11.649.The Blood of Your Bloodline

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 649
“The Blood of your Bloodline”

La-Iin spent a good portion of Saturday and Sunday collecting blood boxes.
With her recent confidence, La-Iin’s initial plan had been to steal the blood boxes from the local store Mit-Sun went to. But when circumstances changed, she used vuyong found around the house, and vuyong found on walks with Choungetsu. When she stopped by the graveyard where Imagination lived, the girl wasn’t there, but she noticed that there was a lot of scattered vuyong in the abandoned houses nearby.
She also obtained vuyong from other sources, too.
“Why do you need to borrow vuyong? I don’t have much, and anyway, you can just suck my blood.”
“I feel a blood craving coming on, that’s why. Do you want to siphon…I think it’s siphon….do you want to do that to your blood and give it to me in a blood box!?”
“Eek! N-no!” She gave her a small amount of vuyong. “Fine, La-Iin, but you owe me!”
“Heh heh. Don’t worry, Fer-Shi, soon I’ll be more than able to pay you back! If I feel like it, that is…”
Fer-Shi rolled her eyes. “Hey, that sounds like you’re going to be selling something.”
She had made quite a bit of vuyong from searching around on walks, but she couldn’t help the pull of taking vuyong from others. Had circumstances not changed so drastically, she might have even stolen it. But instead she went around asking at a few places for vuyong, preparing threats in advance.
They didn’t always work.
“Do you honestly think I’d give vuyong to a little girl who hates me? Sorry, La-Iin, but the answer’s no!” Dosa-Mina said.
“Why are you even bothering me about this?” San-Kyung snapped.
“Oh, vuyong? I don’t have much, but here you go.” Shuu-Kena dropped some coins into La-Iin’s hand.
“Hm.”
“Something wrong?”
“No.” She held the vuyong close. “Oh, how are you?”
“Me?” Shuu-Kena smiled. “I’m fine, thank you. I’ve been painting a lot this weekend. And my family stole a lot of chocolate ice cream because my mom started bleeding all over the place. And I got to have some of it too.”
“Chocolate ice cream?” La-Iin was intrigued. “Maybe one of these days I should rip my arm open and see if that works.”
“Her arm wasn’t ripped open, though. But I wonder if that would really work? Maybe I should try it too. Oh, I think she was bleeding from her leg.”
“Good information. …although something seems disgustingly familiar about this information…” She shook her head. “I have a mission to finish! Continue painting, Shuu-Kena.”
“Um, okay?” Shuu-Kena sounded genuinely confused, but she waved to La-Iin as she took off.

After she felt she had enough vuyong, La-Iin had forced Mit-Sun to lead her to the store so she could buy blood boxes.
“Where did you get all that vuyong from?” Mit-Sun asked.
“Off the ground when I was out with Choungetsu. There’s a lot of vuyong to find because people are stupid.”
“…what.”
“You should look closely when you walk Choungetsu next. But I might have gotten all the stray vuyong.” La-Iin giggled as she took several blood boxes from the shelf. She struggled slightly under their weight. Mit-Sun helped balance her, and she also helped her take the many blood boxes to the register.
When the Lizardfoot cashier rung them up, La-Iin gave an empty chuckle. The blood boxes were slightly more than what she had.
She turned around and began to curse under her breath.
“Stupid stupid stupid vuyong, this is what happens when you do things legally, someday I’ll show you, someday you’ll see…”
“Don’t worry about it, La-Iin. I can spot you.” She took the pouch of vuyong La-Iin was carrying, handed it to the cashier, and handed him a little extra from her. The cashier sighed in frustration as he went over La-Iin’s scattered vuyong, but in the end it was enough, and La-Iin and Mit-Sun walked home carrying many blood boxes.
“What are all these blood boxes for anyway?”
“I feel a blood craving coming on. And I don’t want to rely on other people to satiate it.”
“That’s strange. I thought you liked drinking from the source.”
“I do, but some of the tastiest people don’t let me. And I’m under certain circumstances right now.”
“What circumstances?”
La-Iin didn’t answer her and instead said, “Mama, can we invite Dami and Granddami over tomorrow?”
“Why?”
“I want to see both of them. You could say I have a…present for them.”
“Uh, sure. In fact, I could probably get them both to come over at the same time. They might be happy to talk again.”
“Good.”
Even with the weight of the blood boxes in her arms, La-Iin walked with confidence. ‘Though it didn’t matter that you said yes,’ she said to herself, ‘I would have invited them over anyway.’

***

The blood boxes were placed in their own part of the refrigerator, and the next day, as promised, Mit-Sun called Asul-Zenza and Beht-Soh.
When La-Iin heard a knock at the door, she came running. Asul-Zenza arrived first, and she leaped into his arms.
“Hello, La-Iin!” Asul-Zenza cooed. La-Iin hugged him tight, then flew away from him.
“To what do I owe the visit?”
“She said she has–”
“Nothing! You’ll find out later.”
“Oh, Asul-Zenza!”
Asul-Zenza turned around. Beht-Soh was behind him, walking up the path to the Cahongyun house. “Hello, Asul-Zenza.”
“Hello, Mr. Cahongyun! I’m glad to see you’re looking better.”
“I’m feeling better too. Though Mit-Sun’s still worried about me. When she called earlier today she said ‘Papa, if you can’t make it, you don’t have to come, alright?'”
“Papa! I mean–Father! Our conversation was private!” Mit-Sun’s face turned bright red. Beht-Soh and Asul-Zenza chuckled as they entered the house. La-Iin noticed they quickly lapsed into a conversation with each other.
Just as she was about to head upstairs, one thing in their conversation piqued her curiosity.
“Sometimes I forget you’re only a bit younger than me, Asul-Zenza. It’s kind of weird.”
“It does feel weird. Ah, I go between feeling like an old Vampire around La-Iin to feeling like a young one around other people.”
“Well, in terms of Vampire years, you’re still younger than me and Mit-Sun. It really is strange.”
“How much older than Dami are you, Granddami?” La-Iin asked.
“Oh, only one or two years. I forget my age sometimes.”
“Really? I thought it was three.”
“Well, it could be. But I’m not seventy yet, so…” Beht-Soh’s face screwed up as he started to calculate his age. La-Iin quickly lost her patience and head upstairs to prepare.

“Why did La-Iin call us here, I wonder?”
“I don’t know, but she’s taking a long time. I don’t mind making dinner while you’re here, Father, but as for Asul-Zenza…”
Asul-Zenza glared. “Oh, come now, Mit-Sun. Stop denying that the animosity between us has decreased recently.”
“Maybe for you, but I still feel it strongly. I’m just better at repressing it now.”
Asul-Zenza scoffed. “I swear, she flip-flops so often on this!”
“That’s Mit-Sun for you.”
“Papa, don’t goad him on! I mean–damn it! Father!”
Asul-Zenza giggled. Mit-Sun threatened him with a fist, but La-Iin arrived before it made contact. Mit-Sun put it down slowly, but La-Iin noticed and narrowed her eyes. She cleared her throat.
“I have gifts for you.”
“Gifts?”
“Really?”
“…not exactly.”
“Hm? Then what do you have for us?”
“For Granddami, here.” La-Iin handed him a crude paper book. When Beht-Soh opened the book, he saw several pages of crayon-drawn clothing. “You said you were learning how to sew, right? Try sewing these.”
“Oh….um.” Beht-Soh flipped through the book with a troubled expression on his face, but he smiled when he caught La-Iin’s eye. “I’ll certainly try, La-Iin. Thank you.”
“And for Dami!”
“Hm?”
“I used Mama’s computer and–”
“You used my computer?” Mit-Sun asked. La-Iin ignored her.
“In a Manemican Vampire society they’re welcoming Vampires from all over the place to come by and visit. Apparently they’re holding a special Festival of Blood over there.”
“Really? Oh, but I would have to prepare for something that far.”
“You should go with your Mama and Dami, too.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Why not? They’re Vampires.”
Asul-Zenza blinked. “I guess I could always ask them. I only hope they have time off….it would be fun.”
“And go ahead and tell Ei-Tio’s family too, and tell Ei-Tio that I’m preparing something special for her and I won’t be able to see her until later. I don’t want her seeing it before it’s done.”
“Alright, then, I will.”
“How do you know this is even true?”
“I’ll look into it. I actually have a Vaelis-Enlash dictionary in my house, so I think I’ll be fine if any resources happen to be in Enlash.”
“That’s what I have for you.”
“Thank you, La-Iin,” Beht-Soh said, though he still cast a troubled look at the book.
“Yes. If this is true, and my parents have off time, it ! But what about you?”
“I have school,” she grumbled. “But don’t worry. I got several blood boxes yesterday. I don’t think I’ll be able to go to the Festival of Blood in Vaelyn anyway. They’re having it too far away from Bledger.”
“How do you know this?” Mit-Sun asked. She sounded genuinely confused. Again La-Iin ignored her as she talked with Beht-Soh and Asul-Zenza about what she had just given them.
‘Not bad,’ she thought. ‘A lot easier than Ai-Reia, anyway.’

—–
“Oh, Mama.”
“What is it, La-Iin?”
“I was thinking about you, too. Have you ever heard of a place called Vibrator?”
“…vibrator? No, and I’m not sure I want to.”
“They have vibrating furniture inside so you can relax. I saw the prices and I asked around.”
“How do you know about this place?” Mit-Sun sounded uncertain.
“Me and Fer-Shi were…considering going to it once, but we didn’t have the vuyong. And I thought you could use a break, so I also thought I’d tell you about it.”
“What’s the catch?”
“Nothing.”
“Why are you telling me about this?”
“So you can relax. You could even invite…ugh…Haner if you wanted to. In fact, he likes Makeshire, doesn’t he? There’s also a Makeshire play.”
“…”
“…so can I sleep over with Fer-Shi sometime soon?”
“That’s it?” Mit-Sun said with a chuckle. “I honestly thought it was something nefarious…geez, you’ve been pretty nice lately, huh? But how much do you want to sleep over with Fer-Shi that you’re even okay with me inviting Uil-Cur?”
“Very. She mentioned something to me at school that I have to see in person.”
“Alright then, La-Iin, just tell me when you want to go. I’ll look into these things you mentioned.”
She turned around, but then asked, “Hey, why did you give that book to Father, and tell Asul-Zenza about that festival anyway?”
“I want more clothes, and I’m hoping Dami will bring me blood. So don’t you worry, Mama. My “kindness” is all out of selfishness.”
Mit-Sun chuckled. “It’s nice all the same. It still feels a little unsettling, though…”
‘Now how to get rid of her unsettled feeling. There has to be something I’m overlooking…’
Throughout Sunday night, La-Iin continued to think on what ways she could make her “kind” deeds seem more selfish.

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9.647.A Reason to Trust You

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 647
“A Reason to Trust You”

It was dinner time at the Sara house, and all in the family were sitting at the table–all except for Nim-Ghini.
“Your father has been letting himself get arrested too much lately, I swear.”
That, as it happened, was the source of the conversation at the table.
“Certainly, I wonder if he’s losing his finesse.”
“That’s why we, the next generation, should take his place!”
“In due time, Kyu-Aseri. You two lack the physical strength needed to take over completely.”
“What about me? I’m nearly a major. Of course, that’s going by law…which I don’t.”
“Hm, true…”
“I think you don’t deserve to head the Saras right now, Ther-Aoughin.”
“And what would make you say that, Kyu-Nhogo?”
“What you have over Kyu-Aseri and I in physical strength, you lack in mental torture.”
“I do prefer to just assault people and end it.”
“That’s your problem. You lack the finesse of mental torture. That and manipulation.”
“Oh, sweet, sweet, manipulation! I have to say that is my favorite of all the mental tortures. Have you manipulated anyone before, Mama?”
“Aha ha. What a stupid question to ask, Kyu-Aseri, of course I have. I’ve manipulated Ther-Aoughin, and I’ve manipulated Shuu-Kena, and I manipulated your father into getting me pregnant with her, speaking of…I’ve even manipulated you and Kyu-Nhogo.”
“Ooh!”
“Manipulation is a staple of an evil person. You should learn it in due time, Ther-Aoughin. You can ask Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo about it. It seems to be their field of expertise.”
“I see. And I suppose in turn I could help them bulk up to do physical damage. All in the interest of the supremacy of the Saras.”
Shuu-Kena poked at her food.
“Is it really a staple of an evil person, manipulation?”
“Why do you ask, Shuu-Kena?”
“A neutral such as herself apparently does not understand the goings-on of the evil mind.”
“Even with an evil ‘friend’ herself.”
“I would say it is, Shuu-Kena. In fact, I just did. Manipulation is very important to evil people, and knowing how to do it well even moreso. We live in a world where sometimes it’s easier to use people than it is to just mindlessly beat them out of your way. Any evil person worth their salt is a manipulator whether good or bad, and if they aren’t thinking of it they’re either ignorant or they might as well be neutral.”
“True, if you’re evil you’ll likely manipulate others in some way or another!”
“Especially if one has lofty political goals such as domination over an area. Manipulation is a trick of the trade for politicians as well!”
Her family began to laugh raucously, but their talk only made Shuu-Kena feel uncomfortable. She could remember why she and La-Iin had become friends–she had only opened up to her once she knew her family was evil.
Was it possible La-Iin was manipulating her?

***

The next day at school, Shuu-Kena couldn’t help but heave a sigh.
Science class had just ended, and now she sat on the bench in the recess area, watching La-Iin and Fer-Shi play. She wasn’t one to believe what her family said, but it did make her wonder.
It was impossible to know if La-Iin was manipulating her unless she did something to outright prove it. But with the circumstances of their friendship, she felt there was reason to be concerned.
She watched as Cae-Bougen flew up behind Fer-Shi, who was falling off the monkey bars. La-Iin began to laugh, and Fer-Shi growled at her. Cae-Bougen said something that she couldn’t understand, and Fer-Shi smiled in response. She turned back to La-Iin, again said something that couldn’t be understood, and went off with him.
La-Iin seemed frustrated. She flew over Shuu-Kena’s head. Shuu-Kena waved to her.
“Oh, hello, Sara.”
“Hi, La-Iin.”
‘Wait. Fer-Shi’s off with Veiner right now. Maybe this is my chance to get an idea of where I stand…’
Shuu-Kena knew she didn’t want to stop being friends with La-Iin, but perhaps it would at least be reassuring to know whether she was being manipulated or not.
“Good timing. Can I talk to you about something?”
La-Iin landed and stood in front of her. “What?”
“I wanted to ask your opinion on something my family told me about yesterday.” La-Iin rolled her eyes. “You know how they’re evil. Well, my mom and my siblings said that they think that manipulation is a defining trait in every evil person, and evil people who don’t manipulate others might as well be neutral. Basically. I wanted to know what you thought.”
“Manipulation is a helpful skill for an evil person,” La-Iin said. Shuu-Kena lowered her head. “I don’t know about evil people who don’t know manipulation being neutrals, though.”
“I see…well, I guess it would be. It makes sense…manipulation seems like one of those ‘evil’ actions. Of course evil people would like it.”
‘Don’t get so upset!’ She chided herself. ‘You knew this was probably coming. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about you. Although it probably says something about her priorities…’
Shuu-Kena couldn’t help but feel immensely disappointed in La-Iin. And La-Iin could tell by the look on her face.
‘Damn it! No! Not so close! Now she believes I think the same way as those Sara idiots. What now…’
La-Iin bit into her finger.
“…of course, not every evil person uses that manipulation, or at least, not constantly,” she said casually. Shuu-Kena looked up.
“You don’t have to reassure me, La-Iin.”
“I was just saying the truth. Besides…” La-Iin pondered her next words carefully. “Not everyone I associate with needs to be manipulated. Like you, for example.”
“Huh?”
“If I were to manipulate you it would probably be for information on your family…which I don’t need because in my opinion, your family is nothing but evil failures! No, I keep you as a friend for different reasons.”
“Like what?”
“You’re enjoyable to be around.”
“Really?”
“Yes. I don’t like to associate with people who annoy me constantly. Such as your family.”
Shuu-Kena’s dejected expression slowly brightened, though La-Iin could see she still wasn’t completely happy.
“You really don’t like them, huh. I always thought that was kind of strange.”
“Evil people don’t always get along, Sara. I think we get along even worse than goody-goodies do.”
“Maybe. That sounds like it would make sense.”
“Sara, you need to learn a lesson.”
“Hm?”
“I’m not the same as your family just because I’m evil. You said it yourself, you see me as different. So quit it.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. “Yeah, sorry, Cahongyun. You’re right. Sometimes even though I know you better than that, I can’t help but find my mind slipping back into that mindset. I guess I just have a hard time trusting evil people. I have nothing against them, but my family tends to make me think they’re all the same…but they’re just like good people and neutral people, all doing things for different reasons. I’m sorry I compared you two.”
“You should be, and I don’t like accepting apologies, but being compared to those failures is horrible.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. La-Iin smirked. ‘Good. This should be good enough for now. But she seems easy enough to appease. Convincing her entirely will be another story…but I can’t let her stupid family make her turn against me. I need her on my side.’
La-Iin sighed. ‘That reminds me of someone else I thought that about…’

—–
“Oh, I wanted to ask you something about manipulation, Mama.”
“What’s that, Kyu-Aseri?”
“Do you think Shuu-Kena’s friend manipulates her?” She said with a yawn.
“If she’s truly evil, then yes, she does. But that’s not important. Rest now so that tomorrow you have the energy to do what is necessary.”
Kyu-Aseri nodded and closed her eyes.

7.645.Think Positive

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 645
“Think Positive”

As soon as she woke up, La-Iin could smell food cooking. Without getting dressed or even checking the time, she got out of bed and head downstairs, yawning. Choungetsu, who was sitting in front of her door, followed her downstairs with his tongue lolling.
When she arrived downstairs, Mit-Sun was setting down plates, a wide smile on her face. She continued to smile when she noticed La-Iin, though her tone sounded contrary to her expression.
“How come you’re still in pajamas? Don’t you usually get dressed before you come downstairs?”
“What time is it?” La-Iin yawned.
“It’s pretty early. Earlier than we normally get up. I felt energetic, so I decided to make breakfast now. We’ll probably have plenty of time before we have to leave, but I’m sure even if we stay home a little later than we should you’ll still make it to school on time. You have the benefit of wings and legs on your side. So I don’t think it matters.”
Mit-Sun’s smile deeply unsettled La-Iin. “Why are you so happy?”
“Oh, just things that have happened.”
“Like what things?
“Hey, you’ve been happy lately too. Why am I getting interrogated about my happiness?”
“Because mine makes clear sense. Yours doesn’t.”
Mit-Sun rolled her eyes, but her smile persisted. It only made the unsettled feeling in La-Iin stronger. “Well, my Papa–I mean Father–Father got out of the hospital recently. And also I’ve just been feeling pretty happy lately. Things have been going good for me, it seems. And that’s good. I really thought I was going to become one of those ‘dedicate your life to your kid’-type parents. I’m glad to see I can enjoy my own life as well as take care of you.”
La-Iin gagged. “Your happiness is astoundingly sickening, Mama. Somehow it’s even more intolerable than your half-assed goody-goodyness…”
“Oh, be quiet. I’ve been trying to think positive. Things have been great for me. You’re happy, even though you’ve been acting up, our life at home is fine, my Father is fine, even Asul-Zenza’s been less annoying lately.”
“You, complimenting Dami!?”
“Well, he’s trying his best, and he does love you, so I’ll give him that. But not to mention, Mrs. Eteibreit gave me a raise! It isn’t much, but it just seems really weird, because she’s been so grouchy lately! But you know what, I’ll take any goodness I can get. If even Mrs. Eteibreit is being nicer to me, then I’ve got to have some sort of luck on my side. That’s definitely reason to think positive in my book. And if I do, maybe if things start going downhill again, I’ll know how to handle them better.”
La-Iin nearly vomited. ‘It’s intolerable! A happy Mama is one thing. This is a whole nother! I need to knock her down soon. I don’t know how long I can take this!’
The two finished their breakfast, Mit-Sun quicker than La-Iin, who continued to gag throughout the meal.
“What, you don’t like it? Am I really that bad a cook?”
“No, this is one of your better meals. Unfortunately you brought something to the table that destroyed my appetite…”
Mit-Sun checked all of what was on the table and the floor. The only thing she could assume La-Iin was talking about was Choungetsu, who stared at her intently. She beckoned to Choungetsu and he ran over to her, though La-Iin continued to gag even after he had left.
The two got ready for school and work. They were ready long before they had to leave, as Mit-Sun had said.
“Now what?”
“I don’t know about you, but I have a little something to do.”
As if on cue, someone knocked at the door. Mit-Sun ran to answer it.
“Papa!” She hugged him close.
“Hi, Mit-Sun.” He hugged her back.
“I’m so glad to see you. Are you sure you’re feeling okay, though? I know it wasn’t that bad, but–”
“Don’t worry about me, Mit-Sun. I know I’m older now, but I’m not that old. I’m not even seventy yet. And I was able to walk all this way, see?”
“I see,” she chuckled, relief evident in her tone. “Still, it’s good to see you. I’m glad you came over. I’ll have to go to work soon, though.”
“That’s alright. Remember what you said?”
“Yes. It’ll be good for La-Iin if someone else is home when she gets back from school. Who gets home first isn’t consistent.”
“Speaking of, hi, La-Iin!” Beht-Soh waved at her. La-Iin blinked up at him.
“Hello, Granddami. Tell Mama to stop being so cheerful for me, okay?”
“Huh?”
“I think she’s a little annoyed by me being in such a good mood. I’ve been trying to tell her it’s not fair, but well, that’s La-Iin for you.”
“You do look pretty happy. You’ve been smiling almost nonstop since I got here.”
“You just got here,” La-Iin said. “I’ve had to see her doofy smile for longer.”
“What has you so happy? Did something good happen?”
“Oh, not particularly, I’m just trying to think positive like I told La-Iin. And there’s a lot for me to be grateful for. I may not have many friends, but the friends I do have are good friends. I may not like Asul-Zenza, but as annoying as he is he’s not a bad man, and he does love La-Iin. I have things to look forward to, my boss gave me a raise, I’m able to take care of La-Iin and she’s been happy…I have a lot to be grateful for, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with my life from here on out. I still haven’t decided.”
Mit-Sun glanced at La-Iin. “It’s weird. I used to think life would work better with your plans. And now I’m having to replan what I expected. It might be weird, but it is an interesting experience. I guess you could just say I’ve enjoyed the past few months and the future seems bright.”
La-Iin gagged.
“Oh, cut that out.”
“Not until you cut out your obnoxious cheerfulness. And you obviously know nothing of planning and replanning judging by your talk!”
Mit-Sun’s face twitched in agitation. “You just don’t want me to be happy, do you?” The words were said with an odd cheer, and they sent a shiver up Beht-Soh’s spine.
“Not like this, I don’t.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “I guess I’m not going to change your mind. Well, we’ll have to leave soon, Father, but would you like some breakfast?”
“Alright. Thank you, Mit-Sun!”
“It’s no problem.”

***

At work, Mit-Sun’s cheerful mood was still obvious. Her coworkers noticed her carry out work she normally hated with a smile, greeting some of them as she went along her way. It stirred up quite a bit of confusion.
At least, among the coworkers that didn’t know her as well.
“I still can’t believe Mrs. Eteibreit gave you a raise! I wish she’d do that for me,” Leirhyn sighed.
“It’s something that probably only happens once in a decade,” Mit-Sun sighed.
“Well, I think you deserved it. As much as I would have liked that raise, you’re the one with a child to think about.” Uil-Cur said.
“I don’t know why she gave me a raise, but I’m glad for it. I have been in a good mood recently. Maybe all that rubbed off on my work.”
“Maybe!” Leirhyn said.
Focused on talking to her two friends, Mit-Sun was oblivious to Eteibreit’s presence behind her until her boss stroked her with her tail.
“Eek!”
“Cahongyun,” she said, her tone taciturn. “It looks like you’ve completed work for the day. How perfect that you haven’t gone home yet.”
“It is?”
“Yes. I was going to ask you if you’d come to my office.” She glared at Leirhyn and Uil-Cur, though her gaze lingered on the latter as she said, “Don’t you still have work to do?”
“I actually finished that and then some, Mrs. Eteibreit. Mit-Sun has been here for a while.”
Eteibreit huffed. Mit-Sun waved to her two friends, then followed Eteibreit to her office. Despite her resolution to think positively, she couldn’t help but get a bad feeling.
‘Mrs. Eteibreit calling me to her office is never anything good…I just wonder if it’s the disturbing kind of bad or the detrimental kind of bad.’
Eteibreit sat down.
“I’ve noticed you’ve been in a good mood lately, Cahongyun. Care to explain?”
Mit-Sun was confused.
“Well, yes. There’s been a lot for me to enjoy lately. A lot I’m grateful for.”
Eteibreit’s nose wrinkled. “I see.”
“Is something wrong, Mrs. Eteibreit? You don’t look all that happy.”
Eteibreit closed her eyes for a short while; then, she said, “Of course I’m not.”
“Hm?”
“The person I just gave a raise made a grave mistake, after all.”
“What!?”
“Yes, you messed up something important while doing your job yesterday, Cahongyun. How disappointing.”
“B–but I was paying close attention! What did I mess up!?”
“Tsk tsk. You don’t even know the fatal mistake you made.”
“What is that!?”
“Go and find it yourself, Cahongyun. Prove your competence to me.” By now Eteibreit was smiling. To Mit-Sun, it seemed a sadistic smile. “Prove you are worthy of your raise by finding out what your mistake is by yourself!”
Mit-Sun had a bad feeling. She rushed out Eteibreit’s office and passed by Leirhyn and Uil-Cur.
“Cahongyun?”
“Sorry, something urgent came up!”
She checked the records of all she had done yesterday. Then, she checked the papers on her desk, the papers for tomorrow, and even went to the extent of checking all the papers she had sorted, all she had gone over and certified. Nothing seemed out of order, and she was starting to feel frazzled.
She returned to Eteibreit’s office.
“Mrs. Eteibreit? I looked through everything I did yesterday and I couldn’t find the mistake you were talking about. I don’t think I made a mistake, but if there’s something I messed up, you have to tell me! You can’t just threaten me and not even give me a hint as to…wait a second…”
Eteibreit was smiling. Her shoulders were shaking slightly, as if she was holding back laughter.
“You tricked me, didn’t you!?”
“Ah, I said it would prove your competency. I should have said your incompetency. You never fail to disappoint me, Cahongyun. At least in how disappointing you are, that is.”
“What!?”
“Just for that display of stupidity, I’m docking your pay.”
Mit-Sun gaped.
“Try thinking positively about that.”
“Is this what this is all about? Why is that making you so angry? In fact, why have you been so angry lately, Mrs. Eteibreit?”
“This is how I always am, Cahongyun. Say what you will, but you already know that.”
“I–”
From the look in Eteibreit’s eyes, Mit-Sun could see there was no further room for complaint. Frustrated, she left Eteibreit’s office and stomped back to her friends.
“What happened, Mit-Sun? You seem frazzled.”
She sighed. “It’s nothing. Nothing bad enough to get me down, anyway. I just really need to look for another job. But no matter what Eteibreit tries to do, or what La-Iin says, I’m not going to stop trying to think positively. Things have been looking up for me. And if I keep thinking positively, I’m sure there will be a better payoff than if I stopped!”
“She’s certainly fired up about this whole positive thinking thing,” Leirhyn said.
“She is. I should take her advice. I could have used it some months back…”
“Still, makes you wonder what happened with Mrs. Eteibreit to get her more fired up like this!”

—–
“Hi, Mit-Sun.”
“Oh. Mama.”
“Hello, La-Iin. Father.” Mit-Sun stretched. “Would you two like to go out somewhere?”
“Why are you asking?”
“Because my pay got docked for Thursday and Friday and it’ll throw a bone into my shopping budget,” she sighed. “We might as well do something fun while I still have the extra vuyong.”
“What are you planning?” La-Iin asked, her tone almost accusatory.
“Nothing, really. I was hoping you two had suggestions.”
Beht-Soh raised his hand. “Well, how about we go to the enigmatic part of town? I’ve heard there are whole parts of Bledger that are on the border of other cities that have some really interesting places to go.”
“Hm….as long as it’s not near Iecation.”
“Why not that one?” Mit-Sun asked. “But sure, that sounds like fun. But let’s plan it out a little more first, alright?”

4.642.Warp of Reality

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 642
“Warp of Reality”

“Father, can I make a request?”
“What is it, Eul-Bok?”
“Can we go see Grepeta soon? It’s been a while since we last saw her, and I’ve been wanting to practice spells with her lately.”
“I don’t mind doing that. You’re right, it has been a while. And I’m sure you’d like to go someplace aside from this house.”
“I don’t hate our house! Although it is nice to get out every now-and-then.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “I don’t mind. I’ve managed to get some sleep after doing all that research for La-Iin, and the last few days have been lazy. So why not go someplace? Although can we do your check-up first?”
“Alright! I just hope Grepeta’s willing to see us.”
“I’m sure she will be, Eul-Bok. Even though Apeta can be rough sometimes, I know she’s a good Witch.”
‘Despite what so many other people would say,’ Sale-Dessu thought. He decided it would be better if he left that thought unvoiced.

***

Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok teleported into Eir-Tyuj’s house. They didn’t spot her right away, but were able to find her by the sound of coughing.
“Apeta, are you alright?” Sale-Dessu asked. Eir-Tyuj was sitting at a table, coughing somewhat violently. Eul-Bok was taken aback.
When her coughing died down, Eir-Tyuj took a breath.
“Excuse me, Sale-Dessu. What did you say?”
“Are you alright?”
“Alright enough as you can be after hacking up a lung,” she said. “But truly, I’m fine. Just a cough. The remnants of a sickness I had a few days before you two decided to invade.”
“Sorry, Grepeta. But how else are we supposed to get here?”
“I don’t mean ill by it, Eul-Bok. I’m well-aware of your situation, and of your father’s nervousness.”
“Apeta, please…”
“Anyway, I’m old! This stuff stays with me longer now that I’m of advanced age. For a Witch I’ve lived quite a time, and Witches already live longer than most others! I wonder if they would consider me a super-centenarian. I forget what age qualifies you for that.”
“Well, we’re glad you’re okay, Grepeta!”
“Are you really sure you’re okay? That coughing sounded rough…”
“I’m certain. I could be asking the same to you, Mr. Eyebags.”
Sale-Dessu touched his face. “There’s nothing wrong with me being worried about you, Apeta.” He hadn’t expected his tone to take an edge, but he didn’t notice until after he had already spoken. To his relief, Eir-Tyuj didn’t seem upset.
“Of course there isn’t. Now, you two–why are you here? Simply here to see ol’ Apeta, or, in your case, Grepeta?”
“We came at Eul-Bok’s request,” Sale-Dessu explained.
“I see. What made you want to come and visit me?”
“Remember how you and Father said I have potential?”
“Yes. I don’t forget the potential of my descendants, after all.”
“Well, I’ve been wanting to practice more with you! Practicing with Father is fine, but it’s nice to practice with you, too. I get a different kind of education with you.”
“I’m sure Sale-Dessu is more gentle. But what could you want to learn from me that Sale-Dessu could not teach you? My age has made it harder for me to pull off certain powers, and I’m sure Sale-Dessu knows most of mine.”
“Well, do you think it could be possible for me to try another unfinished spell?”
“Definitely not!” Sale-Dessu exclaimed.
“Absolutely not!” Eir-Tyuj exclaimed. “I understand your faith in your abilities, but such things are dangerous, Eul-Bok.”
Sale-Dessu was half-expecting Eul-Bok to look dejected, but instead he smiled. “I was expecting that response. Don’t worry, I haven’t been thinking about unfinished spells much recently. Although I did see a few interesting ones while Father was doing his research.”
“What research?” Eir-Tyuj asked.
“Research on a supposed Vampire ability,” Sale-Dessu said. “I learned some interesting things. Maybe I’ll tell you about them after you’re done with Eul-Bok.”
“Hm. So what did you really come here to learn?”
“Reality warping!” Sale-Dessu flinched. “Father knows how to reality warp, but I’ve heard you know how to control your warp better than he does.”
“You would have heard right, then. But what brings this on?”
“I was thinking, reality warping could be a good ability to have. Even though it can be dangerous, if you use it in the right way it could be helpful. But since Father isn’t all that good at controlling his, I thought I’d go to the master.”
Eir-Tyuj smiled, though Eul-Bok felt that it was a sad smile. “I’d be more than happy to teach you, but it has been ages since my last warp. Not only am I elderly, but I mostly gave up practicing the power after the retaliation I got from using it. If I had never experimented with that power, I could have avoided some tragedy, and so could have Sale-Dessu…”
Sale-Dessu lowered his head.
“Don’t feel sad, Grepeta! I think your only problem was that since you were still working on it, you didn’t keep it contained. And I know you can keep warps contained. So teach me how to reality warp, and how to keep it contained, too!”
“Are you sure about this, Eul-Bok?” Sale-Dessu asked.
“Yes!”
Eir-Tyuj stood up. “There’s one other problem to my teaching you how to reality warp, however.”
“Hm?”
“Yours will be unstable at first, that is almost guaranteed, unless you are more of a prodigy than I believe. Sale-Dessu and I may not be able to detect that reality has been warped. It will be up to you to bring the warp to an end.”
“I understand, Grepeta. But I really think reality warping would be a helpful skill to have!”
“Well, if you’re that certain, than I can’t turn you down! But there’s a lot for you to learn before you try it. So prepare yourself!”
“I’m ready, Grepeta!”
“This all gives me a bad feeling…”
“Ah, don’t be so concerned, Sale-Dessu. I’ll make sure nothing goes out of control.”

Over the next few hours, Eul-Bok learned several things. He learned how much concentration it took to make a proper reality warp, and how to end it too. Eir-Tyuj mostly taught him necessary details, like the focus one needed for a proper warp or warning him about the damage it could cause to his psyche, but she also told him about less important details such as how he could make the reality look cartoonish, or how to create an activator for it as opposed to initiating it himself.
“I could have told him about making an activator,” Sale-Dessu said.
“I’m sure you could have, but I’m the one he asked to explain this,” Eir-Tyuj said playfully. “Well, then, now that we’ve gone over all that, how would you like me to show you how it’s done? Then you may try it for yourself.”
“Okay!”
Eir-Tyuj retrieved her wand and a small book. “For backup,” she told them. “It certainly has been a while since I last used this power…exercise caution, boys. I do know how to keep it from sucking you in, but it has been so long that I make no guarantees.”
“You’ll make an innocent one then, right, Apeta?” Sale-Dessu said.
“If that’s your request. Though I always was better with the more violent ones. Ha!”
She held out her wand, and Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok watched as the world around them began to change. Sale-Dessu was quick to notice that the area around him looked like an etheral version of the house he had initially lived in with his mother and grandmother. A wave of nostalgia washed over him.
“Wow, this looks like an actual location!”
“It is an actual location, in a way,” Eir-Tyuj panted. She seemed worn out. “I inspired it off of someplace I lived once. I was lazy this time.”
“Apeta…this is the house we lived in with Mamun.”
“I see someone noticed the inspiration,” Eir-Tyuj said with a smile. “But I also see another someone is eager to try using this power for himself.”
Eir-Tyuj began to return reality to normal. “Now you may try it. But remember what I told you. And as Sale-Dessu warned me, your reality should most likely be an innocent one. It is likely at least Sale-Dessu will be caught up in the reality.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, Father, you did tell me that when La-Iin hit your reality activator you didn’t notice anything changed until later,” Eul-Bok said. Sale-Dessu’s face flushed.
“I suppose you have a point…”
“What is this about some “La-Iin” hitting a reality activator?” Eir-Tyuj asked.
“It’s a long story, Apeta. And I’m sure that Eul-Bok is impatient.”
“I’d let you tell her, but I can’t stand La-Iin myself. Alright, I think I understand now. I’m going to do my best!”
“Don’t be nervous, boy. It can interfere with the reality.”
“Gotcha.”
“And after this is done, you have a story to tell me.”
“Agh…”
Eul-Bok took a deep breath, then began to focus on an image in his head. He grasped his wand and began to try and bring the image to life. With his eyes closed, Eul-Bok couldn’t tell if he was succeeding or not, and even though he had understood Eir-Tyuj’s words he still felt uncertain. Curious, he opened one eye, and gasped.
The scene around him had changed, but it was far from what he had imagined.
Instead, he, Sale-Dessu, and Eir-Tyuj were in a flower field. Sale-Dessu was picking flowers and handing them to Eir-Tyuj, who spoke in a high-pitched voice.
“Why, thank you, my grandson!”
She then burst into coughing. Eul-Bok was dumbfounded. He tried to move, but found he couldn’t. Not a single part of him would move, leaving him stuck in place watching his family play with flowers in the field.
To his relief, after what felt like two hours at the least, the reality wore off. Eir-Tyuj and Sale-Dessu closed their eyes, then opened them and blinked them.
“Wha?”
“Did…did you do a reality warp, Eul-Bok? I feel like I was just holding something.”
“I can remember a flower field, but only vaguely…”
“I didn’t do anything!” Eul-Bok said. “All of a sudden while I was working on my reality warp, everything changed to a flower field and you and Father started picking flowers and talking in high-pitched voices!”
“It sounds like you really went for an innocent reality warp,” Sale-Dessu chuckled.
“But–but Father, you don’t understand! I didn’t warp reality! All of a sudden a reality warp just happened! When it happened I couldn’t move! Aren’t you supposed to be able to move in your own warp?”
“That is true, but it can take a lot out of someone to perform a reality warp,” Eir-Tyuj explained. “And you are a V-Puppet. It’s possible that is why you were not able to move, because it took so much out of you and your species of origin cannot move without a power’s assistance.”
“But I wasn’t even imagining a flower field!”
Eir-Tyuj shook her head. “I know you believe you didn’t warp reality, Eul-Bok, but that is simply not possible. My house is under high defenses right now. No outside reality warp should be able to get in. It was your first reality warp. Perhaps it didn’t go as you expect, but that is to be expected, and at least it sounds like it went better than Maie-Jussa’s first.”
“Mamun warped reality?” Sale-Dessu asked.
“Yes, but only once when she was young. It was a bit of a disaster, so she never tried again. But it wasn’t so much of a disaster that it warranted mentioning.”
“Seriously Grepeta, I didn’t do it!”
“He seems pretty convinced,” Sale-Dessu said. Eir-Tyuj shook her head. “Conviction or not, my house is under high security. Even with my sickness, I know that security has not wavered.”
“Grepeta!”
“Um–ah–why don’t we all calm down for now with some stories?” Sale-Dessu suggested. He could hear the desperation in Eul-Bok’s tone, and the agitation starting in Eir-Tyuj’s. ‘I really don’t want them to fight!’
“I’ll tell you an embarrassing one from when I was five. A–and didn’t you want to learn about La-Iin and the reality activator, Apeta?”
“I do.”
“Um…okay, Father,” Eul-Bok sighed. Sale-Dessu bit his lip.
‘Who do I believe? I don’t want to believe that another reality warp penetrated Apeta’s defenses, but at the same time Eul-Bok seems really convinced. And with his ability, I’m sure he would have been able to move around. What really happened just now?’
The whole incident left Sale-Dessu with a sick, uncertain feeling even as he worked to try and calm Eir-Tyuj and Eul-Bok.

—–
“Ciuthia…I’ll admit it, I’m scared.”
“Do not worry, Baal-Mist. I have told you all that you need to know. And if it will reassure you further, I know a way to counteract a reality warp.”
“You do?”
Ire-Salin nodded.
“That will be a helpful ability in the future…alright, then, here goes…”
Baal-Mist took a deep breath. Just pulling off a reality warp of his own sounded like a terrifying concept. But it was something he knew he had to try.
He focused on an image in his mind and set to work creating it in the way described by Ire-Salin, moving his wand around. He didn’t open his eyes until he had finished, and when he did he noticed he was surrounded by a vast flower field instead of a room in Ire-Salin’s house.
Ire-Salin was picking flowers and she handed them to Baal-Mist. “For you, my dearest,” she said.
Baal-Mist accepted the flowers and looked around. “I really did it…but it looks like Ciuthia is lost in the warp.”
“I will go and pick more,” she said cheerfully, then ran off to do just that.
Baal-Mist explored the reality warp for a while, but it seemed that he had pulled it off as simplistically as it had appeared in his mind, a vast flower field that went on for what seemed like eternity. Once he felt he had had enough of that–and of Ire-Salin’s strange behavior–he set to ending the reality warp.
Ire-Salin closed her eyes and dropped a glass sculpture. She gasped when it hit the ground.
“How was it?”
“It seemed to be successful, but it was simplistic. I suppose that’s good enough.”
“I see…” Ire-Salin’s cheeks flushed. “Well, perhaps we have had enough practicing for today. Are you still nervous, Baal-Mist?”
“A little less so, now,” he sighed. “As long as I have you helping me, I think I might be okay. But that reminds me, I would love to see one of your reality warps someday, Ciuthia, just to get a better idea of how to work mine.”
“If that is what you want, then I sheall give it to you at your request. Say the word, Baal-Mist.”
“Well, that can wait. I’m still a little nervous from the warp. Why don’t I fix that glass sculpture of yours for now?”
“It does not matter, but if you wish to do so, then do so, Baal-Mist.”

24.632.Reasoning

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 632
“Reasoning”

Asul-Zenza flew above Vaelyn, enjoying the feel of the wind.
‘It’s cooled down fairly quickly, hasn’t it?’ He always loved the way autumn flights felt. They relaxed him.
While flying, he noticed that he was in Bledger. He even spotted the neighborhood where La-Iin and Mit-Sun lived a short distance away.
‘I wonder…’
September had been somewhat of a strange month. Mit-Sun had invited Asul-Zenza and his parents, along with other members of La-Iin’s family, out to spend time with her, and he had been receiving calls from La-Iin with what felt like more frequency than usual.
‘I suppose we’ve been getting on better terms ever since 2014, but it does seem really strange. I only seem to feel complacent when there’s no reason to be…’
A sudden curiosity overtaking him, he decided to head down and visit the Cahongyun house. Once he spotted it he landed.
He knocked on the door. Mit-Sun answered it fairly quickly.
“I thought I asked you to warn before you visited.”
“Sorry, but this was slightly spur of the moment. I had a sudden curiosity and I figured it would be easier to stop here briefly rather than head home and call you.”
“Call me?” She asked. “Why? You’re here for me?”
Her expression suddenly hardened.
“I am, but as usual whenever I visit you, it isn’t for you, it’s somewhat about La-Iin.”
“Of course. …somewhat?” Mit-Sun stared up at him. “Hurry it up. I’m a little busy right now…”
Asul-Zenza noticed that Mit-Sun was holding tight to one arm. “Is something wrong?”
“Er–that’s none of your business.”
“It could be my business. Does it have to do with La-Iin!?”
Mit-Sun’s face relaxed. “No. She’s upstairs doing…something to Choungetsu. I’m not exactly sure what. If you want I can call her down here.”
“No, that won’t be necessary. If you’re busy it’s best I leave as soon as possible, and if I see her I won’t want to.”
Mit-Sun nodded. “Well?”
“You’ve seemed very kind lately, Mit-Sun.”
“Is this some sort of attempt to butter me up?”
“Not at all! I was just wondering what spurred the sudden kindness? Even as you were becoming more at ease with me being a part of La-Iin’s life you still had your contradictions. You would go between wanting La-Iin to bond with me and wanting me to disappear completely from your life.”
“I still don’t like you, in case you were wondering.”
“I figured…” Asul-Zenza sighed. “A-anyway, but yes, lately you’ve been seeming just completely alright with it. And it’s not just me either it seems, seeing as you invited my parents over to see her as well. So I was wondering, why the change? It seems so sudden to me…or perhaps there’s something I’ve missed?”
“Because–”
Before Mit-Sun finished, her eyes widened and she turned and ran back into her house. Asul-Zenza was tempted to follow her inside, but he was certain she would get mad at him for doing that. Still, the temptation remained, so he peeked his head in, only for Mit-Sun to run right past him seconds later.
“Mit-Sun? Is something the matter?”
“I’ll tell you later, Asul-Zenza,” Mit-Sun said, fixing her jacket. “I need to get to the hospital.”
“The hospital!?”
“Yes! Do me a favor and watch La-Iin for me, alright?”
“Th–the hospital? Mit-Sun, is everything alright?”
“It will be if I make it there in enough time….damn it, when are visiting hours over again?”
“Mit-Sun, you know how much I would love to watch La-Iin, but I think I need to help you here!”
“Help me? How?” Mit-Sun sounded genuinely confused.
“You need to get to a hospital? I can fly you there!”
Mit-Sun looked uncertain.
“It’s faster than going on foot, isn’t it!?”
“I–I suppose,” she sighed. “Fine, then. But at least tell La-Iin where we’re going…”
“You didn’t tell her yourself?” Mit-Sun glared. “Er, yes, certainly!”
Asul-Zenza ran into the house and up the stairs. La-Iin’s door was open, and he could hear Bes-Isa laughing before he saw La-Iin trying to fit a dress onto Choungetsu. When La-Iin looked up, Choungetsu broke free and hid behind Asul-Zenza, the dress still on him.
“Dami!”
“I’m sorry, La-Iin, but there’s a little emergency. Your mother and I are going to the hospital.”
“What? Why?”
“I don’t know, honestly,” he said, “but I’ll call you as soon as we get there! And I’ll be back, I promise. She will be too. But we need to go right now, so please stay here and don’t leave the house.”
“Huh?”
It broke his heart to leave her behind, but Asul-Zenza turned away, flew out the house, closed the door and grabbed hold of Mit-Sun.

***

Mit-Sun was anxious the entire time. As soon as they had arrived at the hospital, she started frantically asking about visiting hours. It reminded Asul-Zenza somewhat of his visits to Blooudine, and he started to feel as anxious as she seemed.
‘What’s going on? And is La-Iin going to be okay at home all by herself…’
“Come on.” Mit-Sun grabbed Asul-Zenza’s hand and dragged him over to a hospital room. She opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief.
“Mr. Cahongyun?”
“Asul-Zenza?”
Beht-Soh looked up from a book. “Mit-Sun I expected, but why is Asul-Zenza here too?”
Mit-Sun’s words came in between pants. “He helped me get here. Oh, Papa, I’m so glad you’re alright…”
“Mit-Sun, I told you, it wasn’t anything all that bad.”
“Seriously!? I heard that you fell and you were going to need surgery! Do you think I’ve been sitting still this entire time just thinking ‘oh, Papa’ll be okay’!? You’re elderly! And surgery can go wrong! I’ve been on edge this entire time waiting for them to say you’re awake so I can visit you!”
Mit-Sun started to cry, but she frantically wiped the tears on her shirt sleeve and took a seat next to Beht-Soh’s bed.
“It’s alright.”
“You don’t even know how scared I was…”
“It’s alright. I understand.”
“I…I thought I was going to lose you too…”
“I’m okay, I promise. They said everything’s going to be alright.”
Mit-Sun wailed.
“In fact, I’ll be out of the hospital soon! Don’t worry, Mit-Sun. It was only as bad as it was because it was a really hard fall. I fell off a ladder and I hit the ground at a speed that would hurt anybody. At least I didn’t break anything!”
“But you needed surgery…are you sure you didn’t break anything?”
“Certain! And I’m okay. So please don’t cry.”
Just watching the two was making Asul-Zenza tear up. He stepped out the room and took a deep breath.

“…thank you for flying me here, Asul-Zenza.”
“Not a problem. I’m glad you made it here safe.”
“Y-yeah…” Mit-Sun’s face screwed up. “Geez, you saw me cry…”
“I’ve seen you cry before,” Asul-Zenza said. Mit-Sun glared.
“I suppose I know the answer to my question now, though.”
“Huh?”
“It’s because of Mr. Cahongyun, isn’t it? He’s elderly now. La-Iin will live a long life. Even if most of her living family is Vampires, he’s still a part of it, and anyway most of her living family is older than she is and she has the extra years from being half-Normal. It’s a concern of mine too. It’s such an obvious answer now that I think on it…”
Mit-Sun shook her head. “That’s not it, Asul-Zenza. Well, I guess maybe a little…but it’s not the reason why I started doing this.”
“Hm?”
“La-Iin’s evil. I don’t want to change her. If she decides to become good or neutral in the future that’s her choice, but I’m not going to change who she is. That being said…I don’t want who she is to be a cold, heartless dictator. So I’m trying to let her bond with her family, just…give her that little nudge in the right direction, you know?”
“Ah, I see.”
“So go ahead and call her as often as you like. Around me she’s the same as always, but around family she always mellows out a bit. And if I can go without hearing that she took over some place like Neigghed or Caucas in the future, I’ll be happy. So…that’s it.”
Asul-Zenza nodded. “Well, that makes sense. Good luck, then.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “You called me kind, but I don’t understand how you could be so nice to someone who dislikes you as much as I do.”
“Because I’ve never disliked you. Is that so hard to grasp? I’m pretty sure I was the only one crying over our breakup.”
“Yeah, you’d be right there.”
Mit-Sun smiled.
“Hey, mind flying me back home too? This hospital is far from our house.”
“I don’t mind at all.”

—–
When the two arrived home, La-Iin was waiting at the door, holding Choungetsu, who was still wearing a dress.
“Why didn’t you take me?”
“I’m sorry, La-Iin. But it’s alright.”
“Who’s in the hospital? If it’s Haner, I guess I understand why I didn’t go.”
“Your Granddami’s in the hospital. But he’s fine.”
“…doormat Granddami, right?”
“Don’t call him that.”
“I’m sorry if we worried you, La-Iin,” Asul-Zenza said.
“I was fine.”
Asul-Zenza noticed that La-Iin’s eyes were slightly red. He smiled.
“Ah, I’d love to stay a little longer, but I was just reminded of something I should probably do. But La-Iin, let’s stay in touch, alright?”
“Okay?”
Asul-Zenza tapped Mit-Sun on the shoulder. “Looks like you’re doing a good job.”
He spread his wings and flew off.
“Are you and Dami getting back together?” La-Iin asked, her tone accusatory.
“If that’s what you think then you need more school.”

23.631.Bloody Stress

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 631
“Bloody Stress”

The Dslellular home had taken on a strange atmosphere.
For a while now, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya had noticed that Dosa-Mina was acting strange. He seemed to be hiding something, and he was jittery and a bit spooked. Dosa-Mina had never been the easily scared type, and it was strange.
After they noticed his cuts, he had started acting even stranger, seeming somewhat lethargic. He wouldn’t talk to them and spent a lot of time in his room. He had become avoidant.
Somehow, how he had started acting after coming home from school yesterday was worse than all that.
“I could’ve sworn I heard him crying yesterday,” Orlin-Aesth said. They had decided not to talk to each other about what was going until Dosa-Mina left for school–and that had been strange in and of itself.
“Dosa-Mina, don’t you have to go to school?”
“…I don’t want to.”
“Why not?”
Instead of responding, he had started to get undressed.
“And he had another nightmare last night. I heard him screaming.”
“I did too. Did you go to calm him down?”
“I did, but the door was locked…I unlocked it, but by the time I got in he was asleep.”
“He hasn’t been screaming much lately. I thought he had gotten over those…”
“What’s going on with him?” Elai-Riya said. “I know he isn’t happy we found out about his cuts, but something changed yesterday.”
“I wonder….oh, hey, Elai-Riya, did I tell you that the Molsheis called yesterday?”
“They did? What about?”
“They were asking if something had happened that Dosa-Mina told us about. Apparently San-Kyung keeps talking about him like he’s concerned.”
“Do you think people are bullying him again?”
“Did he act this bad when people bullied him at Deatrou?”
“No, but then again, he’s stressed out about his cuts.” Elai-Riya gasped. “What if someone at school found out about those!?”
“That’d make a lot of sense why he’s acting like this…” Orlin-Aesth shook his head. “We can’t keep sitting back like this. We need to talk to him. If we don’t do anything, he’s just going to keep retreating like this. I don’t want to see Dosa-Mina like this. I want him to be happy.”
“I do too. But what can we do? He’s always retreated this way.”
“…” Orlin-Aesth cringed.
“Where did we go wrong? No…more like where did I go wrong. You were always attentive and respondent to his needs. All I did was teach him how to hide his problems. Dumped all my stresses about my job onto you and him. I messed him up. I know it.”
“Riya, please! Neither of us knew he was going to end up this way. Stop blaming yourself!”
Elai-Riya lowered her head. “I just wish we knew what to do.”

***

Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya’s conversation had continued on until Dosa-Mina returned home from school, but past that point it had started to go in circles. Neither of them had an answer for Dosa-Mina’s behavior–anything more than speculation, anyway–nor an answer as to how to help him.
When Dosa-Mina came home from school, he wasn’t any better. He kept his head bowed, went into his room, and locked the door.
“I have to do something about this.” Elai-Riya stood up. She walked over to Dosa-Mina’s door and pounded on it.
“Dosa-Mina! Please unlock the door. I want to talk to you.”
“Elai-Riya, that isn’t how you do this.” Orlin-Aesth brought his claw up to the keyhole and twisted it around inside. The door opened.
Both of them startled. Dosa-Mina was sitting on his bed, grimacing at a bleeding wound on his left arm. Both of them were quick to notice the knife lying nearby, covered in fresh blood.
Elai-Riya wanted to exclaim, as did Orlin-Aesth, but he calmed her and they approached Dosa-Mina, who by now had noticed that they came in.
Noticing bandages in his room, Elai-Riya reached for them and set to work patching up the wound.
“What are you doing in my room?”
“We wanted to see if you were alright,” Orlin-Aesth said matter-of-factly, though Elai-Riya could hear his voice wavering. “You looked pretty upset when you came home from school.”
“Dosa-Mina, you can’t keep cutting yourself,” Elai-Riya said. “Look, you opened up an old wound.”
Elai-Riya finished bandanging the wound.
“Dosa-Mina, I know you don’t want to, but we need to talk to you about the cutting. This isn’t just a few near the wrists, this is enough that your arms are almost half red. Please. If you want to hide them, go ahead. I know it would be hard to explain to everyone at school. But please stop cutting. And please tell us why this started.”
“…” Dosa-Mina stared down at the bandages. “Go ahead. Take the knife.”
Elai-Riya stared down in the knife in disbelief, but picked it up and held it close.
“I’ll just find something else anyway.”
Both flinched.
“And there is no reason. I don’t want to talk about this. I’ve had enough explaining to do recently anyway.”
“Dosa-Mina, have other people seen these cuts?”
Neither expected an answer, so they were surprised when he said “San-Kyung.”
“So aside from him and us, nobody else knows?”
Dosa-Mina nodded.
“What do you mean by had enough explaining to do? Has San-Kyung only found out about these recently?”
“No. That doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be alone right now. Go ahead and take the knife. Even if you didn’t I wouldn’t cut anymore right now anyway. I’m fine now.”
“You don’t sound fine.”
“Of course I’m not. But at least I have some relief now.”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head.
“…don’t bother hiding your species when you come to school next time.”
They looked at each other.
“Is that what happened? Did someone find out about your species?”
“I don’t want to talk about this!” Dosa-Mina yelled. “Just get out! I’ve told you enough. Nothing you say is going to help. So stop trying to butter me up. Even if I talked to you, it would change nothing. Why don’t you wait until someone else tells you?”
His last words were said with a sneer. Both felt on the verge of tears, but right now they doubted it would help to cry in front of him. They left the room, Elai-Riya still holding the kitchen knife, and only let themselves cry once they were far away from his bedroom.
It didn’t last long. Someone knocked at the door a short time after they started. They opened the door.
San-Kyung was standing there.
“San-Kyung…”
“Dosa-Mina’s home, right?”
“U-um…” Elai-Riya nodded, though she could see that San-Kyung’s eyes were focusing on the bloody knife in her hands. His expression after that point was unreadable.
“It’s good that you came over, actually,” Orlin-Aesth said. “Maybe he’ll listen to you.”
“…”
“San-Kyung, I know you don’t like us, but would you mind telling us what’s going on with Dosa-Mina at school?”
“I don’t think he’d like that.” San-Kyung walked inside. His gaze was still on the knife.
“Alright, I understand. Can you at least tell us if someone’s bullying him there?”
San-Kyung’s expression hardened. “Yes.”
Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya gasped.
“Hey. You.” He motioned to Elai-Riya.
“If you ever feel like singing, nobody’ll care if your audience includes a blue-gray Catori.”
“Huh?”
“Go ahead and let the Llamaki join too.”
San-Kyung shook his head and went for Dosa-Mina’s bedroom.
“He seems upset,” Orlin-Aesth said.
“I wonder who those two are?” Elai-Riya said.
“I’d like to know the answer to that too. …well, he said we don’t have to disguise ourselves anymore. Maybe we should pay a visit to the school soon.”
“Would that upset him more?”
“That’s the big question.”

Dosa-Mina’s door was already open, so San-Kyung head inside. Dosa-Mina was lying on his side, facing away from him. He was quick to notice the bandage on his arm.
“Dosa-Mina.”
Dosa-Mina turned over. “Why are you here? Did my parents call you?”
“I came here because I wanted to. I saw how you were at school today.”
Dosa-Mina turned away once again. “….everyone knows. The reality of that dawned on me yesterday. Malicerie knows I’m a Werewolf-Siren. My parents and you know that I cut. How much longer until the school knows that too?”
Dosa-Mina sat up. “You know, maybe I should give up like I did yesterday.” Dosa-Mina took off his shirt. He head over to his closet and pulled a short-sleeved one over his head. “Maybe I should go to school tomorrow like this instead. Yeah, that’ll be nice, hearing everyone’s questions, having the school contact my parents…”
“Dosa-Mina…”
“Except this shirt doesn’t really fit. But ah, who cares?” He flopped back onto his bed.
“Nothing matters to me anymore. I just wanted school to know me as San-Kyung’s clingy best friend. I liked that better. But then people started paying attention to me. It’s horrible. I hate it. Not everyone likes being notorious like bitchy Lirako.”
“I don’t care about killing her, you know. It wouldn’t lose me any sleep.”
“Don’t do that. Guess who would be the prime suspect? Not you, me. And anyway if you were found out it’d be jail for you. No.”
“…I’ll get back at her somehow.”
Dosa-Mina sat up again. “I give up. I really do. Like this I’ll only keep making people miserable. Or rather, the people I love. I don’t give a shit about people like Lirako, and she probably doesn’t care about how I feel. So, if you ever feel like dying again, give me a call and I’ll be there and we’ll off ourselves together. I just want my death day to come already.”
He pulled off his bandage and dug his fingers into the injury. San-Kyung sighed. There didn’t seem to be anything he could do for him.
So instead he joined him on the bed. Almost immediately, Dosa-Mina lowered his head, pulled his fingers out of the injury and started to cry.

—–
“Hey, Dosa-Mina…do you want us to pull you out of Malicerie?”
Orlin-Aesth had asked him that question at dinner.
“No. I’d rather keep the damage minimal. But if it’s possible, I’d like to pretend I’m sick for a few days. I need a break from that place.”
“We’ll do it,” Elai-Riya said. “But you have to promise us you’ll talk to us more.”
‘Damn it.’
“I’ll try,” he said.

13.621.Family Bonding

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 621
“Family Bonding”

Mit-Sun sighed as she hung up the phone.
“You sure have been making a lot of phone calls recently,” La-Iin said. “But your birthday is already over. So what’s the point?”
“I have other reasons to be making phone calls aside from it being my birthday, you know.”
“I know that. But why are you?”
“It’s not your business, La-Iin.”
La-Iin’s eyes narrowed. “…you wouldn’t happen to know Haner’s phone number, would you?”
“I do–” La-Iin hissed at her. “But I haven’t talked to him since my birthday, whether over the phone or in person. So quit being like that.”
“Hmph.”
“Anyway, what these phone calls are for is my business and not yours.”
“You always eavesdrop on my phone calls…”
“I don’t always, so calm down, alright? After all, this’ll be good payoff for…”
“For…?”
“It’s nothing,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Just get out of the kitchen, alright?”
La-Iin huffed. She left the kitchen, but as she did continuously glared over her shoulder at Mit-Sun, up until she crashed into a wall.

***

“What do you need to buy downtown now, Mama?”
“Why do you ask?”
“We mostly go downtown when you need to buy something. You’d better tell me. You woke me up before I was ready.”
“You wouldn’t be tired if you hadn’t stayed up all night singing Usl-Thaehey songs at the top of your lungs,” Mit-Sun said. La-Iin’s eyes widened and her face flushed. “That’s right, I heard you. Now, look up ahead.”
La-Iin bit back her retort for the time being and looked ahead, and the sight she saw made her gasp. Waiting in a group, waving to her, were several people she recognized.
Namely, Asul-Zenza, her grandparents, and Ei-Tio’s family.
“Wha–?”
“While you were so bound and determined to interrupt my phone calls yesterday, I was calling all of them out here,” she said. “It’s mostly Asul-Zenza’s family though. You have more family on my side, but they don’t live in Bledger.”
“Ah….”
“Mit-Sun, I think you broke La-Iin,” Asul-Zenza said. “How are we supposed to have a family outing if she’s in that state?”
“Snap out of it, La-Iin,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Anyway, it’s good to see all of you–er…”
The crowd was all smiles–almost. Asul-Zenza’s parents Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha were obviously glaring at her.
“Uh…”
“What is it, Mit-Sun?” Beht-Soh asked.
“Asul-Zenza, your parents–why are they glaring at me like that?”
“Oh, that, well…”
“We’re only here because of La-Iin, I hope you know,” Anil-Kosha said.
“If it weren’t for her, all the persuasion in the world wouldn’t have brought us out.” Verde-Nenda said. Mit-Sun grit her teeth. ‘Damn, I guess I can’t expect them to like me after I broke up with Asul-Zenza the way I did…’
“You two are amazing,” La-Iin sighed. Almost immediately Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha’s glares turned to warm smiles. Mit-Sun was dumbfounded.
“Let’s just get going, alright?” Mit-Sun said. The group nodded and they set out across downtown.

The size of their group caught the attention of some people downtown, but to Mit-Sun’s relief, it wasn’t enough to prompt people to walk up to them, at least not yet. Mit-Sun’s mind was more focused on another problem, that being that the Ghneckdo side of La-Iin’s family seemed to be taking up all her time.
“How has school been, La-Iin? I hear you’re in it already.” Verde-Nenda asked.
“It’s fine.”
“Seven years old and in school. Seems you have a prodigy on your hands!” Anil-Kosha said. Asul-Zenza smiled.
“Nobody ever calls me that.”
“They must be foolish, then.”
“I don’t want to be called the same thing as Ai-Reia.”
“‘Ai-Reia’?” Shi-Bara asked. “You mean like Vampiris Ai-Reia?”
“Yes. She goes to my school.”
“Vaelyn’s child prodigy!?” All her family suddenly seemed quite excited–even Asul-Zenza’s eyes widened a bit, though La-Iin could have sworn she had already told him. “You go to school with her!?”
“Yes? Who cares? She’s annoying.”
“It’s amazing, that’s all,” Anil-Kosha said. “I knew she had flown under the radar recently, but to think she went to our own granddaughter’s school…”
“Though it sounds like you two don’t get along, huh?” Jul-Ense asked.
“No. Unfortunately.”
‘Does that mean it’s Vampiris’ fault?’ That was the thought on a few of their minds.
Behind the chatter, Mit-Sun sighed.
“Is something wrong, Mit-Sun?”
“No, not really. After all, Ghneckdos make up most of La-Iin’s family, so it’s not really a surprise that they’re taking up all her time. I have to face facts that we Cahongyuns aren’t a big family, although we’re the ones who live closest to her.”
“It’s probably because of that, Mit-Sun. The Ghneckdos don’t live very close to La-Iin so of course they want to monopolize her time. You live with her and it’s not too out of my way to visit her, but it takes them quite a while even with that amazing wingspan.”
“I guess.”
“Though I admit I’m still surprised you invited Asul-Zenza,” he chuckled. “What made you do that?”
“I have a reason,” she sighed, “but I’d rather tell you later, away from this crowd. But don’t go thinking it’s anything like ‘wanting to get back together’. I still don’t like that guy.”
“I didn’t think so.”
“Big sister, you still drawin’?”
“Yes. But if I brought my drawings to downtown, it would have been a mistake. That’ll have to wait for a more personal visit.”
“Okay!”
“No matter how much closer you and I want to be to La-Iin, there is no denying her bias to Asul-Zenza and Ei-Tio,” Verde-Nenda said.
“I suppose there isn’t, but that’s alright. She doesn’t know us as well.”
Anil-Kosha glanced over her shoulder. “And you must be Mr. Cahongyun.”
“M-me? Yes, that’s right. I’m Cahongyun Beht-Soh, Mit-Sun’s father.”
“Nice to meet you, sir. I am Ghneckdo Verde-Nenda.”
“And I am Ghneckdo Anil-Kosha. We’re Asul-Zenza’s parents.”
“I figured. I can kind of see where he got some of his features.”
“You seem much more pleasant than your daughter,” Anil-Kosha said.
“Some people have said that to me before. But my wife used to tell me that I was a doormat, so I always thought people would find me annoying. You just have to give her a chance.”
“Maybe someday, seeing as she was kind enough to plan this outing, but it’ll have to wait for now. La-Iin is here, after all!”
Beht-Soh sighed. “Well, I did my best to put in a good word for you.”
“Thanks, Papa. But I really doubt those two are ever going to forgive me for breaking up with Asul-Zenza the way I did.”

“This is boring! I don’t want to keep walking around downtown like this. I want to do something more!”
La-Iin ran ahead of the crowd. “La-Iin! Does anyone see where she ran off to?”
“She just went up there, Mit-Sun,” Asul-Zenza said, pointing to the musical district. Mit-Sun sighed and chased after her.
“Harsh as she might be sometimes, you have to give her points for caring about her daughter,” Asul-Zenza said. Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha huffed.
“Wait, big sister!”
“Careful, Ei-Tio! The ground has straight cracks in it!”
“…straight cracks?” Beht-Soh questioned.
“We’ve learned to speak Ei-Tio,” Shi-Bara explained.
Mit-Sun and Ei-Tio caught up with La-Iin in the musical district, where she was dancing along to an Usl-Thaehey song that was playing.
“I could tell an Usl-Thaehey song from a mile away.”
Mit-Sun covered Ei-Tio’s ears. “Isn’t this song a little…racy?”
“Mama, come on. Ei-Tio won’t understand it. And she will someday, so who cares?”
“Can I dance too, big sister!?”
La-Iin nodded, and Ei-Tio began to do a wild dance next to her. Mit-Sun couldn’t help but chuckle at the odd sight.
Once the song had ended, Mit-Sun said, “Please don’t run ahead of the group like that.”
“I heard you saying you set up this group for me. I’ll do what I want.”
“La-Iin,” Mit-Sun forced through grit teeth, “Please.”
“I don’t accept pleases!” La-Iin screamed, running ahead of her once again–almost. This time she stopped in place before getting too far off.
“But I will accept food.”
“Fine, fine…”

Mit-Sun had quite seriously contemplated leaving downtown to take everyone to Sunday Daily, but she had decided against it after remembering her prior experience there. ‘Nobody is going to take that away from me. The day I go back I’ll be alone…or maybe I’ll take Papa with me.’
So she instead took them to a restaurant that was fairly out of sight.
“This seems slightly shady,” Asul-Zenza said.
“It was advertising international food. Why shouldn’t we give something non-Vaelis a chance?”
“I already have,” La-Iin said proudly.
“Wow! What is it?” Ei-Tio asked.
“It’s mincemeat pie,” Mit-Sun said before La-Iin could open her mouth. La-Iin glared. “And it happens to be her favorite food.”
“A Vaelis girl with the heart of a Shitosh one,” Verde-Nenda said, ruffling her hair. “How strange!”
“My dominion spreads far past Vaelyn and Shitosh,” La-Iin said. Most of the crowd was confused, but Asul-Zenza just sighed, and Mit-Sun groaned.

The restaurant was fairly tiny, and judging from the reactions of the staff, they had never gotten a group nine people strong. But it was soon evident that they were more than a little excited to serve the large group, though at ordering time there was a little trouble.
“What’s that say?” Ei-Tio asked Jul-Ense.
“Depoisonberry Soup.”
“An’ that?”
“Bloodsauce Spaghetti.”
“What about that!?”
“Stotche…you don’t want that, Ei-Tio.”
“Why not?”
The group sighed. Though Ei-Tio wasn’t the only problem.
“No mincemeat pie? And I only see bloodsauce spaghetti.”
“There are plenty of other blood-related meals on the list, La-Iin. Where are you looking?”
“You realize La-Iin’s reading isn’t perfect, right?”
“She’s lying to you!” La-Iin hissed.
“Do you want me to read the menu for you too, La-Iin?” Jul-Ense offered. La-Iin responded with a hiss.
It did take a while, but sooner or later the group had all ordered. Their food took a while, and most of the time spent waiting for it was used for La-Iin’s family to ask her questions.
“So La-Iin, you like to draw?”
“Yes.”
“What are your friends like?”
“They wouldn’t be my friends if they were bad. And I don’t mean evil.”
“Did you talk to the pumpkiny boy?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. Mit-Sun could tell she was getting quickly agitated.
“How about you tell them about wanting to rule the world?” Mit-Sun suggested. La-Iin looked downright offended.
“Those plans are private!”
Mit-Sun sighed. Thankfully enough, the food didn’t take much longer to arrive.
“I’ve always found middle eastern food very interesting,” Asul-Zenza said. “There’s a certain way they season it that makes it delicious. And I love their species-based foods.”
“I heard in the middle east they still cook people!” La-Iin said excitedly.
“Where!?”
“At school. But they only said one place…”
‘Why did she sound so excited about that!?’ Her family wondered.

After eating, the group began to wind down a bit, though it was obvious they still wanted to be out–and Mit-Sun would have agreed, for it felt like they hadn’t done much so far.
‘What can we do to really end this day off on a high note?’ She wondered. ‘Hm…’
“I want to go back to the music district.”
‘I guess that works.’
So Mit-Sun led the way to the music district, though La-Iin several times tried to take the lead from her.
“Why are we going here again?” Asul-Zenza asked.
“La-Iin asked. And anyway, there are some things that can be done there…namely burning all this food off.”
“Hm?”
“I think I know what she wants to do.”
La-Iin smirked. A song by Chehata-Merni had just gone off, and one by Usl-Thaehey had come on.

Day in, day out
Nothing’s ever good enough
Your expectations, set them too high
Keep on trudging, keep on trudging through
It’ll never be good enough for you

New things, old things
Put them all together now
Nothing’s working, better erase it all
And how you put up with yourself
Is something you never ever figured out

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and you wouldn’t give yourself a chance
To just let it go and let yourself f@%k up!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why aren’t you giving it your all!?

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

Day in, day out
Always trying harder
That’s what you tell yourslef
Even if it is a lie

Over, over, over and over again
You never tried doing things your own way!

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and now it’s not the same
The same as failure in your eyes!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why do you always just slap somethin’ together

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

All….

Remove the limiters, remove the feeling
Remove the expectations, remove the result
Thinkin’ in black-and-white
Keepin’ yourself up all night

I realized the errors of my ways
I’m givin’ you a chance to too
But if you choose to stay that way
I’ve only got one thing to say to YOU!

Ah, it’s never good enough!
It’s always never good enough!
You scream about this every night!

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and you wouldn’t give yourself a chance
To just let it go and let yourself f@%k up!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why aren’t you giving it your all!?

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

You live forever, that’s the inevitable fate of us all!

La-Iin started clapping lightly as the song went off. Her family was pleased.
“That was adorable,” Asul-Zenza said.
“You voiced my very same thoughts,” Beht-Soh laughed.
“It was a good exercise, though! That song is intense!” Verde-Nenda said.
“I’m not sure it was the best thing for Ei-Tio to listen to, though,” Jul-Ense said.
“Well, she wanted to. And now she’ll probably want to look around this part of downtown too, if I know my La-Iin.”
“I would be willing to do that. I don’t seem to have given this ‘Usl-Thaehey’ a fair chance. I was always much more intrigued by Sulaet-Defka.”
“Though even we are older than her, hah!”
As expected, La-Iin had taken the lead from her family, but she stopped in place when a new song started.
“Sweet Inevitable Death….” La-Iin smiled.
“She’s going to make us do it again,” Mit-Sun said.
“I’m up for it if she is!” Verde-Nenda said. And the group broke into dancing once more.
“Weirdos!” A Minomix man called out.

—–
After their dance session, La-Iin had introduced everyone in the group–save for her parents, that is–to Usl-Thaehey, to mostly positive but ultimately mixed reception.
“What do some of those words mean?” Ei-Tio had asked.
“La-Iin, I’m not as intense as Jul-Ense is when it comes to….keeping things secret from Ei-Tio, but I’m just not a big fan,” Shi-Bara said.
“Why should I care?”
After eating a large dinner and dancing, however, they were quite exhausted by the time night was high in the sky, and so decided to head back once they reached the front of downtown.
“Did I ever tell you I met Usl-Thaehey once?”
“WHAT!?”
“Actually twice!”
Though that story kept them from leaving when expected.

“Goodbye, La-Iin! We’ll hopefully be seeing you once more soon!” Verde-Nenda said.
“Bye-bye, big sister!” Ei-Tio said.
“Be seeing you, La-Iin. Remember, you’re always welcome to call me!” Asul-Zenza said.
Beht-Soh walked home with Mit-Sun and La-Iin. When La-Iin ran ahead of the two, he took his chance to speak.
“So what brought on the outing?”
Mit-Sun sighed. “I’m alright with La-Iin being evil. A non-evil La-Iin is a disturbing idea to me. But I don’t want her to ruin her life because of that. There are plenty of evil people who live respectable lives for the most part. And I doubt I can keep La-Iin out of trouble on my own. But if I can at least keep her caring for people, then I won’t think I did a completely horrible job.”
“I see.”
Mit-Sun smiled. “And so far, I don’t think I’ve done the worst.”

6.614.The Predicament and Melancholy of Blooudine

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 614
“The Predicament and Melancholy of Blooudine”

Asul-Zenza flew through the night sky, checking around him for any other fliers and for his destination. He didn’t spot any fellow Vampires, but the light of his destination was soon visible on the horizon, and he picked up speed towards it.
He made his landing and head inside.
The hospital didn’t seem to be all that busy even though it was the time of night most Vampires would usually be out. ‘I suppose that’s a good thing…’ The only Vampires he saw in there was a mother and her child, and the Vampire sitting at the reception desk.
“Hello, sir,” she said.
“Hello. I’m here to see–”
“Mrs. Blooudine Sae-Ah, correct? I’ve seen you around enough lately. Go ahead.”
“Thank you.” He turned away from her and head for Blooudine’s room. He found himself shivering more than once on his way there. “It feels like Winter in here. They could at least take care to adjust the temperature properly…”
“Asul-Zenza?”
It seemed he had been heard before even going in. He opened the door to her room and tried to give her his most reassuring smile.
“H-hello, Mrs. Blooudine.”
Blooudine was facing him, but she looked a lot different than he was used to. Though she wasn’t in any immediate danger from her infection–and indeed the Vampires at the hospital had already mostly eradicated it from her body–it was evident she was feeling the effects, and there was a dark look in her eyes.
That, he felt, was not because of her sickness.
He pulled up a chair and sat down next to her. “I know I’ve been visiting a lot lately, but I can’t help but be concerned.”
“Don’t be,” she muttered.
“You understand why. …has your family been by recently?”
“Asul-Zenza, dear, I understand you have the best of intentions, but don’t talk to me about my family.”
He gave an empty chuckle. “Not in the best of moods, I can tell. Anything I can do to bring your mood up?”
“No.”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Well–um–damn, I suppose I didn’t do all that many noteworthy things over August–”
“Don’t bother, Asul-Zenza. You don’t have to waste your time in this cold place. Just go home and enjoy the night.”
“Mrs. Blooudine…”
Blooudine didn’t respond.
“Please, Mrs. Blooudine, there has to be something I can do for you. Anything. I can’t leave in good conscience knowing this was the mood I left you in, so if there’s just one thing–”
Blooudine took a deep breath. “That’s right, I did tell you about that, didn’t I…”
“Tell me about what, Mrs. Blooudine?”
“Asul-Zenza, would you be willing to hear an old lady out? For in hindsight, I realize my problem is one that you know about.”
“I’d be more than willing to,” he said. “Please, then, tell me what is wrong.”
Blooudine sniffled. “Mrs. Blooudine?”
“Ever since Rei-Fourse died, I’ve had too much time to think to myself,” she said. The dark look in her eyes only intensified. “And I’ve been thinking about him, him and Vertuo-Nenda…”
“Vertuo-Nenda?”
“Please don’t make me go into more explanation than I need to, Asul-Zenza,” Blooudine sighed. “That Vertuo-Nenda. As in the one I had my affair with…the one I never mustered up the courage to talk to Rei-Fourse about. And now he is dead. And most would tell me to just leave it in my past now that my husband is gone, but there is still a relic remaining.”
Her words clicked in his mind. “Ta-Mane.”
“Yes, her. But do you know how horrid that would be of me!? If I called Ta-Mane just to tell her that the man who died wasn’t really her father? You realize, until I told you about this last year this secret was all mine. Rei-Fourse, Ta-Mane, Vertuo-Nenda, not even an outside party–I never told them any of this. Vertuo-Nenda I left and he believed nothing came out of our time together. In all these years since he’s never contacted me even once. And Rei-Fourse and Ta-Mane have never doubted that they were father and daughter. Even what I can see of him in Ta-Mane’s children, she chalked up to her husband’s side of the family.”
Asul-Zenza felt slightly unsettled. “So if everyone is happy, and they have no reason to doubt me, why, then, should I bother resurrecting this? Because I’m guilty! I never told my husband about what I did! I never told Vertuo-Nenda he had a child! I’ve never told Ta-Mane her father is someone else!”
A passing nurse peeked into Blooudine’s room. Blooudine settled.
“Mrs. Blooudine…sorry to interrupt you, but how do you know for sure that Ta-Mane is not Rei-Fourse’s?”
“Timing, Asul-Zenza. There is no way Ta-Mane could be Rei-Fourse’s. And if you saw Vertuo-Nenda, and compared him to Ta-Mane, you would be able to tell. I only wish Rei-Fourse had been able to. His divorcing me would have been well deserved. I’m sorry to speak with you about all this again, Asul-Zenza. But the guilt has been gnawing away at me.” She relaxed in her bed. “Maybe I’ll get lucky and nature will make the decision for me soon enough…”
Asul-Zenza scoffed.
“Asul-Zenza?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Blooudine, but I’m not going to stand for your attitude.”
“Wha?”
“An affair is a serious matter! When you first told me of it, I didn’t know what to say, but after this discussion my feelings are clear. It’s bad enough already that you did what you did, and that it went as far as it did, but you have a child who is not your husband’s and not from before your marriage. She deserves to know, even if the truth is painful. You already feel guilty enough for not telling Rei-Fourse, and there is no way of knowing if Vertuo-Nenda is even still alive. Besides, with the advances in technology nowadays, there is no guarantee she will not find out herself, and what would be worse for you?”
“Asul-Zenza…it’s a losing situation. Either I let the guilt eat away at me until the day I die, or I risk losing Ta-Mane’s love. Of all our children Ta-Mane was the one I would say was closest to Rei-Fourse. It will hurt her, even moreso now that Rei-Fourse is gone!”
“Mrs. Blooudine, you’re thinking mostly of yourself here. Otherwise I’m certain that Rei-Fourse would have known before he died. Let me give you my take on the situation. I am going to imagine if Mit-Sun and I were in the same situation you were in. If I found out that she had had an affair, I would be upset regardless. But if she came to me right away and was honest, I would find it more in my heart to forgive her than if I found out later on by myself. Especially if she was still continuing it…
“And as for children…if I found out that La-Iin was not my child…” Asul-Zenza shook his head. Just the idea was painful to him. “It’s one thing if you never knew that. It’s completely different if you believed that for years on end only to find out much later….the pain is worse now because you didn’t say anything right away. Mr. Blooudine was a very kind man. If you had told him about your affair, if you were honest, I’m certain he would have tried to work it out with you instead of divorce you. And you would have been lucky considering that an affair is incredibly reasonable grounds for divorce.”
Blooudine’s expression was pained, and for a moment Asul-Zenza wondered if he should have spoken at all. “I…I don’t mean to hurt you with this, Mrs. Blooudine. But you always gave me advice, and I could just imagine how I would feel if I was in Mr. Blooudine’s shoes–”
“No, don’t sound apologetic, Asul-Zenza. You’re right. I’ve made a big mistake. My own guilt is evidence of this…but…I already feel horrible enough that I did not tell Rei-Fourse! Even if I tell Ta-Mane, I don’t think that guilt will go away! And what of Vertuo-Nenda? Is he still alive, unaware of his daughter and grandchildren and great-grandchildren? I’ve caused such a mess…”
“The choice is in your hands as to whether or not you want to speak up, Mrs. Blooudine. But my advice to you is that you do. If you feel this much guilt over never telling Rei-Fourse, then it’s best you remedy the one person you can talk to. And…I can’t be nice about this, I’m sorry. But if she grows to resent you, that is your own fault.”
Blooudine sighed. “I…I’m really sorry, Mrs–”
“Don’t. I understand.” Blooudine smiled. “It’s not easy for me to consider doing this. But your advice is definitely good. You’ve come a long way, Asul-Zenza. I had believed, with your personality, that you would tell me that it would all work out so long as I was gentle about it or something. But I underestimated you. You understand the weight of this situation. …you haven’t been in it yourself, have you?”
“Heavens no. But if I was, I am almost certain I am right on how I would feel. Honestly, the thought of it is enough to put me off dating moreso than I already am…”
“Alright.” Blooudine sighed. “I’ll see if I can at least work up the muster to write Ta-Mane a letter about it. And perhaps, who knows, Rei-Fourse has been watching me the whole time. But I can’t expect everything to turn out happy after what I’ve done.”
“…”
“…”
“…w-well, I should probably get going right about now,” Asul-Zenza said. “I have a job in the afternoon, so I’ll have to get to sleep earlier than normal.”
“Take care, Asul-Zenza. And…thank you.” Blooudine gave him another smile. “Young Vampire or not, you have the maturity of one who is fully grown. And you’ve proven you have more maturity than I do. Continue on this way, and never let your feelings cloud you from telling people the truth.”

—–
Before he went to sleep that night, Asul-Zenza found that his mind was swarming with thoughts.
‘I can only imagine what it would feel like for Mr. Blooudine and Ta-Mane to learn the truth. It would probably hurt…’
Even now he felt as if he shouldn’t have had the conversation he did with Blooudine. But one thought eased those concerns, at least slightly.
‘But it’s for the better. If she tells Ta-Mane now, then she won’t have to learn through some other external source. And I think that would hurt even more than her mother telling her.’
He sighed. ‘Mit-Sun, for all your foibles, I’m glad that you were at least faithful to me.’

3.611.Who You Are, is Who You Are

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 611
“Who You Are, is Who You Are”

Mit-Sun sat down at the table and sighed. ‘Another day of work. If only Mrs. Eteibreit wasn’t so much of a sadist. Maybe I could find a way to enjoy work if she’d leave me alone…’
She was still tired, but she remembered that she needed to make breakfast. ‘La-Iin has been enjoying it lately, after all.’ Just as that thought crossed her mind, however, she realized that she could already smell food. She glanced over her shoulder and noticed La-Iin at the stove, wearing an apron, though it was on backwards.
La-Iin carried a plate with her to the table and set it down in front of Mit-Sun, and set down a glass of orange juice next to that. She put a smaller plate in front of her seat along with a blood box and began to eat.
“You made breakfast?”
“Of course I did, Mama,” she said with a wide smile. “I know you think I’ll hurt myself if I use the stove, but I wanted to show you my gratitude for taking such good care of me.”
“Huh?”
La-Iin resumed eating. Mit-Sun was confused. “What do you mean? You’re never grateful for this sort of thing.”
La-Iin giggled. It sounded alarmingly innocent. “Oh, Mama! I always am. I know I act out sometimes. I’m sorry. But I really am grateful.”
La-Iin’s face still wasn’t all that expressive, but even Mit-Sun could see the genuine remorse on her face. It startled her.
“This all seems so strange…”
“I know I wasn’t being really good yesterday. I’m sorry,” she sighed. “But I’m going to try harder. I won’t let Fer-Shi outdo me!”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, the both of us are good. But obviously she’s better at it than I am. I want to show her that I can be plenty good too!”
“What!? Good!?” Mit-Sun shrieked. She stood up from her chair.
“Mama?”
“Ahem.” Mit-Sun sat back down in the chair. “…you mean this?”
“Yes, of course I do! I’m one-hundred percent good, just like you and Dami. Although I love the thrill of competition! If only Bes-Isa agreed with me on this…”
Mit-Sun’s eye twitched. She felt uncomfortable, incredibly uncomfortable. Seeing the food that La-Iin had made as gratitude, the innocent smile on her daughter’s face–
‘There’s no way this is La-Iin, no way in hell!’
But though the impulse was strong, she couldn’t bring herself to throw the food, not when La-Iin looked so happy. So she finished the food and head off to work. As soon as she stepped outside, the world around her went dark.

Mit-Sun woke abruptly.
‘What was that!?’ She took a deep breath. ‘It wasn’t a nightmare at all! Why am I getting so worked up over it? It’s just a ridiculous dream.’
Thinking back on it made her shudder.
‘But why? Wouldn’t it be more pleasant for me if La-Iin was good? She’d probably be better behaved, at least she wouldn’t say such violent things about other people…’
Still, the idea bothered her, no matter how beneficial it seemed. And as the seconds ticked by, the reason why became obvious in Mit-Sun’s mind.

***

Something had been unnerving La-Iin all throughout the day–namely, Mit-Sun’s behavior towards her.
It had started at breakfast.
“You know, La-Iin, I just wanted to tell you, I know I get mad at you sometimes, but don’t let that make you think I don’t love you, alright?”
“As if that were the truth. Your love for me is only born from obligation. I accepted that ages ago.”
Mit-Sun rolled her eyes. “No you didn’t. And anyway I’m telling you this so that if that is what you believe, you’ll stop believing it. You’re my daughter; of course I love you, evil and all.”
The tone she had taken with her particularly bothered her, but she chalked it up to some randomness that had sprouted in Mit-Sun’s mind to say. So she let it slide.
But it didn’t stop there.
“I have to get to work now. Don’t hurt yourself, alright?”
“What, no ‘don’t blow up the house?'”
“Don’t do that either, but I care more about you not getting hurt. Maybe one of these days I should ask Father to watch you, just in case.”
That too La-Iin was willing to chalk up to randomness–for the most part, anyway.
“So Miss Cahongyun’s been really nice to you today? Isn’t that a good thing?”
“It’s fine enough, but I can’t help but feel that something’s wrong. The tone she’s taking with me is unusual.”
“Maybe something happened. But shouldn’t this make you happy? I mean, doesn’t her being nice make her seem like an easier target to take advantage of?”
“You’re saying that?” La-Iin chuckled. “Why don’t you admit your dark side already, Fer-Shi? If you do I’ll bump you up from ‘slave’ to ‘army member’. Though your fighting skills would need some work first.”
“Hey! I don’t have a dark side! How many times do I have to tell you this! I just understand a lot of how you think now, that’s all. Anyway, I don’t think you should be creeped out by your own mom being nice to you. That just sounds silly.”
“So you think. Mama has been nice to me before, but I’m telling you, this is unusual.”
“On the phone, La-Iin?”
La-Iin startled and nearly dropped the phone. “Yes!” She hissed. “What are you doing back so early!?”
“It’s not early, it’s the time I always get back from work.”
La-Iin had expected Mit-Sun to say more, but she did not and instead walked off.
“I can feel that something is definitely going on,” she whispered. “And I’m thinking the best chance I have of learning what that ‘something’ is is to confront Mama about it myself.”

Throughout the rest of the day, Mit-Sun continued to say things that unnerved La-Iin.
“You know, your drawings aren’t so good yet, but I think you’re definitely getting better. And imagine, you have so many years to improve! Oh, sorry…
“La-Iin, if you feel like calling Asul-Zenza, just make sure to tell me if you’re going to ask him to come over. You don’t have to feel like you’re doing something bad just because you want to call him anymore.
“Your wingspan really is impressive.
“Let me guess–that vacant look means you’re planning something, doesn’t it?”
Frankly, La-Iin had had enough.
“Stop this!” She hissed. “I don’t understand. Why do you keep acting this way?”
“Why are you upset?”
“Because it seems like you’re trying to appeal to me for something! There’s something you want from me, I can feel it!”
“No, there’s nothing I want from you. Except for you to keep being the same La-Iin. That’s all.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’ll explain once dinner is done.”
La-Iin wanted to protest, but decided to keep her mouth shut. ‘Something strange is going on. But I think this time I should be the appeaser and wait for her to say something…’
And as promised, once dinner was set on the table, Mit-Sun cleared her throat.
“La-Iin, I think you know well by now that our difference in morals has always been a bit of a problem. I don’t want you to do evil things. And you don’t care for my morality affecting the way I act.”
“So you say, but you change all that around Dami,” La-Iin hissed. “What is it?”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Well, I was thinking. I was wondering what it might be like for me if you were good. And I realized I didn’t like it all that much.”
“Huh?”
“Our difference in morals is hard for me, but I like you the way you are! And I’m sure if you asked Fer-Shi, or Asul-Zenza, or most of the people you care about, they’d say the same. It’s hard for me that you aren’t good sometimes, but the La-Iin I love is evil.”
La-Iin blinked.
“I’ll get frustrated with you for as long as we’re alive, but who you are is who you are. Change only if you want to. That’s basically what I’m saying.”
La-Iin shivered. Mit-Sun’s smile and words set her on-edge, and at the same time, they filled her with a feeling of certainty. What she had said made something click in her mind.
“…it took you long enough.”
“I’ve always cared about you, though. You don’t seem to believe that.”
“You make it hard to. But…thank you.”
“You, thanking me!?”
La-Iin smirked. “I’m not thanking you for saying you care about me. I already knew that…I guess…but you saying what you did gave me an idea.”
“Huh?”
“It’s nothing you need to know, though.”
Mit-Sun sighed. “Well, I guess this is part of what I asked for as well…”
‘Now I know for sure. Your role’s going to need a little re-planning.’ La-Iin’s smirk slowly eased into a smile.

—–
Mit-Sun held out a gown.
“What do you think, La-Iin?”
“…if there’s one thing I can give you credit for, it’s your sewing skills,” La-Iin said. “This will work.”
“Good. I worked on this for a long time, you know.”
La-Iin chuckled. “I figured you did.”
Mit-Sun smiled. ‘To think that I would find another role for you. Even a position like this can have its surprises, I suppose.’

21.598.To See the Future–Part 6

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

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

***

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

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

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

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