“There’s my wallet. And my phone. The corn potage and ramen and stuff are good too. No damage to my jersey or sneakers either. And naturally…”
Pulling up his jersey, he turned his head with great effort to check the state of his back.
There was no scarring on his middle or lower back, nor were there two knives sticking out of him.
“Phew, thank goodness. A wound to the back is a warrior’s greatest shame. As someone who once enrolled in the kendo club, even if I were to stray from the path of humanity, I would never stray from the path of the warrior.”
He felt around his unharmed back as he grumbled. He spotted a long hair growing near his shoulder and after a great deal of struggle, finally managed to pull it out after which he exhaled.
“So basically, that’s what this is. It’s hard to believe, though…”
He blew the hair away with his breath and placed his now empty hand on his jaw as he surveyed the street.
He was still on the same street, by stall only a short distance away from the grocer.
The shady looking owner who had lined up various suspicious looking jars and plates looked at Subaru as though he were a nuisance, but this had no effect on Subaru who leaned against the wall with his arms crossed.
The sun was high and the breeze was gentle. The street was crowded and a lizard drawn carriage would occasionally pass by. Even Subaru was starting to get used to the dust they kicked up by this point, and his only reaction was to gently fan it away from his face.
All traces of injury had vanished from his body, and his already eaten corn potage snack was providing excellent value, since it could be eaten any number of times. And his jaw was completely smooth to the touch,
“Pretty pathetic for me of all people to forget about my special skill.”
He had the ability to estimate the passage of time fairly accurately based on the growth of his stubble.
Subaru had a level of self-confidence that bordered on admiration in his technique that made full use of a privilege only available to those with a consistent level of male hormones. He was certain,
―That his facial hair was no longer than it was after he shaved it before heading to the convenience store.
“So it’s like that.”
He pointed the hand that was touching his jaw forward, and with the gazes of many people including the shopkeeper on him, he snapped his fingers,
“―Looks like I return to my original state when I die.”
And came to the conclusion he had previously dismissed as absurd.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
“Return by death, huh… It’s like the ability itself is telling me to bite the dust.”[T/N: This is a JoJo reference. Subaru mentions the similarity to Bite The Dust, an ability that appears in JoJo.]
The original was more like a “Win and then repeat” type of ability, so considering Subaru’s pattern of losing and returning, he felt that his current situation fit the name better from a literary perspective.[T/N: The Japanese version of Bite The Dust literally translates to “Lose And Die”]
“To put it more directly… Isn’t this something like time travel?”
It was limited, but this could be considered what one would call time travel. In short, Subaru had become a time traveler, something he could only dream of before.
To be honest, the possibility had been bouncing around his head until some ten-odd minutes ago, but he shied away from it due to the harsh activation condition.
He also felt that it was more likely that there was some wandering super healer who happened to encounter them.
And most of all, the main reason he thought it unlikely,
“Generally speaking, temporal magic is considered to be the highest class of magic so it’d be strange for me to have it right from the start. To begin with, even though one may dream of going back in time, it’d be impossible to actually do it. Or so common sense would suggest.”
Having said this, he cocked his head wondering what about a parallel world summoning adhered to any sort of common sense.
Thinking of it this way, his earlier feelings of obstinate rejection would also fade away.
“Moreover, if I actually am returning by death, all the strange stuff until now suddenly makes sense…”
His first death, to put it briefly, was when he went to the loot house with Satella.
He had his defenseless stomach torn open and unable to even shout out a warning, he ended up getting Satella wrapped up in this, an absolutely inexcusable development.
His second death was after Felt and Rom were murdered, Elsa had slaughtered him, his resistance completely futile. When he first returned by death, he assumed the discrepancy in time meant it was a different day, but in truth he had returned to the same point on the same day.
His third death had happened recently, he had experienced it some ten-odd minutes ago.
It truly was a pointless death, but he couldn’t think of a more fitting one.
For him to actually end up getting killed by random small fry at the very start, it was like every single choice had a BAD END attached to it, and it kind of felt like a poorly designed adventure game.
“Wait, I’ve died three times in just half a day…?”
Considering human life was generally considered to be something you only got one of, dying three times in the span of half a day truly was nonsensical in every way.
Subaru had certainly lived a mediocre life these past seventeen years, but if one considered that he had avoided death 17 x 365 x 3 times thus far, it was rather moving.
“Or I’m just really bad at staying alive.”
He was too used to the comfort of his old world, due to which he could not keep up with the rapid-fire instant death events this one kept throwing at him.
The fact that he kept getting lured into obviously dangerous situations was probably another reason.
“Thinking back to the causes of the first and second time… It was probably Elsa both times.”
The first time, the one lurking around in the darkness of the loot house was probably Elsa.
The corpse of a giant old man, that had to be Rom. But it was hard to imagine that Rom would end up dying regardless of Subaru’s verbal gaffe.
“Could Felt have been in there… I couldn’t confirm that much, huh.”
Naturally, Rom was most likely accompanying Felt for her negotiation.
That being the case, she was definitely linked to his death. If things were like the second time, it was very likely that Felt’s greed caused negotiations to break down.
“She pointlessly provoked her and ended up getting killed for it, maybe.”
Considering her extremely competitive spirit, it was certainly possible.
And right as Elsa had silenced them, Subaru and Satella arrived with terrible timing. This was probably how the first time went.
“The second time was quite a bit simpler, wasn’t it. I just happened to be one of the people being silenced.”
Thinking of it this way, perhaps Satella ended up arriving there after they got murdered.
He knew about her magical ability, but he doubted that that homicidal maniac would give her time to chant. Satella was probably at a disadvantage 8 or 9 times out of 10.
“Wait, I’ve been killed by the same person twice. Simply put, Elsa’s basically a certain death encounter, final answer. Also…”
Is there even a need to take countermeasures, Subaru heard his now calm mind ask.
Right, why did he have to think about what would happen if he encountered Elsa?
Frankly speaking, the loot house was the only place he ran the risk of encountering her.
And the reason he wanted to go to the loot house was in order to obtain Satella’s insignia, and the reason he wanted to do that was to repay her for saving him.
But since Return By Death had brought him back to right after he’d been summoned, this debt had quite literally disappeared with time.
Satella’s cold reaction to him on his third time was proof of this.
She did not know him. Meaning he had no relation whatsoever to the Satella of that timeline, and his debt no longer existed.
Meaning he could forget all about this insignia business, and instead focus on avoiding those BAD END flags.
He didn’t know why he was granted such an ability, but it was a very valuable skill that would allow him to learn of future developments. He would avoid any dangers he could avoid, that was the right thing to do.
He had obtained something that appeared to be time travel. It would be meaningless if he didn’t use it this way.
“Fortunately, I now know that my cell phone is worth quite a bit. Even without relying on Rom, if I can find some shop I can trust and sell it off, I’ll be able to create a war chest.”
More than twenty holy gold coins, he didn’t know how much that was, but he figured it would buy him decent lodgings for quite a while. And then he would sharpen his fangs there until the day he was ready to bite.
“Well, I still have no plan as to what exactly I’ll be biting into.”
He wasn’t exceptionally knowledgeable on any particular subject, nor did he have anything he was passionate about. To maintain a broad, but shallow knowledge of many things, such was the stance of the modern generation, and Subaru was no different.
“Once I sell this cell phone, guess I’ll have no choice but to get hired as an assistant at some shop or something while I’ve still got money…”
He was extremely uneasy about how he would earn a living since he had no job experience, but doing some black labor should at least be better than getting involved in bloodshed. At least he most likely wouldn’t end up dying thrice in half a day.[T/N: Black company is a Japanese term referring to companies with poor working conditions. Black labor here refers to exploitative conditions.]
“It’s simple then. The sun will set if I don’t get moving right away. Right, old man?”
“I thought you were muttering something for a while, but what’s this all of a sudden. Even if you ask me, it’s not like I’d know..”
The stall owner next to him responded with an annoyed expression as Subaru looked for agreement.
He had a turban on his head and was running a stall that sold jars and plates. Regardless of Subaru murmuring nearby, it didn’t appear to be one that attracted customers.
“Wonder if I should sell my stuff like this… But I wonder if I’d actually make anything if I tried selling things like you, with those crappy jars and stuff. What do you think, old man?”
“Don’t say that crap while looking at someone else’s merchandise! What’s with you?!”
“I’m a man who’ll one day be famed for his wealth. You could even call me the cell phone nouveau… Say, doesn’t that wrapping on your head itch? Why do you have it on? You balding or something?”
“I don’t understand most of what you’re saying, on top of which you’re being extremely rude! Go away, I’ve got a business to run here!”
His attitude was cold as he spoke in a strangely feminine manner.
Guess people treat passing strangers the same in any world, huh, Subaru thought as he sighed on the inside.
“But then, there’s also some people so kind they help others even when it puts them in a tough spot.”
She had something precious stolen from her, and was in the middle of chasing the culprit.
She stopped to save some useless guy she didn’t even know, wasted her time healing him, and then tried to leave without receiving anything in return.
And then this kind girl let the useless fellow accompany her for his own self-satisfaction, and ended up dying a horrible death for it.
“Thinking back to the third time, there’s a whole lot I learned. Or rather, it’d be pathetic if I didn’t learn, but I’m not that stupid.”
“What are you saying now?”
“There’s probably a pattern here. You could even call it fate. ―No matter how many times it repeats, this will keep happening. For instance…”
Felt stole Satella’s insignia all three times.
Rom had been killed in the loot house both the first and second time. Felt had probably died the first time too.
If so, what happened to Satella who most likely arrived at the loot house the second time as well?
She didn’t have a burden holding her back, would she have been able to win against Elsa?
“I don’t know. And I probably won’t know. But there’s things I do know.”
If he just left things alone this fourth time, Felt and Rom would definitely be killed. And Satella would end up battling Elsa.
So what if those two died? One was a small-time villain who dealt in stolen goods, and the other was a brat who shamelessly tried to pawn off said stolen items at exorbitant prices.
They were both criminals, it would probably be a good thing if they died.
“Aah, I really am a child of the modern era. Even though I absolutely ridiculed these sorts of emotions from behind a computer.”
Mercy and compassion were just stupid, that was supposedly what he believed.
At least, he wasn’t just pretending as if he did. He thought of himself as a cold hearted person, and that all modern people were like that.
So no matter what situation he ended up in, he wouldn’t be particularly moved and wouldn’t react very strongly, or so he convinced himself. The death of a few people he knew was no exception to this.
“But still, I don’t want that. It feels horrible. Those two aren’t good people, far from it. ― But when I know that familiar faces are about to die, I can’t just stand by and let it happen”
But in the end, it seemed that was all just an act. A result of his experiences in the virtual world. When the weight of reality set in, his tenets easily crumbled away, that was how flimsy they were.
He wasn’t really that firm on these principles to begin with, though, so it was no loss to be rid of them.
“And of course, there’s Satella… Or rather, that girl. Can’t abandon her either.”
Calling that name, Subaru thought to himself that it was most likely an alias.
Thinking back to the first time, she was pretty reluctant to say that name. And then there was their exchange in the third world. It was painfully clear.
To sum up, it seemed she didn’t trust him enough. He hadn’t built up enough affection and failed the name acquisition event as a result.
“Alright then, I’ll do my best to actually learn her name this time.”
Subaru started warming up on the spot, and stretched his body to the limit.
“Cha―nCha―Chachachacha!”, As Subaru started his radio calisthenics routine, the shopkeeper was already beyond the point where he had anything to say.
Subaru performed routine two in front of the speechless man, and having worked up a good sweat, he turned around and suddenly raised his hands,
“There are times when a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. ―Isn’t that right, old man?”
“Right, right, right, absolutely right, so get out of here.”
He’d planned to end it with a posed look, but the terrible reaction caused his face to twitch.
The shopkeeper drove him away with a perfunctory gesture, and Subaru ran off from the stall where he had spent such a long time deep in thought.
Pushing his way through the crowd for a while, he had probably run about 200 meters.
Subaru stopped and brushed his bangs upward.
He looked here and there in a pointlessly exaggerated manner, and then smoothly placed his hand against a wall to lean on it, after which he closed his eyes and once again smoothed his hair. Then,
“Where should I go to find you, Not-Satella?”
He started his quest with words that didn’t bode well for his future prospects.