“Just give up already! There’s a limit to incorrigibility!”
Subaru was tired of seeing these guys and kicked the ground in frustration.
This was their third encounter, and it was once again a three on one in an alley. Despite how fruitless their first and second attempts were, they still continued to hound him, he was truly surprised by this tenacity.
If the situation wasn’t as it was, he might have even applauded them.
“I don’t have time for you guys. I’ll face you when things settle down, so get out of my way.”
He was a little uneasy, but he had managed to beat them solo last time so he kept his composure.
If he intimidated them a bit, there would probably be an opening. That’s what he expected, but,
“Get out of his way, huh? What do you say we do?”
“I don’t like his attitude, not one bit. It doesn’t look like he understands who’s going to be giving the orders here.”
“You pathetically lost three on one, why the hell are you trying to act tough…? Even the sorest loser would show more shame.”
To be honest, Subaru couldn’t help but feel like a sore loser himself right now.
In other words, this place had turned into a gathering of beaten down losers.
“That’s way too negative! I thought I was a more optimistic character!”
“It’s no good, he’s completely messed up in the head. We decided to target him because of his weird getup, but maybe this is…”
The men started talking to one another, clearly annoyed by his loud monologue. The empty-handed one and the one with the nata seemed to be losing interest in Subaru, but the biggest threat, the one with the knife, still had a sharp gaze.
Those eyes seemed to have given up on his value as a wallet, but there was another dark desire cruelly wavering within them.
The man’s look caused Subaru to internally mutter, “This could be dangerous”.
Having faced them twice, Subaru concluded that the man with the knife was the most troublesome among them. In addition to his lethality, he was also the one with the quickest temper.
Forget fighting, it would be wise to avoid even getting close.
“Got it. I won’t resist. Just state your demands.”
Subaru said this as he raised his hands, emphasizing that he had no intention of fighting them.
He had completely dropped the confident attitude he had, and instead changed to one of compliance.
The reason being that he decided to prioritize getting out of here, and wanted to keep the man with the knife calm. He had decided that some losses couldn’t be helped, and it would be best to just get out of here for now.
―Well, there was also the unfortunate possibility that they were aiming for revenge and would beat him to a pulp.
If things looked to be moving in that direction, he’d run away with all he had before they had the chance to stab him. If he managed to make it to the main street, they probably wouldn’t be able to do anything conspicuous.
As Subaru vigilantly formed plans to ensure his safety within his mind, the men’s attitudes toward him relaxed.
They spoke as if to ridicule his cowardliness for being willing to take their demands,
“C’mon, if you were that scared you should have just done that from the start.”
“You bastard. You sure talk big for a scaredy cat.”
“Isn’t this great? You heard him say he wouldn’t do anything, right? What a coward.”
Their words annoyed him, but Subaru forced a smile and laughed them off. He found some satisfaction in naming them ‘Ton, Chin, and Kan’ in his mind.[TN: Tonchinkan = Foolish, irrelevant]
“Well, just want demands do you intend to make of this idiot?”
“For now, set down everything you’ve got. Even those weird clothes and shoes. You can keep your underwear, we’re not devils after all!”
They mercilessly mocked Subaru who had humbled himself before them.
So they have the concept of devils here too, huh, along with such irrelevant thoughts their words also instilled a strong sense of unease.
Everything he had, even his clothes and shoes, this demand was surely―
“You guys, you really have gone and hit your heads somewhere, haven’t you?”
This was the exact same as what they had asked the first time he encountered them.
Perhaps they’d hit their heads, or maybe the poor bastards lacked the brainpower to even remember what they had said before, it could even be that they overused the same template so much they didn’t even remember who they said it to.
They were irredeemable to the core, but their attitude toward Subaru who had once beaten them down was strange, considering this, there was one more possibility
“There was Felt too, looks like there’s a lot of memory problems around here…”
“Quit flapping your gums. Don’t wanna follow your orders? Or do you not have the brains to follow them?”
“You’re the last guys who ought to be talking about brains…”
This last mutter stopped in his mouth, and Subaru showed that he was willing to do as they said.
As he wondered if he should at least try to keep his clothes, or maybe deal with them all in one go now that they’d gotten closer, he stuck his hand in his bag―
He frowned, this was his most unsettling experience yet in this world.
He muttered as if groaning, as he slowly confirmed the contents of his plastic bag.
In it was his shoyu tonkotsu cup ramen, his wallet and phone that were too troublesome to keep in his pocket, and finally, a golden snack of a flavor he was extremely fond of.
Right, the gold-colored snack― The corn potage flavored snack.
It was the first thing he had eaten since he came to this world, and it also proved very useful to calm Rom’s rage at the loot house, after which most of it was supposed to be used up.
―But right now, it was completely full and back in his bag.
“I thought we’d eaten this… There was definitely only a little bit left.”
They had consumed at least two thirds of its contents.
And yet it had returned to its original state. There was no sign the bag had even been opened. It was strange no matter how he thought about it.
The disappearance of his wounds could be explained. He had seen Satella’s magic. Therefore he could conclude that someone had healed them in the aftermath of both tragedies.
―But even if he supposed that such a high class healer existed, would it really be possible to restore something that no longer existed?
“Right, duplication magic…”
He remembered Rom mentioning something of the sort.
Duplication magic― Magic that made it possible to not only copy something’s appearance, but fully replicate it. If someone used that magic, even this…
“But then what about the bag’s opening. Don’t tell me healing magic can even restore glue or something…”
He didn’t think that was very realistic.
And considering this world seemed to have sacrificed technological development for magical development, it seemed doubtful that they would have the knowledge to reglue the bag.
His thoughts were completely blocked on all sides. But within those trapped thoughts, Subaru started to believe that this was not healing magic. But that was where it stopped, because the other possibility he had thought of was too absurd, his sense of reason rejected it, believing it to be impossible.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing?”
A sudden call from right next to him caused him to let out a dumbfounded noise.
One of the men―The barehanded third one, whom he called ‘Kan’ in his mind. Subaru frowned when he realized that the man had walked right up to him.
“Why are you approaching me like that? Let me tell you, I don’t need your help to get my clothes off.”
“As if anyone’s going to help you do that! You were the one who staggered over here!”
Only after he was yelled at did Subaru realize that he had gone from the inside of the alley all the way to the side of the road.
It seemed he had been moving unconsciously while engrossed in thought. But to the men, his thoughtless actions ended up looking like hostile conduct.
“If he won’t do as we say, what say we knock him around a little?”
“Or rather, this is a real pain in the ass already. Let’s just end it here.”
Subaru saw that the men were about to do something hasty, so he halted his deep thought for the moment.
What he needed right now was―
“Here, catch this!!”
He raised the plastic bag in his hand, and then tossed it deep into the alley.
It drew an arc as it flew into the darkness at high speed. Naturally, the men who were planning to loot it also followed it with their eyes.
Seeing an opening, Subaru energetically dashed past them.
Just as he’d concluded several times now, the most important thing was getting away from them safely. After that, he would have to go to the loot house and find the answers to the doubts that had welled up within him.
He himself felt that what he was thinking was foolish.
Some user of healing magic, who was incredibly proficient in both restoration magic and duplication magic, happened to come across the tragic scene at the loot house and out of the kindness of their heart, they healed everyone there completely free of charge, and then left Subaru alone at that one stall, after which they simply left without even introducing themselves.
Even this completely whimsical story was easier to accept.
“Well, that’s pretty hard to accept too, though.”
It was what made the most sense.
At least, compared to the baseless foolishness that had crossed the back of his mind.
With two contrary ideas conflicting within him, Subaru dashed out of the filthy alley.
If he made it out to the main street and ran around while making a lot of noise, even these guys most likely wouldn’t pursue him. It was unfortunate to lose the contents of the bag, but he had snuck some things out right beforehand, so the only things left in it were the bag of snacks and some small change that was just dead weight― His losses weren’t significant.
It was with this in mind that he ran, but suddenly his next step missed its mark by a wide margin, causing him to panic.
His body was unsteady and the leg he was supposed to have put out in front was stumbling. The strength then left his legs and he fell to his knees.
He put out his hands to stop his fall, and scolded himself for being such an idiot as to fall at a time like this. However,
“Huh, that’s weird…”
He tried to gather his strength to stand back up, but his arms were trembling. He was completely unable to raise his body. He had also dropped the things he was holding before this.
“That’s why we told you to just listen, fool.”
He heard a scornful voice from right behind him, and somehow turned his head toward it.
The man standing behind him was the second one, whom he had nicknamed ‘Chin’, an extremely humiliating name.
With that vulgar attitude, the man pointed at Subaru as the edges of his mouth curved up.
Following his pointing finger, Subaru realized why he had collapsed.
―There was a knife embedded in his lower back.
The moment he realized this, a terribly sharp pain ran through him and blocked his throat.
This extremely pure and primal pain even robbed him of the ability to writhe in agony.
―I’ve been stabbed! Stabbedstabbedstabbedstabbedstabbedstabbedstabbed.
Unlike the other two, the knife-wielding Chin hadn’t been distracted by the bag. Meaning at that moment, he must have been more focused on hurting Subaru than stealing anything of value.
As expected, Chin was the most important one to deal with, more than Ton or Kan.
This was the result of neglecting to do so. In these few hours, he had already encountered many different types of horrible pain. But no matter how many times he experienced this, it would be absolutely impossible to get used to it.
“Hey, you seriously stabbed him?”
“I had no choice. What if he escaped into the street? It’d be a real pain for us.”
“Aaah, this is bad. You hit his guts so he’ll probably die… It’s even drenching his clothes.”
Is that all you think about when you stab someone, a complaint through the horrendous pain.
He couldn’t afford to think of anything else, he was in so much pain that it was hard to even stay conscious. And judging by what Ton said, his wound was such that he wouldn’t be getting back up.
He at least had to do something while he was still conscious.
Deciding this, he scraped together all the strength he had left, steadily gathering it as he prepared to shout.
Bringing it to his tongue, he tried to scream,
“Aalright, here’s a second one before you go and try anything!”
A second knife was mercilessly thrust right into middle of his back.
The numbness that spread through him like an electric shock canceled out his shout.
He was already far beyond the point where he could bear the pain or attempt to do anything like scream. There was no longer anything he could do.
The damage to his back seemed to have reached his lungs.
Even as he repeated his hoarse, rough breaths, his lungs would not expand and breathing became more and more painful.
Oxygen deprivation was affecting him severely, he was becoming so weak it seemed he would soon lose the ability to even think.
He lost sensation in his limbs, and no longer knew whether he was facing down or upward.
Even though his eyes weren’t slashed this time, he still couldn’t see anything as his vision had gone black.
―What do you mean, ‘this time’?
It was pitiful to cling to an idea he had already dismissed as absurd.
If he was going to cling to it, he might as well do so to the fullest.
―Don’t think about your impending death. Before you die, analyze the world around you.
His eyes were dead. So were his limbs. All he had left were his nose and ears. That being the case, he would have to make full use of them. Any sort of lingering scent would be fine, he didn’t mind hearing all sorts of abuse. The stink of the dirt in the alley. The rising metallic scent of blood. His nose just died. It was gone. His ears were at death’s door as well, and were barely even functioning.
“―St take… Valuables…”
“―It! The guards… Co…!”
“…Un! This is bad! …If we get…!!”
He could only pick up these fragments of conversation. Picking them up was fine, but too much of his brain had died for him to understand what he had heard. Since it was dead he could only hear. He didn’t know if he would remember what he heard. What exactly did he mean, remember? What did he want to do by remembering? What was want? What was what―
As if following the parts that died first, his other functions steadily disappeared, and at the very end, with the scraping sound of something being pulled from him, Natsuki Subaru lost his life for the third time.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
When his consciousness returned, Subaru was in darkness.
Realizing it was a darkness of his own creation, he gently opened his eyes― And had them burned by the dazzling sunshine, causing him to groan as he used his hand to cover his eyes.
“So, how about the appa?”
A familiar voice asked a familiar question right before his eyes.
His ears were fine. The hustle and bustle of the street was as loud as usual, completely different from the dreadful silence he had experienced in that alley.
Despite the fact that if he considered the distance, he was only one turn away.
“I couldn’t even make it past this street, pretty pathetic…”
The scarred stall owner overhead his words of self derision, however he started to frown, seeming displeased that he wasn’t getting a response.
Subaru knew from personal experience that though he looked intimidating, he was in truth a very kind man. Naturally, the shopkeeper probably had no memory of this.
As he thought such things, Subaru once again faced him,
“Say, how many times have you seen me?”
“How many times, you’re a fresh face, man. I wouldn’t forget such a conspicuous look.”
“What’s today’s date?”
“It’s the fourteenth day of the month of Tammuz.”
“Thank you.― I see, the month of Tammuz, huh.”
He had no idea what that was.
To begin with, he didn’t even know how they recorded this world’s calendar.―But it seemed they used days and months, and he could probably assume that they used a solar calendar.
It was likely common knowledge, but he hesitated to ask about it. Especially to someone like the owner of this stall, who was completely focused on selling his goods.
The shop owner was being very patient with him, but as expected he seemed to be thinking that he was wasting far too much time just to sell a single fruit.
Holding out that apple or whatever in his palm, he asked for the umpteenth time,
“So, the appa?”
He tried his best to hide his anger with a smile.
His white scar was twitching, and his forced smile looked more like an expression that would scare kids away.
In response, Subaru placed his hands on his hips and puffed his chest out,
“Sorry, but I’m totally, absolutely broke!”
“Get the hell out of here―!”
This angry shout caused him to recoil instinctively, after which he scurried away.
I can’t go back there for a while, he thought, two meanings in mind.