Ravana could hear the cries coming from the garden. When he approached a clearing, Ravana saw two larger boys standing on the roof of a small shed. They were holding a smaller boy upside down by the ankles over the edge of the roof. Below the small boy, on the side of the shed, was a water trough.
“Where is our money, Sukha?” One of the boys on the roof was wearing a red shirt. He snarled and shook the small boy’s leg. “You were supposed to give it to us today.”
“I don’t have it for you yet,” the smaller boy, Sukha, sobbed. “Please, Niku. Get me up from here. If you give me more time, I’ll get it for you.”
“What do you think about that, Rajesh? Should we give him more time?” Niku’s lip curled into a smirk. Both boys laughed and lowered Sukha closer to the water. “Or should we find out if he can breathe underwater?”
Ravana could feel the young boy’s fear. It wasn’t just getting wet. He’s terrified by water, he realized. Master Mahish had told Ravana that he could amuse himself in the palace gardens until the evening meal, as long as he stayed out of trouble. Interrupting a fight wasn’t what the Master had intended.
But Sukha’s fear was palpable. Without thinking, Ravana squared his shoulders and ran towards the shed. “Stop that,” he shouted. “Leave him alone.”
The two large boys started. After a moment, they pulled Sukha up onto the roof with them. Then, after flashing a smirk at Ravana, Niku pushed the smaller boy from the roof. Ravana watched in shock as Sukha landed on the ground with a loud thud. The two larger boys jumped off from the roof and landed on their feet. Sukha remained motionless.
Ravana rushed towards Sukha. The boy still hadn’t moved. Ravana knelt on the ground and placed his fingers on the boy’s temple. Warmth seeped from his fingers into the boy’s skull. “He needs help,” Ravana said, trying to recall his lessons. It was the first time that he had tried to heal anybody without guidance. Ravana closed his eyes and focused on the blood flow.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” Niku smirked. Rajesh picked up Ravana and slammed him against the wall of the shed. Both of them scanned Ravana up and down before resting their gaze on Ravana’s face. Surprised, Niku nudged his friend. “Rajesh, look at his eyes. They’re yellow.”
Rajesh’s brown eyes widened. “It’s the demon boy.” He dropped his hands from Ravana and stepped back. When Ravana tried to walk away, Niku pushed him against the shed, placing an arm across Ravana’s chest. As Ravana struggled, Niku leaned on him with his full weight.
Rajesh put a hand on Niku’s shoulder. “Let him go, Niku. Asuras have special powers. We haven’t been taught how to fight them yet.”
Niku snorted. “I’m the son of one of the greatest warriors in Bharat. Do you think this little boy scares me?” When Rajesh remained silent, Nicu looked at him scornfully. “Are you afraid, Rajesh? There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ve always wanted to see if the demons were as powerful as the stories.” An odd look came on Niku’s face as he studied the water trough. “Now we can find out. Let’s see if this demon can breathe underwater.”
Ravana could taste the fear. His heart pounded as Niku and Rajesh each grabbed one of his arms. They dragged Ravana kicking and screaming towards the water trough.
“So, demon boy? Can you do it?” Niku snarled, as Rajesh pushed Ravana to his knees on the ground and held him there. Niku grabbed the back of Ravana’s hair and pulled his head back. “Can you breathe under water?”
Rajesh chuckled. It was all in good fun. He would pull the younger boy up after a few minutes. No one would really get hurt. “He’ll learn fast if he can’t.”
Ravana took one last gulp of air before Niku pushed his head into the trough. The cold water hit him like a wall. He kept his lips tightly sealed while struggling against Niku’s grip. Was Niku really going to kill him? Panic set in until an image of Master Mahish entered his thoughts. The Master always told him not to waste critical energy on fear. After what seemed like an eternity, Ravana closed his eyes and exhaled the breathe that he had been clinging to like a lifeline. When he stopped struggling, his body went limp.
Ravana could hear the panic in Rajesh’s voice. “He isn’t moving, Niku. Pull him up.”
As Niku lifted Ravana’s head out of the water, a surge of energy propelled Ravana to snap his head backwards. He hit Niku squarely in the face. There was a loud crunch.
“Aaaarrrrgggghhh,” Niku screamed, releasing his grip from Ravana to reach for his nose. Blood dripped through his fingers, down his face. Without thinking, Ravana dropped to the ground. He stuck his leg out and swept it around, knocking Niku down. Ravana quickly scrambled on top of Niku’s chest. He grabbed Niku’s head by the hair and slammed it into the ground until Niku’s eyes rolled backwards.
Rajesh stared in shock, as Ravana wiped dripping water from his eyes with the dry edge of his sleeve and ran over to Sukha, who was still lying motionless on the ground.
“Don’t just stand there,” Ravana yelled at Rajesh, as he placed his fingers on Sukha’s temples. “Check on Niku.”
Ravana’s voice snapped Rajesh into action. He moved quickly and knelt on the ground beside Niku, but then looked helplessly at Ravana. “What do I do?”
The answer came to Ravana without any thought. “Clear the blood from his face. Make sure that he’s still breathing.”
Rajesh nodded and used his sleeve to wipe the blood from Niku’s face. Ravana closed his eyes and slowed his breathing. Sukha still hadn’t regained consciousness. Ravana focused his energy on finding the injury. When he found the ruptured vessel, warmth seeped from his finger tips. Ravana could feel himself losing strength, but he maintained his physical contact with Sukha. When Sukha coughed, Ravana dropped his hands, exhausted. He collapsed on the ground, breathing heavily.
“What happened?” Sukha mumbled, as he tried to sit up. He rubbed his temples and twisted his head.