―He was unable to take his eyes off the profile of the woman who was gazing out of her window.
Her crimson eyes housed a little surprise, and he noticed that her pink lips emitted some kind of sound.
The woman then stood up in an exceedingly refined manner, and approached the window her beautiful face was directed at.
She freely wore a dress that boldly exposed her chest and back. Forget extraordinary beauty, one would need beauty two or three levels beyond ordinary to properly wear such a dress. The woman effortlessly flaunted this dress, easily transcending these conditions available to only a special few by five levels as she reached out with her fair, slender hand and opened the room’s window.
The moment she did, a refreshing breeze blew into the room and scattered the bundle of papers on her desk, causing them to dance around the room.
Surrounded by this scenery of dancing bits of paper, the woman continued to gaze outside without the slightest movement,
Her lips moved once more and produced yet another sound of some sort.
It was probably the same sound as last time. The man whose attention was completely focused on her profile couldn’t quite make out what this sound was―
“― You foolish commoner. Just how many times do you intend to make me repeat myself.”
The next instant, the direct impact to the middle of his forehead caused him to scream as he toppled over backwards. The crimson woman looked down on him with her arms crossed, emphasizing her voluptuous chest―
It was the folding fan that she threw as she turned around that collided with his forehead. The speed and power with which she threw it were no joke, the impact’s penetrating power was such that it might have split the average person’s skull.
Honestly, if it were anyone else taking such a blow, they would almost certainly lose some brain cells.
“Owowow… Just what are you doing all of a sudden, princess. If I weren’t the sort of masked character who always had a helmet on, that would have been a bloodbath just now.”
“Fool. Even I consider my opponents. As if I’d aim for the head if it were anyone besides yourself. If it were Schult in your place, perhaps I would blow on his ear to bring him back to his senses.”
“Oioioi, that’s totally favoritism, isn’t it. Surely even I ought to get a nice, sexy reward now and then. Why am I the only one treated so horribly…”
“It is because you are my jester that I have let you off with this much. If you were some common miscreant, I would have taken your head off. ― Or are you perhaps dissatisfied with your current position?”
“Hehh, what are you saying, princess. You can throw that fan at me whenever you want.”
Shaking his head which had received her attack, he gave her a thumbs up and immediately changed his tune. The crimson woman gave a hmph in response to the man’s rapidly changing attitude.
Seeing this, the man who deemed silence to be unfavorable raised his hand, “By the way,”
“Back to what we were talking about, why did you suddenly whack my head? The room’s got paper scattered all over too, it’s all too sudden, isn’t it?”
“What, so you really were just staring blankly. Nothing about this is sudden or anything. I called to you twice. You were the one who ignored this entirely.”
“… Aah, so back then, that was you calling to me, huh.”
Puzzled by this rather embarrassing situation, he tried to lighten the atmosphere with some fake laughter. Contrary to their color, her crimson eyes were cold like a blade. His strategy failed.
“Although I can’t shake the feeling that even attempting to calm things down was a mistake to begin with considering this appearance of mine.”
“What are you muttering, are you even listening to me, Al?”
“Absolutely, I’m listening, princess.”
Picking up the folding fan that was lying by his feet, the man ― Al approached the woman and handed it to her.
The part of Al’s head which had been whacked by the folding fan was covered by a black helmet. It was thanks to this defense that his head wasn’t split in two. He was thankful to the one who had given him this helmet, truly thankful.
Setting that aside―
“Well, I’m sorry about ignoring you and all, but what exactly is the matter?”
“What a hopelessly dull man you are. I personally walked to the window and opened it by my own hand… Do try to imagine for what reason I would have done such a thing.”
“… Ventilation, or did you perhaps feel like looking at the sky?”
Neither of these seemed very much like her. But compared to the former, the latter seemed far more likely.
And in truth, the girl nodded in response to his suggestion, “Correct,”
“I came to gaze upon the sky. ― You have a look as well, Al.”
The woman indicated the outside of the window with a movement of her jaw, and Al obediently followed her instruction. Standing by her side, he quietly took a look outside. The view from his helmet was unexpectedly decent. Straining his eyes, he directed his attention up towards the faintly clouded sky―
“―Heeh, what a surprise.”
“Is it not.”
As Al admired the sight, Priscilla who was right next to him nodded as though he had taken the words right out of her mouth.
Immediately after, yet another breeze blew into the room, similar to when she first opened the window. The wind once again wreaked havoc in the room, causing her disarrayed stack of papers to dance through the air once more.
However, there was something else dancing along with these pieces of paper, white, fleeting crystals of water―
“―Out of season snow, this must be someone’s doing, is that not correct?”
With that powdery snow reflected in her crimson eyes, the woman ― Priscilla Barielle murmured joyfully.
To Al, this voice somehow sounded like she was in high spirits.
“But even so, isn’t it really rare for it to snow around this area of the kingdom?”
“That is correct! I believe that this hardly ever happens. At the very least, this is my first time seeing snow!”
“First time, it’s at that level, huh. You must be feeling pretty excited then, Schult-chan.
Saying this, Al looked at the pink-haired boy with a gaze as though he was looking at something charming.
The boy’s name was Schult, a chamberlain in training working in Priscilla’s mansion ― Or rather, Priscilla’s page who was something like a cherished pet to her.
The person in question didn’t really care, but the reason Priscilla originally picked him up when she found him on the verge of starvation was because their eyes happened to be the same color.
Priscilla had stated that if this weren’t the case, she most likely would have just ignored him. Even Al understood that she wasn’t trying to hide her embarrassment or anything by saying this, her words simply described the reality of the situation.
Amazingly, despite the various hardships he had experienced until now, Schult did not take any strange turns in life and was growing up to be a nice and wholesome boy, it was adorable. Even Al could see that.
“―? Al-sama, is something the matter? Have I said something strange?”
As Al thought this, his gaze caused Schult who was picking up the scattered papers to tilt his head. Al shrugged his sole arm’s shoulder at the boy who was presently engaged in his usual chores that weren’t even worth discussing.
“No, I was just thinking that it’s adorable how you’re so wholesome. You probably feel the same way, don’t you princess?”
“Do not speak such absurdities, Al. Even supposing he were an infant, it is only natural that he would give his all for my sake. Therefore, Schult’s efforts have no bearing on my evaluation of him. The reason I keep him by my side is only because his appearance and bearing are splendid, nothing more.”
“That was an incredibly roundabout way of putting it, but basically, you just like the way he looks?”
Priscilla who had given this haughty answer hmphed at Al’s simplified explanation. But considering she made no attempt to correct his explanation, it was probably fine to think that it was for the most part accurate.
Despite her attitude, she left the task of cleaning the room to Schult as she sat on the windowsill, idly watching the dancing snow.
Suddenly, Al realized that he had forgotten to even breathe as he gazed at her profile, captivated.
There was the unusual snowy scenery as well, but to begin with Priscilla’s own beauty was already at a transcendent level on its own. There existed beauty in this world which no paintbrush could reproduce, it would be no exaggeration to say that Priscilla was among such beauty, that was simply a fact.
“Well, that’s basically what my argument amounts to, so please forgive me.”
“I haven’t even said anything and you’re already making excuses for stealing glances at my profile, you truly are an insipid man. Regardless, do not misunderstand me. I am not so narrow-minded as to lose my temper over such a thing.”
“Eh, talk about unexpected. Wouldn’t you be like, your gaze is bothersome, zubaaa or something?”
“It is inevitable that men would experience carnal desires at the sight of my beauty, such is this world. If I were to find fault in this, I would have to behead every man in the world. That in itself would be the height of wastefulness.”
“Mm, that’s some confidence you’ve got. But from someone at your level, I guess those aren’t words to make light of.”
Smiling wryly at her display that was both pompous and magnanimous, Al fiddled with the metal at his helmet’s joint. With this metallic sound behind her, Priscilla continued to gaze at the outside.
It was also difficult to understand just where exactly her interest was directed, that was the sort of woman she was. It was true that they were experiencing some unusual weather, but Al didn’t think that it was the sort of thing you could enjoy looking at for extended periods of time.
“You seem rather passionate about this, princess. Do you have some sort of emotional attachment to snow?”
“It is nothing of the sort. Rather, the issue at hand comes before that… Much like Schult, I too am seeing snow for the first time.”
Her unexpected statement caused Al’s eyes to widen within his helmet. Next to Al, Schult too looked up at Priscilla with an expression of surprise on his cute face.
“This is your first time seeing snow as well, Priscilla-sama! How surprising! But I am also delighted that we are experiencing this together!”
“You do say some cute things, Schult. I shall pat your head.”
“Please go ahead.”
As Schult smiled innocently, Priscilla beckoned him over to her and started stroking his pink, fluffy hair. Al sighed deeply as he watched her hand move.
Perhaps annoyed by this reaction, Priscilla’s crimson eyes narrowed,
“What is it, would you perhaps like to say something?”
“It’s not like I particularly want to say it or anything. I was just thinking about how unpredictable you are. How should I put it, it’s kinda weird to say it like this, but you seemed to be the kind of character who knew everything and could do anything, you know?”
“―Hm. Certainly, there can be no doubt that I am a being not far from such a description.”
“I said it myself, but this is my first time seeing someone who would actually accept the descriptors omniscient and omnipotent.”
Anyway, it was a fact that that was the sort of impression Al had of this woman who was so full of confidence.
It probably was a bit too much to say she knew everything and could do anything after all, but even so, he thought that perhaps Priscilla who had both extensive knowledge and excellent analytical ability had seen all there was to see in this world.
That was exactly why he thought that he of all people would be able to catch her interest.
“So it’s quite the surprise to hear that something like snow is a fresh experience for you. Unexpectedly, it would appear that you’ve never had certain common experiences, princess.”
“While I am certainly curious as to what basis you are using to define the word common, you evidently haven’t put much thought into your statement. Rather, the impression you have of me has unexpectedly roused my interest.”
With her hand still on Schult’s head, Priscilla smiled sweetly at Al’s words. Al’s shoulders trembled slightly, as if someone was running their finger down his spine.
Seeing this out of the corner of her eye, Priscilla once again directed her gaze towards the sky,
“I have seen it any number of times in books, but I had never in my life encountered snow. The sight of white snow descending from the skies was ultimately something I could only imagine.”
Snow descended onto the palm she held out. This snow as ephemeral as grains of sand immediately melted in her palm, becoming ordinary drops of water.
Priscilla hmphed having confirmed this,
“It was not quite as wondrous as I had hoped.”
“Hoping for something wondrous, you just said something pretty damned cute.”
“Fool. Do you not think it disrespectful to describe me as cute. There exist much more fitting words to extol my beauty. Shult, let us hear them.”
“Eh? Y-Yes! Umm, umm… Priscilla-sama is really ‘elegant’ and a ‘beauty’!”[T/N: These words are in English]
“You’re quite a fast learner. You used those words well.”
Shult turned red in the face as he displayed the knowledge he had only just learned, impressing Al. Priscilla too nodded with satisfaction in response to his efforts.
“Behold, this is the manner in which my servants ought to serve me. Al, you too must exhibit the proper diligence.”
“Alright, understood, I’ll keep that in mind.”
Saluting with his right hand, Al nodded at Priscilla’s words, not taking them too seriously. His attitude was probably completely transparent to Priscilla, but she did not say anything about it.
“Fundamentally speaking, they are no different from raindrops it would seem. Dried up water solidifies atop the clouds, and then it is merely a matter of whether it descends as raindrops or snowflakes. Should it become snowflakes, they cling to one another and descend as snow. And they hence melt and repeat this process.”
“Heeh, you could have fooled me. Was that written in your books as well?”
“When I see something in person, I comprehend it to its core. This does not extend as far as the minute details, but it is for the most part true.“
Seeming bored as she said this, Priscilla pulled her folding fan out of her cleavage. Concealing her mouth by unfolding it, she turned away from the sky and towards Al.
“I told you just moments before. That there can be no doubt that I am a being approaching omniscience and omnipotence.”
“Oh-Ohh, you’re digging that up again, huh. No, I do think that you possess such traits to some extent, but…”
“If so, for what reason did you hold such an impression of mineself? There are of course the beauty and elegance with which I was born as well as my countless other virtues, but among them which was it that stood out most?”
“Slow. I shall tell you. ― It was my intelligence.”
Al faltered, and Priscilla firmly declared this without waiting for his answer.
She was so overwhelming that he could actually feel some heat, causing him to fall silent and bite his lip. Priscilla shouldn’t have been able to see him do this within his helmet, however, she donned a faint, sadistic smile,
“Intelligence, that is the ability to reason which is all that separates mankind from beasts… There are those who say such things, but I do not agree in the slightest. Even beasts in the wild possess consciousness, they possess the instinct to learn, and they possess a life with which to make use of their knowledge.”
“Intelligence, it can be said that it is a guide which transcends fetters such as sentiment and bonds, and which determines whether one lives or dies. That being the case, beasts too possess intelligence. There exists no qualitative difference between man and beast, to unconditionally deem them beneath humans goes beyond pride, it is simply laughable.”
“Wooow, that’s an absurd argument in itself.”
“Do not try to gloss over this by acting like a clown, Al. I am asking you a question regarding your principles.”
Al tried to shrug in response to her smile, but he suddenly stopped.
From directly before him, Priscilla’s crimson eyes were fixed on his eyes within his helmet.
“Answer carefully. If it is not the presence of intelligence which separates man from beast, where exactly lies the difference between them? What is it that definitively separates them?
Her gaze made Al feel like his neck was burning. Al’s breath halted, and realized all too late.
―That right now, he had been placed at a crossroads far more extreme than he had imagined.
Priscilla stopped talking and continued to pierce him with her unchanging gaze.
Having stated her theory, she was now waiting for a rebuttal, her attitude as she did so was as composed as ever, but hidden as its edges were a ferocity and vigor that would occasionally flare up.
They weren’t grand, easily understood emotions. However, they were certainly passionate.
This invisible storm of emotion was thrust into Al’s throat in the form of pressure, questioning what he would do next. If he did not choose his words properly, this pressure would quite literally pierce his throat.
The snowfall and their chit chat relating to it, that was all it took to land him in this situation.
He knew from the very beginning how risky it was to stay by her side, and all of that risk was now gushing forth.
“Where lies the difference between man and beast? What is it that separates me from the likes of you?”
The same words, with a small change midway.
Those words declared that Priscilla and Al were entirely different organisms, and seemed to be a sort of ritual to determine the difference that ought to exist between them, causing him to gulp.
He then moved his heavy tongue, and while swallowing his bitter saliva,
“The difference is, the opportunity to refine oneself.”
“Even beasts learn the connection between life and death. However, the difference between those who live in the wild where failure means death and we who live in more forgiving environments is the presence of opportunities, and whether or not one can act on them. Even though you were born as a sexy cutie, the reason you seemed to be omniscient and omnipotent…”
“― Good. I shall allow it.”
As Al chose his next words, the sharp sound of her fan shutting suddenly interrupted him.
With this sound came a few words from Priscilla, and in an instant, the pressure bearing down on his entire body dissipated. Immediately realizing that he had forgotten to even breathe, Al let the tension leave his shoulders.
Priscilla’s throat hummed with stifled laughter in response to Al’s grandiose reaction,
“Well, how about it. When pushed into a corner, your intelligence serves its purpose does it not? Predicting the future based on your past experience and your relationship with me, it desperately struggles to avoid the worst case scenario. But then, that is an ability beasts also possess. It does not serve as a difference between man and beast.”
“Your jokes are too harsh, princess… You’d be angry if I said that, huh?”
Priscilla firmly asserted that she certainly was not joking. This caused Al to heave a truly deep sigh after which he started wiping off his damp back which was covered in cold sweat.
“Unlike beasts, humans have the opportunity to actively expand their knowledge. Humans have methods with which to do so. Simply put, read a book. I was not joking or anything of the sort when I told you to be more diligent.”
“So, you’re basically saying that the omnipotent aura you give off is because you read a lot of books.”
“Not even mineself was perfect at birth. There was quite a bit which I learned from ink and paper. In much the same way that one requires flame and a hammer to forge steel, one also requires writing to refine one’s spirit. If one were to lack either, they would only end up as a failure of a human being.”
“It is not as though I particularly wish to be surrounded exclusively by that which is beautiful. However, I am not so eccentric as to keep by my side those who would by their own negligence reduce themselves to ugliness.”
“… In other words, you’re telling me that you’re tired of my usual act, so you want me to keep refining new ones?”
The way Al splendidly simplified it momentarily caused Priscilla’s breath to halt. She then let out a small sigh,
“Haha, hahahaha! Well now, to think you would rephrase my words in such a hackneyed fashion. An act of all things! An act, you say! … Kuku, I see you are unwilling to concede your role as a jester.”
“Aaah, I’m glad I could make you laugh. However, princess, I’ve got a few things I’d like to say too. Although your words were so magnificent I kinda ended up getting convinced myself.”
As Priscilla laughed loudly, Al wracked his brain as he continued.
Carefully, but in a manner that wasn’t completely submissive, while remaining aware of who was at his core―
“I’m not your knight or anything, princess. I’ve sworn allegiance to you as your servant, but there’s no point in expecting anything more from me. That would be too heavy a load for the old man going back beyond the Grand Cascade.”
“Oh? Simply put, you do not intend to do as I say, is that it?”
“I do realize that I’d probably have my head taken off if I said that. That’s why I came up with my own compromise back in that chat about acting.”
Declaring this, Al walked towards Priscilla with determination. Standing close enough to be touched by the crimson woman sitting on the windowsill as she looked at him, he threw out his chest.
“In the end, I’m satisfied being your jester. So I’ll keep amusing you in all sorts of ways so you never get bored, princess.”
“In exchange, I won’t give up on the things I can’t give up on. That is the compromise between my role as a jester and that stuff about steel bookworms you like so much.”
There was no helping it if she didn’t like this, Al presented his opinion directly.
He didn’t know if Priscilla would fly into a rage or perhaps calmly release her killing intent, but even if that happened, there was no helping it. ― In that case, he just needed to bring her into the territory.
However, it soon turned out that his fears were completely needless.
“Very well.. ― If you are aware of your role as my jester, and possess a clear ‘vision’ of the future, I shall not object. It is only natural to leave gardening to the gardener.”
“… Are you sure?”
“How tedious… Surely you do not wish for me to take your head off by my own hand?”
“Nonono, as if as if as if, no way no way no way.”
Wildly waving his arm, head, and legs, Al pleaded before Priscilla’s suspicious eyes with no objection. What effects this would end up having was a different matter, but for now, it seemed as though Al’s attitude had earned him another day of life.
And in this manner, the conversation between Al and Priscilla reached its conclusion,
“… Buhaaa! I-I-I-I’m past my limit! That was so scary!”
With his face completely red, Schult heaved an exaggerated sigh as though he was glad it was finally over. Schult who had endeavored not to interrupt their conversation with a hand over his mouth raised his voice, “Excuse me!”
“The two of you have reconciled, correct? It’s okay now, correct?”
“Ohh, sorry to make you worry. Papa and mama are getting along just fine… Damuhin!”
“Fool, just who are you calling papa and mama.”
The instant he cracked this joke, Al ducked to dodge the sweeping fan strike that was sailing overhead. Al felt as though the top of his helmet had been singed, and Priscilla ignored his fear as she gently raised Schult’s jaw with said fan.
“I forced an unpleasant experience on you, but you endured it wonderfully. I shall personally reward you. What would you like?”
“U-Umm, uhh, can I ask for anything?”
“I shall allow it. Ask for all that you desire.”
“… Then, since it’s snowing and all, I’d like to go outside with you, Priscilla-sama.”
Schult’s face lit up as he announced this in response to Priscilla’s magnanimous words. In response to this, Al who was sitting on the floor nervously looked at Priscilla.
Having seen snow for the first time, Priscilla had expressed a great deal of disappointment. To ask her to walk out there with her servant was―
“Very well. This shall be my first time playing in the snow as well. It could be said that my ‘tension’ is rising.”
“Eh, seriously?! Then why were you in such a bad mood just now?!”
“I was merely explaining one of my principles. Come, let us go, Al. As my jester, you shall amuse me to the fullest even within the snow.”
Priscilla nimbly descended from the windowsill as she said this and turned around with a wave of the hem of her dress. Next to her, Schult stared at Al while smiling brightly.
“Al-sama, it must be fun! Have you ever played in the snow, Al-sama?”
“Playing in the snow, huh.”
Tilting his head in response to Schult’s question, Al took a look outside the window, at the scenery of the faintly accumulating snow. The sight of the area covered in a blanket of snow stimulated old, distant memories―
“Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever playing in the snow either. I’m kind of looking forward to it.”
“That is wonderful! For the three of us to experience this for the first time, it is miraculous!”
“A rather trivial miracle. But I suppose it is only fitting for something so stale as snow.”
As Schult showed his excitement, Priscilla stroked his head and then boldly set forth. Schult hurriedly followed after her, and Al tagged along while fiddling with his helmet.
Midway, Al stopped for a moment. He then looked out of the window, at the snow descending from the sky,
“―I don’t remember ever playing in the snow or anything, after all.”
Muttering this in a voice audible to no one, he continued to follow after the master and servant pair ahead of him