“You’re as selfish as ever, uncle!”
The one bluntly admonishing him in a loud voice was a young girl who had her arms crossed.
The girl had her braided deep indigo hair bundled up over her head, and her formal clothing gave off a dignified impression. Her gentle, well-featured face could certainly be described as beautiful, but right now it was tense as she scowled, her anger clearly on display, so it would be unwise to just carelessly drop a compliment.
And the focus of this girl’s anger was a tall man bearing hair of the same color as her and heterochromatic eyes, he was smiling wryly and looked like a clown.
“I dooooo apologize for the trouble I am causing you, Annerose. However, it was not necessary for you to go so far as to come to the sanctuary personally. The journey must have been difficult.”
“If I had not come here personally, just who in the world would give you a proper scolding, seriously! It’s because everyone else keeps spoiling you that you’ve ended up with such a bothersome attitude. You’re already a grown man, so do be sure to reflect on this.”
“My my, it would seeeeeem that I am always disgracing myself before you. But I suppose you are correct. My apologies.”
His bitter smile deepened, and the man― Roswaal dropped his shoulders and sincerely lowered his head to the girl. This attitude of his caused the girl’s eyes to widen,
“What’s this now. For you to sincerely apologize… Did you perhaps hit your head somewhere?”
“It wasn’t exactly my head, but the sides of my face have received quite the magnificent pummeling, among other areas.”
“What! Uncle’s face?! Just who exactly would have the nerve!”
As the girl placed her hand against her mouth in shock, Roswaal turned around to the sight behind him. In front of the procession of dragon carriages that Annerose had brought with her was a boisterous group. Roswaal pointed to the blonde boy― Garfiel, who was standing among them.
“It was him. It was a truly tremendous blow… I was blown right through the building.”
“What is this… I shall have a few words with him!”
Unable to hide her astonishment, the girl rapidly dashed over to Garfiel. Having noticed the girl’s approach, Garfiel looked slightly cautious.
The girl then thrust her finger toward him,
“You! To think you actually walloped my uncle, it must have been a sight worth seeing! Should uncle ever try to hassle you about it, just report it to me. I shall be your ally!”
And said this, causing Roswaal’s shoulders to drop even further.
“I am known as Annerose Miload. I was born into a branch of my uncle’s Mathers family… I suppose you could say he is a relative of sorts. I am pleased to meet you.”
Following this majestic introduction, Annerose offered a perfectly refined bow.
The self-awareness in every movement of this girl that was not even ten years of age made it plain to see that she was born of nobility, and moreover how pure her bloodline was. That deep indigo hair of hers was proof that she was related to Roswaal by blood just as she had explained, but―
“She’s so upstanding it’s hard to believe she’s Roswaal’s relative….”
“While the margrave might be the one most familiar to you, it would not be wise to think of him as representative of the nobility in general. It is a well known fact that Margrave Mathers is a rather eccentric person, after all.”
“Well, I suppose that’s true. Even back at the castle, most of those nobles were basically what you’d expect.”
When Subaru quietly murmured this, Otto agreed with an ambiguous expression, “I guess so.” Indifferent to this exchange, the procession Annerose had brought with her entered the sanctuary one by one― Entering the settlement, they started partitioning the passengers who numbered over a hundred.
Although the sanctuary was fortunately released at long last, its present condition could only be described as miserable. After all, the heavy snowfall that had summoned the Great Rabbit had now completely covered the forest, furthermore, the forest was also the site of Emilia’s hard-fought battle to annihilate said witchbeast in addition to which it was also the location of Subaru and Beatrice’s inaugural battle, the after-effects of which ruined the forest even further.
Roswaal was completely exhausted, and Emilia was having a hard time controlling her power that had just broken free of its restraints due to which they had no choice but to wait for the snow to clear out on its own. Consequently, the sanctuary was left in an out of season state of cold and regardless of whether it was temporary or not, they wanted to leave as soon as possible.
“And right at that moment, showing up with immaculate timing was…”
“―We who had made preparations in advance under the master’s orders. Frightful.”
With their conversation interrupted as if it was completely natural, Subaru and Otto both jumped simultaneously. Witnessing their surprise, a young, blue-haired man bowed slightly as he apologized, “That was rude of me.”
The young man’s deep blue hair was tidy, and his face that gave off an impression of intelligence was adorned with a monocle over its left eye. His figured covered in a black butler uniform was rather slim, but his body was well trained and even a novice could see that his form was flawless.
“U-Umm, You are…”
“I am Clind, a steward working under Annerose-sama. I was previously in the master’s… In Roswaal L. Mathers’ employ, as a steward, obviously. Audacious.”
“A steward… It seems to me that that’s the highest position among butlers and maids and stuff.”
“Yes, that is correct. Sagacious.”
Clind lowered his chin as he answered, and Subaru felt a tremble in his spine.
He had certainly felt awed by Annerose’s conduct as well, but Clind was a step above even that. How should he put it, it was like he was so put together that it was actually offputting.
“Excuse me, Clind-san. I believe you said something along the lines of preparing in advance?”
“Correct. Master had contacted us beforehand. You are Otto Suwen, the minister of internal affairs, is that not so. I have already heard the details. Capable.”
“Although I was barely involved in that decision so I can’t really accept it!”
Looking on from the side as Otto screamed about his position, Subaru murmured in a low voice, “Seriously?”
The fact that this rescue party led by Annerose was prepared in advance meant, of course, that Roswaal without a doubt considered this to be something that would be necessary after he made the contents of the gospel a reality.
Although the future took a different path in the end, it was extremely ironic that they would be saved like this.
“… Thanks to which we can unravel at least part of the spell that binds the master. Thankful.”
“Eh? What was that just now?”
“Is it not about time you felt hungry? I was asking if you would like to dine. Repetition.”
“No, that definitely wasn’t it?! I get the feeling you were saying something really important?!”
Subaru objected to this unabashed attempt at a cover up, but Clind raised his brows, dropped his shoulders, sighed as if to show his exhaustion, and showed no sign whatsoever that he would answer Subaru’s questions.
This attitude of his immediately convinced Subaru that he was someone connected to the Roswaal Manor. And like so, Subaru was mystified by Clind.
“You’re at it again… Teasing others like that is a real bad habit of yours, you ought to keep it in check, Clind.”
“Frederica, you know this guy… Wait, that’s obvious.”
Frederica who was approaching them as though she had seen something she couldn’t overlook nodded extremely reluctantly in response to Subaru’s words, “Yes.”
“Unfortunately, I have known him for quite some time. Because he has been in Roswaal’s employ for a long time… I too was in his care when I first started.”
“For a senior you’ve known for such a long time, you’re rather bitter towards him…”
“I suppose so. While I do acknowledge that he certainly possesses ability befitting a steward… This man is deeply flawed in ways that that cannot compensate for. In particular…”
As if she had a list of complaints as long as their acquaintanceship, Frederica almost started enumerating all sorts of grievances. But before she could, a small figure rushed over to them.
“Big sis Frederica! The villagers have all gathered in the clearing. What shall we do now?”
“P-Petra! You can’t, don’t come here right now!”
Petra had just finished guiding the villagers to the dragon carriages, and was now approaching Frederica for her next instructions. This made Frederica’s face go pale, but she was too late.
By the time she noticed, that man… Clind was already standing before Petra who was surprised. Everyone around them was astonished by his speed that transcended human sight as he looked down at Petra, and then nodded.
“― I see. This girl’s present looks extraordinarily promising. Gold star.”[T/N: In Japanese, he actually says flower circle which is also a type of reward for young children]
“P-Present…? Not my future?”
“Yes, your present. You possess a spirit full of potential, your value is at its peak at this very moment, in your youthful state. Frederica was once the same as you, but just look at her now… Disappointing.”
“Get a hold of yourself, you damned pervert!”
Frederica attacked Clind with an unexpectedly merciless kick. Clind dodged this attack from behind without even looking, and slipped behind Petra.
“T-That’s so low, you degenerate! Fight me head on!”
“Do not speak such absurdities, there shall be no fight. I merely wish to offer this girl with a promising present ― Yes, Petra, I wish to offer her some advice on how to best go about her work. Favor. For what reason would you interfere with this? Mysterious.”
Clind remained as calm as ever, causing Frederica to start attacking him ferociously, but Clind avoided all of her attacks, keeping Petra between them all the while. Petra was already getting dizzy in this maelstrom of wind, but the battle only got more intense.
“Aah, Natsuki-san. I’ll handle that somehow, so I think it would be best if you went to see Emilia-sama for now.”
“That would be a great help, but what do you mean somehow…”
“Somehow means somehow. Well, considering the path ahead of me, I at least ought to be able to handle something of this level, something like that.”
Otto said this with a shrug, causing Subaru’s eyes to widen. He then immediately averted his eyes from his friend’s consideration and determination and started patting his back violently.
“That hurts! Hey, what are you doing all of a sudden!”
“Don’t worry about it. Well then, I’m leaving the rest to you, our minister of internal affairs.”
That was all Subaru said before he ran off in a hurry. “I still haven’t accepted that!” He heard a voice yell from behind him, but he ignored it like he always did.
In this manner, he quickly made it into the clearing. Right in front of the cemetery, he found Emilia talking to Annerose on the stairs. He ran over to them.
“Mm, Subaru, you’re late. What were you doing, I wonder?”
The first one to notice him was Beatrice who was sitting on the stairs. She brushed the dust off her skirt and stood up, after which she naturally lined up next to Subaru.
“Ohh, sorry, sorry. I was just chatting with Otto and then got caught up in a weird typhoon… Beako, there’s this butler wearing a monocle, you have to stay away from him no matter what.”
“―? What’s with that? Just what is that butler going to…”
“Well, this and that. Please, Beako. You’re precious to me. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I-I understand, in fact. Well, if you’re going to say all that, I suppose there’s no helping it, I shall do as you say, I suppose.”
Subaru pleaded with a sincere expression which made Beatrice turn red in the face as she nodded unsteadily. He figured that at least for now, this would reduce the risk of Beatrice experiencing something unfortunate.
Now what was left was to rack his brains as to how he could prevent any sort of contact between Clind and Beatrice.
“… Your present condition would suggest that you have encountered Clind.”
Subaru was caressing Beatrice’s head due to both relief and her loveliness when Ram called out to him. Holding her elbows, she maintained her usual stance as her light crimson eyes suddenly narrowed.
“Ram has not seen him in a while, but it would seem that his incorrigible nature has not changed in the slightest.”
“Aah, it was obvious, but you know him too, huh. He’s that much of an ikemen and yet he’s a lolicon, what a cruel act God has committed…”
“I haven’t a clue what ‘ikemen’ or ‘lolicon’ are supposed to be, but that is his intrinsic nature. He had even gotten awfully friendly with Ram when she was young and bright. Surely…”
“―Surely, it was the same for Rem.”
Lowering her eyes slightly, Ram said this as if confirming something, as if she was persuading herself. Her words caused an ache to flash through Subaru’s chest.
Rem’s existence, her memories, were still gone.― Having safely brought her here from the mansion, her reunion with Ram truly was complicated after all.
Subaru had already been hurt by the fact that Ram did not remember Rem, but this time was no different. But what wasn’t the same was the fact that in this world, Ram and Rem had a future.
Under the premise that they would bring Rem back, even though Ram could not recall her existence, she acknowledged that she was her sister and was doing her best to come to terms with that fact. That in itself saved him.
“Well, anyway. We’ll have to coexist with Clind somehow, so we’ll be counting on you for that part, big sister.”
“I suppose so. If I could mention just one thing, it would be that when it comes to the young, he does not differentiate between male and female.”
“What exactly am I supposed to do having heard that?!”
It would also be troublesome to delve too deep into his perversions. This caused Subaru to shriek, and in response Ram’s lips suddenly relaxed into a dignified smile that was very Ram-like.
Seeing this, Subaru donned a bitter smile himself. And then―
“Hey, you there! Are you the Subaru Emily spoke of?”
Someone rushed towards Subaru rapidly, causing him to instinctively take a step backward. The one pointing her finger at him was none other than Annerose.
Her eyes were harsh as she glared at him and her lips trembled.
“I am, but… Eh? Why are you glaring at me with such hostility?”
“The reason is completely obvious! You took advantage of the fact that Emily is so defenseless despite her cuteness to force a chuu on her! Can you take responsibility for that?!”
Annerose’s accusatory interrogation momentarily left Subaru at a loss for words. Emilia then cut in on their quarrel with a flustered expression.
Grabbing Annerose’s small shoulder, she shook her head as her face reddened.
“Y-You’re wrong, Anne! He didn’t force me at all. He even told me to move if I didn’t want it. I was the one who didn’t move, so… So it was consensual!”
“Wait, Emilia-tan! That way of putting it makes it sound strangely non-consensual, also, Emily? What kind of relationship do you have with this kid?”
“Emily is Emily, it is my pet name for her. Emilia and I refer to each other using pet names, that is the sort of close relationship we have. If you understand that, it’s about time you got out of our way you meddling insect.”
Her attitude as she waved her hand to shoo him away did not possess the slightest bit of the refinement of a young noble she had displayed earlier, there was only hostility towards a rival in love, and a declaration of war.
“Wait, isn’t it strange for us to be rivals in love! Emilia-tan’s the cutest girl in the world, you know?!”
“So, what about it? The two of us will raise the baby in her belly with love. So hurry up and get out of here, you homewrecker.”
“Mm! I can’t overlook what you just said! Did this brat dare say such a thing to Betty’s contractor I wonder! Perhaps I should go ahead and shut that mouth of yours right now!”
“Will you use a chuu I wonder. You’re being rather forward, Beatrice-sama.”
“You’re just complicating things, so just be quiet for a bit, Beako, big sister!”
Beatrice had gotten angry when Annerose insulted Subaru due to her misdirected hostility, and now Ram was stirring the pot too. Subaru was frantically trying to resolve the situation.
Emilia’s amethyst eyes widened as she watched all of this happen, and her lips suddenly relaxed into a smile. Her finger gently touched the magic crystal on her chest ― Where Puck was sleeping.
“This is reeeeally chaotic, but… Fufu, these are the people precious to me.”
Emilia’s whisper was swallowed up by their noisy quarrel, and was not heard by anyone.
But the magic crystal shone brightly for a moment, as if the one within was listening to his beloved daughter.