Oh my, this chapter fought me tooth and nail the whole way down, hopefully, the long wait was worth it though, I tried my best.

I give my most heartfelt thanks to TranslatorError and Suffaru41 for helping me write this chapter and beta'ing, without them and their constant support this would never have happened and it wouldn't be half as spicy as it is. Additional thanks to Turacoverdin and idkwhyipost for helping me bounce ideas around. All of these people are genuinely amazing and incredibly kind and are writers I admire.

*Subaruhas been changed to [Subaru] as it was format breaking and chapter 1 has gone through some minor revision

"—That's enough." A familiar voice rang out resolutely, like silver bells chiming in the breeze, causing [Subaru] to stir. 'Emilia… so my assumptions were correct.' His brain unhelpfully noted. 'Run, please… I don't want to see you die, not again.' It was a hopeless wish. Emilia would never ever back down, it just wasn't in her nature. Throwing herself against adversity time and time again for the sake of others, completely ignoring her own well-being. Her stubbornness was something he admired, but sometimes he just wished she would put herself first.

Deadly skewers of ice struck the still moving mabeast with unquestionable accuracy, embedding themselves firmly into its side. A guttural, ear-piercing shriek erupted from the mabeast as it listed and swayed, tripping over its own feet and harshly flinging [Subaru] into the hardened ground.

[Subaru] let out a small, pitiful, whine, grimacing at his harsh awakening. Precious, fleeting seconds passed as his eyes refocused. Perhaps, even if just for a moment, [Subaru] looked vulnerable, almost innocent. As if the atrocities he had committed had been forgotten and spite that he had held so close dimmed. He just looked… sad and lost. 'It's not fair, why- why does he, he doesn- shouldn't have the right.'

"Ghau... what, was..." [Subaru] groaned, confusion flickering across his ashen features, concealing the brief lapse of his facade. His left arm protruded at an odd angle that undoubtedly had to be painful, but he gave no indication that he noticed, instead observing what had become of the fearsome mabeast.

Impaled with several jagged pikes of ice, and limping, the mabeast struggled to rise to its feet. Even as ichor gushed down its side, a once pristine coat speckled with a forest of crimson, and splintered bones peeked out revealing toned muscle barely clinging onto what could hardly be called flesh. The shredded tapestry of fur, skin, and ice was more a liquid that bubbled and twitched erratically, every wild beat of its heart reflected upon the desecrated surface. While its legs trembled in exertion, it still steadied itself. Subaru could only watch in sheer disbelief as the mabeast wrangled its own mangled flesh into an aggressive posture; rearing up to charge at the obscured figure of Emilia. Bloody and battered, kicking and struggling all the way down, out of pride, loyalty, or a mixture of both.

The fearsome beast seemed intent to fight to its last.

With a roar that could rival one of the great mabeasts, and in its damaged glory, it charged, unsightly paw raised, ready for a singular strike with power and fortitude that could level buildings easier than a knife to butter.

Suddenly the mabeast came to a shuddering halt. Flecks of blood and other assorted viscera splattered, bathing the area in a scarlet. A singular spear of ice had stopped the beast in its tracks, entering through its massive, broad maw and once again piercing it through the chest. A gossamer sheath of white crept through the mabeast from where it had been struck, letting out little crackles and whistles. A horrid sound that could be described as not quite a gurgle or hiss screeched out as the hungry frost met gaping open wounds, sizzling upon contact. Agony and fear filled the poor beasts' eyes, as the ice crept inwards slowly to its core.

Subaru couldn't help but to pity it. Frozen in place, its own body now a prison, eye to eye with death itself. Cornered like him. 'How ironic, it's funny almost, finding comradery among beasts.' Even if the whole process only took seconds, it felt as if it were hours as the process came to a rapid end, another layer of ice beginning to bloom over. Hate it as he might, it was beautiful, the way that the fire shone through the glistening ice like a prism, dancing upon its surface. And it in its own right, it was something to marvel. 'Emilia-tan really is a force to be reckoned with.'

A singular crack formed. Entering the world with an ear-piercing squeal. The sculpture, unable to support itself, collapsed under its own weight. Fractures spider-webbing out, spreading across the now frozen mabeast, chunks of ice falling as solid debris onto the ground accompanied with little plinks and thunks.

The area was once again plunged into a cold silence give or take the occasional snap of flames.

[Subaru] slowly rose to his feet, staggering like a wounded animal. His left arm dangling limply, unresponsive to his will.

With the mabeast neutralized and crisis averted Emilia addressed [Subaru] once more. "—That's enough, villain." Silver bells rung out once more, laced with determination and resentment. Furious amethyst orbs were met with an overjoyed sanpaku gaze oozing with adorationlovedesireobsessiondevotion. Contentment spilled across『Subaru's』face alight with joy.

Whiplash, that was the only one way to describe it. It looked pure, it looked real, [Subaru]... looked happy, his smile genuine. When was the last time he himself had smiled as such… and why… why couldn't he recall? Wracking his useless sinful brain, tearing through memory after memory, yet unable to remember the last time his smile wasn't one of smoke and mirrors, wasn't just another one of the poor attempts he did after telling a terrible joke in front of them, but one that actually looked like it was filled with actual happiness and satisfaction. Whether it was in spite of, or to spite the world; regardless, [Subaru] smiled.

'How can you smile after all of this, how can you be so happy, why, I hate you, I hate you. Why do I hate you, why does seeing you smile make me feel this. Disgusting, he was disgusting, he should just die, die, die, die. 'Why out of everything you have done can I barely stand this.' Bitterness, maybe even envy, he realized, an ugly feeling he had thought long forgotten had reared its putrid face. Writhing and chaotically flailing internally, crying out for indulgent acknowledgment.

[Subaru] partially calmed his expression, though his eyes still shined like beacons. "—Emilia." Breaking the awkward quiet, the word slipped out of his mouth with a reverent whisper, as if the name itself was holy. His eyes wildly darted around Emilia's lithe and angelic form, drinking every little detail. But did it go any deeper than surface level? The way [Subaru] looked upon her so adoringly, as if she was a goal, a prize for winning the game, a vessel for the witch.

Something about his last thought felt off. But the other option that came to mind was utterly incompatible, the mere idea that there was no ulterior motive. Something was missing, crucial unsaid context, a single piece of the puzzle. Something that would make this all make sense, so wrong it becomes right? It was at the tip of his fingers but his thoughts were too chaotic, it hurt. So before the idea could truly manifest itself Subaru clamped down upon his mind. 'There's no use speculating the intent of monsters.' It didn't really bring any respite.

"You know me?" Dumbfounded, Emilia raised her eyebrow, off-put by [Subaru]'s reaction. Her facial features screwed in befuddlement out of surprise of being called by name or maybe an effort to recall him. [Subaru] just opted to heartily laugh in response, frame shuddering in jubilation. 'Emilia is surprised he knows her… what? It's not really that surprising he knows her name, but it's more than that, she truly doesn't recognize him.'

"Is something funny?" Emilia sounded almost as confused as he was.

Giggles occasionally stumbled into [Subaru]'s jittery apologetic tone adding unneeded levity. "No, I'm sorry. Just, how to say, I'm happy. It's that thing, where you're, well. You haven't changed a bit, so it feels like I've been rewarded." 'He knows her though… but not very well, and he- he still looks at her like that. She saved him… didn't she- she must have… but she looks at him as if he were a stranger.'

"What do you mean? When did you and I ever...?" Emilia desperately grappled for words as her voice wavered. 'The first loop, loops… right? She saved me when everything was so horribly wrong and he- he must have clung onto it, cherished it, loved it. She's still alive so he must have found a way to save her, but he didn't go to the mansion, did he? Rem would have murdered him, and Emilia would- should know him.'

'Why... what changed?! That can't be the only difference, I refuse to believe that a small difference like that is all that it took. It can't be. It's not, there has to be another reason. There's no other possible explanation. A result then? Of what? [Natsuki Subaru] what happened to you?'

"You're..." Dreadful silence filled the area as whatever Emilia was going to say is lost. Regardless, it probably wasn't in the nature of what [Subaru] had wanted to hear.

"Lia, it's no good. Don't take anything he says seriously." A catlike presence called from its newly manifested perch on Emilia's shoulder. [Subaru] shifted on his feet, tensing ever so slightly before forcing his form to lax.

"—Puck, huh." [Subaru] let out with a huff, popping the P, as he shot Puck a lazed grin.

'Puck could end him, easily.' Something, maybe anticipation swelled inside him.

He could have sworn Puck's mouth inclined ever so slightly, but it was likely just a distortion caused by the surrounding heat.

Why would Puck smile at someone like him? "How nice of you to call my name so casually. With how flamboyant your crimes are, how are you thinking of paying compensation enough to settle them?"

Spoken in his own mockery of communication with a hint of snark he replied, "I'll be paying compensation. Exactly what you want." Emphasizing the 'you' he gauchely gestured to himself with his good arm, the other dangling uselessly, limp, as if he was an offering, a sacrifice.

" —There's no way for me to escape anyway." He added, awkwardly, as if an afterthought to furth assuage or appease Puck. His dark eyes kept flittering up to Puck's blank expression, squinting ever so slightly, trying to read any tells for Puck's reaction.

Without much bite, Puck replied in jest to the madman's delusions. "—? That's rather sporting of you. Suspicious." [Subaru]'s lips curled upward, seemingly satisfied with Puck's placation. Though they had barely spoken, Puck and [Subaru] had reached a silent but mutual understanding. As long as [Subaru] held no ill will towards Emilia Puck wouldn't act.

'Why.'

It stung like betrayal, the pain of having one's expectations toppled so comprehensively, it felt so ridiculous that this amount of bitter irony had to have been orchestrated. 'Why won't you just die, why aren't you the one frozen to death. Why was it me and not you who became familiarized with exactly how much it hurts as frost indiscriminately rips and tears, rupturing every single cell you have.'

'How it feels as ice crystals form in your blood blocking blood flow and starve your limbs of oxygen. Forced to watch as your own flesh necrotizes, hues of black and purple seizing flesh as its domain. Ice choking out any attempt to breathe and that mounting feeling of pressure as your own heart bursts itself in an effort to pump through clogged veins. Life prolonged by the same thing killing you, your senses vanish but you're still there if only for a minute.' Subaru forced himself to refocus his thoughts, mind drifting back to Puck.

Puck, who he had a lot of thoughts on, very few being anything that could be considered positive. This was just beyond unforgivable, worsening his already highly negative opinion on Emilia's enigmatic companion. 'For as much as she seems to love you, you constantly fail to protect her. How could you just abandon her like that, she needed you... and you left her. And I- I can't help her, how can you be okay with this, you love her don't you? When have you ever saved her, what have you ever done for her that made her adore you, trust you? If you had just been there… none of this would have happened.' He's being petty, he knows this and yet made no effort to stop.

After a brief moment of hesitation, [Subaru] unclasped and discarded his cultist robe, letting it drift lazily to the ground revealing what had previously been hidden away. The track suit, his track suit from when he had first come to this world. It was a little worse for the wear, blood staining it from when [Subaru] had impacted the ground, tiny rips and tears ribboning through its wrinkled surface, but besides those few blemishes it appeared in almost pristine condition. As unsettling as it was to see himself flaunting the attire of a witch cultist, this was worse. So very much worse. 'I hate you. You, you, you're not me, so stop… please. It's not fair, it's not fucking fair.'

With shaking hands he reached down, fingers brushing against the zipper gently. [Subaru] gave it a nostalgic look before closing his eyes and clumsily, with a single jerking motion, he tugged. And that was how he stood for a moment, basking in indulgences and self gratification, a warped, mangled semblance of that day. '...he really is a splitting image of… me, of course, why. Why, does he have to be. Why this day, the first time we met was here, in this very tracksuit… and Emilia doesn't know him.'

Emilia just stared at him, repulsed but more confused by his nonsensical actions. Unsure of what to do in this situation. Unsure of what she could even do. [Subaru] took her muteness as an indicator to keep going. Regurgitating words that meant absolutely nothing in a half-baked attempt to explain the whirlpool of ideas and distorted colors that he called reason. "Everything I'm about to tell you is a crazy person rambling. Please don't remember it."

"—Huh?"

[Subaru] inhaled deeply, once, twice, bracing himself before he spoke cursed words once more. "I'm the one who set the Capital on fire. And it's not just the Capital, this fire's meant to burn down the whole country. No one could safeguard against it. That's the nation, and knights who protect this nation, mishandling the situation."

'Burning the whole country, how, it's not possible! It shouldn't be possible. Return by death… it wasn't enough- I wasn't enough to save Rem. But... It's enough to bring a nation to its knees.

"Reinhard's prestige as Sword Saint's fallen to earth. Since we don't know what started the

covenant which's meant to be protecting the Dragon's Kingdom of Lugnica, the Dragon's no rescue either. That's something I tested heaps of times so it's definitely right. In the end, Reinhard and the Dragon are equal." 'It's enough to defeat Reinhard… it's enough and I'm just.

Not.'

'But there's more to it… he genuinely hates Reinhard. He hates Reinhard specifically, so much, as if his existence offends him- why, because Reinhard failed to save them? I don't understand! But if Reinhard wasn't there… he would have died… so much more than me, and- how many times? How many times did you die?'

Emilia sounded hysterical, her visage disheveled, eyes harrowed, widened, like a doe caught in a headlight. Grasping at straws while trying in vain to wrap her mind around what could have possibly motivated this. "Burning the country? You're burning the country? To try and destroy this nation?" 'He threw away his morals to do it, he had to. Casting away anything that wasn't useful for this singular goal. Did he even bother to speak with Emilia after enough loops?'

How many loops did it take for 'Natsuki Subaru' to be stripped bare. Exactly how many loops had it taken for Emilia to become more of a fantasy than a person and before people become objects and burdens. How many loops before life itself became mundane and he succumbed and sacrificed himself? I don't even know…. how much until I can't take it anymore?' Revulsion came in tides, seeping in like a gentle flow at first. Droplets slowly eroding away at the barrier of ignorance before turning into a maelstrom intent on obliterating any sanctuary he could find. Leaving him to drown, ravaged as ugly truths laid their claim upon him.

[Subaru] gave her a pitying shake of the head, unaware of the turmoil that Subaru felt. "No, wrong. I'm doing this to make you the Ruler. It's the only single way how." Emilia stiffened, frozen upon hearing his incomprehensible babble, unable to even start to process his declaration. How could she though, how could anyone? In the deepest part of his heart, he had to have known. The way he had looked at her was far too fond. He had known, he knew, he did, but to hear it outright said, to be proven definitively right, he hadn't wanted it. To see that no matter how wrong he went that that goal would stay, that the goal itself wasn't noble in its own nature. That no matter what, his adoration, no it really was an obsession wasn't it, for Emilia was a constant even if it manifested in the worst ways possible.

'I…' It was one thing to see a witch cultist [Natsuki Subaru] do something so familiar and say something that was so close to his own desire, it was something unsettling, something that screamed horribly wrong, something that would haunt him for a while. -But he could have possibly gotten over it and disassociated from it with the simple fallacious reasoning of, 'He is a witch cultist Subaru, not me, I am not, so can't be me.' It was a completely different and polarizing thing to see the 'Natsuki Subaru' which greeted him every single day in front of the mirror do something so familiar, so personal, so him. It felt like his whole world was crumbling, the last vestiges of denial he could have had was gone.

"Flames of demise driving the nation to its destruction—the one to slay the culprit behind it won't

be Reinhard, won't be the Dragon, it'll be you. None of the Selection candidates left can achieve

anything to top this. The hero who broke through four centuries of standstill and saved the world is you!" The drivel being spewed at this point was barely even intelligible. It didn't matter it was still him saying it, saying it while stealing his reflection. Taunting him without even knowing it.

"That, isn't... what on earth are you saying!? Stop it, I don't understand! I don't understand anything you're saying!" Puck did nothing but hover aimlessly, useless as Emilia made panicked, inefficient attempts to block the world out. Fraught with guilt her hands rushed to cover her ears. Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut attempting to conceal any weakness from [Subaru] . Against her will tiny tears formed, running down her sunken pale cheeks and falling like miniature raindrops.

[Subaru] recoiled. Harshly. Shock overtook his face, seemingly taken aback at the sight of Emilia's emotional distress. Completely crushing his air bravado, his mouth moved up and down but no words were expelled. 'Did you expect to be praised? For her to say thank you for this massacure?' Something that could be called guilt flashed in his eyes only to be smothered and violently purged.

Once again finding his voice he continued, not meeting her gaze. "You don't have to understand. It's fine that you don't understand. Everything that comes next'll be settled when others boost you up of their own accord. Then you just have to grant your wish. That is the only reason I set the country on fire. All of it was for you." The words flowed from [Subaru]'s mouth, instantaneously, like a gushing torrent that had been suppressed for ages.

Almost apologetic, but enthused rambling, akin to that of a preacher to an agnostic, only [Subaru] understanding what he was explaining, even so, it was messy, hasty. Uncomposed words slopilly slurred into one another. His overeagerness to get everything out scrambling the message. Perhaps in another, kinder world it could have been the excited but innocent explanation of radio calisthenics, or a lecture on the delights of mayonnaise.

And yet there was only one thing Subaru could focus on, drowning out in the cesspool that was his mind. Washing over his other thoughts, dominating -demanding his attention. Violently squeezing out his rage. Subaru wanted nothing more than to gag at the other's words, dismiss them as gibberish, as lies.

'All of it was for you' Just. Those. Singular. Words. The words he himself had once imposed on her. Words that had brought such incredible amounts of shame to him now. Words that if he could he would take them back in a heartbeat. "It was for you wasn't it? " The thought tickled his mind. Emilia stood across from him, her saddened ethereal gaze falling onto him, truly seeing him for the first time. 'You loved her and you hurt her, slothful.'

Shrieks "Liar, liar, liar! I mean, I... you, how come, you..." -Broken promises marked by a seeping, semi congealed, sticky, blood on the floor, Emilia hunched over the empty shell of what once was 'Natsuki Subaru', tears glistening on her face, her anguished betrayed cries echoing, pounding, tearing at his mind. His own voice taunted him. 'You loved her and you died, abandoned her. Shut up, shut up, shut up, I didn't mean to!'

"—Watch me, Emilia. See me, detest me, remember me." A young Natsuki Subaru slumped against a wall, knees drawn into himself, nasty eyes downcast and presence unnoticed. 'Please look at me, see me, you won't have this much fun without me. Watch me, I can be special.'

Emilia shook, trembling, holding firm with legs that traitorously swayed uneasily. [Subaru] advanced upon her singular arm held wide awaiting embrace, eyes closed as if to parody some romantic gesture where Emilia would bestow upon him a kiss. 'Do I really come off that… well, cringey?' It was such a surreal scene that his own mind couldn't help but to find some unbefitting humor out of it. '

"Who, are you? Who in the world, are you...?" 'I… I'm me, Natsuki Subaru. Not him, not [Subaru]. Me, just me, useless, but not him, never him, I won't.'

Petelgeuse mocking laughter rose in his mind like an inharmonious chorus.

"—My name is Natsuki Subaru." -'Not only am I clueless, but I'm also broke beyond compare!' Fake, he was. So. Fucking. Fake. A fraud desperately clawing at a world that hated him yet somehow feeling fucking entitled to it all. Pretending that every day he wasn't suffocating, wasn't drowning himself, wasn't forcing a smile through grit teeth and hardly suppressed pain. That the stuff that made him himself wasn't spilling out by the gallon, every, single, second, losing himself more and more.

Things he kept reaching for always slipping right through his clammy, shaking, fingers like sand into oblivions he could not comprehend. 'Stop leaving me behind… please, I'm sorry don't go, I won't do it again.'

"Su, baru..." His name trailed on the wind softly, almost tenderly, utterly unfitting and undeserving of the situation. But it had a profound effect on [Subaru], invigorating him, bliss flooding into his ochre eyes luminously gleaming, filled with pure ecstasy. [Subaru] practically melted at the sound, posture perked up in delight unable to contain his overexcited erratic movements.

The perversion of emotion that had graced his face vanished quickly as he started his introduction. "—Witch Cult Cardinal of Sin,"- Rem's body hung limply in the air, the squelchy, wet sound of flesh and bone rending hung in the air. Limbs ajar, mutilated, twisting, twisting, twisting, breaking.

"Bishop of PRIDE," [Subaru] paused, almost certainly for dramatic effect but it allowed wretched memories to seep in. "Look. You must look. That is the result of your actions. By doing nothing, you practiced sloth. And because of that, the girl is dead! You killed her!" 'She loved you and you killed her. Your fault, all your fault.'

"Cardinal...!" Emilia cried out, fear and bewilderment threading their way into her silken voice.

[Subaru] finished with bombastic fervor, shrieking out. "Natsuki Subaru!" With more strength, more speed, more energy, more power than Subaru thought anywhere near possible for someone with his composition, he ran. Straight for Emilia, focusing everything he had on her and only her. 'What are you doing? Stay away from her.'

"I'm the man who burned the world, rocked the country, killed the hero, and—" A sharp intake of air escaped him as something stabbed through his chest. 'Just die.'

He gurgled, straining, mouth rasping out strained croaks. "—you will kill. "[Subaru] finished as he collapsed to his knees. A laboured sigh of content slipped from [Subaru]'s lips accompanied by the intertwining telltale strands of red velvet and saliva forcing their way out of his mouth as he tumbled anticlimactically. [Subaru] closed his eyes, accepting the death which had long been knocking on his door slighted time and time again.

'This is how it ends… all of this madness, and this is how it ends… slowly bleeding out, alone in a hellscape of his own making.' There were no cheers of celebration. No footsteps of knights resounding across the capital. No tides of people streaming out from their houses. No sun coming to peak out from behind the veil of ashes. There was nothing, nothing at all, either burnt to a crisp or long gone. Even the fires which had been devouring everything seemed to be consuming itself more than anything else.

"Why?"

'Why now, after all of this bloodshed, after sacrificing everything and everyone do you genuinely intend to die like this? What happened to all the pride you had before, that sheer persistence. You, who burnt Lagunica to the ground are just letting yourself die in such an unglorious manor.'

Emilia looked absolutely miserable and utterly exhausted, but through her determined resolve, mustered the willpower to ask. Her eyes were glossy and distant though her gaze was still trained on [Subaru]. Her face was contorted in a mixture of more emotions than he could place. Creases lined her face from the tensing of her facial muscles and the rigidness of her jaw.

Tears slid down Emilia's pale face giving it an almost heavenly sheen. "Why?" She repeated. There was more she wanted to say, unexpressed words curling on the tip of her tongue just begging to be said. It didn't really matter if they were vocalized or not, questions apparent on her face. Things like: Why me? Who are you? How? I can't understand. Why would I have wanted this? Why go this far for me?

'Why indeed…. Why do any of this. You unquestionably could have found a way to force yourself into her life, you could have found a way to make her love you, with enough tries, you could have had anything, and you chose this. So just why?'

"—I love you." With a single frail breath wrought with affection, he murmured the one thing he had been diligently waiting to say, as if that answered everything. The words were quiet, so quiet, quieter than death itself setting its sights upon them, yet loud, so very loud, louder than the constant jumbled wails blaring in his mind.

'That wasn't love, not at all. It can't be and isn't. How could you do that to someone you claim to love, stomping on her will just like that? It's obsession, hideous, ugly obsession and madness. That feeling of entitlement, that feeling of knowing someone who you admire when you haven't ever met them. You couldn't see Emilia as Emilia just as an ideal, I fucking hate you.'

Hatred, hatred burning brighter, hotter, loaded with more fury than the fires which raged on the city, a writhing pit in his metaphorical stomach that consumed and eclipsed all other feelings. Utter loathing stemming from how Pridebaru had gloated oh so happily about every single thing he had committed in order to achieve his goal. Every single death, a sin pressing down upon his mind.

And as much as he hated [Subaru] for that, the one thing he utterly despised was how he could be happy, how he could die with a truly content smile on his face after all of that. Emilia's anguished sobs stabbed into his soul while crying [Subaru] merely went on some tirade about how it had been for her as if he expected her to appreciate it. All the pain he himself had gone through, every single time they died in his arms while he was too weak, incapable of stopping their pain, incapable of bringing them the salvation he so yearned to give. Guilt a constant barrage bombarding his every waking thought in its subtle ways. Soaking into every crevice that was 'Natsuki Subaru' permeating his very being.

Why was this Subaru able to live with himself? Was he not wrathful that all his allies were dead and he would be soon to follow, contempted by the one he loved, that he was forsaking his own pride in death. His lust for Emilia was more evident so how could he bear to not be by her side. Why, oh why was he like this? Why was he so happy when he himself could not have that? It wasn't slothfulness, no, [Subaru] was far too greedy, resetting over and over again until he found exactly what he wanted, resetting over and over again in the name of love, in the spirit of glutinous obsession. Envy pure and true boiled up within him, sorry attempts to quash it with disgust failing.

'I've changed-'

Impartial to all the world faded around him, coldly throwing him back to an uncaring reality.

' t?'

High pitched whines rose from nowhere in an unempathetic response, slipping through the cracks nested in reality. Too many judging eyes stared him down, his heart was beating out of his chest, it hurt. Nausea rose inside him, assaulting his senses as the floor spun dizzyingly and walls became burnt faces and melting flesh. He couldn't breath. Choking, he was drowning in his own fluids, bile rushing up to fill his deprived throat. Sputtering hacks and wheezes eventually drew red.

Discordant thoughts collided into one another, shattering, spiraling into circles that just repeated each other, over, and over, and over, again. I love you. I love .

His words became hers, became the witch who shared her visage, echoing, distorting into jarring discordant shrieks assaulting his consciousness, voices whispering in his mind building to a dissonant crescendo 'Look at what you've done. Look, look, see!' Eyes with focal points upon whatever consisted of his pitiful current existence glared at him and him alone, twitching, piercing into him, accusingly, in condemnation. 'Stop stopstop, it's not me stop. Stop. Looking. At. Me. Go. Away.'

Subaru tried and failed to scream, growl, hiss, yell, shout, anything at all just to hear something else. His own throat betrayed him as he tried to force sound out of his frothing mouth only to be met with nothing. Dull claws dug rivets into his own flesh, raking and grinding across any surface they could find. Natsuki Subaru really was a sad excuse for anything, looking more like a rabid beast than human.

This has been quite the experience for me, I am definitely very happy with how this turned out and is the first thing I've ever finished. I had an idea for how to continue this post-trial kinda paralleling the Pride If, a little bit of it ended up in this fic especially with the last couple of paragraphs though TranslatorError did a wonderful job writing what I would consider the canonical ending to this, Avarice(The Devils Malice) definitely go check it out. I might put the general gist of the original concept if people want it though. As always feedback is more than welcome, comments are always loved. Not sure if it got too confusing might put all the he/hims referring to Pridebaru in [] for clarity.