I chewed on a roasted mushroom while Snow and Lucia slept. Bouncykins was being squeezed by Lucia, her drool drenching his ear. There was a defeated expression on his face. I don’t get why Lucia said these mushrooms were poisonous. There’s nothing wrong with them at all.
I sighed, leaning against the tree, and stared up at the sky. The stars were still in the same place—Vera had taught me the names of the constellations while we kept guard at night. She was awfully smart for a spirit, but she did exist for way longer than I had. I’m sure I’d be just as intelligent if I lived for as long as her. Ignore the fact I’ve survived thousands of years in isolation.
“The era of spirits is over.”
Bouncykins words echoed through my head. That rabbit spirit might be an asshole, but he’s not a liar. If he said the era of spirits was over, then it was probably true, or at least, he thought it was. Had I become useless? No. I guess I always was, wasn’t I? It’s true that I can’t do anything except fight, but what meaning does that have when the world is at peace? Roland united the three warring kingdoms by tricking the younger generation of rulers. I wasn’t even necessary back then either. Could I even turn Lucia into a legend? Roland made me into a legend, not the other way around.
“Durandal? What’s wrong?” Lucia sat up and tossed Bouncykins aside like a dirty napkin. He cheered and disappeared into Snow’s socks. “Is your stomach cramping? Didn’t I say those were poisonous?” She stared at the mushrooms roasting in the fire and the ones on my lap.
“Why are you awake? The sun won’t rise for another few hours. Aren’t you tired from carrying me all day?” Even while she slept, I forced her to keep mini-DalDal on her back.
“I didn’t feel right,” Lucia said and furrowed her brow. Her nose twitched as she muttered, “Maybe it was the mushroom smell.” She raised her head. “But anyway, what’s wrong? You look … sad.”
I scooted over and made space for her to sit. She grabbed onto my arm and rested her head on my shoulder. I ran my fingers through her hair. “Do you know how a weapon spirit is formed, Lucia?”
“Well, sure,” Lucia said. The fire crackled, and I retrieved my roasting mushroom. “When a person loves their weapon very, very much, they plant a spirit seed inside of it; some magic happens between them, maybe some sprinkles and stuff, and then poof! A weapon spirit appears. Right?”
Well. I guess she wasn’t wrong. She could’ve explained it in a less ambiguous way though. “And do you know how a weapon spirit disappears?”
Lucia sat up, her face turning serious for once. “You’re not going to die, right?” she asked and grabbed my hand. “I just found you. You can’t die.”
The mushroom tasted bitter. “A weapon spirit dies when their spirit body is killed or when their core is destroyed. Or depleted.” My core was embedded in mini-DalDal’s hilt, covered by Lucia’s hand when she wielded me. She was right about the spirit seed—it grew into the core. Spirit seeds could be found everywhere. The ones that formed in places with abundant mana grew into stronger spirits. I was a crappy seed that Roland found growing between some weeds. I guess that just attests to Roland’s skill. How much more impressive would his legends have been if he had a top-grade seed in a sword made of top-grade materials?
“A spirit’s core can be refilled by their owner’s qi or spirit stones. If we hibernate inside our core, spirits can last for a long time. Do you know the average age of a weapon spirit, Lucia?”
She bit her lower lip. “No. I don’t want to know. Stop talking.” She leaned against me again and closed her eyes. Her eyelids trembled.
I retrieved the rest of the roasting mushrooms and munched on them. “Five years.”
Lucia sat up and her hand flashed. My cheek stung. Did she slap me?
“I said I didn’t want to know.” Why was she crying? I was the one who just got slapped.
I ignored the feeling in my cheek. “Do you know how long I’ve lived for, Lucia?”
“Stop!” She knocked the mushrooms off my lap and pushed me down to the ground. I didn’t resist. Her tears threatened to fall from her pooling eyes. Her voice lowered to a whisper. “Why are you telling me this?”
“I’m tired, Lucia. Did you know weapon spirits can’t sleep? Even when we’re hibernating, our minds are conscious.”
“I’m really going to be mad at you, Durandal.” Her nails dug into my shoulders, drawing blood. Why can weapon spirits even bleed?
“You heard what Bouncykins said. The era of weapon spirits is over. How are you going to kick someone’s ass if they’re shooting lightning bolts at you from miles away? Even you can use magic with the assistance of a magic tool. Is there even a point of close combat anymore? I’ve become a relic of the past. Snow can take care of you—he’s much more useful than I am.”
“Shut up!” Lucia screamed. Snow scrambled to his feet. White lights flashed and two daggers appeared in Snow’s hands, his head swiveling. “You said you were going to make me into a legend! You said you believed in me! No one’s ever told me that before! Do you understand!?” Lucia’s tears fell onto my face and burned my skin. Her hands pounded my chest. “I don’t care how useless you think you are! You’re everything to me!” She hung her head and sobbed. “I’m just a runaway slave. I can count the number of belongings I have on one hand. I won’t have anything left if you leave me, do you understand!?”
She stood up and grabbed mini-DalDal’s hilt with a single hand. A vein bulged on her neck as she unsheathed the sword with one arm. I had lied to Lucia earlier—mini-DalDal weighed half a ton, not eight hundred pounds. “One ton. One ton is nothing!” Lucia shouted and swung mini-DalDal into the tree we were leaning against. Wind howled as the tree trunk shattered, the top flying off into the distance. “It doesn’t matter! I can do two tons! Ten tons! A thousand tons!” She fell to her knees and dropped mini-DalDal beside her. She wiped her eyes with the backs of her hands. “I don’t care how hard I have to work. I won’t pretend I’m tired when I’m not. I’ll stop slacking off. Just don’t leave me, Durandal. I need you.”
So she was pretending. I knew it. I sat up and leaned over, bringing her into my embrace. “Silly, Lucia. When did I ever say I was going to leave?” I hadn’t said anything about leaving at all.
“Promise?” Lucia asked with a sniffle.
“Promise me you won’t leave, you bastard,” Lucia said and grabbed my face, stretching my cheeks.
Lucia let go of my face and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “Good.”
I picked up a mushroom that fell near the fire and ate it. It tasted sweet.