10.587.Lucid Dreaming

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 587
“Lucid Dreaming”

“Hm…”
“What’s up with you? Your face looks strangely expressive right now. Though that doesn’t mean much.”
“I’ve just had…things on my mind.”
“Things?”
“Yes. Many things. And I’m having a hard time sorting them all out.” She fluffed her pillow and laid down. “For now, I can get some sleep and keep planning in the morning. But I’m having a conflict about what way I want to take my ideals.”
“And why would that be? You’re not becoming a goody-goody, are you!?”
“No! Bes-Isa, you’re smarter than that, so don’t let me hear you say something that stupid ever again. I’ve just been wondering if this plan is any good for going forth with. I have a lot to think about: Ei-Tio’s potential evil, betrayal, the fact that a few of my key players are goody-goodies, and the applications of my blood powers. Being evil is too hard sometimes. But it’s way more worth it than taking the easy way out. Goody-goodies are lazy.”
“And they tend to be massive hypocrites, too.”
La-Iin smirked. “They really do….night, Bes-Isa…”
“Yeah, bad night.”
La-Iin’s smirk persisted until she fell asleep. When Mit-Sun passed by her bedroom, she peeked in on her.

***

When La-Iin opened her eyes, immediately she was blinded by a bright orange flash. Curious, she peeked out the window. Two things immediately caught her eye–the disheveled state of the familiar Bledger streets, along with people running and screaming across them, and the building she was in. It looked more like the castle from her fantasies than her house.
“Do you like it, La-Iin?” La-Iin flinched. Behind her stood Mit-Sun, Asul-Zenza, Fer-Shi and San-Kyung. Dosa-Mina was sitting nearby, but his attention was focused on Choungetsu, who was licking his face so much La-Iin wondered if it might corrode.
“Like what? Where are we, Mama?”
“In our new house, of course!” Asul-Zenza said cheerfully. “When Mit-Sun and I decided to get back together, we thought the perfect present to celebrate wouldn’t be one for us, but instead one for you. So we gave you Bledger, Vaelyn!”
“They said me and my parents could stay here too so that we’re safe from all the wreck!” Fer-Shi said, sounding far more cheerful than she would expect her to in such a situation. La-Iin could feel her eyes widening at her father’s statement.
“What? But why–”
“Why is San-Kyung here?” Mit-Sun asked. “I think he can explain that one himself. Oh, I almost forgot. Catch!”
Mit-Sun tossed Bes-Isa in La-Iin’s direction, and she flew up to catch her. She glanced wildly between all the people there, desperate for more of an answer than what Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza had given her.
“I’m here because you’re my friend, duh,” San-Kyung said. “I had to barter with vuyong in order for your parents to let me bring Dosa-Mina along too, though.”
“That’s not the reason you told me you came here!” Dosa-Mina said cheerfully. San-Kyung’s face turned bright pink and he shook a fist in Dosa-Mina’s direction. Dosa-Mina was seemingly oblivious to this display of violence, and instead went back to giggling as Choungetsu resumed licking his face.
“This has to be a dream,” La-Iin mumbled to herself. It all seemed too surreal. Looking down at herself, and noticing how much she had to look up to meet the eyes of everyone save for Fer-Shi, she could tell she was still physically seven years old. If that was the case, not much time could have passed. Why would Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza want to be together again? What was San-Kyung getting so flustered about?
When she realized that, everything began to feel a bit surreal.
“La-Iin?”
“I wonder…” La-Iin walked away from the group of her loved ones and stared outside. She felt she had heard of this phenomena before. She tried to imagine the destruction outside as a happy field full of Buneties. It was incredibly difficult, but eventually she managed a scene much like what she imagined, and behind her she heard gasping.
She grinned to herself. ‘This is too strange, though.’ So instead she tried to imagine that Mit-Sun and Asul-Zenza were not in the room. Suddenly, both of them got up and walked away. La-Iin smiled.
“San-Kyung, I know the reason you wanted to come here!”
“No you don’t!”
“Yes I do~” She walked up to him. “Finally, you reciprocate my feelings, but of course it’s in a f@%king dream! But at least if that’s the case, I can have a good dream and wake feeling refrustrated!”
“Refrustrated?” Fer-Shi asked. La-Iin felt her face flush. “You know what I mean.”
La-Iin flew up close to San-Kyung’s face. “I know what you want, San-Kyung. And that’s a good thing. Because I want it too.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, reverse pedo.”
“Yes you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be blushing like that. If one good thing has come from this dream, it’s you!”
La-Iin pulled San-Kyung’s face close and kissed him. She wasn’t quite sure how, but she could see behind her Fer-Shi vomiting. In front of her, Choungetsu had stopped licking Dosa-Mina’s face and was instead staring at her wide-eyed; Dosa-Mina had nearly the same expression on his face, though he seemed even more shocked than Choungetsu did.
The sight caused a sudden click in La-Iin’s mind. She pulled away from San-Kyung and stared at him.
“What the hell did you do that for!?”
“I don’t have time for you to play hot and cold with me, San-Kyung!” She flew away from him and stared out the window. The sight of the Buneties in the field had been replaced with the burning streets of Bledger once more. San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina ran up behind her; Fer-Shi was still vomiting, and Choungetsu ran to lick it up. La-Iin decided to imagine that Choungetsu chose to run away, and that Fer-Shi was in maid clothes and with cleaning supplies. She gave a sigh of relief and turned back to outside the window.
Something about that sight was stirring a strange feeling in her.
“San-Kyung, come here,” she said, pulling him close. San-Kyung seemed defiant, but obliged regardless. She wiggled free from San-Kyung’s grasp, then motioned to Dosa-Mina to stare in San-Kyung’s direction. He did not react save for staring at San-Kyung. La-Iin could imagine all the times he had started to hang all over San-Kyung; at those imaginations, Dosa-Mina did likewise.
“Hey, cut that out!”
“At least I’m not a little kid smooching you on the lips!”
San-Kyung’s face turned a darker pink. La-Iin barely noticed it. Instead she smirked, then pushed San-Kyung away from Dosa-Mina and hissed. “He’s mine, rival-boy! Don’t dare to try and recover what you used to have with him, because you have it no more!”
Both boys just stared at her in confusion.
“Um, La-Iin? Whose vomit is this?”
“Be quiet, Fer-Shi. I think I have an idea.” She stared out the window and smiled. “A big idea…”

—–
When La-Iin woke up, the memory of the dream was still fresh in her mind. She balled a hand into a fist.
“I was right. I am refrustrated!”
“Good morning, La-Iin. Is what I’d say if I wasn’t so mad at you! Must you roll over so much in your sleep? And what the hell did you just say? Seriously, I–WHOA!”
La-Iin jerked Bes-Isa out of bed and flew downstairs. She didn’t care if Mit-Sun saw, though her mother didn’t appear to notice. She had prepared breakfast, and La-Iin scarfed it down quickly. She sat at the table, waiting for Mit-Sun to leave, then left the house and walked over to Sale-Dessu’s.
“What are we going here for?”
“Be quiet. You’ll see soon enough.”
Sale-Dessu didn’t take long to open the door. With a quick greeting, he soon let La-Iin inside, and she took a deep breath once she was sitting down.
“Sale-Dessu, what do you know about lucid dreaming!?”
“Lucid dreaming?” Sale-Dessu seemed slightly confused. “I’ve never had a lucid dream myself…but when I think on it, it does somewhat remind me of an unfinished spell that Warlocks aren’t often told about.”
“Are you talking about what I think you are?” Eul-Bok said as he passed by the trio. “But you can’t go into your own dreams, can you? So it’s not–”
Sale-Dessu shushed him. “It’s not exactly the same thing, and the spell’s unfinished, so we don’t know of its applications anyway,” he whispered.
“There’s something else I want from you, Sale-Dessu. Are you willing to do some research for me?”
“Oh no, I’m not gonna let you make Father your little research guinea pig again!” Eul-Bok protested.
“I’m fine with doing that,” he said, motioning to Eul-Bok to calm down. “What do you need?”
“You know about the Vampire blood power? I want you to look into that for me. I want to research it myself, but I’m having a lot of difficulty. I figured you might be able to look into it for me.”
Sale-Dessu looked uncertain. “I’m not sure the results of research on that would be as good as what you asked for in the past…oh! I almost forgot!”
He handed her a bag. “I never did give you the books you asked for, but here they are. Take care of them, please. I’d have a lot of difficulty replacing them…”
“Yes, everyone knows this already.” La-Iin looked up at him. “I hate to say this. I really hate to say this, because I don’t like thanking anybody. But thank you, Sale-Dessu. You being my ally has led to many good things. And if my little hypothetical theory is correct…”
The smirk that started on La-Iin’s face sent a shiver down Sale-Dessu’s spine. “Oh–well–I’m happy to help. And I’ll see what I can do.”

9.586.Fightercise

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 586
“Fightercise”

“I bet you want the toy, don’t you?”
Choungetsu stared up at La-Iin, sitting patiently and eyes on the toy. La-Iin glanced at his tail. It was twitching slightly.
“Well, that’s too bad! You didn’t get the toy first, and now I have it, so you’ll never get it–”
Choungetsu jumped up and ran off with the toy. “Hey!” La-Iin chased after him, but by the time she caught up with him, he was hiding in an area too crowded for her and him to be in it at the same time.
“Damn you, Choungetsu! You’ll taste my revenge soon enough!”
“La-Iin, what are you doing on the floor? And don’t think I didn’t hear you curse.” Mit-Sun walked past, holding a basket of laundry.
“You act like you enforce punishments for me cursing, when the reality is that you don’t,” La-Iin sighed, standing up. “And I was trying to play keep-away with Choungetsu, but he took advantage of my momentary distraction.”
“Hm.”
“At least it’s more than you’ve been doing!”
“Actually, I’ve been doing a lot, but since you’ve been off in your own world lately, you probably haven’t noticed. I’ll admit that most of the stuff I’ve been doing lately is things I used to do, but so what? At least it’s something. Besides, it’s been nice to pick sewing back up again.”
“Ooh.”
“Of course you’d ‘ooh’ at that. Anyway, speaking of that, let me ask you a question, La-Iin. I’ve been taking up exercising lately, what about you?”
“You don’t even need to ask that question. I take Choungetsu on walks! I fly almost everywhere, and it would be everywhere if you’d let me fly in the house. And most of the time, when I go places, I have to walk a long way to get there. One of my favorite places to go is almost two hours away, and it’s worth the whole walk. Or flight. I guess flying makes it take less than almost two hours.”
“Uh huh.” La-Iin sounded confident. “I guess you do get a lot of exercise, more than I do, anyway. Still, your methods are…questionable. And have you done any of those things lately?”
La-Iin stared blankly at Mit-Sun. “I took Choungetsu on a walk recently.”
“I guess so,” she sighed. “And I can’t exactly call you out on not doing much. You might spend a lot of time in your head, but you’ve been drawing, dancing, playing with Choungetsu and Bes-Isa…everything short of doing any chores.”
La-Iin scoffed. “Oh, poor, poor Mama. Getting competitive with her daughter, how sad.”
“I wasn’t getting competitive!”
La-Iin smirked. Mit-Sun sighed. “Obviously you aren’t going to believe me no matter how many times I deny it, so I’m ending this here.”
“So you admit defeat, and the fact that you were getting competitive!”
“Now look who’s getting competitive! Besides, I know it’s impossible to manage you. If I had continued going on, you only would have said that because I kept going on, that meant that I was denying becoming competitive!” Mit-Sun sighed and slammed her face into the laundry; her words slightly muffled, she said, “Some days I don’t understand myself how I deal with you every day…”
“Cahongyuns don’t admit defeat! And even if you will, I shall continue on that legacy! For someday the Cahongyun family will be my name!”
Mit-Sun lifted her face out of the laundry and stared at La-Iin. “What the hell are you talking about? Oops!”
La-Iin’s smirk only widened. “It doesn’t matter, Mama. If you want me to exercise, for once I’ll actually listen to you. Because you’ve given me a great idea.”
She spread her wings and flew for the door. “Hey, where are you going!?”
“To go and meet with Fer-Shi! If you don’t believe me, call her in an hour.” Before Mit-Sun could say any more, La-Iin flew out the door and slammed it shut.

***

“You want to do what!?
La-Iin punched the air and twitched her wings as she explained her idea to Fer-Shi. “Mama tried to tell me that I don’t exercise, and I proved her wrong spectacularly. But when she said that, she gave me a burning desire to fight someone!”
La-Iin stopped the motions and faced Fer-Shi. “It’s been a while since I had a good fight, and for as much as I like to pull out over someone more powerful than me, right now I feel like taking down a weakling!”
“Hey, who says I’m a weakling! And um…what do you mean by a while since you had a good fight?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“I actually would,” Fer-Shi said.
“Some people are more accommodating of my desires than others,” she said. “Certain people who have powers even I struggle dealing with. Though, this last fight happened before I developed my blood powers. So I suppose that now, it doesn’t matter. I can go and meet up with a certain someone and we’ll be on even ground. Somewhat.”
Fer-Shi had a feeling she knew who La-Iin was referring to right away. She could see it now–San-Kyung raising vines from the ground and wrapping them around La-Iin’s arms and legs, walking towards her with his hands lit with flames. It was a horrifying sight, and though La-Iin looked ready enough to take off, Fer-Shi couldn’t stand the idea.
“Okay, okay, I’ll fight you!”
“Really?” La-Iin smiled, though it quickly dropped. “Oh no. You’re not becoming a major doormat like Granddami, are you!?”
“No, I’m not becoming a doormat. I’ve actually gotten better at not being that than I used to be.”
“Fair enough.”
“I just don’t want you to get killed. And I feel like there’s a better chance of avoiding that if I’m the one who fights you…”
“I won’t get killed. Not before fulfilling my purpose, anyway.” La-Iin looked around. “We should probably do this somewhere where your Mama and Dami can’t see. I don’t want them interrupting our fight!”
When La-Iin mentioned Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu, Fer-Shi felt a sudden wave of remorse. ‘I’m sorry, Mom and Dad. But this is the better, safer option, right? It’s better than just sending her to her death…’
The two walked away from her house and across the street. Fer-Shi wanted to avoid Hei-Maj’s cove, and so walked a short distance further before they went into the forestry.
“Bushes near your house are too prickly,” La-Iin complained.
“Bushes are always prickly,” Fer-Shi told her. The two stretched and stood in the middle of a small clearing.
“Okay, since I agreed to this, I just want to say a few things. Please don’t suck my blood as part of the fight, and let’s not do anything too dangerous, oka–”
La-Iin flew at Fer-Shi before she could finish, then flew above her and dove for her once more. Fer-Shi tried to run away, but La-Iin was faster, caught her, and pinned her to the ground.
“Too easy.”
Terrified, Fer-Shi scooped up some dirt and tossed it in La-Iin’s face. La-Iin staggered off of her, trying to pick the dirt out of her eyes. The sight made Fer-Shi feel terrible. She didn’t dare try and take advantage of the situation, which was why just moments later, she ended up in a much similar situation.
“Take that!” La-Iin yelled. Fer-Shi backed into a tree and La-Iin pinned her against it. She blinked dirt out of her eyes and met La-Iin’s–they were alight with the thrill of the fight. The sight made her shudder.
She wiggled free from La-Iin’s grasp and tried to run. La-Iin flew up behind her and tried to carry her off into the sky, only to drop her soon after. Fer-Shi was stunned by the fall, and so didn’t retaliate. When La-Iin came flying for her once more, she grabbed her arms and the two became locked in a tussle.
“Let’s just stop this before it gets too violent!” Fer-Shi yelled.
“Never! I’m enjoying this thrill!”
The two rolled around in the upturned dirt. Fer-Shi only managed to keep La-Iin below her for a few minutes more, as after that La-Iin turned them over, pinned Fer-Shi’s dress down with a rock, and stood on her legs.
She gave a cackle of delight.
“STOOOOOP!”
La-Iin flinched and backed off of Fer-Shi, who sat up, shook her hair out, and stared La-Iin down.
“Look, I’m only going to say this once. I get it, you like violent stuff and fighting and things like that, but if we keep going this way I’m going to end up furious with you! There has to be a limit to these sorts of things. You’re too competitive!”
“I am not,” she said.
“You are so!”
“I am–actually, you have a good point. I’m very competitive.” La-Iin shook her head. “You’re right. Fighting isn’t for us two. And besides, against you I barely got any exercise.”
“Hey!”
La-Iin smirked. “I’ll stick to fighting teenage boys from now on. How’s that sound?”
Fer-Shi gasped. “No! You’ll get killed!”
“But maybe not right now.”
“Not ever again if I have anything to say about it!”
“But will you, Fer-Shi? Will you?”

—–
The two girls head back to Fer-Shi’s home to tidy themselves up. La-Iin managed to make it to the bathroom before being spotted, but Tei-Sheu quickly caught sight of her daughter’s disheveled state.
“What the–! Fer-Shi, how did you get so dirty?”
“Um, there’s a good explanation for it, Mom! You see–”
“Really, Fer-Shi, you need to be less rambunctious,” La-Iin said. “Look at you. All dirty.”
“You frikkin’ hypocrite! You were dirty just a moment before!”
Tei-Sheu sighed. She decided to call Mit-Sun; just as she did, the phone rang.
“Hello?”
“Hello, Tei-Sheu. Is La-Iin over there?”
“Yes. Yes she is.”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “Oh shit.”

3.580.Betrayed

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 580
“Betrayed”

“La-Iin? Are you doing anything right now? I want to head downtown soon so I can get a special spice for dinner tonight.”
La-Iin didn’t respond.
“La-Iin?”
‘Ai-Reia was a failure. That much I know. But I never thought of what would happen if some of my key players became failures, too….I wasn’t expecting her, but at least I got hints early on enough before she became too involved. And my children are speculation–besides, their betrayal probably won’t be all that bad, whatever it is if it happens. But what if I lose someone I really need?’
“La-Iin?”
“Mama?”
“What’s up with you now?”
“Ei-Tio’s visit yesterday has me thinking about something.”
“What’s that?”
La-Iin shook her head. “Nothing important.”
“It certainly sounds important.”
“Even if I wanted to tell you, Mama, I haven’t thought it through all the way yet. But it’s bothering me…”
Mit-Sun looked concerned. “Well, whenever you’re ready to go downtown, just tell me, but make sure to say something before it gets too late, otherwise I’ll come and get you myself.”
‘It’s fully possible. Just as Ei-Tio could potentially change, someone else I need could change too. What would I do if that happened? How could I handle losing some of my key players?’
She bit her lip. ‘I’m going to need to put some thought into this, no matter how painful it is.’

***

“La-Iin, I’ve forgiven a lot of what you’ve done. I’d have to in order to go along with the things you want me to, but I have to draw a line here!”
La-Iin stared down Shuu-Kena, whose eyes were brimming with tears. “I thought you didn’t like your family.”
“We might not get along, but they are my family nonetheless,” she said, standing her ground. “I’m not going to watch you make them into shells of their former selves!”
La-Iin grit her teeth. “So what do you want me to do with them!? You realize they were opposing me, right? I had to get rid of them somehow!”
“You couldn’t have just jailed them, though? Is that beyond the realm of what you can do? Besides, what you said to me, it proves something. You’re no better than my family. I don’t know why I thought you were different. I’m so stupid.”
“Shuu-Kena.”
“Go away, La-Iin. I don’t want to talk to you.”
“This isn’t a matter of wanting to or not wanting to. You realize you are my scout, yes? There are no options for you here. If you want so badly to oppose me, then you are welcome to join your family in the torture chamber.”
Shuu-Kena’s eyes widened in horror. “I–I–”
“You are a selfish person too, Shuu-Kena. Don’t think you’re better than me.”
“You really are no different from my family…”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “I give you one day to prove yourself. If by tomorrow you’re still acting this way, or if you have done anything to deliberately betray me, you’re going to join your family. Consider yourself lucky I’m giving you this leniency at all. And who knows, I might just take it away, good behavior or no…”

“Big sister…no, La-Iin….when we were little kids, I thought you were gonna do things differently.”
“What, did you think they were empty words? Did you think that ruling the world meant that I would make everyone happy? What did you think it was, Ei-Tio?”
“…different than this. I don’t know.” She lowered her head. “You know, big sister, I was flying over the cages yesterday, just stretching my wings. And I saw two familiar people shoved into the same cage.”
“Oh?”
“My Darseen and Floma,” she said bitterly. “I realized something, big sister. You’re different than how I knew you to be. I know you’re evil. I never cared about that, not at all. I knew you wanted to rule the world. And I know, maybe I thought a little more idealistically than I should have, but can you blame me? I’m still technically a kid Vampire! I don’t understand this, La-Iin. I don’t.”
“Then I’ll explain. I’ve wanted to rule the world since I was little. It’s the ultimate power. The best expression of one’s evil. I can do what I want when I’m in charge of the world, like I am now. But ruling the world is a precarious position. Even with San-Kyung and my other allies at my side, we’re a small group compared to the billions of people out there in the world. So I need to be careful as I spread my dominion.”
“What?”
“Does it still not make any sense?”
Ei-Tio shook her head. “No, it doesn’t. I’m sorry, big sister, but I can’t do this anymore. I love helping you, and I don’t hate you. But there’s something different about you. It feels like you care about yourself above everyone else. And I’m sure you always have, but this just isn’t right. It feels like this power has made you hate almost everyone else. You love your Mama, right? Then why is she rotting away in a cage?”
“I have my reasons.”
“And you can never give explanations to me. Not even your “sister” gets to hear it. Does San-Kyung? Or is he censored from this too?”
“Why are you questioning this now, Ei-Tio?”
Ei-Tio spread her wings. “I just needed to know if my decision was the right one. I’m sorry, big sister. I’m not going to oppose you. I’m not going to try and kill you, and I’m not going to hate you. But I can’t stay here like this. I’m going to go someplace else, someplace far away where life is happier and not horrible like this…someplace where even the most evil of people actually care about other people.”
She took off before La-Iin could get a word in edgewise. La-Iin was tempted to fly after her, but after Shuu-Kena’s opposition, she was starting to feel dejected.

“Mit-Sun…”
“She hasn’t been in the best of conditions lately. I’m dubious as to how much longer she’ll survive.”
“Do you even care that your own mother is dying?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Do you know who else is dying? San-Kyung. Maybe not as quickly as Mama, but I’m going to lose him soon too. I’ll be sad if Mama dies, but it isn’t as if we’ve talked much lately anyway.”
Asul-Zenza shook his head. “This is ridiculous. I understand the three of us were never exactly a proper family, but not a one of us hated each other. Not even I and Mit-Sun hated each other. Has this changed in recent years, La-Iin?”
“I was getting back at Mama for what she did to me as a child. That’s all.”
“I saw you lots once you hit your sixth years, La-Iin. If Mit-Sun was doing something so drastic that it warranted years-long torture, I would have known. But as it stands her worst offense is that she was not quite ready for parenting. For someone in that situation, I would say she’s done quite well.”
“You and I think differently then, Dami. What, are you going to start taking her side now? I thought you liked me better than you liked her.”
“I do, that’s true, but…watching her waste away like this, it’s just too painful. And watching you turn into what you’ve become…nobody ever thought otherwise on the subject of your evil, La-Iin. But I don’t think any of us expected this level of coldness.”
“Then you were expecting me to be friendly when I have to rule the world? How deluded are you?”
Asul-Zenza flinched. “That’s it. I’m sorry, La-Iin, but I can’t put up with this. I don’t want to oppose you, but you’re not giving me much of an option.”
La-Iin grit her teeth. “So that’s how it will be, is it?”
“There’s still a chance to make up on this, of course,” he said quickly. “And besides, when I said oppose, I never meant with an army at my side. I simply met fighting you until you would help Mit-Sun–”
“One thing you should have learned from me, Dami–”
She walked over to him and gripped his shoulders tight.
“Don’t reveal your plans. That’s stupid.”
‘Not Dami. You can’t be considering this.’ La-Iin was trying her hardest not to show weakness, but it was difficult when the person opposing her was Asul-Zenza. She felt she couldn’t prepare to deal with his betrayal, but when she saw the look in his eyes, she had no doubt in her mind that he was serious.
“Sorry, Dami. No, I don’t owe you an apology. You’re the betrayar, after all.”
Her reluctance to act was strong, but La-Iin ignored it and bit into her arm. Behind Asul-Zenza, La-Iin caught sight of Mit-Sun, weakly staring up at her. Just from the look on her face, La-Iin felt that she would soon have to deal with Mit-Sun as well.

“Hello, La-Iin. It’s good you woke me up for the first time in I’m not sure how long, because we need to talk.”
“Indeed we do. A lot has happened between the last time we talked and this time…”
“When I said ‘we need to talk’, I more meant that I need to talk to you about a certain subject matter.”
La-Iin levitated Bes-Isa close to her. “What?”
“Well, it HAS been years. I know from what you’ve told me that you’re working Sale-Dessu quite hard. And I know from what you’ve shown me that the majority of the population is inside cages, and those who aren’t are not exactly people I have to worry about.”
“What are you getting at?”
“I want to be made autonomous, La-Iin. I think it’s been long enough. If you’ve really been working Sale-Dessu as hard as you make it sound, and after all those years he took care of Eul-Bok I’m sure that making me autonomous would be no trouble for him. Then I can help you more directly, that and actually have the freedom to walk around. In your world I don’t need to worry about being spotted because nobody can do anything about me.”
“I can’t grant that, Bes-Isa.”
“I should’ve known. I knew I shouldn’t get my hopes up, but I did anyway. Years passing hasn’t changed that certain side of you.”
“It has nothing to do with not changing, Bes-Isa. It has to do with the fact that betrayal has been common in my dominion lately. Thankfully nothing large enough to pose a threat to my rule over the world, but it’s concerning. And especially with what you’ve just said to me, I have no reason to believe that you wouldn’t betray me if I made a move you disliked. You are as evil as I am, after all.”
“I haven’t even done anything to you! Do you just WANT me to betray you?”
“No.” La-Iin tried to imagine a future in which Bes-Isa gained the autonomy she so wanted. She could imagine someone, their suppressants having worn off just the right amount, lashing out at her. She could imagine something going horribly wrong and her turning her back on her.
Especially with how Bes-Isa could be sometimes, it was a risk she couldn’t take.
“La-Iin!? I’ve been by your side nearly your whole life and yet that still isn’t enough to have your trust!?”
“It’s hard to give trust when you’re the ruler of the world, Bes-Isa. You’d understand if you were in my position.” She lifted up her hand. “I can’t take any risks right now, Bes-Isa. I’m sure you understand.”
She levitated Bes-Isa over to a small case and closed it. Bes-Isa had yelled something on her way there, but La-Iin couldn’t understand it, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to.

La-Iin walked over to Sale-Dessu’s chamber and opened the door.
“Sale-Dessu.”
Sale-Dessu didn’t respond.
“Sale-Dessu! To attention!”
Sale-Dessu glared at her.
“Sale-Dessu! Why aren’t you saying anything!?”
“For years now I’ve been at your beck and call. And I didn’t mind, La-Iin.” His voice was barely a whisper; La-Iin could barely hear it even as she walked closer to him. “I always loved studying powers and practicing. And not everything you used of mine was for ruling the world, I appreciated that. But you took Eul-Bok away from me for no reason other than Bes-Isa didn’t like him. And only now I’ve started to realize how stupid I’ve been all these years…”
“What are you talking about?”
Sale-Dessu lifted up his wand and fired off at her. La-Iin dodged. Sale-Dessu’s expression was one of rage. Stuck in a claustrophobic room with an angry Warlock, La-IIn felt that if it wasn’t for one key element, she would be terrifed for her life, and that was the reluctance she sensed in Sale-Dessu’s moves. He was slightly lethargic and did not choose spells that would badly harm her. Still, as it went on his spells became ones intended to trap her. She couldn’t keep doding him forever–and there was no reason she should be scared of him.
She flew behind him, grabbed his wand, and bit into his shoulder. Sale-Dessu gave a pained gasp. La-Iin sucked blood from him until he was seeming lightheaded.
“I was wondering when you might turn on me,” La-Iin sighed. “I figured keeping a Warlock off of power suppressants would end up being dangerous sooner or later. But I did need your powers at the time. Now you’ve proven to me that I don’t.”
Sale-Dessu’s eyelids fluttered and he didn’t respond. La-Iin dragged him off, only struggling slightly.

When La-Iin head to the front of the castle, she was surprised to find Fer-Shi crying.
“What’s wrong?”
Fer-Shi sniffled. “Oh, La-Iin…I just don’t understand what you’re doing anymore. I never did, but turning on people who love you? I really thought that no matter what, you’d never do that…”
“What are you talking about?”
“I heard about what happened with Mr. Ghneckdo. And with Sale-Dessu. And I heard that what happened with Mr. Ghneckdo happened because of the way you were treating your mom…” She sniffled again. “Why are you doing this?”
“I have to show those who betray me that they’ll regret what they’ve done. I already was unable to show this to Ei-Tio, so I have to be extra strict with further offenders.” She glared at Fer-Shi. “Don’t tell me you’re next.”
“La-Iin, it’s just…it’s getting to the point where I don’t see you anymore. I don’t like what you’ve done, not at all, but I’ve put up with it anyway because I could still tell that no matter how horrible what you were doing was, it was still you, you know? But now I don’t see that anymore. I just don’t understand what changed!”
La-Iin sighed. “La-Iin?”
“Ruling the world has never been an easy job…and I realize when I have to make sacrifices. Do you want to join your parents in a cage!?”
Fer-Shi’s expression looked stricken. “La-Iin, please! I know I can’t ask you to change, but please, don’t let this hateful part of you overtake you completely! I don’t want to have to stop you!”
La-Iin sighed. “That’s enough for me.” She bit into her arm. Fer-Shi seemed to notice what she was doing and ran off, but the strength from her ability made it easy for her to catch up. She slammed her to the floor and pinned her down.
“It doesn’t matter if you betray me, Fer-Shi. At the very least, I still have San-Kyung.”

“…what?”
San-Kyung glared at her. “Listen closely this time. Dosa-Mina died. I found him in his cage this morning, rotting away. He looked awful.” San-Kyung’s expression became one of hurt. “I’m going to bet this has nothing to do with sickness and everything to do with neglect. Or rather, a sickness caused by neglect.”
“I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, San-Kyung. Too much has been going on for me to pay attention to all of the slaves.”
“So you couldn’t even pay attention to the one “slave” I always wanted you to keep an eye on. Even being aware of how close we were before all this happened.”
“San-Kyung, you’re not the only one who lost a friend recently.”
San-Kyung growled. “La-Iin, now that the timing seems perfect, there’s something I need to tell you. Do you remember how I approached you and said I loved you, just when the world was on the cusp of being in your grasp?”
“How could I forget?”
“Did you notice anything strange about the timing?”
La-Iin’s confusion only lasted a moment. “No…”
“Exactly. You were only a means to an end for me.” San-Kyung struck his hands. “In your vulnerable state, I don’t see where the problem in taking you down is. You’ve been able to put away everyone else, but I know how you feel towards me. You’re in shock. You weren’t expecting this. So now’s my time to strike.”
He walked closer, and La-Iin could feel the heat from his flames. She felt at a standstill, and still deeply in shock, but she knew what she need to do. She came to her feet and flew at San-Kyung, knocking him to the ground and biting hard into his neck. She sucked his blood, then continued biting, all the while in a red haze and unaware of what was going on around her.
By the time she came to her senses, San-Kyung was unconscious, his breathing shallow. She let out a mournful wail and finally allowed herself to cry.

—–
La-Iin flinched.
“La-Iin! Why are you crying?”
La-Iin wiped at her eyes, but she still couldn’t forget what she had imagined. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t see a way to effectively prepare for betrayal–she could barely imagine how some of her allies would betray her in the first place.
But the thought of San-Kyung’s betrayal….it was something she wouldn’t put past him.
She clung to Mit-Sun and tried to stifle her tears, but instead Mit-Sun stroked her head and kept her crying for far longer than she intended to.

1.578.To See the Future

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 578
“To See the Future”

Fer-Shi poked at her food absently, grimacing.
“What’s wrong, Fer-Shi? I thought you liked mashed potatoes.”
“I do.”
“Are you bored? You can play one of my video games after dinner, if you want.”
“No, I’m not really bored.”
“Are you thinking about your dream again?”
Fer-Shi flinched.
“I got it right, didn’t I?”
“Fer-Shi, you can’t stress yourself out thinking about those all the time.”
Fer-Shi sighed and set down her fork. “I’m not trying to think about those all the time. And it’s not exactly completely about dreams, it just has a little bit to do with it.”
“I know it can be frustrating when you want to find your purpose in life, but Tei-Sheu is right, if you keep thinking about it, you’ll only stress yourself out. Try to focus on other things for now! Your dream will come to you when it’s ready.”
“It’s not that easy…”
Den-Matsu gave a sigh of his own. “Then how about this. You’re having trouble thinking about what you want to do, but have you tried thinking about what you can see yourself doing?”
“Huh?”
“Lots of people imagine what their future will be like. So why not try doing that, and see if you can get some idea from there? Maybe you’ll see yourself doing something and realize that’s your calling. Give it a shot if it’ll keep you from stressing out.”
“What if I see myself as nothing, though?” She sighed.
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll at least be able to imagine what you might look like,” Tei-Sheu said. “Give it a shot.”
“If you say so.”

Fer-Shi felt uncertain that her parents’ idea would work, but she felt that they would ask her about how it went later and feared how she might respond with no actual idea. So she relaxed in her bed and closed her eyes.
‘They just said the future. That could be as soon as in an hour or as far away as a hundred years! I guess they meant what I’d want to do as an adult, though. If I was about Dad’s age, what would I be doing? What’s the future gonna be like? What things are gonna be different from now? Well, I guess there are a few things I can see myself doing…’

***

“Mommy! Mommy, can I have some mushrooms?”
“Sorry, Tei-Iin, but I need those mushrooms for my job!”
“Why?”
Fer-Shi bent down and placed her hands on Tei-Iin’s shoulders. “Well, remember the big Dasdoria-Vaelyn conflict?”
“Not really.”
“Back then there was a huge problem, and now there are a lot of people who don’t have food. I volunteered to help make food for all the people who don’t. ..I was the only one, so there’s not much we can eat. Besides, you don’t always need a snack.”
“I’m hungry, though.” He held his stomach. “All we had for lunch was toasty goulache.”
“Well, I plan on making something extra-special for dinner tonight! But I have to get going now. Would you like to come with me today?”
Tei-Iin nodded. Fer-Shi smiled and took his hand.
Since the conflict, Fer-Shi’s life had taken a drastic change. She had believed that events like puberty, her graduation, moving out and Tei-Iin entering her life would be some of the most surprising things she went through, but the conflict easily surpassed all of those events. Now Bledger was quite a different place, the neighborhoods mostly abandoned by people who had left in favor of other parts of Vaelyn.
‘How come they attacked Bledger so badly? They had it out against all of Vaelyn.’ Fer-Shi often wondered if it was because of the abundance of Dasdorians living in Bledger prior to the conflict. Whatever the reason, she tried to push the subject out of her mind and instead focus on what she was going to cook once she reached the center.
“Can I eat some of what you make, Mommy?” Tei-Iin asked.
“Only if there are leftovers. Remember, these other people are worse off than we are!”
“But what if they’re only lying so they can eat your tasty food and in reality we’re worse off than they are?”
Fer-Shi paused. “…let’s assume that that’s not the case for my sanity, okay?”
‘I wonder where he gets these ideas from sometimes.’ Still, his words did give her pause as she head into the center.
Already, after arriving there the center was packed with several people of all different species. She sat Tei-Iin down with other children and set to work cooking.
Oftentimes she would make soup, recalling her training at the Normal Stew Place during her adolescence. But recently she had been experimenting with more meals, and as she finished up a mushroom meatloaf, she felt sad thinking on how much variety her meals for the people here had in comparison to the meals she made for herself and Tei-Iin.
After finishing the meals, she set each of them down on a long table, and the people in the center went for them.
“They look really hungry today. I hope everyone gets something to eat. Maybe I should start giving them individual plates.”
“Hey, Sanhuun!”
Fer-Shi looked up ahead. “Oh, hello there, Mr. Acishea.”
“Hey, Sanhuun, I know you’re busy what with your little boy and all, but I wanted to ask you to spot me a favor.”
“Sure, what do you need?”
“Could you clean the streets for me? They’re getting a little messy?”
“Oh, um, I guess I could, but–”
“Thank you!” Acishea shook her hands and ran off, cackling. Fer-Shi heaved a sigh. ‘I really need to stop being so much of a pushover! Or maybe it’s just that other people need to hear me out more…’
She then walked over to Tei-Iin, who was playing with a black-furred Catori-Birdmix.
“Hi, Mommy!”
“Hey, Tei-Iin. I hope you’re not too involved in anything right now. We kind of have to go.”
“Aw!” Tei-Iin sighed. “Sorry, Au-Li. You’re gonna have to tell me the rest another day.”
“Oh, that’s no bother,” Au-Li jittered. Catching a closer look at his face, Fer-Shi noticed that his expression looked unstable, as if he was slightly insane. “Stories like that don’t easily leave a child’s mind, heh heh…”
Tei-Iin seemed oblivious to his friend’s instability and stood up and joined his mother, waving to Au-Li on the way out. Fer-Shi opted not to comment to him about her suspicions.
“What do we have to go for now, Mommy? Did you really finish that quickly?”
“No, not really, although I guess I made better time than I usually do…but no, it’s just ’cause some people don’t feel like doing their work. Remember, Tei-Iin, don’t pass your chores off on other people!”
“Um? Okay, Mommy.”
Catching a look at the streets, Fer-Shi couldn’t help a sigh. ‘No wonder Mr. Acishea wanted me to do this. These streets really are a mess!’
“Listen, Tei-Iin? Mommy’s new job might take a while, so if you want to go back and play with Au-Li more, you have my permission.”
“Really, Mommy!?”
“Mm-hm. But, ah, be careful around him, alright?”
Tei-Iin looked momentarily confused, but he soon gave an exuberant nod and bound off back towards the center, which as she watched him off was closer than she expected. ‘I must not have walked very far.’
When Tei-Iin had become a speck on the horizon, Fer-Shi set to work sweeping debris into a pile in the middle of the street. ‘How inconvenient. Mr. Acishea, next time we meet I don’t think it’s gonna be as pleasant as you’d like…’
Just as the pile was starting to seem tidy, a sudden gust of wind knocked some stray litter from it. Fer-Shi was ready to chew out whoever had messed up the pile, until she noticed La-Iin flying above her. La-Iin seemed to notice her as well, and landed in front of the pile.
“Hello, Fer-Shi. It’s been a while.”
“La-Iin! How’s it going?”
“Fine. I’ve really learned that younger me had the wrong idea about going to rule the world. A high position of power certainly helps, and so does the disarray caused by the aftermath of a conflict, heh heh heh…”
Even as an adult, some things about La-Iin hadn’t changed. “Hey. I thought you were on cook duty, not street-cleaning duty.”
“Oh, well, about that…Mr. Acishea kind of asked.”
La-Iin nodded. “And Mr. Acishea will soon kind of be unemployed,” she said coolly.
“…you don’t actually have that much power, do you?”
“My power steadily grows, Fer-Shi. After all, my goal is not just being in a high position of power. It is the world!”
“You really are a corrupt politician type,” Fer-Shi sighed.
“Don’t compare me to my coworkers. Besides, you get benefits from having me as a friend.”
“I’m not sure I want to.”
“Mommy!”
Fer-Shi turned around abruptly. Tei-Iin was heading towards her, being flown by Au-Li, who landed on the ground behind her. As with earlier he still looked unstable, and Fer-Shi flinched at the look in his eyes.
“Tei-Iin, how come you came out here?”
“Au-Li said I shouldn’t be away from my mommy, so we decided to come play out here!”
“Tei-Iin’s gotten bigger,” La-Iin commented absently. Her eyes then shifted to Au-Li, and a look of surprise entered them. She smirked and winked at the young boy, who winked back.
“Um…?”
“It’s nothing you need to be concerned about, Fer-Shi.” La-Iin spread her wings. “I feel like pulling some strings when I get back to work. Not necessarily for your sake. Just to strike some fear into the hearts of people. They’ll soon see my true power over them.”
She flew off. Fer-Shi set to sweeping up the litter she had scattered by landing.
“Hey, do you know Miss Cahongyun, Au-Li?” She heard Tei-Iin ask.
“You could say she’s my employer.” It was the calmest thing she had heard Au-Li say, and yet it was the words that sent the coldest shiver up her spine.

—–
Just before bedtime, after her parents had set down small slices of apple pie along with warm milk, Fer-Shi staggered out of her bedroom, feeling disoriented.
“Hi, Fer-Shi!” Tei-Sheu chirped. “How did your little imagination project go?”
‘I knew she was gonna ask.’ “Um…let’s just say I hope the future doesn’t actually end up like it did in my imagination.”
Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu gave each other confused glances, but it didn’t faze Fer-Shi. She was ready to mostly forget about what she imagined, though she opted to keep the name she had given her imaginary child for future reference.

23.569.Scour of Nature

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 569
“Scour of Nature”

“Here you go, Fer-Shi! I packed some healthier snacks this time. Getting exercise doesn’t make up for eating choco pies all the time, after all.”
“Alright!”
“As long as they’re good.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll like them.”
“Yeah, La-Iin. After all, your least-favorite food is a sweet, isn’t it?”
“There’s nothing sweet about chocolate malt balls in the slightest. They taste like poop!”
Fer-Shi and Tei-Sheu cringed. “Um, anyway…you girls are going to stay safe, right? After what happened at the end of June I can’t help but be a little wary.”
“Don’t worry, Mom. We’re not going to do anything like that this time. La-Iin even has Choungetsu with her this time! Hey, I never did ask, why did you bring Choungetsu, anyway?”
La-Iin sighed. “I’ll tell you later.”
“Are you going to be okay, Mom? You’ll be all on your own for a little bit.”
“That’s sweet of you to think about me, Fer-Shi, but I’ll be fine. I’ve been on my own plenty in the past and besides, this gives me time to actually pursue my hobby of video games–er, I mean…”
La-Iin smirked at Tei-Sheu. “While you’re usually one of the last people I would talk to, and this something I wouldn’t normally say, video games are a better pursuit than some other mundane thing you could consider.”
“Um, thanks?”
“Maybe I should give her some recommendations,” La-Iin said.
“But you barely get to play video games at all. And besides, I think the system Mom has is an old one.”
The two girls head out the door. La-Iin picked up the sound of a game starting up before they were outside. ‘Fer-Shi must be right about it being an old system.’
“Now that we’re outside, I’ll tell you about why I brought Choungetsu. It’s simple.” She narrowed her eyes. “I’ve used you as an excuse to go other places before and Mama was suspicious of me. She told me to bring Choungetsu because he’s a ninety-nine percent guarantee I’ll come home safe.”
“What’s the one percent she’s worried about?”
“Meth neighborhoods.”
“Oh.”
“Speaking of meth neighborhoods–” La-Iin glanced around Fer-Shi’s neighborhood. “Yours doesn’t seem very friendly.”
Looking around, La-Iin spotted suspicious men peeking at her from a window; they closed the blinds after laying eyes on her. A woman sitting on a chair stroked a rifle, and nearby a young boy bolted ahead of his mother after spotting Choungetsu, who gave a playful growl at the sight of him.
“Let’s not talk about that,” Fer-Shi said uncertainly. “After all, it might not be the friendliest place, but it is home!”
“You’d think it would be friendlier with how clean it looks.”
Fer-Shi’s shoulders slumped. “Yeah, you would.”
The two walked out of the neighborhood and nearly as soon as they did, Fer-Shi began to look through the trees intently, sometimes wandering into forestry. She did so often enough that La-Iin quickly began to wonder if they were actually going on a walk, and Choungetsu was quickly becoming antsy.
Once when Fer-Shi stumbled into the forestry, La-Iin followed after her and spotted squirrels up in a tree. Curious, she flew up to see if they had any traits indicating a subspecies of squirrel, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the squirrel was somewhat skeletal.
“I guess Dualbreeds can happen in squirrels too,” she said.
“Did you say something, La-Iin?” Fer-Shi asked. La-Iin noticed she was slightly ahead of her.
“No!” She landed on the ground. Choungetsu gave her an expression that seemed to be one of jealousy.
“Don’t make that face. You have nothing to be jealous about. Yet. Unless you’re upset about the fact that my wings work and yours are just fake plastic.”
Choungetsu barked at her. With a sigh, La-Iin followed after Fer-Shi.
The forest was abuzz with noise, and La-Iin couldn’t keep herself from glancing around to look at the scenery. Each time she spotted an animal she stared intently at it. She doubted she would easily spot a Vampire animal out in the sunlight, but she checked around anyway. Choungetsu, meanwhile, was more focused on sniffing the ground and glancing up at trees. La-Iin thought he looked suspicious, and so tugged on his leash. Choungetsu yelped and began to growl at her.
As Fer-Shi poked her head through some bushes, Choungetsu bolted for a tree and began to try and climb up it, his tongue lolling. La-Iin was knocked to the ground with the force of his bolt, and she switched to flight to keep herself from falling over a second time. Choungetsu was staring up at a strange animal La-Iin had never seen before, though its looks reminded her somewhat of a Werewolf and she began to wonder if it was of that variety.
Choungetsu seemed quite intrigued by the animal and continued to try and climb up to reach it. La-Iin flew above him to get a closer look. The animal glanced between both of them quickly, then bared sharp teeth. La-Iin gave a giggle of delight, but Choungetsu appeared to be startled and dropped off the tree. Still holding onto the leash, La-Iin was pulled to the ground with him.
La-Iin had made the decision to fly up and grab the animal, but by the time she recovered it was nowhere to be found. With a huff, she smacked Choungetsu’s ear and followed after Fer-Shi, who by now was a distance ahead of her and Choungetsu but still far closer than she would have expected, even knowing she was stopping to check the scenery.
‘Just what is she looking for?’
La-Iin’s stomach began to growl and she reached for the snack Tei-Sheu had given her and Fer-Shi. Choungetsu stared up at it anxiously, and La-Iin narrowed her eyes. He sat down, then began to pace around her, as if waiting for her to drop some. La-Iin ate it in front of Choungetsu, smirking at him. Choungetsu seemed oblivious to her taunting and continued to watch. Finally, once she had neared the end of the snack, she threw the small remnants onto the nearby grass, and Choungetsu chased after them and chomped the ground, ending up with a mouthful of grass, though he seemed content with the taste.
Distracted once again, La-Iin began to follow the trails of a curious noise coming from a nearby bush. Choungetsu ran ahead of her and began to sniff at it, and La-Iin felt certain he had picked up on its trail, but instead he began to go to the bathroom.
“Choungetsu–!” La-Iin kept her frustration contained to rapid wing-flaps and, tying Choungetsu’s leash to a tree, followed after the noise by herself. She continued on and the noise grew louder until it felt like it was right on top of her; only then did she spot a glint of yellow eyes and a flash of brown fur. For a moment she feared she had run into Dosa-Mina in his true form, then became excited at the thought that she might have run into Usl-Thaehey once again, before realizing that whoever this was, he was taller than Dosa-Mina, a fact that startled her.
The mysterious figure walked forward and into her line of sight; finally La-Iin could see that it was a tall Bearperson man. The Bearperson man looked at her, and La-Iin stared up at him. She could see that he appeared to be wearing hiking clothes, but that was the only impression she was able to get from him, for after that his eyes widened, he shrieked, then ran off in the opposite direction. With a sigh, La-Iin head back.
Choungetsu was staring at his tied-up leash when she came back, and La-Iin undid it and glared at him. Choungetsu didn’t seem to notice or care, as he walked ahead of her with his same cheerful gait. Checking to make sure she could still spot Fer-Shi up ahead–if she had heard the man’s scream, she had no reaction to it–she looked around to see if there was anything else interesting to look at or chase after, but not even Choungetsu seemed intrigued with the scenery. Running up closer to Fer-Shi and turning back did not change the situation.
La-Iin kept up looking for something else to do until she was certain she would not be able to find anything of worth. After that she and Choungetsu ran up to Fer-Shi, who had just pulled her head out of a bush.
“Fer-Shi!”
“Yeah, La-Iin?”
“What are you looking for anyway?”
“Why do you ask?”
“This forest is getting boring and I want to leave.”
“Oh…um, nothing really all that important. I found out pretty early on I probably wouldn’t find it. I just wanted to keep looking ’cause…well, I guess it really isn’t all that important.” She stood up. “I’m sorry you got bored, La-Iin. We can go home now. I’ve got a little bit of vuyong from helping my Mom with chores, so would you like to get ice cream?”
“I would, but I also want to know what you were looking for. You wasted some of my time, you know.”
“That’s why I’m offering to get you ice cream!” She said. “C’mon, let’s get out of here. And really, La-Iin, don’t worry about what I was looking for. It’s ‘goody-goody’ stuff that wouldn’t even interest you anyway.”

—–
Fer-Shi sighed.
‘I don’t know what I’m gonna do. What’s better–if I find a Werewolf society or if I don’t? Forget what would be better for me, what would be better for Hei-Maj? Would he really even want to leave that home he’s known for so long?’
“What has you distracted now?”
“H-huh? Nothing, La-Iin. Really, don’t worry about it.”
Fer-Shi gave another sigh. La-Iin gave her an uncertain glance, but she did not notice it.

22.568.Withdrawal from Secret Keeping

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 568
“Withdrawal from Secret Keeping”

“It feels like it’s been a while since I came over here!” Fer-Shi exclaimed. “I think this month we’ve been talking lots over the phone, but we haven’t really been seeing much of each other, huh?”
“During the Summer there’s extra time for things we like to do, so of course we’re focused on those and not each other. Besides, it’s easier to just go straight from school to wherever it is we want to go.”
“That’s true.”
“Now, since the theme of this visit is getting caught up with everything that’s happened over this Summer break so far, I want to show you the many drawings I’ve made over the Summer! Gaze upon my masterpieces!”
La-Iin laid on her table several pictures drawn in crayon. Fer-Shi squinted her eyes at them. Most of them she could barely make out what they were supposed to be, though she could tell by the colors used and the outline that La-Iin had put herself in more than half of them.
“Um, there’s a lot of…red.”
“In case you couldn’t tell, my love for blood has increased recently.”
“I could tell. It’s been increasing steadily since last year!” She pointed towards one of the pictures. “What’s this orange-and-yellow thing supposed to be?”
“None of your business,” she said simply.
“Then why are you showing it to me!?”
“La-Iin isn’t the little Vampire known for being a child prodigy.”
“Bes-Isa, shut up. I let you go in that dollhouse, and I thought you promised you’d be quiet.”
“If you wanted me to actually hold to that promise, you should have snapped your fingers.”
La-Iin sighed. “Anyway, most of these are just fantasies, but some of them do concern certain things I’m not sure I want you to know about…”
“Eheh heh, well, I guess I’m used to that by now. There are certain things I don’t really want to talk with you about either.”
“I would be curious if it wasn’t likely that these are very goody-goody things.”
“Well, I might not consider that…eheh…maybe I shouldn’t say that.”
“Huh?”
“I–it’s nothing. Anyway, how have you been lately? Well, I guess you’ve told me about that. Who have you been hanging out with recently then? Have you been keeping in touch with Sara over the Summer?”
“I haven’t. I don’t know her phone number and her house is complicated to get to. Also, I can’t stand her family. But that doesn’t matter. I haven’t been wanting for company. After all, I’ve gotten to spend a lot of quality time with San-Kyung!”
“…” Fer-Shi gave an uneasy smile. “I see…well, um, I can tell that’s probably been very enjoyable for you.”
“You don’t know the half of it.”
“He hasn’t been the only one you’ve been spending time with though, has he?”
“No, but I haven’t spent as much time with Mama this Summer because of what happened. You might be able to guess that rival-boy was there sometimes when I went to see San-Kyung, so I suppose you can count him as well. Oh, and Dami has come over this month, and then I guess there’s that annoying Eu–”
“Ixnay, ixnay, La-Iin!”
“You?” Fer-Shi said. “No, that couldn’t have been right. Who’s “Eu”, La-Iin?”
La-Iin’s face flushed. Bes-Isa calling her out made her feel humiliated, and now that she was in this situation she could only imagine what would happen if Fer-Shi were to find out about Eul-Bok. ‘Maybe Fer-Shi wouldn’t do anything, but what might Sale-Dessu or Eul-Bok do…no, scratch that. What would Eul-Bok do…’
Slightly scared at the idea of facing his powers, she cleared her throat. “That’s confidential.”
“What!? Why!?”
“Because it’s one of her silly fake future children, that’s why.”
La-Iin flinched. “They’re not silly or fake!” She flung the doll out of her dollhouse and began to swing her around the room, slamming her into walls. Bes-Isa let out shrieks of terror and pain, and Fer-Shi watched on in horror. It was only when La-Iin began to breathe heavily that her assault came to a stop.
“Um–”
“Even if there was someone else I had been spending time with, I bet there’s people you’ve been spending time with I know nothing about!”
“Huh? Oh, well, I guess a little,” she admitted. “I think you’ve heard of Hei-Maj before though, haven’t you?”
“Hei-Maj?” La-Iin said quizzically. “Hm…wait a second, is that the hobo slave!?”
“He’s not a hobo slave! But recently I saw him for the first time in a while.”
“I see.” La-Iin sighed. “If only you were evil and he was your hobo slave. I’d ask you to bring him over here and we could utilize him for future practice.”
“Future practice…? Well, I’m definitely not letting Hei-Maj anywhere near you now!”
“Your little conversation is nice and all but does anyone care that I’m in immense pain!?”
Fer-Shi stared at Bes-Isa with wide eyes. “I do…”
“You’re in immense pain enough that I feel numb about you mentioning it.”
“And whose fault is that!? Aren’t I your best friend next to Fer-Shi!? How come you don’t beat on her!?”
“I can’t fling her around like I can with you. Besides, my preference was to make Normal jokes about her, but unfortunately she doesn’t seem to care about those much anymore.”
“Maybe she beats on you, but it shows she trusts you if she’s willing to talk with you about things she won’t even talk with me about,” Fer-Shi said. “I really do wonder if you trust me sometimes, La-Iin…”
“So jokes about your species don’t hurt you anymore, but her not wanting to talk about an acquaintance does?”
“I’m not that sensitive,” Fer-Shi said.
“I’d beg to differ, given what I’ve seen of you.”
“Do I really seem that way? I don’t mean to…”
Seeing the expression on Fer-Shi’s face, La-Iin had begun to feel conflicted. Fer-Shi seemed genuinely upset, though she could tell she was trying to hide it.
‘You know, what do I even care about Eul-Bok anyway? I shouldn’t be worrying about him getting mad. I guess I should be more worried about Sale-Dessu getting ruined…I need my ally for the future. But Fer-Shi can keep a secret, this I know! She’s kept other secrets about me before! And even if Eul-Bok somehow found out and got mad, I can overpower him anyway.’
“Maybe I’ll tell you a little bit about this ‘Eu’ now that I’ve thought on it more,” La-Iin said.
“Y-you don’t have to do that! I wasn’t trying to make you feel bad for me. I just get jealous sometimes. But you know that already. And I don’t want to butt into your secret future plans…”
La-Iin sighed. “He’s not one of them. He’s already been born. In case you didn’t hear Bes-Isa, he’s an acquaintance of mine. And he’s pretty annoying. You could say I see him more as useful than an actual friend. But he’s really annoying and he’s younger even than me!”
“Younger than you!? Wow, that’s pretty young! Is he a Vampire too?”
“No. He intrigues me because of a certain something he has. But I care more for Sara than I do for him. Bes-Isa hates him even more than I do.”
“Bes-Isa’s met him?”
“I was there once when she met up with him. I wish I wasn’t.”
“Huh…”
“Anything else you want to know?”
“No, not really. And, um, sorry if I made you feel bad for me. Really, I wasn’t trying to do that.”
“So you say, but you seem to question me on my friends often despite the fact that you have plenty of friends, including that hobo slave, who I have never interacted with and have no intention of interacting with. Besides, he’s just an acquaintance and most of my other friends I can’t even plan nefarious deeds with anyway.”
“I said I was sorry!”
“Well, this conversation is over,” she said with a huff. “Anything else?”
“Um, how has your blood power been coming along?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “My blood power! Damn it, I haven’t been giving it the focus I need!”
“Really? It seems like you mention it daily.”
“Now you’ve given me a taste for blood. And a taste for discovering more. Damn it, Summer is the best time to focus on this and I’ve already wasted twenty days!”
“I think it’s the twenty-second,” Fer-Shi said. La-Iin sighed. “Shit.”
“Well, at least you remember now, so you can do something about it soon.”
“Soon is never soon enough.”
“…what does that even mean?”
“Hey, speaking of remembering things, that reminds me of something. La-Iin, how’d you like to go somewhere with me soon? I’d like to walk around Bledger for a nature walk. Nothing like that adventure we had, just looking at nature.”
“That’s all? It sounds boring.”
“There’s plenty of interesting and violent stuff in nature, you know. That’s not what I’m looking for, but I figure it might make you want to come along.”
“You just think I’m that shallow, don’t you?”
“I know you like evil!”
“True. Evil is my passion and my calling. But there’s no guarantee we’ll find anything evil. I’ll go with you anyway. My tolerance for Mama varies and this month it has been very low. I’ll take any chance to get away from her.”
“Okay then! Does tomorrow sound good?”
“Alright.”
“Hey, La-Iin, since I’m here, would it be okay if I drew a picture?”
“What for?”
“I wanna see if I can draw better than you. I haven’t drawn in a while, but when we were little I think I drew a little better than you.”
“Is this a challenge!?”
“No!”
“So you say.” La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Challenge accepted.”
“Why do I get myself into these kinds of things…”

—–
“You know, La-Iin…”
“What?”
“Eul-Bok coming up during your earlier conversation with Fer-Shi reminded me how much I want to beat that guy to a bloody pulp. And after you flung me around the room both of those things gave me an idea. The day I become autonomous is the day I get revenge on you for the way you treated me! And this includes drooling on me as a baby, I hope you know!”
La-Iin sighed. “Like a Normal could beat out a Vampire who can use her blood powers.”
“Who said I’d be a Normal!?”
“Have you looked at yourself? Mama obviously designed you as a Normal, the stupid fool.”
“You underestimate my physical strength!”
“You have none,” La-Iin said dryly. “Don’t even bother trying, Bes-Isa. I know for certain I would overpower you. It would just be sad.”
Before Bes-Isa could respond, La-Iin snapped her fingers and her doll fell out the sky and into her hand.

19.565.A Different Stroke

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 565
“A Different Stroke”

“I’ve been so worried about you lately, Hei-Maj,” Fer-Shi said. “I haven’t seen you in a while, and every time I come back lately you haven’t been here. I’m glad to see you’re okay.”
Glancing at his ear, which had a noticeable scratch, she added, “…for the most part.”
Since she was unable to find him on the day she took La-Iin to meet him, Fer-Shi had been concerned about Hei-Maj’s whereabouts and had begun to head to his home more often, and each time during that period she had been unable to find him. Her concern had grown to the point where she had begun to stop by almost daily, and was starting to feel she was arousing the suspicion of Den-Matsu and Tei-Sheu.
Now that she had found him once again, she felt a lot better.
“Hei-Maj apologizes, Fer-Shi. But Hei-Maj has been doing more than sitting and waiting.”
“Yeah, it seems like it,” Fer-Shi said. “What have you been up to?”
“Hei-Maj has been venturing past the trees!” He said. “Curious to move past just Hei-Maj’s home. Is figuring out, world is fairly wide, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, the world is a pretty big place. There’s more than just this little part. There are places like Manemica, and Shitosh, and Nyappon, and there are even more places just within Vaelyn, which is where we’re in! We live in Bledger, but there are places like Silcoulle and Neigghed still within Vaelyn!”
“Wow! Has Fer-Shi been to Manemica or Neigghed?” Hei-Maj asked.
“I’ve never been to Manemica before. It’s really far away, like all the way on the other side of the world! But I’ve been to Neigghed before. The people there are really nice!”
“Nice like Fer-Shi?”
Fer-Shi blushed. “Aw, come on, Hei-Maj. I’m not that nice.”
“Hei-Maj finds it hard to believe all people of one place could be kinder than Fer-Shi.”
“Well, maybe not everyone in Neigghed, but I find it hard to believe that everyone there is less nice than me. So, Hei-Maj, what kind of places have you been to recently?”
“Hei-Maj sees mostly trees, but few interesting areas are up ahead,” he said. “Want Hei-Maj to show you?”
“Huh?”
“Come with Hei-Maj!” He grabbed Fer-Shi’s hand and pulled her through the forestry. Running fast enough that Fer-Shi was tripping over her feet trying to keep up with him, Fer-Shi had to wonder what was so exciting that it merited the sudden run.
“Um, Hei-Maj?”
Hei-Maj came to a halt. “Yes, Fer-Shi?”
“Can you not run so fast? I can’t keep up with you!”
Hei-Maj nodded. He began to walk on slowly.
“You’re really excited about whatever this is, huh?”
“Hei-Maj spends lots of his time in the same place,” he said. “Hei-Maj was thinking he should go further. There is more than home. And Fer-Shi has more than home, so why not Hei-Maj? Hei-Maj is sorry that he was not here when Fer-Shi was to visit recently.”
“Don’t be! If you were having fun and you’re all right, that’s good enough for me. And you’re right, you should have more to do than just stay in the same place all the time. I just worry because, well–”
“Because Hei-Maj has no normal home?”
“No, I-I wasn’t gonna say that!”
“Hei-Maj is fine if Fer-Shi was. Does not bother him.”
After a while walking through the trees, Hei-Maj led Fer-Shi to a small dirt path and followed along it. Fer-Shi noticed Hei-Maj was glancing around at trees covered in unidentifiable berries with curiosity and hunger in his gaze. Still, he kept his eye on the path, and picked up speed when their going got slow.
“Fer-Shi, Hei-Maj has been feeling confused.”
“Huh? Did you forget the path?”
“No, Hei-Maj remembers the path. He has been feeling confused because he does not understand the world…it is all very confusing.”
“I can tell you anything you want to know.”
“He feels stupid in comparison to Fer-Shi. You know so much…”
“You aren’t stupid, Hei-Maj! Your situation’s just kept you from learning a few things, that’s all. But that does not make you stupid.”
“Weird that Fer-Shi is so adamant about Hei-Maj’s non-stupidity when she does not even believe she is good,” he said sternly. Fer-Shi flinched. “Hei-Maj only wants to learn more of the world and be normal, but seems so, so hard…”
“If you want help, I can help you learn more about whatever it is you want to learn about. I’m here to be your friend, and friends help each other. And I did start out saying I would help you.”
“Hei-Maj is grateful. But he is still so confused…all the world is so confusing to him. He wants to do more with life. Fer-Shi does.”
Fer-Shi sighed. “I can sort of understand where you’re coming from. Not exactly, since our situations are different…but I can really understand what it feels like when you feel like you’re not doing all you could with your life. It’s horrible, isn’t it?”
Hei-Maj nodded.
“I don’t want you to feel like that, Hei-Maj. I know how that feels.”
“Is Fer-Shi confused by the world, too?”
“A little, but I think it’s different than why you are. But I definitely understand wanting to do more with your life. So many people are making the best of theirs, planning their futures, and when you’re different from them in that case it’s easy to get jealous. I really don’t want you to feel that way. I hate feeling this way myself. So I promise, I’ll help you with this. We’ll find more for you to do in the world in a way that won’t get you hurt.”
Hei-Maj smiled. “Bless you, Fer-Shi. Fer-Shi should not say she is not good when willing to say things like that….well, even though Hei-Maj has not done all he can, he did promise he would show Fer-Shi something. Come on!”
Hei-Maj broke into a fast walk as they continued on along the dirt path. The further they went, the more the path opened up and the more the trees began to space. Hei-Maj continued on until they reached a wooden swing just past a few bushes.
“Wow! What’s this doing here?”
“Hei-Maj is not sure, but he knows to use it! Look, Fer-Shi!” Hei-Maj ran over to the swing and jumped on it. It began to sway wildly in all directions.
“That’s dangerous, Hei-Maj!” Fer-Shi called out. Hei-Maj hopped off the swing. “I know a safer way to play on it. A little close by where I live, there’s a place with a whole bunch of fixtures like this!”
“A whole bunch of sway-ers?”
“This is called a swing, and it’s more than just this. There’s all sorts of neat equipment there and it’s lots of fun!”
“May Hei-Maj go there someday?”
“I wouldn’t mind, although we’d have to be pretty careful so my parents don’t find out you came with me! Anyway, how you play on this safer is this way.”
She sat down on the swing, planted her feet in the ground, then pushed off and giggled as she swung. Hei-Maj watched her closely, then copied her exactly, beginning to giggle just as she was. Swinging together with Hei-Maj, Fer-Shi couldn’t help but feel light-hearted and at ease.
“What’s that noise, Uman?” A voice said. Both Fer-Shi and Hei-Maj came to a halt.
“It’s likely just wind, Gvin-Shelt.”
“It sounded like a little girl and a little boy! Maybe it was a ghost?”
“You can’t hear ghosts, Gvin-Shelt. Remember what Granmy said?”
“I know, but Granmy said that kids sometimes see ghosts!”
“That isn’t hearing them, though. Now come on. Soon enough cooking time will begin, and you said you wanted to watch today, didn’t you?”
“Yeah!”
“What is…?”
Fer-Shi got off the swing. Her curiosity piqued, she poked her head through the trees and the bushes that separated her and Hei-Maj from the voices. What she spotted on the other side was a set-up of huts. The ground around them was spattered with sand and young Groundisers were outside and playing, their parents watching and talking as older Groundisers prepared food nearby them. Fer-Shi noticed that one of the young Groundisers, who was yawning, had some features of a Lizardfoot.
It was not long before Hei-Maj joined her, looking around at the Groundiser society with curiosity in his eyes.
“Huh?”
One of the children looked in their direction. Fer-Shi grabbed Hei-Maj’s paw and pulled him backwards.
“See, Uman!? There are ghosts here!”
“You and your imagination. Calm down, Gvin-Shelt.”
“What was that?”
“That looked like a species society,” Fer-Shi said.
“What is species society?”
“It’s when a whole bunch of people of the same species live together in a smaller part of the country. Apparently many years before even our parents were born none of the species lived together. But that’s a really long story.”
“Is Fer-Shi in a ‘species society’?”
“No, not at all! I like living with all sorts of species.”
Hei-Maj made a quizzical noise. “They looked like fun…”
Hei-Maj’s expression was unreadable. “Yeah, I guess it did look like they were enjoying themselves. But we’d better get out of here before one of the adults notices us. Not all the species societies like it when other species intrude.” Thinking back on the boy with the Lizardfoot attributes, she added, “Though, something tells me they’re not all that hostile.”
On their way back, Hei-Maj was silent, as was Fer-Shi. She was tossing around a thought in her head, and a question for Hei-Maj, but by the time they made it back to Hei-Maj’s home she no longer felt she should ask the question.
“I’ll make sure to help you learn more about the world, okay, Hei-Maj?”
“Okay, Fer-Shi. Bless you.”
“We’ll do our best to find our places in the world, okay?”
“Okay!”
Fer-Shi waved and began to head back home, feeling uncertain and upset the whole way back.

—–
“Is something wrong, Fer-Shi? You look like you’re about to cry!”
“D-do I?” Fer-Shi asked. “I-I’m not. I’m just a little sad, that’s all…”
“Something’s wrong, then,” Den-Matsu said.
“No! I just read a sad history book.” She sighed. “People really weren’t good at all in history…”
“Maybe you should read something more light-hearted next time you read.”
“Y-yeah, maybe I should.”
‘I shouldn’t be getting all worked up over this,’ she thought. ‘This is a good thing, isn’t it…’

18.564.Plans for the People

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 564
“Plans for the People”

“Hey, La-Iin. I see that you’re busy, but since I can talk right now, I’ve got a question for you that’s been nagging me lately.”
“What’s that? And hurry it up. I think this picture is going to be a masterpiece and I need as few distractions as possible.”
“I’d beg to differ, but whatever. I can’t remember, but did you say whether or not you had plans for all the people you mean to involve in your world-domination plots?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened and she set down her crayon. “Yes. I have big plans for quite a few people.”
“Ah, I see.”
“What, is that it? You don’t want to hear about my plans or anything?”
“As much as I would, I know you won’t give me the full story because it’s supposed to be a secret. As if I could tell anyone anyway.”
“I have no guarantees on that now that Sale-Dessu found out you can make V-Puppets autonomous. And you make a great point, why spoil my plans? But I can tell you who I have plans for. That would be Fer-Shi, Mama and Dami, Choungetsu, but only a little bit, Ai-Reia, sort of, Sara, rival-boy, Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok, and San-Kyung of course, and you.”
“Is that it?”
“Unless you want to count my future children or wanting to see if Imagination is still alive nine-hundred years from now. Then yes. There might be a few people I have smaller plans for, but those are the ones I have major plans for.”
“I have to question some of those choices. Don’t you dislike rival-boy–what was his name, Dosa-Mina?”
“Yes, he’s Dosa-Mina. And I do have plans for someone who’s caused me so much trouble.” La-Iin gripped her crayon tightly. “If you want to hear anything, you’ll have to ask me after I’m done drawing, though. Oh, and I guess I have a little bit of a plan for Ei-Tio, too, but it’s a work in progress.”
“Huh.”
“I have a lot of plans, Bes-Isa. You should have known that plans for the people would be among them.”

***

“La-Iin, you said you wanted Narwhaltae blood, right? Are you planning on giving the slaves a bath?”
“If you want the slaves to be clean, clean them yourself.”
Fer-Shi sighed. “Most of the slaves don’t like me….agh! La-Iin, do you have to breastfeed Chung-Ae in front of me?”
“It wasn’t in front of you before you got here.”
“Things aren’t the same anymore…and I’m even more scared of San-Kyung now that he has a kid with you.”
“Of course things aren’t the same. I succeeded in world domination. I won San-Kyung’s heart. And now I’ve had our child. Things are a lot different than the days we spent at Malicerie.”
“How about the days we spent at Desutrap? Do you still remember those?”
“Desutrap?”
“You really don’t remember, do you?”
“I remember going to a stupid preschool and meeting you, but the name Desutrap doesn’t ring any bells.”
“You should remember it, though! You had it torn down almost as soon as you started ruling the world!”
“Oh. That. I blocked it out, at least until now.”
“Well, if you remember our time at Desutrap, I guess that’s enough for me. I’m glad that you’re happy, La-Iin. I just wish I could be, too.”
“Are you not happy? You might be my slave, but you’re treated much better than the other slaves. And I call on you for some advice.”
“Yeah, I know. But my Mom and Dad, you don’t spare them any leniency. You don’t do it for Shan-Zetsu or Cae-Bougen either…”
“They’re different to me than you are, Fer-Shi. Namely, I don’t care about them.”
“I know…”
La-Iin sighed. “Fer-Shi, of course the world is plenty different nowadays. And I’ve accomplished my dream. Someday my conquest will become worse and more widespread. But I don’t want you to be miserable.”
“It’s hard not to be when this is what you didn’t want to happen…”
La-Iin stroked Fer-Shi’s head. “Maybe I’ll let your Mama and Dami out for a few moments someday.”
“Thanks, La-Iin.”
La-Iin dropped her voice to a whisper. “Tell no one this. But ruling the world has not made me hate you. You are a slave because I worry about your influence if I let you be more. But I will still try to keep you happy.”
Fer-Shi smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin. I had a bit of a feeling, though. You do treat me pretty nicely despite all that’s happened. Would you like me to watch Chung-Ae for you someday in return?”
La-Iin glared. “No.”
“Okay, okay.”

“La-Iin, I wanted to ask you a question,” Mit-Sun rasped.
“What, Mama?”
“How come you let Asul-Zenza out of his cage but not me?”
“It’s payback for all the years you messed up while raising me. Which is a lot.”
“What!? But that isn’t fair! You realize which of your parents has less time to live, right!?”
“I’m aware. And stop yelling. It isn’t doing you any favors.”
Mit-Sun whimpered. “La-Iin, I understand there were a lot of times I messed up. But isn’t this a little excessive? If you keep me in here that long, by the time you show me any leniency it won’t really matter all that much, will it?”
“You’re only bartering with me. I know it doesn’t mean anything, Mama! You’d only set out to raise a rebellion against me the moment I let you out. I can’t trust you. Your treatment is based solely on how you acted towards me in the past.”
“Didn’t I do some things right? Weren’t there some days we enjoyed together? Even if it’s just me making mincemeat pie, weren’t there any times you enjoyed with me? Really, La-Iin, I wouldn’t want to raise a rebellion against you. I know that’s just suicide. But I’ve seen that you show Fer-Shi some leniency, and really, I would love to meet my grandson.”
“Appealing to me that way won’t work, Mama. I can’t focus on what you did right at the moment. The world is in my grasp, but it’s still precarious. The slightest show of favoritism is a potential show of weakness–Fer-Shi knows this. Perhaps the day things change and the world will eternally be within my grasp your situation will change as well. But you should know I still haven’t forgiven you for everything.”
“La-Iin…”
“But I don’t hate you. And…I do make sure you’re taken care of before the other slaves. So–” She grimaced and spread her wings. “So be patient. And don’t die on me. I’ll see to it that your treatment changes someday. But I’m no benevolent ruler. Know that.”
La-Iin grit her teeth. ‘That was too much of a show of weakness…’

“La-Iin, as grateful as I am to be allowed outside of the cages, I truly have some questions for the way you are handling things.”
“Do you have any suggestions, Dami?”
“No, it isn’t like that. Do you not think that someday your slaves will realize that my being free is favoritism and not a case of assisting you? What will you do then?”
“I would figure by then Chung-Ae would be grown up. And at that day I think my hold over the world will be stable enough that I won’t even need to care about something like that. Trust me, Dami, I have plans for the future that extend far past just the next decade.”
“I see. And another thing, was the shock necklace necessary? How did you procure something like this in the first place?”
“That’s confidential, Dami. i trust you, but this is necessary to keep secret. And that’s necessary too, just in case you ever decide to betray me.”
“La-Iin, you know I would never do that.”
“Whether you would or wouldn’t, I’m prepared for it all the same. I’ve been prepared to be betrayed since I was little, so I’m ready to deal with it if it happens. But I trust that you would never betray me, Dami. But this is no sign of weakness.”
“You’ve changed, La-Iin. You weren’t this scared of showing your flaws in the past…”
“San-Kyung has had to handle most of the brunt work now that Chung-Ae has been born, and it’s uncertain just how long he’s going to stay like a baby. Just because I was lucky doesn’t mean Chung-Ae will be. The world isn’t entirely under my grasp yet, and I’m not completely capable of sedating the powers of millions of people. I can’t afford to mess up here. You should understand that.”
“You needn’t act so tough around me, though…I will not betray you. I will say that as many times as it takes for you to believe me. And you needn’t do it around all your other loved ones–speaking of, when do you plan on letting Mit-Sun out of her cage?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Dami, I love you, but you really don’t understand any of how this is supposed to work.”
She flew off, Asul-Zenza watching her with widened eyes.

“Relent.”
“Never!”
La-Iin kicked at the cage. Ai-Reia flinched. “I can do much worse than that.”
“I’m prepared to die before i join your alliance. I know what you’ve done to my loved ones. I should have taken more precautions!”
“It’s not your fault you lack my ability to grow faster,” La-Iin said. “I offered you a good position among my ranks. I’ve trusted you even though you’ve given me so much reason not to. I’ve threatened you constantly, and yet still you don’t relent?”
“I told you, I never will!”
“I’m surprised the child prodigy never considered lying to gain the ability to assassinate me.”
“I’m surprised that this supposedly-smart world ruler never thought that, as a prodigy, I would consider what options are downright suicidal. I know the difference in our power, La-Iin. But I shall prevail all the same!”
“So you say.” La-Iin took off.
“I’m willing to work by your side, La-Iin.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Ai-Reia. Your assistance is just what I need. Your ability to retain information is a handy one. And I’ll admit, it will be beneficial to have someone who shares my lifespan on my team.”

No matter how much she dwelled back on her childhood fantasies of her plans for Ai-Reia, each time she visited her cage it seemed less and less likely that they would come true. Swallowing her frustration, she picked up in speed.

“Hello, Shuu-Kena. How goes everything?”
“Oh, hello, La-Iin,” Shuu-Kena said. “Everything seems fine so far. I don’t see anyone planning a mutiny or anything. And even if they were, none of them are close to your tower, so I don’t think you need to worry about anything happening to Chung-Ae.”
“I’ll never be worried about anything happening to Chung-Ae until the moment something does happen. And I don’t see it happening anytime soon.” La-Iin glanced at her hand. “Is that a bottle of blood?”
“Yeah. Here you go.” She handed the bottle to La-Iin, who quickly downed half of it and sighed in relief. “It’s been too long since I had blood that fresh…”
“It seems like it was recently.”
“There has been a lot going on, Shuu-Kena.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Speaking of Chung-Ae, how is he?”
“He’s fine. I have high hopes for him. …loathe as I am to thank anyone, Shuu-Kena, I have to thank you for your assistance. You’ve been a helpful asset. Neutrals certainly can be sometimes.”
“Thank you back, La-Iin. To be honest, I don’t really care for all the world domination stuff so much, but I think you knew that already. And, well, at least you haven’t murdered anybody yet. You were a saving grace from my family, too. I feel like I owe you. And that you haven’t put me in a cage like the rest of them.”
“I understand.” La-Iin spread her wings. “By the way, I wouldn’t mind a nice and dark picture for Chung-Ae’s bedroom. I feel like it’s missing a little something.”
“Certainly, La-Iin. I’ll make one as soon as I have the time.”
La-Iin nodded and took off. Shuu-Kena glanced out around the landscape, and seeing that there was no activity, sat down with a canvas and began to paint.

“How are you feeling, Dosa-Mina?”
“I’ve had better days…I wish today was one of the days I wasn’t sick.”
“San-Kyung!” La-Iin snapped. “I thought you were home watching Chung-Ae.”
“I thought you were home with him.”
“Evidently not. I have to do my rounds around this time. It’s not safe to leave him on his own, you know.”
“He’s not on his own, though.”
“He’s on his own surrounded by people who are mostly fairly weak.”
Dosa-Mina glanced at both of them. “So even you two fight.”
“Are you really surprised? We fought all the time when we were kids.”
“Quiet, rival-boy.”
“Sorry. …say, San-Kyung, I know you have to head home now, but can you tell me a little bit about Chung-Ae?”
“What can I tell you? He’s a baby. He drools, he soils his diaper, but he’s got quite a grip. I’m thinking he’ll end up more powerful than I am.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“If this conversation is about over, you have your son to attend to,” La-Iin snapped. San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“You spend plenty of time with Fer-Shi. I don’t understand why you don’t grant Dosa-Mina the same privileges you grant her.”
“Because I don’t like him, San-Kyung. Besides, I don’t think you understand what I mean by precarious situation. I don’t think anyone understands except for me, in fact!”
“People might understand better if you clarified what they were,” Dosa-Mina said. La-Iin hissed at him.
“La-Iin, you’re being unreasonable. You realize I have about equal power to you when it comes to what is done with the slaves, right?”
“You agreed with my slave plan!”
“I know. But I’m saying, Dosa-Mina–”
“I really wish I had put his cage someplace you couldn’t find it.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“Maybe you really should head back home…”
“You gave Fer-Shi another purpose!”
“Oh, quit fighting with me over this! You have more important people in your life now. But fine, if you’re really so determined for Dosa-Mina to get special privileges, then once I feel he’s served enough time in there and the situation stabilizes, I’ll let him be a tower slave. Happy?”
“I never believe you when it comes to Dosa-Mina.”
La-Iin huffed. “Just get back to Chung-Ae, San-Kyung! I still have rounds to go, you know!”

Midnight had arrived, and now having retired to the tower, La-Iin went to visit Sale-Dessu, who was examining the corpse of Choungetsu.
“How goes the extended lifespan experiments?”
“I haven’t been able to figure anything out yet,” Sale-Dessu said. “I really don’t understand how this ‘lifespan gene’ works. I’m starting to think the scholars of the past were a little deluded…”
“Maybe that’s something I should ask Dosa-Mina on,” La-Iin mused. “Well, just keep working on it.”
“What if I can’t bring Choungetsu back, La-Iin? You won’t torture me for that, will you?”
La-Iin lowered her head. “No. I won’t. As much as I want Choungetsu back, my top priority is extending San-Kyung’s lifespan so that he will live at a time equal to me. At this rate, no matter how long he lives he will not be part of my and Chung-Ae’s lives for too long. I don’t want that to happen. If there’s any chance that I can have him live as long as I can, then I will take that.”
“Are you looking for immortality, La-Iin?”
La-Iin lifted up her head. “No, not particularly. But tell me if you find out anything in regards to it. I’ll take that if it’s available to me…but there might be one exception.”
“Hm?”
“It’s nothing. Get back to work. I plan on letting Eul-Bok out tomorrow, so you’ll have a companion to help you.”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Thank you, La-Iin.”
“You know I don’t listen when you say that.”

“It’s about time you showed up.”
“How’s Chung-Ae?”
“Fine. He hasn’t cried at all since I got back.”
“That’s good.”
San-Kyung glanced at La-Iin. “Now that we’re alone, do you mind telling me what it is you’re so worried about?”
“What do you mean?”
“You seem concerned about nearly everything.”
“Isn’t it obvious? My ruling of the world isn’t perfect yet. I have a child to think of now, so that makes everything much harder, especially since he’s still relying on me for food. And that’s not to mention if we do go through with that plan of having more. You’re not the youngest in the world either, San-Kyung. Our age gap might not be the worst I’ve heard of, but it is concerning.”
“Something you should have realized years ago?”
“I worry that even with all the planning I did beforehand that I’m going to mess up somewhere,” she sighed. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been. The world, or at least a part of it, is mine. I have you as my husband, and we have a child now. The people who are important to me still live and most help me. I have almost all that I want, and yet I can’t just be happy about it. Instead I’m left worrying about the possibility of just the smallest thing going wrong and ruining all I have worked for.”
“Your stress won’t help much either. You must keep a level head about this. And don’t forget, you said it yourself that you are not alone. Your method of ruling the world might not have been my ideal, but I never planned on being entirely alone, either.”
La-Iin glanced over her shoulder. Chung-Ae was fast asleep in his crib, looking content. “With stress or without it I’ll keep working to keep my goal intact, San-Kyung. Now that I’ve tasted this happiness I’m not going to let it go so easily.”

—–
“Hello, Bes-Isa.”
“Hello, La-Iin. It’s been a while.”
“It has been, but I’ve been busy. I felt like tonight I could use your advice. Hence why I came here.”
“You don’t need to talk so formally around me, you know.”
“Oh, I know.”
“Well, whatever advice you need, I’m willing to give. What is it?”
“It’s a lot of things, Bes-Isa. So I hope you’re feeling patient.”
“After being stuck in the dark so long it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s better than that anyday.”
“That’s good enough for me.”

1.547.Plan Dosa-Mina

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 547
“Plan Dosa-Mina”

“As you all know by now, today is a half day. We’ll only be doing the classes that all of our students must attend. While because of higher grade numbers this year this means that biology will be one of the classes this year, otherwise it is exactly the same as last year. We of the faculty are very grateful that Miss Cahongyun and Miss Sanhuun are here today for this half-day…”
“I’m not,” La-Iin whispered to Fer-Shi. “I hate Hyungdarou. She’s so stupid.”
“That’s pretty mean, La-Iin,” Fer-Shi whispered back.
“Miss Cahongyun? Look, I know you just had an incident, but can you please shut up? Now, anyway…”

***

“Those girls took away precious time with my Dad yesterday. I had to be home alone for a while thanks to them. It’s already hard enough t’get any time with him with how much work he’s had to do lately, so I don’t appreciate it, like, one bit.” Airy-Aekok blinked. “Hey, Sanyaow, am I bothering you with my rambles?”
“Huh? No, you aren’t. Sorry your Dad’s been busy.”
“Nah, no reason to say sorry. I’m mad at the criminals who’re makin’ his life harder. Still, uh, sorry if it sounds pryin’, but if it isn’t my ramblin’, what’s makin’ you upset?”
Lirako sighed. “I figure you’re just going to keep asking until I tell you, aren’t you…”
“Yeah, that was kinda the intention.”
Lirako beckoned her close. Airy-Aekok leaned in. “It’s the last day of school for a while. I really thought we’d have a better idea of Dosa-Mina’s species by this time. I know we have an idea, it’s just, we don’t have any concrete proof, which is kinda what I wanted…”
“Well, the fact that he doesn’t wanna sing to prove otherwise is pretty damning if ya ask me,” Airy-Aekok said sympathetically. “Maybe we can just pretend that’s the case and leave it at that.”
“No. I don’t want to. Llanni, police work as hard as they can to find concrete evidence, don’t they? That’s what I want to do. I want concrete proof that he’s a Siren or something else.”
“I want that too, Sanyaow, but I’m really not sure anymore how we could find what we’re lookin’ for. Like, we’ve got his suspicious behavior, but what’re we s’pposed to do next? Follow him home? Look for a birth certificate or somethin’?”
“I don’t know. I just want it figured out. It’s the perfect revenge for how he treated me. Besides, I…I don’t really have all that much time left here at Malicerie. It’s still a pretty long ways away, but come March 2016 I’ll be graduating. It’s not as if I can really do anything about it then. I don’t even know where he lives, and I bet if we tried to follow him he’d notice.”
Lirako sighed. ‘Geez, never thought I’d see the day where someone’s getting depressed over something like this…’
“Class’ll probably start again like, soon, but I’ll try and figure somethin’ out, alright? After all, I’m the daughter of a cop!”
Lirako smiled. “Well, I look forward to seeing what you come up with, then.”

‘How could I get her concrete proof that he’s a Siren or whatever? Geez, I’m good at tying up teenage boys but apparently figuring out the truth behind these kinds of things is a talent I didn’t get from my Dad…so what could I do…well, he talks pretty quietly to Molshei, so maybe his species comes up in their conversations sometimes!’
Airy-Aekok strained to hear their voices over the din of other students.
“You know what I think you need, San-Kyung? A good old-fashioned day off for the both of us!”
“What are you talking about? After today pretty much every day is going to be a day off.”
“I know! That’s why we should take advantage of the opportunity at hand! I think it would be great for you!”
“That’s what you say, but your intentions mostly have to do with visiting my house, making me visit yours, go out a few places close by and shower me in affection. Is that it?”
Dosa-Mina looked away. “I never said that, so stop kidding yourself.”
‘Dangit, they aren’t talking about anything damning, that’s for sure. Unless it’s a sign of their sordid relationship…but even so, it’s barely even that.’ Airy-Aekok sighed. ‘Sanyaow would’ve been better off asking someone else to help her with this. I’m going to be completely useless obviously…’

When the last class ended for the day, the students were invited to a small event in the reception room. The students seemed fairly high-energy, and most of their teachers watched them with smiles.
“Sanyaow?”
“Yeah, Llanni? What’s up?”
“Hey, uh…I’m sorry about this whole situation. I literally have no idea how to handle this. I thought I picked up a lotta skills from my Dad, but I guess this isn’t one of them.”
“Don’t worry about it. I guess there is still plenty of time before March to figure it out. And I’m not completely sure how we’d get the right evidence anyway. We can’t exactly follow him home.”
“Yeah…if we were cops, we could. ‘nfortunately this isn’t a piece of fiction where we could dress up as cops.”
“Well, instead of stressing over it, why don’t we just kick back and enjoy the free time that’s coming up? I’m gonna have plenty of time to spend with my brothers. They always dogpile me in the Summer. It’s so sweaty under all that fur. Or should I say Catoripile?”
“I’m not all that looking forward to it. Like, my Dad, he’s probably still gonna be busy, especially if the school-aged active evils decide to participate in this sudden crime surge. I always look forward to any time I can spend with him, but he’s so busy nowadays…”
“Well, I certainly don’t mind spending time with you over the Summer. Though my first priority is to get in a good visit with Deki-Tyunri. You and I have been talking so much I think he’s kinda jealous!”
Airy-Aekok smiled. “Yeah, I could see how that could, like, happen. You two were close before me, after all.”
The two girls officially joined the reception. Airy-Aekok went around bidding farewells to the teenage boys of her class, to mixed responses. Meanwhile Lirako went off for the time being with other friends including Deki-Tyunri.
During the reception a few special events occurred.
“The top grade this year in Class D goes to Mr. Molshei! Good job, Mr. Molshei! Last year you didn’t make it over Miss Vampiris, but this year you certainly did! Miss Vampiris made it to second place, however. Mr. Dslellular in third, and Miss Sherry in fourth, along with Miss Hangdul in fifth! Good job, all of you!”
“Congrants, San-Kyung!” Dosa-Mina said. He pulled San-Kyung close and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“I wish I could have made it above Molshei this year. Damn. Well, it’s something to strive for in the coming school year.”
After the grades were read, Xao-Bu called up his students in the Weekend class, and the teacher of the normal music class did likewise, and both began to perform a song for the students.
“Everyone wants to celebrate the fact that we don’t have any school for the Summer, but they forget that all this celebrating is taking time out of our free time,” La-Iin said bitterly.
“Well, we won’t see each other for a while! Not all of the students are like you and me, La-Iin. They don’t all have contact with each other during the break.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t care because I have contact with everyone I need to, even Sara a little bit. Besides, isn’t getting to leave right away celebration enough?”
“Why are you here if you’re going to complain? It’s an optional event.”
“I came here because I thought there would be worthwhile snacks, but apparently not and we can’t even eat them here. That wouldn’t be a problem if they were good snacks…”
“Huh?”
“If they were good snacks I could sneak them right now, but they aren’t.” La-Iin sighed. “All this celebrating is going to take as long as a normal school day if not longer.”
After the music ended, Sharai gave one last speech, then stomped his foot and opened his mouth wide.
“Now, my students! Say it with me! –”
Before he could even say “Ma”, he was dragged off the stage.

***

Airy-Aekok felt dejected as she joined the crowd on their way out of school. ‘Everyone’s all looking forward to spending time with their family and friends, but who do I have? My Dad’s gonna be busy, Sanyaow’s got other friends too, and no teenage boys actually like me. Summer’s gonna be a crapshoot this year.’
In one last desperate attempt, Airy-Aekok strained her ears to listen in on San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina’s conversation.
“Are you going to try wearing short sleeves this year?”
“San-Kyung, you know I can’t do that.”
San-Kyung sighed. “I guess not…you know, if you’d go into your true form, you wouldn’t have to worry about it, at least on one side.”
Airy-Aekok gasped. “Yes, but I’m covered in fur on that side. I think that would be more of a disadvantage in the Summer. I’ve dealt with this for years now, San-Kyung. It won’t be a problem.”
“It’ll be a problem for me once you get too sweaty.”
Dosa-Mina gave a half-hearted chuckle. “Don’t worry, I won’t cling to you as much this Summer. Or I’ll try not to, anyway.”
Airy-Aekok was stunned. She glanced around the crowd for any sign of Lirako. Spotting her chatting with Deki-Tyunri on their way out, she ran over to her.
“I need to talk to you like, right now!” She exclaimed.
“Whoa! Um, Deki-Tyunri, could you give me a moment?”
“Certainly,” Deki-Tyunri said, although judging by his expression he was less than pleased. Airy-Aekok pulled Lirako away and dropped her voice to a whisper.
“Okay, I don’t, like, have definite proof yet, but I overheard Molshei and Dosa-Mina talking, and I heard him say something about a true form and being covered in fur on one side!” She squealed. “I think he might be a Dualbreed, Lirako!”
“Covered in fur on one side? There are a lot of species with fur, but that definitely narrows it down! Let’s see, Bearperson, Werewolf, ugh…Catori….I certainly hope it’s not that. But if he is a Dualbreed, that makes me wonder if he’s even a Siren at all!”
“Siren songs still do bad things when they’re not Pureblood, just not as bad. Least that’s what my Dad told me.” Airy-Aekok grinned. “This is a big breakthrough! Hey, you know, now that I think about it, when my Dad gets time off maybe we’ll look for this together!”
“That’s the spirit, Llanni!”
“Thanks, Sanyaow, for not givin’ up on me. Completely, anyway,” she said with a nudge.
“No problem! If we can figure this one out, I don’t care how long it takes!” Lirako blinked. “Actually, that’s a lie.”
“And don’t I know it!”

—–
“Dad! Welcome home!”
“Hello, Airy-Aekok.” He pat her on the head. “Sorry I’ve been so busy lately. I just don’t understand why the evil in this world sees 2015 as its year…”
“Aw, that’s alright. It makes the time I get to spend with you sweeter. And now that you’re home, I wanted to talk about a little pet-project I wanna do over the Summer.”
“Oh?”
“Yeah. It’s a little like this….”

30.546.The Adventure in Bledger–Part 2

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

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

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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