Their progress through the Labyrinth continued, but they were not making progress. They have encountered many dead ends and more monsters. The stairs to the next level was something they just could not find easily.
They stopped a few times to check their surroundings to rest. They collected several Water Bottles which suddenly appeared after defeating several monsters. Lakshman put them in the Item Box so they can have it later.
“How do I get the items out of the Item Box?” Lakshman asked Tetra who had transformed into her human form.
“Just hold it up and say Open,” Tetra informed him.
Lakshman did so and the Item Box suddenly expanded into a large box. They peered into it and saw all the items they collected stacked neatly.
“Very nice!” Ondine said happily and she took a water bottle.
“Still… To see a Water Bottle get dropped behind when a monster is defeated in this Labyrinth is a mystery in itself,” Lakshman said as he took a bottler and began drinking from it.
A few minutes later, they felt rested up and got to their feet. Lakshman said “Close” and the Item Box turned back to being small and he pocked it. After that, they resumed their search for the staircase.
Half-an-hour passed and all they encountered were dead ends and monsters. After battle after battle and with little progress, Ondine became very irritated.
“Just how many dead ends are on this level?!” She cried out after defeating seven Beast Dogs they fought at a dead end.
“I’ve lost count after the first ten or so,” Lakshman said with a shrug of his shoulders.
“It’s like the Labyrinth is purposefully leading us into dead ends! It must think we aren’t ready to go to the next level!”
“You’re exaggerating, Ondine. I think the Labyrinth is just moving around. Remember what Rumble said? It changes depending on the time of day.”
“He did, but that’s his account! What if it’s not true?”
Lakshman turned and looked at her sternly. Then he asked “Ondine… Have you ever been in a Labyrinth before?”
Ondine looks stricken at the question. For a moment, she fidgeted with her hands and slowly said “No…”
Lakshman nodded and said “Exactly. This is our first time being in a Labyrinth so let’s take the advice he kindly gave us, okay?”
“Yes, master. I’m sorry,” she said and she looked upset.
Lakshman chuckled and he began petting her on the head. Then he said “It’s okay. That’s a sound argument, but Rumble wouldn’t give us an advice that’ll put us in danger. So it’s reasonable to accept his advice and work with it.”
“Yes,” Ondine said softly as she calmed down from him petting her.
As he continued to pet her, he felt happy. Whether it was because he petted her or because she was looking cute again, he did not know. All that he recognised was that she was feeling better and he was happy about it.
“Master, please stop petting her all the time! You’re going to pamper her,” Tetra said when she transformed into her human form.
Ondine chuckled and said “I’m already master’s favourite! He doesn’t need a rusty old sword to keep him company anymore!”
“Why you…?” Tetra said and she glared menacingly at her and Ondine stuck her tongue out at her and smiled cheerfully.
“There, there,” Lakshman said calmly and he petted Tetra with his other hand.
Being suddenly petted cause Tetra’s expression to change. She looked up at him with a surprised expression on her face. As he smiled at her, she closed her eyes and quietly let him pet her.
A few minutes passed quietly and Lakshman was feeling relaxed. At that moment, there was a light and several Beast Rabbits appeared. They were as tall as Lakshman with savage expressions on their rabbit faces.
“More monsters to get rid of…!” Lakshman said heavily and he reluctantly let go of both Ondine and Tetra.
Tetra transformed into her sword form and he gripped it tightly. Standing side by side, both he and Ondine stared at the monsters fiercely. The monsters let out a beastly roar and charged at them.
“Slashing Blade!” Lakshman shouted when he charged at them.
His sword began glowing brightly as energy coursed through it. The moment the monster got within reach, he swung the sword and sent a wave of energy. It flew directly at the monsters and sent them backwards while cutting them in several places.
“HAAAAA!!!!” Lakshman screamed as he charged forward and began cutting them down one after another.
While he defeated his monsters, the other Beast Rabbits were charging towards Ondine. Their mouths hanging as they let out another beasty roar.
Ondine calmly brought her swords together and said “Ice Blade!”
In an instance, blue light began emitting from her swords. She raised them over her head and swung down in an arc. As she swung, blue energy was released and flew directly at the monsters. There was a blinding flash of light for a moment and then they saw the Beast Rabbits frozen like statues in ice.
Lakshman looked around and, when he saw the frozen monsters, chuckled and said “Ondine, what are you doing? You’re supposed to destroy them, not turn them into priceless gallery displays!”
He began laughing at his own joke while Ondine puffed bright red.
“How rude! I was going to defeat them, but I thought I should do it in a more appropriate manner!”
“Really? I don’t feel that’s a nice method since you’re doing extra work to get rid of them.”
“Master… Unlike you, I don’t want to cover myself in blood of these monsters!”
She pointed at him and he realised what she meant. There was blood covering his shirt front and shoes. He sniffed a little and suddenly felt like he reeked of blood. Somehow, it gave him a feeling of sickness.
“I see what you mean…!” Lakshman said as he tried to get rid of the blood.
Ondine nodded and lightly tapped on the ice of monsters. In an instant, cracks formed and, a moment later, everything broke into pieces. She nodded in satisfaction, and turned around and saw Lakshman struggling with the blood.
His sword transformed into the sword and she looked at him with an eyebrow raised. Then she sighed and said “Hold still, master.”
She moved forward and placed her hand on his chest and said “Frozen Flames.”
In an instant, his shirt was on fire.
“GAH!! Fire! Fire!” Lakshman shouted in a panicked voice and he quickly took off his shirt.
“Let me put it out!” Ondine said quickly and she raised her sword when Tetra halted her.
“Stop that. Those are purification flames. They’ll only remove the blood and anything on the shirt that’s bad,” Tetra told them.
“Oh…!” Lakshman sand Ondine said together in unison and they nodded in understanding.
At that moment, Ondine suddenly saw Lakshman shirtless and blushed brightly. She quickly turned around and stuttered “M-M-Master! P-Please quickly wear your s-s-shirt!”
“Ah? Oh! Right!” Lakshman said and he picked his shirt off the floor and swung it over his head.
Noticing the lack of blood and a cool smell, he said “Hey! This smells good! Thanks, Tetra!”
Tetra puffed her chest out proudly and said “It was my pleasure, master!”
Then she threw a cheeky smile towards Ondine and was disappointed. She had hoped to show her superiority, but Ondine was very embarrassed to take offence.
Tetra sighed and transformed into her sword form. Then they continued with Ondine walking a little nervously. It seems that she was having trouble calming down after seeing him shirtless.
“Are you alright, Ondine?” Lakshman asked when he noticed her nervousness.
“I-I’m fine, master!” Ondine quickly said, but she also sounded nervous at the same time.
“Mmm…? If you say so,” he said and nodded at her.
In his mind, he thought “What is wrong? She seemed fine a few minutes ago.”
To that, Tetra told him in his mind “Master! Don’t be so oblivious! She’s clearly embarrassed because she keeps seeing you shirtless!”
“Really? What’s the big deal about me being shirtless? Dad was shirtless several times and she wasn’t nervous then. So why now?”
“Master… Think! Ondine might be a warrior, but she is a maiden at heart! Seeing the man she likes shirtless would make any maiden’s heart uneasy! This leads them to become embarrassed and all!”
“Oh…! I see what you mean, but what’s the problem about her liking me? Friends like each other.”
He heard Tetra sigh in his mind and hear her say “Not that like, master. This is a more… how do I put it…? Mmm… Emotional like is what I can say right now.”
Lakshman made a puzzled expression on his face and thought “I really don’t understand women…”
At that, Tetra actually laughed and said “Women are not something you can just open a book and read to understand, master! It takes a grown man’s experience and even that is not enough to truly comprehend a woman’s heart!”
“I see. Well then, I better start paying attention to the heart of a woman then,” Lakshman thought and he began staring at Ondine closely.
“W-What is it, master?” Ondine asked nervously when she noticed him looking at intently.
“Oh…? Nothing really. I’m just trying to observe the heart of a woman,” Lakshman told her.
Ondine raised her an eyebrow in surprise and said “Huh?”
“Understanding a maiden’s heart… Feels like a challenge I need to overcome! Yup! I’ll do it!” Lakshman said with a determined expression on his face.
Ondine looked at him as if she could not believe what she just heard. Then she began laughing and said “Master! Don’t worry about it!”
“But I don’t get why you’re so embarrassed about seeing me shirtless!”
Ondine’s eyes show up in surprise. Then they narrowed as she asked “Did Tetra tell you this?”
When he nodded, she suddenly looked angry and said “Tetra! I’m going to beat you up for this!”
“Oh? I welcome the challenge, Ondine!” Tetra said in Lakshman’s mind.
Feeling like he somehow became the centre of their anger, Lakshman said “C-C-Calm down…”
At that moment, they heard a loud scream.
From somewhere ahead, they heard the cry of a girl’s voice. The voice was full of distress and panic. It stunned Lakshman and Ondine for a moment as they came to a stop.
“What the?” Lakshman said in a shocked voice as she stared ahead.
“It sounded like someone’s in danger, master!” Ondine said with a serious expression.
In his mind, he heard Tetra say “Really? I thought the voice wanted us to join them for a cup of tea!”
Getting annoyed, he thought “Enough!”
“Sorry, master,” he heard Tetra apologise in his mind.
Then they heard it again a moment later followed by the sounds of monsters. Lakshman realised whoever it was in real trouble. If they did not get to them, he did not know what will happen. The negative thought suddenly made him feel extremely angry.
He turned to look at Ondine with a serious expression as he said “Ondine! Let’s go!”
“I’m right behind you, master!” Ondine said
Nodding at each other, they ran down the corridor and towards the source of the voices.