Cornelius cautiously scrutinized every gesture that the Chancellor made. She could not let her guard down against someone as perceptive as him. He had been the one that had unveiled her disguise, one that had nearly everyone in the country fooled. Furthermore, he had been told that the Chancellor had the capability of using mind control.
Cornelius had no choice but to listen to his whims, who had promised to keep her identity a secret if she honored her duty in being the King’s Watchdog. Yet, that did not mean that she would be willing to sacrifice anything. There would be no point in all of this if she lost what meant most to her.
“I have a proposal that I would like you to participate in,” the Chancellor broke the silence.
“I believe that it’s past time for a certain princess/servant pair to return back within our grasp. At this point, no one would even recall those charges made against him.”
“Were you not also in favor of arresting him? To the point that the kingdom turned its blade towards his master? I will have no part in any of that!” Cornelius interrupted.
“Yes, yes. That was all done at the request of our King. But the political environment has changed, has it not? After all, there are voices in the kingdom clamoring for new leadership.”
“And you?” Cornelius’s eyes narrowed.
“Why, I do what is best for everyone, of course. That is my responsibility.”
A slight smirk graced the Chancellor’s cheeks, which was not overlooked by Cornelius. After a moment, she sighed. “I don’t believe you.”
“Of course, you don’t. But the kingdom needs its princess. And your dear friend needs her servant back.”
“Leave Eryn Faulkner out of this! I will not have you endanger her again!” Cornelius shouted, reminding him that the King had ordered troops to subjugate her.
“Marquis Reichenstein, you may not wish it so, but your dear Lady Faulkner’s involvement is unavoidable at this point, being the master of an Electi.”
That statement caused Cornelius to hesitate. ‘What did Claude have to do with all of this? Sure, he was a valuable war piece if used properly, but that hardly warranted such lengths.’
“What do you mean?” Cornelius inquired, her eyes squinted with skepticism.
“Your dear friend will be in danger no matter what happens. That is because she is connected to a being that holds limitless possibility. Have you not felt it? Her strength continues to grow, bolstered by the growth of her summoned being.
“Why does that matter? The two of them will simply become as strong as the heroes of legend.”
Cornelius’s breath was caught in her throat. There was no way that the Chancellor would throw out a simple jest such as that for no reason.
“Demon? You can’t be implying that-“
“I am, Marquis. This is no joke. Those that gain power in such a manner are the likeliest to demonize.”
“H-How… would you know something like that?” Cornelius took a step back. The Chancellor stared at her with eyes that looked like they had seen everything. There were no records of anything of the sort, so why did it appear that he had an unquestionable look of conviction? There was only one obvious answer, given all the peculiarities that the Chancellor had dabbled in.
“I-It can’t be! You are-“
Chancellor Willingham cut her off. Suddenly, the surroundings began to shift. The scenery of the castle office faded into the darkness, as it seemed like the two were trapped within an unknown location.
“Well now, can’t have others overhearing us, now can we?” The Chancellor stood up and walked over to Cornelius. “Don’t worry, I merely sealed us temporarily within an alternate space formed by mana. You’ll be free once you hear me out.”
“As if I’ll listen to a demon!” Cornelius quickly fired off an ice spear, which appeared to hit the Chancellor. The long icy weapon had pierced him in the chest and blood started trickling from that wound. Yet, he simply shrugged it off and continued walking towards her.
Seeing that didn’t work, she continued to launch attack after attack, flinging spears of ice at the Chancellor. The spears lodged themselves into his body, momentarily stunning him.
However, the Chancellor merely pulled the bloodied ice and tossed it aside, not minding the blood dripping down his body. The expression of calm never left his face.
It was Cornelius instead that was panicking. Even with several gaping holes in the man’s body, the Chancellor was unfazed. Several seconds later, she realized why. The injuries suddenly sealed up after a wordless chant of a healing spell, and there was no longer any trace of the damage from before. Cornelius had read about how demons could regenerate themselves quickly, but she had scarcely believed her eyes until it had actually happened.
“Are you ready to listen yet?” The Chancellor smirked.
At that point, Cornelius had no choice but to use her best attack again. She quickly reached over and grabbed onto him. Soon, ice began to form around him as Cornelius stared into the unchanging expression in front of her. Even this attack didn’t invoke much more than a slight turn of the brow.
Though Absolute Zero was an attack that froze everything around it, Cornelius had managed to refine it such that the ice would avoid freezing her. She watched as the thick ice continued to layer itself around her target. Hopefully, this would cause the enclosed space to return back to normal.
However, not only did it not change back, the frozen form of the Chancellor suddenly emitted a bright glow. With a blinding glare, the ice was melted back, and Cornelius could feel an intense flame escaping from its confines. A much stronger flame had overwhelmed her best ice attack in mere moments. The sheer might of magic power before her had forcefully undone her spell.
Cornelius could feel the intense flames licking at her as the kindled form of the Chancellor stepped out, like he had embodied the fiery depths of Hell. The flames scorched her skin as he approached, burning away her mana shield like it was nothing. With no room to back away from it, Cornelius felt her armor warp from the heat, and her skin and hair catch ablaze.
There was no magic that Cornelius possessed that could compare to that. In fear, she fell to the ground, feeling excruciating pain as her body seemingly melted off her bones. However, the fire around the Chancellor’s body suddenly extinguished as if it had been an illusion.
Cornelius’s eyes popped open as the pain had suddenly disappeared. A quick glance had told her that she had not been set afire like she had believed. Yet, those sensations felt all too real to her.
“T-This is…?” Cornelius managed to stammer out in disbelief at the demonic being in front of her.
“A measure of my power, a power not for senseless destruction, but to carve a path forward for my goals.”
“A secret. But you have my guarantee that your dear friend will be saved if you remain on my side. As you can see, I am the perfect form of what you people call ‘Demons.’ And if you wish for a long future for those acquainted with you, then it would be wise to heed my words.”
Cornelius drew her head back at the very idea of it. She couldn’t believe that a demon, of all things, was offering her a deal.
“Is it true? What you said about Electi and demons? Are they destined to be cursed?”
“Yes. And with their fall, so does the master follow.”
Cornelius didn’t know what to believe anymore. Her supposed enemy had just told her that her friends were destined to become cursed, and that he had been working towards solving that. Suddenly, the problems of this kingdom seemed minor compared to that. Without Eryn, this kingdom wouldn’t matter at all to Cornelius.
“W-What, what are you asking me to do?” Cornelius hesitantly asked.
“Go and bring back the Electi, Claude Evers. With him, the path towards a perfect demon may very well be realized! That is the only way to avoid the sad fate of those summoned to this world!”
With that, the scenery around Cornelius suddenly reverted to that of the Chancellor’s office. Hardly anything had been disturbed this whole time. The Chancellor himself had discarded his demonic form and returned to human, albeit with several holes in his outfit that were made by Cornelius’s ice.
Like his other form had been all a lie, the Chancellor walked back to his desk and sat down.
“I look forward to your results, Marquis Reichenstein,” he nonchalantly said to the female knight that was still sitting on the ground.
After Cornelius regained her bearings, she told all of us what had transpired a week ago during her encounter with the Chancellor. Her statements had confirmed our beliefs that David Willingham had been the demon that attacked the country of Sanshiro many years ago.
Lau, who had arrived just in time for the story, clenched his fist, recalling the bitter memories of their fight.
“From the looks of it, that blasted guy has gotten even stronger. Best magic user in the kingdom, huh? I wonder if he was holding back at the time…”
Lau could empathize with the strength of the demon Cornelius had faced. Certainly, his master had delivered a crushing blow to him at the time, but he had been able to recover fully from that. It didn’t seem like Lau’s strength alone would be able to defeat the Chancellor.
I was more worried about the last part of the story. The fact that he believed that Eryn and I could turn into demons in the near future.
Was that a made-up story to convince Cornelius to join his cause? Or was what he said… true? As powerful as the Chancellor was, did he really need to trick Cornelius into working with him?
These doubts kept flying around my mind as I worried about the purple core that was located deep inside me. Sure enough, Lady Kaguya’s explanations had been consistent with that possibility.
I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder, which slid down the length of my arm and grasped my trembling hand. My vision followed this sensation to the one it was connected to, seeing the smile of a blue-haired, bespectacled girl.
“We’ll figure this out, Claude. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t felt any signs of you going out of control. This all may very well be a bluff. The Chancellor that I know is a crafty person.”
As if confirming her beliefs, Ludmila and Chrys hugged my waist on either side.
“Master’s mana feels normal.”
“Yes, no different than mine or Ludmila’s.”
I gave each of them a loving stroke of the hair.
“Thanks, that makes me feel better. Maybe we should make another visit to Lady Kaguya before leaving. She might have more insight in this.”
After all, she had been with her Electi for much longer. If anyone knew about the secret of Electi and possible demonification, then it would be her. I turned to my sorta-friend who happened to be a girl in disguise.
“Get up, Corny. You’re coming along as well. It would be good for you to hear from a different person informed in the knowledge of Electi.”
Cornelius was a bit surprised.
“Wait, you mean. You’re not bothered by this?”
“By what? The demon? We already had our suspicions-“
“No, not that! By me! By this!” Cornelius pointed at herself, still obviously female.
I paused for a moment. Due to the seriousness of the coming situation, my mind had decided to punt that little detail downfield.
“Oh, right… well it explains a few things, I guess,” giving her a shrug.
Being the only one in the room that really knew Cornelius, it seemed like he expected a bigger reaction. The others just looked on like they had no idea what was going on. Ludmila and Katsys, the only other people from Sistina, had only passing contact with Cornelius, so they sort of shrugged it off when I did.
“I mean, there’s traps and reverse traps in anime in my world all the time. I guess I should have looked more carefully at the flags…”
“Traps and flags? What nonsense are you spouting?” It was Cornelius’s turn to shake her head at my antics.
Though I tried to play off the realization that Cornelius was a girl as no big thing, my thoughts were undoubtedly muddled from the result. For now, thinking about her situation just brought up questions that didn’t need to be answered right away.
I walked out of the room, trying to focus on the immediate problem – the possibility of demonification in the future. To me, ‘Corny Rich Guy’ was impossible to understand regardless if she were a guy or girl. That much, I was sure about.