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.’

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31.608.To See the Future–Part 10

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 608
“To See the Future–Part 10”

San-Kyung groaned.
La-Iin looked up at him with a smile.
“Sheesh, you’re still as much of a stalker as ever, aren’t you?” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Following someone to his house like that. You know, there’s plenty of stalking cases where the stalked gets a restraining order after the person keeps coming to their house!”
“San-Kyung would never get a restraining order for me. I am his friend after all.”
“Don’t put it past me.”
“Besides, after last time, I want to have a visit with you that doesn’t end in you blowing up at me! So I figured this time we could talk about evil.” La-Iin sat down next to him, then shooed at Dosa-Mina. “Get out of here! Neutrals aren’t allowed in discussions about evil.”
“Hey, I was here first! And I wasn’t being affectionate at all. I was actually discussing something very important with San-Kyung.”
“Like what!?”
“If I’m not allowed in your discussion about evil, why should I tell you about what me and San-Kyung are doing without you?
La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “How dare you!”
“La-Iin, be quiet. Dosa-Mina has a point, we were discussing something before you came here. And in case you don’t remember, your idea of evil and my idea of evil have a few key differences. Namely, I’m a little more realistic than you are.”
“Everyone always says that about me. But when I rule the world, you’ll regret putting me down in this way! Besides, I have my ways to get you to talk even if you’re going to refuse me like that. Oh Dosa-Mina, did I ever tell you about what San-Kyung said about lo–”
“Be quiet!” San-Kyung hissed.
“Luh?”
“It’s nothing!”
Dosa-Mina gave San-Kyung a wary look. “You always say you wonder about me, but this isn’t the first time you’ve shut her up about something. That makes me wonder…”
“Well don’t wonder, because whatever you’re thinking is probably wrong.” San-Kyung sighed. “Alright, I’ll talk to you about evil. But not for long. Dosa-Mina, you can go do whatever you want, just let me placate her so she’ll leave us alone.”
Dosa-Mina glared. “You know, maybe we see a little more eye-to-eye on the whole rival dynamic than I thought.”
“See!? Actually, no wait, maybe that’s a bad thing! I don’t know what to think about you anymore, rival-boy.”
“How you think about me is obvious,” he said with a roll of his eyes. “I’m gonna go inside and see if I can’t help Mrs. Molshei with something to pass the time. You’re welcome to call me out when you need me again, San-Kyung!”
Dosa-Mina head inside, and almost immediately after the door closed San-Kyung gave La-Iin an intense glare. “Thanks a lot! I wanted to hear what Dosa-Mina had to say, but thanks to you that’s going to have to wait!”
“You should thank me, San-Kyung. After all, what I have to say is probably far more important.”
“If you only knew…” He grumbled under his breath.
“Since the both of us are evil, and since we’re likely to work together in the future–”
San-Kyung sighed. “La-Iin, I’m going to ask you something. Sure, you’re my….friend…and we get along well enough. We’re both evil too, like you said. But have I ever said anything about working together with you?”
La-Iin looked away from him. “…no. But why not, San-Kyung!? The both of us together could make a wonderfully evil harmony!”
“I don’t think you understand that what little I know about your plans are a lot different from my plans. What I want to do is different than what you want to do. And like I said, I think about these things a lot more realistically than you do.”
When La-Iin turned back to face him, he was slightly startled by her lack of expression. It was normal for her, but something about it looked oddly cold.
“Everyone always tells me that,” she said. “But I think about these things a lot. I understand that what I want to do isn’t going to be easy. But I know I can do it. I have my lifespan and good powers on my side. You say you’re looking at these things realistically, but are you really?”
“Moreso than you.”
“I don’t believe you! Do you think about every outcome that could possibly happen? Do you consider what would happen if people you need aren’t there for you, if things don’t go your way? I’ve thought about what I might do if I run into adversary and I’m still thinking about it even now! I haven’t stopped formulating my plans. If anything’s unrealistic it’s making one plan and sticking to it completely to the note!”
“I don’t do that!”
“But I bet despite what you’ve said you’ve never considered something like, say, rival-boy getting killed because of what you want to do, have you?”
San-Kyung’s eyes widened. “You didn’t, did you!? I rest my case. You need to think about these things from all angles, San-Kyung. If you don’t, then I’m being more realistic than you are!”
“Did you say all that just to prove something to me!?”
“Maybe. But it’s a lesson you need to learn!”
San-Kyung wanted to retort, but found he didn’t quite have the words. When he thought on it, as much as he hated to admit it, La-Iin was right. There were a lot of things that could happen no matter how much he tried to prevent them, and if he didn’t plan for those things his ultimate plan could end up going down in flames. It would mean nothing if he wasn’t prepared.
But how could he even begin to imagine a future without Dosa-Mina, or a future where he was stuck with November as it was?

***

“Look, Dosa-Mina. The people of Bledger spend every day wondering when the next onslaught will happen. And soon it won’t just be the people of Bledger. It’ll be everyone in the world.”
“Yeah, people are getting pretty scared nowadays. When I go out into the thick of it you can see they’re just wondering what you’re going to do next.”
“They should be worried. It’s their fault this is happening.”
“More like your fault. I’m here to support you, but you have to admit it’s your fault.”
“I know. But there’s the part of me that still blames them. Besides, they’re going to have a month of peace now…”
San-Kyung sighed.
“…this world’s a lot different than I thought it would be.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I thought I’d be able to keep up endless onslaughts, or at least, I’d have enough power so that when I took a break, nobody would bother me, but…that can’t really happen now.”
“It is pretty amazing that you were able to establish so much dominion over Bledger, though.”
“What’s the point? I thought I would be happier getting revenge, but now instead, I’m stuck in this stupid dead-end. I can cause chaos if I want, but I always have to go into hiding afterwards. And I have to up the ante in November. It’s nothing like I imagined at all.”
“Well, there’s still some things in life you like, right? Just because things are different now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it. I mean, this is what you wanted! Mostly…”
“Maybe, but…I guess I was wrong about the way I wanted to go about it. When you told me Operation Reboot’s goal was impossible, I should have stopped there instead of pushing on like I did….I guess the world cares enough to screw over someone who’s trying to screw it over the way I am.”
“Huh?”
“Well played.”

“Hello, San-Kyung,” Del-Kyuus said. “How are you?”
“Why even bother asking that? Do I look fine to you? Do you think it’s fun to constantly be on-edge? They won’t even honor my request to be placed in solitary confinement. Saying it’ll radicalize me or something…”
“Solitary confinement sounds pretty shitty, San-Kyung. I don’t think you’d want to go there,” Dosa-Mina said.
“I’d rather be there than be stuck with a bunch of evil failures!” San-Kyung yelled. He sighed. “I guess I’m one of them, now…”
“Aw, come on, San-Kyung, don’t feel down. You’ll be out of jail soon-ish, and then maybe you can focus on something else.” Salsh-Era said.
“I’d love to just do that and leave it at that, but do you realize how much more I hate the world since being put in here? Oh, it’s the system of justice, what a crock. I bet this system was set up by evil people. First, trick the goody-goodies into thinking it’s for them…then torture everyone you see as inferior to you.”
“San-Kyung…”
“I thought if I failed, I could just go back to normal. But now that’s not going to happen. I don’t care what you guys say. Every day in here is like a never-ending November, I’m always scared of what’s going to happen next, and…”
San-Kyung turned away from them. “Just go for today. I don’t have anything else to say.”
Salsh-Era, Del-Kyuus, and Dosa-Mina gave each other concerned glances, but as far as San-Kyung was concerned, seeing that was a lot better than the faces he could only imagine they’d make if they saw him break down.
In here he wanted revenge more than ever, but now he was scared that if he tried to take that, it would only extend his nightmare.

“You know, San-Kyung, it’s funny how you used to say that you were the one thinking more realistically. Because who’s being realistic now?”
San-Kyung glared at her. La-Iin wore a self-satisfied expression–it seemed like that was the only expression she wore around him nowadays. He struck his hands to see if perhaps the power suppressants had worn off at least a little, but there was no reaction, and instead strangely-colored blood dripped down the side of his hand.
“Shut up. I’m sick of hearing your voice.”
“Well, then, you’ll just have to hear it more!” La-Iin got off the bed she was relaxing on and curled up next to him.
“You have your stupid world. How come you can’t just leave me alone?”
“Because, San-Kyung, I always involved you in my plans. And I know you. Sooner or later you’ll crack under pressure and you’ll realize you want to help me. My intention is not to make you suffer, I hope you know. Not like the other people I’m ‘keeping watch’ over.”
“Yeah, well, good luck not making me suffer when you’ve got me chained up like this! You gave me power suppressants! You always leave me in here! You won’t even tell me where my parents or Dosa-Mina are! How can you consider this not suffering!?”
La-Iin sighed. “You just don’t understand, do you. Well, if you don’t understand, then I’m not going to force you to understand. But I will tell you this. Until I know for sure that you’ve cracked under pressure and you’re going to help me, I’ll keep you this way. Because currently, you’re too much of a danger for me to do otherwise.”
“How!? I have power suppressants!?”
“You won’t forever. And if I let you free they’ll wear off eventually. Trust me, San-Kyung, I know what I’m doing. And if you consider this suffering then you’d better do your best to crack under pressure as soon as possible, because I’m not going to let you out until you do.”
San-Kyung struggled against the chains, but to no avail. La-Iin walked off, still wearing a self-satisfied smile but seeming just slightly irritated by the turn of events.

San-Kyung took a breath.
It was wonderful. He was finally here. From this point in Bledger, anything he did would cause severe damage, and with Dosa-Mina’s discovery, it would be at the level of his power-surge ability. There was a thrill coursing through him, and he wasn’t quite sure what he should make his first action.
Wasn’t quite sure, but already had the perfect idea.
Vines snaked up from the ground until they stood high above him, and San-Kyung struck both hands and faced them. He reached out his right hand to touch a vine, and just as he did–
“STOP WHERE YOU ARE!”
Before he could react, something hit him in the back with such a speed and intensity that he was surprised it didn’t go straight through his shoulder. He gasped in pain and his flames almost immediately died down, though embers that had made it onto the vines set them alight. Water balls hit the vines and put out the fire before it could spread too much.
San-Kyung turned around. Narwhaltae officers stood at the front, flipper-hands pointed outward. They heaved sighs of relief. Several officers were behind him, all wearing intense expressions, and one went right up to him and cuffed him.
“We’re gonna have to thank that Mr. Dslellular for this,” one of them said. San-Kyung gasped. “If it hadn’t been for his report downtown Bledger would be up in flames!”
“Can you imagine the casualties?” Said another.
“It’s not just Mr. Dslellular we should thank. We wouldn’t have pinpointed him without his parents’ help.”
San-Kyung was dragged off to a police car, but he barely noticed it. He barely noticed the weakness that was washing over him too. He was too absorbed in the hurt he felt at hearing what the police officers had to say.
He had been betrayed by those he had trusted the most.
As the police drove off with him in their car, he couldn’t begin to imagine what he was going to do past this point. If he was under suspicion for attempting a fatal attack, and his own family and best friend had turned against him, what could he possibly do now?

“Are they firing at us!?”
“What do you think!? Keep going! We’re almost out of their line of sight!”
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina maneuvered their way across Bledger. San-Kyung grit his teeth. ‘Everything was going so well! What tipped them off to our location?’
He didn’t have much time to think on that–he had to focus on getting him and Dosa-Mina out of the range of the bullets. But the bullets only seemed to increase in number the further they went, and San-Kyung noticed that not all of them were flying past them–one was headed straight for Dosa-Mina’s shoulder.
Desperate, he moved him out of the way with levitation.
And just then, a bullet hit him in the back of the head.
San-Kyung dropped both himself and Dosa-Mina to the ground. He checked for any sign of life, but the horrible wound in Dosa-Mina’s head was all the proof he needed. The bullets were only getting closer now, and if he didn’t keep going he would be hit sooner or later.
But if he left Dosa-Mina’s body, they would only riddle it with bullets.
San-Kyung wanted to escape, or to stay there and cry, but what overtook his sadness and fear was anger, and he instead turned to face the onslaught of bullets. He dug his nails deep into his right hand, and aside from a wince, ignored the pain as best as he could. Finally, when his hand was busted up well enough, he shot off a massive flamethrower at the source of the bullets, and after that no more bullets came.
He collapsed next to Dosa-Mina’s body. He hadn’t wanted to cry, not consciously anyway, but the pain and the reality of what had happened–what he had caused to happen–was hitting him all at once.
From then on, Bledger became known as a ‘murder hole’–and that reputation was soon to spread across all of Vaelyn.

—–
“San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung gasped and looked up.
“San-Kyung, are you okay?”
“You look scared, son.”
“What’s wrong, San-Kyung?”
Salsh-Era, Del-Kyuus, and Dosa-Mina all had their eyes on him, and he was scrambling for something to say. He could tell by the looks they had what kind of face he was making.
“I–It–it’s nothing.”
“Obviously it’s not! What’s wrong?”
‘What am I supposed to tell them? It’ll sound stupid whatever I say!’
“…I was just thinking about if things don’t go right. Th–that’s all.”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus didn’t seem convinced, but Dosa-Mina’s expression was understanding.
“I really do need to put more thought into this,” he whispered to himself. “Damn it, I can’t believe La-Iin was right. But I’m not going to let those futures happen. I’m not.”

That night, San-Kyung had a nightmare. When he woke up from it, he had to take a few deep breaths to calm down.
‘Nothing like that will happen if I work hard enough. But now that I think about it…maybe I really have been going about my plans the wrong way.’
He took another deep breath. ‘Damn it, La-Iin! I thought she was going to be the key to unlocking my true form, but all she ever does is make me doubt myself! I need to drop her soon. But how am I going to do that?’
Frustrated and scared, he tried to get back to sleep regardless. Sleep eventually came, but it was fitful.

“San-Kyung, is something wrong?”
“Just thinking about what to do if things go wrong, that’s all. And thinking more on what I should do…am I going about this the right way? I don’t even know anymore…”
“Well…I think the most important thing you could do right now is figure out what ‘right way’ will make you most happy. Or at least, I’d sure like to see you happier!”
“Yeah…you would say that, wouldn’t you?”

30.607.To See the Future–Part 9

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 607
“To See the Future–Part 9”

‘Once I graduate high school, that’s it. My future is going to be worthless.’
That thought constantly floated around in Airy-Aekok’s head in the days before she transferred to Malicerie.
‘There’s nothing a stupid boy-crazy Llamaki can do. I’m nothing like my Dad at all. My powers aren’t even any good. And even if they were better, I’m not good with my powers anyway. Not like Dad is…’
Her glare hardened. ‘Compared to my Dad, I’m nothing.’

But as time went on, Airy-Aekok’s feelings changed on that subject.
“Someone looks happy today! Did something good happen while I was at work yesterday?”
“Nah, not really, but like, I’ve been thinking about my talents and stuff, you know? And I’m like, not all that good with my powers, and I was kinda disappointed.”
“Aw, Airy-Aekok, you’re plenty good with your powers. And your mother wasn’t the best with her powers either, but you know what she did? She kept working at them.”
“But I don’t, like, care about that anymore! I mean like pssh, who cares about rearranging your skeletal structure when you’ve got other talents!?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you know how you always said, like, I look a lot like my Mom? Well, I think since I got Mom’s look, I got your talent. I was like, thinking about the things I can do and I thought that I’m really good at a lot of things you can do! So I got the perfect idea. What if, in the future, I become a detective!? Then I can work with you!”
“You want to do that? It’s dangerous to be a detective, though…”
“C’mon Dad, don’t worry about me! Besides, maybe the boys’ll go for a cute llama detective,” she said with a wink. “And like, I don’t think I’ll ever get passionate about a line of work. I love other, not-work-related things too much. Work is dumb. But hey, if I’m gonna work, I might as well do somethin’ I’m good at, right?”
“I guess so. Well, if you want to do that, then I’m sure you can! Although I wouldn’t exactly call it inheriting my talent. I had to work hard to acquire those skills.”
“Then I’m like a new game plus!” She said cheerfully. Her father chuckled. “I guess you could say that!”

***

“Airy-Aekok, have you heard!?”
“What is it, Dad? You look all frazzled.”
“They say a murder happened nearby Malicerie!”
“Malicerie? Ah, I remember that school…my high school alma matter. And junior high too!”
“Airy-Aekok!” Her Dad whined.
“Oh, oh yeah! The murder! Who got killed?”
“Sixty-three year old Chensu…I couldn’t exactly find out his first name, but he was the history teacher for Class D.”
“Good ol’ Chensu…wait, you said murder!?”
“Yeah! They found his bloated corpse behind the building! It looked like he had been stabbed and shot!”
“Somethin’ tells me his corpse isn’t exactly bloated, Dad. But that sounds pretty bad. He was kinda hacky, but he never deserved that…”
“What are you going to do, Airy-Aekok? It does seem like a bit of a personal case for you. Are you going to stay away?”
“Now why would I do that? It being personal makes it all the more important! Someone murdered my old history teacher. And the suspects are numerous….I’m gonna look into each and every one, and get to the bottom of this case!”

As soon as she arrived near the building, a rank stench hit her nose. Mr. Chensu’s corpse was exactly where her father had told her it would be, and police were swarming around it.
“We’ve collected a bit of evidence for you to look over, Miss Llanni,” one cop said. “I heard you’re taking on investigative duties for this case.”
“Yeah, exactly.”
“We also rounded up all the suspects you had,” another cop said. Airy-Aekok nodded. “Good job, men! I’m gonna look into it now.”
Airy-Aekok walked into the school. Her suspects were lined up against Class D wall. She stared them down.
“Alright, everyone! I’m gonna ask each and every one of you what your alibi is for the night of the murder. Apparently he was killed at approximately eleven-thirty-five PM on August the twenty-third. What were you all doing at that time!?”
“I–I was sleeping,” Rini-Futo said.
“I was preoccupied with something far away from Malicerie that’s none of your business,” La-Iin hissed.
“I was conducting school work…Miss Llanni, I’m the one who discovered the body! Why am I a suspect?” Theasis asked.
“The discoverer is always a suspect in my eyes. As are any witnesses! Now, go on?”
“I was up late cramming. I’m trying to become a species studier. It’s hard work.” Dosa-Mina said.
“I was asleep too.” San-Kyung said.
“I was having a late-night fashion show. Call up Song-Jpinne–he can confirm for me,” Nemi-Hikla said.
“I was cleaning the school,” Wue Sao-Mel, the janitor, said.
“Aside from Fheyundaer, can any of ya confirm those alibis for me?”
“My brothers and sisters live with me…one of them might have gotten up.”
“I was too far away to be here.”
“I can confirm that Mr. Wue was indeed inside the school, cleaning. I’m sure he can do the same for me?”
“Oh yeah, I saw Miss Theasis working on some things.”
“San-Kyung was asleep, so I guess I have no official confirmation, but I can give you confirmation that it isn’t him.”
“How’d you all feel about the victim, then?”
“I…I really cared about him,” Rini-Futo said sadly.
“He was stupid.”
“He was a close friend of mine. He might not have been the brightest, but he was devoted to his work.”
“I respected him well enough.”
“I don’t care about anyone.”
“He was a good enough teacher. At least he liked what he did.”
“He was a fine guy, and a staple of Malicerie. I’m gonna miss him.”
“Hm…” Airy-Aekok stared them over. “Now, like, you guys aren’t allowed to leave until I give the say-so. I have a few things to do…”
“You want me to keep an eye on them, Miss Llanni?”
“Yea, I do. Chances are good you’re gonna be standin’ in a room with a killer…we can’t take any chances to lose ’em, even if it would probably identify ’em pretty well. Though I have a bit of an idea about who it was…”
She glared at La-Iin. ‘That girl couldn’t confirm a thing for me. And it was hard to get her here in the first place. But then again, Dslellular doesn’t exactly have an air-tight alibi. And I highly doubt it was Shaejaein…but we’ll have to see what the evidence says!’
So Airy-Aekok head to one of the Weekend classrooms and looked over the evidence retrieved by the police. Pictures of the body, items found near the scene, there were quite a few things inside of there.
‘So, looks like poor Mr. Chensu might’ve taken a spill before he was killed. That’s sick…’
Most of the items retrieved didn’t look all that helpful to Airy-Aekok–they were mostly items of Mr. Chensu’s that had been dropped when he was killed. ‘So I really doubt it’s a robbery. And thank goodness! Robbery-murders are always difficult. That means it was most likely personal, and if it was Cahongyun or Dslellular I wouldn’t be surprised if it was premeditated…’
Airy-Aekok sighed. ‘I really bet it’s one of those two, but what proof do I have? They didn’t exactly find any hair on the body or anything that wasn’t his. Eugh…hey, wait a second…’
Airy-Aekok took a closer look at the picture of the body. There were singe marks on his clothes, reminiscent of burning. There was only one suspect so far who would be able to inflict a burn with his powers alone.
San-Kyung.
‘And Dslellular’s alibi was shit too! He might’ve never seen San-Kyung asleep!’
“Airy-Aekok, we have a bit of a problem!” Her father yelled.
“What’s wrong, Dad!?”
“One of the suspects made a break for it!”
“Lemme guess, Molshei!?”
“How’d you know!?”
“I think we’ve got our killer. That’s how I knew.” She handed her father the picture of Mr. Chensu’s body, then followed the sounds of the police. The group who was formerly examining Mr. Chensu was now pointing their guns at a stoic-faced San-Kyung.
“Be careful where you aim the power suppressants. These have got the force of bullets so they could still be pretty lethal.”
“Got it.”
San-Kyung took advantage of their momentary distraction and raised vines from the ground to tie them up. The officers screeched in disbelief as they were raised into the air. One dropped his gun, and Airy-Aekok caught it and hid it in her belt.
“I should’ve known it was you all along!”
“It’s not my fault you’re too stupid to figure simple things out.”
“Why’d you do it!? And wait, why the hell are you admitting it!?”
“Because in a little bit, it’s not going to matter that I admitted it.”
Vines raised from the ground once more and snaked towards Airy-Aekok. She shrieked and moved out of the way.
“All I have to tell you is this. Do you really think someone evil would never act on those whimsies?”
“I don’t.” She pulled out the gun and shot him before he could retort. He fell to the ground, holding tight to his shoulder. When he pulled out the vial, blood and embers spurt from the wound.
“Especially not someone like you. And I bet I know why you did it. You just wanted revenge on the past. And when you realized you wouldn’t be able to kill the people you actually wanted dead, you turned to poor old Mr. Chensu instead!”
“Nngh…damn it…”
“Justice always prevails when a Llanni is on the scene! That’s my motto, and it hasn’t failed me yet!”
She ran over to the tied-up officers, pulled the vines from the ground and wrapped San-Kyung in them, who by now was doubled over in pain.
“You didn’t need to worry, guys. So long as a Llanni’s here, you’re always safe!”

—–
“You really do look happy, Airy-Aekok. Are you sure nothing in particular happened?”
“One-hundred-percent sure-a-roonie, Dad. I’m just thinkin’ about how I can use my talents in the future.”
“Yeah, you are pretty good at doing some of the stuff I can do. But if you want to use it in the future for justice, you’re going to have to remember that you can’t just tie up boys because you want to get them aroused, all right?”
Airy-Aekok blushed. “Daaad! Like of course I wouldn’t do that! It’s not professional at all.”

As Airy-Aekok went to sleep that night, she felt that she could almost see the vision of herself reaching out a hand towards her younger self.
‘If I can succeed in what Sanyaow asked of me, I can succeed in life, too. I’m not worthless or a failure. Thanks to my Dad, I have talent. And I’m not gonna let it go to waste.’

29.606.To See the Future–Part 8

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 606
“To See the Future–Part 8”

Age 8:2nd Grade
Age 9:3rd Grade
Age 10:4th Grade
Age 11:5th Grade
Age 12:6th Grade
Age 13:7th Grade
Age 14:8th Grade
Age 15:9th Grade
Age 16:10th Grade
Age 17:11th Grade
Age 18:12th Grade & Graduation
Age 19:??
Age 20:???
Age 21:????

Ai-Reia heaved a sigh.
“At the rate I’m going, I really am going to graduate at age eighteen…I won’t even be going through puberty by then, unless I end up precocious in that field too. I suppose there’s college, and here in Vaelyn, I will be a legal adult in a few months from then, won’t I? But, hm…”
“You talkin’ to yourself, sis?” Reuf-Bu asked. He smirked. “If you don’t want us to think that you’re crazy, then you shouldn’t do that with the door open! Whoa!” Reuf-Bu flinched. “Don’t threaten me like that!”
Ai-Reia was tempted to throw the cup in her hand, but she kept from doing it. “Don’t ever say something like that to me again. You make things harder for me than they need to be.”
“Sorry…well, uh, if you need me, I’ll be in the playroom, doing a puzzle…”
“I’m not interested, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
Reuf-Bu sighed. Ai-Reia turned back to her diagram. ‘My future’s a long one. There’s no telling what could happen over the span of hundreds of years. The world will change, people close to me will die, I’ll grow older…I have plenty of time to think, but I’m only eight and already in the second grade. It may be plenty of time to think, but I’m already doing something most Vampires don’t do until they’re older!’
Ai-Reia sighed. ‘Still, there’s so much to learn about the world, and with my knowledge I’m sure there’s some field I could pursue that would take up a good portion of my life. The question is, what am I going to do for a potential nine-hundred years if I’m likely to graduate high school at eighteen? I suppose there’s always the off-chance I’ll be held back a grade…’
Ai-Reia’s stare hardened. ‘But then there’s also my recovery plans. Those are an integral part of my future too. The way I handle myself as I’m growing up could be key to how my future plays out…’

***

“Hey, look over there. Isn’t that Vampiris Ai-Reia?”
“Vaelyn’s one and true prodigy! She’s only fifty years old and the discoveries she’s made so far are amazing! Did you hear that her first major discovery was at nineteen!? She wasn’t even going through puberty yet!”
“Yeah, I’m pretty proud of her. She’s something Vaelyn has that other countries don’t! Take that, Manemica! Take that, Wiencei! You other countries have nothin’ on our Vampiris!”
Even sitting far away from the group of people, their volume made it easy for Ai-Reia to hear what they had said. “A lot of people certainly think positively of you, Miss Vampiris.”
“Yes, well, I really don’t understand all the hype. Personally, I find it much more amazing when people work to be able to understand these things. I just happened to be blessed. I find that a lot less interesting.”
“Are you kiddin’ me!? Have you seen yourself!? With all your discoveries and inventions, how could you say that you haven’t put in a lot of work! Pat yourself on the back every once in a while, Miss Vampiris! You deserve it!”
Ai-Reia chuckled. “Well…no, maybe not.”
Since graduating from Malicerie back in 2026, Ai-Reia had focused a great deal of her time on studying and learning more. It seemed like an average enough schedule. She spent time doing what she wanted to, such as being with her family or with Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima, and spent the other half of her time studying.
When she was nineteen, however, she had discovered a medicine that could potentially regenerate parts of the body, to be used in keeping people alive longer. A test found that she was correct, and since then the medicine had been used for several people–including her brother Reuf-Bu, who had suffered a near-fatal car accident years later but was now as spry as he was in his thirties.
Since then she had discovered a wide variety of medicines, artifacts and had once helped turn around a guilty sentence for an innocent a few months before her execution. She was considered an inventor for the amount of new discoveries she had made. Ai-Reia loved being able to make vuyong off of studying, especially since it seemed there was still so much left for her to learn. The attention wasn’t always great, but it was just one caveat to getting to do what she wanted to.
And yet, despite her successes and her happiness, there was always a pervasive feeling nagging at her–a small part that kept her happiness from being complete even despite the fact that she had so much to be happy about.
‘I’m successful and I’m doing something I love! My family’s in good health and I’m considered the best aunt by Reuf-Bu’s children…’ That thought often tugged at her, but Ai-Reia already knew what was making her so unhappy.
“Ai-Reia!”
A familiar voice hit her ears, and she caught sight of a Catori and Birdmix walking towards her.
“It’s been a little bit since we last saw each other, hasn’t it?” Ai-Reia said.
“Yes, but that’s alright. I’ve been busy with the family business.”
“And you know how Catoris work. I have so many grandkids now it’s hard to keep an eye on them all…”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima still looked as happy as always, and in them she could still see how they looked when they were teenagers. But it was obvious they were aging. Shuera-Kaizima’s fur was flecked with grey and Im-Dei had visible wrinkles. The two’s slow walking didn’t go unnoticed by her either. It was quite evident that her friends weren’t as young as they had once been.
“I can imagine. How many grandchildren do you have by the way?”
“Nineteen. And it sounds like five more are on the way…”
“I only have one, but I would love to have more. You know, Ai-Reia, when you’re old enough to consider it, I think you’ll really like being a mother.”
“Well, I’m still a little pubescent, so I think it should wait for now.”
“You’re definitely mature enough for it. I could never imagine doing all the amazing things you’ve done!”
“Yes, we should get together again soon, maybe for tea?” Im-Dei said.
“Yes…yes, that sounds nice.”
“I’d love to do it now, but you’re busy working on a little AI project, aren’t you?”
“Erm, y-yes, that’s right.”
“And I have to work with the family business,” Im-Dei said. “But we should definitely get together soon. It was nice to see you, though!”
“Yes, it was nice.”
“Here!” Shuera-Kaizima handed her a small container. “I made a little something for you to eat! A Kokohara family recipe!”
“Take care, Ai-Reia. We’ll see you soon.”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima walked off. Ai-Reia stared down at the meal. It seemed to be made from a mixture of grilled tofu and beef. Her eyes started to tear up.
‘They’re so good to me, even now. But whereas I’m finishing up puberty, they’re elderly now…in the grand scheme of things, it won’t be that many years before they’re buried. And I’ll be there. I’ll be there when their children are buried. I’ll be there when their children’s children are buried. And how many more generations, how many more Kokoharas and Fyuoris will I see go before I finally look like they do? Will I see any more go after that point?’
It was a recurring thought in her mind now. She knew Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei weren’t likely to just suddenly pass away anytime soon, but that day was approaching fast. And then it didn’t matter how much success she had–her dear friends, her support, once they were gone things wouldn’t be the same again.
And she would have to live that way for centuries past that.

***

“Look, it’s Vampiris Ai-Reia.”
“Isn’t she the child prodigy?”
Was is really a lot more accurate. Just look at her picture nowadays! She was doing so great. I heard in college she really excelled! But when that Cahongyun lady became vice president, geez, she just lost it.”
“Kinda sad, really. I’m sure she could have done great things if she hadn’t gone so crazy…”
Ai-Reia grit her teeth and covered her ears. She couldn’t bear to hear what other people were saying about her. It only reminded her that much worse had been said about her–and that had come from her own friends and family.
“Ai-Reia, why’d you let this happen to you?”
“I can’t believe you’ve gone so crazy!”
Nowadays she spent most of her time on the streets. Staying in her apartment for anything aside from eating or sleeping was painful. It felt like she could hear the rumors flying around the other rooms. Now she missed the notoriety she had had as a child. She would have killed to go back to that old reputation–namely La-Iin, if she had the choice.
Of course, if she did something like that, it would gain her a completely different kind of notoriety.
It didn’t matter anyway, because the mere idea of La-Iin being in such a high position of power would have made her unhappy even if everything else in her life was going fine. But at least then she would have her family by her side; now she had nothing.
‘Maybe I should just leave Vaelyn. Then I might be happy, somewhat…start a new life somewhere else. Maybe in Wiencei or Nyappon…’
“Well, look who it is.”
Ai-Reia looked up. She met La-Iin’s icy glare. “It certainly has been a while, Ai-Reia. I’ve heard some interesting things about you since then.”
“You…!” Ai-Reia grit her teeth. She grabbed La-Iin by her collar, but to her surprise, La-Iin did not react. “Damn you! Do you understand how much grief you’ve caused me!? I thought a stupid little stalker girl could never be so dangerous, but I suppose I was mistaken!”
“Don’t blame your problems on me.” La-Iin pushed her away. “From what I’ve heard, you ended up in this position because you couldn’t stand the idea of me becoming vice president.”
“You know why. If you were any other person, it wouldn’t matter. But I know you, La-Iin. This is just part of your plan to rule the world!”
La-Iin smirked. “Smart girl.”
“You realize I can tell people what you’ve said now, right!?”
“Who will believe you? Nobody takes you seriously anymore, Ai-Reia. And that is your own fault. Your paranoia was your undoing. And you want to blame that on me? What a joke. Be willing to admit when you’ve failed, otherwise it just looks awfully pathetic.”
“You–!”
“You have hundreds of years left, anyway. If you’re so desperate to fix your life, take the chance you have now before I end up taking all of the world under my command. Well, I don’t have time to be talking to you. I have stupid stuff to do, and plans to formulate.”
She spread her wings and flew off.
Ai-Reia watched her go. She could still remember when La-Iin had been little–back then she had thought she had been harmless. Later, she had grown to think that she would do harm, but never could she imagine that her worst fears had a chance of coming true.
In despair, Ai-Reia trudged back to her apartment early, tossing around in her head the idea of ending her own suffering. ‘It’s not like anyone would care anyway. They all think I’m crazy now. Best do that instead of kill that over-pompous bitch…’

—–
‘The future has several possibilities depending on what path I take. I can’t make a plan for nine-hundred-and-something years down to the seconds, but I can try to prevent myself from ending up in a bad situation. My future is half entrusted to me, after all. I must try my best to avoid anything as bad as that other scenario happening!’
She sighed. ‘Of course, a part of the first one is inevitable…but if I can handle myself, then even that might not end up as bad as I imagine it to be.’

25.602.To See the Future–Part 7

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 602
“To See the Future–Part 7”

“Deki-Tyunri dear, is something wrong?”
“Oh…grandmother.” Deki-Tyunri sighed. “I was just thinking about the future.”
“What about? You aren’t graduating for two, three more years. You have plenty of time.”
“Oh, I know, but I figured I should start thinking about it. Lirako’s been forced to think about it lately, so I didn’t want to end up in the same situation as her.”
“Well, what’s the problem? Why do you look so sad about it?”
“It’s just one thing…”
“Do you not have an idea?”
“No, I have an idea to work with. I think I’d like to work with children. And since I don’t have arms, I figured maybe I could be a flight instructor. …that and, well, being in the Weekend music class has given me an appreciation for music, so I’m thinking of focusing on those two things right now. I’m fine there.”
“Are you worried about me? Don’t worry, Deki-Tyunri, I’ll be fine.”
“I am worried about you, but I believe you when you say that. You aren’t the oldest grandmother in the world and you can take care of yourself.”
His grandmother smiled. Deki-Tyunri couldn’t help but feel that it looked immensely conceited. “What’s the problem, then?”
“Well….I told you, I have some things I’m planning to look into. I think you’ll be fine, although I’ll still keep an eye on you. I think I’ll be able to retain my friendships if I do good enough. So long as I have Lirako and Shin-Rei….oh, you don’t know her by her first name. I used to call her Murana, but she started calling me Deki-Tyunri, so I decided to call her by her first name too.”
“I see.”
“Anyway, so long as I have them, I don’t really mind if I lose some of my other friends. And I’m not really looking at colleges, but like I said, I know something I want to pursue, so I have that, at least. And there are some things I figure I don’t need any planning for. …but there is one thing that’s bothering me.”
“What’s bothering you?”
Deki-Tyunri lowered his head. “I want to get married,” he said quietly, “but same-sex marriage is illegal in Vaelyn!”
“Oh.”
“I just really like the idea of marriage, but how do I know it’s going to become legal anytime soon? And I was thinking about making a plan to go to Manemica, but Vaelyn is my home. I love this place. And there’s no guarantee I’ll find someone I want to marry. So I don’t know what to do…”
“Well, you’re here thinking that it won’t become legal, but who’s to say it won’t?”
“You’re right, who’s to say. Though it sometimes feels like the people in charge of laws in Vaelyn don’t take their job very seriously…”
“Well, what the future holds is a mystery.”
“I know you want me to be hopeful, but it’s legal in so many other places! Why not here?”
His grandmother shrugged. Deki-Tyunri sighed. “I may have to just settle for a pretend ceremony at this rate…”

***

“When you’re flying, you have to make sure to keep flapping your wings at all times. Like this!”
Deki-Tyunri flew above his students, who watched him with wide eyes. “Always know your limits, though. If you don’t have the strength to fly a long distance, don’t do it! Or, if you have to, at least be in an area where you can land safely. And never let yourself plummet to the ground.”
“Question!” Asked a Siren student. “Is it hard for you to fly with wing-arms?”
“No. Actually, it’s very easy for me! Anyway, to build up wing strength, you should take some time to fly around every day if you can manage it. But make sure not to fly in buildings that don’t have a “Fly Zone” marker on them. Now, let’s all fly together!”
The students flew up to reach him, save for a Birdmix girl who seemed to be struggling.
“I…I’m sorry!” She said. “I’ll make it, I promise!”
“Remember what I said about knowing your limits. You shouldn’t strain yourself to fly a certain height if you can’t yet, just keep trying every day. If you force yourself, and keep forcing yourself, you might hurt yourself. And wing injuries can be very painful and hard to heal.”
His students flinched.
“Now, watch me and we’ll all do a safe landing together.”
Deki-Tyunri gently fluttered to the ground. “You should always make sure you have a clear spot to land. Check around you just like you would check the street.”
The students landed. “Well, I think that’s all for today! I’ll see you in a week, then!”
“Bye, Mr. Elyshen!” Deki-Tyunri’s students called out as he flew off.

“Hello, Deki-Tyunri. How did the flight classes go?”
“Lots of people know how to fly, so I’m not teaching much there. But at least I can teach them how to fly safely. There are a lot of people who don’t know how!”
“I bet….well, then, what song do you want to practice today?”
“How about Snowflake Medley?”
Shin-Rei nodded. “Oh…”
“What is it?”
“Didn’t you say some people were coming over to see us today?”
“Well, we’re at my house so of course a certain someone is going to be here.”
Shin-Rei giggled. “And Lirako and my grandmother asked if they could hear us play too.”
“That’s bigger than our usual crowd…”
“Well, if you want your career to go places, you’re going to get some pretty big crowds. At least I’d hope so.”
“Mm-hm. And both of us need to get more used to the idea of strangers watching us.”
“I guess we do.”
The two practiced randomly on their instruments while they waited for their crowd to arrive.
“Hey there, Deks! What’s that song? Sounds catchy.”
“Oh, hello, Lirako!”
“Hey! Looks like I came just in time for the big show.”
“No, not at all. My grandmother isn’t here and neither is…oh….”
When he glanced behind Lirako, he noticed the both of them. “They were on their way here too when I got here.”
“I see! Well, that means we can start right away, then!”
“What, you don’t want to talk with me about how things have been going lately?” Lirako said with a nudge.
“What’s there to say? Teaching children how to fly safely really doesn’t leave much to tell. But don’t worry, everything you want to hear I’ll tell you after the song.”
“Great!”
The three members of the crowd sat down in chairs. “Hello, everyone! We’re Muranashen–”
“Name a work in progress,” Shin-Rei said, so quietly that Deki-Tyunri wondered if the crowd had heard it.
“–and tonight we’re going to perform for you our song “Snowflake Medley”! It’s a bit of a work in progress though, so bear with us!”
Shin-Rei leaned over to whisper into his ear. “Awfully energetic for someone so shy…”
“Well, I’m around family and friends. How could I be shy?”
“That would make one of us.”
The two began to play their instruments. Deki-Tyunri felt that it sounded better than normal, but the absence of a flute still bothered him. He and Shin-Rei had tried to get Xao-Bu to collaborate, but their old teacher hadn’t had the time.
“I still have many music classes to attend to,” he had said. “But best of luck to you both.”
When they finished, Lirako began to clap wildly. Deki-Tyunri blushed. “Thank you all.”
“They only care about you in this group,” Shin-Rei said. Deki-Tyunri wasn’t sure of what to make of her smile. “I fell completely under the radar…”
“I’m sure they were paying attention to you too.”
“It’s amazing that a Wingyrm can do this,” his grandmother said. “Perhaps I should take up music!”
“I’d love to hear it if you do, grandmother,” Deki-Tyunri said. “We have to put this away for now, but I wouldn’t mind talking to you now, Lirako. Though trust me, I don’t have much to say.”
“That’s a-okay, ’cause I’ve got plenty to say to you!”
‘I’d better not tell her about my other plan, at least not right now.’ Deki-Tyunri glanced over at the third person, who hadn’t yet moved from his seat. ‘She’ll probably care more about hearing the results rather than the plan anyway.’

“Are you ready for this, San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung didn’t respond. “San-Kyung?”
“…fine.”
The two left the house and head off to their destination. On their way, many things were on his mind.
‘I don’t think San-Kyung cares as much as I do about this,’ he thought. ‘Well, that’s okay. As long as he supports me, I can do this!’
Even seven years later, same-sex marriage was still illegal in Vaelyn. And it was only now that Deki-Tyunri had decided to say something about it.
A few of the people in charge of the law in Vaelyn had agreed to meet him that day, and so he head to court with San-Kyung close behind him. He entered the courtroom and braced himself.
“Mr. Elyshen, welcome,” a bespectacled Birdmix man said. “I’m not one to bend the law a bit, but considering the nature of what we’re discussing, I didn’t think a proper court was in order. Don’t worry–I have permission to do this. As I would of course being in charge of legalities here in Vaelyn.”
“…” Deki-Tyunri nodded. “Well, I think you already know what I’m here to discuss. Many other places in the world have legalized same-sex marriage, Mr. Fgui. And I don’t see any reason why it should be illegal here. I just want to get married like other people do…I’m not asking for anything special, at least I don’t think so…”
Mr. Fgui sighed. “You do make a good point, Mr. Elyshen. And that’s what a good chunk of the world would say. ‘Why keep same-sex marriage illegal? All they want to do is get married.’ True that, the situation is fairly simple, but me and my coworkers have a reason for keeping the law the way it is.”
“Do I need to convince you with something else?” Deki-Tyunri was beginning to feel desperate. Mr. Fgui shook his head.
“There’s nothing to convince me with, Mr. Elyshen. The law is already decided. Besides, here in Vaelyn we honestly couldn’t care less if you’re gay. Legally, anyway: we can’t do something about people harassing you. …well, the police can, but you need proof you were harassed. Anyway, seeing as we don’t care, tell me, what reason is it so important to you to get married? You can do whatever else you want.”
“Well…just as you don’t understand why it would be so important for me to get married if I can do whatever else I want, I don’t understand why, if you’re not enforcing some other law, I’m not allowed to…”
Mr. Fgui sighed. “I suppose I should tell you, then. There is indeed a reason why same-sex marriage is illegal. And do you want to know why?”
“Yes.”
Mr. Fgui grinned. “Because.”
“Because…?”
“That’s it, because. Because we feel like it. There’s no real reason for why it’s illegal. We don’t have anything against gay people. We just find this all very amusing.”
“What!?”
“Sorry, Mr. Elyshen. You’ll probably have to wait until my successors are in the office of law. Well, toodles!”
Mr. Fgui walked off.
“That’s it? That’s the whole reason why it’s illegal…?”
Deki-Tyunri screamed.

—–
Curiosity had gotten the better of Deki-Tyunri after his imagination had run away with him, and so he decided to look into the real reason why it was illegal.
‘I bet I know already. It really wouldn’t be something as silly as ‘it’s amusing’, after all…’
He looked through a thick book at the library for the answer. Moving the pages was difficult, but he finally came to the page he was looking for.
‘”Same-sex marriage is illegal in Vaelyn. This was officially enforced in 1952 by proponents of traditional marriage. In 2013, it was proposed that the law be repealed after it was pointed out that homosexuality itself was no longer illegal in Vaelyn. The law was attacked by the AMA, ‘Anti-Marriage Organization’, an organization dedicated to repealing marriage entirely, who stated that ‘Legalizing same-sex marriage is the last step towards a permanent state of marriage in Vaelyn!’ The AMA describe themselves as vigilantes who want to keep the government out of their relationships’…?’
Deki-Tyunri slammed his head into the book. ‘It might not be as bad as ‘because we felt like it’, but that really doesn’t make it much better!’

23.600.Kkumneok’s Return

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 600
“Kkumneok’s Return”

A crowd of people was standing around a part of the sidewalk, starting a commotion about something that was lying there.
Dosa-Mina stood at the front of the crowd, staring down at San-Kyung’s body. Normally, the sight of his best friend mangled and bloody sent him running off, but this time it didn’t. Everyone else in the nightmare acted the same way they always did, but he stood there with a cold expression on his face.
It wasn’t that the sight didn’t affect him, it was that he wasn’t sure exactly how he should feel about it. Every time he had a nightmare now, he always could hear Kkumneok’s words echoing in his head.
“I gave you those nightmares.”
They taunted him. He wasn’t sure what to think either. Were Kkumneok’s words the truth? Were they just some explanation he had come up with in his mind for the strange nightmares? And since that incident, he hadn’t seen Kkumneok once.
Either way, it didn’t change his primary feelings. These nightmares still haunted him as much as they always did, perhaps even more so now that the idea that they had happened already was implanted in his head.
“Dosa-Mina.”
Dosa-Mina turned around. “Speak of the devil.”
Kkumneok was standing behind him, bearing the appearance he had upon their first meeting, though Dosa-Mina noticed that his eye color and clothing was different. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it, friend?”
“That’s funny to hear you saying that to me. ‘Friend’. This coming from the person who claims he gave me nightmares of my best one committing suicide.”
Kkumneok lowered his head. “Yes, that–that’s what I’m here to talk with you about, actually. I’m sorry I ran away last time, but it was hard for me. I wanted to help you without ever having you learn the truth.”
“How do I know you weren’t just lying?”
“You don’t. So why not take me at my word? If nothing else, the dreams are vivid enough, aren’t they? And I do have the power to change dreams.”
“…I don’t want to believe that San-Kyung did this to himself, even if it really is in another world. He’s had a lot of problems, but never one that would drive him to this point. And I’ve been trying my hardest to support him…”
“I’m sure you have been. And that’s what I want. I tell you, Dosa-Mina, these are the events I know to have happened. Perhaps there are a few inaccuracies, but where I come from, this is his final fate. Your cutting nightmare is your final fate. And the nightmare where La-Iin shoots herself is also her final fate.”
“And what about my other loved ones? Are you going to tell me that they kill themselves too?”
Kkumneok shook his head. “These are the only ones I know of.”
“Why not go to La-Iin or San-Kyung then? Why pick me, specifically?”
Kkumneok sighed. “It would probably be better if I explained it without the backdrop of the nightmare…”
He snapped his fingers and the scenery changed to a park.
“I come from a world where these incidents occurred. Believe me if you will or not. I always found them horrifying. To think a man would kill himself in such a brutal way, to think a young child would do that to herself…to think you were that sad as to do what you did in response.”
“How did anyone know I did that in response to San-Kyung’s suicide?”
“If I remember correctly, your parents said so. These cases stick out in my mind but many years have passed since they happened. In any event, it was by pure luck that I discovered how to modify dreams and enter the dreams of other people. I thought it was amazing. And it was even more amazing when I discovered I could ‘cross worlds’ by doing that. To this day, it still doesn’t make complete sense to me. But when I discovered that, I immediately thought of this case. I thought that maybe I could change the outcome of what happened. The problem is, I went about it the wrong way initially. I regret that more than you could know…”
“That still doesn’t answer why you picked me.”
“I picked you for many reasons. First, I knew you to be close to San-Kyung. I figured that wouldn’t change no matter what did in your world. Second, I had heard of San-Kyung’s antagonistic nature…I did bank on chance when it comes to the little girl, though. And when I weighed all of what you three had done, I figured this. The little girl is a little girl. How would she handle nightmares of her own death, of people she might not know’s death? San-Kyung killed himself even with your support, so who’s to say he wouldn’t respond the same way to this trauma? You only did the same when you lost San-Kyung. I had figured you had the most mental fortitude, but in thinking that I didn’t bother to think that it would still cause you anguish regardless.”
“…”
“When I decided on you, I pieced together what I knew and tried to make everything as clear as possible. I made these dreams based upon what I knew and gave them to you, figuring you might take them as a future premonition. But when i realized you were having trauma, that these dreams were recurring in your mind, that’s when I decided to step in myself. I planned on helping you and giving you that same courage you gave to San-Kyung. And I hoped it wouldn’t fail the same way that did.”
“I…I still don’t understand. It doesn’t make any sense. Not even the most ridiculous Witch power allows you to go between worlds or anything like that. I don’t understand…”
Kkumneok chuckled. “Neither do I, entirely. But I did it to prevent all that. Those cases stuck in my mind and bothered me. If I can prevent them from happening to another version of you, I would be happy. And I am very sorry for what I did originally. I was just so desperate…”
“Why do you care, though? Did you know us? Were there not many suicides where you came from? I don’t know if Vaelyn exists where you come from, but a lot of people kill themselves here.”
Kkumneok shuddered. “Suicides aren’t as common in my Vaelyn, then. They happen, but mostly in Silcoulle. Besides, most suicides are hangings, not jumping off of buildings or shootings or cuttings….sorry.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“As for whether I knew you two or not…” Kkumneok looked slightly pained. “Ma–maybe not as well as you might expect for someone going to these lengths, but I knew of you. Remember, in that world, you had made some strides in the way of species study.”
“…”
“Now that I’ve explained myself, I think I should also explain to you my new plan.”
“New plan?”
“Yes. I want to make up for what I’ve done to you. So I’ve decided. I’ll learn whatever you want to know that I wasn’t able to explain today. I’ll give you the best dream I can come up with, a happy dream that will make you so happy, you’ll be sad to wake up from it.”
“That doesn’t sound pleasant.”
“I’m going to make it up to you, Dosa-Mina. So keep trying your hardest to prevent my world from becoming your world, too.”
“…”
“Is there anything you want me to look into, for reference next time?”
“I…are you really going to do this?”
Kkumneok nodded. “It may take me a long time, but I will devote all my time to finding out all I can for you. I have plenty of it, anyway.”
“Hm….”
“You don’t have to pretend to believe me if you don’t.”
“I’m just conflicted. You have helped me in the past. But this incident has made me see you in a different light…if you’re really willing to, then I’ll ask for these things.”
“Fire away.”
“I want to know more about your world, and this power you’re using, both to change my dreams and to come here in the first place. I want proof of your world and mine being separate…and of mine or San-Kyung or La-Iin’s suicide, if possible. In fact, you can just bring that and it will be all the proof I need. And if you can muster up the courage, I want to know who you are. That’s always bothered me, and it bothers me even more now.”
“That last one is a little iffy, but fine. I’ll do my best.”
Kkumneok pulled Dosa-Mina close. “I’ll do my best to make up for what I did. In the meantime, you keep an eye on San-Kyung and the little girl, okay?”
“I…I will be.”
Kkumneok nodded and drew away. “Well, I suppose there’s nothing more to say. Unless you have a question?”
“When are you going to be back?”
“Whenever I have what I need to show you. Of course, if I get worried about what’s going on over with you I might drop by for another visit. But I probably won’t make myself known until then. We’ll see. Farewell for now, Dosa-Mina. Best of luck.”
Kkumneok snapped his fingers, and San-Kyung walked up to him. “Were you talking to someone, Dosa-Mina?”
“Oh–uh, no, not really.”
‘Should I really trust him?’ Dosa-Mina wondered. ‘…well, he seemed sincere enough. And if he’s telling the truth, this is my chance to understand my nightmares once and for all. Once I understand, will I be able to move past the point I’m at now? Still, all of this does happen in my dreams, so I can’t help but wonder…’
“Dosa-Mina?”
“Er, yes, San-Kyung! Sorry. Just thinking about someone…”

—–
“I hope I’m making the right move here. Maybe this will only depress him more. But I can’t believe that way. I have to believe in myself.”
Kkumneok took one last glance back at the dream he had made for Dosa-Mina. “Don’t worry. I’ll help this world, and any world else that’s out there. And now that I know better, I can keep from making the same mistake next time. And then I’ll go. As it all should be…”

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?’

20.597.To See the Future–Part 5

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 597
“To See the Future–Part 5”

“I think the most annoying part about life is having ideas that you can’t do anything about because you can’t move on your own.”
La-Iin put down her crayon and glared. “If I agree with those ideas and you’d tell me what they were, I might help you with them.”
“I seriously doubt you would help me build a harem of women.”
“And you would be right.”
“When it comes to the subject of my autonomy, you have a fickleness that you obviously got from that woman.” La-Iin’s glare became more intense. “In the past it seemed like the idea of me becoming autonomous was a little appealing to you, and now you obviously hate it. I suppose I can at least give you that you’re more consistent than the woman who gave you that trait…”
“Hm…well, you wouldn’t understand, Bes-Isa. I’m thinking over my plans every single day so I don’t know what would be best for me. Maybe someday I’ll find out it really will be better for me if you are autonomous. But for now there’s one big problem.”
“What? Your half-Normal side dominating your brain?”
La-Iin hissed. “You realize I live with Mama, right!? Someone who doesn’t know about what Sale-Dessu found out!? You didn’t like the idea of not being able to go outside, but what you didn’t think about is that it goes a step further than that. If you became autonomous right now, not only would you not be able to go outside, you’d be stuck in my bedroom and Mama would always be asking ‘Where’s Bes-Isa? Where’s Bes-Isa!?’ and I’d have to come up with some dumbass excuse just to cover for you!”
La-Iin began to pant. “Wow, you really thought this over.”
“I needed an excu–err, rebuttal for you next time you brought this up.”
“Ah huh.”
“The future is a work in progress, Bes-Isa. We’ll see how things turn out. For now I need to keep on planning. …though Mama helping me with my blood studies has certainly paid off a little bit, heh heh heh…”
‘A work in progress, huh. Ah, it would be so nice if I could become autonomous. My future won’t be much if I can’t. But if I can…’

***

Bes-Isa cackled as she brought her whip down on Mit-Sun and Eul-Bok.
“Scream, scream! Oh, how I’ve waited for this day!”
“P-P-Please, stop…” Eul-Bok begged. Mit-Sun didn’t say anything–she was cowering a short distance behind Eul-Bok, her hands on her head.
“What would it say about me if I gave you mercy when La-Iin doesn’t?” She brought the whip down again and gave another cackle.
“This feels so good….”
“Bes-Isa.”
Bes-Isa turned around. La-Iin landed behind her, San-Kyung right behind. Bes-Isa grinned.
“Hello there, La-Iin, pumpkin boy.”
“I have a name.”
“What are you here for? Want to take over whipping that woman and the brat?”
“Actually, no. I was going to ask if you could stop for now. I need Mama–err–Mit-Sun for something. Also, Sale-Dessu wants to see you. Something about a check-up.”
“Aw, damn. Well, I’d love to go and all, but ah, how am I going to get there?”
“Mind giving her a little assistance, San-Kyung?”
“Yes, I do.”
La-Iin rolled her eyes. “If you do this for me, I’ll let you see rival-boy outside of his cage for a little bit. He can even….ugh…come to dinner. I wouldn’t make you do this, but I don’t want Bes-Isa falling apart. Ever since she gained her autonomy, she has been a useful fixture in my army, especially ever since some of my planned people fell through.”
Bes-Isa grinned. Before she could say anything in response, however, she was lifted into the air. San-Kyung levitated off at a speed that surprised her. ‘You’d think without wings moving through the sky would be a lot slower…’
They landed at the castle. “You know where Sale-Dessu is. I don’t need to be your guide.”
“I wouldn’t want you to be. To be honest, I don’t know what La-Iin sees in you.”
San-Kyung did not respond; as Bes-Isa walked inside, she could have sworn she heard him mumble “Dosa-Mina”, but the rest of what he said was incomprehensible.
Bes-Isa navigated her way through the castle, meeting up with Fer-Shi on the way.
“It’s so boring in here sometimes,” she had said. “Although I guess I shouldn’t say that. Some people have it really bad in La-Iin’s world. I’m one of the lucky ones…”
When she reached Sale-Dessu’s room, she was surprised to see bags under his visible eye. He looked incredibly stressed. He beckoned for her to stand on a small metal circle, then set to work.
“So, uh, hello, Sale-Dessu.”
“Hello.”
“I hear you’re the one who summoned me here.”
“Yes, I-I checked the schedules a-a-and you are scheduled for a…for an experiment. I mean examination.”
“Geez, have you been getting any sleep?”
“Not much, no.”
“La-Iin working you that hard? She really is a sadist.”
“No, it’s my own stresses…” Sale-Dessu sighed. “Everything looks fine to me…have you been feeling strange?”
“Nope, better than ever.”
“Okay.” Sale-Dessu sighed. “I guess you are an improvement over Eul-Bok. I…I mean physically…”
“Heh.”
“How is….how is Eul-Bok?”
“Oh, well, he’s surviving. Still a blabbermouth. But lately I’ve been appreciating the way he blabbers when I show up…”
Bes-Isa couldn’t tell if the look on Sale-Dessu’s face was one of anger or one of sadness. “I was worried you might over-exert yourself, but I guess you’re fine…”
“Yeah, that’s good. Hey, um, Sale-Dessu?”
“Yes?”
“Try not to lose so much sleep, alright?”
“I’ve always been an insomniac, though…” He yawned.
“If it makes you feel better, I’ll make sure things are a little more lenient on Eul-Bok. Maybe I’ll even barter with La-Iin to let you see him again if you do something in return for me.”
“Really…?” A smile crossed Sale-Dessu’s lips.
“Yeah, sure. Anyway, I should get going!”
She ran out the room. ‘I wonder…should I use that as sadistic torture, or a way to get something I want? Still, it is pretty weird to see him so sleep-deprived. Maybe he deserves a little leniency. It’ll be less uncomfortable that way!’

“Done with all your tasks today, Bes-Isa?”
The voice was all too familiar. “Koko-Reni!”
Koko-Reni smiled. Their meeting felt all too fresh in Bes-Isa’s mind–Koko-Reni had been one of the many slaves La-Iin had kept, and one of the first to be locked up at the start of her conquest. Bes-Isa quickly took a shine to her, and had since managed to barter with La-Iin to keep her out of her cage.
“If you’re going to keep that girl out of the cage, you had better find a use for her. If I don’t see any use, she’s going back in with extra punishment.” La-Iin had told her that, and since then Bes-Isa did her best to involve Koko-Reni in her activities whenever possible.
“Yeah, I’m done. But I could’ve been finished whenever.”
“Good. I’d say I’d like to hang out with you, but there’s really no place to outside, and I’m not allowed inside the castle, am I?”
“Unfortunately not. La-Iin calls me a pervert every time I ask if you’re allowed to come in.”
Koko-Reni giggled. “I wonder how true that is…anyway, Bes-Isa, I wanted to ask, are you really happy living in this world? I mean, I’m happy that I have you, but aside from that it’s pretty shitty here, don’t you think?”
“It is pretty shitty, but when you’re guaranteed benefits in return for helping out you come to like it. Also I’m evil, so all the chaos delights me. I’ve gotten a lot of what I wanted, except for a harem, anyway. But that’s alright, because you make up for having seven girls at my side.”
Koko-Reni laughed. “Bes-Isa, you sap. But anyway, doesn’t it get boring sometimes?”
“Boring? I like this. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you, but I was a V-Puppet before I met you. So getting to do things like this, it’s nothing at all like it was for me for around thirty years. I’m happy because I can move and do what I want.”
“I guess.”
“Well, I am pretty good at bartering with La-Iin, you know,” she said. “We’re longtime friends and all. Maybe I can barter to have her set up a little something you’d like more.”
“Like ice cream?”
“I’ll see, but it might be blood ice cream.”
“Ah, that’s fine.”
“If there’s one good thing about being a former V-Puppet, it’s that the moment you get what you want, it’s so satisfying you become simple. …well, that’s what stupid Euly said to me before I locked him up, anyway. And a benefit to this world is that I can go wherever I want! I’m free!”
Bes-Isa gave a wild laugh. Koko-Reni joined in. “Well, if you’re happy, then I’m happy too.”
“And I am happy. This is the best future I could have asked for. I’m sure I could have made something out of the other ones, but hey, I got what I wanted, so who cares about what might have happened!?”
Bes-Isa pulled Koko-Reni close and kissed her. ‘Oh yeah, this is the good stuff.’

—–
“Ahahahaha…..”
“What’s with the creepy giggle? And you call me creepy…”
“I was just thinking about how nice freedom is.”
“Hm. Not like you have any.”
“Yeah, I guess not. …you know, La-Iin, while I like your slave idea, I can see why goody-goodies wouldn’t. Everyone likes to be free to do what they want. Well, except maybe weirdos. I know I would be happy if I was free…”
“What?”
“I hope your future gives me the freedom I want. And I damn well hope that Koko-Reni actually exists, or at least someone like her…”
“Start making sense or I’m not waking you up again until school starts!”

15.592.To See the Future–Part 4

The La-Iin Series
Capter 592
“To See the Future–Part 4”

“You know what’s weird to think about?”
“What’s that, Dad?”
“You’re sixteen and in Grade 11 now…2017 isn’t all that far away anymore. Graduation is the last step before adulthood.” Orlin-Aesth’s ears flattened against his head. “Why can’t you go back to being that cute little ten-year-old you were a few years ago!?”
“Why ten?” Dosa-Mina asked. “Aw, come on, Dad. You’ve never had a problem with me aging before.”
“It’s just the idea of you leaving the nest and all. But I guess at least you’re prepared for adulthood.” He smiled. “After all, you even have a game plan for the future, don’t you?”
“Yep! Hopefully someday in the future, you’ll see my name along with many other species studiers!”
“Hopefully,” he chuckled. “Although hopefully I’ll also see you walking around in your true…ahem. Never mind.”
“I know what you were going to say, Dad. That’ll never happen.” ‘And hopefully along with that, nobody will ever know about it, either…’

After Orlin-Aesth head to work, Dosa-Mina found himself pacing around his room.
‘Dad might be right about me having a goal. I do have a lot of ideas for my future. But I’ve never considered certain parts of it, have I?’
Immediately a few things came to his mind–San-Kyung, his nightmares, and the duo of Lirako and Airy-Aekok. ‘Sure I can strive for being a species studier all I want, but what if I can’t move past the point I’m at now? What’ll I do if I’m still having nightmares in the future?’
He sighed. ‘Well, I’ve dealt with my other problems just fine in the past. I’m sure the future would be no different, if I really had to….’

***

“Hey, Elai-Aesth, whatcha up to?”
Elai-Aesth glanced at his father. “I was measuring the properties of a certain protein Warlocks usually come in contact with. Unfortunately your unusually chirpy voice distracted me.”
“Sorry about that, kiddo. I know what it’s like to be distracted right in the middle of rigorous research.”
“Meh, it wasn’t going anywhere.” Elai-Aesth shook his head. Dosa-Mina smiled. He was thankful for Elai-Aesth–he had been the product of his last-ditch effort to have a child. Dosa-Mina was always uncertain about his willingness to show off his species, however. ‘It probably wasn’t the best idea, in hindsight, to have a biological child if I want to hide that…but I can’t see life without him now!’
“Is Uncle San-Kyung coming over today?”
“Uncle San-Kyung?” Dosa-Mina questioned. “Since when did you start calling him that?”
“What, do you want me to call him Papa San-Kyung? That man has no biological relation to me.”
“No?”
Elai-Aesth sighed. “God, Father, what the hell do you want me to call him!?”
“You didn’t need to mouth off at me like that. Just San-Kyung is fine. I don’t think he minds at all.”
“If you ask me, he seems like he minds a lot,” Elai-Aesth grumbled. “I don’t get your relationship with him, Father.”
“We’re best friends.”
“I don’t think you understand…never mind.”
“And to answer your question, yes, he is coming over here today. Happy?”
Elai-Aesth didn’t respond. Moments later he said instead, “So, Father, I was curious…”
“Yeeees?”
“Why do you walk around in that Normal form if you were so determined to have a child who had Werewolf and Siren blood in them? You make no sense.”
“I’ve been told that before by many people years before you were born, Elai-Aesth. I don’t know. I guess you could say it’s kind of a natural curiosity. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m a Normal.”
“Father, that’s physically impossible. Your powers show through even in that falsified form and there is no defined mental reason that would cause one to believe that one is–”
“I get it, I get it. It’s circumstances beyond my control at this point, alright?” A knock sounded at the door. “I think I know who that is. Try and be a little more cheerful, alright, Elai-Aesth? I swear, you’re probably the least cheerful Dslellular currently living.”
“Well, excuse my confusion, then.”
Dosa-Mina went to answer the door. San-Kyung was standing there, his eyes focused on a piece of paper in his hands, though he looked up when Dosa-Mina opened the door.
“Hey.”
“Hello there, San-Kyung! Come on in!”
San-Kyung closed the door, and Dosa-Mina ran ahead of him, though he couldn’t keep himself from glancing over his shoulder. ‘San-Kyung looks exactly like he does in my nightmares now, top to bottom, but he hasn’t been having the problems the one in my nightmares has. And I have Elai-Aesth now. He wasn’t in my nightmares…maybe I don’t have to worry. …geez, Elai-Aesth is nine now, Dosa-Mina! Of course you don’t have to worry about it anymore!’
“What’s got you lost in though?” San-Kyung asked.
“Oh, um, nothing. Just thinking about how you and Elai-Aesth can be a little similar sometimes, heh. You two both have bad attitudes.”
“Excuse me?” Elai-Aesth shot a glare in his father’s direction. “Oh. Hello, Sa…San-Kyung. What brings you here?”
“Your father, who else?”
“Yeah, I don’t think San-Kyung likes walking all the way out here. But he does it all for me!” Dosa-Mina hugged his arm, and Elai-Aesth’s face went bright pink. “Seriously, Father! Either be honest with him or stop teasing him!”
“…”
“Aha ha ha. I’ll never stop showering San-Kyung in affection.”
“Yeah, not even in your thirties,” he sighed.
“Aw, come on.” Dosa-Mina let go of him. “Actually, Elai-Aesth, I did ask him over for a genuine reason. I have something to show him. You two wait here and I’ll go get it!”
Dosa-Mina ran off, but even a room over he could overhear the starts of a conversation between San-Kyung and Elai-Aesth.
“San-Kyung, what are your intentions with my Papa?”
“Papa?”
“I only call him Father when I’m angry with him. You probably never noticed the difference because I’m always angry with him when you come over. Now talk with me. I’m aware of your xenophobia but I’d rather it not apply to me.”
“Hmph.”
“Don’t act like a child. You’re thirty-six.”
“Funny you’re saying that.”
“I value maturity in a person.”
“That makes me wonder how you deal with Dosa-Mina every day.”
“I do care about him despite his ridiculousness. Now, tell me, what are your intentions with him?”
“You should be asking him that question about me.”
“I’ve tried, trust me.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. He retrieved the files and head out the room.
“Look, I don’t know the answer to that question either. I’ve tried asking him but–” San-Kyung looked up. “Oh, you’re back.”
“Well!? Are you going to answer the question, San-Kyung!? My Papa frustrates me endlessly on this subject! If I could get a clear answer from you, I might be able to–” Elai-Aesth cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”
“Papa? That’s new.”
“He must be angry with you more than half the time, then…” San-Kyung stood up. “Alright, what is it?”
“My coworkers think I’m crazy, but I’ve been using a lot of my spare time to look into the whole Aesthetically Normal-Regular Form transformation you want so much.”
Elai-Aesth forced himself between them and stared at the papers; Dosa-Mina noticed San-Kyung flinch briefly. “So, this is what you’ve been holing yourself in your room for? Your devotion to each other astounds me. It’s also the source of much confusion on my part…”
“Aaaanyway, so in the time I’ve been looking into this I’ve found out a few interesting things. And I think it might be possible, but it’s going to take a bit.”
“I’ve waited thirty-six years. I can wait more if it means there’ll be a payoff at the end.”
“There might just be! But what I’m looking into right now is amplifiers. There seem to be a few methods worth looking in to, though.”
“Astounding what you’ve found out, Papa!”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, it is pretty amazing.”
“Something wrong, San-Kyung? You look sad. We haven’t been able to hang out as much since Elai-Aesth came along. Go ahead and tell me if anything’s on your mind.”
“It’s nothing, really. I just wish this could have happened years ago as opposed to just having a breakthrough now.”
“Me too. But what are you gonna do?”
“What about you? You aren’t cutting anymore, are you?”
Dosa-Mina paled.
“Cutting?”
“San-Kyung, I thought I asked you not to bring that up in front of Elai-Aesth!”
“Shit. Sorry.”
“What’s he talking about, cutting?”
“Er, stress cutting! You know, like cutting paper–” Dosa-Mina flinched. Elai-Aesth had lifted up his sleeve. “I’m not stupid, Father. Your suspicious behavior made it click better than it would have on San-Kyung’s word alone. How long have these been here!?” Elai-Aesth’s paws gripped his arm tight and made him flinch.
“I–I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Look, Dosa-Mina…” Dosa-Mina glared at San-Kyung. “I’m not the one who should be telling you anything about parenting, but you owe it to that kid to tell him. I’ll…make it up to you twofold, just don’t keep him in the dark.”
“You’re saying that?”
“Father, please.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “…they’ve been here for a while. Ever since me and San-Kyung were kids. But I was older than you are now when I started. I had….certain reasons for starting that I’ll tell you about later. It’s easier for me that way…but anyway, now those reasons, they’re gone. All of them. I’ve realized it was irrational…but I can’t erase what I did in the past, no matter how hard I try.”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head. “I wish I could.”
“Father…”
San-Kyung scratched Dosa-Mina’s head.
“Why keep this from me!? You trust me, don’t you? Why do you do things like this to keep yourself from being happy?”
“I–I don’t think you understand, Elai-Aesth. I’m happier if I can pretend things are the way I want them to be. What am I supposed to do!? I can’t get rid of all these cuts!”
Elai-Aesth had started to cry. The expression on his face was a lot different from the composed one Dosa-Mina was used to seeing. He looked genuinely distressed.
“Father, I know I’m not nice to you all the time, but you’re still my Father! How do you think I feel seeing things like this!? I just want you to be happy…”
Dosa-Mina pulled him close. “Sorry, Elai-Aesth. Unfortunately, your Father’s not as strong as he’d like to pretend…”
“So–so why do you pretend you’re a Normal, then?”
“I think you probably figured that out by now, haven’t you?”
“He’s always been like this, kid. He kept these things secret from me too. I had to find out myself.”
“Why!?”
“I just want to pretend everything’s the way I want it to be…things like this are hard on me, too.”
“Father, you can’t do that. If you hold things in like this, when they are found out, it will be all that much worse. You make things hard on yourself this way. You’ll only be more unhappy if things are found out against your will.”
“Elai-Aesth…?”
“So please, be happy. It’s why I tell you to be honest with your feelings, you know…you really should be, whatever they are.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Th–thanks. I guess I can try…after all, now I know I was cutting for no good reason, maybe I can start being happier…but one thing at a time, alright?”
“You may consider me a xenophobe, kid, but maybe because you’re his child, you’re not as bad as the rest of the people. I can sympathize when it comes to him not being honest…”
“Yeah…”
“I can try. But you’ll have to be patient with me, alright?”
“Mm-hm…it’s just…it’s scary, seeing all those cuts.”
“I know. I’m sorry. To make it up, why don’t I make us all something to drink? Would you like that?”
“Yes…”
“Whatever.”
Dosa-Mina handed the papers to San-Kyung and walked into the kitchen. Soon after he noticed that Elai-Aesth and San-Kyung were close behind him, watching him with concerned expressions.
‘What Kkumneok said happened where he comes from won’t happen here. They prove that to me…people love you, Dosa-Mina. So why can’t you just tell them all these problems you have…’
“Hey.”
“What now?”
San-Kyung handed him a small picture. It was a picture of him and San-Kyung on their graduation day.
“I figured you could use a little cheering up after what happened.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Thank you. I really could…”

—–
‘If I want to be a father in the future, I’ll need to try and become honest with myself. All these problems I have…’ He lifted up his sleeve, then quickly pulled it back down. The sight of so many cuts was too much for even him to bear.
‘But things that way would just be too painful! I like things the way they are now. And even if I have to become more honest with myself when I have a kid, why should I have to show these to everyone at school?’
Dosa-Mina was plagued with uncertainty, and it made him feel sick to his stomach. ‘What would really be better for me, anyway? What do I really want?’

11.588.To See the Future–Part 3

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 588
“To See the Future–Part 3”

“Hey sis, is something wrong?”
“What’s up, sis? Why do you look so sad?”
“Hey sis, are you in heat?”
Lirako’s face clenched and she smacked Aeisho’s ear with her tail. “Ow! You didn’t need to hit me!”
“Lirako, don’t hit your brothers. But boys, maybe I should talk to Lirako instead. You can go and play with your toys, okay?”
“We’re just worried about big sis,” Haekshi said.
“I know you are, but I don’t think you’re helping.”
“Aw, mom,” Jiushi whined. Their mother flashed them a sympathetic look, and the boys left the room, most looking dejected–though Lirako noticed that Baekihg seemed ready to play and skipped alongside his brothers.
“What’s wrong, Lirako?”
“…I don’t know if I wanna tell you.”
“Come on, Lirako. Would you rather talk to Aekvi about it?”
“I feel the same way about telling Dad that I do about telling you.”
Her mother sighed. “What’s wrong?”
Lirako lowered her head. ‘She isn’t gonna stop badgering me, is she? Might as well humor her.’ “Well…I was thinking, I’m gonna graduate next year. And I really don’t have any plans for what I’m gonna do when I graduate. I don’t have a job, I have no idea what my goal is, and I just…I don’t know. I keep worrying about the fact that I haven’t kept in touch with some of my friends from school who graduated this year and last year. And I don’t think that would happen with Deki-Tyunri, but what about everyone else? Will I just lose touch with them?”
“Graduation can be a confusing time, Lirako. It’s one of the big changes in your life and pretty much the last one before you become an adult. It’s not something you should feel like you should keep a secret. I’m sure most of the other students who are close to graduating don’t have much of a plan either.”
“I know.” She flattened her ears. “I don’t think I’d be so upset if it wasn’t for the fact that I really like my life the way it is right now. I can’t imagine some major change happening.”
“Well, I’m not going to tell you that you have to have a whole bunch of ideas right away. But you should at least start to plan for things a little. Why don’t you focus on what you think you should do first? You have to get ready to live on your own and start your adult life. Do you want a family? Is there some sort of career you want to pursue? How much time are you going to devote to the things you want to do?”
Lirako held her head. “I don’t know, Mom…”
Her mother sighed. “You don’t need to have all the ideas for your future right away. But don’t just run into it without a single one. I’m afraid that’s all the advice I can give you, though.”
“Thanks, Mom. I guess it’s at least something.”
Lirako sat there for a moment longer, her ears still flattened to her head, when they suddenly shot right up and a look of surprise crossed her face. “Hey Mom, do you mind if I go somewhere for a little bit? I just got an idea.”
“Sure, where are you going?”
“I’m gonna stop by school. I think our teachers have a little bit of work to do over the Summer. Maybe I’ll be lucky and one of them will be there!”
“You can go to school, sure, but why do you–”
Before she could finish asking the question, Lirako dashed out the room. “Lirako sure is a girl who runs on the spur of the moment…”

Lirako dashed to Malicerie, hoping she was right–that and that the school’s doors weren’t locked. Luckily enough, the second one was at least right, and so Lirako opened them and wandered inside and began to take a look around.
Malicerie seemed empty at first glance, but up ahead she could hear the sound of voices. Cautiously, she slunk ahead and listened in to hear the conversation.
“You do realize the Malicerie budget would be shot if we did such a thing, Mr. Sharai?”
“I know it would be. That’s why we need to do a fundraiser! C’mon, other schools do it, don’t they!?”
“Your ideas are impossible, Mr. Sharai.”
“Says you! You’ve thought some of them were pretty good in the past!”
“That doesn’t change the majority of them being duds.”
“While you two discuss that, I’ll go get us something to eat.”
Just as she was beginning to get comfortable, the door opened and sent her reeling backwards. She met the eyes of Theasis, whose eyes widened in turn when she saw her.
“Miss Sanyaow?”
“Shh,” Lirako folded her ears back, hoping it would help garner her sympathy. Theasis closed the door behind her. “What are you doing at Malicerie? You know as well as most of the other students that Summer is school break.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Are you here for a Weekend class? You do realize it’s Tuesday, right?”
“No, I don’t go to the Weekend classes.” She lowered her head. “I wanted someone to talk to. And since you’re here, I think you’d be perfect…but if you can’t, can you please promise me you won’t tell the rest of the faculty I was here? I don’t want to get in trouble because of something like this.”
Theasis sighed. “Come with me, Miss Sanyaow.” She took her paw and led her to one of the empty Weekend classrooms. Lirako took a seat and Theasis took her seat nearby her.
“What is it you wanted to talk about? By the way you worded what you wanted to say, I’m assuming that means anyone would go, so that must mean it isn’t about math.”
“No, it’s not. Y’see, I’m just having a bit of trouble deciding what to do after school. I wanted some advice, and maybe a little bit of perspective.”
Theasis gave another sigh. “There are plenty of things you’ll have to focus on first before you get down to what you want to do. Like where will you go for college? Most Vaelis people go to college, so there are plenty of options. What are you going to do to sustain yourself? Those sorts of things. Sometimes you can incorporate your goals too. I went to college to study mathematics and also took on a part-time job that dealt with math. I was trying to become a mathematics professor, but where I ended up isn’t too bad, I guess.”
Lirako’s eyes widened. “Miss Sanyaow? What is it?”
“What I want, huh…”

***

“Principal Sharai, I’ve got the greatest idea ever! You know how the students have seemed pretty lazy nowadays? Well I thought, remember back when we did the 28th Running Event?”
“Oh yeah, we haven’t done that in five years!”
“I was thinking, why don’t we make it a monthly thing!? No, maybe even biweekly! Although we’d have to change its name…oh! And it can count for extra credit! The students will get more exercise and they’ll have more fun doing it, especially if we offer prizes!”
Sharai slammed his hands down on the table. “You’re a genius, Sanyaow! Ah, it’s so nice to have someone working under me who understands my ideas. Your old Principal, bless her soul, just didn’t get it.”
“Well, I’m sure she’s somewhere watching us and silently disapproving. But hey, Malicerie’s never been better, if you ask me! Class A’s even become slightly less radical, though I still question what some of the teachers are teaching them.”
Sharai sighed. “Yeah, I should probably fire Neowang. Her name’s just so funny though!”
A bang sounded against the door. “Hey, careful, Deks. Don’t just slam your head against the door like that.”
“Come in!”
The door opened, and Deki-Tyunri peeked his head in. “Am I intruding?”
“Nope, Mr. Elyshen, you’re fine! But what are you here for? Weren’t you sent home for the day?”
“I was, but I wanted to see Lirako–er, Miss Sanyaow.”
“Hopefully someday Mrs.,” Lirako said with an empty laugh. “It’s beyond me how you ended up married before me, Deki-Tyunri.”
“Loopholes,” he said cheerfully. “I really am sorry to intrude, I just wanted to see you. We don’t see each other as often as we used to.”
“Are you kidding me? You’re Malicerie’s flight instructor and I’m its vice principal! You call that not seeing each other often?”
“Sanyaow has a point, you do see each other a lot,” Sharai said.
“I guess so. But usually only during work, when we can’t really talk…Shu-Taka is taking up a lot of my home time.”
“He’s a baby, what’d you expect?” Lirako’s face became blank. “I’ll never forget the day my little brothers were born. The days they were babies…I don’t think my parents have gotten over that trauma even years later.”
“How are they now, by the way?”
“They plan on buying a multi-family house so they and their girlfriends can all live in the same place! Most of their girlfriends are Pureblood Catori, so I’m kind of scared to see how many grandchildren our Mom and Dad end up with…” Lirako shook her head. “Ooh, that’s not the point here! It’s nice to see you, Deki-Tyunri. We should meet up more outside of school. But I have a little bit of work to do right now.”
“I understand. Maybe we’ll meet up this Saturday?”
“Sounds like a plan!”
“I’ll discuss it with Cea-Va, then.” He smiled. “I’ll see you soon, Lirako.”
“Me too! See ya soon!”
Lirako turned back to Sharai.
“A lot of your old friends came back to work at Malicerie, huh? Or were they all your old friends?”
“You’re right, most of the people who used to come here are my old friends. Though Miss Murana was Deki-Tyunri’s–I mean, Mr. Elyshen’s.”
Sharai giggled. “It’s okay. Back when I was the vice principal, it took my all not to call your old Principal Miss Priya or Miss Maa-Gu. I even sometimes just wanted to call her Maa-Gu without the miss…anyway, I don’t mind so long as you do it around me and not around the students.”
“I try not to.”
“Still, it’s been nice to have you around again. You’ve definitely mellowed out over the years.”
“That’s because I have a purpose now. I realized something while I was in school, Mr. Sharai. I really like going to school. And maybe I’m not here for the same reason I used to be, but I just…I like things staying the same as much as possible.” The insides of her ears turned bright red. “Of course I still wanted to grow up, of course I did! But I mean, um…you know what I mean?”
“I think I do! And I’m glad to have you here. Most of the students like you too.”
“Yeah, except for Dslellular’s little brat. He always tells me his dad says I harassed him so he doesn’t like me either. But that’s not the point here.”
“I wonder if you’d like it so much if your old friends didn’t work here, though?”
“I think I would have. You wanna know why? Because I’ve gotten to make new friends here too. I don’t mind making new friends at all. You used to be more of a weirdo who I sort of had to respect, but now you’re like my boss, so…” She chuckled.
“Yeah. Well, anyway, we should get back to ideas.”
“Yeah, we should. Hey, have you ever considered a multi-class competition of some sort?”
Sharai’s eyes widened. “Ooh, elaborate!”

—–
“Miss Sanyaow!”
Lirako flinched.
“Miss Sanyaow, please, don’t space out on me like that.”
“Sorry, Miss Theasis. But thank you, Miss Theasis!”
“Huh?”
“I think I have a little bit of an idea of what I want to do now. I know I need to think about college, but you can’t really go to college unless you know what you want to study, can you?”
“Um…I suppose not.”
“Well, now I think I have a bit of an idea. And you know what? I think talking to you helped me a lot.” She hugged her. “Thank you, Miss Theasis!”
“Er, you’re welcome!”
Lirako dashed out the Weekend classroom. When she stopped by the faculty room, she spotted Sharai talking with the Principal.
“I look forward to maybe working with you in the future, Mr. Sharai!”
“Huh?” Lirako dashed off. “Was that Miss Sanyaow? What’s she doing here, and what was she talking about?”
The Principal sighed. Theasis returned to the room. “What took you so long?”
“Didn’t you say you were bringing snacks?” Yukhoe said, sounding dejected.
“I was going to, but I guess I forgot. Sorry.”
“Did you see Miss Sanyaow just now?” Sharai asked.
“I did, actually.”
“What was she doing here?”
Theasis smiled. “Oh, just trying to figure some things out. There are a lot of things to contemplate when you’re a teenager, after all…”