Chapter 13 – Re:Do Return (Part 1)
June 18, 2019, 12:05PM
Akihabara, Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
“Subaru-kun?” A familiar sky blue-haired girl in her signature maid outfit had made her way over to tend to the perplexed familiar slicked back black haired boy that had desperately tried to wrap his head around the things that had lead to this stir of events. The girl, had in turn, given glances around at the enormous structures that had shrouded the landscape around them. Many of them featuring a myriad of billboards, posters, signs, and various other exterior designs had dotted every single street within viewing. It was almost mystifying. “Where in the world are we?”
“Rem...” Subaru had uttered out, as he tried to compose himself, while simultaneously tracing back the events that had lead them both up to here. ‘Think back Subaru, think… I was riding along with Emilia and Petra after defeating the White Whale and Petelgeuse, along with the injured from the Crusch camp and Otto. Rem in the meantime had stayed behind to help out Crusch. I was in the middle of confessing what Rem had said to me to Emilia-tan about her feelings when all of a sudden we- That’s right! We were attacked by giant demonic looking guys in black armor! Next thing I know, I found myself here! But how?!’
Subaru had panicked as he hastily scanned the crowd around them for Emilia and Petra. Rem’s hands had enveloped Subaru’s, startling him out of his bewildered state as she tended to him. The crowds around them had started to notice their presence as many had started to comment on the characters they were currently ‘cosplaying.’
“Wow, that Rem cosplayer is beautiful! I wonder what type of makeup she had used to make herself look like that.” One girl had commented on, as she galvanized over Rem’s appearance.
“Huh? So it wasn’t just a random cosplayer from a maid-cafe?” Another guy had added clearly not familiar with the series Re:Zero, as people had shook their head in confirmation. Others were still captivated by Rem’s appearance, while some started taking pictures of them. Clearly inappropriate for Japanese etiquette.
This had drawn an addled facial expression out of the both of them, an unsettling feeling running down Subaru’s spine. ‘Cosplay?! What the hell are they talking about?! I mean it’s understandable why they’d think she’s cosplaying due to her maid outfit since this appears to be Akihabara. But they had said that she looks like Rem.’ A unnerving thought had crossed his mind as his eyes had set on the Gamers billboard donning outside a large familiar retail store that Subaru is accustomed to. ‘Don’t tell me…!’
“Subaru-kun, these people seem to be staring intensely at us. Did we do something that had upset them?” Rem had whispered as Subaru started tugging at her hand to follow him.
“I’m pretty sure that's not what’s they’re concerned about. In any case, come with me! We’re swimming in open shark waters out here.” Subaru had candidly suggested. Tugging on Rem hand, Rem being slightly perplexed, but then sequentially a soft smile had donned her face as she had nodded along in agreement. She would follow Subaru to the ends of the world even it meant dying for him. The bystanders around them had scattered as continued going about their business seeing that they weren’t busking as the duo had made their way into the comic retail store.
“Welcome valued customer!” The cashier in the manga section of the retail department had greeted them. Subaru had decided to approach the boy with a sharp dead-fish gaze, slightly catching the clerk off-guard. It wasn’t until Rem had stepped into the store that the boy had soften his gaze towards his customers. “What can I do for you?”
Subaru in turn, had gravitated over to where Rem was standing as he had put a firm grip on her shoulders, sternly glaring at the dark haired youth. “Yo, do you by chance recognize the character that my friend here is cosplaying? You see, we just happen to come across a cosplay store on our way here to buy some manga from another popular series. And they just happen to have given us these outfits as a gift. My friend here had insisted on wanting to know more about the character. Things had happened and we found ourselves here.” Subaru had lied, obliquely eyeing the cashier while he posed himself out as a cool guy. Rem on the other hand has gaped perplexedly at the faux inquiry, as she had mutely scanned her uncharted surroundings. The boy in turn had clapped his hands together in acknowledgment as he addressed his customer’s request.
“Ah of course, aren’t you both cosplaying as Natsuki Subaru and Rem from the series Re:Zero - Starting Life in Another World? It’s one our top Isekai/Tensei series we feature here aside from all the Shonen anthologies and other doujin manga that comes through our inventory. You can kind them in the R-Z section of our light novel and manga section out in the back.” The cashier had revealed, exhibiting a bit of his otaku tendencies as he skimmed through a map of the department store’s layout. Subaru had nodded along in acknowledgment as conflicting emotions had stirred within him. ‘I don’t like where this is heading at all! If what I had assumed is true, where does that put us in the grand scheme of things?!’
“I see, thank you very much.” Subaru had acknowledged, bowing before swiftly turning on his heel and heading into the midst of the store. It was quite crowded seeing as to how it was nearly 12:15 in the afternoon, but that didn’t halt Subaru in his tracks as he wanted to confirm his assumption once and for all. Rem had grown worried about the sudden shift in Subaru’s demeanor as he had gripped tighter onto her hands. “Stick close to me, alright? Akihabara tends to draw all sorts of perverts from out of the woodworks. It’s still not as bad as Shibuya, but we can never be caught off-guard.” Subaru had elucidated, eyeing what was essentially a geek haven for the outcasts of society. Rem in turn, had nodded as they made their way through the assortment of manga and light novels that were featured on the first floor of the shop.
“If Subaru-kun think that that’s the best choice, then I’ll have no complaints.”
To say that Rem was not inclined to fascination by the vast array of colorful craftsmanship and literature had been an understatement. The commerce literature section that she had navigated through together with Subaru had exhibited otherworldly characteristics that would be impossible to conceive given Lugnica’s technology without some sort of magic infused within it. Yet the realm she had traversed had blown her mind. The questions that she wanted to ask Subaru had piled up faster than a Forza Lobby at the beginning of a match. But it would be best to let Subaru answer her questions seeing as to how he seemed accustomed to this environment. She had even found some of the merchandise cute in their own regard. Subaru on the other hand was shocked by how blatantly some of the manga titles seemed to plagiarize the works that he was accustomed to in his original world.
“Shingeki no Kyojin, Dragon Ball, One Piece, what the hell is up with all of these mainstream rip-off titles?” Subaru had muttered, marked by discreet irritability as he scanned a display rack near the middle of the store. He had picked up a random One Piece manga that should have been named One Peace in his original world. Skimming through it had revealed that it had differed exponentially as well. ‘Never-mind, it’s nothing like the manga I had read in my original world.’ He had mused to himself relieved, yet curious.
Shoving his thoughts to the side, he had relocated his efforts on making his way through the store towards the R-Z section with Rem in hand. Curious and captivated onlookers had shared glances at the beautiful maid, not realizing that she was the genuine article in the flesh. However, they had kept their distance from seeking her out because it was made apparent that she already had someone accompanying her. Subaru had noticed this, indiscreetly reveling in his own victory from the sense that he had one upped all the others.
"Subaru-kun, slow down a little. Can you tell me what's wrong?" Rem had asked, as Subaru had turned a solemn gaze towards her, which caught her off guard. The eyes he had bared were filled with emptiness that Rem had known all too well in the past. The eyes of someone who did not want to return to their origins.
"Rem, I don't think we're in Lugnica anymore..." Subaru had let out, as harsh memories from his past before coming to the Land of the Dragon God had flooded his mind. Rem had gasped at the revelation, yet it was made all too apparent to her as she had eyed the architecture and miscellaneous items around her. Subaru’s gaze had shifted over to one of the advertisement TVs featured rolling endless anime and manga ads across it. “This place is nothing but a cesspit that brings back bad memories and dashed hopes.” He had added, before his face lit up again in perseverance. “Enough of that, the thing we’re looking for might be around this corner here.” Subaru had added jubilantly, much to Rem’s dismay.
‘Subaru-kun… There are many secrets you have kept from me and Emilia-sama, yet why won’t you open up to us?’ Rem had reminisced, growing worried for him as they rounded a corner of large shelf like foundation that featured a kaleidoscope of paintings and artwork. Subaru quickly scanned the merchandise, as he came across a multitude of (Re) titles.
“Re:Creators, ReLife, oh there it is...” Subaru had picked up the manga named Re:Zero, soaking in the cover art. ‘Is that supposed to be Emilia-tan on the cover? Damn, she’s super cute in anime form. Well to be honest, she’s already cute as hell in person but 2D is on a league of its own.’ Subaru had pondered, almost foaming at the mouth from his undying affection for Emilia. But not before a small feeling of agitation had overcome his being. ‘Yet, why do I feel angry at seeing this as well?’
Rem had stood close to him and had peaked over Subaru’s shoulder to the a very familiar and distinct portrait of who appeared to be Emilia on the cover. “Subaru-kun, is that a portrait of Emilia-sama on the cover of that book that you are holding?”
Subaru had turned to her with an earnest nod, yet agitation had slightly donned on his face. He proceeded to start flipping through the pages of the manga, as he had scowled at his character design, and a scene depicting him dying exactly the way he vividly remembered it. “It appears so…” He had paused for a second, letting out a stressful sigh as he decided to address his confirmed theory.
“Rem, there’s something big going on that you need to know. In this world you and I…” He had paused again as hesitance had overcome him, concern and confusion formed on Rem’s face. “Apparently we’re both fictional characters from a fictional story in this world. Like in those children’s fairy tales you used to read as a kid about a hero being summoned to fight a great evil.” Subaru had confessed, trying his best to explain the concept that they were just anime/manga characters all along without confusing her too much.
“… Huh?” Rem had croaked out, a small amount dread seeping into her being as Subaru had carried on. “What does Subaru-kun mean by that?”
“I know it sounds like nonsense, but hear me out. We aren’t supposed to exist in this world. Or at least, I don’t think so...” Subaru had cryptically added, but it was clear as daylight that he wasn’t explaining himself properly to Rem. “Here, let me think of a good analogy to explain it… Oh, this is a good one. Think of an Appa tree during the middle of harvest season. You puck it off the tree and slice it up to eat it. After thoroughly enjoying the fruit, you see the seeds in the middle of it. A thought comes across you and you decide that you want to grow yourself more of that delicious fruit. You go and gather the farming utilities that you want to use to help it grow properly as if you were tending a garden. As you cultivate and tend to that tree everyday, your efforts are reached and you finally have yourself a healthy tree that grows the same type of appas for you to enjoy. But they’re not the same appas from the original tree, yet they exhibit the same features within it.”
“So are you comparing those appas trees to alternate worlds, and assuming that this world we’re currently seeing is an alternate world? There were some books that featured characters that crossed dimensions or even transcended into the realm of the gods. Even that accursed witch had tales that showed her malignant journeys across multiple dimensions. But those were nothing but mere fantasies to juggle your mind with. What I’m seeing around me, on the other hand, is definitely real to all my five senses. Yet everything around me seems so fictitious that it feels surreal.” Rem had concluded, coming to realization that they were in an entirely new world as if it wasn’t already apparent enough. Luckily, no one seemed to be snooping in on their conversation.
“That’s right, now you’re catching on to what I’m saying. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. You see, that parent tree happens to be the origin of all creation in itself. When that tree bares fruit, the seeds are planted for spontaneous generations of fruit. In other words, alternate timelines/universes are sprung into life from the original timeline and this world happens to be the root of our existence. Our life was nothing more than a sham.” Subaru had added, a sad smile exhibiting his face as it had dawned on him that he was a fictional character all along, along with all of those he had grown close to as of lately. Rem had decided to add her own opinion on the matter.
“Subaru-kun, you dummy.” Rem had mischievously scolded, as she had bopped Subaru across the forehead. Subaru giving her a perplexed look in return. “Why should that matter at the end of the day? Subaru-kun is here with me, in the flesh and blood, sparking all five of my senses into the heavens. That alone makes me happy. Even if we’re both just characters from some dumb book, who’s to say that my love for you isn’t the genuine article? Even if what you are saying is true, shouldn’t we use it as an opportunity to start a new life? Free from the shackles of whatever fate was lying in wait for us?” Rem had hurled at him, eliciting a cute pout at the fact that Subaru was trying to wrap his head around the grim reality that everything was a sham. Subaru had gave into the endearing gesture as a warm smile had donned his face. He had unknowingly placed a finger on a certain panel that depicted Subaru calling Emilia her by the accursed pseudonym she had first used to introduce herself only for her to get very angry. Going about his way to try to amend to Rem.
“It isn’t so bad when you put it like that, but it isn’t that simple. You see, there many secret I’ve been holding back from all of you. Some are small, others scale the tallest of mountains, too many to keep track of. It was hard, frustrating, agonizing even…” Subaru had uttered out, as Rem had lent him an ear while embracing him tightly and patting his hair. Some of the customers around them had noticed their bonding, finding the duo cute as they continued about their business. Subaru had noticed the seemingly flirtatious gesture and immediately drew some distance between each other.
“We shouldn’t be doing this here, a lot of people are staring at us.” Subaru had stated, as Rem had glanced around at the onlookers who’s gazes and glares had immediately shifted straight back into their books. “In any case, I wanted to show the book that we had apparently come from.” Subaru had stammered out, as Rem eyes had fixed on the manga Subaru was holding within his hands. “I haven’t read through its contents thoroughly yet. However, I pretty much know all there is about this manga since its told from my perspective apparently. And rather some pretty terrible scenes confirm as much.”
“Subaru-kun...” Rem had softly spoke out, deciding hold off on asking about those ‘terrible scenes’ he had mentioned. “Not that I want to be rude or anything, but I can’t read what that books says. The artwork is pretty though.” She had confessed, as Subaru’s eyes had widened at the obvious revelation.
“Ahhh, that was stupid of me! Of course you wouldn’t be able to read my language.” Subaru had exclaimed, mentally facepalming himself much to Rem’s befuddlement. It was the same scenario for him when he had first come into Lugnica with no money and no game.
“Your language? So is this where Subaru is originally from?” Rem had alluded, drawing a hesitant nod from Subaru. He had glanced over to some of the various posters lining the walls of the shop, Rem simultaneously doing the same.
“You could say that. Although even I am not as familiar with these parts of the country as you think I am. You see, from where I hail from is a city called Kōriyama up far north from here. It’s quite a well developed city that is easy to settle in. It has its own set of traditions that they follow, and has various shrines to pray to. But I don’t know if that’s the case anymore.” Subaru had revealed, as Rem had ingested the disconcerting information, citing that there was a possibility that Subaru did not have a home to return to. Subaru on the other, had sifted through his pockets for the loose change he had always carried with him since being summoned to Lugnica along with his phone. ‘Damnit, not enough change to even buy a drink.’ He had glanced over to his phone that he placed in his left hand. ‘Although this might fetch us a pretty penny if I trade it in. Besides, our stomachs aren’t going to fill themselves. Going to the police might be a bad idea right now, unless if worse comes to worst. So for now, we’ll see if we can stay over at a net-cafe near here for the night. Then after that, find Emilia... Last thing I would want to do is try out my return by death, and kill Rem in the process. Frankly, that idea is so outlandish, it disgusts me.’
Satisfied with his improvised plan, Subaru had carefully set the book down back into the allotment of manga. Reminiscing about all the times that he and his dad had come to buy various sorts of gadgets and commodities in the Tokyo Prefecture. Akihabara was the most endowed of them all, as his father would gallantly sensationalize everything he would come across in reverence like a goffer. He would thoroughly explain every nook and cranny of a book he would come across or even the significance of certain traditional hallmarks. Needless to say, his dad’s significant otaku knowledge had certainly helped him in this time of need as Subaru had nearly swept up Rem off her feet. Rem on the other hand had been shocked by Subaru’s starkness, but then smiled as she had noted the confident look Subaru had always expressed on his face.
“I know a good place around here to get us some quick money. Don’t worry, it won’t involve us doing some shady business, I guarantee it. Otherwise, I would be too ashamed to show you anything about this world’s customs. And besides, we’ll probably need a place to stay for the night as well.” Subaru had added, as slight blush had crawled on Rem’s face. Subaru upon realizing the slight innuendo, had sputtered out flusteredly to correct himself. “Ahh, I didn’t mean it like that… I just wanted us to not have to sleep outside and err…”
“Subaru-kun, that’s good enough for me. Like I said before, if you think that that’s an appropriate measure, than by any means carry through with it. I’ll follow your lead like I always do.” With that, both the duo had made their way out the door of the Gamers comic book store and onto the street from where they came from. Subaru had honestly felt bad for looking through their inventory and not buying any of their manga, but priorities were priorities. Besides, he needed more information and money in order to find out how exactly they had found themselves in Subaru’s original world.
“Rem, I wanted to ask before, so I can try to piece things together to us finding ourselves here. Prior to us arriving here, did the Crusch camp and her little army happen to have a run in with anyone along the way? Like giant armored men, or something like that?” Subaru had inquired, as Rem eyes had widen at the revelation that Subaru had a similar confrontation to her.
“Subaru-kun did as well?” Rem had sputtered, distraught by the fact that she couldn’t protect Subaru from the armored demons that had appeared before them. Her eyes started to tear up as she fell into despair from her failures. Subaru had desperately tended to her in response, trying to settle her down. “I’m sorry… I couldn’t protect you when you needed me the most.”
“Rem, it’s alright. There was nothing you could do about it to begin with. Besides, I don’t remember anything after I caught a glimpse of them.” Subaru had asserted while patting her head, but then wallowed in his own set of conflicting feelings. “Frankly, this whole ordeal has taken a toll on me as well. But it looks like I’m back home for now, hopefully for the better.” Eventually, Rem had composed herself from her tearful exchange as the duo had set voyage to a pawn shop that was just around the corner to the north of them called UQ spot. Of course, their walk go not go untamed without the intense judging eyes of the people around them. ‘Of course people would stare at us and get jealous when they see a less than attractive guy like me together with a beautiful girl such as Rem. That’s how modern society works these days.’ Rem on the other hand had been captivated by the endless amount of vehicles traversing the streets of Akihabara
“Subaru-kun, how exactly are those carriages moving if they’re not being pulled by a land-dragon?” She had asked, pulling Subaru back from the roots of his incessant imagination as he pictured being in the shoes of those people. His hand hovered over his chin in contemplation as he decided to address her question.
“Hmmm, think of a watermill endlessly spinning in a river from the currents of water, no magic by the way.” Subaru had briefed, pausing for a second to formulate his thoughts. “You know how that currents hitting the watermill helps create power to help spin the grain or lumber mill next to it?” Rem had nodded, as she kept listening intently to Subaru’s lecture.
“Well, imagine attaching that watermill to the back of a boat, magically being powered by the currents in the river to spin the mill which are attached to a bunch of rows to help it move without any man power. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but imagine the mill and the rows specifically aligned on the boat to make it move faster through a combined effort. Replace those rows with wheels, give the ‘carriage’ the added weight of a few hundred stones for the mill at the front to power it and you basically have the general concept of what a ‘car engine’ is. I know it isn’t the best explanation, but once we get accustomed here, I will show you basically how our world works. You might want to have an open mind for it though since the era you come from is drastically different than the world we’re currently in.” Subaru had explained, as Rem had absorbed the information albeit still confused by the arbitrary explanation at the end.
“Oh I see, it’s still a rather mysterious invention much like the things surrounding us.” Rem had idly stated. ‘Although, Subaru-kun’s life is still much more mysterious than anything this world may have to offer.’ She had pondered observably, yearning to know more about Subaru’s life in this world.
“You can say that again...” Subaru had added, adapting to modern society yet again after being away from it for so long. “Oh, it’s right there! Let’s go check them out.”
They had filed through the store that seemed reasonably business as an older aged salesman had approached them to tend to his customers. He had donned a blue dress shirt, beige khaki pants, and black dress shoes, blatantly screaming professionalism. “Welcome, what can I get for the two of you?” He had introduced himself, politely offering his business card as a courtesy. Subaru had kindly accepted the gesture started to mention to very reason for coming here in the first place.
“Actually, I would like to see if I could trade this in for money?” He had asked, not mentioned any more details than necessary. Rem had kept quiet, as her eyes had idly wandered through the collection of metias out on display. Finding the devices fascinating in their own regard, however none in her mind would come close to Subaru’s metia.
“Ahh, let me get my senpai to help you out. He’s the one who deals with these sorts of things.” He had stated, before going over to the counter and out through a door at the front. A minute later, and a middle aged man had exited through the same door, donning similar attire much like all the other employees only with a tie and a name tag with the name Sotatsu inscribed onto it.
“My kouhai says you’re here to trade something in, no? What do you have?” The man had contended, Subaru sub-sequentially handed his flip phone over to him, but not long before the formerly composed man had gawked at it.
“You… Do you know how much these things are worth in the market?!” Sotatsu had exclaimed, drawing out a timid and befuddled reaction out of Subaru.
“Ummm, I have no idea. I just came across it one day because I really needed a phone, and I’ve had it ever since.” Subaru had conjured up, in reality it was a hand-me-down from his father at the time. Since he’s never been popular at his former school, he found no reason to replace it. Nowadays, it’s more of a keepsake to the modern world. Now, he’s given no option but to trade it in for money. However, Subaru was taken aback by the man’s sudden rash reaction, signaling that it might have been worth some money.
“I’ll buy it off your hands for 300,000 yen! Please, make the deal with us!” Sotatsu had pleaded, shocking the daylights out of Subaru. ‘Holy crap, that’s more than I ever expected, that’s enough to get us by for at least 2 months!’ Subaru had pondered, leaving no room for argument as he quickly made up his mind.
“Deal!” Subaru had reached out to shake hands in acknowledgment. He shook his hands with the salesperson, before the older man proceeded to indiscreetly celebrate. The man had quickly handed over the cash over to Subaru as he galvanized over having so much money at once. Rem had noticed this, eliciting a wary glance.
“Subaru-kun, you should be careful about making trades with people. Even if it’s for the sake of us surviving in this new world, at least consider the worth of your original keepsakes for future reference.” Rem had softy chided, Subaru on the hand stood firm on his decision.
“It’s fine, a phone is speck of dust in comparison to the world that is you.” Subaru had obliviously added. A blush had formed on Rem’s face as she cherished and repeated the compliment within her head.
“I’m so happy that you think of me like that.” She had uttered to no one in particular but it seemed that Subaru had picked up on her voice.
“Huh, what did you say?” He had added perplexedly, disregarding how close the two were to each other.
“Nothing in particular…” She had stated, as they made their way over to one of the local net-cafes to book for the night via a local guide. Something in particular had dawned on Subaru as he realized the benefits of going to a net-cafe. ‘Wait a minute, computers! That means I would have the entire world at my finger tips! Gosh, I’m such an idiot for not realizing it sooner! It must be because I might have been stuck in that other world for too long that I’ve forgotten my original Otaku roots!’ A grin had crawled on his face at his own revelation. Rem had noticed his shift in tone, but not before hearing a low grumbling sound emanating from someone’s abdomen region.
“It wasn’t me...” She had whimpered, embarrassed by the fact that she might have let out such an unladylike sound. However, Subaru in turn had shook his head at the gesture.
“Sorry, it was me… What do you say we get something to eat first before we head to the place we’re stay the night at? Then after that, let's see if we can find Emilia-tan and Petra.” Subaru had suggested, a soft yet slightly embarrassed smile had beamed on Rem’s face in turn. However, her smile had slightly fell at the mention of Emilia.
“Yeah, let’s do that...” Rem had yielded, as they ventured through the streets with no apparent goal at mind besides trying to get by with what they had and finding the others. Little did they know that someone from the Mage’s Association was tracking their every move, however, these covert operatives weren’t the only ones tracking them as various other shadow elements had taken up the precarious task as well. The MA agent would have to get to them first before any of the others get their hands on them. Even if it means directly confronting the other elements through lethal force.