193. Empathy? Or...?
“What do you mean you can’t help me?”
I gave the receptionist behind the desk an exasperated look. He leaned back, speaking apprehensively.
“Apologies, Miss, but the Adventurers Guild itself isn’t all knowing, and cults are known to be elusive in their operations. We can give you some general directions— what we know about the region. But… if I may suggest, inquiring with local companies would likely lead to better results.”
I cocked my head. He nodded.
“Yes. The Storm Swords Company—”
“I went there before coming here. They dislike me for whatever reason. I thought Jacob was a nice guy, but it turns out he’s just a jerk!”
I didn’t know why he had been so nice to me at first, only to reveal his true colors now and turn me away from his company. Whatever the case was, I wasn’t going to get any help from either the local company of Wimborne, or the Adventurers Guild here.
I turned back to Saffron who was uncomfortably standing in the middle of the guild hall. With a sigh, I trudged back to her.
“It’s no use. They’re no help at all.”
She didn’t face me, even as I walked past her.
“Come on, let’s go to the next city. Maybe their company will be more helpful.”
Saffron followed me out of the Adventurers Guild, into the busy streets of Wimborne. The smell of gross fish perfumed the air, and I wrinkled my nose in disgust.
“Ugh, what’s with this city’s obsession with fish?”
“Obsession with fish?”
The noble woman stared at me, puzzled.
“Yep. Why does everyone here sell fish. They’re gross and stinky!”
“That’s… because we’re in a port city?”
She didn’t say anything as I strolled ahead of her, headed out of Wimborne. I produced a map from my bag, trying to find the next closest city. I murmured to myself for a bit, in thought, when Saffron spoke up.
“I believe I may be able to help you locate some… [Cultists].”
I blinked and turned back to her.
“I have connections. Since… I am...”
She gestured at herself, and my eyes widened.
That made sense. Saffron was a Vampire, so she’d likely keep a tab on the various cults around Mavos Academy— if there even were any. I smiled politely, offering her a hand.
“If you could please help me prove myself to you, I’d be very grateful.”
Pursing her lips, she eyed my hand with some reluctance. But eventually, she took it.
“Follow me. I know a few things off the top of my head, however my information may be outdated. I will have to speak with Matthew for more up to date details.”
“Sure— wait a minute, you aren’t just trying to trick me, are you?”
I narrowed my eyes, and Saffron blanched.
“No, I swear I am not!”
“Good. Because I really want us to be friends again, Saffron. Maybe even companions, you know?”
Saffron blinked as I ushered her out of the city. I smiled.
“Yep. Like Daniel! We’re companions because he knows who I am and he doesn’t want to kill me for it!”
“Daniel? Wait, that man you were with? He knows you’re a… and he’s fine with that?”
“He is. Although, he did try to kill me when we first met. Edithe too. Hm… everyone keeps trying to kill me when they discover that I am who I am. It’s kind of annoying.”
Well, not everyone. The Elves were nice to me! Adan and Xidra were too! But some of the Kobolds, like Zix, weren’t as nice, and I wasn’t sure what most Cyclopes thought of us Demons. Honestly, maybe I should’ve asked Vis’anya if there were magic academies in the Elf lands.
I probably should’ve tried attending their school instead. Oh well, I was here in Mavos Academy now, and I had to repair my relationship with Saffron.
She led me back to Mavos Academy, which reminded me of something.
“By the way, can your connections help me get sagetree sap? Oh, oh, I know! How about tempest-fused blood?”
Saffron hesitated, biting her lower lip.
“Sagetree sap is rare. You’ll have to speak with [Traders] coming from the east, since they’re likely the only ones who have them in stock. But as for tempest-fused blood… I may be able to help you with that.”
I paused. Then I snapped my fingers.
“Oh, right, because you’re a V—”
“Not so loud!”
Saffron placed a finger over her lips, and I smirked.
“Oh, so when I do it, it’s a problem, but you do it, it’s fine?”
She drew her lips into a thin line as I snickered.
“It’s fine. Come on, where’s Matthew?”
“Yes, Lady Saffron, I have been keeping tabs on the two main cults here in Shedos. I have marked their general base of operations on the map here, and you may inquire locals for further information. However, I have to say, their activity as of late has been… odd, to say the least.”
Matthew had been staying in a hotel in Mavos Academy. Yep, they had hotels, which were pretty much nicer version of inns— and why did the campus have a hotel in the first place? I had no idea!
Saffron raised a brow. He explained.
“The two main cults are the Followers of the Demon King and the Netherworld’s Communion. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. And I expected their activities to spike ever since the Primeval Demon came down from Motharis, yet both groups have grown idle.”
“Idle? Do you mean that they’ve halted their activities?”
She rubbed a hand on her chin.
“Are you certain they aren’t preparing to leave to join and aid the Primeval Demon in Nixa?”
“Perhaps that is a possibility with the Netherworld’s Communion, as their activities have nearly completely ceased. But I do not think it is likely for the Followers of the Demon King. You see, they have been sending their members abroad. To Elutra.”
“The Elutra Kingdom?”
I spoke up for the first time since getting here.
“That’s where Daniel went! Wait, aren’t they at war with a bunch of [Cultists] right now?”
Saffron shook her head.
“There are rumors spread by princess Faith of Elutra that their enemy, the Inoria Empire, has been overtaken by a cult. But there is no clear evidence for such a claim. I’d have sent some of our thralls to investigate, alas the Primeval Demon’s presence is a more pressing matter to Father. He has rallied all of the thralls under our family.”
“What are thralls? Is that a type of Class or something?”
I tapped a finger on my chin.
“They’re simply our servants. But enhanced and powered by Father. You see, at Level 100, us Vampires don’t receive a second Class, like ordinary Humans. We receive a Subspecies. One related to being a Vampire. And his Subspecies allows him to empower those under his family. Similar to a Class specialized for ruling or commanding.”
“Was that too confusing for you? I could simplify my explanation, if necessary.”
She cocked an eyebrow. I waved a hand off.
“No. I’m just surprised you’d be willing to tell me all that.”
She blinked. Then she sputtered.
Saffron took a step back, and I laughed, changing the subject as I gestured at Matthew.
“Anyway, you’ve been a lot of help. We don’t want to be bothering you, Matthew, so we should be going now.”
“There is no need to worry. I am unbothered by your requests. I am, however, surprised that you have revealed your nature to Salvos, Lady Saffron.”
She trailed off. I patted a hand on her shoulder, winking.
“Let’s just say Saffron and I exchanged some… secrets the other day.”
I grabbed her, practically dragging her out of the room. I waved goodbye to Matthew.
“Thanks for the help! We’ll be going now!”
We reached the door right as he called out to us.
“If I may inquire, what exactly are you going to do with this information?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
I grinned, glancing over at Saffron.
“The both of us are going to destroy these cults!”
For whatever reason, that elicited a nervous swallow from the pink-haired woman. I hoped she’d stop being so nervous around me. I needed to find a way to help her be more relaxed— lighten the mood.
An idea crossed my mind as I brought her out of the building. Turning to face Saffron, my lips curled up and I spoke.
“Saffron, what do you think of… flying?”
Saffron screamed in my ears as we soared over the clouds. Her pink hair, usually neatly kept together in different hairstyles, was now a frazzled mess. Her eyes were bulging out of their sockets, and her gilded dress was covered in dirt and splattered bugs from our ascent.
I laughed, feeling the thrill of flight overwhelm me. Saffron, however, was less than thrilled to be flying.
“Please put me down! Please— I don’t want to die!”
“Just relax! I won’t drop you, promise!”
I glanced over at her, but my words did nothing to reassure her. I really wasn’t trying to frighten her, yet it seemed like everything I did only pushed her closer and closer to the edge. That wasn’t good. I was trying to do the opposite of that.
“I’ll slow down, here.”
Saffron’s eyes were snapped shut, even as I drifted to a more floating pace of flight. She was wriggling in my arms, struggling, which only made things worse. I held her tightly and gently so she wouldn’t fall. I spoke softly into her ears.
“Open your eyes. It’s not that scary. Look.”
Slowly, she looked down at the world below the clouds. At the vast landscape that sprawled out into rolling hills, dense forests, and towns and cities teeming with life.
“See? It’s not that bad.”
She glanced around. Not just at what was in our surroundings. But at a far-off mountain, peaking high above even the clouds with a snow-white cap. The azure sky looked like it held the ocean above us, sparkling and clear, while clouds fluffed its teething edge, decorating it to be a more comforting sight.
Saffron breathed, and I nodded.
“It really is.”
It was a stunning sight, no matter how many times I flew up and looked down at the world. Perhaps it was because I had grown up in the Netherworld where everything looked the same. However, I truly thought the Mortal Realm was a marvelous place. It was full of rocks, yes, but also so much more. Meanwhile, the Netherworld was just… that.
I wanted to stay here. Not just amongst Humans. I wanted to travel to the Elf lands and meet the Dominion and the High Rulers Vis’anya talked about. I wanted to visit the Beastmen plains I had heard very little of. I still had yet to see a Cyclops city, and taste the delicious fishballs Edithe told me about. Although I was slightly dubious about the delicious part, I still wanted to give it a try. I tried to trust my companions’ words, just as they believed in me as a person.
My voice drew the attention of the noble woman. She looked up at me as I carried her under my arms.
“You’re my friend, Saffron. You’ve helped me out so much, especially since I enrolled in Mavos Academy. I don’t want you to hate me, because I like you. And now that you know the truth about me, we could even become companions.”
She said nothing. I continued.
“Just think about it. The Mortal Realm is such a beautiful place. I really like it here. My friends are here. My companions are here. Why would I possibly want to follow that stupid Demon King in trying to destroy it all? That doesn’t make any sense.”
I murmured more to myself than to her. There was a moment of silence as I let out a sigh. I didn’t want to say the next bit— I was going to make a promise I might regret. However, I went ahead and said it anyway.
“If… even after I killed all these [Cultists] to prove myself to you, you still refuse to believe me and choose to tell Matthew or the Headmaster about my nature, I will not kill you. I will leave Mavos Academy and finish my education for space magic somewhere else. It’d be annoying— I’d probably have to go ask Kobolds or Elves for their help instead. I really don’t want to leave, but I don’t want to kill you even more.”
It was an odd feeling. It felt like something Daniel, Edithe, and Lily kept lecturing me about. Empathy? Perhaps. Or maybe it was the feeling of loss over what could be. Saffron could be my companion, if she just chose to trust me. I didn’t want to be the one responsible for stopping this outcome from being a reality.
“So, I won’t kill you. I will let you decide what you wish to do when we return, and I’ll react accordingly.”
I finished. Saffron remained silent. There was no visible reaction from the Vampire. However, she didn’t meet my gaze. She avoided looking at me as we continued our flight to our destination.
Shortly after that, we reached Mistpire, a province to the southwest of Shedos. This was where the Followers of the Demon King resided. And where I was going to kill these[Cultists] responsible for making us Demons a hated Species in the Mortal Realm.