The Quick Recap and Chapter-by-Chapter Summary for The Last Graduate (Scholomance #2) by Naomi Novik are below. Spoiler warning: these summaries contains spoilers.
For a non-spoiler version of the plot synopsis, see The Bibliofile’s review of The Last Graduate (Scholomance #2) by Naomi Novik.
The one-paragraph version of this: In Book 2, El manages to get her entire class to work together so they can all graduate from Scholomance alive. However, El soon figures out that Scholomance wants them to do more than that — it wants them to permanently solve the problem of bunches of students dying each year. They finally decide to lure all the mals everywhere into Scholomance and destroy the school. The plan somehow succeeds, but as all the students escape, Orion stays behind to prevent a very powerful maw-mouth from escaping.
The book opens right after the freshmen have been inducted. El is now officially a senior, and she has just gotten the message from her mother warning her to stay away from Orion Lake (which El promptly ignores). She and Orion also don’t know if their attempt to fix the machinery for culling mals in the Graduation Hall was successful or not.
As classes resume, El notices she is the only student being attacked by mals. She suspects that it’s because she was meant to be dark, destructive balancing element to Orion’s heroics, but because she hasn’t gone in that direction, the school is trying to take her out. Her alliance (El, Aadhya and Liu) ends up taking on Chloe, a New York enclaver, in order to get access to Chloe’s power-sharer (because El is using excessive amounts of mana trying to fend off mals to protect both herself and those around her).
When El fends off a particularly difficult mal attack that is seen by many, kids start to see her as possibly a really important piece (a “game changer”) in the struggle for dominance among the enclaves. Outside Scholomance, it’s suspected that there may be an enclave war that’s brewing. They know from the freshmen bringing in news that the Bangkok enclave has been destroyed.
Most notably the Shanghai and New York enclaves have been headed toward a power struggle since there is a reallocation of the distribution of Scholomance seats coming up soon. The Shanghai enclave was formerly an ancient, small enclave until 40 years ago when a powerful, game-changing artificer decided he wanted to remake his family enclave instead of joining a more influential enclave. In the eighties, Shanghai demanded that Scholomance include a Chinese-language track (before it was English-only). However, currently, the distribution of seats is still tilted towards English-speaking enclaves so that it is more competitive to enter from an Asian country.
The animosity between Shanghai and New York results in the Shanghai kids distrusting El since they see her as being aligned with Orion and Chloe (both New Yorkers). They’ve also rarely been in the same classes due to the language barrier. On the school’s field day, the Shanghai enclave launches an attack against El (which she manages to rebuff), since they see her as a tool of destruction that will later be used against them and their families.
Meeanwhile, El has been training the mouse familiar that Liu gave her (Precious), and translating the Golden Stone Sutras book that she came across last year that contains very rare spells to build an enclave. Despite her invite to join the New York enclave, El starts to imagine a future where she travels the world helping to build tiny enclaves (instead of having all the power, safety and influence of enclaves being held in the hands of a select few).
At the mid-year point, the senior classes are officially over so they can prep for graduation. Part of the gym is turned into a training course with simulated mals, though it is still dangerous because real mals can hide in it to attack students. After a near death for one of El’s friends who was saved by someone El dislikes, El realizes that she isn’t satisfied with protecting just her alliance or even just her friends. Instead, El becomes determined to figure out a way to save her entire class.
El’s friends support her idea, and kids who don’t love the idea understand that compliance is their best chance to survive. Soon, they are doing training rounds with increasing numbers of kids. Despite all this, the Chinese language kids are still skeptical of El and refuse to participate.
One day, the Shanghai enclave attacks again when El and Orion are alone. They’re able to defend themselves, but then El’s allies arrive, ready to join in the fight and it looks like a showdown between the two groups is about to happen. However, El uses a powerful spell to cause everyone to stop what they’re doing. She uses the opportunity to reiterate (in English and Chinese) that her only goal is to get everyone out alive. After that, the Chinese-speaking kids start to come around to trusting El.
The training course gets progressively more difficult, but the group keeps reiterating and improving their strategy to be able to meet its challenges. Still, El thinks about how even after her class gets out alive, it will only be a short while before the culling mechanism stops working again and tons of kids are being slaughtered again each year. Then, one day the school reveals a path beckoning El to visit the graduation hall. She goes and realizes it is completely free of mals so all of their training is unnecessary.
Moreover, El starts to think about how Scholomance has a bit of a mind of its own. The original stated mission of the school was to protect all young wizards. In actual practice, it ended up heavily favoring enclavers and the mal culling machinery failed so that three quarters of each class of students dies. El considers that perhaps the school was never out to get her — instead it was pushing her and challenging her so that she could help it fulfill its original stated purpose.
El emerges the hall with the realization that Scholomance wants her to find a way to fix it. She immediately tells the others what she’s learned and what she thinks their real goal is supposed to be. As kids consider this and share ideas, the school reinforces El’s message by punishing those who don’t get on board.
Eventually, Liu pitches the idea that perhaps the goal should be to lure all the mals from everywhere into the school and then proceed to destroy the school. That way, young wizards everywhere, including the ones from outside who currently have very little chance of survival, will be safer. The next few months are spent perfecting this ambitious plan.
When the big day finally arrives, El and Orion end up sleeping together and Orion professes that he wants to be wherever El is even if it’s not New York. El then shares with him her enclave-building dream, and he agrees to do it with her.
When graduation starts, all the kids file out, starting with the freshmen and ending with the seniors. An elaborate speaker system has been set up to draw the mals deep into the school, with Orion responsible for using his enhanced combat abilities and mana generating abilities to fight and create a barrier between the students and the mals. El stays inside near the exit to be able to cast the final spell to destroy the school, locking the mals in the void.
The plan goes according to plan, but when it’s finally time to leave and the window to do so is quickly closing, Orion hesitates. There is a maw-mouth (very dangerous mal) near the exit, and there’s a possibility it could escape behind them. The book ends with Orion pushing El out the exit and staying to kill the maw-mouth.
Book #2 picks off right after Book #1 left off. I’ve included some explanatory stuff from the first book, but you’re probably better off reading through the summary for A Deadly Education (Scholomance #1) if you’ve forgotten what happens in the first book, before reading this one.
Chapter 1: Vipersac
The book opens just after the freshman at Scholomance have been inducted. El, who is beginning her senior year, thinks about the note mother sent telling her to “keep far away from Orion Lake“. She knows her mother’s advice is likely “unerringly right”, but El is reluctant to take that advice. She tries to tell herself that her mother doesn’t really know Orion.
By now, as Orion and El sit down to eat, all the other students know that El and Orion had somehow managed (along with a group of now-graduated seniors) to survive their attempt to fix the scouring machine (which can cull the mal population) in the “graduation hall” (at the end of Scholomance #1). However, there’s no way for them to know until their own graduation if they actually fixed it or not.
The graduation ceremony at Scholomance involves exiting through the basement level floor, an area that is typically overrun by mals (bad creatures that feed on wizards). It’s the ceremony that Scholomance students spend their whole time there preparing for — preparing and learning magic, forming alliances, etc.
The next morning, the new term begins. El is assigned to homeroom in a library classroom on a higher floor (which is good since higher floors are marginally safer due to less mals) with a bunch of freshman. And she curiously has the entire afternoon free on Wednesdays with the same group of kids in the same library classroom.
When a mal called a “vipersac” shows up in the room, El helps the freshman (because mals generally targeting the weakest first) by killing it, despite knowing that she’s better off looking out for herself at Scholomance.
Chapter 2: Cushions
The first week of class, El meets with her friends (who are also the two other people in her alliance), Liu and Aadhya, cut off Liu’s hair. Liu has been painstakingly growing for years, and Aadyha plans to string it into a sirenspider lute that they’ll need to fight mals for their graduation ceremony.
El soon realizes that mals seem to be drawn to her homeroom library classroom, causing her to use up a lot of mana (stored energy used to perform spells). When she demands that Sudarat, freshman that seems to belong to an enclave (powerful groupings of wizards that help each other out), contribute some mana for spells to kill the mals, Sudarat delivers a shocking news that the enclave in Bangkok was been taken out somehow just before induction. Sudarat was the only person from her year to survive.
By the third week of class, El is frustrated by her inability to grow her mana reserves. She is trying to accumulate a large store of mana for graduation, but between saving the freshman and being assigned to classrooms that are highly vulnerable to attacks, she’s been unable to make any progress so far.
The school itself runs on mana generated by students through various means. One source is when students die, the school absorbs their mana stores and mana from that process. However, because more students have survived lately, Scholomance itself is low on mana. The mals are also hungrier and more desperate because they aren’t getting to kill and feed on as many students.
The high survival rate is largely due to Orion who has deemed himself his class’s savior. His affinity for combat allows him to draw mana from dying mals, which effectively gives him infinite mana. (As part of the uber-powerful New York Enclave — which his mother is soon to become Domina of — his excess mana goes into their mana pool. The rest of the New York enclave wears power-sharers that allow them to draw on that pool, but Orion’s actually only allows him to contribute mana, not to take any from the reserves because he can’t control his ability to pull mana.)
El suspects the school itself purposely is coming after her because she was meant to be the counterpoint to Orion (because El affinity is for destruction and dark magic) to keep things in balance by killing off other students. While El doesn’t want to be a maleficer (dark wizard), but she suspects the school is trying to force her into doing it.
Aadhya and Liu suggest asking Chloe Rasmussen (a New York enclaver) to donate mana to her. Chloe has continued to try to befriend El, even after El turned down an extremely sought after New York enclave spot. (While El’s original goal was to be an enclaver, last year she made the principled but difficult decision not to go that route.) When El goes to ask Chloe about it, the two of them get attacked by mals, and El saves them with an elaborate high-level spell.
Chapter 3: Leskits
Chloe ends up agreeing to let El use her power-sharer, which ultimately results in Chloe joining the alliance with Aadhya, Liu and El. Having an enclaver join an alliance is considered a coup due to their access to mana and powerful items. El, Aadhya and Chloe are also working to train their mouse familiars which Liu gifted them. Chloe has Mistoffeles, El has Precious , and Aadhya has Pinky.
The next time El is studying, she gets attacked by some Leskits (mals), but that are easily dealt with partially thanks to her plentiful supply of mana. She worries she’s getting too used to the convenience of it all.
However, El soon learns that, contrary to her experience, no one else at school has seen very many at all. They’re all laying low — which means that for some reason they’re only attacking El, who has seen tons. This also means that New York mana pool is getting lower, because Orion has basically been the only one putting mana in their pool (by killing mals) and he hasn’t killed any mals this term.
The group decides that they need to built a honeypot to lure a few mals that Orion can then kill to help replenish the mana supply. It essentially consists of a scent to serve as bait and an artifice to spread that scent around. In the meantime, they’re also able to convince the New York enclavers that they need to start generating mana for a while.
A month later, Aadhya has prepared something for them to do a test run, though it’s a failure. Only their mice familiars show any interest in the incense, with the exception of Precious.
By now, everyone else has noticed the lack of mal attacks and people are starting to ask questions. (El does not want them to piece together that the only attacks are centered around her, since she doesn’t know how people will react to that information. El finds out that Sudarat was asked about her, but Sudarat choose to lie rather than to expose El.) There have only been 23 deaths this year so far, which is very low and most of them due to accidents. The most recent death was Prasong, a former Bangkok enclaver.
Prasong had decided to become a maleficer, which requires killing humans (for malia, the bad energy source) if you didn’t bring enough small animals with you to feed off of. However, El had seen a hex he’d prepared to harm his victims, and she’d altered to be stronger and to backfire on the attacker (which she had assumed was an advanced mal, not a person). It ended up killing him.
Meanwhile, El has been making headway on translating the Golden Stone sutras, a valuable and rare text she’d managed to come by last year. The sutras contain spells to build an enclave — not something needed for combat or schoolwork — but she knows that if she manages to understand them, it can be extremely valuable for other wizards who are willing to pay a lot for that information.
One day, as El is sleepily turning in a mid-term paper, she is attacked by a mal. The mal’s horror-inducing powers cause her to use a difficult and overly powerful spell on it (called La Main de la Mort), which causes part of Scholomance to zap out of existence as other students look on.
Chapter 4: Midterms
Soon, the other students have all heard about El’s incident. The New York enclavers soon piece together that their mana is being used by El, and Chloe has to explain to them the extent of El’s powers to make them understand why they need to keep giving her mana.
Game-changing wizards come along every generation or so, with the last one being an artificer, Li Shan Feng, about 40 years ago who turned down all the major enclaves and chose to turn his small family enclave, the Shanghai enclave, into the powerhouse it is today instead. Orion has always been seen as a game-changer, given his incredible combat abilities and his mana-generation potential.
Now, people are starting to see El as a potentially game-changing wizard as well. Before, other enclaves were interested in El due to her connection with Orion, but now they are increasingly interested in El for her own abilities.
Soon, other enclave kids are trying to find out information about El, with New York having particular interest. Privately, Aadhya asks El what exactly she’s planning on doing after graduation. El says she doesn’t want to join New York because she knows that what they really want is for her to “cast death spells on their enemies”, which she doesn’t want to do.
In her mind, El has a dream about being able to use her Golden Stone Sutras to help many people build their own enclaves (instead of having to hope and pray that the limited number of highly exclusive enclaves take you in), which would essentially remake the wizarding world. However, she knows it’s too much of a pipe dream to say this to Aadhya.
Meanwhile, midterm grades are coming soon, and Aadhya, Liu, El and Chloe are busy prepping for graduation and final projects. Their graduation strategy largely consists of figuring out how to generate enough mana so that El can blast all the mals in their path, since her spells tend to be mana-heavy. To make it work, they need perfect Liu’s mana amplification spell (passed down from her family), and Aadhya needs to finish her sirenspider lute, which will carry on the amplification spell.
At the same time, they’ve stopped trying to make a honeypot. They used a Pied Piper spell instead that turned out to be a little too effective. After that they decided to stop trying, though Orion is still desperate for mals to kill.
After grades are delivered, El manages to do well enough to be fine. However, a girl she knows, Cora, does poorly on one of her classes and her arm gets broken as a result. El ends up offering to do a healing spell, but it requires the altruistic participation of others. After the group somewhat reluctantly manages to do it, Cora sobs when she sees her arm is healed, since it means she has a much better chance of surviving graduation.
Afterwards, she talks to Orion who looks like a mess, and who has presumably been trying to hunt tiny mals with minimal success. He mentions that his grades for Alchemy is late. It isn’t until a little later that El realizes that it means he’s likely going to fail it, which is highly dangerous. El ends up rushing to his Alchemy classroom to help save him.
Chapter 5: Quattria
In the library, El helps Orion with his remedial Alchemy assignment. Orion needs mana, but can’t use the power-sharer (because of his excessive mana-pulling abilities). Instead, El gives him a measured amount of mana, though they share a moment when she transfers it to him.
Soon, it’s Field Day, which comes once per year, which involves the students queueing in line for activities to earn tokens for food. El is in line with Chloe when a group of the Shanghai enclavers surround them, preparing to attack. Chloe manages to spray something that slows down time relative to their actions, giving them a moment to think.
El and Chloe come up with a plan that ends with El reversing the power on a spell that’s intended to create a void in school to swallow her up. By reversing the spell, El ends up fixing the school gym instead. When it was originally created by the Kyoto enclave, it made the gym look like an elaborate and beautiful outdoor scene.
However, up until now, it was broken for a long time (ever since dangerous mals — maw-mouths — took up residence in the graduation hall, which made it difficult to exit Scholomance, so the students were left to do their own repairs). When the spell fixes it, the other students are able to see the display for the first time, and they also see the extent of El’s powers.
Chapter 6: Spelled Dye & Mortal Flame
By now, mals have also stopped exclusively attacking El. Aadhya has a theory as to why — the school has some wards to protect the students from mals. At the beginning of the year there are less mals (because they get culled at the end of the year), so to take out El, the school purposefully “opened” the wards and directed the mals at El. However, now that there are more mals, they’re managing to squeeze through the wards and attack kids as usual. Those mals seek out the easiest targets, so El isn’t being attacked.
Meanwhile, Orion has gotten begin in his schoolwork. Mangus, another New York enclaver, encourages him to hand off the late schoolwork to one of the many kids desperate to please the enclavers (in hopes of someday getting an enclave invite). However, El gives Orion a hard time about it, and Orion reluctantly agrees not to do that.
Later, El finds herself distracted by the idea of Orion not joining the New York enclave and instead joining her as a vagrant on her enclave-building mission, but she knows that dream is not realistic.
After New Years, class rankings are announced, and the mid-year culling (when a mortal flame runs through the school to cull all the mals, though less thoroughly than the end-of-the-year culling) is set to take place that day as well. El is surprised to learn she’s been awarded a special prize for her achievements in Sanskrit Incantation (which she has been doing in order to translate her Golden Stone sutras). The award is a lapel pin with a small, useless round pewter medal attached.
The class valedictorian is a girl named Liesel. El knows she’s set on getting an New York enclave invite and sees Liesel flirting with Mangus. El ends up warning Liesel that she already has a guaranteed invite there (which means Liesel can’t get one unless El turns it down). Liesel angrily responds by using a hex that trips El on the way out the door, but when she sees that it’s about to cause El to be consumed by mortal flame (due to the culling), she ends up helping El to the safety of Orion’s room.
As El, Orion and Liesel wait, they play cards with a tarot deck, but because the cards have divinatory power, the cards for the Tower and Death keep disproportionately coming up for El. When the culling is over, Liesel leaves, and El and Orion end up kissing.
Chapter 7: Alliance
As things ramp up to prepare for graduation, the seniors have half of the gym reserved for them to do training runs for graduation, though those are somewhat dangerous in and of themselves. Plus, the gym now looks beautiful but it also makes it harder to spot mals. The training run uses simulated mals, but actual mals sometimes hide within it to have a shot at taking out some kids.
El’s alliance adds another friend of theirs, Jowani, to the group. Meanwhile, they team up with their friend Nkoyo’s alliance and their friend Ibrahim’s alliances for the purposes of doing the training runs, and Orion asks to join as well. However, one member of Nyoko’s alliance, Khamis, starts to irritate El with his attitude.
After their first training run, the group is fairly shaken up, though El feels pretty good about it since her spells are better for mass destruction — which is what this requires — anyway. Afterwards, they do a post-mortem — discussing what happened and what they could do better — knowing they’ll be going again and again through the process of doing training runs and post-mortems for the rest of the year.
Chapter 8: Slitherjaw
In the second week of training runs, Khamis gets into an argument with Aadhya, where they exchange sharp words. By now, El and Aadhya both dislike him, but agree not to say anything for the time being since they need Nkoyo’s alliance to help with the training.
During their next run, El has exited the area when she sees that Nkoyo is in very real danger. Nkoyo is nearly killed, but Khamis engages in heroics in order to save her. Nkoyo and Khamis emerge from the course badly injured, but alive.
After that incident, El thinks about how the etiquette of Scholomance is such that no one expects others to wait for them or save them when it comes to the graduation run. It’s expected that if you get the chance to exit, then you should go. However, seeing how Nkoyo almost died and knowing that she (El) has the most potent destructive abilities of anyone else in the school, El realizes that she has no intention of exiting the hall until everyone else in her class has exited.
At first she thinks she will only be determined to save her friends, but it is Khamis’s bravery that reminds her of what her mother told her about how “you couldn’t know what people would do in a crisis”. Despite whatever flaws she thinks people may have, perhaps they “might turn out to be a decent person, who might turn out to be just as special as the people [she] loved.”
Therefore, El is determined to save everyone.
Chapter 9: Drencher
Periodically, the course changes, and one week only El’s team is able to get through it. She tries taking just Orion with her and they’re able to get through the course easily. El then starts joining other teams to help get them through in order to practice. She notes now skilled Liesel’s team is.
Week after week, the course gets even harder, and while El is still able to get through the course, she starts to wonder if it’s getting even harder because it’s scaling the difficulty based on her abilities. Meanwhile, El is practicing trying to help everyone, regardless of whether they’re in her alliance or not.
After a particularly difficult run where El is trying to help anyone she can help, Khamis demands to know why El is helping people other than those that are in her, Nyoko and Ibrahim’s alliance, since they are strategically aligned. El ends up revealing that her plan is to try to save everyone in their class.
Khamis is furious about this plan, saying that El is going to get people in her alliance (who are contributing mana and resources towards her) killed by trying to do a bunch of heroics. However, everyone else knows that their best shot at getting out of graduation alive is El, even if she’s helping others too, so there’s not much they can say.
Chapter 10: The Himalayas
After the confrontation with Khamis, El is upset. Aadhya comes to talk to her, telling her about her sister, Udaya, who died when Aadhya was three. Aadhya basically says that she knows that death is always looming for a young wizard. Aadhya then says that she know she’s lucky to have El on her team, and that Khamis is right that it’s crazy for El to think she can somehow protect a thousand other people at once. Instead, Aadhya says she’ll join El on her mission to figure out a plan to save the rest of the school.
Aadhya then gets the rest of their allies together to discuss the plan. While Khamis is still against the idea, he doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter since he knows he needs El as much as anyone else does. The decide that Orion and El will run the course twice a day, and anyone can join them once every other day to practice. They decide to divide the runs up based on the students’ primary language. They all also agree that anyone who wanted to join had to look out for everyone else or else they wouldn’t be allowed to join again.
For the most part people seem to be cooperating with the plan, with the exception of the Shanghai enclave, who seem to be telling the Chinese-speakers not to go. Liu says that the Shanghai enclave thinks that El has been hiding her powers with help from New York because she’s been aligned with them from the start.
El knows that part of the issue is the language barrier. Because El has not been in classes with many of the Chinese-speaking kids unless their languages happen to overlap, it’s harder for her to communicate with them and have the same level of trust with them.
There’s also a history of mistrust between the Asian enclaves and English-speaking enclaves. Scholomance didn’t even offer a Chinese-language track for general classes until the eighties. It wasn’t until a number of major Asian enclaves announced they were going to build their own school that it changed. Even now, based on the distribution of slots for sending kids to Scholomance, it is still unfairly distributed so that it’s more competitive to get in from Asian countries than English-speaking ones.
With a reallocation of seats coming up, the battle between New York and Shanghai for dominance has been heating up. El thinks it’s possible there’s an enclave war going on outside right now that they haven’t heard about yet because they’re here in Scholomance (where they only get news from outside once a year from new kids who are inducted in).
Currently, as the situation stands, El is worried that if what she’s doing is keeping the Shanghai kids away from the gym, she’s going to end up getting them all killed if they don’t end up having sufficient practice before graduation.
Similarly, the Mumbai enclave is also absent from the runs. El wonders if they are staying away from her because they may have heard about the prophesy her Great-grandmother made, pronouncing El as the bringer of death and doom (El’s father’s side in Maharashtra has had a number of good seers in his family line). As a result, El’s father’s family — all of whom are strict mana and committed to nonviolence — rejected her.
Eventually, as the runs are successful, more kids show up for them, including a few Chinese speakers. One of them, Hideo, has the shakes which makes the runs difficult for him. El decides to ask Chloe (an alchemist) and Orion to help her brew batches of her mother’s calming waters potion to help Hideo or other kids that might need it.
When two hundred kids show up to the English-language run, El and Orion finally feel that they’re hitting the limits of their ability to save everyone. El starts to think they need a more concrete plan. Liesel suggests they need an entry strategy and suggests they test out different strategies to see how they fare. Next, Liesel has spell-writing kids create small spells that can highlight other kids who are in danger, telling Orion and El not to pay attention to anyone who isn’t marked in bright red.
By now, the English-language run is up to around 300, the Hindi run is up to 150 students, the Spanish runs have 100 and even the Chinese run is up to 40 students. Their new strategies are extremely effective, but the course is also becoming brutally difficult, leaving them all exhausted. Orion is especially tired, since he goes hunting for real mals after the training runs.
They decide to take a short break from the training runs, and Orion asks El on a date. Her familiar Precious has seemingly been against her relationship with Orion, but El ignores both Precious and her mom’s warnings and says yes. To her surprise and dismay, Orion arranges for them to have a picnic in the gym, an incredibly dangerous choice. Unsurprisingly, they’re attacked, and El has to throw up an advanced shield spell she’d learned from Alfie (a Londoner who is allied with Liesel).
El then realizes that the attack had come from the Shanghai seniors. For the first time, El sees Orion get truly angry. El suggests that simply pack up and leave, but then a bunch of their allies come in to back them up and it looks as though there’s going to be a standoff between the two groups of students. To prevent this from happening, El ends up wresting control of the environment and forcing everyone to fall over and stop what they’re doing. She then reminds everyone that her goal is to get everyone out alive.
The following Thurday, 400 kids show up for the Chinese run. Zixuan, a Shanghai enclaver, offers to use his reviser (an artifice that increases the power of things) to improve the sirenspider lute (which Liu has already arranged to purchase from Aadhya) which greatly enhances its usefulness and value. When El expresses surprise that he would do that for free, Liu admits that he asked to meet her family once they got out (which is a big deal since it expresses some type of interest in dating or even marriage).
El is feeling triumphant when she runs into Sudarat, who is feeling sad. She says that she knows she’s not one of the best students, and that because of the uncertainty about what happened with the Bangkok enclave, no one wants to be friends with her. She says that she honestly was out for a walk and when she returned the enclave was no longer functioning — it was just a normal apartment now and everyone was gone.
The realization that even if she succeeds, every year more kids will come to Scholomance and die (which is still relatively safer for young wizards than being outside Scholomance) dampens El’s morale. El thinks about how the stated mission of Scholomance as it was originally conceived was to “offer sanctuary and protection to all the wise-gifted children of the world”.
In actual practice starting from the very beginning, it was only intended to help the privileged enclave classes (since it originally only allowed enclave students in). And even now it was still true that enclave kids were sheltered and protected by non-enclave kids trying to suck up to them for the chance to join the enclave class.
However, El starts to wonder that even if the original founders knew their stated mission was a lie, perhaps the school itself had a mind of its own and believed that mission. El starts to wonder if the power and challenges it had offered her wasn’t about “taking her out” at all, but rather about teaching her this lesson that “it wasn’t useless for [her] to care” to and show her she could make a difference and that she had the “spare capacity” to care about others.
El finds herself making her way to the graduation hall to get a look at what they’ll be up against. She sees that the culling worked and even the maw-mouths had been wounded, though not dead. Instead of the seniors from last year, they’d fed on other mals. However, they’re nowhere in sight.
El realizes that their actual graduation is likely to be incredibly easy, but inevitable over time the mechanisms they fixed will break again and the mals will return since Scholomance is too attractive for mals. Most likely, in a year or two, things will have ramped up and be dangerous once again.
She then thinks about what the school could possible want her to do about, contemplating that perhaps Scholomance wants her to find a way to fix things so that three quarters of the class doesn’t die every year.
El also starts to feel weird about how her plan has required everyone to hand over mana to her. While it is technically mana, because people are being forced to do it (or risk being kicked out of the safety of having El on their side), El feels like it is a bit malia-esque if she doesn’t fess up that none of it is really necessary (how that she knows that graduation will be a cakewalk).
Knowing this, El marches back upstairs and immediately admits that they no longer need to do training runs. She says that she went into the graduation hall, and it’s totally empty. When people react with shock and ask why the school would open up a shaft to encourage El to walk down there, a sudden winds blows a huge piece of paper in with the school mission on it.
El then explains that she thinks she school wants them to fix Scholomance, and she entreats the other students to please help with this goal.
Chapter 13: Matrydom
Liesel quickly reasons that because they are not in any danger, they must help to protect the younger students. Otherwise, the school will likely turn against them and find ways to make their class miserable until they do.
Aadhya suggests that perhaps the main goal should be to find a way to ensure that the culling mechanism stays fixed for good. However, Alfie says that it’s not possible. The agglos (a type of small very easy to kill mal) are the problem. They nibble on stuff nearby, in this case they eventually start nibbling on the machinery until it breaks.
He says that in London they’ve been trying to figure out how to keep agglos out of stuff for the last century, to no avail. As for posting guards to keep it free from agglos, the problem is that eventually a maw-mouth will return and attack those people. A few weeks later, everyone seems on board to figure out a solution, but despite everyone’s best efforts, all the suggestions are useless.
One night, Liu bursts into El’s room with an idea to lure the mals into the school to reduce their population overall (not just within Scholomance), which would increase a young wizards’ odds of survival outside of the school. The logistics of their plan involves El casting a honeypot spell into a speaker system designed to lure the mals away from her, so that they can lure the mals deep into the school and then let her escape. The plan also involves Orion needing to kill off a horde of mals as they go rushing by him to create a barricade between the students and the mals. El will then destroy the school as she leaves.
(An alternative plan was to simply leave and present the problem to all other adult wizards to solve, but Scholomance itself was pushing them to do something about it right now, by limiting the senior’s access to the cafeteria and whatnot.)
Zixuan starts working on the speaker system and is quickly able to get help from the other artificers because Scholomance starts shutting off the power in the rooms of anyone who isn’t helping him. From there, Scholomance continues to encourage the seniors to help in other ways by punishing them otherwise. By May, the various pieces of the project have started coming together.
The day before the big day, El and Orion do a run through the training course and have sex afterwards. Afterwards, Orion confesses to El that he’s only ever really cared about hunting mals and now about being with her. He tells her that he wants to be with her even if it means not going back to New York.
El eagerly tells him to come to Wales and tells him about her dream of them building enclaves together. However, all the while El recognize that this outcome is likely what her mother had been warning her against.
Chapter 14: Patience
Afterwards, Orion is gleeful. Later, Liu tells El and Aadhya about having kissed a guy named Yuyan. She knows that dating Zixuan would be the smart thing to do because of his status (his Great-Uncle is Dominus of New York), but she just doesn’t think she’s interested in him.
The next day is the big day. As they review the plan for the seniors to let all the other students out first and then hand over their mana to El, one of students Myrthe interrupts saying that the plan is crazy, that they’ve done enough to appease the school, and that they should just leave as normal while the graduation hall is empty. However, to El’s great relief, many students start saying they want to stick to the plan.
Soon, everything is in action. As the students file out, the mals file in. El worries about Orion, but he he keeps killing mals. As Orion finally gets access to the mana he’s been craving, El realizes how limited he’s been by not having enough mana all year long.
When there’s only seniors left, El watches as her classmates exit. However, when one of the last student Tomas exits, a maw-mouth suddenly charges in and devours him. With him trapped and time running out, El jumps into its mouth to cast her killing spell. With that, soon all the students other than her and Orion are out safely. Next, El calls for Orion to leave and then she starts her own spell –a devastation spell — to destroy the school.
Before she leaves, El sees the resident two maw-mouths (Patience and Fortitude) turn on each other in hunger. As El exits, she grabs Orion, but he refuses to leave. Instead, he’s fixated on the surviving maw-mouth, Patience. There’s a possibility it could escape behind them.
The book ends with Orion pushing El out the exit and staying to kill the maw-mouth.