Wild

“Wait!” shouted Grace as I jumped off the pier into the water headfirst. Moments later I felt something tugging at my ankle – were there snapping turtles in the lake? I started panicking, then suddenly found myself upside down with my long black hair almost touching the surface of the water as it dripped a bucket’s worth of itself back into itself. I reached backwards with my hands and magically levitated back onto the wet wooden planks of the deck. Mother and Father’s hands released my ankles; they had each grabbed hold of one leg to hoist me up out of the water.

Grace looked mortified, as she normally did in unfamiliar situations. I wore what she called a poker face – I never reacted to the unknown or frightening with a visible facial expression. I don’t know why. It’s just not something I’ve ever done.

“How many times have I told you to check with me before you go swimming, Liling?” Father was doing his best to look stern. He secretly coddled me and bought me the sweets and toys mother wouldn’t. He then, of course, carried the burden of having to hide them whenever she was around. I would know when she had found one of them – in one case, an expensive tablet – by the sound of my father’s name in an abruptly loud voice rumbling from anywhere in the house.

“Several times, father. But I’m afraid it will rain soon so I wanted to go swimming as soon as possible.”

“No, you cannot swim now,” said Mother. She was not pretending to look stern – it came naturally to her, though I’d never dare tell her that. I thought about doing it once and almost felt physically ill. I wondered how other children with parents who came from around here were able to disrespect their parents – like when Chloe brought a puppy home and swore at her mother when she was told she couldn’t keep it – without feeling any sort of remorse?

“Yes, mother.” I didn’t wait for the reason. I didn’t need to. It came on the heels of my words without prompting. “There are snapping turtles in the water. They told us moments ago. They thought they had relocated all of them, but they found their way back here. They are very persistent.” Persistence wouldn’t get me in the water, so the conversation was over.

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Nowadays, I head into the water when I don’t want to. I have more independence than I know what to do with, provided it’s in line with my overall organization objectives: disrupt everything, gather information, steal important things that other people want. I’m like a spy, but without the glamorous lifestyle and ground-to-helicopter briefcase exchanges. Actually, cancel that – I think I did one of those in Romania, come to think of it. My point is: I wouldn’t make a very good actress in a spy movie. I play the role of the wild child and look nothing like whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Now the Iele, on the other hand, a creature who doesn’t speak as far as I know but prefers to convey messages using the songs of the forest, looks, walks, and talks the part. She’s supposed to be a mythical creature, but out here the line between normal and paranormal is pretty much nonexistent. Same goes for swimming: if you want to go for a splash around the pond, you’ll usually find you’re in over your head before you even thought about getting ready to jump in.

Case in point: Ibaraki, the demon leader of the House of Sworn Revenge. He hangs out in the oni camps conveniently located not too far from Susanoo’s Diner. I acquired the necessary sashimoto flags from lesser-ranking demons before I could formally challenge him (they enforce their hierarchical combat system quite strictly to the point of declining to murder me if I don’t meet their requirements). I slapboxed him around pretty good and then chased him into the sewers thinking I’d just go for a run and end it when he ran out of room to maneuver. The next thing I knew I was being laid out by industrial-strength filth concentrations putrid enough to make a skunk vomit. I said in a previous diary entry that I had earned the right to be smacked down. Well, here I am on the floor, where the aforementioned foot has been firmly applied directly to my rear end.

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Knocked down seven times, get up eight. (七転び八起き) Every problem is a nail that sticks out, and I am a hammer. (出る杭は打たれる) I got those from a book of proverbs given to me by Gozen after I expressed interest in learning more about the Japanese language. I’m going to be here a while, so I might as well act like I know what’s going on rather than flailing my arms about wildly.

Not that I’d ever actually do anything like that. It’s just an expression, you know.

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