༺ A Slight Change (3) ༻
In the end, the excessive friendliness of the employees continued until the food was served.
Of course, the gazes toward us did not completely disappear even after the food came out, but still, Lirya and I were able to have a calm conversation.
“So what were you going to talk about earlier?”
Lirya seemed to have lost her intention to talk in the meantime, so I couldn’t tell what she was trying to say.
Anyway, that wasn’t the important part.
As I cut into the meat dish, whose name I couldn’t quite remember, I brought up the main topic.
“So, about Saladin.”
Lirya pondered for a while with an expression that she couldn’t understand why there were two forks, and eventually picked up the inner fork to stab the meat and replied.
“Yes? Ah, yes! Saladin was the main topic today. Well, in that situation…”
Lirya nodded her head once and slowly opened her mouth.
“First, we need to know why Saladin is isolating himself.”
Lirya answered, lifting her knife.
“From what I’ve heard, it seems Saladin’s actions are the reason he doesn’t fit in with the class. Typically, students who are isolated in class tend to be isolated involuntarily, but Saladin is in a somewhat unique situation.”
I realized that the knife she was holding was a considerably smaller child-sized knife than mine, but I pretended not to notice and focused on her words.
“There could be various reasons for such behavior, but considering Saladin’s unique background… it’s likely due to his home environment.”
“Are you talking about his background as an international student?”
“Not just any international student, but one from Al-Kamil. As a history teacher, I know a little more about their situation than others. Saladin probably didn’t come to the academy willingly.”
Lirya spoke with a slightly bitter smile.
“You know that Saladin is the first prince of Al-Kamil, right?”
“Yes, I heard it from Dean Heinkel.”
“Do you also know that there is no principle of primogeniture in the Kingdom of Al-Kamil?”
I didn’t know that.
I remained silent, and Lirya’s bitter smile deepened.
“It’s natural not to know, since it’s a country with little connection to the empire. The Sultan of Al-Kamil follows the principle of survival of the fittest. In that place, fratricide1 is carried out as if it’s only natural in order to become the Sultan.”
I didn’t know much about politics and wasn’t interested, but my expression naturally hardened at the words that it was natural for brothers to kill each other.
Lirya continued the conversation with a nod.
“The Imperial Intelligence Agency might know more about the current succession structure of the Al-Kamil royal family than I do… but considering the situation that the current first prince has come to Philion Academy, practically, Saladin is either at a great disadvantage in the succession structure or has already lost.”
That made it even more incomprehensible.
If Saladin could only expect to be killed by his brothers if he went back to the Kingdom of Al-Kamil, wouldn’t he rather desperately rely on the Empire?
Of course, being too observant wouldn’t be good either, but even so, such an openly hostile attitude would only be detrimental to him.
If he became disliked by the Imperial Princess sitting next to him, he could be sent back to his home country at any time.
Of course, Elizabeth didn’t seem like she would act on such personal feelings.
No, actually, I had a hunch.
I swallowed the meat in my mouth and said,
“Saladin’s attitude like that must be because of the relationship between the Empire and the Kingdom.”
“…Probably. The conflict between the two nations has a very deep history.”
Although the Kingdom of Al-Kamil is currently quiet due to the Empire’s power and authority reaching sky-high after winning the war, until a few generations ago, the two countries had fought fiercely dozens and hundreds of times, driving each other into heresy.
The Goddess of the Sky and the Father of the Sun.
Thanks to numerous religious disputes, both deities have been confirmed to exist.
However, the Goddess religion believes that the sky created everything, while the Sun religion believes that the sun is the source of all life.
They can’t get along because they both think each other’s god is a liar who stole their god’s achievements.
Growing up in such an environment, Saladin, as the prince of the Kingdom of Al-Kamil, would have naturally considered the Empire an enemy and grown up that way.
Now it’s peaceful but in the past, countless confrontations took place, and they might fight again in the future with a potential enemy.
How would Saladin feel about entrusting his life to such an enemy nation in order to survive?
I don’t know for sure, but at least his attitude showed that he seemed to feel humiliated.
Lirya spoke with a sheepish smile.
“I’m sorry. This isn’t a good conversation to have while eating, is it?”
I shook my head.
“No, it was a necessary conversation.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Anyway, since he isolated himself by his own choice, even if Instructor Graham tries to help, there’s a high chance that Saladin won’t accept it as help. It would rather fuel his resentment.”
That was my thought as well. Saladin’s feelings must be incredibly complicated right now.
It must have been a huge shock to flee from a life-threatening situation as a prince of a country, and now he’s entrusting himself to the Empire he considered an enemy and attending classes with Imperials. He must be experiencing significant confusion in this situation.
I could somewhat understand his prickly, hedgehog-like attitude. However, if he continues this attitude until graduation, it won’t be helpful for me, Saladin, or the overall class atmosphere.
As I initially thought, the need to resolve this issue was clear.
I wanted to humbly learn from my senior instructor’s knowledge.
“What should we do then?”
Lirya replied in a gentle voice.
“Well, this is just my personal opinion… but I think it’s most important for Saladin to feel a sense of belonging in the class.”
“Belonging, you say?”
“To Saladin, all the students in the Opal Black class are just students of the enemy nation, the Empire. However, the Empire is the Empire, and the class is the class. We need to make him distinguish and think about the two separately.”
It was clear that this would not be an easy task just by listening.
Seeing my awkward, stiff expression, Lirya continued with a faint smile.
“Why don’t you try to get closer to Saladin first? After all, what ultimately matters is his own thoughts.”
“The key is to try to understand his feelings. Of course, improving your relationship with Saladin may take some time. So don’t rush and approach him calmly.”
“Calmly, you say?”
“First, try making small changes. Wouldn’t sharing a meal together in a relaxed atmosphere like this be a good start?”
Indeed. Sharing a meal…
I realized that I had never once had a meal with a student, nor had I even considered it. Maybe I should start from there.
I didn’t intend to get too close to the students, but if this was part of my instructor duties, it would inevitably be necessary.
I bowed my head slightly in gratitude.
“Thank you. I now have a direction to follow.”
Lirya blushed and smiled shyly as she played with the ends of her hair.
“It’s really no big deal. If you need any help in the future, just let me know. If it’s something I can help with, I’ll be glad to do so.”
“Really? It seems like I’m always receiving help from you, Instructor Lirya.”
“Eh, ehehe… Of course. I’m happier if I can be of help.”
Would it only be helpful?
Having someone to rely on in a new environment was a very new experience for me. On the battlefield, I had to rely solely on my own strength to get through situations.
It would be great if I could somehow repay her later.
We wrapped up the conversation about Saladin and continued our meal while discussing lighter topics, such as our academic schedules and each other’s classes.
When we talked about the physical education class, Lirya’s expression seemed a bit weary, but we continued our conversation in a relaxed atmosphere and finished our meal before we knew it.
“I’ll take care of the bill.”
“Huh? No, I can’t let you do that! I was planning to treat you today! To make up for my apology last time as well…”
“But you ended up listening to my concerns back then, too. I received help from you today as well, so let me at least cover this.”
Although this place was a bit expensive, the amount wasn’t a significant burden for me.
I had previously been promised a performance bonus from Dean Heinkel, and even without that, I had saved up enough money. I actually had trouble finding ways to spend it all.
“…Then… since it’s uncomfortable for me to just accept your treat… can I really pay next time?”
“If that makes you feel better.”
I didn’t know when it would be, but eventually, I made another meal appointment with Lirya.
Lirya seemed to have a sense of accomplishment, her lips curling up into a smile.
After finishing our meal and trying to pay, the employee who took our payment greeted me with a bright smile and said,
“Did you enjoy your meal with your younger sister? You’re such a sweet brother!”
At those words, Lirya’s expression froze.