Fate, Friends & Feelings
The second part of the Bound trilogy
disclaimer: Taito owns Lufia 2, not me. Go pester them. I do own this story, so at least ask before using it yourself.
The knighting ceremony had been dull, Tia thought as she went to what was now her home - in fact, it was one of the houses Dekar had inherited. She had sold her shop in Elcid to Angelina, and had used the money to give Dekar some type of recompensation. The fighter had, however, smiled and refused everything but half of the money, insisting that she buy herself a new wardrobe better suited to the hot desert clime.
So now she was wearing her brand new training outfit: a loose blouse and pants in a light blue colour. Dekar had given her a strict but bearable training schedule, which consisted of workout, weapon use practice and plenty of other exercise, claiming that she needed to get into top shape before she could master some of the heavier weapons. She had already completed her morning run around the castle and now her friend would be waiting for her on the courtyard to start training her in the use of a short sword.
But she was surprised to see not only him, but someone else in simple training garb standing on the wide courtyard.
"Tia, allow me to introduce Prince Alex to you. He'll be training under me as well for about a year. Just like you. Prince Alex, this is my friend, Lady Tia. She's recently moved here from Elcid, a town on the far south. She was a close friend of Maxim's and is one of my best friends."
"Pleased to meet you, Lady Tia...", the prince said as he bowed slightly and brushed her hand with his lips - Tia blushed despite herself, but more so because the prince didn't seem to mind her sweaty attire.
"Now, Tia and Prince Alex, let me warn you now. I will be severe. No mistakes, no slip-ups, no excuses. I want two hundred percent motivation and two hundred percent commitment. The moment I find either one of you disobeying me - or the schedules you've got - I'll discipline you. Prince Alex, here you are my pupil, and you will listen to my every word. Understood?" Both nodded, and Dekar continued a bit more cordially: "But if ever one of you feels down, or fears to have reached his or her limits, I'll be here to help you and to support you. I may train you, but I'm also a friend. Turn to me when you need me, and you won't be turned away." He chuckled all of a sudden. "Let's just begin, shall we? Today: the short sword. A decent weapon to start with, since it has a fairly short range but provides more security than a dagger." Dekar handed each of them a short sword from a rack nearby. "Let's see you handle them. Stand in front of a log, each of you, and take a swing at it." Dekar snickered as the prince swung weakly, nearly losing grip on the sword, and Tia lost her balance after her swipe. "Yes, that's why I asked you to do this. You first have to become familiar with it's weight. Take a few steps back and swipe through the air. Keep on using the same move until you feel stable, then try another swipe."
By the end of the day, Tia had had five hours' worth of short sword practice, resulting in her now being used to its weight and size. But her one hour workout, consisting of several exercises to strengthen certain areas of her body, had left her exhausted and now she didn't care about dinner. She pushed open the door to her new house and suddenly the smell of a simple meal met her. She saw the table was set and before she could even wonder who had done that, Dekar entered with a large platter with all sorts of food stacked onto it.
"Oh, uh... hi...", he said, blushing. "Just being friendly here - and stealing part of your food, I know, but I'll pay you back. Figured you'd lack the strength to cook."
"And you were right.", Tia said as she sat down. "Thanks." She immediately assaulted the pile of food in front of her, finding it to her taste. "Man this stuff is spicy!", she said in between bites.
"Here, have a bit of water..." Dekar handed her a glass and a bottle of water: while she poured out a measure of liquid, he asked: "And, what did you think of your first day?"
"Exhausting, gruelling, mind-numbing... but it was kind of nice to be able to start from scratch, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow." She then caught a smell and turned up her nose. "If only it didn't make me smell vile."
"Meh, I've smelled worse. You still smell like a perfumed maiden compared to Maxim, Selan, Guy and me after hours of dungeon-crawling, monster goo everywhere and... Oh, sorry...", he quickly apologised as he saw Tia blanch.
"It's okay... Thanks again, Dekar. No, leave the dishes for me, I'll do them when I'm done bathing. Besides, you probably have better things to do by now, like relax."
"Okay, Tia, I'll just let you bathe then... but I'll at least clean up the mess in the kitchen.", he added. "You go bathe, and don't worry about a thing. I'll close the door when I leave." Tia merely nodded and went to her bath. A few moments after she had drained it and had started drying herself, she heard the door close. He's so caring... I guess he took Maxim's words to heart. Tia then put on some easy clothing and went down to the kitchen.
Her kitchen was spotless, and all the dishes were washed and neatly stacked away already. A hastily scribbled note on the kitchen sink told her:
"Sorry, couldn't help it. Hope you enjoyed the meal. Maybe tomorrow, if you feel like it, join me for a meal in the castle. They don't mind sweaty stinking training soldiers as well. By the way, you did better than Prince Alex on his first day! Dekar"
"Why, how nice and charming...", Tia mused with an absent-minded smile before returning to her living room. 'And how unlike the Dekar I remember from before the party...', she added as an afterthought.
The next day, and the next week, brought the same experiences for Tia. Every day, she'd run around the castle once, then go to the courtyard for practice in short sword use. She progressed a bit more each day, and at the end of the week she was able to disarm Dekar and dismember a straw training puppet. Dekar had then decided to bring her back down to earth by swiftly disarming her in turn, throwing his weight into the battle.
"Tia, you're beginning to get good, but there's much more you need to learn...", he said with a half-smile as he extended his hand to her. "Sure, you can disarm someone when the fight's simple, but you need to have a much higher level of expertise. I was only parrying and blocking until just now - but real enemies do much more than that. Real enemies attack you. Real enemies aren't concentrating on performing moves, they're trying to survive. This is a lesson you'd do best to remember. Both of you.", he added as prince Alex joined them. "I won't try to kill you, but I won't shy away from hurting you. Also remember that control means more than kill an opponent - you might simply want to wound him or even knock him out." He sighed as he motioned for them to sit down on the stone steps leading to the castle for a while, seeing as their five hours on the courtyard were nearly over anyway. "Next time we practice, I'll teach you about control. About how to battle real enemies. And to learn this, I'll start at the base." He whistled, and from the inside of the building came two men in robes, their heads topped with something that looked like a turban. "These are Yassu and Leon, two mages in service of the King. They're monster handlers: they can either summon or control monsters of lower intelligence. Starting next practice, they'll be providing you with real adversaries, adapted to your level of expertise. Beat a monster and they'll summon a stronger one. Be defeated, and they'll immediately vanquish it. They're also expert healers, so any wounds you might get, they can handle." He then grinned. "Give them a demonstration, guys, so they can see what they might one day end up against." One of the men nodded to the other and stepped forward: he performed a graceful movement while whispering barely audible words, and from his hands sprung a Minotaur and a Sphinx, both looking towards the two trainees menacing. They suddenly charged, but the other man simply raised his hand and they disappeared into thin air. Then, they both started a spell, and from the combined light springing from their hands emerged a beautiful black dragon, roaring before flying off and disappearing in much the same way as the other monsters had. Then, the second man raised a hand and the courtyard was littered with newts, who squeaked miserably. The next moment, the newts became scorpions, who in turn became orks, which then turned into living trees, and then back into innocent jellies before disappearing.
"Wow...", Tia said as the two men bowed to each other and then to them. "You're artists..."
"They're very cunning in their art, yes. Thanks, Yassu, Leon. Send my thanks to the colonel for his generosity.", Dekar said as the two men retreated back into the castle. "Now, let's go do your exercises. Tia, you're a bit bruised in the back, maybe you shouldn't strain it." Tia tentatively touched her back and winced as a sharp pain emitted from the pressure of her hands,
"Ouch! ...No, it's okay, Dekar." As she spoke, a faint light emitted from between her fingers and the bruises on her back vanished before Dekar's eyes. "See?"
"Just being worried 'bout a friend, that's all...", he said before pushing the door open to the exercise room of the soldiers.