This entry covers part of the tenth volume of the original “Re:Zero” novels.
In the previous entry we learned that some blackmailing kidnappers can be quite nice, that the shy princess is the only one who can pass some psychologically scarring trials, and that the protagonist freaks Garfiel up.
GPT-3 is a cutting-edge language processing algorithm used in the premium version of the online site AI Dungeon.
During the meal, that had already started when you managed to find your pals, Ram told you that Roswaal had congratulated you for your enormous effort in defending the village from the Witch’s Cult, but that he wasn’t ready to meet with you until tonight, around midnight. Ram didn’t seem to know why, but you figure that she’s simply following orders. When you all finish eating and people start getting up, Emilia, concerned, tells you that she’s going to speak with someone by herself. You end up hanging out with Otto and checking out a couple of local taverns, or what passes for them in Sanctuary. Your efforts at regaining some normality by lounging in a tavern turn into a bunch of half-beast people asking you loads of questions about the outside world. Fortunately they seem curious instead of hostile, and word has gotten around that you are here to help, so you didn’t even have to pay for your drinks.
You try to avoid getting drunk, although you are a bit light-headed by the time you exit the last tavern. You both head back to what looks like the center of the village, that church-like building with the big clock which you can see often in the distance, despite the tall trees of the enclosing forest. Once you spot Otto’s carriage as well as both ground dragons, who are curled up and sleeping in a nearby, mostly open barn, you see that Emilia is leaning against the carriage as if waiting. When she sees you she looks relieved, although the underlying worry is obvious. She runs up to you.
“Subaru, can we speak? I’m sorry, Otto, but I mean to speak with him in private.”
Otto’s pleased smile, one that lights up his face whenever the beautiful half-elf is around, fades a bit. You guess the merchant dreams with being in your shoes, but then again he doesn’t actually know what’s like to be in your head. In he did, he likely wouldn’t associate with you.
“That’s alright!”, Otto says. “I hope you are doing well. You have certainly regained the color since the meeting… Anyway, I’ll go check out the church and see how the villagers are holding up!”
Once Otto leaves, Emilia gets closer to you and looks up at your eyes as if she wishes you both were sitting against that rock planter in Roswaal’s yard, when the rest of the world seemed to have disappeared.
“How are you feeling, Emilia?”, you ask softly. “I’ve been wanting to ask you ever since Ram told you about being trapped here.”
She looks towards the forest that starts behind the line of villager houses.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m well at all, but at least I’m moving on to figuring out what to do about this. Please, let’s venture further into the forest for a bit of quiet.”
You both start walking towards the dense treeline.
“Are you sure that it’s fine? Aren’t we going to come across monsters or something?”
“I’ve been walking along the treeline, and nothing’s happened. Besides, we’re in the daylight and I’m with you. I should be fine.”
You are content enough that the half-elf is making a joke. As if you could protect her at all. However, if there were monster nests around, Sanctuary would have probably ceased to exist hundreds of years ago.
“Well, if you say so.”
The two of you walk into the forest for a good five minutes. You find yourselves in a secluded part where the fallen trunks of a few long dead trees make the closest thing to a clearing here. You are surrounded by trees and silence. Not even the birds chirp. It’s like the world forgot about this place.
“This is nice change, I admit”, Emilia says with a tired voice. “As we were travelling here, the forest didn’t suggest it would contain safe, quiet places like this. And all the forests near our home are the homes of monsters and bandits.”
“One would think that Roswaal would do something about that. But then again, I guess I know better.”
You sit down on one of the fallen tree trunks while Emilia leans against it, her eyes closed and taking in the silence.
“Why do you put up with him? He’s using you.” You realize that you have spoken without realizing it. Apparently you have reached that point in your relationship with Emilia in which your brain lets your mouth verbalize some thoughts unimpeded. “Sorry, it just came out. I know that even if you didn’t like him, you need him for the royal candidacy.”
You were a little worried that your verbal jab would bother her, but instead she opens her eyes and sighs.
“Yes, I know he’s using me. And I’m using him. I prefer to interact with people with which I can just be myself, as it is the case with you. But I’d be dead without lord Roswaal’s help. The Witch’s Cult would have gotten me. For that alone I owe him my loyalty, and I guess royalty.”
You chuckle nervously. You can barely believe what you are hearing.
“Emilia, I don’t want to brag or anything, or maybe I do, but Rem and me organized the defense. We were the ones who convinced Crusch’s as well as Hoshin’s armies to rush to Roswaal’s mansion. And even if Roswaal got injured here, it still doesn’t explain why the hell he came to Sanctuary when he knew that the cult would attempt something, after he presented you at the royal summons.”
The half-elf smiles gratefully at you.
“I meant beyond what you have done. Believe me, I have integrated how you defended me. I only meant that I call Roswaal’s mansion my home, and that the other camps wouldn’t have helped you if I were some random half-elf milling about, instead of someone under the care of lord Roswaal.”
“Yeah, you have a point there. Not that I like it.”
Emilia slides her foot back and forth for a while, and you enjoy the silence until she speaks again.
“I met with lord Roswaal a while ago.”
“What? I had asked Ram if I could speak to him, and she told me that he would only see me around midnight.”
“… That would be after I attempt to pass the trials. It seems he wants to speak to you after he learns the result, or maybe so you could tell him.”
You stand up and walk up to her side, so you can stare at Emilia from up close. She smiles, but she lowers her face.
“You will enter the witches’ tomb tonight?”, you ask slowly. “Already?”
“Of course, Subaru. I want to leave this behind as soon as possible. And it’s what Roswaal recommended as well.”
“But you don’t even know if you’re going to pass. And that’s a really dangerous thing, Emilia.”
“Well, you’ll be there, so it should be fine.”
You wince a little as she says this. Emilia means it. Your heart hurts partially because someone you like has managed to care for you this much, but mainly because you know that you can’t help Emilia pass the trials at all. Support won’t be enough.
You put a hand on her bare shoulder.
“Listen, Emilia… If you don’t pass the trials tonight, don’t lose hope, alright? It seems you can try over and over. Even the hardest, most painful thing can be tolerated if you get closer to success each time. And of course I’ll be there for whatever you need.”
She looks up at you with watery eyes and swallows air as if to hold back tears. She sniffles a bit and then smiles as she touches your hand on her shoulder.
“Thank you, Subaru.”
You let her have a moment, but then you ask about what’s been burning on your mind.
“What did Roswaal say, Emilia? How did he justify his actions until this point, or what course of action he suggested for getting out of here in one piece?”
Emilia looks to the side as if putting her thoughts in order.
“First I was shocked by how injured he seemed. I mean, his face didn’t suggest any pain, but I don’t think you could ever tell with our lord. I have never seen him look any other way than like someone who knew what was going to happen, smiling as if could have said for you the sentences that would come out of your mouth.”
“Yeah… That’s terrifying.”
“He was bandaged from the neck down. Most of the bandages were bloody as well, although the blood seemed dry. When I managed to focus on our conversation, Roswaal suggested that my presence in Sanctuary was an opportunity, that by passing the trials not only I would gain the favor of the villagers, and I mean our villagers, but also gain points for my candidacy for the throne.”
You frown and shake your head.
“I’m not surprised that he sees everything from that angle, but still, how is breaking a barrier in a secret village deep into the lord’s territory going to help your candidacy?”
“Apparently Sanctuary is a secret for regular people, and even for some members of the most important households, but not for the higher-ups, and certainly not for the council of elders. Spies everywhere, I guess. So they would know I managed to solve a problem that nobody had for hundreds of years. And they believe me to be related to Satella, so helping a town instead of, I don’t know, drowning it in shadows, might make them lean towards leaving me alone with such accusations.”
“Must be so exhausting constantly having to think in those terms. But then again, I wouldn’t know what to do if I were a royal candidate. What a disaster that would be.”
Emilia nods, then sighs.
“I’m sorry, the meeting ended with Roswaal suggesting that I attempted to pass the trials, or at least the first one, tonight. I was so dazed, as I have been since I woke up from whatever the barrier did to me, that I didn’t think of bringing up anything else, such as the Witch’s Cult assault on the village and my life.”
“It’s alright. I’ll speak with him around midnight, regardless of what happens with your trial. I will force him to explain himself. I haven’t fought so hard to return to your side to let the guy pretend that he didn’t shirk his duties. Roswaal should have been there, fighting alongside us.”
A small tear escapes from her right eye, and she gives a sad smile.
“I’ll try my best, I promise.”
Emilia hugs you tightly. You embrace her as well. A few seconds later, as you feel her heart beating against your chest and her breath warming your neck, she speaks as if she wished she didn’t have to.
“Frederica betrayed us, Subaru.”
You pull away from the hug and look into her eyes, which are now watery.
“… Yeah, what she did was shady as hell. I had been thinking about her words, how she approached you when she gave you that magic crystal. She knew what would happen.”
Emilia closes her eyes tight. It squeezes a tear, which runs down her cheek.
“You grabbed the pendant because you thought it would hurt me, even kill me, and as a result you were sent close enough to the witches’ tomb. I think I would also have wandered in, which would have started the trials, but in your case it should have killed you due to the traps. It’s a complete mystery why it didn’t affect you. Frederica’s negligence almost killed you, Subaru. I don’t think I will be able to forgive her for that.”
“It’s my damn habit of putting myself in danger so others don’t have to suffer. I’m more annoyed because Frederica should have said that if you came you wouldn’t have been able to leave. It means that she intended you to go through the trials, which will fuck with your mind. We are getting used left and right.”
“Mind fuck is an understatement.”
You chuckle softly.
“I hadn’t heard you say that word or a variation in too long.”
“You were the one who taught me it. I was a proper lady when you met me.”
Even though Emilia is joking around, you feel guilty, as if you wiped your ass with a painting.
“… Sorry about that.”
“It’s fine, I’m just messing with you. But Subaru, even though it’s probably not a good idea to bring it up now, you said that you have a habit of putting yourself in danger so others don’t have to suffer. And it’s true, of course. You have done it for me, you intended to do it at the royal summons, and after what you explained of your relationship with Rem, it’s obvious that you want to die for people you care about. You need to value your life more.”
You avoid her gaze. Beyond the fact that you can’t make her understand that you can save people through dying, horribly even, you want to disagree.
“Maybe the value of my life is that I can sacrifice it for the people I love, or even like to a significant extent. Is that a truly a bad thing? I’m okay with it. It’s not like I’m some awesome person that can do great things otherwise, or has some special talents.”
“That’s not true. You have so much potential, Subaru…”
You hold the back of her head to hug her again, and like she was waiting for it, she leans against you and lets out a soft noise of satisfaction, as if she wants nothing else than to stay like this for the rest of the day.
“Love makes people say some wild things”, you reply. “I can do important stuff now, but I remember clearly that for most of my life I couldn’t do shit. I would have lived an unimportant life, probably working at some office or shop, and after I died I would have been forgotten by history. Buried to become one with the dirt. I hold some regrets from who I was before I met all of you, particularly things I never got to say, but right now the fact is that because I sacrificed myself, risked everything, I can hold on to you now, Emilia, and for that I’m as happy as can be.”
Emilia puts her hand on the side of your face and stands on her tiptoes, and before you know it you feel her warm lips on yours. Her wet, hot tongue enters your mouth and licks yours slowly and lovingly, as if you both were lying in bed and holding each other under the covers while draped in darkness. Emilia keeps her eyes open the entire time, staring into your own.
Your mind had gone blank, and when you snap out of it, you feel the blood accumulating in your crotch like a red tinge in your senses, and Emilia’s waist is pressing your hard dick against your abdomen.
You two separate from each other’s lips, and the half-elf exhales a warm sigh. You feel yourself blush profusely, and look away. You would have thought that after the shit you’ve gone through or even done of your own volition, you wouldn’t feel this embarrassment, but you have enough reasons to feel the burn of shame.
With one finger, Emilia moves your head back to look at her. Her face shows a mix of guilt and joy.
“That was on me, Subaru”, she says softly. “My first time, for my knight.”
You swallow, and hope that your dick starts going down soon, even though Emilia keeps leaning her weight against you knowingly. You suppose that in comparison with the prospect of having to pass some trials that nobody has succeeded at for hundreds of years, or else she will get stuck here, Emilia must have been searching for a moment of heaven. But the guilt is already burning in your chest. Emilia’s saliva tastes good, the way a girl you’d take for yourself should, without a hint of snot and blood like back during Emilia’s true first time. You hate yourself for liking it, and you hate that your body reacted without your consent.
The two of you separate, and Emilia turns away from you to hide her burning red face, like the proper lady that she is. You catch a glance at her eyes, which show pools of despair and regret.
Neither of you, or anyone as it seems, really knows what you are doing. Feels right one moment, wrong the next. There are far worse things a person could have done to you than make you feel guilt because your girlfriend is in a coma. You put your hand on Emilia’s upper back, and slide it up until you are touching the warm skin of her nape.
“It’s fine, Emilia. Tell me, what needs to happen now? When are we heading for the trials?”
She looks at you over her shoulder before turning. She seems to understand that you won’t berate her, nor bring up your Rem. She smiles shily, but then her expression darkens and she glances towards the village, even though the dense forest obscures any view of civilization.
“I’m going to do something very uncomfortable and that I’d prefer not to do, but I understand it’s for the best: I’m going to address our villagers. Roswaal suggested it, because they should know and understand the kind of sacrifice I’m making for their sake, as well as for all of us. I will expose myself again to people for whom my very birth was a mistake.”
It only takes recalling the crowd of villagers every time you have faced them for you to get annoyed, but you understand what Emilia won’t bring herself to say.
“If you want to do it as soon as possible, meaning now, let’s go. I’ll stand by your side.”
You are standing next to Emilia inside the church-like building. It looks older than the surrounding village, yet the masonry is made out of huge stones piled without cement, and cut into complicated shapes without apparent fault. The vaulted ceilings are a thing of beauty, closer to a cathedral’s, and in the large footprint there’s more than enough space to house all of your villagers comfortably. The mayor of Sanctuary, or maybe some of the locals, have prepared makeshift beds as well as some courtains, and a few people of the crowd that has gathered to listen to you are still eating from the bowls they are holding. The children, mothers and the elderly that you had missed when you went down to the village for groceries came here. There are very few able-bodied men, and the most prominent from that group, although he’s not able-minded, is the village chief, who is wearing his wizard costume. No, a different one. Motherfucker must keep a collection of them, and probably no other type of clothing. Why is this man alive?
Emilia and you stand side by side waiting for the people to settle down. You are surprised that the shouts of ‘witch, let’s kill the witch’ haven’t started yet, but you figure that they must feel so out of place and confused by their circumstances that they are taking things as they come. After around half a minute, when there is relative silence, you begin to speak.
“Thank you all for gathering. As you know, we are currently trapped in Sanctuary. We are working on the known solution, which involves passing some witch-created trials, and for that-…”
The village chief puts his hand on his chest, which makes the loose sleeve of his wizardly robe slide down to his elbow.
“I welcome you both to our humble village. I’m the mayor of Sanctuary.”
Your left eye twitches, and you clench your teeth.
“No, you are not! Why are you so resilient!”
The mayor remains surprisingly calm after your outburst.
“If not yet, I will be eventually. We have been stranded in this village for centuries, and nobody tells us when we will be able to leave.”
You take a deep breath, then try to look as professional and reliable as possible. You realize that both you and Emilia have fucked up. You don’t recall any instance in which you haven’t addressed the villagers without Ram being present, so she could threaten to murder whoever got too annoying.
You hold Emilia’s gaze for a moment. She has deflated a bit from her resolve to face the villagers. She must be remembering how terribly they have been treating her all along. Now she must be waiting for you to introduce her properly. You are in no way or form the appropriate person for this task.
You turn to the crowd again and clear your throat.
“Listen, if there’s anything we’ve learned from the cult’s attack on our village back home is that we need to be as clear and truthful as possible, even though it might hurt or cause panic. We are in this predicament together. As it stands, we are trapped in Sanctuary because the locals who hold power want us to break the barrier that has kept them trapped in this isolated forest for hundreds of years. You are all hostages, I’m afraid, although they are going to treat you as kindly as possible otherwise. However, we know the solution to our problem: we need to pass some witch-created trials in a nearby tomb, because that’s what will break the spell holding the barrier.”
The villagers whisper to each other for a while, before a man in his sixties, with a balding head and old-fashioned clothing, steps forward.
“The lord attempted to pass the trials to liberate us, but that damned tomb almost killed him! What would you be able to do when you don’t have remotely as much power as him?”
“I don’t know if you people are aware of this, but the tomb has magical traps set up that trigger if someone who is fully human goes in. Our lord was stupid enough, or possibly brave, to venture into the ruins, because he wanted that hard to free you all. However, our beautiful lady over here,” you extend your arm towards Emilia, who holds her hands in front of her waist and bows slightly, “is half-human as you all are aware. She’s Emilia, our lady and royal candidate for the throne of Lugunica. She will face the trials so all of us can be liberated.”
The old man eyes the half-elf with suspicion and fear, as if at any moment she would decide to transform him into a toad.
“Oh, great! So not only are we trapped here, but also at risk of being subjected to whatever tyranny this young demon-worshipper imposes upon us!”
Your nostrils widen. Here we go. You aren’t sure how to maneuver through these people’s prejudices, and you can’t do what you would want to: walk up to every one of them and clock them as hard as Emilia did to you that one time you lost your legs.
“If you think she’d do something like that, then why the hell are you standing around calmly?”
“We are just scared!”, a woman holding a baby shouts from the back. “I was there, in the village’s plaza, when the witch walked up to that horrible cultist woman and killed her with ice magic. She could kill us all whenever she wanted!”
“And whenever you wanted you could strangle your baby, and that creature couldn’t do anything to defend itself. Isn’t that right? Then why don’t you do it? Same reason that Emilia doesn’t attack any of you.”
The baby’s mother looks down to her child, as it innocently blows a spit bubble. His eyes don’t know enough to be afraid of someone like you.
“Because… because we’re good people!”
“No. You’re not.”
You feel someone touching you in the forearm, and you realize it’s Emilia. She has walked up to you and looks worried, although understanding, as if she knows you are trying to defend her and yet will end up causing more trouble for her. You look at the crowd again.
“Emilia wants me to stop talking, but I can’t. This lady here has done nothing wrong to you all. She was born a silver-haired half-elf, and that’s all any of you seem to need to despise her for stuff Emilia has nothing to do with, and that happened hundreds of years ago. She’s as sweet, and kind, and lovely as they come, and yet she’s afraid of leaving her home because any of you might attack her.”
The village chief points at Emilia with a trembling hand, although his face evidences that at the moment he fears her more than hates her.
“Be.. because she’s a witch!”
Emilia steps towards the crowd, and although she straightens her back, the anxiety glistens in her eyes.
“I can do magic, it’s true. I’m a spirits user. But I would only use it to help all of us”, she says softly.
The village chief barely glances at her, as if holding her gaze would contaminate him.
“Shut it, demon.”
“No, I won’t shut it. Please, just listen to me. I only want to help you-“
“I said shut it!”, the village chief barks loudly.
Emilia’s eyes then widen, and she ever so slightly shakes her head. You know that look.
You lower your head and scowl at the village chief, while you concentrate your anger on your clenched fists. Is there a point in being polite with these people, with most of them anyway? Maybe there are a few decent ones, or maybe even most of them, but they stay quiet. They allow the others to keep spouting garbage, and somehow they keep this lunatic in charge of them. Roswaal should tear their village down and build a new one with entirely different people.
Your voice comes out so angry that it disturbs you.
“You are misunderstanding both your position as well as who you are speaking to that way. Lady Emilia is a candidate for the throne of this kingdom, and you are a worthless lunatic who believes himself to be a wizard because he dresses with a ridiculous costume. You have berated an innocent that in a second could push an ice shard through your rotten brain, but she doesn’t do it because she’s too good-natured for that, and will just take the abuse. Rest assured, if I had her power I would cull your numbers so you understood your place.”
The whole room is silent. Emilia’s eyes widen as she tries not to look at you, while the chief just furrows his brows and stares at you in an attempt to intimidate you. It doesn’t work.
“You dare threaten me with death?”
“I’m not threatening, I’m promising. You will respect lady Emilia, not only because she’s the lady of our house, but because she’s the only one who can move a finger to pass the trials and risk her health, or her sanity, or whatever it implies for her to risk, so you ungrateful scum will be able to return home. Did my words pass through your rotten brain?”
The village chief shakes with anger. The rest of the crowd stands around aghast, not even whispering to whoever is close.
“You fool, I’ve lived long before you were even conceived. I have no doubt in my mind that you are vastly underestimating my capabilities.”
“Then go to the witches’ tomb and try to pass the trials yourself. The local head of security will bother himself picking up your bloody remains to feed the pigs.”
“I’ll do it, and you will do nothing to stop me, because if you try, I will kill you. Do I make myself clear?”
You stare at the chief, your face twisting into a cold malicious grin.
Emilia lets out a noise of surprise and puts a hand on your shoulder.
“Please, Subaru!”, she turns to the crowd. “No, if any of you attempts to pass the trials, you will die! The traps will kill you! I’m the only one who can risk it, and I will! And if I fail, I will try again and again until the barrier is broken. Please, nobody needs to get hurt.”
The crowd stays silent, but the tension can be cut with a knife. Then a woman in her early twenties raises her hand timidly while looking at Emilia with caution.
“Lady witch, why would you want to help us? The people in the village have been terrible to you.”
Emilia lowers her head. Everybody in the crowd must be able to tell how anxious and timid the half-elf is whenever she faces them, and yet they keep harassing her. You are having trouble staying silent as well as controlling your breathing.
“Ever since I remember,” Emilia begins with a quiet voice, “I have only wanted to live in peace. I wanted to get along with everybody, to meet interesting people and have a good time with them. Eventually I wished to get married and have a family of my own. Yet I feared that my children would face what I’ve had to go through. I wouldn’t want that suffering and fear on anybody. I can’t change how you think about me, I’m beginning to understand, so maybe I shouldn’t care, and yet I think that behind the hate and fear of some of you, there are others who don’t understand any of this either, who just want to return home and live in peace as well.”
There’s a silence after her words, followed by some whispers. The young woman who questioned Emilia walks towards her cautiously. She’s short and a bit plump, her blonde hair tied into a pony tail. She looks like the kind of girl you’d see at a market, selling vegetables.
“You’re right about some of us. I’m sorry for ever hating you. We were just confused and angry. We want to return home as well.”
You find yourself smiling at the girl’s words. The atmosphere has improved already, most people seem to be agreeing with her.
Emilia holds her hands in front of her waist again, and bows towards the girl.
“I will face the trials. As soon as I succeed, we can all leave Sanctuary and return to our homes. Please, lend me your support.”
The girl nods, then goes as far as reaching for Emilia’s hands and holding them in hers. Her eyes are watering while she stares pleadingly at the half-elf.
“My brother has stayed behind at the village. I know we can’t do anything to leave if the locals won’t let us. Please fight for us, lady Emilia, even if we don’t deserve it. I will pray for your success.”
Emilia swallows, and blinks to dry her eyes. The girl stops holding the half-elf’s hand, and walks back slowly towards her place in the crowd. Emilia sniffs, then turns to address the rest of the group.
“I will do everything in my power to ensure our safe departure from this place, and back to our homes. I will attempt the trial this very night.”
The mood of the crowd has improved. A few isolated voices thank Emilia, even though they address her as witch.
Emilia has lowered her head, and she looks as if she will tear up the moment she opens her mouth. You step forward, clear you throat and address the crowd while trying to avoid looking at the village chief.
“Any questions before we leave?”
Your statement is met by silence, you don’t know if because nobody has anything to say or because they hate your guts. The villagers slowly begin to melt away. However, after most of them have left, the village chief is still standing there glaring at you as if he would lunge for your neck if he could get away with.
“I am not going to forget your malicious and disrespectful words towards my being”, he says with a raspy voice. “The gods won’t condone such affront.”
You walk up to him to speak in a low voice right to his face. You hope the way you are holding his gaze clarifies how much you wish you’d meet alone in some secluded place, and not precisely for sex.
“You don’t understand, chief. I’m the one who has a grudge on you.”
He seems taken aback by your words, probably expecting you to be cowed by whatever authority he believes he has. You turn your back on him and head towards Emilia. You hear this idiot’s voice behind you.
“Remember what I said! None of you are safe! The gods will protect me from your malice!”
You wave him off without turning around, then put your hand on Emilia’s shoulder.
“Let’s get out of here. A bit of fresh air will do us good.”
You both step out of the village, and after walking aimlessly down the road for a while, you decide to break the silence.
“That could have gone much worse. At least they got the message that you would be the one to free them from this situation.”
She smiles at your remark, but it quickly fades and is replaced by a worried look.
“Subaru, you scared me back there. I don’t think I have ever seen you so angry.”
You don’t like one bit how Emilia is looking at you, as if you have done something wrong and need to be handled with gloves. She’s too good-natured, which is part of the problem for you. Rem would have gotten her flail from her bullshit magical pocket and threatened the bastards in the crowd with more practical ferocity. Your throat closes, and you want to be alone. As you have faced often since your beloved demon servant fell to that curse, you can only keep walking when your brain allows you to forget for a while that you have lost the most important person in your life.
You take a deep breath and smile at Emilia.
“We needed a bit of a good cop, bad cop routine. And it worked, I think. They got the message. Now they’ll know who to thank when you lift the barrier.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word, ‘cop’, but I think I understand. Still, did you mean that about culling their numbers so they would understand their place…?”
You want to ease her concern, suggest that you were only riling them up so they would be mad at you instead of her, that you wouldn’t kill anyone, but you prefer to be honest.
“… I don’t know, Emilia. It just came out. You don’t understand how angry it makes me when they mistreat you like that. I see red. I want to protect you, to make sure you are safe, that you can get to feel happy and free, but those people keep making everything worse. They are like a bunch of wild children.”
“You don’t need to keep protecting me. I want to protect you…!”
“Well, I appreciate that. It’s not as if I wouldn’t need it, and you are far more useful when it comes to protecting people than me. I mostly just have my relentless determination to push myself to the brink for the people I care about.”
She hugs you tightly. You feel her warmth and her breathing.
“You can absolutely trust me on that one, I love you. I really do.”
That makes you blush a bit, and the way she washes over you with her sincerity lessens the remains of the anger that were tingling on your hands.
“Emi, speaking of protecting people as well as of hindrances, where the fuck is Puck? I haven’t seen him ever since we left for Sanctuary.”
Emilia goes silent as if she had been dreading anyone bringing it up.
“I have no idea”, she says with a thin voice. “I have called out to him, and he usually ends up appearing. But he’s gone.”
You put your hands on her shoulders to separate her a bit, because you want to look at her worried face.
“Has this happened before?”
She nods slowly.
“Yes, once. Back when we were traveling through a forest, a few years ago. He disappeared during the night, shortly after he told me we would speak in a while, and didn’t show up for days. It was really scary… I thought something bad had happened to him.”
“Well, what explanation did he give?”
She gives you a timid smile.
“None… Which is why I’m worried about him now. Is he playing a joke on me? Has he gotten himself into trouble?”
You shake your head, and thinking about how much Puck has annoyed you ever since you met him, even involuntarily through the way he can’t care properly for how much human beings hurt, makes you want to insult the cunt out loud.
“Emilia… I don’t want to say this to you, given that you have been close to Puck for many years, ever since you were a child, and that he’s called himself your adoptive father. I don’t want to dredge up whatever horrible stuff happened in your childhood. But the fact is that Puck has the unique talent to not be there to protect you whenever you need it the most, whether or not he has a convenient excuse.”
She looks away from you. It seems she doesn’t want to say anything bad about the little cunt.
“We have a contract. He promised me he would always be there for me.”
You sigh. You pat her head gently.
“Contracts can be broken, and promises can be forgotten. I don’t know what Puck’s deal is this time, but I do know that this world is shit. Every world is shit, as far as I can tell. You need to be strong.”
“I will, then.”
You kiss her forehead, then hold her head against your cheek for a moment.
“We better rest a bit, particularly yourself, before we head for the witches’ tomb. I can’t even anticipate what’s going to happen in that bleak ruin.”
Note from December of 2020:
In the original the villagers are far more willing to accept Emilia at this point, because the protagonist had managed to repeat the Witch’s Cult’s assault until nobody died (in his second run, actually). But in this strange, AI-fueled retelling, they have the justification to hold on to a permanent grudge on the sweet gal, because plenty of people did get killed. I went into the scene not having any plan for it, not even if the villagers would end up accepting her as their lady and savior, and the unexpected result is one of the joys of writing this stuff.
Also, I have mentioned before, that idiotic village chief was made up entirely by the AI many, many parts ago. I thought he would be some comic relief, but the hate the protagonist has developed towards the crazy bastard is as real as can be.