Incomprehensible Motives

Hello everyone and welcome to the halfway season finale of A New Crusade! As you all likely suspect, there will be an announcement at the end of this chapter about the story's status, but fear not, the story is not being discontinued. So as always, a quick shout out to Noble Eight and all my other fellow readers who've helped to make this story better! And since we've no guest review questions to answer this week, let us dive right on in!

The Witches Graveyard: Castle of Dreams

To say Ulric was less terrified seeing the Witch of Envy for a second time was more or less wishful thinking. Though even if his fear of her had been banished completely, it still didn't take away from the fact that he was facing the most hated and powerful among all the witches in the world right now. Thankfully, the other six witches standing around him didn't look like they planned to interfere in this potential bout, which was one thing the Knight could be thankful for. "You broke through all of those barriers to enter into the castle of dreams?" Observed Echidna as Satella approached at a slow, steady pace, "that's quite rude."

"As if you're one to talk," commented Ulric without taking his eyes off the Witch of Envy. As before, she had a long black veil that covered her head and eyes, leaving only her mouth exposed. Unlike last time, the rest of her body was visible all the way down to her feet. Her black dress went down to her knees with a prominent, yellow flower design on each of her hips. Her arms were covered by a pair of robe-like sleeves with gold trim while her legs were adorned with knee-length boots. Indeed, she looked very much like the one Ulric had sworn to protect.

But the darkness radiating off of her was unmistakable as she reached her arms out in front of her. "For so long now," said Satella suddenly in a voice that was eerily similar to Emilia's but more mature sounding, "for so very long have I loved you, my knight. Loved you and no one else."

"So, you can speak more than that phrase," said Ulric, managing to keep his voice even, "but I cannot recollect ever having come across you in my world. Furthermore, are you sure I am the one you seek and not another, similar person within this world?"

"You are my Knight," said Satella, "the one and only person I have loved. And I have loved you for so very, very long." She continued towards him, reaching out to embrace him. As her hands were about to touch him, Ulric reacted by slashing his sword across her throat and backing away. But the Witch of Envy hardly seemed to notice aside from letting her arms fall back down to her sides.

"It is written in Hebrews that '…some have unwittingly entertained angels'," said Ulric, "but you are no angel and though you claim to love me I have received nothing but anguish and pain from the monsters who call themselves your followers. Not discipline or punishment for wrongdoing, merely pain and anguish for whatever twisted reasons you, Echidna and the rest of your kind have for doing what you do. If you truly wish to be of help to me, then take back the power you've granted your followers, swallow up those who would threaten the ones I love and have sworn to protect and help me rid this world of the horrid creatures who keep appearing to gorge themselves on us!"

His response this time was silence from the Witch of Envy as Ulric sighed and lowered his sword slightly. "So even you can't offer me the help I need without some ridiculous condition. But that's all I can expect when dealing with witches, so my decision remains the same. I'll rely on what God is willing to provide me to succeed."

"And then what," said Minerva suddenly as she stepped forward, "you just keep dying over and over again and making those you care for cry? Did you not learn anything from what you saw earlier? But I guess that's the nice thing about having a gift like yours. No matter what anyone else feels, you'll always have the excuse that you're suffering most."

"Do not mistake me for someone who hides behind excuses," said Ulric as he turned his attention to the Witch of Wrath, "I knew not and still know not that what I saw was even the truth. Regardless, I will still continue to act as both sword and shield against the threats to my love, my lady and those I hold dear because that is what I swore as a knight and should my death become necessary than it is simply the fate God decided for me."

"And I think deciding you're the only one who needs to suffer is cowardly," retorted Minerva, "it's a twisted and vile way of thinking worse than even a witch."

"Where do I even begin to say how, what was the new term I picked up, filthy rich that is coming from you," said Ulric as he pointed his sword at the Witch of Wrath, "you who hates the suffering of the world so much that you punch people to heal them! You who can never ignore a problem right in front of you! You who took on the burden of attempting to heal the world by herself, or were those all just empty words? As Christ himself said 'You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye,'!" He emphasized his final words with a swing of his sword.

"Well even if all that's true, at the very least, don't you think you're being ungrateful to her," said Minerva as she indicated Satella who stood by silently.

"Were it not for that damned cult that worships her," said Ulric as he gripped his hand over his heart, "those I care for wouldn't be in half as much danger nor would they have suffered near as much. Were it not for this wretched scent on my body casting unnecessary suspicion and anger towards me nor the horrid creatures you created roaming this world, I ask would this so-called blessing of yours have even been necessary if not for all of that?! You want to call me ungrateful but when you're often the reason it's necessary in the first place how can I be grateful? All I want is for us to be able to live in peace and because of you damn witches even that seems impossible, so who are any of you to judge me when much of my suffering is the result of your actions in the first place?!"

He couldn't help the release of mana from his body as he was speaking, singeing the grass beneath his feet and where he planted his sword on the ground. For a few moments, no one spoke. Then, Satella let her thoughts be known. "Don't be hurt," she said, "don't suffer. Don't be sad."

"To hurt and suffer and endure sadness is a part of being human," said Ulric, "if you do not know the pain of loss, if you cannot feel it then how can you know happiness or love?"

"Be kinder to yourself," said Satella, not seeming to hear Ulric. But he heard her.

"Don't be hurt, don't grieve," said Satella, "treasure yourself more."

"And do what, die less," questioned Ulric, "why give me the power to return from the grave if you don't intend for me to use it? Does it bring you some sort of sick pleasure to deny me the afterlife, to deny me Heaven?!"

"It's because I love you," said Satella, "I want you to love yourself more, protect yourself more."

"That was how it was back in the Crusades," exclaimed Ulric, "I had to move carefully, I had to protect myself to the best of my abilities because I didn't have any second chances! I could only save someone every now and then. But you gave me the ability to keep coming back so why wouldn't I make full use of it for the benefit of others? As a man of God I am blessed so that I may be a blessing onto others, as John 15 Verse 13 reads: 'There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.'!"

Ulric had to stop for a moment as he took a few shaky breaths. "But even despite my best efforts, the woman I truly love was still hurt and now there's no telling if she will ever be the same. So tell me, what is the point of this if I can't save those closest to me? Am I to simply give up and let those I care for suffer or worse, become like that bastard Roswaal and disregard everyone just for a single precious person? Would I really still be the type of man you'd love if I did that, Satella? But more to the point, if I did do something like that I would no longer be the man that Rem loved in the first place!"

His tirade came to an end as he looked around, waiting for any of them to give him an answer. When no immediate answer came, he let out a long sigh and collapsed to a sitting position on the grass. "You really try too hard," said Sekhment suddenly, "thinking you have to handle everything on your own."

"I've been betrayed more than once recently," said Ulric as he examined his reflection in his sword, "and there's been so little time to confront all of the current dangers. I was, just so very close before my last death."

"And now look how sad you are," said Typhon as she approached him and patted his shoulder comfortingly, "tell me Ric, who made you sad?"

"Where should I even begin," said Ulric, "The Witch's Cult, Roswaal, his assassins. I'd tell you them all if I thought you might be able to punish them." Typhon might've answered this, but Satella approached and knelt down in front of the swordsman, which Typhon took as a signal to step back.

"I love you, Sir Ulric," said the Witch of Envy, "because you gave me everything."

"I have given you nothing but my hatred," said Ulric as he suddenly lashed out with his dagger for the Witch's heart, "I'm little different from the rest of the world in that regard. The only real difference between me and them is my ignorance." He pulled the dagger out then, noting that it hadn't even torn her clothing before sighing and putting the weapon away, deciding to withdraw his familiar vial of poison.

"You complete moron!" Exclaimed Minerva as she suddenly lunged for the poison in the Knight's hand, only to be stopped by Typhon who jumped in front of her with her hands up and was sent flying in the process. Oddly, Minerva's hand cracked up and broke shortly after the contact. But the Witch of Wrath grit her teeth against the pain and continued on. "Stay out of the way Tyhpon!"

"You stay out of Ric's way!" exclaimed Typhon from her position on the ground, "this is his choice to make, Nerva!"

"I will not allow self-harm, suicide or murder to happen in my presence!" Exclaimed Minerva before suddenly being shoved to the ground by an invisible presence with enough force to create an imprint in the ground. "W-What, Sekhmet?"

"Emotionally, I'm more on the Knight Boy's side," said Sekhmet, still not having bothered to move from her spot on the ground, "And….I'm on Tyhpon's side too."

"It is still a rather ironic thing," said Ulric as he pulled the cap off the vial of poison, "ordinarily I'd be more for Minerva's point of view. You see, us Christian's view the body as a temple and intentionally bringing harm to it is considered a sin. Suicide, especially, is seen as a form of murder which only leads to hell. Were I still in my world, I'd never consider carrying around something like this to end myself."

"But why haven't you realized yet," said Satella suddenly as she put her hand over the vial, "that you should be among those you wish to protect? Such a thing should be obvious. What was it you saw, in those two trials?" Ulric gave a curious look at the Witch of Envy then.

"You, don't know what I saw," said the Knight as realization hit him, "is it possible that even you don't know the nature of what you gave me?"

"I want you, to live," said Satella, "do you not, want to live?" The Crusader glanced to the side as he thought about it for a long moment. He remembered what he saw in the first and second trials, the smiling faces of his parents and the tears of his new friends. He'd knew there were those in this world who cared for him and would hate to seem him die. Up until now, he hadn't thought that was actually occurring due to his ability to return from the grave. But now that such a possibility had presented itself, things were a bit more complicated.

"As always, I believe the word shall give the best answer," said Ulric, "I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain."

"Ha, I knew it!" Exclaimed Minerva as she suddenly leapt up, for some reason released by Sekhmet as she socked the knight in the side of his face, causing him to slide along the ground a short distance. "That is how you really feel, you don't actually want to die at all, do you?!"

"It's not exactly about dying or not dying," said Ulric as he sat up, rubbing his jaw. It didn't really hurt, but he rubbed it out of habit anyway. Had he the time, he'd wonder if the 'Witch of Wrath' could really harm anyone physically. "It's about remembering where God intends for me to be. As I mentioned earlier, a believer such as I would never even consider the idea of suicide under normal circumstances. Perhaps I was, admittedly, a bit arrogant in thinking that I was being clever by having something to kill myself on hand whenever the situation turned for the worst. After everything, I suppose I started taking this ability somewhat for granted."

"It wasn't your death that saved me," said Satella, "it was your life that saved mine. And because of that, I want you to be saved as well. It is my dearest wish that your life be among those that you are able to save."

"I suppose that means there's not much left to do other than trying to stay alive as best as I can," said Ulric as he stood up, grabbing and sheathing his sword in the process.

"This has been an interesting sight," said Echidna as she looked at her fellow witches, "I'm most surprised by the two of you, Sekhmet, Daphne." Indeed, it was odd to note that the witch of Sloth was actually standing up for a change while the Witch of Gluttony had pinned Typhon underneath her iron maiden with its legs.

"Why are you two getting involved in this," complained Typhon from underneath Daphne's iron maiden.

"Well," said Daphne, "Ulrun made a few boasts to me about killing my bunny and snake, so I'd really love to see him at least try to follow through with them."

"An intriguing thought," agreed Echidna before glancing at Carmilla, "and you were prepared to use your 'faceless bride' ability on him. But whatever for?"

"No….reason," said Carmilla shyly, "L-Love is important… least…..I think so. I just thought he might need…..a reminder. And….I can't stand to see it taken and not returned."

"So you two, Sekhmet and Tyhpon, chose to respect his wishes," summarized Echidna, "and you wouldn't let him follow through with what you called a mistake, Minerva. While Daphne supported Minerva because you wanted to see him continue fighting. And Carmilla even wished to see you return the love that you have received. So, while each of you clearly have your own reasons, you all wish to help this dear knight. How truly interesting, don't you think?"

Echidna gave a wicked yet happy smile at the thought of it all, likely quite amused at the outcome. "As I said before," replied Ulric, "every single one of you is insane. I still can't understand what it is about me that has you all so curious nor can I fathom why it is that you wish to help me. I suppose it is the nature of witches to be incomprehensible."

"Since you've resumed vilifying us, I take it you're better now than you were," said Echidna.

"I've a clearer idea of how I want to handle things from here on out," said Ulric, "but I still lack a solid plan to deal with the current circumstances."

"Then why not answer me this, Sir Knight," said Echidna as she stepped forward, "Should I lend you my assistance, you can rest assured that you will arrive at a future where you're able to save those you want to save. If you are unsure of what to do, would you extend your hand to me? Should you do so, I will take you to the future you desire without fail," She held out her hand then, "You have my word."

"And it is admittedly a tempting offer," said Ulric, "to have such knowledge available whenever I desire it. But the price to be paid for it is sacrifice, far too much sacrifice for me. Even if God did not forbid making deals with witches, I could not accept such conditions. So, I shall continue trusting in God above to show me the best path while also trying to better myself to keep from losing my life and making those I care for weep."

"That is a path lined with thorns," said Echidna as she dropped her hand in mild disappointment, "If you thought of your death before as a tool, all you needed to offer was your heart. But to try and claim both your heart and a good future for others will be exceedingly difficult, and above all…..rather greedy."

"And may God forgive me for it if it truly is greedy," said Ulric, "but despite all of that, even I must admit that I could not have done a number of things without your help. So at the very least, you will always have that." Echidna's mouth turned into a straight line before she spoke again.

"That poor, stupid Garfiel is afraid of the outside world," said Echidna, "you must first break that spell of fear over him to free him from his circumstances."

"Garfiel, doesn't want to go to the outside world?" Questioend Ulric.

"Oh, don't mind that," said Echidna with a dismissive wave, "I'm just being a poor, meddlesome loser. I can't let you leave thinking all the other witches were good at heart, with only Echidna being evil to the very end." She walked up and placed a hand on his chest then. "I may be a witch, but I am also a girl, one who's grown quite fond of you." She turned and walked back to the other witches then.

Ulric was also a bit confused by her other statement, but merely shrugged it off before making a quick bow to the other witches. "You are all, monsters beyond my comprehension," he said, "and I doubt we will ever come to understand one another. Despite that, I am compelled to thank you all for helping me through this trial. Whatever your odd reasons may have been, it is only right that I do so."

He approached Satella then, who was still kneeling on the ground. It was such an odd thing to see, given all that Ulric knew about her. A being capable of draining half the world and there she sat, like a delicate black rose that could be knocked over with the slightest breeze. "I feel I should at least admit that not all of my suffering was by your hand, and the ability to Return from Death has been one of my greatest boons in these recent struggles. But I am afraid I must try not to rely on it as much anymore if that is what it takes to show at least some gratitude. Do not, of course, assume my hatred for you has completely diminished."

"But you'll be, alright?" Questioned Satella with a tilt of her head.

"I will be better if nothing else," replied Ulric as he held out his hand, "now then, my hatred notwithstanding, chivalry still demands that I offer a hand to a lady." Satella nodded and accepted his hand, allowing the knight to pull her back up to a standing position.

"Please," said Satella as the sky suddenly started cracking above their heads and the illusionary world started to fade back to white, "don't fret all alone. Remember to fight alongside the people who care about you. And never forget, there are people who will grieve when you die."

"I am embarrassed I ever forgot such a thing in the first place," replied Ulric seriously.

"And one day," said Satella as the veil disappeared from her head, revealing a face startlingly similar to Emilia's, "you must come… kill me."

"I swear on my honor as a knight," said Ulric, "I will find you, and what happens after that… in God's hands." Everything faded to white then as he slipped into unconsciousness.

At the Temple Entrance

The first thing Ulric registered was hot air and canine breath on his face. But what really woke him up was the feeling of a warm, wet tongue on his features. "Gah, Spiegel," said Ulric as he managed to sit up, "how did you get in the Witch's Graveyard? Wait, when did we get outside of the graveyard?"

"Good to see you're awake," said Otto, standing at the top of the stone steps with his hands on his hips.

"Ah, Otto," said Ulric, "how did you and Spiegel manage to drag me outside of the temple?"

"It was Spiegel who drug you out," answered Otto as he indicated the Liger, "he started thrashing around for some reason, so I unhooked him from the carriage and he went in after you."

"I suppose the Witch's Graveyard is designed to reject people and not animals," mused Ulric as he scratched his Liger's muzzle, "but even so, to risk yourself like that for me, I couldn't have asked for a better stead." Spiegel's response to this was to lick his face again, prompting a short laugh from the knight. "Yes, I suppose I don't thank you enough for all you do, my apologies. Would you accept an extra helping for dinner later on?"

Spiegel barked happily at his suggestion as the knight got back up to his feet. "He's really fond of you," said Otto, "you should try not to take something like that for granted."

"My deepest apologies if it's seemed like that lately," said Ulric, "and thank you as well, Otto, you've gone above and beyond what we asked of you initially."

"Uh, did something happen in there?" Questioned Otto, "you usually don't thank me that much."

"Well I've had a few run-ins with some less than honorable merchants," admitted Ulric, "but now that I really stop and think about it, you're not like a lot of them. So, thank you for worrying about me up to this point my friend."

"You," Otto said as he pointed to himself, "you really consider me a friend?"

"As I've said, you've helped us out in more ways than one," said Ulric as he turned back towards the temple, "so if nothing else, I wouldn't feel right simply referring to you as a mere acquaintance. Now then, it's probably best if I warn you now, you'll probably need to pull me out one more time."

"Wait, what are you planning to do?" Questioned Otto as Ulric approached the entrance once again.

"I'm not certain," said Ulric, "but it's possible that I passed the second trial in there on accident, much like I did the first. Given the circumstances, I may as well-." A sudden jolt hit the knight as he ran into what felt like an invisible wall. He recoiled immediately as he was hit by a wave of nausea and had to take a knee before throwing up some of the bile in his throat.

"Ulric, are you alright?" Questioned a concerned Otto upon seeing his reaction.

"What in the world," coughed Ulric, "why couldn't I….that blasted wench." He recalled the moment Echidna had made contact with him right before walking away, connecting the dots as to her actions at that time. 'She must've removed my qualification. This, will greatly complicate matters.' "Otto, it seems we have a problem."

"What is it Ulric?" Questioned Otto, "were you just rejected by the temple?"

"It seems that way," affirmed Ulric as he stood back up to his full height, "and here I was hoping not to deal with that unpleasant bastard. But I suppose there's no choice now. Otto, could you please take Spiegel back to the carriage, I have some urgent matters to attend too."

"What, but what about-," Otto started to protest before Ulric interrupted.

"Please, this is something of a private affair I'll be dealing with," he said. Otto still didn't look entirely convinced, but he eventually relented and led Spiegel away. As for the Knight, he steeled his nerves for yet another likely unpleasant conversation.

Main Village House: Lord Roswaal's Room

To say it took restraint for Ulric to not attempt cutting off Roswaal's head the very instant he saw him was an understatement. He'd crossed his arms as soon as he could to ensure neither of his hands were resting on his blade, lest he be tempted to use it. Even his expression was currently being forced into a neutral look as the most powerful mage in the land repeated the question he'd just been asked. "You seek a way to leave the Sanctuary without going through the graveyard?" Summarized Roswaal upon hearing the Knight's inquiry, "Quite a bold suggestion, and one we've possibly discussed before."

"We've discussed a number of things more than once," said Ulric, "but among the topics we've discussed, this is the first time we've spoke on the current matter. But, since you put it that way, let's stop dancing around each other on this. I know that you know what I can do, and I won't even bother trying to count the number of times we've had this conversation." Roswaal actually looked slightly surprised at Ulrics' statement, likely because he said something that hadn't been written in his tome.

"It would seem you and I have quite the historyyyyyyy," said Roswaal, using his odd trademark pronunciation.

"As does this place," said Ulric, "a facility making artificial copies of Ryuzu, Garfiel's status as an Apostle of Greed, and a few other things."

"It seems you've learned quite a bit indeeeeeeeed," said Roswaal, "and while that is splendid, foregoing the graveyard seems surprisingly cowardly for a kniiiiiight. Tell me, what is your reason for the sudden haste?"

"I have many reasons," said Ulric, "among them being that despite my faith in Emilia, it occurs to me that she will be unable to fulfill her goals if she is broken mentally by these trials. As a knight, I'd be failing in my duties to allow something like that."

"And is that not the reason you are capable of taking her place?" Questioned Roswaal.

"I'm honestly surprised you don't know already," said Ulric, "have you not read the words in your tome of wisdom as to the reason for my visit?" Roswaal arched an eyebrow at his question before letting out a sigh and waving his hand over his face. All of his makeup disappeared in an instant as he pulled out said tome and laid back on his bed.

"It should be a simple matter for you to take Lady Emilia's place," said Roswaal, "as her knight and her friend, it should be only natural that you wish to protect her from harm. Perhaps your resolve is still in need of sharpening. Are you not aware that sometimes, it is necessary to trample upon the feelings of the ones you hold dear in order to protect them? Even if it is ignoring what she wants, it shouldn't matter so long as you are able to protect her."

"It seems you've misread the situation entirely," said Ulric, "I did not come here for a lecture on resolve, especially not from you. The issue, at the moment, is that I have lost my qualification to enter the graveyard and take the trials." That got a reaction out of the mage as he sat up slightly.

"What did you say," said Roswaal, for once with a look of mild confusion.

"So much for your tome if you didn't know even that," mocked Ulric before getting back on topic, "It seems that while I completed the second trial, it was not quite the satisfactory result intended. Now, were I to attempt to take the third I would likely wind up like you. Since your family's managed this land for generations now, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that you know of another way to leave."

"I'm afraid it's not so convenient as that," said Roswaal as he adjusted himself in his bed and hugged the tome closer to himself, "while you may be locked out right now, if you truly wish it, Echidna will grant your qualification once again. That is, of course, the nature of her greedy personality. It has been that way since I was enchanted by those eyes four hundred years ago."

"And the very reason you're another mere puppet," remarked Ulric, "since time is of the essence and trying to win back my qualification could take a fair bit, tell me, were I to kill you here and now would your death halt the assassins you sent to the mansion?"

"Oh, so you are aware of that as well," said Roswaal, "yes, I gave the order for assassins to be sent to the mansion. My intentions then are the same as they've always been, to sharpen your resolve. So even if you do kill me right now, do you have a plan to deal with the assassins, or Ram? Will you have time to explain to everyone why you felt it necessary for me to die? And this is all assuming you are able to end my life before Ram enters and rushes to my defense. It would be a shame if something happened to her in the scuffle."

"Which is the only other reason I haven't tried rending your head from your shoulders when I entered this room," said Ulric, "but I still fail to see how creating more problems will solve anything for you."

"Because creating these problems will perfect you," said Roswaal, "right now, you have two options on whom to save. Even with your authority, it is impossible to deal with both issues. So you must decide what is more important to you and realize that once you make that choice, there is no going back. And eventually, you shall reach perfection as a being who can save one and no others."

"And that's all," said Ulric as his hand had a white-knuckle grip on his sword, "your intention in the end is merely for me to be another tool to bring about your desires?" Then, for some odd reason, his grip loosened on his weapon as a laugh suddenly started in his throat. It grew little by little until the Crusader was almost cackling.

"Oh, have you finally gone as insane as me?" Questioned Roswaal, "If so, that is splendid. One must be at least a little insane to walk an insane path."

"It seems you misunderstand once again," said Ulric as he got his laughter under control, "your talk about resolve and perfecting such a narrow mindset. It simply tells me more about how truly pathetic you are as a person. You once told me you do your utmost for your goals and if that goal is Echidna, then it begs the question as to why you haven't been granted a qualification for the trial as well? Do you not truly wish to see her, is not your so-called perfected resolve good enough to interest a witch with uncontrollable greed?"

Roswaal didn't answer as his face turned to a more neutral expression. "I've truly found it curious for some time now, how such an eccentric man could be so uncreative," said Ulric, "were you truly so eager then why are you scared to deviate from the so-called path laid out in that book? You spoke once of correcting discrepancies, but have you never considered that your goals could still be fulfilled without resorting to the exact future written in that tome? There is only one path to God, but he can guide us to our destiny no matter how we stray. That is why it is written 'Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?'"

"I do not deviate from this book because it tells of the ideal future for which I dream," said Roswaal, "and it gives me hope. The same hope I am given by your presence and Ram's. You three are the only ones I am capable of having any true faith in."

"So you say," replied Ulric as he turned to leave, "had you true faith. You would cease your interfence and let things simply play out, discrepancies or otherwise. If it it truly God's will for you to reach your ideal future, then you shall reach it without fail. But if it is not, there is nothing either you or I can do about it." Ulric let those words hang in the air as he exited the room.

Unfortunately, what little satisfaction he may have taken from that interaction was quickly overshadowed by the fact that he still needed a plan. "There has to be something I can do," muttered Ulric as he circled around the outskirts of the village, walking among the trees. He knew the snow would not come as long as he remained there and that Emilia would also be able to keep her sanity, but then Rem and the others would eventually be in danger at the mansion. "Lord in Heaven, tell me what I can do."

"I'm not sure about this Lord of which you speak," said Otto suddenly as he emerged from the bushes, "but perhaps I might be able to tell you what you can do."

"Otto, what brings you out here at this hour?" Questioned Ulric, not really needing but also not quite minding the distraction.

"To say good morning, for starters," replied Otto, "I suppose you've noticed the sun is coming up?"

"It is," acknowledged Ulric, "my sleeping pattern has been a little disturbed with the time I spent in that temple. But you still haven't answered the question as to what brings you here?"

"To help you out, of course," said Otto, "you've cleary got a lot on your mind right now, enough to make you pace around the outskirts of the village. I wouldn't be a very good trader if I couldn't read people to at least some degree."

"And what do you have in mind for helping me?" Questioned Ulric, genuinely curious.

"It's something to help those who may be approaching their wit's end," said Otto, "just do as I say and everything will be fine."

"It's when merchants start talking like that, that I actually begin to worry," remarked Ulric.

"Just trust me on this," said Otto, "Now, take a long, deep breath."

"As you say," replied Ulric before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. He'd used a similar method to calm his nerves on the battlefield from time to time, so perhaps this is what Otto was attempting to do. At least that's what he thought until he felt a fist crash against his jaw, causing him to stumble slightly.

"S-stop," grunted Otto as he tried to hide the fact that his hand was clearly hurting, "stop trying to put on such a tough front around your friends, Ulric!" To say the knight was surprised was a mild understatement. It wasn't that he never thought the merchant wouldn't throw a punch, he just never thought he'd actually throw a punch at him.

"Alright," said Ulric as he felt the slightly sore spot on his cheek, "I suppose I do try a bit too hard sometimes to keep others from worrying about me. So tell me, Otto, what should be our next step?"

And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, our current final chapter for the first half of season 2! Still not sure how I feel about the show picking that particular spot to take a break on, but at least we know more is coming. And yes, this story will also be taking a hiatus for a little while to await the next half of Re:Zero season 2, and because I'll be resuming a couple of other stories, namely Team WA: Stories from Around Remnant, The Adventures of Team WA Vol. 2, and, surprise surprise, I shall also be resuming Breath of the Rifleman. Turns out I couldn't let the story sit for long and with the small gap coming up between stories, now's as good a time as any to resume. So as always, feel free to leave a comment or review about what you liked/disliked or if you've got any neat ideas for future chapters. Be sure to stop by when the season resumes January or so of next year! 'Til then.