This entry covers part of the eleventh volume of the original “Re:Zero” novels.
We reach part sixty, which is as long as the first season got, and yet this one has much more left in store. Don’t know how I feel about that.
In the previous entry we learned that Garfiel might like wrestling a bit too much, that Otto is a true bro and might or might not be able to communicate with animals and insects, that Ram can appreciate people when they do a good job, that Beatrice is probably not a witch cultist, and that Garfiel is supposed to be as strong as an entire army of warriors.
Ram, Otto and you are hurrying through the path that eventually reaches the barrier that surrounds Sanctuary. Although you are holding on to your beloved ground dragon Patrasche’s reins, who had grown nervous after picking up on the mood, you still don’t just mount Patrasche and make the fastest run for the exit, because you don’t know if Garfiel has figured out you are missing and has planned an ambush along the way.
It’s a cloudy night in which the starlight fails to illuminate properly what passes for streets in Sanctuary, which lack any kind of artificial light at night. As the three of you pass in front of some houses, you spot behind the window frames the worried and curious faces of half-beast people. They must have a good idea of what’s going on, and might not want the trouble that Garfiel and that Ryuzu Shima have brought by kidnapping and imprisoning you. One of the half-beast families is sitting on the yard. When they notice you, the mother, which seems to be half-racoon, turns pale. The father, whose furry half you can’t identify, stands up, puts his hand to his chest and repeats ‘we are sorry’ a few times. They seem afraid, but you understand practically nothing of the dynamic of the people trapped here, or who simply were born, grew up and will end up dying here, with the power structure of the village.
Turns out that Ram’s warning about how short on time you were to escape should have registered in your brain, because the three of you end up staring at Garfiel, who is standing in the middle of the path, in the direction you need to follow, with his feet firmly planted on the ground. He’s glaring with boiling anger, as if he has been stewing in place for a while.
Ram mutters to herself, and then she leans towards your ear as the three of you keep walking at a slower pace.
“There’s little point in admonishing you now about this likely consequence, Barusu, even though I wish I had the time to do so. At least now we know Garfiel’s location. Follow my lead, and whenever I tell you to, get on your ground dragon and ride as fast as you can out of Sanctuary.”
When the three of you get within speaking distance of Garfiel, he begins to talk. The voice is angry and loud, and his sentences are broken by heavy breaths and fury-driven grits.
“Ya broke out… I told ya we woulda let ya go when the princess passed them trials, but ya just hadta make everythin’ harder… I knew from the moment ya came outta that tomb that ya were terrible news, a weird half-pint like ya… Appearin’ from that nasty world outside ta mess up my home, threaten my home… The frickin’ gall of it… Now ya want ta escape and make fools out of me and me gran…? Everybody thinks we’ve done somethin’ wrong…! I give everythin’ for our home, and they side with a cultist fuck… Ungrateful half-breeds…”
You raise a hand intending to calm him down.
“Just take it easy, Garfiel. The whole thing was a misunderstanding, I told you. I’ll just leave your village and return home. That should be alright. You don’t want a weirdo messing up your place, after all.”
“Shut it! Ya broke outta my grip, makin’ me look all stupid in front of gran, after messin’ in our home, and now ya want ta leave as if you had done nothin’…! We treated ya as guests…!”
You realize that Patrasche is growling. As if Garfiel’s enmity wasn’t clear enough, she must have a grudge for that wrestling move the punk pulled on her the first time you met this hick.
“Garfiel, after I leave, Roswaal intends to smooth the whole thing over. I already explained to the clown bastard that it was all a misunderstanding, that you both were acting to secure the peace in the village. So everything is alright. I’m sure we can wake up Ryuzu Bilma so you can enjoy some more of her snacks while you talk it out with Ram.”
“Her… snacks…!? That’s it!? Ya think I can be bribed by some human food!? How damn unthankful ya be, humie! Ungrateful half-breed… Ungrateful… Ungrateful…”
“Human food? What kind of snacks do you prefer, Garfiel? You seemed very fond of those fried potatoes and the cookies.”
“Ugh…! Ungrateful, both of ya…” Garfiel’s anger seems to be replaced by self-deprecation as he mumbles some incomprehensible complaints. “Both of ya… If I weren’t such a weak bastard, this place’d be happy and safe fer everyone. But I failed. So ungrateful…”
Even though Ram had clearly intended for you to stay at a safe distance away from the punk, you step forward a bit, and your senior servant has no choice but to imitate you.
“Hey, you’re not weak”, you say intending to sound friendly, even though your mind is reaching for a wide variety of ‘fuck off, Garfiel’. “You are the strongest man in the world. I managed to escape that dungeon because I scurried out like a common rat.”
Otto, maybe just realizing what you are doing, stutters for a moment and then contributes.
“Y-Yeah! You just need some help!”
Garfiel was hunched over and clawing at the nasty patch of scarred skin between his eyebrows, as if he needed to tear something from himself. He then turns his attention towards the two of you with a glare.
“Shut it. Both of ya. I’ve had it. I could smell it in ya, even though I couldn’t tell as much as the old hag. Ya came to ruin us. Ya have all that place out there in that fancy world made for ya, but ya came to mess our home. The only one we have. I can’t forgive any of that.”
Ram speaks so loud and so sternly that you flinch.
“Garfiel, you will stand aside and allow Mr. Natsuki to leave the village. This is an order from lord Roswaal. If you don’t do so, you will be severely punished.”
Garfiel’s upper lip is twitching. He couldn’t bring himself to hold Ram’s gaze, until he finds the strength to glare openly at her. His nostrils widen.
“Shut it, Ram. Yer so strong an’ tough an’ hot, but ya gave up yer nature to live with the humans. Ta serve that clown bastard. Yer supposed ta live in the woods with yer kind, aren’t ya? I know all ‘bout that, I was very inta ya, after all. But yer a traitor as well.”
Ram’s expression doesn’t change.
“You’re a fool.”
Garfiel closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. As he slowly lets it out, he draws a mocking smile.
“A fool, ya say, huh? That’s all ya see when ya look at me, some worthless turd on the side of the road, don’t ya?” He laughs bitterly. “I didn’t wanna realize that, but one can’t keep himself from knowin’ once he does, doesn’t he? I’m so much madder ‘bout that than ‘bout damn half-pint breakin’ out. It’s all hopeless an’ pointless, ain’t it?”
You swallow, and your hands start trembling even though you thought that your multiple deaths would have steeled you enough to face this violent hick. Garfiel looks dismantled, as if the few things that managed to keep him going in this dead-end village had been torn apart while he watched helplessly.
“Garfiel, please…”, you say softly. “Let us through.”
He breathes harshly. Slowly, his eyes move from Ram to you, and he lets out a low growl.
“I ain’t movin’ anymore fer nobody.”
“You’re not moving…?”
“I’m stayin’ here. I’m gonna live the rest of my days in Sanctuary. Not even a damn half-pint bastard like you, cultist or not, can get me outta here.”
“I’m sure experiencing the world outside will do you some good, Garfiel. We will figure something out to break that barrier, sooner or later. After this whole misunderstanding is cleared out. And I’m sure that our lovely Ram would be open to spend a nice afternoon with such a strong gentleman like yourself.”
Ram’s glare burns the side of your face.
“I will not entertain such a notion”, the senior servant declares. “I will not lower myself to spend any of my precious time allowing what would pass for courting in this cretin’s mind.”
You snap at her.
“You aren’t helping in the slightest, senior servant!”
“Do not use me as bait, Barusu. It damages my integrity.”
“Lower yerself, huh…?”, Garfiel mutters.
Ram takes a deep breath.
“Because that would be taking advantage of someone who obviously has an interest in me.”
“After ya called me a cretin. I think that means stupid. So after ya called me stupid, now ya pretend ya said that because ya care. You think I’m lower than dirt, don’t ya, Ram…?”
“That is not true, I simply…”
“Don’t lie ta me! Ya’ve been mockin’ me since the first time ya came with that clown bastard, an’ ya’ve been doin’ it in front of everyone! Always lettin’ others know how little ya cared, how little I was worth… It killed me.”
Ram shakes her head and exhales through her clenched teeth.
“I don’t wish to waste my time handling your hurt feelings, Garfiel. I’m sure any of your grandmothers will help you with that. You have done nothing to earn your infatuation. As I said, stop threatening us unless you want to suffer the consequences.”
Garfiel chuckles, even though a thin layer of tears is rimming his lower eyelids.
“Ta threaten others with consequences, ya need ta be strong enough to enforce them, don’t ya? So what are ya gonna do against me, Ram? Ya or yer clown bastard whose piss an’ shit ya handle, anyway. What can ya do against me?”
Ram separates her feet and cracks her fingers, moving into a fighting stance.
“I will do what I must, as usual.”
“Oh, well, that’s a good answer! Should I tremble in fear? Maybe… maybe yer gonna go out with a bang?”
You truly don’t want to attract the punk’s attention at the moment, but you also fear what this guy will do to your senior servant after he has faced that she’ll never have anything romantic or sexual to do with him. He doesn’t seem the type to take rejection calmly.
“Garfiel, you wouldn’t hurt Ram, would you? Look at her. You want to mess that pretty face, ruin those long, slender legs of hers?”
“Shut it! Whatcha mean? I ain’t hittin’ her!”
“That’s right, leave the spanking and a little degradation for the bedroom. Nothing wrong with that.”
“Nah, I’m not… not into that sorta stuff.”
“You sure? Not even a little bit?” You sounded disappointed, so you clear your throat and speak calmly. “Doesn’t matter to me. We can still be friends, you know. I’m on your side.”
“Piss off! I don’t know what I’m doin’ listenin’ to ya! I’ve had enough with the shit that comes outta yer mouth!”
“Fair enough. But don’t forget, if you’re not going to listen to me, you’ll have no chance with Ram. She doesn’t do anything I disapprove of.”
Garfiel groans and holds his head while trembling. Maybe his brain will just burst from all the abuse and mindfucking, and you’ll merely have to step over him.
Ram pushes your shoulder, more strongly than you would have liked, and motions with her head so you and Otto attempt to pass by Garfiel, taking advantage of his current confusion. However, the senior servant herself barely moves.
“Garfiel, we are leaving”, Ram says casually. “We will continue with these matters at another time.”
“Are ya…?”, Garfiel asks with a raspy voice, his gaze lowered.
“Yes, we are. While I would love to stand here and watch the rest of this play, I too have work to do.”
You and Otto start walking properly in the direction of the barrier, with you in the lead and holding on to Patrasche’s reins, but before you know it Garfiel pushes past Ram and blocks your path off with a threatening stance. If you weren’t a sort of immortal, you’d be shitting your pants.
“Move”, you say as firmly as you can.
“I ain’t movin’ for nobody.”
You narrow your eyes.
“So what, you intend to hold us off here until we get bored and turn around?”
Garfiel’s eyes narrow. He moves closer to you and gets in your face.
“I warned ya before, half-pint. I don’t forget, and I don’t forgive. Ya’ve been a pain in my ass since we met. And now I’m goin’ ta break yer fuckin’ legs!”
Garfiel drops down for a legs tackle, but you leap over him and drag Otto with you. You sit on Patrasche’s back, and as Garfiel gets up you kick him in the face, knocking him back.
“Sorry about this”, you say. “You can be an annoying piece of shit, but I still feel sorry for you.”
You must have kicked him harder than you intended, because blood gushes down his face, making him look like a hell beast.
“Yer sorry fer me!? Ya small-timer, lightweight cultist shit pities me!? I was holdin’ back on y’all ‘cause I care, but that’s all done. Ain’t no point in it. I’ll have ta make it so I can’t think straight no more. That’s how the world looks best anyway.”
Garfiel’s body begins contort unnaturally as he moves to a crawling position, his once handsome face becoming blotched and twisted. He lets out a gurgling growl, and he glances at Ram as if forcing himself to.
“As they say, Hoshin was Banan’s sunset.”
The punk’s voice has distorted into something closer to a beast’s. Otto gasps, and jumps forward so he stands between you, even though you are mounted on Patrasche, and the mutating punk.
“What, that meant something!?”, you ask, worried and bewildered.
“Of course! It refers to the conquerer Hoshin of the Wastes, who brought the small nation of Banan to ruin! It means surrender or face an all-out attack!”
“Hoshin, like that royal candidate broad?”
“I believe that miss Anastasia Hoshin took that last name as a declaration of inte-“
“We don’t have time to fill the holes in Barusu’s knowledge!”, Ram shouts sternly. She’s pulling back while keeping Garfiel on her sights, as well as distorting the air above her right palm in a swirl. “Otto, get on his ground dragon. Barusu, ride as fast as you can without looking back. I will hold Garfiel off.”
As if Patrasche had understood her words, or the merchant had asked her, she crouches to the ground, and you feel Otto sitting on the saddle behind you. He holds your waist as if he doesn’t quite want to. You don’t take your eyes off your senior servant even after Patrasche stands up and prepares herself to sprint.
“Don’t you dare die here, Ram! If you see the opportunity, flee!”
Garfiel, whose muscles have ballooned already to thrice their size, is growling intermittently while his body grows grotesquely and his bones groan and creak. Ram extends her shooting arm towards the mutating hick.
“Shut it, Barusu, and get out of here!”
You give your steed a light kick, making her sprint away from Garfiel. You hate leaving Ram behind, having been consistently unable to help her while she sacrificed herself for you, even if she does it out of duty, but you grit your teeth and ride like hell. Presumably Ram shoots her wind spell or does something, because a loud sonic boom occurs behind you. You look over your shoulder to see a massive gust of wind kicking up a violent whirlwind past the point where the path bends and the tall treeline hides the view. You look forward and squint to focus on the poorly lighted path.
“I hope any of us, meaning you, knows the way”, you say to Otto, the guilt evident in your voice.
“We informed a few friendlies about our operation before we rescued you, Mr. Natsuki! Goodness, I sure hope our senior servant is alright, and will be for the foreseeable future! I don’t know her all that much, but I can tell she’s serious and competent!”
“Yeah, she’s one of the best for sure.”
You are getting dizzy. Even though you are toughing it out, your imprisonment has fucked with your mind, and you feel weak. You keep having to remind yourself that all this is real.
You look over your shoulder to check Otto’s expression. He’s worried, but keeps craning his neck as if to spot something up ahead.
“Otto, you better come with me to the mansion”, you say with a raspy voice. “Everything is fucked on both sides, but at least you won’t have to suffer the ire of that self-hating, unfairly strong idiot.”
“But who will lead the people, Mr. Natsuki?” He chuckles nervously. “Just a little joke. Of course, I’d rather stay out of trouble, Mr. Natsuki, and I look forward to basking in the sun while that kind, too young trainee serves me soft drinks. But we need to reach our own sanctuary first!”
You feel the pain in your chest, but laugh. The mansion is, of course, no sanctuary of any kind, as it will be overrun by horrible killers soon, if it hasn’t been already. For the first time since Otto broke you out from prison, you wonder if it’s time for you to die.
“Why are you laughing, Mr. Natsuki?”
“I just thought of something funny. I’ll tell you when we’re safe, promise.”
Otto nods silently. He turns to look over his shoulder briefly, then leans forward and squints his eyes. He points with a rigid arm to the treeline in front and to the right of you both.
“There it is!”
In the darkness between two tree trunks dances a ball of light, a will-o’-the-wisp, which mesmerizes you until Patrasche is about to pass it by. That light comes from a lamp that a half-cat villager is holding. A chill runs through your back, as your body believes that you need to defend yourself against an ambush, but the villager motions for you to hurry along the path. After you leave him behind, another lamp lights up in the path ahead.
“What’s going on?”, you ask Otto, confused.
“It’s an escort. They light up the path for us, so we don’t fall into a ditch or something.”
Light after light, you speed up alongside the villager houses and long stretches of farms and grazing fields until you are rushing past them at great speed. With a look back, you see the lights growing smaller and smaller, some already extinguished.
“Most of Sanctuary has gone out into the forest to guide us through the paths along the village to the barrier! Not only lord Roswaal’s villagers, but the locals as well!”, Otto says close to your ear. “They just want to help!”
You choke up. Why would they help you like this? Why would they care? You haven’t done anything of value for them. You haven’t been anything but trouble for everyone.
As those bright lights pass you by in the darkness of this cloudy night, your mind falls into a dreamlike state. You remember many instances of sitting on the back of your dad’s car during night trips, watching the streetlights pass by behind the windows. You are exhausted, weakened and on edge due to having been imprisoned, and you feel that the only thing that is keeping you going is the knowledge that you have gone through much worse.
As the memories of your past world were about to bring tears to your eyes, above the rushing wind you hear loud booms and cracks coming from the forest to your right and behind you, as if trees were falling into others or breaking like branches. The cacophony is increasing, and you get the sense that something huge is trampling through the forest, gaining ground on a parallel path.
“Otto, are you hearing that!?”, you shout.
You twist your neck to look around behind you, but the treeline is too tall. The only evidence of something huge moving through, apart from the noise, are birds that are taking flight and then flying in circles above the area as if they don’t dare come down.
“Unfortunately I can hear it loud and clear, Mr. Natsuki!”, he answers in a state of agitation. “We are getting close to the barrier, that same point where our dear lady Emilia fell unconscious! Let’s forget about the ominous uproar and hope for the best!”
The sound of destruction becomes louder and louder, shaking you up even more than you already are. What could be powerful enough to topple trees of that size?
You reach a straight stretch of the path enclosed by the forest, and you recall seeing it when you first travelled to Sanctuary. Even though the barrier is invisible, you must be less than a minute away from it. There is a group of human villagers gathered like the crowd at the end of a race. You recognize a shirtless guy, the only one who doesn’t care about catching a cold on this chilly night. He’s holding a makeshift lance, and others are also armed. As soon as they notice you, they wave and extend their lamps towards the path up ahead.
The booms and cracks have become deafening. You don’t want to look, but you sense the trees shaking not far from the treeline to your right. Suddenly, as if something was charging, you hear a quick succession of bursts and shaking leaves heading in a diagonal towards the gathered crowd, and then a tree trunk slams down hard on the path a few meters in front of you as if pushed.
Patrasche tries to brake, reclining her back to an extent that you hug her neck to avoid flying off, but as the ground dragon was turning, her flank crashes against the tree trunk, and you find yourself sailing in an arc until you hit the ground hard and roll for a few meters.
The earth shakes from another impact; a tree falling. You struggle to stand up as quickly as you can. Your body hurts like hell, particularly your ribcage, and you have trouble keeping the air in. You stagger around on your wobbly legs trying to get your bearings.
“Run, Mr. Natsuki!”, the pained voice of your friend Otto comes from your right. A curtain of blood running down from his forehead has forced him to close one eye, but he’s pointing at the path to your left. “The barrier is just up ahead! Sprint and don’t stop!”
A massive tremor knocks you off your feet again. Two of the trees of the line a few meters in front of you are pushed aside as if they were bushes, and a figure as tall as the trees and as wide as five tree trunks emerges out of the darkness. You find yourself staring up at a huge anthropomorphic tiger that stands on two feet. Its fur is light blonde with black stripes, except on parts of the head, the torso and the insides of the arms, where it’s skin-colored. The muscles are obscenely swollen even for such a gigantic frame, and parts of its wide torso and bulging arms are covered in gashes as if slashed by a massive blade. In its head, the eyes are bloodshot with murderous rage, but a spot between its eyes and slightly above attracts your attention. There’s a huge patch of scarred skin, as if the tiger had hit its head hard repeatedly against something and then scratched the skin raw.
The tiger opens its enormous maw and roars at you, piercing your eardrums, showering you with warm saliva.
Before you know it you have stood up, and although you are retreating, not fast enough for a tiger man that is looking at you as if in a few seconds it’s going to lunge at you and rip you apart.
“Did you kill Ram, Garfiel…?”, you ask with a trembling, hoarse voice.
The tiger man exhales loudly through its nostrils, hunches over and walks towards you. The strength of its steps alone would crush a person like a bug. When it would take the tiger man lunging forward to grab you, it raises its left arm, twists its torso and opens its clawed paw as if to take a swipe at you.
Otto yells in surprise. You are paralyzed as you stare at the huge paw that comes towards you, but someone pushes you out of the way, and a disturbance in the air makes you spin. You hear a loud, wet splashing sound, a big insect crashing against a windshield, and another liquid hits you as if someone had thrown the contents of a bucket at you. When you lift your gaze again, a bunch of mangled body parts fall on the patches of grass and the dirt. As if the clothes that some of the remains are wearing weren’t enough to identify who they belong to, Otto’s head hits the dirt and rolls, its eyes and mouth open in surprise.
You panic. You can’t think of anything but fleeing from the gigantic tiger man that just made Otto explode, but you don’t want to turn around and run, because you need to keep the monster in your sight. Someone pushes you further down the path, towards the barrier. You suddenly find yourself surrounded by the villagers who had gathered to send you off. You see the determined, yet terrified, face of the shirtless teen, who is wielding a makeshift lance as if he intends to defeat that monster. Other villagers, most of them past their forties, are either throwing rocks at the tiger man’s head, shouting at it or steeling themselves to spear it when they have the chance.
“Monster!”, the teen yells at Garfiel. “Horrible beast! Get back!”
The monster roars. You see its muscles bulge as it moves for a man with a spear, who backs away in panic, only to freeze when he meets the cold metal gaze of the monster. The spearman screams as the claw reaches for him, then slams into the man’s side. The villagers look on in shock as the man’s organs are sent flying into the air.
You can barely feel your legs as you keep retreating. What are you people doing?, you want to ask. Don’t you see that the monster is going to kill you? Why are you fighting instead of fleeing? Nobody else needs to die, not for me. I’m the one who dies so nobody else has to.
A man in his fifties thrusts his lance against the tiger man’s torso, but it breaks as soon at it hits the skin. Garfiel lifts his leg above the man and stomps on him, crushing him against the ground in a burst of blood and guts as if he were less than a can. A teen screams in a panic while running to the dead man’s rescue, only to get torn a part by the swinging blow of a gigantic paw. As Garfiel moves forward, the paw that had crushed that man lifts into the air with a fair portion of guts, which fall over the ground.
The monster lets out a roar that shakes your body, then begins a true massacre. Blood stains the dirt and grass red while guts and intestines litter the ground like fallen leaves. Legs, arms and other parts that you can’t identify are scattered, adding to the mess of blood and guts.
You can’t feel your body, you can’t tell what you are doing, until you feel someone grabbing the back of your shirt and pulling you in that direction as if you were a child. You see Patrasche’s tail moving alongside your legs as she drags you towards the barrier. Garfiel has killed every single villager, and as if emboldened by the carnage, is now charging towards you. Patrasche notices it, and twists her body to launch you into the air towards the barrier. You find yourself sailing backwards in an arc as you hold Patrasche’s gaze. Your ground dragon is standing there as if making sure that you fall out of danger.
You remember a moment from your past, what seems like very long ago, when you had been walking down a line of ground dragons to choose your first one, only for this weird female to lick your cheek with her rough tongue. You then noticed her properly for the first time: her black, slick scales except for her brown chest and belly, and in her elongated head, those bright orange eyes that looked at you with a fondness you had done nothing to earn.
As you are about to hit the ground, a white glow escapes out of the pocket of your shirt where you put Frederica’s magic crystal, threatening to blind you. Garfiel reaches your ground dragon and stomps on her, bursting Patrasche against the dirt.
The glowing whiteness engulfs you.