TGL Volume 5, Chapter 1 (4)

Did I say something wrong? Why is Senior Fluffytail looking at me like that? “Did you want to eat someone else?” I looked around. Oh, maybe the person standing next to us was the one that she ordered for us to eat. This is my first time in a restaurant, so it’s understandable I don’t know the etiquette. “It’s him? Do we eat him alive, or do we have to kill him first?” Personally, I don’t like eating things when they’re alive. My mom told me they’ll break out of my cheeks or out of my stomach if I don’t chew them properly. Why even bother taking that risk in the first place? It isn’t like running away from home where there are things to be gained by risking yourself. 

“We don’t eat people.” 

We don’t eat people? “In the restaurant, you mean?” 

“No, in general.” 

Huh. That’s strange. “So, we have to wait for a special occasion to eat them then?” 

“No, no, no,” Senior Fluffytail said and shook her head. “We don’t people. Period.” 

I thought my parents were strict, but could it be my parents weren’t special? Maybe all elderly squirrels are strict…. If that’s the case, why did I even bother running away? I got it. I’ll just ditch her. “Well, thank you for helping me get away from those immortals, Senior Fluffytail. I appreciate it. If you go to my parents and tell them what happened, I’m sure they’ll pay you back for those stones you used to get me out.” 

“Hold it right there!” 

My tail! Doesn’t she know it’s an act of aggression to grab a squirrel’s tail!? Does she want to fight? If she does…! I’ll quietly surrender. I might be able to fight a regular human immortal if he’s alone, but there’s no way I can win against an immortal squirrel. There’s no shame in submitting to the circumstances. “Was there, erm, something else, Senior Fluffytail?” 

“I don’t even know where your parents live or what they look like, and you want me to go collect a debt from them? How am I supposed to do that if I don’t Soul Scour you first?” 

Wait, Soul Scour? I’m pretty sure the man said something about Soul Scouring earlier. Isn’t that a cruel technique used by human cultivators to pry through one’s mind? Squirrels aren’t supposed to be good at soul arts. Why does she know something like that? However, that’s not the important thing! She wants to use Soul Scour on me! “You, you can’t do that. Squirrels aren’t allowed to harm other squirrels. If anyone finds out, you’ll be ostracized by everyone in the seven mountain ranges.” 

Senior Fluffytail’s eyebrows furrowed. It seemed like the threat of social shame worked! “That’s the weirdest punishment I’ve ever heard of,” Senior Fluffytail mumbled. She looked at the man next to her. “Durandal, will you still love me if a bunch of squirrels turn me into an ostrich?” Her forehead crinkled even further. “How would they do that anyway? Maybe they’ll rip my tail off and stick feathers into the stump left behind.” She shivered and shook her head before looking at me with a wary expression. 

By any chance, is Senior Fluffytail a little … slow in the head? My mom warned me to keep my wits about me because other animals assumed squirrels were easy to trick—that assumption has to come with a reason, right? “Ostracize doesn’t mean turn into an ostrich…. It means you’ll be shunned by everyone else.” 

“Oh. I knew that, obviously. I was just asking Durandal a question completely unrelated to what you were saying,” Senior Fluffytail said without batting an eye. She nodded at me. “Anyway, you can’t go. I only bailed you out because I wanted to keep you around to help me get used to the immortal realm. If you try to leave, I’ll return you and ask those immortals for a refund.” 

“I’m pretty sure they won’t refund you….” They won’t, right? It’s not like I’m wanted or committed a crime. I might not know too much about human society, but I’m sure they can’t sell people like that to the authorities. 

“Then…, I guess I’ll just have to restrain you?” 

Senior Fluffytail took an ungodly amount of rope out of her interspacial ring. Why does she have so much rope, and why do the symbols engraved on the surface cause me so much trepidation? Staring at the pile feels like I’m staring into an abyss that’s sucking in my soul, preventing my attention from leaving. “T-there’s no need for that. I’ll stay by your side and help you acclimate to the immortal realm.” Though, in reality, it’ll be like the blind leading the blind. This is my first time exploring the world outside of my mountain range. I can’t let her find out. I’m sure terrible things will happen to me if she discovers I’m of no use. I’m pretty sure she’s one of the bad people my mom warned me about. 

“First things first,” Senior Fluffytail said and slapped her hand on the pile of rope. It vanished into her interspacial ring. “Stop using big words like ostrify and climatize. Second things second. Stop calling me senior! I’m not old! Which part of me looks old!?” 

If I don’t call her Senior Fluffytail, what am I supposed to call her? “Aren’t you an immortal? I address all the immortals in the tribe as senior.” 

“I might be an immortal, but I’m barely thirty years old! Actually, no, I’m not quite there yet. I’m in my late-twenties forever!” 

Huh? “But isn’t almost thirty still old? That’s almost three times my age.” 

“Wait. What?” Senior Fluffytail blinked at me. “How old are you?” 

“I turned ten not too long ago.” 

Senior Fluffytail’s brow furrowed. “Are all ten-year-old squirrels the same as you?” 

“All squirrels look different. We’re like snowflakes, each one unique in appearance. Some squirrels can’t be differentiated from others by their actions though, so maybe their thought processes are the same, but I’m sure no other squirrel thinks the same way I do. I’m the only one who’s managed to run away from home.” 

Senior Fluffytail turned her head towards the man sitting beside her. “You know,” she said, “I’m not too sure about my idea anymore. Should I erase his memories and run?”

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