When I regained consciousness, I felt too comfortable to bother opening my eyes. A soothing warmth was enveloping me, making me forget the intense pain that had been enough to make me pass out.
Even so, I could see the bar representing my stamina being stuck at a tenth of its length, which was worrying and explained my feeling of general weakness.
I now realized that I had been in a trance, and in that state I had pushed my body beyond what it could bear. However...
It had felt so good.
To dance with the sword whistling around me, as if it was singing. To defy gravity as I moved through the air.
Was it normal?
Fuck no, I somberly thought. The sword is messing with my head.
Feelings I didn’t recognize were mixed with my own. Pride. Longing. The belief that the only thing that could have made the experience better was a breathing enemy foolish enough to challenge us.
“Is-is he going to be alright?” a voice I recognized to be Sarn’s asked. “How long... until he wakes up?”
“Soon, don’t worry,” someone else said. “You know how effective the ointment is.”
I couldn’t quite place the speaker, but they sounded familiar. It was a feminine voice, and definitely not Royin. Someone much younger.
“I’m awake,” I said, the strain audible in my voice. “Just too lazy to open my eyes just yet.”
“Sarn go call sir Ardos.”
There was the sound of quick footsteps progressively growing distant, then silence; or what could be called silence in a building full of children. There was a constant buzzing of discussions, screams and laughters, but it all came together to form one background noise that was easy to tune out. However it informed me that we were definitely way past morning.
“You really are full of surprises, are you not?” said the other person in the room. “You did not seem like the type to train until exhaustion when we spoke yesterday.”
“Well, you know what they say,” I said. “Never judge a book by its cover.”
“Is that something people say? It is my first time hearing it, but it does sound very wise.”
Deciding it was time to figure out the identity of the mysterious speaker, I opened my eye and glanced their way.
Short silver hair, red eyes, pale complexion, and long bunny ears.
It was the girl I had met at dinner the day before, the one who seemed to be in charge of taking care of the younger children. Considering we were in a desert, her paleness showed that she rarely went out during the day. Unless it had something to do with the fact that she was part rabbit. But that wasn’t really what intrigued me.
I was thinking of Laure’s mechanical leg and wondered why, in a world of magic and strange technology, did this kid have to be in a wheelchair.
She offered me a meek smile when my gaze met hers.
“It is,” I said as I looked away. “Where I’m from, anyway.”
It wasn’t long until she spoke again.
“I apologize for yesterday,” she said.
“The way I spoke to you. I did not realize you were a warrior and was overly familiar. You look so much like a human that I thought someone I could relate to finally joined the temple.”
She sounded very different than the previous day, in a way I disliked. Much more proper. Much more fake.
Was she scared of me?
I gave her a perplexed look that she seemed to misunderstand.
“Oh, I-um... I did not mean it as an insult, it is just that, from what I know of how they look-”
“Stop,” I interrupted. “I’m not offended and it would be weird if I was because I am human. What I don’t understand is, in what way can you relate to one?”
I didn’t mean to be rude but she did have bunny ears, among other things, and that alone made her very different from what I knew of humanity.
Her eyes widened in surprise.
“I... I was referring to the racial trait, ‘Technopath’. My... father was human and I inherited the trait from him.” she said, then added after hesitating, “You really are one? Not mixed at all?”
“I am,” I said as I closed my eyes again. “Are humans disliked?”
“Not really, more like mocked by everybody. Their racial trait is the least useful in battle, and fully useless unless they have rich backers. And since they are physically weak they don’t perform well with fighting classes compared to the other races.”
I heard the door being opened, but instead of the heavy steps of Ardos, there were many small ones.
“Tamie, can we go play? You said we could go play when we finished!” said a child’s voice, along with several supporting others.
“Not yet,” she said firmly. “I’m sorry Pito, but I have to look after Edward for now, he is not feeling well. Sir Ardos will be here soon, then we can go.”
While she was calming the kids, I thought of the meaning behind her previous words.
Humans are just laughing stocks in this world?
Not that I had any reason to feel attached to the local humans, but I still found the fact annoying.
Annoying and illogical.
“How can our trait ever be considered useless?” I said. “Its potential is basically infinite.”
Creating fully functioning machines out of nothing but mana and being able to freely communicate with them. I needed info on the other races’ trait, because I couldn’t picture anything better.
I felt someone tug my cover, and was met with an assembly of pouting faces glaring at me when I looked for the culprit.
“Edward, you said you would tell us stories,” their leader said. “And now we have no stories and because of you we can’t even go play...”
Their adorableness was simply irresistible. It was probably due to the lowered ears that helped conveying their emotions. Or the big puppy eyes. Or my soft spot for children in general.
Thinking of how they reminded me of my own son when he was their age, I quickly came up with a way to make them happy and didn’t really pay attention to Tamie when she spoke.
“Theoretically, sure,” she said, continuing our discussion and waving a dismissing hand. “But that could be said of any trait. They all have limitations, and the fact of the matter is that humans just don’t have the wisdom attri-”
“Summon: Drone,” I said.
Like last time, black spheres appeared and fused together to form a bigger one, which in turn became the floating chromed ball that was Kirby.
The children all gasped as one.
“Hello Ed,” said the drone with its monotonous voice. “What is your request?”
“Hi Kirby. Can you go play with the children?”
“Sorry Ed, but I am not equipped with a function fitting the request”
I forgot how much of a pain this tin can was.
“Alright, I want you to not let any of them catch you, without ever completely flying out of their reach. And don’t leave the building. ”
“Understood,” he said as he went to the hallway.
I then looked at the mesmerized children frozen in awe and said, “First one to catch him wins.”
It took them a fraction of second to process what I had said, then they bolted after the flying ball like a very small tornado of battle screams.
I chuckled and shook my head at their blissful innocence.
Every child should be allowed to have a childhood, I thought to myself.
“So,” I said at Tamie’s attention. “You were saying?”
She just stared at me, not saying anything. Her bottom lip was trembling and her eyes were filled with tears she was obviously doing her best to keep from bursting out.
“...What’s going on?” I asked, using an arm to prop myself up on the bed.
That’s the moment Ardos and Sarn chose to enter the room. Sensing the strange mood, they paused and gave us awkward looks.
“Is it a bad time?” Ardos asked.
“No, I was about to leave,” Tamie said with a shaking voice.
She then unlocked her chair and wheeled herself out of the room.
There were a few seconds of silence.
“Don’t you think it’s a bit soon to be making girls cry?” Ardos said with a disapproving frown. “You just arrived yesterday.”