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I wrote this story at night. Started it at 10-something p.m. Wednesday August 5th and finished it at 12.50 a.m. Thursday August 6th. Don't know why I just kept on going.


RIIYA'S CHILDHOOD SECRET

by Kayin



Wolves are not loners. They hunt, roam and live in packs. They are not only used to having company around them, they prefer it. But right now, we see a small wolf roaming the forest on his lonesome. He is unaccompanied, but he prefers to think of it as freedom. Freedom from constraints, freedom from oppression. He is free, he says to himself, trying to make himself a believer of his own preaching. But deep down inside that wolf lies a heart that is hurt and he is desperately trying to believe otherwise.

"So what if I can't perform any magic?" he says to himself. "I've got other talents." Riiya held back tears as he recalled the mornings events. Chacha's soft, silky voice was not easy to forget, nor did he want to.

"I'm sorry Riiya," she had said. "But I have to go to the magic convention."

"But why?" he had asked, shocked that Chacha would turn down a perfect day to play to go to some stuffy convention. "The day is so clear! We can have a picnic, go for a walk..."

"I'm really, truly sorry Riiya. I don't know how else to say it. It's just that I haven't been paying much attention to my magic skills and both Teacher Seravi and I feel that this convention is the best thing to help me," came the reply.

Riiya just could not believe it. Chacha never skipped out on an opportunity to play, especially with him. Shiine just had a good laugh at his expense.

"Don't worry Riiya," the apprentice magician had said. "I'll take good care of Chacha." Shiine could not help but act slightly arrogant, even though he usually did not. To him, this was one of the rare opportunities to have Chacha all to himself. He too had noticed how Chacha tend to be with Riiya, his rival for Chacha's affections.

"Shiine......."

"Chacha!" called Seravi. "It's time to go or we'll be late!"

"Can't I come too?" Riiya had pleaded.

"I'm sorry Riiya," Seravi consoled. "It's only open to those practising magic. Come on Chacha, Shiine," Seravi continued, turning his attention to the two would-be magicians.

"They are going," Riiya had thought. "They're actually going to leave me." The reality suddenly struck home. "Who needs you guys anyway!?" he had yelled. As soon as the words had left his lips, he ran in the opposite direction.

"Riiya wait!" Chacha called to her long time friend. She started after him. Shiine pursued after her.

Riiya heard Seravi call to his student. "Chacha we have to go now!" he said with authority. Chacha stopped running and just stood there as Riiya darted off into the forest.

"Doesn't he knows this hurts me as much as it does him?" she asked herself on the brink of tears. She turned around and returned to Seravi.

"That's how it happened," Riiya thought to himself. He had been replaying the scene over and over again, in case he had missed something, something that would tell him Chacha had made a mistake. But no matter how hard he searched, or how many times he replayed the morning's events, none came to him. Still in his wolf form, Riiya continued to walk aimlessly. Feeling dejected and rejected, he continued to wallow in self-pity until he tried to convince himself that being on his own was now a good thing. The morning's occurrence could be used to his advantage. Being along, he could do whatever he wanted. He began believing that until he realised that both he and Chacha would do whatever they wanted when they were together.

Slowly walking, he listened as his paws pushed the grass under them. They made a crunch sound that reminded him of his saddened heart. After being accepted by Chacha so many times, rejection was something new to him, something he wasn't prepared for. He tried to communicate with his surroundings to see what could take his mind off Chacha. He looked far ahead, but all he could see were bushes, shrubs and trees. He took to listening to the environment around him. The wind blowing, the leaves rustling, twigs snapping under his paws, small animals scurrying off to hide themselves from this predator. Riiya didn't feel like eating. His eyes were big and glassy. A thin stream of tears formed, flowing down his cheek, soaking his wolf fur. He continued roaming the forest aimlessly until a strange, yet familiar scent coated his nostrils. He stopped in his tracks and took a deep breath. It was coming to him. The familiar smell. No! It couldn't be! He looked around him excitedly. The thoughts of the morning's incident fell from his mind.

"This place," he thought. "I've been here before. I've smelled this scent before." He took a look at his surroundings. He couldn't see much as a wolf so he transformed back into his human shape. But what he saw did not reveal any secrets, it just added to the questions. "This smell......is it possible that I was on the verge of forgetting a scent?" he whispered. "Not only the scent but this place. I've been here before!" he declared.

Riiya couldn't recall his location right off. He stopped trying to figure it out and began to think back. Why had he nearly forgotten the scent that was still quite unfamiliar to him? He slowly unravelled his life, thinking back to the time before he faced of with Daimarou together with Chacha, before the time he first argued with Shiine, before the time he first met and fell in love with Chacha. Before the day he first walked into a human town with his grandfather.

Riiya just stood there thinking. He was now a very young cub, about five or six. He remembered the disappointments and hardships as the youngest in the family. Food taken away from him, being blamed for all the mistakes even if he was not at fault, being bullied by his older siblings. He remembered it all. Memories that had been buried by memories with Chacha. Thoughts he had kept hidden. Dwindling shadows in his mind that became dim ever since he met Chacha. But before then, what did he do? Where did he go when his role as the youngest in the family became to hard for him to play? Where indeed......

"My secret hiding place!" Riiya shouted out loud, not caring if others heard him. He was fortunate that he was alone that day in the forest. "Yes, now I remember! My place of refuge......" No. The surroundings weren't at all how he remembered his secret den away from life. Riiya thought somemore more. If he were Shiine, he probably could have solved his dilemma. But he wasn't, and for that, he often was thankful.

"My secret hiding place........hhhhmmmmmm........my secret......secret......That's it!" cried Riiya joyously. "If it was a secret, then only I knew about it. That would mean others would not be able to find it. Therefore........." his voice dragged off. He looked around him, not knowing what he was searching for. "Entrance," he thought. "There must have been an entrance. Oblivious to everyone but me......." Riiya was beginning to praise himself for unravelling most of the mystery. "Marker," he thought. "I must have put a marker somewhere."

Riiya searched low to the ground. If he really had been here at the age of five or six, his marker must have been low to the ground. Transforming back into a wolf, he began sniffing around for clues. A strong scent came to him. It was coming from under the ground. But wait!

"That scent comes from the leaves of the Rabble shrub." Riiya looked around him and saw that the area was filled with Rabble shrubs. "But then why is this scent coming from under the ground?" he thought. "What do I know about Rabble shrubs? They have a distinct and pleasant odour, if you got the smell on your clothes it would linger forever and no amount of washing would ever remove it.......I've got it!" he shouted triumphantly. "I've found my marker!" Riiya remembered the day he buried the leaves of the Rabble shrub under the ground. No one would suspect a thing because the Rabble shrub grew so abundantly in that area. Only he knew about the minute trace that came from the ground.

"Shiine eat your heart out!" Riiya let out with a sly smirk as he followed the trail he had set. It took him to shrubs that formed what seemed like an impenetrable wall. But according to Riiya's marker, there was an entrance, an entrance that he had kept carefully concealed by the branches of the shrubs that formed the protective wall. The shrubs were protecting something all right, a little bit of heaven. Riiya felt so excited as he returned to his human form. Making a last minute check that no one was about, he darted through the shrubs and into his secret refuge.

Riiya just stood, glued to the ground, transfixed by what he saw. "It's just as I left it," he said under his breath. "It's just as I remember it...." Yes, Riiya's secret refuge. After so many years, he had found it again, and after so many years, he decided he needed it again.

For a while, Riiya just stood there, soaking up the beauty of his place of refuge. As he walked around, he did so with the utmost care and caution, as if a small change would somehow affect the entire surrounding. Riiya's secret was enclosed by trees and shrubs except for the mountain that made up the remaining side. Water slowly trickled down the face of the mountain and that kept the pond full. A pond full of fish that Riiya would catch whenever he was hungry. His shang ri-la had everything he needed to escape the torments of being the youngest in his family. Secrecy, peace, food, water. Everything. Although he knew that his secret hiding place would in no way remove future pain and suffering, it did help him put things back into perspective. It did give him the inner peace that he required. Or more appropriately, it used to. Now he was older, but was he wiser? Had he learned to solve all his problems on his own? If he had, then what was he doing here? No, he was still learning and Riiya was not the stubborn type that would refrain from help.

Riiya sat on the soft grass and went into deep thought. "How did I use to do this?" he spoke to himself. "How did I scrape up the nerve to go back into the world just by being here?"

"So you really don't remember, do you Riiya?"

Riiya leaped up. "Who was that!?" he demanded.

"Be quiet or everyone will know about this place."

"Who are you?" Riiya whispered forcefully. "Tell me now!"

"Have you forgotten me already, Riiya? If you have then you have forgotten yourself"

"What do you mean?" asked Riiya, annoyed.

"Look around you, Riiya. Who else is here? Who else but you?"

Riiya looked around him and realised that he was alone. He smelled the air but no one was near him. "Who are you?" he demanded again.

"Where else could I be coming from but from you, Riiya?"

Riiya was shocked. He did some recalling. How did he solve all his problems when he was younger?

"How else did you solve your problems by talking with me, Riiya."

"How did you know what I was thinking?" Riiya asked.

"I am you, Riiya." the voice answered. "I am the voice that speaks from inside of you. I am the real you talking."

Riiya stopped to take all that in. He was talking to himself. Is that what he used to do whenever he came here? The voice was a stranger, yet familiar. He felt he should reject it, yet welcome it. He could not understand why he had forgotten this place, and the voice that now claimed was him.

"Yes, Riiya, why did you forget this place? Why did you forget me?"

"I don't know," Riiya admitted.

"Look around you, Riiya. See the beauty of nature. Feel the peace you once felt in this place. You have everything you need here. Why go back to the real world?"

"Because I would miss Chacha." His reply was short and simple.

"Chacha? I don't remember you mentioning her the last time you came here. Tell me about her."

"Well, I first saw her playing in the field a little way behind her house. I had wondered off to play by myself. I saw Chacha and my heart just went to her. I was surprised that she did not run away as I approached her because I was in my wolf form. She thought I was cute and hugged me. Ever since that day, I have loved her.

"Well, she sounds very special."

"She is," Riiya agreed. "And if weren't for Shiine, she'd pay more attention to me," Riiya continued, balling his hand into a fist.

"Oh I sense tension here. Tell me about Shiine."

"Chacha and I met Shiine in Dorothy's castle. Dorothy had captured Chacha's teacher Seravi and we were trying to rescue him. Then out of nowhere, Shiine popped into the picture and came between me and Chacha.

"It sounds to me that you do not really care for this Shiine. Why did you not just take Chacha away from him?"

"Because Chacha likes him too. And besides, we needed him to hold the power of Hope. I held the power of Courage and Chacha held the power of Love. All three were necessary so that Chacha could become the Magical Princess Holy-Up and defeat Daimarou."

"But hasn't Daimarou been defeated?"

"Yes he has," replied Riiya. "Not only that but we had to give up our powers to seal the gateway to the Netherworld, to ensure that Daimarou or any other evil entity would not enter this world again."

"I see. And so now this Chacha cannot turn into the Magical Princess."

"That is right."

"So why are you still putting up with Shiine? If he likes Chacha so much and you no longer need him, why is he still around?"

Riiya looked up from the ground. The voice had a point. Why was Shiine still around him and Chacha? They had willingly given up their magical items and had given up the Magical Princess Holy-Up. They didn't need Shiine. Why hadn't Riiya realised that?

"I think I've discovered why you stopped coming here and why you've almost forgotten about this place. You've found another place to run to when you have problems. When you feel you can't take anymore, you go to your friends Chacha and Shiine now don't you Riiya?"

Riiya pondered for a moment. "Yes, you're right," he admitted.

"Am I really right Riiya? If so, then what are you doing back here?"

Riiya didn't need anything more. He got up and decided to return to Seravi's house and wait for the others to get back. Just as he was about to leave the secret place of refuge of his childhood, he looked back. He wanted to remember everything as it was because he was not coming back. The voice was right. He had found another place of refuge.

"Thanks," Riiya whispered to the voice he had heard. And with that, he took off. As he ran back to Seravi's house, he said a little prayer about his childhood secret. "May you be found by others like me until they too find friends of refuge."

"RIIYAAAAA!!!!"

It was Chacha's voice! "Chacha! Over here!" he called. Being so excited, he transformed into a wolf and kept running. As he heard her voice draw closer, he drew strength and ran faster. And then he could see her. Ecstatically, he jumped into her open arms and she hugged him. Shiine was close behind her and wasn't too happy with what he saw.

"Hey Shiine!" Riiya cried as he spotted the young magician. He leapt from Chacha's arms and gave him a hug.

"What are you trying to do now, you stupid dog! Strangle me?"

"That was supposed to be a hug, Shiine"

"A hug?" Shiine asked, puzzled by Riiya's sudden good nature towards him.

"I'm really sorry about this morning Riiya," Chacha spoke.

"It's OK Chacha, I understand. And besides, nothing could come between our friendship."

"Glad to hear it," Chacha replied, giggling.

"And that goes for you too Shiine!" said that playful pup, giving Shiine a friendly hit on the arm. Shiine just gave him a strange look.

"Are you OK Riiya?" he asked.

"Never felt better" Riiya answered.

"Riiya, Shiine," Chacha spoke up. "Why don't we take a walk in the forest?" Her proposition was met with cheers

"And I won't mind if you hold Chacha's hand, Shiine."

"What is the matter with you Riiya? You're not acting like your usual self today."

But Shiine didn't get an answer. Riiya and Chacha were already off on their walk, leaving Shiine to catch up.

"Chacha, Shiine," Riiya piped up. "I've got something to show the both of you. I used to go there when I was feeling depressed. Please follow me....."


THE END