(Thank you Aaron, Roanz, Kizarat, Jason, Lucky, Josh for helping with proofreading! <3)
ALL RIGHTS BELONG TO TAPPEI NAGATSUKI, THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR OF RE:ZERO, THIS IS A TRANSLATION OF THE FREE JAPANESE WEB NOVEL INTO ENGLISH
JAPANESE WEB NOVEL SOURCE: HTTP://NCODE.SYOSETU.COM/N2267BE/210/
――With this, the tea party, or rather the question and answer session, began.
The Witch Echidona possessed tremendous knowledge in the form of a book she called the “Memories of the World”.
He hadn’t been able to even mention Return by Death to anyone up to now. But to suddenly be able to speak of the information gained from this ability without constraints was simply the utmost blessing Subaru could have hoped for.
In front of her, all the countless belated questions pent up inside him flooded to the surface. But the first that came to his lips was,
[Subaru: The one who allows me to Return by Death…… is the Witch of Envy, isn’t it?]
[Echidona: More or less, you’re not wrong in that understanding. But as for the mechanisms behind Return by Death, I wouldn’t know unless I have personally observed your death. But, since you cannot lose your life in my Citadel, that condition could never be fulfilled]
[Subaru: As long as I’m here, I can’t die?]
[Echidona: This is only a fleeting dream, a temporary perch of the soul. If you died inside a dream, do you believe your real body would die as well?]
[Subaru: Well, if the dream got really bad, it’s possible I might die of shock or something……]
Tropes like deaths in dreams being reflected in real life shows up quite a lot in fictional works. With all those stories as examples, Subaru got the feeling that it wouldn’t be all that strange if dying in a Witch’s mental realm could cause his real body to die as well.
[Subaru: Well, it would be kinda weird to keep insisting on dying when I’m already told that I can’t. Anyways, so basically I won’t have to worry about dying no matter what kind of stupid stuff I do here?]
[Echidona: If your mind was pulverized and scattered to dust before you return to your physical body, you might still end up a cripple]
[Subaru: If I become a living corpse I might as well be dead…… if I can’t Return by Death from that, that’s even worse, isn’t it!]
Subaru once came to the verge of mental collapse during the loops inside the Capital. Perhaps it was a self-defense mechanism, or an unconscious act to prevent himself from truly shattering. He didn’t know what it was that swept him along at that time, but, in the end, it was only through rage that he had been able to regain himself.
Nevertheless, Subaru somehow instinctively knew that if his mind were shattered here, no sort of shock therapy would be able to cure him.
[Subaru: If I can’t even choose the timing of my own death, there’d really be nothing worse than that. ……Although honestly, not dying would still be the preferred option]
[Echidona: I can’t judge the virtue of a mindset which would think of “Death” as a tool to procure victory. For not even I have experienced my own death and admitted it to the stores of my knowledge]
[Subaru: ……? But, you died and got turned into a ghost. You don’t remember your own death?]
She was dead and without a physical body, that was what she herself had explained to him. Only the soul of the deceased Echidona was sealed and confined here by the Divine Dragon Volcanica.
[Echidona: It wasn’t quite like that. Indeed, my physical body, the vessel of my soul is dead and gone. But, my soul was sealed by Volcanica before it could meet its death]
[Subaru: ……So then, your body died and your soul didn’t. And since your essence didn’t die, it’s slightly different from actually experiencing death?]
[Echidona: Precisely. So while it may be a selfish thought, I am actually quite jealous of your situation. To be able to observe your own “Death”, and not only once, but to taste it many times over, no one would ever have permitted me such an opportunity]
[Subaru: ……That sounds awfully masochistic depending on how you hear it. And it’s not like I just went around happily welcoming death, you know, not even once]
She probably didn’t mean anything by it, but Subaru nonetheless cringed at Echidona’s morbid curiosity.
For Subaru, “Death” at the end of his actions only ever proved his failure to achieve his objectives.
His aversion to Death had never diminished, and this sentiment had not changed since the first time he experienced it. Although, Subaru couldn’t deny that he had grown somewhat accustomed to that sensation, and was becoming more capable of facing it.
In front of Subaru’s sentiment, Echidona only let slip a little laugh, [That’s a terrible way to put it],
[Echidona: Your condition which allows you to retry after Death, or rather, the power which denies you the peace of Death, is no doubt a thing of Envy. When did you notice it?]
[Subaru: From all the things everyone’s told me, it’s pretty much implied that the Witch had something to do with it. Although I honestly don’t remember ever meeting the envious Witch-sama herself…… seeing how her name keeps popping up whenever something happens, I can only imagine maybe she’s the hand model who shows up now and then]
Two arms, and a black shadow forming the vague outline of a body was all he had ever seen.
A contradictory existence which at once tormented Subaru with pain and showered him with such love whenever he spoke the forbidden words. Tormenting, and loving, a deranged sadistic delusion which Subaru had never considered to be a blessing.
[Subaru: Why would she care so much about someone she’s never met before, I can’t understand it at all…… can you?]
[Echidona: Well, who knows. It’s not just me, I doubt anyone would be able to understand her mentality. In fact, even if I could, I wouldn’t wish to]
[Subaru: For someone who wants to know everything in this world, you seem awfully bitter when it comes to the Witch of Envy. Actually, considering what she’s done to you, I guess it’s only natural]
In Subaru’s mind, Echidona was something transcendent, and in fact, she had reached heights no humans could have ever hoped to reach.
She had created a whole other world, preserved her likeness even after death, and possessed the knowledge to answer any question Subaru could possibly ask.
All of which were proof of the transcendental nature of the girl who was the Witch of Greed.
But even this transcendental existence could not escape the emotions of love and hatred. It was not something Subaru could change, and he couldn’t help but feel powerless in that sense.
[Echidona: You seem to have overestimated me. I may be a Witch, but I was a human first. I am not free from pleasure and rage, sadness and joy, nor the love and hatred of things, nor whether I can get along with a person or not. Compared to the other Witches, however, I do pride myself in the fact that I am far more tolerant]
[Subaru: Well you said it yourself that your curiosity about others is endless, guess there’s no way to satisfy that curiosity by being too picky about people]
[Echidona: Precisely. And so, I can tolerate the existence of most things. No matter how unseemly or vulgar the existence, I’d still believe there is reason to endeavor to understand its mind to a certain degree. To satisfy my desire to know all things. However,]
Pausing her words there, Echidona’s expression suddenly darkened.
The Witch, who always carried an easy smile as she watched him with her unforgettable gaze, for the first time, he saw the corners of her lips twisted with clear displeasure――and brooding rage,
[Echidona: The Witch of Envy is the exception. Only her, I cannot forgive, nor will I endeavor to do so. Whether it was in the time before my death or the time after my death or out of all the Memories of the World, I have never met an existence so unforgivable]
[Subaru: ……It’s not just because she killed you… is it. This kind of rage…]
[Echidona: “Death” doesn’t mean so much to me. Well, considering how I am still here. But beyond that, she did something far more intolerable to me. Even though I consider any action taken to be an effort to obtain a conclusion…… this alone, I absolutely will never accept]
Expelling this bitter sentiment, Echidona closed her eyes and shook her head.
With this one gesture, all traces of passionate rage dissipated and vanished from her face. Emerging in its stead, was once again the familiar, perceptive smile,
[Echidona: Let’s put aside the topic of that Witch for now. I do have some hypotheses regarding the underlying principles of your Return by Death, but I don’t have conclusive proof. And even if we could understand it, it would have no impact on your actual “Deaths” at all. So, do you have any question for me other than its origins?]
[Subaru: Other than its origins……]
Having the root of Return by Death so easily confirmed actually forced Subaru’s mind to deliberate. Setting the intentions of its originator aside, Subaru was aware that in exchange for the pain, he was making good use of this powerful Authority residing within him, if he wasn’t being used by it.
As much as he hated to admit it, without this power, there would be so many outcomes that he could never have achieved.
And, most likely, he would have no choice but to continue relying on its power in the future. If that much was given, then,
[Subaru: ――My Return by Death… do you think there’s a limit to how many times it can be used?]
[Echidona: Hmm……I see. Knowing that you could retry after “Death”, that would be the natural question to ask]
As far as Subaru could remember, he had already died sixteen times in this world.
Every single Death had been accompanied by agony and loss, but, savoring that pain, he would try again in the world he returned to.
Yet, even while it allowed him to reach for the outcomes he needed, every visit of Death was accompanied by the natural terror―― that this might be last time.
[Subaru: It’s only natural… isn’t it]
After all, “Death” was supposed to happen only once in the first place, and he had already defied it so many times over.
Precisely because this was a world he could not overcome without that power, he couldn’t help but imagine how unbearably powerless he would feel if he were to ever lose it.
Until the instant Return by Death hit, Subaru couldn’t know whether it would truly be the end.
The despair of having failed partway to his goal, which he had tasted so many times before―― would all cease and give way to this. So terrible was the dread of Death.
[Echidona: What I am about to say is purely my conjecture, so let me put this out there first. I do have some vague ideas regarding the principles behind your Return by Death, so I hope you’d allow me to proceed from these assumptions]
[Subaru: ……yeah, let’s hear it]
[Echidona: Your “Return by Death”, while we can assume that it comes with limits and conditions, in terms of a limit on the number of uses――]
Subaru held his breath.
Looking directly into Echidona’s eyes just as they were gazing into his, to Subaru, the small pause in between those words felt like an eternity.
And to this anxiety to reach the answer――
[Echidona: ――there most likely, isn’t one]
[Echidona: To you, “Death” is not the end. No matter how many times you die, or how many times you decay, your soul is sent back in time and you are granted the chance to retry until the fate of “Death” is broken. Regardless of how brutally you are killed, and no matter how shattered your heart may be, it seems]
Hearing Echidona’s conclusion, for a moment, Subaru’s mind was replaced by a complete blank.
As if his mind was wiped clean by that blankness, the next thought that began to fill his emptied head was,
[Subaru: ――is that, so]
Quietly taking in the fact he had just been told, he desperately tried to keep his whole body from trembling.
Covering a hand over his mouth, Subaru lowered his head and closed his eyes.
He did not seem to be distraught, but neither was he calmed by the knowledge that there was no limit to his Return by Death.
Seeing this, Echidona furrowed her brows with some traces of doubt,
[Echidona: You don’t look as surprised as I thought]
[Echidona: I had thought that for you…… or indeed, for anyone, overturning the absolute finality of death should have been something exceedingly significant. Especially when you yourself are powerless, while countless obstacles and dangers stand ahead of your path. I really thought there would’ve been a bigger reaction than that]
[Subaru: Sorry the BAD REACTION didn’t live up to your expectations…… but…]
The possibility of unlimited retries―― had always been one of Subaru’s rather optimistic theories about Return by Death. So when someone else gave it their affirmation, it did not come as a complete surprise. But even so,
[Subaru: It’s not like I’m just gonna take that in and immediately think: “IT’S ALRIGHT TO DIE AS MANY TIMES AS I WANT, THIS PARALLEL WORLD IS TOTALLY JUST A GAME” or anything idiotic like that]
[Echidona: So you’ve already guessed what the answer would be? You are a cleverer human than I thought. For better or for worse]
[Subaru: Every time I Return by Death…… and every time I try to tell anyone about it, I can feel the Witch’s presence, like a black shadow is drawing closer]
The first time he spoke the forbidden words, all Subaru could see of the shadow was an arm touching his heart.
But the more he violated the forbidden, the more vivid the shadow’s faint outlines became, and now, he could already faintly see the shape of its entire body.
And when the shape of that shadow becomes clear, what would happen then?
[Subaru: When it becomes completely formed, that’s when I’ll have reached the limit of Return by Death. When that shadow becomes real, I don’t think I will be able to reject it]
[Echidona: Hm, and what is your basis for this?]
[Subaru: A hunch]
Hearing these two words, Echidona’s eyes opened wide.
Subaru rested his elbow on the table and his cheek in his palm, looking up at Echidona’s face,
[Subaru: In fact, it’s a feeling which only someone who’s seen that shadow can understand. Beside me, the only other guy who’s seen that thing was……]
The only other person who shared in this pain, was probably that madman who had his heart broken in half when he did.
Subaru felt an emotional twinge in his chest. And seeing this, Echidona narrowed her eyes as if peering into the depths of his heart, but then, she immediately shrugged,
[Echidona: The fact that I can’t understand this feeling of yours is all itching me up inside, but that’s largely confirmed my speculations. There is no limit to your Return by Death. However, it is subject to certain conditions]
[Subaru: Certain… conditions]
[Echidona: What enables you to Return by Death, is the deranged will of the Witch. Unless the source of that delusion is severed, you will not be allowed to meet your end]
[Subaru: What do you mean sever…… the source of the delusion…]
[Echidona: By killing the Witch who has so fallen for you, or having the Witch’s love for you run dry…… although, as I see it, both of these tasks seem to be difficult to the extreme]
To kill the Witch of Envy―― was, four hundred years ago, the universal wish which even the combined strengths of the Dragon, the Sage, and the Sword Saint had failed to accomplish.
Unable to kill her, they had only managed to seal the Witch of Envy who had covered half the world in shadow. Yet, what Subaru had to do would have to surpass even this monumental feat.
[Subaru: Feels like I’ll have a much easier time having her fall out of love with me……]
[Echidona: But that is absolutely impossible to accomplish. Surely, you must be able to see this?]
[Echidona: Perhaps only you could understand the sensation of directly interacting with the Witch’s shadow, but I, having known that thing in its former existence, cannot help but think so]
There was bitterness in Echidona’s expression. Although he didn’t know what kind of conflict arose between these two Witches four hundred years ago, it certainly wasn’t something that faded with time. In fact, the passage of time seemed to have only deepened the rift.
Unable to refute her words, Subaru only exhaled through his nose and leaned into the back of his chair.
Just as Echidona said, the likelihood of the Witch of Envy giving up on Subaru―― was as hopeless as it could be.
Subaru never imagined he would be loved so blindly by someone whose face he didn’t even know. Someone who literally destroyed half the world.
[Echidona: You sure accepted it easily]
[Echidona: It might be strange to say this, but everything I’ve said up to now had only been the sum of my conjectures. I cannot support it with proof, nor is there nearly enough material to make it convincing]
Echidona closed a single eye, apparently perplexed by why Subaru so readily accepted her opinions.
In fact, Subaru felt the same way.
Subaru hadn’t known her for all that long, and not to mention that the other person was a Witch. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that there wasn’t a single reason to trust her.
[Subaru: That’s also my hunch, I guess]
Subaru realized that, for some reason, he just naturally felt inclined to believe whatever came out of this girl’s mouth.
Perhaps it was her respect for knowledge, and her openness with what she knew in the brief conversations he has had with her, that made him so inclined to believe her.
Out of her excessive thirst for knowledge, he had seen her do such impulsive or even outlandish things, and yet――
[Subaru: If I overlook those parts, you probably wouldn’t lie to me―― I think]
[Echidona: ……is that also a hunch of yours?]
[Subaru: Yeah. A hunch. But then, the fact that you’re hearing this from a guy who’s died sixteen times pretty much discredits it right off the bat, huh]
Hoping to lighten the mood, Subaru threw out that self-deprecating quip and scratched his head.
Hearing this, for a moment, Echidona held her breath. Then, she reached for the cup on the table, brought it to her lips, and allowed the liquid to pass across her tongue,
[Echidona: You might just have a talent for flirting with Witches, you know]
And, for the first time, a completely different smile was carved into the corners of her lips.
-=Chapter 45 End=-
(The thumbnail fan art is by @mebarunrun! Thank you Lucky for finding out the source for me!)
Sorry this one took a few days! I will be flying out of the country next week (hopefully), but I’ll be bringing my laptop with me wherever I go.
Also if anyone knows the source of the thumbnail image please let me know, I’ll try to find it before I go to bed.
Chapter 46 Live Draft: