[Otto: So, were you able to successfully seal the contract?]
After issuing his final challenge and concluding his talks with Roswaal, Subaru left the building and took a short walk to join up with Otto. And now, they were in a corner of the Cathedral, reporting their respective results to each other.
Subaru answered Otto’s question with a nod, and,
[Subaru: Yeah, it worked. I was worried he’d just sink into self-abandon and reject the bet outright, but…… I think the unfavorable conditions on my end got him through that]
[Otto: Guess so. When you’re presented with a bet that’s so one-sidedly in your favor…… plus when you have a blueprint telling you that you cannot lose, it’d be insane not to take it. Of course, I’ve also considered the possibility that Natsuki-san might go overboard with the presentation and end up without a contract]
[Subaru: Even if you say that, without a contract…… wait, you’ve thought of that too?]
[Otto: Mhm, I did]
Otto crossed his arms nodding as if it were a matter of course. Actually, Otto had just managed to dupe Roswaal, albeit temporarily. Subaru widened his eyes at the thought of it.
Seeing Subaru like this, Otto gave a wry smile,
[Otto: Merchants use written documents all the time when more than a few agreements need to be exchanged, but…… adept magic users are the ones who’re really into contracts. And when the person is the foremost magic user in the country…… chances are he’d take the bait]
[Subaru: By the way, there’s no way he could’ve planted some secret conditions in there, right? Like, he says one thing but binds me with some other contract]
Subaru would have no way of knowing if that was the case.
The bet’s outcome was supposed to decide the future of their faction, but if the contract actually says something like “Keep breathing and you’ll die the next day”―― Subaru wouldn’t even know.
While Subaru shuddered at his own imaginings, Otto waved his hands,
[Otto: It’s designed so that that kind of trickery wouldn’t be possible. Margrave Roswaal must have said something when you two
[Subaru: You make it sound like there’s an exception if you get tricked by a play on words…]
[Otto: ……Just between you and me, before all the legal codes were in place, when the whole world was still in a more turbulent age, those kinds of scams using contracts were rampant. If the other party’s just some small-time scoundrel then it’s not too bad, but if it’s a powerful, malevolent mage who’s got his eyes on you, the consequences are unimaginable]
Otto shrank up his shoulders in fear, and Subaru also shriveled up his in agreement.
In this sense, Roswaal was a more or less passable contract partner. While he may be powerful, and certainly mean-spirited, he was more driven by his obsessions than by pure evil. It should be safe to say that he’d have no intention of abusing their contract and risk permanently falling out with Subaru.
And even if Roswaal did deceive Subaru this way―― Subaru would just use the power of his ability to rewind to utterly annihilate him heart and mind until he relented.
For both their sakes, it’d be best if nothing like that happened, so Subaru opted to keep a minimum level of trust between them.
[Subaru: Anyway, that’s what happened on my end, how did yours go?]
[Otto: How indeed… I’m not really sure, to be honest. After all, it’s pretty much a gamble in places. ……And we won’t have many chances to get it right, either]
Otto’s expression wasn’t too optimistic when referring to the task he was in charge of while Subaru was negotiating with Roswaal. Like Otto said, the task that Subaru had given him was more likely to fail than succeed, and a great deal of gambling was involved. In return, if it did succeed, it would bring them much closer to victory.
The problem is, Subaru wasn’t sure just how many more
[Subaru: Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. We better go over what we’ll need to do in the limited time we have for now]
[Otto: The most urgent business is Emilia-sama and Garfiel. Specifically, I can’t offer any help in getting Emilia-sama to beat the Trials. So that one’ll have to fall on Natsuki-san]
[Subaru: Yeah, you’re right. ……I’ll have to respect Emilia’s resolve to do it herself, and now that I’ve lost my qualifications, I can’t do it for her anymore]
Still, even if Emilia kept challenging the Trials as she had been, the chances of her clearing it by the fifth day looked dim. Emilia’s heart should be kept from breaking as long as Subaru doesn’t leave the Sanctuary, but that wouldn’t prevent it being worn down from repeatedly failing the Trials.
She needs to change somehow―― and that too, would have to fall on Subaru.
[Subaru: ――It’s about time we honestly faced each other]
[Subaru: I’ve tried to put it off in all sorts of ways. I think I’ve been running away because I didn’t want to ask her only to realize that there’s something irreconcilable between us. And I was hoping Emilia wouldn’t have to tell me, since she must also be wishing that I’d never ask her…]
[Otto: ――I believe it’s important that you tell each other what’s in your hearts. If I only knew the silly Natsuki-san you wanted me to see, I’d never have known what’d be coming in five days’ time]
As Otto said this, consoling Subaru in his self-reflection, Subaru scratched his cheek in silent gratitude. He was glad that Otto was thoughtful enough not to scold him for ignoring the issue for so long.
[Otto: Or actually, if you’ve never made it clear to each other, what’s with all this talk about liking and loving anyway? Stop pretending to be all pure and innocent already]
As they were both feeling embarrassed at that point, Otto quickly threw in a jape that made Subaru’s lips twinge. But, being hit right on the mark, there was nothing
[Subaru: I’ll be going in blind, but I’ll try to come clean with Emilia one way or another. I don’t want this to fail because I didn’t do something when I could have]
[Otto: ……Well, I’ll trust in your judgment, Natsuki-san. After all, I really don’t want to be here on the fifth day when the Great Rabbit comes]
Otto looked as if he wanted to say something else in response to Subaru’s words, but he only swallowed it back and looked away. Then, with [Now, there’s the other topic], he changed the subject,
[Otto: What do you plan to do with Garfiel?]
[Subaru: The hint is: “He’s afraid of the outside world”. It must have had something to do with what he saw in his past when he took the Trial in the Tomb. If we could just know the details……]
[Otto: Asking him directly is out of the question. He’s not the kind of temperate person who’d let just people pick his old emotional wounds]
[Subaru: And if he gets pissed off and smacks us, you and me’ll get our neckbones one-shotted. I’m becoming increasingly worried about our team combat-wise……]
Nevermind the totally-incompetent Subaru, Otto is basically just a peddler who’s been in some rough situations. They aren’t martial artists, not by a long shot, and if there was a ranking of everyone in the Sanctuary by combat ability, you’d probably find them faster if you started looking from the bottom.
[Subaru: Now that I think about it, we really need someone to fill that pure-damage-dealer position. There’s Roswaal, Emilia, Ram, and I guess Frederica too… it’s a bit of a problem for our faction that that’s all the combatants we got. So we’ll definitely need Garfiel in our ranks]
He didn’t include Rem, because bringing her out of her present condition would be the outcome of that battle.
Besides, even though he
[Subaru: We’ll coax Garfiel into joining us with eloquence and finesse. And to do that, we’ll have to clear away that trauma of his. As for the missing pieces……]
[Otto: The missing pieces……?]
[Subaru: Since we can’t ask the person himself, we’ll have to pull it from somewhere else. Lewes-san or Ram. Both feel like they’ll be tight-lipped about it]
Which side would they take, now that Subaru was going head to head with Roswaal? It’s worth a try, even if only to confirm that.
Guzzling down his breakfast and giving his butt a few pats as he stood up, Subaru clicked the bones of his neck,
[Subaru: Right then, time to get started. I’ll go try Lewes-san for now, and……]
[Otto: I’ll get on with my end as well…… I’ll pass the word to the others, though I’d prefer if we could get through this without having to use it]
[Subaru: I don’t wanna think about it, either. I don’t, but…… I get the feeling that the chances’re seventy, eighty percent that we’ll end up relying on it……]
[Otto: That’s pretty high…… though I can’t deny it]
They glanced at each other with a sigh, and Subaru shook his head to pull himself together.
Then, facing the still deflated-looking Otto, Subaru held up his hand,
[Subaru: Anyway, all that’s left is to do it. Once all of this is beautifully brought to an end, we’ll drink a grand toast to celebrate]
Saying this, Subaru stretched out his palm as if to show it to Otto. For a moment, Otto seemed to have difficulty understanding, but, apparently catching on to Subaru’s meaning, he held up his palm as well,
[Otto: Right, for the sake of my dazzling future as well, let’s give it our best shot]
[Subaru: You said it]
Sharing a mischievous smile, their palms struck together.
The crisp sound resonated through the airy Cathedral, and, amid the gazes of the surprised villagers, Subaru and Otto turned, with each to the other’s back, and began to walk.