“Well, that was fun,” Ninyo said sarcastically when they returned to the beach. “Let’s not do it again.”
“Sounds good to me,” Keena agreed, setting Miliko against a coconut palm. “When do you want to go and get Yakel?”
“Oh yeah, forgot about him. Leave him for a day or two, he won’t know the difference. Don’t know about you, but I need some rest.” He demonstrated by flopping back down into the sand.
“I’m right behind you,” Keena said, dropping down next to him. “How’re you feeling?”
He shrugged. “I’m okay. Going to take a while to get used to though.”
“I’m sure you’ll build it up again. Have you tried using it since you… um…”
Ninyo sighed. “It’s okay, you can say it, since I lost it. Haven’t actually. To tell you the truth-” he broke off.
“I’m… I’m a bit scared to try.”
Keena didn’t know how she was supposed to react to this. “You’ll have to try it eventually, otherwise it’ll get edgy.”
Ninyo snorted. “Don’t think that’ll be happening any time soon.” He looked at his hand and flexed his fingers. “Feels about as edgy as dirt right now,” he said bitterly.
“Ninyo, there’s a mozzie, vent your anger on it.”
He held his palm out in the mosquito’s general direction and watched as it slowly dropped out of the air. He looked at his palm. “That’s just disturbing.”
“What? It died, didn’t it?”
He dropped his hand back onto the sand. “I barely have enough magic to kill a mozzie.”
“Least you’ve got some left.”
“Yeah, but this is just pitiful. You know how it’s normally really energetic and you have to hold it back? It’s not doing a bloody thing.”
“So, build its confidence up again.”
He sat up and made a fist. “That’s the thing, I don’t think that’s enough. It’ll take me Monsoons to get it back up to what it used to be, longer even. May as well just face it. It’ll never be the same.”
“I’m going hunting. Back whenever.”
Keena watched him draw his sword as he disappeared into the trees.
“He doesn’t seem too pleased with what he’s still got of his magic.” Qillan took a seat next to her, her pitch black, deadly straight hair blowing slightly in the breeze. She had discarded the robes now that she could properly feel the heat and humidity of the rainforest, and her white skin provided a stark contrast against her black hair and eyes.
“I think he’s more annoyed with himself for losing what he had. It’s not your fault, you did all you could.”
“I’m so sorry for everything I did. I can’t extend my gratitude enough. Is there anything else I can do for you?” Even though she no longer had any Black Magic she hadn’t lost her formal way of speaking.
“Don’t worry about it, it’s fine.” A pause. “You wouldn’t be able to give Ninyo a bit more magic back, would you?”
Qillan shook her head. “If I had woken sooner I would have been able to do more.”
“Qillan, stop blaming yourself, it’s not your fault.”
“But I was still the one who sent so many people to their deaths. I’ll never be able to forgive myself for it.” She lifted her hand and touched the black jewels on her cheek. “I want to take these off. Throw them away and never have to feel them again.”
“You can’t do that.”
“Whenever anybody ever sees me, they’ll run. And rightly so.”
Keena put her arm over Qillan’s shoulders. “Believe it or not, I know what you mean. Green Magic isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms either.”
“I guess so. What is there left for you to do now? Do you have any plans on touring the countryside, as it were?”
Keena looked puzzled for a second, then the grim realisation dawned on her. “Oh yeah, little kiddies are still being born with Black Magic.” She sighed. “Dunno. Not sure Ninyo’d really want to. Seems happy to just never use it again. Well, not happy exactly, but you know what I mean. He’ll get used to it eventually.”
“Maybe I could talk to him. He hasn’t completely lost it, he still has a chance to restore it to its full potential, if he acts quickly and trains hard.”
Keena snapped up. “Are you serious?”
Qillan nodded. “Well, I lie, it will never be as powerful as it was when you attacked me, but he can bring it back to what it was when you first met him.”
“Good luck in telling him that.”
“Telling who what?” Ninyo had returned.
“Telling you you’re not stuffed. So how’d the hunt go?”
Ninyo raised his eyebrows. “Do you know how long it’s been since I left on a hunt and returned empty handed? I’m not stuffed?” He snorted. “Whatever you reckon.” He turned and walked down the beach.
“Seriously Ninyo, Qillan says that if you act quick and train hard you can get your magic back to what it used to be.”
He didn’t turn around. “You think what you think, I’ll know what I know.”
“I see what you mean,” Qillan murmured.
“Do you really think he can get his magic back?”
“It’s like when I first told you that you possessed magic. When he believes he can, he will.”
Keena flopped back into the sand. “This could take a while.”
“Ninyo, your growing depression is seriously beginning to piss me off.”
“You try losing something you’ve had all your life, something you thought you could always depend on and would never let you down.”
“I know I can’t understand how you’re feeling right now, but just listen to what I’m saying.”
“Believe it, I’ve got it, that simple is it?”
Keena was getting frustrated. “Ninyo, shut up and listen! You started off with zero control of your magic, then became the strongest and most knowledgeable person on Green Magic. When Qillan told me to learn my magic, she directed me to you. You went from not even being able to see your magic to being able to kill Black Magic in the space of one and a half moons. What more do you need?”
“Magic’d be good.”
“You’re not listening. You can build it up again, you’ve just gotta try! Come on Ninyo, Qillan gave you another chance with it; make the most of it. What have you got to lose?”
He opened his mouth to answer, but Keena cut him off.
“If you don’t agree I’ll have to give up on you and call you a lost cause. You’ve got the willpower and the skill to do it, Ninyo. If anyone ever lost their magic, you’d be the one who could get it back.”
He didn’t say a word.
Keena racked her brain for anything that might work. She hated seeing him like this. “When I first started teaching you how to use Gold Dragon, you wanted to know how you could ever get to be as good as me. The only way that could ever happen was if you gave up on your magic. Remember what you said then? ‘Not gunna happen,’ you told me. You’re not a quitter, Ninyo. I know you’re not.”
He sighed heavily. “Okay,” he said finally, “I’ll do it for you.”
“Do it for yourself.”
“Guess we should go and get Yakel then.”
Keena grinned and pulled Ninyo to his feet. “Knew you could do it.”
She felt slightly left out when Ninyo embraced his parents, and she felt a pang when she thought of her own family. How come mine were never like that?
“Keena, my mum and dad, Rhiya and Yanu. Mum, Dad, this is Keena and my son, Miliko.”
“Ooh, he’s adorable!” Rhiya squealed, tickling the child under his chin. Miliko rolled his head back, wanting more. “I take it your mission was a success then?”
Ninyo dropped his eyes.
“It was good, yeah,” Keena answered quickly, “wasn’t exactly the most fun we’ve ever had, but we got the Black Magic, so it’s all good.” She grinned and discretely gave Ninyo a nudge. More sympathy was the last thing he needed.
“Really?” Ninyo’s mother said, clasping her hands, “That’s fantastic! Well done to the both of you! Yakel’s just playing over there with Liran.”
“Ninyo!” The boy was obviously delighted to see his teacher again. “Didja get it? Didja didja didja?”
Ninyo smiled, and Keena couldn’t tell whether it was genuine or forced. “What a question, course we got it!” He lifted the boy under his arms and swung him onto his shoulders. “Think you’ve gotten bigger since we last saw you,” he laughed.
“Guess you’ll be going now,” Liran, Ninyo’s younger brother, sounded disappointed with the idea.
“Can we stay here a bit longer?” Yakel begged, “Pleeeease?” He hugged Ninyo’s head tightly.
“Don’t see why not, we’re not in any hurry this time.”
Keena smiled. Maybe some time with his family would help.
Yanu made a move to stand up. “Guess I’d better get us something to eat then. Getting late.”
“Don’t worry about it Dad, I’ll go,” Ninyo answered.
Keena subconsciously bit her bottom lip. This can’t be good. “I’ll go with you,” she said, trying to sound casual.
Ninyo just shrugged. “Sure, if you want.”
“Great, we’ll be back soon!”
When they were out of sight of the family, Ninyo drew his sword.
“Ninyo, you have to at least try to use your magic.”
“Did that last time and couldn’t even kill a peacock. Figure I may as well practice with Gold Dragon.”
Keena sighed. “I hate to say it Nin, but get over it. I don’t care how embarrassing it is for you, you have to use it. It’s the only way you’ll ever get it back to what it was.”
They walked in silence for a while, scanning the trees for anything edible. Keena was the one to spot something first. “Ninyo, piglet.”
He turned his head to find it in the trees, then began slowly walking towards it, his sword raised.
“Ninyo,” Keena said sternly, her arms folded.
He stopped walking and dropped Gold Dragon to his side, then rubbed his eyes with his other hand, taking a deep breath as he did so. He sheathed his sword and extended both arms, palms facing towards the piglet. The concentration on his face was more than Keena could bear. He was obviously putting as much effort into it as he could, but the piglet didn’t respond. She didn’t want to, but in the end she sent an invisible spark of her own magic at the piglet, hoping Ninyo wouldn’t notice it.
The piglet stumbled and fell. Ninyo dropped his hands and stared at the piglet, obviously not happy with the amount of energy it had taken to kill it.
“Thanks,” he said finally.
Keena blinked. “What for? I didn’t do anything.”
“You made me do it,” he said, making his way to the dead animal. “That’s what I’m thanking you for.”
She smiled with relief. “See? You can do it.”
Ninyo swung the piglet over his shoulders and returned Keena’s smile, but only for a second. “I just miss its energy, more than anything. Feels so weak it’s not funny. I mean, I have to force it out now. Green Magic isn’t supposed to be like that. You’re supposed to have to hold it back so it doesn’t go too far, not force it to do what it was made for.” He sighed. “Guess I’ll get it back eventually.”
“That’s better,” Keena said. At least it was progress.
Keena was sitting on the log feeding Miliko and talking with Rhiya. She could hear Yakel attacking Ninyo not far off.
“Is he hiding something?”
Keena blinked and looked at the older woman. “Who?” though she knew exactly who Rhiya was referring to.
“Ninyo. He just seems, I don’t know, like something’s missing.”
“How do you mean?”
“It just seems like he’s putting on an act or something. That and his jewels don’t seem so bright. He’s not himself, I’ll put it that way. Have you noticed anything?”
Keena sighed and looked down at her son. “Don’t tell him I’ve told you this,” she said finally, “but he lost most of his magic. Hurt him pretty bad.”
“Don’t tell him you know though. Sympathy’s the last thing he needs right now.”
Rhiya nodded, slowly processing what Keena had told her. “I had a feeling it was something to do with that. Didn’t know it was that bad though. What happened?”
Keena was silent for a while, but eventually she caved in and told Rhiya what had happened, swallowing and holding back tears at certain points. “He hasn’t lost it completely, but it just seems like he’s wasting his chance.”
“That sounds like Ninyo. He always felt that he had to be prefect at whatever he did, and if he wasn’t, there was no point in trying.” She sighed. “Are you sure you don’t want me to talk to him?”
“I don’t know. I just want him to be how he was before.”