(Thank you Bobb, Axel Knight, Austin, Daisuke, S Alal, Roanz, Glavos for helping me catch typos 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/263/
THE EVERLASTING COVENANT
Chapter 94 [Abandonment]
――The first thing she felt upon waking was the loneliness in her empty right hand.
Having just awoken, her head was still drowsy from the lack of blood flow. But, realizing along with her returning consciousness what a selfish sentiment that was, her cheeks flushed red with anger and shame.
Instead of sitting up, she shrank into a ball on the bed and rolled the blankets around her. Reflecting on her own shallowness as she lay there, she was already chastising herself first thing in the morning.
[――Selfish, selfish, selfish. I……’m so selfish]
The girl who had curled up on the bed―― Emilia, muttered, exhaling a long, long sigh at her wretched state.
She opened and closed her hand beneath the sheets, remembering the sensation it held just before falling asleep.
His fingers were thick and uneven, and their skins were slightly firmer at the tips, entirely unlike her own which were slender and frail―― every time she had the opportunity to hold his hand, she thought this.
It was the touch of the boy who cared for her, who said those gentle words to her, and who had sat at her bedside holding her hand until she fell asleep―― the touch of Subaru’s clumsy, delicate hand.
Her first unconscious thought upon waking was of the loss of the touch of that hand. To feel so much loneliness from the emptiness of her fingers, just how hopeless is she?
Always wanting to lean on him, was her nature so eager to pile more burdens on that boy? Had she no regard for the irreparable troubles her own weakness and sins have brought to everyone around her?
This was already the fourth day since their arrival in the Sanctuary―― they arrived on the first day, and Emilia had devoted both yesterday and the day before to the Trials deep inside the Tomb.
For Emilia, who was aiming to win the Royal Selection and ascend to the throne of Lugnica, acquiring the support of the Sanctuary was the indispensable first step.
The governor of this land, Roswaal, was Emilia’s backer, and all the residents here were in circumstances similar to her Half-Elf self. If she couldn’t gain their acceptance even with the conditions so stacked in her favor, what could she possibly expect to do from here on out?
Compared to the other candidates of the Royal Selection, Emilia’s disadvantages were undeniable. Powerless as she is, she would need the help of those around her in order to win. And the trust required to secure that help would have to be earned through her own actions.
Fully understanding her position, what Emilia needed to do and to prove in the Sanctuary were clear. She had no doubts in that regard.
But, what was casting this shadow over her eyes was――
[Emilia: ……the Trials]
The single non-negotiable condition for gaining the Sanctuary’s residents’ approval was to break through the Trials.
Thanks to the Barrier erected by the Tomb, none of the Sanctuary’s residents could venture beyond the surrounding forests. In order to bring them into the outside world to fight alongside her, she would need to remove that Barrier by overcoming the Trials. And it was also a matter of sentiment. For how could she ask them to support her if she couldn’t even do this much for them?
Be it physical or sentimental, everything would be solved by simply passing the Trials. And when a matter is this straightforward, there is no room for arguments or excuses.
The problem now was the content of the Trial, which was like deadly poison to Emilia.
――The unfeeling voice inside the Tomb told her to “Face her past”.
Whenever she closed her eyes, she would see that world of white.
Instantly, as if being thrown naked into that absolute cold, she’d shiver at the unstoppable chill.
Was this dread coursing through her body because she was remembering the cold of that day or because she still hadn’t forgotten her fear from back then, even now?
What did Subaru think when he heard her faltering story of her past?
The unforgettable past which still binds her in chains of guilt to this day―― it was yesterday around noon when she revealed it all to Subaru.
The night before that, she made her first attempt on the Trial where her heart was soundly beaten. She had been crying in Subaru’s arms after he shook her awake, wailing, breaking, until his voice and his gentle strokes on her back managed to calm her. After that, Emilia announced to everyone waiting outside that she had failed her Trial.
She could not remember what expression came onto everyone’s faces when they heard this.
She hadn’t the mind to look at their faces one by one. Whether it was gazes of disappointment or disdain, it didn’t really matter. She merely put on a strong face, said her good nights, and headed into the residence assigned to her. And when she realized that she was completely alone, she was swallowed by unendurable terror.
Unable to stay shut in like that, she rushed out of the building and was shivering in the night wind when she ran into Subaru walking under the moonlight.
Then, when Subaru confessed his resolve and what he would do for her sake, Emilia dismissed him with some idealistic excuses and ran away.
Just how stricken must Subaru have been when he heard what she said? Equally appalled by her own words, Emilia had no idea.
She couldn’t remember how she got back to her residence after that.
The next time she woke, it was to the sound of Subaru calling her, his face pale as he saw her collapsed on the floor.
She told the worried Subaru about the Trial―― and inevitably, it turned into a conversation about her past.
There, she related her past to Subaru without the slightest tampering or fabrication.
The way she had been made to witness the crimes she committed, the unforgettable memory and the scar that was peeled open, as if exposing her raw wounds to the wind she revealed it all to Subaru.
At the same time, Emilia also confessed to her selfish motive for participating in the Royal Selection.
It was not that she wasn’t afraid.
As consequence of the mistake she made in her youth, Emilia had made victims of far too many people. Yet she never paid the price, and even now she was enjoying the time that she alone still possessed.
What’s worse, the means she chose for her atonement only wound up dragging even more people into her mess.
Being reviled, despised, and shunned all came natural to Emilia.
And yet, somehow, she believed with a sense of absolute conviction that Subaru would never abandon her.
No matter how wretched her past, or how selfishly she yearned for redemption, Natsuki Subaru would never, ever, abandon her.
No matter how badly he is hurt, and even if he cries, Subaru would continue to protect her. Over and over, Emilia had seen this in his actions.
This kind, faithful, sentimental youth: Who, despite bearing so much, still refuses to cast anything aside, would continue struggling regardless of his wounds.
And as long as she remains one of the pieces of baggage he is carrying, no matter how grotesque her nature may be, he will never let her go.
――It was, in the truest sense, a cruel and abominable thought.
Even if she shook her head, professing to have never thought this way, it’d be a lie to say that it never crossed her mind. And if some part of her heart hoped for this, it’d be the same as Emilia’s entire existence affirming this thought.
And so, placing her faith in someone who could never despise her, she confessed to her despicable past.
When all is said and done, that’s all it was.
In the end, though Subaru could not hide his shock and dismay, he did not chastise her for her crimes.
When she was exhausted by her confession and overcome with drowsiness, his touch as he held her hand was still abounding in thoughtfulness, no different than before.
The fact that Subaru did everything just as the repulsive part of herself expected vexed her to no end.
Subaru’s usually sharp eyes were softened in worry, concerned for her body and mind. His kindness was like sweet poison to Emilia.
It melted her heart, her resolve, and laid every ugliness within herself bare.
If only she could leave it all to him and let him help bear the pain whittling at her heart. If she could say it out loud like some whining child who looks away from every unpleasant thing, Subaru would not hesitate for a second to devote his entirety for her sake.
――But that would be unforgivable.
Ever since they first met, Emilia has been receiving Subaru’s help.
From the stash house in the Capital, to the Mabeasts threatening the domain, to the gazes in the Royal Selection Hall, to the unknown assailants besieging the village and the Mansion, it has been this way.
Emilia was always clinging to Subaru’s hand. Unable to bear to see him hurt and believing that she doesn’t deserve his kindness, she had once cast his hand aside.
But even so, Natsuki Subaru never abandoned Emilia.
Not only that, when he finally told her his reason for saving her, he said,
“I love you, and so I want to be your strength”
Never once had Emilia received such wholehearted and entirely-baseless confession of love.
The only people who had ever shown Emilia affection had been the Elves she lived with in Elior Forest, and, after her long slumber, the one who became her family, Puck.
Being lured out of the forest by Roswaal, she was once again reminded of the vicious reality of being a Half-Elf, and her two visits to the Capital only deepened that awareness.
Accepting Roswaal’s proposal was partly to fulfill her own objectives, but Emilia had also hoped that she could perhaps change the deep-rooted prejudice against Half-Elves―― if only by a little. Yet that hope felt so faint and distant that she herself scarcely believed that it was possible.
And so, just how massive an impact must it have been on Emilia when Subaru, that single-minded youth, ignored the fact that she was a Half-Elf along with all her hopeless defects and told her that he loved her?
He wasn’t of the same race, nor was it decided at birth that he existed solely to accompany her. He was just someone she had met by chance, grown close to, and, after all they’ve shared together, came to care for―― just how much of a salvation must this have been for Emilia?
And precisely because of this, Emilia mustn’t rely on Subaru anymore.
Every hardship he bears for Emilia would mean another wound carved into his body. Not only wounds of the flesh, but of the heart as well.
Subaru wasn’t especially strong in body nor mind, Emilia knew this.
Even with a heart abounding in resolve and the will to care for those around him, he was no one special at all.
He could be wounded by sadness, he’d cry when he’s hurt, and if he bled too much he’d die.
He’s just that kind of ordinary person.
Emilia didn’t want that ordinary youth to bear any more pain on her behalf.
If he could just stay with her and support her as she ventures forward, then she’d wish for nothing more. Though it was such a selfish wish that Emilia couldn’t help but feel ashamed.
If she has him there to support her when her resolve is about to falter, then surely, Emilia can overcome any obstacle without fail.
And she herself must be the one to fight those obstacles before her.
[Emilia: After all, if I don’t……]
If she continues relying on him, leaving everything to him, clinging to him, pushing everything on him, eventually, Subaru will come to think of her as a burden.
Just the thought that that day would come filled her with dread.
It was something she didn’t want to believe she wanted. Something she knew even if she wanted she could never have and so had given up on wanting. Something she had kept out of her mind, but had always secretly longed for.
And now that she had it, had been given it, and had grasped onto that outstretched hand―― Emilia couldn’t bear the thought of losing it.
Emilia’s sins had painted the forest in white and sealed all her friends and family beneath ice and snow.
Emilia herself also fell asleep within that ice and went for nearly a hundred years before Puck woke her, all without being aware of her crime.
That grave and abhorrent sin was only made worse by the fact that Emilia herself could not remember a single tangible detail about her deed.
Everything in between was a blank, and, aside from the knowledge that her act had plunged everyone into white stagnation, she couldn’t remember a thing as to why, or what she was thinking.
The Witch’s Daughter. That name felt natural to Emilia.
After Puck woke her from the ice, she spent seven years in Great Elior Forest. Unable to find or cultivate any food inside the frozen woods, she would walk to the nearby villages outside the forest and rely on them for most of her food.
She could not forget their terrified gazes or how they called her the “Witch of the Ice Forest”.
Witch. That insult suited her.
She had been stuttering about having the resolve necessary to overcome the Trials, but even she felt that those words were hollow. Emilia could not even imagine how she might defeat her past. So she merely evaded Subaru’s questions with pleasant words and chose to shut herself in her cask of dreams.
Assured by the unmistakable touch of Subaru’s palm, she fell asleep not long after.
――She doubted she dreamed anything back then.
When she woke, Subaru was still in the same posture as before, watching over her as she slept. An unbearable emotion overran her chest as she saw this, and, still holding onto his hand, they stepped out into the Sanctuary―― to challenge the Trial.
The outcome was obvious. She didn’t pass her Trial.
Subaru and Ram saw her off just outside the Tomb. And with Garfiel, Lewes, and the Sanctuary’s residents’ gazes at her back, she walked in. But without a single clue as to what she should do, the Trial heartlessly rejected her.
After being tormented, corroded, trampled by her unchangeable past, Emilia was tossed back once more.
When she returned to consciousness on the cold, hard floor of the Tomb, Emilia noticed that her cheeks were wet. Even her tears were ridiculous, and how she despised her own shallowness.
Unable to grasp a single clue to overcoming the Trials, Emilia left the Tomb haggard and frail to be welcomed by the worried Subaru and the others.
Then, just like the night before, she was lulled into sleep in this building, losing consciousness just after tumbling into bed―― which she only realized this morning.
[Emilia: In the end, there’s no progress at all…… I’m so useless……]
If she learned anything yesterday, it’s that she is a hopeless, spoiled child who is always causing trouble for Subaru and everyone around her―― and, even then, still hasn’t the slightest hope of getting better. That’s the kind of weak existence she is.
The pendant hanging at her chest―― and the green lustre of the stone adorning its tip, is the anchor of Emilia’s spiritual contract with Puck.
Whenever she softly calls his name, he’d answer in his carefree tone, “What is it?” in accordance to the contract.
But it’s been almost two weeks since he stopped responding.
At first, she thought he was merely in his hibernation period, which he goes into once every few months. There were also times before when Puck would suddenly stop responding, and every time it happened, Emilia would try to endure the loneliness while she waited for him to wake.
However, his hibernation periods usually ended after three or four days, and this is the first time it has been this long. What’s more, even if Puck is in his hibernation, if Emilia truly tried to call him, he would interrupt his sleep and answer her.
But now, she couldn’t even sense that reaction from the distant Puck.
Could something have happened to him?
Did something change during his hibernation that’s preventing him from manifesting again? And if that’s the case, what should she do?
Even after the long, long time Emilia had spent with Puck, she still couldn’t think of a way to reach him once he has left her like this.
Whether it’s the Trials, Subaru, the settlement of her past, or the missing Puck, Emilia hadn’t a single solution to any of these problems.
[Emilia: ……I’m, so stupid]
Faced with this dead end, just when she was about to complain about the absence of the one who should be there for her, she stopped herself.
Because, if she did that, then she would truly be lost beyond saving. ――Even though Emilia’s opinion of herself was already lower than ever before, she didn’t want to think that she could sink even lower than this.
[Emilia: Nnn, stop it. Even if I keep thinking like this…… he’s not going to show up today. But Puck must have his reasons. And there’s been no progress on the Trials yet. I need to keep it together]
She lifted her hands and gave her white cheeks a few pats as if to pump some spirit into herself.
Then, looking up, she picked up a comb and ran it through her messy hair. ――It pained her that she had to do this herself. That was because this part had always been tasked to Puck, and Emilia never had to take the initiative to look after her own grooming.
Running her hand through her hair, she confirmed that the knots are gone. She doesn’t use mirrors. And the mirror originally there was already wrapped up in cloth and placed in a corner of the room so that it wouldn’t reflect anything.
Fiddling with the tips of her hair, Emilia decided that she had succeeded in the bare minimal arrangements. Then, sweeping with her fingers, she divided her silver hair into tresses.
This was in preparation for her braid―― Puck was the one in charge of Emilia’s daily hairstyles, and since it was an article of their contract, it was especially important that she obeyed it. That was why, over the two weeks since Puck gave her his pick for her hairstyle, Emilia had continued adhering to the last instruction he had given her.
And of course, she also continued attending to the other tedious and miscellaneous articles like exercising before and after bathing and talking to micro-spirits daily. After all, if she stopped abiding by those terms, her connection with the missing Puck would be lost, and that terrified her to no end.
Dividing her hair down the middle and weaving them into two braids had been how she had always done it. But today, she wove it into a single long braid running down her back.
Having kept that part of her contract with Puck for the day, she prayed for the contract’s continuance.
Confirming the definite connection inside her, she――
Intending to change her clothes before Ram shows up with the bucket of water, Emilia spilled a small cry.
Her amethyst eyes widened in shock as her gaze landed on the pendant at her chest.
Just as she checked before, the green crystal was still hanging at the end of the pendant as proof of Puck’s existence―― except a crack had formed on its surface.
[Emillia: Wh……no, huh……? Wait…… wh, what…….?]
Clenching the crystal that had begun cracking of its own accord, Emilia let slip sounds that could not be considered words.
Her pupils shook with a violent jolt as she timidly stroked her trembling fingers over the crystal’s surface. From her fingertips came the sensation of the crack widening, prompting her to relinquish a small, strangled cry.
[Emilia: Nn, no…… no, don’t……. please, wait…… no, Puck, wait……]
As much as she shook her head in rejection, it did not stem the crystal’s fracture.
She applied all her effort into keeping her hand steady so as not to disturb it further, but her uncontrollable trembling only hastened the crystal’s collapse as it began to disintegrate in her hand.
What will happen if the damage spreads to the whole crystal?
Faced with this unprecedented scenario, this never-imagined situation, Emilia’s head went perfectly blank.
But there was one thing she did know. And that is,
[Emilia: If this keeps going… Puck will……!]
It would mean the goodbye between Emilia and the being who was like her only family.
She raised her head. Looked around. There was no one there. It was early morning, and there were no signs of activity from people who had woken. Even if she screamed, likely no one would hear her. If she ran outside for help, the shaking would likely instantly spell the end, and so, Emilia did not move.
Stifling her voice, stopping her breath, Emilia gazed at the disintegrating crystal in her hand.
She had no solution. At this point, rather than preventing the impending end, all she could do was frantically try to delay it all the while being horrified by her decision.
As the reward for her slothfulness, the crisp sound of the crystal cracking rang out.
In her palms, as her eyes widened in stupefaction, the green crystal lost all semblance of shape. The stone shattered in all directions, the fragments lost their color, and, without any circulation of life, its luster gradually faded.
[Emilia: Sa.. y…… Puck, you’re…… just kidding, right?]
As if clinging to the last strand of hope, Emilia went on calling to her palm in her faltering voice.
But the jewel in her hand―― having lost its form, was now nothing more than a pile of turquoise-colored sand. Nevermind a spirit, even its capacity to store the slightest load of Mana was gone. All that was left was green-colored dust, waiting to be cast to the wind.
Anyone could see that Emilia’s fleeting hopes were in vain.
The only one who did not accept the reality of its futility was Emilia herself.
[Emilia: N-no, no this can’t……. this can’t be happening…… after, after all, Puck… when we first met, you said…… you’ll be my family…….and I’ll never be alone anymore……]
Evoking their agreement, muttering back his promise under her breath, Emilia repeated those words like a small child.
――But before her pleading appeals, the powdered rock only answered with silence.
Presented with that unacceptable reality, as if unable to bear the silence, and with eyes that seemed to be beginning to understand, she turned up to the ceiling with her amethyst gaze wavering and in tears,
[Emilia: Puck…… daddy, YOU LIAR!!]
Falling to her knees, she hurled the scattered fragments against the wall.
The sound of stone shards striking the wooden surface had sealed Emilia and Puck’s overly abrupt parting.
Emilia buried her face in her hands while sobs went on seeping from her palms.
No tears flowed out.
Weighing on her chest was only a hollow sense of emptiness where something should be.
-=Chapter 94 End=-
I can’t split this one into parts so it’s another whole chapter ❤
Sorry this one took so long! I’ve been so overwhelmed trying to see everything there is to see in Boston and New York…
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts was incredible, and I ended up spending two days in there. The same goes for The Met, where there were medieval weapons and armors and entire walls and human-headed winged-lions from the palaces of ancient Assyria.
I’ll post a picture in a minute >_<!
Chapter 95 Live Draft: