The Sound of a Chain
“So, since Ram or Rem can’t come see you tonight… I took over the role of supervising your studies.”
“I see! Wow, I’m glad, a real surprise! Oh, please, sit. You want tea or something, right? Oh, I snuck out some special tea snacks.”
Subaru invited Emilia into the room, and started to prepare to welcome her in a rush. He rushed through the hall, went into what seemed like an employees-only hot water supply room, prepared tea and tea snacks, and then dashed back. This feat of agility was done in a matter of two minutes.
Perfectly displaying the skills he had learned while living in the mansion as an employee, Subaru showed a working attitude he had not even shown to Roswaal himself.
“Thanks for waiting! I’m back! Brought special tea leaves and tea snacks, we can feed each other!”
“I feel like you may have forgotten the main reason I’m here… Do you mind?”
Subaru, still holding the tray, tilted his head with question marks at Emilia, who had been standing there in the room like she was out of place.
She slowly pointed towards the bed and asked Subaru, “Is it just me, or is it way too neatly arranged?”
“Ah! Nah! It’s not like I had a plan or anything, just thought I’d let Ramchi sleep there! It’s not suspicious!”
“What were you going to do having Ram sleep in your bed?”
“I feel like the misunderstanding suddenly made a quick turn!?”
He put the tray down on the table, and dove onto his bed under Emilia’s suspicious gaze. He took his time to mess up the bed all he could.
“Seee, now it’s all wrecked. Right! A naughty girl like Ramchi deserves to sleep in a messy bed!”
“So you still intend for her to sleep here.”
“I can’t win this by myself! Puck, come ouuuuut!”
“It’s already his bedtime so don’t wake him up… I mean, it doesn’t matter.”
Emilia crossed her arms as she watched Subaru turn to the gray cat for help, and looked away. “It’s fine that you’re friendly with Ram and Rem, but you need to do it in moderation. Not to mention those two are still young…”
“I personally like that you have strong virtues. I mean, isn’t there a more suitable person to receive that comment in this mansion? I’ll give ya a hint, he’s a pervert with long hair.”
“Ah, whatever… I’ve given up on trying to fix that.”
“So much so that you look super gloomy, Emilia-tan! It’s kinda giving me goosebumps!”
With resignation in her eyes, her behavior was like an abandoned puppy, which activated Subaru’s protective instincts. To cut a long story short, Emilia was cute to him, whatever expression she was making. In short…
“E. M. T. (Emilia-tan is seriously an angel!)”
“Your face tells me you’re reaaally speaking nonsense. Maybe I’ve finally come to understand you, Subaru.”
“Aw, that’s a delight to hear. But don’t think you can see through me so easily. Oh, here’s some tea.”
“Oh, thanks.” Emilia took the tea from his hands and softly moistened her throat with it. Offering her the chair in front of the desk, Subaru sipped tea while sitting on his bed.
Sharing the treasured tea snacks, they enjoyed a calm and peaceful time together. Maybe this is what they call happiness.
“This is, how, I feel,” said Subaru.
“You’re saying something very ordinary but it kind of resonates with the heart,” Emilia admitted.
“It’s a word trick. The trick is to pronounce them like they’re katakana. It’s just saying normal things like they are normal.”
Emilia reacted naturally, probably because she had gotten used to Subaru talking nonsense.
She was also somehow glad that he was enjoying their peaceful time together.
“A-Actually, I didn’t come here to fool around,” Emilia declared, “so you shouldn’t be relaxing.”
“Who comes to a man’s room alone at night and doesn’t expect some happenings! Don’t you know it’s dangerous!?”
“You know that I can use magic even without Puck, right?”
The air started to crack apart with a dry sound, and the temperature in the room decreased drastically.
Seeing the steam from the tea becoming more forceful and thick, Subaru came to the conclusion that further delaying this study session would be impossible. “Ok ok, got it. Let’s study, it’s study time. A heart-racing lesson in a private room at night with Emilia-tan… I got excited just saying that!”
“Fine, fine, I got it. Anyways, what do you usually do?” asked Emilia from the side with her hands on the back of the seat after Subaru had moved to the chair. Feeling her breath on him, Subaru nervously opened his notebook and textbook.
“I’m currently learning the basic E letters,” he replied. “It seems like the fairytales are mostly a collection of stories written with E letters, so my goal at the moment is to be able to read them.”
“Huh, a collection of fairytales.”
Emilia took the book with the reddish-brown spine and flipped through the pages to check its contents. She suddenly stopped turning them, and Subaru looked up at her. “Huh? Was there a story that caught your attention?”
“Hmm not really, but kinda. Well, once you’re able to read this, you’ll come to understand.”
Emilia closed the book with a sound, then walked to the bed and sat down. Looking at her sitting on the bed that he had messed up made Subaru slightly excited and restless.
However, she stretched her body as though not noticing Subaru’s animalistic urges.
“I was actually supposed to meet with the ones I can only meet during Darksun but then I was requested by Ram and Rem. So I’ll prioritize you for today. You should thank me.”
“I’m super thankful! Truly is Buddha’s guidance!”
“Th-That’s a bit much, you’re making me blush.”
“Thank you! Ramchi! Remrin! I’ll never let your considerations go to waste! I, Subaru Natsuki, will become a man!”
“Huh!? What about me!?”
He shouted out his thanks to the twins who had created this situation for him, then turned back to the dissatisfied Emilia and put out both hands. “Of course, I’m blown away by your kindness and deeply moved, Emilia-tan. When we finish studying and stuff, would you like a massage or something? With my cherished gratitude towards you, I’ll relieve your daily fatigue real attentively. Ge-he-he.”
“That sounds kind of dirty, so I’m good.”
“Shit, why am I so honest! Though I don’t hate that part of me!”
Emilia sighed at Subaru, who was leaning on the desk fake crying. She then clapped her hands to change the direction of the conversation. “Now, don’t be playing around forever. We have work tomorrow too, so let’s finish this before it gets too late. Okay, let’s continue.”
“Ok, got it. Oh, Emilia-tan, you can have the rest of the tea snacks, ok?”
“Whatever, thanks…hm, but it’s a snack.”
I guess it’s even common in this world for girls to refrain from eating snacks between meals, huh.
Gaining such useless knowledge, Subaru began his daily practice of writing letters with Emilia behind him.
Once he threw himself into it, Subaru could focus on studying. While he was conscious of Emilia’s existence, as long as he felt that he could still make that promise, it was something he could ignore. So there was no need to be anxious.
From that peace of mind, Subaru calmly copied the letters. After a while of silence, Emilia suddenly called out from the back. “I see. You don’t get sidetracked as much as I imagined.”
“Cuz I’m focusing. I’m the type of guy who hyper-focuses once he gets into it. That’s why I’m so devoted to the girl I love!”
“I hope so. Though maybe not when you’re making eyes at me.”
Subaru was a little overwhelmed by Emilia’s teasing. It seemed likely that his past attempts hadn’t been taken seriously.
Perhaps she could believe him a little bit since he was saying it so straightforwardly.
“But like, with my skill, it’s impossible to flirt without teasing. The shame would literally give me an unnatural death. Shortening my life as I fall in love with love, just like Heian nobles!”
“Whatever, no fooling around… You should be as serious as this on a regular basis. Ram and Rem are going to give up on you.”
Emilia, on the bed with her arms around her knees, mumbled to the troubled Subaru. Her skirt was short and suggestive, but she seemed to be subtly unaware of how unguarded she was.
Subaru focused on the edge of his vision as he tilted his body slightly. She would obviously notice if he turned his head, so he only secretly looked.
“This, indeed, is the Yin family of magic’s art of concealment!”
Subaru burned with an odd sense of mission. Not knowing his objective, Emilia had a cloudy expression on her face, as she lowered her gaze in her sensational position. Then she muttered, “Hey Subaru. I don’t really want to ask you this but…why aren’t you usually more serious like this?”
“It’s my policy to seriously be unserious and…guess that kind of answer is not what you want to hear right now, huh. Um?”
“Yeah, I’m serious. —Ram was also complaining a little bit. That you seem like, hmm, like you’re cutting corners here and there in your work.”
Maybe because it seemed like she was telling on him, Emilia spoke hesitantly. However, all Subaru could do was internally frown in pain that she was right on point.
I gotta admit that it’s a totally accurate evaluation to say that I’ve been cutting corners here and there while on the job.
In fact, Subaru was not seriously devoting himself to his work. Rather, you could say he was making adjustments to gain the same results as before.
Compared to when he hardly understood his work, Subaru now more or less had gotten used to it. You could say that if he had an employee skill of all Cs, he currently had all C+s.
In reality, he had just begun to climb the tall tall hill of an employee, but maybe that slight difference didn’t manage to deceive the eyes of those senior to him.
Naturally, the sense of guilt slowed down Subaru’s mouth.
Seeing Subaru who could not utter another word, Emilia murmured “I thought so,” before continuing. “Well, it’s not like you don’t feel guilty. You’re faithful at strange moments, Subaru. Like how you aren’t slacking off while studying.”
“Well, I guess I have my reasons, studying benefits me… I realized it when I said it, but I kinda act in my own self-interest, huh.”
Thinking back, that was a terrible thing to say.
He had been causing trouble for the twins due to his own circumstances, working hard for the things that would only benefit himself, and cutting corners even outside of that. I messed up big time, huh.
“Ah, I will attend to it with a renewed attitude starting tomorrow, please forgive me, my queen.”
“Hmm, that’s alright… Wait a second.” Emilia tilted her head, as though she’d felt something was off about her response.
While feeling at ease at her softened attitude, Subaru promised himself that he would make his words reality starting tomorrow.
At any rate, it was a good place to restart. After that, he wouldn’t have to retrace his previous work, and he wouldn’t have to intentionally cut corners at his work either.
He would be able to return the debt of gratitude to both Ram and Rem.
Of course, just because I stop cutting corners doesn’t mean that my level of ability is gonna immediately rise either.
“Your mentality is important for these things. My dilligentness has a value that can’t be bought. Indeed, it’s priceless.”
“You fool around at your convenience again… Did you finish studying?”
“Yeah, today’s share! Oh ya, I have a favor to ask you, Emilia-tan, can you hear me out?” Fiddling with his fingers, he glanced up at Emilia using his secret technique: puppy-dog eyes. It was a gesture targeting her maternal instincts, but she looked slightly disturbed.
“No, I have a reaaally bad feeling about this one.”
“Such a negative impression that you are disgusted!? It’s nothing like that! I just wanted a reward for working hard starting tomorrow.”
“A reward! Just to let you know, I don’t have any spare money, alright?”
“I was also completely and utterly broke till I received my salary. Ju-Ju-Ju-Just hear me out. So since I’m gonna work seriously starting tomorrow… Let’s go on a date!”
Putting his thumb up with shining teeth, he made his signature pose, content with the results.
Emilia blinked her eyes at Subaru’s usual posing and said, “A da-te, what do we do?”
“Ha, simply, if a man and woman go out alone, that is a date. Only the goddess of romance knows what happens during that time.”
“So, you went on a da-te with Rem today, Subaru.”
“My date-virginity has been taken!? I lost my chastity!”
Emilia wryly laughed with an “Ok, ok” at Subaru, who had broken down into tears with his arms wrapped around himself. Waving her hand, she said, “I get that you want to go out together, but where do you want to go?”
“Eh, there’s actually a super lovely dog right near this mansion. There’s also a field of flowers and it’s really pretty. I wanna forever commemorate our co-starred scene amongst the blooming flowers with my magical item.”
His initial equipment had also been collected after the battle in the loot house and stored in the corner of the room.
The contents in the plastic bag were untouched, and not to mention the cell phone, the snacks and instant ramen were also in good condition.
“If I had a charger and an outlet, I would fill up the storage with pictures of Emilia-tan…and change my phone wallpaper everyday. Aargh, I really wanna do that. Why was I summoned to another world, Thomas!”
Calling the name of the great inventor, all he could do was lament the gap in the level of civilization of this world. His cell phone battery showed one less bar, and it was only a matter of time.
Eventually, I may have to bet on charging it with lightning magic or something.
“That’s like a solution in a children’s manga…”
“Hmm, so a village.”
Emilia looked deep in thought with a hand on her cheek, while Subaru talked to himself. That reminds me how she was troubled like that before, he recalled.
Based on his memory that it was not something negative like not wanting to go out with him, he tried to recreate his memory of how he had pushed through in that situation. Right…
“The dog is super cute, let’s go!”
“But I might cause you trouble, Subaru, and to the village people…”
“The kids are also innocent and like an army of real angels, let’s go!”
“…Uh, Ok. I got it. I’ll go with you.”
“The field of flowers is really colorful and wonderful, let’s go… Wait, r-really?”
He almost felt tricked, as there was less pushback than last time.
“If that’s going to make you motivated from tomorrow, I’ll hang out with you. You can’t fool around, alright?”
“I won’t, I won’t! I’m super speedy! If anything, I have the energy to abandon the dog and the kids and the field of flowers so that it can just be the two of us!”
“That defeats the whole purpose of the da-te!” Emilia skillfully countered Subaru’s comment.
After that, the two continued to exchange joking comments, then as she realized it was getting late, Emilia stood up and said, “Well then,”
“If you’re tired,” Subaru interjected, “you can just sleep in that bed?”
“You seem to be panting and the sheets are messy so no thanks.”
“Shit! Why is it so messy… It’s Ramchi, getting in the way even when she’s not even here.”
It seemed as though Ram’s face, who had been the number one person he was thankful for a moment ago, was floating in the night sky, looking down at him in disdain.
Next to Subaru, who was imagining a scene of him being a corpse under a sky full of stars, Emilia walked towards the window and also looked up at the sky. “Yes, the stars are pretty tonight… I’m sure the weather will be nice tomorrow.”
“—Yeah, and it will be an unforgettable day.”
“Can’t believe it…” Turning around with her back facing the windowsill, Emilia was about to reprimand Subaru for his jokes yet again. However, her lips stopped moving when she saw him.
It was probably because she saw that his expression was unusually serious.
Noticing Emilia who suddenly went quiet, Subaru blinked. “Huh, what happened? If you take your time too much, sleepy me will irrationally make you a body pillow, Emilia-tan.”
“After all, you are a weird boy, Subaru.”
“A sudden and outrageous assessment!? Did I do something!?”
Subaru was surprised by the unexpected comment. Leaving the window behind, Emilia crossed the room and passed by Subaru’s side with an adorable “Nothiiing,” before looking back at him with her hand on the doorknob. “Well then, Butler Subaru. Work hard tomorrow. Rewards are rewards because they are given to only those who worked hard.”
She raised her hand like she was saluting, and flipped her silver hair, leaving a wry smile behind. Her shadow disappeared outside the door before hearing his response.
Even if he reached out his hand, he couldn’t reach her anymore. The door shut with a light sound, leaving Subaru alone in the room.
“Hey-hey-hey-hey, are you kidding. I’m so motivated now. Like really.”
The promise he wanted to make was again made.
And Subaru could face the night again.
Will I be able to get through the fourth night and pick her up on the morning of the fifth day?
The duration of the battle would be approximately six hours.
“Well, let’s get on with it, dear destiny—”
Subaru sat on the floor with his bed against his back, instead of sitting on the bed, waiting with hope that the night would gradually turn into morning.
The cool floor had become warm with Subaru’s body heat after sitting there for over two hours, which did not help with keeping him awake.
However, his drowsiness had yet to catch up to him. In fact, he was as alert as could be.
The reason is obvious.
“Who could sleep with their heart beating this fast?”
His heart was pounding quickly, loudly, and sharply, with the sound ringing in his ears. He could keenly feel the blood rushing through his body, and his fingertips felt slightly numb.
“I’m like this because I am impatiently waiting for my promised plan with Emilia-tan. Whoa, whoa, am I an elementary schooler who can’t sleep before his field trip? Don’t remember oversleeping on the day of my graduation trip.”
Surely the whole family overslept. They must’ve been so excited that they forgot to wake up. The sadness of being the only one who brought a convenience-store lunch box still haunts me at the back of my mind.
Reflecting on the painful memory in his mind, Subaru looked up at the sky as he distracted himself.
The stars shined like always, and only the placement of the moon moved gradually to the west.
Could it be around four hours before the sun rises from the east? thought Subaru. It’s a long time indeed.
Although not sleepy at all, he had to continue to be alert as he didn’t know what could happen. It was hard to kill time thinking of the possibility of an attack, so all Subaru could do in that moment was listen to his body’s pounding sound while he kept on thinking.
He reflected on the past four days, or rather, the second round of four days.
Being out of shape at the beginning, and the difference with the first week. The impact that had on tonight must have been pretty big.
However, on the other hand, he thought that he was able to get past some of the memorable events. There were also subevents added to the second week.
If I assume that the reason for going back was due to failing to trigger a flag, is there a possibility that an event like this study session would count as that?
“I can’t deny it as a possibility, but…”
Hypothetically, if there was an existence that was leading Subaru to a loop, it would be difficult to draw the conclusion that this study session was an important thing.
Having said that, there didn’t seem to be a big change outside of that. His relationship with Emilia did not change, and he felt like his relationship with Ram and Rem was better than before.
“If I were to have a regret…”
It would be that I wasn’t able to meet Beatrice this evening.
In the previous world, Subaru had trespassed Beatrice’s room by “door breaking” right after making the promise with Emilia.
He didn’t remember talking about anything significant, and he would have to say that the possibility of it being the flag was very low, but compared to last time, he had had an even worse relationship with her.
As a result of his crammed schedule, Subaru barely had any opportunities to encounter her in these past four days.
“Although we were just throwing insults back and forth last time we met.”
Though he complained, there was something that Subaru couldn’t get off his mind.
It was true that he didn’t recall talking to Beatrice, but what had unmistakingly saved his heart in the last loop was her attitude.
It’s because her hostile yet straightforward attitude towards me helped me get back on my feet.
“I should have thanked her at least.”
It probably won’t ring a bell for her in this world, and I can already guess what she’d say if I said it, too.
Although they would insult each other when they met, Subaru’s face loosened up when he thought of Beatrice.
Even the same old exchanges were memories that made him laugh when he remembered them like this.
If he could see tomorrow, the next morning, he could do much more of what he wanted to do.
Not just to Beatrice, he also had much to say to Ram and Rem, and even Roswaal.
Of course, they’ll have to forgive me since I’ll have to shower Emilia with ten thousand words first. “Wait, maybe ten thousand words won’t be enough to express my feelings for her. I’ll express the rest with actions then…”
In his daydream, he hugged the shy Emilia in his arms, and his lips met hers as she looked up with rosy cheeks. He got worked up upon imagining that game-like scene.
He laughed out loud when looking back on last time and this time—a total of eight days.
As if being taken in by his inner peace, his eyelids started to become heavy, even though there were still more than three hours till morning.
“It seriously wouldn’t be a joke if I fall asleep now. It’s not like I’m just playing an online game…”
He rubbed his eyelids as he said that, chasing away the sleepiness that was bubbling up. However, his sleepiness was accompanied with a slight chill, and he laughed at himself as it made him shiver.
He crossed his arms around his shoulders and tried to warm up his body. Yet, no matter how much he did that, the chills did not go away. Rather, there was no sign that they were going away.
—This is weird.
Subaru realized the change in his once optimistic situation.
—Cold is an understatement, it’s more like pain.
When he looked under his sleeves, he saw goosebumps rising on his arms, and it was apparent to him that he was shivering internally.
This was abnormal. This other world had warm weather, and he could usually maintain the perfect temperature by rolling up his sleeves.
Then why is it so cold that my teeth are chattering now?
“This is bad, no way, could it be…!”
He began shaking, though from terror rather than the chills, and fell to the floor. He tried to brace himself with his arms, but the chills could already be felt throughout his whole body, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t find the strength in his arms to get up.
After trying for nearly 30 seconds, he somehow managed to finally stand up. But both his knees were shaking, and he felt that he could fall to the ground any time if his attention wavered.
He could feel himself growing weak. He felt a sense of fatigue in his hands and feet. His once-loud heartbeat weakened, and he slowly felt his thinking becoming dull.
He could find no strength left in his entire body, and he could even forget to breathe if he didn’t focus on it.
Lips shaking as he tried to gasp, Subaru crawled out into the hallway to call for help—dragging his feet behind him.
“…S-Someone.” He tried to shout for help, but his voice trembled, as if something was blocking his throat.
His throat dried out, only allowing air to pass through, and his breathing slowed, as if his lungs had been overcome with fatigue.
This is bad. That single thought overtook Subaru’s mind.
He could not think of a single solution, and he could not understand what was being done to him.
The only thing he knew was the fact that the current situation was threatening his life.
Groaning, he aimed for the stairs with uncertainty. Even though it was a path he was used to walking and the distance wasn’t very far, his destination seemed so distant.
His breathing became hoarse, and walking from there to the upper floor was mortifying as each step wore down his soul.
Subaru finally made it up to the top floor crawling one step at a time using his arms and legs. He headed further back into the hallway—to where the person who he longed for was.
He felt like the inside of his body was melting, and there was a discomfort as though everything was being mixed together. He dragged his feet onward as he failed to contain the nausea and tears that swelled up.
I have to go to Emilia, to where Emilia is.
A sense of mission, of obligation, of an emotion he could not spell out was driving Subaru.
There was nothing like the desire to be saved, which would only reaffirm the misery that was his life, but while ungraceful, there was simply a pressing sense of absoluteness that he had to go there.
Emilia’s room was at the end of the hall on the upper floor of Roswaal Manor’s west wing.
When he arrived at that floor, Subaru was only faintly breathing. If there was someone looking at him from the side, they may have looked away due to how pathetic he looked.
Leaning against the wall, dripping feces and urine, face dirty with tears and vomit, his figure failed to maintain its basic human form.
His whole body felt exhausted, and none of his muscles obeyed his commands. To Subaru, the place he was approaching seemed as far away as the clouds.
He was breathing heavily, and his ears were ringing with high-pitched and loud noises.
Therefore, it was simply a coincidence that he noticed that odd sound.
It seemed like the clinking of a chain.
The strange sound stopped Subaru’s step. At that moment, his body leaning on the wall began to slide down. He stood firmly. But, unable to resist, he fell to the floor and…
The next second, the impact struck Subaru.
He completely lost his balance and was blown away instead of just falling down.
Subaru only realized that he had taken a big blow after he had bounced off the ground several times and wiped the floor with his face.
But there was no pain.
There was just a lingering discomfort running from the tip of his hands and feet to his stomach. A sense of fatigue was controlling his body, similar to that of the numbing sensation when your blood flow got interrupted.
Happened, he murmured as tried to lift himself up while lying on his stomach. However, his shaking arms held no strength in them. No, that’s odd. I cannot balance myself. First of all, why doesn’t my left arm appear while my right arm is working so hard?
The hallway was already dim, but it felt like it was refusing to help by not even giving any light. In his blurred and distorted vision, Subaru looked at his right arm struggling in vain, then shifted his eyes to his left arm that had stopped listening to him and…
…realized that the left side of his body had been torn off.
After pushing his lying body to the side and positioning the left half upward, Subaru was stunned with shock.
He needed both of his arms to get up, but the left half simply didn’t exist. His left arm had been blown away from the shoulder, and you could see his flesh and bone sticking out of the wound. The peach-colored inside was vibrant as ever in the night air, and vivid red blood was gushing out of it.
The wound was not limited to the left shoulder but continued around to the ribs on his left side, and some internal organs were peeking out where flesh had been ripped apart. How many times have I seen my own intestines now? He thought half fascinated, until it was promptly followed by pain coursing through his body once he realized the damage.
It could neither be described as painful nor hot, and it blocked Subaru’s throat like a fish on land, taking away the opportunity to scream at the top of his lungs.
His vision started to flicker, and red and yellow lights flashed before his eyes.
It crossed out the familiar view of the mansion, and took Subaru’s consciousness to a different place not of this world.
I wanna die.
I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die I wanna die.
I don’t know the meaning of life.
I can’t call this living.
I’m just not dead yet. I will only die soon. I will die soon.
I don’t know anything. Everything is far away.
I can’t remember what I was trying to do. I can’t remember what I was. Nothing matters. I don’t care, I just wanna die.
The wish Subaru made with the entirety of his being…
“The sound of… a chain…”
…came true as his skull was crushed, that whisper being the last thing he heard.