You must excuse me. I am a stranger here. Your courtesies and traditions bewilder me, though I find them beautiful and intriguing, like the Japanese written language. I have not yet found my voice, but when I do, that language is one of many I will learn.
There is a cortege of vultures sitting on the roof of this hotel. The management sends a bellboy up each day with a towel, a pillowcase, or something equally ridiculous, which he flaps at them. They flap back, and he comes down with a new gash on his leg. Tomorrow, I predict, he will not go up at all. They will have to find another bellboy. I consider the average length of time it takes for your people to learn a lesson, but perhaps I am being unfair. No lesson is more difficult than death, after all.
In my own country, I am known for my eruditeness. I am known for a great many things, some of which you will come to understand soon enough. In the meantime, it is my hope that you will see this part of me, that you will admire me for intelligence, for knowledge, for characteristics you hold most noble here. It would please me if you did.
And so you do. You call me Scholar. I look forward to the time when I can say that word aloud, roll it around my mouth. I do not look forward to it as much as I do the moment I can say your name. There is every chance that it will sound prettier coming from your lips, but I think you will not mind.
The vultures have a voice, one more glorious than the bells the monks ring each morning and afternoon and night. When I have my own voice, I will add it to the vultures’, and together, we will smash those bells. The iron and clay will lie on the ground like so much rubble. Perhaps this will occur when a young monk is heaving the lines, and the shattered pieces of bell will pierce his fine young muscled chest. Perhaps the dust will choke the little dogs that are everywhere here, clog up the eyes and nose of the women bringing water from the well.
Have I made you cry? I would apologize–oh, fine, I do. But how divine you look! Your tears are a divinity, do you not know this? A god in every droplet. Ah, ah, the pictures. Well. I will not give you anymore pictures of broken bells. There.
Sometimes, your frailty disturbs me. Normally, it would please me. Amuse me, even. But the longer I spend in your presence, my sweet, the more I fall victim to these little storms of conscious. I know what I must do, to make the storms abate. And I want that peace. Don’t you? Don’t you, my little one? For I have heard your pleas, and I have listened. At the times you think I am not listening, I am. That is how I know what you most want, what you are afraid for me to see inside your soft, soft head. Your pictures, and how they touch me. I have shed the first tear of my existence here, in this room, while you sleep and I sort through your head.
You do not love me, little liar. You love the monks, and secretly—for you have told no one but me, and that, inadvertently—you want to be one. You cannot, for it has been explained to you that but for a little cleft in place of a stick, you could have had whatever you wished. Do you not see how this world binds you, and how I offer you freedom? When the bells are broken and the dogs all dead, I shall lift you on my shoulder, show your nakedness to those who denied you, and they shall fall in columns of fire while you expose your sacredness for worship. Of course, it will all be Gomorrah by then. You would not remember. It is as yesterday to me, that paradise. His destruction of it only culminating my delight, a climax of euphoria. I might have wept then, but no. Not until you.
The monks offer knowledge. Well, the monks are damned. You should know this now. The vultures will pick apart their damned bones, and we will toss them in a pot and I will show you real knowledge: how to read the futures, all of them, in the broken bones of broken monks. Is that not true knowledge? An education so fine has never been offered before, not by me. I have sons, thirteen, and not one of them can claim what I offer you now, child.
All you have to do is give me one thing in return. One small thing. Offer me your tongue, my darling, my goddess. It is the only thing you have to give, and in return, I promise a fortune. You will be my own daughter, and the knowledge you want will be yours. Exalted, my sweet. Held above all others. In exchange for something so insignificant to you, but it will give me a voice. A voice which will call down the mountain, the sky, and every bird and everything capable of crawling. A voice to join with the vultures.
What of the monks? What of them? Here is a robe, it is orange, it is yours. Keep it.
They deny you. I offer.
Accept. Accept, girl.
Ah, I feel it. You are hungry. You will be sated.
One small cut, that is all. Wider.
I knew this morning would come.
You taste like honey and I thank you.
And now. I promised.
Take off your dress, daughter. We have work to do.