18.534.Animosity from Suspicion

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 534
“Animosity from Suspicion”

“Mit-Sun, you look awfully happy today. What’s the occasion? Or, are you just happy because you are?”
Mit-Sun giggled. “It’s nothing, really. Just, I forgot how much fun going out could be. Having to take care of La-Iin, I haven’t been able to do much for myself lately. When we hang out together I get to go places La-Iin probably would never agree to go. Keeping her under wraps is hard.”
Uil-Cur scratched the back of his neck. “Always happy to be of assistance, Mit-Sun. My siblings told me I could be refreshing, but I never thought that would extend to another adult!”
“You can be pretty fun, Haner. So I want to ask: would you like to come over for dinner again tonight? I know La-Iin will hate it, but she’s been resisting all my attempts to bond with her lately. I really don’t think inviting you over again is going to make things any worse.”
“A-are you sure about that, Mit-Sun? She was pretty harsh towards me last time I came over.”
“La-Iin’s like that, but damn it, she can’t control who I make friends with as much as I can’t control who she makes friends with. I seriously don’t know what she has against you. She said something about male Sirens once, but I doubt she’s met another. I know you guys can be pretty rare.”
“It’s hard to think I’m technically somewhat rare. But I suppose that also comes from being an individual!”
“So, what do you say? Want to come over again? I could use a break from all her animosity and there’s not been much to do around the house lately.”
Uil-Cur gave a small smile. “Almost anything you ask me I would accept, Mit-Sun. I enjoy my time with you. I think you are…well, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“That’s sweet, Haner. Thanks. You’re a pretty great friend too.”
Uil-Cur began to flap his wings rapidly to calm him down. ‘Just because she smiles at you so much, it doesn’t mean anything! Quit getting your hopes up!’ Still, he couldn’t help but feel slightly excited at the sight of Mit-Sun’s casual smile.

***

“You seem pretty steamed up, La-Iin.”
“I am steamed up! I can’t stand it when Mama goes to spend time with Haner! Either she’s stupid or slowly she’s falling for his wiles. Well, either way she must be stupid, because if she’s falling for his wiles she’s delusional! If his wiles were so great I would be in love with him!”
“That’s….disturbing, to say the least. And that begs the question: if another man had really good wiles, would you like him better than San-Kyung?”
“No way, Bes-Isa. San-Kyung is my one and only. Mama is a fool. If she’s looking for what true love looks like, she should be looking in my direction.”
“Nobody who was in their right mind would take love tips from a stalkerish little kid…don’t look at me like that, La-Iin! I’m not saying your little thing for San-Kyung is little kiddy, I’m just saying you’re creepy.”
“I’ve heard what you’ve said about keeping girl slaves before. If anyone is creepy, it’s you!”
“Well, doesn’t that make me more evil!? I want girl slaves for my own use…heh heh….but you want San-Kyung to reciprocate your feelings and work equally by your side! What the hell’s with that!?”
“You should understand by now if you know me any, Bes-Isa. Besides, I would be in a higher position of power over San-Kyung anyway. But this wasn’t about him! I haven’t been able to make any progress with that depressio lately anyways. I’m getting burned up about Haner! Someday I’ll suck that guy’s blood and sing his own song back to him!”
“Tell me, do you think that would work?”
“It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”
Before Bes-Isa could speak again, the door opened. La-Iin narrowed her eyes at Mit-Sun, then gasped when she noticed that Uil-Cur was right behind her.
“No!”
Mit-Sun scoffed. “Please, La-Iin.”
“H-hello there, La-Iin,” Uil-Cur said, sounding uncertain.
“No. Don’t even talk to me. Mama, you said you wanted to repair our bond. You’re on the wrong path. Continue to show me your stupidity and I’ll lock you in a high-security cage when the time comes, if there’s even any of you left to lock in a cage!”
She stomped off, Bes-Isa in tow. She could hear a faint conversation between Mit-Sun and Uil-Cur, but she couldn’t be bothered to listen in to hear what it was. She was infuriated that Mit-Sun would even bring Uil-Cur over in the first place.

“I had a feeling this would happen,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Sorry about that, Haner.”
“No, there’s no trouble, Mit-Sun. Just as you had that feeling, so did I. She didn’t take well to me last time I was over either.”
“Well, she can go off and do her own thing if she wants to. Is there something you’d like to do?”
“Much as I’d like to spend time with you right at this moment, I want to try something, Mit-Sun. I’m going to see if I can get through to La-Iin.”
“Why?”
“The two of us are friends! I know it’s not all that important, but I don’t want to strain your relationship with your daughter just because she doesn’t like me. We can spend time together after this–after all, we do have plenty of time!”
“I suppose so,” Mit-Sun said. “Just don’t take too long, alright?”
‘She really does want to spend time with me,’ Uil-Cur thought. ‘Now I really do have to do this. With how she’s acting perhaps La-Iin may someday really be my step-daught…no, don’t think that, Uil-Cur! Stop it!’
He pushed the idea away as he fluttered after La-Iin.
“No flying in my house, Haner,” Mit-Sun said. Uil-Cur landed. “Sorry about that, Mit-Sun.”
“Just don’t do it again.”

“Haner won’t get to Mama first, I’ll show her, if anyone’s going to harm her bodily, it’ll be me, just wait and see….”
“I get that you’re angry, but do you have to pull on me like this!? I can feel pain, you know!”
“Heh heh heh…” The dark look in La-Iin’s eyes told Bes-Isa she wasn’t likely to be released soon.
From behind her La-Iin could hear footsteps. She glared over her shoulder. “Don’t bother reasoning with me, Mama. I will always and forever hate Haner. I–”
La-Iin’s eyes widened when she caught sight of Uil-Cur. “I know you’re not all that fond of me, La-Iin, and I respect that. But I don’t think you should get all so mad at Mit-Sun because of this.”
“Don’t you even dare talk to me, fool!” La-Iin hissed. Uil-Cur sighed. “Please, La-Iin, make this easy on me. If it makes you feel better, this friendship started because of me.”
“Take advantage of my Mama’s stupidity, will you!? Well, I’m not as stupid as she is!”
“Mit-Sun is not stupid! You shouldn’t say such things about your own mother.”
“Why should I listen to you!? You don’t matter to me. You’re just trash.”
Uil-Cur flinched. “I don’t know what I did to earn your ire, La-Iin, but I don’t want this to be how it is. I don’t want you to hate Mit-Sun because you hate me.”
“Quit referring to me by name. You don’t have the permission to do so.” La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “I know your aim, Haner. I know what plans you have for my Mama. I can see them from a mile away. For you see, I’m an expert when it comes to planning things.”
Uil-Cur blinked at her. “What do you mean? I don’t have any plans for Mit-Sun.”
“Do you think I’m stupid!? I know wiles better than most others! You can only have two possible plans for Mama. Either way I won’t accept you!”
“I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You won’t fool me, Haner! Until the moment she proves otherwise, I’ll hope that Mama’s not so stupid to let her emotions fall victim to your plans!”
Uil-Cur blinked. ‘What is she talking about?’ As La-Iin bared her fangs, it clicked in his mind, and his face turned a dark red.
“I–it isn’t–it’s not–look, I think you have the wrong idea, La-Iin…”
“Your reaction only proves to me I have the right idea! Stop it, Haner! Or I’ll give you a reason to regret it!”
Uil-Cur felt completely embarrassed. “I…it’s…there’s nothing to worry about on that front, La-Iin. And if that’s making you angry at Mit-Sun, then you’re being irrational. Be angry at me all you want, but this has nothing to do with her…”
La-Iin’s nose wrinkled.
“Haner? La-Iin?”
Mit-Sun’s voice broke into the argument. “Haner, I heard arguing. If you can’t get through to her, there’s no reason to argue with her.”
“All the arguing was coming from her side, though.”
“La-Iin, cut Haner some slack. I get it–you don’t like him. You’ve made that painfully clear.”
“Apparently not clear enough to get through your thick skull!” La-Iin yelled. She stomped off, Bes-Isa in tow.
“I swear, one of these days you’re going to kill me.”
“I’m sorry, Mit-Sun. I didn’t mean to fight with her. She hates me more than I’d expect a seven-year-old to…and now I think I understand why.”
“Why?”
Uil-Cur’s face flushed. “I–I think I just remind her of someone she doesn’t like at her school.”
“Huh?”
“That’s the impression I got, anyway,” he sighed. “So, um, Mit-Sun–about that hanging out?”
“Oh, yeah. Well, there’s plenty I can show you around the house. We have time until dinner to just look around, so tell me where you want to go. Although obviously La-Iin’s room is off-limits.”
“I figured. Well, anywhere you want to show me is fine.”
“Well then, we might as well stop by the miscellaneous room, then,” Mit-Sun said. “Come on!”
From her bedroom La-Iin could hear their conversation. She grit her teeth.
‘What can I do now? Maybe I should turn to Dami for advice on this…’

—–
Dinner came and went, and no matter how hard she tried Mit-Sun simply could not manage to get La-Iin to sit at the table while Uil-Cur was there. Even sending him away didn’t seem to work–La-Iin still refused to sit anywhere near him and instead took her food away and into her room. Mit-Sun lacked the energy to fight with her over it, and so opted against it.
“Thank you for the dinner, Mit-Sun. You are an excellent cook.”
“Not a problem. It was nice to have you over, even though La-Iin was acting up. Maybe next time, we should hang out at your house.”
“Maybe. I hope you can make up with her.”
“Me too. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, Uil-Cur. Good night.”
Uil-Cur froze and blinked at Mit-Sun. “What? Did I say something wrong?”
“Er, um, no, not at all!” He flustered. “Did I give you a weird look? I’m sorry, I’m just used to you saying Haner…”
“Oh…well, you keep telling me I can call you Uil-Cur, so I suppose it just came out.”
“Well, I am okay with you calling me that,” he said. “Er, I have to go now. See you, Mit-Sun.”
“See you, Haner. Er, Uil-Cur.”
As Uil-Cur walked out the house, he smiled to himself. ‘I wonder if I might just have a chance after all…maybe, just maybe.’
Remembering Leirhyn’s words, he began to feel confident as he fluttered off towards home.

20.505.Occurrences of Fer-Shi

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 505
“Occurrences of Fer-Shi”

“You know, it’s been a long time since you’ve been over to my house, La-Iin,” Fer-Shi said. “So how come you don’t look happy?”
“It’s hard to be happy when you did something you thought would help, but ended up making things worse.”
“What?”
La-Iin sighed. “Remember when I told you San-Kyung was coming over to my house the other day? He came over, saw what I had, and realized he’s been making a giant mistake.”
“Is he going good?”
“Hell no! If he was doing that I’d be even more depressed! No, it’s something so personal that if I told you he’d probably kill me and stuff me in a shallow and watery grave. I’d tell you but I don’t want that to happen.”
“Um, okay.” ‘Just what sort of secrets is San-Kyung hiding!?’ “Well, I can make it all better. My Mom and Dad will be back in an hour or so, but until then, we have the house to ourselves! There has to be something you want to do.”
“Not particularly.”
Fer-Shi huffed. “Well, I’ll find something for us, then!” She head off into the kitchen and looked at the snacks that her parents kept. She put some snacks into a bowl and carried them to the table. La-Iin took one almost immediately.
“We need to make good on our promise to go on an adventure,” Fer-Shi said.
“You still remember that? I’ve been meaning to, but I’m lacking ideas. If you have a good one, go ahead and say what it is.”
“I don’t,” Fer-Shi said. “Hey, speaking of adventures, when do you think they’ll do the school trip this year? They usually do it in Spring, right? And Sanyaow and Sherry and…there’s one other, I think, they’re all twelfth graders this year, so we’ll have to go on one soon.”
“Hm.”
Fer-Shi glared. “La-Iin, you’re being boring!”
“And you’re being forceful! Since when did you become this way?”
“I don’t want to see you like this, La-Iin. Sometimes I worry you spend so much of your time focusing on evil and San-Kyung that you end up disliking anything else. You need to clear your head and find something fun to do. We used to play together all the time and now we only play in the recess are!”
“Hm.”
“I’ve got an idea. Come on, I know a place I can show you.”
“I want to eat the rest of the snacks.”
“That can wait! Come on.”
La-Iin sighed. Fer-Shi ignored it and led her out the house. ‘I understand how she’s feeling, though. It’s easy to get caught up in what you want or what you lack. But you need to find a way to enjoy the parts of life that aren’t focused on that, too!’
“Do you know a secret place, Fer-Shi? I didn’t think you had it in you. What sort of secrets are you hiding?”
Fer-Shi dashed over to a bush and blocked La-Iin. “This is a big one. If I’m really gonna show you this secret, you have to promise to keep your mouth shut. If you tell Miss Cahongyun, she might tell my Mom and Dad, and I’d be in a lot of trouble if they found out about this.”
La-Iin smirked. “I hate making promises, but I’ll have to make an exception here. Whatever you’re hiding–” La-Iin tried to glance behind Fer-Shi, but she outstretched her arms to cover the forest behind her. “–has got to be something interesting if you’re going to get in trouble if I tell. Almost makes me tempted to break the promise.”
“Come on, La-Iin! I need a pinky swear.”
“You don’t get a pinky swear from a Vampire. You get a blood pact!”
“B-blood pact!? Well, alright, if you really promise you’ll keep the secret!”
La-Iin’s smirk deepened, and Fer-Shi felt wary as she nicked her finger and La-Iin did likewise. The two pressed the injuries together, then Fer-Shi led the way to Hei-Maj’s small cave.
‘I hope he doesn’t have a bad reaction to La-Iin,’ she thought. ‘If he lashes out at her this could be trouble.’
“My excitement grows with every scrape of my knee, but so does my impatience,” La-Iin said.
“Be quiet! We’re almost there.”
‘I hope he’s not expecting anything from me!’ Fer-Shi pulled herself out from underneath the bushes, only to realize that Hei-Maj was not there. Garbage she was sure he had left behind was lying all around, but he was not there at all.
“Where did he go?”
“Where did who go?” La-Iin asked. Fer-Shi flinched. “Is this the secret? This is a pretty cool hideout, Fer-Shi, and I’m glad you told me about it. Something like this deserves to be kept a secret. Though you leave a lot of garbage here, and it’s pretty close to your neighborhood. If you want to keep a secret this big, you should have made your base further in the forest.”
“This isn’t my base.”
“I should have known when you said ‘where did he go’,” La-Iin said. “So who is he?”
“A friend who lives here,” she said. “He’s kind of, well…homeless. So I take care of him. That’s where all the garbage comes from.”
“You have a hobo slave!?” La-Iin exclaimed. “Now I’m really jealous. Sometimes I think you’re even more evil than me, Fer-Shi. You just haven’t tapped into your full potential yet. That both excites and terrifies me.”
“I’m not evil!” Fer-Shi exclaimed. “And he’s not a hobo slave, he’s my friend!”
“Well, where is he? Did he curl up to die somewhere?”
Fer-Shi shuddered. “Don’t say things like that! He’s probably nearby, and even if he isn’t, well, he has his own problems to deal with, so I’m sure he’s doing, well, something.”
“Hm.”
Fer-Shi hadn’t wanted to venture further into the forest, but La-Iin’s words had worried her. She pushed on, La-Iin close behind her, and began to call for Hei-Maj.
“Hei-Maj? What sort of name is that? That doesn’t sound Vaelis.”
“I don’t know if it is. I don’t know much about Hei-Maj at all. And neither does he. But he’s a good friend of mine.”
“A better friend than me?”
“I only have one best friend, La-Iin, and that’s you. But he is a good friend, and I would like you to meet him. But not to make him a hobo slave, just to meet him!”
“You read my mind, huh.”
“Why do you see people as nothing but potential slaves?”
“I don’t see all people that way. I see San-Kyung as my future husband, and Bes-Isa as a close advisor. My next-door neighbor, Sale-Dessu, I see him as a close and trusted ally.”
“So how come I’m different?” Fer-Shi asked. “I’ve heard you say what a good slave I’ll be someday, but we’re good friends, right? So why am I a slave when other people are more useful to you? Why do they get to assist you in taking over the world? Is it because they’re evil?”
“Sale-Dessu isn’t evil, unfortunately. To get him to help me will be jumping through hoops, but I’ve found my loopholes. And it has nothing to do with not caring about you, Fer-Shi. I just don’t think your influence would be any good to me. Because you’re…well, you’re a goody-goody, you know?”
“Yeah, I know. And because of that, you see me as lesser than you.”
Fer-Shi heard La-Iin’s wings begin to flap. “Fer-Shi, you’re being an idiot! Nobody is as good as me when it comes to being evil. And you never considered the reason why I wanted to make you a slave anyway. It’s because why would you want to help me ruling the world behind the scenes!? Besides, you’d be a trusted slave who I would let take care of my children, although there’s no way I’d let you teach them.”
“Even if you have good intentions…well, for you anyway–it doesn’t change the fact that hearing that your friend wants to make you a slave still hurts.”
“You rejected my earlier positions, which if you ask me were a lot more influential than slave. I think you have potential, Fer-Shi. But until you tap into that, I can’t find a higher position of power for you. It has nothing to do with bias against or for you, otherwise I wouldn’t be planning Sale-Dessu in the position he’s in.”
“Yeah, you say that…” Fer-Shi shook her head. “Why are we even arguing about this? We need to find Hei-Maj, or at least our way back!”
“I like this forest. This Hei-Maj’s guy home or not, it could make for a pretty great base.”
“Do you think about anything that’s not ruling the world?”
La-Iin glared. “I wasn’t thinking about it being a base of operations for my ruling the world plans. I don’t need a place for that yet. I thought it could be a base you and I could use for fun. But apparently, you don’t like that idea.”
That was your plan?” Fer-Shi said. “That’s pretty sweet, La-Iin. Thank you.”
“Huh?”
“I hope Hei-Maj is alright,” she sighed. “But we should get back. My Mom and Dad might get suspicious about what I do when I leave the house suddenly, but I always have you as an excuse. If we’re out when they come back, I think they’ll be pretty…”
Fer-Shi staggered backwards. Her sight had begun to blur slightly and she felt disoriented.
“Fer-Shi? Is something wrong?”
Though she could make out La-Iin’s words, her voice sounded slightly muted. “Uh, yeah, I think so…can you lead the way back, La-Iin? I can barely see…”
“Fer-Shi?”
Fer-Shi wasn’t able to respond past that; she felt too nauseated to. She was aware of someone pulling on her arm and leading her through the forest, but all the colors had begun to blur together, and eventually the greens and browns of the forest covered the purple of La-Iin’s dress and the yellow of her hair and left Fer-Shi in a nauseous daze that made her wish she had never taken La-Iin out to the forest.

—–
“Is Fer-Shi alright?”
“She seems fine,” Den-Matsu said, checking over his daughter. “She doesn’t feel warm or clammy, and her eyes look fine. She doesn’t look injured and I don’t see a rash. So I wonder what happened?”
“Let’s ask her how she feels when she wakes up,” Tei-Sheu said. “Oh, but do you think we should take her to the hospital before then?”
“Maybe we should. Come with us, La-Iin, and we’ll get you home. Don’t worry, we’ll call and tell you how Fer-Shi’s doing.”
“I’m sure by then she’ll be able to tell you herself,” Tei-Sheu said with a smile, though La-Iin noticed a waver in her tone.
‘Mr. and Mrs. Sanhuun probably think something’s badly wrong with Fer-Shi. They probably think she’s going to die or something. I’m smarter than that. Fer-Shi can’t be too sick.’
She glanced back at her friend. ‘Still, what was wrong with her?’

11.496.Attack on Astineth

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 496
“Attack on Astineth”

“So we enact the plan today, Baal-Mist?”
“I wanted to enact it as soon as possible, and waiting a day to enact a plan isn’t all that long to wait. Today we make our move.”
“Aren’t you at all worried about the possibility of retaliation? Let’s say that he really is Sale-Dessu, and that child is his son, created or naturally born. Astineth Eir-Tyuj is an incredibly powerful Witch. Don’t you think it stands to reason that her grandson and great-grandson would be the same?”
“I understand all of your concerns. But I’ve been thinking about our chances lately. We’re taking things fairly slow. I want to figure out what’s going on as soon as possible, even if it means being a little impulsive.”
“I think you’re getting a bit too rash about this though, Baal-Mist. You started off thinking things through more–what happened?”
“Is it really too rash when something that woman did caused me a personal tragedy? Perhaps I’m not thinking things through, but I need answers. If we break into his house, we may find out what we need to. Is he Astineth Sale-Dessu? Is that his son, a stolen child? Was the child perhaps somehow created? If so, how? We Witches and Warlocks possess the same power of V-Puppetry that other non-Normal species do, and we can create various moving things, but how did he make something than can move on its own, or at least, seems to be able to? Why is he meeting up with Astineth Eir-Tyuj regardless of relation?” Baal-Mist grit his teeth. “What are they planning?”
“Baal-Mist…”
“We will exercise utmost caution on this mission of ours. And even should something happen, we have numbers on our side. In the event that he does lash out at us, that is our advantage!”

***

The temperature outside was fairly neutral that day, though Sale-Dessu felt as though he was sweating all over. He glanced around at his neighbors–none of them seemed to be outside at the moment.
“Do I look like a normal kid to you, Father?”
Sale-Dessu was snapped out of his thoughts by Eul-Bok’s voice. As opposed to his usual lighter garb, today he was wearing one that covered all his ball joints. “Um, yes, covered up like that, you do. But we have to be careful. I don’t want to be out for too long just in case.”
“I know you don’t. But you’re the one who said I could use a little sunning, so don’t blame me!” Eul-Bok stretched. “Hey, did I tell you I turned a pile of rocks into crayons the other day? Actual crayons! It was so exciting!”
Sale-Dessu smiled. “Good job, Eul-Bok! You’re improving so fast, it’s startling.”
“Between you, my own practice, and the practice that Grepeta gave me the other day, there’s a lot I understand about using my powers now. I think I really will become better than you someday!”
Sale-Dessu sighed. “I’m glad you have that confidence, Eul-Bok.”
“Well, it’s not because I’m conceited or anything. It’s just, I’m related to two of the greatest powerhouses of the Astineth family! Well, technically, I’m just your V-Puppet, but I forget that sometimes nowadays, you know?”
“Do you remember that you’re only one year old? A one year old Warlock would still be in a crib. You can sleep in your own bed.”
“Yeah, I know. Hey, speaking of, do you think with my powers I could have my very own V-Puppet?”
Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened. “I don’t know.” He dropped his voice to a whisper. “I suppose hypothetically, but you’re still a V-Puppet even in that form. Would it really be possible? Now that’s something I might like to look into, actually.”
“I don’t think I’d want to even if I could. I’m curious to try, but I don’t want to take the risk. I mean, I remember what it was like before I could move my body on my own. And I definitely like now a lot better. If I had a V-Puppet, I’d want him or her to become just like me, but I don’t know if that would be so convenient for you. Besides, I like having this time with just you and me, Father!”
“Thank you, Eul-Bok. I know you said you don’t want to try, but I think you would make a very good–”
Sale-Dessu flinched at the sight of a group of people walking down the street.
“This is inconvenient,” one of them said. “If you hadn’t forgotten the exact location we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“We were rushing that last time, though,” another said. “I was so scared I didn’t have time to think about where we were.”
Sale-Dessu froze in place. The group, two Witches and three Warlocks, were on the same sidewalk he and Eul-Bok were, and heading in the direction of his house. There didn’t seem to be any way he could make it back without being spotted by them.
‘Eul-Bok is covered, though. But they’re Witches and Warlocks too…’
Nervous about the possibility of being spotted, he grabbed Eul-Bok’s hand and walked slowly back towards his house, his eye on the newcomers ahead of him. He was grateful to Eul-Bok for staying silent.
He froze back in place when the group turned around. At the front of the group, a white-garbed Warlock began to smirk.
“Well, what do we have here,” he said quietly. “Be on guard. There’s no guarantees as to what he might do.”
Sale-Dessu’s mind drew a blank before spiraling into fearful imaginations. ‘Do they know me? Are these the same kinds of people who followed Apeta around!? No, they couldn’t be! There’s no way they could know where I live now!’
“What do we do? He’s making no move,” one whispered.
“Wait and see. There isn’t anything we can do right now.”
Beside him, Eul-Bok looked up, his expression one of confusion and concern.
“Father, what’s going on?”
“Quiet, Eul-Bok!” He snapped. Eul-Bok backed away.
“Oh, this seems like it’ll be even more of a lucky day than I thought!”
The assailants each reached for their wands. Sale-Dessu reacted before they could, grabbing his wand and blasting them with a dazzling light. He grabbed Eul-Bok and glanced around wildly, searching for someplace to hide him.
“Father, what’s–”
“Stay as quiet as possible and don’t move at all,” he whispered. “Prepare your wand just in case.”
“Father–”
Sale-Dessu covered his mouth. ‘I need to think calmly. I can’t take him back home or else they’ll know exactly where I live. And if I react wildly, they’ll overpower me. What would my Apeta do!? What did she do in the past? Think, Sale-Dessu!’
“Catch him while his guard’s down!” The white-garbed Warlock yelled, rubbing at his eyes. The other assailants still seemed stunned, but two of them had come to action. Sale-Dessu flashed the beam of light at them again just as an idea came to mind.
‘When that Witch assaulted my Mamun, Apeta put her under mind control. But I don’t have the time to do that! That group won’t stay stunned for long. I need a quicker solution!’
Sale-Dessu swallowed hard. He tried to think back to the offensive spells he had been taught by his grandmother and retaliated against the assailants with rapid beams of light and dizzying spells. Two fell to the ground, holding their heads, while the others staggered on their feet, looking disoriented. Sale-Dessu tried to think on another spell he could use, oblivious to the white-garbed Warlock’s recovery.
“That won’t work forever, Warlock!” The white-garbed Warlock yelled. He fired a stun shot at Sale-Dessu and sent him falling to the ground, his mind whirling and his thoughts in a panicked frenzy as he looked up at his assailant.
“This is perfect. Going better than I thought. But, no need to waste time with wasting breath.” He pointed his wand in Sale-Dessu’s direction, a confident smirk on his face.
Before he could fire his intended spell, Sale-Dessu finished his canting of a spell. The spell wasn’t having exactly his intended effect, but it was working well enough–the white-garbed Warlock had been brought to his knees, cringing in pain. It gave Sale-Dessu enough of a timeframe to recover and hit him with another dizzying spell. The Warlock gasped in pain and held tight to his knees.
Sale-Dessu gasped and began to look for Eul-Bok, fearing the worst, and was surprised to see him standing in front of the other assailants, who had collapsed to the ground and had begun to groan.
“Di–did you do that?”
“I did, Father! I wasn’t going to let you get taken down by these people ’cause you were panicking. Besides, I had to do something.”
Sale-Dessu bit his lip. “I’m sorry I wasn’t more help…”
“Don’t be. The only reason I was able to take care of those others is because I was studying an experiment you did last year. I had no guarantee it would work. I guess that was pretty reckless of me.”
Eul-Bok’s expression became serious. He pulled Sale-Dessu a distance away from the dazed assailants. “Father, this isn’t a permanent solution. Who knows what these people want? If they’re desperate enough and really powerful, they’re going to come back to this neighborhood sooner or later. So you and I need to figure out what to do about them.”
Sale-Dessu noticed the white-garbed Warlock reaching for his wand. “You’re right, Eul-Bok. We need to hurry and come up with a solution. But give me a moment.” Sale-Dessu grabbed the wand away from the white-garbed Warlock, then cast his spell again. The Warlock doubled over in pain, his eyes glazing.
“Is he going to be alright, Father?”
“He’ll be fine…” Sale-Dessu trailed off as he glanced back at the Warlock. Tears began to stream down his face.
“Father!?”
“We’re going to have to leave this place, aren’t we? They probably know we live in this neighborhood now. How much longer will it be until they figure out which house we live in?”
“But where would we live if we leave here? Father, there has to be something we can do!”
Sale-Dessu didn’t respond. Eul-Bok growled. “If you won’t handle the situation, then I will! We are powerful, Father. There has to be a memory loss spell we can use on them.”
Sale-Dessu blinked. “Eul-Bok, something on that scale would wipe someone’s entire memory!”
“Well, there has to be something we can do! You told me about mind control–do you know how to do it? If you do, we can keep them under control until we figure out how to handle this situation.”
“I–I do, but…”
“You have to, Father. It’s our best shot!”
Sale-Dessu nodded. ‘I have the chance to think things through now. If I can keep them under mind control, not only could I deal with them, but I could visit Apeta for help.’
“Hurry!”
Sale-Dessu nodded and walked over to each of the assailants, placing a hand on their heads. Eul-Bok watched on in awe as Sale-Dessu began to chant a spell under his breath for each one. Once the spell was finished, cautiously, he commanded one of the assailants to move.
The white-garbed Warlock moved his arm.
“As soon as we’re done with these five, we need to talk to Apeta,” Sale-Dessu said. Eul-Bok nodded.

—–
“I can’t believe this has happened to you, Sale-Dessu,” Eir-Tyuj sighed. “What did you do to get yourself in such a situation?”
“That’s just the issue, Apeta! If they weren’t Witches and Warlocks, I might think there was something else going on, but I can’t help but wonder if these are the same types of people. But I don’t know what to do! You said people know your identity in this neighborhood, didn’t you? I can’t stay here either!”
“It’s simply not feasible. And you are right in your assumption that memory erasure spells erase all of one’s memory. Not even I was able to find a way to perfect them to a point where they discarded of a particular one, partially because you cannot figure out exactly how a given person remembers a memory.”
“What do I do, Apeta? I barely have any vuyong on my person. I paid off my house! I’ve been living there for years! It was all so perfect!”
“There’s got to be something we can do to keep on living there!”
“You two sure are desperate, aren’t you? And I can understand why. But remember, they don’t know which house you live in, do they? I can provide you with a cover plan, but believe me when I say your best plan of action would be to eventually find a new residence if this keeps up.”
“I…I understand, Apeta.”
“There are security spells that exist, those of which that I used on my house. These will protect you from some of their attacks. I’d also advise that you begin living pseudonymously from here on out. If you change your appearance and assume new names, after a period of time they may believe you do not actually live in the neighborhood. But remember, they too are Witches and Warlocks–you will have to exercise utmost caution when it comes to doing this. The plan could fall through. Continue on like that until you dissuade them or you can find a new place to live–a safer place.”
“I…I understand, Apeta.”
“If you need my help, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“That will only prove our relation, Apeta.”
“You have a point. But Sale-Dessu, this is your only shot. Do what you can to avoid provoking these intruders any further. Who knows? Perhaps you will be lucky and your pseudonymous identity will help you keep that house. But never let down your guard.”
Eir-Tyuj went on about further details, but Sale-Dessu barely heard them. ‘This is all my fault. I had to pick today to go out with Eul-Bok, and now we’re in this situation. I had a decade and so of freedom. I thought I was finally free of everything that happened. But every time I think life is going right, something like this happens. There’s no escape for me, is there? So long as I’m an Astineth, they’ll always be after me.’
He glanced at Eul-Bok. ‘And if I keep him an Astineth, they’ll be after him, too.’

5.490.Strife Among the Students

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 490
“Strife Among the Students”

“Is it just me, or does it feel really tense in the classroom today?” Fer-Shi asked.
“I don’t know. But I see that stupid Catori girl is glaring San-Kyung’s way.”
Fer-Shi glanced in that direction. “It kinda looks like she’s glaring Dosa-Mina’s way.”
“Well, I don’t care if that’s the case.”
“You know, Llanni, it sure would be a shame if we leaked our suspicions to the class,” Lirako said.
“Yeah, like totally. I bet Dslellular’d be hard-pressed to defend himself.”
“What are you two talking about?” Deki-Tyunri asked. “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard you two bring up Dslellular. Llanni, do you have a crush on him?”
“Far from it, Elyshen. Someone like Ferister’s more my type.” She glanced at Tenha-Gumo and winked. Tenha-Gumo shuddered. “We’ve just got a bit of a secret we’re keeping and it’s really hard to keep.”
“We could let you in on it, if you promise to keep it secret. …at least, for now.”
“Would it really be so smart to say it in front of the whole class?”
Lirako glanced at the students behind her. All of them seemed fairly distracted with other students or their studies.
“Maybe not, but it probably wouldn’t be the biggest deal to say it here. And I think we have a little more time before class starts. We could probably leave the classroom and still make it back in time.”
“Is this secret something nefarious?”
“It might interest you, Elyshen,” Airy-Aekok said.
Deki-Tyunri blinked. “Interest me…?”
“Yeah, you might like hearing what we have to say. But ultimately, the decision’s yours. Just make it before old man Chensu gets here to scream at us.”
“I–”
Deki-Tyunri froze. Before he could give his response, San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina had walked up to his desk, their eyes fixed on Lirako and Airy-Aekok.
“Hey, Sanyaow. Don’t you think you’ve gotten told shut up enough by now?” San-Kyung said.
“Yeah, is that the sort of legacy you want to leave at Malicerie?”
“Like you two can talk! He’s told you two shut up a fair amount of times. Besides, I’ve done other stuff at this school to get me recognized.”
“Hey there, guys,” Airy-Aekok said with a wave. Both boys ignored her, and she began to look indignant.
“Look, Lirako, I don’t like you and you don’t like me. That’s fine. But you’re crossing a line when you’ve stooped to spreading rumors about me.”
Lirako glared. “Do you know just how many rumors there are about me in school? Besides, you’ve already got the people debating whether you like San-Kyung romantically or not.”
“That’s beside the point. Not only am I used to that, but I had to deal with a much worse version of that in the past.” Dosa-Mina glanced away. “Not that it’s any of your business.”
“Look, Dslellular, I’m not trying to make your life harder, but you gotta admit, the fact that you won’t sing for me is pretty suspicious. What do you have to hide? If your singing voice doesn’t kill people, it’s not gonna kill you to sing me a little something.”
Students nearby had begun to glance up to watch the confrontation.
“Ugh, it feels like it just got more tense in here. I feel so uncomfortable.” Fer-Shi said.
“It looks like something’s going on over there. And San-Kyung’s involved! So is that stupid Catori and the llama girl. Hm…”
“I wish they wouldn’t start stuff like this right before class. Mr. Chensu’s gonna be super mad at us if there’s a fight breaking out right before history class.”
“I can guarantee if you asked San-Kyung to sing, he would say no. So why am I coming under fire for saying no as well? Llanni, you tied me up and forced me to look at risque photos!”
“I know I did that,” Airy-Aekok said, looking away from him. “And I am, like, sorry. I’m also sorry that I’m so stupidly curious about whether or not you’ve got something to hide.”
“I don’t! Look, not everyone’s all that proud of their singing voice. And truth be told, I’m one of them. …I actually used to like to sing when I was little. But I’ve never been a good singer, so they picked on me for even trying. It can be discouraging to a little kid to hear that. And a lot of stuff from your early childhood can affect you even when you’re older. Are you happy now? In case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t like talking about myself.”
“But there’s no guarantee about that, is there?” Lirako said. “I understand San-Kyung probably wouldn’t sing for me or Llanni. He might not even sing for you. But we pretty much have dead-on proof that he isn’t anything else aside from an Animated Pumpkin. Aside from the fact that that’s all he looks like, knowing him I’m pretty sure he’d have used his other powers by now.”
San-Kyung glared. Dosa-Mina gave him a pat on the shoulder. “Look, can we just drop this? I don’t look like any other species either, do I? Have I ever shown myself to be able to use any powers?”
“You can jump freaky high. And that’s something a lot of non-Normals can do, but not many Normals.”
“I happen to like jumping! Besides, where I live, there are a lot of little kids who can use that jumping power. And by the way, Sirens aren’t a species that can.”
“Yeah, but they’re avians,” Airy-Aekok said.
“…you haven’t done much species study, have you.”
“Look, Dosa-Mina, at this point the problem really isn’t proof or no proof. We have no proof for or against you being a non-Normal. We haven’t really seen your parents. You haven’t sung for us and we don’t know if you sang during Denden Saree, so there’s that. It could be that you don’t want to sing because it’s one of your powers. It could be that you’re telling the truth about being discouraged about your singing voice. But in reality, that isn’t the main problem.”
Fer-Shi put her hands on her head. “I wish Mr. Chensu would arrive and tell them to shut up already!”
“I might go and do that myself,” La-Iin said.
“Why?”
“I can barely hear what that Catori girl is saying. But I know she’s done bad things to San-Kyung in the past. If you mess with San-Kyung, you should be prepared for my ire!”
“If you’re going to stop them, stop procrastinating, then!”
“What’s the main problem, then?”
“Someone who really didn’t want to be seen as something other than what he was probably would have sung for us already, no matter how embarrassing it was, just to prove that he really was a Normal and not a Siren like we’re asking. And even if you put that aside as those childhood experiences being really ‘traumatic’, the fact that you’re jumping to your defense so readily when you don’t do the same for the rumors about you and San-Kyung tells me a lot. I’m pretty good at reading people, you know.”
“I agree with Sanyaow,” Airy-Aekok said. “My dad’s, like, a cop. Your behavior is pretty suspicious.”
Dosa-Mina’s eyes widened. “I defended myself against those rumors before I came to Malicerie! And I can’t stand these rumors because they’re being sent around by people I despise! Influential people. Do you think I want people mistaking my species for something else?”
“Are they mistaking your species for something else, Dosa-Mina? Or have they discovered the truth and you just don’t want to admit it!?”
“Sanyaow, you’re getting a little rough on–”
“Dosa-Mina, have you ever considered that part of the reason I might be doing all this is because of how you’ve treated me?”
“You started this stupid war!”
“Yes, well, instead of acting so suspicious, you c–”
Lirako flinched. “Sanyaow, you alright?”
Lirako turned around. La-Iin was flying behind her, a glare on her face.
“I don’t know what you’re doing, Catori, but whatever it is, leave San-Kyung out of it!”
“Did you hear any of that conversation at all!?”
“I don’t care. That dolt of a history teacher is taking too long to make you shut up. And I also don’t care if you were harassing rival-boy. I can’t stand you, Catori. And if San-Kyung’s anywhere near you, it’s probably because you’re bothering him in some way!”
“What the–”
“I developed my powers early, Catori,” La-Iin said. Her tone and expressionless face made Lirako shudder. “Don’t make me use them in class.”
“That’s against the rules.”
“Do you think I care?” La-Iin slapped at her tail. “Leave San-Kyung alone. He’s mine to bother.”
As La-Iin walked away, she was pulled back by Dosa-Mina.
“We owe you, La-Iin,” he said.
“We!?”
“Ooh, if you owe me, there are plenty of good things I can ask for…” La-Iin’s smile became sly as she walked back to her desk.
“What’d you go and say that for?”
“Because I’m grateful she got Lirako off my back?”
“This isn’t over, Dosa-Mina. There’s no turning back now. Siren or not, something’s going on with you, and I am going to find it out before I graduate!”
“And if she doesn’t, I totally will,” Airy-Aekok said.
Dosa-Mina scoffed. “Do your worst. You won’t find anything.” He sat back down in his chair. As Mr. Chensu entered the room, glancing around curiously at the class, Dosa-Mina found it hard to keep his expression straight.
‘How much longer do I have until she pulls out all stops and there’s nothing I can do anymore?’

—–
“By the way, rival-boy, about that whole ‘owing’ thing.”
“You still remember that? You really believed me?”
“You will owe me or there will be consequences.” La-Iin’s wings flapped rapidly. Dosa-Mina sighed. “Fine, what is it? If you ask for San-Kyung naked and wrapped in a ribbon, I can’t provide.”
“I haven’t figured out what I want yet, rival-boy. I was certain, but now I’m thinking there are a lot of good options for me to consider. I just want you to know that I won’t forget your promise.”
La-Iin walked ahead of him. “I always have to go and mess things up for myself, don’t I…”

22.446.Multiplicity Scenario

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 446
“Multiplicity Scenario”

“I can’t believe I let you strong-arm me into coming to the park,” San-Kyung groaned.
“I can’t believe you were gullible enough to go along with it. But this is perfect. I was right, nobody’s here today!” La-Iin said.
San-Kyung glared. “You know, I just came by to talk.”
“Talk about what, harling~?”
“Call me harling and this will be your final resting place.”
“Oh, come on. The h stands for horrible.”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes.
“Actually, there’s something I wanted from you too, San-Kyung.”
“What now?”
“I was just thinking I feel pretty powerful in my other form,” she said as innocently as she could manage. “And I was wondering when was the last time we fought.”
“That was a while ago,” he said. “And it’d be a bad idea to challenge, La-Iin. It might be March, but I can still easily best you.”
“Can you?” She asked, biting into her arm.
“Of course I can. I’ve always had the upper hand. Not just in powers, but in height, too.”
“You do for now,” she said. “But with my power, I think we’re on even terms.”
La-Iin’s transformation begun and ended fairly quickly, or at least it felt that way to San-Kyung. She came flying at him immediately, to which he responded with vines. La-Iin began to fly past his vines at a fast speed.
‘Geez, she is getting good,’ he thought. ‘But that’s a good sign.’
He continued to try and ensnare her with the vines, but La-Iin was always slightly ahead of them. She dove down and head for his neck, but he moved out the way before she could get close and lit as strong a hand fire as he could manage to dissuade her from coming closer. La-Iin began to look agitated, but she continued to fly around him as if waiting for him to put out the hand-fire.
‘Got her.’
He rose vines from the ground from underneath her. She flew above him, almost completely missing the vines except for one that snared around her ankle. She hissed and tried to break free, but San-Kyung was able to maneuver the vines in his direction and bring her down closer to him.
To his surprise, La-Iin broke free before she was close enough to him and began to circle around him again, faster this time. San-Kyung held his hand-fire up as high as possible, but she seemed unfazed and flew higher. San-Kyung’s frustration was growing, and it took his all to focus on the fight at hand instead of randomly attacking her.
He frantically searched for an opening, but was unable to find one. She dove down close to him and knocked him down. San-Kyung gasped.
‘She might be a little too good!’ He thought. ‘Damn it, I’m not losing to a little girl!’
He looked up, this time checking for her next move, but noticed that she seemed to be tiring. He took that as his opening and rose vines underneath her again. This time he succeeded and ensnared her too tightly for her to escape.
“Surprised your transformation didn’t run out,” he said, walking up to her.
“Are you really surprised? Rival-boy said it seems to activate because of fear. And I’ll admit, I’m a little scared.”
“I guess if we’re being honest, I was a little surprised by your ability,” he said. “I guess you’ve learned how to handle that power well.”
“You were so going to say you were scared,” La-Iin said.
“No, I wasn’t.”
“You were too! Now let me down!”

***

Fer-Shi sighed.
“What’s wrong, Fer-Shi? You sound down.” Tei-Sheu asked.
“It’s nothing, Mom. Well, nothing much. I was just really wishing I could have a dream in life. I want something that I know I want to do, something that I know is my calling. I want to be as certain about what I’m going to do as La-Iin is. Except, you know, without the evil.”
“Well, you’re only eight years old, Fer-Shi. You still have plenty of time to figure it all out.”
“I know I do…but I can’t help but be jealous of La-Iin. And for more reasons than one. I always thought she was going to be just a little bit behind me since she’s half-Vampire, you know? But it seems like she has so much more figured out about herself than I do. And I really thought I at least knew what sort of field I wanted to work in when I grew up, I just didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do there. Now I’m not sure at all.”
“I may not understand your jealousy myself, but I can certainly see where it comes from. And people have had much worse feelings throughout all of time. I can imagine it’s tough to see someone younger than you having something you wish you did too or being someone you wish you were.”
“She’s just so confident. It kinda gets to me sometimes. It also makes me worry she’s going to want to leave me for a more evil friend.”
“That you two have been friends this long while being good and evil is a feat in and of itself, I think,” Tei-Sheu said. “I’m sure your friendship wouldn’t go down that easily.”
“Well, that’s not what I’m most worried about, anyway. I’m just jealous because she’s so certain about herself. But I feel so lost. What if I find something that I really really want to do, but I can’t because I’m just no good at it? What if I find something I’m good at but I don’t want to devote my life to?”
“Not all dreams are ones you need to devote your life to, Fer-Shi,” Tei-Sheu said. “And if you’re no good at something you really want to do, you keep practicing until you become good at it.”
“I just feel stuck.”
“Your problem is that you’re trying to rush things. You need to take this easy. You can start worrying about it if you get to be my age and you’re going nowhere in life because of this.”
“I know I shouldn’t rush things, but I just can’t help it! I’m more confused than I ever was before and I just want to have this all figured out. It’s upsetting me.”
“Then you definitely need to take a break from all this. Why not try doing things that you should know for the future, like cooking? You should know how to cook for yourself. I can teach you a few snack recipes at first and then you can help with bigger meals, and I’m sure Den-Matsu has a lot he can teach you too. And you could focus on school subjects you’re falling behind in or your friendship with La-Iin. Just don’t go and bring up dreams.”
“But if I do that, then when I start thinking about it again, I’ll just feel the same way,” Fer-Shi said bitterly.
“And if you don’t do it, you won’t do anything,” Tei-Sheu huffed. “Come on, Fer-Shi. I can teach you how to make cornpop or Fairydevil cake. And next year you’ll be in the fifth grade. It might be a good thing to get a head start, don’t you think? Take things easy is what I’m saying, Fer-Shi. Focus the majority of your attention on something else, and put the whole figuring out a dream thing as a secondary task for now. Then you won’t be using so much energy up on figuring it out.”
“All right,” Fer-Shi sighed.
“Come on, Fer-Shi. Look up. You’ll figure it out someday.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she sighed. ‘I just hope that someday is soon.’

***

“I know you want to get to talking right away, Mit-Sun, but I was wondering, where is La-Iin today? Is she not home?”
“She’s out with a friend,” Mit-Sun said.
“Fer-Shi?”
“No, San-Kyung,” she said. “He said he was taking her to the park. Apparently he passed by the house and she muscled him into it.”
“That makes me feel uncomfortable…”
“It makes me feel uncomfortable too, but I bet our reasons are different,” Mit-Sun said. “Now, back on topic.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Look, I’m not comfortable with the idea of letting you take La-Iin for any designated day. I’m used to having her here and I still don’t like you, no matter how many privileges I’ve been giving you.”
“That’s a shame. I’ve really been thinking we could go back to being friends lately.” When Mit-Sun glared at him, he fumbled a bit before saying, “Of course, I knew you wouldn’t want to be.”
“Huh! Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, you can take her out on days I have something important to do or if she’s being a pain or she’s desperate to see you. Maybe I’ll even let you take her someplace on your birthday. If I do that, then you’re happy, she’s happy, I don’t have to see you, it’s a winning situation for everyone.”
“It certainly sounds like fun,” he said. “I’m looking forward to my birthday now.”
“La-Iin will stay with me most days, and you still need to call before coming over under any circumstances. And leaving a message saying ‘I’m coming’ doesn’t count. This is still my house before anything else. Forget La-Iin for a second, I don’t always want you on my property.”
“You say that as if I wasn’t already aware of that.”
“It certainly feels like you conveniently forget things at the perfect times,” Mit-Sun sneered. “Anyway, that’s my terms. Sorry if they seem complicated to you, but I don’t necessarily want the man I hate most hanging around my daughter all that often.”
“She’s still my daughter as well, and she can evidently make her own choices.”
“She can, but she’s also seven years old and still dependent on me. I’m still the one who’s taking care of her most of the time. Besides, now that statement’s more because I don’t want to see you than because I think you’ll be a bad influence. I still think you will be. But I’m sure there are other, much worse influences she can have. Her doll for one,” Mit-Sun muttered.
“Bes-Isa’s quite a nice doll…well, maybe nice is not the way to put it, but she’s polite at least.”
“At least,” Mit-Sun scoffed. “Honestly, with the way she talks I was convinced La-Iin was faking it for the longest time. Anyway, that’s it. That’s all I have to say to you. Now you know. I’ll try and keep consistent with what I said to you today, but don’t always expect for me to remember.”
“Oh, I’m certainly not expecting it,” Asul-Zenza said, a chuckle to his tone. “You seem to have an awfully convenient memory as well, Mit-Sun, at least when it comes to me and La-Iin. Honestly, you’re so contradictory I have to wonder if you retain any information from any of our talks ever.”
“If I don’t it’s because I can’t stand the sound of your voice,” she snapped.
“Well, sometimes I don’t like hearing that dry tone in yours either. I heard much more casual tones from you before, but now you constantly sound miffed. It’s not a good voice for you.”
“Oh shut up,” Mit-Sun scoffed. “And get out before I lose my patience, because after those comments you should be glad I didn’t lose it all just then.”
“Most definitely. I don’t want to be kicked anyplace important again, after all,” he said. “See you, Mit-Sun! Until the day we speak again!”
With that, Asul-Zenza went speeding out the door, wings spread before he had left the house.
“Moron. If it were up to me we’d never speak again…”

***

Choungetsu felt so confused nowadays. It seemed like so much was going on around him yet he could barely understand any of it.
Asul-Zenza had been coming by a lot lately and he wasn’t sure why. Mit-Sun still seemed angry with him a lot and he didn’t seem to be coming over for him. And even though he had come over for La-Iin last time, this time he had just gone into the kitchen with Mit-Sun and talked too fast for him to understand.
Choungetsu didn’t usually try to focus his attention on these sorts of things, but he couldn’t help his feelings of confusion and being left out. He wished that La-Iin and Mit-Sun would talk to him more often to help him understand, and he wished he could understand them better in the first place. Already he thought they didn’t understand each other well enough.
La-Iin had been acting a little strange lately too, he thought, and she didn’t take him on long walks that much anymore. In fact, some days Mit-Sun took him on walks and La-Iin barely paid him any attention. The thought made him a little angry. If only La-Iin would bring down that tasty doll again. It may have made her angry when he tried to play with her, but at least he could catch her attention!
Right now, however, instead of feel confused, he couldn’t help but feel lonely for Asul-Zenza as he dashed out the door. He felt a special bond with him and wished he would take him on a walk. He always seemed to be the most understanding out of everyone he met more than once. He was sure that if Asul-Zenza sat down to talk to him, he would be able to understand what he was talking about, and maybe, just maybe, Asul-Zenza would understand him, too.
More than anything, Choungetsu just wished he was more involved.

***

‘My worst fears are all coming true. Lirako’s suspicious about my being a Normal. La-Iin knows all about my dream about her. San-Kyung seems to think there’s something wrong with me more than he used to nowadays. What next, everyone at school’s going to find out about Kkumneok?’
He sighed. ‘I used to do such a good job of keeping up my demeanor. I liked things that way. The nightmares are horrible, but at least I felt like I was doing a good job of keeping what happens in them stuck in the dream. Now I’m just constantly miserable.
‘There has to be some way to make this work again….’
He tried to imagine what he might do if San-Kyung were here just then.
“San-Kyung, I know Spring just started, but you wanna wear my scarf? It’s still pretty cold outside, after all! ….no, that’s stupid. Hey, San-Kyung, I found out something interesting about Lizardfeet! Well, only a specific type of Lizardfeet, but hey, maybe if you run into one, you’ll know how to deal with them! Oh, would he even care about my studies anymore? Aww, San-Kyung, you look so adorable like that! Hm…”
“Dosa-Mina, are you talking to yourself?” Elai-Riya asked from behind the door.
“No, Mom! I’m just reading aloud!” He said hurriedly. It seemed to have worked, for Elai-Riya said nothing more.
‘I just want to focus on stopping my nightmares, not all this other shit. It’s like the world wants to punish me for something.’
He glanced out his window. ‘Maybe it does. But what did I do wrong?’

***

Lately Ai-Reia had been stuck in a perpetual state of melancholy. She would go to school, study for a short while, occasionally talk to her siblings or parents at dinner time, and then head off into her bedroom, lay on her bed, and think. On Weekends like today, it was even worse–she would stay in her bedroom for hours on end until summoned by a family member or natural function.
‘This isn’t right.’ She thought to herself. ‘La-Iin is an absolutely abhorrent person. This world would probably be better off if she died or disappeared from the face of the planet. But there is no reason I should be letting just the mere sight of her turn me into an animal.’
She clutched her pillow. ‘But I can’t control that if there’s some sort of monster inside of me. No, I have to find a way to tame her if that’s the case. But in what way? Do I do in La-Iin? I’m young enough so that I can’t really be arrested. But I’m also a prodigy. I’m sure they consider me smart enough to understand the difference between right and wrong. And that is true, I do understand it…
‘But then, what do I do? I don’t want to do something that horrible, at least I don’t think I do! Oh, I can only imagine how my family might feel if I killed someone with my own two hands. But if I got rid of La-Iin, finally this monster inside of me will be quieted.
‘….or I hope it will be. What if it doesn’t stop even after her death? Do I need the satisfaction of murder, or would her dying of other causes be enough? Would her leaving Malicerie be enough? What is it I need?’
Ai-Reia groaned. ‘I don’t understand what that monster wants! And the worst part is…I’ll never understand. Not until whatever it wants is satisfied. I know that who I think I am wishes La-Iin were dead, but I no longer wish to dirty my hands with her blood. But that’s only what I think. That’s only my reasoning to stray me away from killing her in the first place.
‘Damn it! Why did she need to come into my life!? Everything would be that much better if she had never come to Malicerie! If I had never come to Malicerie! All I want is some peace! I can’t deal with this monster nagging me for hundreds of years! I’ll go mad long before then!’
Ai-Reia stared down at her hands. ‘Do I sate her, or do I resist her? Which one will make me feel better? Which will be better for me? I’ve attempted to kill La-Iin before. I’m not all that scared of the idea, more of my family’s reaction to it. But that might not be what she wants at all. Who knows. Maybe she wants Ca-Miela dead. The idea wouldn’t be too far-fetched. But so long as I don’t know, all I can do is try or resist. And I don’t know which one is right.’
She buried her face into her knees. ‘I wish someone would help me…I wish there would be someone who could try and pull me out of this pit…and I wish I could ask my family. But I no longer have the faith I need to do that.’
Again her thoughts swirled in circles, and she flopped backwards onto her bed, confused and upset. Eventually her thoughts stopped going in any direction at all and she grew drowsy from resting on her bed, and fell asleep, a sleep she would be in until she was summoned at dinner time by her mother.

***

“I’m a little surprised La-Iin left you here, Bes-Isa,” Sale-Dessu said. “Wouldn’t she just normally leave you at home in her bedroom?”
“She probably did it to piss us off,” Eul-Bok said bitterly. Sale-Dessu glared at him.
“I’m not the most thrilled about this arrangement either, but at least it gives me a little more to do than just think.”
“Well, is there anything in particular you’d like to talk about?”
“Plenty. Namely, I want to ask a little bit about Eul-Bok’s inner workings.”
“Don’t tell her, Father!” Eul-Bok said.
“Sure, what do you want to know? Come on, Eul-Bok, it’s not going to change anything if she knows or not. At most she’ll tell La-Iin. What can she do about this information?”
“Yeah, you idiot. Anyway, I wanted to know, does Eul-Bok go to the bathroom? Does he eat? I’m sure he sleeps, but does he sleep like a V-Puppet or more normally?”
“What are you talking about?” Eul-Bok said. “I sleep the same way I always did!”
“He just goes to sleep, Bes-Isa. Were you asking if I still need to snap my fingers for him to rest? Because the answer is no.”
“I figured that. Though I see the two of you still have some sort of connection. That makes me wonder what would happen if you kicked the bucket, Sale-Dessu. Would he be left to the same horrible fate we non-autonomous V-Puppets are, or would he be able to walk around like he is now?”
“I’d like to think I did a good enough job that he wouldn’t be stuck like that,” Sale-Dessu said. “But there’s no way of knowing. He’s the first V-Puppet to end up this way….and as for your other questions, he doesn’t go to the bathroom. He doesn’t accumulate waste like I do.”
“Ew, Father!” Eul-Bok exclaimed. Sale-Dessu’s face flushed. “I was only trying to explain it to her.”
“Honestly, the idea of you pooping is kind of disturbing.”
“That’s not what this is about!” Sale-Dessu yelled. “Anyway, he doesn’t have to eat, although he can.”
“I tried to eat once. I could only taste it a little bit. And that might have just been me mistaking the texture. But I’m pretty sure I got some of its flavor.”
“I think you did too,” Sale-Dessu said. “Anything else you wanted to know, Bes-Isa?”
“Yeah. Were you nasty enough to put genitalia on him?”
“I didn’t put anything like that on him!”
“Yeah, I’ve got nothing down there,” Eul-Bok said. “Makes me wonder sometimes. Feels a little like something’s missing. It’s kinda weird.”
“I wonder if my chest would feel that way if I was autonomous.”
“Probably not,” Eul-Bok scoffed under his breath.
“Can we not talk about this right now?” Sale-Dessu said. “I didn’t have to put something like that on him. He’d have no use for it. I was just weighing options.”
“So you considered it.”
“What’s wrong with that!? It’s part of a man’s biology. But he has no use for it. So please stop talking about this.”
“If you say so. Honestly, I don’t care one way or the other. I was just curious if you were nasty enough to do it.”
Sale-Dessu glared.
“Ah, I still hope I can become autonomous someday. But, you know, putting that aside, I think I should thank La-Iin for leaving me here. If I can at least have a little bit more to do, life like this should be more tolerable. Hey, one more question.”
“I’m not answering if it’s anything indecent.”
“It’s not, and the question’s not really for you. Hey, Eulie, have you been let out at all yet, or have you been rotting away in here for almost two months?”
“I’m not rotting away in here,” Eul-Bok said. “And I can’t leave just yet. So I’ve stayed in here.”
“Yeah, things definitely need to be improved before I can even consider becoming autonomous.”
“Well, maybe someday,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “La-Iin should live for a thousand years or so. I’m sure something will happen in that time.”
“Normally I’d say otherwise, given that other Vampires have lived and died without getting anywhere, but if you figured it out, maybe there’s a little bit of hope for me.”

—–
“San-Kyung, you never told me what you wanted to talk about!”
“It’s not actually all that important, you know.”
“You made the effort to come over to my house, follow me to the park and then fight me. I think I deserve to know what you wanted to say!”
“I already got my answer,” he said.
“How!?”
“Figure it out yourself,” he called, then walked off. La-Iin’s wings began flapping involuntarily.
“Well, I guess I at least got to see him…”

7.431.Delusions of Illogic

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 431
“Delusions of Illogic”

A public fixture had been set on fire. The smoke coming from it, rising into the sky until it was too dark to see past it, was visible from distances away.
Once Ai-Reia had seen it, she stopped what she was doing and ran to find the source. Whatever the fixture had been at one point it was no longer–now it was melting to the ground at a rapid pace.
Nobody else had come to see the fixture except for her. But someone had been there already, someone whom Ai-Reia was certain was the arsonist.
Cahongyun La-Iin.
She turned around, a box of matches in her hand, and smiled.
“Now I understand,” she said. “Now I understand why San-Kyung likes fire so much. He’s lucky to be an Animated Pumpkin, getting to light things on fire any time he wants. But I think this is just as good.”
“What do you think you’re doing!? Look at all that smoke! It’s going to choke everyone in Vaelyn!”
“You made one mistake, “child prodigy”,” she said with a sneer. “What have I done.
Anger and fear bubbled inside Ai-Reia. She knew La-Iin’s face to be expressionless, but today she felt that it was a sign. Today she could not consider it simply the way her face was–today it was because she simply didn’t care about the gravity of what she had done.
Ai-Reia knew something had to be done. If she was at the point where she felt no emotion for what she had done, she was not salvageable. She cursed herself for not realizing earlier–even if someone cared about others, they were already past the point of return when they wanted to decimate the world.
It angered her more.
The smoke all around sent her senses into overdrive and transformed her into a Vampire bat. La-Iin grinned, her face still looking devoid of emotion regardless.
“What are you going to do, Ai-Reia?” She asked. “Because there’s nothing you can do, really. I may be younger than you, but I am far more powerful. I’ll be able to take you out regardless of whether you’re a bat or not.”
“So you say,” she hissed. “But I finally have control of my power! And even if I didn’t, I would still do everything in my power to stop you!”
She flew above La-Iin and dove down to her, noticing the startled expression on her face as they collided. The top of La-Iin’s head crashed into the flaming structure and her hair caught fire. La-Iin shrieked and tossed off her headband before trying to put out the fire lighting her hair. It was such a pathetic display it made Ai-Reia laugh.
She grabbed some dirt and put it over the fire. With a little work, the fire was quickly out.
“You…you helped me?” La-Iin said in disbelief. “But I–”
“Don’t get the wrong idea, La-Iin,” she said. “That display was only so I could take care of you myself.”
La-Iin’s eyes widened again, wider this time as Ai-Reia grabbed the collar of her dress and pulled her into the air. She flew around for a little bit, relishing the feeling of spreading her wings and flying. She flew close to the smoke but felt no effects; La-Iin, however, began to cough violently. The sight spurred a grin on her face, though she hardly noticed in her glee. The two of them flew above a sidewalk, and finally Ai-Reia decided to land.
Putting La-Iin in front of her, she plunged downwards as fast as she could go. La-Iin’s face became strangely expressive as she glanced down and noticed she was plummeting towards the sidewalk. With a growl she broke free of Ai-Reia’s grasp and flew above her.
“Not bad, not bad at all,” Ai-Reia said. “It’s nice to have a victim who fights back!”
Then, her face twisted in an angry scowl. “Think of all the destruction you’ve caused with your arson act, La-Iin. Look at that smoke, it’s covering the sky! So many people will likely die as a result of smoke inhalation! People trying to put out the fire you set might be burned alive themselves, if civilians aren’t killed first by that structure melting to the ground! So many lives in Bledger will likely be lost, including the ones of those you love! Do you care at all!?”
La-Iin’s expression became one of horror, as if she had just finally realized the weight of what she had done. But Ai-Reia felt it was put-upon. Truly La-Iin felt no remorse for what she had done–and even if she had, the amount of lives that were likely to be lost was enough for Ai-Reia to know in her heart that she should pay.
“Never mind. There’s no point in even asking that question. I know you don’t. No person who could do something so heinous without a thought for even her loved ones has any heart at all!”
La-Iin backed away, but she was too slow. Ai-Reia knocked her hard against the sidewalk. Already she seemed dazed and confused; blood was rolling down her head and her eyes were glazing over as if already she was being lost to death.
Ai-Reia wasn’t going to allow her to go that easily.
Baring her fangs, she tore away at La-Iin’s stomach until her dress and flesh had been completely torn away. She glanced up at La-Iin to see her reaction. She hadn’t screamed at all, but she was breathing in an odd way Ai-Reia had never heard before, and her expression was one of agonizing pain, tears mixing with the blood on her face. It was a far cry from the emotionless face she normally saw, but it stirred no reaction in her.
‘How to prolong this?’ She wondered. La-Iin was already showing signs of slipping away even in her agony. She barely moved and her breathing was slowing at a rapid pace. Evidently no matter what she did, La-Iin would likely die on her next attack.
So she had to plan it carefully.
Still, looking down at her, stomach exposed to the world, made her chuckle.
“You know, I could have simply smashed your head against the sidewalk and been done with it,” she said, sitting down next to La-Iin. La-Iin showed no signs of recognizing that she was talking to her, and Ai-Reia could care less. “That would have been a painful death I’m sure, but what’s important was that it would have been quick. But you had to fight me and give me time to think. And I don’t need all that much time to think. What you did was incredibly callous. Death from smoke inhalation, death from burning alive…I’m sure those are painful and prolonged deaths, especially in the case of the second one. So this is honestly what you deserve.”
La-Iin still didn’t respond. For the briefest of moments, something stirred in Ai-Reia–something that screamed and cried and told her she had made a grave mistake. But she quickly forgot it when she noticed La-Iin was finally slipping completely away. While still breathing any spasms in her body had completely ceased and when Ai-Reia felt her heart it was beating so slowly that she doubted it was of any use to her.
“Oh no you won’t. You need one more punishment.”
Raising a foot, she slammed it down on her stomach. La-Iin finally gave a pained screech, took a few final deep gulps of air, then ceased to move at all, her face permanently twisted in agony.
“I suppose she’s gone,” Ai-Reia said casually, checking for any signs of life. There were none. La-Iin was most certainly dead, her agony forever reflected in her facial expression. Ai-Reia grinned a malicious grin.
“Oh, this isn’t over yet,” she said. “There’s one final act to this.”
Anyone who might have seen the sight would have seen it as the work of someone with a truly sick mind. Ai-Reia thought it should be viewed as a work of comedy, for the people who passed by it to laugh at the fact that someone so horrible had been so badly torn apart.
Ai-Reia decimated La-Iin’s organs to the best of her ability until they were hardly recognizable as anything but mush. It was bad enough to look at that even Ai-Reia gagged glancing back at it after the deed was done. Figuring she was finished here, she decided to clean her hands.
She brought her hands across a nearby railing, covering them with La-Iin’s blood. The rest that wouldn’t come off she wiped on the remains of La-Iin’s dress. She stared back at the sight, a young girl dead on the sidewalk with her expression one of pure agony, her stomach torn open presenting a sight that made even her murderer gag, her blood painted upon the railings.
Ai-Reia stared at it for a while, her feelings conflicted, before walking off. The world around her seemed to fall apart until she was walking through a black-and-blue void, completely lacking any conscience or consciousness.

—–
Ai-Reia let out a screech of horror at the dream. Already when she woke up she was crying.
Her thoughts and emotions were jumbled and messy, and she herself was obviously frazzled, not that she could tell. Through her walls she could faintly hear the sounds of her family saying something she couldn’t make out from her room.
All she was able to say as all the dream slipped away from her save for La-Iin’s murder was,
“I’m not a monster. I-I’m not–not a monster. Not a monster, not a monster…”

12.408.Conflicts of the Plush-Heart

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 408
“Conflicts of the Plush Heart”

“I’m so jealous of Eul-Bok…”
“How long are you going to keep whining about that?” La-Iin asked as she took off her pajamas.
“Until you let me become autonomous like him.”
La-Iin rolled her eyes. “There’s no body you could be put into, though.”
“I could wait better if I knew one was being made. My impatience comes from the fact that nothing is happening, so therefore I have no guarantees that I will ever become autonomous. What do I do if Sale-Dessu dies before I can become autonomous? Warlocks don’t live as long as Vampires, I hope you know!”
“I know that,” La-Iin scoffed. “But how do you know Sale-Dessu won’t botch it if he tries to do it to you?”
“It’s a chance I’d be willing to take.”
La-Iin sighed. “You were used to the idea of staying like this forever a year ago.”
“But now I know my dream is possible.”
“So?”
“Maybe it will make more sense to you if I explain it like this. Say there was a way for you to rule the world tomorrow, or soon, anyway. But there was potentially a time limit. And if you waited too long, your chance would disappear in front of you, possibly forever….what would you do? Wouldn’t you want to take it?”
“My ruling of the world won’t work like that, though,” she said as she started to put on her dress. “There will always be chances available.”
“How about if San-Kyung was in love with you and his little best friend. If you went to him first, obviously he’d accept you instead of his friend. But you’re limited by whether or not that woman lets you go outside. What–“
“If San-Kyung was in love with both of us at once I’d never forgive him,” La-Iin said through grit teeth, her wings flapping wildly with anger. “Fine, I get your point. But you’re still my V-Puppet and I have final call. If Sale-Dessu hadn’t wanted to make Eul-Bok autonomous he wouldn’t have and there would have been nothing Eul-Bok could have done to prevent that.”
“But then he wouldn’t have known whether he could actually become autonomous or not! I KNOW it’s possible now. I saw Eul-Bok moving around without Sale-Dessu making the motions! Now I know that I can move around just like you and that woman and him and your little best friend and EVERYONE who’s not a V-Puppet! I know I can try and chase some of my dreams I thought were just pipe dreams! And for whatever reason you don’t want that for me! What, is it that you need me just in case your kids kill each other and you have nobody else when you’re a little old lady? God!”
La-Iin glared. “Getting mad at me like that isn’t helping you get what you want. But fine, go ahead and get pissed as much as you want. I have to go to school anyway, so it’s not like I could even take you over there right now. You know, I might be considering letting you do it a little more if you hadn’t been so annoying! And don’t think trying to be nice to me now will work. I’m not stupid no matter how much you say I am!”
La-Iin stomped out the room. Bes-Isa huffed.
“I’d have thought she would put me to sleep. But I guess she’s too angry to think about that. Hmph.”
Bes-Isa felt a mixture of frustration, sadness and anger at both La-Iin and herself building within her. She lay on La-Iin’s bed, unable to do anything about it, as La-Iin head off to school.

***

“Wake up, Bes-Isa.”
Bes-Isa slowly opened her eyes. Her vision was blurry, but she could make out Sale-Dessu, standing in front of her. Sale-Dessu heaved a sigh of relief.
“Oh, thank goodness. I was worried I’d killed you…”
“I just had the strangest dream…”
“Does it have to deal with becoming autonomous?” Sale-Dessu asked with a smile. “Because it wasn’t a dream if that’s the case.”
“No, it wasn’t about that,” she said. Then she flinched. “Wait a second, what!?”
“Don’t you remember? You asked last time you were here if you could become autonomous. I didn’t want to go against what La-Iin wanted, but I thought you would be happier from becoming autonomous than she would be from losing you as a V-Puppet, so I performed the procedure and here you are.”
Bes-Isa lifted up her arm. She tried to sit up, but fell over. She twitched her fingers. Then, she smiled.
“I’m really autonomous!” She squealed. Sale-Dessu chuckled. “Your reaction is reminding me of Eul-Bok’s.”
“Did you call for me, Father?” Eul-Bok asked as he ran into the room. Laying eyes on Bes-Isa, he began to scowl. “Oh. I see you finished her.”
“Does that mean I can throttle you?” She asked, reaching out a shaky hand.
“Don’t start fighting again!” Sale-Dessu snapped. “I believe the way your new body was created leaves you with less starting strength than Eul-Bok.” Eul-Bok puffed out his chest and his expression changed to one of conceit. “You’re autonomous now, but you’ll need a little work.”
“Hmph.” Bes-Isa frowned for only a second before smiling once again. “Well, at least I can move now…”
“So it’s too late now, is it?”
Bes-Isa knew that voice all too well. La-Iin entered the room, her expression obviously one of fury. ‘I can’t remember ever seeing her so angry…’
“La-Iin? …did I leave the door unlocked again?”
“Apparently fools never learn,” she said, her gaze focused on Bes-Isa.
“La-Iin, I can barely move in this new body as it is. Besides, it’s not all going to be different.”
“Shut up!” La-Iin yelled. Tears made her eyes glisten. “I don’t want to hear anything from you. You’re nothing to me now.”
“I–I’m sorry, La-Iin…” Sale-Dessu said. “If you want, you can have Bes-Isa’s original body back…”
He handed the small plush doll to La-Iin. Staring at it elicited a strange feeling in Bes-Isa. ‘That used to be me…that was the body I was born in. And now…’
She stared down at her new hands and knees, which looked almost like that of a person’s save for a ball joint in one knee.
“If I have this,” La-Iin started, motioning to Bes-Isa’s old body, “then I don’t need you. I’ll never need you ever again. You said you would be my greatest ally. My ally who was evil and who wouldn’t leave my side at all. But you betrayed me. Oh, but that’s fine, though. I don’t mind having one more person to exact my revenge on when I take over the world. Know, though, that it won’t be a simple revenge. No, you deserve much worse. Cahongyuns don’t back down when faced with an enemy.”
“You’re taking this too seriously,” Bes-Isa sighed. “I can still help you if I’m autonomous, La-Iin. Maybe I can even help you better than I could have when I was a V-Puppet.”
“But I bet you’ll just die years earlier than you would have in this body, won’t you?” La-Iin sneered, wrinkling her nose. “Not that it matters. I have Tae-Kyok. And with this, I can probably make a new Bes-Isa. A better Bes-Isa who will actually stay by my side and listen to me.”
“She could end up good,” Bes-Isa pointed out. “Come on, La-Iin.” Standing on the sidelines, Sale-Dessu and Eul-Bok looked away, as if unable to bring themselves to watch the debate.
“She won’t. That, I will make sure of. And she will want to take you down. That I can assure. You’ve betrayed me, Bes-Isa, and now I have no use for you. So stay out of my way unless you want to die!”
La-Iin ran out the room faster than normal, clutching Bes-Isa’s old body tight.
“If you want, you can stay with us for now,” Sale-Dessu said. “Don’t worry, Eul-Bok. I’ll keep you two in separate rooms.”
“So you say! But I can’t make any guarantees I won’t pour water on her while she’s sleeping.”
“Eul-Bok!”
The conversation between those two went mostly unheard by Bes-Isa. She just stared at the door through which La-Iin had left.
She had known this girl all her life; she had met La-Iin before she had even turned one. And just now, she had said she hated her.

“Be careful. Try not to run into anyone you don’t know out there, alright?”
“I’ll be careful. Th…well, whatever.”
Bes-Isa walked outside the Astineth house and took a deep breath. ‘I haven’t had fresh air in so long…’
She was almost scared to keep walking along the sidewalk; she was still having trouble walking around on her own. So she took slow, cautious steps, hoping she would be able to keep her balance.
Only a few steps in, she noticed La-Iin standing there on the sidewalk, staring up at her and holding her old body close to her chest.
“La-Iin?”
“Not you again,” she hissed, baring her fangs. “Look, Bes-Isa. This is the faker who thought she was you for so many years.”
“Ugh, how ugly! I have a hard time believing what you say. I doubt a V-Puppet can really become autonomous!”
“We’ll say this faker’s case is a….special exception,” she said, then glared at Bes-Isa. “Now get out of my sight before I maul you!”
“La-Iin…come on, we were stuck together for so many years. You can’t just turn against me now…”
“I guess I know your choice now,” she said, before biting into her arm. Bes-Isa tried to back away from La-Iin, but tripped and fell over. Before she could get back up, La-Iin flew at her.

—–
Bes-Isa was surprised to find herself waking up, staring at the ceiling in La-Iin’s room.
“Oh, so you’re awake,” La-Iin said, by her tone obviously still upset with Bes-Isa. “Look, I’ll talk to you, Bes-Isa, but only if it’s not about autonomy.”
“I wonder if autonomy is really worth it if that might happen…” She whispered.
“What did you say?”

4.400.La-Iin’s Future–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 400
“La-Iin’s Future–Part 2”

“La-Iin!”
Bes-Isa’s sudden yell startled La-Iin. She had just gotten home from school and head up to her bedroom. She sat on the bed and glared at Bes-Isa.
“What? If this is about autonomy again–”
“It’s not. I wanted to ask you for something.”
“Yes?”
“So, you know how yesterday you told me of your domestic life with your kids and San-Kyung?”
“What about my future?”
“Well, that was nice and interesting and all. And as you know, I had comments.”
“The only things that will probably be different is maybe the order they’re born in and that I bet Hun-Seuth and Song-Ii will be evil,” she said. “Them being good in my daydreams is only because I’m trying to prepare myself just in case.”
“What would you do if they were ALL good?”
“Parents can sometimes have a lot of influence over their children. Anyway–”
“That woman obviously doesn’t have that over you,” she said.
“Yes, but me and Mama are gonna be different kinds of mothers,” she said. “Where are you going with this, Bes-Isa?”
“I had a problem with how “everyday life style” it was. I want to hear about the more dramatic aspects of your future. I remember back when you told me things about siblings going against siblings and drinking each other dry and fighting each other in some battle against good and evil. I remember when you talked about you and your children ravaging the world, setting everything on fire! Well, anyway, I remember when you’d tell me about the action parts of your future! I want to hear that, not some namby story about Hun-Seuth and Song-Ii trying to convince Sou-Yu that it’s good to be good! That just makes me think you’re secretly a goody-goody!”
La-Iin glared at Bes-Isa, grabbed her by the neck, and began to shake her until she made choking noises. Then, she dropped her on the bed.
“I retract my statement.”
“My future is not going to be perfect. The world will be hell, so of course there will be dramatic and actiony things that happen.”
“And that’s what I want to hear about. Although, with you phrasing it like that, it makes these stories sound less like your plans for your life in the future and more like a story you’re coming up with.”
“I just try to plan for every possible situation,” she said. “So, of my children, who did you enjoy hearing about the most?”
“Chung-Ae, because he’s the only one who’s stayed completely evil throughout all your little stori–I mean, daydreams.”
“Okay. Then I’ll tell you a dramatic story that Chung-Ae takes the lead in!”

***

“Darseen, do you think I’ll ever amount to anything?” Sou-Yu asked.
“You’re weak, but I struggle with weakness too and I make it just fine,” San-Kyung said. “Your issue is your immune system.”
Sou-Yu glanced down, dejected.
“My weakness is something I can’t control either,” he said. “But I make the best of it except in November. I know your Vampire traits are much stronger than your Animated Pumpkin ones, but perhaps you should try using your powers around the October Power Surge.”
“That’s when you’re really strong, isn’t it, Darseen?”
“Yes, it is,” he said. “In any event, though weakness is a horrible thing to have, if you make the efforts to push through it, you can manage just fine. Not to mention, in this world, it’s not like you need to worry so much about getting ambushed. La-Iin and I handle things quite well. So work through your weaknesses so you can join us more often.”
“Okay, Darseen. I’ll try.”

“Impressive work, Chung-Ae,” La-Iin said. “You almost do as well as San-Kyung and I when it comes to decimating the world.”
“Thank you, Mother. Your praise is the best reward. Although, seeing people suffer and buildings collapse is a pretty good one too.” He wrinkled his nose. “The only thing I don’t like about decimating is the smell…”
La-Iin broke out into laughter. “You’ll get used to it,” she chuckled, giving him two rough pats on the head. “In any event, we should get back home. Sou-Yu needed medicine and we got that.”
“Damn Sou-Yu, always holding us back…”
“At least he has the power potential and malice to make up for it,” La-Iin said. “Hey, want to race back home?”
“Are you sure? That sounds awfully immature…”
“It’s good practice. You never know in what way it might benefit you or what day you might need to make a quick break.” La-Iin flapped her wings. “Ready?”
“I guess…”
La-Iin took off at a high speed. Chung-Ae gave his wings a quick flap and followed after her. La-Iin kept the lead for a long while, but Chung-Ae found himself catching up after some time, eventually keeping neck-and-neck with his mother.
“Not bad,” she said. “But I still have a lot more practice over you!”
She sped up and began to widen the distance between them. Chung-Ae found he didn’t really care about losing to her, but remembering her words he tried to think of something that would make him want to fly faster.
He thought about what he might do if he knew he needed to rush to his mother’s side in order to save her life. He imagined what he would do if a dangerous slave–or perhaps just a slave in general–escaped and was running amok in their homelands.
That gave him enough motivation to close the gap between him and La-Iin, and by the time they made it home they were so closely neck-and-neck that they were unable to tell exactly who had won.
“It was definitely me. I have years of experience over you!” She protested.
“Did you see that burst of speed I had, though? I definitely had the lead over you. You probably exhumed all your speed when you made that second dash. I, on the other hand, had not used up as much of my speed beforehand, therefore–”
“Sometimes you don’t need a long logical explanation for everything, Chung-Ae,” she said, pinching his ear. Chung-Ae recoiled. “Don’t forget that.”
“And sometimes you–”
“You two are home?” San-Kyung called. Both La-Iin and Chung-Ae turned to greet him. He was running toward them with Hun-Seuth and Song-Ii at his side and sounded out of breath. “Finally!”
“Is something the matter? Has Sou-Yu’s condition deteriorated?” La-Iin asked.
“It’s worse,” Hun-Seuth breathed.
“He’s not dead, is he?” Chung-Ae asked.
“Not that bad, but…” Song-Ii’s voice began to waver. “He’s, um, he’s…”
“He got taken by slaves,” San-Kyung said.
“What!?”
“It’s all my fault!” Song-Ii cried.
“What happened!?” La-Iin asked.
“Song-Ii didn’t tell us the whole story,” Hun-Seuth said. “She went out with Sou-Yu and came back and he was gone!”
“Why did you take Sou-Yu out when you knew he was sick!?” La-Iin snapped. Song-Ii had begun to cry by now and could barely face her mother.
“I’m sorryyyyy!”
“Just tell me what happened and stop crying so much!” La-Iin yelled.
Chung-Ae stood there as Hun-Seuth tried to calm his sister. He was feeling several emotions at once–anger, confusion, concern–but most of all, he was downright terrified for Sou-Yu.
‘He was sick and we were getting him medicine! Why would she take him out?’
It took Song-Ii a while to calm down enough to speak in coherent sentences, and even when she had, she still tripped over her words and her voice warbled as if she would break out into tears at any moment.
“I–I was talking to Sou-Yu, and he said he wished he wasn’t always holding us back. So I said…” She swallowed hard. “I said, ‘Do you wanna sneak out with me while I deal with slaves?’ And he said yes, so I took him.”
“The slaves are always in their cages though,” La-Iin said.
“Not every single slave,” San-Kyung said, glaring at his wife.
“But I don’t think any of the slaves who get let out on occasion would kidnap Sou-Yu.”
“That’s the thing,” she hiccuped. “It wasn’t one of them.”
“Did a slave break out?” Chung-Ae said. “But I thought they were all properly medicated!”
“And aren’t the cages reinforced more than they were in the early days?” La-Iin asked.
“They are, but there are still ways to–”
“It’s not because of powers at all!” Song-Ii shrieked. She sounded exasperated with her family. “I mistook a bad slave for a good one. I was gonna take one of them out for a little bit so….so Sou-Yu could talk to them,” she said. “And then it turned out it was the wrong slave and she ran off with Sou-Yu!”
“Why would you let a slave out so Sou-Yu could talk to them!?” La-Iin snapped. “He could talk to a slave perfectly fine while they’re still in the cage! Something tells me you’re lying, Song-Ii!”
“Okay, okay, I admit it! I was gonna wash off your favorite slaves so they didn’t stink so much. And then it turned out it was a bad one and she ran away with Sou….”
Song-Ii trailed off and dropped to the ground, hiccuping and sobbing.
“What did she look like?” La-Iin demanded.
“She…she looked like Grandmama–I-I mean, Mit-Sun, Mama!”
“Mit-Sun, huh…”
“It wasn’t actaully Mit-Sun though,” she hiccuped. “Jus’ someone who looked a lot like her…”
“And you’re sure you’re not covering? Because Sou-Yu is much more important to me than she is.”
“I’m nooooot! Go see her for yourself!”
La-Iin sighed. “This is awful…alright, Hun-Seuth, stay home with Song-Ii and watch her so she doesn’t go crazy. She’s had enough stupid ideas today and we don’t need her getting any more.”
“A-alright,” he said.
“San-Kyung, Chung-Ae, let’s fan out and search for Sou-Yu!”
Both nodded. They walked out of the house, leaving Hun-Seuth to comfort a sobbing Song-Ii lying in the middle of the entryway.
“Here, before we go,” La-Iin said. She handed San-Kyung small pills. “Sale-Dessu made these. You should be able to levitate for a bit while they’re in your system.”
“Ah, thanks.”
He gulped down the pills and the trio waited at the entrance to their house for a short while. Once San-Kyung levitated into the air, La-Iin and Chung-Ae spread their wings and prepared to take off after him.
“Are we doing this together or separately?” San-Kyung asked.
“Go wherever you feel, San-Kyung. Chung-Ae and I will go and make sure Mit-Sun is still in her cage and then we’ll split up. When you find Sou-Yu, take him back home and then come and alert the rest of us. No going home until he’s found, and if necessary, revenge is enacted on the slaves.”
Chung-Ae normally wasn’t all that intimidated by his mother, but the intensity in her eyes and her tone made him feel smaller than usual. San-Kyung nodded in response and then took off to the left. La-Iin beckoned to Chung-Ae before they took off to the right.
Chung-Ae always found the smell oppressive around the slaves, and while today was no exception, whenever he reminded himself why they needed to fly by them today he felt he could tolerate it a little more. He followed after his mother as she started to land nearby a cage separate from the others.
Inside was a woman with long, matted hair. She was fast asleep, and La-Iin knocked on her cage to wake her up.
“She’s still in her cage, so that’s something,” she mumbled to herself.
“Wha…? What is it, La-Iin?”
“Do you know anything about the slaves who took Sou-Yu?”
“Something happened to Sou-Yu!?” Chung-Ae saw genuine concern in his grandmother’s eyes, and he had to wonder why she would care. ‘It’s not like she sees us all that much. She doesn’t know what kind of person Sou-Yu is. She probably wouldn’t care…then again, she is a goody-goody, so–‘
“I know how tempting it is to daydream, but we need to find Sou-Yu, so get out of your head,” La-Iin said to him, pushing his shoulder. “Mama–I mean, Mit-Sun, obviously does not know what happened to Sou-Yu. That clears her then, well, with one exception…”
La-Iin sighed and a distant look entered her eyes. She shook her head. “I’m going home to fetch Song-Ii. Go on ahead and look for someone who looks like Mit-Sun, Chung-Ae!”
“Right, Mother!” He said. La-Iin flew away.
“I hope you can find Sou-Yu…” Mit-Sun rasped behind him. He shot her a look of disgust.
“Why do you care?”
“He’s my grandson, that’s why,” she said. “And he’s a good kid.”
“Sou-Yu is not good. He’s just weak. Quit wasting my time! I need to find my brother.”
“I’m glad you care about your family, Chung-Ae,” Mit-Sun sighed. “I only wish you’d extend that love to me.”
“I would turn against them all if I had to, I hope you know,” he said. “So don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t trust you at all.”
‘Just like a slave to waste my time,’ he thought as he took off. He took his mind off of Mit-Sun and focused on Sou-Yu instead. Once he had, he felt a surge of concern for his younger brother. He felt Sou-Yu had the most potential of all his siblings to be as malicious as he was–and he knew how upset he and the rest of his family would be if Sou-Yu was found dead.
His concern translated itself into power as he felt his senses sharpen and his body’s features change slightly. Now he was certain he could find Sou-Yu so long as he listened closely. Pushing himself to fly faster, he dashed around the broken city searching for his brother.
And then, while flying over broken buildings, he heard it–the sound of a familiar voice crying out, and several others around it.
Chung-Ae shot down to the ground in the direction he had heard the voice, only slowing to secure himself a safe landing. His senses had proven right–Sou-Yu was restrained and sitting in the mdidle of a group of escaped slaves, all of whom were staring at him with malice in their eyes.
“Another one of the Cahongyun kids, eh?” One of them, a Catori-Goathoof with an odd face, said.
“Careful, Suig-Vel. That’s the oldest one, Chung-Ae. They say his physical prowress and power prowress rivals that of his parents.” Said another one, a Ferreniao whose fur was sticking out at all angles.
“I understand,” Suig-Vel said. “I also know that Chung-Ae here is outnumbered. He might be the scion of the Cahongyun family, but he’s one kid going against a whole buncha people with the power to destroy him.”
“I have more power than you weaklings could ever have,” Chung-Ae spat. Had his opponents been stronger people, he might have been intimidated by the number of them, but all of them were dirty, scrawny and wearing their own filth. Whatever powers they could use, he imagined, would not be enough to hurt him too badly.
“Tryin’ ta intimidate us, are ye!?” Spat back a Birdmix.
“I don’t need to. You know, if I were my brother or sister, I might be saying now that if you gave back Sou-Yu peacefully, I wouldn’t fight with you. But I’m not like that. I am more like my Mother and Father.” He flew above the ragged group, unable to take their smell being right on top of them anymore.
“I’ll give you one break, though. Tell me why you took Sou-Yu from us.”
“Without ‘im, yer just that much weaker!” The Birdmix cackled. Suig-Vel slammed him on the head. “Idiot!”
Chung-Ae did not react. He lit his hands on fire and then flew into the crowd, spinning around wildly. He tried to dodge Sou-Yu in the midst of the frenzy.
The group was startled, but they began to retaliate as soon as Chung-Ae flew back into the air. Feathers, water and fire shot at him, but he dodged them all and then spun into the crowd once more. He was thoroughly enjoying the fight against this group.
It was the thrill of watching them hope for only a moment before realizing just who they were up against.
“Oh, that’s it!” Suig-Vel shrieked. The power usage became more intense after his cry, and Chung-Ae found himself having more difficulty avoiding their attacks. ‘Not as weak as I thought, huh?’
While in the midst of his fun, however, he remembered Sou-Yu, still restrained in the middle of all this fighting. He recalled Sou-Yu’s weakness and dove back into the crowd to rescue him.
“Hold tight,” he said, grabbing on to Sou-Yu. Before he could take off with him in hand, a vine wrapped around his leg and water was fired at his wings. When he tried to escape, his wings flapped almost uselessly and he couldn’t break free from the vine. The group walked up behind him and a few landed blows.
Remembering Sou-Yu, he tugged hard enough to break free from the vine and fly lopsided in the air above them, but he was feeling the effects from their attacks and the weight of Sou-Yu. He grit his teeth.
“Are you okay!?” Sou-Yu asked.
“Be quiet until we get home!”
Evidently this group wasn’t ready to end their barrage of attacks, and as he tried to avoid them in order to get a good perspective he was pummeled with many more. A few water balls hit Sou-Yu in the face, though he was never hit with fire, which hit Chung-Ae a few times.
Once he had made it a sufficient distance from the crowd, Chung-Ae dug as deep into his free hand as possible, then pointed his palm at the crowd. Flames burst forth and the crowd began to screech as they were engulfed.
Chung-Ae gasped. Waiting in place so long made the pain hit him. Sou-Yu stared up at him with concern as he flew in the direction he had come, bobbing up and down unsteadily.

La-Iin continued to fly around the area in desperate search for Sou-Yu when she smelled burning flesh and noticed several people screaming and running around on fire.
“Was someone here?” She thought. Though she wanted to deal with the people, she felt there was a good chance they would die from their burn wounds soon enough. She took off straight ahead.
Before long, she spotted two people flying away erratically. By their orange skin and large wings she recognized them as her children and flew over to them as fast as she could.
Chung-Ae was holding tight to Sou-Yu, who was clinging to him for dear life. Chung-Ae had several wounds and a few burns and was bleeding mildly. His eyes were glazed slightly as if he couldn’t see the entire path ahead of him and he was breathing heavily. He looked in no condition to continue flying, especially while holding his younger brother, but still he pushed on, never falling despite how erratic and slow he flew.
“Chung-Ae, are you alright?” She asked. Chung-Ae turned to face her and nearly dropped out the sky.
“I’m fine, Mother,” he said, his tone deadpan. “Look. I found Sou-Yu. Give me some time and I’ll be home with him.”
La-Iin couldn’t believe him, not seeing how much he was struggling. So she grabbed onto Chung-Ae and began to fly with him.
To her surprise, Sou-Yu broke free of Chung-Ae’s grasp and began to help her take him home.
Chung-Ae seemed oblivious to the help. La-Iin would have expected him to complain, but he said nothing.

That night, it was Chung-Ae who laid up in bed.
“Are you gonna be alright, Chung-Ae?” Song-Ii asked.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” he said. “But my body hurts all over…”
His gaze rested on Sou-Yu. Sou-Yu flinched in response.
“Thanks, Sou-Yu,” he said, cracking a small smile. “I pick on you a lot for being the weakest one, but I guess in this situation, we’re reversed, aren’t we?”
Sou-Yu blinked in confusion before cracking a small smile of his own.
“Is it just me, or is Chung-Ae being strangely nice?” Hun-Seuth whispered to Song-Ii.
“Maybe all those attacks damaged his brain too,” she whispered back.
“I can hear you, you know,” Chung-Ae snapped. Both of them flinched.

—–
“So that’s it?”
“That’s it.”
“You know, you seem to daydream a lot about your children getting brutally mauled…it seems like a lot of this happens to Chung-Ae, too. He’s the one who seems the most heartless. You’d think someone like Song-Ii would get beaten on more.”
“I planned on telling you a story where one of my children got hurt as soon as you said dramatic,” she said. “You mentioned something about Chung-Ae. So this is your fault. And I daydream about these things because I need to plan for them, just in case. The more I’m prepared, the better a job I’ll do. I’m already prepared for the day I take over the world. So I should be prepared for what happens after that, too.”
“Well, whatever. I guess I got what I wanted. There’s just one thing bothering me now.”
“What’s that? It better not be about autonomy.”
“No, it’s not that, for once. Where was I in all this!?”

29.394.Lirako vs. Dosa-Mina

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 394
“Lirako vs. Dosa-Mina”

Right after biology class, Class D exploded with chatter from nearly all the students. They talked with their friends, gossiped and giggled, and went on about the mundane and stories they had heard of or had to tell.
San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina, as they were most days, were a part of this chatter, though they talked to each other much more quietly than usual. And for Dosa-Mina, the sound of a loud voice continually interrupted his thoughts and made it hard for him to focus on his conversation with San-Kyung.
He glared at Lirako, who was chatting away with other teenagers who were sitting nearby, loudly telling them a story about her younger brothers falling into water. Dosa-Mina almost wanted to sing and shut her up, but the desire not to expose his true species was stronger.
“Some people are so annoying,” Dosa-Mina scoffed, watching her.
“Most people are so annoying,” San-Kyung said.
“Admit it, though, you think Lirako is more annoying than the majority,” he said.
“You make a good point.”
‘That’s not an answer,’ Dosa-Mina thought.
Lirako’s ears twitched. Even over the chatter of several other students, Dosa-Mina’s comment was clear. She twitched her whiskers.
“Something wrong, Lirako?” Deki-Tyunri asked. “You seem upset.”
“Oh, it’s only a little something,” she said, glaring at Dosa-Mina. “Wait here a sec, you guys. I’ve just gotta say something to a certain rude little Normal.”
Dosa-Mina wasn’t oblivious to her comment and glared at her over his shoulder as Lirako walked up to his desk. The two stared each other down for a short while before Lirako said,
“You! Me! Battle after school! I’ve got the upper hand over you, so accept if you’re brave, and decline if you’re weak.”
“Since when is declining a fight with someone I’d obviously win against weak?” He said coolly.
“Since you have no powers and I have Catori ones on my side,” she said. “Look, I can’t stand you and you can’t stand me. What better way to let out our frustrations at each other than a no-holds-barred battle?”
“I’m not interested.”
“Scared of losing?”
“No.”
“Well, how about if I make a deal,” she said, resting her elbows on his desk. Dosa-Mina’s glare became more intense. “I win, I get to tease San-Kyung for a day and you can’t do anything about it. You win, and I’ll leave him alone.”
“How’s that any different from what you already do?” He asked.
“When I say leave him alone, I mean leave him alone forever,” she said. She then stood up and head for her desk. “Decide whatever way you want, but I’ll be waiting outside for you. You don’t arrive in an hour and I’ll consider that a forfeit, and therefore I’ll be the winner. There’s no outs to this fight, Dosa-Mina. You either come or you don’t. But I bet either way, I’ll win.”
Dosa-Mina glared at her in silence until San-Kyung tapped him on the shoulder. “Are you going to?”
“Going to fight her? No, I don’t want to! But if I don’t fight her, she’ll probably bother you all day.” He groaned. “There really is no out.”
“You don’t need to think about me in this scenario,” he said. “Just think of how much you hate her. And how much you’d like to see her bleeding out on the grass…”
Dosa-Mina’s eyes focused on Lirako as San-Kyung spoke, and he began to imagine a situation similar to the one he described. Still focusing on her, he said, “I don’t know about that bleeding out on the grass part, but you make a good point. And hey, if she bothers you, that bothers me! We sit together!”
“See the point? I say just beat her up. Not only is our sanity on the line, but why back away from the chance to beat up someone you can’t stand?”
“Alright, alright, I get it,” Dosa-Mina said. “I’ll fight her. Although it’ll be a little annoying using a…handicap…I’m sure I can get her.” He put his arm around San-Kyung’s shoulder. “I’d be grateful for a little comfort after the fight, though.”
“You just take that. I don’t give.” San-Kyung said, his tone edged with irritation.
“Well, I guess you’ve got a point there. But either way, I’ll get her out of our way, if not for anything else, just to beat her up!”

***

Dosa-Mina found Lirako waiting nearby the school, her tail swishing as she glanced around for him. Dosa-Mina wanted to walk right up to her and start the fight, but he flinched when he noticed a few students from his class standing nearby her–some looking excited, others looking worried.
“Lirako, I don’t think this is a good idea,” Deki-Tyunri said. “Please stop this before it gets out of hand.”
“Don’t worry so much about me,” she said. “Dosa-Mina’s not gonna be a threat. I may be the last one to say anything bad about Normals, but it’s just a plain fact that they have no powers. And it’s not like he has any weapons either, so I think I’m good. I could outrun him anyday!”
Her expression then grew agitated. “The only problem here is, I have no idea where he is…I really wanna kick some Dslellulala butt. So I wish he’d get his ass–” Lirako’s ears twitched as she glanced in his direction.
“Ohh, so you’re here! Welcome, Dosa-Mina. Ready to lose?”
“I’m not giving in to your intimidation,” Dosa-Mina said. “It’s petty and pointless, just like this fight.”
“Ooh, a pacifist, are we?” Lirako said sarcastically.
“Not at all. You’re just annoying.”
“Says–” Before Lirako could finish, she, Dosa-Mina, and the crowd behind them turned around at the sound of someone breathing heavily and running towards them. San-Kyung soon caught up, catching his breath not long after.
“Good to see you haven’t started yet,” he whispered. “Make this a good one.”
Dosa-Mina gave him a wry smile. “Sure. Though, I don’t know how well I’ll do knowing my best friend is getting turned on by all the violence.”
“What!?”
Dosa-Mina ruffled his hair. “Just messing with you. Now, stand back. I don’t know how far we’re going to throw each other.”
San-Kyung stood back as asked, and the rest of the crowd followed suit. Lirako and Dosa-Mina stared each other down.
“I just want to lay down a few things first, and the first of those is–”
Dosa-Mina didn’t let her finish. He ran up to her and headbutted her stomach. Lirako gasped and was down for all of a few seconds before she retaliated and lashed out at Dosa-Mina with her claws out.
Dosa-Mina wasn’t hit, and put his plan to defeat her into action while she was open. He knocked her to the ground and stepped on her tail. Lirako let out a shriek and pulled her tail out from under his foot. The tip of her tail was stripped of its fur.
“Now that you see this fight is more balanced, can we end this?” Dosa-Mina asked.
“Not yet. You just used cowardly techniques, which is all you can do. And I won’t stop until I’m either bleeding from all my pores or I win!”
She ran past him, then ran behind him, grabbed him, and raked her claws across his chest. Dosa-Mina gasped and held tight to it. Blood came back on his hand.
For a moment he panicked. Memories of cutting himself flashed through his mind, early ones in which just looking at the blood would scare him. He stared back at Lirako, who was watching him with a confident expression.
“I don’t want to hurt you too badly, Dosa-Mina. I know that probably already hurts. So go ahead and forfeit.” Lirako’s expression changed as her ears folded to her head. “Really, I’m starting to get worried. I didn’t scratch you too bad, did I?”
“Oh, shut up,” he breathed. Lirako glared. “Pardon?”
“You don’t care about me. Stop playing that part just so you can get sympathy from all your mindless followers.”
“Excuse me!?” Lirako yelled. “Oh, that is it! If you wanna keep going at this, I can do this all day!”
She ran at him, claws out and as fast as she could go. Dosa-Mina reacted faster, however, and grabbed her by the stomach. He pressed down as hard as he could and didn’t let go, even as Lirako began to yowl and gasp for breath.
“Let go of her, Dslellullar!” Deki-Tyunri plead. But Dosa-Mina kept his grip firmly on Lirako’s stomach. He only released when she coughed, “I give, I give!”
“Finally,” he scoffed. “Now leave us alone.”
“Wait a second, Dosa-Mina!” Lirako called. “Where’d you learn something like that? That, that almost felt like a power. It was pretty rough. I’d like to know how to do that, too.”
“Why would I tell that to someone I don’t even like?” He asked. “I don’t care what you thought about it. Come on, San-Kyung. Let’s just go.”
San-Kyung glanced back at the crowd before joining Dosa-Mina. Once they were out the line of sight of the crowd, he gave him a nudge. “Good job. Though, it could have been better.”
“Yeah, well, my chest hurts now. I just want to go home and get this cleaned off. Bet I could’ve done better if she hadn’t done this.”
“I bet you could’ve,” he said. “But for now, I’m just happy I got to see her get beat up once.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “You would be.”

—–
“Somethin’ bothering you, sister?” Aeisho asked.
“I-it’s nothing, Aeisho.”
“I think somethin’ is,” another of her brothers, Haekshi, said. “After all, she came home and her tail was all fat!”
“Oh, be quiet!” Lirako yelled. Aeisho and Haekshi glanced at each other before running away. Lirako sighed and closed her eyes.
‘What Dosa-Mina used felt like a power. I know strong Normals exist, but that was on a different level. Still, he’s definitely a Normal, so who taught him how to use an ability like that?’

9.374.Heartbroken Misunderstanding

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 374
“Heartbroken Misunderstanding”

“An-Tois is getting so big!” Gen-Reiya exclaimed. “Hard to imagine him as that tiny thing that came out of the egg. It’s kinda cool watching a baby grow up!”
“You barely notice it when you’re with him all day,” she sighed. “One day you just say to him, ‘Are you bigger than you were a month ago’? It feels like he’s been growing up fast, but he’s not going to be a year old for a while still….”
“So that’s what it’d be like for us if we had kids?” Xhen-Wu said. Gen-Reiya bit his lip and blushed. Cou-Riette giggled.
“I would think so, yes. Make sure I can be there for the hatching if it’s feasible! And don’t have them as young as I did.”
“I think it’s cool that you can joke about that now,” Lishe-Ashyo said. “Sorry, probably sounded tacky.”
“No, it’s fine.” Cou-Riette smiled when she turned to see Lishe-Ashyo. “I can’t really take offense from anything you say now, Lishe-Ashyo. You’ve helped me so much with An-Tois all these months, especially with that ultimate mommy pack,” she said with a giggle in her tone.
“Well, I wanted to help,” Lishe-Ashyo said. “I feel like I do nothing all day at home, and I miss having to go to school. Sometimes I start getting up to go to Malicerie…so if I can help out with him, that’s good. I get to see you both, and I like that. Good thing I’m not his Dad though, otherwise he’d never mature…”
“Oh, Lishe-Ashyo,” Cou-Riette sighed. “I’d say you’ve definitely matured since the days we spent at Malicerie. Then you couldn’t shut up about girls and how you would have a whole line of them at your door. And you weren’t wrong either, you were quite popular back in school, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be the same should you go to college….but you’ve become a respectable young man. I must admit, I sort of miss you acting like a fool all the time.”
“Mali-Ana would beg to differ,” he said. “…hey, speaking of, where is she?”
“I’m over here.”
Mali-Ana had come over in a good mood, but once Lishe-Ashyo and Cou-Riette had begun to interact, it quickly soured. For Mali-Ana felt that she was starting to pick up on something, and anything that made her feel more certain about that made her angrier.
“Why aren’t you coming over here, Mali-Ana? Don’t you like An-Tois?” Cou-Riette asked.
“I like seeing the both of you,” she said bitterly.
“I–I’m sorry….honestly, I don’t like that An-Tois is almost a fixture to me either. But he’s a baby, and my family doesn’t care for him, so what can I do?”
“That has nothing to do with what I said.”
“Are you upset about something, Mali-Ana?” Cou-Riette asked. “We are friends. I can tell most of the time when you are upset. You used to confide in me about such things. We can talk, and if you need to do it one-on-one, that can be managed as well.”
“No, it’s not that,” she said.
“Then what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. …but there is something I want to ask you, now that we’re talking.”
“Yes, Mali-Ana? I’ll answer anything.”
“Just how grateful are you to Lishe-Ashyo?”
“Why’s she asking that?” Gen-Reiya asked. Xhen-Wu shrugged. Lishe-Ashyo looked up, seemingly confused. Cou-Riette’s expression relaxed some, and her mouth turned up in a small smile. Mali-Ana grit her teeth.
“Very grateful,” she said. “I almost feel like a woman from a Wiench novel, the single mother who gets help from a dear friend and can’t express her gratitude to him. It’s a little embarrassing to say these sorts of things in front of him, but you asked…I can’t really express my gratitude in words. I feel Lishe-Ashyo is almost as….well, that would be too embarrassing to say, but I can say I feel that we are a lot closer than we used to be, and that makes me quite happy.”
Lishe-Ashyo had looked away by the time she was finished, his cheeks turning a slight pink. Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu stared at Cou-Riette with a smile.
Mali-Ana, however, felt she had heard enough.
“I knew it.”
“Knew what?” Cou-Riette’s smile disappeared and her expression became one of confusion. She flinched when she noticed Mali-Ana was crying.
“What’s wrong, Mali-Ana!?”
“Just like a woman from a Wiench novel, huh…? Like a woman from a Wiench romance novel?” A look of realization crossed Cou-Riette’s face as Mali-Ana continued to speak. “You know, I know the trope about the single mother getting help from a dear male friend. I also know how that sort of stuff ends. That and what you’ve said right now, and how you’ve been acting lately, helped me come to a conclusion.”
“Mali-Ana,” Cou-Riette gasped. “I think you’re mis–”
“Misunderstanding?” Mali-Ana stood up and stomped in Cou-Riette’s direction. Cou-Riette backed away. Lishe-Ashyo moved a blank-faced An-Tois out the way of the two girls. “In case you haven’t noticed, I understand that attitude better than anyone else. I live it every day.”
“So you admit you have a crush on Lishe,” Gen-Reiya said with a sniff.
“No I’m not!” She exclaimed. “Anyway! I’ve come to this conclusion on my own. Try and deny it all you want, but you won’t get me to believe you. I know you’re in love with Lishe-Ashyo!”
The room fell silent. Lishe-Ashyo was stunned, but he tried to keep his attention focused on An-Tois, who was starting to become upset. Xhen-Wu stared at Cou-Riette with a look of concern, while Gen-Reiya kept a glare fixed on Mali-Ana.
“…it’s true that Lishe-Ashyo and I have become close in recent months,” Cou-Riette started. It was obvious to all around her that she was trying to keep herself calm. “Perhaps some might misconstrue that as romantic just as you have. But Mali-Ana, you know me. I act differently about a person when I like them. Don’t you remember when I had that crush on Tenha-Gumo? The idea of being near him made me completely lose my composure! Had he hugged me back then I would have devolved into a sputtering mess. If Lishe-Ashyo did the same right now, I would be perfectly fine.”
“You want me to?” Lishe-Ashyo asked.
“No, I’m good.”
“I didn’t accuse you of having a crush on Lishe-Ashyo,” she spat. “I accused you of being in love with him.”
“Same thing attitude-wise. Also, another thing? Oftentimes when people fall in love, their thoughts focus on the romantic. My thoughts towards Lishe-Ashyo have not been doing such a thing. Maybe you could argue that this is something you could never prove, but am I not staring you in the eyes right now? Honestly.”
Mali-Ana continued to glare.
“And take what you will from what I’m about to say, but in your fantasy world where I am in love with him, so what? Wherein lies the problem there? The two of us are close friends and have been for quite a while, so it wouldn’t be an unnatural development. Just look at Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu. I admit the two of us are slightly more romantic than them and therefore in such a situation it would likely be a more romantic relationship but why is that a problem? I am not the sort of woman who would force Lishe-Ashyo to act as An-Tois’ father if such a thing came to happen. He understands the situation well enough that I think we both know how it would go.”
“I feel uncomfortable,” Lishe-Ashyo said quietly. Xhen-Wu gave him a pat on the back.
“So, having said all that, the only reason why I can see how that would be a problem for you and something you felt you needed to get mad about fir because the “rumors” are true and you are in love with Lishe-Ashyo yourself. You fear what would happen if someone like me liked him, someone who treats him much better than you do and who has an arguably closer relationship with him. And quite frankly, Mali-Ana? That’s petty.”
Mali-Ana sputtered for a short while before finding her words. “You’re the one who felt the need to go on a tirade to defend yourself! With all that how do I know I’m not right!?”
“You’re not denying what I said.” Cou-Riette sighed. “Look, Mali-Ana, I don’t want to fight over something so stupid like a misunderstanding. We’re better friends than this. We should understand each other. And if this is how you’d act if I liked the same man as you, I have to wonder if it wasn’t a mistake to call you my friend.”
Mali-Ana’s expression became indignant.
“Fine then, I get it. I’m the one in the wrong and you’re nothing but right. Because I’m all hot-headed and you can keep your cool. Fine, fine then, maybe it was a mistake for you to call you my friend. But not your mistake, mine.”
Mali-Ana started to stomp toward the door, shooting a glance at her friends one last time to say, “And just so you know, I don’t like Lishe-Ashyo that way!”
She slammed the door. Cou-Riette scoffed. Soon after, An-Tois began to cry. Cou-Riette took him from Lishe-Ashyo and began to soothe him.
“I feel like this is my fault,” he sighed.
“It’s not. Mali-Ana is being petty is all. I didn’t mean it when I made that comment about our friendship being a mistake. I was only saying it to make a point, but I suppose I could have been kinder as well.”
“I wish she’d stop acting like this,” Gen-Reiya said. “She’s making everything tense.”
“I wish I could just give her what she wants, but it feels like incest to me,” Lishe-Ashyo mumbled.
“It’s not your duty to do that. Mali-Ana must ride out her feelings if you can’t return them. Hopefully someday soon, she will understand that. Perhaps the only thing you need do is get her to tell you and turn her down officially. Then she can turn to the rest of us for consolement…” Cou-Riette trailed off before continuing, “If she even likes me anymore…”
“You two will get over this. At least I hope so.” Xhen-Wu said.
“I believe we will too, but when we do, will we still be as close as we used to be?”

—–
Later that night, Cou-Riette decided to call Mali-Ana.
“Yes, who is this?”
“My name is Fasoucie Cou-Riette. I’m one of Mali-Ana’s friends, Mr. Reusung,” she said. “May I talk to Mali-Ana?”
“Oh…Mali-Ana locked herself up in her room and hasn’t come out. I heard her crying but I can’t get the door open…I don’t think you’ll be able to talk to her tonight. Would you like me to pass on a message once she’s feeling better?”
“Yes, thank you,” Cou-Riette sighed. She hoped her disappointment wasn’t evident. ‘And I hope that crying is because she regrets our fight…’ “Tell her I’m sorry and that I want to make up as soon as possible. And ask her if we could talk in private sometime soon. You see, the two of us had a little…fight. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s upset either about that, or about the subject of the fight…”
“I see. I’ll try to pass it along, and get her to talk to you if she ever comes out of her room. Sorry she wasn’t available.”
“No, it’s fine. Thank you, Mr. Reusung. Good-bye.” She hung up the phone and sighed.
‘Please let this blow over soon….’