TLNC Chapter 20 – Back to Square One

Back to Square One

“But before I do that you’ll all need to sign this paper. As your homeroom teacher I nominate Hiroyuki Hisao as your student representative. Hisao, please hand over these sheets.”

A short female student with a bob haircut timidly raised her hand to ask a question. Augustine looked at her like she was barely good enough to be spat on and then gave permission for the student to speak.

“Sorry, teach but aren’t we as a class going to elect our own Student Rep?”

Augustine’s mouth turned from a frown, into a smile and then finally she started cackling with  glee.

“Heh, that’s a cute thing to say but here at FA you won’t be given any illusions of choice.”

I looked at the paper that Hisao handed to me and the other students. It seemed to be some kind of illegal educational contract asking for a tithe of 10% of our incomes for the rest of our working lives but there was nowhere to sign it. In place of a signature, there was a greyscale “retinal scan” which supposedly belonged to me. I guess the only way to escape this contract would be to gouge my eyes out.

“Did you think I’d be teaching you for free? In life and in the economy nothing is free. Not even your funeral. Got that? That’s your first practical lesson for the day. All of my lessons will be practical ones because the only way to prove an idea about history or society is true is through the act of revealing people’s revealed preferences. Or in other words,I am looking forward to seeing what you’ll do under pressure.”

I could poke holes in her reasoning but there wasn’t any logic to refute in anything she said.

“I’ll not only be your history teacher but also your economics, literature, mathematics and philosophy instructor.”

How could one teacher be qualified to teach all those subjects at a highschool level? This sounded like a scam. The only thing she seemed to be qualified in was in sounding like a certified psychopath. 

“As in all heroic historical contexts; the true, the beautiful and the right will be deduced by combat, or in other words decided through a contest! I’ll be dividing you into two groups. The blue team and the red team. You will each have to come up with a business idea.”

There was a knock on the door. A black gloved hand pushed open the door. It was a gaunt and tall man of about thirty with a blue curly goat beard. He was wearing a hearing white top hat, a white suit covered with dark spade patterns like those you’d see on playing cards. The stage villain look was completed with a purple cravat and a walking stick with a handle shaped like a skull. He held the stick in one hand and tapped its midsection on his other hand. It was clearly for looks rather than for walking. After the man entered a familiar face that I’d never thought I’d be glad to see but there he was, Tanaka Takanori, in all his diminutive otaku glory crept into the room with a downcast face until he noticed my presence and flashed a boyish smile.

“Hello, Miss Augustine. May I take a moment out of your lesson to have a word with your lovely students? I brought another student for your class, he was stuck in limbo and I had to go and get him myself. Go and have a seat there Tanaka-san.”

Tanaka sat to my left (Hisao was to my right). He seemed as nervous as the rest of us were at the start. There were some questions I wanted to ask him, mainly about what the hell was going on, but that would have to wait for now.

The man watched us with a smile that exuded creepiness and effortless confidence and surety. He craned his neck towards us like we were tasty snacks and then snaked back towards Augustine..

“Hmph! Interrupting me during my first lesson. Go ahead but it’ll cost you!”

Augustine plopped down on her chair, pulled out her phone and started tapping her thumbs aggressively on her phone’s screen while cursing under her breath. The strange man took centre stage.

“Hello, my dearest students. I am Mephisto Pheles, the chairman, co-founder, CEO and principal at Faust Academy. I hope you’ll forgive this academy’s unorthodox teaching methods but you’ll soon find out that these methods are there for your own benefit and to maximise your margins.”

Mephisto let the bottom of his cane hit the ground as if to punctuate his remarks.

“Even if we have hundreds of years of experience I’d like to think we are at the forefront of modern startup education practices. To foster that synergetic spirit in our students too we have a policy of allowing students to kill each other or even members of the faculty. Having said that, I should warn you that most faculty members are strong and merciless but don’t let my words as an educator dissuade you or limit your dreams of what you can achieve. It’s not Christmas yet but let me be your santa. This will be the only thing you can get for free. Rejoice boys and girls.”

Mephisto unbuttoned his coat and as if pulling off for some magic trick he pulled out various kinds of watches as he walked around us and handed one of each to the class members. I got an F91W with a digital display whereas Hisao got a smartwatch. Others got Swiss watches and some boys protested being given women’s watches and vice versa. 

“Don’t pay any heed to the form factor, it’s just a reflection of your personality. What matters is the functionality. You can exchange your watch with others, or even steal them; it doesn’t make a difference. Put on the watch, touch it and think of the word “Status.” This will reveal to you what your bank balance, assets, liabilities, and possible business plans you could follow, among other things. Your starting balance reflects how much wealth your family had before you were enrolled at this educational research institute. ”

I did as I was told, and lo and behold the same text boxes which had appeared in my vision now had returned except this time there was no weird time stop phenomenon. I had a starting balance of 200 Gold Pieces (GP). Meanwhile Tanaka told me he had 2 million whereas Hisao declared he had 3000GP. I overheard most students were in the 50k-70k GP range, at least those who revealed their stats. It was not possible to see other people’s financial information so who knows who was lying. I realised I could use the buttons on my watch to navigate the menus. One thing which did catch my attention was that under the “Skills” tab I had the special skill called “Unending Despair.” There was no description of any kind. I decided not to ask any questions about it yet because I could neither trust the students nor the staff yet. Regardless, this skill name didn’t bode well for my happiness.

“I am sure you have many questions to ask so go ahead and ask them. Please keep your questions to those related to the system though.”

Tanaka and a few other students raised their hands to ask a question.

“When can we leave this place?”

“No comment. As I said, only questions related to the system. You should have already been told you will be here for one semester. Don’t make me repeat myself.”

Well you tried Tanaka. Now at least I knew there was no point asking Mephisto.

“If you already have all the data digitalised, don’t you already know who’ll win in advance? What is the point of making us… kill each other?”

“No, our computers can’t exactly predict what will happen but we do have a good idea. As for your second question I can assure you that your lives will be safe even if you die here, although there will be a price to pay, but don’t be afraid to take any risks that you would not otherwise take, like for example to take out anyone who troubles you. And by takeout, I don’t mean on a date haha.”

He laughed at his own non-funny joke but what I realised was that since no one had asked about their skills maybe I was the only one to have a skill. I doubt everyone would have been as resistant to asking him about it if they had any skills.

“Ahh. I mean it’s fine if you want to take them on a date too. If that’s what you fancy. The principles of demand and supply are amoral but I think I may have stolen too much of Miss Augustine’s time… Miss Augustine?”

Augustine was hunched over in the corner at the teacher’s desk  typing some words on a phone while still cursing under her breath.

Mephisto took the smartphone out of Augustine’s hands who glared at him in response.

“I have warned you many times Miss Augustine, you are not allowed to post rants on Neetter during school time. I’ll have to confiscate your phone… That even one of Faust’s staff members would succumb to addiction to the illusory world of Neetter. Think of your cute students. Ah well. There is much to do. I’ll see you later, Class Special A. I look forward to your profits at the Holy Grail Contest.”

Mephisto walked out of the door leaving Augustine phone-less.

Augustine sulked in the corner for a moment then she handed us another booklet with the school’s fire exits but after a cursory glance at that, there was nothing else to do. Finally, Hisao raised his hand confidently to ask a question.

“Miss Augustine. May we know what the contest will consist of?”

There was a sudden mood change in Augustine for the better which probably meant for the worse for us.

“The contest will of course be to find the 667th Holy Grail. What else could it be? In order to manifest the grail you will need to make more money than the other team and reach a certain threshold and conditions. This will teach you the value of capitalism, of hardwork and cunning which underlie the world.”

Augustine nodded sagaciously.

“But before that, there’s something you need to learn.”

Augustine pointed a remote at the ceiling causing a projector to slowly lowered itself from the ceiling. Was this mechanism really necessary? Couldn’t have they have just fixed it on the ceiling, so much for practicality. Augustine rotated the blackboard 180 degrees to reveal a white screen, on which a video was now projected.

There were two men on steroids half-naked in shorts in a ring, sometimes glaring at each other, sometimes jumping on each other and sometimes beating each other with pieces of furniture like chairs. It was a pro wrestling “match.” Was this what the battle for the Holy Grail was going to be? A crooked staged contest with horrible acting? Sounded like capitalism alright. 

Augustine lit a cigar and darkened the room until all we could see of her was the light from her cigar and the glint from her glasses. I was annoyed by the smell of tobacco which had nowhere to go. Shouldn’t she at least open the windows for this? I guess our health was a low concern for this school’s priorities.

When the video came to an end the lights came back on and the screen now showed the image of a blonde-haired business man in a blue-striped suit grinning with confidence while holding a wad of cash. Augustine pointed her cigar at the projection.

“This man is a great man. Vance MacMahon is a formidable role model for all of you to follow… No, maybe he is too great for any of you to follow in his footsteps. But anyway pro-wrestling is the essence of Capitalism, once you understand it then you’ll have an intuitive understanding of the free market but let’s not put the cart before the horse. We’ll start from the humble beginning of Vance’s Empire…”

In the lesson that followed we were given a two-hour lecture on the history of pro wrestling and Vance McMahon’s business acumen. I didn’t think Vance could have gotten so much praise if he paid for it. I was baffled about whether I need to make any notes on this but I did this anyway since any students who fell asleep were assaulted with 33mm white chalk pieces flying at high speeds and accurately hitting their targets. Tanaka was one of them. If you wanted to ask Augustine a question after the presentation she informed us you needed to write it on a piece of paper and pass it to the front of the class along with a donation of 2 gold pieces. Nobody asked her any questions, if that was her intention, though I feared that she thought her “wisdom” was worth money.

“Now that your minds have been cleansed of unclean and impure thoughts through the pure sport that is the pro-wrestling business, it’s time for you to learn the true history of the world. The history of Mu.”

Then she changed the slide to a picture of two scantily clad Brazilian women in some kind wearing peacock-like get-up, obviously part of that parade that escaped me the name of.

“Sorry, wrong slide.”

She hesitated a bit before changing the slide showing absolutely no shame. After a few more  slides of women from South America, Augustine arrived at a slide with an innacurate map of the world with the pacific and Indian oceans covered in two different huge land masses. I wished that I could plug my ears or better yet walk away rather than listen to these conspiracy theories but I doubted Augustine would take kindly to that view.

“Tens of thousands of years ago, this world was ruled by a noble race called the Mu who lived on a continent in the Pacific Ocean between Japan and Alaska. This hegemony came about after the crushing of the Kumari Kandam, a child-sacrificing merchant state based on a landmass connecting India, Madagascar and Australia and covering most of the Indian Ocean. The details of this war will be for another lesson. After this conquest the Mu formed what is called the Non-Contiguous States of Mu, incorporating both lost continents and enslaving the previous inhabitants of the Kumari Kandam. From there the Mu spread across the world but obviously they are not here anymore, nor is their continent which was cast into an alternate dimension to stem the sabotaging of the  fifth columnists loyal to the Kumari Kandam. Amongst the Mu there was a brilliant scientist called Barben, he is, in Director Mephisto’s estimation anyway, still alive. In any case, most of what we know about this period comes from Barben, so obviously it is biassed.  Why did the once mighty people of Mu spread out across the world and then disappear despite the fact that there was no other power that could surpass or oppose them? The answer to that is simple, it is corruption and rot!”

*clap* *clap* *clap*

I turned to my side. Hisao alone clapped with a hearty smile across his face. Just when I thought this roommate of mine couldn’t creep me out any more. Could I not ask for a different room or a different roommate? Even Tanaka would be fine. Let me guess, do I have to pay for it? Somehow I felt like Hisao wouldn’t take it kindly to it and I didn’t want to get on the wrong side of someone who was potentially insane.

“Thank you Hisao, you’ll get a coupon to reduce your tithe 0.1%”

“Thank you Miss Augustine.”

*clap* *clap* *clap*

The whole class except me erupted in clapping. Akane seemed to eye me for a moment but then proceeded with her lesson without awarding any more discounts for the obsequious ass-kissers.

She moved onto the next slide entitled “The Mu-mer Truth Regime.”

“There are many proximal causes to the Mu’s fall but together they can be summed up by The Mu-mer truth regime. Most Mu men were forcibly conscripted at a young age to be part of a warrior caste but this left the women to run most businesses and other civilian roles. There was also a large slave-class which did all the low-status jobs. The Mu refused to have children, leading to the Mu simply dying out. The 40,000 year old scientist Barben tried to stop this decline by challenging the Mu-mer Truth Regime through genetic engineering and in the process created the Ten Náš Systém (T.N.S. or Terminal Network System) a supercomputer responsible for the creation of the human race, a race created to undermine the three pillars of the Mu-mer Truth Regime.”

Augustine turned off the projector and flipped to the black board and then  in a flurry of strokes drew a Greek-style portico with three pillars upholding a roof called “The Mu-Mer truth regime.” The first pillar was named the: “The “Uneconomic” Warrior Caste,”  the second “The “Usurping” Commercial Class,” and the third “The “Declawed” Slave Class.”

“The three pillars are, as I clearly delineated, and make sure that you are listening to me because you’ll have to pay for a premium subscription if you want to listen to what I have to say again, are the following: The first Pillar consists of the warrior caste who were banned from all economic activity and so in the long-run when there weren’t any other enemies to subjugate but only pliant slaves and serfs, this led to the decline of the warrior caste’s corruption and ceding of influence to the second pillar, the predominantly Mu female Commercial Class. Remember that males of other races who were not Mu were also allowed to join the Commercial Class which were deemed to be inferior. Obviously in the long run this meant that power shifted from the warrior caste to the Commercial Class. The lesson of this is that any group, no matter how physically strong, if it can’t handle wealth in the name of moral purity it will decline. Or in other words the ruling caste should have a thorough knowledge and practice of both commerce and the martial arts rather than relegating the former to subordinate classes.The third and final Pillar which Barben tried to destroy was the slave class. Unlike between us humans created by Barben’s TNS the differences between the Mu and the other humanoid races were truly unbridgeable mainly due to the fact that the Mu purposefully bred the slave class to be more stupid and weak. Stupid and weak though they may have been, they were more numerous and more fertile perhaps because they were more stupid. In any case, those who really proved to be stupid, as usual, were the wise themselves. The Mu were simply outnumbered on their own continent. During a massive slave revolt the entire continent was transferred into another dimension along with all its non-Mu and Mu inhabitants. Without a central authority but with the same stifling caste system the remaining Mu set up the great civilisations in Greece, Egypt, India and elsewhere and then fought each other from declining states until they were replaced by Dr Barben’s human race. What are the lessons to take from this? Although in many ways the Mu’s Truth Regime was noble in trying to create a morally pure warrior caste, their slavish adherence to this principle and their inflexibility led to their decline. Of course, there are still some of us with remnant Mu powers but that power is nothing compared to the real thing.”

I was really starting to have enough of this alt-history nonsense so I raised my hand to ask a question of my own, even if there was a penalty, I did not intend to pay any fees for a forced education.

“Sure go ahead kid.”

Why was I being called a kid by a 12-year-old girl?

“What I want to know is this, why do we need to learn about the Mu? How is any of it relevant to us twenty-first century high-schoolers?”

“Oh, wonderful. Somebody with a head on their shoulders finally. What’s your name?”

“Ishikawa Ishin.”

“Ishikawa-san your punishment will be to stand in the corridor holding a bucket full of water in each hand, and one balanced on top of your head for good measure but before you go I shall answer your question…. It doesn’t matter whether what you say is true or not, there is a certain hierarchy in this Academy and you’ll respect it. The practical lesson that I am trying to teach you is that you should read the atmosphere before speaking first. If I say that two and two makes five then what should you say?”

What kind of Orwellian nonsense was this?

“It’s four.”

“Oh really?” 

Akane extended her hand towards me with her palm raised and fingers outstretched.

“Tell me how many fingers do you see here?”


The empty air in front of her palm crackled with blue streaks of light like lightning.

“Wrong answer!”

A bolt of energy sprang forth from her hand blowing me off my feet and blowing a large hole in my chest. The horror and pain of being able to see through my own chest was instantaneous, what followed was the shock in the eyes of my classmates and the sound of something hitting the ground. It was my head. In the midst of the screams of the students and the scraping of tables and chairs on the floor I could still hear Augustine’s insane voice.

“Oh look, his big head isn’t on his shoulders anymore!”

My vision slowly dimmed but before it was entirely gone another status screen popped up. “Unending Suffering” Activated, Resetting Coordinates to α Point.” Everything started to turn grey except the floor which was covered by my own blood though by my vantage point I could not see much. I blinked as I was not entirely gone.

I was in a bed. I did not lose consciousness for a single moment. I did not wake up from a dream. It was instantaneous. One moment I was dying decapitated by a twelve year old girl in  a lab coat that can shoot beams out of her hands and the next I was lying in bed, a lecherous ceiling which was no longer unfamiliar greeted my eyes. 

I sprang up from my bed and touched my chest.

“Oh, I wondered when you would wake up.” 

The Light Novel Club

The Light Novel Club

Status: Ongoing Author: Released: 2024
Ishikawa Isshin, a freshman at North High has decided to join his high school's Light Novel Club, hoping to get some inspiration and quiet, to work on his novel for a light novel writing contest. Unfortunately for Isshin, the club's non-talkative bibliophilic book girl and old-tech obsessed club president, Izumi, as well as other members of the school faculty are intent on getting in his way by dragging him off to participate in miscellaneous after-school club activities.  Will Isshin remain the reluctant member of the club and continue to regret his decision to have joined? Or will he come to love the club, and discover the true purpose of the Light Novel Club?  


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


not work with dark mode