Even in the original light novel/anime, this part of the series begins to get seriously dark, without much room for levity. I tend to prefer, at least when I write for fun, when there are opportunities for silly humor, even completely ridiculous. At the end of the previous part of this strange thing I’m doing the protagonist almost killed himself, only for Puck to announce telepathically, in a rather roundabout way, that the protagonist better haul his ass to Roswaal’s mansion. The events of this new part still fall in the fifth volume of Re:Zero (and there’s actually plenty left to cover from that one).
I’m somewhat deep into roleplaying through this series, and the twists and turns that the GPT-3 algorithm has produced has caused plenty of stuff not to happen, or to happen differently. If for some reason someone other than me is reading this (which I doubt; somewhat straight fanfiction, a narrow market), you might have realized that we never met the current Sword Saint Reinhardt, who in turn never found out that Felt was a royal candidate, so Felt never got into the royal palace (or at least didn’t participate in the summons). Given that in the first part, the protagonists managed to annoy Felt to an extent that she just gave up what she stole, the superpowered serial killer Elsa Granhiert also never appeared. That’ll be a wake up call when she eventually does. There are plenty of other examples, but I can’t think of other major ones at the moment. I look forward to the fresh scenes I’ll roleplay through, as completely new scenes push their way into the narrative.
Regarding future events, I dread the whole thing with the White Whale, as I don’t know what I could roleplay regarding such a tight succession of events, but curiously Subaru’s phone is fundamental to track the whale, and he got his phone stolen by GPT-3 thugs in the first part of this series!
I made a critical decision regarding Subaru’s supernatural powers. In the original, Subaru can’t speak to anybody about his ability. That doesn’t make much sense; why would Satella care? It causes tremendous problems, but I don’t think that conflict that could be solved by just having a conversation is a good thing, so in this strange AI-fueled roleplaying thing I’m doing, Subaru will be able to speak to others about his power. Whether they believe him is another matter.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
Your world gets filled with a white light, and then the pain comes to your body. Pain, pain, pain. It feels as if your lungs are bursting. You kick your legs in the water until you feel air in your face, and when you reach the riverbank, you keep vomiting water. When it seems that you don’t have anything else to vomit, you notice a commotion around you: a group of people, mostly merchants, some of them drunk, are curious about you for almost having drowned to death, but they don’t seem eager to help you in any way.
Suddenly, someone grabs you by the arm and helps you stand straight. You keep wheezing while your lungs burn. The guy who’s holding you is maybe twenty years old, and his breath stinks of alcohol.
“Seems that you are okay there, buddy”, the guy says. “You had a bit too much to drink as well?”
You try to speak, but only a raspy croak comes out of your throat.
The guy looks at you with concern.
“Shit, that’s not normal. Do you have something caught in your throat? Let me help you.”
The guy wedges his fingers in your mouth and pokes your tongue. You push him away and find your voice again.
“I’m fine, I just swallowed water when I was drowning. In addition, you shouldn’t go around pushing your fingers inside people’s mouths, particularly when you are so drunk.”
“But you were dying…”
“I know what I saw, but I’m not dead yet.”
You take a deep breath and focus on getting your heartbeat to slow down. The burning sensation in your lungs has subsided, but you’re still very dizzy. You attempt to wander off from the crowd of onlookers. The drunken man seems to have sobered up enough to give you a hand. He’s giving you a friendly smile, although you want to pinch your nose.
“What’s your name, buddy?”, says the guy.
“I’m Subaru. Not that it has anything to do with anything”, you say, annoyed.
“I’m Otto. Aren’t you by chance interested in looking at my wares?”
Otto takes something out of his inventory. He shows you a blue, shining item.
“This is a crystal stone. You bite it, and it creates light so that you can see in the dark.”
“I have sensitive teeth.”
Otto looks disappointed as he puts the crystal stone back into his inventory. He sighs.
“This day really can’t get any worse.”
You walk towards where you expected to find your luggage, but it’s gone. Panicked, you look around in circles, but any of the many people walking through the area and carrying bags could have taken it.
“I can’t fucking believe it! Who took my luggage!?”
Your voice startles a nearby guard, who approaches you with his hand on the sword handle.
“You need to lower your voice. This isn’t a place for mischief.”, he says, scowling a bit.
“But my luggage has been stolen!”
“Well, if you have something valuable in it, it’s gone now.”
The guard turns around and starts to leave. You open your mouth to argue, but then decide against it.
Otto leans on you as he attempts to contain his hiccups.
“This is a harsh world, Mr. Subaru. You believe yourself in the top of the world for a day, only to spend the rest of your life eating dirt.”
“If I wanted to hear a drunkard’s philosophy, I’d go back to drinking myself like back at the mansion. And speaking of mansions, I need to reach the mansion as soon as possible!”
You try to take a step forward, but your leg collapses under you as you fall flat on the ground.
“Stupid body… Why is it betraying me like this?”
You try to get up, but you fail as your strength has abandoned you. A group of children run past you and run you over some more as they laugh. Their mother approaches you and helps you up.
“You seem to be a bit drunk, sir. Do you have somewhere to go?”
“For fuck’s sake! I just nearly died! I need to get to lord Roswaal’s mansion! Will anybody teleport me there? Are there not magic users outside of their shitty magical libraries?”
The mother takes a step back as you yell at her. She scolds her children for running into you, and then leaves.
You attempt to stand up once again, but fail as your strength is still not there yet.
Otto helps you up.
“I’m Otto Suwen.”
“Yeah, you told me, Otto.”
“Are you interested in buying oil? I have plenty of pots of it back in my carriage. Can’t get rid of them.”
“No thanks, I don’t really have any use for it.”
“Hm. Would you like to buy a beverage? I have some with me, though I’d prefer to keep them. They’re very expensive.”
“No thank you, not right now.”
Otto stares at the ground and sighs.
“Well then, is there anything I could help you with?”
“Yeah actually. I need you to drive me somewhere with your carriage.”
Otto’s face gleams with interest as you explain your situation to him. He informs you that he actually has two carriages, and that you can take your pick. You enter his very luxurious-looking carriage, and notice that it’s filled with alcohol. He tells you that he’d prefer if you take the second carriage, as his favorite ground dragon is in the first. You do exactly that, and the carriage that carries you both rides off fast towards Roswaal’s mansion. You realize that you are as broke as any human person can be, but you wait until the merchant seems invested in the ride to bring it up.
“Look, Otto, turns out I don’t have any money. Can’t pay for this ride.”
Otto stares at you blankly, then nods.
“Hm. I see. Well then, I’ll just have to make you work it off, won’t I?”
“I don’t have time nor the wish to work anything off. Listen, I’m employed by lord Roswaal Mathers. Is Roswaal respected in these parts?”
“Y-yes, he is. He’s a great man.”
“Tell you what then, if you take me to his mansion now, I’ll mention to him that you helped me and how loyal you are to his cause, and I’m sure he’ll give you a handsome reward.”
Otto’s eyes widen more and more with each word you speak. Eventually they’re as wide as dinner plates.
“Y-you w-would do that for m-me?”
“I would do even more. I’d introduce you to Ram. It’s this cute demon girl with pink hair who works as a servant for the lord. I’m sure that she’ll be just your type.”
You smile and wink at him.
“Yep. Just help me out here, will ya?”
As the road was approaching the village at the base of the hill that leads to the mansion, you see a plume of black smoke rising from the half hidden roofs of the houses. Otto notices that something is wrong, and slows the carriage down.
You hop off the carriage and jog up to the village, noticing that the gates are broken. You don’t see any guards around.
“Get back, Otto! Ride out of here!”
However, as you shout back to the figure in the carriage’s driver’s seat, you see that he’s slumped forward. The handle of a dagger protrudes from his forehead, and blood drips on his lap.
Your blood runs cold, and your arm hair stands up. A silence has fallen over the area, and you find yourself surrounded by figures in black robes as if they came from a Holy Week procession. They are all wielding cross-shaped daggers.
When you were sure they were going to lunge at you and slash at your throat, they bow towards you in unison, like respecting an authority figure. They do not show any signs of humanity or emotion, as if they were merely tools of whoever robed them.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
The question escapes your lips almost involuntarily.
Their faces are hidden behind their hoods, and they keep their arms by their side.
Your voice trembles.
“One of you fuckers killed that merchant, Otto. He was a good kid, you know, despite driving under the influence and all that.”
You seem to be trying to buy time… Or rather, trying to stall for time.
“I’m not sure what you want from me.”
They don’t answer. In a blur, as if your eyes had failed you, you notice that they aren’t there anymore. You catch glimpses of them having run away into the surrounding forest. You couldn’t even react to any of their movements. Your legs tremble, as you are utterly terrified out of your wits. You stagger as quick as you can towards the village, which smells like a barbecue. Some houses are on fire, and the corpses of the villagers are strewn over the main plaza, except for a mound of corpses. You realize some of the charred corpses belong to children. Nobody seems to have been spared.
You run as fast as you can uphill towards the mansion. You keep repeating your friends’ names. Rem, Emilia, Beatrice, Ram. Even Roswaal. You would pay all the money you ever had to see one of their faces staring back at you. You need to save them. There’s nothing out there in this world that matters to you. The only people you have are in that mansion.
You arrive at the mansion’s entrance, breathing heavily and with your legs quivering like you’ve never experienced before. You turn your head back and forth, then enter the dimly lit hallway. Your eyes slowly get used to the darkness. Anxiously, you start calling out their names once again.
“Rem! Emilia! Beatrice! Ram! Roswaal!”
You rush forward towards the great hall. You start calling out their names at the top of your lungs, hoping you’d get a response.
“Rem? Emilia? Beatrice? Ram? Roswaal?”
But nobody answers. The paintings on the wall startle you as they give off an impression that they’re staring at you. You don’t know if it’s just your paranoia or if those paintings really are staring at you. You ignore them and continue on.
You enter the great hall. There you find Ram’s decapitated body lying on the floor near some dead cultists. Ram’s torso has been stabbed a few times as well. You don’t see her head around.
“No… NO! RAM!”
You begin crying over her, while clenching on to her corpse.
“Why?! Why did this happen?! Who would do something like this?! RAM!”
Soon, you hear the sound of delicate footsteps approaching through the hallway. You quickly wipe your tears and stand up.
A small, frail looking figure enters. It’s a girl of around ten years of age, with long blond hair collected in two hair tails, and who wears a festive, red outfit. She looks at you with an unreadable expression on her face.
“Beatrice! You are okay, that’s good… What’s going on? Where are the others?”
Beatrice pauses as if trying to find the right words. Confused, nervous even. Something’s obviously wrong.
“Rem is dead. I’ve seen her as I was coming here. She fell in one of the corridors, while she was trying to prevent the Witch’s Cult’s footmen from invading the deepest parts of the mansion. She got a warrior’s death, I suppose.”
As your legs fail you and you drop to the ground, you try to support yourself on your arms, but they tremble too much.
Beatrice looks down to the ground with a pained expression. She sighs deeply.
“I’m sorry, I suppose… But there are some situations where I feel sorrow, even if only a little…”
You dread asking the following question. You don’t want to hear most of its possible answers.
“Did you find Emilia?”
Beatrice clenches her fists, and her already pale face turns into a ghostly white. She breathes heavily with a start, like she’s having trouble catching her breath. And then, after a few seconds of silence…
“Yes. She’s dead. She ran away when the Witch’s Cult came to invade the mansion. I don’t know what happened to her after that…”
Beatrice approaches you and touches your arm gently while speaking, trying to help you stand up.
“R-ran away? Emilia ran away, while Rem and Ram were fighting? That can’t be, right? And what about Puck? What has Puck done to prevent this?”
You stand up by yourself and you wipe the saliva from your lips. You feel as if you are about to vomit any second. Rem is truly dead. You feel that if you let that fact sink in, you’ll run to the nearest dagger and you’ll plunge it into your own heart.
“Emilia could still be alive. Where did she run off to?”
Beatrice shakes her head slowly as if disappointed. She lowers her gaze.
“You don’t understand, I suppose… It has been triggered.”
“What has been triggered?”
Beatrice closes her eyes for a brief moment and opens them slowly. She turns to you and looks at your eyes. You look back at her.
“The ice will consume this world, and it will end. Just like four hundred years ago.”
You do not let yourself believe what you just heard. It can’t be true.
Beatrice wanders off with a purpose, and you follow her as in a trance. You pass in front of rooms that you can’t focus on. You reach some sort of office, and given the portraits of people who look like Roswaal, they must belong to the absent lord.
“Roswaal”, you mutter, as if a curse. “You bastard. The best magician in the Kingdom of Lugunica, huh? I’d tear the smile from your face.”
You glare at the portrait of the man you now loathe.
Beatrice stands next to an entrance to a rocky corridor from which escapes an icy breath. She clearly waits for you to walk through it.
You make a run for it, heading into the corridor. After about a minute of walking, you start to feel the cold. Then it becomes unbearable. You start feeling pain all over your body. It is as if your limbs are being torn apart and then put back together again. You let out a scream of anguish.
Then, you fall.
As you feel every cell of your body turning to ice, you hear a muttered voice.
“This is kindness, I suppose. Go to sleep.”
Beatrice’s eyes looked upon you as your vision fades.
As you come back to your senses, you hear yourself screaming. You feel something soft covering your body. You thrash around, and you fall to the ground. As you recover your breath you realize that you feel all your limbs. You just fell from a bed, and you recognize this room. It’s the bedroom that Crusch had let you rest at in her mansion.
You are wearing the clothes that Crusch’s staff had given you. Slowly, you climb back to the bed and sit on it, feeling your heartbeat against your eardrums.
“What the fuck is going on?”
You catch a glance at your reflection on the dresser opposite of your bed. You look horrible, as if you haven’t slept in days, with bags under your eyes and your hair messy. You think you smell heavily of sweat and blood, but maybe you are imagining it. As you breathe heavily, you realize that someone is looking at you from the doorway. It’s Crusch, who stares at you with a concerned look on her face. She’s wearing a nightgown that seems to be made of very fine silk.
“So you’re awake.” She says as she comes into the room.
“Quite the sleep you had. I’d like to hope you rested well.”
Crusch takes a seat on the bed, facing you.
“However,” she continues, “that scream that I heard even from my room suggests otherwise.”
“Yeah…sorry about that. I was…”
You don’t really know how to respond.
You contain a groan, and wipe cold sweat from your forehead.
“I wish. I’m not sure how to explain what just happened.”
You glance at Crusch’s firm gaze. She exudes an understanding calmness, like some sort of god-tier mother. You get an image of Crusch cuddling you to sleep, but when you close your eyes partly out of shame, you see something else in the darkness. Two smoky hands that had reached out to you in the depths of your death. Someone who had spoken to you. A voice that had told you that she loved you, before that presence somehow thrust you back to this night in Crusch’s mansion.
You stand up quickly, as if to steel your nerves.
“Ah… Could we speak for a bit, somewhere that isn’t here?” you say.
You wipe the sweat from your forehead. You realize that you aren’t even wearing shoes, which you quickly rectify. You and her move through the halls of the mansion, to a shaded patio at the edge of the manor.
Hundreds of magical streetlights glow in the capital. A single rose sits on a table at the center of four chairs.
“I’ll get some wine”, Crusch says softly.
You sit down at the table, and you only raise your head again when Crusch comes back with two glasses and a bottle of wine. She pours wine on both your glasses. As soon as Crusch sits down, she drinks a quarter of it.
“Do you live here?”, you ask.
“I own this place. It’s a… place I retreat to sometimes.”
You’ve never been rich, but you know the value of money. This mansion must have cost an outrageous sum.
You start, before stopping yourself. Crusch takes another drink, and doesn’t seem to care if you’re planning on asking her something or not. You decide to plow ahead anyway.
“Duchess, what can you tell me about the Witch’s Cult?”, you ask with a dry voice.
The duchess’s eyes darken. Her lips wrinkle into a frown, forming dozens of lines across her face.
“They’re a bunch of zealots who want to bring back the worshipping of the old gods. I supposed you would have ended up asking about them sooner or later.”
“Are they numerous?”
“Not in numbers, but their relatively low numbers don’t matter when they can cause such destruction”, Crusch says with a voice that could cut. “They are a damnable pest that has been plaguing not only the Kingdom of Lugunica but also surrounding ones, for as long as I can remember, or anyone remembers for that matter.”
Crusch’s hand clenches for a brief moment, before she takes another drink of her wine. This time, she drains the glass. You quickly refill it. She looks at you for a moment, as if deciding whether or not you’re worth trusting, before speaking again.
“I had an older brother.”
“I’m sorry”, you reply. “I didn’t know.”
“He died when the cult rebelled three years ago. He was a soldier, like my father and his father before him, but they slaughtered him like a animal. They dismembered him… burnt him…”
Tears well up in her eyes, but she brushes them away and takes another drink.
“I’m genuinely sorry to hear that, miss Karsten. I can’t imagine how much that must hurt even for someone as strong as yourself.”
“Thank you. I’d rather feel nothing at all.”
“That’s… a little dark.”
You look at Crusch’s profile illuminated by candlelight as she glances over the sleeping capital. You feel something burning inside of her, but she speaks with a thin voice.
“If I managed to rid this world of the cult, I’d die in peace. I wouldn’t care if I died right after I slaughtered the last one of those cowards.”
You don’t know how to respond, so you don’t. You let her speak.
“We’ve tried everything. Three times we attempted to destroy the strongholds we identified, and three times they used the cover of the trees to pick us off with their magic before we got close. They might not have any modern technology, but there are powerful magic users in their ranks, and some must delve in fouler magic that I don’t want to comprehend. And those rats keep moving from place to place, so by the time we can pin them down, they scatter. They don’t care about borders, they don’t care… I don’t know what they do care about, beyond destroying everything that matters.”
Crusch Karsten, one of the most powerful women in the kingdom, if not the most, is sitting next to you and crying her eyes out. You don’t know how to respond to this: you want to comfort her, but at the same time you’re afraid that any gesture of kindness will be thrown back in your face. So, you say the only thing you can think of.
“I wish I could help. I want to help, and in a way I truly need to. But as you know, I’m entirely useless.”
She stops crying immediately, and looks at you. She studies your face for a few moments, before shaking her head slowly.
“You’re not useless, Subaru. You just need the right tools for the job.”
You stand there silently, wondering what she means.
“I don’t know about that, but, Crusch, you said that you supposed that I would have ended up asking about the Witch’s Cult sooner or later. Why would you think that?”
Crusch looks at you sideways, and she narrows one eye.
“It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“Not to me. Please, tell me.”
Crusch smiles, and looks around.
“Come on. We’re going for a walk.”
She gets up and walks off. You follow her out of the mansion and through her vast yard. Soon you two find yourself in a moonlit glade with crystal clear water flowing out of rocks and into a pond. The moon reflects on the pond, showing your faces to each other clearly.
“It seems that the answer to that question requires a certain mood to your environment”, you say.
“Mmh. It does. Ready yourself.”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I mean, close your eyes and listen to the nature around you; the water flowing, the wind blowing, the owls hooting, the grass rustling… just listen. This is a very beautiful place. The trees around you are old and wise, and they have a story to tell…”
“I don’t understand, I can’t just close my eyes and listen to the owls hoot and the grass rustle. What’s the point of this?”
“The point of this is to relax, you silly boy.”
“I think I appreciate the intent, but I feel time running out, as if it was the tip of a blade approaching my neck. Why were you expecting me to ask about the Witch’s Cult? Tell me, Crusch.”
Crusch arches an eyebrow, and shakes her head slightly.
“Because of Emilia, of course.”
“What does she have to do with the Witch’s Cult?”
Crusch turns to you.
“Are you aware of the Witch’s Cult purpose?”
“I’ve heard it involves worshipping witches.”
“It’s much more than that. The Witch’s Cult is the only organized group that worships witches, but that doesn’t make it only a religious group. It also has political power in several places in Lugunica.”
“Okay, what are they planning?”
“They wish to resurrect Satella.”
Crusch nods, her eyes narrowing.
“Yes. They wish to resurrect Satella, possibly to destroy the world again. Maybe for different reasons, but the result would be the same. And the resurrection of the restless spirit of a witch needs a vessel.”
“Yes. A body that the spirit can inhabit to be brought back into the realm of the living.”
“Emilia is a prime candidate for this. They need a silver-haired half-elf. The closer the vessel’s physical form to the deceased, the higher the chances of success. And the vessel also needs to possess significant magical powers to withstand the process. I’m afraid that merely for this reason, Emilia’s existence is a threat to everyone.”
You feel annoyed at her last comment.
“But why now?”. You think for a second. “Wait, because she showed herself as a royal candidate?”
“Yes. Because she showed herself as a royal candidate.”
You stutter as you try to put your words together.
“But Roswaal… How come he didn’t predict this?”
“Then why would he…?”
“You’d have an easier time attempting to understand the movements of the heavens than that clown’s mind”, she seems to regret her words, and raises a hand. “I apologize. Some call him an eccentric, but the proper words are dangerous and unpredictable. You never know what he’s up to.”
You stare at the pond as you try to think through this information.
“How come he didn’t defend the mansion from the attack?”
Crusch turns to you.
“Attack? Has his mansion been assaulted by the cult?”
“Ah… Not exactly. Listen, Crusch, is anybody in this world of yours able to travel back in time? Is that a thing that happens?”
“I fail to see how this…”
“Just answer the question. It’s important.”
Crusch goes quiet for a few seconds, before shaking her head.
“No. No one can travel through time. Why do you ask?”
You stare at the beautiful duchess for a few seconds, and then you force a smile.
“Maybe we can get some more sleep out of this night.”
The next morning you wait for Rem in the mansion’s entrance, and when you see her approaching, smiling at you and waving her hand, you contain yourself from dropping to your knees. You blink away the tears surging in your eyes. As Rem gets close, she can tell that something is wrong, and she tightens her brow.
“What is it, Subaru? Has something happened?”
“Something will. I informed Crusch’s staff that we need to meet officially with the duchess as well as the most trusted of her crew.”
You can’t take it anymore, and you hug Rem tightly. You take her smell in, and feel her surprisingly small body against yours. Rem hugs back as she caresses your head.
“Tell me, Subaru”, she asks with a kind, soft voice.
“Tell you what, Rem?”
“Tell me what’s wrong, Subaru. It’s obvious something is.”
You slowly let go of her, and smile at her as you wipe your eyes.
“I know I’m not employed by your lord anymore, but during the official meeting, you will stand by my side, right?”
Rem nods at this, still confused about your behavior.
“Okay. I’m sorry for worrying you, Rem.”
You wait around until the time to meet comes. Rem is sitting next to you, attempting to make small talk while disguising her worry. You’re then approached by a few guards, as well as Crusch, who is dressed up in her military uniform.
“Ah, there you are. Everyone’s gathering in the war room.”
“Right, let’s go then.”
The guards stand outside of the room, which seems more secure than others in the mansion. Wilhelm is standing near the empty armchair where his lady will sit. Wilhelm looks as stern and generally menacing as always, and he doesn’t keep his hand far from his sheathed sword. Ferris is leaning against a table. She seems bored. You take your own seat, and Rem reaches over to hold your hand. You give hers a light squeeze as you wait for everyone to be seated. After Crusch, looking imposing with her military demeanour, gets comfortable, she turns a palm to the ceiling.
“I’m a bit surprised about this request, Mr. Natsuki. It seemed as if we had no trouble speaking to each other informally.”
“Well, apologies about that, but I thought being formal would be the best way to go about this.”
“And the subject is?”
You breathe deeply.
“In around two days, the Witch’s Cult is going to attack lord Roswaal Mathers’ mansion. His two servants are going to get murdered, as well as the royal candidate Emilia.”
This gets the attention of everyone in the room.
“Please, ensure their safety. You know what the Witch’s Cult is after, but you don’t know the extent of the damage they are going to cause. Please. Ensure their safety.”
From the corner of your eye you notice that Rem stares at you with a mix of surprise and confusion. The room is silent for a moment as Crusch thinks about what you said. She opens her mouth to speak.
“Mr. Natsuki, it seems that last night I scared you out of your wits.”
“The Royal Army has been trained to fight wars and combat factions that threaten the kingdom… and even then we only do so when absolutely necessary.”
“You mean that fighting the cult isn’t necessary…?”
Crusch takes air through her teeth for a moment, and briefly looks to the side.
“Mr. Natsuki, last night you barely knew anything about the Witch’s Cult. Today you tell me that you know for sure they are going to attack a certain place in two days.”
“Yes, but what does th-“
Crusch interrupts you by raising her hand, and you stop.
“Let me finish. In light of recent events it is wise to prepare for an attack, and you can be sure that we are. However, it seems you are trying to get us to mobilize forces into Roswaal’s domain”, Crusch says.
“Of course, to stop the attack!”
“Mr. Natsuki, with all due respect, the Witch’s Cult attacks, they cause terror, then they run away and hide again. Chasing them would be most unwise. We need some degree of certainty of where they are going to hit and when, and it requires far more solid information than what you are offering, which, I’m afraid, is nothing.”
You are silent for a moment, not knowing how to respond. Then, you think of something to say.
“What if I tell you that I know with a hundred percent certainty that the attack is going to happen, and when?”
“…I’d say you have some very solid information that I would like to know how you got. So please, tell me.”
The atmosphere becomes tense as you realize the importance of what you’re about to say next.
You press your hands against your lap to stop them from shaking.
“This won’t be easy. Miss Karsten, I’ve already died before.”
Crusch frowns and slightly opens her mouth. Ferris breaks the silence by laughing.
“And you are serious, aren’t you!”
“Yes… I think you know I’ve come from a different place than this one. Somehow, I don’t know why, well, I’ve gained the ability to live through events to come.”
Crusch nods slowly without loosening her brow.
“You have some knowledge of the future then.”
“I know that we face not only the death of people at Roswaal’s domain, but the end. As in an Apocalypse.”
Ferris steps forward, and somehow manages to sound both teasing and offended.
“What did you say at the royal summons, back at the palace? I heard you say it loudly. I liked it so much that I memorized it. You said, ‘I’ve journeys through dimensions beyond comprehension, fought monsters with powers that could destroy entire worlds, unleashed the power of the gods themselves’.”
“Oh, shit…”, you mutter.
“You see? You even say such things! Why would you lie about something so stupid?”
“Ferris, please”, Crusch says, raising her palm towards her healer. Ferris bows and steps back.
“I know how it sounds”, you say with a wavering voice.
“I don’t think you do, Subaru”, Crusch says. “I admit I am fond of you. I’m sorry I put these fears in your mind last night. You do need to fear the Witch’s Cult, but, rest assured, they aren’t going to hit your lord’s, or former lord’s, domain. We’d be able to tell through certain activity.”
You look at Rem’s face as a reflex. She keeps holding your hand, but she looks at you with overt concern. Dismayed, you sit back in your armchair and close your eyes.
“I should have known this wasn’t going to work.”
“I think you need another type of healer, Subaru. One for your brain”, Ferris says in a sharp tone you hadn’t heard before.
“I’m fine”, you say, and stand up. “You’re absolutely right, though. I need to be back home. I’m sorry to have worried you.”
You walk towards the door, but then you feel a hand on your shoulder. You turn around to see it’s Rem touching you. Her eyes show nothing but kindness, but her fingers squeeze your shoulder a bit harder than usual. It isn’t a threatening gesture, just one that shows she really wants you to stay.
You look back at the rest of them. They all return your gaze with various expressions. Ferris looks angry, sure, but also a bit sad. Crusch seems carefully neutral. Rem continues to stare at you with pleading eyes and a gentle grip on your shoulder.
You turn to Crusch. You smile and bow towards her.
“You are great, Crusch Karsten. I truly mean it. You would make a tremendous king, or queen, or whatever you call it. That much is obvious.”
Crusch nods at you.
“Go on ahead, then. No need to waste your time here.”
“Do you want us to accompany you home?” Ferris asks in a cold tone.
“No, I’ll be fine.” You say waving your hand as you leave the mansion with Rem by your side.
The moment you step outside, the quietness of the city hits you like a brick. After you are far enough from the mansion, you force a smile towards Rem.
“I’m sorry about back there. Maybe I truly am much stupider than I think, or possibly insane.”
“Oh, nah. You’re just tired”, she smiles and shrugs while closing her eyes. You want to squeeze her tight. “How about we search for an inn to stay at?”
“I’d love to say ‘yeah, let’s do that’, but we can’t, Rem. In two days, the Witch’s Cult is truly going to kill everybody at Roswaal’s mansion.”
“Subaru…”, she begins to say softly.
“Where is your dragon carriage, Rem?”
“We parked it not too far from here.”
“Let’s go then.”
Rem nods and takes your hand. The walk is silent other than the sound of your footstep and the occasional cricket chirps. Your heart is beating faster than it ever has before, and you’re having trouble breathing normally. You concentrate on the warm feeling of Rem’s hand on yours.
“Let’s put it this way, Rem”, you say as you steel your voice. “We’ll just go back to the mansion. Maybe they’ll all be fine and no attack will happen. Better safe than sorry, right?”
Rem thinks for a second.
“Roswaal ordered me to fulfill certain tasks in the capital, but I can tell you are serious. If you truly want to go back to the lord’s mansion, whether because you truly believe that they are in danger or not, let’s go.”
“Exactly. And when we get there, we’ll see that everything is peaceful and quiet. Then I’ll apologize for making you come all this way for nothing.”
“Yes, of course. What are you going to say to Emilia, though? I had never seen her that mad. I’m sure what you did wasn’t so bad, but…”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Rem sighs and stops. She cups your cheek with her hand. Her blue eyes pierce into yours.
“Whatever happens, I’m behind you. A true man does not run away from his responsibilities.”
You smile and kiss her on the forehead. She turns red.
“W-Well, we better get to the carriage soon if haste is necessary.”
“You are way softer than what I would expect from a demon, Rem.”
You straighten your back and hold Rem’s hand closer to your chest as you walk, trying to mimic the posture of a proud warrior. You have some trouble with the steps, but you don’t stumble. You know you both are needed at the mansion, even if you have no clue how you could stop the attack. But you know that not long ago you would have fled, even from those you cared about. That’s all you had ever done, flee from everything that truly mattered to you.
Some observations regarding GPT-3’s behavior.
-I wanted to introduce the protagonist’s future friend Otto Suwen, the merchant, as soon as possible in that scene, but him believing that Subaru had something on his throat, and therefore Otto should put his fingers in his mouth, is 100% GPT-3.
-The crystal stone that Otto shows to Subaru was made up by GPT-3.
-GPT-3 also produced the guard that approaches the protagonist when his luggage gets stolen. Funny that instead of intending to pursue a theft, this guard wanted to arrest the protagonist for complaining about it.
-The protagonist’s body’s failing only to fall to the ground and then have some children and their mother bothering him is also almost verbatim produced by GPT-3’s sense of irony.
-Otto’s line ‘Would you like to buy a beverage? I have some with me, though I’d prefer to keep them. They’re very expensive.’ is verbatim from GPT-3.
-Otto having two carriages is 100% GPT-3. In the original light novel/anime Otto is so down on his luck that he can barely keep one, but the thought of having a single carriage full of alcohol that he doesn’t seem to use is too funny.
-The line ‘Tell you what then, if you take me to his mansion now, I’ll mention to him that you helped me and how loyal you are to his cause, and I’m sure he’ll give you a handsome reward.’ regarding Subaru presenting Otto to the lord Roswaal is verbatim from GPT-3, which is strange. In the original Subaru offers something virtually identical, and GPT-3 somehow has figured out the same solution by itself. Black magic.
-I wanted to explore a bit regarding what GPT-3 could come up with when the cultists surround the protagonist. In the original they end up doing almost exactly what you can read up there, but GPT-3 consistently made the cultists gang up on the protagonist and stab him to death. Fair enough, I guess.
-When the protagonist reaches the burning village, GPT-3 tried twice to have guards and villagers still fighting with the cultists. I think the cultists are a bit too powerful for that, although it would have been an interesting route to follow.
-GPT-3 also made Ram to be the first corpse the protagonist found. I wonder if it’s related to Puck having mentioned before that Ram was dead. She wasn’t decapitated, though; I had to alter that in.
-GPT-3 made someone approach the protagonist at that moment, but it was Emilia, not Beatrice. Emilia would have been an interesting alternative for a scene (in the original the protagonist and Emilia don’t meet again for a good while), but Emilia needs to be dead to present the icy Apocalypse, so that couldn’t do.
-Beatrice’s lines about feeling some sorrow are 100% GPT-3. The AI seems to have gotten right Beatrice’s reluctance to connect with anybody, as well as her surprise when she does end up caring against her will.
-In the original, the protagonist finds Rem dead in the grounds of the mansion, but GPT-3 made Beatrice say that she had seen the demon servant dead. I ran with it.
-The following sentences, ‘Beatrice closes her eyes for a brief moment and opens them slowly. She turns to you and looks at your eyes. You look back at her. “The ice will consume this world, and it will end. Just like four hundred years ago.” “Four… Hund…”‘, are one of the biggest surprises I’ve gotten with GPT-3’s understanding. How do you go from Beatrice referring to something having been triggered, to an AI understanding the correlation of Emilia dying to Puck triggering the end of the world? It truly seems like magic. Beatrice reference to the world having ended in an icy death four hundred years ago is incorrect; Satella had spread her “shadow”, consuming half of the world. But I am too impressed with not only GPT-3 figuring out the trigger, but that something so big had happened before four hundred years ago, which I believe was only mentioned in dialogue by other characters before.
-In the original, the protagonist goes down a corridor that gets progressively colder, and then he gets transformed into ice. In this version I just prompted that the corridor breathed an icy coldness, and GPT-3 made up that the cold was so terrible as to make the protagonist fall incapacitated for it! It’s uncanny.
-This is the first time in this strange AI-fueled fanfiction thing I’m doing that Subaru dies. Obviously Subaru is cursed to go back in time whenever he dies. But in this version, Subaru was too busy getting injured by Wilhelm’s deranged training to go out and shop with Rem, so he returns to the mansion instead.
-I’ve always thought that Crusch was an underused character in the original. This version of Crusch feels more mature, and she’s so clear-headed and pragmatic, yet subtly containing pain, that I want to have her around much more often. Best girl so far for me. Plenty of it was made up by GPT-3 as well, which has a good handle on how Crusch would speak, and the stuff she would want to speak about.
-I did prompt for Crusch to suggest wine for the occasion, but the dynamic way they drink wine throughout the scene is GPT-3’s doing.
-Crusch having an older brother and the guy dying at the hands of the Witch’s Cult is made up by GPT-3. It felt like a perfect motivation for someone like Crusch, which adds that subtle fire burning inside of her at all times.
-Crusch going on about how they failed previously to defeat some strongholds is made up by GPT-3. I had to alter some details, though.
-The sentences ‘Crusch Karsten, one of the most powerful women in the kingdom, if not the most, is sitting next to you and crying her eyes out. You don’t know how to respond to this: you want to comfort her, but at the same time you’re afraid that any gesture of kindness will be thrown back in your face.’ are verbatim from GPT-3.
-That whole thing about Crusch interrupting the talk to go for a walk, and the place they get to, and the way she describes the surroundings in order to relax, up to when I prompted for the protagonist to interrupt, is almost verbatim from GPT-3.
-Crusch getting suspicious of how the protagonist claims to have 100% certainty of where the Witch’s Cult is going to hit is something that happens in the original, and GPT-3 made it up here.
-Ferris getting annoyed at the protagonist seemingly going chuunibyou on them and then bringing up the wild lies he told in the royal palace is a nice moment of narrative weaving, I think, even though I prompted it myself. Those lies were made up verbatim by GPT-3 back then, but it makes sense that in the present they would prevent others from believing him.
-Ferris’ words ‘You see? You even say such things! Why would you lie about something so stupid?’ are verbatim from GPT-3.
-Crusch’s curiously bitter parting words, ‘Go on ahead, then. No need to waste your time here’, are verbatim from GPT-3.
-The protagonist’s words regarding getting to the mansion, ‘Exactly. And when we get there, we’ll see that everything is peaceful and quiet. Then I’ll apologize for making you come all this way for nothing’, are verbatim from GPT-3.
-A big surprise regarding GPT-3’s brain: during the meeting with Crusch’s at the war room, GPT-3 twice made a certain Reinhardt to be there. Reinhardt is a major player in the original Re:Zero, but there’s no mention of him in this thing I’m doing. None whatsoever. So I figured that it’s not that rare of a name in a fantasy setting, so it must have been a coincidence. Then GPT-3 made Crusch mention Kararagi, and there’s no ambiguity there: in the original, Kararagi is a neighboring country to Lugunica. I wasn’t sure, so I had to look it up, and I never mentioned it in this version I’m doing. So the only explanation is that GPT-3’s training model back at Microsoft or whatever cloud they keep it uses data from the original Re:Zero series for its training model.