Story 9 Rio
Rio in Rhino’s Skin – Part 2
Loka was born in a family that traced its descendants to a line of legendary warriors. His great grandfather, grandfather, and father all served as the Royal Guard to the King. When his father Luka was expecting his birth, he dreamt, with great antipication, of all the good things that he would give to his son over the course of his life. He even built a big tree house in the hopes of dedicating it to his son, Loka, who was named after his great grandfather.
Loka’s birth was a massive shock to the family. The baby that had entered the world was completely white from head to toe, with bright pink eyes that shone with a brilliant luminance. Luka could barely comprehend what he was seeing. His wife, Vivienne, did not want to accept the baby, refusing to hold her son nor even bear to look at him.
Luka was lost and frustrated; soon after, he quickly left the hospital, leaving behind Vivienne and his new born baby. He walked to the stream next to the Palace and sat at the bank: he would not imagine why his son alone was cursed from birth.
In Rhino-land, all rhinos, whether they were male or female, old or young, possessed dark grey skin with hazel brown eyes. Up until their death, their complexion remain the same; the only way to distinguish their age is to observe the wrinkles on their faces. They, as a race, have always been proud of their unified appearances, which has contributed largely to their prosperity as a nation.
Throughout the history of Rhino-land, only one white rhino with pink eyes has ever been born. When the white rhino came into the world almost 500 years ago, every rhino across the nation travelled across vast distances to come and see the phenomenon. Initially, they were completely in awe at the exoticness and beauty of the rhino’s appearance. However, everything quickly turned upside down.
The year of the white rhino’s birth was a tremendous disaster to the whole nation: tsunamibattered the coastline villages, volcanoes long thought to be dormant started erupting and destroying many hillside towns, and earthquakes levelled many large cities strewn across the grassy plains. The most devastating incident that happened in that year was the assassination of King at the capital, which occurred almost monthly soon after. With no one to blame and desperate this end the string of calamities that had ravaged the nation, the king of that time ordered out of fear, that they will kill the white rhino infant in the next year.
Rio in Rhino’s Skin – Part
Outside the capital’s main cathedral, there was a sculpture with a large stone plaque that had been built soon after the king’s orders were made. The art piece that had been commissioned by the royal house was designed by a sculptor from another land. It depicted a baby inside a cradle; a masked executioner held a large sword above the cradle. A mother and father was crying on the side. An ominous command was engraved on the stone plaque:
The sculpture has long since stood in the capital; practically everyone has forgotten the history
of the past and nowadays, the story is treated as nothing more than bed-side story.
From Luka’s memory, he has never cried once in his life. But now, he was in tears like the baby he had just abandoned. How could he kill his one and only son? But he did not know what he could do for his son or what would happen to his dear boy soon.
After staying near the riverbed for what seemed like an eternity, Luka went home with a shattered mind.
Vivienne was staying at home waiting for her husband. She was also worried for her new born baby. When Luka arrived home, they embraced each other and drowned each other in tears. They desperately wanted to know what they should do, but their thoughts were completely jumbled. As the two parents lamented, Luka’s father, Louise came in.
Louise was a short and chunky rhino. He smiled all time and looked like the kind of grandpa and that was nice to just about everyone. Despite his gentle demeanor, he was actually the martial arts champion in the country and was the head instructor for close quarters combat in the King’s army.
Louise entered the living room with heavy breath. He had a few pieces of rhino skin wrapped around his arm. He turned to the couple and whispered in a low, affirmative voice:
‘Enough sorrow, my son. The baby is one of us - and we will not let anyone hurt him.’
He then handed out the rhino skin to Luka:
‘Here are the skins of our ancestors which I collected from the family tombs. Use them to sew clothes to cover the boy’s white skin. Give him contact lens to cover his pink eyes.’
Luka could not think of any other solution and thus, complied with Louise without a word.
Since then, Loka had been living under the skins of his ancestors.
When he was a baby, his parents would never bring him out. They told everybody that the baby had died at childbirth. They locked up all the windows in the house and pulled up all the curtains so that nobody could see inside.
To Loka, that house was his entire world. When he was four years of age, instead of putting him in school where his guise might be discovered, his mother had decided to homeschool Loka. Throughout his whole young life, he could only peep from the windows of his bedroom and see the other kids playing in the streets of his neighborhood. He would only go out at night often times once a month with his father, where he would sing his ancestor’s songs with his father under the moonlight.
For the past eighteen years, Loka had lived through his childhood as if he was a ghost. One morning, without saying goodbye to Luka and Vivienne, he packed and left home. In the last moments before leaving the house, he looked to catch a last glimpse of the home where he had spent his entire childhood. He realized his father was standing next to the door of his bedroom. Luka already knew what his son was up to. He knew from the moment of his son’s birth that Loka had no place in Rhino-land and that he would eventually leave his parents behind. Luka did not say anything but forced his eyes to remember the last image of his son. Without a word, Loka bowed to his Dad. When he held up his head, he saw that his fathers’ eyes were filled with tears.
Then his father shouted:
‘Go, my son!’
He then walked into his bedroom. That was the last memory that Loka had of his father.
Loka hid during the day and travelled during night. After three days of wandering, he had finally reached the border of Rhino-land. He took a deep breath and took off his skin for the first time in his life. He had since travelled around the globe and after 30 years, he decided to settle in the Sweet Potatoes World.
Loka looked at the kids again. There was a quiet sadness in his eyes.
’Are you OK, uncle Loka?’ asked An b.
Loka was stunned: he had never been called ‘uncle; in his life. Those words brought him great joy. He smiled and said to An b:
‘Yes, I am fine. I just cannot believe I have left my family for so long.’
No. 8 asked Loka whether he had seen his parents ever since.
‘No.’ Loka replied. ‘I have sent them letters over the years but with no response.
I do not dare to go back to Rhino-land but I do hope that they are fine.’
‘So, you don’t need to wear the skin in here, right? How did you meet Rio in the first place?‘ asked Kara.
‘That’s correct, I only needed to wear the skin when I was in Rhino-land. I first arrived in Piggy Land after I left my home country. I was scared as I did not know how they would react when they saw a white rhino. I hid in the bushes during the morning, hoping that no one would see me. One day, a bunch of kids with their teacher were having a picnic in the forest where I was still sleeping. As soon as I heard their laughs, I sat up straight away and saw them standing in a circle around me. I was panic and screamed. But they were so scared of me that they screamed even louder than me!’
All kids laughed as they thought those kids resembled themselves a little bit.
‘The teacher approached me and said to me,
“Sir, are you feeling well?’ I looked up and saw that a big ox was looking right down at me.’
‘When I saw that ox, I ran away as fast as possible. The Ox chased after me, shouting that I had left my ancestor’s skin behind in the grass!’
‘When I looked down, I realized that I was all white. Never have I felt so vulnerable! But what I feared most was that teacher would report me to the police.’
‘I kept running until I ran head first into a wall. When I got back up, I heard a thunderous sound next to my ears.
“I was calling for you the whole time, couldn’t you hear?’ That was when I realized that the ox was standing in front of me.’
‘I was so scared that I started crying. The big ox started to pat my shoulders.’
“Are you really okay, sir?’ he said in a calm voice; his students all started to hand me chocolate.’
’It was very strange. I had never talked to anyone but my parents, but at that time, I couldn’t help but ask the ox if he thought my appearance was strange. The ox tilted his head and then turned the question back to me:
“I’m not a doctor, but I don’t see anything weird with you.”
“But I’m completely white!’ I shouted as I became increasingly anxious.’
The ox then patted my shoulders again.
“In my youth, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Rhino-land on one of my travels. I’ve seen the grand palaces and the great monasteries of the capital. But the most surprising thing for me was the statue in the plaza: I thought you myself, ‘this is a little morbid for being in front of a cathedral!’ But when I looked up the history behind its creation, I can understand why it was built and why that message was written. We all want to blame something or someone when things go wrong.’
‘But that’s all in the past. Look at me: my tribe of oxen are all brown in color, but I’m red! What’s the problem? Color is just another aspect of nature created by God and this just makes the world more beautiful.’
Loka was stunned: this was the first time anybody had treated him like any other rhino.
An b and Kara then suddenly interrupted Loka’s story.
‘Then uncle, when did you meet Rio?’
An b and Kara looked around the house for Rio, who was still sitting beside the window.
‘Well, after I met Mr. Ox, I travelled to various other countries without needing to hide myself. Eventually, I came to the Sweet Potatoe Land at one point. I was tired from all the travelling that I laid down next to a river to take a short rest. As I was sleeping, I felt the oddest sensation on my chest. When I opened my eyes, I realized there was something jumping on my chest! That thing actually turned out to be Rio.’
‘Rio looked at me with a big grin on his face. Then he simply just fell asleep! At that very moment, all of my instincts were telling me that I must protect him at all costs!’
‘I sat up with Rio’s on my arms. I looked around and shouted aloud for his parents; but there was nobody there. Rio suddenly put his hands on my heart and his head on my shoulders. At that moment, I vowed to take him under my care.’
After hearing Loka’s story, Rio sobbed and leaned on his adoptive father. Despite his young age, he had always known that he was an orphan. For all these years, he was glad that Loka did not
abandon him. Super N then turned to Rio.
‘My dad is also an orphan but he’s really nice. Why are you so annoying?’
Rio became furious at Super N and tried to punch her. Super N quickly ran behind Uncle Loka and hid with a scared look.
‘Rio, put your fists down!’ Loka shouted. How many times have I told you to control your temper?’
Rio reluctantly put down his hands and gave an apology to Super N. An b then asked why the two were living in such an old shack.
‘I found this hut the same day that I met Rio. In order to take care of the boy, I was only able to work a part time job; at all other times, I had to take care of him since he was just a toddler. To save enough money for food, we hike up to the mountains to pick up fruit for the week. We also try to find some old furniture from the local garbage dump.’
Rio could not hide his shame as Loka said those words. Loka sighed.
‘Rio is always ashamed of our circumstances. That’s why he’s always using my ancestor skin to pretend to be a strong, scary rhino at school. It’s not something I want him to do, but I can’t stop him when I’m at my job.’
Loka sighed again.
Super N then spoke up.
‘Rio, don’t be stupid. You don’t look strong when you’re wearing that thing at school! You just
look silly and annoying! Haven’t you realized yet?’
Rio couldn’t bring up any words in protest. Loka then turned to Rio and spoke with a gentle voice.
‘See, I told you. Looking tough doesn’t mean you are actually strong. Being strong means accepting who we are. I know you are too young to understand. But please just trust me and think of me as your guardian. Be yourself and enjoy your childhood. I didn’t have
I didn’t have one but I wish that you will have a fulfilling and unforgettable childhood.’
‘Yeah, just take that stupid skin off. Oh, sorry Uncle Loka! I didn’t mean to be so mean!’
An b turned to Loka and apologized.
‘It’s fine. There’s no need to apologize for your honesty.’
Kara walked up to Rio. He tried to get his attention but Rio was unresponsive.
’Rio, please take it off. My Dad is also an orphan. You can come to our house and as him how he grew up as an orphan. Would you like to come as well, uncle Loka?’
Both Rio’s and Loka’s eyes brightened up and started to fill with joyful tears. Never in their lives were they ever invited to a stranger’s home. Rio was too shocked to answer, so Loka replied:
‘It will be our pleasure. We look forward to visiting your parents!’
‘Would this Saturday be any good?’
Rio, now armed with courage, quickly said yes.
Thus, a new friendship blossoms between two families.