The Butterfly Dream
Recently, it had become the norm for Subaru to be awoken by the blinding sunlight on his eyelids.
“Come on now! It’s morning~! Rise and shine, Your Majesty!”
He considered himself a morning person, but this sort of awakening made it all but impossible for him to be instantly awake and alert. The sunlight beckoned his mind from the world of sleep, albeit slowly.
He had been sleeping particularly deeply recently. Perhaps it was to be expected: after all, he had been pushing both his mind and body well beyond their limits during the day. Such deep slumber was proof that his days were fulfilling.
“You really, really need to wake up now! Wake! Up!”
The owner of that voice persisted in trying to wake Subaru, cruelly ignoring how comfortably he was curled up in the bed. She was close enough that they could share the same breath, close enough for him to take his revenge by grabbing her and holding her close. She let out a cry like a frog being stepped on as she was dragged into the bed with him.
It was still the time of year when the mornings were unpleasantly chilly, so another person’s body heat was just the thing to warm him up. “Ahh, I’ve been revived,” he said. “It would be nice to just drift back to sleep while we’re like this… Don’t you think so?”
“Mmph! Well, I… I’m not opposed…”
Her voice had been so full of purpose and vigor just seconds before, but she wavered, swayed by Subaru’s sweet words. Though they had known one another for a long time, when he treated her sweetly, her softer, childish side peeked through her normally serious facade. That part of her was irresistibly lovely. He was bringing out such a side for selfish reasons, though.
“There’s a good girl. It’s time for a morning make-out session, don’t you think?”
“But…the Duchess is in charge of making breakfast this morning. Won’t she be angry…?”
“Ugh… I forgot about that.” After being reminded, Subaru’s enthusiasm sank. Surrendering to the siren call of sleep again will carry dire consequences. Resigning himself, he gave the girl in his arms one last tight squeeze before throwing the blankets off. “Guess we gotta get up now. Oh shit, it’s a pretty nice morning!”
Subaru stretched, bouncing on the bed springs. He looked down at the girl, still sprawled on the bed he had pulled her into. “Hey hey, you’re all disheveled… It’s really sexy. Aren’t you always saying that girls shouldn’t be so immodest, Petra?”
Petra Leyte, now old enough that her maid uniform suited her quite nicely, stuck her tongue out and smiled sweetly as she whispered, “It’s alright. I can let my guard down in front of you, my liege…you and you alone.”
He reached out a hand, pulling her from the bed. “Well then, let’s head to the dining room. Everyone is probably already there.”
Petra smiled and nodded. She rose from the bed, still holding his hand.
“Yes, let’s go,” she said.
The two of them walked leisurely through the red-carpeted hallways of the royal castle of Lugunica, hand-in-hand.
Subaru was greeted by a dignified voice, cold with displeasure, the moment he entered the dining room. He felt a bead of cold sweat trickle down his back at its menacing undertone. He forced a smile and raised a hand in greeting, trying to conceal how nervous he truly was. “My bad. Man, I guess I’m more worn out than I realized. It’s so hard to get out of bed in the morning.”
“Spare me your weak excuses. Do not forget that I can discern easily what is truth and what is mere ceremony… I bet you and your would-be awakener of a maid were fooling around.”
Subaru turned his head, whistling in what he hoped was a nonchalant way in response to the sharp glare aimed at him. They did fool around, no denying that. Well, whoever went to wake him would be the target of some flirting, no matter whose turn it was.
“The reality is that you neglected the promise you made to me… I suppose I should expect to be treated as such.”
“No, I didn’t mean to…”
“No need to console me. I am fully aware. Aware that…I’m no lovely young lady. Unlike the other women surrounding you, I put no effort into anything but my swordplay. I know little of proper dress or makeup. Of course, I am unable to satisfy you, sire…”
The uncharacteristically self-deprecating words just kept coming. Surely this feeling had been building, day by day, and this morning had finally overflown. Even a single drop was enough to cause the whole dam to burst when it came to this sort of thing.
Her insecurities had piled up one by one and now manifested as self-doubt. And it was a failure on the part of Subaru that he had not noticed her discontent thus far.
“—What are you planning?”
“If you can see inside my heart, don’t you already know what I’m up to?”
“Don’t tease me.” Caught within Subaru’s embrace, she turned her face away. She refused to look him in the eye, and her shoulders jerked, as though she was ashamed of being held. But her half-hearted resistance began and ended there. “All I can see is the mood of others. Though I can sense the general nature of the inner workings of the heart, I cannot see all of its contents… So I won’t be able to understand your true intentions unless you state them plainly.”
“That’s an embarrassing thing to ask.”
“Are Your Majesty’s true intentions something to be embarrassed of…? Yet another thing I failed to see.”
He felt her wry smile rather than seeing it, wrapped in his arms as she was. She glanced up at him, and her gaze caught inextricably with his. Their faces were close as they embraced, close enough that the distance could be closed in a moment. So Subaru decided to answer in a way much more efficient than words.
He felt the silken touch of her tongue, extending hesitantly from where their lips overlapped. The hot brush of the breath that escaped from her lips, the way she pressed into the kiss, almost begging for more—he could feel the heat rising in him, all the way to the tips of his ears.
After a moment, they pulled away from one another, slightly out of breath. The normally dauntless young woman was disheveled, her eyes slightly wet and her expression open and lovely. Subaru felt a scorching heat at the sight. It grew hotter at the surety that he was the only one who got to see such an expression from her. He reached for her again, desiring to feel her touch once again—
“—That’s enough for this morning.”
But she interrupted him, blinking away the haze in her eyes as she blocked Subaru’s outstretched arms. Having had his lustful momentum cut short, Subaru’s rebuffed hands grasped for her, reluctant to change course. The young woman gave a familiar, dignified smile at the look of reproach on the other’s face. “If we do not stop, it will disrupt many of today’s plans. What is more, it is no longer appropriate for me to keep you all to myself, sire. And so we shall stop here.”
“…It’s cute to lose yourself in the moment every once in a while, I think.”
“I believe I already said that I am a woman devoid of ‘cuteness.’ Although, the thought of forgetting everything and wasting the day away with you does appeal to me.”
“—You only show your feminine side at times like these, it’s so unfair.”
Subaru stretched out his hand in his last hopeful attempt but was quickly slapped from above. Shaking his hand to dispel the impact, Subaru directed his eyes toward the woman who quickly and gracefully turned her heel.
“Now, let’s eat. I’d stake my reputation on this morning’s meal. I would of course never give any less than my utmost in serving Your Majesty, but I am particularly confident in this meal.”
“You’re much more romantic when you’re not trying to be, you know that? Guess that’s in character for you, Crusch.”
Subaru slumped in defeat but was pulled from his dejection by the mouth-watering scent from the table.
The young woman gestured broadly to her work, confident in its quality. “I know you’re busy, but when we’re around the dining table, at least, I’d like to keep you all to myself—I’m sorry if that is selfish of me, my husband.”
“If you think that makes you selfish, that’s quite adorable, my wife.”
He sat down at the wide dining table, Crusch immediately by his side, just like always. She snuck a glance at him, surreptitiously watching him as he began to eat.
As soon as the first bite passed his lips, Subaru exclaimed that it was delicious. The hint of unease in those dignified eyes faded away at his cry. As he crammed another bite into his mouth with his fork, praising its flavor once again, Subaru thought to himself that this side of his wife was ridiculously lovable.
Subaru sat at his desk, struggling in vain against the veritable mountain of official paperwork in front of him. “No matter how much I work, there’s no end in sight. Stuff like this happens in anime and manga all the time, but I guess it can happen in real life, too…”
“Here’s more work for someone who likes to mutter to himself, Barusu. No lengthy breaks. Get back to it, you dullard.”
“Dullard? No respect for the crown, huh?”
Having finally vanquished one of the mountains, only four heaps of documents remained—at least, until a whole additional mountain range was plopped cruelly onto the desk. With four fresh, snowy peaks looming over him, Subaru thrust his quill pen forward, declaring, “How long are you planning on looking down on me? Do you know how much power I hold in this country right now? It’s about time you stop treating me like your subordinate, capeesh?”
“Oh, and do you understand your position, Barusu? Don’t forget that you can’t stand on your own. If Ram abandons you now, who will help you defeat this army of documents?”
Immediately eating his words, Subaru threw his body and his pride at the other’s feet, begging for help. “I’m sorry, Sis! Please don’t abandon me! Save me!”
The pink-haired maid let out a snort of disgust. “No matter what title you hold, some things never change. Enough of this same old back-and-forth—at least come up with some better sweet talk.”
“I’m seriously at your mercy here, Sis! I’m literally on my knees! I mean, what if someone else saw this scene? It would be all over the front page: ‘King Wrapped Around His Maid’s Little Finger!’ Can you imagine the scandal?”
“They would only be printing the truth. Ram on top, and Barusu below. As it should be.”
“You’re right! As always, you’re so right, Sis!
As Subaru’s voice trembled at her usual arrogance, Ram let out an exasperated sigh. She pulled another chair up to the desk and a spare quill from the pen holder. “Whatever can be written for you, Ram will write for you. Ram will check the content with you, so be prepared to answer.”
“Alright! You’re always here to save me, Sis. This country couldn’t run without you!”
“If you want to show gratitude, change your attitude.”
“Any change in particular?”
“Calling Ram ‘Lady Ram,’ for a start.”
“If anyone else heard me say that, it’d blow up in my face!”
In contrast to the way Subaru’s hands paused as he prattled on, the speed of Ram’s work was extraordinary. According to what he’d heard through the grapevine, she was also doing Roswaal’s paperwork for him behind the scenes.
He’d never seen something like that personally, so he was initially surprised.
“I guess you weren’t just for decoration at Roswaal’s, huh?”
“Ram feels like she is being disrespected.”
“Perish the thought! I’m complimenting you. I’m just saying that appearances can be deceiving, y’know?”
“Uh-huh. In revenge, this proposal by the radicalists is now approved.”
Despite saying she would approve it, Ram processed the request properly—a fact that Subaru didn’t bother to point out. Though she talked a big game, the fact that Subaru didn’t feel the need to correct or reprimand her was a sign of his trust in her.
He glanced at Ram’s profile as she worked through the documents.
Her face was tense and expressionless, as it always was. Her features were soft and youthful, as they had been since the two had first met. She seemed to bloom like a flower when she smiled, but it was a blossoming that seemed to come only once a year.
“…Your hands have stopped again, Barusu.”
“Aah, sorry. I was just looking at you, Ram.”
“‘Tch!?’ Rem would get all flushed and adorable if I said that to her!”
“Didn’t Ram tell you to stop comparing her and Rem? Ram will cut you.”
“Cut my what?!”
“One can only wonder…”
The sideways glare she shot at him chilled his blood, a sudden feeling of dread rising from the depths of Subaru’s body. He hadn’t brought Rem up maliciously, but it seemed that he’d struck a nerve. It was a sore spot, as Ram often said bitterly that Rem should be prioritized over herself.
“It’s not a competition, but you know I’ve already fallen for you, Ram. After all, you’re super cute when you don’t talk or move, and if we ignore your personality.”
“So listening to someone, seeing the way they move, and learning more about their personality is not as important as how ‘cute’ someone is. Noted. Ram will tell Lady Emilia.”
“Hey, I didn’t say that! And I wasn’t even hitting on you!”
She thought much of herself and little of Subaru, just as she always had. However, Subaru had finally come to understand by now that it was just a front: in reality, she had little self-esteem and acted superior in order to compensate.
So, he felt that he could forgive her very un-cute remarks if he thought of them as her way of hiding embarrassment.
“You’ve got that unpleasantly sentimental look in your eyes again, Barusu.”
“Do I…? Sorry.”
He dragged his gaze from Ram’s profile and back onto the paperwork at hand. As much as he enjoyed little distractions like this, if he didn’t get this done he wouldn’t be able to follow through on any other plans.
Work is work, after all, and you gotta work before you can play.
Subaru, finally absorbed in his work, did not notice as Ram glanced at him and muttered to herself. “Ram…does not want you to compare her and Rem like that, Barusu. Because it’s like you see Ram and Rem the same way.”
They fell into silence, the sound of their quill pens scratching across the white parchment filling the office.
“I’m bored,” declared a young woman as she violently threw the door open. Subaru gave her a weary look. He pretended to not have heard her, trying to return his attention to the items lined up on the table in front of him, but… “Mineself knows you heard me,” she pressed. “Don’t be so rude.”
“Hey! I didn’t throw anything of yours, bitch!” In revenge for being ignored, the intruder kicked the table Subaru had been working at over, scattering the objects atop it across the floor with a loud clatter. He scrambled to right the table and pick up the fallen items. Luckily, none of them were so fragile that they’d break by simply getting dropped on the floor, but this sort of thing was not good for his heart.
After confirming that everything was intact, Subaru let out a sigh of relief, and then leveled a glare at the culprit. Priscilla stood there, wearing her signature crimson dress and expression of self-assurance. “I have a lot of work to get through today, you know. Didn’t I tell you to send word before you come and visit? That way I can tell you not to come.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I never know when mineself may have free time, or when the mood may strike me to visit. So why must mineself bow to your arbitrary rules? Think about your position before you speak.”
“Hey, you’re one to talk! Why am I still treated like trash by all the egotistical women around me, no matter how much my standing changes? Am I only the honorary king or something?”
“Shut your mouth, rather than spout such drivel. With your manner and behavior, of course no one will accept you as king. Someone so lowly and pathetic usurped the throne from mineself… It makes me want to draw and quarter you.”
Priscilla turned her sadistic, crimson gaze toward the quavering Subaru, a look of boredom and disdain painting her features. The young woman was as fierce and egotistical as she had always been. It was exhausting to be in her company, but the most frustrating thing was that there was always a solid basis of truth to her arguments. Maybe that was why she acted so intolerably. Or perhaps it was because Subaru had obtained his current position by crushing her ambitions.
“Still, you have some strange tastes. What are all these toys on the table?”
“They’re not just toys. It’s a series of new technologies that are all the rage in villages and rural areas recently. They’re made of magic ore and other various ingredients. Seeing this sort of stuff piqued my interest in human innovation.”
“Oh? New technology, you say? What sort of function do they serve?”
“Hmm, well, for example…” Subaru selected a palm-sized metal box from the line of objects in front of him.
Priscilla’s eyes narrowed as if seeking an explanation of the function of the box. Subaru lightly tapped the bottom of the box, and with a small noise, a blue flame sprang from the top of it.
“Hoh? A portable ignition device?”
“We called this tool a lighter or chakaman, back in my original world. If these become common, then people could… I don’t know, light a barbecue or summon a little bit of light without using magic, I guess? Oh, and it would make starting a campfire easier, too.”
“It would also bring a wave of new arsonists, I suppose.”
She brought up a much more severe option. Priscilla was quite sharp, although her usual behavior and speech did not suggest as much.
She stared at the chakaman in Subaru’s hand. “There must be a small piece of magical fire ore inside. It is stimulated by the mechanism at the bottom into creating fire… However, any defect in it may cause it to overheat, and eventually explode. And magical ores that are used repeatedly are known to degrade in efficacy and speed of manifestation. If the ore requires frequent replacement, it will be quite a while before this device catches on with the general public.”
“Ugh…!” The flaws she listed were one-to-one with the concerns the developer had brought up. The way she was able to identify flaws at a glance mirrored her ability to pick up on a person’s weak points.
“In any case, you must be most confident in this one if it’s the first you chose to show. If this is the exemplar, then the rest must be truly pathetic.”
“Sh-Shut up! Tackling unknown new technology like this is proof of the great human spirit of adventure. It’s that spirit that pushes humanity forward, no matter the era. I believe in this chakaman! It’ll open up a bright new path for humanity one day!” Subaru clenched his fist at Priscilla’s lack of romanticism. He hit the bottom of the box again, looking to show off its blue flame once more, but… “Huh? Umm…? It’s, uh, not really working—”
“Hmph, a defect right out of the gate. I don’t know what this “spirit of adventure” you speak of is, but placing your hopes on this toy is beyond…foolish…!” Her bored expression suddenly tightened, her voice rising in pitch and volume. In the span of an instant, she pulled her fan from her chest and blew the chakaman from Subaru’s palm. The moment it left his hand it exploded.
Subaru gasped at the large flash of red flame it caused in the corner of the room.
“For its worst flaw to manifest at such a moment…the developer must be severely punished,” stated Priscilla. “You are the most important person in the kingdom, after all, and their contraption put you in grave danger.”
“I…don’t plan on going that far. Thank you, though.”
If Priscilla hadn’t made such a quick decision, Subaru may have suffered serious burns. Or even worse, the metal shrapnel from the explosion could have lodged in his face.
Subaru patted his miraculously intact face and said, “I’d really be in trouble if my face got any uglier,” before slumping back into his chair, exhausted.
Priscilla approached him. “It’s not all that ugly. It might even be charming, once one grows used to it,” she said. Subaru could only muster a weak “Oh, ok.” in response to her unusually supportive words. And then, without a moment of hesitation, Priscilla plopped down in his lap.
“I believe mineself said I was bored. And I just saved your life, so I believe a bit of mutual touching is in order.”
“…I’m given permission to have time to myself only because this is considered a part of my official duties. ”
“You were only resting under the guise of official business, clearly. And when you consider the finite amount of time we all have, living prudishly is wasteful. Spend your time with mineself instead.”
She swayed back and forth atop his lap, clinging to him with an uncharacteristically soft touch. Though they had touched one another in this manner countless times, Subaru still couldn’t get used to cuddling with Priscilla like this. The young woman had a strange heat about her, as though every time they did this was their first. It was one of her charming points.
“I must like being tricked by bad women, if I’m thinking like this.”
“Mineself might enjoy being known as the woman so beautiful as to lure the king to ruin… Don’t give me that look. I won’t be going that far, currently. Sit back and lose yourself, just for now.”
So saying, she wrapped her arms around Subaru’s neck.
The touch of her fingers dried Subaru’s throat, making him long for something to moisten his lips. He found an oasis in the other’s mouth.
“Oh? You’re lookin’ pretty tired. You been gettin’ enough sleep?”
“I’ve been sleeping enough, but also working non-stop from the moment I wake up. I’m crazy busy with work I’m not used to all the time, and my private life is exhausting, too… No, I chose this life. This is no time to complain.”
Anastasia, sitting on a couch opposite the one Subaru rested on, smiled sweetly as she said, “I think your work ethic is one of yer best points, Natsuki.”
He gave her a listless smile before dropping his gaze to the table between them. Numerous documents were scattered across its surface, and Subaru was beyond sick of looking at them. Even so, the majority were part of his hobby rather than his official duties.
“Thanks to you, the Hoshin Company is now the greatest in all of Kararagi—I can walk into Lugunica with my head held high now. I know people call me shameless, but even I worry about how to present myself in a place like that.”
“…I didn’t really do much, Anastasia. You, on the other hand…”
Anastasia cut him off, still smiling. “Natsuki.”
Her expression didn’t change, even as she fiddled with the ends of her wavy hair. But something about her smile felt…different than usual, and Subaru felt his breath catch.
The silence stretched on until Subaru let out a sigh of defeat. “…It’s thanks to your hard work, Anna.”
“I swear, you’re still not used to usin’ that name, even after so much time… I wonder if I’m not trying hard enough. Or is it that you can’t have a consort who is gone for weeks at a time?”
“That’s not it. Crusch and I are still all formal with each other, when the occasion calls for it, even now.”
“That’s weird in and of itself. Crusch turns all lovey-dovey in front of you. If she thinks she’s maintainin’ her dignity while acting like that… She’s got surprisingly little self-awareness.”
Anastasia put a demure hand to her mouth, smiling deeply. It seemed that Subaru had managed to return her to a good mood by calling her by the correct name and changing the topic. He placed a relieved hand to his chest, having avoided disaster for the moment.
“You brought up another woman while here with me… I’m takin’ points off for that.”
“It is considerate to set harsh, uncrossable boundaries in matters of business and of love. I haven’t talked about another man since we began our relations, right Subaru?”
Faced with the severity of her gaze, Subaru could only mutely cross his arms in response. His eyes drifted upward as he recalled the time they had spent together. This was one of those times where he should just nod his head and agree. “You haven’t, I guess… Damn, you’re exacting and precise in everything you do, huh?”
“Hehehe. It’s nice to do this sort of thing, every once in a while. Plus, it’s been so long.” She’d made her way around the table while Subaru was looking away and was now seated beside him. She smiled in an elegant, reserved way as she took his hand, a red blush rising to her cheeks.
Her blush soon spread all the way down to her neck, showing easily beneath her pale skin. He could tell how embarrassed she was, and how much courage it took for her to hold his hand—he fell even further for her in that moment. “…You mentioned that you’d bring my investment results with you today, right?”
“Yes, and it was successful. After all, it was a project involving my first and second most beloved things: money and Natsuki.”
“I see that I’m still a lower priority than money is. No matter how much things change, Anna is still Anna.”
“It’s a close competition between first and second, though. There’s a huge gap between second and third, if that makes ya feel better.”
She only got that soft look in her eyes when talking about money or Subaru. He wasn’t sure if he should be grateful to be considered a near-equal with money or not.
“No, it’s nothing.” He stroked Anastasia’s fluffy hair with his free hand. It was unbelievably soft, almost like the down of a baby bird. Anastasia nearly purred at the sensation, narrowing her eyes and nuzzling up to Subaru’s chest like a cat.
They nestled together, basking in the feeling of holding someone so beloved close—
“Well, I guess being a close second to something so fundamental to your personality ain’t bad.”
For the moment he was satisfied with his position in her heart.
“You’re definitely going to hell for this someday, Bro.” Felt greeted Subaru with those harsh words from her position sprawled across the bed. He removed his jacket and tie, loosened his collar, and unbuttoned his shirt as he made his way toward her. She sat up on the bed, cross-legged. “Hey, are you listening to me?” she asked.
“I’m listening. Also, you shouldn’t lie like that while wearing a dress. Or sit cross-legged, either; your skirt’s so short, I can see everything.”
“So what? It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, at this point.”
“Idiot. It’s amazing to be able to see something like that when I want to, but getting a glimpse of it in unexpected moments is part of the magic. There’s no reward in seeing it on someone as careless as you, in fact, it just makes me a little sad.”
He laid down on the bed next to Felt, who clicked her tongue in annoyance at his comments. After a moment, she laid down next to him. They turned to face one another at the same moment, as if at some unseen signal.
“I know I just told you this, but… I’m warning you, if someone came in right now, they’d be able to see aaalllll the way up your skirt.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone see everything. Besides, how long are you planning on treating me like a child, Bro? It’s been so many years since we first met.”
“Hey, if you want to be treated like a woman, try acting or thinking like one even a little bit. You still talk like a little punk, calling me ‘Bro’ all the time.”
“Haah? You’re the one who told me to call you bro. When we were makin’ out that one time, you got all hot about it…”
“Stop stop! That was just the alcohol talking! Damn booze releases the beast within me and exposes my true feelings!”
“So it’s how you really feel.”
Felt cackled as Subaru covered his face with his hand in shame, and she gave him a playful punch to the chest. He wrapped his hand lightly around the offending fist, and Felt let out a small gasp.
As they held hands, he said, “ I know we’re having fun here, but I actually am worried. It’s not like I can watch out for you 24/7… And I worry that I’m doing stuff that makes you uncomfortable when we’re together like this.”
“I was way more uncomfortable in that first month after we met… I guess things were pretty rough for a while after that, too.”
“It wasn’t my place to help you out back then… I’m frustrated that I couldn’t do anything, but now that I can do something to help, you know I will.”
With a jerk, he wrapped his arm around Felt, rolling so that she rested on top of him and holding her close. She wore an off-the-shoulder dress that day, and he could feel the heat rising under her exposed skin.
Embarrassed, she lifted her flushed face. “I-It’s not even dark out yet…”
“The time of day doesn’t matter, as long as we want to do it… But that’s not why I’m hugging you. I mean, if you want to though, I’m not against it or anything…”
“N-No! I’m good, thanks!! I mean, I’m not ready! Emotionally, I mean. And I need to eat a good meal first…!”
“Hey, do you prepare like that every time you pay me a nighttime visit?”
Subaru was surprised by this revelation. Felt, for her part, was as red as a lobster.
She tried her best to argue back, but all she could manage was to stutter and waffle a few weak objections.
“You have so many other partners, Bro… I only get my shot every few days, so I would hate to…underperform.”
“You’re surrounded by amazing women, so I probably can’t be number one. I definitely lose against girls like Emilia or Rem, and Priscilla and Crusch have me beat in the, uh, ch-chest… department… I’m beating Anastasia though, I think.” She placed a hand to her chest, which was somewhat more developed thanks to her growth spurt. Then she continued speaking faster and faster. “But, even if I can’t always be your number one, I… I, um, want to be number one when we’re alone like this, at least. So I want to put at least that much effort in.”
“…What!? Wait, is it weird for me to think like this…?”
“You’re so, so crazy cute!!”
The way she kept making excuses was just so ridiculously adorable that Subaru couldn’t help but squeeze her even tighter. He rained kisses down on her, covering her face, forehead, and neck.
Felt was completely and totally overwhelmed by Subaru’s overreaction and the deluge of kisses. Her eyes rolled frantically in her skull, her face oscillating rapidly between pale and scarlet.
“I already knew you were cute, but damn! That was just so adorable! Wow!! Even the time you abandoned me in that alley seems so, so cute now!”
“I did that!?”
“Shh, just forget about it. It’s dust in the wind, water under the bridge… I’ve been taking the bitterness from that time out on you in the bedroom, but tonight I’m going to be real gentle.”
“So that’s why… Well, it’s not like I mind it a little rough… Ah, no! You didn’t hear that!!”
Felt let slip that tidbit, maybe because the feeling of Subaru’s hands on her made her let her guard down. Noticing her mistake and the smug smile on his face, she shoved him away, springing out of the bed. “Ah, shit! I really shouldn’t have said that! You’re never hearin’ that again, got that?!”
“I see, I see. So you like it a little rough, huh? I’ll keep that in mind, my wife!”
“Shut it!! You’re going to hell, you know that!?”
She flipped him off and made to turn her back to him, but Subaru grabbed her hand, holding her back. “Wait, Felt. I know I said this earlier too, but don’t show your defenseless or rough sides to anyone else, okay? I’m afraid something will happen while I’m not there to protect you.”
“Worry not. I can be quite charming for strangers, you know,” Felt demonstrated by slipping into an uncharacteristically honeyed tone, placing a delicate hand to her mouth, and giving Subaru an elegant smile. Subaru was disproportionately shaken, to which she slightly tilted her head. “What is the matter, sir? You’re looking ever so unweell.”
“Don’t do that in front of me. Be as defenseless as you want, just stop that.”
“Whatever you say, Bro. Yeah, putting on that schtick in front of you felt sort of horrifying. I’m not doing it again.” Felt chuckled and then pointed a finger at Subaru’s still-ashen face. “So you don’t have to worry.”
“Worry about what?”
“About me, like…laying down in a skirt in front of other people and stuff. I… I only do that kind of stuff in front of you, Bro.”
Trying to leave it at that, Felt spun around towards the door and made to walk out, but Subaru had no intention of letting her. He quickly grabbed her arm and tugged with all his might—
“Felt, you’re SO CUTE! Adorable!! Amazing!!”
And the downpour of kisses began pouring once more.
“What happened to your left eye, Subaru?”
“I embarrassed Felt too much and she decided to kiss with her fist. She’s still cute, even when she does stuff like this… I think I got a little carried away.”
Rem gave him a gentle smile as she spoke. “Please be more careful. You’re not a bachelor anymore, after all.”
It was late at night, and Subaru had come to her room for a visit. He shrugged off his thoughts at her smile and moved to stand next to her. Just as she was about to surrender her seat to him, he stopped her by grabbing her hand. “You should be careful, too. It’s true enough that I need to look after myself for the sake of my family, but that applies to you even more.”
“Rem is sorry. You’re so busy, so she should be working hard to support you, but…”
“Don’t misunderstand me. All you should be doing is resting as much as possible, so you’re strong enough to show me your best smile when we’re together like this. That’s the best support I could ever ask for. After all…” He knelt in front of where she sat as he spoke, reaching for her. His hand landed gently on her previously slender abdomen, now slightly swollen with the beginnings of a new life. “The fruit of our love is growing here. Do you know just how much strength just knowing gives me?”
“Rem is happy that she can support you emotionally, but she wants to support you physically, too. She’s a little frustrated that Petra gets to take that role, hehe.”
She stuck her tongue out playfully, trying to mask her frustration at her current lack of mobility. Most of her maidly duties had been ceded to Petra, who took to the role of all-purpose maid magnificently. Meanwhile, Rem spent the majority of her time looking after the child growing inside of her. Maternity was taking more and more of her time recently.
“You’ve made a lot of socks, recently.”
“Rem didn’t think she was any good at knitting, at first, but it became more enjoyable the more she did it. And when she thought about how her child will grow, she couldn’t help but make larger and larger pairs. First, they were the size of a thumb, then a fist, an open hand, an abble, a melen…”
“Hey, why would our child ever need such giant socks!?”
“Well, Rem hopes they’ll grow up big and strong, so…”
“They’d have to be bigger than the biggest, bulkiest old man I’ve ever met! I don’t even want to imagine that!”
Subaru was sure he would love their child, no matter what, but this was too much, even for him. Rem chuckled at his straight-man routine, assuring him that it had all been a joke. “Rem realized halfway through that she made them too big. She’s going to unravel them and try again. The ones she made for you, too.”
“Oh, you made some for me? Thanks, that makes me super happy. I know you put love into every stitch… I’ll never take them off!”
“Please do. And have these gloves, and these socks, this haramaki, scarf, earmuffs, hat, underwear, jacket, shoes, shin guards…”
“Did you leave any yarn for our kid’s stuff!?”
She pulled knitted, colorful items out one after another. If he wore all these at once, he would become overheated in under ten minutes, even if he was just doing paperwork. He’d left such a skillful person alone with her hobby for such a long time, so perhaps this result was inevitable.
“It would be really hard to get any work done wearing all these at once… Mind if I rotate them out?”
“That’s fine. Rem is very happy that you accepted them at all. That makes all the time she spent knitting worth it.”
“So you’re free to do whatever you wish with your gifts. Even if they gather dust in the back of your closet, or if you use them to clean up spilled milk, or if you use them to cover a dirty chair so you can sit on it… Rem would be fine with anything.”
“I’ll cherish and wear every one of them! Don’t even bother thinking up ways I could defile them!”
He demonstrated what he meant, putting on each and every item she’d given him. Rem clapped, delighted by the sight of him, unbearably warm as he was. “Look how kind your father is, little one. Rem wants to let you meet him soon, so you can show him how lively you are.”
“If they met me like this, they might not recognize me when I’m not covered in yarn. Dad’s a little worried about that.”
“Don’t worry. They’re Rem’s child, so they’ll love you just like she does. So of course they’ll recognize you, no matter what you’re wearing.”
“Yeah, but they’re half my child, too. I’m worried about recessive genes here!”
“You’re always so wonderful, Subaru. If they’re anything like you at all, our child will be wonderful, too.”
Subaru was pouting, but Rem spoke in the same gentle tone as always as she rubbed her belly. Her opinion of him was unrealistically positive, as it always had been. He felt a burst of motivation to keep working harder so that he could live up to her expectations one day. She inspired great strength in him.
“Hey, Subaru. Do you want a boy or a girl?”
“That’s a hard question… If they look like you, they’ll be super good-looking, regardless of gender. If they inherit these eyes of mine, though… Well, I’d feel too bad for a girl.”
Subaru had gotten his eyes from his mother, and those eyes had caused a lot of problems for her as a kid. Her eyes were so harsh, the girls in her class were terrified of her and used to give her candy as tribute. She was always full of sweets.
Knowing his mom, she’d probably never noticed how problematic her eyes were… But Subaru guessed his theoretical daughter wouldn’t be as oblivious as her grandmother.
“These mean-looking eyes of mine are highly heritable. My mom had them, and so did her dad and grandpa, apparently. So our kid will probably get them, too.”
“So you’d prefer a boy?”
“Well, on the other hand, we have this saying back in my original world: ‘Princess first, prince second’… it means that having a daughter and then a son makes both kids easier to raise, or something like that.”
“Geez, which is it? Rem can’t tell what you want!”
Rem’s cheeks puffed up in annoyance at the way Subaru was going back and forth between the options. He grinned, poking her cheeks and sending air puffing out her mouth.
“I’m saying that it doesn’t matter which it is. No, I’m saying that no matter which it is, I’ll love them just as much.”
“If it’s a girl, I’ll treat her like a princess. I’ll spoil her absolutely rotten, give her whatever she wants whenever she wants it! I want her to be like ‘Papa, I wanna marry you someday!’ until she’s in middle school. If I can have my daughter love me that much until middle school, I’m in the winning group among all the dads around the world. Well, I guess, I’m already a winner to have such an adorable wife.” Rem turned red as he gushed. Seeing her flushed, lovely face, Subaru suddenly raised a finger. “But if it’s a boy, I’ll be his greatest obstacle, his most difficult rival, his partner in crime! Just like my dad did with me. I’ll continue the tradition: I’ll be merciless, like a lion throwing his cub into a bottomless ravine over and over again! Aahh, that sounds fun, too!”
“So that’s why,” he continued, “you don’t need to worry about the gender. Just put all your strength towards delivering a healthy baby, Rem. Everything will be just fine, I promise. I love you, and you love me just as much. There’s no way any kid of ours would be anything less than incredible.”
“Yes, you’re right.”
Rem blessed him with a beautiful, content smile in response to his exaggerations. The itch under his skin became too much to bear at her loveliness.
All he had done was call her name and bring his face closer, but Rem knew what he wanted. She closed her eyes, and Subaru brought their lips together.
He felt the soft, hesitant brush of her tongue.
They held one another close, love filling their every movement.
“Phew, another rough day…!”
Subaru had finished tidying up his paperwork and returned to his room, rotating his stiff arms as he walked. There had been a delay at one of the related departments, so a bunch of paperwork that should’ve been delivered earlier in the day had been dumped on him all at once. What was more, they unreasonably wanted all of it done the same day.
“Man, I feel like they’re taking advantage of me. The Japanese inability to say ‘no’ is really screwing me over here… I guess I should start refusing people outright, huh?”
But if he did that, he could delay things, and the inconvenienced parties would surely crawl out of the woodwork. When he imagined that, he doubted he had the courage to reject anyone. King or not, the timid lower-middle-class man inside him lived on.
Is it really ok for a king to be this helpless?
“Well, too late now. I’m king already. Even if I wanted to complain and cry my eyes out, no one would want to listen…”
“I can be your shoulder to cry on, Subaru.”
Subaru was talking to himself, absorbed with thoughts of the exhausting day behind him and the challenges the next day would bring. A young woman sitting on the sill of the open window greeted him as he entered the room. Her white hair swayed in the night breeze, glimmering like liquid silver in the moonlight. She turned toward Subaru with a smile. “Welcome back. You did some amazing work today.”
Subaru momentarily forgot how to speak. Partially at his shock at her unexpected visit, and partially because her smile was such an instant balm on his overworked mind. But primarily, it was because—
“What… What am I…?”
Emotions suddenly welled up behind his eyes. Something hot spilled down his cheeks, and he brought a sleeve to his eyes, trying to withstand the sudden torrent of emotion.
He tried to hold back; It would probably upset Emilia if he burst into tears as soon as he saw her face, but he simply couldn’t help it.
“Ah, shit… Emilia-tan’s here, but I can’t stop…”
“I-I’m fine. Completely and totally fine. I’ll stop soon… I just have something in my eye…”
Subaru made every excuse he could think of and turned his face away. He didn’t want Emilia to see him ugly crying. No, he didn’t want anyone to see him like this. It was far, far too late in the game to show this sort of weakness. He had come so far to get here and pushed so many people aside. He couldn’t be so soft.
The women around him didn’t resent that he’d taken their goal for himself. On the contrary, they showered him with affection. Their forgiveness was enough to keep him going…or it usually was.
“Geez. You’re as stubborn and childish as always, Subaru.”
Emilia stopped the bluster spilling from his lips with a finger to his mouth. Subaru’s eyes were wide as she leaned in, bringing her lips to his.
Her touch hit him like a bolt of lightning. A numbing sensation spread from the tip of his tongue to the rest of his body, wiping away the emotions that had been overwhelming him.
Their lips parted. Subaru’s eyes still swam with emotion, and Emilia held his head to her chest. She began to rub his back slowly as if to comfort a child. “Is it too much?” she asked.
“…No, I can keep going.”
“Do you want help?”
“I’ll try to tough it out.”
“You’re not pushing yourself too far, right?”
“I might be, a little bit. But now is the time to push myself.”
He’d been comforted by her like this once, long, long ago. He’d clung to her then, sobbing with mucus dripping down his face, spilling all his weaknesses and complaints. The memory of that time made his cheeks hot—but not just from embarrassment; there was a sense of pride, too. He was powerless back then, unable to do anything except curse his weakness. It was different now: he was mature enough to keep pushing himself forward.
“I was just a boy back then, really. But now I’m a proper man.”
“…Were you thinking something strange, just now?”
“You smell amazing, Emilia-tan. Can we fool around?”
“What? No. I haven’t bathed, and I just came in from outside…”
Emilia suddenly returned to her usual attitude, pulling away from Subaru’s embrace. She combed her fingers through her hair and wrapped her free arm across her body, as though hiding it from his gaze. She was oblivious to the fact that such a gesture only served to excite her partner further. It was that naivete that made her so enchanting.
“Besides, it’s not my turn tonight.”
“It’s not anyone’s turn tonight. It’s my night off—Ferris said that if I don’t sleep alone every once in a while I’ll definitely die young. Hence the night of rest.”
“That’s another reason for me not to stay,” Emilia said reservedly.
“Well my heart is pounding, I’m wheezing and panting… But I’d be happy to endure all that and just snuggle up with you in the futon,” Subaru suggested as he put up a finger.
Emilia looked at him, doubtfully. “Can you really hold yourself back, Subaru?”
“You wound me! I’m a man of my word. If I say I won’t do anything, I won’t… I can do it! I definitely won’t do it!”
“Sorry, you’ve lost me.”
“I’ve lost myself, too. But what I want to say is that you’re safe from me. And what about you, Emilia-tan? Are you sure your affection won’t explode if we sleep in the same bed?”
“Ah, you don’t need to worry about that. It’s completely and totally impossible.”
“Ouch, what a strong denial…”
“That’s not what I meant…” Emilia muttered, seemingly upset with herself at Subaru’s hurt expression.
She never seemed to consider how much the things she said would affect him, a trait that hadn’t changed from the time they met. He really wished she would think a little more before she spoke.
Of course, everyone has some faults that will never improve, no matter how many times they’re talked to.
Well, no point in lecturing her tonight. Anyway…
“I think I’ll hit the hay soon… How about it, Emilia-tan? Want to snuggle under the futon with me?”
“Eh? Well, I am tired, and it’s been so long since we could spend time together… Very well. I’ll sleep with you.”
Emilia took his outstretched hand elegantly. He guided her close, as though leading her in a dance. Her delicate body nestled against his, and for a moment they just held one another in silence.
The pair slowly, easily slipped into bed together.
“Goodnight then, Emilia-tan. I’m sure you’ll see me again in your dreams.”
“Yes, I’ll try my best to find you… Hey, Subaru?”
“…Love you,” she said, and then pressed her face into the pillow, hiding from him. He could barely see in the darkened room, relying on the moonlight for illumination—
“W-Wait…! Didn’t you just say you would hold yourself back?”
“I said that I would hold true to my word, but I never actually promised to control myself.”
“That’s just a technicality, and you know it…Nn!”
It was lucky that they were already sharing a bed. Subaru covered her lips with his own before she could object further, using his whole body to express his love for her. Emilia, though she objected at first, gradually lost the will to resist. “I swear, you’re so immature, Subaru…!” she cried, embarrassed even in the darkness of night.
This was an April Fool’s scenario. It’s a route that will never be realized in canon, a harem route. Petra, Crusch, Priscilla, Anastasia, Felt, Rem, and Emilia all worked together here. (Note: He forgot Ram!)
The idea was that all the candidates for the royal selection married Subaru as a reward for his good deeds, and he became king. This will definitely never, ever become canon though, sorry!