Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (LN) - Volume EX5 - Chapter 2.04

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The tension in the room made the old servant’s muscles so tense that they almost creaked. For the ancient butler, this life of service to others had been a gift. He had worked for the Pendleton family for more than fifty years, since the time of the parents of the current head of the household. And even if he hadn’t owed his master such a great debt, there was still the sense of intimacy that came from having watched him grow up. All of which was to say that the butler wished nothing but happiness for his master.

And yet…


A hand picked up the cup that the butler had set out, a finely shaped nose taking a sniff of the contents. He was sure he’d gotten the basics right—how long to steep the leaves, the temperature of the water, and every other detail. The extent of his dedication might have seemed surprising, but the taste of the tea could change dramatically with the slightest variation in any number of factors.

An eye, bright with both beauty and knowledge of all these things, studied his work intently. Would he be able to please its owner? That was the challenge that possessed every member of the household now. Work better and work harder in order to show proper respect to their master. It didn’t exactly bother the butler, but perhaps he took exception to the cup’s beholder.

“May I ask how you find it, Mistress?” The butler didn’t rise from his bow.

“I’m willing to accept the aroma. Which just leaves the flavor. Let’s see, now…” The speaker was the second most important person in the household after the master: the spouse of Jorah Pendleton, whom the butler had served for so long.

“ ”

Cherry-colored lips kissed the rim of the cup. The butler watched the woman’s profile as she sipped the dark tea. He smiled at the sight. His master had gone so long without a decent prospect—now, at last, at his advanced age, he was blessed with his first marriage. It was a joyous occasion. Even if his wife was a scant twelve years old.

Age gaps were hardly unusual in marriages among nobles, and loveless unions were practically de rigueur as a way of solidifying connections between houses. But for a man of more than fifty to welcome a bride of twelve—even this long-serving butler found himself taken aback. Not least because this particular wife seemed to offer no advantages at all.

At the same time, Jorah’s basic decency was beyond doubt. He possessed that rarest of things among the empire’s elite—kindness—and it was more than enough to inspire unflinching loyalty in the butler. That loyalty moved him to try to help the young woman in every way he could, knowing she would be quite overwhelmed by her new environment. Yes, the butler welcomed his master’s young spouse with his own firm resolve.

That resolve had quickly crumbled in the face of the woman herself.

Yes, the girl was twelve years old. Yes, she’d come to Jorah’s mansion young and with no household of her own. But she was arrestingly beautiful, and her soul burned more intensely than any fire.

Priscilla. That was the name of the forceful young woman who had appeared in this home like a conqueror. Priscilla Pendleton.

“Not bad,” the girl said, her voice emanating from her pale throat in a way that seemed to penetrate deep into the listener’s brain. It took the butler a moment to realize this was her appraisal of the tea. The reason for his belated understanding was simple: the girl’s face. Nothing in particular had happened or changed—she was simply so beautiful that he had been captivated; it had felt as if time had stopped.

And when time resumed flowing, and the butler realized she had spoken words of praise, he shivered. This girl, whose age didn’t amount to one half of one half of his own years, made his blood seem to run faster with her compliment; a feeling of paralysis gripped his very soul.

Being a butler at all was like a gift from the heavens to these old bones. It was only natural, perhaps, that such a person should bow before a girl like this, someone who was obviously a born ruler. For to serve someone meant to be dominated by someone.

“Withdraw. I wish to speak with my husband.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Without a second thought, the butler bowed and backed out of the room. He wondered if she might not take just one more sip of the tea as he was leaving. He wondered if the youthful conqueror wouldn’t mind putting that seal of approval on his work.

The hope almost physically burned in the old butler as he silently left the room.

When the butler had withdrawn and they were alone, a thin voice spoke: “It seems you have everyone quite under your thumb, Priscilla.” The voice’s owner was an old man who sat in the seat farthest from the door—the most important seat in the room, for what it was worth. He looked listless, and his hair was beginning to go white, but he was the master of this house—Jorah Pendleton.

As a count in the Holy Volakian Empire, one could say this man had been fortunate in status and family background. At the moment, Jorah’s awkward gaze rested on a beautiful girl with eyes the color of blood and bright-orange hair held back by a hair clip worked with a jewel—Priscilla.

The way Jorah started the conversation suggested that the gap in ages wasn’t the only thing that separated the couple.

Priscilla responded to her husband’s hesitant approach with a “Bah” and a loud sniff. “Don’t speak to me in that cringing, raspy way. I can barely tell the difference between your voice and a faint breeze. Or wait—was that a breeze I heard just now?”

“N-no, no, it wasn’t. It was me talking… I simply meant that you seem to be getting along well with the servants.”

“Hmph. If that’s what you think, it only proves how blind you really are.”

“What?” Jorah said, his eyes widening.

Priscilla met her husband’s ridiculous reaction with a look of exasperation. “Listen. The relationship between me and them is not one of getting along. They simply obey me. They know of no other way to live except to bow and scrape and serve. All I need to do is give them some instructions, and they wag their tails happily.”

“I—I see…I think…”

“If anything, I’m surprised you managed to hold on to such passable help for so long.”

“Hold on to…? I’m sorry. I’m afraid I don’t quite follow…”

Priscilla’s one open eye grew even sharper at Jorah’s continued gibbering, but even with the heat of her gaze concentrated upon him, he showed no sign of changing his behavior.

“—You are ever more inscrutable. What I’m saying is that you seem to lack the desires and the motivations that almost every person naturally has. I’m not saying I’ve never encountered such people before. But…”

“Y-yes?” Jorah stammered.

“…that being the case, I continue to fail to understand why you took me as your wife.” Priscilla also continued to stare at him, hard.

The generous way to describe Jorah’s disposition would have been to say that he was a good-hearted man. The less generous way was that he was a coward who lacked either backbone or any spirit of adventure. He was perfectly happy to walk well-trodden paths, never veering off into the untamed wilderness.

He might not be very interesting, but he was steadfast and reliable—difficult qualities to find here in the empire, which so prized lives of untrammeled intensity. Jorah was often mocked as weak-willed, and perhaps that was why he’d gone so long without a wife.

Jorah Pendleton lived by simple precepts: He sought no adventure, and he didn’t gamble. Yet his marriage to Priscilla seemed to go against both those principles. It was, perhaps, the biggest gamble of all. For…

“I know you’re aware of my true identity. I’m Prisca Benedict, a young woman who was supposed to have died during the Rite of Imperial Selection.”

She uttered the name of a member of the royal family who had been defeated in the bloody contest to determine the next emperor of Volakia and had supposedly died as a result.

But Prisca had not died. After feigning her death, she still lived. Not under her real name, but with an assumed identity as a young woman named Priscilla Pendleton who was still learning how to navigate polite society. Many people had given everything to ensure that the girl survived—but when Priscilla wedded Jorah, she hadn’t hidden any of this from him.

Of course, if he had refused her, knowing what he knew, it was highly unlikely Priscilla would have let him live. So in a way, her telling him the truth was an unspeakable disaster for Jorah. But that didn’t change the fact that, despite knowing the circumstances, he had still agreed to marry Priscilla. Why was that? Even Priscilla, who’d had the old butler bowing and indulging her every whim practically within moments, couldn’t seem to solve the riddle of Jorah’s true motives.

“ ” Jorah looked moderately surprised, but then his lips softened into a slight smile, a gentle expression such as one might give to a small child who couldn’t figure out the answer to a question.

“You may be my husband, but that does not give you the right to humiliate me with a look like that,” Priscilla said.

“P-pardon me. I just… Until now, you’ve carried yourself like a young sage, always seeing through everything. It surprised me to realize…”

“Realize what?”

“…that sometimes you do act your age.” From Jorah’s perspective, the remark was a substantial gamble in and of itself. He seemed to be privately considering the possibility that he would get his head knocked clean off. “You n-needn’t worry. I don’t intend to use you or expose you or any such thing. On that point, I am absolutely sincere.”

“Very well,” Priscilla said after a moment. “It wouldn’t have mattered what you were planning anyway. For this world bends itself to suit me.”

“ ”

Jorah didn’t answer. One might characterize Priscilla’s philosophy as a belief in fate or perhaps destiny. As soon as the words had left her mouth, Jorah’s expression softened once more. Before Priscilla could remark on it, however—

“Forgive me, Master,” said the butler, reentering the room with a knock at the door. It was wrong of him to interrupt the master and mistress of the house when they were having a private conversation, and a man of such long service ought to have known better. The reason for his indiscretion was explained by the report he gave them: “We have visitors from High Countess Delacroix.”

“The high countess? I haven’t heard anything about that,” Jorah said with a frown, but then he exclaimed, “Priscilla?!” For his wife was already up and striding out of the room. She didn’t slow down despite her husband’s shout, instead making straight for the mansion’s entry hall.

When she appeared in the hallway, she was greeted by a drawl: “Well, now. That’s one cute young lady who’s found us.” The words came from a slim young man Priscilla didn’t recognize; she arched an eyebrow in response. The young man was still just perhaps seventeen or eighteen, and he clutched a thin package. He waved at Priscilla with a friendly smile on his face. “You Count Pendleton’s little girl? Is your daddy home toda—?”

“Bal, ya blathering idiot! Count Pendleton doesn’t have a daughter! Don’t get ahead of yourself!” A smaller man standing beside the chatty newcomer gave him a sound smack on the back of the head.

“Yowch!” the young man yelped, the strike producing an audible whack. “Miles, Brother, what’d ya do that for?! I know my head’s empty, but it’d still be bad news if you cracked it open!”

“Pipe down! If your head’s empty, then go fill it up before you show your face around here again! And don’t go dragging me into your stupid screwups!”

“Screwups?! Just what exactly are you referring to? What do you think I did wrong?”

“Count Pendleton only just married a young wife! So use that empty head of yours and try to think! We come to the manor of Count Pendleton, who doesn’t have a daughter, and a young lady appears…”

“Oh! I get it.” Finally connecting the dots, the young man nodded and ran a hand through his auburn hair.

“Took ya long enough,” the little man grumbled, shrugging as if he was exhausted. “Two things you always were—slow, and a handful. If I hadn’t been stuck with you since you were a tot, Bal, I swear I’d have cut you loose ages ago…”

“Believe me, Brother, I owe you lots. But haven’t you made a little mistake yourself?”

“Eh? What did I—? Oh!” At this moment in the conversation, the little man noticed the person who had inspired the entire argument and stiffened.

But all well and good. Priscilla—the topic at hand—had been listening to the exchange without a word. As the two visitors turned toward her, she shrugged with her slim shoulders and said, “What’s the matter? Go on. Don’t mind me. Watching two clowns argue is proving quite an amusing spectacle. Go on, go ahead.”

“Grrr… Played like a goddamn instrument by a little girl…”

“Careful, Brother, your language is getting worse. How about we start by apologizing?”


The pair started shaking at Priscilla’s words. She hadn’t specifically been seeking to ridicule them, but she was disappointed to have to relinquish these entertaining jesters, who seemed likely to jump and squirm at anything she said.

“P-Priscilla, these are my guests. Please don’t have too much fun at their expense…”

“Hrmph. Finally caught up, did you?” Priscilla said, interrupted in the act of deciding what to say next by Jorah’s arrival.

“Ah,” the count said, raising an eyebrow slightly at the pair facing his wife. “I was told messengers from High Countess Delacroix were here. I didn’t realize that meant you, Miles.”

“Count Pendleton! It’s been too long, much too long,” said the small man whose name was Miles, evidently an acquaintance of Priscilla’s husband. He knelt before Jorah, and the young man beside him hurriedly followed suit.

“Who’s this?” Jorah asked, observing the noticeably less experienced of the two messengers. “I don’t recognize him. A newcomer?”

“Yes indeed. A friend of mine from way back. High Countess Delacroix was kind enough to give him a job to do. You see, he has an all too rare ability as a sky-dragon tamer.” He nudged the young man. “Introduce yourself!”






“Sure thing, Brother. Introducing myself!” The young man looked at Jorah, and Priscilla observed that her husband was nearly overwhelmed by the directness of his gaze. She smiled to see such forcefulness in a look. The young man might hide it behind his easygoing manner, but he might just be something special.

Completely unaware of Priscilla’s evaluation of him, the young man placed a hand on his chest and said, “A pleasure to meet ya. My name is Balleroy Temeglyph. My big bro Miles here has been taking care of me since I was a kid—and he still does, as you can see.”

“I do. Miles always was good at looking out for others. And this sky-dragon tamer business, you…?”

“Yessir. I have a real spirited one entrusted to my care.” Balleroy’s broad smile seemed to suggest he knew no fear—but with this final remark, the character of his expression changed. Inappropriate though it might have been, the smile became one of self-confidence.

“As I recall, the ability to tame sky dragons is a secret art passed down among certain families,” Priscilla said. “A way of gaining the services of a sky dragon, creatures not otherwise known for being very fond of people.”

“That’s right, miss. You really know your stuff. You may be little, but you must have studied hard— Owowow!”

“You’re the one who needs to study! About how to have some damn manners!” Incensed by how quickly Balleroy let any semblance of propriety fall away, Miles gave the tall man a solid pinch on the behind, his own language taking a step down the politeness scale in the process.

“Please, please,” Jorah interjected. “You needn’t let such minor matters upset you so. I should have introduced her sooner. This is Priscilla Pendleton… That is, ahem, my wife.”

Priscilla snorted at the idea that this was the best Jorah could do by way of introduction. “Imagine, a man in his fifties getting tongue-tied introducing his wife. Stand up straight and speak with confidence! You’re the luckiest man in the world. For you are blessed with me for your spouse!” Jorah could only smile awkwardly, while Balleroy and Miles looked on, their eyes slightly wide.

“Goodness gracious! Ya know, this struck me when we were chatting earlier, but that’s a feisty wife you’ve got there, Count Pendleton.”

“Yes, I’m afraid I’m quite at her mercy…”

“Fool. All the more reason to consider yourself honored, then. And you, you common cur, I won’t be described with such trivial words as feisty.” She paused. “Hmm. No, perhaps the word common doesn’t quite fit you.”

“Er, should I take that as a compliment?” Balleroy said, looking at Jorah questioningly, but the count only smiled fondly but awkwardly; he certainly didn’t have the reins of his new wife.

It was Miles, having been silent for some time, who finally broke the impasse. “Right. Ahem, Count Pendleton, we come with a message from our mistress. May we deliver it to you?”

“Oh, of course, sorry to keep you waiting. Word from Serena? What does she say?”

“I think it’s about the sword-slave island,” Balleroy volunteered.

“The sword-slave island… Yes, I suppose that did come up,” Jorah said, taking the sealed letter and scanning the contents. He let out a breath. He didn’t seem very happy about the idea of the island.

“The sword-slave island…Ginonhive. You know, I don’t believe I’ve ever been there,” Priscilla said.

“Hoh! Interested, missus?” Balleroy asked. “Aw, y’know, I’ve always wanted to see the place myself, so this is great news!”

“Hmm. Am I to gather that your mistress intends to invite my no-account husband to the sword-slave island?”

“Mm-hmm, I’d say that’s about the size of it,” Balleroy confirmed. Priscilla was very quick on the uptake. Miles, though, looked annoyed by the exchange between his “younger brother” and Priscilla. “Say, Miles, what’s the matter?” Balleroy asked.

“I’m wondering why we even bothered bringing a letter…”

He certainly seemed to have his hands full with this so-called younger brother. But maybe that was just the way it was. “If you pour in more water than your vessel can handle, of course it’s going to overflow,” Priscilla observed. “If you wish for it not to spill, you must constantly sip from it. And even then, it may run over.”

“I’ll remember that,” Miles said. He seemed quick-witted enough. The fact that he didn’t dismiss Priscilla’s words as the jabbering of a little girl showed well why he had Balleroy’s respect.

All that remained was the response to the message.

“I’m very pleased to receive High Countess Delacroix’s invitation,” Jorah said. “However, I’m afraid things are quite busy here, so I’m going to have to—”

“Just ignore him. We accept the invitation to the sword-slave island.”

“P-Priscilla?!” Jorah had folded the invitation and had been just about to politely turn it down when Priscilla interrupted him. His face betrayed an uncharacteristic intensity of emotion as he leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Priscilla, the sword-slave island receives many visitors. What if someone were to recognize you?”

“Is that your reason for refusing the invitation? Then allow me to give you my reason for accepting it.”

“Y-your reason? Whatever could possibly move you to…?”

“It’s quite simple. I am interested in this island.”

Jorah looked at her in pure astonishment. This was how Priscilla lived her life; it was almost the equivalent of a wife sweetly begging her husband for a favor. Even if the situation made it a little difficult to call the moment sweet. Regardless…

“ ” Jorah could hardly speak.

“Count Pendleton, what would you like to do? Our master is in no hurry for a response, so if you’d like to take some time to consider…,” Miles suggested.

Jorah, however, declined this kind offer with a “No, thank you,” and a shake of his head. “There’s no need for you to wait for my answer. Please tell High Countess Delacroix that we…we accept her invitation.”

“Aw, that’s great to hear. I’m sure the mistress’ll be glad,” Balleroy said, seeming as pleased by the answer as he was oblivious to how hard it had been for Jorah to give it.

Miles was giving Jorah a rather more conflicted look, but he didn’t dare question the man’s judgment. Instead, he bowed deeply and said, “Very well, sir. You’ll find the details of the date and time in the letter. If you’d like us to carry a response back for you, we’ll gladly do so.”

“That won’t be necessary. I doubt even your heads are empty enough to forget a one-word answer on the way home. So take it back to your mistress and deliver that,” Priscilla said.

“Ha-ha-ha! She’s got us there, Brother. Right on the money!”

“Pipe down!” Miles shouted, his voice ringing throughout the whole mansion. In the end, they had let their demeanor as formal messengers slip one last time.

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