༺ A Slight Change (2) ༻
Mediating something was always difficult.
Conflicts were bound to arise whenever there were more than two people gathered. This was true in a quiet rural village, as well as in the military, where the principle was to obey orders without question.
Naturally, conflicts occurred within the academy as well.
Resolving conflicts arising from human relationships was very difficult; it’s easy to get cursed at from both sides, and it’s rare that something comes back to me even if I manage to resolve it well.
I didn’t get involved in these disputes even when I was in the military. And I didn’t plan to in the future either.
I was too busy with my own affairs to have the leisure to take care of others. I had never tried to stop children’s fights, let alone anything else.
However, there were times when you had to do things you were not used to, and now was one of those moments. But the likelihood of me solving this problem alone was almost nonexistent.
And there was a person I would always turn to in situations like this.
After the morning class, I headed to the teacher’s office after confirming that Saladin went to the infirmary. Fortunately, the person I was looking for was there.
“Hmm, Aizenfeld’s tactical report is… impeccable. But if we could improve this point a bit…”
Instructor Lirya was absorbed in paperwork since morning.
She was reviewing the assignments submitted by the students in the tactical studies class, praising the advantages of the tactics and strategies they had presented, while also pointing out areas that needed revision.
Casting a sideways glance at the content, I found it quite impressive, even for someone like me who had spent decades in the military. Indeed, it was a tactic that made me nod in agreement as a tactical instructor.
With such skills, she would have made a significant contribution to the command under Marquis Kalshtein. Of course, with the war over and the military being significantly downsized, such assumptions didn’t hold much meaning now.
As I was thinking about this, I suddenly became curious.
Instructor Lirya was a gentry born into a noble family that was much wealthier than ordinary commoners, having grown up in an environment where everything was provided for without any shortage.
From what I heard, she had graduated from Philion Academy early, and her grandfather was a Marquis, so she must have grown up in an environment that many other nobles would envy.
So, how did she end up teaching tactics and history at the academy?
While pondering this, I waited for her to finish her work. Finally, Instructor Lirya finished her work, took off her glasses, and began to stretch.
“Ugh-! It’s over-!”
I shouldn’t think like this, but when Instructor Lirya stretched, she looked like a child doing stretching exercises to grow taller.
Instructor Lirya, after stretching, let out a sigh with a relaxed face. Then, belatedly realizing that I was watching her, she jumped up in surprise.
“Mr. Graham, when did you start watching me?!”
“I’ve been watching since you started reviewing Aizenfeld’s assignment.”
“That’s almost from the beginning!”
As I calmly replied, Instructor Lirya’s cheeks turned slightly red, and she showed inexplicable behavior such as suddenly fixing her bangs or adjusting her clothes.
“Oh, come on! If you were watching, you should have said something…! Silently watching a lady’s unguarded moment… That’s not a gentleman’s behavior!”
Setting aside whether I was the kind of man who would be called a gentleman, what bothered me most was the word “lady.”
Lirya didn’t seem to have the appearance that could be called a lady in any way… but mentioning it would undoubtedly make her angry. Even someone as inexperienced in human relationships as I am knew that much.
“I apologize. I didn’t want to disturb you because you were so focused.”
“Well, if that’s the reason, I can’t help it.”
Instructor Lirya seemed to think she had raised her voice unnecessarily and spoke shyly, scratching her cheek with an awkward face.
I glanced at the stack of papers on her desk and continued the conversation.
“You’re very focused. I can tell just by watching how carefully you examine the students.”
“That’s only natural. Students learning tactical studies have a high probability of joining the Imperial Army as officers in the future. These students will graduate and command the Imperial Army, so shouldn’t my responsibility as their teacher be immense?”
Instructor Lirya lowered her gaze and spoke with a somewhat bitter expression.
“If I teach them the wrong tactics and they die meaninglessly on the battlefield, it would be a huge problem.”
For some reason, at that moment, I felt like I caught a brief glimpse of a dark, hidden part of her past.
However, I didn’t delve deeper into the topic and instead changed the subject to another conversation.
“Actually, I have something I’d like to consult with Instructor Lirya.”
I explained the current situation to Instructor Lirya.
Saladin’s hostile attitude and the discord within the class.
Instructor Lirya listened intently to my explanation for a while and then nodded her head.
“It’s a common thing.”
“Though the meaning has faded quite a bit due to its overuse, there’s a saying that children grow through fighting. Even though they’re not exactly children at eighteen… they’re not exactly adults either, right?”
I wasn’t sure whether to agree with that statement or not.
When I was that age, I was in the military at the very frontlines, risking my life fighting against monsters every day.
Maybe I could sympathize with the idea that children grow through fighting.
Instructor Lirya seemed to think she had made an inappropriate analogy for someone like me and made an awkward expression.
In the suddenly awkward atmosphere, I quickly changed the topic.
“Anyway, I thought Instructor Lirya would have a lot of experience with such matters, so I wanted to hear your opinion.”
“Well, if Instructor Graham needs my help, of course I’ll help! But…”
Instructor Lirya looked around. The faculty room was not an appropriate place to have a long conversation, as there were other instructors present.
I could already feel the glances of the other instructors who were occasionally peeking at us just from our short conversation.
Lunchtime was coming soon anyway. Instructor Lirya, with a shy expression, cautiously suggested.
“It’s a bit awkward to talk at length here. To properly apologize for what happened last time as well… How about having a casual meal outside…?”
I didn’t refuse her proposal.
To be honest, even though Instructor Lirya offered to treat me to a meal, it wouldn’t have been a problem if we had gone to a student cafeteria or a budget-friendly restaurant on campus.
There was no need to worry about such things, considering the number of times Instructor Lirya has helped me so far. It didn’t matter as long as we could find a quiet place to talk comfortably.
However, the meal that Instructor Lirya mentioned turned out to be quite elaborate.
We took a tram and arrived at a high-end restaurant in District 7. At first glance, it was a restaurant with a price range that seemed quite burdensome for enjoying a casual meal.
I wondered if we really had to come to such a place… But on second thought, Instructor Lirya wasn’t a noble only by title, and she must have lived a life that most nobles would envy. Naturally, she would have visited restaurants like this several times.
Rather, it could be common sense for Instructor Lirya to enjoy a casual meal in a place like this.
I respected her opinion and didn’t refuse, entering the restaurant.
“Um… Conti, Casso…? Brunoise…? I mean…”
However, Instructor Lirya struggled to read the menu and trembled with a flustered expression. She didn’t look familiar with a restaurant like this at all.
“Is this your first time at a place like this?”
“No, no! Not at all! I’ve been here many times! So, Instructor Graham, don’t feel burdened and just trust me- uh, um…”
Instructor Lirya glanced at the menu written in strange words that weren’t the empire’s common language, rolling her eyes around, and eventually, with a short sigh, she put down the menu and answered honestly.
“Sigh… Yes, it’s true. This is my first time at a place like this…”
“You could have chosen a more comfortable place.”
“I wanted to treat Instructor Graham. And… I’ve always wanted to come to a restaurant like this with a man, just the two of us…”
As Instructor Lirya muttered her last words, she hid her face with the menu and mumbled to herself.
Of course, it might have been a whisper to her, but I could hear it all.
However, instead of reacting to her words, I calmly raised my hand and called a passing waitress.
As the waitress’s eyes met mine, they momentarily showed a surprised expression. Then, they quickly changed their expression and approached the table with a gentle smile.
“Yes, sir. Do you need anything?”
“I’m new to this kind of place, could you please recommend something from the menu?”
The waitress nodded at my question and kindly answered.
“Of course. Our restaurant is particularly popular for its meat and seafood dishes. For steak, I recommend the Chateaubriand or Filet Mignon, and for seafood, the Oyster Gratin and Salmon Tartare are quite popular.”
Instructor Lirya, who was listening, asked in a flustered tone.
“Chateau… what? What is that?”
“To explain that menu-“
In the end, we ordered a few dishes following the waitress’s recommendations.
After ordering, Instructor Lirya bowed her head, her face looking somewhat drained and full of embarrassment.
“It’s okay. It happens.”
“Instructor Graham, you’re always so composed. I didn’t know what to do when we actually got here… Are you more familiar with places like this than I am?”
I shook my head slightly as I answered.
Having grown up in the countryside as a child and later eating military-provided meals, there was no way I could be familiar with such places.
I just acted as I always did. At any restaurant, following the waiter’s recommendations usually avoided failure. I thought it wouldn’t be much different even in a high-end restaurant like this.
Instructor Lirya seemed somewhat overwhelmed by the menu, the restaurant’s atmosphere, and the overall ambiance of the establishment.
“To be honest, I was surprised.”
“Did you think I would be familiar with places like this?”
I nodded slightly. There was no reason to deny the truth.
Instructor Lirya gave an awkward smile and opened her mouth.
“It’s not unreasonable. Actually-“
Just as Instructor Lirya was about to speak with a serious expression, a waitress suddenly approached with the sound of clicking heels, placing two cups of coffee on the table.
We, who had never ordered coffee, looked puzzled and asked the waitress.
“Is coffee also provided?”
“It’s a complimentary service.”
“Ah, thank you.”
The long-haired waitress with a mature atmosphere gave me a subtle, smiling glance before retreating.
Instructor Lirya, who was about to resume the interrupted conversation, continued with a tense expression.
At that moment, another waitress approached the table. She was a tall woman with short hair and a refined appearance.
“Do you need anything else, sir?”
“…No, we’re good.”
“If you need anything, just let me know. I’ll also help with coffee refills.”
We hadn’t even taken a sip yet.
I nodded lightly, and the short-haired waitress also gave me a smile before stepping back. She didn’t even glance at Instructor Lirya.
After that, waitresses kept approaching our table for various reasons, even though we hadn’t called them.
While I thought that the service was quite friendly because it was an expensive restaurant, Instructor Lirya opened her mouth with a slightly annoyed expression.
“Instructor Graham… you’re quite popular, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Very much so.”
Instructor Lirya, who said that, somehow didn’t seem to be in a particularly good mood.