23.388.Re-Acknowledged–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 388
“Re-Acknowledged–Part 1”

“It feels like it’s been a while since the two of us went downtown together,” Mit-Sun said. La-Iin didn’t reply. She kept her gaze focused on the ground as the two walked aimlessly around, the crowds fairly sparse compared to their normal size.
Mit-Sun quickly noticed La-Iin’s demeanor. “I hope you cheer up. And I wish you’d tell me why you’re upset.”
“You wouldn’t care,” La-Iin spat. Just Mit-Sun’s words had been enough to make her bad mood worse. All at once she recalled the events of yesterday, and more than the hurt she felt at what San-Kyung had said, she was furious.
She had calmed down since yesterday, but after seeing San-Kyung at school, her mostly dormant anger had rekindled. Then, however, Fer-Shi had kept her from going up to San-Kyung; to La-Iin, Mit-Sun had no such healing effect.
Mit-Sun sighed as the two continued on. Their walk continued to be aimless, and they passed by several buildings and events in the process. Occasionally Mit-Sun would ask La-Iin if she wanted to stop by one of them, but La-Iin never responded, so they always walked on.
“Would blood cheer you up?” She asked. “I know we don’t have much in the house right now, and what we do have is probably going to spoil soon. There’s probably someplace around here that they sell blood. I can buy you some.”
La-Iin looked up.
“I don’t know what’s making you upset, but if blood will help, I’m willing to buy some. I haven’t been spending much vuyong lately, so it won’t be too out of budget.” She glanced around. “Unless, of course, it’s blood from an expensive species…”
“Maybe it’ll help,” she said. “I’d rather drink from the source, but you’re nasty.”
Mit-Sun gave an exasperated huff, but at the same time, she smiled. ‘Well, I guess that’s a good sign…’
The two continued to wander around downtown, but with a destination in mind, it had become less aimless. Mit-Sun looked for a place where drinks were sold, and when she noticed a small clearing with several small stores around, she walked over to it. La-Iin stayed close behind her as Mit-Sun glanced around the stores.
‘It’s pretty empty here,’ La-Iin thought. The only person there aside from them was a Werewolf girl who was drinking a tall, frothy beverage. Watching her, La-Iin almost missed Mit-Sun walking up to one of the shops.
The man running the shop was a Vampire. Though he looked older than Asul-Zenza, to La-Iin he looked much shorter than him. As Mit-Sun began to place the order, La-Iin’s gaze wandered off towards the exit to the shop plaza, which led to a darker part of downtown. Peeking in from that darker part was a large variety of people, their eyes all focused in one direction. La-Iin quickly noticed that many of the shop owners were staring in that direction as well.
Before she could see what they were staring at, though, Mit-Sun tapped her shoulder.
“What kind of blood do you want?” Mit-Sun asked. For a moment she debated it, until San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina came to mind. Screwing up her face, she answered, “Siren.”
“Siren blood, please,” she said. The man nodded and opened a small fridge inside his shop. La-Iin only noticed this exchange before she stared back at the distracted people. This time, she followed their gazes to see what they were looking at.
And once she noticed, she gasped.
From where they were standing, La-Iin could see the Werewolf girl from the front, and almost instantly she noticed Normal traits on the Werewolf girl. Aside from those traits, what caught her attention the most was her familiar face.
La-Iin knew who this was.
“Usl-Thaehey!?” She gasped. Mit-Sun turned around right after accepting the blood from the Vampire man. Usl-Thaehey glanced up when she heard her name, and her eyes widened. She shot glances all around, then blinked hard at La-Iin.
La-Iin felt frozen stiff. Mit-Sun wore a look of surprise on her face. Almost everyone else in the plaza was focused on Usl-Thaehey, but nobody moved.
Usl-Thaehey was the first to break the silence.
“You two!” She hissed. “Follow me!” She stood up after taking one last sip of her drink, then got down on all fours and dashed away. La-Iin immediately began to fly after her, and Mit-Sun followed close behind, chasing after her daughter.
Usl-Thaehey kept a much faster pace than both La-Iin and Mit-Sun, but she was still within sight as they dashed across the darker part of downtown. Usl-Thaehey had her ears standing straight up, and she could hear more footsteps than just Mit-Sun’s behind her. She picked up her pace, and so did La-Iin and Mit-Sun.
‘Why does she want us!?’ La-Iin wondered. ‘She could’ve just run away without us, but….’
La-Iin’s negativity had been drained thanks to Usl-Thaehey; with all her focus on the idol, San-Kyung couldn’t even cross her mind.
Usl-Thaehey eventually came screeching to a stop. She grabbed Mit-Sun mid-run and jumped high into the sky. La-Iin flew after her, but by now she was starting to get breathless. Still, she was determined to keep up with the two, if not for Usl-Thaehey so she could keep track of Mit-Sun.
Mit-Sun gave a shriek as she and Usl-Thaehey began to soar high into the sky, then descend at a fast pace. Usl-Thaehey tried to adjust Mit-Sun so she wouldn’t get hurt, but found it difficult to do. ‘Whoa! Is this woman taller than me!?’
Both went rolling to the ground once they landed. La-Iin stopped behind them a short while later, breathing heavily. She collapsed to the ground, her wings throbbing.
Usl-Thaehey sat up and shook her head. She blinked at both Mit-Sun and La-Iin one more time before smiling.
“Hey, I remember ya two! I met ya guys last year when I was here, huh? Was that exactly a year ago today? I’d have to ask my manager…”
“Miss Gyunerr,” Mit-Sun panted. “No offense, but what was all that for!?”
“You guys called attention to me, so I figured I had to run away with ya,” she said. “Ugh…it’s kinda a long story. Mind following me a little further? I’m still not convinced I outran everyone back there…”
“Well, given we have no idea where we are…” Mit-Sun huffed.
“I’ll get ya out of here, promise,” she said. “C’mon after me so I can explain.”
La-Iin ran up to Usl-Thaehey, still out of breath from all the flying but also because of her excitement. She barely had the time to be nervous either; she still felt the adrenaline from the flight and seeing Usl-Thaehey again.
“Um, so how ta put this….I’ve got a little problem,” she chuckled. “Dunno if you know, but I did a collaboration project with Calziona Sulaet-Defka. Got released last month. Lemme tell ya, she’s a lot friendlier than you’d expect.” Usl-Thaehey shook her head. “But that’s not the point!”
“Well, what is?” Mit-Sun asked. “I’d like to just go home, if that’s possible…”
“It’ll be, but stay with me for now. Anyway, so uh, turns out Groudgyp is havin’ a bit of terrorist problem. Groudgyp’s Calziona’s homebase.”
“I knew that!” La-Iin said. Usl-Thaehey smiled. “You a fan of her’s, too?”
“Not really. It’s just obvious.”
“Guess so…” Usl-Thaehey sighed. “So yeah, our collaboration came to Groudgyp, and, well, I ran into a little bit of trouble after that. My manager said that it might not be that terrorist group, ‘specially since they mostly just operate in Groudgyp. But ever since I arrived in Bledger, feels like I’m bein’ followed everywhere I go. Could be nothing, could be somethin’, but I didn’t wanna take any chances. That coulda just been a crowd of fans…but it also coulda been whoever’s followin’ me. They prolly coulda blended in with a normal crowd of fans if they’re skilled.”
“So you’re telling us we got wrapped up in your problem,” Mit-Sun said, her voice shaking slightly.
“Yep,” Usl-Thaehey said, bowing her head. “Sorry. And, ya know, sorry if I’m wrong too, ’cause then I just wasted your time. But I don’t wanna take any chances. I’m not gonna let a fan get hurt because of me.”
“Why would we?” La-Iin asked. “All I did was say your name.”
“I dunno,” she sighed. “I’m just really on-edge an’ like I said, not gonna let a fan get hurt ’cause of me.”
She walked ahead of them. “You guys can come with me ta where me and my manager are stayin’, then I can get ya back home. Sorry it’s kinda out of yer way, but I’d rather not go straight. Even if there isn’t a creepy stalker or a terrorist followin’ me, I really don’t wanna be mobbed by crazy fans when I’m this nervous…”
“We don’t really have a choice, do we?” Mit-Sun sighed. “I don’t know this place at all.”
“Well, should be easy enough to figure out where we are if I jump,” she said, then leaped into the sky. She came back down wearing a smile.
“Think I know the way. C’mon, follow me!”
With nowhere else to go, La-Iin and Mit-Sun ran after her.

***

Usl-Thaehey stopped at a small building off the path. Mit-Sun had started to feel uncertain about following her all this way, but La-Iin was still wrapped up in excitement.
“C’mon in. Sorry it’s kinda drab, but my manager said it’d probably be safe…and I don’t really want any’a my fans to see me with you. Don’t wanna be accused of bein’ biased, ya know?”
She opened the door and La-Iin and Mit-Sun followed her inside. The small building was fairly run-down and barely looked big enough for two people to stay. Sitting at a table in the center of the room was a Normal man who was reading a book. He looked up when the door creaked open.
“Welcome back, Miss Gyunerr…” His eyes quickly focused on La-Iin and Mit-Sun. “Who are they?”
“Th’ little one’s a fan ‘a mine. ‘Member I told you about the evil dork fan I met a year ago? This is her, and this is her Mom.”
“Sorry to intrude,” Mit-Sun said.
La-Iin walked over to the man and stared him in the eyes. “I bet you know a lot about Usl-Thaehey.”
“Yes, of course?”
“You’ll have to tell me all about her,” La-Iin said. “There’s a lot of questions I–”
“Sorry, that’s gonna haveta wait,” Usl-Thaehey said. “I gotta explain the situation t’ him. Y’see, I was downtown in one of the plazas and a whole bunch’a fans were watchin’ me. La-Iin called attention to me and when I ran off, the fans started chasin’ me. Figured I’d bring them here just to be on the safe side.”
“You probably put them in more danger by bringing them here,” he said. Usl-Thaehey folded her ears to her head. “Yeah, guess yer right. Sorry.”
“Well, we can’t do anything about it now. We have to get them home.”
“Yeah, but how can we do that discreetly?”
“I’m sure there’s someone I can contact who could help them, but that depends on where in Bledger they live.”
“We live in a neighborhood nearby Malicerie Public School,” Mit-Sun said. “It’s pretty much just a quick walk along the sidewalk and then you’re there.”
“Malicerie? That’s pretty far from here…” Namgung said
“Well, it’d be safest to get them home at night, right?”
He nodded. “Why don’t you two relax here first, though? I was getting ready to make dinner for me and Miss Gyunerr. I’m sure I have enough supplies to make more for you two, though.”
“Oh, thank you, um…”
“It’s Namgung,” he said. Then, setting the book down, he head toward a dark room in the house.
“No worries, he’s a good cook,” Usl-Thaehey said. “And no worries about getting home too. Mr. Namgung has a lotta connections. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
Mit-Sun nodded. La-Iin barely heard her words, though; she was too excited about the idea of eating dinner with Usl-Thaehey.

“Thank you for this, Mr. Namgung,” Mit-Sun said.
“Not a problem,” Namgung said. “Miss Gyunerr and I were looking forward to some time alone, but at least this is a little different from being surrounded by fans or business partners on every side.”
“Oh, you were?” Mit-Sun said. She glanced at both Namgung and Usl-Thaehey. “Now I’m really sorry.”
“Why? …somethin’s tellin’ me you have the wrong idea ’bout somethin’,” Usl-Thaehey said, sounding uncertain. “Ah, maybe I’m just readin’ too much into it. So, La-Iin, enjoying the dinner?”
La-Iin wasn’t focused on Usl-Thaehey, however. Instead, she was staring at Namgung.
“Tell me everything you know,” La-Iin said. “Every little detail that isn’t out in public.”
“I don’t think Miss Gyunerr wants you to know everything about her,” Namgung said.
“I want to know more than what I know now, though,” she said. “This is a chance I don’t get with many others. And I’m okay not knowing everything everything about her. There’s only one person I want to know inside and out. I just–”
“Is that person yerself?” Usl-Thaehey asked.
“No. It’s a boy named San-Kyun–”
A loud knock sounded against the windows. “Stay here!” Namgung hissed, then covered his head before peeking out the window. He shut the windows before turning back to them.
“Listen carefully,” he whispered. “There is someone outside right now who knows someone is in here. I don’t know if they recognized me, but I don’t want to take any chances. We need to go.”
“How? They’ll spot us if we try to leave.” Usl-Thaehey said.
“Not if we move quick. So when I give the signal, we all run out the back door,” he said. Then, he covered his head and peeked out the window once again. After what felt like an hour, he turned around and said, “Now!”
All four went running out the door. Immediately Mit-Sun scooped up La-Iin in her arms; she wanted to protest, but the mood around her had her scared as well. Usl-Thaehey began to take running leaps, once with Namgung in tow.
They continued running until given the signal to stop, fear keeping them going.

—–
“We need to do something about whoever’s followin’ us!” Usl-Thaehey exclaimed.
“I know. Now that we’re away from that place, we’ll probably be able to get in contact with the higher-ups better, but…”
“Sorry to interrupt, but do either of you know where we are?”
Namgung glanced through the trees. “I think we’re close to Malicerie Public School,” he said, then gasped. “Malicerie Public School!”
“We’ve almost got ya home!” Usl-Thaehey said, her tail wagging. Then, her ears lowered.
“Er, mind if I make a request?”
“What?”
“Mind if we stay with you tonight?” Usl-Thaehey asked.

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