A/N: Hi everyone! Another chapter here, and thank you for the kind reviews.
And especially thank you to those that gave me some constructive criticism. I realized I wasn't writing Rem the way she should have been, and fixed that for this chapter.
I'm also going to retroactively fix a few things in previous chapters. Nothing on the story, just incorrect words being used and how Rem speaks as well.
Thanks again for the reviews and enjoy!
Ram called after the two of them as Rem forcibly marched Subaru out the door and down the corridor. Her fingers were dug into his shoulder in a manner that brokered no escape.
Crap crap crap… She definitely knows. I brought her back with me, how do I get out of this? She wanted to kill me before!
As Subaru's mind continued to race, Rem led him into an unused side room. "We won't be disturbed here, Sister does not come to this part of the mansion often." She said, closing the door behind her.
She fixed Subaru with a glare. "Now then, why don't we have a conversation, witch cultist?"
Subaru frantically waved his arms in front of himself. "You've got it all wrong; I don't even know what a witch cultist is! I'm not even from this world – "He cut himself off, looking around for repercussions but found none.
He heaved a sigh of relief, then his face grew serious. "As I said, I'm not from around here. I've been here literally a day, plus however long I was unconscious and healing from the capital. Could you please explain to me what a witch cultist is?"
Rem fingered her flail contemplatively. "Normally, Rem would not consider what you say to have even an ounce of truth in it. To Rem, you reek of the witch, and the only people she has ever interacted with that had that stench robbed her sister of her future. So, forgive Rem if she doesn't jump to believe you."
She continued. "The only thing staying Rem's hand is the fact that she is alive. You clearly have some temporal-related power, and you used it last night to bring us both back to the morning that you first woke up in the Roswaal mansion." Rem abruptly moved close to Subaru, confusion evident in her face. "Rem does not know enough about your power, nor how to stop you from moving back in time again. So as distasteful as it is, we must speak."
Her grip on the weapon tightened. "Regardless of what Rem has said, if Rem determines from our conversation that you are a threat to my sister, Emilia-sama or Roswaal-sama, Rem will do everything in her power to end you, and damn the consequences."
Subaru gulped nervously, seeing the fire in Rem's eyes. This maid is seriously terrifying…
"So you're not going to just up and kill me then, that's actually really good to know. Despite my power, I'm very much attached to my head and would like to it stay right where it is, thank you very much."
Subaru walked over to the bed that was in the room and sat down, then motioned to the space beside him. "Please sit down, this sort of talk isn't for the faint of heart."
Rem seemed to be warring with herself, not wanting to sit next to a potential enemy but considering his words as truth using her own experiences as a baseline. After a moment, she sat with Subaru on the bed, albeit as far from him as possible.
"So. Explain yourself." Rem said without preamble. "Why are you here, why is Rem alive, why are you alive? What are your plans against this manor, my sister, Roswaal and Emilia? What is your aim in all of this?"
"Woah now, let's take the questions one at a time, I swear I'll answer your questions to the best of my ability, as long as it'll take for you to be satisfied. So take it easy!" Subaru said, then took a deep breath. "My name is Natsuki Subaru. I was brought here from another world for reasons unknown. You are alive because you touched me when I was Returning by Death, I'm alive because I Returned by Death, I have no plans for the manor aside from work really hard to make Emilia proud of me, and my aim is to be a great butler!" He finished emphatically, thrusting his finger up into the air.
Rem looked unimpressed. She began muttering to herself. "…Is it possible this boy is every bit as idiotic as he first appeared, and none of it was an act?"
Subaru looked annoyed. "Hey, I'm right here you know! Don't talk about me as if I'm not here!"
"Furthermore, what is this nonsense about not being from this world? Rem has seen your unique clothing, but figured you were from Kararagi with their different customs and ways. At the very least, let us both agree that you are not from this country, Rem will allow for that." Rem said.
She shifted on the bed slightly. "Now, explain what you mean when you say 'Return by Death.'
Subaru finished explaining what he had learned about Return by Death to Rem, who had lost some of her earlier hostility and was now regarding him with a curious look.
"So you say when the hoodlum tried to tell his friends he went back in time, he was killed by a malicious force? And you suspect the same thing may happen if Rem attempts to tell her sister or anyone else about your power." Rem summarized.
"That's about the sum of it I believe." Subaru said. "The conditions for activating Return by Death are simple enough, all it takes is for me to die. But I don't know if there is a limit on it, can I just keep dying forever? I really don't want to find out."
He shuddered. "Dying even once was too much for me, and then I had to go and die in such a gory fashion multiple times. It's just not fair, and definitely not good for my mental health."
Rem nodded. "Speaking as one who has experienced near death in a similar manner Rem is inclined to agree. Though if Rem's precious people were in danger there are no lengths she would not go to."
She smoothed out her dress. "Which leads Rem to another question. You say you did not poison, weaken or do anything else to her that night we both… returned. Rem will believe you for now on that front, due to the fact that you did not mean to bring her back. Indeed, it would be disadvantageous for you to do so were you an enemy of the manor."
Rem paused. "This being said, what did kill Rem? If you were not the cause, that means there is a third actor in this play, one neither of us are aware of. My sister is potentially in danger, if it could kill Rem it could easily get to her as well."
Subaru spoke. "We're not going to let that happen. This time, we have some clues and a few days to figure things out. I won't let any harm come to anyone I care about either. That includes you and Ram. I really enjoyed the time we spent together and would like to do it more."
Rem looked shocked. "You have only known us for a short amount of time, how could you possibly feel that way about us already?" Her eyes narrowed. "Unless this isn't the first time you've Returned by Death in this manor."
Subaru lit up with a grin and gave her a thumbs up. "No that's definitely the first time I died in this crazy place I assure you. That's just the kind of guy I am! When I meet someone special I just instantly know and get attached, nothing else can be done about it I'm afraid!"
"Subaru is a special kind of individual then. Rem does not get so attached to people so easily. As Sister's replacement Rem does not allow herself to be distracted with such things." Rem said, drawing her knees up to her chest.
"I've heard you mention things like that a couple times now, about being a replacement for your sister. I think that's crazy talk, there isn't a need for you to replace her. Honestly, she should just do more of the work around the manor so it isn't all left to you and me." He said exasperatedly.
Rem looked down for a minute in silence. Then turned to Subaru. "Subaru has shared many personal things with Rem, willingly or not. It is only right that Rem returns the favor." She seemed to gather her strength. "When Rem and Ram were very young, we lived in an Oni village. We are Oni, a race that gathers mana from the surrounding area with our horns and converts it into energy for our bodies."
So Rem and Ram are more than they appear eh? That would explain how Rem can throw around that giant flail and chain like it's nothing.
Oni are born with two horns, but Sister and Rem were born with one horn each. Despite this, we were raised in the village, and taught the ways of the Oni. Sister was always the prodigy, the genius. Even with one horn, she was astounding the village elders." Rem looked down again. "Imagine what she could have done with two. If only I were not born."
"But that's not on you!" Subaru interrupted. "No child gets a choice in being born or not. I know Ram wouldn't wish you were never born, and I'm sure she's told you that before too."
Rem nodded. "Sister is very kind and does say those sort of things. And Rem may even have believed her in time, had certain events not unfolded." Her eyes took on a far-away look. "One day, we were attacked by witch cultists. They are unfeeling monsters who murder all with no distinction in the name of their mad quest. Men, Women, Children. All Oni were being slaughtered before our eyes."
"Rem…" Subaru said, and reached out a hand toward her, then thought better of it.
"But Sister was brave, and fought against them. None of them could even touch her. But then, I was put into danger from the cultists. And Sister came to save me. While she was doing so, one of the cultists caught her off guard and…" Her eyes began to well with tears.
"Roswaal-sama saved us shortly afterward, and brought us to work at the mansion. Sister now is hornless. Because of Rem, her potential has been stolen from her. Because of Rem, she only had the one horn to lose. If Rem could give up her horn to give to her sister, she would do it without thinking." She wiped at her face. "So that is why Rem must work hard, to do everything her sister cannot do now because she does not have her horn."
"…I see. That's how it is huh?" Subaru muttered. "And what does Ram think about your self-sacrificing attitude? Does she approve?"
"Sister maintains that it is not Rem's fault, that is was her own and no one else is to blame. But Rem knows that is not true. And now, Rem's only value lies in being useful to Roswaal-sama, and being the horn for Sister that she lost."
Subaru said nothing, lost in thought. Then said. "Well, that's stupid."
Rem looked up, confusion and the beginning of anger storming behind her blue eyes. "Rem is sure that Subaru did not mean to make fun of her only reason for existence."
Subaru shook his head. "Oh that's definitely not what's happening. I'm just saying it's stupid that you think your only value lies in being someone else's replacement or tool. You have worth, as a person entirely separate from your sister."
His face grew serious. "Believe me, I know a lot about wasting my life. Now that I'm here, I'm doing my best to make the most of the opportunities I've been given. And I'm not going to just sit by and continue to let you think yourself second best, and the cause of all misfortune in the world."
Rem's voice grew annoyed. "Rem never said she was the cause of all misfortune. Subaru is twisting Rem's words around on her, what a terrible thing to do."
"Well you're sure acting like everything is your fault. We're going to break you of that, mark my words. I'll make you see your own value, that's a promise." Subaru said solemnly.
A silence fell upon the room, as Rem and Subaru digested the information they learned about the other.
"So, now I know about your history with the witch cultists. Why did you think I was one?" Subaru asked.
Rem sniffed the air. "Some individuals can smell the miasma of the witch on an individual. As Rem has said before, Subaru smells very strongly of that miasma. After returning to this morning, Rem can safely say Subaru's Return by Death power is connected to the witch."
"What, really? How did you figure that one out?" Subaru asked, surprised.
Rem continued. "The last time we met, Subaru did not smell nearly as strong of the witch as he does now. Rem suspects it is due to dying and going back in time. Subaru must interact with the witch's miasma in some way which leaves it clinging to you afterward."
The witch's miasma… Does that mean the figure I saw kill that hoodlum, could that have been the witch herself?
"This is all a lot to process… but I must say, it's nice to have someone to talk to about all this." Subaru said. "I'm just sorry you had to die for it to happen."
"Rem was indeed disturbed, but used anger as an effective cover to hide these feelings. Now that I know you are not an enemy though, it seems anger has left Rem." She began to shake, putting her head into her knees.
Subaru was at a loss. Do I comfort her? Coming into this conversation she thought I was a potential enemy, so I don't feel like it's quite the time to give her a hug.
Subaru heard voices from outside the room, approaching fast.
"…I don't care… need to find Rem!"
"Rem, I'm sorry that all of this is going on. We're going to figure it out, you and me, and protect everyone, all right?" Subaru said, placing a hesitant hand on Rem's back.
Rem looked up, uncertain. "You are willing to help me protect everyone?"
"As I said from the start, I've grown quite attached to the inhabitants of this house. Even the creepy clown guy! I'll do whatever it takes to make sure everyone is safe and happy. That includes you by the way." Subaru nodded as if to confirm his statement.
Rem paused, then gave a small shy smile. "When Subaru says it like that, Rem almost feels like she can place her trust in him." She lightly clapped her hands to her cheeks, then stood up off the bed.
"Okay Subaru, we need to get our stories straight. Rem may have not made the most graceful exit back there with Sister watching." Rem said, looking off to the side.
"That's a bit of an understatement Rem, you carted me out of there like you were going to kill me!" Subaru said. "I'm sure at this point Ram thinks you've murdered me and are looking to hide the pieces."
They look at each other somberly, remembering the previous loop that led them to this situation.
"Well, that's why we need to do damage control, to limit how much Sister is suspicious." Rem said.
Subaru thought for a moment. "Okay, what if we just go with a slightly edited version of the truth? Let's say you smelled the witch's miasma on me and brought me to a vacant spot away from people to interrogate me. It's really not even a lie, we're just omitting some details."
"Like why Subaru has the miasma on him in the first place, and that we know each other from a future that no longer is?" Rem said questioningly.
Subaru sighed. "Yes, those are the things we will be omitting. I don't want to watch anyone else die in front of me, so no matter how tough it may be, please don't tell anyone about my power."
"It will pain Rem to hide this from her sister, but it can't be helped. If we are to prevent tragedy from striking, we must be covert." Rem said, nodding.
"Good. Let's go find your sister then. I'm sure she's worried for the both of us." Subaru said, getting off the bed as well and heading toward the door.
Before he could turn the handle, the door burst open. Emilia stood outside the door, her eyes worriedly looking over every inch of the room before finding Subaru's.
"Subaru, you're okay! I was reeeally worried you know!" She said, and put her arms around him in a bone crushing hug.
Subaru seemed unsure where to put his hands and was steadily turning red, whether that was from the lack of oxygen or the close, intimate contact with a girl one cannot be sure.
Ram stepped into the room. "Perhaps you should give our guest some air, I imagine you are squeezing him quite tight." Her eyes went over to Rem who was standing off to the side. "Rem, Ram pleased to see you both are well. You scared us when you took off like that with our guest."
The unspoken question lingered between them. 'Is he a threat?'
Rem held Ram's gaze for a moment, then shook her head. "Rem is sorry to worry everyone, she detected something on Subaru that she just couldn't ignore."
Emilia released Subaru from her stranglehold and he inhaled deeply, leaning over. After a few seconds, he stood back up. "So due to reasons entirely outside of my knowledge or control, I have the witch's miasma all over me."
Ram stiffened, looking again at Rem. Rem gave her a light smile to ease the tension.
"Indeed, and given our… less than ideal past with the witch cult, Rem determined it would be best to get this possible threat by herself to question him." Rem finished the thought.
Emilia looked confused. "What is this about miasma? What does it have to do with the witch?"
Ram adopted a lecturing tone. "The witch's miasma can be noticed by certain races who are particularly sensitive, and normally is only found on individuals in the service of the witch. The best example of this would be the witch cultists we have encountered in the past."
Ram looked over to Subaru. "But I suppose we have found an exception to the rule in this case Rem? I hardly think you would look so at ease if our guest was a threat."
Rem looked to Subaru as well. "Subaru holds nothing but a noble desire to help Emilia. From where that stems Rem cannot say, but it is admirable."
Emilia clasped her hands in front of herself. "If Rem trusts Subaru then the rest of us have nothing to fear from him, of that I'm sure. Now the two of you can become friends!"
Rem and Subaru traded glances. They were both thinking similar thoughts.
I don't know if I can trust her, but I'm going to need all the help I can get in this crazy world.
Rem will work together with him, to protect everyone.
Subaru smiled. "I think that is very likely."