Pretending to change the topic, Subaru pronounced the vital question. On hearing Subaru’s question, the first to react was Ram. But, it was not an answer he had hoped for.
When the name entered her ears, Ram angled her head as if she had heard an entirely unfamiliar term. As Subaru’s hopes dropped, Roswaal quietly mumbled the name over again in his mouth.
[Roswaal: Omu. Sorry, but it doesn’t sound too fami~liar. I get the feeling it sounds similar to Ram’s name but, ma~ybe if it was mispronounced] ***fami~liar. >_<
[Subaru: Is……that so. No, that’s all. If you don’t remember, there’s nothing. Nothing you can do]
Turning his head to the side, Subaru accepted that answer.
Ram and Roswaal’s reply had shattered the faint expectation in Subaru’s heart. To Rem, they had been the two people whom she had spent the longest time with, for whom she would have given her life, and whom she had admired and loved. And they had forgotten her.
Taking in the reality of this fact, the air within Subaru’s heart settled. And he soberly acknowledged it.
――That in this world, the only one who could remember her, was himself.
[Emilia: Subaru, are you alright?]
With a worried voice, Emilia softly touched the end of Subaru’s sleeve. Savoring the gentleness of the tip of her finger, Subaru, not wanting to let her see the darkness on his face, closed his eyes, then forcibly lifted his head.
[Subaru: I’m alright. It’s not like I had any special expectations. I more or less knew it would be like this. ――What I must do, one way or another, I already have that resolve]
[Emilia: En. Let’s find a way. I will help too]
Emilia nodded at Subaru’s determination, and pledged her unreserved support. As the heart that had been shattered recovered in her gentle regard, Subaru shrugged up his shoulders.
[Subaru: When Rem wakes up… my love won’t be wholeheartedly directed at Emilia-tan anymore… won’t you get jealous?]
[Emilia: Subaru’s feelings for me, if it diminishes, then maybe… But it won’t be like that, right? My share and Rem-san’s share, you’ve already said you have them all properly planned out and everything…]
In response to Subaru’s flirty banter, Emilia made an unexpected retaliation. Scared witless by that retort, Subaru couldn’t utter another word out of his mouth, and her face only slightly blushed, and said with a soft smile,
[Emilia: Let’s go, Subaru. I want to let Ram meet Rem-san soon too]
[Subaru: A, aah, yeah. En, that’s right]
Even if Ram could not remember, it would be a reunion with her twin sister. Would that reunion call back memories, or send some shock-waves to the lost love they once had for each other.
Even such a fragile hope, he will cling onto it so long as there was still meaning.
As Emilia followed Garfiel out of the room and Subaru turned to follow as well, he was stopped by a call from behind.
Looking over, it was Ram who quickly approached him. While taking into her hands the replacement bandages for Roswaal’s wounds, she came close to Subaru’s side.
[Subaru: What is it? If you’re planning on some Bandage-Play, after we leave you can have Roswaal all to yourself……]
[Ram: Only Emilia-sama is to enter the Tomb. Barusu must never enter]
Ignoring his joke, Ram’s incisive tone crushed Subaru’s attitude aside.
Ram’s voice was lowered, and had told him in a volume that even Roswaal could not hear. Seeing Subaru’s furrowed brows, just in case, she said it once more.
[Ram: ――If you do not wish to be ensnared by the deranged will of a Witch, do not, under any circumstances, enter the Tomb]
She repeated it once again.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
――The air inside the Tomb was frigid and clear, and, quite literally, a cool otherworldliness accompanied the atmosphere that greeted Subaru.
A step, every step he took rang out an echo from the soles of his shoes, and, regardless of whether he had wanted to or not, asserted his presence in this place. But even so, the sound of these footsteps gave him an unexpected sense of calmness.
――Because in the darkness which did not even allow him to see a few meters ahead, in the miasma in which his very own existence was in called into doubt, even this sound had become a consolation to him.
Unaware of where he was, the walls which had been his only source of reference had long disappeared. Walking on and on, had he almost reached the end of his path? Subaru felt the illusion that he had stopped still.
But the sound of his footsteps refuted this. Within the certainty of the resonance of these footfalls was Subaru’s very existence: the reality of his steps were guaranteed, and relying on just that small consolation, he continued onward.
How much time had passed, it was impossible to tell in the darkness. Even his thoughts became vague, and his throat, which had already given up on calling out, froze. Walking on like this, exhaustion did not come to him, but because of this, the sensation of his limbs began to blur as well.
Regardless, he walked on. He must walk on. He must not give up.
He forbid himself to stop. Walk, continue walking. Even crushed under the weight of his baggage, he must clench his teeth and walk on.
Otherwise, how would he ever face her――.
[???: ――I see, so that is your core. Very interesting indeed]
A sudden voice rang out, and just as abruptly ended, to be lost forever into the falling of the curtains.
The unimaginable darkness which stretched on no matter which way he turned, in an instant, became bright as day, and the narrow stone corridor transformed – to be wider than the ends of the world. The earth piled beneath his soles snuffed out the sound of his steps, and an air of filth which, above anything, brought nausea to his chest, sprawled throughout.
Completely different from the world up to now, was an ancient ruin befitting of reality―― a scene which he felt he might have seen before he entered the Tomb, panned out, and Subaru lost his words.
In front of him, someone suddenly approached. That is――
[???: Apologies for such a ludicrous welcome. I didn’t intend it to be like this, but no matter what, this body is a thing of Greed, after all. The desire to know is… impossible to escape]
Pure white, like a field of the first virgin snow, was the white impression of that girl.
The long hair draping over her back shone like the reflection of snow in a daydream of pristine white, and the few patches of skin that were showing were just as translucent, and beautiful. A radiance of wisdom lighted up her eyes; she wore on her body a simple ink-black dress, and the display of the two colors adorned the polar extremes of her beauty.
Anyone who had eyes would probably be captivated by such beauty―― but instead, what gripped Subaru’s entire body was an overwhelming horror that he had never felt before.
Even the sense of pressure he had felt on his first encounter with the White Whale, could not compare to this.
Before the speechless Subaru, the girl shook her white hair, and narrowed her eyes, and then, as if understanding him, nodded lightly.
[???: Excuse my rudeness. I haven’t even introduced myself. It was so very rude of me, please accept my apologies. It’s because I haven’t interacted with anyone for a very long time, I haven’t recovered my voice, it seems]
Unlike the tone of her voice, the girl’s expression barely changed as she softly shook her head.
Then, looking at Subaru, who had been frightened into silence, the girl held a hand over her chest in a sign for him to calm down.
[Echidona: My name is Echidona. The one called the Witch of Greed, do you understand?]
-=Chapter 9 End=-
(Fan art by the incredible HaruSabin! http://www.pixiv.net/member.php?id=5223396)
I will be working on Chapter 10 Part 1/2 Live as well! I’ll post the link on Patreon shortly. :3
Chapter 10 Live Draft(Includes Parts 2/3 and 3/3):