Just as Subaru thought he had passed over the most unpredictable hurdle and was about to breathe a sigh of relief, Garfiel’s words came down like a bucket of cold water. Seeing Subaru furrow his brows, Garfiel stuck out a single finger,
[Garfiel: Whether I accept your proposal is one thing. But if you don’t accept mine, there’s nothin’ we got to talk about]
[Subaru: ……But this benefits on your end as well. There’s food supplies, and you’ll be avoiding infighting]
[Garfiel: Y’think either of those matters t’me? If we run out’a food for the hostages, we could always start cull’n the herd. If some’of the guys lose it and start gettin’ violent, I’m more’n enough to handle it m’self. We aren’t on equal footings here, y’understand?]
[Subaru: ……what’s, your condition]
Hearing Subaru wrench out these words while gritting his teeth, Garfiel tossed back [Should’a said that in the first place] and clacked his canine fangs. Then, looking over Subaru from head to toe,
[Garfiel: My……no, the Sanctuary’s conditions’re simple. You’ll be the one to take the Trials. Do that, n’the rest is easy]
[Subaru: ――! Wait, that can’t be right. If I do that then the whole point of……]
It’s true that this option had went through Subaru’s mind many times before.
But, it was only the last resort, the one he must try to avoid if he could. More importantly, if he did so, then all of Emilia’s efforts up to now would be――
[Garfiel: You might be misunderstandin’ something, so let me tell y’now……me or Granny or th’others, long as we get released from the Sanctuary, we don’t really care who does it]
[Garfiel: If you want Princess-sama to do it and get some compliments from the hostages or Granny or others, that’s just your thing. It’s none’of my business what happened in your pasts or why you’re wantin’ to get over’em. All’n all, it’s just your own problems, ain’t it?]
There was no way to argue with that.
Garfiel was absolutely right, and Subaru, having completely overlooked their side of the story, had no right to insist on such things. Just as he said, whether it was wanting Emilia to take the Trials, or wanting her to be the one to overcome it, they were all just Subaru’s own problems.
And even more than that, he,
[Garfiel: ――Besides, ‘s it really so important t’overcome the Past?]
[Garfiel: It’s been three days. Three. We had t’watch Princess-sama goin’ into the Trials every day n’pull her out cryin’. Honestly, I can’t stand watchin’ anymore]
[Subaru: Can’t stand… watching……]
[Garfiel: Her gettin’ pumped up for nothin’ only t’get all hurt? Gettin’ ahead of herself like “I have to do it no matter what”, and comin’ back wimperin’ and apologizin’ sorry she couldn’t do it. So why in the hell’re y’still makin’ Princess-sama take th’Trials?]
Garfiel’s words accurately summed up what happened to Emilia over past three days.
The next night after the beginning of the Trials, Emilia challenged the first Trial for the second time, and again she failed to overcome her Past. But more importantly, Subaru, who had gone in with her, was not sent into a Trial at all.
At first, Subaru couldn’t understand why the Tomb had left him out, but Emilia answered him when she returned halfway through the Trial―― someone in the Trial had told her the reason why Subaru couldn’t begin the next Trial. It was very simple:
The second Trial takes place in the room beyond the first Trial.
Inside the Tomb, in the back of the room where the first Trial took place, there was a sealed rectangular door. Subaru originally thought it would only open after all three Trials had been passed―― but in fact, it was the second Trial waiting on the other side. Only someone who had passed the first Trial would be qualified to proceed.
In other words, if Subaru wasn’t alone, he would not be able to challenge the second Trial. And the reason he didn’t go alone even after he knew this was――
[Subaru: Emilia, will definitely overcome the Trials. So we……]
[Garfiel: That expectation’s just a bit too heavy, isn’t it. You don’t see Princess-sama sufferin’ enough as it is? Makin’ her force herself to face those memories, hurtin’ and makin’ her end up lookin’ like that, is that what you people wanted? Is that what Princess-sama wants? My head’s too dumb to understand it]
[Subaru: What Emilia……wants……]
Garfiel said those words while scratching at his head―― but to Subaru, it was like the jolt of being woken up from having ice water poured over his face.
Up until now, Subaru had respected Emilia’s resolve to take on the Trials, and had devoted all his efforts to support her. Even knowing that it will be an arduous path, as long as she doesn’t give up, he would continue to lend her his hand.
And, even as she continued to stand back up time and time again, it never once occurred to him to find out what she really wanted.
Come to think of it, Subaru didn’t even know why Emilia wanted to be King.
The declaration she made in the Royal Selection Hall, about her intention to bring equality to all, could not possibly have been her reason to want to become the King.
From the unfair treatment and prejudice she continued to receive, one could imagine what must have accompanied Emilia all throughout her life. What were her thoughts as she lived through that, what were her feelings, her beliefs―― that made her decide to aim for the Throne?
Even in spite of his unrelenting desire to be at her side and to become her support, Subaru had neglected to ask the questions he should have asked at the start.
How did Emilia and Roswaal meet in the first place? Why would Roswaal help a Half-Elf become King? Her qualification to be King――to be the High Priestess of the Dragon was proven by the Gem on the Insignia, but how did Roswaal get the chance to let the Insignia touch her hand? What kind of common interests did Emilia and Roswaal have that made them form this cooperative relationship―― Subaru didn’t know a single one those answers.
He had managed to come this far, without knowing a thing.
[Garfiel: Oy, don’t know what kind’a shock y’re busy experiencin’, but if y’got nothin’ else t’say I’m gonna go. I’m still in th’middle of huntin’…… n’bout that proposal, if y’agree t’my condition, go ahead and tell Granny about it. I won’t be botherin’ with the rest of it]
After giving Subaru who remained in suspended animation a shrug, Garfiel’s figure disappeared into the dawn-lit forest.
Before he noticed it, the morning sun had already chased away the shroud of night, and the dense tangle of the shade-befallen forest had given way to the quiet peace of morning―― with dewdrops resting upon sprouting leaves, it was that kind of hour.
Left behind, Subaru looked up at the sky.
Above, between the gaps of trees and through the towering clouds, he caught a glimpse of the emerging Sun―― which, soon hiding behind the clouds once more, vanished along with the momentary radiance it brought upon the world.
Squinting his eyes at that momentary light, Subaru started to walk.
[Subaru: All I saw was myself facing my past, finding closure, and feeling glad that I did. But, for Emilia……]
Subaru had been convinced that it was something anyone could resolve and walk away from.
Because he had been healed by the warmth of those memories he received, he was convinced that saying farewell to the past was the only way forward.
Being so smothered by the kindness of those around him, Subaru got the impression that the Past was something that ought to be looked back on.
Yet, Subaru’s thoughts――
[Emilia: ――su… baru?]
For that silver haired girl hugging her knees in the corner of the room, how heavily they must have been weighing down on her.
Inside the house assigned to her, sitting on the ice-cold floor beside her bed, Emilia was quietly, quietly, waiting for time to pass.
She was usually no good in the mornings, but it didn’t come as surprise to find her awake so early. Her eyes as they turned to him were bloodshot, and across her beautiful, majestic face were dark streaks left behind by tears―― The fact that she hadn’t slept for a second was as clear as day.
Noticing Subaru’s arrival, she turned her face away so he would not see that she had been crying.
[Emilia: Ah, s……sorry. I-is it time? It’s time already? It’s, sooner than I thought…… but, I must. I must do my best…… it’s, time for the Trials, isn’t it?]
[Emilia: I-it’s alright. Today for sure, this time, for sure, I……enn, I will definitely pass. I, I’m already figuring out more or less what is going to, happen in the Trial. See, it’s the same pa…tterns. Subaru said, enn, that, yeah, see, I know…… enn, so, I, I’m alright……]
[Subaru: Emilia-tan, it’s fine. It’s not nighttime yet, last night hasn’t even ended. It’s morning now. It’s still, a long time away]
[Emilia: I, I’ll be able to tell if you try to dupe me. Because, look……it’s, dark outside. Mornings, should be brighter……ah, but, my, conversation with the micro-spirits today……]
Looking up at Subaru, mumbling this under her breath, Emilia’s eyes were shuddering. Inside them, were the shock and anger at herself for having failed to abide by her contract, and she looked as if she was about to sever their bond just to punish herself or her own neglect.
Grabbing her hand mid-air, Subaru entwined his fingers with hers.
Seeing their hands tied together, Emilia was stunned into silence, and, gradually, she saw her own reflection inside Subaru’s black eyes.
[Emilia: I, I……]
[Subaru: I’m the only one here right now. So no matter how weak you want to be, it’s alright. There’s no need to rush, or push yourself too hard. I will always stay by your side. No matter what]
Clinging onto his outstretched hand, Emilia quietly whispered his name as she let her head drop to the side. Just like this, letting her hold onto his arm, Subaru sat down beside her.
With his free hand, he slowly patted her silver hair as her body slowly lost its strength, until, after a little while, he could hear her soundly asleep.
She must have been exhausted. But even so, she couldn’t pass the night alone, and had to lean on Subaru in the end.
Taking a glance at the sleeping Emilia, quietly breathing beside him, Subaru lightly traced his finger over her adorable cheeks, and confirmed the traces of her tears.
――This was as far as she will go, he decided.
-=Chapter 22 End=-
I hope you liked this chapter!!
Zantification has send me a draft for the first half of Chapter 23, I’ll be editing it in the live draft now!
Chapter 23 Live Draft: