Re:Zero: Arc 1 – Chapter 16: Negotiation In The Slums

Having returned to the trading street, Subaru immediately started trying his hardest to locate Not-Satella..

Although, all he could really do was stare into the crowd with eyes as wide as dinner plates. In the third world, he wasn’t very far from the fruit shop when he encountered her, so he decided to position himself around there for now. Subaru could see the shopkeeper’s face in the corner of his vision and his expression seemed rather stern.

“Our meeting didn’t go that well this time… But I know that you’re actually a great guy deep down! I know it!”

Subaru directed a smile and a thumbs up at him, and the shopkeeper immediately averted his eyes with an expression that looked like he’d seen something unpleasant.

Subaru felt somewhat lonely as he withdrew his thumb, and once again directed his gaze toward the street.

The street was swarmed with all sorts of people as usual.

Diverse inhabitants of a fantasy world, and among them Subaru saw what one could perhaps call a beastman, a bipedal dog-like being that had incredibly fluffy fur which caused him to freak out. He wanted to feel it, really badly.

“What’s with that loveliness… They’ve already won at birth, just like Reinhard or Not-Satella, it’s sinful.”

Their gait was tottering due to their short stature, giving them the charm of a small animal.

“Kh… Calm down, my right arm… This isn’t the time to feel them up, have you forgotten why we’re here?!”

He somehow gained control of his arm that was going to reach for that white fur, and after he regretfully watched them walk away, he returned his gaze to its original position.

However, it had already been almost ten minutes since he started watching the road, and he didn’t find anyone that looked like her. Confirming the time on his phone, he found that it had almost been an hour since his reset.

“My sense of time feels off, but going off my memories it’d be weird if the theft hasn’t happened by now…”

As he said this, an unpleasant premonition suddenly flashed through his mind.

Once he felt the chill of doubt, there was no escaping it. Subaru scratched his head and let out various ‘Aahs’ and ‘Oohs’, and having no other choice, he walked toward the stall before him. 

“Hey, old man.”

“What, broke kid.”

Standing before him was the owner of the fruit shop, clearly annoyed that Subaru dared to show his face again as he responded.

True or not, that was a pretty harsh way of saying it Subaru thought as he forced a smile, and without being discouraged,

“It’s true that I’m broke so I won’t deny it, but… There’s something I wanna ask you, old man. Has there been a pickpocketing incident around here?”

“You’ve got some nerve asking questions without even buying anything… Also, too bad, but that sort of thing is really nothing unusual.”

“Seriously?!”

Subaru couldn’t help but raise his voice in surprise at this mean-spirited response. But it wasn’t as if he didn’t understand. To begin with, the loot house was a place where stolen items from all over the capital were gathered. There was enough theft going on to fill that giant storehouse, which gave an idea as to the level of public order around here.

“Does this mean I’m out of luck…?”

“―But, I do remember the commotion just now since it was unusual. There were two or three blasts of magic, you see. Have a look.”

He leaned out of his stall and pointed to the left, at a stall about four spaces away. Subaru’s line of sight followed and,

“Woah, incredible.”

“Those icicles pierced that wall like arrows and left that damage. They disappeared immediately, though.”

Right next to the stall was the entrance to a narrow alley, and one of its walls had holes bored into it.

There were four of them, and each one was around the size of a 500-yen coin. Since they were able to piece a stone wall, the thought of their speed and power at the moment of impact sent a chill down his spine.

“This isn’t like those ice rocks she fired before… I wonder if she’s angrier this time.”

If he approached her carelessly, he might end up getting blasted with them himself. The thought of this caused a cold sweat to form on his forehead.

“But this means I was too late this time too.”

Setting aside his frightening imaginations, he wiped the sweat off his forehead as he muttered this.

Not-Satella was most likely the one who left these marks behind. If it was a theft involving her, it was probably alright to assume that Felt had snatched the insignia from her.

That being the case, it meant that he had lost the means to link up with Not-Satella.

At least, there was no surefire way to meet her as far as Subaru knew.

In other words, what he ought to prioritize was,

“Meeting up with Felt who has the insignia, huh. I’d like to get to her before she reaches the loot house, and trade my phone for the insignia on the spot if possible.”

He truly did not want to approach the loot house, considering he had been slaughtered there twice.

Strictly speaking, what he actually wanted to avoid was getting involved with Elsa there.

“It’ll just be a repeat of the first time if I’m too late. Having said that, reaching Rom first and waiting for Felt would be no different from the second time.”

So the crucial point was Felt’s location.

At the moment, she was probably desperately running around in order to shake Not-Satella off. Of course it wasn’t like she could run forever so he figured it should be possible to catch her somewhere, but such a thing would prove extremely difficult for Subaru who was even less familiar with the capital than the average person.

“Should I rely on Return By Death and just use this attempt for investigation…?”

It certainly seemed like an effective strategy, but Subaru shook his head and rejected it right away.

First, having experienced death three times, he didn’t think he could make the decision to throw his life away in order to retry. All three deaths were quite literally so painful he could die. If he could settle things without tasting death, then he’d rather only ever experience it at the very end, on his deathbed.

In addition, he was also concerned about the fact that he didn’t know exactly how Return By Death worked. Throwing his life away only to find out he had zero left wouldn’t even be funny as a joke.

“In the end, I guess I’ll just have to struggle all I can while I’ve still got life. That much is obvious, though.”

He twisted his waist, grinding his joints, and started bending and stretching to warm up.

The shopkeeper seemed annoyed by the fact that he was doing radio calisthenics in front of his stall. Having warmed up, Subaru raised his hand toward him as he jogged away.

“Alright, thanks a lot, old man. I’ll be leaving now. I’ll definitely buy some appas next time.”

“Yeah, you’d be more than welcome as a customer. Work hard, broke kid.”

“For sure.― I really am praying I have some money the next time I show up here.”

The shopkeeper apathetically saw him off as he broke into a run.

He was headed toward the slums―But not in the direction of the loot house. He had already decided that he’d be raising BAD END flags if he went there. That being the case, it was time to try a new angle of attack.

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

“Where Felt lives, huh? Head two streets down that way, it’s ahead of there.”

“Thanks a lot, you’re a lifesaver, brother.”

“It’s no problem, brother. ―What was it, live strong?”

The middle aged man said with a weak smile as he disappeared into the creaking door.

Thinking back to how the man’s strained smile was filled with sympathy from beginning to end, Subaru pumped his fist at his strategy’s success.

He was covered in mud and dirt, his appearance was such that even slum dwellers found it pitiful.

“It was a strategy I devised from my experiences in those first two times, but… That sure was effective, huh.”

As he said this, Subaru wiped off his sleeves which had become crusty now that the mud on them had dried.

Having arrived here, he devised an ingenious plan to pinpoint Felt’s destination, which was to play the part of an extremely downtrodden person.

When he was wandering around the slums with Not-Satella in the first world, he had just recently been beaten into the ground by Tonchinkan, and the inhabitants’ reception was correspondingly sympathetic and cooperative.

Completely different from the second time, when their reaction was cold and curt since he had no real damage to speak of. Thinking back to that, he ended up going a little overboard with his appearance this time.

“Well, I did end up stepping in some unknown animal’s dung and stuff.”

Thank goodness he barely managed to avoid falling in it, he thought as he trembled.

Since it only got on his shoes, his honor was probably still intact.

Unfortunately, even as he thought this there wasn’t the slightest hint of honor or anything of the sort left in his filthy appearance.

“I’ve got four reports right now… Three of them match.”

Sympathizing with him, four people gave him information. Right now, three of the comments about Felt’s location matched. Unless they were all conspiring to screw him over, it was probably okay to assume the information was accurate.

The one differing report came from an old woman who was hard of hearing, so she definitely wasn’t trying to deceive him. Maybe.

“I think I’ve found out where she sleeps, but… Now the problem becomes whether or not she’ll come here.”

He did find out where she normally stayed, but since she was currently in the midst of escaping it was fifty-fifty whether or not she would run here. If she was worried her pursuer would destroy her place, perhaps she would think it better to avoid it.―If that happened, he could only say he had no luck.

“It’s not like worrying about it will do anything. I’m not going to worry about things I can’t answer, alright.”

Even when he was at a loss, he wouldn’t waste time on things that couldn’t be helped. His decisiveness shined here too.

Subaru jogged deeper into the slums as he knocked the hardened dirt off his clothes. When he first came here, he couldn’t even do anything besides hide behind Not-Satella let alone independently gather information, he had developed quite a bit. Made him want to reward himself.

“A reward for my hard work… Am I going to open my corn potage again?”

As he fished around in his bag, he approached a road. He then almost collided with someone who suddenly emerged from there.

He moved out of the way in a panic, but his back ended up colliding with that narrow road, knocking the wind out of him. Watching him, the person he was about to walk into spoke in a gentle manner,

“Oh, do excuse me. Are you alright?”

“I’m good, I’m good. Despite how I look I’m actuallyyyy!”

Subaru raised his face to play it off, but was unable to end his sentence when he saw who he was talking to. Hearing his high-pitched voice, the black-haired woman giggled slightly.

“You’re a fun kid, aren’t you. Are you really alright?”

She brushed up the hair covering her ear. Even this gesture was somehow sexy, and Subaru thought to himself that her each and every action was as erotic as usual.

A sexy beauty who behaved in an erotic manner―Someone he absolutely did not want to meet.

“―You don’t have to be so afraid, I’m not going to do anything to you.”

“Af-afraid? It’s not like I’m afraid of anything? What proof do you have to claim that I’m nervous? I’m seriously freaking out, though―, but you can’t talk down to me like that―, I’m really nervous, though―”

“Your scent…”

Ignoring his attempt to act tough, her eyes narrowed into a sweet smile.

Subaru cocked his head at this, and in response she used her well-shaped nose to sniff.

“When someone is afraid, it shows in their scent. Right now, you’re scared… And you’re angry too. At me.”

She seemed to be having a good time exposing his inner feelings as she looked up to him.

Subaru went silent, only responding with a forced smile as he took deep breaths to calm his rapidly beating heart.

Her words were true.

Subaru was afraid of her. The woman before him was the most terrifying person he knew in this world.

She was also the one he hated most in this world.

He truly wanted to beat her down if it was possible for him to do so, and before that he had an unbearable urge to run away immediately.

He had died by her hand twice now. She inspired fear from the bottom of his heart, and who could laugh at him for it?

Elsa narrowed her eyes like a snake in response to his silence. But even as he felt her gaze pinning him down, he would not allow himself to show weakness by averting his eyes.

She licked her lips at his bravado,

“… I am somewhat interested, but it’s fine. It wouldn’t do to cause a fuss right now.” 

“T-That’s not a very nice thing to say. Act too scary and that beauty will go to waste, you know?”

“Ah, very nice.― Hide your hostility and it’d be even better.”

She reached out and lightly tapped his forehead with her finger, and this simple gesture released the tension from his body.

Subaru exhaled, his shoulders heaving, and Elsa placed her finger against her lip,

“Well then, I’ll be taking my leave. I get the feeling we’ll see each other again.”

“If it’s a bright place with lots of people around, I’ll be able to relax too.”

It took everything he had to get those sarcastic words out.

Elsa flipped her cloak with a longing smile as she disappeared into the alley’s darkness. After he watched her quite literally disappear, Subaru felt exhaustion rush through him as he leaned against the wall.

“That… That was an unexpected encounter, seriously. To think she was prowling around here before going to the loot house…”

This unexpected encounter almost tore his heart apart.

In terms of mental preparation, this was far more of a shock than Not-Satella. He wanted to pray that this would be his last encounter with her if possible.

“Felt’s place should be around here, I believe… But surely it’s not possible that Elsa already destroyed it…?”

She was a pervert who drowned in pleasure when she sliced people’s bellies open. 

It wouldn’t be strange if she carved up a few people to kill time before the appointment. Furthermore, now that he was heading deeper into the slums, he couldn’t help but imagine all sorts of horrors.

“I-It’s okay, probably. There isn’t the stench of blood, nor do I see any, maybe.”

The garbage and the rotten smell made it impossible to discern the smell of blood, and it was too dark for him to confirm if there were any bloodstains around, but there definitely wasn’t any blood. That’s what he wanted to think.

He didn’t have the courage to run right now, so he slowly continued onward with stealthy steps.

Even the hum of an insect or the sight of a not yet empty bottle of alcohol would cause him to freak out as he searched.

About five minutes after his encounter with Elsa, he finally reached a rundown shack.

“This should be it according to my information… But does a human really live here?”

Subaru tilted his head as he stood in front of a wooden board that seemed to be the door.

The shack before him was around the size of two of those porta potties one would see around construction sites and the like. It felt like someone was actually putting the saying, ‘half a tatami mat to stand, one tatami mat to sleep’ into practice.

“This is definitely what you call a place to sleep, so I guess that’s about right.”

Even so, the idea of such a small girl living in a place like this caused him to feel some pity. He felt like he could forgive her, that her ambition and greed couldn’t be helped.

“She’s curling up her already small body and living in a place like this. Guess it couldn’t be helped that her personality would turn out so warped. Aah, it just couldn’t be helped, poor thing. Aah, how pitiful.”

“You’re going way too far, it’s disgusting. I can’t believe you’re looking around someone else’s bedroom like that.”

As he was entering his sympathetic mode, a voice from behind him caused him to turn around.

Before his eyes was a small blonde girl glaring at him with disgust―Felt.

She didn’t look particularly different from their previous meetings. That her slightly dirty clothes were now dirtier than usual was probably a sign that the chase was much more intense this time.

“What’s with that increasingly pitying expression? You looking down on me just ‘cause I’m a girl and a little bit filthy?”

“It’s a different sentiment, but… Most of all, I’m glad we could meet.”

She made no attempt to hide her displeasure, and Subaru instinctively dropped his shoulders in relief.

He was truly happy that he was able to find the girl he was looking for. He was worried about what might have happened after his near miss with Elsa, but looked like things were alright after all.

In response to his murmur, she snorted, “What, a customer?”

She stared at him, still cautious,

“Since you came all the way here, I assume you have some business with me? … Judging by your look, you’re not from around here.”

“Oh. To see that I’m not one of you, you’ve got good eyes.”

“Even the guys around here are a little more careful about their appearance. That level of filth is just unnatural. In truth, you’re even dirtier than us right now.”

As usual, she always had a comeback―Made him want to retract his earlier sympathy.

Felt ignored his inner feelings even as his veins popped, and stepped back, “Well?”

“What do you want? If you want something stolen, I’ll need payment in advance. Depending on the target, I might ask for more after the fact.”

“Commissioned thefts… This sure is a greedy business you’re running. Are you proud of your sticky fingers?”

“It’s how I stay alive. If it weren’t for this, I’d have to sell my body. So, what’ll it be? Or do you perhaps have some other business? Depending on what it is…”

Felt rapidly moved her fingers to show off her dexterity.

Suddenly, a small knife appeared in her hand as if by magic. Probably a warning that depending on why he was here, she would use it to defend herself.

Speaking practically, if he ended up fighting her now he would have no chance of winning. She would just disappear from his sight with that speed of hers, and before he knew it he would complete the ‘Stabbed to death in a back alley: BAD END 2’ route.

“What I want is just one thing.― I want to purchase the insignia you stole right here and right now.”

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