Chapter 185:

A Corny Situation (2)

Atk 0 Crit All ~My attack stat is negligible, so I can't help but rely on critical hits to succeed!~

Hiding behind a random building, we stared at the parade of crazed fans run by, their switches having been flipped.Bookmark here

A lady of nobility was typically married away under various arrangements, for political or financial gain. Stripped of this prospect of finding a romance of their own, there was no doubt that they held pent up desires for it.Bookmark here

The flirtations of Duke Reichenstein had strung them on, giving hope to that desire. After all, who ‘s father wouldn’t be thrilled to arrange a marriage for one’s daughter with a Duke?Bookmark here

And that extended to other men of promising standing – including the new Chancellor of more humble origin. There were quite a few admirers for the casual, down-to-earth person that generously aided others and brought pleasure to one’s tongue. The food craft of Chancellor Evers had reached the entire female population, particularly those who had a sweet tooth.Bookmark here

To see the two men of their fancy get together for a tender meeting, that was a bigger event than any party or festivity that could be thrown.Bookmark here

As they watched us feign closeness, something in their hearts stirred. Their minds pondered the what-ifs of this forbidden romance, two men of high position engaging in something potentially scandalous. And the result was a strange attraction to the scene even stronger than their initial crushes.Bookmark here

Unlike in my world, this world had likely not been exposed to the poisonous addiction of ‘Boys Love’. I had mostly ignored those that had been afflicted with, encountering a few of them at anime conventions and whatnot. They were never a concern as their heads were often stuck around the booths selling doujinshi and yaoi paddles. The 2-D drawings of hot guys engaging in spicy acts were more interesting than any male around them.Bookmark here

However, things were different when the aura of an intense hunger had been directed toward me. From the hiding spot behind the corner, I felt like socking Cornelius in the stomach.Bookmark here

“I knew something was flawed about this!” I hissed at ‘him’.Bookmark here

“Then, why didn’t you say so?!” ‘he’ spat back.Bookmark here

“Oh sure, how am I supposed to mention something as weird as ‘Hey, there’s a chance they’ll actually enjoy guys cozying up to each other’!?”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

“Right?”Bookmark here

“That was outside of my expectation.”Bookmark here

“Then, fix it! You’re their lord! Just come clean already!”Bookmark here

Cornelius was about to reply when a shout came from behind us. “HEY! There they are! I know that chill of mana anywhere!”Bookmark here

Apparently, Cornelius’s fans could pinpoint her mana signature, which did have a distinct coolness to it. Once again, the two of us broke into a run, hoping to create some distance from them.Bookmark here

Given that the two of us were much higher level than the average town girl or lady of nobility, that itself wasn’t hard to do. The bigger problem was the sheer number of eyes scoping around to track us. Without realizing it, there were probably nearly a hundred girls stricken with the ‘BL bug’.Bookmark here

Around every corner, next to every path, some girl was stationed, ready to call out to the others of our current position.Bookmark here

“Yo! We can’t just keep running from them! What about hiding out in your mansion?” I called out behind me, where Cornelius was trailing behind.Bookmark here

“Would love to, but it’s on the other side of town. And knowing them, they have already formed a perimeter. Not to mention, I suspect that quite a few of the staff also hold similar affections. Of course, there is the option of subduing them, but who would wish to harm such delicate flowers?”Bookmark here

It was not Cornelius’s preference to bring any harm to the ladies with her ice magic. Rather, she was hoping that a bit of time would allow them to cool down enough to be confronted with the truth. She didn’t wish to bring that trouble to her family’s estate in the meantime.Bookmark here

‘And with our luck, subduing them forcefully might awaken other strange fetishes….” That thought flashed into my mind, but I clamped my mouth shut, not wanting to jinx ourselves.Bookmark here

“It’s better to lead them into the proper setting for the final act rather than forcefully keep them away.”Bookmark here

I stared blankly at her excuse. “You’re just buying time, aren’t you?” I finally asked.Bookmark here

“Hmph, I must be losing my touch for you to guess that. But even I have trouble dealing with such an odd situation,” Cornelius replied, scratching ‘his’ cheek.Bookmark here

“Then, why don’t we just put on a disguise?”Bookmark here

“Oh, good point!” Cornelius’s face lit up with that statement, and immediately, she dispelled her illusion.Bookmark here

The handsome face of the bishi knight slowly turned to that of one with girlish features. The shape of her body also shifted a bit, receding in certain places and filling out in others. This was, of course, a visual effect of ice being placed specifically to give the body a more masculine outline.Bookmark here

Now, Cornelius looked quite weird, her outfit looking baggy compared to before. She would need different clothes. Luckily, we spotted some laundry hanging above us in an alley, a casual green dress among one of the articles.Bookmark here

Crafting some steps out of ice, Cornelius created the height needed to ‘borrow’ it from the clothesline. My gaze shifted elsewhere as she quickly changed out of her current clothing. After a minute, I felt a bundle of cloth smack me in the back of the head.Bookmark here

“Hey, you change too!”Bookmark here

I reached up and grabbed the shirt and slacks that were thrown down at me. With a sigh, I did as she asked.Bookmark here

After shoving our previous clothing into my Item Box, the two of us looked very much like the typical townsfolk wandering about. Even with Cornelius’s vivid blue hair, one would be hard-pressed to associate her with the Duke of Reichenstein, especially since the dress clearly displayed her feminine features.Bookmark here

On the other hand, I had merely changed out of my conspicuous chef uniform, not that it was much of a disguise yet. Realizing this, Cornelius brought her hands up to my face, adding her illusion ice magic to it.Bookmark here

“Please, don’t make me a fatso this time,” I joked.Bookmark here

After her handiwork finished, she created a mirror out of ice so that I could see the result. The face that reflected back startled me at first.Bookmark here

“Gah! Could you have made me any more into a typical thug?” I complained, poking at the scraggly, brutish face that held various blemishes. Certainly, it was a mug that a girl wouldn’t wish to stare at for long.Bookmark here

Cornelius chuckled at the annoyance evident in my voice. But my slightly drooped head told her that I had resigned myself to it.Bookmark here

“Well, shall we bide our time while we wait for them to cool down… umm, Laudy?”Bookmark here

I shot her a strange look at that poor attempt of a fake name.Bookmark here

“Okay then… Nealy.” Of course, I wasn’t much better, using the name that Eryn called her as a child.Bookmark here

With that, the two of us stepped back into the streets, continuing our so-called ‘date’, mainly because there was nothing else to do until the girls calmed down.Bookmark here

Interestingly, with the gender change, Cornelius acted a bit different, more unsure of herself. That was understandable given that she spent most of the time posing as a guy. However, I didn’t even mind the fact that she had started clinging onto my arm as we walked around enjoying the scenery.Bookmark here

It was a nice change… aside from the occasional girl or two charging down the street in search of us. Every time that happened, I could feel the grip on my arm tighten a bit.Bookmark here

Though, I was just as guilty of getting nervous as they sometimes turned our way for a moment to scrutinize us before stampeding away again.Bookmark here

“They just don’t seem to be calming down, huh… Did they really think that we’d get hot and heavy in the middle of town or something? Not that I would mind giving it a go….” Cornelius sighed. Her voice was the same as ever, reminding me that the sweet-talking girl holding my arm was the same old Corny that was full of tease.Bookmark here

“Well, maybe if you didn’t act like that all the time, then I’d see you as something else than Corny.”Bookmark here

Suddenly, I felt a hand brush my face. Turning toward her, I was surprised to see Cornelius shove her face right up to me.Bookmark here

“Hmm? You really mean that? I mean… I wouldn’t mind changing your opinion of me.”Bookmark here

Her eyes narrowed as she looked seductively my way. Her finger traced circles on my cheek as she followed the movements of my eyes, which were darting all around to avoid her gaze.Bookmark here

Finally, Cornelius burst out laughing.Bookmark here

“Hahaha, you are just too easy to tease! Of course, I don’t have any intentions such as that!” she said, wiping away a tear that had swelled in her eye from her amusing stunt.Bookmark here

“It was pretty obvious that you were teasing me. I knew that.” I sighed, responding flatly to her.Bookmark here

Cornelius continued to chuckle at my words. “Obvious? How so? Your face still acted uncomfortable from it!”Bookmark here

“And what’s wrong with that?! Something uncomfortable is uncomfortable! I’m not gonna hide that fact under some guise! Would you rather I act like a jerk and brush it off like I didn’t care at all?!”Bookmark here

I turned away in embarrassment as Cornelius’s laughing slowed to a halt. After a pause, her tone felt a bit colder.Bookmark here

“But you don’t care, do you? You only have eyes for Eri and the Queen, right? Why pretend you do? Especially for someone like me.”Bookmark here

I could feel an echo of loneliness and of regret in her statement. Immediately, I rebuked her.Bookmark here

“Who said that I didn’t care?” I turned to her. “I wouldn’t be bothered if I wasn’t.”Bookmark here

Cornelius’s expression froze for a moment as if to digest my words.Bookmark here

“I just told you that I don’t hide what I feel. I’m too blunt for that. And for all the trouble that you’ve been, here I am sticking my neck out for you. Why? Because there’s a part of me that thinks that you’re alright.”Bookmark here

Cornelius looked slightly stunned at my statement. With her forehead unguarded, I reached forward and flicked her there, adding a slight amount of mana to create a dramatic spark. Whether the system didn’t process it as an attack or Cornelius was too self-absorbed to trigger her guard, the forehead flick snapped her head back, breaking the pensiveness that she had put herself in.Bookmark here

“Hey! That hurt! What was that for?!” She rubbed the spot on her forehead that stung from the impact.Bookmark here

“For trying to push me away. Don’t think I didn’t notice you purposefully dragging me into random requests in a shallow attempt to make me dislike you.”Bookmark here

Certainly, every time Cornelius gave me work to do, it would seem like she would frame it in a way to get me annoyed with her. And that had happened ever since I had returned to Sistina. It was almost like she wanted me to take my frustrations out on her. Likely, she was still feeling guilty about betraying me to save Eryn when we met up in Sanshiro.Bookmark here

“You don’t have to force yourself to be anything around me. I already know how much of a pain you are, and I could hardly care about that. I’ll act like however you want me to act, but in the end, I’ll still care!”Bookmark here

Cornelius looked down and fidgeted with her hands. “You know… how can you be so perceptive like this and be so ignorant to the advances of all the other girls?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean? Are you talking about Ludmila and Saki? And all the other girls around town?”Bookmark here

Cornelius froze as I said that, assuming that I had been dumb to their affections. “You knew? But then, why have you been acting-?”Bookmark here

“Dumb? That’s exactly it. I’m acting dumb. Ever since Katalina confessed to me, I took a hard look at those around me. I know full well of Ludmila’s clinginess and her random drop-ins to check on me. I know that Saki’s been warming up to me, despite being wary of guys. And the towngirls that I help? Yeah, that would be pretty blind of me to not notice.”Bookmark here

“Th-Then why? Why do you dilly dally on choosing someone?”Bookmark here

I held my hand up to put a pause on that thought.Bookmark here

“Would it matter, even if I did choose? It’s not like I’ll stop getting close to you or Ludmila or Saki or anyone else if I did. I’m not going to ignore the others just because I have someone I like. I’m not going to stop helping out to avoid some amorous gazes. I can care about others without wanting anything more. And if I mislead some people along the way… well, guess I’ll just have to make myself clear like what I’m doing now, right?”Bookmark here

Cornelius sighed after all of that. Smacking herself in the face, she realized that she had failed in her original purpose of the date – to inform me of the trouble I was getting myself into by being oblivious.Bookmark here

But that had all been a misunderstanding. I had just continued to be myself despite knowing what others thought of me.Bookmark here

“Oh, by the way, it seems like there’s been people staring at us for quite some time….” I pointed behind Cornelius, who whipped around in surprise.Bookmark here

Cornelius’s fans from before marched toward us, a wide smile on their faces. Cornelius backed away discreetly and tugged on my sleeve to escape, but I stood firmly there.Bookmark here

“Well, the jig is up, I guess.” I shrugged, giving a sign of defeat.Bookmark here

“Wait, what? What do you mean?” Cornelius turned to me in panic.Bookmark here

The girls walked right up to us. This time, the almost-feral aura of hunger was absent from them.Bookmark here

“So, this is Duke, I mean, Duchess Reichenstein’s real form. How cute,” the one in front commented. They all had amused smiles on their faces.Bookmark here

“Yep. That’s how it is. Thanks for participating. You all were so convincing that even I was starting to feel terrified by it.” I chuckled as I felt a strong tug on my sleeve. Looking to the side, Cornelius stared at me with a stunned expression.Bookmark here

“What farce is this?!” Cornelius seemed to scowl.Bookmark here

“Ah, it’s as you suspect. The girls and I tricked you. They already knew ahead of time about your real gender and decided to play along with this whole play date of yours.”Bookmark here

“Y-You tricked me?”Bookmark here

“Well, yeah. But it wasn’t just me. There was no way that I’d be able to gather your fan club and pull off something like this. Ludmila was the one that spied on you and then told the Queen, who then told me about what you were scheming, so we all decided to play a trick on you, since you were being rude to your admirers for so long. Queen Katalina had already informed the girls here about your true gender. All that was left was to create a strange situation to leave you vulnerable to spit out your real intentions.”Bookmark here

Cornelius was speechless from all this. To think that giving the stoic girl a hint of troubling her Master would lead to everything being upended.Bookmark here

Or course, the entire thing involving BL and fujoshis going on a rampage was a personal touch by me. I had completely expected that Cornelius was going to show up in her male form, so I had told her fans to pretend that the aspect of two guys getting affectionate was hot.Bookmark here

Aside from that, I simply told them to ‘go nuts’ with their passion, leading to the wild chase. Certainly, they had made my heart race more than I had expected.Bookmark here

“So wait, you girls aren’t angry at me for keeping such a secret and leading you on for quite some time?” Cornelius meekly asked.Bookmark here

“Surprised and confused, yes. But when the Queen explained the circumstances as to why you had kept it secret, we couldn’t really hold it against you.” The girls looked back and forth between each other, nodding. “Our respect and affection goes beyond that of plainly chasing after a nice guy.”Bookmark here

“Besides, this was their way of getting back at you for it. So I think all is forgiven.” I clapped Cornelius on the back. “At least, you don’t have to worry about keeping up your disguise anymore.”Bookmark here

“Still… it is a bit of a disappointment,” one girl further back in the crowd exclaimed.Bookmark here

Suddenly, I felt a flag being triggered.Bookmark here

“The thought of our Lord, as a man, and the Chancellor getting it on is a rather tasty image. That is something I simply must write about.”Bookmark here

“Ooh, I can draw. Shall I make some sketches?”Bookmark here

“That gives me some ideas of other spicy scenarios!”Bookmark here

My blood ran cold. ‘There were real fujoshis in the crowd?!’ I could feel a shiver also from Cornelius, since she was holding onto me.Bookmark here

‘Maybe this was a bad idea after all!’Bookmark here

Not long after, a series of books caught on like wildfire, purchased by a sizable portion of the female population and spread to other regions.Bookmark here

‘Lord Chancellor and the Dashing Duke’s Naughty Playtime’ was but the first of a series of BL fiction that attracted a niche audience.Bookmark here

And from that, books spawned involving other characters, too.Bookmark here

I nearly had a heart attack when I was eating lunch at ‘A Certain Slice’ upon hearing Alice comment on a new book one of the older waitresses had lent her. The name of the title was all it took to have me running out the door in terror.Bookmark here

‘Lord Chancellor Passionately Strokes His Raven-Haired Secretary’Bookmark here

I prayed to God that Dengel would never hear about it, nor that Alice would connect fantasy with reality.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.