I brought Saffron back to Mavos Academy. The noble woman was exhausted— her [Bloodlust] Skill expended a lot of her energy and impaired her cognitive abilities, just a few of several side effects of the temporary power boost. It wasn’t like my [Demonic Essence] Skill, which didn’t really have any side effects. Like, at all.
It was a very good Racial Skill and I was glad I got it. It could still be improved. I could only stay in my five-armed form for about six hours before I turned back. Although, that was before the Skill leveled up.
Saffron collapsed onto her bed immediately, passing out. I left her room, returning to the sofa. I was kind of exhausted as well, and since I couldn’t transform out of [Partial Mortality] just yet, meaning I wouldn’t be able to stay up all night and study, so I went to sleep.
“Here you go.”
I blinked, looking up as Saffron handed a vial to me. I peered into the liquid inside of the glass. It was crimson like the twilight sky, yet there were dark clouds bubbling up within it. A gray smear moved about the liquid, alive, electric, bouncing from its fringes to the center of the red pool.
“Tempest-fused blood, procured as I promised I would. For your Potion of Regeneration.”
The noble woman set it down on the table as I lowered my textbook on the basics of weapon enchanting and all that it entailed. My eyes widened, and I excitedly grabbed the vial.
“You got this, for me?!”
“I said I would, did I not? A noble always keeps her promises.”
She snorted. I nodded eagerly.
“Yep, yep. Well, except for the one time you didn’t by almost outing me to Valda. That was yesterday.”
“Let’s… not talk about that.”
Saffron was just as upset about it as I was. She looked like she was slightly ashamed of her own actions. But things worked out in the end, and she was now my companion. As my companion, she was kind enough to get me tempest-fused blood, one of the most important ingredients for the creation of a Potion of Regeneration.
I held it up, eyeing the moving liquid.
“Be careful with it. That vial is made out of special antimagic glass. It’s not as effective as banclite, but it is enough to suppress the effects of the tempest-fused blood from bursting out.”
“Yes. Blood becomes tempest-fused blood when exposed to a mana storm. Well, any liquid, really. When it becomes tempest-fused, it contains the power of the storm within itself. It explodes with lightning, zapping things that come close to it until it expends all the mana it absorbed.”
I gently lowered the vial.
“And what’s a mana storm?”
“It’s a natural disaster. Like a powerful volcanic eruption or a terrible tsunami. It is rare. Very rare. It happens only when the stars themselves fall from the sky, marking the earth with its radiance and light.”
I cocked my head.
“The stars can fall from the sky?”
“They can and they do. But it does not occur often. Which is why tempest-fused blood is rare. Of course, there are [Alchemists] out there who are capable of replicating it. But their prices run high. This here is something a friend of mine had on him, passed down from his family. I bought it off him, since he didn’t really need or want it.”
“You bought it for me?”
I stared at her, touched. Saffron rolled her eyes.
“Consider it an apology gift.”
“Aw… thank you! Who’s your friend by the way?”
“Must I tell you who all my acquaintances are?”
“Nope. But I’m curious!”
She sighed, yet she told me.
“He’s a Vampire. Like me. Adney, a former adventurer who enrolled into Mavos Academy. Honestly, I tried to use your status as a famous adventurer to coerce him, but he had never heard of you before. So, platinum sufficed.”
“That’s silly. I’m Salvos! I’ll introduce myself to him if he really doesn’t—”
“That’s not necessary.”
Saffron cut me off before I could even finish. She sat across from me on the couch, sipping a cup of tea as she spoke.
“So, I have held up to one of my promises to you, Salvos. Now, while I am in no immediate rush, I was wondering if you could possibly fulfill your own promise to me.”
I gave her a blank stare, and she pursed her lips.
“You… don’t remember?”
“I remember a lot of things! But no, I don’t remember this.”
The Vampire gestured at me, then herself.
“You promised me that… that you’d share some of your blood with me.”
I rubbed my chin, in thought. She waited, shifting uncomfortably. Then I snapped my fingers.
“Is something the matter?”
“Well, I don’t know. Sharing my blood with you sounds painful…”
I scratched the side of my head. Saffron blinked. She tried to work her jaw.
She started, and I giggled.
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding!”
I waved a hand off dismissively.
“I was just teasing you. Sure, I’ll let you have some of my blood.”
I created a small flaming dagger, and pricked the very tip of my index finger. A single drop of blood slid down to my palm as I narrowed my eyes. Saffron leaned closer too, frowning.
“Why’s it… red?”
She asked, clearly puzzled. Her confusion was evident, and mine was too.
“I have no idea. Isn’t my blood supposed to be black?”
“That’s what I should be asking!”
Saffron sputtered as I shrugged.
“Maybe it’s a result of my Skill? I mean, it does force me to sleep and eat— neither of which I normally do— so maybe it turns my blood into Human blood as well?”
She furrowed her brows.
“That is indeed Human blood. It smells sweet, befitting of your high level. But…”
I faced her, raising my bloodied palm.
“Do you not want to drink this?”
“If I do, it wouldn’t be right now, Salvos. The blood of high-leveled individuals will activate my [Bloodlust] Skill, and it’s completely unnecessary unless I’m planning on trying to kill you here.”
“Do you plan on—”
Saffron sat back, playing with an empty vial in her hand.
“What I need is Demon blood, not Human blood.”
“What’s the difference?”
“The blood of a mortal is not the same as the blood of Spirits or Demons. Mortal blood only gives a temporary increase in abilities. But the effects of drinking Spirit or Demon blood is permanent. And its results will always be the same, regardless of the level of the source of blood. It will empower my [Vampiric Essence] Skill. And if I can max it out before I receive my evolution at Level 100... “
She trailed off. Shaking her head, Saffron placed the vial before me.
“I’m not going to ask you to give your blood to me now. Just… whenever you can— what are you doing?”
I transformed out of [Partial Mortality] before her very eyes, and dug my own claw into my skin. Black blood seeped out, quickly filling the vial to the brim. I shut it with a cork, handing it back to the Vampire.
“Here you go!”
Saffron just stared at me. Then she massaged her temples.
“Y-you— did you seriously just do that?”
“What did I do?”
I tilted my head to the side.
“You just… you need to be more wary of others, Salvos. What if this had been a trap by me to reveal you to the Headmaster or a teacher?”
“You wouldn’t do that. You’re my companion!”
“Well, what if I lied about that too?”
She crossed her arms, but I wasn’t too worried.
“It’s fine! I know that no one is hiding around here. I’ve got a Skill.”
Since [Planar Navigation] wasn’t a timed Skill, nor did it have a cooldown, I was free to use it whenever I had to. I got into the habit of frequently activating it just to skim my surroundings for any suspicious activity. Right now, it was active because I was transformed out of [Partial Mortality].
“That still doesn’t change my point…”
Sighing, Saffron dejectedly accepted my blood.
“You shouldn’t be so easy to trust others, Salvos.”
“That’s true. But you’re not just ‘others.’”
I smiled as she raised a brow.
“What does that mean?”
“You were my friend before all this happened, Saffron. You taught me a lot of things, gave me an important family artifact, helped me out with getting into Mavos Academy, and let me stay with you even though I’ve inconvenienced you many times. Now, you’ve accepted me for who I am. Why should I still treat you with mistrust?”
“Because I could potentially trick you and ruin your life?”
I laughed, although Saffron was not as amused.
“Maybe that’s true, but that’s the same for anyone and everyone I meet and reveal myself to. But I don’t and won’t treat Daniel or Edithe that way. Also, the fact that you’re even lecturing me about this means you aren’t planning on tricking me or whatever. So, you’re not just some stranger to me, Saffron. You’re my companion.”
She opened her mouth. Then she hesitated. The noble woman shook her head, leaning back on her seat.
“You keep saying that, Salvos. What exactly does that mean?”
“To be my companion?”
Saffron nodded, and I tapped a finger on my chin.
“Do you not know what it means either?”
“I do! It’s just difficult to put in words.”
I folded my arms, scrunching up my face as I wracked my brain for the right words.
“To be my companion is to… be more than just a friend. To be someone I can trust in. To be someone who trusts in me and accepts me for who I am. To me, they matter more than anyone else in the world. They experience the world with me as I do with them. Even if we aren’t always together. Even if we sometimes fight or argue. We’re still bound together as companions.”
Somewhere, out there, Haec was waiting for me. My first ever companion. I trusted that he believed in my return, just as I trusted that he’d wait for me to return. And it was not just him.
Daniel and Edithe were having their own adventures. I wasn’t sure when I’d ever see them again. But a part of me was always with them. We’d always be companions, no matter what.
Saffron considered this for a moment before speaking out.
“Family? No— I’m not related to my companions by blood. Unless you can become my sister by drinking my blood?”
Frowning, I considered the implications of this. If Saffron could drink my blood and become my sister, did this mean I was the sister of everyone I ate? After all, I usually swallowed their blood whenever I tried eating them.
“No, I don’t mean it in that way. By family, I mean it in a figurative sense. A group of people— not necessarily a blood relative— whom you can confide with. People whom you know you can rely on, even in times of trouble.”
I blinked. Then I gave her an excited nod.
“Yep! That’s it! Exactly like that!”
Saffron took a deep breath.
“You know, now it feels like I have a heavy burden on my shoulder just from being your companion.”
“Hey, it’s not a Title I give out lightly.”
I grinned, and she stared at me.
“As in Title, and not title?”
“Even though I don’t get any Stat boost from it?”
“It’s not an actual Title now, but it will be.”
“You are one egotistical girl, aren’t you? Yet, I don’t exactly doubt that as a possibility.”
“I wasn't really complimenting you by saying that.”
I repeated myself as I curled my lips. Saffron returned a smile. Then she stood up. Pocketing the vial of Demon blood, she started past me back to her room.
She spoke softly, placing a hand on my shoulder.
“For trusting me. Even after I nearly betrayed your trust with Valda. I promise I will not betray your trust again.”
I stared at her, meeting her red eyes for a moment.
“I trust you.”
I nodded confidently. Shaking her head, Saffron continued and stopped by her doorway. She held up the vial of Demon blood.
“By the way, I’m probably going to drink some of this right now. Just to let you know, it gets me… drunk. So, uh, I’m probably going to go and pass out.”
“But it’s not even sunset.”
“I know. But yesterday was incredibly stressful, and I’d like to intoxicate myself now.”
Saffron slammed the door shut. I stared at the closed door.