6.644.Backlash

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 644
“Backlash”

Students walking to school on Tuesday were quick to notice that Dosa-Mina was, as yesterday, assuming his Werewolf-Siren form.
He was ahead of most of the crowd, talking quietly with San-Kyung. To some he looked slightly happier than yesterday; others thought his smile seemed fake.
Lirako in particular kept a close eye on him. ‘Wow. I expected a big reaction out of him, but this has just been weird. First he stops coming to school, then he’s all depressed, and now he’s coming here in his true form. Which is pretty weird…I wonder what changed? It all seems kinda drastic.’
As much as Lirako wanted to approach him and ask him about it, she knew it wouldn’t work. Even if the school wasn’t actively preventing her from talking to him, he would have never told her.

After the first class, Lirako found herself quickly becoming bored just waiting for math class to start. Noticing that Deki-Tyunri didn’t appear to be talking to anyone nor doing anything, she decided to talk to him.
“Hey, Deki-Tyunri!”
Deki-Tyunri said nothing.
“Don’t give me the cold shoulder, Deks.”
“I don’t have a shoulder.”
“Aw, come on.” Lirako stood in front of his desk. “I know we haven’t been talking as much recently, but we’ve been friends for ages. Me having to sit away from you shouldn’t change that.”
Lirako flinched when she noticed the expression on Deki-Tyunri’s face. He looked quite angry.
“Deks?”
“Lirako, I don’t think our friendship is going to be broken by you not talking to me, or even by what I’m mad at you for. But…I just don’t want to talk to you right now!”
“Why not!?”
“Don’t you realize what you did!? Even if Dslellular is okay with it now, you revealed his species to the class against his will. And he was clearly very upset when you did. There must have been a good reason he was keeping it a secret.”
“How do you know!? Do you have any guarantee that it was for a good reason?”
“No, but do you have any guarantee it was for a pointless reason?”
“Er…”
“What you did wasn’t right, Lirako, and it made me really disappointed in you. I just…I need time to calm down before we talk to each other again.”
“I–”
“Sorry, Sanyaow, but I’d have to agree,” Xhen-Bei said. “I don’t think Dslellular should have hid his species either, but you went about it wrong. So I think you should just let Elyshen cool out for now.”
“Is everyone mad at me for this?”
Many of the students began to look uncomfortable.
“It sounded like there was blackmail involved. It’s definitely changed my perception of you,” Mi-Kou said.
“I think it’s awfully immature what you did, even though I cannot understand why someone would hide their species like that,” Ai-Reia said.
“I don’t understand the whole situation, but you hadn’t been treating Dslellular well for a while before that. You should have tried to reason with him to explain it instead of do what you did, that’s what I think,” Song-Jpinne said.
Lirako was dumbfounded. She folded her ears to her head. Out the corner of her eye, she noticed San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina were staring her way.
Only briefly, she caught a glimpse of them wearing satisfied smiles.

***

“Llanni, can I talk to you before we get to biology?”
“Sure.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Lirako sighed. “I really thought you weren’t gonna talk to me.”
“Hey, I’d, like, have no right to avoid you. I was in on it too. But people usually don’t talk to me, so I haven’t noticed anything different.”
Lirako scratched her face. “Let’s talk away from the crowd.”
The two girls head outside. Airy-Aekok peeked into an open faculty door on their way out.
“I just don’t get it! I know I wasn’t that nice to Dosa-Mina before, but he wasn’t nice to me either! And it’s not like I revealed some sort of horribly embarrassing secret about him. It’s his species! Sooner or later someone would’ve found out. I bet San-Kyung already knew!”
“I think we can pretty much guarantee that,” Airy-Aekok said.
“And it’s not even the most uncommon species in the world! Both those species happen more often with Normal, and yeah, it is kind of weird that he’s a male half-Siren. But isn’t that infamous kid in Class B one too?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Lirako sighed. “I guess you wouldn’t…but yeah! It’s not like he’s a Werewolf-Lizardfoot or something like that! He’s not a Tribreed! His species may not be a Cahongyun, but it certainly isn’t a Ferister!”
Airy-Aekok smirked.
“So–so what am I gonna do? I know I’m being selfish here, but I don’t wanna lose my friends! Deki-Tyunri is one thing. I believe him when he says that we’ll probably stay friends even if he’s mad at me right now. But what about everyone else? They’re just school friends!”
Lirako sobbed. “If I had known this was gonna happen, I would have never opened my big mouth!”
“Me too.”
Lirako focused on Airy-Aekok. “In fact, I’m gonna, like, tell you a secret, Lirako. Well, it’s not much of a secret, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. I was startin’ to think this was a mistake as soon as Dosa-Mina found out we knew. He seemed really upset.”
“He did,” Lirako sighed.
“But instead of thinking about it, we got caught up in the excitement of the secret. It’s both of our faults. You wanted to find this out so badly, you were doing everything to, like, figure it out. I actually went lookin’ for it. And then we told him. And then the school. We just kept messin’ up. And then after we told him, I didn’t tell you I thought it was a bad idea. But yanno, maybe it would’ve been too late by then too.”
“Why?”
“Then he’d be all upset! Wonderin’ when we might, like, tell the whole school what he really is…but it wasn’t our business, Lirako. We should’ve just left him alone. For his sake and ours.”
Lirako sighed. “But what the other students don’t seem to get is, maybe it is a good thing we said it. I know I was mean to him and sure, he was really upset at first, but now look at him. He came here yesterday and today in his true form like he’s proud of it, and even though he cried yesterday it didn’t seem like he was really breaking down.”
“I dunno about that.”
Lirako sighed. “You’re right. There’s no way we can make an excuse for this. I’ll just have to face it: we f@%ked up. And now nobody wants to have anything to do with me.”
“That isn’t true, Lirako! I’ll talk to you at least. I messed up too. We’ll have each other while you’re waitin’ for the school to stop bein’ mad at you.”
“Thanks, Llanni. But what if after all this, I’m not popular anymore? I like having all those friends and that attention. If I messed up in Grade 12 there’s no going back!”
“I’ll teach ya how to deal with that.”
Lirako blinked. “How are you taking this so easily?”
“I dunno. But I think it’s the way we should go about this. I mean after all, Dosa-Mina was all upset when his species was found out and like you said, now he seems happy. So maybe we should just take this as a lesson.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Or we could apologize.”
Lirako’s eyes widened. “I think I’ll leave it at lesson. As much as I would like everyone to forgive me, I can’t apologize to him. I feel bad, but not because of him. I still can’t stand him.”
“Oh, Sanyaow.” Airy-Aekok shook her head. “Maybe we should go back inside. It’s probably almost biology.”
“Yeah.”
As the two girls walked back inside, Airy-Aekok said, “Hey, if we’re gonna talk, it’s okay to call me Airy-Aekok. My Dad is called Officer Llanni so it’s like, kinda weird bein’ called Llanni.”
“Alright. Then I guess you can call me Sanyaow.”
“Cool!”
Lirako chuckled.

—–
After classes that day, Lirako sighed.
“I can’t believe a thirteen year old is more mature than me. I need to work on my maturity.”
“I’m fourteen now, Lirako.”
“What!? Since when!?”
“Since Saturday.”
“Really?”
Airy-Aekok nodded.
“Well…that doesn’t change anything! I can’t believe someone younger than me is more mature than me. Or, rather, that you are. After what you did earlier this year…no offense, of course.”
“Don’t worry. I’m just tryin’ to learn lessons from what I do. That incident was the start of it all. So I’m glad you notice my efforts!”
“Heh, you could definitely give me a few pointers, then.”
Deki-Tyunri, who had overheard the girls’ conversation, smiled from his seat. ‘I know you’re not a bad person, Lirako. I would agree you need to work on your maturity, though…’

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5.643.Break Out

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 643
“Break Out”

Break out and show the real world,
I’ll be the one to follow you
Don’t turn away by this point
Keep going, just keep on going…

When he heard the sound of footsteps, Dosa-Mina stopped singing and turned to the door. Elai-Riya opened it seconds later.
“Oh, sorry, I didn’t know you were up. And you’re already dressed, too!”
“Well, it’s Monday.” He pulled his hair out the collar of his shirt. “I need to go to school.”
Elai-Riya nodded. “Orlin-Aesth made some breakfast steak. You have time, so come eat with us before you go.”
Dosa-Mina nodded.
He was still feeling as bad as he had in recent days, but ever since October had started, he had started to try and cheer himself up, if for nobody else’s sake, for San-Kyung’s.
‘I don’t want him to keep being worried about me.’ That determination had kept him from giving into the worst of the negative feelings that had surfaced in him.
Dosa-Mina joined Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya at the table. A steak with an egg on top of it was sitting there for him.
“What, no vegetables?” Dosa-Mina said with a chuckle.
“Hey, come on. Vegetables would just ruin breakfast steak!”
“Ha ha.” Dosa-Mina began to poke at the steak. He cut it and began to eat.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina?”
“Hm?”
Orlin-Aesth scratched the back of his neck. “You look like you’ve been doing a little better lately. And I’m glad, I don’t want to see you unhappy, after all. But I’m just worried.”
“About what?”
“Well, San-Kyung told us about a Catori girl and he also mentioned a Llamaki and kind of hinted that they were bullying you,” he said. “And me and Elai-Riya were thinking, if those girls are still going to Malicerie, who’s to say they won’t bully you again?”
“I’m worried they might see your cuts,” Elai-Riya said.
Dosa-Mina was starting to feel dejected. He knew his parents meant well, but their words only made him feel worse about the situation.
“One of them is in Grade 12, and her grades aren’t horrible,” he said quietly, poking at the steak again. “So I don’t have to worry about her.”
“What about the other girl?”
Dosa-Mina didn’t respond.
“If you can get over it, then that’s good and that’s what we want. But just know this, Dosa-Mina. If it gets bad enough, we are willing to pull you out of Malicerie. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again.”
“Whatever works for you. We just want to see you happy again.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. ‘And yet it’s your fault I’m not right now.’ He couldn’t bring himself to say that to his parents, however. So instead, he finished his steak and head off for school.

Dosa-Mina sighed.
‘I’m worrying everyone around me. And that’s only making everything worse! I don’t want to feel this way either. I’d rather everything go back to normal! But how am I supposed to!? Nothing’s been making me happy. And if I can’t cheer up, the people around me won’t, either. And the longer they keep worrying about me, the worse it makes everything! Am I really going to overcome this?’
He sighed. ‘Other people have actual problems, but mine is just oh wow, I had to be an oversensitive baby about the way I look. Amazing…’
He was snapped out of his thoughts when something smacked him in the face. San-Kyung turned around abruptly, looking startled.
“Oh…looks like your tail grew in, huh?” He said, trying to force a smile.
“Yeah, just this morning. It’s nice to have it back.” He wiggled it slightly. “I think I’ll probably be able to levitate again soon as well. I was able to stay off the ground for a while today.”
“That’s good! It looks like everything’s happening a little earlier than it did last year, too. Maybe you’ll be in your true form on October thirtieth instead of Halloween!”
“That’s wishful thinking.”
“Heh, nothing wrong with that.”
‘Maybe I should try taking that advice too,’ he thought. ‘Maybe something else will cheer up San-Kyung and my parents. And then I’ll be able to take part in that cheer, too. I can only hope…’
He started to feel that wouldn’t be the case when he noticed the expression on San-Kyung’s face become somber.
“Is something wrong?”
“Not anything that wasn’t wrong the last time we talked.”
“Oh…”
“Don’t worry about it, Dosa-Mina. And don’t bother trying to do anything about it either. It’s not a problem you can fix.”
“How do you know?”
“If there’s a fix, it’s probably more impossible than getting my true form permanently. So don’t bother.”
Dosa-Mina grit his teeth. ‘Of course. Even if something else could cheer up San-Kyung and my parents, there’s still me. Every time I talk to them, they’ll just be reminded of this stupid incident. There’s no out of that, is there?’
Dosa-Mina gasped.
‘Unless…’
“Something up?”
“Go ahead of me, San-Kyung. I just remembered something I have to do.”
“What?”
“Just go ahead. I’ll catch up with you!”
Dosa-Mina ran in the direction opposite of him. He kept running until he was certain San-Kyung wouldn’t be able to follow him anymore.
Then, he started to sing.

***

“Ooh, it looks like rival-boy isn’t sitting here today.”
“Don’t take that as an invitation,” San-Kyung spat.
“Malicerie doesn’t care what seat you sit in. And even if they did, it doesn’t matter ’cause it’s fun to break the rules. Fer-Shi’s kind of mad at me today anyway.”
“You know, I wouldn’t be if you’d just say that was uncalled for!” Fer-Shi snapped.
“Never. For you see, Fer-Shi, I have more power than you. Why should I have to say it was uncalled for?”
“Because! There’s no reason you should have done that! It’s not like you were crazy from a blood craving! Veiner might have forgiven you, but I haven’t!”
“And that’s how I like it, so why will I say it was uncalled for now?”
“Oh come on!”
“Damn it, why isn’t he here yet?” San-Kyung was starting to feel as though he had made a mistake leaving Dosa-Mina to go off on his own. He twitched in his seat, wondering if he should go back and look for him.
And just then, someone entered the classroom.
Almost all the students turned to see the boy standing at the entrance to the classroom. He was half-covered in fur, with a single pointed ear on his head and one wing.
He was smiling, but those in the front noticed he looked immensely uncomfortable.
“H-hello, San-Kyung,” he said. “Sorry it took me so long to get here. I had to do something first.”
Chatter rose among the students as he took his seat next to San-Kyung, nearly all of it centered around his true form.
“Damn it!”
“Wow…so that’s what Dosa-Mina really looks like.”
“Pretty rude to stare, isn’t it, goody-goody?” La-Iin sneered.
“Oh–! You know what, let’s just get back to our seats!”
As the two girls stomped back to their seats, San-Kyung whispered to Dosa-Mina,
“What are you doing!?”
“Well, everyone knows now, don’t they? Why not start to try and accept myself? Why? Would you rather I just keep hiding my true form? That’s contrary to what you’ve said to me in the past, you know.”
“But I thought–”
“That I still wanted to try and hide it anyway? There’s no point, San-Kyung. And who knows? Maybe this is good for me! If I start coming to school in my true form, maybe I can accept myself for sure. It’d be nice.”
Dosa-Mina sounded genuinely happy, but San-Kyung couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. Something about his friend’s smile seemed off.
When Mr. Chensu walked into the room, he took a deep breath, but before he could yell, his eyes rested on Dosa-Mina.
“Mr. Dslellular?”
“Hi, Mr. Chensu. I’m sure you’ve heard the news about my species?”
“I–I did, but I didn’t expect you to start coming here like that.”
“Well, I am! So don’t go mistaking me for someone else now, okay?”
“I don’t think I could,” he mumbled. With one last wary glance in Dosa-Mina’s direction, he started the history lesson for the day.

Throughout classes that day, students and teachers were greatly confused by Dosa-Mina’s appearance–or in La-Iin’s case, why he had decided to come to school that way.
San-Kyung had a different subject on his mind, however. Dosa-Mina seemed incredibly happy all throughout the day, except when Airy-Aekok had approached him to get a closer look. It seemed abnormal, especially since right before they had come to school Dosa-Mina’s mood had seemed much the same as it had been recently.
‘But then he was still in his Normal form…’
Was it possible that doing this was what Dosa-Mina really wanted? Would it make him happier?
San-Kyung could only wonder.

As the classes came to a close, Dosa-Mina started to put away his supplies.
“Rival-boy.”
La-Iin had walked over to his desk.
“Huh? Whatcha want, La-Iin?”
“Why are you coming here in that form?”
“Because I’m going to make a change. Dslellular Dosa-Mina is a Werewolf-Siren. The sooner I can be happier this way, the sooner my life will make an improvement.”
“Hm.”
“Why? Is something wrong with me trying to accept myself? I guess that’s just because you prefer to see me unhappy, isn’t it?” He ruffled her hair. “You little sadist!”
“You’re getting on my nerves.”
“Says the girl who’s been zipping out the classroom at high speed the last few school days. I’ve been meaning to ask you about that, speaking of.”
“Hey, Dslellular!”
Dosa-Mina turned to see who was calling him. Xhen-Bei was staring at him, a curious expression on his face.
“What is it, Yuuldang?”
“So you’re half-Werewolf, just like me!” He said. “Or, well, I’m a Pureblood, but still!”
“Yup.”
He folded his ears to his head. “Sorry, I don’t mean to stare. I’ve just never seen anyone with your kind of appearance before.”
“The one wing must look pretty weird,” Dosa-Mina chuckled.
“No, it wasn’t really that. I’ve just never seen a half-and-half Dualbreed before. Sorry, that was probably pretty rude of me to say. It’s just, I didn’t expect that.”
Dosa-Mina continued to smile, but his expression became warped, as if something was wrong. He began to chuckle.
“Yeah, not many Dualbreeds are half-and-half, are they? I guess you could say I’m a weirdo in that regard! Ha ha!”
Dosa-Mina began to cry.
“Dslellular!?”
“Aha, i–it’s nothing, Yuuldang,” he said. “I–I need to go home now. My parents will be really worried if I stay out too long! See you all tomorrow!”
He rushed out the classroom. San-Kyung followed after him. Once again, the classroom burst out into conversation about Dosa-Mina.

—–
“Are you alright?”
“I–I will be. I just didn’t expect to start crying.”
Dosa-Mina breathed. “I really thought it would be a liberating experience. And it was, at first…but I just can’t seem to get over that stupid half-and-half part.”
He shook his head. “But I’ll get better. I’m gonna try, for my sake, and for yours, too. I just don’t know what way I’ll get better yet.”

La-Iin gave a frustrated huff.
‘Rival-boy can never make things easy for me, can he…’

1.639.Hope and Despair

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 639
“Hope and Despair”

3.
2.
1.

“It’s here again,” San-Kyung breathed, staring at the calendar. “October…”
‘It’s here again, and yet you still don’t have your true form permanently.’
San-Kyung pushed the thought away. As much as that fact hurt him, another fact was that it was October right now. The beginning of October, and from now until its end there was nothing to worry about in terms of powers.
“Excited, San-Kyung?” Salsh-Era asked.
“That’s a stupid question to ask.”
Salsh-Era smiled. “Maybe so. But I just wanted to make sure. I noticed you haven’t had the happiest of years. I’m glad to see you happier again.”
“…”
“But you really should get some rest. This isn’t one of the October firsts you can get away with staying up all night. It’s a school day tomorrow.”
“I know. Fine, I’ll go to bed.”
‘Guess I should call Dosa-Mina,’ he thought to himself. ‘I just hope he’s willing to talk to me.’
Dosa-Mina had opened up to San-Kyung in recent days, but it was still obvious that he wasn’t happy. His grades were still suffering, his parents seemed constantly concerned and San-Kyung couldn’t remember a recent school day in which his head wasn’t bowed upon entering the school.
But perhaps October would be different. October always cheered San-Kyung up. Perhaps it could do something for Dosa-Mina’s mood as well. He only hoped that something would give, because seeing Dosa-Mina the way he was bothered him greatly.
“Hey, if you want to borrow the CD player, it’s in our bedroom. After you asked us to pull it out, you got Kyuusie wanting to listen to some music, and she bought a new CD and listened to it all day.”
It was one thing that had slipped San-Kyung’s mind, the CD that Dosa-Mina had given him last Friday. With that there was no need for San-Kyung to call Dosa-Mina. The CD altogether was enough to give him eight hours of sleep, assuming he didn’t skip any of its tracks.
San-Kyung felt dejected. It was possible that October could turn things around for Dosa-Mina. But if it didn’t, would he just bring him down with him?

***

Getting up to go to school had been difficult for Dosa-Mina.
He knew he couldn’t pretend to be sick forever. It would only seem suspicious, though he had a feeling nobody who understood the situation would begrudge him for it.
But seeing his cuts disgusted him more in recent weeks than they had in the past. Now that his parents knew about them, he felt both an increased eagerness to cut and an increased disgust about his scars. When the urge to cut came on in the past, it was because of his nightmares. This was the first time he could remember that something else had caused the urge.
So getting dressed was a pain.
When he left his bedroom, it was always obvious that his parents were worried about him. They always kept a close eye on him, and he was quick to notice when their eyes focused on his arms.
So leaving the house was a pain.
And then, when he finally left, he was only reminded of what was to come. Lirako hadn’t bothered him since she revealed his species to the school–and even if she had been, after San-Kyung’s win in the race, she had been moved to a different seat and teachers kept a close eye on her. But it still hurt to recall what had happened. Even so, on occasion he could overhear students talking about him, wondering what he really looked like or why he was still coming to school in Normal form–and why he had hid it in the first place. He was still scrambling for an excuse with that one.
So even going to school was a pain.
It was affecting the rest of his life now too. The urge to cut hadn’t come up much in recent days, but cutting was the last thing he could remember bringing him any relief. Species study didn’t make him happy. His parents didn’t make him happy. Feather soup didn’t make him happy. Nothing made him happy, not even San-Kyung.
He was thoroughly miserable with no idea of how to overcome it.
Ahead of him on the path was San-Kyung. Dosa-Mina started to walk faster to catch up with him. San-Kyung seemed slightly startled when he stopped next to him.
“Hi,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Hey.”
“So, it’s October now, huh?”
“Yeah.”
“Did the CD work well?”
San-Kyung nodded.
“That’s good.”
“How are you?”
“Well, I’m alive.”
“Hm.”
“How about you? It’s October. You should smile a little. This is your favorite month.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“Maybe when you can start levitating we should fly around over Bledger.”
“Yeah, that sounds fine.”
This was Dosa-Mina’s biggest problem. San-Kyung was obviously unhappy as well. It made sense why. But he couldn’t bear to see it. Always, one of his biggest priorities was seeing San-Kyung happy. As long as he had that, it didn’t really matter if he wasn’t happy. Not many things made San-Kyung genuinely happy, and for as much as suicide had crossed his mind recently he didn’t want San-Kyung to kill himself as he did in his nightmares.
But he couldn’t think of a way to cheer up right now, and he knew that if he started faking it San-Kyung would be able to tell. But he would have thought that October would make him at least slightly happier.
So why did he still seem upset?

***

School was uneventful that day. Lirako stayed away, as she was requested to, students talked with their friends, mostly about mundane topics, although both boys noticed talk of Dosa-Mina’s species come up. The most abnormal thing was that La-Iin’s strange behavior from yesterday had continued into the next day.
“Seriously, what’s wrong with her!?” San-Kyung exclaimed after she flew past his face.
Other than that, school ended without incident, and they head home along the path together. Dosa-Mina was somewhat surprised when San-Kyung continued following him on the way to his house.
“So, you’re coming over?”
“I didn’t notice.”
“Hm.”
‘Should I ask him about that?’ Dosa-Mina wondered. ‘I mean, I guess it couldn’t hurt…’
“Hey, San-Kyung….October started today. I understand that it seems like we won’t make any headway in Operation Reboot before November arrives, but it still seems like there’s a chance what you want is possible. And anyway, other years you tried to forget that. What’s different about this year?”
“I am excited for October,” San-Kyung said simply. “But…I can’t be completely.”
“Why not?”
San-Kyung sighed. “I’m stressed out.”
Dosa-Mina cringed. “It’s not my fault, is it?”
“It isn’t. …not exactly, anyway.”
“Then it is my fault.”
“No, it isn’t. I have plenty of people I could blame. You’re not one of them.”
“Well, tell me what’s wrong, then!”
San-Kyung was silent.
“Please? You’re only going to make things worse for me now that you’ve said something.”
“I’ve been thinking about my priorities,” he said, an edge to his tone. “What I found out I can’t stand. It’s pissing me off. I keep imagining La-Iin, saying I’m an evil failure and that I’m weak. I can’t stand it!”
He sighed. “At this rate Halloween will be underwhelming, and it’ll only be because I might just be an evil failure.”
“Why would you say that?”
Dosa-Mina felt on edge. What San-Kyung was saying was just making all his nightmares replay in his head. Except it wasn’t suppressing his evil this time, it was failing at it in the first place.
“I guess I just don’t have the temperament for it.”
“Yes you do. I’m sure of it.”
San-Kyung shook his head. “I’m just confused. That’s all. I want to be excited. I am, I still am, but…it’s just harder to keep it up this year.”
“San-Kyung…”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ve told you enough. Now you should understand. My priorities are in the wrong place. They’re detrimental to what I want. But no matter what I do, I don’t know how to change it or to turn it into an advantage. And I just know La-Iin would call that a failing. Maybe it would be better if I acted this way in front of her. Then she might get rid of that kiddy crush she has on me and leave me alone.”
San-Kyung turned away. “I’m going home. If you need to talk, just call.”
Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure of what to say. ‘This is my fault. I can feel it. But what does he mean by his priorities are in the wrong place? I seriously doubt San-Kyung would find out he has good morals, so what’s the problem?
‘It’s not me, is it?’

—–
Late that night, just as he was about to turn on the CD, San-Kyung’s phone rang.
“Hi.”
“Hey.”
“I know this is kind of random, but would you like to study together sometime soon or something like that? We could use some sort of interaction that’s not depressing like this, and my grades have been getting pretty bad, heh heh.”
“If you want to.”
“Okay. …I’m going to try and cheer up too, alright, San-Kyung? So just as you said I can talk to you if anything’s wrong, I want you to know you can do the same.”
“…alright.”
“Cheer up, okay? A maudlin San-Kyung is just weird! The San-Kyung I know has more confidence than this. And the sooner I can see him again, the sooner I’ll cheer up too. I’m sure of that.”
“Really?”
“Yup, really. There’s no lie there. Oops, I should probably get to bed. I think Mom’s still up and she’ll be mad if I’m too tired for school tomorrow. Or maybe she won’t be, but anyway, I should get some sleep. Good night, San-Kyung!”
“Night.”
‘I wonder if that would really cheer him up,’ San-Kyung found himself wondering. ‘But even if it would, can I really make myself act like that right now?’
Knowing what he now knew, San-Kyung felt pathetic. But because of that he also knew that Dosa-Mina was high priority. Perhaps then he could find it in him to get a little more excited than he was.
How easy that would be, however, was something he didn’t know the answer to.

25.633.Reach Out

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 633
“Reach Out”

San-Kyung walked into the neighborhood where Dosa-Mina lived. That week, it was his third visit. What had happened on Tuesday, the way Dosa-Mina acted after it, none of it would leave his head. He couldn’t stop thinking about it even if he tried. Even worse, Dosa-Mina hadn’t been to school the past two days–and listening to the students’ gossip about him just made him think back on Deatrou, except he felt that this was somewhat worse.
At least during that time at Deatrou, he could get Dosa-Mina to crack a smile every now and then.
It had stirred up some thoughts in his head about his priorities. No matter what he was focusing on, he was always passionate about his plans for world domination or regaining his true form. He knew which one he would take if he could only pick one. He knew where his priorities lie, and he was convinced that he would be ready to drop his loved ones if they betrayed him.
Where did his loved ones fall, though? It was the question on his mind. If he had to pick between them, his true form or ruling the world, which would he pick? Could he really recover if he was betrayed by one of them?
Dosa-Mina was important to him. He already knew he was going to lose his parents some day. It was difficult to think of what was more important when he could barely see the future without the things he wanted.
But just perhaps, he would pick Dosa-Mina. That was what he had been thinking recently.
“Damn it, maybe La-Iin’s right…”
He knocked on the door to the Dslellular house.
“Oh….hi, San-Kyung.”
Orlin-Aesth answered the door. His exhaustion was obvious. San-Kyung hated to admit it, but he could sympathize with his concern for Dosa-Mina.
“You don’t have to ask any questions. He hasn’t come out of his room. There’s no fresh blood on his bed, so I don’t think he’s cut anytime recently. …oh, and come inside.”
San-Kyung walked inside and head for Dosa-Mina’s bedroom door.
“Hey, San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung glanced at him over his shoulder.
“Does the school know what that Catori and Llamaki did?”
“Not exactly.”
“Aren’t you going to tell them?”
San-Kyung sighed. “That’s what I don’t know.” He ignored Orlin-Aesth’s confusion and walked into Dosa-Mina’s room.
“Oh. It’s you again.”
San-Kyung scratched his head. It was obvious from his prior two visits that Dosa-Mina wasn’t going to respond to him just staying in there quietly. He would have to take action.
“So, you’re not really sick, are you.”
Dosa-Mina glared at him. “Awfully stupid for someone with such high grades to say. Obviously not. But I feel horrible anyway. I haven’t been able to do much of anything the last few days. People might say I’m over-reacting, but I’m stressed out.”
San-Kyung joined him on the bed. “Have you talked to the Demon girl?”
“Oh, so I should tell Sirlie I’m cutting too? Great idea, San-Kyung! Really, great.”
“Listen to what I’m saying, why don’t you?”
“Ha ha. Antagonism doesn’t just belong to you and you alone, San-Kyung. I’m well within my rights to be antagonistic. So when are you going to leave me alone?”
“I’m not.”
“Ha ha, just concerned about Operation Reboot, then? I suppose it’s easy to expect someone evil to be so self-centered.”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. Dosa-Mina was making him angry, but he didn’t want to start a fight, not while he was in the state he was in.
“No. I haven’t even thought about Operation Reboot recently. Besides, if I needed to I could do all that research on my own.”
“So, are you going to say you’ve been thinking about nothing but me? I don’t buy it.”
“I didn’t get to say anything. Besides, it would be the truth. That and flaying Lirako, but that’s beside the point.”
San-Kyung sighed.
“What do you want?”
“Don’t try to appeal to me.”
“Do you want Lirako to win, then?”
“Lirako’s already won.”
San-Kyung groaned.
“Go ahead. Get frustrated. This is what I am. Once my secrets are revealed, I give up. Because emotionally I’m as weak as you are in November. I have my disgusting sides too, San-Kyung. And apparently they’re too much for you to deal with. So go ahead! Go focus on Operation Reboot!”
Dosa-Mina pulled a notebook from his shelf and tossed it at San-Kyung’s face. “Here are my notes on it. Focus on it. Forget about me. Use me when you need something.” He huffed. “Oh, that reminds me.”
He stood up and retrieved a CD, then tossed that at San-Kyung as well. “In case you can’t sleep. I don’t know if you have a CD player, but I’m sure your parents wouldn’t mind getting you one, the poor fools.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Are you going to let me talk anytime soon?”
“No. I’ve given you what you want, so you can go home now.”
Evidently just words weren’t going to work on Dosa-Mina either. So San-Kyung stood up and hugged Dosa-Mina.
“So, going for the nuclear option?”
“Oh, just shut up.”
“Hmph.”
“You’re seriously making me wish I was a psychopath. Then this would be so easy. I could kill you and shut you up that way. No loss of sleep. I’d feel the same towards you as I do towards Lirako. Unfortunately, that’s not who I am. I’m worried about you.”
Dosa-Mina rolled his eyes.
“Get mad all you want. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll find what it is that makes you go back to normal. Don’t be scared to rely on me if you need to. I’ve dumped my problems on you before. And I know what’s going on. Until you stop acting like this, I’m not leaving you alone.”
“I–bu…”
Dosa-Mina couldn’t come up with another retort. What San-Kyung had just said reminded him of his own feelings. Whenever San-Kyung would get upset, he would be desperate to remedy it. It made sense that San-Kyung would feel likewise.
Part of him still wanted to resist, but at this point that side was quickly diminishing.
He hugged him back briefly, then pulled away from the hug.
“I really am willing to off Lirako if it makes you happy.”
“Thanks, San-Kyung. The sentiment is enough.”
“Finally cheering up?”
“No, but I shouldn’t have been such a jerk. I’m sorry.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“Have I really been stressing you out all that much?”
“This has been on my mind.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “Sorry. It’s just been hard. I don’t know how to bounce back from this.”
“I’ll figure something out if you can’t. …well, you could always drop out of Malicerie, then come back as another species, something that doesn’t have many powers like Ferreniao or Llamaki. Then you probably won’t be questioned about powers.”
“That wouldn’t work. I’d still be…” San-Kyung was smiling. “Oh, you were joking…geez, my sense of humor is going to be shot after this.”
“Well, like you kept saying, it’s just a little more time before we graduate. 2017 is the last year we’re in school, and that’s just until March. Past that we’ll have plenty of time to decide what to do from then on. That includes you fixing up your situations. We did it before with Deatrou. It could be possible here too.”
For the first time in a few days, Dosa-Mina smiled. “…thanks for not giving up on me, San-Kyung.”
San-Kyung wasn’t sure of how to respond, so he didn’t.

—–
“San-Kyung?”
‘You know what you would do. You’d pick Dosa-Mina over your true form. How stupid.’
“San-Kyung?”
‘But there’s a reason for that. I can still ruin the world without ruling it. And I can still have my true form once a year. But Dosa-Mina is different.’
“I think he’s thinking about something.”
‘I hate this. I wish I was a psychopath. Or at least all alone. Then caring about people wouldn’t be a problem. I wouldn’t even know how because I’d have been all alone, with no parents to teach me how that feels. Being a person sucks. I hate so many things in this world that what I love I love too much…’
“It must be pretty important. Maybe we shouldn’t bother him for now.”
‘How do other people put up with this!?’
“Still, I’m really curious as to what’s on his mind. I’ve never seen him look this intense before.”
San-Kyung groaned. He could imagine La-Iin gloating, saying that she was right and that his love had made him weak.

23.631.Bloody Stress

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 631
“Bloody Stress”

The Dslellular home had taken on a strange atmosphere.
For a while now, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya had noticed that Dosa-Mina was acting strange. He seemed to be hiding something, and he was jittery and a bit spooked. Dosa-Mina had never been the easily scared type, and it was strange.
After they noticed his cuts, he had started acting even stranger, seeming somewhat lethargic. He wouldn’t talk to them and spent a lot of time in his room. He had become avoidant.
Somehow, how he had started acting after coming home from school yesterday was worse than all that.
“I could’ve sworn I heard him crying yesterday,” Orlin-Aesth said. They had decided not to talk to each other about what was going until Dosa-Mina left for school–and that had been strange in and of itself.
“Dosa-Mina, don’t you have to go to school?”
“…I don’t want to.”
“Why not?”
Instead of responding, he had started to get undressed.
“And he had another nightmare last night. I heard him screaming.”
“I did too. Did you go to calm him down?”
“I did, but the door was locked…I unlocked it, but by the time I got in he was asleep.”
“He hasn’t been screaming much lately. I thought he had gotten over those…”
“What’s going on with him?” Elai-Riya said. “I know he isn’t happy we found out about his cuts, but something changed yesterday.”
“I wonder….oh, hey, Elai-Riya, did I tell you that the Molsheis called yesterday?”
“They did? What about?”
“They were asking if something had happened that Dosa-Mina told us about. Apparently San-Kyung keeps talking about him like he’s concerned.”
“Do you think people are bullying him again?”
“Did he act this bad when people bullied him at Deatrou?”
“No, but then again, he’s stressed out about his cuts.” Elai-Riya gasped. “What if someone at school found out about those!?”
“That’d make a lot of sense why he’s acting like this…” Orlin-Aesth shook his head. “We can’t keep sitting back like this. We need to talk to him. If we don’t do anything, he’s just going to keep retreating like this. I don’t want to see Dosa-Mina like this. I want him to be happy.”
“I do too. But what can we do? He’s always retreated this way.”
“…” Orlin-Aesth cringed.
“Where did we go wrong? No…more like where did I go wrong. You were always attentive and respondent to his needs. All I did was teach him how to hide his problems. Dumped all my stresses about my job onto you and him. I messed him up. I know it.”
“Riya, please! Neither of us knew he was going to end up this way. Stop blaming yourself!”
Elai-Riya lowered her head. “I just wish we knew what to do.”

***

Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya’s conversation had continued on until Dosa-Mina returned home from school, but past that point it had started to go in circles. Neither of them had an answer for Dosa-Mina’s behavior–anything more than speculation, anyway–nor an answer as to how to help him.
When Dosa-Mina came home from school, he wasn’t any better. He kept his head bowed, went into his room, and locked the door.
“I have to do something about this.” Elai-Riya stood up. She walked over to Dosa-Mina’s door and pounded on it.
“Dosa-Mina! Please unlock the door. I want to talk to you.”
“Elai-Riya, that isn’t how you do this.” Orlin-Aesth brought his claw up to the keyhole and twisted it around inside. The door opened.
Both of them startled. Dosa-Mina was sitting on his bed, grimacing at a bleeding wound on his left arm. Both of them were quick to notice the knife lying nearby, covered in fresh blood.
Elai-Riya wanted to exclaim, as did Orlin-Aesth, but he calmed her and they approached Dosa-Mina, who by now had noticed that they came in.
Noticing bandages in his room, Elai-Riya reached for them and set to work patching up the wound.
“What are you doing in my room?”
“We wanted to see if you were alright,” Orlin-Aesth said matter-of-factly, though Elai-Riya could hear his voice wavering. “You looked pretty upset when you came home from school.”
“Dosa-Mina, you can’t keep cutting yourself,” Elai-Riya said. “Look, you opened up an old wound.”
Elai-Riya finished bandanging the wound.
“Dosa-Mina, I know you don’t want to, but we need to talk to you about the cutting. This isn’t just a few near the wrists, this is enough that your arms are almost half red. Please. If you want to hide them, go ahead. I know it would be hard to explain to everyone at school. But please stop cutting. And please tell us why this started.”
“…” Dosa-Mina stared down at the bandages. “Go ahead. Take the knife.”
Elai-Riya stared down in the knife in disbelief, but picked it up and held it close.
“I’ll just find something else anyway.”
Both flinched.
“And there is no reason. I don’t want to talk about this. I’ve had enough explaining to do recently anyway.”
“Dosa-Mina, have other people seen these cuts?”
Neither expected an answer, so they were surprised when he said “San-Kyung.”
“So aside from him and us, nobody else knows?”
Dosa-Mina nodded.
“What do you mean by had enough explaining to do? Has San-Kyung only found out about these recently?”
“No. That doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be alone right now. Go ahead and take the knife. Even if you didn’t I wouldn’t cut anymore right now anyway. I’m fine now.”
“You don’t sound fine.”
“Of course I’m not. But at least I have some relief now.”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head.
“…don’t bother hiding your species when you come to school next time.”
They looked at each other.
“Is that what happened? Did someone find out about your species?”
“I don’t want to talk about this!” Dosa-Mina yelled. “Just get out! I’ve told you enough. Nothing you say is going to help. So stop trying to butter me up. Even if I talked to you, it would change nothing. Why don’t you wait until someone else tells you?”
His last words were said with a sneer. Both felt on the verge of tears, but right now they doubted it would help to cry in front of him. They left the room, Elai-Riya still holding the kitchen knife, and only let themselves cry once they were far away from his bedroom.
It didn’t last long. Someone knocked at the door a short time after they started. They opened the door.
San-Kyung was standing there.
“San-Kyung…”
“Dosa-Mina’s home, right?”
“U-um…” Elai-Riya nodded, though she could see that San-Kyung’s eyes were focusing on the bloody knife in her hands. His expression after that point was unreadable.
“It’s good that you came over, actually,” Orlin-Aesth said. “Maybe he’ll listen to you.”
“…”
“San-Kyung, I know you don’t like us, but would you mind telling us what’s going on with Dosa-Mina at school?”
“I don’t think he’d like that.” San-Kyung walked inside. His gaze was still on the knife.
“Alright, I understand. Can you at least tell us if someone’s bullying him there?”
San-Kyung’s expression hardened. “Yes.”
Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya gasped.
“Hey. You.” He motioned to Elai-Riya.
“If you ever feel like singing, nobody’ll care if your audience includes a blue-gray Catori.”
“Huh?”
“Go ahead and let the Llamaki join too.”
San-Kyung shook his head and went for Dosa-Mina’s bedroom.
“He seems upset,” Orlin-Aesth said.
“I wonder who those two are?” Elai-Riya said.
“I’d like to know the answer to that too. …well, he said we don’t have to disguise ourselves anymore. Maybe we should pay a visit to the school soon.”
“Would that upset him more?”
“That’s the big question.”

Dosa-Mina’s door was already open, so San-Kyung head inside. Dosa-Mina was lying on his side, facing away from him. He was quick to notice the bandage on his arm.
“Dosa-Mina.”
Dosa-Mina turned over. “Why are you here? Did my parents call you?”
“I came here because I wanted to. I saw how you were at school today.”
Dosa-Mina turned away once again. “….everyone knows. The reality of that dawned on me yesterday. Malicerie knows I’m a Werewolf-Siren. My parents and you know that I cut. How much longer until the school knows that too?”
Dosa-Mina sat up. “You know, maybe I should give up like I did yesterday.” Dosa-Mina took off his shirt. He head over to his closet and pulled a short-sleeved one over his head. “Maybe I should go to school tomorrow like this instead. Yeah, that’ll be nice, hearing everyone’s questions, having the school contact my parents…”
“Dosa-Mina…”
“Except this shirt doesn’t really fit. But ah, who cares?” He flopped back onto his bed.
“Nothing matters to me anymore. I just wanted school to know me as San-Kyung’s clingy best friend. I liked that better. But then people started paying attention to me. It’s horrible. I hate it. Not everyone likes being notorious like bitchy Lirako.”
“I don’t care about killing her, you know. It wouldn’t lose me any sleep.”
“Don’t do that. Guess who would be the prime suspect? Not you, me. And anyway if you were found out it’d be jail for you. No.”
“…I’ll get back at her somehow.”
Dosa-Mina sat up again. “I give up. I really do. Like this I’ll only keep making people miserable. Or rather, the people I love. I don’t give a shit about people like Lirako, and she probably doesn’t care about how I feel. So, if you ever feel like dying again, give me a call and I’ll be there and we’ll off ourselves together. I just want my death day to come already.”
He pulled off his bandage and dug his fingers into the injury. San-Kyung sighed. There didn’t seem to be anything he could do for him.
So instead he joined him on the bed. Almost immediately, Dosa-Mina lowered his head, pulled his fingers out of the injury and started to cry.

—–
“Hey, Dosa-Mina…do you want us to pull you out of Malicerie?”
Orlin-Aesth had asked him that question at dinner.
“No. I’d rather keep the damage minimal. But if it’s possible, I’d like to pretend I’m sick for a few days. I need a break from that place.”
“We’ll do it,” Elai-Riya said. “But you have to promise us you’ll talk to us more.”
‘Damn it.’
“I’ll try,” he said.

22.630.The Reveal

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 630
“The Reveal”

‘Shit shit shit!’
Lirako had arrived at school late that day. After a health emergency at home–which turned out to be a false alarm–getting to school was the last thing on her mind. But if she was not going to the hospital, there was no excuse to not be going to school, and now that she was in Grade 12 she didn’t plan on missing school.
When she arrived in Class D, all the other students were already there, including Deki-Tyunri, who she took her seat next to. She was quick to notice that his head was bowed.
“Yo, Deks, what’s wrong?”
“No…nothing,” he sighed.
“How long do you think I’ve known you? I know something’s wrong. Tell me what’s up! Were you lonely for me?”
“I was…but…that’s not the problem.”
“So there is something wrong.”
Deki-Tyunri sighed once more. “It’s a ridiculous problem, though.”
“What’s wrong?”
“…” He glanced at San-Kyung. “…I just wish I could get over Molshei already, that’s all. I know it will never happen. He hates everyone who’s not Dslellular. I don’t even know if he loves his own parents. I don’t know how Dslellular got into his heart, but I really doubt I have what he does. We’re far too different in personality. And he’s neutral, isn’t he?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
“I thought you would since you bother him often. But neutral is probably better to someone who’s evil than good is. And since our morals don’t align, even if I did get what I want, would it even matter? They say couples with differing morals have a lot of problems.”
Deki-Tyunri looked genuinely upset. Seeing his expression broke her heart.
‘But what could I do to help him there? I’ve gone up to San-Kyung before. He’s rough stuff. I don’t know how Dslellular puts up with him. …but then, I don’t know how he puts up with Dslellular, either.’
Just as she was about to let out a sigh of her own, an idea popped into her head. ‘Or maybe there’s a little something I can do to nudge them in the right direction…’

***

Lirako waited until the break time before Science class to enact her plan. She could remember La-Iin intervening in a past altercation she had had with both him and Dosa-Mina, and considering that her plan dealt with trying to get San-Kyung to take romantic interest in someone, she had a feeling it was the best course of action.
So once La-Iin left the classroom, she walked over to San-Kyung.
“Yo.”
San-Kyung glared at her. To Lirako, the glare looked far more malicious than usual.
“Don’t talk to me, Catori. It’s September. It might not be October yet, but you’ll still regret speaking to me.”
“C’mon.” She sat on his desk. “Besides, it’s not me I want to talk about. It’s someone else.”
Lirako noticed that Dosa-Mina was also glaring at her, but his expression seemed uncertain as opposed to San-Kyung’s.
“You know my friend, Elyshen Deki-Tyunri?”
“I don’t care.”
“Lirako…!” Deki-Tyunri’s wings had started to unfold. Lirako winked at Deki-Tyunri, but he still looked flustered and upset.
“Don’t just shut me down. Look, he’s a nice kid. I think you and him could probably be good friends if you’d open up.”
“No.”
Lirako sighed. “Yet you’ll be friends with Dslellular?”
“My life is none of your business. Now back off unless you want to be someone’s meal.”
“I kind of don’t want to. But I’m not going to back off either.” She hopped off the desk and put her face close to San-Kyung’s.
“You know I know, right?”
“Know what?”
“Dosa-Mina’s species.”
San-Kyung’s eyes twitched. Lirako could tell that he was trying to hold a straight face.
“Everyone does.”
“Really? I thought it was a well-kept secret.”
“He’s very blatantly a Normal.”
“Trying to cover for him, eh?”
“Catori, I think I know what you’re getting at. Cut it out. I’m more than willing to lie to you and I’m telling you the truth here. So back off.”
“How am I supposed to believe you, then?”
“San-Kyung, please!” Dosa-Mina said.
San-Kyung glanced at him. “Just get away from me.”
“Oh, alright. If you’re so certain that Dosa-Mina is a Normal, I guess I’ll just tell the class what I suspect, then.”
Students nearby started to turn in their direction. Dosa-Mina’s eyes widened.
“San-Kyung–!”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. He seemed to be having a crisis.
Lirako was more than ready to continue on with her current line, until she caught sight of Deki-Tyunri out the corner of her eye. He was obviously quite upset.
‘Damn, if Deki-Tyunri finds out I’m trying to blackmail San-Kyung into liking him, he’ll probably be furious with me.’ Lirako’s ears flattened to her head. ‘I’d love to see them squirm more, but I think I’ll have to let it go.’
“Ah, well, it’s just a rumor anyway. Stirring up class would be a little more fun if everyone was here. Don’t worry, I won’t say anything.”
Finally.” San-Kyung sounded genuinely relieved.
Lirako turned to head back to her seat. She could already see that Deki-Tyunri was obviously less than pleased by what she had done. ‘That was a mistake. I should’ve known it’d make him mad…’
“…I should have known that bitch wouldn’t leave me alone…”
It was said so quietly, obviously intended for only one person to hear–but Lirako had picked up on it quite easily.
And she was pissed.
She turned around, stared down Dosa-Mina, and yelled at the top of her lungs,
“Says you, Weresiren!!
Dosa-Mina gaped. San-Kyung arguably looked even more surprised than he did.
“Weresiren?” Xhen-Bei said.
“Weresiren?” Zae-Mia said.
“As in, a Werewolf-Siren?” Ai-Reia asked. “Sanyaow, what are you doing calling him that for?”
“This guy always had us believing he was a Normal. But the truth is, what I called him is what he is. If you don’t believe me, you’re always welcome to go and talk to his parents about it.”
“How do you know that for sure?” Xhen-Bei sounded as if he didn’t believe her. “I mean, like, did he tell you or something?”
“I have irrefutable proof. And their expressions should say more than I ever could.”
Dosa-Mina covered his mouth and San-Kyung began to try and look stoic.
“So? What say you, students of Class D? Feel free to ask him to jump as high as he can or sing for you. I can assure you he’ll do neither.”
“But…how can that be? Wouldn’t we know if he was a Werewolf-Siren?” Zae-Mia said.
“Yeah! And why would he hide something like that?” Fer-Shi asked.
“Unless he’s like Dereni and he wants to cannibalize us,” Shan-Zetsu said, his expression one of fury.
“Well, Dosa-Mina? What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I…I’m a Normal…she’s just lying because I wouldn’t sing for her.”
“Does choking really help your situation?”
“Lirako!” Deki-Tyunri exclaimed. “Normal or Werewolf-Siren, why are you bothering him?”
“Because this jerk and I had a promise. I’d keep his secret in exchange for him not badmouthing me. And I don’t know if you heard it, but we Catoris can pick up on things even like whispered bitches. If you want proof, ask Llanni.”
Students turned to see Airy-Aekok.
“U-uh, um…like, I guess I could show you proof, yeah…”
“But are we sure that it’s concrete proof? Sanyaow and Llanni’s claims alone cannot just make us believe that that is the truth. Refusing to sing is suspicious, but there is nothing in his appearance that indicates he is anything other than Normal.”
“Have you ever heard of the Dereni brothers, Vampiris?” Cae-Bougen asked. “The younger brother attends this school right now, disguised as a Normal. I don’t know if I believe this claim, but it’s certainly possible…”
“Well, I know that, but–”
“Stop.”
The students turned to Dosa-Mina.
Dosa-Mina had had enough of their debating by now. He already knew there was no getting out of this one. It was a fight that had been lost the moment Lirako found out. Inevitably something was going to happen. A school event or something of the such. He could already imagine, his mother arriving disguised as a Normal, his father wearing several cloaks–and Lirako pulling off those cloaks, or another curious student reaching under them and feeling fur.
Even if Airy-Aekok was bluffing and she didn’t have any proof, sooner or later they would find out, and if he kept retaliating at this point, they were going to be even more curious when the truth came out. He was so close to leaving school without it ever being found out.
But that was just a dead pipe dream now.
“…Lirako, I understand our deal, but when I said that I wasn’t talking to you.”
“So? I heard it anyway.”
“Dslellular, does this mean that Sanyaow’s words are true? Are you a Werewolf-Siren?”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head. “I give up. I’m not going to deny it anymore. Sooner or later one of you is going to get too curious for your own good and go prying into my business. So there. Now you know. Now leave me alone.”
The classroom erupted into conversation instead. Dosa-Mina cringed.
“Why did you tell them!?” San-Kyung whispered.
“There’s no point in hiding it anymore, San-Kyung. It was a losing battle. I weighed my options and this was the situation with the more favorable outcome. Besides, if she really does have proof, I’m screwed either way.”
“Dosa-Mina…”
“There’s no out,” he said with a chuckle. “I’ve been on a downward spiral for a long while now. Everything’s going to come out about me. Soon enough there won’t be any secrets I can hide anymore.”
Tears rolled down his face. “Nothing…”

—–
“La-Iin, did you hear!?”
“Hear what?”
“Apparently, Dosa-Mina’s a Werewolf-Siren!”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “How do you know that?”
“H-huh? You already knew?”
“Isn’t that obvious? But how do you know?”
“He just told the whole class!”
“Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know!”
La-Iin huffed. “Something seems off…”

16.624.Down Grade

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 624
“Down Grade”

Dosa-Mina stared down at his fingers.
“Hey. Dosa-Mina.”
‘How much longer until people ask to see a paw? How much longer until someone looks higher than that? Maybe I should thank Lirako if she reveals my true species.’
“Dosa-Minaaa.”
‘After all, isn’t it worse if people know that I’m cutting? If I go into my true form, I’ll only have to worry about covering one side. And maybe I can grow fur on that side. Or can half-and-halves do that…dang it, I’m half-and-half and I don’t even know how it works.’
“Dosa-Mina?”
‘And after all, my species is more well-known. It’s a fact of my biology. People might question why I hid it, but nobody really knows why I do, so I can just pass it off with an excuse. No excuse I could make for cuts would keep the reaction from being the same. Nothing would…’
Dosa-Mina felt someone tap the side of his head.
“Ah, San-Kyung? Did you need something?”
“Biology just ended. You seemed spaced out throughout all of biology. One of your favorite subjects. I’m not blind, Dosa-Mina. …I may be scared of the police, but I don’t care about getting in trouble if you need one of those bitches murdered…”
“That’s going too far, San-Kyung.”
“Fine, I’ll singe their fur off. Cold weather’s coming soon anyway. Might be funny to see them walk around furless.”
“They’ll just wear heavy clothes,” he sighed. “Anyway, school isn’t the place to talk about this. I don’t need her overhearing you and deciding to tell the entire class…I have enough problems right now.”
“Need to blow off steam? You always offered that for me.”
Dosa-Mina shook his head. “Blowing off steam is easy for you. Not so much for me. I don’t even feel like being affectionate, and that at least usually comforts me. I’m just kind of stuck in a rut. Tell me, San-Kyung, am I getting more obvious?”
“I don’t know. I already know, so I can’t think about it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t. Or didn’t,” he said, glaring at Lirako.
“I’m glad you’re offering to help me, San-Kyung. But it’s okay. I have periods like this and I get past them. Besides, you have more to worry about than I do. Your problems aren’t your fault. Mine are. Whereas someone accidentally dug a grave for you and spilled water near it, I dug my own grave, spilled water on the ground myself and then tried to run away from it.”
“…”
“It’s what I can say to make me feel better,” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Don’t worry, this will pass. As long as I have Operation Reboot to focus on, it should…”

***

The classes drew to an end for the day, and though Dosa-Mina usually started getting ready to leave immediately, this time, as he had the past few days, he kept an eye on Lirako. But Lirako only talked to Deki-Tyunri, and then Xhen-Bei when he approached her. She didn’t get up to go and talk to Airy-Aekok.
San-Kyung was also watching Lirako closely, with a glare that made him slightly concerned. “Make sure you keep any murder fantasies inside your head.”
“Oh, it’s not murder fantasies. If there’s one thing I can give La-Iin, she might be right about torture being preferable over murder.”
“Talking about me?” La-Iin said. San-Kyung flinched. “That makes me happy. Maybe you and I should go somewhere soon, without rival-boy. It’s been a while hasn’t it?”
“Yeah right, La-Iin. I’ve never wanted to go somewhere alone with you, not even now that we’re closer.”
“That’s a lie, and you know it. But I really am glad, San-Kyung. You bringing me up to rival-boy, it almost feels like you’ve noticed…” She giggled to herself. “Well, see you tomorrow.”
San-Kyung waved absently.
“I guess we should go now,” Dosa-Mina whispered. “It doesn’t look like she or Airy-Aekok is going to say anything. I guess she’s kept her promise for now.”
“I don’t trust her to keep it. There has to be something we can do to keep her from saying anything. I wonder…maybe you should keep looking into potions. They seem like they could be helpful.”
“Who knows.”
“Mr. Dslellular?”
Dosa-Mina sat up straight. Hyungdarou was standing at the entrance to the primary classroom.
“Yes, Miss Hyungdarou?”
“The Principal wants to see you. She said it’s a bit of a concerning matter.”
“Huh?”
San-Kyung’s expression became dark, but Dosa-Mina didn’t notice. He nodded and walked after Hyungdarou.
‘What could the Principal want me for? Did I do something wrong?’
Thoughts of his school files, the species written as N/A, raced through his mind. ‘Oh, come on. I thought I heard some of the Class A students did that. …I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel if I’m justifying my actions by Class A’s doing the same…’
He sat down in the faculty room. Hyungdarou also took a seat. The Principal and Hyungdarou weren’t the only ones in there either–as usual, Sharai sat next to the Principal, though he was distracted with papers.
“Mr. Dslellular. Thank you for taking the time to come and talk with us. This matter may not seem urgent in your eyes, but we were incredibly concerned. Especially Miss Hyungdarou. It was her idea that we talk to you.”
“It was?”
Hyungdarou nodded.
“Mr. Dslellular, you are one of the best students in Class D. Your grades consistently rank up there with students such as Mr. Molshei, Miss Vampiris and Miss Sherry. You even stack up quite well against the smartest students of Class C, the class with the most consistently high grades. In short, you are one of our model students.”
“Um, thank you.”
“But there’s a problem.”
“What?”
“Recently there was a bit of homework that needed to be turned in. Even with your high grades, you have never done perfect and so we wouldn’t expect you to, but it was noticed that your grades in that bit of homework were abysmal. Miss Hyungdarou also noticed that you haven’t been concentrating at all in biology, especially yesterday and today. She said that she called for you both days and you didn’t respond so she moved on to another student.”
“You did? Why didn’t San-Kyung tell me?”
“I called on him next in one of those cases,” Hyungdarou said.
“It’s jarring, and I understand that sometimes we have our bad days. Perhaps it’s nothing to worry about at all, but even if it’s a one-off it’s a very startling drop. The grade on your homework was on par with Class A grades.”
Dosa-Mina shuddered.
“Mr. Dslellular, is something wrong at home? If it’s nothing, you needn’t tell us, but if there is anything we can do, we would like to help you.”
‘It’s obvious,’ he thought. ‘If I keep going at this rate, my grades won’t be the only things suffering. I won’t need Lirako or Airy-Aekok to reveal my species, I’ll just slip up myself. Ha ha…this is just great.’
The looks on the faces of the Principal, Sharai and Hyungdarou became more concerned, but Dosa-Mina didn’t pay them mind.
“It has to be nothing,” he said quietly. “Nothing bad has happened to me, except I got sick right before school started. I must have been distracted when I was doing my homework. There’s a specific subject I’ve been studying a ton, like really specific. Like what you do in your classes, Miss Hyungdarou.”
Hyungdarou began to look embarrassed.
“So it must have just sent everything I knew flying right out the window! I was so distracted learning about that subject, I didn’t think while doing my homework.”
“…” The trio looked among each other.
“Fair enough, Mr. Dslellular,” the Principal said. “I’ll believe your story for now. Try to pay more attention while doing your homework, and in class.”
“You are welcome to talk to the school about anything concerning you,” Hyungdarou said. “The faculty will not leak your personal secrets nor judge you.”
“Yeah right. That’ll only make me the one who does that.”
Dosa-Mina hadn’t noticed he had spoken the world aloud. He waved to the trio and left the room. San-Kyung was waiting right outside.
“What got you called to the Principal?”
“Apparently I did really shitty with my last homework, and they were wondering if my brain was turning to Class A mush. But I think it’s just because I’ve been focused on Operation Reboot?”
“…that’s not it, is it.”
“We can talk about this later, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina said. “But once you’ve gotten out everything you want to say I don’t want to hear about it any more. I’m tired of all this…”

—–
“I don’t think Mr. Dslellular was telling the truth.”
“I don’t either, Miss Hyungdarou, but what are we supposed to do? We cannot peer into the private lives of our students.”
“We could always call his parents,” Sharai suggested.
“But it is not our business to pry. Let us keep an eye on him for now and see if his grades continue to suffer first. I don’t believe his story, but let us give him the benefit of the doubt for now. If he’s telling the truth, the proof will show itself to us soon enough.”
“Yeah, maybe we should give him more homework.”
“Perhaps…”

14.622.Events of a Dslellular Monday

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 622
“Events of a Dslellular Monday”

Dosa-Mina sat at the dinner table, trying his best to focus on the book he was reading. It was quite difficult. Though he was interested in the book, he couldn’t erase what had happened just two days ago from his mind.
“WERESIREN!”
He hadn’t been able to talk to San-Kyung about it at first, but he should have known that he wasn’t going to get off just hanging up on him. San-Kyung had discovered the truth earlier that day after school, and though he did his best to calm him down, it was still on his mind.
‘But she kept her promise….right?’ Nobody else at school had shown any signs of knowing the truth about his species, and though Lirako shot several sly smirks in his direction during class she never spoke to or about him, not even to Airy-Aekok. In that sense he wanted to trust her and feel that everything would be alright, but a part of him felt that even if she did keep his species a secret he’d never feel quite as comfortable as he had before.
It seemed like each time he finished something interesting those thoughts raced through his head and such memories replayed in his mind.
He only got a break from the mental war when a knock sounded at the door. He was expecting to see San-Kyung, especially as he had seemed as though he was still concerned when he head home that day, but instead who greeted him was Sirlie-Baecho, a wide smile on her face.
“Yo, Dosa-Mina! Good to see ya.” Her smile lessened. “You don’t look so good. Get enough sleep?”
“Aha, not really. What brings you here again, Sirlie?”
“Can’t a girl visit her best friend? You might have San-Kyung too, but I’m still here, remember!”
“Yeah, I know.” Her words made him contemplate talking to her about what happened, but he was reluctant to. He could imagine Sirlie-Baecho cursing Lirako and Airy-Aekok, and he didn’t want them to hold that against him and tell the entire school. ‘That can wait, then…’
“Actually, though, it’s a little more than that.” Her expression became serious. “I finally met pumpkin-boy last week, and he was kind of a jerk.”
“That’s San-Kyung for you,” he chuckled.
“Ever since then, I’ve been feeling super-competitive! What does a jerk like him have over me when it comes to the friend department!? So I’ve decided on two things: either I’m gonna confront him myself again, or I’m gonna show him up when it comes to being your friend!”
Dosa-Mina’s eyes widened. “Why!?”
“Well, he does understand you, yeah. Least it seems that way. I’m jealous, okay!? I don’t get what makes him so reliable! He seems like a big jerk! Didn’t you say you two started out hating each other?”
“Yeah, we did.”
“So why? Why are you so close now?” Sirlie-Baecho sighed.
“We just are. I don’t really know how to explain it. I’ve told you, Sirlie, that doesn’t devalue our friendship at all. It’s just different.”
Sirlie-Baecho gave him a blank stare. “…if you’d tell me if it was that for certain, at least I’d understand…”
“Huh?”
“It’s nothing. I just…I just wanna be as important to you as he is,” Sirlie-Baecho said. “And that’s why now I’ve decided for sure. I’m gonna go confront him myself and we’ll see who’s the better friend!”
She spread her wings and head for the door. “What the–!? Hey, Sirlie!”
“C’mon, Dosa-Mina! Tell me where ‘e lives!”
“No! I don’t want you confronting him! You two are both pretty powerful. I don’t want you hurting each other!”
“I ain’t gonna hurt him unless he does something to hurt me first!”
‘And he probably will!’ Dosa-Mina bit back that retort.
“My only purpose is t’ go and see if one of us cares for you more. It’s morbid curiosity!”
“Oh, seriously, Sirlie! I get that you’re jealous, but I’ve told you before, you two are both very important to me. Just for different reasons!”
“I…I know that, but sometimes it just feels like…”
“San-Kyung and I trust each other a lot. We are very close, but we could never have the same kind of relationship I have with you. You’re like a sister to me. And you two are both important to me, so I don’t want you two hurting each other because you don’t like each other. You don’t have to like him just because I do.”
Sirlie-Baecho sighed. “I hear ya…I’m tellin’ ya, though, I wasn’t planning on starting trouble with him. Just seeing if one of us cared about you more.”
Dosa-Mina shook his head. “That’s silly.”
“Maybe it sounds silly to you, but I keep thinkin’ about it…”
Dosa-Mina gave a sigh of his own. “Sirlie, maybe you’ll believe me if I tell you about a little problem I have right now.”
“Huh?”
“But you have to promise me that you won’t go hunting these people down to curse them. It’s really important that you hear me out all the way on this.”
“Uh…if it’s that important to you, then sure. I’m always willin’ to lend an ear, but are you sure you want to tell me? I know ya don’t really like talking about your problems…”
“I’m sure. But let’s go to my bedroom just in case my parents get back while we’re talking. I don’t want them knowing for now.”

As Dosa-Mina expected, Sirlie-Baecho was utterly furious to learn of the incident, but she held to her promise that she wouldn’t go hunting down Lirako and Airy-Aekok.
“But the moment they tell everyone in the school,” she said, “you call me and I’ll curse ’em with the worst one I know.”
Still, Sirlie-Baecho seemed to believe him now that he valued both her and San-Kyung, so at least that situation was resolved. ‘And I guess I was able to get that off of my shoulders…’
Though it concerned him that Sirlie-Baecho had left his house yelling that she was going to learn more curses.

***

“Hi, Dosa-Mina!”
“We got home at around the same time today. What a coincidence, huh?”
“Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad.” Dosa-Mina said.
“Have you been reading this entire time?”
“Almost the entire time. There’s a lot to learn about Witches, so it’s best to get started early!”
“I guess.”
“Witches are really confusing to me. Their powers sometimes seem to defy logic. But at least most of them have a reasonable explanation. The ones that nobody knows how they work, those bother me.”
He turned back to the book. Elai-Riya relaxed in a chair next to him. When she glanced in his direction, she noticed his wrist. A scar was visible on it.
‘Something’s just not right about those scars.’ Ever since she had first spotted one on Dosa-Mina’s wrist, she had been concerned, and she knew Orlin-Aesth was too, though he didn’t bring it up as much in front of Dosa-Mina.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina, is there anything you wanted to do today?”
“Hm? I’m not sure. Why do you ask?”
“Well, you and Sirlie-Baecho seem to be getting along lately. Why don’t you go and see her?”
“Actually, she was over here just earlier. And I think she’s practicing curses right now.”
“How much do you know about curses?”
“I know a bit. I know they’re not the kind of curses you hear about in fiction, for one. Why do you ask?”
“No reason. I was just thinking you should get out. You seemed really down over the Weekend. Maybe you need some fresh air.”
“Um…? Well, I guess I could read my book outside.”
“That sounds like a good idea.”
Dosa-Mina smirked. “Are you trying to set up some sort of surprise for me?”
“No, of course not!”
Dosa-Mina’s smirk turned into a grin. “I see. I guess I will go read outside then!” He took the book and head outside.
“Perfect.”
“Why’d you send him outside, Elai-Riya?”
Elai-Riya sighed. “I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately, Orlin-Aesth. Dosa-Mina’s behavior sometimes, those scars on his wrists, and that time we found blood on his bed…I’m worried I know what it all means, and I just need to either…prove or disprove those fears, you know?”
Orlin-Aesth’s face steeled. “I…I understand. We should look quickly, though. There’s no telling when he’ll come back inside.”
The two head into Dosa-Mina’s room and began to check his books, pictures and anything that might be hiding an item they hoped they wouldn’t find. Orlin-Aesth had just moved aside a picture when he heard Elai-Riya gasp behind him.
She was staring blankly at a kitchen knife.
Both of them had no idea of how to react to what they had just found. The knife didn’t appear to be clean and had obviously been hidden. Orlin-Aesth noticed that Elai-Riya had started to cry, and he pulled her close.
“…we have to talk to him about this,” Elai-Riya said.

—–
Dosa-Mina came back inside, feeling in a surprisingly good mood. ‘Maybe going outside was what I needed. Mom had a good idea! Speaking of, I wonder if there’s something she wants to surprise me with.’
He spotted both his parents sitting at the table, though their expressions were more serious than he was expecting. He took a seat across from them.
“Is something wrong? ….hey, is Auntie Tebi-Miya alright?”
“Auntie Tebi-Miya’s been fine for a while now, Dosa-Mina. She’d tell me if something changed.” Elai-Riya said.
Orlin-Aesth motioned to the table. Dosa-Mina looked down.
The blade that was sitting there was startlingly familiar.
“Wha–”
“Dosa-Mina, you need to talk to us about this!” Elai-Riya said.
“Wha….what?” He tried to force a chuckle. “This isn’t…you’ve got the…”
‘There’s no weaseling out off this one.’
Dosa-Mina lowered his head. He wasn’t sure what to say. There wasn’t even the right kind of fear to prompt some sort of response from him. His parents were some of the last people he wanted to know about this.
How could he possibly reduce the damage done here? There was nothing he could do. They knew now, and they weren’t going to leave him alone until he explained himself.
All he could offer in this situation was an excuse.

12.620.Catastrophic Coincidences

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 620
“Catastrophic Coincidences”

The last class had just ended, and students were heading out of the classroom fairly quickly. Most who hadn’t were getting ready to, all except for Lirako. After talking with Deki-Tyunri for a bit, she head over to Airy-Aekok’s seat.
“Hey, Llanni, you like pumpkins?”
“Yeah, they’re like, super tasty! My dad can usually only get some ’round this time of year. Ooh, now I’ve got a taste for one!”
San-Kyung covered his ears.
“There’s a certain point where you can tell if someone’s saying something to talk about it, and when someone’s saying it to get a reaction,” Dosa-Mina said. Lirako turned to face him.
“Hey, don’t butt in on our conversation.”
“I wasn’t. Everyone in the classroom can tell that you’re just saying that to get attention.”
Most remaining students started to pack up faster, except for Fei-Zhust and Shan-Zetsu, who were morbidly curious to see how things turned out.
“So I can’t just have a conversation with Llanni about pumpkins?”
Dosa-Mina glared at her. “Seeing San-Kyung squirm is just a nice side-effect of these conversations. I actually was curious about her opinion on pumpkins!”
“Hmph.” Dosa-Mina put away the rest of his supplies and stood up. Lirako relaxed on Airy-Aekok’s desk.
“You know, for someone who presents himself as so tough, he’s such a pussy when it comes to eating pumpkins.”
Lirako’s eyes widened and she giggled.
“What’s so funny about that?”
“No, it’s not that, just a joke I wanted to make…you know how when people die, we just bury their bodies? Well, with an Animated Pumpkin, we could mourn them and then make their body into all sorts of tasty treats! It sure would be sad, but then we’d always have a part of them with us!”
Airy-Aekok began to giggle.
“Just imagine, San-Kyung pumpkin pie!” Lirako chortled.
Lirako was so caught up in her laughter, she didn’t notice that Dosa-Mina had approached her. She only noticed when she felt a hand smack her right in the face.
“Now I know you’re just doing it on purpose.”
“What the…that was uncalled for!”
“If it makes you shut up, I don’t care.” He then walked out of the classroom, San-Kyung behind him. Lirako rubbed her cheek.
“You alright?”
“Physically, yeah. But emotionally, I’m pissed!”

‘It’s so nice to just take a walk sometimes!’
Dosa-Mina had been having a boring day. Both his parents had been called in to work to cover for someone, and his two closest friends San-Kyung and Sirlie-Baecho were unavailable. He had tried to do some species study, but found himself bored by either things he already knew well, or that he didn’t understand to the point that it nearly gave him a headache.
So instead, he decided to take a walk, and only a little bit into it he felt like all his cares were melting away. There was no concern of Operation Reboot, no concern of La-Iin or Lirako or Airy-Aekok, no concern of his cuts or nightmares or species or any such thing that caused him agony to think about. Instead, he could just walk and sight-see around Bledger.
It was a liberating experience.

“What’d you want me to come out with you for, Llanni?”
“Like, I just thought it’d be fun to hang out, Sanyaow. And maybe it’d cheer you up after yesterday. I know you’ve got, like, lots of other things you could be doing, but my Dad has work tonight so like, I just–”
“I get it, I get it, you don’t have to keep saying ‘like’,” Lirako chuckled. “I like spending time with my friends, so don’t worry about it.”
“Yeah, so I like, figured I’d take you to one of my favorite areas! Downtown has this huge place where they have a ton of musical stuff, and some of my favorite groups they have merchandise for! I have a little vuyong so I thought it’d be fun!”
“I don’t really pay attention to groups much anymore, but it might be nice, if I knew what their music sounded like.”
“I can give you some ideas. One of my favorite groups has a song that goes like this: hmm-hmm-hmm hmm-hmm-hmm hmm hmm hmm….
“I…see.” ‘She sure can chat. Poor girl’s probably lonely. Well, I’m sure this’ll be a fun outing!’
Airy-Aekok led the way to the part of downtown that had the musical merchandise. Once they reached it, Airy-Aekok gasped and ran ahead of her.
“Oh my goooosh! They have my favorite one here! This is the one! This is the one I was singin’ for you just now!”
“Really? Hm, The Multispecies Melody…
“Yeah, they like, called it that ’cause the members just happened to all be different species, but they sing sooo good. I can only imagine that’s what Sirens sound like!”
Lirako giggled. “You think Dosa-Mina sounds like that?”
“How would I know? But I bet he doesn’t sound as good as they do!”
“Probably not as good as a Pureblood Siren either!”
The two giggled before Airy-Aekok showed Lirako the songs on the CD and pointed out her favorites.

***

Unfortunately, at around that time, someone else had entered the area.
Wandering into that part of downtown had been completely arbitrary–he was just walking anywhere he recognized. Downtown was close by, and so he head over there. He was thinking of visiting the stall plaza when he overheard voices–familiar voices.
It wasn’t the voices that bothered him, though. It was what they said.
‘There’s no way they could actually know that!’ He thought. ‘Almost nobody in Bledger knows about my true species, and I’m pretty sure I’d know if someone I know told somebody else! Who would even care to do that!? No, it’s got to be a coincidence.’
He wanted to confront them, to ask them how they could have possibly come to that conclusion, but he felt that if he did that, they would only have their theory confirmed–if it was a theory at all.
“So like yeah, this is by far my favorite song by them. I’d totally recommend this CD.”
“Maybe I’ll look into it, then.”
When Lirako looked up, she caught sight of Dosa-Mina, standing there with his head bowed.
“Hey, look who it is!”
Dosa-Mina flinched. There seemed to be only one option for him right then–run away and pretend he had never heard them. So he dashed off, starting slow at first and hoping they didn’t notice.
“Hey, he ran away!”
“I wonder why? …hey, wait a second…”
“What’s up?”
“Do you think he heard the joke we made about him?” She asked.
“What joke?”
“You know, the thing about him not sounding as good as a Pureblood Siren?”
“Maybe he just didn’t wanna, like, see us…”
“I wonder…maybe we should follow him.”
“Huh?”
“Come on!”

The rest of the walk was agony after what he had heard.
All it brought back were memories of the prior semester, the suspicions Airy-Aekok and Lirako had had that they voiced in front of the whole class. He could definitely tell that a few of his classmates had given the possibility some thought.
‘But they couldn’t know. And they only suspected the Siren part. Male Sirens are rare. It’s not all that far-fetched to think that they might just be continuing on with that assumption and coming to the natural conclusion that I’m only half-Siren. It’s the correct conclusion, but it’s still just their conjecture…and there’s no way they could know. They don’t know where I live, and my species is only in sensitive documents. It should be, anyway…’
Dosa-Mina sighed. ‘I need to stop panicking! There’s no way they could know for sure!’
He picked up his pace. Some distance behind him was Lirako and Airy-Aekok, their eyes focused in his direction.
“What’d you wanna follow him for?” Airy-Aekok whispered.
“We know the truth now, Llanni. Why not tell him?”
“Huh? Why?”
“I’d love to see his reaction, that’s why. And I’d also like to see if he fights back…besides, did we ever agree on keeping it our secret alone forever?”
Dosa-Mina glanced back at them. He hadn’t noticed they were following him until he heard their voices, but what they said made him more uncomfortable than he already was.
‘Calm down! It’s their stupid conclusion. You have no reason to be afraid.’
Dosa-Mina continued onwards, not once looking back–at least not until a paw tapped him on the back.
“Huh?” He decided to play dumb. “…oh. It’s you.” He pushed her paw away and continued to walk on.
“You sure about this, Sanyaow?” He heard Airy-Aekok ask.
“Yeah, I’m sure. And after yesterday, now’s as good a time as ever. Maybe even better than that.”
Lirako took a deep breath. “HEY! WERESIREN!”
Dosa-Mina flinched. ‘There’s no way…’
Lirako ran over to him, Airy-Aekok right behind her.
“We know already.”
“Know what? The obvious? That I’m a Normal?”
Lirako shook her head. “And if you’re jumping to defend your species, that means you already know, too.”
“I figure I know what Weresiren is supposed to mean,” he said. “Stop accusing me of being something I’m not.”
“Ooh, he’s fighting,” Lirako said.
Dosa-Mina grit his teeth. “Just stop, okay? I don’t need you spreading rumors about me being something I’m not. Especially since people tend to be wary around Sirens.”
“Nobody’s wary around Melongie,” Airy-Aekok said. “And she’s, like, a Pureblood. Sanyaow just called you a half-Siren.”
“Besides, you might say that, but some people are more “adventurous” than us. Are you sure spreading ‘rumors’ would make people believe something untrue, or is it possible they’d find out without a doubt?”
“It’s not true!”
Lirako sighed. “Your jumping. You not wanting to sing. Your strength. All those things align with Werewolf-Siren. So does you being able to transform into a Normal. And yellow is an unusual eye color for a Normal. Not so much for a Werewolf.”
“It doesn’t matter what you say. It’s not true.”
“Dslellular, we like, saw an official document that had your species on it.”
“All my official documents say Normal!”
“The one at school says N/A. And the one Llanni saw said differently.”
“You know other people are named Dosa-Mina, right?”
“I’m pretty sure you’re the only Dslellular Dosa-Mina in Bledger.”
“I haven’t been keeping in touch with my Dad’s side of the family.”
Lirako’s eyes widened and her ears twitched. “That’s it!”
“What’s it?”
Lirako smirked. “Hey, Dosa-Mina. If you’re so adamant on being a Normal, then it doesn’t matter if I tell everyone at school my suspicions, does it? After all, even if they go to see your parents, they won’t see a Werewolf and a Siren.”
“Or two Werewolf-Sirens,” Airy-Aekok added.
“They’ll instead see two Normals and then my theory will be proven wrong. Isn’t that right? So don’t worry. Nobody’ll believe me. It’ll just be like every other false rumor that ever–”
“Stop!”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head. He felt backed into a corner. Now it was obvious he couldn’t escape this–even if he ran now, that might only encourage her more.
There was only one option left to him to reduce the damage as much as possible.
“Please don’t tell anyone what you know,” he said. “Please…”
“So it’s true?”
Dosa-Mina didn’t respond.
“Alright, we won’t. Right, Llanni?”
“I won’t, like, ever unless you let me.”
“But in exchange you have to promise you won’t mess up. By that I mean don’t screw up and make me want to tell everyone, and you’re good.”
Dosa-Mina looked up at her. “…you really are a bitch.”
“If you don’t want all of Malicerie calling you Weresiren, then you’re not gonna call me a bitch ever again. We have a deal, so long as you behave.”

—–
“Hey, Sanyaow…”
“Yeah?”
“Don’t you think it was a little, like, excessive what you did?”
“What, am I supposed to just take him calling me a bitch?”
“No, I just didn’t think you were really all that nice to him.”
“He hasn’t been nice to me either.”
“I guess…”
“I don’t intend on suppressing him, only keeping him from being mean to you and me. That’s all.”
“If you say so.”

“Hey, Dosa-Mina! Where were–huh?” Orlin-Aesth sighed. “What’s gotten into him?”
Dosa-Mina ran into his room, all intents to call San-Kyung and tell him what had happened. He picked up the phone, he dialed his number, and waited for him to pick up.
“What’s up, Dosa-Mina?”
But when he heard his voice, he couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“…it’s nothing.” Before he could respond, Dosa-Mina hung up. He felt like he was choking up. Today had already been bad enough, and he definitely did not want to cry to San-Kyung over the phone.

4.612.Sirlie and San

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 612
“Sirlie and San”

“It’s great to have you over again, San-Kyung!” Dosa-Mina chirped.
“You visited me when I was sick. I don’t mind doing the same. Especially since you have an avian sickness.”
“Yeah. But don’t worry! I don’t feel as sick as I have the past few days. My chest feels a lot better and I’m not coughing nearly as much! You could have just called, but I do appreciate the visit lots.”
“It is good that you came over, San-Kyung. I had to work recently and Elai-Riya’s been a little…germaphobic since he has an avian sickness.”
“She’s been watching me plenty though. Say, San-Kyung? Are you wanting to do something while you’re over, or are you just going to stare at me until I get better?”
“I wasn’t sure what to do. I’m not sure what I came over for aside from ‘You’re sick’. I don’t usually come over for these sorts of things.”
“That’s a perfectly valid reason, you know.”
A knock sounded at the door.
“I’ll get it!” Orlin-Aesth said. He walked over to the door. Dosa-Mina’s eyes began to glance around the room.
“Soooo….any chance you had ulterior motives?”
“Huh?”
“I mean, you wanted to know anything about Operation Reboot. I’ve been bedridden after all, so I’ve had a lot of time to sit down with a book. And of course I’ve been looking into our main field of study.”
“Actually, no. But if you were looking into it–”
“Aw!” Dosa-Mina pulled San-Kyung close. “That’s so nice of you, San-Kyung.”
“I–”
San-Kyung’s response was cut short by a sudden blur zipping a short distance past the two. The blur turned back and stopped in front of them.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina! Why didn’t you tell me you had feather flu!? My family’s basically got the perfect remedy for that, I thought you knew!”
“Sirlie-Baecho?”
“You could’ve come to us and–” Sirlie-Baecho’s eyes fell on San-Kyung. “Oh. I see.”
San-Kyung grit his teeth.
“Sorry to interrupt! I’ll be out of here purr-onto.”
“Hey, wait a second, Sirlie!”
Sirlie-Baecho turned around. “What, I’m needed in your little tizzy?”
“No, it’s just nice to see you! How’d you know I have feather flu?”
“Yer Mom told me on her way to work today. And so I came here! We Xartas have the perfect family remedy for feather flu. Clears it up in ten hours! Most ‘a the time, anyway.”
“I wish I had known. I would’ve gone to you right away. It was really bad two days ago, but now I feel a lot better!”
“Well, at least you’re recoverin’.” Sirlie-Baecho narrowed her eyes at San-Kyung. “What’s with the glare, pumpkin-boy?”
“Oh, I thought I told you, San-Kyung’s not all that friendly with people.”
“Hypocrite. Stop glaring at me, then.”
Sirlie-Baecho scoffed. “No kidding. And I remember, you told me that. But hey, we’re both here for the same reason, right? At least I was assuming up until I saw that display…”
“You’re here for the same reason,” Dosa-Mina giggled.
“Hey, is she staying?” San-Kyung asked, his tone one of disbelief.
“Well, me and Sirlie don’t see each other all that often any more. And besides, since you two both have simple reasons for visiting me, I’m sure it won’t be that much of a problem if you’re both in here at the same time!”
“I wouldn’t think so!” Sirlie-Baecho said. “Although I think pumpkin-boy might think otherwise.”
San-Kyung huffed and turned his glare on Dosa-Mina. “Aw, come on, just give it a shot. I’m not asking you to make friends with her. And besides, you put up with my parents.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Fine. But don’t expect me to stay long.”
‘Ah…in hindsight, this was probably a terrible idea.’ He could already see it from the contrasting expressions on his friends’ faces–a happy one on Sirlie-Baecho’s and one of agitation on San-Kyung’s.

***

Even knowing it hadn’t been the best idea to welcome both of his close friends to stay, Dosa-Mina had already decided he wasn’t going to back down from it. ‘If either Sirlie or San-Kyung wants to leave, they’re welcome to! I can’t stop them!’
So after the initial surprise of Sirlie-Baecho’s invitation to stay had worn off, Dosa-Mina turned instead to making drinks. From the kitchen, he could hear Sirlie-Baecho and San-Kyung talking. Curiosity stayed his hand and he stopped making the drinks to listen.
“So, pumpkin-boy. I get that you aren’t the biggest fan of people–”
“If you get that much, then you should be able to get that that also includes you.”
Sirlie-Baecho sighed. “You didn’t let me finish. I get that you aren’t the biggest fan of people, but you seem to really care about Dosa-Mina.”
“And that’s important because?”
“Well, it’s sweet,” she chuckled, “and also, you’d think you wouldn’t mind so much if he had another friend over. It’s not like he invited me over to your house or anything.”
“I don’t know your aim, demon, but I don’t want to talk to you.”
Sirlie-Baecho huffed. “You could at least have the deceny to call me Xarta.”
“This, coming from the girl who’s been calling me pumpkin-boy all day?”
“You’ve got me there. Fine then, I won’t bother you! But now that I’ve met you I can definitely say I don’t understand how Dosa-Mina and you became friends.”
“I could say the same.”
“At least I understand him better. I’ve been there for him for more years than you have.”
“So you say, but I heard him say that you don’t see each other all that often anymore.”
“That might be true, but whose fault is that!?”
The expression that showed on San-Kyung’s face after that looked almost smug. Sirlie-Baecho was becoming quickly agitated.
“I’ve seen sides to Dosa-Mina I doubt you’ve ever seen.”
“You’re still going on about this? I could say the same. Just be quiet, demon.”
“Not when you’re the one saying that to me. Dosa-Mina is one of my best friends! I’d jump right to his aid if I could, whenever he needed the help. You, on the other hand? You look like you’re just taking advantage of him.”
San-Kyung’s face twitched.
“All I wanted to do was ask you a stupid little question and you’re getting all huffy.”
“I could’ve been a lot harsher towards you. Consider yourself lucky we’re in the Dslellular house. And look at yourself! You’re pissed off because you’re jealous.”
“How!? So Dosa-Mina showers you in affection, I know him well! It’s not jealousy at all. It’s frustration. He always talks about you so fondly, but if all you’re doing is taking advantage of him, then it just–!”
San-Kyung struck his hands. “I’ve heard enough from you!”
“I think that’s one thing I’d have to agree with you on.”
Dosa-Mina gasped. He ran over, drinks in arm.
“Stop!”
San-Kyung put out his hand fire, and Sirlie-Baecho’s expression eased. “Geez, I’m gone for a little bit and you two can’t keep from fighting.”
“You can blame her. I told her a few times I didn’t want to talk. …I went easy on you, by the way.”
“You didn’t have to be so rude about it! You know, you’re the San-Kyung. The boy Dosa-Mina talks about so fondly. You’re his best friend, better than I could ever be. I was curious, that’s all.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “Well, at least it didn’t escalate as far as it could have. My parents would have been pissed if they came back to a scorched and cursed house.”
“…curse?” San-Kyung asked cautiously.
“That’s right, pumpkin-boy. Better call yourself lucky that he stopped me before I could do anything.”
“Don’t fight, please. Don’t force yourself to talk to each other. I can interact with you both individually and give you an equal amount of time.”
“I know…” Sirlie-Baecho sighed.
“Besides, you’re just going to aggravate my flu. I’m not expecting my friends to get along. Just expecting you two not to kill each other.” He handed them drinks. “Why don’t we enjoy ourselves? I’ll go get my drink and we can sit down together! And you two don’t have to talk to each other.”
Dosa-Mina ran back to the kitchen.
“…he’s too nice for his own good.”
“I’d agree with you on that one.”
“You’ve never seen him when he’s really pissed at someone, though.”
Sirlie-Baecho huffed. “Guess not. You’ve never seen him act shy, though.”
“That sounds impossible.”
“…I don’t like you, pumpkin-boy.”
“Ditto.”
“But you know what? Because I love Dosa-Mina so much, I’m not gonna fight with you about it!”
“Just don’t provoke me.”
“Pretty tame for evil, ain’t you?”
“If we weren’t around Dosa-Mina, you wouldn’t be saying the same thing.”
Dosa-Mina returned with his drink, and beckoned the two to sit at the table with him. Somehow, to Dosa-Mina, the tension in the air felt just a bit easier than it had a few moments ago.

—–
“You know, pumpkin-boy, I’ll give you one thing.”
“What?”
“I guess you care about Dosa-Mina well enough…you were pretty nice to him today.”
“I don’t need your kudos.”
“Why’d you ask what, then? You know, I think you and I could maybe get along, if you’d just open–”
“Can it, demon girl. I put up with you for Dosa-Mina’s sake. I thought you knew that already.”
“You want a face-ful of curse, pumpkin boy?”
“I’d get you with fire first!”
“They certainly seem to have a….how do I put this…”
“They seem like they’d make perfect rivals, if they weren’t so violent,” Dosa-Mina giggled.
“How’d you put up with it?”
“Drinks. Alcoholic.”
“What!?”
“Just kidding.”
“What was with the surprise, Orlin-Aesth?” Elai-Riya asked.
“You used to drink alcohol. I was scared you had some left over.”
“Don’t worry, those days are over after the drunk disaster of 2009…”
Elai-Riya’s eyes wandered to Dosa-Mina’s wrist.
“Dosa-Mina? Do you have a scar or something on your wrist?” She asked. “Where did you get it?”
Dosa-Mina covered his wrist. “Ah–um–just an accident a while ago. Cut myself on a branch while you guys were gone, heh heh!”
“How come we never knew about it?”
Dosa-Mina began to look uneasy. “Well, it was better by the time you got back, so I didn’t think to mention it…”
“Buh-bye, Dosa-Mina! Hopefully I’ll see you again soon! Without pumpkin-boy, that is.”
“You’re going already, Sirlie?”
“Yeah, I’d better before the urge to curse him overtakes me. We Demons are pretty sensitive to our urges. Anyhow, see ya!”
She ran over to Dosa-Mina, hugged him, then took off. “And feel better, okay!?”
“I’m feeling a lot better already! Thank you!”
“Good riddance.”
“You really found her annoying, San-Kyung?”
“What do you think?”
“I guess that’s to be expected. I’ll try not to have you both over at the same time anymore. Although it might be fun to see what happens!”
“Sadist.”
“Aw, don’t be mean.”