17.533.The Future of Bledger

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 533
“The Future of Bledger”

“Miss Ukyon, I need to talk with you about an important matter.”
“What?” She sighed. “If this is anything about my approval rating going down again, I don’t want to hear it. I already know the people of Vaelyn don’t like me much. To which I say: would you rather have me, or live in North Vaelyn!?”
“It has nothing to do with that right now. We’re receiving word from authorities over in Bledger, Vaelyn. They wanted me to tell you about the state of affairs over there.”
“Hm?”
“In case you haven’t heard, lately there’s been an increase in crime over in Bledger. Apparently nothing on the level of many mass murders, but there was a recent event in which one Sara Nim-Ghini attempted to set off a bomb near the district of Hledshess. It was the most major of all the crimes attempted so far. Authorities say that if the bomb had not been stopped, it would have caused serious property damage and resulted in a few casualties.”
Sae-Kyu’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Her assistant nodded. “I’ve been keeping a close eye on the happenings of Vaelyn for you, since you seem to often let them go by ignored.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“I’ve checked on the rest of Vaelyn in my spare time. Places like Silcoulle and Plucehon have reported relative peace. Certainly crimes go on there, but police have been telling me about how they’ve discovered entire crime districts over in Bledger. It certainly seems like there’s a lot going on.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do about it? I’m not exactly stationed over in Bledger, and I do have my own things to do. Do you want me to head over there for morale or something?”
“No, nothing of the sort, Miss Ukyon. Really, nobody knows why the sudden spike in attempted and committed crimes. The police are speculating that these crime districts have always existed and are only just branching out now. Although there have been some suspect incidents…namely, Halloween of 2014, there was massive destruction to parts of Bledger. There were no casualties and barely any injuries, but there’s a lot of confusion as to who the perpetrator was. Some claimed they saw a weakened teenage boy while others claimed they did not see the perpetrator at all. Some further went on to claim that the boy was half-Siren.”
“Huh.”
“And a public school experienced a hostage situation just a little over a year ago. I think you heard of that one–the Malicerie Incident?”
“Yes, I did.”
“So perhaps all along, it wasn’t just something that came out of nowhere because criminals became bold. Perhaps it was always waiting and festering…either way, while I know I can’t exactly go to you and ask you to fix it all, you might want to speak with the authorities of Bledger. Perhaps you could give them some helpful advice.”
“I suppose I could,” she sighed. “Set up communications with them, then.”
“Right at once, Miss Ukyon.”
As her assistant set to work, Sae-Kyu relaxed in her seat and sighed. ‘Being the leader of Vaelyn is a lot harder than I initially expected…how did the people who came before me manage it? It’s simple enough to want to go into politics, but this is pushing it. Now I have people who hate me. I guess at least I don’t live in Bledger right now…’
“Miss Ukyon?”
Sae-Kyu startled. “Y-yes?”
“This is Kaenir Wih-Shin of the Bledger Police Force. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me.”
“Not at all. What’s up?”
Wih-Shin blinked in surprise. “Err, I’m sure you’ve been informed already of the increasing crime rates over here in Bledger. We’ve found alleyways full of criminal happenings, neighborhoods hiding the active evil and had to deal with a bomb incident just yesterday. Thankfully it was disarmed before any harm came to civilians.”
“I’m sorry things are rough over there, but like I told my assistant, what exactly can I do? Silcoulle’s not exactly close to Bledger, and I have no police experience.”
“I would only ask if you have any tips for dealing with these crime happenings, Miss Ukyon. I don’t expect much of your help. You have bigger things to worry about and I am an experienced officer. If you have nothing to offer then it doesn’t really matter.”
“I can help!” She said indignantly. Wih-Shin gave her a curious look. “So most of these crimes have been committed by the evil, correct?”
“Who else really commits crimes? None of these crimes have been crimes of desperation as far as I’ve seen, Miss Ukyon. It more seems as if the evil have just become more bold. Although the man behind the bomb incident in Hledshess yesterday is a bit infamous for his criminal doings. None of us were really surprised it was him, just that he would go to such lengths.”
“Hm, I guess you’re right. Well, is anything going on over in Bledger that might make impoverished evils turn to crime to take care of themselves?”
“As I said, none of the recent crimes have been crimes of desperation.”
Sae-Kyu sighed. “Well, maybe it’s evil crime-committing season…I have no idea anymore. I don’t even know why I’m trying to understand how an evil person thinks.”
“I understand, Miss Ukyon. Don’t worry about it. We of the Bledger Police Force will make sure to protect the citizens of Bledger and prevent any casualties from occurring.”
Sae-Kyu gasped. “Wait a second, what if…what if you started a program over there that lets the evil people express their evil creatively? Do you think that might work?”
“That honestly depends, Miss Ukyon. I don’t think the idea would gain much traction, and anyway it might not stop these people from committing crimes. I suppose we could give it a try, though.”
“I’m happy to have been of help.”
Sae-Kyu briefly noticed an uncertain expression flash on Wih-Shin’s face. “Er, thank you for the tip, Miss Ukyon. Really. That the leader of Vaelyn would take time out of her day to do this is amazing, to me. We will try that idea of letting the evil of Bledger express their evil creatively, but we’ll also keep an eye out on them so that they don’t commit any more crimes. Your idea is certainly a stepping-stone, and I’m sure it will lead to at least a little relief for Bledger.”
“Well, contact me again if things start getting nasty over there. I might not have total control over the workings of Vaelyn but I can send you quite a bit of help.”
“I know you can, Miss Ukyon.” Wih-Shin bowed. “Well, I thank you for the assistance!”
The contact ended and Sae-Kyu relaxed in her seat.
“Far be it from me to criticize one of your better decisions, but did you notice Mr. Kaenir’s expression?”
“Yeah, I noticed. He doesn’t think the idea’s going to work. He might have a sense of respect for me because I’m the leader of Vaelyn, but that doesn’t change the fact that my idea made him wary. But what am I supposed to do? We can’t exactly ban the evil of Vaelyn. The worldwide recognition that there are people who hold evil ideals was supposed to keep the people who would act on those ideals at bay. I can’t change a long-standing worldwide decision, it would make things worse. I really don’t understand evil people…”
“A lot of good don’t, Miss Ukyon. I feel more neutrally about some subjects and even I don’t understand how someone could so proudly declare their evil. But all people are different, and while recognition of their ideals might have curbed the actions of some it possibly hasn’t worked for all of them. Evil communities seem alive and well in Bledger, unfortunately.”
“Hopefully all works out there. If I can’t even help curb the problem in Bledger that’ll only decrease people’s opinions of me. I kind of can’t wait to get out of office.”
Her assistant sighed. “Miss Ukyon, you need to take this all more seriously! I trust the Bledger Police Force, and if they need your help they will likely contact you again. But you’re in a high position of power. Don’t just handwave things because people don’t care for you. Do you think that will increase the public’s opinion of you?”
“No, I suppose not.”
Her assistant huffed. “I’m as worried about Bledger as Mr. Kaenir seems to be, but there’s nothing much we can do right now. We’ll just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and do our best to keep this influx of evil limited to Bledger alone. If it spills into any other part of Vaelyn people will turn their frustrations on you.”
Sae-Kyu sighed. “I really did think the whole thing about letting evil people express their evil creatively was a good idea. After all, acknowledging evil people worked for some time. Now it’s 2015 and we need to work with more ideas for the young generation of evil.”
“Well, if you say so. But there’s other work for you to do today, Miss Ukyon. I’ll keep an eye on the status of Bledger.”
“Alright. Come to me immediately if you hear of a mass shooting or anything like that.”
“Do you really think that’s going to happen?”
Sae-Kyu shrugged. “It’s just a concern I had.”
“Really, Miss Ukyon…”

—–
“Did you hear the radio broadcast, La-Iin? They say there are plans to start a new movement for evil people to express their evil creatively. It sounds perfect for you.”
“Why would I need to join some sort of movement? I already have drawing to express my evil creatively.”
“I know you do, I just figured I’d bring it up.”
‘Yeah right, Mama. You and they probably think that will stop me! Well, the best creative expression of evil is evil actions themselves! Though nothing like what the Saras do….”

16.412.Video Star Alternative

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 412
“Video Star Alternative”

A large monitor displayed the website “Nai-Nai Official”‘s pictures page, showing several pictures of El Ben-Nai from various points in life. Taken from her videos, from pictures she had put up herself and pictures that had been found of her, there were many pictures on the page.
It horrified her.
In all her years of notoriety, Ben-Nai had never found the “Nai-Nai Official” site, nor had she heard about it in comments. But as she perused the site and saw all its contents, containing both information she had given out and hadn’t, a cold feeling had begun to creep up on her. Looking at the site was like living in a nightmare for her.
“How did they get that?” She found herself asking out loud. “How do they know that about me? I didn’t tell anyone about that…”
‘Maybe there’s something I’m forgetting. I have a whole bunch of videos up, after all. Maybe I really did tell all that much about myself. Still, why did they make a site all about my personal details?’
Hoping for the best, she decided to watch all of her videos in order from her first one. It was long and several times she had to stop for many reasons, but she kept listening and watching closely to see what information about herself she gave away. And while she saw and heard many of the details found on the site, a few details, albeit not as many as she had been fearing, she never saw in any of the videos.
Though it had been less than she was expecting, it still horrified her that someone had been able to get their hands on unreleased information.
Unsure of what to do, she dialed her brother’s number.
“Hello? Nai-Nai, this you? What’re you doing calling so early in the morning?”
“Please don’t call me Nai-Nai right now,” she said quickly.
“Uh, sure. …hey, are you alright, Ben-Nai? Something wrong?”
“Um, yeah, kinda…Yu-She, have you ever seen the site “Nai-Nai Official”…?”
“Never heard of it. Are you setting up your own site? What’s wrong? Did it get hacked?”
“No, I’m not setting up my own site. You see, um…I found a fan site called Nai-Nai Official. And, well, it has a lot of my personal details on there, a-and not just stuff I talked about in videos either. There’s some stuff on this site that I have no idea how the webmaster got…”
“Really? Here, let me take a look.”
“I just watched all my videos in a row, so I know for sure some of that stuff I never brought up…”
Waiting for Yu-She to access the site almost made her more nervous than finding the site has. She stared at her monitor, which was still on the page with the pictures of her, her family and friends.
In each and every picture she wore a smile; she couldn’t help but smile whenever someone turned the camera on her. But now she had to wonder how she could have smiled back then at all.
“That’s not good. That’s a lot of information, Ben-Nai.”
“I know,” she sniffled. “And I don’t know what to do. A lot of people all over the internet know who I am. Even if I take down the videos, people will still remember me.” She gasped. “And they know I live in Silcoulle! What if they find my house next!? What if someone crazy finds all this information and then they use it to do something bad to me!? What if this phone call is bugged!?”
“Don’t let your anxiety get to you, Ben-Nai!” Yu-She yelled. Ben-Nai took a deep breath. “This site looks like it’s been around for a while. It also looks like it hasn’t been updated since December. If you look, the copyright date at the bottom of the site still says 2014 instead of 2015.”
She checked the copyright. Yu-She was right–it still read 2014.
“If the site’s been around for a while, a lot of this information and stuff should have been around for a while too. And nobody’s done anything to you, right? You should be fine.”
“But how do I know that’s not just because a crazy person doesn’t know this site exists?”
“Look, it only says you live in Silcoulle. Nobody knows where. If you’re cautious you can avoid people ever knowing just where in Silcoulle you live. And you’ve always got me if you need to make a quick break for it. I’ll take you in.”
“I don’t want to do that to you, Yu-She…and you live so far away.”
“Well, if you need to, the offer’s open. Anyway, I’m sure there’s some way you can get the site off the Internet. The authorities could probably help you with that. And if the site doesn’t update in a while, it might just get taken off anyway. Some website domain providers cut off services if they’re not paid, which could send Nai-Nai Official offline. Of course, if you want to bank on that chance, you might want to try not giving them content to work with…”
“I…I see.”
“You could probably still make plenty of videos while you’re waiting for something to be done about the site. Just do what you love and don’t share it with anyone yet. And be careful so that people can’t tell where you’re filming from. Anything you need help with on this I can probably deal with. I studied security because of you and your Internet career, I hope you know. I might not know as much as the pros, but I know a few things. And like I said, I know Aena and Vaelyn aren’t exactly close. But if you need to make a quick break…”
“I know,” she sighed. “Sorry to call you when it’s so early. I just didn’t know what else to do….hey, wait a second, Yu-She, do you think Mom or Dad put up this site?”
“Seriously? I think you and me are the only ones in the El family who have any sort of expertise with modern electronics. Mom and Dad would mess something up or give themselves away, I’m sure. Of course, I guess it’d probably be better for you if it was them, wouldn’t it?”
“Well, it might be easier to ask them to take it off the Internet….but at this point, I don’t know.”
“I can ask around the family, but for now, you focus on doing what you need to do about that site. Contact the webmaster if need be. Get the authorities. Don’t give them any material. Do what you need and keep in touch. I’ll help you if it’s at all possible. I’ve got work today, but you know my schedule. I’ll be available any other time. Don’t hesitate to wake me if you really need me!”
“Now look who’s getting all worked up,” she giggled.
“Ben-Nai, I’ve known you your whole life! We both know how nervous you can get when you think something really bad’s going to happen. You’ve got a kinda pessimistic mind when it comes to you and your family. Honestly, your Internet persona confuses me a little…”
“I get it,” she said. “I’ll do something about it. Thanks for your help, Yu-She. Talk to you again soon.”
“Same here. Well, until later, Ben-Nai! Zàijiàn!”
“Zàijiàn, Yu-She.”

***

After managing to get some sleep, Ben-Nai decided to heed her brother’s advice and contact the webmaster. She made sure her phone was close in case she needed to call the authorities.

Dear Webmaster of “Nai-Nai Official”,
Hello there, this is El Ben-Nai. I just found your site the other day and I’d like to say, I was thrilled to see I have a fan as big as you. Except, I’ve noticed your site contains some personal details I did NOT put in my videos. Honestly, your site puts me a little on-edge, so I ask if you would mind deleting it? Or at least parts of it. Sorry to bother you but this is very important to me.
All the best!
El Ben-Nai “Nai-Nai”

‘I wonder if I shouldn’t have just contacted the authorities first,’ she wondered. Still, she hoped it would go out well. ‘I do seem to have a lot of nice fans. Maybe this one will be nice too and willing to take down the site. Well, I guess I have a back-up plan in case that doesn’t happen…’
She was surprised to receive a response in less than an hour.

Dear Miss El Ben-Nai “Nai-Nai”,
I’m pleased to see you’ve stumbled upon my site! I thought I’d never have the pleasure. Unfortunately, I cannot comply with what you have asked for. You see, even if I WERE to take down the information, it’s already fairly easily accessible. I’m sure people have these photos saved to their computer and the information you hadn’t put out isn’t too hard to find if you know where to look. I’m certain there are people out there, fans of yours or not, who could find more than I could. I understand your security concerns, but they’re rather pointless when it’s that easy to find your information. Take my advice, and don’t be too concerned about it. If you haven’t faced any problem from all this information being so readily available you aren’t likely to in the future either. You don’t have to give out any further information if you don’t want to. But don’t bother trying to delete what’s already out there. They say things put on the Internet can never be deleted. I’m not sure how much I believe that, but in the case of someone with your popularity, it is most likely true.
All the best anyway.
Mr. Webmaster : Owner of “Nai-Nai Official”

That cold feeling had crept up on Ben-Nai once again as she read the message.
Worst-case scenarios flooded her mind as she imagined what might happen if someone found out where she lived before she could contact Yu-She, or what she might be exposed to in this situation. More than fearful, she felt empty, as if the one chance she had at alleviating her fears was now gone. All her information was out there, and there was nothing she could do about it.

—–
“Nai-Nai sure hasn’t put up a video in a long while, huh?”

4.400.La-Iin’s Future–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 400
“La-Iin’s Future–Part 2”

“La-Iin!”
Bes-Isa’s sudden yell startled La-Iin. She had just gotten home from school and head up to her bedroom. She sat on the bed and glared at Bes-Isa.
“What? If this is about autonomy again–”
“It’s not. I wanted to ask you for something.”
“Yes?”
“So, you know how yesterday you told me of your domestic life with your kids and San-Kyung?”
“What about my future?”
“Well, that was nice and interesting and all. And as you know, I had comments.”
“The only things that will probably be different is maybe the order they’re born in and that I bet Hun-Seuth and Song-Ii will be evil,” she said. “Them being good in my daydreams is only because I’m trying to prepare myself just in case.”
“What would you do if they were ALL good?”
“Parents can sometimes have a lot of influence over their children. Anyway–”
“That woman obviously doesn’t have that over you,” she said.
“Yes, but me and Mama are gonna be different kinds of mothers,” she said. “Where are you going with this, Bes-Isa?”
“I had a problem with how “everyday life style” it was. I want to hear about the more dramatic aspects of your future. I remember back when you told me things about siblings going against siblings and drinking each other dry and fighting each other in some battle against good and evil. I remember when you talked about you and your children ravaging the world, setting everything on fire! Well, anyway, I remember when you’d tell me about the action parts of your future! I want to hear that, not some namby story about Hun-Seuth and Song-Ii trying to convince Sou-Yu that it’s good to be good! That just makes me think you’re secretly a goody-goody!”
La-Iin glared at Bes-Isa, grabbed her by the neck, and began to shake her until she made choking noises. Then, she dropped her on the bed.
“I retract my statement.”
“My future is not going to be perfect. The world will be hell, so of course there will be dramatic and actiony things that happen.”
“And that’s what I want to hear about. Although, with you phrasing it like that, it makes these stories sound less like your plans for your life in the future and more like a story you’re coming up with.”
“I just try to plan for every possible situation,” she said. “So, of my children, who did you enjoy hearing about the most?”
“Chung-Ae, because he’s the only one who’s stayed completely evil throughout all your little stori–I mean, daydreams.”
“Okay. Then I’ll tell you a dramatic story that Chung-Ae takes the lead in!”

***

“Darseen, do you think I’ll ever amount to anything?” Sou-Yu asked.
“You’re weak, but I struggle with weakness too and I make it just fine,” San-Kyung said. “Your issue is your immune system.”
Sou-Yu glanced down, dejected.
“My weakness is something I can’t control either,” he said. “But I make the best of it except in November. I know your Vampire traits are much stronger than your Animated Pumpkin ones, but perhaps you should try using your powers around the October Power Surge.”
“That’s when you’re really strong, isn’t it, Darseen?”
“Yes, it is,” he said. “In any event, though weakness is a horrible thing to have, if you make the efforts to push through it, you can manage just fine. Not to mention, in this world, it’s not like you need to worry so much about getting ambushed. La-Iin and I handle things quite well. So work through your weaknesses so you can join us more often.”
“Okay, Darseen. I’ll try.”

“Impressive work, Chung-Ae,” La-Iin said. “You almost do as well as San-Kyung and I when it comes to decimating the world.”
“Thank you, Mother. Your praise is the best reward. Although, seeing people suffer and buildings collapse is a pretty good one too.” He wrinkled his nose. “The only thing I don’t like about decimating is the smell…”
La-Iin broke out into laughter. “You’ll get used to it,” she chuckled, giving him two rough pats on the head. “In any event, we should get back home. Sou-Yu needed medicine and we got that.”
“Damn Sou-Yu, always holding us back…”
“At least he has the power potential and malice to make up for it,” La-Iin said. “Hey, want to race back home?”
“Are you sure? That sounds awfully immature…”
“It’s good practice. You never know in what way it might benefit you or what day you might need to make a quick break.” La-Iin flapped her wings. “Ready?”
“I guess…”
La-Iin took off at a high speed. Chung-Ae gave his wings a quick flap and followed after her. La-Iin kept the lead for a long while, but Chung-Ae found himself catching up after some time, eventually keeping neck-and-neck with his mother.
“Not bad,” she said. “But I still have a lot more practice over you!”
She sped up and began to widen the distance between them. Chung-Ae found he didn’t really care about losing to her, but remembering her words he tried to think of something that would make him want to fly faster.
He thought about what he might do if he knew he needed to rush to his mother’s side in order to save her life. He imagined what he would do if a dangerous slave–or perhaps just a slave in general–escaped and was running amok in their homelands.
That gave him enough motivation to close the gap between him and La-Iin, and by the time they made it home they were so closely neck-and-neck that they were unable to tell exactly who had won.
“It was definitely me. I have years of experience over you!” She protested.
“Did you see that burst of speed I had, though? I definitely had the lead over you. You probably exhumed all your speed when you made that second dash. I, on the other hand, had not used up as much of my speed beforehand, therefore–”
“Sometimes you don’t need a long logical explanation for everything, Chung-Ae,” she said, pinching his ear. Chung-Ae recoiled. “Don’t forget that.”
“And sometimes you–”
“You two are home?” San-Kyung called. Both La-Iin and Chung-Ae turned to greet him. He was running toward them with Hun-Seuth and Song-Ii at his side and sounded out of breath. “Finally!”
“Is something the matter? Has Sou-Yu’s condition deteriorated?” La-Iin asked.
“It’s worse,” Hun-Seuth breathed.
“He’s not dead, is he?” Chung-Ae asked.
“Not that bad, but…” Song-Ii’s voice began to waver. “He’s, um, he’s…”
“He got taken by slaves,” San-Kyung said.
“What!?”
“It’s all my fault!” Song-Ii cried.
“What happened!?” La-Iin asked.
“Song-Ii didn’t tell us the whole story,” Hun-Seuth said. “She went out with Sou-Yu and came back and he was gone!”
“Why did you take Sou-Yu out when you knew he was sick!?” La-Iin snapped. Song-Ii had begun to cry by now and could barely face her mother.
“I’m sorryyyyy!”
“Just tell me what happened and stop crying so much!” La-Iin yelled.
Chung-Ae stood there as Hun-Seuth tried to calm his sister. He was feeling several emotions at once–anger, confusion, concern–but most of all, he was downright terrified for Sou-Yu.
‘He was sick and we were getting him medicine! Why would she take him out?’
It took Song-Ii a while to calm down enough to speak in coherent sentences, and even when she had, she still tripped over her words and her voice warbled as if she would break out into tears at any moment.
“I–I was talking to Sou-Yu, and he said he wished he wasn’t always holding us back. So I said…” She swallowed hard. “I said, ‘Do you wanna sneak out with me while I deal with slaves?’ And he said yes, so I took him.”
“The slaves are always in their cages though,” La-Iin said.
“Not every single slave,” San-Kyung said, glaring at his wife.
“But I don’t think any of the slaves who get let out on occasion would kidnap Sou-Yu.”
“That’s the thing,” she hiccuped. “It wasn’t one of them.”
“Did a slave break out?” Chung-Ae said. “But I thought they were all properly medicated!”
“And aren’t the cages reinforced more than they were in the early days?” La-Iin asked.
“They are, but there are still ways to–”
“It’s not because of powers at all!” Song-Ii shrieked. She sounded exasperated with her family. “I mistook a bad slave for a good one. I was gonna take one of them out for a little bit so….so Sou-Yu could talk to them,” she said. “And then it turned out it was the wrong slave and she ran off with Sou-Yu!”
“Why would you let a slave out so Sou-Yu could talk to them!?” La-Iin snapped. “He could talk to a slave perfectly fine while they’re still in the cage! Something tells me you’re lying, Song-Ii!”
“Okay, okay, I admit it! I was gonna wash off your favorite slaves so they didn’t stink so much. And then it turned out it was a bad one and she ran away with Sou….”
Song-Ii trailed off and dropped to the ground, hiccuping and sobbing.
“What did she look like?” La-Iin demanded.
“She…she looked like Grandmama–I-I mean, Mit-Sun, Mama!”
“Mit-Sun, huh…”
“It wasn’t actaully Mit-Sun though,” she hiccuped. “Jus’ someone who looked a lot like her…”
“And you’re sure you’re not covering? Because Sou-Yu is much more important to me than she is.”
“I’m nooooot! Go see her for yourself!”
La-Iin sighed. “This is awful…alright, Hun-Seuth, stay home with Song-Ii and watch her so she doesn’t go crazy. She’s had enough stupid ideas today and we don’t need her getting any more.”
“A-alright,” he said.
“San-Kyung, Chung-Ae, let’s fan out and search for Sou-Yu!”
Both nodded. They walked out of the house, leaving Hun-Seuth to comfort a sobbing Song-Ii lying in the middle of the entryway.
“Here, before we go,” La-Iin said. She handed San-Kyung small pills. “Sale-Dessu made these. You should be able to levitate for a bit while they’re in your system.”
“Ah, thanks.”
He gulped down the pills and the trio waited at the entrance to their house for a short while. Once San-Kyung levitated into the air, La-Iin and Chung-Ae spread their wings and prepared to take off after him.
“Are we doing this together or separately?” San-Kyung asked.
“Go wherever you feel, San-Kyung. Chung-Ae and I will go and make sure Mit-Sun is still in her cage and then we’ll split up. When you find Sou-Yu, take him back home and then come and alert the rest of us. No going home until he’s found, and if necessary, revenge is enacted on the slaves.”
Chung-Ae normally wasn’t all that intimidated by his mother, but the intensity in her eyes and her tone made him feel smaller than usual. San-Kyung nodded in response and then took off to the left. La-Iin beckoned to Chung-Ae before they took off to the right.
Chung-Ae always found the smell oppressive around the slaves, and while today was no exception, whenever he reminded himself why they needed to fly by them today he felt he could tolerate it a little more. He followed after his mother as she started to land nearby a cage separate from the others.
Inside was a woman with long, matted hair. She was fast asleep, and La-Iin knocked on her cage to wake her up.
“She’s still in her cage, so that’s something,” she mumbled to herself.
“Wha…? What is it, La-Iin?”
“Do you know anything about the slaves who took Sou-Yu?”
“Something happened to Sou-Yu!?” Chung-Ae saw genuine concern in his grandmother’s eyes, and he had to wonder why she would care. ‘It’s not like she sees us all that much. She doesn’t know what kind of person Sou-Yu is. She probably wouldn’t care…then again, she is a goody-goody, so–‘
“I know how tempting it is to daydream, but we need to find Sou-Yu, so get out of your head,” La-Iin said to him, pushing his shoulder. “Mama–I mean, Mit-Sun, obviously does not know what happened to Sou-Yu. That clears her then, well, with one exception…”
La-Iin sighed and a distant look entered her eyes. She shook her head. “I’m going home to fetch Song-Ii. Go on ahead and look for someone who looks like Mit-Sun, Chung-Ae!”
“Right, Mother!” He said. La-Iin flew away.
“I hope you can find Sou-Yu…” Mit-Sun rasped behind him. He shot her a look of disgust.
“Why do you care?”
“He’s my grandson, that’s why,” she said. “And he’s a good kid.”
“Sou-Yu is not good. He’s just weak. Quit wasting my time! I need to find my brother.”
“I’m glad you care about your family, Chung-Ae,” Mit-Sun sighed. “I only wish you’d extend that love to me.”
“I would turn against them all if I had to, I hope you know,” he said. “So don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t trust you at all.”
‘Just like a slave to waste my time,’ he thought as he took off. He took his mind off of Mit-Sun and focused on Sou-Yu instead. Once he had, he felt a surge of concern for his younger brother. He felt Sou-Yu had the most potential of all his siblings to be as malicious as he was–and he knew how upset he and the rest of his family would be if Sou-Yu was found dead.
His concern translated itself into power as he felt his senses sharpen and his body’s features change slightly. Now he was certain he could find Sou-Yu so long as he listened closely. Pushing himself to fly faster, he dashed around the broken city searching for his brother.
And then, while flying over broken buildings, he heard it–the sound of a familiar voice crying out, and several others around it.
Chung-Ae shot down to the ground in the direction he had heard the voice, only slowing to secure himself a safe landing. His senses had proven right–Sou-Yu was restrained and sitting in the mdidle of a group of escaped slaves, all of whom were staring at him with malice in their eyes.
“Another one of the Cahongyun kids, eh?” One of them, a Catori-Goathoof with an odd face, said.
“Careful, Suig-Vel. That’s the oldest one, Chung-Ae. They say his physical prowress and power prowress rivals that of his parents.” Said another one, a Ferreniao whose fur was sticking out at all angles.
“I understand,” Suig-Vel said. “I also know that Chung-Ae here is outnumbered. He might be the scion of the Cahongyun family, but he’s one kid going against a whole buncha people with the power to destroy him.”
“I have more power than you weaklings could ever have,” Chung-Ae spat. Had his opponents been stronger people, he might have been intimidated by the number of them, but all of them were dirty, scrawny and wearing their own filth. Whatever powers they could use, he imagined, would not be enough to hurt him too badly.
“Tryin’ ta intimidate us, are ye!?” Spat back a Birdmix.
“I don’t need to. You know, if I were my brother or sister, I might be saying now that if you gave back Sou-Yu peacefully, I wouldn’t fight with you. But I’m not like that. I am more like my Mother and Father.” He flew above the ragged group, unable to take their smell being right on top of them anymore.
“I’ll give you one break, though. Tell me why you took Sou-Yu from us.”
“Without ‘im, yer just that much weaker!” The Birdmix cackled. Suig-Vel slammed him on the head. “Idiot!”
Chung-Ae did not react. He lit his hands on fire and then flew into the crowd, spinning around wildly. He tried to dodge Sou-Yu in the midst of the frenzy.
The group was startled, but they began to retaliate as soon as Chung-Ae flew back into the air. Feathers, water and fire shot at him, but he dodged them all and then spun into the crowd once more. He was thoroughly enjoying the fight against this group.
It was the thrill of watching them hope for only a moment before realizing just who they were up against.
“Oh, that’s it!” Suig-Vel shrieked. The power usage became more intense after his cry, and Chung-Ae found himself having more difficulty avoiding their attacks. ‘Not as weak as I thought, huh?’
While in the midst of his fun, however, he remembered Sou-Yu, still restrained in the middle of all this fighting. He recalled Sou-Yu’s weakness and dove back into the crowd to rescue him.
“Hold tight,” he said, grabbing on to Sou-Yu. Before he could take off with him in hand, a vine wrapped around his leg and water was fired at his wings. When he tried to escape, his wings flapped almost uselessly and he couldn’t break free from the vine. The group walked up behind him and a few landed blows.
Remembering Sou-Yu, he tugged hard enough to break free from the vine and fly lopsided in the air above them, but he was feeling the effects from their attacks and the weight of Sou-Yu. He grit his teeth.
“Are you okay!?” Sou-Yu asked.
“Be quiet until we get home!”
Evidently this group wasn’t ready to end their barrage of attacks, and as he tried to avoid them in order to get a good perspective he was pummeled with many more. A few water balls hit Sou-Yu in the face, though he was never hit with fire, which hit Chung-Ae a few times.
Once he had made it a sufficient distance from the crowd, Chung-Ae dug as deep into his free hand as possible, then pointed his palm at the crowd. Flames burst forth and the crowd began to screech as they were engulfed.
Chung-Ae gasped. Waiting in place so long made the pain hit him. Sou-Yu stared up at him with concern as he flew in the direction he had come, bobbing up and down unsteadily.

La-Iin continued to fly around the area in desperate search for Sou-Yu when she smelled burning flesh and noticed several people screaming and running around on fire.
“Was someone here?” She thought. Though she wanted to deal with the people, she felt there was a good chance they would die from their burn wounds soon enough. She took off straight ahead.
Before long, she spotted two people flying away erratically. By their orange skin and large wings she recognized them as her children and flew over to them as fast as she could.
Chung-Ae was holding tight to Sou-Yu, who was clinging to him for dear life. Chung-Ae had several wounds and a few burns and was bleeding mildly. His eyes were glazed slightly as if he couldn’t see the entire path ahead of him and he was breathing heavily. He looked in no condition to continue flying, especially while holding his younger brother, but still he pushed on, never falling despite how erratic and slow he flew.
“Chung-Ae, are you alright?” She asked. Chung-Ae turned to face her and nearly dropped out the sky.
“I’m fine, Mother,” he said, his tone deadpan. “Look. I found Sou-Yu. Give me some time and I’ll be home with him.”
La-Iin couldn’t believe him, not seeing how much he was struggling. So she grabbed onto Chung-Ae and began to fly with him.
To her surprise, Sou-Yu broke free of Chung-Ae’s grasp and began to help her take him home.
Chung-Ae seemed oblivious to the help. La-Iin would have expected him to complain, but he said nothing.

That night, it was Chung-Ae who laid up in bed.
“Are you gonna be alright, Chung-Ae?” Song-Ii asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” he said. “But my body hurts all over…”
His gaze rested on Sou-Yu. Sou-Yu flinched in response.
“Thanks, Sou-Yu,” he said, cracking a small smile. “I pick on you a lot for being the weakest one, but I guess in this situation, we’re reversed, aren’t we?”
Sou-Yu blinked in confusion before cracking a small smile of his own.
“Is it just me, or is Chung-Ae being strangely nice?” Hun-Seuth whispered to Song-Ii.
“Maybe all those attacks damaged his brain too,” she whispered back.
“I can hear you, you know,” Chung-Ae snapped. Both of them flinched.

—–
“So that’s it?”
“That’s it.”
“You know, you seem to daydream a lot about your children getting brutally mauled…it seems like a lot of this happens to Chung-Ae, too. He’s the one who seems the most heartless. You’d think someone like Song-Ii would get beaten on more.”
“I planned on telling you a story where one of my children got hurt as soon as you said dramatic,” she said. “You mentioned something about Chung-Ae. So this is your fault. And I daydream about these things because I need to plan for them, just in case. The more I’m prepared, the better a job I’ll do. I’m already prepared for the day I take over the world. So I should be prepared for what happens after that, too.”
“Well, whatever. I guess I got what I wanted. There’s just one thing bothering me now.”
“What’s that? It better not be about autonomy.”
“No, it’s not that, for once. Where was I in all this!?”

25.390.Choungetsu of the End

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 390
“Choungetsu of the End”

“I wish Usl-Thaehey was still staying with us,” La-Iin sighed at breakfast.
“She was only staying with us because she had nowhere else to go. I have nothing against her, but I’m glad she left. I feel uncomfortable letting people stay at my house. Besides, she really wanted to help that Werewolf village.”
“Well, at least I get a CD out of it. And that Bunety man was tasty…” She licked her lips. “I wonder if it’s because he was a Bunety or because he was a sociopath. I bet it was because he was a sociopath. Sociopaths are evil, aren’t they, Mama?”
“I’ve never heard of one who wasn’t.”
“Am I a sociopath?” She said.
“If you were, you wouldn’t be friends with Fer-Shi and I doubt you’d be as crazy about San-Kyung as you are,” she said.
“I’d say I’m closer to sociopath than you are,” Bes-Isa said.
“I can still be plenty evil without being a sociopath, though,” she said. “But I hope I meet more sociopaths so I can suck them. I wish they’d sell sociopath blood at the store instead of just blood of a specific species.”
“That wouldn’t make any sense,” Mit-Sun said.
“It makes sense to me.” A claw dug into her leg. La-Iin glared down at Choungetsu, who wore a desperate expression. His tail was wagging wildly and he was staring at her lunch.
“You don’t want this, Choungetsu. This may be one of Mama’s better meals, but lots of stuff she makes would give you indigestion,” she said.
Choungetsu whimpered.
“…is that trying to turn him away from the meal or an insult?” Mit-Sun asked, obviously a little irritated.
“It’s both,” she said. “Just leave me alone, Choungetsu!” She pushed him away. Choungetsu continued to whimper.
“Is his bowl full?”
“You’re the one who fills it.”
You can fly, though,” she pointed out. “You should be able to reach it yourself. The bag’s not that heavy.”
“Yeah, you probably should fill his bowl if it’s empty so he doesn’t try to use me as a food source again.”
“He hasn’t done that in ages,” La-Iin said. “And besides, I think he was using you more as a chew toy than food.”
La-Iin went back to eating lunch, and the room fell silent for a short while, save for Choungetsu’s whimpering. She had mostly finished lunch when she glanced to her left and noticed Bes-Isa wasn’t there.
Right after a shriek split the air.
Bes-Isa was screaming something, but she was screaming it so loud and frantically that La-Iin couldn’t understand it. La-Iin jumped off the chair and tried to pull Bes-Isa out of Choungetsu’s mouth.
She let go when she heard something rip.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!”
“Let me handle this!” Mit-Sun yelled. She ran at Choungetsu and smacked his back. Choungetsu began to cower, Bes-Isa still in his mouth and still shrieking. La-Iin couldn’t take the noise anymore, so she snapped her fingers and sent Bes-Isa to sleep.
“Bad dog!” Mit-Sun yelled. She held out her hand under Choungetsu’s mouth. He stared up at her wide-eyed and with his tail between his legs. Mit-Sun gently tugged on Bes-Isa, and Choungetsu let go of her.
La-Iin was horrified. Bes-Isa’s dress was torn wide open and revealed a large tear in her fabric. Her stuffing was fully visible. Mit-Sun shook her head, gave one last glare in Choungetsu’s direction, then head off with Bes-Isa in tow.
La-Iin followed after her, feeling sick to her stomach. She could remember other times Bes-Isa had been ripped, but none of those tears had been as bad as the one she had now. When she imagined what would happen to her if she suffered a similar injury, it almost made her vomit.
She almost wanted to wake Bes-Isa so she could ask if she was alright, but she knew she would only scream again. So she continued to follow Mit-Sun until the two had arrived in her bedroom. Mit-Sun retrieved her sewing kit right away, took Bes-Isa’s dress off, and began to get to work.
La-Iin stared blankly at the floor.
“This is a bad one,” Mit-Sun muttered under her breath.
“…”
“La-Iin, are you alright?”
“Is Bes-Isa alright?” She asked.
“She’s still torn open. I can probably fix this, but it’ll take a while…”
“She’s not beyond repair, is she?”
“No, probably not.”
“…you keep saying ‘probably’….”
Mit-Sun sighed. “It’s just been a while since I last sewed. I’m worried about my own abilities, not patching up her wound.”
“What if you patch her up and she doesn’t wake up even when she’s all fixed?” La-Iin asked.
“I doubt that’ll happen,” she said. She thread the needle and set to fixing the wound. “I heard somewhere that V-Puppets only die when there is absolutely no way to repair them, or repairing them would involve something like making them half glue.”
“What if there’s no way to repair her?”
“Please don’t worry, La-Iin. She’s had bad tears before.”
“But not this bad…” La-Iin began to tear up. Seeing her daughter this upset was breaking her heart.
“It was an accident, La-Iin,” she said. “I’ll fix her up and I’m sure she’ll still be alive.”
“If a person got their stomach ripped open, they would probably bleed everywhere and die,” she said.
“People have survived injuries like this before. Some have survived worse.”
“But she was still in Choungetsu’s mouth after she got ripped,” La-Iin pointed out. “If someone got their stomach bitten when it was wide open…”
She trailed off and her expression instantly became replaced by one of rage. “This is all Choungetsu’s fault! If Bes-Isa dies, I’ll rip him open and spread his guts everywhere!”
“La-Iin!”
“I’ll never forgive him if I lose Bes-Isa,” she growled. “Never, never, never!”
A whimper sounded at the door. Both Mit-Sun and La-Iin turned to the door. Choungetsu stood at the entrance to Mit-Sun’s room, his ears flat to his head and his tail firmly between his legs. He looked guilty, and his gaze was focused on La-Iin.
La-Iin was not fazed. Her wings began to flap rapidly and her face contorted with rage. Mit-Sun flinched. The expression her daughter made at that moment was one of the most emotional Mit-Sun had seen, and at the same time it terrified her it broke her heart.
‘She really does care about Bes-Isa.’
“If Bes-Isa dies, you’ll go with her!” She yelled. “I’ll rip you open and eat your guts and drink your blood! I’ll throw your body in the garbage and laugh when it rots! Bes-Isa will get a proper burial, but you, you will suffer until you’ve suffered enough, and then you’ll suffer some more!”
“La-Iin!” Mit-Sun snapped. La-Iin glared back at her, still wearing the same expression.
Choungetsu, however, looked mortified. His eyes wide and his ears and tail still plastered to him, he ran away from Mit-Sun’s room with one long whimper which soon faded away.
“Why should I forgive him?” La-Iin spat.
“Bes-Isa isn’t dead yet, is she?” She said. “And besides, if you had been more gentle with Choungetsu instead of tugging on Bes-Isa, this rip might not have been so bad.”
“So you’re blaming me!?”
“I’m saying don’t threaten to murder Choungetsu!”
La-Iin began to look indignant, and for a moment Mit-Sun feared she was about to storm out the room. But her shoulders soon relaxed and her expression went back to one of dejection.
“I just want Bes-Isa to live,” she whispered.
“I know you do. I’ll do all I can to repair her, all right? I just need a little quiet, and for you to promise me something.”
“I don’t make promises,” she spat.
“Well, do you want Bes-Isa to be fixed?”
La-Iin looked up, her expression indignant once again, and nodded.
“Promise me that if Bes-Isa survives, you’ll apologize to Choungetsu for what you said.”
La-Iin opened her mouth in protest, the lowered her head. “…maybe.”
‘I guess that’s the best I’m getting out of her,’ she thought. She went back to work on patching up Bes-Isa’s seam. Meanwhile, the tears building in La-Iin’s eyes began to stream down her face.

***

La-Iin wasn’t sure how much time had passed by the time she woke up. Her eyes stung slightly and she felt groggy as if she had been sleeping someplace cold for too long. All she knew was that she woke up to someone gently tapping her arm.
She looked up and met Mit-Sun’s eyes.
“La-Iin, wake up,” Mit-Sun said. “I patched up Bes-Isa. And you’ve been asleep long enough.”
“Where is she!?”
“Over here,” she said, handing her to La-Iin. “The rest is up to you.”
La-Iin sucked in a breath. She performed the hand motions to wake Bes-Isa up. Bes-Isa moved around, but wasn’t saying anything, and La-Iin felt as if her heart would plunge into her stomach.
“Guh!” La-Iin flinched. “It feels like someone has been sticking needles in my stomach…”
“BES-ISA!” La-Iin pulled her close.
“Ugh! Agh! You’re choking me!”
Mit-Sun breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Bes-Isa’s fine. And now La-Iin will be too.’
“You know, it’s pretty evil to hug a girl so tight after she’s just gotten stitches!”
La-Iin gave a malicious grin.
“Uh-oh.”

—–
Late in the night, while waiting for Mit-Sun to tell her to go to sleep, La-Iin sat at her table drawing a picture of San-Kyung and the children she envisioned them having. She was distracted by the sound of claws against the floor.
Choungetsu stood at the entrance to her room, still looking upset and guilty. She instantly felt furious the sight of him, but when she remembered the promise she had made to Mit-Sun, and how she had felt about Choungetsu in the past, she sighed.
“Come here,” she said, beckoning to him. Choungetsu walked slowly over to her, as if scared. La-Iin pet him on the head once he was close enough.
“I forgive you, this time,” she said. “But don’t let it happen again.”
While his ears stayed folded to his head, Choungetsu’s tail instantly began to wag. He gave a soft yip in response.

23.388.Re-Acknowledged–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 388
“Re-Acknowledged–Part 1”

“It feels like it’s been a while since the two of us went downtown together,” Mit-Sun said. La-Iin didn’t reply. She kept her gaze focused on the ground as the two walked aimlessly around, the crowds fairly sparse compared to their normal size.
Mit-Sun quickly noticed La-Iin’s demeanor. “I hope you cheer up. And I wish you’d tell me why you’re upset.”
“You wouldn’t care,” La-Iin spat. Just Mit-Sun’s words had been enough to make her bad mood worse. All at once she recalled the events of yesterday, and more than the hurt she felt at what San-Kyung had said, she was furious.
She had calmed down since yesterday, but after seeing San-Kyung at school, her mostly dormant anger had rekindled. Then, however, Fer-Shi had kept her from going up to San-Kyung; to La-Iin, Mit-Sun had no such healing effect.
Mit-Sun sighed as the two continued on. Their walk continued to be aimless, and they passed by several buildings and events in the process. Occasionally Mit-Sun would ask La-Iin if she wanted to stop by one of them, but La-Iin never responded, so they always walked on.
“Would blood cheer you up?” She asked. “I know we don’t have much in the house right now, and what we do have is probably going to spoil soon. There’s probably someplace around here that they sell blood. I can buy you some.”
La-Iin looked up.
“I don’t know what’s making you upset, but if blood will help, I’m willing to buy some. I haven’t been spending much vuyong lately, so it won’t be too out of budget.” She glanced around. “Unless, of course, it’s blood from an expensive species…”
“Maybe it’ll help,” she said. “I’d rather drink from the source, but you’re nasty.”
Mit-Sun gave an exasperated huff, but at the same time, she smiled. ‘Well, I guess that’s a good sign…’
The two continued to wander around downtown, but with a destination in mind, it had become less aimless. Mit-Sun looked for a place where drinks were sold, and when she noticed a small clearing with several small stores around, she walked over to it. La-Iin stayed close behind her as Mit-Sun glanced around the stores.
‘It’s pretty empty here,’ La-Iin thought. The only person there aside from them was a Werewolf girl who was drinking a tall, frothy beverage. Watching her, La-Iin almost missed Mit-Sun walking up to one of the shops.
The man running the shop was a Vampire. Though he looked older than Asul-Zenza, to La-Iin he looked much shorter than him. As Mit-Sun began to place the order, La-Iin’s gaze wandered off towards the exit to the shop plaza, which led to a darker part of downtown. Peeking in from that darker part was a large variety of people, their eyes all focused in one direction. La-Iin quickly noticed that many of the shop owners were staring in that direction as well.
Before she could see what they were staring at, though, Mit-Sun tapped her shoulder.
“What kind of blood do you want?” Mit-Sun asked. For a moment she debated it, until San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina came to mind. Screwing up her face, she answered, “Siren.”
“Siren blood, please,” she said. The man nodded and opened a small fridge inside his shop. La-Iin only noticed this exchange before she stared back at the distracted people. This time, she followed their gazes to see what they were looking at.
And once she noticed, she gasped.
From where they were standing, La-Iin could see the Werewolf girl from the front, and almost instantly she noticed Normal traits on the Werewolf girl. Aside from those traits, what caught her attention the most was her familiar face.
La-Iin knew who this was.
“Usl-Thaehey!?” She gasped. Mit-Sun turned around right after accepting the blood from the Vampire man. Usl-Thaehey glanced up when she heard her name, and her eyes widened. She shot glances all around, then blinked hard at La-Iin.
La-Iin felt frozen stiff. Mit-Sun wore a look of surprise on her face. Almost everyone else in the plaza was focused on Usl-Thaehey, but nobody moved.
Usl-Thaehey was the first to break the silence.
“You two!” She hissed. “Follow me!” She stood up after taking one last sip of her drink, then got down on all fours and dashed away. La-Iin immediately began to fly after her, and Mit-Sun followed close behind, chasing after her daughter.
Usl-Thaehey kept a much faster pace than both La-Iin and Mit-Sun, but she was still within sight as they dashed across the darker part of downtown. Usl-Thaehey had her ears standing straight up, and she could hear more footsteps than just Mit-Sun’s behind her. She picked up her pace, and so did La-Iin and Mit-Sun.
‘Why does she want us!?’ La-Iin wondered. ‘She could’ve just run away without us, but….’
La-Iin’s negativity had been drained thanks to Usl-Thaehey; with all her focus on the idol, San-Kyung couldn’t even cross her mind.
Usl-Thaehey eventually came screeching to a stop. She grabbed Mit-Sun mid-run and jumped high into the sky. La-Iin flew after her, but by now she was starting to get breathless. Still, she was determined to keep up with the two, if not for Usl-Thaehey so she could keep track of Mit-Sun.
Mit-Sun gave a shriek as she and Usl-Thaehey began to soar high into the sky, then descend at a fast pace. Usl-Thaehey tried to adjust Mit-Sun so she wouldn’t get hurt, but found it difficult to do. ‘Whoa! Is this woman taller than me!?’
Both went rolling to the ground once they landed. La-Iin stopped behind them a short while later, breathing heavily. She collapsed to the ground, her wings throbbing.
Usl-Thaehey sat up and shook her head. She blinked at both Mit-Sun and La-Iin one more time before smiling.
“Hey, I remember ya two! I met ya guys last year when I was here, huh? Was that exactly a year ago today? I’d have to ask my manager…”
“Miss Gyunerr,” Mit-Sun panted. “No offense, but what was all that for!?”
“You guys called attention to me, so I figured I had to run away with ya,” she said. “Ugh…it’s kinda a long story. Mind following me a little further? I’m still not convinced I outran everyone back there…”
“Well, given we have no idea where we are…” Mit-Sun huffed.
“I’ll get ya out of here, promise,” she said. “C’mon after me so I can explain.”
La-Iin ran up to Usl-Thaehey, still out of breath from all the flying but also because of her excitement. She barely had the time to be nervous either; she still felt the adrenaline from the flight and seeing Usl-Thaehey again.
“Um, so how ta put this….I’ve got a little problem,” she chuckled. “Dunno if you know, but I did a collaboration project with Calziona Sulaet-Defka. Got released last month. Lemme tell ya, she’s a lot friendlier than you’d expect.” Usl-Thaehey shook her head. “But that’s not the point!”
“Well, what is?” Mit-Sun asked. “I’d like to just go home, if that’s possible…”
“It’ll be, but stay with me for now. Anyway, so uh, turns out Groudgyp is havin’ a bit of terrorist problem. Groudgyp’s Calziona’s homebase.”
“I knew that!” La-Iin said. Usl-Thaehey smiled. “You a fan of her’s, too?”
“Not really. It’s just obvious.”
“Guess so…” Usl-Thaehey sighed. “So yeah, our collaboration came to Groudgyp, and, well, I ran into a little bit of trouble after that. My manager said that it might not be that terrorist group, ‘specially since they mostly just operate in Groudgyp. But ever since I arrived in Bledger, feels like I’m bein’ followed everywhere I go. Could be nothing, could be somethin’, but I didn’t wanna take any chances. That coulda just been a crowd of fans…but it also coulda been whoever’s followin’ me. They prolly coulda blended in with a normal crowd of fans if they’re skilled.”
“So you’re telling us we got wrapped up in your problem,” Mit-Sun said, her voice shaking slightly.
“Yep,” Usl-Thaehey said, bowing her head. “Sorry. And, ya know, sorry if I’m wrong too, ’cause then I just wasted your time. But I don’t wanna take any chances. I’m not gonna let a fan get hurt because of me.”
“Why would we?” La-Iin asked. “All I did was say your name.”
“I dunno,” she sighed. “I’m just really on-edge an’ like I said, not gonna let a fan get hurt ’cause of me.”
She walked ahead of them. “You guys can come with me ta where me and my manager are stayin’, then I can get ya back home. Sorry it’s kinda out of yer way, but I’d rather not go straight. Even if there isn’t a creepy stalker or a terrorist followin’ me, I really don’t wanna be mobbed by crazy fans when I’m this nervous…”
“We don’t really have a choice, do we?” Mit-Sun sighed. “I don’t know this place at all.”
“Well, should be easy enough to figure out where we are if I jump,” she said, then leaped into the sky. She came back down wearing a smile.
“Think I know the way. C’mon, follow me!”
With nowhere else to go, La-Iin and Mit-Sun ran after her.

***

Usl-Thaehey stopped at a small building off the path. Mit-Sun had started to feel uncertain about following her all this way, but La-Iin was still wrapped up in excitement.
“C’mon in. Sorry it’s kinda drab, but my manager said it’d probably be safe…and I don’t really want any’a my fans to see me with you. Don’t wanna be accused of bein’ biased, ya know?”
She opened the door and La-Iin and Mit-Sun followed her inside. The small building was fairly run-down and barely looked big enough for two people to stay. Sitting at a table in the center of the room was a Normal man who was reading a book. He looked up when the door creaked open.
“Welcome back, Miss Gyunerr…” His eyes quickly focused on La-Iin and Mit-Sun. “Who are they?”
“Th’ little one’s a fan ‘a mine. ‘Member I told you about the evil dork fan I met a year ago? This is her, and this is her Mom.”
“Sorry to intrude,” Mit-Sun said.
La-Iin walked over to the man and stared him in the eyes. “I bet you know a lot about Usl-Thaehey.”
“Yes, of course?”
“You’ll have to tell me all about her,” La-Iin said. “There’s a lot of questions I–”
“Sorry, that’s gonna haveta wait,” Usl-Thaehey said. “I gotta explain the situation t’ him. Y’see, I was downtown in one of the plazas and a whole bunch’a fans were watchin’ me. La-Iin called attention to me and when I ran off, the fans started chasin’ me. Figured I’d bring them here just to be on the safe side.”
“You probably put them in more danger by bringing them here,” he said. Usl-Thaehey folded her ears to her head. “Yeah, guess yer right. Sorry.”
“Well, we can’t do anything about it now. We have to get them home.”
“Yeah, but how can we do that discreetly?”
“I’m sure there’s someone I can contact who could help them, but that depends on where in Bledger they live.”
“We live in a neighborhood nearby Malicerie Public School,” Mit-Sun said. “It’s pretty much just a quick walk along the sidewalk and then you’re there.”
“Malicerie? That’s pretty far from here…” Namgung said
“Well, it’d be safest to get them home at night, right?”
He nodded. “Why don’t you two relax here first, though? I was getting ready to make dinner for me and Miss Gyunerr. I’m sure I have enough supplies to make more for you two, though.”
“Oh, thank you, um…”
“It’s Namgung,” he said. Then, setting the book down, he head toward a dark room in the house.
“No worries, he’s a good cook,” Usl-Thaehey said. “And no worries about getting home too. Mr. Namgung has a lotta connections. Shouldn’t be a problem.”
Mit-Sun nodded. La-Iin barely heard her words, though; she was too excited about the idea of eating dinner with Usl-Thaehey.

“Thank you for this, Mr. Namgung,” Mit-Sun said.
“Not a problem,” Namgung said. “Miss Gyunerr and I were looking forward to some time alone, but at least this is a little different from being surrounded by fans or business partners on every side.”
“Oh, you were?” Mit-Sun said. She glanced at both Namgung and Usl-Thaehey. “Now I’m really sorry.”
“Why? …somethin’s tellin’ me you have the wrong idea ’bout somethin’,” Usl-Thaehey said, sounding uncertain. “Ah, maybe I’m just readin’ too much into it. So, La-Iin, enjoying the dinner?”
La-Iin wasn’t focused on Usl-Thaehey, however. Instead, she was staring at Namgung.
“Tell me everything you know,” La-Iin said. “Every little detail that isn’t out in public.”
“I don’t think Miss Gyunerr wants you to know everything about her,” Namgung said.
“I want to know more than what I know now, though,” she said. “This is a chance I don’t get with many others. And I’m okay not knowing everything everything about her. There’s only one person I want to know inside and out. I just–”
“Is that person yerself?” Usl-Thaehey asked.
“No. It’s a boy named San-Kyun–”
A loud knock sounded against the windows. “Stay here!” Namgung hissed, then covered his head before peeking out the window. He shut the windows before turning back to them.
“Listen carefully,” he whispered. “There is someone outside right now who knows someone is in here. I don’t know if they recognized me, but I don’t want to take any chances. We need to go.”
“How? They’ll spot us if we try to leave.” Usl-Thaehey said.
“Not if we move quick. So when I give the signal, we all run out the back door,” he said. Then, he covered his head and peeked out the window once again. After what felt like an hour, he turned around and said, “Now!”
All four went running out the door. Immediately Mit-Sun scooped up La-Iin in her arms; she wanted to protest, but the mood around her had her scared as well. Usl-Thaehey began to take running leaps, once with Namgung in tow.
They continued running until given the signal to stop, fear keeping them going.

—–
“We need to do something about whoever’s followin’ us!” Usl-Thaehey exclaimed.
“I know. Now that we’re away from that place, we’ll probably be able to get in contact with the higher-ups better, but…”
“Sorry to interrupt, but do either of you know where we are?”
Namgung glanced through the trees. “I think we’re close to Malicerie Public School,” he said, then gasped. “Malicerie Public School!”
“We’ve almost got ya home!” Usl-Thaehey said, her tail wagging. Then, her ears lowered.
“Er, mind if I make a request?”
“What?”
“Mind if we stay with you tonight?” Usl-Thaehey asked.

13.347.Promise–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 347
“Promise–Part 1”

A quiet village was broken by the sound of several voices yelling.
Running footsteps pounded against the ground. A riot was chasing after two boys who were speeding away with all their strength.
“They’re gaining on us!” Dosa-Mina hissed to San-Kyung.
“You think I don’t know that!?” He hissed back. “Damn it, I had to go here when I’m still so weak…”
He tried to keep pace with Dosa-Mina, but he could feel himself falling behind. He was getting exhausted much quicker than he would have just a few months prior. He tried to remind himself that in his state, if he let himself get caught by the riot he would be done for. Glancing over his shoulder, he noticed that the majority of them were non-Normal. ‘Imagine if they all used their powers on me at once!’
But the reminder wasn’t helping much. It was starting to become hard for him to breathe. He tried to focus on the path ahead of him. If he just kept going, he and Dosa-Mina could escape the village. He held tight to his hood, hoping to keep his face concealed until they could make it to safety.
“Keep going, we’re almost there!” Dosa-Mina yelled. He glanced back at San-Kyung and flinched. San-Kyung looked exhausted. Each burst of speed seemed to be taking his all, and his breathing was heavy. Despite his efforts, he wasn’t keeping that good a pace with Dosa-Mina–the riot was inching closer to him.
Dosa-Mina tried to reach out to him, but he couldn’t reach San-Kyung in time. He fell to the ground and the riot began to cheer as they dashed for him.
Dosa-Mina froze for only a moment before running for San-Kyung, the riot coming closer.
‘Do I sing?’ He pulled the string on his hoodie to cover his face more. He went to lift up San-Kyung, but the riot was close enough that they would likely reach him before he could jump away.
With a sigh, he stuck his fingers in San-Kyung’s ear.

Aaaaaaaa…..
Aaaaaaaa….
All you’ll ever do is stay away…
Aaaaaaaa….
All you’ll ever do is stay away…

The riot began to drop to the ground. Dosa-Mina picked up San-Kyung and decided to check him over quickly before the riot awoke. ‘Well, I sung for long enough that we should be able to get away in time!’
“Good, he looks clear,” Dosa-Mina breathed. San-Kyung’s eyes were half-open, but they were focused on him.
“What did you do?”
“I sang? What else do I do in a desperate situation like that?” He fixed San-Kyung’s gaze with an intense glare. “Look, San-Kyung, I didn’t sing long enough for that riot to stay asleep for an hour. We probably have a half-hour at best.”
“Works for me,” he said. “…damn it, I didn’t think we’d get so compromised. I should have brought the car…”
“I’m kind of glad you didn’t,” Dosa-Mina admitted. “Anyway, should we make a break for it now?”
“If I could make vines I’d tie them up first,” he sighed. “But I can’t…my vines are one of my best powers…I feel so useless without it.” He buried his face in his knees. “November still sucks the most, but December sucks too.”
Dosa-Mina hugged San-Kyung. “Your powers can only go up from here,” he said.
“And then go back to this shit,” he said, his tone scathing. “It’s always the same for me. Every year my powers hit their peak, and then they disappear. I’m myself for one night…and then I’m some pathetic pseudo-Normal the rest of the year.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.
“You, of all people, should know better than to say that,” he said, turning to face him. Dosa-Mina let go. “I don’t care if you’re just trying to cheer me up, I don’t appreciate it. But what should I expect from the guy who wishes he was born a Normal?”
“I don’t wish I was born a Normal!” He protested.
“I can give you a ton of times you said something to imply otherwise.”
Dosa-Mina grit his teeth. “San-Kyung, this isn’t the time to resort to petty insults. What we need to do is get out of here before the riot wakes up. I really don’t want to sing again.”
“There you go, not wanting to use the powers you get to have all year,” San-Kyung scoffed. “Must be nice, being able to send people to sleep whenever you want. Must be nice, always being able to jump so high and have all that strength. Must be nice…”
“San-Kyung, you know I’m doing all I can so you don’t have to worry about this anymore. I’ll find a way somehow, so please, let’s just get out of here…”
San-Kyung didn’t respond. When Dosa-Mina reached out to him, he flinched away. Dosa-Mina was starting to get angry.
“Oh, stop feeling sorry for yourself! There are people out there with it worse than you. There are people just like you who’d love to use their powers year round, and not get weak in November, and always look like a normal Animated Pumpkin, and they make the best of their situations! But you don’t do that at all. All you ever do is wallow in your own self-pity every single time October ends. And who has to deal with that the most? Me!”
“Do you think my parents haven’t talked to me about this same exact shit!?” San-Kyung yelled. He stood up to face Dosa-Mina. “And where’s the good to make in this situation!? I’m evil, in case that hasn’t gone over your head! God, people like you, thinking that just because an evil guy has a friend obviously he must have some good in his heart. Bullshit!”
“I never said that!”
“It’s not like you even understand it personally. Go ahead. Transform into me if you want, but you won’t have to deal with everything I have to. Not a single one of you understands–not my Mom, not my Dad, not you, not even anyone in the whole of Malicerie understands how weak I feel in November. Nobody has to put up with it except me. Say what you want about other Aesthetically Normals. I don’t know them and I don’t care about them!”
“Why can’t you focus your attention on something else!? Look, I know what you want to do. I know you want to rule the world, but–”
“I can feel what you’re going to say from a mile away! What’s the point of ruling the world without powers!? And even putting that aside, what would I do every November? Oh, so the world gets a break because I can’t walk right now and the people who stand by me are pussies who wouldn’t do shit for me when it comes to ruling the world.”
“Obviously you’re struggling for arguments with how much shit you’re saying. And I mean that literally.” He growled. “DON’T UNDERSTAND!? I may not be an Animated Pumpkin, Aesthetically Normal or otherwise, and I never could be! I’ll never feel that weakness first hand, you’re right! But guess what, I do understand what it’s like when you get shafted with a shitty body you didn’t even want!”
“Now look who’s saying shit,” San-Kyung spat.
“I grew up thinking my species made me a monster. I wasn’t comfortable either. Maybe it’s different, but we both understand what it’s like in that regard. So don’t say I don’t understand, because I may not understand completely, but there are definitely some points I get you on.”
“But you’ll never understand that lack of power.” San-Kyung still looked furious, but his shoulders slumped and his tone calmed as if he had given up. “You’ll never understand the weakness. Never, no matter how hard you try. And there’s a difference between our problems with our bodies. You can change yours so you don’t feel like a monster. You’ve got a problem that could probably be fixed if you just went to some crappy person who tells you to feel good about yourself. That will never happen for me. I may be used to this form, but…it’s not…it’s not me.”
“San-Kyung…”
“I’ll head home alone,” he sighed. “You know how to get home from here. Make your own way back.”
“San-Kyung, you’re exhausted. Even if you’re mad at me, please let me take you home.”
“No, I’m fine.” Soon after saying that, he stumbled. Dosa-Mina walked up to him, but he glared and turned away.
Behind him, Dosa-Mina heard people muttering and getting to their feet. He looked back at the riot. They were starting to get their bearings, and most of them seemed furious.
“San-Kyung, we need to get out of here fast!” He hissed. “Please, let me take you home.”
“I said no! And why are you whispering!?”
The riot had spotted their location. San-Kyung froze when he heard footsteps slam against the ground. Before he had time to react, the riot stopped in front of him, and there was only a moment’s break before they rushed him.
“Sa–!” Dosa-Mina cut himself off. The riot had swarmed San-Kyung. He pulled the string on his hoodie and ran into the frenzy.
Blows meant for San-Kyung hit him. He tried to use his strength to fight back, but the combined strength of the riot was too much. Even if he took down one person, there were several more to take his place.
Below him, San-Kyung whimpered in pain. ‘Damn it, I don’t have time to plug up his ears!’ He jumped away from the riot, who refocused all their attention on San-Kyung save for a few outliers. Dosa-Mina sucked in a breath.

Aaaaaaaaaa……
Show all this world what you can see
What’s the truth, and what’s a falsehood?
Please allow yourself to falter
I’ll make my way through

Try and rush me, you can’t even move
I’ll accomplish what I set out
To do, this isn’t impossible
And you always had the disadvantage

So now, rest for all this time!
Wake up and we’ll be out of sight
All that I want to say to you
Is since I am right here, you’re doomed to lose

The riot dropped to the ground. Dosa-Mina pushed back a few that almost fell on San-Kyung. After he was sure the riot no longer posed a threat, he picked up a sleeping San-Kyung and jumped away from the village.

—–
San-Kyung sat up with a jolt. His body ached and the pain made him shudder.
‘What am I doing here?’ Out the corner of his eye he noticed Dosa-Mina, who was sleeping on the side of his bed. He checked his clock.
When he tried to think back on what had happened at the village, there was really only one conclusion he could come to.
“He still did that for me after I treated him like that…” He whispered to himself.

22.326.The Adventures of Asul-Zenza in Dasdoria–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 326
“The Adventures of Asul-Zenza in Dasdoria–Part 2”

“Hey, wake up, sleepy. Th’ drug’s probably worn off mostly by now.”
Someone was shaking him awake. It startled him and he turned to face Keings-Alsze, who seemed concerned.
“Somethin’ wrong? Still ain’t feelin’ up ta snuff? Maybe it hasn’t worn out jus’ quite yet…”
“No, it’s just….”
‘What am I supposed to say to her? ‘Nobody’s done that for me in years?’ I barely know her!’
He shook his head. “No, I feel fine, mostly…”
“Well, there’s one easy way ta find out if yer really okay. Les do some wing exercise!”
Keings-Alsze stood up and stretched her wings. Asul-Zenza followed her. He found that the ache he felt earlier was mostly gone.
Keings-Alsze began to flap her wings. Asul-Zenza copied her.
“Now fer the true test!” She said, almost yelling. She flapped her wings and jumped, then started to fly around. She flew over to a tree, stood on one of its branches, and hung upside down.
“Now yer turn.”
Asul-Zenza took a deep breath and went straight into flying. He found he flew slightly lopsided, but he was able to keep himself in the air. Keings-Alsze flew away from the branch and over to him.
“Whoa. Ya got big wings. Must be good fer flyin’ with.”
“I suppose,” he said. “They work for me, anyway. Big wings run in my family.”
“That’s nice,” she said, flying away from him. “Well, ya pass my test. I think yer gonna be jus’ fine. I mean, I dunno what bloodsuckin’ would do much good fer, unless ya get hungry…but I don’t think I’d be a good meal, so don’t try me,” she said with a chuckle.
Asul-Zenza decided to hide his hunger from her then and there. “I doubt it too. People with Vampire blood just aren’t satisfying at all.”
“No kiddin’. An’ that stuff tastes like…weird.”
Asul-Zenza blinked at her. “You’ve tried it before?”
“You ain’t?”
“I’m sure I must have, but I can’t remember what it tasted like.”
“Ya get desperate fer anythin’ sometimes in Dasdoria,” she said. “Vampy blood ain’t satisfyin’ but it can fill yer belly a little sometimes. I try ta get anythin’ I can here…’n I’ll admit, I’ve drunk people ‘gainst their will b’fore. ‘Cause a that though I ain’t never had th’ neck experience.”
She started to scratch near her neck. “I dunno how long yer gonna be here, but, uh…ya get desperate, I’ll find someone willin’ ta letcha suck…worse comes to worst, I can always letcha suck from me…”
“No, thank you. I drink most of my blood from external sources.”
“….ya mean like lickin’ up stray blood?”
“No, from bloodboxes or the like.”
Keings-Alsze shook her head. “Never heard ova bloodbox before, but it sounds good…anyways, I can help ya with whatever ya need. So, now that ya can fly…whatcha wanna do?”
“You said some people in the area might have escape stories? I’d love to hear them…”
“Sure, I’ll go an’ see if I can find anyone wit’ one ta tell. Though we gotta be on the down-low–we get caught talkin’ about escape stories, we’ll be suspects of escape, an’ you could get all drugged up again.”
“Then we should talk quietly,” he said, dropping his voice to a whisper.
“Might not work aroun’ guards wit’ Werewolf blood. But I guess we could. Les jus’ be careful ’bout how we go about this. One slip-up, an’ it could be anotha day here…”
Asul-Zenza swallowed hard and nodded. He followed Keings-Alsze as she flew around the area, keeping relatively low. Asul-Zenza didn’t notice any guards, but he saw something glimmer between the trees.
“Found one. Now, ya let me handle this, ‘kay?”
“Alright.”
Keings-Alsze flew over to a small group of Multibreeds who were sitting nearby the forest. A guard stood a distance away from them. Feeling uncertain, Asul-Zenza decided to land, keeping his eye on the guard in case he reacted. Keings-Alsze was his best way out of here, and if she was drugged he’d have to wait longer than he wanted to.
When Keings-Alsze returned to him, she said something he couldn’t understand.
“Pardon?”
“Oh, sorry! I was still in th’ mindset fer Dasdorian. They said they got a few people who made it out a here before.”
“Do they know how?”
“They tol’ me. Said it’s quicker fer avians but more risky, slower for non-avians but less risky. ‘s easier to be heard when ya fly but quicker ta get away. Since yer an avian, I figure we could take th’ risk…”
Keings-Alsze yawned.
“Do you want to wait until tomorrow to do anything?”
“Yeah, tha…that mi’ be good,” she said, yawning a second time. “Pretty tired myself. Kept an eye on ya for a long time…”
“Let’s get some sleep then.”
“We don’ have ta, tho,” she said, flying away from him. “Don’tcha wanna see yer family ASAP?”
He looked away from her. “…my family is used to these sorts of disappearances,” he sighed.
“Huh?”
“That’s why I’m so scared! What if I die here? They might never know! And even if they figure out that something happened to me, who would think to look in Dasdoria? I said I’d never come here, and….”
He sighed and wiped at his eyes, just in case.
“Don’ cry,” she said.
“I wasn’t.”
“I’ll getcha back to them as soon as I get som’ sleep. I told ya I’d do anythin’ it takes, ri?”
“I suppose…”
“I don’t need ta sleep if you wanna get back home soon,” she said.
“No. If you get sleep, there’s less chance of us getting caught, isn’t there? I’ll wait. So long as I’m careful, I won’t die, right?”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t think so,” she said. “There’s a lotta bad things in Dasdoria, but ya won’t usually die ’cause someone killed ya. It’s usually like sickness er hunger that takes ya out. An’ I can help yer hunger.”
“Thank you. Hopefully that won’t be necessary…” Feeling self-conscious about his growing hunger, he covered his stomach with his cloak.
“Yeah, but if ya need ta, ya need ta. ….and don’ get me wron’ when it comes ta dyin’ here. Jus’ ’cause yer more likely ta starve or somethin’ doesn’t change anythin’….it’s jus’ people here are usually too weak ta kill ya themselves. So if they hurt ya, ya usually die ’cause yer wound got infected…’course there’s still a lotta crime here an’ all, an’ there’s like, no actual houses anywhere in si’. So I don’ blame anyone who wants ta leave this hellhole. Ain’t the type a place I wanted ta grow up in.”
“Do you think you’ll ever try to leave?”
“…I dunno. Never thought a it, but…i’s crossed my mind a little since ya came….i’s really bad here, yanno? But I only know what it’s like ta live here, so it’s like, where’d I go if I left? Ya know where ya’d go, bu’ I don’t. I might go someplace jus’ as bad as here. I dunno much ’bout otha places in th’ world…”
“If you want, you can leave with me,” Asul-Zenza offered. “I live in a Vampire society, so you’d be able to speak the language there. They don’t have anything against Dualbreeds there either, so you wouldn’t have to worry about that. Do you have a family who could come with you?”
“Um…n-no, not any that I know a,” she said. “If there are, they prolly don’t know I even exist…”
“So you can come with me.”
Keings-Alsze lowered her head. “I dunno, Ghneckdo. We’ll see. ‘member, I’m coverin’ fer ya, so I get caught it’s kinda a moot point.”
“Well, we’ll just have to make sure you don’t get caught, won’t we?” The two landed and laid down on the ground a short distance away from each other.
“Sweet dreams, Aeshen,” he said.
“…yeah, same back to ya, Ghneckdo.”

***

As soon as the two woke the next day, they started planning out how Asul-Zenza might escape.
“So’s we gotta do this at night, othawise we face a higher chance a bein’ spotted. In tha dark, they might notice us, but not ’til it’s too late.”
“That seems fairly obvious.”
“Well, sorry,” Keings-Alsze huffed.
“I wasn’t trying to upset you.”
“Yeah, I know. So I should be th’ one sayin’ sorry…jus’ really wanna getcha back t’ yer family an outta here.”
“I want that too, so badly…”
“If yer lucky, you’ll make it tanight. Othawise, we’ll have ta keep plannin’ ta see what went wron. Th’ group I talked ta said avians’re at a higher risk a bein’ caught, so it could end up jus’ bein’ try ‘n try ’til ya nail it.”
“Okay.”
“Say, Ghneckdo…where’s yer home at? Like, how far from Dasdoria?”
“Quite a ways away. I’d been traveling for four or five days before I got here, maybe six…but I travel consistently, so that’s not counting multiple stops.”
“Yeesh…”
“If you notice a place full of Vampires with a cobblestone street, you’ve probably made it. It’s all the way to the right…why do you ask, anyway?”
“No particular reason,” she said. “Anyways, I hope it all works out fer ya.”
“I hope it works out for you too! I want you to come with me.”
“Ya still want that?”
“You don’t want to leave Dasdoria anymore?”
“…just ain’t sure is all,” she sighed. “We’ll see. Jus’ plan fer yerself fer now, ‘kay?”
“Alright,” he sighed, though he decided to keep escaping with her in mind. “…what do we do while we wait for it to be night?”
“I dunno. Not much ta do in Dasdoria. Got any plans?”
“…well, how about some stories?”
“Ain’t got much in th’ way a that, n’less ya like tragedy….’course, that also depends on yer definition a tragedy…”
“I can tell you stories instead,” he said.
“…got any good ones?”
“I have a few,” he said. “And I’ll take any chance I can to talk about my daughter.”
“Ya got a daughter?”
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “She’s adorable. And she’s a Dualbreed just like you, although she’s not half-Animated Pumpkin…”

“Molshei makes me think he comes from a family descendant of a Dasdorian refugee. I dunno, jus’ my feelin’, could be wrong…”
“I know nothing about him, so it frustrates me,” Asul-Zenza said through grit teeth. “Well, not nothing, but not enough….”
“Hey, ain’t nobody blamin’ ya fer bein’ an overprotective dad. Well, I ain’t, anyway…” Keings-Alsze looked up at the sky.
“Stars’re startin’ ta come out. Ya wanna try now?”
“Whenever you think it’s best.”
“I think now is. ‘less ya wanna wait ’till a li’l later?”
“The sooner the better for me,” he said, standing. “Lead the way then, Aeshen.”
“‘kay. Ya said yer home is to the right, yeah?”
“Yes.” ‘Is that why she asked?’
“Okey-doke.” She spread her wings and started to fly into the trees. A deep yell sounded almost right after he followed after her.
“Shit, I think they found us!” She yelled. “Move quick, Ghneckdo! I gotsa plan ta get outta here, but ya gotta follow me!”
“Right!”
Keings-Alsze picked up speed and began to dart through the trees. Asul-Zenza tried to follow her, but she was quick and he was having trouble not crashing into each one that stood in his way. His cape snagged on a branch and he was having trouble pulling himself loose.
Something fired at him and missed only narrowly.
“They’re firing, Aeshen!” He yelled. Keings-Alsze turned around and tore his cape from the branch, then grabbed his hand and flew with him through the trees.
With her help Asul-Zenza managed to make more efficient dodges, but whatever the Dasdorian guards fired was bouncing all over. One nicked Asul-Zenza’s arm, and a couple nicked Keings-Alsze’s tail.
“What are you planning on doing!?” He yelled.
“Ain’t really got nothin’,” she said, starting to sound worried. She glanced up and gasped.
“Gots an idea, but yer gonna have ta work with me real quick!” She yelled. Asul-Zenza only gave a nod.
Vines began to rise from the ground and block some of the bullets from hitting them, though some tore their way through.
“Dammit! I can’t pumpkify too fast, so that’s a moot point! One last shot, so bear with me, Ghneckdo!”
“Yes!”
A moment later, Asul-Zenza found he could barely control his body. When he tried to fly, he wasn’t making it anywhere. He flew high into the air and then regained control of his body, quickly flapping to keep himself up.
Keings-Alsze burst through the top of the trees, panting and sputtering.
“Gimme just a moment!” She yelled, then turned back to the forest. Vines began to rise up past the trees. Asul-Zenza was taken aback.
“Sorry, I can’t use seed bomb, othawise you’d a prolly been safe long ago…” She sighed.
“It’s not a problem. This looks good enough!”
“Yeah, got a lot ta make up fer it…”
A small bullet fired its way through the vines and hit Keings-Alsze’s wing. She started to unbalance.
“Don’ worry, I can levitate too!” She folded her wings to her back and began to levitate, then turned to Asul-Zenza with a serious look on her face.
“I’m gonna follow you fer now. But if I drop off, don’t come back fer me. Get back ta yer daughter and tell her yer alright. Ain’t gonna make her lose her father just ’cause I failed.”
“At this point, you’re not going to be left behind,” he said.
“Jus’ sayin’ as a precaution. Don’t come back fer me. Just go ta yer daughter.”
Asul-Zenza nodded, though he personally had no plans to leave Keings-Alsze behind. “…alright.”
The two continued on at a high speed, Asul-Zenza flying and Keings-Alsze levitating. Asul-Zenza found himself feeling worn out before he usually did, but he kept on flying.
He had to, until he was away from Dasdoria and its dead trees and rancid stench. Until that died away, he kept flying.

The air smelled like forestry, but the foul smell was gone. Asul-Zenza took in a deep breath and began to smile, turning behind him.
“Look, Aeshen, we made it!”
But when he looked behind him, she was no longer there.

—–
“Keep goin’, Ghneckdo…”
Keings-Alsze stared up at the night sky as she was hauled away by Dasdorian guards.
‘Maybe someday I can join ya….’

A few days later, La-Iin received a call.
“La-Iin, I see you’re not home right now…I just wanted to tell you that, well….I was in another bad situation, but I’m safe now. I’d like to see you again soon, so please call and tell me when would be best. I love you and we’ll talk soon.”
That day, Asul-Zenza decided to look more into the device he had heard of earlier that year.
‘If I can protect La-Iin from something like that, it’s all I need.’

21.325.The Adventures of Asul-Zenza in Dasdoria–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 325
“The Adventures of Asul-Zenza in Dasdoria–Part 1”

Asul-Zenza was enjoying the cool air of the area he was flying over right now, using that to ignore the fact that he wasn’t quite sure where he was. A few days ago he had spontaneously decided to fly to someplace he hadn’t been before. He was starting to question how smart that might be without a map, but he figured he’d be able to find his way back through landmarks.
He had been stopping wherever he felt for the night, which thankfully hadn’t been the middle of nowhere yet. His flights had been long, but he had always enjoyed flying, so it wasn’t a problem for him except when he got tired and there were no close-by landing points.
Even though he was enjoying the cool air, he wasn’t enjoying the smell of wherever it was he was flying over. Ever since he had come near this place there had been a foul stench in the air–it wasn’t overpowering, and Asul-Zenza certainly wasn’t interested in seeing how bad it would be if it was, so he planned to keep flying until it was gone.
He continued on at a normal pace, occasionally picking up speed in an attempt to outrun the smell, when something fired at him from the ground. Startled, he tried to fly higher than whatever it was that was firing at him, but was quickly nicked by one of the objects and began to fall. Unable to recover immediately, he was hit with a further onslaught that prevented him from recovering at all. Now he could see the ground closing in.
He was starting to relive his memories. And from that he felt certain that falling from this height, he was going to die.

When Asul-Zenza woke up, his whole body ached and he had no idea where he was.
The area around him seemed to consist of mostly mud or dirt, or perhaps both. Tall trees circled the entire area, but they seemed to be mostly dead. The stench he remembered from earlier was overpowering, and that made him remember what had just happened.
He panicked and tried to stand, but the ache made him want to sit. He was starting to feel weak, as if recovering from an illness.
Why had he been taken here? How had he survived? Had the people who were firing at him rescued him?
“Yer awake?”
Asul-Zenza stiffened and went to see who the voice came from. Nearby him was a woman lying on the ground, her features a mixture of Animated Pumpkin and Vampire.
“You…you can speak the Vampiric language?”
“Course I can. I’m half-Vampire. Or maybe less Vampire…don’t know actually. I was raised by m’ Dad…” She sat up. “It’s just one of those things he passed down since there’s almost nothin’ to do here. …the name’s Keinsg-Alsze. Or you can call me by my family name, Aeshen, whichever you prefer.”
“…you can call me Ghneckdo, then,” he said cautiously. “I’m glad we can understand each other, because I have some questions…”
“Yeah?”
“Where am I?”
“Yer in Dasdoria, babe,” she sighed. “One of the worst places on the planet.”
Asul-Zenza’s eyes widened. Now the state of the area around him made sense, and he was starting to regret not planning his travel. He hadn’t expected to fly over Dasdoria. It was one place in the world he never wanted to visit.
“…really?”
“Yeah, really. Would I make something like that up?” She flopped onto the ground as if she had lost her energy. “Y’don’t seem to be from here.”
“I’m not! I was just traveling and I got shot at! I didn’t think I was flying over Dasdoria…”
“Ain’t you ever heard of a map?”
“I have, but…” Now he was starting to curse himself out even more for traveling without directions.
“Y’ probably got shot at ’cause they thought you were tryin’ to escape. They’re always keeping an eye out for that kind of thing. That’s why it’s so hard to leave this place…”
“There has to be some way,” Asul-Zenza said. He was starting to get desperate. This was just the kind of situation he had feared would happen to him–that he’d travel someplace and die there all alone, and nobody would realize because they were used to him being gone….
“You alright?” Keinsg-Alsze asked. “Hey, can I see yer arm?”
“Why?”
“Just lemme see. I’ll tell you why in a moment.”
Asul-Zenza almost wondered if she was getting a blood craving, but then remembered he was a Pureblood Vampire–his blood would do nothing for her.
Though, the most desperate of Vampires could forget about that…
He ignored those thoughts and opted to place his trust in Keings-Alsze for now. He held out his arm and lifted his sleeve.
“Looks like they drugged ya,” she said.
“Drugged me? In what way?”
“Would it really be surprising to you if I told you Dasdoria uses power-suppressants?” She asked. “This is proof they thought you were tryin’ to escape. They don’t usually drug anyone unless they think that’s the case.”
“So, then, I can’t fly. If I can’t fly, how–”
“I’d say technically you could ta reassure ya…but that’d be a lie. Our drugs are a little bad ’cause they only last for a short amount a time, but they’re pretty good effect-wise. They’ll make you weak over there, so while y’ probably could fly, you couldn’t hold yerself up very long.”
Asul-Zenza bit his lip. With each word out of Keings-Alsze’s mouth, he felt his hope diminish.
“Hey, don’t worry. Like I said, they only last for a little bit a time. You should be okay tomorrow, though you might ache a little.”
“I ache now,” he sighed. “…is there really no way out of here?”
“Obviously there’s ways out of here. There wouldn’t be wanted signs for escapees otherwise…y’ call ’em “Dasdorian Refugees” outside a Dasdoria, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“So there’re ways to escape, they just ain’t that easy and usually lead to someplace equally as bad. You’d probably do better waitin’ before ya try anythin’, ’cause you’re gonna be pretty weak until those effects wear off, and kinda weak after they do.”
“What do I do, then?”
“I ain’t all that sure. As you can see, ain’t exactly a ‘refugee’ or anythin’…I’m so used to Dasdoria by now that I haven’t really thought’a leavin’…though it is a crappy place to live, don’t get me wrong. But don’t lose hope! There’re guards almost everywhere, and yeah, they’ll shoot ya and drug ya if you try ta leave, but obviously people have escaped, right? I think I actually remember hearin’ somethin’ about escapin’ when I was littler, but don’t take my words completely inta account, ’cause this was a long time ago…”
“I’m willing to try anything,” he said. “Please. I can’t stay here.”
“Got a family back home wherever ya live?”
La-Iin instantly came to mind. “Yes, I do.”
“I can see yer desperation, then. Al’ight, lesse….think I heard there are places in Dasdoria the guards are placed less thick. ‘Cause not everyone in Dasdoria’s got the mettle to handle the job an’ obviously some places need ta be more protected than others, right? And this place ain’t exactly the smallest, so you find a break, and then ya make yers, and fly as fast as you can go. An’ that’s why you need ta wait until the drugs wear off. I dunno where any breaks might be, but they’re likely close by areas wit’ guards, so you’d have ta make yer move fast enough not ta be caught by ’em.”
“That makes sense…”
“Might do ya well ta talk to the groups aroun’ here who wanna escape, if y’ can find any. They might have a few stories a successful escapes. An’ I can help ya scope out the area. I don’t really care if they drug me, an’ I can cover for you on yer way out.”
“Thank you, Aeshen,” he sighed. “But…how am I supposed to understand escape stories if I don’t speak Dasdorian?”
“I can help ya with that. Ain’t got nothin’ better to do and I suppose helpin’ a guy make his way back ta his family’s a good way ta pass the time. Though ya really should wait ’til those drugs wear off, ’cause yer gonna be feelin’ weak and actin’ strange fer a little.”
“Am I acting strange?”
“How should I know? I barely know ya. Although if ya start actin’ all insane, I’ll see that as a key sign…”
Asul-Zenza lowered his head.
“Hey, don’ worry! I’ll get’cha outta here no matta how long it takes! An’ shouldn’t be too much of a problem with yer family, ri’? Yer a Vampire, after all. Prolly won’t age much while yer gone.”
“I just…don’t want to be missed, that’s all.”
“I understand…well, sort of. Fer now though you try an’ get some sleep. Anyone picks up on you tryin’ to escape when yer weak and, well….it won’t be good. I think even you could see that, though.”
Asul-Zenza gave a nod and laid down. The ground was freezing, and he took off his cape and started to use it as a blanket.
He hoped he had the right judgment in trusting Keings-Alsze, because the sudden danger of the situation was making him start to panic.
Now more than ever he wanted to see La-Iin.

—–
“I want to see Dami,” La-Iin said at the table that night.
“Really? I thought you saw him just this month,” she said sarcastically.
“I want to see him again.”
Mit-Sun glared at her, then rolled her eyes and sighed. “Maybe a little later in the month. I’m not in the mood to see him anytime soon.”
“You’re never in the mood. One day I’ll call him over while you aren’t looking,” La-Iin hissed. Mit-Sun scoffed.
“I bet you I’ll hear you before you can finish the call…”

31.243.All Eyes on Me

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 243
“All Eyes on Me”

“Father! Oh, I’m so glad you’re back. I bet you can’t even begin to imagine how much I missed you.”
“I could say the same, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said, hugging him tight. “I’m more grateful for you now than ever before.”
“Were you able to find what you were looking for?”
“We’ll talk about that later,” Sale-Dessu whispered.
“Good riddance, Eul-Co–“
“What’s that, Sale-Dessu?” La-Iin asked, pointing toward a vial that hung from his hip. Sale-Dessu unhooked the vial and showed it to her.
“This is something I bought on the way back,” he said.
“I’m surprised you were able to buy anything with how shy you get, Father…”
Sale-Dessu’s cheeks flushed. “Eul-Bok, please…in any event, it’s called a ‘Dreaming Drink’. Supposedly it’s a potion that puts the person who drinks it to sleep and initiates a dream. I was curious about whether it worked or not. There are lots of Witches and Warlocks who will make things like these, bill them as one thing and then they’re actually another…”
“You don’t think it could be deadly, do you, Father?”
“I don’t know, Eul-Bok. Potions can be diluted so their effects are weaker though, so in the off-chance it is deadly, I could boil it with non-magical fire and put some water in it…I’m not sure exactly how it was made because it doesn’t say what ingredients were used in it, so I’d have to try every single diluting method I know, and that could end up making it virtually powerless…”
“Did you get this out of curiosity, or because you’re an insomniac?”
“Curiosity,” Sale-Dessu said quickly. “Anyway, even if the person who made it had good intentions, it could be deadly for another reason. Potions to render someone unconscious can be messed up easily. Unconscious could end up meaning comatose or dead in the worst-case scenario…”
“Father, you’re scaring me. If you knew the dangers of purchasing a mysterious potion, why would you purchase one in the first place!? You’re light on vuyong already. How much did this cost?”
“Not much! I wouldn’t have wasted a lot of vuyong on a potentially-dangerous potion.”
“That it didn’t cost much somehow makes me more nervous.”
“I want to try it,” La-Iin said. Sale-Dessu stared down at her with wide eyes.
“Why?”
“If it works, I think it could come in handy….”
“….for what?”
“Things….”
“Do you have trouble sleeping too, La–I mean, do you have trouble sleeping?”
“Knew it. He’s weak around us. Too trusting.” Sale-Dessu glared at Bes-Isa.
“I’ll have to say no, La-Iin. If it does end up being dangerous, I can’t let you get hurt. I’d never forgive myself and the people who love you would never forgive me.”
“Think about it this way,” La-Iin said. “You know ways to dilute it so much that it might not even work. But in the event that it does work, it’s supposed to make you unconscious. If you become unconscious and then you go into a coma or die or something, only Eul-Bok will know until I maybe decide to come over. But by then you’d be rotting into the ground. If something bad happens to me, I’ll have a way to get help right away. You.”
“…you make a good argument, but the answer’s still no. Aside from the potential problems, you’re tinier than me. It would go through your body faster, so if it would kill both of us, it would kill you first. If I dilute it enough and then suffer, I might still have enough strength to get some help. You might not have that much.”
La-Iin glared. “You make a good argument too. Still, I don’t intend on backing down!”
“Why!? I don’t even know what you want it for!”
Flashes of rendering people unconscious flashed in her mind. She almost couldn’t suppress her grin. “I have good reasons for wanting something like that.”
“I can imagine she does.”
“I don’t trust them, Father. What do you say we go home and forget this discussion ever happened?”
“A good plan,” Sale-Dessu said. “Well, La-Iin, thank you for watching Eul-Bok. I truly appreciate it. I should be getting home now. It’s been a while and I miss it.”
“Don’t try and leave on me,” La-Iin said. Sale-Dessu rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to listen to your reasons why you should get to drink the potion. I’m going home. I hope to see you again soon.” He walked off towards his house.
“Remember how you said you would do something for me in return for watching Eul-Bok?”
Sale-Dessu glanced back. “This is too dangerous. Pick something else.”
“No. I don’t want anything else, and if you don’t let me try this potion, I’m gonna tell Mama and everyone I know that you harass me and use me in your experiments!”
“What!?”
“And they might believe me too if I’m convincing enough. Mama will already believe me because you have used me in experiments before! It’s not exactly inaccurate. Thanks to you I had a traumatic day back in January and I had to go through a lot because of the things you did to sate your ‘curiosity’. So unless you let me try that potion, I’ll tell everyone that and I’ll keep saying it until you get arrested!”
“You wouldn’t do that to Father!”
“Maaaamaaa–”
“Fine,” Sale-Dessu said, his voice husky. La-Iin noticed she had brought him to tears. He looked genuinely terrified by the idea. She grinned. “But I’m going to try it first. If it’s dangerous and you see that, maybe you’ll be dissuaded.”
“Maybe I will be,” La-Iin said.
“This is the type of evil I like to see out of you, La-Iin,” Bes-Isa whispered.
“I’m glad to hear that.”

***

Sale-Dessu walked out the kitchen with a pot full of the boiling potion. He poured it into two metal cups and put the pot in his sink, quickly rinsing it with cold water.
“Wait for it to cool down,” he said.
“Can’t you just make it cool down?”
Sale-Dessu shook his head. “If you’re trying to dilute the effects of a potion, you can’t use powers. They could potentially cause more problems than the potion would on its own.”
La-Iin huffed.
“Even if this potion is one-hundred-percent safe, if I cool it down using a spell, we might die anyway. Conflicting magicks can wreak havoc on the body…”
“Should we really trust you about that?”
“Consult a book about Witches and Warlocks and you’ll see it says something similar. Besides, a lot of the things I talk about, I’ve experienced firsthand…”
His last words were followed by a sigh. After that, both he and La-Iin were silent. The potion took a long time to cool down since it had been put in a metal cup.
“Why did you have to put it in a metal cup? Now it’s just going to stay hot longer.”
“We want that. The longer it boils, the more it’s diluted. That’s a good thing.”
“Ever tried diluting your own potions, Warlocky?”
“Warlocky….? And of course I have.”
Sale-Dessu kept checking the temperature by sticking his finger in the liquid or feeling the side of the cup. At one point, he looked surprised and didn’t withdraw his finger from the boiling liquid as soon as it entered.
“It should be good now. Don’t drink it until I give the okay.”
Sale-Dessu took a deep breath. Then, he raised the cup with both hands, tipped his head back and started to drink. La-Iin covered his neck from her sight with her hands.
When Sale-Dessu had finished, he put the cup down and sighed. “Well, it tasted great. Most potions taste terrible, so I suppose that’s a good thing. Now we just wait.”
“Since we’re waiting, may I ask a question, O knowledgeable Warlock?”
“There’s no need to be sarcastic,” Sale-Dessu said, an edge to his tone.
“Oh, there is. Do you have to drink potions, or can you get its effects by injecting it or something?”
“You don’t have to drink it. Like you said, you could inject it. You could flavor a meal with it. There’s lots of different ways to get a potion’s effects, but it does have to enter your body and not be diluted too much. Also, injecting it into your blood heightens its effects. Say you have a potion that makes you dance. Drinking it will make that happen, but unless it’s diluted, if it gets into your blood you’ll dance harder, potentially until you pass out. This also counts if a potion gets into your blood by spilling into an injury or if someone who donated blood had a potion in use. It disappears from your blood eventually unless it kills you.”
“Who would make a dancing potion..?” Bes-Isa questioned. Sale-Dessu shrugged. “It’s up the alley of some Witches.” He checked the time. “….I think it’s been long enough and I’ve gotten no effects. I may have diluted it too far.”
“That can happen when you try EVERY diluting method in the book.”
“Well, I was worried. Besides, I still have a little bit more. I’ll dilute it less next time….go ahead and drink that, La-Iin. It tastes great and it shouldn’t hurt you.”
“I want effects,” La-Iin sighed. She started to drink it anyway. “Do you have a straw?”
“I think so…”
“You know, Father, did you ever consider that it might be a dud? That’s a possibility too. I’m not saying that’s the case. I’m just trying to say it’s a possibility.”
“I suppose so. Well, at least it tastes great.”
“It’s not as good as blood,” La-Iin said. Sale-Dessu wrinkled his nose.
“I wish I could try it. I always get curious about food and drink. Aside from keeping you alive, what’s so good about it? What is it that makes some people eat until they explode, or at least until they have to be pried out of their seat with a crowbar?”
“If there’s one thing we can agree on, it’s that curiosity. I think the eating a lot of food thing might be caused by tastebuds, or maybe depression, or–”
“All of a sudden, I’m not curious anymore! How strange is that!”

Eul-Bok sighed. “Did you have to bring Bes-Isa with you, La-Iin? You’re already hard enough to deal with. I was looking forward to spending lots of time with Father after he got home and you two are ruining it.”
“Yes, I did have to bring her.”
“I might have cursed her out otherwise.”
“It’s so annoying when she does that.”
“Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. There’s still plenty of the day left. We’ll have time to spend together later after La-Iin leaves.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “Hopefully, she’ll leave after she’s done drinking.”
He turned to La-Iin. “So, La-Iin, did you want–”
Surprise kept him from finishing the rest of his sentence. La-Iin’s eyes had started to look strange, as if she was mesmerized. She stared blankly at the wall.
“….La-Iin?”
La-Iin stood up. “I’ll join you, of course. Why wouldn’t I?”
Sale-Dessu flinched. La-Iin stood up on the chair and dashed for Sale-Dessu’s door.
“La-Iin!? What the hell is going on?”
“Wait here, Eul-Bok!” Sale-Dessu yelled. He chased after La-Iin. He saw her trying to open his door. She was in close enough vicinity to cast a spell, but he wasn’t going to risk the time it took to do that. He was close enough that he was sure he could catch her.
He jumped at her. He was sure he had stopped her. But when he looked up, the door was wide open, and La-Iin was running down the sidewalk.
“This….this is not good.”

***

“Which scent do you like best, San-Kyung?” La-Iin asked. “Charred buildings, charred foliage, or charred flesh?”
“That’s a hard one,” San-Kyung said as he launched off another fireball at the masses. Screeches rose from the street. “Maybe the scent that comes when all three of them mix together..”
“That is a good one. My favorite scent is mincemeat pie.”
San-Kyung gave her a quizzical look. “This wasn’t about…oh, never mind. Look, there’re victims just lying there. Perfect for you to feed from.”
“Good point. I’ll be back, harling.” She flew down at a high speed towards the people lying on the ground. It didn’t appear that anyone had died yet, which La-Iin saw as beneficial. She slightly prefered keeping people as slaves to killing people, and the blood they provided her with was something she couldn’t do without.
She dug her fangs deep into a Catori man’s veins, then sucked as hard as she could. The Catori man started to screech in agony. His body jerked as if he was dying. His movements quickly got weaker as blood poured in, coming up her fangs at such a pace that she had never felt before. Even when she sucked with all her might on other people she had never gotten this much blood in such a short time.
When she let go of the Catori man, she left him bleeding from the shoulder and twitching lightly. What little exposed flesh she could see was pale and almost white. She licked up the excess blood, then flew back to San-Kyung’s side.
“Somebody looks refreshed,” San-Kyung commented.
“I most certainly am. Now let’s make hell rain from the skies!”
San-Kyung’s expression became the dark, malicious one she so loved seeing. In the blink of an eye, several seed bombs exploded along the streets, sending people and debris flying. Fire burned down the nearby buildings and left people leaping to their death to escape it. She watched as the people on the streets burned to death and choked on the fumes from the fire.
It truly was hell come to life.
“I’m almost scared,” she said. “Almost, of course.”
“You can admit if you’re scared,” San-Kyung said, his tone soothing. “Then I can say that I’m more evil.”
“I won’t give you that pleasure.”
“If you want to prove you’re more evil than me, I dare you to pretend to rescue someone, then either throw them in the fire or drink them dry.”
“Oh, you know what option I’ll pick.”
“Don’t be too scared to fly through the fire.”
“Of course I won’t be.”
As fast as she could manage she flew into the flames. She saw a young girl wandering around and crying softly, looking delirious. The smoke was quickly starting to get to La-Iin as much as the heat, so she decided she needed to do this quick.
She grabbed the girl and flew above the flames. The young girl’s eyes widened and she gaped as La-Iin took her above.
“Tha…thank you…”
La-Iin gave a sly grin. When the girl looked to the side, she noticed San-Kyung, and suddenly the color drained from her face. San-Kyung turned to La-Iin, smiled, and nodded. La-Iin plunged her fangs into the little girl, whose shrieks were quickly drowned out by the crackling of fire and the shrieks below her.
Once she was in a state much like the Catori man, La-Iin removed her fangs. She stared out at the terror unfolding before her and gave an approving now.
“Let me say it again–let’s make it rain hell, San-Kyung!”

***

Sale-Dessu had chased after La-Iin as fast as he could, watching her the entire time. She had started to mumble to herself at times, and would pick up in running speed after making a loud and confident declaration.
Although he was wearing lighter clothes to stave off Summer heat, Sale-Dessu was still slowed down by the heavier nature of Warlock clothes. Since he barely left his house, he was out of breath in a matter of minutes. It took his all just to keep La-Iin in his sights. If he hadn’t been determined, he knew that by now La-Iin would be far ahead of him.
At some point La-Iin had entered a more populated area of the neighborhood. Naturally, she attracted attention almost right away with her crazed-sounding declarations. People stared at her, and they stared at Sale-Dessu when they saw him chasing after her. Sale-Dessu was trying his best to ignore the stares of those people, but they still managed to slow him down. The discomfort he felt from so many eyes on him was strong.
“Look, San-Kyung. There are still plenty of survivors. What do you say we take them back with us for our slave horde? ….oh, I certainly agree. The people of this city certainly have delicious blood. I want more. But I still like mincemeat pie better. I never understood that, but that’s how I feel. Still, what sort of half-Vampire likes mincemeat pie better than the blood of her enemies!?
La-Iin had stopped in place to make the statement, and the nature of it took the eyes off of Sale-Dessu and focused them on La-Iin. His discomfort lightened and he started to breathe easier. Seeing that she was static, Sale-Dessu jumped at her.
This time, he had her firmly within his grasp.
“Oh–San-Kyung, I suppose that means you want to go home, hm? Yes. We can do that. In fact it might be better to do that. I’m not lugging potential slaves back home if they’re going to die. We’ll wait a day and see which ones are still alive and not knocking on death’s door.”
Sale-Dessu felt compelled to respond, but when he saw La-Iin smile and nod, he decided against it. He stood up on shaky legs and stared out at the crowd, who had again started to focus on him. His discomfort returned, but he was just glad to have detained La-Iin by now.
“Um…everything’s fine,” he whispered. Then he immediately went into casting a spell. The people’s eyes on him made him almost trip up several times, but once he was done, he teleported out of the people’s sight.

Once they had gotten back, the first thing Sale-Dessu had done was sit La-Iin down, fill a cup full of water, and start to help her drink it.
“Can you please explain to me what happened to La-Iin? I think I deserve to know.”
“She’s completely wily and uncontrollable. If I didn’t despise you I’d feel bad for you, having to put up with someone like that in order to get around.”
“Shut up, Eul-Bok. I was asking your master.”
“He’s not my master, he’s my Father!”

“Stop arguing, you two,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “Eul-Bok, if you won’t explain, then I will. On the potion, I’m not completely sure what went wrong with it. I think either the potion never worked completely in the first place, or diluting it messed up its effect and caused La-Iin to do….whatever it was she did. La-Iin ran through the neighborhood in a half-delusional state and yelled things that I don’t think anybody understood.”
“I probably would have understood them…”
“So while she’s calm, I’m trying to flush out the potion.”
“So that’s what the water’s for? Are you trying to get her to wet her pants?”
“No! I’ll take her to the toilet if she gets desperate. I’m actually trying to completely dilute the effects from outside. I’d prefer if she waited to reach that point!”
“People can’t just wait to reach that point, Warlocky. Also I don’t think La-Iin’s been to the toilet in a while.”
“Father, Bes-Isa is being crude and disgusting. Can we chuck her back to the Cahongyun house?”

Sale-Dessu sighed. “No, we can’t.”
“Disgusting maybe, given this is La-Iin we’re talking about, but how is that crude? I didn’t go into any graphic detail or anything. I wouldn’t want to.”
“You said wet her pants. And ew, does that mean you’ve watched her use the toilet before!? That’s disgusting and unsanitary!”
“What the f@%k is your problem!? Of course not! Do you? I BET YOU DO, EUL-BOK!”
“No, I don’t! I wouldn’t want to see that sort of stuff anyway! Besides, Father’s a gentleman and very shy. He’d never bring someone along to the bathroom. That is the nastiest thing I can think of right now except for La-Iin urinating all over our floor!”

Sale-Dessu wrinkled his forehead. He snapped his fingers. “And as for you, Bes-Isa, be quiet. The situation with La-Iin is resolved now, Eul-Bok shut up, so keep your mouth shut before I stuff you down her dress!”
Sale-Dessu gasped as soon as all the words he had been thinking left his mouth. He felt his face warm.
“Um…”
“Sorry, that was too harsh,” he sighed. “Just…don’t distract me, okay?”
“Fine, so long as you don’t stuff me down her dress…”
“I won’t.”
From that point on, Sale-Dessu was able to hydrate La-Iin in silence.

—–
Mit-Sun opened the door.
“La-Iin!”
“Sorry about this, Cahongyun elder. She said she wanted something in return for watching Eul-Bok, and she accidentally consumed one of my potions…don’t worry, none of the effects took place, except she got tired. But I think I flushed it out of her system, so there’s nothing to worry about now.”
“…” Mit-Sun looked conflicted as she took La-Iin. “And her V-Puppet, too.”
“…I don’t know how to feel about what you just told me.”
“Feel however you would.”
“…thanks for helping her. If she ever goes over there again though, don’t let her near your potions. It might’ve seemed like an accident to you, but I bet you it wasn’t.”
“Well….who knows?”
“I’m sorry about this as well. Thank you for returning her to me. Good night, Astineth.”
“Good night, Cahongyun elder. Tell me if she starts acting strange. I’m sure I flushed it all out but sometimes you can never be sure.”
“I will.”
Mit-Sun closed the door. Sale-Dessu sighed, then walked back to his house. He was ready to relax after all that had happened.
With the moon in the sky and darkness around him, Sale-Dessu couldn’t help but feel bothered by the events from earlier. All the eyes on him had reminded him of unpleasant events.
He shook the thoughts away and continued on, reminding himself that Eul-Bok was still waiting for him.

7.219.The Child Warlock–Part 3

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

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

***

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

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