This entry covers part of the eleventh volume of the original “Re:Zero” novels.
In the previous entry we learned that the hundreds of years old librarian Beatrice didn’t want the protagonist to leave her behind, but then she realized that she didn’t know him after all, so he might as well die. The lovely miss Granhiert interrupted their argument and made the protagonist leave permanently by crushing his throat.
You would have never thought that waking up in a magically lighted tomb, where a hundreds of years old ghost psychologically tortures people with ultrarealistic simulations, would make you feel relieved, but after you bring saliva back to your dry mouth, you turn around on the floor and focus on breathing deeply while you stare at the blue-dyed stone roof, at the myriad of tiny cracks that have opened in them over the centuries.
You don’t think you noticed Emilia’s irregular breathing before. You crawl towards the half-elf, as she lies face down near the center of the antechamber. You turn her towards you, then hug her. You run your fingers through her hair while whatever witch-induced nightmare causes her facial muscles to twitch against your skin. You could do this over and over, you think. You could spend your eternity in this loop, waking up next to Emilia in these ruins and doing little else than have sex over and over with her in Ryuzu’s house, only to kill yourself three or four days later.
After you exit the witches’ tomb carrying Emilia’s body, you barely bother to answer questions or react to the theatre play that the people you know are performing for your amusement. You could recite some of their lines as well. Once Emilia is loaded unconscious onto the back of the carriage, you sit next to Otto on the driver’s seat.
For a couple of minutes, as your merchant pal drives you all back towards Ryuzu’s house, you close your eyes and enjoy the calm of not having to face the worst contract killer in the world, nor escape from random monsters, nor face that your friends Ram and Frederica died for your sake. The world seems so peaceful. You suspect that if you focus on hearing the breeze for a while you will start crying from the relief of having nothing to fear.
“Mr. Natsuki, are you alright…?”, Otto asks warily from your left.
You open your eyes, and it takes you a couple of seconds to register that Otto is looking at you and waiting for a reply.
“I’m fine. Why do you ask?”
He raises an eyebrow as if trying to figure out if you are joking around.
“Because lady Emilia is half unconscious, half delirious, of course.” He chuckles nervously. “I mean, had you ever seen the princess in such a state? I don’t understand how you can be so calm.”
You sigh, then scrape the tip of your shoe against the floor of the driver’s seat.
“She’ll be alright, old pal. She always is. She’s stuck in her old ways, and we haven’t found a way out of her childhood issues, but maybe we’ll figure something.”
“I don’t think I know what you mean, Mr. Natsuki! We first need to make sure Emilia snaps out of her current state!”
“Yes, yes. I know that part quite well. Just focus on the road, will you? I’m aching to eat an unhealthy amount of those cinnamon cookies.”
Otto blinks in confusion, but obeys you and stops bothering you with pointless questions.
You pat him on the shoulder. Otto’s a good guy. Trustworthy and a hard worker. His humbleness is almost as annoying as his tendency to shout during regular conversations, apart from that whole delusion about being able to speak to animals. But seeing him, as well as the rest of the actors in this play, shortly after you start all over again makes you smile.
Once Emilia is resting in Ryuzu’s guest bed, you sit down in your usual place at the living room table and let the others repeat their lines while you drink the tasty tea and eat the elf’s cookies. Right now you don’t care about anything else. And it’s so nice to know that you don’t have to care about anything for a while, you can just let the world breathe on its own.
Well, you would like to enjoy some time in peace, but you feel Ram’s gaze burning your face. Your esteemed senior servant is sitting in front of you, hoping that you will finally speak up about whether you went through the trial or not. She’s her usual pink-haired, red-eyed, fully alive old self.
You sigh and finish eating the rest of your cookie. You offer a smile to the guarded servant.
“How are you feeling on this beautiful night, Ram?”, you ask pleasantly.
Ram narrows her eyes with suspicion.
“I am doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances, Barusu. And yourself?”
“Oh, I’m a little tired from carrying the world on my shoulders. Quite tired about it, actually…”
“Barusu. Please. I want to know if you went through with it. You know what I mean, don’t you?”
“I have gone through many things, my dear Ram. Many trials of many types. I ended up liking you quite a bit, you know? That whole thing about running towards your impending death to give me and the trainee the chance to survive… I am so moved that I want to tear up while replaying that in my mind. But you don’t remember any of it. I have to hold all those memories on my own.”
She narrows her eyes even further, as if the act could threaten you.
“Answer me, Barusu. Did you go through with it?”
You stretch out your arms while smiling.
“I don’t have anything to hide, Ram. I went through with it.”
“But what about you, Ram? Did you go through with it?”
Ram hunches over, crossing her arms over the table, and glares at you as if you are annoying her intentionally.
“What the hell are you doing? What’s wrong with you? Ever since you exited that tomb, you seem as if you are in a daze, Barusu.”
Otto clears his throat to your right, next to Garfiel, who is slumped on his chair.
“Yes, I worried about that…”, the merchant says. “You looked as if you didn’t care that Emilia had fallen into such a troubling state.”
You shrug, then gulp some more of your tea.
“Nothing much matters when you stop to think about it”, you say with a tired voice, suddenly weary for having to talk. “It all keeps happening over and over, people’s emotions come and go, people die and get reborn. What do you want me to say?”
“Yer own pals can tell yer bein’ as weird as a ghanfal during matin’ season, half-pint, fancy plumage an’ all”, Garfiel says as his blonde hairline glistens in the candlelight, and he reaches for another fried potato. “Can’t believe a damn thing that comes outta yer mouth, it seems.”
You tilt your head towards him and raise a corner of your mouth in a smile.
“That’s rich coming from you, Garfiel. It seems like you don’t care for anyone’s emotions but your own.”
He stares at you for a moment, then he tsks to the side.
“Might as well be true, evil eyes. At least I don’t pretend ta care.”
“I care. And that sister of yours, she looks so majestic when transformed into a horse-sized, fantasy world lioness. The female eyelashes are a bit incongruous, though, but man, her light blonde fur must feel so nice.”
Garfiel snaps his head back, and then he straightens in the chair as if he needs to defend himself.
“Ol’ furryburglar transformed in front of ya? She wouldn’t do that if she didn’t have to, or at least she didn’t use to.”
You lean back on your chair and look at the ceiling.
“She had to, yeah. Ah… I thought she had betrayed us, but in the end she was as cool as they come. I’m glad she’s one of us.”
Before you know it you end up having to wipe some tears. Everyone at the table is staring at you with different levels of bewilderment, but you couldn’t care less.
You want to be honest with yourself: you want to go into Ryuzu’s guest bedroom and get under the covers of that bed so you can bask in the warmth of what would be Emilia’s first time in this new reality. However, you know that if you allow yourself a break, you will allow yourself a second. You will end up repeating the loop dozens, hundreds of times, and maybe the next time you won’t find the strength to climb out of that hole. You might lose the will to do so.
This time you will try something different. At least returning to Roswaal’s mansion wasn’t a waste. The lioness had revealed that there was a secret to discover in Sanctuary, and the only two people you imagine will know what she hinted at are Garfiel and Ryuzu. So as soon as the informal meeting at Ryuzu’s living room ends , you intend to figure out where Garfiel goes whenever he thinks none of you are looking.
You have already refused to meet the clown, which annoyed this current version of the senior servant. And you have let the punk go ahead as he prowls towards and then into the dense forest as if he’s done it regularly for years. You stalk him with the little experience you have, not worrying if you end up failing. You are following a predator in his home turf. If he catches you and he freaks out to the extent that he kills you, you’ll try all over again. Best case scenario, he’ll notice you but allow you to believe you have the upper hand, which will get you closer to learning something new. And once you store in your brain a new fact of this strange world, nobody will be able to take it out no matter how many times they kill you.
The trees are very tall, and their thick branches are interlaced above you letting only scarce rays of moonlight to pass through and illuminate a portion of the ground. It’s a good thing that you have a decent sense of smell, since even vision is barely capable of discerning shapes.
At one point you lose Garfiel, and you stop partially hidden by a tree trunk. You figure that the punk is coming, so you wait until he makes his entrance. There’s no harm in making Garfiel believe it will surprise you.
Sure enough, Garfiel jumps down from one of the trees and you turn to face him, only for him, who seemed to believe you were going to punch him, to deftly jump out of the way.
“Yer slow!” He says with a laugh, “An’ ya didn’t even sense me! That’s two flaws, slowin’ down an’ losin’ yer awareness o’ the environment!”
You stand there looking at him calmly as he leaps towards you and then catches you between his forearm and a tree trunk. He’s pressing down hard between your clavicles. His heart must be pounding on his ribcage, but your nerves haven’t worsened.
Garfiel snarls at you, displaying his triangular teeth, from so close that you can smell the fried potatoes in his breath.
“Damn weirdo, freakin’ out yer own pals, an’ now followin’ me through the forest. Thinkin’ ya could catch me unawares in my own home! Can’t understand whaddya want, but with someone like ya, who can enter them witches’ restin’ place even though them traps shoulda have ripped ya apart, ya followin’ me cannot be anythin’ good.”
“Depends on what you mean by good, Garfiel”, you say imperturbably. “I’m just following your dear Frederica’s guidelines.”
You see a mixture of emotions flash through his eyes: guilt, anger, and fear.
“Whaddya mean? What’s that betrayin’ broad got ta do with anythin’?”
“She has a lot to do with this. As a matter of fact, it was her idea. She decided that I should pay you a visit because apparently you’ve been slacking off.”
He snaps his head back with disbelief, then he leans forward to glare threateningly mere centimeters away from your face.
“Haah!? Slackin’ off! Ain’t nobody who works harder than me in this whole village, except fer the old hag! But she’s a special case above all, havin’ been guardin’ this place since before Gosre Peahles extracted his flamin’ sword from the fabled rock!” He returns to his original position and snarls at you. “Yer just sayin’ stuff ta piss me off, an’ it’s workin’, so how about ya stop talkin’ an’ make yer damn point before I make a point out of ya!”
You take a deep breath.
“I’m saying that your heart is restless, Garfiel. I don’t think guarding is your calling.”
“It has been fer years! Whaddya know anyway!? Apart from them legends ’bout the strongest man in the world who resides in this here place, legends known far and wide, all ya learned came from that betrayin’ Frederica, who left us all ta rot!”
You barely blink as you hold Garfiel’s gaze. His pupils are trembling, and he’s breathing harder.
“Frederica told me something that caught my curiosity”, you say. “She told me that I had yet to learn the secret of Sanctuary. I have always been interested in mysteries, and it’s not as if tending to livestock, talking to the half-beast locals who have known nothing else than these dreary views, or drinking myself into oblivion with the watered down mead of this place could hold my attention for long. You know all there is to know about this here village, don’t you, Garfiel? And sooner or later you will show it to me.”
Garfiel looks as if in a trance. After a while he snarls differently than the happy-go-lucky one you’re used to seeing. It’s a powerful, animalistic one, directed at you. You know you he won’t treat you any other way for as long as you remain in this reality.
“Threaten me an’ mine any further an’ you’ll find out the true meanin’ of pain!”
You laugh at the joke this punk made inadvertently, which confuses him. As he was about to shout at you again, you interrupt him.
“I didn’t come to hurt any of you. In fact, I want nothing more than to free all of you so we can all go home, or somewhere better. Unfortunately we can’t count on my lovely Emilia’s self-punishing determination to lift that hundreds of years old barrier of yours, so I need to expose every single dirty secret of this village. You are either going to help me sooner or later, Garfiel. I have much more time and willpower than you can imagine.”
For a moment he squeezes you tighter against the tree trunk, but you let him ponder your words. Eventually he groans and lets you go.
“I cannot understand ya, half-pint, and ya talk too much. Ya’ll have ta meet someone who will know better how ta deal with yer sneaky cormuto ass.”
You smile and nod, which annoys the punk.
“Great. I was getting tired of just dealing with just the two notorious locals. Who might that new person be?”
Garfiel turns around to lead you somewhere else, but he smirks at you over his shoulder.
“I’m gonna disappoint ya, half-pint, which makes me all happy.”
“Oh, please, anything but disappointment.”
Your witty personality annoys him even more. You keep bickering with him while he guides you further into the darkened forest, until he motions with his head towards a clearing. You crane your neck, but you are indeed disappointed. Sitting on a log waits Ryuzu, that small, sort of twelve year old elf, with that long, straight pale red hair that curves upwards at the ends, and who hides most of her body up to her chin in a bulky coat, as if she were perpetually cold. As soon as she notices that you are following Garfiel, she stands up and narrows her eyes at you in a way you hadn’t seen Ryuzu do before. Then again, you hadn’t intruded into their private world in such a way before.
“Oh, it’s just Ryuzu!”, you say.
Garfiel shakes his head.
“Just, huh?” He then walks up to Ryuzu’s side, and he motions with his head towards you. “See who I brought ya, old hag? Guess ya’ll be able to figure if it’s true or not, won’t ya?”
The elf takes a deep breath while she holds your gaze.
“I’m surprised you got here so fast, Ryuzu, but I guess I shouldn’t”, you say, as you had been thinking about it for a few seconds. “The first I saw of you was when I got teleported to that clearing close to the witches’ tomb. You reminded me of a deer back then, and you ran really fast back into the forest. I guess acting like some decrepit old woman is one of those Sun Tzu things, huh? Feigning weakness where you are strongest. So you actually were a twelve year old with the energy to match, despite Garfiel calling you old hag repeatedly. That’s on me, though. I should have stopped paying attention long ago to whatever Garfiel says. Most of it doesn’t mean anything.”
Garfiel snarls at you as he clenches his fists, but when Ryuzu shares a knowing look with the punk, he relaxes and smirks for a moment.
“So you followed Garfiel into the forest, Young Su?”, Ryuzu asks with an uncharacteristic wariness.
“That’s right”, you answer without hesitation. “For two reasons: first of all one that I haven’t mentioned to your punk grandson of sorts, and the other because I want to uncover the secrets of your dreary village, just like Frederica suggested I should do. And I’m firmly on that German’s side from now on, I think.”
“That first reason you haven’t explained already seems less perilous, so please elaborate on it.”
“Alright. I know you guys won’t allow me to pass the trials for Emilia’s sake. That whole political garbage. But I thought about Frederica, and something wasn’t making much sense.”
“What did you think about?”
“The lioness herself told me before my lovely Emilia ended up trapped here that her mother had come to the village for protection. She had half-beast children, meaning Garfiel and Frederica, although I don’t know if she was the human half or the hopefully intelligent beast half of the equation. While Garfiel has ended up wanting to spend the rest of his punk days in this miserable place, Frederica left. But how the hell did Frederica leave if the other half-beasts can’t? If she managed to pass the trials, then the barrier wouldn’t be there anymore, would it? So there must be a loophole that will allow us to sneak at least Emilia through the border, and maybe your trapped villagers as well.”
Ryuzu stares at you in silence for a few moments before speaking.
“If only such loophole existed, Young Su, I assure you we would have exploited it already.”
“That’s part of what had me confused, sure, but then-“
Garfiel snorts, which makes you focus on him. He shakes his head and puts a hand on his waist while looking as if he hates that he needs to talk about this, and that you brought it up.
“Ol’ furryburglar’s full name is Frederica Baumann. Did ya know that much?”
He points at his chest with his free thumb.
“This one here’s a Tinsel, as in Garfiel Tinsel. Ya know what that means?”
“I’d have to think about it for a moment…”
Garfiel hardens his voice.
“It’s easy, half-pint. It means my momma is a whore.”
You snap your head back. Ryuzu lifts her gaze towards the punk, and a sudden sadness clouds her face. She looks down to the insides of her bulky coat, hiding her features up to her lower eyelids.
You want to lighten the mood, make some sarcastic comment, but Garfiel keeps staring at you with pure disdain and disgust. Not toward you. Not solely toward his mother even, but the entire world. You end up lowering your head as well.
“It’s true, ain’t it. Both ‘Rica and I are half-breed bastards left behind. What else would ya call a momma that comes inta this secret village that allowed other families of freaks ta grow up safe, only for that momma of ours to leave us so she could prance back to that wide world out there? What do ya call a full human, which she is, that screwed two different beast shapeshifters and when she was round with me, she shat me out and then abandoned us? Damn whore threw us here to rot like some garbage. That’s what goes on in yer place of birth, ain’t it, half-pint? Is that the kinda stuff ya fancy noble-like people do?”
“I’m not a noble, as you already know, but-“
“I can see it. I can see it in yer eyes. The way ya look down on me, like I’m some kinda rat in the gutter. Same way that Ram looks at me. Fuckin’… All of ya should just burn up in hell.”
You’re speechless for a moment. You don’t want this guy to get too angry, not even because he will likely kill you, but for his own sake.
“Young Su”, Ryuzu attracts your attention firmly as if wanting to stop Garfiel from talking.
“Yes, Ryuzu…”, you say with a thin voice.
“I can see you’re a smart individual from the way you act in front of me, and the words you say.”
“Well, that’s much kinder than how most other people have described me.”
“However, you failed to consider, or discover, a vital detail about Frederica that allowed her to leave our Sanctuary without passing the trials. She simply walked out of here, the same way you would be able to.”
“Frederica ain’t a half-breed”, Garfiel says while crossing his arms and looking down at the grass. “She’s more human than beast. That old Echidna witch was only interested in half-breeds, I reckon. That’s why she trapped them here even if they just wandered inta the place. Like diggin’ a pit and waitin’ for them jotirambos ta fall in, I’m guessin’, then makin’ a nice casserole out of them. So ‘Rica didn’t fully belong here, and she must’ve sensed that. Maybe part of why she turned her back on us.”
You scratch your head.
“Shit… So that whole thing of calling Frederica part beast instead of half wasn’t pointless. I guess I knew it all along! Which means that no loophole exists. Another dead end…”
Ryuzu holds your gaze without blinking nor showing any expression in her young, elfin face.
“Was that all about your first purpose for following Garfiel into the forest?”
“I’m afraid so, yeah.”
“In that case we would move to revealing secrets about our ancient town. For that I will need Young Garf’s help.”
When you were turning your head towards the punk, he lunges at you and you suddenly find yourself gasping for air while your throat burns and the weight of your body pulls on your head. Garfiel has grabbed you by the throat and lifted you into the air so your feet don’t touch the ground. He’s squeezing with the purpose of cutting the supply of blood to your brain, but he’s also preventing you from filling your lungs or letting the air escape. Even though you have gone through plenty of troubling bullshit already, your body goes into a panic, and you grasp at the punk’s wrist and his fingers digging into your throat in an attempt to loosen his grip, but the bastard truly is strong.
“Ya know, ya’ve been givin’ me such creeps, I was achin’ to do this to ya. If ya know what’s good for ya, quit strugglin’. I’ll tear this fucker clean off.”
“Ggg…”, is all you manage to get out of your throat as your vision starts to gray at the edges.
Ryuzu approaches you slowly, then looks up at you as if trying to attract your attention. She’s frowning, but with more worry than hate.
“I can let you in on one of our secrets, Young Su. I’m not Ryuzu Bilma, that dutiful slave.”
Your brain is getting starved of oxygen, darkening the forest even further. You feel as if you will faint at any moment, and the pain in your throat prevents you from focusing on anything or even think.
“We’ll have time for more after cleaning up… this”, Ryuzu says as she wanders away from you.
Your body goes limp, and your vision fades.
Everything is black. How did you die? Ah, Garfiel strangled you. No, you can’t be dead. Not only you aren’t enveloped by that looped witch’s unearned love, but you feel your body. Your throat hurts and you have trouble breathing right, as if something is covering your head. You are also lying on your side on a cold, hard floor that feels like the one at the witches’ tomb. You try to move your hands, which feel cold and unresponsive, but you can’t, and it takes you a couple of seconds to realize that they are bound behind your back. Garfiel and Ryuzu have kidnapped you and restrained you in some building. That’s new.
Not knowing what else to do, you force yourself into a sitting position. It takes a while, and you can feel a shooting pain in your head as you do it. You let out as a sigh of relief as your head rests against the wall behind you. You try to take off whatever is masking your vision by dragging your head along the wall back and forth, and although some fabric slides along your nose whenever you tug, the sack-like thing must be fastened around your neck.
As you get up, a creaky, metallic door opens grating along the floor, and brisk footsteps come toward you.
“Is that you, Garfiel?”, you ask with a dry voice.
“Yeah, an’ I’ve brought you the one thing ya’ll need.”
“Being freed from imprisonment?”
“Yer a silly weirdo even after gettin’ choked and thrown inta a dungeon. I just gotta admire that at least. Too bad ’boutta rest.” You hear something wooden being set on the floor carelessly, maybe of the size of a chair. “Nah, I meant a bucket ta shit an’ piss in. I even hafta bother meself throwin’ out yer shit. Guess that if that hot Ram, so strong an’ proud an’ all, will do it fer her lord, I can lower meself as well.”
“So I am the lord in this relationship. Good to know. Too bad about having my hands bound and my head covered by a bag of some kind. These restraints go beyond caution and into sadism. My wrists are numb already.”
“Yer lucky I’m nice, and that the old hag is interested in yer case. With such a bold intruder, I’d just punch ya so hard that yer face would’ve exploded. Then I’d have fed yer re-“
“Fed my remains to the pigs, yeah. I noticed their size, you must keep them pretty happy.”
“I keep meself busy with all this guardin’, I already told ya, half-pint. Lotsa crap ta do. Plenty of it ugly.”
You take a deep breath, but whatever is covering your head smells bad, like it came from a barn.
“Now let’s get serious, Garfiel. Did you throw me into a dungeon just because I followed you into the forest? Or is it because I told you I wanted to reveal your secrets?”
“Nah, I’d just told ya to eat a dick and go away. It’s just that the old hag had wanted from the beginning to get a good sniff at ya, and now she’s sure.”
“Is this a fetish thing? Have I become that twelve year old granny’s personal plaything, locked away forever in her sex dungeon?”
You don’t hear anything for a few seconds, then a punch in your guts makes you fall to your knees and then double over while coughing. Your intestines burn, and you are surprised that your shit didn’t get squeezed out. You figure you will have to endure for a while this electric pain coursing through the lower tract of your digestive system.
“Didn’t yer mom teach ya ta never talk ’bout ladies that way, ya dumbass? I’ll give yer three warnings, then I’m goin’ in all at once.”
“Maybe I should keep suggesting dirty stuff about your beloved sister, so you will kill me and we’ll get this over with.”
Garfiel groans, annoyed.
“An’ maybe I’ll tighten the cord on yer neck so much that yer tongue will fall out. I got now how ya operate, evil eyes. Ya say weird things ta people so they get confused and they forget ’bout the important stuff they shoulda brought up with ya. As in ya stinkin’ like the witch!”
You take a deep breath of the foul smelling sack over your head or whatever it is, and you roll your eyes even though Garfiel can’t see it.
“So that’s what throwing me into a dungeon is all about. A fucking misunderstanding. I’m not a witch cultist, damn it. I fight and kill cultists. I already went over this.”
“Yeah, an’ ya also claim that ya fight monsters and such, but after checkin’ with the adventurers’ guild, they said ya haven’t been on any of their sanctioned hunts.”
“Hey, don’t fly off into your delusions! I’m telling you, I know I smell like that Satella broad, but that doesn’t mean I’m a witch cultist. Other people have brought up my foul body odor, which is embarrassing, let me tell you, but eventually they got the point that they were mistaken and that I’m simply a weird guy who goes around smelling like a witch. I even led an operation against the Witch’s Cult, killed one of their Archbishops and everything!”
You hear a taptaptap and you realize that Garfiel is hitting his chest with his fists.
“Alright, alright, settle down. I believe ya.”
“I should hope so.”
“Nah, just kiddin’. Old hag told me that some random people do smell like the witch fer no good reason, a mystery, but she said that none stunk like ya. It’s like ya got that old witch all over ya. An’ ya ain’t a normal dude walkin’ ’round. Ya entered them witches’ tomb without triggerin’ Echidna’s traps, and ya followed me inta the forest even though I’m the strongest man alive, more powerful than Beninges Effidon in his glorious days. Ya should be afraid of annoyin’ me fer a single second!”
“I just know you are a soft guy inside, someone who just wants to return to his sister’s side and bask in the warmth of her big, warm, possibly furry bosom.”
You can feel Garfiel glaring through the sack on your head.
“Yer still useful, so I won’t kill ya, but I’m gettin’ real bored of ya.”
“Then let’s get to interesting stuff. Who is that Ryuzu, and in what way is she different from the Ryuzu that bakes us cookies?”
“Them’s her siblings, in a sense.”
“At least I know there’s more than one. That Ryuzu I met in the beginning, the deer Ryuzu, must be the dumbest of the bunch, huh?”
“Hah, that’s rude. Anyway, none of ya. As in none of ya business, cultist fuck.”
“I’m not with the Witch’s Cult, I’m telling you.”
“Oh, shut it. Unless ya got anythin’ real ta say, I’m gonna shut ya up.”
“Permanently if you don’t mind. Go ahead and kill me, Garfiel. You must have wanted it for a good while.”
Garfiel growls, then looses something around your neck and takes off the sack. The light of the couple of torches makes you wince due to the sudden contrast with the blackness. You are indeed in the closest thing to a fantasy world dungeon that you can imagine. Garfiel, standing in front of you, hasn’t changed a bit: same old messy-haired hick wearing a vest that barely covers his athletic chest, and the same beastly expression on his face, showing his pointy teeth, that he intends to be menacing. You smile at him despite the pain in your bowels, and the punk narrows his eyes nervously.
“Punch me so hard that my head explodes”, you ask. “That sounds fun.”
“Whatever. Ya say any more weird shit like that, an’ I’ll beat ya ta death.”
“That works for me too, as long as I end up dead.”
He tilts his head and stares at you perplexed, trying hard to figure out what you are doing.
“I’m so tired of yer mind games, and I can’t understand the why of this one. Ya’ll end up gettin’ killed fer real!”
“Whatever happens, happens.”
“Quit sayin’ shit like that, creep!” He stares at you murderously for a while, then pokes you with his finger in the chest. “I ain’t gonna kill ya, freak, if only ’cause the old hag didn’t want me to. The village will be a mess with people lookin’ for ya. I’ll have ta lie to that fiery Ram an’ all, and I hate it already. That’s all yer fault. I guess ya deceived yer pals, that clown bastard even, to infiltrate their home.”
“I am not their enemy, nor yours”, you say, “I am your friend, Garfiel. I’m here to free you all from that witch Echidna’s barrier. My main goal is to help my dear Emilia return back to the warm, womb-like safety of our huge fantasy world mansion, where we will test the springs of every single bed. And that’s a whole load of beds, let me tell you.”
Garfiel wrinkles his nose in disgust.
“Bullshit! Yer a creep, an’ ya talk too damn much. If ya were anythin’ other than a damn liar, ya wouldn’t be sittin’ there right now.”
You sigh, then lift your gaze to hold the punk’s nervous one.
“So you intend to keep me alive. What’s your endgame here then? Because I need to be somewhere else as soon as possible.”
“The shy princess will realize that ya ain’t comin’ back. Maybe she’ll believe that ya just went an’ abandoned them. She’ll go back to attemptin’ ta pass them trials, because someone that fancy and royalty-like won’t wanna stay in this nowhere place. If she ends up liftin’ that barrier, then maybe old hag will release ya. We’ll give ya up to the clown so he can figure out what ta do with a cultist that sneaked into their camp.”
“I’m not a damn cultist. Did you even hear a word I said?”
“Sure ya are.”
Your heart has realized before you have that you are in a perilous position. If they manage to prevent you from dying, they won’t have much trouble keeping you in this dungeon for days, weeks, months. You already know that Emilia will never pass those trials. You have to figure out a way for this punk to murder you. Or maybe just wait until he leaves, and then you’ll bite off your tongue. After all, you already know how that feels, and you can lie on your back, let your mouth fill with blood and choke on it. Your mood improves already.
“Just to try make you see reason, we know that at least two contract killers have been hired to assault Roswaal’s mansion. It will happen in around four days from now at the latest. They intend to murder everyone at the clown’s place, which means that Frederica is going to die. Do you want that to happen?”
The thought of his sister dying contorts Garfiel’s face with worry for a moment.
“Really fucking bad. The killers are a nasty bunch as well. One a sexual freak with the hottest tits I’ve ever seen, and the other a child who has mutated monsters for pets. And they will kill everyone at the mansion, I’m telling you. They will get eviscerated, their remains devoured by monsters. That’s what you are risking by keeping me here.”
Garfiel is silent for a while. His brow furrows and he bites his lips. Then he shakes his head and frowns at you.
“Nah, that’s too convenient, ain’t it? Just as ya were stalkin’ me through the forest, some assassins are preparin’ to kill me sister? There’s no way!”
“So you want to risk it being true, then? Because it is. Your dear Frederica, that awesome lioness, will get murdered, and it will be on you. How will you be able to live with that?”
Garfiel’s voice trembles with fear and rage.
“Yer yankin’ my chain. I can’t believe ya…”
“I’m telling you the truth. Why would I lie about something like that? Would I lie to you about your dear sister, whom you obviously love so much?”
He clenches his fists as if holding back his urge to bash your head in.
“Let me go, Garfiel”, you say seriously. “I’m not your enemy.”
He rubs his fingers on the nasty scar on his forehead while grimacing in pain.
“Yer sure actin’ like one. Crap… Why do ya have ta mess with me head like this!”
You keep staring at him intensely.
“Let me go, Garfiel, and we’ll pretend none of this happened. I was about to leave for Roswaal’s mansion to stop the contract killers. You believing that I’m a witch cultist is a misunderstanding after all, and I hate cultists as well, so I understand your actions. We’ll return back to normal.”
He grits his predatory teeth even harder.
He swings his fist into the iron bars, bending them. He then wraps both hands around his head and slams it against the stone wall. When he pulls it back, his scar is covered in blood which is running down towards the bridge of his nose.
You are more than a bit disturbed. No wonder this guy is such a moron. His frontal lobe must have been mush for a long time.
“Garfiel, that’s fully unnecessary, not to mention horrifying”, you say with worry. “Calm down, let’s talk about this.”
He turns and points at you with a shaky hand.
“Shut up! Ya stay away from me sister! Stay away from the mansion! Ya hear me?! I don’t know what kinda lies ya told me, but I don’t trust ya one bit!”
After he calms down, he leans his head against the bars. A single tear drops to the dirty stone floor.
“Why do ya hafta mess with my head? Damn people always messin’ with me. And all ya had to do is help the shy princess, make sure nothin’ happened to ‘er. That’s all people asked of ya, ain’t it? Maybe the stench woulda been nothin’ then. But ya didn’t, ya came in here to destroy our home, the only place we can live in. I can’t forgive anyone fer that.”
You try thinking about how to convince him, but you can tell it won’t make a difference. He intends to keep you locked away until Emilia exits the witches’ tomb triumphantly, which will never happen, so you will never leave this ancient dungeon. You need to figure out a way to die as soon as possible. Maybe you just have to wait for the punk to leave, and when the coast is clear, steel yourself, lie on your back and bite down hard. Elsa showed you how hard you have to do it, and your mind survived intact after losing half of your tongue.
A moment later you realize that Garfiel is standing a meter away from you. As you look up at him, he crouches as if to read your thoughts through staring at you with his fiery eyes. The rolling beads of blood have reached his upper lip.
“I sure wish yer eyes weren’t like that, and it would be better for ya if they weren’t. Anyone can read yer evil intent with a single look.”
“I’m not evil”, you say, but you know it’s futile.
“Yeah, yeah, I should’ve known that ya’d lie. No matter, whatever ya are, ya won’t be in the way of things soon. Shy princess will pass the trials soon enough.”
You sigh deeply, shrug and resign yourself to wait until he gets bored and leaves.
“What’s with that face, half-pint?”, Garfiel asks with worry. “Ya ain’t gonna to mess with me head anymore? Ya ain’t gonna beg in ya way for me to release ya back to the pals ya deceived?”
“I can tell you are going to have it however you like. You won’t let me out no matter how much I complain, so I better save my breath.”
“Heh, ya got that right. But there’s somethin’ more, ain’t it? That whole thing ’bout askin’ me ta kill ya… It’s like ya truly wanted it.”
Your heart skips a beat.
“No, I want to live as much as the next guy, I assure you. I was just messing with your head because I knew you wouldn’t kill me. I just wanted to confuse you, which is as easy as it gets because you are as dumb as they come, Garfiel. Just a hick from a forgotten village who keeps making up nonsense because his life is pointless and hopeless.”
Even though his face twitches with anger, he smirks nervously.
“Hah! There it is! That’s what I wanna see. The guy who doesn’t give a damn ’bout nothin’ and mocks everyone. Sayin’ something so nasty to the strongest man in the world, who has ya locked up in a dungeon no less… That’s a death wish if I ever heard one.”
“I will not die here. I will live a very long life and pass away in my bed, surrounded by dozens of children and grandchildren, some of them part elf and others part demon.”
“Yeah, if ya say so. But knowin’ ya, I’d bet ya that ya’d come back from the dead just ta mock me again.”
“I would never think of doing such a thing.”
“That’s what ya say now, but the dead be comin’ back all the time. That’s why we put them six feet under or feed them ta pigs.”
“What, you have zombies in your fantasy world!?”
“Never heard of those, but that damn necromancer Flinterion the Undying keeps searchin’ fer our humble village. One day he’ll show up and I’ll fight him meself! I’ll have ta claw through a whole army of animated dead first!”
You close your eyes and contain a sigh.
“That would be a very interesting fight to watch. A completely fantastical one as well.”
“I dunno, I’m sure it’d be scary as hell even fer the strongest man in the world. Every time we hear rumbling from underground, me and the other kids used ta hide under our beds. Probably just the wind, but ya never know.”
You open your eyes again and stare at a hesitant Garfiel. He must have recovered his confidence, because he bares his predatory teeth menacingly.
“But I ain’t afraid no more. Becomin’ the strongest man in the world means losin’ all ya fear. Ya don’t even feel it anymore.”
You slowly lean back until you lie on your back, squeezing your tied hands between the floor and your body. The stone floor feels cold through your clothes. A headache is coming, and you want to be left alone to die in peace.
“Knowing your worldview, that makes perfect sense”, you mutter. “Please, let me be for a while, Garfiel, so I can get properly terrified about how much time I’m going to waste locked up in here.”
“Sure, will do. Ya know, it’s funny. I be the strongest man in the world, an’ I’m still afraid of so many things. Of losin’ people I care about, of losin’ a fight… even though it’s rare that anyone is actually strong enough ta challenge me. But yer not afraid of nothin’.”
“I couldn’t care less about the contradictions coming out of your mouth right now. Fuck off.”
“That’s basically what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Yer too full o’ hate to be afraid of anythin’. Ya’ve been eaten by the darkness. That’s a cultist fer ya.”
After a couple of seconds you hear Garfiel’s footsteps as he walks out of the cell. You wiggle your hands from under your body, and take a deep breath. The headache is coming now. However, Garfiel’s footsteps return, and he appears in your field of view. He stares down at you while smirking as if he has you figured out.
“What?”, you ask.
“Don’t say ‘nothing’, you have something to say. Spit it out.”
“I dunno if ya did this intentionally or not, but I think yer startin’ ta get scared.”
“Scared of what?”
“Whatever it is that’s not gonna happen.”
He crouches towards you. Suddenly he’s forcing your mouth open with one hand, while with the other he shoves a dirty, nasty-tasting balled up rag, filling your mouth with it. He wraps rope around it to secure it in place. Moving surprisingly quick for someone his size, he steps away from you and out of your view. You try to yell at him, but the gag muffles your voice, and all that comes out is a pathetic whimpering.
“Sorry I can’t hear ya”, he shouts proudly. “Hopefully when they let ya outta there, we can talk properly and find out what ya cultist freaks want with our village.”
You hear the sound of metal clanging together as the door closes and is locked shut.