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221. Saffron's Sanity

Saffron Merryster sat in her room and stared at the vial of Demon’s blood before her. It’d been given to her by Salvos— a precious resource which would normally cost a fortune, provided to her every other week. She would drink from it once a day, consuming just enough for her to not completely pass out from the blood.

Demon’s blood had that effect on Vampires like her. It didn’t take much. A few sips in, and Saffron would be out for the rest of the night. Her memory would be foggy— everything from the night before nothing more than a haze to her, especially when she woke up with a headache. It wasn’t really the most conducive state to be in when she needed to study.

However, it helped her level. All thanks to drinking Demon’s blood, Saffron reached Level 56 in her Class, and Level 9 in [Racial Skill: Vampiric Essence]. It was more than she’d leveled in in months.

 

Saffron Merryster (Lady)

Species: [Vampire - Human]

Class: [Evocation Elementalist] - Lvl. 56

General Skills:

[Advanced Mana Manipulation] - Lvl. 3

[Identification] - Lvl. 8

[Racial Skill: Bloodlust] - Lvl. 4

[Racial Skill: Vampiric Essence] - Lvl. 9

[Rest] - Lvl. 4

 

Saffron was truly grateful to Salvos for it. There were times where she’d still be suspicious or dubious of Salvos due to the silver-haired woman’s nature as a Demon. But each time, Saffron logically reminded herself that Salvos had no reason to help Saffron. No reason other than the arbitrary title of companion Salvos had designated to her.

The meaning of that title was quite intuitive. Saffron knew it was just another word for a close or important friend— and yet, Salvos, due to either her naivety or her young age or both, would go through great lengths for the sake of her companions.

It flattered Saffron, really. But she could also see how such a mindset could potentially be problematic for the Demon in the future— she could be used and taken advantage of. So, Saffron was going to make sure it never happened. She’d educate Salvos. Teach her how the world worked.

That was what Saffron had resolved herself to do before she inebriated herself the night before from drinking Demon blood. Even as she got out of bed with a massive headache, taking a quick hangover tonic to recover, she had that in her mind. The young noble approached Salvos as she left her room.

“Good morning.”

“Hi!”

Salvos was unexpectedly ready to go to her classes, with her backpack slung around her shoulder and a chipper grin on her face. Saffron raised a brow.

“Are you heading out right now? You still have an hour until your classes start, don’t you?”

“Yep! I’m going to be helping a friend out with her studies.”

“I see—”

Saffron paused. Her eyes narrowed.

“Wait, a friend?”

“She’s nice, don’t worry too much about it. I’ll see you later, ok? Not immediately after my classes end though, because I’ll be going to the library. Bye!”

The Demon headed out of the room, waving at Saffron. The young noble shrugged and bade her farewell.

“She’s made even more friends? Of course she did. I just hope they don’t take advantage of her.”

 

—--

 

Saffron continued on her day, heading to each one of her classes, socializing, talking, learning, and of course, headaching. That was the state her mind was in when she accidentally drank one sip too many of Demon’s blood. She spotted Adney hurrying down a corridor. Another Vampire. The only one in Mavos Academy other than Saffron and Valda— after the fourth member of their cabal vanished.

Also, she was the only one who considered them a cabal. Everyone else didn’t; they held a meeting once in a while, but even that was becoming rarer than ever. Saffron had briefly spoken to Gannon, another Vampire, during Ivonne’s auction a month ago. Things were looking dire with what was going on in Nixa. The old guard of Vampires didn’t care to act. Nay— they were afraid to act. Only a few dozen of the lesser families had sent their thralls and resources to aid the Merrysters in facing the Primeval Demon.

The thought annoyed Saffron. The greater families were too scared of losing everything they had— all the worth they accumulated— to even help out. It was so ridiculous. And judging by the letters she’d been getting from her family, they were upset about it too. For… some reason.

 

Dearest daughter,

I hope your education has been going well. Since I have written to you a month ago, your father has recovered from his injuries…

...your brother has been managing the estates…

...I implore you to reach out to the other families. While we may send messages to their estates, it will not be the same as a conversation with them. Travel is restricted here due to hordes of wandering monsters, displaced by that Demon’s rampage. Only you can speak to the Norwood and Veridian families.

Else, should our family fall, you shall receive a… package. Within it are instructions and all the information you need. Otherwise, do not speak of this last matter with anyone else.

Lucia and Warren send their regards.

Love,

Zahra Merryster

 

Just thinking about the letter made her irate. Saffron was supposed to try and convince other Vampire families to help, but it wasn’t easy. Even just gathering Valda and Adney to help her was difficult. She tried to grab Valda earlier, but the blonde girl ran off before Saffron could catch her. And Adney— she couldn’t even get him to stay on topic.

“Adney, I need you to listen to me.”

He had a gruff figure— he’d been an adventurer once before, after all. He scowled.

“I will not, Saffron. I have heard what you said before, and I am not so suicidal to get myself killed fighting that Primeval Demon. ”

“That’s not what I’m asking of you.”

Saffron sighed.

“I need you to help me find the Crimsondreads. I know you’re aware of what happened to them after they lost their estates. Your father was acquainted with them.”

“My pa only helped them after you rich nobles shunned them from your society. I know nothing about them.”

“Then at least let me speak to your father.”

She met his gaze. The man gritted his teeth together. He was clearly frustrated.

“No. I won’t.”

Adney finally spoke. He spun around, turning to leave Saffron and the bubble they had around them. A spell cast so that no one could scry or listen to them. He paused right at the fringe of the spell’s bounds.

“I suggest you give up your idealistic beliefs, Saffron. Before you get yourself killed. That Demon is far above any of our levels. It has disposed of multiple Diamond Ranks on its own. Even the Amber Mind herself was slain in battle last week, and she’d nearly been an Elite. Any contribution we have is meaningless.”

He turned around, about to continue. Saffron stood there, her gaze shadowing over. She clenched her fists.

“Regnorex is at the gates.”

Her words drew him to a stop. She looked up, a defiant look on her face.

“That is what we’ve been told by our families since we were children. That Regnorex is at the gates. It’s just a saying. A phrase. A figure of speech. Something to remind us of our duty as Vampires. As Demon Slayers.”

Saffron took a deep breath.

“Well, guess what? He is coming now. This Primeval Demon is but a messenger, and look at what it’s doing. If even us Vampires can’t band together to fend it off, then Humankind has no hope to survive this next invasion.”

Adney stared at her. He closed his eyes, whispering.

“Perhaps…”

But then he turned around anyway.

“But who am I to stop it?”

With those words, he left her alone.

Saffron massaged her temples. Great. She let the spell dissipate. Just great.

Neither Adney nor Valda would help her. The only person she could rely on was herself. And maybe… Salvos was willing to do anything for her companions, right?

The thought crossed her mind for a moment.

Would Saffron be taking advantage of Salvos for that? But no— the young noble didn’t befriend Salvos for that intention. She’d just be asking for a favor, as friends did.

Now, where did Salvos say she was going to again? The library, right?

 

—--

 

With some help from a [Librarian], Saffron managed to find where Salvos was. The Demon had booked one of the private study rooms for use. For her to teach her friends.

Saffron knocked on the door, and it opened. She blinked.

“Valda?”

The blonde girl furrowed her brows.

“Saffy? I thought I managed to lose you. How did you find me here?”

“I wasn’t searching for you. I was searching for… Salvos?”

The young noble looked past Valda who was barring the doorway, meeting the gaze of a familiar silver-haired woman. Salvos cocked her head.

“Oh, hi Saffron!”

“What are you doing here?”

“Just teaching.”

“Teaching?”

Saffron had a premonition of what Salvos was about to say. But even when the Demon said it, she couldn’t help but gape.

“Yep. I’m teaching Valda, Jeremiah, and Marie. Eve and Jonah couldn’t make it today.”

The young noble looked over at the other two students in the room— she assumed they were Jeremiah and Marie. She thought she recognized Jeremiah from somewhere. Perhaps from a ball. Or maybe another social event. Whatever it was, she was certain Jeremiah was a noble too. She stared at Salvos.

“What are you doing, tutoring Valda?”

Salvos opened her mouth— but Valda spoke over her.

“Are you envious, Saffy? I have the Liberator of the Plaguelands herself expounding on her genius and intellect for me.”

Saffron tried to work her jaw.

“...what?”

“It is only natural that geniuses such as Salvos and I would mingle and befriend each other. I know that you have been trying to abuse your position as her roommate, keeping her away from others. But while you are merely her friend, I am her protege.”

Valda spoke haughtily. She wasn’t a noble, but Saffron thought Valda was doing a good job at passing as one. Saffron tried to muster up her words.

“I am not— why are you even taking lessons from Salvos? Aren’t you supposed to be a prodigy, Valda?”

“I am, indeed. But even I have my own shortcomings. Enchantment theory is not where I truly excel. I may not have achieved a distinction for my midterms, but with the help and lessons of Salvos, I am certain it is achievable without a problem.”

“And you really trust her? What is she even teaching you?”

Saffron’s eyes turned to the scene at the study table. There were a bunch of trinkets spilled onto the desk, with messy notes scribbled down on crumpled up pieces of paper. That was normally how Salvos studied, so Saffron was not so surprised by that.

What Saffron was surprised by was how everyone else was taking notes the same way. Even Valda.

“She’s teaching us how to be a model student. She’s imparting her wisdom onto us. Her methods are unique and that's why she’s able to stand out in class despite transferring late into the academic term.”

Saffron really didn’t like repeating herself, but again she was at a loss for words.

“...what?”

Salvos piped up, crossing her arms from the study table.

“What are you guys talking about over there? It better be about how much of a genius I am!”

“We are, actually. I was explaining to Saffron about how refreshing I find your study techniques to be compared to the dull, inane teachings of Mavos Academy.”

“Aw, thank you.”

Salvos grinned, even as Saffron pinched the bridge of her nose.

“This can’t be real. This seriously can’t be real.”

Not only was Salvos continuing on about how much of a genius she was, but others were agreeing with her too? Valda, of all people, was praising parroting that sentiment?

Saffron was pretty sure she’d accidentally drank some Demon’s blood earlier, passed out, and was now dreaming this whole thing up. But it was real. And that made her want to actually get inebriated.

“I think… I think I want to leave.”

“Aw, you’re leaving? I need to tell you something real quick, Saffron.”

“Go ahead and leave, Saffy. You’re interrupting our study session. We have lots to discuss without you.”

Valda paused. Then she sneered, leaning in and casting a quick silence spell as she spoke softly.

“Plus, I know the secret you wanted to tell me.”

“Y-you do?”

And this time, Saffron reacted instantly. Her gaze snapped up as she felt pinpricks running down her spine. Like ants were crawling on her skin. She spoke apprehensively, backing away from Valda.

“How…?”

Did Salvos tell Valda? Surely Salvos wasn’t foolish enough to tell others that she was a Demon. It was something that could compromise her stay in Mavos Academy. It was something that could compromise her status. It was something that could compromise her life.

Or maybe… did Salvos screw up again? Saffron opened her mouth, but Valda huffed.

“Of course I do. It’s the reason why her teachings are out of this world.”

And Saffron froze entirely. Valda crossed her arms, as Salvos slowly sauntered over.

“No…”

“Yes.”

“You know that she’s a D—”

“Yes, I know that she’s a [Hero].”

Saffron rubbed her eyes.

“Pardon?”

“You heard what I said.”

Valda drew back, letting the spell vanish as Salvos walked up next to her, a cheerful expression on her face as usual.

“What were you whispering about?”

“It’s nothing. We were just catching up.”

Salvos characteristically tilted her head to the side, but Valda waved at Saffron. The blonde girl returned to Jeremiah and Marie, engaging in excited conversation with them, glancing back at Salvos every so often.

For her part, Saffron just stood there, speechless. Salvos clapped her hands together.

“So, why did you come, Saffron?”

“I… I don’t actually remember.”

“Huh. Now I’m curious. Oh well, if you remember what it is, don’t forget to tell me. But—”

Salvos beamed, placing a hand on Saffron’s shoulder.

“Anyway, I’m free tomorrow, and it’s a weekday. Want to come see my secret hideout?”

By that, Saffron knew Salvos was referring to her Lair. The young noble just sighed, not wanting to be in this room of insanity anymore.

“Sure. Let’s go take a look at it.”

“Yay!”

 

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