19.627.Lovely Love Story–Part 3

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 627
“Lovely Love Story–Part 3”

“Congratulations, students of Mudorous High. We are so pleased to see you have made it this far. Go now and make your mark on the world as adults!”
Salsh-Era beamed. Once the cheering died down and the crowd erupted into chatter, he began to feel slightly self-conscious about still being up on stage, so he levitated down to meet a friend of his, Iegyu Li-An.
“Congratulations, Salsh-Era!” She called out. Salsh-Era smiled back at her, though he was quick to notice the Animated Pumpkin girl standing next to her.
“Thanks, Li-An. It went better than I expected it to!”
“I’m glad!”
“Oh, but, who is that next to you?”
“Me?” The Animated Pumpkin girl pointed at herself.
“Oh yeah, that’s right, I never introduced you two. This is Zahelahe Del-Kyuus, a friend of mine. See, you weren’t my only friend up there. Me and Hiduro are close too. Zahelahe here is also friends with Hiduro, and they used to go to the same school before he transferred here.”
“You must be Molshei Salsh-Era,” she said. “Are you and Hiduro friends too?”
“No, not really. I mean I guess we talk, but he’s more popular than me here. Everyone always wants his attention…” Salsh-Era began to feel indignant.
Li-An giggled. “Don’t feel bad, Salsh-Era.”

On their way back from the graduation ceremony, Del-Kyuus, Li-An and Hiduro talked about their futures–for the most part.
“I imagine that if I keep up the way I am now, I can be famous! Imagine what I could use fame to do!”
“Don’t let it all get to your head, Hiduro,” Li-An said. “Conceited folk make it nowhere in life.”
“What a lie! Have you seen all the conceited celebrities and politicians!?”
Li-An sighed. “Touche.”
“Li-An, that Molshei boy was really nice. Do you think you could put us in touch?”
“Huh? You wanna make friends with Molshei?”
“Yes! He reminds me of a boy I knew in Elementary School. He’s funny!”
“You aren’t feeling lovey-dovey towards him, are ya, Del-Kyuus? I thought you and I were gonna be together! I can see it now…’Hiduro Del-Kyuus’.”
“Geez, Hiduro, I told you, I don’t like you that way.”
Hiduro sighed. “For someone so demure you sure aren’t easy on a guy’s heart.”
“And I just want to be his friend. I have plenty of male friends and I don’t have crushes on them.”
“Well, your little squabble aside, sure I can put you in contact with him, Zahelahe. Though I’ll have to ask him if he’s quite as interested in being your friend.”
“Okay!”

“What? Zahelahe wants to be friends with me?”
Li-An nodded. “Apparently you remind her of someone she knew in Elementary School.”
“Really?”
“I can put you two in contact, but that’s only if you’re interested in pursuing a friendship with her.”
“Sure, why not? She seems like a really nice girl. Tell her we can meet up at the park and chat for a bit.”
“Sure, I’ll tell her.”

***

A few days later, Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus made good on their promise to meet at the park.
“I’m sorry, it must seem pretty weird for me to ask you out of the blue to be friends with me.”
“It was kind of weird.”
“But you know, you really remind me of this boy I knew in Elementary. He was the nicest kid, and so funny! …but I heard he died in junior high.”
“What!?”
Del-Kyuus nodded. “I’m sorry, this is such a somber subject to get on…well, we fell out of touch around junior high. When I got to high school, that’s when I heard he had been dead for a few years. Apparently he was attacked and tried to make it to the hospital on his own, but he got hit by a car on the way there.”
“Yeesh.”
“Oh, but please don’t think I’m trying to replace him with you!” She said. “I just thought you were really funny and I like funny people. You remind me of him, but I don’t see you as him.”
“I see.”
“Soooo, what kind of plans do you have now that you’re out of high school? Aside from maybe college?”
“Well, I want to do the responsible thing and go to college, get a job, all that stuff, but I guess if I had to say specifics, I would like to go visiting species societies. I was born here, so I’ve always been curious as to how they work, especially Animated Pumpkin ones. I heard my Dad lives in one nowadays.”
“Only your Dad?”
“My parents are divorced. I live with my Mom and her partner. It’s a little complicated.”
“Oh, okay. Um, as for me, I want to do the same things, go to college and get a job. I’d really like to get married and have a family, but if I don’t find someone right for me, I think I’ll try and open a bakery!”
“A bakery?”
“Yes! Everyone thinks it’s weird that I like cooking so much even though I don’t have to eat. Well, maybe it’s weird, but I really like it!”
“Well, it’s not like we can’t.”
“Yeah! You know, it’s weird. I’ve always wanted to get married, but…you know Hiduro, right?”
“Yeah, he was my classmate.”
“He likes me, but I just can’t find it in me to like him back. He’s nice, but I don’t know…oops! I guess that was a little too much information,” she giggled. “It just feels so natural with you!”
“Feels the same to me. I don’t usually go around telling people my parents are divorced. Still, that reminds me, Hiduro was always talking about an ‘orange beauty’ to his friends. I could never figure out if he was talking about an Animated Pumpkin or a Witch, or maybe even a Catori…”
“Oh my!” Del-Kyuus looked embarrassed. “What else did Hiduro say?”
“Well, he’s kind of conceited, let me tell you that. I don’t think I think as positively of him as you do, heh heh.”
The two continued to talk on for long after that, the subject changing several times in the middle.

“So, how’d it go?”
“It was great!” Del-Kyuus said.
“She’s a nice girl, and so easy to talk to. I think we’ll be good friends,” Salsh-Era said.
Li-An felt ecstatic. ‘I’m glad I helped them find a new friend.’

***

Li-An cleared her throat.
“My dear best school friends, to celebrate our upcoming graduation from college, I’ve decided to give you all some presents. As we go into a more adult world, we are looking to see hardships and suffer the struggle that is not being able to see each other as often. And–”
“We understand,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Someone just wants the presents!”
“No, I was just saying–”
“It’s okay!” Li-An handed out the presents.
“Oh, thank you, Li-An!” Del-Kyuus said.
“This is so nice of you,” Salsh-Era said.
“Ooh, I approve.” Hiduro said.
“Thanks, you guys.”
“Look what she got me, Salsh-Era!”
“That’s a nice cooking set.”
“I’m so excited to use this!”
“Wow, you two sure have become close, huh?” Li-An said.
Del-Kyuus nodded.
“Hmph.”
“Something wrong, Hiduro?” Del-Kyuus asked.
“Del-Kyuus, look. You know how I feel about you, and I can’t help but admit I’m a little jealous about you two being so close. But that’s not my problem here.”
“Is there something wrong with me and Salsh-Era being friends?”
“I heard what you said! About how he reminds you of an old classmate. And I think I figured out who you’re talking about. Are you just using him to replace him?”
“No! You know this already!”
“Hiduro, you don’t have to be mean,” Li-An said.
“I’m not trying to. But replacing someone is not a good basis for a friendship. And seeing how fast Del-Kyuus wanted to be friends with Molshei, I just feel like that’s the whole reason why.”
“A-are you sure this isn’t just because you’re jealous!?” Del-Kyuus said.
“I’m sure.”
Del-Kyuus sighed. She bowed her head.
“Great going, Hiduro. This was supposed to be fun!”
“Sorry, but I had to say it. If I didn’t now, you said it yourself, we might not see each other often after this–who would?”

Del-Kyuus head home feeling dejected, clutching the cooking set from Li-An tightly.
“Del-Kyuus!”
Salsh-Era was running after her. “Oh. Salsh-Era.”
“Look, Del-Kyuus, I just wanted to tell you that I don’t believe that you were using me as a replacement. You told me as much early on, I remember this.”
“Thank you, Salsh-Era. But to tell the truth, Hiduro might be a little right. Not completely, but sometimes I’ve felt you ease the pain from his death. When we met it had only been a year since I had heard about it. I felt really guilty. But now, we’ve been friends for a while. You and he are really different.”
“Thank you.”
“…” Del-Kyuus bit the tip of her claw.
“Del-Kyuus?”
“No, maybe I shouldn’t say it.”
“What is it, Del-Kyuus? I’m willing to hear you out if there’s something on your mind.”
Del-Kyuus squeezed her eyes shut. “I…I know that you two are different. I do.”
“You said that already.”
“…Hiduro doesn’t understand. You ease the pain, but I don’t see you as a replacement. I don’t feel the same way about him that I do about you.”
“That makes sense.”
“I…I just…”
“Del-Kyuus, can I tell you something?”
“What’s that?”
“Well…I am really glad you told me you don’t see me as a replacement for him, because then I would feel really jealous.”
“About what?”
Salsh-Era looked away from her. Del-Kyuus began to feel flustered. He thrust a letter into her hands. “Here.”
Del-Kyuus opened the letter.

Zahelahe Del-Kyuus–
I don’t have the courage to say this aloud, so I’m writing you this letter. I’m glad for our friendship over the past few years. You are such a kind soul and are so easy to talk to. I have truly enjoyed my friendship with you.
I am writing to tell you that I want something more. I love you, Del-Kyuus. If you don’t feel the same just burn up this letter and forget I ever wrote it. But if there’s any chance that you do, I promise to treat you well and be your biggest supporter. Perhaps it sounds cheesy, but this is what you get writing a letter…
Respond as you see fit.
M. S.

Del-Kyuus looked up.
“Salsh-Era…”
“I–I meant to give it to you later, but I just…anyway…respond as you see fit, like the letter says.”
Del-Kyuus smiled. “Okay.” She hugged him.
“I…I was going to say the same, actually,” she said. “What I was going to tell you was, I feel differently about you two, and this is the big difference. He was a funny boy and a good friend, but you I see in a different light…I just thought that maybe it would sound cheesy…”
“Ah, heh heh…”
The two stood there in silence.
“Um…”
“…”
“I have to go home now…but, would you like to go on a date this Weekend?”
“Oh, sure!”
“Okay. How about–um…how about downtown Bledger?”
“O-okay!”
Del-Kyuus sighed. “Sorry, it’s really hard to find a response for this sort of thing…”
“It’s okay, I feel as uncertain as you look…”
Del-Kyuus pulled away from him. “M-maybe we should just save this for later!” She said. Then, she levitated off at a high speed.
Salsh-Era, on the other hand, did not have her same fortitude. He stood there for quite a while longer pondering the fact that what just happened had actually, truly happened.

—–
“If there’s one thing I can’t stand about you two, it’s the PDA.”
“Says the boy who lets his best friend cling all over him,” Salsh-Era said. “Besides, this isn’t PDA. We’re in our house.”
“Well, stop being so affectionate in front of me!”
“San-Kyung, what will you do if you fall in love someday and your partner wants to be affectionate?”
“Romantic love is pointless. Agh. Never mind, I have other things to do.”
“I guess he isn’t always happy with us,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Yeah, of course not. Well, at least now since he’s out of the room, I can call you Kyuusie.”
Del-Kyuus giggled. “When did you first call me that? Our first date?”
“As far as I can remember, yes!”

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5.613.Cahongyun Headquarters

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 613
“Cahongyun Headquarters”

La-Iin cleared her throat.
“You may be wondering why I summoned you here today, ladies.”
“‘Summoned’? You didn’t summon me. I’m always here.”
“Quiet, you. Is anyone else wondering?”
Fer-Shi raised her hand. “Yes. All you told me over the phone is that you had something important to do and that you needed me right away.”
“Good question. Unlike the other one that was just asked.” La-Iin glared at Bes-Isa.
“I don’t have to put up with this, I hope you know.”
“Well, you will.” She cleared her throat once more. “For seven years now there’s been an important fixture in my life that I’ve been missing!”
“What’s that?”
“A base!” She yelled. “I’ve gone from place to place. I’ve said I’d set up one and yet never done it! You understand now. I don’t have a proper base, a headquarters for my plans. And sooner or later lying in bed daydreaming them is not going to be enough. That’s why I’ve enlisted you two to help me!”
“Me I can understand, but why the girl?”
“Fer-Shi has been with me on escapades where I said I would make a base but didn’t. I think she understands my tastes well enough.”
“Thanks, La-Iin!” Fer-Shi said. “Although I kinda agree with Bes-Isa. Aren’t there other people you trust more with this?”
“If you mean San-Kyung, that’s impossible. Working him into my current plan would be difficult. But I can’t explain why…”
“She means she has no idea what she’s talking about.”
“In any event! That is the reason I’ve summoned you here today! Aid me in finding a base.”
“Okay! But what kind of base do you want?”
“Well, probably close to home,” La-Iin said. “And someplace I can make cozy like my bed.”
“So you can fall asleep outside as the weather gets cold and catch pneumonia…”
“What’s with you and your snarky comments lately?”
“Try asking that to yourself, Miss ‘stuff-me-in-a-hole’!”
“H-hey…” Fer-Shi sighed. “Anyway, what else?”
“The less likely I am to catch pneumonia, the better. Oh, and also, I need room to move around.”
“Okay!” Fer-Shi nodded. “Well, let’s go looking!”
“Sounds like it’s going to be tough to narrow it down to your requests. I wonder if we’ll be able to find a place like that.”
“I’ll put my faith in Fer-Shi. Her and I have trouble sometimes, but I have to say she is the most reliable person I know.”
“Huh!”
“I’d explain why in detail but that would take too long.”

La-Iin let Fer-Shi lead the way, though she maneuvered Bes-Isa over to her friend so that she could also give an opinion. Not long after leaving her bedroom, Fer-Shi had requested to look inside the miscellaneous room.
“Sure, go ahead. But the sooner you’re done, the better.”
“I agree.”
For that time, La-Iin was stuck waiting in the upstairs hallway.
“What are you doing sitting there? Didn’t you invite Fer-Shi over?”
“Yes, and we’re going to go somewhere. I’m just waiting for her to finish something.”
“Hm. Just don’t go on another ‘adventure’, all right?”
“Of course not,” La-Iin said, her tone thick with false sweetness. Mit-Sun gave her a look before going into a room. At about that moment, Fer-Shi came running out of the miscellaneous room with a wide smile on her face.
“Are we ready?”
Fer-Shi nodded. “Follow me!”
“Follow you?”
Fer-Shi seemed eager, so La-Iin opted to followed her, but something about the situation gave her a bad feeling.
Fer-Shi led her to a small spot in the miscellaneous room, made from garbage stacked atop itself. It was small, and a blanket had been placed on the floor. The sight was all too familiar to La-Iin–it was the place she had intended on keeping Dosa-Mina, before that plan had badly fallen through.
“What do you think? It was almost set up like a perfect base when I found it!”
“Fer-Shi….this isn’t going to work.”
“Huh? Why not?”
“I wanted a base close to home, not a base that is my home!”
Fer-Shi flinched. “Oh….sorry.”
La-Iin sighed. “We need to go outside. Outside there are probably plenty of places to make a base. The place where you keep the hobo-slave would make a good base, although it’s a little far…”
“He’s not my hobo-slave!”
“Say what you will. I don’t remember his name well enough to call him anything else.”

With that minor ordeal dealt with, La-Iin, Fer-Shi, and Bes-Isa head outside to search for a base. As before La-Iin let Fer-Shi lead the way, but at the moment she was feeling a bit wary.
‘I hope she actually finds a good base this time!’ She thought. ‘Fer-Shi doesn’t seem to care that it’s obvious what I want to use it for, so I’m not worried about that. But her taste in bases seems a little skewed…’
“You know, if you had a little tent tarp, you could probably make your base somewhere nearby your house. Like as close as your backyard.”
“Tent tarp?”
“Have you ever seen the cloth tents they use in species societies sometimes?”
“Oh, those?”
“Yeah, those could probably make a good base. But I’ll still keep looking! ….hey, am I going to be invited into your base?”
“If I need you. For now it’s important that the only ones who know about my base are myself, you, and Bes-Isa. And the base will be mostly used by me alone.”
“But if your base is outside and away from home, won’t Miss Cahongyun keep you from going to it all by yourself?”
La-Iin sighed. “Make that me and Bes-Isa. And Choungetsu if I absolutely have to…”
“I’m glad you’re actually thinking of me, for once. After all, I’ve helped you out with your plans on more than one occasion.”
“Yet the last plan I had you just told me was nothing but worthless…” La-Iin grumbled.
“What are you talking about, ‘last plan’? Oh, wait a second, La-Iin! Bes-Isa, does that place look good?”
“What place? I can’t see what you’re talking about.”
Fer-Shi ran ahead of La-Iin. All La-Iin could see nearby were trees–that and the outline of the library off in the distance. She wasn’t sure of whether or not to follow Fer-Shi, but she didn’t have to make the decision–shortly after, Fer-Shi beckoned to her, and so La-Iin spread her wings and caught up with her.
“Nearby the library, I found some place you might like, although you’d need to bring a few things from home to make it cozy.”
“What’s that?”
“I still don’t think her giant head is going to fit in there, girlie.”
“We have to give it a try!” Fer-Shi led La-Iin to a hole a distance behind the library. It was half embedded into a cliff; the other half was a hole in the ground.
“Wow.”
“It’s nice and dark and looks good to think in. Although it might not be all that good in the rain. The trees are covering it but trees always splash on my head when it rains.”
La-Iin leaped into the hole. Right away she could tell it would be a tight fit–she could barely stretch her wings once inside. Fer-Shi followed her, but that only led to the two girls getting stuck.
“I told you her giant head wouldn’t fit in here.”
“W-well, you could probably make more room if you turn it into mud.”
“And then how long would I have to wait for it to dry?”
“Dang it…” Fer-Shi sighed and pulled herself out of the hole. She held out a hand to La-Iin, but La-Iin flew above her instead. She landed just as Fer-Shi slammed her hands onto the ground, which almost made La-Iin fall backwards into the hole.
“Give me one more shot, La-Iin!”
“I wasn’t going to ask you to stop. Just because your ideas haven’t been good so far doesn’t mean that. Looking for a base on my own has been a pain. And at least a hole is a better idea than garbage.”
“Well, I know I can find something better. This hole’s pretty far away anyway.”
“She’s desperate to please you, La-Iin. Evidently you didn’t give her enough attention over the Summer.”
“Hey!”
“It’s not a problem. This is something I know I can trust Fer-Shi on. After all, finding special little places is a specialty of ours.”
Fer-Shi smiled. “Would you really say that?”
“I already did. Now let’s keep looking. Mama gets mad when I come back after it gets dark outside.”

Fer-Shi had seemingly decided to look closer to home after the hole ordeal, and though her immediate next idea–an opening in thick bushes–had proven to be a bad one, she was still determined to find a place, begging La-Iin to give her just one more chance.
Since then, Bes-Isa had stopped looking around with her, and now La-Iin was holding her as Fer-Shi led the way.
“I’m surprised you trust her with finding your base.”
“If you’re surprised, then you’re silly.”
“Yeah, I suppose I shouldn’t be. After all, no matter how much you love San-Kyung, your first flesh and blood friend is her, I suppose.”
“San-Kyung isn’t flesh and blood. He’s rind and blood.”
“….ew. Hey wait, isn’t he Aesthetically Normal?”
“That’s not–”
“La-Iin! La-Iin!” Fer-Shi was running up to her, her eyes wide and excited. “La-Iin! I think I just found a good base!”
“Really?”
Fer-Shi nodded. “Come on, I’ll show you!”
La-Iin took a look at the area they were in. It seemed familiar to her. She recognized it as an area nearby her neighborhood that she barely ever ventured to, though she remembered coming here a few times with Choungetsu when she was too bored to go much of anywhere.
Fer-Shi led the way until she reached a fixture that looked somewhat like a small house.
“It looks like it would fit both you and me. I guess if you wanted someone taller in here it would be inconvenient, but you’re so small it’ll probably take you a while to outgrow it. There’s a moldy blanket in there, but once you get rid of it it’ll probably be a lot more comfy. And look! It’s rainproof!”
La-Iin took a look inside. She tossed aside the moldy blanket and sat down. Fer-Shi joined her. She peeked out of one of the windows.
“…good job, Fer-Shi.”
“Will it work?”
“Yes. In fact, I could come here pretending I’m walking Choungetsu then tie him up somewhere. And this place is great! It doesn’t look like anyone lives here until you walk a bit further.”
“I’m surprised you picked a base in such a ‘spooky’ location.”
“I’m surprised I found this base at all!” She laughed. “But I’m glad you like it, La-Iin. I knew I could find you something!”
“It’s perfect. From today on, this place is Cahongyun Headquarters!”

—–
“You two took a while to get back. …why are you so dirty?”
“We went someplace that was a little dustier than we expected,” Fer-Shi giggled.
“But the experience was all worth it.”
“Well, I’m glad you had fun. You’re almost making me want to go somewhere with a friend…”
“It had better not be Haner you’re considering,” La-Iin hissed. Mit-Sun shook her head. “Hey, I don’t judge you for hanging out with Fer-Shi.”
“Fer-Shi isn’t in love with me, though.”
“That would be pretty weird to be in a friendship like that. I wonder how San-Kyung feels.”
“The same as I do.”
“No, I don’t think that’s the case…”

San-Kyung shuddered.
“What’s wrong son? Are you getting sick too?”
“I had better not be.”

“Now that I have a base, Hypotheory is looking more and more realistic every day.”
La-Iin smirked to herself. “Thanks, Fer-Shi. I’ll make sure you benefit from Hypotheory too.”

2.610.One Siren’s Illness

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 610
“One Siren’s Illness”

“How’s your chest feel, Dosa-Mina?”
“Feels like you’re running a bit of a fever. What happened? At the end of August you were fine.”
Dosa-Mina coughed. “I don’t know,” he rasped. “I just started feeling kind of wheezy on Monday. Then it just got worse and worse…”
“Riya, do you know what he’s sick with? I can’t figure it out…” Orlin-Aesth’s ears folded to his head.
“I’m not sure. Bronchitis, maybe? Or he could have feather flu. That’s something only us avians can get. Your chest feels all scratchy and your body aches where your feathers are. I’ve had it before.”
“It does kind of feel like that,” he said with a cough, then sighed. “Heh, funny to think that not even disguising myself as a Normal keeps me from getting species-specific diseases…”
“You should have known that already,” Elai-Riya said. “Anyway, it’s likely you caught it from some passerby. What you need is rest and a little medicine to clear out your chest. I think we might have a little blockade breaker medicine in the house…”
“Are you sure you’re not just thinking of the stuff for the drains?”
“I’m pretty sure I’m not,” Elai-Riya said indignantly. “But anyway. Sorry about this, Dosa-Mina. Hey, at least it happened before school started again, right?”
“I guess,” he coughed. “It’s bad timing though. The end of Summer break and I get to waste it sick in bed, woop-de-doo…!”
“Aw, look at this through positive lens and stop being so sarcastic. We’re going to see if we can’t find you any medicine. In the meantime, lay down for now. It’s not going to do you any good if you’re up so late while sick.”
“Okay, Mom.”

***

After giving him some medicine, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya had retired to bed, and Dosa-Mina fell into a somewhat fitful sleep, his chest bothering him but his exhaustion winning out.
Some time after he fell asleep, someone flew over the neighborhood, breathing hard.
“The path to his house…is too far…!”
“How’d you even know how to find his place? I can understand San-Kyung but this just seems stalkerish on different levels.”
“I remember it because something significant happened here.”
“What? What significant thing happened here? How come I haven’t heard of it?”
“If it makes you sleep better, nobody knows about it. Not you, not Fer-Shi, not Mama or San-Kyung or Dami either, not even Sale-Dessu. Well, definitely not him. Nobody knows about it except me.”
‘And rival-boy…’ She grit her teeth. ‘We never were able to have a proper conversation about that nightmare he mentioned. Maybe once I capture him, my opportunity to question him about it will be in plain sight!’
She flew around the neighborhood until she found a house she recognized. She checked all the windows until through one she was able to spot a familiar room, and from what little she could see of the bed, a familiar face.
“There he is.”
“I still think this is a terrible plan.”
“Of course you do. And that’s why you need to sleep.” La-Iin snapped her fingers and stuffed Bes-Isa back into her dress. She rubbed her hands together and tried to open the window. At first it didn’t budge, but to her surprise it came up, though at the same time a strange, loud noise sounded, and Dosa-Mina’s eyes fluttered open.
“Uh-oh.” She tried to fly into his room before he could notice her, but when she made it inside, he sat up abruptly as if startled and crashed his head into her side. La-Iin fell onto his bed.
“Huh…? Wha–La-Iin? What the heck are you–” He began to cough.
“You’re dreaming,” she said sarcastically. Strangely enough, Dosa-Mina’s expression barely changed.
“Are….are you Kkumneok? I thought you said you weren’t coming back for a while.”
“What are you–” La-Iin covered her mouth. “Yeeees, I am Kkumneok. And I need to do a little something dreamy, you know.”
Dosa-Mina narrowed his eyes. La-Iin broke into a cold sweat as he pinched his arm tight. He looked thoroughly annoyed.
“La-Iin, there’s being a follower, there’s being a stalker, and then there’s this. No, wait a moment, this is just like being a stalker at their worst possible form,” he coughed. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“You see nothing!”
“If you’re gonna try and make yourself disappear, you’d better take some lessons from professionals,” he coughed. “Never mind. I don’t need an explanation. Just get out of here so I can get back to sleep…”
“That sounds stupid. Most people would wonder why someone’s in their house this late at night. Especially a weak little girl.”
“I know better than to underestimate you when you’re desperate,” he wheezed. “But then again, why pick my house? If you were going to intrude anyone’s….arrgh, just cut me some slack, okay!? You should be in bed by now too.”
“Vampires work on different times!” She yelled. Dosa-Mina looked startled for a moment, but then his face went back to the same glare. “Uh-huh. I’m gonna go get my parents.”
“No!”
La-Iin leaped at Dosa-Mina and grabbed onto his back, covering his mouth with one hand and securing her ear plugs with the other. She could feel Dosa-Mina’s mouth moving, but wasn’t able to tell if he was singing or not. She tried to reach her teeth to his flesh, but to no avail; instead she kicked him down to the ground.
Dosa-Mina had lapsed into a fit of coughing by now, and La-Iin decided to try and take her chance. She held him down as best as possible and smirked.
“Cry if you want. My plan will not be foiled now.”
“He–hey, you don’t want to suck me!” He coughed. “I have feather flu! You don’t want to get sick too, do you?”
“Feather flu?”
“It’s an avian sickness,” he coughed. “You couldn’t tell?”
La-Iin sat there in a bit of shock, contemplating the new information. Now that she realized it, Dosa-Mina’s skin did feel abnormally warm.
‘Taking care of rival-boy so he’s not discovered is one thing, but nursing him back from feather flu is another. And he said it’s an avian sickness!?’ La-Iin flapped her wings. ‘I’m not sure I want to take that risk…’
“Get off of me!” Dosa-Mina tried to shake La-Iin off, but she held tight to him. “Never! If your blood is no good, it doesn’t matter because that’s not what I came here for anyway.”
She bit her lip. ‘I’d better stop saying these things out loud…’ She pinned down Dosa-Mina once more, then tried to lift him up herself. Dosa-Mina squeaked and screamed and tried to fight, but to no avail–the position La-Iin had him in put him at a severe disadvantage.
Dosa-Mina was beginning to come off the ground, and his flailing intensified. La-Iin was beginning to feel satisfied. ‘His sickness will wear off eventually. All I need to do is wash off once I bring him home! I’m not leaving without him. My plan will come to fruition!’
“Give up! If you don’t stop, I have means of–” La-Iin gasped. ‘Never mind, threats can wait!’
Dosa-Mina was lifting higher off the ground, and though La-Iin was struggling greatly, he was now high enough that the sound of his feet hitting the ground in his attempts to flee could no longer be heard.
Or rather, that’s how it should have been. La-Iin still heard something similar. With a jolt, she realized it must be his parents.
La-Iin didn’t have time to think about what she should do. She dropped Dosa-Mina and flew out the window as fast as she could. She kept flying until her wings gave out from the strain, then she stopped on the grass, caught her breath and began to run home.

“Dosa-Mina, what’s the matter!?”
“Did you have a nightmare? Eek! What are you doing on the floor!?”
Dosa-Mina propped himself up. “I’m fine…don’t worry.”
“What are you doing on the floor, son!?”
“I…” The memory of La-Iin lifting him above the floor was still strong in his mind. It all seemed so real, and yet it was just so unbelievable. Even knowing her stubbornness he could hardly buy into her being able to lift him above the ground–that much seemed certain.
So what he felt: was it real, or was he dreaming it?
“…I don’t know.”
“He might have had a fever nightmare,” Elai-Riya said. “You are pretty warm…let’s get you back in bed. You can’t stay on the floor like this at all.”
“Yeah, you definitely need your bed rest!”
“Yeah,” he coughed. “I really do…”
‘But I don’t remember having a nightmare! Just what happened?’
Either way, even if what he remembered was the truth, how could he tell that to his parents? ‘If it makes no sense to me, it’ll make even less to them!’
“Hey, son?”
“What, Dad?” He coughed.
“Why’s your window open?”
‘It happened, didn’t it,’ he thought bitterly.

—–
Later on in the day, Dosa-Mina’s cough still persisted.
“You haven’t shaken that cough yet?” Elai-Riya asked.
“I don’t think I’ve shook the flu either…”
“That’s probably because you were on the floor,” Orlin-Aesth said. Dosa-Mina grit his teeth. “Damn that La-Iin. I’d really rather not be sick right now!”
“Huh?”
“Did you say something…weird, Dosa-Mina?”
“Huh? N-no, it’s nothing.”
‘What did she want from me?’ Now that it seemed likely that his memory hadn’t failed him, it was one of the questions he wanted an answer to most.

“I can’t believe it failed!”
“I can.”
“Damn his parents! Next time I have to plan for them.”
“If there is a next time.”
La-Iin gnashed her teeth. “There’s a difference between ‘realistic’ and ‘jerkass’, you know!”

1.609.Plans to Capture a Young Man

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 609
“Plans to Capture a Young Man”

“…”
“Why do you keep staring at the calendar? Thinking about school? I doubt you’re thinking about my birthday.”
“No, I’m…just thinking about a plan.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Is that all you do nowadays?”
“Mama, if you realized the extent of my plans, you’d understand why I think so much about them.”
“…no, I don’t think I’d get it.”
“Simple-minded peons such as yourself don’t often understand these sorts of things.”
Mit-Sun glared.
“Be quiet, Bes-Isa. I haven’t let you in on my plan just yet either.”
“You almost never do, so why do I care?”
“Because this one I plan on carrying through.”
“Huh?” Mit-Sun gave her a quizzical look. “What is this plan that’s got you so dazed?”
“I’m still planning it, that’s why I’m dazed.” She said. “Also, I’m thinking about San-Kyung…”
“…”
“Never mind. This plan is probably something stupid.”
‘So you think. If you only knew!’ La-Iin kept that thought to herself.

***

While Mit-Sun was at work, La-Iin was engrossed in drawing a picture.
“That’s an awful lot of scratching for a crayon.”
“Mind your own business.”
“Hey, I AM minding my own business! It’s not my fault I can’t hear my thoughts over your chicken scratching.”
La-Iin glared at Bes-Isa. She stuffed her into a tight area before continuing on the drawing.
“You realize you’ve been awfully mean to me lately, right?”
“I don’t care. You might be my friend, but that doesn’t mean I have to be happy with you all the time. Besides, you were created to be my toy.”
“Hey, that might be so, but I’m a living being! You can’t treat me that way!”
“Evil has no rules, Bes-Isa.”
Bes-Isa sighed. “Touche. …hey, whatcha drawing?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“You’re actually going to let me know?”
“Sure. After all, it doesn’t matter if you know. I doubt you’d oppose it and there’s nothing anyone can do now. I plan on carrying this plan through at midnight.”
“Whoa, midnight? You sure you can stay up that late?”
La-Iin glared at Bes-Isa. “Positive. This plan is no necessity to my overall plan, but it will definitely be a benefit if I can carry it through!”
La-Iin finished the drawing, organized it with other drawings, then held them in front of Bes-Isa.
“Watch closely, because if you miss my explanation, you’ll need to see the pictures.”
“Sure.”
La-Iin flipped a paper. Bes-Isa spotted two crudely-drawn boys, one of which looked like his existence was encroaching upon the other’s. “You know how I’ve complained about rival-boy before? How he gets in my way around San-Kyung!?”
“I’ve heard so many complaints about ‘Dslellu-whatever Rival-boy’ that I could never count them.”
La-Iin flipped the page. Next was a picture of herself, drawing. “Well, I got the perfect idea just recently.” She flipped to the next page, which was a picture of her breaking into a house through the window. One of the crudely-drawn boys from earlier was cowering in the picture, clutching his bed sheets.
“Rival-boy is always in my way because he has freedom. One of my plans for the future is to cage up several people except a select few so they cannot use that freedom to oppose me.”
“Yeah?”
“So I figured, why not start early?” She flipped the page. The next picture was one of her carrying off a misshapen bag. “I plan on capturing rival-boy, imprisoning him and taking him out of the picture!”
“Wait a second! La-Iin, are you sure you’ve thought this one through? This sounds like it has so many holes I just–“
“What holes do you think there are then, Bes-Isa?” La-Iin asked. Her expression was surprisingly cocky. “Tell me, because I can guarantee to you that any ‘holes’ you think there might be are probably patched. Go ahead. Lay them all on me.”
“Well, what about his powers?”
“Accommodated for. I plan on dosing up on blood before I leave and putting in earbuds in case he sings.”
“….ooo-kay, what about the fact that he lives with his parents?”
“His parents are of no concern to me; I’ve dealt with them in other hole-patching ventures.”
“Well, what about school!? He goes to school with you–I’m sure some people would find it strange if he up and disappeared! And what about San-Kyung? Aren’t those two close friends? You might be able to keep a secret with your facial expression but aside from that you’re not the best at it. How do you plan to carry him here? Where are you going to put him? What are you going to do to take care of him, assuming you’re planning that? How are you going to make Mit-Sun not see him? Are you sure you thought any of this through!?”
La-Iin cleared her throat. “He’ll still be allowed to go to school, just under my terms. Wherein he’ll meet with San-Kyung and I’ll blackmail him into saying he ran away from home for some reason. That’s one hurdle I’m currently crossing, I’ll tell you that. And remember what I said about dosing up on blood–a good dose of Minomix and Werewolf should give me enough power to carry him here, and even if it doesn’t I have other avenues…I know his weaknesses, after all.”
“How!?”
“I’ll explain later. But you should know some of them too! Anyway, I plan on keeping him in a place Mama will never look–a little compartment in the miscellaneous room you could say is made up of garbage. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll pretend I filled my closet with garbage and stuff him in there.”
“What!?”
“And as for taking care of him, I don’t want him complaining or stinking so bad that Mama notices his smell. I plan on ‘taking care’ of my future slaves too. I’ll feed him covertly and in small portions so Mama doesn’t notice, have him clean himself while Mama’s at work or out with a friend, although when it comes to the bathroom I haven’t figured out a not-gross alternative yet.”
“Um, ew. And anyway! What about when the house is left alone? You do have to go to school!”
La-Iin tapped Bes-Isa’s head. “Don’t forget that I don’t intend on leaving him home when I go to school. Most of my plan is perfect, Bes-Isa. It just revolves around timing, being able to stay awake, upkeeping and watching him like a hawk! But I can do it. He will be my training, because someday I will have several slaves just like him.”
“…except your idea for those several slaves was that nobody would be able to do anything because EVERYONE was a slave! This is just one boy who has the strength to overpower you by himself! I don’t understand how you can possibly think it will work!”
“I’ve been planning this for longer than you might think, Bes-Isa. It will work–it has to! After yesterday I know this might be one of my only avenues to getting more time with San-Kyung!”
“Wha? But you’re bringing him to school! If you leave him home without you, he might start crying for that woman!”
“Oh, you’ll see. Besides, we have thick tape in the miscellaneous room. I can use that to silence any opposition, heh heh heh…”
“Seriously, do you plan on hiding him, torturing him, or killing him!?”
“Just the first two. I prefer keeping people alive to suffer rather than giving them temporary suffering. Why not extend it all!? They’ll suffer in death anyway!”
“…you’re not making any sense today.”
“Maybe you don’t understand, Bes-Isa.” When La-Iin turned around, Bes-Isa was a bit surprised by the expression of malice on her face. “I believe in my newfound strength. And I don’t think this plan will fail, not at all. I know what I have to do. The future I envision will become a reality with the assistance of my powers–you have my word!”
‘Ah, she’s gone completely off the deep end…I admire her passion, but I probably shouldn’t tell her that she sounds about insane right now.’
La-Iin cackled. “Soon, Dosa-Mina, you’ll be a prisoner in my closet!”

—–
When Mit-Sun arrived home, she was quick to notice that La-Iin was acting strangely as she had been that morning. But something seemed different now, as if instead of being distracted La-Iin was now energetic and ready to commit mischief.
It made her keep an eye on her for the entire day, but despite her strange behavior, La-Iin did not act out. Mit-Sun couldn’t help but feel perturbed by it all.
‘Is something going on with her? Maybe I should ask before I go to work tomorrow…’
But now was the time for bed, and so Mit-Sun put aside the thought for now. She checked in on La-Iin, then head off to bed herself.

When La-Iin woke up, her clock read 12:10. She pulled herself out of bed, stuffed the still-sleeping Bes-Isa into her dress, then head downstairs and checked the supply of blood.
‘Good.’ She had been concerned about running out of Werewolf and Minomix blood, and was thrilled to see that there was still some waiting for her in the fridge. She downed both blood boxes, then head upstairs, opened her window, flew out, closed it, then head off towards Dosa-Mina’s neighborhood with an unusual strength and confidence.

31.608.To See the Future–Part 10

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30.607.To See the Future–Part 9

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

29.606.To See the Future–Part 8

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

27.604.Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 9

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

25.602.To See the Future–Part 7

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

21.598.To See the Future–Part 6

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 598
“To See the Future–Part 6”

“Imagine what a person cooking in a stew must smell like!” Kyu-Aseri said.
“In the case of an Animated Pumpkin, that would most likely be like cooked pumpkins,” Kyu-Nhogo said.
“Oh, how uninteresting. But they’re an outlier, as are Vegemixes. The rest would be interesting enough to smell, I’m sure.”
“That will have to wait for now,” Hei-Yhunni told them. “In the meantime, perhaps you two can convince Ther-Aoughin to hunt down some of the “ancestors” of our species. I’m sure Vampire Bats and ferrets give off similar smells to Vampires and Ferreniaos…”
“Ferreniaos–and I’d assume ferrets as well–are stinky creatures,” Ther-Aoughin said. “But I’d be happy to see a little violence, especially since we’ve been staying a little down-low recently.”
“Ooh!” Kyu-Aseri cooed.
“It will be nothing like the meat from an actual person, though,” Kyu-Nhogo huffed.
Shuu-Kena sat at the table, listening to her family and feeling as though she wasn’t actually there. ‘My family is happier without me,’ she thought, ‘and I’m better off without them. So my idea of leaving them isn’t a bad one at all. It’s actually beneficial to us both.’
For a moment she felt as though someone would ask for her soon, but nobody did. ‘Wishful thinking. They don’t like me anymore. It should be easy to plan on leaving them in the future.’
She glanced at the faces of her siblings and that of her mother. ‘Why does it hurt to think of that future if I know it’s what’s best for all of us?’

***

“Watch as we, the Saras, take these lands of Bledger for our own!”
Hei-Yhunni’s voice rang out loud above the din of voices in opposition. In response, several voices threatened the opposing crowd.
“That’s right, fools. Finally, Bledger, Vaelyn is the home of the evil, enemy of the good! Say your prayers and leave now if you will, because this is your last chance!”
Nim-Ghini snapped his fingers. “And that was the moment.”
Rapid gunfire sounded, drowning out all other noises. No matter how hard Shuu-Kena tried to block it out, she could still hear it–the reality was behind her. But there was nothing she could do now, so she instead focused on running away. She had to survive, if not for herself, for her children and the last promise she had made to her husband.

“Mommy, is it true that Neigghed used to be a place full of evil?”
Shuu-Kena startled. She dropped the whole hemsquirt she was holding into the pot of soup. “You stupid idiot! Now you’ve gone and made Mommy cry!”
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault!”
“Uh–uhm–i-it’s a part of history, so I don’t mind talking about it,” she chuckled. “A long time ago, even before I was born, they say that Neigghed used to be the evil hub of Vaelyn. Nowadays that’s Bledger, and maybe Plucehon soon. But it’s in the past, and we don’t need to worry about it now.”
“Really?”
Shuu-Kena smiled. “Really. I promise. And even if we did, I would protect you.”
The memories of the past decade were vivid in Shuu-Kena’s mind. She could remember clearly her family’s rise to power. Under those circumstances they had shunned her; they made no effort to kill her, but they pretended she didn’t exist. It was a time of loss for her. She lost contact with La-Iin at around that time and her husband joined the masses of people in opposition to her family and their army.
While Shuu-Kena had no proof that her husband had perished at the moment she heard the gunfire, she saw no reason as to why she should consider him still alive. The memory of those two who had been so close to her was always painful. In their children she could still see his features, and could see the lack of his features in the one child she had adopted after arriving in Neigghed.
Her husband’s fate she could imagine–but what happened to La-Iin? Her friend had never voiced opposition nor support for her parents’ methods, at least not in recent years. It was one of her biggest questions. But it was all in the past. There was no way for her to know, and for now she needed to focus on her children.
“I think you made Mommy think about Dad again.”
“That’s your fault, not mine!”
“P–please, it’s nothing,” Shuu-Kena sighed. “Why don’t we do something else instead of focusing on this silly stuff? After dinner, who wants to paint with me?”
All the children rose their hands. Shuu-Kena smiled. “Let’s do that instead, alright?”

“Dinner tasted too much like hemsquirt. I’m not blaming you, Mommy, I’m blaming Var-Bougen.”
“You’re blaming me, but you were yelling right around the time she dropped it!”
“Don’t worry, Mommy. I like hemsquirt a lot, so I didn’t care that it tasted like that, unlike they do.”
“Please don’t fight,” Shuu-Kena sighed. “I don’t have the energy to deal with this…”
Shuu-Kena led her children to the ‘Painting Room’, a room she had designated for herself to paint in once she had found a house in Neigghed. She had decorated the room with all sorts of paintings she had made–and in recent years, paintings her children had made.
“I don’t really like painting much,” one of her children sighed.
“Do you want to do something else?”
“No, I’m fine. But when I grow up, I don’t think I want to be a painter like you, Mommy.”
“That’s fine.”
She set up small canvases for each of her children and for herself, and they set to work. Shuu-Kena had already decided to paint a happier painting than her normal ones, and so her progress was already going much faster than that of her children.
“Mommy, can I ask you something?”
“Arrgh, you made me mix my paint!”
“No, I didn’t!”
“Um, what did you want to ask, Ii-Ching?”
“You’ve told us stories about Daddy before, but I wanted to know if we had any other family. At school there’s this girl called Vampiris, and she’s always talking about having an amazing auntie. Do we have any aunties?”
“Or uncles? Uncles are cool too,” Var-Bougen said.
“Ah–uh…”
“Maybe Mommy doesn’t want to talk about this.”
“Aw, please, Mommy?”
Shuu-Kena bit her lip. ‘You knew this was going to come up eventually…’ “Not anymore. They’re not here anymore just like Daddy. So please don’t ask about them ever again.”
“H-huh?”
“I think we should probably leave Mommy alone for now. She looks kind of angry…”
Shuu-Kena was finding that her happy picture was soon ending up to be anything but–she was now painting red streaks onto the sky, and already that made it look much more malicious than her original intentions. She sighed. ‘I guess I’m just not any good at painting happy pictures…’
The painting was finished either way, and she waited for her children to finish before turning her canvas around.
“That’s scary!”
“Why do you always make sad pictures, Mommy?” Ii-Ching asked.
“This one isn’t sad. Even when the world’s messed up, people can pull through. That’s what it’s supposed to be. Otherwise we wouldn’t even be here today, if people weren’t capable of that.”
“I guess not.”
Her children turned their canvases around, and Shuu-Kena smiled. “You’re all getting a lot better. Hu-Ade, your painting is very unique.”
“Is that mean?” Hu-Ade asked.
“No, it’s a compliment. You use a nice range of colors.”
Hu-Ade smiled. “Thanks, Mommy.”
“What about mine, Mommy!?”
“Well, Ii-Ching, I think this part is a little–”
Before Shuu-Kena could finish, a loud siren wailed and drowned out her words. She could see that her children speaking, but couldn’t hear them over the siren. Concerned, she peeked out a window to see what was going on.
A large group of people were entering the neighborhood, many of them avians, though Shuu-Kena noticed a lot of Normals. What caught her sight immediately was their guns and the lack of any sort of authority gear. A shiver went up her spine at the sight.
Her children ran up behind her. Shuu-Kena pulled them close and kept an eye on the group, covering her face slightly with the curtains. ‘Maybe they’re an emergency group? Has something happened?’
While scanning the group to see if any other affiliation indicators were on them, she gasped. Near the front were two faces she remembered.
Ther-Aoughin and Kyu-Nhogo.
Shuu-Kena backed away from the window. Not long after, a gunshot fired through it and into a wall. Shuu-Kena beckoned to her children to follow her, and they took the back door out of the house. The siren was even louder outside, and mixed with the sound of gunfire. She wondered if she would be able to hear after the whole ordeal was over.
Shuu-Kena wasn’t sure of what to do. Evidently someone had seen her position already and was likely to come after her soon. Yet she couldn’t make her legs move, and the sound of the siren and the gunfire was too loud for her to discuss something with her children. They looked every bit as nervous as she felt, and she had to wonder if she would be able to get them moving.
‘How did they reach us here? Why would they come here?’ The answer was obvious to her: Neigghed’s peace would be their downfall. Shuu-Kena began to despair. ‘If they can take Bledger, and are on their way with Plucehon and Neigghed, where are we supposed to go?’
In the midst of her thoughts, she noticed Ii-Ching point at something. An army of people was heading their way, consisting of both grounded species and avians. Shuu-Kena pushed her children to run, but slowed herself when she noticed yet another familiar face.
La-Iin’s.
‘No…’
Shuu-Kena was in shock, but she knew what she had to do regardless. She continued running, keeping her children ahead of her, ignoring the army’s speed for her own sanity. But the avians obviously had the advantage, and the grounded species were not far behind: gunshots sounded behind her and avians closed in on her. At one point, when she nearly tripped, one descended upon her, and though Shuu-Kena kept her feet moving, she was already prepared for the worst.
She was carried into the air, her children grabbing on to her. Shuu-Kena tried to keep them off of her, but she was soon high above the ground. She knew what was the likely fate of her and her children, but she still couldn’t bear to be the cause of their death.
To Shuu-Kena’s surprise, however, she and her children weren’t shot or dropped. The avian carrying them landed, and it was then she caught sight of La-Iin’s face once more.
“La-Iin!”
“I should have known you’d come to live in Neigghed,” she said. Shuu-Kena flinched. Her friend’s tone sounded antagonistic.
“Um…”
“Before you ask any questions, yes, I did save you. So go off and go someplace else aside from Neigghed.”
“Aren’t you going to get in trouble!? It looked like you were working with my family!”
La-Iin scoffed. “I’m only looking for my own opening. But what I’m doing is too major to get you involved in. So run with those kids of yours and keep going. I wouldn’t let you get killed by that stupid group.”
La-Iin flew off before Shuu-Kena could say any more.
“Mommy? Who was that nice lady?”
Shuu-Kena stood up. “I’ll tell you later. For now, we have to keep running. Don’t worry, I have an idea of what we can do, but I can’t tell you anything until we’re safe. So just follow me.”
Her children looked uncertain, but they nodded and followed after her.

—–
‘La-Iin…’
Shuu-Kena stared at a painting she had made of her dear friend.
‘I wonder, if something like that really happened in the future, would you save me?’