The La-Iin Series
“Keeping in Touch”
“Hey, Lirako, didn’t you have another Wingyrm friend once?”
Lirako’s ears twitched. “Huh?”
“I thought you had another Wingyrm friend aside from Elyshen. What was her name…Jhuhara? Whatever happened to her?”
“Jhuhara? You mean Koshi-Rhesta? We haven’t talked in a while. Why’d you ask?”
“I don’t know, I was just thinking. You’ve had a lot of friends over time that I haven’t seen in a while. I guess sometimes you fall out of friendships. Sorry to ask about it.”
“Nah, it’s alright. You’ve got me wondering how Koshi-Rhesta’s doing now. Maybe I’ll drop her a call.”
“Well, go ahead and do what you’re gonna do.” Her father walked off. Lirako turned away and went back to join her brothers and Deki-Tyunri in the next room over.
As Lirako studied that night, she thought back on her father’s words.
‘Koshi-Rhesta’s not the only one I haven’t talked to in a while. I thought me and Xhen-Wu were pretty close, and now we haven’t talked in ages. I guess she and Gen-Reiya are going with each other now, but it’s been a while. They’ve got their own problems, I guess. They’re growing up and they have goals. I only have one!’
She sighed. ‘But what if it’s not that? What if it’s something entirely different? Deki-Tyunri’s a true friend, but what if everyone else is just because I’m popular? No, that couldn’t be the case, could it?’
While she was able to focus on her studies well enough, the thought still bothered her and left her feeling uncomfortable the entire time.
“Lirako, are you feeling alright? Your brothers did seem pretty energetic yesterday. Did they let you get any sleep?”
“They all passed out almost as soon as you left,” she told him. “And that’s not it. It’s something else on my mind.”
“Would you like to tell me? You don’t have to hold your problems back, Lirako.”
“You wouldn’t understand why it’s bothering me so much, though,” she said to herself. “Hey, we’re close friends, aren’t we? I graduate next year, but we’ll still be visiting each other even after that, right?”
“We’ve been friends since my early childhood, Lirako. I think our friendship will hold.” He blinked. “Is that what you’re worried about? Has Kerushao not contacted you since his graduation?”
Lirako shook her head. “But that’s fine. Remember, he’s had a girlfriend for a while now. He’s probably out on dates with her. And he’s gonna be an adult sooner than I am. He’s probably thinking about work, and planning out his future with Xhen-Wu and all that stuff. Trying to put into mind that if they work out that long, he’s gonna have Dualbreed children, heh heh…”
“It’s nice to have a plan for life, don’t you think?”
“I–I guess. But I don’t have much of a plan yet. If that’s what you’re worried about, then–”
Lirako gave another shake of her head. “I wish it was just that. But there’s a part of me that worries it’s something worse than people having plans for the future. But we can talk about this later. I don’t wanna risk any eavesdroppers listening in. They’ll take any chance to spread a rumor about me.”
“Okay,” Deki-Tyunri said. From then on, the two walked to school in silence.
Lirako kept up her focus throughout the school day, and on break times she talked with all her friends, having fun conversations she didn’t see as at all being out of obligation. Those times felt genuinely fun to her, so when she got the chance to sit down and think on her suspicions, she felt more uncomfortable than she had last night.
‘They’re my friends, right?’ She thought. ‘It’s just because they have plans for the future and I don’t. Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu have each other to think about. Koshi-Rhesta got a job, I think? And she did start hanging out more with Shensata; maybe she wanted to cultivate that friendship for now. I’m sure if Xhen-Bei stops talking to me, it’ll just be because he has some sort of plan. Maybe I’ll ask him if he does.’
She sighed. ‘This is so not like me. I’m supposed to be one of the confident students. Just because Dad made a little comment….friendships fall apart sometimes. Maybe mine with Koshi-Rhesta is one of them. And Gen-Reiya’s just busy. I’ll drop him a call soon and we’ll get back in the groove, I’m sure.’
Lirako looked up. Airy-Aekok stood in front of her desk. “Sorry to bother you when we’ve, like, got to get home soon, but I had a little something I wanted to talk to you about and my Dad’s not gonna be home for an hour more, so I have time to blow. Wanna walk around and we’ll discuss it?”
“Uh, sure!” She turned to Deki-Tyunri. “Hey, I’m gonna go with Llanni today. Hope you didn’t wanna do something with me.”
“No, it’s fine. Spring’s been here for a while and me and Grandmother have been working on our garden. Not to mention we have other chores. I couldn’t have even if I wanted to, so go ahead and go off with Llanni.” Giving her a nervous glance, he added, “So long as you’re not conspiring with her to do something….you know…”
“I’m, like, not going to do that again, okay, Elyshen? So don’t worry. Sanyaow totally wouldn’t let me anyway.”
“I wouldn’t. I know a lot about your ins-and-outs, Deki-Tyunri. You mess with you, you mess with me too. I just think Llanni has potential to move past that. Well, see you tomorrow then!”
“See you tomorrow, Lirako.”
Lirako let Airy-Aekok lead the way out of school, glad to have something to take her mind off the subject that still nagged at the corners of her mind. Once they had broken off from the crowd, Airy-Aekok finally began to speak.
“So I did the investigating you asked me to do and I’m pretty sure I, like, know what species Dslellular is now. You’ve gotta give me a little extra time to get some hard proof, but I’m feeling pretty certain.”
“Ooh, really? What do you think it is?”
“My Dad told me all about how Sirens can change their looks with a song,” she said. “Now, don’t get me wrong, other species totally can too. Warlocks can do pretty much anything, so can’t rule that one out either. But he got really uncomfortable when I brought up singing. I asked Yuuldang and Elyshen to sing–well, you saw that second one–and they sung for me even despite what I did to them. He didn’t want to. Weirdest part was, when I asked him about it in front of Molshei, Molshei looked all surprised like I had figured out some big secret. I’m thinkin’ he’s either worried ’cause I figured out he’s a Siren, or because I figured out he’s probably non-Normal. Either way, I doubt that boy’s really what he claims to be.”
“If he’s a Siren, that’d only make too much sense. He wants to hide it because male Sirens are extremely uncommon. Probably, anyway.”
“Thing is, though, I still don’t have any hard proof,” she said. “But I can’t just like, stalk him to his house or something. I really am trying to move past that, Sanyaow. I kinda wanna ask the school to ask him about singing and stuff to see if he can’t do anything. Obviously if he’s a Siren, he doesn’t wanna kill anybody, so he’s not gonna sing.”
“Geez, wish I had listened for him during Denden Saree this year. I could’ve seen if he was singing along.”
“I’ll check for you if we haven’t gotten it by then. But I’m sure we will. This is the big breakthrough, Lirako. What are we gonna do with this information?”
“I’m stuck between wanting to use it as blackmail or just revealing it so he’ll stop hiding it. I dunno.”
“You’ve gotta be careful, though. What if people, like, get upset that you’re doing this to him?”
“You mean like Molshei? He’s pretty much his only friend in Malicerie.”
“I guess. But you’ve gotta be careful so that people don’t think you’re a creep. I guess that’s not something you have to worry about too much, though…”
Glancing at Airy-Aekok’s dejected expression, Lirako couldn’t hold back her thoughts.
“I might not be worried about people seeing me as a creep that much, but I do worry about how people perceive me in other ways,” she said. “Maybe that’s why all my old friends don’t contact me anymore. I’ve been thinking recently, I considered myself good because that’s what the rest of my family calls themselves, but I think I’m more of a neutral.”
“Well, most of the people in Class D are good. Sometimes I can be a big jerk. And I don’t care about being a jerk to Molshei and Dslellular, but what if that drives my friends away?”
“I’m sure it won’t.”
“It might,” she sighed. “I had a friend way before you came to Malicerie, Llanni. Her name was Jhuhara Koshi-Rhesta, and we were pretty close. Not as close as me and Deki-Tyunri, but we hung out a lot. Ever since we graduated, we’ve pretty much never contacted each other. Then there was a girl called Saoning Xhen-Wu. We did get in contact after she graduated, and she does have a boyfriend now, but her boyfriend is also a friend of mine. He graduated a little bit before you came here. And he saw when the whole hateship between me and Molshei and Dslellular broke out. I hate to admit it, but I kind of started it. I had to go and provoke San-Kyung. We haven’t talked since he graduated, well, much anyway.”
“Well, maybe you’ve just gotta, like, call them or something. Can’t really give you advice, Lirako. I don’t have much experience with friends.”
“I just wonder if some of my school friends are just going to leave me. I love hanging out with them. They’re not boring people. But what if we’re just friends because I’m popular? Because we have nobody else to spend time with? I have lots of friends now, sure. But what about in the future? Will I only have Deki-Tyunri?”
“You’ve got me too, Sanyaow,” Airy-Aekok said. “I mean, I hope so.”
“I guess. But what if you don’t want to stay friends? I graduate next year, you know.”
“Well, if we like each other enough, I’m sure we’ll, like, stay in touch. ‘Sides, we’re partners in crime about this whole Dslellular species thing. I think partners in crime usually stick together. Well, my Dad told me some do, but some don’t.”
“Hey, we’re not criminals.”
“It’s a little weird to hear you worrying about your friendships, though.”
“I guess. But I was just thinking.”
“Well, if they’re true friends, they’ll stick around, maybe,” she said. “And as for those other ones? Why not shoot them a call? See if they still want to hang out. Maybe it’ll go nowhere, maybe it won’t. Worth a shot, isn’t it? Guess I’m not really the authority to turn to on that one, though.”
“Maybe not. But thanks for talking to me about this, Llanni. It feels good to get it off my chest.”
“Not a problem. Though you should, like, probably tell this stuff to Elyshen next time. I’m sure you trust him better.”
“I do. But hey, it’s not like I don’t trust you either.”
Airy-Aekok grinned. “Thanks, Sanyaow! That means a lot, yanno?”
That afternoon, once she arrived home, she decided to dial Koshi-Rhesta’s number.
“Hey, this is Koshi-Rhesta.”
“Is that you, Lirako? Hey, it’s been a long time! How have you been?”
Lirako smiled. “Well, life’s been full of ups and downs, as usual…but I’ve been pretty good otherwise. How about you?”