I protested, but the Devil was adamant about it.
“Your school sucks, Salvos. Do you want them teaching you bad theory, huh? Huh?”
“If it gets me to the Netherworld? Then, yes!”
“And look what happened when you listened to them? You got me! And you hate me!”
“I do! Leave me alone!”
I scowled, spinning around and grabbing my books. It had been a whole day since the Devil decided he wanted to follow me to Mavos Academy. I’d been emphatic that he should not come, but he was going to do it anyway.
He followed me as I stepped out of my Lair, out under the glazing morning sun. I glanced back at him.
“You’re going to get in so much trouble looking like that.”
The Devil shrugged.
“If they have a problem, I’ll just kill them.”
“You can’t do that!”
My jaw dropped, and he furrowed his brows.
“Because then I won’t have a school to go to!”
He waved a hand off dismissively, starting past me as I stood there.
“That’s a good thing— for me, at least. I’ll be able to mentor you without anyone else interfering with their bad theories and stupid ideas.”
“What about my friends?”
“You can always make new ones. You have all of eternity ahead of you, Salvos. Come on, what’s wrong with a few dead friends here and there?”
I blinked. Then I crossed my arms. I thought of Saffron. Of Daniel. Of Edithe. And of everyone else I’d met. Would I be able to replace them just like that?
No— they weren’t rocks on the ground which could be replaced with other, similar rocks. They were all distinct. They all mattered.
“Everything will be wrong about it.”
I glared at the Devil.
“I won’t let you do that.”
He tilted his head to the side, his brows raising. Then he chuckled.
“Fine, fine. I was joking. I won’t kill anyone, since you insist. But I’m still going with you.”
“And how are you going to do that? Everyone will know that you’re some kind of Demon.”
He shook his head and waggled a finger.
“No, no, no. I’m not a Demon. I’m the Devil. And—”
He spread his arms wide.
“I can just transform, duh.”
He grinned, and I frowned.
“Wait, you can?”
The Devil tapped one of his hooves on the ground, and his body began to quake. A tremor washed over his skin as he shivered and vibrated. With a pop, his body changed entirely. No longer was there a red-skinned, horned, and terrible Demon standing in front of me. Now, there was a man. A Human man. One who had long black hair and the same goatee.
He had dark skin and glittering eyes that were mismatched in color: each bore the color of a gem, like a ruby was in his left eye and a sapphire was in his right eye. And somehow, he was even clothed. The Devil was dressed in fancy, silken robes, with bangles of gold and necklaces of diamond.
Adjusting his sleeve, he smiled at me.
“Now, shall we go?”
I looked at him. Then I raised a hand, pointing a shaky finger.
“What? How did you do that?!”
He cocked a brow.
“I transformed just as you always do. Why are you so surprised?”
I shook my head vehemently.
“I mean— how did you get those clothes?! How did you get those… those… those jewelry?! That makes no sense!”
He glanced down at himself.
“Hm… where did I get this from?”
The Devil wore a confused look on his face; he was absolutely puzzled, taking a moment to inspect and even admire the flower-cut gems woven into his fabric. I watched as he threw his hands up, shrugging.
“Mm, yeah I have no idea how I got these.”
“But you conjured them out of thin air!”
“Magic, I guess?”
I went cross-eyed. I wanted to bang my head against the wall— again, I was pretty sure this was how my companions felt when dealing with me.
“Whatever. Sure, you look like a Human now, but are you really going to be following me around campus?”
“At least give me a fake name so I don’t have to keep calling you ‘the Devil’ the entire time.”
Tilting his head back, he tapped a finger on his forearm with his arms crossed.
“Now, what would be a good name?”
“Don’t you have a real name?”
“I do! I think. I’ve forgotten what it is, though.”
I narrowed my eyes.
“How did you forget? Isn’t it in your Status?”
“It disappeared when I forgot.”
He shook his head.
“Anyway, what about… Satan? No— no, that’s too cliche! And generic. How about… Samuel? Wait, no, I’m pretty sure that’s… yeah, nah. I quite like the ring of Saul. Although... “
He trailed off, murmuring incessantly to himself as he tried to decide on a name. Then he snapped his fingers together.
“I got it!”
I looked at him expectantly. The Devil raised his chin, smiling.
“I am Sal!”
‘Sal’ nodded eagerly.
“That is indeed it.”
And with that decided, we headed to Mavos Academy, together.
I just hoped it wouldn’t be as much of a disaster as it could be.
Sal and I entered Mavos Academy as the sun eked its way over the horizon. As usual, my presence would draw gazes in my direction, although it was less prominent now that I’d been enrolled for a while. And since attention was typically on me, people focused on the presence of Sal too.
They whispered quietly and pointed his way.
“Who is that with Salvos?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen him before.”
“I can’t see his level— my [Identification] is at Level 10, and I can’t see his level!”
“Do you think he has an obfuscation artifact?”
“Either that, or he’s way high-leveled…”
I groaned, annoyed that these annoying whispers were making the Devil’s presence even less muted than it would otherwise be. I was trying to ignore him!
“So, Salvos, where exactly will your space magic class be held?”
He glanced around at all the tall towers, seemingly uninterested and uncaring at all the attention he was receiving. I rolled my eyes.
“I’m not going to class just yet. I’ll have to visit my companion first.”
“Ah, the Vampire.”
My eyes widened and I snapped my gaze towards Sal.
“Are you serious? How do you— no, why are you even saying that out loud?”
“Oh, don’t worry too much about it. It’s not like she’d get persecuted and murdered if others found out about her identity… I think. Not unless things have drastically changed in the past thousand years or so.”
I took in a deep breath, heading straight for the dormitory. Saffron was waiting in her room, having her breakfast as Matthew stood next to her. I raised a brow as I entered the room.
“Um, hi Saffron— and Matthew?”
“Greetings, Ms Salvos.”
The butler nodded at me. I paused.
“When did you get back?”
“He returned just last night.”
Saffron stood up, smiling.
“I see you've brought a friend, Salvos. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr…?”
“Just call me Sal.”
He shot her a grin.
She nodded and turned to face me.
“How did you guys meet?”
The Devil opened his mouth, but I quickly spoke over him.
“We met… somewhere! Nowhere important. Don’t worry about it, Saffron.”
I gave Saffron a look. She narrowed her eyes. Then she nodded slowly, understanding. This was my problem. She knew now, and I’d rather her not intervene and get embroiled in this. So, I changed topics.
“Anyway! I just dropped by to say hi real quick before running to class. I’ll see you later, alright?”
“Will do— and, Salvos.”
Saffron called out to me before I could run off with Sal in tow.
“Matthew has, fortunately, been able to procure a few other of the important ingredients you’ve been searching for your Potion of Regeneration, including an Enigmatic Heart.”
I gaped, and Saffron nodded.
“Yes. I do hope all is proceeding well with it?”
Her eyes twinkled, and I understood what she meant.
“I’m fine, Saffron.”
I gave her a reassuring nod.
“Don’t worry about me. Just focus on your own studies, ok?”
Saffron closed her eyes, turning away from me. I grabbed Sal by the arm and dashed off.
“I’ve gotta go now, seeya!”
The Devil scowled as I brought him down the hallway.
“I never got to introduce myself.”
“Good! I want you to talk to as few people as possible, alright?”
He crossed his arms, pouting. Then his eyes flickered.
“Well, that just means I have to make myself memorable.
I didn’t know or care about what he meant by that, as long as he didn’t hurt anyone.
I arrived at my first class on time, having made a break for it together with Sal. He looked bored for most of it, until we finally reached the lecture hall, and I greeted Lamarr on the way in.
“And who may this be?”
The red-haired man glanced over my shoulder. I pursed my lips, hoping that Sal wouldn’t be rude to Lamarr. I quickly introduced them and stepped aside.
“Sal, this is Lamarr, the King of Traith.”
The Devil quirked a brow.
“The King of Traith?”
He tilted his head back as Lamarr proffered a hand. The Devil, fortunately, knew his manners and shook the hand, but he seemed confused even as he muttered to himself.
“Traith… Traith… Traith. Is that a kingdom or an empire?”
“It is a city state over to the east.”
Sal exclaimed. Then he shrugged.
“Never heard of it.”
I grimaced, worried that Lamarr would take offense to that. But the Warrior King only chuckled.
“It is no issue. Our nation is small, and it used to be known only for one thing which I am rather distasteful of. It is better than it remains unknown to you than otherwise.”
“Sure, sure. Well, I’m Sal. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
They both nodded at each other, and I nearly sighed in relief. We shuffled our way to our usual seats, except this time, Sal was going to be seated next to me. The two men chatted as we settled down. Lecturer Claudia hadn’t arrived yet, so there was still some time for us to speak.
“So, Mr Sal, may I inquire on your relationship with Salvos?”
Lamarr faced Sal, curious.
“He’s just a fri—”
“Oh, she’s my daughter.”
Sal spoke over me, patting my shoulder.
I instantly froze. I wasn’t sure how long it took for his words to register in my head— it probably took as long as it would for a Level 10 [Fire Mage] to break through a frozen lake. My head jerked back to face the Devil in disbelief, but before I could get a word in, Sal was already weaving a tale.
“Salvos is my one and only daughter. I’m surprised she hasn’t told you about me before. I’d have thought she’d be more proud of her good, old papa.”
Lamarr tapped a finger on his chin.
“Hrmph, perhaps she did mention you. Alas, I blame my poor memory as the reason why I’ve forgotten.”
“She did? Aw, thank you, my dearest daughter.”
Sal pulled me in for a half hug, and I finally managed to work my mouth.
But the Devil ignored me, choosing to continue.
“Tell me, King Lamarr, how has my daughter been? I know she can be mischievous at times. But I do hope she’s been treating you well?”
“There is no need to worry about your daughter’s behavior, Mr Sal. She has been an excellent student and an excellent classmate to me. I’d consider us friends, but I’d rather not speak for her, myself.”
My jaw hung open as Lamarr actually believed him, beginning to ask questions about me.
“In fact, I’d say she’s impressed me more often than not. I am surprised that someone at her age is so talented and studious. Perhaps a little feisty, but that is no drawback to her character.”
“Oh, yeah. She’s been like that since she was young. You know, when she was a mere little five year old girl, she challenged me to a fight! How ridiculous is that? And she could’ve killed me too!”
Lamarr laughed as Sal massaged his temples, feigning exhaustion.
“Somehow, I am not surprised by that.”
I nearly shot a glare to Lamarr for saying that. But then I heard the susurrations from the rest of the room. Heads turned— fourth years from the College of Aspirations looked over at me and spoke amongst themselves.
“That’s Salvos’ father?”
“He looks handsome.”
“So that’s where she got her looks—”
My eyes widened. Then they twitched as the rumor began to spread before I could stymie it. I stood up, pointing at Sal and facing the room.
“He’s not my father!”
I sputtered. Everyone froze. Lamarr’s smiled twisted into a frown. And Sal drew back, placing a hand on his chest.
“That hurts your old man, daughter. Just because your mother left me…”
I nearly shouted, but Lamarr nodded from his side.
“Indeed, Salvos. I understand that one at your age oftentimes feels embarrassed about your parents, but he is the man who raised you. You should not disrespect him like this. Especially not in front of others.”
I just stared at the King of Traith.
Sal shook his head, wearing a slightly hurt look, even as he tried to placate Lamarr.
“It is no matter, King Lamarr. I’m sure my daughter has her reasons for feeling the way she does. Just forget I said anything. I do not wish to humiliate her, you see?”
“How very noble of you.”
Lamarr almost seemed to tear up at that, while Sal was actually sniffling. I wanted to bury my head in my hands and die of embarrassment. I groaned, remembering what Sal said just as we left the dorms.
“Ugh, you intended to do this, didn’t you?”
“Whatever could you mean?”
He fluttered his eyes innocently, and I recognized the cadence of his voice. It was just like mat times. It really was like dealing with me, if I were my own companion.
I clenched a fist... then I exhaled.
“Fine. Whatever. He’s my dad, yes. But can we just move on from that? Ugh, this is just horrible. Look— Claudia is arriving.”
I turned to the door, and sure enough, the lecturer for my first class finally arrived. She was apathetic as she usually was, pausing only to adjust her glasses when she spotted Sal. Before she could inquire about his presence, the Devil’s eyes shone.
“Ah, so that’s your lecturer.”
And I knew it could get so much worse.
So much more… embarrassing.