I left the room a few hours later in a much better shape... physically speaking. Because as I tried to find my way through the hallways of the temple’s second floor, my mind was preoccupied with a brand new issue.
My stamina had actually started regenerating not too long after Ardos left, though at a reduced rate, and that should have been my cue to leave.
But at the same time, my mana had been drained from making the drone play with the children, and I took it as a good opportunity to better test the Eye of the nameless djin’s ability to convert “ambient ether” into mana.
Thanks to that “test”, I had discovered two things.
First, while it did allow me to freely use mana in exchange for stamina, using my left eye didn’t actually replenish my mana reserves. That meant that it was entirely possible for me to be left without any of the two resources.
Which eventually happened, due to my fascination and shock caused by the second thing I learned about using the Eye.
It changed my appearance in a way that was both minor and... extremely noticeable, to say the least.
... And I thought that it made seeing better in the dark.
It was embarrassing how close I toed the line to potential disaster. Until now, the nature of my abilities had caused much surprise in the people surrounding me, but it was the kind of surprise one would have for something unexpected but still in the realm of possibilities.
But regarding the Eye of the nameless djin... it could be the straw that would break the camel’s back. I had to figure out whether using it in public would cause me to be burned at a stake or not.
Would fire even be effective? I wondered. It probably would, but I hoped I wouldn’t have to find out the hard way.
I needed information, but who could safely provide it to me? Ardos was way out of the question, as I doubted he truly believed I wasn’t some kind of harbinger of trouble already. Royin? Maybe, but since she seemed to tell Ardos everything she found out about me, it was probably a bad idea.
As I got closer to the second floor’s lobby, I was pulled out of my thoughts by the sound of animated discussion.
“Aww Sasa,” said a girl with cat-like features. “I wished you had stayed a cute kid forever... Look what growing up did to you!”
“I told you they’re all the sssame,” said another on a bored tone as she looked at her nails. From the forked tongue that would occasionally escaped her lips and slitted pupils, I figured she was related to snakes. “Getting caught sssneaking in the girls’ aisle, tsk tsk.”
“Why... Why would I be sneaking around with f-food? I told you... the mistress brought Edward in Ms Burlan’s room...”
That was definitely Sarn.
He was holding a plate with both hands and surrounded by older girls. They weren’t really threatening but also didn’t seem to care about making him clearly uncomfortable.
“Yeah right,” one of the girls said. “Sasa, why would-”
“Sarn,” I called as I walked past them. “I’m here. let’s go.”
He promptly left the circle, and while the girls were giving me strange looks as they realized the direction I came from, we went down the stairs.
“T-thanks,” he said. “They are annoying.”
“They won’t stop as long as you entertain them. Also, why do you let them call you that way if you don’t like it?”
He paused. “H-how do you know that I don’t... like it?”
“If it was an endearing nickname, that’s how Bo and Lima would be calling you.”
He didn’t say anything until we got to my room, then had a confused expression when he realized where we were.
“Why are we here?”
“It’s my room,” I said as I unlocked the door and let him in.
Strangely, I only now realized how barebone the room really was. It was true that it had been mine for less than twenty-four hours, but after a few hours in someone else’s, it felt lacking.
Except for the bed, that was much more comfortable. I sighed with satisfaction as I sat on it.
“...I am so jealous,” Sarn whispered as he sat at the table and put down his plate. “Bo and I share a room with two others... Tronk farts all night.”
“This room is far from coming with no strings attached,” I said, with a chuckle. “So, where’s the food coming from? I was told they don’t make lunch here.”
“Oh, th-the cooks make lunch for the staff, just not for us. Bo has an arrangement with one of them and he puts aside something for us every day, and, um... I thought you would be hungry?”
“So if I understand you correctly, you’re giving me your share of the food?”
He meekly nodded, eyes darting around.
“Sarn, why in the world would you do that?” I asked with consternation.
“W-well, you’re new and don’t have a job, so you don’t have anything to eat right? I’m used to being hungry, and... I want to be your friend? But you’re a fighter and I’m just a tailor so, I thought that...”
“Sarn,” I said. “Someone who would take your food in this situation isn’t your friend. And I actually happen to have some food.”
... And a job. Well, probably.
I brought up my inventory in search of the conserves I had bought from the terminal “just in case”. There were two different brands with no descriptions beside their names: Green Blossom broth and Siegbrau.
Seeing how the Siegbrau seemed to be a drink, I took out two cans of broth and was pleasantly surprised. The cans were hot.
“Do you have something I can open this with?” I asked Sarn. “Like a knife or...”
He produced a pair of scissors from the many folds of his clothes and handed it to me. As I used the sharp points to open the first can, I finally asked him, “Aren’t you hot with all these clothes?”
He shook his head.
“I can add a chilling effect to the clothes I make, b-but it is still weak. Since I hate the heat, I wear many of them to... improve the effect.”
That sounds interesting, I thought. Thinking about it, it doesn’t feel hot since I bought the shuari set.
It didn’t feel cold though. Just... comfortable.
“What other kinds of effects can clothes have?” I asked. However, at that moment I managed to open the can and never got the answer.
A rich and mouthwatering aroma filled the room, causing the discussion to stop. True to its name the steamy broth was mainly made of vegetables I didn’t recognize but also had decent pieces of meat floating among the greens.
I brought it to my mouth to take a sip and did a double take from the smooth spicy taste. It was, in the simplest terms possible, delicious and especially refreshing.
I was about to proceed to the second can when I noticed Sarn with a vacant stare basically drooling with anticipation.
“Hmm, you can just take that one,” I said.
That seemed to wake him up.
“Ah! Um...” he started, fidgeting. “That wouldn’t be-”
“Just take it already, you brat.”
There was no need to tell him a third time.
None of us spoke as we ate, doing our best to fully appreciate the grace that had descended upon us.
Once I was done, I nodded toward the plate of food he had put on the table, “What about that?” I also couldn’t recognize what it was made of, but for a different reason.
While each of the broth’s succulent components was visible and separate from each other; Sarn’s plate just had one body of cold, uncaring mashed... something. Definitely not mashed potatoes.
He winced and gave an apologetic smile, “Just more for Bo and Lima.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that, and he did the same.
There was something to be said about having a hot meal. I felt much better than a few minutes ago, more alert. In fact, I felt almost too great...
I checked my status only to notice that my stamina had been fully restored, even though that shouldn’t have happened until at least thirty minutes later.
I opened my status and saw something new at the bottom.
Temporary stamina regen. Intermediate boost.
The negative status effect had been replaced by a positive one, and at that moment it meant only one thing to me.
That this was the ideal moment for a sparring session with Ardos.