21.567.Operation Reboot

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 567
“Operation Reboot”

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, San-Kyung was startled alert by a sudden phone call.
“Hiii, San-Kyung! Hope I didn’t wake you up too suddenly!”
“I wasn’t asleep, though if I was tired before I’m not now,” he said. “What are you calling for?”
“Tell me, San-Kyung, if I said I had something to talk with you about, where would you say we should talk about it at? At your house? At mine? Ooh, maybe at Hledshess!?”
“Why can’t we talk about it over the phone? I have nothing better to do.”
“Because I feel like seeing you. After yesterday I have to admit, it can be pretty lonely when you’re home alone and both your parents work. You’re lucky, having a stay-at-home mom.”
“You might not consider it so lucky with some of the things she says. …do I have to pick?”
“You know, if you’re feeling lazy you could just ask me to come over there. With jumps like mine it’s not that long a trip.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Fine, come over here, then. I’ll see you soon, I guess.”
“I’ll have to get ready first, but you’ll definitely see me within the hour! Until then, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina hung up. ‘He sounded pretty excited. I wonder what’s going on.’
Even though he was curious about what had Dosa-Mina so riled up, at the same time he felt uneasy. He knew Dosa-Mina could be cheerful, but after the strange way he had been acting and incidents such as his cutting or Airy-Aekok, Dosa-Mina’s hyper-cheerful attitude sent off warning signals for San-Kyung.
‘He acted like that before when he had problems. I wonder if something’s wrong.’
“San-Kyung, dear? Are you feeling thirsty? I poured you a glass of water, if you’d like.”
San-Kyung pushed the thought aside and head to the dining room. “I can pour my own glasses of water, you know.”
“I know, I just thought it would get your attention.”
“Hm.” San-Kyung took a sip.
“Were you talking to Dosa-Mina?”
“How could you tell?”
“It’s always obvious when you are, San-Kyung. You seem to, ah, raise your voice a little while talking over the phone.”
“…I was getting to that, anyway.”
“What is it?”
“Dosa-Mina said he’s going to come over.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Though I really wish he’d ask for my permission sometimes instead of yours.”
“He’s not good, Mom.”
“Yes, but he isn’t evil, either. Oh well, I guess I’ll never understand neutrals.”

Dosa-Mina arrived in the midst of a mundane conversation between San-Kyung and Del-Kyuus, bringing with him a large bag.
“What did you bring, Dosa-Mina?” Del-Kyuus asked.
“Oh, nothing really. Just some stuff that’s relevant to what I came over for. But that’s all stuff that only San-Kyung would care about!”
“It isn’t nefarious, is it?”
“Mrs. Molshei, when it comes to nefarious you should be looking closer at your own son rather than his best friend,” he said coyly. “Now, if there’s nothing else for you to do, come along, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina led the way to San-Kyung’s bedroom. “I know where my bedroom is, by the way.”
“I’m aware, but I intend on taking the lead in this little venture.”
“What are you planning?”
“You’ll see.” Dosa-Mina glanced around San-Kyung’s room. “Geez, you know, when it’s been a bit since you’ve been in someone’s room, it can give you a really different perspective of them.”
“What’s that supposed to mean!?”
“Your room looks like an emo’s room, that’s what it means. Seriously, how come your walls aren’t painted red? Isn’t that your favorite color?”
“It is. But this was cheaper. That’s what my parents said, anyway.”
“Oh, so it’s their fault.” Dosa-Mina put the bag on his bed. “Ah, that feels a lot better!”
“So?”
“Well, I’m gonna get to it, but you have to promise me you’re not going to start acting weird because of anything I say.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “If you’re getting the wrong idea, stop it. It’s because this little thing deals with your true form. That’s why I said this.”
San-Kyung relaxed. “Bringing that up again, aren’t you…”
“This time it’s a lot more positive than before. Instead of getting upset about what the paper said, I decided to take some action. You see, the paper may have rendered the certain methods we were looking at as ineffective, but when I put some thought and study into it, I realized that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible for you to have another way to transform.”
“I doubt it’s possible.”
“Don’t doubt now! I know when something’s not possible, San-Kyung. You know what’s not possible? A non-avian spontaneously sprouting wings and flying. This one is debatable. Perhaps there’s something we missed. We were pretty focused on La-Iin being the trigger, after all. But now we need to look at things differently and closely, and by the way San-Kyung, if you could be in your true form all the time but you wouldn’t get the power boost, how would you feel about that?”
“Huh?”
“If you could transform physically but you were still, y’know, weak in November.”
San-Kyung’s expression became blank. “Because that could be a possibility.”
“It’s better than what I have now,” he said. “Is that possible?”
“Well, I was looking into it as a possibility. You see, I haven’t done much research on Witches and Warlocks because there’s just so much stuff on them it’s annoying to sift through it all! But I realized it could be a possibility. And if I find out that it’s possible, I’ll tell you how to do it right away.”
“As much as I’d love the power, if I could at least look like myself…”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “I understand how you feel. Sort of. But I thought this project should be started because it isn’t hopeless yet. We just got side-tracked because all our hard work was for nothing. But just because that was a waste doesn’t make it impossible. And we’ve had our time to get our frustration out. Now it’s time to get back to work, and this project, I dub it ‘Operation Reboot’!”
“Did you have to give it a ridiculous name like that?”
“I figured it might lighten the mood if I did.”
“Well, you might just be wasting your time with ‘Operation Reboot’ as well,” San-Kyung said. “Just as you’re saying that it might be possible we overlooked something with our one-track search it could be possible there’s nothing to find and that this will only waste more of our time.”
“San-Kyung…”
“But, if you’re right and there’s a chance that another method is possible, then I don’t mind going along with whatever ridiculous scheme you dream up. It’s been hard for me lately to get motivated…the idea of having to go through November while I follow through with my goal always seemed like a major disadvantage. But I don’t want to be like that. And maybe it won’t be easy, but I’ll take a chance if it’s there.”
“There’s the San-Kyung I know and love,” Dosa-Mina said. “Where have you been hiding all this year?”
“All this year?”
“The whole, er, cutting thing at the beginning of the year kinda soured your mood too.”
“Yeah, well, I know I need to try and do better than I have been. So…I guess that makes ‘Operation Reboot’ a go. It’s weird, considering the original plan you didn’t want anything to do with at first.”
“People can change, and people can be pushed to do some pretty out-of-character things for the people they care about. But I’m glad, San-Kyung. So I’ll keep looking! I haven’t been doing as much species study as I had been in the past too. Both of us have been pretty off. So this is our chance to get back to where we were before!”
“Yeah!”
“So let’s do this!”
San-Kyung clenched a fist. “Operation Reboot is a go! We start immediately!”
“Immediately? I didn’t bring any books!”
“That doesn’t matter! The project’s started now and there’s no going back.”
Dosa-Mina opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the door opening.
“Mom?”
“Sorry, I heard you two yelling and I wanted to make sure everything was alright,” Del-Kyuus said. “But it looks like everything’s fine!”
“You didn’t need to worry at all, Mrs. Molshei. I think things are better than they have been in a while!”
“I agree.”
Del-Kyuus narrowed her eyes. “I’m not taking your word on that until I see some actual evidence!”
“Well, hopefully you’ll get to see that soon.” To the surprise of both Dosa-Mina and Del-Kyuus, San-Kyung cracked a smile.

—–
“San-Kyung, your father is–what happened!?”
“We got into a bit of a scuffle, Mrs. Molshei,” Dosa-Mina said. He was covered in dust and Del-Kyuus could spot what appeared to be a bruise on his face. “But nothing major.”
“A scuffle!?”
“Yeah, like the early days,” San-Kyung said. Del-Kyuus gave an exasperated sputter.
“How is that a good thing!?”
“It’s not really. But at least it tells me I haven’t lost San-Kyung yet!”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean I still see some of those traits I thought you’d lost!” He giggled. Though he smiled and spoke with a happy tone, San-Kyung noticed discomfort in his eyes, and all at once his feeling of unease returned.

20.566.Drug of Choice

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 566
“Drug of Choice”

“I wish I had the powers of a Warlock sometimes! They can do so many interesting things. And they have such a wide range of abilities that just reading about it in a book doesn’t give me anything close to the kind of information I want!”
“That’s strange, coming from the boy who doesn’t even like to acknowledge his real species,” Elai-Riya said.
“I use my powers plenty.”
“I know, I know.”
“They can do all sorts of cool things,” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Just think, they haven’t even tapped into their full potential yet…”
Before Elai-Riya could respond, someone knocked at the door. “I hope that’s not Orlin-Aesth. He knows I go to work almost right after he leaves.” She fluttered over to the door. Dosa-Mina tried to glance past her to see who was there.
“Oh, hello, San-Kyung. It’s good to see you.”
“…”
“Something wrong?”
“No. Dosa-Mina’s in, right?”
“Yeah, he is.”
“San-Kyung, is that you?”
Elai-Riya moved to the side and Dosa-Mina caught sight of his friend. He walked up to him and hugged him. “What brings you here so early in the morning?”
“I have something I need to talk with you about.”
“Ooh, I wonder what,” Dosa-Mina said. ‘Hopefully that’s not anything about cutting…’
“Looks like you won’t have to be alone while I’m gone, Dosa-Mina.”
“I wouldn’t have been alone even if he hadn’t come over. Sirlie-Baecho doesn’t live that far away from us.”
“I know, but it seems like you barely hang out with her anymore.” Elai-Riya sighed. “I should go now. I’ll see you when I get back.”
“Alright. And cheer up, Mom! There’s no need to be so jealous of me. Come a few years and I’ll be doing a job just like you.”
“It’s certainly disheartening,” Elai-Riya grumbled. “If you’re willing to say that, I hope you’re willing to listen to some complaints later on tonight!”
“Um, that depends.”
Elai-Riya scoffed and head out the door. Dosa-Mina let go of San-Kyung.
“Any reason you needed to hold onto me for that whole conversation?”
“Nope! Alright, I know my parents aren’t here right now, but let’s head to my room. It’s comfy in there.”
Both boys head off to Dosa-Mina’s room. ‘Something seems like it’s bothering him.’ As soon as they arrived, Dosa-Mina flopped onto the floor. “What’s up?”
“I have a bit of a problem.”
“Oh, what’d you go and do now? And without me? This doesn’t have to do with the car, does it?”
“Why do you keep bringing up the car? I haven’t used that in a while. No, it’s not that.”
San-Kyung placed a pill on Dosa-Mina’s table. Dosa-Mina examined it closely. “Is this a…a power strengthening drug!? What did I tell you about this, San-Kyung!?”
“I haven’t taken it, have I!? And I don’t have any more, so don’t bother asking. I didn’t intend on taking it. Not really, anyway.”
“San-Kyung, your desperation is turning you to things you’d have never considered in the past.”
“I’m not considering it now!”
“Don’t get so defensive! Look, I’m going to destroy this somewhere away from home. I don’t need my parents thinking I’m looking to take power-increasing drugs.”
He glared at San-Kyung. “But first, tell me where you found it.”
“I was taking a walk nearby Hledshess and I spotted it on the ground. I was curious as to whether or not it actually was one, so I took it home with me. I was going to get rid of it myself either way, but I thought I should come to you. I know how you felt about this subject when it came up the first time.”
Dosa-Mina relaxed. That San-Kyung had opted to come to him for advice in this situation made him feel immensely relieved. “Thank you, San-Kyung. …but you saying you should come to me, that means it crossed your mind to take this, didn’t it.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“Look, San-Kyung, you’re aware of what these things do to you, right?”
“I actually read up on that recently. It doesn’t matter that they increase your powers, because afterwards you just get weak again. I want you to believe me on this, Dosa-Mina. There’s no way I would take a bit of time to be in my true form only to spend more in November mode.”
“Is that all you read? Because it’s a lot worse than that.”
“How would you know?”
“Power-increasing drugs come up sometimes in species study books. Remember, most of the species have powers. They also wreck the parts of your body from which the powers come from. Know how striking your hand sets any blood you draw on fire? That wouldn’t happen anymore if you took those drugs. And since there are all types of different ones for all the species, you realize that if this is not one for Animated Pumpkins, had you taken it the effects would have been much worse?”
San-Kyung began to look concerned. “There are actually ones that are supposed to work for all the species, but I heard that those are the worst of all. They really mess you up. And I don’t even know if taking those drugs would really transform you in the first place. Even if they could, it would probably take a large amount of those things to actually do it, and the length of your transformation could be incredibly short followed by such a sudden decrease in power that it would make November look like October.”
San-Kyung flinched. “Of course, a lot of those are worst case scenarios, but do you want to risk it? Really, taking the wrong type of drug can mess with you. And a lot of these tend to kill your powers pretty badly, depending on what they are. You take a few of these and you can say good-bye to raising vines from the ground. That’s how bad it can get. I don’t think I even need to get into the possibility of death that exists in these things. Remember, we made a promise.”
“I remember. But I told you before you went off on this tangent. Just the idea of taking one and going from power to November faster than I actually do on November 1st turned me away. And besides, there were a lot of other factors too–”
“My problem is that you considered it! Powers were not meant to be influenced by drugs. They’re a part of us that can really mess with the rest of us if we mess with them in the wrong ways. A lot of drugs out there can already mess up the other parts. So messing up your powers and letting that spread…I wouldn’t want you ending up with leukemia or something like that…”
“Could you even get leukemia from these drugs?”
“I–I don’t know. But I wouldn’t risk it anyway.” Dosa-Mina sucked in a breath. “Sorry, San-Kyung. You came here to get my advice, and instead I just got on your case for doing that. I’ve just been worried. This behavior has been going on for a while now. You’ve been acting so odd, and I know why, but I just feel like everything I’ve done or can do is a temporary fix. Nothing actually brings you out of this mindset. More than ever, I really want you to cheer up. To go back to the way you were.”
San-Kyung remained silent. “This is the tipping point. What if it gets worse from here? Remember, you still have your goal of world domination. You shouldn’t give up on that because you can’t get your true form!”
“Like you would even want me to pursue that.”
“I’ll take that over this! All I would want is to be safe. That, and for my family to be safe. And I know you care about me. I trust that they would be.”
Dosa-Mina’s hands balled into fists. “I need to do something about this. I’ll destroy this drug, San-Kyung, and you can stay if you want, but if you’re ready to go home, then go. I have to formulate a plan.”
“Dosa-Mina, you don’t have to bother. I–”
“Don’t tell me not to, San-Kyung. Right now, your well-being is my biggest concern.” He smiled. “While I think over a few things, why don’t you have something to drink? After all, I guess it has been pretty lonely all by myself when my parents are at work. Make yourself comfortable, because something tells me I’m going to have a lot of ideas for something fun to do to pass the time!”
“Dosa-Mina?”
“Come on, up off the floor, I’m going to make you something that’s tastier to drink than just water. Warm or cold?”
“Uh…”
“Well, I’ll just make both, then!” He pulled San-Kyung out his bedroom, then head for the kitchen.
‘What was that all about?’ San-Kyung wondered. ‘I’ve seen him go from one attitude to the other, but never that fast…he must really be concerned.’
At this point, however, San-Kyung saw no point in questioning him about it. ‘With how little Dosa-Mina’s willing to tell me on a daily basis, he’d just dodge this one.’ Opting to go along with it, he head for the table and sat down.

—–
“I’m hoooome…and exhausted,” Orlin-Aesth breathed. “Dosa-Mina, where are you?”
“Right here, Dad,” he said. “I’ve been having some fun with San-Kyung while you and Mom have been at work.”
“Appropriate fun, right?” Orlin-Aesth said coyly.
“Of course! Geez, everyone thinks just ’cause I’m affectionate that means I’m a pervert! But you know I wouldn’t be inappropriate, right, San-Kyung?”
“Not in the way everyone seems to think, no.”
“Aha ha, just picking on you, son. I know you wouldn’t. Or, at least, I hope I know you that well.”
Sitting next to each other, both boys felt in a better mood than earlier, but both also felt the same feeling of unease, as if something about the situation was wrong.

Late that night, after his parents had gone to bed, Dosa-Mina took the drug outside and stepped on it repeatedly until it was so ground that he couldn’t even spot it in the moonlight. Then he head back inside, yawning.

19.565.A Different Stroke

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 565
“A Different Stroke”

“I’ve been so worried about you lately, Hei-Maj,” Fer-Shi said. “I haven’t seen you in a while, and every time I come back lately you haven’t been here. I’m glad to see you’re okay.”
Glancing at his ear, which had a noticeable scratch, she added, “…for the most part.”
Since she was unable to find him on the day she took La-Iin to meet him, Fer-Shi had been concerned about Hei-Maj’s whereabouts and had begun to head to his home more often, and each time during that period she had been unable to find him. Her concern had grown to the point where she had begun to stop by almost daily, and was starting to feel she was arousing the suspicion of Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu.
Now that she had found him once again, she felt a lot better.
“Hei-Maj apologizes, Fer-Shi. But Hei-Maj has been doing more than sitting and waiting.”
“Yeah, it seems like it,” Fer-Shi said. “What have you been up to?”
“Hei-Maj has been venturing past the trees!” He said. “Curious to move past just Hei-Maj’s home. Is figuring out, world is fairly wide, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, the world is a pretty big place. There’s more than just this little part. There are places like Manemica, and Shitosh, and Nyappon, and there are even more places just within Vaelyn, which is where we’re in! We live in Bledger, but there are places like Silcoulle and Neigghed still within Vaelyn!”
“Wow! Has Fer-Shi been to Manemica or Neigghed?” Hei-Maj asked.
“I’ve never been to Manemica before. It’s really far away, like all the way on the other side of the world! But I’ve been to Neigghed before. The people there are really nice!”
“Nice like Fer-Shi?”
Fer-Shi blushed. “Aw, come on, Hei-Maj. I’m not that nice.”
“Hei-Maj finds it hard to believe all people of one place could be kinder than Fer-Shi.”
“Well, maybe not everyone in Neigghed, but I find it hard to believe that everyone there is less nice than me. So, Hei-Maj, what kind of places have you been to recently?”
“Hei-Maj sees mostly trees, but few interesting areas are up ahead,” he said. “Want Hei-Maj to show you?”
“Huh?”
“Come with Hei-Maj!” He grabbed Fer-Shi’s hand and pulled her through the forestry. Running fast enough that Fer-Shi was tripping over her feet trying to keep up with him, Fer-Shi had to wonder what was so exciting that it merited the sudden run.
“Um, Hei-Maj?”
Hei-Maj came to a halt. “Yes, Fer-Shi?”
“Can you not run so fast? I can’t keep up with you!”
Hei-Maj nodded. He began to walk on slowly.
“You’re really excited about whatever this is, huh?”
“Hei-Maj spends lots of his time in the same place,” he said. “Hei-Maj was thinking he should go further. There is more than home. And Fer-Shi has more than home, so why not Hei-Maj? Hei-Maj is sorry that he was not here when Fer-Shi was to visit recently.”
“Don’t be! If you were having fun and you’re all right, that’s good enough for me. And you’re right, you should have more to do than just stay in the same place all the time. I just worry because, well–”
“Because Hei-Maj has no normal home?”
“No, I-I wasn’t gonna say that!”
“Hei-Maj is fine if Fer-Shi was. Does not bother him.”
After a while walking through the trees, Hei-Maj led Fer-Shi to a small dirt path and followed along it. Fer-Shi noticed Hei-Maj was glancing around at trees covered in unidentifiable berries with curiosity and hunger in his gaze. Still, he kept his eye on the path, and picked up speed when their going got slow.
“Fer-Shi, Hei-Maj has been feeling confused.”
“Huh? Did you forget the path?”
“No, Hei-Maj remembers the path. He has been feeling confused because he does not understand the world…it is all very confusing.”
“I can tell you anything you want to know.”
“He feels stupid in comparison to Fer-Shi. You know so much…”
“You aren’t stupid, Hei-Maj! Your situation’s just kept you from learning a few things, that’s all. But that does not make you stupid.”
“Weird that Fer-Shi is so adamant about Hei-Maj’s non-stupidity when she does not even believe she is good,” he said sternly. Fer-Shi flinched. “Hei-Maj only wants to learn more of the world and be normal, but seems so, so hard…”
“If you want help, I can help you learn more about whatever it is you want to learn about. I’m here to be your friend, and friends help each other. And I did start out saying I would help you.”
“Hei-Maj is grateful. But he is still so confused…all the world is so confusing to him. He wants to do more with life. Fer-Shi does.”
Fer-Shi sighed. “I can sort of understand where you’re coming from. Not exactly, since our situations are different…but I can really understand what it feels like when you feel like you’re not doing all you could with your life. It’s horrible, isn’t it?”
Hei-Maj nodded.
“I don’t want you to feel like that, Hei-Maj. I know how that feels.”
“Is Fer-Shi confused by the world, too?”
“A little, but I think it’s different than why you are. But I definitely understand wanting to do more with your life. So many people are making the best of theirs, planning their futures, and when you’re different from them in that case it’s easy to get jealous. I really don’t want you to feel that way. I hate feeling this way myself. So I promise, I’ll help you with this. We’ll find more for you to do in the world in a way that won’t get you hurt.”
Hei-Maj smiled. “Bless you, Fer-Shi. Fer-Shi should not say she is not good when willing to say things like that….well, even though Hei-Maj has not done all he can, he did promise he would show Fer-Shi something. Come on!”
Hei-Maj broke into a fast walk as they continued on along the dirt path. The further they went, the more the path opened up and the more the trees began to space. Hei-Maj continued on until they reached a wooden swing just past a few bushes.
“Wow! What’s this doing here?”
“Hei-Maj is not sure, but he knows to use it! Look, Fer-Shi!” Hei-Maj ran over to the swing and jumped on it. It began to sway wildly in all directions.
“That’s dangerous, Hei-Maj!” Fer-Shi called out. Hei-Maj hopped off the swing. “I know a safer way to play on it. A little close by where I live, there’s a place with a whole bunch of fixtures like this!”
“A whole bunch of sway-ers?”
“This is called a swing, and it’s more than just this. There’s all sorts of neat equipment there and it’s lots of fun!”
“May Hei-Maj go there someday?”
“I wouldn’t mind, although we’d have to be pretty careful so my parents don’t find out you came with me! Anyway, how you play on this safer is this way.”
She sat down on the swing, planted her feet in the ground, then pushed off and giggled as she swung. Hei-Maj watched her closely, then copied her exactly, beginning to giggle just as she was. Swinging together with Hei-Maj, Fer-Shi couldn’t help but feel light-hearted and at ease.
“What’s that noise, Uman?” A voice said. Both Fer-Shi and Hei-Maj came to a halt.
“It’s likely just wind, Gvin-Shelt.”
“It sounded like a little girl and a little boy! Maybe it was a ghost?”
“You can’t hear ghosts, Gvin-Shelt. Remember what Granmy said?”
“I know, but Granmy said that kids sometimes see ghosts!”
“That isn’t hearing them, though. Now come on. Soon enough cooking time will begin, and you said you wanted to watch today, didn’t you?”
“Yeah!”
“What is…?”
Fer-Shi got off the swing. Her curiosity piqued, she poked her head through the trees and the bushes that separated her and Hei-Maj from the voices. What she spotted on the other side was a set-up of huts. The ground around them was spattered with sand and young Groundisers were outside and playing, their parents watching and talking as older Groundisers prepared food nearby them. Fer-Shi noticed that one of the young Groundisers, who was yawning, had some features of a Lizardfoot.
It was not long before Hei-Maj joined her, looking around at the Groundiser society with curiosity in his eyes.
“Huh?”
One of the children looked in their direction. Fer-Shi grabbed Hei-Maj’s paw and pulled him backwards.
“See, Uman!? There are ghosts here!”
“You and your imagination. Calm down, Gvin-Shelt.”
“What was that?”
“That looked like a species society,” Fer-Shi said.
“What is species society?”
“It’s when a whole bunch of people of the same species live together in a smaller part of the country. Apparently many years before even our parents were born none of the species lived together. But that’s a really long story.”
“Is Fer-Shi in a ‘species society’?”
“No, not at all! I like living with all sorts of species.”
Hei-Maj made a quizzical noise. “They looked like fun…”
Hei-Maj’s expression was unreadable. “Yeah, I guess it did look like they were enjoying themselves. But we’d better get out of here before one of the adults notices us. Not all the species societies like it when other species intrude.” Thinking back on the boy with the Lizardfoot attributes, she added, “Though, something tells me they’re not all that hostile.”
On their way back, Hei-Maj was silent, as was Fer-Shi. She was tossing around a thought in her head, and a question for Hei-Maj, but by the time they made it back to Hei-Maj’s home she no longer felt she should ask the question.
“I’ll make sure to help you learn more about the world, okay, Hei-Maj?”
“Okay, Fer-Shi. Bless you.”
“We’ll do our best to find our places in the world, okay?”
“Okay!”
Fer-Shi waved and began to head back home, feeling uncertain and upset the whole way back.

—–
“Is something wrong, Fer-Shi? You look like you’re about to cry!”
“D-do I?” Fer-Shi asked. “I-I’m not. I’m just a little sad, that’s all…”
“Something’s wrong, then,” Den-Matsu said.
“No! I just read a sad history book.” She sighed. “People really weren’t good at all in history…”
“Maybe you should read something more light-hearted next time you read.”
“Y-yeah, maybe I should.”
‘I shouldn’t be getting all worked up over this,’ she thought. ‘This is a good thing, isn’t it…’

18.564.Plans for the People

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 564
“Plans for the People”

“Hey, La-Iin. I see that you’re busy, but since I can talk right now, I’ve got a question for you that’s been nagging me lately.”
“What’s that? And hurry it up. I think this picture is going to be a masterpiece and I need as few distractions as possible.”
“I’d beg to differ, but whatever. I can’t remember, but did you say whether or not you had plans for all the people you mean to involve in your world-domination plots?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened and she set down her crayon. “Yes. I have big plans for quite a few people.”
“Ah, I see.”
“What, is that it? You don’t want to hear about my plans or anything?”
“As much as I would, I know you won’t give me the full story because it’s supposed to be a secret. As if I could tell anyone anyway.”
“I have no guarantees on that now that Sale-Dessu found out you can make V-Puppets autonomous. And you make a great point, why spoil my plans? But I can tell you who I have plans for. That would be Fer-Shi, Mama and Dami, Choungetsu, but only a little bit, Ai-Reia, sort of, Sara, rival-boy, Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok, and San-Kyung of course, and you.”
“Is that it?”
“Unless you want to count my future children or wanting to see if Imagination is still alive nine-hundred years from now. Then yes. There might be a few people I have smaller plans for, but those are the ones I have major plans for.”
“I have to question some of those choices. Don’t you dislike rival-boy–what was his name, Dosa-Mina?”
“Yes, he’s Dosa-Mina. And I do have plans for someone who’s caused me so much trouble.” La-Iin gripped her crayon tightly. “If you want to hear anything, you’ll have to ask me after I’m done drawing, though. Oh, and I guess I have a little bit of a plan for Ei-Tio, too, but it’s a work in progress.”
“Huh.”
“I have a lot of plans, Bes-Isa. You should have known that plans for the people would be among them.”

***

“La-Iin, you said you wanted Narwhaltae blood, right? Are you planning on giving the slaves a bath?”
“If you want the slaves to be clean, clean them yourself.”
Fer-Shi sighed. “Most of the slaves don’t like me….agh! La-Iin, do you have to breastfeed Chung-Ae in front of me?”
“It wasn’t in front of you before you got here.”
“Things aren’t the same anymore…and I’m even more scared of San-Kyung now that he has a kid with you.”
“Of course things aren’t the same. I succeeded in world domination. I won San-Kyung’s heart. And now I’ve had our child. Things are a lot different than the days we spent at Malicerie.”
“How about the days we spent at Desutrap? Do you still remember those?”
“Desutrap?”
“You really don’t remember, do you?”
“I remember going to a stupid preschool and meeting you, but the name Desutrap doesn’t ring any bells.”
“You should remember it, though! You had it torn down almost as soon as you started ruling the world!”
“Oh. That. I blocked it out, at least until now.”
“Well, if you remember our time at Desutrap, I guess that’s enough for me. I’m glad that you’re happy, La-Iin. I just wish I could be, too.”
“Are you not happy? You might be my slave, but you’re treated much better than the other slaves. And I call on you for some advice.”
“Yeah, I know. But my Mom and Dad, you don’t spare them any leniency. You don’t do it for Shan-Zetsu or Cae-Bougen either…”
“They’re different to me than you are, Fer-Shi. Namely, I don’t care about them.”
“I know…”
La-Iin sighed. “Fer-Shi, of course the world is plenty different nowadays. And I’ve accomplished my dream. Someday my conquest will become worse and more widespread. But I don’t want you to be miserable.”
“It’s hard not to be when this is what you didn’t want to happen…”
La-Iin stroked Fer-Shi’s head. “Maybe I’ll let your Mama and Dami out for a few moments someday.”
“Thanks, La-Iin.”
La-Iin dropped her voice to a whisper. “Tell no one this. But ruling the world has not made me hate you. You are a slave because I worry about your influence if I let you be more. But I will still try to keep you happy.”
Fer-Shi smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin. I had a bit of a feeling, though. You do treat me pretty nicely despite all that’s happened. Would you like me to watch Chung-Ae for you someday in return?”
La-Iin glared. “No.”
“Okay, okay.”

“La-Iin, I wanted to ask you a question,” Mit-Sun rasped.
“What, Mama?”
“How come you let Asul-Zenza out of his cage but not me?”
“It’s payback for all the years you messed up while raising me. Which is a lot.”
“What!? But that isn’t fair! You realize which of your parents has less time to live, right!?”
“I’m aware. And stop yelling. It isn’t doing you any favors.”
Mit-Sun whimpered. “La-Iin, I understand there were a lot of times I messed up. But isn’t this a little excessive? If you keep me in here that long, by the time you show me any leniency it won’t really matter all that much, will it?”
“You’re only bartering with me. I know it doesn’t mean anything, Mama! You’d only set out to raise a rebellion against me the moment I let you out. I can’t trust you. Your treatment is based solely on how you acted towards me in the past.”
“Didn’t I do some things right? Weren’t there some days we enjoyed together? Even if it’s just me making mincemeat pie, weren’t there any times you enjoyed with me? Really, La-Iin, I wouldn’t want to raise a rebellion against you. I know that’s just suicide. But I’ve seen that you show Fer-Shi some leniency, and really, I would love to meet my grandson.”
“Appealing to me that way won’t work, Mama. I can’t focus on what you did right at the moment. The world is in my grasp, but it’s still precarious. The slightest show of favoritism is a potential show of weakness–Fer-Shi knows this. Perhaps the day things change and the world will eternally be within my grasp your situation will change as well. But you should know I still haven’t forgiven you for everything.”
“La-Iin…”
“But I don’t hate you. And…I do make sure you’re taken care of before the other slaves. So–” She grimaced and spread her wings. “So be patient. And don’t die on me. I’ll see to it that your treatment changes someday. But I’m no benevolent ruler. Know that.”
La-Iin grit her teeth. ‘That was too much of a show of weakness…’

“La-Iin, as grateful as I am to be allowed outside of the cages, I truly have some questions for the way you are handling things.”
“Do you have any suggestions, Dami?”
“No, it isn’t like that. Do you not think that someday your slaves will realize that my being free is favoritism and not a case of assisting you? What will you do then?”
“I would figure by then Chung-Ae would be grown up. And at that day I think my hold over the world will be stable enough that I won’t even need to care about something like that. Trust me, Dami, I have plans for the future that extend far past just the next decade.”
“I see. And another thing, was the shock necklace necessary? How did you procure something like this in the first place?”
“That’s confidential, Dami. i trust you, but this is necessary to keep secret. And that’s necessary too, just in case you ever decide to betray me.”
“La-Iin, you know I would never do that.”
“Whether you would or wouldn’t, I’m prepared for it all the same. I’ve been prepared to be betrayed since I was little, so I’m ready to deal with it if it happens. But I trust that you would never betray me, Dami. But this is no sign of weakness.”
“You’ve changed, La-Iin. You weren’t this scared of showing your flaws in the past…”
“San-Kyung has had to handle most of the brunt work now that Chung-Ae has been born, and it’s uncertain just how long he’s going to stay like a baby. Just because I was lucky doesn’t mean Chung-Ae will be. The world isn’t entirely under my grasp yet, and I’m not completely capable of sedating the powers of millions of people. I can’t afford to mess up here. You should understand that.”
“You needn’t act so tough around me, though…I will not betray you. I will say that as many times as it takes for you to believe me. And you needn’t do it around all your other loved ones–speaking of, when do you plan on letting Mit-Sun out of her cage?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Dami, I love you, but you really don’t understand any of how this is supposed to work.”
She flew off, Asul-Zenza watching her with widened eyes.

“Relent.”
“Never!”
La-Iin kicked at the cage. Ai-Reia flinched. “I can do much worse than that.”
“I’m prepared to die before i join your alliance. I know what you’ve done to my loved ones. I should have taken more precautions!”
“It’s not your fault you lack my ability to grow faster,” La-Iin said. “I offered you a good position among my ranks. I’ve trusted you even though you’ve given me so much reason not to. I’ve threatened you constantly, and yet still you don’t relent?”
“I told you, I never will!”
“I’m surprised the child prodigy never considered lying to gain the ability to assassinate me.”
“I’m surprised that this supposedly-smart world ruler never thought that, as a prodigy, I would consider what options are downright suicidal. I know the difference in our power, La-Iin. But I shall prevail all the same!”
“So you say.” La-Iin took off.
“I’m willing to work by your side, La-Iin.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Ai-Reia. Your assistance is just what I need. Your ability to retain information is a handy one. And I’ll admit, it will be beneficial to have someone who shares my lifespan on my team.”

No matter how much she dwelled back on her childhood fantasies of her plans for Ai-Reia, each time she visited her cage it seemed less and less likely that they would come true. Swallowing her frustration, she picked up in speed.

“Hello, Shuu-Kena. How goes everything?”
“Oh, hello, La-Iin,” Shuu-Kena said. “Everything seems fine so far. I don’t see anyone planning a mutiny or anything. And even if they were, none of them are close to your tower, so I don’t think you need to worry about anything happening to Chung-Ae.”
“I’ll never be worried about anything happening to Chung-Ae until the moment something does happen. And I don’t see it happening anytime soon.” La-Iin glanced at her hand. “Is that a bottle of blood?”
“Yeah. Here you go.” She handed the bottle to La-Iin, who quickly downed half of it and sighed in relief. “It’s been too long since I had blood that fresh…”
“It seems like it was recently.”
“There has been a lot going on, Shuu-Kena.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Speaking of Chung-Ae, how is he?”
“He’s fine. I have high hopes for him. …loathe as I am to thank anyone, Shuu-Kena, I have to thank you for your assistance. You’ve been a helpful asset. Neutrals certainly can be sometimes.”
“Thank you back, La-Iin. To be honest, I don’t really care for all the world domination stuff so much, but I think you knew that already. And, well, at least you haven’t murdered anybody yet. You were a saving grace from my family, too. I feel like I owe you. And that you haven’t put me in a cage like the rest of them.”
“I understand.” La-Iin spread her wings. “By the way, I wouldn’t mind a nice and dark picture for Chung-Ae’s bedroom. I feel like it’s missing a little something.”
“Certainly, La-Iin. I’ll make one as soon as I have the time.”
La-Iin nodded and took off. Shuu-Kena glanced out around the landscape, and seeing that there was no activity, sat down with a canvas and began to paint.

“How are you feeling, Dosa-Mina?”
“I’ve had better days…I wish today was one of the days I wasn’t sick.”
“San-Kyung!” La-Iin snapped. “I thought you were home watching Chung-Ae.”
“I thought you were home with him.”
“Evidently not. I have to do my rounds around this time. It’s not safe to leave him on his own, you know.”
“He’s not on his own, though.”
“He’s on his own surrounded by people who are mostly fairly weak.”
Dosa-Mina glanced at both of them. “So even you two fight.”
“Are you really surprised? We fought all the time when we were kids.”
“Quiet, rival-boy.”
“Sorry. …say, San-Kyung, I know you have to head home now, but can you tell me a little bit about Chung-Ae?”
“What can I tell you? He’s a baby. He drools, he soils his diaper, but he’s got quite a grip. I’m thinking he’ll end up more powerful than I am.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“If this conversation is about over, you have your son to attend to,” La-Iin snapped. San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“You spend plenty of time with Fer-Shi. I don’t understand why you don’t grant Dosa-Mina the same privileges you grant her.”
“Because I don’t like him, San-Kyung. Besides, I don’t think you understand what I mean by precarious situation. I don’t think anyone understands except for me, in fact!”
“People might understand better if you clarified what they were,” Dosa-Mina said. La-Iin hissed at him.
“La-Iin, you’re being unreasonable. You realize I have about equal power to you when it comes to what is done with the slaves, right?”
“You agreed with my slave plan!”
“I know. But I’m saying, Dosa-Mina–”
“I really wish I had put his cage someplace you couldn’t find it.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“Maybe you really should head back home…”
“You gave Fer-Shi another purpose!”
“Oh, quit fighting with me over this! You have more important people in your life now. But fine, if you’re really so determined for Dosa-Mina to get special privileges, then once I feel he’s served enough time in there and the situation stabilizes, I’ll let him be a tower slave. Happy?”
“I never believe you when it comes to Dosa-Mina.”
La-Iin huffed. “Just get back to Chung-Ae, San-Kyung! I still have rounds to go, you know!”

Midnight had arrived, and now having retired to the tower, La-Iin went to visit Sale-Dessu, who was examining the corpse of Choungetsu.
“How goes the extended lifespan experiments?”
“I haven’t been able to figure anything out yet,” Sale-Dessu said. “I really don’t understand how this ‘lifespan gene’ works. I’m starting to think the scholars of the past were a little deluded…”
“Maybe that’s something I should ask Dosa-Mina on,” La-Iin mused. “Well, just keep working on it.”
“What if I can’t bring Choungetsu back, La-Iin? You won’t torture me for that, will you?”
La-Iin lowered her head. “No. I won’t. As much as I want Choungetsu back, my top priority is extending San-Kyung’s lifespan so that he will live at a time equal to me. At this rate, no matter how long he lives he will not be part of my and Chung-Ae’s lives for too long. I don’t want that to happen. If there’s any chance that I can have him live as long as I can, then I will take that.”
“Are you looking for immortality, La-Iin?”
La-Iin lifted up her head. “No, not particularly. But tell me if you find out anything in regards to it. I’ll take that if it’s available to me…but there might be one exception.”
“Hm?”
“It’s nothing. Get back to work. I plan on letting Eul-Bok out tomorrow, so you’ll have a companion to help you.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin.”
“You know I don’t listen when you say that.”

“It’s about time you showed up.”
“How’s Chung-Ae?”
“Fine. He hasn’t cried at all since I got back.”
“That’s good.”
San-Kyung glanced at La-Iin. “Now that we’re alone, do you mind telling me what it is you’re so worried about?”
“What do you mean?”
“You seem concerned about nearly everything.”
“Isn’t it obvious? My ruling of the world isn’t perfect yet. I have a child to think of now, so that makes everything much harder, especially since he’s still relying on me for food. And that’s not to mention if we do go through with that plan of having more. You’re not the youngest in the world either, San-Kyung. Our age gap might not be the worst I’ve heard of, but it is concerning.”
“Something you should have realized years ago?”
“I worry that even with all the planning I did beforehand that I’m going to mess up somewhere,” she sighed. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been. The world, or at least a part of it, is mine. I have you as my husband, and we have a child now. The people who are important to me still live and most help me. I have almost all that I want, and yet I can’t just be happy about it. Instead I’m left worrying about the possibility of just the smallest thing going wrong and ruining all I have worked for.”
“Your stress won’t help much either. You must keep a level head about this. And don’t forget, you said it yourself that you are not alone. Your method of ruling the world might not have been my ideal, but I never planned on being entirely alone, either.”
La-Iin glanced over her shoulder. Chung-Ae was fast asleep in his crib, looking content. “With stress or without it I’ll keep working to keep my goal intact, San-Kyung. Now that I’ve tasted this happiness I’m not going to let it go so easily.”

—–
“Hello, Bes-Isa.”
“Hello, La-Iin. It’s been a while.”
“It has been, but I’ve been busy. I felt like tonight I could use your advice. Hence why I came here.”
“You don’t need to talk so formally around me, you know.”
“Oh, I know.”
“Well, whatever advice you need, I’m willing to give. What is it?”
“It’s a lot of things, Bes-Isa. So I hope you’re feeling patient.”
“After being stuck in the dark so long it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s better than that anyday.”
“That’s good enough for me.”

17.563.Nothing But a Child

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 563
“Nothing But a Child”

“Gee, you know, it sure feels like we read a lot of more modern books lately,” Xelshy-Mitter said. “Maybe next time we meet, we should read one of the classics.”
“What’s wrong with modern books?” Asul-Zenza said.
“Yeah, they are what’s been coming out recently.”
“The classics were once modern themselves. And there is such a thing as a modern classic, you know.” Lise-Mara said. “The classics are a good place to look. You can find many a good story there, or at least, you can understand how some trope or another became so popularized.”
“You guys haven’t read science fiction until you’ve read classic science fiction. It’s some weird stuff!” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“You guys act like I have something against the classics! You know I don’t, right?”
“I’ve read plenty of the classics myself. How can we guarantee it’s not something one of us has already read?”
“We always go over this, Asul-Zenza.”
“Lise-Mara, I’m starting to think there’s a reason they’re more interested in modern books.”
“Oh?”
“They’re the younger Vampires in this book club, remember? They’re not even one-hundred yet!”
“You aren’t either, you know.”
“Yeah, but I’m ninety-nine. Close enough. Still technically an adult Vampire. Here, anyway. Meanwhile they’re still technically kid Vampires!”
“Xelshy-Mitter, you traitor! Now you’re siding with Lise-Mara when it comes to age? She’s still tons older than you, you know!”
Lise-Mara huffed. “No offense, of course.”
“Yeah, I guess all of us can at least get along in the fact that we’re older than Asul-Zenza.”
“Why are you turning against me now!?”
“‘Cause you’re the youngest,” Niser-Zanta said, flashing a grin. Lise-Mara sighed.
“I’m sure it has nothing to do with age in actuality. But it is true that a lot of more modern works tend to be more popular among younger Vampires. After all, you like Killy Shell.”
Niser-Zanta and Xelshy-Mitter shuddered.
“Ironically enough, even though he’s the youngest of us all, he’s still the only one with a kid!”
“I don’t appreciate you all ganging up on me.”
“Aw, don’t be upset, Asul-Zenza. We’re just having a little fun at your expense.”
“How would you like it if I had fun at your expense?”
“Er–”
“Don’t be hypocritical. How many times have you three made fun of my age?”
“Yeah, but we’re making fun of it for the reverse reason,” Niser-Zanta said.
“Yeah, and besides Niser-Zanta’s basically the only one who calls you old.”
Lise-Mara narrowed her eyes at him, and he flinched.
“I know I’m a young Vampire, but Vampires are young for a long while. And I’ve finished puberty, not to mention I’m technically an adult by Vaelyn’s standards!”
“Vaelyn’s standards are nineteen, Asul-Zenza. And when all four of us were nineteen, we were kind of, you know, kids.”
Asul-Zenza’s face flushed.
“Now, let’s make the decision on what we read next week.”
“Ooh, how about SoPo Wars with Nothing to Do?” Xelshy-Mitter suggested.
“NO!”

***

“Asul-Zenza, I really don’t understand why you don’t visit more often! You do do a lot with your life, but most of it is choice. How come I and your Floma don’t come up often in that choice?”
“Well, I know I can see you and Floma nearly any time I want, Darseen. That and, well, you two are often busy.”
“I understand. And, sorry Anil-Kosha isn’t here to see you.”
“It’s not a problem. I understand. Besides, I didn’t exactly come here for a leisurely visit either.”
“What’s the problem? Still having trouble with the situation with Blooudine? I’m worried about her as well. She seemed to have her heart set on passing alongside him.”
“No, it isn’t that, and you reminding me of that issue makes me think my current problem is worth nothing…”
“It most certainly isn’t worth nothing, Asul-Zenza! Tell me what’s on your mind, son, and I’ll do all I can to help you.”
“…am I really like a child, Darseen?”
“Wha?”
“Earlier today I had a meeting with my book club. Not a book club meeting, just a general meeting, and while we did decide what book to read next….ergh, that’s not the point! The others there started picking fun at the fact that I’m the youngest of them. And I understand that I am still a fairly young Vampire, but damn it, I’m almost sixty-six! They seem to think it’s hilarious that this child-like Vampire already has a child of his own! It frustrates me!”
“That’s all?”
“See, I knew it! You think it’s ridiculous! And I know it is, but–”
Verde-Nenda chuckled. “Asul-Zenza, when you act like that you do seem exactly like a petulant child.”
“What!?”
“Oh, Asul-Zenza, there is a fact you need to face. Vampires and those of other species are different. Even Groundisers are different than us. Do you know why we consider Vampires of, say, twenty-two to be children even though by nearly every other species’ standard that’s adulthood? Even Groundisers who live about as long as us see that as adulthood, and do you know why?”
“Why?”
“Groundisers are typically finished with puberty by twenty-two! Not to mention, it’s also a maturity issue. A Vampire’s maturity isn’t really adult-ready until the hundreds, sometimes not even at the hundreds. While granted this is a debateable issue given nineteen isn’t exactly adult-maturity age for other species but still the legal age of majority in Vaelyn, it still doesn’t change the fact that, really, you are a lot younger than others.”
“…”
“Yes, you have finished puberty, but you’re much shorter out of it than some other people your age–save for other Vampires, of course. And we Vampires do live long. Normals of elderly ages will sometimes call twenty-year-old Normals children, it’s sort of like that.”
“I don’t understand. How come I’m not considered an adult? I have finished puberty, and even if I have immature parts to my personality, doesn’t everyone? I’d consider myself fairly responsible.”
“I would too. And you aren’t really a child anymore. Most Vampires at age sixty-five aren’t running around in diapers still, that perception of us is stupid. But you know what it’s like–just as some of other species consider themselves to be adults at eighteen or twenty or so depending on where they live, Vampires vary as to whether it’s about fifty, sixty or seventy that qualifies as a Normal’s nineteen, for example, if they’re even thinking that young.”
“I see…”
“Don’t get so overworked about it. If you do people will only pick on you more.”
“I understand. I just wish they’d at least call me like an adolescent rather than a child. That’s technically what I am, isn’t it?”
“If you’re going by Vampire standards. But it’s all a matter of maturing. We take longer, so we accommodate in terms of consideration. Besides, at least in my case, it’s hard to see you as an adult when most of my memories are of you as a child.”
“Oh, Darseen, that’s silly.”
“Bah, why should I care? But I can understand your position, Asul-Zenza. I’m practically two-hundred, quite young for a Vampire, and I feel like an old man, heh! It’s easy to feel grown up early when you’re stuck as young for a while. And I’m sure your Floma would agree with me. Now if there’s someone we can actually call old, that would be Blooudine!”
“She’s lived quite the life,” Asul-Zenza sighed.
“Say, since you’re here and this conversation seems just about done, what do you say we go for a quick fly across Vampira? My best time around each part of it is about two hours.”
“Two hours? That sounds ridiculously long. Or are you including stopping?”
“I’d never include stopping!” He said. “So, want to fly?”
Asul-Zenza grinned. “Certainly, Darseen!”

—–
“All of you in the book club might call me young. And I acknowledge that I am fairly young, still. But I will give myself this. La-Iin was not born in the midst of my puberty. I am responsible for myself. I’m more like a Normal who has not reached twenty-five yet. If Normals can be considered adults at nineteen, then I think I should at least be considered a major. But no matter if you all consider me a minor. I know what I am.”
“….um, Asul-Zenza? That was obnoxious,” Niser-Zanta said.
“Yeah, and totally unnecessary. Nobody made fun of your age today.”
“Although someone already made fun of mine,” Lise-Mara said, glaring at Niser-Zanta.
“I know, I just had to say it to someone. I guess in short terms, I’m not going to get upset when you call me young any longer.”
“Let’s see how long you stick to that,” Niser-Zanta said.
“You’ll see, Niser-Zanta. I shall hold to my word.”

“Dami, what did you call for? You never told me.”
“Oh, just something ridiculous. I thought you might get upset if I said what it was.”
“You aren’t going through a Haner situation, are you!?”
“No, of course not! I think I was too burned by Mit-Sun to do that. No, it’s just one silly little thing, one of those Dami things I never thought I’d say. But since you seem to be maturing at the pace of a Normal, I might as well say it. Grow up at your own pace if you want, but don’t grow up too fast, alright?”
“Huh?”
“It’s alright, La-Iin. It’s nothing important. I’ll talk to you again soon.”

16.562.A Ca-Miela Conflict

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 562
“A Ca-Miela Conflict”

Ai-Reia stared down at the small shape lying on her bed and crying. As opposed to her normal shrieks, right now Ca-Miela was only letting out a small, thin wail, as if she lacked the energy to cry harder. Just the sight of her contorted face was making her angrier.
“They love you best, don’t they?” Ai-Reia said. “Well then, I might be doing them a favor by taking you out before you’ll be too missed.”
Ai-Reia reached for the closest thing to her that could be a weapon, and found a pen. She jabbed the pen into Ca-Miela’s chest. Ca-Miela began to wail loudly, but Ai-Reia didn’t hear anyone running to see her, so she continued on.
Soon enough despite the blood flowing from her chest it became evident to her that Ca-Miela would not die by that pen alone. Desperate to finish her off, she reached for the next closest thing, a broom. She began to whack Ca-Miela with the broom. Ca-Miela gave several shrill shrieks before the volume of her voice died down until she was no longer making any noise. Taking a quick breath, Ai-Reia brought the broom down one last time to check for any reaction.
Ca-Miela lay on the bed bloodied and beaten, her eyes wide open and cloudy. Her wings had been crushed into her back. Ai-Reia chuckled to herself and continued to stare down at what used to be her sister as everything around her went pitch black.

Ai-Reia woke with a start, gasping for breath. She checked her bed. There was no sign of blood. The broom was not in her room. The events of the dream had not taken place.
‘I haven’t had violent thoughts about Ca-Miela in a long time. Dammit, I thought I moved past that this April! But maybe I’ve just been repressing it for my own good.’
The thought brought back to her memories of her seventh birthday. ‘What’s wrong with me? Why do I have these violent thoughts and dreams? I understand my resentment towards her, but there’s no reason for this level of vitriol.’
It was still dark outside. Feeling uncertain, Ai-Reia got out of bed and head for her parent’s bedroom. Her mother and father were fast asleep, but Ca-Miela was not, sitting up in her crib and glancing around wildly as if looking for something. When she laid eyes on Ai-Reia, she gave a small smile.
Ai-Reia breathed a sigh of relief, then reached into the crib and pulled her out. She checked her parents for any sign that they were waking up, then she fled the bedroom with her sister, who giggled as she ran.
‘What are you doing? How can you trust yourself alone with her?’ The dream flashed back in her mind, and for a moment she nearly dropped Ca-Miela in fear. Ca-Miela was still giggling and cooing with a smile on her face, pulling at Ai-Reia’s hair. ‘No. This has nothing to do with recreating the dream. I know what I plan on doing. My life cannot go on with me thinking such violent thoughts about Ca-Miela. I have the power to sway her onto the right path, the path of innocence. There is no reason for me to hate her unless she ends up like La-Iin, which is highly unlikely even if she does end up spoiled…I will not harm her regardless. Not in that way.’
She set her down on the bed and handed her one of her old baby toys.
“Ca-Miela, you trust your big sister, right? You don’t think I would do anything to you, do you?”
Ca-Miela reached for the toy and stuck it in her mouth. She smiled. ‘Right. Look at her eyes. She trusts me. She probably doesn’t even remember the jump rope incident. But that won’t last forever. That’s why I need to move past this. Ca-Miela hasn’t even been failed yet, after all.’
“Want to play with more?” She pulled out a box of her old toys. Ca-Miela gave a delighted shriek, which Ai-Reia tried to shush, but didn’t quiet her down in the end. Instead she looked at the toys, seeming to be overwhelmed by the variety, and stuck a few in her mouth.
“Goodness, Ca-Miela,” Ai-Reia scoffed, pulling the toy out her mouth. “In what year will you learn that those aren’t for going in your mouth?”
Ca-Miela cooed innocently. Ai-Reia focused on her. Still she could see the sight of the dream in her mind. “Play with them like this.”
Ca-Miela slammed a toy onto the bed. Ai-Reia sighed. “And I worry about being the violent one….no, she’s just a baby, she doesn’t know any better. Okay, Ca-Miela! Maybe toys aren’t the best thing for you so late at night.”
Ca-Miela’s expression dropped when she took the toys away, and for a moment Ai-Reia worried that she might cry. But instead she just stared at her anxiously, as if waiting for her to return the toys.
“Here, if you’d like a toy how about Bunety-Man? Reuf-Bu got this for me, but you can hold him if it will calm you down.”
‘What am I doing? It’s too late at night for this. What if mother and father wake up? Then they’ll be upset. There’s no way they’d believe that I was trying to calm myself down. What am I supposed to tell them? Oh, I had a dream about murdering Ca-Miela so I decided to bring her into my room to calm myself down? Only an idiot would believe something that sounds so excuse-worthy!’
Ca-Miela babbled. ‘And then there’s also the possibility that she might cry and give my position away to my parents and siblings…’
Ca-Miela stared at Ai-Reia, her eyes widening. She began to gently cry, holding tight to Bunety-Man.
“What’s wrong now?” Ai-Reia asked. “Was I making a scary expression?”
Ca-Miela just sobbed quietly. “I’ll get no response from a baby. Oh, please don’t cry, Ca-Miela…”
The beginning of the dream flashed back into her mind as she reached for Ca-Miela, and she flinched, knocking her over. Ca-Miela continued to cry, still holding tight to Bunety-Man. Ai-Reia felt as though she were slipping back into the dream–save for Bunety-Man and the lack of a broom, the situation was exactly the same as it was in the dream, and for a moment she panicked, hiding her face from Ca-Miela.
‘What do I think I’m doing? No matter how hard I try, I’m only a danger to Ca-Miela. Much as I want to avoid her developing a spoiled princess attitude, that’s definitely preferable to her suffering early trauma or growing up to hate me. I can’t trust myself, not like this. I can’t even keep a hold on my own mentality. Why did I ever try to trust myself alone with her!? What’s wrong with me!?’
Through her frenzied thoughts she could still hear Ca-Miela crying, and though the thought of being alone with Ca-Miela terrified her, the thought of being caught by her parents with her in this state terrified her more. She reached out to Ca-Miela and picked her up, gently rocking her.
“Please don’t cry,” she said, her voice wavering. She was beginning to feel on the verge of tears herself. “Don’t worry. If I ever become a danger to you, I won’t let myself hurt you. I promise. I’m going to do my best so that you end up as my ideal younger sister. I don’t want to hurt you…”
Ai-Reia felt uncertain of her own words. Ca-Miela stared up at her, face stained with tears but no longer gently sobbing. She reached for Ai-Reia’s hand and stuck it in her mouth, then closed her eyes and curled up next to her.
Ai-Reia remained silent, trying to get her thoughts into order. “You’re different from La-Iin, Ca-Miela. I only ever held a grudge against you for taking the time of my siblings. But in the process I discovered how much of a monster I can be…and I’m sorry. You never deserved this. I shouldn’t hold grudges against you. You did nothing wrong. You’re just a baby, after all…”
Ca-Miela gave no response, and by her gentle breathing Ai-Reia assumed she had fallen asleep. She sat there with Ca-Miela in her arms for a short while longer, finding her presence calming. She was not dead or beaten. She was not crying or scared. She was comforted and asleep, and alive. Ai-Reia rocked her back and forth gently as she tried to get her emotions into order. She looked down at her. The dream no longer flashed in her mind at the sight. She set her down on her bed. The dream flashed only briefly.
‘Maybe there’s a way to tame this beast, somewhere in me.’
Ai-Reia was tempted to leave Ca-Miela there and go back to sleep, but she knew how her parents would feel if they were unable to find her. Picking her up, she waddled back to their bedroom and gently set her down inside her crib. Then she head back to her own bedroom and curled up in her bed.
‘Perhaps all along I’ve been mistaken. I shouldn’t be having violent dreams about Ca-Miela. Even if the rest of my family turns against me, I’m certain she’ll trust me.’
Ai-Reia fell back to sleep fairly quickly, feeling emotionally fatigued.

—–
“Ai-Reia, is something the matter?” Her mother asked that morning at breakfast. “You seem tired. Did you stay up too late reading?”
“I saw her lights out, Mom,” Zih-Amo said. “What’s got you so tired, sis?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I think I just haven’t woken up all the way yet, that’s all….”
Ca-Miela was sitting in a high chair next to her. When her family looked away, she briefly squeezed Ca-Miela’s hand. “Last night is our secret. Promise?”
Ca-Miela squealed. “Someone seems happy. I guess she likes drinking out of a bottle better!” Reuf-Bu said.
“I do too. It’s far less painful.”
Ai-Reia cracked a smile. ‘Maybe, just maybe, I can trust you.’

15.561.A Little Something

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 561
“A Little Something”

Eul-Bok took a deep breath. Focusing as intensely as he could, he set to work on changing the scrap of cloth in front of him into a present for Sale-Dessu.
He tried to clear his mind of all distracting thoughts, and though he focused solely on the image of what he was trying to change, he was gradually becoming more excited as if the thought nudging him at the corners of his mind was all that was on it.
Just as he could see the results of his efforts, a knock sounded at his door.
“Eul-Bok?”
Eul-Bok startled. The cloth, half-changed into fluff, fell back down onto his night desk limply, and Eul-Bok recoiled at a shooting pain in his head.
“Is everything alright?”
Eul-Bok turned around. “Everything’s fine, Father! Just practicing my powers a bit before bed! Wh-what are you doing up? It’s pretty late isn’t it?”
“I could say the same to you. I was just making myself a little warm milk. I’ve been having a taste for milk lately.”
Eul-Bok’s eyes widened. “I could tell…”
“We should both get some sleep. There’s a few things I want to do tomorrow. After all, well, I think you know what tomorrow is, right?”
“Of course I do. How could I forget? Heh heh, last year at the Cahongyun’s house…”
Sale-Dessu’s face flushed. “This year we’re not going there. I felt so ashamed, falling asleep on them like that. This year we’re spending the day at our house. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Well, I’ll make sure it’s a great day! We’ll do whatever you want to do, Father, so just say the word and we’ll be doing it!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok.” He yawned. “Well, I should head off to bed now…good night…”
“Good night, Father. And sweet dreams.”
‘And of course we’ll do the things you want to. But where’s the harm in a little bit of surprise?’
Recently Eul-Bok had been listening closely to all Sale-Dessu said. Even the smallest thing he had implied an interest in Eul-Bok had considered. He wanted to go along with what Sale-Dessu wanted to do, but he also wanted to surprise him with the things he would like.
He turned back to the half-cloth half-fluff and set to work on finishing it, before that keeping in mind Sale-Dessu’s taste for milk. Once he had successfully transformed the cloth-fluff, he set to work on finishing the rest of the tasks he had set for himself.

***

When Sale-Dessu opened his eyes that morning, the first thing he caught sight of was Eul-Bok sitting on a stool in his room, watching him with a smile. He startled for only a moment before taking a breath and calming down.
“You scared me, Eul-Bok.”
“Sorry, Father. But I was just so excited! I can’t wait to see how you–I mean, what you want to do!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “I wonder if you’re more excited for my birthday than I am. I’ll get ready and then we’ll get to work.”
“Don’t call it work! It’s your birthday! You want to do these things because you enjoy them, right?”
“Of course.”
‘He really is excited today. I wonder why?’ In recent years Sale-Dessu hadn’t seen his birthday as anything special, even forgetting it some years, and though last year had been more than the usual it had still been fairly relaxed.
‘I was excited for my birthdays when I was young. I guess with a child in the house I should expect this kind of thing.’
Sale-Dessu head off to take a shower and put on his clothes.
“Eul-Bok! I’m ready!” He called.
“Alright!”
Eul-Bok ran out from Sale-Dessu’s room and stopped next to him. “Why were you still in my room?”
“Nowhere else to go. Now what’s first!?”
“Well, I haven’t used my water-powered train much recently, and there was something interesting I was pursuing there…”
Sale-Dessu noticed Eul-Bok’s face drop. “That’s outside, isn’t it? Isn’t there anything you want to do inside?”
“The rest of it is inside. Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. I’ll take care of the train later. I can see you’re eager to do something right now.”
“That’s an understatement!”
“Well, then, why don’t we start with potion making? Have I ever helped you make a potion?”
Eul-Bok shrugged. The two head to the main area. On their way there, something smacked Sale-Dessu in the face.
“Ow…”
“You alright, Father?”
“I’m fine. Something hanging off the wall hit me in the face…”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing big. Here, I can lead the way!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok. But I’ll be fine.”
After uncovering his eye, Sale-Dessu caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a colorful setup right at the entrance to his home. In front of him he could see that Eul-Bok looked anxious.
‘So that’s why he’s so eager. I should have known…’ “Actually, if you want to lead the way, you can. We are doing this for me, but this is a good chance for me to teach you a few more things.”
“Yeah! Hey, anything you have planned for today wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with those more complicated procedures you know, right? I’m so curious about how you learned to do some of the things you can do!”
“Like what?”
“Oh, hex change operation?”
Sale-Dessu flinched. “Maybe one of those more complicated procedures is in my plans, but hex change operation is not one of them…”

Eul-Bok’s eagerness made Sale-Dessu’s day fairly enjoyable. As they mixed potions together Eul-Bok did so with such a force and glee that it made Sale-Dessu chuckle just to watch. In general he seemed fairly cheerful, and it was a bit infectious. Sale-Dessu couldn’t help but wonder what he had done that had him so excited and eager to finish what he wanted to do.
“You seem to be having a lot of fun mixing potions,” Sale-Dessu said. “Maybe I should have you do it for me more often.”
“Aw, come on, Father, you barely make potions for any good reason. Although it would be a good arm exercise.”
“You don’t need arm exercise, Eul-Bok.”
“I know, I know, but it’s fun to pretend I do. But you know what, I’m wrong. Even though you make a lot of pretty worthless potions, these ones we’re making now are all for medicinal reasons, right?”
“Yes. Just in case something happens to you or me, that’s why I’m making these potions. I just felt like making potions today, so I figured that I might as well make some that are helpful in nature.”
“It’s a good idea!”
Eul-Bok continued to stir vigorously. Sale-Dessu couldn’t stifle another chuckle.
Potion-making wasn’t all they did either. Sale-Dessu did eventually set to work on his water-powered train after Eul-Bok had strained his mind during a joint transformation spell.
“I had a feeling that wouldn’t work,” Sale-Dessu had sighed. “Eul-Bok, are you alright?”
“Yeah, probably….but I need to lay down for a little bit…”
Most of their activities were simple things however, such as making small treats or performing simple and ridiculous spells, such as an ‘instant hair dye’ spell that both Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok had used to change the color of Sale-Dessu’s hair into a multitude of colors; once, Eul-Bok even turned it rainbow.
“How did you manage that!?” Sale-Dessu asked. Eul-Bok giggled. “Oh, just with the strength of wanting to see something totally ridiculous.”
Even though it was simple, Sale-Dessu was happy. He was excited to see what it was that Eul-Bok was planning, and Eul-Bok’s own excitement made the day quite enjoyable. But it wasn’t until the sun started to set that they reached the end of all Sale-Dessu had wanted to do.
“That was pretty fun, Father. I realized something from today, you can do a lot of the stuff that I can do at incredible speeds!”
“That’s because I’ve been practicing for years. You know that. But I’m certain that soon enough you and I will have a similar level of ability.”
“Yeah, if by soon enough you mean years!”
“Well, we have more than some other species. And it won’t be so long that I’m an old man by that point.”
“Geez, it feels like both you and Grepeta are trying too hard to flatter me.”
“We can’t help but be proud of you, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Hey, Father? Now that we’re done with all you wanted to do, can you do me a favor?”
‘Here it comes.’ “What’s that?”
“I want you to cover your eyes. Both of them, and not with your hair! With this.” He handed him a blindfold. Sale-Dessu put it on. “I’ll lead the way, so don’t worry about bumping into anything.”
“Ow!”
“Oops, sorry.”
Sale-Dessu was excited as Eul-Bok led the way through some part of the house he wasn’t sure of–though he had a good feeling he knew where he was going.
“Now sit down, and don’t peek!”
He could hear Eul-Bok crashing around the house and various things opening and closing. From behind him he thought he heard the refrigerator open. ‘Am I in the kitchen? I thought for sure he’d take me to the main area.’
“You can look now!”
Sale-Dessu reached for the blindfold and pulled it off. Eul-Bok stood in front of him, and behind him the table was decorated in a fancy style. A plate of dinner sat behind him as well as a large white cake behind the plate. Eul-Bok appeared to be holding something, and he soon draped it over him.
“Happy Birthday, Father!”
“Eul-Bok…”
“Don’t look so surprised, Father. It’s just a little something.”
“How can you say that? You went above and beyond!”
Eul-Bok grinned. “Thanks for the compliments, Father. I’ve been planning this for a while now. Last year all I could do was get the Cahongyun’s help, but this year I was able to do it all on my own! I had a lot of trouble with the blanket, though.” He lowered his head. “I hope you like it.”
“I love it, Eul-Bok. This is the most comfortable blanket I’ve felt in a while. I wonder why I never thought to make more comfortable ones for my bed. I think I’ll sleep quite well with this.”
Eul-Bok’s grin widened. “Well, you can start dinner now, then! But I have to clean up. I made a bit of a mess in the main area.”
He ran off. ‘So that’s what that was. I’d better not say anything, though.’ Even having expected it, it was still a pleasant surprise. Sale-Dessu started to eat, and was surprised by how good the gravy tasted.

—–
Night had fallen, and after a long and cheerful celebration with the milk cake Eul-Bok had made, Sale-Dessu tidied a few things around the house before deciding to retire for the night. Already Eul-Bok seemed exhausted, but he still stayed by Sale-Dessu’s side, smiling wide.
Just as he had changed into pajamas and was almost ready to retire, something slammed against his window. When he opened it, he spotted Bes-Isa, a piece of paper taped to her. He took the paper off and took a look at it. It was a crude picture of him and Eul-Bok around a cake that was set on fire.
Good job allie, not freelowding this year. Have a happy birthday not! -La-Iin
Sale-Dessu stifled a chuckle as Bes-Isa went flying backwards through the air with a screech.
“Geez, she really can’t draw all that well.”
“She can’t,” he admitted. “But that’s alright. It’s a nice picture.”
He hung it up in his room.

14.560.The Morals of V-Puppetry

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 560
“The Morals of V-Puppetry”

“La-Iin, I have a question.”
“What?”
“Do you really think it’s fair to shove me into such a tight space while you’re doing your homework? You take FOREVER to do it. And I can feel discomfort, you know.”
“I know, that’s why I did it. I hate doing my homework, so seeing you like that out the corner of my eye gives me motivation to go on.”
“How!?”
“This homework is but a momentary distraction while I wait for puberty to enhance my abilities. Sooner or later I’ll become taller and stronger and I’ll be able to shove more than just you into a small space like that!”
“If you shove a person into a tight space the way you’ve shoved me, they’ll die, I hope you know.”
“Oh, I know.”
“I thought your niche was torture, not murder.”
“Given the choice I’d never choose to murder. Torture’s more entertaining. But don’t think I’m above murder, because I’m not.”
“Like you’ve ever killed anything before.”
“I’ve killed bugs and plants.”
“Oh, woop-de-doo.”
“If I killed a cicada in front of a Cicadin they would go crazy.”
“Yeah, amaz–actually, that might be pretty entertaining to watch.”
“Mm-hm.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that you’re an evil f@%ker for shoving me in here, though. Being a V-Puppet is equal to suffering. They’re almost the same thing.”
“Yeah, when you’re evil you do stuff like this.”
The bedroom fell silent, save for the sound of La-Iin’s pencil against paper.
“Hey, I’ve got a fun idea for you and me once you’re done with that.”
“I can do it now, you know.”
“Oh yeah. I was thinking, after what I said earlier–V-Puppetry is pretty evil. You bring this thing to life knowing that it will never be able to move on its own, well, unless you’re crazy like Sale-Dessu, but he’s a massive exception. And even if you COULD, everyone would want their hands on you for research. Before you become a V-Puppet, you’re an empty husk and people would think nothing of losing or breaking you. Maybe not even when you are already a V-Puppet.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty horrible. But don’t blame me because even if I wasn’t evil, I brought you to life when I was just a baby. Babies are pretty much always neutral.”
“Yeah, yeah, but you forgot the fun idea part. So Sale-Dessu calls himself good, right? And I know he made Eul-Bok autonomous and that kid’s his devoted toadie, but think we might be able to mess with his mind by telling him this stuff?”
“Ooh, mental torture.”
“Exactly! I wanna see if we can get a reaction out of him. Can we go?”
“Certainly.” La-Iin set down her pencil, maneuvered Bes-Isa out of the cramped space, and walked downstairs. Choungetsu greeted her with a happy bark.
“Not today, Choungetsu.”
Choungetsu stared at her in confusion.
“Where are you going now?” Mit-Sun asked. “I was about to make a snack.”
“Why, because you’re bored?”
“Don’t use that tone with me. Summer isn’t as fun for me as it is for you, you know. Meanwhile you get to go out nearly every day if you want to.”
“Yes, well, I’m going somewhere now, too. Over to Sale-Dessu’s. Just so you don’t kill me. You know, Mama, there are plenty of things you can do. Haner being useless doesn’t change that. You have your Dami and other friends and me, but today Bes-Isa got to me first so you’re out of luck. I’m going over now.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Just come back soon. I might take you up on that offer of doing something with you.”
“So long as it’s not annoying.” She walked out the door and head over to Sale-Dessu’s house. The door was locked as usually recently, so she kicked on the door. When Sale-Dessu arrived, he looked frazzled.
“Spell gone wrong or is this because La-Iin kicked the door?”
“What do you think!?” Sale-Dessu said. “You really scared me, La-Iin. I had to check out the window to make sure it was you!”
“Who else would it be? The police?”
“Um, no. Well, you two can come in. Oh, La-Iin, what do you think about tea?”
“Unless you fill it with milk it’s disgusting. Mama made me drink it once and it made me want to throw up until milk was put in. It makes my mouth go crazy!”
“Well, I boiled this tea with milk, so maybe you’ll like it? I agree, tea tastes best with milk.”
“You mean it only tastes good with lots of milk.”
Sale-Dessu beckoned La-IIn into the kitchen and set down cups of tea.
“Father, should I even bother trying to drink this?”
“That’s up to you, Eul-Bok. Try if you want. By the way, La-Iin and Bes-Isa are over.”
La-Iin heard Eul-Bok groan. “Father, why do you even bother letting them in anymore?”
“They’re my allies, Eul-Bok.” Sale-Dessu set the cups of tea down on the table. La-Iin climbed into the chair next to Eul-Bok, who glared at her out the corner of his eye.
“Milk tea? Why are you doing something as mundane as this?”
“Not all my experiments are power-related. And I had a craving. I drank this once when I was young…” Sale-Dessu shook his head. “Anyway, you can have as much as you want, La-Iin.”
La-Iin took a sip of the tea and gave it a curious look.
“What did you come here for today, La-Iin? Did you want the books I promised you? I have them in a bag somewhere. I’m sorry I didn’t get them to you last time.”
“Actually, we’re here at my request, because there’s something curious I wanted to talk with you about, Sale-Dessu. It has to do with V-Puppetry.”
“What’s that? Have you changed your mind about autonomy, Bes-Isa?”
“I still want to be autonomous as much as ever, and not in the way you have right now. That hasn’t changed, and it has nothing to do with that. In fact it’s incredibly contrary, because it has to do with V-Puppetry prior to becoming autonomous like Euly-boy there has.”
“You know, if you don’t like me, you don’t need to give me a nickname. I don’t call you Bessy.”
“If I ever hear that out of your mouth again, the day I become autonomous I’ll slug you!”
“Don’t fight!” Sale-Dessu snapped. “Er, yes? What is it?”
“I’ve been thinking about all the times I suffered at the hands of La-Iin. All the times she flung me around and all the times I’ve been left on my own, just to my thoughts…I know as much as I do because I’ve been left by the radio a lot. Eul-Bok probably knows as much as he does because you dote on him like a son. But when you really get into the nitty-gritty, V-Puppets are pretty evil, don’t you think?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re bringing an inanimate object to life, and even though lots of people make little dolls specifically to become V-Puppets, there are lots of people who buy mass-produced V-Puppet shells and make those into their V-Puppets. How would you feel if you knew that someone was mass-producing Sale-Dessu look-alikes somewhere in the world?”
“…”
“Lots of people see V-Puppets as just a toy. And when they outgrow their ‘toy’ they put it away and forget about it for years. And what about when you die? V-Puppets live until we are too destroyed to be repaired. If our master dies, we will never be able to move the same way again. We’ll just rot away, left to our thoughts, stuck in the same dark place for all eternity….”
La-Iin glanced at Sale-Dessu’s expression. During Bes-Isa’s rant it had gone from a curious one to one of horror. She smirked.
“When people have babies, most of them are looking to care for the baby, and raise it to become good, neutral or evil, but still they want to love and cherish the baby and watch them achieve a goal. They want the baby to survive and such. Some people think otherwise, but lots of people, even some evil people, think it’s horrible to use a baby in that way depending on what they did. Even some evil people think killing babies is going too far. But with a V-Puppet? We’re more disposable. Some people don’t even believe we are able to talk on our own. We’re mostly seen as the sign of a child’s first power, and are equated as being as precious as a disposable toy the child will eventually get rid of or in a best-case scenario pass down. In short, even good people tend to make V-Puppets suffer. Even when we’re carried around and loved, we’re essentially like a person who’s become little more than a vegetable. We cannot move. We can mostly just think. And only a person who really takes us seriously would care for us in a way that makes us happy. Some people even torture us like La-Iin does to me. And what she does isn’t even the worst that can be done. It’s all pretty sick, huh?”
“What’s wrong with you?” Eul-Bok asked.
“I hear a lot on the news. …hey, why’re you crying?”
“I wasn’t taught that V-Puppets are disposable,” he said. “I was taught they were just like a baby, and they should be loved and cared for. I think it’s horrible that people would do that to V-Puppets! I don’t think they’re disposable or like a child’s toy that they’ll outgrow, and I’m certain plenty of people would agree with me! I would never just abandon Eul-Bok like that!”
“Yeah, because you basically adopted him. Ah, but, well, I guess we’re not all the same, and not all of us have miserable lives. I just wanted to give you something to chew on.”
“I wish I could help make more V-Puppets autonomous,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “But I don’t want to compromise Eul-Bok, either…”
“Don’t get so worked up over it. I just wanted to make you think.”
“You’ve definitely made me think.”
“You guys upset Father. Now he’s going to be miserable for the rest of the day.”
“I didn’t say anything,” La-Iin said. “The milk tea came out okay, Sale-Dessu.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin.”

—–
“Father, what Bes-Isa said to you isn’t still stressing you out, is it?”
“No, not really,” he sighed. “But Apeta and Mamun, they taught me a V-Puppet isn’t just a glorified toy. I know you’re just like all living beings. You have your own feelings. And you have hopes and dreams just like us people.”
“If it weren’t for what would happen if you did, do you think you would tell the world you knew how to make us autonomous?”
“I would if I could,” he said. “But with the danger my name’s caused me, the sudden fame, the changes to my life, the disruptions in yours…I could never do it, Eul-Bok. No matter how much my soul wants to.”

13.559.To Find Enjoyment

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 559
“To Find Enjoyment”

“La-Iin, why are you huffing like that?”
“Mama, I’ve realized something. You never did experience true love, did you?”
“What!? I don’t want to hear that coming from your mouth.”
“Why not?”
“Because I know who you’re talking about. Besides, you’re seven. It’s just weird.”
“Age doesn’t matter to me, Mama.”
Mit-Sun’s expression became one of concern.
“Fine, I won’t talk about it. But you asked why I was huffing like that, and that’s why! Also it’s too hot in here! Why’d you have to go and make something so hot for breakfast when it’s so hot outside?”
“I had a taste for it!” Mit-Sun groaned. She continued to grumble as she finished her breakfast.
“I have to go to work today.”
“I know. I certainly am lucky, having a school break.”
“You could bother doing your homework, I hope you know. Asking you to be good is like asking you to do something horrible, but don’t set the house on fire, alright?”
“I’m not an Animated Pumpkin, Mama. Besides, have I ever done anything like that?”
“No, not really, and you’ve been fairly good during Summer break–don’t look at me like that, you know what I mean. But having certain conversations with you makes me wary sometimes.”
“Don’t be wary. Of course I’ll be one-hundred-percent innocent. I’ll just talk with Bes-Isa and play with Choungetsu and his toys, maybe listen to some music and draw! Perfectly innocent.”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes. “That tone you’re using makes me think you’re lying. But I’m gonna have to give you the benefit of the doubt, since I’ve gotta get going. Just don’t hurt yourself, alright?”
“Now you don’t have to worry about that, Mama. I’m powerful. I’ll be fine.”
“Uh-huh.” Mit-Sun slipped on her shoes. “See you later, La-Iin.” She head out the door.
La-Iin sat there, a mischievous grin on her face. Choungetsu walked over to her with a toy in his mouth.
“There’s no time to play, Choungetsu. But how would you like to accompany me on a little journey again?”
Choungetsu gave a confused whimper. “I know I saw him just yesterday, but San-Kyung’s been on my mind lately. After all, I had luck with Mama turning down Haner. Maybe soon enough, I’ll have luck with San-Kyung finally realizing my true charms!”

***

“Finished your homework early, huh, San-Kyung?”
“I finished most of it.”
“He’s been working hard since Summer started! Though he did play with Dosa-Mina a bit yesterday.”
“Huh. Good for you, balancing fun and work. Wish I knew how to do that better!” Salsh-Era tightened his tie. “Well, I suppose I should be going. I’ll see you two later!” He pat San-Kyung on the head and gave Del-Kyuus a kiss on the cheek.
“Do you have to do that, Dad?”
“The kiss or the pat?” He asked coyly. “Either way, yes. Well, I’ll see you two later!”
Del-Kyuus waved as Salsh-Era head out the door. “So, San-Kyung, what are you planning on doing today?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“I hope you don’t plan on just lying around doing nothing! Maybe you’d like to play with me?”
“I’m not really in the mood for playing…maybe I’ll just finish my homework and study a bit. School’s not all that hard for me but I think they were giving me Grade 12 sheets starting this year…they really overestimate me.”
“I don’t think they overestimate you, San-Kyung. You’re a self-made smart boy, and I’m sure you’ll put those smarts to use.”
‘If you only knew in what way,’ he wanted to say, but he bit his tongue and kept from saying it. ‘Not like that’s gonna help me with what I really want, anyway…’
“I think I will study a bit more,” he said. “Maybe we’ll do something later, Mom.”
“Alright! Maybe later we can go out and get something special to drink! Just me and you, San-Kyung.”
“Yeah right.”
Even having cheered up since that fateful day in May, it was often that San-Kyung would dwell back on the paper that seemed to mark his dream as impossible. As desperate as he was to search for some other method, he was scared that it would all be in vain just like his previous idea, that nothing would come of it. In his deepest moments of desperation he had considered using the power drugs he had heard about, but had been thoroughly turned away by the idea of finding dealers and the after-effects of weakness.
So he studied in silence, looking for something new to read over, when something slammed against his window.
“Agh!”
“Something wrong, San-Kyung?”
“Er–” Narrowing his eyes, he yelled, “No!”
“You sure?”
“Yes!” He stood up and head for the door. “I’m going to go and check something, Mom.”
“Are you sure nothing’s wrong? You seem frazzled.”
“I’m sure.” He head out the door and stomped over to his window.
“What the hell are you doing here!?”
“I wanted to see you again,” La-Iin said. San-Kyung noticed she seemed well-prepared for visiting him. Her dog’s leash tied tightly around her waist, she was holding a CD Player and the script for Isle of the Sirens was under her arm. Over her shoulder she was wearing a bag that seemed to be stuffed full of things he couldn’t see.
“What’d you bring all the stuff for!?”
“Well, yesterday your only option of something to do was to act in Isle of the Sirens. I wanted to give you more options and show you a good time!”
San-Kyung slapped his forehead. “Go away.”
“No. I lugged all of this all this way and I even brought Choungetsu because he seemed like he wanted to go. And this CD Player was heavy! I know you can dance well, so maybe you can show me again how well you can dance! After all, I’ve gotten taller since the Malicerie School Dance.”
“I’ve gotten taller as well, I hope you know.”
“Oh, I noticed~ But not as much as I would have if I hadn’t gained any height.”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Liar! You have plenty of time, I know it! You’re just trying to avoid me!”
“So what if I am? La-Iin, I get annoyed with Dosa-Mina at times. And you tend to be incredibly annoying when you’re trying to get my attention. Not to mention I know you have ulterior motives.”
“But–!”
“No.”
He walked back over to the door, but was only able to put his hand on the doorknob before La-Iin spoke.
“You know, I saw you inside and you looked sad. It reminded me of that time after I showed you that paper. I regret that, you know. You said it made you feel like all you did was a waste of time. I’m a master at finding things to do with my time!”
Choungetsu barked at her. “Stop trying to lie, Choungetsu! Anyway, all you were doing was sitting there and reading some study book! Maybe you don’t like me as much as Dosa-Mina, but I understand you well. And if you’re anything like me, breaks are a necessity. You never know how long it will take for you to accomplish your goal. So taking a break and not thinking about it is helpful.”
San-Kyung sighed. “You think this way because you have longer to live than me, La-Iin. So don’t act like you understand how it works for me.”
“Maybe I do, but San-Kyung, weren’t you doing more before? It seemed like before I gave you that paper, even though you didn’t like to do much, you still did more than you do now. I don’t plan on letting my mistake dominate your life!”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“San-Kyung–”
“Oh, shut up. Look, as I said I don’t have as much time as you do to what I need to do.” He gave another sigh. “But maybe you have a point. I’m not finding out anything the way I’m going. Dosa-Mina’s not finding out anything. I’m not doing anything worth my time.”
“See? I knew it! Accept my activities, San-Kyung!”
“Who said I was going to do that!?”
“You admitted I was right.”
“I said you have a point!”
La-Iin smiled. “San-Kyung, you shouldn’t be surprised that this is the case. Remember we had that talk before? Even though we’re evil, we still have our flaws. There’s evil things that we don’t like and we care about people. Compared to those two things, what’s wrong with wanting to do something fun once in a while? After all, with how well you can dance, you could do a great dance on the graves of your enemies!”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes. “How corny. But if it gets you to leave me alone, then fine.”
La-Iin beamed. She set down the CD Player and turned it on, then began to dance. San-Kyung groaned and began to dance as well.

I’m a downtown, downtown la-dy-girl
I’ve got you right where I want you!
I’m a downtown, downtown la-dy-girl
You have fallen into my trap!

—–
“I don’t know what it is,” said Salsh-Era, “but something’s making you look a bit happier today, San-Kyung. What’s up?”
“Nothing is!”
“Did you have a good conversation with Dosa-Mina? I heard you talking to him over the phone.”
“It was just a normal conversation.”
Salsh-Era chuckled. “Who’d have thought my son would be the easily embarrassed type?”
“I thought. Have you seen the way he reacts to certain things? Oh, but he was really cute earlier today when we went out to get drinks. I actually saw him smile for the first time in a while!”
“Oh, be quiet, Mom,” San-Kyung sighed.
“Oh, but you did look really cute, San-Kyung.”
“It’s good to see you happy though. You haven’t seemed yourself for almost two months and I’ve been getting worried. And I know, being happy like this isn’t necessarily acting like yourself. But it’s better than whatever was going on before.”
“Yeah, well, maybe it’s not too bad to have a distraction every now and then.”
“Definitely not!” Del-Kyuus said.
“I’d agree with you there.”
‘I hate feeling like she’s right!’ San-Kyung grit his teeth at the thought. ‘But apparently it’s not just me. Dosa-Mina’s always had good advice. Maybe they’re right…’
“I do agree with La-Iin in this case, San-Kyung. You’ve been depressed lately. There have been a few times when I’ve been depressed that I turn to you to distract myself.”
“Really?”
“Yup! So I think La-Iin has a good point. I told you yesterday anyway. If there’s something you enjoy, don’t just give it up. Take it as your hobby, and use it to your advantage.”

12.558.Makeshire-Kyung

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 558
“Makeshire-Kyung”

Early Sunday morning at the Dslellular house, a knock sounded at the door.
“I wonder who that is?” Orlin-Aesth said. “Dosa-Mina, can you get the door?”
“Fine, fine,” he sighed, putting his book down. When he opened the door, his eyes widened in surprise at the sight of La-Iin standing there, her expression serious. Close behind her was Choungetsu, who watched Dosa-Mina while lolling his tongue.
“Before you ask any questions, rival-boy, know that I’m not here for any other reason other than having you help me with a…project of mine will benefit me. I need your help for something!”
“How do you remember the way here?”
“Like I said, I retain any information I consider useful. Besides, I’ve been here more than once. Now, you need to listen up. I have a plan for something I want San-Kyung to do, but I don’t think he’ll do it without your goading…”
She beckoned to Dosa-Mina to crouch down. He decided to oblige. “Huh? …oh, that does sound interesting. Well, you definitely came to the right person, La-Iin! If anyone has a chance of convincing San-Kyung to do something, it’s me. Though I can’t guarantee he’ll go along with that.”
“Any extra percentage I gain from you is a good thing. But don’t think I like this arrangement one bit!”
“I know, I know. If you keep denying it it makes it sound like you actually do like this arrangement.”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. Letting Choungetsu lead the way, she and Dosa-Mina walked away from his house to discuss their plan.
“Oh, if I’m going to go somewhere, I better tell my Dad first. He’s used to me leaving without notice but I’d rather he knows I’m going off.”
La-Iin scoffed, but didn’t protest. Dosa-Mina head back to his house. Choungetsu tried to follow him, but Dosa-Mina quickly outran the leash’s length and he was pulled backwards.

***

After the recent dispute La-Iin had had with Mit-Sun, a feeling had stirred inside of her and prompted her to leave the house that Sunday morning under the guise of visiting Sale-Dessu for some advice.
“Sale-Dessu, I need you to do something for me, ally to ally.”
“What’s that, La-Iin?”
“I need you to pretend that I’m here if Mama comes over,” she said. “I need to do something important, but Mama doesn’t like me going off on my own unless I’m going to see someone. And I am, but I don’t think she’ll agree.”
Sale-Dessu’s stare gave no indication of how he would respond. “Are you sure you should be doing this?”
“You’re not my Dami. You’re my ally, so cover for me!”
“I might not be your father, but I am a father, so I can understand some of your mother’s concern,” he said. “Besides, I really don’t know how I would cover for you. What if Mit-Sun comes inside and starts looking for you? Eventually she’ll find out you’re not in here.”
“Disguise Eul-Bok as me, then. You’re a Warlock. You can do things like that. Don’t tell me you can’t, if you can glitch the world you can do that!”
“Eul-Bok doesn’t act anything like you, La-Iin, and I’m pretty sure she’d be able to tell something was off. Besides, I can’t risk her looking around and finding Eul-Bok in his state. I trust your mother, but not that much.”
La-Iin huffed. “You’re a shitty ally sometimes, you know!?”
“What!?”
“Fine, I’ll go with Choungetsu! At least he’s stupid enough not to care.”
“I-I’m sorry, La-Iin! It’s really only because I’m worried about messing up! I’ll owe you, I promise!”
“How funny to see this powerful man cowering to a little girl. I must be stronger than I thought. Fine, you’ll owe me, and you’ll owe me big time. But I understand, I guess. Mama can be violent sometimes and I wouldn’t want her kicking you in the crotch.”
Sale-Dessu paled. “She would do that? La-Iin, I’m sorry, I really am going to have to owe you…”
La-Iin snickered. “Oh, she probably wouldn’t do it to you, but we shouldn’t take those chances. Prepare yourself, my ally!” She closed the door and head back to her house, then beckoned to Choungetsu.
“Oh, so you’re taking him on a walk yourself for once?” Mit-Sun asked, looking up from her book.
“Yes, I am. Mama, you’re fine to spend time with and all, but it’s constantly, day after day and after what you did yesterday I’m still mad at you! So, I figured since Choungetsu hasn’t been bothering me I both owed him and he would be the least annoying to spend time with.”
“Don’t walk into any suspicious neighborhoods. Or go adventuring across Bledger on your own.” Mit-Sun said with narrowed eyes.
“I might not do either of those things but you won’t stop my path! Let’s go, Choungetsu!”
“What does that mean?” Mit-Sun asked, though she got no response as La-Iin and Choungetsu head outside right afterwards.
“It’s good that you’re stupid, Choungetsu. You’re the best dog to keep a secret for me.”
Choungetsu didn’t respond. He walked ahead cheerfully, his tongue lolling.
La-Iin found that it was often after Uil-Cur came up that she had a desire to see San-Kyung not long afterwards. This time was no exception, though she had some concerns about her plan for what to do.
‘Fer-Shi finding out I did one of our special things with someone else is one thing, but will there even be an incident for her to find out about?’
La-Iin had her doubts that San-Kyung would agree to act out a Makeshire play script for more reasons than one–the primary one being that San-Kyung generally seemed to dislike doing far more things than she did.
“It’s because he’s a teenager!” She could hear Fer-Shi saying those words, but she knew there was another explanation, simply that it was in San-Kyung’s nature.
Still, she was desperate both to see San-Kyung and to see him acting out the play script and could find no other excuse for going to visit him. She had stewed on the idea until walking outside with Choungetsu, but once she was outside she was certain she knew what her best chance at having him accept once.
‘I really am just going to have to swallow my pride and ask rival-boy for help.’
The idea disgusted her, but the thought of having her wish fulfilled was more pleasant than the disgust she felt from the former. With that in mind, she thought back on the path she had taken in the past to Dosa-Mina’s house, then ran ahead of Choungetsu, who was hot on her heels and eventually overtook her; after that point, she let him take the lead, only pulling him back when he tried to send her down the wrong path.

***

On the way to the neighborhood, La-Iin, Choungetsu, and Dosa-Mina were silent, though La-Iin scoffed at Choungetsu when he would stop to sniff something or for a quick bathroom break. Only once they entered the neighborhood did Dosa-Mina speak.
“What’s it like, having a dog?”
“Don’t talk to me.”
“I was just curious.”
“Aren’t you basically part dog?”
“Part Werewolf, La-Iin. Some Werewolves might act dog-ish, but that’s just their personality. We’re descended from wolves, not dogs.”
Dosa-Mina knocked on the door to the Molshei house. Unsettled, La-Iin opted to stand outside the line of sight of the door.
She gave a sigh of relief when she noticed that Del-Kyuus had answered the door.
“Hello? Oh, hello, Dosa-Mina! Are you here to see San-Kyung?”
“Yeah, I wanted to ask him if he was up for doing something. It’s perfectly innocent though, Mrs. Molshei.”
Del-Kyuus gave a wry smile. “What made you think I thought it wasn’t?”
“That’s just how you are sometimes, Mrs. Molshei!”
“Well, I’ll ask him if he’s up for it, but he’s busy doing his Summer homework right now.”
Dosa-Mina slapped his forehead. “He’s got a head start, then…”
“Ah, don’t worry. School doesn’t start again until September, right? You have time to catch up! In the meantime, would you like to come inside?”
“Nah, I think I’ll wait out here. Thanks, Mrs. Molshei!”
Del-Kyuus nodded and head back inside.
“He’s doing his homework?”
“I’d be surprised too, but it’s like San-Kyung to do that. He doesn’t have much to do most of the time. Makes it easy to get him for something.”
“He really does spend a lot of his time doing nothing, doesn’t he?”
“Oh, he doesn’t spend it doing nothing.”
“Does he fantasize?”
Dosa-Mina shrugged. “I wouldn’t know. If he does he doesn’t share those fantasies with me. But he mostly preoccupies himself with things he has to do. So sometimes he does errands for his parents or chores around the house, things like that just to keep himself preoccupied.”
“Hm…”
“I think your dog likes the way I smell,” Dosa-Mina said, glancing at Choungetsu.
“He likes the way San-Kyung smells better. And I mean this legitimately.”
“How does he know what San-Kyung smells like?”
Having begun to talk among each other about mundane topics, both La-Iin and Dosa-Mina almost failed to notice San-Kyung come outside.
“And besides, I don’t think you should let–oh, hello, San-Kyung! It’s good to see you.” He walked over to him and hugged him. La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“It’s good to see you too, but it’s too sweaty for your affection,” he said, gently pushing Dosa-Mina away. “Mom told me it was you at the door. She didn’t mention La-Iin.”
“For all her bluster I think La-Iin is more wary around strangers than you are! The stranger-danger mentality probably would be stronger in a seven-year-old than a sixteen-year-old anyway.”
“Hey! San-Kyung’s Mama just reeks of goody-goody, that’s all. She’s nothing like you, and it disgusts me.”
“You knew that already. Besides, haven’t you complained about your own mother being good?”
“At least she has a jackass factor.”
“Jackass factor?” Dosa-Mina questioned.
“What are you two here for anyway?” Before Dosa-Mina could respond, an unreadable look crossed San-Kyung’s face. “You’re not here to recreate that date from last year, are you?”
“No way. That was fun but I’m not looking to do it again anytime soon, especially not with how annoying La-Iin’s been lately.”
“Try looking in a mirror, rival-boy.”
Choungetsu walked up to San-Kyung and began to sniff him intensely. “And you brought your dog, too…” He groaned.
“You know, being caught up in the moment of there being more people here than you expected distracted me. We’re here because there’s something I want you to do.”
“What’s that? And what does La-Iin and her dog have to do with it?”
“I had to bring Choungetsu or else Mama wouldn’t let me go.”
“You could sort of say it was her idea…she provided the supplies we needed. San-Kyung, how’d you like to do a play?”
“No.”
“Aw, come on, San-Kyung, it might be fun.”
“No. I have better things to do with my time.”
“Do you really?” La-Iin asked. “Or are you just going to keep doing your homework until it’s done and then do chores and errands for your parents!? What sort of future world ruler does that with his time!?”
San-Kyung was surprised to see that La-Iin’s wings were flapping rapidly.
“Sorry. I kind of told her you spend a lot of time doing…well, that.”
“So? Why should I do this stupid play? Let me guess, it’s some romance and La-Iin wants to play one role in the couple and for me to play the other.”
“Actually it’s a violent play about Sirens. I actually was considering bringing Varinis et Sol-Kiut, but I knew you wouldn’t go along with it.”
“Aw, just give it a shot, San-Kyung. We could only do one act. I don’t know much about Makeshire’s plays but I’m sure one act isn’t three hours.”
“Three hours is the full length of some of his plays. But not one act.”
“What has you two so desperate?”
“We want to see you act.” Was the response both of them gave.
“This play has lots of evil roles! You get to do violent things! But you also have to sing.”
“Remember when we were younger we used to act out violent scenarios? Come on, it’ll be just like that, except you kind of have to follow a script.”
San-Kyung had begun to look uncertain.
“Aw, come on.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Fine. I’ll do it. You have a point that I don’t have much to do. But I’m not doing any good role.”
“I told you, this play has lots of evil roles. So long as you’re one of the Sirens you’ll be okay.”
“Aren’t Sirens usually female in fiction?”
“Yes. That’s the case here too. But that’s where modification comes in!”
San-Kyung looked uncertain. ‘Fer-Shi would be so mad if she found out I was doing this with San-Kyung. I’ll just have to act out another play with her instead!’

“‘What you fail to realize, fair Lien, is for the world of Sirens, the rules are doled differently. All the rules are that survival of the species is key. Accept this, escape it, but do not try to change it! Your methods of survival vary from ours, Lien, and that I will grant respect, but oppose me and I shall make of you my next meal. I am, after all, a lover of rabbit’s meat…'”
La-Iin had expected to enjoy watching San-Kyung act, though she had been concerned about his acting ability. Soon enough she found that there was no need to be concerned, all except for the behavior of one Siren towards a character of Dosa-Mina’s.
‘I wish I had a camera. I would record all this. I’d let rival-boy do all the other parts if I could just record this.’
“La-Iin, it’s your line next,” Dosa-Mina said.
La-Iin snapped out of her daydreams and began to read the script. “‘Mes-Iri, why spare the rabbit at all? Why give him a chance at life when his would better benefit our own kind?'”
“‘It’s simple enough, isn’t it, to have just killed him then and there with my song as opposed to letting him go, but I enjoy the thrill of the hunt as much as the spoils. So I anxiously await Lien’s return to our island. I’ll chase him for as long as need be until the moment his sanity is shattered, till the moment I see its effects reflected upon his physical body. Any names you might call me as a result are acceptable, Niciera. Young Sirens are told not to play with their prey. But where’s the harm in playing with it before it is, officially, prey?'”
What made her even more anxious was hearing San-Kyung’s singing voice. Though she knew a song for his character Mes-Iri was in the script, it did not occur until the end of the first act. Perhaps because she was both enjoying her time and feeling anxious, it felt like it had both taken forever and just a short time before they reached the end of the script.

Watch the empire front of me fall,
watch the place so civilized show all its flaws
Say your prayers just one more night
For tomorrow, the worth of those prayers will be lesser than nothing!

After the song, San-Kyung lowered his head as if embarrassed.
“Can’t we do another act!? Please!?”
“No!” San-Kyung snapped. Lifting his head up briefly, La-Iin felt she could see him blushing. His yell caught Choungetsu’s attention, and he turned away from the butterfly he was watching to bark at San-Kyung.
“You did pretty good there, San-Kyung. You seemed like you were getting pretty into it.”
“Well, it was nice to do that and all, but I should probably finish my homework.”
“We have until Septemberrrr!” La-Iin whined.
“Yeah, well, I’d rather get it over with early!”
“Don’t worry, San-Kyung, I won’t bother you anymore. But there is something I’ve been meaning to ask. Watching you act and after having a conversation with La-Iin earlier, there’s something I’ve been wondering about.”
“What now?”
“You seemed to enjoy doing that a bit. I’ve seen you enjoy doing certain things but you don’t do them often. You don’t even go out and use your car as much as you used to.”
“…”
“The car’s another thing, but San-Kyung, if there are things you enjoy don’t just bury them because they came about because of the world or people. You might not like either, but where’s the sin in enjoying them? Well, rather, if there is a sin why aren’t you embracing that?”
“I draw, San-Kyung. Creative outlets can be good for evil.”
“What makes you think I enjoy any of this stuff?”
“Just watching you. Besides, it’s a waste. Your acting’s good and all, but I’ve seen you dance. You have a natural talent for that. I’m not saying give up on your main goals, but what’s wrong with having a hobby?”
San-Kyung blinked. “I think you’re misunderstanding.”
“If you don’t want to talk about this in front of San-Kyung then we can talk over the phone later. But really, San-Kyung, if you enjoy other things don’t just stop yourself from doing them. Go on and do them. But, well, that’s enough for now, and I should be getting home. It was fun you two! I’ll be seeing you!” He gave San-Kyung a kiss on the cheek, waved, then began to head home.
“I hate to agree with rival-boy, but creative outlets really are good for evil. But you do your homework, then. Choungetsu looks like he’s getting antsy.” She pulled on Choungetsu’s leash.
“I’ll show you, San-Kyung. Sooner or later I’ll get you to do the rest of this script! See you!”
She flew off, Choungetsu for once unable to catch up to her. San-Kyung sighed. He head back inside.
“What took you so long?”
“Nothing important. Not really, anyway.”

—–
As he came to the end of his homework, San-Kyung found himself thinking back on La-Iin and Dosa-Mina’s words from earlier.
‘What makes them think I like any of this stuff? Wishful thinking?’ The thought made him let out a sigh. ‘I don’t know about La-Iin, but Dosa-Mina knows me well. Maybe he’s seeing something I’m not seeing in myself…’