Re: Zero – 44 – Prediction of a Happy Future

Lil’ Lia is all alone when Pandora approaches her. With Kugimiya Rie’s soft, sweet yet oddly menacing voice, Pandora begins the mind games, thanking Lia for bringing the key to her at the opportune time. When Lia says she knows of no such key, Pandora goes straight to threatening to “turn over” the forest looking for it. Then Lia says she’ll be the key, and it appears in her hands, though only she can see it.

For all intents and purposes, Lia herself is the key—she always was—and protected as such by being kept in isolation away from the seal she unlocks. But unlike the inanimate object with which she shares a purpose, she’s a key that made a promise to Mother Fortuna. This is when Pandora tells her she must make a choice: keep the promise and invite conflict, or break the promise and resolve “all this” harmoniously.

Pandora makes it clear that should Lia decide to keep her promise, she has a promise of her own: to open the seal by any means necessary. As if rewarding Lia for standing firm, Fortuna returns to her side, thanking her for keeping her promise. I may have faked myself out in believing Fortuna was killed by Pandora off-screen, and that she’s Lia’s biological mom.

She’s neither, and Lia is again referred to as “the Witch’s Daughter”, implying her birth mom is one of the witches. That’s not answered, but suffice it to say Fortuna doesn’t possess the ability to kill Pandora and make it stick; as a witch, Every time she’s struck down, Pandora can resurrect her body instantly, calling into question whether she’s even physically there.

Her witch’s tricks also victimize poor Geuse, who arrives in the nick of time with plans to help Fortuna. It’s important to note that he hasn’t “changed sides” here; his bloodshot eyes simply cause him to see Fortuna as Pandora and Lia as Fortuna, so when he uses his newly acquired Unseen Hands, it is Fortuna who receives the full brunt of the attack, which proves fatal.

As Pandora assures Geuse that his “love was not wrong”, and nor was offering up his soul to save the one he loved. In her last breaths, Fortuna expresses regret for not being able to keep her promise to her sister-in-law, saying she’ll never forgive her. Lia forgives Fortuna in her mother’s place.

Fortuna isn’t dead for five seconds before Pandora says Lia is no longer bound by promises made to a dead woman. Not the most tactful witch, is she?! Lia removes her flower hairclips and replaces them with one of Fortuna’s, which resembles a snowflake. She then interrupts Pandora with a simple “Die”, exploding her with a giant snowflake.

Again and again Lia’s ice magic destroys Pandora’s body in the blink of an eye, and again and again Pandora returns a blink later, telling Lia it’s pointless to continue. As Lia gets more and more upset, her ice magic gets out of control, covering Fortuna, an emotionally wrecked Geuse, everyone in the village, and all of Elinor Forest.

Lia herself becomes encased in ice, and Pandora accepts that she’ll have to wait a bit longer to unlock the seal, but it will happen. Before taking her leave, she touches Lia’s face, removing all memories of their encounter and knowledge of her existence, telling her to “fill the emptiness” however she likes.

Before her breakthrough with Subaru, learning all of this may have broken Emilia, but she accepts everything she’s seen without complaint, or protest, or emotional breakdown. Because she’s able to part with her greatest regret and accepted her past self, she’s completed the first trial, just as Subaru did.

While she regrets she wasn’t strong enough to do more, Emilia is pleased to learn she never broke her promise to her mother to obey Fortuna. She never yielded to Pandora and even forced her to withdraw. She now has her gaze focused on the future, one in which the permafrost is lifted from Elinor and her friends awaken from their deep slumber so they can yell at her.

When (not “if”) that happens, she vows to keep apologizing until they forgive her, so they can all live in the world her mother, Fortuna, and Geuse loved. Echidna can rail against her all she wants about delusions, pushiness, insolence, egotism, selfishness, and hypocrisy, but she can’t deny the effectiveness of Emilia using her mother’s sacrifice as an “excuse” for her resolve, to see that the future she dreams of come true.

Echidna parts ways with Emilia, telling her that while two trials remain, because she’s now “fighting back” they shouldn’t be much of a challenge. Was that a backhanded compliment from someone who claims to despise Lia? I believe it was! With that, Emilia wakes up within the graveyard, still festooned with Subaru’s well wishes. As her eyes fill with tears, Emilia apologizes to her mother, and prepares for the second trial.

Meanwhile, Bilma and Ram help take Shima somewhere where she can rest, now that she’s successfully told Subaru the true purpose of the Sanctuary. Armed with this knowledge, he, Otto, and Garfiel pay another visit to Roswaal, who is again in full makeup and costume; his “war paint”, so to speak. Subie’s glad to see him taking their battle seriously, but brings Otto to point out that the Margrave’s carefully set up game board is already falling apart.

Roswaal doesn’t recognize Otto, because the prophesy in the gospel makes no mention of him. While this irks Otto, it’s actually good, because it meant he could act freely without the bounds of destiny licking at his heels. It was entirely thanks to Otto that Subaru was able to find the backbone he needed for this battle. Subaru and Otto virtually break the fourth wall in musing about a male character playing that role rather than the love interest.

Subaru has brought Otto, as well as the “tamed” Garfiel, to show Roswaal that the writing is on the wall—and he’s not talking about his encouraging messages he left for Emilia. With Roswaal’s game board quickly falling into ruin, Subaru has come to ask for his surrender. He probably won’t get it so easily, but like Pandora asking Emilia to unlock the seal for her, he had to ask!

Re: Zero – 43 – Run Lia Run

From last week’s cliffhanger with Regulus we take a brief detour to a weakening Ryuzu Shima tell Subaru & Co. a tale about her progenitor, Ryuzu Meyer, who lived in the Sanctuary before it was a Sanctuary. There, she met Echidna, Witch of Greed, and her daughter, a young Beatrice.

Meyer endured Beako’s unyielding haughtiness and the two went on to have “quite a heartwarming friendship”. Meyer also met a generations-young Roswaal, whose eyes were the same color back then. Getting down to brass tacks, Shima says the former Sanctuary “collapsed”, and then the true reason for the Sanctuary’s existence came about.

Just when Shima’s story is getting good, we shift back to Emilia’s trial. Considering the trial isn’t even done introducing people, I would’ve probably preferred to pick up where we left off, since Shima’s story and Lia’s past don’t really connect (at least not yet). New to the stage and flanking Regulus is the Witch of Vanity, Pandora, who—surprise, surprise—resembles Echidna, Satella, and Emilia.

Pandora wants the seal, so the Witch’s Cult can “fulfill its long-cherished desire.” Regulus seems to be her muscle, but as always has his own agenda and is an exhausting stickler for “authority” and “permission”. As Fortuna runs off with Lia, Geuse stands his ground and whips out the Witch Factor he was holding onto for just such an occasion.

Apologizing to someone named Flugel-sama, he presses the factor to his heart and undergoes a painful transformation. Pandora grants him the title of Sloth, Geuse uses Unseen Hands to fight Regulus (and puts extra emphasis on “desu!” For the first time).

The resulting stalemate enables Emilia and Echidna to shift to young Lia’s perspective. Fortuna gets her as far away from the fight as she can before entrusting Archi to her care, but not before giving her a loving, tearful goodbye, insisting she loves her like a daughter. Indeed, present-day Lia comes to believe Fortuna is her “real” mother after all, though it’s still not crystal clear if she means biological.

Archi carries a weeping Lia, aiming to leave the forest as Fortuna commanded, but he’s tripped up by the Black Serpent, a plague-bearing mabeast. The wound quickly spreads across his leg, which he amputates and freezes, but the spread doesn’t stop, it only slows. With what time he has left he orders Lia to head to the field of flowers and keep running straight and forward.

Fortuna reunites with Geuse, and the two have a very lovey-dovey moment that tests Regulus’ already virtually non-existent patience for being ignored. When Pandora gently asks him to remain calm, he turns her into a bloody mist.

She returns without a scratch moments later, drives Regulus into the ground, and then uses her ability to rewrite reality itself.  The purpose for Regulus entering the forest has been achieved, so she returns him to his mansion, which also undoes all the wounds he inflicted on Geuse. It’s as if he was never there!

Considering that there’s nothing stopping the witch from turning that terrifying, reality-altering power onto Geuse and Fortuna, their chances feel so much more hopeless against her than Regulus, and yet they won’t run. Protecting Emilia and the Seal is everything, and if they have to die, they’ll die together. Of course, as we know, only Geuse ends up living to encounter the likes of Natsuki Subaru—albeit in a profoundly twisted form.

As for Lil’ Lia, left to her own devices, all the thoughts about everyone hating her and not wanting her around flow back, and she soon becomes lost. This despite the fact that Fortuna, Geuse, and Archi never stopped telling her how loved she is or how good a girl she is. She believes the only way to fix things is to give the pretty witch what she wants: the key. The lesser spirits guide her to the Seal.

When she arrives, Pandora is already there, which indicates not only that Fortuna and Geuse didn’t last long, but that Emilia is the key to the Seal (duh). Moreover, Pandora was expecting Emilia to come to the Seal. The shit has officially hit the fan in this trial…but it’s not over yet.

Re: Zero – 42 – Memory Spring

Echidna accompanies Emilia into her recently unsealed memories, ever ready for stinging vitriol (she really is notably more hostile to Emilia than Subaru…but that would be Envy, not Greed!). After a literally cold open in which a naked young Emilia first meets Puck, Emilia and Echidna begin the journey in earlier, warmer, happier, and distinctly more fairy tale-ish times. Lil’ Lia, we find, is often cooped up in the “Princess Room” within a tree, but is otherwise lovingly cared for by Mother Fortuna (Tomatsu Haruka).

Fortuna is not her actual mother but her aunt; her brother’s younger sister. One day, while particularly bored, a lesser spirit—Lia actually refers to it as a “fairy”—leads her to a loose stone in the room. Takahashi Rie does a masterful job making her sound not just like a higher-pitched Emilia, but adopting the speech patterns and weird little sounds of an actual little kid. No one does that better than Kuno Misaki, but Takahashi is pretty damn good here.

The space behind the stone leads out of the tree, and the spring Lia revels in being able to stretch her legs. It’s while she’s sneaking around the margins of the elf village that we non LN readers receive the first genuine shock of this flashback: our boy Petelgeuse Romanee-Conti, back then a humble bishop, not only looked normal, but seemed like a pretty nice guy!

“Geuse” and Fortuna go back decades, and you can sense that long history in their effortless chemistry and gentle flirtation. Whether of the Witch’s Cult or some other order, Geuse and a group acolytes apparently make regular visits to the village in Elior Forest, both to deliver supplies and so Geuse can receive confirmation from Fortuna that “the seal is intact.”

Lil’ Lia knows she’s not supposed to be out and about, so even after the fairies help clean her up a little, she spills blue ink on her outfit to hide the dirt and grass stains. If Fortuna doesn’t buy it, she doesn’t tell Lia, instead hugging her and telling her she missed her even in the brief time they were apart. Lia, even back then someone quick to comfort others, places her little hand on Fortuna’s head.

While this is a helpful introduction to the places and players of the past, this initial stirng of memories isn’t yet enough for present-day Emilia. Fortuna and Geuse mentioned a seal, so Lia needs to keep soaking up these memories. They include the elf Archi giving Lia some nuts to snack on, and another visit from Geuse, who inadvertently flirts more with Fortuna. They really do make a cute couple.

Geuse also mentions that affairs outside the forest are “dubious at the moment”, so it’s more vital than ever the seal remain intact. He mentions Emilia, but also “the two of them”—her mother and father, perhaps. Emilia and Echidna follow Lil’ Lia to the famous seal itself, an ornate black door in a glade carpeted with snow all year long. Lia pushes the door, but it won’t budge…which is probably for the best at that point!

Outside, Subie cries about Gar having seen his supportive etchings for Emilia before she did, but both Gar and Otto tell him to buck up. As they wait outside the Graveyard for Lia to return, Ram comes by to tell Subie that Ryuzu Shima wants to talk to him about “a subject that is unavoidable if you wish to liberate the sanctuary”. Wait, Lia passing the trial won’t be enough to do that? What am I saying; of course it won’t be…

Back in the flashback, Lil’ Lia is sneaking around the woods when she’s spotted by Geuse, who I thought was about to say something that would reveal that he’s actually evil, but nothing ever comes of that. Instead, he acts more “Geuseian” (at least as we know him) than he had to that point when he spots Lia and realizes who she is.

His face contorts just a bit as he sheds tears of joy for being granted “salvation like never before.” Is this because of Lia’s resemblance to more than one Witch of his cult, his regard for Lia’s importance to the seal, or both? In any case, Lil’ Lia learns from him that people can cry out of happiness too, and because she’s such a good girl, she gives him a hug and strokes his head, telling him it will be okay.

It’s at this point Echidna tells Emilia she’s quickly approaching the end of the “warm-up round” and the beginning of the part of the trial that utterly broke her before. While Emilia knows Subaru wouldn’t think any less of her for depending on him, and she’s scared of what’s to come, she won’t cower any longer.

She’s going to take this as far as she can. Rather than voice her esteem for Emilia’s determination, Echidna tells her she’ll “find satisfaction” in her “suffering”. Looking every bit like a dreamlike fairy tale for its entire runtime, the warm pastoral greens of the beginning shift to a cooler, moodier, more foreboding purples and blues.

Emilia insists that Fortuna and Geuse play chase with her. Geuse is out of breath, so Fortuna snatches her up and imparts in her the importance of making and keeping promises. Emilia then summons her fairy friends, which identifies her as a future spirit user. Geuse tells her they’ll be her strength when no one is by her side, but Fortuna would just as soon not think about such scenarios, promising she’ll always be there for Lia.

When Geuse accidentally lets slip something about Lia’s parents (mentioning the days they were “well”, implying they aren’t well now), Fortuna has Lia run back home to the Princess Room…but before she can go, someone approaches, wearing a fancy white cloak. He gets pissy and verbose about Fortuna asking who he is before introducing herself, but he eventually tells her.

He’s an Archbishop of the Witch’s Cult, representing Greed: Regulus Corneas. This marks his second appearance in the anime, but his first since he attacked Rem and Crusch’s wagon back in this season’s first episode. As Echidna warned, the tough portion of this stroll down memory lane has arrived in earnest.