Heart of Courage
After witnessing Mumble, the Monkey King, beat the heck out of the muscly man, they moved on. Ondine recovered from the surprise, but Lakshman was still having a hard time believing it.
“He’s a monkey, yet… He’s so strong for a small guy!” he said in awe.
Darian laughed and said “Monkeys are the craziest species our mythological gods created. I don’t know what they were thinking in doing so.”
“I wouldn’t either,” Lakshman said in a low voice.
As he looked down a little, Darian clapped a hand on his back and said “Cheer up. It’s not like you’ll become his enemy in the future, but be warned. If you do, don’t expect mercy. That guy just doesn’t know the meaning of the word holding back.”
“I…see…” Lakshman said slowly as he nodded his head at him.
Ondine looked at him for a moment before turning to Darian and asking “Say… Why is he titled Monkey King? Is it something to do with his race or something? And why that small body? Is it something like yours?”
“Oh, it certainly does have something to do with his race. He’s a monkey for crying out loud! As for why he has that small body like mine, it’s obviously because he’s also applying the Saver Mode. Usually he looks more like a gigantic gorilla on loose!”
“What?!” Lakshman and Ondine exclaimed in shock.
“Just kidding,” Darian said and he laughed. Then he said “Normally he does look similar to humans, but he has furry body and a tail.”
“That… Doesn’t make sense,” Ondine said slowly with a confused expression on her face.
“Naturally! Imagining him won’t work. Just wait until he switches over to Normal Mode. If you see his Power Mode, you’ll freak! He’s insanely strong in that mode and his body will feel like it’s made of iron!”
“Wow…!” Lakshman said in awe at those words.
“Oh… Wait, does that mean that he’s the king of the monkeys?” Ondine asked as she was still intrigued about him.
“No way in hell! We don’t need that crazy guy to be the king of the monkeys! Just imagine the sort of monkeys he’ll turn his entire race into!” Darian said and he suddenly shuddered slightly.
Lakshman chuckled and said “So it’s like the ranks?”
Darian nodded and said “Yes. His title is like the ranks. How I’m the Sword King, he is the Monkey King. True, the monkeys do have a king, but they choose among themselves. Our ranks have nothing to do with who their king is.
“So it’s not like how Felix, the Phoenix Emperor, is the leader of the Phoenix clan?”
When Darian shook his head, Lakshman nodded slowly and said “I see… Still, these ranks and leadership roles are slightly confusing.”
“For human based operations, ranks matter. For creatures that are not like us, their leadership roles are different. Some are chosen as the strongest within the clan while others are elected through birth and so on. There are so many communities out there, each has its own individual way of electing leaders.”
“Wow…!” Lakshman exclaimed softly in amazement.
“So to speak, leadership roles and ranks are not that far out from each other, but how they are applied is a different matter altogether. Personally I find it annoying that human communities, like ours, rely on who is the strongest and elects them as the leaders. Quite frankly, leaders should have honour and integrity to be elected into those roles. Otherwise, we’re all just pawns dancing in their hands!”
“I agree,” Ondine said and she nodded at him. Then she said “Lately, there have been a lot of corruptions happening around lately. My clan of Water Spirits have been very angry at the human leaders for some time now. They do things for themselves, but never for the people that elect them.”
“Exactly!” Darian said and he gestured while wearing a wide smile on his face.
Darian and Ondine looked at each other with deep respect for the other. Lakshman looked at them with an expression that was both confused and puzzled. Unlike them, he did not understand what they were talking about.
“Um… What are you guys talking about?” he asked timidly.
They turned to look at him with their eyebrows raised in surprise. Then Darian chuckled slightly before saying “No need to concern with that stuff. You’re nowhere near ready to become a leader anyway.”
“Besides, you have a fight to win against me and only then I’ll let you go to Floria region. You feeling confident you’ll win against me in a fight?”
“I… I’ll do my best!” Lakshman said spiritedly.
“Mmm… Is that supposed to be an answer or was that simply you encouraging yourself?”
“Well…” Lakshman hesitated for a moment before saying “You’re a Sword King and I’m a Water Sword Saint. I think there’s a high chance I’ll lose, but I’ll try and win!”
Darian raised an eyebrow in amusement. Then he smiled and said “Ho? That’s an interesting logic you got going there. Interesting… Very interesting!”
After that, they spent the time observing the training of others. Darian took Lakshman around the place and showed him the various training methods the people do. There were some which Lakshman and Ondine already do, but there were others that were unfamiliar to them.
Darian explained how each of the method is used and how efficient it would be with such and such. He sounded just like a true instructor when he indicated some of the methods; how the lifting of heavy objects is good for muscle building and doing stomach crutches regularly reduces and buildings stomach strength.
“You need muscle strength and stomach strength if you’re dealing with really strong guys!” Darian would say during his explanations.
“Yeah. Dad said I should do that and gave me these weighted training gear to build myself strong,” Lakshman replied cheerfully.
Darian’s smile widened and he looked impressed as he said “Ah! So that’s what you’re wearing on your wrists, shoes and behind your clothes. That’s good. It looks like your idiot of a father was not such an idiot when it came to his son’s training.”
“You wouldn’t believe how hard he pushed both master and me. Then his verbally abusive words seriously made me want to give him a piece of his training!” Ondine said angrily with her fist tightly clenched with shook slightly.
“C-Calm down, Ondine,” Lakshman said quickly while Darian simply laughed.
Hours went by quickly and it was time for their fight. Through a speaker attached in a room, Darian spoke into it and told everyone to go to a specific room Lakshman did not know about. He was more interested in how Darian spoke into it and it echoed throughout the training centre.
“This is a Voice Box that I installed when I built the training centre. This way, I can speak into this Voitech and it carries my voice throughout the centre very easily. This makes it so much easier than going around and shouting at them to let them know,” Darian said as he indicated a circular ball with a rod attached to the bottom.
“Ah. So it uses an Amplify Magic Spell to carry your voice throughout the training centre. Interesting,” Lakshman said as he looked at it curiously.
They left the room and followed everyone that were heading into a certain part of the centre. When they entered, Lakshman was amazed to see the room was really large and it went towards the ground. There were raised seats along the side and, in the centre of the room, was a rectangular stage.
“This is our underground fighting arena and here’s where we’ll be fighting,” Darian said with a grin on his face.
“Underground? So all of this is underground?” Ondine asked curiously as she looked around at the ceiling.
Darian nodded and said “Yes. We always can’t go upwards. Sometimes, going down is also a good thing. That’s how I got the idea to build us an underground arena so people can fight and test their strength against one another.”
“Isn’t it sort of dangerous…? Like if people go overboard and attack the ceiling and all…?” Lakshman asked nervously.
Darian simply laughed and said “That’s why we have a strong barrier in place! We have tested them with energy attacks and energy wave attacks, but the barrier was firm and strong! So there’s nothing to worry about.”
“T-That’s a relief. I wondered what would happen if the ceiling fell on us by accident if the barrier failed to do its job,” Lakshman said in a relieved voice.
Darian looked at him with an amusement expression on his face. Then he shrugged and said “If such a thing did happen, it’s up to you to protect yourself and live through it all. Don’t expect someone to come to your rescue. In our current world, heroes of such high calibre and integrity don’t exist, unfortunately.”
“That’s fine. I’ll live! I promised mum I’ll make it back alive!” Lakshman said confidently and Darian nodded his head at him in understanding.
They made their way down to the stage using the stairs. Once they reached the arena, they saw Marilia waiting for them with a smile on her face.
“Are you ready?” she asked them. When both Darian and Lakshman nodded their heads at her, she said “Good. Now please choose your weapon.”
She moved aside and showed them a stack of wooden swords. As Darian immediately moved to pick up a wooden sword from the side, Lakshman remain stationary and had a confused expression on his face.
“Choose a weapon?” he asked in a puzzled voice.
“Yes,” Marilia said with a nod. Then she said “You won’t be using your bladed weapons, which would be too dangerous. Instead, you’ll be using these wooden swords.”
“O-Oh,” Lakshman said in surprise.
“It’s unfortunate, master.”
Hearing the voice of Tetra in his mind, he sadly said “Yeah. Looks like I wouldn’t be using you today, Tetra.”
He unslung his waist strap and handed it and the sword to Ondine to hold onto. Then she wished him good luck before leaving to find a seat. He then walked over to look at the stack of wooden swords and pondered which one he should pick.
Darian walked over to him with his wooden sword slung over his shoulder and said “Pick carefully. They may look the same, but each is slightly different from the other.”
Lakshman realised Darian was right. He picked up a sword and then picked up another. He realised one was lighter and the other was slightly heavier. Then he swung them to test and realised he preferred the heavier sword since it has durability.
Like this he went around testing them until finally he settled on one. Once he was done, he walked back to where Marilia was. She then told him get on the stage and he realised Darian was already up there. He quickly jumped on the stage and moved towards Darian.
Once he reached him, Darian opened his mouth and his words were heard loud and clear as if he was speaking into a Voitech.
“Welcome my regular training customers! Today I called you all here was because I have scheduled to fight with this young man. His name is Lakshman Chand and he is the son of a former pupil of mine, Indra Chand. His father left his training under my custody so I wanted to test how strong the boy is. So please be courteous and cheer for him since there is no chance in a million years that he will win against me, the Sword King!”
At his last words, everyone began to laugh and clap. Within the crowd, Ondine widened her eyes in surprise. Lakshman looked at him as if he could not believe his ears.
“What? You expected me to go easy on you or something?” Darian asked curiously with a smile.
“No, but…” Lakshman said hesitantly.
“Ah, come now. Don’t be so down. You’re just a North Sword Saint and I’m a Sword King. There is definitely no chance in a millionth that you’ll win against me, especially when you don’t feel confident that you’ll win!”
Lakshman realised Darian was speaking to him from what he said earlier. He suddenly wished he had not said that, but his stupid honesty now made him feel embarrassed. Darian looked at him and grinned before winking at him.
“By the way, you can speak if you want. Right now everyone is hearing out conversation down here,” Darian said and he made a smiled cheekily.
“H-Huh? Oh… Oh! I see,” Lakshman said as he realised what Darian wanted him to do. Lakshman indicated his sword and said “If anyone is wondering, my sword is kind of heavy compared to others in that stacked pile other there! So I guess I might really lose here.”
At those words, there was a sudden upsurge of noise and shouts from the spectators.
Darian laughed at their words and said “You call them heavy? How about you try my sword then?”
As he said, he flung his sword at Lakshman. Quickly reacting, Lakshman dropped his wooden sword and grabbed the handle of Darian’s wooden sword. The moment that he held it firm, he felt an intense surge of pressure on his hands as they were forced down.
“Wha!” he exclaimed in shock as his hands went down and he was forced to let go of the sword.
The sword landed on the arena floor and it made a loud bang that caused everyone to cover their ears. The impact of the sword on the ground caused small bits of rubble to jump into the air.
“Wow!” Lakshman exclaimed as he took a step back in shock and the spectators were also sharing his amazement.
Darian calmly pointed at the sword and said “Now that’s heavy!” As everyone in the audience seats was making loud noises, he pointed at Lakshman and asked “You think you can lift that?”
While Lakshman indicated himself in surprise, everyone was sharing their opinion on the idea.
“It’s too darn heavy, dammit!”
“That kid’s a goner!”
Irritated by their words, Lakshman stepped forward and bent down. Placing both of his hands on the sword, he tried lifting it. The sword was extremely heavy, but he did not want shame himself like that. His face contorted from the sheer pressure he was applying as he finally lifted the sword.
The crowd were astounded that he was able to lift that sword, let alone hold it steady. Lakshman’s hands and arms were shaking from the unbelievable pressure they were going through just to keep the sword up.
“H-Heeeaaaaavvvvvyyyy…!” he slowly said through gritted teeth while struggling to hold the sword up.
Just then, Darian walked over to him and said “Good job. At-least you picked it up. I’ll give you half points for being able to do that.”
Smiling wide, he easily took the sword from Lakshman. He then swung the sword a few times before placing it on his shoulder. Then his smile widened as he looked at the astonished expression on Lakshman.
“So…? You still think you can win against me?”
“I… Giving up is not my style!” Lakshman said firmly.
“Good. Good. I like that attitude of yours,” Darian said in a satisfied voice.
Then they moved to the opposite ends of the arena before Darian began announcing the rules.
“The rules are simple. No Energy Force and no Magic Force allowed. It’ll only be Weapon Force. The main aim of this battle is to defeat each other and we do it by destroying the opponent’s sword. Since we’ll be using Weapon Force, the wooden swords are the ideal things to destroy rather than give ourselves scars just for this! So if you fall off the ring, get knocked out or if your sword breaks, you automatically lose!”
Darian looked at Lakshman and asked if he agreed to the terms. Lakshman did not speak, but simply nodded. He was feeling nervous to trust his voice at the moment. Darian nodded in understanding and readied for the fight.
Marilia was outside the arena and seemed to be the conductor. She held her hand up and said “Ready…! Set…! Fight!”
At the last word, both Darian and Lakshman moved at the same time. They both quickly challenged their weapons with Weapon Force and rushed at each other. The two clashed swords in the centre of arena and they were at standoff.
Then Darian started to push forward which caused Lakshman to widen his eyes in surprise. He continued to push forward and Lakshman was bending backwards while their swords were flashing with energy.
Unable to take any more pressure, Lakshman used immense force and swung his sword forward and pushed Darian away. Then he rushed at Darian before disappearing and reappearing behind him. His back was wide open and he took the opportunity to swing his sword at him.
He obviously thought Darian would swing around to defend with his sword. Instead, he was surprised when Darian brought his sword arm to the back and blocked Lakshman’s attack. Then he easily flicked his sword away and swung around in an instant.
Seeing the sword come with a whistling sound, Lakshman leaned back and let the sword sail through. A moment later, he suddenly realised it was actually an illusion. He looked and saw Darian was holding his sword at the ready and with a smile on his face.
Darian brought his sword forward and slammed it against which caused Lakshman to be pushed back. He reached the edge of the arena and staggered slightly as he kept his balance from breaking. The crowd was on their feet in excitement as Darian rushed at him before he could retaliate.
Seeing that he was out of options, Lakshman jumped into the air. He did summersaults in mid-air and sailed safely away from Darian. Once he landed, he suddenly felt a strong surge of force from behind. He ducked down and brought his sword up and blocked his sword strike.
They continued to fight for several more minutes in which they fought furiously. As they continued to fight, their speed began to increase and they were eventually disappearing and reappearing in a blink of an eye.
After almost an hour, Lakshman was tiring out while Darian was breathing easily. Darian was smiling and stood firm while Lakshman was breathing fast and holding his sword with a slack grip.
“So hey… Still think you can win?” Darian asked curiously.
“I’m… not going to… give up!” Lakshman said between deep breaths.
“Oh, come on…! I think you realise the difference between you and me already, can’t you?!”
“Even so…It’s better to try and fail than to give up!”
Darian was left speechless at his words. At that moment, he suddenly realised he thought he saw the shadow of his former master saying the same things when he fought against an opponent of immeasurable strength.
At that time, he remembered his master saying the same thing. Then he fought him with everything he had and eventually won. Remembering those events, Darian was suddenly reminded how Lakshman was like his master, not willing to give up until the very end.
He smiled and said “Fine! How about we throw everything we have into the next attack! That should settle this prolonged battle!”
While breathing quickly, Lakshman smiled and said “Sounds… good! You should’ve done this… from the beginning… It wouldn’t have… wasted so much… time!”
“Ah, come on! Stop complaining!”
While chuckling, Lakshman straightened up and they began challenging all of their Weapon Force into their swords. Their swords began glowing very bright, so bright that the audience had to cover their eyes in fear of going blind.
“Intense light!” Ondine muttered as she struggled to see the fight.
It took them several seconds to channel their energies into their swords. Once they were ready, they held their weapons at the ready in front of them. They looked at each other, although they could not see clearly due to being near blinded by the light from their swords.
“With this power, Victory is mine!” Darian shouted and he darted forward.
“With my courage, I will win!” Lakshman shouted and rushed at Darian.
As the two of them rushed at each other, they screamed “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!”
Then they clashed in the middle of the arena. A blinding flash of light erupted and a wave of wind was sent everywhere. There was suddenly a violent surge of sparks from the middle of the arena which was sent in all directions. The crowd barely avoided some of them while still trying to see the action.
Then, as the flash of light dimmed, they saw a shadow figure fly out of the arena and slam into the wall. After being slammed into the wall, they slid down and remained motionless. Once the light vanished, they saw the shadowy figure was none other than Lakshman.
He was slumped against the wall with his eyes closed. In his slacked hand, he had his wooden sword which was losing its light from earlier. Marilia and Ondine rushed over to him and checked if he needed assistance or healing.
Still remaining in the arena and standing tall was Darian Ronald. He stared at the unconscious form of Lakshman and there was no expression on his face. Then he brought his wooden sword up and saw that he only had the handle. The rest of it was cut away and disappeared in that flash of light.
“Strong… Very strong!” he said in a low voice and he smiled.
The crowd were cheering at his apparent victory and waving to get his attention. He, however, knew that he had lost the battle. Lakshman was indeed sent flying out of the arena, but that was after he successfully destroyed Darian’s wooden sword.
“He’s really strong for his age. I know the amount he put in was slightly less than mine, but I felt his heart in that last clash. He was unwavering as he charged at me even though he knew he might lose. Seriously, I never thought I would meet someone so similar to my master!”
As Marilia and Ondine helped Lakshman slowly up, he smiled and thought “He is strong and if trains more, he will really be able to shine high! Not only will he be able to help Felix, he could also fight the corruption! Why, he might even get the chance to fight powerful battles against the Nine Pillars of Power! The boy’s future is so bright, it makes me feel jealous! Now, where to train him from to enhance his already strong power…?”
As he thought about how to improve Lakshman’s power and skills through training, Lakshman was helped out of the room. He was still unconscious, but he wore a smile of satisfaction on his face.