Saffron always believed herself to be someone who was raised with poise. She carried herself with class. Dignity. And she would never grovel before anyone.
But that was not because of her pride; Saffron simply believed that she was someone with enough manners to avoid such situations. She never spoke disrespect to anyone who never deserved it. Always held her chin high, but never above those who’d punish her for it. It was grace— something she thoroughly refined through her life.
Yet, now she found herself in the exact predicament she strove so hard to stave off.
“I apologize for my friend’s actions!”
She bowed deeply, forcing the silver-haired woman’s head down with her.
Salvos. A young woman with a bright complexion. She had cheerful golden eyes, and an excitable personality that reminded Saffron of a child. And while it was amusing and even endearing at times, it was not a form of entertainment when Saffron was embarrassed because of it.
Headmaster Clayton Skyshredder’s gaze bore down on Saffron’s shoulders. She didn’t look up. Her eyes were faced down, staring at the glass floor below. She could see how high up they were. They stood at the very top of the tallest tower of Mavos Academy. The place where the Headmaster himself resided.
The tower itself protruded like a needle, growing thinner and thinner until it reached this platform. It was an oval room that was far too large for how easily it balanced on the tip of the tower. There was magic at play here. One which should’ve reassured her that this wasn’t dangerous.
If not for the fact that she could see how high they were above the rest of the academy.
A mile. No— maybe even taller. The other towers of Mavos Academy reached up, poking above the low-hanging clouds. But they were merely half the height of this grand structure.
A slight shiver ran down Saffron’s spine. She wasn’t some sort of [Tank] with a very high [Vitality] who could just duck and roll to survive such a fall. But she felt like— with the right spells and preparation— she’d be able to survive such a fall. Or so she hoped.
Headmaster Clayton Skyshredder snapped, drawing her full attention to him.
“This is not a mistake that can be rectified by a simple apology.”
He paced around his desk and ran his hands through his beard.
Salvos piped up, smiling. He narrowed his eyes.
“Yes, you. You didn’t make a mere singular error. Your lapse of judgement was conducted for a prolonged period of time.”
“What do you mean?”
She cocked her head, and he glared.
“First of all, you entered the airspace of Shedos without a flight permit. Flying is only allowed by those who have paid to undergo a rigorous test to learn and understand common flying etiquette. Without it, you’d be allowed free rein to spread terror as you did by flying into Mavos Academy.
“Huh. I didn’t know that.”
“Next, when you actually arrived at Mavos Academy, you saw the day barrier over the school and decided to tear your way through it with your own magic. If you had caused significant enough damage, the [Mages] maintaining the spell would’ve thought you to be enough of a threat to expend unnecessary resources for the emergency barrier. That would have been hundreds of platinum wasted for no good reason.”
“I thought it was there to keep out monsters!”
The Headmaster’s brows snapped together.
“When students and members of the faculty fled from you in fear, how did you not once think you were making a mistake and paused your course of action?”
She had no reply. Instead, she just scratched her chin.
“Because I didn’t think about it…?”
He stared at her. His irritation had bubbled up, simmering like a burning cauldron. But instead of bursting out like a failed alchemical mixture, it released in an exhausted sigh.
“This is… as expected.”
Saffron blinked. As expected? Salvos was also surprised. He continued as he flicked a finger, and papers shot up around him.
“Salvos. Savior of Silvergrove. The unknown young woman who slayed the Greater Demon terrorizing an entire country two years ago. Who remained unaffiliated with the Adventurers Guild and was immediately granted the Rank of Gold.”
He dismissed the first sheets of paper, before more flew up around him.
“Salvos, the young woman responsible for eradicating a cult to the northeast of Warrington. Salvos, the ally of the Valiant Dreamers Company. Salvos, the first who reported on the Primeval Demon in Motharis. And most recently, Salvos, the Liberator of the Plaguelands. The one responsible for freeing the Plaguelands from the Lich of Zacharius himself. That is you, correct?”
Saffron… gaped. Her eyes bulged out of their sockets as she faced the silver-haired woman, trying to work her jaw. Salvos did… all that? That’s impossible! But—
Salvos just nodded eagerly, not even a hint of hesitation in her voice. The Headmaster rubbed at his temples.
“In a few years, you’ve accomplished what many prominent figures in history could never even rival. For someone to achieve these feats, you’d either have to be a genius that outshines even the Immortal King Alexander himself, or be a fool so incredibly lucky that you’ve managed to survive for this long despite your recklessness.”
“Hey, that’s rude!”
She paused. Then she glanced at Saffron with uncertainty.
“Wait, that’s rude, right? Did Clayton just insult me?”
The Headmaster of Mavos Academy took in a deep and annoyed breath.
“However, now that I have seen your antics, I am more than certain it is the latter and not the former. So, Ms Salvos, Liberator of the Plaguelands, tell me: what sense possessed you in the past month to decide pursuing a proper education over a suicidal death fighting in the Bloodied Gulf?”
There was a moment of hesitation. Salvos didn’t know what to say. Eventually, she managed to muster up a shrug.
“It’s because I… I’ve never heard of this Bloodied Gulf place?”
Clayton shut his eyes as Saffron gave her an urgent look. Are you crazy? Do you want to get yourself killed?
Saffron had only seen Clayton once before, so she wasn’t sure what kind of a character he was, but she had heard rumors of his hot temper. He wasn’t quick to anger. Yet, when he was truly angered, his wrath was unmatched by anyone else in the world. After all, he was over Level 160. One of the highest-leveled individuals in the world.
And very likely the highest-leveled Human [Mage] in the world.
“Also, it’s because I realize that I’m still… so weak. Too often, I have had to rely on chance to survive.”
Salvos spoke up, serious for the first time. Her gaze glazed over for a moment, as if she were recalling something from the past.
“I’ve seen strength which I can’t match. And I wish to attain it for myself. I have goals. Things I want to do and can’t do if I continue doing things as I always did.”
“So, you’ve had an epiphany. A sudden jolt of wisdom that points out all your glaring flaws.”
The Headmaster crossed his arms, taking a seat. She nodded.
“Yes. But it wasn’t sudden. It was something I slowly came to. And only fully realized when I fought Belzu.”
He frowned, and she shook her head.
“The Demon rampaging through Nixa.”
“Ah, of course. The Primeval Demon. And you’re saying you fought it?”
“I tried to.”
“He defeated me without even being there. With nothing but his residual magic, I was completely overwhelmed. I only survived because of the artifacts I had on me, and my companions.”
Clayton Skyshredder seemed to consider this for a moment, before turning his attention to Saffron. She tensed up as he spoke.
“Saffron Merryster. You are the one who recommended that Salvos enroll in Mavos Academy, are you not?”
She squeaked, much to her own embarrassment.
“And why did you think it was a good idea for someone as crass as her to enroll in our fine institution?”
Saffron took a calming breath. She was making a fool out of herself.
“I believed that Salvos would have learned much in Mavos Academy. It is as you’ve said, Headmaster. She is unrefined. The lessons she can be taught here would be invaluable. And it’d be a symbiotic relationship. Mavos Academy could produce someone whose name goes down in history, while she’d be able to realize her full potential.”
Nodding, Clayton glanced over at Salvos.
“And do you agree with Lady Saffron, Ms Salvos?”
The silver-haired woman paused. A thoughtful look crossed her face.
“I think so?”
He clicked his tongue.
“Do you believe you’d be able to carry the name of Mavos Academy with dignity and respect?”
Salvos opened her mouth. But she didn’t say anything. She tilted her head up, tapping a finger on her chin. Then she breathed deeply, steeling herself. When she met his gaze, she was completely cool.
The Headmaster stood up.
Documents and pieces of paper followed him as he walked around his desk, stopping only before the pair of women.
“You cannot enroll in Mavos Academy’s main school itself. Its curriculum is suited for those— using a term you’d be familiar with— who are equivalent to a Gold Rank adventurer. However, Mavos Academy does have a program for individuals who have reached Level 100 and unlocked their second Class. The School of Aspiring Elites.”
He snatched a piece of paper out of the air and handed it to Salvos.
“The School of Aspiring Elites doesn’t accept enrollment once the current class graduates. But it is currently the beginning of the academic cycle. So, I will be overriding that rule and accepting you into the school myself when you have met the regular conditions for entry.”
She read it aloud.
“A lump sum of 100 platinum. Being at Level 100 for my first Class. And reaching my first Class advancement for my second Class?”
Then she squinted at the last bullet point.
“And a ten page personal statement as to why I should be accepted into the School of Aspiring Elites.”
“Understand, Ms Salvos, that it will be read and its quality judged by various members of the academic board. So, what you write has to be compelling enough to sway a majority of the readers.”
There was no hesitation. She looked up, taking a pen out of the air and signed the sheet.
“I’ll be ready by next week.”
Both the Headmaster and Saffron stared at her. Only the former rspoke.
“Recklessness will only serve to punish you.”
“But I won’t be reckless.”
“After all, I’ve learned from my friend Saffron here, and I will reach my next Class advancement at Level 35.”
It was a bold claim. But it earned a chuckle from Clayton.
“So, you wish to be both the fool and the genius. Very well. I look forward to seeing your academic achievements when you do enroll into the School of Aspiring Elites. Until then, the both of you are dismissed.”
He waved a hand off, and the pair left.
“You’re lucky Headmaster Clayton Skyshredder enrolled you himself.”
Saffron spoke as the pair stood on an enchanted platform, rapidly descending, protected by a bubble-like barrier.
“Honestly, even though this was such a hassle, it somehow ended up ending well for you.”
Salvos nodded, not exactly paying attention. Her head was raised as if she was thinking about something. Saffron glanced at her as the descent slowed and they reached the first floor.
“He rarely ever speaks with anyone— even kings and queens— and he’s the only one who could’ve gotten you into the School of Aspiring Elites. It’s a two year program, you know? You would have had to wait two years to try again.”
They stepped out of the platform and left the tower. Matthew greeted them at the front, bowing to Saffron with an ornate Bag of Holding at his back. Saffron recognized what it was immediately. She pursed her lips.
“Salvos, I’ve missed my class—”
“Actually, Saffron, I’ve got to go.”
Spinning around, the silver-haired woman met her gaze.
“I want to catch up too, butI have to reach Level 35 as soon as possible and prove to Clayton that I’m not just a reckless idiot.”
“We’ll speak again next time, alright?”
She was already waving as she ran off. Saffron blinked and folded her arms.
“Well, that was easier than I thought it would be.”
“Lady Saffron, I have brought a package for you. From your parents.”
The young noble glanced at him, sighing.
“I do wish you brought two bottles with you. After the events of today, I may need a little more.”
“I apologize, Lady Saffron. But I did try to advise her not to destroy Mavos Academy’s barrier.”
She massaged her temples. Of course Salvos would ignore him— Saffron froze.
“Wait, Matthew, you told Salvos about the barrier?”
“I believe I tried to stop her. But she sped up and I must’ve lost consciousness at some point after.”
“But she said that she—”
Saffron bit her lower lip. Wait, did that mean…?
“What else did you tell Salvos? Did you tell her about the School of Aspiring Elites? About Mavos Academy’s Headmaster? And when did you teach her how to use the Communication Crest?”
“I taught her how to use the Communication Crest last night. And as for Headmaster Clayton and the School of Aspiring Elites, I spoke to her about it this morning.”
Saffron blinked. And she realized that both she and Headmaster Clayton Skyshredder… were played by the fool herself.
“She did that all on purpose…”
The young noble scowled.