26.572.Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 8

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 572
“Reminiscing on Childhood–Part 8”

“San-Kyung, is something the matter? You look a little down right now.”
“It’s nothing you’d care about.”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus glanced at each other. “If our son’s upset of course it’s something we’d care about.”
“…”
“Come on, San-Kyung, please tell us what’s wrong.”
San-Kyung glared at them. “I don’t think you two would understand how hard it is when you’re evil and your parents are not.”
“Oh, is that all?” Salsh-Era asked.
“See, you don’t care.”
“We do care, San-Kyung. And we do understand. After all, we’re good and you’re evil. But this isn’t something we can change about ourselves. Isn’t it good enough that we let you be evil?”
“Yeah, that’s fine, but…” San-Kyung pressed his lips together. “I don’t get it. If I’m being raised by good parents, then according to school I should’ve ended up at least neutral. But I understand why I’m evil. And knowing that, I don’t understand why you two aren’t.”
“Well, all three of us are different people. And no matter what you learn at school, remember this: there are lots of families with good parents and evil children, and evil parents with good children!”
“It does depend, yes,” Salsh-Era said. “But maybe you shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, we are the Molsheis, and aside from that, your mother and I aren’t any strangers to evil…”
“What does that mean?”
“Salsh-Era, I don’t think that’s necessary to tell him,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Nah, I think he should hear it. But for your sake, Kyuusie, I’ll leave your story out of it. When I was a kid I actually had some trouble with my morality. Mostly because of circumstances at school.”
“How come I’ve never heard about this?”
“I didn’t think it was necessary to bring up.” He gave a nervous chuckle. “But now seems like the right time. Also, you didn’t seem interested in hearing about our past after you heard a few stories.”
“I would be interested in hearing something that has to do with you two being evil.”
“My story isn’t exactly about that,” Salsh-Era sighed. “But I think you might find it interesting anyway. But it was a long time ago. Back when this happened, I was younger than you are now. I think I was about nine years old…”

***

“Isn’t Molshei Dasdorian for evil?”
Salsh-Era had been worried he would hear that question. His parents had warned him before he started school about the possibility of the meaning of his name coming up. He had hoped against it, but now a young Catori boy approached him with the question.
“Um…yes,” he said. “Why?”
“Does that mean you’re evil?”
“No. The Molsheis are a good family, promise.”
“Are you sure?” Asked a Skeletaltype with hair in messy ponytails. “You’re Dasdorian, right?”
“I’m descended from Dasdorians.”
“My mom told me that Dasdoria is where evil comes from!” She said. “So are you really really sure?”
“Yeah! I’m good, not evil. Evil people are just horrible.”
His classmates glanced among each other. “Okay, Molshei, we believe you. Well, see you tomorrow!”
“See you!” Salsh-Era gave a content sigh. ‘That wasn’t too bad!’ Happy, he head home with a skip in his gait.

That calm would not last forever.
“I didn’t take your stupid dolly! Why are you even bringing dollies to school anyway!? You’re nine! And besides, when you’re nine, you barely even call them dollies anymore. You call them dolls.
“Why did I see my dolly’s dress in your book, then?”
“Ugh! It’s a bookmark, stupid! Just because it looks like your dolly’s dress doesn’t mean it is your dolly’s dress!”
Watching the two girls fight, Salsh-Era couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable. ‘I don’t think Jiheni took Ygori’s doll, but how could I show that without them getting the wrong idea’
He watched their fight closely, thinking up something he could do to help them, when he spotted Ygori reaching up a hand. Panicked, he ran for her and reached for her hands. His hand scraped against one of her claws and he recoiled.
“Molshei, don’t butt in!” Moments after she said that, Jiheni screamed. From Salsh-Era’s injured hand, flames were spurting forth. Jiheni and Ygori, along with their classmates nearby them, recoiled. They began to yell and shriek and cry while Salsh-Era set to work putting his hand-fire out.
“What’s going on in here!?” A teacher yelled, then gasped. “Molshei! What did I tell you all about using powers in school?”
“I hurt myself!” He said.
“That’s not true! I saw him! He struck his hand when he was tryin’ to stop Ygori from hitting me!”
The teacher narrowed her eyes. “Molshei, you don’t stop violence with more violence. That’s ridiculous.”
“But I wasn’t–”
Under her breath, Salsh-Era caught the teacher mumble, “What was I expecting from a Dasdorian, though…”
Salsh-Era put his hand flame out and head back to his seat with his head lowered. The gazes of his classmates meant nothing to him–they couldn’t send his mood lower than it already was.

The whole incident gave Salsh-Era a new reputation at school.
“Molshei really means something!” One student said. “Did you know it’s Dasdorian for evil? And that’s just what Molshei is!”
“I heard he tried to set Ygori on fire!”
“What!? I heard he was trying to set the desk on fire!”
“I heard he was trying to set them both on fire!”
“Those are the kinds of things they keep saying!” Salsh-Era complained. “And…and I don’t know how to prove it otherwise. I just don’t know…I don’t want them to think I’m evil.”
“You might be able to get away with them thinking you’re evil.”
“What!?”
“Er, what Nienie Kigyuk is trying to say is, sometimes they won’t care if you’re evil or not.”
“Not at this school! And I’m not evil!”
“You know, that gives me an idea, now that you’ve said it,” Kigyuk said. “Salsh-Era, if you really want to be seen as good, why don’t you show that you can embrace the evil?”
“How’s that going to help!?”
“I think Nienie Kigyuk means by showing that you love even evil people.”
“People will only think I’m even more evil if I do that. You have bad ideas.”
“Salsh-Era, I don’t know if you realized, but a lot of evil people don’t actually like each other.”
“How would you know?”
“I grew up in the evil part of town,” his mother said with a grin. “Well, anyway, you’re not going to prove that you’re not evil by getting hot-headed about it. Give those kids some proof otherwise. But really, you shouldn’t feel pressured to do this.”
“I wouldn’t if they would believe me,” he sighed. “I told them I was good. I told them…they’re just two-faced and stupid. I bet they’re the actually evil ones.”
“People can be two-faced sometimes, Salsh-Era, but you need to give them a chance. Don’t let this incident make you think everyone is like this.”
“Even the teachers don’t believe me, though. So what am I supposed to think? Nobody gives me a chance, so why should I give them a chance?”
“Do you want us to pull you out of that school?” His mother asked. Salsh-Era deliberated the idea. He could imagine starting anew in a different school where the students didn’t care about his last name–but at the same time, he could imagine the situation being worse, in which they cared about his last name so much it wouldn’t matter what he did, they would never believe that he was not evil.
“No. You know what? I am going to prove to them that I’m good. If I transfer, they’ll just think that I’m evil and that’s why I left. But I’m going to show them. And maybe I’ll use a bit of Nienie Kigyuk’s idea.”
Kigyuk smiled.
‘But what should I do? What could I do that would make them believe I’m good without a doubt?’

School was abuzz with noise when Salsh-Era arrived, and before entering the classroom he listened out to hear if any of it was about him. He was unsure of whether to be relieved or worried when he discovered that with so many voices contributing to the noise he could barely understand what they were talking about.
The teacher was nowhere to be seen in the hallway, so when Salsh-Era entered the classroom he took his place behind the teacher’s desk and cleared his throat.
“Molshei’s tryin’ to be our teacher!” One student yelled.
“No, I’m not. I wanted to tell everyone here something.”
The students watched him with mostly blank expressions, though Salsh-Era spotted a few who looked uneasy.
“Everyone at this school seems to think I’m evil, at least in this class. And I can tell you, just ’cause my name’s Molshei it doesn’t make me evil, and I just hurt my hand that time when the flames came out. But I realized there’s no way you can believe me. After all, people do things for their own reasons, and you never do actually know if an evil person would do something good for their own gains, or if someone good would do something evil when they’re desperate.”
“So you are evil?” A student asked.
“I’m not. I’m good. But I understand there’s no way you can believe me. So believe what you want, just don’t hurt me, okay?”
“Molshei?” The teacher asked. “What are you doing behind my desk?”
“Um, nothing!” Salsh-Era head back to his seat. The teacher gave him a curious look.
“Sorry I was mean to you before, Molshei,” Jiheni said. “I understand now. You’re neutral and that’s okay.”
“But I’m not…” Salsh-Era sighed. “Oh, well, whatever you think.”

***

“…”
“Er, why are you looking at me like that?”
“So…you thought people were two-faced too…”
“For a time, yes. But not everyone’s that way.”
San-Kyung huffed. “That Nienie-Kigyuk sounds like an idiot.”
“Hey, don’t insult my Nienie! And it doesn’t have a hyphen.”
“Maybe I should tell you my story,” Del-Kyuus said. “I think you’ll find that one interesting.”
“What, mine wasn’t?”
“It was disappointing. And I find it hard to believe that Mom would have any evil in her. You didn’t really.”
“Actually, mine is a lot different than Salsh-Era’s. When mine happened I was a bit closer to your age, but I wasn’t a teenager just yet. Almost, but not yet. And twelve-year-old me, she would have loved to have been a Molshei back then, trust me!”

***

“Zahelahe sure is demure, isn’t she?”
Del-Kyuus overheard the comment while preparing treats in Home EC. She smiled to herself and continued to work.
“Yeah, sure is. It’s kinda weird. I never really expected an Animated Pumpkin to be like that. What with their faces and all…”
‘I wonder why they’re talking about me?’ Del-Kyuus didn’t mind the attention, but the conversation piqued her interest. She couldn’t remember having done something to garner attention.
It didn’t matter moments later: her treat was finished and the conversation had changed. The teacher took a bite of her cookies.
“Hm, those are pretty good. I’m surprised. Did you taste these?”
“I always taste them!”
He smiled. “Zahelahe, you’re one of the most talented Home EC students. It’s weird, because, ah…excuse my indelicacy, but Animated Pumpkins don’t eat, do they?”
“That’s not indelicate! We don’t have to eat, but we always can!” She said cheerfully. “And you never know when you’re going to marry that special someone and they’re a different species than you!”
The teacher chuckled. “I suppose you have a point there. Though that isn’t all that common.”
“Well, it’s a possibility, isn’t it?”
He nodded, then went to check on the other students. Del-Kyuus was beaming. ‘Maybe I don’t need to eat, but if I did marry someone who does, that would be so nice. I love cooking so much, it’d be so fun!’
She could almost imagine herself serving a Werewolf man a large meal. ‘Of course, I wouldn’t want to gorge him…’

That day, when Del-Kyuus was heading home from school, her friend Bigyore accompanied her. Del-Kyuus wondered if she was concerned about something–the look on her face seemed to imply as much.
“How do you put up with all this demure stuff, Zahelahe?”
“What are you talking about, demure stuff?”
“You’re the epitome of demure when you don’t need to be! You cook, you clean, you talk about marriage, you’re super-demure, everyone’s noticed! Haven’t you realized that the time Huufa asked you to help with his homework he was taking advantage of you?”
“He was just asking for help.”
“No, I saw him cheating on the answers. Look, I’m worried about you! Sure, I guess it’s okay to like dresses and all that stuff, but you’re gonna get taken advantage of! And you don’t need to eat in the first place, so why do you cook so damn much!?”
“You really shouldn’t say damn, Bigyore.” Del-Kyuus covered her mouth. “Oops!”
“Girly and demure is a stupid thing to be. All it is is a detriment. Be yourself, Zahelahe, but I’m tellin’ you, sooner or later someone’s gonna use your behavior as a loophole in order to take advantage of you. Maybe even your future husband!”
“I’m smart enough to notice when someone’s taking advantage of me, Bigyore!”
“Yeah, you say,” she sighed. “Just take my word. Demure is a detriment. So try and toughen up a little, alright?”
“I think I’m fine the way I am.”
“If you say so…”

Ultimately, Del-Kyuus was unswayed by Bigyore’s concerns. ‘I’m smart enough to know if someone’s taking advantage of me. i’m not stupid! She just thinks that demure equals stupid, I bet! Just because she’s a tomboy…’
“Hey, Zahelahe!”
“Mm? What is it, Huufa?”
“Home EC is soon, an’ I need your help,” he said. “Could you show me how to make those cookies you’re always making? I’d like to make some cookies and put my own spin on them, but I don’t even know where to start! I thought you’d be a big help.”
“Sure, I’d love to help you!”
Huufa smiled. “Thanks, Zahelahe!”

“So, I like to use chocolate in my cookies, but you might also like to use vanilla. Ooh, vanilla cookies are so good!”
“I see,” he said. “Can I watch you make them? I learn a little better watching than doing, eheh.”
“Okay!”
Del-Kyuus set to work on making the cookies. “Remember to taste them. Otherwise they sometimes end up tasting a little strange!”
“You taste them while they’re still uncooked like that?”
“Yes.”
“Isn’t it bad for Animated Pumpkins to eat?”
“No, it’s just unnecessary.”
Del-Kyuus began to cook the cookies. “Even if you set a timer, you should always watch them, even when you get really good at making cookies. You never know when you’ll need to adjust the timing!”
“I see!”
When the cookies were finished, Huufa took one and bit out of it.
“Wow, that’s good! Thanks, Zahelahe! Hey, um…can I use these?”
Del-Kyuus blinked. “Why?”
“I’m kinda out of supplies…”
“It’s cheating to use someone else’s cookies, you know,” she scolded. “You won’t win any points for that!”
“Is everyone done with their Home EC projects?”
“I am!” Huufa said. He took the vanilla cookies from Del-Kyuus. Del-Kyuus watched as the teacher bit into them and smiled.
“He just took them….”
“Haven’t you realized that the time Huufa asked you to help with his homework he was taking advantage of you?”
“Demure is a detriment.”

Del-Kyuus lowered her head. ‘Maybe Bigyore had a point. Maybe I really am easy to take advantage of…maybe, I need to change that.’
As she watched the teacher compliment Huufa on her cookies, a dull rage began to stir in her.

“Who is that!? Is that Zahelahe?”
Del-Kyuus had come to school the next day wearing torn-up black clothes. She had decorated her face with paint. The students around her were confused by her new look, but they were even more confused by her new behavior.
“Zahelahe, you shouldn’t wear torn-up clothes to school!”
“Suck on yourself!”
“Wh-what!?”
“Um, Zahelahe–” Bigyore whispered. “This is not what I meant by toughening up!”
“Shut up, Bigyore. I didn’t do this for you.”
While thinking on what she could do to keep herself from being taken advantage of, she thought of giving herself a tough look and acting tough. She had figured it would be enough initially, but just before she went to school she had decided to add in a new, evil behavior.
‘Evil people are the people who take advantage, not those who get taken advantage of,’ she thought. ‘It’s perfect.’
She knew her classmates wouldn’t believe her without actions, however. That was something she quickly set to work with. She created grass knots using her vines, picked fights with other students, destroyed parts of the school and nearly set Home EC on fire with the power of her flames.
At the end of the day Del-Kyuus felt satisfied. She could see that her classmates were terrified of her.
‘Bigyore was right, but she had the wrong idea. This power over the other students is pretty amazing.’
She chuckled to herself. ‘I bet I could even control them. No wonder people go evil sometimes! It’s such a rush.’

Del-Kyuus wouldn’t feel so positively about her new behavior forever.
Ever since becoming evil, she felt as though she had a new power over her classmates–the look she saw on Huufa’s face each time she entered the classroom excited her. Her parents would kowtow to her and she could get what she wanted. Even her teachers, who were more stern with her, were starting to let up, and she felt she could get away with nearly anything.
Yet despite the rush of power, there was another feeling that had come along with the transition. She felt as though she were behaving artificially. Occasionally she would find herself daydreaming back on the days she was baking cookies in Home EC and creating small trinkets for her family. She always tried to push the thoughts away, but they were somewhat pervasive.
‘What’s the point in going back to that way of acting? I can have anything I want now! …I guess that’s not exactly true if I can’t do what I used to anymore…’
Del-Kyuus tried to translate the feeling into something else. It gave her a taste for something sweet, and she prepared to cut in line for a stand that advertised ‘hotteok-like waffles’.
“You know, it’s so weird. I know this neutral girl who got married recently. She’s all untrusting of her husband and stuff. And I’m thinkin’, why marry him if yer not gonna trust him?”
“Yeah.”
“I seen it a bit with those types,” the man sighed. “Weird. You’d think two evil people would be the first not to trust each other.”
“We’re different from goody-goodies and neutrals. We’re careful about who we put our trust in. You should know that.”
“I would, if I put my trust in more people than just you.”
When Del-Kyuus overheard the last part of the conversation, she stopped herself from cutting in line and felt as though something had clicked.
‘Those men over there are evil, aren’t they? Yet they’re conversing like friends and…oh my gosh, they actually paid for the waffle!’
It seemed to be a revelation. ‘Just because they’re evil they don’t give up on friendship. They’re just careful about who they put their trust in. Evil didn’t make them all different. They’re still normal. I bet even they get taken advantage of sometimes…’
Del-Kyuus smiled to herself. ‘Boy, I’ve been acting pretty silly, huh?’

“Huh? Zahelahe’s not wearing torn up clothes?”
“Hi,” Del-Kyuus said shyly. “S-sorry about recently. I was kind of going through a phase…”
The students gave her an uncertain glance.
“Attention-grabbing phase?”
“Y-yeah, you could say it’s like that.”
Near the edge of the crowd Del-Kyuus noticed Huufa staring at her with wide eyes. He bolted off towards the school. “I would’ve kept going like that, but I realized I need to be my authentic self. Evil people are. Not all of them put on acts just because they’re evil. And I realize my authentic self is pretty goody-goody, but it’s who I like to be!”
Bigyore sighed. “I guess I shouldn’t have given you so much trouble, either. You acting like that made me think…being demure’s definitely a lot better than being evil. I’ll take demure Zahelahe over evil Zahelahe any day.”
“So will I!”

—–
“…”
“And that’s my story. So maybe now you understand. Even though I do wish sometimes you were born good, I’m okay with you being evil so long as you’re being your authentic self. …and not murdering anybody. I draw the line there.”
“I can’t believe it…”
“Well, I guess we are the Molsheis,” Salsh-Era sighed. “Kid me would have killed me for saying this, but it’s not too surprising we’ve had brushes with evil.”
“I was still Zahelahe Del-Kyuus when that happened!”
“Geez…”
“What is it, San-Kyung?”
“Nothing. Just…”
“Are you smiling?” Del-Kyuus said.
San-Kyung looked away from them. “Just…it made me a bit happy to hear that story, that’s all. I wish you had stayed evil, Mom.”
“Well, I’m more me this way,” she said. “And you know what? That’s fine. Like I said, I wish sometimes you had been born good. But we can’t change who we are!”
“Yeah, I guess not.”
“Although you can try, you two,” he said. “I’m not trying to say anything bad. Just saying, you should be who you want to be, but if you aren’t already, there’s always room to try and become that person!”
“Yeah…I guess it can go both ways, huh?” San-Kyung cracked a smile. To him, their advice almost sounded as if it were directed at his primary problem. He kept this thought silent, however.

1.547.Plan Dosa-Mina

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 547
“Plan Dosa-Mina”

“As you all know by now, today is a half day. We’ll only be doing the classes that all of our students must attend. While because of higher grade numbers this year this means that biology will be one of the classes this year, otherwise it is exactly the same as last year. We of the faculty are very grateful that Miss Cahongyun and Miss Sanhuun are here today for this half-day…”
“I’m not,” La-Iin whispered to Fer-Shi. “I hate Hyungdarou. She’s so stupid.”
“That’s pretty mean, La-Iin,” Fer-Shi whispered back.
“Miss Cahongyun? Look, I know you just had an incident, but can you please shut up? Now, anyway…”

***

“Those girls took away precious time with my Dad yesterday. I had to be home alone for a while thanks to them. It’s already hard enough t’get any time with him with how much work he’s had to do lately, so I don’t appreciate it, like, one bit.” Airy-Aekok blinked. “Hey, Sanyaow, am I bothering you with my rambles?”
“Huh? No, you aren’t. Sorry your Dad’s been busy.”
“Nah, no reason to say sorry. I’m mad at the criminals who’re makin’ his life harder. Still, uh, sorry if it sounds pryin’, but if it isn’t my ramblin’, what’s makin’ you upset?”
Lirako sighed. “I figure you’re just going to keep asking until I tell you, aren’t you…”
“Yeah, that was kinda the intention.”
Lirako beckoned her close. Airy-Aekok leaned in. “It’s the last day of school for a while. I really thought we’d have a better idea of Dosa-Mina’s species by this time. I know we have an idea, it’s just, we don’t have any concrete proof, which is kinda what I wanted…”
“Well, the fact that he doesn’t wanna sing to prove otherwise is pretty damning if ya ask me,” Airy-Aekok said sympathetically. “Maybe we can just pretend that’s the case and leave it at that.”
“No. I don’t want to. Llanni, police work as hard as they can to find concrete evidence, don’t they? That’s what I want to do. I want concrete proof that he’s a Siren or something else.”
“I want that too, Sanyaow, but I’m really not sure anymore how we could find what we’re lookin’ for. Like, we’ve got his suspicious behavior, but what’re we s’pposed to do next? Follow him home? Look for a birth certificate or somethin’?”
“I don’t know. I just want it figured out. It’s the perfect revenge for how he treated me. Besides, I…I don’t really have all that much time left here at Malicerie. It’s still a pretty long ways away, but come March 2016 I’ll be graduating. It’s not as if I can really do anything about it then. I don’t even know where he lives, and I bet if we tried to follow him he’d notice.”
Lirako sighed. ‘Geez, never thought I’d see the day where someone’s getting depressed over something like this…’
“Class’ll probably start again like, soon, but I’ll try and figure somethin’ out, alright? After all, I’m the daughter of a cop!”
Lirako smiled. “Well, I look forward to seeing what you come up with, then.”

‘How could I get her concrete proof that he’s a Siren or whatever? Geez, I’m good at tying up teenage boys but apparently figuring out the truth behind these kinds of things is a talent I didn’t get from my Dad…so what could I do…well, he talks pretty quietly to Molshei, so maybe his species comes up in their conversations sometimes!’
Airy-Aekok strained to hear their voices over the din of other students.
“You know what I think you need, San-Kyung? A good old-fashioned day off for the both of us!”
“What are you talking about? After today pretty much every day is going to be a day off.”
“I know! That’s why we should take advantage of the opportunity at hand! I think it would be great for you!”
“That’s what you say, but your intentions mostly have to do with visiting my house, making me visit yours, go out a few places close by and shower me in affection. Is that it?”
Dosa-Mina looked away. “I never said that, so stop kidding yourself.”
‘Dangit, they aren’t talking about anything damning, that’s for sure. Unless it’s a sign of their sordid relationship…but even so, it’s barely even that.’ Airy-Aekok sighed. ‘Sanyaow would’ve been better off asking someone else to help her with this. I’m going to be completely useless obviously…’

When the last class ended for the day, the students were invited to a small event in the reception room. The students seemed fairly high-energy, and most of their teachers watched them with smiles.
“Sanyaow?”
“Yeah, Llanni? What’s up?”
“Hey, uh…I’m sorry about this whole situation. I literally have no idea how to handle this. I thought I picked up a lotta skills from my Dad, but I guess this isn’t one of them.”
“Don’t worry about it. I guess there is still plenty of time before March to figure it out. And I’m not completely sure how we’d get the right evidence anyway. We can’t exactly follow him home.”
“Yeah…if we were cops, we could. ‘nfortunately this isn’t a piece of fiction where we could dress up as cops.”
“Well, instead of stressing over it, why don’t we just kick back and enjoy the free time that’s coming up? I’m gonna have plenty of time to spend with my brothers. They always dogpile me in the Summer. It’s so sweaty under all that fur. Or should I say Catoripile?”
“I’m not all that looking forward to it. Like, my Dad, he’s probably still gonna be busy, especially if the school-aged active evils decide to participate in this sudden crime surge. I always look forward to any time I can spend with him, but he’s so busy nowadays…”
“Well, I certainly don’t mind spending time with you over the Summer. Though my first priority is to get in a good visit with Deki-Tyunri. You and I have been talking so much I think he’s kinda jealous!”
Airy-Aekok smiled. “Yeah, I could see how that could, like, happen. You two were close before me, after all.”
The two girls officially joined the reception. Airy-Aekok went around bidding farewells to the teenage boys of her class, to mixed responses. Meanwhile Lirako went off for the time being with other friends including Deki-Tyunri.
During the reception a few special events occurred.
“The top grade this year in Class D goes to Mr. Molshei! Good job, Mr. Molshei! Last year you didn’t make it over Miss Vampiris, but this year you certainly did! Miss Vampiris made it to second place, however. Mr. Dslellular in third, and Miss Sherry in fourth, along with Miss Hangdul in fifth! Good job, all of you!”
“Congrants, San-Kyung!” Dosa-Mina said. He pulled San-Kyung close and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“I wish I could have made it above Molshei this year. Damn. Well, it’s something to strive for in the coming school year.”
After the grades were read, Xao-Bu called up his students in the Weekend class, and the teacher of the normal music class did likewise, and both began to perform a song for the students.
“Everyone wants to celebrate the fact that we don’t have any school for the Summer, but they forget that all this celebrating is taking time out of our free time,” La-Iin said bitterly.
“Well, we won’t see each other for a while! Not all of the students are like you and me, La-Iin. They don’t all have contact with each other during the break.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t care because I have contact with everyone I need to, even Sara a little bit. Besides, isn’t getting to leave right away celebration enough?”
“Why are you here if you’re going to complain? It’s an optional event.”
“I came here because I thought there would be worthwhile snacks, but apparently not and we can’t even eat them here. That wouldn’t be a problem if they were good snacks…”
“Huh?”
“If they were good snacks I could sneak them right now, but they aren’t.” La-Iin sighed. “All this celebrating is going to take as long as a normal school day if not longer.”
After the music ended, Sharai gave one last speech, then stomped his foot and opened his mouth wide.
“Now, my students! Say it with me! –”
Before he could even say “Ma”, he was dragged off the stage.

***

Airy-Aekok felt dejected as she joined the crowd on their way out of school. ‘Everyone’s all looking forward to spending time with their family and friends, but who do I have? My Dad’s gonna be busy, Sanyaow’s got other friends too, and no teenage boys actually like me. Summer’s gonna be a crapshoot this year.’
In one last desperate attempt, Airy-Aekok strained her ears to listen in on San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina’s conversation.
“Are you going to try wearing short sleeves this year?”
“San-Kyung, you know I can’t do that.”
San-Kyung sighed. “I guess not…you know, if you’d go into your true form, you wouldn’t have to worry about it, at least on one side.”
Airy-Aekok gasped. “Yes, but I’m covered in fur on that side. I think that would be more of a disadvantage in the Summer. I’ve dealt with this for years now, San-Kyung. It won’t be a problem.”
“It’ll be a problem for me once you get too sweaty.”
Dosa-Mina gave a half-hearted chuckle. “Don’t worry, I won’t cling to you as much this Summer. Or I’ll try not to, anyway.”
Airy-Aekok was stunned. She glanced around the crowd for any sign of Lirako. Spotting her chatting with Deki-Tyunri on their way out, she ran over to her.
“I need to talk to you like, right now!” She exclaimed.
“Whoa! Um, Deki-Tyunri, could you give me a moment?”
“Certainly,” Deki-Tyunri said, although judging by his expression he was less than pleased. Airy-Aekok pulled Lirako away and dropped her voice to a whisper.
“Okay, I don’t, like, have definite proof yet, but I overheard Molshei and Dosa-Mina talking, and I heard him say something about a true form and being covered in fur on one side!” She squealed. “I think he might be a Dualbreed, Lirako!”
“Covered in fur on one side? There are a lot of species with fur, but that definitely narrows it down! Let’s see, Bearperson, Werewolf, ugh…Catori….I certainly hope it’s not that. But if he is a Dualbreed, that makes me wonder if he’s even a Siren at all!”
“Siren songs still do bad things when they’re not Pureblood, just not as bad. Least that’s what my Dad told me.” Airy-Aekok grinned. “This is a big breakthrough! Hey, you know, now that I think about it, when my Dad gets time off maybe we’ll look for this together!”
“That’s the spirit, Llanni!”
“Thanks, Sanyaow, for not givin’ up on me. Completely, anyway,” she said with a nudge.
“No problem! If we can figure this one out, I don’t care how long it takes!” Lirako blinked. “Actually, that’s a lie.”
“And don’t I know it!”

—–
“Dad! Welcome home!”
“Hello, Airy-Aekok.” He pat her on the head. “Sorry I’ve been so busy lately. I just don’t understand why the evil in this world sees 2015 as its year…”
“Aw, that’s alright. It makes the time I get to spend with you sweeter. And now that you’re home, I wanted to talk about a little pet-project I wanna do over the Summer.”
“Oh?”
“Yeah. It’s a little like this….”

30.546.The Adventure in Bledger–Part 2

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

26.542.Leader of the Trio

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 542
“Leader of the Trio”

“Boys, I have called you out here after classes today not to deliver a speech of confidence, but instead to confront a matter I’ve been wondering about for a while now.
“Do we spend time together because I get to be with San-Kyung, and you get to be with San-Kyung, and because you get to be with both of us, or do we have a specific purpose?”
Both San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina gave La-Iin no immediate response.
After school that day she had summoned both boys and walked a short distance from Malicerie, and almost instantly went into the topic she had just brought up.
La-Iin herself had summoned the two boys with different intentions–she had wanted to spend time with San-Kyung to take her mind off the current situation between Mit-Sun and Uil-Cur. When Dosa-Mina had tagged along, La-Iin searched for a different topic, not wanting to involve Dosa-Mina in something she meant to be private between her and San-Kyung.
“I thought we just spent time together because we’re friends with San-Kyung and because we both wanted to help him find his true form.”
La-Iin noticed San-Kyung flinch. “Yes, well, that’s good and all, but the trio of us together is not one where everyone likes each other.”
Dosa-Mina rolled his eyes. “I’m well aware of that.”
“What’s the point of this again? If there’s something specific you want to do, then just say something instead of beating around the bush.”
“What I wanted to do was foiled by rival-boy,” La-Iin growled under her breath. Dosa-Mina gave her a curious glance. “But anyway, this all came up from a lot of thoughts I’ve had lately. If not all of us like each other, then when we spend time together it’s just me and Dosa-Mina endlessly fighting for a chance to spend time with you. I’m sure that pisses you off.”
“I’m surprised you said something smart for once.”
“I might seem stupid to you but that’s just because of your intellect. I’m actually very smart for a seven-year-old half-Vampire.”
“I suppose she’s got you there,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Anyway, I think that’s a bad way to operate. It’s one thing if you and me are alone together, or if me and rival-boy are alone together, or if….ugh…you and rival-boy are alone together, but if we’re all together doing nothing, then it’s just going to be me and rival-boy fighting or monopolizing your attention while the other fumes silently.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “So I propose we make a purpose for ourselves when it is the three of us. The pursuit of San-Kyung’s true form is a noble goal, but I think it needs to be put on hold for now.”
You think, but I plan on continuing to help him. I have to.”
“Stop acting like it’s your destiny to help him,” La-Iin snapped. “And I want to help him too. But if we don’t have a purpose as a trio, all that will happen is what I said was gonna happen!”
“What makes you think that will?” San-Kyung asked.
“Because I know myself. And I know how much I hate rival-boy.”
“Well, if you want our trio to have a purpose so badly, then how about this: we’re together to help each other.”
San-Kyung grimaced. “That would probably mostly entail helping you, San-Kyung, seeing as you’re the only one who’s consistently liked in this group. Anyhoo, it could work. We’d put our efforts together for the goal of helping each other with our goal. For me that wouldn’t be so hard. I already know lots about Animated Pumpkins, I’m just mostly curious about some of your strange powers. Not all the Vampire powers are well-documented, especially not that one that makes you transform into a Pureblood rather than a bat.”
La-Iin smiled.
“Meanwhile, we could help San-Kyung find his true form and help him with things like his other goals and his…car, and I suppose we could help you do whatever it is you want to do that won’t get us killed or result in San-Kyung being considered a pedophile.”
“What kind of things do you think I’d ask help for!?”
“I might not be completely sure, but I’ve known you for a year and so. I have a pretty good idea of the things you’re into because you’re not exactly subtle about them.”
“I could say the same about you,” San-Kyung said.
“I’m proudly not subtle about my interests! And are you defending her against me!?”
“This only proves I’m more on the right path than you are, rival-boy,” La-Iin said. “But a group dedicated to fulfilling our individual interests does sound as if it could work out. I have my curiosities about my powers as well, and much as I hate to admit it you do know a lot about species study.”
“Why thank you!”
“I’m always happy to help San-Kyung, and of course I’d love to see my own interests fulfilled as well. I already have an idea, in fact, heh heh heh…”
“Now look what you’ve done,” San-Kyung sighed. “And I notice neither of you asked for my input on this trio of ours…”
“Well, what do you think, San-Kyung?”
“I think the idea of helping La-Iin with something she wants makes me sick. But I’ll give it a shot since I’m outnumbered.”
“You’re being awfully placating lately, San-Kyung. Show me more of your fire!”
San-Kyung struck his hand.
“I don’t think she meant it like that.”
“I know she didn’t.” He put out the fire. “I’m accepting of my own volition. If I didn’t agree with this idea I wouldn’t go along with it. I’m reluctant to help you because I know how you can be.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be. Not all my requests are going to inconvenience you. Besides, I’d prefer certain requests be done outside the prying eye of a certain Weresiren…”
“Don’t call me that in public.”
“And I think I’d prefer not to be around you when you act like that. Or alone with you at all.”
“But now that that’s settled, I have another problem. When in groups like these, it’s usually good to have a leader to decide most of our actions. You could say it should be San-Kyung, since he’s the one we both like. Or it could be rival-boy, because he suggested the idea of us all helping out. By that process of elimination, I think I should be the leader.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” San-Kyung said.
“Yeah, you just said we have more viable reasons to be the leader.”
“Exactly! I’m the only one who hasn’t contributed much yet. So I’m going to be the leader. We’ll do well under my guidance.”
“I’m not going along with that.”
La-Iin’s wings began to flap rapidly. “I bet if I said rival-boy should be the leader you would!”
“Even if you did I wouldn’t agree with that. I’d rather not be bossed around by someone. If the point of this stupid organization is to help each other with our goals then why does there need to be a leader? If there’s going to be a leader, I’m out of it. You and Dosa-Mina can enjoy your little duo from then on.”
“If you leave there won’t be any sort of organization. La-Iin can barely stand to be two seconds alone with me unless it has to do with you in some way.”
“He has a point, San-Kyung.” La-Iin sighed. “Fine, if it keeps you around then there will be no leader. Now that’s what I like to see from you, San-Kyung. We could use more of your suggestions!”
“I’m already not a big fan of this idea.”
“I know, but it’ll work out. Probably. At least you won’t have to worry about me and rival-boy arguing all the time.”
“I don’t believe for one second that you’ll stop arguing with Dosa-Mina. You take any chance you can get.”
La-IIn remained silent on that subject. “Should we give this trio a name?”
“Why are you putting so much thought into this, La-Iin? You know, we could just leave it at being a trio who works together to help each other achieve our own ends.”
“You wouldn’t understand, rival-boy.”
“Aw, come on, La-Iin, you’re so simple I doubt I couldn’t understand.”
La-Iin glared at him. “Er, well, of course, not like I’d want to.”
“You know, you and San-Kyung took a chance to be upset about his true form and whatever you’re upset about. I have my own problems that I don’t know if they’re going to end up going well or not, and I don’t want to act upset. My future is on the line. I’m the one who makes or breaks how this all goes.”
“Huh?”
“I just needed a distraction,” she said simply. “We don’t have to do this stupid trio. I don’t want to be in any sort of alliance with you anyway.”
“So you’re just going to turn your back on a chance to do something with me. That’s surprising.”
“Don’t put it like that, San-Kyung. I’m not turning my back on that chance. If you two still want to do the trio, that’s fine. But I’m saying we don’t have to.”
“I think it sounds fine,” Dosa-Mina said.
“I don’t care.”
La-Iin huffed. “Well, we’ll see what happens. But if this trio does happen, I propose we call ourselves “Dark Queen, Husband and Servant”. I’m going home now. See you soon.”
La-Iin walked off. Once she was out of earshot, the two began to speak again.
“If this trio really does happen, we’re not calling ourselves that.”
“That’s for certain.”

—–
“I almost forgot about San-Kyung’s car, now that I think about it,” La-Iin mused to herself.
“San-Kyung’s….what, now?”
“If this trio really does happen that should be one of the first things we do. See his car again. I’d love to ride in it…”

24.540.The Ability to Reach Out

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 540
“The Ability to Reach Out”

“In this case, you’d have to multiply this problem by three,” Ai-Reia told her. “And that’s the hardest I can help you with in this aspect of math. Anything harder and you’ll have to ask one of the twelfth-graders.”
“You’re so smart, Ai-Reia. I don’t think anyone could help me much as you.”
“That would be a lie. While I’m dubious on how smart Sanyaow is, I know for sure that Sherry’s grades are about my equal, and I have to do easier homework than she does. I think Molshei and Dslellular are fairly high up there as well, and they aren’t even in the twelfth grade yet.”
“Well, you’re the smartest one who is my friend,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “In-Dei is smart too but I don’t think even he could get this!”
“The average grade for this level of math is about tenth to eleventh,” she said. “Not to show off…now, is there something else you want to say? Break time should be just about over soon and I don’t want to chance getting in trouble. Sharing tips might not be against the rules but being out of your seat at class time certainly is!”
“Hm, I know.” Shuera-Kaizima blinked. “Actually, there is one more thing I wish to say to you, Ai-Reia.”
“What’s that?”
“Well, um…or, maybe I shouldn’t say it…”
“You’re welcome to say whatever you wish. Don’t hold back. If you’re worried it will upset me, don’t. I’m actually in a fairly good mood today and I think only La-Iin could bring it down. That or one of Ca-Miela’s massive diaper mishaps…”
“If you say so,” Shuera-Kaizima said, though she seemed uncertain about continuing on. “Well, even though you said you are okay, and everything that happened on the school trip was fine, it was pretty scary when you freaked out last Monday. And I am still worried you will do it again…maybe it sounds…irrational, but I do not want you to be upset like that again.”
Ai-Reia smiled. “Wanting that is not irrational. We’re friends, Kokohara. But trust me, I am a lot better now that I have you and Fyuori. I might have underlying problems but that’s a source of great healing for me.”
“Still…” Shuera-Kaizima’s ears shot up. From the hallway she could hear footsteps. “Er, we’ll have to go over this later, Ai-Reia.”
Ai-Reia shook her head. “Do not worry about me, Kokohara. I promise, I am fine.”

***

“Do you think we should try to talk with Ai-Reia again, In-Dei?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I’m really worried about her. She seems happy right now, but there are times I will be happy and then end up upset soon after. With Ai-Reia, when she gets upset, it can be much worse than just sad.”
“I’m worried about that too, but maybe she means it. Remember, when we talked to her last month, she was worried about befriending us because we won’t live as long as her, but she seems to have gotten over it by now. Maybe she does feel a bit better.”
“Or she could be hiding it…and isn’t it better to handle things before they get too bad? Do we just wait until she is upset again, or should we handle it while she is not? Would that simply upset her?” Shuera-Kaizima groaned. “I just want her to be okay…”
“I know you do, Shuera-Kaizima. I guess we could try. She might be more open to talking about these kinds of things while she’s not upset. But don’t keep pestering her about it. That might just make her more upset.”
“Do you want to ask her then, In-Dei? I worry I’ll just get desperate.”
Im-Dei shrugged. “I guess I can. But we should focus. I hear the science teacher.”

“Ai-Reia!”
Ai-Reia smiled. Im-Dei was walking up to her desk. “It isn’t often you and I talk between break times. Hello there, Fyuori.”
“Hello.”
“It’s strange to me. When I first came to Malicerie I got the impression that you were shy. But you barely seem it around me and Kokohara.”
“I am actually pretty shy,” he admitted. “But you see Elyshen talking just fine with Sanyaow. It’s like that. Also, I’m a lot more shy around girls than I am around boys…”
“Kokohara and I are girls, though. And I might be young, but Kokohara’s around your age.”
“I know she is, but it’s still the same kind of situation.” He shook his head. “Anyway, I wanted to ask you something. I know you’re happy right now and I like that you are. But I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk with me and Shuera-Kaizima now. We figured that maybe you’d do better getting your problems off your chest while you’re in a good mood than you would while you’re in a bad mood. But if you don’t want to, you don’t have to!”
Ai-Reia stared at him blankly, and Im-Dei felt certain she would refuse. “I don’t really want to talk about these sorts of things. I’ve been trying to put them out of my mind so they don’t come up. But I realize, my outlet for my feelings was destroyed recently. So I suppose you and Kokohara could be worth a shot as a new one. I just don’t want to upset you or her, nor do I want to think about these sorts of things. I’m in a happy period right now. I want to keep it that way for as long as possible.”
“Well, you do what you think is best. I’m sure you’ll come to the right conclusion.” Im-Dei lightly ruffled her hair. “If you want to talk to us you can come see us after class. But do what you think is right.”
As Im-Dei walked away, Ai-Reia was left with his words: “Do what you think is right.”
‘What would be right? Should I really unload all my concerns onto those two? They’ve been nothing but nice to me while I’ve been fighting them and showing them my darkest moments. But I have no outlet. They’re my only relief most of the time. They’re understanding–they might have a solution. But should I really do that to people who have treated me with so much kindness?’
Ai-Reia shuddered. ‘Not all my problems are so dark that I’d want to keep them from those two. Maybe telling them a little bit wouldn’t be too bad…’

***

After classes that day Ai-Reia had made her decision. She approached Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei and, by their expressions, she could tell they already knew what she had come there for. They walked out the classroom alongside the crowd but soon broke off from them and head into a weekend classroom.
Both of them stayed silent and sat down, staring at her with neutral expressions. Ai-Reia felt nervous, but she took a deep breath and began to speak.
“Well…this is sort of silly, but I’ve told you two about my situation with my family before. It feels as though things soured around the time my younger sister was born, that and around the time La-Iin would follow me around the school. Since then I’ve had some on-and-off troubles. Some months I’ll be on fine terms with my family. I’ve even started bonding with my younger sister, it’s just, I have difficulty dealing with babies, I suppose. Other times we barely talk to each other at all. As for La-Iin, I suppose she hasn’t been in my way much recently, but the times I’ve been at odds with her has only made those problems worse…
“In any event, I had hoped things would stabilize this year, but they haven’t really gotten better yet. I had started keeping a diary so that I could write down my problems, but my older sister found it and basically told the whole family about its contents. Now I think that they think I’m a ticking time bomb waiting for another one of those nervous breakdowns, and the fact that I had one at all probably just adds fuel to the fire.”
Ai-Reia began to tear up. ‘Damn it, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this…’ “I know these problems are silly, I just want to go back to being normal again. I half-wish I wasn’t a prodigy so none of this would have ever happened. I’d still be at home in diapers with Ca-Miela. Or if I hadn’t insisted to go to school, I might still be at home as well. I’m glad I met you two, really I am, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. But all the other things that have happened since I came to Malicerie, if I could, I would wish them away. …sorry to bother you two with these stupid problems.”
“You aren’t bothering us, Ai-Reia,” Shuera-Kaizima said. Im-Dei nodded. “Not at all.”
“Thank you.”
“I think you should try and show your family that you’ll be alright. If you keep hiding away from them and avoiding them, that might only make them think that you’re getting worse. Talk to them and show them you’re fine.”
“It’s okay to show when you’re not fine as well, though,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “They won’t think you are unstable if you cry because something bad happened. Well, they shouldn’t, at least!”
“Of course they’ll think you’re still upset if you avoid them as much as you can. And sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands. So try your best to set things right. …well, that’s all the advice I can offer.”
“I suppose it’s worth a shot. It can’t make things worse, in any event.” Ai-Reia hugged Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei. “Thank you two. I am so very grateful for your friendship.”
“We’re happy to have you as a friend, too!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
Ai-Reia let go of them and turned around. “See you tomorrow,” she said, then head out the Weekend classroom and went to join the sparse crowd heading home.

—–
“Reuf-Bu?”
Reuf-Bu glanced at Ai-Reia. “Yeah, sis? What’s up?”
“I know you’re a fairly grown Vampire and all, but would you mind doing some finger-painting with me?” Ai-Reia felt embarrassed just to suggest the idea. “I heard some of the other children around my grade talking about it, so I was curious–”
“Sure, why not? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather do a puzzle, though? That seems more your style.”
“A puzzle does sound nice. Maybe we could do that afterward.”
“You’ve got it, Ai-Reia.” He smiled. “Glad to see you asking to play with your big brother again.”
“I’m glad to ask,” she sighed. “Now let’s hurry before Ca-Miela starts screaming her head off!”
Just as they arrived in the playroom, they heard loud crying. “Too late.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it!” Their mother called. The two gave a sigh of relief and went back to setting up their craft.

19.535.The Weekend School Trip–Part 1

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

16.532.Persona of the Saras

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 532
“Persona of the Saras”

“Hey, La-Iin, I noticed you’ve been hanging out with Sara quite a bit.”
“Yes. Why? Are you getting jealous?”
Fer-Shi shook her head. “It’d take more than that to get me jealous.”
“You got jealous over a piece of paper once.”
Fer-Shi glanced away from her. “It just surprises me. You really seemed like you didn’t like her at first.”
“I told you already, she has something I want to know. It’s a mutual deal. I play with her, and she tells me what I want to know. Besides, you’ve been playing with Veiner a lot lately and I haven’t gotten on your case.”
“He’s a pretty creative boy!”
“I don’t care. I don’t find him interesting in the slightest.”
“It’s just strange to me. Though I guess if you can be friends with me, you can be friends with Sara.”
“Cahongyun!” La-Iin and Fer-Shi’s conversation was interrupted by Shuu-Kena’s voice. She ran up to La-Iin with a smile on her face.
“Cahongyun, I wanted to ask you something. How would you like to come over to my house tonight? I got permission from my parents yesterday and I thought you might like to meet them.”
“Hm?”
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to, but the offer’s there. Don’t worry, I won’t let them hurt you. I think they’d like you better than me, anyway…but yeah! If you want to come over, meet me after school!”
Shuu-Kena walked off after that, climbing onto the monkey bars.
“She’s inviting you to her house already? And what does she mean by she won’t let them hurt you? La-Iin, do you know?”
“I have a feeling I know, but I don’t think they’d hurt me, and even if they tried, I could overpower a family of Normals.”
“You’d be outnumbered, though…”
“It doesn’t matter. I have a lot more power than I used to, that and confidence. And I think I will accept Sara’s offer. That will give me a chance to see firsthand what it is I want to learn. Fer-Shi, tell Mama I’ll be coming home late!”
“Can’t you tell her yourself!?”
La-Iin shook her head. ‘This should be good.’
“You really are getting excited, La-Iin,” Fer-Shi sighed. “I guess you do like Sara.”
“She’s useful. And I feel like someone’s getting jealous again.”
“Wha–ohh, I guess I am…well, I just hope you have fun over at Sara’s house, okay? Make sure to tell me all about it!”
“I make no promises on that front, Fer-Shi. What I see there might be confidential. But probably not.”
Fer-Shi blinked. ‘I wonder if she’s part of some sort of detective family…’
“Sara looks busy and so does Veiner. Why don’t we play together and get rid of your jealousy?”
“Um, okay!”

***

As soon as school that day came to an end, La-Iin approached Shuu-Kena’s seat and the two head off together out of the school. La-Iin waved to Fer-Shi, who judging by her facial expression was still feeling slightly jealous.
La-Iin let Shuu-Kena lead the way to her house, curious about the path she was taking. It was not a path La-Iin remembered taking or seeing any other student take.
“Will your Mom be okay with this? Did you call her?”
“I’m having someone else call her for me. And I think she’s used to it. Why do you care? Would your Mama care?”
Shuu-Kena gave a sad smile. “No, I guess not. I’ll let you spend a lot of time with my family, but if you get bored of hanging around them, I could always show you my paintings. They’re not very good but they’re all I have.”
“Hm. Well, unless your family is nothing but evil failures I don’t think I’ll get bored of hanging around them.”
“Heh heh, probably not.”
The path to Shuu-Kena’s house seemed even darker than the path to Imagination’s graveyard, and La-Iin found the spooky atmosphere endearing. The neighborhood Shuu-Kena lived in was past a row of alleyways in a dark and small neighborhood; the house she led La-Iin to stood on its own, shaded by tall trees. It seemed like the type of house that would be seen as haunted, and it excited her.
Shuu-Kena opened the door and she and La-Iin were immediately greeted by two young girls.
“Hello there,” said one.
“You must be Shuu-Kena’s ‘friend’.” Said the other.
“She has the face of a psychopath.”
“I know. Endearing, isn’t it?”
“These are my little sisters Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo,” Shuu-Kena said. “This one is Kyu-Aseri, and that one is Kyu-Nhogo.”
“We can introduce ourselves,” said Kyu-Aseri.
“And we can be told apart easily,” said Kyu-Nhogo.
“I know. I just–”
“What is your name, newcomer?” Interrupted Kyu-Nhogo.
“Cahongyun La-Iin.”
“Ahh, Cahongyun. Aeness, are we?”
“No.”
“Hm, that’s strange. We must consult in Ther-Aoughin about this phenomena.” Kyu-Aseri waved. “We hope you have a terrible time at the Sara house, Cahongyun!”
The two young girls walked off.
“They like to overblow their evil,” Shuu-Kena said with a chuckle. La-Iin narrowed her eyes, then asked, “Who is Ther-Aoughin?”
“That’s my older brother. Speaking of, do you have any siblings, Cahongyun?”
“No, and I better not get any.”
“Huh? What do you mean by that?”
La-Iin looked away. “Show me someplace else.”
“Okay.”
All of the Sara house was decorated in a dark, gothic style, and it excited La-Iin further. Pictures of the family and violent scenes hung on the wall, and the house had little furniture and no electronics as far as La-Iin could see. All the windows were covered with dark red curtains; the only light was that which made it through the curtains and a dim one hanging in the living room.
Shuu-Kena led La-Iin into the kitchen, which was decorated a bit brighter than the rest of the house. Inside the kitchen Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo sat next to a boy who appeared to be only slightly older than San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina–La-Iin assumed he must be Ther-Aoughin. Chopping up a bloody piece of meat was a tall woman La-Iin assumed was their mother. The sight and scent of the blood made La-Iin’s mouth water.
“Hello, Mom. I’m home.”
“Hello,” her mother said dryly. She laid eyes on La-Iin. “Hello…a Vampire, hmm?”
“This is Cahongyun,” Shuu-Kena said. “She’s a classmate.”
“I was interested in meeting the family,” La-Iin said.
“I see….I also assume word gets out easy, hence your curiosity,” she said, glaring at Shuu-Kena. Shuu-Kena flinched away, then forced a smile. La-Iin gave her a curious glance.
“Mom, where is Dad?”
“Out doing his ‘job’….assuming all goes well, he’ll be back a little bit before dinner. Say, little fangster–I hear your kind like blood. How would you like a cup of some?”
La-Iin nodded wildly. Shuu-Kena’s mother grinned and poured the blood into a cup, handing it to La-Iin. La-Iin downed the blood so quickly that some of it splashed on her face. Shuu-Kena’s family, along with Shuu-Kena herself, watched in awe.
“Interesting…well, feel free to stay until dinner. Listen to yourself when it comes to leaving.”
“Though when we want you out,” piped in Ther-Aoughin, “you’ll know.”
Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo giggled.
“Why don’t we go to my room for now?”
“It’s our room too,” said Kyu-Aseri.
“I know. I’ll keep to my side of the room. Would you like to go there, Cahongyun?”
“There’s so much blood coming off that meat…”
Shuu-Kena’s mother glanced over her shoulder and smirked at La-Iin.
“There is, but there’s plenty of other blood and I bet you have better blood at home. Come on!”
La-Iin sighed as Shuu-Kena dragged her out the kitchen. She could overhear the starts of a conversation between Shuu-Kena’s siblings that seemed to be their predictions of who might die soon. La-Iin couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
“Why’d you drag me away?”
“I’m so sorry, Cahongyun. I just…I don’t usually get to have people over here, so my family was really…well, they try their hardest to seem evil in everything they do…and I worried that if you stayed there and kept drinking the blood from that meat they’d keep asking you to do things for them. And I guess I was a little embarrassed.”
“I came here for observation.”
“My room is perfect for that,” Shuu-Kena sighed. “Just look.”
The room was split apart by two sides that were painted slightly different shades of dark red. One had a bunk-bed and several violent decorations such as gory dolls, pictures of bleeding characters from animations, and books with VIOLENCE stamped as their genre. It would be a disturbing sight to most others, but it made La-Iin even more curious.
“That part of the room belongs to Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo,” Shuu-Kena said.
“They really like violence.”
“Too much. Like I said, my family really is evil, but they think if you’re evil it should be your whole personality. That’s something else I like about you, La-Iin. Even though you’re evil, there’s more to you than just that.”
“Evil is an important part of me.”
“I know.”
La-Iin glanced at Shuu-Kena’s part of the room. A stack of white canvas sat near a night desk. “Are those your paintings?”
Shuu-Kena nodded. “I like to paint a lot of things, the things I like, so I’ve painted nature and my family…I even painted you once.”
“What?”
“I haven’t finished it yet though, so don’t ask to see it! But I’ll show it to you when I’m finished. Really, La-Iin, even if you just wanted to see things about my family, I’m grateful you’re playing with me now.”
“It’s a mutual deal,” La-Iin said. Shuu-Kena nodded. “Well, if you want to see the rest of the house, so long as we’re careful we shouldn’t get in too much trouble.”
“I like getting in trouble.”
“You wouldn’t want to around my parents. When I get in trouble it’s horrible. Even though you’re evil, would you really want someone doing something evil to you?”
La-Iin pondered the idea for a moment. “I guess most of the time, no.”
As Shuu-Kena showed her around the house, La-Iin was able to see the extent of the Sara’s evil. Clippings of crime stories, pictures of violence and books filled with violence and tips for crimes, and dark colors were all around the house. Inside her brother Ther-Aoughin’s room, pictures of actual corpses abound, and even La-Iin found herself slightly put-off by the sight. Weapons could be found in some of the rooms, and in one rooms there was a radio, television and computer. La-Iin noticed the computer was on a page on how best to torture someone via poisoning without killing them.
“We got stuck with the wrong families,” La-Iin said.
“I don’t think so. I like my family for the most part. Don’t you like yours?”
La-Iin sighed. “I suppose so. I just wish mine was as evil as yours.”
“You don’t really. Er, well, I guess I don’t actually know, but they can be pretty annoying sometimes. I think even you might get annoyed by how hard they try. They try too hard, let me tell you.”
“But do they succeed?”
“Dad does sometimes,” she said. “We’ll have to wait until he comes back home this time, but–”
Shuu-Kena flinched at the sound of a large slam. Curious, La-Iin headed in the direction of the noise and noticed a police officer at the door. Shuu-Kena’s mother stood there, the expression on her face far more innocent than the one she had had on earlier.
“Are you Sara Hei-Yhunni?”
“Yes? What is it?” Even her tone of voice was far more innocent than earlier.
“We came to tell you that your husband has been arrested. Again. Miss, you need to keep tabs on what he’s doing. Who knows when his crimes will escalate from this into murder!”
“Now now, calm down. The woman’s already shocked enough that he got arrested again! Don’t worry, ma’am. He’ll be out soon enough.”
“I hope so…”
“I guess he failed,” Shuu-Kena whispered.
“What was he doing?”
“I think he said today he was going to set a small pipe bomb nearby some place called ‘Hledshess’….”
“Hm.”
The police officers left and Hei-Yhunni breathed a sigh of relief before stomping out of La-Iin’s line of sight. “Well, I guess you can’t talk to Dad today. But if you want, you can talk to the rest of my family before you go.”
“I will. But there’s one other thing I want to do first.”
“What?”
“Show me your paintings. I’m curious about some of them.”
Shuu-Kena’s mouth turned up in a wide smile. This time, La-Iin could tell it was genuine. She ran off towards her and her sisters’ rooms, and La-Iin followed close behind.

***

Dinner that night at the Saras, La-Iin could understand Shuu-Kena’s frustration.
“I always say that people who pardon others are failures at evil. You should be open to any kind of betrayal.”
“I’ll give my husband that he tries. And I bet he would take us out too if he found the inclination. We’re just too useful to him for that to happen.”
“Yeah, I’d rather die because of Papa than because of some weakling illness.”
“It’s so pathetic how some evil people will say that they have standards. The whole point of evil is to be negative of good. Good people are the ones who have standards!”
“See what I mean?” Shuu-Kena whispered.
“Yes.”
‘You all are just a bunch of try-hards!’ Thought La-Iin. ‘Only Sara’s Dami carries through with his evil, doesn’t he? The rest of them just sit here and talk. They’ll witness true evil when I rule the world…although I suppose they’re a good example of ‘how not to be evil’.’
Thinking that made La-Iin feel slightly embarrassed when herself, but when Ther-Aoughin mentioned that he too would rather be taken out by his father than natural causes, she felt slightly better.

—–
When La-Iin arrived home that night, Mit-Sun was glaring at her through narrowed eyes.
“Mama, I went over to…an acquaintance’s.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “I just wish you would have told me yourself, La-Iin. That’s all.”
“Fer-Shi told you, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she did.”
“Normally I might be mad at you, Mama, but tonight I’m not. I found out I could have a much worse family than having two goody-goodies as my parents.”
“Huh?”
‘How humiliating that I find Sara herself to be more tolerable than her family!’ Thought La-Iin. ‘But I’ll give her one thing. She’s surprisingly more open to better evil ideas than her family…’
The idea that the Saras felt better off being killed by each other made her cringe. ‘They claim we should have no sympathy yet look at them. Sniveling hypocritical fools!’

15.531.Mental Breakdown

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 531
“Mental Breakdown”

Ai-Reia felt as though she was once again on the path to despair.
She desperately wanted to write down her thoughts in her notebook, but she felt that Zih-Amo would get her hands on it again and read it and tell the whole family of its contents. She felt she could fix Ca-Miela, but for the effects to show it would take a while–and she had no idea if her influence on her baby sister would be vastly outweighed by the influence of her family.
Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei had also reached out to her as friends, but a constant reminder of their limited lifespan was always on her mind whenever she talked to them. It made ,any conversations she had with them unenjoyable, and in the end only served to depress her further when she arrived home from school.
There was no out. No matter how hard she tried, it would always find her. This was how it was even before she had encountered La-Iin. Nothing would ever go her way the way she wanted it to. Her family would never think of her in the same way they thought of her siblings. It was an endless loop that would never cease.
The idea of continuing on the way she was for hundreds of years was maddening. Living was becoming a chore, and she wasn’t quite sure what it was she wanted anymore.
If Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei somehow extended their lifespans, would that fix the problem?
If La-Iin died, would that fix the problem?
Would she recover once Ca-Miela grew up and proved her wrong?
Was it something with her family? Was she waiting for them to reach out to her?
Or was the only option her own death? Perhaps all along it had nothing to do with the fault of the world and it was just her, herself. Whatever monsters lie inside of her manifested themselves in the form of a violent dream, and if that and daydreams of La-Iin’s murder were capable of nagging at her, perhaps the truth was all along that there was no fix for her. It wasn’t as if
Maybe she really was insane, just as she was certain her family thought she was.
Whatever the case, Ai-Reia desperately wanted the night to be over. In the darkness she was left alone with her thoughts which had begun to barrage her with ideas that all along there was no cure to her sadness.

***

“Ai-Reia, aren’t you going to have breakfast?” Her mother asked.
“Hey, Ai-Reia, you don’t look so good. Get enough sleep last night?” Reuf-Bu asked.
“Ai-Reia, you okay? Your clothes are on backwards.” Zih-Amo asked.
Ai-Reia responded to none of them and head outside and on the path to Malicerie. The door opened behind her.
“Ai-Reia! You’re not ready for school yet! Come back inside!”
Her mother’s voice barely registered, but the angered tone hurt Ai-Reia. She continued on in a run, hoping to outrun the voice and make it to school.
Though her mother started to fly after her, she soon noticed that Ai-Reia was in a desperate run, going much faster than she had ever seen her daughter go. She was certain she could catch up with her, but she was momentarily stunned.
What could have happened to Ai-Reia to make her break out in that sort of run?
Ai-Reia continued on the path, her eyes bleary. She couldn’t tell with what, but either way, she continued on, occasionally tripping on the path there. She felt she could hear the sound of wings flapping behind her, but couldn’t tell if there was actually someone flying behind her or if she was just imagining it.
Something told her it was both. Ai-Reia continued on running.
The path to school was filled with students from all four classes as Ai-Reia dashed into the crowd.
“Is that girl okay?” A Class B student asked.
“She seems upset. Maybe we should do something.” Said one from Class C.
“Probably nervous that some boy’s gonna do something to her!” Said a student from Class A.
“Vampiris!” Shuera-Kaizima called. “Vampiris, are you okay?”
“Is everything alright?” Im-Dei asked.
When Ai-Reia closed in on them, the two noticed that her clothes were put on improperly; her shirt was on backwards and so her wings were underneath the fabric, and her skirt was not properly fastened and was slipping down. Her hair didn’t seem to be brushed and her normal wing hair clip was gone. Most notably to them, her face was streaked with tears and she seemed desperate to reach the school as if being pursued. While Shuera-Kaizima chased after her, Im-Dei checked the crowd to see if anyone was pursuing her, and noticed a Vampire woman flying above the crowd.
The woman spotted him and landed next to him.
“Excuse me,” she panted, “have you…did you see a Vampire girl running by?”
“I did.”
“Where did she go?”
“Into the school?”
“Thank you.”
Now on ground, she ran past the crowd. Im-Dei was confused, and hoped that the woman was Ai-Reia’s mother.
Ai-Reia scrambled into the classroom and into a random seat.
“What are you doing?” La-Iin asked as she walked by.
“Are you okay, Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia shrieked. She ducked under the seat.
“…okay…”
“I don’t think Vampiris is okay,” Fer-Shi said. “Did you notice she had her shirt on backwards? The wing-slots were in the front!”
La-Iin peeked under the desk. Ai-Reia was holding her head and shaking slightly.
‘This has nothing to do with her. It’s all because I’m a monster. There’s no escape. I wish I hadn’t been born with this stupid brain!’
“She seems messed up.”
“We should tell one of the faculty members!”
“Who? I don’t think the school faculty has anyone who deals with crazy people.”
“Well, I think anyone on the faculty would call her family to deal with this!” Fer-Shi dashed out the classroom, nearly crashing into other students who were heading in.
Ai-Reia’s strange behavior soon caught the attention of most of the Class D students, who peeked at her under the desk or watched from a distance. Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei remained at a distance, both looking horrified at the sight of their friend shaking under the desk.
“…go away…”
“No. This is too amusing.”
Ai-Reia’s eyes widened. She crawled out from under the desk and grabbed onto La-Iin’s shirt. She said nothing further, and La-Iin wondered if she should break from her grip before she reacted any further. The other students watched on in fear and curiosity, wondering what she might do to La-Iin next.
“You really are crazy,” La-Iin sighed. ‘It’s a shame. I could have used this to my advantage.’
Ai-Reia’s grip on her shirt became stronger, and La-Iin flinched, ready to break away, when a Vampire woman walked into the classroom, heading for Ai-Reia. She seemed oblivious to what she was doing and scooped her up, hugging her close.
“Ai-Reia, are you okay?” She asked. Ai-Reia didn’t respond. The woman blinked and looked at La-Iin. “Are you okay?”
La-Iin stared curiously at the Vampire woman, who seemed to lose interest in La-Iin’s response in favor of comforting Ai-Reia, who had started to sob.
While the students were distracted, Xhuzsha walked into the classroom and over to Ai-Reia’s mother. The two conversed for a short while before leaving the classroom. Fer-Shi ran over to La-Iin’s side.
“Did you get Xhuzsha?”
“Mm-hm. He sounded pretty worried when I told him about how she was acting. I hope she’s okay…”
La-Iin felt conflicted about Ai-Reia’s behavior. She chose not to dwell on it and head for her seat.

***

“I hesitate to say whether or not she had a mental breakdown, but it could be possible. Has Ai-Reia been under any particular stress lately, Mrs. Vampiris?”
“I don’t know…” She sighed. “She hasn’t been talking to us much lately…”
“Hm.” Xhuzsha glanced at Ai-Reia, who laid silent on the office’s bed. “We’ll let you take her home for today. I don’t think she’s in any condition to stay at school. I can’t claim to know her stressors and I am not a mental health professional, Mrs. Vampiris, but I did dabble in the subject before focusing on physical health. And even had I not I would recommend finding out if there is something wrong with her. With young children, especially Vampires, it can be hard to tell if it’s an actual mental illness or some other cause, but you should get her checked out regardless.”
Ai-Reia’s mother gave an absent nod. “We will, Mr. Xhuzsha.”
‘Just as I thought. It’s all a problem with me. They think I’m crazy.’
“Ai-Reia, are you okay?”
“Take her home, Mrs. Vampiris. She’ll be better off home than at school forcing herself to manage this.”
Her mother picked her up, waved to Xhuzsha, and left the room.
Ai-Reia couldn’t help but feel deeply embarrassed, and more depressed than she had been feeling just moments before.
‘Everyone witnessed that, didn’t they? Now there is no secret. Everyone knows I’m a monster. There’s no out. But no matter how much I prepared myself, I still wasn’t ready…’

—–
“Oh, the Principal wanted me to relay a message to the students of Class D–Miss Vampiris won’t be joining us for classes for a little while she recovers. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with her, but she will be staying home for a short while.”
“If Ai-Reia needs to recover from being crazy, then why don’t I get to?” La-Iin grumbled.
“You’re not crazy. And I don’t think Ai-Reia is either, but there’s definitely something wrong with her.”
“Huh. Say whatever you want, Fer-Shi. This is all overblown.”
“You should be more considerate, La-Iin. You wanted Ai-Reia to be your friend.”
“She proved to me that she doesn’t want that in a violent way. I don’t owe her my concern.”
La-Iin still felt conflicted as she left the classroom. Although she genuinely felt no sympathy for Ai-Reia, she did find herself slightly concerned about what had happened.

9.525.Shuu-Kena’s Reason

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 525
“Shuu-Kena’s Reason”

“I dare you to hang on the monkey bars upside-down with your panties showing!”
“I’m not going to do that!”
“So you’re not up to the challenge?”
“That’s just embarrassing, La-Iin. But something tells me you don’t care about that.”
“I don’t. But if you’re really so prissy as to reject my dare, then I have another one for you. How about instead you ask Veiner to fly you around the recess area? I’m sure he has the strength to hold you up.”
Cae-Bougen turned around and pointed at himself.
“Isn’t that kinda rude? He looks like he’s having a lot of fun with Shan-Zetsu.”
“Shan-Zetsu’s your friend though, isn’t he? Would you rather do this or the panty dare!?”
“This one! Geez, La-Iin, you can be so pushy sometimes! When I’m done with your dare, I’m gonna dare you the biggest dare of your life!”
La-Iin relaxed on the bench and smirked as Fer-Shi approached Cae-Bougen. The two seemed uncertain at first, but he soon wrapped his arms around her waist and began to fly off with her with relative ease. Seeing that sight made her feel just the slightest bit jealous that she didn’t share his strength.
‘But with my new power, I might,’ she reminded herself. ‘After all, they call the strength of a Minomix a power!’
“Wow, Cae-Bougen’s really strong!” Shuu-Kena said. La-Iin groaned. The young girl was sitting nearby her, though on the ground instead of on the bench.
“Do you always have to stalk me?”
“I’m not stalking you, Cahongyun.”
“That’s what you say, but I’m a stalking expert. I know when someone’s stalking me as well as I know how to stalk.”
“That’s a little weird.”
“Says you, goody-goody.”
“Hmm. Do I really annoy you that much, Cahongyun?”
“Yes, you do! I don’t want to be friends with you, Sara. I’ve said so already. Besides, I’m sure Veiner is going to let Fer-Shi down soon enough. I have someone to play with.”
She glanced back up at Fer-Shi and Cae-Bougen, who by now were both smiling as they flew above the recess area. La-Iin narrowed her eyes.
“It looks like they’re having lots of fun.”
“You know, I think Fer-Shi would like you. Why don’t you try befriending her, hm? Anything to get you to leave me alone. Unless you’re using me to get to Fer-Shi?”
“No, I’m not. I like Sanhuun too, but I get kind of shy around her. She’s so nice she probably has lots of friends.”
“You must not be looking hard enough.”
“But you really interest me. You made friends with two teenagers even though you’re younger than me. I could never do that. I have a hard time even making friends with people my own age.”
La-Iin rolled her eyes. “I made friends with one teenager.”
“Actually, Cahongyun, there’s one other thing that interests me about you aside from all that. You see, my family is evil, just like you. I’m kind of weird compared to them, because I’ve been told I’m more neutral. But my Dad has been arrested lots of times before. In fact, just at the end of last month he got out of jail.”
La-Iin gave a curious glance in her direction. “Is your family evil too, La-Iin? You’ve done a better job of not disappointing them then I have if so…”
“…” La-Iin was stunned. Of all she had been expecting Shuu-Kena to say, the admission that her family was evil came as a surprise.
“Your parents get arrested?”
“Them and my big brother. My sisters are still too little to get arrested, but they’re as evil as everyone else. My family wants to make Bledger scarier. They’re doing their best to make sure that people see Bledger as a place to fear. They want it to be that way so that nobody will come here, nobody will do anything about it, and they can make this the crime hub of Vaelyn. That’s what they said to me.” Shuu-Kena covered up her mouth. “Oops! I shouldn’t have said that! Please don’t tell them, Cahongyun. I’ll be in a lot of trouble if they find out!”
“I can’t tell them,” La-Iin reminded her. Shuu-Kena breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh yes, right.”
Cae-Bougen landed, and Fer-Shi ran over to La-Iin. “Now I’ve got a big dare for you! I want you to fly around the recess area until your wings are exhausted! That’ll show you!”
“What a mistake, Fer-Shi! Flying is one of my passions! You’ve only given me something to enjoy!” She spread her wings. “You have fun on the recess area, Fer-Shi. I won’t be coming back to play with you.”
“Don’t fly away from Malicerie! It can’t be too long before the last class!”
La-Iin flew above the recess area, then glanced below her. Shuu-Kena watched her with a smile. She flew closer to the ground and above Shuu-Kena.
“Tell me more about this evil family of yours, Sara. My curiosity has been piqued.”
Shuu-Kena’s eyes widened. “Well, my parents aren’t murderers, but they do as many bad things as possible. They believe that you should keep torturing people until the last moment. They made a rule that they would only kill old people because young people have so much potential for torment. My brother and sisters believe that too.”
“Hmm.”
“My parents commit a lot of crime, and my big brother does too. My sisters have this notebook where they keep a record of all of their ideas. They kind of think I’m a disappointment. They even gave me my name because they thought I was going to be a great force in their fight to make Bledger a crime hub. Maybe you don’t know this, but the name Shuu-Kena comes from two meanings. One meaning is water lily, but the other one is more like blood stream…but nobody uses that meaning except my parents.”
“Hm.”
“You know, you’re the first person I really got to talk to about this. Everyone else would try and arrest my parents, but I’m so scared of going to live with a new family, and I still love my family even though they’re evil. I don’t know if they love me, though. I would rather become a painter than do all those crimes, and I don’t really care if they do crimes so long as anyone isn’t too badly hurt, but they just seem kind of disappointed with me. If I was your daughter, do you think you’d be disappointed with me?”
“I am the wrong person to ask. Sara, living with an evil family perhaps you realize the whole reason I’m so curious is because I’m evil myself.”
“I figured. But it’s still all nice to talk about. I really do want to be your friend. You’re friends with Sanhuun, so I thought even if you’re evil, you might be okay with being friends with a failure like me.”
“Perhaps we can make a deal then.”
“Huh?”
“I’ll play with you in exchange for hearing about the doings of your family. I’m always interested in getting a different perspective. I want to hear about these things to see what works and what doesn’t. So maybe you can help me.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. “Okay then.”
“Tell me more!”
“Um, well, I think my little sisters killed a dog once, actually…”
La-Iin blinked. “I’m kind of scared that one day when I get older, they’ll find where my family lives and arrest all of us including me. Dad makes jail sound really scary. He says they don’t monitor the main jail as closely as they used to, so now the criminals are free to be really dangerous, but they still can’t escape because they use power suppressants on non-Normal criminals. I know a lot about jail. My Dad tells me and my sisters jail stories like bedtime stories. Does your family hear bedtime stories?”
‘She’s chatty about this. I wonder…’ “No.”
“Too bad. I was hoping you could tell me some.”
La-Iin opened her mouth to speak, only to notice a sharp pain in her wings. She landed and gasped, then walked back over to the bench.
“I saw you talking with Sara,” Fer-Shi said. “Are you two becoming friends? She seems like a weird choice. I thought you didn’t like her.”
“I don’t really. But she has some endearing qualities. And she has something I want, I figured out. You might like her too, but I think you’d like her for a different reason.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. So, you got tired before recess ended, huh?”
“I flapped my wings harder than I expected to, is all.”
“Mm-hm. Well, I think the last class is in a few minutes. Why don’t we head in early?”
“Because we’ll have to wait longer.”
From the recess area the students could hear the sound of many footsteps as classrooms were exchanged. “I think we won’t have to wait too long.”
La-Iin sighed. “Fine.”
As she and Fer-Shi head inside, Shuu-Kena smiled at her. La-Iin flashed a smirk back.

—–
“Sister, what are you painting?”
“Is it a painting of an enemy?”
“It’s a painting of my new friend at Malicerie,” Shuu-Kena said. Her sisters sighed.
“You would have thought a school called Malicerie would be more evil than that.”
“How disappointing.”
Shuu-Kena lowered her head, but when she looked at her crude painting of La-Iin, she felt a bit better. She continued to work on the painting as her family discussed at the dinner table what their next course of action should be.

8.524.Inspiration of Confidence

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 524
“Inspiration of Confidence”

La-Iin head out for school that day feeling as though there was something she had to do. She strode onto the path with confidence in her gait.
“Hi there, La-Iin!” Fer-Shi called. “Wow, you look confident today! Something good happen over the weekend?”
“Good has been happening for longer than that, Fer-Shi. But it’s not the goody-goody kind of good. It’s more of…a wonderfulness.”
“I figured that,” she chuckled.
“It’s not only that. I have something I know I need to do today. I’ve been stewing over it for a short while now, but I finally know how to do it.”
“Really? What is it?”
“You wouldn’t care, Fer-Shi, so I’m not going to tell you.”
“Oh, come on! You’ve told me plenty of things I don’t care about before, so why is this one different?”
La-Iin opened her mouth to respond when out the corner of her eye she caught sight of both San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina walking to school, their heads bowed slightly and their expressions somber as they had recently been. That sight only increased her determination further.
“It just is,” she said. Fer-Shi narrowed her eyes, but she didn’t push any further, and the two soon got into a conversation about a recent shopping trip Fer-Shi had been on, which La-Iin found immensely dull.

***

“Gee, La-Iin, you seemed pretty lost in thought all throughout class,” Fer-Shi said as the last class came to an end. “Taking studying seriously, or are you just thinking about that thing I’m not supposed to know about?”
La-Iin had still been lost in thought when Fer-Shi spoke, and she flinched slightly when she realized she was talking to her. “What do you think?”
“It’s that thing I’m not supposed to know about,” Fer-Shi sighed. “I wish you would tell me what it is, La-Iin. I might not be interested, but I’m your best friend! I tell you lots of things.”
“Best friends may trust each other quite a bit, but would best friends tell each other about their secret of pooping their pants if that happened? Would you tell me all about how you pooped in your panties?”
Fer-Shi gaped. “No!”
“So best friends don’t have to tell each other everything.”
Fer-Shi lowered her head. “I suppose not…”
“But since I can be a sap sometimes, I’ll make you a deal. If it succeeds, I’ll tell you all about my success. I prefer to dwell on success rather than failure anyway!”
La-Iin spread her wings. “You’re not supposed to fly in class,” Fei-Zhust said.
“Quiet, peon! I wasn’t going to.” Folding her wings to her back, La-Iin jumped off her desk, bit into her arm, then head over to the desks of San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina, who were just starting to stand up and head out the door. Before they could, La-Iin grabbed their hands and dragged them out the school as her transformation completed.
“What the hell!?”
“What’s all this about, La-Iin?”
“You’ll see.” She continued to drag the two boys across the school hallway, garnering the looks of mostly students from other classes–though she noticed that Deki-Tyunri and Airy-Aekok were both staring wide-eyed in her direction. She dragged them around until they were out of view of the crowd and the sound of students chattering was nothing more than a background din.
“Nobody told you you could do that!” San-Kyung spat.
“I don’t listen to what people tell me to or not to do, and neither should you,” she said, pointing at San-Kyung. “I have a very specific reason for dragging you boys out here today. Namely, the two of you lately have been utterly pathetic!
“What!?”
“What did you say!?”
La-Iin smirked. “That’s more like it, San-Kyung! You’re on the right track. Look, San-Kyung, you’re determined to get your true form back and rule the world with me at any cost. You have much more experience under your belt than me because of Hledshess and also, you’re sixteen and I’m just seven. So instead of wasting it moping around, instead of just sitting here wishing you could eat me so you could get your true form back–”
“You seriously have a lot of that messed up,” San-Kyung said, sounding disgusted.
“But you understand what I want to say, right? You should have a fire, a determination to do evil! If you’re evil but you mope around, you’re just a failure at evil as far as I’m concerned! When it comes to being evil, unlike with goody-goodies there’s more to it than just thinking certain people should die and wishing for the apocalypse. It’s actively taking steps towards making the world worse! You used to be doing that, yet you aren’t anymore! As the person who messed you up, I seek to fix you!”
Her gaze fell on Dosa-Mina. “And as for you. I don’t know what’s wrong with you, and I really don’t care.”
“Then why bother bringing me out here in the first place?”
“Look, whether I like it or not you’re San-Kyung’s best friend. And if you’re sad while he’s sad then what do you think is going to happen to him? You’re really annoying when you’re being a smart-ass, rival-boy, but I’ll take that over whatever this is any day. You’re just dragging San-Kyung further down with you into some….pit of sadness or something!”
“Um…”
“In short terms, the both of you need to shape up because you’re pissing me off!”
Silence reigned.
“…what.”
“That is one of the silliest things I’ve heard all day. What, it’s not ‘I love you, San-Kyung, so cheer up’ and ‘Cheer up for San-Kyung’? It’s ‘you’re pissing me off’?”
“It’s what you said too, rival-boy, but it’s also that you’re pissing me off.”
“…”
“You are possibly even more annoying than usual when you’re sad like this, and everyone else in class can see it. As for San-Kyung, it’s just not right. San-Kyung should be striking his hand and tangling vines, not sitting there looking depressed! San-Kyung, let me tell you this–if I can wield the power to possess any other species’ powers, then you can have your true form at all times!”
La-Iin was about to start her next sentence when vines sprout up from below her and quickly tied her up. She stared wide-eyed at San-Kyung.
“Is that what you meant by more confidence? Around you, La-Iin, it’s difficult to be depressed.”
La-Iin smiled. “That’s a good thing, then. Maybe we should spend more time together. I mean, after all, we are friends, and if you hang out with that depressio all the time you’ll only get even more depressed.”
“Depressio?” Dosa-Mina questioned.
“I might spend more time with you if you didn’t act the way you did.”
“At least I’m honest!” She huffed. “But if I could make you even a bit more happy or confident, that’s a good thing. The San-Kyung I truly love is always striving, never stopping! Take this from someone who had her own depressed moment–it will pass and soon once again you and I will be on the path to ruling the world!”
“Yeah right,” San-Kyung scoffed. “Come on, Dosa-Mina. She isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
“Don’t you think you should let her down?”
San-Kyung didn’t respond. La-Iin began to struggle against the vines, hoping they would loosen. She was surprised to see that in the middle of these struggles, San-Kyung had returned and was standing in front of her.
“One question. Were you in my house the other day?”
La-Iin’s smirk widened. “What makes you think I was?”
“Were you!?”
“That’s my secret. If rival-boy can have his, I can too.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. The vines around her tightened, and La-Iin began to feel lightheaded, but they just as suddenly unraveled and she fell to the ground.
“There’s no point to harming you. Useless or not, you’re still a….friend.” San-Kyung turned away from her. “Though, I think I might have just found a new use for you…”
“As a lover!?”
“In your dreams!” He yelled, before taking off. La-Iin smiled.
“I think I can chalk this mission up to a success!”

—–
“So La-Iin, do I get to know about your secret yet?”
“The mission was a success, so I guess so. I think I finally made it through to my future husband…he won’t be looking so sullen in class now, that’s for sure!”
Fer-Shi looked confused for a moment before her eyes widened and she cringed. “Suddenly I don’t really want to know what happened…”
La-Iin huffed. “I knew it.”

“Hey, sorry to have eavesdropped, but I overheard you say something about a new use for La-Iin. So that leaves me with two questions–one, what is it, and two, you didn’t already have a use? You were keeping her around why?”
“Second one first, I was too down to actually tell her to back off. That and I figured she would have a new use sooner or later. And now I think she does.”
“What?”
“La-Iin is an inspiration.”
Dosa-Mina shook his head. “I don’t mean it in some corny way like her little motivational speech. I mean how stupid she is. Her own stupid brand of evil gives me inspiration for how I could do similar but worse. Although I doubt she’s going to be much more use than that.”
“You know, you’d probably get the same effect not being friends with her too.”
“Well for now, it’s more convenient to leave things as they are.”
“If you say so.”