A Normal Monday Morning
"Cornelia, may I have a WORD."
Cornelia jumped at the sound of Dlanor's voice, and very nearly dropped the stack of reports in her hand. It was a good thing she didn't, because she'd only just ordered them. Once her heartbeat had fallen back to its usual speed, Cornelia placed the reports neatly on a nearby table and made her way over to Dlanor.
"Let it be known that I am present and awaiting your instructions!" Cornelia said, trying to keep the mixture of fear and reverence off her face. Sometimes she found it difficult to remain stoic- and that always made her feel inferior to Gretrude and Dlanor. They never let their emotions get the better of them.
In fact, neither of them seemed to have emotions at all, for the most part.
However, Cornelia was only a third class priest- she was nowhere near as experienced as Gertrude and Dlanor. Comparing Cornelia to either of her superiors would be, in Cornelia's eyes, like comparing gold with dirt.
There was just no match.
Cornelia hadn't been a member of Eiserne Jungfrau very long; she was still, basically, 'the new girl'- however, she had been a member of their group long enough now that people stopped covering for her or being polite when she made mistakes (which she still did, frequently). Now, they would sigh in irritation, and chastise her.
As such, Cornelia had somehow managed to convince herself, during her walk from one end of Dlanor's office to the other, that she was in trouble. Either she had misspelt a person's name of report (she had done that before) or lost something important (she had done that before, too), or- somehow- Dlanor had discovered she was the one who put the frogspawn in the water cooler (which Cornelia had never actually done- but she wouldn't be surprised if everyone tried to pin the blame on her, considering everything else that went wrong was her fault).
Despite her emotionless facade and narrowed red eyes, Cornelia was trembling.
"P-please allow me speak!" she said, struggling to keep her voice neutral. "I-it wasn't me who put the frogspawn in the water cooler! A-and it wasn't me who put all those files pertaining to cases between January and March this year that violated Knox's fourth in the paper shredder, either... A-and I-I didn't-"
"Cornelia. Please take a SEAT."
"A-ah, y-yes... Let it be known that I apologize."
And, still trembling, Cornelia sank down into a chair beside Dlanor. She was glad Dlanor had invited her to sit- otherwise, her legs probably would have given away underneath her anyway. It felt like the bones in her thighs had turned to jelly. Even whilst she was sat down, Cornelia's mind raced- she wondered how, if ever, she'd be able to get back up again. Would she remain sat on this chair in Dlanor's office for the rest of eternity, like a statue?
"The mystery of the frogspawn and the shredded documents has already been SOLVED," said Dlanor.
"Yes," Dlanor nodded the affirmative, her head moving up, then down again, very, very slowly. Most of Dlanor's movements made her look like a clockwork doll; she ground to a halt when she had finished one motion, and remained still until somebody wound her up again for the next. It was... a little creepy.
"Please allow me to ask what the outcome was- if that is not overstepping my boundaries."
"It's no TROUBLE. You are a member of Eiserne Jungfrau too, are you NOT?" said Dlanor. She turned to fix Cornelia with her wide eyes. It looked like she'd forgotten to blink- or maybe she didn't realise she was supposed to. "I was able to deduce the culprit was one of the Siesta Sisters Lady Bernkastel sent to observe our MOVEMENTS."
"Oh... Them." Cornelia could barely resist the urge to pull a face.
For the past few weeks those strangely attired, bunny-eared girls had been flitting about their headquarters. Apparently, they'd been assigned the task of choosing suitable furniture for a girl named Furudo Erika. In the end, they had selected Dlanor, as everybody expected they would; though the names of the other two 'lucky' people had yet to be announced.
The idea of somebody as powerful as Dlanor A. Knox- Death Sentence Dlanor, Dlanor of the Ten Wedges- being reduced to furniture for a pawn in a witches' game was insulting to Cornelia. Even though Dlanor hadn't objected, Cornelia had been offended on her behalf; Dlanor was too important to be bothered by such trifles!
The Siesta Sisters had been an irritation, too; especially one with short bluey-green hair, who had taken to tormenting the tropical fish in the tank at the corner of the room and hiding important files, all the while sniggering to herself and making small 'nihihi' noises.
"I sympathize with your feelings," said Dlanor, in a voice that suggested she didn't at all, "for I also find the Siesta Sisters very TIRESOME."
Cornelia looked down at the table top, her fingers gripping at her skirt. Her palms were becoming sweaty. Surely Dlanor hadn't summoned her for small talk? That didn't fit Cornelia's mental image of 'Death Sentence' Dlanor at all.
And then, as Cornelia looked at the table, she noticed something.
There was a book there- though it was not a mystery novel, which was standard fare for Dlanor.
Judging by the title, and the artwork on the front cover of a large-eyed girl in a too-short skirt, this was...
A romance manga... ...?
Cornelia herself was rather partial to such things- although, of course, she only read them when she was sure nobody else was around- but she couldn't imagine Dlanor reading such things.
"Cornelia. I asked you to sit here because I want to ask you a few QUESTIONS."
"A-ah, yes!" Instantly, Cornelia jumped to attention, one of her hands going to forehead in a salute. She tried to push the romance manga from her mind- surely it wasn't that important.
But, two seconds later, she was proved wrong.
Dlanor A. Knox, the Chief Inquisitor of Eiserne Jungfrau, picked up the manga and held it open at a rather... interesting... page...
"I am CURIOUS. What is the point in such ACTIONS?"
If Dlanor hadn't been... well, Dlanor, Cornelia would have assumed she was playing a practical joke on her. And, if that had been the case, this joke would've been even better than the frogspawn in the water cooler, or the shredded files, or all that marmalade Cornelia found smeared under her desk, or... anything the errant Siesta Sister (Cornelia was sure the culprit was the Sister with the short hair and the weird laugh) had ever done. But Dlanor sounded so earnest, so truthful, that Cornelia was forced to come to the rather painful conclusion that this wasn't a joke.
Dlanor truly expected her to talk about that... picture...
Cornlia felt her cheeks go red.
"A-allow me to speak-"
"Of COURSE. I asked you speak- that should give you permission ENOUGH. Unless you are able to communicate via TELEPATHY. Which is IMPOSSIBLE."
Cornelia blinked slowly at Dlanor. If she wasn't very much mistaken, there was a small, barely-there hint of a smile- the vaguest trace of a side-ways 3- on Dlanor's lips.
Cornelia would have been less surprised if Dlanor suddenly grew an extra head. She hadn't even realised Dlanor could smile- unless it was the terrifying, psychotic serial killer grin she got whilst facing down her enemies.
"A-a-ah, well, allow me speak-"
"I already said you COULD."
"I-I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Cornelia apologised, shaking her head. "F-force of habit. Anyway, um... Y-you really want to know what's going on in this picture?"
"That's why I ASKED." The briefest glimmer of a frown crossed Dlanor's face. "I found it in Gertrude's desk and was most INTERESTED. However, when I queried her about its contents, she would not explain them to ME."
G-gertrude reads things like this?
I-I mean, I like romance novels, but this is too much even for me! I-is the pose in that picture even physically possible, without dislocating a few bones and being double- no, triple- jointed? It looks painful.
... ... ...I feel as though I've just learnt something very odd about Gertrude.
"W-well, it's, um..." Cornelia blinked, looking about Dlanor's office. Her eyes eventually settled on the stapler. Without realising it, Cornelia began praying the stapler would- somehow- become a sentient being and help her.
Of course, it didn't. It sat there, silent, mocking her.
That bastard of a stapler.
"Let it be known that i-it's... I-it's... sex... you know..."
"I am aware of THAT."
"Huh?" Cornelia tore her eyes away from the stapler (which had, incidentally, been completely useless), and stared instead at Dlanor. "Y-you already know?"
"Of COURSE. I am not completely ignorant of the ways of the world, even though I'm still a KID," said Dlanor. "... ...But... I can't understand why anybody would want to do such a thing, beyond reproductive MEANS. It looks PAINFUL."
"A-aha, well... Let it be known that I, myself, do not have much experience in these matters..." Cornelia looked down at her knees, her face so red it felt like her head was on fire. She was beginning to really resent Gertrude for leaving that book lying around-
Gertrude would never have done something so careless, even if she was into stuff like that.
"Allow me to speak. This book does not belong to Gertrude, does it?"
Dlanor nodded. "I came to the same ASSUMPTION. I suppose this was also another joke by the Siesta who put the frogspawn in the water COOLER. Even so, these pictures did pique my INTEREST."
"Let it be known that they'd pique anyone's interest," Cornelia mumbled.
"What was THAT?"
"A-ah... Nothing, really," said Cornelia, shaking her head. "Ah... W-well... I guess, with things like this," she gestured vaguely towards the picture, not wanting to point at anything in particular (just looking at it was making her feel dirty), "because it's, um... fun?"
"I don't UNDERSTAND. That does not look like fun to ME."
Cornelia cringed. With a nervous half-laugh, half-sigh, she plucked the book from Dlanor's ivory fingers and placed it upside-down on the table. She didn't want to look at the picture anymore; the image of those two people with impossibly large eyes, twisted up together like pretzels, was beginning to turn her stomach.
"Let it be known that different people find different things fun," said Cornelia, with a shrug. "A-ah... Like, you enjoy mystery novels, but other people don't? Some people prefer to do... that... instead."
"You mean have SEX?"
Cornelia didn't know it was possible for her face to go even redder, but it just had. She was sure she looked like a human beetroot, with wide-open eyes (they were big enough to rival the eyes of a main character in a shojo manga) and her mouth hanging open in a small 'o'. The fact Dlanor could talk about such things so nonchalantly, as though they were discussing the weather, or knitting, was simply mind-boggling.
Dlanor had, almost literally, fried Cornelia's brain.
Dlanor shook her head, that barely-there frown back in place. "I cannot understand people who prefer sex to mystery NOVELS."
"A-ah, well, l-let it be known that I find it difficult to comprehend anybody liking that kind of stuff," Cornelia said, motioning towards the manga. Even though it was lying face-down on the table, quite still and non-threatening, Cornelia still felt uncomfortable around it. "B-but I suppose it exists. I-if you really love somebody, I suppose doing things like that wouldn't be so bad...?"
But not even the power of 'love' can make you double-jointed!
How do I explain this one?
...Why do I have to give Dlanor A. Knox- Death Sentence Dlanor- a sex education talk?
My life, it's just bleurghhh.
"... ...I find 'love' to be a difficult CONCEPT. Beyond being a motive for murders in mystery novels, it is foreign to ME."
Cornelia wasn't sure, but she thought she caught a flash of irritation... or maybe confusion... in Dlanor's confession. Or maybe she was just hearing things; certainly, Dlanor's face was as impassive as always. But there was something different about her. She didn't look like Dlanor of the Ten Wedges, the girl Cornelia- and so many others- admired anymore.
Dlanor looked like what she so often said she was.
"A-allow me to speak. Love can be difficult to understand, I suppose," said Cornelia. She looked down at her knees. How was she even having this conversation? "...But, let it be known, it comes when you really care about somebody? I think..."
Cornelia wondered why Dlanor had asked her those questions; she had hardly any experience with 'love' either. If Dlanor wanted to ponder the mysteries of the human heart, surely there were better people to ask? Cornelia wasn't sure whether she should feel incredibly honoured or incredibly disturbed. In the end, she decided to settle for an odd mixture of the two, which made her head hurt.
"U-um... M-miss Dlanor, please allow me to speak."
"W-well, please forgive me if I am being impertinent, but... why are you asking me these things? P-please allow to me ask why you didn't seek advice from, um, one of the others?"
At this question, Dlanor frowned, ever so slightly. Cornelia knew that expression; it was the one the stoic girl wore when she was trying to solve a mystery novel- though it only ever took her a few seconds to determine the culprit, their actions and their motive, so the expression only flickered across her face for the briefest fraction of a second.
This time, however, it stayed there much, much longer.
And then, with an usually quick movement, Dlanor reached forwards and pressed a quick kiss against Cornelia's cheek.
Cornelia's eyes widened with shock. Her face bloomed scarlet.
But Dlanor looked calm and composed as always.
"H-huh? W-what? A-ah...?"
"I'm SORRY. I wanted to prove a THEORY. I made you the test SUBJECT."
"W-what test? U-um, I mean," Cornelia started. Her mind was in such a mess she'd quite forgotten the manners Gertrude spent so long drumming into her, "p-please allow to me ask-"
"The results of my test affirmed my previous SUSPICIONS." Dlanor's voice cut through Cornelia's babble as effectively as one of her red swords.
Cornelia was almost afraid to ask- and yet, her heart beating erratically, her body trembling, she did.
"...Please allow me to ask what were the results of your test?"
Dlanor tilted her head to one side; a jerky, robotic movement.
Then, she smiled.
A real smile.
Well... maybe it was a bit lop-sided, and it certainly wasn't very big; it was small, like a cat's, but it was far warmer than usual.
"I like you, CORNELIA."
"A-ah! M-miss Dlanor-!"
"I like cute THINGS. I'm still a kid, you KNOW."
"Yes." Dlanor nodded. "You are very cute, CORNELIA."
Am I being sexually harassed by Dlanor here...? She says she's a kid, but how old is she, really? Argh! I'm so confused! Mystery novels are far more simple than this- even those that violate Knox's rules!
Cornelia, despite her vast vocabulary, had no idea what to say. So, in the end, she settled for "bleurghhh."
Which wasn't, in retrospect, a very intelligent thing to say.
She tried again.
"U-um... I-I mean... T-thank you?"
"That will be ALL. That was all I wanted to ask YOU."
"U-um, y-yes, I-I..." Inwardly, Cornelia cursed herself for her sudden inability to string a sentence together. "L-let it be known that I'll be leaving!"
She got to her feet shakily, nearly knocking her chair over, walking on shaky legs backwards into a filing cabinet. She began to apologize profusely, bowing, her eyes wide.
This had probably been the strangest Monday she'd ever had.
a.n: XD? I get weird ideas. And, like, nobody writes about Cornelia. Y not? She's so desu XD~ Idk, probably because she's just a side character in the vn and doesn't actually do that much XD I see as her being a clumsy-type girl who gets flustered easily, but I don't actually think there's much stuff in canon that points towards her having that kind of character XD
Anyway~ I hope you enjoyed this rather random one shot thing. I really love cracky Umineko pairings, so I might write some more weird Umineko crack at some point XD