15.592.To See the Future–Part 4

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

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

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

***

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

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

11.588.To See the Future–Part 3

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 588
“To See the Future–Part 3”

“Hey sis, is something wrong?”
“What’s up, sis? Why do you look so sad?”
“Hey sis, are you in heat?”
Lirako’s face clenched and she smacked Aeisho’s ear with her tail. “Ow! You didn’t need to hit me!”
“Lirako, don’t hit your brothers. But boys, maybe I should talk to Lirako instead. You can go and play with your toys, okay?”
“We’re just worried about big sis,” Haekshi said.
“I know you are, but I don’t think you’re helping.”
“Aw, mom,” Jiushi whined. Their mother flashed them a sympathetic look, and the boys left the room, most looking dejected–though Lirako noticed that Baekihg seemed ready to play and skipped alongside his brothers.
“What’s wrong, Lirako?”
“…I don’t know if I wanna tell you.”
“Come on, Lirako. Would you rather talk to Aekvi about it?”
“I feel the same way about telling Dad that I do about telling you.”
Her mother sighed. “What’s wrong?”
Lirako lowered her head. ‘She isn’t gonna stop badgering me, is she? Might as well humor her.’ “Well…I was thinking, I’m gonna graduate next year. And I really don’t have any plans for what I’m gonna do when I graduate. I don’t have a job, I have no idea what my goal is, and I just…I don’t know. I keep worrying about the fact that I haven’t kept in touch with some of my friends from school who graduated this year and last year. And I don’t think that would happen with Deki-Tyunri, but what about everyone else? Will I just lose touch with them?”
“Graduation can be a confusing time, Lirako. It’s one of the big changes in your life and pretty much the last one before you become an adult. It’s not something you should feel like you should keep a secret. I’m sure most of the other students who are close to graduating don’t have much of a plan either.”
“I know.” She flattened her ears. “I don’t think I’d be so upset if it wasn’t for the fact that I really like my life the way it is right now. I can’t imagine some major change happening.”
“Well, I’m not going to tell you that you have to have a whole bunch of ideas right away. But you should at least start to plan for things a little. Why don’t you focus on what you think you should do first? You have to get ready to live on your own and start your adult life. Do you want a family? Is there some sort of career you want to pursue? How much time are you going to devote to the things you want to do?”
Lirako held her head. “I don’t know, Mom…”
Her mother sighed. “You don’t need to have all the ideas for your future right away. But don’t just run into it without a single one. I’m afraid that’s all the advice I can give you, though.”
“Thanks, Mom. I guess it’s at least something.”
Lirako sat there for a moment longer, her ears still flattened to her head, when they suddenly shot right up and a look of surprise crossed her face. “Hey Mom, do you mind if I go somewhere for a little bit? I just got an idea.”
“Sure, where are you going?”
“I’m gonna stop by school. I think our teachers have a little bit of work to do over the Summer. Maybe I’ll be lucky and one of them will be there!”
“You can go to school, sure, but why do you–”
Before she could finish asking the question, Lirako dashed out the room. “Lirako sure is a girl who runs on the spur of the moment…”

Lirako dashed to Malicerie, hoping she was right–that and that the school’s doors weren’t locked. Luckily enough, the second one was at least right, and so Lirako opened them and wandered inside and began to take a look around.
Malicerie seemed empty at first glance, but up ahead she could hear the sound of voices. Cautiously, she slunk ahead and listened in to hear the conversation.
“You do realize the Malicerie budget would be shot if we did such a thing, Mr. Sharai?”
“I know it would be. That’s why we need to do a fundraiser! C’mon, other schools do it, don’t they!?”
“Your ideas are impossible, Mr. Sharai.”
“Says you! You’ve thought some of them were pretty good in the past!”
“That doesn’t change the majority of them being duds.”
“While you two discuss that, I’ll go get us something to eat.”
Just as she was beginning to get comfortable, the door opened and sent her reeling backwards. She met the eyes of Theasis, whose eyes widened in turn when she saw her.
“Miss Sanyaow?”
“Shh,” Lirako folded her ears back, hoping it would help garner her sympathy. Theasis closed the door behind her. “What are you doing at Malicerie? You know as well as most of the other students that Summer is school break.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Are you here for a Weekend class? You do realize it’s Tuesday, right?”
“No, I don’t go to the Weekend classes.” She lowered her head. “I wanted someone to talk to. And since you’re here, I think you’d be perfect…but if you can’t, can you please promise me you won’t tell the rest of the faculty I was here? I don’t want to get in trouble because of something like this.”
Theasis sighed. “Come with me, Miss Sanyaow.” She took her paw and led her to one of the empty Weekend classrooms. Lirako took a seat and Theasis took her seat nearby her.
“What is it you wanted to talk about? By the way you worded what you wanted to say, I’m assuming that means anyone would go, so that must mean it isn’t about math.”
“No, it’s not. Y’see, I’m just having a bit of trouble deciding what to do after school. I wanted some advice, and maybe a little bit of perspective.”
Theasis gave another sigh. “There are plenty of things you’ll have to focus on first before you get down to what you want to do. Like where will you go for college? Most Vaelis people go to college, so there are plenty of options. What are you going to do to sustain yourself? Those sorts of things. Sometimes you can incorporate your goals too. I went to college to study mathematics and also took on a part-time job that dealt with math. I was trying to become a mathematics professor, but where I ended up isn’t too bad, I guess.”
Lirako’s eyes widened. “Miss Sanyaow? What is it?”
“What I want, huh…”

***

“Principal Sharai, I’ve got the greatest idea ever! You know how the students have seemed pretty lazy nowadays? Well I thought, remember back when we did the 28th Running Event?”
“Oh yeah, we haven’t done that in five years!”
“I was thinking, why don’t we make it a monthly thing!? No, maybe even biweekly! Although we’d have to change its name…oh! And it can count for extra credit! The students will get more exercise and they’ll have more fun doing it, especially if we offer prizes!”
Sharai slammed his hands down on the table. “You’re a genius, Sanyaow! Ah, it’s so nice to have someone working under me who understands my ideas. Your old Principal, bless her soul, just didn’t get it.”
“Well, I’m sure she’s somewhere watching us and silently disapproving. But hey, Malicerie’s never been better, if you ask me! Class A’s even become slightly less radical, though I still question what some of the teachers are teaching them.”
Sharai sighed. “Yeah, I should probably fire Neowang. Her name’s just so funny though!”
A bang sounded against the door. “Hey, careful, Deks. Don’t just slam your head against the door like that.”
“Come in!”
The door opened, and Deki-Tyunri peeked his head in. “Am I intruding?”
“Nope, Mr. Elyshen, you’re fine! But what are you here for? Weren’t you sent home for the day?”
“I was, but I wanted to see Lirako–er, Miss Sanyaow.”
“Hopefully someday Mrs.,” Lirako said with an empty laugh. “It’s beyond me how you ended up married before me, Deki-Tyunri.”
“Loopholes,” he said cheerfully. “I really am sorry to intrude, I just wanted to see you. We don’t see each other as often as we used to.”
“Are you kidding me? You’re Malicerie’s flight instructor and I’m its vice principal! You call that not seeing each other often?”
“Sanyaow has a point, you do see each other a lot,” Sharai said.
“I guess so. But usually only during work, when we can’t really talk…Shu-Taka is taking up a lot of my home time.”
“He’s a baby, what’d you expect?” Lirako’s face became blank. “I’ll never forget the day my little brothers were born. The days they were babies…I don’t think my parents have gotten over that trauma even years later.”
“How are they now, by the way?”
“They plan on buying a multi-family house so they and their girlfriends can all live in the same place! Most of their girlfriends are Pureblood Catori, so I’m kind of scared to see how many grandchildren our Mom and Dad end up with…” Lirako shook her head. “Ooh, that’s not the point here! It’s nice to see you, Deki-Tyunri. We should meet up more outside of school. But I have a little bit of work to do right now.”
“I understand. Maybe we’ll meet up this Saturday?”
“Sounds like a plan!”
“I’ll discuss it with Cea-Va, then.” He smiled. “I’ll see you soon, Lirako.”
“Me too! See ya soon!”
Lirako turned back to Sharai.
“A lot of your old friends came back to work at Malicerie, huh? Or were they all your old friends?”
“You’re right, most of the people who used to come here are my old friends. Though Miss Murana was Deki-Tyunri’s–I mean, Mr. Elyshen’s.”
Sharai giggled. “It’s okay. Back when I was the vice principal, it took my all not to call your old Principal Miss Priya or Miss Maa-Gu. I even sometimes just wanted to call her Maa-Gu without the miss…anyway, I don’t mind so long as you do it around me and not around the students.”
“I try not to.”
“Still, it’s been nice to have you around again. You’ve definitely mellowed out over the years.”
“That’s because I have a purpose now. I realized something while I was in school, Mr. Sharai. I really like going to school. And maybe I’m not here for the same reason I used to be, but I just…I like things staying the same as much as possible.” The insides of her ears turned bright red. “Of course I still wanted to grow up, of course I did! But I mean, um…you know what I mean?”
“I think I do! And I’m glad to have you here. Most of the students like you too.”
“Yeah, except for Dslellular’s little brat. He always tells me his dad says I harassed him so he doesn’t like me either. But that’s not the point here.”
“I wonder if you’d like it so much if your old friends didn’t work here, though?”
“I think I would have. You wanna know why? Because I’ve gotten to make new friends here too. I don’t mind making new friends at all. You used to be more of a weirdo who I sort of had to respect, but now you’re like my boss, so…” She chuckled.
“Yeah. Well, anyway, we should get back to ideas.”
“Yeah, we should. Hey, have you ever considered a multi-class competition of some sort?”
Sharai’s eyes widened. “Ooh, elaborate!”

—–
“Miss Sanyaow!”
Lirako flinched.
“Miss Sanyaow, please, don’t space out on me like that.”
“Sorry, Miss Theasis. But thank you, Miss Theasis!”
“Huh?”
“I think I have a little bit of an idea of what I want to do now. I know I need to think about college, but you can’t really go to college unless you know what you want to study, can you?”
“Um…I suppose not.”
“Well, now I think I have a bit of an idea. And you know what? I think talking to you helped me a lot.” She hugged her. “Thank you, Miss Theasis!”
“Er, you’re welcome!”
Lirako dashed out the Weekend classroom. When she stopped by the faculty room, she spotted Sharai talking with the Principal.
“I look forward to maybe working with you in the future, Mr. Sharai!”
“Huh?” Lirako dashed off. “Was that Miss Sanyaow? What’s she doing here, and what was she talking about?”
The Principal sighed. Theasis returned to the room. “What took you so long?”
“Didn’t you say you were bringing snacks?” Yukhoe said, sounding dejected.
“I was going to, but I guess I forgot. Sorry.”
“Did you see Miss Sanyaow just now?” Sharai asked.
“I did, actually.”
“What was she doing here?”
Theasis smiled. “Oh, just trying to figure some things out. There are a lot of things to contemplate when you’re a teenager, after all…”

5.582.To See the Future–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 582
“To See the Future–Part 2”

“Hey, Father, do you think that there will really be a day where I can walk the streets without worrying about someone wanting to examine me?”
“There might be, if another Witch or Warlock discovers what I did. And for as powerful as I might seem to you, Eul-Bok, there’s always someone more powerful than me out there. Someone will figure it out, the issue is when will they, and will they want to come forward with their discovery…”
Eul-Bok gave a quiet groan. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no particular reason. You know I think about these sorts of things sometimes, Father.”
In truth, it was a little more than that.
‘It’s hard to think of the future when you’re trapped inside the house all the time,’ he thought. ‘With things going the way they are, I can only imagine what will happen if nothing changes…’

“Father! Look, I made a water-powered house with cloaking abilities! Now we’ll be able to have a spare house powered by water for whenever the power goes out!”
“Well done, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said with a clap. “But I guess I should expect that of my apprentice of fifty-seven years!”
The two laughed wildly, as if far too amused by the situation.

‘No! I don’t dislike my current situation, but it would be nice to be able to do more. Of course, in my current situation, I can already see how stepping outside in public would go…’
That one was far too easy to imagine.

“Interesting…very interesting. You have to wonder where he got these parts from!”
“Well, he is a strange Warlock living otherwise on his own…I’d put a lot past him.”
“Hm, yes, that’s true.”
Managing to speak through the pain, Eul-Bok asked, “C–can I be done yet?”
“No, not yet, we still haven’t figured out how your body parts work to create a functioning autonomous V-Puppet!”
Eul-Bok sighed. ‘A little anesthesia would have been nice…’ Glancing at the television in the room, he noticed a familiar man on the program that was on.
“So, Mr. Astineth, many people have had questions for you concerning the V-Puppet! Tell us more about him. What prompted this research? Where did you get the parts to make him bleed? And why didn’t you tell us about this breakthrough immediately!?”
“Ah, um, I…”
Sale-Dessu was quite obviously flustered and seemed to be slowly shying away back into his house, but the reporters crowded him and seemed to inch feet closer–rather they would have if they could have. Either way, it seemed like an unpleasant situation for Sale-Dessu, and it hurt Eul-Bok’s heart to watch it. He turned away and swallowed his pain.

“Eul-Bok? Is something wrong? You look unsettled.”
“No, nothing’s wrong, Father! Just kind of down about the idea that I can’t go outside anytime soon…but I’m used to that, of course.”
“You never know what the future holds, Eul-Bok. There’s really no way to predict how long it will take before you can walk outside without worrying about it. I wish I could tell you that you could go outside now, but it’s just too risky.”
“I know. I told you, I’m used to it, you know that, and I know it, too. I’m just wondering…like you said, you never know what the future holds. I’m living proof that V-Puppet autonomy is possible, but who’s to say anyone will find that out soon? Will I be walking around three years from now with no concerns, or will I have to wait far into the future, like thirty-three years from now?”
“I really wish I could give you a clear answer on that, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “But nobody has the answer to that question.”
‘What would a world like that be like anyway? I guess I never really gave much thought to what might happen if I could walk around outside. There’s plenty I can do inside, but outside has even more potential. I wonder, if it really was some years from now…what would be different for me?’

***

Eul-Bok stepped outside. It was slightly chilly, so he went back inside and retrieved a scarf. Then, he walked along the sidewalk and out the neighborhood.
Years before this, he wouldn’t have expected to be able to walk around this casually; now that some years had passed, it felt natural. Especially with Sale-Dessu becoming more of a shut-in after his neighbors found out about Eul-Bok’s autonomy. Even knowing that V-Puppets could be autonomous now, it still surprised many people who grew up knowing otherwise, which thus far was most of the world.
He head to a nearby craft store and grabbed a basket.
“He-hey, it’s Eul-Bok!” Someone said. Eul-Bok glanced in their direction. A Normal-Minomix man was waving at him. Eul-Bok smiled. “Hello, Mr. Bacigua! How are you?”
“Good, good. You here to pick up some stuff for Mahico-Touffle?”
Eul-Bok nodded. “How’d ya know?”
“Well, ’tis the season after all, and you do it every year,” he said with a grin. “You know, Eul-Bok, you said you’ve been around for what, eighteen years now?”
“Sixteen,” he said. Eighteen was still too far back for him to have been alive–if people knew that was his actual age, they would know he had come into existence before the first publicly documented autonomous V-Puppet.
“Ah, yes, well, sixteen or eighteen, you are getting closer to nineteen. And you said you still live with your master?”
“My father.”
“Riiight, your father. Anyhoo, you might want to consider moving out sometime soon! People have seen your ability–you could make good vuyong off of that!”
Bacigua waved and walked out of Eul-Bok’s line of sight. He gave the man’s words some thought as he picked up the necessary supplies.
“Hi, Eul-Bok! Buying for Mahico-Touffle?”
“Yep!”
The man behind the counter smiled. “Alrighty then. Let me ring this stuff up.”
Eul-Bok paid for the supplies, thanked the man and began to head home. Bacigua’s words were still on his mind.
Since gaining his freedom, there had been quite a few things he had done differently than he had expected. He had started using his powers at a center for orphaned children, and since then had garnered a bit of fame for his ability. Considering his age, he did have a bit to think about in regards to the future. The possibilities were endless, and yet still something else was on his mind as well.
He walked inside, locked the door and set down the supplies on the table.
“Eul-Bok?” Sale-Dessu peeked his head into the kitchen. “Welcome back, Eul-Bok.”
“Hello, Father.”
“You got nice decorations,” Sale-Dessu said. “But we could have made our own…”
“I know we could have, but I told you, the craft store has new kinds of decorations every year. And they are nice, like you said.”
“I suppose.”
Eul-Bok sighed. “You know, Father, I’m getting older….why does my voice still sound the same as it did when I was one!?”
Sale-Dessu giggled. “You can’t help that, Eul-Bok. V-Puppet autonomy isn’t a perfect science.” His expression became more serious after he said that. “Eul-Bok, there was something else you wanted to say, wasn’t there?”
“Huh?”
“You paused between sentences and you made a strange expression. I’m pretty good at picking up on these sorts of things.”
“I guess you would be,” he sighed, “especially since the reverse is true too.”
“Tell me what’s on your mind then, Eul-Bok.”
“Well, the future’s come for me. I’m autonomous now. I can walk around outside freely now. But there’s one more thing that I can’t figure out about my future.”
“What’s that?”
“Well, I’m eighteen now! That’s almost nineteen. And I tell everyone I know that I’m sixteen, but still, that’s not too far away from nineteen. I’ll be an adult soon, and I…I don’t know what I’m going to do when that day comes!”
“That’s fine, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said. “I didn’t either. And compared to me, you have plenty of time to think instead of having to scramble around for something to do. So don’t worry.”
“Well….it’s actually not just that…”
“Oh?”
“I’m worried about you, Father. You stay inside all the time now. You used to go places before even if it wasn’t much. What are you going to do when I’m gone? After all, do you have anyone else?”
“…that’s awfully rude, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said.
“Sorry!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “No, it’s fine, I don’t actually mind all that much. You’re right, now that Apeta is gone and La-Iin is growing up, I don’t really have anyone else. But I’ll be fine. I survived without other people in the past. But what’s different about now is that I know you’ll be out there somewhere in the world, and I can always contact you if I need to.”
“Father…”
“I don’t want to hold you back, Eul-Bok. Believe me when I say I’ll be fine. So do what you will. Just stay in contact with me.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Alright, Father, I will. Thank you for taking care of me all these years.”

—–
“Eul-Bok? What’s wrong now?”
“…Father, if I can walk around outside someday, are you going to be sad if I go off on my own?”
“Well, yes, of course I will be. I’ve gotten used to living with you. But I don’t want to hold you back.”
“So I do know you pretty well…”
“Hm?”
“Ah, it’s nothing, Father.”
“Hm.” Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened. “Oh, Eul-Bok, there’s one thing I can tell you about the future.”
“Huh?”
“I plan on visiting Apeta tomorrow. And I would like you to come with me. So, would you like to come?”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Okay, sure!”

1.578.To See the Future

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 578
“To See the Future”

Fer-Shi poked at her food absently, grimacing.
“What’s wrong, Fer-Shi? I thought you liked mashed potatoes.”
“I do.”
“Are you bored? You can play one of my video games after dinner, if you want.”
“No, I’m not really bored.”
“Are you thinking about your dream again?”
Fer-Shi flinched.
“I got it right, didn’t I?”
“Fer-Shi, you can’t stress yourself out thinking about those all the time.”
Fer-Shi sighed and set down her fork. “I’m not trying to think about those all the time. And it’s not exactly completely about dreams, it just has a little bit to do with it.”
“I know it can be frustrating when you want to find your purpose in life, but Tei-Sheu is right, if you keep thinking about it, you’ll only stress yourself out. Try to focus on other things for now! Your dream will come to you when it’s ready.”
“It’s not that easy…”
Den-Matsu gave a sigh of his own. “Then how about this. You’re having trouble thinking about what you want to do, but have you tried thinking about what you can see yourself doing?”
“Huh?”
“Lots of people imagine what their future will be like. So why not try doing that, and see if you can get some idea from there? Maybe you’ll see yourself doing something and realize that’s your calling. Give it a shot if it’ll keep you from stressing out.”
“What if I see myself as nothing, though?” She sighed.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll at least be able to imagine what you might look like,” Tei-Sheu said. “Give it a shot.”
“If you say so.”

Fer-Shi felt uncertain that her parents’ idea would work, but she felt that they would ask her about how it went later and feared how she might respond with no actual idea. So she relaxed in her bed and closed her eyes.
‘They just said the future. That could be as soon as in an hour or as far away as a hundred years! I guess they meant what I’d want to do as an adult, though. If I was about Dad’s age, what would I be doing? What’s the future gonna be like? What things are gonna be different from now? Well, I guess there are a few things I can see myself doing…’

***

“Mommy! Mommy, can I have some mushrooms?”
“Sorry, Tei-Iin, but I need those mushrooms for my job!”
“Why?”
Fer-Shi bent down and placed her hands on Tei-Iin’s shoulders. “Well, remember the big Dasdoria-Vaelyn conflict?”
“Not really.”
“Back then there was a huge problem, and now there are a lot of people who don’t have food. I volunteered to help make food for all the people who don’t. ..I was the only one, so there’s not much we can eat. Besides, you don’t always need a snack.”
“I’m hungry, though.” He held his stomach. “All we had for lunch was toasty goulache.”
“Well, I plan on making something extra-special for dinner tonight! But I have to get going now. Would you like to come with me today?”
Tei-Iin nodded. Fer-Shi smiled and took his hand.
Since the conflict, Fer-Shi’s life had taken a drastic change. She had believed that events like puberty, her graduation, moving out and Tei-Iin entering her life would be some of the most surprising things she went through, but the conflict easily surpassed all of those events. Now Bledger was quite a different place, the neighborhoods mostly abandoned by people who had left in favor of other parts of Vaelyn.
‘How come they attacked Bledger so badly? They had it out against all of Vaelyn.’ Fer-Shi often wondered if it was because of the abundance of Dasdorians living in Bledger prior to the conflict. Whatever the reason, she tried to push the subject out of her mind and instead focus on what she was going to cook once she reached the center.
“Can I eat some of what you make, Mommy?” Tei-Iin asked.
“Only if there are leftovers. Remember, these other people are worse off than we are!”
“But what if they’re only lying so they can eat your tasty food and in reality we’re worse off than they are?”
Fer-Shi paused. “…let’s assume that that’s not the case for my sanity, okay?”
‘I wonder where he gets these ideas from sometimes.’ Still, his words did give her pause as she head into the center.
Already, after arriving there the center was packed with several people of all different species. She sat Tei-Iin down with other children and set to work cooking.
Oftentimes she would make soup, recalling her training at the Normal Stew Place during her adolescence. But recently she had been experimenting with more meals, and as she finished up a mushroom meatloaf, she felt sad thinking on how much variety her meals for the people here had in comparison to the meals she made for herself and Tei-Iin.
After finishing the meals, she set each of them down on a long table, and the people in the center went for them.
“They look really hungry today. I hope everyone gets something to eat. Maybe I should start giving them individual plates.”
“Hey, Sanhuun!”
Fer-Shi looked up ahead. “Oh, hello there, Mr. Acishea.”
“Hey, Sanhuun, I know you’re busy what with your little boy and all, but I wanted to ask you to spot me a favor.”
“Sure, what do you need?”
“Could you clean the streets for me? They’re getting a little messy?”
“Oh, um, I guess I could, but–”
“Thank you!” Acishea shook her hands and ran off, cackling. Fer-Shi heaved a sigh. ‘I really need to stop being so much of a pushover! Or maybe it’s just that other people need to hear me out more…’
She then walked over to Tei-Iin, who was playing with a black-furred Catori-Birdmix.
“Hi, Mommy!”
“Hey, Tei-Iin. I hope you’re not too involved in anything right now. We kind of have to go.”
“Aw!” Tei-Iin sighed. “Sorry, Au-Li. You’re gonna have to tell me the rest another day.”
“Oh, that’s no bother,” Au-Li jittered. Catching a closer look at his face, Fer-Shi noticed that his expression looked unstable, as if he was slightly insane. “Stories like that don’t easily leave a child’s mind, heh heh…”
Tei-Iin seemed oblivious to his friend’s instability and stood up and joined his mother, waving to Au-Li on the way out. Fer-Shi opted not to comment to him about her suspicions.
“What do we have to go for now, Mommy? Did you really finish that quickly?”
“No, not really, although I guess I made better time than I usually do…but no, it’s just ’cause some people don’t feel like doing their work. Remember, Tei-Iin, don’t pass your chores off on other people!”
“Um? Okay, Mommy.”
Catching a look at the streets, Fer-Shi couldn’t help a sigh. ‘No wonder Mr. Acishea wanted me to do this. These streets really are a mess!’
“Listen, Tei-Iin? Mommy’s new job might take a while, so if you want to go back and play with Au-Li more, you have my permission.”
“Really, Mommy!?”
“Mm-hm. But, ah, be careful around him, alright?”
Tei-Iin looked momentarily confused, but he soon gave an exuberant nod and bound off back towards the center, which as she watched him off was closer than she expected. ‘I must not have walked very far.’
When Tei-Iin had become a speck on the horizon, Fer-Shi set to work sweeping debris into a pile in the middle of the street. ‘How inconvenient. Mr. Acishea, next time we meet I don’t think it’s gonna be as pleasant as you’d like…’
Just as the pile was starting to seem tidy, a sudden gust of wind knocked some stray litter from it. Fer-Shi was ready to chew out whoever had messed up the pile, until she noticed La-Iin flying above her. La-Iin seemed to notice her as well, and landed in front of the pile.
“Hello, Fer-Shi. It’s been a while.”
“La-Iin! How’s it going?”
“Fine. I’ve really learned that younger me had the wrong idea about going to rule the world. A high position of power certainly helps, and so does the disarray caused by the aftermath of a conflict, heh heh heh…”
Even as an adult, some things about La-Iin hadn’t changed. “Hey. I thought you were on cook duty, not street-cleaning duty.”
“Oh, well, about that…Mr. Acishea kind of asked.”
La-Iin nodded. “And Mr. Acishea will soon kind of be unemployed,” she said coolly.
“…you don’t actually have that much power, do you?”
“My power steadily grows, Fer-Shi. After all, my goal is not just being in a high position of power. It is the world!”
“You really are a corrupt politician type,” Fer-Shi sighed.
“Don’t compare me to my coworkers. Besides, you get benefits from having me as a friend.”
“I’m not sure I want to.”
“Mommy!”
Fer-Shi turned around abruptly. Tei-Iin was heading towards her, being flown by Au-Li, who landed on the ground behind her. As with earlier he still looked unstable, and Fer-Shi flinched at the look in his eyes.
“Tei-Iin, how come you came out here?”
“Au-Li said I shouldn’t be away from my mommy, so we decided to come play out here!”
“Tei-Iin’s gotten bigger,” La-Iin commented absently. Her eyes then shifted to Au-Li, and a look of surprise entered them. She smirked and winked at the young boy, who winked back.
“Um…?”
“It’s nothing you need to be concerned about, Fer-Shi.” La-Iin spread her wings. “I feel like pulling some strings when I get back to work. Not necessarily for your sake. Just to strike some fear into the hearts of people. They’ll soon see my true power over them.”
She flew off. Fer-Shi set to sweeping up the litter she had scattered by landing.
“Hey, do you know Miss Cahongyun, Au-Li?” She heard Tei-Iin ask.
“You could say she’s my employer.” It was the calmest thing she had heard Au-Li say, and yet it was the words that sent the coldest shiver up her spine.

—–
Just before bedtime, after her parents had set down small slices of apple pie along with warm milk, Fer-Shi staggered out of her bedroom, feeling disoriented.
“Hi, Fer-Shi!” Tei-Sheu chirped. “How did your little imagination project go?”
‘I knew she was gonna ask.’ “Um…let’s just say I hope the future doesn’t actually end up like it did in my imagination.”
Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu gave each other confused glances, but it didn’t faze Fer-Shi. She was ready to mostly forget about what she imagined, though she opted to keep the name she had given her imaginary child for future reference.

30.546.The Adventure in Bledger–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 546
“The Adventure in Bledger–Part 2”

“Bledger Police Department. Uh-huh. Two missing females…ages nine and seven….long brown hair, fair complexion, Normal…oh, sorry, I tend to repeat a lot. I got all that, don’t worry.”
‘Wonder who he’s talking to?’ Wondered Cheu-Sheam. The man nodded and set down the phone. “Hey, what’s going on, Aheni?”
“We’ve got a missing child case. Apparently two young girls went down to the local park and haven’t been back to their parents in hours.”
“Ooh.”
“Don’t ‘ooh’ at this!” He snapped. “Friggin’ rookie.”
“Well, sor-ree that they sent me to Bledger as part of my training! I don’t even want to work here. I’d rather do all my stuff in Yeongsham.”
“Yeah, well, while you’re complaining about all that there are two little girls who are missing for any number of reasons. And we at the Bledger Police Department have to deal with it, meanwhile you just have to stick behind here.”
“Grr….I swear, one of these days I’m gonna help with a big case.”
“Don’t be so immature.”
“I’m not. I just want to help. And I can’t stand you, Aheni.” She sighed. ‘I miss my friends…I hope their training is going well, too.’

“Students, today Miss Cahongyun and Miss Sanhuun won’t be attending classes. I think you all have noticed their absence already, but it seems the reason could be far worse than initially thought. Those two girls have been missing since yesterday, last spotted at the park.”
The students began to murmur.
“What happened to Fer-Shi?” Shan-Zetsu asked.
“Sanhuun…” Sighed Cae-Bougen.
“I wonder what happened?” Dosa-Mina said.
“We’ll have to go on with classes as usual, but if any of you students spot the girls, remember to report your sighting to the Bledger Police Department. …and don’t tell them I asked you this, but if you spot them and you have the strength for it, try and bring them back with you, too.”
“Got it, teach,” Yefu-Shenhao said. Hyungdarou sighed and went on with biology class; the students soon noticed she was teaching far more than she usually did when in a brighter mood.

“Hm…”
“Something wrong, Sara?” A student from Class B asked.
“Don’t ask that, Weishen! Sara’s best friend went missing!”
“It’s alright,” Shuu-Kena said. “I was just wondering. Yesterday, when they were outside, I overheard them talking about something…”
“What?”
Shuu-Kena lowered her head. “I think…I think they were talking about…going on an adventure,” she said. “I want to tell the police, but I’m scared to…”
“Don’t be scared! If you really heard that you should tell them! The police aren’t scary!”
“I know…I’m not scared of the police, actually…I’m scared of something else…”
“If you want, we can help you,” Weishen offered. Shuu-Kena glanced up. “Well…I’ll see.”

***

When La-Iin and Fer-Shi had woken up, it was bright outside, so the two girls immediately set out on the continuation of their adventure.
“I hope Mom and Dad aren’t too worried,” Fer-Shi sighed. “Maybe they think I’m staying over at your house.”
“They won’t. When Mama thinks I’m up to something she tends to call your Mama and Dami. They’ll find out.”
“Mm…well, I hope they aren’t too worried…”
“Instead of focusing on our parents, why don’t we focus on the adventure? We’ll have more fun that way.”
“Um, alright!”
La-Iin kept a steady lead over Fer-Shi as the two traversed a neighborhood that appeared to not be in the greatest condition, but still in better condition than many of the others La-Iin had seen. People played outside with their children and friends and though the houses looked to be in bad shape, the people there seemed fairly happy and healthy.
“Bledger sure has a lot of shoddy houses.”
“Huh? Oh, I guess they do. It’s a surprise that we ended up with as nice houses as we have, I guess.”
“That’s because we’re lucky enough to have parents who know what the word ‘quality’ means.”
Fer-Shi giggled. “It’s kind of surprising to hear you say that.”
“I don’t think all negatively about certain people, you know.”
The two girls head out the neighborhood and onto a clearing of street. La-Iin dashed across the street to a patch of grass up ahead. Fer-Shi soon joined her, and they waited for a car to pass before heading forward to a large stretch of grassy plain. Ahead of the grassy plain sat a park on their left, and to their right, another set of houses.
“I think I know what’s the obvious choice here.” La-Iin switched to flight and zipped off towards the park. Fer-Shi chased after her.
The park was filled with many young children–younger than La-Iin and Fer-Shi. Their parents mostly watched from afar as the children climbed over all the equipment, and the park was spattered with sand, snow, fur and feathers.
“Why would Snowlivs take their baby out in this heat?” Fer-Shi asked.
“Look closely.” La-Iin pointed towards the young Snowliv boy who was climbing his way up the slide. He was covered with a full-body plastic shield, though there was a small hole near the foot of the shield.
“Oh.”
“His parents are too.”
Fer-Shi nodded. “This park seems like it’s for really little kids, La-Iin. Even younger than you. Do you wanna stay here?”
“Oh, just for a little bit and then we can move on.” La-Iin walked towards the children, some of which stared in her direction and smiled. A mischievous grin spread across La-Iin’s face, and she turned around, spread her wings, and yelled at the children, who began to cry. The parents rushed to their children’s side, all except one pair who head for La-Iin.
“Run!” La-Iin shrieked, though Fer-Shi could hear excitement in her tone. She took off ahead of Fer-Shi by flying, and Fer-Shi only kept pace behind her out of sheer fear of what might happened if the angered parents reached her and La-Iin.
Eventually, the parents fell out of sight, and La-Iin and Fer-Shi came to a halt, taking deep breaths. La-Iin took off her backpack and reached for a snack.
“Geez….never do something like that again, La-Iin!” Fer-Shi yelled.
“I ake o haranees!” La-Iin said through a mouthful of food.

***

“We’ve gotten in a report from a young lady who says the two girls were planning to adventure across Bledger,” a police officer told Den-Matsu.
“Why would they do that!?” He exclaimed.
“Even if they were planning something like that, there’s no reason they should have been gone this long! They’ve been off on adventures together before and they’ve never been gone this long…”
“It’s possible they could have met with trouble on their way. But don’t worry. We’re sending out the majority of our force to scour all around Bledger. It’s only really a problem downtown anyway.”
“Would that really be so smart?” Asked a Llamaki officer. “Bledger’s been so dangerous lately–”
“And that’s exactly why we need to work fast, Officer Llanni! With how dangerous Bledger has been lately these girls could be in a lot of trouble, if they aren’t dead already!”
Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu gasped and began to tear up.
“Err, not that they are, of course! We’ll keep searching for your daughter and her friend, Mr. and Mrs. Sanhuun. You have my word that we will not rest until they are found!”
“I understand your concern, Mr. and Mrs. I have a daughter too, and if something happened to her I would want the entire might of the police force out there looking for her. I just hope this focus on your daughter’s disappearance doesn’t distract us from other important matters at hand…”

After the two girls had left the playground, they entered dense forestry and thus far had not found their way back out. On their way they stumbled upon a few signs of civilization, but none of them had led them back to the main path of Bledger. The further on they walked, the darker the forestry became.
“Where are we, La-Iin?” Fer-Shi asked.
“I have no idea.”
“What are we gonna do if we can’t find our way back out?”
“We camped out yesterday night, we can do it again. And if you’re worried about eating we have plenty of snacks to sustain ourselves. Even if we run out we should be able to get more food anyway, and I have your blood.”
Fer-Shi whimpered. “You sound like you’re preparing us for living like this forever…”
“Not forever. But I can’t fly high enough to check where we are and I don’t know all of Bledger. I just want to be prepared. I definitely don’t intend on staying out here forever. If I did I wouldn’t have much chance of seeing San-Kyung again. But this is a good experience for the future.”
“I just wanna go home…”
“I do too. But let’s keep going otherwise we’ll never find it.”
As the sky grew darker, Fer-Shi found herself feeling more hopeless. ‘What if we never do find our way back home? It’s starting to get dark again. We probably missed school and Mom and Dad are probably super-worried…geez, I’m the older one here and yet La-Iin’s the one who’s keeping a cool head. Maybe she really doesn’t care, or maybe she’s just trying to save face around me. I still can’t believe she can do this even in this scary situation…’
Fer-Shi smiled to herself as she kept behind La-Iin.
The two girls continued to walk on, with both keeping an eye out for any sign of civilization. To her left, La-Iin spotted what appeared to be a streetlight and head towards it. Soon after heading that way, something began to rustle up ahead.
“What is it!?” Fer-Shi exclaimed.
“We ran into plenty of animals yesterday. Don’t get so worried.”
Fer-Shi swallowed hard. La-Iin bit into her arm and took a few steps forward. The rustling grew louder until a black-furred Catori peeked her head through and stared directly at La-Iin. She glanced past her at Fer-Shi.
“Hey, I think I found them, Officer Llanni!”
“You did?” A Llamaki man followed the Catori and stared at the girl. “This matches their description. Oh, thank you, Bhengai! I’m sorry we had to ask for your help.”
“Not at all! This is what I’m training for! You girls okay?”
Fer-Shi began to cry. La-Iin took a step backwards and hissed.
“I think they’ll be fine, right?” Llanni sighed. “Come on, girls, let’s get you home. Your parents are incredibly worried.”
“Come on, La-Iin!” Fer-Shi said, her voice wavering. La-Iin didn’t budge. “If we don’t leave with the officers, we’ll be lost and you won’t get to see San-Kyung again.”
La-Iin grimaced and sighed. She followed behind the officers and Fer-Shi as the three left the forest.

—–
“We were so worried!” Tei-Sheu cried. “Please be extra careful from now on, alright!?”
“I will be!” Fer-Shi said.
“I’m glad you’re alright…I was really worried that something bad happened…”
“You didn’t need to worry, Mama. That’s just annoying. Besides, I always kept my cool.” She struggled out of Mit-Sun’s grasp and tapped Fer-Shi on the shoulder. Fer-Shi turned away from her parents and leaned in close to La-Iin when she noticed her in position to whisper.
“That adventure was pretty fun. Maybe we should do it again when certain people aren’t so worried that they call the police.”
Fer-Shi giggled. “Maybe. But that won’t be for many more years, that’s for sure!”

29.545.The Adventure in Bledger–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 545
“The Adventure in Bledger–Part 1”

“Hey, La-Iin. Whatcha up to? Not hanging out with Sara for once?”
La-Iin and Fer-Shi’s longest period of break time had arrived, and La-Iin had soon found she had nothing to do. She wasn’t unhappy, however. The memory of her mother’s rejection of Uil-Cur kept her from becoming unhappy, though she was immensely bored as she observed students utilizing their weak powers in the recess area. When Fer-Shi approached her, she felt as though she had been snapped out of something.
“Huh?”
“I said, not hanging out with Sara for once? In fact, you look pretty bored, so I asked, what’s up?”
“Does it look like anything’s up? Nothing’s up. I’m just happy about something that happened recently.”
“Really? What?”
“You wouldn’t understand. There’s too much background I’d have to give you so you don’t get the wrong idea.”
Fer-Shi sighed. “It feels like you say that a ton recently.”
“Getting jealous again?”
“No, just sad. You see, well, maybe this will sound petty to you, but I remember the times we always hung out together. Not only that, but we are a friendship between good and evil, and you have other friends who understand you better now. I guess I just feel inadequate compared to back then.”
“Do you think our friendship is so weak that it will break because we haven’t talked as much recently? I still talk to you every week. When was the last week I didn’t?”
“I know, I know,” Fer-Shi sighed. “It’s just me being petty. You used to be concerned about our friendship. Now it’s my turn.”
“Well, don’t be. Lately I’ve been concerned with my goals and other people are helping me discover more about my goals than you are. If I had nobody I would be talking to nobody. It’s just a matter of that. So stop feeling inadequate.”
“Easier said than done,” she siad, then gasped. “Hey, wait a second, I’ve got an idea.”
“What?”
“Didn’t we talk about going on an adventure earlier this year? Like an adventure throughout all of Bledger!”
“Maybe that came up once. We talk about a lot of things, Fer-Shi.”
“Well, do you have anything to do with your time?”
“No, not particularly. Though you never know when something will come up. Why? Did you want to go on an adventure now? Fer-Shi, you’re a goody-goody. Aren’t you worried about missing school?”
Fer-Shi shook her head. “School ends on Wednesday, and anyway if we just stay within Bledger we should be alright. Maybe we should test ourselves to see how much ground we can cover in one day! We’ve been lots of places in Bledger, but I want to see if we can find a new place all by ourselves! So what do you say?”
“It sounds like a good idea. Although I’m not going unless blood and snacks are part of the deal.”
“Ooh, all right…but if you have to suck my blood, can you do it in my arm or something like that and not my shoulder? It hurts there…”
“I didn’t mean your blood, I meant like blood packs, and I can get those from home. Though I’ll accept your blood too,” she said with a wink.
“Why do I never try and predict what you’re going to say…” Fer-Shi sighed. “Well, whatever. Alright, I’ll get some snacks from home and you can get some snacks from home, bring whatever else you might need for a day, and we’ll go on an adventure! Boy, I sure hope I don’t worry my Mom and Dad too much.”
“They know what to expect from me.”
Fer-Shi giggled. “Yeah, I guess you’re right!”

***

“What are you packing for, La-Iin?”
“Me and Fer-Shi are going to walk around…the park area near Bledger because there’s something she wanted to show me. I don’t know how far it is so I wanted snacks.”
“Do I get to go on this little escapade of yours?”
“Maybe. I’m still tossing the idea around.”
“I see. Well, don’t stay out too late because I’m making a dinner you like. Also it worries me when you’re out too late.”
“It should.”
“It doesn’t worry me because of how you act, you know. A lot of the times you’ve been out too late something happened to you. Granted, some of the time it has been just that you’ve been acting up, but I know that’s not always the case. I want to play it safe.”
“If you say so, Mama.”
Choungetsu stood on his hind legs and sniffed at La-Iin’s backpack. She snatched the backpack away from him.
“I hope you’re not still thinking about Haner.”
“I wasn’t, not right now anyway. Just about you. Maybe sometime soon you and I should go somewhere. It’s hard to feel close to you when you’re so antagonistic.”
“Antagonism is in my nature. But don’t worry, Mama. Now that you turned down Haner, a lot of my anger towards you has dissipated. I need to get over the rest and then you can read me silly books again if you want.” She fastened her backpack. “I’m going to go now.”
“Be safe. See you soon.”
La-Iin gave no response. She head out the door and began to fly almost as soon as she was outside, heading for the meeting place she and Fer-Shi had decided on–the park area she had told Mit-Sun about.
Once she reached the park area, she spotted Fer-Shi sitting on a bench. She waved to La-Iin, and La-Iin landed next to her.
“Hi there, La-Iin.”
“Hello.”
Fer-Shi glanced around the park. A few families were out playing with their children. “Let’s go over to the bushes,” she whispered. La-Iin nodded and followed her.
“Which direction should we head in first?”
“The most foresty, the better. The most foresty areas I’ve been to is the one nearby the school and a few other places I don’t remember as well.”
“Well, that works! We’re already in a foresty area!” Fer-Shi giggled. “Come on, let’s go!”
Fer-Shi led the way through the bushes and the trees. La-Iin followed behind her and found herself becoming quickly bored by the same repetitive sight of trees and bushes. Soon enough, however, Fer-Shi pushed her way through a tall bush and the two found themselves in a dilapidated area that seemed almost abandoned. Fer-Shi gave a squeal and walked closer to La-Iin’s side.
“This kind of reminds me of the place we meet up with Imagination at,” La-Iin said.
“Yeah, it kinda does…still, it seems different somehow…”
“Maybe it’s the same place and just the main part.”
Fer-Shi swallowed hard. “Well, wherever we are, we should try and find our way out soon! Who knew going through the park could lead you here….maybe we should go back the way we came.”
“No way. We might find something interesting here. I’ve explored nearby that park, but I’ve never gone too far in this neighborhood. And that’s if this is even the same neighborhood with the graveyard!”
Fer-Shi took a deep breath. “Guess you’re right,” she said. “I can’t always be such a scaredy-catori, especially when I’ve got a friend who’s way too overconfident. But I’m sure you’re scared of something!”
“False bravery.”
“See!? I got–” Fer-Shi blinked. “Hey!”
La-Iin took the lead as they walked through the area. Though the blue sky shone above them, the area itself seemed relatively dark. Houses around them were in bad condition and some were boarded up, but none seemed to be inhabited except by a few animals.
“Wow, look at all the Vampire animals.”
“I’ve never seen this many in one area,” Fer-Shi said. “I guess with all the people gone, the animals must have taken control of this area.”
“I wonder if they like sucking people blood. Animals are so lucky. If they’re evil other animals don’t get on their case for it unless they’re trying to eat them. It’s people who end up hurting the evil animals in the end.”
“I guess you like animals, huh, La-Iin?”
“Not anymore than I like people, but I have more respect for the goody-goody animals than I do for goody-goody people.”
Fer-Shi chuckled, though she sounded nervous. La-Iin smirked. She ran ahead of Fer-Shi.
“Hey, wait! Don’t leave me behind!”
“Don’t worry! Look up ahead!”
Fer-Shi tilted her head to see past La-Iin. Up ahead was a field of dead grass intermixed with living grass. Curious, she picked up speed and stopped by La-Iin’s side to examine the grass.
“Wow.”
“This place is amazing,” La-Iin squealed, sitting down on the ground. “Nobody’s here to bother you, and it’s got a perfect feeling. It makes me happy!”
“I guess it is pretty nice once you get past the scary part.”
“I’ve been to other dirty neighborhoods before, but they always have evil failures lurking about. Like that stupid druggy neighborhood!”
“Um, maybe we shouldn’t talk about things like that right now.”
“Speaking of, I wonder where we would end up if we traveled past there?”
“Er–”
“I’m hungry.” La-Iin opened up her backpack and took out a package of beondegi. Nearby, Fer-Shi spotted a Vampire ferret watching her from afar.
“Looks like someone’s curious about your food,” Fer-Shi giggled.
“It’s like the predecessor of the Vampire-Ferreniao. I wonder if Vampire ferrets live as long as Vampire-anyings live.”
“I heard Vampire animals do live longer, but most of them rely on blood unlike Vampires.”
“What are you talking about? We people Vampires need blood to retain our sanity.”
“In your case that sounds about accurate…”
Once La-Iin had her fill of beondegi, the two pushed on and head into a dark forest. Fer-Shi held tight to La-Iin’s sleeve, glancing around for some other source of light aside from the small amounts of sunlight that made their ways through the trees.
“Scared?”
“Y-yes.”
“Hm.”
“Animals are nice, but who knows when one will want to eat you…”
“If you wouldn’t be scared of a Bearperson you shouldn’t be scared of a bear.”
“Mmn…what about Siren animals?”
“I thought I heard they only paralyze people. But with their voices instead of song!”
“Eep! Don’t use that kind of tone here!”
“You screeching is more dangerous than me growling!”
Throughout the forest the girls could hear many chirping noises. La-Iin felt slightly off-put, but she could tell Fer-Shi was in a worse position–her friend’s hands were shaking as she held tight to La-Iin’s sleeve. In response, La-Iin picked up the pace to make it quickly through the forest.
The further the girls made it through the forest, the more light they could spot up ahead. They entered a brighter area with a few small huts all around. Fer-Shi glanced around the area curiously.
“Where are we now?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ooh, precious snake,” a woman cooed. The two girls glanced in her direction. “You are so gorgeous with your scales. No Lizardfoot could compare.”
“Are we in a species society?”
La-Iin walked ahead of Fer-Shi and peered into the huts. Fer-Shi froze. Inside the huts La-Iin could spot a Lizardfoot, in another a Bunety, and in yet another a Warlock. La-Iin felt as though she recognized the Warlock from somewhere. ‘Was he the one at–‘
“Who are you?” La-Iin nearly jumped up in surprise, until she realized that the woman was speaking to Fer-Shi.
“Um, I’m just passing by with my friend…we wanted to know where we were.”
“The nature society is where you would be. We believe in returning to our roots. Look around you at the diversity of animals! We evolved from such beings. Lizardfeet from lizards, Catori from cats, it’s beautiful. So we intend on returning to that period of time by living in harmony with our animal friends.”
“Yet you set up people tents,” La-Iin said. The woman’s eyes widened. “Come on, Fer-Shi, let’s go.”
“Um, okay. Good luck with your society!” Fer-Shi called as La-Iin dragged her away.
“…I can’t believe we’ve been such hypocrites. People, there needs to be a change made to our means of operation!”

Since leaving the nature society, La-Iin and Fer-Shi had mostly trudged through abandoned neighborhoods and forests. La-Iin couldn’t help but feel that the part of Bledger they were currently in was badly-cared for–that and that it would be a perfect place to set up a base if she ever felt inclined to. Fer-Shi, meanwhile, was enjoying the sights and spending time with La-Iin, but she felt nervous almost every step, and as the sky grew darker she began to miss her family.
At one point the sky grew too dark for the two to navigate well enough, and though La-Iin didn’t see it as an impediment she stopped for Fer-Shi’s sake inside a house. The two girls began to eat snacks.
“How do you think we can head home from here?” Fer-Shi asked.
“I don’t think we can. But don’t worry. I have experience with this type of situation.”
“What!?”
“We’re going to have to stay here,” La-Iin said simply. “You can’t navigate in the dark like I can, and without two people navigating in the dark we will get lost. Would you rather camp our or never see your Mama and Dami again?”
Fer-Shi whimpered. “Are you sure that’s the case, La-Iin? I’m sure we can make it back…”
“I don’t have as much trouble navigating in the dark as some other people and I have no idea where we are. So take my advice for once. We’ll be safer this way. And isn’t that what you want?”
“I guess…”
“Can I ask a favor before we sleep?”
Fer-Shi blinked. “I’m surprised you would…but go ahead.”
“I’d like a drink of your blood now.”
Fer-Shi whimpered. “Can you see well enough?”
“I can see you just fine.”
“Your night eyesight must be really good…okay, La-Iin, I’ll let you…”
Fer-Shi outstretched her arm. La-Iin pulled it toward her and took a drink of blood, letting go before she got carried away. She dabbed at Fer-Shi’s arm with her dress.
“That was good. Your blood has a nice taste.”
“Mm…”
Both girls laid down.
“Do you think we’ll make it back to our parents tomorrow, La-Iin?”
“Maybe. But don’t you see what a perfect advantage this is? Maybe we’re close to Malicerie, but if we aren’t we aren’t going to change anything by looking for it. We can take more of this time to adventure.”
“What about heading home!?”
“Oh, we can look for a way home, too, but we can also adventure. That’s my point. It’s been a lot of fun adventuring with you, Fer-Shi. A nice break for me. So the longer this goes on, the better.”
“…yeah, I guess it has been pretty fun even though it’s been scary,” Fer-Shi said. “Let’s do it, then.”
“Alright…but once we get some sleep,” La-Iin yawned.
“That’s for sure…good night, La-Iin…”
“Bad night,” La-Iin giggled. Noticing Fer-Shi’s glare, she said, “Oh, whatever. Good night.”

—–
Mit-Sun and the Sanhuuns were concerned.
“Our daughters aren’t back yet, and it’s almost time for school. They’ve been gone since the afternoon. They said they were just going down to the park!”
“As much as I don’t trust La-Iin, I don’t think she would keep Fer-Shi out this late…”
“Do you think something’s happened?” Tei-Sheu asked.
“I don’t know, but I’m worried that’s the case. Why else would they be gone for so long when they were just going to the park? I think we need to take actions into our own hands!”
“You want to look for our daughters ourselves? But they could be anywhere in Bledger!”
“I do want to do that, but I actually meant contact the authorities.”
“Oh. Right.”
Den-Matsu sighed. ‘Fer-Shi, I hope you’re alright, wherever you are…’ A worst-case scenario crossed his mind, but he pushed it away as he dialed the number for the police.

28.544.My Darling, Mit-Sun–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 544
“My Darling, Mit-Sun–Part 2”

Mit-Sun sighed. Ever since Uil-Cur had confessed his feelings for her, his confession had been replaying on repeat in her head.
“I knew this from almost the start, Mama. I figured Haner either wanted to kill you or was in love with you. Why do you think I hated him so much?”
“I guess it makes sense now,” Mit-Sun sighed.
“Now that you know, I hope you plan on telling him no soon.”
Mit-Sun didn’t respond. La-Iin began to glare.
“Well!?”
“I don’t know, La-Iin. Besides, this isn’t any of your business.”
“It is my business! If you say yes to Haner, you might marry him! If you marry him and he becomes my step-Dami…”
La-Iin’s wings were flapping wildly. Mit-Sun was startled. She wasn’t used to seeing such emotion on La-Iin’s face. ‘If even her face is giving away how she feels, she must be pretty angry…’
“I’m sorry, La-Iin. There’s nothing I can tell you.”
La-Iin gave no further response after that; instead, she stormed off.
Mit-Sun was in shock at the idea that Uil-Cur had feelings for her, but also felt as though she should have seen it coming. Each time she thought back on his flirtatious nature she felt stupid for not realizing it.
‘But that’s not the issue here! Uil-Cur feels that way towards me, but what do I feel towards him?’
Mit-Sun realized that in truth, she had never exactly figured that one out. She knew she liked Uil-Cur and found him to be fun to hang around, but were those feelings potentially romantic or completely platonic? Was she trying to deny her feelings for him for La-Iin’s sake, or was it possible she was trying to contemplate having feelings for him for his sake?
Mit-Sun heaved a sigh. Whatever her answer was, it still flustered her to think that Uil-Cur loved her.

***

Since confessing his feelings to Mit-Sun, Uil-Cur had felt anxious. Each moment that passed by his feelings seemed to change within a second. At one moment he felt that Mit-Sun was trying to prolong the time before her answer to spare his feelings, while another he wondered if she was simply feeling shy about the idea of him sharing her feelings.
“Brother, you can’t keep shaking like that. If you do that there won’t be many girls who like you.”
“What?”
“There are a lot of girls in Bledger who like guys whose personality is consistent. Although there are some who go for the whole hidden-side thing. Anyway, normally you exude an air of confidence. Don’t stop that or you might turn some girls away.”
“Oh, come on, I’m only around you. I’m better at controlling myself in public. I just feel very comfortable with my sister, is all.”
“That’s good. Just givin’ you advice.”
As his sister turned to leave, the phone began to ring. Groaning, she went to pick it up. “Yeah? Hello? ….hey bro, I think it’s for you!”
She didn’t need to say anything further–Uil-Cur rushed to the phone and snatched it out of her hand. She sneered at him before walking away.
“Hello?”
“Hello, Uil-Cur? This is you, right?”
“Yes, it is. I’m surprised you called.”
“How else was I supposed to reach you? Listen, I want to talk with you. Let’s go down by the park to do this. It’ll feel tacky over the phone.”
“Er, alright.”
‘Good luck, big brother,’ his sister thought.

***

Uil-Cur took several deep breaths on his way to the park. By the time he arrived there, Mit-Sun was already standing there and waiting for him, a distant expression on her face. She waved to him as he landed.
“I suppose this is it,” Uil-Cur sighed. “I’m ready for whatever response you give me, Mit-Sun. So say what you will.”
“Since when did I say this had anything to do with your confession?” Mit-Sun asked. Uil-Cur’s eyes widened, but he let out a sigh when he noticed Mit-Sun start to giggle. “Just kidding. It’s a little humor before my answer.”
“Sorry, Mit-Sun, I’m just so anxious to hear your response…”
“I’m sure you are,” she sighed. “Well…I had to give it a lot of thought. I realized I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel about your confession. Well, aside from obviously being flustered…that’s why I left you yesterday instead of giving you an answer right on the spot. Also, I haven’t been sure about how to feel about the idea of getting into another relationship. After La-Iin’s father and having to raise her, I’ve been reluctant about the idea of dating anyone else, so I had to think over a lot of things relating to both of those. I’m sure if I had been more certain, you would have gotten an answer right then and there.”
“I see,” Uil-Cur said. “…not to be a bother, but could you give me your answer already? Waiting to hear all you have to say is just making me more nervous…”
Mit-Sun glanced down at her feet. “I really do like you, Uil-Cur. You’re one of my best friends, and goodness knows I don’t have enough of those lately…but…I’m going to have to say that I don’t feel the same. I can’t envision going out with you and getting married or any of that stuff. All the things that made me know I liked La-Iin’s father–back when I liked him, anyway–I just don’t have them with you.”
Uil-Cur’s head dropped. “I don’t want this to be the end of our friendship, though! Even though I’m not in love with you, you still mean a lot to me. Without you I’d be in a much worse place right now. And I might have other people in my life who’ll stand by me but I think you’re definitely the most loyal. I know this isn’t the response you wanted to hear, but please, can you stay by me anyway?”
“…I wasn’t going to leave even if you did say no. I never intended on it. I’ll take any chances I can to spend time with you.”
Mit-Sun smiled. “And it’s not the answer I wanted to hear, but, well, I expected it. The closer we got, the more hopeful I was that you might like me back. And I know nothing of how you act while in love. I just assumed it was similar to my own behavior, which led me to believe you didn’t feel the same way. But now that I know, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sure someday you’ll meet someone who’s good for you.”
Uil-Cur smiled. “Niceties like that aren’t going to work at this point, Mit-Sun. Still, if you’ll allow me to be optimistic…do you think your feelings will ever change? Do you think it could be possible this is just for now? No, that’s being too hopeful…”
“I don’t know, Uil-Cur. The future is the future. If I ever start feeling differently about you, I’ll let you know. Hopefully if that day ever comes you’ll still feel the same way about me.”
“I bet I will.”
“But for now, this is my answer. Still, let’s stay friends, alright?”
Mit-Sun grabbed Uil-Cur’s hand. Uil-Cur sighed.
“I didn’t intend that to be any other way.”

***

“So, bro, how’d it go? …yo?”
Uil-Cur didn’t respond.
“…ouch. Sorry, bro.”
Uil-Cur began to tear up.
“Whoa, you don’t need to get teary-eyed on me! Hey, please don’t cry! I’m not good with crying people!”
His sister sighed. ‘He isn’t going to stop…geez, who’s the adult here?’ She reached up and pat him on the back. No words came to her to say to him, so she kept silent and let her brother cry.

When Mit-Sun arrived home, La-Iin was sitting on the couch with Choungetsu, a glare on her face.
“Oh, stop being antagonistic. I told him I didn’t feel the same way. Don’t you think if I said otherwise, he’d be here with me right now?”
“You made the right decision, Mama.”
“I know I did. Still, I felt bad for him. I’ve never actually been in the turning-down situation…I’ve never been in a situation like that before at all. I’m sure it hurt.”
“He can take the pain. He was an idiot to think you’d say yes. Besides, it’s not all that painful to hear a no. I hear them all the time.”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “Don’t get any ideas!”
“Yeah, like I would.” Mit-Sun sighed. “I hope he cheers up soon. And I hope we can really stay friends even after all of this…”

—–
“To what to do I owe the phone call?”
“I wanted to tell you that she said no, Dami. You don’t have to worry about some other man becoming my step-Dami.”
“He confessed? Oh, well, I’m pleased! Still, I have to feel bad for him. I understand how painful it can be if someone tells you they don’t feel the same way. Especially if they’re someone with Mit-Sun’s bluntly harsh way of going about things.”
“…Dami, I have a question. You won’t get in a relationship with anyone else, will you?”
“I don’t plan on it, no. But a lot of things can happen in nine-hundred years, that’s for certain. Why do you ask? …you don’t want Mit-Sun and I to get back together, do you?”
“No!”
“Well good, because that is not happening.”
“Hm…”
“Something the matter, La-Iin?”
“It’s nothing. That’s all. Goodbye, Dami.” She hung up the phone.
‘I hope neither Mama or Dami ever gets in another relationship,’ La-Iin thought. ‘Maybe they’re annoying, but nobody else gets to pretend to be my Mama or Dami.’

27.543.My Darling, Mit-Sun–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 543
“My Darling, Mit-Sun–Part 1”

‘What do I do if Mit-Sun accepts that man’s feelings?’
Since his phone call with La-Iin, Asul-Zenza had been lost in the thought of what might happen if Mit-Sun reciprocated Uil-Cur’s feelings. Even days later the idea still upset him. He could imagine him marrying Mit-Sun and getting to play an active part in her upbringing–even the reminder of La-Iin’s hatred towards the man barely made him feel better.
‘Even with Mit-Sun’s leniency, if a new man could play the role of La-Iin’s father, would she let him? Might she want to keep La-Iin around if she gave her a younger sibling? What will I do if she accepts his feelings and allows him to help raise La-Iin?’
He felt hopeless about the situation, yet he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He awaited eagerly for La-Iin’s next phone call, in which he hoped she would say that nothing had happened and that Mit-Sun was not getting married.

***

“Mit-Sun, I feel blessed this month. Why, earlier this year I never thought that just months later the two of us would be such good friends that we could hang out so many days in a month! It’s amazing to me. Long gone are the days where I admired you from afar–now, we spend lots of time together.”
“It’s been fun. Before I started spending more time with you I never even knew there were so many places to go in Bledger. Though I already knew about Sunday Daily.”
“Of course you did. When you live near this part of town, who doesn’t?”
“It’s also been nice to have someone who understands how I feel about Mrs. Eteibreit. I swear, I think she gets some sort of sick kick off of torturing us. You seem to handle her a little better, Uil-Cur. That’s something I kind of admire about you. Your personality, the way you act…it’s very fun. It’s kind of weird when you start acting more meek.”
“Aha ha, well, it happens sometimes. I get slightly embarrassed by the way I act sometimes. I’ve been called conceited a lot throughout my lifetime, but as I said, there’s nothing conceited about loving yourself. And it’s not like I’m putting myself on a pedestal above all others.”
“Yeah.” Mit-Sun sighed. “I wish La-Iin wouldn’t be so harsh towards you. She’s turning some of her anger towards you onto me. And that’s not the only reason I’m upset, not by a long shot, it’s just, I don’t know what made her hate you so much! And I know what you said about it seeming like you reminded her of someone she didn’t like, but that’s no excuse. I wouldn’t start mouthing off at a Catori-Demon on the street just because she’s the same species as Mrs. Eteibreit.”
“Well, she’s young. Young children can be irrational a lot of the time.”
“Yeah, I suppose so. I guess I should be more understanding of that–since the year I turned nineteen I haven’t really dealt with many young children, and she’s the only one I deal with on a daily basis. Still, it’s hard to deal with her. I know young children aren’t always as badly-behaved as she is. I met her best friend when she was younger than this and she’s one of the sweetest little girls I know. What happened with La-Iin? I treated her with kindness and what happened between me and her father happened when she was little.” Mit-Sun sighed. “Sorry to pile this on you, Uil-Cur…”
“It’s fine, Mit-Sun. It isn’t something I haven’t heard before. La-Iin is her own person. She might be at odds with you, but I don’t think she’ll ever hate you.”
“I must not be as confident as you are, then.”
“Like I said, she’s a young child. I may not have any experience when it comes to parenting, but I’ve dealt with my younger siblings for many years. They’ve stopped talking to me because I ate something they wanted to eat, or fought with me because I did something wrong that they never told me what it was. It happens. Don’t get down on yourself. You try your best and that is what matters. So have more confidence in your mothering–you don’t want a lack of confidence to bog you down, do you?”
“I suppose not,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Thank you, Uil-Cur. You know, I think you’ll be a great father if you ever decide to become one. I’m sure I’ll still be taking care of La-Iin for years to come–maybe you can give me some tips if you have a kid who ends up better behaved than her.”
Uil-Cur scratched the back of his neck. Seeing Mit-Sun’s innocent smile, hearing what she had to say, he was only reminded of his most recent visit to her house. ‘Should I try? Should I say something to her? I think I might have a chance. I suppose the worst is that she could say no…that or she could cut me off as a friend…’ Uil-Cur shook his head. ‘No. Mit-Sun is a kind woman. She would never do such a thing. I have to take my chances. After all, things don’t look so hopeless anymore. Maybe she likes me back…’
Uil-Cur glanced around him and took a deep breath. There were no people around him or Mit-Sun. He let out the breath.
“Mit-Sun, actually, there’s something I’ve been meaning to speak with you about.”
“Hm?”
“It was something your comment about me as a father reminded me of. And this is something I’ve wanted to bring up for a while, but I didn’t think there would be any benefit to either of us if I did so before. Now I feel confident that no matter what, the outcome will be fine, even if it’s not what I wanted.”
“What are you talking about, Uil-Cur? Can you get to the point?”
Uil-Cur sighed. “Well, I’ve wanted to be your friend for a long while, Mit-Sun, but there’s something else I’ve wanted for almost as long. After I got to know you better, I started to really like you. I had a high opinion of you since before we officially met, but once I really got to know you I knew that opinion was more well-founded than I expected. You’re a wonderful woman, Mit-Sun. Even when there are things you aren’t perfect at, you keep working hard at them anyway. It makes me sad when you say you have no confidence in some aspect of your mothering because I think it’s not a matter of you being a bad mother, it’s a matter of you don’t have it down perfect yet. And really, who ever would?”
“What are you trying to get at, Uil-Cur?” Mit-Sun asked.
“Well…as I got to know you and see how wonderful you are first-hand, I felt a little…differently about you…I was shy to admit it, but recently I thought to myself, with how kind you are I have nothing to worry about no matter what the outcome is. And, that is…I….I’m in love with you, Mit-Sun!”
Mit-Sun gave no response. She simply stared at Uil-Cur with wide eyes.
“I have been for a while. Perhaps even before I officially met you. You always sounded like the type of woman I would like, but the more I got to know you the more I knew that was true. I won’t ask you to give a specific answer, and you don’t have to answer now. I will still be your friend if you say no. And I would be glad to stay by you if you say yes. Well, I will either way, but you understand, right?”
Mit-Sun still didn’t respond. “Mit-Sun? I won’t be upset no matter what answer you give me, so please don’t just stand there. At least tell me if you don’t have an answer yet.”
“I…I…” Mit-Sun’s face flushed red. “I don’t know what to say, Uil-Cur. I can’t believe that flew over my head, how you felt…I always got this feeling you were flirting with me, but I thought it was just in your nature…”
“It is just in my nature. I’m as outgoing as they come and I still whimper like an introvert when I like a woman. I’d only be flirting with you if we were together, and that isn’t the case…right now,” he whispered to himself.
“You’re going to have to wait for me to think on this more, Uil-Cur. I–I just…”
Uil-Cur smiled. “I’ll wait as long as it takes, Mit-Sun. But don’t keep me waiting too long. I’ll get my hopes up and down and basically on a roller-coaster until you give me an answer. Oh, I feel much better having said all that!”
Mit-Sun shook her head. “I–I think I should go home!” She took off ahead of Uil-Cur.
“Be seeing you, Mit-Sun. I look forward to whatever response you give me.”

—–
“Hey, bro, you look kinda melancholy. Did something happen?”
“Ah, not really,” Uil-Cur sighed. “I’ve just been having hopeless fantasies about getting married and staring a family…”
“Who says they’re hopeless? You are pretty nice, bro. Some lady will like you someday, I bet.”
“You think so?”
“Mm-hm.”
Uil-Cur smiled. “I’m actually wondering if there’s some lady who likes me now…”
“Hm?”
“If she does, I think I’ll be a very happy man. Happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”
“Well, I hope she likes you back. But as payment for having this conversation, if she likes you and she marries you and you have kids I want to name your first one!”
“Aha ha, we’ll see about that one.”
His sister’s words sent Uil-Cur into a daydream about a life with Mit-Sun. Already he could imagine the two taking care of La-Iin and a further two children and living a happy life within the Cahongyun house. This time, he was so lost within the fantasy that he never chided himself for how ridiculous it might sound.
‘Perhaps this will come true soon…oh, Mit-Sun, I hope you feel the same as I do.’

20.536.The Weekend School Trip–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 536
“The Weekend School Trip–Part 2”

“Why did you ask to room with me instead of Sanhuun, Cahongyun? Aren’t you two good friends?”
“We are.”
“I know you’re interested in my family, but there’s nothing I can tell you about them right now. Nothing really big, anyway. So why did you ask to room with me? I know the final choice wasn’t yours, but–”
“I was wondering about something.”
“Huh?”
“It’s nothing I can tell you, though. It’s just a little…experiment.”
“Er, okay. Well, I’m happy to room with you anyway, Cahongyun. You know, Neigghed is a lot nicer than my house. I kinda wish our school trip was a little longer than it is.”
“Well, I have to make it back home soon. I’m concerned about something.”
“What’s that?”
“That’s also nothing I can tell you.”
“Hm…well, I don’t really want to talk about my family and I can’t ask you much, but I’m not tired yet. Say, Cahongyun, you seem to really like Molshei.”
“I do.”
“Do you have a crush on Molshei?”
“…”
“Huh?”
“I don’t like saying that outright.”
“So you do?”
“What do you think?”
“Yes?”
“What do you like so much about Molshei?”
“If San-Kyung didn’t hate almost everyone I’d have you ask him yourself about how he is. But all I can say for now is that he’s exactly what I was missing.”
“Huh?”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it. Fer-Shi doesn’t either.”
“Um, okay…”
Shuu-Kena smiled. ‘This is nice. I wish this school trip would go on forever.’

“Aren’t you upset that Cahongyun is rooming with Sara, Fer-Shi?”
“No, I’m not really worried. We’ve been friends for a long time. If our friendship was so bad that I was worried about it because she has a new friend, we wouldn’t be friends at all because I have Shan-Zetsu. And I know La-Iin really doesn’t like him.”
“Are you jealous?”
Fer-Shi flinched. “…maybe a little. It’s just, I know I’m still a kid and all, but it feels like all the fun times I had with La-Iin happened both a long time ago and just recently. We used to spend a ton of time together. We’re best friends, and she would go to me when something was wrong. Now it feels like she’s keeping a lot of secrets from me and she seems to go to other people before she’ll go to me. She only just started liking Sara and it feels like they hang out all the time now.”
“That sounds like more than a little. But like you said, if your friendship was a bad one, it probably would have already ended. If you two have been friends for a long time in a friendship between good and evil, I think it may last. But she might want to turn to people who understand her values better.”
“I understand her values!”
“Maybe not enough? I don’t really know, Fer-Shi, I just wanted to try and help…”
“I know you did. And maybe that’s what I needed to hear. Maybe I haven’t been hearing her out enough. Of course she might turn to people who understand her better if I’m not even lending her an ear.”
“Perhaps.”
“I’ll just have to keep trying, then.”
“A friendship takes the effort of both people part of it, after all.”

“Geez, I can’t believe our door was unlocked. I blame you.”
“Absolve yourself of any responsibility, huh.”
“No, it’s not that. Still, I both can’t believe that those two opened the door and I’m not surprised that they did.”
“I’m not surprised at all. Last year La-Iin broke in. Although that one was worse–she opened the door with sheer force.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “No wonder you’re so interested in her abilities. She is pretty powerful for a seven-year-old.”
“…”
“Oh, sorry, San-Kyung, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No, I’m fine. I’ve been feeling a little bit better lately. Just wish using La-Iin’s power wasn’t a crapshoot.”
“I’m sure there’s some other way we can find out how to help you. I’ll keep looking, okay?”
“You say that, but I know you’ve been preoccupied with your own things.”
“…those aren’t all that important. And anyway why are we talking about depressing things on the school trip!? We should be talking about better things! In Neigghed did you know there are a lot of free things to do? You and I haven’t been going out much lately. Tomorrow we have more free time–we should take a chance to cast out on our own and have some fun!”
“Yeah, but we’ll need to make sure we aren’t caught by La-Iin or else she’ll tag along.”
“She’s been pretty preoccupied with that little girl who joined our class in March. Maybe she’s annoyed with us right now. After all, that speech she gave us…”
“She was hanging onto me on the bus.”
“Good point. Either way, I guess there’s time to plan for all this later. I’m starting to get tired!”
“Same here.” San-Kyung yawned. “Good night, Dosa-Mina…”
“Good night, San-Kyung.”

***

“Alright students, who’s ready for the day? We’re going to get something to eat, and then we’re going to study history. After that, you’re allowed on your own–although if you’re under fourteen, you need to be accompanied by someone older.”
“What!?” Airy-Aekok exclaimed. “You, like, gotta be kidding me! I’m gonna be fourteen this year! I’ve gotta be accompanied ’cause I’m a little too young?”
“You have me if you need anyone, Llanni.” Lirako said.
“Yeah, I know, but I’m still pissed off!”
“Sorry, but it’s the rules,” Theasis said. “Not just set by us, but set by Neigghed as well.”
“How does that make any sense!?”
“How are you feeling today?” Shuera-Kaizima asked Ai-Reia.
“F…fine, I suppose,” Ai-Reia said. “Thank you…both of you. You don’t need to be so worried. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ve just been…stressed lately, that’s all.”
“That’s alright. We’re on your side, Vampiris. We’re here for you.”
Ai-Reia had to take a deep breath to keep herself from tearing up. “B-b-by the way, you two, I don’t mind if you call me Ai-Reia.”
“Really? That would be lots easier for me!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“Hey, are you three paying attention?” Mr. Chensu asked. “Anyway, first things first. We’re heading out to eat!”

Breakfast for the Class D students and teachers had been somewhat cumbersome; the number of people going to the small restaurant overwhelmed the workers and Mr. Chensu had panicked at how much vuyong the entire meal had cost. Still, after the meal the group was in mostly high spirits as they ventured to other historical locations within Neigghed.
“This building right here used to be a place where the bodies of the dead were stored. In early Neigghed, burials were uncommon. They prefered to store and preserve the bodies for various reasons–trophies, food, threats….their methods of preservation are methods other places in the world adopted for preserving bodies prior to funerals. Nowadays it’s a small hospital for treating minor wounds.”
“How much longer is this going to take?” San-Kyung whispered.
“I don’t know, why do you ask? I find all of this interesting.”
“I do too, but I’m getting sick of hearing his voice.”
“Mr. Molshei, shut up! I’m trying to give a lesson.”
“…great. I just made it worse.”
“Mr. Chensu is always annoying, San-Kyung,” La-Iin whispered. San-Kyung flinched and crashed into Dosa-Mina. “What do you say we cast out on our own?”
“No!”
“A-hem.” Mr. Chensu narrowed his eyes. “Anyway, we’ll be letting you all go off on your own soon enough. But before we do, there’s one last place we think you students should see.”
The teachers led the way to a more rural part of Neigghed that to La-Iin, looked as though it had been abandoned; the ground was dotted with bare patches and tall grass. Up ahead in the distance, a large statue stood.
“This is the statue of the dictator who ruled over Neigghed like a certain family rules North Vaelyn. As you can see, it’s since been defaced in more ways than one. Here you can see that not all the population of Neigghed is forgiving and pacifistic. Some have written some violent and profane graffiti on here….like “dick-tator”. Ha ha. Very funny.”
“Did you just laugh, San-Kyung?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Oh, he totally laughed.
“You shut up!”
“Anyway, let’s head back before you all go off. Heading off in different directions in the middle of nowhere is a recipe for disaster.”
The students followed the teachers back to the hotel. San-Kyung glanced over his shoulder one last time at the statue and stifled a giggle.

“Now we finally have the freedom to go off on our own!”
“A freedom we usually have?”
“Yeah, but we haven’t had it in Neigghed yet! Come on, let’s go!”
Dosa-Mina led the way as the two looked at the small buildings in Neigghed. San-Kyung was intrigued, but only mildly. Neigghed had several places to visit, but it was swarming with all sorts of people wishing each other well. It seemed like a stereotypical utopia–and it made him sick.
“Hello there!” One called out. “Would you like to visit one of our facilities? We have ones perfect for a couple like you! Don’t worry–we’re very accepting here!”
“What the hell?”
“You’ve got the wrong idea,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Oh? Our apologies! Well, there are plenty of places for anyone to go! You’re welcome to go anyplace you like!”
“Calm down, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina whispered. “This is just them being polite. They’re known for being kind here.”
“Well, it makes me sick!”
“Wow, look at San-Kyung. Can’t even take a little politeness without getting all worked up.”
“Yeah, kinda cute though, isn’t it?”
“Llanni, are you high?”
San-Kyung sighed. “Let’s just keep going.”
Dosa-Mina glanced around Neigghed. It reminded him of a peaceful village. “This place is like the opposite of Hledshess. I like the way it’s set up, though.”
“Dosa-Mina, you’re more interested in this place than I am. Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know. There are a lot of places around here, but a lot of them seem like eateries and I am not hungry in the slightest.”
“Eateries aren’t the only type of place around here, you know.”
San-Kyung groaned. La-Iin was sitting on a bench nearby, Fer-Shi at her side. “San-Kyung, it’s wonderful to see you!”
“Have you been stalking us?”
“Actually, this is complete coincidence,” La-Iin said confidently. “But I’m happy to see you regardless. Rival-boy is completely useless when it comes to finding fun places in Neigghed–meanwhile, I and Fer-Shi have found quite a few.”
“There are a lot of fun places if you know where to look. Did you know you’re in the eatery district right now?”
“That would explain all the eateries,” Dosa-Mina mused. “What kind of good locations have you found?”
“Don’t humor her!”
“I’m just asking for the general direction.”
“If you don’t want to be anywhere near me, it was a mistake to ask, rival-boy,” La-Iin said. “I’ll only show you if you accompany me and Fer-Shi to that place!”
“If you want to find another district, just take a left or right at the beginning of the eatery district. The first eatery is called Smoothie Sandwiches!”
“Smoothie Sandwiches?” Dosa-Mina began to look nauseous. “Er, why don’t we go now, San-Kyung?”
“Sure.” The two took off, and as soon as they did, La-Iin grabbed Fer-Shi by the collar of her shirt.
“Why would you tell them that!? This was my perfect chance!”
“That’s exactly why I told them! Can’t we just have fun on our own!?”
“A school trip is the perfect opportunity for rival-boy to make his move. He and San-Kyung are in the same room! The only thing that made me feel good last night was the fact that my and Sara’s room was next-door to theirs. I didn’t hear anything but who’s to say there isn’t a makeout district!?”
“You’re over-blowing this, La-Iin. You seemed so calm yesterday, so what’s got you all riled up today?”
“I’M ANGRY AT MAMA!” She yelled. “Come on, Fer-Shi! If we chase after them, we might be able to catch up to them!”
“Hey, wait!” La-Iin grabbed Fer-Shi’s hand and, propelling herself faster with her wings, chased after the faint outlines of San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina in the distance.

“This place is a lot of fun, don’t you think, Ai-Reia? Everyone is so nice here in Neigghed!”
“It is a nice break from all the bustle of Bledger,” she said.
“Bledger doesn’t bustle all that much. Though I guess I can understand how it can seem that way sometimes.”
“Mm.” Ai-Reia lowered her head. “Why do you two even want to spend time with me? I’m a young child and you two are adolescents. I don’t understand.”
“You’re our friend, Ai-Reia. And like I said, Cahongyun and Morushei are friends and they have an even wider age gap!”
“And please try not to worry about the lifespan factor. We don’t want to make you upset by being your friend–we want to make this time better. But I think I need to ask this. Would it make you happier if I stopped trying to be your friend now, or if you had lots of fond memories of me when I’m gone?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“In-Dei, you shouldn’t change the conversation to that,” Shuera-Kaizima scolded. “We are here to have fun.”
“You’re right,” he said. “And that’s just what we’ll do. Don’t worry about it, Ai-Reia. Right now we’re here to have fun with you!”
Ai-Reia smiled. “Thank you, you two.”
Slowly but surely the kindness the two showed her was starting to make her feel just a slight bit better. It felt to her like the happiness that was buried by her constant self-reminders of their lifespans was starting to slowly peek its way out, and it pushed away her memories of her recent breakdown as she chased after the two.
“I think she’s gaining on us!”
Ai-Reia stopped in place when she noticed San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina run by. They quickly outpaced even Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei, who were still running ahead until they noticed the two. They were followed not long after by La-Iin and Fer-Shi, who were running almost as fast.
“What’s going on?” Shuera-Kaizima asked.
“I don’t know,” Ai-Reia sighed. “And I’m certain I don’t want to.”

***

“You students sure look like you’ve had a lot of fun,” Mr. Chensu said that night at dinner.
“If by fun you mean getting chased down and harassed by a little girl…!”
“Calm yourself, San-Kyung.”
“Well, we leave for home tomorrow, so anything else you might want to do in Neigghed you’ll have to do early. We leave a little bit before twelve.”
“What would be the point in doing anything at all?” La-Iin asked.
“I dunno, just for fun?”
“Well, anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the trip. And I hope it made you feel a little bit less stressed. Bledger might be a more dangerous place to live than Neigghed right now, but maybe the morals we’ve learned here will help you feel a little bit better about the future. …unless you’re one of our evil students.”
La-Iin and San-Kyung looked away.
“Hey, teach, can I room with Fer-Shi tonight?”
Mr. Chensu blinked. “But aren’t you rooming with Miss Sara, Miss Cahongyun?”
“I am.”
“Why the sudden change of heart?”
“No particular reason.”
“I’m fine if she changes rooms,” Shuu-Kena said. “We actually somewhat talked about it already.”
“Well, if you say so…”

“Did you really talk to Sara about rooming with me tonight?”
“Sort of.”
“What changed your mind?”
“Nothing in particular.”
Fer-Shi growled. “You never tell me anything!”
“I’m not telling you because if I told you, you would just get mad.”
“Now I really want to know.”
“Oh, come on,” La-Iin sighed. She laid down and pulled the covers over her. “If you feel bad about me hanging out with Sara more, don’t. Stop being so jealous.”
“Is that why you’re rooming with me tonight?”
“What do you think?”
Fer-Shi shook her head. “I don’t know what to think. But, um…thanks, La-Iin.”

“Say, San-Kyung, would you say this school trip was a success?”
“In what way?”
“Did it help make you feel a little bit better about living?”
San-Kyung tried to push away the memories of being chased down by La-Iin as he thought back on the trip.
“…yeah, I guess so. But not for the reason the Neiggheds would want.”

As Ai-Reia settled down that night, she felt content.
‘I really do have friends who will stick by my side, don’t I?’

—–
On the way back to Bledger, most of the students had fallen asleep. The ones who had not still seemed exhausted.
“You know, this was a pretty fun school trip. I’m glad the Principal reminded us.”
“Me too. I hope next year’s is fun as well.”
“Next year’s?”
“Yes. It happens every time there’s a Grade 12 student, right? Don’t you remember? Mr. Molshei, Mr. Dslellular, Mr. Ferister and Mr. Yuuldang are in Grade 12 next year. And the year after that, Mr. Elyshen and Miss Fheyundaer. And after that, Mr. Fyuori, Mr. Pinyon and Miss Llanni. And so on until the year Miss Shaejaein and Miss Auedarna graduate, and that’s not counting any new students who join. And even then, just a year later Miss Sanhuun, Mr. Gyurkang and Mr. Veiner would be in Grade 12.”
Mr. Chensu’s eyes widened. “Aren’t Miss Shaejaein and Miss Auedarna in Grade 6!?”
Theasis nodded. Mr. Chensu nearly fainted in response.

19.535.The Weekend School Trip–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 535
“The Weekend School Trip–Part 1”

“I thank you all for taking the time out of your day to come for this discussion.”
“Not a problem. I don’t really do much outside of school.” Mr. Chensu said.
“What did you need from us?” Asked Theasis.
“Mr. Sharai, loathsome as he can act sometimes, has been informing me of recent tensions within Class D. Tensions between students who do not get along and students who have grown suspicious of another due to her recent actions. He also mentioned something else to me that I want to talk with you all about.
“Each year that there is at least one student in Grade 12, the class with the students will go on a school trip. That is a rule here at Malicerie that is often enforced and the trip can happen at most any time in the year. In Class D I noticed there are three students who have reached Grade 12–Miss Sanyaow, Miss Sherry, and Miss Hangdul. Given the tensions and the fact of this rule, I wanted to suggest that you of Class D go on a school trip to alleviate these tensions and to fulfill the rule.”
“That does sound pretty nice,” Mr. Chensu said. “Things have been weird in Class D lately.”
“As nice as an idea as it sounds, where do you think we could go, Principal? And when would we go?”
“It would probably be best to go this month or as soon as school starts again. School trips aren’t intended for the students to all have some random fun–they are supposed to learn on these trips as well, and I don’t know that many students would appreciate that during their Summer break.”
“Well, it sounds kind of cumbersome in September,” Mr. Chensu sighed. “And you mentioned part of the reason it sounded like a good idea to you now is because of the student tensions. By September they could have blown over.”
“That’s true, but then that doesn’t leave us with much time to plan a location and head off for it. We’d have to do it before July, and we’re already a decent way into June.”
The Principal’s gaze fell on all the teachers. “Then let me propose this idea. If you have no ideas, then why not visit Neigghed? It has been referred to as one of the more peaceful places in Vaelyn, and it has a history to it as well, one that’s much more violent than one might expect given their recent history all has to do with peace. It could be something for the students to learn about, and give all of you a chance to head off to someplace more peaceful.”
“Neigghed, huh? I’ve never been there, but I heard my cousin lives there,” Mr. Chensu said.
“When would we go, Principal?”
“Why must you turn to me for every decision? Am I just going to plan this entire school trip? Fine then. Head off to Neigghed on June 19th and return on June 21st. Make sure to relax and learn. And tell the students soon enough, otherwise you’ll be forcing them into a sudden school trip.”
“We’ll make sure to tell them, Principal.”
“Are you sure this is a smart idea?” Denbek asked. “This is all pretty sudden–even if we inform the students they could still be caught off-guard. And part of this dips into their Weekend.”
“I was asked to provide a schedule, and I did. Besides, it wouldn’t be the only time they’ve done school work on the Weekend, and they will have a trip to go along with it. They don’t have to go in the end. Work with what I gave you. If you have a better idea then discuss it among yourselves. But this is what I give you for now.” The Principal stood up. “I’m heading home. You all debate the matter among yourselves.”
The Principal stepped out of the room, leaving the Class D teachers to themselves.
“What do you all think?” Theasis asked.
“I think it sounds like a fine idea. We’ll tell the students and go when she said. After all, if we head home early enough they’ll still have some of their Sunday. Maybe we can even give them Monday off.”
“It still sounds so sudden,” sighed Denbek.
“Well, Neigghed isn’t too big a place. There’s a lot of history on it but there isn’t much to learn aside from that. The students would have plenty of time especially if we do the brunt of our teaching on Friday. Then on Saturday all of us could have some fun!” Haebochi said.
“That sounds like a plan,” Hyungdarou said.
“Mr. Denbek, are you still having concerns?” Theasis asked.
“Yes, but that’s all about the suddenness. You all practically give me no reason to say no–all the rest of it does sound pretty appealing. I’ve kind of been wanting a vacation myself.”
“Then it’s settled. We’re going with the Principal’s plan, and next week we are going to Neigghed!”

***

“This school trip really happened fast!” Fer-Shi said. “It feels like one day we were being told we’re going on a school trip, and then the next day we’re going on that school trip!”
“Yeah, Mama didn’t like it much that it happened so randomly,” La-Iin said. “I have one problem with the school trip, myself.”
“What’s that?”
“I want to be away from Mama right now, but I don’t trust her to be on her own!”
Fer-Shi looked confused. “What?”
“You would never understand the evil that is Haner, and I wouldn’t want you to.”
“If Haner is evil, shouldn’t you like it?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “Haner is that fake brand of evil that even we evil people despise. Except for idiots like the Saras, probably.”
La-Iin glanced behind her. Shuu-Kena was glancing around the crowd of students and parents. La-Iin walked up to her.
“Sara?”
“Eep! Y-yes, Cahongyun?”
“They didn’t come, did they.”
“No,” she sighed. “They said they didn’t want to encourage this venture. I told them about how they said it was also to get away from the bad in Bledger, and then they told me they’re trying to cause bad in Bledger and that it’s stupid for me to want to go. But then they said they don’t care…I really wonder if they even love me sometimes, La-Iin.”
La-Iin felt conflicted. A part of her wanted to reassure Shuu-Kena, but the other part told her to hold back from it.
“Your family is stupid. Did you tell them we’re going to Neigghed?”
“Yeah, that just made them more angry.”
“Mama told me that Neigghed has a long and violent history,” La-Iin said proudly. “So they’re stupid. Don’t worry about it.”
Shuu-Kena smiled. “Okay, I’ll try not to.”
“I think this school trip will be good for you, sweetie,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Maybe.”
“Personally, I’m looking forward to it!” Dosa-Mina said. “Think about it, San-Kyung. It’s a chance to get away from this place where all the things that are on our mind happened. And last year’s school trip was pretty fun, wasn’t it?”
“I guess so.”
“I think this trip will be a lot of fun, Mr. and Mrs. Molshei. We might even come back changed men!”
“I sure hope you’re right, Dosa-Mina,” Salsh-Era said. “But I think your little comment upset Del-Kyuus.”
“Ohh, I know San-Kyung isn’t going to be a minor forever, but it’s hard to imagine him becoming a man,” she sighed.
“He’s gotta graduate school before he can graduate to adulthood, so don’t worry!”
“I guess you really are excited about this school trip.”
“Sure I am! I love school trips.”
“Well, have fun, you two!” Salsh-Era said.
“We will!”
“We’ll try.”
“Hm…”
“Somethin’ up, Sanyaow?”
“I’m just thinking about our little deal, that’s all. We still haven’t found out what’s going on. We started up some suspicion but we still don’t know for ourselves what’s the truth. July isn’t too far off–would we even be able to figure out the truth while we’re not at school?”
“Like, I’m concerned about that too, but don’t let it worry you,” Airy-Aekok said. “We’re going on a school trip not to worry about this? Bledger’s been getting more dangerous, and my Dad’s super-busy ’cause of it. I’d rather just have fun.”
“I guess you’re right. I do kinda need to cut loose. Between this and college plans I’ve just been stressing myself out!” She stretched. “Hey, Deki-Tyunri, want to sit next to me on the ride there?”
“Really? You’re asking me? I thought you were going to ask Llanni.”
“I’d rather find a cute teenage boy to sit next to,” she cooed.
“You know, that’s one thing you two have in common–your love of teenage boys.”
“I–”
“Weird that someone like me isn’t as interested as you two.”
“You’re becoming a woman, Lirako. You have, like, a more mature taste.”
“Can we just stop this conversation…?”
As Rini-Futo head off, leaving her family behind her, she caught sight of Mr. Chensu standing there in the crowd with the rest of the Class D teachers.
“Mr. Chensu!”
The teachers stared at her for a short while before all of them except for Mr. Chensu took a step backwards.
“What is it, Miss Shaejaein?”
“Um….even though I said what I did earlier this year…do you think we could have fun on this trip like we did last year?”
“Oh? Sure! There’s a lot of history to learn in Neigghed, so that’s still possible.” He furrowed his brow. “You do actually like history, right?”
“Mm-hm!”
“Then it won’t be a problem.”
Rini-Futo breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ai-Reia, they gave you a choice,” Reuf-Bu said. “Do you want to go on this school trip, or do you think you need to stay home and recover more? I’m worried about you after what happened.”
“…I’m not sure,” she said quietly.
“You need to make your decision soon. The other students are getting onto the bus.”
“…”
“Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia looked up and caught sight of Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei.
“Are you coming on the school trip, too?”
“…I don’t know.”
“We’d love to spend time with you in Neigghed,” Im-Dei said. “But if you need to stay home and recover, you should do that instead.”
Ai-Reia felt conflicted, but only for a moment. She had two choices–recover at home and be surrounded by the people who caused her so much stress, or go off with her friends and perhaps alleviate some of it. The thought that La-Iin would also be on the trip bothered her, but she felt as though ultimately, this was the right choice.
She reached out to her friends. “I want to go…”
Shuera-Kaizima grinned. “Good! We’re happy to have you!”
“All students of Class D! We’re heading off to Neigghed in a few minutes! If you aren’t ready for some reason, hurry it up or you’ll miss the bus!”
“We have to go,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Brother Vampiris, thank you for bringing her.”
“Not a problem. Call if anything goes wrong, alright, Ai-Reia?”
“I will.”
The students head onto the bus and took their seats, followed by the teachers. With a majority of their parents watching, the bus took off. Glancing out the window, La-Iin gasped.
“What’s wrong, La-Iin?”
“Did I just see Dami? But I didn’t see him in the crowd before!”
“Maybe you just mistook him for someone else,” Fer-Shi said. “I think Ai-Reia came on the trip. Maybe it’s her dad?”
“No, I would never mistake anyone else’s Dami for my Dami. I either hallucinated him or he’s actually there!”
She glanced out the window once again. “I sure hope I hallucinated him.”

La-Iin’s concern didn’t take long for her to lose.
“San-Kyung, a trip is just what you needed, I think.”
“My parents said so too.”
“Wow, she’s obviously flirting with you and you’re just sitting there and taking it.”
“I don’t have the energy to fight right now. Trust me, she’ll get her payback.”
“You’re saying that right in front of me,” La-Iin said, cuddling up close to San-Kyung. “Well, if you don’t have the energy to fight, I should take my chances while you don’t. Be my boyfriend, San-Kyung. We’ll be so–”
“No.”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Not having the energy to fight doesn’t make me gullible.”
“Well, if you can still fight back with words, I know one way you can’t fight back!”
“I’ll strike my hand if you try anything, so don’t.”
“If you do that you’ll cause a panic on the whole bus!” La-Iin blinked. “Actually, that sounds like a lot of fun. Do your worst!”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes.
“Well, at least this is entertaining,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Maybe to you!”
“We’re about to arrive in Neigghed, students,” Theasis called out. “Once we arrive we’re going to take a look at the history of Neigghed. Today is a day fully devoted to studying, so I hope you all are ready!”
“Well, at least it’s not science study,” Xhen-Bei sighed.
“Do you have trouble with science, Yuuldang?” Kim-Koou asked.
“Yeah, it’s not my strong suit.”
“It seems like a lot of our classmates like science,” Mi-Kou said.
“Yeah, well, I’m not one of them.”
The bus came to a stop, and the students prepared for the day ahead of them. Dosa-Mina tapped Theasis on the back.
“How’s the room situation going to work this year, Miss Theasis?”
“I’m not sure yet. That depends on how this hotel is set up. I’m sure if it’s two to a room you’ll want to room with Mr. Molshei, Mr. Dslellular. You two are pretty close, aren’t you?”
“Yup. We’re inseparable.”
“That’s good. It’s nice to see such a healthy friendship…for the most part. Mr. Dslellular, I can’t claim to know the more intimate details about your friendship, but please, it’s embarrassing the way you act in public.”
“Sorry about that. But I just can’t resist a chance to shower him in affection!”
“Hm.” Theasis turned around and met face-to-face with Hyungdarou.
“Two to a room.”
“Looks like you’re in luck, Mr. Dslellular.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. He walked off and joined the rest of the students.
“What a sweet boy. I think he has to be one of my favorite students.”
“You really shouldn’t play favorites, Miss Hyungdarou…”

***

“Neigghed, Vaelyn. A pinnacle of peace–this place is full of good people. Neutral people and evil people are definite minorities here.”
“I’m so happy Class A isn’t here,” La-Iin said. Fer-Shi gave her a quizzical look.
“Thing is, about Neigghed, that wasn’t always the way things were. Long ago, before Vaelyn was even really Vaelyn, Neigghed was ruled by a dictator. Many of you, having studied Vaelyn’s history, will know that Vaelyn’s primary species changed several times over the years. Places like Nyappon were consistent Catori societies, for instance, but in Vaelyn which species reigned in dominance changed. All around the place soon to be called Vaelyn there were dictators who wanted complete rule over these lands. Neigghed’s dictator, a Minomix called Ghurheng, was known for being notoriously violent and for ordering the deaths of his enemies over their capture. In the event he did order for their capture…well, it’s said they were tortured in ways the populace had no idea about.”
La-Iin soaked in every word. She was enamored.
“This nature of Neigghed didn’t stop when Vaelyn became Vaelyn, either. You see, Neigghed is a bit closer to Aena than other places in Vaelyn. So Aena wanted to take this land for themselves, and there were some bloody battles fought over it. When Neigghed became Neigghed, this is where the evil of Vaelyn converged. There are a few tales of violent crimes going on here–they say the evil of other parts of Vaelyn would take their soon-to-be victims out to Neigghed to kill them and hide the body. They say some of those cases still haven’t been solved.”
“Scary…” Fer-Shi mumbled.
“Even other evil people were scared of Neigghed because they knew that it was easy to get killed here. The culmination of Neigghed happened sometime after the Vaelyn War. People from Vaelyn who sympathized with the rulers of North Vaelyn essentially made Neigghed a copy of it–for a place like Vaelyn, this was a big deal. People in Neigghed were miserable. Once the extent of the situation got out, it was dealt with and it ended in the death of the man who was ruling over Neigghed.”
“Hm…”
“Intrigued, San-Kyung?”
“Neigghed after that basically was populated by newcomers and people who had lived under that man’s rule. They decided they would make up for the darkness in Neigghed’s past by making it a place of peace and goodness–don’t give me that look, Mr. Molshei. Anyway, to the surprise of the people in Neigghed, their attempts to make this place a peaceful one succeeded greatly. After all, now barely anybody thinks of Neigghed as the dark place it was before–now it’s truly lauded as a place of peace.”
“And boringness,” La-Iin sighed.
“You were right, Cahongyun. If only my family knew about Neigghed’s past.”
“Now, there are a few historical sights we can see in Neigghed, but who feels like stopping for something to eat?”
“I do!” Xhen-Bei called out. “I’m starving!”
Mr. Chensu chuckled. “Then’s let go get something to eat!”

***

After dinner that night, Class D saw a few sights including the grave of the man who ruled over Neigghed years before. They retired to the hotel after that, where the students debated over rooming.
“Of course I’m rooming with San-Kyung. Who else would I go with?”
“We know, Mr. Dslellular,” Mr. Chensu sighed. “Well, we want to try and put together combinations of people who will get along. So I suppose Miss Cahongyun and Miss Sanhuun would be good together.”
“What about me?” Shuu-Kena asked.
“Miss Sara, why don’t you room with Mr. Veiner?”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Fer-Shi whispered to La-Iin. “They might be able to get along.”
“I wonder…”
“Did you want to room with Sara, La-Iin?”
“Hm…I’d actually want to room with San-Kyung, but…”
La-Iin glanced at Shuu-Kena, who looked dejected as the rooms were doled out, with most ending up in pairs of friends such as Yefu-Shenhao and Zae-Mia.
“Hey, I’ve got an objection.”
“What’s that, Miss Sanyaow?”
“I think some of us would be better off in pairs of three,” she said. “It’d take up less rooms and besides, I kind of want to room with both Deki-Tyunri and Llanni.”
“That might be cool,” Airy-Aekok said.
“It would save on space, but we did say two to a room.”
“I think it is a great idea,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Then I can be with In-Dei and Vampiris.”
Ai-Reia remained silent, while Im-Dei smiled.
“Well, if you all are insisting…but does that end in consistent pairs? We kind of wanted to avoid anyone getting left with a teacher.”
“Why don’t we just stick with two to a room? We have twenty-four students; it should be even that way. Besides, I don’t want to room with anyone aside from San-Kyung.”
“Mr. Dslellular does have a point. Perhaps we should just assign rooms ourselves. After all, I do know a lot about who you all are friends with.”
“Then I want to make a request. I want to room with Sara instead.”
Fer-Shi bowed her head. “What? Aren’t you friends with Sanhuun?”
“I am. But I have my reasons for doing this.”
“And I can room with Veiner, I guess…” Fer-Shi sighed.
“Now this is strange…”
“Well, I’m fine just rooming with Deki-Tyunri, but Llanni isn’t exactly what I’d call popular. And same goes for Deki-Tyunri if I room with Llanni.”
“I don’t want to leave Vampiris alone,” Im-Dei said.
Mi-Kou sighed. “This is so frustrating…”
A chatter rose among the students about the situation of the rooms.
“EVERYONE SHUT UP!” Mr. Chensu yelled. “Look, while we’ll put your suggestions into consideration, we’re just pairing you with whoever we feel like, alright!? Except for you two. You two are staying paired up.”
“As it should be!” Dosa-Mina said.
“We’ll get back to you in a few minutes.” The teachers walked off and began to discuss the rooms.
“I hope I end up with you or Veiner,” Fer-Shi said.
“…”
Fer-Shi bowed her head. ‘I guess she really does like Sara, now…’

—–
Although it took longer than expected for all parties involved, the rooms were eventually decided, and students head off to bed and began to chat.
“Yo, Llanni,” Lirako said, peeking her head into her and Mi-Kou’s room. “There’s something I wanna do.”
“You two really shouldn’t be leaving the room at this time,” Mi-Kou said.
“I’ll be, like, back soon. Then you can tell me a bit more about that boy.”
Mi-Kou sighed. “It isn’t anything big, Llanni.”
“Aw, come on. I’m always interested in teenage boys! Now, what are we getting up to?”
“Most of the doors are going to be locked soon. Some already are. But I think San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina’s isn’t. Maybe we’ll catch Dosa-Mina in a different form if we open the door!”
“Are you so sure about that?”
“Maybe they’ll be talking about his true species?”
“Guess it’s worth a shot. Alright, let’s do it!”
Lirako opened the door and pushed her way into the room. The two stared blankly at the sight of San-Kyung, who looked both agitated and embarrassed, being almost smothered by Dosa-Mina, who was smiling wide.
The two turned in the direction of Lirako and Airy-Aekok, who closed the door and silently went back to their own rooms.