༺ Problem Child Counseling ༻
Saladin did not show up for class.
I found out about it after the Tuesday morning class ended.
There were no basic physical training classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, I didn’t have a chance to see the Opal Black class students in the morning.
So I was handling my work in the faculty room when the first-year fencing instructor, Instructor Reich, entered the room.
Unlike the Opal Black class, which has only eight students, the other classes with hundreds of students have multiple instructors.
Instructor Reich is in charge of the Diamond White class like Instructor Akeron, but we hadn’t had a chance to talk so far, so we were quite distant.
So it was quite unusual for him to speak to me as soon as he entered the faculty room.
“Um, Instructor Graham.”
The elderly fencing instructor, who had a career close to old age, seemed awkward to bring up such a topic, hesitated while scratching his chin, and spoke.
“Actually, your student didn’t show up for my class.”
“…If you mean my student?”
“Saladin Al-Kamil, the student I’m talking about.”
My expression unconsciously hardened, and seeing my hardened expression, Instructor Reich nodded slightly and spoke.
“He wasn’t an insincere student in class, so I was quite surprised too. That’s why I thought I should let you know.”
“…Thank you for letting me know.”
“Um, then I’ll leave.”
As I saw Instructor Reich return to his seat, I immediately tried to locate Saladin using tracking magic.
However, even when using tracking magic, the location of the student ID was Saladin’s room.
I went back to the dormitory just in case, but as expected, there was no sign of Saladin in the room. Only the ownerless student ID was left there.
It was not certain yet. Maybe he missed the class for a while due to some circumstances.
To make sure of that, I left the dormitory to move to the lecture hall in search of the last student who saw Saladin.
Since I remembered all the students’ schedules, I recalled that Gwyn, who was attending the same fencing class, was attending a horse riding class.
Philion Academy, true to its enormous size, even had a riding arena where students could ride horses within the academy.
As the class was in full swing, I asked for the riding instructor’s permission and found Gwyn.
As our eyes met from a distance, she rode her horse towards me.
Very slowly, that is.
“Ugh! Little, no! Stay still! No, not too still! Walk a little! Ugh!”
Gwyn’s horse seemed annoyed, as if it didn’t like its rider, and after rolling its hooves and making a fuss, it eventually stopped walking altogether.
“U-uh, move! Move…!”
Gwyn tried to move the motionless horse by wiggling her waist as if to say move, but it seemed fortunate that she didn’t fall off doing so.
I sighed shortly and walked directly to where Gwyn was, feeling like she would be like this until the class ended.
As I approached, she awkwardly turned her gaze away and smiled.
“Ahaha… Instructor, you came?”
“Is this your first time riding a horse?”
“Well, I never had a chance to ride a horse in the mountains. I wanted to learn, but it’s so awkward not to have my feet touching the ground…”
“You have to balance on the horse. It’s natural for the horse to be uncomfortable if you try to hold on with force.”
“Uh… Instructor Schraiber said the same thing…”
Schraiber was the name of the first-year horse riding instructor.
Gwyn, who eventually gave up on appeasing the horse, got off the saddle, and the horse she rode immediately shook its tail and moved away.
Gwyn looked at the horse’s retreating figure with a slightly clouded gaze and then looked back at me.
“But why are you here, Instructor Eon? Did something happen?”
“Saladin didn’t show up for class. Do you know anything about it?”
“Ah… Yes. I was going to tell you during lunch, but…”
Gwyn brushed the back of her neck as she spoke.
“While we were going to the fencing class, he suddenly said he had urgent business and told me to go ahead.”
“He didn’t say what it was, and I didn’t ask. Saladin is a little… well, you know?”
Saladin was hostile to all the students in the class.
Although he was less so toward Batar, who was somewhat ambiguous as a non-human Titania Empire citizen, it was still closer to indifference than a friendly attitude.
Having heard the information I wanted, I was about to leave to find Saladin again, but Schultz, who was taking a class in the distance, spotted me and suddenly turned his horse’s head.
Schultz, who seemed to have ridden a horse quite often even before entering the academy, approached riding the horse much more skillfully than Gwyn.
“Instructor Eon! Did you come here because of Saladin?”
“Yes. How did you know?”
“I heard from Gwyn earlier. …Can I help look for him too?”
A hint of worry and concern was evident in the usually calm Schultz’s expression.
It occurred to me that he might still be holding onto yesterday’s incident. Even though it wasn’t intentional, Schultz had played a part in causing Saladin’s injury.
However, Schultz didn’t need to feel responsible for Saladin’s disappearance. There was no certainty that it was related to yesterday’s incident, and as an instructor, I couldn’t encourage a student to skip a class.
“I cannot allow that.”
“Enough. If you have something to say to Saladin, do it after he returns. I’ll take care of finding him.”
Schultz seemed unable to argue when I said it so firmly, his expression stiffened, and then he bowed his head, asking me to take care of it.
I left Gwyn and Schultz to focus on their class and walked away from the riding arena, lost in thought.
Now it was clear.
I couldn’t yet determine whether Saladin had disappeared voluntarily or had been caught up in a problem that forced him to skip the class.
But this was definitely a problematic situation.
In principle, I should report this to Dean Heinkel before the situation worsens.
Like most students in the Opal Black Class, Saladin was not an ordinary student.
If the first prince of Al-Kamil suddenly disappeared from the academy and a contingency occurred, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine the high possibility of it leading to serious diplomatic issues.
Suddenly, Instructor Lirya’s words weighed on my mind.
Saladin’s political position was very unstable. If I report this matter to Dean Heinkel, he would immediately mobilize the guards, and maybe even contact the Imperial Police.
After the incident grows that big and is resolved, what will happen to Saladin’s situation?
‘He may not be a child at eighteen… but honestly, he’s not quite an adult either.’
A simple act of youthful rebellion could escalate into something irreversible.
Perhaps Saladin intended this, but…
The last sighting was about three hours ago. Considering he left his student ID in his room, he likely didn’t leave through the main gate.
It’s also difficult to think that a foreign exchange student from a distant land would know a shortcut to the outside.
In the end, my intuition told me that Saladin was still somewhere within the academy.
Where did he go?
Why did he disappear?
I thought about Saladin’s hostile attitude toward everyone. According to Instructor Lirya, he was practically chased out of his home country, as if fleeing.
When I left the village as if running away from Ella’s traces, I also deliberately kept people at a distance and showed hostility before meeting Charlotte.
It was partly due to anger and partly due to fear. I was afraid of being hurt again in relationships with people.
If I were Saladin, I would surely find a place to be alone. But he wouldn’t know the geography of the area well.
So, a place that is somewhat familiar and where people rarely come.
In the end, the place I found after going round and round was near the Opal Black dormitory.
Since Saladin spent most of his time here except for classes, it naturally occurred to me that he might be nearby.
I focused my senses to find any trace of Saladin. It would be difficult if it were the whole city, but this much was entirely possible.
Ignoring the heavy footsteps of the guards, the laughter of students attending classes, and the rustling of grass and leaves, I searched for a single voice.
As I maintained my focus, I heard a familiar voice from afar.
-Damn it… Why…
A sign of life not moving, all alone in a remote place with nothing.
Saladin was alone at the top of the hill behind the academy.
I followed the trace of Saladin and soon arrived at the summit along the forest path.
Saladin was sitting under the shade of a tree, looking at the vast expanse of the forest.
He was so deep in thought that he didn’t even notice someone nearby, just continuously exhaling deep sighs.
I deliberately approached Saladin, making my presence known.
“So, you were here.”
“Wha-!? Instr, Instructor!?”
Saladin, startled by my sudden appearance, tensed up and stumbled backward under the tree.
He seemed to know what he had done wrong.
“H-how did you find me… Ugh! Why, why are you here? Are you going to discipline me again? Even if you-“
“Forget about discipline.”
From the beginning, I had no intention of scolding Saladin after finding him, punishing him, or asking why he had skipped class.
Anyway, it seemed unlikely that he would listen to me properly if I tried to start a conversation in this situation, so I grabbed Saladin a bit forcefully and threw him over my shoulder.
“What, what is this!? What are you trying to do…!”
Saladin twisted his body roughly with a bewildered expression, but to me, who had once choked the neck of a dragon corps commander, such resistance was even weaker than a worm wriggling.
“You have a place to go with me.”
Without waiting for Saladin’s response, I started to quickly descend the mountain path.
Saladin, who was dizzy because of the fast speed, began screaming
However, I had no intention of slowing down.
Saladin’s screams echoed through the mountains like a reverberation.
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