The La-Iin Series
“I dare you to hang on the monkey bars upside-down with your panties showing!”
“I’m not going to do that!”
“So you’re not up to the challenge?”
“That’s just embarrassing, La-Iin. But something tells me you don’t care about that.”
“I don’t. But if you’re really so prissy as to reject my dare, then I have another one for you. How about instead you ask Veiner to fly you around the recess area? I’m sure he has the strength to hold you up.”
Cae-Bougen turned around and pointed at himself.
“Isn’t that kinda rude? He looks like he’s having a lot of fun with Shan-Zetsu.”
“Shan-Zetsu’s your friend though, isn’t he? Would you rather do this or the panty dare!?”
“This one! Geez, La-Iin, you can be so pushy sometimes! When I’m done with your dare, I’m gonna dare you the biggest dare of your life!”
La-Iin relaxed on the bench and smirked as Fer-Shi approached Cae-Bougen. The two seemed uncertain at first, but he soon wrapped his arms around her waist and began to fly off with her with relative ease. Seeing that sight made her feel just the slightest bit jealous that she didn’t share his strength.
‘But with my new power, I might,’ she reminded herself. ‘After all, they call the strength of a Minomix a power!’
“Wow, Cae-Bougen’s really strong!” Shuu-Kena said. La-Iin groaned. The young girl was sitting nearby her, though on the ground instead of on the bench.
“Do you always have to stalk me?”
“I’m not stalking you, Cahongyun.”
“That’s what you say, but I’m a stalking expert. I know when someone’s stalking me as well as I know how to stalk.”
“That’s a little weird.”
“Says you, goody-goody.”
“Hmm. Do I really annoy you that much, Cahongyun?”
“Yes, you do! I don’t want to be friends with you, Sara. I’ve said so already. Besides, I’m sure Veiner is going to let Fer-Shi down soon enough. I have someone to play with.”
She glanced back up at Fer-Shi and Cae-Bougen, who by now were both smiling as they flew above the recess area. La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“It looks like they’re having lots of fun.”
“You know, I think Fer-Shi would like you. Why don’t you try befriending her, hm? Anything to get you to leave me alone. Unless you’re using me to get to Fer-Shi?”
“No, I’m not. I like Sanhuun too, but I get kind of shy around her. She’s so nice she probably has lots of friends.”
“You must not be looking hard enough.”
“But you really interest me. You made friends with two teenagers even though you’re younger than me. I could never do that. I have a hard time even making friends with people my own age.”
La-Iin rolled her eyes. “I made friends with one teenager.”
“Actually, Cahongyun, there’s one other thing that interests me about you aside from all that. You see, my family is evil, just like you. I’m kind of weird compared to them, because I’ve been told I’m more neutral. But my Dad has been arrested lots of times before. In fact, just at the end of last month he got out of jail.”
La-Iin gave a curious glance in her direction. “Is your family evil too, La-Iin? You’ve done a better job of not disappointing them then I have if so…”
“…” La-Iin was stunned. Of all she had been expecting Shuu-Kena to say, the admission that her family was evil came as a surprise.
“Your parents get arrested?”
“Them and my big brother. My sisters are still too little to get arrested, but they’re as evil as everyone else. My family wants to make Bledger scarier. They’re doing their best to make sure that people see Bledger as a place to fear. They want it to be that way so that nobody will come here, nobody will do anything about it, and they can make this the crime hub of Vaelyn. That’s what they said to me.” Shuu-Kena covered up her mouth. “Oops! I shouldn’t have said that! Please don’t tell them, Cahongyun. I’ll be in a lot of trouble if they find out!”
“I can’t tell them,” La-Iin reminded her. Shuu-Kena breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh yes, right.”
Cae-Bougen landed, and Fer-Shi ran over to La-Iin. “Now I’ve got a big dare for you! I want you to fly around the recess area until your wings are exhausted! That’ll show you!”
“What a mistake, Fer-Shi! Flying is one of my passions! You’ve only given me something to enjoy!” She spread her wings. “You have fun on the recess area, Fer-Shi. I won’t be coming back to play with you.”
“Don’t fly away from Malicerie! It can’t be too long before the last class!”
La-Iin flew above the recess area, then glanced below her. Shuu-Kena watched her with a smile. She flew closer to the ground and above Shuu-Kena.
“Tell me more about this evil family of yours, Sara. My curiosity has been piqued.”
Shuu-Kena’s eyes widened. “Well, my parents aren’t murderers, but they do as many bad things as possible. They believe that you should keep torturing people until the last moment. They made a rule that they would only kill old people because young people have so much potential for torment. My brother and sisters believe that too.”
“My parents commit a lot of crime, and my big brother does too. My sisters have this notebook where they keep a record of all of their ideas. They kind of think I’m a disappointment. They even gave me my name because they thought I was going to be a great force in their fight to make Bledger a crime hub. Maybe you don’t know this, but the name Shuu-Kena comes from two meanings. One meaning is water lily, but the other one is more like blood stream…but nobody uses that meaning except my parents.”
“You know, you’re the first person I really got to talk to about this. Everyone else would try and arrest my parents, but I’m so scared of going to live with a new family, and I still love my family even though they’re evil. I don’t know if they love me, though. I would rather become a painter than do all those crimes, and I don’t really care if they do crimes so long as anyone isn’t too badly hurt, but they just seem kind of disappointed with me. If I was your daughter, do you think you’d be disappointed with me?”
“I am the wrong person to ask. Sara, living with an evil family perhaps you realize the whole reason I’m so curious is because I’m evil myself.”
“I figured. But it’s still all nice to talk about. I really do want to be your friend. You’re friends with Sanhuun, so I thought even if you’re evil, you might be okay with being friends with a failure like me.”
“Perhaps we can make a deal then.”
“I’ll play with you in exchange for hearing about the doings of your family. I’m always interested in getting a different perspective. I want to hear about these things to see what works and what doesn’t. So maybe you can help me.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. “Okay then.”
“Tell me more!”
“Um, well, I think my little sisters killed a dog once, actually…”
La-Iin blinked. “I’m kind of scared that one day when I get older, they’ll find where my family lives and arrest all of us including me. Dad makes jail sound really scary. He says they don’t monitor the main jail as closely as they used to, so now the criminals are free to be really dangerous, but they still can’t escape because they use power suppressants on non-Normal criminals. I know a lot about jail. My Dad tells me and my sisters jail stories like bedtime stories. Does your family hear bedtime stories?”
‘She’s chatty about this. I wonder…’ “No.”
“Too bad. I was hoping you could tell me some.”
La-Iin opened her mouth to speak, only to notice a sharp pain in her wings. She landed and gasped, then walked back over to the bench.
“I saw you talking with Sara,” Fer-Shi said. “Are you two becoming friends? She seems like a weird choice. I thought you didn’t like her.”
“I don’t really. But she has some endearing qualities. And she has something I want, I figured out. You might like her too, but I think you’d like her for a different reason.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. So, you got tired before recess ended, huh?”
“I flapped my wings harder than I expected to, is all.”
“Mm-hm. Well, I think the last class is in a few minutes. Why don’t we head in early?”
“Because we’ll have to wait longer.”
From the recess area the students could hear the sound of many footsteps as classrooms were exchanged. “I think we won’t have to wait too long.”
La-Iin sighed. “Fine.”
As she and Fer-Shi head inside, Shuu-Kena smiled at her. La-Iin flashed a smirk back.
“Sister, what are you painting?”
“Is it a painting of an enemy?”
“It’s a painting of my new friend at Malicerie,” Shuu-Kena said. Her sisters sighed.
“You would have thought a school called Malicerie would be more evil than that.”
Shuu-Kena lowered her head, but when she looked at her crude painting of La-Iin, she felt a bit better. She continued to work on the painting as her family discussed at the dinner table what their next course of action should be.