“What about the door? The smoke will come out.”
“Just put the chair against it,” I said.
It didn’t take long for the smoke to quickly fill the room. Whatever that incense was made with, it burned well.
… And it works too. The nausea’s gone already.
Considering the room had no windows, I would eventually have to let some air inside. Then I would know if the effects were temporary.
But for now, I was content with just feeling well. The only downside was that I couldn’t enjoy it in peace.
“Hey, I’m still waiting for my answer. Did you get a girlfriend in Bunker or not?”
“Sarn, do you remember who fixed our door that one time?”
“Hum… I think it was Cassim… or Tanuki? I’m not sure, it’s been a long time.”
The three kids were still in the room. Bo on the chair against the door, mostly looking down when his eyes weren’t darting in my direction. Sarn sitting on the table, merrily waving his legs that were too short to touch the floor. Lima sitting at the end of the bed in the lotus position and regularly shaking my foot to make me take part in her nonsense.
How did things turn out like this… Worried, my eyes went to the corner of the room in which the strange orange powder was burning. I hope there is nothing in this that can make them high.
I remembered Royin telling me that she had zero tolerance for drugs. Could this count? I definitely didn’t want to be caught doing drugs with kids.
“What is this thing for anyway,” Lima asked as if reading my thoughts.
“I’m more concerned that you all stayed in the room even though you don’t know what the smoke is,” I said.
“Well, it’s not like it can be dangerous, right?” she said with a dismissive wave. “Your grumpy face doesn’t fit someone who would poison themselves. And I like the smell too.”
“… It’s medication,” I said. “I’m sick and it’s going to help with that.”
“You’re sick?” Sarn asked. “How bad is it?”
“Not too bad. I apparently just need to rest and it will go away on its own.”
“That sounds like Glutton’s sickness,” Bo said, causing Sarn to look at me with wide eyes.
“Edward! Did you-”
“Use a lot of ether? Yes. I didn’t know.”
That made Lima let out a crystalline laugh, “Look at you! That means going to the Undermine was a good choice after all since you’ve gained enough to make you sick! Good job!”
Sarn just smiled and shook his head. Bo looked confused.
“Isn’t… the Undermine considered a dungeon for beginners?” he said. “For them to learn to respect dungeon rules? I’m pretty sure the toads do not offer much ether.”
Beginner area? Yeah, right.
“Yeah, they give close to nothing,” I said. “But I went pretty deep.”
“I thought the plan was for you to just to test the dungeon then come back out,” he said. “I waited for you. I thought you had died.”
Silence followed his words. Sarn made a face and his gaze jumped from me to his friend.
Bo’s tone was causative, but something told me that I wasn’t the real target of his anger.
“You’re right, that was the plan,” I said. “But things took… an unexpected turn. Sorry I made you worry.”
His eyes and shoulders dropped.
“No, you don’t need to apologize. I can’t possibly imagine how it was back there. It’s just… I don’t know. Being there by myself… It made me think.”
He pulled his feet up on the chair with his knees again his chest and hugged his legs.
Lima leaned forward, “Bo… are you okay?”
“I know working at the mine used to be… hard… but it’s a lot easier now,” said Sarn. “Everybody says so.”
“I’m not going back down there.”
“Okay…” said Lima. “That’s totally fine. Did you think about what you want to do instead?”
Bo let out a deep sigh then raised his eyes.
“What do you mean why?”
“What’s the point of me doing anything?” he said with a bit of edge in his tone. “I’m going to die in this shard anyway.”
The girl closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Are you for real right now? Are you… You’re saying that? After making us bust our asses-”
“Oh, you guys might make it,” the boy interrupted. “You both have classes after all… and you even have a warring class.”
“I’m a hunter” she hissed.
“A technicality,” he shrugged. “Your skills are for monsters but your stats probably make you as strong as Merle anyway. Point is, you’re both valuable… and I’m not. Us forsaken are going to be left to die. You all know it. So what’s the point?”
Lima looked up with narrowed eyes but Bo’s didn’t waver, even though they were partially hidden behind his knees.
Sarn jumped down from the table and stood between the two of them, hands raised in an appeasing gesture.
“let’s… calm down okay?” he said. “Bo, you know that what you are saying is not true. It’s fine if you want to take to take a break, we can… pick up the slack for a while. Until you feel better.”
Bo let out a snort, “It’s not about being ready, Sarn. You just don’t understand, it’s all-”
“No, you are the one who does not understand,” Sarn cut him off with a firm voice. “You are not alone. There’s us… and you think the mistress will just abandon the temple? How they see you in the city does not matter. We will find a way.”
Taken aback by Sarn’s words Bo’s mouth was agape, unable to produce words. However, Lima wasn’t going to give him enough time to find a retort.
“All the plans we’ve made,” she said. “All the projects. You would throw them out of the window just like that?”
“I… No, it’s not that I gave up on them.”
“Then what is it?”
Bo sighed and put down his feet, correcting his sitting position.
“I don’t care about how other people see me… or at least I don’t care much,” he said in a neutral tone. “But I can’t ignore how I see myself. We can sugar coat it as much as we want, but at the end of the day, I’m just a forsaken. There’s nothing I can do, that a thousand others can’t replace me for. Even if I make it out of this shard, what’s really out there for me? Another mine? Another job at the expendable bottom of the world? How is that a way to live?”
Sarn silently looked at him and Lima’s eyes had become red. I was left wondering how common this feeling was among the children of the temple, forsaken or not.
Tamie said something very similar.
At the end of the day, self hatred only needed an insecurity to latch onto. Some being… more valid than others.
But being human or forsaken were just placeholders for any kind of societal position that happened to be considered beneath another one.
Being poor. Being sick. Being disabled. Being ugly. Being second.
It didn’t need to be in a world with magic.
“Don’t. The truth is that I’m as close to worthless as a living person can be.”
“So, tell me Bo,” I started. “Is that how you see the other forsaken too?”
They all turned to me, apparently having forgotten that I was there.
Brats. It’s still my room.
“You heard me. I’m asking you if you also see the other forsaken as worthless? As expendable members of the world?”
“I… I don’t… think of other people,” he said. “I’m busy enough with-”
“That’s a lie,” I interrupted. “I didn’t even need you to actually answer. I’m sure that you’ve tried to look for someone that you could emulate. Someone who was forsaken, but still managed to make everybody see them as valuable. But you didn’t find anyone, am I right? So while you currently hate yourself, you hate other forsaken just as much, if not more.”
Sarn and Lima looked at Bo with pained eyes, but he only gritted his teeth and stayed silent. After a few seconds, he once again pulled his feet on the chair and hugged his legs. Sarn went to his side and wrapped his arms around his friend’s shoulders after audibly sniffling.
“I will ask you this,” I continued on the same tone. “If you somehow got a class, wouldn’t you become exactly like the warriors who have treated you and your friends so bad your whole lives? Are you really that different from them if all that sets you apart is your ability to make threats?”
Bo recoiled, stung by the words, and slowly buried his face between his arms. Lima put a hand on my knee and made me glance her way. Her eyes were still red, but she wasn’t crying.
“Stop,” she pleaded.
“Coddling isn’t what he needs right now,”
I wasn’t trying to be cruel by twisting the knife in the wound. Hell, I could even sympathize with him. As far as I was aware, people rarely came into existence hating themselves.
That hate was taught and internalized. After years of being told something by different people everywhere, it wasn’t surprising for one to end up believing it.
So yes, I could sympathize. But could I empathize?
“Your value and the value of what you do are things you decide yourself,” I said. “You say that you don’t care about how others see you, but the truth is that you see yourself through the lenses you were given… Sure, maybe you’re not being paid much for what you do in the mine, but why does mon- ahem, why should the number of coins you receive determine your happiness? You don’t need riches, fame or even respect from others to be happy with yourself. All you need is to find a reason to do what you do every day. Well… I guess one can also decide to make those things their life goal. But that’s beside the point.”
Why the hell am I talking so much? Does it have to do with the incense?
“Don’t you think it’s easier for you to think that way?” Lima said. “You’re a warrior, they won’t leave you here. And telling him to imagine himself with a class is just mean. Even if it’s to make a point.”
Oh, but it wasn’t just to make a point.
Ring of Bestowal – Single use
Allows the first user to create a class from one of his skill trees.
Permanently grants the second user, with at least two unclaimed attributes, the previously created class.
Class infused: none.
It was the ring I had received from the Undermine’s Keeper of Secrets after it had forced me to kill Dylarel.
After seeing how bad working in the mine was, I had toyed with the idea of gifting it to Boleval after making sure with Ardos that it wouldn’t cause any problem.
But that was no longer an option.
Not that I didn’t feel bad for him anymore, but it just seemed like a bad idea. He wasn’t equipped for it.
I wasn’t going to create yet another bully. This world had enough of those.
I’ll just sell it. It’s probably worth a fortune, I thought before realizing that no one had spoken for a few minutes.
“I understand that it’s not realistic to expect you to search for something like a ‘meaning’ when you’re fearing for your life,” I quickly said, trying to sound as comforting as I could. “But you don’t have to worry about the fog. I’m working with Ardos in order to allow the whole orphanage to leave the shard.”
That made them all perk up, Bo and Sarn didn’t even try to hide their tears.
“Are you… Are you serious?” Lima asked. I felt her hand shaking.
“Yeah. So you should all be safe,” I said. “Well, unless I die or we fail somehow. But I’m sure you can understand that I won’t let that happen easily.”
“Wait,” Bo said as he wiped his face. “How?”
“I’m going to help him enter a dungeon. After we clear it, he will receive the delver title and be able to take us out of here.”
I’ll have to ask him how exactly.
The goal never was to lead the orphanage anywhere when I joined, so I let it slide. I didn’t need that kind of responsibility and had other… more urgent things to worry about. But not knowing the full plan seemed increasingly foolish.
“How… can you help him?”
“I already have the title.”
Sarn frowned and cocked his head in confusion and Bo just started laughing as he shook his head. The whole bed creaked and threatened to break as Lima loudly slapped it.
“The hell…?!” I barked as I turned to glare at the unruly brat.
But she was smiling. Just smiling as the tears finally escaped her pride filled eyes and silently rolled down her cheeks.
She then stood and ran to hug her friends.
“You idiot,” she said to Bo as she lifted both him and Sarn in the air. “I’m still mad at you, but I’m too happy to care. I’ll make you pay later for worrying me!”
Bo was also wearing a smile when she put them down. It was a tired one, but at least there was now some glimmer of hope in his eyes.
“And I won’t complain, I promise,” he said. He then turned toward me. “Thank you, Edward. Really. I’m aware… that what I said was wrong. I’ll think about everything you’ve told me.”
Surprisingly, Sarn was the one who seemed the least affected by my reveal.
“So I don’t have to make so many clothes anymore?” he said.
“He said that we’re safe unless he dies,” Bo pointed out.
The blonde boy snorted and shrugged dismissively, “You know he won’t die.”
“Of course, he won’t!” Lima said, before frowning in mock worry. “Wait, what if he does?”
“What do you mean? Weren’t you crying with happiness just now?”
“How dare you!” she said as she pushed Bo back on the chair. “When you guys were wailing and holding each other? Tsk, so depressing!”
“I only cried because Bo cried.”
“Wow. Thank you, Sarn.”
I sat on the bed and watched them from the other side of the room.
A young heart sure is a great thing.
It would soon be time to open the door to let some fresh air in, but I felt completely fine. The incense had done wonders and I still had some left.
I’m getting hungry though, I thought before summoning a basket of steaming fried donuts.
The brats immediately raised their noses and Sarn was the first one to come running.
“Hey, hey! Only one each!” I warned.
“Oh, come on! Sharing is caring!” Lima laughed. “Seriously, where did you even get these from?”
Uh. I guess that’s something they say here too, I mused.
It made sense. After all, what was more of a universal proof of friendship than sharing food?
Sarn and Lima were back at their spots, one on the table, the other at the end of the bed. Bo was now sitting on my other side, blowing on the donut that was too hot for his liking.
I watched them arguing and laughing at the same time and was again reminded of how different it felt to be around teenagers when one of them.
I can probably get used to this, I thought with a chuckle.