6.583.Eul-Bok’s Potential

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 583
“Eul-Bok’s Potential”

Baal-Mist watched Eir-Tyuj’s house closely. A sudden flash of light illuminated the windows. He smirked.

Sale-Dessu opened his eyes. He was in Eir-Tyuj’s house. Eir-Tyuj herself was sitting nearby, and she seemed a bit startled by his sudden appearance.
“Why hello, Sale-Dessu,” she said. “Hello to you too, Eul-Bok.”
“Hello, Grepeta! You sound awfully cheerful today.”
“Ah, old age can do that to ya. Don’t go thinking I’ve lost my vigor, though, or you’ll be sorely disappointed!” She let out a cackle. “What brings you here today?”
“Yeah Father, you never did tell me why we were coming here.”
“It’s something I’d like to discuss with Apeta alone,” he said. “Apeta, would you mind if Eul-Bok went off to do something else while we speak?”
“Why?”
“I have my reasons.”
Eir-Tyuj huffed. “Well, I know your boy has more sense than to go around messing things up. Go on and do what you will, Eul-Bok. We’ll call you back later.”
“How come I can’t be involved in this discussion?” He huffed.
“There’s a reason for it, Eul-Bok. Please, go off and do your own thing for now.”
“Listen to your father, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok pouted slightly, but soon head off, though Sale-Dessu could tell by his gait that he wasn’t happy.
“What is it you want to talk to me about? Your expression and tone tell me it’s serious, and considering you sent Eul-Bok away, I’m assuming it has something to do with him?”
“It does,” he said. “Apeta, both you and me know of Eul-Bok’s potential. He has the same innate potential other Warlocks have, and he seems to have a natural talent for these sorts of powers. But something’s concerning me. You and I are skilled in our powers too, but we struggled a bit, didn’t we?”
“I’ve always told you that I was one who had to work for her ability,” Eir-Tyuj said. “You likely could have been more skilled earlier on, had you not gone through the trauma you had. Eul-Bok having a natural talent for it does mean that he might be able to pull off more skilled spells earlier, especially if that’s what you’ve been teaching him.”
“But that’s the problem. Not everything he’s been able to do I’ve been teaching him. Apeta, have you ever heard of Subconscious Shift?”
“Yes, I have. There were plans to bring back the initial experiments when I was a young girl, but it was still deemed too intrusive to toy with. I would agree–such a power is really beyond what we should be using.” Eir-Tyuj scoffed. “Sale-Dessu, you’re not going to tell me Eul-Bok was able to pull off such a spell.”
“I have reason to believe that he was. I had a strange, rapidly changing dream recently, and I found Eul-Bok collapsed outside my bedroom door with a spellbook open to that page when I woke up. All the signs point to him having successfully completed the Subconscious Shift spell. I had never told him about this spell prior to him using it.”
Eir-Tyuj gave him an uncertain look. “Are you certain?”
“Apeta, would I lie to you? I already know how you can get when I do. Would I risk that?”
Eir-Tyuj sighed. “Fair enough. But if that is true, that really is beyond what I was expecting of him. I knew he was talented, that much is obvious, but that’s going above and beyond for such a young and inexperienced Warlock. Still, I may have a theory as to why he has this ability.”
“What’s that?”
Sale-Dessu gave Eir-Tyuj a curious look, but it soon became obvious it was not her who had spoken. Eul-Bok was standing a short distance away from them, watching intently.
“Weren’t you told to listen to your father?” Eir-Tyuj scolded. “Goodness.”
“How much did you hear, Eul-Bok?”
“I heard a little,” he admitted. “Well, actually, everything except the beginning of the conversation. Father, I can tell when you want to talk about me. No matter how hard you try, you’re not all that good at hiding your emotions.”
“I used to be good at that,” he sighed. “Becoming a father has made me softer…”
“That’s strange. It was fairly contrary with my husband and your father,” she said coyly. Sale-Dessu glared at her. “In any event, it was not your place to listen in.”
“I know, and I’m sorry. But I really want to know, you two think I’m really talented because I pulled off that spell?”
“Research on it was cancelled, so it counts as an incomplete spell. Performing an incomplete spell or finding your own is indicative of talent. …Apeta told me that, anyway.”
“And it’s certainly true.”
“Geez, you two are too nice.”
“We aren’t saying all this to be nice, Eul-Bok. After all, I don’t believe it’s because you were naturally blessed with such talent. I think there’s an explanation for it.”
“What’s that?”
“You, Eul-Bok, came into this world as the result of a power. You were reliant on a power to move around for a long time. You became autonomous because of powers. Well, putting aside your other exposures, you are a V-Puppet! V-Puppetry is a power. Owing your existence to power, that is likely the reason why you have such skill. Aside from being somewhat related to people such as Sale-Dessu and myself, of course.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Eul-Bok said. “If that’s the case, that’s pretty cool!”
“You have a troublemaker on your hands, Sale-Dessu,” Eir-Tyuj sighed. “In any event, of course you’ll still have to hone such power–you can’t just expect everything to work perfectly the first time. Even assuming you have such a talent for power thanks to the means of your birth, even those whose power is immense need to practice.”
“I know that.”
“And please, don’t try unfinished spells like that again,” Sale-Dessu said.
“Why not?”
“They still pose a risk,” Eir-Tyuj said. “And seeing as Sale-Dessu here has become far more nervous in the years I’ve been gone–”
“Apeta, please!”
“Don’t I know that,” Eul-Bok giggled. “But that is really cool. It has me wondering though, are you sure it’s ’cause I’m a V-Puppet and not just because of how Father gave me powers? He’s powerful, so couldn’t that be why I am, too?”
“It could be both. But remember, your case is currently one-of-a-kind, and your other case rare. Who knows? I do sincerely doubt that it’s just natural talent, however. There is a cause for this.”
Eul-Bok nodded.
“Perhaps you should teleport us back this time, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said.
“I guess I could try. Though the teleportation spell is so easy to trip up on!”
“It certainly is, isn’t it? But it’s one every Astineth should know.”
“Why’s that?”
“…” Sale-Dessu fell silent. “Oh.”
“Ah, it was meant to be humorous, Sale-Dessu.”
“Sorry, Apeta, I know. It just reminded me of those Witches and Warlocks who nearly found out where we lived. It still unsettles me.”
“Well, don’t worry about it! You haven’t had trouble with them in a while, have you? And with Eul-Bok on your side, there’s nothing to worry about.”
“She’s right, Father!”
Sale-Dessu cracked a small smile. “I suppose she is. Just as she is oftentimes…”
Still, Sale-Dessu couldn’t shake his unsettled feeling.

—–
“Baal-Mist, what did you call us here for?”
“No particular reason. Aside from sharing my message of hope with you all. I really do think we’ll have a breakthrough. We were just too hasty the first time we tried things. Timing is still everything, though. Too early and we risk sabotaging the mission; too late and we might not have a chance to do everything as intended. I need to plan things carefully, however…I do think things might be working in my favor.”
“What makes you say that?”
He smirked. “Oh, nothing in particular. Maybe wishful thinking. I suppose you could say I’ve been living in the past lately. Thinking on how much I want this goal to come true…”
“I honestly don’t understand you sometimes, Baal-Mist. You’re a handsome Warlock and your ability isn’t half bad. Why waste your time on this project?”
“True, it might seem useless to you. But to me it’s more than a mere ‘project’. I need closure. Without it, good looks and powers are useless to me. So quiet down and let me handle this. Trust in me. I give you my guarantee that now, I know what I’m doing.”

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7.553.Moments with Grepeta

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 553
“Moments with Grepeta”

“Eul-Bok, before we go, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“I don’t mind. Fire away, Father!”
“What made you want to visit Apeta today? Is it because we’ve had to stay so down-low recently?”
“Well, you could say that’s part of it. We’ve spent most of our time around each other lately and the only other people who came here recently were La-Iin and Bes-Isa, and I don’t know about you but I can’t stand them!”
“They’re my allies, Eul-Bok. I’m fond of them. You know this.”
“Anyway, Grepeta is someone I actually like who we can go and see. And besides, maybe it hasn’t been the longest time, but it’s been a good amount of time since those people were by the neighborhood. I think we’ll be safe.”
Sale-Dessu seemed uncertain. “Well, hopefully Apeta will be willing to see us,” he said with a sigh. “Hold on tight, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok listened closely as Sale-Dessu canted the teleportation spell. ‘Father really is so powerful. It’s almost a shame that he’s so shy. If he wanted to, he could do great things for the scientific world, figuring out all sorts of things…even how to make me autonomous. But at the same time, it wouldn’t have been very smart to reveal that, would it have been? And anyway, I like my life the way it is!’
While lost in thought he hadn’t noticed that they had already made it to Eir-Tyuj’s house. He only snapped out of his thoughts when he heard her voice.
“–Eul-Bok seems awfully lost in thought.”
“I wonder what he’s thinking about?” Sale-Dessu said, glancing at Eul-Bok. “We’re here, Eul-Bok.”
“Oh! Hello, Grepeta!”
“Hello, Eul-Bok. How have you been?”
“Fine, mostly. I got a little injury the other day, but it was nothing big! Father patched it up quickly!”
“And I’m sure he used his powers for this?” Questioned Eir-Tyuj with a mischievous glance in his direction. Sale-Dessu scratched the back of his neck.
“Hey, Father, what are you going to do now that we’re here, anyway?”
“Oh, actually since we’re here, I wanted to ask if I could take a look at some of your books, Apeta. You have some that I don’t own.”
“Certainly, Sale-Dessu. I myself barely have any use for them anymore. In my old age my sight’s started to fail me as well. So if you feel so inclined as to take one, do not hesitate to do so.”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “Thank you, Apeta. But I don’t think I’ll be taking any of your books. Just looking around.”
He wandered off towards her bookshelf, and as he did Eir-Tyuj turned her attention to Eul-Bok.
“So, my great-grandson,” Eir-Tyuj started, before wrinkling her nose. “No, that’s too much of a mouthful. Eul-Bok! What is it you wanted to visit me for?”
“Well, um, first off I just wanted to see you,” he said shyly. “I don’t have many people to talk to aside from Father. And it’s been fine staying inside all the time. But maybe because we’ve had to stay inside, I feel a bit antsy lately.”
“A feeling I can understand,” she sighed.
“That and, well…don’t tell Father, and you probably knew this already, but it’s going to be his birthday soon. Last year I couldn’t do anything for him because I was still just a normal V-Puppet. But this year, things are going to be different. Father is very powerful, and as his son I think I might be able to achieve a similar level of power. If I can do that then I can do anything I want for him.”
Eir-Tyuj smiled. “A noble goal. I really do love your fire, Eul-Bok. I wish Sale-Dessu had shared in your enthusiasm when he was a boy.”
“I know you taught me a few things before in the past, but I want to learn more. I don’t care how hard you push me. I’m aiming to do my best, and I could use a hard nudge or two!”
“I imagine you don’t get many of those from my grandson!” She cackled. “Very well then. I’ll teach you some more. Come with me, away from Sale-Dessu. He’ll only get nosy and inquire about what we’re doing.”
Eul-Bok smiled. ‘Grepeta’s the best!’

***

“Eul-Bok, if you’re looking to transform an item of this size, the best thing to do is to make sure it functions like the item you’re transforming,” Eir-Tyuj chided. “A pear is no good if it tastes like wood, and a blanket is useless if it’s completely hard. What need would Sale-Dessu have for a blanket anyway? The boy’s much more interested in spell books at least as far as our last interactions have shown me.”
Eul-Bok sighed. ‘Grepeta’s great, but she really is harsh when she gets down to it.’ Eir-Tyuj’s criticisms hadn’t gotten him down, however–instead they only prompted him to try harder and show her otherwise. He focused on the stiff blanket and attempted to change it further. The blanket began to flop. Eir-Tyuj felt it.
“Hm…it’s gained some softness but it still isn’t perfect. But this is definitely better than this board blanket.”
“You know, you’re so critical but I bet you had trouble using your powers at first.”
“That I did. It isn’t many a Witch or Warlock who is born with a natural talent for their powers; most need to learn the proper skills. That being said I don’t appreciate your little snide comment. That might be the case but it was several decades ago.”
“I know. I’m just saying.” He felt the blanket himself. ‘Definitely too hard…’ “Hey, Grepeta, I know we have to get back to practice and all, but I want to hear a little bit about you. Especially since you’ve lived for so long.”
“Hm? Such as what? Are you wanting to hear embarrassing childhood stories about your father? Tsk, how shameful.”
“No, nothing like that! I meant more about you. You’re the only relative I have aside from Father, so I want to know more. Also, I’d like to concentrate without worrying about your criticism for once.”
“You asked for it, Eul-Bok, and I deliver criticism without cutting corners. But if you want to hear about me first, then I will tell you. I was part of a family of four. I had one younger sister who went on to have her own family in some Witch society far off in Wiencei or someplace. I haven’t seen her in years, and I can’t exactly do so now. I am mother to three daughters, one deceased–that’s your father’s mother–and the others whereabouts unknown. Except for you and Sale-Dessu, I’m not exactly inclined to the location of my non-deceased relatives. I know my parents and my daughter Maie-Jussa are one with the earth now but I’m not sure of many others.”
“That must be hard, losing your family like that. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost Father.”
“Move on, of course. Easier said than done, but it will occur naturally. I am of the belief that the spirits of my loved ones watch over me even today. I’m certain they would love to speak with me once again, and I feel likewise…”
A far-off look entered Eir-Tyuj’s eyes, but when she blinked it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. “In any event, it isn’t anything you’ll have to deal with anytime soon hopefully, and with Sale-Dessu taking so many precautions I’m not worried about it in the slightest.”
“Yeah, I think we’ll be fine for now.” Listening closely for what Eir-Tyuj might say next, Eul-Bok returned his focus to the blanket and tried to imagine its texture better. ‘I know I’ve felt a nice, soft, knitted texture like this before…hm….’
“I was an avid studier of powers and somewhat distanced myself from my family at times. Mostly my family of origin rather than the family I built with my late husband. Because I studied so strictly and so often I became rather skilled. My skills earned me ire not just because of jealousy but also in the way I practiced some of those skills. I regret some of what I did, though certain people make me feel as though I shouldn’t. And I helped raise Sale-Dessu during his childhood because Maie-Jussa fell into a difficult situation and had not the experience to deal with all that was going on.”
“Mmnh…”
Eul-Bok opened his eyes. Eir-Tyuj was heading over to the blanket to feel it. “That’s amazing of you, Grepeta. That you could deal with all of this…is that why you ended up so strict?”
“Certainly not! If my sister still lives out there, should you ever encounter her she knew me before I had any brushes with death. She could tell you, I have been strict my entire life. It’s necessary for success in my opinion. A lackadaisical attitude will lead you to not take your work seriously. Even if you enjoy it, you do need a modicum of seriousness in my opinion.”
Eul-Bok felt like his head was spinning. ‘Listening to Grepeta talk can be like looking through a wordy book…’
Eir-Tyuj stroked the blanket. “Very good, Eul-Bok. This is some quick improvement. You’re fast to overcome mistakes, hm?”
“Am I?”
She nodded. “I think you have a talent for it. You can recover from mistakes easier, perhaps because you’re stubborn like I am,” she said playfully. “It’s a good skill, and the stubbornness helps as well. Stubbornness can be an impediment, but I’d certainly say otherwise when it comes to the study of powers. It does keep you working, though you’ll need breaks.”
“My body’s artificial, Grepeta! I won’t get strained like you and Father.”
“I’m sure you’ll become strained another way,” Eir-Tyuj said with a roll of her eyes. “You have a mind, don’t you?”
Eul-bok felt the blanket. It had exactly the texture he was looking for. “It’s good that I can recover, but I really need to find something Father would like. I’m sure he’d appreciate the blanket, but…”
“Sale-Dessu’s simple to please, Eul-Bok. He’s happy when people show him a gesture of kindness. Anything you do for him will likely please him even if you present him with a wooden blanket.”
Eul-Bok narrowed his eyes. “I wouldn’t do that!”
“Sure you wouldn’t. But you must understand how people have treated him. When I knew him as a young child beforehand he was timid, but this level of shyness and caution is new. He might be used to your displays of kindness but it will touch him all the same.”
“I guess so…”
“Still, if you want to show him that you’ve improved or to give him a quality item, you need improvement. And I have the perfect idea to deal with this, and that is to practice as hard as you can manage. I have plenty of stray items for you to try out if you’d like to continue on.”
“Of course I want to!”
“Then now is the time to set to work!”

Eul-Bok transformed after that item after item, changing wood into wordless books and useless baubles, or tissue into clothing or accessories. Eir-Tyuj graded him harshly, but each time she had a severe criticism it only served to make him want to try harder. When she would give him a kind compliment, he would work harder as well so that the compliments would become consistent.
He tripped up a few times as he worked, however, lost in thought about his conversation with Eir-Tyuj.
‘Grepeta and Father really are strong people to have dealt with all they’ve gone through. This whole thing with those mysterious people is the worst thing I’ve had to do. They might as well barely trust people with how they’ve been treated. And yet they’re still so strong. I have to work harder!’
Glimpsing at Eir-Tyuj out the corner of his eye, he smiled. ‘Grepeta really is great. She’s so smart. I’m glad she’s a part of my life.’
Eul-Bok didn’t stop transforming items until he was thoroughly exhausted. But that would prove not to be the end of his practice, for once he had recovered, Eir-Tyuj immediately set to having him practice spell recitations.
‘She really is overly strict, though.’ But it only pushed him to want to try harder.

—–
“I’m sorry if we overstayed our welcome, Apeta.”
“Not at all. I got in some valuable bonding time with Eul-Bok.” She stroked him on the head. “You have a great boy with a lot of potential, Sale-Dessu. He might as well have had potential since the moment he became autonomous. Eul-Bok will be an amazing Warlock.”
“Geez, that’s pretty contrary to everything you said while I was practicing.”
“I am like that. Ask Sale-Dessu. But yes, keep him at your side, Sale-Dessu. I think he is good for you. He will give you more confidence. He can inspire a change in you, I feel it. Bringing him to life was a great decision as was making him autonomous. So remain close, you two. You’ll need it especially when I’m…”
Eir-Tyuj’s expression became far-off once again.
“When you’re what?” Eul-Bok asked.
“Never mind.”
“I know all that, Apeta. Eul-Bok’s already inspired me in so many ways. Besides, he is my son, even if we’re not related by blood. And I wouldn’t just turn away my son. I’ll keep working hard for my sake and his. After all…I’m a father now, I suppose.”
“Strange to hear that from your lips,” Eir-Tyuj said quietly. “Well, I look forward to seeing you boys again. And keep up the good work, both of you. But especially you, Eul-Bok. I expect to see some significant improvement next time we meet!”
“Oh, I won’t disappoint you,” he said. “Goodbye for now, Grepeta!”
“Be seeing you, my dear boys.”

9.494.Advancing Disasters

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 494
“Advancing Disasters”

“Have you been listening to the radio, La-Iin?”
“No. I wasn’t the one who left it on all night, if that’s what you think!”
“No, I didn’t ask because of that. Have you heard what they’ve been saying?”
“If it has anything to do with politics, I don’t want to know.”
“It doesn’t have to do with politics, otherwise I wouldn’t be bringing it up. They say Bledger’s becoming a more dangerous place to live. That people are uneasy because there are so many strange cases popping up.”
“Like what?”
“Well, there haven’t been any notable murders since that guy who got killed back in March, but they say there have been a lot of stalking cases, and a lot of cases of people fighting each other using their powers. It isn’t really anything big, but it’s making some people feel unsettled.”
‘That sounds like the kind of stuff I’ve done,’ La-Iin thought. “I don’t feel unsettled at all. It must be happening downtown.”
“Maybe, but downtown is still a part of Bledger.” Mit-Sun sighed. “I hope it’s just contained to a specific area of Bledger. If cases like this hit the neighborhood where the Sanhuuns live, or maybe even this neighborhood, I don’t know what I’d do. My job is here, and we don’t really have the money to move.”
“We could always go and live with Dami if people in our neighborhood start dropping dead,” La-Iin said innocently.
“Yeah, no.” Mit-Sun gave another sigh. “Although I guess in a worst-case scenario, he probably would take us in, the sap.”
“Dami’s nice like that, unlike you. But I hope we don’t have to move either. First off, moving just because there’s a little crime? That’s silly.”
Mit-Sun glared. “And second off, this is my base of operations! I know the lay of the land! Fer-Shi and San-Kyung live here! And my allies, too.”
“Allies?”
“Oh, you know them, Mama.”
“No, I don’t.”
“It would be disappointing if something like that happened,” Bes-Isa said. La-Iin flinched. “You didn’t say you were awake.”
“Does a girl have to? But anyway, in said worst-case scenario, at least you’d still have me.”
“I guess,” she sighed.
“What, I’m not good enough?”
“You’re fine, Bes-Isa. But our ally is a great help. Fer-Shi, I need by my side, and the same goes for San-Kyung. If we moved, I’d never succeed. Rival-boy would take that as his chance to advance on him!”
She smirked. “If he wasn’t dead from all the crime.”
“La-Iin, I get that you’re evil, but that’s horrible.”
“You non-evils are so stupid. That’s the point.”

***

“It feels like it’s been a while since you came to see me, Sale-Dessu. I’m glad to see you again. Though if I’m being honest, I can barely see you.”
“Are you alright, Apeta?”
Eir-Tyuj leaned back in her chair. “I’m old, Sale-Dessu. And after my long life I’ve resigned myself to the fact that death isn’t many years away from me, if it’s even years away. I suppose my body took that as a sign that it didn’t have to work as hard as it used to. But if you think I’m completely blind, you have another thing coming.”
“Is it scary to lose your sight, Grepeta?”
“I suppose slightly so. But so long as it doesn’t cause me to die a humiliating death, I’ve learned I can deal. Perhaps Sale-Dessu can figure something out with his powers that would help me be able to see better. Glasses aren’t helping at all, heh!”
“Your powers are stronger than mine, Apeta. If anyone could figure that out, it would be you.”
“Meh, in the grand scheme of things. But at the point we are at now, you are the stronger one by virtue of your youth. And I would bet that when you reach my age, Eul-Bok will have surpassed you as well.”
“Thank you, Grepeta!”
“So, did you just feel like visiting your Apeta, or did you have something you wanted to talk to me about? I feel as if you did, by the tone of your voice.”
“You could tell? Well, I guess I shouldn’t have thought otherwise…from what Eul-Bok, and a neighbor of mine say, I think it’s pretty obvious to others when I have something on my mind.”
“A neighbor of yours, eh? A ladyfriend, perhaps?”
“Apeta, please.”
“Yeah, Grepeta. Father’s so shy that he’d never be able to get a ladyfriend. He’d just explode in front of her and run back to his house!”
Sale-Dessu felt his face warm. “That isn’t funny…and besides, I’m more concerned about honing my powers and teaching Eul-Bok than romance.”
“I figured. Ah well, it doesn’t matter anyway. The Astineth line is still going on, somewhere. And you’ve contributed Eul-Bok in your own way. Now, with that aside, what was it you needed?”
“I’ve felt unsettled recently,” he said. “Every now and then, I think back on my childhood and to the days where you and I, and Mamun as well…I think back to those days where we were constantly being pursued by the people who hated you. I’ve been nervous a lot recently because of it. I wanted to know what you did to keep yourself calm.”
“I’m naturally a calmer person than you are, Sale-Dessu,” she said. Sale-Dessu’s shoulders slumped. “But, I also reminded myself that these people are petty. They blamed us, and chased after us, because their parents were terrified by what I had done. After Maie-Jussa’s death, I realized they were more of a threat, and you saw the sort of depression I fell into. But I reminded myself then that there was something far more important than grieving for Maie-Jussa and fearing what they might do next. And that was taking care of you. You had lost your mother. You were thrown into this by virtue of being my grandson. There was no good reason for that.”
Sale-Dessu remained silent.
“Another thing that helped me was the fact of how powerful I am. So you needn’t worry about those sorts of things. Just remind yourself, these people are petty. Most probably don’t care anymore anyway, given that most in my old hometowns likely believe I am dead by now. I have lived a long time even by Witch standards. That and that you have your powers to protect you–you and Eul-Bok.”
“Thank you, Apeta.”
“Are you sure you’re just worried about this because you’ve been thinking on the past, Sale-Dessu?” Eir-Tyuj asked. “Have you run into any of these people lately?”
“No, I haven’t. You would have known immediately if I had, Apeta.”
“I think Father’s worried because of something that happened recently. You see, he left the window open the other day and it was pretty windy that day, so it was making crashing noises. Father thought there was someone inside the house, but we checked, and we made it there quickly too. I think we would have seen if there was someone there.”
“You are a nervous sort, aren’t you?” Eir-Tyuj said. Sale-Dessu shied away. “I know it’s pathetic. But especially with Eul-Bok being the way he is, I’d rather not take my chances…”
“I understand, Sale-Dessu. I wasn’t trying to tease you, despite what it may seem. Those sorts are dangerous, some of them. But if you’ve been keeping as low a profile as you seem to be, I don’t think you need to worry.”
“I know. That part always sticks out in my memories, is all.”
“Ah, speaking of memories, you’re reminding me of those days way back when. How unpleasant they were…I sometimes wish I could find a way to go back in time and prevent myself from ever doing such things to cause their ire. Not for my sake, but for the sake of my family. But enough about all that. You two should have some fun while you’re over here. Especially you, Eul-Bok. I’m sure that conversation bored you.”
“No, it’s fine! I don’t mind conversations like that. I’ve actually been trying to get Father to tell me his whole childhood story, but he doesn’t want to.”
“Don’t badger him about it. It was a painful time for him, and I don’t know what sort of things happened to him after I disappeared from his life.”
“Those times were rough…”
“Let’s not focus on the past and instead focus on the now. Eul-Bok, mind displaying some of your powers for me? If I see enough progress perhaps I’ll be inspired to help you as I did Sale-Dessu!”
“Really, Grepeta!?”
“Apeta is a rough teacher, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu whispered.
“I certainly am!” She proclaimed. “My sight may be failing me, but my hearing is sharp as ever, Sale-Dessu. And you have your warning, Eul-Bok. Should you decide to accept my assistance, I won’t go easy on you!”
“I’m ready for a challenge!” Eul-Bok said.
“I like your spunk, boy!” She cackled. “How did someone like you end up with a son this determined?”
“I don’t know.” Sale-Dessu said. “But I’m happy he is this way.”

—–
“Baal-Mist, what’s the summoning for this time?”
“I have a new plan I’d like to share with all of you that I want to enact as soon as possible. Take a look at the print-outs I left at your seats.”
The Witches and Warlocks around him began to read the print-outs.
“Don’t you think this is a sudden move, Baal-Mist? I think this could be dangerous!”
“Perhaps. But I think it’s the logical next move. And we have numbers if you’re worried about him retaliating.”
“Just how personal is this to you that you want to do something like this?”
“Very personal. I will find out the secrets behind this man and his son. I will find out if he is really Sale-Dessu. I’ll find that all out, and then I will go straight to Eir-Tyuj. And then, I’ll make her pay for what she did to my mother!”

6.430.The Child Warlock–Part 6

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 430
“The Child Warlock–Part 6”

Since his mother’s death, Sale-Dessu’s life had been fraught with many difficulties, especially in the early months after the incident. But as time passed, though it was always painful to think back on his memories of her, living life had become easier as his Apeta had told him it would.
Recently, instead of being constantly paranoid about the idea of someone who hated the Astineths ambushing them, or letting his depression over his mother’s death overwhelm him, Sale-Dessu tried to keep himself busy, and often did this by practicing spells or helping his Apeta around the house.
It didn’t seem to be just him who had cheered up, either.
“I swear, Sale-Dessu, you spend so much time in your room practicing spells nowadays,” she sighed one day. “You remind me of my younger self. And at the same time, I’m envious because now I barely get to see what you’re working on.”
“I’ll update you soon, Apeta!” He said cheerfully. “I just don’t want to show you anything before it’s done. I want it to be as perfect as possible. Your judgment scares me…”
“Heh! You should be used to it by now after years of dealing with it! But, whatever. I admire that about you. You will grow up to be a fine Warlock, I believe. But don’t forget you are still a child for a couple more years to come. Relish these years because someday they will be gone. And young adulthood won’t last forever either. Look at me, I’ve aged quite poorly now that I look at myself!”
Sale-Dessu couldn’t suppress a laugh at his Apeta’s comment. In response, she gave him a light noogie.
He missed his mother being a part of his everyday life. He missed her presence being around the house and her gentle demeanor. It wasn’t uncommon for him to imagine her being right there with him whenever he spent time with Apeta, and he felt slightly bad for it.
But now the days ahead did not seem quite so gloomy. Sale-Dessu missed his mother with all his heart, and he was certain that feeling would never leave him. But now he looked forward to each day spending life with his Apeta.

***

“Hm…”
“Studying a spellbook? Haven’t you graduated past such things?” His Apeta teased.
“There’s still so much I don’t know,” he said. “You have a lot of faith in me, Apeta, but so long as I live with you I’ll always feel inferior…”
“Don’t feel that way. There are Warlocks out there who struggle with learning anything new past a certain point. That you keep learning is a good sign.”
“You compliment me too much, Apeta.” He chuckled nervously. “Where were all these compliments when I was little? You were really hard on me back then.”
“Sale-Dessu, I did such things because I did not want for you to end up as your mother had.” she said, her tone becoming serious. The mention of his mother stirred a twinge in his heart. “You two were in a bad situation when she came to me. That you were not already as sad as she was still remains to this day a surprise to me. I figured if you had something else to focus on, that would keep you from ending up as she had.”
“…”
“I admit, I failed to do that after her death, though,” his Apeta sighed. “But you understand why well enough that I shouldn’t have to repeat my reasons. Either way, you have shown considerable improvement in the timespan that you have been training. And I have full right to have confidence and pride in my grandson. I wouldn’t have expected you to be a weakling Warlock–there’s no way you could have been!”
Sale-Dessu smiled.
“You know, I am glad to have you, Sale-Dessu,” she said. “I believe I like living with people far better than I like living alone. And I’m glad Maie-Jussa came to me when she was having troubles. The years I lived with her, during her childhood and her adulthood, were pleasant years indeed. Though I cannot help but wonder if that didn’t usher in her early death…”
Sale-Dessu almost looked away from his Apeta; she looked much more sad than he was used to seeing her. Her expression inspired him to say something, though he hesitated at first, wondering about what sort of reaction she might have to such words.
“Apeta, what’s happened has happened. I blamed myself for not waking up in time to save her. But, um…maybe if you hadn’t helped her, she might have been gone even earlier. And even if that isn’t the case, maybe you gave her a happier life because you took her in. I know my Mamun was very happy staying with you. I might not remember much of our life together beforehand, but I know how sad she was. You helped her, Apeta. Thank you.”
Sale-Dessu’s face flushed and the impulse to turn away from her was too strong for him to resist.
“Such sappy words coming out your mouth, Sale-Dessu,” his Apeta said jokingly. “Ah, but maybe you’re right. I am glad that Maie-Jussa led a happy life here with me and you. That thought will comfort me in times to come, I am sure.”
“I’m glad if I could help you, Apeta,” he said. “You have helped me so much, I more than need to return the favor.”
“Pay no mind to it. My help was done because I wanted to help. You owe no returns.” She smiled. “But thank you for the kind words.”
Sale-Dessu wanted to respond, but he could only manage a smile. ‘When did I become so nervous? Maybe all those ambushes have taken more of a toll on me than I thought….’

***

Thinking back on all those times, Sale-Dessu had to wonder just how the situation he was in now had been allowed to happen.
He had made the mistake of practicing outside that day, and he already regretted it. After his practice had finished, the Warlock standing in front of him now had cornered him and stared him down. He was so close, wands nearby in his pocket, that if something happened he could easily attack Sale-Dessu if he so desired.
That thought terrified him. He had thought he would never run into a situation like this one again. Now he was wondering if he wouldn’t share in Maie-Jussa’s fate.
“Eir-Tyuj is only concerned with her own curiosity. And that’s how you are too, isn’t it? You only care about learning how you could rule the world. That’s all it is with you Astineths. You disgust me.”
The man’s presence was domineering, his eyes cold. Sale-Dessu knew he should try and run away, try and teleport, but he knew the man could probably catch him if he ran and stop him before he could finish a spell. He saw no way out of this situation save for the man showing sympathy or him having a lucky break.
And with things as they were, he doubted either of those things would happen.
“I–I don’t want…rule the world…I just…practice my powers,” he stumbled out. His throat felt like it was closing in on him. He hoped the man didn’t ask for any responses.
“Bullshit. If you’re concerned with satiating your own curiosity about your powers, then it’s the same as wanting to rule the world. Someday that power will get to your head. And who knows, you could be capable of far worse than anything Eir-Tyuj is capable of. I’m not going to take any chances. I will not let my daughter be born into a world reality-warped by Astineths! I’ll stop you myself if I have to!”
“I…I sorry,” Sale-Dessu croaked out. It was his last attempt at trying to get the man to back away. Now he felt like there was nothing he could do.
“Too little too late. Don’t worry, I’m not violent enough to murder you. But I need to stop you. Someday, perhaps you’ll understand why I did this.”
He reached for his wands and began to chant a spell. Sale-Dessu’s heart began to pound rapidly in his chest when he realized he didn’t recognize the spell at all. Whatever the man was chanting could end up as anything and there would be nothing he could do about it if it was something horrible. He couldn’t bring himself to move.
He wasn’t ready to give in to his own fear, at least not mentally. He tried to move, to run away from whatever the man was preparing to unleash, but he was shaking so hard that instead he fell over.
Any moment now the man could finish his spell. Any moment now something, anything could come from anywhere at any time and harm him in some way. And he had no way of knowing what this might be.
He feared the worst, and that made his fear far stronger than it would have been had he not.
Before the man finished his spell, Sale-Dessu noticed someone running toward the man at a high speed. It didn’t take him long to notice it was his Apeta, who rammed herself into him.
“Stay away from my grandson!” She snarled.
“So the monster decides to show her horns,” the man said. “I’m surprised. With how little regard you have for how people feel, you caring for your grandson? I guess if it’s related to you, it matters then.”
“We are trying to live our lives in peace,” she said. “He is nothing like me in regards to his curiosity. And I have aged past the point where I was concerned more for my studies than for other people. I’m willing to give you the chance to back off now, or else I’ll discard such concerns.”
“Like you would any other way,” the man said. “No. I’m done. I’ve heard the stories about what you’ve done, Eir-Tyuj. If he’s living with you then he’s beyond salvation. My daughter deserves to be born in a world free from the threat of you!”
His Apeta rolled her eyes, then turned and brought him to his feet. “Go and get all our necessities,” she whispered to him. “I’ll hold him off long enough for you to do so.”
“Not so subtle are you!?” He yelled. He fired off an attack at Eir-Tyuj, who turned around and began to do the same. Sale-Dessu tried to move out the way of the sudden barrage of attacks sent back-and-forth between the both of them, but only barely managed to keep himself safe. He was still shaking violently, now both from his previous fear and from the fear of the sudden battle.
“You think you’re so superior,” the Warlock sneered. “Well, guess what! You’re not the only one of our species worth anything!”
His Apeta stood up to retaliate, but the Warlock’s attack was faster. His Apeta went flying to the ground, panting and coughing.
“Well, this is far more than I expected to achieve,” he said. “Gotta say, even though you’re old I expected better of you. But this is what happens when you waste your life on powers. Then that’s all you know how to do. And now you can’t even stand, can you?”
He pointed his wand at her. “I’d apologize for doing this, but that would be insincere.”
The Warlock had failed to notice that Sale-Dessu had taken his place next to his Apeta. Seeing her on the ground injured had spurred him into action and he began to cant a teleportation spell as fast as he could manage. Before the Warlock’s wand even showed the signs of preparing an attack, he and his Apeta teleported a short distance away. He carried her on his back and began to run as fast as possible.
“I’m surprised you were able to react in time,” she panted.
“I wasn’t going to let you get killed!” He yelled.
“I know,” she said.
Sale-Dessu focused on the path ahead. His Apeta glanced behind them.
“I don’t have the pep of my younger years,” she sighed.
“Don’t worry about that for now. Do you want me to teleport us again? I’ll be fine running all this way, so don’t worry about that.”
“…”
“Apeta?”
“That man was willing to kill me, Sale-Dessu,” she said quietly. “At your speed, should he try and catch up, you will not make it.”
“I can!” He yelled. “I’ll teleport if I need to! And who says he’ll even try to come after us?”
“I have that feeling,” she said. “And even if he doesn’t, I believe he will likely tell all in the area he’s discovered where Astineth Eir-Tyuj lives. It’s happened so many times before…”
His Apeta slid off his back. “Apeta!?”
“Believe me here, Sale-Dessu,” she said. “I feel I know what is coming. Perhaps it is just a feeling, but I know what situation would be best for me. I want for you to flee on your own to someplace safe far from here. I will join you there if it is feasible, but I need for you to say your goodbyes. That was a chance you did not get with your mother, and I will not let the same happen to you here in the worst-case scenario.”
“Apeta!” He yelled. “Nothing bad is going to happen! Please, let’s just keep going before something does!”
“Sale-Dessu, have you no faith in me?” She spat. “If I run into a dangerous situation, do you believe I cannot hold my own? With this foresight I am prepared for any situation. The difference is I am aware of my shortcomings due to my age and want to take the necessary precautions for such a thing. Do you trust me to escape with my life, Sale-Dessu? Do you have faith in my abilities?”
“I…I do, Apeta…”
“Then listen to what I say and flee! Flee now and go far away! But before you do that, say your goodbyes. Because I cannot guarantee that my age will not slip me up. …but have faith in me. Please.”
“Apeta, no!”
“Sale-Dessu!”
A horrible feeling had made its way into Sale-Dessu’s heart. He saw the look on his grandmother’s face and knew she was serious. And yet he couldn’t bring himself to want to do this in any sort of way. He felt it would only end in him losing his grandmother.
He only saw losing outcomes, no matter where he looked.
“….goodbye, Apeta,” he said. “If you do not come back in two day’s time, I will come looking for you. You have my word!”
He stepped away from her and, holding back his tears, canted a teleportation spell and disappeared out of sight.

***

Eir-Tyuj grabbed her wand as a small crowd of Witches and Warlocks marched into her line of sight.
‘Good boy, Sale-Dessu…’
Prepared to attack, she ran to face them head-on.

—–
Eir-Tyuj noticed that Sale-Dessu was crying in his sleep.
“Hm?”
“Something wrong, Grepeta?”
“Does Sale-Dessu do this often now, Eul-Bok?”
“What, sleep? Every night.”
“No, I meant cry while he is.”
Eul-Bok blinked. “Sometimes. He always tells me not to worry about it, though.”
‘What could he be dreaming about?’ She thought. ‘I wonder if it might have anything to do with Maie-Jussa.’

9.405.Things that are a Strain on a Warlock

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 405
“Things that are a Strain on a Warlock”

Since Eul-Bok had become autonomous, Sale-Dessu felt as though life in the Astineth house had become a lot different.
Now Eul-Bok would wake him on some days he slept in late, and he often asked to help with tasks around the house. And not once had he seemed to be in a bad mood–ever since the day he had become autonomous, Sale-Dessu felt like he always saw him with a smile on his face. He even kept that smile on as Sale-Dessu performed check-ups to make sure his body was in working order.
“Well…”
“Is something wrong with me, Father?”
“No, everything’s fine. All your organs are in working order,” he said. “Although some of them aren’t working exactly how I thought they would. I mean, you haven’t had to use the bathroom at all, have you?”
“Nope, not at all. I have no idea what having to go to the bathroom even feels like. …that kinda worries me…”
“I hope it doesn’t cause a problem.”
“Well, I don’t get hungry either, so…”
‘I thought I had put everything together correctly,’ he thought. He shuddered at the memory of putting together Eul-Bok’s new body and tried to push it away. ‘Everything I did back then was for this moment. I can’t regret that one bit.’
“Something good happen, Father?”
“Well, even though everything doesn’t work completely right yet, you seem healthy enough and you should still be able to survive. But I’ll keep doing check-ups and making sure everything’s in working order. You’re probably going to be having these check-ups for a long time, Eul-Bok.”
“That’s okay. Whatever keeps me healthy. I’d rather take a few hours out of my day to have check-ups than just drop dead out of nowhere someday.”
“Giving you check-ups is a bit of a strain for me, though…” He sighed. “I have to check everything about you inside and out thoroughly because otherwise I don’t know if I’m overlooking one problem or mistake. All my years of experience have definitely taught me that one small error can sometimes lead into many, many more…”
“You sure are powerful, huh, Father.”
“I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for my Apeta,” he said with a smile. “She taught me well and I think a lot of my powers come from her. Of course, Mamun passed down a lot of her skill as well.”
“So when you say it’s a strain to give me check-ups, do you mean because there’s so much to look at, or does just using that power make you exhausted?”
“A little bit of both,” he said. “Some powers I’m not as experienced with because I didn’t use them as often beforehand. What reason would I have to use a check-up power when I didn’t live with or know anyone? And no, I couldn’t use it on myself. It wouldn’t work right.”
“Hm.”
“But it’s alright. Checking up on you makes me feel better too. I don’t think you know how worried I was when I thought I had killed you. I don’t want to ever have to feel that again.”
“Is that all you wanted to say, Father?”
“I guess, unless you wanted to hear more about your check-ups.”
“No, actually, I wanted to ask you for a favor.”
Sale-Dessu tipped his head. “What sort of favor?”
“A, um…big favor. Like, kind of out of your way favor. But I wanted to know if you could do it for me.”
“Does it have to do with going out in public?” He asked. Eul-Bok shook his head. “No, it just has to do with your powers.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. Unless you’re going to ask me to perform a Hex Change Operation or something like that, it should be fine.”
“Well, it’s not a Hex Change Operation…and I don’t really know much about it, so I might just be thinking it’s hard when it’s actually not. But it sounded hard to me…” He looked up at Sale-Dessu.
“Could you give me Warlock powers!?”
Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened and Eul-Bok started to feel embarrassed. “Like I said, it’s kind of out of your way…”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “I knew this was coming, I knew it…actually, I planned on giving you Warlock powers as soon as you became autonomous. And maybe it’s because of what happened during that, but I’m a little apprehensive about the idea of doing it now. I’m pretty sure I could do it properly because I’ve studied it so often, and the spell’s been perfected enough so that you shouldn’t die because of it, but…you’re finally getting to be autonomous. One of the biggest risks of the power transfer is that the receiver could become crippled. Would you really want that?”
“I’m your son, Father,” Eul-Bok said. “I know we’re not related by blood, and I’d feel a little better about that if I could use the same powers as you. I understand if you don’t want to do it. I know why you’d be nervous and I trust your judgment. But if you decide to, I’ll be ready. I’d love to have the same powers as you and to be trained by you.”
Sale-Dessu blinked hard at Eul-Bok. ‘I wonder what he’s thinking about…’
“You make it really hard to refuse you, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said calmly. Eul-Bok’s spirits dropped. “I think I need advice from someone else on this subject.”
“Who would you go to for that, though? La-Iin? I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Er, no. I meant my Apeta.”
“Oh.”
“She’s a very skilled Witch. If she wasn’t as old as she is, I might ask her to do it for you. But I’m sure if I decided you should get powers, you’d prefer it if I did it, wouldn’t you?”
“Kinda.”
“Do you mind watching the house while I’m gone?”
“I’ll be fine, Father. You have a lot of books for me to look through. And maybe I should look through some of those spellbooks of yours just in case.”
“Go ahead, I don’t mind.”
“But one thing, before you go!”
“What’s that?”
“Shouldn’t you take me with you?” Eul-Bok asked. “I mean, wouldn’t Grepeta want to see what you’ve done? Don’t you think she’d be so proud?”
“I don’t want to gloat…and I’m a little scared to take you out in public,” he admitted. “I really would love for you to be able to walk around outside and go wherever you want, but you’re the first V-Puppet I know of that’s autonomous. Even if there is another one, they’re obviously as sheltered as you are. I don’t want to risk people coming after you…”
“Is that because you’d be scared of all the fame?”
“No, I’d just be worried about you.”
“Well, you could always teleport inside of Grepeta’s house though, couldn’t you?”
“I guess I could…I just feel like that would be rude.” He sighed. “Why didn’t I tell her the day after I made you autonomous…”
“Well, whatever you want to do, Father.”
“No, you’re right. Let’s go. Apeta will want to see you, and I know she can keep a secret. I think it’s partially thanks to her that I’m able to keep ones as well as I am.”
“Do you keep any secrets from me, Father?”
“Not really,” he said. “I wouldn’t call them secrets, anyway.”
After that, Sale-Dessu began to mutter the teleportation spell, and within the span of a mintue, he and Eul-Bok disappeared from the house.

***

“I can’t believe you were able to do this, Sale-Dessu,” Eir-Tyuj gasped. “You really have come far.”
“Please, Apeta, you don’t need to say such things…”
“I know of no one, Witch, Warlock or not, who has been able to do as you have done. You must tell me more of how you did it.”
The memory of assembling Eul-Bok’s new body flashed in his mind. “I’d rather tell you later.”
“We actually came here to ask you something, Grepeta,” Eul-Bok said.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to give you a proper answer with how surprised I am right now!” She cackled. “But what is it?”
“Eul-Bok wants me to give him Warlock powers,” he said. “I’m just worried about it because of his death scare after the autonomy operation.”
“Sale-Dessu, if you are skilled enough to make a V-Puppet autonomous, you are skilled enough to grant that same V-Puppet powers,” she said curtly. “I would actually be less worried about your skill and more if a V-Puppet could possess such powers in the first place. Do you not have powers of your own, boy?”
“Not that I know of,” Eul-Bok said.
“I say go for it, then,” she said. “Unless you came here to ask me to do it?”
“No, I couldn’t!” He said. “I know it probably puts a lot of strain on the body. I’m not going to do that to you.”
“I’d like to think I’m hardy enough to handle such a thing,” she huffed. “But Eul-Bok is your V-Puppet, Sale-Dessu. And you should have more faith in yourself, especially after being able to perform such a feat as this.”
“Thank you, Apeta. I’ll try.”

“Do you think someday I’ll be able to walk around outside without having to worry about it, Father?”
“Maybe someday,” he said. “Although if you did, I’d want you to use a different last name in public…not everyone has a positive opinion of the Astineth family.”
“That’s not fair.”
“I know it isn’t. But I can’t exactly change that with my powers, unfortunately. Well, if you were able to walk around outside, I think you’d have to wait until someone who wants the publicity finds out how to make a V-Puppet autonomous.”
“I hope that day comes soon. I’d just like to see what it’s like to take a nice long walk. But you know, I’m fine staying in here all the time too, Father. So I won’t really mind if I have to.”
“Don’t say such sad things, Eul-Bok…”
“Don’t be sad, Father! You stay in here all the time already, and I like my life like this. It’s a lot more fun now that I can actually move around.”
“I can imagine….alright, are you ready?”
“Ready when you are, Father!”
Sale-Dessu took a deep breath, then began to perform the power transfer. He had steeled himself for this long before he had gotten it in him to start, and now though Eul-Bok’s squeaks of pain hurt him, they didn’t stop him from continuing on until he was finished.

—–
“Look, Eul-Bok. This is one of the easiest spells I know. All you have to do is change the cloth’s color. Try.”
Eul-Bok took a deep breath and concentrated on the spell. A sudden strain almost overwhelmed him, but that it was there at all made him feel hopeful. Once the strain eased, he opened his eyes and gasped.
The cloth had changed its color.
“It worked,” Sale-Dessu breathed. “It worked! You have Warlock powers now!”
Eul-Bok was too excited to say anything. Instead he just sat in place shaking wildly. Sale-Dessu held tight to his shoulders to try and stabilize him. Both stayed like that for a while smiling wide, unable to say anything in the midst of their joy and surprise.

11.376.Astineth Eir-Tyuj–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 376
“Apeta–Part 2”

Sale-Dessu’s surprise was still strong late into the night. Ever since he had seen his grandmother exit the house, he had felt completely awake.
“That was my Apeta,” Sale-Dessu said. “I’m certain of it. But I was also certain that she was gone…so, more than being excited to see her, I just want to know how she is still alive?”
“Did you ever actually see her corpse? ….I’m sorry to ask such a sensitive question, Father, but if you did, that woman might not actually be your Apeta.”
“I’m sure she was!” Sale-Dessu said. “I’d know that face anywhere. And…no, I guess I didn’t. The last time I saw my Apeta…when I last saw her, she was so badly injured I don’t know how she could have survived those wounds. But…” He gave an empty chuckle. “I should have never doubted her. She’s the most powerful Witch I know…”
“Are you going to want to go by that seedy neighborhood again?”
“Of course!” Sale-Dessu said. “Now that I know my Apeta is alive, I have to see her. She was elderly when I last saw her. I’m in my thirties now, so she must be quite old. Not only do I want to see her to know how she survived, I…this might be my actual last chance to talk to her, depending on how well she is.”
“I guess…”
“And when she last saw me, I couldn’t use V-Puppetry,” he said. “And now I have you, and….we’re going back there tomorrow, Eul-Bok. My Apeta knows me well. She wouldn’t turn me away under any circumstance.” His expression went blank. “Unless, she forgot me somehow….”
“Don’t discourage yourself now, Father!”
“You’re right. Tomorrow, Eul-Bok, we’re going to see my Apeta.” He breathed. “Oh, there’s so much I want to talk to her about…I want to see her right now, but I think we should go during the night. I don’t know if those people will be out and about, and I know there are a lot of people who don’t have a high opinion of my Apeta.”
“Well, whatever way will get you to her and keep us the most safe. Make sure you plan this out beforehand so we don’t waltz into a trap or do something silly and get us in trouble. If people don’t like your Apeta, they might do something to you to get back at her.”
“I know.” He blinked. “Maybe I could disguise myself as someone else when I go over there. Then I could just take off the disguise and teleport out her house when the visit’s over…” He sighed. “I still wish I could see her now. But hopefully when I see her tomorrow, you and I will be safe and we’ll be able to talk about all the things that have happened since we last saw each other.
“Tomorrow couldn’t come sooner,” he said.

***

Sale-Dessu had hardly gotten any sleep the prior night, but when he woke up the next day, he was alert and prepared. He started to get dressed almost immediately, went over his plan in his head several times, and tried to mentally prepare himself for any outcome, and also, for the reality that he was going to be able to see his grandmother again.
Eul-Bok didn’t seem to believe he was prepared, for he kept asking questions while Sale-Dessu dressed.
“So how do you plan on getting there? Are we going to teleport?”
“Yes. I know that out of the way area by memory thanks to how excited I was yesterday. We can teleport there and sneak over discreetly.”
“What about disguises?”
“I’m going to handle that after I get dressed. I’ll disguise myself as a non-Normal species, because if I don’t, it won’t really make any sense to be carrying a V-Puppet around with me. The goal is to not be spotted by anyone else in the neighborhood, but if I am, well, I’m prepared.”
“And if it’s not your Apeta–“
“Eul-Bok, please trust me on this,” Sale-Dessu plead. “You say you have so much faith in me and that you’d stick up for me no matter what anyone says about me. La-Iin could walk in right now and start badmouthing me and you’d stick up for me even if some of what she said was true. So believe me when I say I know that was my Apeta and I’ve planned this all through. I’m not going to let this chance go to waste. I am going to see her, even if this time is the last time.”
“I’m sorry, Father. I’m just worried. I don’t want you getting your hopes up and then getting disappointed, or accidentally running into trouble.”
“I’ll be fine. After all, I’m keeping one thing in mind–if I put myself in danger, I could put you and her in danger, too. And I definitely wouldn’t want that.”
Feeling prepared, Sale-Dessu held tight to Eul-Bok, went over his plan one last time, checked to make sure everything was in place, and then started to recite the teleportation spell.
In the span of a minute, both of them disappeared from the house.

Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok appeared in the area they had teleported from yesterday. The end of the teleportation was less than graceful and Sale-Dessu tumbled onto the ground.
“You can teleport better than that, Father,” Eul-Bok chided.
“I know, I’m sorry. I’m just so close….”
From where he stood he could see the house his grandmother had exited from yesterday. Anxiety wormed its way into him. He knew there was the possibility that she was still gone, or that she wouldn’t recognize him, or that he had somehow mistaken some other Witch for his grandmother.
But being this close, he had to try.
Even though he was disguised, he tried to make his way over to the house as discreetly as possible. Once he reached it, he knocked gently on the door. The door opened slightly, and a woman’s face appeared.
“…do you need something?” She asked.
‘Oh, it is you, Apeta.’ Sale-Dessu tried to hold back his reckless emotions and cleared his throat. “Are you Astineth Eir-Tyuj?”
“…yes, that is I. What do you want? Go away if you have nothing useful to show me.”
“I have some….information on your family that may interest you,” he said. “I assure you, I have no ill intentions towards you….perhaps my V-Puppet could deliver the message better than I could.”
“Me!?”
“You’re my last chance,” he whispered.
“Something shady seems to be going on,” she said. “What do you want with an old woman who lives on her own? I don’t see how I could have anything of use to you, nor how you could have any information of use to me.”
Sale-Dessu shut his eyes and flung Eul-Bok into Eir-Tyuj’s hands. Eir-Tyuj stared at him with a look of confusion.
“Do you have a grandson named Sale-Dessu?” Eul-Bok asked. Eir-Tyuj stared at him with surprise.
“How would you know that?” She stared up at Sale-Dessu, curiosity in her gaze. “…very well, you may come in, but know that I am on the defensive. Try anything funny and you will leave this place with broken bones.”
Sale-Dessu sighed in relief. ‘She does still remember me…now here’s hoping she’ll recognize me once I take off the disguise….’
Sale-Dessu walked into the house. It was dark inside, only illuminated by a faint light, and seemed only slightly less run-down than the neighborhood she lived in. But all around Sale-Dessu noticed ammenities similar to his own house on shelves, spellbooks in bookcases and a few pictures hidden away behind a door.
“Why are you looking in there?” She asked.
“How well….sound-proofed is your house?” He asked.
“Sound-proofed enough,” she said. Her gaze grew cold. “Though that can easily be undone if you plan on doing something nefarious. I know how your types can–”
“I….I’m sorry to interrupt you…but I’m…I’m having a hard time getting the words out…”
“Don’t sputter, boy. What do you want?”
Sale-Dessu started to take off the costume. “Oh, that is the last straw. You are going to regret–”
“Apeta, no!” Sale-Dessu shrieked. “I’m only taking off the cos…”
Eir-Tyuj’s surprise was evident in her wide eyes. “Apeta?”
Sale-Dessu took a deep breath. “Apeta, I don’t know if you’ll believe this or not….but I’m Sale-Dessu. Oh, Apeta, I thought you were dead!”
Unable to hold back his joy any longer, he ran for her.
“Wait!” She yelled, backing away from him. “How can I prove you and he are the same person? My grandson could not use V-Puppetry, the skill never came to him. I admit you look and sound much like him, but I have no proof, and a meeting like this is a coincidence of the highest order!”
“You told me I needed to think less of strangers because that was my dam,” he started. He was desperate to prove his identity to her, and so his words came tumbling out. “You said it was holding me back from realizing my full potential. I remember when we were being ambushed and what you told me about your reputation. I still remember that Witch who killed Mamun….I remember that you told me Mamun is always watching over me, and that I could use my powers for good, so I shouldn’t stop because she died from a magical infection, and I remember that you told me to say good-bye to you because you didn’t know if you’d make it out alive, and–”
“Don’t cry on me, boy!” Eir-Tyuj exclaimed, grabbing him by the arms. A faint smile crossed her lips.
“…it really is you, isn’t it, Sale-Dessu?”
“Yes, Apeta.”
“My, you’ve grown quite tall since we last saw each other….or perhaps I’m shrinking in my old age, heh.” Eir-Tyuj gave a sigh. “With all that you’ve said I see no reason to continue thinking of you as a charlatan impersonating my grandson…I doubt that you are, but even if I am wrong, I don’t believe I care anymore. I was completely prepared to live out the rest of my days alone, so meeting you again…well, if I were to drop dead tomorrow, I’m not sure I would care. Although that’s a typical way of putting it, isn’t it?”
“I don’t mind,” he said. “I’m just so happy to see you again, Apeta. I thought you were dead!”
“Well, I survived, didn’t I? Though only barely. I don’t have quite the pep of my younger days thanks to that incident, and I’m still surprised it hasn’t killed me within this many year’s time….there is so much to go over with you, Sale-Dessu, but I am sure most of it must deal with you. I mostly just escaped to the closest area and took up legal citizenship here in Bledger, took this house and planned to live out the rest of my days in peace. I did wonder about you sometimes, but I always believed you were either deceased or lived somewhere far, far away. I always hoped for the latter, and now I’m getting a pleasant surprise of my own, aren’t I? But enough about me, I would like to know about you…and that V-Puppet, you controlled him of your own power?”
“Yes. His name is Eul-Bok. I see him as my son…”
“I’m honored to meet you, um, Father’s Apeta!”
“You can call me Grepeta, boy,” she said. “It is the name most commonly assumed for us types, after all…did you do something to yourself to get the power to manifest, Sale-Dessu? You wouldn’t take drugs or the like, would you?”
“No, of course not! I don’t know how to explain it…but I like to say it came about because of willpower,” he said shyly.
“Ha. I suppose I was right. You thought of yourself then, didn’t you? How you wanted a V-Puppet of your own….you didn’t think of strangers then. Perhaps that’s what finally allowed you to make a V-Puppet.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, I suppose it’s not impossible that the power developed late, though it’s quite an unusual case,” she said. “Still, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Eul-Bok.”
“The pleasure’s mine, Grepeta! I’ve heard a bit about you from Father!”
“I hope those things you’ve heard are good, then!” She said. “Now, Sale-Dessu, what inspired you to come by this way in the first place? A fancy? How did you discover I lived here?”
“I found out that the only other Astineth living in Vaelyn shared your name. I thought it was just a relative named after you. I got the idea to go and meet this relative, and you can imagine my surprise when I noticed you teleporting yesterday…”
“Oh, so you saw that? I knew I noticed gawkers. I would have stopped had I seen one of them was you!” She cackled. “But it’s a pain to do much of anything when you are trying to keep a low profile. I admit I likely should have teleported from inside my house, but I wanted a bit of fresh air then. I hardly see any of the stuff nowadays.”
“I’m the same,” he sighed.
“Oh, Sale-Dessu,” Eir-Tyuj sighed, though Sale-Dessu caught amusement in her tone. “You must be in your thirties by now, correct? And yet you still have no wife nor child? …well, I suppose Eul-Bok counts as a child, but no biological one?”
“Well, I–”
“Father’s too shy for that stuff. You should see him when he goes outside. He can’t really talk to anyone clearly aside from me.”
“Eul-Bok…” Sale-Dessu protested.
“Sale-Dessu, shy? Introverted I can see, but what happened there?”
“I’m not really shy, Apeta,” he said. “Just…nervous around people. I always feel like someone is going to recognize me as an Astineth and they’re going to be….less than friendly.”
“While I would have said years ago that you should not let that bog you down, it would be hypocritical of me now, what with me being in quite a similar situation,” she sighed. “I just hope you’ve not been wasting your life moping about.”
“I’ve been doing a lot with my powers,” he said. “I can…I can warp reality just like you, although my results are kind of unstable…”
“That’s fine. That’s how it is half the time!” She smiled at him. “Glad to hear you’re still doing fine, Sale-Dessu.”
“I’m glad to see you again, Apeta,” he said. “…the only thing that’s bad now is, I was used to the idea of you being dead before. Now when you really leave me, I wonder if I’ll react well…”
“You have Eul-Bok, do you not? He’ll be there for you. V-Puppets are quite loyal in that way, even if it is against their will.”
“I think I don’t give Eul-Bok enough credit,” he chuckled. “So many times he’s listened to me talk on about how lonely I am, and I tend to forget that he’s there for me when I go off like that…”
“Well, you needn’t be lonely tonight,” she said. “I will allow you and Eul-Bok to spend the night here. It has been so long that I think all three of us need it.”
“I’d love to hear some stories about you, Grepeta. And about Father when he was young!”
“There are quite a few stories I can tell you in that regard!” She cackled. “Embarrassing ones too.”
“Please no, Apeta…”
“Don’t worry, your darkest stories are a secret between you and I, unless you get it in you to tell to Eul-Bok about them,” she said. Then, her expression became serious. “Though there is something I must warn you about, Sale-Dessu.”
“Yes?”
“I have given up attempting to live anonymously or pseudonymously,” she said. “You shouldn’t stay here past tonight. I’m allowing it because you never know what life may bring and because we haven’t seen each other in so long, but you shouldn’t come by often. Perhaps next time you do you can take me to your house. Depending on the location we might be safer there.”
“I understand, Apeta,” he said. “I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Now that I’ve said that, we can put it out our minds,” she said. “This house is heavily protected and it is night. We should be fine so long as we do not draw too much attention to ourselves, and I have ways of covering for us in the worst-case scenario. So, what do you say to showing me how your powers have improved?”
“Can we show her the V-Puppetry project progress, Father?”
“V-Puppetry project?” Eir-Tyuj echoed.
“I’ll tell you about it soon,” he said. “But for now, there’s something in particular I want to show you. I think when it comes to transforming items, I can rival you now, Apeta!”
Eir-Tyuj smiled. “I’m sure you can, Sale-Dessu.”

—–
“Yeah, that house is pretty interesting…”
Baal-Mist sat nearby Eir-Tyuj’s house, watching it late at night. Midnight had almost come around and he still kept his focus on it, his curiosity building.
“Eir-Tyuj, you’re really interesting, and I’d like to know about that stranger too….a suitor, maybe?”
Baal-Mist shook his head. “Whatever it is…I’ve gotta learn more.”
He stayed out there watching the house until his joints were too stiff to stay down anymore, then he returned to his house with his curiosity still strong.

10.314.The Child Warlock–Part 5

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 314
“The Child Warlock–Part 5”

Things had not been the same for the Astineths ever since Maie-Jussa’s death.
Neither Sale-Dessu nor his Apeta had been targeted by any of his Apeta’s opponents since that day, though it was hard to tell if that was because they had given up, lost track or only because he and his Apeta were living under assumed identities. After his mother’s death, those working at the medical center had begged them to, telling them it would be better for their safety in the long run.
Sale-Dessu could hardly find it in him to care. From the little memories he had of when he and his mother had first started living with his Apeta, he recalled that she had done all she could to support the two no matter how much pain they were in. Whenever Maie-Jussa would cry, Apeta would calm her down. With the three of them together, anything that happened could easily be overcome. They all supported each other in their own ways, and that was the way Sale-Dessu would always remember and love his family.
But now that Maie-Jussa was gone, both he and his Apeta were gravely affected. All of it had seemed to age his Apeta, who started to move slower and lose some of her vitality. She hardly scolded Sale-Dessu anymore. She still tried to support the two of them, but they hardly practiced their powers any longer, and they almost never went outside–even when low on food, his Apeta would insist that she could simply change something into a meal.
And it was true, she could.
Sale-Dessu’s mind had been filled with thoughts ever since his mother’s death. He had barely been able to cry. No matter how sad he got, the shock had a stronger effect and the most that ever happened was that his vision would blur over. It seemed much the same for his Apeta, who if she cried, did it away from Sale-Dessu.
One of the things he wondered about was, whatever happened to the Witch who had infected and killed his mother? Did she ultimately end up a vegetable in their old house? Did the doctors have her sent to a torture chamber? Or was she living a happy life and smiling, keeping what she had done that night a secret? Sale-Dessu knew he should be angry at the last idea, but it only made him feel numb.
Also on his mind was their lack of connection with the other Astineths. Though he had only met them a long time ago he knew his mother had sisters. Maie-Jussa had been gone for almost two months. Did they know yet that their sister was dead?
But in the end, none of those thoughts mattered much to Sale-Dessu, because he was starting to feel that it might have been better if the Witch who killed his mother had killed all three of them. Then the three of them could be together as spirits. Maybe it wasn’t the most ideal situation, but it seemed much better than what he and Apeta had now.
Because though Maie-Jussa seemed to take solace in the idea of spirits watching over them, it provided Sale-Dessu no comfort. He was still a child. He would have to live out the rest of his life unable to talk to his mother, unable to see her again or show her his progress. Even if she was watching over him, it still felt lonely.
Now Sale-Dessu found that he spent most days in his bedroom. He felt apathetic about life. Apeta didn’t seem to care about his powers and neither did he. Powers were what had killed his mother, so he didn’t see the point in caring about them.
What would happen now? Would he continue on this way until the day his Apeta died? What would he do then?
Sale-Dessu had only just nodded off into a restless sleep when his bedroom door opened. His Apeta walked slowly in, a somber expression on her face. She sat on his bed and lifted his head.
“Sit up, Sale-Dessu,” she said, her tone soft as usual. It no longer held the same fire it had before.
“Do you need my help with something, Apeta?” Sale-Dessu asked. His Apeta’s expression relaxed slightly.
“I want to talk.”
“Yes?”
“Ever since your mother died, things have been strange here. I know you likely don’t want to talk about it. Maybe it happened a while ago now, but it’s still painful for us both…I…I can’t stand that the girl I gave birth to and held in my arms when she was only a newborn is dead before me from a situation I should have been able to prevent. I imagine you feel much the same way, despite our different relations to her.”
Sale-Dessu remained silent.
“The days after she died were….difficult. And I admit, I thought that perhaps my powers could do something about it, reverse her death possibly…but not even I am that powerful. I started to despair. It…it was all I could do to make a meal for you and I. All I could do not to cry in front of you.”
Sale-Dessu covered his face with his hair.
“But as we haven’t been talking much lately, I have had time to think. Maie-Jussa protected us. Her death happened only because she protected us. Had she not done that, perhaps now all three of us would be dead.”
“…” Sale-Dessu was tempted to voice his thoughts, but no words would come.
“I knew Maie-Jussa incredibly well. She confided in me more often than her sisters would. And we lived together the longest, obviously….I don’t think she’d want her mother and her son to waste their lives upset because she’s no longer with them. But also putting that aside…there are other reasons we need to look towards the future. Face me, Sale-Dessu.”
He looked up at her. “Because if not, all those who despise me, they will win. They want me gone, to the point where I have lost my daughter to them. But my daughter went down fighting. While I was wallowing in despair over her death I forgot that. And you and I should fight back, as well. I am not saying seek them out to take revenge for her death. I am saying we should survive.”
“….”
“Sale-Dessu, remember this also. Someday we will see her again as spirits, that I am certain of. But until then we still have a life to live, you moreso than I. You cannot spend all your life stuck on her death. I would not be surprised if Maie-Jussa is watching us right this moment. I’m sure she’d agree with me when I say that would make both of us upset.”
“…Apeta…I don’t know where to go anymore.”
“You’ll be staying with me, that’s for certain. Together we will live. We won’t forget, but we will go on. …I have dealt with death before, Sale-Dessu. The only difference then is that it was never my child, never someone I had known since her birth. And I continued on living until this ripe old age. We will continue living life and I will continue to help you with your powers.”
“…Apeta…”
“Sale-Dessu, right now I can read you like an open book,” she snapped. He flinched. “If you think you should halt your studies because of that magical infection, then stop it. I’ve told you times before, you can never control who will use their powers for good, and who will use them for evil. Powers are not inherently either. Tell me, Sale-Dessu, do you like your powers?”
“…I…”
“Be honest.”
Sale-Dessu was having a hard time forcing any words out, so he nodded instead.
“Would you like to continue honing them and studying them?”
Sale-Dessu nodded.
“Then continue. You can use your powers for good. You could look for some way to protect against any form of magical infection, if you so desire. Or a way to talk with the spirits. Either way, you can continue. What do you want to do with your powers?”
“…I…I want to…I want to learn more,” he said. “As much as I can about powers. Because there’s so much to learn, it could take my whole lifetime…it could be something I could do, always…”
His Apeta smiled. “…with all that said, I’m certainly not saying we need to recover overnight. We can take our time to grieve. I knew Maie-Jussa all her life and you knew her all yours. Our pain will not repair that easily.”
She hugged him close. “But…I will continue to help you, Sale-Dessu. Maie-Jussa is still watching you, I am sure. And the day you join her as a spirit, she will be proud of you. So let’s keep moving.”
Sale-Dessu’s vision blurred and his chest tightened, but he still couldn’t cry. He thought of his mother and that she was no longer here, but also put into perspective his Apeta’s words.
Now was the time for grieving. But soon enough, he would have to return to his everyday routines. It would be hard, he was certain of that. But with his Apeta at his side, he would have at least one person supporting him, at least one person who kept him going despite how horrible he felt.
And for once, the idea of Maie-Jussa watching over him didn’t feel quite so lonely.

—–
There were days, as an adult, that Sale-Dessu would think back on his mother. He always had to put Eul-Bok to sleep nowadays to get it out of his system. Still it was better than when he had lived all alone, forced to grieve with nobody around him, and even that was better than the days shortly after her death, but always he would end up crying regardless, as if all the tears that refused to shed from the shock were returning.
‘Mamun, Apeta….I kept going. And I will keep going from here too. I’ve made more progress than I thought I could. …thank you for what you gave me while you were alive.’
If living people couldn’t hear his thoughts, he didn’t think it was likely that spirits could either, but it brought him solace anyway.

19.262.The Child Warlock–Part 4

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 262
“The Child Warlock–Part 4”

“Sale-Dessu?”
Sale-Dessu looked up. Maie-Jussa watched him with a look of concern. “Are you alright, Sale-Dessu?”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “I’m fine, Mamun,” he said. “This stew is delicious. Thank you for making it.”
“You’re welcome,” she said, giving him a sad smile. Her smile quickly dropped. “Sale-Dessu, are you feeling alright?”
“You ask this question every day now, Mamun. Yes, I am.”
“I know I ask it every day, but I’m always concerned. Mothers can be like that,” she sighed. “You’ve just seemed sad lately. Our situation is not great right now. I wouldn’t blame you if you were upset.”
“…I am upset, Mamun, but I’m not completely sad,” he said. “Things are difficult, but I should be grateful. I have you and Apeta, and I can still survive. I have good food to eat and clothes to wear. I know some Warlocks don’t even have that much. So even if I am sad, I know there is someone out there who has it worse. So knowing that I can’t be completely sad.”
“You don’t need to bottle up your emotions though, Sale-Dessu,” she said. “I understand your point. We are actually fortunate in some ways. Even moreso that we have someone like Máma taking care of us. Without her we might be in even more dire straits. But you are allowed to feel sad about the situation. Know that I am always here for you, just as Máma is. Any concerns you may have, any worries, you can tell us about. You will not stress us out to do so.”
Sale-Dessu took the last sip of his stew and gently set the spoon down. “…you won’t be stressed if I tell you?”
“I will not. In truth, it’s actually more concerning to me if you don’t talk. So please, if you have something on your mind, let me know what it is.”
“I wish sometimes that Apeta was not as powerful as she is,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “If she was not, we wouldn’t be having any troubles like this….but I realize that’s selfish. I want to be powerful too just as she is. I want to learn all sorts of things about this world and if I’m powerful, I can learn all that…but I never want to be known like she is. And I miss the house we used to live in.”
“I share that same wish,” Maie-Jussa said. “I admire my Máma for her powers and her dedication to improving. But at times it’s hard to be the daughter of the famous Astineth Eir-Tyuj.”
“I worry about Apeta lots,” he said. “I worry I’m holding her back or something…and she’s helping teach me even now though she’s getting older still. I wonder how much time Apeta has left on occasion…”
“Witches are hardy,” she said. “Don’t worry about Máma. You know how she is. She’ll only go for the flow of time and even then only when she’s ready.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “I can imagine that. If anybody could decide when they’re ready to go, it’s Apeta…”
Maie-Jussa nodded. “She’s concerned about you lots too, so I imagine at times that she’d like to stay alive to watch over you. Remember though, Sale-Dessu, even when Apeta goes, she’ll still be watching over you as a spirit, I’m sure.”
Sale-Dessu bowed his head. “That seems sort of lonely, doesn’t it?”
“Huh?”
“Oh, it’s nothing!” He chuckled. “In any event, Mamun, even if I’m sad about some things, I feel grateful that I have you and Apeta. You two have been patient with me and taken care of me.”
“That’s not a problem, Sale-Dessu. You’re a very gentle child. I am more grateful to you for putting up with all that has happened. You did not deserve the things that happened to you, yet you still keep a positive outlook even when things could be better. And though I want you to cry as much as you’d like, you’ve hardly cried about the situation we’re in and haven’t complained about why it had to happen to you.” She smiled. “Thank you.”
“You don’t need to thank me for that, Mamun…”
“I don’t need to, but I want to,” she said. “So you cannot stop me from doing so. I love you, Sale-Dessu. My son could have been any type of person. I’m glad he’s you.”
“Mamun…you flatter me too much,” he said. Maie-Jussa smiled at him, then stood up, took his bowl and walked out the room.

***

Sale-Dessu blinked open his eyes that night and was greeted to a clear, starry sky. A jolt went through him when he heard something slam to the ground.
He stood up and walked out his bedroom. “Mamun? Apeta? Is something wrong?”
“Don’t worry if you hear something in the middle of the night. It’s likely nothing.” The words his grandmother told him once rang in his mind, but since the ambush, he couldn’t help his fear. He still worried about the possibility of being ambushed again. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the house, but he couldn’t stop the shaking in his legs.
“Mamun? Apeta? Are any of you awake?”
“Sale-Dessu, quiet!”
He flinched. His grandmother’s voice sounded strange to him. ‘Is something happening?’ He held any questions and walked in the direction of his grandmother’s voice.
“Apeta…?” He whispered. He was startled when he saw an unfamiliar Witch lying on the ground. When he opened the door in its entirety, he saw his grandmother checking over Maie-Jussa, who was lying against his grandmother’s bed.
“Sale-Dessu, why did you come in here?” She asked. “And you can speak now, boy.”
“I…I was worried, Apeta. I heard strange noises. I’ve been jumpy since…” His eyes fell on the strange Witch once again. “Who is this?”
“Sale-Dessu, though I have plenty of time to explain to you, I feel pressed for it. I cannot go over the whole story, but after I tell you, I will need your help.”
“Yes?”
“We were ambushed again.”
Sale-Dessu felt unsteady.
“Your mother noticed her first. I’m not sure what this Witch’s intentions were but they were evidently for me. Your mother was injured in a fight with her. ….I have this Witch under Mind Control right now, which is the only reason us two are safe. Maie-Jussa is…she fell unconscious. That worries me, as I cannot see the extent of her wounds in this darkness, but I can smell blood on her.”
“Mamun!”
“Sale-Dessu, calm!” His grandmother snapped. “We will get nowhere panicking! Evidently this location has been discovered as well. It was a mistake that I taught you out in the open. Someone must have seen. Listen closely. I need you to pack everything you can manage into our travel bag, then come back here as soon as possible. We’re leaving again. And move quickly.”
“A…Apeta…”
“There’s no time for dawdling! Go!”
Sale-Dessu nodded and ran out the bedroom. He grabbed the travel bag and mindlessly filled it with the nearest items he could find. Panic kept his pace quick.
Memories of a dream he had came to him. He had dreamt of two Witches fighting each other with the full extent of their powers just that night. He had no time to question why he had the dream given what had happened. Once the travel bag was full, he returned to his grandmother’s room.
“I filled it, Apeta,” he said. His grandmother nodded, beckoned him close, then started to cant a spell under her breath.
Sitting close to his mother, he could smell blood on her. He was terrified sitting so close. He could hear her breathing, but could not see her face nor her injuries. He stayed silent, reminding himself not to distract his grandmother, and shut his eyes tight.
“…Maie-Jussa, not for my sake….”
Sale-Dessu opened his eyes. All three of them were outside. “Apeta, Mamun will be alright now, right?”
When his grandmother turned around, her expression was somber and her eyes glittered. “Her wounds are worse than expected,” she said. “I…I can try to teleport her to a hospital, but she might be losing blood too quickly for me to do that…”
“Apeta, we have to try!” Sale-Dessu said. “If I slow the bleeding, it’ll help, right?” He took off his pajama cloak and tried to find a bleeding wound on his mother. He was surprised by the number of them, and decided to cover the one that bled most profusely. He pressed it down. Blood started to show through the cloth fairly quickly.
“…you’re right. I cannot just give up on my daughter. Stand still, Sale-Dessu. I know only one location near here where she can get medical attention. I hope they can help.” She started to chant a spell yet again. Sale-Dessu kept his nightcloak pressed down on the injury.
When they arrived, it was inside a small wood building. His grandmother lifted up Maie-Jussa gently, keeping Sale-Dessu’s nightcloak pressed to her worst injury, and glanced quickly around the building.
“Is anyone in here!?” She yelled.
“Astineth Eir-Tyuj!” A Witch gasped. “I di’n’t know ya lived in our rinky-dink village!” She stared down at Maie-Jussa. “What’s the problem?”
“I need you to see to my daughter,” she said. “She’s injured and losing blood at a fast pace. Please–”
“Say no more,” she said. “Lead ‘er ‘ere.”
She led the family into a small room. His grandmother laid Maie-Jussa on the bed. The Witch removed the nightcloak and gasped.
“This is worse than I expected,” she said. “Miss Astineth, don’tcha know any medical spells?”
“Naturally, but I cannot see how they would help here!”
“This is something I might need assistance ta deal with,” she said. “I have a temperary solution. Wait a mom’nt.”
She hooked a machine to Maie-Jussa. Sale-Dessu held on to his grandmother, who stroked his head gently. The Witch stared at the machine, then turned to the two with a somber expression.
“There ain’t gonna be anything I’ll be able to do,” she said. “She’s lost a lotta blood an’ even if I can replenish it, there seems to be an…infection,” she said. “We can’t take chances replenishing blood with an infection in there. If it’s any sorta magical infection, it could be designed to prevent outside blood replenishment.” She stared at Maie-Jussa. “…there’s always the off-chance she might survive, but…it’s not a high enuff chance to bank on, Miss Astineth.”
“Mamun!” Sale-Dessu cried out.
“Don’t know how much time you’ve got under these circumstances,” she said. “So…say your goodbyes, just in case.”
His grandmother walked over to Maie-Jussa, came to her knees, and laid her head next to her. Sale-Dessu joined her.
“Mamun…” He mumbled. The situation felt unrealistic. Anticipating his mother’s death when he could still hear her breathing seemed wrong. More than anything, he was furious that he hadn’t been able to help his mother during the ambush.
His last conversation with his mother came to mind. Despite his despair, his vision only ever blurred over. He wasn’t able to cry until he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.

What had kept Maie-Jussa going was the knowledge that otherwise, this intruder would go for her mother.
She remembered the earliest days of Sale-Dessu’s life. Without his father, Maie-Jussa had nearly fallen apart. When her mother had offered to take her and Sale-Dessu in, she had taken good care of them. Even with her strict nature she had taught Sale-Dessu how to utilize his powers. She had taken care of them.
Maie-Jussa remembered cracking under pressure. If something happened to her mother, she was sure she would fall apart as she had all those years ago, and would be unfit to take care of Sale-Dessu. But with her injuries, she was beginning to wonder if she would even be capable of doing such a thing if she survived.
As far as she could reason, she knew that so long as her mother survived, Sale-Dessu would be safe and cared for. That was all that mattered.
When she saw her mother wake and send the intruder Witch down, she had relaxed. Finally, all the dizziness she had been burying came to her in one instant. She wasn’t sure what would happen from there on, but she knew her mother and Sale-Dessu were safe.
That was enough for her.

When Sale-Dessu awoke the next day, Maie-Jussa was no longer lying next to him.

—–
It had been a while since Sale-Dessu had the dream. He wasn’t sure why it had come to him randomly.
Then, he could barely cry. He hadn’t been sure why, but he was sure it was partially due to his fury at the situation.
Now, years later, he couldn’t stop crying. He was tempted to wake Eul-Bok, but he didn’t want to stress him with his past pains. Still, he couldn’t help but hug him close.

7.219.The Child Warlock–Part 3

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 219
“The Child Warlock–Part 3”

Sale-Dessu strolled through the marketplace with his mother and grandmother. In his hands was a magically-created ice cream. It was a hot day, and he was enjoying its refreshing coolness on his tongue. He smiled up at his mother, who in turn smiled back at him.
“You really should stop wasting so much of our funds on frivolous things, Maie-Jussa,” his Apeta said. “There are several things we need, I hope you do know.”
“I know, Máma, I know,” Maie-Jussa said. “But I think Sale-Dessu deserves it. He’s really improved as of late. Some years ago he would have been crying as always, but now he is on his way to becoming a truly great Warlock. And I have you to thank. So thank you, Máma.”
“Ah, well….” Sale-Dessu noticed his Apeta’s cheeks turn a faint pink. “You’re welcome, I suppose….but of course I could teach any Witch or Warlock worth their salt how to better themselves. He is my grandson, so of course he became great. He only became great faster because of my coaxing. I’m sure he could have become great at a significantly slower pace under your guidance.”
“Máma…” Maie-Jussa giggled. Sale-Dessu couldn’t suppress a small giggle of his own.
“Why, is that Eir-Tyuj I see? With relatives? Oh my…”
His Apeta glanced up at a nearby group of Witches and Warlocks, a quizzical look on her face as they approached. The closer they got, however, the more his Apeta’s expression changed. It gradually became one of agitation as the group stopped in front of her.
“What’s this? Your family?” One of the Warlocks asked. His Apeta didn’t respond. Sale-Dessu was intimidated by the size of the newcomers, so he shied behind his mother. Maie-Jussa gave him a gentle pat on the head.
“What? No response, Eir-Tyuj? Or rather, no apology for what you did?”
Sale-Dessu could only wonder what they were talking about.
“I never did anything to all you specifically,” she spat. “I don’t even know a single one of you. If you hold a grudge against me for any experimental actions, know that I apologized for such things long ago. You all look much too young to have been affected by any of those such happenings personally. I’d like if you’d allow us to continue on with our day.”
“We never got an apology for you terrifying our mothers and fathers,” a Witch in the group said.
“As I said, I know none of you. I did not harm a single person. I apologize to your parents for terrifying them. It was never my aim to scare, merely a sad side-effect of my experiments. I now conduct them in more private areas. That being said, I owe none of you apologies because there is no way I wronged you all personally aside your relatives. So I offer my apology only to them.”
“So you’re trying to justify what you did.” A Warlock in the group said.
“No, I am not. I am merely trying to enjoy a casual, relaxing day with my family. I would prefer it if I could continue onwards in peace. My deepest, most sincere apologies to your parents for causing them fear.” She gave a deep bow to the newcomers.
“Máma….” Maie-Jussa breathed.
“Our parents aren’t here, so what’s the point of apologizing to them? They won’t hear it. Those are empty words, Eir-Tyuj.” The Warlock man glanced at his companions. “What do you say we show her how our parents felt?”
The others gave mischievous grins. Apeta motioned to Maie-Jussa to get behind her. Sale-Dessu felt his legs start to shake.
The group of Witches and Warlocks pointed wands in their direction. Light started to build around the wand of one of the Warlocks.
“You wouldn’t dare! There are innocents here!”
“Oh, I wouldn’t, would I? I’m not a coward like you, Eir-Tyuj. A Warlock’s got to know when to hold fire….and when to fire. And now seems like the perfect time to–!”
Sale-Dessu, in his fear, had failed to notice that his Apeta had started a teleportation spell. Before the Warlock man could finish his sentence, Sale-Dessu, his mother, and his Apeta teleported a short distance away from the marketplace. His Apeta glanced around the area quickly before running away with her family.
“Máma, could you please explain why there are Witches and Warlocks threatening to harm you!?” Maie-Jussa asked.
“If anyone else would know how high a position I am in the place of my birth, it would be you, Maie-Jussa,” Apeta breathed as the trio ran. Sale-Dessu forced his legs to keep going so he could keep up with his family. “Being known means that not everyone who knows of you will like you.”
“Well, what did they mean by terrifying their parents?” She asked.
“Before you were born, I often practiced various spells–including those that warp reality,” she said. “In one such incident, I ended up creating a reality that was quite messed up. There were many people who complained to me out of terror, though thankfully nobody was actually hurt. Still, many people held grudges against me for it….I never supposed I would meet children of those I terrified, however.”
“How can they hold grudges for something like that!?” Maie-Jussa asked.
“People vary. Unfortunately we happened to run into those sorts of people. There are people who….are against me for other reasons as well. Much worse reasons than the reasons of those….younger ones.” Apeta pointed ahead of the trio. “We’re almost home! Keep running, Maie-Jussa! Keep running, Sale-Dessu!!”

***

Sale-Dessu sat awake in his bedroom that night, thinking on what had happened earlier.
‘If Apeta succeeds, and I become powerful like her….will there be other Warlocks after me too?’
Her words about power’s danger in the wrong hands resonated in his mind. He felt numb thinking back on it.
‘We’re all Witches and Warlocks. How come we have to fight about mistakes? It’s not fair….’
“Sale-Dessu?”
Sale-Dessu turned around. “Oh….Mamun.”
“Something on your mind?”
“Not really….”
“You sound a little dry,” she said as she sat on the bed. “Are you upset about what happened earlier?”
Seeing no point in hiding it from her, he turned away and nodded.
“Don’t worry so much about it,” she said, patting him on the back. “My Máma is right–because she is a very powerful Witch, there are times that people dislike her. But I have known her for a long time and lived with her for most of my life. I can tell you incidents like what happened earlier are uncommon incidents. So please don’t worry about them happening again.”
“There’s always the possibility though, isn’t there?” Sale-Dessu sighed.
“Sale-Dessu…” She hugged him close. “Now’s not the time to fret on what may or may not happen. Máma is right on another thing–you are on the path to becoming quite a powerful Warlock. Over the years you’ve been having an easier time grasping things that you could not before. And I believe that is because your stresses from that time have since been alleviated. If you worry about a singular incident, then those stresses may return, and you may end up impeding your progress. And you wouldn’t want Máma to be upset with you, would you?”
“No….”
“That’s the spirit. So don’t worry, alright?”
“Well….I can try, Mamun….but I can’t guarantee I won’t still think about it.”
Maie-Jussa opened her mouth, likely to give a response, but whatever she may have said was drowned out by the sound of the door slamming open. Both Maie-Jussa and Sale-Dessu turned toward his Apeta, who was breathing heavily and staring at her family with wide, frantic eyes.
“Máma, what’s wrong?” Maie-Jussa’s tone was frantic as she asked the question.
“We’re being ambushed,” she said. “I see a large horde of Witches and Warlocks heading this way! No doubt they’re related to that group from earlier, I’d bet. Damn it, I should have teleported farther! They might know our location now!”
“What do we do!?” Maie-Jussa asked.
“They’re still a distance away, but we don’t have much time. I know someplace we can go for the time being to lose them.” His Apeta was speaking so fast that Sale-Dessu almost didn’t catch every word she said, but he tried to listen intently. “Maie-Jussa, Sale-Dessu, if there’s anything important you want to save, grab it now and stuff it in a bag. I limit you to only one or two bags. Hurry and I will yell once they’re close, then we have to leave immediately!”
“Yes, Máma!” Maie-Jussa yelled. She let go of Sale-Dessu and ran out of the bedroom. Sale-Dessu found a large bag his Apeta had given him for practice and sat it on his bed.
“I have a bag, Mamun!” He called.
Maie-Jussa ran back into the room with various food items and stuffed them in the bag. “Put some of your clothes and study materials in here, Sale-Dessu. And hurry!”
“I’ll help,” his Apeta said. She went through his closet and tossed various articles of clothing his way. He put all the clothes that his Apeta threw at him in the bag.
“Apeta, don’t you need to watch for the ambush!?” He asked. His Apeta gasped and went to his window. “They’re inching closer quickly. Hurry, Maie-Jussa!”
Maie-Jussa frantically dashed back in with some of her own and her mother’s clothes, slipping on her way in. Sale-Dessu didn’t have time to attend to her as she quickly stood up and stuffed the clothes in the bag. Sale-Dessu started to stuff some of his study supplies into the bag, namely the ones that he had not gotten to practice with as much.
“It doesn’t seem to fit…” He mumbled.
“No more time! We leave now!” His Apeta yelled. Frantically, Maie-Jussa zipped up the bag. The family stood together as his Apeta canted a spell at a rapid speed. The trio teleported along with the bag. Maie-Jussa slung the bag over her shoulder.
“Follow me!” His Apeta said. “It’s a distance away, but we’ll be safe there!”
“Okay!”
The trio ran in the direction Apeta led. The situation reminded Sale-Dessu of the earlier run away from the Warlock group. Tears stung at his eyes, but he pressed on.
The night made it hard to navigate, but the trio continued to run, their desperation to get away from the ambush keeping their feet moving no matter how many pitfalls they hit.

—–
Sale-Dessu gasped.
‘Oh….I only dreamed it….’ He gave a sigh of relief. He was safe at home. There was no ambush.
Still, having a nightmare about the old incident made him feel melancholy. His second sigh was a sad one.
“Father, are you alright? Did you have a nightmare?”
Sale-Dessu blinked. “Oh….sorry to wake you, Eul-Bok. It’s nothing, really. I’m going to go back to sleep now. You should too.”
“Father…”
“It’s fine,” he said. “Hearing your voice has made it even better. But we need our sleep. Really, don’t worry. Good night.” He snapped his fingers and laid back down. Sleep came easy to him due to how relieved he was that it was only a nightmare.

14.195.The Child Warlock–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 195
“The Child Warlock–Part 2”

Sale-Dessu strained as he canted a spell under his breath. On the table in front of him, a tissue was starting to change its form. Its existence was being changed to that of a fruit. Sale-Dessu felt as if there was an immense physical pressure on him as he canted. He still wasn’t as good with spells like this. They caused a great strain.
Behind him, his Apeta watched. He wanted to prove to her that he was getting better, that eventually he could be a Warlock as powerful as her. He put his all into it as he started to cant the spell faster, hoping he wouldn’t trip over his words. Eventually, the spell came to an end, and it was up to Sale-Dessu’s own will to finish the rest of the deed.
He cleared his mind of any other thoughts he could focus on and instead focused on the image of a tissue turning into a fruit.
“You’re done,” his Apeta said. Sale-Dessu took a deep breath and stared at the fruit. Now a pear sat in place of the tissue. He smiled.
Apeta walked over to the pear and took a bite. Sale-Dessu froze. In the end, what mattered most was that the pear tasted like a pear. His Apeta’s expression gave nothing away as she swallowed.
“….this is the best one so far,” she said. “It’s a little bland, but it actually tastes like a pear.”
Sale-Dessu smiled wide. He had finally succeeded. “You did a good job, I suppose….however, I do still have some criticisms.”
“Yes, Apeta?”
“You’re straining too much while you cant the spell. You start doing better once you get past it, but straining is the sign of a weak mind. I do still strain with some spells. However, those are the ones that are truly a strain, such as reality warping.”
“You can reality warp?” Sale-Dessu asked. The idea of his Apeta being able to do such a thing filled him with awe.
“Not without some difficulty. But with how many spells you can perform now, you should be able to perform something such as this without straining.”
“I’m sorry, Apeta….”
“Don’t apologize!” She snapped. “You simply have to keep trying is all!”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “I will. Thank you for not giving up on me, Apeta.”
“Of course I wouldn’t,” she sighed. “I think you have potential. Any Witch or Warlock can reach a great status with lots of devotion to their craft, but it’s only a select few who can grow quickly. Your problem is that your mind is still weak. You care too much about strangers. I am not saying you should become a distant and cold person. But you should not care as much as you do about inconveniencing strangers.”
“I…is that true?”
“Yes.”
Sale-Dessu glanced down at his feet. “So you don’t care about inconveniencing strangers, Apeta?”
“Of course I don’t, otherwise I wouldn’t be giving you such advice!” She cackled. She stroked Sale-Dessu’s head.
“Just how powerful are you, Apeta?”
His Apeta sucked in a breath through her nose. “Back in my birth town, I’m considered one of the greats.”
“Truly?”
“Yes. I spent a significant part of my life training in Witchcraft. Us Witches and Warlocks are blessed with arguably the most powers of any species. With a lot of honing we are powerful assets. But that is also a dangerous thing. If you let all that go to your head, it will only end in death. Power is dangerous.”
“If it is, then why do we practice it so much?”
“Not everyone does. Some prefer to keep most of their talents hidden while others prefer to limit their talents to what they like to do. For instance, a Witch who loves to cook–she may only hone and utilize the powers of hers that assist in her dream of cooking. But you must remember what I said. I know how to warp reality in various ways. Some Witches or Warlocks may use that to their advantage to intentionally cause havoc. It’s why if you look in history books about World War I, you will notice that we are often considered evil because our powers proved that dangerous to the continued existence of other species.”
“Oh…”
His Apeta sat down in her observation chair. “Come. Normally I wouldn’t allow it, but I suppose since I’m telling you a story, you can sit on my lap or whatever.”
Sale-Dessu ran over to her and sat down, holding tight to her to keep from falling off.
“I suppose I could have phrased my earlier statement slightly better–power is dangerous when in the wrong hands. But you can control who will be born good and who will be born evil about as much as you can control your infant being male or female–that is to say, not at all. Not even a Warlock can do that. Even our mind-control power is incomplete–the person will still retain their alignment, and they’ll certainly still retain their gender.”
“Mind-control?”
“It allows us to control a person’s brain and tell it what to do. It does not allow us to control their consciousness, however, which is why I said they still retain their alignment. Even if you make them do something evil they may still be good. But that is not my point…you cannot control whether someone with vast power will use it for the greater good or to impede the world’s progress. It is impossible.”
“Hm…”
“But that too was not my point. For most Witches and Warlocks, it requires years of honing in order to be as powerful as one of the greats. The greats themselves often will talk of years spent perfecting their talents. Only a select few of our species may prove to have it in them to learn fast enough to become talented within a short amount of time. If I am being honest, I believe you might be one of them, Sale-Dessu.”
“I couldn’t be!” He said. “I can’t even use V-Puppetry, and I still have problems with some simple spells.”
“Yes, but you are my grandson. I may not have been one of the ones with natural talent but I have spent so much time honing my powers that I am considered a powerful Witch. I believe you have the talent but you are locking it up yourself.”
“How could that be?”
“Think of it as a dam, Sale-Dessu. Blocked off the water goes nowhere. It stays still. But take down the dam and the water floods all around it. Do you remember how I said you need to think less of strangers?”
“Yes.”
“I believe that is your dam. Remove it and you will shine.”
“Apeta….I’m not all that great.”
“You fool!” His Apeta yelled. She slammed a hand down on the top of his head. “Did you not hear me say that you are my grandson!? My only one at that! Or at least, only one I know of. I am one of the greats. You too shall be great. Believe me.”
“Really, Apeta? Do you really think that?”
“Well, if you continue to act in this way, perhaps your dam will stay up forever….”
“Hm…” Sale-Dessu couldn’t help but wonder if his Apeta’s confidence in him was the result of conceit. “Apeta, how much did you have to practice? How many hours did you put in?”
“Several. There were times when I was not that much older than you that I would spend nearly the whole day honing my abilities. For a time I kept myself closed off from my family slightly. It strained my relations with them. So after that I opted to try practicing with them more often. And on nights I couldn’t get to sleep, I’d practice then too. The best time was when I first got my own house. I was able to practice day and night on anything I wanted to. There were times I got burnt out. Those times I took breaks. If you use your powers too much, you can exhaust yourself, so always remember to take breaks when you get exhausted, even if that break is only a nap. My longest break from my powers was when I became a mother. I didn’t have nearly as much time to do things when Maie-Jussa and her sisters were babies. But you can guarantee that when they were old enough, I was teaching them much like I do you now.”
“I see….”
“Practicing is the key to becoming great at anything, not just powers. The expression ‘practice makes perfect’ is certainly true, and the person who came up with it smart indeed.”
“Then I will just have to keep practicing to become as good as you are, Apeta.”
“That’s for sure! We need to get you to stop straining, and to make more juicy pears. Would you like to get back to work now?”
“Yes, Apeta! There’s several things I want to try now!”
“Happy to hear it. But aside from transforming objects into fruit, I’ll be calling the shots on what you do. So you’d best be prepared for some hard spells.”
“I’ll take it on,” Sale-Dessu said.
“That’s a good boy. Now, let’s get to work!”

—–
Sale-Dessu couldn’t help but think about his Apeta when he thought back on the name he had seen on the computer.
‘Today more than ever I miss you,’ he thought. ‘I wish you could be with me tomorrow.’
“Father? Are you alright?”
“Hm? Eul-Bok? Yes, just fine. Sorry about that. Let’s finish this transformation spell then. Would you like to see me transform cherries into a cherry pie, or something more complicated?”