After my conversation with Gallus, I returned back to my room, ready to eat a quick meal before heading to my Lair. But before I could go, Saffron stopped me.
“Salvos, if you have a moment, are you busy this weekend?”
“I don’t think I am. Why?”
The noble woman nodded, gesturing at the seat before her. She sat across the small dining table, slicing her way through a barely cooked steak. There was a second plate ready for me, and it also had a steak prepared for me.
“Come, sit. Matthew prides himself in his cooking, and he insists you do not eat bugs for once.”
“But I dislike—”
“You’ll have to learn to blend in when you attend social events, Salvos. I don’t want you to arouse any suspicion about yourself by eating spiders during a party.”
“I don’t even like spiders that much.”
I scowled, but she gave me a flat stare. Sighing, I sat across from her, copying her mannerisms, straightening my back, gently cutting into the steak and eating it without making a disgusted face. She didn’t ask me to mimic her, but I might as well learn something while I could. And what better skill to pick up than the traits needed to be a Princess?
“So, what did you want to talk about?”
“It is regarding the other request you made of me besides tempest-fused blood. For sagetree sap.”
“Oh, you’re looking into that?”
“I made you a promise, didn’t I?”
Saffron raised her cup of tea, holding her pinky finger out. I did as she did, although I almost spit out the tea. It tasted like dried leaves.
“I have told you before that only [Traders] hailing from eastward sell them in these lands. Well, I have asked Matthew to collect information on such merchants, and he mentioned that a rather noteworthy [Trader] hailing from the Eastern Kingdoms is headed to Wimborne. It is possible that she sells the sagetree sap you need for your Potion of Regeneration.”
I stood up, turning away from Saffron, ready to be done with this impromptu lesson I subjugated myself to.
“Let’s go see her!”
“Not just yet, Salvos.”
Saffron’s words dragged my feet to a stop. I turned to face her, blinking.
“Because, simply put, she has not arrived yet. She will be visiting and staying for the weekend, selling her regular goods in Wimborne, but also hosting an auction for only her most rare items in Mavos Academy’s very own Tower of Truth, before traveling further west with her wares. Matthew has managed to secure us both tickets to this event.”
I stared at the noble woman.
“Is this why you forced me to eat this steak?”
“Indeed. I also needed you to preoccupy yourself with something while I explained the situation.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I’m not a child, Saffron.”
“Could’ve fooled me.”
She smiled slyly as she stood up.
“Now, I’m not saying that this merchant, Ivonne, has the sagetree sap you want. It is only a possibility, but the best one you have right now. However,t even if she doesn’t sell it, I promise you I will do everything within my power to help you. Even if it means buying a Potion of Regeneration myself.”
I paused. Then I protested.
“But this is for my final exam!”
“And it is also for your missing arm, is it not? That was what you told me a few nights. You could always choose a simpler task for your final examination. I am sure that an Elixir of Enhanced Strength requires far easier ingredients to procure—”
I interrupted her before she could finish. I vehemently rejected her idea, stamping a foot on the ground with an air of finality.
“I want to do this properly. That’s why I enrolled in Mavos Academy. To learn. Not to take things easy. Sure, I may complain sometimes. But I’m actually curious about these things. I actually want to become more knowledgeable from my time here. Not cheat my way through it.”
Saffron narrowed her eyes. She met my gaze, and I folded my arms, clearly set on seeing this through.
“And what happens if you fail, Salvos? You do realize that Mavos Academy has the highest dropout rates in the world? And that’s only for the College of Aspirations. The School of Aspiring Elites has even higher standards. You may be academically dismissed for failing a single class badly enough. It usually only happens once you fail two classes. But not finishing your final assignment would mean you’ll lose out on a majority of your grade. You might be kicked out of the academy during your first academic term. They have to maintain their reputation, after all.”
Shaking my head, I spoke once more with even more determination.
“I won’t fail, and I won’t drop out of Mavos Academy, Saffron. I want to do this. I will do this.”
The Vampire— my companion— stared at me for a moment, before sighing.
“Very well. If that is what you insist on doing, I won’t stop you. Just know that you are unnecessarily making things more difficult for yourself. Your pride could be your fall.”
“Well, it’s just as you said a few days ago, I am egotistical.”
I raised my chin, speaking from my chest.
“I’m an Archdemon of Pride. So, you should get used to me acting prideful!”
Saffron finally acquiesced, and I smiled.
Honestly though, I had no idea I could even be kicked out of Mavos Academy for failing two classes, let alone one. It sounded like something I should’ve been briefed on during my orientation by [Secretary] Marie. But she never mentioned it once, strangely enough.
Oh, also, I was free during this weekend, right? For whatever reason, I felt like I wasn’t actually free.