One of my teachers once told me having a master was like having another parent. When I heard that, I vowed to do my best to avoid becoming someone’s disciple for as long as possible. After all, my mom forces me to study for half the day, and my father forces me to study the other half. If I had a third parent telling me what to do, I wouldn’t have enough time to study for three halves of a day every day no matter how much bathroom and sleeping time I gave up. Now that I’m seeing the ruler being a master to Senior Fluffytail, I realize my teacher was referring to normal parents—ones that cared for them—not the ones like mine.
“Great, great,” the ruler said. From my spot at the mast, I could only see the ruler because Senior Fluffytail had set up a curtain to block herself from view. The ruler was nodding while her tail sorted through a pile of clothes behind herself piled on the floor. Her tail flicked upwards, and an article of clothing dropped into her waiting hand. “Try putting this on too.”
Senior Fluffytail’s bare arm stretched out of the curtain and grabbed the article from the ruler. There was a rustling sound as Senior Fluffytail drew her arm back. “Ah? Isn’t this a bit too … flashy? I’ll look like a flaccid phoenix.”
“You’ll look much better than any peacock ever could,” the ruler said.
I wasn’t aware peacocks could be referred to as flaccid phoenixes. Some things, you can’t learn from books. I’m pretty sure it’s a derogatory term though, so I’ll be sure to avoid saying it unless I’m trying to provoke a bird’s ire. Considering my tendency to avoid doing stupid things, I’m pretty sure I’ll never say it.
“Don’t you think I’ll attract too much attention by wearing this?” The curtain rustled, and something thumped against the ground. I’m assuming it was Senior Fluffytail’s tail. “Back when I was still an empress scrounging up a living by collecting what taxes I could, the people I specifically targeted dressed like how I’m dressing now. If I go into the ancient ruin with this outfit, it’ll be like I’m wearing a giant, flashing target on my back.”
“With me around, why are you worried about being targeted by a few robbers?” the ruler asked. “Just pretend we’re birding together.”
“Birding together?” Senior Fluffytail asked. “Oh! Are we working together to catch the robbers who’ll be coming after me?”
“That’s right,” the ruler said. “I’ll be the birder. You’ll be the bait. Like this, we’ll be making the best use of each individual’s abilities.”
“Ah? I’m the bait? Shouldn’t Slayer Junior be the bait? He’s even weaker than me; everyone will know he’s an easy target.”
…Is this the true reason why I was brought along on this trip? The ruler might’ve given me a reason like helping me cure my acrophobia, but she and I know that’s complete nonsense. Then again, if the ruler was like every other squirrel, then perhaps that really was the reason, but how could the ruler possibly behave like any other squirrel? She’s the ruler, the one who keeps everyone from behaving how they want to. However, the more I see of the ruler, the more I’m doubting her ability to lead a nation of squirrels. I’m sure once I see her demolish something in one hit, I’ll have a renewed appreciation for her ability, but for now, I’m unimpressed.
“That could work,” the ruler said. “We’ll see what happens inside, but if you do end up as bait somehow, don’t be too surprised.”
“Since you’re making wear this, I won’t be surprised at all,” Senior Fluffytail said. The curtain flung back, revealing a blinding red and golden light that caused me to squint my eyes. Senior Fluffytail had on a long red robe with golden dragons and phoenixes embroidered on it. A golden sash was wrapped around her waist, holding her sword in place. On top of her head, there was a hat with three rainbow feathers jutting out of it, pointing towards the sky at an angle. Compared to the few garments I’d seen humans wearing, Senior Fluffytail’s outfit was much more impressive like comparing a turd to a meat pie.
“You look great,” the ruler said and beamed before reaching out to pet Senior Fluffytail’s head. “You’re practically the spitting image of an arrogant young missus.”
Senior Fluffytail blinked. “Which part of me looks arrogant?” she asked and placed her hands on her hips. Her head whipped around to glare at me. “Do you think I look like a heroic warrior who just returned from battle, or do you think I look like an arrogant young missus?”
This question is a trap. If I answer it, one side will be displeased, and both sides will exploit my acrophobia to vent their displeasure. The only way to avoid an unpleasant end for myself is to use my ultimate technique honed through many dinnertime fights between my mom and dad: its name, Distraction. “Hey, it looks like those boats over there are doing something. Should we check it out? What if we miss out on something important?”
“Mm?” Senior Fluffytail’s image blurred and slowly faded away, evidently an afterimage caused by how quickly she had moved towards the edge of the boat. “Hey, Teacher, something’s happening!”
The ruler stared at me for a bit. My ultimate technique might’ve worked on Senior Fluffytail, but the ruler was too sharp to fall for it. Luckily, it seems like my distraction wasn’t just a ploy to take their attentions off of me. The boats were actually mobilizing, and a ceremony really did seem to be taking place. If I had to make an assumption, the humans or demons must’ve sealed the ancient ruin when it first reappeared, and now they’re opening it because they feel like the conditions are right for them to achieve a victory.
The ruler looked away from me and cleared her throat extra loud in Senior Fluffytail’s direction. “Since they’re starting, it’s about time we get started as well.”
Senior Fluffytail blinked. “Ah? Started with what?”
“Why, to make our appearance, of course.”Previous Chapter Next Chapter