Eryn currently wanted to wrap herself into a ball and hide somewhere. A dull headache was gnawing at her head, caused by none other than her own familiar.
Several minutes before, Eryn, Dengel, and I had entered the Duke’s hidden room to look for the potion that was used for mind control.
Eryn had walked directly over to some drawers in the corner, shuffling through them. The sound of glass clinking could be heard as she shifted through some bottles and uncorked several to take a whiff of each one.
Unsure of what to do, my eyes wandered around the room, until they rested on some scraps of clothing draped over the back of a chair.
“Huh, what’s this?” I stretched it out and looked at it.
The soft, fur-like feel of the fabric felt high-quality, but there was not much of it. Rotating it around, I finally realized that it was in the shape of a bikini top.
As it suddenly clicked in my mind as to what this meant, I grabbed the other piece which was a thong-like bottom with a tail. Holes were cut in some very inconvenient, or should I say intentional, places. With ears on a headband to complete the set, the last thing I had expected to see was an inappropriate doggy costume.
The sound of me choking on air caught the attention of the other two.
“What’s wrong?” Eryn turned my way, but her face immediately turned red at the realization of what was in my hand. “Put that away, now!”
However, it was much too late. My mind had already grasped what this room was used for and why Eryn had reacted as such. My hand jerked open one of the closet doors, which caused some more articles of clothing to spill out.
Maid outfits, princess gowns, animal outfits, foreign-style clothing, even skimpy clothing of things seemingly from my home world – fell to the floor in front of us. I reached out and pulled up a frilly, idol outfit, looking at it in wonder.
“The Duke has a cosplay dress-up fetish?” I blurted out casually.
“How can you be so calm about this? Don’t you find all of this clothing to be bizarre?” Eryn slapped the outfit out of my hands.
“I guess it would be in this world, but I actually recognize a lot of this from my home world,” I said blankly. The culture behind a lot of these outfits didn’t exist here but did where I came from. But how on earth did these end up here?
I picked up another article, one that looked like a bunny girl outfit, and checked the collar. There was a small embroidery that showed the shape of a chicken wearing a tie.
“Oh, it came from the hentai shop. Didn’t see that coming.” I somewhat regretted finding out, as I didn’t really want to deal with the shopkeeper again, but my curiosity won out over my annoyance of her. I’d have to make a trip there to ‘investigate’.
Meanwhile, Eryn’s jaw was loose as she realized how unbothered I was. Rather than that, it appeared to her that I was scanning through the clothing with interest.
“Don’t tell me…you’d actually enjoy seeing me in THIS?”
“Yes- I mean no…I should just shut up now.” I realized too late that no answer would probably satisfy her. If anything, I’d find it cute for some of the less revealing outfits, but this wasn’t the time or place for something like this.
“Honestly, I don’t get what the deal is with this crude clothing. It’s so distasteful and low-class.” Dengel had a sexy Santa outfit in his hand.
I put an arm around Dengel. “Don’t you have a girl you like? Can’t you just envision her wearing something like this?”
“Why I- …hmmm…” Though Dengel tried to voice his discontent, the thoughts that now popped up in his mind said otherwise. I could see his glasses start to fog up.
Seeing that the two of us guys were lost in our own world, Eryn placed a hand over her face in disgust. Her head started to ache as she questioned if there were any men that weren’t disturbing and strange. Or rather, if it was people like me for polluting the minds of this world.
She tried to push these thoughts out of her mind as she went back to looking for the right bottle. Soon, she picked one up and took a whiff to double-check.
“There, I found it! Can you two BE SERIOUS?! What did we come here for?!” Eryn yelled at us waving the bottle in her hand.
“Oh? You found it?” I placed the clothing neatly back into the closet.
“Yes. With this potion, we will make the Duke confess of his crimes. However, we will still need to administer it to him in the presence of everyone. If he confesses all of his wrongdoings, then not even the nobility backing him can raise a hand anymore.”
“Okay, we will make our move on the day of the ceremony. In the meantime, let’s make sure we prepare a wedding that the Duke will never forget,” Dengel announced.
With that, the die was cast. Each of us would split off to make our own arrangements. I had to check in with Cornelius and convey what we had discovered. Then, a stop by Katsys’s workshop was needed for some insurance. Good thing I asked her for help, as there would likely be resistance that was unavoidable.
As the three of us exited the room and sealed the wall back up, I caught Eryn staring at the back wall.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“I never did find out why the Duke had my mother’s sword.” She pointed up to the sheathed blade adorning the wall.
“Your mother’s sword? You think the Duke was involved in her death?”
“I don’t know, but I want to find out.” Eryn shook her head. “Getting out of this predicament takes priority.”
“By the way, how were you two planning to seal up the locks to hide that you were here?” Dengel interrupted us.
Oops, I hadn’t thought about that. I had impulsively broken the locks to get inside but hadn’t thought of any way to cover my traces. Did I mention that I was bad at this?
Dengel sighed and shook his head at our silence.
“You’re lucky that I showed up then. Guess I’ll discreetly replace them. You can thank me later.” He walked off, presumably to find replacements.
“I better go too.” I took one lingering look at Eryn before turning away. “Time to prepare a masterpiece.” I smiled to myself.
In one office of the guild, a large pile of documents had been stacked on top of the desk. This pile was twice as large as normal, likely because the desk’s owner had taken up the work of another senior knight who was currently absent.
In part, he felt responsible that someone had managed to outwit him, leading to his friend’s removal from the guild. The normally calm, suave man could be seen staring out the window with a hint of worry. He was not worried about the extra work that he had taken up and was currently ignoring. That could be done at any time.
He had been instead waiting anxiously for a report from a certain chef that he had sent to collect information to prepare for a raid on the Duke’s grounds.
Cornelius von Reichenstein was the king’s watchdog, and he had long suspected that the Duke had been planning something against the throne. However, what he had was only indirect evidence of his dealings, derived from a long paper trail of events that led to his growth in power. Though the Duke’s amassing of power was suspicious, there were no grounds to fault what it was being used for.
He knew that given enough time, he would eventually convince enough of the nobility to stand against him, but the numbers were not enough currently. The sudden targeting of his dear friend had put a harsh deadline on his investigation that had caught him off-guard.
Cornelius believed that he had placed himself in a good position to protect her from others, having long noticed her change in personality after her parent’s passing. Sympathizing with her desire to gain power, he himself sought means to climb the nobility ladder, in case she should fail.
Along the way, he noticed someone taking an interest in her, picking up on strange events with Eri at the center. He had a feeling that someone would eventually try to ‘acquire’ her, so he wanted to act first.
Taking advantage of his great magic abilities, he was personally offered a chance to quickly climb the ranks by the king. Becoming his ‘watchdog’ was a small price to pay. Rising to the status of Earl faster than anyone could hope to achieve, he believed that his dear Eri would only have to take his hand in order to escape from those lurking around her. To his surprise, she had instead batted it away, wanting to stand on her own rather than relying on her closest friend.
So he continued to watch over her, ready to take her by force if needed. However, he had never predicted that a man far greater in position than him would stand in his way.
The news of the Duke’s sudden engagement had made him furious. All of his preparations up to this day would be for naught, if he couldn’t take her back immediately. In his rapid scramble to gather allies, he had stumbled upon Eri’s familiar in a wretched state.
Aggravated that the one man he chose to watch over her had instead given up, he lashed out in fury. Though it had not been completely the chef’s fault, Cornelius couldn’t help but vent his frustration to someone – someone who didn’t care about appearances, someone who didn’t care about his status, someone that he could almost call… a friend.
Though he felt sorry about his outburst afterwards, that had been the trigger to fire up the chef once again. Not long after, the chef once again showed him something new and unexpected. Though he had been surprised many times already, he couldn’t help but wonder how much potential lay within the man named Claude Evers – an Electi with the weirdest of abilities, yet somehow finding ways to succeed regardless of the situation.
“How strange it is that even now the success of my plan could be determined by what that man brings to me,” Cornelius muttered to himself with a smirk.
Just then, a voice in the distance called out.
“Hey Corny! You’re here, aren’t you?”
“Speak of the devil…” Cornelius turned around to see a chef skid to a stop in front of the door to his office.
“I have something to report to you,” Claude said out of breath.
“Oh, really? Then out with it. What is the Duke hiding?” Cornelius said, his face returning to his usual smirk.
Unlike the reports that he had gotten before, Cornelius’s eyes widened as he heard the first few sentences coming out of Claude’s mouth. This was it! This was exactly what he needed! His hand twitched as he had a strong urge to call up his contacts, but he patiently waited for the chef to finish.
“Thank you. You have given me enough leverage to plan an assault. Hmm…a call to arrest the Duke on his own wedding day. How cruel and befitting.” Cornelius smirked.
“That’s the only way we can knock out a majority of the resistance so that they don’t surprise us later,” Claude said, after conveying his plans made with Eryn and the Duke’s secretary.
“An appropriate role for you, I might add. I swear, you never cease to entertain me with your ideas.” Cornelius went over to place a hand on Claude’s shoulder.
“That settles it! We will begin the operation in three days! We will make sure that the Duke’s supporters know the taste of Chef Ever’s cooking if they dare to go against us!”