“Good morning, Salvos.”
Saffron greeted me as I entered our room. I paused when I saw her. The noble woman was already dressed in her uniform, ready to leave for class. I’d returned to grab a few of my books before I headed for my own classes.
I nodded back at her, fumbling for my books neatly piled up next to the sofa. She quirked a brow.
“I haven’t seen you all weekend. I take it you’ve been busy with your studies?”
I paused. I glanced back at her— the Vampire was standing by the doorway, her bag slung over her shoulder.
“...y-yep! B-been busy drilling the formulae for the Potion of Regeneration into my head.”
Saffron frowned. She looked me over, and I pursed my lips.
“Is something the matter, Salvos?”
I fluttered my eyes innocently, but Saffron was dubious.
“You look tired. I was under the impression that you didn’t need sleep. However, you look completely exhausted.”
“Exhausted? Me? Pft!”
I waved a hand off, quickly turning back to my bag and packing it with my books. I ran up to Saffron and patted her on the back.
“I’m great! I can’t possibly be tired!”
Her eyes narrowed. I ushered her out of the room with me as I spoke excitedly.
“Come on, if you keep wasting time, we’ll be late for class!”
“...if you say so.”
Saffron was dubious. Rightfully so. There were a lot of things to be suspicious about— even my own demeanor didn’t convince me. However, no matter how discerning she was, she’d never know what the real problem was. How could she?
How could anyone guess that the Devil himself was staying at my Lair?
“I’m sorry Valda.”
I clapped my hands together and bowed my head.
“I can’t tutor you today. Something came up, so I have to… cancel our session.”
The blonde girl stared at me, her shoulders sagging. She had her textbook and notes hugged around her arms. They almost fell as her arms drooped. But she caught them and gave me a slow nod.
“I see. I understand.”
I felt a pang of guilt as I watched her excited expression from earlier vanish. Her friends couldn’t join us today, so it was just the both of us. I tried to gesture placatingly at her.
“It’s not because I don’t want to teach you—”
“No, I’m sure you’re busy.”
Valda shook her head, a sad smile on her face.
“You’re a very important person, so it makes sense.”
“The fact that you even considered teaching me today when you have a myriad of other more significant things in your schedule is enough for me.”
She bowed deeply, not meeting my gaze.
“Thank you for the opportunity, Salvos.”
I raised a hand, but she ran off. A soft sigh escaped my lips as I watched her go.
“Now I feel bad.”
The situation repeated itself once more, with Nolan and Gallus. The former was supposed to help me with my alchemy theory— he even offered to help me with the process of creating a Potion of Regeneration a few days ago, although I turned him down then. But he was adamant on helping me out, which made me feel bad when I had to tell him I had to cancel our study session today.
Gallus was less obviously upset, unlike Nolan or Valda. He nodded, seeing the disheartened expression on my face, and even gave me some encouraging words. It gave me a little bit of strength, but also made me feel bad. These people were so nice to me, and here I was brushing them off.
However, I couldn’t do anything. I had my hands tied. The reason was simple— it called for me in my Lair. I dragged my feet on the ground as I left Mavos Academy, disappearing into the forest far beyond the campus.
I really didn’t want to go there right now. There were so many other things I could be doing. I could be studying or training or doing anything else. But there was something in my Lair that called for my utmost attention.
The Devil perked up as I returned; I stood awkwardly at the entrance and glanced between him and the pile of bodies lying next to him as he lay on his side.
“Oh, you’re back. That was fast.”
“Um, I’ve been gone for twelve hours. Maybe even thirteen or fourteen.”
“Hm. Has it only been twelve hours? I could’ve sworn it’s been a day or two. Oh well, same thing.”
He hopped to his feet, strutting nonchalantly around the corpses. I stared at it, and he peered into me.
“What are you being weird for? You look like you want to say something— spit it out.”
“How did these monsters…?”
He tapped a finger on his chin, blinking.
“How did they get in here?”
The Devil questioned himself— the confusion clearly evident on his face. I drew my lips into a thin line.
“...weren’t you here this whole time?”
“I was! Or was I? I’m not actually sure. I didn’t even notice these monsters until you pointed them out.”
He shrugged, and I nodded.
He changed topics, clapping as he spun on his heels back to face me. He grinned. A wicked smile. One that immediately sent a chill down my spine.
I didn’t even know why I was here. He’d asked me to hurry up and finish my classes because he needed something from me. I’d rather be anywhere else in the world right now— every second I spent with him was every second [A Hunter’s Sense] screamed at me that I’d die.
The Devil walked up to me.
“So, Sal… Saf… Sel… Sally? What was your name again?”
“That’s right, Sally.”
He snapped his fingers, ignoring me. I balled my fists and bit back any retort I had for him. He was standing too close for comfort in a very threatening way, despite his carefree demeanor.
“I… why are you here again?”
The Devil cocked his head. I hesitated. Did I just lie to him and tell him he didn’t need anything from me? Maybe I could trick him and get him to leave me alone— why was he even here?!
But a flicker in his eyes told me that was a bad idea. I sighed.
“You, um, needed me to do something for you?”
“Ah, that’s right!”
His eyes lit up and he turned back around.
“That’s why I gathered these monsters. I need you to collect a few ingredients for me.”
I tilted my head to the side, and he explained.
“I was taking a look around your Lair and I spotted your alchemy station. That gave me an idea. I haven’t been to the Mortal Realm in quite a while. I haven’t had the chance to mess with some idiot Humans or Kobolds, so why not start with something simple: I’d like to make an Elixir of Immortality.”
“An Elixir of Immortality?”
I blinked. The Devil simply smiled.
He sounded excited— like a little girl who received their first doll after being abused by her father and given to [Cultists] for a sacrifice. Poor Rachel.
The Devil continued.
“I just need a few ingredients for it.”
He began counting out on his fingers.
“I need a dune-touched petal, a frost droplet, a cracked cranium of sustenance, a soul-forged heart—”
The list of ingredients went on as I rubbed at my ears. I had never heard of any of these ingredients in my life! I raised a hand, and he paused mid-sentence.
“—a butter… yes? Do you have a question, Sally?”
“...um, what are these things?”
“They’re what I need you to find, of course! Come on, don’t be silly. Otherwise, I’ll have to call you Silly and not Sally.”
He chuckled, bending over as he hugged his stomach.
“Get it? Do you get it? Silly? Sally?”
I gritted my teeth and nodded.
“I get it, but where am I supposed to find these ingredients? I’ve never heard of any of these things before in my life.”
“Surely you know what a dune-touched petal is, right Sally?”
“Whatever your name is, Sally.”
He waved a hand off.
“Only morons and buffoons don’t know what these ingredients are. I told you, it’s to make an Elixir of Immortality! I’d surely be able to sell it to some poor schmuck who thinks drinking it means they can’t die.”
The Devil shook his head, lying back down on the floor. I raised a brow.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
He made a shooing motion.
“Get going. I’d like to make this potion before the end of the day.”
“Alright— wait, end of the day?!”
I glanced back towards the outside of my Lair. The sun was setting on the horizon. I had roughly an hour left before the day would be over.
“How am I supposed to—”
I paused. The Devil looked at me expectantly, but an idea crossed my mind.
“Um, it’s nothing. So, by the end of today, right?”
“That is what I said.”
“Alright. I’ll be back in a few hours when the day is over. But I don’t want you to be discovered by anyone, you know?”
He yawned, uncaring.
“If anyone runs into me, I’ll just kill them.”
“But it’ll be a hassle for you! So, don’t mind me, I’m just going to… cover up my Lair.”
I hurriedly covered my Lair so he could no longer see the position of the sun in the sky. I dusted my hands off, glancing back at the sunset.
“Yep. There’s still hours. Maybe ten or twelve hours before night falls. Totally.”
I muttered to myself loud enough that I was sure the Devil heard me.
Then I ran off, heading straight to the nearby city of Wimborne.
The city was hard to get into, as usual. And I didn't have much time. I was pressed for time, even if I could rely on the Devil’s poor temporal understanding to give me some extra hours or even days. I needed to get this over with as quickly as possible, lest he killed me.
Or I assumed he’d kill me.
He said he liked me, but he also said he wanted to kill me twice now. I just had to find him some of the ingredients he needed. So, I did what I had to do to enter the city. I flaunted my status as a Diamond Ranked adventurer.
Heads turned and gazes snapped up as I showed off my badge to cut in line.
“I’m Salvos, Liberator of the Plaguelands, and you will let me in the city right now!”
I ordered, and they obeyed. [Traders] and adventurers and regular citizens whispered amongst themselves as I walked by them. However, I couldn't relish in this moment. I was in a hurry, and I acted in a hurry.
I headed straight to the only place I knew that could help me find these ingredients. The Adventurers Guild. Running in through the front door, I pushed my way to the receptionist’s desk and slammed my hands onto the countertop.
“I need help!”
The receptionist blinked. He looked like he recognized me.
“I need to find the ingredients to make an Elixir of Immortality.”
He was clearly confused, but I didn’t have time to deal with that right now. I shook my head vehemently and emphatically pointed down at the desk.
“Give me a glossary of all the ingredients this Adventurers Guild knows. I need to find a dune-touched petal, a cracked cranium of sustenance, a frost— anything!”
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. A Silver Ranked adventurer.
“Uh, sorry Miss, but I was here before—”
I glared at her.
“I’m. In. A. Rush.”
She shrunk away, nodding, and I turned back to the receptionist. His face was pale. I spread my hands wide.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Go!”
The man tried to say something, but he couldn’t get a word out. He ran back to grab a stack of books, hurriedly exchanging conversation with the other receptionists.
I waited impatiently, tapping a foot on the ground as they ran around the back. They were taking so long! I glanced back at the rest of the guild— it was quite crowded at this time. Adventurers were trickling in from, pausing as they saw me holding up the line. My Diamond Rank badge glinted for all to see.
It immediately told those entering to turn around and leave. It gripped most of the lobby with silence. All except for a group of sailor-looking adventurers who drank and chuckled at a nearby table.
Eventually, the receptionist returned, and I huffed.
“Finally! What took you so—”
I paused when I took a look at his face. He was nervous, averting his gaze.
“I’m sorry, Ms Salvos.”
The man spoke apologetically.
“Our guild doesn’t have the information you are searching for. There are no records of a dune-touched petal or anything similar to it, let alone a cracked cranium of sustenance.”
I frowned, and the receptionist hesitated.
“I’m really sorry but I cannot help you with this. Those are…”
“Come on! Everyone knows about those ingredients!”
Right? That was what the Devil said!
“You’ve gotta help me. I need them urgently.”
The receptionist trailed off as I narrowed my eyes.
“I really need them. Please.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”
The man spoke with a quivering breath.
I cocked my head, feeling a bit annoyed. Then a hearty voice boomed from behind me. I turned around, facing the sailors from earlier.
“That’s because they don’t exist!”
A burly man with a tattoo on his shoulder laughed as he raised a mug of ale.
I went cross-eyed. He shook his head, slamming his mug onto his table.
“Aye, those be fake ingredients from a kid’s tale, girlie!”
I repeated myself, flabbergasted. That couldn’t be right. The Devil said— the Devil said…
The burly man shook his head.
“It’s a common prank with ‘em children lot. Fooled me when I was barely thirteen! Never trusted anyone since then. Someone musta put you up to tis, did they?”
Those around him chuckled as I looked around the Adventurers Guild. Not everyone seemed to know what he was talking about, but a good portion averted their gaze, clearly in the know. My eyes widened as the realization sunk in.
I was tricked.
“Apologies, Ms Salvos, but… what that man is saying is true.”
The receptionist spoke with slight apprehension from behind me. I stiffly turned around to face him as my Diamond Rank badge loosely clung onto my blue jacket. The receptionist didn’t meet my gaze, but I could see his eyes looking between my badge as he waited for my response.
That was all I said.
“Pardon my intrusion then.”
With a sigh, I left the Adventurers Guild quieter than it was before I came in. But the moment I stepped out, I heard the life and noise slowly return, with laughter now added to the mix. My face burned as I tried to ignore it.
The Devil tricked me! He made a fool out of me! He made me waste my time when I could’ve been doing other things! He was such a handful to deal with!
I paused as my brows creased.
...is this how Saffron feels when dealing with me?