The La-Iin Series
“The Seventh Pumpkin”
La-Iin ran as fast as she could go to school, possibly faster, but she wasn’t exhausted in the slightest yet. Her speed was the result of excitement, both left over from yesterday and for today.
Before leaving last night, both Asul-Zenza and her grandfather had left her gifts, and she was certain she had heard Mit-Sun wrapping something in her bedroom. Even if she hadn’t been, it didn’t matter–she was much more excited about what Asul-Zenza and her grandfather’s gifts might be.
More than that, however, she was thrilled at the idea of seeing Fer-Shi and San-Kyung–San-Kyung particularly because of the changes in their relationship between last year and this year. Although she still remembered quite clearly their last actual interaction, she hoped that San-Kyung would want to make amends at least for today.
The idea of that was what excited her more than presents and spending time with others.
She ran past most of the students on the way to school, which startled them. Fer-Shi ran to catch up with her, and said,
“Happy Birthday, La-Iin! Excited?”
“What do you think!?” She shrieked. “I’m–”
Before she could finish talking to Fer-Shi however, she noticed San-Kyung out the corner of her eye. Her excitement hit a fever-pitch and she went leaping in his direction, only to crash into a nearby bush. When she peeked her head out, Dosa-Mina was staring at her.
“I thought I saw you,” he said. “You okay?”
“Get your stinky breath out of my face, rival-boy,” La-Iin snapped, pushing him away. Dosa-Mina gave an indignant snort as La-Iin stopped in front of San-Kyung with a wide smile on her face. It was one of the more innocent expressions the two boys had seen her make, though it was slightly off-put by the twig in her hair and her disheveled state.
“What do you want?” San-Kyung snapped.
‘Uh-oh. I guess he’s still mad. Well, as long as he doesn’t try to kill me.’ “I’m seven starting today, though I was basically seven the last time we talked,” she said, trying to make herself sound cool. “So I figured, since I’ve spent all my other birthdays with my Mama and Fer-Shi and Choungetsu and stuff, I could spend this one with you.” She glared at Dosa-Mina. “Rival-boy exempt.”
“What makes you think–” Before he could finish, Dosa-Mina tapped him on the shoulder, turned away from La-Iin, and began to whisper something to him. La-Iin tried to strain and hear what they were talking about, but she only made out the word ‘helpful’.
“Dammit, you’ve got a point…alright then, fine,” he said. He turned back to La-Iin.
“Don’t think I’ve forgiven you for what happened last time yet,” he growled. “But I guess we can make amends today.”
La-Iin broke out into a wide smile, flew up and grabbed on to San-Kyung’s back. San-Kyung yelped and tried to throw her off, but eventually accepted it with a groan and walked to school with her still hanging onto his back.
Although La-Iin was positively thrilled today, it was not an easy day for San-Kyung, for each break time, La-Iin would talk briefly with Fer-Shi before going to bother him, and it was not only the break times for her classes in which she did this–she also came to bother him during break times for classes she didn’t attend.
“San-Kyung, you’re gonna make my birthday this year a good one,” she said. “Because last year I had a really crummy birthday. But you make lots of things better. By the way, when I say a good one, I mean like, not good, but a birthday I like and I’ll remember even when I’m in my thousands, not a good birthday like–”
“I get it,” San-Kyung said. Then, dropping his voice down to a whisper, he said, “It makes you seem insecure if you need to explain why you called something good. I don’t like doing it either, but just stop explaining yourself.”
“Good tip, San-Kyung,” La-Iin said. “Someday I’ll probably be more evil than you, but you definitely have experience over me right now.”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes. Dosa-Mina would have been a good outlet for his frustrations today, except he was staying mostly quiet, for La-Iin walked into the secondary classroom after almost every class. It worked for La-Iin, however, who hadn’t expected Dosa-Mina to comply with her wishes and was enjoying her birthday that much more with him being quiet.
“Seven, huh?” San-Kyung said to her one break time, narrowing his eyes. It was the first time he had initiated their conversation that day, and La-Iin was pleased. “Isn’t that a little young for a half-Vampire?”
“I have a special case,” La-Iin said proudly. “Most half-Vampires age really slowly. But since I’m half-Normal, I’m aging like a Normal too because my body probably wants Normal puberty. It’s the one good thing about being half-Normal. Of course, I’d probably be like this if my second species was something better like Animated Pumpkin, so it’s almost useless.”
“Besides, if I was still in diapers and barely being able to talk, I wouldn’t have met you!”
‘That might’ve been a good thing,’ he thought, though he kept it to himself. It was incredibly difficult for him to hold his tongue, but he knew Dosa-Mina was right–if he wanted to utilize La-Iin for the purposes he needed her for, it was better to stay on her good side.
And what worse time to snap at her than her own birthday?
Upon the last break time, La-Iin made a proposition.
“Come to my house for my birthday.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “Look, La-Iin, just one thing. I don’t want to.”
“You’re my friend though, aren’t you?” She said. “I bet if rival-boy asked you the same thing on his birthday, you’d go.”
“I thought you knew I don’t take well to cold weather. I seem to get sick a lot in February.”
“But you’re dressed really warm.”
“I’ll go somewhere with you if you want, but I’m not going to your house.”
“Maybe you have a point…” She sighed. “After all, my Mama is really annoying. You wouldn’t be able to keep your cool around her. You’d just tie her up with vines and shove seed bombs in her mouth.” Dropping her voice to a whisper, she asked, “Can you even do that right now?”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. “No, I can’t.”
“Aw, too bad. It sounded like a good idea after I said it.”
La-Iin then walked back to her seat. Fer-Shi waved to her. “I can’t believe you’re seven. I always have a hard time believing your age, but seven seems really weird for you.”
“Does it? Because I’ve been thinking of myself as seven for a long time now. I don’t get why, if I’m so close to an age, people don’t just start calling me that before it happens. What’s the point in waiting?”
“Because then things would get all mixed up, and you’d be turning eight or something even though that’s not until next year…” Fer-Shi sighed. “Never mind, I don’t think there’s any point in arguing with you about this.”
“A smart choice.”
After school ended, a few students went up to La-Iin to wish her a happy birthday, though most stayed a distance away from her and didn’t sound too into it; Zae-Mia was one of the exceptions, though she left right after saying it to her.
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina had begun to leave together, but when they noticed La-Iin and Fer-Shi behind them, Dosa-Mina said, “I’ll go on ahead today. See you tomorrow, San-Kyung.”
San-Kyung looked disappointed, but didn’t say anything in return. Dosa-Mina waved and then walked away. Fer-Shi cowered behind La-Iin as she faced San-Kyung.
“Why are you bringing her?”
“She’s coming home with me after we walk,” she said. San-Kyung sighed. “Whatever.”
He led the way out the school, keeping a good pace ahead of the two girls. Fer-Shi, who was still cowering slightly, started to ask La-Iin a few questions.
“Why do I have to come with you to do this? I thought you liked alone time with San-Kyung. A-and I know how to get to your house.”
“You can go ahead then,” La-Iin said. “I just thought it would be more convenient like this.”
Nevertheless, Fer-Shi stayed with them anyway, and was able to hear La-Iin and San-Kyung have a short conversation.
“Are you only wanting to walk or are you wanting to do something? Because this is kind of boring.”
“Anything’s fine with you, though maybe we could kick over some garbage?”
“You’re so petty.”
“There’s nothing wrong with petty evil so long as it’s in tandem with malicious evil,” she said.
“You say. And that isn’t in tandem with malicious evil. It’s just petty.”
“It could be, though…” La-Iin said, before giving an evil chuckle.
“IIIII think I should stay with you guys,” Fer-Shi said meekly. “I don’t want something bad to happen to you two on La-Iin’s birthday, heh heh…”
“Fine, stay,” San-Kyung said casually. Fer-Shi blinked in surprise. ‘That doesn’t sound like him at all!’
“You’re welcome to leave if you start peeing your pants.”
Moving on, the trio walked through a deeper part of Bledger, seeing the sights one could only see from walking around in these parts. Fer-Shi was enamored. ‘Now I really wanna go on that adventure with La-Iin!’
La-Iin and San-Kyung continued to converse, all the while with San-Kyung sounding fairly calm, something that confused Fer-Shi. ‘I guess they really are friends now,’ she thought to herself. ‘A year ago, he would’ve just threatened her if she kept trying to get him to go somewhere with her, but now he’s actually being kind of nice.’
She wouldn’t voice the thoughts aloud though however, for she was sure it would make both of them mad and given their conversation, she only felt that more strongly than she would have otherwise.
“So, San-Kyung, I know you feel negatively about some evil things. And I still want to know what’s wrong with you, but I figured that for right now, I could ask you about evil things and you could answer what you thought about it.”
San-Kyung only grunted.
“Let me seeee….oh, how about destruction of property?”
“I’d do it.”
“Then how about arson?”
San-Kyung gave her a look. La-Iin just smiled in response. “Um…stealing?”
“Not something I like to do, but I’m not against it,” he said.
Listening to this conversation was making Fer-Shi uncomfortable. Had La-Iin been walking with anyone else and having this conversation, she might have believed San-Kyung’s answers to only be placating her, but she still didn’t trust San-Kyung, so she glanced around for some out, hoping she could find something to get away from the duo.
So far, she hadn’t found anything.
“Why don’t you like doing it?”
“I don’t need much. So obviously I don’t feel like I need to steal anything. Most of the time.”
“Sounds pretty good. I’ve never gotten to do the sort of torture I’ve seen in…” San-Kyung blinked hard.
“Seen in what?”
“What!?” La-Iin huffed. “I want to know what you were going to say. Why? Do you read books, San-Kyung? Then tell me what you read, because I’d like to read it too!”
“You probably can’t read all that well,” he said.
“I can read Makeshire plays! I can read!” She said indignantly.
“Look, it’s nothing, alright? Go ahead, go on.”
La-Iin huffed. “Someday you’ll tell me….alright, then, how about killing people?”
San-Kyung took a while before responding. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“If you were me, you’d understand why I said that.”
La-Iin gave him a look. “Of course, but I’m not you.”
“I just don’t know. Never done it directly or indirectly, so how am I supposed to?”
“Killing people is one of the pinnacles of evil! But I guess you have a point. I really like the idea of keeping people alive to suffer and then just letting them die whenever.”
Fer-Shi’s stomach churned.
“One more, then. What was it….grand theft auto?”
San-Kyung gave her another look before giving her a light slap on the head. “Stop being an idiot.”
“Ow…oh, I have a good one! How about–”
“Hey, look over there!” Fer-Shi squeaked. She pointed to a vending machine. “I can go get us some drinks! I have some spare vuyong on me that I picked up off the ground, heh heh. It should be enough for three drinks, sooo…”
“What do they have? Do they have blood? Get me that.”
Fer-Shi stared up at San-Kyung and froze. He seemed to be unamused by her behavior. “I drink water. Just don’t get me anything sweet.”
“If you can’t find blood, find something nice and thick so I can pretend it’s blood,” La-Iin said. “Buy everything if you need to!”
“Ooh, just decide!” Fer-Shi snapped. La-Iin flinched. “Okay. Orange juice. But that’s a last resort.”
Fer-Shi nodded and then head off towards the vending machine.
“Your little friend is annoying,” he said.
“She can be.”
“I don’t know how smart it was to talk about that in front of her.”
“Fer-Shi is a real coward when it comes to you. She won’t call the police or anything like that because she’d be scared you’d burn her to a crisp.”
“I would, if it wouldn’t get me in more trouble.”
“Being in trouble is fun, though.”
“I can’t deal with police, though.” He retorted.
“I have before.” She pouted. “Unfortunately.”
“Why unfortunately? You can’t get arrested.”
“I kind of helped them because they were looking for my dog Choungetsu,” she said, then shuddered. “I feel dirty every day I remember that.”
“I would too. I might even cut off a part of myself to ease the pain.”
“I’m not cutting off pieces of myself!”
San-Kyung gave her a playful smile. La-Iin was shocked to see it, and she flinched at the same time her heart skipped a beat.
“So, um, San-Kyung. I got some presents for my birthday–”
“Good for you,” he said.
“Not good.” San-Kyung glared. “I-I mean…anyway! Did you get me a present? I want a present from you! I’d love it and cherish it, no matter what it was! You could get me a knife! I don’t have my own knife because Mama won’t let me–”
Before she could finish, she noticed San-Kyung’s expression. He almost seemed to be lost in thought. “No.”
He shook his head. “I don’t have anything for you, I barely have any vuyong, and I’m not risking my neck stealing something for you. Also…” He stared up at the sky. “Giving birthday presents is just…I don’t know how to explain it…”
“Too goody-goody? I guess you have a point.”
“Not necessarily that, because you could give someone a bomb or something if you wanted,” San-Kyung said. He glanced in Fer-Shi’s direction. She was retrieving the last drink. “How to say this. I did something in the past, and now I can’t see myself giving birthday presents again.” Then, he whispered to himself so quietly that not even La-Iin could hear, “Not to you, anyway.”
“What did you–”
“I got the drinks!” Fer-Shi called. She gave each of them cans and held tight to her own. La-Iin gave hers a quizzical look.
“Is this coffee?”
“I don’t know. It just looked thick, so I thought you might like it…” Then, glancing up at San-Kyung, she mumbled, “Please don’t kill me, I got the best thing I–”
“A rice drink, huh…” He said quietly. “Fine.” He stuck it in his pocket, then stared up at the sky.
“I need to go home soon.”
“Why?” La-Iin whined.
“Just a little tired,” he said, then yawned. La-Iin wasn’t sure if it was put on or not. “Happy birthday, I guess.”
La-Iin began to grin. “Tha–thank you!”
Fer-Shi stared on in horror. ‘Just what kind of sway does San-Kyung have over her emotions!?’
“You know, San-Kyung, I’m seven today, and in ten years, I’ll be seventeen. That’s older than you are now. It’s even older than you’ll be next month.”
“Wow, we have nine years between us. That makes all the difference,” he sighed. “No. No matter how close we get, that’s never happening.”
“Oh, shut up,” he snapped. “See you.”
La-Iin smiled. “See you.”
On their way to La-Iin’s house, she opened the drink Fer-Shi had gotten for her, took a sip, and then sputtered.
“This is disgusting!” She said, then stared at Fer-Shi’s drink. “Let me try that.” She took Fer-Shi’s can. Fer-Shi barely had time to protest before La-Iin gulped down a good amount of her drink, then thrust her own into Fer-Shi’s hands.
“I’m keeping this one,” she said. Fer-Shi sighed and took a sip of the drink she had gotten for La-Iin. Even though she didn’t mind the flavor, its bitterness made her recoil.
La-Iin’s birthday continued to be good even when she arrived home.
Mit-Sun was in a good mood the whole time, as was Choungetsu, Fer-Shi, and even Bes-Isa, to a degree. La-Iin opened her gifts from Asul-Zenza and her grandfather and was happy to find a few clothes from her grandfather and the script for Summer and Winter Fantasies and a picture locket from Asul-Zenza.
“I think I know whose picture I’m going to put in this,” she had said when she opened it.
Mit-Sun had made her a mincemeat pie instead of a cake, and flavored it with blood. Had she been a different person, she might’ve felt spoiled, but right now, she felt as if she deserved all she was getting.
Near the end of the day, Fer-Shi gave her two hair ties, one with bat wings on it and the other with the shadow of a person.
“I saw species hair ties at the store the other day and they were really cheap. I know you don’t put your hair up much except for with the headband, but I thought you might like them if your hair gets really long later on.”
The last gift came from Mit-Sun. La-Iin hadn’t been expecting much, but when she opened it, it felt like time had stopped for a moment.
Inside was a new game, entitled Journey of the Killers.
The screech La-Iin let out when she saw it woke up both her next-door neighbors.
‘This is one of my best birthdays ever!’ She thought to herself. ‘Seven, I think you and I are going to be friends!’