24.540.The Ability to Reach Out

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 540
“The Ability to Reach Out”

“In this case, you’d have to multiply this problem by three,” Ai-Reia told her. “And that’s the hardest I can help you with in this aspect of math. Anything harder and you’ll have to ask one of the twelfth-graders.”
“You’re so smart, Ai-Reia. I don’t think anyone could help me much as you.”
“That would be a lie. While I’m dubious on how smart Sanyaow is, I know for sure that Sherry’s grades are about my equal, and I have to do easier homework than she does. I think Molshei and Dslellular are fairly high up there as well, and they aren’t even in the twelfth grade yet.”
“Well, you’re the smartest one who is my friend,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “In-Dei is smart too but I don’t think even he could get this!”
“The average grade for this level of math is about tenth to eleventh,” she said. “Not to show off…now, is there something else you want to say? Break time should be just about over soon and I don’t want to chance getting in trouble. Sharing tips might not be against the rules but being out of your seat at class time certainly is!”
“Hm, I know.” Shuera-Kaizima blinked. “Actually, there is one more thing I wish to say to you, Ai-Reia.”
“What’s that?”
“Well, um…or, maybe I shouldn’t say it…”
“You’re welcome to say whatever you wish. Don’t hold back. If you’re worried it will upset me, don’t. I’m actually in a fairly good mood today and I think only La-Iin could bring it down. That or one of Ca-Miela’s massive diaper mishaps…”
“If you say so,” Shuera-Kaizima said, though she seemed uncertain about continuing on. “Well, even though you said you are okay, and everything that happened on the school trip was fine, it was pretty scary when you freaked out last Monday. And I am still worried you will do it again…maybe it sounds…irrational, but I do not want you to be upset like that again.”
Ai-Reia smiled. “Wanting that is not irrational. We’re friends, Kokohara. But trust me, I am a lot better now that I have you and Fyuori. I might have underlying problems but that’s a source of great healing for me.”
“Still…” Shuera-Kaizima’s ears shot up. From the hallway she could hear footsteps. “Er, we’ll have to go over this later, Ai-Reia.”
Ai-Reia shook her head. “Do not worry about me, Kokohara. I promise, I am fine.”

***

“Do you think we should try to talk with Ai-Reia again, In-Dei?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I’m really worried about her. She seems happy right now, but there are times I will be happy and then end up upset soon after. With Ai-Reia, when she gets upset, it can be much worse than just sad.”
“I’m worried about that too, but maybe she means it. Remember, when we talked to her last month, she was worried about befriending us because we won’t live as long as her, but she seems to have gotten over it by now. Maybe she does feel a bit better.”
“Or she could be hiding it…and isn’t it better to handle things before they get too bad? Do we just wait until she is upset again, or should we handle it while she is not? Would that simply upset her?” Shuera-Kaizima groaned. “I just want her to be okay…”
“I know you do, Shuera-Kaizima. I guess we could try. She might be more open to talking about these kinds of things while she’s not upset. But don’t keep pestering her about it. That might just make her more upset.”
“Do you want to ask her then, In-Dei? I worry I’ll just get desperate.”
Im-Dei shrugged. “I guess I can. But we should focus. I hear the science teacher.”

“Ai-Reia!”
Ai-Reia smiled. Im-Dei was walking up to her desk. “It isn’t often you and I talk between break times. Hello there, Fyuori.”
“Hello.”
“It’s strange to me. When I first came to Malicerie I got the impression that you were shy. But you barely seem it around me and Kokohara.”
“I am actually pretty shy,” he admitted. “But you see Elyshen talking just fine with Sanyaow. It’s like that. Also, I’m a lot more shy around girls than I am around boys…”
“Kokohara and I are girls, though. And I might be young, but Kokohara’s around your age.”
“I know she is, but it’s still the same kind of situation.” He shook his head. “Anyway, I wanted to ask you something. I know you’re happy right now and I like that you are. But I was wondering if you’d be willing to talk with me and Shuera-Kaizima now. We figured that maybe you’d do better getting your problems off your chest while you’re in a good mood than you would while you’re in a bad mood. But if you don’t want to, you don’t have to!”
Ai-Reia stared at him blankly, and Im-Dei felt certain she would refuse. “I don’t really want to talk about these sorts of things. I’ve been trying to put them out of my mind so they don’t come up. But I realize, my outlet for my feelings was destroyed recently. So I suppose you and Kokohara could be worth a shot as a new one. I just don’t want to upset you or her, nor do I want to think about these sorts of things. I’m in a happy period right now. I want to keep it that way for as long as possible.”
“Well, you do what you think is best. I’m sure you’ll come to the right conclusion.” Im-Dei lightly ruffled her hair. “If you want to talk to us you can come see us after class. But do what you think is right.”
As Im-Dei walked away, Ai-Reia was left with his words: “Do what you think is right.”
‘What would be right? Should I really unload all my concerns onto those two? They’ve been nothing but nice to me while I’ve been fighting them and showing them my darkest moments. But I have no outlet. They’re my only relief most of the time. They’re understanding–they might have a solution. But should I really do that to people who have treated me with so much kindness?’
Ai-Reia shuddered. ‘Not all my problems are so dark that I’d want to keep them from those two. Maybe telling them a little bit wouldn’t be too bad…’

***

After classes that day Ai-Reia had made her decision. She approached Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei and, by their expressions, she could tell they already knew what she had come there for. They walked out the classroom alongside the crowd but soon broke off from them and head into a weekend classroom.
Both of them stayed silent and sat down, staring at her with neutral expressions. Ai-Reia felt nervous, but she took a deep breath and began to speak.
“Well…this is sort of silly, but I’ve told you two about my situation with my family before. It feels as though things soured around the time my younger sister was born, that and around the time La-Iin would follow me around the school. Since then I’ve had some on-and-off troubles. Some months I’ll be on fine terms with my family. I’ve even started bonding with my younger sister, it’s just, I have difficulty dealing with babies, I suppose. Other times we barely talk to each other at all. As for La-Iin, I suppose she hasn’t been in my way much recently, but the times I’ve been at odds with her has only made those problems worse…
“In any event, I had hoped things would stabilize this year, but they haven’t really gotten better yet. I had started keeping a diary so that I could write down my problems, but my older sister found it and basically told the whole family about its contents. Now I think that they think I’m a ticking time bomb waiting for another one of those nervous breakdowns, and the fact that I had one at all probably just adds fuel to the fire.”
Ai-Reia began to tear up. ‘Damn it, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this…’ “I know these problems are silly, I just want to go back to being normal again. I half-wish I wasn’t a prodigy so none of this would have ever happened. I’d still be at home in diapers with Ca-Miela. Or if I hadn’t insisted to go to school, I might still be at home as well. I’m glad I met you two, really I am, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. But all the other things that have happened since I came to Malicerie, if I could, I would wish them away. …sorry to bother you two with these stupid problems.”
“You aren’t bothering us, Ai-Reia,” Shuera-Kaizima said. Im-Dei nodded. “Not at all.”
“Thank you.”
“I think you should try and show your family that you’ll be alright. If you keep hiding away from them and avoiding them, that might only make them think that you’re getting worse. Talk to them and show them you’re fine.”
“It’s okay to show when you’re not fine as well, though,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “They won’t think you are unstable if you cry because something bad happened. Well, they shouldn’t, at least!”
“Of course they’ll think you’re still upset if you avoid them as much as you can. And sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands. So try your best to set things right. …well, that’s all the advice I can offer.”
“I suppose it’s worth a shot. It can’t make things worse, in any event.” Ai-Reia hugged Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei. “Thank you two. I am so very grateful for your friendship.”
“We’re happy to have you as a friend, too!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
Ai-Reia let go of them and turned around. “See you tomorrow,” she said, then head out the Weekend classroom and went to join the sparse crowd heading home.

—–
“Reuf-Bu?”
Reuf-Bu glanced at Ai-Reia. “Yeah, sis? What’s up?”
“I know you’re a fairly grown Vampire and all, but would you mind doing some finger-painting with me?” Ai-Reia felt embarrassed just to suggest the idea. “I heard some of the other children around my grade talking about it, so I was curious–”
“Sure, why not? Are you sure you wouldn’t rather do a puzzle, though? That seems more your style.”
“A puzzle does sound nice. Maybe we could do that afterward.”
“You’ve got it, Ai-Reia.” He smiled. “Glad to see you asking to play with your big brother again.”
“I’m glad to ask,” she sighed. “Now let’s hurry before Ca-Miela starts screaming her head off!”
Just as they arrived in the playroom, they heard loud crying. “Too late.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve got it!” Their mother called. The two gave a sigh of relief and went back to setting up their craft.

20.536.The Weekend School Trip–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 536
“The Weekend School Trip–Part 2”

“Why did you ask to room with me instead of Sanhuun, Cahongyun? Aren’t you two good friends?”
“We are.”
“I know you’re interested in my family, but there’s nothing I can tell you about them right now. Nothing really big, anyway. So why did you ask to room with me? I know the final choice wasn’t yours, but–”
“I was wondering about something.”
“Huh?”
“It’s nothing I can tell you, though. It’s just a little…experiment.”
“Er, okay. Well, I’m happy to room with you anyway, Cahongyun. You know, Neigghed is a lot nicer than my house. I kinda wish our school trip was a little longer than it is.”
“Well, I have to make it back home soon. I’m concerned about something.”
“What’s that?”
“That’s also nothing I can tell you.”
“Hm…well, I don’t really want to talk about my family and I can’t ask you much, but I’m not tired yet. Say, Cahongyun, you seem to really like Molshei.”
“I do.”
“Do you have a crush on Molshei?”
“…”
“Huh?”
“I don’t like saying that outright.”
“So you do?”
“What do you think?”
“Yes?”
“What do you like so much about Molshei?”
“If San-Kyung didn’t hate almost everyone I’d have you ask him yourself about how he is. But all I can say for now is that he’s exactly what I was missing.”
“Huh?”
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it. Fer-Shi doesn’t either.”
“Um, okay…”
Shuu-Kena smiled. ‘This is nice. I wish this school trip would go on forever.’

“Aren’t you upset that Cahongyun is rooming with Sara, Fer-Shi?”
“No, I’m not really worried. We’ve been friends for a long time. If our friendship was so bad that I was worried about it because she has a new friend, we wouldn’t be friends at all because I have Shan-Zetsu. And I know La-Iin really doesn’t like him.”
“Are you jealous?”
Fer-Shi flinched. “…maybe a little. It’s just, I know I’m still a kid and all, but it feels like all the fun times I had with La-Iin happened both a long time ago and just recently. We used to spend a ton of time together. We’re best friends, and she would go to me when something was wrong. Now it feels like she’s keeping a lot of secrets from me and she seems to go to other people before she’ll go to me. She only just started liking Sara and it feels like they hang out all the time now.”
“That sounds like more than a little. But like you said, if your friendship was a bad one, it probably would have already ended. If you two have been friends for a long time in a friendship between good and evil, I think it may last. But she might want to turn to people who understand her values better.”
“I understand her values!”
“Maybe not enough? I don’t really know, Fer-Shi, I just wanted to try and help…”
“I know you did. And maybe that’s what I needed to hear. Maybe I haven’t been hearing her out enough. Of course she might turn to people who understand her better if I’m not even lending her an ear.”
“Perhaps.”
“I’ll just have to keep trying, then.”
“A friendship takes the effort of both people part of it, after all.”

“Geez, I can’t believe our door was unlocked. I blame you.”
“Absolve yourself of any responsibility, huh.”
“No, it’s not that. Still, I both can’t believe that those two opened the door and I’m not surprised that they did.”
“I’m not surprised at all. Last year La-Iin broke in. Although that one was worse–she opened the door with sheer force.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “No wonder you’re so interested in her abilities. She is pretty powerful for a seven-year-old.”
“…”
“Oh, sorry, San-Kyung, I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“No, I’m fine. I’ve been feeling a little bit better lately. Just wish using La-Iin’s power wasn’t a crapshoot.”
“I’m sure there’s some other way we can find out how to help you. I’ll keep looking, okay?”
“You say that, but I know you’ve been preoccupied with your own things.”
“…those aren’t all that important. And anyway why are we talking about depressing things on the school trip!? We should be talking about better things! In Neigghed did you know there are a lot of free things to do? You and I haven’t been going out much lately. Tomorrow we have more free time–we should take a chance to cast out on our own and have some fun!”
“Yeah, but we’ll need to make sure we aren’t caught by La-Iin or else she’ll tag along.”
“She’s been pretty preoccupied with that little girl who joined our class in March. Maybe she’s annoyed with us right now. After all, that speech she gave us…”
“She was hanging onto me on the bus.”
“Good point. Either way, I guess there’s time to plan for all this later. I’m starting to get tired!”
“Same here.” San-Kyung yawned. “Good night, Dosa-Mina…”
“Good night, San-Kyung.”

***

“Alright students, who’s ready for the day? We’re going to get something to eat, and then we’re going to study history. After that, you’re allowed on your own–although if you’re under fourteen, you need to be accompanied by someone older.”
“What!?” Airy-Aekok exclaimed. “You, like, gotta be kidding me! I’m gonna be fourteen this year! I’ve gotta be accompanied ’cause I’m a little too young?”
“You have me if you need anyone, Llanni.” Lirako said.
“Yeah, I know, but I’m still pissed off!”
“Sorry, but it’s the rules,” Theasis said. “Not just set by us, but set by Neigghed as well.”
“How does that make any sense!?”
“How are you feeling today?” Shuera-Kaizima asked Ai-Reia.
“F…fine, I suppose,” Ai-Reia said. “Thank you…both of you. You don’t need to be so worried. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ve just been…stressed lately, that’s all.”
“That’s alright. We’re on your side, Vampiris. We’re here for you.”
Ai-Reia had to take a deep breath to keep herself from tearing up. “B-b-by the way, you two, I don’t mind if you call me Ai-Reia.”
“Really? That would be lots easier for me!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“Hey, are you three paying attention?” Mr. Chensu asked. “Anyway, first things first. We’re heading out to eat!”

Breakfast for the Class D students and teachers had been somewhat cumbersome; the number of people going to the small restaurant overwhelmed the workers and Mr. Chensu had panicked at how much vuyong the entire meal had cost. Still, after the meal the group was in mostly high spirits as they ventured to other historical locations within Neigghed.
“This building right here used to be a place where the bodies of the dead were stored. In early Neigghed, burials were uncommon. They prefered to store and preserve the bodies for various reasons–trophies, food, threats….their methods of preservation are methods other places in the world adopted for preserving bodies prior to funerals. Nowadays it’s a small hospital for treating minor wounds.”
“How much longer is this going to take?” San-Kyung whispered.
“I don’t know, why do you ask? I find all of this interesting.”
“I do too, but I’m getting sick of hearing his voice.”
“Mr. Molshei, shut up! I’m trying to give a lesson.”
“…great. I just made it worse.”
“Mr. Chensu is always annoying, San-Kyung,” La-Iin whispered. San-Kyung flinched and crashed into Dosa-Mina. “What do you say we cast out on our own?”
“No!”
“A-hem.” Mr. Chensu narrowed his eyes. “Anyway, we’ll be letting you all go off on your own soon enough. But before we do, there’s one last place we think you students should see.”
The teachers led the way to a more rural part of Neigghed that to La-Iin, looked as though it had been abandoned; the ground was dotted with bare patches and tall grass. Up ahead in the distance, a large statue stood.
“This is the statue of the dictator who ruled over Neigghed like a certain family rules North Vaelyn. As you can see, it’s since been defaced in more ways than one. Here you can see that not all the population of Neigghed is forgiving and pacifistic. Some have written some violent and profane graffiti on here….like “dick-tator”. Ha ha. Very funny.”
“Did you just laugh, San-Kyung?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Oh, he totally laughed.
“You shut up!”
“Anyway, let’s head back before you all go off. Heading off in different directions in the middle of nowhere is a recipe for disaster.”
The students followed the teachers back to the hotel. San-Kyung glanced over his shoulder one last time at the statue and stifled a giggle.

“Now we finally have the freedom to go off on our own!”
“A freedom we usually have?”
“Yeah, but we haven’t had it in Neigghed yet! Come on, let’s go!”
Dosa-Mina led the way as the two looked at the small buildings in Neigghed. San-Kyung was intrigued, but only mildly. Neigghed had several places to visit, but it was swarming with all sorts of people wishing each other well. It seemed like a stereotypical utopia–and it made him sick.
“Hello there!” One called out. “Would you like to visit one of our facilities? We have ones perfect for a couple like you! Don’t worry–we’re very accepting here!”
“What the hell?”
“You’ve got the wrong idea,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Oh? Our apologies! Well, there are plenty of places for anyone to go! You’re welcome to go anyplace you like!”
“Calm down, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina whispered. “This is just them being polite. They’re known for being kind here.”
“Well, it makes me sick!”
“Wow, look at San-Kyung. Can’t even take a little politeness without getting all worked up.”
“Yeah, kinda cute though, isn’t it?”
“Llanni, are you high?”
San-Kyung sighed. “Let’s just keep going.”
Dosa-Mina glanced around Neigghed. It reminded him of a peaceful village. “This place is like the opposite of Hledshess. I like the way it’s set up, though.”
“Dosa-Mina, you’re more interested in this place than I am. Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know. There are a lot of places around here, but a lot of them seem like eateries and I am not hungry in the slightest.”
“Eateries aren’t the only type of place around here, you know.”
San-Kyung groaned. La-Iin was sitting on a bench nearby, Fer-Shi at her side. “San-Kyung, it’s wonderful to see you!”
“Have you been stalking us?”
“Actually, this is complete coincidence,” La-Iin said confidently. “But I’m happy to see you regardless. Rival-boy is completely useless when it comes to finding fun places in Neigghed–meanwhile, I and Fer-Shi have found quite a few.”
“There are a lot of fun places if you know where to look. Did you know you’re in the eatery district right now?”
“That would explain all the eateries,” Dosa-Mina mused. “What kind of good locations have you found?”
“Don’t humor her!”
“I’m just asking for the general direction.”
“If you don’t want to be anywhere near me, it was a mistake to ask, rival-boy,” La-Iin said. “I’ll only show you if you accompany me and Fer-Shi to that place!”
“If you want to find another district, just take a left or right at the beginning of the eatery district. The first eatery is called Smoothie Sandwiches!”
“Smoothie Sandwiches?” Dosa-Mina began to look nauseous. “Er, why don’t we go now, San-Kyung?”
“Sure.” The two took off, and as soon as they did, La-Iin grabbed Fer-Shi by the collar of her shirt.
“Why would you tell them that!? This was my perfect chance!”
“That’s exactly why I told them! Can’t we just have fun on our own!?”
“A school trip is the perfect opportunity for rival-boy to make his move. He and San-Kyung are in the same room! The only thing that made me feel good last night was the fact that my and Sara’s room was next-door to theirs. I didn’t hear anything but who’s to say there isn’t a makeout district!?”
“You’re over-blowing this, La-Iin. You seemed so calm yesterday, so what’s got you all riled up today?”
“I’M ANGRY AT MAMA!” She yelled. “Come on, Fer-Shi! If we chase after them, we might be able to catch up to them!”
“Hey, wait!” La-Iin grabbed Fer-Shi’s hand and, propelling herself faster with her wings, chased after the faint outlines of San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina in the distance.

“This place is a lot of fun, don’t you think, Ai-Reia? Everyone is so nice here in Neigghed!”
“It is a nice break from all the bustle of Bledger,” she said.
“Bledger doesn’t bustle all that much. Though I guess I can understand how it can seem that way sometimes.”
“Mm.” Ai-Reia lowered her head. “Why do you two even want to spend time with me? I’m a young child and you two are adolescents. I don’t understand.”
“You’re our friend, Ai-Reia. And like I said, Cahongyun and Morushei are friends and they have an even wider age gap!”
“And please try not to worry about the lifespan factor. We don’t want to make you upset by being your friend–we want to make this time better. But I think I need to ask this. Would it make you happier if I stopped trying to be your friend now, or if you had lots of fond memories of me when I’m gone?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“In-Dei, you shouldn’t change the conversation to that,” Shuera-Kaizima scolded. “We are here to have fun.”
“You’re right,” he said. “And that’s just what we’ll do. Don’t worry about it, Ai-Reia. Right now we’re here to have fun with you!”
Ai-Reia smiled. “Thank you, you two.”
Slowly but surely the kindness the two showed her was starting to make her feel just a slight bit better. It felt to her like the happiness that was buried by her constant self-reminders of their lifespans was starting to slowly peek its way out, and it pushed away her memories of her recent breakdown as she chased after the two.
“I think she’s gaining on us!”
Ai-Reia stopped in place when she noticed San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina run by. They quickly outpaced even Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei, who were still running ahead until they noticed the two. They were followed not long after by La-Iin and Fer-Shi, who were running almost as fast.
“What’s going on?” Shuera-Kaizima asked.
“I don’t know,” Ai-Reia sighed. “And I’m certain I don’t want to.”

***

“You students sure look like you’ve had a lot of fun,” Mr. Chensu said that night at dinner.
“If by fun you mean getting chased down and harassed by a little girl…!”
“Calm yourself, San-Kyung.”
“Well, we leave for home tomorrow, so anything else you might want to do in Neigghed you’ll have to do early. We leave a little bit before twelve.”
“What would be the point in doing anything at all?” La-Iin asked.
“I dunno, just for fun?”
“Well, anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the trip. And I hope it made you feel a little bit less stressed. Bledger might be a more dangerous place to live than Neigghed right now, but maybe the morals we’ve learned here will help you feel a little bit better about the future. …unless you’re one of our evil students.”
La-Iin and San-Kyung looked away.
“Hey, teach, can I room with Fer-Shi tonight?”
Mr. Chensu blinked. “But aren’t you rooming with Miss Sara, Miss Cahongyun?”
“I am.”
“Why the sudden change of heart?”
“No particular reason.”
“I’m fine if she changes rooms,” Shuu-Kena said. “We actually somewhat talked about it already.”
“Well, if you say so…”

“Did you really talk to Sara about rooming with me tonight?”
“Sort of.”
“What changed your mind?”
“Nothing in particular.”
Fer-Shi growled. “You never tell me anything!”
“I’m not telling you because if I told you, you would just get mad.”
“Now I really want to know.”
“Oh, come on,” La-Iin sighed. She laid down and pulled the covers over her. “If you feel bad about me hanging out with Sara more, don’t. Stop being so jealous.”
“Is that why you’re rooming with me tonight?”
“What do you think?”
Fer-Shi shook her head. “I don’t know what to think. But, um…thanks, La-Iin.”

“Say, San-Kyung, would you say this school trip was a success?”
“In what way?”
“Did it help make you feel a little bit better about living?”
San-Kyung tried to push away the memories of being chased down by La-Iin as he thought back on the trip.
“…yeah, I guess so. But not for the reason the Neiggheds would want.”

As Ai-Reia settled down that night, she felt content.
‘I really do have friends who will stick by my side, don’t I?’

—–
On the way back to Bledger, most of the students had fallen asleep. The ones who had not still seemed exhausted.
“You know, this was a pretty fun school trip. I’m glad the Principal reminded us.”
“Me too. I hope next year’s is fun as well.”
“Next year’s?”
“Yes. It happens every time there’s a Grade 12 student, right? Don’t you remember? Mr. Molshei, Mr. Dslellular, Mr. Ferister and Mr. Yuuldang are in Grade 12 next year. And the year after that, Mr. Elyshen and Miss Fheyundaer. And after that, Mr. Fyuori, Mr. Pinyon and Miss Llanni. And so on until the year Miss Shaejaein and Miss Auedarna graduate, and that’s not counting any new students who join. And even then, just a year later Miss Sanhuun, Mr. Gyurkang and Mr. Veiner would be in Grade 12.”
Mr. Chensu’s eyes widened. “Aren’t Miss Shaejaein and Miss Auedarna in Grade 6!?”
Theasis nodded. Mr. Chensu nearly fainted in response.

14.530.A Dark Sadness in a Young Heart

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 530
“A Dark Sadness in a Young Heart”

“This stinks.”
“What now? I know you got in trouble for all the damage you caused yesterday, but is it worse than I thought?”
“It actually has nothing to do with my blood tests. Those are perfect. It’s something else entirely.” She growled. “Why is everyone else in such a stupid place!?”
“What?”
“Mama keeps hanging out with that Haner guy and she was feeling bad about her parenting, and it’s just so annoying and I have a bad feeling about what it could mean. Fer-Shi’s getting more irritated with my evil than she used to and she’s down about not having a dream! San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina are still looking sad even though I gave them an inspirational speech! I haven’t even seen Dami, Ai-Reia always hates me, and I haven’t seen Sale-Dessu either. I hate it. Every time it seems like something’s going right lately, something else goes wrong.”
“My, that’s a lot of pent-up frustration.”
“I may complain about you a lot, but you’re a saving grace, Bes-Isa. You’re not as annoying as the others are being right now. There’s even a girl at school who I agreed to be somewhat-friends with called Sara, but she doesn’t have any confidence at all.”
“I’m flattered that I’m the saving grace in this whole situation.”
“I need to see someone who isn’t like all those others. I need some advice, but you can’t give me the advice I need.”
“I’d protest, but point taken. I’m not the biggest fan of all those people you mentioned. Hey, wait a second. I’ve got an idea. If you need to talk to someone who’s not me and who’s not being a total idiot or depressia, what about that girl–you know, the one who claims she’s a ghost?”
“Imagination?”
“Yeah, her. That woman wouldn’t mind because you’d be taking Choungetsu off on a walk. That’d give you time to cool off. And after that you could always stop by the Astineth house. Complain about Sale-Dessu all you like, but he’s just been locked in his house recently. He might not be as depressed or annoying as all the others.”
“Maybe, but he has Eul-Bok there, too. I think Imagination is my best bet. Good idea, Bes-Isa.”
“Why, thank you, La-Iin. And since I’m such a genius as to have suggested that idea, may I come along? I haven’t gotten to see much of this little ghost-girl as you, the furball and Fer-Shi. And I have my own curiosities about her.”
La-Iin nodded. She head downstairs, put Choungetsu on a leash and head out.

***

“This part of town is pretty spooky. You know, you should come by here more often. It’d make for a perfect base or home away from home.”
“Maybe. You know, it’s times like these I wonder how I could ever get irritated with you, Bes-Isa. Then I remember the irritating things you can say.”
“Huh!”
“But you’re still not as irritating as Choungetsu can be,” she said. Choungetsu turned around and cocked his head. “And even he’s still not as irritating as everyone else is being.”
La-Iin turned into the graveyard and was surprised to see that there was no sign of Imagination.
“Maybe she was smart enough to leave for once.”
“Aw, damn. I was really betting on meeting up with her.”
“Why? You barely know her.”
“I have my reasons.”
“Well, I’d like to know–”
Choungetsu stiffened, his eyes widening. La-Iin turned in the direction he was staring.
“La-Iin!” Imagination called out. “I didn’t expect to see you here! Why’d you come to the graveyard? Did you bring Fer-Shi?”
“No, I didn’t. But I didn’t come here to play.”
“We never play, though, so why would you? That makes sense. Why’d you come here, then?”
“I want to talk.”
“What about? If it’s about me being a ghost, that’s boring me. I already told you several times I’m a ghost, and even if you don’t believe me I know it’s true and that’s all that matters.”
La-Iin shook her head. “It’s not about you being a ghost, it’s a stupid problem I have.”
“Aw, your problems probably aren’t stupid,” Imagination said. “What’s wrong, La-Iin?”
“Bes-Isa wanted to talk to you first.” She levitated Bes-Isa up to Imagination’s face. Imagination flinched away slightly.
“Hi, Bes-Isa. You’re a V-Puppet. I remember you a little. I never had a V-Puppet. What’s it like being a V-Puppet?”
“Can you focus on one subject?”
“I am. V-Puppetry.”
“It’s all I know, so how am I supposed to explain it? What’s it like being autonomous?”
“It’s a little different depending on whether you’re dead or alive. Is that what you wanted to talk about?”
“Nope. It was just a little morbid curiosity about what your life was like before you claim to have died. Was the world a darker place back then?”
“I guess a little. Back when I was alive there were a lot of things different. When I left the graveyard today I wandered around Bledger and I saw a lot of Dualbreeds. It’s weird because back when I was alive, if you saw a Dualbreed they probably had Normal in them just like me. But I saw a Minomix-Birdmix and a Lizardfoot-Snowliv! Sheesh, how can you be a Snowliv when it’s getting so hot outside?”
“I wonder that too.”
“But yeah, there are some things different. Though if we lived in Manemica, I could probably tell you even more things that were different. Manemica and Vaelyn are pretty different places. Though I saw a few Manemican influences here in the modern-day, heh heh.” Imagination smiled. “Well, I can tell you more, Bes-Isa, but I’m worried about La-Iin. What’s wrong, my friend?”
La-Iin glanced over her shoulder. “Except for Bes-Isa, everyone in my life is being annoying. I wanted to come to you because I figured you wouldn’t be annoying me, or at least not as much as they are..”
“…thank you,” Imagination said. “But I don’t know how I can help…”
“Recently I got something that’s really great for me. An amazing power I wasn’t supposed to get until I was older.”
Imagination clapped. “Good for you, La-Iin!”
“But then everything went to shit!” Imagination flinched. “Everyone either started being depressing or annoying. And I can’t stand it! This power is the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m sick of everyone ruining it!”
“Why are they so sad? Is it because of the power?”
“No.”
“Have you tried making them happy?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Hm…” Imagination paced around the graveyard. “That sounds pretty annoying, La-Iin. I don’t think it would make me angry, but I can see why it makes you angry. And you can’t solve it, hm…”
“It’s not fair,” La-Iin huffed. “I’m evil. Sometimes I wish I was more like San-Kyung and I didn’t care about people as much. But I don’t want to be like he is now.”
“Aw, that’s okay, La-Iin. Caring about people is a good thing. It makes you feel better if nothing else. At least it did for me. You’re lucky because you have friends. I didn’t really. But now I have you and Fer-Shi and Choungetsu, and maybe Bes-Isa?”
“We’ll see about that, ghosty girl.”
Choungetsu looked up at her with a smile.
“Well, whatever happens, don’t let them get you down. You should enjoy your brand-new power to the fullest. And don’t feel sad about liking people. I think everyone likes someone!”
“Huh.”
“You like me and Bes-Isa and Choungetsu. And you have me, and Bes-Isa, and Choungetsu! So while these people are being all sad, I say you focus on the people who aren’t, and then also focus on yourself. You don’t always have to focus on other people, you know?”
“I know that.”
“I knew you did. You’re pretty smart for a little kid.”
“It was good to get that off my chest,” La-Iin breathed.
“Yeah, you look a lot more relieved now.”
“You really do. That’s good.”
“Maybe I should show you my new power. After all, you don’t talk to anyone else.” La-Iin grinned.
“GIVE ME YOUR BLOOOOD!”
“Eek! La-Iin, I don’t have any blood!” Imagination said, dashing away. La-Iin chased after her in the air. Soon enough, Imagination’s shrieks turned into giggles, and La-Iin found herself having genuine fun for what felt like the first time in a while.

—–
“Let’s see if he’s being a depressio.” La-Iin knocked on Sale-Dessu’s door. No response.
“Maybe he’s asleep.”
“We’ll see about that!” La-Iin banged herself against the door. “SALE-DESSU! OPEN UP!”
As she did that, memories of her time in the graveyard flashed in her mind–she was certain her fangs had met Imagination’s skin, but they had sunk into nowhere. Perhaps she imagined it in the speed of the moment, but it made her feel a mixture of unease and excitement.
La-Iin waited there so long she was ready to leave, but soon enough the door opened and out peeked a familiar face, though now wearing casual clothes, glasses and with maroon-colored hair, La-Iin could still recognize it as Sale-Dessu.
“La-Iin,” he said quietly. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Why do you look like that?”
“An experiment,” he said. “What brings you here?”
“You know what does.”
“Just give me a moment and you can come on in, alright?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes, but to her surprise it took shorter for Sale-Dessu to set up than it did for him to open the door. “Come on in, then.”
La-Iin smiled to herself as she and Bes-Isa went inside.

3.519.Love Me as I Am

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 519
“Love Me as I Am”

“San-Kyung just seems like he’s getting worse,” whispered Del-Kyuus. “I’m really worried. Maybe we should do something about it, and not just talk to him. You know he won’t say anything to us.”
“I know we probably should, but what can we do? I’ve been thinking on all the ways and I can’t figure out a single one. What would work for him? If we sent him to talk with somebody, he’d probably just reject it.”
“Well, something has to be done!”
San-Kyung sat at the table that morning, watching his parents whisper to each other, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he could overhear their every word.
Overhearing their conversation only made him feel worse than he already was. He wasn’t sure whether he should feel touched that his parents were so concerned, or angry that they didn’t think he could push past it this time. Either way none of it alleviated any of his pain.
Salsh-Era glanced at the clock. “San-Kyung, it’s getting a little late. You should probably head off to school now.”
“Oh.”
“San-Kyung, sweetie, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“No.”
“Is this because of what happened last year? You know…the Malicerie incident?”
“Yeah, you seemed pretty off right after it happened, now that I think about it,” he said. “The one-year anniversary is here. Nobody would blame you if it was about that.”
His parents’ words brought back vivid memories of being stuck in class–of tearing off his palm and only being half-aware of everything that was going on around him, choked by a horrid smell and being completely unable to move. The memories only served to make his mood plummet down further, and he stood up from his seat and walked towards the door.
“I’ll be back.”
“Be safe, okay, San-Kyung?” Del-Kyuus called. “And really, don’t hide your feelings! If it’s because of the Malicerie incident, or if it’s something else, please come to us. We won’t mind even if it’s just something you think is small. If it’s making you this upset, it means a lot to us.”
“Kyu–er, I mean, your mother is right, San-Kyung. Please talk to us.”
San-Kyung forced a small smile, but didn’t say anything further. It didn’t seem to reassure his parents, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it. He had to get to school.
He opened the door and recoiled when he saw Dosa-Mina standing in front of the door, looking as surprised as he felt before soon easing into a relaxed smile.
“What a coincidence that you’d open the door right now,” he said.
“Why would you come all this way? We meet up on the path to school.”
“I got bored waiting. Come on, we’re gonna be late. Don’t want to dent that perfect attendance, do you?”
San-Kyung glanced back at his parents. They seemed to be a bit more relaxed, their gazes focused on Dosa-Mina. “I’ve dented it a bit already, haven’t I?”
“Well, a lot of that stuff was sickness and accidents, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t even remember anymore.” He walked outside and the two head off on the path to school.
“Now that we’re out of earshot of your parents, I might as well admit the second reason why I came all the way over here instead of waiting for you to arrive.”
“It’s always ulterior motives with you, isn’t it?”
“It is a lot of the time,” he said with a smile. “Anyway…well, I know you’ve been pretty down ever since what happened last month. I have been too. And recently, something…kinda bad happened, something I don’t want to talk about right now because it requires too much explanation for just walking to school. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I’d want to talk with you about it at all. I still don’t exactly trust my judgment on it.”
“Huh?”
“I know it’s silly to bring up when I’m not even going to say anything about it, but it made me feel horrible. You’ve been obviously upset for weeks now, and one stupid, incomprehensible problem of mine pops up and instead of trying to help you, I just focus on that instead.” He bowed his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Why shouldn’t you focus on yourself? You’ve been having problems for longer than this stupid one’s been around…”
“Well, it doesn’t make any sense!” He exclaimed. “Sorry, it really doesn’t. Anyway, San-Kyung, therein lies what I actually wanted to say. I know you’ve been having troubles, and so have I, but let’s not let that get in the way of our friendship, alright? I don’t want us to be meeting up and always talking about this problem or that. Our problems are a part of us, but they’re not all of us.”
“…”
“I’m going to do my best to help you, San-Kyung. Problems or not. But we also need to have fun with our lives, too. Remember how we used to play or head off to Hledshess or just walk around and have fun? We should do things like that again. But no matter what happens, San-Kyung, you’re my friend and I love you. I’m here for you through thick and thin, so don’t go doing anything drastic, okay? Promise?”
‘It’s like he’s reading my mind.’ “…I won’t. We have a promise to do that something drastic together. And anyway, I’ve still got to figure out what your problems are.”
“Hey!” Dosa-Mina exclaimed. San-Kyung gave a half-hearted chuckle in response.

***

Despite their earlier conversation, class was much as it had been for him recently–during break times he was lost in thought, dwelling on his own sadness. That Dosa-Mina seemed to be doing likewise did not make them any more tolerable, as well as the fact that some of the lessons that the teachers taught, as always, were things that he already knew, and oftentimes quite well.
Still, he felt a little bit better with Dosa-Mina’s words of reassurance. He could imagine La-Iin chiding him and calling him weak, but he pushed such thoughts away. Without Dosa-Mina, and certainly without his parents as well, despite his conviction to punish the world he might have given up already.
‘But how am I even going to achieve that dream? Without my true form, I’m at a loss every November, and it’s not much better in the months right after it. It wouldn’t be a case of the world recovering after my death, it would be a case of a staunch resistance made against me while I’m down for the count…and it would also mean eternally looking like this…
He felt swamped in negativity.
“San-Kyung!”
Hearing that voice didn’t help.
“What do you want?”
“I was just thinking about how we hadn’t talked much since I sucked your blood, and also I’ve been thinking nonstop about what you said to Ai-Reia yesterday.” She smirked. “I know you call us friends now, but I think you like me more than you let on.”
“I’m sure no matter how many times I say ‘I’m not a pedophile’ it will never get through your head.”
“You worry about that now,” she said, fluttering onto his desk. “But someday in the future, when I’m in my thirties, won’t that not be pedophile-like then?”
“Aren’t thirty-year-old Vampires in their teenage years around then?”
“I’m a special case in case you haven’t noticed. And besides, what difference does it make? Nineteen is adulthood, and nineteen is also teen.”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes.
“I’ve been worried about you, though.”
“Well, stop.”
“I’ve been thinking whether you see me the way I do or not, we’ve become more genuinely close. That horrible day that I caused last month, I felt like I was on the verge of success. I would finally beat out rival-boy!”
“Beat me out in what?” Dosa-Mina asked.
“Shut up, rival-boy! This conversation has nothing to do with you!”
“If it has nothing to do with him, then have this conversation away from him. And the next class is going to start soon, so get out of here.”
“I still want to say something to you. I’m going to try my hardest to repair all the problems I’ve caused. Your blood taught me I truly can rule the world and that no opposition can stop me as soon as I’ve figured it out. Almost all my doubts have been cast away. If your blood could do that for me, then I can repair all the sadness I’ve caused you.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“Besides, I really do like you when you’re in your true form, even if I only really saw it once. But I like you as you are now, too. Either way you are, however you end up, that will never change, even if you go good. And I seriously doubt that. ….although if you start dating rival-boy I’ll question if you don’t have a few screws loose.”
Footsteps echoed through the hallway and La-Iin flinched. “Anyway, no matter how much you like me, I’m always your ally, and I always will be your ally, and there’s nothing you can do to stop that or my wiles!” With those words, La-Iin took off.
As the next class started, San-Kyung didn’t feel much better emotionally than he had been the past few days. But something about the idea of having Dosa-Mina and even La-Iin on his side felt immensely comforting to him. Perhaps things from here wouldn’t be alright, but they might just be tolerable. Somehow, this could push through to a better future.
Of course, to start off he’d have to get past this insufferable sadness first.

—–
“Someday, San-Kyung, you will be my husband, and that day you will understand why it’s your best choice!”
La-Iin screamed those words at San-Kyung as she flew past him on the way out of school. Fer-Shi chased after her, complaining about something San-Kyung couldn’t understand over the murmur of students.
“Like her or not, you have to admire her devotion to you. I think she actually thinks she would make you happy.”
“Yeah, well, if she does she’s seriously deluded. She’d make me feel worse, I bet.”
“So, saying that, when do you think you’ll drop her as a friend?”
San-Kyung blinked. “I’ll just have to wait and see on that one.”

29.514.Suicidal Pact

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 514
“Suicidal Pact”

“Take this, San-Kyung!” Dosa-Mina yelled. He ran at him.
“Ha! You think that’s enough to stop me? It’s not even enough to dissuade me! When you’re going against someone with as much power as me, you should know your place!”
“Says you! But I know your one true weakness!”
“I have no weaknesses!”
“You might say that, but I know that’s a lie!”
“Try proving this theory of yours, then!” San-Kyung began to run off.
“I think I will!” Dosa-Mina chased after him, and while at first he could barely keep up, soon enough he was keeping pace with San-Kyung and almost running faster than him. Once he was close, he leaped onto San-Kyung and knocked him to the ground.
“Oof! Are you saying my weakness is being knocked down!? Because I can recover from such a thing!”
Dosa-Mina nuzzled his neck. “No, I’m saying your weakness is your embarrassment! And I know just how to cause that!”
San-Kyung’s cheeks turned pink. “All right, all right, Dosa-Mina, I get it! You don’t have to keep doing that.”
“I like doing it, though.”
San-Kyung gave him a quizzical look before pushing him off to stand up and stretch.
“Boy, am I glad we’re closer in height again! Being taller than you really made playing like this difficult.”
“Yeah, well, we might be the same height now, but my Mom and Dad say I’m going to tower above you someday.”
“We’ll see. Us Dslellulars can be pretty tall!”
San-Kyung glanced around the area. “This place is boring. And the teenagers are going to be out soon.”
“Why does that matter? We’re teenagers too!”
“It doesn’t matter that they’re teenagers, it matters that they’re people who are going to get in our way,” he said. “Why don’t we play over by there? Then we’ll be out of their line of sight.”
“Won’t your parents be worried?”
“No. They say they’re less worried about what I do now that I play with you all the time.”
“Aw, they really trust me, don’t they?” Dosa-Mina said sheepishly. “Okay, let’s head over there! Say, what are we gonna play when we get over there, San-Kyung?”
“I don’t know yet. It’s hard to think about what to play sometimes. I want to do some of these things for real, not just pretend. It’s frustrating.”
“Well, maybe over there there’ll be a nice little pond you can set on fire.”
San-Kyung narrowed his eyes. “My fire goes out in water.”
“If you boil the water, it won’t go out!” He chirped.
San-Kyung made a noise Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure if it was a huff or a chuckle. The two of them continued onwards towards the forestry, Dosa-Mina thinking on what they might play and San-Kyung on what they could do to make their play-sessions more enjoyable.
“Alright, I’ve got an idea,” San-Kyung said as they entered the forestry. “The two of us are going to have a test of stamina.”
“A test of stamina? Are you trying to lose, San-Kyung?”
“What makes you think I’ll lose?”
Dosa-Mina stretched. “I have lots of stamina! What makes you think you’ll win?”
“I have plenty of stamina as well, especially since I don’t use mine up as much! And even if I lose, that’s a good thing for me. I want to test the limits of my stamina. The more stamina I have, the better it is for the future.”
“I guess having lots of stamina is a good thing for anyone,” he said. “Okay, how about we start with a race? A race is a good way to test your stamina! We’ll race all around this forest and whoever keeps running when the other one stops is the winner!”
“You’re on!”
The two boys readied themselves, then both took off across the forestry, running as fast as they could go. San-Kyung felt full of energy, especially with the sun still shining down on him through breaks in the trees. He couldn’t see Dosa-Mina after only a short time running, and wondered if he had made it ahead of him.
‘It won’t stay that way for long!’ San-Kyung pushed himself to run faster and turned around a bend in the trees. He kept going, shutting his eyes against the force of the wind and dust blowing in his face, and only came to a stop when he heard a shriek from a familiar voice.
“Dosa-Mina!?”
Dosa-Mina was lying nearby a patch of rocks and water, holding tight to his shoulder. San-Kyung quickly noticed blood welling between his fingers.
“Dosa-Mina!”
Dosa-Mina didn’t respond, instead grit his teeth and stood up on unsteady legs. San-Kyung felt unsure of what to do. Just as he was contemplating piggybacking Dosa-Mina, he noticed him give him a smile.
“Don’t worry, San-Kyung,” he breathed. “I’m okay. But we should head back, right now…”
His eyes looked glazed over with pain, but Dosa-Mina walked forward, slowly but steady. San-Kyung followed after him and kept a close eye on the wound. Blood still welled between his fingers, but it seemed to be slowing.
It didn’t matter that that was the case, however–San-Kyung was still terrified, and he knew the exact reason why.

***

“It doesn’t look like you broke your shoulder,” started Salsh-Era as he pressed down on the injury. Dosa-Mina yelped.
“Sorry, sorry! Anyway, it’s a good thing it stopped bleeding when it did. If it kept bleeding like that, we’d have had to take you to the hospital.”
“That doesn’t make it any better, though!” Del-Kyuus asked. “Dosa-Mina, do you want to head home? If you’d like, we can take you home ourselves.”
“Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Molshei,” he said. “It’s fine. I kind of want to wait for the pain to die down a bit first. Being in pain and having Mom and Dad worried about me sounds like even more of a pain….”
“We should contact them anyway,” Salsh-Era told Del-Kyuus. “You boys hang tight. We’re going to call the Dslellulars.”
San-Kyung’s parents head out the room. As soon as they were gone, Dosa-Mina glanced at San-Kyung.
“Don’t worry about it, San-Kyung, it’s not like it’s your fault. I don’t know what I was thinking, running into that patch of rocks. It was stupid. And besides, I didn’t break my shoulder!” He lifted up his right arm, only to wince soon after. “Although I must’ve hit it pretty hard…”
“You were losing a lot of blood at first,” San-Kyung said. “I really thought you weren’t going to be able to stand and I was going to have to take you home. And I don’t know if I have the stamina to do that.”
“Well, if you’re worried about that, then we should totally do another test of stamina, just next time, in a safer area. But I’ll be fine, San-Kyung. It was a hard fall, and sure, I broke the skin, but I’m sure that by tomorrow, I’ll be all right.”
“It just made me think. What if you had hit your head then? With how much you bled, that would have been bad.”
“Let’s not talk about worse situations than what actually happened, alright?” Dosa-Mina said, a chuckle in his voice.
“…you know, I’ve actually been thinking about something lately. Before I had you, all I had were my parents. I hate everyone else. You’re the first person who I met and liked who has the chance to outlive me. My parents will probably go before me. Maybe we haven’t known each other for all our life, but you’re really important to me anyway, Dosa-Mina.”
“Aw, thanks, San-Kyung. You’re really important to me, too. I think of all my friends, you’re my best friend.”
“…thanks. But yeah, that and this had me thinking…even though I think that’s how things are probably going to go, what if that’s not how they end up? What if something happens to you before I go? I’ve never had a friend as good as you. I’ve never even had a friend before. The thought of living without you, it…”
Dosa-Mina noticed San-Kyung’s face tighten. “Are you alright, San-Kyung? I’ll be fine. I eat plenty of meat and I’m half-Werewolf! You might not be able to tell if you don’t know me, but I’m pretty sturdy.”
“What about you, Dosa-Mina? What would you do if something happened to me way before my time? I mean, if I got into an accident or something?”
Dosa-Mina’s expression became somber. “I’d be devastated.”
“You never know what might happen in life. I didn’t even think that you might fall on those rocks, or that those rocks even existed. Worse things could happen to us. And so I was thinking. My parents are a different story entirely. They’re definitely good, and they’re a lot older than me. They’d never listen to me if I said something like this, and I came to terms with the thought of losing them a long time ago. But you’re a different story. You’re not like them. You’re closer in age to me and you consider yourself neutral, right? So maybe you’ll hear me out on this.”
“I’ll always hear you out, San-Kyung. If I can listen to you go on and on about world domination, I can listen to this.”
“I don’t go on and on about it!” He snapped, then sighed.
“I was thinking that…well, if we died together, we wouldn’t even have to think about living life without each other. We’d both be going out at the same time.”
“What?”
“Have you ever heard of a suicide pact, Dosa-Mina?”
“I have,” he said. “…you really mean this, San-Kyung? You want to avoid losing me this much? Isn’t that kind of drastic?”
“Maybe it sounds drastic to you, but I don’t care. Besides, I prefer to take hold of things than let people take it away from me. Dying by my own hand, I don’t leave it in time’s hands or in someone else’s. It’s all up to me. And then, I don’t have to lose you, either. I’m not saying we do this tomorrow or anything. That would be ridiculous and…and I don’t really want to upset my parents. I’m sure you don’t want to upset yours, either.”
Dosa-Mina shook his head.
“But maybe someday in the future, when life has nothing left to offer us, we’ll do it. Whatever way we do it, we’ll go out together. And we’ll have no regrets.”
He sighed. “That’s up to you, though.”
“I thought you liked taking hold of things?”
“I do, but you have to make this decision as well. Your life is a part of it, after all.”
Dosa-Mina closed his eyes. “It does sound pretty drastic, San-Kyung. But you’re right, someday life might not have anything else to offer us. I’ve thought about losing you before, and I…well, if I’m not hurting any of my loved ones, then what’s wrong with preventing a little extra pain for myself?”
“So what do you say?”
“Let’s do it. Someday far in the future, when life has nothing left to offer us. Wherever we go, that doesn’t matter. I’ll be dying alongside my best friend in the whole world.”
San-Kyung pat his hand. “Thanks, Dosa-Mina.”
“Hey, don’t thank me. I just agreed to do it. But I’ll prepare myself for whenever that day comes. It’s better than preparing myself for you to take out yoursel….”
“What?”
“Er, nothing.”
San-Kyung gave him a quizzical look. “When that day comes, we’ll be ready. I know we will. Just stay safe before that day comes.”
“I’ll do my best, San-Kyung.”

—–
In the middle of school that day, San-Kyung found himself thinking back on that day that the two of them had made their promise. He glanced at Dosa-Mina, who was focused on Hyungdarou’s teachings.
‘That day isn’t here yet. And it won’t be, for a while. At least, it shouldn’t be. Either way, our promise was for both of us. Not just for me.’

23.508.The Despair Surrounding You

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 508
“The Despair Surrounding You”

“I’m so sick of Mama hanging out with Haner!” La-Iin complained. “I don’t think she notices that stupid guy has ulterior motives. Well, I do, and I don’t like them!”
“What exactly are you talking about? What’s a ‘Haner’?”
“He’s a stupid Siren guy who works at the same place Mama does,” La-Iin grumbled. “I’ve seen the way he talks to her and interacts with her. Either he’s in love with her, or he’s trying to kill her so he can eat her. Either one is bad for me, so it doesn’t matter even if Haner is evil, I can’t stand him!”
“A Pureblood male Siren? Aren’t those kind of rare?”
“Focus on that more than the important part, why don’t you.”
“I don’t care about things that have to do with that woman all that much, in case you hadn’t noticed. And I couldn’t care less if she ends up with some other guy or gets eaten by him, although I question this guy’s taste either way. Why would this affect you anyway?”
“Nobody lays hands on Mama except me. I haven’t gotten my payback for the things she did to me yet. But that’s only if he wants to eat her. If he’s in love with her, the last thing I need is for him to try and take Dami’s place. I hate him already. If he’s evil, he’s good at hiding it, and he’s super-annoying just live rival-boy.”
“Didn’t you say that boy was a half-Siren? Geez, you don’t have any luck with male Sirens, do you?”
“I’m gradually becoming convinced that male Sirens are as bad as Normals. Or maybe it’s just all Sirens. Their whole species is built off of being petty evil or acting like victims because they can’t sing. They’re so overdramatic. Either way, I–”
“La-Iin?” Mit-Sun called. La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Fer-Shi’s here to see you!”
“Fer-Shi? Why’s she here? She usually tells me if she’s coming over.”
“Maybe for a friendly weekend get-together. Maybe she’ll cool your head after your rantings about Haner.”
La-Iin head downstairs, flying part the way, until she had reached the door. Fer-Shi was standing there with a smiel on her face.
“Hi, La-Iin,” she said.
“Hello, Fer-Shi. Why did you come here?”
“I wanted to talk to you, but I thought this was important and I should say it to you in person instead of over the phone. So I asked my parents for permission to come over! Sorry for dropping by uninvited.”
“You’re good, Fer-Shi. At least you called me.”
“I know, but I should have called La-Iin, too.”
“You knew about this? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You seemed busy upstairs yelling at Bes-Isa and I didn’t want to interrupt.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t.” La-Iin beckoned to Fer-Shi. “Fine, you can come inside. But I’m starving. Letting out your anger can be pretty exhausting.”
“What are you so angry about?”
“I’ll tell you later.” She stared at Mit-Sun. “Make us a snack, wench!”
“Try talking to me nicer and maybe I will.”
“Never!”
“Then no deal.”
“May we please have a snack, Miss Cahongyun?” Fer-Shi asked.
“I know you probably want that snack, Fer-Shi, but it’s not going to mean anything unless I hear it from La-Iin.”
“What, ‘May we please have a snack, Miss Cahongyun?'” She said in a mocking tone. Fer-Shi glared at her.
“…no. But that might be the best I’m getting out of you.”
“It is now that you’ve said that.”
Mit-Sun groaned and rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll make the stupid snack. But you have to quit treating me like garbage.”
“I’ll do that when you quit letting yourself be treated like food!”
Both Mit-Sun and Fer-Shi looked entirely confused, but La-Iin was too furious about the thought of Haner to care.

***

La-Iin led the way upstairs, a bowl of cut bananas in her arms. Fer-Shi followed close behind her.
“Fer-Shi, I’ve been meaning to ask you something about food.”
“What’s that?”
“Do you like druggy mushrooms too?”
“What!?”
“Mushrooms are your favorite, right? Do you like druggy mushrooms?”
“Would you like a mincemeat pie with dog poop in it? Of course not!”
“Druggy mushrooms and pooped-in mincemeat pie are two different beasts.”
She opened the door to her bedroom and set down the bowl of bananas, popping a chunk in her mouth. Fer-Shi did likewise.
“Fer-Shi, while it’s nice to see you, I don’t have any blood to drink to show off my new power if that’s what you wanted to see. And anyway, I have to make plans with that power first, so I wouldn’t have anything to show you anyway.”
“Plans with…your power?” Fer-Shi looked genuinely confused. “Um, anyway, that’s not why I wanted to come by today. It has nothing to do with your new power. It just has to do with talking.”
La-Iin blinked. “What’s so important that you had to come over here for it?”
“Well, I’ve been worried about you. Did I tell you that when you were over at my house? You focus a lot of time on the same few things, La-Iin. And I’ve seen how San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina act sometimes.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, you focus a lot of time on ruling the world and evil, and on San-Kyung and getting him to love you, and you spend a lot of time with him and Dosa-Mina.”
“Not as much time as you think.”
“It’s still a lot of time. You spend time around them and around Ai-Reia. Are you gonna be okay? Or are you gonna let all this negative stuff destroy you?”
“What do you mean?”
“You focus on ruling the world and making it like hell and keeping slaves. You spend time around a boy who’s very angry, a boy who seems sad, and a girl who can’t stand you. Sometimes, anyway. And I’m worried that you’re gonna end up getting depressed. That’s why I wanted to talk to you today, because I’m worried about that happening to you.”
“It’s fine that you’re worried, Fer-Shi, but I’m okay,” La-Iin said. “These are the things that sustain me. If I couldn’t strive towards ruling the world, or towards getting San-Kyung’s love, what else would I strive for? You know how many years I’m going to live. I’m evil and I need a goal that will last me all that time, and what’s better than ruling the world?”
“I don’t know, something a little less…large-scale?”
“You’re not going to live as long as me and you’re not evil, so maybe you don’t see it that way. But I’ve wanted to rule the world for a long time. Not only that, but it’s something I can keep doing for a long time. I can encompass every aspect of the evil I want to unleash on this world by ruling it. So why wouldn’t I take this chance?”
“Um…”
“I could keep up everything without wanting to rule the world or without San-Kyung, or without you and Bes-Isa and even this new power. But the more important things you take away from me, the less happy I am. So it’s not that I’m going to become negative because I spend a lot of time around these people or I focus on my powers. It’s the opposite. This power has made me happier than a lot of things recently, and anyway everyone has days where they’re upset for no reason. I had a bad one, once…but this keeps me going past those. I like striving for this, because it makes the victory sweeter.”
“…”
“What about you? Don’t you want to strive for something?”
“…I do, I really do, I just don’t know what I should,” she said. “I came here wanting to help you from getting too negative about all the things that were going on around you, but all it did was remind me that you have all this conviction about your dreams, and I don’t…I don’t know what I should do or what I would have the talent to do. And I know you could never help me with this, but it just reminded me of how I feel. I’m really jealous of you when it comes to that, La-Iin.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be unless you want to rule the world.”
“It’s how certain you are about it, not your actual goal.”
“I’m certain because I know it’s what I want to do. And maybe some people say it’s unrealistic, but I’m going to be alive in a hundred years and further on than that, even longer than most Vampires since I’m half-Normal. I have the time, and with this new power and my transformation, I know I can do it. Maybe think about that instead of worrying about me getting upset.”
“I don’t know if I can…”
“But all I can tell you is, I’m not going to be upset. If I get San-Kyung to reciprocate, that’s all the better for me. When I finally rule the world, I’ll be on top of it. And this new power, once I figure out the ins and outs of it, will be one of my best assets.”
La-Iin popped another banana into her mouth.
“If you say so, La-Iin. I’m glad to hear that I didn’t really need to worry. But the moment you prove me wrong, I’m going to do everything I can to help you, okay?”
“You only need to worry about that if San-Kyung starts dating Dosa-Mina. If you can keep that from happening, I will be okay.”

—–
“You know, I suppose I should have figured another driving reason behind your wanting to rule the world was because of your lifespan, but I never really consciously figured it.”
“Well, you should have. I thought it was obvious.”
“It is, now that I think about it. When you’ve lost most of the people you love, you have something to focus on. Keep making the world suck more. You have big aspirations, La-Iin. And whatever you say, they are pretty unrealistic. You sound like you plan to either go one-woman against the world or with San-Kyung in tow. It sounds doomed to fail. Don’t you think you’ll need more people on your side?”
“I’ll get more people on my side if I need them or if I seek them out. Ai-Reia was actually supposed to be one of them, before she ended up the way that she did. But right now, while I figure out my new power, I don’t have an actual plan. So only time will tell.”
“Just make sure you don’t try to rule the world in this plan-less state of yours.”
“Do you think I’m stupid?”
“Yeah, well, sometimes.”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes before sticking Bes-Isa into what remained of the banana chunks.

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?’

19.504.Nightmare Premonitions?

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 504
“Nightmare Premonitions?”

“San-Kyung, you’ve seemed pretty down lately. Is everything alright? Nothing wrong at the homebase?”
“Everything’s fine at home. Though, geez, I need to find my own place. Mom and Dad say it’s alright, but I’m about to be twenty! I like living with them, but I’m ready to go out on my own.”
“That’s good to hear. Nothing else wrong, then?”
“Not exactly.”
“What’s up?”
San-Kyung began to look slightly nervous. He rubbed the back of his neck. “…never mind. It isn’t anything big. Was there something you wanted to do today?”
“Not particularly. And don’t just brush off your problems with never mind, either. If there’s something up, tell me about it!”
“You sound like Mom and Dad,” he said. “And I said never mind. It’s not a problem you can do anything about, anyway.”
“Oh, come on! You don’t know that.”
“I do know that, and I wish I didn’t,” he said, his expression becoming dejected. “So just–ease off, alright?”
“San-Kyung?”
To him, at that moment, San-Kyung felt distant and withdrawn. The feeling was frustrating, but at the same time, he doubted continuing to press him would do either of them any favors. He decided to grant his friend’s request and stopped talking about the subject.

“There’s no place in this world for someone like me, Dosa-Mina. I know you hate hearing it, but it’s true. And it’s not because oh, I don’t want a place in this world or anything, but simply because I was born needing everything that’s impossible for me. True form? Yeah, screw that. Want to be evil? Jump through hoops and get arrested because you’re incompetent. I can’t even bring myself to talk to my parents about this, and I can’t stand telling you about it. But now that I’ve started, I can’t stop.”
“I’m glad you talk to me about it, San-Kyung. It worried me when you clammed up. I’m always here to lend an ear, and besides, you know I’m not judging you.”
“Yeah, you say that. But I don’t know that for sure. And it doesn’t matter anyway. This world is garbage. What’s here in it to bring me any pleasure? It’s set up for other people, not somebody like me. Somebody like me is the kind of person they want locked away. The more time that passes, the less I find joy in the world. Eventually it’s going to reach a point where even that is impossible for me.”
“You set yourself up for failure when you say things like that.”
San-Kyung scoffed. “Considering what I threw around in my head? It’s a wonder I haven’t failed already. Eventually I’m going to reach my tipping point, and once I do there’s no turning back.”
Dosa-Mina pat his hand. “Don’t do anything drastic, okay?”
San-Kyung sighed. “I’m not sure if you’re trying to help or trying to stop me.”
“Stop you from what? I was trying to help.”
San-Kyung smiled, though his expression was pained. “Just like you always are,” was all he said.

***

Dosa-Mina woke up. He took a deep breath. His throat didn’t feel rough, so he figured he hadn’t screamed. And he wasn’t surprised that he hadn’t–the dream wasn’t the suicide nightmare that usually plagued him whenever his nightmares were in full force.
But Dosa-Mina had a different problem with the nightmares that had recently been occuring. Ever since the discovery that San-Kyung’s intended method of achieving his true form was most likely impossible, his dreams had been filled with the same odd sight of an older San-Kyung in the throes of depression.
‘I told myself these nightmares can’t be premonitions. Even Kkumneok told me that. If they were then wouldn’t he bring up La-Iin? But why now? Is it because this has been on my mind, or is this just happening for no reason?’
Whatever the cause, while it wasn’t as terrifying as his most common nightmare, it left him feeling empty and sad. There had to be something he could do for San-Kyung–and even if that wasn’t right now, he knew his friend had a release. He would never reach the point that the San-Kyung in his dreams did.
At least, he hoped that was the case.

***

“Why did you suggest we go out to Hledshess?”
“Because we haven’t been out here in a while. Also, I had some stuff on my mind and we used to come here a lot when there were things going on.”
“Are you finally going to tell me more of what’s going on with you?”
“There’s nothing to tell right now. The issue at hand isn’t with me. It’s with you.” Dosa-Mina looked away from him. “I was thinking. You and I have put a lot of time and effort into seeing if we can figure out some way to use the power that La-Iin has. Is it something innate within you that you haven’t figured out yet? Can you use it by coming in close contact with her? Is there something we’re overlooking? And then it gets shot down by some paper written by someone we don’t even know. All the time we spent and the hope we put into this, all ruined because of some paper written by an anonymous. It was incredibly disheartening and frustrating for me to reach the end of the paper. I can imagine it was even worse for you.”
San-Kyung glared and crossed his arms. “So? Was the point of coming here just so you could mock me about what happened?”
“You know me better than that, San-Kyung. I’d never do something like that. I’ve had you on my mind a lot lately, as well as that subject. Is there still something we’re missing? Maybe the paper hasn’t detailed everything and we can still find a way, just not one that deals with La-Iin. Already, before she showed us that paper, we were entertaining the idea of her being completely useless to your plan. But that wasn’t the point. I was thinking about you, being sad about all that had happened….sad and angry. I wanted to help you. And so this is what I came up with.”
Dosa-Mina motioned towards Hledshess. “You and I used to wreak so much havoc in Hledshess that the people who live here were scared to come out of their houses for fear of what we might do. So I say, do that again! Let out all the anger in you in a messy explosion of emotions! Maybe that’s an overdramatic way to put it, but I don’t care. Destruction is your passion–if you can’t reach your goal, follow your passion.”
“…what?”
“Didn’t you understand any of that? I was saying you should cause destruction. Let out your feelings that way. It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”
“Why’re you encouraging this? You never cared for it in the past.”
“I might not care for it, but behavior like that is distinctly San-Kyung.” He smiled. “So go ahead and do it.”
Dosa-Mina noticed San-Kyung’s hands begin to twitch. He walked forward a few steps, then rose vines from the ground. He began to weave an overhang above Hledshess and walk underneath it. Dosa-Mina followed after him, curious as to what he might do.
Caught somewhat in the overhang was a strange mesh that was still partway in the ground. Before Dosa-Mina could warn him, San-Kyung stepped into the mesh and fell over. Fury crossed his face and his hands burst into flames as he burned away the mesh and the vines in a whirlwind of fire. Dosa-Mina stood back as the vines collapsed and burned away into ash along with most of the mesh, which by now had been pulled from the ground and San-Kyung had freed himself from.
“It doesn’t even matter if I do this,” he said. “My powers are pathetic.”
“So? They give you the destructive ability you want. You’ve got seed bombs and fire on your side. And then you can create vines. I’m sure those have brought you a lot of comfort.”
San-Kyung rose a vine from the ground and stared at it as if it were foreign. “…everything we did was useless. I wasted your time. I wasted my time. That’s all any of this is, a waste of time. I don’t do anything that amounts to anything. And without the ability to transform at will, or permanently retain my true form, without that how can I rule the world?”
Dosa-Mina pat him on the back. “You’ll find a way. And if you think the things you do are a waste of time, find something to do that you don’t see as a waste of time. You’ll find a way to cope, San-Kyung. And maybe someday you’ll find what you’ve been looking for. But for now that seems out of reach. And I brought you here to grieve.”
“You are being so overdramatic,” San-Kyung said. Dosa-Mina noticed a waver in his voice.
“Maybe,” he sighed. “But I’ve been keeping in my own outburst. My own way of letting that all out was seeing you have one.”
San-Kyung wiped at his eyes. He repeated his earlier spectacle one last time before sitting down and covering his face.

—–
“Say, now that it looks like La-Iin won’t be any use, do you plan on ditching her as a friend?”
“Not yet. She might not be useful to me in terms of power, but I think there’s something else I can gleam from her.”
“Sure you’re not starting to see her as a friend?”
“No way! There’s no world I’d like that disgusting reverse pedo.”
“I don’t think reverse pedo is the right term, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina giggled. “You’d think someone with your smarts would know that.”
“You shut up!” He said. “But thanks for taking me out here. I think I needed that.”
“Any time. Hledshess is good for emotional outbursts, I think. Maybe if I ever really do need to explode I’ll do it here. But not while you’re watching.”
“When you say it like that, it sounds kind of suspicious.”
“Maybe it is kind of suspicious. But I’d rather have it that way than out in the open.”

“…the adolescents destroyed our trap for them…”
“Don’t worry about this, my citizens,” Jwungeok said. “We’ll create another one. And perhaps our prior luck will continue. I think finally, those adolescents are beginning to see there’s more to the world than just decimating Hledshess.”
“For your own sake I hope you’re right.”
Jwungeok glared. “Is that a threat, Mr. Uun?”

12.497.Striving for Normalcy

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 497
“Striving for Normalcy”

“I’m…going to school, family,” Ai-Reia called.
“Have a good day,” her mother said.
“Be safe,” Reuf-Bu said.
“Don’t do anything dangerous,” her father said. Ai-Reia glared.
“I won’t, Father,” she scoffed. “Not like you’d believe that. You always choose to believe the worst in me.”
Her family gave each other concerned glances as she head out the door, her mind a whirlwind of thoughts.
‘Now it’s back to the way it was. The family that has absolutely zero trust in me. Why do I even bother? I have no support from anybody. I am a token to the world, a burden on my family, the target of my enemy. I have no usefulness save for the novelty of being one of the youngest child prodigies. And if Ca-Miela takes that from me as well, nobody will care about my novelty. Nobody loves me genuinely.’
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima came to mind. ‘But they aren’t what I need. I need friends who will live by my side, not die before my hundreth year and live on as memories. I don’t need that pain, and if they knew my inner thoughts, they wouldn’t want the burden of dealing with me either. I have nobody to support me. And the person out there who might…’
Her eyes began to tear up. She dabbed at her eyes. ‘They probably live in Dasdoria. In which case I truly have nobody else…’

***

“Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia looked up from her notebook. “Yes, Kokohara? Did you need something?”
“Mn. I wanted a rittle….er, little, bit of help with this puroblem…problem. Excuse me.”
“Oh, don’t worry. Your Vaelis has improved in one year far more than I thought it would. To be honest, I thought you’d still be calling me Vanpurisu into 2015!”
Shuera-Kaizima smiled, though Ai-Reia noticed the insides of her ears turn red. “Th-thank you, Vampiris. You and In-Dei always compliment me so much…my family too.”
“Your improvement is amazing! The compliments are well deserved.”
“You’re the amazing one. You’re so smart and you’re only seven, and you’re a Pureblood Vampire too. It really is amazing.”
“Please, Kokohara. My status as a child prodigy has nothing to do with my school life, so let’s leave it aside, alright?”
“O-okay. I understand. I just think it’s really cool.”
“Thank you, Kokohara. But in truth, there’s a part of me now that wishes that I wasn’t a child prodigy. I sort of wish I was still in diapers, being taken care of by my parents instead of being out here, at school. If things had been that way I would never have had to deal with La-Iin.”
Ai-Reia startled. “But that’s just a musing! I don’t mean to bother you with my problems, Kokohara. I’m sorry I even brought them up.”
“You talked with me and In-Dei before in the past. I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to talk to me about things again, and I think In-Dei would feel similarly.”
“No, it’s nothing, really! And just like I’d like to leave behind my child prodigy status, I’d also like to leave behind my problems when I’m at school. So if there’s nothing else you want, you should get back to your seat. Math class will likely start soon.”
Shuera-Kaizima’s ears folded to her head. “O…alright, if you say so…” Looking dejected, she walked back to her seat.
‘Kokohara might be hurt right now, but it’s for her own good. Or maybe, it’s just for my own good. How I wish I were normal. Why can’t I be a seven-year-old of a shorter-lived species? Why can’t I be a normal seven-year-old Vampire? If I could be one of those, I would never have learned of this kind of pain. But that isn’t the case. I’m not lucky like any of my fellow students. Instead, I have to deal with all this pain.’
Just before the teacher arrived, tears rolled down her cheeks. Once Theasis made it into the classroom, she bowed her head so her tears wouldn’t show.

When class came to an end, Ai-Reia felt thoroughly miserable. Nothing she could think of made her happy–no idea, no thought. When she remembered that she no longer had the privacy of her notebook to write down her sadness, it worsened significantly.
‘Worthless. Everything I’m doing is worthless. There is no payoff. Without the acceptance of another person I will go nowhere. I have no goal that I’m dead-set on achieving, save for destroying La-Iin. And there’s no guarantee I can do that. Perhaps I should provoke her so that she takes me out herself. Then I can get two things out of the way–my pain and La-Iin…’
“Vampiris!”
Ai-Reia looked up. The voice was Im-Dei’s, though it sounded strange in the midst of puberty. “Hello, Fyuori. Was there something you needed?”
“Yes, something both of us needed,” Shuera-Kaizima said. She peeked her head out from behind Im-Dei. “We want to talk to you about something.”
“Is there a subject you’re having trouble with?” She asked. “I may know a lot, but I’m certain you’re smarter than I am, Fyuori.”
“I don’t know about that,” Im-Dei said, nervously wringing his hands. “Um, why don’t we talk about this away from the crowds? The Weekend classrooms are empty today, aren’t they?”
“Yes?” ‘I wonder what these two want. Perhaps they want me to help them with a subject they’re struggling with? No, I doubt it. And they’re not cheaters, either. So what could it be?’
She snapped herself out of those thoughts as Shuera-Kaizima closed the door behind them.
“What did you want me for?”
“Just to talk,” Im-Dei said. “Go ahead and sit down, Vampiris.”
“I’m fine standing. What did you want?”
Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima glanced at each other, as if they were unsure of who should speak next. “This was my idea, Vampiris. After talking to you earlier, I thought you needed a helpful ear to listen to what you had to say.”
“We know there’s always your parents, but we wanted to help. After all, you’re our friend!”
Ai-Reia’s mind drew a blank, though only for a moment. ‘Friend. They called me their friend. But they don’t know what they’re getting into. No, maybe they do. This is a ploy. It’s the natural interest people have within them to learn about the problems of their peers. They want to know for their own curiosity. And then when they know, they’ll turn me away–as everyone else has.’
“N-no.”
“Would you rather talk to your parents?” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“We’re not trying to pressure you, Ai-Reia! But we want to be there for you.”
“No, it isn’t that I’d rather talk to my parents…I’d rather not talk to those traitors at all today if I can manage it…it has nothing to do with that.”
“Traitors?” Shuera-Kaizima questioned.
“What’s wrong, Vampiris?”
“We aren’t friends, not by a long shot. You two are a teenager and an almost-teenager. There’s no business you should have with me. I’m not your peer.”
“So what?” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Aren’t Cahongyun and Moru…Molshei friends, and they’re seven and…sixteen, right?”
“I think Molshei had his birthday already.”
“You don’t understand. It’s not just that.” Ai-Reia bit her lip. “We Vampires don’t have any business befriending those who will die so long before we do. And that is what you two will do. You will die on me before my hundreth year and be nothing but a distant memory for most of my life. Had I been a little older, or another species, it would be another thing, but the point stands that that’s not the way things have gone, so I have no business befriending you two.”
Both Im-Dei and Shuera-Kaizima fell silent. ‘Now they’ve finally realized their mistake. They’ll never want to talk to me again. But now it’s certain. I truly have nobody else in this world.’
“I know the lifespan thing might be making you upset, but what’s wrong with being friends anyway despite all that?”
“Didn’t you hear what I said!? If we became friends now, I wouldn’t have you two for most of my life!”
“Sometimes that happens,” Im-Dei said. “There are people out there who had great friends in school, who they loved spending time with and had fantastic memories of, but they don’t talk to each other now. And the students in Class D should show you that lifespan doesn’t get in the way of friendship. Even putting aside Cahongyun and Molshei, remember Xhephe…Xhephekuda? He’s a Groundiser and he was friends with Yuuldang.”
“It’s in the opinion of other people whether they want to expose themselves to that pain or not,” Ai-Reia said, looking away from the duo. “I don’t.”
“Well, even if you don’t want to be friends, we can still lend you an ear,” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“And if you ever change your mind, we’ll still be here…well, until we graduate,” Im-Dei said.
‘All the people who care about me in this world are people who will die on me.’ Ai-Reia was once again reminded of that thought, but only moments later she found she could completely ignore it. She walked over to the both of them and reached out her arms, and they returned the gesture with a hug.
‘Oh, screw the stupid lifespan for now. Just knowing that Kokohara and Fyuori care is more than I could ask for…’

—–
“It’s pretty late,” Im-Dei said, looking up at the sky. “I guess we spent longer talking than I thought.”
“But if it helped you any, it wasn’t a waste of time!” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“Um…yes.”
“If you ever need to talk more, we’re still here. You just need to make sure to catch us at a good time.”
Ai-Reia nodded.
“Are you going to be okay, Vampiris?”
“More than okay, actually,” she said with a smile. “That hug was incredibly appreciated, thank you two. And I’m sorry if I upset you. The lifespan friendship deal is just something I see as common sense. But I’m grateful for you two, really I am. You two are some of the only people I feel I can truly rely on.”
Shuera-Kaizima opened her mouth, but quickly shut it. “Well, whenever you need to talk again, just come to us.”
“I…might, I suppose,” Ai-Reia said. “Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, Kokohara, Fyuori.”
“See you tomorrow!” They called.
Ai-Reia walked off of Malicerie grounds with a skip in her step. ‘I need to stop getting so happy. I’m only setting myself up for tragedy.’ Yet despite those thoughts, she couldn’t contain that happiness.

8.493.Birthday of Affection

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 493
“Birthday of Affection”

San-Kyung darted quickly to school, holding tight to his vest. To him, today felt like the worst day all week to have worn a vest–it made the temperature feel closer to Summer. He tried to ignore the feeling as he continued on towards school.
On his way there, he spotted Dosa-Mina, and he let go of his vest.
“Hello, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Hey. Happy birthday.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Thank you. You know, it feels pretty weird to be sixteen! It feels like the beginning of the end…or more like, the beginning of the hurtle towards my twenties. And if you turn the six upside down I end up an adult.”
“So what? You still have to go through seventeen and eighteen before you hit nineteen.”
“I know. I’m just putting things into perspective. But hey, it’s another age I know you for, and that’s always a good thing.” He winked at San-Kyung, but his expression soon changed to a neutral one.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina, was there anything you wanted to do today?”
“There is. Why?”
“I was trying to figure out when I should–” San-Kyung stopped himself.
“Should what?”
“Is there anything you want to do today?”
“Mm-hm. There are places I want to go, things I want to do and see, but there’s one thing I can do right now with your help that’ll make my birthday great.”
“What’s that?”
Dosa-Mina held tight to San-Kyung.
“Too tight!”
“Sorry, San-Kyung, but it feels like it’s been far too long since I’ve gotten to do this. So now you know. Even if I get to do nothing else today, so long as I can do this, I’m fine!”
San-Kyung shifted his vest. “Er…yeah, right.”
Dosa-Mina felt lighthearted as they walked onto the path to school. The eyes of his fellow students, as well as students from other classes, were all turned his way, but he couldn’t find it in him to care.
‘I’m glad San-Kyung’s being so receptive. He’s usually complained by now! I wonder if it’s just because it’s my birthday?’
‘Someday this grip of his is going to be the death of me,’ San-Kyung thought.

Although the students of Class D were, for the most part, well-aware of Dosa-Mina’s affectionate nature and used to it by now, most of them still stared in his and San-Kyung’s direction that day before history class, particularly the students who had joined the class that year.
And in the back row of the class, La-Iin sat fuming, her wings flapping wildly.
“Isn’t this a little long for you to still be hanging onto me?” San-Kyung asked.
“Maybe it seems long to you, but it’s just because I haven’t done this in so long.”
“What are you talking about!? You were being affectionate just yesterday!”
“But that was only a little thing,” he said simply. “And besides, I haven’t done anything on the level of that hug you gave me earlier this week.”
The students around them began to watch closer.
“Dosa-Mina, it’s your birthday. I’ll let you be as affectionate as you want. But can you can it when it comes to what happened then?”
“You still haven’t explained your dream to me, you know? I’d like to know what it was to make you do something like that.”
“Oh, come on!”
“Rival-boy…”
Dosa-Mina glanced at La-Iin. “Hey there, La-Iin! How are you today?”
Dosa-Mina blinked. La-Iin’s whole body was shaking, and it didn’t seem to be just because of the rapid flapping of her wings.
“Infuriated,” she said, even her tone warbling. “Especially after I heard what you said. What’s this about San-Kyung giving you a hug!? Explain now before I lose my patience!”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “I get that you still consider us rivals and all, La-Iin, but you could be nice and not bother me on my birthday.”
“Your birthday!?” She exclaimed. Her eyes narrowed. “Wait, this isn’t 2014. I owe the people who have bad birthdays nothing. That’s it, Dosa-Mina! I’m going to make your fifteenth–”
“Sixteenth.”
La-Iin growled. “–sixteenth birthday a living hell!”
She flew into the air and prepared to fly at Dosa-Mina when San-Kyung spoke up. “The hug you heard us talking about happened earlier this week. And why it happened is none of your business.”
“It’s none of my business too, I guess.” Dosa-Mina smirked. “Maybe the affection in this friendship is finally going to go both ways.”
“You wish! The day I kiss you is the day I get failing grades in school!”
“Too bad. And that’s kind of harsh.”
La-Iin’s eyes had gone wide. “This isn’t fair! It feels like I have no chances against rival-boy! Mark my words, San-Kyung, you’ll find out the true strength of my wiles someday!”
La-Iin ran off.
“Was….was she crying?”
“Who cares?” San-Kyung huffed. “Dosa-Mina, all I have to ask is this. If you’re going to cling onto me all day, could you at least loosen your grip?”
“I can try. But I barely know my own strength, so who’s to say if it will work?”

***

“San-Kyung, am I frustrating you today?”
“Well, let’s see. When I needed to get a drink of water, you were there holding on to my arm. When I needed to write something down in my notebook, you just happened to switch from holding onto my right arm to holding onto my left. When the students or teachers start staring harder, it seems like you give them more reason to stare. Yes, you’re frustrating me!”
Dosa-Mina flinched. “I’m sorry, Dosa-Mina. I’m trying to put up with it for you. But I picked today to wear a vest and you clinging on like isn’t making it any better. Also, you’re seeming kind of needy.”
“Maybe I am feeling needy,” Dosa-Mina said. “I get it though, San-Kyung. Don’t worry, I plan on letting go of you once school lets out. When school lets out we’ll be able to go all the places I want to go instead of sit here in school. And when we go out I have some things I want to talk to you about.”
“Huh.”
“But then again, I understand how much more convenient it might be if I was holding onto you while we were out rather than while we were in school. Not to mention how inconvenient it is for you while we’re here. So I figured, if I’m going to go of you, there’s one more thing I want.”
“You decide to do this when we only have two classes left. Of course,” San-Kyung sighed. “What do you want?”
Dosa-Mina let go of his arm. “This!”
He brought San-Kyung’s face close and kissed him. San-Kyung drew away, his expression one of surprise and mild disgust.
“Pff. The look on your face. You know, those expressions contribute to me being affectionate towards you.”
“Oh cut it out.” He shook his head. “You’ll just take any excuse you can find.”
“Oh, I don’t need excuses when I have reasons. But, that’s a story for another day!”
Nearby them, Lirako leaned over to whisper in Airy-Aekok’s ear.
“You know, there are two things that are gonna make me think our theory is wrong–hard proof and Dosa-Mina saying he’s not in love with San-Kyung.”

As school came to a close, Dosa-Mina felt thoroughly satisfied. ‘My fifteenth birthday was pretty okay, but I think this year has gotten off to a great start. Here’s hoping this continues on into the day!’
“Happy birthday, Dosa-Mina!” Fer-Shi called as she ran out the classroom. Dosa-Mina waved, then gave a sigh.
“I guess it’s a sign of my popularity–that or a certain someone’s influence–or I guess it could be reputation…”
“Get to the point.”
“I think you, Sanhuun and my parents are the only people who have wished me a happy birthday today!”
“That’s because nobody likes you, and for good reason.” Dosa-Mina glanced to his right, and spotted La-Iin standing there, her eyes squinted in a glare. “Even if it weren’t for our rivalry, I still wouldn’t like you. You’re thoroughly dislikable!”
“You don’t like me, but you like Sanhuun? I’m neutral, you know.”
“I don’t like everyone who’s evil either. You should understand that.”
“I wouldn’t? I’m not evil. Oh, did you mean because of San-Kyung? But he’s a special case. He just hates everyone.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter! I hope you have a rotten birthday and I hope there aren’t many more!”
“Stop being so petty. You want to be taken seriously, well nobody’s going to take you seriously if you act like that!” San-Kyung said.
“Nobody’s going to take you seriously being so devoted to your best friend. I don’t care what you say, San-Kyung! Unlike my love, your love is going to be your downfall! But I will save you. I’ll show you the light!”
She blinked and her nose wrinkled. “Anyway, I’ll see you on Monday, San-Kyung.” She turned and left the classroom.
“I’m still wondering what she means by love. Is there something I’m supposed to know, San-Kyung?”
“Don’t you think you’d know if there was?” He said. “Come on. Let’s go. You know, you’re lucky, Dosa-Mina. Next year your birthday isn’t on a school day, but mine is.”
“Aw, give it one more year and you’ll be school-free. Oh wait, not only will it be a Saturday in 2017, you’ll be graduated by then too.”
San-Kyung sighed. “I know.”

After briefly stopping by his house, Dosa-Mina and San-Kyung head for downtown, his parents close behind, at least at first–halfway down the path they had agreed to split up.
“Well, it gives us a chance at a date. It is Parent’s Day too, after all.” Elai-Riya had said.
“Yeah! And it gives us a chance to get some stuff for you before tonight!”
“I’m looking forward to celebrating with all of you! I wonder if I should invite some of my neighborhood friends?”
San-Kyung’s eyes narrowed. “Well, maybe not.”
Now the two were on their own, and thoughts went through both their minds of what they should do now that they had the chance.
“Hey, Dosa-Mina–”
“There’s something I want to ask about and tell you about, San-Kyung. Mind if I say them now, just to get them off my chest?”
“Uh, sure?” ‘Guess I’m not going to get to give him my present anytime soon.’
“Part of the reason I was being so clingy today is because I had a….nightmare,” he said. “It was a nightmare about you. I felt so horrible when I woke up that…that I felt like cutting myself…but I managed to resist. And it’s been a long while since I’ve been able to do that.”
San-Kyung remained silent, curious as to what Dosa-Mina might say next.
“I was still scared, though, so I wanted to hold onto you because of what happened in the nightmare. And that’s why I was being so clingy today. I figured you deserved to know.”
“I’m surprised you told me. Usually you keep that stuff to yourself.”
“I usually do. But I’ve been battling with some thoughts lately. I’ve been having a harder time keeping myself under wraps too, so it could have something to do with that. But mostly, I just felt like saying something to you. It’s a step forward, isn’t it?”
San-Kyung smiled. “Yeah. I’m glad you told me.”
“Of course, I’m still far more interested in helping you permanently regain your true form,” he said. “My first goal is by the end of this year. My second is before we graduate. After that, if I haven’t managed it, I’ll pour all my time into finding a way to make it happen!”
“Today’s about you, Dosa-Mina, not me. Hey, didn’t you say there was something you wanted to ask me, too?”
“Yeah. When are you going to tell me about that dream you had? Was it a nightmare like mine? I told you something I wouldn’t normally say. You can consider this a birthday present.”
“But I have…” San-Kyung trailed off. “Fine, I guess you have a point. I had a dream where I was ruling the world at first, but then it all disappeared and there was some guy with his hair up in a white bun calling for you.”
“A white bun?” Dosa-Mina’s expression changed drastically, and for a moment San-Kyung wondered if he had said something that struck a nerve.
“Yeah.”
“Did he say his name?”
“If he did, I don’t remember it. He was really pale all over and he had what looked like horns on his head, but other than that he mostly looked like a Normal.”
“…go on.”
“I tried asking him what was going on, but twice the dream changed and he tried to make a break for it. I don’t remember the first one, but the second one…he changed it to something where you were considering committing suicide early. I tried to confront him about it, but I had to go back to you–and anyway, when I turned around, he disappeared. So I went to comfort you instead. It felt more real than like a dream, so that’s why I…did what I did.”
“…I’m glad you told me that, San-Kyung. Thank you. …are you sure you didn’t catch the guy’s name?”
“No. Why do you want to know his name, anyway?”
“Oh, morbid curiosity.”
‘He’s still not telling me everything, is he…oh well, he’s right–what he said already is a step in the right direction.’
Dosa-Mina’s expression was still a sad one, so San-Kyung reached into his vest pocket and thrust a music player into Dosa-Mina’s arms.
“Here.”
“Wh–what…?”
“This is your actual present. I know you like other things better, but I’ve heard you talk about music a bit in the past. Besides, if you like any of the songs you sing, you can listen to them.”
“I–how’d you get this!?”
“I have my ways…”
“Guess I shouldn’t ask that question, then.” Dosa-Mina hugged San-Kyung close. “Thank you, San-Kyung. I’ve really enjoyed today.”
“Glad you did,” he said. “…now do you mind letting go?”
“Why?”
Dosa-Mina glanced around. A small group of people was staring in their direction.
“Sorry.”
“Don’t be. I’m just sick of people getting the wrong idea.”
“After all this stuff that’s been going on with Lirako, this doesn’t even faze me anymore.”

—–
“Happy birthday, Dosa-Mina!”
“Happy sweet sixteen, as they say!” Orlin-Aesth said.
“Happy birthday, Dosa-Mina.” San-Kyung pat him on the back.
“Thanks, you guys! Hopefully next year is as good as this one!”
Even as he celebrated with his family, San-Kyung’s earlier words were still on his mind.
‘He changed the scene and he had his hair up in a white bun. That sounds just like Kkumneok. I know he said he was capable of entering other people’s dreams, but what was he doing in San-Kyung’s? And why would he change the scene to something that would upset him? Was there a reason for that?’
He stuck a fork into his cake. ‘Next time he comes into my dreams, I’m going to have to ask him a few questions. But this proves one thing–he probably isn’t a creation of my mind.’