The Price of Good Grades - Part Three
"What deal?" a bright-eyed Ruki asked.
"The deal," Martin said, looking very important.
I cringed at every word.
"What kind of a deal?" another pet asked.
"Tell us!" a Yurble called out. Soon, the whole
class was chanting, "Tell us! Tell us!"
I hated this fool, this stupid Gelert that was
about to reveal my secret more than I ever had. I remembered when he had spread
rumors about many other pets, and how they broke down after that. I slowly realized
that it was going to happen to me too. I wasn't invincible.
"Wanna hear?" the traitor, Martin, asked, wanting
to drag this out as much as he could. He basked in the attention as he turned
to that uncaring soul I had seen a few times before. His curious face disappeared,
replaced by a cold, hard mask of steel.
I was doomed.
"Joel!" Edwin called out as he reached me. "Did
"Not yet," I said darkly. But I knew that it
was going to happen. He would tell.
As Martin opened his mouth, a cold feeling washed
over me, followed by some regret and guilt. I imagined my friends making all
kinds of comments. My social life, the sole reason that I had gone to school,
would be ruined in this instant.
"What is the price of good grades?" Martin begun.
"Hard work?" the Ruki suggested. Several answers
flew in the air until Victor called out.
"Money! Because it's a price!" Victor the Yurble
said. The Yellow Gelert clapped his hand and soon the other pets begun to do
the same thing.
I wanted to fold my sensitive ears, scream and
run to the end of the world. But I couldn't. Caught by an unknown power, I was
stuck there, forced to listen as Martin revealed my secret. My legs turned to
jellied ice, and I could hear Ed whisper 'sorry' behind me.
"That's right!" Martin said after the applause
had stopped. "And guess what? Our good old buddy here has a deal!" Every eye
in the hallway turned to me. I felt embarrassed, ashamed but most of all, fierce
rage over the humiliation that Martin had caused me in a minute.
He was just standing there, enjoying the attention
as he tore me apart. Months of hard work of being friendly and nice, getting
everyone to be friends went down the drain.
"Joel gets paid for having good grades!" Martin
shouted. I was sure that even those who flew above our school would surely hear
that loud voice.
"How much?" they all asked, eager to know. Now
they weren't my friends anymore. I turned to look at Edwin, who looked sad.
"There's no stopping it," he whispered. I could
see that he pitied me. But I didn't want pity. I just wanted to get out of there.
I tried to move, but that force kept me there, as if it wanted me to hear the
whole thing. I remembered how Mari had held me and lectured me, but this was
a feeling ten thousand times worse than that.
"10k!" Martin cried out, waving his arms like
insane. "10k for every report card and major test, like the one we had today!
10k for every A!"
As my had-been friends began to whisper, mutter
and protest that it was unfair, I felt that strong hand finally letting go.
I jumped up and ran away, not wanting to see the rest even if that power wanted
me to. It was just too horrible.
All the time I had spent on my friends had vanished
in that second. I was humiliated, but the flame of revenge burned steadily inside
me. It slowly grew dimmer as I realized that this wouldn't be over yet. No,
it would not be over for many days.
I flew through the rooms and into my own room,
to my sanctuary where that cruel, indifferent voice couldn't hurt me. But Martin's
voice echoed inside me, again and again. Agitated, I grabbed my pillow and threw
it at the door. I continued to throw random things around in fury.
All that hard work... All those friends... What
would they think?
Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. The flood
of questions and the wretched feelings had to stop. I buried myself in bed.
The door opened. Mari came inside and looked
"What happened?" she asked. "You're crying."
"Leave me alone!" I shouted. I heard my owner
walk away as I felt the tears roll down. I hadn't noticed them before.
Suddenly I wondered if Mari was hurt by my rage,
and I promised myself to apologize tomorrow. I had already been humiliated enough,
so a little humility wouldn't hurt.
I punched the pillow a number of times before
I managed to fall asleep, trying to forget the event that had taken place.
When I came to school the next day, no one would
say anything to me. They all looked at me as if I was some kind of an alien,
and when I tried to see in their eyes, they looked away. I felt dreadful, but
it would've been worse if Edwin hadn't stuck with me.
"Why are you still here?" I asked him, knowing
that I might've offended him.
"Because I'm your friend," he replied earnestly.
"And we all should get good grades, no matter the motivation. Oh, and the fact
that you like studying." He grinned.
"I don't!" I protested, feeling relieved that
Ed at least could act normal towards me.
"You do," he said. I wondered if he was right.
After all, we had been friends since... forever.
"What about immoral?" I asked, touching the sensitive
subject. Edwin looked down for a second, but replied.
"Ilsa said it was considered immoral, all right.
I thought that at first, but I think that if you do get good grades, then that's
fair enough. 10k is like getting a good Battledome weapon or a candy, only it's
money. I'm pretty sure that some pets get small rewards when they get good grades.
Of course, they aren't as hopeless as you..." he trailed off, eyeing me carefully
to see if I was insulted.
"Oh, so now I'm a hopeless case?" I said mockingly.
"Not really. I got thinking and ended up with
that reasoning, so I'm okay with it. I think the reason to why everyone is making
such a big fuss is because it is money and it was more like a contract than
just a gift."
"You always say that knowledge is the best reward,"
"That is true, but there are other rewards. Like
10k." Edwin pronounced the last two words slowly, letting the echoes turn into
The silence didn't last long. Everywhere, I could
hear pets muttering and mumbling after yesterday's incident.
"I wish I could get 10k for every A. Then I'd
be so rich now."
"I never thought he would sink this low... getting
paid for good grades. There shouldn't be any other motivation than the sole
thirst of knowledge."
"That's just wrong. There is no price tag on
"Why does he get money for it? If that's the
case, then we should all get paid!"
The hallway was filled with such comments, and
many more. Throughout the day, I looked at the other pets who would carefully
look at me. But none of them would talk to me. I stuck to Edwin all day, since
he was the only one who would acknowledge my existence and associate with me.
"What's the price of good grades?" I asked sourly
as we sat down for math class, our last period for the day.
"Hard work, perseverance and a great deal of
determination," he replied. "Or 10k...." Ed added thoughtfully.
"I guess it is as they say: There is no price
on good grades," I admitted, defeated.
"It'll be okay," Edwin said. "Perhaps not now,
but in a year or two I'm sure everyone will forget."
"Forget? Hardly..." I scoffed as the teacher
handed out the corrected tests.
"Look!" my best friend exclaimed, pointing to
my test. I looked at it for a brief moment; still wallowing in a puddle of self-pity
until I realized what letter it was on the top right corner.
"I got an A!" I whispered. Some of the excitement
was back, but the happiness quickly diminished as no one would still talk to
"I'll bet he'll get his money right when he comes
home," someone whispered after my outburst of joy.
My knuckles turned white, but I didn't say anything.
The last period was an awfully long one, but finally it ended.
I walked home with Edwin, wondering if it would
be better tomorrow. When I asked him, he told me that it was possible, but not
I waved goodbye to Ed, who had helped me through
the day when we came to the third block. Then I walked the rest of the way alone,
trying to think of possible solutions. Yesterday afternoon seemed like a blur,
but now my mind was all right, even if everything that had happened still pained
me. Finally I stumbled onto one that might work as I walked down the block where
my Neohome was.
"Welcome home!" Mari exclaimed, hugging me and
grabbing the test. "Ooh... Lookie! An A! Congrats!" She smiled. Suddenly I remembered
"I'm sorry for yesterday," I whispered. My owner
didn't seem to hear, but brought a bag of NP and handed it to me.
"I'm so happy that this works!" she smiled as
I counted the NP. It was 10k, as promised. I took a deep breath and began telling
her the decision that I had made while walking home.
"Mari..." I said, and she immediately paid attention
to me. "I've decided to break this deal. It doesn't work."
"What?" my owner asked, confused.
"I don't mean the grades," I explained. "My friends,
except for Edwin, all thought I was repulsive when they found out about this
deal. It can't go on like this anymore. Even though the NP may be a good reward,
I think it is just a little bit too controversial. Also, it destroyed the reason
to why I went to school."
"Why do you go to school now?" Mari interrupted.
"Well..." I thought a while, but found the answer
in my heart. "To make friends and to learn something."
"What is that something?" Mari asked with a tiny
smile spreading across her face.
"It's okay," Mari said and hugged me. "I understand.
I think it was a bad idea of me to come up with the deal. Honestly, I'm very
happy that you decided to drop this. But does it mean that you'll revert to
"No," I said. I had thought it all over. Edwin
was right. There was a tiny thirst of knowledge inside me, even though other
things might've suppressed it. "But don't expect me to get straight A's," I
"You'll try, right?" Mari begged.
"Then that's solved," my owner declared. "As
for your friends, I think they'll find you more appealing and pleasing if you
tell them that the deal's off. There is no guarantee that they'll return to
you, but the true friends will."
"Like Ed?" I asked.
"Yeah. Nice friends like Edwin. If you excuse
me, I still have some shopkeeping to do." I watched as Mari walked off, whistling
a cheerful little tune.
As Edwin always says, I reminded myself, there's
tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow would be better, though it will be a long way to
But at least I could try. Because... If I didn't
even try, then I would never know the result.
"I see that you've learned your lesson," an annoying
voice inside my head commented.
"Clamp it," I said as I grabbed my homework and
walked off to my room. I felt content, knowing that the answer to my two problems
was 'hard work, perseverance and determination'.