I got a lot of presents yesterday! Auntie Ilya gave me a necklace. Uncle Claw gave me a dagger. My mommy gave me a spirit seed. My other mommy gave me a stuffed animal. My grandpa gave me a chessboard. My grandma gave me an alchemy set. Mrs. Feathers gave me a feather. Big Sis Mirta gave me a pet plant. A lot of old adults gave me money—which my mommy took for safekeeping. I also got a lot of pills and plants and drinks to help me with cultivation. I also got a bracelet from Ri! It’s my favorite.
Ri slept over yesterday. Right now, we’re on our way to school! Ri never flew in a flying boat before. She thinks it’s really fun to stick her head out of the window. It is really fun because of the wind, but her hair keeps flying in my face! My mommy says it’s dangerous to stick our heads out like this, but Auntie Ilya gave us protective necklaces. We can’t get hurt. Sometimes, I think my mommy doesn’t like Auntie Ilya. She always has an angry look when I say Auntie Ilya’s name.
It’s a little hard to hear Ri over the wind, but luckily, my hearing is really good. My mommy says it’s because I have big ears. “What is it?”
“Do you have any goals?” Ri was staring at the ground. It’s very far away. I love the view from up here. Everything looks so small, and the people look like ants. It feels like I can pick them up and squish them with my fingers. But I don’t understand.
“What do you mean by goals? Like playing a game?” I know when you kick the ball into the goal, you score a point. It’s not a very fun game. I can’t win against anyone except for Big Sis Mirta, and that’s only when she has no legs—which happens a lot.
“No.” Ri shook her head and went back inside the boat. She sat down on the big couch, and I sat next to her. “I want to find my parents. Why did they leave me at the orphanage? I’m going to study hard, make lots of money, and find my parents. That’s my goal. What do you want to do?”
A goal is something you want to do? “Um, I don’t know. I don’t have any goals. If I had to pick, then it’d be to have lots of fun every single day!”
Ri laughed and hugged my tail. I like it when she does that. Everyone in my class looked at my tail like it was weird. Ri was the only one who said it looked nice. That’s why she’s my friend, and that’s why I don’t like everyone else. “You’re very lucky.” Ri pouted. “I wish I had parents like yours. They were so nice, and everyone came for your birthday. If you weren’t my friend, I would’ve spent my birthday alone in the orphanage.”
“What’s it like in the orphanage?”
“There’s a lot of rules, and if you don’t follow the rules, the adults punish you,” Ri said. “It’s a lot like school, but school is more fun. In the orphanage, we aren’t allowed to have fun. If we make too much noise, the older kids hit us. They’re all cultivating. Sometimes, they try the techniques they learn on us. It always hurts when they do that.” Ri clenched my tail’s fur. “Now that I’m six, I’m one of the older kids too. Everyone who hit me before, I’m going to hit them back!”
There’s a lot of rules at the orphanage? That doesn’t sound very fun. There are some rules at home, but they’re not like the ones at school. “Why don’t you come live with me? My house has plenty of empty rooms. If I ask Auntie Ilya to ask my mommy, she’ll say yes. Auntie Ilya never says no to me if I bother her enough. She says she’s going to spoil the heck out of me to make life harder for my mommies. I don’t know what she means by that, but I like it.”
“Come live with you?” Ri asked. “Like your parents will adopt me?”
“Sometimes, adults come into the orphanage and take kids away. They never come back. The adults say they’re the lucky kids who get a new family.” Ri sighed. “Some days, we line up and let the adults look at us. They’re always interested in me, but then the adults from the orphanage say something, and then they look at me like I’m a monster. There’s something wrong with me. Your parents won’t adopt me either.”
“You don’t know that! I’ll go ask my mommy right now.”
“No! Don’t!” Ri pulled on my tail when I got up, and I almost fell over. She looked really scared. “Your family is really, really powerful. You’re like a princess, and I’m an unwanted child. I can’t be your sister, but … maybe I can be your maid?”
A maid? I remember Mommy saying something about getting me a maid. “What’s a maid?”
“It’s someone who helps you get dressed and does your hair for you,” Ri said. “Do you already have one?”
“No. My mommy does that for me.” Does my mommy have a maid? She always does her hair and clothes by herself. It’s really fun to watch. The clothes and hair move by themselves. Mommy says it’s done through qi, and one day, I can do that too, but she has to help me for now since I can’t. “Should I ask my mommy if you can become my maid?”
“I don’t know,” Ri said and hung her head. She buried her face in my tail. “Will we still be friends? I’m an orphan, and you’re a princess, but we’re still classmates. In school, I’m still your equal, but if I become your maid, will it still be that way?”
Ri is so confusing sometimes. How come she knows so much more about the world than me? This is making my head hurt.Previous Chapter Next Chapter