31.608.To See the Future–Part 10

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 608
“To See the Future–Part 10”

San-Kyung groaned.
La-Iin looked up at him with a smile.
“Sheesh, you’re still as much of a stalker as ever, aren’t you?” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Following someone to his house like that. You know, there’s plenty of stalking cases where the stalked gets a restraining order after the person keeps coming to their house!”
“San-Kyung would never get a restraining order for me. I am his friend after all.”
“Don’t put it past me.”
“Besides, after last time, I want to have a visit with you that doesn’t end in you blowing up at me! So I figured this time we could talk about evil.” La-Iin sat down next to him, then shooed at Dosa-Mina. “Get out of here! Neutrals aren’t allowed in discussions about evil.”
“Hey, I was here first! And I wasn’t being affectionate at all. I was actually discussing something very important with San-Kyung.”
“Like what!?”
“If I’m not allowed in your discussion about evil, why should I tell you about what me and San-Kyung are doing without you?
La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “How dare you!”
“La-Iin, be quiet. Dosa-Mina has a point, we were discussing something before you came here. And in case you don’t remember, your idea of evil and my idea of evil have a few key differences. Namely, I’m a little more realistic than you are.”
“Everyone always says that about me. But when I rule the world, you’ll regret putting me down in this way! Besides, I have my ways to get you to talk even if you’re going to refuse me like that. Oh Dosa-Mina, did I ever tell you about what San-Kyung said about lo–”
“Be quiet!” San-Kyung hissed.
“Luh?”
“It’s nothing!”
Dosa-Mina gave San-Kyung a wary look. “You always say you wonder about me, but this isn’t the first time you’ve shut her up about something. That makes me wonder…”
“Well don’t wonder, because whatever you’re thinking is probably wrong.” San-Kyung sighed. “Alright, I’ll talk to you about evil. But not for long. Dosa-Mina, you can go do whatever you want, just let me placate her so she’ll leave us alone.”
Dosa-Mina glared. “You know, maybe we see a little more eye-to-eye on the whole rival dynamic than I thought.”
“See!? Actually, no wait, maybe that’s a bad thing! I don’t know what to think about you anymore, rival-boy.”
“How you think about me is obvious,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “I’m gonna go inside and see if I can’t help Mrs. Molshei with something to pass the time. You’re welcome to call me out when you need me again, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina head inside, and almost immediately after the door closed San-Kyung gave La-Iin an intense glare. “Thanks a lot! I wanted to hear what Dosa-Mina had to say, but thanks to you that’s going to have to wait!”
“You should thank me, San-Kyung. After all, what I have to say is probably far more important.”
“If you only knew…” He grumbled under his breath.
“Since the both of us are evil, and since we’re likely to work together in the future–”
San-Kyung sighed. “La-Iin, I’m going to ask you something. Sure, you’re my….friend…and we get along well enough. We’re both evil too, like you said. But have I ever said anything about working together with you?”
La-Iin looked away from him. “…no. But why not, San-Kyung!? The both of us together could make a wonderfully evil harmony!”
“I don’t think you understand that what little I know about your plans are a lot different from my plans. What I want to do is different than what you want to do. And like I said, I think about these things a lot more realistically than you do.”
When La-Iin turned back to face him, he was slightly startled by her lack of expression. It was normal for her, but something about it looked oddly cold.
“Everyone always tells me that,” she said. “But I think about these things a lot. I understand that what I want to do isn’t going to be easy. But I know I can do it. I have my lifespan and good powers on my side. You say you’re looking at these things realistically, but are you really?”
“Moreso than you.”
“I don’t believe you! Do you think about every outcome that could possibly happen? Do you consider what would happen if people you need aren’t there for you, if things don’t go your way? I’ve thought about what I might do if I run into adversary and I’m still thinking about it even now! I haven’t stopped formulating my plans. If anything’s unrealistic it’s making one plan and sticking to it completely to the note!”
“I don’t do that!”
“But I bet despite what you’ve said you’ve never considered something like, say, rival-boy getting killed because of what you want to do, have you?”
San-Kyung’s eyes widened. “You didn’t, did you!? I rest my case. You need to think about these things from all angles, San-Kyung. If you don’t, then I’m being more realistic than you are!”
“Did you say all that just to prove something to me!?”
“Maybe. But it’s a lesson you need to learn!”
San-Kyung wanted to retort, but found he didn’t quite have the words. When he thought on it, as much as he hated to admit it, La-Iin was right. There were a lot of things that could happen no matter how much he tried to prevent them, and if he didn’t plan for those things his ultimate plan could end up going down in flames. It would mean nothing if he wasn’t prepared.
But how could he even begin to imagine a future without Dosa-Mina, or a future where he was stuck with November as it was?

***

“Look, Dosa-Mina. The people of Bledger spend every day wondering when the next onslaught will happen. And soon it won’t just be the people of Bledger. It’ll be everyone in the world.”
“Yeah, people are getting pretty scared nowadays. When I go out into the thick of it you can see they’re just wondering what you’re going to do next.”
“They should be worried. It’s their fault this is happening.”
“More like your fault. I’m here to support you, but you have to admit it’s your fault.”
“I know. But there’s the part of me that still blames them. Besides, they’re going to have a month of peace now…”
San-Kyung sighed.
“…this world’s a lot different than I thought it would be.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I thought I’d be able to keep up endless onslaughts, or at least, I’d have enough power so that when I took a break, nobody would bother me, but…that can’t really happen now.”
“It is pretty amazing that you were able to establish so much dominion over Bledger, though.”
“What’s the point? I thought I would be happier getting revenge, but now instead, I’m stuck in this stupid dead-end. I can cause chaos if I want, but I always have to go into hiding afterwards. And I have to up the ante in November. It’s nothing like I imagined at all.”
“Well, there’s still some things in life you like, right? Just because things are different now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it. I mean, this is what you wanted! Mostly…”
“Maybe, but…I guess I was wrong about the way I wanted to go about it. When you told me Operation Reboot’s goal was impossible, I should have stopped there instead of pushing on like I did….I guess the world cares enough to screw over someone who’s trying to screw it over the way I am.”
“Huh?”
“Well played.”

“Hello, San-Kyung,” Del-Kyuus said. “How are you?”
“Why even bother asking that? Do I look fine to you? Do you think it’s fun to constantly be on-edge? They won’t even honor my request to be placed in solitary confinement. Saying it’ll radicalize me or something…”
“Solitary confinement sounds pretty shitty, San-Kyung. I don’t think you’d want to go there,” Dosa-Mina said.
“I’d rather be there than be stuck with a bunch of evil failures!” San-Kyung yelled. He sighed. “I guess I’m one of them, now…”
“Aw, come on, San-Kyung, don’t feel down. You’ll be out of jail soon-ish, and then maybe you can focus on something else.” Salsh-Era said.
“I’d love to just do that and leave it at that, but do you realize how much more I hate the world since being put in here? Oh, it’s the system of justice, what a crock. I bet this system was set up by evil people. First, trick the goody-goodies into thinking it’s for them…then torture everyone you see as inferior to you.”
“San-Kyung…”
“I thought if I failed, I could just go back to normal. But now that’s not going to happen. I don’t care what you guys say. Every day in here is like a never-ending November, I’m always scared of what’s going to happen next, and…”
San-Kyung turned away from them. “Just go for today. I don’t have anything else to say.”
Salsh-Era, Del-Kyuus, and Dosa-Mina gave each other concerned glances, but as far as San-Kyung was concerned, seeing that was a lot better than the faces he could only imagine they’d make if they saw him break down.
In here he wanted revenge more than ever, but now he was scared that if he tried to take that, it would only extend his nightmare.

“You know, San-Kyung, it’s funny how you used to say that you were the one thinking more realistically. Because who’s being realistic now?”
San-Kyung glared at her. La-Iin wore a self-satisfied expression–it seemed like that was the only expression she wore around him nowadays. He struck his hands to see if perhaps the power suppressants had worn off at least a little, but there was no reaction, and instead strangely-colored blood dripped down the side of his hand.
“Shut up. I’m sick of hearing your voice.”
“Well, then, you’ll just have to hear it more!” La-Iin got off the bed she was relaxing on and curled up next to him.
“You have your stupid world. How come you can’t just leave me alone?”
“Because, San-Kyung, I always involved you in my plans. And I know you. Sooner or later you’ll crack under pressure and you’ll realize you want to help me. My intention is not to make you suffer, I hope you know. Not like the other people I’m ‘keeping watch’ over.”
“Yeah, well, good luck not making me suffer when you’ve got me chained up like this! You gave me power suppressants! You always leave me in here! You won’t even tell me where my parents or Dosa-Mina are! How can you consider this not suffering!?”
La-Iin sighed. “You just don’t understand, do you. Well, if you don’t understand, then I’m not going to force you to understand. But I will tell you this. Until I know for sure that you’ve cracked under pressure and you’re going to help me, I’ll keep you this way. Because currently, you’re too much of a danger for me to do otherwise.”
“How!? I have power suppressants!?”
“You won’t forever. And if I let you free they’ll wear off eventually. Trust me, San-Kyung, I know what I’m doing. And if you consider this suffering then you’d better do your best to crack under pressure as soon as possible, because I’m not going to let you out until you do.”
San-Kyung struggled against the chains, but to no avail. La-Iin walked off, still wearing a self-satisfied smile but seeming just slightly irritated by the turn of events.

San-Kyung took a breath.
It was wonderful. He was finally here. From this point in Bledger, anything he did would cause severe damage, and with Dosa-Mina’s discovery, it would be at the level of his power-surge ability. There was a thrill coursing through him, and he wasn’t quite sure what he should make his first action.
Wasn’t quite sure, but already had the perfect idea.
Vines snaked up from the ground until they stood high above him, and San-Kyung struck both hands and faced them. He reached out his right hand to touch a vine, and just as he did–
“STOP WHERE YOU ARE!”
Before he could react, something hit him in the back with such a speed and intensity that he was surprised it didn’t go straight through his shoulder. He gasped in pain and his flames almost immediately died down, though embers that had made it onto the vines set them alight. Water balls hit the vines and put out the fire before it could spread too much.
San-Kyung turned around. Narwhaltae officers stood at the front, flipper-hands pointed outward. They heaved sighs of relief. Several officers were behind him, all wearing intense expressions, and one went right up to him and cuffed him.
“We’re gonna have to thank that Mr. Dslellular for this,” one of them said. San-Kyung gasped. “If it hadn’t been for his report downtown Bledger would be up in flames!”
“Can you imagine the casualties?” Said another.
“It’s not just Mr. Dslellular we should thank. We wouldn’t have pinpointed him without his parents’ help.”
San-Kyung was dragged off to a police car, but he barely noticed it. He barely noticed the weakness that was washing over him too. He was too absorbed in the hurt he felt at hearing what the police officers had to say.
He had been betrayed by those he had trusted the most.
As the police drove off with him in their car, he couldn’t begin to imagine what he was going to do past this point. If he was under suspicion for attempting a fatal attack, and his own family and best friend had turned against him, what could he possibly do now?

“Are they firing at us!?”
“What do you think!? Keep going! We’re almost out of their line of sight!”
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina maneuvered their way across Bledger. San-Kyung grit his teeth. ‘Everything was going so well! What tipped them off to our location?’
He didn’t have much time to think on that–he had to focus on getting him and Dosa-Mina out of the range of the bullets. But the bullets only seemed to increase in number the further they went, and San-Kyung noticed that not all of them were flying past them–one was headed straight for Dosa-Mina’s shoulder.
Desperate, he moved him out of the way with levitation.
And just then, a bullet hit him in the back of the head.
San-Kyung dropped both himself and Dosa-Mina to the ground. He checked for any sign of life, but the horrible wound in Dosa-Mina’s head was all the proof he needed. The bullets were only getting closer now, and if he didn’t keep going he would be hit sooner or later.
But if he left Dosa-Mina’s body, they would only riddle it with bullets.
San-Kyung wanted to escape, or to stay there and cry, but what overtook his sadness and fear was anger, and he instead turned to face the onslaught of bullets. He dug his nails deep into his right hand, and aside from a wince, ignored the pain as best as he could. Finally, when his hand was busted up well enough, he shot off a massive flamethrower at the source of the bullets, and after that no more bullets came.
He collapsed next to Dosa-Mina’s body. He hadn’t wanted to cry, not consciously anyway, but the pain and the reality of what had happened–what he had caused to happen–was hitting him all at once.
From then on, Bledger became known as a ‘murder hole’–and that reputation was soon to spread across all of Vaelyn.

—–
“San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung gasped and looked up.
“San-Kyung, are you okay?”
“You look scared, son.”
“What’s wrong, San-Kyung?”
Salsh-Era, Del-Kyuus, and Dosa-Mina all had their eyes on him, and he was scrambling for something to say. He could tell by the looks they had what kind of face he was making.
“I–It–it’s nothing.”
“Obviously it’s not! What’s wrong?”
‘What am I supposed to tell them? It’ll sound stupid whatever I say!’
“…I was just thinking about if things don’t go right. Th–that’s all.”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus didn’t seem convinced, but Dosa-Mina’s expression was understanding.
“I really do need to put more thought into this,” he whispered to himself. “Damn it, I can’t believe La-Iin was right. But I’m not going to let those futures happen. I’m not.”

That night, San-Kyung had a nightmare. When he woke up from it, he had to take a few deep breaths to calm down.
‘Nothing like that will happen if I work hard enough. But now that I think about it…maybe I really have been going about my plans the wrong way.’
He took another deep breath. ‘Damn it, La-Iin! I thought she was going to be the key to unlocking my true form, but all she ever does is make me doubt myself! I need to drop her soon. But how am I going to do that?’
Frustrated and scared, he tried to get back to sleep regardless. Sleep eventually came, but it was fitful.

“San-Kyung, is something wrong?”
“Just thinking about what to do if things go wrong, that’s all. And thinking more on what I should do…am I going about this the right way? I don’t even know anymore…”
“Well…I think the most important thing you could do right now is figure out what ‘right way’ will make you most happy. Or at least, I’d sure like to see you happier!”
“Yeah…you would say that, wouldn’t you?”

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30.607.To See the Future–Part 9

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 607
“To See the Future–Part 9”

‘Once I graduate high school, that’s it. My future is going to be worthless.’
That thought constantly floated around in Airy-Aekok’s head in the days before she transferred to Malicerie.
‘There’s nothing a stupid boy-crazy Llamaki can do. I’m nothing like my Dad at all. My powers aren’t even any good. And even if they were better, I’m not good with my powers anyway. Not like Dad is…’
Her glare hardened. ‘Compared to my Dad, I’m nothing.’

But as time went on, Airy-Aekok’s feelings changed on that subject.
“Someone looks happy today! Did something good happen while I was at work yesterday?”
“Nah, not really, but like, I’ve been thinking about my talents and stuff, you know? And I’m like, not all that good with my powers, and I was kinda disappointed.”
“Aw, Airy-Aekok, you’re plenty good with your powers. And your mother wasn’t the best with her powers either, but you know what she did? She kept working at them.”
“But I don’t, like, care about that anymore! I mean like pssh, who cares about rearranging your skeletal structure when you’ve got other talents!?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know how you always said, like, I look a lot like my Mom? Well, I think since I got Mom’s look, I got your talent. I was like, thinking about the things I can do and I thought that I’m really good at a lot of things you can do! So I got the perfect idea. What if, in the future, I become a detective!? Then I can work with you!”
“You want to do that? It’s dangerous to be a detective, though…”
“C’mon Dad, don’t worry about me! Besides, maybe the boys’ll go for a cute llama detective,” she said with a wink. “And like, I don’t think I’ll ever get passionate about a line of work. I love other, not-work-related things too much. Work is dumb. But hey, if I’m gonna work, I might as well do somethin’ I’m good at, right?”
“I guess so. Well, if you want to do that, then I’m sure you can! Although I wouldn’t exactly call it inheriting my talent. I had to work hard to acquire those skills.”
“Then I’m like a new game plus!” She said cheerfully. Her father chuckled. “I guess you could say that!”

***

“Airy-Aekok, have you heard!?”
“What is it, Dad? You look all frazzled.”
“They say a murder happened nearby Malicerie!”
“Malicerie? Ah, I remember that school…my high school alma matter. And junior high too!”
“Airy-Aekok!” Her Dad whined.
“Oh, oh yeah! The murder! Who got killed?”
“Sixty-three year old Chensu…I couldn’t exactly find out his first name, but he was the history teacher for Class D.”
“Good ol’ Chensu…wait, you said murder!?”
“Yeah! They found his bloated corpse behind the building! It looked like he had been stabbed and shot!”
“Somethin’ tells me his corpse isn’t exactly bloated, Dad. But that sounds pretty bad. He was kinda hacky, but he never deserved that…”
“What are you going to do, Airy-Aekok? It does seem like a bit of a personal case for you. Are you going to stay away?”
“Now why would I do that? It being personal makes it all the more important! Someone murdered my old history teacher. And the suspects are numerous….I’m gonna look into each and every one, and get to the bottom of this case!”

As soon as she arrived near the building, a rank stench hit her nose. Mr. Chensu’s corpse was exactly where her father had told her it would be, and police were swarming around it.
“We’ve collected a bit of evidence for you to look over, Miss Llanni,” one cop said. “I heard you’re taking on investigative duties for this case.”
“Yeah, exactly.”
“We also rounded up all the suspects you had,” another cop said. Airy-Aekok nodded. “Good job, men! I’m gonna look into it now.”
Airy-Aekok walked into the school. Her suspects were lined up against Class D wall. She stared them down.
“Alright, everyone! I’m gonna ask each and every one of you what your alibi is for the night of the murder. Apparently he was killed at approximately eleven-thirty-five PM on August the twenty-third. What were you all doing at that time!?”
“I–I was sleeping,” Rini-Futo said.
“I was preoccupied with something far away from Malicerie that’s none of your business,” La-Iin hissed.
“I was conducting school work…Miss Llanni, I’m the one who discovered the body! Why am I a suspect?” Theasis asked.
“The discoverer is always a suspect in my eyes. As are any witnesses! Now, go on?”
“I was up late cramming. I’m trying to become a species studier. It’s hard work.” Dosa-Mina said.
“I was asleep too.” San-Kyung said.
“I was having a late-night fashion show. Call up Song-Jpinne–he can confirm for me,” Nemi-Hikla said.
“I was cleaning the school,” Wue Sao-Mel, the janitor, said.
“Aside from Fheyundaer, can any of ya confirm those alibis for me?”
“My brothers and sisters live with me…one of them might have gotten up.”
“I was too far away to be here.”
“I can confirm that Mr. Wue was indeed inside the school, cleaning. I’m sure he can do the same for me?”
“Oh yeah, I saw Miss Theasis working on some things.”
“San-Kyung was asleep, so I guess I have no official confirmation, but I can give you confirmation that it isn’t him.”
“How’d you all feel about the victim, then?”
“I…I really cared about him,” Rini-Futo said sadly.
“He was stupid.”
“He was a close friend of mine. He might not have been the brightest, but he was devoted to his work.”
“I respected him well enough.”
“I don’t care about anyone.”
“He was a good enough teacher. At least he liked what he did.”
“He was a fine guy, and a staple of Malicerie. I’m gonna miss him.”
“Hm…” Airy-Aekok stared them over. “Now, like, you guys aren’t allowed to leave until I give the say-so. I have a few things to do…”
“You want me to keep an eye on them, Miss Llanni?”
“Yea, I do. Chances are good you’re gonna be standin’ in a room with a killer…we can’t take any chances to lose ’em, even if it would probably identify ’em pretty well. Though I have a bit of an idea about who it was…”
She glared at La-Iin. ‘That girl couldn’t confirm a thing for me. And it was hard to get her here in the first place. But then again, Dslellular doesn’t exactly have an air-tight alibi. And I highly doubt it was Shaejaein…but we’ll have to see what the evidence says!’
So Airy-Aekok head to one of the Weekend classrooms and looked over the evidence retrieved by the police. Pictures of the body, items found near the scene, there were quite a few things inside of there.
‘So, looks like poor Mr. Chensu might’ve taken a spill before he was killed. That’s sick…’
Most of the items retrieved didn’t look all that helpful to Airy-Aekok–they were mostly items of Mr. Chensu’s that had been dropped when he was killed. ‘So I really doubt it’s a robbery. And thank goodness! Robbery-murders are always difficult. That means it was most likely personal, and if it was Cahongyun or Dslellular I wouldn’t be surprised if it was premeditated…’
Airy-Aekok sighed. ‘I really bet it’s one of those two, but what proof do I have? They didn’t exactly find any hair on the body or anything that wasn’t his. Eugh…hey, wait a second…’
Airy-Aekok took a closer look at the picture of the body. There were singe marks on his clothes, reminiscent of burning. There was only one suspect so far who would be able to inflict a burn with his powers alone.
San-Kyung.
‘And Dslellular’s alibi was shit too! He might’ve never seen San-Kyung asleep!’
“Airy-Aekok, we have a bit of a problem!” Her father yelled.
“What’s wrong, Dad!?”
“One of the suspects made a break for it!”
“Lemme guess, Molshei!?”
“How’d you know!?”
“I think we’ve got our killer. That’s how I knew.” She handed her father the picture of Mr. Chensu’s body, then followed the sounds of the police. The group who was formerly examining Mr. Chensu was now pointing their guns at a stoic-faced San-Kyung.
“Be careful where you aim the power suppressants. These have got the force of bullets so they could still be pretty lethal.”
“Got it.”
San-Kyung took advantage of their momentary distraction and raised vines from the ground to tie them up. The officers screeched in disbelief as they were raised into the air. One dropped his gun, and Airy-Aekok caught it and hid it in her belt.
“I should’ve known it was you all along!”
“It’s not my fault you’re too stupid to figure simple things out.”
“Why’d you do it!? And wait, why the hell are you admitting it!?”
“Because in a little bit, it’s not going to matter that I admitted it.”
Vines raised from the ground once more and snaked towards Airy-Aekok. She shrieked and moved out of the way.
“All I have to tell you is this. Do you really think someone evil would never act on those whimsies?”
“I don’t.” She pulled out the gun and shot him before he could retort. He fell to the ground, holding tight to his shoulder. When he pulled out the vial, blood and embers spurt from the wound.
“Especially not someone like you. And I bet I know why you did it. You just wanted revenge on the past. And when you realized you wouldn’t be able to kill the people you actually wanted dead, you turned to poor old Mr. Chensu instead!”
“Nngh…damn it…”
“Justice always prevails when a Llanni is on the scene! That’s my motto, and it hasn’t failed me yet!”
She ran over to the tied-up officers, pulled the vines from the ground and wrapped San-Kyung in them, who by now was doubled over in pain.
“You didn’t need to worry, guys. So long as a Llanni’s here, you’re always safe!”

—–
“You really do look happy, Airy-Aekok. Are you sure nothing in particular happened?”
“One-hundred-percent sure-a-roonie, Dad. I’m just thinkin’ about how I can use my talents in the future.”
“Yeah, you are pretty good at doing some of the stuff I can do. But if you want to use it in the future for justice, you’re going to have to remember that you can’t just tie up boys because you want to get them aroused, all right?”
Airy-Aekok blushed. “Daaad! Like of course I wouldn’t do that! It’s not professional at all.”

As Airy-Aekok went to sleep that night, she felt that she could almost see the vision of herself reaching out a hand towards her younger self.
‘If I can succeed in what Sanyaow asked of me, I can succeed in life, too. I’m not worthless or a failure. Thanks to my Dad, I have talent. And I’m not gonna let it go to waste.’

29.606.To See the Future–Part 8

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 606
“To See the Future–Part 8”

Age 8:2nd Grade
Age 9:3rd Grade
Age 10:4th Grade
Age 11:5th Grade
Age 12:6th Grade
Age 13:7th Grade
Age 14:8th Grade
Age 15:9th Grade
Age 16:10th Grade
Age 17:11th Grade
Age 18:12th Grade & Graduation
Age 19:??
Age 20:???
Age 21:????

Ai-Reia heaved a sigh.
“At the rate I’m going, I really am going to graduate at age eighteen…I won’t even be going through puberty by then, unless I end up precocious in that field too. I suppose there’s college, and here in Vaelyn, I will be a legal adult in a few months from then, won’t I? But, hm…”
“You talkin’ to yourself, sis?” Reuf-Bu asked. He smirked. “If you don’t want us to think that you’re crazy, then you shouldn’t do that with the door open! Whoa!” Reuf-Bu flinched. “Don’t threaten me like that!”
Ai-Reia was tempted to throw the cup in her hand, but she kept from doing it. “Don’t ever say something like that to me again. You make things harder for me than they need to be.”
“Sorry…well, uh, if you need me, I’ll be in the playroom, doing a puzzle…”
“I’m not interested, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
Reuf-Bu sighed. Ai-Reia turned back to her diagram. ‘My future’s a long one. There’s no telling what could happen over the span of hundreds of years. The world will change, people close to me will die, I’ll grow older…I have plenty of time to think, but I’m only eight and already in the second grade. It may be plenty of time to think, but I’m already doing something most Vampires don’t do until they’re older!’
Ai-Reia sighed. ‘Still, there’s so much to learn about the world, and with my knowledge I’m sure there’s some field I could pursue that would take up a good portion of my life. The question is, what am I going to do for a potential nine-hundred years if I’m likely to graduate high school at eighteen? I suppose there’s always the off-chance I’ll be held back a grade…’
Ai-Reia’s stare hardened. ‘But then there’s also my recovery plans. Those are an integral part of my future too. The way I handle myself as I’m growing up could be key to how my future plays out…’

***

“Hey, look over there. Isn’t that Vampiris Ai-Reia?”
“Vaelyn’s one and true prodigy! She’s only fifty years old and the discoveries she’s made so far are amazing! Did you hear that her first major discovery was at nineteen!? She wasn’t even going through puberty yet!”
“Yeah, I’m pretty proud of her. She’s something Vaelyn has that other countries don’t! Take that, Manemica! Take that, Wiencei! You other countries have nothin’ on our Vampiris!”
Even sitting far away from the group of people, their volume made it easy for Ai-Reia to hear what they had said. “A lot of people certainly think positively of you, Miss Vampiris.”
“Yes, well, I really don’t understand all the hype. Personally, I find it much more amazing when people work to be able to understand these things. I just happened to be blessed. I find that a lot less interesting.”
“Are you kiddin’ me!? Have you seen yourself!? With all your discoveries and inventions, how could you say that you haven’t put in a lot of work! Pat yourself on the back every once in a while, Miss Vampiris! You deserve it!”
Ai-Reia chuckled. “Well…no, maybe not.”
Since graduating from Malicerie back in 2026, Ai-Reia had focused a great deal of her time on studying and learning more. It seemed like an average enough schedule. She spent time doing what she wanted to, such as being with her family or with Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima, and spent the other half of her time studying.
When she was nineteen, however, she had discovered a medicine that could potentially regenerate parts of the body, to be used in keeping people alive longer. A test found that she was correct, and since then the medicine had been used for several people–including her brother Reuf-Bu, who had suffered a near-fatal car accident years later but was now as spry as he was in his thirties.
Since then she had discovered a wide variety of medicines, artifacts and had once helped turn around a guilty sentence for an innocent a few months before her execution. She was considered an inventor for the amount of new discoveries she had made. Ai-Reia loved being able to make vuyong off of studying, especially since it seemed there was still so much left for her to learn. The attention wasn’t always great, but it was just one caveat to getting to do what she wanted to.
And yet, despite her successes and her happiness, there was always a pervasive feeling nagging at her–a small part that kept her happiness from being complete even despite the fact that she had so much to be happy about.
‘I’m successful and I’m doing something I love! My family’s in good health and I’m considered the best aunt by Reuf-Bu’s children…’ That thought often tugged at her, but Ai-Reia already knew what was making her so unhappy.
“Ai-Reia!”
A familiar voice hit her ears, and she caught sight of a Catori and Birdmix walking towards her.
“It’s been a little bit since we last saw each other, hasn’t it?” Ai-Reia said.
“Yes, but that’s alright. I’ve been busy with the family business.”
“And you know how Catoris work. I have so many grandkids now it’s hard to keep an eye on them all…”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima still looked as happy as always, and in them she could still see how they looked when they were teenagers. But it was obvious they were aging. Shuera-Kaizima’s fur was flecked with grey and Im-Dei had visible wrinkles. The two’s slow walking didn’t go unnoticed by her either. It was quite evident that her friends weren’t as young as they had once been.
“I can imagine. How many grandchildren do you have by the way?”
“Nineteen. And it sounds like five more are on the way…”
“I only have one, but I would love to have more. You know, Ai-Reia, when you’re old enough to consider it, I think you’ll really like being a mother.”
“Well, I’m still a little pubescent, so I think it should wait for now.”
“You’re definitely mature enough for it. I could never imagine doing all the amazing things you’ve done!”
“Yes, we should get together again soon, maybe for tea?” Im-Dei said.
“Yes…yes, that sounds nice.”
“I’d love to do it now, but you’re busy working on a little AI project, aren’t you?”
“Erm, y-yes, that’s right.”
“And I have to work with the family business,” Im-Dei said. “But we should definitely get together soon. It was nice to see you, though!”
“Yes, it was nice.”
“Here!” Shuera-Kaizima handed her a small container. “I made a little something for you to eat! A Kokohara family recipe!”
“Take care, Ai-Reia. We’ll see you soon.”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima walked off. Ai-Reia stared down at the meal. It seemed to be made from a mixture of grilled tofu and beef. Her eyes started to tear up.
‘They’re so good to me, even now. But whereas I’m finishing up puberty, they’re elderly now…in the grand scheme of things, it won’t be that many years before they’re buried. And I’ll be there. I’ll be there when their children are buried. I’ll be there when their children’s children are buried. And how many more generations, how many more Kokoharas and Fyuoris will I see go before I finally look like they do? Will I see any more go after that point?’
It was a recurring thought in her mind now. She knew Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei weren’t likely to just suddenly pass away anytime soon, but that day was approaching fast. And then it didn’t matter how much success she had–her dear friends, her support, once they were gone things wouldn’t be the same again.
And she would have to live that way for centuries past that.

***

“Look, it’s Vampiris Ai-Reia.”
“Isn’t she the child prodigy?”
Was is really a lot more accurate. Just look at her picture nowadays! She was doing so great. I heard in college she really excelled! But when that Cahongyun lady became vice president, geez, she just lost it.”
“Kinda sad, really. I’m sure she could have done great things if she hadn’t gone so crazy…”
Ai-Reia grit her teeth and covered her ears. She couldn’t bear to hear what other people were saying about her. It only reminded her that much worse had been said about her–and that had come from her own friends and family.
“Ai-Reia, why’d you let this happen to you?”
“I can’t believe you’ve gone so crazy!”
Nowadays she spent most of her time on the streets. Staying in her apartment for anything aside from eating or sleeping was painful. It felt like she could hear the rumors flying around the other rooms. Now she missed the notoriety she had had as a child. She would have killed to go back to that old reputation–namely La-Iin, if she had the choice.
Of course, if she did something like that, it would gain her a completely different kind of notoriety.
It didn’t matter anyway, because the mere idea of La-Iin being in such a high position of power would have made her unhappy even if everything else in her life was going fine. But at least then she would have her family by her side; now she had nothing.
‘Maybe I should just leave Vaelyn. Then I might be happy, somewhat…start a new life somewhere else. Maybe in Wiencei or Nyappon…’
“Well, look who it is.”
Ai-Reia looked up. She met La-Iin’s icy glare. “It certainly has been a while, Ai-Reia. I’ve heard some interesting things about you since then.”
“You…!” Ai-Reia grit her teeth. She grabbed La-Iin by her collar, but to her surprise, La-Iin did not react. “Damn you! Do you understand how much grief you’ve caused me!? I thought a stupid little stalker girl could never be so dangerous, but I suppose I was mistaken!”
“Don’t blame your problems on me.” La-Iin pushed her away. “From what I’ve heard, you ended up in this position because you couldn’t stand the idea of me becoming vice president.”
“You know why. If you were any other person, it wouldn’t matter. But I know you, La-Iin. This is just part of your plan to rule the world!”
La-Iin smirked. “Smart girl.”
“You realize I can tell people what you’ve said now, right!?”
“Who will believe you? Nobody takes you seriously anymore, Ai-Reia. And that is your own fault. Your paranoia was your undoing. And you want to blame that on me? What a joke. Be willing to admit when you’ve failed, otherwise it just looks awfully pathetic.”
“You–!”
“You have hundreds of years left, anyway. If you’re so desperate to fix your life, take the chance you have now before I end up taking all of the world under my command. Well, I don’t have time to be talking to you. I have stupid stuff to do, and plans to formulate.”
She spread her wings and flew off.
Ai-Reia watched her go. She could still remember when La-Iin had been little–back then she had thought she had been harmless. Later, she had grown to think that she would do harm, but never could she imagine that her worst fears had a chance of coming true.
In despair, Ai-Reia trudged back to her apartment early, tossing around in her head the idea of ending her own suffering. ‘It’s not like anyone would care anyway. They all think I’m crazy now. Best do that instead of kill that over-pompous bitch…’

—–
‘The future has several possibilities depending on what path I take. I can’t make a plan for nine-hundred-and-something years down to the seconds, but I can try to prevent myself from ending up in a bad situation. My future is half entrusted to me, after all. I must try my best to avoid anything as bad as that other scenario happening!’
She sighed. ‘Of course, a part of the first one is inevitable…but if I can handle myself, then even that might not end up as bad as I imagine it to be.’

28.605.The Pervert Challenge

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 605
“The Pervert Challenge”

“Remind me why you’re coming to bother me right now?”
“Well, I figured you wouldn’t have the homework excuse seeing as school’s going to start again soon, so now’s the perfect time to take the opportunity to see you! After all, I haven’t seen Fer-Shi much this Summer, so I’m going to want to be with her, and rival-boy will cling all over you regardless of whether I like it or not, so–”
“I get it, I get it, you don’t need to over explain. So, why’d you bring the V-Puppet?”
“Bes-Isa demanded to come. And anyway, Mama would have hunted me down if I went all by myself.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “Uh-huh. Well, you know, I really don’t like you taking advantage of my Mom’s goodness! She’s too easily swayed by small things.”
“Something about hearing that from you is sickening.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Is the only reason you came over to see me? Because if that’s the case spare yourself and get out of here before I tie you up in vines.”
“I don’t mind that at all. Mostly.”
San-Kyung gave her a quizzical look and sighed.
“You don’t have much in your room, do you?”
“Some of it belongs to my parents. I don’t care if they keep stuff in my room.”
“You’re a real pushover when it comes to your parents, you know that? I would never let Mama push me around like that. I fight back!”
“Maybe that’s the case for that woman, but you obviously kowtow to Asul-Zenza.”
La-Iin’s eyes widened and she squished Bes-Isa into her dress pocket.
“Huh?”
“You heard nothing!” La-Iin hissed. San-Kyung sighed. “And I’m unhappy with a certain change that’s gone on in you, San-Kyung. I didn’t like you being a depressio, but something about the way you’re acting right now is very…place-fitting?”
“Hm?”
“Maybe it was place-caging.”
“Placating?”
“…maybe.” La-Iin began to look indignant. “What happened to the San-Kyung I love!? Why does he keep burying himself?”
“I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, La-Iin. Figuring out I wasted a bunch of time on a dead end isn’t all that easy to recover from. Though I have a little bit of hope now that I–”
“Yes, well, while you’ve been acting strange, I’ve been finding the perfect way to use my new power.”
“Yeah, rub it in, why don’t you.”
“Rub what in?”
“You seem to be conveniently stupid whenever it suits you.”
La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “This play-cating attitude of yours is going to turn you against me. Well, I won’t stand for that!”
La-Iin flew towards him, but San-Kyung reacted faster, tying her up with vines. The glare he gave her reminded her of the days in which he hated her with its coldness.
“…your vines are soothing me, San-Kyung. There’s something very intimate about them…”
San-Kyung’s eyes widened and he killed the vines. “Get. Out.”
“Hm?”
“GET OUT!”
“Why? I haven’t even gotten to spend any time with you!”
San-Kyung struck his hands. “Get. Out.”
“I think you’d better, La-Iin. Those flames are awfully tall!”
“Coward!” La-Iin spat. Noticing the intensity in San-Kyung’s glare, she added, “I meant Bes-Isa, not you. I’ll leave, but don’t think this will be the last time you see me this month!”
She flew off, only hearing a sigh from San-Kyung afterwards.
“Oh, you’re leaving already?” Del-Kyuus asked. “See you, I suppose?”
La-Iin flew out the door without giving her a response. She continued flying on her path back home.
“Angry, are we?”
“No, just upset. What a jip! I walk and fly all this way only for him to get angry at me!”
“You realize he got angry at you because you were being a pervert, right?”
“What are you talking about?”
“‘There’s something intimate about your vines’? Sounds perverted to me.”
“That’s only because you’re far more of a pervert than anyone else I’ve known could be. Except maybe rival-boy…”
“You’re calling ME a pervert, but you’re a pervert at seven when you don’t even completely know how babies are made yet. Given you have a thousand year lifespan, I wonder about the future.”
“So you say, but you’ve been much more of a pervert than I have, and I can prove it!”
“Can you?”
La-Iin nodded. “You’ll see, Bes-Isa…”

***

When La-Iin and Bes-Isa arrived home, La-Iin sat herself across from Bes-Isa at the table, propping her up with an old toy she had found in the miscellaneous room. She glared at her.
“The law is the word of La-Iin. And I remember you saying things about wanting harems of girls several times in the past!”
“Ha! But you don’t have any evidence!”
“Do you have any evidence about me being a pervert!?” She yelled, slamming a fist down on the table.
“W–well no, but–“
“See!? This whole challenge relies on nothing but witness testimony!”
“Oh yeah!? I’ve got a better idea. Imagine a naked San-Kyung, La-Iin, and I’ll imagine a naked woman. We’ll see who reacts!”
“Giving yourself an unfair advantage, hm?”
“Your face is so expressionless nobody can tell what you’re thinking half the time.”
“And besides, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to imagine a naked San-Kyung because I’ve already seen a half-naked San-Kyung!”
“…I rest my case.”
“But that was an accident! I didn’t mean to pull down his underwear!”
“Point stands that you did, and you probably enjoyed the view. Wait, what the hell!? You’ve seen a guy’s private parts before and you still don’t…never mind.”
“I have proof that you’re a pervert though, Bes-Isa. You keep mentioning how babies are made. The subject everyone wants to avoid with me…well it’s too bad, because I already know it’s something perverted. But there was something else interesting I heard a little about in school once…”
“Oh?”
“You’d want to try and make babies with a lady too, wouldn’t you? Except two girls can’t make babies. I want to have four kids with San-Kyung, but all you want to do is do something perverted that wouldn’t get you babies!”
“Urgh, touche…but still! If it was two girl Animated Pumpkins, they could have a baby!”
La-Iin’s smile became smug. “But you’re not an Animated Pumpkin. And what they do for babies isn’t perverted. I even know that.”
“They can be perverts too, you know!”
“I was told Animated Pumpkins have low sexy drives!”
“…I cannot believe what I’m hearing!”
“What are you talking about?” Mit-Sun asked. La-Iin nearly jumped. “We’re having a private discussion that has nothing to do with you!”
Mit-Sun rolled her eyes. “Well, keep it down. I have to make dinner and you’re very distracting.”
La-Iin grumbled under her breath. “I heard that.”
“Now where were we. Oh yes. I bet the first thing you do whenever you see a girl is mentally take off her clothes!”
“Hey, that’s rude! Besides if that were the case, that would happen with you and ugh…that woman! Besides, at least I’m not chasing after an age gap love like you are.”
“And what’s the problem there!? Are you going to end up as one of those evil people, Bes-Isa!?”
“What are you talking about!? I just think what you’re doing is futile considering your situation.” La-Iin’s face fell. “Hey, wait a second…”
“Why should I? You’re just going to say something you shouldn’t again.”
“No, it has nothing to do with that. All this time, we’ve been calling each other perverts, but we haven’t even had any evidence. All we have is our word, and besides it’s not like being a pervert is goody-goody. It’s not the worst thing to be accused of…”
“Your point?”
“We should have been looking towards someone else this whole time. Someone with actual proof…someone like….CAHONGYUN MIT-SUN!”
Mit-Sun turned around. “What’s going on now?”
“Think about it! She has you, which means she did what needs to be done for babies. She was never married to Asul-Zenza, and though this is just testimony, Asul-Zenza has said before that she did what she did NOT intending to have you! In fact, she’s told you before herself that you were unplanned!”
Mit-Sun’s face flushed. “What the–! What are you talking about!?”
La-Iin looked almost sickened, but she held Mit-Sun’s gaze. “You can’t back down from the accusations, Mama. Bes-Isa makes a good point. She and I might be perverts, but you’re the biggest pervert of all!”
La-Iin and Bes-Isa noticed Mit-Sun’s blush extend to her shoulders. “Why are you two even having this discussion!? La-Iin, what’s been going on? I–I–”
“Ooh, looks like someone’s been caught guilty!”
“I would admire that about her if she wasn’t so gross…”
Mit-Sun grit her teeth. “Stop talking about this!”

—–
“…San-Kyung, we give you a lot of pardons, but I don’t think there’s any way we can pardon breaking the floor and nearly setting the roof on fire!
San-Kyung glared. “If you were there when she said that, you’d understand why this happened.”

“You two called me a pervert, but I know a bigger pervert than anything you can dream of.”
“Don’t you dare say Dami.”
“Yeah, I’ve heard you coaxed him into unintentionally making La-Iin.”
“I didn’t coax him! We both–ugh, never mind! Anyway, if you want a real pervert, you should be looking to Mrs. Eteibreit.”
“Your stupid boss?”
“Yes. Of all the people I’ve had the misfortune of meeting, she’s the most perverted. And if it’s evidence you want, I’m sure I’d be able to get it for you easily.”
“I think I’m a little done with this pervert talk, personally.”
“Yeah, it’s starting to get on my nerves.”

27.604.Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 9

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 604
“Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 9”

You’ve gotta make the pace
You’ve gotta win the race
It’s a new life starting

You’ve got to be the one
Who makes it to the end and’s done
It’s a new life star-tiiing

“Xao-Bu, dearest, you have to get to school,” his mother called from downstairs. The song had just gone into a guitar solo, and though her words sounded slightly muted he could hear what she had said. He leaned his head forward until the headphones slipped off, pressed his nose to the stop button, and flew downstairs, landing in front of his mother, who helped him put on a backpack.
“Mother?”
“Yes, Xao-Bu, dearest.”
“Do you think it would be possible for me to start learning to play an instrument sometime soon? Like guitar…”
“Oh yes, Xao-Bu dearest! Mummy would need to raise a bit of vuyong but we’re quite in the green as of late. I am sure that soon we could fund your guitar dreams. Though are you sure there isn’t another instrument you might be more interested in?”
“No, why?”
“No reason, just asking,” she sighed. “Anyway, yes, Xao-Bu dearest, we may. Although it might take a while to find a class accommodating of Wingyrms, your Mummy will do her greatest to find this class that you so desire! So please, get to school before it’s too late, dearest.”
“I will.” Xao-Bu spread his wings and flew off.

***

As she had promised, Xao-Bu’s mother spent hours dedicating herself to the search of Wingyrm-friendly guitar lessons. Xao-Bu, meanwhile, had spent his time listening to rock and death metal–that and practicing his death growl.
“Xao-Bu, dearest, is everything alright up there!?” Though he wasn’t all that good at it.
He had started to write lyrics for songs he was planning and had all sorts of ideas for hard-hitting guitar songs. The more time his mother invested in searching for the lessons, it seemed, the more time he invested in cultivating his passion.
And eventually, both of their hard work paid off.
“Xao-Bu, dearest!” His mother called. “I found the perfect class for you! It is a class for disabled and Wingyrm students. It teaches all sorts of instruments, but naturally, I put you down for guitar!”
“Thank you, Mother!”
“You’ll be starting come Monday, so make sure you are prepared! Lessons will be almost immediately after school! I’ll be waiting outside your school to lead the way to the lessons. And I’ll pack extra food so that you won’t get hungry! Lessons last anywhere from one to two hours, you see.”
“I see,” Xao-Bu chuckled. “Thank you, Mother. I’m really looking forward to this. If fa,” he said, showing his mother the papers. “I hin hactiking ‘o en I en ay.”
“Oh!” His mother bent down to read the paper. “Well, for a hard-hitting song like you intend, these lyrics are quite mild!”
“Iwl!?”
“It’ll be a refreshing reprieve from all the racy lyrics in rock and death metal nowadays. Not that I listen to those all that often. Well, if you need me, dearest, I’ll be downstairs!”
Xao-Bu set down his papers. ‘She called my lyrics mild. I thought they had their undertones…’ Xao-Bu shook his head. ‘But perhaps she is right. That will give them their own unique flavor compared to other songs out nowadays!’

When Monday rolled around, Xao-Bu could hardly contain his excitement. His mother seemed to share in his enthusiasm. That morning, she was fluttering around the house, going back-and-forth and preparing him extra lunch and helping him to get ready.
“Mother, I’m not so little anymore that you need to help me like this,” he laughed.
“But you aren’t a teenager yet either! Let me help you before you hit thirteen, dearie. It’s kinder on my heart.”
Xao-Bu went to school as normal, though he found himself a little distracted during classes. Ideas for songs were floating around in his head. At one point he had missed an important lesson during Math classes and had asked the teacher to repeat the lesson, prompting his classmates to start laughing and earning the ire of the teacher.
Naturally, once he was out of school, he was overjoyed. As promised his mother was waiting for him outside.
“Now, follow mummy, dearie! I studied the map for almost five hours!”
“Mother!”
“Not five hours straight, dearie, don’t worry,” she said with a smile. “Just four-almost-five hours in total. I also flew along the path we need to take, so I know where we should be going! So follow me!”
She flew off. Xao-Bu kept behind her as she flew above treetops. He had a bit of difficulty reaching her height, but it turned out that didn’t matter much–his mother swooped down to the building after only a little while of flying above the treetops. Xao-Bu followed likewise, though his landing was slightly off.
“Here we are!” She said. “I hope you don’t mind, Xao-Bu dearie, if mummy takes this time to get some groceries? We are running a bit low on fixings for lunches and dinner. Mummy may have overdone it with the food she gave you.”
“I don’t mind, Mother. Thank you for taking me here.” He reached up to nuzzle her neck. “I’ll see you later.”
“See you, my dearest!” She spread her wings and flew off. Xao-Bu head into the center. It was bigger than he had been expecting, but the signs all over the building made it easy for him to quickly find the place he was looking for.
“Helloooo? Is anyone in here? I’m here for the Wingyrm guitar classes.”
“Just in time.” A deep voice said. To his right, standing at the entrance to a room marked ‘Guitar’, was a tall Wingyrm man, his hair done up in a messy bun. “You must be Vurinen Xao-Bu.”
“Y-yes.”
“I’m Mr. Aludi. I’ll be teaching you how to play the guitar. Follow me.”
The guitar room was more sparse than Xao-Bu had been expecting. A guitar sat in the middle of the room on its own, and the walls were stark white. A few other items were lying around in the room, but they were all pushed off towards a corner. Aludi pulled a chair from the pile and sat down on it.
“Now, here, let me demonstrate what it’s like to play without arms.”
Aludi grabbed a guitar pick with his teeth and began to play. Xao-Bu was impressed. ‘Wow, it looks easier than I thought!’
Aludi set down the pick once his piece was done. “This is a special pick designed for use in the mouth. Now you try. Ah, but before you do–” Aludi said, interrupting Xao-Bu just as he was about to take the pick, “–I was curious, what reason are you here for today?”
“Hm? Well, the thing is, I want to play rock and death metal. I figured the guitar would be a good place to start.”
Aludi nodded, and smirked. “You don’t look the type. But go ahead and try. Play for me.”
Xao-Bu took the pick and tried to play. Almost right away he could tell that it was not going to be as easy as Aludi had made it seem. The guitar made a horrific noise and when Xao-Bu tried to draw away, the noise it made was worse.
To his surprise, Aludi was chuckling. “Well, you’re just learning. Even people with arms can sound horrible at the guitar at first. Don’t worry though, we still have an hour and so to practice, and many more days yet to come. So go on and try some more, then I’ll give you a lesson.”
“Ohey.” Xao-Bu went back to strumming the guitar. It still sounded horrendous, but when he thought of what kind of songs it could be making when he learned how to play, that gave him the strength to manage through the horrible melody it was making right now.

“How was your first class, Xao-Bu dearest?”
“It was great. Well, mostly. Mr. Aludi is a good teacher, but I can’t play all that well.”
“Nonsense! I’m sure you played just fine.”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you heard me, Mother…”
“Well, even if you aren’t playing at tip-top shape right now, you’ll improve with time. And you’ve got plenty more lessons left to go before I have to pay again, so sooner or later that talent will come to you!”
Xao-Bu smiled.

***

And as it turned out, his mother was right–mostly, anyway. The more classes Xao-Bu had with Aludi, the better he played. He felt as though every time Aludi gave him a lesson, or played a song for him, he got a little bit better.
“Now, I understand you’re practicing a death growl. Well, you’d need to be able to sing for that. Unless you stop playing the guitar or have someone else playing for you, you’ll need your mouth free, so that’s where the feet method comes in.”
“Feet method?”
“Yes. We Wingyrms have to adjust to doing a lot of things with our feet. Here, let me show you. Although I should probably get out my specialized foot pick…”
But despite his successes, there was something that was bothering him–the way all the songs he had played sounded. Once he started getting better, Aludi had let him play some songs, and as he would soon realize, they sounded a lot different from how they did in his head.
Even Aludi seemed to notice this.
“You know, Xao-Bu, there’s something I’ve been wondering.”
“What’s that?”
He stood up. “Come with me.”
Aludi led the way out of the guitar room and over to a room that was marked ‘piano’.
“Why are we going in here?”
“I’ll tell you. Xao-Bu, can you go over and play that piano for me?”
“I don’t know how!”
“I know you don’t. That’s why I’m asking.”
Xao-Bu wasn’t sure of what Aludi was trying, but he complied with his teacher anyway. He sat down and began to play. It sounded terrible, as he was expecting–but something about it almost sounded harmonious.
“You know, Xao-Bu, I understand you’re here to take guitar lessons, but would you mind if we devoted a half-hour or so to letting you try some other instruments? There’s a little theory I have and I want to see if it’s true.”
“A theory?”
“Yes. I’ll tell you what it is when I figure it out. But are you okay with this? We can just keep practicing guitar if you aren’t.”
“Well…I suppose I wouldn’t mind, but are you going to charge Mother for it?”
Aludi shook his head. “This is my crackpot theory. I’ll take the fall for it if anyone has to. Let’s get back to the guitar for today, though. I’ve been meaning to play you the rock version of Denden Saree.”

For months past then–long past the time his mother had cheerfully agreed to pay for another set of lessons for him–Xao-Bu would take a half-hour after guitar lessons to practice another instrument. On those instruments too Aludi encouraged Xao-Bu to make up his own kind of melody, and to his disdain the melodies on those instruments were less conducive to the one he wanted.
At least he was getting better at guitar, he reasoned.
After a guitar lesson one day, Aludi cleared his throat.
“Well, Xao-Bu, it’s been seven months since I had you start playing other instruments too. And so I’ve gotten to see the results of my crackpot theory.”
“Yes?”
“Xao-Bu, your primary interest is in rock and death metal, right?”
“Yes. Though lately I’ve been enjoying a bit of other music. But those are still my favorites.”
“Hm.” Aludi’s eyes scanned some papers. Xao-Bu leaned over, curious to see what they said. “Well, I think I’ve figured something else. Call me ridiculous, but you have a natural talent for music. There’s a big problem, though.”
“What?”
“Xao-Bu, you weren’t good at some of the other instruments I had you play. But some of them you excelled on far faster than you did on guitar. I’ll admit that guitar is hard for many Wingyrms to learn, but the skill with which you learned how to play piano really surprised me!”
“Really?”
“Yes. And the harmonies you made…you’re going to hate to hear this, but you have quite an ear for classical music. Rock and death metal, you needed to work on before you could get good at it.”
Xao-Bu felt slightly disappointed. “So…why did you do this experiment?”
“There was just this feeling I got from you when you started getting better at guitar. I had a theory and I wanted to see if I was right.”
“…does this mean I’ll never be able to play rock or death metal properly?” He asked, bowing his head.
“Oh, no, no, Xao-Bu, that doesn’t mean that at all, not by a long shot! Listen to me, child.” He nudged Xao-Bu’s chin to get him to look at him. “Just because you have a natural talent in one field, it doesn’t mean you can’t still excell in another! You just need to put more work into the field that you aren’t as talented in, that’s all.”
“Do you think so?”
“I do. In fact, I’ve always wanted to teach instruments to Wingyrms, but my talents were instead in singing and organization! But I didn’t let that stop me. It doesn’t mean you should give up on what you want. It just means you need to work a little harder at it. And that’s what you’re here to do.”
Xao-Bu smiled. “You’re a good teacher, Mr. Aludi.”
“Thank you. I’ve enjoyed teaching you, too. You’re a bright kid, and you’re already getting the hang of rock music. Death metal still needs a little work, but I think if you try hard and keep practicing, you’ll be able to do what you want to.”
“Thank you, Mr. Aludi. But if you really think that, let’s get back to the lesson.”
“You’re right, let’s! Say, how about I teach you a good death metal song, you know, to practice?”

—–
Xao-Bu sighed.
“Mr. Vurinen, you’re soooo good at music. Why aren’t you in a band instead of teaching people instruments?”
“My passion is helping other people with their musical passions. Someone showed me that helping people can sometimes be far more satisfying than self-satisfaction.”
“Okay?”
“Although…” He chuckled to himself. “I wouldn’t mind following through on my old childhood dream someday…”

26.603.San-Kyung the Babysitter

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 603
“San-Kyung the Babysitter”

A woman ran across a neighborhood at a high speed.
“Whoa! I didn’t know a mom could run that fast!” A Cicadin girl said.

After Salsh-Era had gone to work, San-Kyung found himself bored. With Operation Reboot still on his mind, he decided to read an old book that was all about Animated Pumpkins.
“Well, of course we know a lot about Animated Pumpkins, but we got this book because we didn’t know what was different for Aesthetically Normals at the time. So we wanted to learn what we need to do differently with you!” Del-Kyuus had told him that years ago.
San-Kyung’s focus was particularly on the section that dealt with the transformation. ‘Operation Reboot could be a success or a failure. But at this rate, it seems like it might succeed, somehow…thing is, is what Dosa-Mina told me last year really going to come true?’
It frustrated him that he might have to go another year with the weakness he had in November, but he wasn’t going to begrudge his friend his mistake.
Before he could finish the section, someone knocked on the door.
“San-Kyung, can you get that? I’m a little tied up right now!” Del-Kyuus said.
‘I wonder if it’s Dosa-Mina? But he didn’t contact me. He usually does before he comes over. Well, I guess there have been exceptions…’
He went over to the door and opened it, and was startled to be met not by the face of his best friend, or even of La-Iin–who he had half been expecting to see–but instead of a Lizardfoot woman who had a young child strapped to her chest.
“Oh, thank goodness, you’re home,” she sighed. “Ahem. Introductions are in order. I’m your neighbor, Nugyu Lei-Lin, and this is my son, Nugyu Ku-Sel. I don’t know if you’ve ever met us, eheh heh…”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “Mom, I think it’s for you.”
“Oh no! I think you’re mistaken! You’re Molshei San-Kyung, right? I’m looking for you.”
San-Kyung flinched.
“You see, I know we don’t know each other all that well, but my husband used to go to work with your Dad! And if I remember correctly, school should be out for the Summer! So I figured you’d be home and you could do me a favor.”
“Mom, I think it’s for you.”
“Can you give me a minute, San-Kyung!? I told you, I’m tied up right now!”
“Really, it’s you I need! Although I guess your Mom would help as well…”
San-Kyung glared at her. “You see, my husband doesn’t get paid until next week, and we need vuyong right now. I didn’t want to go around begging for vuyong, so I figured I would do a day job, but I can’t just leave Ku-Sel home alone!”
“Ask someone else!”
“Please, there’s a reason I came to you! Have you seen the other teenagers!? I don’t trust any of them to watch my kid! I-I promise, as soon as I can, I’ll pay you for your work, just please help me! Believe me, you actually are my last resort! …well, maybe second-to-last.”
“Handle your own problems!”
Lei-Lin teared up. San-Kyung let out a sigh of relief when Del-Kyuus walked up behind him. “Hello, Mrs. Nugyu. What brings you here?”
“Oh, hello, Mrs. Molshei. …um, sorry to be rude, but do you work?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Really? I see…” Lei-Lin began to look sheepish. “Um, I guess I should explain. I wanted to ask San-Kyung if he could watch Ku-Sel for me while I do a day job. You see, we’re in dire straits right now. I don’t trust the other teenagers to watch him. Also, you are an Animated Pumpkin.” She smiled. “My husband is an Animated Pumpkin too! So naturally little Ku-Sel is–”
“Half-AP?” San-Kyung asked.
“Yes! Will you please watch him?”
Del-Kyuus glanced at San-Kyung. “Well, San-Kyung tends to be a little rough with people, but I wouldn’t mind watching him. I have chores to do, but I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
San-Kyung gaped. “Mom!”
“Oh my gooosh, thank you!” Lei-Lin removed Ku-Sel from his holder and handed him to Del-Kyuus. “Thank you so much! I promise, as soon as we have the means to, I’ll do anything you want! Well, I have to go! See you!”
“Hey!” Lei-Lin ran off before San-Kyung could retort. “Why’d you do that!?”
“She was desperate, San-Kyung! Was I supposed to just turn her away?”
San-Kyung groaned. “You really are the one and true goody-goody…”
“Huh?”
“Never mind. But you’d better be the one who watches him!”
“I will. But I do also have a chore to do.”
San-Kyung shuddered. “I’ll do it for you.”
“I’d love to let you, but it’s a chore that requires levitation.”
San-Kyung looked away, his expression hurt.
“I’m sorry, sweetie, but it’ll only be temporary. You have my promise.”
“Yeah, a temporary slice of hell…”
Del-Kyuus sighed. “You could stand to be a bit nicer about this. Your father and I don’t care that you’re evil, and more importantly we’ve let you off pretty easy even for things that would usually warrant more punishment! I think watching a baby is a relatively mild payback.”
“Payback!?”
“Yes.” She started to hand Ku-Sel to San-Kyung, but soon pulled him away. “Although maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know if I should trust you with a baby, and I did offer to do it myself. And even though you’ve done bad things in the past, you haven’t really been acting out lately. It would be kind of mean to punish you now.”
“You just want an excuse to pass the baby off on me.”
“No, I’m not trying to do that. I’d love to watch Ku-Sel. It’s been a while since I had a baby, after all…but I still have to finish my chore. And it might be good experience for you, too, keeping an eye on him for a little. After all, what are you going to do if Dosa-Mina has a baby in the future and you have to be around them to see him? Are you just going to avoid him?”
“Maybe it sounds weird to you, but I really would love to have a biological child. Yes, I know, they’d be Werewolf-Siren, but still! I love the idea of being a father!”
San-Kyung groaned. “You’re not going to let me back out, are you…”
“I’ll be watching Ku-Sel most of the time. I have experience with babies, after all. But he’ll still be in the house for a little, and I would really appreciate it if you watch him while I finish that chore. Unless he cries, you don’t have to do anything else!”
“Fiiine…”
“Thanks, San-Kyung.” She handed Ku-Sel to him. Ku-Sel reached up and touched his face. San-Kyung flinched.

***

While Del-Kyuus finished her earlier chore, San-Kyung kept an eye on Ku-Sel. He felt immensely uncomfortable the whole time, and Ku-Sel looked as though he felt similar–he was giving San-Kyung a wary look in response to his glare, and he was only grateful he hadn’t started crying.
‘I just need to watch him until Mom’s done. That’s it.’ It didn’t change the fact that San-Kyung didn’t like the situation at all. He didn’t like Ku-Sel being in the house, and though he was little, it didn’t change how San-Kyung saw him to be, the same as other people in the world. He tried to think of what he might do if Ku-Sel was Dosa-Mina’s child, but the idea of Dosa-Mina having a child seemed so ridiculous to him that it didn’t work.
Ku-Sel seemed bored of staring at San-Kyung after a while, and so he glanced around the house. His eyes widened, and before San-Kyung could predict it, he started to cry.
San-Kyung slammed his head on the table.
“Is something wrong, San-Kyung?”
“Yes!”
Del-Kyuus levitated over to Ku-Sel. “I think the poor thing’s lonely. He probably misses Mrs. Nugyu.”
“Why didn’t he cry right away, then?”
“He might not have realized she was going away just yet. Why don’t you hold him? He might calm down if you do that.”
San-Kyung felt incredibly reluctant, but Del-Kyuus was watching him expectantly. He picked up Ku-Sel, who did not stop crying even as he held him.
“What now!?”
“Well, he might be hungry. He’s probably old enough to eat solids, but since he’s half Animated Pumpkin, you might be able to get away with giving him something to drink. I think we still have your old sippy cup somewhere…”
San-Kyung suddenly felt embarrassed. He went into the kitchen, retrieved the sippy cup, and filled it with seed milk. “He’s old enough for seed milk that doesn’t come from his Mom! Not that his mother could’ve fed him seed milk anyway.”
Ku-Sel seemed satisfied and started to drink from the sippy cup. San-Kyung sighed. He looked back at the book he left open, and an idea clicked in his head.
‘Mom’s still finishing her chore, and she’ll only take longer if I have to ask her for everything. The kid’s half-Animated Pumpkin. Maybe I can look in here for advice…’
The sense of a challenge was stirring in San-Kyung, and so he looked over nearly the entire section that dealt with baby Animated Pumpkins. He had almost finished when Ku-Sel pulled on his hair. He let out a screech and tied him up with vines, which made Ku-Sel start to cry.
“What’s wrong now, San-Kyung?” Del-Kyuus said. “I’m almost done, you know. You could–hey, stop that, San-Kyung!”
San-Kyung killed the vines. “Honestly. I know you don’t like people, but you’d think you’d be able to put up with a baby at least a little bit!”
“I can deal with him fine!”
“Meanie!”
San-Kyung flinched. He glared at Ku-Sel, who started to cry some more. Del-Kyuus picked him up and cradled him.
“Aw, don’t worry, little Ku-Sel. Your Mom will be back soon enough. You have to be gentle with babies and young children, San-Kyung. A lot of them get their feelings hurt pretty easily. And young childhood can influence how you end up as much the rest of your life can.”
“Hmph.”
“Just be gentle, okay?” She said. She put Ku-Sel down and levitated off. Ku-Sel seemed to be calmed down, but the look he gave San-Kyung moments later was evidently angry.
“Meanie.”
“Says the stupid baby.”
“You stupid baby.”
San-Kyung resisted the urge to strike his hands and set the baby on fire. “Do you want something?”
“Mama.”
“Sorry, but your “Mama” pushed you off on me.”
Ku-Sel teared up. San-Kyung sighed. “Temporarily.”
“Temp-o-wa-ree…?”
San-Kyung groaned. “She pushed you off on me for a short while.”
“Huh?”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. “She makes me watch you while she goes to her jobby-wobby. There! Do you understand now!?”
To his surprise, Ku-Sel nodded. ‘What kind of family teaches their kid to be this dumb!?’
“Funny-looking meanie.”
“What!?”
“Dada looks like kindy Mama. You funny-looking.”
San-Kyung held his head. “Talk in a coherent sentence or I’m not talking to you!”
“Dada. Looks like. Kindy Mama.”
San-Kyung stood up, filled the sippy cup with more seed milk, and stuffed it in Ku-Sel’s mouth. “There. Now shut up.”
The thrill of the challenge was gradually becoming lost on him as he watched Ku-Sel drink his seed milk. ‘Just a little longer. I can put up with this until Mom finishes her chore.’

When Del-Kyuus finished her chore, San-Kyung felt as though a load had been lifted off his shoulders.
“Aw, what a cutie you are! Do you like blocks? I can let you play with San-Kyung’s old blocks.”
“No!”
“Why not?”
“Sa…San-Kyung?” He pointed at San-Kyung.
“Yes, that’s San-Kyung.”
“Stupid funny-looking meanie.”
“I could say the same to you, if I was a brain-dead baby.”
“San-Kyung, please! And Ku-Sel, you shouldn’t say that. That’s bad!”
Ku-Sel looked dejected. “Sor-ree…”
“Aw, it’s okay, just don’t say it again, alright?”
“I don’t get babies.”
“Babies don’t always make sense, San-Kyung. Sometimes they do, though. You used to cry around other people. I guess Salsh-Era and I should have anticipated that things would have ended up the way that they did…”
The door opened. “What, no welcome?”
“Hi, Dad.”
“Hey, San-Kyung. Why do you look so upset?”
“Take a look.”
Salsh-Era glanced at Ku-Sel. “Kyuusie! Wha–what–”
“Hi, Salsh-Era! Oh, this is Mrs. Nugyu’s baby, Ku-Sel.”
“Oh, Mrs. Nugyu’s baby,” Salsh-Era said. “O-of course.”
“Oh come on, Salsh-Era. I would never cheat on you.”
“I know, Kyuusie.” Salsh-Era glanced at San-Kyung in surprise. “What, you’re not upset that I called her Kyuusie?”
“I’m too pissed off to care.”
“He got burnt out after a half-hour of dealing with the baby. Mrs. Nugyu wanted him to watch Ku-Sel himself!”
“Huh.”
“But I offered to do it, once my chore was done, anyway. I had to step in ’cause I could see he was obviously having a hard time of it.”
“Can’t handle a baby, huh?” Salsh-Era chuckled.
“They’re just like everyone else is.”
“Ku-Sel was mean to him, admittedly.”
“Well, something tells me San-Kyung will never get over his misanthropy. But really, San-Kyung, babies aren’t all that bad. Ku-Sel looks a little older than ‘baby’, but my point still stands.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Well, if you change your mind and decide to become a father in the future, please don’t kill my grandkid!”
“You don’t have to worry. This incident has definitely made me decide I don’t want a kid. I don’t think even me raising them would keep them from ending up the way most people do.”
“Then what do you have to say about your grandparents? They raised us and you love us. What about the Dslellulars? You might not like Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya, but they raised Dosa-Mina and you like him.”
San-Kyung’s expression softened. “I…I don’t know. Look, I just don’t want to, alright? I don’t need to care about anyone else. It’s too hard. Besides, they’re so stupid it’s infuriating.”
“Alright. It’s your decision.”
“Aw, that first part was kind of sweet, in a weird way.”
Ku-Sel was crawling on the table. San-Kyung wanted to shoo him away, but he crawled over to San-Kyung and stared up at him. “Sor-ree.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. Ku-Sel reached out and latched on to San-Kyung.
“Aw, someone likes you more than you like him,” Del-Kyuus cooed. San-Kyung groaned. “That’s not the first time that’s happened…”
“Stor-ree?”
“What?”
“Stor-ree.”
“He wants a story from you, San-Kyung,” Del-Kyuus said. “Why don’t you oblige?”
“Why should I?”
“Meanie.”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. “If you want a story, you could at least keep your mouth shut!”

—–
“Thank you so much for watching Ku-Sel for me,” Lei-Lin said. “Thanks to you, I was able to make a little vuyong, and I think we might be able to make it until my husband gets paid.”
“Happy to help!” Del-Kyuus said.
Lei-Lin dropped some coins into San-Kyung’s hand. “Here. I know it’s not much, and I’ll give you more later on, but thank you.”
“…thank Mom and Dad.”
“Ku-Sel, do you have anything to say to San-Kyung?”
Ku-Sel stared at San-Kyung and gave him a thumbs up. “Teach that kid to talk better,” he snapped. Lei-Lin giggled. “We’re working on it!”
With that, she walked off.
“Hey, San-Kyung?”
“Yeah?”
“You’re a little reliant, aren’t you?”
“Huh?”
“I think I know what Kyuusie’s trying to say. We heard your comment about not wanting to care about anyone else. You’re a little reliant on the people you care about, aren’t you? I know you don’t like people, but that’s part of the reason you don’t like to open up, isn’t it?”
“Think what you want.”
His parents’ words brought to mind his suicide pact with Dosa-Mina. ‘Well, they don’t need to know about that…’

25.602.To See the Future–Part 7

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 602
“To See the Future–Part 7”

“Deki-Tyunri dear, is something wrong?”
“Oh…grandmother.” Deki-Tyunri sighed. “I was just thinking about the future.”
“What about? You aren’t graduating for two, three more years. You have plenty of time.”
“Oh, I know, but I figured I should start thinking about it. Lirako’s been forced to think about it lately, so I didn’t want to end up in the same situation as her.”
“Well, what’s the problem? Why do you look so sad about it?”
“It’s just one thing…”
“Do you not have an idea?”
“No, I have an idea to work with. I think I’d like to work with children. And since I don’t have arms, I figured maybe I could be a flight instructor. …that and, well, being in the Weekend music class has given me an appreciation for music, so I’m thinking of focusing on those two things right now. I’m fine there.”
“Are you worried about me? Don’t worry, Deki-Tyunri, I’ll be fine.”
“I am worried about you, but I believe you when you say that. You aren’t the oldest grandmother in the world and you can take care of yourself.”
His grandmother smiled. Deki-Tyunri couldn’t help but feel that it looked immensely conceited. “What’s the problem, then?”
“Well….I told you, I have some things I’m planning to look into. I think you’ll be fine, although I’ll still keep an eye on you. I think I’ll be able to retain my friendships if I do good enough. So long as I have Lirako and Shin-Rei….oh, you don’t know her by her first name. I used to call her Murana, but she started calling me Deki-Tyunri, so I decided to call her by her first name too.”
“I see.”
“Anyway, so long as I have them, I don’t really mind if I lose some of my other friends. And I’m not really looking at colleges, but like I said, I know something I want to pursue, so I have that, at least. And there are some things I figure I don’t need any planning for. …but there is one thing that’s bothering me.”
“What’s bothering you?”
Deki-Tyunri lowered his head. “I want to get married,” he said quietly, “but same-sex marriage is illegal in Vaelyn!”
“Oh.”
“I just really like the idea of marriage, but how do I know it’s going to become legal anytime soon? And I was thinking about making a plan to go to Manemica, but Vaelyn is my home. I love this place. And there’s no guarantee I’ll find someone I want to marry. So I don’t know what to do…”
“Well, you’re here thinking that it won’t become legal, but who’s to say it won’t?”
“You’re right, who’s to say. Though it sometimes feels like the people in charge of laws in Vaelyn don’t take their job very seriously…”
“Well, what the future holds is a mystery.”
“I know you want me to be hopeful, but it’s legal in so many other places! Why not here?”
His grandmother shrugged. Deki-Tyunri sighed. “I may have to just settle for a pretend ceremony at this rate…”

***

“When you’re flying, you have to make sure to keep flapping your wings at all times. Like this!”
Deki-Tyunri flew above his students, who watched him with wide eyes. “Always know your limits, though. If you don’t have the strength to fly a long distance, don’t do it! Or, if you have to, at least be in an area where you can land safely. And never let yourself plummet to the ground.”
“Question!” Asked a Siren student. “Is it hard for you to fly with wing-arms?”
“No. Actually, it’s very easy for me! Anyway, to build up wing strength, you should take some time to fly around every day if you can manage it. But make sure not to fly in buildings that don’t have a “Fly Zone” marker on them. Now, let’s all fly together!”
The students flew up to reach him, save for a Birdmix girl who seemed to be struggling.
“I…I’m sorry!” She said. “I’ll make it, I promise!”
“Remember what I said about knowing your limits. You shouldn’t strain yourself to fly a certain height if you can’t yet, just keep trying every day. If you force yourself, and keep forcing yourself, you might hurt yourself. And wing injuries can be very painful and hard to heal.”
His students flinched.
“Now, watch me and we’ll all do a safe landing together.”
Deki-Tyunri gently fluttered to the ground. “You should always make sure you have a clear spot to land. Check around you just like you would check the street.”
The students landed. “Well, I think that’s all for today! I’ll see you in a week, then!”
“Bye, Mr. Elyshen!” Deki-Tyunri’s students called out as he flew off.

“Hello, Deki-Tyunri. How did the flight classes go?”
“Lots of people know how to fly, so I’m not teaching much there. But at least I can teach them how to fly safely. There are a lot of people who don’t know how!”
“I bet….well, then, what song do you want to practice today?”
“How about Snowflake Medley?”
Shin-Rei nodded. “Oh…”
“What is it?”
“Didn’t you say some people were coming over to see us today?”
“Well, we’re at my house so of course a certain someone is going to be here.”
Shin-Rei giggled. “And Lirako and my grandmother asked if they could hear us play too.”
“That’s bigger than our usual crowd…”
“Well, if you want your career to go places, you’re going to get some pretty big crowds. At least I’d hope so.”
“Mm-hm. And both of us need to get more used to the idea of strangers watching us.”
“I guess we do.”
The two practiced randomly on their instruments while they waited for their crowd to arrive.
“Hey there, Deks! What’s that song? Sounds catchy.”
“Oh, hello, Lirako!”
“Hey! Looks like I came just in time for the big show.”
“No, not at all. My grandmother isn’t here and neither is…oh….”
When he glanced behind Lirako, he noticed the both of them. “They were on their way here too when I got here.”
“I see! Well, that means we can start right away, then!”
“What, you don’t want to talk with me about how things have been going lately?” Lirako said with a nudge.
“What’s there to say? Teaching children how to fly safely really doesn’t leave much to tell. But don’t worry, everything you want to hear I’ll tell you after the song.”
“Great!”
The three members of the crowd sat down in chairs. “Hello, everyone! We’re Muranashen–”
“Name a work in progress,” Shin-Rei said, so quietly that Deki-Tyunri wondered if the crowd had heard it.
“–and tonight we’re going to perform for you our song “Snowflake Medley”! It’s a bit of a work in progress though, so bear with us!”
Shin-Rei leaned over to whisper into his ear. “Awfully energetic for someone so shy…”
“Well, I’m around family and friends. How could I be shy?”
“That would make one of us.”
The two began to play their instruments. Deki-Tyunri felt that it sounded better than normal, but the absence of a flute still bothered him. He and Shin-Rei had tried to get Xao-Bu to collaborate, but their old teacher hadn’t had the time.
“I still have many music classes to attend to,” he had said. “But best of luck to you both.”
When they finished, Lirako began to clap wildly. Deki-Tyunri blushed. “Thank you all.”
“They only care about you in this group,” Shin-Rei said. Deki-Tyunri wasn’t sure of what to make of her smile. “I fell completely under the radar…”
“I’m sure they were paying attention to you too.”
“It’s amazing that a Wingyrm can do this,” his grandmother said. “Perhaps I should take up music!”
“I’d love to hear it if you do, grandmother,” Deki-Tyunri said. “We have to put this away for now, but I wouldn’t mind talking to you now, Lirako. Though trust me, I don’t have much to say.”
“That’s a-okay, ’cause I’ve got plenty to say to you!”
‘I’d better not tell her about my other plan, at least not right now.’ Deki-Tyunri glanced over at the third person, who hadn’t yet moved from his seat. ‘She’ll probably care more about hearing the results rather than the plan anyway.’

“Are you ready for this, San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung didn’t respond. “San-Kyung?”
“…fine.”
The two left the house and head off to their destination. On their way, many things were on his mind.
‘I don’t think San-Kyung cares as much as I do about this,’ he thought. ‘Well, that’s okay. As long as he supports me, I can do this!’
Even seven years later, same-sex marriage was still illegal in Vaelyn. And it was only now that Deki-Tyunri had decided to say something about it.
A few of the people in charge of the law in Vaelyn had agreed to meet him that day, and so he head to court with San-Kyung close behind him. He entered the courtroom and braced himself.
“Mr. Elyshen, welcome,” a bespectacled Birdmix man said. “I’m not one to bend the law a bit, but considering the nature of what we’re discussing, I didn’t think a proper court was in order. Don’t worry–I have permission to do this. As I would of course being in charge of legalities here in Vaelyn.”
“…” Deki-Tyunri nodded. “Well, I think you already know what I’m here to discuss. Many other places in the world have legalized same-sex marriage, Mr. Fgui. And I don’t see any reason why it should be illegal here. I just want to get married like other people do…I’m not asking for anything special, at least I don’t think so…”
Mr. Fgui sighed. “You do make a good point, Mr. Elyshen. And that’s what a good chunk of the world would say. ‘Why keep same-sex marriage illegal? All they want to do is get married.’ True that, the situation is fairly simple, but me and my coworkers have a reason for keeping the law the way it is.”
“Do I need to convince you with something else?” Deki-Tyunri was beginning to feel desperate. Mr. Fgui shook his head.
“There’s nothing to convince me with, Mr. Elyshen. The law is already decided. Besides, here in Vaelyn we honestly couldn’t care less if you’re gay. Legally, anyway: we can’t do something about people harassing you. …well, the police can, but you need proof you were harassed. Anyway, seeing as we don’t care, tell me, what reason is it so important to you to get married? You can do whatever else you want.”
“Well…just as you don’t understand why it would be so important for me to get married if I can do whatever else I want, I don’t understand why, if you’re not enforcing some other law, I’m not allowed to…”
Mr. Fgui sighed. “I suppose I should tell you, then. There is indeed a reason why same-sex marriage is illegal. And do you want to know why?”
“Yes.”
Mr. Fgui grinned. “Because.”
“Because…?”
“That’s it, because. Because we feel like it. There’s no real reason for why it’s illegal. We don’t have anything against gay people. We just find this all very amusing.”
“What!?”
“Sorry, Mr. Elyshen. You’ll probably have to wait until my successors are in the office of law. Well, toodles!”
Mr. Fgui walked off.
“That’s it? That’s the whole reason why it’s illegal…?”
Deki-Tyunri screamed.

—–
Curiosity had gotten the better of Deki-Tyunri after his imagination had run away with him, and so he decided to look into the real reason why it was illegal.
‘I bet I know already. It really wouldn’t be something as silly as ‘it’s amusing’, after all…’
He looked through a thick book at the library for the answer. Moving the pages was difficult, but he finally came to the page he was looking for.
‘”Same-sex marriage is illegal in Vaelyn. This was officially enforced in 1952 by proponents of traditional marriage. In 2013, it was proposed that the law be repealed after it was pointed out that homosexuality itself was no longer illegal in Vaelyn. The law was attacked by the AMA, ‘Anti-Marriage Organization’, an organization dedicated to repealing marriage entirely, who stated that ‘Legalizing same-sex marriage is the last step towards a permanent state of marriage in Vaelyn!’ The AMA describe themselves as vigilantes who want to keep the government out of their relationships’…?’
Deki-Tyunri slammed his head into the book. ‘It might not be as bad as ‘because we felt like it’, but that really doesn’t make it much better!’

24.601.Manifestation of V-Puppetry

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 601
“Manifestation of V-Puppetry”

“Hey Father, I wanted to ask you about something.”
“What is it, Eul-Bok?”
“You said you couldn’t use V-Puppetry when you were younger, right?”
“Yes…when I was little, I did try, but I could never pull it off. So I gave up.”
“Yeah, that made me curious.” Eul-Bok sat down. “You said things like you think your V-Puppetry manifested out of sheer willpower. But there’s something I don’t understand. If you thought you couldn’t use V-Puppetry at all, why try and bring me to life? I really don’t get that.”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “Well, if you’re willing to listen to me ramble for a little bit, I might be able to explain why I brought you to life.”
“Really?”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “I never really talked about the early phases of my plan with you because I didn’t think I would need to. But if you want to know about it, then I’ll tell you all you need to know.”

***

Sale-Dessu pointed his wand at a pot of water. He concentrated and tried to make the water boil. A few bubbles rose, but only after a long while, and the water never boiled–when Sale-Dessu stuck his finger into it, he realized it wasn’t even warm.
‘Damn it…I really am distracted.’
Since his prior reality-warping experiment, Sale-Dessu had found that the feelings he thought he’d buried long ago were resurfacing. He always tried his hardest to deny any loneliness he felt, but it seemed like now all the loneliness he had pushed away was coming back to him in a flood, and he was miserable.
‘La-Iin has her mother, and she has her V-Puppet. She has people who love her…argh, this is stupid. I told myself that I don’t need anyone else, and that’s the way it’s been for many years now. I can’t change that so suddenly. Besides, even if I wanted someone to alleviate my loneliness, who would I have? I certainly can’t just go and ask La-Iin if she would like to come over…’
He thought back on Bes-Isa. ‘If I had the power of V-Puppetry, I could bring to life a child. But that’s selfish. I know I would follow what Apeta told me, I would take as much care of them as possible, but to bring one to life just to alleviate my loneliness? They wouldn’t even be able to move around without my assistance.’
He shook his head. ‘I can’t do that anyway. For now I should focus on my concentration issues…’

But as the days passed, concentration became harder for Sale-Dessu. He couldn’t seem to get any of his spells to work. Frustrated, he retreated into his book room to study. ‘Maybe if I brush up on the basics, I’ll be able to focus again. I’ve never had trouble keeping myself embroiled in a book.’ He chuckled at an old memory of Maie-Jussa telling him that dinner had been done for twenty minutes already.
He started from the top and went from there. It worked, to a degree. He was able to keep himself focusing on the book, and even managed to clear a few within a day.
The next day, however, one of the books he pulled was on the subject of V-Puppetry, and he sighed. ‘I might as well read it…’
The book dealt with all sorts of facts about V-Puppetry, its manifestation, and whether or not there were differences in the way certain species could use them. It had pictures of all sorts of V-Puppets, from cloth to clay to even metal V-Puppets. Sale-Dessu cringed at pages about V-Puppet abuse and was disturbed by pages on the morality of a person becoming romantically involved with a V-Puppet.
As he read through the book, he managed to put aside his sadness at the fact that he couldn’t use V-Puppetry. At least he was for most of the book, until a particular section of it caught his attention.
‘Autonomy in V-Puppets…’ It was a subject he had never really looked much into, considering his lack of power in that field. But its theories sounded appealing to him. A V-Puppet being able to move on their own like any person could and being able to do things of their own volition. The idea was wonderful, but he noticed that it was still incomplete. The book stated it could even be impossible.
But he could already imagine: someone bringing their doll to life and instead of them being confined to that person’s side, they were able to walk around with that person. It was such a fascinating idea, such a wonderful idea that Sale-Dessu couldn’t resist the urge to want to try it.
‘But I can’t use V-Puppetry. How would I be able to do something like that if I can’t even bring to life the person I need?’
Sale-Dessu narrowed his eyes at the book. ‘There has to be something in here that has the answer I need. I would love to try this…’

Even despite the apparent futility of doing so, Sale-Dessu found himself hours later sewing a doll. He had made the fabrics and materials from stray objects lying around the house. His handiwork wasn’t all that good, but as far as he was concerned the doll only needed to be able to hold together.
‘This is all pointless! I can’t even use V-Puppetry, and V-Puppet autonomy might be impossible.’ Yet he couldn’t stop himself from hoping, couldn’t stop himself from putting together the doll. V-Puppetry was always one power he wanted to be able to use. He wanted to bring his own ‘child’ to life. And most who brought a child into the world, he knew, would want that child to have their autonomy.
If that was possible, Sale-Dessu wanted it. Badly. He was jealous of La-Iin’s family. He missed his own family. If there was any remnant, any last shred of the power of V-Puppetry inside of him, then he wanted to activate it and bring to life his child.
Once the doll was finished, however, he began to feel nervous.
‘What if it really doesn’t work? Have I wasted my time?’
All these uncertain thoughts were swirling around in his head, and yet, Sale-Dessu found himself more focused on what he was about to do. Among the uncertain thoughts were imaginations and daydreams of what life would be like if he actually succeeded in bringing the doll to life. If he succeeded in bringing them autonomy. He could see the little doll he had just finished running around the house and asking him questions about his experiments.
He could see this child quite clearly in his mind’s eye. ‘Eul-Bok….’
Sale-Dessu concentrated his all into making the hand motions, and no amount of uncertain thoughts stopped him there. He continued on, hoping to hear a voice at any time. After a while, he opened his eyes. He sighed in disappointment. The V-Puppet was not responding.
‘Wait a second…’
But even though it was not responding, it was quite clear that it was levitating.
‘Did–did I do something wrong!?’
“Um…hello there,” he said cautiously. ‘I’ll feel so stupid if I’ve failed at this point!’ “Can you hear me? Can you say “yes”? If you can hear me, say “yes”, please.”
No response.
“Um–” Suddenly the uncertainty was swamping him. “I–I am your father, Astineth Sale-Dessu. If you heard that, please say yes…”
“Fa…ther?”
Sale-Dessu gasped in surprise. “You are alive….!”
He pulled the doll close. “Oh, I’m so happy! I–I didn’t think you would make it! My precious Eul-Bok…”
Eul-Bok began to make choking noises, so Sale-Dessu let go of him. “I need to give you some knowledge so we can talk more! After all, I have big plans for your future, but I’m going to need to be able to communicate with you if we’re going to carry them through.”
“Communi….cate?”
“Yes. You’re getting the hang of it, slowly,” he said with a smile. “I…I can’t believe this. I brought a child to life…”
He was so overjoyed and stunned, he felt ready to overload, but taking the cues from how he had felt just moments earlier, he ran off with Eul-Bok to his book room.

—–
“So that’s what happened?”
“Yes.”
“So you really did get it out of sheer willpower!?”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “No, probably not. It’s possible the power was dormant inside of me all along, but I like to think that what happened was that it just came along later for me.”
“Huh?”
“Remember, some people get their powers really young, like La-Iin did. So who’s to say that I just didn’t get my power later? After all, when I was trying to make a V-Puppet when I was little, I was younger than La-Iin is now. It’s possible it hadn’t developed yet!”
“Really?”
“I’m pretty sure. But yes, it was a selfish reason I brought you to life, Eul-Bok. I hope you’re not upset…”
“I don’t care. I’m happy to be alive! It doesn’t bother me one bit. Besides, don’t normal people bring babies into the world for selfish reasons sometimes?”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “I suppose you’re right.”
“So I don’t mind at all. But wow, that’s pretty cool that you could bring me to life at all! Hey, do you think you’ll ever make me a sibling?”
Sale-Dessu paled. “Well…we’ll see about that one, okay? I’d definitely have to plan more for a sibling than I did for you!”

23.600.Kkumneok’s Return

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 600
“Kkumneok’s Return”

A crowd of people was standing around a part of the sidewalk, starting a commotion about something that was lying there.
Dosa-Mina stood at the front of the crowd, staring down at San-Kyung’s body. Normally, the sight of his best friend mangled and bloody sent him running off, but this time it didn’t. Everyone else in the nightmare acted the same way they always did, but he stood there with a cold expression on his face.
It wasn’t that the sight didn’t affect him, it was that he wasn’t sure exactly how he should feel about it. Every time he had a nightmare now, he always could hear Kkumneok’s words echoing in his head.
“I gave you those nightmares.”
They taunted him. He wasn’t sure what to think either. Were Kkumneok’s words the truth? Were they just some explanation he had come up with in his mind for the strange nightmares? And since that incident, he hadn’t seen Kkumneok once.
Either way, it didn’t change his primary feelings. These nightmares still haunted him as much as they always did, perhaps even more so now that the idea that they had happened already was implanted in his head.
“Dosa-Mina.”
Dosa-Mina turned around. “Speak of the devil.”
Kkumneok was standing behind him, bearing the appearance he had upon their first meeting, though Dosa-Mina noticed that his eye color and clothing was different. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it, friend?”
“That’s funny to hear you saying that to me. ‘Friend’. This coming from the person who claims he gave me nightmares of my best one committing suicide.”
Kkumneok lowered his head. “Yes, that–that’s what I’m here to talk with you about, actually. I’m sorry I ran away last time, but it was hard for me. I wanted to help you without ever having you learn the truth.”
“How do I know you weren’t just lying?”
“You don’t. So why not take me at my word? If nothing else, the dreams are vivid enough, aren’t they? And I do have the power to change dreams.”
“…I don’t want to believe that San-Kyung did this to himself, even if it really is in another world. He’s had a lot of problems, but never one that would drive him to this point. And I’ve been trying my hardest to support him…”
“I’m sure you have been. And that’s what I want. I tell you, Dosa-Mina, these are the events I know to have happened. Perhaps there are a few inaccuracies, but where I come from, this is his final fate. Your cutting nightmare is your final fate. And the nightmare where La-Iin shoots herself is also her final fate.”
“And what about my other loved ones? Are you going to tell me that they kill themselves too?”
Kkumneok shook his head. “These are the only ones I know of.”
“Why not go to La-Iin or San-Kyung then? Why pick me, specifically?”
Kkumneok sighed. “It would probably be better if I explained it without the backdrop of the nightmare…”
He snapped his fingers and the scenery changed to a park.
“I come from a world where these incidents occurred. Believe me if you will or not. I always found them horrifying. To think a man would kill himself in such a brutal way, to think a young child would do that to herself…to think you were that sad as to do what you did in response.”
“How did anyone know I did that in response to San-Kyung’s suicide?”
“If I remember correctly, your parents said so. These cases stick out in my mind but many years have passed since they happened. In any event, it was by pure luck that I discovered how to modify dreams and enter the dreams of other people. I thought it was amazing. And it was even more amazing when I discovered I could ‘cross worlds’ by doing that. To this day, it still doesn’t make complete sense to me. But when I discovered that, I immediately thought of this case. I thought that maybe I could change the outcome of what happened. The problem is, I went about it the wrong way initially. I regret that more than you could know…”
“That still doesn’t answer why you picked me.”
“I picked you for many reasons. First, I knew you to be close to San-Kyung. I figured that wouldn’t change no matter what did in your world. Second, I had heard of San-Kyung’s antagonistic nature…I did bank on chance when it comes to the little girl, though. And when I weighed all of what you three had done, I figured this. The little girl is a little girl. How would she handle nightmares of her own death, of people she might not know’s death? San-Kyung killed himself even with your support, so who’s to say he wouldn’t respond the same way to this trauma? You only did the same when you lost San-Kyung. I had figured you had the most mental fortitude, but in thinking that I didn’t bother to think that it would still cause you anguish regardless.”
“…”
“When I decided on you, I pieced together what I knew and tried to make everything as clear as possible. I made these dreams based upon what I knew and gave them to you, figuring you might take them as a future premonition. But when i realized you were having trauma, that these dreams were recurring in your mind, that’s when I decided to step in myself. I planned on helping you and giving you that same courage you gave to San-Kyung. And I hoped it wouldn’t fail the same way that did.”
“I…I still don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense. Not even the most ridiculous Witch power allows you to go between worlds or anything like that. I don’t understand…”
Kkumneok chuckled. “Neither do I, entirely. But I did it to prevent all that. Those cases stuck in my mind and bothered me. If I can prevent them from happening to another version of you, I would be happy. And I am very sorry for what I did originally. I was just so desperate…”
“Why do you care, though? Did you know us? Were there not many suicides where you came from? I don’t know if Vaelyn exists where you come from, but a lot of people kill themselves here.”
Kkumneok shuddered. “Suicides aren’t as common in my Vaelyn, then. They happen, but mostly in Silcoulle. Besides, most suicides are hangings, not jumping off of buildings or shootings or cuttings….sorry.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“As for whether I knew you two or not…” Kkumneok looked slightly pained. “Ma–maybe not as well as you might expect for someone going to these lengths, but I knew of you. Remember, in that world, you had made some strides in the way of species study.”
“…”
“Now that I’ve explained myself, I think I should also explain to you my new plan.”
“New plan?”
“Yes. I want to make up for what I’ve done to you. So I’ve decided. I’ll learn whatever you want to know that I wasn’t able to explain today. I’ll give you the best dream I can come up with, a happy dream that will make you so happy, you’ll be sad to wake up from it.”
“That doesn’t sound pleasant.”
“I’m going to make it up to you, Dosa-Mina. So keep trying your hardest to prevent my world from becoming your world, too.”
“…”
“Is there anything you want me to look into, for reference next time?”
“I…are you really going to do this?”
Kkumneok nodded. “It may take me a long time, but I will devote all my time to finding out all I can for you. I have plenty of it, anyway.”
“Hm….”
“You don’t have to pretend to believe me if you don’t.”
“I’m just conflicted. You have helped me in the past. But this incident has made me see you in a different light…if you’re really willing to, then I’ll ask for these things.”
“Fire away.”
“I want to know more about your world, and this power you’re using, both to change my dreams and to come here in the first place. I want proof of your world and mine being separate…and of mine or San-Kyung or La-Iin’s suicide, if possible. In fact, you can just bring that and it will be all the proof I need. And if you can muster up the courage, I want to know who you are. That’s always bothered me, and it bothers me even more now.”
“That last one is a little iffy, but fine. I’ll do my best.”
Kkumneok pulled Dosa-Mina close. “I’ll do my best to make up for what I did. In the meantime, you keep an eye on San-Kyung and the little girl, okay?”
“I…I will be.”
Kkumneok nodded and drew away. “Well, I suppose there’s nothing more to say. Unless you have a question?”
“When are you going to be back?”
“Whenever I have what I need to show you. Of course, if I get worried about what’s going on over with you I might drop by for another visit. But I probably won’t make myself known until then. We’ll see. Farewell for now, Dosa-Mina. Best of luck.”
Kkumneok snapped his fingers, and San-Kyung walked up to him. “Were you talking to someone, Dosa-Mina?”
“Oh–uh, no, not really.”
‘Should I really trust him?’ Dosa-Mina wondered. ‘…well, he seemed sincere enough. And if he’s telling the truth, this is my chance to understand my nightmares once and for all. Once I understand, will I be able to move past the point I’m at now? Still, all of this does happen in my dreams, so I can’t help but wonder…’
“Dosa-Mina?”
“Er, yes, San-Kyung! Sorry. Just thinking about someone…”

—–
“I hope I’m making the right move here. Maybe this will only depress him more. But I can’t believe that way. I have to believe in myself.”
Kkumneok took one last glance back at the dream he had made for Dosa-Mina. “Don’t worry. I’ll help this world, and any world else that’s out there. And now that I know better, I can keep from making the same mistake next time. And then I’ll go. As it all should be…”

22.599.The World with So Much to Do

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 599
“The World with So Much to Do”

It was early in the morning, and only a few people roamed the streets of downtown Bledger. Before the crowds, downtown was fairly mellow.
At least, that was how it was most mornings. This morning civilians downtown covered their ears at the sound of a young child screeching.
“Calm down, La-Iin! Everyone can hear you!”
“Put me down! Put me down!”
Mit-Sun groaned. “Not if you’re going to act like this! Behave yourself or you’re staying up!”
La-Iin stared at Mit-Sun. She reached over and bit her shoulder. Mit-Sun shrieked, nearly dropping La-Iin, who started to cry.
“Oh, come on!”
Around her she could hear the murmuring of people watching the spectacle.
“Why bring your little kid downtown?”
“Is that kid half-Vampire? She must be really young.”
“Someone is obviously a first-time parent.”
Mit-Sun growled. “La-Iin, I’m not going to take you acting out like this. I managed to get a day off on a day I don’t usually get. So be patient and be quiet!”
“No!”
Mit-Sun resisted the urge to spank her. She held her tight and continued walking onward. La-Iin squeaked and protested, but Mit-Sun ignored her. ‘She’s been so bad since starting Desutrap. What the heck’s wrong with her?’
La-Iin, meanwhile, was not enjoying being held up by Mit-Sun, especially after her mother had sent her to Desutrap earlier that year. She wanted to bite her until she let her down, but the way Mit-Sun was holding her made it impossible for her to do so. Frustrated, she tried to squirm instead.
The place Mit-Sun had taken her was not one she recognized. There were buildings and stands all around her, and though the only light was the light from the sun, several of the buildings had fixtures on them that led her to believe that this place was much brighter than it was right now.
Mit-Sun stopped at the stall plaza and checked her wound. “I guess it’s not bleeding too bad. Still, you’re not supposed to bite me, La-Iin! You realize you have fangs, right?”
“Yes.”
Mit-Sun rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I need you to behave yourself, at least somewhat. I just want to have a good time with you. I understand things are a little different now that I’m working and you’re going to Desutrap, but if I wasn’t working things would be a lot different than they are now. Besides, when we get home things are the same as before.”
“Hmph.”
Mit-Sun sat down. “I’m prepared to stay here all day if you’re not going to start acting better.”
La-Iin didn’t respond. The only thing that made her happy in that moment was the fact that Mit-Sun had finally put her down. Feeling bored, she took a look around the stall plaza. When she looked closer, she noticed that in this area there were quite a few interesting things to look at–various people sat behind stalls, looking bored, with knick-knacks or edibles sitting in front of them. Curious, La-Iin wandered off towards a stand that was selling bread.
The man behind the stall gave her a curious look, as if he was surprised to see her. La-Iin narrowed her eyes and scanned the breads, then grabbed one and opened her mouth.
“La-Iin!”
Mit-Sun ran at her. “I’m so sorry, sir.”
“Er, ah, you should watch your kid more closely?” He said apprehensively.
“I know….”
He sighed. “If she really wants it, I can sell it to you half off, alright?”
La-Iin stared at Mit-Sun, still clutching the bread. Mit-Sun huffed. She paid the man, then escorted La-Iin back to the benches, where she devoured the bread.
“You know, that’s a Wiench type of bread. You’re lucky we found it in Vaelyn, and that he sold it to us for half off.”
“Wee-ench?”
“Wiench, La-Iin. And I don’t appreciate what you did just there. You could have asked me to buy it if you wanted it.”
La-Iin shook her head. “The first rule of evil,” she said with a grin. Then she finished the rest of the bread and hopped off the bench.
Now, taking a closer look at the stands, La-Iin found herself intrigued. If the stands held things such as that tasty bread, she had to wonder what else she could find here. Though none of the other stalls looked nearly as interesting, so La-Iin wandered off.
“H-hey, La-Iin!”
Just a little past the stall plaza was a large array of buildings. La-Iin stared at them in awe. They all seemed so much bigger than her.
“La-Iin, please, you know how to talk already. Tell me if you want to go somewhere!”
“What is this!?”
“That? It says ‘Nightclub Avianeri’. I don’t think you want to go there…”
“No! The…the area!”
“Oh, the area? I told you before we left, we’re going to downtown Bledger. And that’s what this place is. Downtown Bledger.”
La-Iin looked around a little more before taking off. “La-Iin!”
She just had to get a closer look at all the buildings. She tried to push on the doors to several of them, but many wouldn’t budge. All the while, Mit-Sun chased after her, but was never quite able to catch up, for La-Iin would dash off to yet another building before she could catch her. Always she pushed on the doors or flapped her wings in a futile attempt to get a higher look. Only on one occasion did the door actually push open for her.
“Is that a kid?”
“It looks like a Vampire kid, too.”
“What’s a little kid doing in here all alone?”
La-Iin stared to shake.
“Why are you being so bad today!?” Mit-Sun yelled. She picked La-Iin up, and La-Iin immediately started to try and wriggle out of her grasp once more. It caught the attention of people nearby.
“Aha–eheh–nothing to see here!” Mit-Sun backed out of the restaurant and glared at La-Iin. “You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you!?”
“Down!” La-Iin began to slap at Mit-Sun. Distracted, her grasp on La-Iin loosened, and La-Iin went running across downtown Bledger once more. She looked around wildly at all the buildings around her and tried to keep ahead of a stunned Mit-Sun at all times. There seemed to be so much to look at, and her senses were getting overloaded.
She dashed back down to the stall plaza and caught sight of a stand selling pocket weapons; the Ferreniao man who was in charge of the stall looked on the verge of falling asleep. La-Iin grinned and ran over to the stall, ready to grab the knife he had on most prominent display, when she was abruptly picked up by Mit-Sun.
“La-Iin, I can’t believe you!”
“Wha? Huh?” The Ferreniao man glanced up at the two. “Oh, uh, did you wanna buy something, ma’am?”
“N-no, I’m good. Now come on, La-Iin. You’ve proven to me that…”
At that moment, Mit-Sun noticed that La-Iin was sniffling. “La-Iin?”
La-Iin began to cry. Confused, she checked her over. On the palm of her right hand, there was a small cut that was just big enough to bleed. Almost immediately afterwards, the Ferreniao man stared at his display knife and exclaimed, “Whoa! How’d it get all bloody like this!?”
“Oh my goodness…” Mit-Sun sighed.
“Ma–ma’am, I have some bandages. Oh gosh, I’m so sorry. Here you go.”
Mit-Sun wrapped the bandages around La-Iin’s hand. “Stupid Mama.”
“What did you say!?”
“Be easy on the kid, ma’am! Look girlie, it’s my fault, okay? Don’t be mad at your Mama.”
“Yes, you too,” La-Iin said. “But it’s Mama’s fault too.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “I’m just glad she’s alright. Although that seems to have done nothing about her behavior…we’re going home now, La-Iin, and nothing you say or do will convince me otherwise.”
Mit-Sun carried her the whole way back, but this time, La-Iin didn’t feel like struggling. She still felt on the verge of tears due to the pain in her hand, but otherwise, she felt fine. As she watched the stall plaza and the tall downtown buildings and streets fade off into the background, she actually felt happy.
If just downtown was so big, she could only imagine how big the whole world was. And if she ruled over the whole world, all of that would be hers. She would never want for anything if she had all that to do.

—–
“Heh heh heh…”
“I’m not even going to bother asking about that laugh.”
“As you should. I wouldn’t tell you even if you did ask.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Well, I guess I prefer this to the way you acted when you were really little…mostly, anyway.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Do you remember your first visit downtown?”
La-Iin shook her head.
“Well, if you don’t, then I’d rather not talk about it.”
Mit-Sun went back to eating dinner.
Mit-Sun’s words had stirred a familiar feeling in La-Iin, but she wasn’t quite sure of what it was.

“Hey, didn’t you used to sell pocket weapons a few years ago?”
“I realized that violence is not the answer. As a society, we are all far too quick to jump to violence, especially in these days of good and evil. Instead of focusing on our differences, we should instead reconcile our similarities, as people with all different ideas. And we should not enforce those ideas with violence.”
“Um….okay.”
“Self-defense is still a-okay, though. Speaking of, would you like a free pocket knife with those gummies?”
‘Old habits die hard, I guess…’