They saw Subaru’s breath catch, and he realized what a mistake he had made.
This was where he needed to brush things off with a casual joke like he had been doing, but instead his complete lack of communication ability had him displaying his weakness for all to see.
In a negotiation, there was nothing that could make you lose your advantage quite like having your weakness exposed.
As a result, the edges of Felt’s mouth relaxed in response to Subaru’s silence.
“The woman who hired me didn’t want to say anything either, and it looks like it’s the same for you, huh?”
“… Thievery is pretty immoral in itself, so naturally anyone involved in it would have some shady business going on.”
“But you’re the shadiest one here. Thinking about it clearly, what you’re trying to do is to snatch away a stolen item requested by someone else.”
With the cruelty of a cat toying with its prey, Felt incessantly attacked Subaru’s incompetence.
She then coldly addressed him with a sadistic smile,
“What is this insignia anyway? The truth is it’s worth way more than it looks. That’s why you all want it, right? In other words, it’s worth more than a meteor.”
“Wait, Felt. That way of thinking is really dangerous. I can pretty much guess at what you’re going to say next thanks to my gamer brain, but… You’d better leave it at that.”
Subaru saw her miser gauge start to fill up, and tried to keep her in check even as he broke into a cold sweat. At this rate, she’d just keep on raising her price.
If that happened, the negotiation would drag on and they’d walk right into the BAD END waiting for them.
“It’s more than twenty holy gold coins, just take the deal! Don’t try for more than that! El… The one who hired you can’t go over twenty either! You’re not going to get more!”
“And why do you know that?”
“You’re slipping up. ―So you know her.”
How easy it would be if he could just declare that he knew because of Return By Death.
But even if he actually tried explaining it, there’s no way she’d believe him.
The suspicion in her eyes was getting deeper, she probably wouldn’t believe a word he said at this point.
If it was going to turn out like this, he’d be better off just snatching the insignia from her, but,
“This muscly old man’s going to be a problem if I try that…”
“She got you good, kid. Pretty pathetic to be outwitted by a girl younger than you.”
“It’s probably because of how you raised her. Her stubbornness could make me cry.”
If he resorted to violence, he’d just get flattened by Rom.
Even supposing he were able to snatch it away from her, he didn’t think he could outrun her.
If it came to a long distance race, Subaru’s ability was pretty low even among his classmates.
No matter how much he placed in the top three elsewhere, he could only ever manage consolation prizes in long distance runs which meant he would generally never get an A.
“Begging won’t do you any good. I acknowledge your right to negotiate, but it’s hardly fair to end things without even hearing the other party out, right? But it’d be a different matter if you could tell me what this thing is really worth and produce adequate compensation.”
Her pressing eyes didn’t contain the slightest hint of mercy or compassion.
Her eyes were completely focused on him, hoping to deduce the truth from his behavior. However, it wouldn’t be possible to ascertain the insignia’s value no matter how much she started at him
But the reason he wanted the insignia was different from Elsa’s, he just wanted to repay a favor.
Beyond that he only knew what it looked like, that it had a jewel embedded in it, he didn’t know anything Felt didn’t.
Thus, it would not be possible for him to give her the response she desired.
“The reason I want that insignia… Is so I can return it to its owner.”
That’s why, with all of his sincerity, he revealed the truth
“I want to return it to its owner. That’s why I want it. That’s all.”
As her eyes widened, Subaru raised his head and repeated his declaration.
Her crimson eyes were filled with hostility as she glared at him, but even so Subaru could only remain silent.
He didn’t have the leeway to crack jokes, he sincerely got on his knees and lowered his head.
“… Felt. It doesn’t look like the kid’s lying.”
“Don’t be fooled, old man. He’s clearly screwing around. Return it to its owner? As if he’d pay such a large sum to get it back from the person who stole it, that’s absurd. It’d be over if he just brought a guard with him to apprehend me.”
He couldn’t do that.
Not-Satella didn’t want guards involved in this.
That’s why he even refused Reinhard’s offer to help.
If it was something inconvenient for her, then Subaru wouldn’t do it.
That was all he could do, his sincere response to her for saving his life.
“You need to come up with something better if you want to trick me. I won’t fall for it no matter how serious you act. Otherwise I… Right. I won’t fall for it.”
Felt’s voice was hoarse, as if she was trying to get something off her mind.
Rom seemed concerned, perhaps his pained expression was because he understood what she was feeling.
Either way, all Subaru knew was that her obstinate attitude meant she wasn’t going to change her mind.
In other words, this negotiation had ended in failure.
At that moment, Rom’s expression changed as he glared at the entrance to the loot house.
Subaru, still on his knees with his head lowered, was currently in shock from the breakdown in negotiations.
Because of this, his mind’s response was just a little too late.
There were several sharp knocks, and Rom silently turned around.
His gaze was directed at Felt, who nodded. She pointed to herself,
“It might be my client.―Seems kinda early, though.”
She headed toward the door as she said this, she reached for the door with her anger still evident in her expression.
As Subaru watched her from behind, he suddenly felt a terrible sense of unease well up within him.
Loot house, knock, Felt’s client― There was only one answer that fit.
“―Don’t open it! We’ll be killed!!”
This was earlier than expected. The bit of light pouring in from the window was still fairly bright, that orange shade was too brilliant for the sun to have set.
In both the first and second worlds, the despair came after the sun went down.
It wasn’t as if he was taking things lightly because he thought he had time.
But even so, this was still too soon.
―He still hadn’t managed to change anything about this world.
His scream filled with grim determination was futile, he was unable to stop Felt from opening the door.
With the door open, the loot house’s dim interior was faintly illuminated by the evening glow.
“―Kill you? I wouldn’t do something that drastic without warning.”
A silver-haired girl entered the loot house with a sour look on her face.
※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※
“Thank goodness you’re here… You’re not getting away this time.”
Felt wordlessly backed away at the sight of the silver-haired girl―Not-Satella.
She had a mortified expression as she retreated, and her lips warped in annoyance.
“You really are a stubborn woman.”
“You’re quite impertinent for a thief. I won’t hurt you if you hand it over quietly.”
While Felt seemed to be grinding her teeth, Not-Satella’s voice was extremely cold.
Subaru felt the temperature of the room drop rapidly, and couldn’t help but shiver at the changing atmosphere.
―Why is Not-Satella here?!
The sun was just now setting, from what he’d previously experienced, she shouldn’t have even reached the entrance to the slums at this point in time.
And from there, gathering information would take almost two hours. And only then would she reach the loot house, that was how it went on his first attempt.
“So basically, she would have gotten here this quickly if I weren’t with her?”
If she hadn’t healed him in that alley, she would have just made it here on her own. And this quickly.
Subaru couldn’t describe how he felt now that there was proof of his uselessness that transcended space and time.
Even as Subaru felt this emptiness, the situation continued to progress without him.
Felt had already crossed the center of the room and reached the back as she continued to retreat, and Not-Satella smoothly blocked the path to the door as she turned her palm toward them.
The magic being gathered in her palm caused the air to crackle faintly. It seemed like ice magic was her specialty, the room’s temperature dropped as she formed icicles.
“I have but one demand. ―Return my insignia. It’s important to me.”
There were six icicles floating in the air. Their tips were rounded, so their power came from their weight rather than their sharpness. But if she scored a direct hit, the damage would definitely be on an entirely different level from those rocks.
Of course, Subaru himself was one of her targets and this caused him to break out in a cold sweat, all he could do was watch what happened silently so as to not provoke her.
“… Old man.”
“I can’t move. You picked up something troublesome and someone troublesome came with it, Felt.”
Felt quietly called to him, but Rom shook his head, his giant body filled with tension.
The familiar club had appeared in his hand at some point, but his arm didn’t look like he could swing it. As if lost, as if bewildered, he alternated between loosening and tightening his grip on it.
“The fight hasn’t even started and you’re giving up?”
“I wouldn’t withdraw if she were just some magic user, but… She’s trouble.”
Rom chided Felt for her provocation.
His gray eyes narrowed slightly as he stared at Not-Satella who had icicles at the ready.
His eyes were filled with strong caution and even stronger reverence as he looked down at her.
“Young lady… You’re an elf, aren’t you?”
Rom asked with trembling lips, causing Subaru to look up instinctively.
In this sort of fantasy world, elves were an indispensable race.
They had long ears, long lives, and were beautiful.
Rom’s question caused Not-Satella to close her eyes briefly, after which she sighed,
“That’s not quite right.― I’m actually only half elf.”
She spoke as if this confession was painful, and Subaru knit his brows at this.
But the other two had much bigger reactions.
Felt’s reaction was especially striking, she shuddered as she retreated even further,
“Half-elf… And silver hair?! Don’t tell me…”
“It’s an accidental resemblance! … I find it quite bothersome.’
Subaru didn’t understand their exchange, but he did to some extent get that it was one Not-Satella really didn’t want to deal with.
He didn’t know what exactly she was denying, but it didn’t seem to calm Felt down at all.
Rather, she turned her gaze toward Subaru who was just standing there in silence, and her red eyes were filled with intense animosity as she glared at him.
Subaru’s face stiffened in confusion, and she laughed as if mocking herself.
“So you were playing me all along, huh?”
“I thought it was weird when you started talking about returning it to the owner and stuff. Stopping me from hiring those guys in the alley to block her was part of the plan too, wasn’t it? You were with her from the start.”
Her questions were filled with resentment, and Subaru realized she had misunderstood the situation.
But he also realized something else, he was now closer to piecing together why Not-Satella had arrived so early.
Originally, she wouldn’t have made it this soon after all. Right, normally the guys Felt hired would meddle with her and delay her arrival.
That didn’t happen this time thanks to Subaru, and Not-Satella was able to appear earlier than usual.
From a causal perspective he was the main reason this happened, so Felt’s anger wasn’t exactly misplaced. In truth, the situation was starting to go the way he hoped.
Unless Felt and Rom had some trick up their sleeve, they would have no choice but to return the insignia to Not-Satella.
To be honest, Subaru wanted to obtain the insignia and return it to her himself, but he wouldn’t complain as long as it ended up in her hands.
If things kept going like this, one could probably call it the second best plan. However,
“…? What do you mean? You’re not comrades?”
Not-Satella reacted to the apparent break up between Felt and Subaru.
In response to Not-Satella’s confusion, Felt laughed scornfully, “Hah”
“Just drop the act already. I’ve been cornered. How about you just take the insignia back and laugh at my stupidity?”
“You’re caving too easily. All that just because you’re at a slight disadvantage?”
“That’s what you have to say after landing me in this situation? Aah, damn it. I’ve been had!”
Felt angrily scratched at her blonde hair and groaned in frustration.
The crease in Not-Satella’s brow deepened further as she watched this completely unladylike behavior.
Seeing that they weren’t quite on the same wavelength, Subaru clapped his hands and intervened,
“Well, things are just getting complicated so let’s leave it at that. Give that insignia back, Felt. And Sate… You, leave this place quickly. Don’t let anyone steal from you again.”
“Why are you acting nice all of a sudden? I don’t get it…”
“I don’t understand either. What’s with you?”
His plan to smoothly intervene had failed magnificently.
It had completely backfired, he had drawn their attention to him and become the focus of their ire.
It’d be too hard to explain, so he turned to Rom for help, but he crossed his thick arms,
“Our opponent uses the spirit arts, not ordinary magic. Can’t make any careless moves.”
He ended up misunderstanding Subaru’s intent and denied him his aid.
Subaru was interested in the new term Rom had casually used, but the sharp gazes from the two girls were unbearable.
He had to get out of this somehow―The moment he glanced at the door,
―A shadow stealthily approached the silver-haired girl from behind, as if gliding.
“―Puck! Block it!”
A sensual smile passed through the room’s shadows, and a silver glint that seemed to be squirming lunged at the girl’s white neck.
In an instant, the girl’s head was torn off as Subaru watched with wide eyes― That’s probably what would have happened originally.
What hit his eardrums was not the sound of steal severing bone, but that of steel smashing glass.
Not-Satella lowered her body slightly, and a magic circle that glowed a pale blue manifested behind her head.
The knife was stopped when it slammed into it head on, the magic circle had perfectly protected her neck from the blade.
“That truly was by a hair’s breadth.”
Not-Satella leapt forward and turned around.
Following after her was her silver hair, and a small animal with gray fur peeked out of it from around her shoulder.
Puck hummed in pride and glanced at Subaru,
“Right in the nick of time, you saved us.”
“I’m the one who’s been saved. Thank you.”
Puck’s gesture was akin to a thumbs up, and in response Subaru offered a frail thumbs up as well.
Satella had appeared before sundown―Meaning her reliable backup was still on the clock.
Even though he had been called so suddenly, Puck was able to protect her with his unexpectedly splendid performance.
As for the assailant whose surprise attack was blocked,
“―A spirit, you’re a spirit, yes? Fufufu, wonderful. I’ve never killed a spirit before.”
The familiar murderer raised her kukri knife up to her face that was filled with ecstasy―It was Elsa.
Her sudden appearance put Not-Satella and Subaru on guard. However, the first one to take action in response wasn’t either of them.
“Hey, what’s this about?!”
Felt yelled as she stepped forward.
She pointed at Elsa and pulled the insignia out of her bosom.
“I thought your job was to purchase the insignia. Turning this place into a sea of blood wasn’t part of the deal!”
“Purchasing that insignia is indeed my job. But negotiating won’t be possible since you’ve also brought the owner along, so I’ve decided to change my plans.”
Felt’s face had turned red with rage, but faced with Elsa’s gaze full of killing intent she instinctively stepped back. Elsa looked down at her as if she found her fear adorable,
“I’ll massacre everyone in here, and then collect the insignia.”
Elsa’s smile was like that of a loving mother as she made this cruel declaration, she then tilted her head,
“―You couldn’t do your job properly. It’s only natural you’d be cast aside.”
Felt’s face warped in agony, not from fear but from a different emotion.
Subaru didn’t know if Elsa’s words touched a sore spot. He didn’t know, but
“Quit screwing around, damn it―!!”
It angered him enough to make him forget about the difference in their ability and yell at her.
Elsa looked at Subaru in surprise. Felt, Rom, and Not-Satella were no different. But the one who was most surprised of all was Subaru himself.
He himself didn’t understand why he suddenly flew off the handle.
He didn’t understand, so he just let his emotions take over and spilled everything.
“Is it really that fun to pick on a little kid?! You damned bowel-loving sadist!! Also, your appearance was way too sudden, were you just waiting outside for the right timing or what?! You made me celebrate prematurely because it looked like things could go smoothly, you’re too damned scary, I really didn’t want to meet you! Just how many horribly painful, tear-inducing memories do you think I’ve got?! If I had some change for every time I got torn up by a blade, I’d be a damned millionaire! That was an exaggeration!”
“… What are you saying?”
“My tension and rage meters are maxed, so I’ve got no clue what I’m saying either! That’s how my day’s been, so how are you guys doing? And please don’t change the channel.”
In response to Subaru’s nonsensical screaming, Elsa let out a small sigh of exasperation which was rather unusual for her.
Subaru found her attitude strangely hurtful, and as he sent spittle flying.
“Stalling complete― Do it, Puck!!”
“That was magnificently awkward.―I’d better live up to your expectations.”
As Subaru stamped his foot, an aloof voice responded to him causing Elsa to look up.
Sharp icicles surrounded her in every direction ― There were more than twenty of them.
“Seems I haven’t even introduced myself, young lady. My name is Puck.―Remember that name in the afterlife.”
In an instant, Elsa was bombarded by icicles from every direction.