6.644.Backlash

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 644
“Backlash”

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

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

***

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

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

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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!”

18.626.Lovely Love Story–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 626
“Lovely Love Story–Part 2”

“Iiiiiit’s time for the event of the season!”
The people who were chattering in the center quieted down.
“Are you looking for a job? A good one? One that gives you lots of opportunities and could bring the future you want right to your doorstep!? Well look no further than the Opportunist’s Job Fest! We’ve got jobs here, there and everywhere that can place you where you wanna go! So long as it’s within the Opportunist brand, of course.”
“Cool!” Orlin-Aesth exclaimed.
“Hmph. Some people don’t get that you need to take job-hunting seriously.”
“Geez, Elai-Riya. I know you’re desperate for a job, but you don’t have to be so snippy,” her sister, Tebi-Miya, said.
“Tebby, maybe you don’t get it. I left home for a bigger opportunity than what I could get in a Siren society. I want to make my life amazing. And in a Siren society I could kick back and relax, but then life’s predictable and boring. And what’s the point of going to college outside of your hometown if you don’t even get to reap the benefits?”
“Does Opportunist even list any jobs that you need to go to college for?”
“How should I know?”
“Ooh, folks, we’re getting an interesting job opening right now! This is an opening as a Taskmaster at Opportunist’s Bledger base! Come to the front right now to see what this position offers!”
“Taskmaster?” Elai-Riya questioned.
“Sounds interesting. Is it for control freaks?”
“Are you trying to call me a control freak?”
“If I called my chaotic sister a control freak I’d be lying to myself. Although maybe a little.”
Elai-Riya fluttered toward the front, Tebi-Miya behind her. Orlin-Aesth had also walked up to the front and took one of the fliers advertising the Taskmaster position.
“Ooh, freshly printed!” He sniffed the paper intently. Elai-Riya took a flier and read it over.
“‘As a Taskmaster for Opportunist, you’d be in charge of menial tasks at our main base. That would mean doing a lot of physical labor, you know! It can be a dangerous position, so….’ Geez, who wrote this?”
“Sounds like something an Opportunist employee would write. Go on.”
“‘Blah blah blah, pay would be quite good….’ …ooh….whoa! Look at that pay, Tebby! People are not kidding when they say physical labor pays better than cushy office jobs!”
“You thinking about applying for it?”
“I am. I think I’ve got the strength to apply for such a position. I’ll just make sure to eat lots of meat. So I’d better fill out my application…”
‘Not many people seem interested in this position. That’s good! I’ve got the advantage of college on my side. Though lots of other people in Vaelyn do too…’ She hid the written part of her application.
‘This should be a cinch!’

“Thanks, one and all, for attending the Opportunist Job Fest!”
“Who’d expect a job fest to last three days?” Elai-Riya sighed.
“You’re the one who wants a job with Opportunist. You should have done your research about them first.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Now, it’s time to announce who will fill what position!”
Elai-Riya listened closely for the announcement of who would fill the Taskmaster position. Position fillings were listed first outside of Bledger–the first announcements were for positions filled in Silcoulle–and as the number of areas whittled down, Elai-Riya found herself feeling antsy.
“And, the position of Taskmaster, Opportunist Bledger Base!”
“Here we go!” Elai-Riya said, almost shrieking. Tebi-Miya looked unamused.
“The lucky employee is Dslellular Orlin-Aesth! Congratulations, Mr. Dslellular, and welcome to the Opportunist team!”
“What!?”
“Yay!” A Werewolf man raised his paws into the air. He ran up to the front desk.
“Thanks so much!”
“Not a problem. Your capabilities and history as a toadie had us particularly intrigued! We think you are just perfect for the Taskmaster position, and your personality judging from your writing style a perfect fit for the Opportunist crew!”
“Thanks!”
“Aha ha. You start work on Monday. Be ready.”
“I will!”
Orlin-Aesth happily skipped back into the crowd, humming a tune. In his joy he passed right by Elai-Riya, who was astonished by what she had just seen.
Unable to control herself, she grabbed Orlin-Aesth by his shirt.
“Whoa!”
“What the hell!? How did someone like you get the Taskmaster position!?”
“Lady, I don’t know what your problem is, but I didn’t mean to!”
“What do you mean, didn’t mean to!? You applied for the job!”
“Elai-Riya, please!” Tebi-Miya pulled her sister off of the man. “Mr. Dslellu-lar, I am so, so sorry about my sister.”
“It’s okay!” He said with a smile. “I’m too happy about my job to care much. Sorry you didn’t get the position, though. But I’m sure you’ll get a job soon enough, so long as you don’t go shaking random strangers. Okay, see you!”
Orlin-Aesth skipped off. Elai-Riya grit her teeth.
“Thanks for embarrassing yourself out in public,” Tebi-Miya said, her tone scathing.
“Look at him, all smiling and skipping. He didn’t deserve that position.”
“I’m not surprised about them hiring him based on personality. The people at Opportunist are so fake-cheerful it burns to listen to them. Though it seems they’ve gotten themselves a genuine happy fool.”
“Hmph.” Elai-Riya spread her wings. “Let’s just go home, Tebby.”
‘What am I supposed to do now?’ She thought. ‘I was really banking on that Taskmaster job. I can’t keep going like this. After what I said to everyone back home, they’d think lesser of me if I returned now…’

***

Elai-Riya’s struggles with getting a job were hampered by the memory of the cheerful Werewolf man and her expectations having been too high. Tebi-Miya assisted her sister through the process, but when Elai-Riya finally got a job, it was at a small store someplace in the heart of Bledger.
It felt demeaning, especially after her expectations given her college degree, but it was a job nonetheless.
‘I need to keep looking for something better,’ she thought. ‘Something that actually fits me. And definitely something that pays more vuyong. On this I’ll just be able to get by. I can’t even really buy luxuries…’
As she stocked the shelves, a Werewolf man walked down the aisle. He checked her newly-stocked shelves. Elai-Riya caught a glimpse of him from the side, but even if she hadn’t, she would have recognized his side-ponytail.
“You!”
He turned to see her. “Do I know you?”
‘He doesn’t remember me?’ “Sorry, wrong person,” she said, and hurriedly turned back to her work.
“Wait a second, I know you! You’re the girl who shook me at the job fest!”
Elai-Riya groaned.
“Hey, at least it looks like you got a job! Good for you.”
“Yeah, no thanks to you, jerk,” she mumbled to herself.
Orlin-Aesth didn’t seem to notice her comment, for he went back to checking the shelves seconds later. He took something from the shelf and left the aisle. Elai-Riya breathed a sigh of relief when he was gone.

It wouldn’t be the only time Orlin-Aesth stopped by the small store, though they didn’t speak to each other. Elai-Riya avoided him if she saw him and there were occasions in which he entered the store and she never noticed him at all.
It wasn’t until some months after their first talk in the store that she spoke with him again–or rather, he spoke to her.
“Sick of this job,” she grumbled to herself. “You’d think a college graduate’d be able to get a better job than this…”
“Hey.”
Elai-Riya looked up. Orlin-Aesth was staring at her, his expression more serious than the smile she had seen on him before.
“Look, I don’t know you all that well, but I wanted to tell you, I heard Bledghouses is hiring right now. I don’t know if that’s the kind of job you’re looking for, but I thought I’d tell you.”
He then went back to browsing the shelves.
‘Bledghouses? I barely know that company. I wonder if he’s telling the truth.’
Elai-Riya felt she couldn’t believe him, but if it were a true opportunity she knew she’d have to take a look. ‘Most jobs would be better than this one,’ she reminded herself.

Elai-Riya decided to look into Bledghouses later that day. Apparently it was a business specializing in all sorts of house-related fields, and was quickly outdoing other house-related companies and putting them out of business. It specialized in selling houses and repairing them.
As Orlin-Aesth had said, they were hiring. The job required some physical labor, and definitely paid more than what she made at the store. It was intriguing, but Elai-Riya knew she couldn’t bank on it.
Still, it was worth a try, if for nothing else for a chance to leave behind this job she hated so much.

***

Elai-Riya waited inside the store, looking around for any sign of Orlin-Aesth’s side ponytail. She spotted him walking down an aisle with beans.
“Um, excuse me!”
“Huh? Hi, Skista. That’s your name, right?”
“Yes. But I’m not talking to you for work-related reasons.”
“You aren’t?”
“I wanted to thank you,” she said with a sigh. “That job you mentioned at Bledghouses, I got it and I started work a few weeks ago. So I don’t work here now.”
“I thought I hadn’t been seeing you around recently. Good for you!”
“I also wanted to apologize. How I acted at the Opportunist Job Fest wasn’t right. So, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I actually found it kind of funny that you did that.”
‘This guy’s pretty annoying,’ she thought.
“But I’m glad you got a better job. Everyone should be able to get the job that best suits them! Well, good luck!”
Orlin-Aesth waved. “Good luck to you too,” she said.

Over the next year, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya were heavily focused on their jobs.
“Skista, we need some supplies for a water leakage over in a local neighborhood.”
“I’m on it, boss!”
“Oh Mr. Dslellulaaaaar? We need you to carry a few things for us over, oh, say, a few hundred miles.”
“Got it!”
They required a lot of their physical strength and could be fairly demanding, but they ultimately paid off.

***

“Wow, it sure does smell around here…”
“Hey! What’re you tryna say ’bout my food!?”
“Er, nothing!”
The past year had been full of back-breaking work, so Elai-Riya had decided to take some time off and go to the International Food Festival in the neighboring Caucas, Vaelyn. She had heard mentions that foods specific to species societies would be there, so she was curious to try the foods made by other such societies.
One of the foods she tried was a stretchy, stringy meat that was being sold by a Catori who claimed it came from a Nyapponese Catori society.
“We use only the best internal organs to make this meat!”
“Internal organs?”
“Uh-huh!”
Elai-Riya was a little perturbed by the fact that the meat was so stringy, but it did taste good. “A Siren could really go crazy here.”
At the head of one of the stands she was interested in–it advertised Pomteki and kimchi, which she had been curious about despite common complaints about how ethical it was–was a Werewolf who accepted a plate full.
When he turned around, she recognized his face immediately.
“Hey!”
“Huh? Oh, hey!” He smiled. “Want some? They’re still selling, and it’s not going fast.” He ate a mouthful.
“No! Don’t you recognize me? I recognize you!”
“I’ve met a lot of Sirens. Oh, wait…you’re the one who I turned to the Bledghouses job, right? How’s that working out for you?”
“It’s fine,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d ever run into you again. It’s been a while, Diss-lellyloo…”
Orlin-Aesth sighed. “Not even close. It’s Dslellular. I know it’s hard to say at first, but when it’s your last name it’s pretty easy to remember. And you’re Skista, right?”
“Yes, that’s my name. Skista Elai-Riya.”
“Dslellular Orlin-Aesth. Good to see you again! Hey, mind telling me where you got that stringy skewer?”
“Um, over there,” she said, pointing to the stand.
“Cool! If you spot anything else, tell me, okay? I just love meat.”
Elai-Riya smiled. “Me too!”

Much to her surprise, their meeting at the festival changed their relationship. The overly-cheerful Werewolf man she formerly viewed with such contempt now seemed like a charming and funny man to her. By the end of the festival, he had asked for her contact information so the two could keep in touch about whatever interesting thing was happening in Bledger–or out of it, as with the festival.
‘So weird to think I couldn’t stand him at first. He’s a really nice man.’

And keep in touch they did.
Over the next few years they contacted each other whenever they saw something that they thought might be of interest to their friend.
“There’s an event downtown!”
“They’re having another International Food Festival!”
“Calziona Sulaet-Defka is coming to Vaelyn!”
“This isn’t really an event, but did you know they’re having a big sale on Holiday stuff at the store!?”
Elai-Riya chuckled. “Why does that matter?”
“Well, you could always stock up for next holiday.”
“Are YOU going to be doing that?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Geez, are you ever unhappy, Orlin-Aesth?”
“I try to take things in stride, and I’ve got a lot to be happy about. Though you saw me, that last International Food Festival there were so many people there and they ate up all the food! Pissed me off. Living next to species societies sure can suck sometimes. And hey, did you just call me Orlin-Aesth?”
“Hope you don’t mind. It’s easier for me than Dslellula-whatever.”
“Hey, you almost had it! Oh, I don’t care. I just thought it was weird.”
‘Elai-Riya’s so amazing,’ Orlin-Aesth thought. ‘One of these days, I’ve really got to tell her how I feel. I hope she doesn’t shake me for that!’

Elai-Riya was having a bit of trouble.
She and Orlin-Aesth had been communicating for years now, keeping in touch about all sorts of events. The last event they had gone to together, however, something had changed.
‘No. No no no.’
Elai-Riya had never exactly had a proper crush before–she had certainly thought that people were attractive, but nothing had ever happened like her sister Tebi-Miya or her mother described. This felt different, and to her it was horrifying.
She had heard both success stories and failure stories regarding people telling their crush how they felt. The idea that failure was an option was what scared her. That and having those feelings in the first place. How might she feel if Orlin-Aesth had a girlfriend the next time they went somewhere together?
Just talking to him had become difficult, and so she ignored most of his phone calls from then on out.

***

Orlin-Aesth dialed Elai-Riya’s number.
“Hello?”
“Finally, you picked up! Listen, there’s a cool movie coming out and I got a ticket! I wanted to know if you wanted me to get you a ticket too and we can go together!”
“S-sorry, Orlin-Aesth. I have a lot of work to do.”
“C’mon, you can spare a break. I know you can. Have you been avoiding me?”
“Er, no?”
Orlin-Aesth sighed. “Listen, maybe going to a movie will be good for you! If you keep focusing on work you’ll never be happy. Honestly, the few times Opportunist asks if I can work a whole week I get really irritable and nobody likes me. So let’s go to a movie and kick back!”
“…”
“C’mon, Elai-Riya.”
“Fine, I’ll go. But could you at least tell me what movie it is?”
“Sure! Ever heard of Pocalmes? They say it’s really good and it’s been a big hit so far!”

Elai-Riya, against her better judgment, found herself accompanying Orlin-Aesth to see Pocalmes. It was a good movie, and she enjoyed being out with Orlin-Aesth, but her still-persistent fear kept the experience from being as good as it could have been.
Orlin-Aesth accompanied her on her way back home.
“Why are you following me? We don’t live in the same direction, do we?”
“No. I thought you lived in one of those Avian houses. I could probably reach it with my jumping, though.”
“I see…”
“Nah, I wanted to talk to you! Would you be mad at me if I told you I had malicious intentions for inviting you to Pocalmes?”
“What!?”
“Ah, no, that’s not what I meant! Double standards?”
“Huh?”
“No, ah, well…it doesn’t matter what I had. I was going to ask you something.”
“Yes?”
Orlin-Aesth grinned and his tail started to wag wildly. “I really like you, Elai-Riya! So I was going to ask if you’d be my girlfriend!”
“What!?”
“Ha ha, I doubt it would change much. But I wanted to ask! A guy can hope, right?”
“…”
“Elai-Riya?”
“I didn’t know…I’ve been so stupid.”
“What? Oh, if you don’t want to, you can just say no. Please don’t get elaborate. I don’t think my heart can take it.”
“N-no, it’s not that. Had I realized, this would have been easier for me.”
Orlin-Aesth’s ears folded to his head.
“…okay, I won’t get elaborate. Yes, Orlin-Aesth.”
“What!? Really!? I thought you were gonna say no!”
“Actually, this whole time I haven’t been answering your calls and telling you about events because I was scared. I feel the same way. I just thought you wouldn’t.”
“That’s silly. You’re great! So! Does this mean you’re gonna be my girlfriend?”
“Yes.”
“Woohoo!” Orlin-Aesth’s tail began to wag wildly once more. “Thank you.”
“Thank you too. So, um…now what?”
“I’d kiss you, but I think that should wait, don’t you?”
Elai-Riya smiled. “Yeah.”

—–
“All these years later and we’re still working for Opportunist and Bledghouses,” Orlin-Aesth sighed. “Think they’ll ever fire us?”
“Don’t jinx it.”

17.625.Lovely Love Story–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 625
“Lovely Love Story–Part 1”

“Yo, Aeseri!”
Den-Matsu stopped what he was doing and ran over to the man who had called him, a tall and stout Bearperson. “Yes, Mr. Harley?”
“You came here to do volunteer work, right?”
“Yes! Sorry I wasn’t helping. I’ve got college to focus on too…”
“Well, it’s admirable of you to be thinking about college here as well, but you should also focus on doing what you promised,” Harley said. He pinched Den-Matsu’s cheek.
“Ow!”
“Sorry, Aeseri, guess I forget about my claws sometimes!” He chuckled. “Anyway, I’m not gonna force ya. Destroys the purpose of doing volunteer work in the first place. But don’t just use Happier Hearts to study.”
“Didn’t you say you were gonna change the name?”
“Yeah. I was thinking ‘A Moment of Fluff’. …at first. I’m no good with names.”
Den-Matsu chuckled. Harley was one of his biggest inspirations, so seeing him show a sillier side was nice. Harley was primarily known for running Happier Hearts–name apparently subject to change–where he took care of homeless people and people who were in dire straits. Ever since he had started doing volunteer work, he had always wanted to do something for Happier Hearts.
He walked back over to the bench where his supplies were and stuffed them in a large bag. Just as he was about to turn away, a woman took her seat there and laid out her own supplies. Den-Matsu quickly caught sight of the logo at the top of her paper.
‘That’s the college I’m applying for.’
The girl looked up, and Den-Matsu staggered backwards. He head back over to Harley’s side.
“Looks like someone had a beautiful moment,” Harley said. Den-Matsu flinched.
“What are you talking about?”
“Ah, nothin’. Not good with words, you know?”
“Now it’s words too?”
Harley grinned.
“So, um, what could I do around here? It seems like there are a lot of volunteers today.”
“Just find what makes you comfortable. And remember: always put the people here above yourself, unless they try to attack you. Tell me if they do, okay?”
Den-Matsu chuckled. “Okay, Mr. Harley.”

“So, Den-Matsu! How was your first day at Happier Hearts?”
“It was good! I’m not used to the way things work at Happier Hearts just yet, but there were so many people who were just happy when I brought them food or gave them a bath.”
“You gave people a bath?” His brother asked.
“Y-yeah…?”
His other brother chuckled.
“A-anyway, I’d like to keep helping there, if it’s okay with you.”
“It’s fine with us,” his mother said. “Just make sure to keep your volunteer work from distracting your college work.”
“I will.”

***

So as promised, Den-Matsu continued work at Happier Hearts. He also continued work on his college entrance studies–and as time went on, his college studies.
“Geez, Aeseri, are you planning on taking Happier Hearts from me?” Harley chuckled.
“What do you mean?”
“Everyone keeps asking for you! They’re not happy with just me anymore. I’m second fiddle to you!”
“Really?”
“Yeah, they love you. They’ve especially been commenting on your, as they put it, ‘amazing bathing skills’.”
“Well…I’m just happy to help them. If they can get back on their feet thanks to me, I’m happy.” Den-Matsu blinked. “Oh, Mr. Harley. I hope you don’t mind, I’ve got some college studies to do and–”
“Go on and do them. You’ve done your share of work for the day, and anyway college is an important part of anyone’s life.”
Den-Matsu nodded. He head over to the benches and laid out his study materials. This time, the girl who always seemed to take her seat after him was there before him.
Den-Matsu had seen her many times before, but she was always studying, it seemed. He wasn’t aware of her name, nor of whether she was part of the same college as he was. He had his curiosities about her, but he wasn’t going to just talk to her out of the blue, so he began to study.
“You go to Golden Specites too?”
Or at least, he hadn’t intended on talking to her until today. Den-Matsu stared at her, wide-eyed. The girl looked a little surprised herself.
“Um, yes.”
“I see. What are you studying?”
“Er, care work.”
“Care work?”
“Yeah. I want to keep helping people out like this when I get out of college. And if I could make a job of it, well, this probably sounds terrible but I could do what I want and survive off of it too. What about you?”
“Me? Nothing in particular.”
“Huh?”
“I don’t know how to explain it.” She sighed. “Sorry, I probably should have introduced myself. I’m Sanhuun Tei-Sheu.”
“Er, Aeseri Den-Matsu. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.”
“Do you help at Happier Hearts?”
“I do sometimes. But it’s mostly my family who helps here. They’re good people. I’d help more but I have college.”
“I see.”
“Maybe we’ll run into each other sometime at Golden Specites!” She said with a smile. Then, she turned back to her studies.
“Yeah, maybe.” Den-Matsu turned back to his studies as well.

Volunteering at Happier Hearts became difficult when college became more encompassing. Den-Matsu, several times, had to forgo going there to focus on college, especially when he ended up nearly being expelled for low test scores.
While Happier Hearts was taking up less of his time now, he did talk to Tei-Sheu on occasion, whether at Golden Specites or at Happier Hearts on the occasions he could make it there.
“I still do go to Happier Hearts. I hope things calm down for you soon. You seemed like you really liked it there.”
“I did. Helping people warms my heart. Sounds cheesy, I know. But I’ve known this is what I want to do for a while.”
“Wow, you’re so certain! I’m still so indecisive over even little things. I wish I could have your certainty.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll find what you want to do.”
“Me too. Just how long it will take, that I’m not sure of…”
Tei-Sheu, personally, had taken a bit of a liking to Den-Matsu. He was so certain of himself and so kind. She had seen him a few times at Happier Hearts speaking gently to the people there as he gave them food or washed them, among the other jobs he did. She had a feeling it was just admiration, but a part of her felt truly enamored with him.
Of course, she wasn’t just going to out and admit that to someone she didn’t know all that well.

“Tei-Sheu, I’m glad college has shapen you up. I was worried you were going to go down the rebellious street, what with the way you were acting.”
“It’s alright. That part in my life is done.”
“Why don’t you help us out here? I know college is important, but I’m sure you can spare a little time away from it. You’re good at the subject you picked.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” She closed her book. “Okay, Mom. I’ll help you.”
Tei-Sheu followed her mother to the eatery of Happier Hearts. It was the most simple place for her. Tei-Sheu had picked up on several recipes through watching her mother cook, both at home and at Happier Hearts, and personally considered herself a good learner when it came to making food, so she started to cook immediately after arriving there.
Meanwhile, nearby, Den-Matsu was standing at the entrance to Happier Hearts with a wide smile.
“Someone looks too happy for his own good.”
“It’s been so long since I last came here! Tell me, is Jaipa able to fly again yet?”
“She’s getting there! She can’t go high distances but the doctor she saw said that she should be able to fly again perfectly once she recovers. Those injuries won’t do any permanent damage.”
“I’m so glad!” Den-Matsu sniffed at the air. “Something smells good.”
“I know the food is for the people here at Happier Hearts, but if there’s any leftovers you’re welcome to have. The Sanhuuns are cooking today and they always make great stuff. Not like I’d sneak any food that’s not for me, no,” he coughed.
“Ha ha, you’re so obvious sometimes, Mr. Harley.”
Den-Matsu head over to the eatery to see how things were doing. He spotted Tei-Sheu and another woman handing food to everyone. When Tei-Sheu looked up, she laid eyes on Den-Matsu and broke out in smiles.
“Hello, Aeseri!”
“Hi, Sanhuun. How are you doing?”
“I’m doing great! Hey, is this the first time you’ve spotted me doing work here?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Tei-Sheu’s smile grew wider. “Well, now I think you can tell that I’m not lying when it comes to doing work here!”
“I didn’t doubt you, you know.”
“Ha ha. I guess I should probably get back to helping them, though. But it is great to see you. Maybe we can work together today?”
“Sure, why not!”
The two then handed out bowls together, and even after everyone was fed they continued to volunteer together. Tei-Sheu’s mother watched them with a smile of her own, though she too continued to work.

***

“So, you finally changed the name of Happier Hearts!”
“Yeah! ‘This Place of Harley’s’ sounds better to me. Although I’m gonna keep thinking it’s conceited until I find an heir. My fiancĂ©e keeps telling me I’m too eager to make her have kids, ha! Speaking of, Aeseri, plan on settling down someday yourself?”
“I think I’m like you, Mr. Harley. Of course it would be nice to have a wife and kids and things like that, but you can’t pull me away from helping people.”
“You have to help your kids, you know.”
“I know.”
“And a relationship does involve help, you know.”
“I know, I know,” he chuckled. “Well, talk to you again soon, Mr. Harley.”
He hung up the phone and sighed. Harley’s words had brought to his mind thoughts of Tei-Sheu.
Since the day they had worked together, Tei-Sheu had seemed increasingly more willing to participate in volunteer work, and she almost always insisted upon doing whatever Den-Matsu did. She would also talk to him while they were at college. He had gotten to know her quite well, and had since become a little smitten with her.
He had no idea how he was supposed to admit that, however. Interacting with her didn’t change anything, but if he thought of his little crush it always made him clam up a bit.
He walked away from the phone, intending to wander around campus for a bit, when he spotted Tei-Sheu.
“Oh, hi, Sanhuun.”
“Hello, Aeseri. I’m glad I found you.”
“Really? What for?”
“I wanted to talk. Especially about something that happened a few months back.”
Den-Matsu blinked. “Did something particularly big happen a few months back?”
“I don’t know if you’d consider it big, but it was to me.” She looked around the campus hallway.
“Do you remember when I gave you chocolate for Valentine’s Day?”
“Yeah, I do. It was pretty good. Did you like the cream candies I gave you?”
“They were delicious. I was so sad when I reached the end of them. But yes, I’m glad you liked those chocolates. Especially glad, because there was a special reason for me giving you to them. You see, I’ve never given anyone chocolates before.”
“Really? I was the first? Thank you!”
“You’re very welcome. But I just never gave anyone chocolates because there was never anyone I liked before.”
“Never anyone you liked…?”
“Oops! I guess the secret’s out.” Tei-Sheu’s face flushed. “Oh, and I was going to do some sort of dramatic confession too…”
“Sanhuun, are you trying to say what I think you’re trying to say?”
“What else would I be trying to say with what I’ve said so far? Anyway, I’d love it if you felt the same. But I just wanted to tell you so bad, I just had to!”
“Really?”
Tei-Sheu nodded.
“Th–thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Or not. Even if you weren’t happy I wouldn’t really care.”
Den-Matsu broke out into a goofy smile.
“Um?”
“I’m so happy to hear this, Sanhuun!”
“Really?”
“Yes! Well, you see, I’ve kind of got a crush on you too…”
“Mine’s a little bigger than just a crush, Aeseri,” she said. “But really?”
“Yeah. After you kept wanting to do work together, it just…kind of happened.”
“That’s kind of funny. I wanted to keep doing work with you because I liked you already. So you could kind of say I worked to get what I want!”
“That sounds weird when you say it that way,” Den-Matsu said.
“Yeah. Oh, but…I was wondering…”
“Yeah?”
“Since we know how we feel now, we can be together, right?”
“I’d be surprised if we weren’t.”
“Can I call you…Den-Matsu, then? It’s Den-Matsu, right?”
“Yeah. And I can call you Tei-Sheu?”
Tei-Sheu nodded.
After that, the two stood smiling at each other for a while longer, up until another student walked down the hallway and spotted them.

***

“Look, everyone! It’s the couple of TPOH!”
“TPOH?” Harley questioned.
“I guess everyone knows already,” Den-Matsu said.
“That’s alright. It would’ve become obvious sooner or later!”

—–
“Dad, you said you were called Aeseri when you were a kid, right?”
“Yeah, right up until I married your Mom. Why do you ask?”
“Why’d you change to Sanhuun? Don’t husbands usually give their name to their wives?”
“Well, not always. And anyway, there’s a funny story behind that one!”
“What’s that?”
“Actually, my family is Sanhuuns too, sort of.”
“What!?”
“No, it’s not anything gross. One of my ancestors was briefly married to one of Tei-Sheu’s ancestors. I forget how many greats it was, but anyway, Tei-Sheu’s ancestor was really abusive, so he got granted special permission to divorce her. It was harder back in those days to get divorced. The name kept in my family up until my Dad who gave it up because he was ashamed of what Tei-Sheu’s ancestor had done, even though our ancestors never had any kids together! We thought it was so funny we just had to call ourselves Sanhuun. So you could sort of say I’ve always been a Sanhuun!”
“That’s weird!” Fer-Shi giggled.
“Yeah, it is, isn’t it? Wanna be called Sanhuun-Aeseri instead?”
“Nope! I’m happy being Sanhuun Fer-Shi!”

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.’

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?’

14.591.Situations Revisited

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 591
“Situations Revisited”

“Mr. Baelin, it’s been almost a year since that incident at Malicerie happened. Can you please tell us why you decided to cast a spell on a whole school?”
Baelin remained silent, his eyes closed.
“Mr. Baelin, please!”
“H-hey, Harliou, please don’t be so rough on him.”
“Llanni, you take these things too softly! This is a man with immense power, enough to make several people start acting out their fantasies and fears. Now come on, Mr. Baelin! If you ever want us to take you off of power suppressants, you’ll answer us! You’ll get nowhere if you don’t!”
“This whole situation is a mess…”
Baelin remained silent.
“Mr. Baelin, think of all the things you’ll be able to do once you give us the answer we want. You’re already in enough trouble for what you did. But you’ll never be out of trouble if you don’t give us a concrete answer. Come on, think about it: you’ll be free once more, free to use your powers not on unsuspecting and unaware students…and the longer you refuse to answer, the more of a blight it is on your reputation!”
“I have no reputation.”
The cops glanced among each other with wide grins on their faces.
“Come on, Mr. Baelin, we just want a concrete answer. And obviously you’re willing to talk, so tell us what it is.”
“What do I get from telling you guys? It’s not like it’s that important.”
“It’s plenty important!”
“Harliou, please!”
“Mr. Baelin?”
Baelin opened his right eye. He caught sight of a timid Birdmix, staring at him with a look of desperation. “Can you please tell us why you did what you did? It’ll actually be very helpful to you and to us. We need an answer, and you want to be free, right?”
Both of Baelin’s eyes opened, and he stared at the Birdmix woman in surprise. He cleared his throat and faced them all. “Fine. But only if I get a picture of this pretty gal to take home with me.”
“We can’t give you that! We don’t know what you’ll do with it!” Harliou complained.
“Oh, I don’t mind.”
“Vaniette, you should realize why we’re concerned…”
“The point must’ve flown right over her head.”
“Great.” Baelin cleared his throat once more. “The spell I used on those students is a high-grade Witch and Warlock spell called “Drugging Desire”. It makes the person the spell was cast on lose restraint, much like when you get drunk, and nine times out of ten presents to them a pleasurable situation. Of course, in the other one time, it brings up something neutral or horrifying.”
“Drugging Desire?”
“Why haven’t we looked into this already!?” Harliou growled.
“W-we did, we just couldn’t really find all that much on it…”
“Like I said, Drugging Desire is a high-grade Witch and Warlock spell. The only reason I was able to cast it is because I have natural talent, courtesy of my dear Mama and Papa who had so much power of their own. Anyway, now that you know how the power works, I’m supposing you want to know why I cast it on them, don’t you?”
“Yes! That’s what we’ve been begging you for the whole time!”
“Please, Mr. Baelin,” Vaniette said, her eyes sparkling. Baelin’s cheeks flushed. “Anything for the lovely Vaniette. I cast that spell on those students because I wanted to see what would happen.”
“WHAT!? YOU MEAN WE WAITED ALL THIS TIME FOR THIS BULLSHIT!?”
“He was characterized as a mischievous Warlock upon his arrest, Harliou,” Llanni told him.
“Come on, as if you guys didn’t know. You embody the stereotype of a dumb authority force. The answers are sitting in front of your nose. I’ll admit Drugging Desire is a fairly under-the-radar spell, but please. You guys have better means to learn about this kind of stuff than even I do. Vaelyn’s not exactly the Warlock hub of the world after all. I mean–”
“Please make him talk slower, Vaniette,” Harliou said. “I’m done dealing with him.”
“Mr. Baelin, can you please talk slower? And, um, explain yourself a little better?”
“Certainly. If you all should know anything, it’s that an extremely common personality trait in Witches and Warlocks is curiosity. We are the most powerful type of Pureblood naturally–that is, without drug assistance or assistance other species get from us. Of course we’re curious. We have the most power of any single species, and the species with the most power would involve us too, naturally.”
“Arrogant little…” Harliou grumbled. Llanni pat him on the back.
“When I learned Drugging Desire, I had to find someone to use it on. I live alone, you see, and my little sister would never forgive me if I used it on her. I’d be smacked up, down and all around and then some, and I don’t want that. So I used it on anyone I could find. The students at Malicerie Public just happened to be the ones you found.”
“Are you admitting to more crimes!?”
Baelin scoffed. “Puh-leeze. Crimes? You act like Drugging Desire is serious. Unless the person it’s used on has some sort of murderous desire, it really isn’t. And I had no way of knowing if any of the students there, or any of the other people I used it on, had any desires like that. But just so you know: I was observing the students at Malicerie. I did the same for the people I “drugsired” before them. I healed the other people when I was done.”
“That was nice of you,” Vaniette said.
“Ha, it was nice of me, wasn’t it? But even if I hadn’t, they would have snapped out of it naturally. In any event, I got the proof I needed, that if someone like me can use Drugging Desire, that I am an incredibly powerful Warlock. So I don’t give a damn that you guys have been using power suppressants on me. I’ll still be able to use my powers same as always when they wear off.”
“I can’t believe we’ve wasted almost a year on this bullshit…” Harliou sobbed.
“Thank you for telling us, Mr. Baelin.”
“Yeah, no problem, but you should have guessed it yourselves, dumbasses. Of course, that statement doesn’t apply to you, sweetie.”
Vaniette giggled. The others in the room groaned.
“I’m ready to leave whenever you guys give the a-okay. My life is being lived for enjoyment. And as fun as it’s been sticking around with you losers, I’m ready to get back to using my powers. Legally of course this time. I’d rather not deal with you guys again.”
All of them shook their heads. Baelin relaxed in his chair and closed his eyes once more.

***

“So I am not sure if any of you have heard this news already, but Baelin Eung-Al was released from holding a week ago today.”
“Wow, only a week ago? That seems like an awfully long time to be detained for what he did.”
“His bad behavior persuaded them to keep him longer out of spite. But in any event, when I heard of this news, I assembled you all because I want to talk on something. The event with Baelin was chaotic when it happened. School starts again in less than a month, and the future is unpredictable. Do any of you have ideas for something we might be able to do to prevent another Baelin incident?”
Everyone glanced among each other.
“We don’t really know that something like that will happen again. Why take measures against it?” Chensu asked.
“Why, Mr. Chensu? Why? Are you really choosing to ask that question?” The Principal sighed and squeezed the bridge of her nose. “Because it has already happened, proving that it’s fully possible. And we’ve had worse happen as well. I’m sure everyone here remembers the Malicerie Incident.”
The faculty fell silent. “We need something to protect Malicerie from potential attacks. They can and very well might happen again.”
“Should we hire security?” Theasis said. “That might help.”
“A good suggestion. Anyone else?”
“We could use the power of a Warlock against potential attackers,” Hyungdarou said.
“Hm…” The Principal directed to Sharai to start scrawling down notes.
“There’s plenty of ideas we can consider. Security systems, guards, et cetera….there’s plenty, but while I think this is a fine idea, I’m also worried about going overboard. Don’t want to stifle the students, after all.” Sharai said.
“By stifling them do you mean allowing them to misbehave?” Yushie asked.
“No, I’m not stupid, you know! I mean like making it so that the school is so heavily guarded that the students feel uncomfortable. If we incorporate all this stuff into Malicerie right as the students come back, they might think that something happened over the break to make us up our ante. Don’t you think that might have them on pins and needles?”
“Mr. Sharai, making a good point?” The Principal said, mock surprise in her tone.
“Very funny, Principal. You’ve admitted I can make good points before!”
“Your idea is a good one though, Principal,” Theasis said. “It does bear looking in to. We must protect Malicerie and our students.”
“Indeed. But we can’t just contemplate outside attacks as well. I’ve had concerns about inside attacks as well…”
The faculty fell silent.
“Now, anyone else: do you have an idea?”

—–
“Mr. Baelin.”
Eung-Al had been called to the park by a man he had never met before while on a walk around Bledger. Though he’d never met him before, he had a feeling he wouldn’t soon forget him–aside from his fluffy ponytail and sharp eyes, his most distinguishing feature was a strange marking on his left cheek. Eung-Al couldn’t help but stare at it the whole walk.
“So, you must come from a Warlock society. I don’t think many mark their people anymore, though. Just how old are you?”
“My age is not your concern. Besides, I am younger than you might expect for a marked Warlock. You seem to believe that all of us are old fogies…not that I’m surprised seeing your behavior.”
“Well, excuse me!”
“Now that we’re in peace…” The man stared him down. “I have a project I’m working on, you could say. Have you ever heard of the Witch Astineth Eir-Tyuj?”
“Yeah? She’s dead, isn’t she?”
“Quite the contrary, unfortunately. In regards to her I had an idea, a plan you could say…a Warlock of your ability could be quite helpful on my team. Oh, before you get that look on your face, it’s nothing to the degree of murdering her. I simply have some curiosities that need to be sated, but that lady is under high security and it’s incredibly difficult to approach her. I don’t normally approach people like this, but I was impressed by your ability to pull off Drugging Desire. That’s one I don’t know how to use yet, so to me that’s a sign of your strength.”
“I’m glad you know greatness when you see it. But I’m gonna have to decline. Sorry, but I’m interested in having fun in my own life. I don’t know about Eir-Tyuj being alive, but I’d rather do things myself. You understand, don’t you?”
“I do,” he sighed. “Fine. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me. Besides, I’m not completely sure how much I should trust someone I don’t know, in any event…”
“Good for you.” He winked at the man. “Well, I’m off. Best of luck, ah…”
“Spaeic.”
“Spaeic? Feel like I’ve heard that name before…” With a shrug, Eung-Al left the strange man behind.

11.588.To See the Future–Part 3

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

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

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

***

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

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