instead of resting I got to writing.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
As soon as you and Patrasche leave the woods you realize two things. First, Patrasche’s ribcage on one side is bloodied and some of the ribs must have broken. In a couple of parts the skin and the muscles beneath have split, showing the white bone underneath. You regret that you chose to ride her again, after she got flung out by one of Petelgeuse’s ghostly arms. The ground dragon’s breathing is labored and she isn’t running as fast as she has accustomed you to. You try to order her to go slower as you return to the village, but she either doesn’t understand your request or she ignores it. Although you can only guess about the anatomy of ground dragons, you figure that getting their ribs crushed isn’t beneficial for their health. Second, Petelgeuse’s flailing, ghostly hands stick out over the roofs of the houses that hide the view of the village’s plaza. The bastardly ancient ghost must have brought over all his Fingers for the assault, and he had only kept a low profile until he found you. Now that you’ve messed with his head, he might have no qualms about killing whoever he comes across, even if just to spite you.
You guide Patrasche to return to the village from the main entrance instead of jumping a fence again. You don’t want to force a beast this injured to jump. As you pass by the carriages that you were supposed to use for the evacuation you catch sight of someone’s eyes peeking from a slit in the tarp. The merchants must be waiting for the battle to end, at least those that have decided to stay, because you recall having seen more parked. You can’t be sure of much at this point, given how you are pushing your mind and your body beyond the point where you would have supposed you would have passed out.
You ride Patrasche retracing your steps around the corpses and puddles of blood. A loud crash comes from the village center, and you spot a ghostly hand that has grabbed a piece of a house. A moment later, that arm throws the piece somewhere in the plaza. You imagine that only Wilhelm would be skillful enough to deal with an enemy that attacks with unseen weapons, but you don’t know if he remains alive.
As you reach the frontline where you had parted ways with Ricardo before, the corpses of cultists, plenty of them chopped into pieces, form a sort of barricade. At the side of the street, somewhat hidden from the source of the flailing, ghostly arms, you notice Ferris. The cat-girl is standing on her two legs, and next to her, the tiny quartermaster glances anxiously at the mayhem in the plaza. Only when you dismount Patrasche and bring her closer to the cat-girl she realizes you have appeared. Despite her worry she seems relieved to see you.
“Ferris! It seems like your leg works properly.”
Her black tights are cut around the break-off point as if she had used scissors, and the magically created flesh that shows in the gap looks barely better than smooth scar tissue.
“I’ve done all I can for now. If we survive, I’ll have to keep treating it for a few days at home.” She gives you a reproachful look. “I was sure we would have ended up finding you amongst some random corpses, Subaru.”
“You need to trust me a bit more. I’m not that squishy.”
“I stand corrected.”
You realize the absurdity of holding this conversation while ghostly arms flail around, possibly squeezing the guts out of people.
“Is anybody handling Petelgeuse right now?”
“Wilhelm. He’s striking the dirt towards Petelgeuse so he can locate the arms and cut them at the wrist. They don’t seem to regenerate that fast. I doubt anyone but Wilhelm would be able to pull off that move.”
“Yeah, I don’t know what we would have done without that terrifying old man. Listen, Ferris… Could you take a look at my ground dragon? I don’t want to bother you, but she got hit real bad.”
You had expected Ferris to argue, particularly given how exhausted she looks, but she nods. You order Patrasche to lie down resting on her healthy side, and the cat-girl lights up her palm with her magic.
“Thank you”, you say. “I’ll move up to see what I can do.”
“You will do what you want as usual, but your luck is going to run out eventually, Subaru”, Ferris says.
You were about to walk briskly towards the plaza when you realize that Ram is sitting on the dirt and leaning against the wall of the house next to you. She looks at you with her usual self-assured expression, but her servant uniform has been ripped in parts, and the dried blood around the holes suggests she got stabbed. As you crouch next to her, she turns her head towards you slowly.
“Ram, you look as if you are about to pass out. You are going to make it, aren’t you?”
She closes one eye.
“I am finally safe now that my future brother-in-law has made an appearance.”
“Beyond your sarcasm, you really don’t look good.”
“Ferris has taken care of my wounds. I ran out of mana after defending the plaza so valiantly, and in case you haven’t noticed, no regular cultist remains standing.”
“I don’t want to return to the capital and have to tell Rem that you died. Fortunately I didn’t come across your beheaded corpse this time. I’m sick of storing nasty shit in my head.”
Ram narrows her eyes and then shakes her head slowly, as if it takes her too much energy.
“You make no sense as usual, Barusu.”
“Barusu suits you better. Embrace your new name.”
You stand up and brush some dirt off your pants.
“I was going to say that you can’t be a terminal case if you keep speaking like that, but you’d probably spend your last energies demeaning people.”
“This senior servant has a reputation to uphold.”
Although you get the feeling that Ram intended that interaction to be reassuring, it just soured your mood. You move up to the plaza until the source of those flailing and swinging arms that a couple of houses are obstructing come into view. Petelgeuse is occupying a man wearing the Witch’s Cult’s uniform this time. From the few details you can make out from your position, the guy is in his early thirties, and his messy hair and his somewhat tanned skin make him look like he lives in some beach town. He’s standing near the opposite end of the plaza, and his ghostly arms, some of which have been sliced at different heights, are targeting the incredibly fast figure of Wilhelm as he maneuvers to strike the ground, showering the air around him in dirt so the way the particles glance off the invisible arms reveal their positions. His speed suggests that he has a supernatural power of some kind, because you can’t imagine that a human being can possess such a speed and coordination no matter how many years he trains, and much less in a man maybe nearing seventy.
Like Ram said, every other black robe you spot covering a body belongs to a corpse of the many strewn about. Their corpses as well as those of both armies’ soldiers you brought with you, and some villagers, paint the previous battlelines in bodies and blood. If it weren’t for Petelgeuse, maybe your people could consider this a victory. Although the madman is grabbing debris or pieces of houses to throw them at Wilhelm, which could bounce and crash into the onlookers, there are plenty of villagers and soldiers staring at the confusing spectacle, and simultaneously guarding the bottlenecks from which new threats could arrive.
“Subaru!”, Julius’ surprised voice reaches you from your right.
The purple-haired knight, who is wielding an expensive-looking sword and whose white uniform of the Knights of Lugunica is splashed with blood, stares at you as if you’ve come back from the dead. You walk towards him, but he snaps out of his surprise and moves to meet up with you.
“I guess you also thought I would have been killed by the first danger that came my way”, you say.
“Ferris mentioned that you had been involved in the blast and almost killed, but that despite her trying to keep you safe you had left to locate others. We asked Ricardo to find you again. Their lieutenant also went along. I guess you came back by another route.”
“By the same one, actually. I don’t know where that wolf man and that tiny psycho must have gone. Nevermind that, I admit that if it weren’t for Ia, that red minor spirit groupie of yours, I would have satisfied your expectations. She saved me a couple of times!”
Julius smiles slightly, although a glance at Petelgeuse still fighting lowers the corners of his mouth.
“Do you feel Ia in you, as if your body’s temperature had risen and it was fighting a foreign object?”
“Not at all. I had to question if Ia was still there.”
“You must be highly compatible with spirits, Subaru. That isn’t a common occurrence. With years of training you could become a spirits user.”
“Well, for now I would be content if talking with the great spirit in Roswaal’s library didn’t take my head for a spin.”
A loud crash startles you both. It seems that Petelgeuse had grabbed a mercenary’s corpse and thrown it against Wilhelm, but after failing to hit him, it had broken a window in one of the houses. The mangled remains of the half-beast are sliding from the window frame to the dirt, leaving a trail of blood.
Julius stares at the ongoing fight while frowning, and widening his nostrils.
“Subaru, I fear we might have failed. With the Witch’s Cult having assaulted the village, and so many people having fallen, maybe Emilia has been slain as well. Nobody seems to know where she is. Failing to save lady Emilia is a regret I would carry for the rest of my life.”
“I already told Crusch about it, but I assure you, Emilia is alive. I suppose I’m being dumb for blabbing about this, given that you back another royal candidate and all, but there’s a safeguard measure in case Emilia dies, and it hasn’t triggered. I cannot tell you any more than that, except that it means with a hundred percent certainty that my friend is alive somewhere around here.”
Julius looks at you inquisitively.
“I have only questions about your explanation, but you seem sure about it. I am glad. We might win yet, to whatever extent such a carnage could be considered winning.”
You look at the crowd of onlookers, at the villagers who had survived this onslaught, some of which you recognize, like one idiot with long sideburns and a wart under his nose. They are holding on to their swords and pitchforks and kitchen knives.
You remember the beautiful teenage girl you decided to kill, and a pang squeezes your heart. Lucius notices your expression and seems about to ask for your well-being when you interrupt him.
“Lucius, that isn’t the first version of Petelgeuse that has appeared in the village. When I was looking around while riding my ground dragon, he revealed himself as occupying a girl’s body, who wasn’t wearing the cultist robe.”
“A girl? You mean a child?”
“But she must have died, right? Otherwise he wouldn’t have been transferred to this new body.”
“Yeah… What a waste.”
“Did you slay her? How did you manage to achieve it, if you don’t mind me asking, Subaru?”
“I confused her a bit until my ground dragon took position, and then my mount headbutted her against a tree. My point is that she wasn’t dressed as a cultist. Petelgeuse must have ordered all of his Fingers to come to the village. The moment Wilhelm kills this one, if he manages to, we’ll find ourselves facing another. We might need to figure out if there’s any possible cultist hidden amongst the onlookers.”
Julius nods energetically, and looks around to spot every group of villagers that are witnessing the fight.
“I’ll go around asking if someone doesn’t know any of the present members. I prefer you don’t do it, Subaru. If one of them is a cultist, he might attempt to kill you or someone nearby.”
“Good. I’ll see if I can help Wilhelm in any way. I managed to annoy Petelgeuse to the extent that he cried. Maybe I can distract him enough that Wilhelm will be able to cut off his head.”
You run hugging the side of the plaza towards some spot that will give you a clear look of this version of Petelgeuse. You confuse a bunch of Crusch’s soldiers and half-beast mercenaries you pass in front of, given that you are moving closer to the madman while unarmed. Wilhelm severs one of the ghostly arms at the wrist, but he still doesn’t find an opening that would allow him to behead the madman.
You put your hands at both sides of your mouth and shout.
“You are the most annoying person in the world, Petelgeuse! No wonder Satella doesn’t love you!”
Petelgeuse snaps his head to look at you, and he frowns in disgust. Wilhelm could have taken the opportunity, but you have distracted him for a moment and he looks surprised that you are still kicking. It seems that nobody has any confidence in your ability to stay alive. Wilhelm seems to understand your intent, because he increases his efforts to close distances with the madman’s body.
“Our beloved’s shameless champion makes an appearance!”, Petelgeuse yells mockingly. “Only our witch in her eternal love and acceptance would have granted one of Her blessings upon someone who uses others to slay his foes!”
“Too bad she didn’t give me like a bunch of invisible hands to slap ground dragons with. But it seems that we both wasted our time talking in those woods! You haven’t learned a thing!”
Petelgeuse has fixed his gaze on Wilhelm, who keeps striking dirt towards the ghostly arms. Talking to you at the same time doesn’t seem to be screwing with the madman’s coordination that much. You wouldn’t have guessed this bastard was such a good multitasker.
“You are mistaken about that, yet what a fool I would be if I expected such a hollow man, a production of this broken world, to comprehend without having the truth explained to him! I took heed of your revelations, which belong to our beloved Satella, and I understood that I may have fallen out of favor with our witch due to my single-minded diligence! I would no longer contemplate alternatives, I would have discarded any vessel but that of your half-demon! However, I will regain Satella’s favor by resurrecting her in a vessel and allowing Her to drown this rotten world in her endless love!”
“I told you the ritual will fail if you use Emilia! You just don’t listen!”
“Shameless idiot! Didn’t I just share with you that I accepted your revelations!? There was truth in those words, despite their venom and your naked attempts at hurting another fellow believer, one as diligent in his service of our witch! That half-demon, a spirits user whose past is fraught with despair and destruction, would make an unstable vessel, and I would be foolish to risk the ruin of the world as per your revelations! She shall not host our beloved! The half-demon is not worthy of Satella!”
You let out a noise of surprise. Did you actually manage to convince this guy to quit? And you didn’t even have to lie, beyond Beatrice’s role in calibrating the piece of herself that Satella implanted in you.
“Great! Then why are you wasting your time? Pack up and go home! Leave us alone already!”
As Wilhelm inches closer and most of Petelgeuse’s ghostly arms have been sliced at the wrist or even near the elbow, the madman’s mouth cracks into a devilish grin.
“It would be so easy for you, wouldn’t it, Natsuki Subaru? If I left now with nothing, I would have wasted my diligence! Would you ask me to fall into such sloth? You should have know better! Occupying this new Finger has freshened my mind. I will fight your allies until I can leave with a Gospel!”
For a moment you are tempted to get his greasy book and throw it at him, in case he just picks it up and makes his exit. However, this madman would take the opportunity to slaughter everybody you appreciate, just to assert his power over you.
“I left the Gospel back at that clearing, Petelgeuse! Not only I couldn’t read it, but it had been stained with liquids other than your blood! You got that mad at me suggesting how I prayed with my imaginary Gospel, but what have you been doing with yours?”
Petelgeuse distracts himself to shoot you a self-satisfied look, as if he held a revelation greater than those he had learned from you.
“I believe we have spoken enough, current chosen of our beloved! My actions will speak for me! I am anxious to witness Satella’s champion react t-…!”
Wilhelm had sliced through another ghostly arm, and the madman’s focus on gloating about some trump card had slowed the invisible arms to the extent that Wilhelm had found a unhindered path to Petelgeuse’s body. The old man burst into a charge that skewered the madman’s heart. The onlookers cheer.
“We have suffered too many deaths at the hands of you and your devils”, Wilhelm says with a tired, angry voice. “You will run out of Fingers.”
Although Petelgeuse’s body trembles and blood pours out of his mouth, he smiles.
“You are no longer the king’s dog that terrorized my fellow believers and could have prevented the return of our witch. Your body has decayed on its way to the grave, and so has your wit.”
Petelgeuse grabs Wilhelm’s wrist with his left hand, preventing him from pulling out his sword, and with his right hand the madman produces a cross-shaped dagger and plunges it into Wilhelm’s guts. From your position you see the shock and the anguish contorting his face. Although the old man reaches with his free, trembling hand to prevent the dagger from slicing further, with his last breath Petelgeuse cuts open Wilhelm’s abdomen, disemboweling him.
Petelgeuse’s current body collapses on his knees and falls backwards, resting on the tip of the sword he’s impaled in.
You stand there in shock, as if you couldn’t comprehend what just happened. No way that can happen to Wilhelm van Astrea, the most terrifying old man in the world, someone who would defeat every enemy he faced and eventually, not too many years later, would die a coward’s death on his bed back at any of Crusch’s properties. You shake your head and run towards the old man while yelling his name.
When you crouch next to him your body turns cold. Wilhelm’s bloody intestines have spilled out of the huge horizontal gash, and are now caked in dirt. The old man’s face is beaded with sweat, and he has the look of someone who realizes he’s fought for the last time.
“Mr. Natsuki”, he says with a surprisingly calm voice. “I feared you had perished.”
“I fear you are the one who is going to die, old man. Ferris will have to take a look at you.”
You gather his viscous intestines, brush the dirt off a bit, and try to pile them up over the wound. You move behind the old man’s head and grab the shoulders of his uniform to drag him backwards.
“Please, someone help me! We need to get him to our healer!”
Some of Crusch’s people, who by their shocked expressions know Wilhelm, grab the old man’s legs and you all haul him back towards Ferris.
“That wasn’t the last Finger”, Wilhelm says with a tired voice. Blood is leaking from the corners of his mouth.
“I know, man. We’ll figure something out. The duchess is going to wait for you, so you better not disappoint her.”
As soon as the cat-girl realizes what’s happened, she runs up to you and orders to lower the man to the ground. She motions for Tivey, the Iron Fang’s quartermaster, to approach her.
“Tivey, give me some water to clean the wound.”
You look over her shoulder to see Patrasche looking at the wounded man with a lucid, healthy expression. It doesn’t relieve you enough given that Wilhelm’s life is leaving him by the second.
Tivey pours water on the dirty intestines as Ferris wipes them a bit with some sort of bandage. As she pushes the intestines inside, she focuses her healing magic on his pierced insides. Ferris lifts her head towards you and had opened her mouth to speak when the roof of a house a street over explodes as if a fireless detonation had gone off. Then, a segment of the wall of that second story breaks apart and falls to the dirt below. The smoke clears up around a woman with long, black hair, who is also wearing a black-robe with its hood down. Rising from the swollen shadow above her shoulders, around ten ghostly arms wave nervously, and after a moment they coordinate to lower their owner to the ground.