10.587.Lucid Dreaming

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 587
“Lucid Dreaming”

“Hm…”
“What’s up with you? Your face looks strangely expressive right now. Though that doesn’t mean much.”
“I’ve just had…things on my mind.”
“Things?”
“Yes. Many things. And I’m having a hard time sorting them all out.” She fluffed her pillow and laid down. “For now, I can get some sleep and keep planning in the morning. But I’m having a conflict about what way I want to take my ideals.”
“And why would that be? You’re not becoming a goody-goody, are you!?”
“No! Bes-Isa, you’re smarter than that, so don’t let me hear you say something that stupid ever again. I’ve just been wondering if this plan is any good for going forth with. I have a lot to think about: Ei-Tio’s potential evil, betrayal, the fact that a few of my key players are goody-goodies, and the applications of my blood powers. Being evil is too hard sometimes. But it’s way more worth it than taking the easy way out. Goody-goodies are lazy.”
“And they tend to be massive hypocrites, too.”
La-Iin smirked. “They really do….night, Bes-Isa…”
“Yeah, bad night.”
La-Iin’s smirk persisted until she fell asleep. When Mit-Sun passed by her bedroom, she peeked in on her.

***

When La-Iin opened her eyes, immediately she was blinded by a bright orange flash. Curious, she peeked out the window. Two things immediately caught her eye–the disheveled state of the familiar Bledger streets, along with people running and screaming across them, and the building she was in. It looked more like the castle from her fantasies than her house.
“Do you like it, La-Iin?” La-Iin flinched. Behind her stood Mit-Sun, Asul-Zenza, Fer-Shi and San-Kyung. Dosa-Mina was sitting nearby, but his attention was focused on Choungetsu, who was licking his face so much La-Iin wondered if it might corrode.
“Like what? Where are we, Mama?”
“In our new house, of course!” Asul-Zenza said cheerfully. “When Mit-Sun and I decided to get back together, we thought the perfect present to celebrate wouldn’t be one for us, but instead one for you. So we gave you Bledger, Vaelyn!”
“They said me and my parents could stay here too so that we’re safe from all the wreck!” Fer-Shi said, sounding far more cheerful than she would expect her to in such a situation. La-Iin could feel her eyes widening at her father’s statement.
“What? But why–”
“Why is San-Kyung here?” Mit-Sun asked. “I think he can explain that one himself. Oh, I almost forgot. Catch!”
Mit-Sun tossed Bes-Isa in La-Iin’s direction, and she flew up to catch her. She glanced wildly between all the people there, desperate for more of an answer than what Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza had given her.
“I’m here because you’re my friend, duh,” San-Kyung said. “I had to barter with vuyong in order for your parents to let me bring Dosa-Mina along too, though.”
“That’s not the reason you told me you came here!” Dosa-Mina said cheerfully. San-Kyung’s face turned bright pink and he shook a fist in Dosa-Mina’s direction. Dosa-Mina was seemingly oblivious to this display of violence, and instead went back to giggling as Choungetsu resumed licking his face.
“This has to be a dream,” La-Iin mumbled to herself. It all seemed too surreal. Looking down at herself, and noticing how much she had to look up to meet the eyes of everyone save for Fer-Shi, she could tell she was still physically seven years old. If that was the case, not much time could have passed. Why would Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza want to be together again? What was San-Kyung getting so flustered about?
When she realized that, everything began to feel a bit surreal.
“La-Iin?”
“I wonder…” La-Iin walked away from the group of her loved ones and stared outside. She felt she had heard of this phenomena before. She tried to imagine the destruction outside as a happy field full of Buneties. It was incredibly difficult, but eventually she managed a scene much like what she imagined, and behind her she heard gasping.
She grinned to herself. ‘This is too strange, though.’ So instead she tried to imagine that Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza were not in the room. Suddenly, both of them got up and walked away. La-Iin smiled.
“San-Kyung, I know the reason you wanted to come here!”
“No you don’t!”
“Yes I do~” She walked up to him. “Finally, you reciprocate my feelings, but of course it’s in a f@%king dream! But at least if that’s the case, I can have a good dream and wake feeling refrustrated!”
“Refrustrated?” Fer-Shi asked. La-Iin felt her face flush. “You know what I mean.”
La-Iin flew up close to San-Kyung’s face. “I know what you want, San-Kyung. And that’s a good thing. Because I want it too.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, reverse pedo.”
“Yes you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be blushing like that. If one good thing has come from this dream, it’s you!”
La-Iin pulled San-Kyung’s face close and kissed him. She wasn’t quite sure how, but she could see behind her Fer-Shi vomiting. In front of her, Choungetsu had stopped licking Dosa-Mina’s face and was instead staring at her wide-eyed; Dosa-Mina had nearly the same expression on his face, though he seemed even more shocked than Choungetsu did.
The sight caused a sudden click in La-Iin’s mind. She pulled away from San-Kyung and stared at him.
“What the hell did you do that for!?”
“I don’t have time for you to play hot and cold with me, San-Kyung!” She flew away from him and stared out the window. The sight of the Buneties in the field had been replaced with the burning streets of Bledger once more. San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina ran up behind her; Fer-Shi was still vomiting, and Choungetsu ran to lick it up. La-Iin decided to imagine that Choungetsu chose to run away, and that Fer-Shi was in maid clothes and with cleaning supplies. She gave a sigh of relief and turned back to outside the window.
Something about that sight was stirring a strange feeling in her.
“San-Kyung, come here,” she said, pulling him close. San-Kyung seemed defiant, but obliged regardless. She wiggled free from San-Kyung’s grasp, then motioned to Dosa-Mina to stare in San-Kyung’s direction. He did not react save for staring at San-Kyung. La-Iin could imagine all the times he had started to hang all over San-Kyung; at those imaginations, Dosa-Mina did likewise.
“Hey, cut that out!”
“At least I’m not a little kid smooching you on the lips!”
San-Kyung’s face turned a darker pink. La-Iin barely noticed it. Instead she smirked, then pushed San-Kyung away from Dosa-Mina and hissed. “He’s mine, rival-boy! Don’t dare to try and recover what you used to have with him, because you have it no more!”
Both boys just stared at her in confusion.
“Um, La-Iin? Whose vomit is this?”
“Be quiet, Fer-Shi. I think I have an idea.” She stared out the window and smiled. “A big idea…”

—–
When La-Iin woke up, the memory of the dream was still fresh in her mind. She balled a hand into a fist.
“I was right. I am refrustrated!”
“Good morning, La-Iin. Is what I’d say if I wasn’t so mad at you! Must you roll over so much in your sleep? And what the hell did you just say? Seriously, I–WHOA!”
La-Iin jerked Bes-Isa out of bed and flew downstairs. She didn’t care if Mit-Sun saw, though her mother didn’t appear to notice. She had prepared breakfast, and La-Iin scarfed it down quickly. She sat at the table, waiting for Mit-Sun to leave, then left the house and walked over to Sale-Dessu’s.
“What are we going here for?”
“Be quiet. You’ll see soon enough.”
Sale-Dessu didn’t take long to open the door. With a quick greeting, he soon let La-Iin inside, and she took a deep breath once she was sitting down.
“Sale-Dessu, what do you know about lucid dreaming!?”
“Lucid dreaming?” Sale-Dessu seemed slightly confused. “I’ve never had a lucid dream myself…but when I think on it, it does somewhat remind me of an unfinished spell that Warlocks aren’t often told about.”
“Are you talking about what I think you are?” Eul-Bok said as he passed by the trio. “But you can’t go into your own dreams, can you? So it’s not–”
Sale-Dessu shushed him. “It’s not exactly the same thing, and the spell’s unfinished, so we don’t know of its applications anyway,” he whispered.
“There’s something else I want from you, Sale-Dessu. Are you willing to do some research for me?”
“Oh no, I’m not gonna let you make Father your little research guinea pig again!” Eul-Bok protested.
“I’m fine with doing that,” he said, motioning to Eul-Bok to calm down. “What do you need?”
“You know about the Vampire blood power? I want you to look into that for me. I want to research it myself, but I’m having a lot of difficulty. I figured you might be able to look into it for me.”
Sale-Dessu looked uncertain. “I’m not sure the results of research on that would be as good as what you asked for in the past…oh! I almost forgot!”
He handed her a bag. “I never did give you the books you asked for, but here they are. Take care of them, please. I’d have a lot of difficulty replacing them…”
“Yes, everyone knows this already.” La-Iin looked up at him. “I hate to say this. I really hate to say this, because I don’t like thanking anybody. But thank you, Sale-Dessu. You being my ally has led to many good things. And if my little hypothetical theory is correct…”
The smirk that started on La-Iin’s face sent a shiver down Sale-Dessu’s spine. “Oh–well–I’m happy to help. And I’ll see what I can do.”

3.580.Betrayed

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 580
“Betrayed”

“La-Iin? Are you doing anything right now? I want to head downtown soon so I can get a special spice for dinner tonight.”
La-Iin didn’t respond.
“La-Iin?”
‘Ai-Reia was a failure. That much I know. But I never thought of what would happen if some of my key players became failures, too….I wasn’t expecting her, but at least I got hints early on enough before she became too involved. And my children are speculation–besides, their betrayal probably won’t be all that bad, whatever it is if it happens. But what if I lose someone I really need?’
“La-Iin?”
“Mama?”
“What’s up with you now?”
“Ei-Tio’s visit yesterday has me thinking about something.”
“What’s that?”
La-Iin shook her head. “Nothing important.”
“It certainly sounds important.”
“Even if I wanted to tell you, Mama, I haven’t thought it through all the way yet. But it’s bothering me…”
Mit-Sun looked concerned. “Well, whenever you’re ready to go downtown, just tell me, but make sure to say something before it gets too late, otherwise I’ll come and get you myself.”
‘It’s fully possible. Just as Ei-Tio could potentially change, someone else I need could change too. What would I do if that happened? How could I handle losing some of my key players?’
She bit her lip. ‘I’m going to need to put some thought into this, no matter how painful it is.’

***

“La-Iin, I’ve forgiven a lot of what you’ve done. I’d have to in order to go along with the things you want me to, but I have to draw a line here!”
La-Iin stared down Shuu-Kena, whose eyes were brimming with tears. “I thought you didn’t like your family.”
“We might not get along, but they are my family nonetheless,” she said, standing her ground. “I’m not going to watch you make them into shells of their former selves!”
La-Iin grit her teeth. “So what do you want me to do with them!? You realize they were opposing me, right? I had to get rid of them somehow!”
“You couldn’t have just jailed them, though? Is that beyond the realm of what you can do? Besides, what you said to me, it proves something. You’re no better than my family. I don’t know why I thought you were different. I’m so stupid.”
“Shuu-Kena.”
“Go away, La-Iin. I don’t want to talk to you.”
“This isn’t a matter of wanting to or not wanting to. You realize you are my scout, yes? There are no options for you here. If you want so badly to oppose me, then you are welcome to join your family in the torture chamber.”
Shuu-Kena’s eyes widened in horror. “I–I–”
“You are a selfish person too, Shuu-Kena. Don’t think you’re better than me.”
“You really are no different from my family…”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “I give you one day to prove yourself. If by tomorrow you’re still acting this way, or if you have done anything to deliberately betray me, you’re going to join your family. Consider yourself lucky I’m giving you this leniency at all. And who knows, I might just take it away, good behavior or no…”

“Big sister…no, La-Iin….when we were little kids, I thought you were gonna do things differently.”
“What, did you think they were empty words? Did you think that ruling the world meant that I would make everyone happy? What did you think it was, Ei-Tio?”
“…different than this. I don’t know.” She lowered her head. “You know, big sister, I was flying over the cages yesterday, just stretching my wings. And I saw two familiar people shoved into the same cage.”
“Oh?”
“My Darseen and Floma,” she said bitterly. “I realized something, big sister. You’re different than how I knew you to be. I know you’re evil. I never cared about that, not at all. I knew you wanted to rule the world. And I know, maybe I thought a little more idealistically than I should have, but can you blame me? I’m still technically a kid Vampire! I don’t understand this, La-Iin. I don’t.”
“Then I’ll explain. I’ve wanted to rule the world since I was little. It’s the ultimate power. The best expression of one’s evil. I can do what I want when I’m in charge of the world, like I am now. But ruling the world is a precarious position. Even with San-Kyung and my other allies at my side, we’re a small group compared to the billions of people out there in the world. So I need to be careful as I spread my dominion.”
“What?”
“Does it still not make any sense?”
Ei-Tio shook her head. “No, it doesn’t. I’m sorry, big sister, but I can’t do this anymore. I love helping you, and I don’t hate you. But there’s something different about you. It feels like you care about yourself above everyone else. And I’m sure you always have, but this just isn’t right. It feels like this power has made you hate almost everyone else. You love your Mama, right? Then why is she rotting away in a cage?”
“I have my reasons.”
“And you can never give explanations to me. Not even your “sister” gets to hear it. Does San-Kyung? Or is he censored from this too?”
“Why are you questioning this now, Ei-Tio?”
Ei-Tio spread her wings. “I just needed to know if my decision was the right one. I’m sorry, big sister. I’m not going to oppose you. I’m not going to try and kill you, and I’m not going to hate you. But I can’t stay here like this. I’m going to go someplace else, someplace far away where life is happier and not horrible like this…someplace where even the most evil of people actually care about other people.”
She took off before La-Iin could get a word in edgewise. La-Iin was tempted to fly after her, but after Shuu-Kena’s opposition, she was starting to feel dejected.

“Mit-Sun…”
“She hasn’t been in the best of conditions lately. I’m dubious as to how much longer she’ll survive.”
“Do you even care that your own mother is dying?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Do you know who else is dying? San-Kyung. Maybe not as quickly as Mama, but I’m going to lose him soon too. I’ll be sad if Mama dies, but it isn’t as if we’ve talked much lately anyway.”
Asul-Zenza shook his head. “This is ridiculous. I understand the three of us were never exactly a proper family, but not a one of us hated each other. Not even I and Mit-Sun hated each other. Has this changed in recent years, La-Iin?”
“I was getting back at Mama for what she did to me as a child. That’s all.”
“I saw you lots once you hit your sixth years, La-Iin. If Mit-Sun was doing something so drastic that it warranted years-long torture, I would have known. But as it stands her worst offense is that she was not quite ready for parenting. For someone in that situation, I would say she’s done quite well.”
“You and I think differently then, Dami. What, are you going to start taking her side now? I thought you liked me better than you liked her.”
“I do, that’s true, but…watching her waste away like this, it’s just too painful. And watching you turn into what you’ve become…nobody ever thought otherwise on the subject of your evil, La-Iin. But I don’t think any of us expected this level of coldness.”
“Then you were expecting me to be friendly when I have to rule the world? How deluded are you?”
Asul-Zenza flinched. “That’s it. I’m sorry, La-Iin, but I can’t put up with this. I don’t want to oppose you, but you’re not giving me much of an option.”
La-Iin grit her teeth. “So that’s how it will be, is it?”
“There’s still a chance to make up on this, of course,” he said quickly. “And besides, when I said oppose, I never meant with an army at my side. I simply met fighting you until you would help Mit-Sun–”
“One thing you should have learned from me, Dami–”
She walked over to him and gripped his shoulders tight.
“Don’t reveal your plans. That’s stupid.”
‘Not Dami. You can’t be considering this.’ La-Iin was trying her hardest not to show weakness, but it was difficult when the person opposing her was Asul-Zenza. She felt she couldn’t prepare to deal with his betrayal, but when she saw the look in his eyes, she had no doubt in her mind that he was serious.
“Sorry, Dami. No, I don’t owe you an apology. You’re the betrayar, after all.”
Her reluctance to act was strong, but La-Iin ignored it and bit into her arm. Behind Asul-Zenza, La-Iin caught sight of Mit-Sun, weakly staring up at her. Just from the look on her face, La-Iin felt that she would soon have to deal with Mit-Sun as well.

“Hello, La-Iin. It’s good you woke me up for the first time in I’m not sure how long, because we need to talk.”
“Indeed we do. A lot has happened between the last time we talked and this time…”
“When I said ‘we need to talk’, I more meant that I need to talk to you about a certain subject matter.”
La-Iin levitated Bes-Isa close to her. “What?”
“Well, it HAS been years. I know from what you’ve told me that you’re working Sale-Dessu quite hard. And I know from what you’ve shown me that the majority of the population is inside cages, and those who aren’t are not exactly people I have to worry about.”
“What are you getting at?”
“I want to be made autonomous, La-Iin. I think it’s been long enough. If you’ve really been working Sale-Dessu as hard as you make it sound, and after all those years he took care of Eul-Bok I’m sure that making me autonomous would be no trouble for him. Then I can help you more directly, that and actually have the freedom to walk around. In your world I don’t need to worry about being spotted because nobody can do anything about me.”
“I can’t grant that, Bes-Isa.”
“I should’ve known. I knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but I did anyway. Years passing hasn’t changed that certain side of you.”
“It has nothing to do with not changing, Bes-Isa. It has to do with the fact that betrayal has been common in my dominion lately. Thankfully nothing large enough to pose a threat to my rule over the world, but it’s concerning. And especially with what you’ve just said to me, I have no reason to believe that you wouldn’t betray me if I made a move you disliked. You are as evil as I am, after all.”
“I haven’t even done anything to you! Do you just WANT me to betray you?”
“No.” La-Iin tried to imagine a future in which Bes-Isa gained the autonomy she so wanted. She could imagine someone, their suppressants having worn off just the right amount, lashing out at her. She could imagine something going horribly wrong and her turning her back on her.
Especially with how Bes-Isa could be sometimes, it was a risk she couldn’t take.
“La-Iin!? I’ve been by your side nearly your whole life and yet that still isn’t enough to have your trust!?”
“It’s hard to give trust when you’re the ruler of the world, Bes-Isa. You’d understand if you were in my position.” She lifted up her hand. “I can’t take any risks right now, Bes-Isa. I’m sure you understand.”
She levitated Bes-Isa over to a small case and closed it. Bes-Isa had yelled something on her way there, but La-Iin couldn’t understand it, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to.

La-Iin walked over to Sale-Dessu’s chamber and opened the door.
“Sale-Dessu.”
Sale-Dessu didn’t respond.
“Sale-Dessu! To attention!”
Sale-Dessu glared at her.
“Sale-Dessu! Why aren’t you saying anything!?”
“For years now I’ve been at your beck and call. And I didn’t mind, La-Iin.” His voice was barely a whisper; La-Iin could barely hear it even as she walked closer to him. “I always loved studying powers and practicing. And not everything you used of mine was for ruling the world, I appreciated that. But you took Eul-Bok away from me for no reason other than Bes-Isa didn’t like him. And only now I’ve started to realize how stupid I’ve been all these years…”
“What are you talking about?”
Sale-Dessu lifted up his wand and fired off at her. La-Iin dodged. Sale-Dessu’s expression was one of rage. Stuck in a claustrophobic room with an angry Warlock, La-IIn felt that if it wasn’t for one key element, she would be terrifed for her life, and that was the reluctance she sensed in Sale-Dessu’s moves. He was slightly lethargic and did not choose spells that would badly harm her. Still, as it went on his spells became ones intended to trap her. She couldn’t keep doding him forever–and there was no reason she should be scared of him.
She flew behind him, grabbed his wand, and bit into his shoulder. Sale-Dessu gave a pained gasp. La-Iin sucked blood from him until he was seeming lightheaded.
“I was wondering when you might turn on me,” La-Iin sighed. “I figured keeping a Warlock off of power suppressants would end up being dangerous sooner or later. But I did need your powers at the time. Now you’ve proven to me that I don’t.”
Sale-Dessu’s eyelids fluttered and he didn’t respond. La-Iin dragged him off, only struggling slightly.

When La-Iin head to the front of the castle, she was surprised to find Fer-Shi crying.
“What’s wrong?”
Fer-Shi sniffled. “Oh, La-Iin…I just don’t understand what you’re doing anymore. I never did, but turning on people who love you? I really thought that no matter what, you’d never do that…”
“What are you talking about?”
“I heard about what happened with Mr. Ghneckdo. And with Sale-Dessu. And I heard that what happened with Mr. Ghneckdo happened because of the way you were treating your mom…” She sniffled again. “Why are you doing this?”
“I have to show those who betray me that they’ll regret what they’ve done. I already was unable to show this to Ei-Tio, so I have to be extra strict with further offenders.” She glared at Fer-Shi. “Don’t tell me you’re next.”
“La-Iin, it’s just…it’s getting to the point where I don’t see you anymore. I don’t like what you’ve done, not at all, but I’ve put up with it anyway because I could still tell that no matter how horrible what you were doing was, it was still you, you know? But now I don’t see that anymore. I just don’t understand what changed!”
La-Iin sighed. “La-Iin?”
“Ruling the world has never been an easy job…and I realize when I have to make sacrifices. Do you want to join your parents in a cage!?”
Fer-Shi’s expression looked stricken. “La-Iin, please! I know I can’t ask you to change, but please, don’t let this hateful part of you overtake you completely! I don’t want to have to stop you!”
La-Iin sighed. “That’s enough for me.” She bit into her arm. Fer-Shi seemed to notice what she was doing and ran off, but the strength from her ability made it easy for her to catch up. She slammed her to the floor and pinned her down.
“It doesn’t matter if you betray me, Fer-Shi. At the very least, I still have San-Kyung.”

“…what?”
San-Kyung glared at her. “Listen closely this time. Dosa-Mina died. I found him in his cage this morning, rotting away. He looked awful.” San-Kyung’s expression became one of hurt. “I’m going to bet this has nothing to do with sickness and everything to do with neglect. Or rather, a sickness caused by neglect.”
“I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, San-Kyung. Too much has been going on for me to pay attention to all of the slaves.”
“So you couldn’t even pay attention to the one “slave” I always wanted you to keep an eye on. Even being aware of how close we were before all this happened.”
“San-Kyung, you’re not the only one who lost a friend recently.”
San-Kyung growled. “La-Iin, now that the timing seems perfect, there’s something I need to tell you. Do you remember how I approached you and said I loved you, just when the world was on the cusp of being in your grasp?”
“How could I forget?”
“Did you notice anything strange about the timing?”
La-Iin’s confusion only lasted a moment. “No…”
“Exactly. You were only a means to an end for me.” San-Kyung struck his hands. “In your vulnerable state, I don’t see where the problem in taking you down is. You’ve been able to put away everyone else, but I know how you feel towards me. You’re in shock. You weren’t expecting this. So now’s my time to strike.”
He walked closer, and La-Iin could feel the heat from his flames. She felt at a standstill, and still deeply in shock, but she knew what she need to do. She came to her feet and flew at San-Kyung, knocking him to the ground and biting hard into his neck. She sucked his blood, then continued biting, all the while in a red haze and unaware of what was going on around her.
By the time she came to her senses, San-Kyung was unconscious, his breathing shallow. She let out a mournful wail and finally allowed herself to cry.

—–
La-Iin flinched.
“La-Iin! Why are you crying?”
La-Iin wiped at her eyes, but she still couldn’t forget what she had imagined. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t see a way to effectively prepare for betrayal–she could barely imagine how some of her allies would betray her in the first place.
But the thought of San-Kyung’s betrayal….it was something she wouldn’t put past him.
She clung to Mit-Sun and tried to stifle her tears, but instead Mit-Sun stroked her head and kept her crying for far longer than she intended to.

29.575.Day of Business

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 575
“Day of Business”

Asul-Zenza stared at the table. Sitting on it in piles was all the vuyong he had.
Early that day he had gotten the idea to surprise La-Iin with a new dress. ‘She’s starting to get a little bigger. Sooner or later she’ll outgrow her current dresses. And while Mit-Sun sews her new ones, she can wear my dress!’
He was quite surprised to see such a small pile of vuyong.
‘I haven’t been spending that much, have I? So why do I have so little? Wait a moment…’
Asul-Zenza thought back on the last time he had done a job. He recalled hearing someone that day commenting on how they were not looking forward to Summer.
‘Spring…’ He sighed. ‘This is not good. I thought I was good at keeping an eye on my funds. Evidently not…’
He stood up. ‘Well, I won’t get anywhere moping about this sad pile! My only option now is to find a job I can do. And I think I know just where I can go for that.’

***

“You want to help me with the stand?”
“Yes! I figured you don’t get much help, so I thought I might help you.”
Perule-Cheuse scratched the back of his neck. “I don’t mind, but ah, you realize there ain’t much work to be done ’round here? I don’t understand why ya’d want to…” He narrowed his eyes. “Wait a sec, you ain’t lookin’ for vuyong, are ya?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Don’t think I don’t know you, Asul-Zenza.”
Asul-Zenza scoffed. “I guess you do…alright, I’ll help for free, then. After all, it doesn’t look like there’s anyone around here.”
“Hey. If yer gonna do that, just tidy up the stand a little for me. I’m not askin’ ya to actually serve anyone anything.”
Asul-Zenza nodded and began to reorganize the cart and wipe off stains. ‘No wonder he gave me that look. There really isn’t anything to do here. I feel like a jerk. There are other places I could have found something to do.’
“Alright, it’s clean.” He spread his wings. “I’ll go looking somewhere else now.”
“Hey, ‘fore you go.” Perule-Cheuse placed some vuyong into his hand. “Thanks for the help.”
“You’re really giving me this?”
“Yeah, sure, why not? Ain’t much though, so you don’t need to thank me. Hope you find something to do.”
“Me too.” Asul-Zenza took off. “Farewell, Perule-Cheuse!”

‘I think what I need isn’t something like one-day work. I could more do with a temporary job. I wonder where I could find that…it always feels so easy to find work except for when you really need it.’
He flew over an area with many small shops, checking if any needed some kind of temporary work. He was surprised to see Niser-Zanta inside of one of the shops, not sitting at a table but instead wearing the work clothes. Curious, he landed and went inside.
“Welcome!” Niser-Zanta’s eyes widened. “Asul-Zenza!?”
“I could say the same! Er, well, you get what I mean. I didn’t know you worked at a place like this.”
“Are you rubbing it in?” He asked. “It’s nice to see you, Asul-Zenza, but even though I’m not busy right now I have to keep up work!”
“I just want to ask you a question. That won’t waste so much time, will it?”
“Yeah, not really, though I’m devoted to my job and I don’t like to take any moment sitting down! Also I get extra pay if I do extra work.”
Asul-Zenza chuckled. “Any of these shops in the area, do they accept someone looking to work temporarily?”
“I’m sure some do. Why? You need work? You never seem like you need work, just that you always do work anyway.”
“You could sort of say that.”
“Makes me wonder how much you’ve been spending lately. Hmm, well, you can always find work if you know where to look. I know there’s a place nearby here where people’ll pay you for things like mowing their lawn or watching their kids.”
“I see. …did you say mowing their lawns?”
“Yup. So if none of the shops are looking for a temporary worker you can always try there. The Vampires there have vuyong to spare. They’re the type who save up and feed their kids only on fresh blood.”
“Those types?”
“Yeah. Don’t go judging them. You like fresh blood too.”
“I know, but always, in a Vampire society? It sounds like some of the Normal tales I’ve heard about Vampires.”
“ALDESDRIN! I see you’re enjoying your conversation, but don’t you have a customer to attend to?”
“Eep!” Niser-Zanta startled and his wings spread slightly. “Yes! I’m getting straight back to work, Miss Chaeiou!”
Niser-Zanta took off towards a table. Asul-Zenza left the building and flew off.
“What, he’s not going to eat here?” Chaeiou said with a sigh.

Feeling slightly desperate, Asul-Zenza opted not to look at the shops nearby first and instead head off towards the place that Niser-Zanta had mentioned. Already as he flew over it, he could spot several Vampires playing outside, many with young children. He began to feel intrusive as if he shouldn’t be there.
Still, it was worth a shot if it would make him any vuyong.
“You want a job to do? Wanna mow our lawn? Most Vampires outside of where I live don’t know how to do that, but ah, we do. I can show ya the ropes if you don’t get it.”
“If you could clean the car, that would be nice.”
‘Car!?’ These Vampires truly seemed non-standard. Asul-Zenza couldn’t help but remember Niser-Zanta’s comment of them seeking out nothing but fresh blood. Seeing them now, they seemed very different from most other Vampires he had met, even modern ones.
“I could really use someone to watch Yani-Teri. If you do I’ll pay you a ton!”
When he had started to ask around about jobs he had only felt worse, flying into a neighborhood and asking for something to do, but as Niser-Zanta had said, they seemed quite willing to give him a job. So he mowed one Vampire’s lawn, cleaned the car of another’s, helped repair a few bits of equipment, and as the sun began to set, watched Yani-Teri for her mother, Ila-Eri.
Right now Yani-Teri was playing with blocks. ‘These Vampires are so very strange. But I’ve gotten a bit of vuyong from the work.’ He sighed. ‘I don’t feel right doing this kind of work. I may have earned the vuyong I needed, but I’m more suited to temporary jobs rather than this kind of work.’
“Wanna play?” Yani-Teri asked.
“Um, I’m not as good at this game as I was when I was your age,” he said.
“Game?”
“Ahm, I mean, this construction.”
Yani-Teri beamed. “I’m gonna do construction when I grow up too!”
She turned back to the blocks. ‘Construction…Mit-Sun used to do that.’ The thought of his former fiancĂ©e made him think of La-Iin. ‘That’s right, the whole reason I was doing this today was because I wanted to buy her a dress.’ He checked the vuyong he had already earned. ‘I think I might be able to afford something cheap. Or, hm, I wonder…’
“Mr. Ghneckdo?” Ila-Eri called. “Oh, there you are. Thank you so much. Here you go.”
“Thank you.”
“Mama!”
Asul-Zenza flinched.
“Something wrong, Mr. Ghneckdo?”
“No…she just reminded me of my own daughter.”
Ila-Eri sighed. “I see. Well, thank you.” Dropping her voice to a whisper, she said, “I’ve been trying to work a high-paying job and balance taking care of Yani-Teri. It is so hard. But it’s worth it if I can take care of her and give her all she wants.”
“I understand that. But don’t spoil her too much, okay?”
Ila-Eri nodded. “See you, Mr. Ghneckdo!”

Asul-Zenza head down to the shops to see if any of them were still open–and if any of them were accepting temporary work. On one he noticed a sign that piqued his curiosity.
“Welcome back, amigo,” Niser-Zanta said. “But this is the abandoned time of night.”
“Niser-Zanta? You’re still here?”
“Yeah, I’m workin’ overtime. What are you here for?”
“Are you actually here to eat this time?” Asul-Zenza spotted Chaeiou out the corner of his eye, arms crossed and staring him down.
“No, I’m here to work. I saw outside your sign about needing someone for August to make your special Sunboiled Eggsweet.”
“Actually, we’re thinking of changing the name, but yes. Do you know how to make an Eggsweet?”
“Actually, I do! I only learned fairly recently, admittedly, but I can do it.”
“So you’re only lookin’ to help us during the August, is that right?”
“Yes, that’s my intention.”
Chaeiou nodded. “Come in tomorrow and show me your skills. Then we’ll talk.”
Niser-Zanta gaped. “You’re looking for work here!? Didn’t you go to that neighborhood?”
“I did. And I earned a bit of vuyong. But I realized I have skills that are better suited for other types of jobs. Looks like we may be working together over the Summer, Niser-Zanta.”
“Is that so?” He smiled. “I guess that doesn’t sound too bad. Here’s to working with you, Asul-Zenza!”
“Here’s to it!”

—–
La-Iin:
Sorry I missed you but it seems you and Mit-Sun were out. I know I know nothing about sewing. My skills are nothing compared to your mother’s, but I wanted to try making you a dress. This is for you to wear when you get a little bigger, but feel free to try it on now!
Until we meet again!
~Ghneckdo Asul-Zenza

“It’s itchy.”
“Geez, he really has no idea how to sew. Still, I don’t remember him sewing before, so I suppose this isn’t too bad.”
“You contemplating Dami? Surprising. I think it’s itchy. You really are the better sewer.”
Mit-Sun smiled. “Thanks, La-Iin. Ah, but as much as I hate to say it, if this is his first or second or so try, it isn’t that bad. Now if he’s been practicing a lot, that’s a different story…”
“That doesn’t make it not itchy.”
“If you want, I think I know a way I can make it itch less.”
“No. For as itchy as it is, it’s from Dami. And in my situation, Dami is a cherished rarity. So I’ll keep it the way it is.” She shuddered. “I don’t know if I’ll wear it anyway.”

25.571.The Daylight Journey

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

18.564.Plans for the People

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17.563.Nothing But a Child

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 563
“Nothing But a Child”

“Gee, you know, it sure feels like we read a lot of more modern books lately,” Xelshy-Mitter said. “Maybe next time we meet, we should read one of the classics.”
“What’s wrong with modern books?” Asul-Zenza said.
“Yeah, they are what’s been coming out recently.”
“The classics were once modern themselves. And there is such a thing as a modern classic, you know.” Lise-Mara said. “The classics are a good place to look. You can find many a good story there, or at least, you can understand how some trope or another became so popularized.”
“You guys haven’t read science fiction until you’ve read classic science fiction. It’s some weird stuff!” Xelshy-Mitter said.
“You guys act like I have something against the classics! You know I don’t, right?”
“I’ve read plenty of the classics myself. How can we guarantee it’s not something one of us has already read?”
“We always go over this, Asul-Zenza.”
“Lise-Mara, I’m starting to think there’s a reason they’re more interested in modern books.”
“Oh?”
“They’re the younger Vampires in this book club, remember? They’re not even one-hundred yet!”
“You aren’t either, you know.”
“Yeah, but I’m ninety-nine. Close enough. Still technically an adult Vampire. Here, anyway. Meanwhile they’re still technically kid Vampires!”
“Xelshy-Mitter, you traitor! Now you’re siding with Lise-Mara when it comes to age? She’s still tons older than you, you know!”
Lise-Mara huffed. “No offense, of course.”
“Yeah, I guess all of us can at least get along in the fact that we’re older than Asul-Zenza.”
“Why are you turning against me now!?”
“‘Cause you’re the youngest,” Niser-Zanta said, flashing a grin. Lise-Mara sighed.
“I’m sure it has nothing to do with age in actuality. But it is true that a lot of more modern works tend to be more popular among younger Vampires. After all, you like Killy Shell.”
Niser-Zanta and Xelshy-Mitter shuddered.
“Ironically enough, even though he’s the youngest of us all, he’s still the only one with a kid!”
“I don’t appreciate you all ganging up on me.”
“Aw, don’t be upset, Asul-Zenza. We’re just having a little fun at your expense.”
“How would you like it if I had fun at your expense?”
“Er–”
“Don’t be hypocritical. How many times have you three made fun of my age?”
“Yeah, but we’re making fun of it for the reverse reason,” Niser-Zanta said.
“Yeah, and besides Niser-Zanta’s basically the only one who calls you old.”
Lise-Mara narrowed her eyes at him, and he flinched.
“I know I’m a young Vampire, but Vampires are young for a long while. And I’ve finished puberty, not to mention I’m technically an adult by Vaelyn’s standards!”
“Vaelyn’s standards are nineteen, Asul-Zenza. And when all four of us were nineteen, we were kind of, you know, kids.”
Asul-Zenza’s face flushed.
“Now, let’s make the decision on what we read next week.”
“Ooh, how about SoPo Wars with Nothing to Do?” Xelshy-Mitter suggested.
“NO!”

***

“Asul-Zenza, I really don’t understand why you don’t visit more often! You do do a lot with your life, but most of it is choice. How come I and your Floma don’t come up often in that choice?”
“Well, I know I can see you and Floma nearly any time I want, Darseen. That and, well, you two are often busy.”
“I understand. And, sorry Anil-Kosha isn’t here to see you.”
“It’s not a problem. I understand. Besides, I didn’t exactly come here for a leisurely visit either.”
“What’s the problem? Still having trouble with the situation with Blooudine? I’m worried about her as well. She seemed to have her heart set on passing alongside him.”
“No, it isn’t that, and you reminding me of that issue makes me think my current problem is worth nothing…”
“It most certainly isn’t worth nothing, Asul-Zenza! Tell me what’s on your mind, son, and I’ll do all I can to help you.”
“…am I really like a child, Darseen?”
“Wha?”
“Earlier today I had a meeting with my book club. Not a book club meeting, just a general meeting, and while we did decide what book to read next….ergh, that’s not the point! The others there started picking fun at the fact that I’m the youngest of them. And I understand that I am still a fairly young Vampire, but damn it, I’m almost sixty-six! They seem to think it’s hilarious that this child-like Vampire already has a child of his own! It frustrates me!”
“That’s all?”
“See, I knew it! You think it’s ridiculous! And I know it is, but–”
Verde-Nenda chuckled. “Asul-Zenza, when you act like that you do seem exactly like a petulant child.”
“What!?”
“Oh, Asul-Zenza, there is a fact you need to face. Vampires and those of other species are different. Even Groundisers are different than us. Do you know why we consider Vampires of, say, twenty-two to be children even though by nearly every other species’ standard that’s adulthood? Even Groundisers who live about as long as us see that as adulthood, and do you know why?”
“Why?”
“Groundisers are typically finished with puberty by twenty-two! Not to mention, it’s also a maturity issue. A Vampire’s maturity isn’t really adult-ready until the hundreds, sometimes not even at the hundreds. While granted this is a debateable issue given nineteen isn’t exactly adult-maturity age for other species but still the legal age of majority in Vaelyn, it still doesn’t change the fact that, really, you are a lot younger than others.”
“…”
“Yes, you have finished puberty, but you’re much shorter out of it than some other people your age–save for other Vampires, of course. And we Vampires do live long. Normals of elderly ages will sometimes call twenty-year-old Normals children, it’s sort of like that.”
“I don’t understand. How come I’m not considered an adult? I have finished puberty, and even if I have immature parts to my personality, doesn’t everyone? I’d consider myself fairly responsible.”
“I would too. And you aren’t really a child anymore. Most Vampires at age sixty-five aren’t running around in diapers still, that perception of us is stupid. But you know what it’s like–just as some of other species consider themselves to be adults at eighteen or twenty or so depending on where they live, Vampires vary as to whether it’s about fifty, sixty or seventy that qualifies as a Normal’s nineteen, for example, if they’re even thinking that young.”
“I see…”
“Don’t get so overworked about it. If you do people will only pick on you more.”
“I understand. I just wish they’d at least call me like an adolescent rather than a child. That’s technically what I am, isn’t it?”
“If you’re going by Vampire standards. But it’s all a matter of maturing. We take longer, so we accommodate in terms of consideration. Besides, at least in my case, it’s hard to see you as an adult when most of my memories are of you as a child.”
“Oh, Darseen, that’s silly.”
“Bah, why should I care? But I can understand your position, Asul-Zenza. I’m practically two-hundred, quite young for a Vampire, and I feel like an old man, heh! It’s easy to feel grown up early when you’re stuck as young for a while. And I’m sure your Floma would agree with me. Now if there’s someone we can actually call old, that would be Blooudine!”
“She’s lived quite the life,” Asul-Zenza sighed.
“Say, since you’re here and this conversation seems just about done, what do you say we go for a quick fly across Vampira? My best time around each part of it is about two hours.”
“Two hours? That sounds ridiculously long. Or are you including stopping?”
“I’d never include stopping!” He said. “So, want to fly?”
Asul-Zenza grinned. “Certainly, Darseen!”

—–
“All of you in the book club might call me young. And I acknowledge that I am fairly young, still. But I will give myself this. La-Iin was not born in the midst of my puberty. I am responsible for myself. I’m more like a Normal who has not reached twenty-five yet. If Normals can be considered adults at nineteen, then I think I should at least be considered a major. But no matter if you all consider me a minor. I know what I am.”
“….um, Asul-Zenza? That was obnoxious,” Niser-Zanta said.
“Yeah, and totally unnecessary. Nobody made fun of your age today.”
“Although someone already made fun of mine,” Lise-Mara said, glaring at Niser-Zanta.
“I know, I just had to say it to someone. I guess in short terms, I’m not going to get upset when you call me young any longer.”
“Let’s see how long you stick to that,” Niser-Zanta said.
“You’ll see, Niser-Zanta. I shall hold to my word.”

“Dami, what did you call for? You never told me.”
“Oh, just something ridiculous. I thought you might get upset if I said what it was.”
“You aren’t going through a Haner situation, are you!?”
“No, of course not! I think I was too burned by Mit-Sun to do that. No, it’s just one silly little thing, one of those Dami things I never thought I’d say. But since you seem to be maturing at the pace of a Normal, I might as well say it. Grow up at your own pace if you want, but don’t grow up too fast, alright?”
“Huh?”
“It’s alright, La-Iin. It’s nothing important. I’ll talk to you again soon.”

11.557.Ignited Confrontation

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 557
“Ignited Confrontation”

La-Iin sat in the kitchen, staring blankly at the wall and listening for Mit-Sun. Bes-Isa sat on the table next to her, completely silent, while Choungetsu stared up at her in curiosity, his expression far more serious than it normally was.
The silence was only broken by Mit-Sun beckoning to Choungetsu. Choungetsu dashed out the kitchen, and La-Iin heard a short exchange before the two left the house.
“Good. I thought I’d have to wait until her next work day!” She fluttered over to the phone and began to dial Asul-Zenza’s number.
“Hello? Is this who I think it is?”
“Yes, it is. Hello, Dami.”
“Hello, La-Iin. Ah, you’ve blessed me so much. To what do I owe the phone call?”
“Mama, although not for any good reason,” La-Iin said, a growl in her tone. “Dami, I need your help. You know how Mama turned down Haner?”
“Yes? Don’t tell me she’s reconsidering!”
“No, it’s not that. She’s upset because Haner might not like her anymore. And she’s taking it out on me because I didn’t like Haner from the start! She’s been mean to me since yesterday and I can’t take it! So I figured, since you’ve had to deal with Mama at her worst before, maybe you can deal with her!”
“What? She isn’t abusing you, is she!?”
“I consider everything Mama does wrong abuse. But I guess by goody-goody standards, no. She’s just being really mean to me and I can’t stand it! Sooner or later I’m gonna bite her jugular!”
“Please don’t do that, La-Iin. You made the right call in calling me. I have certainly dealt with worse than Mit-Sun’s badmouthing, but I will not stand for her treating you poorly because her friendship might be ending. I’ll be over there as soon as I can manage.”
“Try and come over before Mama gets back. I don’t want her beating you up.”
“Don’t worry, La-Iin. Even if she tried to do such a thing, I wouldn’t let her. I will be there as soon as I can manage.”
Asul-Zenza hung up.
“Asul-Zenza might be a goody-goody, but having dealt with that woman in the past gives him some good experience. I’m kind of looking forward to this.”
“So am I. I just hope Mama doesn’t get more mad at me for this. After all, my other option was biting her jugular! Maybe Dami will help her realize how much of a jerk she’s being without me having to kill her.”
La-Iin and Bes-Isa waited patiently for Asul-Zenza, though it was Mit-Sun who arrived home first, panting and stroking Choungetsu.
“What a nice run!” She said. “I had a lot of fun, Choungetsu.”
‘La-Iin, you should take him out more like you used to!’ La-Iin could hear the words in her head, but Mit-Sun didn’t say them. She took off Choungetsu’s leash and head upstairs. Choungetsu stood at La-Iin’s side and stared up at her.
“Don’t look so happy. Mama’s being a jerk right now.”
He whimpered and stood on his hind legs to reach La-Iin, trying to lick her arm. La-Iin pushed him away and he sat, head bowed, next to La-Iin.
‘I hope Mama doesn’t come downstairs anytime soon.’
Her hope was fulfilled–Mit-Sun didn’t come down any time in the nearly an hour it took Asul-Zenza to arrive. When he did, he came inside with a steely and angered expression, though it softened somewhat when Choungetsu ran up to him and he bent down to stroke him. In that time Mit-Sun came downstairs and all at one Asul-Zenza’s face returned to the former steely expression.
“What are you doing here? Did she leave something behind on your little trip?”
“No, I’m not here to take advantage, for once. I’m here at La-Iin’s request. I could have discussed this with you over the phone, but I thought it warranted an in-person discussion.”
Mit-Sun scoffed. “What? If this is about you watching her on the Weekends, the answer’s no.”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Mit-Sun, you can truly be a bitter woman sometimes…I’m here because La-Iin told me you’ve been cold towards her because of her attitude towards your friend Haner.”
“How do you know about Haner!?” She asked. “Did you tell him?”
“Who do you think told him!? After all you hung out with him I’m glad I had Dami as an outlet!”
“And if you’re going to blame La-Iin for disliking him or hoping you would reject him you should blame me as well. Ever since she told me about him I was hoping you wouldn’t feel the same. I don’t want another man acting as La-Iin’s father, I’ll tell you that much. But you cannot treat La-Iin poorly because she disliked Haner!”
“You never saw how she treated him! Haner’s already feeling bad enough because I rejected him. I didn’t reject him all that long after La-Iin treated him like crap.”
“Look, Mit-Sun, it isn’t La-Iin’s fault that your friendship is on the downswing. Things can go awry from a rejected love confession.”
“You sound just like Mrs. Eteibreit.”
“Mit-Sun, listen to reason! You are blaming La-Iin for something that is not even her fault! If La-Iin wasn’t here, if she liked Haner as much as you do, you rejecting him would likely have not changed a thing about your current relationship! Do you see how ridiculous it is to blame your child for your friendship failing when the reason is so clear?”
Mit-Sun didn’t respond, although she had begun to look remorseful.
“Be frustrated with La-Iin for treating Haner poorly. That’s perfectly fine. But when you start antagonizing her because she was harsh to him shortly before you rejected him that does not make any sense. If it had to do with her antagonizing him your friendship would have been strained before the confession, not after. The reason is obvious, so do not treat La-Iin differently because of what happened.”
“You don’t understand,” she said. “My issue isn’t with La-Iin disliking him or treating him badly. Well, it sort of is, but if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have defended him, and he wouldn’t have gotten the wrong idea…” Mit-Sun’s face flushed. “…geez, it really does sound ridiculous when you say it like that…”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Now do you see how silly you’ve been?”
Mit-Sun scratched the back of her neck. “I understand you are frustrated because you still want to be friends with this man, but taking out your frustrations on La-Iin is not the way to go about it. Vent to me for all I care, I’ll take listening to you over you treating La-Iin poorly. It’s not her fault, what happened with Haner. Nobody is at fault, not him for confessing, not you for rejecting, and not La-Iin for disliking him.”
Mit-Sun focused her gaze on La-Iin. “…I’m sorry, La-Iin.”
“I don’t do apologies. But the sentiment’s fine, I guess.”
“It’s just…he was one of my best friends. Now I might lose him. And I know it was unreasonable to take it out on La-Iin. It’s just hard…and I can’t believe I had to listen to advice from you…”
“Mit-Sun, we dated in the past. You might not like it, but I know a lot about you. I figured I knew the words to get through to you. If you need to, I don’t mind if you cry on my shoulder.”
“No way. I’m not even going to cry.”
“Your expression tells me otherwise. But you know, you are still learning how to be a mother just as La-Iin is learning about the world around her. And if you want her not to resent you, taking your frustrations out on her is the wrong way to go. I’ll leave soon, but first I want you two to talk this out.”
“You’re La-Iin’s father, not mine,” Mit-Sun grumbled, though she beckoned to La-Iin regardless.
“I really messed up here. You know, you won’t like hearing this much, but it was Haner who encouraged me when I felt like I was a bad mother earlier this year. Now months later I’m acting like a terrible mother because he’s keeping his distance from me, heh….”
“Don’t worry, Mama. You’re always terrible.”
“Cut that out. But I really am sorry. What a way to try and better myself.”
“I always knew you’d fail. But so long as you never treat me like that again, I might be able to start finding more positivities about your normal shoddy way of taking care of me.”
“You don’t have to insult me!”
“You insulted me constantly recently. I think I do have to insult you.” La-Iin looked up at Asul-Zenza. “Thank you, Dami. You are definitely the better parent.”
Mit-Sun gaped. Asul-Zenza chuckled. “Now, La-Iin, please. Mit-Sun isn’t a bad mother either, most of the time. She just has her flaws. But I will give her kudos for trying her hardest. As long as you keep up the good work and never stop caring for La-Iin, I believe you might just reach a day where she feels towards you as she does towards me.”
“You’re wrong, Dami. I will always believe you are the better parent. But whatever, I’ll give her a shot.”
“Thank you, La-Iin. Well, I should be off now. I have a book club meeting later in the day and they won’t appreciate me keeping them waiting. Farewell, you two, and keep doing your best, both of you.”
He walked out the door, spread his wings and took off. Choungetsu barked a farewell, before noticing the door was open and preparing to bolt. La-Iin caught him before he could leave.
“What do you say I make you mincemeat pie tonight? I think I have enough ingredients for it. It’ll be my better apology.”
La-Iin grinned. “Now that’s an apology I’ll accept.”

—–
“Wow, La-Iin, I can’t believe Miss Cahongyun was so mean to you!”
“I can. But I can see how it would be weird for you.”
“Still, I’m glad she made it all up with you. Was the mincemeat pie better than ever?”
“It was as good as it always is. Mincemeat pie is a greatness only enhanced by blood, after all.”

8.554.Vampiric Visitation

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 554
“Vampiric Visitation”

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

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

***

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

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

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

5.551.Memento to Blooudine

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 551
“Memento to Blooudine”

Asul-Zenza walked outside. The sunlight was bright and harsh, and he recoiled slightly underneath its strength. He tried covering his face with a cloak, but it barely helped.
“The sun’s easy to feel today, isn’t it, Asul-Zenza?”
Asul-Zenza opened his eyes slightly. Through the blur he saw his neighbor, Blooudine Sae-Ah, standing close by, holding a parasol and waving at him. Asul-Zenza waved back.
“Hello, Mrs. Blooudine,” he grunted. “Yes, the heat’s pretty oppressive today…”
“We Vampires aren’t adjusted to deal with the Summer weather. Why are you outside? You’re still young.”
“Other young Vampires were saying that taking the sunlight was a sign of strength. And they set up a daylight event…my parents gave me permission to go, but I–I don’t think I can do it.”
Blooudine sighed. She walked over to him and let him share her parasol. “Thank you,” he breathed.
“Not a problem, Asul-Zenza.”
“Hm.” Taking a good look at Blooudine, Asul-Zenza noticed she was sweating slightly just as he was, even under the parasol. “Mrs. Blooudine, you asked me why I’m outside, well, what about you?”
“My family is asleep right now and I wanted some time alone to my thoughts. I figured going outside would be best for that.”
“I see.”
“It’s more of an excuse than what you had, anyway.”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Do you think Vampires will ever be able to take the sun?”
“Some Vampires can. But it’s in our nature to be a little resistant to it. We’re nocturnal! I think the resistance some other Vampires have has to do with the fact that the species have integrated for the most part now and most other species are diurnal. They’ve set up their society around that, and we fall behind because we’re not like them.”
“We aren’t like the other species in a lot of ways,” Asul-Zenza sighed. “Why are we so different from them?”
“We aren’t really. We have a similar skeleton and set-up. There are other avian species aside from Vampire as well. And if you’re worried about the whole bloodsucking thing, it’s just a special talent of ours like how Groundisers can traverse the sand or how Sirens have such beautiful but deadly singing voices.”
“But we also live a lot longer than most of the other species.”
“A trait we share with Groundisers.”
He sighed. “It’s easy for you to see the positivities in this, isn’t it, Mrs. Blooudine?”
“Well, yes. Even if we’re Vampires, we’re as much people as all the other species. We do live a long time, admittedly, but that’s just because our bodies hold up better throughout the years than other species’. And if you see it in the way of being all built off the same base of a Normal, then we’re certainly one of the more Normalesque species out there by looks alone.”
“Not when we go into bat form, we aren’t.”
“That’s a different ballpark. Besides, you’re so worried about our differences–did you know that it’s said back many years ago, Vampires were always in bat form? We are the descendants of Vampire bats, after all.”
“It’s not really that I’m worried about being different from all the others. That’s okay, although I guess I like to be more normal, you know?”
“Hence why you were forcing yourself out into the daylight when your Darseen and Floma are most likely asleep?”
He sighed. “Yes. But it’s not really the way I look. It’s my lifespan. When I grow up, I’d like to travel and see more of the world. I like Vampira and all, but I want to see the world beyond Vampires. I’m just worried about making a friend over in another society. So I’ve been wondering if maybe I should wait until I’m an old man. But when I’m an old man, it’ll be harder to travel, and what will I do before I set out? You’re not really an old Vampire until sometime through the seven-hundreds, aren’t you?”
“Seven-hundreds or eight-hundreds, I forget. But definitely by the eight-hundreds you’re quite elderly. And you shouldn’t split hairs about this sort of thing, Asul-Zenza. You’re still just a child, after all. And you know, it’s fully possible for a Vampire friend to die on you years before you’re an old man. It’s also possible you might die before you ever reach the elderly Vampire ages.”
“I don’t want to think about that, though…and besides, that can happen to us Vampires, who’s to say that if I made a friend of another species that they wouldn’t die before their time?”
Blooudine sighed. “Asul-Zenza, I’ve grown up my whole life in Vampire societies. I’m not good with the goings-on of other species. I spend most of my time around Vampires. I had to get over some prejudices when I was younger. But you need to realize something. We live in times where most societies will inevitably become intermixed-species societies. As it stands right now, the majority of species societies are outlier societies connected to a bigger country such as this one. Nyappon used to be the Catori hub of the world, and now even it is letting other species in through its doors. Life among the other species is going to be a part of daily life in some years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s during your lifetime. You have to learn to not worry about this sort of thing! You’re your own Vampire!”
“I, I know…”
“Besides, we all worry so much about dying we’ve never stopped to consider enjoying the time we have with those who won’t live as long. And you never know what may come after death. But, with all this advice I’m giving you, I might as well give you one more bit that I think you should hear.”
“What’s that?”
“If you’re so worried, befriend someone of another species. Acquaint yourself with one. But never marry one. If you had a ladyfriend of a short-lived species with your mindset I fear what might happen. She might become convinced you didn’t like her. And besides, half-Vampire children can live into the thousands. We Vampires can too, but we usually don’t make it past the nine-hundreds.”
“…”
“But really, don’t worry about your differences with others, Asul-Zenza. If you weren’t any different from any other person you wouldn’t be Ghneckdo Asul-Zenza. And besides, what business do you have worrying about how different you are when you’re a Vampire just like everyone else in Vampira?”
She pat him on the back. “Go on, now. Get back inside and out of this sunlight. A young Vampire like yourself needs to take care of his skin!”
Asul-Zenza smiled. “Thank you for your advice, Mrs. Blooudine! You’re the best.”
Blooudine smiled. “Always the best to you, Asul-Zenza.”

***

Asul-Zenza took a deep breath as he knocked on the hospital room door.
“Come in.”
Peeking inside, he spotted Blooudine, sitting up but looking much worse than she had the last time he had seen her.
His parents had recently sent word that Blooudine had been sent to the hospital. He was told she had cut herself, contracted an infection and become sick as a result of it. Despite her weary state, she still smiled at Asul-Zenza with all the warmth he remembered.
“Mrs. Blooudine, how do you feel?”
“I’ve felt better before,” she sighed, “but this is what happens when you age. I’m not so much as worried about myself as I am about my husband. He has been ill since 2013, worse since 2014 and I might dare say he’s knocking on death’s door now. He fell into a coma yesterday.”
Asul-Zenza gasped.
“I’m not too concerned. We’re both elderly Vampires, and if we go at similar times that’s all the better for me. Still, I want to make sure that you will be alright. After all, you aren’t even one-hundred yet and I might leave you soon.”
“I-I’ve been…managing on my own, Mrs. Blooudine. My child self might have relied a lot on the advice you had for me, but I have plenty of people now. I still have…my parents, and Shi-Bara and her family contact me on occasion. I…I have my book club friends, and Perule-Cheuse, and La-Iin and even Mit-Sun, to a degree….”
He swallowed hard. “So I won’t be alone…”
“I know you’re a grown Vampire, Asul-Zenza. But you have a soft heart. You may still have family and friends around you but that won’t keep you from missing me.”
“…”
“I’ll probably live for a while longer. But I also don’t care if this sickness takes me out. Ideally I’d like for myself and my husband to go on the same day. Though I know the pain that it would bring my family, it would also mean I don’t have to live without him. He doesn’t have to live without me. And our children don’t have to just get over grieving only to deal with another’s death months later. And I’m not scared. I’ve lived a full life and continued on my family line. So I am happy.”
“Please don’t talk about such sad things….per–perhaps both of you will pull through. Just for a bit longer…”
“Asul-Zenza, this happens sometimes. And I’m an old lady. I was when you were a child as well. My closest family is not the youngest, heh. Don’t focus on me. Focus on yourself. Don’t let me bog down your happiness.”
“Then please stop saying such sad things! …you know, it’s ironic in a way. You’re the one who told me that sometimes Vampires lose their other Vampire loved ones before they are too old. And before I met up with you again last year, I figured you were just a relic of my childhood. And soon that might be for the most part accurate…”
“It likely will be, you silly child.”
“I’m not a child.”
“In my eyes, you are. A child who got in over his head and tried to become an adult before he was ready. But you are quite mature in other ways, Asul-Zenza. You do deserve the title of adult in those regards. I’m sure you handle yourself much better around others than around me. But around me, isn’t it that you remember the child you were, hanging on my every word and taking my advice soundly in heart?”
“Hm…”
“So it’s possible that’s the case. But enough about that. Thank you for visiting me.”
“I–I brought a flower,” he said. “A Vampiric Carnation.”
“How lovely…I’ve always loved this shade of red.” She sighed. “Well, I thank you again for the visit. My time or not it’s always a pleasure to see you.”
“The pleasure isn’t just yours, Mrs. Blooudine.” Asul-Zenza sucked in a breath to keep himself from crying. “It’s mine as well.”

—–
“Oh, Asul-Zenza! To what do we owe the visit?”
Asul-Zenza opened his mouth to speak, only for tears to come rolling down his face. He tried to wipe them away, but eventually gave up and hung his head.
“Oh, Asul-Zenza…”
His parents came close to him and held him close. Though Asul-Zenza could no longer keep himself from crying, he bit his tongue to keep himself from wailing even though a part of him was fighting to do so.

23.539.Dami’s Advice

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 539
“Dami’s Advice”

As soon as she arrived home from school on Tuesday, La-Iin set her mind to calling Asul-Zenza. After both the delivery of the mincemeat buns and the strange person she had seen before heading off to Neigghed, she felt as though a talk with him was both necessary and long overdue.
Before heading to the phone, she checked around the house to make sure that Mit-Sun was still inside. She spotted her reading a book in the kitchen, and she glanced up and waved at La-Iin before turning back to the book.
“Mama?”
“What is it, La-Iin?”
“Do we still have any more mincemeat buns?”
“I think we might have one left over. You can have it with dinner if you want.”
La-Iin nodded. “Wouldn’t it be easier to read that book in your bedroom?”
“Hm? Why? I figured you were going to go upstairs and talk to Bes-Isa, and I’m not sure how well I could focus if I overheard you two talking.”
La-Iin gave a quiet growl. “Well, I’m not going to go upstairs. I actually planned on playing out here. And you being out here ruins that.”
“Then I’m going to counteract: why can’t you play in your room?”
“You won’t win, Mama. Even I get bored of playing in my room all the time.”
“I have another counteract as well: since when do you care about disturbing me while I’m reading?”
La-Iin froze. She wracked her brain for an excuse. “Since I get in trouble a lot when I annoy you.”
Mit-Sun narrowed her eyes. “If you ask me, you haven’t been getting enough punishments for all the trouble you’ve been getting into.”
“Why don’t you just go and read in your room!?”
Mit-Sun sighed. “There’s no reason to get so angry at me for reading out here, La-Iin. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Besides, with the way you’re acting it makes me think you’re up to something suspicious. That only gives me more reason to stay out here.”
La-Iin stared at her blankly. ‘How do I get her out of the room? If I call Dami she’ll just stay so she can listen in on our conversation. And with what I want to talk about, that could be bad…’
A third reason nagged at La-Iin and pressed her to try harder. She began to try and think of something that would convince Mit-Sun to relocate to her room.
“You think it’s suspicious, but not everything I talk about is. I wanted to call Fer-Shi and discuss a secret with her. And you know Fer-Shi–she’s a goody-goody. But I just couldn’t get rid of you even for that.”
“A secret? Are you sure it’s nothing nefarious?”
“You know Fer-Shi, Mama. If it was really bad, it wouldn’t be a secret.”
“I won’t tell.”
La-Iin growled. “Fer-Shi really wants it to be kept a secret…even if you say you can keep a secret, what do you think I’ll do if Fer-Shi finds out that you found out anyway!? Haven’t you ever really wanted to keep a secret for a friend!?”
Mit-Sun blinked. “Maybe?”
“So you should understand where I’m coming from, Mama.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Fine, I’ll go upstairs. But the moment I hear something crashing or burning down here, I’m coming down.”
“You obviously don’t think very highly of me.”
“You haven’t exactly given me much reason to. Look, I know you aren’t as bad as you could be, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying about what you’re going to do next. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and go upstairs.”
Holding the page of her book, she stood up and head out the kitchen. Once La-Iin heard a door upstairs close, she dialed Asul-Zenza’s number and hoped for him to pick up.
“Hello? Might this be La-Iin or Mit-Sun?”
“Hello, Dami.”
“Oh, hello, La-Iin! How nice to talk to you! I’m glad you called, actually. There has been a lot for me to go over. Oh, but maybe I should keep some of it a secret.”
“You can tell me if you want to, Dami, but I have a few things I want to talk to you about first.”
“Oh, I’m sure you do. Go ahead and we’ll talk. I have plenty of time. I just got back from my only commitment for today.”
“Well, the first thing I want to say is, did you make those mincemeat buns yourself?”
“You got the mincemeat buns? Did you like them?”
“What do you think?”
Asul-Zenza chuckled. “Glad to hear it, La-Iin. Yes, I did make them myself. They’re based on a recipe I tried on one of my travels. And I know it likely would have been a smarter idea to come over and personally deliver the buns myself, but I figured Mit-Sun wouldn’t allow me to come over just to give you a small snack. I hope they were all in good condition.”
“They were fine and delicious, Dami. They have me craving mincemeat once again when I had been focusing on blood…but I also wanted to ask, were you there when I was going to Neigghed?”
“Hm? Oh, did you see me? I arrived a little late because I head out later than expected, but I saw you off when you head on the bus. By the time I caught sight of you you were already heading on to the bus, and I didn’t want to call out to you and interrupt all that was going on. I’m sorry we missed each other.”
“I just wanted to make sure. I wish I had seen you before I got on the bus.”
“I do too, but well, it’s happened already. Did you have fun in Neigghed?”
“It was fine, but what was more fun was what happened afterward, heh heh…but that’s not what I wanted to talk about!”
“A shame. I’m curious about what happened afterwards now.”
“Well, I’ll have to tell you later. Because I have a…situation.”
“Hm?”
‘Do I tell him it’s Mama or should I pretend it’s a stranger?’ La-Iin felt conflicted as to whether or not she should face the situation head-on; she wasn’t sure what kind of reaction Asul-Zenza might have if she broached her darker suspicions about Uil-Cur’s motives. ‘Would Dami confront him himself? Maybe not, but I shouldn’t take the chances.’
“I know someone who’s in a stupid situation. A really stupid one. They have a friend who’s obviously suspicious. I think he either wants to kill her or he’s in love with her!”
“…huh?”
“It’s complicated, Dami. But this person I know is really stupid and doesn’t notice either one. And I’m worried about both options. If that other person wants to kill her then that’s bad for me, but it’s also bad for me if he’s just in love with her because what if she falls in love back?”
“I can understand where it might seem like a problem if he wanted to kill your friend, but how is it a problem if he is in love with her?”
“It’s an interference in my life!”
“Is this Fer-Shi you’re talking about, La-Iin?”
“I’m bound to confidentiality for now, Dami, since I don’t know all the situation. But either option seems feasible. He’s super-suspicious so I think he might want to kill her. But when I talked to him the other day he started blushing like he was in love.”
“People can also act suspicious when they are in love. I’ve seen this first-hand. It could be he is just in love with her.”
La-Iin sighed. “That’s still bad for me. So what do I do?”
“Why not let things take their course? I see how it could be an interference in your life but there is no guarantee that she would like him back. And after all, maybe he doesn’t want to kill her or is in love with her. Perhaps he’s just shy.”
“I really seriously doubt that, Dami.” La-Iin sniffled. “I just don’t know what to do. I really hate this guy!”
“La-Iin, that’s all the advice I can give you for now. I don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry you’re upset about the situation, but it might work out, and really, there isn’t anything you can do.”
“There has to be! Dami, this man is staking out Mama! Do you see how this could be a problem!?”
“What? Someone is attracted to Mit-Sun?”
“Probably!”
Asul-Zenza was silent for a short while. “I…I don’t know what to say, La-Iin. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation either…really, Mit-Sun can do what she wishes, but I can certainly see your concern.”
“If he kills her or marries her it’s still a problem for me either way! So what do I do!?”
“Um…well…”
“La-Iin, I hear yelling. What’s going on?”
La-Iin gasped. “I’ll have to talk to you later, Dami. Mama will overhear us if I keep talking!”
“What? Wait a second, La-Ii–“
La-Iin slammed the phone down.
“None of your business, Mama.”
Mit-Sun huffed. “I just want to know why you started yelling. Were you fighting with Fer-Shi?”
La-Iin shook her head. “No. It was just an intense debate. But now I know more than ever that…”
She stopped herself from continuing on. “Read out here if you want to. I’m going to plan in my bedroom.”
As La-Iin walked off, her wings flapping in anger, Mit-Sun couldn’t help but wonder what had gotten her so riled up. She tried to sit down and concentrate on the book, but all that kept coming back to her mind was the memory of La-Iin in such a bad mood.

—–
“Dami? Mama took Choungetsu out, so I have one more chance to talk to you about earlier.”
“La-Iin, I really don’t know what to say. If he shows signs of wanting to kill her, you’ll have to put aside your pride and call the police on him. But if he’s merely in love with her, I’m not sure what you can do about her reciprocating or not.”
“Mmnh…”
“I’m as unhappy as you are.”
“Why?”
“If Mit-Sun did reciprocate this man’s feelings, they could potentially get married. You would become his step-daughter. The idea of another man playing a part in your upbringing makes me furious. But I really don’t see what either of us can do about the situation. For now, you will have to watch from the shadows.”
“…I don’t want to stand by idly though, Dami. If I can, I’m going to find a way to stop either outcome from happening. I’m in control of my own future. And I’m with you–I’m not going to let another man pretend to be my Dami!”