Re:Zero: Arc 1 – Chapter 9: Trump Card

―Negotations were established, Rom had assured him of that once he’d examined the phone. But,

“I’ll only go as far as helping you secure a talk with Felt. From that point onward, it’ll be up to you to make the trade.”

“I’m basically getting robbed here, you know? You’ve guaranteed this thing’s value too, so I’ll definitely succeed.”

Rom grimaced at Subaru’s carefree attitude, it seemed like he wanted to say something.

It was probably some advice like don’t let your guard down, or don’t take this lightly.

But since Subaru’s face was turning red from the alcohol he drank, perhaps he felt that lecturing him would be wasted effort,

“Well, you’re probably right. If you were dealing with someone more malicious, they might look for even more than that meteor… But Felt’s personality isn’t that warped.”

“Riight, buh―Riight, buh By the way, do you not have anything better around here? This is horrible, like I’m eating scraps.”

“You say this as you eat my food? You really are getting shameless.”

Before Subaru was a crude plate with something like bean paste on it, he was steadily shoveling it into his mouth while spitting ‘buh’s,

His earlier distaste toward the alcohol had disappeared. He had Rom fill up his empty glass, steadily sipping alcohol as he ate his bean paste.

“Say, is this really enough for that huge body of yours? It’s not like you’re living off air, don’t tell me you’re about to say that you can survive as long as you have booze?”

“Don’t you know how efficient giants are? Despite our awesome strength, we don’t need much sustenance. We were famed across the land during the warring period, you know.”

Rom’s face was stern as he answered Subaru’s tactless question.

He then brought the bottle he had been pouring out of to his mouth, and as he drank,

“Because of this, most of us were wiped out. Even in the capital, I haven’t seen any other giants.”

“Yer strong even without eatin’, sho kewl. … Gunna throw up.”

“I’m saying something sad here and you respond like that?”

He wasn’t about to let someone’s sob story kill his mood.

As Subaru blocked his ears and interrupted the story, Rom gave up on telling it and started eating his beans.

The two of them passed their time silently eating those terrible beans as a side to their alcohol.

Eventually there was a coded knock on the door, by which time the sun had already set for the most part.

Subaru who had been nodding off raised his head, and Rom nimbly approached the door in response to the sound.

The door looked rather small compared to Rom’s giant frame. Rom pressed his ear against it, and started asking questions with a mysterious expression,

“To the giant rats,”

“Poison.”

“To the skeletons,”

“A pitfall.”

“To the noble dragon we are,”

“Shitbags.”

His short questions received immediate answers.

This was probably the signal and password he’d heard about. Rom seemed satisfied and unlocked the door. As Subaru watched him, he internally remarked that that was a very tacky password. And then,

“―Sorry to keep you waiting, old man. She was more persistent than I expected. Took a while to shake her off.”

The girl seemed happy, as if bragging about her achievement, as she passed by Rom to enter the loot house.

She had shoulder-length blonde hair. She had red eyes like a rabbit, and she had a mischievous fang sticking out. Her small frame was covered by clothes that seemed easy to move in, and to put it frankly, were completely ragged.

He’d only seen her a moment, but she was definitely the girl he’d encountered in the alley.

Having seen someone familiar, Subaru reflexively stood up. The sound alerted the girl to his presence, and her smile disappeared as her expression changed to one of suspicion.

“Ah? Who’s this?  Oi, old man, I told you I was bringing in some good stuff, so you should have the place cleared out, didn’t I?”

“I understand how you feel, but this kid is here because he has some business with you. And it’s not unrelated to what you’re doing.”

The doubt on Felt’s face increased even further at Rom’s answer.

It seemed to Subaru that her hand was reaching toward her chest, that was probably where she’d kept it.

As Subaru silently looked at her, Felt turned to Rom with an uneasy expression.

“What’s with this guy? ー Don’t tell me you’ve sold me out?”

“As if I’d be that dishonorable. And I think this talk is going to be one you’ll like.”

Closing one eye, Rom seemed to be seeking agreement.

Having experienced a great degree of disgust at the old man’s wink, Subaru nodded.

He then carefully chose what he ought to say to Felt who was still being cautious,

“Let’s calm down for now. I have no ill intent toward yooouggghhh….”

―And was then overwhelmed by his nausea, pouring it all out.

“”Gyaaaah―!!””

The two shrieked when Subaru suddenly vomited.

Subaru himself fell to his knees, a pain that felt as though his stomach was being squeezed causing him to throw up all of its contents.

The amber liquid and the bean paste were mixed together, producing a truly terrible sight.

“What about this am I supposed to like?! This is the worst!”

“I’m the one who’s suffering here! That’s my food and booze! That stuff was expensive! You know much it cost?!”

“Shut up! Stop screaming! Feels like my head’s going to explode! This isn’t good, I feel terribuuuaaaaagghhhh…”

“”Gyaaaaah―!!””

Subaru’s weak will submitted to the second wave, and the pair’s screams echoed for quite a while.

―Even after Subaru had finished emptying his stomach, even after the mess he made was cleaned up, even after the stagnant atmosphere he’d produced had been ventilated, until Rom informed him that he was banned from drinking, this uproar continued to echo throughout the slums the entire evening.

―It was approaching nighttime.

※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

“―Alright, let’s pull ourselves together and get to negotiating!”

Subaru clapped his hands together and said this in an attempt to fix the ruined atmosphere.

They had moved from the counter to a small table deeper into the loot house. The reason being that Felt had absolutely refused to negotiate there, since there were still traces of the earlier incident (The smell and some remnants) around there.

Felt sat on the other side of the table, and emptied the glass of milk Rom had poured for her.

The caution in her red eyes hadn’t decreased at all, and there was now a great deal of mistrust and discomfort added on top of that. She was concerned about what had just happened.

“Come on, don’t make that face, smile, smile. You’re wasting those cute looks, you know?”

“Don’t try to flatter me, bro. Besides, I’m only interested in whether or not whatever you have to say can bring me some profit.  How about we cut the crap and get right into it?”

Subaru pressed his fingers against his cheeks and acted as friendly as he could, but her reaction was cold and curt.

Even in this world, his communication ability had completely missed the mark. Transcending worlds, dooming him to solitude, his ‘Power of Absolute Isolation’

“I thought I’d left everything behind, but I guess that alone stuck with me. Fufufu, it’s kinda like karma, don’t you think?”

“Hey, Rom. Did you water this down or something? This milk is terrible.”

“I offer you things out of the kindness of my heart and you both keep calling them terrible…”

Felt and Rom seemed to be getting along in their own way as they ignored Subaru who was off in his own world.

Subaru cleared his throat and once again garnered their attention,

“Alright, let’s start negotiating. Uhh, Felt. ― You have the insignia, right?”

“… Yeah, I do.”

Subaru cut right to the chase, and Felt’s short answer was upfront as well.

She retrieved something from her bosom and gently placed it on the table.

―The insignia he’d been looking for all this time. It was a badge modeled after a dragon.

In terms of size, it was like those embroidered patches from his old world. He couldn’t quite tell what it was made of, but it looked to him like some precious metal. As far as Subaru knew, the design looked to be that of a winged dragon viewed from the front, and its core― The dragon’s mouth held a red jewel within it.

The red jewel within the insignia had a faint glow to it. This light caused Subaru to fall silent despite himself.

Rom silently appraised the jewel, hmming now and then like he was having a hard time. 

“Come on―”

The one who broke the silence was Felt, who was holding the insignia.

Once she was sure her introduction had brought them back to their senses, she pushed the insignia toward Subaru.

“Show me what you’ve got. If you have something that can match this insignia’s craftsmanship and the effort I exerted to obtain it, we’ll both be happy, yeah?”

“I see you’re trying to size me up with that evil smile, but too bad, I only have one card to play. Because you see, I’m absolutely broke!”

The same old displeased reaction everyone had upon hearing he was broke, he thought.

Setting aside his feelings on the matter, he used his trump card just as he’d declared.

He placed his phone on the table as if slamming it down, and just as he predicted Felt seemed to be confused.

This reaction was the same as Rom’s was back then which gave him confidence as he used the phone’s camera.

“Natsuki Flash!!”

“Woah, bright!”

With the flash and the mechanical sound of the shutter, he had taken a photo.

Felt’s face looked as though she wanted to complain about his lack of manners, but he thrust the phone’s screen before her before she could open her mouth.

Her red eyes went wide when she saw herself on the screen.

“This is…”

“Yep, it’s good ol’ Felt! This is a meteor that freezes time and stores it as a picture. This is the only card I can play. I’d like to trade it for that insignia.”

He played his trump card right away, and the momentum shifted in his favor.

What he’d just pulled was a standard tactic in negotiations. A powerful tactic that, depending on the situation, could seal the deal on its own.

Naturally, this was essentially the same as announcing that you had no stronger cards to play, and in truth Subaru and his big mouth had already fouled it up, but,

“I see, that’s incredible. So, Rom, how much would this meteor go for?”

Felt nodded as she looked at the screen, and her response was outrageously candid.

Her eyes didn’t sparkle, nor did she want to hold it. She was only interested in its value, not its functions.

“Only men can understand a man’s romance even in a parallel world?! Is that how it is?!”

“Quit making such a fuss, it’s shameful. You probably have the confidence to sit still for a bit. Alright then, how about it, Rom?”

Perhaps her attitude ought to be called vulgar, or maybe manly, but her composure seemed unshakeable. 

She looked to be about two or three years younger than him, and yet he almost ended up thinking of her as the older sister type.

Setting aside Subaru who was anything but manly, Felt asked Rom who was standing next to her about the phone’s value.

She slid her finger down the phone’s side as if she were barely interested in it at all,

“As far as I’m considered, if this meteor thing is worth more than this insignia, that’s great. I’m sure you can tell me whether it is.”

“Well, I can’t really say how much it would sell for. This is my first time handling a meteor too. However, I don’t think even an insignia of this quality can match up to it― In short, I think you have a lot to gain by making this trade.”

“I see, I see. That’s pretty great then, isn’t it?”

Felt seemed rather pleased now that she’d received Rom’s seal of approval.

Her reaction was a little different from what he’d expected, but it looked like he’d achieved his goal regardless, so Subaru was delighted as well.

However, when Subaru reached out to take the insignia, Felt stopped him.

“We’ve shown each other our trump cards. But I’m not quite done overcharging just yet, you know?”

“… It’s not exactly praiseworthy for you yourself to announce that. But it’s pointless to try haggling any further. As I said, I’m completely broke.”

“I’m not that cruel either. And even Rom said that this thing would be worth more than this insignia, so I recognize that much. ― But it’d be a lie to say you’re out of cards to play.”

Felt stood up and looked down at Subaru who was still sat in his chair.

Her red eyes were overflowing with sadism, Subaru broke out in a cold sweat as her gaze seemed to see right through him.

As far as this negotiation was concerned, he’d already played what should have been his trump card, his cell phone.

However, Subaru still had a number of items on him that didn’t exist in this world.

The coins and various membership cards in his wallet could probably be exchanged for some amount of money. If it came down to it, it wouldn’t be unthinkable to even trade away his jersey and sneakers, technical assistance in a sense.

The phone was his most valuable asset, but he did have some other items he hadn’t yet shown them.

But these could be used to help support his life later on, so he really didn’t want to spend them here if possible.

―But if the cell phone wasn’t enough, he would have to use them.

“Relax, I told you, didn’t I? That I wouldn’t try to rip you off any further. I’ll be satisfied so long as I can make some money off this thing.”

“I-I-I-I’m? Not Really? Worried or anything? Or rather, I don’t really know what you’re talking about. I-I-I-I’ve already done all I can? I don’t see what I have to be nervous abooouuugggh”

“Quit psyching yourself out like that! Don’t throw up! I’ll call things off!”

The pressure he himself was putting on himself caused him to vomit, but he managed to stop it in his mouth and sent it back into his belly.

Subaru struck a victorious pose as he gulped it down, causing Felt to look disgusted from the bottom of her heart as she drew back,

“It’s fine since none of it came out, but― If you hadn’t brought this meteor, I’d definitely kick you out for that.”

“Although I’d have already finished him off before then.”

Gahahaha, the two laughed in a very manly fashion.

As Subaru endured the burning in his throat from his gastric juices, he addressed them,

“So, what exactly do you mean when you say you’re not done overcharging?”

“Hm? Ah, it’s simple. You’re not the only one I’m negotiating with.”

Subaru looked doubtful, and as if to respond to that doubt, Felt raised her finger,

“To begin with, I only pilfered this insignia because I was asked to. They said they’d pay me ten holy gold coins for it.”

“You had a prior contract?! I’m not sure how much ten gold coins are worth, but…”

He glanced at Rom, and Rom nodded as if he’d guessed what Subaru was thinking.

“I might be able to get four or five gold coins for it. It’s possible I’d have to drop to three.”

“So basically they’re paying at least twice its worth?”

“No, didn’t you hear her say holy gold coins? Unlike typical gold coins, they’re made of holy gold which is rarer, so I’d say they’re paying about 20 gold coins’ worth.”

“Four times, then?!”

“What are you so surprised about? That meteor you’ve got wouldn’t sell for any less than twenty holy gold coins. Depending on the situation, there might even be enthusiasts willing to pay a lot more. There’s no comparison.”

He didn’t really understand how things were valued in this world, but apparently there was something even higher than gold coins, and his phone was worth twenty of those which surprised him.

His phone with less than ten contacts in it was starting to look like some sacred treasure to him.

And since he didn’t use it very much, it looked good too. Thank goodness he didn’t have any friends.

“How about you quit consoling yourself for a moment, if this thing sells for more, then I’ll just turn down my client.”

“You’ve been talking about overcharging, though.”

Felt’s cheeky expression changed into an even more mischievous smile.

“You’ve put up an absurdly expensive item. If they want the insignia, they’ll have to at least match its value, no?”

“… So basically, you’re hoping they’ll bring out more than twenty holy gold coins?”

“And you’ll have to show me what else you’ve got if you want to compete.”

Felt’s expression was mischievous, or rather, pure evil as she cheerfully declared this.

Subaru now felt that the situation was starting to look rather ominous,

“So, when and where are you planning to meet this person? Could I join your discussion?”

“Of course. If you were to be put at a disadvantage, I might end up losing out on some profit after all. And you don’t have to worry about the location ― Right here.”

She tapped the table with her finger, and then leaned back into her chair and looked up at Rom.

With her inverted gaze on him, Rom seemed terribly annoyed,

“Yet again you haven’t even bothered to get my permission before…”

“After all, if I have you, almost anyone would be too scared to try using violence. They’d lose their will just looking at you.”

As Felt looked to him for agreement, Subaru too took at a glance at Rom and agreed with her.

A bald old man who was nearly two meters tall and heavily muscled. And he’d easily picked Subaru up with one hand even though he weighed almost seventy kilos, so those muscles probably weren’t just for show.

Subaru concluded that if things got violent, it’d probably barely even be a fight.

On the other hand, Rom didn’t seem very bothered by their impressions of him.

“No helping it. Can’t you do anything without me? Seriously, it’s sad. Want another glass of milk? I’ve got a few sweets too if you want.”

It kind of felt like he was a senile old man doting on his granddaughter.

Rom seemed to be in a good mood as he filled Felt’s glass. As Subaru watched her, he sighed in exasperation, “However,”

“The fact that you’d already called them here must mean you were already planning to hassle them about the price even if I weren’t here, right?”

“That’s right. Do you have any idea how hard it was to get this? And if little ol’ me tried to face them alone, what if they tried to avoid paying? Wouldn’t it be sad?”

“Little ol’ you, huh…”

If one judged by her small and slender frame, she definitely wasn’t wrong.

But considering her indomitable spirit and brashness, he felt it wasn’t right to describe her that way.

Thinking back, there was even once a time when she’d left him in the jaws of death while in the process of stealing the insignia.

Just what part of her is frail, he thought as this memory started to anger him.

“Hold on, do you not remember me at all?”

“? Have we met somewhere? I’m a busy girl, so I don’t really remember people who haven’t left strong impressions. To begin with, you look super plain.”

“Only your hair color and clothes stand out” she cackled.

She didn’t seem to be lying, and she’d even dissed his appearance which left Subaru stunned.

Perhaps the concept of empathy had completely died out in this world, considering she’d casually forgotten that she’d seen a murder in progress.

But on the other hand, there was Satella who had saved him when she had everything to lose, and Rom who let him stay even after he’d vomited all over the place, so he just didn’t know.

It seemed that there were all sorts of people even in another world. It wouldn’t do to only look at the negatives.

“Well, let’s aside your poor memory for now. When is this person supposed to be coming?”

“That’s a pretty irritating way to put it. I said I’d probably have it by sundown, so they said they’d come here after that… The sun’s gone down, so it shouldn’t be long.”

This “They’re coming, right?” sort of conversation may have set off a flag.

The sound of two sharp knocks on the door suddenly filled the loot house.

The three looked at each other, and then Rom asked Felt, “The password?”

“Ah, didn’t tell ‘em. Probably mine, I’ll go see.”

Felt stood up as if leaping and headed to the entrance.

As he watched Felt treat the place like it belonged to her, Subaru shrugged at Rom as if to ask, “Is this really okay?”

“Well, it’s not like we don’t know each other. We’ve known each other a long time… I don’t mind playing bodyguard for her.”

He seemed to be in high spirits, like a grandpa who was happy to be relied on, as he retrieved a club from deeper within.

It’s length was around what you’d see in kendo swords, and it looked like it was made of wood. However, it had several sharp bits sticking out of it, and it was obvious at a glance that a single hit could be lethal.

“It’s like a nailed bat or something, looks like sticks are standard equipment in this world too…”

It was standard in many RPGs to be given 50 gold and a wooden stick to start with.

Sure looks like you’d expect, huh, Subaru thought as he evaluated Rom’s equipment from the side, at which point Felt came back with a strangely cordial smile.

“It was for me after all. Over here, wanna sit down?”

She gestured to Subaru to get out of the way, her hospitality being directed at the one behind her.

Subaru was a little surprised as he covertly examined this person, he was somewhat tense as he wondered if they were the one he’d be negotiating with.

Because the person Felt had invited in was a beautiful woman.

She was rather tall, around the same height as Subaru, and she appeared to be in her early twenties.

Her eyes angled downward toward the edges and she had a calm atmosphere to her. Her unusually pale skin clearly stood out even in that gloomy interior.

She was wearing a black cloak, but she’d left the front open so one could easily see her tight black outfit underneath it. Slender as she was, she had curves in all the right places.

And just like Subaru, she had black hair which seemed to be unusual in this world. Her long hair that went down to her waist was tied up as if braided, and she was currently fiddling with the end of it.

She had a rather bewitching aura.

Since Subaru had very little experience with the opposite sex, he wasn’t at all used to dealing with someone like her and his heart started pounding.

Mentally overwhelmed, Subaru ended up ceding his seat to Felt.

Felt sat down in the now empty chair, with the club-wielding Rom to her left and Subaru who couldn’t hide his nervousness to her right.

This was quite the welcome she was receiving, but the woman didn’t seem particularly bothered, merely tilting her head slightly.

“It seems to me we have some outsiders here.”

“It’d be a problem if you tried to skip out on paying, call it the wisdom of the weak. Hey, Subaru, some drinks.”

Felt ordered him around with a wave of her hand, and Subaru couldn’t bring himself to object as he obeyed.

He picked some relatively clean glasses, filled them with milk, and then placed them before the two.

The woman whispered a thank you to Subaru as he did this, and then gazed at him as if appraising him.

“I understand why the old man’s here, but what of this young man?”

She’d probably realized from his behavior that he wasn’t used to being there.

The woman was genuinely doubtful, and Felt responded with a mischievous smile as if to get right down to business.

“This guy’s your rival, another person I’ve been negotiating with.”

And just as she declared, her price gouging had begun.

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