30.273.The True Path to Evil–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 273
“The True Path to Evil–Part 2”

Throughout yesterday’s classes, Ai-Reia had been planning how she would handle the fight against La-Iin. It had only taken the span of math class for her competing sides to have a victor, which was ultimately the side that wanted to fight La-Iin.
She had planned a surprise attack against La-Iin, but wondered how smart that would be. Even if she did plan on handicapping herself, Ai-Reia could imagine La-Iin flying out of instinct. Since La-Iin was slightly bigger than her, she figured that she might have the advantage in physical strength, especially given that she always played at the recess area during classes she didn’t attend, while, when thinking on it, Ai-Reia realized she didn’t do much physical activity.
‘Still, being the smaller one I might have the advantage in speed…’
Ai-Reia had tried to get as much sleep as possible so that being caught off-guard by exhaustion was not an option. Ca-Miela had inevitably cried that night, but thanks to her nap at Im-Dei’s house, she wasn’t as badly affected. She made sure to eat and take something for lunch as well, played outside for a short time with her siblings before school, and continued to think over strategies.
The lack of any powers still seemed like a significant disadvantage to Ai-Reia, but she accepted it and figured that she could find another strategy. She decided early on not to bank on the chance of La-Iin keeping her promise about handicapping herself and instead prepared for the chance that she would use her powers. Ai-Reia knew of two powers La-Iin held, and was uncertain as to whether she had a third one, but she prepared herself all the same.
She only relaxed slightly when she came to school, wearing a smile to try and keep people from talking to her again.
“You seem more refreshed today, Vampiris!” Gen-Reiya commented.
“Thank you, I am! She didn’t cry nearly as much last night!”
“Did napping at my house help?” Im-Dei asked.
“Yes, it did. I only woke up once last night but it didn’t affect me when I woke up for school. Thank you so much for letting me nap there.”
“No problem! I always want to help…though my family asked some questions about you…”
“What did you tell them?”
“To ask you. But they were too scared to.”
Ai-Reia kept focused during classes, momentarily forgetting the upcoming fight and only thinking on it when she saw no students coming over to bother her during break times. She used those brief times to find mistakes in her plan, tweaking it in places it needed to be tweaked, making sure she was prepared for any outcome to the fight, and also making sure that neither of them died.
‘I only hope La-Iin isn’t too rough on me…that’s the one thing that could throw me off. No, don’t jinx it, Ai-Reia!’
“I should have asked San-Kyung for advice,” La-Iin sighed.
“Advice? You can ask me for advice,” Fer-Shi said.
“You don’t get it, Fer-Shi. I know you don’t like San-Kyung, but there’s something he could have given me advice on that I didn’t ask him about…and he seems like he’s in a bad mood today.”
“That’s never stopped you before.”
“It’s only stopping me now because….never mind, Fer-Shi, you’d never understand it.”
“….does this have to do with affairs of the heart or something silly like that?”
“No, because you’d understand that sort of. You got that crush on that stupid girl from the stew–”
“I didn’t!” Fer-Shi said. “I just admired her, geez!”
“Go ahead and keep saying that. It only makes you more transparent than you already were.”

***

Ai-Reia let out a breath when the final class let out. She watched La-Iin say something to San-Kyung, which prompted a response only from Dosa-Mina, then rush out the class. Ai-Reia wondered if she was going to the meeting place, or if she was running home.
‘That would destroy all my plans….if only I knew where she lived…should I follow her now? No, best to take the chance that she might be waiting….’
“Something wrong, Vampiris?” Zae-Mia asked. “You look constipated.”
“Constipated…? No, nothing’s wrong, and I’m not constipated. I was just thinking about something.”
“Ah, okay.” Zae-Mia walked away from her and went to talk to another student.
Where usually Ai-Reia would start getting prepared to leave, today she watched as the students around her got ready to leave. She watched Fer-Shi say something to Shan-Zetsu on the way out, then watched as San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina become locked in one of their normal conversations as they prepared to go home. She heard Rini-Futo asking Nemi-Hikla questions, and watched Xhen-Bei smack Kaersh-Cogyp on the back, which scattered some sand everywhere nearby him. Kaersh-Cogyp glared, and Xhen-Bei ran away, his tail between his legs.
Lirako was popular even as she prepared to leave; she seemed to be waiting for Deki-Tyunri, who struggled with his notebook in his mouth. Lirako offered to take it for him as students continued to talk to her, and started to look slightly overwhelmed. She noticed San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina on their way out; Ai-Reia sat close enough to Lirako to notice her give them a playful glare. San-Kyung gave an indignant look in response, while Dosa-Mina just glared and quickened his pace.
“Vampiris, is something wrong?”
Im-Dei was standing in front of her desk. “Does everyone think something’s wrong with me?”
“Sorry, I just–”
“No, it’s fine. I don’t mind if you’re concerned for me, Fyuori. No, nothing’s wrong. I just got lost in thought is all….but at this rate, I think I might be the last student out of here.”
“Should I wait for you?”
“No, no!” Ai-Reia said, trying to make herself sound cheerful. “You usually go with Kokohara, right? She could use you a lot more than I could. She’s getting a lot better thanks to you, but I hear some flubs every now and then. Just in case, you should go with her.”
“Are you–”
“I’m fine. If I do end up staying behind by accident, a teacher will eventually notice. If nothing else the classroom has to be closed before Malicerie closes for the day. And I sit in the front, as well. I’m easy to see, especially since there aren’t any taller students around.”
Im-Dei still looked concerned. “…if you say so….well, see you tomorrow, Vampiris…”
“See you, Fyuori.”
Watching the students closely, Ai-Reia went over her plans once again. Now they seemed perfect to her. She watched as the other students in the class gradually exited until none were left, then walked out the class and head for the bathroom.
If any students had seen her, she figured, they would think she was in the bathroom. She waited for only a few moments before walking out the bathroom and making it as fast as she could without running out the Malicerie building.
Once she was outside, she could see the crowd of students heading home. It was a tempting idea to join them, but she knew she had other occupations. She wanted to run to the designated location, but figured that might only tire her out before the actual battle. She ultimately decided against it and walked quickly to the location she expected La-Iin to be. Then, she slowed down.
From her position she could see part of La-Iin’s dress and some of her wing. Ai-Reia swallowed hard. ‘Even thinking this out, there’s still room for error…’
If she pulled off her first move badly, it could cost her the battle. Ai-Reia didn’t have the same guarantee she had given La-Iin–even though it was unlikely that La-Iin would try to murder her, she found it hard to trust her enemy.
She took a deep breath, then head as slowly as she could towards the opposite side of the building. She picked up speed once she was sure she was out of La-Iin’s hearing range, then slowed when her wing came into view.
‘Is she a little further ahead than before?’ Ai-Reia wondered. ‘Did she notice me leaving?’ Ai-Reia was starting to feel nervous, but as she took one last deep breath, she tried to change that into rage.
Putting aside anything that would hold her back, she ran at La-Iin and jumped her.
La-Iin seemed startled and started trying to shake her off. Ai-Reia latched on tight and pulled off her headband. La-Iin grabbed the headband back and smacked Ai-Reia with it, and she finally fell off.
“So you opted for a sneak attack?” La-Iin yelled. “Nice!”
She ran at Ai-Reia, but Ai-Reia moved away before she was even close. She grabbed her wing and tugged hard. She noticed La-Iin start to flap her free wing.
“Ah-ah-ah! No powers!” Ai-Reia said. She pulled the wing close to her and bit down on it. La-Iin screeched.
“Alerting people to the battle, huh!?” She tossed La-Iin to the ground. “You may be the bigger one, but my smarts don’t prevent me from being a formidable foe!”
La-Iin knocked Ai-Reia to the ground. “No talking during fights! Only fighting!”
Both girls grabbed on to each other’s hair. La-Iin waved the headband in Ai-Reia’s direction with her free hand, but that only pushed Ai-Reia to pull on her hair harder. La-Iin started to squeak in pain, and it made Ai-Reia feel confident. La-Iin’s grip on her hair seemed to be getting weaker; she took the opportunity to get closer to La-Iin in an attempt to bite her, only to be smacked in the face with the headband once again.
La-Iin put the headband back in her hair. Ai-Reia took that time to scratch her across the face. La-Iin kicked at her, which sent her back to the ground, then started to run off.
“Coward! Stay in the fight!”
‘Stay in the fight, she says,’ La-Iin thought. ‘Idiot! I am staying in the fight!’
La-Iin was frustrated. She had assumed that Ai-Reia would be easy enough to deal with; she had mostly come to terms with the fact that San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina were more skilled with their powers and physically stronger than her, but that she was having trouble with a powerless Vampire who was smaller than her infuriated her.
‘Maybe I should use my powers anyway.’ It would be easy enough to take care of Ai-Reia in the sky, but at the same time, La-Iin couldn’t bear the thought of Ai-Reia claiming that she could only win while using her powers.
She tried to think through a strategy to take down Ai-Reia while hiding.
Ai-Reia, on the other hand, was frustrated that she had lost sight of La-Iin; she was convinced that she had run off. ‘She’s not so slow either…damn it, where could she have gone!? There aren’t that many places to hide nearby…what if she did go home? Ha! Should I consider that a forfeit?
‘Wait a second, she might be planning something. She hasn’t been using her powers during this fight. What if she’s finding a weapon? Oh, that could be bad. She was only really able to hurt me with her headband….if she has something more blunt, I could easily lose this at this point.’
Ai-Reia was starting to feel desperate. She wanted to defeat La-Iin. That desire was confusing her thoughts and making her paranoid. She now truly believed that La-Iin would find a blunt object and murder her with it. That paranoia made her shudder.
In an instant, Ai-Reia started to feel different.
La-Iin tried to fix her hair back in a way that it would hold without the headband. She saw it as her best means of attack against Ai-Reia; as long as she could defend against her with it, she might be able to pull out of the battle safe.
Ai-Reia seemed wild; La-Iin doubted she would die at her hands, but she didn’t want to get too badly injured. She pulled her hair back, going against her common sense by using her hair as a hair tie.
But before she could come from her hiding place, a face stared in at her. La-Iin flinched.
The face obviously belonged to Ai-Reia, but it was also obviously different. Her face was covered in fur and looked more like a bat’s than a Vampire’s.
It was a sight she had seen in a similar form before.
Ai-Reia tried to nip at her from her hiding place. La-Iin smacked at her with her headband. Ai-Reia flinched.
“If you’re going to use a power, I can too!” She flew above her. From her hiding place, there was only a narrow area to fly out from. If she tried to do that, she was sure she would get stuck.
Instead, she stayed a safe distance above the snarling Ai-Reia, and bit into her arm. Once she had drunk her blood, she focused only on flying to keep herself above Ai-Reia. When the transformation completed, she focused on Ai-Reia once again.
She knew now there was no guarantee Ai-Reia would spare her; obviously she had no conscious control of her power. She flew down at her and knocked her on the ground. Ai-Reia continued to snarl at her and reached out with her fangs. She nipped her fingers and scratched at her. One of the nips drew blood; La-Iin flew above Ai-Reia to clean it off, then dived back down at her.
Ai-Reia didn’t seem to have a clear grasp of her surroundings, La-Iin noticed–she seemed to stay focused on La-Iin no matter where she was and aim for that area regardless of whether she could reach it or not. She didn’t talk, and only snarled, and no triumph showed in her eyes or her face when she injured La-Iin as it had been before. Instead, her eyes were cold and her face contorted with rage.
Since she wasn’t completely conscious, she had no reason to complain at La-Iin for using her powers; even if she snapped out of it, La-Iin realized it was a valid enough excuse to say that her transformation had triggered out of fear. If she knocked her down from a high enough point in the air, she could easily end the battle.
La-Iin flew as high as she could without starting to feel off, then dived down at Ai-Reia as fast as she could go. Ai-Reia fell to the ground and La-Iin pinned her down.
“There’s no point in fighting you when you’re messed up like this,” La-Iin said.
Ai-Reia snarled in response. La-Iin smacked her.
“Just snap out of it. I can’t feel comfortable until you do.”
“Fe…feel comfortable?”
Within a moment Ai-Reia’s eyes seemed to readjust to her surroundings. She gasped and looked around, knocking La-Iin off of her.
“What the–?”
“I win, Ai-Reia. You stopped being conscious, so I win.”
“What!?”
“You turned into a bat and went crazy,” La-Iin told her. “You went so crazy that you made me transform.”
“You–you used a power!”
“Not until after you did, and really only because you did. This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t feel threatened.”
La-Iin stared down at her arm. It was starting to gradually return to its normal color, and she started to feel less powerful.
“Why do you turn into that!?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you say I turned into a bat!?”
“You still are transformed, sort of. But I win because you got unconscious. You don’t remember turning into a bat at all, do you?”
“No!”
“Thought so, stupid,” La-Iin said. She yawned. “I’m going home now. You’re crazy. See you.”
“But–!”
“But what? There’s no fight to be had here anymore. I win. See you.”
Ai-Reia tried to catch up to La-Iin, but La-Iin jumped up and started to fly off, though she seemed shaky on her wings. Ai-Reia watched as she took off. She felt frustrated watching her, but there was something bothering her more than that.
“What the…did that really just happen?”

—–
Even after the battle, Ai-Reia still had designs of fighting La-Iin again on her mind. It distracted her as soon as she got home, and she barely talked to her family.
‘I don’t care what’s the cost or if she ever changes. I deserve revenge for today!’
It was only at the dinner table that the memory of her bat-form came back to her. She looked up at her family.
“Um–”
“Yes, Ai-Reia?”
“Guess who transformed into a bat today?” She said meekly.

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