12.589.Transition to Recovery

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 589
“Transition to Recovery”

“Y’know, Ai-Reia, you’ve seemed a little happier this Summer break than last Summer break. Especially after those kids…Kokohara and Fyuori, yeah?”
“Yes. And what are you doing calling them kids? They might be younger than you in years but in terms of general maturity you aren’t all that much older than they are.”
“The years still count for something, sis. Anyway, I’m happy to see you happy, especially after all that was going on. Are you feeling better?”
“I have been, actually….oh! You bringing this up reminded me of something. Mother, Father, would you mind if I invited Kokohara and Fyuori over tomorrow?”
“Hm? Not at all,” her father said.
“I’d be happy to see them again,” her mother said. Ai-Reia smiled. “Thank you.”
“You know, it’s so weird that your best friends are teenagers. You’d think they’d be around your age!”
“I would guess that my smarts alienate the normal kids around my age,” she sighed. “But I’ll take what I can get. I do like Kokohara and Fyuori. But this can all wait for tomorrow, can’t it?”

***

Ai-Reia flipped through her diary. Page after page, she would lament about something that was going on in her life, be it something to do with La-Iin, Ca-Miela or the rest of her family. Sometimes she would see entries about her prodigy status. Reading through it made her cringe, but she continued on anyway.
‘This diary saw me through my darkest times, and it was also what helped usher in more,’ she thought. ‘But things have changed since the days I thought I needed this. I’ve realized Ca-Miela has a true potential. My family is showing love for me once more. La-Iin’s hopefully realized she cannot use me, and I have friends now, impermanent as they are…’
Upon finishing the last page, she closed the book. ‘Still, something feels like it’s missing….’
“Ai-Reia, Kokohara and Fyuori are here,” her mother called.
“I’m coming!” She hopped out the bed, leaving the book behind, and went to greet her friends.
“Herro, Ai-Reia! Oopsy. I mean hello.” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“Don’t worry about it. Come on in!”
“Your house really is nice, Ai-Reia,” Im-Dei said. “I like the way it’s decorated.”
“Thank you. Although if I were the one in charge of decorating, I think it would look a little different.” Although she tried to muster a giggle, the reminder of the subject at hand kept her from doing so. “I, ah figure you two know why I called you here today.”
“We’re here to help you too, so it doesn’t bother us,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Or, at least, it does not bother me. Does it bother you, In-Dei?”
“No, not at all. …well, maybe a little bit, but not for the reason you’d think.”
“You might just be wrong about that one, Fyuori,” she said. “Follow me.”
She led the two to her bedroom, dashing in ahead of them. She grabbed her diary and held it away from them.
“This diary contains a record of the way I felt for a…period of time,” she said. “I’ve had a hard time, although I guess it doesn’t compare to people who have been through worse. But it was horrible. This was my only escape, and when it was taken away from me I started to deteriorate because I had made it the only thing that made me happy…everything else I considered to have a bad side.”
“Ai-Reia…”
Ai-Reia held up a hand. “Please. I need to get this out without commentary. …I don’t know exactly what it was that caused my behavior, but I have a theory. I think it was stress. For a long time, I did worry that there was something wrong with me…of course with my curious mind, I had to look into it. And while admittedly a few of the things that I thought were concerning, I can chalk that up to, well…I am still little…I don’t always understand the full weight of things right away.”
Ai-Reia glanced at the duo, but their expressions gave away nothing. “When I started feeling happier again, I realized I didn’t want to go back to the way I was before. Not only that, but I realized it was the best thing for me. My family has always been my biggest supporters and my best of friends. You two might not be around my whole life, but you definitely enrich it. And as for that bully, La-Iin….if I can recover, I’m showing her that what she did to me does not affect me. It will not stop me from succeeding where she will likely fail. So this is my goal. I will recover from what happened before, and become a new Ai-Reia.”
Her face flushed. “Sorry, that was probably a little over-dramatic…”
“I’ve heard worse,” Im-Dei said. “And we’ve wanted you to be able to move past things too.”
“It does make sense, Ai-Reia. Of course you want to be happy instead of unhappy!”
Ai-Reia smiled. “Yes, I suppose I do. And more than anything, I didn’t want there to be anything wrong with me. Knowing what I know now, I really feel like I can make an improvement.”
“Part of the improvement can also be not dwelling on the past so much,” Im-Dei said. Ai-Reia chuckled. “Yes, that’s true. And I hope I can do that when school starts again. I think I can improve, but I worry about whether or not seeing La-Iin again will stir those old feelings in me…”
“I’m sure if you devote yourself to this, you’ll be fine,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “But to devote yourself, like In-Dei says, that’s to stop thinking about what happened and focus on the Ai-Reia you want to be. And what is it that you want to be?”
Ai-Reia didn’t need to think on it. “Normal. I may have smarts beyond my age, but that’s just a matter of individuality. I want to be a normal person. And I would like to study more. There is just so much to learn in this world, after all. I wonder if I’ll have the time to learn more about it all?”
“That’s silly to say. Of course you will.”
Ai-Reia gave a half-hearted chuckle. “I suppose I will…”

“You aren’t going to put blood in as a secret ingredient again, are you?”
“It isn’t a secret ingredient to us Vampires,” Ai-Reia said calmly.
“It’s an unpleasant secret to those of us who are not, though!” Shuera-Kaizima shrieked. “Please, no.”
“I’m not sure I can keep that promise.” Ai-Reia dripped blood into the batter. Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei flinched. “Oh, come on, you two. You’d almost think I was the oldest one here. Especially you, Shuera-Kaizima. Catoris are carnivores–I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of blood, and anyway isn’t eating flesh more gruesome than eating something flavored with blood?”
“If it would not kill me, I might be a vegetarian,” Shuera-Kaizima sighed.
“Well, I guess that’s a Vampire tradition, to put blood in food,” Im-Dei sighed. “I’ll respect it…but I don’t like it. I guess it’s not all that easy to taste, though…”
“That’s fine. I’m not the biggest fan of blood either.” Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei shot her surprised looks. “But that’s only because I’m not a bloodsucker yet! I’m sure my taste for it will come with time.”
“As it does,” Reuf-Bu said. “I thought blood tasted like spoiled ham before I could suck blood. Now I love it.”
“You two are crazy. I loved blood even before I could bloodsuck!” Zih-Amo said.
“Why even is there a wait time for the bloodsucking power? Could you not suck my blood now if you wanted to?”
“It has to do with cravings,” Ai-Reia said. She then tapped her canines. “That, and underdeveloped feeding holes.”
“Ah.”
“Reuf-Bu, Zih-Amo, if you’re going to be in the kitchen, the least you could do is help out.”
“Oh noooo!” Zih-Amo shrieked. Reuf-Bu grabbed her by the overalls. “If I’ve gotta help, you’ve gotta help too!”
“Eek!”
Ai-Reia giggled. The kitchen soon became rowdy with the addition of Reuf-Bu and Zih-Amo, but the treats were finished that much faster. Ai-Reia was sure she was having the time of her life, laughing and chatting happily with her older siblings and friends.
Still, something felt like it was missing. ‘I’m sure this would be better if Ca-Miela were old enough to join us.’

When the treats were done, all five of the cooks set them down on the table. Ca-Miela stared at them wide-eyed, and seemed anxious to eat one, but was instead handed a bottle by her mother.
“It might sound conceited, but I figured since I’m making a resolution, why not celebrate?”
“Because some people make resolutions they won’t stick to?” Reuf-Bu said. Ai-Reia nudged him lightly with a fist.
“I am sure Ai-Reia will keep this resolution. She’s serious about it.” Shuera-Kaizima told him.
“Don’t I know that. I live with her, you know.” He rubbed his hands together. “Well, it’s a win-win, then! You’re going to be more happy, and we get treats because of it!”
Everyone at the table began to reach for treats at once, making a bit of mess on the table. Ai-Reia found herself amused by the display.
“Are you really going to be happier from now on, Ai-Reia?” Her mother asked. “I’m still worried, you know…”
“I understand, Mother. But my resolution is to enjoy life more. I can’t keep dwelling on the things that upset me, otherwise they will only serve to upset me more. I’m sure I’ll still be stressed at times–the downside of being such a young child prodigy….but here in Bledger, do I really have to worry all that much?”
“She has a point,” Reuf-Bu said before cramming more food into his mouth.
“I felt it on my birthday. Once everything started going right, I knew what I had to do. So I’m certain now. I will not go back to that point I was at before. I will prove my true strength by showing this world that I can move past it, and be happy!”
Almost everyone at the table smiled at her, save for Ca-Miela, who was still drinking from the bottle. Ai-Reia smiled back.
‘Just you watch, La-Iin. Your threats will mean nothing to me when I return to school. This Summer has made me a changed woman!”

—–
Late that night, after Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei had long since left, Ai-Reia stepped outside with the diary and a lighter she had managed to swipe from the kitchen. She hoped nobody noticed it was missing.
She checked through the pages once more. Each of them made her as uncomfortable as they had earlier that day.
“If I really am going to stick to this plan, I can’t be reminded of my past by you,” she said, then set the diary on fire. She tossed it to a portion of gravel and watched it burn, keeping close by just in case the fire began to spread. To her luck, it stayed mostly contained to the diary.
As she watched it burn, an uncertain feeling washed over her.
‘That monstrous feeling…those violent dreams…am I sure those too were the product of stress?’
She shook her head. ‘Don’t think on it. This is a thing of the past now. If I am really going to be happy from here on out, I need to start convincing myself that will really be the case.’

8.585.To Repair the Prior Year

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

18.564.Plans for the People

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 564
“Plans for the People”

“Hey, La-Iin. I see that you’re busy, but since I can talk right now, I’ve got a question for you that’s been nagging me lately.”
“What’s that? And hurry it up. I think this picture is going to be a masterpiece and I need as few distractions as possible.”
“I’d beg to differ, but whatever. I can’t remember, but did you say whether or not you had plans for all the people you mean to involve in your world-domination plots?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened and she set down her crayon. “Yes. I have big plans for quite a few people.”
“Ah, I see.”
“What, is that it? You don’t want to hear about my plans or anything?”
“As much as I would, I know you won’t give me the full story because it’s supposed to be a secret. As if I could tell anyone anyway.”
“I have no guarantees on that now that Sale-Dessu found out you can make V-Puppets autonomous. And you make a great point, why spoil my plans? But I can tell you who I have plans for. That would be Fer-Shi, Mama and Dami, Choungetsu, but only a little bit, Ai-Reia, sort of, Sara, rival-boy, Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok, and San-Kyung of course, and you.”
“Is that it?”
“Unless you want to count my future children or wanting to see if Imagination is still alive nine-hundred years from now. Then yes. There might be a few people I have smaller plans for, but those are the ones I have major plans for.”
“I have to question some of those choices. Don’t you dislike rival-boy–what was his name, Dosa-Mina?”
“Yes, he’s Dosa-Mina. And I do have plans for someone who’s caused me so much trouble.” La-Iin gripped her crayon tightly. “If you want to hear anything, you’ll have to ask me after I’m done drawing, though. Oh, and I guess I have a little bit of a plan for Ei-Tio, too, but it’s a work in progress.”
“Huh.”
“I have a lot of plans, Bes-Isa. You should have known that plans for the people would be among them.”

***

“La-Iin, you said you wanted Narwhaltae blood, right? Are you planning on giving the slaves a bath?”
“If you want the slaves to be clean, clean them yourself.”
Fer-Shi sighed. “Most of the slaves don’t like me….agh! La-Iin, do you have to breastfeed Chung-Ae in front of me?”
“It wasn’t in front of you before you got here.”
“Things aren’t the same anymore…and I’m even more scared of San-Kyung now that he has a kid with you.”
“Of course things aren’t the same. I succeeded in world domination. I won San-Kyung’s heart. And now I’ve had our child. Things are a lot different than the days we spent at Malicerie.”
“How about the days we spent at Desutrap? Do you still remember those?”
“Desutrap?”
“You really don’t remember, do you?”
“I remember going to a stupid preschool and meeting you, but the name Desutrap doesn’t ring any bells.”
“You should remember it, though! You had it torn down almost as soon as you started ruling the world!”
“Oh. That. I blocked it out, at least until now.”
“Well, if you remember our time at Desutrap, I guess that’s enough for me. I’m glad that you’re happy, La-Iin. I just wish I could be, too.”
“Are you not happy? You might be my slave, but you’re treated much better than the other slaves. And I call on you for some advice.”
“Yeah, I know. But my Mom and Dad, you don’t spare them any leniency. You don’t do it for Shan-Zetsu or Cae-Bougen either…”
“They’re different to me than you are, Fer-Shi. Namely, I don’t care about them.”
“I know…”
La-Iin sighed. “Fer-Shi, of course the world is plenty different nowadays. And I’ve accomplished my dream. Someday my conquest will become worse and more widespread. But I don’t want you to be miserable.”
“It’s hard not to be when this is what you didn’t want to happen…”
La-Iin stroked Fer-Shi’s head. “Maybe I’ll let your Mama and Dami out for a few moments someday.”
“Thanks, La-Iin.”
La-Iin dropped her voice to a whisper. “Tell no one this. But ruling the world has not made me hate you. You are a slave because I worry about your influence if I let you be more. But I will still try to keep you happy.”
Fer-Shi smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin. I had a bit of a feeling, though. You do treat me pretty nicely despite all that’s happened. Would you like me to watch Chung-Ae for you someday in return?”
La-Iin glared. “No.”
“Okay, okay.”

“La-Iin, I wanted to ask you a question,” Mit-Sun rasped.
“What, Mama?”
“How come you let Asul-Zenza out of his cage but not me?”
“It’s payback for all the years you messed up while raising me. Which is a lot.”
“What!? But that isn’t fair! You realize which of your parents has less time to live, right!?”
“I’m aware. And stop yelling. It isn’t doing you any favors.”
Mit-Sun whimpered. “La-Iin, I understand there were a lot of times I messed up. But isn’t this a little excessive? If you keep me in here that long, by the time you show me any leniency it won’t really matter all that much, will it?”
“You’re only bartering with me. I know it doesn’t mean anything, Mama! You’d only set out to raise a rebellion against me the moment I let you out. I can’t trust you. Your treatment is based solely on how you acted towards me in the past.”
“Didn’t I do some things right? Weren’t there some days we enjoyed together? Even if it’s just me making mincemeat pie, weren’t there any times you enjoyed with me? Really, La-Iin, I wouldn’t want to raise a rebellion against you. I know that’s just suicide. But I’ve seen that you show Fer-Shi some leniency, and really, I would love to meet my grandson.”
“Appealing to me that way won’t work, Mama. I can’t focus on what you did right at the moment. The world is in my grasp, but it’s still precarious. The slightest show of favoritism is a potential show of weakness–Fer-Shi knows this. Perhaps the day things change and the world will eternally be within my grasp your situation will change as well. But you should know I still haven’t forgiven you for everything.”
“La-Iin…”
“But I don’t hate you. And…I do make sure you’re taken care of before the other slaves. So–” She grimaced and spread her wings. “So be patient. And don’t die on me. I’ll see to it that your treatment changes someday. But I’m no benevolent ruler. Know that.”
La-Iin grit her teeth. ‘That was too much of a show of weakness…’

“La-Iin, as grateful as I am to be allowed outside of the cages, I truly have some questions for the way you are handling things.”
“Do you have any suggestions, Dami?”
“No, it isn’t like that. Do you not think that someday your slaves will realize that my being free is favoritism and not a case of assisting you? What will you do then?”
“I would figure by then Chung-Ae would be grown up. And at that day I think my hold over the world will be stable enough that I won’t even need to care about something like that. Trust me, Dami, I have plans for the future that extend far past just the next decade.”
“I see. And another thing, was the shock necklace necessary? How did you procure something like this in the first place?”
“That’s confidential, Dami. i trust you, but this is necessary to keep secret. And that’s necessary too, just in case you ever decide to betray me.”
“La-Iin, you know I would never do that.”
“Whether you would or wouldn’t, I’m prepared for it all the same. I’ve been prepared to be betrayed since I was little, so I’m ready to deal with it if it happens. But I trust that you would never betray me, Dami. But this is no sign of weakness.”
“You’ve changed, La-Iin. You weren’t this scared of showing your flaws in the past…”
“San-Kyung has had to handle most of the brunt work now that Chung-Ae has been born, and it’s uncertain just how long he’s going to stay like a baby. Just because I was lucky doesn’t mean Chung-Ae will be. The world isn’t entirely under my grasp yet, and I’m not completely capable of sedating the powers of millions of people. I can’t afford to mess up here. You should understand that.”
“You needn’t act so tough around me, though…I will not betray you. I will say that as many times as it takes for you to believe me. And you needn’t do it around all your other loved ones–speaking of, when do you plan on letting Mit-Sun out of her cage?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Dami, I love you, but you really don’t understand any of how this is supposed to work.”
She flew off, Asul-Zenza watching her with widened eyes.

“Relent.”
“Never!”
La-Iin kicked at the cage. Ai-Reia flinched. “I can do much worse than that.”
“I’m prepared to die before i join your alliance. I know what you’ve done to my loved ones. I should have taken more precautions!”
“It’s not your fault you lack my ability to grow faster,” La-Iin said. “I offered you a good position among my ranks. I’ve trusted you even though you’ve given me so much reason not to. I’ve threatened you constantly, and yet still you don’t relent?”
“I told you, I never will!”
“I’m surprised the child prodigy never considered lying to gain the ability to assassinate me.”
“I’m surprised that this supposedly-smart world ruler never thought that, as a prodigy, I would consider what options are downright suicidal. I know the difference in our power, La-Iin. But I shall prevail all the same!”
“So you say.” La-Iin took off.
“I’m willing to work by your side, La-Iin.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Ai-Reia. Your assistance is just what I need. Your ability to retain information is a handy one. And I’ll admit, it will be beneficial to have someone who shares my lifespan on my team.”

No matter how much she dwelled back on her childhood fantasies of her plans for Ai-Reia, each time she visited her cage it seemed less and less likely that they would come true. Swallowing her frustration, she picked up in speed.

“Hello, Shuu-Kena. How goes everything?”
“Oh, hello, La-Iin,” Shuu-Kena said. “Everything seems fine so far. I don’t see anyone planning a mutiny or anything. And even if they were, none of them are close to your tower, so I don’t think you need to worry about anything happening to Chung-Ae.”
“I’ll never be worried about anything happening to Chung-Ae until the moment something does happen. And I don’t see it happening anytime soon.” La-Iin glanced at her hand. “Is that a bottle of blood?”
“Yeah. Here you go.” She handed the bottle to La-Iin, who quickly downed half of it and sighed in relief. “It’s been too long since I had blood that fresh…”
“It seems like it was recently.”
“There has been a lot going on, Shuu-Kena.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Speaking of Chung-Ae, how is he?”
“He’s fine. I have high hopes for him. …loathe as I am to thank anyone, Shuu-Kena, I have to thank you for your assistance. You’ve been a helpful asset. Neutrals certainly can be sometimes.”
“Thank you back, La-Iin. To be honest, I don’t really care for all the world domination stuff so much, but I think you knew that already. And, well, at least you haven’t murdered anybody yet. You were a saving grace from my family, too. I feel like I owe you. And that you haven’t put me in a cage like the rest of them.”
“I understand.” La-Iin spread her wings. “By the way, I wouldn’t mind a nice and dark picture for Chung-Ae’s bedroom. I feel like it’s missing a little something.”
“Certainly, La-Iin. I’ll make one as soon as I have the time.”
La-Iin nodded and took off. Shuu-Kena glanced out around the landscape, and seeing that there was no activity, sat down with a canvas and began to paint.

“How are you feeling, Dosa-Mina?”
“I’ve had better days…I wish today was one of the days I wasn’t sick.”
“San-Kyung!” La-Iin snapped. “I thought you were home watching Chung-Ae.”
“I thought you were home with him.”
“Evidently not. I have to do my rounds around this time. It’s not safe to leave him on his own, you know.”
“He’s not on his own, though.”
“He’s on his own surrounded by people who are mostly fairly weak.”
Dosa-Mina glanced at both of them. “So even you two fight.”
“Are you really surprised? We fought all the time when we were kids.”
“Quiet, rival-boy.”
“Sorry. …say, San-Kyung, I know you have to head home now, but can you tell me a little bit about Chung-Ae?”
“What can I tell you? He’s a baby. He drools, he soils his diaper, but he’s got quite a grip. I’m thinking he’ll end up more powerful than I am.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“If this conversation is about over, you have your son to attend to,” La-Iin snapped. San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“You spend plenty of time with Fer-Shi. I don’t understand why you don’t grant Dosa-Mina the same privileges you grant her.”
“Because I don’t like him, San-Kyung. Besides, I don’t think you understand what I mean by precarious situation. I don’t think anyone understands except for me, in fact!”
“People might understand better if you clarified what they were,” Dosa-Mina said. La-Iin hissed at him.
“La-Iin, you’re being unreasonable. You realize I have about equal power to you when it comes to what is done with the slaves, right?”
“You agreed with my slave plan!”
“I know. But I’m saying, Dosa-Mina–”
“I really wish I had put his cage someplace you couldn’t find it.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“Maybe you really should head back home…”
“You gave Fer-Shi another purpose!”
“Oh, quit fighting with me over this! You have more important people in your life now. But fine, if you’re really so determined for Dosa-Mina to get special privileges, then once I feel he’s served enough time in there and the situation stabilizes, I’ll let him be a tower slave. Happy?”
“I never believe you when it comes to Dosa-Mina.”
La-Iin huffed. “Just get back to Chung-Ae, San-Kyung! I still have rounds to go, you know!”

Midnight had arrived, and now having retired to the tower, La-Iin went to visit Sale-Dessu, who was examining the corpse of Choungetsu.
“How goes the extended lifespan experiments?”
“I haven’t been able to figure anything out yet,” Sale-Dessu said. “I really don’t understand how this ‘lifespan gene’ works. I’m starting to think the scholars of the past were a little deluded…”
“Maybe that’s something I should ask Dosa-Mina on,” La-Iin mused. “Well, just keep working on it.”
“What if I can’t bring Choungetsu back, La-Iin? You won’t torture me for that, will you?”
La-Iin lowered her head. “No. I won’t. As much as I want Choungetsu back, my top priority is extending San-Kyung’s lifespan so that he will live at a time equal to me. At this rate, no matter how long he lives he will not be part of my and Chung-Ae’s lives for too long. I don’t want that to happen. If there’s any chance that I can have him live as long as I can, then I will take that.”
“Are you looking for immortality, La-Iin?”
La-Iin lifted up her head. “No, not particularly. But tell me if you find out anything in regards to it. I’ll take that if it’s available to me…but there might be one exception.”
“Hm?”
“It’s nothing. Get back to work. I plan on letting Eul-Bok out tomorrow, so you’ll have a companion to help you.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin.”
“You know I don’t listen when you say that.”

“It’s about time you showed up.”
“How’s Chung-Ae?”
“Fine. He hasn’t cried at all since I got back.”
“That’s good.”
San-Kyung glanced at La-Iin. “Now that we’re alone, do you mind telling me what it is you’re so worried about?”
“What do you mean?”
“You seem concerned about nearly everything.”
“Isn’t it obvious? My ruling of the world isn’t perfect yet. I have a child to think of now, so that makes everything much harder, especially since he’s still relying on me for food. And that’s not to mention if we do go through with that plan of having more. You’re not the youngest in the world either, San-Kyung. Our age gap might not be the worst I’ve heard of, but it is concerning.”
“Something you should have realized years ago?”
“I worry that even with all the planning I did beforehand that I’m going to mess up somewhere,” she sighed. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been. The world, or at least a part of it, is mine. I have you as my husband, and we have a child now. The people who are important to me still live and most help me. I have almost all that I want, and yet I can’t just be happy about it. Instead I’m left worrying about the possibility of just the smallest thing going wrong and ruining all I have worked for.”
“Your stress won’t help much either. You must keep a level head about this. And don’t forget, you said it yourself that you are not alone. Your method of ruling the world might not have been my ideal, but I never planned on being entirely alone, either.”
La-Iin glanced over her shoulder. Chung-Ae was fast asleep in his crib, looking content. “With stress or without it I’ll keep working to keep my goal intact, San-Kyung. Now that I’ve tasted this happiness I’m not going to let it go so easily.”

—–
“Hello, Bes-Isa.”
“Hello, La-Iin. It’s been a while.”
“It has been, but I’ve been busy. I felt like tonight I could use your advice. Hence why I came here.”
“You don’t need to talk so formally around me, you know.”
“Oh, I know.”
“Well, whatever advice you need, I’m willing to give. What is it?”
“It’s a lot of things, Bes-Isa. So I hope you’re feeling patient.”
“After being stuck in the dark so long it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s better than that anyday.”
“That’s good enough for me.”

16.562.A Ca-Miela Conflict

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 562
“A Ca-Miela Conflict”

Ai-Reia stared down at the small shape lying on her bed and crying. As opposed to her normal shrieks, right now Ca-Miela was only letting out a small, thin wail, as if she lacked the energy to cry harder. Just the sight of her contorted face was making her angrier.
“They love you best, don’t they?” Ai-Reia said. “Well then, I might be doing them a favor by taking you out before you’ll be too missed.”
Ai-Reia reached for the closest thing to her that could be a weapon, and found a pen. She jabbed the pen into Ca-Miela’s chest. Ca-Miela began to wail loudly, but Ai-Reia didn’t hear anyone running to see her, so she continued on.
Soon enough despite the blood flowing from her chest it became evident to her that Ca-Miela would not die by that pen alone. Desperate to finish her off, she reached for the next closest thing, a broom. She began to whack Ca-Miela with the broom. Ca-Miela gave several shrill shrieks before the volume of her voice died down until she was no longer making any noise. Taking a quick breath, Ai-Reia brought the broom down one last time to check for any reaction.
Ca-Miela lay on the bed bloodied and beaten, her eyes wide open and cloudy. Her wings had been crushed into her back. Ai-Reia chuckled to herself and continued to stare down at what used to be her sister as everything around her went pitch black.

Ai-Reia woke with a start, gasping for breath. She checked her bed. There was no sign of blood. The broom was not in her room. The events of the dream had not taken place.
‘I haven’t had violent thoughts about Ca-Miela in a long time. Dammit, I thought I moved past that this April! But maybe I’ve just been repressing it for my own good.’
The thought brought back to her memories of her seventh birthday. ‘What’s wrong with me? Why do I have these violent thoughts and dreams? I understand my resentment towards her, but there’s no reason for this level of vitriol.’
It was still dark outside. Feeling uncertain, Ai-Reia got out of bed and head for her parent’s bedroom. Her mother and father were fast asleep, but Ca-Miela was not, sitting up in her crib and glancing around wildly as if looking for something. When she laid eyes on Ai-Reia, she gave a small smile.
Ai-Reia breathed a sigh of relief, then reached into the crib and pulled her out. She checked her parents for any sign that they were waking up, then she fled the bedroom with her sister, who giggled as she ran.
‘What are you doing? How can you trust yourself alone with her?’ The dream flashed back in her mind, and for a moment she nearly dropped Ca-Miela in fear. Ca-Miela was still giggling and cooing with a smile on her face, pulling at Ai-Reia’s hair. ‘No. This has nothing to do with recreating the dream. I know what I plan on doing. My life cannot go on with me thinking such violent thoughts about Ca-Miela. I have the power to sway her onto the right path, the path of innocence. There is no reason for me to hate her unless she ends up like La-Iin, which is highly unlikely even if she does end up spoiled…I will not harm her regardless. Not in that way.’
She set her down on the bed and handed her one of her old baby toys.
“Ca-Miela, you trust your big sister, right? You don’t think I would do anything to you, do you?”
Ca-Miela reached for the toy and stuck it in her mouth. She smiled. ‘Right. Look at her eyes. She trusts me. She probably doesn’t even remember the jump rope incident. But that won’t last forever. That’s why I need to move past this. Ca-Miela hasn’t even been failed yet, after all.’
“Want to play with more?” She pulled out a box of her old toys. Ca-Miela gave a delighted shriek, which Ai-Reia tried to shush, but didn’t quiet her down in the end. Instead she looked at the toys, seeming to be overwhelmed by the variety, and stuck a few in her mouth.
“Goodness, Ca-Miela,” Ai-Reia scoffed, pulling the toy out her mouth. “In what year will you learn that those aren’t for going in your mouth?”
Ca-Miela cooed innocently. Ai-Reia focused on her. Still she could see the sight of the dream in her mind. “Play with them like this.”
Ca-Miela slammed a toy onto the bed. Ai-Reia sighed. “And I worry about being the violent one….no, she’s just a baby, she doesn’t know any better. Okay, Ca-Miela! Maybe toys aren’t the best thing for you so late at night.”
Ca-Miela’s expression dropped when she took the toys away, and for a moment Ai-Reia worried that she might cry. But instead she just stared at her anxiously, as if waiting for her to return the toys.
“Here, if you’d like a toy how about Bunety-Man? Reuf-Bu got this for me, but you can hold him if it will calm you down.”
‘What am I doing? It’s too late at night for this. What if mother and father wake up? Then they’ll be upset. There’s no way they’d believe that I was trying to calm myself down. What am I supposed to tell them? Oh, I had a dream about murdering Ca-Miela so I decided to bring her into my room to calm myself down? Only an idiot would believe something that sounds so excuse-worthy!’
Ca-Miela babbled. ‘And then there’s also the possibility that she might cry and give my position away to my parents and siblings…’
Ca-Miela stared at Ai-Reia, her eyes widening. She began to gently cry, holding tight to Bunety-Man.
“What’s wrong now?” Ai-Reia asked. “Was I making a scary expression?”
Ca-Miela just sobbed quietly. “I’ll get no response from a baby. Oh, please don’t cry, Ca-Miela…”
The beginning of the dream flashed back into her mind as she reached for Ca-Miela, and she flinched, knocking her over. Ca-Miela continued to cry, still holding tight to Bunety-Man. Ai-Reia felt as though she were slipping back into the dream–save for Bunety-Man and the lack of a broom, the situation was exactly the same as it was in the dream, and for a moment she panicked, hiding her face from Ca-Miela.
‘What do I think I’m doing? No matter how hard I try, I’m only a danger to Ca-Miela. Much as I want to avoid her developing a spoiled princess attitude, that’s definitely preferable to her suffering early trauma or growing up to hate me. I can’t trust myself, not like this. I can’t even keep a hold on my own mentality. Why did I ever try to trust myself alone with her!? What’s wrong with me!?’
Through her frenzied thoughts she could still hear Ca-Miela crying, and though the thought of being alone with Ca-Miela terrified her, the thought of being caught by her parents with her in this state terrified her more. She reached out to Ca-Miela and picked her up, gently rocking her.
“Please don’t cry,” she said, her voice wavering. She was beginning to feel on the verge of tears herself. “Don’t worry. If I ever become a danger to you, I won’t let myself hurt you. I promise. I’m going to do my best so that you end up as my ideal younger sister. I don’t want to hurt you…”
Ai-Reia felt uncertain of her own words. Ca-Miela stared up at her, face stained with tears but no longer gently sobbing. She reached for Ai-Reia’s hand and stuck it in her mouth, then closed her eyes and curled up next to her.
Ai-Reia remained silent, trying to get her thoughts into order. “You’re different from La-Iin, Ca-Miela. I only ever held a grudge against you for taking the time of my siblings. But in the process I discovered how much of a monster I can be…and I’m sorry. You never deserved this. I shouldn’t hold grudges against you. You did nothing wrong. You’re just a baby, after all…”
Ca-Miela gave no response, and by her gentle breathing Ai-Reia assumed she had fallen asleep. She sat there with Ca-Miela in her arms for a short while longer, finding her presence calming. She was not dead or beaten. She was not crying or scared. She was comforted and asleep, and alive. Ai-Reia rocked her back and forth gently as she tried to get her emotions into order. She looked down at her. The dream no longer flashed in her mind at the sight. She set her down on her bed. The dream flashed only briefly.
‘Maybe there’s a way to tame this beast, somewhere in me.’
Ai-Reia was tempted to leave Ca-Miela there and go back to sleep, but she knew how her parents would feel if they were unable to find her. Picking her up, she waddled back to their bedroom and gently set her down inside her crib. Then she head back to her own bedroom and curled up in her bed.
‘Perhaps all along I’ve been mistaken. I shouldn’t be having violent dreams about Ca-Miela. Even if the rest of my family turns against me, I’m certain she’ll trust me.’
Ai-Reia fell back to sleep fairly quickly, feeling emotionally fatigued.

—–
“Ai-Reia, is something the matter?” Her mother asked that morning at breakfast. “You seem tired. Did you stay up too late reading?”
“I saw her lights out, Mom,” Zih-Amo said. “What’s got you so tired, sis?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I think I just haven’t woken up all the way yet, that’s all….”
Ca-Miela was sitting in a high chair next to her. When her family looked away, she briefly squeezed Ca-Miela’s hand. “Last night is our secret. Promise?”
Ca-Miela squealed. “Someone seems happy. I guess she likes drinking out of a bottle better!” Reuf-Bu said.
“I do too. It’s far less painful.”
Ai-Reia cracked a smile. ‘Maybe, just maybe, I can trust you.’

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.