24.540.The Ability to Reach Out

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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.

15.531.Mental Breakdown

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 531
“Mental Breakdown”

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

***

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

***

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

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

2.518.Conspirational

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 518
“Conspirational”

“Have you heard of what Cahongyun did to Morushei, Vampiris?” Shuera-Kaizima asked her. “It sounded horrible! Almost all of Class D is terrified of her now. I am a little too…”
“Of course I have. It sounds exactly like something she would do, and I’m not surprised she did it to Molshei either,” Ai-Reia said. “In fact, I was walking out the classroom when it happened, although at the very end of what she did.”
Shuera-Kaizima’s ears twitched. “You don’t seem to like Cahongyun much, Vampiris. Even before this you didn’t like her much.”
“We didn’t talk back when we first came to Malicerie, Kokohara, and I’m not sure if you noticed the way she treated me when I first came here. But there’s no recovering from what she did back then.”
Shuera-Kaizima looked startled, but said nothing further; she scrambled back to her desk shortly before Theasis walked into the room and started Math class.
Since the Tuesday Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima had talked to her, both of them had been approaching her more often in between classes. She was grateful for their company while the break times were going on; they never talked about her family or her smarts, and focused on simple subjects or rumors and events going around the school. It never changed for her the fact that whenever she would head home for the day, she was reminded that their friendship, if there was one, would never last.
‘Outliving them is an inevitable fate. Eventually they’ll leave you behind, Ai-Reia. They have their own things to focus on. You are not a part of it.’
Yet she still longed for the times they would talk together between break times. They gave her a welcome break from her family and thoughts of La-Iin.
Ai-Reia quickly became distracted once again when she realized the first Math lesson that day was one she knew quite well. Her eyes drifted over to San-Kyung, who still looked depressed. San-Kyung was known for being on his own, save for talking to or interacting with Dosa-Mina, but it was unusual to see him as drained as he had been looking recently. Ai-Reia could only come to the conclusion that he looked that way as a result of La-Iin.
‘Hm. La-Iin and Molshei consider each other friends, but I haven’t seen them talk to each other since the bloodsucking incident. And I know Molshei is far from the most pure-hearted student in this class. Perhaps there’s something about this I could use to my advantage.’
For it wasn’t just the opening she saw from the incident that made her consider such a thing–recently, La-Iin had been on her mind frequently, as she could recall that it was around the point that La-Iin began to constantly bother her and that her life seemed to head in a downward spiral. Even dealing with all the annoying things that had come before that such as her fame and her family’s suppression of her smarts prior to that paled in comparison to La-Iin’s stalking and all that came after it.
If she could give San-Kyung an extra nudge so that he would do something about La-Iin, she could harm her enemy without doing it herself, thereby avoiding getting in trouble and also being able to watch the look of horror on La-Iin’s face as someone she considered a friend turned against her.
‘It would only be what she deserved. She hasn’t treated him well, either. And it would be so, so satisfying…’
Lost in those thoughts, Ai-Reia nearly missed a math lesson she hadn’t yet learned. She began to focus on it and allow the information to soak in.

***

Throughout her classes, Ai-Reia had already decided not to approach San-Kyung during any of La-Iin’s classes. Even being unaware of her intentions for going up to him, she felt certain that La-Iin would bother her solely on the basis of her approaching San-Kyung in the first place.
But after that she wasn’t quite sure what would be the proper time to do so. If she was overheard by the students she was certain they would be confused, and she wasn’t sure about approaching San-Kyung in the middle of class. A part of her hoped he would leave the classroom for whatever reason and give her an opening there, but as Science class started Ai-Reia realized she would have to take things into her own hands regardless of whether she wanted to or not.
After that class, she approached San-Kyung.
“Molshei, may I ask you about something?”
Ai-Reia expected San-Kyung to glare, but instead he stared at her, looking unamused. “Aren’t you a child prodigy? Figure it out yourself.”
“My child prodigy status is not important to my time at school.”
San-Kyung scoffed. “You’d think it would be.”
“I don’t understand everything about how the world works just because I’m smart, Molshei. Besides, if I’m not mistaken on average your grades are better than mine, so that should show for something.”
“I don’t help people.”
“You help me,” Dosa-Mina said.
“You’re not helping.”
“Actually, though, it’s not anything to do with grades I want to talk about,” she said, dropping her voice to a whisper. “It’s actually about La-Iin. Like many other students I was present for when she sucked your blood, and I’ve seen the state you’ve been in in days since.”
“Why does this matter to you?” Ai-Reia felt slightly startled. San-Kyung looked agitated, but his voice was devoid of most of its emotion. ‘I expected him to be more angry. I wonder if this will make things easier or harder.’
“La-Iin treated me poorly as well in the past. And while I think she’s moved past that phase in her life for both of us…I would also say to that ‘for the most part’. If she was truly through treating you badly, why would she suck your blood?”
Footsteps echoed through the hallway. “I’ll get back to you.” Ai-Reia dashed to her seat before the next teacher arrived.

***

“Ahem.”
“Leave me alone, Vampiris. My grades aren’t better than yours because I talked to people I shouldn’t have.”
“You’ve lost some of that fire you had before, Molshei,” she said. San-Kyung glared, and she smirked. “I think La-Iin truly did a number on you. This is why I offer my help. Look, I don’t particularly want to spend any time with you either–”
“Then don’t.”
“Let me finish, please. But when it comes to La-Iin, anyone willing to help me teach her a lesson is someone I’m willing to ally myself with even if for only a moment. I’ve heard you consider her a friend, but I also know the two of you didn’t always get along. Even still seeing her as a friend, perhaps there’s a way you can get back at her for what she did.”
“I don’t care.”
“About what, getting back at her? Would you rather do it in the privacy outside of school? Or are you just saying this because the two of you are friends?”
Footsteps echoed through the hallway once again, and Ai-Reia slapped her forehead. “This isn’t over yet, Molshei.”

“You know, for someone who hates La-Iin so much, you’re acting a lot like her.”
“Never, ever compare me to that demon,” Ai-Reia hissed. “Look, San-Kyung, I’m not trying to do anything other than help you, that and get a little satisfaction of my own in the end. You are notorious for how angry you are all the time. What’s stopping you from getting back at her!? Have you done it already?”
“Look, it’s none of your business, alright? I don’t care about you at all, Vampiris. If you have some stupid vendetta with La-Iin, you take it up with her yourself and stop asking me for help. I am pissed she sucked my blood. But guess what? If I had to pick to ally with her or you, I’d pick her first. After all, she is my…” He shuddered. “Friend.”
“What?”
“So cut it out. If you think I look like I’m not in a good mood, what made you think you approaching me would make that any better?”
“Oh, San-Kyung!”
Both San-Kyung and Ai-Reia flinched as La-Iin came flying at San-Kyung, latching on to his face.
“You sure do like me, don’t you, San-Kyung,” La-Iin said, her tone coy. She slid her hand into his hair. San-Kyung pulled her off of him.
“You heard that!?”
“Vampires can have pretty good hearing sometimes,” La-Iin said. “Has Ai-Reia been bothering you? Don’t worry, I’ll take care of her.”
“I don’t need you bothering me too. I was just trying to make her go away.”
“You always say things that make you sound more on the tough side than you actually are, San-Kyung. I like that, but your expressions give you away. That’s one advantage I have over you.” With those words, La-Iin head off towards the back of the classroom. Ai-Reia shot one last glance in San-Kyung’s direction. He looked flustered.
‘Hmph. One shot and it turns out he’s not what I expected at all. Perhaps those pedophile rumors really are true.’

—–
“Hey, Vampiris?”
“Yes, Kokohara? What is it?”
“I saw you going up to Molshei earlier, and, um, wanted to ask a question…”
“Yes?”
Shuera-Kaizima grimaced. “Ohh, I can’t do it!”
“Shuera-Kaizima wanted to ask if…well, if you went up to him because you had a crush on him,” Im-Dei said.
“What!? Not at all! And even if I had, I wouldn’t anymore after today. Molshei might come off as a tough loner, but when I went up to him I found out the truth: he’s an utter loser!”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima’s eyes widened in surprise, but they soon gave a chuckle and waved good-bye to Ai-Reia.
‘It doesn’t matter if Molshei isn’t on my side. I can handle La-Iin myself. My issue lies in if he is on her side. But still, I might be able to overcome that as well.’

28.513.Spacebound

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 513
“Spacebound”

It was freezing cold outside, to the point where La-Iin felt as though her skin would harden from the exposure, and yet despite that, all the people around her were thoroughly enjoying themselves, seemingly oblivious to the cold.
Fer-Shi was playing with moondust, and Mit-Sun, Asul-Zenza, and Sale-Dessu were dancing to a melody Sale-Dessu had created using his powers. Nearby Fer-Shi, Ai-Reia was tracing mathematics into the moondust, and Choungetsu leaped around, looking more excited than ever. What surprised La-Iin most was the sight of San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina, who were wearing sunglasses and nothing else save for their underwear.
The sight and the sound of such cheerful people made her wonder how parts of the moon could ever become so desolate as to strand her away from family and potential friends. Now that part of her past didn’t matter–all around her were cheerful people who were enjoying their time on the moon thoroughly, without a care in the world.
“Whoa, aren’t those boys cold? Isn’t that orange one a pumpkin?”
“He is,” La-Iin said. She had her own questions about why they would be laying there almost naked, but before she could approach them, Ai-Reia growled at her.
“Watch where you’re walking! You stepped on my studies!”
“Why do you study in moondust?” La-Iin asked.
“What else is there to study on? Argh. Now I have to start all over.” She turned away from La-Iin and began to trace a new problem.
“Moondust sure is fun, but it doesn’t hold up very well!” Fer-Shi said. She was covered in moondust from nearly head to toe. “Wanna play with me, La-Iin? You can make some pretty amazing moondust castles!”
“Maybe later,” she said. Fer-Shi nodded. “Alright then! I’ll be waiting!” She went back to work on her moondust castle, shaping in small windows and soon adding small clumps of moondust inside of them that La-Iin was unsure of whether or not they were supposed to be people.
La-Iin stopped next to San-Kyung, who lowered his sunglasses. Dosa-Mina soon did the same. “Hello there, little Vampire girl! What’s up?”
“Why are you lying there naked?”
“We’re not naked. We have our underwear on.” San-Kyung said. “Now scram.”
“It’s too hot to be walking around in all of our clothes, don’t you think?”
“It’s always cold here! Are you crazy!?”
“Nope. It’s plenty hot here.” And with that, both boys lifted their sunglasses back up.
“Am I the only one here who thinks it’s cold?”
“It has been getting pretty hot lately,” Fer-Shi said.
“You must over-sensitive to any cold, then,” Ai-Reia sniffed.
“It feels plenty warm, La-Iin, sweetie. Maybe you’re just too adjusted to the cold?” Asul-Zenza suggested.
“I can’t tell the difference much. I spend all my time stuffed into your dress so I always feel your body heat.”
“I’m surprised that someone who’s wearing more clothes than most of us is cold,” Dosa-Mina sighed.
“…there sure aren’t many people here to give an opinion, are there,” La-Iin grumbled.
“Not since most people moved to Planet Jiunan, no,” Dosa-Mina said. “Say, that could become a problem soon. All of us on the moon could end up dying out. We might have to start repopulating soon. I’d do that with San-Kyung, but unfortunately two males aren’t compatible ninety-nine percent of the time.”
San-Kyung’s face went bright pink. “What!?”
“That could be a problem, considering most of you here are children,” Asul-Zenza said. “Mit-Sun, what about–”
“No.”
“I wasn’t going to suggest myself!”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes. “That you had to say that makes me think you were going to.”
“I–I don’t know if I could do that,” Sale-Dessu mumbled, twiddling his thumbs. “Maybe there’s something I could use to help that along, though…”
“I’m too young to do that,” Fer-Shi said. “And I think Ai-Reia is, too.”
“Hm.” La-Iin stared at San-Kyung. “Well, the day that I’m able to breed, I’ll gladly do that with you, San-Kyung.”
San-Kyung’s face turned red. “Why does everyone want to breed with me!?”
“Your genes must be irresistible!” Dosa-Mina said.
“What’s wrong with you!? You know, I’ve got a few questions to ask about that behavior of yours…”
Bored by the conversation, La-Iin walked over to Fer-Shi. “Let’s make that moondust castle now.”
“Alright!”
The two set to work on a large moondust castle, per La-Iin’s suggestion. While the two girls began to construct it, Ai-Reia gave them tips on how to hold up the construction.
“You know, if you were looking for help with constructing that, you should have come to me,” Mit-Sun said. “I used to work in construction.”
“How am I supposed to know that? You did that before I was born. And it’s not like you’ve been here for me the entire time.”
“What happened to you was not my fault!”
La-Iin huffed and went back to work on the moondust castle, with Ai-Reia and now Mit-Sun also coaching her. As the castle took shape, Choungetsu leaped over a few times to play around inside, and was always shooed out, running over to Asul-Zenza’s side.
The further along construction got, the more curious La-Iin was as to if whether or not San-Kyung might help, but after he had complained to Dosa-Mina, he had gone back to relaxing, though she noticed he was now wearing his shirt as well. Meanwhile, Asul-Zenza was now playing with Choungetsu, who was dirtied with moondust, and Sale-Dessu was casting aesthetic spells that enamored even Ai-Reia and Mit-Sun for a moment before they went back to work on the castle.
“I think we might be almost done! Thanks, La-Iin! This has been a lot of fun!” Fer-Shi said.
“That’s fine. You know, I’ve always wanted to rule over a planet with an iron fist. A moondust castle might be the perfect place to start. I can see it now–all of you, becoming my loyal servants, and in return I would help to produce more by utilizing San-Kyung’s DNA. Wow, it would be amazing.”
“Uh…? Well, I guess it might be pretty cool to be a Princess, but I think it’d also be really hard. Though I guess there aren’t many people on the moon.”
La-Iin gave Fer-Shi a quizzical look. “What made you think I wanted to be a Moon Princess?”
“Er, um…”
“Never mind.” She peeked out one of the windows of the moondust castle. “Life here has never been better, though. Everyone is always relaxed. It’s a lot better than spending your time alone on the moon.”
“La-Iin…”
She stared up, and recoiled at the bright light of the sun. “Was the sun always so close to the moon?”
“I wasn’t paying attention,” Fer-Shi said. She too flinched away. “But wow, it is really close now, isn’t it?”
“This must be why it’s so hot lately,” Sale-Dessu said. La-Iin noticed he had begun to make small decorations that he was sticking onto the moondust castle. “How have you not noticed this? Aren’t Vampires sensitive to the sun?”
“Aren’t Warlocks supposed to be blue?” La-Iin sneered.
“U-um, no…”
“I’ve heard of this before!” Dosa-Mina said, sitting up. “They say that over all planets, the sun is the true ruler–the place from which everything will return to. There’s been legends about the moon absorbing the sun for thousands and thousands of years!”
“I’ve heard of those before,” Ai-Reia said. “Didn’t those legends say that in the nine-thousandth-and-somethingth year of the moon, the sun would ultimately destroy it and be tamed for another nine-thousand and some years until it was again hungry for more?”
All of them fell silent.
“B-but that’s just an urban legend, isn’t it?” Asul-Zenza chuckled. “Come now, we’re the only people on the moon. We ought to make our own little legends instead of keep believing in old ones…”
“Yeah, that sounds ridiculous. The sun’s a big ball of fire. If that were the case it’d be totally unfair because pumpkin boy is immune to that stuff.”
“I’ve never seen any Animated Pumpkins living on the sun,” he scoffed. “In fact, I’ve barely met any others. Just those traitors who fled to Planet Jiunan…”
“I wouldn’t hold your breath,” Ai-Reia said. “Look! Doesn’t it look like the sun is progressively getting closer?”
“Maybe it’s our planet that’s getting closer,” Dosa-Mina said. “And it’s getting really hot!”
Sale-Dessu and Asul-Zenza lifted off the ground, and in an instant the planet exploded in screaming as they tried to keep their hold on the planet.
“Come into the moondust castle!” Fer-Shi cried out. Choungetsu dashed inside, followed by Ai-Reia, Mit-Sun, Sale-Dessu, Asul-Zenza, and then Dosa-Mina and San-Kyung, who had some difficulty fitting inside.
“This feels far too cramped.”
“What are we supposed to do!?” La-Iin hissed.
The sun began to hurtle towards the moon, and each of them closed their eyes shut, some praying that they would be safe and others preparing for the seemingly inevitable fate. When the sun reached close enough that even La-Iin could finally feel its heat, something dusty landed all around them.
It was the remnants of the moondust castle.
“Oh shit,” La-Iin said.

—–
La-Iin woke with a jolt. It was already a half-hour before she had to be at school, so running on fearful adrenaline, she dressed herself quickly and packed her supplies.
As she passed through the kitchen, she noticed that Mit-Sun had left a small meal for her. “You should have something to eat at school, you know.”
“Okay,” she said. “Mama, do you think that theory that the sun will eat the moon is true?”
“I’m chalking it up to crackpot. This planet will be eaten by the sun before the moon is. Besides, you never know what the world has to offer. We could all die tomorrow, or if that was the case, we could find a way to stop it way before it happens. Sorry, I just don’t like all these doomsday predictions. But even if it will happen, why does it matter to us? We’ll all be dead before then.”
La-Iin flapped her wings rapidly. ‘Says you!’ She kept the thought to herself and dashed off to school.

12.497.Striving for Normalcy

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 497
“Striving for Normalcy”

“I’m…going to school, family,” Ai-Reia called.
“Have a good day,” her mother said.
“Be safe,” Reuf-Bu said.
“Don’t do anything dangerous,” her father said. Ai-Reia glared.
“I won’t, Father,” she scoffed. “Not like you’d believe that. You always choose to believe the worst in me.”
Her family gave each other concerned glances as she head out the door, her mind a whirlwind of thoughts.
‘Now it’s back to the way it was. The family that has absolutely zero trust in me. Why do I even bother? I have no support from anybody. I am a token to the world, a burden on my family, the target of my enemy. I have no usefulness save for the novelty of being one of the youngest child prodigies. And if Ca-Miela takes that from me as well, nobody will care about my novelty. Nobody loves me genuinely.’
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima came to mind. ‘But they aren’t what I need. I need friends who will live by my side, not die before my hundreth year and live on as memories. I don’t need that pain, and if they knew my inner thoughts, they wouldn’t want the burden of dealing with me either. I have nobody to support me. And the person out there who might…’
Her eyes began to tear up. She dabbed at her eyes. ‘They probably live in Dasdoria. In which case I truly have nobody else…’

***

“Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia looked up from her notebook. “Yes, Kokohara? Did you need something?”
“Mn. I wanted a rittle….er, little, bit of help with this puroblem…problem. Excuse me.”
“Oh, don’t worry. Your Vaelis has improved in one year far more than I thought it would. To be honest, I thought you’d still be calling me Vanpurisu into 2015!”
Shuera-Kaizima smiled, though Ai-Reia noticed the insides of her ears turn red. “Th-thank you, Vampiris. You and In-Dei always compliment me so much…my family too.”
“Your improvement is amazing! The compliments are well deserved.”
“You’re the amazing one. You’re so smart and you’re only seven, and you’re a Pureblood Vampire too. It really is amazing.”
“Please, Kokohara. My status as a child prodigy has nothing to do with my school life, so let’s leave it aside, alright?”
“O-okay. I understand. I just think it’s really cool.”
“Thank you, Kokohara. But in truth, there’s a part of me now that wishes that I wasn’t a child prodigy. I sort of wish I was still in diapers, being taken care of by my parents instead of being out here, at school. If things had been that way I would never have had to deal with La-Iin.”
Ai-Reia startled. “But that’s just a musing! I don’t mean to bother you with my problems, Kokohara. I’m sorry I even brought them up.”
“You talked with me and In-Dei before in the past. I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to talk to me about things again, and I think In-Dei would feel similarly.”
“No, it’s nothing, really! And just like I’d like to leave behind my child prodigy status, I’d also like to leave behind my problems when I’m at school. So if there’s nothing else you want, you should get back to your seat. Math class will likely start soon.”
Shuera-Kaizima’s ears folded to her head. “O…alright, if you say so…” Looking dejected, she walked back to her seat.
‘Kokohara might be hurt right now, but it’s for her own good. Or maybe, it’s just for my own good. How I wish I were normal. Why can’t I be a seven-year-old of a shorter-lived species? Why can’t I be a normal seven-year-old Vampire? If I could be one of those, I would never have learned of this kind of pain. But that isn’t the case. I’m not lucky like any of my fellow students. Instead, I have to deal with all this pain.’
Just before the teacher arrived, tears rolled down her cheeks. Once Theasis made it into the classroom, she bowed her head so her tears wouldn’t show.

When class came to an end, Ai-Reia felt thoroughly miserable. Nothing she could think of made her happy–no idea, no thought. When she remembered that she no longer had the privacy of her notebook to write down her sadness, it worsened significantly.
‘Worthless. Everything I’m doing is worthless. There is no payoff. Without the acceptance of another person I will go nowhere. I have no goal that I’m dead-set on achieving, save for destroying La-Iin. And there’s no guarantee I can do that. Perhaps I should provoke her so that she takes me out herself. Then I can get two things out of the way–my pain and La-Iin…’
“Vampiris!”
Ai-Reia looked up. The voice was Im-Dei’s, though it sounded strange in the midst of puberty. “Hello, Fyuori. Was there something you needed?”
“Yes, something both of us needed,” Shuera-Kaizima said. She peeked her head out from behind Im-Dei. “We want to talk to you about something.”
“Is there a subject you’re having trouble with?” She asked. “I may know a lot, but I’m certain you’re smarter than I am, Fyuori.”
“I don’t know about that,” Im-Dei said, nervously wringing his hands. “Um, why don’t we talk about this away from the crowds? The Weekend classrooms are empty today, aren’t they?”
“Yes?” ‘I wonder what these two want. Perhaps they want me to help them with a subject they’re struggling with? No, I doubt it. And they’re not cheaters, either. So what could it be?’
She snapped herself out of those thoughts as Shuera-Kaizima closed the door behind them.
“What did you want me for?”
“Just to talk,” Im-Dei said. “Go ahead and sit down, Vampiris.”
“I’m fine standing. What did you want?”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima glanced at each other, as if they were unsure of who should speak next. “This was my idea, Vampiris. After talking to you earlier, I thought you needed a helpful ear to listen to what you had to say.”
“We know there’s always your parents, but we wanted to help. After all, you’re our friend!”
Ai-Reia’s mind drew a blank, though only for a moment. ‘Friend. They called me their friend. But they don’t know what they’re getting into. No, maybe they do. This is a ploy. It’s the natural interest people have within them to learn about the problems of their peers. They want to know for their own curiosity. And then when they know, they’ll turn me away–as everyone else has.’
“N-no.”
“Would you rather talk to your parents?” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“We’re not trying to pressure you, Ai-Reia! But we want to be there for you.”
“No, it isn’t that I’d rather talk to my parents…I’d rather not talk to those traitors at all today if I can manage it…it has nothing to do with that.”
“Traitors?” Shuera-Kaizima questioned.
“What’s wrong, Vampiris?”
“We aren’t friends, not by a long shot. You two are a teenager and an almost-teenager. There’s no business you should have with me. I’m not your peer.”
“So what?” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Aren’t Cahongyun and Moru…Molshei friends, and they’re seven and…sixteen, right?”
“I think Molshei had his birthday already.”
“You don’t understand. It’s not just that.” Ai-Reia bit her lip. “We Vampires don’t have any business befriending those who will die so long before we do. And that is what you two will do. You will die on me before my hundreth year and be nothing but a distant memory for most of my life. Had I been a little older, or another species, it would be another thing, but the point stands that that’s not the way things have gone, so I have no business befriending you two.”
Both Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima fell silent. ‘Now they’ve finally realized their mistake. They’ll never want to talk to me again. But now it’s certain. I truly have nobody else in this world.’
“I know the lifespan thing might be making you upset, but what’s wrong with being friends anyway despite all that?”
“Didn’t you hear what I said!? If we became friends now, I wouldn’t have you two for most of my life!”
“Sometimes that happens,” Im-Dei said. “There are people out there who had great friends in school, who they loved spending time with and had fantastic memories of, but they don’t talk to each other now. And the students in Class D should show you that lifespan doesn’t get in the way of friendship. Even putting aside Cahongyun and Molshei, remember Xhephe…Xhephekuda? He’s a Groundiser and he was friends with Yuuldang.”
“It’s in the opinion of other people whether they want to expose themselves to that pain or not,” Ai-Reia said, looking away from the duo. “I don’t.”
“Well, even if you don’t want to be friends, we can still lend you an ear,” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“And if you ever change your mind, we’ll still be here…well, until we graduate,” Im-Dei said.
‘All the people who care about me in this world are people who will die on me.’ Ai-Reia was once again reminded of that thought, but only moments later she found she could completely ignore it. She walked over to the both of them and reached out her arms, and they returned the gesture with a hug.
‘Oh, screw the stupid lifespan for now. Just knowing that Kokohara and Fyuori care is more than I could ask for…’

—–
“It’s pretty late,” Im-Dei said, looking up at the sky. “I guess we spent longer talking than I thought.”
“But if it helped you any, it wasn’t a waste of time!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“Um…yes.”
“If you ever need to talk more, we’re still here. You just need to make sure to catch us at a good time.”
Ai-Reia nodded.
“Are you going to be okay, Vampiris?”
“More than okay, actually,” she said with a smile. “That hug was incredibly appreciated, thank you two. And I’m sorry if I upset you. The lifespan friendship deal is just something I see as common sense. But I’m grateful for you two, really I am. You two are some of the only people I feel I can truly rely on.”
Shuera-Kaizima opened her mouth, but quickly shut it. “Well, whenever you need to talk again, just come to us.”
“I…might, I suppose,” Ai-Reia said. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, Kokohara, Fyuori.”
“See you tomorrow!” They called.
Ai-Reia walked off of Malicerie grounds with a skip in her step. ‘I need to stop getting so happy. I’m only setting myself up for tragedy.’ Yet despite those thoughts, she couldn’t contain that happiness.

4.489.Ai Horror

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 489
“Ai Horror”

“I’m home!” Zih-Amo announced.
“Welcome home, Zih-Amo,” her mother said. “Did you have a good day at school…?”
“Mm-hm, it was good enough. But I think my classmates take school way too seriously. I know we need to take it seriously, but there should be some sort of cap for just how serious that seriousness is!”
Her mother chuckled. “Well, go ahead and get comfortable now, Zih-Amo. And again, welcome back…”
Zih-Amo head off to her room to unpack her school supplies when out the corner of her eye she caught sight of Ca-Miela, playing with something in Ai-Reia’s room.
“Hey, Ca-Miela!” She called, running into the room and swiftly picking her up. Ca-Miela looked up at her, her expression one of confusion.
“You can’t play around in Ai-Reia’s room. She’s already mad at you enough. You don’t want to make her angrier, do you?”
Ca-Miela still looked confused. Zih-Amo sighed. “You should go and play with your own toys. Ai-Reia’s toys wouldn’t even be safe for you!”
Before she put down Ca-Miela, Zih-Amo noticed that a notebook was sitting open on Ai-Reia’s bed. After she put down her sister, her curiosity got the better of her and she peeked at the page the book was open to.

Tuesday, May 4th, 2015

“It’s dated today?” She said aloud. ‘I wonder what this is. Is it a diary?’ She gasped. ‘If it’s a diary, I really shouldn’t look. But, hm, I wonder what kind of stuff Ai-Reia would write in her diary?’
Though she knew of her sister’s stresses, she couldn’t imagine her diary being filled with anything but a summary of the day and perhaps a few tidbits of information. The curiosity was overwhelming.
‘Ah, it can’t be anything big. Just a peek and Ai-Reia won’t even know I looked.’
She felt guilty, but her curiosity got the better of her and she opened the diary to the first page.

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

The dilemma that I, Vampiris Ai-Reia am facing right now has gotten to the point where I don’t know how to handle myself better. For the purposes of figuring that out I am going to write the following problems I have had since I entered Malicerie almost one year ago.
-A student at my new school, named Cahongyun La-Iin, became my stalker almost immediately after I entered. She would follow me about silently and mock me. It still confuses me to this day why she decided on ME particularly, aside from her explanation as to her needing another Vampire to help her rule the world in order to stave off loneliness. As if that isn’t the biggest load of bullshit! We have fought since then and it is her stalking of me, and continued mistreatment and vaguery around me, that has led to me having violent thoughts and various issues. Once recently I had a dream in which she destroyed Bledger; in response I murdered her in a brutal way. This will be the focus of a subject I will get to later.
-The birth of my younger sister Ca-Miela. That little brat has potential, but my family utterly spoils her as opposed to how they treated me. For a comparison, my smarts they attempted to hide out of fear of what response the public would have, seeing as I set a new world record for the youngest known Pureblood Vampire child prodigy–an astounding accomplishment for a Vampire in single digits. Meanwhile, Ca-Miela gets all that she needs and more. I have no doubt that if she showed smarts tomorrow, it would be encouraged by family. Perhaps because they’ve dealt with me before? Maybe they love her more? I wouldn’t know the answer because I don’t think it’s likely to happen, though I have doubted my own certainties before….in any event, my negative opinion and half-attempts to show Ca-Miela life isn’t all good have been failures and have strained my relationship with my family somewhat, all close members of it. To this day even though we get along much as we used to, I feel things are not the same as they were before any of these Ca-Miela events happened.
-The nightmare I mentioned above–the nightmare in which I brutally murdered my hated enemy La-Iin. That night made me feel like a monster, and I realized something from it. There is some part inside of me, though I’m unaware of what, that truly embodies that monstrous personality. I don’t know if it’s a manifestation of my hatred for La-Iin, a manifestation of my frustration, some sort of hurdle…or perhaps, who I really am? I struggle with that thought and this is one of my strongest reasonings for creating this diary.
I’m hoping to figure out potential solutions for my problems in life or at least explanations for what is going on. Perhaps I really can change Ca-Miela, divert her away from the spoiled persona I’m almost certain she’ll develop at this point. Perhaps I will be free of La-Iin someday, whether by her death, her or my transferring schools or some other means, or she will change and will no longer be one of my problems. Perhaps this ‘monster’ is something imagined. But I will not rest until I find out the truth. As a note to myself on how effective I believe this treatment will be–I feel already more positive just writing down my issues for myself to see.

Zih-Amo was stunned by the diary entry. ‘I had no idea Ai-Reia felt like this.’ Her reluctance to search her diary abandoned, she began to flip through further pages.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Today I’ve only been reminded how much I despise the month of April. I can’t wait until this month passes. All the strongest memories I have from this month are bad ones. Just it being this month is making me furious, and it’s giving me more reason to feel there is some credence to my theory of that monster being part of my personality. Who else would get so irrationally angry at it being a certain month? And yet, still, I don’t want to believe that…

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Today I had a talk with my enemy’s close friend, Sanhuun Fer-Shi. Their friendship completely and utterly baffles me. I give no credence to that sham of a morality scale that people choose to prescribe themselves by, but if you truly do wish to believe in it, then why befriend people whose morals do not align with yours? If you believe in the goodness of people, and want the world to improve, why would you call someone who wishes to take it over and destroy it your best friend? She is a young child as I am, though, so perhaps that explains some of it. She’s smart enough and perhaps she will realize later on that she shouldn’t be friends with such a monster.
That talk made me think on something else as well. I fear my inner monster, but perhaps it’s a manifestation of my unstable powers. I’ve learned in school that some major powers can cause changes in one’s mind for the duration of its use that can be unhealthy for the user’s mental health. Perhaps my early development of my bat transformation power is the reason I believe in that monster. It’s a comforting thought to me–both because it means it’s something I could get a hold on, and because it completely absolves me of anything I might do to La-Iin while in that mindset…I truly mean that except in cases of self-defense or the defense of the people around me I would not harm La-Iin while within my right mind. But I cannot vouch for my wrong mind, and in such a case nobody can blame me. I would hold SOME regret over doing such a thing…but if I’m telling the truth, it really wouldn’t be much.

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

An encounter with a man who used to go to my school has me thinking. There’s another problem I have in life. I feel alienated and alone at times because my family will jump to Ca-Miela’s defense–their excuse being that ‘she’s just a baby’ while they ignore their damaging smothering of her–and do not understand me. They believe I am truly and genuinely insane at all moments and capable of snapping, or at least that’s the impression they give off to me, while meanwhile the truth is I only know I am really losing myself when I transform into a bat. I have people in my life who would understand me. That man and his friend–although I am convinced they are actually boyfriend and girlfriend, despite his claims–and two dear students of mine, Fyuori Im-Dei and Kokohara Shuera-Kaizima. Those four would hear me out and care about me, especially Fyuori and Kokohara. If I told them of my problems they would try to help me back on the right track. And that leaves me wondering, ‘why don’t I ask them for help with my problems?’
That man is a Normal. His friend and Fyuori are Birdmixes. Kokohara is a Catori. I am a Vampire. The differences in our lifespans are vast. Even putting that aside, I am seven years old. That man and his friend are most likely grown adults, though they can’t be that old. Fyuori is a teenager and Kokohara is very nearly at that point herself. Even if I put aside our lifespan differences, the fact remains that we have a large age gap already. I desperately WANT to reach out to these people. I know they would understand, and I can easily talk to Fyuori and Kokohara. We go to school together. We get along. But that is one place where I can understand La-Iin. She wanted me to help her rule the world because we are Vampires of similar age and thus would live for about the same time, with her perhaps exceeding me by only a hundred years–nothing to a Vampire who got to spend nearly a thousand with a cohort. For as much as I want to reach out to them, they will not be there with me for all my life. I will lose them early on and they will be only memories for the majority of my life excepting the possibility that something happens to me. The closer I become to them, the more painful that would be.
And yet people such as my untrusting family, that spoiled brat Ca-Miela, that malice La-Iin–they all will be around with me for a long time. It simply isn’t fair. Why can’t those four be of long-lived species like I am? Why can’t I be a short-lived species? Why can’t La-Iin at the very least be a Pureblood Normal so I won’t have to deal with her all my life? It simply isn’t fair. Writing this down has only just nearly prevented me from falling into a depression, but I’m sad enough just thinking back on it.

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

The violent imaginations are getting stronger. I’m getting a little distracted in class imagining disembowling La-Iin. And the frightening part is, such thoughts used to be things that would disturb me despite my hatred of La-Iin. Now I don’t really care all that much. I’ve finally started to believe that this monster isn’t who I truly am, and now I have to face this question–is it possible that I could lose to the monster in the battle for domination over my personality?

Zih-Amo gasped.
“Ugh, it smells like Ca-Miela soiled her diaper in here.”
Zih-Amo flinched. Ai-Reia had walked into her room. There was no time to put down the notebook, and already she could see a smoldering anger starting in her eyes.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing in my room!?” She shrieked, taking the notebook from her. “How much did you read? What page were you on!?”
“I–I didn’t read much, I swear! Just a little bit about…um…how you were scared to get close to your classmates.”
Ai-Reia’s expression softened somewhat, but her glare remained. “You had no reason to be in my room, nor to be looking through a personal notebook. Regardless of how little you saw, I–I don’t want to talk to you right now. This is a private journal, Zih-Amo. I’d think you could get that through your head!”
Zih-Amo bowed her head and head for the door, but she couldn’t resist a glance back at Ai-Reia before she left.
“If you need to talk to anyone, you can talk to me, okay? Ai-Reia, I’m really worried about you. And I don’t think you’re insane.”
“Evidently you read more than you let on,” Ai-Reia said through grit teeth. “Leave, Zih-Amo! If I had ever considered talking to you about this before, I’m abandoning that thought now.”
Zih-Amo’s vision blurred over as she left the room, almost running away from it.

—–
Monday, May 4th, 2015

I don’t know how safe it is to keep writing in here anymore. I don’t know how much Zih-Amo knows. She’s very close to our whole family, particularly our father; I have no guarantees she won’t tell anyone of the violent thoughts I’ve had and that they won’t just ship me off to therapy in the hopes that I’ll ‘reform’, thus leaving me alone with my thoughts and them alone to continuously ruin Ca-Miela.
I may need to take a break from writing in here. This may have helped my sanity in the past, but the reason I put you down now–that is also for the sake of my sanity.

27.482.La-Iin in my Life

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 482
“La-Iin in my Life”

La-Iin scarfed down breakfast that morning, checking the clock closely. If she didn’t rush, she would be late for school–and if she was late for school, she would stoke Mit-Sun’s ire. As she ate she tried to figure out how much time she would have left to get to school on time.
“You can be so lazy sometimes,” Mit-Sun sighed.
“Whaff id oo ey!?” La-Iin protested.
“Swallow first.”
La-Iin swallowed. “How dare you! I’m always doing something! Someone like me always has to be. I go on walks with Choungetsu and I spend time with my friends at school and at their houses and at my house, sometimes…I do a whole bunch of things!”
“I know there’s a lot you do. That’s why I said ‘sometimes’. When you’re not doing anything you end up in your room looking like you fell asleep with your eyes open.”
“It’s how I plan for things.” She turned her nose up at Mit-Sun. “Fine then! You think I’m lazy? I’ll show you otherwise.”
“I never said you’re lazy all the time–”
“I’ll show you, Mama!” She finished the rest of her food, then rushed out the door at a speed Mit-Sun hadn’t expected her to have. Beside her, Choungetsu looked up with a concerned expression.
“I guess I made her mad,” Mit-Sun mused.

***

“I’ll show Mama, that rotten Normal. She thinks she’s better than me because she gave birth to me, she has another thing coming, I’ll show her thirty years from now, I will, maybe even less than that…”
“Whatcha mumbling about, La-Iin?”
“Nothing.” She glanced at Fer-Shi. “We’re friends, right, Fer-Shi?”
“Yeah, of course!”
“Because of that, I know you like me, but what do you think of me aside from that? What kind of opinion do you have of me as a person?”
“…well, this is pretty random,” she said. “Well, if you want me to be really honest…”
“Yes, I do.”
“Sometimes you can be really mean. You hate Normals because they don’t have any powers and you talk about wanting to rule the world and own slaves. You can be creepy too because you stalk San-Kyung around.”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes, but she listened closely to all of what Fer-Shi had to say. “Even though you have those aspects of your personality, I wouldn’t change them…well, maybe except the stalking thing…because they make you La-Iin. And when you’re not being evil, you can be pretty fun. You know a lot of ways to really entertain people and you’re a great friend even though you pick on me sometimes. So I think, if you’re like me and you can overlook what you don’t like, you’ll find what you do like is far more important!”
La-Iin nodded.
“Why’d you ask, anyway?”
“Morbid curiosity. I plan on asking other people too.”
“Okay. Well, actually, I don’t think you should ask Ai-Reia!”
“I’m going to, if I get the chance,” she said, running ahead of Fer-Shi. “But…thank you for telling me that.”
“You’re welcome!”

La-Iin had written down what Fer-Shi had told her to the best of her memory, then decided on who she should talk to next.
‘Most of these students mean nothing to me and I don’t care about their opinion. I know Ai-Reia’s pretty well, so maybe I should ask her next. Get her over with.’
“Ai-Reia.”
“Leave me alone, Cahongyun. It never gets through your head when I tell you how much I despise you, does it? You’d think with one as big as yours, it would.”
“I don’t want to bother you for long. I just want you to let it all out. I want you to tell me how much you hate me. Maybe then I’ll get it in my head. Or maybe I won’t. Would you rather take the chance or not take the chance?”
“Not, because I doubt it will change anything.”
“Well, if you don’t tell me, I think I’ll have to try and rush so I can sit next to you through the next classes.”
Ai-Reia narrowed her eyes. She walked away from her desk, beckoned to La-Iin, then slammed her against the wall.
“I hate you,” she spat. “I despise you. If I heard that you died I don’t think I’d care. In fact, I might even laugh in joy about being able to be free! You’ve caused a lot of confused feelings within me, La-Iin. Feelings I never wanted to deal with. Now I’m left wondering if I’m a monster because you drew out such hatred in me. But I’ll always know I’m better than you, if by nothing else of virtue that while I’m of sound mind, I will never kill you. I cannot guarantee such a thing the other way around. But then,” she let go of La-Iin, “I’m not even sure when exactly I am of sound mind. And there. That is my opinion of you.”
She stalked back to the classroom, looking somewhat relieved. La-Iin jot down her words immediately.

“Huh? You wanted to ask my opinion of what I think about you?”
“Yes. I remember that we worked together to find out about a Santa organization. I figured I needed to ask more people than I was going to, so I added you.”
“Huh, well, there’s not much I can say about my opinion on you,” Zae-Mia sighed. “I don’t really know you. But I guess if I had to talk about impressions, you remind me of one of those people who’s going to be a lot different as a kid than you are as an adult. I think how you grow up is going to be something very interesting to watch. You’re not too bad a kid, in short.”
“I see.”
“Well, that’s about all I have to say. Hey, do you have Molshei on the list of people you plan on asking?”
“Of course I do.”
Zae-Mia grinned. “Of course.”

“Rival-boy! I need you for something!”
“What do you need me for? If this is some sort of rivalry competition, I’m not interested.”
“It has nothing to do with that. I want to know your opinion on me.”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Actually, with you, it’s the least obvious of everyone else I know.”
“I guess it isn’t that obvious, but you should still know what it is. Well, I think you’re incredibly annoying when it comes to this whole rivalry business. You’ve treated me pretty badly because of your kiddie crush on San-Kyung.”
“It’s not a kiddie crush!” La-Iin hissed.
“Go ahead and keep saying that. Anyway, even though you can be annoying, sometimes I think hanging out with you can be a little fun. I think we had the potential to be friends, and I’m a little ashamed of you for preventing that.”
“I wouldn’t be,” La-Iin scoffed.
“In short terms, you are one of the most annoying people I’ve ever met. But at the same time, I don’t feel like hanging out with you is wasting my time, except when you force me into rival battles. But that barely happens nowadays, so I’ve felt pretty good around you! Now if only you wouldn’t be so verbally abusive, I think I could take you any day. Happy? Because I have to get back to class and you don’t.”
“I’m never happy around you, rival-boy.”
“What about when San-Kyung’s there?” He waved. “See you later, La-Iin!”

La-Iin waited patiently for her chance to ask San-Kyung how he felt about her. Though she was certain the answer wouldn’t be anything surprising, she still anticipated it.
“While you’re waiting for Sanhuun, would you like to play with me?” Shuu-Kena asked.
“Why should I? I have other things I can do. Like wait for my last class. Besides, aren’t you shy?”
“A little. But I wouldn’t mind playing with you.”
La-Iin huffed. “No.”
“O-okay then. Well, talk to you later, Cahongyun!”
‘As if,’ La-Iin thought. ‘She really does think I’ll want to become her friend. She must be deluded. Or maybe she has potential…no, she has to be deluded.’

The moment La-Iin had been waiting for had come.
“San-Kyuuuung~ Tell me, how do you feel about me?”
“What.”
“I want your honest opinion of me. Don’t hold anything back. I want to hear it!”
“You just want to hear what you want to hear….ugh,” he groaned. “No.”
“Come on. When I say your honest opinion, I mean that. I listened to everyone else’s honest opinion of me. Didn’t I, rival-boy?”
“Sure you did, but you complained at me the entire time.”
“P…please?”
San-Kyung grimaced.
“Okay then. Fine! I take back my please.”
“That doesn’t work on me like it works on you. But fine, I’ll tell you. You’re my….friend, so I don’t hate you like I used to. I see you as very valuable to my future.”
The look of excitement on La-Iin’s face made him shudder. “But you annoy me a lot of the time. The sooner you drop the crush nonsense, the better.”
“That’s sad, San-Kyung. It’s not nonsense, and I’m never dropping it.”
“Then I’ll perpetually be irritated by you. But we’re still….ugh…friends, so whatever.”
La-Iin smiled.

On her way back home, while considering her options, La-Iin decided to stop by the graveyard.
“What do I think of you? Well, I think you’re one of my best friends. You and Fer-Shi and Choungetsu. And I really want to prove to you that I’m a ghost. You fill me with a determination I never had when I was alive. That’s kind of nice. I’m happy whenever you come to see me. You’re a good friend even if you’re evil.”
“You still have to give me definite proof, you know,” La-Iin told her.
“I’m working on it, when I’m not lost,” she chuckled. “I’ll try and figure something out, so you do it too, okay?”

‘The last place before home.’ La-Iin knocked on the door to the Astineth house after noticing it was locked. Once Sale-Dessu opened the door, she yelled, “Stop locking your door!”
“It’s security, La-Iin,” he said. “What if someone opens the door and sees Eul-Bok? You’re one thing, but strangers are another.”
“Most people would expect your door to be locked,” she said. “Anyway, I’m only coming in for something short. Where’s Eul-Bok?”
“Right here,” he called before running into the living room. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to ask you two’s opinion of me,” she said. “What do you two think of me as a person?”
Both gave each other confused glances. Sale-Dessu spoke first.
“You’re my ally. …and I would say a bit of a friend, but I don’t know if you would. I enjoy most of the times you come over. I’m glad that you’re someone who’s in my life. I don’t agree with all of your ideas, but I can overlook it.”
“I find you annoying, and I think you hinder my Father. The only compliment I can give you is that at least you’re better than Bes-Isa.”
La-Iin jotted down their words immediately. “You’re–you’re writing what I said down?”
“Yes. This was all for a project, after all.” She nodded to them. “Go back to your Warlocky stuff. We’ll probably see each other again soon, Sale-Dessu.”
“I guess so,” he said, sounding uncertain.

***

“Mama?”
“Yes, La-Iin? What took you so long to get back from school? Was there something going on?”
“You could say that,” she said, looking away from Mit-Sun. “Anyway, here’s proof that I can do something productive with my day! Opinions of me from anonymous sources.”
Mit-Sun picked up the notebook and began to squint at it. “I can’t read all of this,” she said.
“You’re impossible, Mama.”
“You know, I was just saying you’re lazy sometimes, right?”
“I know. But I won’t stand for that. So I did this. Are you happy?”
“I don’t really care,” she said. La-Iin pouted. “But I’m sure it took effort to ask these many people, so it’s quite an accomplishment. I can at least say you did something.”
“Good,” she said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to finish.”
Mit-Sun chuckled as she glanced through the notebook. ‘All to prove something to me…’

—–
“By the way, Mama, what do you think about me?”
“I think you know that already. Even though you can be annoying and almost impossible to deal with, I still love you. If I didn’t I would have given you away to Asul-Zenza.”
“You’re not that nice. You probably would have abandoned me.”
“Count yourself lucky I’m your mother and would never do that under any circumstance.”
“I’m not so sure I should,” La-Iin mused. Mit-Sun glared at her. “You know, sometimes I wonder what you think about me, too.”
“Now that should be obvious.”
“No, it really isn’t.”

24.479.Wondrous Ca-Miela

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 479
“Wondrous Ca-Miela”

Ai-Reia woke later than usual that morning, and though she knew she would have to rush to school at her sluggish pace, she found it hard to care at first. She stumbled into the dining room just as her mother was placing breakfast in front of each chair. Ai-Reia glanced around at her family, quickly noticing something strange–aside from Ca-Miela, who wore her normal expression, everyone at the table seemed unusually happy.
“Did something good happen before I woke up?” She asked them.
“You don’t know what today is?” Reuf-Bu asked.
“Of course she doesn’t! This time last year she was on her school trip, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I remember.”
“What are you talking about?” Ai-Reia asked. Her question had been useless, for before anyone could respond she remembered what today was.
Her mother spoke anyway despite her gasp. “Ca-Miela turns one today,” she said. “She still feels so new, so it’s hard to think that she’s one now…”
“You got used to Ai-Reia’s growth pace, I suppose,” her father said. “But Ca-Miela isn’t aging at her pace. She’ll feel new for a few more years to come.”
“Ca-Miela will always feel fresh to me!” Zih-Amo said cheerfully.
Ai-Reia stared past the rest of her family and at Ca-Miela, who pat the desk of her high chair. Her feelings were conflicted–she could remember the sadness she had felt when she had received the call telling her that Ca-Miela had been born while she was gone, yet at the same time she remembered the rage she felt towards her behavior, and also the concern at the thought that she might grow to become a smarter prodigy than her.
One thought stuck out among all the rest.
‘Baby Vampires are supposed to grow slowly, but I’ve let a year pass and let my family spoil her that entire time. What if she does end up smart like I have? She’ll grow fast enough if that ends up being the case. I owe it to her to change her path so that she can end up a respectable member of the Vampiris family. I need to do something today!’

***

While during school Ai-Reia focused on the lessons, on her way to and back from it she thought on how she could help out Ca-Miela.
“She’s still a young Vampire, so there’s no saying how all this could affect her. But if she ends up a prodigy, she could also end up unconsciously retaining a bunch of information. At her pace she might end up a spoiled princess type. I should mold her into more of a respectable Vampire. But what sort of personality should I try and push her toward?”
“What are you talking about, Vanpiris?”
Ai-Reia startled. She hadn’t noticed Shuera-Kaizima was walking close by. “Oh, just going over a lesson by myself. I still struggle with some of the higher-grade lessons.”
“You do better than I do, still,” she said. “Well, at least in most things. I do good in science. What about you?”
“I struggle a bit with that one sometimes. I think math is one of my strongest suits.”
“I guess I’m okay at math,” she mused. “I should get home now. Until Monday, Vanpiris!”
“See you Monday, Kokohara!” She called. “Oh, Kokohara, how I wish you were a Vampire like I am. Or at least a Groundiser…” She shook her head. “No point in dwelling on these subjects now. I have to focus on Ca-Miela.”
Past that short conversation with Shuera-Kaizima, Ai-Reia kept her ideas to herself. She struggled with thoughts of what personality she should try and push her younger sister towards, but always reminded herself that what she was doing was for her sister’s good.
As soon as she got home, she head for her parent’s bedroom and to Ca-Miela’s crib. Ca-Miela cooed and reached out a tiny hand.
“Don’t do that,” she snapped. “You’re coming with me. And not for anything bad this time.” She pushed down the crib’s side and picked up Ca-Miela, struggling a bit with her weight but nonetheless making her way with her to her bedroom. Ca-Miela never once seemed upset by the turn of events, cooing happily the entire time.
Once she arrived in her bedroom, she placed her on her bed and reached for a book.
“Ca-Miela, you and I have had problems in the past. Yes, I know you can’t understand this yet, but perhaps it will have an effect on you nonetheless. You are my sister, and I don’t want to believe that there is no hope for change in your future. I know of a certain irredeemable half-Vampire whose name shall not be mentioned here. For your sake, I will turn you away from her path and onto a path I can truly respect.”
Ca-Miela seemed confused, but Ai-Reia paid it no mind. Instead she pulled out a small box of her old baby toys and laid some in front of Ca-Miela, who instantly stuffed one into her mouth. “You can’t do that. That’s not food.” She pulled the toy out of her mouth gently.
“I need to make you understand, but the teaching a baby seems nigh impossible,” she sighed. “There has to be something I can do, though. If I only knew what personality would be ideal for you…”
Ca-Miela ignored her and played with her toys, mostly by sucking on them or smashing them with more strength than Ai-Reia would have expected from a baby.
“Let me read you a book while you make a fool of yourself. A-hem. ‘Once upon a time, in a kingdom far detached from the rest of the lands, there lived a Skeletaltype Princess named Ua-Re. Ua-Re was a notorious Princess for reasons both good and bad. She wanted to believe that all of her subjects were kind people with the potential to do great things with her life. She wanted to encourage her subjects to mold the kingdom more to their liking than to the likings of her and her father.
“‘Some of her subjects admired her kindness, optimism and innocence, while others mocked her for it, believing her to be a fool. Despite the varying opinions, Ua-Re held steadfast to her beliefs. She thought that if it wasn’t true that people were all kind people with potential, then she would make it so that they all had that potential. So she….'”
Ai-Reia found herself trailing off. ‘Ca-Miela’s such an innocent baby, she can’t possibly understand how spoiled she’s been. If I keep her innocent in that way, perhaps she’ll never develop that spoiled Princess attitude. She could be strong, innocent and optimistic, just like Ua-Re. She’d be a sister I could grow to love.’
Ai-Reia smiled. “You know, you’re not supposed to play with toys like that. I suppose that’s something you can learn later, though.”
Ca-Miela continued to smash the toys. Ai-Reia picked her up and hugged her close. Ca-Miela ignored her affection, instead sucking on the toy still in her hand.
“You do have potential, my sister,” she said. “And though I may resent you at times for who you are now, once you can understand better the path you must take, I’ll hold your hand the whole way through. Happy birthday, little sister.”
Wrinkling her nose, she put her down. “Oh, that sounded so ridiculously sappy, I’m glad she won’t remember this…”
Ai-Reia reached for the book again, ready to read the rest of the story, when she heard a shriek. Putting down the book, she opened her door only to come face-to-face with her mother.
“What’s wrong, mother!?”
“Ca-Miela is–” Her mother didn’t finish the sentence, for her eyes drifted in Ca-Miela’s direction before she could.
“What’s Ca-Miela doing in your room, Ai-Reia?” She asked. She sounded calm, though Ai-Reia could tell it was put-upon.
‘She thinks I was doing something wrong again, I can tell. If she only knew the truth.’
“I was reading to her, Mother. See? It’s a shame she can’t really understand it yet, though.”
“O-oh?” Her mother breathed. “Oh…oh, I guess that’s fine. But were you the one who took her out of her crib?”
“I did. Sorry for not telling you first.”
“It’s fine, though you had us all really worried,” she said. “Please tell us next time you do that.”
“I will, mother.”
Her mother smiled. “It’s a little surprising to see you trying to bond with Ca-Miela, Ai-Reia….but I am really glad to see it.”
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s very frustrating to read to a baby who understands none of it. But perhaps Ca-Miela and I won’t be as distant in the future as I thought we would be.”
Her mother gave her a quizzical look, but Ai-Reia didn’t notice it–she had turned to see Ca-Miela instead, who was still smashing her old toys against each other with that same unusual force.

—–
At dinner that night, all her family was celebrating for Ca-Miela. Ca-Miela played with her own toys while sitting in her high chair as her family chattered and ate a special dinner, their moods cheerful.
Had the day been different, Ai-Reia was sure she would have felt bitter at that moment, watching her family coo over Ca-Miela. But after the conclusion she had come to today, she was happy to join in the festivities with her family, even talking herself about her younger sister whom she now saw so much potential in.