Start the Race
The kids groaned loudly and some booed unhappily. Lakshman looked around, confused by the sudden change in reaction. Was it something he said that upset them? Right after saying they will be participating in a running race, they just became very unhappy.
He turned and looked at Ondine with a puzzled expression on his face. He did not understand and gestured for her help through eye contact.
Catching his eye, Ondine understood his request. She stepped forward and took a deep breath and bellowed.
“Hey! Be quiet!”
The volume of her shout caused many to flinch. Being close to her at the time, Lakshman winced at her shout. Recovering from the momentary shock, he looked at her in amazement.
“That’s loud,” he commented.
“Thank you, master,” she said with a smile on her face.
“Uh… okay,” he said uncertainly.
He actually did not intend it to be a compliment, but it did not matter. Her shout did the trick and everyone became silence once more. Turning back, he saw them staring apprehensively at her and he chuckled slightly.
Then he addressed them by saying “So… why is everyone suddenly not happy?”
Then a lot of people began to speak at the same time.
“It’s a running race!”
“Isn’t that boring?”
“Running race is too lame!”
“Isn’t there something more fascinating than a running race?!”
The stream of words came in and he could not make out all of them.
Desperately, he shouted “Stop, stop, stop!”
When they became silence once more, he said “Come on, people… A running race is a challenging thing to do!”
“Maybe, Lucky, but that’s something we’ve been doing so often it just sort of got boring.”
The one to speak this time was Stuart. While Lakshman was talking, he apparently pushed his way to the front and finally got the chance to speak.
“Boring?” Lakshman said uncertainly.
“Well, you just run around and do nothing and get nothing,” a person next to him said disappointedly.
“Oh!” Lakshman said, finally understanding the real reason behind their disp0leasure. “You just want a prize at the end of it…?”
Many replied with a resounding “Yes!”
Lakshman made a posture as if he was thinking about something. Then a smile appeared on his face and he looked at them excitedly.
“Alright then, the prize for the running race is the winner gets to spar with me!”
There was a pause in which they digested what they said. Then a loud “Eh?!” rang out as everyone shout in astonishment.
“F-Fight with… you?”
“You’re gonna totally beat us down!”
“Ah, cheer up!” Lakshman shouted as he chuckled to their responses. “I won’t go that hard on you lot!”
When they continued to look uncertain, he said thoughtfully “By the way, this running race is also my way of estimating how strong you all are.”
“R-Really?” some of them said, sounding surprised.
“Yup!” Lakshman said and nodded with his arms folded. “So I can train you guys to how strong you are, okay?”
There was short pause in which they simply looked at him. Then they began to discuss amongst themselves about it.
“So, it’s not actually just a boring old race?”
“Looks like some sort of test for us.”
“Not a test!”
“Hey, if we do our best…?”
“Wait a sec… didn’t he say the winner gets to spar with him?”
“I don’t want to do that… I feel I’ll get destroyed!”
“But wouldn’t it hurt to fight with him? Just to see how strong he is?”
As they discussion concluded, they turned back to Lakshman and shouted “We’re up for it!”
Lakshman smile widened as he softly said “Awesome.”
A few minutes later, everyone’s outside the house. They were lined up behind a line drawn on the ground in front of them. That line is the marker to indicate the starting and finishing point.
Then Lakshman walked in front of them and they stood at attention as he spoke.
“The rules are simple! Don’t push each other, hurt each other, but block each other if that sounds entertaining.”
There was a chuckle and he smiled before continuing.
“You are to run, all the way, to the entrance of town and back! If anyone tries to cheat and come back half way through, you’re automatically disqualified! Agreed?!”
Lakshman looked at them closely and nodded before saying “Good!”
Just as he was about to walk to the side, he turned around and said “Oh yeah. I forgot to mention, but I’m also racing!”
There was yet another sound of displeasure from the crowd of kids. This time he did not need an explanation to their displeasure. Him running alongside them will only create more tension and become a challenge for them.
He grinned and said “Don’t worry! I’ll only run at your pace! Got it?”
Instantly, the sounds of displeasure changed to that of utmost relief. Then he made them line up and get ready. Meanwhile, he stood back so as not to get in their way and that he can easily join them. Then he began to shut down countdown.
Then he paused and made a confused expression as if he thought about something.
“Hold on a minute… ready, set, go… that sounds rather normal for a race… how about… this?”
“What are you planning, master?” Ondine asked curiously as she walked to his side.
Wordlessly, he held out his hand in front of him. Then he challenged his energy into it and created an energy ball. It was sparking and glowing brightly in the early morning dawn. Everyone stared at it in amazement.
“Okay!” he shouted as he held it at the ready. “I’m going to throw this in the air. When it explodes, that’s your signal to start running!”
They all nodded and he nodded back. Then he took a deep breath and breathed out smoothly. The next instance, he threw the energy ball high into the air. It soared through the air for several meters as the seconds went by.
“Hmm… it’s not exploding…” he muttered as he squinted to see the energy ball.
He saw a tiny black-like object in the air and knew it was his energy ball. For some reason, it did not explode once it reached the maximum height. Instead, he thought he saw it increasing in size.
“Is it just me or… is that thing getting… bigger?” he asked Ondine curiously.
“No master… it’s not getting bigger,” she said slowly as she looked for herself. Then her expression changed to panic as she said “I-it’s… coming back!”
“What?!” he exclaimed in disbelief and looked up.
At first, he thought it was increasing in size, but this was wrong. Instead, it was actually dropping back down. His eyes widened and he began to panic as he wondered what to do.
“Master! Quickly! Throw another energy ball at it!”
“Just do it!” she said sharply.
He quickly formed another energy ball and threw it in the direction of the dropping energy ball. For a moment, they sailed through the air. Then they made contact and the impact of the two caused a massive explosion to erupt above them.
Everyone on the ground flinched and winced at the defining sound of the explosion. However, Lakshman quickly followed up with a shout.
“Start running! Go, go, go, go, go!”
At his shouted urges, the kids began to run and they quickly sped away into the distance. Lakshman stood back and sighed in relief as dust floated above them. Then he was nudged at the side and he saw Ondine staring at him.
“Master… Aren’t you forgetting something?”
“Yes…” she said with a small nod. “You’re part of the race…”
There was silence a she stood, rooted to the spot and stared at her. Then the realisation hit him like a hammer and he began to panic wildly.
“Oh no! I’m supposed to be racing them!” he said in alarm. Then he turned in their direction and started running after them while shouting “Hey! Wait up! You’re racing without me!”
With his shouts, he disappeared into the distance. Ondine stared after his retreating figure in the distance and sighed. Just then, Sumara walked over to her and patted her gently on the shoulder.
“What a start…?” Ondine muttered and looked tired.
“It’s only the beginning,” Sumara said and she smiled slightly.
Then they looked into the distance, but Lakshman had already vanished while his shouts continued to echo.