Just that lone shout was enough to gather all the attention of the girls in the cafeteria. Like a swarm of locusts, they came to Isaac and that overwhelming sight was enough to cause Reisha and Kunette to disappear from his sides.
“What is going on?!”
“This is too much!”
“I haven’t had proper makeup for the past week!”
“Ha! You think that face of yours would change with just makeup?”
“Did I say anything wrong?!”
“How dare you call me a bitch!”
All hell broke loose in front of Isaac. There wasn’t any physical violence but the verbal abuse and the menacing sneers were more than enough to match its intensity. The girls were competing with each other to get their list of orders through first.
‘This is why I didn’t want to come.’
Isaac was generally treated as a shopkeeper by the students of the Campus. Because of that, he would sometimes receive outrageous claims or requests. But when it came to dealing with people like Reisha or Rivelia who were well beyond an average student, their unreasonable attitudes changed quite dramatically.
Once enough students had gathered, Isaac coughed and began to speak.
“Now! I will start the auction at this moment.”
Confusion was abounding from what Isaac had said.
“I will limit the number of participants to four people. Since it’s annoying to sell the tickets individually, I will give them all to the highest bidder and that person can share with the others. You can participate alone or form a team. But! Those who have participated once cannot participate again for the next two months. This is to allow others to have a chance because of the high demand, so please understand.”
“Wait. Doing an auction all of a sudden is one thing, but what is the product you are auctioning? Is it really something that’s worth our time?”
Isaac confidently nodded at the girl’s question.
“That’s right! I am planning to start this in ten days’ time, but the auction will happen once a week in bulk because it’d be too difficult to do this every day.”
“So what are you selling?”
“It’s a ticket for a tea party.”
Many of the girls looked at Isaac as if he was insane. Who would buy a ticket to a tea party when they are struggling to even have time for such an event? What little tea parties that existed were just gatherings for friends and people whom they wish to familiarise with, and even then it usually consisted of a brief session of complaints about their lectures and lecturers and end with words of encouragement to each other.
But there were a few students who realised the opportunity in front of them and quickly made their bids.
The 3 shouts came out at near identical times, and Isaac pointed at the girl who made the highest bid and congratulated her.
“Sold for 100 Giga! The next auction will happen in a fortnight considering the ten-day delay until the first tea party. To those who wish to participate next time, do make the preparations!”
The losers of the auction clicked their tongue in disappointment as the girl who won was hopping about in joy. Many of the students failed to understand why the girl was so happy until the girl’s words finally brought them to speed.
“Kyaa! I can drink tea with Lady Rivelia!”
The girls finally remembered why they couldn’t make their orders. It was because of the unapproachable Rivelia, who would be accompanied by Reisha and Kunette for a makeshift tea party. A few students who were somewhat confident of their birth and status tried to challenge her, but their attempts crumbled like a piece of paper in front of Rivelia’s eyes.
Challenging her was out of option now. But what if you could officially join her in a social gathering, even if it cost money? Considering the time and money spent to help make connections with Rivelia, it wasn’t much of a loss at the end of the day.
“Ah! I’ve also heard that there is a daughter from the Lublé province. Are you here by any chance?”
A girl timidly raised her hand, despite the skepticism inside her head. Lublé province was famous for their potteries, and their craftsmen was widely accepted as the greatest in the entire Empire. Their goods were so well-known that they sold to commoners and donated to the Royal Family.
“I am Chainy von Lublé. Why are you asking?”
“Lady Chainy, Lady Rivelia had been complaining about some problem with the cups in the Campus as of late, and would like to use the Lublanc Sky for her tea party.”
Chainy’s eyes sparkled. It’s true that they are officially the best, but that also meant there were many who challenged them for that title. Being proud of their status as the best is understandable, but letting the pride take over and being satisfied with the current status was the quickest way to fall from the grace. Only through continuous improvement would allow one to keep the status as the best. Having one’s family’s craft favoured by Rivelia herself is sure to make a great promotion for their fame and fortune.
“If you are willing to donate the Lublanc Sky to her, I will make a special exception and allow you to join the tea party whenever you want for free.”
“I’ll do it! I’ll contact my family right away!”
No matter how few are made every year, there are always reserves kept by the family for their own use. Even if there aren’t any, forming a connection with Rivelia was more than enough to justify the cancellation and refund of one of the orders for the Lublanc Sky.
“Ah, I’m just saying this out of worry, but Lady Rivelia had been complaining that the tea in the Campus isn’t easy to get fond of. I’m sure she’ll be very glad if you can bring in more suitable tea leaves for the tea party. No matter how expensive the auction will be, I will deduct the price and transport fee of the tea leaves from the highest bidder. Of course, if the tea leaves were more expensive than the auction, it will be free. How about it?”
There wasn’t much to think about at this point. Having Rivelia even remember their names would more than make up the drop on their grades.
“Come again tomorrow! No, tonight! I will contact my family and order the tea leaves right away!”
“My family is from the province of Effrin, one of the three leading provinces when it comes to black tea! I can prepare the tea leaves of the highest quality in an instant!”
“Has she said anything about any other tea sets? My family also boasts of products that never pale in comparison to any others.”
“You can’t forget snacks to go along with the tea! My uncle is a chef who used to serve desserts for the Royal Family!”
The students began forming groups and debating about which snacks would suit which tea best. Isaac just watched it unfold in silence.
‘I can’t tell if she’s just innocent or simple…’
Isaac muttered to himself as he thought of Rivelia. He never thought of buying those goods with his money in the first place. Rivelia may have ordered those goods to put Isaac in a corner, but this was the Campus. There was bound to be at least one or two people from those famous provinces who are attending this place.
It was clearly obvious that they would bring crates of their family’s specialties to gain Rivelia’s attention, and even if they weren’t able to produce one, they would use their own money to procure any goods that could help gain Rivelia’s attention. All Isaac had to do was do what he usually did and just hand over the goods when they arrived from Gonzales’ ship.
“I see the money rolling straight into my lap already. I swear, she must be the goose that lays golden eggs.”
Rivelia stood alone in the duel arena of the College. Her sword cut the air as she performed her techniques. They had been repeated tens of thousands of times already, and her body now reacted accordingly without a thought.
The sword is honest – unlike the spineless and greedy, who would praise her beauty and her family, who would as if they would sacrifice everything for her. None of it mattered at this moment. She liked the sword which only answered to her efforts, and she liked this time because she could empty her mind and focus on the sword alone.
But this time, rather than joy, there was a wave of unspeakable, unimaginable anger boiling inside her, waiting to be released.
Isaac that bastard!
Just thinking of him enraged her further.
He brought a group of students all of a sudden. The tea party somehow became official amongst the students and she had no way to deny this fact. It was beyond her control. If she were to deny it now, it was now her duty to deal with the disappointment and the insults that would arise from that decision.
Her grip tightened when she imagined Isaac snickering as he counted all the money he made from the auctions. At the same time, she remembered what the girls spoke during the tea party.
“You don’t know how much of an honour it is for me to join you here.”
‘Ha! You are just like the others. People who approach me because of the power my family holds.’
“Did you know you’ve changed significantly since you’ve been fighting against Isaac?”
“When we first saw you, you had this look that made it impossible for us to even think of speaking to you. Back then, we had to build our courage to even look in your direction.”
‘That’s right. Because that’s what I intended.’
“Lady Rivelia, you were… very difficult to approach. We respected you but didn’t want to know you as a person. You seemed to live in a different world to us.”
‘I am the sole heir to the title of Duke Pendleton. I must act in a way that matches my status. If it’s for the honour of my family, I can gladly throw away friends and acquaintances.’
“But you are now… how to say, still difficult to approach, but you aren’t as scary as before.”
‘Don’t make me laugh. You still want me for one reason. To use my family’s power for your own profit.’
“In truth, I was planning on dropping out from the Campus. But watching you change helped me gain the courage that I can change as well.”
‘Don’t lie! I’m sick and tired of those empty praises!’
‘Man, can’t you just accept those praises with a smile? What are you embarrassed about?’
Rivelia strongly denied what Isaac’s image had said.
Isaac! What she wouldn’t do to punch that face of his!
The mana that was released from Rivelia’s sword cut through the arena. The spectral mana danced in all directions as it cut grooves onto the floor of the arena.
‘You really make things difficult for yourself.’
‘That’s not something you have the right to say!’
As Isaac’s image looked pathetically at her with pitying eyes, Rivelia shouted within her mind.
‘What do you know?! How dare you look over all I’ve been through? I have cast away the safety and luxuries that my family provided, and proved my worth with the sword!’
‘Is it fun to live like that?’
‘It may seem stupid to a lazy man like you. Don’t make me laugh! I care not about the look that others give me! I am Rivelia el Pendleton! I will walk my own path!’
Rivelia put all her strength as she swung down at the image of Isaac with her sword.
Isaac’s image was cut in half, but Rivelia used the momentum to spin around for another strike.
Rivelia’s sword stopped as it hit something, and Isaac’s image shattered like glass. In his place was someone she didn’t expect to see.
“Calm yourself, and look around you.”
Rivelia followed her master’s words and looked around to realise what had happened around her. The arena looked like it had just been through an intense battle. Students of the College gathered at the edges, watching in astonishment and disbelief at what Rivelia had done.
“To surpass the wall and reach the rank of Master at your age. Huhu, you are indeed the Queen of the Sword.”
Rivelia muttered quietly and looked down at her hand and sword. She would normally feel exhausted after going through that intense swordplay, but strangely, she felt strength overflowing in her. The mana within her seemed to fill her entire body. The world seemed different. Every sense of her body seemed to scream with how sharp they had gotten. She was also hit with an irresistible feeling of sleep.
“Rest my child. When one reaches the rank of Master, their bodies naturally go into a deep slumber to adjust the body into this new strength.”
Her master’s words immediately shook off any doubt in Rivelia’s mind and allowed her to be carried by the slumber. Strangely, it wasn’t the accomplishment of reaching the state of a master, or the words of praise from her strict master that brought a smile on her face. It was the anticipation that she could finally see that smug face of Isaac crumble that made her smile.
The popularity of tea party with Rivelia was unmatched, and with it, Isaac was able to sit on a pile of money. But Isaac didn’t focus on simply making the most money possible. He gave a ‘fair chance’ for everyone to attend the auction, giving out tickets to the students of common birth or poor noble background for free. It didn’t matter which family they came from; they were almost guaranteed to become his superiors once they graduated, and Isaac believed it would be a good idea to have them as friends if possible. Not only that, the gathering of girls motivated the male students to aim for the tea party in hopes of making some advances in their romantic life, and the auction became so large in scale that what was originally an event to become friends with Rivelia became just another gathering for teenage students to enjoy their youth, which is what a tea party originally should be.
Thanks to that… Rivelia, the untouchable flower also known as the “decoration” of the tea party was able to leave the tea parties without affecting how it operated. This caused a butterfly effect and as the year went by and Isaac was on his last year of Campus, the tea parties began spiralling out of control for Isaac as well.
Without the incentive that is Rivelia in the tea party for the auction, no one was interested in participating in it. Plus they simply began having tea parties of their own to create their own connections while excluding Isaac’s influence.
Isaac did feel a little left out, but he didn’t dwell on it too much. It just meant his life was back to normal. Rivelia somehow ascended into a Sword Master and received the title of Queen of the Sword, making her name famous across the Empire, but to Isaac that was none of his business. Isaac believed that birds of the same feather flock together, and he didn’t see himself to be like Rivelia in any way. Plus what was more important for him was this new information he found, not Rivelia who once again locked herself in College.
“What is up with this neighbourhood?”
Isaac had been gathering as much information as possible to find the most suitable place to live out his days in peace. Most would call it an exile, but it was a matter of perspectives. He found a very strange fact. Something he couldn’t simply look over.
First of all, the noble titles being given to government officials were laughable. Their titles were decided by what their purpose and significance their jobs were in the Empire. Just like working in an office, their title changed as they climb up the hierarchy. The reason people climb their ranks is because of one crucial merit. There are many areas within the Empire that are not controlled by nobles who have their own territories, such as free cities, independent cities, Empire-owned cities, etc.
For these areas, the Empire sends one of their officials of suitable rank to manage the area, and as long as they don’t do any significant crimes or show corruption, they are titled as the Lord of the area after managing it for thirty years, making them a true noble in a way.
If they become a Lord of the province, they are literally King of that area. They could do whatever they wanted within the given area, like changing laws, taxes and raising armies without oversight.
So, there are occasional wars between Lords of the provinces to increase their land size, since owning more land will lead to them rising in their nobility rank.
But in these wars, they are only allowed to use volunteers or mercenaries as soldiers. Conscriptions or pillaging from the commoners to supplement the armies was illegal. If there is a siege battle, all of the civilians must first be evacuated and the damages caused by the siege battle must be paid by the winners of the battle. There were even more rules, which made their wars quite laughable in Isaac’s eyes. These rules made the war more of a sport, and breaking these rules resulted in harsh punishments. This was thanks to the incredibly powerful intelligence network of the Empire called the Central.
Thanks to the existence of the Central, there may be wars between Lords but never a rebellion. Starting a rebellion meant facing the Central first. If they wanted to be assassinated and their family sent to ruin, a rebellion was an excellent way to achieve that goal.
Another fact that was also interesting was that all of the administration in the Empire placed military as its top priority. All citizens of the Empire must train for the military, no matter their birth. Those who find it more to their taste can volunteer to become a professional soldier. And there are three regular military exercises happening every month, six months, and one year with on larger and larger scales, respectively.
Isaac first smirked that humans are the same no matter they go, but soon he realised just how serious this was. The South Korea of old had to prepare for war because of the situation it was in. But what about this world?
There is only 1 nation in this world, and that is the Empire. The Empire cannot possibly have a civil war due to its administration. That meant that the wars between Lords were a form of military field training. This was what kept bugging Isaac in his mind. The Empire had been founded for 300 years, yet this administration never changed.
Just what enemy is the Empire is facing to keep readily trained professional soldiers for the past 300 years?
“Screw it, shit. It’s not like I’m going to volunteer for these wars anyway.”
Isaac was quite done with wars. He was clearly set on his own goal. No matter the schemes and political intrigues, he was going to find a quiet village to live a peaceful life.
“This is unacceptable!”
Corduroy clicked his tongue, displeased that he must change his desk once again, for Rivelia’s handprints were carved into the desk once more. Meanwhile, Rivelia still didn’t seem satisfied with her rebellious ways and continued to stare at Corduroy.
This anger was quite understandable to not just Rivelia, but all the students of the College. Once she rose to the rank of Master, she put all of her strength into making up for the grades that she had been neglecting for her training. After a great struggle, she miraculously raised her grades enough so that she could keep her promise of not becoming Isaac’s Hubae.
Well, they were the same year now but that was good in its own way. Due to the meritocratic nature of the Campus, they must show respect to superiors even if they had graduated in the same year.
But what if that person wasn’t just the same year as her, but graduated from the College as well? Even Corduroy thought he would have difficulties in accepting that.
If Rivelia didn’t get a reasonable answer this moment, she was going to start a strike on a scale that had never been observed, involving not just the students but those who have graduated too. Those who had heard the news in the College were littered across the entire institution, their souls empty. Just what were they trying so hard to beat Isaac for, when he was the same as them now?
“Ahem… it’s because of the rules.”
“What do you mean rules?!”
“As you know, all of the schools in the Campus had rejected Isaac’s enrollment.”
“Everyone knows that fact.”
“The problem is that all graduates of the Campus must have a school which they are enrolled in. Everyone had forgotten about it because of how mandatory it was.”
“Then can’t any of the schools in the Campus just accept him in now?”
“But they’ve already rejected him once. There is only one place which Isaac didn’t send an enrolment form, and nor did that place deny Isaac’s enrollment.”
“And the College is that institution? I thought College was an institution independent from the Campus.”
“The College has no reason to deny the enrolment of such a distinguished student that is Isaac.”
But he’s not a distinguished student!
Rivelia wanted to scream her lungs out. Trying to make up for her grades after her rise as a Master was even harder than the training she had gone through. Graduating from the College in three years was an accomplishment that would shut the mouths of all who ridiculed her back at home, who used her birth as an excuse that she was accepted into the College. Even her parents and their legion of knights had arrived at the Capital to welcome her. It was that much of an honour to everyone.
But Isaac was going to get the same degree after playing around for five years! It was obvious that all of the students would rise against such a decision.
“Even if I were to look over it, I don’t have the confidence to convince all the other students. In the worst case scenario, it may become a disaster. How will you deal with that?”
Everything she said was true. Rather than Rivelia, it was the regular students who would feel most dejected from this decision.
Corduroy frowned when Rivelia presented her argument.
“Why would the students rebel against this decision?”
“Why wouldn’t they?! It’s the College! The very school which all students dream of attending! Isaac is not suited for the name of College and you know it!”
“The College you say? It is true that the title is honourable. And you’re saying that Isaac is taking that title without any effort to qualify for it?”
“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m trying to say!”
“Ha, if they have a brain, they would pity him rather than be angry like this.”
“Just graduating the Campus is an honour too great for Isaac. But the College? Who do you think will actually accept him as a graduate of the College? Do you truly think those who graduated from the College are successful because they have their names recorded in our roll book?”
“The College is just a beginning. Why don’t you ask any one of our graduates, whether they had it easy back in College or now? Those who graduate from the College may be at a better starting line, but it also means that they receive just as much harassment from others. Those who came from other institutions outside the Campus and College have suffered much because of the fame we hold, how they are underappreciated because of us. They consider surpassing those who graduated from the College to be their most glorious moment. Do you think they will leave Isaac alone?”
“He had been repeating to everyone that he will be an administrator of a village.”
“Even better. He will be forgotten to everyone as he rots away. Except things won’t turn out so easy for him.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Kainen, who graduated last year, is now working in the Empire’s Personnel Office.”
Kainen, Isaac’s half-brother and the ideal heir of the Rondart Family, was ranked as a 1st class knight because he couldn’t receive the title of the Baron. The Jobs offered to knights and nobles are vastly different. By removing Isaac, who had been a thorn to his side, he could instantly propel himself to even greater titles by starting out as the Baron himself.
“The graduates of the Campus are free to choose their own jobs, but you know that the graduates of the College must work for the Empire for 10 years once they graduate right?”
“Even if Kainen is in the Personnel Office, he wouldn’t have the power to choose where a graduate of the College will be transferred to.”
“You forget that Kainen’s mother is the daughter of Count Milros.”
There are many factions within the Empire, and the Milros Family was one of the most powerful factions within the Empire. They had risen to power by using their influence to control the majority of the Personnel Office of the Empire. Most of the higher ranking individuals in the Personnel Office were either related to the Milros Family or were greatly influenced by them. That was why Kainen was working there in the first place.
Kainen and Count Milros would do whatever it takes to send Isaac into a death trap rather than a peaceful rural village.
“Isn’t that too harsh of a treatment?”
She wouldn’t have felt so bad if Isaac had any sort of talent for himself. Even she was starting to worry about Isaac’s life despite all she had been through because of him. Perhaps even those bad times have become fond memories for her.
“Even if it’s not Kainen who starts it, Isaac will never get the job in the rural village as he wanted.”
“Huh? Why? Wouldn’t it be much better if he was forgotten by everyone just like you’ve said?”
“Later. You will know even if you don’t want to. You should just try your best to convince the students and lessen their anger as best as you can.”
“Why should I?!”
“Consider it your last work as the President of the Student Council. If you include my explanation for your speech, they may complain but won’t rise up against it. They will be happy to know that Isaac will be taking over a job everyone had been avoiding.
If everyone was avoiding the job, that would mean that it is always understaffed. Being forced to transfer to such locations were considered to be an indirect way of demoting someone. The worst case being is that there was no way a College graduate can escape from such a place because of the policy they must follow.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Isaac’s graduation is a secret to the Campus.”
“You want to minimise the chaos as much as possible.”
“I wouldn’t like things to get noisy.”
“Then I’ll take my leave.”
“Wait. I will give this for you to make up for the troubles of convincing the students. You may consider it your graduation gift as well.”
“What is it?”
Corduroy took out a document from his broken desk and handed it to Rivelia. After skimming through the document, Rivelia’s eyes went wide with astonishment.
Once Rivelia left the room, one of the bookshelves on the walls slid to the side and a middle-aged man entered the room. Corduroy looked at the paper he was holding and spoke.
“Is that the last report?”
“Yes. This is the final report on Surveillance target 728 within the Campus.”
Corduroy read through the document expressionlessly.
Final report on Surveillance Target 728
Surveillance Level 4
After monitoring the target within the Campus, he is likely to be not a Type 3 but a Type 4 invader. If he is a Type 4, he may have great uses as a personnel or a resource. In order to confirm this conclusion, it had been decided that he must be monitored further in extreme circumstances to observe his retaliation. Also, as he is leaving the Campus, requesting to raise the Surveillance Level to 2.
“Type 4… I guess advertisements and using mascots weren’t business techniques that were going to develop so naturally so soon. I can see why they made such a decision.”
“Do you have a problem with the report?”
“No. You can go ahead with this. But only raise the Surveillance Level by one. Even if we managed to solve our manpower issue, they are still a group of recruits without a shred of experience.”
“But we must have a close observer to follow Level 3 targets.”
“You don’t need to worry about that.”
The middle-aged man disappeared back into the bookshelves, and Corduroy looked out the window. He could see Rivelia giving out her speech as the students gathered around her. After watching the students nod in agreement with her while any who rebelled were quickly intimidated by Rivelia’s personal charisma, he muttered to himself bitterly.
“The honour and prestige that comes with the College is something you can only enjoy if you’re alive….”