With Isaac’s graduation day just around the corner, rumours started to surface within the Campus and the College. Many of the students were sad that this was the end of their comfortable life, as they would now be without Isaac’s delivery service. The Committee had already sent the message that there won’t be another and should consider themselves lucky, urging the students to focus on their studies instead.
One of the most prominent questions going around the recently popularised tea parties was where Isaac was going after graduation. Everyone was well aware of how keen he was to move to a rural village; his constant prattling of living a peaceful life only made it more evident, but the main topic of the debate was whether there was any place that was willing to take him in.
Graduates of the Campus usually had no problems finding a job, but Isaac was different. While some questioned if Isaac even had a chance at getting a job, others said that the Rivolden Merchant Guild was looking to hire Isaac. There was also a rumour that Mazelan was planning to hire him for the Department of Supplies. The most ludicrous rumour of them all was that Rivelia, who would be graduating as well, was planning to take him to one of the villages in her family’s territory.
“Sunbaenim, what are you going to do when you graduate?”
“Play. What else would I do?”
“But you’ve been doing that here the whole time.”
“Do you think playing because you’ve been told to and playing out of your free will is the same? Not for me.”
Reisha tilted her head, confused as to what the difference between the two was.
“She went to make her final delivery to the Campus.”
“Final delivery? I thought we hadn’t taken any more orders since two months ago?”
“Lady Pelige’s package had finally arrived.”
“Pelige? Ah! The elven honey.”
Isaac nodded his head. Pelige was a daughter from the Akas Province, and her family had traditionally been renowned for its beekeeping business. She was also the person who ordered the honey in bulk through Isaac.
Pelige was perhaps one of the people who would miss Isaac the most once he left. She was the only girl in the Campus who managed to befriend Kunette – excluding Rivelia – through their common love for honey, and she had been looking forward to the elven honey which she just barely managed to buy using her family’s influence. It seemed it had finally arrived.
“I understand why Mr Gonzales was so relieved today.”
“He’s been suffering so much until now.”
Pelige had promised to share the elven honey with Kunette, and ever since then, Kunette had come to the port waiting for Gonzales. Whenever his ship arrived, Kunette would quickly waddle over asking the question ‘Honey? Is it here?’ with great excitement and antic.i.p.ation. However, each time she was rejected, she would stumble back with a sad face and a hunched back, making everyone who was around to witness it feel miserable.
“So that’s why she went straight to Pelige without even saying hi to me.”
“I’m sure she’s the happiest girl in the world right now.”
“Seems to me like you want to go there yourself.”
“Hehe, it’s been a while since I had elven honey too.”
“Fine, you can go.”
“Really? Kya! Come with us, Sunbaenim.”
“Eeh! This isn’t just regular honey, it’s the elven honey!”
“Well, I still don’t think it’d be worth the trip at this point. And the more mouths there are, the less your share will be. If you’re late, Kunette will finish the pot nice and clean.”
Reisha quickly ran out the door when she heard Isaac’s words. That desperation was enough to make even Isaac curious as to how delicious this elven honey was, but his laziness won, and there was still much work to be done. Isaac needed to finish packing so that he could leave on graduation day.
“Phew. I guess I did gather a lot of stuff over the years.”
His life in the Campus for the past 5 years had done well to increase the number and size of belongings. By the time he was done sorting which to keep and which to throw away, the sun was starting to set.
“Why haven’t they come back yet? I was thinking of having a feast to celebrate today with everyone. Are they caught up by that girl again?”
“Hmph! I wonder who that’s referring to.”
Isaac’s mutter was answered with a cold voice. The door slammed open and Rivelia entered emotionlessly. Isaac flinched a little in his mind but greeted Rivelia casually on the outside.
“Hey, it’s been a while.”
Isaac thought to himself. He didn’t think she would really graduate the College in three years. Even geniuses should show some modesty.
“Ha. I guess it won’t be long until I don’t have to see that smug face of yours.”
“Good for you.”
“Hmph! I see your disrespectful att.i.tude is the same as always. Don’t you think it’s about time you changed it?”
“Well, I’ll think about it once I graduate.”
All this time, he had been treating her as if she was already his Hubae, but things have changed. You could argue that such an att.i.tude should be acceptable to those who graduated together, but not for the College. All students of the College were in direct compet.i.tion with each other for the race to their graduation, meaning there was little amity with other students. The only commonality would be that they graduated together. Some show of respect was in order, but Isaac wasn’t someone to suddenly change his att.i.tude just because the situation changed. And why should he? They were never going to see each other again since they lived in different worlds.
Rivelia sighed at Isaac’s behaviour.
But she thought it would have been stranger if Isaac began taking a more submissive stance. This att.i.tude suited him well. But the important part of this visit was that she managed to prepare a counterattack strong enough to see that face of his crumble.
“So what brought you here when we don’t have to see each other again after tomorrow?”
“First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your enrollment.”
Isaac was bothered by Rivelia’s smile.
“According to the rules of Campus and the College, you must be enrolled into one of the schools when you graduate.”
“But there aren’t any schools that accepted me.”
“There’s one left.”
“It can’t be what I think it is, right?”
Rivelia’s smile became brighter and brighter. Her voice was starting to quiver, overwhelmed by the excitement that had built up in her body.
“Congratulations on enrolling into the College. I know you only have today to celebrate, but enjoy it to your fullest.”
“Is this how you’re going to remove me?”
“This is the decision made by the Committee. In addition, all of the College graduates of this year have agreed to accept you as one of them.”
“You’ve all gone mad.”
Isaac couldn’t understand it. This decision should have caused an uprising, not an agreement.
Rivelia was very satisfied by the look on Isaac’s face, but this was just the beginning. The real blows were yet to come.
“You should be careful when you are transferred to your first job. You managed to get on the bad side of many people, whether on purpose on not.”
“Wait, what do you mean ‘transfer’?”
“Oh! Didn’t you know?”
Rivelia’s overreaction seemed sarcastic in every way.
“All graduates of the College must serve the Empire when they graduate and are tasked with working for one of the government facilities for 10 years. It’s common knowledge, but I understand you not knowing it since you are below common intelligence. In addition, you are not allowed to give up until the 10-year requirement has been met, the only exceptions being mental breakdown or death. Even if you were to become disabled, the Empire will do their utmost to find a suitable job for you, so you don’t have to worry about being unemployed. Ah! Don’t tell me you’re thinking of getting fired through blatant corruption! If you are guilty of such actions you will receive the harshest of punishments in court, and once you’re out of the prison, you are back to making up that 10-year requirement. It’d be your loss in the end.”
As Rivelia went on with her speech, Isaac’s face crumbled more and more. All of the plans he had made after graduation had evaporated. Rivelia’s body was shaking with happiness, which far surpa.s.sed the feeling when she rose to become a Sword Master.
Now! This was the final blow, a blow strong enough to perhaps cripple Isaac beyond recovery.
“And this is a present.”
Rivelia handed a doc.u.ment to Isaac who was already preoccupied with trying to find a way out of this. Isaac quickly skimmed over the doc.u.ment and then shouted.
“What is this?! Invoice? What do you mean an invoice?!”
“Oh! You didn’t know! It doesn’t matter if you’re not enrolled in a school, but since you are a student of the College, you are liable to pay for using the lodge due to your special circ.u.mstances. It’s in the rules, didn’t you know?”
“Ha, fine. Let’s say I pay the fee. But how can I possibly end up with this ridiculous invoice?”
A 20000 Giga fee. Excluding the money in the safe that Isaac lost to Mazelan, even all his earnings through the deliveries and auctions would barely cover for the fee. He would be left almost penniless if he were to pay it.
“A single night may be small, but if you include the 5 years of residence here on top of food, transport, refurbishing, and all the miscellaneous costs, that is roughly correct.”
“s.h.i.t! I always thought it was strange they would supply me with all that food for free. But why 5 years? Since I entered the College today, aren’t I liable to pay only today’s fees?”
“Oh? You’re right! Hm, this is an unexpected turn of events.”
Once again, a sarcastic surprise was on Rivelia’s face.
“You can raise a complaint to the Student Council’s Finance Department. It will take ten days for the doc.u.ment to be processed. But you know that you can only do that after you’ve paid the bill first right? Ah! I’d like to congratulate you again on your graduation tomorrow. Ohohoho!”
The bill must be paid before graduation.
Refusing to pay? Impossible. It’s clear they are going to get that money through force if needed. They say they will accept the complaint, but the moment he graduates tomorrow, Isaac will never be able to set foot in Campus again. They’ve basically removed the time available to make retaliation.
It all started to settle in, he knew he was like a fly caught in a trap.
“How could I possibly have that much money?!”
“Ha. Do you really think I went through this plan without knowing your account details?”
“Where did you get my account book from?”
“Why would I even need that? Kunette and Reisha were more than happy to tell me how the business was whenever I asked them.”
I’ve been had.
Isaac muttered to himself. It was true that Reisha and Kunette knew more about the money he was making than Isaac himself. It would be weird if it wasn’t the case, since it was they who ran the operations of the business instead of Isaac. And they wouldn’t have hesitated to give the answer to Rivelia without ever questioning as to why…
Isaac quickly glimpsed at Rivelia, an overly excited girl who didn’t know what to make out of the emotions inside her. On one hand, Isaac thought whether this was truly something she should be celebrating over, while on the other he was impressed that she managed to find a way to return a decent blow back to him.
“Fine. I admit. You got me on the last day. Heh. Well done.”
It pained Isaac that he had lost all his money yet again, but making a fool of himself by causing a commotion was only going to make RIvelia happier. He decided it was much better to accept the harsh reality and act as composed as possible to disappoint her.
Rivelia did seem slightly let down that Isaac didn’t react the way she had expected, but was satisfied in knowing that she managed to fight back against Isaac.
As Rivelia’s heartfelt laughter echoed into the distance, Isaac grabbed onto one of his smokes, his hands shaking.
“There’s no way she managed to think of this scheme on her own.”
She may be a genius who graduated from the College in 3 years, but she lacked the skill and the experience to come up with such a scheme. This was a plan made by someone who had already sent many more people into the abyss in the past.
Isaac sat on his chair and looked blankly at the ceiling. The thought that occupied his head was that he couldn’t find out the hidden intention behind the Campus’ decision. Losing his money did hurt, but he didn’t miss it much. Once he left the confined region that was the Campus, he could truly spread his wings to earn the money back.
He could understand the invoice, but enrollment to the College baffled him. Rivelia, who easily became a p.a.w.n in someone else’s grander plan, looked even more innocent to Isaac now. But Isaac’s experience through the harsh world had taught him to always think of the hidden motive behind actions.
Within that short moment, he realised that College was an organisation made of interlinking connections and a force to reckon with in the political scene. Will the graduates of the College truly stand the atrocity of allowing Isaac with them? It would be more similar to throwing dung into a beautiful pond.
Impossible. It was clear they would bully and isolate him in every way. No, considering that the majority of the Committee was made up of College graduates, this process should have ended before it even pa.s.sed through the meetings. There must have been something to gain from this, or this was done in secret by a select few.
Isaac was convinced it was the latter. If the Committee knew of this, not just the College but the Campus would have risen up against it, and Isaac would have heard the news long beforehand.
“Ha, I guess I wouldn’t have been stabbed in the back like this if I knew beforehand.”
Isaac muttered bitterly as he habitually took out another smoke to put into his mouth. No matter what he wanted to do, there wasn’t enough time. He was graduating when the sun rose tomorrow. Complaining, or applying for refund was only possible if he had time. No, he didn’t even need to. He just needed to spread the word that he was enrolled in the College, and the students of the Campus would have done the rest.
“Why did they bring me into the College?”
This was the most unfathomable and most scandalous event that would rile the Empire in its entirety. He couldn’t find the reason as to why they would bring him in at the cost of their fame and honour.
“I don’t want to become a chess piece in the political world….”
The most plausible explanation was that he was unknowingly caught in a screwed-up game of power struggle between powerful individuals. The political world is where all the strangest and ludicrous events come true. It may be because someone is jealous of the power the College has, or it was a fight between factions within the Campus. There were so many reasons as to why, but not a single lead to finding which one was true.
“This is difficult.”
Isaac shook away his headache. As he put out his cigarette on the ashtray, Reisha and Kunette entered the lodge.
“Eheheh, Sunbaenim, we’re back.”
Reisha’s face was red as if she had drunk alcohol while Kunette seemed like she was having a lucid dream.
Reisha and Kunette flinched at the sight that Isaac was waiting for them. Their past experiences have taught that something was up. As they stared at Isaac and raised their guard, Isaac threw the invoice he had received from Rivelia at them.
“Huh? 20000 Giga! Wow! Isn’t this your entire savings?”
“That’s right. They got me good on the last day.”
“But if you complain or send this to the Student Court…”
“How long will that take? I’ll be graduating tomorrow. Just accepting the doc.u.ment will take more than three days.”
“But why a sudden invoice? You’re not enrolled in any of the schools.”
“I’m a student of the College now.”
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Both Reisha and Kunette were astonished by his words.
“What? I don’t have to pay?”
“Yes. I’ll look over that matter. Is there a problem?”
“Rather than a problem…”
Isaac’s sentence faltered as he looked weirdly at Rivelia. The look in his eyes clearly gave away that he was confused as to why she was doing this. Remembering the events of yesterday would be the perfect time for her arrogance to show as she could finally enjoy her hard-fought victory. He even came to one conclusion, considering if it was that emotional time of the month for her, but that thought was quickly disregarded, as it wasn’t his business to think about.
Isaac shrugged and told Rivelia as he walked past her.
“You won’t be seeing me around anymore so take care.”
Rivelia couldn’t even make a reply as she looked back at Isaac with a complicated look.
She remembered what happened last night.
On her way back from visiting Isaac. She was satisfied with seeing Isaac’s face crumble. She didn’t want to admit it, but she couldn’t deny the fact that he helped her in achieving her meteoric rise to becoming a Master, and so she was going to pay him back for that debt.
Using her power as the daughter of Duke Pendleton, she should be able to make this plan go through without interference from Count Milros. Since the Rondart Family is a va.s.sal to the Pendleton Family, sending Isaac to one of the villages as an administrator within her province was entirely possible. Giving Isaac the job he had craved and letting him live out his life in peace was the best gift she could give to him.
She had already contacted her family and found a suitable place for Isaac to live in. She may have taken 20000 Giga from him, but if she explained to him on what situation he’s in and told him of how she diverted Kainen’s plan as she hands out her appointment, she should at least be able to hear a word of thanks from him.
But the best part of this is that Isaac will be her subordinate and she will have the right to bully him whenever she had the chance as his superior.
“Who is it?!”
The faint smile and the light footsteps she had as she headed back to her dormitory were stopped in a moment. She quickly turned around with a stiff look and looked at the shadow at the corner of the building.
“Pleasure to be of acquaintance.”
The middle-aged man who came out from the shadow was someone she had never seen before. She couldn’t tell if he was smiling or emotionless. The man bowed respectfully and spoke to her.
“I have come from the Central.”
Rivelia frowned at the man’s words.
“Central? How could the Central be in the College?”
“That is cla.s.sified.”
The man’s reply quickly ruined Rivelia’s mood, and she glared back at him. She was considering that he may be someone pretending to be from Central, but only an agent of the Central would have the courage to face against a Master in the open.
“What does the Central want with me? I thought I clearly stated my rejection in joining you?”
The Central may be an organisation with unquestionable authority, but Rivelia had many problems with how the Central performed their missions. She wasn’t going to join an organisation that was so abusive and secretive to fulfill its goal. She had already denied their offer to have her join them.
“We are here to give you the message to stop altering Isaac’s transfer destination.”
Rivelia frowned again at his words.
“I never knew the Central had the sick habit of stalking and spying on a lady’s letter.”
“We simply received word from the Duke’s family.”
“Does that mean my father is involved in this?”
“That is cla.s.sified.”
“My father should hold no relation to the Central.”
“That is cla.s.sified.”
“Why is the Central so interested in him?”
“That is cla.s.sified.”
Rivelia was starting to get irritated by the man, whose emotionless words repeated like that of a parrot.
“If I were to refuse?”
“You cannot refuse.”
“That sounds like a threat to me.”
“This is an order from Duke Pendleton.”
“My father? Impossible!”
“Why would we lie when you can find out about it tomorrow?”
“I will be heading off now. Ah, in addition. If you were to tell Isaac that the Central is monitoring him, or give him a hint in any way possible, the Central will have no choice but to eliminate Isaac, regrettably. This… is a threat.”
“How dare you!”
Just when Rivelia reacted to his words, the middle-aged man’s image faltered like smoke then disappeared.
Rivelia quickly looked around but there was nothing she could feel with her senses. Rivelia believed she saw a reason as to why the Central was so confident to face against a Master, having the ability to disappear from a Master’s senses at a moment’s notice.
Rivelia gripped tightly at her sword.
Was she overconfident of her abilities due to her recent rise to becoming a Master? Was this the reason that Headmaster Corduroy said that Isaac wouldn’t get his wish even if it weren’t for Kainen?
“Fine. I’ll find out the reason myself.”
She originally had no intention of joining the Central, but last night’s incident had changed her mind. If her father was involved in this, this must be of great importance. She felt sorry for Isaac, but she wanted to know the true face of the Central that could even force her father to move in their favor and prevent her from helping Isaac.
Rivelia was in deep thought as Isaac disappeared into the distance when a man appeared in the corridor. It was the same middle-aged man she saw last night.
“I will say this now. If you join the Central, you will not receive the protection your Family once provided for you. You cannot borrow or use any of its benefits and authority.”
“That is of little concern to me. But I’m really curious as to why the Central is so interested in Isaac.”
“You will know once you join the Central.”
“If this incident was just a plan to make me join the Central, I swear that I will never forgive all those who were involved in this.”
Rivelia warned her aggressor. In terms of manpower, Masters are great. The Central would perform the most heinous acts imaginable to make them join their side. But the middle-aged man still seemed indifferent and bowed as he made his reply.
“You will know once you join the Central.”
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