6.583.Eul-Bok’s Potential

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

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

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

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

5.582.To See the Future–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 582
“To See the Future–Part 2”

“Hey, Father, do you think that there will really be a day where I can walk the streets without worrying about someone wanting to examine me?”
“There might be, if another Witch or Warlock discovers what I did. And for as powerful as I might seem to you, Eul-Bok, there’s always someone more powerful than me out there. Someone will figure it out, the issue is when will they, and will they want to come forward with their discovery…”
Eul-Bok gave a quiet groan. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no particular reason. You know I think about these sorts of things sometimes, Father.”
In truth, it was a little more than that.
‘It’s hard to think of the future when you’re trapped inside the house all the time,’ he thought. ‘With things going the way they are, I can only imagine what will happen if nothing changes…’

“Father! Look, I made a water-powered house with cloaking abilities! Now we’ll be able to have a spare house powered by water for whenever the power goes out!”
“Well done, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said with a clap. “But I guess I should expect that of my apprentice of fifty-seven years!”
The two laughed wildly, as if far too amused by the situation.

‘No! I don’t dislike my current situation, but it would be nice to be able to do more. Of course, in my current situation, I can already see how stepping outside in public would go…’
That one was far too easy to imagine.

“Interesting…very interesting. You have to wonder where he got these parts from!”
“Well, he is a strange Warlock living otherwise on his own…I’d put a lot past him.”
“Hm, yes, that’s true.”
Managing to speak through the pain, Eul-Bok asked, “C–can I be done yet?”
“No, not yet, we still haven’t figured out how your body parts work to create a functioning autonomous V-Puppet!”
Eul-Bok sighed. ‘A little anesthesia would have been nice…’ Glancing at the television in the room, he noticed a familiar man on the program that was on.
“So, Mr. Astineth, many people have had questions for you concerning the V-Puppet! Tell us more about him. What prompted this research? Where did you get the parts to make him bleed? And why didn’t you tell us about this breakthrough immediately!?”
“Ah, um, I…”
Sale-Dessu was quite obviously flustered and seemed to be slowly shying away back into his house, but the reporters crowded him and seemed to inch feet closer–rather they would have if they could have. Either way, it seemed like an unpleasant situation for Sale-Dessu, and it hurt Eul-Bok’s heart to watch it. He turned away and swallowed his pain.

“Eul-Bok? Is something wrong? You look unsettled.”
“No, nothing’s wrong, Father! Just kind of down about the idea that I can’t go outside anytime soon…but I’m used to that, of course.”
“You never know what the future holds, Eul-Bok. There’s really no way to predict how long it will take before you can walk outside without worrying about it. I wish I could tell you that you could go outside now, but it’s just too risky.”
“I know. I told you, I’m used to it, you know that, and I know it, too. I’m just wondering…like you said, you never know what the future holds. I’m living proof that V-Puppet autonomy is possible, but who’s to say anyone will find that out soon? Will I be walking around three years from now with no concerns, or will I have to wait far into the future, like thirty-three years from now?”
“I really wish I could give you a clear answer on that, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “But nobody has the answer to that question.”
‘What would a world like that be like anyway? I guess I never really gave much thought to what might happen if I could walk around outside. There’s plenty I can do inside, but outside has even more potential. I wonder, if it really was some years from now…what would be different for me?’

***

Eul-Bok stepped outside. It was slightly chilly, so he went back inside and retrieved a scarf. Then, he walked along the sidewalk and out the neighborhood.
Years before this, he wouldn’t have expected to be able to walk around this casually; now that some years had passed, it felt natural. Especially with Sale-Dessu becoming more of a shut-in after his neighbors found out about Eul-Bok’s autonomy. Even knowing that V-Puppets could be autonomous now, it still surprised many people who grew up knowing otherwise, which thus far was most of the world.
He head to a nearby craft store and grabbed a basket.
“He-hey, it’s Eul-Bok!” Someone said. Eul-Bok glanced in their direction. A Normal-Minomix man was waving at him. Eul-Bok smiled. “Hello, Mr. Bacigua! How are you?”
“Good, good. You here to pick up some stuff for Mahico-Touffle?”
Eul-Bok nodded. “How’d ya know?”
“Well, ’tis the season after all, and you do it every year,” he said with a grin. “You know, Eul-Bok, you said you’ve been around for what, eighteen years now?”
“Sixteen,” he said. Eighteen was still too far back for him to have been alive–if people knew that was his actual age, they would know he had come into existence before the first publicly documented autonomous V-Puppet.
“Ah, yes, well, sixteen or eighteen, you are getting closer to nineteen. And you said you still live with your master?”
“My father.”
“Riiight, your father. Anyhoo, you might want to consider moving out sometime soon! People have seen your ability–you could make good vuyong off of that!”
Bacigua waved and walked out of Eul-Bok’s line of sight. He gave the man’s words some thought as he picked up the necessary supplies.
“Hi, Eul-Bok! Buying for Mahico-Touffle?”
“Yep!”
The man behind the counter smiled. “Alrighty then. Let me ring this stuff up.”
Eul-Bok paid for the supplies, thanked the man and began to head home. Bacigua’s words were still on his mind.
Since gaining his freedom, there had been quite a few things he had done differently than he had expected. He had started using his powers at a center for orphaned children, and since then had garnered a bit of fame for his ability. Considering his age, he did have a bit to think about in regards to the future. The possibilities were endless, and yet still something else was on his mind as well.
He walked inside, locked the door and set down the supplies on the table.
“Eul-Bok?” Sale-Dessu peeked his head into the kitchen. “Welcome back, Eul-Bok.”
“Hello, Father.”
“You got nice decorations,” Sale-Dessu said. “But we could have made our own…”
“I know we could have, but I told you, the craft store has new kinds of decorations every year. And they are nice, like you said.”
“I suppose.”
Eul-Bok sighed. “You know, Father, I’m getting older….why does my voice still sound the same as it did when I was one!?”
Sale-Dessu giggled. “You can’t help that, Eul-Bok. V-Puppet autonomy isn’t a perfect science.” His expression became more serious after he said that. “Eul-Bok, there was something else you wanted to say, wasn’t there?”
“Huh?”
“You paused between sentences and you made a strange expression. I’m pretty good at picking up on these sorts of things.”
“I guess you would be,” he sighed, “especially since the reverse is true too.”
“Tell me what’s on your mind then, Eul-Bok.”
“Well, the future’s come for me. I’m autonomous now. I can walk around outside freely now. But there’s one more thing that I can’t figure out about my future.”
“What’s that?”
“Well, I’m eighteen now! That’s almost nineteen. And I tell everyone I know that I’m sixteen, but still, that’s not too far away from nineteen. I’ll be an adult soon, and I…I don’t know what I’m going to do when that day comes!”
“That’s fine, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said. “I didn’t either. And compared to me, you have plenty of time to think instead of having to scramble around for something to do. So don’t worry.”
“Well….it’s actually not just that…”
“Oh?”
“I’m worried about you, Father. You stay inside all the time now. You used to go places before even if it wasn’t much. What are you going to do when I’m gone? After all, do you have anyone else?”
“…that’s awfully rude, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said.
“Sorry!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “No, it’s fine, I don’t actually mind all that much. You’re right, now that Apeta is gone and La-Iin is growing up, I don’t really have anyone else. But I’ll be fine. I survived without other people in the past. But what’s different about now is that I know you’ll be out there somewhere in the world, and I can always contact you if I need to.”
“Father…”
“I don’t want to hold you back, Eul-Bok. Believe me when I say I’ll be fine. So do what you will. Just stay in contact with me.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Alright, Father, I will. Thank you for taking care of me all these years.”

—–
“Eul-Bok? What’s wrong now?”
“…Father, if I can walk around outside someday, are you going to be sad if I go off on my own?”
“Well, yes, of course I will be. I’ve gotten used to living with you. But I don’t want to hold you back.”
“So I do know you pretty well…”
“Hm?”
“Ah, it’s nothing, Father.”
“Hm.” Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened. “Oh, Eul-Bok, there’s one thing I can tell you about the future.”
“Huh?”
“I plan on visiting Apeta tomorrow. And I would like you to come with me. So, would you like to come?”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Okay, sure!”

28.574.Life Unto Another World

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 575
“Life Unto Another World”

Sale-Dessu yawned.
“Father, it’s still light outside! Why are you so tired?”
“Sometimes I have a bit of trouble getting to sleep,” he said, rubbing his eye. “But don’t worry about me, Eul-Bok. I’ve had worse nights.”
“You haven’t been having nightmares again, have you? If you want, I can go back to sleeping in your room.”
“No, Eul-Bok, you deserve your own room. Please don’t worry about me. I have all the time in the world to sleep, and sooner or later the exhaustion will give way to a full nine or so hours of sleep…”
“Wow, that’s long!”
“After restless nights, it feels short.”
“I guess it would. I never really feel all that exhausted anymore, though. I used to feel more exhausted when I was a normal V-Puppet–” Eul-Bok sighed. “Really, Father, if there’s anything I can do for you…”
“Don’t worry. That will make things a lot better. If you’re worried it will only worry me. And it will pass, it always does. It’s only that it’s coming to August and I have an unpleasant memory from that month…”
“So it is nightmares.”
“No, not particularly.” He yawned. “Anyway, let’s get back to work. Want to take the lead, Eul-Bok?”
“Oh, um, I guess so.”

***

Eul-Bok searched through several books looking for some sort of answer to Sale-Dessu’s plight. ‘Think, think! There’s got to be something I can use to help him sleep and prevent nightmares.’
Looking in more modern books had already failed to give him an answer, so Eul-Bok turned to looking at older books written in the Warlock language. Managing through it was difficult, but he could still make out that so far, none of the spells, potions or items were things that would help Sale-Dessu–either they were entirely useless or were only good for putting him to sleep, and Eul-Bok saw no use in doing that if Sale-Dessu was only going to have a nightmare.
‘So after all these years of Warlocks doing amazing things, not a single one has found something to prevent nightmares!? It sounds so simple! So we can reality warp but no, nightmares are out of our league? Why don’t we have something to stop nightmares!?’
He continued to flip through the book, becoming progressively more frustrated at the lack of spells that would help Sale-Dessu with his nightmares. When finally he was about ready to shut the book, one of the pages tore slightly.
“Oh no! If Father sees this, he’ll be upset!”
Already he could imagine Sale-Dessu trying to suppress his sadness as he examined the tear. Eul-Bok looked at it closely. “….w-well, it isn’t actually that big…hm?”
When he caught sight of the words on the page, Eul-Bok’s attention was piqued. Curious, he read on.
…the theory of a power to enter another’s dreams: the power of “Subconscious Shift” or “Scenarial Change”. In this theory the power would grant access to an individual’s dreams or thoughts and grant them henceforth the ability to modify such things. Due to the invasive nature of the idea, research on the potential spell or ability was canceled, though the following was retrieved from experiments, it is not recommended for attempt by a Witch or Warlock not only due to the invasive nature but due to the possibility of irreversible injury to the Witch or Warlock’s body if attempted, assuming the effects would not be much worse.
Eul-Bok read over the spell. ‘Wow, it sounds dangerous…but it talked about modifying dreams! Maybe it’s worth a shot for Father’s sake. I survived switching bodies and assuming physical harm is the worst-case scenario, I don’t need to worry about that too much! But is it really worth it in the end?’
Eul-Bok thought it over. ‘Maybe, just maybe it is.’
He was concerned, but also immensely curious, and when he thought back on the things Sale-Dessu had done, or told him he’d done that could have harmed him, entering his dreams seemed harmless in comparison.
He decided to try it, whatever the cost.

Eul-Bok began to perform the spell as outlined in the book. He wasn’t sure whether he needed to be close by Sale-Dessu or not, and decided to be as cautious as possible. He stood right outside Sale-Dessu’s bedroom as he performed the spell as quietly as he could manage.
As he got further into the spell, he felt almost light-headed and his vision was blurring over. Still, he saw the spell through to the end–he was far more concerned about what might happen to him if he didn’t finish it than the potential side-effects he might face from finishing it.
Once he had completed the last part, his vision steadily went black, and he briefly felt himself drop to the floor.
When he opened his eyes, Eul-Bok was in a place he didn’t recognize. “Did I make it?”
“Eir-Tyuj is only concerned with her own curiosity. And that’s how you are too, isn’t it? You only care about learning how you could rule the world. That’s all it is with you Astineths. You disgust me.”
The voice came as a surprise to him, and Eul-Bok looked in its direction. A Warlock man was cornering a teenager to his right. When he got closer to the two, he realized that the cowering teenager was Sale-Dessu.
“I–I don’t want…rule the world…I just…practice my powers.”
Eul-Bok was both confused and terrified, but he realized his priorities were getting Sale-Dessu out of the situation. He ran past the Warlock man and pulled Sale-Dessu away from him. He tried to think back on the words in the book as he teleported himself and Sale-Dessu away.
Sale-Dessu looked terrified. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to save you.”
“Save me?”
“You don’t have to believe me off of my words. I’ll let you see it for yourself.”
“Would Father even recognize me right now? He doesn’t seem to. Probably not while he’s in a teenage mindset. But if I’m here, that means my spell succeeded, right? So maybe…”
“What are you talking about?”
Eul-Bok startled. “Er, nothing important! Um, hey, how’d you like to go someplace better than this? Geez, are my thoughts not my own anymore?”
“Why do you keep saying this stuff out loud?”
Eul-Bok sighed. “Just be patient with me, alright?”
Sale-Dessu gasped. “My Apeta! That man is still nearby our house! He might be going for my Apeta!”
“Father, wait!” Eul-Bok grit his teeth. He shut his eyes and imagined a different scenario. When he opened his eyes, he was inside Eir-Tyuj’s house, and Sale-Dessu was gradually becoming bigger. His eyes had teared up.
“Father!”
“Eul-Bok? What’s going on?”
“Um, we’re just visiting Grepeta! Isn’t it nice to visit her? I’m sure she’s got something great to show us today, heh heh. So we should probably go and see her!”
“Eul-Bok–”
“La la la la la~”
“Eul-Bok, just a moment ago, something seemed off…”
“Hey, Father, did I tell you I could reality-warp now? Yeahh, that’s probably it. I’ve been practicing, after all!”
“Something’s wrong, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok shut his eyes. When he opened them, the scenario around them had changed once more.
“What!?”
Now the two were in the center they had been in during Magica Cavintus, except this time it was devoid of any people.
“What is this…”
“Why, I thought it might be nice to visit this place after all that reality-warping!”
“You didn’t use a teleportation spell.”
“Yeah, well–” Eul-Bok tried to look cocky. “I am getting better.”
“You don’t have that much practice!”
“So it’s possible? Er, I mean, geez Father, stop being so nervous!”
He went over to hug Sale-Dessu, but tripped on his robe on the way there. When he looked up, an unfamiliar Witch woman, half-translucent, was staring at Sale-Dessu with a smile.
“Mamun…”
Eul-Bok began to feel guilty. “All I wanted to do was prevent that nightmare, but I’m just making it worse…”
Sale-Dessu turned around as if to remark, but he never got to. The scene around Eul-Bok became blurry, all save for a strange tube. Eul-Bok felt he had to go through the tube, and so followed his instincts.

—–
Sale-Dessu woke with a start.
“Mamun…”
The dream was soon no longer his top priority, as he quickly noticed that his bedroom door was open, and saw part of Eul-Bok slumped against it. He ran for the door and tapped Eul-Bok.
“Eul-Bok? Eul-Bok, are you alright!?”
Eul-Bok didn’t respond at first, and Sale-Dessu felt cold. But soon enough, Eul-Bok opened his eyes, glanced at Sale-Dessu, and startled.
“Whoa!”
“What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“Uh, I don’t know.” Eul-Bok looked up at Sale-Dessu. His expression seemed almost ashamed. “Hey, um, Father, what kind of dream did you have last night?”
“Last night?” The sight of his mother came to mind. “Mamun…”
“Was I in it?”
“You were. Why do you ask?”
Eul-Bok sighed. “There’s no point in keeping this secret from you. I wanted to try and keep you from getting a nightmare, so I tried a spell in this book. I guess I made it into your dreams, but I still messed them up. Sorry.”
“You what?”
“Geez, I feel fatigued.”
Sale-Dessu checked the book lying nearby Eul-Bok. It detailed a spell whose research had been cut after worries about invasions of privacy caused by its usage. Sale-Dessu gasped.
“Something wrong?”
“No, not particularly,” he said. “Um–Eul-Bok, you seem tired. Why don’t you go and rest?”
“Are you up to something, Father?”
“…” Sale-Dessu shook his head. “Never mind. Why don’t we start the day?”
“You sure? It’s a little early for that.”
“It’s never too early when you’re passionate. Besides, I got a better sleep last night than I have most nights recently. Thank you, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok beamed. “You’re welcome!”
‘He managed to pull off a spell that was never officially pulled off. It could be an easy one, granted, but it doesn’t look that way…maybe Apeta really did pass on her potential to Eul-Bok too. But how? He isn’t her biological Apegrenneson.’
Sale-Dessu wasn’t sure if he should be proud or concerned as Eul-Bok returned with a different spell book.

15.561.A Little Something

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 561
“A Little Something”

Eul-Bok took a deep breath. Focusing as intensely as he could, he set to work on changing the scrap of cloth in front of him into a present for Sale-Dessu.
He tried to clear his mind of all distracting thoughts, and though he focused solely on the image of what he was trying to change, he was gradually becoming more excited as if the thought nudging him at the corners of his mind was all that was on it.
Just as he could see the results of his efforts, a knock sounded at his door.
“Eul-Bok?”
Eul-Bok startled. The cloth, half-changed into fluff, fell back down onto his night desk limply, and Eul-Bok recoiled at a shooting pain in his head.
“Is everything alright?”
Eul-Bok turned around. “Everything’s fine, Father! Just practicing my powers a bit before bed! Wh-what are you doing up? It’s pretty late isn’t it?”
“I could say the same to you. I was just making myself a little warm milk. I’ve been having a taste for milk lately.”
Eul-Bok’s eyes widened. “I could tell…”
“We should both get some sleep. There’s a few things I want to do tomorrow. After all, well, I think you know what tomorrow is, right?”
“Of course I do. How could I forget? Heh heh, last year at the Cahongyun’s house…”
Sale-Dessu’s face flushed. “This year we’re not going there. I felt so ashamed, falling asleep on them like that. This year we’re spending the day at our house. I’m looking forward to it.”
“Well, I’ll make sure it’s a great day! We’ll do whatever you want to do, Father, so just say the word and we’ll be doing it!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok.” He yawned. “Well, I should head off to bed now…good night…”
“Good night, Father. And sweet dreams.”
‘And of course we’ll do the things you want to. But where’s the harm in a little bit of surprise?’
Recently Eul-Bok had been listening closely to all Sale-Dessu said. Even the smallest thing he had implied an interest in Eul-Bok had considered. He wanted to go along with what Sale-Dessu wanted to do, but he also wanted to surprise him with the things he would like.
He turned back to the half-cloth half-fluff and set to work on finishing it, before that keeping in mind Sale-Dessu’s taste for milk. Once he had successfully transformed the cloth-fluff, he set to work on finishing the rest of the tasks he had set for himself.

***

When Sale-Dessu opened his eyes that morning, the first thing he caught sight of was Eul-Bok sitting on a stool in his room, watching him with a smile. He startled for only a moment before taking a breath and calming down.
“You scared me, Eul-Bok.”
“Sorry, Father. But I was just so excited! I can’t wait to see how you–I mean, what you want to do!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “I wonder if you’re more excited for my birthday than I am. I’ll get ready and then we’ll get to work.”
“Don’t call it work! It’s your birthday! You want to do these things because you enjoy them, right?”
“Of course.”
‘He really is excited today. I wonder why?’ In recent years Sale-Dessu hadn’t seen his birthday as anything special, even forgetting it some years, and though last year had been more than the usual it had still been fairly relaxed.
‘I was excited for my birthdays when I was young. I guess with a child in the house I should expect this kind of thing.’
Sale-Dessu head off to take a shower and put on his clothes.
“Eul-Bok! I’m ready!” He called.
“Alright!”
Eul-Bok ran out from Sale-Dessu’s room and stopped next to him. “Why were you still in my room?”
“Nowhere else to go. Now what’s first!?”
“Well, I haven’t used my water-powered train much recently, and there was something interesting I was pursuing there…”
Sale-Dessu noticed Eul-Bok’s face drop. “That’s outside, isn’t it? Isn’t there anything you want to do inside?”
“The rest of it is inside. Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. I’ll take care of the train later. I can see you’re eager to do something right now.”
“That’s an understatement!”
“Well, then, why don’t we start with potion making? Have I ever helped you make a potion?”
Eul-Bok shrugged. The two head to the main area. On their way there, something smacked Sale-Dessu in the face.
“Ow…”
“You alright, Father?”
“I’m fine. Something hanging off the wall hit me in the face…”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing big. Here, I can lead the way!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok. But I’ll be fine.”
After uncovering his eye, Sale-Dessu caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a colorful setup right at the entrance to his home. In front of him he could see that Eul-Bok looked anxious.
‘So that’s why he’s so eager. I should have known…’ “Actually, if you want to lead the way, you can. We are doing this for me, but this is a good chance for me to teach you a few more things.”
“Yeah! Hey, anything you have planned for today wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with those more complicated procedures you know, right? I’m so curious about how you learned to do some of the things you can do!”
“Like what?”
“Oh, hex change operation?”
Sale-Dessu flinched. “Maybe one of those more complicated procedures is in my plans, but hex change operation is not one of them…”

Eul-Bok’s eagerness made Sale-Dessu’s day fairly enjoyable. As they mixed potions together Eul-Bok did so with such a force and glee that it made Sale-Dessu chuckle just to watch. In general he seemed fairly cheerful, and it was a bit infectious. Sale-Dessu couldn’t help but wonder what he had done that had him so excited and eager to finish what he wanted to do.
“You seem to be having a lot of fun mixing potions,” Sale-Dessu said. “Maybe I should have you do it for me more often.”
“Aw, come on, Father, you barely make potions for any good reason. Although it would be a good arm exercise.”
“You don’t need arm exercise, Eul-Bok.”
“I know, I know, but it’s fun to pretend I do. But you know what, I’m wrong. Even though you make a lot of pretty worthless potions, these ones we’re making now are all for medicinal reasons, right?”
“Yes. Just in case something happens to you or me, that’s why I’m making these potions. I just felt like making potions today, so I figured that I might as well make some that are helpful in nature.”
“It’s a good idea!”
Eul-Bok continued to stir vigorously. Sale-Dessu couldn’t stifle another chuckle.
Potion-making wasn’t all they did either. Sale-Dessu did eventually set to work on his water-powered train after Eul-Bok had strained his mind during a joint transformation spell.
“I had a feeling that wouldn’t work,” Sale-Dessu had sighed. “Eul-Bok, are you alright?”
“Yeah, probably….but I need to lay down for a little bit…”
Most of their activities were simple things however, such as making small treats or performing simple and ridiculous spells, such as an ‘instant hair dye’ spell that both Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok had used to change the color of Sale-Dessu’s hair into a multitude of colors; once, Eul-Bok even turned it rainbow.
“How did you manage that!?” Sale-Dessu asked. Eul-Bok giggled. “Oh, just with the strength of wanting to see something totally ridiculous.”
Even though it was simple, Sale-Dessu was happy. He was excited to see what it was that Eul-Bok was planning, and Eul-Bok’s own excitement made the day quite enjoyable. But it wasn’t until the sun started to set that they reached the end of all Sale-Dessu had wanted to do.
“That was pretty fun, Father. I realized something from today, you can do a lot of the stuff that I can do at incredible speeds!”
“That’s because I’ve been practicing for years. You know that. But I’m certain that soon enough you and I will have a similar level of ability.”
“Yeah, if by soon enough you mean years!”
“Well, we have more than some other species. And it won’t be so long that I’m an old man by that point.”
“Geez, it feels like both you and Grepeta are trying too hard to flatter me.”
“We can’t help but be proud of you, Eul-Bok.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Hey, Father? Now that we’re done with all you wanted to do, can you do me a favor?”
‘Here it comes.’ “What’s that?”
“I want you to cover your eyes. Both of them, and not with your hair! With this.” He handed him a blindfold. Sale-Dessu put it on. “I’ll lead the way, so don’t worry about bumping into anything.”
“Ow!”
“Oops, sorry.”
Sale-Dessu was excited as Eul-Bok led the way through some part of the house he wasn’t sure of–though he had a good feeling he knew where he was going.
“Now sit down, and don’t peek!”
He could hear Eul-Bok crashing around the house and various things opening and closing. From behind him he thought he heard the refrigerator open. ‘Am I in the kitchen? I thought for sure he’d take me to the main area.’
“You can look now!”
Sale-Dessu reached for the blindfold and pulled it off. Eul-Bok stood in front of him, and behind him the table was decorated in a fancy style. A plate of dinner sat behind him as well as a large white cake behind the plate. Eul-Bok appeared to be holding something, and he soon draped it over him.
“Happy Birthday, Father!”
“Eul-Bok…”
“Don’t look so surprised, Father. It’s just a little something.”
“How can you say that? You went above and beyond!”
Eul-Bok grinned. “Thanks for the compliments, Father. I’ve been planning this for a while now. Last year all I could do was get the Cahongyun’s help, but this year I was able to do it all on my own! I had a lot of trouble with the blanket, though.” He lowered his head. “I hope you like it.”
“I love it, Eul-Bok. This is the most comfortable blanket I’ve felt in a while. I wonder why I never thought to make more comfortable ones for my bed. I think I’ll sleep quite well with this.”
Eul-Bok’s grin widened. “Well, you can start dinner now, then! But I have to clean up. I made a bit of a mess in the main area.”
He ran off. ‘So that’s what that was. I’d better not say anything, though.’ Even having expected it, it was still a pleasant surprise. Sale-Dessu started to eat, and was surprised by how good the gravy tasted.

—–
Night had fallen, and after a long and cheerful celebration with the milk cake Eul-Bok had made, Sale-Dessu tidied a few things around the house before deciding to retire for the night. Already Eul-Bok seemed exhausted, but he still stayed by Sale-Dessu’s side, smiling wide.
Just as he had changed into pajamas and was almost ready to retire, something slammed against his window. When he opened it, he spotted Bes-Isa, a piece of paper taped to her. He took the paper off and took a look at it. It was a crude picture of him and Eul-Bok around a cake that was set on fire.
Good job allie, not freelowding this year. Have a happy birthday not! -La-Iin
Sale-Dessu stifled a chuckle as Bes-Isa went flying backwards through the air with a screech.
“Geez, she really can’t draw all that well.”
“She can’t,” he admitted. “But that’s alright. It’s a nice picture.”
He hung it up in his room.

14.560.The Morals of V-Puppetry

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 560
“The Morals of V-Puppetry”

“La-Iin, I have a question.”
“What?”
“Do you really think it’s fair to shove me into such a tight space while you’re doing your homework? You take FOREVER to do it. And I can feel discomfort, you know.”
“I know, that’s why I did it. I hate doing my homework, so seeing you like that out the corner of my eye gives me motivation to go on.”
“How!?”
“This homework is but a momentary distraction while I wait for puberty to enhance my abilities. Sooner or later I’ll become taller and stronger and I’ll be able to shove more than just you into a small space like that!”
“If you shove a person into a tight space the way you’ve shoved me, they’ll die, I hope you know.”
“Oh, I know.”
“I thought your niche was torture, not murder.”
“Given the choice I’d never choose to murder. Torture’s more entertaining. But don’t think I’m above murder, because I’m not.”
“Like you’ve ever killed anything before.”
“I’ve killed bugs and plants.”
“Oh, woop-de-doo.”
“If I killed a cicada in front of a Cicadin they would go crazy.”
“Yeah, amaz–actually, that might be pretty entertaining to watch.”
“Mm-hm.”
“Doesn’t change the fact that you’re an evil f@%ker for shoving me in here, though. Being a V-Puppet is equal to suffering. They’re almost the same thing.”
“Yeah, when you’re evil you do stuff like this.”
The bedroom fell silent, save for the sound of La-Iin’s pencil against paper.
“Hey, I’ve got a fun idea for you and me once you’re done with that.”
“I can do it now, you know.”
“Oh yeah. I was thinking, after what I said earlier–V-Puppetry is pretty evil. You bring this thing to life knowing that it will never be able to move on its own, well, unless you’re crazy like Sale-Dessu, but he’s a massive exception. And even if you COULD, everyone would want their hands on you for research. Before you become a V-Puppet, you’re an empty husk and people would think nothing of losing or breaking you. Maybe not even when you are already a V-Puppet.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty horrible. But don’t blame me because even if I wasn’t evil, I brought you to life when I was just a baby. Babies are pretty much always neutral.”
“Yeah, yeah, but you forgot the fun idea part. So Sale-Dessu calls himself good, right? And I know he made Eul-Bok autonomous and that kid’s his devoted toadie, but think we might be able to mess with his mind by telling him this stuff?”
“Ooh, mental torture.”
“Exactly! I wanna see if we can get a reaction out of him. Can we go?”
“Certainly.” La-Iin set down her pencil, maneuvered Bes-Isa out of the cramped space, and walked downstairs. Choungetsu greeted her with a happy bark.
“Not today, Choungetsu.”
Choungetsu stared at her in confusion.
“Where are you going now?” Mit-Sun asked. “I was about to make a snack.”
“Why, because you’re bored?”
“Don’t use that tone with me. Summer isn’t as fun for me as it is for you, you know. Meanwhile you get to go out nearly every day if you want to.”
“Yes, well, I’m going somewhere now, too. Over to Sale-Dessu’s. Just so you don’t kill me. You know, Mama, there are plenty of things you can do. Haner being useless doesn’t change that. You have your Dami and other friends and me, but today Bes-Isa got to me first so you’re out of luck. I’m going over now.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Just come back soon. I might take you up on that offer of doing something with you.”
“So long as it’s not annoying.” She walked out the door and head over to Sale-Dessu’s house. The door was locked as usually recently, so she kicked on the door. When Sale-Dessu arrived, he looked frazzled.
“Spell gone wrong or is this because La-Iin kicked the door?”
“What do you think!?” Sale-Dessu said. “You really scared me, La-Iin. I had to check out the window to make sure it was you!”
“Who else would it be? The police?”
“Um, no. Well, you two can come in. Oh, La-Iin, what do you think about tea?”
“Unless you fill it with milk it’s disgusting. Mama made me drink it once and it made me want to throw up until milk was put in. It makes my mouth go crazy!”
“Well, I boiled this tea with milk, so maybe you’ll like it? I agree, tea tastes best with milk.”
“You mean it only tastes good with lots of milk.”
Sale-Dessu beckoned La-IIn into the kitchen and set down cups of tea.
“Father, should I even bother trying to drink this?”
“That’s up to you, Eul-Bok. Try if you want. By the way, La-Iin and Bes-Isa are over.”
La-Iin heard Eul-Bok groan. “Father, why do you even bother letting them in anymore?”
“They’re my allies, Eul-Bok.” Sale-Dessu set the cups of tea down on the table. La-Iin climbed into the chair next to Eul-Bok, who glared at her out the corner of his eye.
“Milk tea? Why are you doing something as mundane as this?”
“Not all my experiments are power-related. And I had a craving. I drank this once when I was young…” Sale-Dessu shook his head. “Anyway, you can have as much as you want, La-Iin.”
La-Iin took a sip of the tea and gave it a curious look.
“What did you come here for today, La-Iin? Did you want the books I promised you? I have them in a bag somewhere. I’m sorry I didn’t get them to you last time.”
“Actually, we’re here at my request, because there’s something curious I wanted to talk with you about, Sale-Dessu. It has to do with V-Puppetry.”
“What’s that? Have you changed your mind about autonomy, Bes-Isa?”
“I still want to be autonomous as much as ever, and not in the way you have right now. That hasn’t changed, and it has nothing to do with that. In fact it’s incredibly contrary, because it has to do with V-Puppetry prior to becoming autonomous like Euly-boy there has.”
“You know, if you don’t like me, you don’t need to give me a nickname. I don’t call you Bessy.”
“If I ever hear that out of your mouth again, the day I become autonomous I’ll slug you!”
“Don’t fight!” Sale-Dessu snapped. “Er, yes? What is it?”
“I’ve been thinking about all the times I suffered at the hands of La-Iin. All the times she flung me around and all the times I’ve been left on my own, just to my thoughts…I know as much as I do because I’ve been left by the radio a lot. Eul-Bok probably knows as much as he does because you dote on him like a son. But when you really get into the nitty-gritty, V-Puppets are pretty evil, don’t you think?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re bringing an inanimate object to life, and even though lots of people make little dolls specifically to become V-Puppets, there are lots of people who buy mass-produced V-Puppet shells and make those into their V-Puppets. How would you feel if you knew that someone was mass-producing Sale-Dessu look-alikes somewhere in the world?”
“…”
“Lots of people see V-Puppets as just a toy. And when they outgrow their ‘toy’ they put it away and forget about it for years. And what about when you die? V-Puppets live until we are too destroyed to be repaired. If our master dies, we will never be able to move the same way again. We’ll just rot away, left to our thoughts, stuck in the same dark place for all eternity….”
La-Iin glanced at Sale-Dessu’s expression. During Bes-Isa’s rant it had gone from a curious one to one of horror. She smirked.
“When people have babies, most of them are looking to care for the baby, and raise it to become good, neutral or evil, but still they want to love and cherish the baby and watch them achieve a goal. They want the baby to survive and such. Some people think otherwise, but lots of people, even some evil people, think it’s horrible to use a baby in that way depending on what they did. Even some evil people think killing babies is going too far. But with a V-Puppet? We’re more disposable. Some people don’t even believe we are able to talk on our own. We’re mostly seen as the sign of a child’s first power, and are equated as being as precious as a disposable toy the child will eventually get rid of or in a best-case scenario pass down. In short, even good people tend to make V-Puppets suffer. Even when we’re carried around and loved, we’re essentially like a person who’s become little more than a vegetable. We cannot move. We can mostly just think. And only a person who really takes us seriously would care for us in a way that makes us happy. Some people even torture us like La-Iin does to me. And what she does isn’t even the worst that can be done. It’s all pretty sick, huh?”
“What’s wrong with you?” Eul-Bok asked.
“I hear a lot on the news. …hey, why’re you crying?”
“I wasn’t taught that V-Puppets are disposable,” he said. “I was taught they were just like a baby, and they should be loved and cared for. I think it’s horrible that people would do that to V-Puppets! I don’t think they’re disposable or like a child’s toy that they’ll outgrow, and I’m certain plenty of people would agree with me! I would never just abandon Eul-Bok like that!”
“Yeah, because you basically adopted him. Ah, but, well, I guess we’re not all the same, and not all of us have miserable lives. I just wanted to give you something to chew on.”
“I wish I could help make more V-Puppets autonomous,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “But I don’t want to compromise Eul-Bok, either…”
“Don’t get so worked up over it. I just wanted to make you think.”
“You’ve definitely made me think.”
“You guys upset Father. Now he’s going to be miserable for the rest of the day.”
“I didn’t say anything,” La-Iin said. “The milk tea came out okay, Sale-Dessu.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin.”

—–
“Father, what Bes-Isa said to you isn’t still stressing you out, is it?”
“No, not really,” he sighed. “But Apeta and Mamun, they taught me a V-Puppet isn’t just a glorified toy. I know you’re just like all living beings. You have your own feelings. And you have hopes and dreams just like us people.”
“If it weren’t for what would happen if you did, do you think you would tell the world you knew how to make us autonomous?”
“I would if I could,” he said. “But with the danger my name’s caused me, the sudden fame, the changes to my life, the disruptions in yours…I could never do it, Eul-Bok. No matter how much my soul wants to.”

7.553.Moments with Grepeta

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

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

***

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

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

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

2.548.The Contents of a Shell

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 548
“The Contents of a Shell”

Sale-Dessu closely examined Eul-Bok, checking him over in all sorts of places. Eul-Bok watched him as he did, curiosity in his gaze. La-Iin and Bes-Isa sat on the sidelines, confused for the most part about what was going on.
“I don’t get any of this. What exactly is the point of you examining him?”
“I thought I told you before. As far as we know, Eul-Bok is the first V-Puppet who has become autonomous. He’s been fine for almost six months, so I’m sure nothing bad will happen, but I still would rather keep a close eye on him. It helps me understand more too.”
“I’m used to it by now. It was weird at first, but now it’s just a part of my life.”
“Alright, Eul-Bok, you’re about done,” Sale-Dessu said, backing away from him. “La-Iin, you said you wanted to see the books I used for reference on that paper?”
“Yes.”
“Are you sure? They’re pretty long and wordy books and I can’t give you all of them. Some of them are in the Warlock language.”
“I can read Vaelis though. And worst comes to worse I guess I always have Mama. Or Dami! He’d be even better!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “Well, even if you need help I’ll go and get those books for you. But where did I put them…I know they’re in the book room, but…”
“Hey, Warlocky, before you go.”
“Hm?”
“There’s something I’ve been wondering about little boy Eul-Bok here. Namely, he’s autonomous, but you never did tell us what you put into him to make him alive. Obviously if you used the power of V-Puppetry, he wouldn’t be able to move on his own, so what exactly did you use to help make him autonomous?”
Sale-Dessu paled. La-Iin blinked. “It–it’s complicated, Bes-Isa. I’d have to explain it to you later. Let me go get those books for La-Iin now. And if you have any other questions, feel free to ask those!”
Sale-Dessu left the room at a faster pace than normal. La-Iin, Bes-Isa and Eul-Bok watched him off.
“Well that was awfully suspicious.”
“I know. It just makes me really curious.” La-Iin turned to Eul-Bok. “Do you know what Sale-Dessu put in you to make you live?”
“He never told me. Well, I know a few things, but Father can make all sorts of things, so I was never suspicious about it. If he needed something big he could make it out of just a tissue!”
“Like the tissue in a real person’s body…but even if he could do that, who’s to say it would actually work?”
“Huh?”
“It doesn’t make much sense to me still how you’re alive and moving around whether he made you organs or got them through some nefarious way. And I’ve been curious about that for a while. Someday what you have might be what I have.”
Eul-Bok glared. “No way are you looking the same as me!”
“I never said that! I wouldn’t want that either!”
“I’m curious too. But not for the reason Bes-Isa is. I just want to know. Let me see…”
La-Iin approached Eul-Bok, who backed away from her. “Hey, what are you doing? Don’t try and fight me! I have Warlock powers, a-and I’m a little bit taller than you!”
“But that’s how tall you’re going to stay, unlike me,” La-Iin said, puffing out her chest with pride. “Besides, it’s nothing bad I’m going to do to you, eh heh heh…you should be more worried about what Bes-Isa might do to you, and she isn’t autonomous.”
“The day that I am, though…”
“So come here!”
La-Iin flew at Eul-Bok, mouth open wide. Eul-Bok tried to both move out the way and begin to cant the teleportation spell, but La-Iin knocked him down before he could do either. Stunned, he could only lay there in horror as La-Iin brought her fangs close to his neck. When her fangs met his neck, however, they crashed against wood and La-Iin recoiled, covering her mouth and muttering a curse.
“Ha ha! You forgot that I’m not fleshy like you!”
La-Iin growled. “Well, just because that doesn’t work doesn’t mean we can’t find out what’s inside of you a different way! I don’t think your blood would taste all that good anyway.”
“Says you!”
“That’s not really something you should be indignant about, you know.”
“Let’s see.” La-Iin lifted up Eul-Bok’s robes, and he squealed. “I don’t see any sort of compartment…”
“There’s actually one right here. You can see it if you look real close. But it’s one of those sealed shut compartments that you might see on a well-built toy. If anyone could open it it would be Sale-Dessu and not us.”
“Damn.”
“Why do you girls want to know what’s inside me so bad anyway!? You don’t like me, why should you care!?”
“Bes-Isa gave you an answer already. But here’s mine. Eul-Bok, do you know what’s inside us?”
“You’ve got organs, and you’ve got stuffing.”
“Precisely. Just because I don’t care for you doesn’t mean I can’t still be curious. Especially if the answer is violent. I like violence.”
“You’re so one-dimensional…”
La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “That’s what you think, puppet-boy, but if I was one-dimensional my every move would be predictable!”
She flew up behind him and lifted him above the ground. Eul-Bok began to cry. “Please let me down! I–I’m begging!” He reached for his wand. “And if you don’t do it peacefully, I’m gonna have to use force on you!”
“Ooh, he’s threatening you, La-Iin. Either he likes you or he’s really scared.”
“San-Kyung is the only one for me. Besides, he’s probably scared. Okay, Eul-Bok, I’ll let you down.”
She swooped down to the ground, and Eul-Bok let out another cry as she slammed him onto the couch and beckoned Bes-Isa close to her. She maneuvered Bes-Isa across his body.
“What do you see, Bes-Isa? Anything interesting? No other compartments, I bet, but anything good?”
“I don’t see anything else, and I also don’t appreciate you slamming me against Eul-Bok. If I ever become autonomous, you’ll pay for that physically and with vuyong. But aside from that, when you slammed me against him, I thought of something. This kid’s made out of wood. You’ve got some strength to you. With a little force you could probably bust him up a little without Sale-Dessu noticing and banning us from here forever.”
Eul-Bok shrieked and began to struggle under La-Iin’s grasp.
“You’re right, Bes-Isa, I do have a lot of strength. And I like that option. Even if Sale-Dessu notices and does ban me, I have a backup plan for that!”
She bit into her arm and held Eul-Bok down as she transformed. Though he struggled before, during and after the transformation, the further along she got the easier it was to restrain him, and by the time her transformation was complete Eul-Bok’s struggles felt weak to her.
“Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. I never had any intention of killing you–my ally wouldn’t forgive me if I did. So sit tight and rest assured in the knowledge that this all for the sake of curiosity!”
She raised a fist and was ready to bring it down on Eul-Bok’s chest when a familiar voice hit her ears.
“Is everything alright? I heard Eul-Bok cry out and–Eul-Bok!”
Sale-Dessu ran to Eul-Bok’s side and forced La-Iin off of him, then hugged him close.
“What happened, Eul-Bok!?”
“They–they tried to break me opeeeeen!” He cried. “I was so scared! I thought she was really gonna do it!”
“Why did you do that, La-Iin?”
“You wouldn’t tell Bes-Isa what’s inside of Eul-Bok, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. If he made it easy I wouldn’t have had to knock him down like that.”
Sale-Dessu narrowed his eyes. “There are no excuses for what you did, La-Iin, and that was an excuse. I told you, it’s too complicated to explain what’s inside of Eul-Bok. I was going to tell you someday, but what you did here makes me think I should never tell you.”
“Are we banned from your house now?”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “No, but I don’t want you here any more today. Go home, La-Iin.”
“Alright. But don’t forget this, Sale-Dessu: we’re allies. One way or another I’ll get the knowledge of what’s inside of Eul-Bok out of you someday.”
La-Iin and Bes-Isa head for the door.
“Thank you, Father…I was so scared…”
“It’s alright, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu soothed. “I would never let any harm come to you.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “You’re the greatest Father, Father. I bet if you had a real kid that’d be true too.”
“You are my real child, Eul-Bok.” He stroked his head. “I’m sorry that happened to you. Next time I’ll make sure to keep a closer eye on La-Iin.”
“Yeah. …hey, speaking of, did you ever give her those books?”
Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened. “Oh sh–oh, I forgot to…”
Eul-Bok chuckled. “It’s alright. She didn’t deserve them anyway.”
“Ah, I’ll get them to her some other day…

—–
Later on that night, while in the midst of practicing a spell, Eul-Bok tripped and fell over.
“Oof! Aw man, that really hurt…”
His hand in particular felt the most painful, so he checked his hand out of sheer instict. Blood was dripping down his arm, and inside of the crack in his hand he caught a glimmer of what looked like muscle and bone. He shuddered.
‘Ahaha, Father just made those so I could live…’ Even feeling assured in that fact didn’t help the disturbed feeling he got from the sight in the first place.
“Um, Father? I hurt myself a little…”

25.541.A New Light to the Situation

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 541
“A New Light to the Situation”

“So, we’re actually visiting Sale-Dessu for once? Color me surprised.”
“We just visited him the other day,” La-Iin reminded her.
“Yeah, but we stayed for like two seconds. You sound as if you have something you actually want to talk to him about this time.”
“I do. All this romance around me has had me wondering about something.”
“So you figured the best person to go to would be the reclusive Warlock whose friends are a little girl and a doll. And who considers a glorified doll to be his son.”
“Sale-Dessu is pathetic, but the reason I’m visiting him for this has nothing to do with his patheticness. Besides, he’s my ally.”
“I suppose he’s mine as well. What do you plan on saying to him, exactly?”
“You’ll see.”
La-Iin knocked on Sale-Dessu’s door. It wasn’t long before the door opened and out peeked Sale-Dessu, his hair still maroon and his face still bespectacled.
“Really, what experiment are you doing that makes you look like that?”
“I’ll explain later,” Sale-Dessu said. “Hello, La-Iin. Is that all you came here to say?”
“No. I have another reason for being here, too.” She walked in, Bes-Isa in tow.
“Hey, Father, do you want me to clean out your test tu–” Eul-Bok glanced in La-Iin and Bes-Isa’s direction and sighed. “Oh, it’s you two.”
“They’re guests, Eul-Bok. Besides, we haven’t been getting many visits from them this year.”
“That’s been fairly pleasant. You two are nothing but nuisances and wastes of Father’s time.”
Sale-Dessu glared at Eul-Bok, who cowered away from him. “I’m sorry, Father, but they have caused you a lot of trouble!”
“I’m sure you’ve caused him even more trouble before and after you got your autonomy, you little dickhead.”
“Can we not have any fighting?” Sale-Dessu sighed. “Um, La-Iin, what did you need?”
“I’ve been having some strange situations lately, and it made me want to ask you about something. You have and can make a lot of potions for all sorts of things, right, Sale-Dessu?”
Sale-Dessu nodded. “Though I can’t always guarantee they come out right. I also know a good place to buy potions, but I don’t really like going there…”
“Well, you’ve got me now if you need someone to fetch it, but do we have the vuyong?”
“That’s a subject for another time. Why do you ask? Is there a specific type of potion you wanted to know about?”
“Yes. I wanted to know if you can make love potions.”
Sale-Dessu blinked.
“What?”
“Why would you want a love potion at your age, La-Iin?” Sale-Dessu asked.
“Morbid curiosity. And I don’t exactly want it. What I want would be better off happening naturally, eh heh heh…but I was curious as to whether or not it actually existed.”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “Not in the flowery way you might see in some books, no. It’s not a potion that makes you fall in love, but it can simulate the feelings. You’ll know consciously it’s a lie, and a lot of the time it can cause other problems as well. At least that’s what I’ve heard. I’ve never had any use for a love potion nor has anyone I’ve known, so I’ve never made one. But in my potion books, they say that’s what it’s supposed to do, is simulate the feelings of being in love.”
“Hm.”
“Also, I’ve heard that the feeling of being in love is dubious as to who it’s towards. Sometimes it happens to the potion-maker. Sometimes it happens to the first person they see. But most of the time it isn’t contained and the effects are present constantly, or at least towards every person the person affected lays eyes on.”
“That would not be helpful,” La-Iin said dryly.
“I heard of attempts to make a love potion that actually makes the drinker fall in love, but I heard the person used for the experiment suffered a degree of brain damage not long after drinking it. Since that is unethical in most places, it probably won’t happen any time soon.” Sale-Dessu blinked. “Err, was there anything else you wanted to know?”
“You know an awful lot about love potions, Father.”
“Well, I got curious about them after my Mamun told me they’re nothing like in the books…”
“I doubt it’s anything suspicious with someone who’s as much of a shut-in as Sale-Dessu.”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “Was there something else?”
“Yes. This was the most important part. Negative potions exist too, don’t they?”
“Certainly. Potions that give you diarrhea or destroy your organs…there are probably more than these than there are of ones that work properly because negative effects often happen when a potion isn’t made properly. Although destroying your organs is a fairly rare side-effect.”
“Luckily that never happened to you, Father!”
“Well, I hardly ever drink my potions, so–”
“But are there potions with effects that are negative of the normal effect?”
Sale-Dessu blinked. “What do you mean by that?”
“I think she means like an anti-potion.”
“Exactly. Love potions are fine and all and I might be tempted to use one if they worked, but they don’t and I don’t care. What I really came here for was an anti-love potion. I need one desperately, so tell me they exist!”
“Anti-love potion? I don’t think anything like that exists!”
“Well, what about a hate potion!?”
“Hate potion!?” Sale-Dessu sighed. “La-Iin, I wouldn’t know for sure, but I’m certain that if an anti-love potion exists out there it has the same kind of effect as the love potion. It’s either the potion maker, the first person they see, or everyone. Besides, potions usually wash out of a person’s system after some hours. That’s what they’re designed to do. So even if there was an anti-love potion, it wouldn’t last forever.”
La-Iin glared at Sale-Dessu, biting her lip. Sale-Dessu was surprised to see tears building in her eyes.
“Why do you feel so strongly about this!?”
“I suppose her rival in love must be getting their feelings reciprocated.”
“It’s not that. It’s nothing like that. It’s just a bad and stupid situation and…” La-Iin dug her fingers into her hair.
“She’s frustrated because there’s a man who most likely is in love with her mother.”
“Is that all? Why would that be so bad, La-Iin?”
“That man is not my Dami, and if Mama falls in love with him I won’t acknowledge him! My Dami is my Dami and no other man is!” She took a breath. “Fine then. If there’s no anti-love potion, then if Mama falls in love with Haner I want to live with you from now on.”
“What!?”
“Didn’t you just say your, er, “Dami is your Dami”? Why not stay with him?”
“It would be so hard with Mama watching me. Although maybe I could through a loophole in staying with you.” La-Iin’s shoulders slumped. “But if she was with Haner, she might not care anyway. She might just have a new daughter with Haner and replace me.”
Seeing La-Iin so dejected, Sale-Dessu felt conflicted. He had never seen La-Iin in such a state.
“It’s alright, La-Iin. I’ve seen you and your mother before. I don’t think she’d want to replace you.”
“Maybe not, but even if she didn’t that doesn’t change the Haner problem. Maybe he wouldn’t pretend to be my Dami. Maybe it would all be fine, but I would still have to live with that horrible man!”
“Whatever did he do wrong to you?”
“I pick my enemies as much as I pick my allies! And anyone who’s a threat to any of my plans is automatically my enemy!”
“She feels quite strongly about this.”
“I can tell,” Sale-Dessu mused.
“I don’t know what to do. Maybe everything would work out, but if there’s one interference in my plans, who’s to say the rest won’t go toppling down with it? I already have enough stupid romantic problems as it is.”
“At seven?” Eul-Bok questioned.
“Well, I don’t know how to help, La-Iin. But maybe this will make you feel better. Just because one plan doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean they’ll all go toppling down. I know that from personal experience. All too well, in fact… But you do have both of your parents, and I don’t think they would stop loving you. Especially not your Mamun–I mean, mother.”
“Dami is more especially than she is. She already gets annoyed with me all the time.”
“I get annoyed with Father too,” Eul-Bok said.
“I also get pretty annoyed by you. Not that we have a mother-daughter relationship, anyway.”
“And there’s something else as well. When plans don’t go right, that’s when you learn to adapt. Sometimes your life plans will have to change. Things might work out for you and maybe your mother won’t feel the same way. But if she does, then you just adapt.”
“I have changed my plans before.”
“And you have alternative options for others.”
“I never expected a big change like this, though. I was prepared for other things.”
“Just try your best to prepare yourself for whatever happens. It might work out. And if it doesn’t, you have a backup plan.”
“That won’t keep me from hating Haner,” La-Iin growled. “Even if I went to live with Dami, what would I do about that? Mama would be with Haner if I wanted to see her.”
“Well, maybe you could find something to like–” Noticing the glare La-Iin was giving him, Sale-Dessu backpedaled. “Err, well, maybe you could learn to tolerate him. Maybe you and your mother could agree to keep him out of the scene. I don’t know what to do about that, La-Iin.”
“Geez, you said you’re evil, didn’t you? Just plan to give him an extra layer of torture.”
La-Iin’s expression became blank, but soon a wicked grin spread across her lips.
“Great, now look what you’ve done.”
“That is true,” La-Iin said. “I hate thanking people, but I’ll have to thank you two anyway. You’ve given me a fairly obvious perspective on this situation. I’ll try and prevent it at all costs, but there has to be another way to manage it. If I dwell on something stupid like this all my other plans will be worthless.”
“It’s good to view things in a positive light,” Sale-Dessu told her.
“Still, I don’t want to be around Mama right now, so…”
“You’d stay whether or not I told you to leave,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “So go ahead and stay.”
“Good. Because now that you’ve told me all about those potions and the negative potions, I want to hear a lot more!”

—–
“It’s getting fairly late. You should head home now, La-Iin.”
“I guess.”
As La-Iin stood up to leave, Sale-Dessu slid a small item towards her.
“What’s this?”
“Consider it a Warlock charm. We use these for good luck over in Witch and Warlock societies.” He smiled. “Best of luck to you, La-Iin.”
La-Iin grabbed the charm. “You make for a good ally, Sale-Dessu. You’ll be very useful in the future.”
Sale-Dessu breathed. “I’ll be seeing you, La-Iin. Best of luck to you always.”

Baal-Mist smirked to himself.
“I don’t think this plan is completely down the drain just yet. Hopefully next time he’ll move closer to that room. That yelling was pretty curious….”

6.522.Life in Solitude and Silence

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 522
“Life in Solitude and Silence”

“Father, is all this really necessary? Is there something wrong with me you’re not telling me about?”
“No, there’s nothing wrong with you that I see, Eul-Bok. But it pays to be extra diligent. Remember, as far as I know you’re the only V-Puppet on the whole planet to achieve autonomy. Something going wrong is very likely. And we’ve done this several times before.”
Sale-Dessu set down his gear. “But, I’m done for the day.”
Eul-Bok sighed and let himself slump to the ground.
“So, what do you want to do today, Eul-Bok? Are you going to be practicing alone, or should we continue working on those mini engines that run off of so many random sources of power?”
“Ah…”
“Is something the matter, Eul-Bok?”
Eul-Bok narrowed his eyes. ‘Would it upset Father if I told him about this? It could, couldn’t it? Well, it couldn’t hurt to try…’
“Well, it’s just, I always saw autonomy as a good thing–and it is, don’t get me wrong! I’ll take these last few months over my first year any day. I love being able to wander around and use my powers and all, but being the first one to become autonomous has so many disadvantages.”
“I’m sorry, Eul-Bok.”
“Don’t be sorry, Father! It’s not even your fault! Before it didn’t matter to me that I couldn’t go outside or anything like that, because this was basically all I knew. I saw other places around Bledger and they were cool and all, but nothing’s quite as amazing as your house and all the stuff you have in it. And even then, we visit Grepeta sometimes, and I’m able to see more than just these walls, but…”
“But?”
“Ever since those Witches and Warlocks came by our neighborhood, I’ve been realizing just how little freedom I have. And even if I could walk down the sidewalk without fearing that someone would realize something’s wrong with me, I couldn’t now all because of those jerks. And being like this almost makes me miss La-Iin. She used to come by so often, but now it’s almost like she knows we’re trying to hide ourselves…hey, did you ever call the Cahongyuns, Father?”
“No, I never worked up the nerve to. But I can understand where you’re coming from, Eul-Bok. It’s easy to feel trapped when you know people out there dislike you for something you can’t control…but perhaps I can try and make it a little better, for now. Our situation isn’t perfect, but it’s a new month and we still haven’t met with those assailants again. I think our new identities might really work to throw them off. I hope so, in any event!”
“Do you really think they’ll work that well?”
“I want to think that they will.” Sale-Dessu rose to his feet. “I’m going to go and prepare something special for the two of us. You can practice on your own while I work on it!”
“If you say so,” Eul-Bok said half-heartedly. In truth, after saying all that was on his mind, he hardly felt like practicing his powers–nowadays it felt as if that was all he did, and though he didn’t mind it, he had to wonder how Sale-Dessu had survived all those years on his own only studying his powers.
‘WELL, there’s something else I could do.’ Curious, Eul-Bok took some books from Sale-Dessu’s bookshelves and began to read them. Sale-Dessu had numerous books on many subjects, it seemed: he had books covering sources of power, transformation in people, the various documented powers Witches and Warlocks possessed and even one on the mysteries of V-Puppetry, though Eul-Bok could tell it was clearly outdated.
‘I wonder how Father got all these books being as shy as he is? No matter how skilled he is, you can’t reproduce the exact text of a book you’ve never read. In fact, can you even reproduce the exact text of a book you have read? I’ll have to ask Father about that…I wonder if they’re hand-me-downs from Grepeta and his Mother? Hm, but this one says it’s from 2006…’
For the next few hours Eul-Bok spent his time reading the various books that Sale-Dessu owned. ‘I guess I can kind of understand how Father was okay with this. If he felt like he was always in danger, then having a lot of things to focus on even if they feel pretty samey was probably good. Maybe it’s because I’m so young that I’m getting restless like this. Hm, I wonder if Father has any fiction in here?’
Just as Eul-Bok had made it halfway through a book about a connection between potions, drugs and the powers some species possessed, he heard Sale-Dessu come up behind him.
“Reading?”
“Uh, yeah. Wow, you have a lot of books, Father. Where’d you get them all?”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Hand-me-downs and the occasional venture outside.”
“Were you still going outside in 2006?”
“I’m pretty sure I was,” Sale-Dessu said, sounding a bit irritated. “Anyway, you can read any of these books anytime. A lot of them are pretty interesting. But are you absorbed in that book, or would you mind if I showed you a something?”
“Well, it’s not the most interesting book,” Eul-Bok said. “I don’t get all of this stuff about potions and drugs yet anyway. What is it?”
“Close your eyes. And focus on yourself.”
“Huh?”
Sale-Dessu looked uncertain as he placed a hand on top of Eul-Bok’s head, and for a moment Eul-Bok feared that he was about to perform some horrifying spell on him. His eyes were squeezed shut for only a moment before Sale-Dessu asked him to open them.
“I feel so off-balance,” Eul-Bok groaned.
“Sorry, I’m not so good at reality-warping, as you know,” Sale-Dessu said.
“Whoa, this is a reality warp?”
“Yes. It’s to make the entire inside of this house look as if it were outside. I can do things more large-scale than this, but I don’t want to risk it. I’m not sure if I should take it as a sign that I’m getting better or worse that you’re able to recognize you’re in one, but that was my intention anyway.”
“Whoa!”
“I know it’s nothing like actually being outside, but I thought you might like it?”
“Wow! How did you create this place!? If it weren’t for this weird wall right here I wouldn’t even be able to tell we were inside! This is amazing, Father! Your powers truly deserve to be reckoned with if you can do something like this!”
Sale-Dessu’s cheeks flushed. “Please, Eul-Bok, all the praise is unnecessary…”
“But to create a space like this and limit it!? Wow, if you can do this, I might be able to do this someday too!”
“For someone who didn’t seem so interested in studying his powers another day, you certainly seem interested in the way reality-warping works.”
“How could I not be!?” Eul-Bok shrieked. “But, ah, eheh…if you went to the trouble of making this space so we could have fun, I guess that’s what we should be doing, huh?”
Giving a mischievous smirk, Eul-Bok took off across the created landscape. Sale-Dessu chased after him. Eul-Bok picked flowers along the way, marveling at how realistic they seemed, before reminding himself he was here to have fun. He began to move around wildly, only to crash into something strange along the way.
“Uh, what was that?”
Sale-Dessu cringed. “I’ve never really tried making a reality-warp that’s only confined to my house, actually.”
“What!? You’d think with all your years of practice, you would have!”
“I was a bit worried about pulling it off, mostly because of what just happened to you. And I don’t do reality warps much in the first place…”
Sale-Dessu heaved a sigh, and soon after the outside around him began to crumble. Eul-Bok looked behind him to notice an overturned table.
“Father, it’s alright. That was still really amazing that you’re able to do that in the first place!”
“It’s no substitute for really being outside, though,” he said. “I might like to stay inside most of the time, but there are some benefits to being outside that I feel like I miss nowadays. And I feel sorry that those extend to you.”
“Father…” Eul-Bok shook his head. “They don’t extend to me in the way you’re thinking of, though. I can’t go outside because I’m noticably a V-Puppet. You just don’t do it because you’re too shy to!”
Sale-Dessu began to toy with his mats. “Do you have to bring that up…?”
“But you know what I realized? I do really want to go outside, but while I can’t, I have all sorts of things I can do inside! With all the books and all the powers we can use, the possibilities are almost endless. So I can have plenty of fun inside while we’re hanging out, waiting for all this to pass and also for there to be more autonomous V-Puppets!”
He smiled. “If nothing else you’re definitely the master of making the best of your time in solitude and silence. If you could survive for years all on your own doing nothing but testing out your powers, then I’m sure that I can too.”
“Are you sure? We don’t exactly have the same personality.”
“I know that, but I’m your son! Why wouldn’t I be able to?”
Sale-Dessu gave him a curious look, then broke out in a smile. “Well, if you’re looking for something to do right now, I could show you a lot of projects I haven’t worked on in years. And there are even more books upstairs, though some of those are in the Warlock language.”
“I can read some of that!”
“Maybe today instead of testing your powers, we should be testing your knowledge of the language?”
“No way!”

—–
Next door to the Astineths, La-Iin shuddered.
“I feel like something important was disrupted.”
“Same here. I wonder if Sale-Dessu was just up to some reality-warping.”
“Huh!” She stared out the window at the Astineth house. “You know, it has been a while since I stopped by. Maybe I should go over there again soon. But definitely not until I’ve helped make San-Kyung get back to his old self!”
“You’re really serious about that, huh?”
“The San-Kyung I love best is the one with all that confidence. So of course I’m serious about this. I have to help him return to how he’s supposed to act. Evidently it won’t happen otherwise.”

13.498.All Ends of Security Measures

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 498
“All Ends of Security Measures”

“Father?”
“Yes?”
“This might sound kinda weird to you, but this cloak is itchy.”
“It’s a necessary security measure,” Sale-Dessu said. Eul-Bok sighed. Almost as soon as the two of them had arrived back home from Eir-Tyuj’s house, Sale-Dessu had set to work on protecting the house from being discovered as theirs by the mysterious assailants.
“If we want to have any hope of keeping this house, this is what we need to do,” he had said. Now the two of them stood in front of a mirror, Eul-Bok wearing a long and fluffy cloak, a necklace and large hat, and Sale-Dessu wearing more casual clothes, glasses and jewelry he had made from garbage lying around the house. His long white hair was also dyed a deep maroon.
“Do you think these disguises are enough to fool them?”
“You look weird enough to me already.”
“Hm….” Sale-Dessu fiddled with Eul-Bok’s hat until it drooped slightly in front of his face. “There we go.”
“So now that we have these disguises, what do we do?”
“I have to keep proofing the house,” he said. “Soundproof it, protect it against intruders and their kind. My Apeta showed me several spells I could use to protect the house. I never considered these spells before, but I should have. When I first moved here, I was always nervous that one of my Apeta’s pursuers would find me living here. …I had no idea they’d come back so much later in my life.”
“Are you sure they’re Apeta’s pursuers, Father? Isn’t it possible that they might be here for some other reason?”
“I don’t want to entertain those ideas, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said quietly. “Whatever they are, we have to prevent them from finding our house, because if they do, there’s no place we can go. We can’t stay with Apeta because her identity is known in that neighborhood, and I really don’t have the vuyong to buy a new house. I know I could always forge some, but my morals say otherwise, and anyway I don’t know if I’d be able to make them perfectly and without a tel…”
“What about the Cahongyuns? La-Iin and Bes-Isa like you well enough. Couldn’t we stay with them until we found a new place if anything happens?”
Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened. “We couldn’t, Eul-Bok! This whole situation is my fault. I’m already upset that I’m involving you in it, too. The Cahongyuns live right next door to us. It wouldn’t take those pursuers long to figure out where we are. I don’t want to involve the Cahongyuns in this at all. There’s no guarantee they have someplace else to stay, either!”
“I guess you have a point,” Eul-Bok mused.
“We have to be cautious, Eul-Bok. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but until they’re gone, this is what needs to be done. Now, if anybody asks, we are the Tenhues. I am Tenhue Lim-Bam and you are Tenhue As-Eir. No, Tenhue As-Mei. We are not father and son or master and V-Puppet–especially not that second one. You are my little cousin who is staying with me while my sister studies abroad in Nyappon. Understand?”
“Do we have to go this far?”
“If we call ourselves the Astineths, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. And in the event that they are here for some other reason besides my being an Astineth, do you want to give them more reason to be after us by letting them know I’m an Astineth? I want to take any security measure I can. And it might be frustrating at first, but at least in the end, it will pay off. You should go and study on your own. I’m going to work on those spells Apeta told me about.”
“…if you say so,” Eul-Bok sighed.

***

Eul-Bok felt dejected as he studied the next day alone, fiddling with a potion recipe he had found in a book of Sale-Dessu’s.
‘I bet nobody would ever do this to the Cahongyuns, and La-Iin’s a little brat,’ he thought. ‘And I’ve never seen Father so worried before. This whole thing really has him scared.’
He hoped that soon enough, Sale-Dessu would feel safe enough to let them go back to using their own names and resume activity as normal.
The potion began to bubble and turned a pink-and-green color. Eul-Bok grimaced. “This stuff stinks! Why would Father ever want to make it!?” Remembering their new identities, Eul-Bok said, “Er, why would Uncle ever want to make it.”
‘I wonder if we’re still supposed to be Warlocks in these identities. I guess people would get pretty suspicious if Father called himself a Pureblood Bearperson or something and was able to put up all these protective spells.’
At that thought, an idea made its way into Eul-Bok’s mind. ‘I wonder if Father’s thought about those possibilities when thinking about all this security stuff.’
Curious, he left the potion behind and head for Sale-Dessu’s room.

“It worked!” Sale-Dessu exclaimed in his excitement. Of the spells Eir-Tyuj had taught him, among them was a protective shield designed to keep intruders from climbing in through the windows. Though it seemed small compared to the other spells she had taught him, Sale-Dessu felt accomplished.
‘Even one step towards protection is a step worth taking,’ he reminded himself. ‘If we’re protected enough, perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to be able to keep this house.’
“Father?”
Sale-Dessu flinched. “Y-yes? Did you need something? I’m busy right now.”
“Yeah, I wanted to help you with the whole security thing.” He sat at the table across from Sale-Dessu, who sighed.
“I know you’ve been working hard, Eul-Bok, but a lot of these spells are incredibly advanced. I can barely pull them off myself. I think you’d strain yourself too much if you tried to use them.”
“I didn’t want to ask if I could help with the spells. I wanted to ask you two things and whether you had thought about them or not.”
“What are they?”
“One, there are spells…or potions…I forget which one, but one of those can change your appearance drastically, can’t they?”
“They’re spells, and they can, but I don’t want to try them. If those people come back and get suspicious of my identity, anything aside from Normal will tip them off if I can’t pull of the powers. Granted, some of the powers other species have I can mimic, but I’m not good enough to entirely falsify being another species. I did consider it, though. What’s the other thing?”
“We’re supposed to be the Tenhues now, right? At home we could probably get away with using our real names. But what do we do one day if La-Iin comes banging on the door, and she starts yelling “SALE-DESSU! SALE-DESSU!” What are we gonna do then?”
Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened. “I hadn’t thought about that.”
“Do you have an idea for it?”
“No, not really. If I tell La-Iin about what’s going on, I get her involved in my problems. But if I don’t, and act like I really am Tenhue Lim-Bam, I’ll break our allyship. I don’t want to turn away the Cahongyuns, but what else can I do? If I act like Sale-Dessu just around her, and these people ask about me, she might say I live next door, but next door is where Tenhue Lim-Bam’s supposed to live, agh…” Sale-Dessu held tight to his head.
“Do you think we’d be better off cutting ties with the Cahongyuns? It’s not going to be a problem for me, Father.”
Sale-Dessu’s expression grew dark. “Maybe it isn’t a problem for you, but I’m fond of the Cahongyuns. I don’t want to lose contact with them because I can’t risk contacting them, but that seems like what the situation is now. Even if I dissuade those people and they leave, who’s to say people won’t notice I’ve gone back to being Astineth Sale-Dessu? I’ve never really had any friends before except within my own family. Maybe they’re not regular friends, and La-Iin and Bes-Isa just call me their ally. But I was so happy to have just that…”
“Father, don’t cry!”
“I won’t.” He dabbed at his eyes. “This whole situation has been a big stress for me, Eul-Bok. I just want things to go back to normal. I didn’t want something like this to happen again. But it’s clear which choice is the smarter one. I will have to cut off ties with the Cahongyuns, take a chance at rebuilding them as the Tenhues, and try and dissuade those pursuers until we can find a new place or they get too discouraged to come back. It’s better than the alternative, anyway.”
“Father, you’re a powerful Warlock. Haven’t you considered some other plan? Maybe there’s something you can do to keep in touch with them. Why don’t you call them?”
“I guess that’s a potential plan….though I don’t know if it would be the smartest…”
“Come on, how could calling them not be a smart plan?”
“I’d have to get their phone number in the first place.”
“It’s one last chance stacked against others. If you don’t get it, what did you lose? Nothing! I’m not a big fan of the Cahongyuns, especially that snotty Bes-Isa, but if you want to keep in touch with them, I think you should give it all you’ve got instead of just give up as soon as it seems improbable.”
“I guess you have a point,” he sighed. “Fine then. I’ll try and get the Cahongyun’s phone number. Maybe there’s even a story I could tell them about that, heh heh….maybe I’m selling my house and I still want to get in touch.”
“That’s the spirit, Father!”
“I’ll do what I can, Eul-Bok,” he said. “But I have other priorities first, and that’s keeping up the security on our house. Oops…I mean, As-Mei.”
“Come on, Father, we’re in the house right now. Don’t worry about it. Besides–how are you going to explain to La-Iin calling me As-Mei by accident?”
“In all honesty, that sounds easier to deal with than the situation we’re actually in.”

—–
Baal-Mist sighed.
“What’s wrong, Baal-Mist?”
“That mission was a thorough failure, that’s for certain. Though that Warlock’s abilities definitely make me believe that he is Sale-Dessu. Who else aside from Eir-Tyuj’s grandson would have that level of power?”
“Who knows?” One of them shrugged. “Anyway, what do you plan on doing now?”
“I need to come up with a new retaliation plan against him, but at the same time I’m worried about the possibility of him making a break for it while we wait. I plan on listening in closely to the bug while I think up one.”
“Have you heard anything through the bug lately?”
“…no.”
“So, what’s your course of action in the event that he does escape before we can do anything about him?”
Baal-Mist fell silent. “He will never escape me entirely.”
The others glanced among each other, thoroughly confused, but it didn’t seem like they’d be getting an answer soon–each time they asked Baal-Mist anything, he remained silent, his eyes closed in thought.