“You stay here.”
“They don’t want you coming.”
“You said the same thing to us earlier, but why?”
“Stop arguing and go with the flow, Lakshman.”
“I won’t, Felix!”
It was several minutes later before Felix told them to stop. He asked Ondine to connect to the Water Spirits using her Spiritual Link. What this meant was her capability to connect with nearby Water Spirits and speak to them telepathically.
“It is rude to go in unannounced,” Felix said when she looked at him with a puzzled expression on her face.
Ondine closed her eyes and she relaxed her body. Then silence ensued for several minutes as she made contact. After a while, she opened her eyes and told them what the Elder Water Spirits said. Lakshman was more displeased when he was told no entry to Humans.
“I see,” Felix said with a nod. “Makes sense I guess.”
After that he and Lakshman began to argue. Lakshman wanted to accompany them, but Felix disapproved it. While they argued, Ondine watched with wide eyes. She was clueless as to what to do about this.
Now Felix and Lakshman stood, staring at each other with irritated expressions. Felix folded his arms and frowned down at Lakshman. Lakshman also folded his arms and looked stubbornly up at Felix. Lakshman is shorter than Felix because of his age, but he still showed that he is not backing down.
“If they don’t want you coming in, you should just accept it!” Felix said firmly.
“But why?” Lakshman demanded. “Is there something wrong with me if I go there?”
“Lakshman, didn’t you hear us? They said ‘no entry to humans’. This includes all humans alike regardless of who they are.”
“That’s wrong!” Lakshman said looking angry. “That’s like bullying! I haven’t done anything to hurt them, so why do they say that about me? I even played with young Water Spirit!”
“Oh, for crying out loud, they weren’t talking about you!” Felix said in frustration.
“Listen, Lakshman!” Felix said very seriously and Lakshman became silent in an instant. “Not all the spirits get along with humans like Ondine. Long history has proven over and over how things can easily become back if they become complacent.”
“I-I don’t understand…” Lakshman said hesitantly.
“I don’t blame you for not understanding,” Felix said with a nod. “It’s much too early for you to understand the deeper reasons for their desire to keep themselves away from others.”
Lakshman was looking confused as he tried to make sense of Felix’s words. Felix noticed and he made a soft expression as he smiled slightly.
“So, be a good boy and follow what they say,” he said softly.
Lakshman was uncertain. He wanted to go with Felix and Ondine as they will visit the Water Spirits tribe. However, at how seriously Felix spoke him somewhat understood it as something serious. It suddenly reminded him of the struggle to get Ondine and Sumara working together.
He sighed and looked down, looking upset. Ondine, watching him, also looked unhappy at his reaction. Then a smile suddenly broke her face as if she thought of something good.
“Master, how about a compromise?”
“A… compromise?” Lakshman said, looking confused.
“Yes!” Ondine said and she grinned at him. “I was thinking that… if master waited here patiently, I will bring back a gift.”
“A gift?” Lakshman said as he blinked in surprise. “What would that gift be, Ondine?”
“The gift would be… let’s see… how about the water from the Fountain of Health?” Ondine said thoughtfully. “Then you can bring it back and give it as a gift to your mother. I’m sure Lakshmi will appreciate it very much! She will praise you highly and you would be doing her a favour as well!”
“Fountain of Health? You mean the one that purifies a body of all toxins and restores their vitality, right?” Lakshman asked curiously. When she nodded, he said “Okay. Since I’ll be able to give mum a gift, its fine. Hey! We can give it together and she’ll be really happy!”
“That’s the attitude!” Felix said and he winked at him with a bright smile on his face.
Then, both Felix and Ondine began to walk into the forest. Lakshman stood still and watched their backs fading into the forest. Just then, Ondine turned around and called back to him.
“Alright, we’ll see you soon, master!”
“Sure!” Lakshman called back and he gestured a thumbs-up in her direction.
A few minutes went by and he remained rooted to the spot. He was staring at the spot Felix and Ondine disappeared.
He made a noise as if realising something. His eyes widened and he said “Wait… I’m all alone again!”
He hung his head feeling slightly upset. He was not upset over that he could not go with them. The compensation with the gift more than made him feel satisfied. He was upset that they left him alone with nothing to do.
Looking around, he spotted a good location and sat down the forest ground. The grass beneath him created a cushioning effect and it felt like sitting there. Then he remained silent and as the silence stretched, his mind wandered.
Lakshman did not like how the races show hostility towards each other after so long. He did not understand the reasons and perhaps it had to do with his age. Felix was adamant about it earlier that he was ‘too young’ to understand.
He started wondering if there was more to the conflict, the anger and the hatred. However, he did not understand the topic itself felt very depressing to think. Instead, his thoughts switched to something else that bothered him for quite some time.
“Phoenix Titan,” he muttered unconsciously.
He expected his head would start hurting like it did earlier. Seconds passed and nothing happened. He sighed, not understanding why. He picked up a stick off the ground and started to draw randomly on the grass.
He always gets a headache whenever someone, other than him, speaks that name aloud. He did not understand why. It was frustrating since the pain it caused distracted him and left him feeling weak.
Sumara, his home tutor, taught him many things and those things also include the ancient history. He learnt that, 8000 years ago, the Phoenix Titan sacrificed his life and brought peace and order to the world. Since then, he was viewed as a hero and a saviour by all who craved for peace.
After that, many people have tried to uncover him, but it only ended in failure. There was little is known about him other than his title. It was rumoured that the Phoenix Clan destroyed all records of him to safeguard their greatest hero’s details. It also did not help when the Phoenix Titan always seemed to hide behind an armour that hid his face.
“He must have had good reason to hide his face,” Lakshman thought as he contemplated about the man.
Ever since the previous Phoenix Titan’s death, a new Phoenix Titan did not appear. No one knew why that was and many questioned the Phoenix Clan about it. The Phoenix Clan claimed there was no one powerful enough to claim that rank. Their claiming of no on being strong enough to become the Phoenix Titan mystified him.
Then he started to reason as to why that name would make him have a headache. As far as he knows, his family are not nobles or possess noble blood. Both his parents were orphans and they worked hard throughout their lives to be where they are right now.
Lakshman remembered the expression his mother, Lakshmi, wore as she told him of her experiences in life. Sometimes she was happy, but it was full of sadness and loneliness. He knew he would never understand the suffering they must have gone through together.
He was happy with his family as they spent their time happily, living and enjoying together. He remembered his father, Indra, telling him something about a family.
“Family is the core of a man’s heart! Without that, you are a rotten apple!”
Indra spoke sincerely and, to Lakshman, it sounded quite heart felt. He remembered as he observed his father on the receiving end of Lakshmi’s and everyone’s scorn. It was about something he foolishly did when he was young.
Although Lakshman saw his father with unhappy and annoyed expressions, it aura felt different. His aura was smooth and it flowed with energy. It was almost like he was enjoying it. Before leaving with Felix and Ondine, Lakshman asked Indra why he was feeling like that.
At that time, Indra grinned as he said “They may say a lot of good or bad things about me. But! It all comes down to one thing. They love me and I love them. That’s all there is to it.”
Lakshman sighed unhappily. He did not understand those words, but he felt there was something charming about them. Those words were complicated for a twelve-year old like Lakshman to understand. However, he was confident he will come to understand them as he grows up.
Suddenly, he was brought back to the present at the loud rustling noises. He jumped to his feet and placed his hand on the hilt of his sword at the ready. Then he turned his head in the direction where the noises were coming from.
For a few seconds, the rustling noises of the forest continued to grow louder. Then a giant body burst out into the open. It had a big body with black fur, four legs and a tail. No sooner had he laid his eyes upon the creature, his eyes widened in shock.
As he opened his mouth to speak, the creature suddenly leaped over him and dashed into the forest and disappeared. He quickly turned around and stared after it, unable to believe what he had just seen.
“W-Wasn’t that the… Two-Headed Cerberus?” he muttered as he watched the monster disappear. “What’s it doing here again?”
Just then, he heard another rustling of leaves behind. He quickly turned around and saw two people emerge out of the trees. Both were tall with green hair, three pointy horns in their heads like crowns, red eyes. Their bodies also look powerfully built after rigorous training and countless battles.
“What the?” The left man dressed in plain clothing said, looking surprised as he stared at Lakshman.
“A kid?” The right man, also dressed in plain clothing, said as he also stared at Lakshman.
The left man turned to the right man with a worried expression on his face.
“What do we do?! We ran into a human!” he asked urgently.
“Calm down! He’s just a kid. Besides, let’s check to see if he saw that thing.”
The right man smiled at Lakshman and he asked “Hey kid. Did you see a creature come through here?”
“A creature?” Lakshman said, looking startled. “Um… do you mean that Two-Headed Cerberus?”
“Wow! The kid knows the name of it!” the right man said, sounding impressed.
“But what now? The kid saw that thing!” the left man said unhappily.
“That’s simple! Silence the kid.”
“Eh?!” the left man said, looking shocked at the suggestion. “But… he’s a kid…”
“Yes, he is a kid,” the right man said as he nodded. “But, they can be quite troublesome. They don’t know when to not blab about things!”
“Besides, its bosses orders, remember?”
“Yeah… Silence witnesses to our activities,” the left man said, looking unhappy.
“Yes,” the right man said with a nod. “Now then…”
He turned back to Lakshman and he made a sweet smile and beckoned Lakshman towards him.
“Hey kid, if you come here I’ll give you a candy!”
“C-Candy?” Lakshman asked in surprise.
He looked at the men nervously. The left man was looking unhappy, but the right man wore a sweet smile. He continued to beckoning Lakshman over with his hands.
“It’s sweet flavoured and you’d want to have more!” he said brightly.
“Um…” Lakshman said hesitantly.
“If you eat one of these, you’ll gain incredible strength!”
“N-No!” Lakshman said firmly and he glared fiercely at the men and surprising them in the process.
He made up his decision to not trust them. It was not because he did not want to candy, but because of something Sumara and his parents have told him a long time ago.
“If a stranger approaches you and is willing to give you food and things, do not take it!”
Those were her exact words and later, both Indra and Lakshmi spoke to him seriously about it. Apparently it was a cowardly tactic of the bad guys to gain the attention of the kids. Then they kidnap them and case all sorts of mayhem.
Thinking back to what they said, this suddenly seemed to be the case. Unfortunately, Lakshman did not clearly hear what the men spoke earlier. He did not know how dangerous these people were.
The right man sighed and he scratched the back of his head. Then he said “Guess it can’t be helped. Hey, do it.”
“I… I don’t want to…” the left man said nervously.
“Sheesh!” the right man said in frustration as he looked at his partner. “You’re soft hearted, as always, against kids!”
The right man sighed before saying “I’ve always got to do the dirty work, hah?”
Sighing, he moved forward and he pulled out his sword, which was a broadsword, and held it at the ready. Lakshman automatically readied his own sensing the imminent battle.
“Hey kid!” the man called to him. “You should’ve taken the easy way and taken the candy. Now it’s come down to taking you down the hard way!”
“These guys are bad people!” Lakshman thought as he glared at him as the man continued speaking.
“Don’t worry. I’ll make it quick and painless. I will make sure to finish it before you feel anything!”
“What?” Lakshman said, looking confused as he did not understand what the man just said.
“I’m going to send you to heaven, if such a place even exists according to you humans,” the man said and he made a wicked smile at Lakshman.
Lakshman did not quite understand what the man was saying, but his body language was not friendly. His suspicions were confirmed when the man the man took on a fighting stance. Realising a battle is imminent, Lakshman also got into a fighting position as he brought his sword and held it out in a ready.
Suddenly, he heard a voice, in his mind, say “Forgive me, but you need this lesson.”
“Huh?” Lakshman exclaimed in shock.
The voice suddenly came out of nowhere. Then he felt his sword become really heavy and found it hard to hold onto. It also made it difficult for him to move perceive because he suddenly lost sight of the man, which startled him. One moment, he was there, but the next, he disappeared.
The next instance, Lakshman suddenly felt weak and he thought his energy was being drained. No, it was not being drained, but he was losing it for a different reason. He looked down and saw a broadsword sticking out of his stomach as blood gushed out.
The man stabbed Lakshman with his broadsword. Blood started seeping from the stabbed sword and started drenching the man’s sword in it. As the man promised, Lakshman did not feel pain from the mortal wound.
Lakshman began to feel lightheaded as the energy rapidly left his system. His sword fell limply to the ground from his slack hands. It was a strange sensation he was feeling when the sword pierced right through him.
Then the man lifted the sword and Lakshman with it. He must be very strong because he effortlessly lifted the sword and Lakshman’s body. Lakshman hung limply off the sword, barely conscious.
“I haven’t been able to kill for three whole days and the first thing my sword tastes is the blood of a kid. Ha!” he said scornfully. “I would have preferred it if it was someone older, but whatever!”
Then he swung the sword and Lakshman’s limp body came loose. He flew some distance before crashing to the ground. There he lay, semi-conscious as his life slowly slipped away.
“Don’t blame me kid!” the man said as he swung his sword around to toss the blood away. “Blame yourself for being in the wrong place at the wrong time!”
Then the man walked back to his partner who was shaking slightly. The man clapped him on the back to snap him out of it.
“Let’s go,” he said and his partner took one glance at Lakshman’s body before nodding.
Then they headed off in the direction the Two-Headed Cerberus monster went, leaving Lakshman all alone in a pool of blood. Lakshman was barely conscious as he clung to dear life while making rasping breathing sounds.
He was alone. He couldn’t make noise. No one could hear him to rescue him. No one would come for him, not in this dense forest. There is the possibility of Felix and Ondine would rescue him, but they must be so far away they would not be able to sense he was in trouble.
As he slowly lost blood, his mind started to wander again. He thought back to the times he felt happy, unhappy and lonely. His parents, their maid, his home tutor and his Slave Spirit, it was because of them he was so happy every single day.
Then he thought about Ondine. He remembered her promise to bring back the water from the Fountain of Health from the Water Spirits tribe. It was her idea to give it as a gift to him so he can, in turn, give it to his mother as a gift. He immediately accepted the compensation because it was such a wonderful idea.
He wondered if he will be able to keep his promise. Never in his whole life did he have the chance to help his mother in anything. As his consciousness faded, he wondered if he will ever fulfil that promise.
“Ondine…” he muttered as his conscious slowly faded.