Ram jolted up. An intense feeling of bloodlust overwhelmed her, making it difficult to think straight.
She stood stock still as she processed the emotions. Slowly, it began to fade as calmer emotions of affection began bubbling forth. Ram wasn't entirely a fan of this part of their connection. It felt too much like intruding on Rem's relationship with Subaru for her. But in order to make sure her sister was safe, it was necessary.
She shook her head. Feeling much more level headed, she strode toward the nearest door and began her role in the plan. She needed to quickly convince the others in the mansion of the danger her sister and Subaru were in, and get them there quickly.
First things first then. She immediately closed the door in front of her. "Oh Great Spirit Beatrice-sama. I need to speak with you on matters of importance concerning Subaru that you will wish you know about." She said, speaking to the closed door. Honestly, she felt a little foolish doing this, but Subaru assured her Beatrice would hear.
She continued. "If you wish to hear and speak with me, please allow me entry into the Forbidden Library." Her piece done, she hesitantly reached out her hand toward the door handle, turning it and pulling the door open.
What greeted her was not the expected guest room, but rather rows and rows of books on either side. In the center sat Beatrice on her stool, attempting to look disinterested as she watched Ram come in out of the corner of her eyes.
"So, what information have you brought Betty? What was so important you decided to intrude upon Betty's room for the first time, I suppose."
Ram bowed her head in deference. "Your pupil has put himself into danger yet again. It seems he is making a habit of this, and has dragged my sister into it as well."
Beatrice's eyes bored into Ram's bowed head. "What kind of danger? And how have you come to know of it?"
Ram raised her head, making eye contact with Beatrice. "My sister and I share a special connection. We can feel each other's emotions at a certain distance. I felt bloodlust on par with that I've felt before from my sister, in our encounters with the Witch Cult. I believe the two of them to be in danger."
Beatrice sighed, closing her eyes. "That boy is more trouble than he is worth, I suppose. He is determined to waste the effort I have put into him, in fact. Perhaps he is not worth the trouble after all?" She said, seemingly to herself.
Ram stiffened. That line of thinking was not acceptable. "Beatrice-sama, I hope you will allow me to be upfront with you. Subaru, for all his faults also has a lot of potential. Not only that, he is working for the betterment of those in Roswaal-sama's domain. Surely those are good reasons to assist us?"
Beatrice scoffed, opening her eyes. "Betty does not care what happens to the Mathers' domain. Betty is surprised you would speak up in the boy's defense however. Has his charm affected you, much the same way it affects the blue haired maid?" She asked derisively.
"Beatrice-sama, I do not like what you are insinuating. My sister and Subaru have entered into a relationship, and it would not be proper to have such thoughts." Ram said heatedly. She coughed, then continued at a more acceptable volume. "Subaru has shown me his resolve, and I have decided to put my faith in him moving forward based on what I saw. Won't you do the same?"
Beatrice looked thoughtful. "He does have promise, even if he does get into trouble constantly. Betty would almost say he needs someone to watch over him more often than not, and that role seems to be Betty's more often than not, even you recognize it if you came to tell Betty, I suppose."
Ram said nothing. In truth, finding Beatrice had been the most important, but she also intended to enlist Emilia's help as well. The monster they were up against would demand as much help as they could get after all.
Betty continued, almost as if to herself. "I can't think why such a problem person would be Betty's They… This is going to annoy me, in fact!" She ended, stomping her foot in a huff.
Ram stared at her antics emotionlessly. "Time is short and I must find Emilia-sama and Roswaal-sama. If you wish to help us, please meet us in the main hall in a few minutes." She said before bowing and leaving out the door of the Forbidden Archive.
"…" Beatrice watched her leave. "That pink haired maid is really impertinent I suppose." She hopped off the stool, dusted off her dress and headed toward the door.
Ram hurried through the halls now. She had wasted much time in convincing Beatrice to come to their aid, but she was a strong potential ally and Ram knew it would take the most time to sway her.
She made sure to stay connected to her sister during this time and could feel her anxiety and worry, but it didn't appear they were in a direct confrontation yet. She frowned. At this rate their support wouldn't make it to them in time.
She spotted a flash of silver turning a corner. "Ah! Emilia-sama!" Ram cried out, rushing around the corner and almost running into the stopped half-elf, coming just inches from her face.
Emilia looked concerned. "Yes Ram? Is something the matter?" She asked, unperturbed by the proximity of the maid's face to hers.
Ram coughed, stepping back before responding. "I have reason to believe that Subaru and Rem have spotted the Witch Cult near the village, and will soon be engaged in battle with them. Will you help me provide them support?"
Normally, Ram would never have asked Emilia for assistance. But Subaru was quite insistent she ask the silver haired woman, citing such things as 'she'll never let me hear the end of it how I didn't let her help' and 'Subaru broke a promise how could he do that'. As such, the situation was closer to resembling Subaru asking for Emilia's help, with Ram acting as the go-between.
Emilia's eyes grew wide, and she gasped. "The Witch Cult, and so near? They're in danger! We have to help them immediately." She said, and looked to Ram for confirmation. "Do you know where they are, can you lead us to them?"
Ram nodded. "I know they can't be too far from the village. Once we are there, I should be able to feel where my sister is, or use my Clairvoyance to find them."
"I see. Let's not waste any more time then!" Emilia said, and began running down the hallway toward the main hall.
Ram ran alongside. "Emilia-sama, before that, have you seen my master Roswaal-sama? I had hoped to petition him for aid."
Emilia slowed down a little at this question. "I forgot. Roswaal said there was something urgent in the Capital that came up, and he wanted me to come along so I could get exposure and experience in preparation for the Royal Selection."
Her eyes brimmed with determination. "That doesn't take priority though, helping Subaru and Rem does. We should also find him in the front, so let's continue there." She picked up speed again, and Ram had to struggle to keep up. She hadn't suspected the half-elf was so fast just from looking at her.
Shortly, they arrived in the main hall. Roswaal stood there with an amused grin plastered on his face. "Ram, how nice of you to see us off. Are you ready to head to the Capital Emilia-sama?"
Emilia shook her head. "Subaru and Rem are in danger from the Witch Cult Roswaal. We can't go to the Capital right now, they need us."
Roswaal's grin fast turned into a frown. "Is that so? And how have we come to know of this? Where are they presently?"
Ram spoke up now. "They went to the village early this morning to procure supplies and meet with the villagers. Subaru wanted to go today because he just couldn't resist the cute kids vying for his attention." She said, giving the best excuse she could think of why they went earlier than the standard. "Furthermore, I felt intense bloodlust from Rem through our shared connection. The only other times I've felt this from her was in relation to the Witch Cult."
"I see…" Roswaal said, his face turning thoughtful. "And since that feeling of bloodlust, what have you felt from your sister? Has that subsided?"
Ram hesitated. "Yes… the bloodlust has been reigned in, but I can still feel it below the surface of her emotions. Anxiety, worry. The three are warring for domination. I fear it is not long before they find themselves with no option but to fight to protect your domain Roswaal-sama."
"That does sound a bit bothersome. However, your sister and Subaru-kun are becoming quite strong, are they not? I rather think they should be able to handle some Witch cultists on their own. If you disagree though Ram, I give you leave to go assist them in handling the problem."
He turned to Emilia. "Emilia-sama and I have something we need to take care of in the capital, but I am confident the three of you can repel the invaders. Come, let us be off." He said, gesturing toward Emilia.
Ram was speechless. She was grateful that Roswaal thought so highly of the three of them, but he didn't understand the level of the danger they were facing. Not that she could so easily tell him that either.
Emilia made no move to join him. "I'm sorry Roswaal, but my duty comes first to the people nearest me. If there's something I can do to help those in front of me, I will not hesitate. Currently, Subaru, Rem, and the villagers need me. I will be joining Ram in providing support."
Roswaal's frown became more pronounced. "If you go to assist them, you are doing the same as saying you do not trust in their abilities. Furthermore, you may jeopardize your future prospects by not making appearances at major events such as this one." His stare pierced through her. "Are you sure this is what you want to do?"
Emilia gulped, but nodded. "Ram would not have asked if she didn't believe they were in sufficient danger. Regardless of what might happen, I'm going to help." She matched Roswaal's stare in intensity.
He sighed and looked away. "Fine fine, if that's what you wish. But I'm going in your place at the very least to represent your interests." He said, idly waving his hand.
Roswaal opened the main doors, staring up into the sky. He turned back around to face them. "Let's hope what you're doing is worth it, Emilia-sama." He said with a smile, before lifting off the ground and flying out of sight.
Emilia let out a sigh of relief. Ram turned to her, surprised to see tears gathering in the corner of her eyes. "Are you all right Emilia-sama? I'm sorry for asking this of you, I didn't mean to come between you and the Royal Selection."
Emilia took a moment to compose herself. "No Ram, I'm grateful you told me what was going on. I want to know so that no matter what happens, it's my choice. And I chose to stay behind to help, so that's what I'm going to do. Now – " She looked around, then back at Ram. "Is there anything else we need before we go? I imagine time is of the essence."
Ram shook her head. "No, we must go now. Too much time has passed already and I fear we may not make it in time."
A new voice joined the hall. "Well then, it's Betty's time to shine, I suppose. Let me show you a spell only a Yin master could accomplish." Beatrice said, stepping into view, her hand glowing black.
Subaru stepped into the clearing, noting the Archbishop standing alone in the center of it. Rem followed cautiously behind, never letting the man leave her line of sight.
He stopped a few feet behind the man who appeared to be muttering to himself incessantly. After a minute, Petelguese seemed to notice something was amiss and bent in half backwards, looking at the two of them.
"Oho? Who is this that has decided to sneak up on me? My subordinates didn't even let me know you were coming in advance; this is very rare." He said, looking speculatively at them.
His eyes widened as he took in Subaru grimacing. "You are loved by the Witch… Are you by chance, Pride?"
Subaru spread his arms and laughed. "Why yes, Archbishop of Sloth, I am Natsuki Subaru, the Archbishop of Pride! I have come to introduce myself and my Subordinate to my fellow Archbishop, and to discuss the plans for the future."
Rem's eyes widened, but otherwise she didn't react to Subaru's claims. Behind her back, her grip tightened on her Morningstar.
Petelgeuse straightened up and turned around, facing them properly. Suddenly, his face was inches away from Subaru's face, and he had to force himself to not jump back out of fright and disgust. "Na-Ts-U-Ki Su-Ba-Ru? Weird name." He said, pulling his head back.
Subaru tried very hard not to comment on the insanity that was Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti. "Weird or not, that's the name I was given at birth and I'm quite attached to it. Now, what brings you to this place? Anything I can help with?"
Petelgeuse paused, then his words exploded from him in a frenzy. "The ORDEAL! For the half-elf girl of course! The day is upon us to show the world the love of the WITCH!" He looked inquisitively at Subaru and Rem. "Were you sent here by your Gospel to assist us in the Ordeal?"
Subaru coughed. "Indeed, we were sent by the words written in my Gospel! They foretold that I would come to this very location and assist you in any way I could with the Ordeal. I simply asked what you were doing to verify that the information I had in my Gospel matched up. But I needn't have worried. It is always right, after all."
Petelgeuse nodded vigorously, biting at his fingers as he did so. "Yes Yes Yes Yes! The Gospel never lies! It is the connection to the Witch that lets us know her will, how best to spread her love to the world!"
All at once, he arrested his movement. "Though… I don't remember reading about your arrival in my Gospel… Maybe it changed, and I need to take a look at it again." Petelgeuse said, before rummaging around in his coat.
He triumphantly pulled out a small black book that Subaru recognized as a Gospel. Before he flipped it open, he looked at Subaru suspiciously. "Perhaps you should take a look at your Gospel as well, just to be safe. We don't want to go against the writ."
Subaru held up his hands in defense, caught off guard. "Aha, well I actually just consulted mine before walking into this clearing and it hadn't changed, so I think I'm fine. Besides- " He looked at Petelgeuse with a disapproving stare. "I care too much for the Witch to let anyone see me consulting the Gospel. Too many opportunities for an enemy to potentially steal or damage it."
At this, Petelgeuse hurriedly stashed the Gospel back in his coat, staring at Rem as he slowly backed away. "No one will ever doubt my love for the Witch! I'll be right back, don't go anywhere." He said, turning and running into a nearby cave.
Rem turned to Subaru. "Rem was not ready for that madman, even your explanations paled in comparison to seeing the insanity in person."
Subaru scratched his cheek. "Yeah, seeing it for a second time now I'm more immune to it, but I swear I was having a stroke or something watching him carry on."
A loud screech echoed from the cave. Rem and Subaru looked toward each other, then without a word ran in the opposite direction. Betelgeuse was likely not happy they lied to him, and would want vengeance.
They ran full sprint into the forest, in the hopes of buying more time. Subaru felt a chill on the back of his neck, and turned around while running to see Petelgeuse flying toward them on what looked like a … giant purple hand?
"What the…" he said, confounded. "Hey Rem, you seeing this or am I going crazy?" he said, jerking his head toward the impossibility behind them.
She looked back and almost stumbled over an uncovered root. Quickly regaining her balance, she responded. "That monster is flying toward us somehow, you are correct. We won't be able to stay ahead of him for long."
"In that case…" Subaru stopped and turned around, holding his hands out in front of him. "Let's make our stand here then!"
Rem nodded and readied her weapon, intent to strike the rapidly approaching Archbishop.
Petelgeuse flew up to them via his uncommon method of transportation, rage evident on his face. "How dare you lie to me? Where is your Gospel? What does it really say? I cannot fathom that the Witch would require her believers to fight amongst ourselves."
Subaru held his hands up sheepishly. "You got me crazy man! I don't actually have a Gospel. I'm not even a witch cultist. Honestly, if I could get rid of this disgusting smell that lingers on me I wouldn't even hesitate."
Petelgeuse gasped, scratching at his eyes as he rolled around on the giant hand. To Rem, it was disturbing to see him roll on air but she concentrated on the direness of the situation despite the absurdity.
"To deny the Witch's love is unheard of. Such things should not should not should not be said! Whatever the Witch sees in you is being wasted." He abruptly straightened up, addressing them calmly. "I see now. I need to force you to admit your errors, and show you how great her love is."
Rem stepped forward in front of Subaru, eyes narrowing at the Archbishop. "Rem thinks he means to go on the offensive. We may be in trouble here."
Suddenly, two hands protruded out of Petelgeuse's back and darted toward them. Subaru grabbed Rem's arm and pulled her to the side, barely evading them.
Petelgeuse's eyes widened. "No, no no no no no no. How can you SEE them!?" He said, and began biting at his fingers again. "Only I'm allowed to see this precious gift bestowed upon me by the Witch, Only me… No one else is allowed."
More hands sprouted up out of his back, two, four, six more. They continued multiplying, spilling out of him like a plague. Finally, he stood back up, looking at them with a solemn expression. "Die."
The many hands flew toward them faster than Subaru could react. He shielded Rem with his body and braced for impact.
"How abhorrent, I suppose."
A barrier came into being in front of Rem and Subaru, shielding them from the onslaught of Unseen Hands. Subaru looked back and was relieved to see Ram standing with Beatrice and Emilia just behind them.
"I see you managed to hold out Subaru. Not bad, for a butler." Ram said dismissively.
Subaru sighed. "Yeah yeah, I know you don't expect much from me. But I'm at least capable of this much."
Emilia giggled. "Don't let her fool you Subaru. She was reeeeeeeally worried about the two of you."
Ram looked sharply at Emilia, a tinge of color adorning her cheeks. "Emilia-sama, I will have to pay you back appropriately for that remark."
"Oi. Who are these people?" The group's attention was refocused back at Petelgeuse who had not continued his attack after the initial outpouring of hands.
Subaru laughed. "This is the cavalry Petelgeuse! You're in trouble now, these are some of the strongest people I know."
Emilia looked confused. "But Subaru, aren't we the only people you know?"
He laughed nervously. "No!... I know Reinhardt. And Felt, and Rom. Oh and I guess that creepy clown. I guess he couldn't make it, huh?"
"Roswaal-sama had urgent business in the capital to attend to. In truth, he wanted Emilia-sama to go as well, but her sense of duty led her here to you. Be grateful I could garner this much support." Ram said stoically.
"Ah I see… I'm sorry to make you miss that then Emilia, but thank you for coming." His focus shifted to Beatrice. "But I'm most surprised you agreed to help us Beako, not that I'm….complaining?" He trailed off as he got a better look at the smaller girl. "Beatrice?"
Tears were streaming down her face as she stared at the Archbishop with a haunted look of longing. "Juice…? Is that really you?"
Petelgeuse angled his head unnaturally, staring at her. "Oh? Who is this to speak to me so familiarly?" He shuffled forward, his body heavy from the many uses of his Authority. "He shielded his eyes from the sun as he peered at Beatrice. "Hmm… You remind me of someone I once knew. BUT!" He crossed his arms in front of himself. "She died. End of story, thanks for coming and goodbye." He finished casually and without warning, countless hands suddenly shooting forward toward Beatrice.
She was too far. Subaru couldn't react in time, and the Archbishop's Authority was not perceivable to anyone else present.
The hands skewered through her multiple times, lifting her off her feet and into the air. Beatrice let out a surprised 'oh'. She stared down at her impaled chest detachedly, then back at Petelgeuse. The hands slipped from her body, dropping her to the ground with a soft 'thump'.
"PETELGEUSE!" Subaru roared, running toward him with his fist cocked back. Before he could reach him, 3 chunks of ice solidly impacted his body, lodging deep in his chest and head.
"…Despicable." Emilia said, disgust on her face visible as she stared at the man with her hand still outstretched, mana coalescing at the tips of her fingers. She watched him a moment more to see him hit the floor, then ran to Beatrice's side.
Subaru glanced at the Archbishop's unmoving form, then ran to Beatrice's side as well. Light poured out of the wound made by Petelgeuse's Authority, and Beatrice's body was slowly fading away. She smiled weakly up at Subaru as he approached. "It would appear… Betty's time is up… I suppose."
"No…" Subaru stared in horror at Beatrice's disappearing form, then snapped his gaze to Emilia. "Emilia, isn't there anything you can do for her!?"
Emilia reached out her hands toward Beatrice hesitantly, then pulled them back. She shook her head sadly. "I do not know how to heal a spirit. I don't even know if it can be done. I'm sorry Subaru."
The rest of the world was muted. All Subaru could concentrate on was Beatrice's face, still smiling even as her body disappeared. Then, even that too was gone, nothing left to signify that she had ever been there in the first place.
He felt a vague sensation of being pulled out of the way, and dully directed his gaze at whatever did so. Rem had her Morningstar in her hand and was using it to attack a Witch Cultist while pulling him along. Looking around, he saw his friends fighting several enemies all at once, threatening to overpower them.
He looked down at his hands. Then brought them up sharply into his cheeks. He felt his thinking get less muddled. This wasn't the time to get distracted. He looked at the nearest cultist and felt the rage bubble up inside him. "MINYA!"
The cultist was impaled straight through the head with crystallized mana. Within seconds, another was already in his stead, forcing them on the defensive. Subaru hazarded a gaze over at the Archbishop's prone form, but between the blood draining into the ground below and the lack of breath he was reasonably confident he was dead.
Emilia, Ram, Rem and Subaru regrouped, forming a defensive line against the enemy. Emilia and Subaru were keeping them at bay with long range attacks, with Rem and Ram cutting down any that got too close. "Rem does not think they will be easily defeated, but our coordination is good." Rem remarked, bashing in the head of another cultist that got too close.
Ram made a pained noise, gritting her teeth. She had been nicked by a blade before tearing the cultist to shreds. "Let's just finish those that dared to attack Roswaal-sama's domain."
They continued in this manner for a few minutes as the enemy numbers became reduced further and further. Then, they heard a familiar cackling emerging from the woods.
"No… no way…" Subaru said, turning slowly to look at the direction the noise emanated from. A woman with similar clothing to Petelgeuse's emerged, laughing while bending her head at an odd angle. "The love you felt for that girl, I felt it deeply impressed onto my body! Truly, you are not…SLOTHFUL." She said, bending backwards and splaying her arms out to her sides.
Emilia shuddered. "What is this… this person feels the same as the enemy I took down, but I know I killed him…"
Puck came out from behind Emilia's hair, glaring at the maniacal woman. "You took down his physical body Lia, but it looks like we're dealing with more than that this time. An Archbishop of Sin that is also a spirit, and can transfer their incorporeal form to another host. That is what we are facing this time Lia."
Subaru stared in hatred as the woman straightened back up, still smiling crazily at them. "Yes yes spirit, you have quite discerning eyes don't you? Let's see just how much that will help in the rematch taking place beginning now. Show me your dedication!" She said, as hands began to pour out of female Petelgeuese's back, rushing straight for the group.
Round two of this loop had begun.