Things were heading in a bad direction and Tamie panicked. One’s attributes were private. Sure, after spending such a long time together most kids knew each other’s, but that wasn’t the point.
They were all still strangers to Edward. How could he feel comfortable enough to just tell them all? The fighters knew that, and were probably expecting him to try to put up a fight.
What could she do? Merle was still just standing with her arms crossed, so Tamie looked around for someone to intervene, and noticed that everybody else was already watching the scene. Damian’s guys, the girls at the back, and the others who were by themselves. The cafeteria was silent.
They won’t help, she realized. It’s clearly a test and people are interested in how he will react.
There was no adult she could call either, and even if there was, would she do it? No one liked those who snitched, and she didn’t want to make her personal situation any worse. But what if-
“My highest attribute is constitution,” Edward said with the same even tone he announced himself. “Followed by intelligence.”
Ormidillo looked at Merle and she nodded, “He isn’t lying.” She sounded disappointed, like Tamie was and probably everybody else.
“Good, good,” Ormidillo said as he stood up. “I knew as soon as I spotted him that he was a loser putting on a show. Don’t know why you guys got all worked up.”
Edward didn’t seem phased and went back to eating. As someone with such badly matched attributes, he probably had heard different versions of that insult countless times already.
Life was already hard for Tamie and she only had Inteligence and Dexterity.
She had been awarded a magic-based production class that was mostly unusable since she didn’t have the wisdom attribute. However it allowed her to work on magitech and she had hope that one day she would be able to create something that would make her useful despite not being a fighter.
Then earn enough coin to leave this place forever.
Sure, compared to the countless forsaken who had none, Edward was somewhat lucky to have two attributes… But Intelligence and Constitution? There had to be a very small number of classes that catered to just those attributes, and they were certainly not present in this shard.
Merle tuned around and walked back to her table, a scoffing Ormidillo in tow.
Tamie saw Edward look up from his plate and look at them with a questioning look. Is he expecting more? Tamie shuddered, wondering what kind of life would make someone think that this level of abuse was not enough?
Ormidilio caught the look and seemed to interpret it differently.
“I don’t know where you’re from,” he said loud enough from everybody to hear in the silent hall,” and it doesn’t matter to us. Since you’re here, you better make sure to not stay in the way of the fighters.”
“Does he really speak for all of you?” Edward asked, which surprised Tamie.
Damian’s voice resounded, strong and resolute. Like it always was when he was sober.
“Alright then,” Edward shrugged.
He then went back to his food and most of those in the cafeteria did the same, some shaking their heads. The newbie was a failure and a coward: just another day on the savage lands.
Some of the other kids in the hall were forsaken, so Tamie believed they could empathize even better than her.
Something was definitely strange about Edward’s behavior though, but then again, who wasn’t strange when they first got here.
The kids were still huddled around him and clearly uncomfortable. Pito put a hand on Edward’s arm and said solemnly, “Don’t worry, when I grow up I will definitely be strong and I won’t let them be mean to you anymore.”
Surprised at first, Edward offered a genuine smile and ruffled the pup’s hair.
“Look at you! Thanks for the offer kiddo, I probably won’t need it though.”
“Really, and what could you possibly do?” Tamie said.
She sounded a bit more irritated than intended, but his false bravado was starting to get on her nerves. People like them needed to at least be realistic about what they could do.
The boy tilted his head, raised a brow and asked, “Are you also part of the welcoming committee?”
“Hey, I’m not a kid anymore!” Pito interjected, tugging on the boy’s clothes.
“Welcoming- what, no, I’m not with them,” Tamie quickly said, fumbling with her words. She could feel the heat come to her face again.
“Sorry, um, my name is Tamie. Don’t worry about the fighters, they don’t bother with us most of the time.”
“Nice to meet you Tamie, and good to know,” he said absentmindedly. “I don’t intend to waste time on childish drama.”
Oh, so he is the kind to act more mature than he actually is, Tamie thought.
She was used to kids who behaved that way, hell, even Pito was a prime example. But in this case it was rather silly since Edward was clearly younger than even Ormidillo.
Well, as long as it keeps him out of trouble, I’m fine with it.
“There are many things they teach here,” she said as she helped one of the bunny sisters climb on her lap. “Even without a class I’m sure you will be fine. Good people from Bunker often come here looking for employees.”
He smiled at her in the same way he had smiled at Pito earlier.
“Thanks, I’ll keep it in mind. By the way,” he added after a pause, “I keep hearing about Bunker. Is it a city?”
“Yes, it’s an underground city built inside the mountains at the end of the valley… You must be from very far if you didn’t know that.”
“I am… but for certain reasons I can’t talk about it. Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Tamie said.
He probably had some traumatic memories. She wondered how far off Ormidillo’s brothel comment really was. With that hair…
“Can you really not tell us anything?” asked Pita after moving in front of her brother. “I always wanted to know about places that aren’t… here. Please?”
“Well,” Edward said, “maybe there are some stories I can tell you guys, but you must promise me to keep it for yourself, okay?”
“Yes!” the kids rejoiced.
“Edward Lee?” someone called.
At the cafeteria’s door was standing sir Ardos.
Now, the fact that he was a taller than average full-blooded tiger beastman was enough to make his presence cause silence to once again fall in the cafeteria.
But there also was the fact that he was a delver, the vice-headmaster of the orphanage and the fighters’ instructor.
His presence imposed respect.
“I’m here,” simply said Edward, cleaning up the last pieces of food on his plate. “Almost finished.”
Ardos sized him up and waited. The two left once the boy was done with his dinner and nonchalantly got up.
After their departure, all eyes turned toward Damian’s table, and Damian’s own eyes were aimed Merle.
Her expression showed her inner confusion, however when she spoke her voice was as firm as ever.
“He didn’t lie,” she said to Damian. “You know I wouldn’t make that kind of mistake.”
“Then what the fuck Merle!” Exploded Omidilio, with over-exaggerated gestures. “Why would Ardos even bother with trash the same day it’s delivered? Pretty sure I’ve never even seen him in here!”
Her voice was ice cold when she replied to him.
“… I will make arrangements to be your sparring partner tomorrow, rat. It seems you need to be reminded manners when speaking to me.”
Omidilio deflated on the spot, and sat back down, mumbling and throwing pleading glances to Damian.
“Could he be a very good liar?” Damian, asked. “He did look like like someone who would have a charm attribute.”
“It’s… possible,” she admitted. “But I don’t think it’s what happened.”
Unfortunately for Tamie, she wasn’t able to hear more as the rest was drown in the stream of conversation that quickly rose in the cafeteria.
She couldn’t help but be perplexed by what had just happened. About the supposed useless boy that just left with the fighting instructor and Damian’s motives. If Damian wanted to know whether the boy was a fighter or not, all he had to do was wait to see if he would show up to their training tomorrow.
If it was really that particular information he was looking for, why put on this show? Why antagonize a stranger?