8.585.To Repair the Prior Year

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 585
“To Repair the Prior Year”

Memories flashed in Ai-Reia’s mind.
“GYAAAAH! CA-MIELA!”
“How what goes!? You could’ve killed Ca-Miela!”

As the minutes passed before her birthday, all she could remember was the prior year and how horrible it had been. She had a slight concern that her eighth birthday would be every bit as bad as her seventh, but for a different reason: her family either becoming concerned that she would harm Ca-Miela again, or becoming concerned about keeping her happy to the point that it was stifling.
It was hard for her to look forward to her birthday under those conditions, but the idea of having a day that miserable made her sick. So instead, she formulated a plan.
‘As long as I pretend to be happy, they won’t have any reason to believe that they need to coddle me or that I’m going to harm Ca-Miela again. And who knows, perhaps if I pretend to be happy, I actually will become happy. I feel it–that is the only way I will have any sort of true happiness tomorrow…’

***

Reuf-Bu’s bedroom door opened with a loud creak. Ai-Reia flinched, but her brother showed no signs of waking up. Cautiously, she walked over to him and began to shake him lightly.
“Reuf-Bu. Reuf-Bu.”
“Mmngh…no, no, I don’t wanna tell my parents about Cais-Elle yet, heh heh…”
‘Cais-Elle? Wasn’t that girl a classmate of his?’ The detail wasn’t all that important, so she went back to gently shaking Reuf-Bu. He groaned again and opened his eyes.
“Cais-Elle? Wait…you aren’t Cais-Elle…”
“Honestly, Reuf-Bu! You can’t tell the difference between me and some school fancy?”
Reuf-Bu sat up abruptly, his eyes wide as if he had just drunk a large pot of coffee. “I–I don’t have a school fancy with Cais-Elle!”
“Hm.”
Reuf-Bu stiffened. “Ergh–I mean–yeeees, what do you need, birthday girl?”
“Oh, so you remembered?” Ai-Reia tried to make her face light up. Reuf-Bu’s expression gave her no indication of whether or not she had succeeded. “I was lonely because nobody else had woken up yet, so I figured of everyone in the house you would be the most likely to pay attention to me if I woke you up. I would like to do a puzzle with you!”
“Of course you would. It feels like with you and me, it’s nothing but puzzles…”
“Is a thousand and eighty pieces too much?”
“A thousand and eighty–!” Reuf-Bu gasped. “Ai-Reia, what is this!? Is this some sort of portrait of a major historical figure or something!?”
“It’s a large picture of cartoon depictions of the countries in the world.”
“Ah…ahaha, I guess you are still a little kid….but geez…a thousand and eighty pieces!? Seriously, what the hell!?”
Ai-Reia covered her mouth. Reuf-Bu sighed. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s fine. I curse myself from time to time, but I keep most of those locked away inside my head instead of letting them cross my lips.”
“Acting high and mighty, aren’t we?”
“I’d usually take offense to what you said, but I can’t find it in myself to care right now. Really, I do want to do a puzzle with you, Reuf-Bu. After all, you mistook me for Cais-Elle…I might have to ask Mother and Father just who she is for you to have mistaken me for her…”
Reuf-Bu flinched. “Now you’re just being a sadist!”
“What’s a sadist?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Ai-Reia. I know you know what a sadist is.” He stretched, yawned, and hopped out of bed. “Fine, I’ll do the puzzle with you, but you have to wait for me to get ready first.”
“I can wait. I’ll be in the living room scrambling the pieces!”
Ai-Reia dashed out the room. ‘Geez, she’s energetic today. Why does something feel a little off about that?’

When Reuf-Bu had come out to do the puzzle, he had a larger reaction to the number of pieces, and Ai-Reia couldn’t suppress a giggle. Nevertheless, they ended up putting together most of the pieces in a shorter amount of time than both of them expected–mostly thanks to Ai-Reia, though Reuf-Bu placed quite a few pieces.
“I think you’re getting the hang of going against me in a puzzle battle, Reuf-Bu,” she said.
“Puzzle battle!? Since when was this anything like that?”
“Since today. Eight is an age of change, you know.”
“What I know is that most eight-year-old Vampires I’ve known are still using the potty, contrary to what you’re doing.”
“It just proves that with an advanced brain, you can overcome any physical shortcoming.”
“Okay, you’re really being obnoxious today. This isn’t indicative of how you’re going to be throughout all of eight, is it?”
Ai-Reia chuckled. “Of course not. Don’t worry about it, brother. I’m only forcing you because today is my birthday.” She cracked a smile at him; when she opened her eyes, she spotted a yawning Zih-Amo walking past them.
“Hello, Zih-Amo! Good morning!”
“Oh….good morning, Ai-Reia,” she said. “Happy birthday.”
“Thank you. Oh, oh, Zih-Amo! I wanted to ask you if we could do something.”
“Hm?”
“Me and Reuf-Bu are doing a puzzle right now, but I thought maybe after that, you and I might do a little flying around? I would really like that.”
“Usually you don’t,” Zih-Amo said. “What changed?”
“She’s claiming eight means everything is changing for her,” Reuf-Bu said.
“Well, it sounds fun right now. You can wake up a bit more first, though. Me and Reuf-Bu still have to finish this puzzle.”
“Oh, okay. Still, that is pretty strange.”
“No, no, Reuf-Bu, that piece goes here! What are you, colorblind?”
“Yep, something tells me your terrible twos were moved up to eight.”

“Woohoo!”
Ai-Reia gave shrieks of delight as Zih-Amo, holding her tight to her chest, flew above their house in arcs and swirls. Zih-Amo was becoming dizzy spinning around so much, and it astounded her that Ai-Reia didn’t seem dizzy in the slightest. She was happy to see her sister with a smile on her face, but something about it unsettled her.
‘I guess I just can’t forget what her diary said…’
“Zih-Amo, you’re slowing down!” Ai-Reia snapped.
“S-sorry, Ai-Reia! Ohh, now you’re gonna pay! We’re gonna do a mega loop-de-loop now!” She began to do a backwards cascading loop. Ai-Reia shrieked in delight, while for Zih-Amo it took all her fortitude to keep herself from vomiting.
“Playing with Ai-Reia, Zih-Amo?”
Their parents voices distracting her, Zih-Amo only narrowly finished her backwards cascading loop before landing slowly on the ground and falling over, the world spinning around her. Ai-Reia ran up to her parents with a smile.
“Mother, Father! Do you two have free time right now?”
“Well, nobody else is asking for our attention, and your father has the day off, so I suppose we do,” her mother said. “Why?”
“I’d like to make some birthday treats for everyone in the house. My birthday is of course mostly for my enjoyment, but I think all the rest of you should enjoy it too!”
Her parents glanced at each other and smiled. “Sure, Ai-Reia. We’d be glad to help you with that.”
“Especially considering we don’t want you to hurt yourself…”
Ai-Reia’s expression fell briefly before she broke out into another wide smile. “Thank you!”
Though they were pleased with their daughter’s sudden cheerfulness, that brief moment where she had shown them a frown made them feel slightly uneasy, and that feeling continued as they followed Ai-Reia into the house.

Ai-Reia hummed a tune as she cut dough into shapes and mixed together a filling made of blood, marshmallows and frosting. She seemed cheerful as she stuffed the dough with the filling, some even to the point where the filling leaked slightly out the opening in the dough. She seemed to want to make each shape unique, and so did things such as etch in a small crack in one heart-shaped piece and create a striped pattern on one star-shaped one.
She almost seemed genuinely happy, and yet there was something that unsettled her parents about the sight, as if there was something artificial about her motions.
“You two trust me more than I thought,” Ai-Reia said. “I basically got to do this whole thing by myself!”
“Oh, well, yes, we do,” her father said. “Of course we do. You are fairly mature for a Vampire who’s just eight. Cooking is the least of our concerns.”
“Um–! Though I am a little concerned about the sweetness of that filling…”
Ai-Reia smiled and sighed. “It’s just because it’s my birthday. Besides, the blood should cut the sweetness some, don’t you think?”
“I guess that’s true,” her mother sighed.
Ai-Reia stuck the pastries into the oven. “Well, I think I should go and do something else. Would you mind keeping an eye on these for me?”
“We wouldn’t mind, I guess,” her father said. Ai-Reia flashed him a wide smile, then took off.
“Something’s definitely wrong,” her father said.
“I feel that way too. But I just don’t know what to do about it…”

***

Ai-Reia head into her parent’s room. It was the same as normal, though Ai-Reia still found the sight of Ca-Miela’s temporary playroom jarring. Her parents had turned a small corner of the room into a place where Ca-Miela could play, and that was where she was now, though she seemed tired as if she might fall asleep at any moment.
“Ca-Miela,” Ai-Reia said. “Look at you. So innocent. If anyone could really brighten up my day, it would be you…strange considering how last year went between you and me.”
She flinched when she heard the door creak. In a moment she had flashes of the previous year, the looks on her parents’ faces, the looks on her siblings’ faces, the sound of Ca-Miela’s crying. But when she looked up, she didn’t spot her parents or siblings–instead standing there was Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei, holding presents.
“…Fyuori? Kokohara?”
“Hello, Ai-Reia, and happiest of birthdays!” Shuera-Kaizima said cheerfully. Ai-Reia looked up past her, at Im-Dei, and noticed that standing behind the two was her family, who watched her with a strangely serious expression.
“We wanted to see you today. We had to go through several hoops to figure out where to find you.”
“But we finally did, and without resorting to illegal tactics, too.”
“Oh…” She broke out into smiles. “Well, it’s so nice to see you two!”
“Actually, Ai-Reia, there is something we want to discuss,” Shuera-Kaizima said, her voice becoming strangely serious. Ai-Reia blinked at her. “What would that be?”
“Do you remember what we told you a while back, Ai-Reia?”
“Huh?”
“You can show your true self to your family too,” Shuera-Kaizima told her. “Not just a fake self.”
“What…?”
And then, it clicked. The same attitude she had put upon to keep her family from worrying about her had only served to worry them still. Ai-Reia’s face twitched. At first, she wasn’t sure what to say.
“I just wanted to be happy myself, you know,” she whispered. “I figured if I acted this way, I’d be able to have a genuinely happy birthday. But now I know, all I did was worry you, just as I always do…”
“You know, showing your true self to your family doesn’t mean being always miserable, Ai-Reia. It just means show them how you feel. So right now, how do you feel?”
Ai-Reia looked up at them, her eyes tearing up but her mouth turned up in a smile. “Well, I guess I would have to say…I’m actually a little happy.”
Her family and friends began to smile. Not a single one seemed forced to Ai-Reia, and that made her heart feel lighter. Even Ca-Miela gave her a gummy smile.

—–
“These pastries are good!” Shuera-Kaizima exclaimed.
“Thank you.”
“They have a strange kick to them. Is there a secret ingredient?”
“Perhaps for you two,” Ai-Reia said, her smile innocent. “There’s blood in there.”
Im-Dei paled, and Shuera-Kaizima put her ears back. They looked to Ai-Reia, waiting for her to break out into laughter or say she was lying, but not once did she do either of those things.

25.571.The Daylight Journey

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 571
“The Daylight Journey”

“We’re rooting for you, Asul-Zenza!”
“Yeah, we’re looking forward to seeing your success!”
“Do your best, Asul-Zenza. Good luck.”
As Asul-Zenza flew through the sky, the words of his book club friends rang in his mind. Their words gave him a renewed determination, and he began to fly faster as his destination came into sight.

“It’s too hot outside,” La-Iin panted.
“It is pretty hot, but you’re acting like it’s a hundred degrees.”
“It feels like much more than that,” she gasped. “Maybe an evil heat ray really would be a good idea…”
“Huh?”
“Nothing.”
“I guess you know what they say, though: Vampires and the sun just aren’t friends.”
“We could be friends if I really can make an evil heat ray…ugh…”
Just as La-Iin was feeling she would pass out from the heat, a sudden gust of wind blew into her face and cooled her down. Sighing in relief, she looked up and was surprised to see Asul-Zenza smiling down at her.
“Dami!?”
“What are you doing here now?” Mit-Sun sighed. “Haven’t you intruded enough this month?”
Asul-Zenza opened his mouth to protest, but Mit-Sun spoke faster. “First you take her out for a Vampire tradition, then you come to chastise me about my treatment of her–and I’m grateful, but still! That’s not even counting the times you’ve called her!”
“There’s no sin in calling my daughter,” he said.
“You know, at least the first time you gave a warning and the second was for advice. What the hell–er, heck, is this for?”
“I know about hell already, Mama. I know how to say f@%k too, so why do you care?”
“La-Iin!!”
“Really, La-Iin, you shouldn’t curse so freely,” he said. “Mit-Sun, I apologize for not warning you in advance. I admit that this is my fault. However, I have a good reason for visiting. Do you know what day today is?”
“July the 25th.” Her eyes widened. “Wait a second, oh no…”
“Precisely! And now you see the reason I am here. My intentions are not to intrude upon you as I did last year, but instead to take La-Iin out with me while I have some fun. However, I only intend on keeping her out during daylight hours. I don’t intend on returning her home at midnight.”
He bowed. “I beg of you, Mit-Sun. I understand I’ve been taking advantage lately. I understand that I did not call you first. I am deeply sorry for this. But please, let me have this today. You’ve been far more amicable to me than you have been all the other years La-Iin’s been alive. So please, grant me this?”
Mit-Sun flinched. ‘I remember that expression from when we were dating. He’s trying to get to me!’ She wasn’t swayed, at least not until she caught the smile on La-Iin’s face. She seemed to be thrilled about the idea of going with Asul-Zenza to celebrate his birthday, and she knew that her and La-Iin’s relationship was already having trouble enough without her denying them something that was so important to them.
“Fine,” Mit-Sun sighed.
“Thank you, Mit-Sun!” He hugged her close. Mit-Sun bit his shoulder and he drew back. “Sorry, I got slightly carried away there, heh heh.”
“Do it again and the answer is no.”
“You better be careful, Dami. She might kick you in the penis if she gets too mad!”
Asul-Zenza stared at Mit-Sun. “Just what are you teaching her!?”
“Take my word on this, Asul-Zenza: La-Iin teaches herself and does what she want.”
“You should know that by now, Dami.”
“I know, but–I just–I wasn’t expecting to hear you say that…” His face flushed.
“I’ve know that word for a long time, Dami. It’s nothing new to me.”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Well, let’s put that aside for now…thank you, Mit-Sun. You won’t be too lonely without La-Iin, will you?”
“Not any more than I already have been lately.”
“Oh, Mit-Sun.” He sighed. “You still have people on your side who aren’t Haner. Don’t you still have your Papa?”
“My father.
“Right, right, father. Anyway, you aren’t alone. I just wanted to say that. And loathe as I am to add this, especially with how much I resented Haner for a time–I hope all works out with him.”
“That’s unusually courteous of you.”
“I think you forget sometimes who played what role in our break-up.” Asul-Zenza spread his wings. “Well, La-Iin, is there anything you need before we go?”
“Only a little something.”
“Get it now, then. I’d like to get a move on as soon as possible.”
La-Iin nodded and ran inside the house.
“She’s so nice to you. I really don’t understand what I’m doing wrong.”
“Honestly, I don’t understand either. But who knows, maybe something will change soon enough.”
“You’re more hopeful about that than I am.”
When La-Iin came back outside, Asul-Zenza stretched his wings. “Right! Ready to go, La-Iin? Oh, and before we go, do you want me to carry you on the flight? This is another long one, after all.”
“Dami, please.” She spread her wings. “I can go at least most of the way, that I guarantee.”
“We’ll see about that one. Well, we’ll see you again soon, Mit-Sun! And, thank you.”
Asul-Zenza and La-Iin took off.
“You’re welcome,” she mumbled to herself.

***

“Dami, where are we going today anyway?”
“We’re going to be in the society I live in.”
“But where are we going?”
“Oh, a few places. Although I warn you, they might not all be interesting to you. And a few of my friends will be there as well.”
“Friends…?”
“Hey, Asul-Zenza! You’re here!”
La-Iin startled and nearly fell out the sky. Asul-Zenza steadied her. Ahead of them were three Vampires.
“And it looks like you managed to bring La-Iin!”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, La-Iin…um…it isn’t Ghneckdo, is it?”
“No?”
“These are the members of my book club, La-Iin, and some of my friends.”
“My name is Haroudi Lise-Mara.”
“And I’m Nierdan Xelshy-MItter!”
“Aldesdrin Niser-Zanta. I’ve heard a lot about you, but judging by your expression, you haven’t heard a lot about me.”
“I don’t bring up my book club often around her,” Asul-Zenza chuckled. “I much prefer to focus on what’s happening when I’m with her. But, now that we’re all acquainted, I know what we can do first!”
“So you’re taking the lead?” Niser-Zanta said.
“Of course I am! Whose birthday is it?”
Lise-Mara rolled her eyes. “Just don’t act obnoxious, Asul-Zenza.”
The five Vampires took off, with Asul-Zenza keeping the lead. In the midst of their flight, Lise-Mara moved closer to La-Iin.
“La-Iin, was it? Considering your age and wingspan I’m surprised you’ve been able to keep yourself up this long. Or do you live closer than I thought?”
“Don’t underestimate my wingspan, Haroudi,” La-Iin said. “I am my Dami’s daughter!”
Lise-Mara giggled. “That you are! I guess large wings really are a Ghneckdo thing. Well, I hope you have fun.”
La-Iin was beginning to wonder whether or not she had made a mistake, that and what Asul-Zenza told the members of his book club she was like. The group continued onwards as Asul-Zenza picked up speed and La-Iin began to falter.
“Hey, Asul-Zenza! La-Iin’s falling behind!”
Asul-Zenza turned around and grabbed La-Iin out of the sky. Noticing that the members of his book club were watching her, she felt her face flush.
“You did better than you did last time,” Asul-Zenza said as he head back for the lead.
“Of course I did. All I do is improve…”
‘I’m starting to think this was a mistake.’

“What a nice little blood cafe! Do you come here often, Asul-Zenza?”
“Yeah, have you been holdin’ out on us!?”
“Now, now. Besides, I’ve come here before with Niser-Zanta.”
“Yeah, but it’s kind of creepy coming here with only one other person.”
“Well, I had a taste for blood, I had the vuyong, and I wanted to bring La-Iin here.”
La-Iin looked up. Asul-Zenza’s, and the members of his book club, had their eyes focused on La-Iin. She tried to ignore them and turn her attention back to the Goathoof blood in her cup.
“She’s kinda young for a bloodsucker, isn’t she?” Niser-Zanta said.
“Yes, she might be, but you have to remember she’s half-Normal. La-Iin’s aging pace is different than ours.”
“Interesting. I might have to look more into that tonight.”
“Tonight we’ll be busy,” Asul-Zenza said.
“You’re keeping us out that late?”
“I made a promise to Mit-Sun that I wouldn’t keep La-Iin out that late, so not all of us, but as for the rest of you, yes.”
‘There was no point to bringing me here, Dami. You seem perfectly fine with your stupid book club!’ La-Iin kept the retort to herself, but she couldn’t keep her wings from flapping just a bit. She began to suck down the rest of the Goathoof blood.
“Aw, her tiny fangs are so cute,” Lise-Mara sighed. “Maybe I should adopt a child of my own someday.”
“You, as a Floma?” Niser-Zanta said.
“What, do you think I’d be a bad Floma?”
“It’s not that, it just, well…you know what, never mind. If this guy can be a Dami, you can probably be a Floma.”
Lise-Mara beamed. “Thank you very much, Niser-Zanta.”
‘I can’t take this!’ “I want another cup of blood!”
“Certainly, La-Iin. What kind?”
“Vampire–” Asul-Zenza and the book club looked shocked. “I meant, Bearperson!”
“Ooh, a good choice. I’ll go order some!”
“Wow, he accepted that demand pretty easily,” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“Asul-Zenza’s always struck me as a passive Dami.”
‘I can’t take it!’ La-Iin was glad for her expressionless face at that moment. When Asul-Zenza brought back the cup of Bearperson blood, she sucked it down quickly, then tapped Asul-Zenza on the shoulder. He motioned to the book club, then took La-Iin aside.
“What is it, La-Iin?”
“I–um–where else are we going, Dami?”
“Hm? Well, I had some plans to head off on a daylight journey. Just a quick trip around, that and I wanted to stop at a sports center. Why?”
“Just…curious.”
Asul-Zenza smiled. “Thank you so much for coming along, La-Iin. I know it might be strange to adjust to being around me while I’m with friends, but I am so happy for you to be here. I’ve been blessed.”
“Not a problem, Dami,” La-Iin said, nearly hissing. “I–I would go with you any time to get away from Mama at her worst times.”
“Has something happened at home?”
“No, nothing in particular…” La-Iin covered her mouth to stifle the hiss.
“Alright, that’s good. We’re probably going to head off soon, so get ready!”
‘Dammit! If I can’t even stand up to my own Dami, ruling the world’s going to take longer than I expect it to! But then it’s also Dami’s birthday…I’ve become soft since that stupid meth incident!’
La-Iin could imagine several things she would rather be doing, yet still she went along with Asul-Zenza. Her desire to spend time with her father outweighed her frustration, though as the day progressed it wasn’t by much.

After a short journey and a quick trip to the nearby Vampira, Asul-Zenza, La-Iin and the book club had stopped at the sports center and geared up in athletic clothes. Soon after they had, Asul-Zenza began to toss a ball around.
“What game is this?”
“No game in particular. I’m not good with specific sports. I just like tossing balls around!”
“Just like I’d expect,” Niser-Zanta sighed.
La-Iin’s wings began to flap. “As if you know my Dami better than I do.”
“Sorry, La-Iin, but I do have you beat there. I’ve known him since before you were born. I knew him when he was head-over-heels for your mother!”
La-Iin began to look nauseous. “Niser-Zanta, don’t gloat at La-Iin. Both of you know me well for different reasons.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Asul-Zenza flew up closer to the roof of the sports rec. ‘Today has been such a fun day! I see good things on the horizon for sixty-six!’
“Is it strange to live with only one parent, La-Iin?” Lise-Mara asked.
“Why?”
“I was simply curious.”
“…”
“It is more polite to answer, yanno,” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“I don’t do polite unless I feel like it.”
“Guys, you’ve gotta remember what Asul-Zenza said, his daughter’s part of the evil side!”
“The more you say only influences my opinions of you.”
“…”
“…”
“…”
“Uh…”
Asul-Zenza overheard the conversation and caught a glimpse of La-Iin’s back. Her wings were flapping rapidly as if she were agitated. He sighed. ‘Though I guess a birthday can’t be perfect, of course…’
Putting the thought aside, he tossed the ball with his full force. The ball slammed against the floor and hit Niser-Zanta in the face.
“Ow ow!”
“Are you alright, Niser-Zanta!?”
“It looks like he has a bit of a bloody nose,” Lise-Mara said.
“I feel like my teeth broke into my mouth,” he cried.
“Oh goodness, Niser-Zanta, I am so sorry. I did not mean to do that…”
Before Asul-Zenza could approach Niser-Zanta, he noticed La-Iin giggling to herself. It was quiet enough that it seemed none of his friends had heard her, but from his distance it was obvious.
“Now I know for certain that Asul-Zenza is dangerous,” he sighed. “Next time I’ll wear protective gear if we’re going somewhere that’s not the book club…”

***

“The sun’s starting to set,” Niser-Zanta said. “Hey, how far away does La-Iin live? Are you going to be able to get her back home soon enough?”
“I fly fast when I’m determined,” Asul-Zenza said. “Of course, if La-Iin would like to stay out for a little longer, I can always accommodate.”
“No, I don’t mind.” La-Iin broke free of Asul-Zenza’s grasp and flew in the opposite direction of his book club. “In fact, I bet I could fly home on my own with my determination!”
The book club giggled. “You must give her that she is a feisty girl,” Lise-Mara said. La-Iin’s face flushed.
“Well, um, given that, then, I suppose I should take her home now,” he said. “You three can meet me at the border to Vampira. So long as you stay there, I don’t mind where you go. I might be back soon, but it will most certainly be nightfall by that time.”
“Alright.”
“See you soon, Asul-Zenza! Bye, La-Iin!” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“Yeah, see you two. And it was good to get to know you, La-Iin. You’re definitely Asul-Zenza’s kid, that’s for sure.”
“What does that mean?”
Asul-Zenza and La-Iin flew a distance away from his book club.
“So, I can guess by your reactions that you didn’t much care for my friends.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“I suppose that’s fine. I will admit I’m a little disappointed, but I expected this when I invited you out. I’m really sorry if you didn’t have a good time.”
“They see me as a little kid.”
“You are…ah, who am I to speak. I am still very grateful for you coming out in the first place.” He hugged La-Iin close. “Thank you, La-Iin.”
“I did try to hold it in for you, Dami. But they were annoying. …I guess Aldesdrin wasn’t as annoying as the other two, but I really couldn’t stand that Haroudi lady.”
“She can be a bit obnoxious sometimes,” Asul-Zenza giggled. “But thank you again, La-Iin.”
The two head back to Bledger, the setting sun behind them.
“This is the best part so far,” La-Iin said.
“Really? I’ve been having a lot of fun all day.”
“I guess that’s fine. Where are you going after you get rid of me, anyway?”
“Please, La-Iin, when you say it like that it sounds so harsh. That’s not what I’m doing at all. I just don’t want to be kicked by Mit-Sun and she gets angry when I keep you out too late. Also, where I’m going with the book club serves alcohol and they’re a bit rough on young Vampires.”
La-Iin smirked. “That will be hard for you, won’t it, Dami?”
Asul-Zenza gave a small smile. “Of course it won’t be! I’m a fully-grown Vampire, after all!”
“So you say!”

—–
“This place is fancy! How’d you afford it, Asul-Zenza!?”
“By saving up.”
“Really, Asul-Zenza, you shouldn’t be paying on your birthday. Let me foot the bill. I have enough vuyong.”
“Lise-Mara, I couldn’t let you do that!”
“I could.”
“Your blood alcohols.”
A waiter set down glasses of blood in front of the four.
“I heard the alcohol in this is diluted. I sure hope so!”
“Yeah, that’s one sign of how young a Vampire you are: whether or not you can handle your liquor!”
“Well, I’ll show you that I can.”
“Pardon me–” The waiter said. “But may I recommend our special? We have a special blend of blood alcohol today, the “Leukemia Stir”. Would any of you like it? It’s on the house when you buy two or more blood alcohols.”
“…”
“…”
“…”
“Maybe next time we should go someplace else.”
“Excuse me?” The waiter began to look indignant.

15.561.A Little Something

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 561
“A Little Something”

Eul-Bok took a deep breath. Focusing as intensely as he could, he set to work on changing the scrap of cloth in front of him into a present for Sale-Dessu.
He tried to clear his mind of all distracting thoughts, and though he focused solely on the image of what he was trying to change, he was gradually becoming more excited as if the thought nudging him at the corners of his mind was all that was on it.
Just as he could see the results of his efforts, a knock sounded at his door.
“Eul-Bok?”
Eul-Bok startled. The cloth, half-changed into fluff, fell back down onto his night desk limply, and Eul-Bok recoiled at a shooting pain in his head.
“Is everything alright?”
Eul-Bok turned around. “Everything’s fine, Father! Just practicing my powers a bit before bed! Wh-what are you doing up? It’s pretty late isn’t it?”
“I could say the same to you. I was just making myself a little warm milk. I’ve been having a taste for milk lately.”
Eul-Bok’s eyes widened. “I could tell…”
“We should both get some sleep. There’s a few things I want to do tomorrow. After all, well, I think you know what tomorrow is, right?”
“Of course I do. How could I forget? Heh heh, last year at the Cahongyun’s house…”
Sale-Dessu’s face flushed. “This year we’re not going there. I felt so ashamed, falling asleep on them like that. This year we’re spending the day at our house. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Well, I’ll make sure it’s a great day! We’ll do whatever you want to do, Father, so just say the word and we’ll be doing it!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok.” He yawned. “Well, I should head off to bed now…good night…”
“Good night, Father. And sweet dreams.”
‘And of course we’ll do the things you want to. But where’s the harm in a little bit of surprise?’
Recently Eul-Bok had been listening closely to all Sale-Dessu said. Even the smallest thing he had implied an interest in Eul-Bok had considered. He wanted to go along with what Sale-Dessu wanted to do, but he also wanted to surprise him with the things he would like.
He turned back to the half-cloth half-fluff and set to work on finishing it, before that keeping in mind Sale-Dessu’s taste for milk. Once he had successfully transformed the cloth-fluff, he set to work on finishing the rest of the tasks he had set for himself.

***

When Sale-Dessu opened his eyes that morning, the first thing he caught sight of was Eul-Bok sitting on a stool in his room, watching him with a smile. He startled for only a moment before taking a breath and calming down.
“You scared me, Eul-Bok.”
“Sorry, Father. But I was just so excited! I can’t wait to see how you–I mean, what you want to do!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “I wonder if you’re more excited for my birthday than I am. I’ll get ready and then we’ll get to work.”
“Don’t call it work! It’s your birthday! You want to do these things because you enjoy them, right?”
“Of course.”
‘He really is excited today. I wonder why?’ In recent years Sale-Dessu hadn’t seen his birthday as anything special, even forgetting it some years, and though last year had been more than the usual it had still been fairly relaxed.
‘I was excited for my birthdays when I was young. I guess with a child in the house I should expect this kind of thing.’
Sale-Dessu head off to take a shower and put on his clothes.
“Eul-Bok! I’m ready!” He called.
“Alright!”
Eul-Bok ran out from Sale-Dessu’s room and stopped next to him. “Why were you still in my room?”
“Nowhere else to go. Now what’s first!?”
“Well, I haven’t used my water-powered train much recently, and there was something interesting I was pursuing there…”
Sale-Dessu noticed Eul-Bok’s face drop. “That’s outside, isn’t it? Isn’t there anything you want to do inside?”
“The rest of it is inside. Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. I’ll take care of the train later. I can see you’re eager to do something right now.”
“That’s an understatement!”
“Well, then, why don’t we start with potion making? Have I ever helped you make a potion?”
Eul-Bok shrugged. The two head to the main area. On their way there, something smacked Sale-Dessu in the face.
“Ow…”
“You alright, Father?”
“I’m fine. Something hanging off the wall hit me in the face…”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing big. Here, I can lead the way!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok. But I’ll be fine.”
After uncovering his eye, Sale-Dessu caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a colorful setup right at the entrance to his home. In front of him he could see that Eul-Bok looked anxious.
‘So that’s why he’s so eager. I should have known…’ “Actually, if you want to lead the way, you can. We are doing this for me, but this is a good chance for me to teach you a few more things.”
“Yeah! Hey, anything you have planned for today wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with those more complicated procedures you know, right? I’m so curious about how you learned to do some of the things you can do!”
“Like what?”
“Oh, hex change operation?”
Sale-Dessu flinched. “Maybe one of those more complicated procedures is in my plans, but hex change operation is not one of them…”

Eul-Bok’s eagerness made Sale-Dessu’s day fairly enjoyable. As they mixed potions together Eul-Bok did so with such a force and glee that it made Sale-Dessu chuckle just to watch. In general he seemed fairly cheerful, and it was a bit infectious. Sale-Dessu couldn’t help but wonder what he had done that had him so excited and eager to finish what he wanted to do.
“You seem to be having a lot of fun mixing potions,” Sale-Dessu said. “Maybe I should have you do it for me more often.”
“Aw, come on, Father, you barely make potions for any good reason. Although it would be a good arm exercise.”
“You don’t need arm exercise, Eul-Bok.”
“I know, I know, but it’s fun to pretend I do. But you know what, I’m wrong. Even though you make a lot of pretty worthless potions, these ones we’re making now are all for medicinal reasons, right?”
“Yes. Just in case something happens to you or me, that’s why I’m making these potions. I just felt like making potions today, so I figured that I might as well make some that are helpful in nature.”
“It’s a good idea!”
Eul-Bok continued to stir vigorously. Sale-Dessu couldn’t stifle another chuckle.
Potion-making wasn’t all they did either. Sale-Dessu did eventually set to work on his water-powered train after Eul-Bok had strained his mind during a joint transformation spell.
“I had a feeling that wouldn’t work,” Sale-Dessu had sighed. “Eul-Bok, are you alright?”
“Yeah, probably….but I need to lay down for a little bit…”
Most of their activities were simple things however, such as making small treats or performing simple and ridiculous spells, such as an ‘instant hair dye’ spell that both Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok had used to change the color of Sale-Dessu’s hair into a multitude of colors; once, Eul-Bok even turned it rainbow.
“How did you manage that!?” Sale-Dessu asked. Eul-Bok giggled. “Oh, just with the strength of wanting to see something totally ridiculous.”
Even though it was simple, Sale-Dessu was happy. He was excited to see what it was that Eul-Bok was planning, and Eul-Bok’s own excitement made the day quite enjoyable. But it wasn’t until the sun started to set that they reached the end of all Sale-Dessu had wanted to do.
“That was pretty fun, Father. I realized something from today, you can do a lot of the stuff that I can do at incredible speeds!”
“That’s because I’ve been practicing for years. You know that. But I’m certain that soon enough you and I will have a similar level of ability.”
“Yeah, if by soon enough you mean years!”
“Well, we have more than some other species. And it won’t be so long that I’m an old man by that point.”
“Geez, it feels like both you and Grepeta are trying too hard to flatter me.”
“We can’t help but be proud of you, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Hey, Father? Now that we’re done with all you wanted to do, can you do me a favor?”
‘Here it comes.’ “What’s that?”
“I want you to cover your eyes. Both of them, and not with your hair! With this.” He handed him a blindfold. Sale-Dessu put it on. “I’ll lead the way, so don’t worry about bumping into anything.”
“Ow!”
“Oops, sorry.”
Sale-Dessu was excited as Eul-Bok led the way through some part of the house he wasn’t sure of–though he had a good feeling he knew where he was going.
“Now sit down, and don’t peek!”
He could hear Eul-Bok crashing around the house and various things opening and closing. From behind him he thought he heard the refrigerator open. ‘Am I in the kitchen? I thought for sure he’d take me to the main area.’
“You can look now!”
Sale-Dessu reached for the blindfold and pulled it off. Eul-Bok stood in front of him, and behind him the table was decorated in a fancy style. A plate of dinner sat behind him as well as a large white cake behind the plate. Eul-Bok appeared to be holding something, and he soon draped it over him.
“Happy Birthday, Father!”
“Eul-Bok…”
“Don’t look so surprised, Father. It’s just a little something.”
“How can you say that? You went above and beyond!”
Eul-Bok grinned. “Thanks for the compliments, Father. I’ve been planning this for a while now. Last year all I could do was get the Cahongyun’s help, but this year I was able to do it all on my own! I had a lot of trouble with the blanket, though.” He lowered his head. “I hope you like it.”
“I love it, Eul-Bok. This is the most comfortable blanket I’ve felt in a while. I wonder why I never thought to make more comfortable ones for my bed. I think I’ll sleep quite well with this.”
Eul-Bok’s grin widened. “Well, you can start dinner now, then! But I have to clean up. I made a bit of a mess in the main area.”
He ran off. ‘So that’s what that was. I’d better not say anything, though.’ Even having expected it, it was still a pleasant surprise. Sale-Dessu started to eat, and was surprised by how good the gravy tasted.

—–
Night had fallen, and after a long and cheerful celebration with the milk cake Eul-Bok had made, Sale-Dessu tidied a few things around the house before deciding to retire for the night. Already Eul-Bok seemed exhausted, but he still stayed by Sale-Dessu’s side, smiling wide.
Just as he had changed into pajamas and was almost ready to retire, something slammed against his window. When he opened it, he spotted Bes-Isa, a piece of paper taped to her. He took the paper off and took a look at it. It was a crude picture of him and Eul-Bok around a cake that was set on fire.
Good job allie, not freelowding this year. Have a happy birthday not! -La-Iin
Sale-Dessu stifled a chuckle as Bes-Isa went flying backwards through the air with a screech.
“Geez, she really can’t draw all that well.”
“She can’t,” he admitted. “But that’s alright. It’s a nice picture.”
He hung it up in his room.

8.493.Birthday of Affection

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 493
“Birthday of Affection”

San-Kyung darted quickly to school, holding tight to his vest. To him, today felt like the worst day all week to have worn a vest–it made the temperature feel closer to Summer. He tried to ignore the feeling as he continued on towards school.
On his way there, he spotted Dosa-Mina, and he let go of his vest.
“Hello, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Hey. Happy birthday.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Thank you. You know, it feels pretty weird to be sixteen! It feels like the beginning of the end…or more like, the beginning of the hurtle towards my twenties. And if you turn the six upside down I end up an adult.”
“So what? You still have to go through seventeen and eighteen before you hit nineteen.”
“I know. I’m just putting things into perspective. But hey, it’s another age I know you for, and that’s always a good thing.” He winked at San-Kyung, but his expression soon changed to a neutral one.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina, was there anything you wanted to do today?”
“There is. Why?”
“I was trying to figure out when I should–” San-Kyung stopped himself.
“Should what?”
“Is there anything you want to do today?”
“Mm-hm. There are places I want to go, things I want to do and see, but there’s one thing I can do right now with your help that’ll make my birthday great.”
“What’s that?”
Dosa-Mina held tight to San-Kyung.
“Too tight!”
“Sorry, San-Kyung, but it feels like it’s been far too long since I’ve gotten to do this. So now you know. Even if I get to do nothing else today, so long as I can do this, I’m fine!”
San-Kyung shifted his vest. “Er…yeah, right.”
Dosa-Mina felt lighthearted as they walked onto the path to school. The eyes of his fellow students, as well as students from other classes, were all turned his way, but he couldn’t find it in him to care.
‘I’m glad San-Kyung’s being so receptive. He’s usually complained by now! I wonder if it’s just because it’s my birthday?’
‘Someday this grip of his is going to be the death of me,’ San-Kyung thought.

Although the students of Class D were, for the most part, well-aware of Dosa-Mina’s affectionate nature and used to it by now, most of them still stared in his and San-Kyung’s direction that day before history class, particularly the students who had joined the class that year.
And in the back row of the class, La-Iin sat fuming, her wings flapping wildly.
“Isn’t this a little long for you to still be hanging onto me?” San-Kyung asked.
“Maybe it seems long to you, but it’s just because I haven’t done this in so long.”
“What are you talking about!? You were being affectionate just yesterday!”
“But that was only a little thing,” he said simply. “And besides, I haven’t done anything on the level of that hug you gave me earlier this week.”
The students around them began to watch closer.
“Dosa-Mina, it’s your birthday. I’ll let you be as affectionate as you want. But can you can it when it comes to what happened then?”
“You still haven’t explained your dream to me, you know? I’d like to know what it was to make you do something like that.”
“Oh, come on!”
“Rival-boy…”
Dosa-Mina glanced at La-Iin. “Hey there, La-Iin! How are you today?”
Dosa-Mina blinked. La-Iin’s whole body was shaking, and it didn’t seem to be just because of the rapid flapping of her wings.
“Infuriated,” she said, even her tone warbling. “Especially after I heard what you said. What’s this about San-Kyung giving you a hug!? Explain now before I lose my patience!”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “I get that you still consider us rivals and all, La-Iin, but you could be nice and not bother me on my birthday.”
“Your birthday!?” She exclaimed. Her eyes narrowed. “Wait, this isn’t 2014. I owe the people who have bad birthdays nothing. That’s it, Dosa-Mina! I’m going to make your fifteenth–”
“Sixteenth.”
La-Iin growled. “–sixteenth birthday a living hell!”
She flew into the air and prepared to fly at Dosa-Mina when San-Kyung spoke up. “The hug you heard us talking about happened earlier this week. And why it happened is none of your business.”
“It’s none of my business too, I guess.” Dosa-Mina smirked. “Maybe the affection in this friendship is finally going to go both ways.”
“You wish! The day I kiss you is the day I get failing grades in school!”
“Too bad. And that’s kind of harsh.”
La-Iin’s eyes had gone wide. “This isn’t fair! It feels like I have no chances against rival-boy! Mark my words, San-Kyung, you’ll find out the true strength of my wiles someday!”
La-Iin ran off.
“Was….was she crying?”
“Who cares?” San-Kyung huffed. “Dosa-Mina, all I have to ask is this. If you’re going to cling onto me all day, could you at least loosen your grip?”
“I can try. But I barely know my own strength, so who’s to say if it will work?”

***

“San-Kyung, am I frustrating you today?”
“Well, let’s see. When I needed to get a drink of water, you were there holding on to my arm. When I needed to write something down in my notebook, you just happened to switch from holding onto my right arm to holding onto my left. When the students or teachers start staring harder, it seems like you give them more reason to stare. Yes, you’re frustrating me!”
Dosa-Mina flinched. “I’m sorry, Dosa-Mina. I’m trying to put up with it for you. But I picked today to wear a vest and you clinging on like isn’t making it any better. Also, you’re seeming kind of needy.”
“Maybe I am feeling needy,” Dosa-Mina said. “I get it though, San-Kyung. Don’t worry, I plan on letting go of you once school lets out. When school lets out we’ll be able to go all the places I want to go instead of sit here in school. And when we go out I have some things I want to talk to you about.”
“Huh.”
“But then again, I understand how much more convenient it might be if I was holding onto you while we were out rather than while we were in school. Not to mention how inconvenient it is for you while we’re here. So I figured, if I’m going to go of you, there’s one more thing I want.”
“You decide to do this when we only have two classes left. Of course,” San-Kyung sighed. “What do you want?”
Dosa-Mina let go of his arm. “This!”
He brought San-Kyung’s face close and kissed him. San-Kyung drew away, his expression one of surprise and mild disgust.
“Pff. The look on your face. You know, those expressions contribute to me being affectionate towards you.”
“Oh cut it out.” He shook his head. “You’ll just take any excuse you can find.”
“Oh, I don’t need excuses when I have reasons. But, that’s a story for another day!”
Nearby them, Lirako leaned over to whisper in Airy-Aekok’s ear.
“You know, there are two things that are gonna make me think our theory is wrong–hard proof and Dosa-Mina saying he’s not in love with San-Kyung.”

As school came to a close, Dosa-Mina felt thoroughly satisfied. ‘My fifteenth birthday was pretty okay, but I think this year has gotten off to a great start. Here’s hoping this continues on into the day!’
“Happy birthday, Dosa-Mina!” Fer-Shi called as she ran out the classroom. Dosa-Mina waved, then gave a sigh.
“I guess it’s a sign of my popularity–that or a certain someone’s influence–or I guess it could be reputation…”
“Get to the point.”
“I think you, Sanhuun and my parents are the only people who have wished me a happy birthday today!”
“That’s because nobody likes you, and for good reason.” Dosa-Mina glanced to his right, and spotted La-Iin standing there, her eyes squinted in a glare. “Even if it weren’t for our rivalry, I still wouldn’t like you. You’re thoroughly dislikable!”
“You don’t like me, but you like Sanhuun? I’m neutral, you know.”
“I don’t like everyone who’s evil either. You should understand that.”
“I wouldn’t? I’m not evil. Oh, did you mean because of San-Kyung? But he’s a special case. He just hates everyone.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter! I hope you have a rotten birthday and I hope there aren’t many more!”
“Stop being so petty. You want to be taken seriously, well nobody’s going to take you seriously if you act like that!” San-Kyung said.
“Nobody’s going to take you seriously being so devoted to your best friend. I don’t care what you say, San-Kyung! Unlike my love, your love is going to be your downfall! But I will save you. I’ll show you the light!”
She blinked and her nose wrinkled. “Anyway, I’ll see you on Monday, San-Kyung.” She turned and left the classroom.
“I’m still wondering what she means by love. Is there something I’m supposed to know, San-Kyung?”
“Don’t you think you’d know if there was?” He said. “Come on. Let’s go. You know, you’re lucky, Dosa-Mina. Next year your birthday isn’t on a school day, but mine is.”
“Aw, give it one more year and you’ll be school-free. Oh wait, not only will it be a Saturday in 2017, you’ll be graduated by then too.”
San-Kyung sighed. “I know.”

After briefly stopping by his house, Dosa-Mina and San-Kyung head for downtown, his parents close behind, at least at first–halfway down the path they had agreed to split up.
“Well, it gives us a chance at a date. It is Parent’s Day too, after all.” Elai-Riya had said.
“Yeah! And it gives us a chance to get some stuff for you before tonight!”
“I’m looking forward to celebrating with all of you! I wonder if I should invite some of my neighborhood friends?”
San-Kyung’s eyes narrowed. “Well, maybe not.”
Now the two were on their own, and thoughts went through both their minds of what they should do now that they had the chance.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina–”
“There’s something I want to ask about and tell you about, San-Kyung. Mind if I say them now, just to get them off my chest?”
“Uh, sure?” ‘Guess I’m not going to get to give him my present anytime soon.’
“Part of the reason I was being so clingy today is because I had a….nightmare,” he said. “It was a nightmare about you. I felt so horrible when I woke up that…that I felt like cutting myself…but I managed to resist. And it’s been a long while since I’ve been able to do that.”
San-Kyung remained silent, curious as to what Dosa-Mina might say next.
“I was still scared, though, so I wanted to hold onto you because of what happened in the nightmare. And that’s why I was being so clingy today. I figured you deserved to know.”
“I’m surprised you told me. Usually you keep that stuff to yourself.”
“I usually do. But I’ve been battling with some thoughts lately. I’ve been having a harder time keeping myself under wraps too, so it could have something to do with that. But mostly, I just felt like saying something to you. It’s a step forward, isn’t it?”
San-Kyung smiled. “Yeah. I’m glad you told me.”
“Of course, I’m still far more interested in helping you permanently regain your true form,” he said. “My first goal is by the end of this year. My second is before we graduate. After that, if I haven’t managed it, I’ll pour all my time into finding a way to make it happen!”
“Today’s about you, Dosa-Mina, not me. Hey, didn’t you say there was something you wanted to ask me, too?”
“Yeah. When are you going to tell me about that dream you had? Was it a nightmare like mine? I told you something I wouldn’t normally say. You can consider this a birthday present.”
“But I have…” San-Kyung trailed off. “Fine, I guess you have a point. I had a dream where I was ruling the world at first, but then it all disappeared and there was some guy with his hair up in a white bun calling for you.”
“A white bun?” Dosa-Mina’s expression changed drastically, and for a moment San-Kyung wondered if he had said something that struck a nerve.
“Yeah.”
“Did he say his name?”
“If he did, I don’t remember it. He was really pale all over and he had what looked like horns on his head, but other than that he mostly looked like a Normal.”
“…go on.”
“I tried asking him what was going on, but twice the dream changed and he tried to make a break for it. I don’t remember the first one, but the second one…he changed it to something where you were considering committing suicide early. I tried to confront him about it, but I had to go back to you–and anyway, when I turned around, he disappeared. So I went to comfort you instead. It felt more real than like a dream, so that’s why I…did what I did.”
“…I’m glad you told me that, San-Kyung. Thank you. …are you sure you didn’t catch the guy’s name?”
“No. Why do you want to know his name, anyway?”
“Oh, morbid curiosity.”
‘He’s still not telling me everything, is he…oh well, he’s right–what he said already is a step in the right direction.’
Dosa-Mina’s expression was still a sad one, so San-Kyung reached into his vest pocket and thrust a music player into Dosa-Mina’s arms.
“Here.”
“Wh–what…?”
“This is your actual present. I know you like other things better, but I’ve heard you talk about music a bit in the past. Besides, if you like any of the songs you sing, you can listen to them.”
“I–how’d you get this!?”
“I have my ways…”
“Guess I shouldn’t ask that question, then.” Dosa-Mina hugged San-Kyung close. “Thank you, San-Kyung. I’ve really enjoyed today.”
“Glad you did,” he said. “…now do you mind letting go?”
“Why?”
Dosa-Mina glanced around. A small group of people was staring in their direction.
“Sorry.”
“Don’t be. I’m just sick of people getting the wrong idea.”
“After all this stuff that’s been going on with Lirako, this doesn’t even faze me anymore.”

—–
“Happy birthday, Dosa-Mina!”
“Happy sweet sixteen, as they say!” Orlin-Aesth said.
“Happy birthday, Dosa-Mina.” San-Kyung pat him on the back.
“Thanks, you guys! Hopefully next year is as good as this one!”
Even as he celebrated with his family, San-Kyung’s earlier words were still on his mind.
‘He changed the scene and he had his hair up in a white bun. That sounds just like Kkumneok. I know he said he was capable of entering other people’s dreams, but what was he doing in San-Kyung’s? And why would he change the scene to something that would upset him? Was there a reason for that?’
He stuck a fork into his cake. ‘Next time he comes into my dreams, I’m going to have to ask him a few questions. But this proves one thing–he probably isn’t a creation of my mind.’

1.486.Happy First Birthday, An-Tois

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 486
“Happy First Birthday, An-Tois”

“When are your friends coming, Cou-Riette?”
“They should be here any moment now. At least, I hope so. I certainly hope nothing happened to them on the way here.”
“I’m sure that’s not the case. Though you must admit our residence is fairly out of the way.”
An-Tois babbled. “I do admit that.”
“Your son certainly has come a long way in the past year, hasn’t he?”
“Oh yes, he has! Last year he was a newborn, and now he can talk a few words–though he prefers to babble–he can walk, slightly, and he can fly quite well for an infant. It’s rather amazing, being here to watch him grow up like this.”
“I can imagine. I grew up around siblings, but I’ve never watched anyone grow from infancy. At least, not that I know of. I think little An-Tois might be the first, and I’m not even watching him from the beginning!”
Cou-Riette smiled. “Well, you might be here to see him grow for a long while onwar–”
A knock sounded at the door, followed by several more. “That must be them!” Holding An-Tois, she head for the door and nearly flung it open. Lishe-Ashyo, Mali-Ana, Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu stood together at the entrance, a few of them holding small gifts.
“Hey there, Cou-Riette, birthday boy!” Lishe-Ashyo exclaimed. “Really, happy birthday, An-Tois.”
“Li!” An-Tois called out, reaching for Lishe-Ashyo. Lishe-Ashyo smiled.
“How have you been, Cou-Riette?” Mali-Ana asked.
“Just fine. Although I’m still in shock at the fact that it’s been a year since An-Tois hatched!”
“Didja keep track of the day he was laid, too?”
Cou-Riette glanced away. “I’d rather forget that day…anyway, why don’t you all come in? We can celebrate An-Tois’ birthday together.”
“Sure!”
“I see some of you have presents.”
“Ma!” An-Tois said, pointing at Mali-Ana. “Ge!” He pointed at Gen-Reiya.
“I’m surprised he can talk any words at all,” Gen-Reiya said.
“So am I. But he’s got to grow up, and this is one of the first steps. So, what are the presents?”
“Geez, can’t you be patient?” Mali-Ana said.
“It’s been a while since I got presents on my birthday, so I want to see what you all got for him.”
“If you’re hoping it’s stuff for you to help you out with him, you’ve got another thing coming,” Xhen-Wu said playfully.
“I didn’t think it was anything like that!”
“Sure you didn’t.” Xhen-Wu winked. “But go ahead, let him open them now.”
“Should I really let him open them?”
“Why not? I’m sure he likes tearing into things.” Gen-Reiya blinked. “Right?”
“Well…we’ll see….” She sat Xhen-Wu’s present down in front of An-Tois. “Go ahead, An-Tois. This is a present for you.”
An-Tois looked up at Cou-Riette curiously, then began to slowly open the present. He gave a squeal of delight when he opened up the plush Bearperson.
“I know it’s generic, but hey, don’t Wiench children like teddy Bearpeople?”
“I’m not sure. I may be Wiench, but I’ve spent my whole life here in Vaelyn.” Cou-Riette gave her friend a wry smile. “But thank you regardless, Xhen-Wu. I’m very grateful, and it looks like An-Tois is too.”
An-Tois was holding tight to the plush, looking completely content.
“Can he do mine next?” Gen-Reiya asked. Cou-Riette nodded and set down in front of An-Tois Gen-Reiya’s present. An-Tois gave it a curious look, then still holding tight to his plush, gently opened it up.
“Those Birdmix claws probably help a lot with tearing off wrapping paper,” Xhen-Wu said. Cou-Riette nodded. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Gen-Reiya’s present was a can of powdered milk. An-Tois stared back at Cou-Riette, looking confused.
“Oookay, so mine is kinda something to help you raise him, but hey, he’s the one who gets the beneficial stuff from it, isn’t he?”
“He certainly is. Thank you for this, Gen-Reiya.”
“Have him do mine next!” Lishe-Ashyo complained.
“Wait, Lishe-Ashyo. He should see mine next.” Mali-Ana held out a small rattle. “I wasn’t able to get wrapping paper in time. Sorry.”
“No need to apologize.”
“I saw his rattle broke last time I visited, so I thought this’d be a suitable replacement.”
An-Tois took the rattle from Mali-Ana and shook it, smiling wide.
“Well, it’s certainly made him happy enough, and so long as he’s happy, I am too,” Cou-Riette said. “I suppose that leaves your present for last, Lishe-Ashyo. I hope it’s not a deluge of items like that ultimate mommy pack you got me once.”
“Nah, it’s something exclusively for An-Tois.” He handed An-Tois the present. An-Tois tore it open. Inside the wrapping paper was a blanket. An-Tois held it close along with the rattle and plush.
“Aw, he looks so sweet like that,” Cou-Riette said. “Uncle, where do you keep your camera? I think I finally have an excuse to take a picture of An-Tois!”
“I’m starting to wonder who’s more happy about today–An-Tois or Cou-Riette,” Gen-Reiya said.
“I don’t know if An-Tois even gets that it’s his birthday,” Mali-Ana said.
“Who cares? Whether he gets it or not, it’s still his birthday, and birthdays are a time to celebrate!”

***

An-Tois was fast asleep, cuddling his plush and wrapped in his new blanket. Cou-Riette and her friends watched him sleep, completely at a loss of what to do.
“So, uh…birthday boy’s asleep, and it’s still light outside.” Lishe-Ashyo said.
“My Dad isn’t expecting me back until a lot later,” Mali-Ana said.
“Did you have a back-up plan in case he fell asleep, Cou-Riette?” Xhen-Wu asked.
“No, I didn’t, but something has come to mind in these minutes we’ve been watching him. Think about it, all of us are practically adults, right?”
“We’re eighteen. I don’t think that counts as adult, depending on what you plan on doing.” Gen-Reiya said.
“Well, we’re close enough, and there’s something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. When my parents would host large parties, late in the night they would drink wine. I only had a few tastes of wine when in the most ceremonial situations–and around family members whom my parents wanted me to think I was an adult, thanks to An-Tois–but I’m sure none of you have.”
“Is that even legal?”
Cou-Riette shrugged. “If we only drink a little bit, I don’t think it will be a problem. And my uncle most certainly does have wine in the house, before you ask. Most Fasoucies do. It’s almost one of our staples.”
“What makes it not one?” Lishe-Ashyo asked.
“The fact that most Fasoucies have children. Some even large families where there are multiple small children in the house at once. I always planned on being one of them, but whether I end up that way or I don’t, for now all I have is An-Tois, and he is fast asleep. So let’s take this time while uncle’s at work!”
Cou-Riette flew out of the room; as soon as she was out of earshot, her friends huddled together.
“Who else thinks this is gonna be a bad idea?” Lishe-Ashyo asked.
“Of all the people here, I honestly thought you’d be the last one to say that,” Mali-Ana said.
“Cou-Riette seems like she really wants to try it, though. Maybe we should indulge her. I mean, all of us are here. We’ve all got common sense. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Gen-Reiya, when people say something stupid like that, they’re usually setting themselves up for something bad to happen.”
“What are you four talking about?”
The foursome broke from their huddle to face Cou-Riette, who was carrying a bottle of wine and a few glasses.
“Er, nothing!” Lishe-Ashyo chuckled. “Hey, Cou-Riette, I’ll drink some of that wine, but what do you say we keep it to small portions?”
“That’s as I intended it, anyway,” Cou-Riette said. She poured a small amount of wine into each of the glasses, then handed a glass to each of her friends. “Did you think I would do something as silly as let us all get drunk? I do have common sense.”
“Like I said.” Mali-Ana said as she lifted up her glass.
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes, I did!”
“Now, now. Don’t wake An-Tois. It’s his birthday, and if he wants to spend it sleeping, I’d rather let him do that. Let’s just enjoy our little celebration, okay?”
“Alright.”
“Before we go on, though,” Cou-Riette said.
“What?”
“I actually have been thinking about trying this wine for a while. I always feared that with all my stress, I would end up over-indulging like you four feared. The reason why I suggested we try this now is just so I wouldn’t do that. So don’t worry, I’ve put a lot of thought into right now.”
She lifted her glass. “To our friendship, and to An-Tois’ birthday.”
Her friends nodded and clinked their glasses against hers. Then all five of them quickly downed their samples of wine.

—–
The five friends had taken the time An-Tois was asleep to talk and play together as they had when they were younger. Cou-Riette in particular enjoyed the time they spent together. She felt as though it was something that had been missing from her life lately.
Now, late into the night, she had fallen asleep on them as they talked. Although they were tempted to wake her up, they decided against it. They helped her into her bed, tucked her in, then left the house, keeping silent the whole time until they made it outside.

30.485.Journey for Cloud Nine

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 485
“Journey for Cloud Nine”

“…er-Shi.”
Fer-Shi’s dream began to fade away.
“…er-Shi. Fer-Shi. Fer-Shi!”
“Huh?” Fer-Shi rolled over on her side. “Hello, Mom. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, really. Happy Birthday!”
Fer-Shi sat up abruptly. “Thanks, Mom! …um, Mom? Why do you look so worried?”
Tei-Sheu looked reluctant to tell her, but soon sighed and said, “If you don’t hurry soon, you’re going to be late for school!”
At those words Fer-Shi hopped out of bed and began to get together her school supplies and dress herself for the day before speeding out the front door.

***

“Ohh, what a bad start to the day…at least I made it here in time.”
“It’s alright. I was almost late too. I’ve found out that the worst strategy for getting to school on time is to eat breakfast beforehand.” La-Iin clenched her fist.
“At least you got to eat breakfast.”
“I don’t always. And there’s always school food if you get desperate.”
“Who eats that anymore?”
Fer-Shi glanced at La-Iin’s wings as she flew across the path to school. “Hey, La-Iin. Is it fun to fly on your own, or is it more fun to have someone fly you around?”
“Flying of your own volition is one of the most thrilling things in the world. It’s a shame I can’t have you join me.”
“Do you mean that, or are you being sarcastic?”
“A little of both.”
Fer-Shi groaned. “You know, that seems like something fun to do. Every birthday I can remember was a lot of fun, but it’s mostly been a lot of the same thing. It might be nice to do something different, like flying for one of them.”
“I see.”
‘That’s it!’ La-Iin thought. ‘Fer-Shi will never notice I forgot her birthday present if I do something like that for her. And it would be fun for me too! But how am I going to manage picking her up? She would be pretty heavy for someone like me.’
“Hey, Fer-Shi, how much do you weigh?”
“What!? Why do you want to know?”
“Morbid curiosity. I can tell you how much I weigh. Though you’ll have to remember that most of that’s head weight.”
Fer-Shi looked slightly embarrassed. “I don’t really know, La-Iin. I haven’t checked in a while. …do you want me to check when I get home?”
“No, it was just a spur of the moment thing.”
‘This is going to be a nightmare for me,’ La-Iin thought. ‘But I will follow through! This skill could come in handy in the future.’

“La-Iin, why do you keep balancing our notebooks?”
“No particular reason. Why do you ask?”
“Because you’ve been doing it all throughout class?”
“Hm. Say, Fer-Shi, is there anywhere you’d like to go today? Anyplace in Bledger. Name it.”
“Huh? Well, I guess if I had to pick, that little district downtown with all the sweets stands might be nice. But then, there’s also Vibrator. That place is pretty nice. Oh! But if I had to pick one place more than anything else…”
“What?”
“One time when I went out with my Dad for work, we passed by this little forest clearing near downtown. It had a little pond and it was so relaxing. I’d love to go there and have a picnic or something!”
Fer-Shi’s eyes widened. “Oh, but I’m not trying to get you to take me anywhere! I just said something because you asked!”
“Well, I wanted to know. And now I’m curious about that pond area. I’ve been wondering about a place I can establish a base.”
“Maybe I should ask my Dad to take us there. I’m sure he knows where it is.”
“You could do that,” La-Iin said. She lifted the notebooks higher.
“…is there something else you wanted to say?”
“No. Except, you’re nine now, huh?”
Fer-Shi nodded.
“Next year you’ll be ten. Soon enough you’ll be going through puberty.”
“Hey!”
“Share some of that puberty with me, okay?”

“Alright, class, that’s it for today. Oh, but, Miss Cahongyun?”
“What?”
“Why are you balancing those notebooks?”
“I’m building muscle,” she said. The teacher gave her a quizzical look before walking out the classroom.
“Here’s your notebooks back. I’m going ahead. Meet me at the front of the school.” She put her notebooks away and head outside.
“Um, okay!”
‘She said it was no particular reason,’ Fer-Shi thought. ‘I wonder if there’s something she’s trying to do? Maybe I should ask.’
“Hey, happy birthday, Sanhuun!” Zae-Mia called. “Sorry I didn’t get to say anything earlier.”
“Oh, that’s okay! Thank you!”
“How’s it been so far?”
“Well, not much has happened yet, but I’m sure things are going to start picking up soon!”
“Hope so. Well, see you soon, Sanhuun!”
“See you!”
“Yeah, happy birthday again, Fer-Shi!” Shan-Zetsu said. “Weird to think that you’re nine now. I’m just thinking, that means I’m going to be nine later on this year, aren’t I?”
“I guess so! I just think it’s weird that I’m going to be ten next year!” Fer-Shi got up from her seat. “I’m going to go meet La-Iin at the front of the school. I’ll see you later, Shan-Zetsu!”
“Alright! See you!”
Fer-Shi ran through the classroom and the hallway. ‘I wonder if La-Iin’s at the very front of the school or a little farther up? Guess I’ll see!’
Almost as soon as she made it outside, La-Iin was waiting for her.
“Close your eyes, Fer-Shi.”
“Why?”
“It’s a surprise.”
Anticipation and excitement spurred her to cover her eyes. She could feel hands wrapping around her.
“Um, what’s going on, La-Iin?”
“Don’t–look–yet!” She grunted. Fer-Shi could hear her panting.
“What are you trying to do?” Fer-Shi uncovered her eyes.
“You weren’t supposed to look!” La-Iin snapped.
What La-Iin was trying to do clicked in her mind. La-Iin’s wings were flapping rapidly and she was holding tight to Fer-Shi’s waist. Though she was obviously straining, Fer-Shi could tell she was making progress–her feet began to leave the ground.
“H-hey, La-Iin! You’re not gonna be able to do this!”
“I can and I will! This–is–what I’m–gonna do–for your–birthday!”
“Aaaaah!”
“Looks like you need a little help, huh?”
“I need no help! Leave us alone!”
“No way!”
La-Iin’s arms left Fer-Shi’s waist, and the ground disappeared below her. Fer-Shi glanced around. Many of her avian classmates were flying around her–Zae-Mia, Cae-Bougen, Im-Dei, Fei-Zhust, and Mi-Kou, along with La-Iin who was glaring at the five.
“Who’s holding me up?”
“Me,” Nemi-Hikla called out. “We saw what La-Iin was trying to do–and failing to do it.”
“I didn’t need your help! I was getting her off the ground! Put her down!”
“Well, we tried to help your friend,” Nemi-Hikla told her. “And hey, if this is what you really want for your birthday, we’re more than happy to oblige!”
“Whoa…” Being up so high gave Fer-Shi a thrill. “Thanks, you guys!”
“Not a problem,” Mi-Kou said.
“You’re welcome!” Zae-Mia said.
“I’m glad you’re happy,” Im-Dei said.
“You wanna get down?” Nemi-Hikla asked.
“Uh, I guess I should…”
Nemi-Hikla flew down to the ground and set Fer-Shi down. “How’d you like your time in the sky?”
“It was great! Thank you!”
“Not a problem. Well, see you tomorrow, then!” The avian students then took off, all six of them still flying.
“Um–sorry about them usurping your present, La-Iin…”
“You don’t need to apologize to me. If there was anyone I would want an apology from, it would be them. Besides, even though I can’t give you flight, I think I know one more thing I can give you. But you’ll have to wait for it.”
“What’s that?”
“It’s a surprise. Just tell your Mama and Dami to come over to my house before dinnertime. And be ready to walk.”
La-Iin began to walk away. “Happy birthday, Fer-Shi. Even though I didn’t get to fly you myself, I hope you had fun flying.”
Fer-Shi smiled and nodded. “I did!”
La-Iin walked off, soon blending in with the crowd.
‘You know, despite the way today started, it looks like it won’t be so bad.’ Fer-Shi walked off towards home, the whole time trying to think of what sort of present La-Iin might be preparing for her.

—–
“How did you find this place!?”
“I had an idea about where it might be. I’ve been around Bledger a few times too, you know. I hope you like the dinner Mama made. But if you don’t, well, I told her she was ruining it with the sauce!”
“Are you kidding? I love mushrooms no matter what way they’re prepared!”
“Maybe one day I should have Mama make a mincemeat pie with mushrooms in it. I wonder who would like that better, me or you.”
“I don’t know, and I kind of don’t want to…”
“It’s only if you like mushrooms prepared all ways that you are truly a fan of mushrooms!”
“Oh, La-Iin…”
Fer-Shi’s heart felt light as she sat with her parents, La-Iin and Mit-Sun around a pond, eating the meal that Mit-Sun had prepared and staring up at the sky streaked with the colors of sunset.

24.479.Wondrous Ca-Miela

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 479
“Wondrous Ca-Miela”

Ai-Reia woke later than usual that morning, and though she knew she would have to rush to school at her sluggish pace, she found it hard to care at first. She stumbled into the dining room just as her mother was placing breakfast in front of each chair. Ai-Reia glanced around at her family, quickly noticing something strange–aside from Ca-Miela, who wore her normal expression, everyone at the table seemed unusually happy.
“Did something good happen before I woke up?” She asked them.
“You don’t know what today is?” Reuf-Bu asked.
“Of course she doesn’t! This time last year she was on her school trip, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I remember.”
“What are you talking about?” Ai-Reia asked. Her question had been useless, for before anyone could respond she remembered what today was.
Her mother spoke anyway despite her gasp. “Ca-Miela turns one today,” she said. “She still feels so new, so it’s hard to think that she’s one now…”
“You got used to Ai-Reia’s growth pace, I suppose,” her father said. “But Ca-Miela isn’t aging at her pace. She’ll feel new for a few more years to come.”
“Ca-Miela will always feel fresh to me!” Zih-Amo said cheerfully.
Ai-Reia stared past the rest of her family and at Ca-Miela, who pat the desk of her high chair. Her feelings were conflicted–she could remember the sadness she had felt when she had received the call telling her that Ca-Miela had been born while she was gone, yet at the same time she remembered the rage she felt towards her behavior, and also the concern at the thought that she might grow to become a smarter prodigy than her.
One thought stuck out among all the rest.
‘Baby Vampires are supposed to grow slowly, but I’ve let a year pass and let my family spoil her that entire time. What if she does end up smart like I have? She’ll grow fast enough if that ends up being the case. I owe it to her to change her path so that she can end up a respectable member of the Vampiris family. I need to do something today!’

***

While during school Ai-Reia focused on the lessons, on her way to and back from it she thought on how she could help out Ca-Miela.
“She’s still a young Vampire, so there’s no saying how all this could affect her. But if she ends up a prodigy, she could also end up unconsciously retaining a bunch of information. At her pace she might end up a spoiled princess type. I should mold her into more of a respectable Vampire. But what sort of personality should I try and push her toward?”
“What are you talking about, Vanpiris?”
Ai-Reia startled. She hadn’t noticed Shuera-Kaizima was walking close by. “Oh, just going over a lesson by myself. I still struggle with some of the higher-grade lessons.”
“You do better than I do, still,” she said. “Well, at least in most things. I do good in science. What about you?”
“I struggle a bit with that one sometimes. I think math is one of my strongest suits.”
“I guess I’m okay at math,” she mused. “I should get home now. Until Monday, Vanpiris!”
“See you Monday, Kokohara!” She called. “Oh, Kokohara, how I wish you were a Vampire like I am. Or at least a Groundiser…” She shook her head. “No point in dwelling on these subjects now. I have to focus on Ca-Miela.”
Past that short conversation with Shuera-Kaizima, Ai-Reia kept her ideas to herself. She struggled with thoughts of what personality she should try and push her younger sister towards, but always reminded herself that what she was doing was for her sister’s good.
As soon as she got home, she head for her parent’s bedroom and to Ca-Miela’s crib. Ca-Miela cooed and reached out a tiny hand.
“Don’t do that,” she snapped. “You’re coming with me. And not for anything bad this time.” She pushed down the crib’s side and picked up Ca-Miela, struggling a bit with her weight but nonetheless making her way with her to her bedroom. Ca-Miela never once seemed upset by the turn of events, cooing happily the entire time.
Once she arrived in her bedroom, she placed her on her bed and reached for a book.
“Ca-Miela, you and I have had problems in the past. Yes, I know you can’t understand this yet, but perhaps it will have an effect on you nonetheless. You are my sister, and I don’t want to believe that there is no hope for change in your future. I know of a certain irredeemable half-Vampire whose name shall not be mentioned here. For your sake, I will turn you away from her path and onto a path I can truly respect.”
Ca-Miela seemed confused, but Ai-Reia paid it no mind. Instead she pulled out a small box of her old baby toys and laid some in front of Ca-Miela, who instantly stuffed one into her mouth. “You can’t do that. That’s not food.” She pulled the toy out of her mouth gently.
“I need to make you understand, but the teaching a baby seems nigh impossible,” she sighed. “There has to be something I can do, though. If I only knew what personality would be ideal for you…”
Ca-Miela ignored her and played with her toys, mostly by sucking on them or smashing them with more strength than Ai-Reia would have expected from a baby.
“Let me read you a book while you make a fool of yourself. A-hem. ‘Once upon a time, in a kingdom far detached from the rest of the lands, there lived a Skeletaltype Princess named Ua-Re. Ua-Re was a notorious Princess for reasons both good and bad. She wanted to believe that all of her subjects were kind people with the potential to do great things with her life. She wanted to encourage her subjects to mold the kingdom more to their liking than to the likings of her and her father.
“‘Some of her subjects admired her kindness, optimism and innocence, while others mocked her for it, believing her to be a fool. Despite the varying opinions, Ua-Re held steadfast to her beliefs. She thought that if it wasn’t true that people were all kind people with potential, then she would make it so that they all had that potential. So she….'”
Ai-Reia found herself trailing off. ‘Ca-Miela’s such an innocent baby, she can’t possibly understand how spoiled she’s been. If I keep her innocent in that way, perhaps she’ll never develop that spoiled Princess attitude. She could be strong, innocent and optimistic, just like Ua-Re. She’d be a sister I could grow to love.’
Ai-Reia smiled. “You know, you’re not supposed to play with toys like that. I suppose that’s something you can learn later, though.”
Ca-Miela continued to smash the toys. Ai-Reia picked her up and hugged her close. Ca-Miela ignored her affection, instead sucking on the toy still in her hand.
“You do have potential, my sister,” she said. “And though I may resent you at times for who you are now, once you can understand better the path you must take, I’ll hold your hand the whole way through. Happy birthday, little sister.”
Wrinkling her nose, she put her down. “Oh, that sounded so ridiculously sappy, I’m glad she won’t remember this…”
Ai-Reia reached for the book again, ready to read the rest of the story, when she heard a shriek. Putting down the book, she opened her door only to come face-to-face with her mother.
“What’s wrong, mother!?”
“Ca-Miela is–” Her mother didn’t finish the sentence, for her eyes drifted in Ca-Miela’s direction before she could.
“What’s Ca-Miela doing in your room, Ai-Reia?” She asked. She sounded calm, though Ai-Reia could tell it was put-upon.
‘She thinks I was doing something wrong again, I can tell. If she only knew the truth.’
“I was reading to her, Mother. See? It’s a shame she can’t really understand it yet, though.”
“O-oh?” Her mother breathed. “Oh…oh, I guess that’s fine. But were you the one who took her out of her crib?”
“I did. Sorry for not telling you first.”
“It’s fine, though you had us all really worried,” she said. “Please tell us next time you do that.”
“I will, mother.”
Her mother smiled. “It’s a little surprising to see you trying to bond with Ca-Miela, Ai-Reia….but I am really glad to see it.”
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s very frustrating to read to a baby who understands none of it. But perhaps Ca-Miela and I won’t be as distant in the future as I thought we would be.”
Her mother gave her a quizzical look, but Ai-Reia didn’t notice it–she had turned to see Ca-Miela instead, who was still smashing her old toys against each other with that same unusual force.

—–
At dinner that night, all her family was celebrating for Ca-Miela. Ca-Miela played with her own toys while sitting in her high chair as her family chattered and ate a special dinner, their moods cheerful.
Had the day been different, Ai-Reia was sure she would have felt bitter at that moment, watching her family coo over Ca-Miela. But after the conclusion she had come to today, she was happy to join in the festivities with her family, even talking herself about her younger sister whom she now saw so much potential in.

7.462.Birthdays for All

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 462
“Birthdays for All”

“Happy birthday, Fheyundaer!” Xhen-Bei said.
“Happy birthday,” Song-Jpinne said.
“Hey, happy birthday, Nemi-Hikla!” Lirako said.
“Happy birthday, Fheyundaer. And to many more,” Mi-Kou said.
“Thanks, you guys. But really, it’s not all that big a deal. It’s not like I hit a milestone or anything.”
“Hey, why shouldn’t we wish you a happy birthday?” Lirako said.
“I hope you have a great day today, Fheyundaer,” Deki-Tyunri said.
“Thanks,” Nemi-Hikla said. Students smiled at her as she took her seat.
‘Man, it’s great to be the center of attention, but what about everyone else in this class?’ Nemi-Hikla wasn’t sure of everyone’s birthdays in Class D, but she knew that some had been overlooked. ‘Last year Dslellular was sick on his birthday. And I think everyone was so preoccupied with the dance last year that they totally forgot Fyuori’s. Not to mention Yuuldang’s just fell completely under the radar. Why am I so special?’
Students who passed by or noticed her would smile at her, occasionally waving or wishing her a happy birthday, though the only student who came up to her after she sat down was Rini-Futo.
‘It’s not even like I’m the most popular student. That’d be Lirako…and she rightfully got a lotta attention on her birthday, but what about me? Why’s everyone giving me so much attention? It’s not like I did anything special. Other people missed their birthdays being acknowledged. I don’t wanna be one of the only ones to be celebrated.’
She blinked. ‘Maybe I don’t have to be.’

Nemi-Hikla left the classroom after Math with the rest of the students, but instead of heading for the secondary classroom, she instead head for the faculty room.
‘I hope he’s in there. I bet the teachers from our class and the other classes are gonna be in there too. They’re probably not gonna like me intruding like this…’
Despite her nervousness, Nemi-Hikla pushed on and opened the door. The first one to glance up was Sharai, followed by the teachers in the room.
“Miss Fheyundaer?” Mr. Chensu said.
“Yeah, it’s me,” she said quietly.
“Hello, Miss Fheyundaer,” Sharai said. “Did you need something? Remember, biology starts soon, so make it quick.”
“Yeah, actually, there was something I wanted. Mr. Sharai, you always have a ton of ideas for new things we can do around school. Well, I had one just for today, and I wanted to know what you think of it. After all, if anyone could get us the permission to do it, it would be you.”
Excitement crossed Sharai’s face. “I’ll be right ba-aack!” He stood up from his seat and seemed to hop over to Nemi-Hikla. Closing the door to the faculty room, he brought her away from the classrooms before asking, “So? What is it?”
“Well, it’s kind of complicated. But let me tell you, I want your honest opinion on whether or not it’s a bad idea, alright? I don’t want you dancing around the subject just because–”
“Just because you’re a student? I wouldn’t do that, Miss Fheyundaer. Lay it on me, trust me, I have years of experience with ideas. And most ideas, even the most ridiculous-sounding ones, can be morphed into something wonderful! The only little problem is whether or not the Principal will agree to it, but we can try! So! What is it?”
“Well, it’s like this…”

***

“Today’s been kind of boring,” La-Iin sighed.
“Well, maybe it’ll become more interesting after school lets out!”
“It’s Spring. My Mom and Dad said they think I’m going to grow some more.” San-Kyung said.
“I sure hope not! A little more height and you might need to duck down to get into the classroom!”
“I sure miss Xhephe,” Xhen-Bei sighed.
“Think anything interesting’s gonna happen soon?” Lirako asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Oh my gosh, those Bunety ears are soooo cute,” Airy-Aekok gushed.
“Can you please stop staring at me!?”
Nemi-Hikla glanced around the classroom. ‘Soon enough, classmates, soon enough.’

The last class ended, and as soon as the teacher left the room, Nemi-Hikla took her place behind the teacher’s desk and cleared her throats.
“Fellow students! ….u-uh, sorry, this might seem kind of out of left-field. But the Principal wants us in the reception room. I wasn’t sure the rest of you had been told, so I just wanted to make sure you heard! And I mean all of you.”
“Ooh, reception room meeting!” Airy-Aekok said.
“Another waste of time, let me guess?” San-Kyung grumbled.
“I haven’t heard of this,” Lirako said to Nemi-Hikla.
“Me either,” said Deki-Tyunri. “Who told you?”
“Um, one of the faculty members did after he spotted me on my way to the bathroom. It was a weird little conversation.”
Lirako gave Nemi-Hikla a quizzical look, but other students who passed by thanked her for telling them. As the students piled out, Nemi-Hikla stayed behind them, curious as to what their reaction might be once they finally arrived in the reception room.
“I wonder why only Fheyundaer was told?” Fer-Shi said to La-Iin.
“I’m just mad that we have to go to the reception room. I don’t care why she was told.”
“I feel as though something strange is going on…” Ai-Reia mumbled. Nemi-Hikla flinched. “Why wouldn’t the whole class be told about something that was going on in the reception room? Even if we weren’t told immediately, certainly one of the teachers would have mentioned something about it?”
Despite the suspicions that some of the students had, all of them walked into the reception room anyway. Nemi-Hikla broke out in a grin.
“Huh?”
The reception room was set up much like a birthday party. Not long after the door opened, Xao-Bu played a short tune on the trumpet.
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CLASS D!” The faculty yelled.
“But especially Miss Fheyundaer!” Sharai added.
“What the hell is going on!?” San-Kyung exclaimed.
“Ooh, cake? Ooh, birthday? I get two birthdays in one year!? Yippee!” Airy-Aekok said.
“Wow, what’s going on?” Xhen-Bei said.
“Woooow,” Shuu-Kena said, awe in her tone.
“What’s going on, Fheyundaer?” Lirako asked. “Today’s your birthday, so why–”
“I know it is,” she interrupted. “And this reception room stuff? All my idea. I feel like when it comes to Class D’s recognition of birthdays, most of you guys fall under the radar. So I decided, why not share my celebration with you guys?”
San-Kyung scoffed.
“Sounds like fun,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Thanky-thanky, Fheyundaer!” Airy-Aekok exclaimed. “So, like, could we eat some of that cake now?”
“Cake? That wasn’t in the plan…” Nemi-Hikla mumbled. “Uh, err, sure!”
Airy-Aekok threw her arms in the air and ran into the room. A few students followed after her, while others stayed back, either to thank Nemi-Hikla or to stare on in confusion or disbelief.
‘Well, whatever you guys do, I’m just glad you all came,’ Nemi-Hikla thought.

Nemi-Hikla watched her classmates in the reception room with a smile.
La-Iin and Fer-Shi were playing around, chasing each other through the reception room. Yefu-Shenhao, Zae-Mia and Ilhe-Anra were eating cake and giggling. Lirako, Deki-Tyunri, Xhen-Bei and Song-Jpinne had been searching for presents at Lirako’s request. Nemi-Hikla couldn’t stifle her giggle as she watched them scour the room.
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina stood away from the rest of the students, though Nemi-Hikla caught a glimpse of Dosa-Mina feeding San-Kyung some cake. Ai-Reia, Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima sat together and talked, all three of them smiling. Shuu-Kena quietly kept to herself as she too ate cake, at least until Cae-Bougen and Shan-Zetsu came up to her. The three then ate in silence.
Airy-Aekok, after having some cake, seemed to be incredibly energetic. She ran around the classroom, bothering all the teenage boys she came close to and screeching wildly. Mi-Kou and Kim-Koou talked with some of the faculty, as did Rini-Futo and Fei-Zhust; soon after, music began to play, and she noticed Deki-Tyunri frantically flying up to the stage as if he wanted to join them.
“Hey, Nemi-Hikla?”
Nemi-Hikla startled. Lirako pat her on the back. “You’re the one who’s actually having a birthday today, so you should be the one who’s celebrating the most, yet you’re just staying to the side!”
“Ah, sorry, I was just thinking about something, but you’re right,” she said. “Hey, is there any cake left for me?”

—–
“Why’d we stay there so long?” San-Kyung asked.
“Because that cake was so good. I should have asked for the recipe.” Dosa-Mina said.
“Mama’s going to be mad at me now. And there’s no way she’s going to believe me on where I’ve been.” La-Iin grumbled.
“Well, maybe we can find a way to cover?”
“That was super fun!” Airy-Aekok yelled before running ahead of the crowd.
“It was nice to talk with you two again,” Ai-Reia said. “And Kokohara, your improvement in Vaelis is astounding.”
“Thank you very much, Vanpu…Vampiris,” she said.
“Sorry I wasted so much time looking for presents, but hey, we had a good time, didn’t we?” Lirako said.
“I guess sniffing them out was fun, but I could tell there were no presents in there in like two seconds!” Xhen-Bei said.
Nemi-Hikla watched her classmates with a smile. ‘Now, the real celebration begins.’ She took off ahead of the crowd and head towards home.

3.458.The Sale-Dessu Spy Crew

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 458
“The Sale-Dessu Spy Crew”

“When can I open my eyes, Father?”
“In a little bit.”
“Feels like it’s been a little bit for more than a little bit…”
“We’re almost there. Be patient.”
Eul-Bok grumbled as Sale-Dessu led him along someplace that made him unsure of where he was. ‘Where in the house is this?’
He heard a door open, and Sale-Dessu continued to lead him until finally saying, “You can open your eyes now.”
Eul-Bok opened his eyes and was surprised to see grass, trees, and Sale-Dessu’s messy backyard. He glanced around in surprise, his eyes wide.
Sale-Dessu smiled. “A year ago today, I managed to bring my first V-Puppet to life after thirty-two years of not being able to. Today is your birthday, Eul-Bok, and I wanted to give you something special to celebrate.”
“You didn’t need to do this, Father!”
“We’re in my backyard. I figure we’ll be fine.”
“Wow…I’ve been outside before, but never like this. It’s so weird in this new body! Hey, is that the button you used to glitch the world?”
Sale-Dessu scratched his head. “Of course it is, you know that already…”
“Wow!” Eul-Bok squeaked. “Thanks, Father!”
“You’re welcome, Eul-Bok. And you’re welcome to stay outside for as long as you like. You just need to make sure to stay in the backyard and be back inside before the day is over. That’s all I ask of you.”
“Father, if it’s my birthday, there’s plenty of things I’ll want to do that will have to be inside,” he said. “But thank you so much. I didn’t expect for you to do this, really! It’s such a surprise!”
“I’m glad you like it, Eul-Bok,” he said. “Hopefully someday it will be alright for you to go outside and wherever you want without any issue.”
“Well, I can wait for that day. For now I’m just looking forward to having a good birthday!”
“I hope you have a good day too, Eul-Bok.”

***

A group of people maneuvered their way through the streets of Bledger under the cover of trees. They dashed along the streets quickly and stealthily, and once they made it to their destination, they sat away from each other and began to talk in hushed voices.
“Did you hear what I heard? Something about “Father”?”
“Did you miss the part that implied this son of his was going outside for the very first time? Those are odd words.”
“I got a close look at the son, actually. Something bothered me about the way he looked.”
“What’s that?”
“He looked fake, almost. I could have sworn I saw something that looked like a ball joint.”
“Well, this man is a Warlock. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect with our kind. Though I’ve never seen someone replace a body part with a ball joint. Did you catch which body part it was?”
“I saw an undeniable one in the right elbow. But from my perspective, it seemed there were joints in the knees too, and I have no doubt that if there were joints there, there are joints elsewhere as well.”
“Hm, what a strange child. How Warlock did he look?”
“Not very. He was wearing traditional Warlock garb, but his skin and hair color were more typical of another species. I suppose it’s always possible he could be a Dualbreed, or adopted.”
“Or perhaps created?”
The others fell silent.
“We Warlocks–and Witches–are always finding new things to do with our powers. That is at the core of our nature, and curiosity is a facet in almost all our personalities. I doubt there are many of us out in the world who haven’t been curious about our powers at one point or found something, no matter how minor, that none other of our species had discovered before. So, perhaps this child is created.”
“Do you think it’s also possible that the child’s brain was transplanted into a fake body? Would you put it past a Warlock to cut open a child’s head to use for that purpose?”
“Not certain Warlocks, no. And we know virtually nothing about this man’s true character. He seemed fairly polite from what we saw, but who knows? If he is keeping that child inside, there could be a multitude of reasons. If the child truly is fake or within a false body, that would make sense, as would the possibility that the child was abducted or injured. Any way you slice it, it seems like a definite case of wanting to avoid suspicion for something.”
“And would you be surprised if his actions are truly suspicious?”
“Not at all, no. I’m sure even the most pure-hearted Warlock has gotten an unethical thought or two. The point is whether or not you decide to act on it. This definitely warrants more investigation, however.”
“Why did we start investigation in the first place? Although I’m certainly interested in seeing where this goes, I’m still not completely sure why we’re staking out some guy’s house. How did you even find out where he lives?”
“It was a long process of trial and error. I know you are not the strongest Warlock, but never underestimate your abilities. Just because you’re unsure of how to use them doesn’t mean you completely lack the potential to exert them to their fullest.”
“I hear you.”
“And as for the reason why we are doing this, that’s simple. As you may know, Astineth Eir-Tyuj takes up residence in our neighborhood. Perhaps you’ve never heard of her. She is an infamous Witch part of the Astineth family, the name of which she made famous herself. She is said to have been one of the greats in her hometown, and she possessed not only a wide array of powers but a knowledge and skill in their usage paralleled only by other Witches whom have been called greats.
“But her greatness is not the reason for her infamy. As I said earlier, I don’t doubt that almost every Witch or Warlock has had an unethical thought pass their mind at one point or another in their life. Eir-Tyuj seems to be no different in that regard. However, she was one of the ones who acted on such unethical thoughts. While not on the level of mass slaughter or mass mind control, she showed a mastery of the ability to warp reality–one of the most inexplicable and powerful abilities we possess. She used this consistently and constantly.
“Reality Warping isn’t easily detected even by other Witches and Warlocks. Most will believe this has been their whole reality or that reality has taken an irreversible turn. Even some species studiers and scientists, as well as other greats, have been fooled. Eir-Tyuj’s realities were notable for being mostly disturbing in nature. Realities where entire cities were laid to waste. Realities in which the mass genocide of various species occurred. Horrible realities that no sane person would want to live through.
“This was a consistent aspect of Eir-Tyuj’s work. Her defenders often cite the fact that she was trying to find a way to prevent such realities from coming to fruition and was searching for a way to prevent them. But her opponents point out the fact that she showed an immense mastery of the skill. Most likely she could control all aspects of the reality she created. This is not a skill many Witches possess. Most created realities take some unexpected turn. Therefore, there is nothing out of the ordinary she could look for to prevent the reality, because already she knows all aspects about it. That, and the fact that she never said once herself that she was trying to do this. She always responded with apologies to the people who were affected but with a cold attitude to their relatives who were concerned and rightfully angry.
“With that background out of the way, this man, whoever he is, has been seen visiting her on occasion. Sometimes a flash of light is seen from within her house; I have no doubt that this is him teleporting into her house. Eir-Tyuj has gotten virtually no visitors since she began to live in our neighborhood. That she would now is abnormal. Is this man a significant other? A relative, a friend? Whatever he is to her, I wanted to investigate him for the purposes of finding out what reason he was visiting Eir-Tyuj for. After all, he could be conspiring with her.
“But I never expected to find out something so interesting. It seems this man deserves our research, no matter what his relation to her is or his reasons for visiting her. There is something truly suspicious going on, and I will not rest until I have found out what it is.”
“Why do you care so much about Eir-Tyuj, Baal-Mist? Are you scared of her power? After all you’ve said, I must admit I am. But she’s very old. What could she do?”
“Age has never gotten in the way of Witches before. And as for the reason I want to do this? Let’s say it’s personal.”

—–
“Today’s been a lot of fun so far, Father. And you really are powerful! I hope I can find out just how you do it. I know you’re curious about powers in general, but I want to know more about how they work. What is it that makes that button warp reality? Why can we transform items into other items? What’s the intricacies of Hex Change Operation?”
“Usually, finding out how how our powers work is easier than finding out how to use them,” Sale-Dessu said.
“I see.” Eul-Bok blinked. “Hey, Father, did you feel uncomfortable while we were outside earlier? I felt like someone was watching us.”
“I was on-edge. I thought someone was going to pass by and see you, even though we were in the backyard. That’s probably what made you nervous.”
“Yeah, probably.” He said. “It was just really unsettling. It kind of ruined the experience for me. But still, I hope I can go outside again someday.”
Sale-Dessu opened his mouth to speak. “But not today! Today, I’m just happy to be inside, practicing powers with you.”
“I am too, Eul-Bok.”

18.442.This Private Celebration Hosted by La-Iin

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 442
“This Private Celebration Hosted by La-Iin”

In the early dawn light, someone dashed across to a nearby building. Quickly checking her surroundings, she dashed forward until she was inside the building, laughing to herself as she entered.

“Happy sweet sixteen, San-Kyung!”
San-Kyung didn’t respond to Dosa-Mina as he took his place next to him. “I remember when you were just a preteen. Actually, I remember when you were shorter than me. What happened?”
“Animated Pumpkin genetics happened.”
“I knew that. I just said it because it’s weird thinking back on it. But we’re not actually all that different in height. I always seem to be a little bit behind you in everything, though. Height, age…”
“Wow, two things.”
Dosa-Mina blinked. “Something wrong, San-Kyung? If you need a shoulder to cry on, I’m here.”
“I don’t intend on doing that again, I hope you know,” he said. “I’m not really in a bad mood. I’m just thinking back on last year and how hellish my time at school was….so long as La-Iin isn’t inundating me with presents and people aren’t constantly whispering behind my back, I should be good.”
“Well, she promised not to, so here’s hoping she keeps that promise. I just hope you have a good day, that’s all. Although I’m feeling pretty affectionate and holding back is starting to feel physically painful….”
“Go ahead and do something light,” he said. Dosa-Mina grinned and held on to his arm. “I never tire of this one.”
The two walked into the crowd, which was fairly sparse due to how early they had arrived. Some in the crowd glanced their way, giving them curious looks, but they both walked on until they were inside the Class D classroom and sitting at their desks.
“Looks like we’re not the only ones here early,” Dosa-Mina pointed out. Lirako, La-Iin, Im-Dei, Shuera-Kaizima and Xhen-Bei were also already in their seats, looking a mixture of bored and wide-awake.
“Who cares?”
“Just figured I’d point it out.”
San-Kyung mostly kept to his thoughts during this time, though he occasionally talked with Dosa-Mina about mundane things while they waited for the other students to arrive. All students eventually made it to the classroom, followed by Mr. Chensu, and history class started for the day, San-Kyung quickly becoming bored when he discovered the lesson was one he knew well about already.

***

Whenever he was impatient, it felt like classes dragged on, yet at the same time the classes that day had felt as though they had passed fairly quickly.
“Do you think all the lessons were shorter than usual? Even Miss Hyungdarou didn’t go on her crazy rantings about specific organs. She was just quick and to the point. She even covered two organs!”
“They covered things I already knew. Except in science.” He said.
“Well, that’s not surprising. You’re one of the best students here. Do you spend all that time not focusing on evil and your loved ones on studying?”
“When I have nothing better to do, I do it just so I won’t get called on for bad grades.”
“I’m sure you won’t need to worry about that!”
“It’s also good just in case any of the information’s actually relevant. Some things about history, biology, and sci–”
San-Kyung fell silent when he noticed La-Iin standing nearby him, in her transformed state. Dosa-Mina quickly noticed as well and glanced at her.
“You’re coming with me, San-Kyung,” she said, grabbing tightly to his hand. San-Kyung tried to break free, but found her grip was unusually strong.
‘Damn it! If it was just a little later, I probably could fight her off!’
He was tempted to use one of his powers right then and there, but the crowd of students nearby made him apprehensive, as well as Dosa-Mina’s close proximity to him. He followed after San-Kyung, looking more curious than concerned, as La-Iin dragged him into one of the Weekend classes before closing and locking the door. The room became entirely dark, and San-Kyung became equally as furious.
“La-Iin, there had better be a good explanation for this!” San-Kyung snapped.
“There’s a very good explanation for what I’ve done.”
La-Iin flicked the light switch and the room was revealed. A table with two chairs sat in a corner along with a few decorations on the sides, such as papers, knick-knacks and other such various objects. San-Kyung was completely confused.
“What’s this for!?”
La-Iin opened her mouth, but her face screwed up slightly as her transformation wore off. Regaining her senses, she shook her head and smiled at San-Kyung.
“Welcome to the place you’ll love to be.”
“A Weekend classroom’s not my style.”
“But it’s not the Weekend, is it?” She said. “Come on, sit at the table! And if you try to leave I’ll pin the blame for this on you.”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. Dosa-Mina pat him on the back. “Come on, let’s play along. The sooner we get out of here the better.”
“I’m going to shred her next time I get to be in my true form,” he growled.
“That won’t be good if the studies take too long.”
La-Iin glared at the two. “What are you whispering about!? Who said you could come too, rival-boy!?”
“It’s San-Kyung’s birthday, have some sympathy.” Both boys sat down at the table. “Ooh, this place almost looks like a date restaurant.”
San-Kyung noticed La-Iin’s wings begin to flap in anger. “This’ll only be more annoying if you piss her off. Hold off on the stupid comments and let’s get this over with.”
La-Iin stood at the side of the table. “Today’s specials are the sixteen-year-old surprise and the nothing if you’re fourteen.”
“I’m fifteen,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Damn it! I meant to say if you’re fifteen! That’s what it’s supposed to be!”
“I don’t have a choice in this matter, do I?” He said, glaring at La-Iin.
‘Ooh, this doesn’t look good,’ Dosa-Mina thought. ‘If he loses his cool here he could really blow it for himself.’
“Right. You’re good, San-Kyung.” La-Iin walked away over to one of the decorations and began to fiddle with something San-Kyung couldn’t see.
“This is a nightmare.”
“Hey, maybe humoring her will pay off.”
“Haven’t I humored her enough!?”
“I don’t think anything’s enough when it comes to La-Iin. She’s quite excessive. Remember, this is the girl who gets upset about something being called good.”
“For someone who’s so like that, she certainly didn’t seem to have any problems saying her explanation was good.”
La-Iin returned with a cup full of a strange liquid. “Enjoy. It’s not blood or anything nasty, I promise.”
“It’s not just water, is it.”
“Nope.”
San-Kyung glared. “I’m not drinking this. I don’t know what you’ve done to it.”
“If you want, I could drink it first and see if it’s spiked,” Dosa-Mina offered.
“Hush up, rival-boy! Fifteen-year-olds get nothing!”
“It’s your funeral,” San-Kyung said, handing him the cup. Dosa-Mina took a small sip.
“Mm, that’s pretty good! Try it, San-Kyung, I think you’ll like it.”
San-Kyung gave him a curious glance before looking back in the cup then taking slow sips.
“Rival-boy, you’ve disgraced my recipe!”
“I’d love to have the recipe, speaking of recipes,” Dosa-Mina said. “I’m not much of a cook but I’m pretty good at following instructions. Also, that’s just a drink. But my Dad says I pull off meals pretty well when I have instructions.”
“Well, how about if you don’t?”
“If I’ve memorized the meal, it doesn’t matter. I don’t really want to know what’d happen in the other case.”
“What is this?”
“Did you like it, San-Kyung?”
“I want to know what it is.”
“I want to know if you liked it first.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “Who has the birthday here?”
La-Iin sighed. “I guess you were nice to me on my birthday, so I’ll admit the recipe. It’s the horrifying monstrosity recipe that comes from mixing several natural fruit juices together! And a lot of sugar and a little salt. Mama said it tasted horrible. Did you like it?”
“It’s better than what I was expecting,” he said. “I drank your experiment drink. Can I go now?”
“San-Kyung, the celebration isn’t over yet!” She said. She pointed toward a music player. “I still have to play you some music.”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes.
“One track, one dance,” she said, as she turned the CD on. The song that played was one San-Kyung didn’t recognize nor cared for.
“One dance, you said?” Dosa-Mina asked. “Then I don’t mind taking you up on that offer!”
“What!?”
Dosa-Mina took San-Kyung’s hand and began to dance with him.
“I don’t think you know what you’re doing!” San-Kyung snapped. He began to take the lead. La-Iin watched on in a mixture of rage and awe at San-Kyung’s dancing skills.
‘He’s like a natural. Maybe there’s some way I can work this in to my future.’
By the time the song finished, both boys were slightly out of breath.
“You are a good dancer, I’ll give you that,” Dosa-Mina breathed. “If only you wanted to pursue dancing, you’d probably make a lot of vuyong.”
“It’s a pointless skill.”
“I don’t think it’s pointless. I wish I had a video camera. Then I’d record you!” La-Iin exclaimed.
“No.” San-Kyung shook his head. “Anyway, is this game over?”
“It’s not a game!” La-Iin hissed. “And no, but almost. Give it a little more time.”
Before San-Kyung could react, La-Iin flew up to him and stole his neck ribbon. San-Kyung’s fury reached a peak and he began to chase down La-Iin as she flew around with his ribbon in hand. Dosa-Mina sighed at the spectacle.
San-Kyung managed to grab La-Iin by the rim of her dress.
“Give it back.”
“Here you go.” She tossed the neck ribbon back at him, only for it to fly over his shoulder. He growled at her as he went to go and retrieve it.
“Is this done yet!?”
“Just one more thing.”
La-Iin walked off once again and returned with another cup.
“This is the result of liquid chocolate and herb flavorings. It’s a cake. A small one.”
“Why would I want this?”
“Because you need a birthday cake. You might not want it, but you do need it.”
San-Kyung accepted the cake.
“Now, before you go, there’s one more thing I want.”
“What now?”
La-Iin hugged his leg. “Just to do what rival-boy always gets to do.”
“I don’t hug his leg, you know. That’d just be weird, even for me.”
“You have standards?” San-Kyung scoffed.
“You know I do!”
“I’m satisfied now. You can go.” She thrust a box in his face. “Here. A present.”
San-Kyung accepted the present.
“San-Kyung, I’m happy to have spent moments of your birthday with you. Have a bad birthday, San-Kyung! Bad in the evil way!”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes as he and Dosa-Mina walked out the Weekend room.
“Is it just me, or did she seem a little calmer than usual?”
“I think we hold back our rage in similar ways.”
Dosa-Mina grinned. “You two have a few things in common, huh?”

***

“Would you like to explain the Weekend classroom, Miss Cahongyun?” Mr. Chensu asked.

—–
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAN-KYUNG!” Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus yelled. San-Kyung nodded and sat at the table.
“I can’t believe you’re sixteen already,” Salsh-Era sighed. “Time really does fly sometimes.”
“What’s that you have there, San-Kyung?”
“This? It’s a cake.”
“From who?”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“We’ll say it’s someone he has mixed feelings about,” Dosa-Mina said. “I’m sure you’ve told them about her before, right?”
“Dosa-Mina!”
“Does San-Kyung have a crush?” Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus asked, both sounding incredibly surprised.
“Now look what you’ve done.”
“Oops.”
“San-Kyung, what is–”
“By mixed feelings he means I hate her but she has something I want,” he said. “And that’s not anything stupid like a relationship. You know La-Iin. Don’t act like that.”
“Oh, La-Iin?” Salsh-Era said.
“Hey, San-Kyung, can I ask you one question?” Dosa-Mina whispered.
“What?”
“Did you like that drink she gave you earlier?”
San-Kyung huffed. “I guess it was pretty good.”
“Yeah, I hope I can get her to give me the recipe.”
Despite the indignant feeling nagging at him, San-Kyung had to admit he was happy as he ate the cake.