“You, over there.”
It was unprecedented for Altugius to be the first to speak to Sungchul.
But Sungchul didn’t respond to this. He was instead devoting all of his attention to reading his books.
“You there. Summoned.”
On the second beckoning, Sungchul raised his head and looked at the old Mage. Leonard Sanctum, who had been lying on his hammock, heard the voice and began to raise his body to look over as well. Altugius started to speak.
“It looks to me that you’ve spent all your time here since you’ve been admitted. Do you have a Guidance Counselor?”
“No, I do not.”
Sungchul couldn’t recall ever hearing of such things. A soft muttering spilled out of Altugius’ lips.
‘Even if the school is in its current state, to not share such basic information…’
Leonard seemed to share this opinion.
“Oh, my! A week has passed, and you still haven’t chosen a Guidance Counselor?”
The lighthearted voice echoed in the empty hall. After a brief moment, Sungchul asked his question.
“What is a Guidance Counselor?”
Altugius’ silver brows trembled lightly upon hearing his words. To not know such basic information that all Freshmen ought to know. It was a damning proof that showed that the academy had begun to crumble at its very foundations. This would have been unthinkable back when Altugius, or even Leonard, were Freshmen at Airfruit.
The Observatory rang out in Leonard’s laughter.
“Oh my goodness. A Freshman that doesn’t even know what a Guidance Counselor is. These truly are some dark times.”
He fell back onto the hammock and closed his eyes, a smirk on his face. As the silence returned, Altugius looked directly at Sungchul and spoke quietly.
“I apologize, but as I have said before, I have no intention of teaching anyone, and therefore I cannot be anyone’s Guidance Counselor. Seek someone else.”
Sungchul spoke indifferently and returned to reading his book with intense focus as usual. Unrelentingly. There wasn’t a more joyous sight for an educator than to see such a studious attitude from a brilliant student, but it only made Altugius burn with anxiety.
‘This fellow…Maybe he isn’t aware of the consequences of not selecting a Guidance Counselor?”
All Freshmen must choose a Guidance Counselor within ten days, and those who didn’t find an educator within ten days would lose the right of being a student. This was initially a rule set in place to allow Professors to work together to cast out undeserving students who entered the school using underhanded methods, but the circumstances had changed. If the academy had been operating normally, the Freshmen orientation would have been organized, and through the orientation, the students would have been informed of all of the academy’s expectations of them.
However, in the current state with the stunted flow of students they had, the welcoming ceremonies had all long since been done away with, and there was no one left for them to teach. If he had chosen the popular schools of Pyromancy or Cryomancy, the assistants would have given him the proper procedures, but there was no such service within the School of Cosmomancy.
Sungchul continued to wrestle with the books for another day in the Observatory, clueless about what was about to happen to him. Altugius’ concerns only grew deeper.
‘That fellow. At this rate, he’ll be expelled in three days from now.’
The problem was that Leonard Sanctum, who had promptly left the Observatory during the evenings, was almost spitefully holding his ground. He would only get up from his hammock and leave the Observatory after Sungchul left. His intentions were clear. He wanted to rid himself of the annoying presence that had appeared at the Observatory. And he could do so without having to get his hands dirty.
A similar situation occurred the next day. The shabby man, who didn’t even have a uniform, immersed himself in the pile of books which towered as high as he was. He didn’t speak and instead devoted himself to the books, except when he went to leave for lunch.
Altugius waited for this opportunity to warn Sungchul about the impending danger, but Leonard rose from his hammock each time so as to remind Altugius of his presence. He smiled brightly on the outside, but Altugius knew of his heinous personality hidden within. If Altugius expressed any concern for Sungchul, Leonard would use that as an excuse to try and force Altugius to teach the Secret of Cosmomancy that was held by Altugius. That would be absolutely unacceptable.
If the Secret of Airfruit, which has been guarded for generations, were to fall into the hands of the Followers of Calamity, the destruction of the world would only accelerate.
‘It is ok with just me getting my hands dirty.’
Altugius remained silent in the end and didn’t rise.
Two afternoons passed like this. There was only a single day remaining on the clock. But Sungchul remained fixated in his studies. Altugius wasn’t observing Sungchul because of his brilliant mind, but for his incredible tenacity. A question rose in his mind. Why would a Summoned from the other world be so attached to a niche school of Magic? And so, he ended up asking directly.
“That book, do you understand what you’re reading?”
The question had a hidden meaning behind it, one which revealed the old man’s intent. Leonard, who knew about it, smiled widely again.
“Teacher is getting quite mischievous.”
He knew about the book that Sungchul was reading, and the books within the pile that were towering over Sungchul as well. The ball was now in Sungchul’s court.
Sungchul, who was faced down reading his book, raised his head, not too quickly nor too slowly and looked at Altugius. There was a brief moment of silence at which Sungchul shook his head.
“I have been digging into it for a week now, but honestly, I don’t understand it one bit.”
A breath of sigh escaped from Altugius’ lips. It wasn’t to rebuke Sungchul’s ignorance, but rather rebuke his inability. The books that he had given to Sungchul were not meant to be understood from the very beginning. They required foreknowledge and a certain amount of Intuition before their contents could be understood. As long as the prerequisites had not been met, the reader could do nothing but become lost in the maze of words. The answer Sungchul had given was the expected one.
The time that seemed to be crawling along now sped up as Altugius opened his mouth once again.
“Why have you not asked me a question if you didn’t understand?”
At this question, Sungchul closed the book and spoke in a matter-of-fact manner.
“Isn’t that because you are not yet my teacher?”
A feeling of shame and anger churned within Altugius as he met Sungchul’s firm gaze. He didn’t express it, but his guts were violently twisting, and his legs felt quite weak. Altugius wordlessly returned to his own seat. He could feel Leonard’s gaze searing into his back, but he ignored it and thought of Sungchul. He thought of a convenient, yet undesirable truth that he had been forgetting.
‘That’s right. He was in the House of Recollections!’
That evening, Altugius Xero sought out his granddaughter who was residing within the House of Recollections and began a conversation with a voice full of affection amidst countless eavesdropping ears.
“How is the new student? Does he look to be doing well? He has been very busy since the last time I saw him, and he doesn’t even have his own uniform, either. No matter if he’s a Summoned, what kind of Airfruit student doesn’t keep such basic decorum!”
Sarasa’s face, who had been listening to her grandfather’s story, grew sour.
That night, Sungchul encountered an unexpected guest in his room. Sarasa had pulled up a chair and had been waiting for him in his room.
“It is time for some special ‘ethical education’, Freshman.”
The Lich girl’s eyes had an azure glow…
Sungchul felt that the girl’s sudden visit was quite odd, but he remained silent and waited for her to continue. Sarasa held something out towards Sungchul.
“You. Have you gotten this? You haven’t, have you?”
It was an official student handbook, made from lambskin. There was the name of its owner written on the first page of this well-used notebook clearly looking worn with all of its frayed edges.
Curiosity sparked in Sungchul’s eyes, but he didn’t express any of it and simply nodded in response.
“I haven’t received such a thing.”
Sarasa sighed and spoke again.
“I’ll lend you this one, but read over the ‘Freshman’s Attitude’ that’s written on the second page carefully.”
He couldn’t quite understand the reasoning behind her actions, but there didn’t seem to be any hostility. Also after having read so many phrases of undecipherable text, he felt drawn to read something legible for once. Sungchul obediently did as Sarasa had asked.
[1. As an Airfruit student, I will maintain its dignity.]
[2. I will not become involved in unnecessary conflict.]
[3. I will not overeat.]
[4. I will return the library’s books before their due date.]
[5. I will always keep a respectful attitude towards my teachers. I will not look down on them regardless of their majors.]
Sungchul took his eyes away after this point and looked towards Sarasa.
“I don’t feel there is a need to read this so carefully.”
“What if there’s something more important written at the bottom?”
Sarasa crossed her arms and spoke in a smug voice. He moved his gaze towards the notebook once again. There was another passage below the ‘Freshman’s Attitude’, written as finely as grains of sand.
<Important! Things Freshmen need to do>
[1. Receive a uniform from Bington’s Clothier]
[2. Receive a dorm designation from Aged Jorgbart]
[3. Complete the basic course in etiquette from Professor Robert Danton]
[4. Attend Senior Student’s Orientation]
[5. Select a Major with the Registrar’s Office]
[6. Select a Professor from a major / perform introductions]
[7. Attend Freshman Welcoming Ceremony]
[8. Select responsible Guidance Counselor]
Sungchul’s gaze stopped at the entry regarding the Guidance Counselor. There were five stars next to the entry with the words ‘Expulsion!’ written beside it.
“Do you now know what you’ve done wrong?”
Sarasa’s eyes flared as she suddenly rose from her seat.
“Are you referring to choosing a Guidance Counselor?”
When Sungchul asked, Sarasa forcefully shook her head and pointed at the first entry in the notebook.
“No. Not wearing a uniform!”
“Even if the school is falling apart, how can a student of the renowned Airfruit Academy be dressed like that? Clothes are the minimal civility towards others which reveals one’s own nature. No wonder Gramps was nagging at me.”
“Who is your Grandfather?”
“Who do you think? It’s Professor Altugius Xero. Haven’t you heard of the legendary figure that took care of the mad dog of a Vice-Captain from the Assassin’s Guild that was causing a ruckus on our campus?”
“Ah, is that right?”
Sarasa began nodding to Sungchul’s reply and continued to nag. She continued to prattle on, but her words could actually be condensed into a single sentence: “Wear a uniform.” However, Sungchul was more interested in another part.
“What should I do if no Professor of my major will agree to become my Guidance Counselor?”
“That’s how it ends up if you don’t wear a uniform. Well, you should then request a minor Professor. Of course, only after you have received the uniform from Bington’s Clothier!”
The next day, Sungchul visited the Office of Admissions. The Residence Assistant was waiting within.
“Where is Bington’s Clothier?”
Sungchul didn’t plan on completely ignoring Sarasa’s advice. There weren’t many people on campus, but the laborer’s fashion that he was currently wearing was undeniably conspicuous. However, the Residence Assistant gave him an unexpected reply.
“Student! Are you referring to Bington? Why are you looking for some human that was fired ages ago?”
“Then what about uniforms? I don’t have to wear one?”
“Uniforms have to be bought with personal funds from an external clothier based on your personal preference!”
He had already failed the first objective that a Freshman must achieve. Sungchul moved on to the next objective recorded in Sarasa’s notebook. He discovered that many things Sarasa had experienced had either been removed or were missing.
“What orientation is this when there are no students? Other than Palace graduates who barely got in, the rest are all inferior stock, or from the Calamity Generation!”
Helplessly, Sungchul moved on to the next destination that he had set for himself. School of Alchemy, House of Malleability.
Contrary to the School of Cosmomancy, the name was apt, though the building itself wasn’t a structure, but rather a collapsing tent.
He opened the tent and entered. Several students who couldn’t be seen anywhere else had gathered here. Many of them looked to be in their early twenties. They were from the Calamity Generation.
“What brings you here?”
A student approached the unfamiliar guest and asked cautiously. Sungchul didn’t hesitate to state his purpose.
“I came looking for a Guidance Counselor.”
A man with sunken eyes came out from deeper within the tent while scratching his head.
“A Freshman? Hm? It’s a Summoned.”
He looked directly at Sungchul, then smiled, revealing his yellowed teeth.
“You. You wouldn’t have received Eckheart’s quest within the Summoning Palace and become an Alchemist, have you?”
When Sungchul nodded, he slapped his knees with laughter while holding his belly for quite some time.
“Oh…my stomach. There hasn’t been anything really to laugh about recently, but I’ve finally found something worth laughing on. Anyways, you’re looking for a Guidance Counselor? Okay then. I am Basil Philrus. I will gladly be your Guidance Counselor.”
He asked for Sungchul’s personal details before opening his school-wide Magic Network and perusing Sungchul’s records.
“Oh my, you’re carrying such a terrifying name. Anyways, you’ve cut it very close. One more day and you would have had to pack up your things and leave!”
Hearing all of the information, Sungchul recalled Altugius within the Cosmomancy Observatory, and then the face of Leonard.
‘The Professor is one thing, but I wonder why that guy didn’t tell me any of this.’
That question was resolved, more or less, on the next day.
“Hey. Mr. Freshman. You can’t come in here.”
Leonard blocked the entrance with a bright smile. When Sungchul asked for the reason, Leonard put on a sorrowful face as to sympathize with Sungchul’s misfortunes while speaking.
“It is because you have been expelled. You’ll get the news soon…but to explain, you have yet to find a teacher to accept you within ten days of your admittance, in other words, you haven’t found a Guidance Counselor.”
“If it is only the Guidance Counselor, then I’ve already found one.”
Sungchul spoke firmly. It was for a brief moment, but Leonard’s lips twisted in a strange fashion.
Leonard looked back.
“The Alchemy Professor, Basil Philrus.”f
“Ah…is that right?”
The displeasure on Leonard’s handsome face was clearly visible, but Sungchul didn’t pay it any mind. He passed by Leonard, who was holding his head down, and sat at his usual spot to begin reading through the pile of books. Altugius let out a stifled sigh of relief as he closed his eyes and listened to the amplified sound of the turning pages in the Observatory.