This part finishes covering the eight volume of the original Re:Zero novels.
In the previous part, Julius handled the current boss battle mostly by himself, until Emilia came and stole his thunder through blowing Petelgeuse’s head at point-blank range. Then that whole setup of the Archbishop having recognized the protagonist as a Finger comes into play.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
You barely pay attention to where you are running, nor can you focus with how dizzy your mind has gotten. You step on puddles of blood and almost trip on a few of the corpses. The dirt you are leaving behind passes in a blur.
“Where are you fleeing?”, Petelgeuse says in your head. “Where is the ally that will fight this battle for you, undeserving champion? But I understand now Satella’s will, the brilliance of her design. A simple book, no matter the greatness of its predictions, can get lost or stolen. A living Gospel? That’s another matter! With your predictive blessing and both my diligence and my authority, we will scour this world until we find a stable vessel for our witch. You will witness it, you will see it through to the end.”
As you run and red pinpricks cloud your vision, you wonder whether to stop next to any of the weapons, most of them blood-dyed, that lie on the dirt. But Petelgeuse is already inside. What if you die and wake up in Crusch’s bed only to find out that Petelgeuse has returned with you? As a fear you had never felt makes you tremble from head to toe you realize that you might be about to lose all control of your body, and that you will be jailed like any of those Fingers were, doomed to witness this ancient spirit puppeteering you to murder anyone he wants or needs, probably including the people you appreciate, until he resurrects Satella and that witch consumes the entire world.
You can barely feel your legs, as if you had woken up suddenly from a terrible nap in a bad posture. You stop in the middle of the street. No, you haven’t stopped, your body has stopped. Your body turns to the door of an open house, and it calmly opens the door and closes it behind you. You manage to separate and move your lips to let out an anguished shout, and as you recover the feeling in your hands, you pound them against a table. You are in someone’s living room.
“The process is irreversible”, Petelgeuse says calmly. “In a few minutes you will be fully under my control. You, your consciousness, your spirit, will be trapped inside, and I will have to listen to you first complain and plead for a long time, but eventually you, Satella’s champion, will realize the futility of it. I fell out of grace because I shut my ears and my eyes to any but the choices I had already made, and our witch decided to correct it through reorganizing Sloth with a bicephalous leadership. I accept her decision! Misjudging that half-demon was but a minor hindrance in our plans!”
Your back tries to straighten itself. You fight against it not because you want to stay hunched over, but because you need to reassert the control of your own body. Anguished noises escape from your lips, and tears brim from your eyes.
“I’m still here”, you say with a raspy, wavering voice. “You won’t be able to make me disappear while I still fight.”
“You are indeed here, you troublesome believer, and in a way you will remain in this body forever, as I said! No matter, I will listen to your pointless lamentations! Our many interactions up to this point must have prepared me to tolerate, despite your shamelessness and foul demeanour, our impeding living arrangements.”
The door opens forcefully and hits the wall as if someone kicked the door in. You hear labored breathing, the footsteps of two people.
“Subaru! Are you well!?”, Julius asks.
You turn towards them. No, your body turns, and also your mouth moves, forming words and pouring a voice by itself.
“This body isn’t Natsuki Subaru anymore, but the Archbishop of Sloth, Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti. Despite the disgraceful nature of you rotten unbelievers, I am glad to make your acquaintance again, spirits exploiter. You have found me in a good mood!”
You witness the horror in both Julius’ and Ferris’ eyes. The knight unsheathes his sword as his face twists in anger.
“Leave that body immediately, fiend! Subaru, I know you are still in there. Don’t stop resisting!”
Your lips open to talk again, but amongst the points of your body that haven’t gone numb, you find one thread of control in that area of your face and you pull. You manage to close your lips, to purse them so no sound escapes. Your hands move to your mouth and forcefully stretch it open. You regain control of your legs and stumble backwards as if drunk.
“This is… still… my body… you piece of…”, you slur with your mostly numb lips.
Julius is pointing his sword forward as if to charge at any moment. His cheeks are twitching. Your eyes are already failing to obey you, and from the corner you can feel more than see Ferris trembling.
Petelgeuse’s deep, slimy voice talks inside of you, and it feels like being bound, gagged and blindfolded while your kidnapper leans in your ear.
“Never has possessing a Finger felt so difficult! Then again, all the others understood and believed in our plan to resurrect our witch, while you, despite having been blessed, keep struggling against it! Which were the words you used to disparage Satella’s endless love, back at those woods? You said that if Satella embraced you, you wouldn’t be able to do or be anything ever again, didn’t you? Satella, in her everlasting love and comprehension, has designed our bond! As I command your body, you will learn, you will get accustomed to pursuing Satella’s love without hindering yourself with the sloth of what you consider free will, which only serves to increase pain and despair! Don’t you worry, I will work diligently to return our witch back to us, and you will be rewarded for eternity!”
Most of your body that had tingled like numb limbs after a bad nap now you can’t feel anymore, and only some other parts of your body, that you can barely locate, allow you a restricted control. It reminds you of the time you failed at that clearing, when Emilia’s face of betrayal burned inside your eyelids, and after she died, the gargantuan physical form of her great spirit looked down at you as he froze you to death, along with the rest of the world. You don’t know what to do, you’re paralyzed, imprisoned, guided and denied of free will, all at the same time. You can only yell inside your mind to stop this, to no avail. Petelgeuse has accrued hundreds of years of experience in possessing human bodies, and for all you know there’s no way to reverse it. You can’t win.
That sword’s tip, that Julius holds aimed at you, is close enough that maybe you could regain enough control of your legs to drag your body into the weapon. It would only take it piercing a carotid artery, and hopefully Ferris will understand, accept your decision and avoid healing you.
You concentrate all your willpower, while yelling inside your head, until you locate your leg muscles and coordinate them to move as if you were breaking the shell of ice that had fastened them to the ground. One step, another. Julius stares at you with the expression of someone who witnesses a zombified friend lunging towards him. The sharp point of his sword is a few centimeters away.
“You are trying to die!”, Petelgeuse shouts in your head with an amused tone. “Even though Satella has designed this possession, had intended your use as a Finger, you hope that her blessing will send you back to a past where you will regain your free will! My fellow believer, you are ignorant to the end! I assume you picture the safety of whatever point of the past you have returned to every time you fled because you wouldn’t fight, but this time you will bring me along with you, and you will have undone your allies’ diligent efforts to massacre my fellow believers!”
As you keep inching forward with a shambling body, you keep arguing with yourself frantically. If you impale yourself on the sword, will you be playing right into Petelgeuse’s hands? Will you truly wake up back at Crusch’s bed only to find that your body hosts two souls, and only his in control? Petelgeuse can’t know that for sure, he is just interpreting this possession as Satella’s will because he needs to believe that he never lost his witch’s favor. Just a few inches more, and that sharp point will plunge into your carotid. Your vision is getting blurry, but you can sense in Julius’ fearful eyes that he understands, that he won’t retract his weapon.
“You were born in a body that would betray you at the worst times,” Petelgeuse’s deep voice says quietly in the chamber of your mind, “that one day, when you had barely begun to walk in this world, would cease to function, and your spirit, likely failing to remain behind, would disappear into an abyss where nobody would be able to reach you. Give up on this life, on this pointless diligence, you irrational creature. Why hold on to something that only brings you pain? You were meant to give up control here, so has our witch willed it. Accept it. Move on.”
Without realizing it you’ve regained control of your teeth, only to clench them. If you could only lunge forward, that sharp point would impale your neck right through your carotid. You locate some muscles in your back, then you concentrate your willpower in pushing yourself forward. As your body was about to impale itself, Petelgeuse’s retrieves the control from you as if he had been playing around until that moment, and instead of piercing your neck the point slices your cheek open. You feel the burning sensation, as well as the wound bleeding, like hazy memories of a distant injury.
“You intended to die, didn’t you, Subaru?”, Julius asks as both his lips and his brow tremble. “Don’t give up. You are courageous, someone who does what is right no matter how much it will jeopardize the rest of his life. Remain and fight.”
Petelgeuse moves your eyes to glance at Ferris. The cat-girl’s shoulders have slumped, and her arms are dangling. She holds your, or Petelgeuse’s, gaze, but when the tears that had grown in the corners of her eyes fall down her cheeks, Ferris looks away. She has the expression of someone waiting for a veterinary to give her pet the final injection.
“He’s already gone”, Ferris murmurs. “Can’t you see that? It’s not Subaru anymore.”
Thank you for the vote of confidence, Ferris, you think. If you managed to impress a snob like the captain of the Knights of Lugunica with your talent to annoy people until they lose their minds, even if Petelgeuse eventually wins, you will twist his balls to the end.
You locate all the points of your body that can respond to your control to any degree, surrounded by tingling oases of numbness, and you pull those threads as hard as you can. Your body stumbles backwards. When you sense that you are about to hit some shelves, you throw your body into them. A bunch of stuff crashes around you or fall on your head. You wrestle control of your lips, but Petelgeuse steals it and shouts out loud.
“You shameless moron! Do you intend to damage this body? Do you prefer to injure yourself to the extent that we will both be trapped in a broken shell, with only my authority able to move us around while our corpse-like body hangs limp? Is that how you would prefer to keep existing? You lack any common sense! I must have truly disappointed our witch for her to punish me to this extent!”
You find the threads that move the fingers of your left hand, even though you can’t feel it at all. You close your shaking hand into a fist and focus all your willpower into launching it against your nose, hitting it with a loud crack. While Petelgeuse fills the chamber of your mind by yelling something, you launch your fist against different parts of your face over and over. The vision of one of your eyes has narrowed and reddened.
Petelgeuse, who hadn’t ceased to shout at you while you ignored him, seizes the wrist of that hand with your other.
“You won’t stop nor listen to reason no matter how much you inconvenience even yourself!”, the ancient ghost shouts angrily. “You aren’t even a person, you are a wild animal! What a horrible curse I must live through. Blessed be Satella, I must regain her favor as soon as possible!”
You snatch some control of your lips.
“Suck… my balls… you bit-“
Petelgeuse purses your lips and shakes your head.
“Enough with this farce!”, he shouts in your mind. “You shameless beast… I allowed all the other Finger’s souls, my fellow believers in Her love, to remain next to me as I commanded their bodies to further our cause. I listened to their advice, I soothed their concerns. Their loss, having been murdered either by you or the barbarian fools that chose to follow you, fills me with shame! Now, shackled with you, I see the true extent of how those believers had blessed me with their diligence! You cannot be reasoned with like an intelligent being that deserves any modicum of respect, so instead I will punish you and train you like a wild beast! You despise giving up the control of your body, even though I share the eyes and the ears for you to experience along with me? Then you will find out the alternative!”
You feel as if you are falling, or being pulled down, and suddenly everything goes dark. You are plummeting, have been plummeting, for what feels like a few minutes through a thick blackness. You were already panicking, but now you just need to yell out incoherently.
“There’s a chamber inside all of you perishable creatures,” Petelgeuse begins, “a solitary cell that houses the essence of your soul, from which it escapes once its shell finally succumbs to time and decay. Can you imagine how small that place is, how dark, how disconnected from anything you have pointlessly held on to in that painful world outside? There will be nothing but time and your consciousness for you to contemplate the disgraceful decisions that you have pursued up to this point. How long do you think it will take until despair breaks you and you accept what you should have from the beginning, that you are nothing but an agent for our witch to help her return to Her world? But don’t you worry, once you understand, I will allow you to join my side as a fellow believer!”
You cease to fall without hitting anything, as if you had never plummeted to begin with. You are surrounded by an opaque darkness. In your terror you can’t understand nor notice anything else, but in a few seconds you feel it enveloping you, seeping inside of you, filling you. A nurturing, loving warmth as if you floated inside a womb. Have you died? No, you remain alive, at the very abyss of your self. You know this place.
“What… What is this?”, Petelgeuse says with a trembling voice. “My entire self is being caressed, like someone wants to extricate me from all the pain!”
Petelgeuse’s surprised voice comes from your side as if he were standing next to you, and when you turn towards the source, although you don’t feel like you possess a body, you see a shadowy being darker than the surrounding black. It’s a spindly humanoid with knobby joints and an elongated head in which three hazy red eyes glow, one slightly above and in between the regular ones. This guy had never been a human being, he just likes wearing them.
You don’t feel fear any longer. Fearing anything down here feels like an absurd waste.
“What, you don’t recognize it? You can’t feel it down to your ghostly bones? You claim to have worked for it for hundreds of years, to have focused diligently on a plan that would eventually distribute it to everyone, whether they wanted it or not. Weren’t you her favored at one time? So how come you aren’t able to tell?”
The shadowy figure grows closer until all three of its eyes glow like Julius’ minor spirits.
“It cannot be Her. Satella’s essence would have to be woven to…”
He shuts up, so you speak in turn.
“I did tell you that whenever I wanted I could meet our witch. Every time the mind-killing pain of dying had passed, I found myself dunked in her love, and I could speak to her, in what passes for having a conversation with our beloved Satella. I don’t understand it either, Petelgeuse, but there she is.”
Petelgeuse turns his head sharply to your right. Maybe around four meters deeper into that opaque darkness, the tips of claw-like fingers, darker than the surrounding black, emerge slowly as if floating towards you. You see the rest of her elongated hands, and then her arms as she opens them slowly like inviting you to embrace her. First two pale, half-imagined lights in the distance, her hazy, glowing purple eyes show up in the silhouette of her face. Her long black hair floats as if underwater.
“The queen of your fantasy world, in her ghostly flesh”, you announce.
Petelgeuse has stepped towards Satella. His shadowy figure trembles from head to toe, and from his mouth escape weird noises that first sound like some incantation to you, but you realize that he’s crying.
“My beloved, the light of my existence”, he says with a quivering, teary voice. “Even though I have fought for so long so one day I could meet you, to my depths I doubt I believed I would achieve it, that any of the vessels would be worthy of you. I had nothing else but you in my mind, and yet I failed to understand that you didn’t entirely approve! I disappointed you! Forgive me, please, my witch, my beloved! I will do anything, anything in this world to please you!”
As the ancient ghost inches closer, the witch’s extended hands have floated past Petelgeuse’s sides and slowly move to bend until they meet behind his back. If Petelgeuse stepped forward a step and a half, both of their faces would meet.
A bell-like, soft voice floods this dark womb, enveloping you.
“I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I lo-“
Petelgeuse’s mouth emits a moan-like noise of rapture.
“I-I love you too! I knew you would, despite it all! I knew that you would love me! I had kept doubts, I had kept fears, and yet I should have never ceased to believe for a moment! Of course you, my beloved witch, would accept me!”
“I love you I love you I love you I love you I-“
Petelgeuse barely manages to speak between his sobs.
“I had spent so much time waiting for nothing, watching the world pass me by, because I had convinced myself, in my disgraceful sloth, that I wasn’t to interfere, I wasn’t to meet, I wasn’t to touch anybody else! I was never wanted, never needed! I wondered for so many centuries why I came to exist! But you appeared. I watched you as you moved through this rotten world blessing it with your love, and then, in your final act of goodwill, you gave your love to half of the lost, pained creatures that were, unknowingly, asking for you to save them! And you keep loving them, and will love them for the rest of time, even though those left behind will forever hate you! My witch, my love! You see my shame, you see my pain, and yet you love me!”
“I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I lo-“
Satella’s elongated arms have crossed behind Petelgeuse’s back, and is drawing his face near as if to kiss him deeply. Petelgeuse hugs the witch while his legs wobble. He is wailing like a child.
“I love you too, Satella. I have always loved you more than anything in this world, and I always will!”
As if floating in slow motion, the Witch of Envy hugs Petelgeuse tighter. Her face touches his, and her long, suspended hair rests on his shoulders. Petelgeuse’s shadow is seeping into the witch, merging with her. The ancient ghost’s wails cease. Every spindly, knobby limb dissolves into shadowy shreds that are attracted to Satella’s body like water pouring down a drain, until nothing of Petelgeuse’s remains and the witch floats in place, embracing herself with her claw-like hands.
The sudden light blinds you. As you blink, one of your eyes sends pangs of pain, and it shows your hands resting on your lap as if through a red filter. You feel your head, your torso, your arms, your legs, your feet. The sensations return to your body in a shocking flood. Your clogged nose as you try to breathe through it. Your bruised cheeks. The metallic taste in your mouth. A burning area on your lips. Your back aches as if you’ve pulled something. The knuckles on your left hand are bruised and bloodied, maybe broken. Numerous painful scratches in your torso and your forearms assert their presence. There’s a faint pain in your testicles. You are so tired as if you’ve kept conscious through sheer obstinacy. Everything hurts, everything bleeds.
You let your body go limp as you sigh deeply.
“Goodbye, Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti, Archbishop of Sloth”, you say with a thin voice. “What a fucking freak.”
“Subaru!”, Julius shouts.
It startles you. You lift your head to realize that Julius and Ferris are standing a couple of meters away from you, bewildered and scared. You had forgotten. How much time has passed?
“I guess that’s that, guys. If you don’t mind, I’ll rest here for a moment.”
Julius steps towards you, but Ferris crosses an arm in front of him to stop the knight.
“This must be an act. That ancient spirit must be trying to pretend he has left Subaru’s body.”
Julius stares at you with his trembling pupils. Sweat has beaded on his forehead. Even though he’s still wielding his sword, he has lowered it.
“We haven’t known that great spirit to behave in such a way, but still, if that’s you, Subaru, will you allow Ia to enter you? A possessed body should reject her immediately. We would know for sure.”
You swallow the blood in your mouth, and then contain a cough.
“Go ahead, you can put inside me whatever you want.”
“… I will ignore the connotation of your words, and yet they reassure me. That wouldn’t have come out of Petelgeuse’s mouth. Ia, please check if our friend is in the clear.”
The small ball of red light flies out of Julius’ chest and, after an unnecessary dance, it plunges into yours. You don’t feel any different, although at this moment you doubt you can feel anything but terrible.
You cough a couple of times, and when you look back at the knight, he’s staring at you wide-eyed.
“A great spirit was taking possession of you, and you defeated him… with your willpower.”
His voice sounded like he witnessed you picking up a mountain and placing it somewhere else because it obstructed your view. You would rather hear him, or anyone else, scolding you, and that makes you a bit sad.
“Help me up, will you? I’m so fucked I’m surprised I haven’t pissed myself.”
Julius sheathes his sword quickly, and both him and Ferris lift you back to your feet. The knight keeps staring at you as if you are some display in a museum.
“C’mon, it wasn’t as easy as you think”, you say. “While trapped inside myself, I opened a portal to another dimension and I dragged Petelgeuse into it. I had to pursue him through many worlds made possible through different, incomprehensible laws of nature. I fought monsters and met gods who granted me powers capable of destroying whole star systems. After aeons of the same embittered fight, I managed to pull my final move on Petelgeuse, who dissolved into the ether. Then I came back to meet you fine people again after such a long absence.”
Julius shakes his head and laughs softly.
“I see your previous experience has served you well.”
You turn both Julius and Ferris towards the house’s entrance and then put your hands on their shoulders.
“Let’s get out of here and figure out what remains to be done until we can finally sleep. I won’t get up from my next bed for a fucking week.”
“I agree”, Julius says.
As you walk towards the door, you notice Ferris is averting her gaze while drying her eyes and her cheeks with her furry hand.
“Sorry for worrying you, Ferris”, you say softly.
The light of the sun falls on you again. You let your pals walk in front of you for a moment as you try to steady your legs. This must be it, then. Petelgeuse is gone, so the Sloth branch of the Witch’s Cult has ceased to operate until someone else occupies that seat, maybe in like a couple of weeks. You found your determination after you had settled for guillotining yourself like a hundred fifty times, you went on a road trip, you bonded with cool fantasy people, you witnessed and partook in a bunch of gruesome murders, your team killed the same person over and over, you almost lost your testicles, one of the leaders of seemingly the worst terrorist group in this fantasy world is dissolving inside a ghost, and half of the village is dead. That worked out pretty well.
“Lady Emilia”, Julius says.
The silver-haired half-elf is standing next to a puddle of blood and the upper half of a cultist’s torso. She’s wringing her hands in front of her waist while staring at you as if she can’t figure out what to say. Julius looks at Emilia and then back at you. He nods, and speaks to Ferris.
“Let’s give them some space.”
As Ferris walks away, she talks over her shoulder.
“Those wounds in your face aren’t life threatening, and I’m squeezed out of mana. I will take a look at you after I rest.”
“Sure! Don’t worry about it.”
As both Ferris and Julius walk slowly towards the plaza, occasionally glancing at the corpses and trying not to step on the bloodied dirt, you clear your throat and step closer to Emilia. Your heart is pounding so hard you feel nauseous.
“Let’s get inside that house over there, and we’ll both say what we need to.”
Some observations. If you have either read the original novels or watched the anime adaptation, you know that’s not how Petelgeuse’s story ends. In fact, that whole continuous life that included convincing two royal candidates to grant him his power, then travelling towards Roswaal’s place and stopping along the way to murder a legendary monster (they manage to slay the White Whale in the original, the motherfuckers), then killing plenty of Petelgeuse’s units and his Fingers, ends when Subaru gets possessed and he, realizing he won’t be able to control it, demands both Julius and Ferris (who is a guy in the original) to kill him. They do, and Subaru goes back to a moment in his past where they had gathered to talk strategy right after they killed the White Whale (thankfully he didn’t have to wake up again back at Crusch’s place). He does nail his second run through, with barely (if any) casualties. I don’t like how they dispatch Petelgeuse in the original, although I won’t mention the details, and I prefer my version. Ending with him meeting his witch, which is all he had genuinely wanted to do, pays off the setups better as far as my tastes go.
This link to a video is a heavily edited compilation of Petelgeuse moments from the anime adaptation. The version of the guy in the original novels is a bit more unhinged than mine (and a lot more at certain points), but the fantastic voice actor really upped the game for the anime adaptation. Plenty of ad-libbed stuff made it to the animation, and he became a very memorable antagonist. Particularly that whole stretch in the cave back in episode fifteen of the first season, I think, is stuff that nightmares are made of.
So goodbye, Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti, you fucking freak.