12.285.The Festival of Blood

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 285
“The Festival of Blood”

“Mama!”
“Yes, I know.”
“Can we–”
“I said I know, La-Iin.”
“Go to–”
“I know!”
“The festival?”
Mit-Sun glared. “Not if you keep pestering me like that!”
La-Iin dropped to the ground. “And what have you done to deserve it, huh? You haven’t done any chores. You haven’t been taking Choungetsu out as much. I had to take him out yesterday, he looked so desperate. You pulled an all-nighter and could’ve badly hurt yourself and you snuck onto my computer without permission. I don’t even want to go to this festival so tell me, why should I take you?”
“Because you love me.”
“I’m not blind though, La-Iin. I know when someone deserves something and when they don’t….and you barely seem like you deserve to go to this festival. It’s not like you’ve never gotten anything fun, either. I’ve bought and made you several dresses, you have a game system now, you’ve gotten lots that you want even on our limited budget, all thanks to the fact that we’re a small family. So why?”
“It would be fun to get out.”
“…”
“Mama, it’s only once a year and I really want to go!”
“Alright, I’ll make a deal with you then since you’re so desperate…take Choungetsu out for a walk, then come back and give me one good reason why I should take you. If you can come up with a good one before guessing ten times, I’ll take you.”
“How generous,” La-Iin said, her tone snarky. Mit-Sun sighed. “Hurry if you want to go. I have no idea when this stupid festival is–”
“Don’t call it stupid,” La-Iin pouted, “and it’s at night.” She beckoned Choungetsu, who leapt off the couch to greet her, put on his leash and left the house.
“She could have picked something more difficult but she didn’t. Mama truly does not have any brains.” The opinion was kept to herself until she felt she was a safe distance from the house. But as Mit-Sun had asked, La-Iin tried to think of reasons Mit-Sun would consider good ones for attending the Festival of Blood.
A thrill rose in her whenever she thought about it. In truth, despite her excitement, she had only recently learned of the festival. She hadn’t mentioned it often to Mit-Sun to avoid an outright rejection. She knew she could plan to go on her own, but she feared Mit-Sun’s anger in response, and though going with someone else sounded good to her as well, all the people she could think of that she could contact did not seem like the type of people to attend the Festival–at least, not without complaints or compromises she wasn’t willing to make.
The walk ultimately ended up being relatively short. Once she had thought up enough reasons, she returned home, unleashed Choungetsu, and stood in front of Mit-Sun, tipping her head back to face her.
“Let’s hear your reasons,” Mit-Sun said.
“We won’t be there long,” she said.
“No. That’s not good enough.”
“Um….it’s a way of me getting blood without bothering you. It’s all free there….I think.”
“That’s compelling, but I need something better. If you can’t guarantee the blood there is free, then give me one more reason.”
La-Iin pouted. “…if it isn’t free I’ll pay for it. I still have some vuyong that you gave me that I never gave back from ages ago, and you haven’t really missed it. So we can count that as my money and I’ll pay for my blood.”
Mit-Sun glared. “While it pisses me off that you kept my vuyong, fine. That’s good enough for me. With that being said–we could very well end up going home early if you act up while we’re there, and if you complain about blood again after we go to the festival, there’ll be–”
La-Iin glared back. “Of course I’ll complain about wanting blood again. ….but not for the rest of 2014.”
“I’m holding you to those words now. Break that and you’ll be in trouble. Not anything bad of course…”
‘I don’t trust it to be anything good! Not that I want that anyway…’
Either way, La-Iin was relieved that she had convinced Mit-Sun, and kept her feelings on how easily she was swayed a secret. She didn’t need to lose her chance now that Mit-Sun had finally given in.
‘But if she does, I always have myself to take me there…’

***

“Feel that night air!” Bes-Isa called out. “Oh, but could I make one request, La-Iin?”
“What?”
“Don’t get any blood on me. It’s horrible, having to be washed by THAT woman…also blood stains really bad.”
“You’ll have to stay in my dress then,” she said. “I’ll be getting a taste of all the types of blood! Catori, and Wingyrm, and Pureblood Bunety…I’ve only had half-Bunety before.”
“Staying in your dress is good enough for me. Besides, you brought Choungetsu….I fear what he might do if he gets his paws on me.”
Choungetsu turned around, looked at Bes-Isa, and simultaneously his tongue began to loll and his tail began to wag furiously. La-Iin stuffed Bes-Isa into her bag.
“I thought we agreed on dress!” Bes-Isa said, though her words were muted by the bag and La-Iin was unable to hear them.
“You’re limited by the amount of vuyong you have on you, remember,” Mit-Sun said. “Unless the blood is free you can only get as much as you can buy. Really, though, we should be using that vuyong for other things, more important things….we don’t exactly have the best financial situation in the world, you know.”
“I don’t even know what a financial is, so I don’t care,” she said. Mit-Sun rolled her eyes. “Mouth off at me like that and I swear–”
“Wellllllcome to the Festival of Blood!”
La-Iin, Mit-Sun, and Choungetsu stopped in place. A tall Vampire man with rabbit ears and blood smeared on him stood in front of them, a cheery smile on his face.
“Hello there, little girl! Aren’t you a little young to be attending the Festival?”
“I drink blood as good as the rest of you,” she snapped, then walked right past the man, Choungetsu a few paces ahead of her. Mit-Sun apologized to the man and followed after La-Iin.
La-Iin’s eyes widened. There were several stands all around the Festival advertising various types of blood. Except for any form of Vampire blood, she could see the names of all the species she knew and a few she didn’t know of as well, such as a stand advertising its Llamaki blood, or stands advertising the blood of Multibreeds.
“Aah….ah…” La-Iin was caught speechless in awe.
“Just pick something!” Bes-Isa yelled from the bag. Again, La-Iin did not hear her. She took a step forward and looked at all the stands close by. Choungetsu started to bark.
“Are you going to get some blood, or you just going t’ stand there?”
La-Iin flew at a stand advertising Goathoof blood. “I want it all,” she said.
“Ahaha!” Mit-Sun gave a nervous chuckle as she walked up next to La-Iin. La-Iin glared at her. “You meant you’d like two, right?”
“Fine…”
“Okeydoke. My blood is free, so no worries about pullin’ out vuyong. Shame it is. Goathoof blood is delicious, so says my Vampy best bud, but nobody likes anythin’ us Goathoof have to put out. Goathoof blood, Goathoof milk…if they did I swear, I could charge good prices for this stuff. It’s high-quality Goathoof blood!”
Mit-Sun couldn’t help but feel nervous as the Goathoof man continued to gush about Goathoof bodily fluids as he handed La-Iin two bottles of Goathoof blood.
“Now you enjoy that, you hear? Spread the word to all your little Vampy friends. Bein’ picky is silly I think.”
“Thank you!” Mit-Sun called, then quickly escorted La-Iin away from the stand. They stopped close to a stand advertising the blood of Llamakis.
“Good choice, Mama. I’ve barely even heard about Llamakis before. None come to Malicerie.”
“You’ve never heard of Llamakis before?” The lady behind the stand asked. Mit-Sun gave a sigh of relief when she realized the woman was not a Llamaki herself. “I guess it’s only natural. Llamakis aren’t all that common in Vaelyn, but in southern parts of Manemica….anyway, this blood is imported from said southern Manemica. Normally it would be rather expensive….but since you’re only a little girl, I’ll give you half off.”
“…”
“It’ll be $2000.000.”
La-Iin turned away. “Never mind, Mama.”
“I thought you wanted to try it?”
“Someday I’ll be able to–Animated Pumpkin!?” She shrieked. She went flying over to the stand. Mit-Sun sighed and followed after her.
The fieldgrounds were not yet filled as the night was still young, but elsewhere a familiar face had heard the screech.
Ever since she had realized her power, Ai-Reia had been consistently transforming into a bat unconsciously while out whether on her own, with a friend or with family. Each time she worried that La-Iin might be in the vicinity, she automatically started to change. She didn’t like changing into a bat–despite the benefits it brought her, it also gave her strange and disturbing thoughts, even if the center of most of them was La-Iin. When she heard the shriek, she began to fear that La-Iin was attending the Festival.
Aside from her and Ca-Miela, all the rest of her direct family drank blood–and so did La-Iin. It wasn’t too far-fetched an idea, she realized, for La-Iin to be here. She had breathed a sigh of relief when Ca-Miela had fallen asleep on the way to the festival, and even now her eyes were closed. If La-Iin was at the festival, it would ruin her whole day–especially since her family had become less wary of her lately, and more concerned about her strange behaviors.
“I think Ai-Reia’s transforming again,” Zih-Amo said.
“Are you okay, Ai-Reia…?” Her mother asked.
“Never better,” she said through grit teeth. “The smell of blood’s just so overpowering, I can’t help but transform…”
“I hear you,” Reuf-Bu said. When Ai-Reia looked up at him, she realized he had turned into a bat. She shrieked.
La-Iin heard the shriek from across the grounds just as she accepted her Animated Pumpkin blood bottles.
“That sounded familiar,” she said, then shrugged.
“Tell me how you intend on carrying all those blood bottles the whole way,” Mit-Sun asked.
“It’s just Goathoof blood and….delicious, delicious Animated Pumpkin blood….”
“You’ve never even had Animated Pumpkin blood….wait a second, you haven’t been drinking San-Kyung’s blood, have you!?”
“No, he won’t let me and he’s too strong for me to force my way onto him,” she sighed. “But it’s not that much blood, Mama. I can carry–”
Before she could finish the sentence, she crashed into the leg of a tall man. One of the bottles went rolling to the ground. The man ran after it, picked up the bottle, and returned it to La-Iin.
“Here you are.”
“Da–Dami!?”
“La-Iin?”
“Great,” Mit-Sun sighed. “I already didn’t wanna come here and now I have to suffer even more!”
“What are you doing in Vaelyn?”
“Why wouldn’t I come to the Festival of Blood? Many Vampires do, you know. In fact, I’m here with some friends, though I think they may have ran off when they noticed Llamaki blood was being sold here….” His eyes fell onto Mit-Sun. “Hello, Mit-Sun. I hope we can put animosity behind us for tonight. This case is a genuine coincidence. I would have been here even if La-Iin was not.”
“Whatever,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Maybe this is a good thing in the end. I didn’t want to come here in the first place, so maybe you can show her the best stands for blood. I’ll just trail behind and dread tomorrow…”
“Why dread tomorrow?” Asul-Zenza asked.
“I have to go back to work,” Mit-Sun said through grit teeth. “Not that you’d understand, sporadic worker.”
“I suppose not,” he sighed. “But since you’re offering, I’ll gladly take La-Iin around the festival grounds. And I can carry those bottles for you too. I came prepared to carry many of my own, so I can certainly carry yours as well.”
“Won’t you get ours mixed up?” She asked.
“Don’t worry, we’re Vampires! We have great memories. I’ll remember what I bought–or, in the case of that Goathoof blood stand, got for free. Goathoof blood is delicious, I’ll admit that, as is Goathoof milk, but the way that man went on about it, it was just kind of disturbing…”
Asul-Zenza and La-Iin quickly became locked in conversation. Choungetsu stayed ahead of them, though he turned around on occasion as if he wanted to see one of them. While they were talking, Mit-Sun took the leash from La-Iin.
“Oh, you’re going to walk Choungetsu?” She asked.
“Why not,” she sighed. “I’ve got nothing better to do.”
“Cheer up, Mit-Sun!” Asul-Zenza said cheerfully.
“You’re only making it worse,” she said. Asul-Zenza rolled his eyes and turned back to La-Iin.
Mit-Sun kept silent as she looked for an opening to leave La-Iin and Asul-Zenza, but while she did, she also kept an eye on them. The two browsed the stands and talked with each other in cheerful tones. She felt slightly hurt.
‘La-Iin never gives me that kind of look. She never talks with me so cheerfully. In fact, most of the time when she’s with me, she’s nothing but mean to me…..what do you do differently, Asul-Zenza? What is it that you have that I don’t that makes her so happy? I wish I knew….’
Nearby the family, another family walked by as they tried to calm their son.
“Can I drink one of those bottles now?” Reuf-Bu asked. His tone unnerved Ai-Reia.
“Wait until we get home, please…” Their mother said.
“Reuf-Bu, you’re a blood drunkie!” Zih-Amo giggled.
“I’m just desperate…” He sighed.
“It’s alright, we understand. All the blood can really drive a Vampire crazy….”
‘Not me,’ Ai-Reia thought. ‘I wish I was like them. They might argue that Ca-Miela couldn’t understand it either, but what’s she going to care? She’s just a baby….’
As she listened to her family talk about blood with a heavy heart, they passed by a familiar group. A Normal woman walking a dog trailed a short distance behind a tall Vampire man with large wings–even from her distance, the man looked so big he scared her slightly. Walking at his side was a familiar back–large wings given the body size and familiar blonde hair held with a headband.
‘La-Iin’s here with her whole family?’ It was a surprise to Ai-Reia, for as far as she had known, La-Iin only lived with her mother and rarely saw her father. But it was clear to her that La-Iin was enjoying her time; what little she could hear of her voice at her distance, she could tell her tone was cheerful.
‘Well, maybe this festival won’t be so bad after all, if I don’t have to worry about her bothering me….’
“Is something wrong, Ai-Reia…?” Their mother asked.
Ai-Reia glanced up. “No, nothing’s wrong. In fact, I feel happier than I have in a while. I just wish I could drink blood, too….”
“Well, just ’cause you don’t get cravings yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to drink any!” Reuf-Bu said. “Come on, guys, what do you say we let Ai-Reia taste a little blood? Mentally, she’s old enough for it, anyway!”
“Well, maybe…” Their mother said.
“It’s no big deal,” Ai-Reia said. “I’m just happy to be out with all of you.” ‘And that Ca-Miela is asleep.’
“Thanks!” Reuf-Bu said.
“Thank you, Ai-Reia….”
Mit-Sun continued to follow behind La-Iin and Asul-Zenza, until she was suddenly dragged away by Choungetsu.
“Whoa, Choungetsu, calm down!” She yelled.
“I suppose she’s leaving,” Asul-Zenza said.
“That’s okay, Dami. Now you can show me what you were talking about!”
“Oh yes! Let me try to find that stand. If I lived closer by you, I would share my bottle with you, but….”
La-Iin and Asul-Zenza’s voices faded into the background as Choungetsu ran down a dim path. Mit-Sun tried to get him to slow down, but in the process almost dropped the leash. She decided to instead run up as close as she could to him to try and catch him.
When Choungetsu finally came to a halt, it was in front of a large clearing. Mit-Sun noticed a family opening a blood bottle nearby and pouring the blood into glasses.
Choungetsu tried to leap at the blood, but Mit-Sun picked him up first. He began to whimper, but she ignored it.
‘I’m sure La-Iin and Asul-Zenza–no, forget him. I’m sure La-Iin would like this area….’
“Thank you, Choungetsu,” she said. “Both for bringing me here and for the jog.”
Choungetsu yipped.
“We should get back to them so I can show La-Iin this place,” she said. She opted to carry Choungetsu back to the fieldgrounds, whose lights she could see even as far as she was from the festival, to avoid the possibility of him bothering the family. She ran as fast as she could back to the main grounds. As she suspected, La-Iin and Asul-Zenza weren’t there waiting for her, but it didn’t take her long to find them.
“Hello again, Mit-Sun,” Asul-Zenza said. “….did you want us to be finished? We did buy lots of blood, didn’t we, La-Iin?”
“So much I doubt I’ll run out before the end of the year,” she hissed.
“Be careful though. Some blood spoils fairly quickly….and if you don’t take precautions with the rest that could spoil before December’s over too. There should be books in the library about preservation of blood. Maybe you should take one out. Or I could call you.”
“Okay.”
“Can I talk for a moment?”
“Yes,” La-Iin said, though she sounded distracted.
“I found an area I thought you might want to see. I mean La-Iin, not you, Asul-Zenza.”
“I suspected as much,” he sighed. “Would it be alright if I followed you there anyway?”
“Whatever….”
Mit-Sun led the way, letting Choungetsu down. He didn’t run as he did last time, but he still seemed excited and was walking faster than usual.
“Oh, you caught up!” Mit-Sun heard behind her.
“….is that your daughter!? And your ex!?” Mit-Sun heaved a sigh. “What are they doing here? Are you getting back together?”
Whoever was talking behind her, Mit-Sun was tempted to crash into. “No, far from that! It was a coincidence we met up here, and I’ve only been talking to La-Iin. We’re keeping our distance.”
“Oh, good.”
“Asul-Zenza, I said you could follow us, not your friends,” Mit-Sun said.
“This is festival grounds and my friends are not your children,” Asul-Zenza said simply. Mit-Sun growled under her breath and ran ahead. La-Iin flew after her, and soon after the sound of wings flapping became almost overpowering. ‘What the hell!?’
It quieted down once they reached the clearing.
“This is nice,” Asul-Zenza said.
“It’s a perfect place!” La-Iin said. “Mostly. If it wasn’t for that stupid family over there….”
“I thought you might like it, La-Iin,” Mit-Sun said.
“I do. You actually did something right for once, Mama. I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks…” She said cautiously.
“This is a pretty great area, exie,” a Vampire man said. Mit-Sun glared.
“Oh Mit-Sun, I thought you and Niser-Zanta had met before?”
“I don’t remember all your friends,” she said. “But I do remember that name…”
“Er….don’t kill me,” Niser-Zanta said. “I only ever really heard one side of the story. I can’t help but be biased.” He flew ahead. “Still, this is a great area, and we can see the Bloodening from here without getting caught in a crowd!”
“Bloodening?” Mit-Sun asked.
“Fake blood is scattered everywhere. Whoever gets splashed with the most fake blood wins several blood bottles. It is fun, but it’s always incredibly crowded, so this is a good vantage point to watch it from. We might even get splashed if we sit close enough!” Asul-Zenza explained. He ran ahead after Niser-Zanta, and his other friends and La-Iin followed him.
“Thank you for finding this place, Mit-Sun,” he said.
“If you want to thank anyone, thank Choungetsu. ….I don’t like your thanks.”
Asul-Zenza shrugged and ran ahead. Mit-Sun followed after them. They sat down near the edge of the clearing.
“Anyone want a drink of Siren blood?” Niser-Zanta asked. La-Iin and Asul-Zenza raised their arms, but the rest of Asul-Zenza’s friends froze.
“Er….well, how about a real crowd-pleaser? Normal’s blood!”
All the Vampires’ arms went up, but Mit-Sun glared. “Eheh heh….um….okay! Then here’s the best option! Guess who got his hands on some Llamaki blood!”
“Ooh!”
“I knew you guys’d want the expensive stuff,” he sighed. “Thankfully I bought two bottles….”
“Thank you, Niser-Zanta,” Asul-Zenza said.
“You say thank you too much, Dami.” La-Iin said.
“Hm, I don’t think I say it enough. I have a lot to be thankful for, so–”
“It’s starting!” A friend of Asul-Zenza’s said.
The entire group watched as the Bloodening began. La-Iin took Bes-Isa out of her bag.
“Whoa, how did we get here!?”
“I’ll tell you later,” she said.
“Aw, your daughter has a V-Puppet! How cute!” One of Asul-Zenza’s friends said. La-Iin grimaced.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have taken me out just yet,” Bes-Isa groaned.
“Maybe…”
Before anyone else could talk again, fake blood sprayed their way. The group sputtered before quickly regaining themselves.
“That was fun! I wish we could be closer!” Asul-Zenza chuckled. His friends said nothing; they were too busy laughing.
“My dress got stained!” Bes-Isa shrieked.
“At least it’s not you…” La-Iin said. Out the corner of her eye, she noticed that Mit-Sun was drenched in fake blood. That combined with the look on her face made La-Iin break into laughter.
“This is the best Festival!” La-Iin said between giggles.
“We’re never coming here again,” Mit-Sun groaned.

—–
“Cheers!” The Vampiris family called out, all except Ca-Miela, who was still fast asleep.
“She’s going to be up early,” their mother had sighed.
“Go ahead, Ai-Reia, try it!” Reuf-Bu encouraged. After having some blood, his bat form had dissipated. With her family’s eyes on her, she took a sip. Her nose wrinkled.
“Well?”
“I think….Siren blood may be an acquired taste,” she chuckled.
“Well what do you expect? It’s nasty!” Zih-Amo said.
“I still say you should’ve given her Normal blood,” Reuf-Bu said.
“Maybe someday….”
At this moment, sitting at the table with the family she had known as complete up until earlier that year and being given her first taste of blood, Ai-Reia felt as though everything were perfect.

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