Having reached this point, Subaru decided that beating around the bush would only worsen her impression of him.
There was also the fact that Elsa was prowling around the area, so he wanted to finish this up as soon as possible. However, this caused Felt to become even more cautious.
She placed her hand on her chest, presumably where she was keeping the insignia.
“How do you know that I stole an insignia? I don’t imagine the one who requested it would have leaked it, and I only just stole it. It certainly isn’t the sort of thing you’d just happen to hear.”
“Now that you mention it, that was far too impatient. I’m so damned careless!”
“… You can’t possibly negotiate with anyone if you show your hand that easily. You crumbled way too easily to a bit of pressure.”
As Subaru stressed over his thoughtless blunder, the hostility left Felt’s face.
Subaru crouched down with his head in his knees and Felt knelt down to meet his gaze as she spoke, “Well?”
“So you want to purchase this insignia, what’s that about? You’re not with the woman who made the request, right? A business rival or something?”
“I guess you could call her a business rival, but there’s probably a mountain of things that doesn’t cover?”
“I don’t get it. Well, I don’t really care about that anyway.”
As Subaru agonized over how to talk himself out of this one, Felt seemed indifferent as she laughed it off. She then extracted the draconic insignia from her bosom.
In her hand was the insignia, the jewel within it glowing red. She dangled it before him as if to flaunt it,
“I’ll just sell it to whoever can offer me the highest price. That woman will probably be mad if I scrap her request, though.”
“It’s even possible she’ll go crazy, but― Never mind, I’m just talking to myself.”
Setting aside these words that would only complicate things, Subaru once again cleared his throat and donned a serious expression,
“So, you’re going to allow me to negotiate for it?”
“I’ll hear anyone out so long as they can bring me some profit. Ain’t it obvious?”
“Talk about a strong will… I’m going to be offering an item worth more than twenty holy gold coins. I would like to use it to purchase your insignia.”
“Hmm, I see. You’re offering quite a bit, huh. That’d certainly reward my efforts… But your rival’s offering that much too, you know?”
“Yeah, right. The deal was ten holy gold coins. Too much greed is going to kill you, you know? Seriously.”
Practically speaking, he did think that that was probably why the first massacre happened. Cause of death: Greed.
Since he even knew the exact number, she must have thought that her tricks wouldn’t work. After her eyes widened slightly, she scratched her head in resignation,
“What, you even know that much? … That’s right, it was ten holy gold coins. Even so, once she learns she’s got a rival, she’s bound to offer more, isn’t that right?”
“That much is true, you know?” The edges of the perhaps fourteen or fifteen year old girl’s lips curled upward.
She sure is sly, as Subaru felt a certain degree of admiration toward her boldness he was also excited at the prospect of negotiating from a superior position like this.
“I don’t suppose you’d listen if I asked to make the deal right here and now?”
“Obviously. I mean, the stuff you said earlier is pretty suspect too. I definitely didn’t mishear you, and what you said was not that you have twenty holy gold coins, but rather something worth that much. It’s unfair for only one side to know what cards are being played in a negotiation, right?”
“I think what really matters in a negotiation is how much you can prepare beforehand, but… I suppose it’s also true that you can’t make a decision without knowing what I’ve got.”
He didn’t want to waste time with her grumbling.
Making a decision, he pulled this negotiation’s key item, his cell phone, out of his breast pocket.
The sight of this small contraption caused Felt to raise her eyebrow slightly, but that was it. As usual, she didn’t really care unless there was a clear connection to money.
“That’s supposed to be worth twenty holy gold coins? Doesn’t look any different from a hand mirror or something to me.”
“This is one of those ‘Meteor’ things that are all the rage these days. It can freeze a moment in time. Alright, now check this out―NATSUKI FLASH times eight!!”
Subaru turned on continuous shooting mode, causing mechanical sounds and flashes of light to emanate in rapid succession.
White light filled the alley, and as the light covered her, Felt reacted to the sounds and flashes with a rather unfeminine shriek.
Subaru was happy to have gotten a better reaction than last time, and quickly thrust the screen before her when it looked like she wanted to complain. Her red eyes widened in surprise.
“This is the power of this meteor. It can produce exquisite pictures in this manner. And if you’ll let me add some PR speak, it’s the only one of its kind in this world. So, how about it?”
As Subaru looked down at her with pride, Felt hummed in response. She examined the phone in his hand closely, and once she’d looked it over, she nodded in understanding.
“… Doesn’t look like you’re lying. But is this supposed to be me? You said it produced a clear picture of the world, but I think I’m prettier than this.”
“I get the feeling that you’ve got a fine base, but when the presentation is this bad there’s really nothing to be said… If we cleaned you up and put you in some nice clothes, you’d be like a totally different person, for sure.”
“That condescending attitude and the way you ended that sentence piss me off… Kinda makes me want to never show you that.”
He had needlessly provoked her, but Felt’s attitude seemed favorable..
But then, that these slum dwellers didn’t easily go along with others’ plans was one of their strengths.
Felt smiled sadistically at his proud expression,
“I’ll admit you’ve got something unusual there, but it’s still unclear how much it’s worth, you know? Let me warn you, I’m not so much of an airhead as to just accept everything the other party says, I’m not going to believe this thing is an easy twenty holy gold coins just like that.”
“… Well, that’s obvious. I wouldn’t really mind if your brain were a sponge, but I suppose we do need a third party’s opinion.”
It would have been nice to keep things going and settle it right here, but he did expect that it might not work. The problem now was who to use as a third party,
“Deep in the slums, there’s a place called the loot house. The place is as the name would suggest, I think it would be quickest to ask the weird old man in there. He appraises things fairly, you know? He’s got some experience, so he should be able to judge a meteor as well.”
“It comes to this after all…”
He also expected that she would end up suggesting this.
From her perspective the loot house was the place she was supposed to meet Elsa, and also a place that had a bodyguard she could rely on in case things got violent.
When you also added the appraisal of the meteor, there was no other choice. Despite this, Subaru really did wish to settle this before they reached the loot house.
“I’m fine with having the old man take a look, but…”
“You’re suddenly calling him an old man even though you’ve never even met him, you might end up regretting that, you know? He’s actually pretty scary if you’re rude to him.”
“Although he does seem to dote on a certain foul-mouthed girl, giving her milk and stuff…”
This was clearly irrelevant, but Subaru did feel like it was as if he was doting on his granddaughter.
Regardless, the problem wasn’t the person, but the location.
“Can you not call him out here or something? You can use my phone if you want.”
“Even if you ask me, I’ve no clue what I’m supposed to do.”
“That’s true, isn’t it.― I’ve only got family and stuff in here, anyway.”
And to pad his lonely contacts list, he also had the police station, fire department, ambulance, time announcement service, weather report etc. It was like a prideful loneliness.
“I don’t know what your issue is, but if you’re in a hurry let’s head there right away. There was a little something I wanted to do, though.”
“Something you wanted to do?”
“Ah, the owner was a lot more persistent than expected, it was a real pain to get away so I wanted to sabotage her. Give ‘em a little money and the guys around here will happily do it.”
“Alright, let’s go, right now, immediately, in a flash!”
As Felt started walking, Subaru started pushing her shoulders from behind and hurried her toward the loot house.
“What the hell?” She pouted as Subaru hurried her, congratulating himself for minimizing unnecessary damage.
To try to hinder Not-Satella while she was chasing after her insignia, there was a limit to how far you could go for a little money. If it meant being blasted by ice and writhing in pain, it was probably better to just stay home clutching their empty stomachs.
“But we’ll have him look quickly and then seal the deal on the spot.”
“Man, why are you in such a hurry? You’re getting pretty sweaty, live strong.”
“Looks like everyone around here says that, is it a slogan or something?!”
Subaru thought it ought to be revised to ‘live stubborn’.
Leaving such impressions behind, he headed to the loot house for the third time, in this fourth world.
―He’d get out immediately. He’d dash out of there. He’d leave even if he had to leave them behind.
Having come to this decision internally, Subaru was fire up and pushed hard at the shoulders before him.
He was kicked.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
“To the rats,”
“Where do they sell boric acid balls? Poison.”
“To the skeletons,”
“Digging is a lot harder than you’d expect, huh. Pitfall.”
“To the noble dragon we are,”
“It probably really exists since this is a fantasy world, but if I were to actually face it I definitely wouldn’t be able to do anything. But it certainly fascinates me, so I do want to meet it. I can’t deceive this wavering heart of mine, however I can’t say I dislike it. A real shitbag of a feeling.”
“Can’t you just say the password without adding all that crap?! You’re too damned annoying!”
The door opened from within with such force that it was like it had been kicked open, but Subaru had anticipated this and quickly leaped backward to avoid taking damage.
There was a giant standing there, too tall for the door and growling in frustration―It was the bald old man Rom whom Subaru was already familiar with. His face was red, it seemed like his blood pressure had spiked.
“You’ll have an aneurysm if too much blood flows into your head. That’s pretty dangerous even with modern medicine.”
“If you know it’s bad for me, don’t anger me! What’s with you?! I have to keep the place cleared out today, so you can’t enter! You can’t! Serves you right!”
Rom stamped his feet in a very immature fashion. But, what wiped the smirk off his face was,
“Aah, sorry. This guy’s one of my guests too. Let him in, old man.”
Felt who was hiding behind Subaru.
She looked at Rom with sympathy as his shoulders dropped in disappointment. She then cast a sidelong glance at Subaru whose expression was apathetic as he whistled,
“You’ve got a pretty horrible personality, huh. You’re the worst, and that’s putting it lightly.”
“I just somehow end up wanting to tease people. The type that shines when they get to mess around, huh… I thought I’d discovered my M tendencies, but it turns out I was an S as well…? Isn’t this the perfect offense and defense?!”
“I don’t know and it looks like it’d be best not to know so I’m not listening. We’re coming in, Rom.”
Felt slipped by Rom who was hanging his head and entered the loot house as if it were completely natural.
Rom’s gaze seeking an explanation was ignored, so he turned his confused face toward Subaru instead. Subaru nodded at his wrinkled face,
“This is why self-centered people are troublesome. Average fellows like us just get left behind, huh?”
“I’d like to start over from when I was teaching her what words meant… Get in quickly.”
Rom seemed to have given up on everything as he carelessly shrank his giant frame and went back in. Following him, Subaru entered as well, welcomed by the dusty interior.
Still cautious, he snuck a glance inward, but fortunately it didn’t look like Elsa or Not-Satella were lying in wait.
Felt casually sat at the counter, drinking some milk like she owned the place. She noticed his gaze,
“What? This is the only cold one, I’m not giving it to you.”
“Your shamelessness doesn’t bother you at all, huh. I’ll take some booze, old man.”
“You’re just as shameless as she is! I’m not giving you any! None at all!”
The floor creaked under Rom’s giant body as he ran to the other side of the counter to hide a box that seemed to contain his drinks. His turmoil almost inspired pity, and Subaru chuckled in response, “That was a joke.”
“I see, so that’s where the alcohol is. Now that I know where it is, it’s practically mine already…”
“You’re saying that out loud! To try to loot booze from the owner of the loot house, you wanna be lower than the lowest?!”
“Woah… You’ll make me blush. And it’s not like I’ll do the stealing myself. I’ll be hiring Felt.”
“Sorry, old man. I can’t turn down a job.”
“Will no one take my side?! Isn’t this my house?!”
By this point he was actually worried about Rom’s blood pressure, so he decided to stop teasing him.
Felt seemed disappointed since she was just getting into it, but Subaru brushed her off with an ingratiating smile and turned to the counter
He didn’t want to sit on these seats any longer than he had to, so he got the point right away.
“Alright, old man. We got sidetracked, but let’s get to the point.”
“Feels to me like that was mostly your fault, but… What do you want?”
“What I want to request is an appraisal, basically. I’d like you to put a price on this meteor I’ve brought and guarantee its value to Felt.”
Rom’s gray eyes became serious when the conversation turned to business.
He looked at Felt to confirm this, and returned his gaze to Subaru after she nodded.
His eyes suggested he wanted to see the item, and Subaru took it out of his pocket.
What first caught his eye was its metallic appearance. It looked like a toy in his oversized hands as he gently handled it.
“This is a meteor, huh. Even I’ve never seen one before.”
“There’s probably only one of this thing in the world. Also, it’s pretty delicate so handle it carefully. If it breaks, I’ll seriously have to die.”
Meaning a retry.
As he felt around its exterior, he gently opened the flip phone. Its startup sound was what first surprised him, and the wallpaper was the next surprise.
“This picture is…”
“I thought it was perfect timing, you see. To show you how effective this thing is, I decided to use a scene from Felt’s day as the wallpaper.”
The phone’s wallpaper had been set to one of the pictures of Felt he had just recently taken.
He picked the one he thought looked the cutest, and the image quality was decent as well so he thought it was pretty nice to look at.
Rom compared the picture with the real Felt who was sipping milk right next to him.
“What a surprise. I don’t think there’s anything out there that could produce such an excellent picture.”
“It’s a meteor that seals away a moment in time, you see. A human couldn’t draw anything even close to this, right? I could even photograph you if you’d like.”
“I’m interested, but it’s also somewhat frightening. It doesn’t shorten your life or anything, right?”
“Regardless of the age and regardless of the world, looking at a picture brings to mind that kind of superstition, huh…”
Rom’s reaction felt like it came from before the Taisho period. Next to him, Felt’s ears pricked up when they started talking about lifespan. Subaru reassured them by responding, “You’ll live to eighty just fine even if you get photographed”, and then used the camera function to photograph Rom.
Rom hummed as he looked at the picture.
Doing this before his very eyes was probably sufficient as a demonstration of the phone’s abilities. To begin with, he already knew from personal experience that Rom’s impression of the phone would be favorable.
“This is definitely something amazing. If I were selling this, I’d take at least fifteen… No, twenty holy gold coins. That’s how much it’s worth.”
Perhaps his smuggler spirit had been stimulated, his eyes were sparkling.
He dealt in stolen goods, Subaru wondered if such an occupation was really one to be proud of, but he was still relieved to receive Rom’s seal of approval.
Subaru turned to Felt, his nostrils flaring as his face filled with pride.
“Well, that’s what I’m offering you. Just as I said, an item worth more than twenty holy gold coins. I’d like to trade this for your insignia.”
“Seems you make that face often, it’s annoying.”
Perhaps unhappy that things went as he expected, Felt’s expression was one of displeasure. But still, that didn’t change the fact that this meant she had a windfall coming her way.
Her gaze moved toward the cell phone in Rom’s hand,
“Well, I’m definitely happy now that I have a guarantee that this thing can make me some money. It looks like I don’t need to doubt your claim of twenty holy gold coins either. Alright, I accept the card you’re playing.”
“Right?! Okay, negotiations went off without a hitch. Selling it is up to you, do your best! Anyway, I’m in a hurry, so I’ll be taking my leave now…”
He approached Felt in a hurry and extended his hand, seeking the insignia.
However, his palm was gently pushed away.
When Subaru raised his eyebrow, Felt brought her face close to his,
“Hold on a moment. Why are you in such a hurry?”
“It’s not like I’m in a hurry or anything? A-Also, your face is too close.”
“What, you’re the sort that gets shy when a girl gets close to you?”
“Nah, you probably haven’t bathed in several days so there’s this terrible stench.”
She walloped his jaw from directly below.
The pain of biting his tongue brought tears to Subaru’s eyes as he recoiled.
“You sure don’t go easy on the girls, huh?!”
“And you, can’t you take a little joke?! I’m already shedding blood here!”
The cut in his mouth was fairly deep, and the metallic taste brought back some unpleasant feelings.
Felt’s face turned red, and she covered her face with her shoulder-length hair.
“Do I really smell that much…”
“I just said that to hide my embarrassment, is what I’d like to tell you but I can’t lie to myself.”
He turned his face away, still teary-eyed, and collapsed on the spot, his teary form looking rather effeminate. The triviality of this act sent Felt beyond the point of anger, and she simply took deep breaths with her fingers on her forehead.
“Alright. Hold on a moment. Let’s get back to what we were talking about. Calm down, cool off.”
“What we were talking about, huh. Yeah, that’s right. For now, I think it’d be best to start cleaning up around your bed. There’s quite a bit of garbage around there, so even when you sleep the stink…”
“How about we forget about my stench and get back to the other thing?!”
“… You… Sure kick, quickly…”
She kicked forward in embarrassment, and scored a clean hit on Subaru’s jaw due to the position he was crouching in. He didn’t bite his tongue this time, but he hadn’t even stopped bleeding yet, and the second impact caused even more blood to pour out.
“Drinking too much blood makes me feel absolutely horrible…”
“If you’ve learned your lesson, take our conversation more seriously. Well, getting back to our return to the topic at hand, I’ll ask you again, why are you in such a hurry?”
She extinguished the anger from her expression, and looked as cold as she could as she asked this.
Rom read the mood and remained silent, so he couldn’t look to him for help. Subaru shrugged his shoulders in resignation,
“Life doesn’t last forever. Every second is precious, I don’t want to waste any…”
“Aah, right, right. That’s enough of that. Hey…”
Subaru attempted to cover things up, but Felt stopped him in his tracks.
Her red eyes narrowed, and with a detached attitude she finally pierced the heart of the matter.
“To begin with, why do you even want this insignia?”