The supply fleet arrived the day before the ‘Week of Suffering’ officially began. What was usually a single ship that supplied fresh food to the Campus was instead joined by a fleet of ships at the port. While the docked ships were busy unloading their cargo of emergency rations into the empty warehouses, Isaac was having a small meeting with Gonzales.
“Have you brought all the goods I asked?”
“It was easy enough with Krent’s letter of introduction, but what are you planning to use this on?”
Gonzales asked as he remembered the goods Isaac asked for. Most of them were ingredients for food, but the quantity was too much for a single person to eat. Mazelan also seemed to have given a helping hand as there was a second ship which helped transport Isaac’s goods. Finally, there were goods which seemed to have some unknown function. Gonzales was worried that Isaac was planning something dangerous.
“Huhuh, you don’t need to worry. I’m just playing with someone.”
Gonzales understood that this was Isaac’s warning. It was clear that trying to snoop around would land him in trouble. All he needed to do was follow orders and receive his due payments .
It was lunchtime. This was possibly the favourite time for students who had just hit their growth spurt, but today, they looked like convicts being led to their execution.
“I heard there’s more than usual this year?”
“Apparently. the 5-year rations and 2-year rations expire at the same time this year, so we have double the usual.”
“And we can’t even dream of eating anything else until that’s all gone.”
“I’m feeling sick already.”
Taste was not a factor that was considered when these rations were at the first stage of development, only its shelf life. Its disgusting taste was so legendary that even the slums of the Empire suffering from mass starvation would refrain from causing riots in fear that the Empire would simply hand out these rations as a solution.
“So what’s the start of the menu?”
“I heard it’s the brick.”
“Ha, it’s the worst one from the start.”
There were many different types of these rations. There were many attempts to change the disgusting taste since they were first developed, but they all ended in failure. The brick was one of the first-generation rations that has continued to be in service due to its excellent shelf life and ease of transport. Its official name was dried bread, but it was more commonly known as the brick to many.
Dried bread was hard enough to be used as a weapon when cooked properly. Trying to eat it in its original form would only break the teeth, so you are required to use a hammer to break them into pieces and soak them in any kind of liquid, be it water, milk, or tea. Only then was it edible. But the taste was nothing you could smile about.
The students’ faces darkened as they approached the Cafeteria, but they soon noticed a large tent put up in front of it. At first, they were curious, but then they were astonished.
“I think it’s a little too effective.”
The chef’s clothes tailored to Kunette synchronised perfectly with her, exponentially increasing her level of cuteness. With a small little chef’s hat to top things off, all of the female students were nearly fainting at the mere sight of Kunette.
Meanwhile, Reisha gathered all the attention from the boys with her short skirt exposing her thighs and a shirt which exposed her cleavage to all. The intensity of the stares she received could burn a hole through her shirt.
Kunette was growling at the students as a warning, but she couldn’t escape from this place.
For honey was on the line. The North Bear Tribe as a whole was obsessed with honey. Her status within the North Bear Tribe allowed her to receive more honey than most within the tribe. But with all the adults and children competing for a greater share, Kunette never had the opportunity to have enough honey to be satisfied. The honey she ate during her stay at the Campus was more than she had ever had in her entire life. And it was hers alone, with no one else she needed to share with.
In truth, the fact that she managed to get honey from Isaac for free was a miracle of its own. She felt guilty when asking for it childishly. She had made multiple attempts to resist the urges, but every time she regained reason, she was already holding an empty honey pot.
That was the reason why she was persevering through this: to pay back for Isaac for all he’s done. Of course, Isaac’s promise of more honey also had an effect.
“Students! Come have some sandwiches!”
The students were astonished by Isaac. His bravery of trying to sell food in front of the Student Cafeteria was one thing, but who would even think of buying a plain old sandwich when the Cafeteria provided food using the finest ingredients?
Isaac realised the students haven’t caught up yet and muttered as he picked a sandwich for himself.
“This sandwich is a hell of a lot better than those preserved rations.”
It finally clicked for the students. That sandwiches they would have scoffed at another time were the most valuable food that was available to them now.
There was a pause. In the midst of the crowd, a stomach growl echoed faintly, which perfectly described the feeling of all students right now. It was noon, and their hunger had exceeded its peak long before. Their urge to eat the sandwich was growing, yet there was no one who would obey it. They all seemed to be deep in thought.
“Hey, do you have some money?”
“Why would I have any? I’ve given what little I had on me to the Campus’ safe when I arrived here.”
One of the most useless things to carry in the Campus was money. There was no need for them since everything was supplied by the Campus and the only thing you could do with them was to lose it. Carrying money was bound to cause trouble in the Campus. So all students placed their cash in the Student Council’s public safe, resulting in the current situation where no one here had any money on them.
“Is it possible to trade instead?”
“I do have a ring with me, but I’ll be disowned by my family if they found out I traded it for a sandwich.”
“My father would beat me to death.”
“Hm. This is much less of a reaction than I thought.”
The number of hesitating students was much higher than expected but Isaac still had a trump card.
“Ha, I’ll consider anyone who can resist against this a protagonist.”
With a snicker, he called over Kunette and pointed his chin toward the students.
“Kunette. Get in.”
After a small hesitation, Kunette slowly wobbled to a girl closest to the tent with a basket full of sandwich in one hand.
“… Have this.”
The girl was stunned by the sight of Kunette handing out the sandwich.
She looked desperately around for help, but everyone ignored her plea.
“… You don’t want it?”
Kunette stared deep into the girl’s eyes. In the final moment, Kunette’s slight head tilt was enough for the girl’s logical thinking to be consumed by her emotions.
“How could I not? Give me one!”
She took the sandwich while Kunette only stared at her, not asking for payment. After a pause, the girl bit into the sandwich.
“…. Thank you for your patronage.”
Kunette bowed, but as she lowered her head, the chef’s hat on her head was starting to fall off. Kunette’s attempt at readjusting the hat with just one hand while holding the basket in the other was enough to push the rest of the girls into a frenzy.
“Ah, I don’t care anymore. I’m getting one now!”
One person was all that was needed for the entire crowd to move, and the basketful of sandwiches was emptied within moments. The others who couldn’t get any quickly headed to the tent to receive a sandwich from Reisha.
“What is going on here?!”
The sharp echo made the students realise what they had just done. Their faces began to pale. Rivelia was walking towards Isaac with an expression that seemed to say ‘I’ve got you.’
“Are you blatantly breaking the rules in the open now?”
Isaac glossed over her shout as if it was nothing.
“I’m sorry, but care to enlighten me as to which rule I’ve broken?”
That was exactly what Rivelia wanted Isaac to say. She couldn’t stop herself from smiling.
“Ha! How long did you think you can continue to use that excuse? The new rules of the Campus states that anyone who is not a student trying to make a profit off students of the Campus are punishable by the Student Council. I guess you didn’t know about that?!”
“That’s the first time I’ve heard of that rule?”
“Ha! In accordance to protocol, I declared the altercations in the rules yesterday on the news board in the basement of the Student Council building. It’s your fault for not seeing it.”
Isaac shut his mouth while the students around him looked at Rivelia dumbfounded. Even the students of the Campus rarely visited the Student Council. Only a few of the students even knew that the news board was in the basement of the Student Council. Actually, the fact that the news board was placed in the basement instead of an open area where all could see was a joke.
“And when did you make this news board?”
“According to the rules that you love so much, the Student Council President can decide on where it can be placed after the rules have been altered.”
“Hm, so that’s why you came personally to taunt me.”
Considering that Isaac would have stayed still if not for Rivelia’s visit, she must have made this trap in preparation and was just waiting for Isaac to take the bait.
Students gathered to see the faceoff between Rivelia and Isaac. The headstrong Rivelia versus Isaac the schemer. The face-offs they had were always fun to watch.
“Since you’ve broken the rules, you must be punished.”
“But I never did business here?”
“Ha! Are you trying to deny it now? I never thought you’d be so shameless.”
“Who said I was selling food here?”
Isaac never mentioned that he was selling sandwiches until now. He only said come have some.
“So you’re saying that you were giving out this food for ‘free’ with no intention of reaping any profit?”
Rivelia seemed happy that she put Isaac in this spot. Everyone knew Isaac’s situation. Yes, it was true that he was doing business with the students, but it wasn’t that big of a business. If Isaac bought all of the ingredients and the shipping costs for these sandwiches, it would mean that he used up all of his savings.
While Rivelia smiled triumphantly, Isaac pointed to a corner of the tent. Rivelia’s eyes followed his finger and saw a pamphlet.
Supplied by the Rivolden Merchant Guild
“Rivolden Merchant guild? Why is the Rivolden Merchant Guild involved with this?”
Isaac shrugged against Rivelia’s questioning.
“Why else? These sandwiches were given to me by them.”
“Am I supposed to believe that a merchant guild just gave away their goods without any payment?”
“That’s exactly what they did.”
Rivelia’s head was in a desperate scramble to find a rule that would go against this. She had memorised the entire rule book despite the lack of time due to her intense training in order to strike back against Isaac. She even made all the required adjustments using her power as the President but there was no rule that had any case regarding the involvement of a merchant guild from the outside.
Such a rule never existed in the first place. For a case like this had never happened, at least until now. There was no rule that went against anyone giving their goods away for free.
All Rivelia could do was stare menacingly at Isaac.
“Of course, the Rivolden Merchant Guild didn’t really give these away for free.”
While Rivelia was confused by Isaac’s statement, Isaac turned to speak to the students.
“‘The Rivolden Merchant Guild will do their best to sell the highest of quality goods. It would be nice if you would remember our donation in the future when considering which Merchant Guild you’d like to trade with. We understand if our goods are inferior to those from the other guilds, but know that we will always try our best to help you in your most desperate times,’ is what the master of the Rivolden Merchant Guild wanted me to say.”
Isaac had come from a world where marketing thrived in every corner of the world. Knowing that the options were too limited with him alone, Isaac brought Krent in to increase the scale of the incident, just to push his teasing to its limit. The Rivolden Merchant Guild had agreed to pay for all the ingredients, transportation, labor costs, and warehouse rental fees. Isaac only needed to do one thing to pay them back.
The students of the Campus were the future leaders of the Empire. Having their names engraved in their memories was more than enough to bring back the profit. The number of supplies the Empire required for its infrastructure was astronomical. Just contracting one department of many was enough to make many merchant guilds go by with a profit.
The people who determined where and how the goods are procured were the departments’ field managers. It is a title which all students of the Campus must go through once they graduate if they wish to become the elites. If they were given two goods with identical functions from different guilds, it was entirely up to the manager’s whim on which they chose. But what if the name Rivolden came to their mind during this time? When they provided food at the worst time of the Campus? There wasn’t even a need for consideration.
In truth, Krent’s father, the master of the Rivolden Merchant Guild was greatly impressed by the letter containing Isaac’s plan and promised absolute support.
‘Don’t you look down on the consumers of capitalism.’
Isaac found Rivelia, who was metally stomping around in a desperate attempt to find a rule which goes against it, adorable.
Isaac laughed and muttered to Kunette.
“Kunette, give that girl one of the sandwiches.”
Kunette followed Isaac’s order and walked up to Rivelia with a basket full of sandwiches. Rivelia struggled to keep her face from melting at the sheer adorable nature of Kunette.
Rivelia had completely forgotten about Isaac at this point and bowed to Kunette in appreciation; Kunette bowed in return. Rivelia just barely managed to hold herself back from hugging Kunette.
“Ahem. I won’t make a judgement of this case as there aren’t any rules related to this incident, but I will make a formal report to the Committee to discuss this with them.”
“Dear me. Then I must ask you for your mercy.”
Isaac closed his distance to Rivelia, and Rivelia instinctively stepped backwards. Her well-trained body could feel a sense of danger that was creeping up menacingly.
“Can’t you just act like this never happened?”
“T, that’s impossible!”
“Don’t be so stingy. Keeping up for your studies is hard enough; you should at least reward yourself with some good food.”
Isaac wasn’t wrong. The Campus did provide delicious and nutritious food for all of their students except during the Week of Suffering.
“Hmph! Impossible! I will never look over this incident, no matter what you try!”
Isaac seemed confident despite her upfront rejection.
“Aren’t you curious as to what I might offer you?”
“Ha! Are you trying to bribe me now? Why don’t you try it? I’ll immediately expel you for attempted bribery! And do you really think there is anything you possess that could satisfy me?”
Rivelia had grown up without ever in want of anything, for she had everything. Not even the Emperor’s family would possess something she did not have. No matter what Isaac offered, she was ready to scoff at his futile attempt.
But Isaac’s sinister smile came ever closer. And the warning bell within Rivelia was ringing louder than ever.
As her confidence began to shake, Isaac suddenly put his hands under Kunette’s armpit and lifted her up in the air.
Kunette’s eyes opened wide like that of a rabbit’s, and her adorable arms and legs began scrambling midair. Rivelia couldn’t stop herself from smiling when she saw that.
Rivelia quickly closed her mouth once she realised what she had just spoken, only to see Isaac looking into her eyes with a giant grin.
“Kuh! Y, you!”
In the end, even Rivelia was a teenage girl who loved cute things. She was only hiding it under the cold mask she had created because of her pride.
“Cute right? If you just help me out here, I’ll give you permission to cuddle Kunette once a day!”
Cuddle? Cuddle that cloudlike soft and fluffy white fur? Those cute stubby arms and legs? To bury her face in that chubby stomach? Until now, she could only turn her eyes away from Kunette while all the other girls could scream and fawn at Kunette’s presence.
There had been a few cases where some students couldn’t keep their desires in check and tried to approach Kunette in an attempt to pet her. They all paid a large price. Kunette’s cuteness was indeed a dangerous temptation. But a deal to have permission to do so? It was an offer from the devil itself. She knew she had to refuse it, but the words wouldn’t come out of her mouth.
Kunette struggled as if her life depended on it. Isaac simply whispered a single phrase to Kunette’s ear.
“Ten pots of honey. Every. Day.”
Kunette was very thankful to Isaac with all the honey he had been supplying. She was well aware that his original stock of honey had run dry long ago, and all the honey she was having now were purchased personally by Isaac. The guilt within her had been growing for a long time; and in return, she tried to savour the honey as long as possible, since Isaac could never buy that much honey himself.
That is why Kunette who was extremely against anyone petting her allowed Isaac to be an exception.
She liked it when he pets her. That’s why she willingly climbed onto his lap. But that was only for Isaac alone. There was a feeling of betrayal when Isaac willingly allowed someone else to pet her, but ten pots of honey was indeed a reward she could manage with, especially if it was every day.
Her consideration didn’t last long. She was prepared to face any barriers and challenges for the beloved honey. Kunette’s arms and legs went limp and her head dropped. Isaac handed Kunette to Rivelia like handing her a puppy.
“Now, don’t you want to rub your face onto this wonderfully soft fur?”
With the snow white fur shaking in front of her eyes, Rivelia couldn’t even mount a proper resistance before falling for the temptation.