204. Fancily Dressed
Saffron was fast asleep when I returned to the dorms after my late-night study session with Gallus. She said she needed to speak with me tomorrow, so I decided to stay here, transforming back from [Partial Mortality] to myself, rather than heading to my Lair.
I knew it was risky, but it was just one night. I’d be fine. And I was fine.
I didn’t use [Temporal Distortion] to study because it’d muddle my [Planar Navigation] senses. I just sat there, flipping through my notes, practicing my handwriting, and readying myself for my upcoming midterms.
When Saffron Merryster woke up, she burst out of her room and pointed a finger at me.
I cocked my head, and she marched up to me.
“You’ll be clearing up all your plans after your classes today. We’ll be busy.”
I stared at Saffron, perplexed.
“Didn't you say you’d look into Nolan or something? What’s this about?”
“I did. And it was just as I thought. He’s a playboy.”
She waved a hand off as I gave her an even more confused look. Shaking her head, Saffron continued.
“I’ll tell you more later. First of all—”
Saffron gestured at what I was wearing.
“You can’t be going on a date dressed in those garbs.”
I cocked my head.
“I’m saying you need better clothes, Salvos. A dress, tailored for a Princess like you.”
She snorted as my eyes widened in excitement. Rolling her eyes, she took me by the arms, dragging me out of the door.
“I’m taking you shopping.”
There was a pause. She spoke the last word emphatically. I blinked before I jumped into the air in excitement, exclaiming.
“I’m going to be a Princess!”
“No, you’re not going to be a Princess. You don’t even have the Title— look, you’ll just be dressed well, alright?”
I deflated. She hesitated.
“...but you’ll be dressed like a Princess?”
Edithe had taken me shopping a few times before. I never really enjoyed the experiences: she’d bring me to buy tight fitting clothes and uncomfortable dresses. They’d easily get torn up in battle, and if not, they’d be destroyed the moment I transformed out of [Mortal Form]— back when that was a Skill.
As such, I never saw the appeal of shopping. I did enjoy the time I spent with Edithe, just not the act of shopping itself.
However, as I stood in front of the mirror, staring at myself, I realized that I actually loved shopping. I just disliked poor people shopping.
“I’m… I’m a Princess…”
“No you’re not.”
I glanced back at Saffron whose head was buried in the palm of her hand. The [Tailor] smiled, clasping her hands together.
“Is it to your liking, Ms Salvos?”
I looked back at the mirror: I was adorned in a decorated pink dress, lined with gold at its hems that glinted from the chandelier above. Buttons made of pearls zipped up the dress at the back, as it flowed down past my legs. And it did go past my legs. The fringe of the dress carpeted the floor as I walked back and forth, twirling around.
“Yes! I love it! I’ll take ten!”
The [Tailor] paused. She exchanged a glance with Saffron. The noble woman just shook her head.
“Ignore her. We’ll take one.”
We exited the shop, strolling down the streets of Mavos Academy. And yes, we were still in Mavos Academy. They had shops and markets located all around campus, making it practically a small city of its own. Students didn’t need to go to Wimborne if they ever needed something important. The only thing the campus lacked that cities usually had were the guilds.
There were no Merchants Guild or Adventurers Guild here. It was just by the design of how Mavos Academy was. I was out of the expensive dress— it cost Saffron a whole 25 gold coins! Which seemed like a lot, if not for the fact that a platinum was worth a lot more than a single gold.
“Alright, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s buy you a proper dress for your date this weekend.”
“Wait, I’m not wearing that for this weekend?”
I looked over at the Bag of Holding that stored my pink dress. Saffron shook her head.
“It’s for any future social events you may be attending, like last week’s auction. We’re buying you a more… modest dress for your date.”
My shoulders sagged for a moment. Then I realized it meant I could go around looking at more pretty dresses that made me look like a Princess. So, I instantly brightened.
“Let’s go find more dresses!”
Saffron rolled her eyes, leading me around campus, showing me to the various fancy shops she sometimes visited. As she did, she asked me about Nolan.
“So, how did you even meet him in the first place?”
“Nolan? He’s in my class.”
“And he suddenly asked you out on a date? Why would you say yes? This doesn’t sound like you, Salvos.”
I pursed my lips.
“I wanted to say no. But he’s been helping me with my studies! It’d be rude to say no, right? People always get upset about that.”
“So, the one time you tried being courteous, it backfired. Of course. “
“Normally, yes, it’d be rude to rebuke someone who’s helping you, when they’re asking you for help in return, especially when it’d be no trouble for you to do so. However, when someone is… hm, how do I explain it? This requires more social grace than you’re used to, and it’s not easy to explain in words.”
I crossed my arms. She ignored me as she brought me into a shoe shop. I blinked, looking around.
“What’s this for?”
“Shoes. Not those… boots you have. But actual shoes. Glass slippers and high heels. Try them on.”
She gave me a wide array to choose from as I sat down on a chair. I picked one out, slipping it onto my feet. Saffron spoke as I stood up.
“When someone is interested in you, you shouldn’t lead them on, not especially when you’re just doing it when you have something to gain.”
“Well, you could. But it has to be intentional and handled delicately. With poise and care. Otherwise, you’d ultimately be losing out from this exchange when you burn your bridge with the man. You’re not a noble, but even still, the most important asset one can have is their network— their web of social connections. Right now, yours is still rather small. Setting a single thread alight will destroy almost everything you’ve made so far.”
Saffron spoke as I balanced myself on a pair of high heels. It was an odd feeling, walking on these. I wouldn’t say that I was in danger of falling over. I simply found the sensation to be off putting— like I was crawling over rocks again for the first time after my birth.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
I removed the high heels, changing to a pair of slippers. Each step I made clacked against the marble floor.
“I did want his help, but I didn’t mean to lead him on, whatever that means. We’ll just eat and be done with it. I’ll turn down his attempts in the future so you won’t make such a big deal out of it anymore.”
“Now, I have to ask you, Salvos. What are your expectations from this? What do you want from Nolan? Are you actually interested in him? It doesn’t sound like you are. But in the off chance that the date goes well, what do you want to happen?”
“Am I interested in him?”
“As in love? Gross, no.”
“It doesn’t have to be ‘love.’ It can just be a short fling. Something you do for fun. Have you never had a fling before, Salvos?”
My [Universal Language Comprehension] worked overtime to translate everything she was saying in a way that made sense. I shook my head.
“I have not.”
“Do you think you’d be interested in one?”
“Why are you asking me these weird questions? Can I get anything from it?”
I narrowed my eyes. Saffron shrugged.
“It’s something I need to know. When I researched Nolan, it turns out, as I told you earlier, he’s a playboy. He’s someone who’s notorious for getting a new girl every month, during his time as an adventurer. He’s said to have once been in a relationship with four women all at the same time in his party— at least, until he got in trouble with the Den of Souls for it in the Eastern Kingdoms. They are strictly against polygamy, and because of them, he eased up on his ways.
“Why does that matter?”
“I’m saying that he may only be looking for a quick fling— and if you’re interested in that too, it’s honestly not a big problem. So, are you interested in flings, Salvos?”
I changed back to my regular shoes, buying a pair of slippers and high heels each. I thought about Saffron’s question for a moment.
“No. I can’t say it sounds very interesting. It just sounds like more boring stuff. I could be studying, you know?!”
“Only you would say studying is more interesting than being in a relationship.”
She snorted, bringing me to another, less luxurious, dress shop. Here, we hunted for appropriate wear for the night of the date.
“And you’re not interested in ‘love,’ as you just said earlier.”
“Well, I think I love shopping.”
I opined, picking out a dark blue dress.
“Of course you do. But I mean a romantic type of love. And even if that’s what you’d fancy, you probably won’t find that with Nolan, which leads me to my point: you’ll have to make your intentions clear to Nolan during this date.”
“Make my intentions clear?”
I cocked my head, trying the dress on in front of a mirror.
“You’ll have to find a way to turn him down courteously. Without burning any bridges. Which, now that I’m saying it out loud, is probably going to be harder for you than it seems.”
Saffron crossed her arms, and a voice spoke from the side.
“It looks lovely, Miss.”
“You think? I think I look lovelier, though.”
I thanked the lady working in the shop and paid for the dress. She bowed at me, a big smile on her face at the gold tip I left her, as Saffron and I left the shop.
“Look, Salvos, I’m sure you have good intentions… probably. But you can’t just reject him and move on, like you did with Jacob Axworth.”
“Hey! I had no idea he was even asking me out on a date!”
“That’s the issue. You’re missing social cues.”
“I’ve been learning as much as I can.”
I scowled, and my companion nodded.
“You have. But this is a completely new social sphere you’ve never dabbled in before. You’ll be confused— lost. I think it’d be best if you simply… I don’t know, disgust him out so he wouldn’t be interested in you anymore.”
“How do I do that?”
I raised a brow. Saffron gestured at a nearby tree, growing at the side of the pavement. I spotted bugs crawling up its trunks. Flies zipped in and out of flowers. And a spider wove its web atop the tree branches. I blinked.
My midterms proved themselves to be relatively easy. It was hard, of course. But it wasn’t as difficult as I had fully expected them to be— I thought that they’d have stumped me!
I was so sure I wouldn’t even be able to finish most of my tests in time, yet I did. It was thanks to my rigorous studying. I managed to overcome my midterms confidently enough that I didn’t think I failed any of my classes. It was a big obstacle in my path, easily cleared thanks to my preparation.
But there was still another obstacle ahead of me. One that I was slightly less prepared for. One that I really didn’t want to partake in, and I wasn’t even sure if I could overcome.
It was time for the day of the date.