(Thank You Roanz, Kizarat, Nero, Vimal, Chris, Soriosh, H-X for helping me with proofreading on the Live Draft! <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/218/
THE EVERLASTING COVENANT
Chapter 52 [Subtle Changes]
The first thing Subaru confirmed upon waking up was whether this was reality or not.
After crossing between dream and reality so many times, the boundaries can get a little blurry. Especially since Return by Death usually returns him with his brain still half asleep, like he had just gotten out of bed.
[Subaru: ――uu, ough]
With the return of his consciousness, the first thing Subaru felt was the taste of dirt in his mouth.
Spitting out the unpleasant flavor along with his saliva, Subaru sat himself up and looked around. A dark room, moist, frigid air, and an unsettling silence――he was inside the Tomb.
[Subaru: I’m back, huh……]
Opening and closing his fists, Subaru confirmed the tactile sensation of his body.
At the same time, he remembered how he died immediately before Returning by Death.
[Subaru: Was kinda curious what would happen if I got swallowed…… but, guess suicide worked out]
Recalling the acute pain of his throat being punctured, Subaru rubbed at the phantom gash on his neck and breathed a sigh of relief.
The pain of overflowing blood clogging his throat, drowning his lungs from within, and the sense of loss, of his consciousness pulling further and further away: despite experiencing it countless times, the vividness of “Death” did not fade.
No matter how many times he went through it, “Death” always imparted fresh suffering on Subaru. But even so,
[Subaru: It still beats not coming back…… and having everything broken beyond repair]
Briefly congratulating himself for managing to return after unhesitatingly choosing death, Subaru decided to set it aside for now.
It was still early to tell whether he had actually safely returned or not.
[Subaru: This is no time to be celebrating. Anyway, better sort out what to do next, what needs to be done, and……]
And review his own resolve.
Closing his eyes, Subaru drew in a deep breath. When he opened them again, there was no longer any doubt within, and only what he must do.
Standing up and patting off the dust on his body, he looked around the room and found the girl lying on her side not far away.
It was Emilia. Most likely, the pained expression on her face was due to the past she was presently facing in her Trial.
Subaru ran over and reached out his hand to wake her. He would bring her out, meet up with Ram and Otto outside the Tomb, and then figure out what to do after that.
But there, just before his hand could touch her, Subaru noticed that his fingers were shaking.
His eyes widened at his trembling fingertips as he held his hand in front of his face. His mind commanded the shaking to stop, but, still shaking of their own accord, his fingers ignored his commands. And then, Subaru noticed it.
His teeth were clattering as well, unable to close.
[Subaru: Hands and teeth are shaking……what is this……]
Although surprised by his body’s anomaly, deep down, Subaru knew why it was happening.
The cause was none other than the image that flashed across his mind the moment he was about to touch her.
――Of Emilia’s frozen, emotionless face gazing down at him on the verge of his death.
Surely, the Witch of Envy paid a visit to the Sanctuary, and, for whatever reason, enshrouded Emilia’s body within its shadow. In his final moments, Subaru had seen this with his own eyes.
Most likely, the Witch had possessed Emilia’s body while she lay unconscious in the Tomb.
Subaru had seen Petelgeuse’s ability to possess other people’s bodies, so it wasn’t hard to accept that possibility.
Besides, the reason the Witch chose Emilia’s body was simple.
Subaru had revealed too much forbidden information at the tea party. Though the Witch manifested to punish him, she was barred from setting foot in that place. So instead, she turned her attention to the unconscious Emilia at Subaru’s side.
Then the Witch took over her body, covered the Sanctuary in shadow, killed Garfiel, and swallowed Subaru―― and that should just about sum up the events of the previous loop.
[Subaru: Knowing all that……why is my body still shaking……?]
Even though he could calmly recall the facts of what happened, his feeble heart could not forget the terror of being faced with that abomination.
If Subaru’s speculation was correct, then the root of that disaster was certainly the tea party he was invited to after Returning by Death. Which means, since he didn’t attend the tea party this time, he didn’t step on that landmine.
――So he was 90% sure that the Witch wasn’t currently inside Emilia.
The fact that Subaru’s body was still instinctively voicing its objection was basically due to cowardice.
But still, he couldn’t rule out the worst-case scenario.
That is―― would the Witch of Envy really give up her pursuit just because he passed through Return by Death?
It was the Witch of Envy who allowed Subaru to Return by Death in the first place.
Subaru himself had come to this conclusion and Echidona had affirmed it. The Witch’s appearances in the past and the ending of the previous loop should have pushed it beyond reasonable doubt.
For whatever reason, the Witch didn’t want Subaru’s “Death” to be the end. For that, he was grateful. And only for that.
The question was, would such an obsessively envious, overwhelmingly powerful Witch, obstinate to the point of intruding into reality, really let Subaru go?
If the Witch of Envy had the ability to rewind time, then it’d be far too optimistic to think that she would let Subaru use it without being able to use it herself.
If Subaru could rewind the world through “Death”, then how could he know that the Witch wouldn’t turn back time to pursue him?
His cowering heart couldn’t answer that question――though the answer was right in front of him.
Everything would be clear if he just touched Emilia and woke her from her Trial.
If she woke, and called Subaru’s name in her usual voice like the ringing of a silver chime, Subaru would be freed from these grips of fear.
But what if that was not the case?
[Subaru: ……It’ll be all over, then]
If the Witch shows up every time he returns, then there will truly be nothing he can do. The Witch of Envy’s power was absolute, and he could not envision a scenario where they could prevail against a being with the power to plunge the Sanctuary into shadow.
Against a nightmare that so effortlessly sent Garfiel to his grave, what countermeasures could there possibly be?
In other words, this was a watershed.
[Subaru: First I wasn’t sure if I’d return after death…… now I can’t be sure that Emilia is really Emilia? What am I……an idiot?]
Taking hold of his situation once again, Subaru let out a small sigh.
The shaking of his fingers and the clattering of his teeth vanished. Returning to his senses, he realized it.
All this vague, indeterminate uncertainty――
[Subaru: It’s just the same thing that happens to anyone, isn’t it?]
Not knowing the future, worrying about what will happen in the next second, are all just natural facts of life.
Even if there is the small possibility of foreseeing what’s to come, what’s there to be afraid of?
Such idiotic fear would be equivalent to being afraid of life itself,
[Emilia: ……h, no……]
Compared to the girl being crushed by her past right before his eyes, how petty and ludicrous his hesitation seemed to be.
Calling her name, Subaru touched the girl’s cheeks with the tips of his no longer trembling fingers.
White and fair. The smooth touch of her skin transferred a warmth enough to dissolve the flesh of his fingertips. There was a small tremor in her closed eyelids as her long lashes stirred, and underneath them, a faint light glimmered from her violet eyes.
Pulled back to reality, Emilia blinked several times and noticed Subaru in front of her,
Her trembling irises caught onto Subaru, and as he came into focus, she called out his name.
Her voice, her bearing, and the color of her eyes, all belonged to the Emilia he knew.
[Subaru: ――Yeah, it’s me]
All the shadows of doubt weighing on him, tangling over his body, vanished in a single motion.
Finally hearing her reply, Subaru let out a long, long sigh, and, propping her up with his hand behind her back, he felt his body drained of strength.
In contrast, Emilia righted herself and quickly looked over her surroundings. After confirming where she was, perhaps because her head was still a little heavy, Emilia held her hand against her head, and whispered, [So……],
[Emilia: Just now…… I was……]
Confused by the pain she was feeling, Emilia closed her eyes and tried to recall her memories from before she fell asleep――and what happened while she was sleeping.
As the memories flooded back, Emilia opened her eyes and turned to Subaru with her quivering, peach-colored lips.
Waves of emotion churned in her violet pupils. Her mind was probably in turmoil over the reminders of her past. But Subaru already knew that Emilia would fall to pieces after waking from her Trial. That was why he could so calmly watch her when she was on the brink of falling apart.
All that was left was to gently hold her, trembling in his arms, and find words to console her and tell her that it was alright――
But just as Subaru was about to do this, Emilia reacted in a way completely different from what he had imagined.
Her unsettled eyes had calmed, and her quivering lips were stilled by an even more powerful emotion. Then, Emilia softly extended her hand towards Subaru,
[Emilia: Why… do you look like you’re about to cry?]
Emilia’s fingertips brushed against Subaru’s forehead and made their way to the side of his widened eyes. The pale-white finger softly brushing the corner of his eye caught a drop of tear on the verge of falling. And only then, did Subaru realize that he was close to crying.
But there was no time to ask himself why.
[Subaru: a.. u.. eh?]
A tremor came without warning.
An uncontrollable tremor of a different dimension than the shudders of his fingers and teeth.
His whole body was shaking, robbing him of all the strength inside him. Kneeling at Emilia’s side, Subaru could only curl up, hugging his own trembling body.
Then his grips began to loosen when he understood why.
If the tremor he felt before he touched Emilia was because he was afraid that she might have been replaced by the Witch――
[Emilia: It’s alright, Subaru. It’s alright, it’ll be alright. Because I’m right here with you――]
Saying this, Emilia embraced Subaru’s trembling body from the side.
Through the thin fabric of their clothing, they could feel each other’s warmth. The quiet heartbeat, and the warmth transferred from her body filled his heart to the brim.
――When the fear of that possibility passed, when he knew that possibility was gone, Subaru was overwhelmed by the sense of relief.
Even though his heart wanted him to be strong, his body wouldn’t obey at all.
After all, he had neither a heart of steel nor a body with the strength to protect it.
Feeling Emilia’s warmth, her heartbeat, and her gentle embrace, no matter how much he despised his pathetic weakness, he couldn’t help but feel relieved.
Quietly, quietly, quietly, the two went on holding each other inside the Tomb.
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It’s been so long since Subaru got a nice scene with Emilia… ❤
Chapter 52 Live Draft: