They could not believe it. Lakshman and Ondine stared at the boy, who was about the same age as them, in shock. Moments ago, it was revealed the boy was none other than Darian Ronald.
“Y-Y-You’re… Darian Ronald?” Lakshman asked in disbelief.
“That’s me. Who else were you expecting?” the boy, Darian Ronald, said with a cheeky grin on his face.
Lakshman could not believe the words he was hearing. Beside him, Ondine stared with a dumbfounded expression as she also was finding it hard to believe.
Darian looked at them and asked “Why are the two of you looking so shocked?”
“W-Well… I thought Darian Ronald was an adult looking man, but… you look like my age,” Lakshman said hesitantly.
Darian looked at him with a surprised expression on his face. Then he laughed before saying “Kid, I might look your age, but I’m currently in Saver Mode.”
“Huh? Saver Mode? What’s that?” Lakshman asked with a puzzled expression on his face.
While he was looking puzzled, Ondine suddenly let out an “Oh!” voice of excitement and they turned to look at her.
“Do you mean the Three Modes of Life?” Ondine asked in an excited voice.
When Darian nodded, she immediately nodded her head while saying “So that’s it! Now it makes perfect sense why you look like that!”
“Um…” Lakshman said slowly and looked uncertainly at her.
Realising that he was confused, she quickly turned to him and said “I’m sorry, master. It seems you don’t know about it.”
“Yes, I don’t, but why are you apologising?” he asked and looked confused.
Darian looked at them and sighed and explained.
“Kid, listen. For every living being, there are Three Modes of Life; Normal Mode, Power Mode and Saver Mode. I am using the Saver Mode which basically reduces my body appearance by restricting the latent energy I can use.”
“Um… Normal Mode, Power Mode and Saver Mode are the Three Modes of Life?”
“Yes,” Darian said and nodded at him.
Lakshman looked puzzled for a moment before he said “Right, but… I don’t think I’ve ever heard of them.”
At his words, Darian suddenly began to laugh. A moment later, he calmed down and said “Kid, there are many things most normal people aren’t even aware of. Take for instance me… People come here expecting me, but only to find my child-like form and don’t believe it. It’s the same with anything else they are unfamiliar with.”
“Oh yeah… I guess that’s true. I didn’t know about the Nine Pillars of Power until only recently,” Lakshman said casually.
Darian smiled faded as he heard his words. He stared at him as if he could not believe his ears. Slowly he asked “Come again…?”
“I said I didn’t know about Nine Pillars of Power until—!”
“Hold it!” Darian said as he held up his hand and cut Lakshman off completely.
Lakshman stopped speaking and looked a little surprised by Darian’s abruptness in stopping him from speaking.
Darian looked at him disbelievingly and said “You have got to be joking. How could you not hear about them? Those nine warriors are notoriously famous for being the most powerful beings in the entire world! Yet…! You don’t know about them until recently?! My god I don’t believe this!”
He exclaimed the last sentence in a shocking voice. This caused Lakshman to put his head down in shame. Darian then continued to speak more and more criticisms about Lakshman. He was then forced to stop when the woman came to Lakshman’s rescue.
“Darian, I think that’s enough,” she said quietly and he looked at her in surprise.
“Eh? But seriously, this kid—!” he began, but was cut off quickly by her sharp words.
“I said enough! Seriously! Stop getting so annoyed and hurting the poor kid. I mean, look at him. He’s just around… um…”
She turned and looked at Lakshman questioningly. Lakshman quickly responded by saying “Thirteen.”
“See! He’s only thirteen! How do you expect a thirteen year old to learn these things so early on?”
“But this is general knowledge that a two year old should be able to tell!”
“Now really? Come and tell us when it that you learnt about them was?” she asked him quizzically with narrowed eyes.
“I, ah… um…” Darian began and hesitated looking uncomfortable.
She nodded at his struggle for words and said “There you have it. When you yourself didn’t know until later in life, how can you expect this kid to know it as well?”
He did not have any words to reply to her sentence. Looking unhappy, he turned away and began fidgeting with his hands. Then, as if remembering about it, he turned back and spoke to her.
“Anyway, you said he had a letter for me? Where is it?” he asked her.
“It’s right here,” she sad and handed the letter to him.
Darian took the letter and expertly ripped it open. Then he unfurled it and began reading its contents. As he read, his expression changed from time to time; a few minutes into reading it, his expression was that of amusement, then a while later it changed to bewilderment and finally it became narrower as he reached the end.
Once he finished reading, he closed the letter and handed it back to the woman. Then he looked at Lakshman with an expression that could not be expressed. For a while, he simply stared at him which made him uncomfortable from the constant staring
“Um… What?” Lakshman finally asked when he could no longer handle Darian staring at him silently.
“Oh… Just wondering what sort of person your father things I am to be given responsibility over you,” Darian said in a voice as if he was thinking.
Lakshman blinked as he did not understand his words immediately. So he asked “Sorry? I don’t think I understood what you mean.”
Darian sighed and said “Kid, your father left your responsibility to me. He wants me to train you until you become strong and then, if possible, assist you in reaching Floria Region.”
Lakshman remained speechless for a moment and blinked in disbelief. Then he exclaimed “He did what?!”
Darian shrugged his shoulders and spread his arms out before saying “It’s in the letter, kid, if you don’t believe my words.”
“No way…!” Lakshman slowly said as he took the letter from her and began reading.
Ondine looked over his shoulders and read it as well. As she read, her expression was reduced to a frown until she looked furious by the end of it. Lakshman looked aghast as he finished and folded the letter.
“What now…?” he muttered in a hopeless voice.
“Well…! There’s only one thing to do. That is to—!” Darian began when, suddenly, he was interrupted by Lakshman’s frustrated voice.
“No! I don’t accept this! Originally dad made a promise to me that if I defeated him that he will let me go to Floria Region and help Felix out!”
“Hmm? Felix? You mean the Phoenix Emperor, right? What’s happened to him?”
Then Lakshman exclaimed the circumstances that involved Felix being detained and his decision to go in place of his father. Darian listened intently and not once did he interrupt Lakshman. Once he finished, Darian put his hand on his chin as he thought about it.
“Mmm… The Phoenix Clan, huh… Anything to do with those serious bastards is always a problem.”
“Hey, don’t say that about the clan that keeps peace between the races,” the woman said indignantly.
“Yeah right! They do their job well, but their attitude is a problem in itself! Compared to the past, their current member’s principles of ethics and morals are being twisted from the inside out! On top of that, they act high and mighty like they rule the world and we’re their slaves!”
“Now that’s just rude,” the woman said in a said voice.
“I don’t care! That’s how they are turning out to be! There are only a few, among them, that are worth trusting and among them is Felix.”
“We don’t need your opinion!”
“Right, whatever…! Still, for Felix to sentence the Trial of Betrayal. Either he did something that he probably shouldn’t have or that someone purposefully made it look like he betrayed the clan. After all, there are a lot of people only too happy to see him go.”
He finished speaking and turned back to face Lakshman who had a defiant expression on his face. Originally, he did not like him due to the fact that he was his ex-student’s son. After hearing his goal, however, he came to change his mind and he decided on what to do.
“Alright, kid! I understand what you’re trying to do. It’s a noble thing to go and rescue someone like Felix, especially when there is the possibility that his entire clan is his enemy. If he is defeated, that clan will get so rotten our lives will become one heck of a nightmare!”
“So will you let me go and help out then?” Lakshman asked eagerly.
Darian looked thoughtful for a moment before saying “Maybe, but that’ll depend on what you do from here on.”
“Huh?” Lakshman said and looked confused.
Darian then became stern and said “Don’t give me that look. I’m not asking you to do difficult things. Just something very easy from how much your father praised you in the letter.”
“Oh… Okay then. What should I do, Mr. Ronald?” Lakshman asked curiously.
Darian smiled and said “Very simple. If you can win a fight against me, I’ll let you go to Floria Region. Additionally, I’ll personally come along and give you a hand in your mission. I also respect greatly and I want to help him make it out of this mess.”
“Oh… So I just have to win?” Lakshman asked as if to make sure he heard it right.
“Yes, but do not use extreme force. I don’t want you fighting me to the point that my training centre gets destroyed! I’ll put the bill on your parent’s heads! I’m pretty sure they won’t be pleased when they receive that,” Darian said and an evil grin spread across his face.
“No… I-I won’t go that far!” Lakshman said hastily. Then he asked “Should we fight now? Or…”
“No… Not now. I’m a busy man and I’m fully scheduled today. Let’s see… How about we schedule our duel tomorrow during lunch? My boys will be on break and they can get to see us fight at that time.”
The woman suddenly sighed and began to say “You really—!”
“Shush!” he said to her and she stopped speaking. Then he asked Lakshman “How about it?”
“Yes. Lunch time is fine, but should I eat before the fight or…?” Lakshman asked uncertainly.
Darian shrugged his shoulders and said “It’s up to you. Personally I wouldn’t recommend eating before a fight, but some tend to eat to keep their strength up. So you might do the same, but don’t complain to me later when I deliver a power punch to the gut!”
As he finished speaking, Darian let out a roar of laughter and Lakshman laughed along. Only the woman and Ondine watched silently. Both of them had worried expressions on their faces as they stared at the two of them.
“Alright then, that’s settled. Now, do you have accommodation elsewhere or…?” Darian asked curiously once they stopped laughing.
When Lakshman and Ondine looked at each other, he understood. He nodded at them in understanding and turned to speak with the woman.
“Marilia, please kindly welcome our new residents and take them one of the free rooms.”
“Will do,” Marilia said with a slight bow to him.
As she escorted Lakshman and Ondine away, he observed Lakshman’s physique and the way he walked. Just from that he could tell that Lakshman was strong. He did not believe, at first, that he defeated Indra. However, he felt sure he can believe it now.
Then he noticed the sword at his waisted which caused him to raise his eyebrows in astonishment. For a moment, he could not believe what he saw and he rubbed his eyes twice to make sure he did see it.
“The Phoenix Blade…!” he muttered in awe when he realised what it was.
He knew that sword is a Sacred Spirit and it was wielded by mighty warriors in the past. Just from the boy possessing the blade meant that Lakshman was destined for greatness. With that realisation, his smile widened and he suddenly looked energetic.
He chuckled a little and said “Hahaha…! This is interesting, very interesting! Tomorrow will be really amazing! I can feel it!”
With a wide smile on his face, he turned in the opposite direction and left.