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armageddon_20xx t1_je7uwww wrote

"Kids, you could spend a week and eighty coins turning that princess into a frog, or you could opt for the snake. It's not nearly as romantic, but it's a helluva lot cheaper," I said.

"But, knights don't expect a snake!" one of the kids cried.

"Wouldn't you say the princess deserves better than a knight who would thumb his nose at a perfectly good serpent?"

The students shook their heads as they always did. Well, except for that one kid who got it. The one who realized that there was an easy way to to the top in life, doing as little work as possible, undercutting the competition, and still coming away with more net coin than anyone else.

She was staring at me, but it wasn't the usual stare - eyes full of greed. No, these eyes were inquisitive, full of curiosity. She wanted to know more.

I dismissed the class and she came up to me.

"Name's Ambrosia," she said, putting out her hand as if she were an accomplished mage. I was reluctant to take it, instantly suspicious of the girl. It was only the first day of class and there was time for things to go awry.

"You know who I am," I said.

"Yeah. You know, I've read all your books..."

Now, this was startling. Truly something spectacular. Most of my star students still had to be encouraged to even pick up Basic Spells on the Cheap, and then getting them to read You Shouldn't Cast That was often impossible.

"Yes?" I asked, intrigued, expecting a question of great depth.

"You're wrong about the snake," she said.

What I had read as a curiosity in her eyes had turned out to be animosity. I was affronted at once. "No I'm not," I said with confidence. "I've converted twenty-three princesses to snakes and turned a profit of over a grand. The frog guys have pocketed two-fifty at most."

"You've made an assumption about your profit, and they're all smart enough not to tell you that you've been making less all these years."

Rage flowed through my veins and I thought of sending the girl away at once, but I held onto enough intrigue to hear her out.

"Go on."

"First, it doesn't cost eighty coins to cast Transfiguration: Frog. Do you know that mage's guild you refuse to pay membership fees for? It grants them access to an underground market where the ingredients are cheaper. It's thirty coins to your twenty, so long as the customer agrees to keep the price secret. Second, they've got three times the customers you do. So they're really turning more profit."

I shook my head. This was impossible. Lies. All of it.

"How do you know this? And why would you let me in, if they're all in on it?"

She looked shaken, almost as if a tear were to come to her eye.

"Because..." she started to whimper. "You turned me into a snake, and I hated it. Hated it, hated it! I wanted to be a frog. Frogs are nice. Frogs are cute. So I vowed to find you one day and get you to stop."

"Oh..." I looked away from her, thoughts running through my brain.

I concluded that I needed to re-evaluate my profession.