Roleplaying through “Re:Zero” with the GPT-3 story generator (Part 44)

This entry covers part of the tenth volume of the original “Re:Zero” novels.

In the previous entry we met tigerman himself, strongest man in the damn world. We also came across Ram, who is as dutiful and competent as she’s a complete bitch. She also mentions that Emilia is trapped in Sanctuary or something.

GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.

The two-story house that is the closest thing to a normal village abode in Sanctuary, of those you’ve seen so far anyway, belongs to someone named Ryuzu. This Ryuzu person, however, hasn’t made an appearance yet. You all sit around a wooden table in a cozy living room where you can smell the dried meats and hanging vegetables from the kitchen next door. Ram, dutiful servant that she is even away from home, has prepared tea for everybody. Emilia, sitting next to you, looks more worried than anyone, but nobody could blame her when she’s been told that she’s trapped in the village.

Ram finally sits down, takes a sip of her tea and goes straight into the main issue.

“The magical barrier set up hundreds of years ago prevents half-humans from leaving. I suppose that the original intent was to protect people with mixed blood from persecution, particularly during those times in the past when wars were waged between humans and demi-humans. However, the barrier has never been lifted, and as a result generations of half-beasts and half-humans of other types have been born and have died inside Sanctuary without ever seeing the outside world. As things stand now, lady Emilia, you cannot leave either.”

The half-elf stares at Ram in dismay, failing to find any words. You rub your eyes.

“You know, Ram, although I’m about to reprimand you, I understand that this is Roswaal’s doing. However, you are his representative at the moment, so I’ll say it to you: you should have told the other members of the household, particularly Emilia, that if she came to this secret town she wouldn’t be able to leave it.”

Ram glares at you. She doesn’t need to repeat another variety of ‘I’ll do whatever I want whenever I want’ for you to understand her expression. However, you doubt she could deny your point.

“For lady Emilia to leave,” Ram goes on with a steely voice, this time looking at the half-elf, “the barrier will need to be lifted. There seems to be a single way of achieving that: passing the trials set up at the witches’ tomb.”

You turn your head towards Garfiel. The guy is snacking on some homemade cookies, and he either doesn’t seem to notice the amount of crumbs that have fallen on his lap, or he doesn’t care. The punk seems completely unconcerned about this barrier business, but you figure that he doesn’t know anything else than Sanctuary. The outside world might as well be a myth for him.

“Garfiel, you mentioning this witches’ tomb was one of the first things you said to me, right before you hurled me through the air proficiently enough to break world records. How does that tomb relate to witches exactly, and what witches are we talking about?”

“Them witches, everybody knows those! Witches of old, most powerful people before that Witch of Envy swallowed half of the world! It’s a tomb because people were buried there, it’s the witches’ tomb because them witches were buried there.”

“Are you telling me that Satella herself is buried in Sanctuary, in that very same tomb I entered?”, you ask with a thin voice.

Garfiel shoots you a look as if he wants to say something to you but he can’t, maybe because of your company.

“What are you talking about, Barusu?”, Ram says irritated, as if you are spouting nonsense again. “You cannot have entered the witches’ tomb, because otherwise you wouldn’t have survived the magical traps.”
Before you can answer, Garfiel clicks his tongue.

“Don’t want to correct ya of all people, Ram. Hurts my heart. But it just happens that this bastard entered that damn tomb. I saw him leavin’ it in one piece, before I grabbed him and tossed him.”

You aren’t used to that look of uncertainty in Ram’s face, nor do you like it. Your current circumstances seem more grim if Ram wavers. Both Ram and Garfiel are staring at you as if you should explain yourself.

“I don’t know what you expect me to tell you”, you say, and shrug. “I saw some ruins, I ventured into them, I fell unconscious in some chamber inside, and then I came back out.”

Ram frowns as she considers your words seriously for once.

“Why did you faint?”

“Dunno. I just suddenly felt like I was going to pass out, and I barely avoided hitting my head.”

Garfiel is shaking his head while snarling.

“Lyin’ bastard. I already told, all ya noble-born are a bunch of liars. Ya ain’t tellin’ about what ya saw between goin’ to sleep an’ wakin’ up.”

“Subaru isn’t noble-born, I assure you”, Ram says.

“Haah?”, Garfiel answers, taken aback.

“Regardless of my condition of birth,” you say, “please let’s go back to the suggestion that I’m withholding some information. I passed out and I don’t remember a single thing. It wasn’t like dreaming, that when you wake up and you get the sense that you’ve spent hours imagining some crazy shit. There was no sense that any time had passed. It was like waking up from an operation. I truly don’t remember shit, if anything happened at all.”

You would have expected Garfiel to accuse you again, but he holds your gaze almost with sympathy.

“Yer sure? I mean, it’s possible yer blockin’ it out or somethin’.”

“What would I be blocking? Some nightmare?”

“That chamber inside, the one with the pillars of light, that fancy floor an’ all, is where the trials take place. You were there, you fell asleep, and then the trial must have happened. But I can see in yer eyes you ain’t lyin’. If you went through the trial, it would show on yer face. I don’t think ya half-pint would keep that all inside.”

“It really doesn’t seem like Subaru, you know?”, Otto says. He sounds shy about contributing to the conversation. “I can’t see him keeping quiet about something like this, if it happened.”

“Shut it, ya peddler”, Garfiel says casually, then looks at you again. “Ya didn’t go through the trial, so somethin’ else must have happened. Somethin’ new. No clue what. And them traps were set up by number one witch herself, lady of Sanctuary. Dunno how you avoided gettin’ torn to pieces. Don’t like it one bit.”

You drink some more of your tea if only because it will give you a few seconds to think. Your head is already spinning, even though your group has barely begun to unravel this situation.

“Can any of you clarify for me, please, if the witches’ tomb truly holds the remains of the witches associated with the Apocalypse that everyone keeps referring to? And if so, how many of those witches?”

Garfiel shrugs dismissively.

“Them great witches were mentioned a lot in those fairy tales, and people here believe that all of them are buried in that tomb, but who knows? The trials are real though, and they were setup by the Witch of Greed, so Echidna is for sure restin’ there, if she’s even restin’ at all. Wouldn’t think so for what I’ve heard of the lady. About them other Witches of Sin, who knows, who cares.”

“And what do you know about the Witch of Envy, Garfiel? You reckon she might be actually rotting in that tomb?”

He frowns at you, but he chews and swallows part of a cookie before answering.

“Didn’t I say that I don’t care? It’s folk tales, lotsa stupid bedtime stories that mostly gran told us to scare us children into bein’ good. Truth is almost never as scary as people think, an’ those stories are ridiculous.”

Ram sighs deeply and speaks with a tone that suggests she doesn’t want to bother uttering the words.

“The Mathers family has been tending to Sanctuary for many generations, as you all should be well aware of. The witches’ tomb does indeed hold the remains of all the Witches of Sin. So Greed, Pride, Wrath, Gluttony, Sloth, Lust and, yes, even Envy herself, who drowned all the others.”

Even though you try to contain a shiver, you still tremble. For some reason, although facing Satella in the black space between your lives doesn’t bother you any longer, knowing that the remains of her body, and maybe even her restless spirit itself, are hanging out so close to your current location makes you want to jump on Patrasche’s back and ride away from here as fast as possible.

“Beatrice told me that those witches were too powerful even for death, and now they are all trapped in the same place, with the one who murdered the others no less. I don’t think I would wish such a fate on anybody.”

“Are you a fan of the witches of old, Barusu?”, Ram asks with a hint of disdain.

As you hold her red-eyed gaze, you want to make some joke to alleviate the mood, but you remember that being a fan of witches has caused terrible troubles in this world, and is usually incarnated in the Witch’s Cult’s attempts to return Satella to life. You clear your throat.

“I know that the Witch of Envy is as troublesome as they come, with the whole dissolving half of the world inside of her and all. I can’t say anything about the others. Satella killed them, so maybe they don’t like the looped witch any more than we do.”

Ram arches her eyebrows and looks away.

“I don’t think it matters whether they like her or not. They’re all stuck in her company, forever.”

You place a hand on your chin and sigh before speaking again.

“It doesn’t make any sense. Even if the Witch of Envy managed to drown the rest of the other witches, how did she drown herself as well?”

Garfiel laughs, then slaps the table next to his plate of cookies.

“Damn half-pint, didn’t ya even pay attention to the fairy tales? That old Satella got sealed by some group of heroes or another. The Five Corcomisants of Tullidor joined forces to vanquish evil and all. Damn old bitch didn’t drown herself! Foolish thing to say.”

“Can’t say I’ve paid much attention to fairy tales, nor to this group of Five Corcomisants of Tullidor or whatever you just said.”

“Nobody has heard of such a group, Barusu”, Ram says, then sighs. “I suggest you don’t listen closely to Garfiel’s words.”

“Hey now!”, Garfiel complains with some embarrassment, particularly you guess because it came from Ram. “Ya gotta listen if ya wanna learn somethin’! Wouldn’t spout stuff for no reason. We are all tryna figure things out here.”

“I’m sure. But we’re also wasting our energies discussing the background of the tomb, so can we please stop this topic?”

You nod silently. You don’t like that the three of you are monopolizing the conversation. When you look around, your gaze first falls on Otto, who looks back concerned. Even though Emilia healed his facial bruises, as well as the pain in your ribcage for that matter, his posture suggests he wants to be as small as possible so people, particularly one violent hick, won’t notice he’s there. When you look at Emilia, your blood goes cold. The half-elf is hunched over with her gaze fixed on the table. No, way beyond, because she isn’t focusing her eyes. She has paled, and her mouth has frozen depicting her desolation. The newly learned fact that she won’t be able to leave this secret town until these trials have passed must have sunk in, and you can’t even pretend that you understand how she’s feeling, because you aren’t half-human. Nothing would stop you, you guess, from leaving Sanctuary and returning to the mansion. But the half-elf needs a hundreds of years old barrier to be lifted.

“H-Hey,” you begin, and although you had been staring at Emilia without her noticing, you turn towards Garfiel. “Has anyone lifted the barrier in these last four hundred years or so?”

“Haah!? Didn’t ya see yer princess friend fall asleep for a while because she passed through the barrier? It’s there for sure! It was already protectin’ Sanctuary as far back as I can remember.”

Ram closes her eyes for a moment, then she addresses you with a voice drained of emotion.

“It’s not a physical barrier, Barusu. It cannot be forced open, nor literally grabbed and lifted so someone can pass under it. Lifting the barrier that prevents half-humans from leaving Sanctuary means breaking the spell, so making the barrier disappear. It has never been achieved.”

“One of the toughest jobs there must be, I reckon”, Garfiel adds solemnly. “Barrier was made by the lady herself, who knew everythin’. Every damn fact of the world, Echidna knew. Could tell you where to find some vossalios’ nest and what color were the eggs safe to eat. She told damn kings and queens whether they were actin’ like fools an’ all, even though Echidna wasn’t noble-born herself. Musta been some strikin’ lady.”

Ram sighs, then lowers her head.

“It seems she spent her last years researching how to live forever. In a way, she succeeded.”

“Haah!? Didn’t live forever at all, our lady!”, Garfiel says, both confused and amused. “She must be a skeleton now. Not a lotta life in some buried bones.”

Ram closes her eyes, holds her breath and clenches her teeth behind her tightened lips.

You had intended to rely on the past experiences of people who had dealt with lifting the barrier before, which must have happened quite a few times in four hundred years. However, the situation feels more grim now. Emilia has barely moved, and it seems that she hasn’t looked up once. It reminds you of yourself, but from when? You breath thickens as you realize it. You must have looked like that many lifetimes ago, back in your old world, when you were expected to return to your regular life, attending your high school classes, even though you couldn’t find the strength to even leave your bedroom most of the days. It’s the impossible weight of having to succeed at a task for which you were born to fail.

You hear a door closing somewhere else in the house, and you realize that someone must have entered through a back door. Ram stands up calmly and passes you by to stand in front of the teapot, which is still steaming on the other, smaller table where she had left it.

“Must be gran”, Garfiel says, and turns his head towards the kitchen.

The supposed grandmother appears in the doorway. It’s a girl of around Petra’s size, and she doesn’t look older than twelve as well. She’s holding a cane-looking staff almost as tall as herself. She has long, straight, pale red hair that curves upwards at its tips. She’s wearing a ship grey, worn coat that covers most of her mouth. Her long, pointy ears are striking, much more pronounced than Emilia’s, but most importantly, this is the girl who had stared at you back at the clearing, when something, maybe Frederica’s magic crystal, teletransported you there.

Is this elf person truly the same girl you saw back then? The eyes of this elf seem intelligent, wise even, while those of the elf you chased had looked as if she hosted the soul of a deer. And also, she’s way too young to be anybody’s grandmother.

“Good day to you all”, she says.

Her voice had sounded kind and welcoming but somewhat tired, like an old person who has been taking care of her grandchildren even though she should have gone to take a nap by now.

Garfiel finishes swallowing the rest of another cookie. He lifts the plate towards the elf.

“Ya outdid yerself with these ones, gran! Love the new recipe.”

The corners of the elf’s smile peek out from under the neck of her coat. She sits carefully on the empty chair at the head of the table.

“I am glad. I will make lots of them. But you didn’t offer any to our guests, did you, Young Garf? They must have been hungry after their trip.”

Garfiel puts the plate down, then shifts his own weight on his chair. He looks apologetic.

“Yeah, forgot about that… But they ain’t guests, because they weren’t invited! Buncha weirdoes! Don’t have any problem with the shy princess and all, but that one with the evil eyes gives me the creeps.”

“Oh dear, you’re being rude again.”

Now both of the elf’s cheeks are smiling as she turns to face her guests. Before she speaks, though, you lean towards the plate of cookies and grab one. Garfiel is startled for a moment because your hand appeared in front of him.

“I guess I’ll take a couple of them”, you say. “And me being so evil and all, I don’t even have to ask.”

The elf places her hands over the top of her cane and smiles as she looks at the three new people.

“I assure you, you are more than welcome in Sanctuary. You have come to help.”

You sink your teeth into the cookie and chew slowly, then swallow. After all the bullshit you’ve gone through, this cinnamon flavored, homemade cookie tastes like heaven.

“I don’t know you at all, Garfiel’s grandmother, but you must have truly outdone yourself with these cookies. They taste amazing.”

“They’re nothing special, I’m afraid.” She says. “You must have special taste, dear.”

You point at her with the hand that holds what’s left of your cookie.

“More importantly, though, haven’t we seen each other bef-…?”

Something burns your cheek. It almost makes you jump from your seat. You lean away from whatever burned you, and you find yourself staring at Ram’s unconcerned eyes looking down at you. She’s holding a steaming teacup as if offering it to you, even though you have an empty one on the table.

“Ram, what the hell!?”

She leaves the teacup next to the empty one, and pushes the previous one a bit.

“Some more tea will go well with the cookie you stole.” She leans into your ear, and her whisper alone makes you shiver before you understand her words. “Refrain from making unnecessary comments.”

Ram then leaves the teapot back on the other table, and sits gracefully at her chair while folding the skirt of her servant outfit.

You want to stare at the senior servant, but you realize she’s not going to clarify her words. Why did she suddenly give you an impossible task?

This young grandma looks at both of you, but seems to decide that she shouldn’t comment on what just happened.

“Let me introduce myself. I’m Ryuzu Bilma, something like the mayor of our little community. Will you tell me your names?”

Otto clears his throat and speaks way too loudly.

“W-Well, I’m someone unimportant, and who has nothing to do with the comings and goings of this place, but my name is Otto Suwen! I’m a completely harmless merchant, I assure you.”

“Good to know, Young Otto. We are always in need of goods. And you over there?”

“I’m Natsuki Subaru, I can… Uh, I’m not really good with social situations, nor do I have any particular skills, but I can travel through dimensions, save people with some heroics, and stuff like that.” This Ryuzu elf seems amused. For some reason, you continue. “I’m an honorary knight, a wanderer without a purpose, a flirter without much success and…” You look at Ram, who is trying to murder you with her gaze. “…and nothing more.”

Ryuzu Bilma nods agreeably.

“Huh! That’s a rare ability you have there, Young Su. Most humans can’t just u-turn like that without preparation.”

You shrug, trying not to look as uncomfortable as you feel.

“It’s nothing really.”

Ryuzu turns her head to address Emilia, but the full elf ends up arching her brows.

“Are you okay, my dear? You look pale as a ghost. Are you troubled because of the barrier?”

Emilia tries to correct her posture, although everybody must realize how uncomfortable she feels. The half-elf combs her long, silver hair with her hand and forces herself to smile at the elf mayor.

“Ah… Well, to be honest, I’m a little afraid of the barrier. I’m trying to process the news that it has trapped me in your village.”

“I understand. We have brought it up with Young Ros over the years, that it was time for the barrier to be lifted, but the world always produces troubles more pressing than solving a situation that has remained frozen for hundreds of years. It’s understandable. However, now that Young Ros visited us again, and that miss Ram brought over plenty of villagers who would want to return to their homes, we finally had an opportunity to apply some pressure. Suddenly all you three have joined us as well, and lady Emilia is qualified to pass the trials herself. The stars are finally smiling at us.”

Emilia’s expression darkens at that idea.

“But… what if I fail your trials? What then?”

“Well, you wouldn’t be the first. But that means you would remain trapped here for the rest of your life.”

A silence falls over the room as all eyes turn to regard the mayor of Sanctuary.

“Isn’t there any other way?”, Emilia asks with a thin voice.

“Not that I’m aware of. But don’t worry! We’re all behind you, and we’ll be supporting you through this ordeal. You’ll have all the resources of Sanctuary at your disposal.”

Although Emilia’s distress is making it hard for you to think of anything else, this situation doesn’t sit well with you.

“You said apply some pressure. What do you mean? What do the villagers that Ram brought over have to do with anything? They aren’t half-beasts, or half-human, or whatever. They should be able to pass through the barrier and return to their lives. Roswaal as well. Being such a powerful wizard as he’s supposed to be, he probably could just have flown out of here before Ram even came to his rescue, or we did for that matter.”

“That clown bastard came in alone first”, Garfiel says with a voice that suggests that thinking about the lord annoys him. “We asked him again, that people wanted to leave, that it wasn’t fair. Same old shit. Young people ’round here want to see the wide world, don’t know what to tell ya. Ain’t fair and all. This time the clown decided to stick around, even though it didn’t seem to me he was doin’ anything. Other than schemin’, I reckon. That’s all that damn clown does. Then his hot as hell senior servant came in to rescue the clown, and she had brought over a good bunch of small fries, lightweight full humans, because they were afraid of some cult outside or some shit. Guess there are the tides of fumanbos to account for, roamin’ the wastes and all. Makin’ a mess of the place, shittin’ every damn where. Anyways, so them villagers, the fully human I mean, were here, and we could tell the clown, we figured, or gran did mostly, hey, ya damn clown, how ’bout ye finally do somethin’ to lift this barrier of ours. Ya know, that damn thing the bastard and his clown ancestors had heard over an’ over. Then the schemin’ bastard said, ‘well, sure’. Figure he had somethin’ to prove to those small-timer subjects of his. Lord has responsibilities or somethin’, he said. I don’t listen to that clown’s words too much, makes my head hurt an’ all. So we gathered there at night in front of the witches’ tomb, all ceremonial like, and bastard goes in and we heard the noises of them traps triggerin’. I had heard them before when some fools wanted to loot the dirt inside that tomb, but this time I had thought that the damn clown, being so powerful an’ all, well, he would have been able to stop them from firin’ or somethin’. But he didn’t, couldn’t or whatever. To the clown’s credit, he did drag himself out, even though he looked slashed all over as if he had kicked a bambolabe while it was hibernatin’. Damn fool!” He laughs heartily, but a mere look at Ram’s cold scorn makes him stop himself so quickly that he almost coughs. He clears his throat. “Anyway, he’s been restin’ at one of gran’s places ever since, and we thought, damn, it’s all meat for the rodamunos now! But then ya bunch of half-pints, and the hot princess, who is royalty an’ all, came in, so we can do somethin’ more about this barrier business, can’t we? I reckon that’s the case.”

“Yes, indeed”, Ryuzu says.

You rest your elbows on the table and hide your face with your hands. When you have managed to coalesce this punk’s words into something resembling information, you take a deep breath and look at Ryuzu.

“What would happen if we gathered the villagers and walked them out of your Sanctuary?”

Ryuzu, whose face hasn’t shown anything else than calmness, seemed about to answer when Garfiel raises his hand to stop her.

“Let me, gran. What would happen, half-pint, is that I would stand there in front of the barrier and I would grab all of ya and push ya back, or maybe even grab ya and toss ya so ya land on some pigsty. Know what I mean? Ya want yer people to leave now? Then either ya lift the barrier or ya kill me. And if yer thinkin’ of killin’ the beast, I’ll tell ya that nobody has managed to do that, not once.”

That sentence would have held some weight if you had said it. Although you frown in disbelief at the punk, he must be seriously strong, maybe the strongest in the world as he said, if Roswaal, supposedly the most powerful magician in the kingdom, can’t force Garfiel to stand aside as every outsider leaves. You have to admit, you are a little afraid of him.

“You put so much faith in your abilities, yet you’re stuck here in Sanctuary acting as security? Can’t you pass the trials yourself?”

Garfiel’s mood sours, and he glares at you as if you are picking on a wound of his.

“I ain’t stuck here, half-pint. I do this because I wanted to. My reasons are maybe not the cleverest ones, but it’s what’s right.”

This fucking hick is responsible for your current troubles, or at least partially so. And Emilia’s distress has made you despise this village already.

“Right? All I hear from you is a bunch of mindless babble about strength and being the best.”

“It’s maybe all I have, half-pint. If I’m strong, it means I’m good at somethin’. It’s who I am.”

“But are you content with being stuck guarding the prettiest invisible door in the world with no chance to go out there and prove yourself?”

“Of course! Why wouldn’t I want to guard the beauty of ma’ybara? If she sets me apart from others, then it’s a great honor.”

You shake your head. After you take a deep breath, you look at Ram, who now glares at you as if to remind you that you are making plenty of unnecessary comments.

“Ram, have we seriously met with the very people who are blackmailing us into remaining in Sanctuary? Could you, I don’t know, have given me a heads-up or something?”

“I didn’t think it was necessary, I thought you had figured it out for yourself. However, I keep making the mistake of believing you hold some intellectual capabilities.”

“Please, Young Su, if you will allow me”, Ryuzu says with a conciliatory tone. “You are in trouble, and so are we. You can help. We are desperate to solve this quandary, we have been for a long time. We are well aware that if you all left back to your lives, Sanctuary would remain as it always has, maybe for another four hundred years. We have a good chance of breaking the barrier once and for all.”

Otto raises his index finger, and clears his throat.

“Wait a second. I don’t want to draw the ire of such a strong man by making a bold suggestion, but the idea that came into my mind doesn’t sound half bad. If only half-humans are forbidden from passing through the barrier, and they can physically pass, because lady Emilia did, why not use our full human bodies to carry you out of Sanctuary?”

“I… I actually think that might work”, Emilia says, perking up a little. “We would have no issues carrying any of you out.”

Garfiel shakes his head and sucks air through his predatory teeth.

“‘Fraid not. Good idea though, particularly for a follower, but the old witch already thought of it. I told ya she knows everythin’ in the world. Even what buttons to push for the puzzle at the palace of Gromblelidan. The barrier repeals half-human souls. If ya carried us out, our souls would get sucked out and maybe keep flyin’ or somethin’, and you’d be carryin’ empty shells. They would keep breathin’, but ya can’t go through life when yer just a husk. Ain’t no fun in it.” Garfiel crosses his arms, and lowers his head. “This damn barrier business… I wish it was a huge wall, stone-like, that went up straight into the heavens. Them villagers wouldn’t see a path going out, so they wouldn’t dream of leavin’. But there’s lots of noble-born and wombalimbos to gape at out here I guess.”

Emilia rubs her eyes slowly while a silence falls over the room. She then opens her tired eyes to stare at Ryuzu.

“What do the trials consist of?”

“Our lady of Sanctuary wishes to peer into the contestant’s past, present and future”, she says with a weighty tone. “Her woven dreams force you to face them.”

“That’s… vague,” you say.

Emilia has shrunk as if she had gone to the hospital for a headache only to discover she has a brain tumor. Garfiel has hunched over, and is scratching absent-mindedly the leathery skin of the horrible scar between his eyebrows. He genuinely seems to pity the half-elf.

“Wouldn’t wanna be in yer shoes, princess, let me tell ya…”, he says quietly. “The trials are impossible to pass. Echidna was one devious bitch. Her dream forces ya to face the past, an’ against the past ya cannot win. Nobody can. Ya better get comfortable in our little town, ’cause ya ain’t gettin’ out any time soon.”

The meeting ends shortly after, and Ryuzu announces that she will gather a few local cooks to prepare a meal for you that will, you guess, offset being blackmailed into staying in Hick Town. Ram is about to accompany Ryuzu and help, maybe because the senior servant just can’t break character, but after you get out of the two-story house and everybody is scattering, you manage to pull Ram her aside and use the cover of a big tree to talk in a semblance of privacy.

“Ram, is our lord unconscious?”

“I thought you would have wanted to brag about your deeds, as well as explain how you managed to score points for two opposite camps through your operation. Roswaal is awake. I will ask him if he wants to see you, and I will inform you of his response.”

With that, Ram turns on her heel and follows the small, elf leader of Sanctuary. You are left alone with your thoughts under the big tree. After a few seconds you resolve to approach Garfiel like you had intended. Frederica’s blood runs through his veins, so he can’t be entirely worthless. You end up having to run around for a bit, because the guy has diverged from everybody else in the meeting to head towards some area of the village where the ancient buildings become sparse. When Garfiel realizes you are walking behind him, he gets first startled and then annoyed. He eyes you suspiciously.

“Ya followin’ me now?”

“I figured we could talk for a bit without everybody else in the way. I’ve grown fond of your Frederica. You haven’t seen her for a long time, right? She told me that she had left Sanctuary behind, but you have stayed here.”

Garfiel puts his hands on his waist and grimaces at you.

“Yeah, I’ve stayed. What’s it ta ya? And did I look like I wanted to talk about damn ‘Rica? Called ya a buncha fools for ‘ssociatin’ with her and everythin’.”

“I just thought it was odd that you would have separated. She said that her mother came to Sanctuary for shelter, right? You must have grown up here, then Frederica left for the big world outside. It’s odd that you didn’t follow her. With the lioness being so easy-going, she would likely keep going on about you, how proud she is of your strength or some shit like that.”

Garfiel’s nostrils widen, and his grimace opens a side of his mouth, displaying his menacing teeth. Any sane person would have stayed away from this punk, but then again you only learn things by prodding people.

“Well if ya know so damn much, then why’d ya ask?”

“I don’t know, I just wanted to hear it from you.”

Garfiel steps towards you to glare from up close.

“I had enough of ol’ freakin’ furryburglar when she turned her back on us, ya hear!? She’s a damn traitor, that’s what she is. Some sister… Never came back. Never cared about us.”

“That’s not the Frederica I met. She takes good care of Roswaal’s place, she’s very kind to the useless trainee who shouldn’t be there in the first place, and is always sure to make us feel welcome and lighten the mood. She’s a great gal as far as I can tell. And she revealed to us Sanctuary’s secrets, at least regarding how to reach it from the mansion, so we could help you all. I wish she would have mentioned the stuff about the barrier and half-beasts, though…”

Garfiel looks away and narrows his eyes. You look down towards some movement, and realize that his fists are trembling.

“Listen here, small-timer. Yer friends with a traitor, but ya don’t know nothin’. Yer a damn fool. Damn Frederica is only concerned with herself. Always has been.”

“Well, I don’t know about all that, but whatever happened between you both clearly hurts still.”

Garfiel growls, and he narrows one eye further while staring at you. He must not be used to people either asking or caring about a personal relationship of his like this.

“The hell ya think ya are, evil eyes? First noble-born, then not noble-born. We pals now? Whaddya want? It’s not like ya can do a damn thing.”

“It’s just that after meeting Frederica and her being so different from what you are telling me, I want to correct you. It must annoy the hell out of you, holding on to the twisted image of someone you cared about so much. I don’t know why Frederica hasn’t returned, but she certainly cared, and does still.”

Garfiel growls like a wild animal, then steps forward, grabs you by the shirt and raises that fist until you stand on your tiptoes. You are surprised by how little you care, even though you feel Garfiel trembling through his fist.

“Ya know, yer pretty damn brave sayin’ all that to my face. Don’t know what ta make of ya, and it makes my skin crawl. But whatever went on between me and that bitch ain’t any of your business. Besides…”

“You know,” you begin to say calmly, “one of the first moments with your sister in which I thought that she was a real good gal happened when we were speaking about some other horrible troubles, unrelated to you of whom I didn’t know anything at the time, and Frederica started crying. She tolds us something to the effect that the bonds of family anchor us to the world, that we only got one, and that the fact that the memories and feelings associated with a sibling could be taken away was unimaginably awful. Didn’t mean anything in particular to me at the time, but it sure does now.”

Garfiel lowers his head and closes his eyes tight.

“Ya really are a fuckin’ asshole…”

With those words, Garfiel releases you, and you have to take a few steps back to regain your balance.

“We will help you lift the barrier, or break the barrier, or whatever”, you say. “Even though nobody in four hundred years has managed to achieve it. I tend to hold on to delusional hopes.”

The guy is breathing faster, and when he manages to hold your gaze, he’s gone wide-eyed.

“Ya went inta them witches’ tomb although yer just a full human. I should have bothered meself pickin’ up yer bloody remains to feed the pigs. There’s somethin’ wrong wit’cha.” He begins to walk away, even though he refuses to turn entirely in the direction he’s heading. “I’ll be keepin’ an eye on ya, small-timer. I don’t like weird people hangin’ around, messin’ my place. Makes me all nervous.”

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