With Isaacs 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 Isaacs delivery service. The Committee had already sent the message that there wont 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 familys territory.
“Sunbaenim, what are you going to do when you graduate”
“Play. What else would I do”
“But youve been doing that here the whole time.”
“Do you think playing because youve 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 hadnt taken any more orders since two months ago”
“Lady Peliges 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 familys influence. It seemed it had finally arrived.
“I understand why Mr Gonzales was so relieved today.”
“Hes 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 questionHoney Is it here with great excitement and anticipation. 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 thats why she went straight to Pelige without even saying hi to me.”
“Im sure shes the happiest girl in the world right now.”
“Seems to me like you want to go there yourself.”
“Hehe, its been a while since I had elven honey too.”
“Fine, you can go.”
“Really Kya! Come with us, Sunbaenim.”
“Eeh! This isnt just regular honey, its the elven honey!”
“Well, I still dont think itd be worth the trip at this point. And the more mouths there are, the less your share will be. If youre late, Kunette will finish the pot nice and clean.”
Reisha quickly ran out the door when she heard Isaacs 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 havent 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 thats referring to.”
Isaacs 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, its been a while.”
Isaac thought to himself. He didnt think she would really graduate the College in three years. Even geniuses should show some modesty.
“Ha. I guess it wont be long until I dont have to see that smug face of yours.”
“Good for you.”
“Hmph! I see your disrespectful attitude is the same as always. Dont you think its about time you changed it”
“Well, Ill 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 attitude should be acceptable to those who graduated together, but not for the College. All students of the College were in direct competition 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 wasnt someone to suddenly change his attitude 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 Isaacs behaviour.
But she thought it would have been stranger if Isaac began taking a more submissive stance. This attitude 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 dont have to see each other again after tomorrow”
“First of all, I would like to congratulate you on your enrollment.”
Isaac was bothered by Rivelias smile.
“According to the rules of Campus and the College, you must be enrolled into one of the schools when you graduate.”
“But there arent any schools that accepted me.”
“Theres one left.”
“It cant be what I think it is, right”
Rivelias 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 youre 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.”
“Youve all gone mad.”
Isaac couldnt understand it. This decision should have caused an uprising, not an agreement.
Rivelia was very satisfied by the look on Isaacs 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 meantransfer”
“Oh! Didnt you know”
Rivelias 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. Its 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 dont have to worry about being unemployed. Ah! Dont tell me youre 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 youre out of the prison, you are back to making up that 10-year requirement. Itd be your loss in the end.”
As Rivelia went on with her speech, Isaacs face crumbled more and more. All of the plans he had made after graduation had evaporated. Rivelias body was shaking with happiness, which far surpassed 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 document to Isaac who was already preoccupied with trying to find a way out of this. Isaac quickly skimmed over the document and then shouted.
“What is this! Invoice What do you mean an invoice!”
“Oh! You didnt know! It doesnt matter if youre 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 circumstances. Its in the rules, didnt you know”
“Ha, fine. Lets 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.”
“Shit! 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, arent I liable to pay only todays fees”
“Oh Youre right! Hm, this is an unexpected turn of events.”
Once again, a sarcastic surprise was on Rivelias face.
“You can raise a complaint to the Student Councils Finance Department. It will take ten days for the document to be processed. But you know that you can only do that after youve paid the bill first right Ah! Id like to congratulate you again on your graduation tomorrow. Ohohoho!”
The bill must be paid before graduation.
Refusing to pay Impossible. Its 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. Theyve 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.”
Ive 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 wasnt the case, since it was they who ran the operations of the business instead of Isaac. And they wouldnt have hesitated to give the answer to Rivelia without ever questioning as to why...
Isaac quickly glimpsed at Rivelia, an overly excited girl who didnt 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 didnt react the way she had expected, but was satisfied in knowing that she managed to fight back against Isaac.
As Rivelias heartfelt laughter echoed into the distance, Isaac grabbed onto one of his smokes, his hands shaking.
“Theres 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 couldnt find out the hidden intention behind the Campus decision. Losing his money did hurt, but he didnt 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 pawn in someone elses grander plan, looked even more innocent to Isaac now. But Isaacs 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 passed 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 wouldnt 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 wasnt enough time. He was graduating when the sun rose tomorrow. Complaining, or applying for refund was only possible if he had time. No, he didnt 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 couldnt find the reason as to why they would bring him in at the cost of their fame and honour.
“I dont 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, were back.”
Reishas 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! Isnt this your entire savings”
“Thats 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 Ill be graduating tomorrow. Just accepting the document will take more than three days.”
“But why a sudden invoice Youre not enrolled in any of the schools.”
“Im a student of the College now.”
Both Reisha and Kunette were astonished by his words.
“Eeh Really The College really accepted you”
“... I knew it.”
Kunette seemed to nod as if she had thought of a lead, but the voice was so small that it was drowned out by Reishas shout.
“Wow! So you really are my Sunbaenim now.”
“Thats a talk for another time, but what I want to say is that this invoice is about the cost for using this lodge right”
Isaac took out another smoke as he continued his words.
“But what I find unfair is that I wasnt the only one who used this lodge. As you are well aware, both of you took care of your meals and sleep in this lodge, right What I want to say is that you two should also be liable to pay for.... You guys!”
All they needed was an opening to escape, and Isaacs search for the matches to light his cigarette was the perfect opportunity. By the time Isaac raised his head, both Reisha and Kunette had disappeared.
As Isaac lit his cigarette to ease the emptiness inside him, Kunette came over to Isaac with a pot of honey in each hand.
After a brief hesitation, Kunette made a deep breath as if she had made a big decision.
“Ill give you one pot.”
“Man, youre making me cry.”
Isaac said sarcastically. It seemed Kunette was impressed at herself for giving away not just one spoon, but an entire pot away to someone else, and she began eating the honey from one of the pots. Isaacs complicated head seemed to ease when he watched Kunette, whose simple mind only needed honey to be satisfied.
“I guess theres no point in thinking through this now. Since when did I worry about my future”
Just as Kunette only needs honey, Isaac only needs the Choyu leaves. If someone wants to use him, he will act out their will. But one thing was certain. He will not be thrown away once he had fulfilled his use.
The graduation ceremony of the College processed quietly. In fact, they didnt really have a ceremony in the first place. All graduates had a private meeting with the Headmaster to receive their certificate and the emblem with some words of wisdom from the Headmaster himself.
Isaac was the last in line. All of the students who exited the Headmasters room glared at Isaac when they passed him, but they all shook their head as they disappeared into the distance.
“You survived well.”
“I know. I didnt think you would give the College as a present for fulfilling my duties so well. Im just asking this but is it possible to drop out now”
Corduroy looked at Isaac for a brief moment.
“It is impossible for a student of the College to drop out. If you truly wish it, however, I can use my power as the Headmaster to allow it.”
“Im fine. I dont want to die the moment I step foot in Gabelin.”
If the condition from the first day still holds, Isaacs records within the Campus would be removed if he were to drop out. That meant he was denying the rights of his nobility. The Rondart Family would react first if that happened and would assassinate him in any way possible to quell inheritance issue.
“Hm, I guess you still want to live at this point.”
“Im just curious. Curious as to why you brought me into the College.”
“We had no choice because of the rules.”
“Sure, that lady Rivelia sure is innocent enough to believe those words, right”
They looked at each other in silence, their stares entangling in the air between them. The brief staring contest was ended by Corduroy, who turned his head away first.
“Ha. You really are a funny one. Take it.”
Corduroy handed a small piece of cloth to Isaac.
“This is the emblem representing your graduation from the College. You must always have it above your left chest in plain sight.”
The circular piece of cloth had five stars at the top and the place that should have had the symbol representing which subject he mastered was empty. It seemed it was processed with magic and the moment Isaac placed it on his clothes it melded in seamlessly.
“Oh! Thats pretty cool.”
While Isaac was busy touching the area Corduroy handed a piece of paper within an invisible case.
“This is your certificate of appointment. You are to go to where the document tells you within the due date and perform your duties.”
“Lets see. Administrator of the New Port City What job is this”
“One of the offices managing the cities. With this position, you only need to report to the mayor.”
“Heh Are you sure you want to give me such a powerful role”
“You have no idea what New Port City is, do you”
“Do I have to”
“Lets just say your brother Kainen personally selected this city for you.”
“Well, thats a brief and menacing way to put it.”
If Kainen picked the place, there was no way it was a peaceful one. Most likely it was a city so overrun with problems that even government officials would struggle to even survive in that place.
“So are you really not going to tell me”
“Do you have a question”
Isaac smirked at Corduroys blatant evasion of his question.
“Fine. Ill figure it out myself.”
“Ill look forward to it.”
Isaac left the Headmasters room with the document in hand. There wasnt anyone in the corridor since he was the last to enter. He felt both free and troubled at the same time.
Just when he turned around the corner, Rivelia showed herself.
“Hm, you dont seem so happy.”
“Where have you been appointed to”
“Me Theyre making me the Administrator of the New Port City.”
“... I see.”
Isaac was curious as to Rivelias behaviour. She was nodding with a troubled look.
“Your mood seems awfully different from yesterday.”
Rivelia looked back at Isaac with a complicated look in her eyes and sighed.
“Dont worry about it. Oh, and about the invoice I gave you, you can forget about it. I think I was going too far. You will need that money when you go to New Port City so hire some mercenaries with it if you can.”
“What I dont have to pay”
“Yes. Ill look over that matter. Is there a problem”
“Rather than a problem...”
Isaacs 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 wasnt his business to think about.
Isaac shrugged and told Rivelia as he walked past her.
“You wont be seeing me around anymore so take care.”
Rivelia couldnt 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 Isaacs face crumble. She didnt want to admit it, but she couldnt 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 vassal 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 hes in and told him of how she diverted Kainens 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 couldnt 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 mans words.
“Central How could the Central be in the College”
“That is classified.”
The mans reply quickly ruined Rivelias 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 wasnt 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 Isaacs transfer destination.”
Rivelia frowned again at his words.
“I never knew the Central had the sick habit of stalking and spying on a ladys letter.”
“We simply received word from the Dukes family.”
“Does that mean my father is involved in this”
“That is classified.”
“My father should hold no relation to the Central.”
“That is classified.”
“Why is the Central so interested in him”
“That is classified.”
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 mans 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 Masters senses at a moments 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 wouldnt get his wish even if it werent for Kainen
“Fine. Ill find out the reason myself.”
She originally had no intention of joining the Central, but last nights 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 Im 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.”