The La-Iin Series
“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.”
“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.”
‘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…’
“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.”
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?”
“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!”
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!”
“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?”
“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.
“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!”
“What is it, San-Kyung?”
“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.