Arc 7, Chapter 18 – “Battle in the Fortress City of Guaral”
――If he closed his eyes, Subaru could recall the scene in his mind.
The middle of the dense jungle where an abundance of trees grew thickly, the muddy soil, and the atmosphere of the imposing men.
The Witchbeast’s roar that reverberated across as if to split that atmosphere apart. The fighting spirit that would rise and excite alongside the start of battle. And, the intense malice that would be directed towards Natsuki Subaru due to his involvement in inviting the Witchbeast――.
That was an action Subaru himself had acknowledged and consciously decided to carry out, and had put it into practice.
He had acted after placing a scale within himself, comparing what was important to him and what was not.
It was an action done with the full determination and intention to cause harm.
What would happen to people inexperienced with fighting Witchbeasts if they actually fought one? He did not know.
They could have subdued it instantly. There was also the possibility that they could have become seriously wounded.
He did not want to think about it much, but instead of ending there, there could have been those who lost their lives.
――No, he should assume there were.
After justifying his own deed, he should at least acknowledge that fact. After all, he was the one who had decided and acted on such an action.
Natsuki Subaru chose the side of the scale he desired, and put a plan into practice, where others may die.
These other people were not Witch Cultists or Sin Archbishops, nor were they wicked people who would cause harm to others for bad intentions.
He had attacked individuals who chose to take up arms just to make ends meet. They were merely following orders from their superiors. These were people who, under the right circumstances, he could have formed positive relations with.
Therefore, this occurrence was justified, inevitable and natural.
The consequences of Natsuki Subaru’s actions must be paid for by Natsuki Subaru.
Flop: [――Mister, it’s no good to have a scowl on your face.]
Flop: [Good fortune won’t come to anyone who doesn’t have the time to smi――M-mister!?]
The instant after the bladed edge of the axe sunk into his skull, Subaru’s field of vision became clear with a ring of a hard sound.
What jumped out in his unclouded vision was the figure of Flop, prodding his brow with his finger.
The pretty boy with his long bangs and slender face. Recalling the event that had come to pass a few dozen seconds ago, his head being split open; Subaru quickly covered his mouth and fell to his knees.
The rising need to vomit. The link between all the malicious acts that had occurred to him――His heart beat like it was about to explode, his organs felt like they were being strangled. That, and the deafening ringing in his ears, tormented Subaru.
The voice of Flop worrying for Subaru sounded far off. No sound properly registered in his brain.
Listening to the intense ringing in his ears and the screaming of his organs, Subaru’s lips produced a short sound.
That sound was the name of someone he became acquainted with in the Vollachian Empire. He was someone towards whom Natsuki Subaru had for the first time acted with purely antagonistic intent and――,
And he was the malicious assailant that had caused the great tragedy that occured moments ago.
The flaming bar and the stifling black smoke.
The reason the drunken customers had fallen victim to the axe one after another was because of an irritant in the smoke. It was probably a simplified tear gas of sorts with strong irritative spices mixed in. However, despite it being pseudo-tear gas, its effects were immediate.
Using magic stones to cause a fire and sealing the entrance to lead the survivors to the back exit. Barring the back door and using the moment of relief after they broke through, an ambush was performed on the strongest survivor, and they were executed.
Then, using a soaked cloth to protect himself from the smoke, he directly, with certainty, killed Subaru.
His last words and voice, and above all else, the eyes he saw of the masked man indicated his true identity.
That was Todd. ――The man that was supposed to have died in the Buddheim Jungle.
That was simply unconfirmed information.
The Imperial Army’s camp fell into a state of ruin after the People of Shudraq’s attack, under Abel’s command. After hearing that there had been many casualties, over a hundred casualties, fearing that more pain would be compounded upon him upon further words, he shut out any other information beyond that.
After that, he had quickly taken Rem along, and decided to leave Abel and the rest.
That was why he had not even tried to think about any survivors from the attack on the encampment.
That included the attack Subaru chose to do himself against Todd’s group, which was unrelated to the attack by the People of Shudraq――.
Subaru: [If this is the nearest city to the Jungle, of course any survivors would run away here.]
Having had their camp attacked, any Imperial Soldiers who had escaped by the skin of their teeth would inevitably head to Guaral.
Yet, that thought did not cross Subaru’s mind; and so, he had nonchalantly stepped his foot into the city where enemies would be waiting. Plus, with Rem in tow.
That word that popped in his mind, he once again tasted the bitterness of that word on his tongue.
Back when he was living in his original world, the term “enemy” was something that would only appear in manga or games. Even after being transported to another world, the target for that term only extended itself to adversaries like the Witch Cult and Witchbeasts.
Meaning, this was his first time to call someone who was not one of those, an “enemy”.
This “enemy”, was one created by none other than Natsuki Subaru’s own actions.
Making a harsh sound, Subaru strongly grit his teeth.
Biting on his cheek meat, utilising the searing pain and taste of blood to grab his consciousness by the collar, he forcibly pulled himself back to reality. If that were not enough, he did not mind biting off all the meat inside his mouth.
He had no use for constricted organs, loud-ringing ears, trembling hands and feet, nor for a paralysed brain.
He could not be beaten down by malice and fear right now.
Even if he was just putting on a bold front, until the situation changed, he could not take it off.
Flop: [Mister, get a hold of yourself! Mister! Want to drink some water?]
Subaru: [――Hm, I’m fine. My bad, I worried Flop-san…!]
The colour of his face and the tone of his voice probably did not signal that he was fine at all, but Subaru told himself he was fine while slowly standing up.
The shaking in his knees and the discomfort from his paralysed organs still remained. However, he could not stay crouching forever. While Subaru was being spoiled by weakness, time was still marching forward.
Waiting for the right moment to strike, Todd’s plan of attack should still be in motion right now.
Subaru: [Hey Flop-san, can I ask you to do me a favour? Can you go back to the inn and get the medicine for my chronic illness from Rem?]
Flop: [Medicine? Are you under some bad sickness Mister?]
Subaru: [Yeah, my glossy ankle disease is getting pretty bad.] 
Flop: [Oh my! Haven’t heard of that before!]
Being told a random disease name, Flop widened his eyes in surprise.
Taking advantage of Flop’s goodwill left a bad taste in Subaru’s mouth but he turned a blind eye to it, convincing himself that he had no choice. For now, Subaru had to prioritise getting Flop as far as he could from himself, as soon as possible.
If Todd’s aim was revenge and if Flop and Subaru were to split up, he would have no choice but to go after Subaru.
Once Flop’s safety was guaranteed, Subaru could focus on protecting himself.
He had still not decided on what was the correct option to take though――,
Subaru: [I can meet up with Rowan at the bar, leave it to escape the surprise attack. Then…]
He had no other choice but to perform a rather haphazard plan.
Given that he did not have the time to stop his legs and think things through slowly, he could only put into actuality the best action he could think of at this very moment, and hope to pick up a miracle as he went.
Subaru: [Rem should…]
When Flop returned to the inn to retrieve the medicine for the unheard-of disease, Rem should figure out that something abnormal had happened to Subaru. She should, he hoped.
Once she figured that out, she would stop Flop from returning to this area, he believed.
It was all a lot of wishful thinking but that was the limit of Subaru’s thought process at the moment.
Subaru: [Flop-san, please!]
Flop: [O-okay! Wait here! Keep your chin up Mister!]
Hit with Subaru’s genuine seriousness, Flop treaded the path back to the inn. Sending Flop off, Subaru decided instead to hurry to the inn.
Getting the drunk Rowan sober as fast as he could, he would smack him with money and hire him once more. Rowan had fallen prey to the ambush, but in a straight fight, he would have enough strength to win. Subaru hoped for that too.
He was depending on luck a lot but he put his hopes on Rowan. Pleading for him to be the strongest in Vollachia――,
About to start running with a praying heart, Subaru abruptly heard a hoarse voice from behind him.
Seeing as this was an unpopular alleyway, the voice he heard could only belong to one person. The problem was, what emotions did the owner of that voice experience to produce such sounds and what that consequently meant.
He quickly realised that those sounds would by no means be leading to a good conclusion.
Flop: [Uu, uuuaaaahhhhh――!!]
What followed the hoarse voice was the scream of Flop, who had gone the other way.
Turning his head around immediately, Subaru found Flop flipped upside down at the street ahead. Fallen face-up, Flop was clutching his right leg. A small knife had pierced through his thigh.
The knife which was buried deeply to the heel, took away the ability to run from Flop.
Hurriedly turning back from his running position, Subaru bit his lips as his feet skid on the ground. Then, without pause, he kicked off the ground and ran over to Flop, his leg injured.
Again, his expectations had been suddenly subverted.
He thought that if they were to split up, Todd would definitely prioritise Subaru and go after him. Yet, contrary to his calculations, Flop had suddenly been attacked.
Furthermore, getting attacked at this place and at this very moment, was beyond his expectations as well.
Subaru: [Flop-san! I’ll bring you somewhere to treat that straight away!]
Holding various regrets and remorse, Subaru rushed to Flop’s side. Flop was writhing in agony from the pain in his leg but Subaru did not have the time to treat him right now.
He had to lend his shoulder and take him to someplace with people――No, he could not let the situation develop like it had before, at the time he had perished after being run over at the main road. Even if he had to be forceful, he had to drag him to the bar. That was the best option.
The fact that the knife had struck his leg was a silver lining. Because, as long as a major artery was not pierced, there would be no real danger to his life――,
His thought process leading him here, a question abruptly appeared in Subaru’s mind.
It was good news that Flop’s life was not in danger. Yet, how was that so? Seeing the method in which the massacre at the bar was conducted, the enemy’s skill in killing was first-rate.
In spite of that, the attack against Flop ended at his legs. Why was that?
This was knowledge from manga but, this information was about a technique used by snipers in battle.
Snipers, who would hide themselves to perform one-sided attacks against faraway opponents, when faced with a group of enemies, would purposely not kill their opponent and instead stay their hand after majorly injuring them. Then, they would lure out the ones who would try to rescue their injured comrades and strive to extend their hands of death towards them.
It was a nightmarish method that took advantage of those who had a sense of fellowship,of those who could leave no man behind.
Why did he remember something like this at this moment? That was because――,
The instant that he felt something was wrong, a dark light flashed in the alley next to the fallen Flop.
Immediately after, a sharp, frontal strike smacked and blew Subaru away, who preemptively threw his hands up in an effort to protect his head.
Eating the hard strike completely, the blown-away Subaru hit the back of his head hard on the ground. His vision went white and the ringing in his ears became loud again. While that was happening, he was pushed further back with momentum, rolling over once.
Subaru tried to discern the true form of the strike, and the distance from which it was launched. Unable to completely block the strike, he stretched his hand to his forehead, where he felt a warm sensation. It was likely that his forehead was cut from the hard strike and――,
His right hand, which he attempted to use to touch his forehead had been blown off at the forearm onwards, between wrist and elbow.
His right arm, which showed its jagged cross-cut with white bone and pink muscle fibres, pumped blood out energetically in sync with his heartbeat. Panicked, he tried to stop the flowing blood by putting pressure on the wound, but the palm of his left hand was also cut down the middle, his crushed fingers each all facing a different direction.
It was proof that he had unfashionably suffered an attack from the opponent.
First of all, if he were to say that, running to Flop’s side without any precaution had been a mistake.
Mistake, mistake, mistakemistakemistakemistakemissmissmissmissmiss――,
Holding the overflowing blood, Subaru fell into panic, triggered by pain and a sense of loss.
A man holding an axe in one hand cleared his throat in front of that Subaru――He was a figure that appeared from the alley. A young adult who tied up his orange hair with a bandana. It was Todd.
He was not hiding his face this time.
The malicious eyes Subaru had personally seen at the bar. Subaru had not mistook the true identity behind them for someone else or other.
As expected, Todd had set an attack with the full intention to kill Subaru.
The molars he was biting down on cracked and Subaru glared at Todd with bloodshot eyes.
He did not know himself if the meaning behind that glare was anger, hate, or more shamefully, just a plea for his life. Nevertheless, Todd’s response was cold.
He, showing a face that did not present much emotion, traced the bladed edge of the axe which destroyed Subaru’s arms.
Todd: [I need to make sure to properly sharpen this or it’s no good, my bad my bad.]
He said that lightly while reflecting on his actions.
Opening his eyes wide, Subaru attempted to form words with his trembling tongue. However, Todd was indifferent to Subaru’s words, and nonchalantly swung his axe upwards.
It was as if he had no interest in Subaru’s words or identity――,
However, before Todd could swing the axe he raised up, someone jumped on his body.
It was not Subaru, groaning in pain due to his destroyed arms. With this situation of Subaru having been rendered useless in a single strike, in order to protect him, a person jumped Todd. Flop.
Taking a knife to his right leg, the good-willed merchant who should have been fighting against intense pain was grabbing onto Todd’s back as if he were going to sink his teeth into him. He looked at Subaru over Todd’s shoulder.
Flop: [Mister! Run away! Run away right no――]
Putting urgency on his slender face, Flop’s strong-willed expression jerked up as he was struck on the chin.
The grappled Todd used his elbow to forcefully hit Flop. The young adult, being far divorced from violence, was easily peeled off.
Then, facing the fallen Flop, Todd raised his axe.
Todd: [One, two aaand three!]
Subaru was not given the chance to stop him. Todd lightly exclaimed and next, an intense, sharp sound of water splashing reverberated.
Hit by Todd’s elbow, Flop, facing upwards, received the blade of an axe to the face. The young man, having his entire face and head split in two, swiftly became a corpse. Blood flowing, brain matter spilling, his arms and legs twitching.
Witnessing the alleyway steadily becoming soaked with blood, Subaru’s mouth fell open in disbelief.
Pain, confusion and rejuvenated fear. Subaru’s normal thought process was stolen by nothing but those emotions.
Just, what was the man in front of him?
Subaru: [I get …]
Subaru: [I get, I get that you resent me. I get it…]
Avoiding the blood from the dead Flop, Todd turned to face Subaru as he spoke to him.
Subaru’s tears and mucus actively gushed out in thick drops. Blood flowed from his broken molars and additionally, he was covered in the blood spurting from his right arm. Subaru was in quite a horrible state.
He had not wet himself this time, but that was no comfort of any sort.
He had yet again let Flop die.
He had devised a method in which he thought he could save him, but because of Subaru’s inadequacy, Flop had died. He had let him die with a face unpresentable to his sister, Medium.
Subaru: [But everyone else…everyone else! Don’t…bring them into…it!]
There was a reason to resent him.
It was hard to admit that it was justified, but it was a natural from what had transpired between Subaru and Todd.
That was why it was inevitable that he would come after Subaru. But, to involve other people for that was against the rules. It was a cowardly act. It was far from just and fair. That was evil. Was that not evil?
Subaru was at long last even starting to lose the mental faculties to verbally assault his opponent.
Listening to his statement, Todd hummed “Aaah” in a small voice,
Todd: [You, what do you mean by resent?]
He spoke, standing in the bloody alleyway, as he craned his head in question, wiping the blood that had reached his cheeks.
Taking in that naive-sounding attitude and answer, Subaru held his breath for a moment, but quickly a violent emotion he could not control burst out. With spit flying, he said “Don’t you dare play dumb!”,
Subaru: [Ambushing us, setting traps… relentlessly pursuing me…!]
Relentlessly, he had relentlessly been pursued and cornered.
No matter what action Subaru would take, he would anticipate and stay one step ahead to kill him with certainty. Meticulously preparing and laying out traps.
Going through that much effort to target Subaru. There was no point in feigning ignorance now. That was just being unreasonably stubborn.
It was a desecration of Flop’s death. Embarrassing Subaru, was this his way to vent his anger?
Subaru: [Are you….]
Todd: [I don’t know what you’re misunderstanding, but killing you isn’t because of resentment or anything, obviously. I found a dangerous-looking guy in town. Of course I’d kill no questions asked.]
Todd: [You kill a poisonous snake not because you resent it, but because you fear it. For that, you’d use anything at your disposal to kill it.]
Saying that it was nothing more and nothing less than that, Todd neatly picked off the bits of hair and skin that was stuck to his axe. Were those the fragments of Flop’s destroyed head? Subaru could only stay still in shock.
There was no lie in Todd’s composed response and attitude. He even responded with a smile.
Since the beginning till now, Todd’s attacks against Subaru proved that he was serious about his words.
Todd regarded Subaru as dangerous and could not help but kill him.
That was why he would not listen to him, not let him do anything, and nor would he try to interrogate Subaru for any information.
Also, he did not hate him for the deed done in the jungle. The only impression that Todd had gotten out of that, was that Subaru was a dangerous being.
As a consequence, Todd would unemotionally and dispassionately try to kill Subaru.
Todd: [You are the same as me. ――I will not give you time.]
Saying that, Todd put his foot on Subaru’s chest and kicked him. Unable to resist, Subaru fell down backwards, facing upwards. Todd straddled the fallen Subaru and raised his axe.
Subaru widened his eyes. He looked for the correct words.
Returning by Death, he would find the throughline behind various events. That was how Subaru seized victory. However, this strategy that worked even on Sin Archbishops had moments where it did not work.
That was when――,
Todd: [I won’t wait.]
――That was when the opponent was a coldhearted cutthroat.
Flop: [――Mister, it’s no good to have a scowl on your face.]
Flop: [Good fortune won’t come to anyone who doesn’t have the time to… Wha-what’s the matter? Your face has suddenly gone pale?]
Upon seeing an axe coming down right on their head, surely most people’s faces would be drained of blood.
Without thinking, Subaru put his hands to his own face, cold from the lack of blood. Relief and fear churned within him, as the hands that felt that coldness confirmed the truth that he was alive and well.
Subaru: [Damn it, again…]
What should he do? Subaru did not possess even the slightest idea.
In regard to time, all the events that had happened to Subaru had transpired in only twenty minutes. Within those twenty minutes, Subaru had already lost his life five times.
Even during the last round at the Pleiades Watchtower, he had piled up over fifteen experiences of Deaths in search of victory, but then, there was confidence that progress was being made step-by-step.
But this time, he had nothing.
The corpses of Natsuki Subaru had accumulated, but he did not really feel they were contributing to his victory.
If there was one thing that could be said, it was――,
Subaru: [――Even now, I’m being watched.]
Already, Todd was observing Subaru with Flop.
Consequently, the moment he separated from Flop, Todd would mercilessly use Flop as bait.
It would be a different story if Subaru had the ruthlessness to be able to use Flop as a decoy, but since he could not do that, if Flop were assaulted, Subaru would put forth every effort to save him.
This was different from the time he had weighed the safety of Rem against the welfare of Todd and company.
Flop had been kind to utter strangers, or rather, to Subaru’s group . Subaru did not have it in him to choose an option that would leave him for dead.
So, carrying out a strategy on his own apart from Flop was impossible.
Simultaneously, the option for Subaru to return to the inn had also been snatched away.
It was not clear at what point in time Todd had noticed Subaru’s presence, but if he had been discovered on the way to the tavern, the location of the inn, Rem’s whereabouts, had not been exposed.
Yes, Rem’s location had not been found out. That was quite believable.
Supposing Rem’s whereabouts had been found out, Todd would be sure to make use of Rem, and utilize her in order to kill Subaru more systematically. It was ironic that his faith in Todd’s cunning conversely became proof that Rem had not fallen into his hands.
While biting his lip and covering his face with his hand, Subaru desperately turned his head.
Time, somehow there was not enough time.
If he parted ways with Flop, Todd would begin his offensive immediately.
On the contrary, waiting for his offensive and counter attacking―― Well, he was not the sort of opponent that could be beaten even if his first attack were avoided. Since Subaru had no weapons, he would have to eliminate his opponent’s fighting strength in a single strike. No way.
If they escaped to the main street, Todd would recklessly drive a dragon carriage and kill by running them over.
Even if they avoided the rampaging dragon carriage, the chances that he would then take advantage of the chaos in the street were high. On top of that, the rampaging dragon carriage would drag in uninvolved bystanders. No way.
If they chose some other route, each and every alley would be his hunting ground.
North, east, south, and west, keeping an eye out in all directions was impossible. Even if they dealt with his first attack, in the end the plan to counterattack would be the same, and their lack of fighting power lay ahead. No way.
Would the best thing to do after all be rush to the Tavern with Flop, and before Todd could get ready to attack the tavern, prepare fighting forces to intercept him?
The obstacle would be how seriously he could take the drunk Rowan, but right now this should be the plan with the highest chance of victory that he could think of. No other move came to mind.
Subaru: [Fuck, fuck…]
What a troublesome opponent to have made an enemy of.
In the case of Sin Archbishops, they had the nice point of their reliance on their Authority turning their strengths into weakness. Since by working out the mechanism of their Authority, conversely the weak points of those guys would become evident.
However, Todd did not have that. He would use anything he can. He had stated so himself.
He did not rely on anything, and he did not take damage to the surroundings into consideration either.
After killing Subaru, how on earth he planned to explain that to the people around him, even that was a complete unknown. No consideration had been given to what would come afterward whatsoever.
In order to kill what must be killed, there was a fear of superfluous thoughts interrupting.
Flop: [Mister? You alright? If something’s wrong, going back to the inn would be…]
Subaru: [N-no! Hell no! That’s a bad idea.]
He responded with great force, and Flop stared in wonder at that voice of Subaru’s.
Having done that, Subaru seriously cursed his own mental fragility. If he displayed such odd behavior, Todd would end up becoming suspicious.
If that happened, the valuable advantage of Return by Death would disappear.
Beyond what he had already grasped, the only way Subaru could take advantage of Todd was his preconception that his presence was not known to Subaru.
Ambush and trap, escape and counterattack, whichever means he utilized Todd could not be made aware of what Subaru was aware of.
Suddenly, as Subaru was desperately thinking of countermeasures against Todd, a thought crossed his mind.
Todd did not stick to any one way of doing things, or even take damage to the surrounding into consideration. ――Still, he paid no mind to damage to the surroundings. That was not damage to himself.
Rather, this surprise attack was because he wished to drastically diminish the damage to himself.
Todd had stated it himself, with his own mouth.
You kill a poisonous snake not because you resent it, but because you fear it, he had said.
So he had said, then――,
Subaru: [――TODD! I know you’re here!]
Flop: [Wha wha wha!?]
Abiding by a thought that flashed through his mind, Subaru shouted at the top of his lungs.
Startled, Flop jumped at the sudden occurrence. However, it was more than likely that Flop had not been the only one.
Todd, who had been tailing and keeping a close eye on Subaru and Flop, should have been startled as well.
Counting on Todd’s moment of bewilderment, Subaru sharpened his glare, contorted his expression menacingly. While holding up the nastiest, most evil-looking demeanor possible, he swept his gaze around,
Subaru: [What a persistent bastard! Here I thought you had perished for good after all that went down, but it seems you managed to survive by some devil’s luck! However, don’t think I’ll let you get away this time! I’ll fucking kill you!]
Using the most threatening voice he could muster, Subaru spewed curses imbued with malice and hostility.
In a way his voice would definitely reach Todd no matter where in the alleyway he was hiding, and so that the message “Natsuki Subaru has caught on to your presence” would be conveyed.
Subaru: [Do you seriously think you can win in a fight against me? That’s beyond hilarious! You make me laugh, hahahahaha! Can’t wait to see it again, the pathetic way you look running away, that is!]
Revealing his two trumpcards of provocation and mockery, Subaru bursted out in laughter at the middle of the alleyway.
“Thank god I don’t have stage fright”, thought Subaru as this was the only time he was sincerely thankful for his shameless personality. If it were not for that, the tremble in his voice, the fear on his face, and the terror in his eyes would have been exposed.
It was thanks to Natsuki Subaru’s lousy personality that he was able to conceal those emotions.
Subaru: [Shush. Flop-san, be quiet.]
Shutting up Flop who had been completely dumbfounded by Subaru’s sudden change, Subaru pulled him by the arm and began walking brazenly.
Returning via the way they came was not possible. For starters, it had been confirmed Todd’s hiding laid somewhere over there, probably.
Hence, he stopped in the middle of his tracks, and while turning his head toward the depth of the alleyway,
Subaru: [Oh yea, you’re welcome to come at me any time. I shall rip you to shreds, as you wish.]
He was not sure whether Todd would get it, but he added his middle finger as his last provocation.
Doing so, Subaru was able to hide the pounding of his heartbeat while heading towards the end of the alleyway wearing an audacious smile.
Honestly, that was a complete gamble.
There was a chance that Todd would become enraged from Subaru’s provocations, and jump into the alleyway whilst swinging his axe, which would not have been a completely unlikely scenario at all. ――However, Subaru trusted that it would not come to pass.
Todd would not go into a fit of rage. That man was the type that would gradually search for the best move in a composed manner and carry it out.
That was why, the bluffs Subaru had been dishing out should be able to work on Todd.
Having spotted Subaru in the street and developed an intent to kill, if Todd’s train of thought were followed, he would have most likely come to the conclusion that Subaru must be eliminated because, to him, Subaru seemed like a ticking time bomb. Choosing a surprise attack as the method to rope in and grasp victory in his hands was just a means to the end, as long as it worked, then all would be well. If that was no longer suitable for execution, he would just move onto the next best option.
Todd had not been particular with his methods.
That was the difference between him and the Sin Archbishops. Subaru would use that adaptability of Todd to his advantage.
Subaru: [Next up is…]
He carried out the strategy that had popped in his head in the heat of the moment, but the next steps had yet to be decided.
If Todd’s caution toward Subaru grew stronger, that would mean spare time until the next wave of attack existed. While the chance was in his hands, Subaru must make a decision between “Fight” or “Flight”.
Choose “Fight”, then it would be necessary to get Rowan from the bar involved. As long as no better alternative showed up, borrowing his strength would be the best bet.
Choose “Flight”, Subaru would have to go to the inn and grab Rem, then escape from the city. He felt bad, but he would have to ask Flop and Medium to come along as their safety were most likely in jeopardy.
Then, in the case that they decide to escape from the city, the place Subaru can go to was――,
Subaru: [――So that was why]
Though he stayed on guard of the alleyway behind, but, in that instant, Subaru’s eyes had become bloodshot.
The fear toward Todd, remorse toward Flop, concern toward Rem, affection toward Emilia, longing toward Beatrice, all of those had, more or less, been forgotten in that instant.
Forgotten, having grasped the feeling that had surfaced, Subaru firmly closed his eyes.
Subaru: [――We need to get out of Guaral as fast as possible, before my bluffs are seen through.]
After deciding the next course of action, Subaru wasted no time.
Even after he got out of the alleyway with his plan in motion, Todd did not make any moves. It must have been because he had become extra cautious due to Subaru’s provocations, which proved to be effective.
However, the effects of those bluffs could only last so long.
Subaru: [He’ll definitely catch on soon. We have to get out of here as fast as we can…]
Their only option was to run away.
Making up his mind, Subaru gave Flop a brief explanation and took him along, towards the place they had just left――returning to the inn which they departed from before he had met his demise five times, they dashed up the stairs.
Then, after pounding on the door to the room occupied by Rem and the others, they rushed inside hurriedly.
Subaru: [Rem! Are you oka… whoa!?]
Medium: [Uwah! What, so it was you guys! Had almost killed you there!]
The door left wide open, Subaru’s neck was against the icy blade of a halted machete. Its welder Medium gave a “Sowwy sowwy” apologetically as she sheathed her weapon.
Behind Medium, further inside the room, was Rem who watched that whole exchange as she widened her eyes,
Rem: [Wh-what was this about, all of a sudden. I thought you had left yet you came back so soon…]
Surprised by his sudden return, Rem began berating Subaru as the color of his face changed. But instead of stopping to hear everything she had to say, he rushed to her side and threw his arms around her.
Her breath caught in her throat, and her shoulders shrunk in, with her slender body being embraced so suddenly.
Rem: […Please let go of me.]
Subaru: […Ah, yeah, that was my bad. Got a little bit too carried away there…]
Rem: [I-I understand that. From the looks of it, something serious must have happened.]
She calmly pulled him off herself once he had made sure she was truly safe.
Subaru steeled himself for the rebuking that never came. Rem instead sighed for a good moment, let slide his behavior and then continued,
Rem:「Well then. What happened?」
Subaru: […I got spotted by a really bad guy. I managed to give him the slip, but that won’t really help us for long. We can’t stay here anymore. I know we just got here, so I’m really sorry but]
Rem: [So we need to leave the city, right? I understand. Louis-chan, could you please get our luggage.]
She had caught onto the fact that there was no time for an in-depth explanation. So she quietly accepted the current state of affairs.
Of all things that could’ve happened, Louis really did as Rem told and heaved the luggage onto her back.―― Wait, something’s off here.
Subaru: [Why… Why haven’t you unpacked? Even though we settled down at the inn…]
Subaru: [Wait, Rem, by some chance, did you…]
She remained silent under his inquisitive gaze.
However, her silence was as good as affirming his exact suspicions out loud.
Subaru: [So that’s why… No wonder you accepted my proposal to come here so easily…]
Flop: [――I’m sure you have a lot to mull over, Mister, but now isn’t the time, is it?]
Digesting the incomprehensible feeling of Rem’s attitude, Subaru covered his forehead and Flop tapped him on the shoulder. The earnest countenance of Flop urged Subaru to action.
He must not waste the time created by the precious once-in-a-lifetime great charade.
Flop: [My sister, we’re leaving town with these three. I’m told there’s a dangerous paramour after the Mister! We gotta let Missus and Niece-y get away!]
Medium: [Wooah, okay Big Bro! But, like, I already took off my boots!?]
Flop: [So put them back on, my sister! Shoes can be worn any number of times! That’s their strength!]
Medium: [Ohhh! Amazing, Big Bro! You’re a shoe genius!]
After hearing Flop’s determined persuasion, Medium assented and rushed to put on her boots.
Since it was an exchange between siblings, the outsiders did not interfere, but Subaru found that back-and-forth to be highly dubious, as he lifted Rem’s body and held her.
Rem: [Wait! At least put me on your back…]
Subaru: [It’s an emergency evacuation! And the wooden rack is in their oxcart… Flop-san! Where’s the cart!?]
Flop: [At the inn’s stable! And let me tell you, it’s no exaggeration to say Botecliffe is our third sibling! A cute little brother that we can’t leave behind!]
Medium: [Big Bro! Bote-chan is a girl!]
Flop: [A cute little sister!]
Louis: [Ooh! Ooh!]
In spite of the pressing situation, every person coming along was incredibly boisterous, and Subaru hurriedly ran down stairs with Rem in his arms.
Subaru: [Sorry about the noise! Please accept the fee for the room!]
Passing by the inn’s reception desk, Subaru and company flew out the door without requesting a refund for not staying.
They went straight to the stables, and found the oxcart tethered with their things inside it.
Subaru: [How’s the speed of a Falo if running at full power!?]
Flop: [Hahaha, I haven’t let her run at full speed even once. Well my sister, how fast do you think?]
Medium: [I dunno, but probably faster than Big Bro!]
Hearing that unreliable answer, Subaru gave Rem a boost up to the back of the oxcart. Immediately Louis rushed in, and he tossed her up next to Rem, and opened the entrance to the stable.
Flop and Medium got into the coachman’s seat, and the preparation to escape was complete.
Rem: [Um, what is a paramour? What sort of explanation did you give Flop-san?]
Subaru: [Now’s not the time! Flop-san, get Botecliffe running at full speed!]
Flop: [Aahh! I know what I’m doing! Run, Botecliffe!!]
Subaru climbed into the back of the cart and Rem pulled on his sleeve with reproachful eyes, but without answering her question Subaru called out to Flop’s back.
Hearing that, Flop wielded the reins and struck the tough Brave Ox ―― Botecliffe, on the back.
And so, the oxcart broke into a run. Slowly.
Subaru: [This is super slow! She’s walking!]
Flop: [Botecliffe! Run for me! Listen to your older brother, Botecliffe!]
Rem: [It would appear she does not consider you her brother…]
Rem’s words felt like the truth, but Botecliffe’s running speed―― No, walking speed did not change. At this rate, it would honestly be much better if Subaru carried Rem on his back and everyone ran for it.
And, just as Subaru’s sense of urgency was growing in intensity――,
Medium: [BOTE-CHAN! RUUUN! Or else, I’m gonna make you dinner!]
She pulled out her barbarian swords and hoisted them overhead, and Medium shouted while rubbing them together to make sound.
Her smile encompassed her whole face, and perhaps sensing the truth in her words from Medium’s behaviour, the next second, Botecliffe let out a loud, deep sound and began ferociously running down the street.
The intense acceleration and shaking caused swaying, and from the back of the cart Subaru let out a scream.
Flying out of the stable, Botecliffe rushed onto the main street, and the feeling of drifting from the sudden change of direction caused Subaru to nearly be thrown from the back of the cart, but Rem had promptly grabbed his hand.
Subaru: [Ah, that was close! You saved me, Rem! Your hand is so smooth――]
Subaru: [Don’t let go so quickly!]
Naturally a superfluous thought leaked out, and with his hand released Subaru’s head hit the cart. But fortunately, he settled without getting thrown off, and everyone remained on board the running Falo cart.
Continuing on, the Falo cart speedily raced down the road as it headed for the city gate. It drew eyes as it moved left and right, dodging other dragon carriages, ox carts and canine carts.
Subaru: [Once we pass the main road, we should reach the main gate where the inspection was…]
Rem: [It does not seem like things will go that smoothly.]
Subaru: [What? Wait, oi oi oi oi!]
Subaru widened his eyes on gazing at what Rem was pointing towards, up ahead of the speeding Falo cart.
In their path stood men clad in armour, engraved with the national seal of the Sword Wolf. They were deployed in a way to block the main road. Imperial Soldiers were attempting to obstruct their path.
Subaru: [It’s Todd, isn’t it!? He changed plans and called for his friends!]
There was no sign of Todd among the Imperial Soldiers that awaited them, but the reason they were obstructing Subaru’s group right now was no doubt because of Todd’s influence.
Receiving Subaru’s taunt at the alleyway, Todd figured he would be at a disadvantage by himself, and so he gathered his comrades. It was definitely a very logical and necessary decision on his part. Subaru hated how correct and appropriate his deci――,
???: [――You shits! Don’t think y’all can get away!!]
In place of the absent Todd, at the head of the deployed troops, stood a familiar face.
A man who’s right eye was covered by an eyepatch. His features looking as if someone had painted roughness and wildness directly onto it――It was Jamal. He accompanied Todd and, without a doubt, the man on whom Subaru set a trap on in the Jungle.
Seeing that Todd was alive, it was no surprise that he was alive as well but――,
Jamal: [You’ve got some balls sending a Witchbeast at us! You’re fucking dead!]
Subaru: […He simplyhates me. It’s kind of a relief that way.]
Watching Jamal shout in anger with bloodshot eyes, Subaru felt peace of mind, knowing that his attitude was more human.
However, having said that, that did not mean that Jamal’s existence as a threat was gone. Including Jamal, the lineup of Imperial Soldiers were a plain threat.
Just how were they going to break through?
Medium: [Big Bro, hold them reins tight. I’m counting on ya.]
Flop: [No worries, give it to them sis!]
In the limited time Subaru had to make a decision, before he could choose his next action, the duo at the driver’s seat, the O’Connell siblings Flop and Medium, gave their answer first.
Subaru did not have the chance to stop her. Medium positioned her legs at the tip of the driver’s seat and leaned forward, falling――,
Kicking the seat using her feet, her body shot forward with the speed of an arrow.
Machetes-drawn, she flew in a straight line and plunged into the enemy’s formation head-on.
Clawing the earth with her heel, Medium forcibly stopped herself using the enemy line. She then swung her arms.
Her machetes swept forward as it ravaged the air, generating an intense shockwave. The armoured Imperial soldiers were blown back far and wide, spewing blood.
Subaru: [S-she’s stroooooong!!]
Rem: [Is that how you compliment a girl?]
Subaru: [What else am I meant to say!? It is a compliment! Medium-san’s strong as hell!]
Despite Rem’s coldhearted comment on his honest opinion, Subaru exclaimed loudly at Medium’s unexpected fighting prowess.
Hearing Subaru’s voice, Flop, sitting at the driver’s seat, proudly scratched his nose.
Flop: [How’s that? That’s my sister’s true strength! I’m utterly hopeless at fighting, so my sister and I cover for each other and…]
Subaru: [Crush your weaknesses right? I understand now!]
Flop: [You get it!]
As if Subaru’s answer was to his liking, Flop’s eyes shone brightly and he flashed his white teeth.
This was second-hand information from Flop himself, but Subaru could confirm it to be true with his own eyes now.
Medium rampaged on, overpowering the Imperial Soldiers that were blocking their way one after another, forcefully clearing a path for the Falo cart to get through.
Subaru: [At this rate…]
???: [――Don’t get so cocky, you shitty bitch.]
Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, Subaru pumped his fists. It was at this moment.
At that moment, a flash of a drawn sword assaulted Medium. She blocked the attack with her machetes but was sent flying as if she were paper.
Medium was shocked by the attack. The man who sent her flying also wielded blades in both hands――It was Jamal.
Jamal: [We’ve already had our numbers reduced, I ain’t gonna lose any more just from this scuffle! Y’all hurry up and prostrate yourselves under my foot!!]
Medium: [Kyaah! Waah! Big Bro, this guy’s strong!]
Subaru: [For real!?]
Angrily showering them with words of abuse, Jamal swung his dual blades and attacked Medium. She blocked the strikes, but Subaru could tell, even from an outsider perspective, that she was inferior in fighting strength.
It was his first time seeing Jamal fight properly, but his skill was far higher than the impression Subaru had got of him before. ――It made Subaru think that perhaps, the Elgina he had set on Todd’s group to beat them in the jungle had been beaten back by none other than Jamal himself.
Subaru: [This is bad, there’s not enough distance!]
Thanks to Medium’s hard fighting, the number of Imperial Soldiers blocking their path had decreased.
It seemed possible to break through by relying on the Falo cart’s momentum and charging in, but that was only if Jamal, who was standing imposingly in the middle of the street, was not there.
As long as Jamal was there, they could not hope to get away.
At that moment, Flop called out.
The cornered Medium glanced in the direction of her brother’s loud voice. Perhaps, he was about to yell out words of advice that would help turn around this impossible situation. Subaru hoped, but alas――,
Flop: [――You can do it!!]
The advice Flop shouted out, was unmistakably just telling her to believe in herself more.
Hearing those words, Subaru’s mind went blank. Even Jamal was dumbfounded.
However, for Medium O’Connell, for a person with who was bonded through blood, the reaction was different.
Medium: [I can do it――!!]
Receiving her brother’s encouragement, Medium roared. Her machetes screeching loudly alongside.
From her stance focusing solely on defense, she switched to a ferocious offense. A flurry of blades assaulted Jamal’s entire body.
Jamal: [You think a desperate attack like that will work on an Imperial Soldier?!]
However, Jamal parried her ferocious blows with his dual swords, striking her with his own counterattacks.
Medium grimaced from the pain, blood trickling out of the lacerations she had sustained on her arms and legs. Despite that, she continued to stay on the offensive by putting in the effort she could have used to defend herself instead, pressing ahead with preventing Jamal from moving away.
Thinking of the possibility that Medium would stay there to pin Jamal to his spot, Subaru attempted to let out a desperate shout, “No, don’t!”, and then――,
Rem: [Take this.]
Subaru: [Woah!? Rem, what are you… Rope?]
Right as he was about to shout, Rem had shoved the rope on the platform into his chest.
It appeared to be quite long, also thick and sturdy, something worthy of being used to secure cargo to the cart. However, in front of the puzzled Subaru, who was unsure of what to do with the rope,
Rem: [――Person with the eyepatch!]
Rem called out as she stood up, carrying a crate that had been stacked on the platform, and then flung it towards Jamal with a gallant throw.
Jamal whirled around, responding to the call with an, “Ah?”. Once he saw the crate heading his way before his very eyes, he easily sliced the wooden box in half with an annoyed swing of his arm.
And then, his whole body was showered with the spices that had been packed inside the crate.
Jamal: [Gh, whoa!? Wha… this is…]
Jamal waved his arm around from the discomfort, his vision obstructed by the scattering powder. At that moment, Medium tried to take advantage of the opening that had been created, aiming for his back with her machete, but――,
The Falo cart had arrived at Medium and Jamal’s battlefield, quicker she could do so. And then, Subaru held the rope Rem had given him high above his head, throwing it towards Medium.
Looking at it, Medium prioritized grabbing the rope over attacking Jamal.
Medium: [I got it!]
Subaru: [I gotcha!]
The moment he heard Medium’s voice, Subaru endured the added weight to the rope with his entire being. He thrust his feet into the loading platform, supported Medium’s weight, and helped her return.
Seeking to jump back onto the Falo cart, Medium took a step forward, about to make a jump with the aid of the rope.
Subaru and Rem would retrieve her, and then they would break through the front gates, heading out――,
Jamal: [I said, don’t think you can just escape!]
The next moment, a furious Jamal cut through the cloud of spices, bursting forth from it.
Like that, he set his sights on Medium’s back as she positioned herself to jump away, ruthlessly attempting to bring down his dual swords on her.
In a nick of time, Medium would be felled into a sea of blood from Jamal’s strike――.
Rem: [This is payback for what happened by the river!]
Jamal’s face was smacked by the wooden rack that Rem had tossed from the platform.
The rack that had been handed out to the O’Connell siblings fell apart upon colliding with Jamal’s face, having completely finished its role.
Jamal was flipped over, and Medium returned to the Falo cart. She threw out her machetes onto the platform, and then proceeded to lie down with her arms outstretched.
Medium: [Oh no, no, oh no! That was close! Big bro, that was close!]
Flop: [Oh, indeed, dear sister! You two also did very well, Mister and Missus! You saved us!]
Medium: [Really, really! Thanks! You saved us!]
Subaru: [No… not at all. We’re the ones who were saved.]
Medium, who had made her way back onto the loading platform, and Flop, who had cheered for that fact.
However, the siblings’ gratitude was misplaced. In this city, the two had continued to save Subaru and his group, right from the beginning and to the end.
On top of that, he had gotten the siblings involved in his group’s circumstances. How could he make it up to them?
Gate guard: [Halt――! Halt! Hal… Whoa!?]
Although a gate guard tried to stand in the way in an effort to stop the speeding Falo cart, he ended up leaping to the side in order to avoid it.
The Falo cart did not let up its momentum as it passed the guard, heading for the front gate with Subaru and his companions on board. The cart would zip out of the city at once, whilst throwing the queue for the inspection process into disarray.
What an outrageous situation. Subaru and company had only stayed at Guaral for less than three hours.
However, they managed to drive past the inspection area, and passed through the front gate. Subaru wanted Botecliffe to do her best, since she would need to keep running in order to shake off the group’s pursuer.
And then, he would have to tell Flop and Medium about――,
Amidst the uncontrollable shaking of the platform, the cart blew past the front gate and exited the city.
Subaru’s field of vision opened up, and he was able to discern the wide plains and the horizon. It was just as the cart was about to finally make its escape.
――When a silhouette plummeted towards Subaru from right above the gates, an axe raised high into the air.
A single strike was swung downwards, descending upon the crown of Subaru’s head as if it were slicing a piece of bamboo in half.
The blow was one that Rem nor Medium, as well as neither Flop norLouis, were able to react to. It was nightmarish, something that could not be guarded against if it had not been predicted.
Subaru: [――I knew it.]
Subaru received the axe strike that rained down on him with the machete Medium had dropped on the platform.
Subaru had guessed that the instant he and his companions had succeeded in their escape, the moment where they would let down their guard the most, would be capitalized, and a single blow would be driven into the target――Subaru’s head.
――If it were Todd, that would be what he would do. The horrors Subaru had experienced five times over had assured him of it.
Todd: [I should’ve killed you, after all!]
Todd forcefully pressed his axe further with malice gleaming behind his eyes, attempting to split Subaru open.
It was a good thing for Subaru to receive the axe with the machete, but his hands had grown numb from the impact, and it was only a matter of time until he would drop the weapon.
Neither Rem nor Medium would make it in time to the lock of weapons that was placing Subaru’s life on the line.
Even though he had managed to dodge a fatal strike, if things went on like this, he would be killed by To――,
???: [Aa, uu!!]
All of a sudden, the force behind Todd’s axe had grown weak.
When Subaru glanced over to see what was happening with a frown, he saw Louis clinging onto Todd, her arms secured around his body. She shook her blond hair loose, struggling desperately to put an end to Todd’s act of violence.
Todd: [Don’t get in the way, kid!]
Shaking off Louis’s interference, Todd mercilessly slammed his elbow into her face. Elbowed by him, Louis let out a shriek and fell over.
Subaru: [――Hk, son of a bitch!]
Witnessing that event unfold, Subaru gritted his back teeth as he exerted his strength to push back against Todd.
Todd stumbled back from the sudden action, creating distance between himself and Subaru after the brief moment where their weapons had locked together. However, this was within Todd’s range. He raised the long handle of his axe. The next blow was about to come.
Subaru: [――You’re watching, right!? Do it, Kuna! Holly!]
Subaru shouted out with all of his might before Todd could unleash his axe strike.
He was unsure of how far his voice had echoed across the plains.
He was unsure, but――,
Kuna: [Bye, Subaru. Don’t forget, I’ll be watching.]
The voices reverberated inside his skull, almost like a reply――in an instant, the sound of something hurtling through the wind pierced the air.
And then, it flew straight across, absorbing itself into Todd’s side――,
With a small cry of pain, Todd was sent flying at breakneck speed as his body jerked to the side.
Unable to keep himself boarded on the platform, he was thrown off the Falo cart as he spun sideways, tumbling to the solid ground without managing to break his fall.
He rolled twice, and then thrice, his figure growing increasingly distant.
Subaru: [Hah… hah…]
Rem: [Wh-what just…?]
Todd was now absent from the Falo cart’s platform, having been tossed off. Subaru dropped to his knees as the machete fell on the spot, and Rem was propping up Louis, who had received an elbow strike, in her arms.
Rem also had a confused expression on her face from what had just occurred, but Subaru had a sense of confidence, one which told him that they would receive assistance if they could make it past the gates.
The origin of his certainty came from――,
Subaru: [That nasty fucking Emperor… I’ll make sure to punch you when I get back…]
Subaru spat out that venom as he sprawled across the Falo cart’s platform, whilst picturing the face of the villainous man who must have known everything.
 – Glossy Ankle Disease (くるぶしツヤツヤ病) is a reference to one of Brokeena’s many fake chronic diseases in the manga series Dai no Daibouken/Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai.