Scarred

You've been through a lot of pain in the dirt/And I know you got the scars to prove it.

"Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through"- Meatloaf

"Remind me again why you thought this was a good idea."

Centipede winced slightly. Everyone he'd spoke to about the project had nothing but praise and suggestions, but Rin could utter a single word and make him feel like an idiot.

Two days ago, there had been a horrible windstorm that had done quite a bit of damage to Central Park; branches were scattered everywhere, playground equipment was tipped over, and some small trees had been ripped out of the ground. Rather than have every public worker spend the entire day in the Park (and thus ignore other maintenance problems), Centipede had proposed that any citizen of New York could help clean up the park. Most were at work now, picking up branches and raking leaves while leaving a small group of professionals to clear up trees and other such hazards. To Centipede and many others, the entire operation was working out perfectly. Rin, who had arrived shortly before the windstorm (and who had predicted it), was more skeptical.

Now, she pointed a clawed finger at a group of college boys, who were tossing branches into bags while some girls stood by.

"3,2,1," the half-demon intoned. Right on cue, a rather large branch came down on the head of the grinning young man who had tossed it into the air in an attempt to impress one of the girls.

Centipede couldn't help himself chuckling. "Yeah, well, a knock on the head just means he gets sympathy."

"More like pity," Rin replied with a scowl, folding her arms and making her wings rustle.

"Perhaps you could give some insight, Rin," Mr. Grasshopper said, as he and Mrs. Ladybug walked over to join their two family members. "You and the other half-demons must have to undertake projects like this on a daily basis."

"We do, but we listen to each other."

The three bugs exchanged glances; despite her visits to New York, Rin still remained convinced that she was undervalued and even hated by humans.

A breeze, remnant of the storm, sprang up, stirring leaves and pulling at the coats of the workers. It also lifted the left corner of Rin's belted shirt, slit down the sides to allow for her wings. As it did, Centipede's blue eyes locked onto something he'd never seen: a large scar on Rin's back.

"Rin, what happened to ya?" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mrs. Ladybug move forward and guessed she'd the mark too. Rin's clawed hand shifted to her back, lightly brushing her shirt down over her shoulder.

"I've had that since I was younger than James," the half-demon replied. "And if I told you how I got it, you'd be depressed for a month."

"Still, I should-" Mrs. Ladybug reached for Rin's shoulder, but the half-demon jerked away.

"Forget it," she said with a hint of a growl. "I did."

'No ya didn't,' Centipede thought.
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By mid-afternoon, most of the intense work was done. Already, a few local restaurants were delivering large quantities of food to the hard-working citizens and a festive atmosphere was already descending upon the park.

"Rin, can you get that one?" The half-demon, who had drifted over to her brother and his friends, glanced at the heavy branch and easily hefted it in one hand.

"Thanks, Rin. That one was too heavy." Rin grinned at her brother as she snapped the branch into smaller pieces.

"Sure thing, James. Glad I could help."

"You're gonna stay, right?" another little boy named Jerry asked her. "I think there's gonna be a party."

"Maybe I'll-"

A loud scream interrupted Rin and she whipped her head around to see what was occurring. Two workers had been clipping bent branches from a tall oak tree and one harness had snapped. Now, one of the men was tumbling to the hard earth with nothing to stop his sudden plunge.

Without a second thought, Rin launched herself forward, spreading her powerful wings. She flew directly underneath the man, feeling him land on her back with a thud. This did not deter the powerful half-breed and she fluttered to the ground, allowing the shaking man to slip to his feet. Already a crowd was gathering, the insects among them.

"Alright?" she asked the man, who was eying her now.

"Uh, yeah. Um, thanks."

"Don't mention it." Rin noted the grateful looks on her family's faces and was about to head back over to them when a teasing call from among the crowd stopped her.

"Hey, nice catch. You do that often?" Rin glared at the speaker, the young man who'd been hit by the branch earlier.

"Clearly more often than you do," she replied. The man's face flushed as a few of the girl's giggled.

"Oh yeah? Catch this!" Before anyone could stop him, he had picked up a tiny rock and thrown it at the half-demon's back.

Rin's demonic reflexes allowed her ample time to spin around and catch the projectile, but when she saw what it was, she stiffened and her eyes went from gold to blood red in a flash of fury. A snarl ripped from her mouth as she took a step toward the offender, claws and fangs bared. The man's eyes widened and he gave a cry of fear, stumbling away from the raging half-demon.

"Rin?" Due to the surrounding crowd, James and his friends were unable to see what was going on, but James had recognized his sister's roar and called out to her. In the end, it was probably James who prevented any damage; at the sound of her brother's voice, Rin's eyes went back to gold and seemed to regain control of herself. But before another word could be uttered, the half-demon had shot straight up into the sky and was lost in the sky within seconds.

"What was that about?" Earthworm asked as the crowd dispersed to find family members and speculate on the same question.

"I don't know," Mr. Grasshopper replied to his friend. "But I believe that we should allow Rin time to calm down. She was clearly distressed."

"If that was Rin distressed, good thing she didn't get real mad," Centipede muttered. But whatever had set Rin off, it had to do with a rock.
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Harsh words. Angry words. A rock, a heavy rock. Blood. Blood and pain. Pain on her back and pain in her heart.

Rin shut her eyes, but the memories wouldn't stop.

Go away, Rin! I don't want you here!

No, you can't! You can't fly, you liar!

You think you're so great! Well, take this!

Secluded in same group of trees she'd hidden in when she's first come to the city, Rin knelt on the grass, bowed her head and allowed herself to cry.
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Night fell and Rin did not return. All through the improvised potluck, James kept scanning the skies for his sister, even softly calling to her. Rin, who could usually hear her brother from several miles away, did not appear.

At first, James thought that Rin just wanted to avoid the huge crowd in the park. But when she didn't return to the Peach Pit House, he knew she was still upset from before.

"Where did she go?" he asked Miss Spider at bedtime. "She didn't leave, did she?

"Of course not," Miss Spider assured him, wrapping her arms around him. "She'll be back. Rin just needs some time to herself, that is all."

James rested his head against Miss Spider's shoulder, wanting to stay awake until his sister came home. But the tiring day had taken its toll on the little boy and his last thought before sleep claimed him was the hope that Rin was alright.
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"She's not going to stay out all night, is she?" Mrs. Ladybug asked, peering out the window. The wind was nowhere near as strong as it had been during the storm, but the temperature had dropped significantly, as if winter had decided to come back for a little while longer.

"I certainly hope not. Although if that's what she decides to do, we have little hope of persuading her to return."

Mr. Grasshopper 's words were met with brief nods from the rest of the family. Rin was not one to be confined and she was fond of flying at night. More often than not, she forsook her room in the house completely and slept outside in a tree, appearing at the house just as the family finished breakfast.

"Still, after what happened today…"

'What if she goes after that young man? The one who threw the rock at her?" Earthworm asked from his curled up position on the couch.

"I seriously doubt she'd do such a thing at this time," Mr. Grasshopper replied. "She was furious, yes, but held herself back. I think the reason she disappeared so suddenly was that she wanted to avoid harming that foolish young man."

"Yeah, well, I wouldn't blame her if she did go after that idiot," Centipede announced.

"You'd be the only one."

Silent as a wraith, Rin entered the room, her wings half-folded and her eyes hard.

"Rin, are you alright? Where have you-"

"Away," the half-demon said shortly, stopping Mrs. Ladybug's words. "Away from the humans."

"But are you alright?" Miss Spider asked.

"What do you think?"

"We know you're not," Mr. Grasshopper replied, standing up from his chair. Rin's hand reached over her shoulder, fingers brushing the cloth that covered her scar.

"You asked me how I got this scar. Well, I'll tell you. I got it the day I learned how do fly when I was only five years old."

"Did you fall?" Mrs. Ladybug asked. There was no shame in that; indeed the fact that Rin had taught herself to fly was amazing.

"No, I did not fall." The half-demon paused, then continued speaking.

"One of my neighbors, a girl named Angie, was turning six that same day and she was having her party in a nearby park. I didn't know about it, until my next-door neighbor asked my mother if we wanted to walk together." Rin gave a humorless chuckle. "That's how I learned that I wasn't invited.

"So, while the other kids went off to the party, I stayed in my backyard and started testing my wings. And to my surprise, they worked. I could fly."

"You flew on your first try?" Mr. Grasshopper asked, sounding impressed.

"Yes, I did." Rin smiled slightly. "My mother was just as proud as I was. She told me I was just as skilled as my father when it came to flying and how happy he would have been to see me like that." Rin's ears drooped a bit and she looked away.

"I suppose I shouldn't have flown to the park. I was technically going somewhere I hadn't been invited, but I was so proud that I wanted share my flying with other people. Other… other kids. I thought that maybe, if they saw me fly, they'd, I don't know, let me join in, or something."

"You wished to be accepted by them, yes?" Miss Spider asked.

"Well, yes. I guess I did." Rin sounded a little surprised at herself, as if wanting such a thing was odd.

"When I got to the park, I stayed on the ground because I wanted to surprise the other kids. It didn't take me very long to find them; they were playing follow the leader and Angie, the birthday girl, ended up leading them straight to me."

Rin paused, remembering the look of surprise on the other children's faces and the way Angie's pug nose had wrinkled at her.

"What are you doing here?" the birthday girl had asked. "I didn't invite you." Angie had been garbed in a frilly white dress with pink ruffles and her white party shows had pink bows. Her golden curls were topped with a silver tiara and she looked very much like a princess. Behind her, the other little girls had also been also dressed in party clothes and Rin had felt a little out of place next to them.

"Angie wasn't pleased to see me," the half-demon said. "She wasn't exactly the nicest person to be around, even to the people who considered themselves her friends, so you can imagine where that left me."

"She sounds charming," Miss Spider commented dryly.

"Normally I couldn't stand her and I know I wasn't the only one. But, to be fair, it was her birthday."

"So, what did you do?" Earthworm asked.

"What do you think I did? I wished her a happy birthday." Rin scowled, as if being polite as a child was painful to recall as a young adult.

"That was very courteous of you," Mrs. Ladybug said gently, hoping to calm the half-demon, but the golden eyes still blazed with fury and hurt.

"As if she cared. Angie made it very clear that I wasn't wanted." Indeed, the newly-turned six-year-old was already spouting some colorful phrases, such as "ugly half-breed" and "filthy bat." But on that day, nothing had been able to deter Rin's mood.

"Angie, guess what? I can fly! I flew here!" Rin had exclaimed.

"No you didn't!"

"I did! I flew!"

"You can't fly, you liar!"

"I'll prove it!" Rin had said, pointing to a grassy knoll. "I'll jump from there and fly. You'll see!"

"Go ahead! We're waiting!" Angie had folded her arms and smirked, assured of the young half-demon's failure.

"Angie didn't believe me when I told her about how I could fly. She challenged me to prove it, but I knew she was hoping I'd fall."

"But ya didn't, right?" Centipede asked eagerly. "Ya flew and showed that little brat, right, Rin?" Rin closed her eyes.

She had indeed taken to the air, soaring in circles about a foot above the small group of girls. She had seen the looks of awe and wanting on their faces as they beheld a power they could never have. And she had seen Angie's expression change from to smug to shocked to furious.

"I take it this Angie wasn't happy to proven wrong, was she?" Mr. Grasshopper asked Rin.

"Angie wanted me to fall," Rin replied. She reached behind her and touched her scar again. "So she picked up a rock, threw it at me and, well, she got her wish."

There was a stunned silence, during which Rin added,

"I think it was because I was still so young that the wound didn't heal as well as it should have. But by the time I got home, it was already scabbing over, so the most my mother could do was clean the blood from my back."

Rin glanced up at her surrounding family, who looked shocked beyond belief. She shrugged, her wings brushing the soft rug.

"Are you really that surprised? I told you the first night we met that half-demons aren't well received among humans."

"You were just a kid," Centipede said.

"Your point? I was-am- a half-breed. That means nothing."

"You're right, Rin. It means nothing." Mr. Grasshopper approached her and laid a hand on the half-demon's shoulder. "Your being a half-demon means nothing. You're still a person and don't deserve cruelty."

"It doesn't matter anymore," Rin said, turning her face away.

"Yeah it does," Centipede argued. "Ya said you forgot about how ya got yer scar, but ya really didn't. I know ya didn't."

"He's right, dear," Mrs. Ladybug agreed. "You don't have to keep whatever's hurting you to yourself anymore."

Rin glanced back at the surrounding insects. All of them were gazing at her with the same kindness and love that they gave to her brother, the same kindness and love that Rin hadn't felt outside of Hyoki Island since she was eleven.

"Thank you," Rin said, her words heavy with gratitude. The scar on her back remained, but the one on her heart, reopened today, was beginning to heal.
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"James." The soft whisper was all it took to rouse the small boy from sleep. Blinking in the darkness, James could make out the lithe form of his sister standing by the window.

"Rin," he murmured, delighted that she had come back. The half-demon approached his bed and laid a hand on his. James curled his fingers around Rin's, feeling her do the same.

"Are you okay?"

"Yes. I'm alright now."

"You're not leaving?"

"No, not yet. I'll be here in the morning." James smiled.

"Good. I was scared that you were going to leave. You sounded really upset."

"I was. And, in a way, I still am. But, I'm not as hurt as I was."

"That's good," James said as his brown eyes fell shut again.

"Yes," Rin whispered as she watched her brother fall asleep. "It is good, not to have to hurt anymore."