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“If I told you to kill yourself, would you do it?”

It wasn’t as if Subaru didn’t feel some hesitance in asking the question.

He couldn’t imagine what reaction she might have. Well, that wasn’t exactly right, since he had imagined it. Multiple times. He had pictured several different patterns that he thought were possible.

So why was he uncertain?

“—? If you told me to kill myself, I would do it.”

His chest ached at seeing Shaula point at her own cheek and answer so nonchalantly. It was a cry from somewhere deep in his breast, like something was stabbing him, as if something was breaking.

“ ”

Clutching his chest as he imagined that wound, Subaru exhaled deeply. He felt pathetic for complaining, when he had done this to himself.

Shaula’s eyes widened in marvel as she watched him. There was no malice in them at all. She answered like she had been asked what was on the menu for dinner.

Her reaction was the second worst of the possibilities Subaru had imagined. She was willing to give up her life, no questions asked.

It was clear to see from her straightforward, unwavering eyes that it wasn’t a lie or a joke. She had meant every word.

If he had at least seen some trace of self-interest or deception, it might have been less painful for his heart. But reality gave him no way out. Whether that was a mercy or not, he couldn’t say at this point, but…

“…I see…”

“Do you want me to die, Master? Umm, if you’re asking, then I’ll do what you want. I’m ready anytime, but this is kind of a strange time to take the leap, no? Things are popping off inside the tower right now…”

“I know, I know.”

Shaula still had her finger on her cheek as she cocked her head at Subaru’s hoarse response. As her head moved, her long braided hair—her scorpion tail—swayed.

Scorpion tail… As Subaru thought of it now, it was an oddly apt name choice.

Just like Shaula in Scorpio, her name revealed her identity. And it wasn’t just her name, either. There had been other signs.

She never had any intention of hiding it.

“Shaula, you wouldn’t happen to be able to transform into a giant scorpion, would you?”

Subaru went right for the jugular, without beating around the bush.

One of the five obstacles they had to overcome in the Pleiades Watchtower—the giant black scorpion. Subaru was confident that was Shaula.

However, that was just something he had deduced based on the as-of-yet-unconfirmed power of his authority, that sixth sense he had suddenly developed. The fastest way to connect that intuitive answer to something more concrete was to simply ask her.

Of course, if he had more time, he could have chosen a different method, and if he couldn’t trust her answer, he should have tried to find one.

But Shaula just kept her head cocked.

“Transform isn’t exactly how I’d describe it, but yeah, I can. Ah, but it’s hyper not pretty, so I don’t really like it much. I like this shape that Mom and you designed for me best.”

It was a question entirely out of left field, but Shaula again answered without hesitation.

“ ”

She had no intention of hiding anything.

All the more reason why he didn’t have to doubt her words. That scorpion inside the tower was actually Shaula, and she was their…


“Master? You okay? You don’t look so hot? Want to rest your head on my lap? Or in my arms? Or on my chest? Get a little recharge?”

“…Don’t say pointless stuff like that. You said it yourself, we don’t have the time for that right now.”

“It’s true things are popping off in the tower, but you’re priority one, as far as I’m concerned, Master. Everything, eeeeeverything else can come second, or third even. So if you want to take advantage of the confusion to share a sweet embrace with me, I’m all for it. Burning for it, even.”

“No burning. Put that crap out.”


Pouting, Shaula sulked a little.

Bantering with her like that, with that utterly normal expression on her face, it almost felt like they had found a moment of calm.

“ ”

However, reality wasn’t so kind, and it was a far cry from peaceful.

Even as they were taking their time chatting, Emilia and Ram were busily holding back Gluttony while Beatrice provided them with support.

Julius was clashing with Reid/Roy, and Echidna had met up with Patlash and Rem, to guide them to safety in Taygeta.

And Meili was using her tamed demon beasts down below to hold off the stampede. The best possible hand was being played against all the five major obstacles at the moment.

However, even that was nothing more than an excuse so Subaru could talk with Shaula.

Because in this loop, Subaru Natsuki was—

“M-Master? Seriously, is something up? If you keep looking at me so boldly, I don’t know that I can hold myself back after four hundred years of waiting…”

Shaula held her body as Subaru stared at her. She was pretending to act like normal, but she was not. In fact, she seemed to be feeling uneasy about Subaru’s attitude. It was unlike her.

No, that’s not it. This is probably her real motive.

She didn’t hesitate at all when Subaru mentioned ordering her to kill herself, but she always got flustered the moment he showed any signs of abnormality. Almost like an innocent baby bird yearning for her parent.

“ ”

When he asked his first question, he had envisioned several possibilities.

The worst of them all was revealing her true self the moment he asked that cruel question and killing him on the spot. That would have meant all her behavior thus far had been a performance and everything they thought they knew about her had been a lie. That was the worst possible scenario he could imagine.

—It wasn’t out of the question.

Once she confessed that she was the giant scorpion, he knew she had killed Beatrice and Echidna once before. And it was likely that she, as the scorpion, was the prime suspect in the loop where he had returned to the tower to find everyone dead.

That was what made Subaru’s first question a gamble.

It wouldn’t have been strange if she shot him in the head the moment she heard his question. That gamble…he could call it a win now.

But that wasn’t the last roll of the dice.

The negative feelings Subaru had subconsciously built up, the chips that Gluttony and the Pleiades Watchtower had taken from him. Stringing together small wins wouldn’t be enough to make up for those losses.

He would have to bet big.

“Shaula, sorry for asking so many questions, but there’s something I want to know. From what I’ve heard, there are a bunch of rules to the examination in this tower?”

“You ask that right when I’m turning bright red?! …Well yeah, there are. I talked about it before you hit your head on the toilet, too, but…”

“Let me hear them now.”

Poking her fingers together in front of her chest, Shaula didn’t hide her sullen disappointment. But when he asked again, she held up her finger.

“One, it is forbidden to leave before the examinations have been completed. Two, it is forbidden to break the rules of the examinations. Three, it is forbidden to show disrespect to the library. Four, it is forbidden to attempt to destroy the tower itself…”

She counted down her fingers as she went through the explanations with practiced ease.

Of course, when it came to banter, she was a pro, so there was nothing strange about her explaining it all so unfalteringly. But there was something that felt off.

Part of it was her unusually serious tone, but the other part was that as she was counting down her fingers—she had started to touch her fifth finger, but she hadn’t mentioned an additional rule.

“And the fifth?”

“…There isn’t one. Weren’t you listening, Master? I only said four. Are you bad with numbers, Master? That’s no good. I’m not great with them, but I can at least count that much…”


“ ”

Subaru took an audible step forward, closing the distance with Shaula.

They had already been rather close, but now they were close enough that they were almost touching. This was another gamble on Subaru’s part.

Of course, the difference in their strength couldn’t be made up by simply moving one step closer, but…

“Master…are you playing with my heart? If you’re getting close to me and not the other way around… If you want to make me to talk, then you know, maybe keep it up and give me a hug…”

“If that would really make you answer, I will. I’d even call it a perk… But if my unreliable instinct is right, I don’t think that’ll do it.”

“ ”

“Shaula, I’m asking again. What is the tower’s fifth rule?”

Accepting Shaula’s mild rejection, Subaru asked again.

It wasn’t a matter of physical distance; he had to step into her heart. Whether the result was a present or something more painful, he had to ask the question.

Seeing Subaru steel his resolve and clench his fists, Shaula inhaled slightly.



She shook her head and crossed her arms in an X in front of her ample bosom.

The gesture was childish, but her eyes were dead serious.

“ ”

Staring into Subaru’s eyes as he stood in a dangerous place, her eyes were filled with extreme emotion. She was silent but suddenly seemed so frail and fragile. Her gaze was almost a supplication.

She shook her head again, like a child.

“Don’t wanna. No. I won’t say it. The fifth rule? Who cares about that? It has nothing to do with our honeymoon…”

“There’s no way it has nothing to do with this. Me and everyone else here are taking this tower’s exam. We can’t just assume we’ll be fine without knowing all the exam’s rules. So Shaula—”

“I don’t wanna.”


She covered her ears and looked away, like a child who refused to listen. Subaru stepped closer. He grabbed her shoulder to reveal the secret she was trying to keep hidden.

“You should have your own role in this tower. You’re the tower’s star guardian, right? You’ve been keeping watch all this time, haven’t you? Four hundred years, if that’s really true! So—”

“Four days.”


It was a whisper that cut Subaru short.

A time span so short, it couldn’t begin to compare with the centuries he had mentioned. But it wasn’t that her earlier explanation was a lie.

“Four days…? What are you talking about? You’ve definitely been here longer than that and—”

“It’s only been four days. You’ve only been here for four days.”


A hoarse rasp left his throat when he heard Shaula’s weak voice.

The loneliness she was feeling was something he had not imagined—had not even tried to consider.

And more than anything, the fact that he had not even imagined that might cause her to—

“It’s four days.”

The entreaty in her eyes was still there as her lips trembled again.

“It’s only been four days since you came to this tower. And of that, you were asleep for the first two days, so it’s only been two days that I could see you, talk to you, be at your side…even though I waited four hundred years! Just two days…”


“I thought a moment, even just a glimpse, would be enough.”

Shaula looked down, but she quickly stopped. It was like she didn’t want to waste even a single moment with him out of her sight.

—No, thinking back, it had always been like that.

As best he could remember, whenever she was in the same place as he was, she was always looking at him. Not because she was observing his every move, but because…

“I waited for you in the tower all this time, Master. Four hundred years. I thought I would be satisfied if I could just see you once. But that was a lie.”

“ ”

“You’re my everything, Master. All of you, all of my feelings for you—that’s all of me. Even if I had four hundred years, it wouldn’t be enough to tell you everything. But to only have two days…I don’t want that.”

“…That’s why you won’t tell me the fifth rule?”

Emotion coursed through Shaula’s whole body, making her who she was.

Four hundred years—he had just thought of it as a number, but now, it felt like he finally understood a little of the weight of what that number truly meant.

Her attitude had seemed so frivolous next to the heavy weight of four hundred years.

He had convinced himself that maybe she just didn’t have the ability to feel pain or bitterness or sadness. He had thought maybe she was just as cold and inhuman as that scorpion, at heart.

“I don’t want to talk about the rule. Nuh-uh. ’Cause if I do…”

“ ”

“If I do, you’ll realize how to clear the exam. So if I say it… If I say it, my time with you will be over.”

Shaula hugged herself as she bared her heart for Subaru. Her voice, holding back sobs, tore at Subaru’s heart.

This was an answer he had not anticipated.

Just like with the first question, he had imagined several responses Shaula might give him.

The real reason she was hiding the rules that governed the Pleiades Watchtower. If she was an accomplice of whatever nasty asshole designed this tower’s rules, then he figured she would have some ulterior motive. Or maybe it was nothing so sinister, and she had simply not mentioned it on a whim, or because she had forgotten, and it didn’t have any deeper meaning.

But the truth was neither.

Shaula had an ulterior motive for not telling them the tower’s rules. But her motive had nothing to do with the plans of the Sage or whoever created this place. It was a much more earnest wish than that.

—She longed to reunite with the person she had been waiting for in absolute solitude for the past four hundred years.

That wish had been fulfilled at long last, and she was happy. All she wanted was for that time to last just a little longer.

She had held back for the sake of that humble wish.

“Master, do you hate me for lying?”

“ ”

“Do you hate me…and not want to see my face?”

Why did she look so much more heartbroken now than when he’d asked if she would die for him?

Why was she acting like whether Subaru hated her or not was more important than her own life?

—Why, after waiting four hundred years, did she think that was her goal?

“I…don’t hate you.”

“ ”

“Because you kept quiet, I…probably suffered some crazy draining stuff, and honestly, if you hadn’t, I don’t think we would have our backs up against the wall like this.”

Subaru answered honestly as Shaula listened in silence.

He didn’t feed her any lies. Only the truth. Because she had hidden that information, he hadn’t been able to investigate properly and had failed to reach an answer. As a result, he had suffered several miserable deaths.

And not just him. Emilia and Beatrice and everyone else, too.

He couldn’t forget the despair, the disappointment, the powerlessness he felt in those moments.

He was sure that if those moments had been caused by some evil mastermind, then he wouldn’t have been able to forgive them.

Could he feel the same way about Shaula?


He couldn’t hate Shaula.

Shaula, who had spent four hundred years in solitude, and at the end of that long watch simply wanted to enjoy a mere two days feeling like she had fulfilled her meaning in life. Subaru couldn’t bring himself to think of her as some evil mastermind.

If there was some evil at the root of all this, it was the unreasonable world itself, and the master who gave her the order four hundred years ago, who created this situation—


Suddenly, a soft gasp escaped from Shaula’s lips.


“Ah, ah… Ahhhh…”

She didn’t respond. She just covered her face with her hands.

It was a pained, trembling voice that sounded totally unlike her.

“No…no…Master! Master, Master, MasterMasterMasterMaster…!”

“Shaula?! What is it, Shaula?! Why are—?”

Subaru reached out to shake her pale, trembling shoulders, but she grabbed his arms instead. Clenching his wrists painfully tight—

“—Someone broke the rules.”

Staring into her eyes, Subaru gulped.

“ ”

—There was a strange change in her large eyes.

Her pupils had split into three and started pulsing with a red gleam. It happened to both eyes at once, giving her six pupils.

—Three on the left, and three on the right. Six eyes.

“Master…! There’s still time…”

“Still time?”

“If you order me now, I can… I can kill myself.”

Her eyes were pulsing red, and white steam started to rise from her body. Her pale skin was gradually getting redder, and he could feel an abnormal body heat from where she held his wrists.

The cause was unclear. But her body was heating up and changing. This was probably the initial stage of her transformation into the giant scorpion.

“It’s too late if I change. I’ll become a heartless killing machine and kill you, Master. I want you so much, Master…I want you so much, I can’t bear it…so…before that happens…please tell me to kill myself… If you do, I won’t…”

…Have to kill you.

That was what she couldn’t bring herself to say.

But instead of words, her eyes, her trembling voice, her very soul said it all for her.

“ ”

An incomparable dread welled up from inside Subaru. It was his human instinct in the face of a terror that seemed worlds apart from reality.

The human Subaru Natsuki was scared of the monster in front of his eyes, Shaula.

And so Subaru—

“Shaula, tell me the fifth rule.”

“This isn’t the time…”

“If you tell me, then…!”

Subaru shouted, interrupting her. Her shoulders trembled, and he grabbed them. They were hot. Hot enough that he thought they might burn his hands. Her body felt like it was on fire.

Don’t let go. Don’t let go of what’s burning her body and mind.

“If you tell me, then I’ll give the order. Don’t worry. I’ll give the order before you become a monster.”

“ ”

Shaula’s eyes widened as Subaru looked her right in the eye.

“Master…toying with women’s hearts.”

“I don’t remember doing that…”

“Then you’re toying with my heart. A lady-killer, just for me…”

Smiling faintly, Shaula gently put her hand over Subaru’s as he held her shoulder.

“—Five, the destruction of examinations is not forbidden.”

“ ”

“See, your eyes changed. To my beloved Master’s eyes.”

Shaula pushed Subaru’s chest. He moved back, unable to hold on to her shoulders after the unexpectedly forceful shove. Coughing slightly, he looked forward and saw Shaula holding her body, crouching down—

“Ah, ahhh…ahhhh, ahhhhh…!”

Red steam rose from her body. The steam changing color was a sign of danger. The pupils of her eyes disappeared, having changed into pure red eyes at some point.

“Mas…ter…hurry. Before I…lose myself…”

“ ”

“Say it. Tell me to die! If you say it, I…”

With the same mouth that had pleaded so earnestly to keep them from finishing the examination, from leaving the tower, she was asking him to give the order that would end her life, giving her a way to avoid killing them—to avoid killing her beloved master.

Hearing her desperation, Subaru sighed.

“Shaula…sorry, that was a lie.”


Her eyes widened. Seeing her reaction, Subaru held his breath and took a big leap backward.

Her pushing him back had been a blessing in disguise. If she had held on to his wrists, he would never have been able to do this.

—Subaru’s body passed over the balcony’s railing and out into the open air.


Shaula’s shout was drowned out by the wind now whipping around him. And with that, he was on a nonstop express to the ground several hundred feet below.

He had not prepared anything to save himself. It was simple suicide. He had absolutely not wanted to do something like this, and he didn’t want to admit it, but he had intended this from the start.

He had intended to do this on this loop if it was an option.

Because now he could trust his own decisions without hesitation.



Shaula had leaped over the balcony just like him and was hurtling after him.

Her eyes were wide, and she was stretching her hand out, desperately chasing after Subaru. Not to kill him, but to save him.

—The giant scorpion was Shaula.

—Shaula had intentionally hidden one of the tower’s rules.

—Shaula had killed Subaru and his comrades multiple times and barred the way forward as one of the five obstacles.


“Now I know I can save you.”

He wouldn’t forget her plea for him to order her to kill herself, so that she wouldn’t transform against her will, so that she wouldn’t have to kill him.

It was selfish, but he wanted to confirm that.

Who to save, who not to save, who to defeat, who to protect, who to love.

Without confirming that, he didn’t think Subaru Natsuki could advance any further. He didn’t have to be unsure of who he could love anymore.


Shaula’s form shifted as she followed Subaru, hand outstretched.

Her arm swelled, transforming into a black pincer. There was no trace of her pale skin. It grew rougher and was covered in carapace, her flesh swelling from the inside.

In an instant, her body transformed painfully, as if her flesh was bursting at the seams. The sinister giant scorpion was complete. The scorpion’s tail quickly took aim at Subaru.

Most likely, the white beam launched from there would end Subaru’s life in an instant. He had no way to dodge in midair.

“Shaula would cry, so I’m not letting you kill me.”

Their fall would end before it could loose a shot.

Subaru and the scorpion were plummeting toward the ground, where the demon beasts were swarming. Subaru wouldn’t see what came of it.

Subaru Natsuki couldn’t survive a drop from several hundred feet up.

He would be dashed against the ground and die.

But just before he died, he had one last—

* * *

“I swear I’ll save you.”

It was a message the scorpion couldn’t comprehend and was carried away on the desert wind moments later.


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