His father took him right up to the school gate. Claude limped the rest of the way to class and sat down gingerly, swinging his leg under his desk awkwardly. He was swamped by his classmates the moment his arse hit the chair. Everyone had seen the crocodile the previous evening, and his cast leg and crutch matched their image of a wounded, jaded warrior.
He's face was tomato-red the entire time. He would have kowtowed to the teacher when he chased everyone back to their seats if not for his leg. He wasn't particularly happy that everyone was praising him rather than helping him out. He'd never used a crutch before, and it wasn't helped by the fact that it was just a little too big for him.
He was just dozing off when his three friends burst into the classroom, out of breath.
"We were waiting for you at your home! Why didn't you ask him to give us a ride as well? We had to run all the way here!" Welikro complained immediately, shooting an apologetic glance at the teacher.
"You should have waited for me at school!" Claude exclaimed exasperatedly.
"Did you sell the crocodile?" Claude asked while the teacher busied himself preparing his material.
"Yes..." Borkal said unhappily.
The crocodile should have gone for a good price, so why was he so sour?
"Sir Fux bought it for four crowns," Eriksson said.
That was a damn large amount of money! Claude shouted in his head.
Borkal snorted a sigh and his shoulders drooped.
"We should have been able to get an even better price, no one was going to cross Sir Fux. If we'd auctioned it off in Baromiss we could have gotten ten crowns or more! The skin alone can go for as much as eight crowns!"
He'd put the crocodile up for auction with a starting price of just ten thales. He'd been confident the price would be bid up to a good price, but then Sir Fux had turned up and bid just four crowns and no one had been willing to bid against him.
Four crowns sounded incredible, but when he heard what the thing was really worth, he nearly cried blood.
Borkal had been robbed in all but name. He hated the man called Fux for exploiting his power against the powerless and bullying everyone into giving him what he wanted. Damnit, that wasn't fair! He had spent the whole night cursing the entire Fux lineage to Nubissia and back several times over.
"Whatever. Four crowns is still a lot of money," Claude consoled.
He hoped the experience would teach Borkal a valuable lesson, maybe even give him pause next time he decided to beat up another kid, though he was not going to hold his breath.
Eriksson was adamant that the whole town's elite was just as much to blame. They all knew how much more the crocodile was worth, but no one had stood up for the boys. They instead took the chance to butter the man up with praise. The four boys' only consolation was that the whole town knew who had killed the crocodile and how before Sir Fux got his hands on it, so he wouldn't be able to claim that glory for himself as well.
The townsfolk had reasoned that his purchase was a great move for the boys as well, since everyone that came to visit would hear their story when they saw the stuffed reptile, and Sir Fux frequently got high-profile visitors.
"Ptooey! I don't want his house to be where people hear our story!" Welikro spat angrily.
Claude agreed quietly. He knew too well the trappings of 'exposure'. He'd seen too many authors or artists extorted of their work for peanuts because 'it would be great exposure'. Exposure meant nothing if it didn't bring in money.
None of them could do anything about it, not even all four their fathers combined could. Hell, Claude and Borkal's fathers had both been there, and they'd been just as buttery as all the other bastards!
"Okay, enough. We can't do anything about it, so brooding over it won't do us any good. How did everything else sell?" Claude asked when he saw the teacher shifting uneasily.
"Not bad. Pjard bought three of the egrets, a turkey, and half of the fish. He paid a thale and three riyas," Eriksson said.
"What about the other five ducks?"
"I gave it to Kefnie," Eriksson said proudly, "We'll look after you, Claude, don't you worry."
Claude's sore jaw nearly fell off entirely.
"You're the one that invited them. Don't worry, I know you were trying to show off. I didn't let you down. Kefnie's your crush, so of course we'd help you out. I also made sure to suggest to her sister you had the hots for Kefnie. She said she doesn't have a problem with you wooing her little sister."
"I... I..." Claude wanted to cry.
He'd only helped the girl out because his former self had liked her. He had no romantic interest in her at all. But now his friends had all but set him up with her.
"You saw her sister yesterday, yes? Hehe... I told you she's a hottie!" Eriksson whispered lasciviously.
"F*ck off!" Claude cried, shoving the boy away, "The teacher's about about to start class!"