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[Mom: It’s been a long time since I walked with Subaru like this]
[Subaru: Has it? If it’s at night, we come out on shopping expeditions all the time, right?]
[Mom: Haaa. You see, the flow of the conversation just now obviously meant noon. You have to think about what’s beyond the words before responding]
[Subaru: I’m just, finding observational advice coming from mom a bit hard to swallow!]
Natsuki Naoko’s observational skills were probably the worst in the world, to an almost demon-possessed degree.
That was the common understanding within the Natsuki family, or between Subaru and Kenichi, at least. The truth is, up against Naoko, no matter what kind of allegory or sarcasm was thrown at her, it would be nearly impossible to explain it to her afterward.
Since she herself never seems to realize it, everything just naturally bounces right off of her, and stress will gradually build up the more one interacts with her.
Yet, in spite of that, Subaru still enjoys talking with his mother.
[Mom: I’m so glad it’s warm today. What did you talk about with your father?]
[Subaru: Ooof, conversations-with-mother 101―― expect the first half and the second half to not be connected at all. Anyways, it wasn’t anything in particular, it was just uhh……]
Walking side by side on the road to school, Subaru wracked his brain for an answer to his mother’s question.
If he told her all the details of his conversation with Kenichi, he would be forced to mention the embarrassing inner workings of his inferiority complex, and he couldn’t exactly leave out the part where he cried, either.
Even though he knew it was necessary, it was only the surge of emotions of that moment, and he didn’t know what it would become if he brought it out again now.
[Subaru: It’s no big deal……We talked about Ikeda-san for a bit, and told some stories about the past]
[Mom: Aah, Ikeda-kun. He won big on a horse-ticket and moved to Thailand, then he got swindled by his local young wife out of everything he had, and ended up being driven into hard manual labor while getting scorched all black]
[Subaru: That’s the first time I heard of the miserable developments of the second half!?]
[Mom: He sent a letter to us, saying: “I couldn’t get used to the dirty money after all. Right now, my body may be undergoing hardships, but my heart is fulfilled”]
[Subaru: Huh… so you went through a transformation owing to your experiences in an unknown place too, Ikeda-san……I can totally relate to that!]
The only difference was replacing “parallel world” with “foreign country”, and Subaru’s circumstances would have been pretty much the same as Ikeda-san’s. Unexpectedly finding a fellow traveler here, Subaru quietly wished him the best of luck.
Then, seeing Subaru’s reaction, his mother tilted her neck with [Nnnn~]
[Mom: So, those stories of the past made you feel like going to school?]
[Subaru: Aah, well, that’s the short version of it. It was a chance for me to look back on how I’ve gotten myself worried over all sorts of absurd things. And so I]
[Mom: Stopped wanting to do everything exactly the same way as your dad]
Originally hoping to gloss it over so he would not have to explain, Subaru suddenly found himself cornered by Naoko’s words.
The smile on the side of her face did not change, nor did her sharp, and gentle eyes. In fact, perhaps that wasn’t the intention behind her words, after all. But even so, Subaru felt like his heart had taken a direct hit when she pointed it out without him ever mentioning it.
Subaru fell silent, and happily walking ahead of him, Naoko was swinging her arms in wide arcs.
[Mom: It’s because Subaru always tries so hard, and wants to do everything at once. And since your dad has all kinds of crazy interests, you had all sorts of opportunities too……you must be exhausted]
[Subaru: M-mom……just how much, do you know about me……]
[Mom: Well let’s see, Subaru]
As if she had known it all along, hearing his true feelings that he had even been hiding from himself coming out his mother’s lips, Subaru couldn’t utter another word.
At the call of his name, Subaru lifted his face. Cutting in front of him, his mother stopped still, and stared straight into Subaru’s eyes,
[Mom: People often say, children watch their parents more than their parents realize]
[Mom: But the opposite is also true. Parents also watch over their children more than their children realize. Mom has been watching Subaru more than Subaru realizes too, you know?]
Hearing this, Subaru couldn’t help but fall dumb and stupefied.
All the secrets he thought he had been keeping to himself, in reality, had been just a wasted effort. Withdrawing himself, putting on an air as if no one in the world could understand his pain, how vain and thoughtless he must have been.
[Mom: And when you were little, mom had to put suppositories in your butt, so I even know what your butt hole looks like. That means mom has seen every part of Subaru’s body except the internal organs, you know]
[Subaru: S-sorry. It was going well for a bit, but it didn’t seem incredibly necessary to mention the last part just now]
Even twin brothers don’t really get to see each other’s internal organs. In fact, even Subaru himself hadn’t had that many opportunities to see them. There were just the one or two times when Subaru got the chance, but that was it.
[Subaru: So whether it was my reason for liking mayonnaise, or being a hikikomori……]
[Mom: If there was something mom could do to help, mom would do it. But no matter what mom does, it seems it’ll only make a mess of things. Still,]
With a little smile, she continued, gazing straight into Subaru’s black pupils,
[Mom: It seems there was someone other than mom and dad, who did something for Subaru in the end. I think that’s great. I really should thank that person]
[Subaru: ……En, yeah. There was someone who taught me how hopeless I was when I was hopeless. And there was someone who told my hopeless self that I wasn’t entirely without hope. It’s because of them, that I can walk forward like this now]
They made him aware of his own foolishness, and accepted him nonetheless. It was only because of them that Subaru could stand against his past――and face his parents this way.
[Subaru: They’re……way too good for me]
[Mom: But, you won’t give them away or anything, right?]
[Subaru: Of course not. Whether or not I deserve them is one thing. But if I have to give them away I’d rather hang on to them, and try to pile up my self-worth later on]
[Mom: Eun eun――You’re every bit his son, after all]
They were words that held a special significance to Subaru.
Yet his mother understood this, and surely knew what those words meant to him. To say them even while knowing that,
[Subaru: Can I really live up to it? Can I really be worthy of being his son?]
[Mom: No problem. Well, since half of Subaru came from mom, you’ll meet the quota if you just become half as awesome as dad]
[Subaru: So you already knew that your part of the genes that made up my body are inferior!?]
[Mom: Well half of you is already made of your dad’s coolness…… for the remaining half, why not just be Subaru?]
Seeing Subaru unmoved, Naoko gave this reply.
And upon hearing these words, Subaru only fell dumb, with his mouth open.
[Mom: You don’t have to be totally-and-totally the same as your dad. Because if Subaru is exactly the same as dad, then there’ll be two dads, and mom will get all confused, you know?]
[Subaru: A feminine heart wavering between husband and son, what are we, in an erotic novel!?]
[Mom: No don’t, stop it, nyaaaa!]
No sooner had Subaru’s finished his last word, than a fist came flying over to hide her blush.
Eating an unexpectedly powerful right-hook straight in the face, Subaru went flying backwards. While he was almost crying from the pain, Naoko quickly turned her back and,
[Mom: So that’s why, mom thinks Subaru should do his best]
[Subaru: That’s a nice summary, but I’m kind of bleeding here]
[Mom: Speaking of blood, don’t iron pipes taste kind of like blood when you lick them?]
[Subaru: It’s kind of hard to imagine the kind of extreme situation where…… anyways, conversations-with-mother intermediate lesson, expect totally random questions after sudden loss of direction]
It’d be useless even if he painstakingly tried to explain how the iron content of blood is similar to the iron in iron pipes. If he took these kind of questions seriously here, he would only get “how come you’re going off-topic now?” or something similarly aggravating and unreasonable in return,
Therefore, ignoring the context of everything,
[Subaru: I should just be myself, huh]
[Mom: Right right. While trying to be like your dad, also be Subaru]
Naoko looked satisfied at finally getting to a conclusion. Then, suddenly halting her steps in front of Subaru, Naoko pointed to the right side of the split in the road up ahead.
[Mom: Well, the convenience store is this way, so mom will only go up to here ….. Will you be ok by yourself?]
[Subaru: There’s no need to worr……actually I’m seriously injured here, yeah]
Naoko wasn’t excessively worried.
But if Subaru hesitated now, he’d just be way too much of a coward in his mother’s eyes, wouldn’t he? So, to put his mother’s mind at rest,
[Subaru: It’s fine. The things I have to do, and the things I want to do, are exactly the same right now. I have no reason to close myself off anymore]
[Mom: Is that so? That’s good. Then, do your best]
Nodding with relief at Subaru’s answer, Naoko skipped away with little steps toward the road that split off into the right. Subaru’s path was to the left, so he must part with his mother here.
But if they went their separate ways now, he knew, without a doubt, that their parting will be far, far longer than his mother realized――
Unable to endure watching his mother’s back disappear, Subaru called out loudly for his mother to stop.
His mother, already carried away by her quest for mayonnaise, stopped her skipping steps and turned her body around. Just the same as always, the sight of his mother’s unchanged figure imprinted itself into his eyes.
Goodbye, trying to come up with some kind of goodbye, Subaru hesitated.
Right now, if he doesn’t say his goodbyes here, his mother will have no idea just how long their parting will be. Subaru would lose the chance to see his mother breaking down crying, knowing they will never meet again. But if he didn’t want his last memory of his mother to be her face covered in tears, it would be better if he kept his mouth shut.
Yet if he did that, it would be a lie told under the pretense that he was sparing the other person and himself,
[Subaru: ――There is, something I absolutely have to do. So this goodbye will be for very long time]
and Natsuki Subaru’s heart would not allow that.
Having been told these words, Naoko didn’t say a thing. And before she could react, Subaru pressed on,
[Subaru: It’s somewhere a bit far away, and there’s no way to communicate. There will be all sorts of, worrying things. But it’s definitely not dangerous……though I can’t really guarantee that. Oh, what am I saying, honestly it’s because it’s a horribly dangerous place that I have to go back to save them]
Speaking quickly. Piling on the information. All the things he wanted to say spilled out.
[Subaru: Mom and dad will be worried, I think. Unlike up to yesterday, when we could always see each other, it’s a place where you’ll have no way to see me. But no matter where I am, I’ll be thinking of you two, and I’ll never forget……]
[Subaru: I will never not want to be you two’s child anymore, and I won’t do anything that I’d hate myself for. Even though I know, after what I said, you won’t be able to watch me go without worrying, but I……]
No longer knowing what he was saying anymore, his mother’s voice suddenly stopped him.
Lifting up his face, his mother was standing right in front of him.
[Mom: Subaru ――it’s alright]
[Subaru: …….it’s, alright?]
[Mom: Because I understand, what Subaru is trying to say. So there’s no need to try so hard to find the words]
[Subaru: You understand…….how……?]
[Mom: Because mom is Subaru’s mom, after all]
――That was a, completely illogical statement, but there was no room for any counter-arguments at all.
The depth of his eyes grew hot. That feeling, was the same as what he felt only an hour ago.
Just how many times will Subaru have to cry like a little child? Always shedding tears at everything like this, when will he ever grow an iron heart that doesn’t waver against such things?
[Subaru: I’m still……just like a little child……it’s so embarrassing……]
[Mom: If crying when you want to cry is embarrassing, then all the little babies are totally embarrassing when they’re born]
[Subaru: Not……what I meant……]
[Mom: Eun eun, I know. In front of mom and dad, no matter how old Subaru becomes……you should cry whenever you want to cry]
The world was blurring beyond the overflowing tears. Hiding behind his sleeves while wiping his eyes, Subaru didn’t want his mother to see his face like this. And Naoko didn’t peek, out of respect for his wish.
Only, slowly, gently, she caressed Subaru’s hair while standing on tiptoes.
[Subaru: …….Sorry, mom. I, in the end I, can’t do anything for you two…….]
[Mom: We didn’t give birth to you expecting something in return, you know? We had you because we wanted to do something for you. It’s because mom loves you, that mom gave birth to Subaru]
――The love described by those words, Subaru had already experienced them countless times before.
[Mom: If you want to do something for mom and dad, just pass that same feeling onto someone else. It could be the girl Subaru loves, and if you make a baby with her, pass it onto the baby……that would be the best way, wouldn’t it?]
[Subaru: …….Yeah, it would be]
[Mom: See. Stuff mom says can never go wrong you know]
With a satisfied giggle, Naoko tickled Subaru’s forelock with her finger.
Then, pushing on his chest to make him take a step back, she looked Subaru over from head to toe,
[Mom: When your face gets messy from crying, it looks more and more like mom’s, it’s kind of weird]
[Subaru: ……I’m, impressed you’d use your own face as an analogy]
[Mom: I draw my confidence from the fact that it’s the face your dad loves. So, sharing mom’s confidence, Subaru can also draw confidence from your dad’s love, you know]
[Subaru: Even though it’s only because of the face!]
Forcibly wiping his face with his sleeves, it had become red-hot around his eyes when the tears finally stopped.
Crying his heart out, exposing his true feelings only to be consoled, and then, seeing himself finally clearing up, how ridiculous he must be.
[Subaru: Ah really, I always end up crying it’s so pathetic]
[Mom: Crying isn’t a bad thing. Subaru, when you were born, you cried like crazy, you know. No matter who it is, when they first come out, they cry and cry it’s so embarrassing. Crying in all kinds of places, in all kinds of situations]
[Mom: And after crying for a long, long time, if you’re smiling at the end, then everything is alright. What’s most important isn’t the beginning or the middle, it’s the end]
[Subaru: In other words, if the results are good, then it’s all O-K?]
[Mom: That’s incorrect if you interpret it like that. Then, this will be your homework from mom]
Though he would never get a chance to check the answers.
Handing out that homework assignment was another way of saying goodbye. Receiving it, Subaru stored it deep within his heart. Perhaps one day, when he finds the answer, he would just naturally come to understand it.
It wasn’t exactly a clean and gallant parting scene.
But his father and mother, after hearing that their ex-hikikomori son is going to disappear into some far and unknown place, did not reproach him, but rather sent him off with smiling faces.
Every bit of it, his past, his parents, his environment, he loved it all in its entirety.
[Subaru: ――I’m going, then]
[Mom: En, alright]
Giving his head a shake, at last, he forced his face into a smile.
Leaving his mother with that clumsy smile, Subaru turned his back and began to walk.
It would be the final stretch of the road to school. Following this branch of the road to the end, after going up a slope, he would find the school building waiting for him there, and――
[Mom: Ah, right. Subaru, Subaru, I almost forgot]
And, just as he got himself pumped up and ready to face what was to come, an air-headed voice came calling from behind.
Almost stumbling over from the impact of that discouragement, Subaru turned around dejectedly.
Wondering what she was going to say at the very end, he saw his mother raising up her arm,
[Mom: ――Have a safe trip]
Then, with a little wave of her hand, she said it with a smile.
――On the final night before he was summoned to the Parallel World, when he set out for the convenience store, his mother had said this to him in the exact same way. But that time, Subaru only pushed open the door in a bad mood, without saying a thing.
So, this would be the last chance, to erase his regret from that day――
Conversations-with-mother, advanced lesson―― no matter how many times you get sidetracked, the correct answer somehow always emerges in the end.
The moment he remembered that, his strained cheeks softened, and turned into a genuine smile.
[Subaru: ――Ok, I’m going now!]
High and crisp, Subaru’s voice rang out, across the road that led to school.
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An unpopulated school building. Heading from the entryway to the shoe closets, with some trouble, he opened the doors that seemed to not have been opened or closed in a very long time. Changing from his outdoor shoes to indoor ones, knocking his toes on the floor a few times to fit his feet inside, at last, with a sigh, Subaru stepped into the hallway.
Subaru was in the 3rd year, where, out of the 8 home-classes, he was in the 6th. And in 3rd-year class 6, the student numbers were mixed between males and female students, and so Subaru’s number was 22.
Being the highest year, all the 3rd year classrooms were on the first floor, just across the hallway, past the stairs.
In the dead-silent corridor, there were only the echoes of Subaru’s own footsteps striking upon the linoleum floor as he made his way to his classroom.
It wasn’t long before he reached it. Standing in front of the door, he took a deep breath.
Placing his hand on the door, he slid it open.
In the moments that followed, there should be a crowd of reproachful eyes locking onto him, to admonish him for arriving so late to class, but――
[???: You came a lot earlier than I thought]
That was not the sight that greeted him.
On the other side of the opened doorway, he saw rows upon rows of empty desks, except only for the one seat in the center of the room.
Then, the person sitting there, turning her chair toward Subaru,
[Echidona: Welcome. ――In all that time spent facing your past, have you learned anything?]
Asked the Witch of Greed with her white hair swaying, her eyes brimming with curiosity.
-=Chapter 19 End=-
Woohoo it’s done!! Sorry I got a little busy last weekend and that delayed this part for a few days. I hope no one died waiting! >_<
The first Trial has come to an end, and it’s time for Echidona again!!!
I hope you liked it! And let me know if you find any typos or missing words!
I’ll start Chapter 20 when I wake up tomorrow!
Chapter 20 Live Draft: https://www.patreon.com/posts/re-zero-arc-4-20-8447627/