21.598.To See the Future–Part 6

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 598
“To See the Future–Part 6”

“Imagine what a person cooking in a stew must smell like!” Kyu-Aseri said.
“In the case of an Animated Pumpkin, that would most likely be like cooked pumpkins,” Kyu-Nhogo said.
“Oh, how uninteresting. But they’re an outlier, as are Vegemixes. The rest would be interesting enough to smell, I’m sure.”
“That will have to wait for now,” Hei-Yhunni told them. “In the meantime, perhaps you two can convince Ther-Aoughin to hunt down some of the “ancestors” of our species. I’m sure Vampire Bats and ferrets give off similar smells to Vampires and Ferreniaos…”
“Ferreniaos–and I’d assume ferrets as well–are stinky creatures,” Ther-Aoughin said. “But I’d be happy to see a little violence, especially since we’ve been staying a little down-low recently.”
“Ooh!” Kyu-Aseri cooed.
“It will be nothing like the meat from an actual person, though,” Kyu-Nhogo huffed.
Shuu-Kena sat at the table, listening to her family and feeling as though she wasn’t actually there. ‘My family is happier without me,’ she thought, ‘and I’m better off without them. So my idea of leaving them isn’t a bad one at all. It’s actually beneficial to us both.’
For a moment she felt as though someone would ask for her soon, but nobody did. ‘Wishful thinking. They don’t like me anymore. It should be easy to plan on leaving them in the future.’
She glanced at the faces of her siblings and that of her mother. ‘Why does it hurt to think of that future if I know it’s what’s best for all of us?’

***

“Watch as we, the Saras, take these lands of Bledger for our own!”
Hei-Yhunni’s voice rang out loud above the din of voices in opposition. In response, several voices threatened the opposing crowd.
“That’s right, fools. Finally, Bledger, Vaelyn is the home of the evil, enemy of the good! Say your prayers and leave now if you will, because this is your last chance!”
Nim-Ghini snapped his fingers. “And that was the moment.”
Rapid gunfire sounded, drowning out all other noises. No matter how hard Shuu-Kena tried to block it out, she could still hear it–the reality was behind her. But there was nothing she could do now, so she instead focused on running away. She had to survive, if not for herself, for her children and the last promise she had made to her husband.

“Mommy, is it true that Neigghed used to be a place full of evil?”
Shuu-Kena startled. She dropped the whole hemsquirt she was holding into the pot of soup. “You stupid idiot! Now you’ve gone and made Mommy cry!”
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault!”
“Uh–uhm–i-it’s a part of history, so I don’t mind talking about it,” she chuckled. “A long time ago, even before I was born, they say that Neigghed used to be the evil hub of Vaelyn. Nowadays that’s Bledger, and maybe Plucehon soon. But it’s in the past, and we don’t need to worry about it now.”
“Really?”
Shuu-Kena smiled. “Really. I promise. And even if we did, I would protect you.”
The memories of the past decade were vivid in Shuu-Kena’s mind. She could remember clearly her family’s rise to power. Under those circumstances they had shunned her; they made no effort to kill her, but they pretended she didn’t exist. It was a time of loss for her. She lost contact with La-Iin at around that time and her husband joined the masses of people in opposition to her family and their army.
While Shuu-Kena had no proof that her husband had perished at the moment she heard the gunfire, she saw no reason as to why she should consider him still alive. The memory of those two who had been so close to her was always painful. In their children she could still see his features, and could see the lack of his features in the one child she had adopted after arriving in Neigghed.
Her husband’s fate she could imagine–but what happened to La-Iin? Her friend had never voiced opposition nor support for her parents’ methods, at least not in recent years. It was one of her biggest questions. But it was all in the past. There was no way for her to know, and for now she needed to focus on her children.
“I think you made Mommy think about Dad again.”
“That’s your fault, not mine!”
“P–please, it’s nothing,” Shuu-Kena sighed. “Why don’t we do something else instead of focusing on this silly stuff? After dinner, who wants to paint with me?”
All the children rose their hands. Shuu-Kena smiled. “Let’s do that instead, alright?”

“Dinner tasted too much like hemsquirt. I’m not blaming you, Mommy, I’m blaming Var-Bougen.”
“You’re blaming me, but you were yelling right around the time she dropped it!”
“Don’t worry, Mommy. I like hemsquirt a lot, so I didn’t care that it tasted like that, unlike they do.”
“Please don’t fight,” Shuu-Kena sighed. “I don’t have the energy to deal with this…”
Shuu-Kena led her children to the ‘Painting Room’, a room she had designated for herself to paint in once she had found a house in Neigghed. She had decorated the room with all sorts of paintings she had made–and in recent years, paintings her children had made.
“I don’t really like painting much,” one of her children sighed.
“Do you want to do something else?”
“No, I’m fine. But when I grow up, I don’t think I want to be a painter like you, Mommy.”
“That’s fine.”
She set up small canvases for each of her children and for herself, and they set to work. Shuu-Kena had already decided to paint a happier painting than her normal ones, and so her progress was already going much faster than that of her children.
“Mommy, can I ask you something?”
“Arrgh, you made me mix my paint!”
“No, I didn’t!”
“Um, what did you want to ask, Ii-Ching?”
“You’ve told us stories about Daddy before, but I wanted to know if we had any other family. At school there’s this girl called Vampiris, and she’s always talking about having an amazing auntie. Do we have any aunties?”
“Or uncles? Uncles are cool too,” Var-Bougen said.
“Ah–uh…”
“Maybe Mommy doesn’t want to talk about this.”
“Aw, please, Mommy?”
Shuu-Kena bit her lip. ‘You knew this was going to come up eventually…’ “Not anymore. They’re not here anymore just like Daddy. So please don’t ask about them ever again.”
“H-huh?”
“I think we should probably leave Mommy alone for now. She looks kind of angry…”
Shuu-Kena was finding that her happy picture was soon ending up to be anything but–she was now painting red streaks onto the sky, and already that made it look much more malicious than her original intentions. She sighed. ‘I guess I’m just not any good at painting happy pictures…’
The painting was finished either way, and she waited for her children to finish before turning her canvas around.
“That’s scary!”
“Why do you always make sad pictures, Mommy?” Ii-Ching asked.
“This one isn’t sad. Even when the world’s messed up, people can pull through. That’s what it’s supposed to be. Otherwise we wouldn’t even be here today, if people weren’t capable of that.”
“I guess not.”
Her children turned their canvases around, and Shuu-Kena smiled. “You’re all getting a lot better. Hu-Ade, your painting is very unique.”
“Is that mean?” Hu-Ade asked.
“No, it’s a compliment. You use a nice range of colors.”
Hu-Ade smiled. “Thanks, Mommy.”
“What about mine, Mommy!?”
“Well, Ii-Ching, I think this part is a little–”
Before Shuu-Kena could finish, a loud siren wailed and drowned out her words. She could see that her children speaking, but couldn’t hear them over the siren. Concerned, she peeked out a window to see what was going on.
A large group of people were entering the neighborhood, many of them avians, though Shuu-Kena noticed a lot of Normals. What caught her sight immediately was their guns and the lack of any sort of authority gear. A shiver went up her spine at the sight.
Her children ran up behind her. Shuu-Kena pulled them close and kept an eye on the group, covering her face slightly with the curtains. ‘Maybe they’re an emergency group? Has something happened?’
While scanning the group to see if any other affiliation indicators were on them, she gasped. Near the front were two faces she remembered.
Ther-Aoughin and Kyu-Nhogo.
Shuu-Kena backed away from the window. Not long after, a gunshot fired through it and into a wall. Shuu-Kena beckoned to her children to follow her, and they took the back door out of the house. The siren was even louder outside, and mixed with the sound of gunfire. She wondered if she would be able to hear after the whole ordeal was over.
Shuu-Kena wasn’t sure of what to do. Evidently someone had seen her position already and was likely to come after her soon. Yet she couldn’t make her legs move, and the sound of the siren and the gunfire was too loud for her to discuss something with her children. They looked every bit as nervous as she felt, and she had to wonder if she would be able to get them moving.
‘How did they reach us here? Why would they come here?’ The answer was obvious to her: Neigghed’s peace would be their downfall. Shuu-Kena began to despair. ‘If they can take Bledger, and are on their way with Plucehon and Neigghed, where are we supposed to go?’
In the midst of her thoughts, she noticed Ii-Ching point at something. An army of people was heading their way, consisting of both grounded species and avians. Shuu-Kena pushed her children to run, but slowed herself when she noticed yet another familiar face.
La-Iin’s.
‘No…’
Shuu-Kena was in shock, but she knew what she had to do regardless. She continued running, keeping her children ahead of her, ignoring the army’s speed for her own sanity. But the avians obviously had the advantage, and the grounded species were not far behind: gunshots sounded behind her and avians closed in on her. At one point, when she nearly tripped, one descended upon her, and though Shuu-Kena kept her feet moving, she was already prepared for the worst.
She was carried into the air, her children grabbing on to her. Shuu-Kena tried to keep them off of her, but she was soon high above the ground. She knew what was the likely fate of her and her children, but she still couldn’t bear to be the cause of their death.
To Shuu-Kena’s surprise, however, she and her children weren’t shot or dropped. The avian carrying them landed, and it was then she caught sight of La-Iin’s face once more.
“La-Iin!”
“I should have known you’d come to live in Neigghed,” she said. Shuu-Kena flinched. Her friend’s tone sounded antagonistic.
“Um…”
“Before you ask any questions, yes, I did save you. So go off and go someplace else aside from Neigghed.”
“Aren’t you going to get in trouble!? It looked like you were working with my family!”
La-Iin scoffed. “I’m only looking for my own opening. But what I’m doing is too major to get you involved in. So run with those kids of yours and keep going. I wouldn’t let you get killed by that stupid group.”
La-Iin flew off before Shuu-Kena could say any more.
“Mommy? Who was that nice lady?”
Shuu-Kena stood up. “I’ll tell you later. For now, we have to keep running. Don’t worry, I have an idea of what we can do, but I can’t tell you anything until we’re safe. So just follow me.”
Her children looked uncertain, but they nodded and followed after her.

—–
‘La-Iin…’
Shuu-Kena stared at a painting she had made of her dear friend.
‘I wonder, if something like that really happened in the future, would you save me?’

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30.546.The Adventure in Bledger–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 546
“The Adventure in Bledger–Part 2”

“Bledger Police Department. Uh-huh. Two missing females…ages nine and seven….long brown hair, fair complexion, Normal…oh, sorry, I tend to repeat a lot. I got all that, don’t worry.”
‘Wonder who he’s talking to?’ Wondered Cheu-Sheam. The man nodded and set down the phone. “Hey, what’s going on, Aheni?”
“We’ve got a missing child case. Apparently two young girls went down to the local park and haven’t been back to their parents in hours.”
“Ooh.”
“Don’t ‘ooh’ at this!” He snapped. “Friggin’ rookie.”
“Well, sor-ree that they sent me to Bledger as part of my training! I don’t even want to work here. I’d rather do all my stuff in Yeongsham.”
“Yeah, well, while you’re complaining about all that there are two little girls who are missing for any number of reasons. And we at the Bledger Police Department have to deal with it, meanwhile you just have to stick behind here.”
“Grr….I swear, one of these days I’m gonna help with a big case.”
“Don’t be so immature.”
“I’m not. I just want to help. And I can’t stand you, Aheni.” She sighed. ‘I miss my friends…I hope their training is going well, too.’

“Students, today Miss Cahongyun and Miss Sanhuun won’t be attending classes. I think you all have noticed their absence already, but it seems the reason could be far worse than initially thought. Those two girls have been missing since yesterday, last spotted at the park.”
The students began to murmur.
“What happened to Fer-Shi?” Shan-Zetsu asked.
“Sanhuun…” Sighed Cae-Bougen.
“I wonder what happened?” Dosa-Mina said.
“We’ll have to go on with classes as usual, but if any of you students spot the girls, remember to report your sighting to the Bledger Police Department. …and don’t tell them I asked you this, but if you spot them and you have the strength for it, try and bring them back with you, too.”
“Got it, teach,” Yefu-Shenhao said. Hyungdarou sighed and went on with biology class; the students soon noticed she was teaching far more than she usually did when in a brighter mood.

“Hm…”
“Something wrong, Sara?” A student from Class B asked.
“Don’t ask that, Weishen! Sara’s best friend went missing!”
“It’s alright,” Shuu-Kena said. “I was just wondering. Yesterday, when they were outside, I overheard them talking about something…”
“What?”
Shuu-Kena lowered her head. “I think…I think they were talking about…going on an adventure,” she said. “I want to tell the police, but I’m scared to…”
“Don’t be scared! If you really heard that you should tell them! The police aren’t scary!”
“I know…I’m not scared of the police, actually…I’m scared of something else…”
“If you want, we can help you,” Weishen offered. Shuu-Kena glanced up. “Well…I’ll see.”

***

When La-Iin and Fer-Shi had woken up, it was bright outside, so the two girls immediately set out on the continuation of their adventure.
“I hope Mom and Dad aren’t too worried,” Fer-Shi sighed. “Maybe they think I’m staying over at your house.”
“They won’t. When Mama thinks I’m up to something she tends to call your Mama and Dami. They’ll find out.”
“Mm…well, I hope they aren’t too worried…”
“Instead of focusing on our parents, why don’t we focus on the adventure? We’ll have more fun that way.”
“Um, alright!”
La-Iin kept a steady lead over Fer-Shi as the two traversed a neighborhood that appeared to not be in the greatest condition, but still in better condition than many of the others La-Iin had seen. People played outside with their children and friends and though the houses looked to be in bad shape, the people there seemed fairly happy and healthy.
“Bledger sure has a lot of shoddy houses.”
“Huh? Oh, I guess they do. It’s a surprise that we ended up with as nice houses as we have, I guess.”
“That’s because we’re lucky enough to have parents who know what the word ‘quality’ means.”
Fer-Shi giggled. “It’s kind of surprising to hear you say that.”
“I don’t think all negatively about certain people, you know.”
The two girls head out the neighborhood and onto a clearing of street. La-Iin dashed across the street to a patch of grass up ahead. Fer-Shi soon joined her, and they waited for a car to pass before heading forward to a large stretch of grassy plain. Ahead of the grassy plain sat a park on their left, and to their right, another set of houses.
“I think I know what’s the obvious choice here.” La-Iin switched to flight and zipped off towards the park. Fer-Shi chased after her.
The park was filled with many young children–younger than La-Iin and Fer-Shi. Their parents mostly watched from afar as the children climbed over all the equipment, and the park was spattered with sand, snow, fur and feathers.
“Why would Snowlivs take their baby out in this heat?” Fer-Shi asked.
“Look closely.” La-Iin pointed towards the young Snowliv boy who was climbing his way up the slide. He was covered with a full-body plastic shield, though there was a small hole near the foot of the shield.
“Oh.”
“His parents are too.”
Fer-Shi nodded. “This park seems like it’s for really little kids, La-Iin. Even younger than you. Do you wanna stay here?”
“Oh, just for a little bit and then we can move on.” La-Iin walked towards the children, some of which stared in her direction and smiled. A mischievous grin spread across La-Iin’s face, and she turned around, spread her wings, and yelled at the children, who began to cry. The parents rushed to their children’s side, all except one pair who head for La-Iin.
“Run!” La-Iin shrieked, though Fer-Shi could hear excitement in her tone. She took off ahead of Fer-Shi by flying, and Fer-Shi only kept pace behind her out of sheer fear of what might happened if the angered parents reached her and La-Iin.
Eventually, the parents fell out of sight, and La-Iin and Fer-Shi came to a halt, taking deep breaths. La-Iin took off her backpack and reached for a snack.
“Geez….never do something like that again, La-Iin!” Fer-Shi yelled.
“I ake o haranees!” La-Iin said through a mouthful of food.

***

“We’ve gotten in a report from a young lady who says the two girls were planning to adventure across Bledger,” a police officer told Den-Matsu.
“Why would they do that!?” He exclaimed.
“Even if they were planning something like that, there’s no reason they should have been gone this long! They’ve been off on adventures together before and they’ve never been gone this long…”
“It’s possible they could have met with trouble on their way. But don’t worry. We’re sending out the majority of our force to scour all around Bledger. It’s only really a problem downtown anyway.”
“Would that really be so smart?” Asked a Llamaki officer. “Bledger’s been so dangerous lately–”
“And that’s exactly why we need to work fast, Officer Llanni! With how dangerous Bledger has been lately these girls could be in a lot of trouble, if they aren’t dead already!”
Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu gasped and began to tear up.
“Err, not that they are, of course! We’ll keep searching for your daughter and her friend, Mr. and Mrs. Sanhuun. You have my word that we will not rest until they are found!”
“I understand your concern, Mr. and Mrs. I have a daughter too, and if something happened to her I would want the entire might of the police force out there looking for her. I just hope this focus on your daughter’s disappearance doesn’t distract us from other important matters at hand…”

After the two girls had left the playground, they entered dense forestry and thus far had not found their way back out. On their way they stumbled upon a few signs of civilization, but none of them had led them back to the main path of Bledger. The further on they walked, the darker the forestry became.
“Where are we, La-Iin?” Fer-Shi asked.
“I have no idea.”
“What are we gonna do if we can’t find our way back out?”
“We camped out yesterday night, we can do it again. And if you’re worried about eating we have plenty of snacks to sustain ourselves. Even if we run out we should be able to get more food anyway, and I have your blood.”
Fer-Shi whimpered. “You sound like you’re preparing us for living like this forever…”
“Not forever. But I can’t fly high enough to check where we are and I don’t know all of Bledger. I just want to be prepared. I definitely don’t intend on staying out here forever. If I did I wouldn’t have much chance of seeing San-Kyung again. But this is a good experience for the future.”
“I just wanna go home…”
“I do too. But let’s keep going otherwise we’ll never find it.”
As the sky grew darker, Fer-Shi found herself feeling more hopeless. ‘What if we never do find our way back home? It’s starting to get dark again. We probably missed school and Mom and Dad are probably super-worried…geez, I’m the older one here and yet La-Iin’s the one who’s keeping a cool head. Maybe she really doesn’t care, or maybe she’s just trying to save face around me. I still can’t believe she can do this even in this scary situation…’
Fer-Shi smiled to herself as she kept behind La-Iin.
The two girls continued to walk on, with both keeping an eye out for any sign of civilization. To her left, La-Iin spotted what appeared to be a streetlight and head towards it. Soon after heading that way, something began to rustle up ahead.
“What is it!?” Fer-Shi exclaimed.
“We ran into plenty of animals yesterday. Don’t get so worried.”
Fer-Shi swallowed hard. La-Iin bit into her arm and took a few steps forward. The rustling grew louder until a black-furred Catori peeked her head through and stared directly at La-Iin. She glanced past her at Fer-Shi.
“Hey, I think I found them, Officer Llanni!”
“You did?” A Llamaki man followed the Catori and stared at the girl. “This matches their description. Oh, thank you, Bhengai! I’m sorry we had to ask for your help.”
“Not at all! This is what I’m training for! You girls okay?”
Fer-Shi began to cry. La-Iin took a step backwards and hissed.
“I think they’ll be fine, right?” Llanni sighed. “Come on, girls, let’s get you home. Your parents are incredibly worried.”
“Come on, La-Iin!” Fer-Shi said, her voice wavering. La-Iin didn’t budge. “If we don’t leave with the officers, we’ll be lost and you won’t get to see San-Kyung again.”
La-Iin grimaced and sighed. She followed behind the officers and Fer-Shi as the three left the forest.

—–
“We were so worried!” Tei-Sheu cried. “Please be extra careful from now on, alright!?”
“I will be!” Fer-Shi said.
“I’m glad you’re alright…I was really worried that something bad happened…”
“You didn’t need to worry, Mama. That’s just annoying. Besides, I always kept my cool.” She struggled out of Mit-Sun’s grasp and tapped Fer-Shi on the shoulder. Fer-Shi turned away from her parents and leaned in close to La-Iin when she noticed her in position to whisper.
“That adventure was pretty fun. Maybe we should do it again when certain people aren’t so worried that they call the police.”
Fer-Shi giggled. “Maybe. But that won’t be for many more years, that’s for sure!”

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…”