Chapter 10:

CHAPTER 6: NO FREE LUNCH

The Demon Saint is Missing, so I Ran Away to Another World Vol. 12


***The office of the Lord Head Scholar of the Conclave***Bookmark here

“You say that these tests were answered by the Special Scholar in a short time?” the Discipline Prefect, Lord Scholar Gracchio, couldn’t believe the story of Lady Scholar Irene Capaldi. While he acknowledged that the Special Scholar was an ‘intelligent human’, he believed that the probability of finding someone capable of answering two 150-item test questionnaires meant for juniors within the first ‘line’ of the test candle was impossible.Bookmark here

And, as far as the Lord Scholar Gracchio was also concerned, the only ‘ultimate’ genius in their recorded history is the hero Cassandra David. The only human he looked up to; who founded the educational institution they were benefitting from nowadays, and the subject of innumerable researches and biographies from scholars of old and new.Bookmark here

Even her—according to the chronicles—took some time to finish a Math test of that level.Bookmark here

Yet…Bookmark here

“Are you sure you’re not playing tricks on us, Scholar Capaldi?” he asked, noting the ‘test candle’ she used in timing the Special Scholar. It was barely exhausted—one could easily pass it off as new, if not for the partially-burnt wick and the missing lower half, cut by the Special Scholar himself.Bookmark here

“Why would I do that?” the Lady Scholar Capaldi was incensed, throwing the answer sheets before the Discipline Prefect. “Are you accusing me of tampering evidences? Why don’t you check those papers yourself?”Bookmark here

“No…but this is…” the Lord Scholar Gracchio re-examined the answers of the Special Scholar, just to make sure that their machine wasn’t in error. And no matter how much he tried to find other reasons for the feat, he couldn’t deny the truth that their newest faculty member finished those tests with perfect scores.Bookmark here

“Scholar Capaldi’s words are true,” the Lord Head Scholar, Emile Biorno, finally decided to intervene. “Please stop your doubts, Lord Scholar Gracchio.”Bookmark here

“But, that human…” Lord Gracchio was shaking his head in disbelief, “…he looks so unassuming! He didn’t even appear to be a ‘true scholar’!”Bookmark here

“Looks never mattered in education, Lord Scholar. What’s important is that you have this,” Emile Biorno replied, pointing to his temple. “And, based from the observations of the other teachers and students, the Special Scholar teaches in an ‘unorthodox’, yet effective and entertaining way…something that we haven’t thought possible before!”Bookmark here

“And the students love him for it,” Lady Scholar Capaldi added. “See, I was curious of how he conducts classes, too, after hearing the rumors among the students. I did my own observation of his teaching style, and I’d say…while most of our fellow scholars would find it strange—even the possibility of hating it—I can’t deny that the Special Scholar’s techniques are helpful in retaining information from his lectures.”Bookmark here

“Can you give us an example, Lady Scholar?”Bookmark here

“Well, one of the things I remember from his class is that, he claimed that the Lady Cassandra David is a mix of an introvert and extrovert person. The Special Scholar explained this with jokes and personal reminisces, and while we enjoyed his lecture, we’re unaware that his information had already sunk in our heads. What I’m saying is that, whenever I see your magnificent beard after his class, Lord Scholar Gracchio, I can’t help but remember that story about our revered hero playing stupid jokes by wearing fake mustaches.”Bookmark here

Oh…that’s an unknown facet of our hero’s personality!” the Lord Head Scholar quipped. “I must write it down!”Bookmark here

“So…” the Lord Scholar Gracchio had difficulty in saying what he had in mind. “You’re meaning to say that he is a better teacher than the rest of us combined, Lady Scholar?”Bookmark here

“I’m not confirming anything yet, but the evidences won’t lie!”Bookmark here

Emile Biorno backed her up, “I know it’s an impossible achievement, but yes, the Special Scholar Greg Santos is an extraordinary teacher. All this weekend, I tried investigating into his background, and…much to my surprise, this man’s life is something worthy of novels! Summoned into this land from his own and losing his memories in the process, he had been a great influence to the reforms enacted throughout Chersea under the ‘Saint’s Peace’, and is the founder of the Kingdom of Cherwind—all of those as the man named ‘Kuro’.”Bookmark here

“Wow…” Lady Scholar Capaldi blurted out. “The Special Scholar is a whole different level from us then.”Bookmark here

“Not only that, here’s something even more interesting…” the Lord Head Scholar puffed from his smoke pipe before continuing. “The Special Scholar gave us the basic lessons on how to read some of the private letters written by the Lady Cassandra David in what he calls the ‘English language’. Because of that, we translated those previously indecipherable correspondences. And you know what are the preliminary results of our findings?”Bookmark here

The Discipline Prefect and the Lady Scholar remained silent in their seats. Their eyes were plastered on the Head Scholar as he narrated on his story…Bookmark here

“Further readings of our hero’s ‘English’ letters and diaries revealed that the Lady Cassandra David alluded to him multiple times in her writings, almost close to worshipping him as if he’s some sort of a god…a proof of his caliber as her old mentor. After all, our hero wouldn’t speak highly of the Special Scholar if his mind and character aren’t great.”Bookmark here

The Discipline Prefect were speechless, as well as did the Lady Scholar Capaldi. They both wanted to say something, yet they decided not to continue.Bookmark here

After all, the three of them in that room knew the implications of that ‘discovery’. The Conclave—though populated and run by demons—valued intelligence above race. As such, the appearance of an individual ‘more intelligent’ than the current sitting Lord Head Scholar could imply only one thing…Bookmark here

It means that a new Head Scholar is looming on the horizon.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

However, considering the situation with the ‘Knights’ and the forces of the Usarveds, a new ‘human’ Lord Head Scholar was not needed at the moment. The Biorno Clan, which governed the entire city of the Saint’s Tower, would greatly lose their base of power and influence if there’s a Head Scholar ruling the Conclave other than from their own race. And as the representative of the demons who sought to preserve the status quo following the Usarved-‘Knights’ conflict, a sudden change in leadership of this school could lead to disaster, and a possible strengthening of the Usarved faction under the Prince Hurion Devras/Noir Usarved.Bookmark here

Once the ‘balance of power’ is lost, another war will ensue. Something Emile Biorno is aware he isn’t prepared to fight.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

This matter calls for an urgent and special intervention, something the Biorno clan is adept in.Bookmark here

“Lord Head Scholar,” the Lord Gracchio asked, “what should we do? A rival for your position has appeared.”Bookmark here

“We should expel him,” Lady Scholar Capaldi proposed. “And fast, so that he can’t gather supporters.”Bookmark here

“I agree with the Lady Scholar’s recommendation; we need to nip the bud before it fully blossoms,” the Discipline Prefect seconded her.Bookmark here

“You know I can’t do that. The Special Scholar is protected and endorsed by His Highness the Prince Hurion Devras and Princess Noir. If we expelled him without proper justification, the Prince will have a legitimate reason to bear his armies steamrolling against us and eliminate our faction in one fell swoop,” Emile Biorno explained. “I hope you’re aware of the consequences of such events, if it does happen. After all, the position of the Head Scholarship is a big boost to the warring factions of the Usarveds.”Bookmark here

“Then what is your course of action? We can’t let the Special Scholar run free and arouse support to his cause, should he decide to wrest away the Conclave from your hands. The results of that will be the same as the Usarveds declaring war on us!”Bookmark here

The Lord Head Scholar heaved a sigh, “Well, I agree that we cannot let that human assume the Head Scholarship, Prefect. While our school would benefit greatly from his knowledge, the Special Scholar must be kept in his place. Lord Scholar Gracchio, I want all efforts done to prevent him from gathering support, should he decide to move against me.”Bookmark here

“Yes, milord. I shall see to it at once,” the Discipline Prefect bowed and went out of the Head Scholar’s office, leaving the Lady Scholar and Emile Biorno to themselves.Bookmark here

The Lord Head Scholar then turned to his companion, “Lady Scholar Capaldi?”Bookmark here

“Lord Head Scholar?”Bookmark here

“Your clan is an affiliated member of the Biorno faction,” Emile’s lips drew a smirk. “As such, your succubus powers will be helpful to our cause.”Bookmark here

“I understand. What is your order for me, Lord Head Scholar?”Bookmark here

“You know what’s written in our rules of conduct inside the Conclave: no inappropriate contact towards anyone. Of course, it pertains to acts of sexual in nature. If you can create a reason for us to kick the Special Scholar out, then you have to do it by all means.”Bookmark here

“Are you…” Lady Scholar Capaldi paused for a bit as the ‘instruction’ she was given finally sunk in her mind. “…you want me to seduce him?”Bookmark here

“It’s up to you how you interpret my words…” the old scholar chuckled. “The Conclave saw and knew nothing.”Bookmark here

The Lady Scholar nodded. However, Emile Biorno wasn’t done yet…Bookmark here

“If that attempt fails, it would be beneficial to keep the Special Scholar Greg Santos under your firm control instead. And in case everything fails, you have free rein to use the love potions we have in stock here.”Bookmark here

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**Greg**Bookmark here

Finally, lunch break came. Observing Lady Scholar Capaldi’s pandemonium of a class was truly exhausting. No lesson plans. No routines. No focus, even! I’m amazed of how they could last with such kind of education system for so long.Bookmark here

Haa…I guess I should relax and not think too much of it.Bookmark here

Unlike in my old school, the Conclave’s break was meant for all classes. So once the bell rang thrice (for lunch), the entire campus would be out eating. As for their cafeteria…well, it’s not like the Conclave only had a single one to cater to everyone. No, on the contrary, there were a lot—and I mean, a huge lot—of diners, fancy restaurants and even street-side food vendors, which were allowed inside this place’s economic spaces.Bookmark here

Think of the Conclave as something of a small city-state with its own economy.Bookmark here

However, though the menu diversity was big, the administrators of the Conclave would never forget their educational system of rewards and punishments. Every lunch, students would go to a kiosk nearby to get their ‘tokens’. A good number of these stalls were scattered throughout the school grounds, in order for everyone to have an easy access once the break comes. What’s even more impressive was that, the information database was unified, pretty similar to the ‘internet’ of Earth.Bookmark here

Remember that test-checking device I used earlier? Yes, there was an option there that would upload the test results on the ‘token kiosks’, so that the students—though they were many—won’t cheat by going to another kiosk to get tokens.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

The same goes for the teaching staff. Every time we finished lectures, we’d enter our time-in and time-out through that ‘test-checking device’. It was then approved by the class representative, and the information was uploaded to the same database the token kiosks were using. So in the end, one lecture time was equivalent to five tokens, which we could use to buy products and services inside the Conclave.Bookmark here

I heard it is an idea of Alexa herself, though it was perfected by another demon scholar some time after she died. I bet my old student got it from the internet system we had back in our own world.Bookmark here

So anyway, I only learned about that just now. My fellow educators would barely explain to me the mechanics inside this place; I guess they’re kind of expecting me to ‘learn the ropes’ by observing them. Good thing that I also found out that I was given a week’s worth of tokens, which was the standard for those who entered the Conclave for the first time. But since I always bring my own lunch, I didn’t have to use it.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Yes, I got my own food. But, I did come here at one of the kiosks near my classroom for another purpose. I promised those three girls from my history class that I’d do something about their situation. I mean, I told them I won’t record the test I gave their class, but I realized it would be unfair to others…who were expecting tokens from me. So, after uploading their scores, I’m here to help those girls.Bookmark here

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And, speaking of the demons…Bookmark here

Gah! That special scholar tricked us! He tricked us! That idiot! I want to strangle him right now!” from where I stood, I could hear the loud, sardonic voice of the goblin girl, Lady Srexe. She was walking away from the crowd that was in front of the token stall, together with her classmate, Tama’lee.Bookmark here

“Srex, the special scholar is still our teacher; have some respect!” the orc girl insisted. “But…yes, Tama’lee is hungry, and she expected to eat now…”Bookmark here

I think they didn’t see me, for they continued past my spot without even looking at me, who was subtly waving at them. And since I wanted to talk to those two, I followed the pair, until we reached the part of the hallways that had a few other students hanging around.Bookmark here

“Hey!”Bookmark here

It was the goblin girl who first turned around, “Well, well! I can’t believe that you still have the gall to show yourself to us, even though you broke your promise! Heh, typical human.”Bookmark here

“I did pass the scores, yes, for that is our prerogative,” I countered. “And besides, it’d be unfair to your classmates if I didn’t; they’re expecting tokens for their hard work!”Bookmark here

“Tch,” was all Lady Srexe could say.Bookmark here

“But Tama’lee expected the Special Scholar to help them!” the ogre cried out, her hands were on her stomach. “Tama’lee trusted the Special Scholar!”Bookmark here

Ah, my apologies for breaking the promise,” I gave her a pat on the back. “And that’s why I’m here, see?”Bookmark here

Eh, we don’t need you,” the goblin girl didn’t hide her displeasure. “What we need is food!”Bookmark here

“Well, if you don’t want to eat, then who am I to impose on you?” I decided to stop talking to her and focus on the orc girl instead, “How about you, Tama’lee? Do you want to eat?”Bookmark here

“Of course! Tama’lee is so hungry…and so is Nari! However, we have no tokens…”Bookmark here

“Here, take this,” I handed to her two of my tokens.Bookmark here

“No way!” the orc girl exclaimed. “An ogre like Tama’lee can’t take the teacher’s token!”Bookmark here

“You’re not taking it; I’m giving these,” I winked at her. “Besides, I broke my promise, so consider this as compensation.”Bookmark here

“But…”Bookmark here

“Do you want to eat or not? If you do, please call Nari as well; you guys have to eat. After all, you can’t study properly if you’re running on an empty stomach.”Bookmark here

That silenced Tama’lee. However, Lady Srexe entered our conversation, “Oi, human! You don’t have any idea of how much you’re giving, no?Bookmark here

“I don’t. You tell me.”Bookmark here

“That’s a teacher’s token,” the goblin girl explained. “Teachers use that for their needs.”Bookmark here

“The tokens for students are different?”Bookmark here

Lady Srexe nodded.Bookmark here

“And we can’t give these to students?”Bookmark here

“You can. However, it is common sense that the teachers only hand it over to the most deserving scholars. One teacher’s token can buy a lot of food, or clothes, or books here, after all; significantly more than a single student’s token can afford. So it’s highly-valued.”Bookmark here

Now that made sense, why Tama’lee’s reaction was like that. Anyway, I wanted to confirm something else, “Is what you said a rule here?”Bookmark here

“I’d say, more like a tradition. You should check your Conclave guide for the rules instead of asking me those questions!”Bookmark here

“I don’t have one,” I told her. “The Head Scholar didn’t give me anything, save for a week’s worth of teacher’s tokens. And my co-teachers are not helpful either; I think they’re expecting me to just watch and learn on how they do things.”Bookmark here

“What can I say?” the goblin girl shrugged. “Everything in this place is fucked up.”Bookmark here

“Haa…” the orc lady followed up on her statement. “…if not for the Conclave being the best, Tama’lee would’ve long returned to her burrow! Tama’lee didn’t expect studying is brutal! She hates this fucking school!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, fuck the punishments and fuck the traditions,” I muttered as I remembered the punishment system that they had here, as well as how the teachers conduct their classes. “This is the worst school I ever got in.”Bookmark here

Lady Srexe and Tama’lee blankly stared at me while I uttered those words. It’s as if they’d seen a ghost, or I said the most stupid thing they’d heard. However, a few moments later, the goblin girl smirked and said, “I’m liking you, human. You didn’t even flinch when you said those words.”Bookmark here

“Why, thank you!” I was sarcastic, before turning serious once again. “I’ve seen what a proper education looks like. The system here doesn’t even compare to that.”Bookmark here

Eh, what you gonna do then?” Lady Srexe asked as if she’s challenging me, “It’s not like you can go to the Head Scholar’s office and tell them to change; you’re fighting against weeks upon weeks of tradition.”Bookmark here

Well, the goblin girl was right. This place—though hailed by everyone in Cherflammen as an example of ‘good education’—desperately needed reforms. Though they had no means to see it, their teaching techniques here was not even ‘chaotic’, it was ineffective. Do the students really remember their lessons for long? Can they even use what they learn when they go out of the Conclave itself?Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Now Princess Noir was making sense. She did tell me before that she ‘loves how I teach’. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it, thinking that it was only her ‘lip service’. But, experiencing first-hand the Conclave’s education system, and I could now see why she said that.Bookmark here

However, who will lead those? I didn’t want to get myself involved; in the first place, I’m only here because I had to get my student’s ashes. If I pissed off the Head Scholar, I might end up on the losing end of our agreement.Bookmark here

But as a teacher, I couldn’t just sit around and watch these guys end up as idiots. Princess Noir thought highly of me, and the scholars like Tama’lee and Nari expected me to help them. Besides…Bookmark here

It’s my goal to get the juniors to become seniors. It’ll be stupid and unethical of me to hold back on what I know just because I’m afraid they’d think of me as someone meddling with them. I’m already here, and I should do my best. Even if…Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Argh! I hate to admit it, but if the push comes to the shove, I might have to intervene once again.Bookmark here

My train of thoughts were disturbed when I felt someone tugged my scholar’s mantle. It was Lady Srexe, asking, “Aight, now where’s mine?”Bookmark here

“Mine what?Bookmark here

“The token for me! You’re giving it to us for free, right?”Bookmark here

“You said you don’t need me.”Bookmark here

“It’s you that’s unnecessary, not the token! I need the token!”Bookmark here

Heh…some kind of a jackass you are, huh?” I chuckled. “You got the gall to insult me, yet you need my favor, eh?Bookmark here

“You’re giving it to Tama for free!” the goblin girl insisted. “Why should I not have one?”Bookmark here

Heh, are you aware of ‘no free lunch’? I gave it to Tama because she’s polite to me!” I countered. “Now, if your mouth would try to learn some manners, I might reconsider.”Bookmark here

“Yay!” the orc girl jumped and wrapped her arms around me. Although she’s a lady, I’d say being hugged by an orc wasn’t a good experience. She’s way too strong for a human like me. “The Special Scholar loves Tama’lee!”Bookmark here

Tch, you orcs are way too easy…” Lady Srexe muttered, and never hid her annoyance. “Alright then, can you please give me a token?”Bookmark here

“I’m not convinced. You reek of fakeness! Try to ask sincerely, Scholar Srexe!”Bookmark here

“Come on Srex! The Special Scholar is kind!” Tama’lee kept on encouraging her.Bookmark here

“Uuh…” I could tell that the goblin girl won’t easily budge; I guess her pride as a noble and a demon was at stake here. After all, they think we humans were levels below them. It took Lady Srexe several moments of silence, before she took a deep breath, and said—in the most dignified manner befitting an aristocrat, “Lord Special Scholar Greg Santos, would you be so kind as to give this humble lady a token of yours? I haven’t eaten anything for two weeks now. Please, have mercy.”Bookmark here

The way she did a full ‘U’-turn from her arrogant self, and carried her dignity as a noble was so convincing, that I immediately dropped my pretenses, and asked her to stop.Bookmark here

So, this goblin girl is capable of good manners after all!Bookmark here

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So, they got their food in the end. Tama’lee, consistent with her size as an orc, bought a lot of foodstuffs, which she left in the care of her companion, Lady Srexe of the Goblins. Then, she excitedly went off to find their other friend, Scholar Nari Tambara, and give her the teacher’s token from me. I don’t know though, this goblin girl beside me had all the rights and reasons to go away, yet she remained at my side.Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Well, though Tama’lee left her food with her friend, it was not that too many to carry. And those were in paper bags, for ease of transport.Bookmark here

What’s the deal with this girl now?Bookmark here

I’m aware that Lady Srexe didn’t like me, so the atmosphere between us was awkward. Nevertheless, I finally found a good spot to stay, on one of the benches under the trees around the Conclave, so I won’t move away from here.Bookmark here

“Err…”Bookmark here

“So…” she finally spoke, “…don’t you have something to say to me?”Bookmark here

“Hm?” I was surprised by her ‘high-and-mighty’ tone. I thought the goblin girl truly humbled herself earlier, but it seemed like she’s back to her usual self the moment she got what she wanted from me. “What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“Special Scholar Sir, are you not aware of who you are talking to?”Bookmark here

“I have an idea of who you are, Lady Srexe. Your rival, Lady Noir, gave some information about you.”Bookmark here

“If so, then aren’t you going to ask me for a proper compensation for the favor you gave me?”Bookmark here

I was stunned when she asked me that, “Proper compensation? What do you think of me?”Bookmark here

“Pardon me for saying that, Special Scholar Sir,” Lady Srexe said, “I do not meant any insult to you. However, I’m the person who also believes in what you said to us earlier: ‘There’s no free lunch’.”Bookmark here

“It’s true,” I replied. “And I believe you already paid me when I gave that token to you.”Bookmark here

“In what?”Bookmark here

“You asked politely.”Bookmark here

“That’s…it?”Bookmark here

I nodded, “What, is there something wrong with my requirement?”Bookmark here

“A lot,” Lady Srexe answered. “It’s not even a proper payment!”Bookmark here

“It is, but it’s what I wanted.”Bookmark here

“You don’t make any sense, Special Scholar Sir. Do you mean to say that you’re fine handing out your tokens as long as everyone’s polite to you?”Bookmark here

“If that’s what I wanted, then it’s a yes.”Bookmark here

“That’s weird.”Bookmark here

“I agree with you on that. However, you have to know, milady, that not everyone in this land—and of the others too—is motivated by money. There are some who will do what is asked of them simply because they wanted to, or they just love to help.”Bookmark here

“And how do they get paid, then?”Bookmark here

“By the goodwill of those they helped, or the simple feeling of happiness in their hearts whenever they accomplish something for others. Those can’t be bought by money, you know?”Bookmark here

“Okay then, I get what you mean by that…” the goblin girl smirked. “However, it’s the others that we’re talking about, Special Scholar Sir. How about you? How did I pay you by being polite?”Bookmark here

“Your goodwill towards me.”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

“Didn’t you notice? We’re casually talking right now, though we started off with bad blood, see? And I’m happy that, somehow, our relationship as a student and teacher progressed.”Bookmark here

Lady Srexe fell silent. She just sat beside me on one of the benches under the trees of the Conclave, quietly nibbling on her food.Bookmark here

I fished something out of my pocket and gave her another teacher’s token. The goblin girl’s eyes widened in surprise.Bookmark here

“What’s this for?” she asked.Bookmark here

“Well, I won’t need it, so you can have it.”Bookmark here

“What about the compensation?”Bookmark here

“Consider it my investment on you to be my friend.”Bookmark here

“What? I thought you’re Princess Noir’s lackey?”Bookmark here

“I’m a teacher who treats all of his students as his friends as well…including you. And I’m no lackey of anyone; rather, I’m the teacher of your revered hero. You can ask Lady Noir if you’re doubting me.”Bookmark here

“Why should I? I hate her,” she countered.Bookmark here

“Alright, I’m just suggesting, see?” I chuckled.Bookmark here

“Tch. Fuck off!”Bookmark here

Then, another round of silence between us. Lady Srexe and I were both watching the other students on their breaks, going around and eating with their friends. Deep inside, I’m seriously wondering where could’ve the orc girl had gone; she’s taking way too long in fetching her werewolf friend.Bookmark here

I suddenly heard the goblin girl speak, “Special Scholar…”Bookmark here

“Yep?”Bookmark here

“Thank you for this.”Bookmark here

“No problem. Study well, and pass your subjects.”Bookmark here

Lady Srexe said nothing after that. A few moments later, Tama’lee appeared, dragging their friend Scholar Nari Tambara with her, though the latter couldn’t be bothered since she’s so focused on eating the food she bought with my teacher’s token. Seeing that their stomachs were full, I excused myself and went off to prepare for my next class.Bookmark here

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