"Please choose me!"
He heard his voice, the desperation in it.
"If you choose me, I'll give you all that I have!"
There he was again, begging, wanting, hoping for everything to go smoothly. It seems to be the only thing he could do at all. Weak, powerless, unable to change a single thing.
He stared at the concrete ground, and kept his body bending forward, his hand outstretched offering, proposing. Yet he dare not look her in the eye. At least not yet, for fear of her reaction, fear of her response, her rejection.
"Run away with me! Live with me!" He shut his eyes closed, bracing himself for the worst.
The events leading up to this. It felt like an endurance, a harsh cold run to the next checkpoint. The witch cultists, the attack on the village, Rem's vanishing act and Emilia dying in his hands. A challenge he failed to complete due not entirely to the cruelty of it, but also partly to a broken will. He had finally... given up.
"Subaru-kun..." He heard her call his name with her soft, gentle voice and instantly looked up with a hopeful expression on his face.
Her hands were clasped together, resting in the middle. The maid outfit she wore, slightly rumpled by their earlier run. Her short, blue hair covered an eye, while the other was visible by a pink string tied into a shape of a flower, parting it open. And in it he sees not happiness, not joy, nor her usual soft stare. Instead sadness replaced these emotions. The look she gave already answered his question.
"I cannot run away with you. Because, we're supposed to laugh together as we talk about the future, remember?" She said, eyes glistening with tears as she gave a sorrowful smile.
Subaru struggled to find his voice, the words making a resounding impact on him. He directed those same words to her not long ago. Though right now, it seemed ages since that day. If this were a different time, under different circumstances, maybe then he would have found the words to say to her.
"We can't... do that anymore."
He found himself once again staring at the ground, afraid to look at her.
There was silence. The only thing audible was the dragon-drawn carriages rolling in the streets, the chirping of doves atop ancient pillars, and trying to block it out, Rem's own weeping.
"What's wrong?" She choked, a hand wiping away the tears. "Has something happened that I have not been aware of?"
He dared not peek, or even respond. As much as he wanted to tell her, to let it all out. He couldn't, not after what had happened in that forest, in another life. Instead, he kept his gaze to the floor, pretending not to hear.
"What's troubling you? Please tell me, I'll fix it. Anything that's worrying you at all, even the most trivial of problems, tell me! And I promise I'll do all I can to solve it. Anything that's got you upset, I'll get rid of it! Tell me please... What has made you... look so sad?"
How tempted he was to shout, to scream, to tell her everything. He was on the verge of it, if he hadn't gritted his teeth and tighten his lips, he might already have. Both fist clenched tightly at his sides, fingernails threatening to break skin. He needed confirmation, so he could finally move on.
"You won't come with me?" Subaru muttered, barely audible enough to be heard.
Rem shook her head, tears continuing to fall.
"I can't do that, Subaru-kun. I simply can't."
Though he was prepared, it didn't help cushion the blow. Rem, his companion, the only one who stood by him, who saved him time and time again, rejecting him. It was too much...
He ran. Down the steps and into the streets, not caring who or what he pushed out of his way. He has had enough.
As he ran, so did Rem. Chasing him, progressively faster with each second, calling out to him till her voice grew hoarse. Through wide open roads, sidewalks and into alleyways, she persisted. Yet Subaru did not stop. Words continued to be shouted but he forced himself to be deaf to it all.
A stack of boxes came into view, his hand reached out to it and pulled it down, toppling it over with a loud crash, before sprinting around a corner.
He took a second to assess the situation and found himself out on wide open street again. Carriage after carriage filled the busy street, making it near impossible to traverse the road unscathed. He looked back, saw Rem gaining on him and ran across.
The sounds of roaring ground dragons screeching to a halt, shouting agitated drivers and the exclaiming voices of citizens scattered across the air, but he barely paid notice as he reached the other end, miraculously unharmed. He resumed, now heaving and panting. The crowd's bewilderment and shock was shifted from the chaos on the road to something soaring in the air, Subaru followed their gazes and saw Rem, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, following him from above, covering huge distances with each jump.
Subaru knew she was faster than him, more agile and strong. It was only a matter of time till she caught up to him and forced to face her once again. He didn't need that, what he needed was to leave the capital without being noticed. And to do that, he needed an obstruction, something to keep them apart.
He turned to another alley, and behind him, Rem landed with ease and continued chasing without a hint of wear. Dismayed by this, Subaru ran even faster, adrenaline surging throughout his body, but did little in helping.
Nearing the end of the alley, Rem was now only inches away from Subaru, her arm outstretched, reaching for his tracksuit. Closer, fingertips barely brushing against his back, her hand opened to grasp...
Then she was halted. Her arm reaching through the gaps of metal bars, the other rattling the gate that stopped her. Subaru pulled out the key that locked the exit of the alley and threw it on the ground, breathing hard, a madden glare in his eyes. He stepped back, looking up, and confirmed the brick wall above the gate was high enough to prevent her from jumping through.
"Don't run, please... Don't run away from me." She said, both hands now grasping the bars tightly.
He returned to her, and saw tears rolling down her cheeks, desperation plastered across her beautiful face. Guilt struck his insides but still Subaru refused to open the gate.
"I'm going, Rem. Don't follow me." He said, giving a weak attempt at an apologetic smile, his eyebrows curving upwards. "See you."
He made to turn back, but Rem's voice grew louder and more frantic, earning the attention of nearby onlookers.
"Please! Don't leave-Come! We can go back... We can see Emillia-sama if you want! I'm sure she'd want to see you as well, just don't go-please don't go! Don't go Subaru! Please! I'm begging you..."
Her words turned to stifled sobs, her hands sliding downwards across the bars as she collapsed on her knees. But Subaru wasn't there to see it, already walking away.
Past the belligerent muttering of glaring bystanders, past a waiter looking through a window in a restaurant beside the alley, past everything that stood in his way. Until he can hear her cry no more. A pang of guilt wracked through his heart once again and lifted a hand, clutching his own chest tightly, ignoring the pain of pinched skin.
"You happy now, you stupid witch?" He growled silently. "I'm giving up... You win." Then walked to wherever his feet may take him.
He had time to contemplate his plan. He would move to another country, work as a laborer and save enough money to live by himself. As his education was limited, manual work was the only way he could earn a living. But for the rest of his life in this world?
"Ye called kid? Waddaya need from me?"
He looked up, rows and rows of parked carriages filled the area, a shed housing ground dragons nearby, a wooden building right beside it, the door opening wide every few minutes, yawning traders and merchants emerging from the inside, seeking the nearest inn for a much desired rest. In front of him, a muscular old man who Subaru guessed to be the manager stood to face him.
"Uh... Is there a carriage heading to Kararagi?" Subaru asked, dusting the dirt off his pants as he stood up, having sat against a fence.
The old man gave his dirt-ridden beard a scratch.
"Kararagi eh? You pick a bad time goin' there now. Nearin' evening already, likely the witch cult bargin' in than another carriage at this time. What's more, ain't been a passenger carriage headin' there in a long time nowadays."
Subaru's heart sank.
"Please... I'm desperate, Isn't there something, anything at all?"
The old man gave a sigh and turned to look around, Subaru followed his gaze.
They were beside the only entrance and exit to the capital, a high wall stretching towards the sky stood meters away from them surrounding the city and its people. Right beside them, the road leading in and out was empty of travelers.
"Alright..." Said the man. "Tell yer what. There's a trader inside the shed over there headin' fer Kararagi in a bit. Ask 'im if you can hitch a ride."
"Huh? For free?" Said Subaru, suddenly gaining newfound energy by the news.
"It's up to 'im if he's gonna charge yer or not. It ain't an official carriage so I can't just ask yer fer money. Be wary thou', trader's do anythin' for a bit more of this-" He rubbed his middle and forefinger against his thumb in a greedy fashion. "-Wouldn't be surprised if he charged ya twenty silver coins fer a ride.
Subaru nodded, a little disappointed. The old man turned back, wished him luck, and walked back into the wooden house, slamming the door shut behind him. Leaving Subaru to walk over to the shed alone and without a description on who he was supposed to be looking for.
Inside, Subaru took extra precaution to avoid stepping on both heads and tails. Loud drawling roars occasionally broke the silence, many dragons asleep, some awake, droopy-eyed, their slumbered disturbed by the light that shone through the giant door that gave a loud creak when Subaru opened to get in. His eyes took time to adjust to the darkness, scanning the room for any shaped that resembled a person.
He thought he spotted something at the end of the room and made his way towards it, tip toeing along the way. Once he got closer, he could now more easily make out the silhouette of a crouching figure in the corner, picking away at what seemed to be a horseshoe.
Subaru pretended to clear his throat, an attempt to make his presence notice. But if the stranger was aware, he gave no sign indicating that he did, continuing to scrape off dirt as if having heard nothing at all.
"Umm... I was told you could help me." Subaru said, his voice suggesting uncertainty.
The stranger stopped.
"With what?" Asked a voice a little more than a whisper.
"If it isn't a bother, is it alright if I rode with you to Kararagi? Really need to get there fast, I'm actually being chased believe it or not." He added as an afterthought, hoping the stranger could sense the urgency in his voice enough to consider helping him.
The stranger picked up another horseshoe by his side and resumed scraping, silently pondering over a decision. Or at least Subaru hoped, as he stood there continuing to gawk over awkwardly.
After a while, the stranger's lips moved again.
"What's your offer?"
"What's your offer, I said." The stranger repeated.
"Oh, yeah... My offer... right... Let's see here..."
His hands covered the entirety of his tracksuit, pretending to search. Subaru had nothing to give, he'd been banking on the fact that the trader would be kind enough to have a hitchhiker on board free of charge. But before he could curse himself of his naivety, however, he felt a bump near his chest and pulled out a flip phone. Seeing it, he mentally punched himself for not having thought of it sooner.
"I offer you this metia." He proclaimed, holding it out to present it. "It's a one of a kind rarity. With the ability to capture and store any moment in time with just a click of a button. If it were sold, you'd get around twenty silver coins in one fell swoop, perhaps even more if you're lucky. What do you say? Good deal, no?"
The silence that followed brought a sense of nervousness to Subaru's mind, fearing a declination of some kind. His arm was beginning to tire stretching it out for so long as was the fake smile he had on. He pictured himself begrudgingly and tirelessly walking the grassy plain towards Kararagi, barely there before collapsing to the ground of exhaustion. This thought he did his best to stamp out of his head.
"Alright, give it here." Said the trader after an excruciating long moment that lasted eons, reaching his hand out towards Subaru, whom instantly placed it onto the open palm in front of him.
"Go wait in the carriage. First one on the left as you exit."
Subaru gladly obliged, relief coursing through the pit in his stomach.
Inside the carriage, the smell of freshly picked appas strongly envelopes Subaru's nostrils. The dragonless carriage filled to the brim with sacks of them, leaving barely enough room for Subaru to sit down on, and even then, it was still uncomfortable.
He sat there, waiting, he got up to peek outside, seeing the sun sink lower and lower beyond the orange horizon, casting shadows over the old decrepit buildings. The streets now barren with the bustle of crowds, now replaced with the mutters of a few evening greetings and the occasional rumbling of a sole carriage.
Twice he did this, one shortly after boarding, and another half an hour later. And twice he found no sign of the trader emerging out. He was left twiddling his thumbs away, constantly tempted to bite a chunk out of a nearby appa to ease the ever growing pang in his stomach.
He gave a look of indignation towards the doors of the shed, as if thinking his irritation might telepathically compel the trader to walk out with an apology ready. But when nothing happened, he got up, pulled the ragged curtain away and was about to jump down, if not for a small fleeting glimpse out the corner of his eye of what was unmistakably a tuft of bright blue hair entering a wooden house as the door swung to close.
Subaru stared, wide-eyed and in shock. How was he found so quickly? There were in all together, four carriage outpost in the capital city, and he made sure to pick the one with the longest route. Even if she were to search through all of them, what were the chances of her picking this as the first? And so fast?
The carriage gave a creak as he stepped back in, crouching down behind a sack of appas, an eye peeking out through a small gap in between the curtains, a slit of light filtering through.
He heard the door open and held his breath. Footsteps were heard, growing louder with each step, the sound of treaded dirt kept in time with his own heartbeat which was pounding through his eardrums. The footsteps stopped, a few feet away from the carriage. Then he heard a sniff.
"Ever the sniffer huh, Rem?" Subaru whispered.
The curtains swiped open and the carriage groaned and buckled under the sudden pressure placed upon it. Shoes met the wooden floorboard with a large thud, shaking the cart slightly. Subaru sat motionless, sweat trickling down the pores of his forehead. He'd been found; feeling her penetrating gaze through the sack of appas.
He didn't respond, nor did he come out, rooted to the spot.
"Why do you this to yourself?"
Her voice. There wasn't any anger or resentment in it, only sadness.
"I'm tired, Rem. I can't do it anymore... Running all around, unable to do a single thing. Forced to watch by the sidelines as everything I care for gets destroyed." Subaru replied, his hands now wrapped around his knees. "It's pathetic as hell."
"I can help you. I want to help you, if you'd only just tell me what to do... I'll do it." Rem responded, inching closer to the sack that hid Subaru.
"You've done enough. More than enough, more than I could ever pay back."
"What do you mean?" She inquired, now standing overhead the sack.
Subaru didn't respond. He felt the sack being lifted and a moment later, felt Rem standing right behind him.
"Let's go home, Subaru-kun. This is enough."
There was no more affection in her voice, becoming more stern and strict.
"I'm not leaving without you."
"Or what?" Subaru got up and turned to face her, her eyes swollen and red. "You're going to hit me on my neck and carry me back?"
Surprise flickered across her face but vanished as soon as it came.
"If it comes down to it." She said.
Subaru stared at her.
"You don't mean that." He whispered.
Rem fell silent, her eyes locking with Subaru's glare.
"I know, you know." Said Subaru after a while.
"I know you didn't trust me at all when I first arrived at the mansion. Suspicious of me, weren't you? Thought of me as an enemy of some kind. Working for the witch, maybe. I bet you were planning my death the moment I stepped foot in there."
"That's not true!" Rem exclaimed, abandoning her stern act.
"Not true huh? Who's scent did you follow to get here then?" He challenged.
"I don't see the point in-"
He hadn't meant to shout, but it was already too late. Rem didn't deserve this, he knew that. But still he couldn't help it, and here he is now. Scowling at her, her eyes welling up with tears once again.
"I'm leaving Lugunica whether you like it or not, Rem. And I'm never coming back. Don't bother me ever again." He said, turning away from her.
Rem continued to stare at Subaru, threatening to burst into tears again, but restrained herself. Slowly, she walked backwards, perplexed and incredulous, unable to understand his capricious behavior.
"...Understood." She said, her voice quivering.
Still not looking back, Subaru felt the carriage shook again, heard the curtains parting open, and then heard nothing no more.
"You're late." Subaru said to the head that peeked through the curtain gap, a lantern in hand.
"Must have dozed off. I apologize."
Under the light of the lantern, Subaru could see the face of a man in his late twenties, his rugged good looks was only accentuated further by his bright ocean-blue eyes. His black hair was messy and unkempt, strands of it poking out to the sides.
"Ready to go?" He asked.
Subaru crawled forward and the man moved to the side. It was night. The streets now completely desolate and lonely. Off in the distance, an owl can be heard hooting away. Buildings and houses all glowing brightly through the murky glass windows.
"Yeah... Get me out of here."
The carriage stirred to life, the rejuvenated ground dragon gave a roar of delight as it slowly build up speed.
"Two weeks." Said the trader from the driver's seat, crossing the looming gateway that lead to the outside of the capital. "We have a long journey ahead of us."
Subaru watched as the walls grew further away, shrinking in size with each passing minute. He took in the sight of the moon, shining brightly against the kingdom, the castle in the distance still visible from afar over everything else. His sight never left the castle. Appreciating the beauty of it, for the first and quite possibly the last time he'll ever be able to.
Author's note: As a means to sharpen my skills as a novice fanfic writer, I've decided to tackle the ever enigmatic world of Re:Zero. Bear in mind, I have never read the books, sadly. So if there's a plot device or storyline that conflicts with the future arcs of the light novel, don't hold it against me. I'll try to update this weekly, that is the plan at least. That will be all.
Ps: Rem is best girl.