This part barely advanced the story, but I had so much fun, which is what counts as far as I’m concerned. Given that the mess with the time travel mechanic had exploded all over the narrative, I was worrying about having to keep track of stuff, but I reminded myself that I’m on this shit for the joy of it.
I’m getting a good feel of the cutting-edge AI that does this cutting-edge language stuff. Sometimes it comes up with such non-sequitors or out of place suggestions (although, curiously, I can’t think of any big example now), but others times, GPT-3 is so spot on that I don’t think I would have gotten better flow if I had rewritten it a hundred times.
I no longer know whether the characters should address the protagonist as Natsuki or as Subaru. And I don’t care. I want a body pillow of this version of Rem.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
You return to your senses as if you fell from a distance only to stop suddenly, but when your hands grasp the first thing they can, you recognize the texture of sheets. Familiar sheets, those belonging to the bed that Crusch had let you sleep in. You open your eyes, and in the moonlight that comes through the window you certify that you are back at Crusch’s mansion. You wait until your heartbeats return to normal as you control your breathing. You are back. It wasn’t a fluke, it wasn’t Beatrice’s doing. Maybe Petelgeuse was right, and this is a blessing. The power you thought you were owed when you were transported to this fantasy world. When you die, you return in time.
But something is different. Something changed in this death. When you fell through the darkness and saw those smoky arms grasping at you, you could concentrate on the feeling: it was a form of love you never truly experienced before. Towards Emilia, Rem, even Beatrice… and even Crusch. That love poured from the presence in that darkness as if water from a spring. When the being responsible for those arms grabbed you, it did not hurt. It felt warm. That’s when you knew she loved you. You still love her as well. In that moment, knowing that love, you could barely hear the words of displeasure from that presence, and your life was spared. That is why you are here, back at the mansion, alive and well in a bed where you lay your head. And now, after having experienced what was probably a miracle, you will do everything in your power to make it happen again.
Emilia and Rem will both die unless you do something. Your remaining alive was no miracle. It was the work of another, and that means it can be stopped and you can be killed. But you know what has to be done: if you want to stay alive, then the people you care about need to as well.
You wanted some taste of reality freed from the pain that had burst through your body during what seemed like a few minutes ago. You get out of your bedroom in the dark, and in the luxurious bathroom you splash my face. You don’t want to bother Crusch this time, nor confuse her with what she believes to be delusions.
The morning comes quickly enough. Contrary to previous times, you dress yourself up quick and find the shaded patio where you spoke with Crusch, to take a deep breath of Lugunica’s morning air. Turns out that Ferris and Crusch are enjoying their breakfast. Ferris sees you first, and you notice that she doesn’t seem too eager to see you. You can’t be surprised; she was very clear during the meeting at the war room that pretty much considers you a silly lunatic. Can’t blame her.
“Subaru,” she says, surprised to see you up so early.
Crusch looks up from her tea, her long green hair tied up to keep it out of her face, and smiles.
You smile widely. Even a little thing like being able to greet people you like seems to you like a treasure right now.
Crusch tilts her head slightly.
“Don’t you look animated today. Any interesting plans?”
“Then why the smile?”
You took a deep breath, trying to find the words to express yourself.
“I guess it’s because I’m happy to see you both.”
Ferris speaks in a teasing tone.
“Well, don’t get very used to it. This hour of the morning is us girls’ moment away from the pressures of governing and healing respectively. I don’t want a third wheel.”
You laugh at her antics, even if they are at your expense.
“Okay… I will leave you to it then.” You say, shuffling away.
“Don’t be mean, Ferris,” Crusch says, shifting her eyes towards Ferris. “He’s our guest.”
You had noticed that Wilhelm, dressed even from that early in the morning in his military uniform, was swinging his sword for practice near the pond that Crusch had made you walk to that one time. As you go through the yard, realizing that you are going to approach of your own volition someone as terrifying as that old man, your good mood erodes away. However, you do owe the man. You can tell that Wilhelm senses you approaching him, although he doesn’t turn.
“I don’t wish to interrupt your training, sir Wilhelm”, you say cautiously, “and yet there won’t be many chances in this span of days to say what I want to say to you.”
Wilhelm stops his training for a second and a half, something noticeable in someone so precise as Old Man Wilhelm.
“I’m listening”, he says, turning to look at you but not approaching.
You take a deep breath.
Old Man Wilhelm squints his eyes, realizing that you aren’t finished with what you have to say.
“… For what?”
“For rescuing me and giving me a chance.”
Wilhelm tightens his lips a little.
“I didn’t rescue you. You are still a puppy drowning in a puddle.”
“It’s a very big puddle. Yes, I haven’t turned into a legendary warrior, or even a competent fighter, or anyone who would be able to threaten most children, probably, but I realized that I have the strength to face a dagger flying towards me and still react in a different way than peeing my pants. I know now that either I win or I am going to lose.”
You would have liked to see the ghost of a smirk in Wilhelm’s face, but it seems as if not even a harem full of cat girls would raise this guy’s mood.
“You finally have learned to stop pissing your pants. That’s progress.”
“I know that if I’m weak, if I stall to savor my pain, people I care about are going to suffer for it. And those’s lives are worth more than mine.”
“What about your own life, then?
You are a bit taken back by the question.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you just said your life is not as important as others’. Do you really believe that?”
You reflexively want to say yes, but the words don’t come out.
“I… I suppose it isn’t.”
Old Man Wilhelm stares at you gravely, although he doesn’t stop swinging his sword for practice.
“So are you ready to be a warrior?”
You swallow. He is not asking about your physical preparation, but rather your mental one.
“I… I think so.”
“Mr. Natsuki, I see you believe you have glanced a vital truth of this world, and you feel it filling one of the irregularly shaped holes in your heart. Is that right?”
You reflexively touch your chest when you remember Rem’s gentle hands.
“I… I guess.”
The ghost of a smile touches Old Man Wilhem’s lips.
“Let us begin, Natsuki Subaru.”
You take a step backwards as Wilhelm somehow produces two wooden swords.
“Well, to be honest I had plenty of other stuff to do this morning.”
He rushes at you, and deflects his sword to the side. He brings his knee up to your stomach and you fall to the ground.
He drops his wooden sword, and holds his hand out for you. He pulls you up to your feet.
“If you wish to live, Natsuki Subaru, you must forget about pointless things like half-assing everything in your life.”
You nod, and grab your practice sword.
“Alright, but I’m not going to go easy on you.”
He nods, and the two of you begin.
Rem finds you as Ferris is healing your bruises and some open wounds. You are curious about what kinds of plans keep Rem coming and going from Crusch’s mansion, but you don’t really want to pry into her affairs. You are just happy that you can see that warm smile again, a smile directed as you, as if you deserved it. Suddenly you want to get rid of the otherwise sexy cat girl who is healing you, although she hasn’t finished.
Ferris doesn’t take well your glance over to her, and she shuts the healing magic that was coming from her palms. She stands up from the sofa.
“I see that Subaru would rather suffer some bruises than keep you waiting, miss Rem. Take that as you will.”
Rem closes her eyes cheerfully towards Ferris.
“Oh, I am not worried. I trust Subaru knows how I feel.”
After Ferris prances to another room, you stand up from the sofa and think about the conversation you’re going to have with Rem. You feel your face warming, and it’s hard for you to separate what you lived with her in the last two days of your previous life from the girl who is standing in front of you.
“Rem, we need to have a strategy meeting of sorts, just the two of us. Okay? Shall we take a walk?”
She stares at you blankly for a moment. Then, she smiles, nods, and the pair of you head outside the mansion. You begin walking around the block, strolling slowly as the two of you converse.
“I have so much to say, Rem, and frankly, it’s already hard for me to remember what I’ve said, when, or when I have to say again, and track what everybody knows right now. I don’t have the brain to handle all that.”
You catch Rem for a moment frowning her nose as her gaze slips from you. You stop in your tracks.
“Ah, well, I must smell a bit bad after training, huh? I spent most of that time on the dirt.”
You stare at her for a moment, as she stares back.
A sigh escapes your lips, and you continue speaking.
“But yeah, the thing is, I’m gonna have to repeat myself. A lot. Well, not really, but if I plan on doing this right then I need to know if I’ve explained things before at all or plan on explaining them in the future, so I don’t contradict myself.”
“I don’t think I understand anything you are saying, Subaru…”
You wave your hands frantically as you reply quickly.
“Oh no, don’t worry about it, I’m not saying any of this for you. It’s just I have to keep track of it all in my head so I can avoid contradictions and timeline errors and what have you, so I’m just trying to jot down notes to remind myself for future references.”
Rem tilts her head, giving a confused look as she stares at you.
You sigh. You stop some distance away from a line of fruit stands, you turn to Rem and place your hands on her shoulders. She opens her mouth slightly.
“Listen, Rem. This is going to be a mess. I’m going to fuck up. A lot. But we’re in this together, because I need your help… And you need mine.”
“We’re going to break the cycle, together.”
Rem arches an eyebrow as she speaks gently, but with doubt.
“The cycle of what?”
“The cycle of me having to repeat everything.”
Rem puts a hand on her hip, snarling as she does so.
“I don’t understand what you mean by that.”
You shake your head, and take a deep breath before speaking again.
“My dearest Rem, my very appreciated demon servant with such a cute face I could just begin making weird noises and rolling around on the ground, I must tell you a truth of this fantasy world of yours: I can travel back in time whenever I die.”
You take a deep breath, and continue.
“That’s why you’ll keep meeting me again and again, even if we just met yesterday. It will be today, yesterday, tomorrow and the day after that. Over and over until I get this right.”
Rem looks at you with her head tilted and frowns. She seems confused. You are too, to be honest. But as the saying goes, if you don’t solve the problem, it’ll never be solved.
“The point is that I know certain facts: in around two days, the Witch’s Cult is going to assault lord Roswaal’s mansion, and everybody in it is going to die. Because that everybody includes Emilia, who is those damn cultists’ main target, that lowlife Puck is going to trigger the Apocalypse. You get where I’m coming from?”
Rem puts a hand on her chin and nods, agreeing with you.
“… So we have to save Emilia. Then, we need to make sure the rest of the people at the mansion are fine as well.”
“We could start with Ram, though.”
“We could also do that.”
“She is the head maid, after all. The one who would know if the other servants are slacking off in their work.”
“You’re absolutely right, Rem.”
“Do you want to go immediately?”
You wish to grab Rem’s hand and just jump through the flowered fields towards that clown bastard’s mansion, probably as you and Rem chant some song, but you know how that story ends.
“I’m afraid we need support. As in people with guns… I mean, swords, magic and shit like that. A big ton of those kinds of people who can do murder for us.”
She grabs her chin and looks to the side to think.
“Well, maybe Crusch is up for it.”
You shake your head.
“Sorry. Listen, Crusch Karsten is a fantastic lady, but in reality she’s a temporary ally until we get Emilia to safety. They are opponents in the race for the throne. Also, I can’t see her being willing to sacrifice her own people for what she will consider a delusional kid telling wild lies to her militarily raised, firm ass.”
“Let me think about it… You said that you can travel back in time.”
“I might have actually said that, yes.”
“So you know that asking Crusch for support won’t help because it didn’t. Is that the gist of it?”
“Yes, I suppose that… Wait. What are you thinking?”
She points to her own eyes, then points to yours.
“We re-enact what happened!”
You can only admire her enthusiasm and unconditional support. In truth, though, you could also grab her, carry her to an inn, get together under the sheets and not see the light of the sun for a few months. Can’t do that, though.
“Rem, Remi, Rem. I told you it won’t work! It’s like a Sisyphean thing.”
“Don’t know what that means…”
“You figure that I should just word my proposal differently?”
“No, dummy. Haven’t you learned anything new from your last life, something that could possibly convince Crusch to help?”
“Dummy… That word sounds so precious coming from your lips.”
Rem blushes, and pokes your chest.
You smile, and start thinking.
“Oh shit, I did meet that crazy fucker. I know his name. Maybe that rings a bell for the duchess?”
To avoid getting Crusch all military-like, you asked her staff for her whereabouts. Turns out that Crusch was having a meeting with some guy from the merchant guild or some shit like that. They told us the location, and after we informed her guards, Crusch agreed to meet us for a while in a downtown restaurant. I doubt Crusch considered the size of our wallets when she chose the place, though.
Crusch came with Wilhelm, and she seemed in a reasonably good mood, although by her admission tired from dealing with merchants.
“Crusch, I’m glad to see you’re well”, you say.
“Yes, I’m fine. Didn’t change much from a few hours ago.”
You and Rem eat from a meal that shouldn’t be served to bums like you, but Crusch seems willing to pay. A fancily dressed waitress talks to Wilhelm casually.
“Hey Wilhelm, what do you think of the flavor?”
“Tell me, does it remind you of the flavor of the food you ate when you were still in the knight order? I’m asking since I tried to make it taste like what was served in the old days.”
“Well then, perhaps it’s just as good as what we had.”
The main course arrives. The food must have influenced Crusch’s mood enough to consider your wild words.
“Duchess Crusch, does the name Petelgeuse, associated with a certain Witch’s Cult, ring any bell in that pretty head of yours?”
Crusch stops her loaded fork midway through, and narrows her eyes at you.
“I’m not sure”, she answers. “Why don’t we talk about your hobbies rather than the Witch’s Cult?”
“I do not have any hobbies.”
“Everyone has a hobby.”
“My hobby is to ask about this Petelgeuse guy. C’mon, Crusch. Anything.”
“If you want to tell me your hobby, then just tell me. If not, then don’t.”
You stare into her eyes for a while, before sighing. You don’t want a playful Crusch right at this moment. It does make her hotter, though.
“…My hobby is trying to make the impossible possible”, you say.
“Yeah. Something that shouldn’t happen, but turns out to be true despite all odds. For example, making you talk about this Petelgeuse prick.”
“Ah… I thought you were going to tell me about your hobby.”
“Well, you didn’t answer. Do you know him or not?”
“I wasn’t aware that I was under investigation”, she says with a smirk, as she continues eating.
You furrow your brows at her, before shoving another spoonful of beans into your face.
You notice Wilhelm’s piercing stare on your sensitive skin.
“The madman’s name is Petelgeuse. You have such a fetish for him.”
You rest your forearms on the table for a moment, and then you lift your face again.
“So you actually had heard about Petelgeuse, Wilhelm?”
“I have. I was assigned to assassinate him about a decade ago. There was a peasant uprising, and the king sent several of us to take care of it. We were successful, but not before he had destroyed half of the rebel’s camp with some hellish magic.”
“You must work under a very generous definition of the world ‘successful’.”
Wilhelm widens his nostrils.
“Meaning that Petelgeuse is one of the big guys leading the Witch’s Cult. Maybe the man at the top. Did you know that?”
“The Witch’s Cult is a bunch of heretics that shouldn’t exist, let alone have any influence.”
You chuckle nervously, and contain a sigh.
“I don’t want more information about the Witch’s Cult, though, or at least just the information that pertains to you people finding the connection between this Petelgeuse fuck and the Witch’s Cult interesting.”
“What happened to you?”
After a brief silence, you clear your throat. When you look over to Crusch, who had asked the question, you see that her expression has soured, and she seems about to reproach you something.
“I consider a major faux pas addressing the existence of the cult in any setting that doesn’t provide barf bags at hand.”
“I didn’t mean to ruin your meal, Crusch. Maybe I should have gone for a formal meeting again… In any case, I want to ask you this formally. If you had the chance to kill Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti, would you?”
“That’s a silly question.”
“Does a bear shit in the woods? Of course I would kill that cultist fuck. He and his kind caused… They did major damage to me.”
“Well, I know that the Witch’s Cult is going to attack a certain place, and during a relatively flexible span of time.”
“A place? What place?”
You clear your throat.
Crusch furrows her brow.
“That doesn’t sound good. You sure about that?”
“Pretty sure, yeah.”
“About a hundred percent, more or less.”
“I don’t even want to say this, truly, but is this one of those things you saw or did in another dimension?”
You stutter for a moment, and look over to Rem for support. She smiles at you sweetly, but doesn’t seem too eager to do anything else.
“Miss Rem, can you attest that the information that Natsuki Subaru has regarding an attack on Roswaal’s mansion by the Witch’s Cult is accurate?”, Crusch asks.
“Honestly, no”, she says with an understanding tone.
You close your eyes tight for a moment.
“I trust that what Subaru says will happen will happen”, Rem adds.
“Because he says so”, says Crusch.
Crusch takes a deep breath, rubbing her forehead with her hand.
“Mr. Natsuki, with all due respect…”
“Aw, shit”, you say.
“We need some degree of certainty of where they are going to hit and when…”
“And I’m me. I know.”
You quickly wolf down the rest of the food, and begin to stand up. Crusch and Wilhelm are a bit surprised by your haste. Crusch’s face suggests she worries about whether she’s hurt you in any way.
As Rem stands next to you, her hand’s warm skin touching yours, you address the duchess.
“Miss Karsten, I think the man who will eventually marry you, who will for sure be a noble of some kind, is going to be so lucky, but he will have no clue. And yet I feel that I cannot ever make you understand that when I say that something is going to happen because I have already lived it in the future, it’s because that’s exactly the case.”
You pat her on the shoulder, which seems to surprise her, and it mixes with the confusion on her face.
You make your way to the door, and you look over your shoulder.
“We’ll never be back in this place. I can’t afford it.”
Rem tugs at your sleeve and suggests you should go.
Some observations regarding GPT-3’s behavior on this part.
-Most of this paragraph, ‘But something is different. Something changed in this death. When you fell through the darkness and saw those smoky arms grasping at you, you could concentrate on the feeling: it was a form of love you never truly experienced before. Towards Emilia, Rem, even Beatrice… and even Crusch. That love poured from the presence in that darkness as if water from a spring. When the being responsible for those arms grabbed you, it did not hurt. It felt warm. That’s when you knew she loved you. You still love her as well. In that moment, knowing that love, you could barely hear the words of displeasure from that presence, and your life was spared. That is why you are here, back at the mansion, alive and well in a bed where you lay your head. And now, after having experienced what was probably a miracle, you will do everything in your power to make it happen again’, came almost verbatim from GPT-3. I was mesmerized watching it unfold.
-Regarding the main scene with Wilhelm, GPT-3 was making him be far nicer than he turned out to be in this version. Wilhelm suggesting that the protagonist maybe should care as well for his own life was GPT-3’s idea, and took me as well as the protagonist by surprise. GPT-3 also had the bright idea of forcing the start of a training session on the protagonist. I was going to close the scene right before that.
-I love the zany conversation between the protagonist and Rem. I prompted the protagonist’s initial confusing attempt to explain his time travel abilities, but every one of his confusing, yet completely reasonable, following utterances on that topic were almost verbatim from GPT-3, even including the manic tone.
-Rem’s line ‘She is the head maid, after all. The one who would know if the other servants are slacking off in their work’, was verbatim from GPT-3. I like how charmingly superfluous it is. It seems that me referring to Ram as senior servant paid off as well as GPT-3’s understanding is concerned.
-Natsuki forgetting who Crusch is was GPT-3’s suggestion. To be fair, GPT-3 does confuse names relatively often. One would think that it would be the easiest thing for an AI to associate.
-I prompted a few times for GPT-3 to create some fancy description and/or flow for the restaurant scene’s setting, but the AI refused.
-That random conversation regarding the food, with Wilhelm as the hardly willing participant, was almost verbatim from GPT-3, although the AI didn’t say who was talking to him.
-The whole deal about Crusch demanding to know about hobbies was GPT-3’s thing. To be honest, I had no clue whether Crusch knew about Petelgeuse or not. Just went with the flow.
-Although I did prompt Wilhelm to suggest he does know Petelgeuse, in order for that scene not to be a complete waste, that war story was GPT-3’s thing. It does fit, though; Wilhelm is the person that the kingdom would have sent to a war zone in an assassination mission.
-I prompted Crusch to be sour regarding the protagonist bringing up bad memories. Her brother had been killed by cultists, as GPT-3 came up with in some previous part. If she just kept being silly, it would have fucked with her characterization.