28.636.And We Run Again

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 636
“And We Run Again”

“Hey, look, it’s Dslellular!”
La-Iin turned around. To her surprise, her classmates were right. Dosa-Mina was walking along the path to school with his head bowed. When San-Kyung noticed him, he ran to his side and said something to him that La-Iin couldn’t make out.
“I’m glad he’s not sick anymore,” Fer-Shi said. “But I wonder if he’ll be okay?”
‘I bet being sick was just a lie,’ La-Iin thought. ‘Maybe I should try that sometime. Or I would if I could get around Mama…’
As San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina walked past La-Iin, she overheard what they were talking about.
“The 28th Running Event is today. They told us about it on Friday. I would have told you about it then, but there was a lot happening that day.”
“I understand. It doesn’t really matter anyway. I don’t think I can do it.” Glancing at the other students, he added, “I don’t think I’ve completely gotten over that fever.”
“I’m just telling you.”
“The 28th Running Event is today?” Fer-Shi said.
“They said that on Friday. Were you not paying attention?”
Fer-Shi blushed. “I might have been half asleep…”
The students head for the back of the building. They were surprised to see a slightly more elaborate set up than in prior years. Most of the faculty was back there, setting things up and chatting among each other.
“Heyyy, students! Looks like you all got here at the same time! I’m surprised to see you, Class A. I thought the event was offensive because you need to run.”
“It still is,” a Class A student said. “But I happened to overhear about the special prize.”
“Oh…that…ahaha….” Sharai began to sweat.
“What’s the special prize?” Rini-Futo asked.
“You want to know? Well, the prizes we’ve given out the last years have always been something the top winners could decide, but they’ve always been simple objects, little prizes like chocolate and paper, but we thought we’d make it a little special this year. So this year, the first place winner of the 28th Running Event gets to pick something of their own decision. Nothing unreasonable is allowed, although I’m sure Class A is looking for a loophole…”
“I heard that!”
“Heh heh.”
“What about the other places?”
“They still have to pick simple items. It’d be too complicated and not very special if the other places could pick anything too, wouldn’t it?”
“You get to pick anything as a prize!?” La-Iin gasped.
“Wow, that sounds really cool! I bet I wouldn’t be able to win that, though. I’ve never won the running event.”
‘Think of what I could demand of them! That idiot Sharai mentioned something about loopholes. I wonder if there’s something I can use there!’
“Last year Lirako won the event…” Dosa-Mina sighed.
“Yeah, that’s right…”
“I really don’t have it in me to do it this year, San-Kyung.”
“Tell them that, then. But don’t worry. The event’s in September this year. So that means I have some extra strength to use. And I know just what I would ask for if I do manage to win…”
“The students certainly seem excited by your prize, Mr. Sharai,” the Principal said.
“What can I say? It’s a good prize. I can already imagine what I would ask for. Let’s just hope that Class A is as out of shape as the nurses make them sound so we don’t have to add all sorts of bathrooms!”
“I HEARD THAT!”
“No seriously, we’re screwed if they win.”
“I’m aware. But I don’t think it will be much of a problem. After all, your only rule was that the prize couldn’t be unreasonable. And really, what’s unreasonable is our determination, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it is!”
The students began to prepare for the race.
‘Think of all the prizes I could win!’ La-Iin thought. ‘It would be amazing. But then, first I have to win the race! Maybe there’s a way I can assist myself.’
She spotted Shuera-Kaizima dressing into exercise clothes nearby. Desperate, she bit down into her arm and sucked a small amount of her blood, only as much as she could before Shuera-Kaizima noticed her. After she had finished, she ran up to Ai-Reia and smeared blood on her teeth.
“What the–!?”
“Who did that!?” Shuera-Kaizima asked, scanning the area frantically. “Someone sucked my blood!”
“I’m pretty sure La-Iin did!” Ai-Reia said. Shuera-Kaizima stared at her blood-stained teeth.
“Are you certain you’re not getting blood cravings, Ai-Reia?”
“I’m not! Listen, Kokohara, La-Iin just…”
La-Iin started to stretch. When she spotted San-Kyung doing the same, she ran to his side.
“So rival-boy’s not running?”
“No.”
“Good. We all know the prize he’d want would be a kiss from you or something.”
“He takes those if he wants to. Why would he need to ask for it as a prize?”
“Who knows?”
“I know. But he’s not racing.”
“Why not?”
“He was just sick.”
“He was sick earlier this month. I never get sick that close together. In fact, I haven’t been sick once this year! …I think.”
San-Kyung sighed. Then, he stopped stretching and glared at La-Iin.
“What do you mean, he was sick earlier this month? How would you know that?”
“Um…”
“Alright, students, the race is about to start!”
“You obviously have something you need to confess.”
“Now what kind of evil person would I be if I confessed about my evil deeds?”
San-Kyung sighed. “Well, at least I know I won’t have to worry about fighting you for ruling the world.”
“What!?”
La-Iin had wanted to continue the banter, but the race started almost immediately afterwards, and she was determined to win the race no matter what.
She propelled herself forward with her wings, gaining a quick burst of speed and passing many other students, including San-Kyung and Lirako. She felt confident, and not long after it felt as though something within her had changed. As if she had more stamina, more ability to move faster. She continued to press on, quickly outpacing the others.
“Since when was La-Iin so fast?” Dosa-Mina said.
“It does seem odd,” said Wei-Men. He was checking Dosa-Mina over. “You seem to have made a full recovery. I’m glad.”
“…”
‘But what to do about his mental state?’ Wei-Men wondered.
La-Iin continued on at top speed, but some other students began to catch up with her, namely Catori students–though La-Iin didn’t notice Shuera-Kaizima among them–avian students, and San-Kyung. San-Kyung glared down at her, then started to run ahead of her. La-Iin broke into a faster run.
Even with San-Kyung keeping pace with her, La-Iin felt confident that she could still win, even if just by a hair. The sudden burst of stamina in her legs kept her going, and the flapping of her wings propelled her forward nicely. She could see the end of the course up ahead.
“This is an outrage!” She heard Class A students yell from a distance. She chuckled to herself; when she did, she spotted Xhen-Bei, who had gained on them.
“You’re not the only two who can go really fast!” He panted. He started to keep pace with San-Kyung, and both boys overtook La-Iin.
“Not fair!”
The end of the course was steadily approaching, and with it La-Iin’s determination was increasing. She didn’t feel fatigued, but her legs were throbbing and sending her slightly off-balance. With flashes of all the things she wanted going through her head, she decided to give it her all and go for one last burst of speed.
“And the winner of the 28th Running Event is…”
La-Iin took a deep breath and collapsed.
“MOLSHEI SAN-KYUNG!”
San-Kyung gasped. La-Iin looked up at him. He looked genuinely surprised.
“Damn, I really thought I got it there. Good jo–ah, er…never mind…” Xhen-Bei backed away from San-Kyung.
“So, Mr. Molshei! As the winner of the 28th Running Event, what do you want as your prize?” Sharai asked. The faculty crowded around him–and soon too did the students who had finished the race. San-Kyung looked uncomfortable, that and angry.
“Expel Sanyaow Lirako.”
“Ah…ahaha…sorry, Mr. Molshei, but we can’t do that,” Sharai said. “Limitations, you know?”
San-Kyung huffed. “Fine then. …”
“…”
“Well!?”
“Allow me to….no….” His gaze went past the students. “Sanyaow Lirako is not allowed to have contact with Dosa-Mina until he says so. I don’t care how you enforce this. This is what I want.”
“Huh? Why?”
“Anyone in the school could tell you she’s been harassing him lately.” San-Kyung said, his tone scathing.
Sharai seemed slightly confused, but he gave a shrug and said, “Well, I guess we can give you that…it’s kind of inconvenient, but it is reasonable, especially if what you say is the truth. Well, then! Sorry, Miss Sanyaow, but looks like you’re going to have to keep your distance from Mr. Dslellular!”
“I’d say myself too but I bet you’re sticking to a stupid ‘one prize’ rule,” he hissed.
“San-Kyung won…” La-Iin smiled. “It’s a disappointment, but at least I’m in third place!”
“Actually, you’re in nothing place,” Sharai said.
“What!?”
“We heard you sucked Miss Kokohara’s blood and used her speed to make it as far as you did. Voluntary use of powers is against the rules.”
La-Iin began to shake. Then she let out a wild scream. The students and faculty members flinched.

—–
“I hate that stupid 28th Running Event!”
“Aw, it’s just for fun. And it is good exercise. But you really shouldn’t have sucked Kokohara’s blood. Then you could have gotten a cool piece of chocolate!”
“I wouldn’t have made it that far without that stupid blood,” she grumbled. “Oh, but they’ll see. Come 2016, the 28th Running Event will be no more…”
“What makes you say that?”
La-Iin flinched. “Just a hunch.”
‘But if it’s up to me, I’ll make it a certainty!’

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13.621.Family Bonding

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 621
“Family Bonding”

Mit-Sun sighed as she hung up the phone.
“You sure have been making a lot of phone calls recently,” La-Iin said. “But your birthday is already over. So what’s the point?”
“I have other reasons to be making phone calls aside from it being my birthday, you know.”
“I know that. But why are you?”
“It’s not your business, La-Iin.”
La-Iin’s eyes narrowed. “…you wouldn’t happen to know Haner’s phone number, would you?”
“I do–” La-Iin hissed at her. “But I haven’t talked to him since my birthday, whether over the phone or in person. So quit being like that.”
“Hmph.”
“Anyway, what these phone calls are for is my business and not yours.”
“You always eavesdrop on my phone calls…”
“I don’t always, so calm down, alright? After all, this’ll be good payoff for…”
“For…?”
“It’s nothing,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Just get out of the kitchen, alright?”
La-Iin huffed. She left the kitchen, but as she did continuously glared over her shoulder at Mit-Sun, up until she crashed into a wall.

***

“What do you need to buy downtown now, Mama?”
“Why do you ask?”
“We mostly go downtown when you need to buy something. You’d better tell me. You woke me up before I was ready.”
“You wouldn’t be tired if you hadn’t stayed up all night singing Usl-Thaehey songs at the top of your lungs,” Mit-Sun said. La-Iin’s eyes widened and her face flushed. “That’s right, I heard you. Now, look up ahead.”
La-Iin bit back her retort for the time being and looked ahead, and the sight she saw made her gasp. Waiting in a group, waving to her, were several people she recognized.
Namely, Asul-Zenza, her grandparents, and Ei-Tio’s family.
“Wha–?”
“While you were so bound and determined to interrupt my phone calls yesterday, I was calling all of them out here,” she said. “It’s mostly Asul-Zenza’s family though. You have more family on my side, but they don’t live in Bledger.”
“Ah….”
“Mit-Sun, I think you broke La-Iin,” Asul-Zenza said. “How are we supposed to have a family outing if she’s in that state?”
“Snap out of it, La-Iin,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Anyway, it’s good to see all of you–er…”
The crowd was all smiles–almost. Asul-Zenza’s parents Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha were obviously glaring at her.
“Uh…”
“What is it, Mit-Sun?” Beht-Soh asked.
“Asul-Zenza, your parents–why are they glaring at me like that?”
“Oh, that, well…”
“We’re only here because of La-Iin, I hope you know,” Anil-Kosha said.
“If it weren’t for her, all the persuasion in the world wouldn’t have brought us out.” Verde-Nenda said. Mit-Sun grit her teeth. ‘Damn, I guess I can’t expect them to like me after I broke up with Asul-Zenza the way I did…’
“You two are amazing,” La-Iin sighed. Almost immediately Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha’s glares turned to warm smiles. Mit-Sun was dumbfounded.
“Let’s just get going, alright?” Mit-Sun said. The group nodded and they set out across downtown.

The size of their group caught the attention of some people downtown, but to Mit-Sun’s relief, it wasn’t enough to prompt people to walk up to them, at least not yet. Mit-Sun’s mind was more focused on another problem, that being that the Ghneckdo side of La-Iin’s family seemed to be taking up all her time.
“How has school been, La-Iin? I hear you’re in it already.” Verde-Nenda asked.
“It’s fine.”
“Seven years old and in school. Seems you have a prodigy on your hands!” Anil-Kosha said. Asul-Zenza smiled.
“Nobody ever calls me that.”
“They must be foolish, then.”
“I don’t want to be called the same thing as Ai-Reia.”
“‘Ai-Reia’?” Shi-Bara asked. “You mean like Vampiris Ai-Reia?”
“Yes. She goes to my school.”
“Vaelyn’s child prodigy!?” All her family suddenly seemed quite excited–even Asul-Zenza’s eyes widened a bit, though La-Iin could have sworn she had already told him. “You go to school with her!?”
“Yes? Who cares? She’s annoying.”
“It’s amazing, that’s all,” Anil-Kosha said. “I knew she had flown under the radar recently, but to think she went to our own granddaughter’s school…”
“Though it sounds like you two don’t get along, huh?” Jul-Ense asked.
“No. Unfortunately.”
‘Does that mean it’s Vampiris’ fault?’ That was the thought on a few of their minds.
Behind the chatter, Mit-Sun sighed.
“Is something wrong, Mit-Sun?”
“No, not really. After all, Ghneckdos make up most of La-Iin’s family, so it’s not really a surprise that they’re taking up all her time. I have to face facts that we Cahongyuns aren’t a big family, although we’re the ones who live closest to her.”
“It’s probably because of that, Mit-Sun. The Ghneckdos don’t live very close to La-Iin so of course they want to monopolize her time. You live with her and it’s not too out of my way to visit her, but it takes them quite a while even with that amazing wingspan.”
“I guess.”
“Though I admit I’m still surprised you invited Asul-Zenza,” he chuckled. “What made you do that?”
“I have a reason,” she sighed, “but I’d rather tell you later, away from this crowd. But don’t go thinking it’s anything like ‘wanting to get back together’. I still don’t like that guy.”
“I didn’t think so.”
“Big sister, you still drawin’?”
“Yes. But if I brought my drawings to downtown, it would have been a mistake. That’ll have to wait for a more personal visit.”
“Okay!”
“No matter how much closer you and I want to be to La-Iin, there is no denying her bias to Asul-Zenza and Ei-Tio,” Verde-Nenda said.
“I suppose there isn’t, but that’s alright. She doesn’t know us as well.”
Anil-Kosha glanced over her shoulder. “And you must be Mr. Cahongyun.”
“M-me? Yes, that’s right. I’m Cahongyun Beht-Soh, Mit-Sun’s father.”
“Nice to meet you, sir. I am Ghneckdo Verde-Nenda.”
“And I am Ghneckdo Anil-Kosha. We’re Asul-Zenza’s parents.”
“I figured. I can kind of see where he got some of his features.”
“You seem much more pleasant than your daughter,” Anil-Kosha said.
“Some people have said that to me before. But my wife used to tell me that I was a doormat, so I always thought people would find me annoying. You just have to give her a chance.”
“Maybe someday, seeing as she was kind enough to plan this outing, but it’ll have to wait for now. La-Iin is here, after all!”
Beht-Soh sighed. “Well, I did my best to put in a good word for you.”
“Thanks, Papa. But I really doubt those two are ever going to forgive me for breaking up with Asul-Zenza the way I did.”

“This is boring! I don’t want to keep walking around downtown like this. I want to do something more!”
La-Iin ran ahead of the crowd. “La-Iin! Does anyone see where she ran off to?”
“She just went up there, Mit-Sun,” Asul-Zenza said, pointing to the musical district. Mit-Sun sighed and chased after her.
“Harsh as she might be sometimes, you have to give her points for caring about her daughter,” Asul-Zenza said. Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha huffed.
“Wait, big sister!”
“Careful, Ei-Tio! The ground has straight cracks in it!”
“…straight cracks?” Beht-Soh questioned.
“We’ve learned to speak Ei-Tio,” Shi-Bara explained.
Mit-Sun and Ei-Tio caught up with La-Iin in the musical district, where she was dancing along to an Usl-Thaehey song that was playing.
“I could tell an Usl-Thaehey song from a mile away.”
Mit-Sun covered Ei-Tio’s ears. “Isn’t this song a little…racy?”
“Mama, come on. Ei-Tio won’t understand it. And she will someday, so who cares?”
“Can I dance too, big sister!?”
La-Iin nodded, and Ei-Tio began to do a wild dance next to her. Mit-Sun couldn’t help but chuckle at the odd sight.
Once the song had ended, Mit-Sun said, “Please don’t run ahead of the group like that.”
“I heard you saying you set up this group for me. I’ll do what I want.”
“La-Iin,” Mit-Sun forced through grit teeth, “Please.”
“I don’t accept pleases!” La-Iin screamed, running ahead of her once again–almost. This time she stopped in place before getting too far off.
“But I will accept food.”
“Fine, fine…”

Mit-Sun had quite seriously contemplated leaving downtown to take everyone to Sunday Daily, but she had decided against it after remembering her prior experience there. ‘Nobody is going to take that away from me. The day I go back I’ll be alone…or maybe I’ll take Papa with me.’
So she instead took them to a restaurant that was fairly out of sight.
“This seems slightly shady,” Asul-Zenza said.
“It was advertising international food. Why shouldn’t we give something non-Vaelis a chance?”
“I already have,” La-Iin said proudly.
“Wow! What is it?” Ei-Tio asked.
“It’s mincemeat pie,” Mit-Sun said before La-Iin could open her mouth. La-Iin glared. “And it happens to be her favorite food.”
“A Vaelis girl with the heart of a Shitosh one,” Verde-Nenda said, ruffling her hair. “How strange!”
“My dominion spreads far past Vaelyn and Shitosh,” La-Iin said. Most of the crowd was confused, but Asul-Zenza just sighed, and Mit-Sun groaned.

The restaurant was fairly tiny, and judging from the reactions of the staff, they had never gotten a group nine people strong. But it was soon evident that they were more than a little excited to serve the large group, though at ordering time there was a little trouble.
“What’s that say?” Ei-Tio asked Jul-Ense.
“Depoisonberry Soup.”
“An’ that?”
“Bloodsauce Spaghetti.”
“What about that!?”
“Stotche…you don’t want that, Ei-Tio.”
“Why not?”
The group sighed. Though Ei-Tio wasn’t the only problem.
“No mincemeat pie? And I only see bloodsauce spaghetti.”
“There are plenty of other blood-related meals on the list, La-Iin. Where are you looking?”
“You realize La-Iin’s reading isn’t perfect, right?”
“She’s lying to you!” La-Iin hissed.
“Do you want me to read the menu for you too, La-Iin?” Jul-Ense offered. La-Iin responded with a hiss.
It did take a while, but sooner or later the group had all ordered. Their food took a while, and most of the time spent waiting for it was used for La-Iin’s family to ask her questions.
“So La-Iin, you like to draw?”
“Yes.”
“What are your friends like?”
“They wouldn’t be my friends if they were bad. And I don’t mean evil.”
“Did you talk to the pumpkiny boy?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. Mit-Sun could tell she was getting quickly agitated.
“How about you tell them about wanting to rule the world?” Mit-Sun suggested. La-Iin looked downright offended.
“Those plans are private!”
Mit-Sun sighed. Thankfully enough, the food didn’t take much longer to arrive.
“I’ve always found middle eastern food very interesting,” Asul-Zenza said. “There’s a certain way they season it that makes it delicious. And I love their species-based foods.”
“I heard in the middle east they still cook people!” La-Iin said excitedly.
“Where!?”
“At school. But they only said one place…”
‘Why did she sound so excited about that!?’ Her family wondered.

After eating, the group began to wind down a bit, though it was obvious they still wanted to be out–and Mit-Sun would have agreed, for it felt like they hadn’t done much so far.
‘What can we do to really end this day off on a high note?’ She wondered. ‘Hm…’
“I want to go back to the music district.”
‘I guess that works.’
So Mit-Sun led the way to the music district, though La-Iin several times tried to take the lead from her.
“Why are we going here again?” Asul-Zenza asked.
“La-Iin asked. And anyway, there are some things that can be done there…namely burning all this food off.”
“Hm?”
“I think I know what she wants to do.”
La-Iin smirked. A song by Chehata-Merni had just gone off, and one by Usl-Thaehey had come on.

Day in, day out
Nothing’s ever good enough
Your expectations, set them too high
Keep on trudging, keep on trudging through
It’ll never be good enough for you

New things, old things
Put them all together now
Nothing’s working, better erase it all
And how you put up with yourself
Is something you never ever figured out

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and you wouldn’t give yourself a chance
To just let it go and let yourself f@%k up!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why aren’t you giving it your all!?

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

Day in, day out
Always trying harder
That’s what you tell yourslef
Even if it is a lie

Over, over, over and over again
You never tried doing things your own way!

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and now it’s not the same
The same as failure in your eyes!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why do you always just slap somethin’ together

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

All….

Remove the limiters, remove the feeling
Remove the expectations, remove the result
Thinkin’ in black-and-white
Keepin’ yourself up all night

I realized the errors of my ways
I’m givin’ you a chance to too
But if you choose to stay that way
I’ve only got one thing to say to YOU!

Ah, it’s never good enough!
It’s always never good enough!
You scream about this every night!

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and you wouldn’t give yourself a chance
To just let it go and let yourself f@%k up!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why aren’t you giving it your all!?

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

You live forever, that’s the inevitable fate of us all!

La-Iin started clapping lightly as the song went off. Her family was pleased.
“That was adorable,” Asul-Zenza said.
“You voiced my very same thoughts,” Beht-Soh laughed.
“It was a good exercise, though! That song is intense!” Verde-Nenda said.
“I’m not sure it was the best thing for Ei-Tio to listen to, though,” Jul-Ense said.
“Well, she wanted to. And now she’ll probably want to look around this part of downtown too, if I know my La-Iin.”
“I would be willing to do that. I don’t seem to have given this ‘Usl-Thaehey’ a fair chance. I was always much more intrigued by Sulaet-Defka.”
“Though even we are older than her, hah!”
As expected, La-Iin had taken the lead from her family, but she stopped in place when a new song started.
“Sweet Inevitable Death….” La-Iin smiled.
“She’s going to make us do it again,” Mit-Sun said.
“I’m up for it if she is!” Verde-Nenda said. And the group broke into dancing once more.
“Weirdos!” A Minomix man called out.

—–
After their dance session, La-Iin had introduced everyone in the group–save for her parents, that is–to Usl-Thaehey, to mostly positive but ultimately mixed reception.
“What do some of those words mean?” Ei-Tio had asked.
“La-Iin, I’m not as intense as Jul-Ense is when it comes to….keeping things secret from Ei-Tio, but I’m just not a big fan,” Shi-Bara said.
“Why should I care?”
After eating a large dinner and dancing, however, they were quite exhausted by the time night was high in the sky, and so decided to head back once they reached the front of downtown.
“Did I ever tell you I met Usl-Thaehey once?”
“WHAT!?”
“Actually twice!”
Though that story kept them from leaving when expected.

“Goodbye, La-Iin! We’ll hopefully be seeing you once more soon!” Verde-Nenda said.
“Bye-bye, big sister!” Ei-Tio said.
“Be seeing you, La-Iin. Remember, you’re always welcome to call me!” Asul-Zenza said.
Beht-Soh walked home with Mit-Sun and La-Iin. When La-Iin ran ahead of the two, he took his chance to speak.
“So what brought on the outing?”
Mit-Sun sighed. “I’m alright with La-Iin being evil. A non-evil La-Iin is a disturbing idea to me. But I don’t want her to ruin her life because of that. There are plenty of evil people who live respectable lives for the most part. And I doubt I can keep La-Iin out of trouble on my own. But if I can at least keep her caring for people, then I won’t think I did a completely horrible job.”
“I see.”
Mit-Sun smiled. “And so far, I don’t think I’ve done the worst.”

11.619.Mama’s Party

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 619
“Mama’s Party”

Mit-Sun started the day with a plan.
“Geez, am I crazy, or does it feel like Mrs. Eteibreit has been harder on us than usual?” Leirhyn sighed.
“She has seemed pretty snippy lately.”
“Wonder if something’s goin’ on with the hubbo?”
“I really doubt that. Although I guess it would make sense why she’s this irritable.” Mit-Sun sighed. “Hey, Leirhyn, would you like to come to my house today after work?”
“Huh? Sure, I guess! It’s been a while since I’ve been over. Is La-Iin bigger now?”
“Her wings are still as abnormal-sized as ever, but her body seems to be trying to even itself out a bit,” Mit-Sun chuckled. “Well, thanks. I’m looking forward to seeing you there!”
After talking to Leirhyn, Mit-Sun went over to Uil-Cur’s department and waited for him to finish his shift.
“Mrs. Eteibreit, please–o-oh, Mit-Sun?”
“Hi, Uil-Cur. Looks like Mrs. Eteibreit hasn’t been cutting you any slack either, huh?”
“No, I don’t think she’s been going easy on anyone lately,” he said. “What brings you to my department?”
“I wanted to know if you’d like to come over to my house today. I have plans and I’d love for you to be there.”
“Really? I’d love to, Mit-Sun.”
“Great! Oh, Leirhyn will be there too, hope you don’t mind.”
“No…no, I don’t.” Uil-Cur glanced away from her. Mit-Sun blinked in confusion. “I’d be happy to go, although is La-Iin going to be there?”
“Yeah. But I have a plan to keep her from starting trouble with you, so don’t worry. Well, I’m looking forward to seeing you!”
Uil-Cur nodded. Mit-Sun walked away from him and head for the entrance of Eteibreit Data Storage.

***

“Yeah. Thanks, Papa. Er, father. Hope you make it here early!” She hung up the phone, then almost immediately dialed another number.
“Who are you calling, Mama?”
Mit-Sun startled. “Nobody in particular.”
“Prank calls, Mama? Even I never thought of those. But using your own number seems like a bad idea.”
“It’s not prank calls,” Mit-Sun snapped. Before she could say anything further, someone picked up.
“Hello!”
“Oh, is this Miss Cahongyun? Hello! I thought I recognized the number, heh. What makes you call?”
“I wanted to ask if you three would like to come over to my house today. I figured Ei-Tio could see La-Iin, and you two could come over to relax.”
“Ei-Tio!?”
“Sure, we’d love to! Although you’ll have to wait a bit, we’re having a little trouble with Ei-Tio. Her hair got all matted up and brushing it out has been a nightmare! Jul-Ense’s been working on it for almost two hours!”
“Ooh, that doesn’t sound good.”
“He looks ready to start cursing. You know, I’ve always wondered if it’s some sort of Vampire gene that makes our hair grow ridiculously long. I’ve seen long hair on other species, but it feels like all the Vampires I meet have a ton of hair! Even Asul-Zenza has more hair than I see on people of other species.”
“I wonder,” she chuckled. “I’ve also seen a lot of pictures with Witches and Warlocks who have long hair though, so maybe Vampires aren’t alone.”
“Maybe. Ha ha. Anyway, sure, we’ll come over! See you soon then, Mit-Sun!”
“See you.” Mit-Sun hung up.
“Did you invite Ei-Tio over!?”
“Yes, Ei-Tio is coming over.”
“Why’d you invite her over?”
“You know what today is, right, La-Iin?”
“Yes. Your birthday. I remember because the date sounds perfect for a major evil event.”
“Uh-huh….anyway, I decided that this year, I wanted to spend some time with people. So I’m inviting Leirhyn–you should remember her, the woman who had the same first name as me?”
La-Iin shuddered.
“Uil-Cur–”
“You mean Haner. Not him,” she groaned.
“He’s my friend, and we did make up recently. Anyway. Ei-Tio and her family, my father and the Sanhuuns are also coming over.”
“Don’t you have other friends?”
“Well, Sale-Dessu seems a little shy. Also we haven’t exactly talked recently….”
‘That’s probably for the better,’ La-Iin thought, remembering Eul-Bok.
“And if you’re going to suggest Asul-Zenza, being on better terms does not make me consider him a friend again. That isn’t happening.”
“Huh!”
“You’re welcome to go off and play with Fer-Shi and Ei-Tio. I figure if we don’t get to spend time together during the day, we’ll have after everyone leaves to do that.”
“You’re going to kick everyone out?”
“Uil-Cur has work tomorrow, father is elderly, Ei-Tio is little, and if I remember correctly, Fer-Shi has somewhere to be tomorrow. They all shouldn’t be staying up too late. Leirhyn is a different story, but still, I don’t think it’s fair to kick everyone else out and keep her over.”
“They’ll probably leave on their own.”
“That’s true,” Mit-Sun said with a shrug. “Ah, but well, now we just wait. They’ll be here in time, and then I can get everything started.”
“It’s going to be a nightmare,” La-Iin sighed.
“Why do you say that?”
“Haner.”
“Oh, geez, La-Iin.”

***

After a short while, the guests gradually arrived.
“It’s good to see you in person again, Mit-Sun. It seems like lately we’ve been only talking over the phone.”
“Yeah. I hope you don’t mind, there will be a lot of other people over today.”
“I don’t mind!” Fer-Shi said. “I’ll just be with La-Iin, unless she wants to be with you instead?”
“No. As soon as stupid Haner arrives, I don’t want to be anywhere near her.”
“Haner? Who’s Haner?”
La-Iin opened her mouth to speak, but Mit-Sun interrupted her with “It’s a long story.” La-Iin glared at her.
“Well, I guess we’ll have to wait to find out!”
The next one to arrive was Leirhyn.
“Hi hi, Cahongyun! Oh, you don’t have the house all dolled up? Didn’t you mention something about inviting multiple people?”
“Did I mention that to you?”
“Even if you didn’t, I overheard you talking to Haner about it,” she said with a wink. “So, inviting him over too? You two are such good friends.”
“Yeah, we are. But that doesn’t diminish our friendship, don’t worry.”
Leirhyn giggled. “Aw, Mit-Sun!” She hugged her close.
Beht-Soh arrived next.
“It’s good to see you, Mit-Sun. When was the last time we spent one of your birthdays together?”
“Was it when La-Iin was a baby?”
“Oh yeah, that might’ve been it. I feel like I remember hearing crying. I’m not sure! Oh, but here.”
He handed her a silky dress. “I made that for you. I hope it came out good. I thought maybe you could wear it tonight, or maybe to some sort of formal event.”
“Thanks, Papa.” She examined the dress. “Nicely done! You’ve definitely improved a bit. Although, it’s a little…well…revealing, isn’t it?”
“It is?” He sighed. “Sorry, Mit-Sun.”
“No, don’t worry about it. It looks nice anyway. I think I’ll change into it now.”
Beht-Soh beamed. Mit-Sun head upstairs to change into the dress. Just as she had finished putting it on, she heard someone calling for her.
“What’s wrong?”
“Someone’s knocking at the door,” Beht-Soh said. “Another guest?”
“Oh!” She ran over to the door and nearly flung it open. Uil-Cur was standing there, his eyes wide. He opened his mouth to speak, but Mit-Sun noticed that his eyes glanced at her dress. He recoiled.
“What’s wrong?”
“I…I wasn’t expecting you to be wearing something like that,” he said.
“What, does it look bad?”
“No, it’s, um…”
“Revealing?”
Uil-Cur didn’t respond.
“Damn. Knew I should’ve put something on underneath it.”
“It is a nice dress, though,” he said. “What’s the occasion?”
“It’s my birthday today.”
Uil-Cur’s eyes widened once more; his expression steeled moments later. “Mit-Sun, do you mind if I go and do something quickly?”
“Um, I guess not?”
Uil-Cur flew off. Mit-Sun stared down at her dress. “Well, I suppose I had better change out of this. Or at least put something under it…”

Shi-Bara, Jul-Ense, and Ei-Tio arrived moments after Uil-Cur’s sudden departure; soon after that, Uil-Cur returned with a small cake.
“How did you know I like tea cake?”
“A lucky guess,” he admitted. “But I’m glad.”
The amount of people in the tiny house was overwhelming to La-Iin, so she beckoned to Fer-Shi and Ei-Tio and head upstairs. As the chatter died down, her head began to clear and she gave a sigh of relief.
“There sure are a lot of people in your house right now.”
“Big sister, who’s this?” Ei-Tio asked, pointing to Fer-Shi.
“She’s Fer-Shi. A friend of mine.”
“Hi, Fer-Shi! I’m Ei-Tio!”
“Hi, Ei-Tio! I’ve heard about you before! So, you call La-Iin big sister?”
Ei-Tio nodded. “Me an’ big sister aren’t sisters, but to me we are!”
Fer-Shi giggled. “Well, you’d certainly be contrasting sisters. Oh, hey, La-Iin? Which one of those people was Haner?”
“The stupid Siren guy.”
“Oh. Pureblood male Sirens are pretty rare, aren’t they?”
“Who cares? I’m not looking forward to what goes on down there. I’m looking forward to what might happen soon.”
“What’s gonna happen, big sister?”
La-Iin smirked. “I just had an idea of a little ‘surprise’ I could give Mama. With all the people in the way, doing anything for her would be impossible. And I don’t care about doing anything special for her since I had a good birthday this year, but I figured I might as well give her a surprise.”
“What kind of surprise is it?” Fer-Shi asked.
“It’s better if you hear it for yourself.”
“Hear it?” Fer-Shi and Ei-Tio asked in unison. La-Iin chuckled and dashed into her room.
Downstairs, though the kitchen was crowded, people were enjoying themselves.
“Mit-Sun, who is this man?” Beht-Soh asked.
“This is Haner Uil-Cur. Uil-Cur, this is my father.”
“Your father?” Uil-Cur smiled and bowed. “A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Cahongyun. I am Haner Uil-Cur. A coworker and friend of your daughter’s.”
“Oh, really? Nice to meet you. Is it bad if for a moment there I thought he was your new boyfriend?”
“I think I would have told you already if that were the case, Father.”
“I guess so.”
“Ahaha…ha…” Uil-Cur glanced away from the two.
“So you two are the parents of that little Vampire girl who walked by here?”
“Yes! I’m Ghneckdo Shi-Bara.”
“And I’m Ghneckdo Jul-Ense.”
“That was our daughter Ei-Tio. La-Iin’s become like a big sister to her, so we and Mit-Sun have stayed in touch. We became friends through our daughters, but we’re not the closest.”
“That’s why I was so surprised when Shi-Bara told me she invited us over.”
“We met through our daughters too,” Den-Matsu said. “Small world, huh?”
“Not really, but it does feel like that sometimes, huh?”
“How can you guys say that? I get that the world is big, but not only did you two meet through your daughters, she invited me!”
The Ghneckdos and Sanhuuns startled when Leirhyn popped up next to them. “Um–and who might you be?”
“Leirhyn Mit-Sun!”
Their eyes widened.
“Wow, it’s very crowded in here,” Beht-Soh said.
“It is, but that’s just because our kitchen isn’t used to having eight people in it,” she chuckled. “But I guess we should actually do something, huh? Is anyone hungry?”
“I am, a little,” Uil-Cur admitted. A few others raised their hands.
“Well, I guess we could eat dinner now. I don’t really have much of a plan of what to do today, sorry…I’m just happy to be here with all of you and be able to talk to all of you.”
“That’s fine!” Shi-Bara said.
“Not a problem,” Beht-Soh said.
“That’s cool!” Leirhyn said.
Mit-Sun nodded and went to the fridge to retrieve dinner. “Oh, can one of you get the girls? I think they went upstairs.”
“I’ll go,” Tei-Sheu offered. Den-Matsu followed behind her.
Mit-Sun retrieved the dinners and put them on the table. In the midst of setting them down, she heard a knock at the door.
“Is there another guest, Mit-Sun?” Uil-Cur asked.
“Not that I know of. I wonder what that’s for?”
She went to answer the door, but startled when she heard a shriek from outside. Once it died down, she opened the door.
She caught sight of Asul-Zenza, Eteibreit holding tight to him and looking furious. Her tail was lashing, her wings were flapping, and her claws were out. Mit-Sun had no idea what to make of the sight.
“Finally, you’ve come to the door!” Eteibreit snapped. She got off of Asul-Zenza, who rubbed at his injuries.
“Why did you pounce me?” He asked.
“I’m frustrated and you were the first target.”
“What the hell are you two doing here!? I didn’t invite you!”
“La-Iin told me you wanted me to come to your birthday party,” Asul-Zenza said.
“I came here of my own volition. Don’t think I didn’t overhear what you were talking about at work.”
“Neither of you were invited!”
“Why did La-Iin tell me I was, then?”
“You know how La-Iin is! Do you honestly think I’d want you at my party!?”
“That’s awfully harsh to be to the father of your child,” Eteibreit said.
Mit-Sun let out a frustrated yell. “Are you two going to go away?”
“I’ll go away, if you want your pay docked.”
“What even benefits you to be here!?”
“Oh, I would have left if you had asked me nicely. I was just curious as to why I wasn’t invited, is all. But I don’t like being treated like shit by a sub-par worker.”
Mit-Sun gaped.
“I understand if you don’t want me here, Mit-Sun. I can go.”
“Never mind,” she sighed. “If Mrs. Eteibreit’s staying, you might as well stay too. But I’m going to cut a deal with you two. You’re only staying for dinner. Anything more than that and there’ll be problems.”
“Funny you’re the one saying that,” Eteibreit said.
Mit-Sun turned around to head back to the kitchen when she spotted La-Iin, Fer-Shi and Ei-Tio close behind her. La-Iin was failing to suppress her laughter.
‘Oh, you aren’t going to get away with this.’

Dinner was almost nightmarish to Mit-Sun–mostly due to Asul-Zenza and Eteibreit’s presence, but the amount of people at the table was also confusing to her. La-Iin and Beht-Soh sat closest to her, and both of them seemed to notice her confusion–though their feelings on it were obviously different, as Beht-Soh looked concerned while La-Iin was still struggling to hold back laughter.
“This is a good dinner, Mit-Sun,” Asul-Zenza said.
“Yeah, thanks.” Mit-Sun said dryly.
“It’s sub-par, at least,” Eteibreit said.
“Thanks for the compliment.”
“I think it’s pretty good, Miss Cahongyun!” Fer-Shi said. Mit-Sun smiled. “Thanks, Fer-Shi.”
“It’s better than the poop you usually make,” La-Iin said. Mit-Sun’s eye twitched. “And I’m only saying it that way for your sake.”
“How nice of you,” Mit-Sun said.
“So–Ghneckdo, was it?” Uil-Cur asked.
“Are you talking to me?” Asked Asul-Zenza, Shi-Bara and Jul-Ense. Uil-Cur motioned to Asul-Zenza.
“Oh, yes, what did you need?”
“So, you’re La-Iin’s father?”
“Yes, I am. Or more properly, her Dami,” he said cheerfully. “I don’t come by Bledger often, but whenever I do, it’s usually for her.”
“I see.”
“Why do you ask? Hasn’t Mit-Sun told you about me?”
“I don’t go talking about things like that to everyone I meet, I hope you know,” Mit-Sun said.
“I didn’t figure. But I was wondering. I’ve heard of you before after all, Haner, is it?”
“Me? How?”
“La-Iin told me about you.”
“La-Iin?” Uil-Cur seemed to break into a cold sweat–at least it seemed it should be that way to Mit-Sun. “Ahaha, what a sweet girl…”
“I’d love to converse more with you about this subject, but I highly doubt the dinner table is appropriate for things like this. Especially considering Ei-Tio is here.”
Ei-Tio didn’t seem to notice even when her name was brought up; she was focused on her food.
“It’s really good!” She said. Mit-Sun smiled. “Thank you, Ei-Tio. At least some people are grateful.”
“I was one of the grateful ones and you didn’t care!” Asul-Zenza said.
“Yeah, because I didn’t need you to be grateful.”
“You know,” Tei-Sheu whispered, “they do seem to be pretty close. I wonder why they broke up?”
“I think it’s just playful banter, Tei-Sheu,” Den-Matsu said. Tei-Sheu blushed and went back to eating.

“Alright, dinner’s over. You two remember the deal.”
“What, we aren’t allowed to stay for cake?” Asul-Zenza said.
“Hm.” Eteibreit seemed more concerned with cleaning the fur around her mouth.
“My intention wasn’t to let you two stay this long. Dinner hasn’t even just ended. You two took advantage.”
“Aw, it’s got more of a party feel with them here though!” Leirhyn said. “Oh, but it is your party, so you’re in charge.”
Mit-Sun sighed.
“I’m willing to go, but first I’d like to give you this.”
Asul-Zenza handed her a small box. Mit-Sun opened it. “What’s this for?”
“I don’t know how many pictures you’ve been taking of La-Iin, but I figured you might need a new photo album sooner or later.”
“Huh…”
“Actually, we have a little something for you too,” Shi-Bara said.
Mit-Sun’s eyes widened. After Asul-Zenza’s gift, Shi-Bara and Jul-Ense set down a present, followed by Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu. Even Fer-Shi and Ei-Tio put presents on the table.
“I don’t have anything for you, though,” Eteibreit said.
“I figured. But, wow! I don’t need all this, you guys. I was just happy having you over.”
“Aw, come on, Mit-Sun. You’ve been a good friend to us over the years.” Tei-Sheu said.
“And we might not be the closest, but you were really consoling a month and so ago,” Shi-Bara said.
“An’ you take good care of big sister!” Ei-Tio said.
“Don’t go making assumptions, Ei-Tio.”
“You’re really nice to me, Miss Cahongyun. I just had to make you a little something!” Fer-Shi said.
“You might treat me poorly, but at least La-Iin isn’t suffering.” Asul-Zenza said.
“Why are you all praising Mama? You must be crazy.”
“Looks like you have a lot of friends, Mit-Sun,” Beht-Soh said. “I’m glad. You really do deserve it.”
Mit-Sun’s face flushed slightly. “Thanks, everyone. It’s been a good day.”

Despite her earlier reservations, Mit-Sun allowed Asul-Zenza and Eteibreit to stay for the cake. Though some people had to take smaller slices due to the extra two attendants–the small slices of which went to them and the children–the cake was still enjoyed by all.
Except for Jul-Ense and La-Iin, in any event. Mit-Sun noticed that La-Iin was scraping off the frosting and that Jul-Ense’s nose was wrinkling as he ate the cake.
But it was enjoyable all the same. ‘I really am loved.’

—–
“I’ll be seeing you on Monday,” Eteibreit said.
“We hope we’ll see you again soon!” Shi-Bara said.
“See you soon, Miss Cahongyun!” Fer-Shi said.
“Stay safe, Mit-Sun.” Asul-Zenza said.
“Asul-Zenza makes a good point. Talk to me again soon though, okay?” Beht-Soh said.
“Happy thirty-six, Mit-Sun. I’ll see you Tuesday.” Uil-Cur said.
“See ya, Cahongyun! We’ve gotta get in touch again soon.”
Once everyone was gone, Mit-Sun relaxed on the couch. La-Iin joined her.
“I don’t appreciate you inviting Asul-Zenza over, you know.”
“He made the party more fun.”
“What, it wasn’t fun with father and Fer-Shi and Ei-Tio?”
“Haner reduces the quality of any party by a significant amount.”
Mit-Sun rolled her eyes.
“Was it a good birthday?”
“Yes, it was.”
“Damn.”
“La-Iin…”
“No, that’s fine. I guess it’s fine if you have a good birthday. Oh, by the way.”
La-Iin handed her a picture. Mit-Sun was surrounded by the attendants of the party–most of them, anyway. “Me and Fer-Shi took this picture while you weren’t looking. She said I should give you something.”
“Thanks, La-Iin.”
“Thank Fer-Shi. I need no thanks. Happy old-day, Mama.”
“Geez, La-Iin…” Still, Mit-Sun couldn’t stop her smile.

8.585.To Repair the Prior Year

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 585
“To Repair the Prior Year”

Memories flashed in Ai-Reia’s mind.
“GYAAAAH! CA-MIELA!”
“How what goes!? You could’ve killed Ca-Miela!”

As the minutes passed before her birthday, all she could remember was the prior year and how horrible it had been. She had a slight concern that her eighth birthday would be every bit as bad as her seventh, but for a different reason: her family either becoming concerned that she would harm Ca-Miela again, or becoming concerned about keeping her happy to the point that it was stifling.
It was hard for her to look forward to her birthday under those conditions, but the idea of having a day that miserable made her sick. So instead, she formulated a plan.
‘As long as I pretend to be happy, they won’t have any reason to believe that they need to coddle me or that I’m going to harm Ca-Miela again. And who knows, perhaps if I pretend to be happy, I actually will become happy. I feel it–that is the only way I will have any sort of true happiness tomorrow…’

***

Reuf-Bu’s bedroom door opened with a loud creak. Ai-Reia flinched, but her brother showed no signs of waking up. Cautiously, she walked over to him and began to shake him lightly.
“Reuf-Bu. Reuf-Bu.”
“Mmngh…no, no, I don’t wanna tell my parents about Cais-Elle yet, heh heh…”
‘Cais-Elle? Wasn’t that girl a classmate of his?’ The detail wasn’t all that important, so she went back to gently shaking Reuf-Bu. He groaned again and opened his eyes.
“Cais-Elle? Wait…you aren’t Cais-Elle…”
“Honestly, Reuf-Bu! You can’t tell the difference between me and some school fancy?”
Reuf-Bu sat up abruptly, his eyes wide as if he had just drunk a large pot of coffee. “I–I don’t have a school fancy with Cais-Elle!”
“Hm.”
Reuf-Bu stiffened. “Ergh–I mean–yeeees, what do you need, birthday girl?”
“Oh, so you remembered?” Ai-Reia tried to make her face light up. Reuf-Bu’s expression gave her no indication of whether or not she had succeeded. “I was lonely because nobody else had woken up yet, so I figured of everyone in the house you would be the most likely to pay attention to me if I woke you up. I would like to do a puzzle with you!”
“Of course you would. It feels like with you and me, it’s nothing but puzzles…”
“Is a thousand and eighty pieces too much?”
“A thousand and eighty–!” Reuf-Bu gasped. “Ai-Reia, what is this!? Is this some sort of portrait of a major historical figure or something!?”
“It’s a large picture of cartoon depictions of the countries in the world.”
“Ah…ahaha, I guess you are still a little kid….but geez…a thousand and eighty pieces!? Seriously, what the hell!?”
Ai-Reia covered her mouth. Reuf-Bu sighed. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s fine. I curse myself from time to time, but I keep most of those locked away inside my head instead of letting them cross my lips.”
“Acting high and mighty, aren’t we?”
“I’d usually take offense to what you said, but I can’t find it in myself to care right now. Really, I do want to do a puzzle with you, Reuf-Bu. After all, you mistook me for Cais-Elle…I might have to ask Mother and Father just who she is for you to have mistaken me for her…”
Reuf-Bu flinched. “Now you’re just being a sadist!”
“What’s a sadist?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Ai-Reia. I know you know what a sadist is.” He stretched, yawned, and hopped out of bed. “Fine, I’ll do the puzzle with you, but you have to wait for me to get ready first.”
“I can wait. I’ll be in the living room scrambling the pieces!”
Ai-Reia dashed out the room. ‘Geez, she’s energetic today. Why does something feel a little off about that?’

When Reuf-Bu had come out to do the puzzle, he had a larger reaction to the number of pieces, and Ai-Reia couldn’t suppress a giggle. Nevertheless, they ended up putting together most of the pieces in a shorter amount of time than both of them expected–mostly thanks to Ai-Reia, though Reuf-Bu placed quite a few pieces.
“I think you’re getting the hang of going against me in a puzzle battle, Reuf-Bu,” she said.
“Puzzle battle!? Since when was this anything like that?”
“Since today. Eight is an age of change, you know.”
“What I know is that most eight-year-old Vampires I’ve known are still using the potty, contrary to what you’re doing.”
“It just proves that with an advanced brain, you can overcome any physical shortcoming.”
“Okay, you’re really being obnoxious today. This isn’t indicative of how you’re going to be throughout all of eight, is it?”
Ai-Reia chuckled. “Of course not. Don’t worry about it, brother. I’m only forcing you because today is my birthday.” She cracked a smile at him; when she opened her eyes, she spotted a yawning Zih-Amo walking past them.
“Hello, Zih-Amo! Good morning!”
“Oh….good morning, Ai-Reia,” she said. “Happy birthday.”
“Thank you. Oh, oh, Zih-Amo! I wanted to ask you if we could do something.”
“Hm?”
“Me and Reuf-Bu are doing a puzzle right now, but I thought maybe after that, you and I might do a little flying around? I would really like that.”
“Usually you don’t,” Zih-Amo said. “What changed?”
“She’s claiming eight means everything is changing for her,” Reuf-Bu said.
“Well, it sounds fun right now. You can wake up a bit more first, though. Me and Reuf-Bu still have to finish this puzzle.”
“Oh, okay. Still, that is pretty strange.”
“No, no, Reuf-Bu, that piece goes here! What are you, colorblind?”
“Yep, something tells me your terrible twos were moved up to eight.”

“Woohoo!”
Ai-Reia gave shrieks of delight as Zih-Amo, holding her tight to her chest, flew above their house in arcs and swirls. Zih-Amo was becoming dizzy spinning around so much, and it astounded her that Ai-Reia didn’t seem dizzy in the slightest. She was happy to see her sister with a smile on her face, but something about it unsettled her.
‘I guess I just can’t forget what her diary said…’
“Zih-Amo, you’re slowing down!” Ai-Reia snapped.
“S-sorry, Ai-Reia! Ohh, now you’re gonna pay! We’re gonna do a mega loop-de-loop now!” She began to do a backwards cascading loop. Ai-Reia shrieked in delight, while for Zih-Amo it took all her fortitude to keep herself from vomiting.
“Playing with Ai-Reia, Zih-Amo?”
Their parents voices distracting her, Zih-Amo only narrowly finished her backwards cascading loop before landing slowly on the ground and falling over, the world spinning around her. Ai-Reia ran up to her parents with a smile.
“Mother, Father! Do you two have free time right now?”
“Well, nobody else is asking for our attention, and your father has the day off, so I suppose we do,” her mother said. “Why?”
“I’d like to make some birthday treats for everyone in the house. My birthday is of course mostly for my enjoyment, but I think all the rest of you should enjoy it too!”
Her parents glanced at each other and smiled. “Sure, Ai-Reia. We’d be glad to help you with that.”
“Especially considering we don’t want you to hurt yourself…”
Ai-Reia’s expression fell briefly before she broke out into another wide smile. “Thank you!”
Though they were pleased with their daughter’s sudden cheerfulness, that brief moment where she had shown them a frown made them feel slightly uneasy, and that feeling continued as they followed Ai-Reia into the house.

Ai-Reia hummed a tune as she cut dough into shapes and mixed together a filling made of blood, marshmallows and frosting. She seemed cheerful as she stuffed the dough with the filling, some even to the point where the filling leaked slightly out the opening in the dough. She seemed to want to make each shape unique, and so did things such as etch in a small crack in one heart-shaped piece and create a striped pattern on one star-shaped one.
She almost seemed genuinely happy, and yet there was something that unsettled her parents about the sight, as if there was something artificial about her motions.
“You two trust me more than I thought,” Ai-Reia said. “I basically got to do this whole thing by myself!”
“Oh, well, yes, we do,” her father said. “Of course we do. You are fairly mature for a Vampire who’s just eight. Cooking is the least of our concerns.”
“Um–! Though I am a little concerned about the sweetness of that filling…”
Ai-Reia smiled and sighed. “It’s just because it’s my birthday. Besides, the blood should cut the sweetness some, don’t you think?”
“I guess that’s true,” her mother sighed.
Ai-Reia stuck the pastries into the oven. “Well, I think I should go and do something else. Would you mind keeping an eye on these for me?”
“We wouldn’t mind, I guess,” her father said. Ai-Reia flashed him a wide smile, then took off.
“Something’s definitely wrong,” her father said.
“I feel that way too. But I just don’t know what to do about it…”

***

Ai-Reia head into her parent’s room. It was the same as normal, though Ai-Reia still found the sight of Ca-Miela’s temporary playroom jarring. Her parents had turned a small corner of the room into a place where Ca-Miela could play, and that was where she was now, though she seemed tired as if she might fall asleep at any moment.
“Ca-Miela,” Ai-Reia said. “Look at you. So innocent. If anyone could really brighten up my day, it would be you…strange considering how last year went between you and me.”
She flinched when she heard the door creak. In a moment she had flashes of the previous year, the looks on her parents’ faces, the looks on her siblings’ faces, the sound of Ca-Miela’s crying. But when she looked up, she didn’t spot her parents or siblings–instead standing there was Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei, holding presents.
“…Fyuori? Kokohara?”
“Hello, Ai-Reia, and happiest of birthdays!” Shuera-Kaizima said cheerfully. Ai-Reia looked up past her, at Im-Dei, and noticed that standing behind the two was her family, who watched her with a strangely serious expression.
“We wanted to see you today. We had to go through several hoops to figure out where to find you.”
“But we finally did, and without resorting to illegal tactics, too.”
“Oh…” She broke out into smiles. “Well, it’s so nice to see you two!”
“Actually, Ai-Reia, there is something we want to discuss,” Shuera-Kaizima said, her voice becoming strangely serious. Ai-Reia blinked at her. “What would that be?”
“Do you remember what we told you a while back, Ai-Reia?”
“Huh?”
“You can show your true self to your family too,” Shuera-Kaizima told her. “Not just a fake self.”
“What…?”
And then, it clicked. The same attitude she had put upon to keep her family from worrying about her had only served to worry them still. Ai-Reia’s face twitched. At first, she wasn’t sure what to say.
“I just wanted to be happy myself, you know,” she whispered. “I figured if I acted this way, I’d be able to have a genuinely happy birthday. But now I know, all I did was worry you, just as I always do…”
“You know, showing your true self to your family doesn’t mean being always miserable, Ai-Reia. It just means show them how you feel. So right now, how do you feel?”
Ai-Reia looked up at them, her eyes tearing up but her mouth turned up in a smile. “Well, I guess I would have to say…I’m actually a little happy.”
Her family and friends began to smile. Not a single one seemed forced to Ai-Reia, and that made her heart feel lighter. Even Ca-Miela gave her a gummy smile.

—–
“These pastries are good!” Shuera-Kaizima exclaimed.
“Thank you.”
“They have a strange kick to them. Is there a secret ingredient?”
“Perhaps for you two,” Ai-Reia said, her smile innocent. “There’s blood in there.”
Im-Dei paled, and Shuera-Kaizima put her ears back. They looked to Ai-Reia, waiting for her to break out into laughter or say she was lying, but not once did she do either of those things.

25.571.The Daylight Journey

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 571
“The Daylight Journey”

“We’re rooting for you, Asul-Zenza!”
“Yeah, we’re looking forward to seeing your success!”
“Do your best, Asul-Zenza. Good luck.”
As Asul-Zenza flew through the sky, the words of his book club friends rang in his mind. Their words gave him a renewed determination, and he began to fly faster as his destination came into sight.

“It’s too hot outside,” La-Iin panted.
“It is pretty hot, but you’re acting like it’s a hundred degrees.”
“It feels like much more than that,” she gasped. “Maybe an evil heat ray really would be a good idea…”
“Huh?”
“Nothing.”
“I guess you know what they say, though: Vampires and the sun just aren’t friends.”
“We could be friends if I really can make an evil heat ray…ugh…”
Just as La-Iin was feeling she would pass out from the heat, a sudden gust of wind blew into her face and cooled her down. Sighing in relief, she looked up and was surprised to see Asul-Zenza smiling down at her.
“Dami!?”
“What are you doing here now?” Mit-Sun sighed. “Haven’t you intruded enough this month?”
Asul-Zenza opened his mouth to protest, but Mit-Sun spoke faster. “First you take her out for a Vampire tradition, then you come to chastise me about my treatment of her–and I’m grateful, but still! That’s not even counting the times you’ve called her!”
“There’s no sin in calling my daughter,” he said.
“You know, at least the first time you gave a warning and the second was for advice. What the hell–er, heck, is this for?”
“I know about hell already, Mama. I know how to say f@%k too, so why do you care?”
“La-Iin!!”
“Really, La-Iin, you shouldn’t curse so freely,” he said. “Mit-Sun, I apologize for not warning you in advance. I admit that this is my fault. However, I have a good reason for visiting. Do you know what day today is?”
“July the 25th.” Her eyes widened. “Wait a second, oh no…”
“Precisely! And now you see the reason I am here. My intentions are not to intrude upon you as I did last year, but instead to take La-Iin out with me while I have some fun. However, I only intend on keeping her out during daylight hours. I don’t intend on returning her home at midnight.”
He bowed. “I beg of you, Mit-Sun. I understand I’ve been taking advantage lately. I understand that I did not call you first. I am deeply sorry for this. But please, let me have this today. You’ve been far more amicable to me than you have been all the other years La-Iin’s been alive. So please, grant me this?”
Mit-Sun flinched. ‘I remember that expression from when we were dating. He’s trying to get to me!’ She wasn’t swayed, at least not until she caught the smile on La-Iin’s face. She seemed to be thrilled about the idea of going with Asul-Zenza to celebrate his birthday, and she knew that her and La-Iin’s relationship was already having trouble enough without her denying them something that was so important to them.
“Fine,” Mit-Sun sighed.
“Thank you, Mit-Sun!” He hugged her close. Mit-Sun bit his shoulder and he drew back. “Sorry, I got slightly carried away there, heh heh.”
“Do it again and the answer is no.”
“You better be careful, Dami. She might kick you in the penis if she gets too mad!”
Asul-Zenza stared at Mit-Sun. “Just what are you teaching her!?”
“Take my word on this, Asul-Zenza: La-Iin teaches herself and does what she want.”
“You should know that by now, Dami.”
“I know, but–I just–I wasn’t expecting to hear you say that…” His face flushed.
“I’ve know that word for a long time, Dami. It’s nothing new to me.”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Well, let’s put that aside for now…thank you, Mit-Sun. You won’t be too lonely without La-Iin, will you?”
“Not any more than I already have been lately.”
“Oh, Mit-Sun.” He sighed. “You still have people on your side who aren’t Haner. Don’t you still have your Papa?”
“My father.
“Right, right, father. Anyway, you aren’t alone. I just wanted to say that. And loathe as I am to add this, especially with how much I resented Haner for a time–I hope all works out with him.”
“That’s unusually courteous of you.”
“I think you forget sometimes who played what role in our break-up.” Asul-Zenza spread his wings. “Well, La-Iin, is there anything you need before we go?”
“Only a little something.”
“Get it now, then. I’d like to get a move on as soon as possible.”
La-Iin nodded and ran inside the house.
“She’s so nice to you. I really don’t understand what I’m doing wrong.”
“Honestly, I don’t understand either. But who knows, maybe something will change soon enough.”
“You’re more hopeful about that than I am.”
When La-Iin came back outside, Asul-Zenza stretched his wings. “Right! Ready to go, La-Iin? Oh, and before we go, do you want me to carry you on the flight? This is another long one, after all.”
“Dami, please.” She spread her wings. “I can go at least most of the way, that I guarantee.”
“We’ll see about that one. Well, we’ll see you again soon, Mit-Sun! And, thank you.”
Asul-Zenza and La-Iin took off.
“You’re welcome,” she mumbled to herself.

***

“Dami, where are we going today anyway?”
“We’re going to be in the society I live in.”
“But where are we going?”
“Oh, a few places. Although I warn you, they might not all be interesting to you. And a few of my friends will be there as well.”
“Friends…?”
“Hey, Asul-Zenza! You’re here!”
La-Iin startled and nearly fell out the sky. Asul-Zenza steadied her. Ahead of them were three Vampires.
“And it looks like you managed to bring La-Iin!”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, La-Iin…um…it isn’t Ghneckdo, is it?”
“No?”
“These are the members of my book club, La-Iin, and some of my friends.”
“My name is Haroudi Lise-Mara.”
“And I’m Nierdan Xelshy-MItter!”
“Aldesdrin Niser-Zanta. I’ve heard a lot about you, but judging by your expression, you haven’t heard a lot about me.”
“I don’t bring up my book club often around her,” Asul-Zenza chuckled. “I much prefer to focus on what’s happening when I’m with her. But, now that we’re all acquainted, I know what we can do first!”
“So you’re taking the lead?” Niser-Zanta said.
“Of course I am! Whose birthday is it?”
Lise-Mara rolled her eyes. “Just don’t act obnoxious, Asul-Zenza.”
The five Vampires took off, with Asul-Zenza keeping the lead. In the midst of their flight, Lise-Mara moved closer to La-Iin.
“La-Iin, was it? Considering your age and wingspan I’m surprised you’ve been able to keep yourself up this long. Or do you live closer than I thought?”
“Don’t underestimate my wingspan, Haroudi,” La-Iin said. “I am my Dami’s daughter!”
Lise-Mara giggled. “That you are! I guess large wings really are a Ghneckdo thing. Well, I hope you have fun.”
La-Iin was beginning to wonder whether or not she had made a mistake, that and what Asul-Zenza told the members of his book club she was like. The group continued onwards as Asul-Zenza picked up speed and La-Iin began to falter.
“Hey, Asul-Zenza! La-Iin’s falling behind!”
Asul-Zenza turned around and grabbed La-Iin out of the sky. Noticing that the members of his book club were watching her, she felt her face flush.
“You did better than you did last time,” Asul-Zenza said as he head back for the lead.
“Of course I did. All I do is improve…”
‘I’m starting to think this was a mistake.’

“What a nice little blood cafe! Do you come here often, Asul-Zenza?”
“Yeah, have you been holdin’ out on us!?”
“Now, now. Besides, I’ve come here before with Niser-Zanta.”
“Yeah, but it’s kind of creepy coming here with only one other person.”
“Well, I had a taste for blood, I had the vuyong, and I wanted to bring La-Iin here.”
La-Iin looked up. Asul-Zenza’s, and the members of his book club, had their eyes focused on La-Iin. She tried to ignore them and turn her attention back to the Goathoof blood in her cup.
“She’s kinda young for a bloodsucker, isn’t she?” Niser-Zanta said.
“Yes, she might be, but you have to remember she’s half-Normal. La-Iin’s aging pace is different than ours.”
“Interesting. I might have to look more into that tonight.”
“Tonight we’ll be busy,” Asul-Zenza said.
“You’re keeping us out that late?”
“I made a promise to Mit-Sun that I wouldn’t keep La-Iin out that late, so not all of us, but as for the rest of you, yes.”
‘There was no point to bringing me here, Dami. You seem perfectly fine with your stupid book club!’ La-Iin kept the retort to herself, but she couldn’t keep her wings from flapping just a bit. She began to suck down the rest of the Goathoof blood.
“Aw, her tiny fangs are so cute,” Lise-Mara sighed. “Maybe I should adopt a child of my own someday.”
“You, as a Floma?” Niser-Zanta said.
“What, do you think I’d be a bad Floma?”
“It’s not that, it just, well…you know what, never mind. If this guy can be a Dami, you can probably be a Floma.”
Lise-Mara beamed. “Thank you very much, Niser-Zanta.”
‘I can’t take this!’ “I want another cup of blood!”
“Certainly, La-Iin. What kind?”
“Vampire–” Asul-Zenza and the book club looked shocked. “I meant, Bearperson!”
“Ooh, a good choice. I’ll go order some!”
“Wow, he accepted that demand pretty easily,” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“Asul-Zenza’s always struck me as a passive Dami.”
‘I can’t take it!’ La-Iin was glad for her expressionless face at that moment. When Asul-Zenza brought back the cup of Bearperson blood, she sucked it down quickly, then tapped Asul-Zenza on the shoulder. He motioned to the book club, then took La-Iin aside.
“What is it, La-Iin?”
“I–um–where else are we going, Dami?”
“Hm? Well, I had some plans to head off on a daylight journey. Just a quick trip around, that and I wanted to stop at a sports center. Why?”
“Just…curious.”
Asul-Zenza smiled. “Thank you so much for coming along, La-Iin. I know it might be strange to adjust to being around me while I’m with friends, but I am so happy for you to be here. I’ve been blessed.”
“Not a problem, Dami,” La-Iin said, nearly hissing. “I–I would go with you any time to get away from Mama at her worst times.”
“Has something happened at home?”
“No, nothing in particular…” La-Iin covered her mouth to stifle the hiss.
“Alright, that’s good. We’re probably going to head off soon, so get ready!”
‘Dammit! If I can’t even stand up to my own Dami, ruling the world’s going to take longer than I expect it to! But then it’s also Dami’s birthday…I’ve become soft since that stupid meth incident!’
La-Iin could imagine several things she would rather be doing, yet still she went along with Asul-Zenza. Her desire to spend time with her father outweighed her frustration, though as the day progressed it wasn’t by much.

After a short journey and a quick trip to the nearby Vampira, Asul-Zenza, La-Iin and the book club had stopped at the sports center and geared up in athletic clothes. Soon after they had, Asul-Zenza began to toss a ball around.
“What game is this?”
“No game in particular. I’m not good with specific sports. I just like tossing balls around!”
“Just like I’d expect,” Niser-Zanta sighed.
La-Iin’s wings began to flap. “As if you know my Dami better than I do.”
“Sorry, La-Iin, but I do have you beat there. I’ve known him since before you were born. I knew him when he was head-over-heels for your mother!”
La-Iin began to look nauseous. “Niser-Zanta, don’t gloat at La-Iin. Both of you know me well for different reasons.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Asul-Zenza flew up closer to the roof of the sports rec. ‘Today has been such a fun day! I see good things on the horizon for sixty-six!’
“Is it strange to live with only one parent, La-Iin?” Lise-Mara asked.
“Why?”
“I was simply curious.”
“…”
“It is more polite to answer, yanno,” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“I don’t do polite unless I feel like it.”
“Guys, you’ve gotta remember what Asul-Zenza said, his daughter’s part of the evil side!”
“The more you say only influences my opinions of you.”
“…”
“…”
“…”
“Uh…”
Asul-Zenza overheard the conversation and caught a glimpse of La-Iin’s back. Her wings were flapping rapidly as if she were agitated. He sighed. ‘Though I guess a birthday can’t be perfect, of course…’
Putting the thought aside, he tossed the ball with his full force. The ball slammed against the floor and hit Niser-Zanta in the face.
“Ow ow!”
“Are you alright, Niser-Zanta!?”
“It looks like he has a bit of a bloody nose,” Lise-Mara said.
“I feel like my teeth broke into my mouth,” he cried.
“Oh goodness, Niser-Zanta, I am so sorry. I did not mean to do that…”
Before Asul-Zenza could approach Niser-Zanta, he noticed La-Iin giggling to herself. It was quiet enough that it seemed none of his friends had heard her, but from his distance it was obvious.
“Now I know for certain that Asul-Zenza is dangerous,” he sighed. “Next time I’ll wear protective gear if we’re going somewhere that’s not the book club…”

***

“The sun’s starting to set,” Niser-Zanta said. “Hey, how far away does La-Iin live? Are you going to be able to get her back home soon enough?”
“I fly fast when I’m determined,” Asul-Zenza said. “Of course, if La-Iin would like to stay out for a little longer, I can always accommodate.”
“No, I don’t mind.” La-Iin broke free of Asul-Zenza’s grasp and flew in the opposite direction of his book club. “In fact, I bet I could fly home on my own with my determination!”
The book club giggled. “You must give her that she is a feisty girl,” Lise-Mara said. La-Iin’s face flushed.
“Well, um, given that, then, I suppose I should take her home now,” he said. “You three can meet me at the border to Vampira. So long as you stay there, I don’t mind where you go. I might be back soon, but it will most certainly be nightfall by that time.”
“Alright.”
“See you soon, Asul-Zenza! Bye, La-Iin!” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“Yeah, see you two. And it was good to get to know you, La-Iin. You’re definitely Asul-Zenza’s kid, that’s for sure.”
“What does that mean?”
Asul-Zenza and La-Iin flew a distance away from his book club.
“So, I can guess by your reactions that you didn’t much care for my friends.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“I suppose that’s fine. I will admit I’m a little disappointed, but I expected this when I invited you out. I’m really sorry if you didn’t have a good time.”
“They see me as a little kid.”
“You are…ah, who am I to speak. I am still very grateful for you coming out in the first place.” He hugged La-Iin close. “Thank you, La-Iin.”
“I did try to hold it in for you, Dami. But they were annoying. …I guess Aldesdrin wasn’t as annoying as the other two, but I really couldn’t stand that Haroudi lady.”
“She can be a bit obnoxious sometimes,” Asul-Zenza giggled. “But thank you again, La-Iin.”
The two head back to Bledger, the setting sun behind them.
“This is the best part so far,” La-Iin said.
“Really? I’ve been having a lot of fun all day.”
“I guess that’s fine. Where are you going after you get rid of me, anyway?”
“Please, La-Iin, when you say it like that it sounds so harsh. That’s not what I’m doing at all. I just don’t want to be kicked by Mit-Sun and she gets angry when I keep you out too late. Also, where I’m going with the book club serves alcohol and they’re a bit rough on young Vampires.”
La-Iin smirked. “That will be hard for you, won’t it, Dami?”
Asul-Zenza gave a small smile. “Of course it won’t be! I’m a fully-grown Vampire, after all!”
“So you say!”

—–
“This place is fancy! How’d you afford it, Asul-Zenza!?”
“By saving up.”
“Really, Asul-Zenza, you shouldn’t be paying on your birthday. Let me foot the bill. I have enough vuyong.”
“Lise-Mara, I couldn’t let you do that!”
“I could.”
“Your blood alcohols.”
A waiter set down glasses of blood in front of the four.
“I heard the alcohol in this is diluted. I sure hope so!”
“Yeah, that’s one sign of how young a Vampire you are: whether or not you can handle your liquor!”
“Well, I’ll show you that I can.”
“Pardon me–” The waiter said. “But may I recommend our special? We have a special blend of blood alcohol today, the “Leukemia Stir”. Would any of you like it? It’s on the house when you buy two or more blood alcohols.”
“…”
“…”
“…”
“Maybe next time we should go someplace else.”
“Excuse me?” The waiter began to look indignant.

15.561.A Little Something

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 561
“A Little Something”

Eul-Bok took a deep breath. Focusing as intensely as he could, he set to work on changing the scrap of cloth in front of him into a present for Sale-Dessu.
He tried to clear his mind of all distracting thoughts, and though he focused solely on the image of what he was trying to change, he was gradually becoming more excited as if the thought nudging him at the corners of his mind was all that was on it.
Just as he could see the results of his efforts, a knock sounded at his door.
“Eul-Bok?”
Eul-Bok startled. The cloth, half-changed into fluff, fell back down onto his night desk limply, and Eul-Bok recoiled at a shooting pain in his head.
“Is everything alright?”
Eul-Bok turned around. “Everything’s fine, Father! Just practicing my powers a bit before bed! Wh-what are you doing up? It’s pretty late isn’t it?”
“I could say the same to you. I was just making myself a little warm milk. I’ve been having a taste for milk lately.”
Eul-Bok’s eyes widened. “I could tell…”
“We should both get some sleep. There’s a few things I want to do tomorrow. After all, well, I think you know what tomorrow is, right?”
“Of course I do. How could I forget? Heh heh, last year at the Cahongyun’s house…”
Sale-Dessu’s face flushed. “This year we’re not going there. I felt so ashamed, falling asleep on them like that. This year we’re spending the day at our house. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Well, I’ll make sure it’s a great day! We’ll do whatever you want to do, Father, so just say the word and we’ll be doing it!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok.” He yawned. “Well, I should head off to bed now…good night…”
“Good night, Father. And sweet dreams.”
‘And of course we’ll do the things you want to. But where’s the harm in a little bit of surprise?’
Recently Eul-Bok had been listening closely to all Sale-Dessu said. Even the smallest thing he had implied an interest in Eul-Bok had considered. He wanted to go along with what Sale-Dessu wanted to do, but he also wanted to surprise him with the things he would like.
He turned back to the half-cloth half-fluff and set to work on finishing it, before that keeping in mind Sale-Dessu’s taste for milk. Once he had successfully transformed the cloth-fluff, he set to work on finishing the rest of the tasks he had set for himself.

***

When Sale-Dessu opened his eyes that morning, the first thing he caught sight of was Eul-Bok sitting on a stool in his room, watching him with a smile. He startled for only a moment before taking a breath and calming down.
“You scared me, Eul-Bok.”
“Sorry, Father. But I was just so excited! I can’t wait to see how you–I mean, what you want to do!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “I wonder if you’re more excited for my birthday than I am. I’ll get ready and then we’ll get to work.”
“Don’t call it work! It’s your birthday! You want to do these things because you enjoy them, right?”
“Of course.”
‘He really is excited today. I wonder why?’ In recent years Sale-Dessu hadn’t seen his birthday as anything special, even forgetting it some years, and though last year had been more than the usual it had still been fairly relaxed.
‘I was excited for my birthdays when I was young. I guess with a child in the house I should expect this kind of thing.’
Sale-Dessu head off to take a shower and put on his clothes.
“Eul-Bok! I’m ready!” He called.
“Alright!”
Eul-Bok ran out from Sale-Dessu’s room and stopped next to him. “Why were you still in my room?”
“Nowhere else to go. Now what’s first!?”
“Well, I haven’t used my water-powered train much recently, and there was something interesting I was pursuing there…”
Sale-Dessu noticed Eul-Bok’s face drop. “That’s outside, isn’t it? Isn’t there anything you want to do inside?”
“The rest of it is inside. Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. I’ll take care of the train later. I can see you’re eager to do something right now.”
“That’s an understatement!”
“Well, then, why don’t we start with potion making? Have I ever helped you make a potion?”
Eul-Bok shrugged. The two head to the main area. On their way there, something smacked Sale-Dessu in the face.
“Ow…”
“You alright, Father?”
“I’m fine. Something hanging off the wall hit me in the face…”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing big. Here, I can lead the way!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok. But I’ll be fine.”
After uncovering his eye, Sale-Dessu caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a colorful setup right at the entrance to his home. In front of him he could see that Eul-Bok looked anxious.
‘So that’s why he’s so eager. I should have known…’ “Actually, if you want to lead the way, you can. We are doing this for me, but this is a good chance for me to teach you a few more things.”
“Yeah! Hey, anything you have planned for today wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with those more complicated procedures you know, right? I’m so curious about how you learned to do some of the things you can do!”
“Like what?”
“Oh, hex change operation?”
Sale-Dessu flinched. “Maybe one of those more complicated procedures is in my plans, but hex change operation is not one of them…”

Eul-Bok’s eagerness made Sale-Dessu’s day fairly enjoyable. As they mixed potions together Eul-Bok did so with such a force and glee that it made Sale-Dessu chuckle just to watch. In general he seemed fairly cheerful, and it was a bit infectious. Sale-Dessu couldn’t help but wonder what he had done that had him so excited and eager to finish what he wanted to do.
“You seem to be having a lot of fun mixing potions,” Sale-Dessu said. “Maybe I should have you do it for me more often.”
“Aw, come on, Father, you barely make potions for any good reason. Although it would be a good arm exercise.”
“You don’t need arm exercise, Eul-Bok.”
“I know, I know, but it’s fun to pretend I do. But you know what, I’m wrong. Even though you make a lot of pretty worthless potions, these ones we’re making now are all for medicinal reasons, right?”
“Yes. Just in case something happens to you or me, that’s why I’m making these potions. I just felt like making potions today, so I figured that I might as well make some that are helpful in nature.”
“It’s a good idea!”
Eul-Bok continued to stir vigorously. Sale-Dessu couldn’t stifle another chuckle.
Potion-making wasn’t all they did either. Sale-Dessu did eventually set to work on his water-powered train after Eul-Bok had strained his mind during a joint transformation spell.
“I had a feeling that wouldn’t work,” Sale-Dessu had sighed. “Eul-Bok, are you alright?”
“Yeah, probably….but I need to lay down for a little bit…”
Most of their activities were simple things however, such as making small treats or performing simple and ridiculous spells, such as an ‘instant hair dye’ spell that both Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok had used to change the color of Sale-Dessu’s hair into a multitude of colors; once, Eul-Bok even turned it rainbow.
“How did you manage that!?” Sale-Dessu asked. Eul-Bok giggled. “Oh, just with the strength of wanting to see something totally ridiculous.”
Even though it was simple, Sale-Dessu was happy. He was excited to see what it was that Eul-Bok was planning, and Eul-Bok’s own excitement made the day quite enjoyable. But it wasn’t until the sun started to set that they reached the end of all Sale-Dessu had wanted to do.
“That was pretty fun, Father. I realized something from today, you can do a lot of the stuff that I can do at incredible speeds!”
“That’s because I’ve been practicing for years. You know that. But I’m certain that soon enough you and I will have a similar level of ability.”
“Yeah, if by soon enough you mean years!”
“Well, we have more than some other species. And it won’t be so long that I’m an old man by that point.”
“Geez, it feels like both you and Grepeta are trying too hard to flatter me.”
“We can’t help but be proud of you, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Hey, Father? Now that we’re done with all you wanted to do, can you do me a favor?”
‘Here it comes.’ “What’s that?”
“I want you to cover your eyes. Both of them, and not with your hair! With this.” He handed him a blindfold. Sale-Dessu put it on. “I’ll lead the way, so don’t worry about bumping into anything.”
“Ow!”
“Oops, sorry.”
Sale-Dessu was excited as Eul-Bok led the way through some part of the house he wasn’t sure of–though he had a good feeling he knew where he was going.
“Now sit down, and don’t peek!”
He could hear Eul-Bok crashing around the house and various things opening and closing. From behind him he thought he heard the refrigerator open. ‘Am I in the kitchen? I thought for sure he’d take me to the main area.’
“You can look now!”
Sale-Dessu reached for the blindfold and pulled it off. Eul-Bok stood in front of him, and behind him the table was decorated in a fancy style. A plate of dinner sat behind him as well as a large white cake behind the plate. Eul-Bok appeared to be holding something, and he soon draped it over him.
“Happy Birthday, Father!”
“Eul-Bok…”
“Don’t look so surprised, Father. It’s just a little something.”
“How can you say that? You went above and beyond!”
Eul-Bok grinned. “Thanks for the compliments, Father. I’ve been planning this for a while now. Last year all I could do was get the Cahongyun’s help, but this year I was able to do it all on my own! I had a lot of trouble with the blanket, though.” He lowered his head. “I hope you like it.”
“I love it, Eul-Bok. This is the most comfortable blanket I’ve felt in a while. I wonder why I never thought to make more comfortable ones for my bed. I think I’ll sleep quite well with this.”
Eul-Bok’s grin widened. “Well, you can start dinner now, then! But I have to clean up. I made a bit of a mess in the main area.”
He ran off. ‘So that’s what that was. I’d better not say anything, though.’ Even having expected it, it was still a pleasant surprise. Sale-Dessu started to eat, and was surprised by how good the gravy tasted.

—–
Night had fallen, and after a long and cheerful celebration with the milk cake Eul-Bok had made, Sale-Dessu tidied a few things around the house before deciding to retire for the night. Already Eul-Bok seemed exhausted, but he still stayed by Sale-Dessu’s side, smiling wide.
Just as he had changed into pajamas and was almost ready to retire, something slammed against his window. When he opened it, he spotted Bes-Isa, a piece of paper taped to her. He took the paper off and took a look at it. It was a crude picture of him and Eul-Bok around a cake that was set on fire.
Good job allie, not freelowding this year. Have a happy birthday not! -La-Iin
Sale-Dessu stifled a chuckle as Bes-Isa went flying backwards through the air with a screech.
“Geez, she really can’t draw all that well.”
“She can’t,” he admitted. “But that’s alright. It’s a nice picture.”
He hung it up in his room.

8.554.Vampiric Visitation

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 554
“Vampiric Visitation”

Ever since hearing that Mit-Sun had rejected Uil-Cur’s affections, Asul-Zenza had set to work on a celebratory plan.
‘Now, at least for the time being, I don’t have to worry about another man getting to take my place in La-Iin’s upbringing. I should take this chance! Who knows if it might change in the future–it’s fully likely. I should show that I too am going to play a part in La-Iin’s upbringing!’
That was the thought he worked off of through the end of June and into July. Initially he had no idea for what he could do save for flying around Bledger with La-Iin, but he quickly axed the idea, figuring he could find something far more interesting. And come the first of July, he had an idea.
‘Around Mit-Sun I’m sure La-Iin hasn’t gotten to do anything that is traditional for Vampires. No events, no holidays or anything of the sort. July might be here now but it’s still Summer. And that reminds me of a specific event some societies do…’
He went to work as soon as all the pieces fell into place, calling his parents and Shi-Bara and inviting them to help along.
“If it means seeing our granddaughter again we’ll gladly participate! Your Floma’s been saying things about participating in that event anyway this year. And we’d deserve it after all the work we’ve been doing!”
“Oh, you want us to participate in that event? Sure! And you said La-Iin will be there? Ei-Tio will be happy to hear that! O-of course, even if she wasn’t there we’d still be fully willing to help you with this!”

Asul-Zenza felt accomplished as he set to work on the project. He planned with his parents, Shi-Bara and Jul-Ense, and asked his book club for advice on how to go about his plans. He felt as if everything was falling into place neatly: it was the perfect celebration of the fact that for now, he was still La-Iin’s only fatherly figure even if he lived far away from her.
“This plan sounds real nice, Asul-Zenza. There’s just one question I have for you.”
“What’s that, Niser-Zanta?”
“Have you actually asked La-Iin if she wants to do this yet?”
It was the last step in his plan, but Asul-Zenza knew it should have been one of the first. Even Mit-Sun was less of a concern to him. If La-Iin didn’t want to participate, all of his preparations would be almost useless.
‘Certainly I’d still be able to do this all with my family aside from her. It would be nice and I’m sure we’d have a great time. But damn it, this is for La-Iin’s sake, and if I can’t get her I’ll feel as if I wasted an awful lot of time!’
He dialed the number, waited for one of them to pick up and hoped for the best.

***

“Are you sure about this, La-Iin?”
“Mama, Dami’s going to be there. I’ll get to meet his Mama and Dami in person. I only talked to them over the phone once before. And Ei-Tio will be there. And it has to do with being a Vampire! Why wouldn’t I?”
“It has nothing to do with that. I know you’ll be surrounded by people you like and I know how conceited you are when it comes to your Vampire heritage. Sheesh, I don’t understand you, being so conceited about being a Vampire that you forget you’re a Dualbreed, which you’re equally as proud of.”
“I’d show my pride in being a Dualbreed more often if I wasn’t ashamed of that useless Normal half,” La-Iin said. Mit-Sun huffed. “The power of a Vampire is massive. Compared to that my Normal half has only made me mature faster. It’s helpful for having met some people, but it’s nothing compared to what my Vampire half has done.”
“I wasn’t finished, you know. My thing was, as far as I know the Ghneckdo family is mostly good-aligned. Asul-Zenza is. His parents are. Ei-Tio’s mother certainly struck me as good-aligned. You’ll be surrounded by people who are good, even if you love them, doing an event that has nothing at all to do with evil.”
La-Iin sighed. “Mama, I don’t plan to be torturing people all the time in my future. That would be fun, eh heh heh….but I am still fully evil even if I’m not harming or torturing or loitering. Besides, I’m not doing anything goody-goody. I’m not going to donate to a charity or something like that. You think I’m so one-track.”
“You act like it sometimes. Besides, you’ve been very focused on your evil pursuits lately.”
“I have been. Thank you for noticing.” La-Iin checked her backpack. “I think I’m ready, so I hope Dami arrives soon. We might even be out late. Maybe even so late I won’t be able to come back until tomorrow!”
“That would be taking advantage on his part,” she growled.
“No it wouldn’t be. It would be taking advantage on my part.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Just enjoy yourself, alright?”
“I will. As for you you’ll probably be bored.”
Mit-Sun opened her mouth as if to complain, then gave another sigh. “Yeah. You’re probably right. I might’ve hung out with Uil-Cur, but things are awkward between us…maybe I’ll talk to my Pa–I mean, father. We haven’t talked in a little bit.”
“Maybe I should talk to him soon too.”
Mit-Sun’s eyes widened in surprise, but before she could speak again a knock sounded at the door.
“That is my cue.” La-Iin waved to Mit-Sun and head for the door. Choungetsu was on her heels and she shooed him away, but when she opened the door he was sitting next to her and staring up at Asul-Zenza.
“Dami!”
“Hello, La-Iin. Looks like someone’s a lot more ready than I expected her to be! Or did I just take a long while? The weather near my home was a little turbulent, I suppose.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter. I had Mama to talk to while I was waiting for you anyway.” La-Iin spread her wings. “But now I’m ready to go!”
Asul-Zenza chuckled. “Alright, if you say so.” He began to close the door, and Choungetsu whimpered. “I’m sorry, Choungetsu, but I don’t think you’d have the patience to accompany us all the way. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of fun with Mit-Sun at home.”
Choungetsu gave another whimper. Asul-Zenza pet him on the head and closed the door.
“I’m ready to fly!” La-Iin spread her wings.
“I’m not so sure you should. La-Iin, your wingspan is impressive, don’t get me wrong. I’m certain you could fly a long way without much issue, but you don’t have as much experience flying as I do, you don’t know the path, and when you’re young heights can be a bit of an issue.”
“Heights aren’t an issue.” She flew a distance above him. “I’ve had experience with flying since before I could fly. I’ve always used my wings. And I’ll just stay behind you.”
“You also don’t have as much stamina as someone who’s been flying for as long as I have, or someone with my build. Your body also puts you at a disadvantage, I hope you know.”
La-Iin snorted. “I’ll show you, Dami! I can fly there, you just watch me!”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Fine. I’ll let you fly. But the moment you start losing altitude I will fly you there. It’s for your own safety.”
“Come on, Dami, you’re better than that.”
“I’m still your father, La-Iin. I have a right to worry about you.” He spread his wings. “Let’s go!”

La-Iin kept a steady flight behind Asul-Zenza for much more of the trip than Asul-Zenza had expected. But also as he expected, she began to lose altitude once they entered the Vampire society, and Asul-Zenza began to fly her the rest of the way.
“Why were you so indignant about flying there yourself, anyway? It wasn’t all that long ago that I would fly you around when I got the chance to visit and you’ve let me even considering you can fly now. You aren’t all that old a Vampire, La-Iin. I was older than you when I learned to fly, both years-wise and in Vampire aging terms.”
“I’ll need the stamina when I’m older,” La-Iin said. “And I am good at flying. You just knew me when my wings weren’t big enough for me to show this. I don’t want you to think I always need help just because you know I used to not be able to fly.”
Asul-Zenza chuckled. “I don’t think lesser of your flying ability, La-Iin. More or less, I know you don’t have the experience I have. That, and I miss having to fly you all over the place…oh, we’re almost there. Hold tight, La-Iin!”
Asul-Zenza picked up speed as he head for a small cave off the edge of the main part of the society’s civilization. Looking down at it, La-Iin found herself surprised that this species society was so advanced: she was used to seeing the ones that lived among the trees and were more in-tune with nature, whereas this society looked traditional but not nearly as connected to nature.
Asul-Zenza landed inside the cave and set La-Iin down. The duo was almost immediately greeted by a group of Vampires who head their way.
“Big sister!” Ei-Tio said, running up to La-Iin and hugging her close. “It’s too long!”
“I’m here now, so it’s not so long anymore,” she said.
“It still felt long,” she said. “It’s been…um…a long time since I told you the story!”
“Not really.”
“Ei-Tio sees a lot of things as taking a long time,” Shi-Bara said. “She’s going to see her life as a lot longer than some of us might!”
“That’s harsh, Shi-Bara,” Asul-Zenza said, though La-Iin could tell he was being slightly playful. “And Darseen, Floma. It’s so nice to see you.”
“Yes, it’s nice to see you too, Asul-Zenza. Last time we saw you in person wasn’t exactly the most pleasant of circumstances.”
Verde-Nenda’s words piqued her interest. “What happened?”
“Oh, a…an old mentor, you could say, lost her husband,” he said. “It was a rough time.”
“But let’s not dwell on that for now. We’re here to have a good time as a family! And now that you’re here, things can get started.”
“What are we doing, anyway?”
“The Summerbat Venture,” Asul-Zenza said. “It’s a Vampiric tradition that originated several years ago, further back than a Vampire’s lifespan. In the earliest days Vampires were far more vulnerable to the sun than we are now. We could barely take it without sustaining injuries. In the Summer this was obviously worse. Not only were the days long and brutally hot but this was usually when fatalities from sun exposure would usually occur. We were susceptible to heat stroke. Being nocturnal through the Summer was difficult, so the Summerbat Venture was created.”
“I see….what are we doing, anyway?”
“During the Summerbat Venture, Vampires venture into a dark place to retreat away from the sunlight. Since it could be difficult for the Vampires of olden times when daylight hours stretched into what was usually night, they decided to keep awake with merrymaking. When night would arrive a final celebration was made with blood. Now that Vampires are more resistant to the sun as a whole, not many Vampires do the Summerbat Venture. But it’s a part of Vampire history, and I wanted you to be involved.”
La-Iin smiled.
“Further down the cave is where the celebration starts!” Asul-Zenza said. “Come on, all!”
The group, headed by Asul-Zenza, head down into the darker portion of the cave.
“It’s really dark,” Ei-Tio said. “I like it! It’s too light lately.”
“Even though the days are longer now, they’re only going to get shorter from here. So soon enough you’ll have the darkness you like so much for most of the day, Ei-Tio!”
Ei-Tio giggled.
Asul-Zenza stopped. “Here we are! Even reading those books I wasn’t as in-tune as to what celebrations Vampires did during the Summerbat Venture. But what I did figure out I turned into something that I think all of us will like. So come on!”
The setup was a simple one that seemed to take advantage of the powers each of them could use, such as a noise-hearing game for those of them who could transform into bats or a monkey bar-like fixture which hung off the ceiling of the cave. La-Iin went for that one first and began to show off.
“Well done, La-Iin!” Verde-Nenda said.
“Well done indeed, though she’s using her wings to keep from falling after the flip,” Anil-Kosha whispered to him. La-Iin growled and attempted to make a flip from one to the other without keeping herself steady. It resulted in her nearly falling to the ground and she had to make a quick swoop to save herself.
Nearby the noise-hearing game stood Ei-Tio and her parents, who had transformed into bats and had their eyes closed in concentration.
“I think I can hear water.”
“I feel like I can hear a bit of civilization. But maybe that’s not what it is?”
“I hear animals!”
The group flinched.
Another game involved simulating bloodsucking with various drinks. “The goal here is to find which one tastes the most like blood. Of course, none of them are blood. That’s for the final celebration!”
La-Iin and Verde-Nenda tried the game first. The first drink La-Iin drank from made her recoil in horror. Verde-Nenda smacked his lips. “Definitely not blood. But tasty!”
Feeling competitive, La-Iin decided to try each of the drinks as fast as she could so as to win out over Verde-Nenda, who was trying only the darkest red of the drinks. “Tomato. Is this the one, Asul-Zenza?”
“No, it isn’t,” he said. “Keep looking!”
La-Iin reached for the drink Verde-Nenda glanced at and drank a good half of it. “This is it! Isn’t it?”
Asul-Zenza sniffed the drink. “Good job, La-Iin!”
“That first one didn’t even taste like blood.”
Asul-Zenza giggled. “I know. But looking like blood’s close enough, huh?”
A festive mood was inside the cave as the family played together and, as the events Asul-Zenza set up became repetitive, made some of their own such as a flying race, of which Asul-Zenza managed to win.
“It’s not fair! ‘Twould have been more balanced if you haven’t been flying with us!”
“My wings have a lot of training from all the flying I do,” Asul-Zenza said cheerfully. “…please don’t be mad at me, Darseen.”
Verde-Nenda broke out in laughter. “Nah, I’m not such a grouchy old man as to get on you for that!”
“You aren’t an old man at all, dear.”
“Hard to remember that when I already have a granddaughter!” Verde-Nenda said, petting La-Iin’s head. “Especially a granddaughter who’s acting far more mature than Asul-Zenza did at seven years old.”
La-Iin puffed out her chest with pride.
“Hey, big sister, I wanna show you something!” Ei-Tio said. She spread her wings, bared her fangs and narrowed her eyes.
“I’ve been trying to make a villainy look!” Ei-Tio said. La-Iin gaped. “What’s wrong?”
La-Iin shook her head. “Nothing. It needs work, but keep on working on it!”
Anil-Kosha sighed. “Looking at her now you can barely tell she’s evil. She just seems like a normal little girl.”
“If you hit her sweet spot it doesn’t matter that she’s evil. La-Iin might have that in her heart, but she also has a genuine love for others. Someday I hope that will be the thing that turns her away from her goal…”
La-Iin shot a glance in Asul-Zenza’s direction, curious as to what he had said, but she soon turned back to Ei-Tio, who was smiling wide.
“I think nightfall is coming,” Asul-Zenza said.
“How can you tell?”
“I brought a watch with me. Around these parts sunset is typically at seven-forty. It’s seven-fifty-two now.”
“I see! So does that mean we finally get blood?”
Asul-Zenza nodded. “Well, except Ei-Tio, who gets a blood substitute.”
The family head for the mouth of the cave, and Asul-Zenza passed to each of them a large bloodbox, and to Ei-Tio tomato juice. They began to drink as the sun set far enough to be barely visible.
“Have you had a good time today, La-Iin?”
“Good?”
Asul-Zenza chuckled. “You know what I mean.”
She nodded and continued to suck from her bloodbox. “Good, good…I had a great time with you all as well. It’s been a while since I’ve been around so much of the family.”
“It’s been a while since Verde-Nenda and I have done something this fun,” Anil-Kosha said. “Thank you, Asul-Zenza.”
“Not a problem. I did it mostly for La-Iin, admittedly, but I also did it for you. I’m glad you had an enjoyable time.”
“Can we play a little more?” Ei-Tio asked. Asul-Zenza nodded. “Sure, why not! But let’s finish our blood first. After all, the sunset won’t be going on forever!”

—–
Asul-Zenza arrived in Bledger when it was completely dark and the lights in other houses had gone out. He knocked gently on the door to the Cahongyun house, hoping Mit-Sun would respond.
When she opened the door, he let out a sigh of relief. “What is it? Why’d you take so long?”
“Sorry. La-Iin and Ei-Tio were having a lot of fun playing some strange game near the end.” He handed a sleeping La-Iin over to Mit-Sun. “Here. And when she wakes up, would you give her this?”
He handed her a book. “Why?”
“Oh, I figured it would be something nice for her to read, either that or you can read it to her.” He waved and spread his wings. “She’s exhausted, but don’t worry, I made her brush her teeth before bringing her here.”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes. “Farewell, Mit-Sun! Until we meet again!”
“Yeah, knowing you, that won’t be too far off in the future.”
Though La-Iin didn’t wake during their exchange, she twitched slightly and cuddled up close to Mit-Sun.

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….”

20.536.The Weekend School Trip–Part 2

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

19.535.The Weekend School Trip–Part 1

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

***

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

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