Day with Ondine
Early next morning, Ondine woke up feeling a little drowsy due to the comfortable bed she was lying on. In her tribe, the Water Spirits used their water magic to create soft bed of water and since she was not capable of usingthe same magic, she had to lie on the ground covering herself with large leaves. As such, the sudden comfortable living that she was presented with made her feel very sleepy.
“I really did become a Slave Spirit,” she muttered, turning to look at the sunlight curtains.
Yawning hugely, she got out of bed and quickly walked towards the door. Opening it, she felt a pleasant feeling emanating through the house and it caused her to close her eyes and sigh deeply. She turned to look at the door next to her and saw that it was ajar. Wondering why it was like that, she walked over and gently pushed it open to see what her master was doing.
“Master…?” she asked, tentatively.
There was a moment of silence and when she peeked her head in, she was surprised to find that the bed was vacant. It startled her to find her master missing, especially with the bed looking like it was trampled around. Feeling worried for his safety, she turned around and quickly headed downstairs when she suddenly heard the sounds of swings coming from nearby.
She looked around in confusion upon hearing that strange sound before realising that it was coming from outside the house. Pausing for a moment, she slowly walked towards the open entrance and nervously peered out. To her surprise, she found her master standing there swinging a large wooden sword while his father swung his large bladed sword, standing a few meters apart.
Lakshman was swinging the wooden sword like he always did in his early morning training and his father was also training with him, but was using his actual sword instead. Ever since starting the training at the age of just seven, he has improved greatly in strength, speed and stamina.
Ondine was amazed to see him up so early in the morning and training nonetheless. She watched him sweat from each swing of his sword and it made her rethink about their battle the previous day. Truth be told, she was impressed by how strong his defence was when he parried her sword, but she did wonder what the result would have been without Sumara’s intervention.
Lakshman, who had sensed a different presence to that of his mother, magic tutor or house maid, turned and blinked in surprise to see Ondine standing there.
“Ah. Ondine. Good morning,” he said, stopping his training and laying down the weapon as he wiped the sweat off his forehead.
“Good morning, master,” replied Ondine, once again amazed by the amount of sweat covering his body. “Have you been training for long?”
He was a little taken aback by her calling him “master” instead of using his name, but he replied nonetheless, “Not very long. Dad and I started training around an hour ago.”
She stared at him in awe before asking, “You look exhausted. Did you push yourself really hard?”
He nodded just as Indira stopped his training and sighed before saying, “You’re right, young lady. We usually start our morning training with a bit of warm up by running around the house a few times. After that, we spar against each other for about five minutes before taking a ten minute break. Once that’s over, we resume and do various other exercises to strengthen our bodies.”
“Oh. Wow,” she said, sighing while making a smile in surprise. “That’s one rigorous training schedule.”
Lakshman nodded and looking curious, he asked, “Why did you wake up so soon, Ondine? Did you have trouble sleeping, or did you get up to start your morning training?”
She blinked at him in surprise and quickly replied, “N-Not at all! The bed that your family provided for me is very comfortable. Too comfortable, in fact! I was worried that I might’ve overslept.” She suddenly looked up at the sky to check the time and looked back at him, sighing before saying with a wry smile, “I guess I did.”
He chuckled and said, “It’s alright. You still got up anyway, so why not train with us for the next hour? By then, mom will be awake and Mariana will be getting our breakfast ready.”
“O-Oh…” replied Ondine, feeling slightly confused by his last words. “Breakfast…?” she thought, pondering about it.
While she was mulling over the word, Indra walked over and fetched a wooden stick before handing it to her. Looking at it, she was surprised and stared up at him with an apprehensive look on her face.
“Um… T-There’s no need for this… Um… I have my sword…”
She was trying to make up an excuse to refuse taking the wooden sword from him, which Indra clearly understood. Even so, he did not change his demeanor and a serious expression slowly formed on his face.
“I’m not blind,” he replied, his facing becoming slightly serious. “I’m giving you this so that neither of you hurt each other with a sharp instrument during training.”
“Eh?” she said, looking astonished by his words before pointing to his sword, saying, “B-But… you’re using one, though.”
He sighed and said, “Of course. I’m a warrior that works as an adventurer and fighting monsters is something like my daily job. As for you and Lucky, before you choose to fight monster, you need to get adjusted to wielding something of that size while improving your bodies and skills. Understood?”
It was a clear warning for, not only Ondine, but also Lakshman to not get cocky. He was aware that both are strong with the sword, but he also knew it requires more than swinging the sword blindly to achieve victory in a real battle. That was why he was being firm with them on this matter without giving them the chance to take a different option.
Realising there was no way around it and with Lakshman smiling encouragingly at her, she had to accept it. Despite this, she did understand the safety measure that her master’s father was taking to not get them severely injured. There were times where the sword might slip from their hands and accidentally injure someone, which is even more dangerous if the sword was a bladed one.
She allowed Indra to drop the wooden sword into her outstretched hands before holding it firmly. It felt strange to wield a different weapon, but she took this as part of her training and began swinging it up and down with Lakshman and Indra.
An hour later, Indra concluded their training session and both young people sighed deeply while resting their arms. Ondine took the weapon from her master, walked over to the side of the house and placed them down on a pile of wooden swords. Returning to the front of the house, she saw that Indra had already walked inside and saw her master seated on the stairs while breathing quickly.
In the middle of the training, Indra had gotten Lakshman and Ondine to spar with one another to assess their skills. The two hesitated at first but they soon gave it their all and fought hard with the eventual result showing that Lakshman was stronger. It amazed her to see a mere human kid, who was the same height as her, be stronger than her.
“Master’s father certainly put us through some difficulty,” she said, breathing quickly while taking a seat away from her master.
Lakshman smiled wryly and said, “Dad always does that. Whenever he finds an opportunity to push me past my limits, he just goes for it and at the end, I end up feeling really tired.”
“I can agree with that,” agreed Ondine, sighing once more as her breathing slowly returned to normal. She looked towards the inside of the house and wondered aloud, “Master’s father is really strong… I wonder what rank he is as a swordsman.”
“Dad’s a Saint Ranked Swordsman,” Lakshman informed, straightening himself up.
She momentarily looked impressed, saying, “Wow. He must’ve had one serious master or mentor that trained him like how he’s training us.” This made her wonder about something, and she turned towards him before asking, “How old are you right now, master?”
“I’m twelve,” he replied, making her look stricken.
“Uh,” she began, pausing for a moment in hesitation before saying, “You’re twelve, and you’re already this strong… Um… Master, don’t mind me asking you, but… how old were you when you started training?”
Lakshman blinked at her in surprise and thought for a brief moment before stating, “I was seven when I started my training.”
Ondine blinked at him in amazement and said, “Wow…” As he smiled proudly, she looked at him concernedly and asked, “Was it wise of you to start training at such an early age?”
“Mmm? Is there a problem?” Lakshman asked, feeling clueless as to why she suddenly looked so worried.
“Um… According to what I’ve been told from Elder Rodrak, humans suffer from muscle problems and have their lives shortened if they start training at a very young age. So, I was just worried that maybe master also started his training at an early age.”
“Oh,” said Lakshman, shortly with a look of surprise on his face. “Um… To be honest, I have no idea about that, but I don’t think it’ll affect me in the long run.”
“Mmm,” she said, deciding to not further question him about it. Instead, she found something curious about the way they trained and she asked, “Master, why do you and your father only wield one sword? Don’t you know about the Dual Sword Style?”
He looked at her with a smile and said, “Oh, we’re aware of the Shield Sword Style and the Dual Sword Style, but dad said that holding swords in each hand can be tiresome. Instead, wielding a shield in one hand and a sword in the other, you can basically block and attack freely.”
“More like smash and slash,” replied Ondine, causing Lakshman to chuckle. “Still, carrying a shield and attacking with a sword can be called tiresome since only a strong man or woman can do it. For people with lower muscles and great agility, Dual Sword Style is the way to go. I think master would agree if you understood how easy it would be.”
“I know how easy it is, but I plan on picking up those skills later because dad downright doesn’t want me to train with them right now,” he replied, smiling sadly at her. “By the way, I remember seeing another sword at your waist yesterday when we fought. Why didn’t you use it? You know, if you dual wielded them against me, maybe you would’ve stood a chance?”
She suddenly made a despondent look on her face and said, slowly, “Yes… I should’ve used both of my swords… If I had, I would’ve defeated you and… not become a Slave Spirit…”
“Um,” he said, looking stricken at the realisation that he might have upset her. “S-Sorry, Ondine! I didn’t mean to upset you by reminding you about it. I just thought that… um…”
He trailed away, not sure how to respond or calm her down, but she quickly gave him a radiant smile that startled him.
“It’s alright, master. I can understand what master is like with how straightforward, hard working and honest you are. That is why, compared to that life, I feel I obtained something wonderful.”
He found her radiant smile to make her very cute and it caused his heart to beat faster with a strange sense of excitement. It was a feeling like he had never experienced before, an excitement for something different to that of training and exploring outside his house.
Just then, she rose to her feet and bowed to him, saying, “I am willing to do anything for you, master. I am yours to command.”
He stared up at her with a puzzled look on his face, muttering, “Mine to… command?” When she nodded, his eyes widened a little in surprise and made him think, “Mine to command? That means I can command her to do anything and… I…I…”
For some reason, a strange expression began appearing on his face when, all of a sudden, a voice in his head said, “These are not the thoughts you need at your age.”
Lakshman suddenly felt an intense pain in his head and he clutched the side of his forehead with his hand. It was a intense stinging feeling that made him close his eyes tightly and grit his teeth firmly while making a small moaning sounds.
“Master! What’s wrong?!” Ondine asked, kneeling down and touching his head tenderly with her hands while looking at him worriedly.
The stinging feeling soon died down and he reopened his eyes, looking confused. “Um…?” he began, blinking in confusion as he seemed to have lost any recollection of the previous events. He turned to Ondine and asked, “Did you say something to me, Ondine?”
“Yes, master,” she said, looking puzzled by his words. “I said that I am yours to command, master.”
“Oh. Okay,” he said, nodding in understanding and smiling sweetly at her. “I am grateful for your words, Ondine. Then, I hope that you will find your company with me and my family enjoyable.”
She was briefly surprised before she smiled and said, “Of course, master!”
As the two smiled at each other, they heard Lakshmi’s voice, shouting from inside the house, “Lakshman! Ondine! Breakfast’s ready!”
“Breakfast?” Ondine asked, quietly while looking confused.
“Okay. Let’s go,” said Lakshman, rising to his feet and walking into the house with her following behind.
The first thing the both of them did was change the clothes they were wearing while taking a quick bath. Lakshman went first and when he finished, Ondine followed him with clothes that were given to her by Lakshmi. They were the old clothes that Lakshman had used and put away since they no longer fit him, which now were given to Ondine because she did not have a set of her own clothes.
“Um…? Is it wise for me to receive master’s old clothes…?” Ondine asked, looking anxiously at the clothes she held in her hands.
“It’s okay. They are his old clothes that became small, so I don’t think you’ll find it a problem to fit into them considering your sizes,” said Lakshmi, smiling warmly at the girl in front of her.
Taking her word for it, Ondine meekly went into the bathroom and shut the door. Several minutes later, she opened the door and walked out wearing the old shirt and pants that Lakshman used to wear. It amazed her how it managed to fit her size despite the well developed area of her chest.
“It’s a good thing the shirt is loose,” she said, smiling a little in satisfaction.
For breakfast, everyone ate the usual, everyone except Ondine. She simply drank large quantities of water. She even praised how delicious the water was compared to the cool water they get from the apparent stream that runs through where their tribe lived.
“Ondine… I’m aware that Water Spirits drink nothing but water, but… couldn’t you try tasting the food?” Lakshman asked, looking curiously at her.
Ondine looked bewildered by his suggestion, and she asked, “Um… I’ve never actually eaten solid food before, so I don’t know whether that’s good or bad…”
Seeing the hesitation, Lakshman picked up a food with a spare spoon and held it to her, saying, “Say ah~!”
Ondine stared at the spoon of food anxiously while the rest of the people on the table stared in amazement. A moment later, she opened her mouth and closed it on the spoon, dragging the food into her mouth from the spoon. She munched the food with an apprehensive look on her face when, all of a sudden, her eyes widened in surprise.
“Wow! This is good!” she exclaimed, swallowing the food and smiling brightly at him. “What is this?”
“It’s called a vegetable curry made from spinach,” Lakshmi responded, smiling sweetly at her. “It’s a very healthy food that improves your health.”
“Spinach food, is it? Do you think you can teach me that, Mrs. Chand?” Sumara asked, sounding curious.
“Certainly, Sumara,” replied Lakshmi, smiling at her.
Once their lunch was over, Lakshman headed over to the backyard with Sumara for his magic training lessons with her. In the past two years, he improved to use the advanced ranked magic spells. Sumara had only taught him Advanced Ranked Water Magic, Advanced Ranked Earth Magic and Advanced Ranked Healing Magic.
Ondine sat on one of the chairs set in the backyard and watched her master using magic with an almost bored expression on her face. Earlier, she had helped Lakshmi and Mariana in carrying the dishes into the kitchen and laid them down as per their instructions, earning good remarks from them. Once again, she wants to do something useful for her master, but seeing the demon training him left her feeling quite down.
While in the midst of his training, Lakshman paused and looked over at Ondine, who sat looking bored. Watching her sitting idly gave him a sense of loss, which made him remember that she could not use any water magic spells. Ever since she became his Slave Spirit, she simply followed the requests she received and did not ask for anything more.
Remembering that she cannot use magic, especially her elemental water magic, he turned to Sumara and curiously asked, “Miss Sumara, is it possible for Ondine to learn magic with me?”
His magic tutor stared at him for a moment in silence before she said, “I believe it’s possible, however, I don’t believe she would want to be trained by someone like me.”
“Eh?” Lakshman asked, blinking in surprise. His eyes knitted together to show his anger as he verified his suspicions, asking, “Does it have to do with you belonging to the Demon Race?”
Sumara nodded and said, “Our war with the demons 8000-years-ago was quite… devastating. While my clan wasn’t part of the war, old grudges included us and they are very hard to let go.”
He narrowed his eyes and looked seriously at her, saying, “I don’t know what happened in the war so many years ago, but this is silly. Dragging on old hatred for so many years when a lot of things have changed is quite pointless.”
His tutor smiled sadly and said, “That is true, Lucky, but but it concerns an entire race and the memories of them are usually told over and over throughout generations. This leaves a scar for generations and cannot be easily forgotten.”
Lakshman was feeling troubled as he did not know what to say when a voice in his mind said, “Time to change this.”
“That’s… betrayal…!” he said, making her blink her eyes at him in surprise. “Passing on grudges to the next generation over and over again… It’s nothing more than a repeated cycle of hatred that the ones, who started this, passed on. It’s betrayal to do that instead of helping the future generations to improve on themselves!”
Sumara was amazed by his heartfelt words and smiled sweetly at him, asking, “You’re correct, Lucky, but it’s something that cannot be changed on a whim.”
He looked disappointed by those words, but he quickly regained his energy and said, “Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it will include the people surrounding me!”
Surprising her with his words, he turned around and hurried over to the place Ondine sat on the chair. When he reached her, she slowly looked up at him and widened her eyes in surprise, quickly jumping to her feet.
“M-Master! What’re you doing here?” she asked, taken aback to see him suddenly standing in front of her. “Shouldn’t you be—?”
“Ondine, I order you to train together in magic with me!” he ordered, staring at her sharply while cutting across her.
She remained silent for a moment and her eyes narrowed as she realised what he was trying to do, so she asked, “Is that an order, master? To train together with you in magic?”
He nodded and when she looked sullen, he changed it and asked, “Okay. Would you train together with me if I were to request it instead or ordering it?”
She looked up at him and this time, her expression was firm as she replied, “If it’s a request, then I would not be training with you, master. It’s not because I have anything against you; it’s just that I would be being trained under that demon woman over there.”
Those words confirmed the feeling he had felt earlier, and he asked, “Is it because of the grudge that the Elemental Spirits have for the Demon Race?” When she nodded her head in assent, he looked very seriously at her and asked, “Okay. Then, tell me, how useful is your grudge with her?”
She was taken by surprise by his question and she hesitantly replied, “Um… I…”
“Would it help anyone, would it help improve yourself, and would it be useful in anything?” he asked, rapidly asking multiple questions with the same fixed expression on his face.
“Uh…” she replied, sounding hesitant as she did not know what to say.
Waiting a few seconds, he confirmed that she did not know how to respond to it, and so he asked, “You don’t know, do you, why you even have such a grudge against them? Truth be told, I have absolutely no clue what the demons did to the spirits and the demons might still be bad, but so what? Why are you pointing that hate at someone related, but not so bad?”
As she remained silent and stared at him with wide eyes, he continued on and said, “All that happened a very long time ago, and your ancestors passed that onto generations ahead until today. Will you allow their mistake to fail you and the next generation?”
This time, her eyes widened more as the shock of his words sank in, making her remember her life in her tribe. Apart from the elder and the younger spirits, none of the spirits liked her, always treating her as a failure. Even on the day that she became a Spirit Guardian, they only thought that the elder allowed it due to good feelings and that she did not earn it by herself.
It infuriated her, and it made her realise she was behaving exactly like them with her interaction with Sumara. The demon magician was part of the reason that she had been defeated, but compared to the old life Ondine had to lead, she felt grateful for the demon woman.
Lakshman saw that she was giving in and decided to support her, saying, “Look Ondine. It’s not right to hold a grudge against someone just because of who they are, or what they are. Instead, open your eyes and mind to see them as they truly are. I think that’s better.”
Ondine looked up at him and finally smiled, saying, “I know, master, and I’m sorry to let this happen. It seems that my eyes were too blinded by the tales that were passed down in my tribe to let me see the difference.”
“That’s great!” he said, feeling relieved by her words and seeing the honest smile on her face..
They walked together to where Sumara stood waiting for them before stopping to stand in front of her. The magic tutor had a cool expression on her face as she stared at her student and at the Water Spirit that was looking back at her with an embarrassed expression on her face.
“I am sorry if I judged you wrongly but you see, my eyes were closed,” she said, her voice full of sorrow and bowed her head down to her in apology.
Sumara smiled softly and said, “It’s okay. Opening your eyes and seeing the difference matters more. So, please, lift your head up.”
“Very well,” Ondine said, lifting her head up and straightening her body. “Now, can I please learn magic along with my master, um, Miss Sumara?”
Ondine hesitated in using the name of magic tutor, who smiled and said, “Sure. By the way, just call me Sumara.”
“Oh,” said Ondine, looking momentarily surprised at the friendly gesture before she smiled, saying, “Then, I shall call you Sumara.”
He watched this scene with a serene smile before muttering, “That will do for me.”
Momentarily closing his eyes, he reopened them a second later and looked at them with a surprised look on his face.
“I’m glad my plea changed their minds,” he thought, smiling in happiness to see that his intervention helped them be friendly with one another.
Thus, after receiving heartfelt words from their student and master, both Sumara and Ondine set aside their differences and focused on working together.