The next day, in the early dawn of morning, Lakshman and Ondine stood outside. They were waiting for the kids that will be arriving soon to be trained by them. This was planned out yesterday when Stuart, Lakshman’s friend, came and requested this training.
Lakshman had attempted to seek assistance from Indra, but he refused. Sumara, on the other hand, agreed to supervise and assist if she thinks he made a mistake. Right now, however, they were the only two present at the front of the house.
Lakshman yawned wide and rubbed his bleary eyes wearily. Ondine looked at him with an amused expression on her face.
“Master, didn’t you get enough sleep?”
“I did, but I kept waking up thinking it was morning.”
“That’s silly… were you feeling that nervous?”
“I guess I was more nervous than I realised, ha-ha.”
“Master, you are silly. You’ve faced many difficult things before and were never nervous. So, why now?”
“I don’t know,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.
Ondine looked at him for a moment in silence. Then said “Watching you, master, I get the feeling you are like your father.”
“Eh? Like dad? How come?” he asked, surprised by her assessment.
“I mean, you are good natured and all, but it feels you are more of a fighter than a trainer. That’s what I think anyway. That’s the kind of feeling I get anyway looking at you right now.”
Lakshman was puzzled by her statement. He knows he was copying many things from his father and that also included the fighting sense. Ever since he was seven, he only had his father to follow around. His mother was a healer and Mariana was not much a fighter herself.
“Now that I think about it… I’ve been doing nothing, but studying, training, fighting and more studying!”
“Really?” Ondine asked, sounding surprised. “Have you never gone out or played games or anything?”
“Well, I did go out sometimes when I had time to spare, but… I usually wandered into the forest to have fun with the water spirits,” he said and shrugged.
She turned and looked at him with eyes full of amazement. Then her words made up for her amazement.
“Master, you definitely are no ordinary twelve year old.”
“Are all twelve year olds… ordinary?” he asked with a perplexed expression.
“Well, if you compare yourself to everyone around here, you’d notice that not everyone is capable of lifting swords a hundred times while wearing weighted training gear and fought of monsters many times!” she said and chuckled a bit.
“You say it like it’s a bad thing.”
“You’re lucky the people aren’t taking it in the wrong way, master,” she said and she nodded seriously at him. “They could’ve taken your power and all differently. They might’ve labelled you a mutant or something.”
“But I’m not!” he protested. “I’m as normal as I feel I am.”
“You say that, but people won’t see you that way, master,” she said with a shrug.
“Why?” he asked desperately.
“Just call it humanity’s biggest stupidity of prejudice.”
“Prejudice? Over what?”
“Over the major differences in life with comparison to each other.”
Lakshman didn’t say anything and did not move. He simply stood there and stared at her as he if he could not believe what he just heard.
Then he said “I don’t understand.”
Ondine sighed and said “No worries. It’s an adult word you don’t need to know about just yet, master.”
“O-Okay…” he said uncertainly. Then, as a way to change the subject, he said “Still, they aren’t here yet? Any idea how many will be coming?”
“At a guess… a few?” she said uncertainly. “I’m not exactly sure since this will also be my first training someone, master.”
“Oh, I see,” he said with a slight nod of his head. “Then, how did you become a Spirit Guardian?”
She suddenly smiled as she said “It took me a while to train my mind and body to keep up with the training our instructor put us through.”
“Sounds tough,” he commented simply and Ondine laughed.
“It was really tough,” she said reminiscently. “All the things we had to learn, all the training we had to go through and the difficult task of overcoming the test, it was a sheer delight once it was all over.”
“Wow!” he said in amazement. Then a sudden thought struck him and he asked “So, they taught you the North Sword Style during your training?”
“No, they taught us the Water Sword Style,” she said with a shake of her head. “Water Sword Style is a default for the water spirits.”
“B-But then… how did you learn the north style?” he asked, sounding puzzled.
“I found a reference in the many books and that’s how I picked it up,” she said with a shrug.
Lakshman chuckled as he said “You got it from a book… really?”
“It had a detailed description and helped me out in getting to wield it quite well,” she said and smiled.
“That’s good at least,” he said, nodding at her in understanding.
Then they stood in silence and waited for the arrival of the students. It was half-an-hour later and the kids finally arrived. Lakshman’s eyes widened when he saw them, clearly stunned by what he saw.
He edged a little closer to her and whispered “Ondine… Mind telling me what a few is?”
“W-Well…” she said hesitantly. “It’s usually less than a handful.”
“And…? How many do we count here if you don’t include us?”
“Let’s see… around twenty?” she said uncertainly.
Then he turned completely and looked at her sternly. She did not turn to face his stern gaze. Instead, she became very focused on the garden Lakshmi took care of.
Then a voice from behind them said “This is amazing.”
Turning around, Lakshman saw Sumara walking out of the house. She was wearing her usual clothes when she goes out and held her magic staff at the ready. At that moment, she was eying the arrived kids in amazement before turning back to him.
She smiled and said “You certainly are popular.”
“I-I’m glad you think so,” he said reflexively.
“Well then, good luck training them,” she said and patted him on the back before walking over to the garden to watch.
He turned back to face the front and, at the sight of so many faces, he suddenly felt like a heavy load dropped into his stomach. Sensing this, Ondine quickly turned to him with a half-smile on her face.
“Please, please, master… the one thing you shouldn’t do in front of so many, is panic. It sets a bad example!”
“I-I know. I won’t panic. Note to myself, no panicking. No need to feel nervous or anything. I’ve done many difficult things, so this should be a piece of cake! Yes! It will be!”
“Master… your words and your actions don’t match.”
“Huh? What do you mean, Ondine?”
“Your legs are shaking,” she said in exasperation.
He blinked in surprise and looked down. Sure enough, his legs were indeed shaking. He quickly adjusted his legs and breathed a heavy sigh to relax. In one of the things he learnt from Mariana, he learnt that focusing on your breathing eases the nervousness.
He began to breathe in and out rhythmically. A few minutes later, Ondine poked him at his side.
“Master, I think you’ve done enough of your breathing exercises.”
“I… I did?” he said in surprise.
“Yes,” she said with a nod. “Now, please address your students.”
“Huh? My students?” he said, appalled by her choice of words. “What do you mean, Ondine?”
“I mean exactly what I said master,” she said firmly. “They are your students, please talk to them.”
“My students…?” he said vaguely. Then he turned and saw the kids waiting expectantly for him. Seeing them, he muttered “Oh… Them… Right… My students… Ha-ha… my students…”
He moved a little forward and cleared his throat loudly to get their attention. Quickly, silence fell over the crowd of kids as they wanted for him to speak. He went to speak, but hesitated. Seeing so many staring fixedly at him is causing him to feel very nervous.
Then he shook his head and muttered “No nervousness. No need for it!”
He closed his eyes and breathed a sigh. Then he opened them and began to speak.
“Good evening everyone!”
There was a short pause in which they registered what he said. Then, everyone made a puzzled expression as if not sure what they heard.
Ondine stared at him from behind with her mouth hanging a little. Then she uncertainly asked “Evening?”
When she said that, he suddenly realised what he said. He quickly went to correct himself.
“I mean, good morning everyone! Its rise and shine early, isn’t it?” he said and laughed as he scratched the back of his head and everyone relaxed.
He took a deep breath and continued on speaking.
“Today, I’m sure you know why you are here; to train, to be strong, to be able to protect, defend and, possibly, defeat! After all, we’ve all had the first experience of danger when our peaceful place was attacked so many times by monsters and monsters.”
The kids nodded wordlessly at his words and he nodded as well. As he continued speaking, he grew confident with his speaking ability.
“The adults are brave and strong, but often find themselves overwhelmed by the odds. What then? Do we give ourselves up? Do we give in to losing our peace? Is it possible to give up so we can survive another day with the sacrifice of our peace?”
As he paused in speaking, the kids looked like they were thinking about his questions.
Then he sharply said “No!” and surprised the kids. He continued by saying “Giving up our peace to survive is foolish. That sort of peace is nothing, but an illusion! Peace cannot be guaranteed so long as the beings that works to destroy it.”
Ondine was looking at him in amazement as he continued speaking to everyone.
“That’s why we must train. We must be brave, strong and, more importantly, courageous enough to stare danger in the face and laugh! After all, we are fighters! Warriors! There is nothing in this world that we must fear more than fear itself!”
And with that, he punched his fist into the air. There was an instantaneous loud applause as all the kids clapped and cheered for him.
“Way to go!”
“You’re the best!”
Lakshman smiled as the clapping slowly died down and the cheers stopped. Now they all stood at the ready, waiting for him to officially start their training. He took a deep breath and released it smoothly. Then he looked at them and smiled.
“Now! Let us move onto the training, but! Before that, I ask you: are you ready?!”
There was a loud “Yes!” from the crowd of kids.
“Are you sure?!”
This time, a louder “Yes!” rang around the neighbourhood.
Lakshman nodded in understanding and his smile widened as he said “Okay then, let’s begin the first training: a running race!”
For a moment, everything was still and silent. Everyone was staring at him with surprised expressions as if they could not believe what they just heard. Then there was a loud groan following by booing.
Lakshman blinked at them in surprise and said “Huh?”