15.592.To See the Future–Part 4

The La-Iin Series
Capter 592
“To See the Future–Part 4”

“You know what’s weird to think about?”
“What’s that, Dad?”
“You’re sixteen and in Grade 11 now…2017 isn’t all that far away anymore. Graduation is the last step before adulthood.” Orlin-Aesth’s ears flattened against his head. “Why can’t you go back to being that cute little ten-year-old you were a few years ago!?”
“Why ten?” Dosa-Mina asked. “Aw, come on, Dad. You’ve never had a problem with me aging before.”
“It’s just the idea of you leaving the nest and all. But I guess at least you’re prepared for adulthood.” He smiled. “After all, you even have a game plan for the future, don’t you?”
“Yep! Hopefully someday in the future, you’ll see my name along with many other species studiers!”
“Hopefully,” he chuckled. “Although hopefully I’ll also see you walking around in your true…ahem. Never mind.”
“I know what you were going to say, Dad. That’ll never happen.” ‘And hopefully along with that, nobody will ever know about it, either…’

After Orlin-Aesth head to work, Dosa-Mina found himself pacing around his room.
‘Dad might be right about me having a goal. I do have a lot of ideas for my future. But I’ve never considered certain parts of it, have I?’
Immediately a few things came to his mind–San-Kyung, his nightmares, and the duo of Lirako and Airy-Aekok. ‘Sure I can strive for being a species studier all I want, but what if I can’t move past the point I’m at now? What’ll I do if I’m still having nightmares in the future?’
He sighed. ‘Well, I’ve dealt with my other problems just fine in the past. I’m sure the future would be no different, if I really had to….’

***

“Hey, Elai-Aesth, whatcha up to?”
Elai-Aesth glanced at his father. “I was measuring the properties of a certain protein Warlocks usually come in contact with. Unfortunately your unusually chirpy voice distracted me.”
“Sorry about that, kiddo. I know what it’s like to be distracted right in the middle of rigorous research.”
“Meh, it wasn’t going anywhere.” Elai-Aesth shook his head. Dosa-Mina smiled. He was thankful for Elai-Aesth–he had been the product of his last-ditch effort to have a child. Dosa-Mina was always uncertain about his willingness to show off his species, however. ‘It probably wasn’t the best idea, in hindsight, to have a biological child if I want to hide that…but I can’t see life without him now!’
“Is Uncle San-Kyung coming over today?”
“Uncle San-Kyung?” Dosa-Mina questioned. “Since when did you start calling him that?”
“What, do you want me to call him Papa San-Kyung? That man has no biological relation to me.”
“No?”
Elai-Aesth sighed. “God, Father, what the hell do you want me to call him!?”
“You didn’t need to mouth off at me like that. Just San-Kyung is fine. I don’t think he minds at all.”
“If you ask me, he seems like he minds a lot,” Elai-Aesth grumbled. “I don’t get your relationship with him, Father.”
“We’re best friends.”
“I don’t think you understand…never mind.”
“And to answer your question, yes, he is coming over here today. Happy?”
Elai-Aesth didn’t respond. Moments later he said instead, “So, Father, I was curious…”
“Yeeees?”
“Why do you walk around in that Normal form if you were so determined to have a child who had Werewolf and Siren blood in them? You make no sense.”
“I’ve been told that before by many people years before you were born, Elai-Aesth. I don’t know. I guess you could say it’s kind of a natural curiosity. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m a Normal.”
“Father, that’s physically impossible. Your powers show through even in that falsified form and there is no defined mental reason that would cause one to believe that one is–”
“I get it, I get it. It’s circumstances beyond my control at this point, alright?” A knock sounded at the door. “I think I know who that is. Try and be a little more cheerful, alright, Elai-Aesth? I swear, you’re probably the least cheerful Dslellular currently living.”
“Well, excuse my confusion, then.”
Dosa-Mina went to answer the door. San-Kyung was standing there, his eyes focused on a piece of paper in his hands, though he looked up when Dosa-Mina opened the door.
“Hey.”
“Hello there, San-Kyung! Come on in!”
San-Kyung closed the door, and Dosa-Mina ran ahead of him, though he couldn’t keep himself from glancing over his shoulder. ‘San-Kyung looks exactly like he does in my nightmares now, top to bottom, but he hasn’t been having the problems the one in my nightmares has. And I have Elai-Aesth now. He wasn’t in my nightmares…maybe I don’t have to worry. …geez, Elai-Aesth is nine now, Dosa-Mina! Of course you don’t have to worry about it anymore!’
“What’s got you lost in though?” San-Kyung asked.
“Oh, um, nothing. Just thinking about how you and Elai-Aesth can be a little similar sometimes, heh. You two both have bad attitudes.”
“Excuse me?” Elai-Aesth shot a glare in his father’s direction. “Oh. Hello, Sa…San-Kyung. What brings you here?”
“Your father, who else?”
“Yeah, I don’t think San-Kyung likes walking all the way out here. But he does it all for me!” Dosa-Mina hugged his arm, and Elai-Aesth’s face went bright pink. “Seriously, Father! Either be honest with him or stop teasing him!”
“…”
“Aha ha ha. I’ll never stop showering San-Kyung in affection.”
“Yeah, not even in your thirties,” he sighed.
“Aw, come on.” Dosa-Mina let go of him. “Actually, Elai-Aesth, I did ask him over for a genuine reason. I have something to show him. You two wait here and I’ll go get it!”
Dosa-Mina ran off, but even a room over he could overhear the starts of a conversation between San-Kyung and Elai-Aesth.
“San-Kyung, what are your intentions with my Papa?”
“Papa?”
“I only call him Father when I’m angry with him. You probably never noticed the difference because I’m always angry with him when you come over. Now talk with me. I’m aware of your xenophobia but I’d rather it not apply to me.”
“Hmph.”
“Don’t act like a child. You’re thirty-six.”
“Funny you’re saying that.”
“I value maturity in a person.”
“That makes me wonder how you deal with Dosa-Mina every day.”
“I do care about him despite his ridiculousness. Now, tell me, what are your intentions with him?”
“You should be asking him that question about me.”
“I’ve tried, trust me.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. He retrieved the files and head out the room.
“Look, I don’t know the answer to that question either. I’ve tried asking him but–” San-Kyung looked up. “Oh, you’re back.”
“Well!? Are you going to answer the question, San-Kyung!? My Papa frustrates me endlessly on this subject! If I could get a clear answer from you, I might be able to–” Elai-Aesth cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”
“Papa? That’s new.”
“He must be angry with you more than half the time, then…” San-Kyung stood up. “Alright, what is it?”
“My coworkers think I’m crazy, but I’ve been using a lot of my spare time to look into the whole Aesthetically Normal-Regular Form transformation you want so much.”
Elai-Aesth forced himself between them and stared at the papers; Dosa-Mina noticed San-Kyung flinch briefly. “So, this is what you’ve been holing yourself in your room for? Your devotion to each other astounds me. It’s also the source of much confusion on my part…”
“Aaaanyway, so in the time I’ve been looking into this I’ve found out a few interesting things. And I think it might be possible, but it’s going to take a bit.”
“I’ve waited thirty-six years. I can wait more if it means there’ll be a payoff at the end.”
“There might just be! But what I’m looking into right now is amplifiers. There seem to be a few methods worth looking in to, though.”
“Astounding what you’ve found out, Papa!”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, it is pretty amazing.”
“Something wrong, San-Kyung? You look sad. We haven’t been able to hang out as much since Elai-Aesth came along. Go ahead and tell me if anything’s on your mind.”
“It’s nothing, really. I just wish this could have happened years ago as opposed to just having a breakthrough now.”
“Me too. But what are you gonna do?”
“What about you? You aren’t cutting anymore, are you?”
Dosa-Mina paled.
“Cutting?”
“San-Kyung, I thought I asked you not to bring that up in front of Elai-Aesth!”
“Shit. Sorry.”
“What’s he talking about, cutting?”
“Er, stress cutting! You know, like cutting paper–” Dosa-Mina flinched. Elai-Aesth had lifted up his sleeve. “I’m not stupid, Father. Your suspicious behavior made it click better than it would have on San-Kyung’s word alone. How long have these been here!?” Elai-Aesth’s paws gripped his arm tight and made him flinch.
“I–I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Look, Dosa-Mina…” Dosa-Mina glared at San-Kyung. “I’m not the one who should be telling you anything about parenting, but you owe it to that kid to tell him. I’ll…make it up to you twofold, just don’t keep him in the dark.”
“You’re saying that?”
“Father, please.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “…they’ve been here for a while. Ever since me and San-Kyung were kids. But I was older than you are now when I started. I had….certain reasons for starting that I’ll tell you about later. It’s easier for me that way…but anyway, now those reasons, they’re gone. All of them. I’ve realized it was irrational…but I can’t erase what I did in the past, no matter how hard I try.”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head. “I wish I could.”
“Father…”
San-Kyung scratched Dosa-Mina’s head.
“Why keep this from me!? You trust me, don’t you? Why do you do things like this to keep yourself from being happy?”
“I–I don’t think you understand, Elai-Aesth. I’m happier if I can pretend things are the way I want them to be. What am I supposed to do!? I can’t get rid of all these cuts!”
Elai-Aesth had started to cry. The expression on his face was a lot different from the composed one Dosa-Mina was used to seeing. He looked genuinely distressed.
“Father, I know I’m not nice to you all the time, but you’re still my Father! How do you think I feel seeing things like this!? I just want you to be happy…”
Dosa-Mina pulled him close. “Sorry, Elai-Aesth. Unfortunately, your Father’s not as strong as he’d like to pretend…”
“So–so why do you pretend you’re a Normal, then?”
“I think you probably figured that out by now, haven’t you?”
“He’s always been like this, kid. He kept these things secret from me too. I had to find out myself.”
“Why!?”
“I just want to pretend everything’s the way I want it to be…things like this are hard on me, too.”
“Father, you can’t do that. If you hold things in like this, when they are found out, it will be all that much worse. You make things hard on yourself this way. You’ll only be more unhappy if things are found out against your will.”
“Elai-Aesth…?”
“So please, be happy. It’s why I tell you to be honest with your feelings, you know…you really should be, whatever they are.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Th–thanks. I guess I can try…after all, now I know I was cutting for no good reason, maybe I can start being happier…but one thing at a time, alright?”
“You may consider me a xenophobe, kid, but maybe because you’re his child, you’re not as bad as the rest of the people. I can sympathize when it comes to him not being honest…”
“Yeah…”
“I can try. But you’ll have to be patient with me, alright?”
“Mm-hm…it’s just…it’s scary, seeing all those cuts.”
“I know. I’m sorry. To make it up, why don’t I make us all something to drink? Would you like that?”
“Yes…”
“Whatever.”
Dosa-Mina handed the papers to San-Kyung and walked into the kitchen. Soon after he noticed that Elai-Aesth and San-Kyung were close behind him, watching him with concerned expressions.
‘What Kkumneok said happened where he comes from won’t happen here. They prove that to me…people love you, Dosa-Mina. So why can’t you just tell them all these problems you have…’
“Hey.”
“What now?”
San-Kyung handed him a small picture. It was a picture of him and San-Kyung on their graduation day.
“I figured you could use a little cheering up after what happened.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Thank you. I really could…”

—–
‘If I want to be a father in the future, I’ll need to try and become honest with myself. All these problems I have…’ He lifted up his sleeve, then quickly pulled it back down. The sight of so many cuts was too much for even him to bear.
‘But things that way would just be too painful! I like things the way they are now. And even if I have to become more honest with myself when I have a kid, why should I have to show these to everyone at school?’
Dosa-Mina was plagued with uncertainty, and it made him feel sick to his stomach. ‘What would really be better for me, anyway? What do I really want?’

13.590.Hiding in the Records

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 590
“Hiding in the Records”

“Dad, do you think I’m, like, worthless?”
Her father’s eyes widened. “What made you think you’re worthless, Airy-Aekok!? Has everything been okay over the Summer? I’m really sorry I haven’t been able to spend as much time with you as we wanted to, it’s just that there’s a lot of things going on at work–”
“I know, Dad,” she said, smiling at him. It didn’t seem to ease his concern. “It’s not your fault. I just feel bad. Remember that pet project I wanted to do with you?”
“Yeah?”
“Well, it didn’t have, like, the results I was lookin’ for, you know? Just made me think…you’re so good at your job and I can’t even do something I want to do for fun right.”
“Don’t say that about yourself, Airy-Aekok. So what if you don’t get something done the right way the first time? I wasn’t always good at being a cop. There were times nobody wanted to rely on Llanni for a job…but I kept going and I improved, and if I could do that, you can too.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re my Dad.”
“No, I’m just saying it because you’re Airy-Aekok and even if you weren’t my daughter, I’d still like you,” he said. “Besides, I really do believe that. So I don’t want to hear you saying anything bad about yourself. Gush about teenage boys instead!”
“I wasn’t really, like, saying anything bad about myself, though…but I’m always willing to gush about teenage boys! I haven’t, like, seen any good ones in a while, though.”
Her father smiled. “Oh! Airy-Aekok, there was some information you wanted to look into, right? Did you ever find out what it was?”
“Not exactly? I mean like I have a pretty good idea, but I don’t have any definitive proof.”
“Proof can mean a lot,” he told her. “So I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you stop by the library? I do have a library card, and you’re welcome to use it.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, really!”
“I’m not sure how I’d find what I’m lookin’ for at a library…”
“You’d be surprised by what you can find at the library.” He handed her a small green card. “Just use that whenever you decide to go. But since I’m home, I figure we can do something to pass the time for now, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so. Maybe we can see if any of the boy bands have come out with a cool new song!”
Her father began to look uncertain. “That’s not exactly what I meant…but if you want to sweetie, then we’ll look.”

***

Airy-Aekok had always greatly admired her father, ever since she was little. She saw him as an ideal of strength and fortitude that everyone should strive for–that and a smart man who searched for true justice and the facts about a situation. She found it hard to doubt him with his display of honesty, something he had proven conclusively she could trust him on, time and time again. So she head to the library after he left for his shift to see if he was right, and if there was a resource in the library she could look to.
‘Yeah, like a birth certificate book,’ she thought. ‘My Dad’s honest, but he doesn’t always have the right idea about things. I doubt I’d find information specifically on Dslellular Dosa-Mina here.’
But school was scheduled to start in less than a month. What did she have to lose?
When she entered the local library, she was astounded by its size. Just by walking in she saw shelves upon shelves of books that stretched up high. Tall bookshelves stood even higher than that, on floors only avians could reach without assistance.
It was an amazing sight. “Who knew that this close library was like, this grandiose?”
“Please be a little quieter in the library,” a librarian said. Airy-Aekok nodded and went running through the library. Other patrons gave her quizzical looks, but Airy-Aekok payed them no mind and instead went looking through the many shelves to see what each one held. The shelves nearby mostly had informative books, all on an array of different subjects. A sudden desire stirred in her, and Airy-Aekok couldn’t help but start scanning the shelves closely, looking for books focusing on a subject near and dear to her heart.

“Dad made a good point. You really can find a lotta stuff in the library!”
Someone shushed her, but the sound barely registered. Airy-Aekok walked, arms full of books focusing on boys, to the back of the library. A sign had stated that in the back there was a reading nook, and while Airy-Aekok felt it would be easier to simply take the books back home with her, she was too curious not to see what the nook looked like.
On her way there, she spotted an area that was filled with desks. Distracted, she head that way instead and spotted row upon row of computers, many with people staring intently at them but still a fair amount of ones that were unoccupied.
“I wonder.” Setting the books down on one of the desks, Airy-Aekok sat down and opened up a search engine.
‘Like I’ll get many results, hah.’ She typed in ‘Dslellular Dosa-Mina’. As she had expected, not many results came up, and what results did mostly surrounded other people who were also called Dosa-Mina, though by what she could see, not a one of the results had to do with someone who had Dslellular as their last name.
Upon scrolling further down the results, however, she spotted a curious link: “Dslellular Dosa-Mina–list of Vaelyn Residents”
“Huh.” Curious, she clicked on it, and up came a website with several names on it. Airy-Aekok was startled to see that her’s, her father’s and even Lirako’s name was on the list, although it seemed to be an older list as Airy-Aekok noted that when she clicked Dosa-Mina’s name, the age it listed there was thirteen as opposed to sixteen.
That only caught her mind for a short amount of time, however–what caught her eye after that was the rest of the details. The page was skimpy, but what was written in the species section clearly did not read “Normal”.
Airy-Aekok gasped. Nearby people stared in her direction.
‘This is it! This is the proof me and Lirako need, isn’t it!?’ Airy-Aekok began to check her pockets. On occasion she would bring along a small digital camera–a habit she had picked up from her father–and she was pleased to see that it was in her pocket. She took a picture of the page, closed it out, then ran off to the front of the library with the books about boys in her arms.
But she could barely think about teenage boys right now, save for one: Dosa-Mina.
‘I really need to thank my dad,’ she thought. ‘Without him I’d have never found this out!’

***

“WHAT!?”
“Yeah, look! I think the page was, like, illegal but still! That only proves it even more if it’s illegal!”
“So I suppose we were half right…”
“Now that we have this though, we really need to think about what we’re gonna do. School’s gonna start in September again. Should we, like, keep it to ourselves, or tease him with it? Think’a all the things we could blackmail him into!”
“I’m not so sure we have the same idea here, Llanni,” Lirako said.
“What makes ya say that?”
“I’ve got something else in mind,” she said. “I just don’t know if it would be safe for us to do. I mean after all, he’s a Dualbreed with Siren powers on his side…nullified ones, but Siren powers nonetheless.”
“What is it?”
Lirako shook her head. “I’m not sure I should say…”
“Aw, c’mon!”
“Airy-Aekok, I’m home! Where are you?”
“Oh, hi Dad!” Airy-Aekok called. Her father walked into the room and smiled; then, his eyes fell on Lirako. “So you invited a friend over, huh?”
“Uh, yeah,” Lirako said, covering up Airy-Aekok’s camera.
“Did you go to the library?”
“I sure did,” Airy-Aekok said. She flashed her father a wide grin. “By the way, Dad–thanks.”
“Not a problem. Feel free to check out books on my card whenever, but make sure you return them on time, okay?”
“I will!” Airy-Aekok said.
“I’m going to make dinner now. Unless you’ve already eaten?”
“Nah, I’m too excited to eat!”
“I guess you got out a good book, then!” He chuckled. “And miss, you’re welcome to stay for dinner with us.”
“Oh, uh, sure!”
He walked out of the room. Airy-Aekok dropped her volume before speaking.
“Whatever we do, there’s this I know. We have the information now, and that’s a success. It means we succeeded, and even if we never do anything about it, that’s something to be happy about!”
Lirako giggled. “I guess you’re right. After all, even if we do keep it a secret, it’s our dirty little secret, and there’s something kind of fun about the idea of never telling him we know!”
She stared out the window. “Still, I’m not sure I want to keep it a secret…”

—–
Dosa-Mina shuddered.
“You alright, son? You’re not catching a cold or anything, are you?”
“No, I think I’m fine. Just a shiver.”
Dosa-Mina shuddered again. “Ugh, I feel uncomfortable…”

7.584.That First Friend

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 584
“That First Friend”

The central of the neighborhood was abuzz with noise that afternoon as children played together. Their raucous noise was infectious to their nearby parents, who instead of chatting mundanely like they normally did, had begun to play with each other, running around and giving hearty laughs.
Despite the cheerful mood of most other people there, Dosa-Mina couldn’t find it in him to share in it. He had believed that once he and his parents had moved to Bledger, the knowledge of him being a Werewolf-Siren would disappear. Everyone except his parents would see him as a Normal from then on.
Those hopes had been quickly dashed. Once they saw his parents nearly everyone knew, and those who didn’t were quickly corrected in that Dosa-Mina was their biological son and not adopted. He did want to play with the other children, but a pervasive fear that someone would question him on his species kept him from doing so. More than not wanting his species to be known, he didn’t want the other children to know that he was half and half.
“Hi, Dslellular!”
Dosa-Mina looked up. The girl who had approached him was called Xarta Sirlie-Baecho–Dosa-Mina had met her soon after moving to the neighborhood along with the rest of her family. She seemed nice enough, but he was still reluctant to approach anyone.
“Hi, Xarta.”
“Why’re you so down? Everyone else is playing. Why, nobody want to play with you? I can play with you. The tag kids were getting bored of me anyway. It’s not my fault I’m so great at tag!”
“I’m just…never mind, it’s not important.”
“Yeah it is. You’re sad and you’re leaving yourself out. What’s wrong?”
“…” Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure how to respond. Something gave him the feeling that Sirlie-Baecho wasn’t going to leave him alone unless she got a response. “I’m just kind of sad. I didn’t want anyone in the neighborhood to know about my species.”
“Why not?”
“Just…’cause.”
Sirlie-Baecho sighed. “It is pretty weird that you always look like a Normal, but why should that keep you from playing with everyone else?”
“I thought the other kids would just ask me about it, so I didn’t want to risk it.”
“Most of us will play with you anyway. We live in Vaelyn, Dslellular! Remember, we care more about if you came from overseas than if you’re a Werewolf-Siren! Besides, that’s a fun combination!”
“…”
“But I don’t care if you want to be a Werewolf-Siren or a Normal. I just want you to smile. You’re breaking the mood here! So let’s play! I still feel like playing tag, after all!”
“…” Dosa-Mina sighed. “I guess we can play for a little bit.”
“Okay! But I’ll show you, I really am a tag master!”
Sirlie-Baecho clapped her hands, and wings sprouted from her back. Dosa-Mina felt slightly at ease. Perhaps he was letting his worry get to him a bit too much. Even if the people in the neighborhood knew his species, that was still just the people in the neighborhood. And so long as people didn’t see him in his true form, maybe things wouldn’t be so bad.
After all, it wasn’t as if there was anything he could do about it now that it was common knowledge.

***

Dosa-Mina head out to the neighborhood central. It had been a while since he had been out there, and today the central was fairly empty–most of the time children or teenagers would be hanging out around there, but today only one person was there ahead of him, and that was Sirlie-Baecho.
Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure why his old friend had summoned him so suddenly, but with nothing better to do he figured it wouldn’t hurt to meet with her. He sat down on the bench next to her.
“Hi, Sirlie,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Hey. I’m glad you actually came. I really thought you were gonna ditch.”
“Why would I do that? You’re my longtime friend.”
“Yeah, but we haven’t really been getting together much lately, have we? After all, you’re with that San-Kyung boy a lot now. I’ve seen he makes you happy. That makes me happy.”
“Yeah, we are pretty close. But you’re still a good friend of mine too.”
“I know that. And I wouldn’t have called you out here if I wasn’t a little concerned.”
Now that was unexpected. “What about?”
“Well, you haven’t been coming outside often, but I’ve seen the looks on your face when you do. You don’t seem as happy lately. What’s up? You know I’m gonna be the first to question you when you’re sad. ….okay, maybe more like the fourth, but I’d be the first if I had my way.”
“Oh….well, it’s nothing really. Just a couple of minor things. San-Kyung’s a little down, and before Summer break, there were two girls who were bothering us.”
“Like at Deatrou?”
“No, not like that. I can handle that. It’s a lot different…they’re suspicious about my true species.”
“Oh man. Geez, Dosa-Mina, I don’t think that’s gonna stay a secret forever. You do pull it off pretty flawlessly, but it isn’t even completely a secret now.”
“I’ll keep trying to keep it hidden anyway. Hopefully they’ll guess wrong and I can prove otherwise. But they kept asking me to sing, so I’m really worried…you can’t just pass that one off with incompetence, after all. I can’t sing badly, and even if I could it wouldn’t change the effects.”
“Yeah…well, you know you’re always welcome to come to me with your problems, right? I’ll lend an ear. I actually wish you would rely on me more when it comes to your problems. I feel kind of overshadowed by San-Kyung sometimes.”
“Sorry.”
Sirlie-Baecho shook her head. “‘s fine, I know you two are close. And it’s not like you’re the only one with other friends. I’ve got a few friends at my school. I just can’t help but remember playing with you when we were younger. We’d come up with games that lasted us so long they’d go into a week before we were done! Remember the pirate adventure game?”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “Yeah, I remember that one. I think that took us longer than a week, though!”
“Maybe, but point stands, it took a long time for us to finish that one!”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “I’m really sorry we haven’t gotten together much lately, Sirlie. Things have been weird ever since I became a teenager.”
“What doesn’t become weird after you hit the big one-three? But quit apologizing. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay, that’s all. Seeing you happy is my top priority. And hey, we haven’t talked for months, and this conversation wasn’t awkward at all.”
Dosa-Mina smiled, and Sirlie-Baecho pulled him into a hug. “Geez, Dosa-Mina, you’re such a cutie now! No wonder that San-Kyung boy likes you so much. Sometimes I feel less like your best friend and more like yer doting big sister!”
“You’re younger than me though, aren’t you?”
“Hey!” She ruffled his hair and let him go. “But seriously. If there’s one thing I have over this San-Kyung boy, it’s that I get to see the shy and awkward side of you. That in and of itself makes me happy. And there’s one thing I can do for you that he can’t.”
“What’s that?”
Sirlie-Baecho clapped her hands and grabbed him from the waist. “Show you what it’s like to fly!” She took off into the sky, only struggling slightly with Dosa-Mina’s weight–it was his height that she was having a harder time of managing.
“Geez, why are you so tall now!?”
‘I guess now would be a bad time to tell her about the levitation,’ he thought. ‘Oh well, I can enjoy this for now…’

—–
When Dosa-Mina returned home, Sirlie-Baecho accompanied him. Elai-Riya greeted the two, and she smiled when she spotted Sirlie-Baecho.
“Hello there, Sirlie-Baecho,” Elai-Riya said. “It sure has been a while since you’ve come by here.”
“Yeah. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of the pumpkin boy, though. I ain’t gonna stay long. Just reconnecting with Dosa-Mina.”
She hugged him again. “You come to me if anything’s wrong, a’ight? Even if we spend three years apart, we’ll still be friends. I ain’t gonna judge you.”
“Thanks, Sirlie.” He hugged back. “Not sure I’ll take you up on that, though. You know I don’t like talking about myself.”
“I know, I know. Well then, come over if you need someone to cheer you up, then?”
“Sounds good. I think I’ll take you up on that offer.”
Sirlie-Baecho let him go and waved to Elai-Riya. “Bye bye, Dslellulars! And see you soon or later, doesn’t matter–I look forward to our next meeting anyway, Dosa-Mina.”
She clapped her hands and flew off. Dosa-Mina closed the door.
“It’s nice to see that you still get along with her after all these years,” Elai-Riya said. “Especially considering she’s a lot nicer than San-Kyung is.”
“Well, San-Kyung is San-Kyung and Sirlie is Sirlie. And they’re both very important to me, just for different reasons.”
‘I never consider her when I think about my and San-Kyung’s plan,’ he realized. ‘Demons are long-lived, but maybe, just maybe…maybe he and I can wait for her. I’ll have to look into something to help extend the lifespans of Animated Pumpkins along with Operation Reboot, just in case.’

21.567.Operation Reboot

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 567
“Operation Reboot”

In the early morning hours of Tuesday, San-Kyung was startled alert by a sudden phone call.
“Hiii, San-Kyung! Hope I didn’t wake you up too suddenly!”
“I wasn’t asleep, though if I was tired before I’m not now,” he said. “What are you calling for?”
“Tell me, San-Kyung, if I said I had something to talk with you about, where would you say we should talk about it at? At your house? At mine? Ooh, maybe at Hledshess!?”
“Why can’t we talk about it over the phone? I have nothing better to do.”
“Because I feel like seeing you. After yesterday I have to admit, it can be pretty lonely when you’re home alone and both your parents work. You’re lucky, having a stay-at-home mom.”
“You might not consider it so lucky with some of the things she says. …do I have to pick?”
“You know, if you’re feeling lazy you could just ask me to come over there. With jumps like mine it’s not that long a trip.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Fine, come over here, then. I’ll see you soon, I guess.”
“I’ll have to get ready first, but you’ll definitely see me within the hour! Until then, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina hung up. ‘He sounded pretty excited. I wonder what’s going on.’
Even though he was curious about what had Dosa-Mina so riled up, at the same time he felt uneasy. He knew Dosa-Mina could be cheerful, but after the strange way he had been acting and incidents such as his cutting or Airy-Aekok, Dosa-Mina’s hyper-cheerful attitude sent off warning signals for San-Kyung.
‘He acted like that before when he had problems. I wonder if something’s wrong.’
“San-Kyung, dear? Are you feeling thirsty? I poured you a glass of water, if you’d like.”
San-Kyung pushed the thought aside and head to the dining room. “I can pour my own glasses of water, you know.”
“I know, I just thought it would get your attention.”
“Hm.” San-Kyung took a sip.
“Were you talking to Dosa-Mina?”
“How could you tell?”
“It’s always obvious when you are, San-Kyung. You seem to, ah, raise your voice a little while talking over the phone.”
“…I was getting to that, anyway.”
“What is it?”
“Dosa-Mina said he’s going to come over.”
“Oh, that’s nice. Though I really wish he’d ask for my permission sometimes instead of yours.”
“He’s not good, Mom.”
“Yes, but he isn’t evil, either. Oh well, I guess I’ll never understand neutrals.”

Dosa-Mina arrived in the midst of a mundane conversation between San-Kyung and Del-Kyuus, bringing with him a large bag.
“What did you bring, Dosa-Mina?” Del-Kyuus asked.
“Oh, nothing really. Just some stuff that’s relevant to what I came over for. But that’s all stuff that only San-Kyung would care about!”
“It isn’t nefarious, is it?”
“Mrs. Molshei, when it comes to nefarious you should be looking closer at your own son rather than his best friend,” he said coyly. “Now, if there’s nothing else for you to do, come along, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina led the way to San-Kyung’s bedroom. “I know where my bedroom is, by the way.”
“I’m aware, but I intend on taking the lead in this little venture.”
“What are you planning?”
“You’ll see.” Dosa-Mina glanced around San-Kyung’s room. “Geez, you know, when it’s been a bit since you’ve been in someone’s room, it can give you a really different perspective of them.”
“What’s that supposed to mean!?”
“Your room looks like an emo’s room, that’s what it means. Seriously, how come your walls aren’t painted red? Isn’t that your favorite color?”
“It is. But this was cheaper. That’s what my parents said, anyway.”
“Oh, so it’s their fault.” Dosa-Mina put the bag on his bed. “Ah, that feels a lot better!”
“So?”
“Well, I’m gonna get to it, but you have to promise me you’re not going to start acting weird because of anything I say.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “If you’re getting the wrong idea, stop it. It’s because this little thing deals with your true form. That’s why I said this.”
San-Kyung relaxed. “Bringing that up again, aren’t you…”
“This time it’s a lot more positive than before. Instead of getting upset about what the paper said, I decided to take some action. You see, the paper may have rendered the certain methods we were looking at as ineffective, but when I put some thought and study into it, I realized that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible for you to have another way to transform.”
“I doubt it’s possible.”
“Don’t doubt now! I know when something’s not possible, San-Kyung. You know what’s not possible? A non-avian spontaneously sprouting wings and flying. This one is debatable. Perhaps there’s something we missed. We were pretty focused on La-Iin being the trigger, after all. But now we need to look at things differently and closely, and by the way San-Kyung, if you could be in your true form all the time but you wouldn’t get the power boost, how would you feel about that?”
“Huh?”
“If you could transform physically but you were still, y’know, weak in November.”
San-Kyung’s expression became blank. “Because that could be a possibility.”
“It’s better than what I have now,” he said. “Is that possible?”
“Well, I was looking into it as a possibility. You see, I haven’t done much research on Witches and Warlocks because there’s just so much stuff on them it’s annoying to sift through it all! But I realized it could be a possibility. And if I find out that it’s possible, I’ll tell you how to do it right away.”
“As much as I’d love the power, if I could at least look like myself…”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “I understand how you feel. Sort of. But I thought this project should be started because it isn’t hopeless yet. We just got side-tracked because all our hard work was for nothing. But just because that was a waste doesn’t make it impossible. And we’ve had our time to get our frustration out. Now it’s time to get back to work, and this project, I dub it ‘Operation Reboot’!”
“Did you have to give it a ridiculous name like that?”
“I figured it might lighten the mood if I did.”
“Well, you might just be wasting your time with ‘Operation Reboot’ as well,” San-Kyung said. “Just as you’re saying that it might be possible we overlooked something with our one-track search it could be possible there’s nothing to find and that this will only waste more of our time.”
“San-Kyung…”
“But, if you’re right and there’s a chance that another method is possible, then I don’t mind going along with whatever ridiculous scheme you dream up. It’s been hard for me lately to get motivated…the idea of having to go through November while I follow through with my goal always seemed like a major disadvantage. But I don’t want to be like that. And maybe it won’t be easy, but I’ll take a chance if it’s there.”
“There’s the San-Kyung I know and love,” Dosa-Mina said. “Where have you been hiding all this year?”
“All this year?”
“The whole, er, cutting thing at the beginning of the year kinda soured your mood too.”
“Yeah, well, I know I need to try and do better than I have been. So…I guess that makes ‘Operation Reboot’ a go. It’s weird, considering the original plan you didn’t want anything to do with at first.”
“People can change, and people can be pushed to do some pretty out-of-character things for the people they care about. But I’m glad, San-Kyung. So I’ll keep looking! I haven’t been doing as much species study as I had been in the past too. Both of us have been pretty off. So this is our chance to get back to where we were before!”
“Yeah!”
“So let’s do this!”
San-Kyung clenched a fist. “Operation Reboot is a go! We start immediately!”
“Immediately? I didn’t bring any books!”
“That doesn’t matter! The project’s started now and there’s no going back.”
Dosa-Mina opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the door opening.
“Mom?”
“Sorry, I heard you two yelling and I wanted to make sure everything was alright,” Del-Kyuus said. “But it looks like everything’s fine!”
“You didn’t need to worry at all, Mrs. Molshei. I think things are better than they have been in a while!”
“I agree.”
Del-Kyuus narrowed her eyes. “I’m not taking your word on that until I see some actual evidence!”
“Well, hopefully you’ll get to see that soon.” To the surprise of both Dosa-Mina and Del-Kyuus, San-Kyung cracked a smile.

—–
“San-Kyung, your father is–what happened!?”
“We got into a bit of a scuffle, Mrs. Molshei,” Dosa-Mina said. He was covered in dust and Del-Kyuus could spot what appeared to be a bruise on his face. “But nothing major.”
“A scuffle!?”
“Yeah, like the early days,” San-Kyung said. Del-Kyuus gave an exasperated sputter.
“How is that a good thing!?”
“It’s not really. But at least it tells me I haven’t lost San-Kyung yet!”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I mean I still see some of those traits I thought you’d lost!” He giggled. Though he smiled and spoke with a happy tone, San-Kyung noticed discomfort in his eyes, and all at once his feeling of unease returned.

4.520.Contemplation and Consideration

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 520
“Contemplation and Consideration”

“I gave you those nightmares.”
“I wanted to prevent what happens in your nightmares from happening again.”

Those two sentences had been repeating on a constant loop within Dosa-Mina’s mind ever since Sunday, and still he felt he couldn’t make sense of the situation at all. Each time he tried to think of some sort of reasonable conclusion, he fell short.
On one hand, it was incredibly likely that Kkumneok was a creation of his mind. On another, what he had said about visiting San-Kyung’s dream, and that San-Kyung had dreamed someone similar to him at all, rose many questions.
On one hand, it seemed improbable that someone from wherever Kkumneok was, be it another time or the future, could exist at all–even with the absurdities of a Witch’s powers existing in the world, it simply made no sense. On the other hand, the events were so clear in his dream that he almost felt like he himself were living through them. Some nights he could barely tell he was in the midst of a nightmare.
No matter what kind of sense he tried to make of it, it didn’t seem to make any, and slowly he was feeling as though he was being driven mad. He felt terrible for focusing so much time on the subject–he could tell his parents were more than a little curious about the way he had been acting recently–especially when San-Kyung had an immediate issue that he knew he should attend to. His time was better spent, and more enjoyably spent, searching for another way or at least a certainty that transforming permanently was absolutely and undeniably impossible.
Though with the state San-Kyung’s mind was in, he strongly hoped against the latter.
The state of his friend’s mind and Kkumneok’s words had stirred within him another concern. If perhaps all of what he said was true, and there was some reasonable explanation–perhaps if he came from the future, there Witches and Warlocks had discovered time travel, he certainly wouldn’t put it past them–wasn’t it also possible that preventing the future was impossible? All that made him consider otherwise was the nightmares he had of La-Iin’s death.
Who exactly was Kkumneok that he discovered such a way to talk to people in dreams, that he knew where to find him? Even if he met with Kkumneok in a dream again, he doubted that question of his would ever be answered.
Whatever the answer to all of these questions was, Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure he was ready for them or would particularly care to hear them. Already skeptic as he was, he had near wanted to strangle Kkumneok when he had said that he was the one who gave him his nightmares.
What was the truth in all of this? And how exactly could he find out what it was?

***

“Rival-boy, you look constipated,” La-Iin said.
“Are you alright, Dosa-Mina?” Fer-Shi asked.
“Like, this is weird. I don’t think he’s smiled for like, days now,” Airy-Aekok said.
“He’s barely smiled all this week, and he hasn’t latched on to San-Kyung once. Although that’s happened before in the past.” Lirako told her.
“I hope he’s alright.” Deki-Tyunri said.
Hearing all those students commenting on him made him want to leave the classroom right then, but he pushed down the feeling. It would only make them comment further, he knew. He glanced at San-Kyung. San-Kyung’s head was bowed and his eyes looked empty. If Dosa-Mina hadn’t been used to him making similar expressions recently, he would have been concerned.
‘The two of us sure do have a lot in common,’ he thought. ‘We both have issues with our true forms, and we’re both like this now…’
He was even more concerned about San-Kyung. This kind of behavior only reminded him of the way he acted in his nightmares–and that, in turn, reminded him of what Kkumneok had told him. It brought another thought to mind–perhaps, by meddling in the affairs of a place he didn’t belong in, Kkumneok would only cause the tragedy that happened wherever he came from to happen earlier than it was supposed to, if the tragedy had really happened at all.
The mere thought of it was enough to prompt him to unconsciously squeeze San-Kyung’s hand, and though San-Kyung shot a glance in his direction, he barely noticed it. Even if it was some sort of imagination, he still had to try his best to help San-Kyung. That much he was certain of.
“Geez, I guess some things don’t change no matter how sad they are,” Lirako sighed.
“What do you mean by that?” Asked Deki-Tyunri. Lirako pointed at the two’s hands. Deki-Tyunri lowered his head.
“Come on, Deks, you know not to get upset by that. Dosa-Mina does it all the time even if San-Kyung protests. And I think he’s too sad to protest him doing that right now.”
“Do you think I should try approaching him? I was considering it, but I…”
Lirako shook her head. “I’d love to say yes, Deki-Tyunri, but my guess is he’ll either get mad at you or it won’t matter that you went up to him because he’ll pretend you don’t exist.”
Deki-Tyunri sighed. “And I’d love to argue against that, but you’re probably right…”

***

When Dosa-Mina went to bed that night, it seemed as if a nightmare had started immediately–or rather, several of them. All around him there were square screens reflecting various events–San-Kyung’s depression, several times over. The hopelessness that Dosa-Mina felt. One happy event that was compounded by San-Kyung breaking out in tears, and their respective suicides, along with La-Iin’s.
The setup of it was enough to prompt him to call for Kkumneok, but the strange boy never arrived, and the scenery around him didn’t change. Dosa-Mina reached out to touch one of the strange screens, wondering if there was some way to turn them off and destroy the cacophony of so many tragedies occurring around him, but when he touched the one that depicted La-Iin’s suicide, it merely surrounded him and made him relive that same nightmare. On the sight of La-Iin’s suicide, as her blood started to drain, the dream began to disappear and all around him seemed to be sights comprised of the other nightmares once again and actual events from his life, both happy and sad.
As soon as Dosa-Mina woke up, he didn’t take the time to try and fight off the urge to harm himself. He simply reached for the small knife and cut several times at his scars. Once he was done he felt briefly concerned, wondering if he had cut enough to make him bleed as badly as he did in the nightmare, but when he checked the flow of blood it didn’t seem to be nearly as much as he had expected.
He felt terrible and confused. San-Kyung was falling into a depression, he didn’t know whether or not to believe Kkumneok–and either way, an explanation for why exactly that incident had happened–he had Lirako and Airy-Aekok pursuing his true species, and he was bleeding from cut wounds he had inflicted himself, cut wounds that San-Kyung already knew existed.
His own life felt as though it was on a downward spiral as well. And recovering it seemed near-impossible at the point he was at. He felt as though he should try, but he was exhausted. He rubbed a particularly sharp wound with the underside of his blanket to slow the bleeding, then lay back down, unconcerned of whether he was going to have a nightmare again or not. Whichever happened it certainly wasn’t going to affect him all that much, or at least not any more than he was already affected.
As he drifted off, he found one slightly disturbing thought crossing his mind–one that wished his and San-Kyung’s parents would die so that they could have an excuse to end themselves already.

—–
“Elai-Riya, I don’t think Dosa-Mina will be all that happy if you’re ransacking his room,” Orlin-Aesth said.
“He won’t be able to tell. See? I’m putting everything back as it was before. Dosa-Mina has an annoying habit of not telling me when he’s taken something for general usage.”
“You could just ask him when he gets back, you know.”
“I need it now! Oh, maybe he’s hiding it on his bed.”
As she lifted up his blanket, she was startled to see what looked like traces of blood.
“Orlin-Aesth, has Dosa-Mina hurt himself recently? You know, come home with a bloody knee or something like that?”
“No, he’s been fine as far as I’ve seen. Why?”
“Does that look like blood to you?”
Orlin-Aesth walked over to the blanket and sniffed at the spot. “It smells like his blood to me.”
Elai-Riya stared at it, concerned.
“He probably just hurt himself a little bit and got it on the blanket. We can ask him when he gets back.”
“I suppose so.”
Something in Elai-Riya told her that getting a clear answer from Dosa-Mina would be nigh impossible, but when he came home she broached the subject anyway.
“I did get a small injury the other day, but it wasn’t bleeding much. I guess it must have still been bleeding when I went to bed.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I’m not little anymore, Mom. I was able to take care of it. Though I guess not as well as I thought. Can I go now?”
Elai-Riya noticed, when she looked quickly, that Dosa-Mina’s hands seemed to be shaking. She was tempted to question him further, but the look in Dosa-Mina’s eyes told her that if he was hiding something, she wouldn’t get an answer anytime soon.
‘Still, what could he have been doing to get that injury if he’s worried about telling me?’
“You can go,” she sighed. Dosa-Mina smiled and head off.
‘If I can’t get through to him directly, there’s always the sneaky way,’ she reminded herself. Just the mere thought of tricking her son into talking made her feel terrible, but she felt it was her only way.

31.516.The Secret of Kkumneok

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 516
“The Secret of Kkumneok”

There was nothing he could do to get through to him, he was sure of it. Dosa-Mina glanced in San-Kyung’s direction, and when he caught sight of the expression on his face he felt utterly helpless.
‘Nothing I say is going to make him feel any better. He’s probably stuck in some sort of deadlock. I can’t make him feel better and there’s no legal way he can make himself feel better. Is this how it’s always going to be from here on out? The both of us, always sad every time we meet up?’
He didn’t want to give up either way, but just as a thought crossed his mind of something he could say to San-Kyung, the scene around him began to change. The bench he was sitting on remained, but instead of the small town where he and San-Kyung had been sitting, it was now a white expanse save for some colors that swirled around the area. San-Kyung was no longer sitting next to him on the bench.
The situation became immediately obvious to him. ‘This is just what I’ve been needing.’
“Kkumneok? I know you’re here. Why don’t you show yourself? I want to talk to you.”
From inside of the colors a familiar face peeked out at Dosa-Mina and smiled. This time, he looked identical to the time Dosa-Mina had first met him. “Hi there, Dosa-Mina. How are you today?”
“…”
“What’s with the look? Did I do something wrong? I figured you could use a happy dream, and I didn’t want to interfere. I guess you know how to detect me by now, though.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, it is pretty obvious. I’ve come by your dreams a few times and I always do the same thing when I do.” He sat down on the bench next to him. “I’m ready to change your dream to whatever you want any moment, but you said you wanted to talk to me, so, what about?”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “Something happened earlier this month. I learned a little something, and now I think I know, you’re not just a figment of my mind.”
“I thought I told you that already. I’m separate from you.”
“You’ve only ever appeared in my dreams before now, though. And even though some of the circumstances around you seemed strange, you can see where I might think you’re a figment of my mind, right?”
“I suppose so. I might think I was a figment of my mind too in the same situation.”
“Well, anyway, there’s a reason why I started thinking that…San-Kyung told me about a dream he had where a boy appeared out of nowhere and changed the scenery of his dream. A boy with hair in a white bun and horns on top of his head…exactly how you look right now, Kkumneok. And I wanted to ask you a few questions about that.”
“What are you talking about, Dosa-Mina? I’ve never been in San-Kyung’s dream before. I suppose I could go there if I wanted to, but I only have reason to visit you. I don’t know nearly enough about what goes on with San-Kyung to have a reason to visit his dreams.”
“I don’t believe you! I know you like staying enigmatic and all, but telling me whether or not you were in San-Kyung’s dream isn’t exactly compromising yourself!”
“That’s what you think!” Kkumneok exclaimed, before covering his mouth.
“Gotcha. So you were in San-Kyung’s dream.”
“Dosa-Mina, it wasn’t a matter of specifically going over to San-Kyung’s dream. I wanted to visit your dreams to see if you were having a nightmare. I made a mistake on the way there. Were you two sleeping over anytime around theN?”
“We had a sleepover recently.”
“So that could also be the problem, you see? I haven’t mastered this power, visiting people in their dreams and changing them up. I’m still an amateur in that field. So it was an honest mistake.”
“Alright, I can understand that. But you visiting San-Kyung isn’t the only thing I want to ask about. It’s also about what you changed his dream to.”
Kkumneok’s eyes widened. “I heard that you changed his dream to one where I was contemplating suicide, then made a break for it. Why would you do that when you always change my dreams to something that’s more pleasant for me? Wouldn’t you try and distract him with a dream of world domination or, or being in his true form instead of something like that?”
“I had to do something or else he’d never let me leave!”
“He would have woken up eventually if you were stuck in there, you know. Kkumneok, I know you like preserving your privacy. I can understand why you’d want to hide details about yourself. But I also can’t deny that something strange is going on! You’ve been visiting me in my dreams for months now and now I have details that might prove you really are an actual person and not just someone who exists in my head. You’re worried about a violation of your privacy, yet you’ve been violating my privacy for months and don’t seem to care about that at all!”
“Dosa-Mina, I’m sorry to upset you. But don’t you remember what I said? You and I will never meet outside of these dreams. Nothing I say or learn about you is something I could tell anybody else.”
“That’s what you say, but how can I believe you!? I don’t know who you really are behind that mask! I know nothing about you or why you picked my dreams specifically! And I’ve had enough to deal with people finding out things about me that I don’t want them to know. So out with it, Kkumneok! Give me some reason you’re here! And don’t try and escape through a dream. I know how to deal with you already.”
Kkumneok sighed. “You make one little mistake, and it affects you for the rest of your life.”
“Welcome to my world, then,” Dosa-Mina said, rolling his eyes.
“Dosa-Mina, believe me when I say I have no nefarious intentions towards coming into your dream. You’ll just have to choose to take me at my word. And I’m sorry people are finding out things about you you don’t want them to know. But this isn’t a problem I can help you with.”
“I wasn’t asking for help or pity! I was asking for answers!” His shoulders slumped. “I just want to know why you’re here. It’s already hard enough to sleep knowing any night I could have a nightmare. Now it’s going to be even harder knowing that you’re always watching me, someone who I don’t even know, whose purpose for being here he won’t tell me.”
“I’m not always watching you!”
“How am I supposed to know that? I don’t trust you anymore, Kkumneok. And all this is for me is more sleep loss. So if you’re not going to bother being decent enough to tell me your purpose, then just go.”
Silence reigned in the white dimension, and Dosa-Mina stared off into it, waiting for the moment that Kkumneok would change the scene around him and he could forget the confrontation. But after what felt like a long while, Kkumneok began to speak.
“I…I had to come to your dream, Dosa-Mina. You were suffering with those nightmares. You cut yourself up because of them. And maybe that sounds ridiculous to you. Why come to your dreams specifically if there are plenty of people all over the world who suffer from nightmares constantly? But this one was a different situation. Not only were you hurting yourself, I…” Kkumneok sucked in a breath.
“I gave you those nightmares.”
Dosa-Mina stared wide-eyed at him for only moments before the fury hit him. “What!?”
Kkumneok flinched. “Please, Dosa-Mina, you have to understand, at the time that I did this, I was desperate! I didn’t understand a better way to come to you.”
“So every single night I had one, even after you came to visit me for the first time, you gave me these nightmares!? Even tonight!? Even the other day!? Then why bother coming to stop them!?”
“No, that’s not it!” It was hard to hear any of what Kkumneok said through the thoughts raging through his head, but he tried to keep his temper under wraps by balling his hand into a fist. “I caused the nightmares initially. But that was only in about the first year or so. By now it must be your own mind repeating them back to you. But if you were in my situation, you would understand! I wanted to prevent what happens in your nightmares from happening again!”
Dosa-Mina blinked. “Happening again? What do you mean?”
Kkumneok turned away from him. “I understand if you’re mad with me, Dosa-Mina. And I understand if you don’t believe me. It sounds ridiculous. Until I tried it myself, I didn’t think visiting you in dreams or giving you nightmares was possible. I understand it all too much. All I want to ask is that you try to avoid what happened to you three where I come from. But I won’t bother you anymore. It’s not my place to meddle with events I’m not a part of.”
A portal opened up in front of Kkumneok, and he walked inside. The dream remained a white expanse with the bench sitting in the middle, but all Dosa-Mina could think about was all of what Kkumneok had just told him.

—–
“Dosa-Mina? You alright?”
Orlin-Aesth’s words didn’t reach his ears. He was too lost in thought over what had happened.
‘How does any of that make sense? Someone traveling from another place or time to visit someone who died where they come from? That sounds like a book. And maybe it is. Maybe he was just using it as an excuse. Even Witches and Warlocks have a logical explanation for their strange powers. But none of that has any explanation at all.’
“Dosa-Mina?” Elai-Riya called.
“It’s nothing, Mom,” he sighed. His parents shot each other concerned looks, but unsure of what was getting their son down, they dropped the subject from there, though they kept a close eye on him.
‘What other explanation is there, though? Why else would I have such vivid nightmares about San-Kyung’s death if they weren’t events that someone else knew about?’

29.514.Suicidal Pact

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 514
“Suicidal Pact”

“Take this, San-Kyung!” Dosa-Mina yelled. He ran at him.
“Ha! You think that’s enough to stop me? It’s not even enough to dissuade me! When you’re going against someone with as much power as me, you should know your place!”
“Says you! But I know your one true weakness!”
“I have no weaknesses!”
“You might say that, but I know that’s a lie!”
“Try proving this theory of yours, then!” San-Kyung began to run off.
“I think I will!” Dosa-Mina chased after him, and while at first he could barely keep up, soon enough he was keeping pace with San-Kyung and almost running faster than him. Once he was close, he leaped onto San-Kyung and knocked him to the ground.
“Oof! Are you saying my weakness is being knocked down!? Because I can recover from such a thing!”
Dosa-Mina nuzzled his neck. “No, I’m saying your weakness is your embarrassment! And I know just how to cause that!”
San-Kyung’s cheeks turned pink. “All right, all right, Dosa-Mina, I get it! You don’t have to keep doing that.”
“I like doing it, though.”
San-Kyung gave him a quizzical look before pushing him off to stand up and stretch.
“Boy, am I glad we’re closer in height again! Being taller than you really made playing like this difficult.”
“Yeah, well, we might be the same height now, but my Mom and Dad say I’m going to tower above you someday.”
“We’ll see. Us Dslellulars can be pretty tall!”
San-Kyung glanced around the area. “This place is boring. And the teenagers are going to be out soon.”
“Why does that matter? We’re teenagers too!”
“It doesn’t matter that they’re teenagers, it matters that they’re people who are going to get in our way,” he said. “Why don’t we play over by there? Then we’ll be out of their line of sight.”
“Won’t your parents be worried?”
“No. They say they’re less worried about what I do now that I play with you all the time.”
“Aw, they really trust me, don’t they?” Dosa-Mina said sheepishly. “Okay, let’s head over there! Say, what are we gonna play when we get over there, San-Kyung?”
“I don’t know yet. It’s hard to think about what to play sometimes. I want to do some of these things for real, not just pretend. It’s frustrating.”
“Well, maybe over there there’ll be a nice little pond you can set on fire.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “My fire goes out in water.”
“If you boil the water, it won’t go out!” He chirped.
San-Kyung made a noise Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure if it was a huff or a chuckle. The two of them continued onwards towards the forestry, Dosa-Mina thinking on what they might play and San-Kyung on what they could do to make their play-sessions more enjoyable.
“Alright, I’ve got an idea,” San-Kyung said as they entered the forestry. “The two of us are going to have a test of stamina.”
“A test of stamina? Are you trying to lose, San-Kyung?”
“What makes you think I’ll lose?”
Dosa-Mina stretched. “I have lots of stamina! What makes you think you’ll win?”
“I have plenty of stamina as well, especially since I don’t use mine up as much! And even if I lose, that’s a good thing for me. I want to test the limits of my stamina. The more stamina I have, the better it is for the future.”
“I guess having lots of stamina is a good thing for anyone,” he said. “Okay, how about we start with a race? A race is a good way to test your stamina! We’ll race all around this forest and whoever keeps running when the other one stops is the winner!”
“You’re on!”
The two boys readied themselves, then both took off across the forestry, running as fast as they could go. San-Kyung felt full of energy, especially with the sun still shining down on him through breaks in the trees. He couldn’t see Dosa-Mina after only a short time running, and wondered if he had made it ahead of him.
‘It won’t stay that way for long!’ San-Kyung pushed himself to run faster and turned around a bend in the trees. He kept going, shutting his eyes against the force of the wind and dust blowing in his face, and only came to a stop when he heard a shriek from a familiar voice.
“Dosa-Mina!?”
Dosa-Mina was lying nearby a patch of rocks and water, holding tight to his shoulder. San-Kyung quickly noticed blood welling between his fingers.
“Dosa-Mina!”
Dosa-Mina didn’t respond, instead grit his teeth and stood up on unsteady legs. San-Kyung felt unsure of what to do. Just as he was contemplating piggybacking Dosa-Mina, he noticed him give him a smile.
“Don’t worry, San-Kyung,” he breathed. “I’m okay. But we should head back, right now…”
His eyes looked glazed over with pain, but Dosa-Mina walked forward, slowly but steady. San-Kyung followed after him and kept a close eye on the wound. Blood still welled between his fingers, but it seemed to be slowing.
It didn’t matter that that was the case, however–San-Kyung was still terrified, and he knew the exact reason why.

***

“It doesn’t look like you broke your shoulder,” started Salsh-Era as he pressed down on the injury. Dosa-Mina yelped.
“Sorry, sorry! Anyway, it’s a good thing it stopped bleeding when it did. If it kept bleeding like that, we’d have had to take you to the hospital.”
“That doesn’t make it any better, though!” Del-Kyuus asked. “Dosa-Mina, do you want to head home? If you’d like, we can take you home ourselves.”
“Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Molshei,” he said. “It’s fine. I kind of want to wait for the pain to die down a bit first. Being in pain and having Mom and Dad worried about me sounds like even more of a pain….”
“We should contact them anyway,” Salsh-Era told Del-Kyuus. “You boys hang tight. We’re going to call the Dslellulars.”
San-Kyung’s parents head out the room. As soon as they were gone, Dosa-Mina glanced at San-Kyung.
“Don’t worry about it, San-Kyung, it’s not like it’s your fault. I don’t know what I was thinking, running into that patch of rocks. It was stupid. And besides, I didn’t break my shoulder!” He lifted up his right arm, only to wince soon after. “Although I must’ve hit it pretty hard…”
“You were losing a lot of blood at first,” San-Kyung said. “I really thought you weren’t going to be able to stand and I was going to have to take you home. And I don’t know if I have the stamina to do that.”
“Well, if you’re worried about that, then we should totally do another test of stamina, just next time, in a safer area. But I’ll be fine, San-Kyung. It was a hard fall, and sure, I broke the skin, but I’m sure that by tomorrow, I’ll be all right.”
“It just made me think. What if you had hit your head then? With how much you bled, that would have been bad.”
“Let’s not talk about worse situations than what actually happened, alright?” Dosa-Mina said, a chuckle in his voice.
“…you know, I’ve actually been thinking about something lately. Before I had you, all I had were my parents. I hate everyone else. You’re the first person who I met and liked who has the chance to outlive me. My parents will probably go before me. Maybe we haven’t known each other for all our life, but you’re really important to me anyway, Dosa-Mina.”
“Aw, thanks, San-Kyung. You’re really important to me, too. I think of all my friends, you’re my best friend.”
“…thanks. But yeah, that and this had me thinking…even though I think that’s how things are probably going to go, what if that’s not how they end up? What if something happens to you before I go? I’ve never had a friend as good as you. I’ve never even had a friend before. The thought of living without you, it…”
Dosa-Mina noticed San-Kyung’s face tighten. “Are you alright, San-Kyung? I’ll be fine. I eat plenty of meat and I’m half-Werewolf! You might not be able to tell if you don’t know me, but I’m pretty sturdy.”
“What about you, Dosa-Mina? What would you do if something happened to me way before my time? I mean, if I got into an accident or something?”
Dosa-Mina’s expression became somber. “I’d be devastated.”
“You never know what might happen in life. I didn’t even think that you might fall on those rocks, or that those rocks even existed. Worse things could happen to us. And so I was thinking. My parents are a different story entirely. They’re definitely good, and they’re a lot older than me. They’d never listen to me if I said something like this, and I came to terms with the thought of losing them a long time ago. But you’re a different story. You’re not like them. You’re closer in age to me and you consider yourself neutral, right? So maybe you’ll hear me out on this.”
“I’ll always hear you out, San-Kyung. If I can listen to you go on and on about world domination, I can listen to this.”
“I don’t go on and on about it!” He snapped, then sighed.
“I was thinking that…well, if we died together, we wouldn’t even have to think about living life without each other. We’d both be going out at the same time.”
“What?”
“Have you ever heard of a suicide pact, Dosa-Mina?”
“I have,” he said. “…you really mean this, San-Kyung? You want to avoid losing me this much? Isn’t that kind of drastic?”
“Maybe it sounds drastic to you, but I don’t care. Besides, I prefer to take hold of things than let people take it away from me. Dying by my own hand, I don’t leave it in time’s hands or in someone else’s. It’s all up to me. And then, I don’t have to lose you, either. I’m not saying we do this tomorrow or anything. That would be ridiculous and…and I don’t really want to upset my parents. I’m sure you don’t want to upset yours, either.”
Dosa-Mina shook his head.
“But maybe someday in the future, when life has nothing left to offer us, we’ll do it. Whatever way we do it, we’ll go out together. And we’ll have no regrets.”
He sighed. “That’s up to you, though.”
“I thought you liked taking hold of things?”
“I do, but you have to make this decision as well. Your life is a part of it, after all.”
Dosa-Mina closed his eyes. “It does sound pretty drastic, San-Kyung. But you’re right, someday life might not have anything else to offer us. I’ve thought about losing you before, and I…well, if I’m not hurting any of my loved ones, then what’s wrong with preventing a little extra pain for myself?”
“So what do you say?”
“Let’s do it. Someday far in the future, when life has nothing left to offer us. Wherever we go, that doesn’t matter. I’ll be dying alongside my best friend in the whole world.”
San-Kyung pat his hand. “Thanks, Dosa-Mina.”
“Hey, don’t thank me. I just agreed to do it. But I’ll prepare myself for whenever that day comes. It’s better than preparing myself for you to take out yoursel….”
“What?”
“Er, nothing.”
San-Kyung gave him a quizzical look. “When that day comes, we’ll be ready. I know we will. Just stay safe before that day comes.”
“I’ll do my best, San-Kyung.”

—–
In the middle of school that day, San-Kyung found himself thinking back on that day that the two of them had made their promise. He glanced at Dosa-Mina, who was focused on Hyungdarou’s teachings.
‘That day isn’t here yet. And it won’t be, for a while. At least, it shouldn’t be. Either way, our promise was for both of us. Not just for me.’

19.504.Nightmare Premonitions?

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 504
“Nightmare Premonitions?”

“San-Kyung, you’ve seemed pretty down lately. Is everything alright? Nothing wrong at the homebase?”
“Everything’s fine at home. Though, geez, I need to find my own place. Mom and Dad say it’s alright, but I’m about to be twenty! I like living with them, but I’m ready to go out on my own.”
“That’s good to hear. Nothing else wrong, then?”
“Not exactly.”
“What’s up?”
San-Kyung began to look slightly nervous. He rubbed the back of his neck. “…never mind. It isn’t anything big. Was there something you wanted to do today?”
“Not particularly. And don’t just brush off your problems with never mind, either. If there’s something up, tell me about it!”
“You sound like Mom and Dad,” he said. “And I said never mind. It’s not a problem you can do anything about, anyway.”
“Oh, come on! You don’t know that.”
“I do know that, and I wish I didn’t,” he said, his expression becoming dejected. “So just–ease off, alright?”
“San-Kyung?”
To him, at that moment, San-Kyung felt distant and withdrawn. The feeling was frustrating, but at the same time, he doubted continuing to press him would do either of them any favors. He decided to grant his friend’s request and stopped talking about the subject.

“There’s no place in this world for someone like me, Dosa-Mina. I know you hate hearing it, but it’s true. And it’s not because oh, I don’t want a place in this world or anything, but simply because I was born needing everything that’s impossible for me. True form? Yeah, screw that. Want to be evil? Jump through hoops and get arrested because you’re incompetent. I can’t even bring myself to talk to my parents about this, and I can’t stand telling you about it. But now that I’ve started, I can’t stop.”
“I’m glad you talk to me about it, San-Kyung. It worried me when you clammed up. I’m always here to lend an ear, and besides, you know I’m not judging you.”
“Yeah, you say that. But I don’t know that for sure. And it doesn’t matter anyway. This world is garbage. What’s here in it to bring me any pleasure? It’s set up for other people, not somebody like me. Somebody like me is the kind of person they want locked away. The more time that passes, the less I find joy in the world. Eventually it’s going to reach a point where even that is impossible for me.”
“You set yourself up for failure when you say things like that.”
San-Kyung scoffed. “Considering what I threw around in my head? It’s a wonder I haven’t failed already. Eventually I’m going to reach my tipping point, and once I do there’s no turning back.”
Dosa-Mina pat his hand. “Don’t do anything drastic, okay?”
San-Kyung sighed. “I’m not sure if you’re trying to help or trying to stop me.”
“Stop you from what? I was trying to help.”
San-Kyung smiled, though his expression was pained. “Just like you always are,” was all he said.

***

Dosa-Mina woke up. He took a deep breath. His throat didn’t feel rough, so he figured he hadn’t screamed. And he wasn’t surprised that he hadn’t–the dream wasn’t the suicide nightmare that usually plagued him whenever his nightmares were in full force.
But Dosa-Mina had a different problem with the nightmares that had recently been occuring. Ever since the discovery that San-Kyung’s intended method of achieving his true form was most likely impossible, his dreams had been filled with the same odd sight of an older San-Kyung in the throes of depression.
‘I told myself these nightmares can’t be premonitions. Even Kkumneok told me that. If they were then wouldn’t he bring up La-Iin? But why now? Is it because this has been on my mind, or is this just happening for no reason?’
Whatever the cause, while it wasn’t as terrifying as his most common nightmare, it left him feeling empty and sad. There had to be something he could do for San-Kyung–and even if that wasn’t right now, he knew his friend had a release. He would never reach the point that the San-Kyung in his dreams did.
At least, he hoped that was the case.

***

“Why did you suggest we go out to Hledshess?”
“Because we haven’t been out here in a while. Also, I had some stuff on my mind and we used to come here a lot when there were things going on.”
“Are you finally going to tell me more of what’s going on with you?”
“There’s nothing to tell right now. The issue at hand isn’t with me. It’s with you.” Dosa-Mina looked away from him. “I was thinking. You and I have put a lot of time and effort into seeing if we can figure out some way to use the power that La-Iin has. Is it something innate within you that you haven’t figured out yet? Can you use it by coming in close contact with her? Is there something we’re overlooking? And then it gets shot down by some paper written by someone we don’t even know. All the time we spent and the hope we put into this, all ruined because of some paper written by an anonymous. It was incredibly disheartening and frustrating for me to reach the end of the paper. I can imagine it was even worse for you.”
San-Kyung glared and crossed his arms. “So? Was the point of coming here just so you could mock me about what happened?”
“You know me better than that, San-Kyung. I’d never do something like that. I’ve had you on my mind a lot lately, as well as that subject. Is there still something we’re missing? Maybe the paper hasn’t detailed everything and we can still find a way, just not one that deals with La-Iin. Already, before she showed us that paper, we were entertaining the idea of her being completely useless to your plan. But that wasn’t the point. I was thinking about you, being sad about all that had happened….sad and angry. I wanted to help you. And so this is what I came up with.”
Dosa-Mina motioned towards Hledshess. “You and I used to wreak so much havoc in Hledshess that the people who live here were scared to come out of their houses for fear of what we might do. So I say, do that again! Let out all the anger in you in a messy explosion of emotions! Maybe that’s an overdramatic way to put it, but I don’t care. Destruction is your passion–if you can’t reach your goal, follow your passion.”
“…what?”
“Didn’t you understand any of that? I was saying you should cause destruction. Let out your feelings that way. It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”
“Why’re you encouraging this? You never cared for it in the past.”
“I might not care for it, but behavior like that is distinctly San-Kyung.” He smiled. “So go ahead and do it.”
Dosa-Mina noticed San-Kyung’s hands begin to twitch. He walked forward a few steps, then rose vines from the ground. He began to weave an overhang above Hledshess and walk underneath it. Dosa-Mina followed after him, curious as to what he might do.
Caught somewhat in the overhang was a strange mesh that was still partway in the ground. Before Dosa-Mina could warn him, San-Kyung stepped into the mesh and fell over. Fury crossed his face and his hands burst into flames as he burned away the mesh and the vines in a whirlwind of fire. Dosa-Mina stood back as the vines collapsed and burned away into ash along with most of the mesh, which by now had been pulled from the ground and San-Kyung had freed himself from.
“It doesn’t even matter if I do this,” he said. “My powers are pathetic.”
“So? They give you the destructive ability you want. You’ve got seed bombs and fire on your side. And then you can create vines. I’m sure those have brought you a lot of comfort.”
San-Kyung rose a vine from the ground and stared at it as if it were foreign. “…everything we did was useless. I wasted your time. I wasted my time. That’s all any of this is, a waste of time. I don’t do anything that amounts to anything. And without the ability to transform at will, or permanently retain my true form, without that how can I rule the world?”
Dosa-Mina pat him on the back. “You’ll find a way. And if you think the things you do are a waste of time, find something to do that you don’t see as a waste of time. You’ll find a way to cope, San-Kyung. And maybe someday you’ll find what you’ve been looking for. But for now that seems out of reach. And I brought you here to grieve.”
“You are being so overdramatic,” San-Kyung said. Dosa-Mina noticed a waver in his voice.
“Maybe,” he sighed. “But I’ve been keeping in my own outburst. My own way of letting that all out was seeing you have one.”
San-Kyung wiped at his eyes. He repeated his earlier spectacle one last time before sitting down and covering his face.

—–
“Say, now that it looks like La-Iin won’t be any use, do you plan on ditching her as a friend?”
“Not yet. She might not be useful to me in terms of power, but I think there’s something else I can gleam from her.”
“Sure you’re not starting to see her as a friend?”
“No way! There’s no world I’d like that disgusting reverse pedo.”
“I don’t think reverse pedo is the right term, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina giggled. “You’d think someone with your smarts would know that.”
“You shut up!” He said. “But thanks for taking me out here. I think I needed that.”
“Any time. Hledshess is good for emotional outbursts, I think. Maybe if I ever really do need to explode I’ll do it here. But not while you’re watching.”
“When you say it like that, it sounds kind of suspicious.”
“Maybe it is kind of suspicious. But I’d rather have it that way than out in the open.”

“…the adolescents destroyed our trap for them…”
“Don’t worry about this, my citizens,” Jwungeok said. “We’ll create another one. And perhaps our prior luck will continue. I think finally, those adolescents are beginning to see there’s more to the world than just decimating Hledshess.”
“For your own sake I hope you’re right.”
Jwungeok glared. “Is that a threat, Mr. Uun?”

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.’

6.491.Rivalry and Friendships

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 491
“Rivalry and Friendships”

“La-Iin, what are you doing?”
“I’ve gotten an amazing opportunity, Mama,” she said, turning away from her table. “And I plan on using this opportunity to my advantage.”
“What opportunity?”
“Just an offer a ‘fellow’ student made me.”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes. “This sounds suspicious.”
“It isn’t, Mama. Though what I might ask of him could be, eh heh heh…”
‘So many options, though I can’t guarantee rival-boy will actually listen to me with any of them. He already said he wouldn’t give me San-Kyung naked and wrapped in a ribbon, and even if he did, San-Kyung would probably escape soon after. I need something that rival-boy would do without me having to force him to.’
An idea popped into her head. ‘That’s perfect…’ La-Iin began to laugh to herself.
“Maybe I should go with you to school tomorrow,” Mit-Sun said.
“No!” Mit-Sun rolled her eyes.

***

La-Iin flew along the path to school, checking for any early sign of Dosa-Mina. ‘With how early I left, I’ll probably get here before he does. That will give me the perfect chance to confront him about what I need.’
“Hi, La-Iin!” Fer-Shi called.
“Hello, Fer-Shi.” La-Iin grinned. “Something tells me today will be a good day for you.”
“Huh?” Fer-Shi seemed confused for a moment, but she soon smiled. “Well, I hope you’re right, then!”
“I’m almost completely certain. I’m going on ahead. Meet you inside.”
“Okay!”
A few students were already on the path to Malicerie, and though the crowd wasn’t as sparse as La-Iin had been expecting, it was still fairly thin when she made it there. Most of the students on their way there were from Class A and Class B, with only a few students from her own class mixed in. La-Iin checked around to see if Dosa-Mina was among them.
“Mind explaining why you’re running late!?” The voice was all too familiar to La-Iin. She turned to her right.
“Look, you know about my…scars….well, they hurt like hell today and it took me forever to actually wash them!”
“Scars, rival-boy?”
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina came to an abrupt stop. “La-Iin?”
“I’m curious about your little scar conversation, now. But I’m here for something else.”
Dosa-Mina put his hands on his arms. “No time, La-Iin. Get out of the way!”
“You do realize how early it is, right? Even if you go inside and sit down, it’ll be a while before Mr. Chensu actually arrives. You’ll be wasting time, and anyway I want to talk to rival-boy. Not about that scar conversation…but that might come up sooner or later.”
Dosa-Mina held tight to his arms. “You go on ahead, San-Kyung. I think I know what she wants from me.”
“But–”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be there soon. You won’t have to be too long without me.” He kissed San-Kyung on the cheek. San-Kyung promptly wiped it off.
“Don’t stoke my ire, rival-boy,” La-Iin growled. “Now come on!”
“Alriiight! See you soon, San-Kyung!”
San-Kyung looked uncertain, but he nodded and head off.
“You and San-Kyung are too inseparable. Do you two go any days without seeing each other?”
“Sure we do. We’ve got our own things to do on the Weekends sometimes too. Sometimes we see each other at school but not again past that.”
“Do you go a day without thinking about each other?”
“I can’t vouch for San-Kyung, but when it comes to this year, I don’t think that’s happened yet. As if you don’t think about San-Kyung every day.”
“…you have a point there….but that only nearly proves my suspicions! You are my love rival!”
“Assume what you like, ‘little Vampire girl’. I’m not giving you any answer. So, let me guess. This has to do with me saying I owed you yesterday, doesn’t it? So what do you want? Is it something absurd?”
“Not at all. In fact you may think it’s fairly normal for me.”
“I’m not even sure that’s possible!”
“Besides, as tempted as I was to ask you intimate details about San-Kyung–”
“Who says I’d know them?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “…there’s that, and there’s also that I had something much better in mind.”
“Alright, what is it?”
“I know what you did to Fer-Shi. I know you hurt her feelings. Don’t bother interrupting me, rival-boy. I think you should know by now that your feelings don’t matter to me….except whether you’re in love with San-Kyung or not.”
Dosa-Mina didn’t respond. His expression had become serious.
“I want you to apologize.”
“You want me to apologize? But San-Kyung’s told me how much you hate apologies. And aren’t you worried this could facilitate a friendship?”
“I’m not even completely sure what that means. But it doesn’t matter. I may not like them, but Fer-Shi does. And anyway, she doesn’t like that I’m friends with San-Kyung. I think she deserves this. There will be consequences if you don’t, rival-boy!”
Dosa-Mina blinked. “I know you said you don’t care about my feelings, but she really hurt mine, La-Iin.”
“You said it yourself, Dosa-Mina, I don’t care.”
La-Iin gave him a hard stare. Dosa-Mina sighed. “Alright. When I can catch her I’ll apologize for hurting her feelings. Hopefully with her being good, she’ll apologize for hurting mine…”
La-Iin glared. “Just apologize to her. That’s all I want. I’m letting you off easy this time, rival-boy, but next time might not be so forgiving!”
La-Iin ran off. “Next time…?”

Although Dosa-Mina had promised to apologize, he still felt reluctant to. Though it had happened months ago, Fer-Shi’s words still rang in his mind.
‘She has a kind heart–kind enough to at least admit that she just wanted to be friends with me out of pity. It doesn’t change the fact that it hurt. Apologizing to her when she hurt my feelings, though…’
“Hey, Dosa-Mina.”
“Yeah, San-Kyung?” He smiled. “Feeling lonely ’cause I’m not showering you in affection?”
“No! I was wondering if you were feeling alright. You look down.”
Dosa-Mina blinked. “I’m fine. I just have something on my mind.”
“I know La-Iin talked to you about something. What’s she pressuring you into this time?”
“Oh, nothing big. Actually, compared to what she could have asked for, what she actually did ask for isn’t all that bad.” He sighed. “It’s just reminding me of something that hurt, that’s all.”
“Di–did you want to talk about it?”
“I appreciate the offer, San-Kyung. But you should know better than anyone by now that talking about myself has never helped any of my problems…”

When classes had ended for the day, though he was prepared for what was coming, Dosa-Mina had no idea how to go about it.
“Fer-Shi. There’s someone who wants to talk to you.” La-Iin whispered.
“Really? Who?”
“Dosa-Mina.” She pointed at him.
“D-Dosa-Mina wants to talk to me? Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Now go see what he wants!”
Fer-Shi glanced at La-Iin. “Is there something going on, La-Iin? You seem pretty forceful about this…didn’t it make you happy that we weren’t getting along?”
“I’m curious as to what rival-boy might want from you, and if I tag along I might not get to figure that out. Tell me what he says to you so I can decide my next course of action.”
Fer-Shi still looked uncertain. “If you say so…”
Dosa-Mina stood up from his seat. Before he could go anywhere, he caught sight of Fer-Shi.
“Dosa-Mina?” She said. “La-Iin told me you wanted to tell me something.”
“She did?” ‘I guess even she can be forgiving sometimes.’ “Er, yes, there was something I wanted to talk to you about. Let’s go outside for it. I’ll see you in a little bit, San-Kyung. But feel free to go home before me if you want to!”
“I can wait.”
Fer-Shi felt uncomfortable as she followed after Dosa-Mina. ‘The last time we talked didn’t go well. So what could he want from me now?’
That thought still nagged at her mind as they made it outside.
“So?”
“I wanted to apologize.”
“Huh?”
“I hurt your feelings when you asked if we could become friends. I didn’t mean to. But I was hurt myself. I’m not sure there’s anybody who would be happy hearing that someone wanted to be their friend out of pity…well, even if there is, I’m not one of them. But I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings too. So…sorry.”
“I’m the one who should be sorry! I shouldn’t have even bothered. I know you’re not supposed to lie, but sometimes it’s nicer just to do that. You don’t owe me any apology, Dosa-Mina. I’m the one who owes you one.”
“Well, whoever owes who an apology, we both ended up apologizing, so…” Dosa-Mina shrugged. “Anyway, you’re better off befriending other students.”
“Dosa-Mina…”
“I’m glad I got to say that, though. You are a nice girl, Fer-Shi. Even in that situation. Don’t let yourself get so easily discouraged, alright? Just keep working towards being the person you want to be. And make sure to do a better job of yourself than I did of me.”
He waved. “See you, then.”
Fer-Shi stared off.
“…thank you,” she mumbled to herself.

—–
“Fer-Shi, what’s wrong? What did he say?”
“He said sorry for hurting my feelings. He said I was nice and that I should try to be the person I want to be.”
“Oh, alright.”
Fer-Shi pressed her lips together. “I really wish there was someway I could help him. Even now I’m still pitying him. But really, what happened? When we came to this school he was all cheerful and affectionate towards San-Kyung. Now he seems kind of sad.”
“I’m friends with San-Kyung. Maybe if I find out anything from him, I’ll tell you.”
Fer-Shi did not respond.

“Dosa-Mina, you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I should be feeling better than I am, actually. But I can’t help but think about the mistakes I made.”
“Like what?”
“The mistakes that put me in this situation with Sanyaow and Llanni.”
“They’ll get out of the way. I’ll make sure of it.” San-Kyung clenched a fist.
“If you murder either of them, I’ll cut my entire arm off.”
“I wasn’t planning on doing that! I’ll keep that stuff to my head.”
“So you’re thinking about it,” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Eh, I’m being hypocritical. I’ve had some pretty bad thoughts about those girls recently, too.”