The La-Iin Series
“Strife Among the Students”
“Is it just me, or does it feel really tense in the classroom today?” Fer-Shi asked.
“I don’t know. But I see that stupid Catori girl is glaring San-Kyung’s way.”
Fer-Shi glanced in that direction. “It kinda looks like she’s glaring Dosa-Mina’s way.”
“Well, I don’t care if that’s the case.”
“You know, Llanni, it sure would be a shame if we leaked our suspicions to the class,” Lirako said.
“Yeah, like totally. I bet Dslellular’d be hard-pressed to defend himself.”
“What are you two talking about?” Deki-Tyunri asked. “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard you two bring up Dslellular. Llanni, do you have a crush on him?”
“Far from it, Elyshen. Someone like Ferister’s more my type.” She glanced at Tenha-Gumo and winked. Tenha-Gumo shuddered. “We’ve just got a bit of a secret we’re keeping and it’s really hard to keep.”
“We could let you in on it, if you promise to keep it secret. …at least, for now.”
“Would it really be so smart to say it in front of the whole class?”
Lirako glanced at the students behind her. All of them seemed fairly distracted with other students or their studies.
“Maybe not, but it probably wouldn’t be the biggest deal to say it here. And I think we have a little more time before class starts. We could probably leave the classroom and still make it back in time.”
“Is this secret something nefarious?”
“It might interest you, Elyshen,” Airy-Aekok said.
Deki-Tyunri blinked. “Interest me…?”
“Yeah, you might like hearing what we have to say. But ultimately, the decision’s yours. Just make it before old man Chensu gets here to scream at us.”
Deki-Tyunri froze. Before he could give his response, San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina had walked up to his desk, their eyes fixed on Lirako and Airy-Aekok.
“Hey, Sanyaow. Don’t you think you’ve gotten told shut up enough by now?” San-Kyung said.
“Yeah, is that the sort of legacy you want to leave at Malicerie?”
“Like you two can talk! He’s told you two shut up a fair amount of times. Besides, I’ve done other stuff at this school to get me recognized.”
“Hey there, guys,” Airy-Aekok said with a wave. Both boys ignored her, and she began to look indignant.
“Look, Lirako, I don’t like you and you don’t like me. That’s fine. But you’re crossing a line when you’ve stooped to spreading rumors about me.”
Lirako glared. “Do you know just how many rumors there are about me in school? Besides, you’ve already got the people debating whether you like San-Kyung romantically or not.”
“That’s beside the point. Not only am I used to that, but I had to deal with a much worse version of that in the past.” Dosa-Mina glanced away. “Not that it’s any of your business.”
“Look, Dslellular, I’m not trying to make your life harder, but you gotta admit, the fact that you won’t sing for me is pretty suspicious. What do you have to hide? If your singing voice doesn’t kill people, it’s not gonna kill you to sing me a little something.”
Students nearby had begun to glance up to watch the confrontation.
“Ugh, it feels like it just got more tense in here. I feel so uncomfortable.” Fer-Shi said.
“It looks like something’s going on over there. And San-Kyung’s involved! So is that stupid Catori and the llama girl. Hm…”
“I wish they wouldn’t start stuff like this right before class. Mr. Chensu’s gonna be super mad at us if there’s a fight breaking out right before history class.”
“I can guarantee if you asked San-Kyung to sing, he would say no. So why am I coming under fire for saying no as well? Llanni, you tied me up and forced me to look at risque photos!”
“I know I did that,” Airy-Aekok said, looking away from him. “And I am, like, sorry. I’m also sorry that I’m so stupidly curious about whether or not you’ve got something to hide.”
“I don’t! Look, not everyone’s all that proud of their singing voice. And truth be told, I’m one of them. …I actually used to like to sing when I was little. But I’ve never been a good singer, so they picked on me for even trying. It can be discouraging to a little kid to hear that. And a lot of stuff from your early childhood can affect you even when you’re older. Are you happy now? In case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t like talking about myself.”
“But there’s no guarantee about that, is there?” Lirako said. “I understand San-Kyung probably wouldn’t sing for me or Llanni. He might not even sing for you. But we pretty much have dead-on proof that he isn’t anything else aside from an Animated Pumpkin. Aside from the fact that that’s all he looks like, knowing him I’m pretty sure he’d have used his other powers by now.”
San-Kyung glared. Dosa-Mina gave him a pat on the shoulder. “Look, can we just drop this? I don’t look like any other species either, do I? Have I ever shown myself to be able to use any powers?”
“You can jump freaky high. And that’s something a lot of non-Normals can do, but not many Normals.”
“I happen to like jumping! Besides, where I live, there are a lot of little kids who can use that jumping power. And by the way, Sirens aren’t a species that can.”
“Yeah, but they’re avians,” Airy-Aekok said.
“…you haven’t done much species study, have you.”
“Look, Dosa-Mina, at this point the problem really isn’t proof or no proof. We have no proof for or against you being a non-Normal. We haven’t really seen your parents. You haven’t sung for us and we don’t know if you sang during Denden Saree, so there’s that. It could be that you don’t want to sing because it’s one of your powers. It could be that you’re telling the truth about being discouraged about your singing voice. But in reality, that isn’t the main problem.”
Fer-Shi put her hands on her head. “I wish Mr. Chensu would arrive and tell them to shut up already!”
“I might go and do that myself,” La-Iin said.
“I can barely hear what that Catori girl is saying. But I know she’s done bad things to San-Kyung in the past. If you mess with San-Kyung, you should be prepared for my ire!”
“If you’re going to stop them, stop procrastinating, then!”
“What’s the main problem, then?”
“Someone who really didn’t want to be seen as something other than what he was probably would have sung for us already, no matter how embarrassing it was, just to prove that he really was a Normal and not a Siren like we’re asking. And even if you put that aside as those childhood experiences being really ‘traumatic’, the fact that you’re jumping to your defense so readily when you don’t do the same for the rumors about you and San-Kyung tells me a lot. I’m pretty good at reading people, you know.”
“I agree with Sanyaow,” Airy-Aekok said. “My dad’s, like, a cop. Your behavior is pretty suspicious.”
Dosa-Mina’s eyes widened. “I defended myself against those rumors before I came to Malicerie! And I can’t stand these rumors because they’re being sent around by people I despise! Influential people. Do you think I want people mistaking my species for something else?”
“Are they mistaking your species for something else, Dosa-Mina? Or have they discovered the truth and you just don’t want to admit it!?”
“Sanyaow, you’re getting a little rough on–”
“Dosa-Mina, have you ever considered that part of the reason I might be doing all this is because of how you’ve treated me?”
“You started this stupid war!”
“Yes, well, instead of acting so suspicious, you c–”
Lirako flinched. “Sanyaow, you alright?”
Lirako turned around. La-Iin was flying behind her, a glare on her face.
“I don’t know what you’re doing, Catori, but whatever it is, leave San-Kyung out of it!”
“Did you hear any of that conversation at all!?”
“I don’t care. That dolt of a history teacher is taking too long to make you shut up. And I also don’t care if you were harassing rival-boy. I can’t stand you, Catori. And if San-Kyung’s anywhere near you, it’s probably because you’re bothering him in some way!”
“I developed my powers early, Catori,” La-Iin said. Her tone and expressionless face made Lirako shudder. “Don’t make me use them in class.”
“That’s against the rules.”
“Do you think I care?” La-Iin slapped at her tail. “Leave San-Kyung alone. He’s mine to bother.”
As La-Iin walked away, she was pulled back by Dosa-Mina.
“We owe you, La-Iin,” he said.
“Ooh, if you owe me, there are plenty of good things I can ask for…” La-Iin’s smile became sly as she walked back to her desk.
“What’d you go and say that for?”
“Because I’m grateful she got Lirako off my back?”
“This isn’t over, Dosa-Mina. There’s no turning back now. Siren or not, something’s going on with you, and I am going to find it out before I graduate!”
“And if she doesn’t, I totally will,” Airy-Aekok said.
Dosa-Mina scoffed. “Do your worst. You won’t find anything.” He sat back down in his chair. As Mr. Chensu entered the room, glancing around curiously at the class, Dosa-Mina found it hard to keep his expression straight.
‘How much longer do I have until she pulls out all stops and there’s nothing I can do anymore?’
“By the way, rival-boy, about that whole ‘owing’ thing.”
“You still remember that? You really believed me?”
“You will owe me or there will be consequences.” La-Iin’s wings flapped rapidly. Dosa-Mina sighed. “Fine, what is it? If you ask for San-Kyung naked and wrapped in a ribbon, I can’t provide.”
“I haven’t figured out what I want yet, rival-boy. I was certain, but now I’m thinking there are a lot of good options for me to consider. I just want you to know that I won’t forget your promise.”
La-Iin walked ahead of him. “I always have to go and mess things up for myself, don’t I…”