203. Stupid Stuff
“Aw, come on, Saffron!”
I threw my hands in the air. It was just a date… whatever that was. It didn’t matter— I was sure Nolan didn’t care that much!
“Why can’t I just delay it by one more week? It’ll be fine!”
The pink-haired noble marched ahead of me. We were leaving the dorm building, headed for our classes. She spun on her heels and crossed her arms.
“You’ve seen what happens when you disrespect a potential suitor by dismissing him so brusquely. I’m not sure whether Jacob Axworth was the first, but I’m going to ensure he’s the last.”
“But nothing bad even came from it!”
I spoke, exasperated. Saffron shook her head.
“You’ve managed to elude the consequences now, especially since Jacob Axworth was extremely petty, even for a noble. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll be so fortunate in the future. What if King Lamarr isn’t there to bail you out the next time around? What if you get into real trouble, by angering the wrong person?”
“I’ll just deal with it as I usually do.”
I shrugged, and she raised a brow.
“By punching them in the face?”
“By clawing them in the face.”
I corrected her. She sighed, turning around. Saffron continued down the busy road as I followed after her.
“But why should I care about what they do? So what if they retaliate just because I’m a little bit rude? They’re not my companions. If they attack me because of a few words I said, then I’ll be in the right if I defend myself, no?”
“Unfortunately, the world of the nobility and the rich doesn’t work that way, Salvos. What matters is who you know and who knows you. Yes, I’ll admit, I’ve underestimated just how important you are, despite being aware of your status and achievements. It took the King of Traith intervening for me to fully recognize that.”
I beamed and gave her an eager nod.
“Why, yes, I’m quite important. I’m glad you finally recognized that.”
“That’s not what I’m saying. Anyway, I’m just offering to teach you some basic etiquette. To learn how to behave like a refined lady, befitting that of any noble.”
“Behave like a noble? And not just pretending to be a noble?”
Saffron raised an amused brow as I tapped a finger on my chin.
“You’re still new to this world of the upper class. Every small action you take is recorded. And it will be recorded— no one knows much about you other than the fact that the bare basics. You killed a Greater Demon. You fought for the Valiant Dreamers. And you liberated the Plaguelands.”
She listed off my most notable feats, crossing off her fingers as she finished.
“Now, they’ll want to know what’s your favorite food? What’s your background like? Who is this Salvos really?”
“Me? I’m Salvos!”
“Yes. Yes, you are. But they don’t know that. And they’ll want to know. You remember what Ivonne said— rumors spread when there is interest, and you are an interesting individual. That’s why, to prevent any suspicion from ever being raised against you, you’ll want to learn how to at least behave like a proper lady. The first way to do that is to treat your potential suitors like they’re actual suitors. Tell me again, who is it that’s attempting to charm you?”
I answered, and Saffron rolled her eyes.
“Yes, yes, Nolan. But Nolan who? There’s thousands of Nolans out there. You can’t expect me to know each and every one of them. Who is this Nolan? What has he done? What is he like?”
“He calls himself Nolan the Mighty Warrior? I think I may have heard of him before— he’s probably famous. I just don’t remember why he sounds so familiar.”
“Nolan the Mighty Warrior?”
Saffron wrinkled her brows. I cocked my head.
“Why? Is something the matter?”
“I’ve heard… things about his character. Dubious things. Especially regarding women. But that’s simply from rumors. I’ll have to ask Matthew to carry out a minor investigation into him. You don’t want to sully your reputation by romancing with a playboy like him.”
I opened my mouth, and she waved a hand off.
“I’ll explain later. We’re both going to be late for our classes. Just tell me, Salvos, are you going to accept my help to deal with this matter delicately? Or are you going to brush him off once more, possibly creating more problems for you to deal with down the line?”
I hesitated. Then I raised my hand.
“This is what nobles do, right? Like Princesses?”
“Yes. That is how any refined lady should act.”
“Fine. I’ll go searching for the Enigmatic Heart next time. I’ll go on this stupid date with Nolan first, if it means I can be a Princess.”
“Very good. My schedule is already fully booked today, but we’ll meet up again tomorrow. How does that sound?”
I grinned, and Saffron was off. We both headed to our classes for the rest of the day. I put my mind off this date, focusing on studying for my upcoming tests.
When all my classes were done for the day, I found myself sitting out in a busy park, next to Gallus, scribbling on a notebook as he leaned over, an eyebrow raised.
“What are you doing, Ms Salvos?”
“I’m revising. This is the symbolic formula professor Isais wants us to remember, right?”
I showed it to him. He frowned.
“I can’t read that, unfortunately. Your handwriting is… like a toddler squiggled all over a piece of paper.”
“Hey! I’ll have you know, I’ve improved significantly since two months ago.”
“I don’t know if I should be happy for you, or sad for you, Ms Salvos.”
His voice was casual, but he still addressed me formally. It was a habit of his, from growing up in the Vaun Qieur Empire. They often used honorifics— something I’d need to remember for the future. Gallus was fine with me calling him just by his name. But he was Gallus, not everyone else.
A loud buzzing sound drew my attention. The two of us glanced up, watching a beetle hawk, one about the size of my head, zip up the side of a tree to the canopy above. It was dark here, even though the sun hadn’t fully set just yet. That was because we weren’t truly in a park. It was more like… a botanical garden. Except, it was a miniature rainforest.
I came here because I wanted to know what a rainforest was like. Also, because I asked Gallus if he wanted to come and study with me. We had what was called a ‘midterm’ this week. It was an examination designed to evaluate our performance at the halfway point of the academic term. It wasn’t exactly at the halfway point— closer to the two-thirds point— but it was supposed to be important.
We exchanged notes to each other, sharing everything we knew about the class to ensure that we’d both perform well. It was the power of teamwork. I’d learned this back when I first met Haec: there were some things you couldn’t do alone, so you should do it with others!
I asked questions, he answered them.
“And what about this symbol? I don’t get how that’s supposed to make any sense?”
“It’s not something you’re truly supposed to create, Ms Salvos. You’re meant to imagine weaving the threads of mana around you into this shape. It may be hard to parse, but that’s why it is such—”
He asked questions, I answered them.
“...what exactly do you feel you’re doing when you use that Skill?”
“[Scatter Shift]? I’m not too sure. It just feels like I’m… plopping an item somewhere else? Look— you can see how its threads of mana…”
By the time we were both ran out of questions and answers, the sun had already long since set. We walked out of the misty rainforest, smeared by the ruddy lights of magical lamps that shone only during the night. We were both mentally exhausted, so we spoke of simpler things— things of lesser import, unrelated to theory and studies.
“...so, you went down this path of learning space magic because you met a Fairy as a child?”
It was technically the truth. I was, supposedly, still a child. At least, for Humans. I didn’t think I was one, but I wasn’t averse to lying and bending the truth when the situation required it.
“I met the Fairy again more recently. She was very proud to see how far I’ve come. However, she couldn’t teach me as much as she wanted. Something… happened? I’m not too sure, honestly. But she recommended that I go to an academy if I really wanted to better improve at space magic.”
“Fairykind has often remained elusive. I’m unsurprised that you were rejected, even if this Fairy was friendly to you. Although, that she’d direct you to an academy is interesting. I was under the impression the Fairy Queen had a vendetta against Humans.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s a personal vendetta… just an aversion.”
I scratched the back of my head as Gallus scrunched up his face in confusion. I quickly tried to change the subject before he could ask me to elaborate.
“So, what about you? You still never told me why you started learning space magic. Why are you taking this class with professor Isais?”
He chuckled, shaking his head.
“You really did remember, huh?”
“I did tell you: I’m interested.”
I leaned in, patiently waiting for him to continue. This was the thing I learned about Humans and mortals a long time ago— when I first delved into a Dungeon with Daniel and Edithe. It was that they were each, individually, interesting. The problem came when they were in groups and acted irrationally and stupidly. They became dangerous and annoying and often caused problems for both me and them.
“I was raised by a family of skilled [Summoners].”
Gallus spoke out, his gaze facing the heavens, staring up at the twinkling stars.
“However, they knew that not every child born in our family would have an affinity for summoning. So, to ensure that a child is not set down a path they don’t wish to pursue, we are raised alongside Spirits until the age of thirteen, where we’ll finally decide on a Class for ourselves. Whether we wish to be a [Summoner], or start down another path. As you can tell by my Class, I went down another path.”
He paused for a moment, taking in a deep breath. Then he continued.
“But there was a time when I almost became a [Summoner]. You see, I had a hot temper as a child, so I had difficulty bonding with most Spirits. I was more suited to working alone. At least, until I met Shiro.”
“My first ever summon, and my first ever love.”
I cocked my head, even as Gallus was entranced by his own thoughts.
“A [Tiger Beastkin]. With fur so white and pure, you’d think it was snow. We’d spend so much time together— my days seemed to meld into one when I was with him. I don’t know if he ever reciprocated my feelings, but I know that I loved him. Which was why it only hurt even more when I was forced to break my contract with him.”
“You broke your contract with him? Wait—”
I remembered Edithe and Mistshard. Their contract was broken, and now Edithe could never see Edithe ever again. No— Edithe couldn’t summon ever again. It was the wrath of the Spirit Lord. I didn’t understand it. I also didn’t get why Gallus had to break his contract, even when he explained it to me.
“I was fifteen when my parents found out about my love for him. They forbade it. I refused to listen, because I knew my feelings were true. So, they forced our contract to end, and my time as a [Summoner], too, ended.”
Gallus closed his eyes.
“I’m sure you find it odd. And I did too, at first. But I truly loved him. Even if he was a [Beastkin]. Even if he was a man—”
I cut him off, furrowing my brows.
“Love sounds weird. You loved Shiro, so you did something that made it so you could never see him again? That’s weird!”
I murmured. Was this what Humans did willingly? Was this what Nolan or Jacob Axworth supposedly felt towards me? But that wasn’t right, was it?
Gallus stared at me for a moment, trying to work his jaw. The bulky man was at a loss for words. Then he sighed, rubbing his temples.
“I agree, Ms Salvos. Love works in strange ways. It makes you act irrationally— perhaps even foolishly. But I knew what I felt was true. And I couldn’t help but stand by my feelings. Now, I learn space magic so that I can see Shiro again. To speak with him, not as strangers in a temple, but to profess my love for him. I don’t need anything more than that— just a hole through space, a medium for us to speak, to know always that he’s safe, and to tell him how I’ve felt all these years.”
When Saffron heard that I was going on a date with Nolan, she mentioned how she never thought I’d be someone who fell in love. And I agreed. I’d never fall in love. After all, Gallus was going through all that just to say he loved Shiro? That was—
“Love is dumb.”
Gallus only laughed.
“It really is.”