This entry covers part of the eleventh volume of the original “Re:Zero” novels.
In the previous entry, the Witch of Pride wanted in on the tea party, and we got further proof that the protagonist focuses on trying to fuck almost everything that moves whenever he needs to escape from how much of a nightmare his life has become.
An obsidian black, closed iron maiden has appeared out of nowhere a bit further on the hillock. The mere sight of it conjures images of torture in dungeons, and dungeons are no longer an abstract concept for you. You have been through hell and came out alive. You repeat that to yourself as you stand up from the chair and approach the iron maiden cautiously. Even though you don’t dare touch it, it feels heavy and cold.
As you get so close that it would take lunging twice to touch the dark metal, the iron maiden’s doors open. A cold shiver makes you tremble before you register how the girl inside looks. It’s a teenager, or at least her emaciated, small body suggests it. She has raven-black, frizzy hair that comes down in two ponytails. She’s wearing a white straightjacket that reminds you of black and white photos of sanatoriums, and her body is held in place by chains attached to the back and sides of the iron maiden.
More importantly, though, the girl’s lips are bitten off. They are a bloody, glistening mess of raw flesh, as if this girl had chewed on them. No, had eaten them, her own lips. The impression you get is of an insane girl locked up in a dark room for years, who has no other recourse but to cannibalize herself.
You won’t look at this girl’s eyes. The fear has frozen you in place. You don’t want to remain in this death-dream any longer. Hell, you don’t want to exist in the same universe that contains someone like this.
“Ya wanned ‘o shee me”, the girl mumbles as blood drips out of her mouth. Half of her tongue is gone. “He’e I am.”
You swallow. Your legs are trembling. You want to run away, but that would disappoint Echidna. You have faced far worse than a cursed girl who has experienced nothing but a nightmare for her entire life, you tell yourself.
“I did… I did, Daphne. I wanted to know you personally.”
You are talking to a living, breathing being trapped in a situation that would break most people. Perhaps even yourself.
“You look sho good, Shubawu”, she mumbles with pure hunger in her voice. “I would like ‘o bi’e you sho much.”
Daphne is drooling heavily, and it drips from her chin in a mix of her sticky saliva and blood from her open wounds around her dyed teeth. Your stomach churns. You fear you might vomit at any moment. This is the most twisted, insane thing you have ever seen or heard. You don’t know what to do.
“You want to eat me, I’m guessing… Is that how it feels, Daphne? You even want to eat people?”
“I wanna ea’ evewyone, Shubawu”, she says, her voice the embodiment of a madwoman. “Evewyone. I wanna ea’ evewyone and evewy’hing.”
A surge of warmth reaches your eyes, and a tear runs down your cheek. You don’t know if it’s from pure fear or from the thought that anyone could live like this girl and yet fail to go completely insane. But you can’t help it. You pity her, even if she wants to eat you.
“Why a’e you cwying, Shubawu?” Daphne slurs.
Your throat is closing.
“Because the world is horrible”, you say with a trembling voice.
You expect Daphne to agree with you, but instead she laughs, a horrible mix of a chuckle and a wheeze.
“I’ ish fine ash long ash you go’ enough ‘o ea’, ishn’ i’?” Daphne stops laughing, and you feel her stare burning your face, as if she could see through your skin and bone and into your brain. “Sho you came ‘o me ‘caushe you wanna kill Gwea’ Wabbi’?”
You tighten your lips and swallow something hot that was bubbling up your esophagus.
“… That’s right. Those little guys of yours ate me. Although ‘ate’ doesn’t feel like a strong enough word for what they did…”
“‘hank you sho much for feeding my babiesh. Wash vewy nice of you.”
You want to argue, but it would be pointless. For this creature in front of you, satisfying her hunger means good, remaining hungry means bad. At least you understand both the White Whale and the Great Rabbit now.
“Daphne, could you tell me why you created those monsters of yours, the White Whale, the Great Rabbit…?”
You expect her to laugh again, or say something like ‘who knows?’, but she answers seriously.
“My babiesh we’e my gif’ ‘o da wowld.”
You frown, not understanding. You can’t glean much about her expression: because she ate her own lips, her drooling mouth displays her teeth as if she were grinning or snarling constantly. And just glancing at her features is making you dizzy.
“Was that sarcasm, Witch of Gluttony?”, you ask as firmly as you can when you risk vomiting, “Those babies of yours have done little else, it seems, than cause destruction and erase thousands of people from the world, whether by removing the memories of them or consuming them to the last drop of blood. Are you messing with me?”
She shakes her head.
“Nah ah-ah-ah. I wan’ed people ‘o feed on my babiesh. Whaley ish big and mea’y, and ‘here awe sho many of my bunniesh da’ people could fill ‘hem belliesh foweve’.”
You shiver. You can tell now that this deranged witch isn’t joking. In her twisted mind she had wished to bless the world, but because her all consuming hunger is never fully satisfied, she can’t think in terms of anything else. As a result she let loose two curses on the people of this world that were so unstoppable that the population of different nations had to handle her babies as natural disasters. Maybe you can make Daphne understand, maybe she could stop her monsters even from her spectral imprisonment.
You get closer to the iron maiden, but Daphne flinches. The flow of drool that drips from her chin, washing away the blood from her eaten lips, increases, and her saliva hangs in viscous threads. Suddenly the bottom sides of the iron maiden grows six paired metallic legs, and as soon as the tips touch the ground they lift the iron maiden and crawl away from you. The sight of those impossible legs stops you, and your head hurts for a moment as it struggles to handle its current reality.
“I would s’ay away if I we’e you, Shubawu”, the Witch of Gluttony mumbles, “You look vewy appe’izing.”
You are trembling from head to toe. You want to vomit, you want to lie on the floor and cry. But Echidna is watching, and you don’t want that goddess to take you for a weakling. You force yourself to stare at Daphne’s bloody teeth and the glistening, raw flesh that surrounds them.
“Your monsters haven’t been feeding people, they have been eating them! Do you understand what you have done? Both the White Whale and the Great Rabbit are curses upon this world!”
“Why, would you have my babiesh lie ‘here and le’ ‘hemshelves be ea’en ash if ‘hey we’e a cooked meal? If ‘he people of ‘hish wowld we’e craf’y enough, ‘hey would have been able ‘o hun’ down Whaley and ‘he bunniesh. My babiesh have ‘o fill ‘heir belliesh ‘oo.”
“This is madness! They need to die, and you need to…”
You stop yourself. You are standing so close to the iron maiden that it would take those metallic legs jumping forward for the Witch of Gluttony to reach you, and all you have are words. Are words enough?
“You call madnesh ‘he law of na’ure”, Daphne mumbles, “Evewyone ish in a rush ‘o ea’ shomeone elshe sho ‘hey can live ano’her day. Echidna figured ou’ you a’e fwom ano’her wowld. Ish i’ no’ ea’ o’ be ea’en ‘here ash well?”
You can’t argue with that, and can’t say anything at the moment either, because a sudden wave of dizziness and nausea forces you to hunch over and retch. You vomit what remains of Echidna’s tea, along with a good quantity of bile, splashing the grass. You feel covered in cold sweat. While you support yourself on your knees and wheeze, Daphne continues.
“Even plan’sh have ‘o ge’ ‘heir nu’ien’sh from shomewhewe, you know? And ‘hey feel pain when ‘hey ge’ ea’en, even ‘hough you can’ hear ‘hem shcream. You ei’her ea’ or you ge’ ea’en. I’sh ‘he main law of ‘he wowld. If you don’ ‘hink sho, shomeone elshe ish doing ‘he killing for you.”
You wipe the vomit from your mouth, and you manage to raise your head and look at Daphne with wide, teary eyes. You desperately wish for this witch to go away, but if she vanished now, you wouldn’t have learned anything of value. You straighten your back.
“Daphne, I need to kill the Great Rabbit. Not only I risk getting devoured myself, but everyone in Sanctuary is going to die as well. Your friend Echidna agrees that your monster needs to disappear from this world. If you truly created it for the benefit of mankind, in your twisted way, please give me advice on how to destroy it.”
“I’sh ei’her an imbe’ishiwe lil’ crea’uwe ‘hat killsh wheneve’ it deshiwes and ish neve’ sha’ishfied, or ‘he Gwea’ Wabbi’ ish a friendly beash’ie who jush’ wan’ed a hug.”
You aren’t sure you understood everything she said, but you are getting mad anyway.
“I don’t have time for bullshit, Daphne. Just looking at the lower half of your face is going to give me nightmares for years. Please tell me whether you will give me advice on how to defeat the Great Rabbit. If you won’t, we are done here.”
Daphne grins, or at least the way the raw flesh around her teeth widens suggests it.
“I will ‘ell you, Shubawu! I like you vewy much. And no’ only becaushe I wanna fill my belly wi’ you! My bunniesh prefe’ shourcesh of magic, sho ‘hey will shniff ‘he mo’ powewful magiciansh awound and ‘wy ‘o ea’ ‘hem. Mo’ impor’anly, you need ‘o kill ‘he Gwea’ Wabbi’ a’ once, meaning all of i’sh individual bodiesh, or elshe i’ will quickly pwoduce new bunniesh.”
You wipe the sweat from your forehead. You had expected this witch to laugh at you and mumble for you to fuck off, but she helped you. The rabbits are attracted to the biggest sources of magic, and all of them need to be killed as close to immediately as possible. That’s enough information to send Daphne away, you think.
“Awen’ you gonna ea’ you’ vomi’?”, Daphne asks with an anxious voice. “You a’e wash’ing food!”
Before you even realize you are doing it, you step over the puke and stand closer to the iron maiden. The metallic legs twitch, but they don’t retreat.
“No, I won’t eat my vomit, Daphne”, you say with a hollow voice. “Let me tell you, I pity you. You have been cursed with one of the worst conditions I can imagine, but it’s been a long time since you were a child, and in your brain there must be a commanding center freed from your overwhelming impulses that understands that you have led to the death of countless people. So I can’t forgive you. I will use your advice and erase the Great Rabbit from this world.”
You look into Daphne’s disgusting open mouth, and stare into the blackness of her throat.
“… Was that an attempt at mocking me?”
“Nobody hash managed ‘o kill my babiesh in hundredsh of yearsh, bu’ you believe you will be able ‘o, Shubawu?”
“Yes, I will kill your baby, Daphne”, you say with more force in your voice that you had managed since you first spoke to this disgusting witch. “None of the others who tried could try over and over, learning from their mistakes along the way. I will win.”
You are too dizzy and angry to realize that your gaze has slipped upwards and has met hers. The Witch of Gluttony’s eyes are a bright yellow that instead of feeling painted on the surface of her eyeballs, it deepens into them. You feel you are staring into a yellow horizon that has trapped your gaze, and you will need to struggle to pull it away.
“Bring i’ on ‘hen, Shubawu”, Daphne says with a menacing voice.
The crab-like legs that hold the iron maiden in the air coordinate themselves to carry the Witch of Gluttony further into the hillock, but you only notice her vanishing out of the corner of your eye. You are shaking. Your mouth is filling with saliva. It feels as if a black hole has opened in your stomach, and it’s sucking the walls in. You need to eat now or you will die. The world becomes a monochrome shadow, and nothing in it matters any longer but what you could shove into your mouth.
Your stomach keeps convulsing and the hole in the middle of your body keeps growing. You lick your lips and are overwhelmed by the need to eat, but there is no food around, only vomit. The smell is overpowering and your vision tunnels and you are shaking all over. Then your eyes flicker to what you threw up. The sight of your puke makes you salivate heavily. As you extend your shaky arms towards the liquid dripping down the grass, you stop and look at your hands. Those fingers, the thick flesh at the base of your thumb… You had never seen something so tasty. You sink your teeth into that succulent meat, chewing on it desperately, feeling the thick blood leaking down your chin. You swallow big pieces, then you move to biting chunks of meat off your fingers. The pain is worth it, the deliciousness…
“Subaru, look at me.”
You recognize Echidna’s voice. She is standing in front of her tea table and looking at you calmly. You swallow the tasty meat you were chewing, then focus on the witch. You had never noticed before, but that beautiful face of hers, those glistening black eyes… You need to fill yourself with her. You must grab the sides of Echidna’s head and bite off her nose, eat her cheeks, tear off her lips, suck on her eyeballs until they pop out of their sockets.
You take a step towards the Witch of Greed, but a thought manages to float over the tide of hunger: you don’t want to hurt Echidna. You are very close to falling in love with her. But you won’t be able to contain yourself for long.
“Stay away from me, Echidna!”, you shout with a trembling, pained voice. “That Daphne has given me her hunger! It’s way too much… I can’t think straight!”
Echidna doesn’t flinch. Instead she smiles, her eyes narrowing.
“And now you want to eat me as well.”
You hear the creaking of your bones, the growling of your stomach, the thundering of your pulse.
“Stay… Stay away from me…”
Echidna steps forward, then turns her palms towards you and moves them further apart as if welcoming you.
“Come closer, Subaru. I want to know what you will choose.”
You picture yourself ripping Echidna’s shoulder off and biting into the meat of her arm. You imagine chewing through her delicious skin, feeling her sweet blood on your tongue. You squeeze your eyes shut and grab your head.
“No!”, you shout through your clenched teeth. “Please, stay away from me! Most of my brain is demanding me to eat you… The parts of me that decide whether something is good or bad only want me to fill my stomach. I can’t barely keep it together. Please, Echidna, save yourself.”
When you open your eyes again and glance at the Witch of Greed, you see that she’s walking slowly towards you.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you really do love me”, Echidna says softly.
You turn your face away from her, but she grabs your chin and forces you to look at her.
“If you want to devour me, go ahead.”
You shake your head frantically, trying to avoid her gaze. Your mouth is filled with warm saliva, and you need to keep it open or else you risk choking on the liquid. Your drool is dripping from your chin. Echidna can’t understand how much you wish to eat her alive. You should sate your hunger with something else, but even your own flesh can’t compete with how appetizing the pale witch looks. You want to lunge at her, grab her with as much strength as you can muster, and sink your teeth into her face. You imagine her screaming in agony, but you don’t let go. You bite through the soft, warm meat and crunch through the bone. You imagine yourself chewing and swallowing the delicious morsel. You wouldn’t stop until only her bones remained, stripped of meat.
“Eat me, my love. I’m all yours”, Echidna says while bending forward and offering her long, elegant neck to you. Her lips are pouted and moist, and her eyes are filled with anticipation and longing.
Your teeth tingle, and you can practically feel your mouth bursting with a near-uncontrollable hunger as the muscles in your jaw contract involuntarily. Your stomach rumbles. You feel dizzy and confused.
You turn your head and grit your teeth, then push Echidna away from you.
“I will not! I don’t want to hurt you, no matter how much my brain orders me to!”
Echidna steps closer and embraces you. You go limp in her hands as if the witch had taken over the control of your body. She leans over you while she narrows her glistening eyes, and wields a loving smile on her rosy lips.
“That’s so sweet”, she whispers. “It’s been so long since someone made me feel this way.”
As the Witch of Greed holds the back of your head, she opens her mouth, extends her tongue and lets a phlegm fall into your open mouth.
“Swallow, Subaru. Do it for me”, she says quietly.
You allow her slimy spit to slide down your throat while she smiles lovingly at you. As soon as you gulp her phlegm down, the hunger disappears. You are left with the memory of how it had overwhelmed your brain like a virus, taking over the specialized centers that handled different aspects of how to exist as a human being, only to manipulate them into convincing you of focusing on nothing else but sating your bottomless hunger.
You are still stunned when Echidna steps back while pulling you in so you stand on your own feet. You haven’t broken the embrace. Your hand doesn’t hurt either, so she must have healed it immediately as well. You stare into Echidna’s black eyes and those white, vertical pupils with awe, affection and trust like you don’t believe you have ever felt for another person. She has saved you twice from horrifying destinies. The Witch of Greed is as powerful as a god, and yet she helps you this much.
“Thank you”, you say as you recover your breath.
Echidna closes one eye to look at you coyly with her other. The closeness of your bodies is making her blush, a conspicuous redness on her snow white skin.
“Maybe I should have warned you more strongly about how bad of an idea looking into Daphne’s eyes would be, but we ended up learning something interesting, didn’t we? You have a knack for seducing witches…”
Your heart is beating so loud that you can’t hear yourself breathing heavily. You slide your hand under Echidna’s silky, white hair so you can cup the back of her head, and then you lean forward to kiss her mouth. The taste of her tongue reminds you of honey.
Echidna puts her hands on your shoulders to keep some space between you, but doesn’t push you away. She closes her eyes while you hold her as closely as you can. Your heart is beating out of your chest, and you feel faint. After several seconds, Echidna opens her eyes again, looking at you with a mixture of bashfulness and guilt, and her tongue leaves your mouth.
“I shouldn’t be doing this,” she whispers.
You tilt her head to kiss along her graceful neck. Echidna shivers in your arms.
“Yeah, we should. I don’t care if your witch friends witness it. We should stay here and make love over and over, forever.”
Echidna lets out a mischievous sigh, and she rubs your back with her hands.
“Ah… You will end up making me want to give up everything as well”, she whispers. “But we can’t. The death-dream won’t stay up eternally. In fact, it won’t last for much longer. And you have to make sure you can get past this loop and continue with your life, for both our sakes.”
“None of that matters now.”
You fondle the witch’s ass with one hand, run your fingers through her hair with the other, and lick her small ear with your eager mouth. Echidna moans softly.
“Make sure you… don’t fall in love with me. Make sure you still hold fondness for the people you miss on the outside. You are trying to escape from your troubles.”
“I’ll keep them in mind when I go back, but right now… you’re the only person that matters.”
Echidna slides her hands under your shirt, and her warm hands caress your naked lower back.
“Then let’s do it… one more time.”
Your lips press against hers, and her tongue enters your mouth. Her hands slide up your back as if she were about to take your shirt off, but then she moves them to your front to fondle your chest with her fingers. Both of your hands now rub her supple ass. Echidna releases you from the kiss and lets out a long breath.
“I’m afraid that will have to be all for now, Subaru. Until you come back again”, Echidna says while she breathes heavily and her eyes glow as if drugged.
Even though a pang pierces your heart, you nod, then follow the Witch of Greed as she leads you by the hand back to the tea table. You sit in your chairs, then lift your gazes at each other over the teacups and the teapot as if you had entered her death-dream seeking her wisdom. You can tell that she’s forcing herself to come down from her arousal, but for the moment she’s not a powerful witch, merely a person who wants to love and be loved. These are feelings you understand well, so you help her down from them.
“That Daphne…”, you begin, then swallow. “She lives in hell.”
“Yes, she does.”
“I don’t know if I experienced her curse to the extent she does every waking moment, but… she deserves some credit for remaining lucid enough after hundreds of years of such a nightmare.”
Echidna nods, and drinks from her teacup as if trying to calm herself. Her nostrils are widened.
“Our burdens aren’t equivalent. She is bound by chains stronger than those that bind the rest of us.”
“Well… The little advice she gave me will have to do. I don’t feel capable of facing her again at the moment.”
“Make no mistake: if the White Whale didn’t content herself with hunting in specific areas every couple of weeks, or the Great Rabbit roamed the land instead of sleeping underground and only emerging when it has snowed significantly, only for them to move somewhere else as soon as they’ve had their fill for the day, the world would end.”
“I had understood that much. Everyone of us hanging out in Sanctuary is going to be eaten alive if I don’t stop those rabbits.”
Echidna’s eyes smile at you fondly over the rim of her teacup.
“Which is a significant part of why you can’t give up and spend the rest of eternity tending to this old maiden’s sexual needs, Subaru, as much as I would enjoy it.”
“It’s hard not to accept defeat when it would taste so good. But can I ask you a serious question about Sanctuary?”
“Go ahead, Subaru.”
“It’s your town, isn’t it? You founded it. So why did you, why here, why the whole thing with the barrier, the half-breeds, all that…?”
“It’s a long story, of course. But the short version is that Sanctuary wasn’t my idea. I needed some solitary land to carry out my research in peace. Back in the old world I approached the Mathers household, and they granted me this backwoods barony, which was as perfect for my purposes as they came. The Mathers lineage would benefit from my research, and I would also take a few of their talented younglings as wards, if I had the patience for it. The Mathers also acted as mediators when I needed people to build houses or dig further into the ground. But back then there wasn’t anything resembling a village, just a few houses for me and the few people that hung around, as well as my laboratories and storage facilities. Through my research I ended up realizing that the blood of half-breeds was vital for figuring out how to find a cure for the worst injustice that ever plagued living beings: that of being born just to die. It was a terrible time for demi-humans back then, because some had gotten particularly rowdy and launched wars of conquest against human nations. They lost, and plenty of the refugees, some of which only intended to live in peace and never agreed with the hostilities, found themselves rejected in human territories. Soon the rumour that a sanctuary awaited them in the backwoods of the Mathers territory reached their ears, and many families found their way over here. They understood that I wanted them for my research, but in exchange they found the safety to live with their families in peace. It became a symbiotic relationship.”
You want Echidna to explain how the barrier came to be, but a wave of dizziness ripples through you. You hunch over and grab your head. Even though for a moment you felt as if you were about to pass out, you end up taking a deep breath and rubbing your shoulders.
“Sorry for interrupting you. Something was wrong with me for a moment…”
Echidna stares at you gravely.
“Some disturbance in the outside is waking you up, Subaru. Our time together has come to an end.”
It must be Emilia. She has woken up from her own nightmare, and must be shaking you awake. You are so disappointed that you want to punch the table, but you take a deep breath. You know that Echidna was telling the truth, that by you wanting to spend the rest of your conscious life with the Witch of Greed as her sexual plaything, you are escaping from your troubles the same way you did back at the capital, during that self-imposed loop that usually ended with you guillotining yourself. You will have to return to that cold, harsh world outside, and wade through your many obstacles over and over until you succeed. How much will the experience change now that you will be able to remember Echidna?
You both stand up and walk until you face each other next to the table. You don’t want to say goodbye, but she speaks first.
“I had such a lovely time, Subaru.” Echidna smiles warmly at you. “But still, every visit to my death-dream requires payment.”
You are pretty sure she made up these rules, but you shrug.
“Sure. Take from me whatever you want.”
“That’s pretty generous of you.”
As you breathe in her scent, you realize that your feelings for her go beyond love. You worship her. You would die permanently to protect her if need be.
“But for now I’ll be content if you offer me that accessory of yours”, Echidna says while pointing at your right wrist.
You are confused about what she means, but you realize you have a handkerchief tied around your wrist. How did a handkerchief end up there? Ah, that precocious trainee tied it as a custom of her village or some shit. You chuckle with disbelief.
“Are you sure you want this? It’s completely worthless.”
Echidna tilts her head and offers you a smile of understanding.
“You aren’t aware, but objects imbued with the earnest wishes of young maidens hold a special magic of their own.”
You grimace as you snap your head back.
“You are fucking with me, aren’t you…”
Echidna can’t keep a straight face. She covers her mouth while her shoulders tremble, but she ends up bursting into laughter. You laugh as well.
“Don’t play around with my lack of knowledge like that!”, you complain.
Echidna wipes one of her eyes.
“Sorry, sorry. But I assure you, after what I intend to do to it, it won’t be useless any longer.”
She takes your arm by the forearm and lets her free hand hang over the handkerchief. She closes her eyes, and even though nothing seems to have happened, when she opens her eyes again she seems content. She lowers your arm gently.
“I assume that has done something. Thank you. I assure you, Witch of Greed, I’ll come visit you as soon as I can.”
Echidna looks down. You don’t like one bit the sadness that showed on her pale face.
“Subaru, you truly don’t understand. The requirement for entering a death-dream gets increasingly harder, and the next time you will have to surpass your request for knowledge that you had uttered while you had gone insane.”
You go cold. You stare at her, waiting for the witch to add some comment that would lessen the finality of her words, but none come. She looks worried that this meeting might have been the last time.
“Please, Echidna, don’t tell me I will never see you again”, you mutter with your throat almost squeezed shut.
The Witch of Greed steps forward and places her hand on your chest, over your heart.
“I wish I knew the answer, and you know how much it bothers me not to know something. Let’s hope that you will find your way back to me, and next time we will have something very important to discuss about our future.”
The Witch of Greed kisses you on the cheek, and as she does so, her form vanishes while her death-dream collapses on itself.
Note from January of 2021:
The part where the protagonist meets Daphne took me a lot to finish. I tend to dive deeply into the scenes in my mind, I guess, and I felt dizzy through it. As if that wasn’t enough, I lost my current job midway through. Other times I embrace these pauses between jobs as opportunities to do stuff I actually want to use my time in, but now I feel like shit.