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/241/
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[Subaru: So in the end, what is the Second Trial?]
Keeping his cheek rested against his palm, Subaru asked without looking at Echidona.
On the other end, Echidona shifted her chair forward in order to enter Subaru’s field of view,
[Echidona: Well, what do you think it was?]
[Subaru: You’re not…… trying to confuse me, are you? Is that your way of telling me I’m asking too much? Putting me on the spot like that]
[Echidona: I’m not half so mean as that. I did do something to upset you, after all. I just wanted to check if we can still speak on friendly terms, and also to hear your opinion while we’re at it]
Those words would’ve made anyone feel embarrassed.
If Subaru had come into this conversation in a normal state of mind, he certainly would’ve been discomposed and gotten stuck on his words.
But, in his current state of mind, there was no way he would give her the reaction she wanted. Instead, Subaru spilled a small sigh as his reply,
[Subaru: The Trial’s topic was to “Witness a present that was not to be”. That was the premise, as well the subject of the scenes it showed me. ……I’m guessing “A present that was not to be” would be a present that would have existed if I had made a different choice along the way, right?]
One way to think about it is like what happens in Visual Novels.
It is a game in which the player makes decisions in key points of the story, causing the paths to diverge. On a grander scale, one could even say that life itself is kind of unfolding like one gigantic game.
People must constantly face choices, and make decisions based on their individual will―― all the while trying to aim for a certain potential thread in the world: that would be precisely what “Life” is.
[Echidona: By definition, they are worlds which you should never have been able to witness. Who knows? You might find that you are happier in that world than in the actual present, then you might come to regret: “Why didn’t I do that back then?” Or otherwise, that world might be more wretched than the actual present, and then, perhaps you’d say to yourself: “Thank god I didn’t do that”. ――Ultimately, the Second Trial is to witness “Presents” other than the “Present” you have chosen, and to determine whether or not you could correctly affirm the only genuine “Present”]
Following on Subaru’s words, Echidona succinctly summed up the Second Trial.
It wasn’t too far from what Subaru had imagined. Except for the part where Subaru had to go through that deeply penetrating ordeal.
[Subaru: ――So, those alternate “Presents” I saw, do they really exist?]
[Subaru: Every time I die, I’d Return by Death. So I’ve never seen what happens after I die. ……Until now I’ve never even considered the possibility of the world continuing after my death. ……No, actually, it’s that I’ve been trying not to]
Well, of course.
Subaru only Returns by Death because the world was already beyond saving. In order to break through the deadlock and save everyone he held dear, Subaru had believed that by Returning by Death he could reach the perfect future―― or so he told himself so he could endure the sensation of constantly spending his life.
The existence of worlds beyond his death would upturn that premise from its roots.
If only to set his mind at ease, he must convince himself that there were no “Worlds he left behind”, and that the people in those lost worlds had in fact been saved.
[Subaru: After my deaths… do the worlds continue on……? When my choices caused the world to diverge, when I left those unsalvageable worlds behind… was everyone I failed to protect still inside them……?]
[Subaru: What is it, Echidona. ……Please, answer me]
Having lost the option of avoiding looking at her with his eyes, Subaru leaned forward in his seat and turned a pleading gaze towards Echidona.
Echidona didn’t say a word, but, bathed in Subaru’s gaze, she touched her chin as if in thought, and then closed her eyes.
[Echidona: There is, one thing I should clear up about the Trials]
[Echidona: The “Present” in the Second Trial is no more than a phenomenon which allows you to witness an imagined world. The challenger taking the Trial…… that’s you, in this case. By projecting off of the details of your memories, the Memories of the World draws on everything that makes up your surroundings: the people, the world, the atmosphere, and even the mana, and, assembling them with necessary information from the past, present, and future, a new “Present” is created]
[Echidona: That is to say, no matter how flawless, it is no more than a well-made “Unreality”. Several tiers above self-absorbed delusions, it is a false reality that “might also” have actually happened. As for whether or not it is real, I cannot answer in the affirmative]
[Subaru: Th-that means……]
Seeing hope in Echidona’s explanation, Subaru lifted his head. But just as he thought he saw the light, Echidona held up her palm and stopped him,
[Echidona: The precise mechanisms of your Return by Death are unclear. It’s almost certain that the one facilitating your Return by Death is the Witch of Envy, but the issue of how the Witch of Envy causes you to Return by Death leaves questions unending. Perhaps, it is a power that rewinds the world upon your “Death”. Or perhaps, each time, it is achieved by reaching into another, parallel world and pulling out another you, and with it, overwrites your existence]
[Echidona: If we assume it to be the latter, then Parallel Worlds do indeed exist, and, after your death, those worlds would continue on even without you]
[Subaru: S-so how do we know for sure……]
[Echidona: ――We don’t]
With a shake of her head, Echidona mercilessly cut off Subaru’s trembling words.
Subaru’s eyes opened wide while his mouth hung open without making a sound. Echidona turned him a sympathizing gaze as she tapped her finger on the edge of the table.
[Echidona: If there is one way to confirm it, it would be to ask the Witch of Envy herself. But I’m sure you know from experience how difficult that would be?]
Echidona must be referring to Subaru’s memories of the first time he truly faced the Witch of Envy. Leaving the Tomb after the end of the tea party, there, he found the Witch of Envy.
Stealing Emilia’s body, tearing Garfiel to shreds, and engulfing the Sanctuary in shadow, it was a monster in the truest sense. ――Suddenly, he remembered the doubts surrounding that thing’s appearance.
[Subaru: Ri..ght…… Echidona. Before, after the tea party ended…… outside, I saw the Witch in the Sanctuary. What was… that? Just what was that?]
[Echidona: I thought it’d be obvious? That was the Witch of Envy. Though, that imitation is nothing compared to the real thing. The fleshly vessel it had chosen was immature, and more importantly, not a single one of its seals had been broken. With the deficiency of Witch Genes, there was no way it could have acted with the same power it had in its heyday]
[Subaru: That was still nothing compared to its heyday……?]
Disposing of the beastified Garfiel like he was nothing and slaughtering everyone without receiving a scratch, that monster was still nothing compared the true Witch of Envy.
Four hundred years ago, in the age when the actual Witch ran rampant, what hell must it have been?
[Echidona: Just as you imagined, the trigger for her appearance was the tea party. Not even that thing could prevent you from violating the taboo in here. And so, driven mad with Envy yet unable to vent it inside, it took out its rage on the external world, exploding into a rampage wreaking havoc in its wake]
[Subaru: And you knew that it’d fucking happen?]
[Echidona: Not exactly. It was the first time, after all. Being the first time, it was only after it actually happened that I could come up with my hypothesis. I can’t derive conclusions without first seeing it happen, in that sense, as the Witch of Greed, I’m not that different from you all]
Subaru was at loss for words to see that Echidona’s spectator’s stance showing no signs of collapsing. There was no point in reproaching her for it. But even though he knew this, he still couldn’t quite shake the vexation.
If only she had felt like it, if she had felt like helping Subaru, then maybe――
[Echidona: I doubt there was any great reason why the one you loved was chosen as the vessel. Although there would be a certain affinity when it’s another Half-Elf, I think the biggest reason could only be “Envy”]
[Echidona: For a Witch who wants to be the sole subject of your thoughts, is it really so hard to believe that she’d hate and seek to destroy the recipient of your impassioned affections?]
Loving someone to the point of madness also meant demanding that person to love her back in return. As long as that love wasn’t directed at her, she’d go to insane lengths to make sure that it was. Such was the volatile lunacy known as love.
Perhaps the Witch of Envy was precisely the incarnation of that behavior.
[Echidona: All the questions plaguing your mind, are ones which only the Witch of Envy could answer]
[Echidona: You can mull over them endlessly, but, in all honesty, I doubt you will ever reach an answer. Not about why she pursued you back then, nor about the “Presents that may or may not exist”]
To Subaru, that would be far too cruel a reality.
He wanted to hear it clearly refuted. To be told that the worlds beyond his death never existed.
Or if not, then at least he wanted to hear it outright. That “So many had been sacrificed for your conceit.”
Whichever the answer, Subaru would have taken it as his admonition, his creed, his reminder to never forget, and though he’d grit his teeth, shed tears of blood and cry out from his very soul, he would turn his steps forward.
――But for the answer to be “There is no answer”, isn’t that just far too cruel?
Was he to live, without confirmation or denial, leaving the fate of worlds in this indeterminate limbo?
To go on without knowing whether his steps were his own. Whether he had abandoned what he had abandoned. Whether his sins were sins. Was this to be his punishment?
Were Natsuki Subaru’s crimes so great that no one could ever forgive him?
No one was capable of passing judgement on Subaru. No one could condemn him, either. He already understood this.
――But was even Subaru himself to be denied that right?
[Echidona: I do think it’s harsh. But I also think that the only thing to do is to decide]
As Subaru was stricken into speechlessness, Echidona addressed him with these words.
He slowly shifted his head, and turned his vacant gaze onto Echidona.
Taking in Subaru’s gaze, Echidona swallowed a breath, and, with a serious expression,
[Echidona: In more extreme terms, the Second Trial is to accept the true present as “The only present that is”, while separating out all the others as utterly unreachable worlds]
[Echidona: I’m sure it must be hard, since, compared to other challengers, you have far more reason to believe that these realities truly exist. But still, it’s time that you switched over]
[Subaru: Switched over……?]
[Echidona: Your choices may have indeed left many sacrifices in their wake. And among those you left behind, there must be plenty that are beyond retrieval. But to spend your life counting those you have lost and left behind… would be pitiful. Futile. And painful, don’t you think?]
(The incredible fan art is by @HaruSabin!)
I woke up at 5am today! I think I’m getting better!
Let see if I can keep this up and finally live like a day-dweller again…
Chapter 74 Live Draft: