Rem smiled with broadened lips as she looked to her side where Subaru was sound asleep with his head resting on her shoulder.

The reality in which he defensively and incautiously gave custody of his body to her like this made her happy.
The Subaru right now was not the usual Subaru. Rem knew that this current state of his meant that he wouldn’t let out his real intentions, but even then, him being able to have all this wholehearted faith in her like this was supreme happiness for her.

[Rem: Subaru-kun, come closer.]

[Subaru: …….mm, oo]

Rem was in distance of being able to feel his breath. She brought Subaru’s body even closer, gluing his body to her. The driver’s seat was a seat for one person, so in order for them to sit, they had to do the unreasonable. Naturally, Rem should be the one to give her petite body’s weight to Subaru. However, if she did that right now, it would be unreliable for both of their bodies.
Ever since they boarded onto the dragon carriage, half of the docile Subaru’s body was on her lap, Rem had continued to grip onto the bridle with one hand as she held his back with her other hand, and she continued to pull onto the bridle while fixing her sitting.

She tried her best to maintain a posture that wouldn’t make Subaru do anything unreasonable. This is why her posture in which she surrendered the majority of the driver’s seat was quite painful for her. She spent almost half of the day like this, so it wouldn’t be odd for her to become exhausted midway if she was an ordinary person.
In regards to that point, Rem had a level of body strength that was far above the ordinary person. She also had this type of mental fortitude of being exceptional at firmly enduring things. And above all, she would be fired up the most in situations where her suffering would be for Subaru’s sake.

Rem didn’t know what kind of conversation Subaru and Emilia had when they were together, nor did she know what kind of stress was produced as a result.

On that day when the meeting of the king’s election at the king’s capital was announced, when Rem let Subaru go to the castle as instructed by Roswaal, she was seriously surprised from how exhausted Emilia looked when she came back.
While being in her exhausted state, she gave a general explanation to Rem about what happened at the castle. In addition, she went to see Subaru, who she left behind at the castle. She told her that he was headed towards Crusch’s mansion.

She wasn’t reprimanded for letting Subaru go.
In order to prevent herself from pondering about how Emilia let that part slip by her, even if she had some opinion on it, she didn’t propose the topic herself into the conversation.
Subaru was just quietly taken into the Karsten residence in accordance with Emilia’s orders. She had a small conversation with Roswaal a bit before that, but that part was kept secret from Emilia and Subaru. Moreover, it was a meaningless conversation to bring up as of now.

Anyhow, Subaru, who entered the Karsten residence, had his healing formally begin.
Rem went to see him as a guest of the mansion. She was given freedom for most of her actions, as this made it clear that she was different from Subaru and that she wasn’t receiving healing herself. Rem spent most of those free hours standing by Subaru’s side.
There were times where she’d be exhausted and would want to unconditionally approve of his bravery to keep things the same, but her motive was more related to her personal feelings.

Rem couldn’t spend much time with Subaru in Roswaal’s mansion.
He mainly acted as Ram’s assistant for the duties of the mansion, while she had the role of having to mainly carry the burden of taking care of the mansion’s maintenance. Thus, the places where she went about her work were different, and the amount of work she did was different as well. The times when it’d be necessary for her to be with him became scarce in comparison to her older sister. This made her considerably dissatisfied, and it made her grow anxious.
Once she became aware of this, she felt like it was really wrong, although she didn’t talk about it.

[Rem: Subaru-kun, it’ll be alright.]

It seemed like Subaru might’ve been having trouble sleeping, as he was twisting his body. Rem fixes the way she’s holding him under her arms, as if to calm him down, and calls out to him gently while holding onto the bridle.
She closes her eyelids and the sleeping Subaru did not respond to her voice. She felt like the sharp eyes in the corner of her eye were just a little relaxed. His mood was renewed by Rem and then she looked forward.

The night went by and they were headed towards the mansion, but she thought that it might be wise to camp out once somewhere along the way. It was past noon when they left Crusch’s residence. When they got to about the halfway point on their way to the mansion, the moon came out and was visible in the clouds.
They were moving a lot slower than they originally planned. This delay was more due to Rem thinking about how to avoid bringing burden to Subaru, rather than it was making the dragon carriage travel at a speed considerably lower than its natural speed.

In 2-3 hours they would have traveled a distance they planned to cover for half of the day, but if they continued at this pace until they reached the mansion, they might not arrive there until it’d be turning into morning.

[Rem: If we take that long, it would also be hard to communicate with Nee-sama.]

They had to be in a certain distance of each other and they both had to be awake in order to sense each other’s empathy.
In particular, the conditions required for Rem to immediately emit her empathy to Ram were quite strict, in regards to willpower and distance. Anyhow, it was impossible for her to report their situation to Ram with their current distance from each other. They would be at a more ideal distance around the time when it’d be late at night.

――Yeah. Let’s camp out.

Rem made that decision to camp out and pulled onto the bridle, ordering the earth dragon to come to a halt.
The earth dragon they were riding accords its speed with the meaning of that order, slows down, slowly comes to a stop, and then looks towards them as it breathes roughly from its nose.
Rem leaves Subaru on the driver’s seat, smoothly jumps off from there, lands on the ground of the main road, and then looks around at her surroundings.

It was already past sunset. The only things Rem observed were the light from the moonlight that covered the Reefus road, and the illumination from the used Rugmight crystal that she had equipped onto the dragon carriage.
They were also fortunate with the lack of clouds; the moonlight in this night was enough to brighten their surroundings. On the other hand, when she estimated the chance of being attacked by thieves to be unlikely, Rem quickly boarded onto the carriage that the dragon carriage pulled over and then fabricated a simple bedroom as she promptly piled on a blanket. And then

[Rem: Excuse me, Subaru-kun.]

She carried the sleeping Subaru princess style and wrapped him into the bedroom’s futon while carrying him like that.
Rem understood his weariness from having been traveling while sitting and put him to the side. She turns his light body, checks his condition, and then heads outside of the carriage to guard the camp.

She wasn’t very worried about thieves, but there were demon beasts and stray dogs that would attack at night, taking advantage of the scarcity of dragon carriages passing by.
Rem was someone who encountered some amount of cases like that in the past. She knew that they were more dangerous than humans, although

[Rem: You’re here with me tonight, so I don’t think I have to worry that much.]

Rem reaches her hand out and caresses the face of the earth dragon, which it lowered towards her.
This was her companion that was tied by a bridle for a long time of half a day. It also had love formed to a certain extent, as it listened well to what Rem told it when they first met. She met it when it was surely going under training and could only give it praise, commending it as the type of dragon carriage one would expect from the prince’s residence.
Though, the earth dragon’s good quality of being understanding did also have something to do with Rem being a higher ranked species as an “oni”.

The earth dragons were a species that stood out among the dragon species and were friendly with humans. They would insert themselves many times as a part of people’s daily lives, making themselves of great use to them just because of their gentle personality.
When it came to flying dragons and water dragons though, these dragons had to go through special training and breeding since birth, so the times in which they’d be a part of people’s daily lives would be lower in comparison to the earth dragons.
In any case, when it came to dragons, the earth dragons were a species that was friendly towards humans. However, a line was naturally drawn with the other beasts when it came to their nature. On top of there roughly being no beasts with an unpredictable wildness to genuinely attack earth dragons, the earth dragons themselves also had this trait of using their noses effectively.

Earth dragons wouldn’t be attacked unless there was a group of numerous demon beasts or if there was a group of thieves. Plus, these dragons would perceive their attacks roughly beforehand.
Therefore, she didn’t have to worry that much because she brought along an earth dragon.

[Rem: Rest thoroughly, please.]

The earth dragon and herself were more than enough to provide lookout for the night.
Rem called out to him like that while she looked up briefly at the bedroom. She then pet the nose of the earth dragon that came towards her and makes the dragon sit on the ground. She leans onto the tough skin of the sitting earth dragon, puts the blanket that she carried out onto her body, and then tenses her consciousness to keep guard.

If they chose to leave at a suitable time when the sun would start coming up, they should be able to reach the mansion in the morning.
She had no choice but to contentedly accept the reprimand for taking Subaru home and not reaching their goal. Because above all, she was the only one who could protect the current Subaru.

[Rem: But if Subaru-kun goes back……]

He’d only have Emilia. That was tantalizing to Rem.

It was very difficult for Rem to come in contact with this person called Emilia.
Roswaal showed her in as a guest, and as of now, she was treated like a being that was superior to herself because she was one of the king’s candidates. In fact, Rem and Ram were also instructed to treat her like that.
Rem didn’t have much to object when she was told to treat her higher than Roswaal, who was the head of the mansion. Ram, who was a supreme supporter of Roswaal, seemed displeased with this, but Rem didn’t really have as much of a reaction in comparison. Of course, she wasn’t so foolish to express it in words or with her face. These things were only known because Rem sensed Ram’s feelings on the matter.
They didn’t really keep conscious of their own displeasure, which is why it reverberated strongly in their empathy sensing.

The feelings Rem had towards Emilia were complex because of her origins. It wasn’t related to Roswaal.
――Emilia was a half elf. In other words, this was a truth that depicted her as half devil.

In her head, Rem thought that she was not at fault at all. However, it was truthfully too much for her to understand with her feelings.
It wasn’t as if Emilia was at blame. However, half devils were beings who caused a great influence to Rem’s despise in her life.

It was hard for her to choose to meet her favorably, and it was hard for her to choose to meet her spitefully too.
As a result, she made a firm decision to meet with her briefly and acted in a way so that they wouldn’t deviate from their respective positions of “guest and maid”.
Rem threw her feelings aside and followed Emilia’s instructions like a machine. She didn’t say things that indicated that she was doing something like intentionally keeping mind of whether or not Emilia still sensed that type of behavior from her.

The days went by with their relationship being like that, and she felt like the results of the king’s election wouldn’t change it. She had a few amount of higher roles to be possibly presented to her even upon the ending of the king’s election. She imposed this position to herself, and even if she had feelings of likes and dislikes towards Emilia, she also warned herself that it’d be unnecessary to adhere to changing her role.

And yet, Rem’s current feelings towards Emilia were completely different from her previous feelings.

It terribly irritated Rem’s heart.
In Rem’s perspective as someone who wasn’t a child that couldn’t admit her own feelings, Emilia’s stubbornness was beyond help in every way. And then, while knowing about how Emilia had a reasonable past where she became like this, she got sick of herself for thinking like that.

Those feelings created a vortex, and when that single boy filled the center, it seemed like they would explode.

Rem takes a breath, wincing from her repulsiveness.
She surrounds herself like this in this environment whose source of light was even vague, in this noiseless world, and then she naturally shifted towards wandering thoughts.
Time progressed so vaguely and so slowly that it seemed like no matter many times you looked up at the inclination of the moon, it looked like it didn’t even change from its previous spot.

The night was long. This lonely night was late, cold, and long in every way possible.

Suddenly, Rem is driven by an impulse to slip into the carriage behind her that she was protecting.
Just how nice would it be if she slipped next to the boy with a peaceful face, who was in the carriage, wrapped in a blanket, and was in such a deep sleep that it was like he wasn’t dreaming, and shared the warmth with him?
And even more, she started to feel a temptation to consider abandoning everything and running away.

Even if they returned to the mansion like this, what awaited him was a severe reality that was far from ideal.
But as of right now, if they used the dragon carriage and headed somewhere, blame would only go towards her own conscience and nowhere else. If she continued to interact with Subaru as time passed by, he would even recover from his baby like state and she might be able to spend time together with him while being different from before.
In regards to traveling expenses, Roswaal also gave her a considerable amount of money. If she had this and concealed their whereabouts, she and Subaru could retire from the world.

[Rem: Fufu…that’s a fairy-tale……]

She shakes her head and smiles wryly at her wild idea while pushing her head into her knees, which she held with her arms.
She couldn’t make that choice where she ignored everything. Naturally, having to avoid being reminded of the things that came to her mind was a cruel thought.
She couldn’t put her older sister――she couldn’t put Ram behind and leave the mansion. Ram was certainly Rem’s half to her, and above all, she didn’t know how big of a burden Ram would have to deal with if she left her behind at the mansion. Rem’s older sister, who was sweet to her, would surely still kindly forgive her. This is why she couldn’t betray her older sister.

Roswaal entrusted a great amount of money and an important role to Rem, who thought that betrayal over. He did this on the basis of believing that Rem wasn’t someone who could betray that trust, as she was a reliable person.
And above all

[Rem: I can’t…….I can’t leave Subaru-kun like this.]

Euphoria reigned over Rem while she was gallantly taking care of Subaru.
She was aware of how she had a strong personality of wanting to keep things entirely to herself. If possible, she wanted everyone important to her to be in a place of reach. Serving people would allow her to actually feel the value of her existence――you could say this was the maiden spirit that she had by nature.
Therefore, Subaru’s current state in which she took care of him was not painful for Rem. Rather, these were days where it actually made it feel like Subaru couldn’t go on without her.

However…that….wasn’t…the original Subaru.

To Rem, the person called Natsuki Subaru would always――

※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※ ※

Rem slowly lifts her face into the moisture of the atmosphere’s morning mist as she swings her bangs.

When it was about time to leave, she freshened her cognizance while being drunk from the feeling of drifting into the gap between sleep and reality; one might’ve called it semi-awakening her consciousness.

No conspicuous changes appeared at night, and not even a sign of any demon beasts or thieves appeared before them. Nevertheless, it seemed like Rem was worn-out too. Her consciousness reached the point of starting to give in to her sleepiness, possibly from having to bear the hours where it felt like there was something different when nothing actually changed. Her consciousness switched over to the aforementioned semi-awake condition, and then she wasted some time for her own rest too.

She stands up and stretches in the fresh morning air.
It was a loose, disgraceful gesture. She definitely wouldn’t do it in a place where it would be seen by other people. But even if she could be seen, just being seen by Subaru, who was sleeping soundly by her side――

[Rem: Su―Subaru-kun!?]

She jumps back in surprise, and becomes aware of the fact that this boy was wrapped in a blanket by her side.
The boy who was snuggled up to her loses his support and slowly rolls into the grass, moving slightly with a frown on his face.

Rem compares Subaru and the dragon carriage in the back with her eyes. He must’ve came down when Rem’s consciousness was gone and rolled to her side.
On the other hand, although she shivered from having not noticed that reality, her face started to blush while she became aware of just how much trust Subaru had in her.
While making that young lady-like reaction, deep down she thought about how Subaru’s actions right now might’ve been a good sign.

If he was awake, Subaru would only give reactions where you couldn’t tell if he was expressionless, crying, laughing, or smiling. That boy got off the carriage himself, which showed how he performed willing actions like this.
The settling of his gradually broken heart began. Rem held onto her hope of suspecting that his character was reconstructing.

[Rem: ――Alright, let’s head back, Subaru-kun.]

Things were going in the right direction, considering how a change was produced.
She thought that this was because of how she influenced the boy in front of her, though this wasn’t a type of thinking that was typical of her. Thus, that change inside him, in some respects, seemed to be something precious to Rem.

She holds up Subaru again in her arms while he’s sleeping, and wakes up the earth dragon upon boarding onto the driver’s seat. She calls out to the awaken dragon, and restarted their journey after giving it a drink of water.
The wheels crash against the surface of the main road and they begin moving as they slowly increase their speed.

There was about half of their journey left. Looking at it in regards to time, it would last about 7-8 hours.
They were more replenished in comparison to yesterday when they departed while only having grim willpower and grim physical strength. Rem gazes at Subaru’s face, who was in a deep sleep, uses the bridle to communicate a message to the dragon carriage to hurry up, and then it increased its speed.

Surely everything would turn around towards a good direction.

――That’s what Rem believed.