For the next four days, Lakshman spent his time in his room. He was not alone as, most of the time, Tetra was always there to keep him company. Occasionally, Ondine would be with them and would argue endlessly with Tetra until Indra came up to break it up.
His meals were served in his room with his mother, Lakshmi and Mariana, bringing up the food. Still feeling a little weak to eat on his own, his mother obliged to feed him. Although, she sternly looked at him and said he should get better soon.
At that point, Ondine and Tetra offered to be her replacement, but Lakshmi did not approve.
“It’s only right for a mother to feed their son when he isn’t feeling well,” Lakshmi had said when they protested.
At that time, Indra was passing by. Hearing her words, he popped his head in and asked “What about me?”
She turned around and gave him a cold expression.
Taking the hint, he quickly left with a depressed expression on his face while muttering “I can’t understand mothers…”
Like this, his treatment and recovery continued. One fine morning, however, Lakshman said he wanted to move around. At first, Lakshmi objected, but Indra allowed it.
“He’s still injured!” she told him in a worried voice.
“Stop treating him like a baby! Look at him! He’s much better than before already!” Indra told her sternly.
With that, Lakshman was finally able to leave his room. However, he faced some uncomfortable struggles. He was still feeling weak, so Ondine and Tetra let him a supporting hand.
“Why do I feel weak even though I feel recovered?” he asked as they helped him walk down the stairs.
“Who knows,” Ondine said with a shrug of her shoulders. “I hear that unknown symptoms can occur when you starve for long periods.”
“Oh… I see,” he said and nodded in understanding.
Tetra, on the other hand, looked uncomfortable as if something was bothering her. When he asked her about it, she simply stated that it was nothing. Like that, the three of them made their way to the dining room.
“Ah! Look who it is!” Indra said when he saw his son and the two girls walk in.
“Morning, dad,” Lakshman said as he pulled up a chair and gently sat on it and the girls sitting on either side of him.
“Good morning. How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling fine, but my legs are a little…”
“Shaky? Don’t worry. That often happens when you don’t walk for some time,” Indra said reassuringly.
“Oh… Did it also happen to you?”
“What? Cramped legs?”
“Yes,” Lakshman said and nodded his head at Indra.
“In a way… yes,” Indra said and he leaned back in his chair as he continued. “It was during one difficult mission that I and my group ended up getting surrounded by monsters. Fighting them all, I accidentally tripped over a tree root and hurt my right leg.”
“Ouch,” Lakshman said as if he could feel the pain his father had felt back then.
“Yeah… It was a real pain, but I somehow managed to get going while still limping with a badly injured leg.”
“Weren’t you healed immediately?”
Indra shook his head and said “We were surrounded and, as such, all our magicians were attacking and supporting. By the end of it, most of them were out of energy. So, I had to wait it out for a while before getting healed.”
“It must’ve been troublesome,” Lakshman said in a concerned voice.
“Anything this guy does is troublesome,” said a voice from outside.
They looked around to see Lakshmi and Mariana carrying trays of plates with food in them. They carefully laid the plates in front of their respective people to eat. The moment the food was placed in front of Tetra, she immediately started eating.
“Wow! Were you that hungry, Tetra?” Lakshmi asked as she sat down next to her husband.
“Yes! Tetra is a growing up girl after all!” Tetra said happily.
“I see,” Lakshmi said and laughed before beginning to eat her food.
Ondine, however, reacted differently. As she began to eat her food, she sternly said “Enough of that, Tetra. You’re not a growing up girl at all when you’re already well over eight-thousand years old!”
“Ah, master! Ondine is being mean to me by saying I’m old! Does Tetra look old to you?” Tetra said as she looked at him cutely.
“Um… I don’t think so,” Lakshman said hesitantly as he felt the serious stare Ondine was giving him from behind.
“Master, you’re being too soft on her!” Ondine said sternly.
“Master is kind to me, unlike the jealous Ondine!” Tetra said in a said voice.
“Huh? Why would I be jealous? For starters, I’m no ancient kid who’s simply looking for attention!” Ondine retorted irritably.
“See, master! She’s so mean to me!” Tetra complained.
“Why you?!” Ondine said and she glared at her.
“Hey! Both of you! Cut it out!” Indra said sharply and he looked seriously at them. “Argue elsewhere, but not when people are trying to eat!”
“W-We’re sorry!” Ondine and Tetra quickly apologised.
Then he looked at Lakshman and sternly said “Lakshman, they are your subordinates! Teach them some table manners already!”
“R-Right…” Lakshman said nervously.
Indra nodded in satisfaction and returned to eating his food. Lakshman sighed in relief and ate his food.
At that moment, the two girls attempted to spoon feed him even though he said he was fine eating on his own. Indra looked at them and stated how envious he was of Lakshman. That was when Lakshmi looked at him sternly with a raised eyebrow.
Afterwards, they moved to the living room and relaxed for some time. After a while, Indra began to ask Lakshman questions about his time in the dungeon while he was trapped there. Lakshman told his father all that happened while down there.
“Wow! You handled the Dungeon Crawlers nicely, but how did you know to handle them like that?” Indra asked when Lakshman told him about the Dungeon Crawlers.
“Well, at first, I didn’t know what to do about it, but Tetra told us how to fight them,” Lakshman said and he gestured at her.
“Eh…? Guess a Sacred Spirit that lived for more than eight-thousand years would certainly know about those things,” Indra said, sounding impressed.
When Tetra looked mightily proud, Ondine clicked her tongue and said “She’s just an eight-thousand year old devilish kid!”
“Master… Ondine is mean!” Tetra said in a complaining voice as she gestured at Ondine.
“Okay, okay!” Indra said as he broke up the incoming argument. Then he looked at Lakshman and asked “So, that’s about it that happened down there?”
When Lakshman nodded, Indra made a puzzled expression on his face. Then he looked back at his son and asked “Did you notice anything unusual?”
“Anything unusual? What do you mean, dad?”
“Like… you know… a fire bird or something like that?”
Lakshman thought for a moment, but he soon shook his head and said “I… don’t remember seeing anything like that, dad. What about you, Ondine?”
“Sorry, master, but I didn’t see anything like that either,” Ondine said with a perplexed expression on her face.
“I see…” Indra said and nodded in understanding.
At that moment, he noticed Tetra looking uncomfortable. Puzzled by her strange behaviour, he asked “Is something the matter, Tetra?”
“Ah… well…” Tetra said hesitantly.
“It’s okay if you didn’t see it or whatever might have happened afterwards,” Indra said softly.
“Yes… about that…”
Tetra continued to fidget with her fingers as she said “When master fell unconscious, I saw this emblem of fire suddenly surround us.”
“What? Did you say emblem of fire?” Indra asked sharply to make sure he heard right.
“Y-Yes,” Tetra said nervously. “After that, the fire surrounded us and started drawing my and master’s energy into it. After that, I feel unconscious as my whole energy was used up.”
“I see… Now it makes sense,” Indra said and he nodded in understanding.
“What does, dad?” Lakshman asked curiously.
“That! It’s called Emblem of Fire which is the activation of a magic spell with the Protection of Fire. It’s one of many defensive magic spells Felix uses constantly on his comrades to protect them.”
“Oh? So, what does it do?” Lakshman asked in a surprised voice.
“It usually depends on the circumstances, but it took the last resort in your case.” When his son still looked confused, he said “It activated the magic spell Fire Bird and got you out of there when it sensed the danger you were in. No wonder that looked like a blazing bird of some sort.”
Then he leaned back in his chair and said “Hah! Leave it to him to leave a souvenir and not tell us about it. Man, brings back memories of how often he used it on us and we didn’t even know about it!”
“I see, but how did he do it, dad? I don’t think I remember him doing any incantations of the sort.”
“He completely does it through Voiceless Incantation and it’s hard to detect. He’s a generous in it and it saved our lives more than once! Why, I’m sure there’s one on all of us except for Tetra being a Sacred Spirit, Ondine being a water spirit and you since you already used it up.”
“Well, I’m glad it came in handy at that time,” Ondine said and he chuckled lightly.
“Yes. Otherwise, Ondine would be nothing, but water right about now,” Tetra said with a cheeky grin.
“Tetra! That’s not funny!” Lakshman suddenly said sharply.
“S-Sorry, master,” she quickly apologised, looking upset.
An uncomfortable silence fell over them. It was broken by Indra laughing and saying “Well, all things end well, I guess.”
“Yes,” Lakshman said and nodded with a smile on his face.
“Still, though… I wonder what Felix is up to,” Ondine said in a wondering voice.
“Ah! Don’t worry about that knuckle-head! I’m sure he’s neck deep in paperwork right about now!” Indra said with a grinning face.
“You sound happy for some reason.”
“Naturally! This is the happy peaceful life I’ve always wanted to lead, well away from the mountain load of paperwork and stuff!” Indra said happily. Then he muttered “Maybe I should write a letter…?”
It was three weeks later that he found out that he did not need to write a letter. By then, Lakshman had fully recovered and he resumed his daily training in the morning. Joining him were the kids from town and neighbouring villages, happy that he was alright.
It happened one morning as they were happily eating their breakfast, when there was a knocking sound at the front door.
At first, Mariana went to answer it. A few seconds later, she called for Lakshmi’s assistance with handling the mail. A few minutes later, in a worried voice, Lakshmi called Indra out of the dining room.
Lakshman and the girls finished their breakfast and took their plates in the kitchen. When they were headed towards the living room, they saw Indra and Lakshmi facing them. Their heads were down at the piece of paper clutched in Lakshmi’s hands and worried expressions on their faces.
When they walked over to them, Lakshman asked “What is it, dad? Mum?”
They looked up at him. Then they glanced at each other. Indra shrugged his shoulders, which made Lakshmi narrow her eyes severely before turning back to face Lakshman. She took a deep breath and said with a serious expression on her face.
“It’s a letter from Felix, requesting our help in his Trial of Betrayal.”