TGL Volume 5, Chapter 2 (3)

Senior Fluffytail is evil. This boat is so small, but she forced me to perform the Art of Claw and Tail on top of it anyway! I was this close to falling to my death. I don’t care if Senior Fluffytail is an immortal who can catch me before I hit the ground; I’d rather not be in the position of falling to the ground in the first place! Why do we even have to fly so high anyway? The ground doesn’t look like the ground from up here. All the greens and blues and browns look like they belong in a painting instead. I’ve seen a painting before. One of my peers had one hanging in their burrow. They said it was a peerless treasure filled with painting intent that their parents had obtained. 

“Was that it? Why’d you stop?” 

Senior Fluffytail stared at me with a smile on her face. Even her eyes were crinkled up at the corners. She was having way too much fun at my expense! While I’m trembling in fear, hugging this mast for dear life, she’s having a blast laughing at me. “Yes! That’s all. There are twenty-four forms in the Art of Claw and Tail, but I only mastered ten of them.” 

The forms in the Art of Claw and Tail are simple. The movements aren’t hard to follow. The difficulty in learning them comes from having the credentials to do so. The Art of Claw and Tail is the basic martial arts all squirrels learn from a young age. There are multiple ranks, denoted by belts, that a squirrel can achieve, and with every new belt, there comes a new form that teaches new things. To learn the latter forms, one has to increase their belt rank, and that’s really difficult because of all the tests and examinations that have a failure rate of over eighty percent. I’ve never failed a promotion test before. In a few more years, I would’ve mastered all the Art of Claw and Tail’s forms. 

Senior Fluffytail scratched her head. “Alright, well, I think I remember most of it,” she said and nodded. “How about you show me these forms again?” 

“You said that last time!” That’s right. I’ve already done the set of forms three times! As I thought, Senior Fluffytail is just like all the other squirrels in my life. She’s super forgetful and easily distracted. In fact, the majority of squirrels fail the Art of Claw and Tail’s promotion test because they get distracted while doing forms. 

“Just one more time,” Senior Fluffytail said and grabbed my toe. She’s prying my paws off the mast, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Didn’t I run away from home because I was tired of doing things I didn’t want to do? I wanted freedom, but there’s even less freedom with Senior Fluffytail than there is inside the tribe! At least my parents won’t dangle me over the side of a flying boat. Why am I being dangled over the side of a flying boat!? 

“Help! I’m being killed! Someone’s trying to kill me! Help!” 

“Hey, stop shouting! People will think I’m a bad person!” 

“You are a bad person!” She’s evil! Senior Fluffytail is evil incarnate! She lied to me when she said Lucia meant the bestest and cutest squirrelkin girl in the world. Lucia actually means a sadistic and easily distracted devil! “Put me back on the boat!” 

“Sheesh, first you don’t want to get on the boat, and now you’re begging me to come back on,” Senior Fluffytail said and shook her head. “Make up your mind already.” 

She’s doing this on purpose. I can tell. I’m sorry, Mom and Dad; I’ve misjudged you. All this time, I thought you were restricting my freedom, but in reality, you were just trying to protect me from the outside world. It’s scary outside the tribe ground. There are human immortals lurking around every corner, and the people who come to save you are questionable as well. My parents forced me to do things I didn’t want to do because they cared about me. Senior Fluffytail is forcing me to do things I don’t want to do for her own selfish gain. When I get home, I’ll never try to run away again. 

“Well?” 

“I want to be on the boat.” Although the deck of the boat isn’t the same as the ground, it’s still better than nothing at all. “Senior Fluffytail, I thought all immortals were good at memorizing things. They can see things and understand the core at a glance.” 

“Call me senior again, and I’ll throw you off the boat,” Senior Fluffytail said and wrinkled her nose. “About that…, yeah. If all immortals could do the same thing, what about our individuality? Becoming an immortal doesn’t mean losing who we are.” 

So, she knows she’s a forgetful person? She knows she’s not the most mentally adept? 

“Don’t worry so much about your intelligence,” Senior Fluffytail said and nodded. “You can always make up for it in other ways. I might not be as brilliant as Ilya, but I can always use force and violence to make Ilya use her brain to work for me. Ilya might not be the strongest, but she can use her brains to trap stronger people in compromising situations to blackmail and extort them in the future. It’s all about using what you have to make up for what you don’t have.” 

That might be the smartest thing I’ve heard coming out of Senior Fluffytail’s mouth. My parents were right: you can learn something from anyone. Well, it’s understandable Senior Fluffytail has her own wisdom. Not everyone can become an immortal. Even if Senior Fluffytail seems incompetent and easily distracted, that’s only what’s shown on the surface. The path to immortality is paved with blood, sweat, and tears—unless someone has parents who nurtures them in the womb or egg, making them immortals upon birth. For someone who clawed her way to the immortal realm from a lower plane, Senior Fluffytail didn’t get here by purely by luck. There must’ve been a lot of coercion and Soul Scouring involved.

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