In the next four years, not much had happened to Manadis. The most astounding thing she got to do was talk with her family through a hologram for almost three hours. Odin and Thor still had not permitted her to go to Midgard or any other realm. The mortal had still not fought in any type of war since the funeral of Sigyn. Though, she continued training with Thor, harder than ever. The now 18-year-old girl hadn't changed much at all, although she dropped about fifty pounds in fat and gained it back in muscle since her first days training. She was still dating Eskel, both very passionate about one another.
Manadis had not heard from Loki for weeks after that funeral. And she hadn't tried talking to him either. But now he seemed... cold. He had grown very bitter, with a wicked sense of humor. And, in those five years, he had not uttered more than twenty words to Manadis. She barely acknowledged him anymore. Her only true friend was Thor. He had stayed with her from the beginning and wasn't about to leave her.
Thor always told Manadis that with each passing year she looked prettier and even more mature. Manadis smiled at the compliment, yet Thor had not changed a bit.
Eskel looked as youthful as the day Manadis met him. She still was, too, but he aged like the Asgardians (which was similar to how Light Elves aged).
Manadis had also tried to grow friendlier with The Warriors Three and Sif. That was accomplished with little success. They always brushed her off, saying she was too young to 'hang around' with them. Thor was still their good friend, though.
Manadis was happy, aside from having no immediate family with her. She was growing as an Asgardian warrior and as a person. Still, even though she never spoke to Loki or spoke about him to anyone, she missed him. Yes, he was still vacancing the room next to hers and yes she sat at the same table with him every breakfast, dinner and supper. And yes he was Thor's brother... but she missed him. Manadis missed seeing him smile; she missed hearing him tease Thor; and she missed talking to him, especially. But Manadis didn't know how to approach Loki after all those years.
Another thing that was bugging her was her training sessions. Manadis was very honored to still have Thor as her teacher, even with his busy schedule being one of the Princes of Asgard and all. But it was about her sais. They looked as pristine as they were the day she received them. But she never did learn how to make them shoot the beam they possessed. That was supposed to be Loki's teaching. And Thor hadn't mentioned that aspect of the sais either! Manadis knew better than to interrupt one of Thor's lessons to ask him about that. Still, she wanted to learn how to do that so badly.
So, one sunny day in what was presumably spring, Manadis headed down to the training grounds for her session. And to her surprise, Thor was already there.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Manadis jogged to their platform, "I didn't know I was late."
Thor chuckled and said, "You are not late, Manadis. I just felt like I would set a better example for you if I was here early."
"But nothing's ever gonna beat me staying here overnight, right?"
"I suppose not," Thor laughed. Manadis smiled at him.
That was another thing. From Thor's point of view, he hadn't seen Manadis act very happy. She smiled and chuckled, but never laughed. The last time Thor had seen Manadis really laugh was when she accidentally kicked him in the face during one of their earlier training sessions. And that was some time ago. Thor figured that it was still because of Sigyn, or maybe Manadis was maturing. Either way, Thor never asked her nor found out.
Manadis smiled up at Thor, thinking something over.
"Now, today our goa--"
"Um, Thor? Oh, I'm sorry..."
Thor straightened up, surprised in his apprentice for interrupting him. Manadis was looking shamedly at the floor.
"It is alright. What were you going to say?"
"Please, Manadis. I am not angry or anything."
"No, it was stupid."
"Even after all this time, you're still very stubborn," Thor smirked at Manadis. She finally looked up at him.
"It was stupid. I was just curious about the sais," Manadis laid a gentle hand on the small blade inside its holder.
"You said that it had powers of its own that I could use in combat and--"
"Manadis..." Thor sighed. Manadis looked up into his blue eyes. He was shaking his head slightly, the traces of his smile still lingering on his lips. The demigod continued.
"I have to tell you... I had asked Loki about showing you a while ago, but it was after Sigyn's death. He rejected my request. And, I'm sorry, but I don't think you'll be learning how to do that any time soon."
"But couldn't you ask him again?"
"Please?" Manadis almost begged. Then she built herself up again.
"But think about it. If I get to use their power, I can improve in my training so much more quickly! And, as a bonus, you won't have to make extra training plans. It gives you a break and it gives me a great opportunity to thrive here."
"Yes, but Loki--"
"Just ask him again. Give him something to think about."
Thor looked at the hopeful eyes of the mortal.
"Very well, Manadis. After training today, I will ask Loki."
Manadis was so giddy that she felt like tackling Thor in a hug, but she refrianed herself. She just beamed at him.
"Thank you, Thor."
Manadis had grown into the habbit of only using Thor's name if she was very serious about something, or if she was very excited about something. Thor took that as a form of respect, even though he allowed her to call him by his name any time she wanted.
"Let's get started, then," Thor walked to the center of the training platform, Manadis following.
"Take off your armor," Thor said bluntly. Manadis blinked her eyes once, then gave Thor a look.
"Please, remove your armor."
"Can I ask why?"
"Yes, I was waiting for you to ask," Thor smiled, "Today, I wanted to try and show you what to do in cases where you have no form of protection, not even in armor. So, let's go."
Manadis walked over to one strip of stone and began removing her armor, very confused about what Thor wanted to do.
Once the mortal had removed every metal-plated thing on her body, she rejoined Thor in the center of the training platform. He hadn't changed his clothes.
"Aren't you gonna take your armor off, too?" Manadis asked him.
"No, are you crazy? Do you honestly think your enemy will not have armor on when you don't?"
Manadis rolled her eyes as Thor smiled brightly at her.
"So, what do I do?"
"I just want you to realize that without your armor on, any kind of blows to you can hurt badly. So, I will show you how to help prevent that pain."
"So, don't I just block you?"
"Yes, if I throw punches and kicks at you. But let's say I have a very large weapon in my hand, like a flail. Then what would you do?"
"I'd deflect it with my s-- Right, no weapons either. But I always keep my sais with me when I--"
"Yes, but let's say you don't have them with you at one point."
"Then you must learn to do something you are not very fond of doing. Can you guess what that is?"
"Running?" was the first thing that came out of Manadis's mouth. Thor chuckled.
"That has something to do with it. It's called dodging, Manadis."
"I know. But that's what training is for."
The girl nodded.
"So, if I come at you like this," Thor pulled out Mijolnir from nowhere and held it above his head and took a swing at Manadis. The mortal screamed and fell backwards just in time. Thor laughed at her.
"S-Some warrior you will be with that move," Thor tried to subdue his laughter as he helped Manadis to her feet. She was still catching her breath.
"You have to give me some sort of a warning, dude. Don't just randomly try to kill me with that thing. Wait, would still have hit me if I didn't move?"
Thor didn't say anything, he only shrugged.
"Not cool, Thor."
Okay, that was the one other exception if Manadis used his name: If she wanted to tease and taunt him.
"Shall we continue?"
Manadis nodded. A new glint in her eye of mainly awareness.
"If I did that... instead of falling and running away, I want you to dodge. That's the key word. To dodge, you can't really get off your feet. There are some exceptions, but I won't show you those yet. Remember a while ago when I taught you how to do the tumbles?"
"That is one of the exceptions. But I want to work with your flexibility today as we get you to dodge. The first thing will we try is this," Thor bent backwards until the bottom of his spine upward was at a 180 degree angle. Then he immediately zipped himself into a standing position. Manadis was amazed at how he could do that even with his armor. Maybe that was another reason why she couldn't wear hers.
"That can be used if your opponent takes swings at you with, usually, something large from either the right or the left. Would you like to try?"
"Umm... I'm not sure if I can do that. Like, my body isn't built to do that Matrix thing."
Thor did not understand the reference, so he moved on.
"I will help you. Here, if I try to hit you with Mijolnir from the side," Thor demonstrated in slow motion, "What would you do?"
Thor swung his hammer at a faster pace and saw Manadis duck and crouch, then she popped back up. Thor laughed, letting Mijolnir fall to the floor by his side.
"That is one way... But that's not what I'm trying to teach you, Manadis. How far can you bend back?" Thor moved to her right side to watch her. Manadis was totally prepared to embarass herself.
She tried thinking of the game of Limbo as she did this. Still, she always sucked at Limbo when she was a kid. Manadis bent backwards as far as she could, which wasn't that far. Thor furrowed his brow at what he saw.
"I can't do it," Manadis stood up straight. If the girl can do a cartwheel and a flip in midair, she could surely bend backwards, right? Wrong.
"Yes, you can. I will help you. Here, stand up straight," Thor walked back over to stand in front of the mortal.
"Now, start what you did before."
"What? The fail of a bend?"
"Whatever it was I just watched you do."
Manadis did the same thing she did before, but squealed in surprise as Thor weighed her chest down using his hand. Manadis just let her feet slip and she landed on her back on the stone floor.
"No, you're supposed to keep your footing," Thor picked her back up again.
"You're not very keen on giving warnings, are you?"
"There are no prior warnings in battle."
Thor gave her a look and Manadis dropped the attitude.
"Let me see... Can you perhaps flip over entirely?"
"Umm, like, a back flip?"
"No, like this," Thor reached all the way behind him until his hands were flat on the stone and his stomach was facing the sky.
"Oh, the bridge?"
Thor returned to his normal height and said, "Is that what you call it?"
"That's what it looks like."
"Alright then. We shall call that a bridge. Can you do it?"
"I sucked at gymnastics in Phys. Ed., so that's a no."
"I bet you can."
"I don't think so."
Manadis did as she was told and lied down on her back on the floor.
"How will this help?" she asked.
"I was going to let you start standing up, but I saw what happened when I did that before. This should be easier for you. Put your hands next to your head like this," Thor demonstrated. He was crouching over Manadis.
"Good. Now bend your legs.... Alright, now I want you to push up with your hands so your elbows are almost straight."
Manadis's body thrust upward in the air. Thor chuckled.
"There you go. Wasn't that easy? But your midsection needs to be a bit more like a board."
Thor placed his hand on Manadis's back as he pushed down on her stomach. Manadis whined.
"Sorry. Just, straighten yourself out a bit."
Thor stood back as he watched Manadis trying to get this just right. Thor was pleased by what he saw.
"Good, Manadis. Now stand up without losing your balance."
"How am I supposed to do that?"
"Like I did."
"But I'm not you."
"Try it. I'll be right here in case you fall."
"Okay," Manadis pushed off using her hands but she didn't feel confident. Thor grabbed her back again as she was about to fall.
"Keep those feet planted," Thor squeezed one of Manadis's knees so it wasn't flying in the air. He kept holding her back.
"This hurts," Manadis complained. She rarely did so when she was bleeding or nearly had a broken arm, but the straining of her muscles hurt more.
"You'll be alright. Just keep your footing. Now, I'm going to slowly lift you up. One, two, three."
Thor placed one hand on Manadis's back and one on her stomach as he lifted her up into a standing position. Manadis bent over when Thor let go of her and held her head, which was feeling dizzy.
"How is it that you excelled in every difficult thing we did, but you can't even bend over. Manadis, a young child knows how to do these things."
"Yeah, well I wasn't really brought up as a child that did those things," Manadis snapped. Thor just looked at her, surprised. She was nursing her stomach and ribs.
"I'm sorry. Did I really hurt you?" Thor didn't believe for one second that she was in pain.
"Yes," Manadis mumbled, rubbing her rib cage and wincing as she did so.
"Do you want to end our session today?"
Thor knew that would get to Manadis. She never liked being thought of as weak by Thor.
"No. I can do this."
The determination was back.
"You did that fine. Now, let's try doing the 'bridge' while you're standing."
Manadis stood still and tall, waiting for Thor to help her. He stood in front of her again. Then he smiled as he put his hands next to his ears. Manadis couldn't help but smile at him as she did the same.
Manadis nodded. She began leaning backwards, feet still on the ground. Then, Thor began giving her a shove on the stomach just below her chest when he felt her getting stuck in that one position.
"I got you," he said to reassure Manadis. The girl closed her eyes as she felt herself being lowered into the bridge. She did it with no harm done. Thor stood back and clapped.
"Now walk around like that," Thor joked. Manadis chuckled while still in that position.
"What's so funny? I can do it," Thor got into that same position and began walking using all four apendages, only upside-down. Manadis giggled seeing how loose and childish Thor was acting.
"Don't laugh. Then you'll lose your form," Thor playfully scolded, "Try it."
"When will I ever use this in combat?"
"Never. But I figured since I 'hurt' you before that you deserve to learn something fun."
Manadis carefully lifted one hand off the floor and placed it a couple inches away from its original spot. Then she followed that with her foot and just continued the pattern with her other hand and foot.
"You got it now," Thor grinned.
The two continued walking around on the training platform, both smiling and giggling. Volstagg walked into the training area just then, searching for the platform that held Thor and Manadis. He saw it up ahead and began speaking as he approached.
"Thor, I need you to--- What in Odin's name are you doing?!" Volstagg stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Thor and Manadis. Thor gasped and spun around so he was lying on his stomach, then he immediately stood up.
"I was, umm, showing Manadis how to dodge enemy attacks when she doesn't have weapons or armor..." Thor looked behind him to see that Manadis had fallen on her butt and was trying to stand up. He snorted, but put on a straight face quickly. Volstagg was still looking at him like he was crazy.
"Yes, well... I just came to tell you that Her Majesty requests your presence in the main hall."
"Thank you, Volstagg. I will go right away."
Volstagg nodded, gave one last look at Manadis, and walked out of the training areas.
Thor turned and faced Manadis. He gave her one glance and they both began laughing. Manadis was covering her face in her hands and wasn't laughing as hard as Thor.
"I'm sorry," Manadis smiled at him. She stood up and brushed herself off.
"It's fine. But now Volstagg will have troubles seeing me as the god I once was, thanks to you. I must go, Manadis. We will resume this tomorrow."
"Okay. And I'll practice tonight. I'll ask Eskel to help me or something. He knows how to do all of this stuff already."
"Good. Maybe he can come watch you train tomorrow. He could help."
"No, I don't think he would want to come," Manadis collected all of her armor and just put some of it back on to reduce the amount she had to carry into the castle.
"Walk back with me," Thor offered. Manadis finished carrying all of her things and walked with Thor out of the training areas.
"Why wouldn't Eskel want to come?"
"I don't know. He told me he wasn't very keen on fighting."
"Ah, well offer it up to him anyway."
When Thor saw Frigga ahead, he had to part with Manadis.
"I shall see you later for supper. Good-bye."
"Bye. Oh, Thor!" Manadis yelled as he walked away.
Thor turned his head around, while still walking, and said, "And I promise to ask Loki."
Manadis smiled at him and walked to her room so she could put away her armor.