I sat inside the velvet coach, brows furrowed and a bead of sweat dripping down the side of my head as I focused on the flames held in my hand. Saffron had welcomed into her carriage the next morning, just as she said she would, and requested me to demonstrate the capabilities of my fire creation Skill to her.
She sat across from me, with Matthew by her side as she leaned over and peered into the morphing blue flames.
“And you’re saying this is an advanced version of the Skill?”
“Yep. It’s [Advanced Fire Creation]. Pretty amazing, right?”
I remembered how terrible [Basic Fire Conjuration] had been— the fact that I was able to now create the delicate shape of a flower with fire attested to the name of the Skill.
“Interesting. So you must have a rare Class then.”
“I… uh, do?”
I cocked my head, unsure of how to answer the question. Saffron smiled, tapping a hand on her lips.
“I apologize if I’m prying. It’s just uncommon for a [Mage] even to get such a rare Skill, you see. And yet, you’re a [Rogue] who has one. A hybrid Class may not be too uncommon, but considering all these factors combined… well, let’s just say that you certainly live up to your reputation.”
“Do that many people talk about me?”
“Perhaps only in Nixa. More so in Falisfield, however. You’re celebrated as a local hero for ending the Destroyer’s rampage. I, myself, am grateful for your actions. It is thanks to you I could finally leave the Nightsveil, the Capital, and begin my journey to Shedos.”
I gave the noble an inquisitive glance. She elaborated.
“It’s a country northeast of Nixa, past Elutra and neighbouring the Eastern Kingdoms. It’s relatively unknown, apart from its famous Mavos Academy, which I’m sure you've heard of.”
I shook my head. An academy? That’s a place to… study? Train? Receive education. I rubbed my head, confused.
“Hm. Well, perhaps I underestimated the education of a commoner. Nevertheless, it is an academy located off the coast of Shedos. Famous for its world class [Mages]. A prestigious institution, it only accepts students above Level 40, and after four years of education, most graduates leave the academy at Level 70.”
“Four years to get to Level 70?”
I narrowed my eyes. That’s so… slow!
“It is fast, is it not?”
I lied, trying to keep a straight face. I looked at the pinked haired noble, identifying her once again. I frowned.
“Wait, you said that [Mages] there have to be at least Level 40. Aren’t you only at Level 35?”
Saffron smiled slyly. For the first time in the entire ride, Matthew made a sound. He coughed into a hand, looking at her.
“Apologies, Lady Saffron. But I believe this is not something you should be talking about.”
She waved a hand, turning away from him. She looked over at me with eager eyes.
“I thought you wouldn’t notice. See, Mavos Academy doesn’t just admit Level 40 students. No, their criteria is that you have to at least have reached your first Class advancement. That way, you’ll already be specialized enough that they don’t have to teach you the fundamentals, instead refining what you already know while teaching you new things.”
“But I thought your Class only advances at Level 40!”
She leaned back, a satisfied look on her face.
“Perhaps that’s what the common folk tout. But the truth is, if you meet a certain set of requirements, you can reach your first advancement early as I did.”
I blinked. Is this true for Demons and their evolutions too? As far as I could tell, it probably was.
“And what are these requirements? Do they also apply to the next advancements?”
I leaned forward, sitting on the edge of my seat until my face was next to hers. Matthew cleared his throat again.
“Apologies, Lady Saffron—”
“I know, I know.”
Saffron sighed. She put a single finger out and slowly pushed my face back.
“Personal space. And no. I will not tell you the answer to those questions. I’ve already told you enough. Now come. As unrefined as your fundamental control over magic is, the Skill makes up for most of your wasted mana use.”
“But I have [Advanced Mana Manipulation]!”
I protested, defending myself. She scoffed, haughtily raising her head.
“If a Skill is all it takes to learn something, then there’d be no reason to go to an academy to learn. Your fire creation Skill, while certainly special, is not the greatest thing in existence considering I can just learn fire creation magic. And maybe, I’ll get a Skill for it in my next advancement myself— or before then.”
“You can do that?”
I blinked. Isn’t that how I learned [Basic Fire Conjuration] in the first place? It just got upgraded when I evolved. But I did not use any Skill to use my first magic attacks. And I did not use a Skill to learn how to manipulate mana— I gained most of those Skills only after the fact.
“Yes, why else would I be interested in your magic? Show me what you can and cannot do.”
I did just that; I made weapons made of fire, from swords to bows. I showed her my Blazing Bolts, and she actually praised me for it. However, when it came to the kusarigama, she began to lecture me for not being competent enough with my Skill.
“A [Mage] at your level and with the Skill should be able to make a kusarigama. That’s a complex weapon, yes. But it’s only a regular weapon, no? It’s not even a Low Grade weapon like your Blazing Bolts are.”
“I am not a [Mage].”
I crossed my arms, scowling.
“Maybe that’s the problem. Or maybe you don’t quite understand how that Cyclops weapon works well enough to recreate it. Hrmph. Could you try making the fire chains heavier?”
I did as I was told, however the weapon lost form. The mana diffused to the surroundings and I felt my body sag as a slight exhaustion take hold of me. Saffron made a dissatisfied sound. Matthew once again cleared his throat.
“Apologies, Lady Saffron, but that’s not a very lady-like noise for you to make. And I do not believe it is recommended you experiment magic while in the carriage. Need I remind you the enchantments on the vehicle are expensive, and your father will not appreciate having to repair any such damages possibly inflicted on it.”
She sighed, shaking her head. I looked at the rather odd looking Human man with his gray hair and wrinkles. Then I turned back to Saffron.
“Is that all that he can say? ‘Apologies, Lady Saffron’.”
“Sometimes, I think it is. He’s my butler— he’s supposed to watch over me and mind my manners for me. But it gets annoying quite often.”
Matthew said nothing, seemingly satisfied by the fact that I wasn’t trying to make something I could not with my Skill anymore. I continued showing the noble the extent of my Skill, until she lost interest in it and began asking me other questions.
“You’re quite young yourself, aren’t you? What are you doing being an adventurer at your age.”
“I have to make money— to survive!”
I answered simply with a nod. She raised an eyebrow, unamused by my curt response.
“While that logic seems to be counterintuitive, I will not question it. Instead, I will ask you this: why do you do something you do not enjoy?”
“I don’t enjoy being an adventurer?”
“Yes. You said it yourself, didn’t you? You dislike the stench of death and blood.”
I remembered the conversation from yesterday, sniffing as I realized that Saffron was no longer wearing her perfume.
“I don’t actually dislike it. It’s just… smelly? And your perfume had a different smell than I am used. But you’re not using it. You smell like—”
The carriage jolted, and suddenly came to a halt. The noble fell forward into my arms as I caught her. Matthew protectively covered her with his body as I helped her back to her seat.
“What was that? What is going on?!”
She threw the door of the carriage open and I followed behind her as she marched out, Matthew already ahead of her.
There was an explosion as Helen loosed an arrow. I heard the sound of a chain flying through the air as Jaakko uncharacteristically bellowed, and Zack fumbled on the ground for his book. Daniel was ahead, alongside the other Merryster bodyguards and already engaged with something coming out of the trees.
A voice shouted as the first creature landed on top of the carriage. Saffron paled as the monster snarled.
[Rancer Mite - Lvl. 51].