13.590.Hiding in the Records

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 590
“Hiding in the Records”

“Dad, do you think I’m, like, worthless?”
Her father’s eyes widened. “What made you think you’re worthless, Airy-Aekok!? Has everything been okay over the Summer? I’m really sorry I haven’t been able to spend as much time with you as we wanted to, it’s just that there’s a lot of things going on at work–”
“I know, Dad,” she said, smiling at him. It didn’t seem to ease his concern. “It’s not your fault. I just feel bad. Remember that pet project I wanted to do with you?”
“Yeah?”
“Well, it didn’t have, like, the results I was lookin’ for, you know? Just made me think…you’re so good at your job and I can’t even do something I want to do for fun right.”
“Don’t say that about yourself, Airy-Aekok. So what if you don’t get something done the right way the first time? I wasn’t always good at being a cop. There were times nobody wanted to rely on Llanni for a job…but I kept going and I improved, and if I could do that, you can too.”
“You’re just saying that because you’re my Dad.”
“No, I’m just saying it because you’re Airy-Aekok and even if you weren’t my daughter, I’d still like you,” he said. “Besides, I really do believe that. So I don’t want to hear you saying anything bad about yourself. Gush about teenage boys instead!”
“I wasn’t really, like, saying anything bad about myself, though…but I’m always willing to gush about teenage boys! I haven’t, like, seen any good ones in a while, though.”
Her father smiled. “Oh! Airy-Aekok, there was some information you wanted to look into, right? Did you ever find out what it was?”
“Not exactly? I mean like I have a pretty good idea, but I don’t have any definitive proof.”
“Proof can mean a lot,” he told her. “So I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you stop by the library? I do have a library card, and you’re welcome to use it.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, really!”
“I’m not sure how I’d find what I’m lookin’ for at a library…”
“You’d be surprised by what you can find at the library.” He handed her a small green card. “Just use that whenever you decide to go. But since I’m home, I figure we can do something to pass the time for now, right?”
“Yeah, I guess so. Maybe we can see if any of the boy bands have come out with a cool new song!”
Her father began to look uncertain. “That’s not exactly what I meant…but if you want to sweetie, then we’ll look.”

***

Airy-Aekok had always greatly admired her father, ever since she was little. She saw him as an ideal of strength and fortitude that everyone should strive for–that and a smart man who searched for true justice and the facts about a situation. She found it hard to doubt him with his display of honesty, something he had proven conclusively she could trust him on, time and time again. So she head to the library after he left for his shift to see if he was right, and if there was a resource in the library she could look to.
‘Yeah, like a birth certificate book,’ she thought. ‘My Dad’s honest, but he doesn’t always have the right idea about things. I doubt I’d find information specifically on Dslellular Dosa-Mina here.’
But school was scheduled to start in less than a month. What did she have to lose?
When she entered the local library, she was astounded by its size. Just by walking in she saw shelves upon shelves of books that stretched up high. Tall bookshelves stood even higher than that, on floors only avians could reach without assistance.
It was an amazing sight. “Who knew that this close library was like, this grandiose?”
“Please be a little quieter in the library,” a librarian said. Airy-Aekok nodded and went running through the library. Other patrons gave her quizzical looks, but Airy-Aekok payed them no mind and instead went looking through the many shelves to see what each one held. The shelves nearby mostly had informative books, all on an array of different subjects. A sudden desire stirred in her, and Airy-Aekok couldn’t help but start scanning the shelves closely, looking for books focusing on a subject near and dear to her heart.

“Dad made a good point. You really can find a lotta stuff in the library!”
Someone shushed her, but the sound barely registered. Airy-Aekok walked, arms full of books focusing on boys, to the back of the library. A sign had stated that in the back there was a reading nook, and while Airy-Aekok felt it would be easier to simply take the books back home with her, she was too curious not to see what the nook looked like.
On her way there, she spotted an area that was filled with desks. Distracted, she head that way instead and spotted row upon row of computers, many with people staring intently at them but still a fair amount of ones that were unoccupied.
“I wonder.” Setting the books down on one of the desks, Airy-Aekok sat down and opened up a search engine.
‘Like I’ll get many results, hah.’ She typed in ‘Dslellular Dosa-Mina’. As she had expected, not many results came up, and what results did mostly surrounded other people who were also called Dosa-Mina, though by what she could see, not a one of the results had to do with someone who had Dslellular as their last name.
Upon scrolling further down the results, however, she spotted a curious link: “Dslellular Dosa-Mina–list of Vaelyn Residents”
“Huh.” Curious, she clicked on it, and up came a website with several names on it. Airy-Aekok was startled to see that her’s, her father’s and even Lirako’s name was on the list, although it seemed to be an older list as Airy-Aekok noted that when she clicked Dosa-Mina’s name, the age it listed there was thirteen as opposed to sixteen.
That only caught her mind for a short amount of time, however–what caught her eye after that was the rest of the details. The page was skimpy, but what was written in the species section clearly did not read “Normal”.
Airy-Aekok gasped. Nearby people stared in her direction.
‘This is it! This is the proof me and Lirako need, isn’t it!?’ Airy-Aekok began to check her pockets. On occasion she would bring along a small digital camera–a habit she had picked up from her father–and she was pleased to see that it was in her pocket. She took a picture of the page, closed it out, then ran off to the front of the library with the books about boys in her arms.
But she could barely think about teenage boys right now, save for one: Dosa-Mina.
‘I really need to thank my dad,’ she thought. ‘Without him I’d have never found this out!’

***

“WHAT!?”
“Yeah, look! I think the page was, like, illegal but still! That only proves it even more if it’s illegal!”
“So I suppose we were half right…”
“Now that we have this though, we really need to think about what we’re gonna do. School’s gonna start in September again. Should we, like, keep it to ourselves, or tease him with it? Think’a all the things we could blackmail him into!”
“I’m not so sure we have the same idea here, Llanni,” Lirako said.
“What makes ya say that?”
“I’ve got something else in mind,” she said. “I just don’t know if it would be safe for us to do. I mean after all, he’s a Dualbreed with Siren powers on his side…nullified ones, but Siren powers nonetheless.”
“What is it?”
Lirako shook her head. “I’m not sure I should say…”
“Aw, c’mon!”
“Airy-Aekok, I’m home! Where are you?”
“Oh, hi Dad!” Airy-Aekok called. Her father walked into the room and smiled; then, his eyes fell on Lirako. “So you invited a friend over, huh?”
“Uh, yeah,” Lirako said, covering up Airy-Aekok’s camera.
“Did you go to the library?”
“I sure did,” Airy-Aekok said. She flashed her father a wide grin. “By the way, Dad–thanks.”
“Not a problem. Feel free to check out books on my card whenever, but make sure you return them on time, okay?”
“I will!” Airy-Aekok said.
“I’m going to make dinner now. Unless you’ve already eaten?”
“Nah, I’m too excited to eat!”
“I guess you got out a good book, then!” He chuckled. “And miss, you’re welcome to stay for dinner with us.”
“Oh, uh, sure!”
He walked out of the room. Airy-Aekok dropped her volume before speaking.
“Whatever we do, there’s this I know. We have the information now, and that’s a success. It means we succeeded, and even if we never do anything about it, that’s something to be happy about!”
Lirako giggled. “I guess you’re right. After all, even if we do keep it a secret, it’s our dirty little secret, and there’s something kind of fun about the idea of never telling him we know!”
She stared out the window. “Still, I’m not sure I want to keep it a secret…”

—–
Dosa-Mina shuddered.
“You alright, son? You’re not catching a cold or anything, are you?”
“No, I think I’m fine. Just a shiver.”
Dosa-Mina shuddered again. “Ugh, I feel uncomfortable…”

11.588.To See the Future–Part 3

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

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

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

***

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

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

1.547.Plan Dosa-Mina

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

19.535.The Weekend School Trip–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 535
“The Weekend School Trip–Part 1”

“I thank you all for taking the time out of your day to come for this discussion.”
“Not a problem. I don’t really do much outside of school.” Mr. Chensu said.
“What did you need from us?” Asked Theasis.
“Mr. Sharai, loathsome as he can act sometimes, has been informing me of recent tensions within Class D. Tensions between students who do not get along and students who have grown suspicious of another due to her recent actions. He also mentioned something else to me that I want to talk with you all about.
“Each year that there is at least one student in Grade 12, the class with the students will go on a school trip. That is a rule here at Malicerie that is often enforced and the trip can happen at most any time in the year. In Class D I noticed there are three students who have reached Grade 12–Miss Sanyaow, Miss Sherry, and Miss Hangdul. Given the tensions and the fact of this rule, I wanted to suggest that you of Class D go on a school trip to alleviate these tensions and to fulfill the rule.”
“That does sound pretty nice,” Mr. Chensu said. “Things have been weird in Class D lately.”
“As nice as an idea as it sounds, where do you think we could go, Principal? And when would we go?”
“It would probably be best to go this month or as soon as school starts again. School trips aren’t intended for the students to all have some random fun–they are supposed to learn on these trips as well, and I don’t know that many students would appreciate that during their Summer break.”
“Well, it sounds kind of cumbersome in September,” Mr. Chensu sighed. “And you mentioned part of the reason it sounded like a good idea to you now is because of the student tensions. By September they could have blown over.”
“That’s true, but then that doesn’t leave us with much time to plan a location and head off for it. We’d have to do it before July, and we’re already a decent way into June.”
The Principal’s gaze fell on all the teachers. “Then let me propose this idea. If you have no ideas, then why not visit Neigghed? It has been referred to as one of the more peaceful places in Vaelyn, and it has a history to it as well, one that’s much more violent than one might expect given their recent history all has to do with peace. It could be something for the students to learn about, and give all of you a chance to head off to someplace more peaceful.”
“Neigghed, huh? I’ve never been there, but I heard my cousin lives there,” Mr. Chensu said.
“When would we go, Principal?”
“Why must you turn to me for every decision? Am I just going to plan this entire school trip? Fine then. Head off to Neigghed on June 19th and return on June 21st. Make sure to relax and learn. And tell the students soon enough, otherwise you’ll be forcing them into a sudden school trip.”
“We’ll make sure to tell them, Principal.”
“Are you sure this is a smart idea?” Denbek asked. “This is all pretty sudden–even if we inform the students they could still be caught off-guard. And part of this dips into their Weekend.”
“I was asked to provide a schedule, and I did. Besides, it wouldn’t be the only time they’ve done school work on the Weekend, and they will have a trip to go along with it. They don’t have to go in the end. Work with what I gave you. If you have a better idea then discuss it among yourselves. But this is what I give you for now.” The Principal stood up. “I’m heading home. You all debate the matter among yourselves.”
The Principal stepped out of the room, leaving the Class D teachers to themselves.
“What do you all think?” Theasis asked.
“I think it sounds like a fine idea. We’ll tell the students and go when she said. After all, if we head home early enough they’ll still have some of their Sunday. Maybe we can even give them Monday off.”
“It still sounds so sudden,” sighed Denbek.
“Well, Neigghed isn’t too big a place. There’s a lot of history on it but there isn’t much to learn aside from that. The students would have plenty of time especially if we do the brunt of our teaching on Friday. Then on Saturday all of us could have some fun!” Haebochi said.
“That sounds like a plan,” Hyungdarou said.
“Mr. Denbek, are you still having concerns?” Theasis asked.
“Yes, but that’s all about the suddenness. You all practically give me no reason to say no–all the rest of it does sound pretty appealing. I’ve kind of been wanting a vacation myself.”
“Then it’s settled. We’re going with the Principal’s plan, and next week we are going to Neigghed!”

***

“This school trip really happened fast!” Fer-Shi said. “It feels like one day we were being told we’re going on a school trip, and then the next day we’re going on that school trip!”
“Yeah, Mama didn’t like it much that it happened so randomly,” La-Iin said. “I have one problem with the school trip, myself.”
“What’s that?”
“I want to be away from Mama right now, but I don’t trust her to be on her own!”
Fer-Shi looked confused. “What?”
“You would never understand the evil that is Haner, and I wouldn’t want you to.”
“If Haner is evil, shouldn’t you like it?”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “Haner is that fake brand of evil that even we evil people despise. Except for idiots like the Saras, probably.”
La-Iin glanced behind her. Shuu-Kena was glancing around the crowd of students and parents. La-Iin walked up to her.
“Sara?”
“Eep! Y-yes, Cahongyun?”
“They didn’t come, did they.”
“No,” she sighed. “They said they didn’t want to encourage this venture. I told them about how they said it was also to get away from the bad in Bledger, and then they told me they’re trying to cause bad in Bledger and that it’s stupid for me to want to go. But then they said they don’t care…I really wonder if they even love me sometimes, La-Iin.”
La-Iin felt conflicted. A part of her wanted to reassure Shuu-Kena, but the other part told her to hold back from it.
“Your family is stupid. Did you tell them we’re going to Neigghed?”
“Yeah, that just made them more angry.”
“Mama told me that Neigghed has a long and violent history,” La-Iin said proudly. “So they’re stupid. Don’t worry about it.”
Shuu-Kena smiled. “Okay, I’ll try not to.”
“I think this school trip will be good for you, sweetie,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Maybe.”
“Personally, I’m looking forward to it!” Dosa-Mina said. “Think about it, San-Kyung. It’s a chance to get away from this place where all the things that are on our mind happened. And last year’s school trip was pretty fun, wasn’t it?”
“I guess so.”
“I think this trip will be a lot of fun, Mr. and Mrs. Molshei. We might even come back changed men!”
“I sure hope you’re right, Dosa-Mina,” Salsh-Era said. “But I think your little comment upset Del-Kyuus.”
“Ohh, I know San-Kyung isn’t going to be a minor forever, but it’s hard to imagine him becoming a man,” she sighed.
“He’s gotta graduate school before he can graduate to adulthood, so don’t worry!”
“I guess you really are excited about this school trip.”
“Sure I am! I love school trips.”
“Well, have fun, you two!” Salsh-Era said.
“We will!”
“We’ll try.”
“Hm…”
“Somethin’ up, Sanyaow?”
“I’m just thinking about our little deal, that’s all. We still haven’t found out what’s going on. We started up some suspicion but we still don’t know for ourselves what’s the truth. July isn’t too far off–would we even be able to figure out the truth while we’re not at school?”
“Like, I’m concerned about that too, but don’t let it worry you,” Airy-Aekok said. “We’re going on a school trip not to worry about this? Bledger’s been getting more dangerous, and my Dad’s super-busy ’cause of it. I’d rather just have fun.”
“I guess you’re right. I do kinda need to cut loose. Between this and college plans I’ve just been stressing myself out!” She stretched. “Hey, Deki-Tyunri, want to sit next to me on the ride there?”
“Really? You’re asking me? I thought you were going to ask Llanni.”
“I’d rather find a cute teenage boy to sit next to,” she cooed.
“You know, that’s one thing you two have in common–your love of teenage boys.”
“I–”
“Weird that someone like me isn’t as interested as you two.”
“You’re becoming a woman, Lirako. You have, like, a more mature taste.”
“Can we just stop this conversation…?”
As Rini-Futo head off, leaving her family behind her, she caught sight of Mr. Chensu standing there in the crowd with the rest of the Class D teachers.
“Mr. Chensu!”
The teachers stared at her for a short while before all of them except for Mr. Chensu took a step backwards.
“What is it, Miss Shaejaein?”
“Um….even though I said what I did earlier this year…do you think we could have fun on this trip like we did last year?”
“Oh? Sure! There’s a lot of history to learn in Neigghed, so that’s still possible.” He furrowed his brow. “You do actually like history, right?”
“Mm-hm!”
“Then it won’t be a problem.”
Rini-Futo breathed a sigh of relief.
“Ai-Reia, they gave you a choice,” Reuf-Bu said. “Do you want to go on this school trip, or do you think you need to stay home and recover more? I’m worried about you after what happened.”
“…I’m not sure,” she said quietly.
“You need to make your decision soon. The other students are getting onto the bus.”
“…”
“Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia looked up and caught sight of Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei.
“Are you coming on the school trip, too?”
“…I don’t know.”
“We’d love to spend time with you in Neigghed,” Im-Dei said. “But if you need to stay home and recover, you should do that instead.”
Ai-Reia felt conflicted, but only for a moment. She had two choices–recover at home and be surrounded by the people who caused her so much stress, or go off with her friends and perhaps alleviate some of it. The thought that La-Iin would also be on the trip bothered her, but she felt as though ultimately, this was the right choice.
She reached out to her friends. “I want to go…”
Shuera-Kaizima grinned. “Good! We’re happy to have you!”
“All students of Class D! We’re heading off to Neigghed in a few minutes! If you aren’t ready for some reason, hurry it up or you’ll miss the bus!”
“We have to go,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Brother Vampiris, thank you for bringing her.”
“Not a problem. Call if anything goes wrong, alright, Ai-Reia?”
“I will.”
The students head onto the bus and took their seats, followed by the teachers. With a majority of their parents watching, the bus took off. Glancing out the window, La-Iin gasped.
“What’s wrong, La-Iin?”
“Did I just see Dami? But I didn’t see him in the crowd before!”
“Maybe you just mistook him for someone else,” Fer-Shi said. “I think Ai-Reia came on the trip. Maybe it’s her dad?”
“No, I would never mistake anyone else’s Dami for my Dami. I either hallucinated him or he’s actually there!”
She glanced out the window once again. “I sure hope I hallucinated him.”

La-Iin’s concern didn’t take long for her to lose.
“San-Kyung, a trip is just what you needed, I think.”
“My parents said so too.”
“Wow, she’s obviously flirting with you and you’re just sitting there and taking it.”
“I don’t have the energy to fight right now. Trust me, she’ll get her payback.”
“You’re saying that right in front of me,” La-Iin said, cuddling up close to San-Kyung. “Well, if you don’t have the energy to fight, I should take my chances while you don’t. Be my boyfriend, San-Kyung. We’ll be so–”
“No.”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. “Not having the energy to fight doesn’t make me gullible.”
“Well, if you can still fight back with words, I know one way you can’t fight back!”
“I’ll strike my hand if you try anything, so don’t.”
“If you do that you’ll cause a panic on the whole bus!” La-Iin blinked. “Actually, that sounds like a lot of fun. Do your worst!”
San-Kyung rolled his eyes.
“Well, at least this is entertaining,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Maybe to you!”
“We’re about to arrive in Neigghed, students,” Theasis called out. “Once we arrive we’re going to take a look at the history of Neigghed. Today is a day fully devoted to studying, so I hope you all are ready!”
“Well, at least it’s not science study,” Xhen-Bei sighed.
“Do you have trouble with science, Yuuldang?” Kim-Koou asked.
“Yeah, it’s not my strong suit.”
“It seems like a lot of our classmates like science,” Mi-Kou said.
“Yeah, well, I’m not one of them.”
The bus came to a stop, and the students prepared for the day ahead of them. Dosa-Mina tapped Theasis on the back.
“How’s the room situation going to work this year, Miss Theasis?”
“I’m not sure yet. That depends on how this hotel is set up. I’m sure if it’s two to a room you’ll want to room with Mr. Molshei, Mr. Dslellular. You two are pretty close, aren’t you?”
“Yup. We’re inseparable.”
“That’s good. It’s nice to see such a healthy friendship…for the most part. Mr. Dslellular, I can’t claim to know the more intimate details about your friendship, but please, it’s embarrassing the way you act in public.”
“Sorry about that. But I just can’t resist a chance to shower him in affection!”
“Hm.” Theasis turned around and met face-to-face with Hyungdarou.
“Two to a room.”
“Looks like you’re in luck, Mr. Dslellular.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. He walked off and joined the rest of the students.
“What a sweet boy. I think he has to be one of my favorite students.”
“You really shouldn’t play favorites, Miss Hyungdarou…”

***

“Neigghed, Vaelyn. A pinnacle of peace–this place is full of good people. Neutral people and evil people are definite minorities here.”
“I’m so happy Class A isn’t here,” La-Iin said. Fer-Shi gave her a quizzical look.
“Thing is, about Neigghed, that wasn’t always the way things were. Long ago, before Vaelyn was even really Vaelyn, Neigghed was ruled by a dictator. Many of you, having studied Vaelyn’s history, will know that Vaelyn’s primary species changed several times over the years. Places like Nyappon were consistent Catori societies, for instance, but in Vaelyn which species reigned in dominance changed. All around the place soon to be called Vaelyn there were dictators who wanted complete rule over these lands. Neigghed’s dictator, a Minomix called Ghurheng, was known for being notoriously violent and for ordering the deaths of his enemies over their capture. In the event he did order for their capture…well, it’s said they were tortured in ways the populace had no idea about.”
La-Iin soaked in every word. She was enamored.
“This nature of Neigghed didn’t stop when Vaelyn became Vaelyn, either. You see, Neigghed is a bit closer to Aena than other places in Vaelyn. So Aena wanted to take this land for themselves, and there were some bloody battles fought over it. When Neigghed became Neigghed, this is where the evil of Vaelyn converged. There are a few tales of violent crimes going on here–they say the evil of other parts of Vaelyn would take their soon-to-be victims out to Neigghed to kill them and hide the body. They say some of those cases still haven’t been solved.”
“Scary…” Fer-Shi mumbled.
“Even other evil people were scared of Neigghed because they knew that it was easy to get killed here. The culmination of Neigghed happened sometime after the Vaelyn War. People from Vaelyn who sympathized with the rulers of North Vaelyn essentially made Neigghed a copy of it–for a place like Vaelyn, this was a big deal. People in Neigghed were miserable. Once the extent of the situation got out, it was dealt with and it ended in the death of the man who was ruling over Neigghed.”
“Hm…”
“Intrigued, San-Kyung?”
“Neigghed after that basically was populated by newcomers and people who had lived under that man’s rule. They decided they would make up for the darkness in Neigghed’s past by making it a place of peace and goodness–don’t give me that look, Mr. Molshei. Anyway, to the surprise of the people in Neigghed, their attempts to make this place a peaceful one succeeded greatly. After all, now barely anybody thinks of Neigghed as the dark place it was before–now it’s truly lauded as a place of peace.”
“And boringness,” La-Iin sighed.
“You were right, Cahongyun. If only my family knew about Neigghed’s past.”
“Now, there are a few historical sights we can see in Neigghed, but who feels like stopping for something to eat?”
“I do!” Xhen-Bei called out. “I’m starving!”
Mr. Chensu chuckled. “Then’s let go get something to eat!”

***

After dinner that night, Class D saw a few sights including the grave of the man who ruled over Neigghed years before. They retired to the hotel after that, where the students debated over rooming.
“Of course I’m rooming with San-Kyung. Who else would I go with?”
“We know, Mr. Dslellular,” Mr. Chensu sighed. “Well, we want to try and put together combinations of people who will get along. So I suppose Miss Cahongyun and Miss Sanhuun would be good together.”
“What about me?” Shuu-Kena asked.
“Miss Sara, why don’t you room with Mr. Veiner?”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Fer-Shi whispered to La-Iin. “They might be able to get along.”
“I wonder…”
“Did you want to room with Sara, La-Iin?”
“Hm…I’d actually want to room with San-Kyung, but…”
La-Iin glanced at Shuu-Kena, who looked dejected as the rooms were doled out, with most ending up in pairs of friends such as Yefu-Shenhao and Zae-Mia.
“Hey, I’ve got an objection.”
“What’s that, Miss Sanyaow?”
“I think some of us would be better off in pairs of three,” she said. “It’d take up less rooms and besides, I kind of want to room with both Deki-Tyunri and Llanni.”
“That might be cool,” Airy-Aekok said.
“It would save on space, but we did say two to a room.”
“I think it is a great idea,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Then I can be with In-Dei and Vampiris.”
Ai-Reia remained silent, while Im-Dei smiled.
“Well, if you all are insisting…but does that end in consistent pairs? We kind of wanted to avoid anyone getting left with a teacher.”
“Why don’t we just stick with two to a room? We have twenty-four students; it should be even that way. Besides, I don’t want to room with anyone aside from San-Kyung.”
“Mr. Dslellular does have a point. Perhaps we should just assign rooms ourselves. After all, I do know a lot about who you all are friends with.”
“Then I want to make a request. I want to room with Sara instead.”
Fer-Shi bowed her head. “What? Aren’t you friends with Sanhuun?”
“I am. But I have my reasons for doing this.”
“And I can room with Veiner, I guess…” Fer-Shi sighed.
“Now this is strange…”
“Well, I’m fine just rooming with Deki-Tyunri, but Llanni isn’t exactly what I’d call popular. And same goes for Deki-Tyunri if I room with Llanni.”
“I don’t want to leave Vampiris alone,” Im-Dei said.
Mi-Kou sighed. “This is so frustrating…”
A chatter rose among the students about the situation of the rooms.
“EVERYONE SHUT UP!” Mr. Chensu yelled. “Look, while we’ll put your suggestions into consideration, we’re just pairing you with whoever we feel like, alright!? Except for you two. You two are staying paired up.”
“As it should be!” Dosa-Mina said.
“We’ll get back to you in a few minutes.” The teachers walked off and began to discuss the rooms.
“I hope I end up with you or Veiner,” Fer-Shi said.
“…”
Fer-Shi bowed her head. ‘I guess she really does like Sara, now…’

—–
Although it took longer than expected for all parties involved, the rooms were eventually decided, and students head off to bed and began to chat.
“Yo, Llanni,” Lirako said, peeking her head into her and Mi-Kou’s room. “There’s something I wanna do.”
“You two really shouldn’t be leaving the room at this time,” Mi-Kou said.
“I’ll be, like, back soon. Then you can tell me a bit more about that boy.”
Mi-Kou sighed. “It isn’t anything big, Llanni.”
“Aw, come on. I’m always interested in teenage boys! Now, what are we getting up to?”
“Most of the doors are going to be locked soon. Some already are. But I think San-Kyung and Dosa-Mina’s isn’t. Maybe we’ll catch Dosa-Mina in a different form if we open the door!”
“Are you so sure about that?”
“Maybe they’ll be talking about his true species?”
“Guess it’s worth a shot. Alright, let’s do it!”
Lirako opened the door and pushed her way into the room. The two stared blankly at the sight of San-Kyung, who looked both agitated and embarrassed, being almost smothered by Dosa-Mina, who was smiling wide.
The two turned in the direction of Lirako and Airy-Aekok, who closed the door and silently went back to their own rooms.

5.490.Strife Among the Students

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

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

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

23.478.Keeping in Touch

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 478
“Keeping in Touch”

“Hey, Lirako, didn’t you have another Wingyrm friend once?”
Lirako’s ears twitched. “Huh?”
“I thought you had another Wingyrm friend aside from Elyshen. What was her name…Jhuhara? Whatever happened to her?”
“Jhuhara? You mean Koshi-Rhesta? We haven’t talked in a while. Why’d you ask?”
“I don’t know, I was just thinking. You’ve had a lot of friends over time that I haven’t seen in a while. I guess sometimes you fall out of friendships. Sorry to ask about it.”
“Nah, it’s alright. You’ve got me wondering how Koshi-Rhesta’s doing now. Maybe I’ll drop her a call.”
“Well, go ahead and do what you’re gonna do.” Her father walked off. Lirako turned away and went back to join her brothers and Deki-Tyunri in the next room over.

As Lirako studied that night, she thought back on her father’s words.
‘Koshi-Rhesta’s not the only one I haven’t talked to in a while. I thought me and Xhen-Wu were pretty close, and now we haven’t talked in ages. I guess she and Gen-Reiya are going with each other now, but it’s been a while. They’ve got their own problems, I guess. They’re growing up and they have goals. I only have one!’
She sighed. ‘But what if it’s not that? What if it’s something entirely different? Deki-Tyunri’s a true friend, but what if everyone else is just because I’m popular? No, that couldn’t be the case, could it?’
While she was able to focus on her studies well enough, the thought still bothered her and left her feeling uncomfortable the entire time.

***

“Lirako, are you feeling alright? Your brothers did seem pretty energetic yesterday. Did they let you get any sleep?”
“They all passed out almost as soon as you left,” she told him. “And that’s not it. It’s something else on my mind.”
“Would you like to tell me? You don’t have to hold your problems back, Lirako.”
“You wouldn’t understand why it’s bothering me so much, though,” she said to herself. “Hey, we’re close friends, aren’t we? I graduate next year, but we’ll still be visiting each other even after that, right?”
“We’ve been friends since my early childhood, Lirako. I think our friendship will hold.” He blinked. “Is that what you’re worried about? Has Kerushao not contacted you since his graduation?”
Lirako shook her head. “But that’s fine. Remember, he’s had a girlfriend for a while now. He’s probably out on dates with her. And he’s gonna be an adult sooner than I am. He’s probably thinking about work, and planning out his future with Xhen-Wu and all that stuff. Trying to put into mind that if they work out that long, he’s gonna have Dualbreed children, heh heh…”
“Lirako?”
“It’s nice to have a plan for life, don’t you think?”
“I–I guess. But I don’t have much of a plan yet. If that’s what you’re worried about, then–”
Lirako gave another shake of her head. “I wish it was just that. But there’s a part of me that worries it’s something worse than people having plans for the future. But we can talk about this later. I don’t wanna risk any eavesdroppers listening in. They’ll take any chance to spread a rumor about me.”
“Okay,” Deki-Tyunri said. From then on, the two walked to school in silence.

Lirako kept up her focus throughout the school day, and on break times she talked with all her friends, having fun conversations she didn’t see as at all being out of obligation. Those times felt genuinely fun to her, so when she got the chance to sit down and think on her suspicions, she felt more uncomfortable than she had last night.
‘They’re my friends, right?’ She thought. ‘It’s just because they have plans for the future and I don’t. Gen-Reiya and Xhen-Wu have each other to think about. Koshi-Rhesta got a job, I think? And she did start hanging out more with Shensata; maybe she wanted to cultivate that friendship for now. I’m sure if Xhen-Bei stops talking to me, it’ll just be because he has some sort of plan. Maybe I’ll ask him if he does.’
She sighed. ‘This is so not like me. I’m supposed to be one of the confident students. Just because Dad made a little comment….friendships fall apart sometimes. Maybe mine with Koshi-Rhesta is one of them. And Gen-Reiya’s just busy. I’ll drop him a call soon and we’ll get back in the groove, I’m sure.’
“Hey, Sanyaow!”
Lirako looked up. Airy-Aekok stood in front of her desk. “Sorry to bother you when we’ve, like, got to get home soon, but I had a little something I wanted to talk to you about and my Dad’s not gonna be home for an hour more, so I have time to blow. Wanna walk around and we’ll discuss it?”
“Uh, sure!” She turned to Deki-Tyunri. “Hey, I’m gonna go with Llanni today. Hope you didn’t wanna do something with me.”
“No, it’s fine. Spring’s been here for a while and me and Grandmother have been working on our garden. Not to mention we have other chores. I couldn’t have even if I wanted to, so go ahead and go off with Llanni.” Giving her a nervous glance, he added, “So long as you’re not conspiring with her to do something….you know…”
“I’m, like, not going to do that again, okay, Elyshen? So don’t worry. Sanyaow totally wouldn’t let me anyway.”
“I wouldn’t. I know a lot about your ins-and-outs, Deki-Tyunri. You mess with you, you mess with me too. I just think Llanni has potential to move past that. Well, see you tomorrow then!”
“See you tomorrow, Lirako.”
Lirako let Airy-Aekok lead the way out of school, glad to have something to take her mind off the subject that still nagged at the corners of her mind. Once they had broken off from the crowd, Airy-Aekok finally began to speak.
“So I did the investigating you asked me to do and I’m pretty sure I, like, know what species Dslellular is now. You’ve gotta give me a little extra time to get some hard proof, but I’m feeling pretty certain.”
“Ooh, really? What do you think it is?”
“My Dad told me all about how Sirens can change their looks with a song,” she said. “Now, don’t get me wrong, other species totally can too. Warlocks can do pretty much anything, so can’t rule that one out either. But he got really uncomfortable when I brought up singing. I asked Yuuldang and Elyshen to sing–well, you saw that second one–and they sung for me even despite what I did to them. He didn’t want to. Weirdest part was, when I asked him about it in front of Molshei, Molshei looked all surprised like I had figured out some big secret. I’m thinkin’ he’s either worried ’cause I figured out he’s a Siren, or because I figured out he’s probably non-Normal. Either way, I doubt that boy’s really what he claims to be.”
“If he’s a Siren, that’d only make too much sense. He wants to hide it because male Sirens are extremely uncommon. Probably, anyway.”
“Thing is, though, I still don’t have any hard proof,” she said. “But I can’t just like, stalk him to his house or something. I really am trying to move past that, Sanyaow. I kinda wanna ask the school to ask him about singing and stuff to see if he can’t do anything. Obviously if he’s a Siren, he doesn’t wanna kill anybody, so he’s not gonna sing.”
“Geez, wish I had listened for him during Denden Saree this year. I could’ve seen if he was singing along.”
“I’ll check for you if we haven’t gotten it by then. But I’m sure we will. This is the big breakthrough, Lirako. What are we gonna do with this information?”
“I’m stuck between wanting to use it as blackmail or just revealing it so he’ll stop hiding it. I dunno.”
“You’ve gotta be careful, though. What if people, like, get upset that you’re doing this to him?”
“You mean like Molshei? He’s pretty much his only friend in Malicerie.”
“I guess. But you’ve gotta be careful so that people don’t think you’re a creep. I guess that’s not something you have to worry about too much, though…”
Glancing at Airy-Aekok’s dejected expression, Lirako couldn’t hold back her thoughts.
“I might not be worried about people seeing me as a creep that much, but I do worry about how people perceive me in other ways,” she said. “Maybe that’s why all my old friends don’t contact me anymore. I’ve been thinking recently, I considered myself good because that’s what the rest of my family calls themselves, but I think I’m more of a neutral.”
“So?”
“Well, most of the people in Class D are good. Sometimes I can be a big jerk. And I don’t care about being a jerk to Molshei and Dslellular, but what if that drives my friends away?”
“I’m sure it won’t.”
“It might,” she sighed. “I had a friend way before you came to Malicerie, Llanni. Her name was Jhuhara Koshi-Rhesta, and we were pretty close. Not as close as me and Deki-Tyunri, but we hung out a lot. Ever since we graduated, we’ve pretty much never contacted each other. Then there was a girl called Saoning Xhen-Wu. We did get in contact after she graduated, and she does have a boyfriend now, but her boyfriend is also a friend of mine. He graduated a little bit before you came here. And he saw when the whole hateship between me and Molshei and Dslellular broke out. I hate to admit it, but I kind of started it. I had to go and provoke San-Kyung. We haven’t talked since he graduated, well, much anyway.”
“Well, maybe you’ve just gotta, like, call them or something. Can’t really give you advice, Lirako. I don’t have much experience with friends.”
“I just wonder if some of my school friends are just going to leave me. I love hanging out with them. They’re not boring people. But what if we’re just friends because I’m popular? Because we have nobody else to spend time with? I have lots of friends now, sure. But what about in the future? Will I only have Deki-Tyunri?”
“You’ve got me too, Sanyaow,” Airy-Aekok said. “I mean, I hope so.”
“I guess. But what if you don’t want to stay friends? I graduate next year, you know.”
“Well, if we like each other enough, I’m sure we’ll, like, stay in touch. ‘Sides, we’re partners in crime about this whole Dslellular species thing. I think partners in crime usually stick together. Well, my Dad told me some do, but some don’t.”
“Hey, we’re not criminals.”
“It’s a little weird to hear you worrying about your friendships, though.”
“I guess. But I was just thinking.”
“Well, if they’re true friends, they’ll stick around, maybe,” she said. “And as for those other ones? Why not shoot them a call? See if they still want to hang out. Maybe it’ll go nowhere, maybe it won’t. Worth a shot, isn’t it? Guess I’m not really the authority to turn to on that one, though.”
“Maybe not. But thanks for talking to me about this, Llanni. It feels good to get it off my chest.”
“Not a problem. Though you should, like, probably tell this stuff to Elyshen next time. I’m sure you trust him better.”
“I do. But hey, it’s not like I don’t trust you either.”
Airy-Aekok grinned. “Thanks, Sanyaow! That means a lot, yanno?”

—–
That afternoon, once she arrived home, she decided to dial Koshi-Rhesta’s number.
“Hey, this is Koshi-Rhesta.”
“Hey!”
“Is that you, Lirako? Hey, it’s been a long time! How have you been?”
Lirako smiled. “Well, life’s been full of ups and downs, as usual…but I’ve been pretty good otherwise. How about you?”

22.477.Rainbow Fantasies

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 477
“Rainbow Fantasies”

At the back of Malicerie Public School, Deki-Tyunri stood a short distance away from San-Kyung. Nervousness had frozen his whole body, and though the situation was obvious he found himself wondering why exactly he was here.
“Elyshen, we need to talk,” San-Kyung said. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you act around me. Even if it had gone completely over my head, Dosa-Mina knew. He would have told me sooner or later.”
“I–I’m sorry,” Deki-Tyunri mumbled. “I know it’s ridiculous. I’ll leave you alone and we can pretend none of this ever happened, okay?”
“That’s not what I want, though.” Deki-Tyunri stiffened. ‘He’s going to kill me. I should fly away before he can reach me! Fly away as fast as I can!’
Yet he couldn’t bring himself to spread his wings. And now it was too late–he was face-to-face with San-Kyung.
“P-please don’t hurt me.”
“I’m not going to. Elyshen, I think you’ve got the wrong idea about what I want. All along you’ve been fearing what sort of response I might have if I found out about how you feel, but the truth is, now that I know I can safely say I….”

Before he could finish the sentence, Deki-Tyunri woke up.
“Deki-Tyunri, is everything all right?”
He was so nervous it took him a short while to realize that his grandmother was in his bedroom. He took a few deep gulps of air. “I’m fine, grandmother,” he said. “I just had a…strange dream.”
“Oh, well, I suppose that happens to boys your age sometimes,” she sighed. “Just clean yourself off and get ready for school.”
‘Clean myself off?’ Once he realized what his grandmother was implying, he almost threw himself back into bed in his embarrassment.

***

“Deki-Tyunri, you seem pretty jittery today. Something happen?”
“No,” he sighed. “I wish it was that. Then at least it would make more sense.”
“Upset about nothing?”
“No, not exactly that. I just had a…dream.”
“Ooh. Uh, I’m not gonna ask then.”
Deki-Tyunri pressed his lips together. ‘Lirako’s lucky she doesn’t have to deal with this. Or maybe she does and I just haven’t noticed. No, I’m sure she would have told me by now if that was the case.’
Deki-Tyunri’s memory of the dream was still fairly vivid, as if he had just woken up from it. When he spotted San-Kyung on the path to school, unconsciously he moved away from him, the dream replaying in his mind.
‘I know I promised I wouldn’t ask, but I’m so curious,’ Lirako thought.

San-Kyung watched as Deki-Tyunri walked over to Lirako’s left, shooting a quick, nervous glance in his direction before walking on, staring down at his feet. San-Kyung narrowed his eyes.
“What are you so angry about?” Dosa-Mina asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “I’m just thinking.”
“About what? Is it serious?”
“No. It’s stupid.” He said, shaking his head. “So, do you think the lessons today are going to be anything new, or more of the same?”
“More of the same. They tend to do this a lot when new students arrive. Sure makes things easy for us though, doesn’t it?”

***

‘I can’t get it out of my head. The dream’s passed already! All the others fade away, so why is this one staying?’
Though it only made his nervousness worse, throughout that day Deki-Tyunri couldn’t help but glance San-Kyung’s way. Each time it reminded him of the dream and made him feel immensely uncomfortable, yet he couldn’t resist the urge.
“Deki-Tyunri, are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” he sighed. “Just…lovesick as always, I guess.”
“Ah.”
A few desks away from him, San-Kyung tapped Dosa-Mina’s shoulder.
“Huh? What is it, San-Kyung?”
“I’ve been wondering about something,” he whispered. “Why the heck does that guy keep looking my way? None of the other students do that.”
“La-Iin does that,” he said.
“She’s at the back of the class. And I expect that of her. Why’s he doing it?”
“I’m pretty sure I know why. But that’s for him to tell you. You’ll have to ask him if you want the truth.”
“No.”
“Then don’t get huffy about it.”
“I’m not!”
“Yes, you are.”
‘I wonder what they’re talking about,’ Deki-Tyunri wondered. ‘Oh, Dslellular’s so lucky. He gets to talk to him all the time. One day I should try asking him about how they got so close in the first place. Maybe…’
He shook his head. ‘No, that would never happen! I need to stop getting my hopes up. I wish today would be over already…’

San-Kyung wasn’t sure of why Deki-Tyunri kept glancing in his direction, but he found himself quickly becoming agitated by it. An idea of why he might be doing so had wormed its way into his mind, and he couldn’t stand it.
He was caught between a reluctance to talk to the boy and a desire to confront him about his suspicions, and throughout his classes he was unable to decide which one he should follow through with. But his agitation only grew each time he spotted him glancing in his direction, and by his second-to-last class he had finally reached a decision.
“Lirako, I need something to distract me. Do you have any ideas?”
“My little brothers are the perfect distraction. You wanna come over after school?”
“I guess that would be okay.”
“If that doesn’t work, then you still need to do something that commands full attention of your senses. If you sit down with a book, you’re just going to keep thinking about the same thing over and over. At least, that’s how it is for me.”
“You’re right,” he sighed. “I think I’ll accept your offer to come over, Lirako. I hope your parents won’t mind.”
“They like you, Deki-Tyunri. They’ll be cool with it.”
“Alright. …you know, I wish this stupid crush would just go away.”
“This has been going on for over a year, Deki-Tyunri. It’s pretty serious. I don’t know what you can do about it really, save for get a crush on some other guy.”
“Which could help,” he said. “Or it could leave me as a wishy-washy idiot with crushes on two boys. This is pointless, Lirako. I just don’t want to think about it anymore.”
“Well, try not to. You kinda have to focus during school. Don’t want your grades to slip any, do ya?”
“No, I suppose not.” As they walked into the classroom, Deki-Tyunri couldn’t help another glance in San-Kyung’s direction. ‘This is so pathetic,’ he thought.
The last class started and ended, and both San-Kyung and Deki-Tyunri failed to give their full attention to the lesson. Almost as soon as the teacher had left the room, San-Kyung stood up from his seat.
“Hey, you forgot to pack your notebooks,” Dosa-Mina said.
“I’ll get them in a little. I have something I need to do first.”
Deki-Tyunri helped Lirako as she packed away her school supplies, picking up one of her notebooks in his mouth. He dropped the notebook when he noticed San-Kyung standing in front of his desk, his gaze focused on him.
Lirako looked as surprised as Deki-Tyunri felt.
“Quit glancing in my direction. You’re a distraction.”
“I–I’m sorry,” Deki-Tyunri choked out.
“And are you–” San-Kyung shook his head. “Never mind. Just quit glancing in my direction.”
“Hey, it’s your fault you’re getting distracted. Stop blaming him.”
“You know, if he’s glancing in my direction, he’s obviously pretty distracted himself. So stop it.”
Before San-Kyung walked away, his expression changed to one Deki-Tyunri couldn’t quite read. He watched on in confusion as San-Kyung left the classroom, Dosa-Mina chasing after him.
“I wonder what he was going to ask me?” Deki-Tyunri mumbled.
“Deki-Tyunri, he may be an idiot when it comes to relationships, but he’s still one of the smartest students in Class D. He’s gonna pick up on how you feel eventually.”
“Is he…?”
“I think so. You should be careful. I don’t wanna know how he’d react to knowing that. Maybe he’ll cut you some slack, though. He’s not as mean to Cahongyun as he used to be.”
La-Iin glared at Lirako before leaving the classroom.
“He is right, though. I’m just getting distracted.” Deki-Tyunri stood up from his desk. “I think the sooner I get to see your brothers, the better.”
“If that’s the case, let’s get going, then!”

—–
“What were you talking to Elyshen about?”
“I just told him to stop staring my way. It’s annoying.”
“I didn’t think you were so easily distracted by stuff like that.”
“I’m not usually. He just had me wondering…”
“About what?”
“Nothing important.”
San-Kyung grimaced. ‘That had better not be the case. Yukkini was bad enough, and La-Iin’s annoying. He may be out of the way, but I’m not dealing with a third of them!’
San-Kyung tried to put his speculation out of mind as he head home with Dosa-Mina, who began to complain about Hyungdarou’s lesson from that day.

17.472.Llanni and Sanyaow

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 472
“Llanni and Sanyaow”

The last class came to an end, and after a quick chat with Deki-Tyunri, Lirako began to pack her school supplies. In the midst of doing so, someone tapped her on the back.
“Yeek!”
“Ooh, yikes. Sorry, Sanyaow.”
“Llanni? What was that for? Did you need something?”
“I want to, like, talk to you? Away from the teenage boys.”
Lirako glanced at her classmates. Deki-Tyunri was looking away from Airy-Aekok, while Xhen-Bei and Tenha-Gumo shot looks that reflected their discomfort. San-Kyung glared at her before turning back to Dosa-Mina.
“Uh, yeah, sure. Just let me pack the rest of my school stuff.”
“Okay. We’ll talk in the Weekend Classroom, ‘kay? Oh, uh, er, not there actually. Outside work for you?”
“Yeah.”
‘Wonder what she wants to talk to me about?’ Lirako thought. ‘Maybe she wants to be friends.’
Lirako quickly packed the rest of her school supplies, then went ahead of the class and head outside to meet Airy-Aekok. By the time she made it, the crowd heading home consisted only of Class B and Class C students, though a few Class D students quickly made their way into the crowd.
“Llanni?” Lirako called. “Where are you, Llanni?”
“Over here,” she whispered, beckoning to Lirako from behind a tree. Lirako walked up to her.
“This is a weird place to have a conversation, you know. If anyone sees us or hears us, we’re gonna be the focus of a lot of attention.”
“Yeah, guess so, but can’t be any worse than what I’m gettin’ now, can it?”
“Yeah, guess so. You know, I heard a little bit about what you did. Some of those boys are friends of mine, and I’m not all that happy about what you did to them. Though I approve of you doing that to a specific two.”
“That’s not what I wanna talk about! …no, well, I guess it’s some of it. How’d you get to be so popular, Sanyaow?”
“Huh?”
“You’re, like, the most popular student in all of Class D. You’re even a little popular outside of class. How’d you do it? I bet all that popularity’s gotten a few boys gettin’ crushes on ya. So what am I doing wrong?”
“Um, tying up boys is probably the first thing you messed up,” Lirako said. “And if there are any boys who have a crush on me in Class D, I don’t know about them. As for my popularity, I think that’s just because I like to talk to people.”
“I do too! I even try and find out little things about them! I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
“How many friends have you made in the past, Llanni?”
“I dunno. …actually, now that I think about it, was there anyone I coulda called a friend back in Elementary…?”
“See, your problem is I don’t think you understand how friendships work. You also don’t understand how flirting works, it looks like. I’m not sure how to explain it to you though, because it seems like you’ll just misunderstand it.”
Airy-Aekok looked dejected. “Yeah, probably. I’m pretty stupid.”
“Hey, don’t say that. You just don’t understand it, that’s all.”
“But I thought guys really liked seeing nudie pics and swimsuit pics and stuff!” Airy-Aekok said. “I thought that was the way to get to a guy’s heart. Figure out his proclivities, then figure out the rest of him. But I can’t even do that. And Molshei probably wantsa kill me after what I did.”
“Hey, no biggie. He wants to kill everyone. Including me.”
“Yeah, but if you tried to make your way into his heart, you could probably succeed after, like, a few tries. I just don’t know what I’m doin’. Don’t misunderstand me, though. I don’t have any, like, interest in Molshei.”
“I figured.”
“Can I ask your opinion on one last thing, Sanyaow?”
“Sure.”
“If I, like, did some research on someone to figure out what they like and then tried to befriend them usin’ that, you think it would work? See, my dad’s a cop, so I’ve picked up a few cool skills from him. That’s how I knew how to tie up the boys. If I didn’t tell them I did all that research on them, you think they’d still find it creepy?”
“I dunno. Hey, wait a second. How good are you at research?”
“I can find details that’re out there. Obviously that doesn’t go for those boys’ proclivities. Why?”
“There’s actually a little something I’ve been wanting to know about a certain student.” Lirako’s excitement was building. ‘This might be the break I’ve been looking for. If I keep going after Dosa-Mina myself, he’ll just keep screwing me over. And he doesn’t have a species listed in the school roster. To find out his species, I’d have to do things I don’t want to. But if I could get Llanni to do that for me…’
“If I look into this student though, don’t you think it’d, like, ruin my chances of a friendship with them?”
“Don’t worry about it. The student I want you to look into, you already have bad chances of becoming his friend.”
Airy-Aekok sighed. “Which boy is it? And why’d you want me to do this anyway? Are ya gonna give me tips in return?”
“Well, my dear Llanni, let me explain. In our class, there’s a boy named Dslellular Dosa-Mina. Of course, you know him already.”
“Yeah?”
“Because I teased San-Kyung last year, he can’t stand me. We’ve scuffled a few times. During some of those scuffles, he’s displayed abilities atypical of a Normal.”
“So?”
“I think he’s actually a non-Normal,” she said. “But even though I’m nosy, I’m not good at finding out these sorts of things. I don’t want to stalk him home, and I wouldn’t even begin to know where to look for this sort of information. To top it all off, he registered for Malicerie under no species, which makes me even more suspicious than I already was.”
“So you want me to find out if he’s, like, lying about being a Normal? I can do that, but are you gonna help me with something in return?”
“Remember, Llanni, I’m a popular student. I wouldn’t mind putting in a good word for you. Sure, I think you’re a little crazy, but I’ve seen your true personality both through this talk and through Nemi-Hikla’s birthday party. You do have good aspects, and if you let those shine through, I’m sure people will want to make friends with you.”
“What about boys?”
Lirako scratched her head. “Weeeell, maybe some of them. Anyway, is it a deal?”
“Like, sure, why not? I guess it’s somethin’ to do, at least. And if you’re really willing to put in a good word for me, what’s finding out a species? Hey, what do you plan on doing when you figure it out?”
Lirako blinked. “I hadn’t thought that far. Maybe ask him why he hid it? Who knows. Whatever I do with the information, I want you to find it.”
“Do you think I’ll really make friends by you putting in a good word?”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. And if you’re worried about how it’ll go, I can help you out. Why don’t we become friends?”
“R-really? Oh my gosh, you’re offering to be friends with me?”
“Llanni, I’m friends with a lot of people in Class D. It’s actually not all that big.”
“It is to me!” Airy-Aekok grabbed Lirako’s paws. “Thanks, Sanyaow! I’m totally going to find that information for you now. I’ll give you all the official data you need to know it for sure.”
“Thanks, Llanni,” Lirako said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what you uncover!”
Airy-Aekok let go of Lirako’s paws. “Hey, if, like, he ends up actually being a Normal, are you still gonna put in a good word for me?”
“Sure, why not? I’ll put in a good word for you even if you can’t find what I’m looking for. Just so long as you don’t do something so crazy that I have to reconsider.”
“I won’t!” Airy-Aekok chirped.

—–
“Hey, Dad, I need a little help. Like, I know what you’ve told me about investigation and stuff like that, but could you tell me how to find a specific detail?”
“Sure, honey. What is it?”
“Let’s say someone was hiding something pretty big about them…something that’s usually obvious but not always.”
“Such as? Airy-Aekok, what is this specific thing you’re looking for?”
“Someone’s species? Like what do you do if it seems like someone’s not the species they really said they were? Have you ever had, like, a problem with that before?”
“Well, not me specifically, but I’ve heard of cases down at the station. There are a lot of records that require you to list your species. If you can find those records, finding out the species is simple. That and an observation of whether or not they can use any powers.”
“Gotcha, Dad.”
“And one more thing, Airy-Aekok–” Her father said before she could stand. “Remember, if you see someone whose species doesn’t seem to be quite right, take a look at the species who can easily disguise themselves. Many times throughout history Sirens have used their musical abilities to hide their identity and commit crimes. If you’re looking for the truth of someone’s species, all you need to do is pay close attention. The truth will come out if it needs to.”
Airy-Aekok smiled. “Thanks, Dad. You have the best advice. Now I totally think I can figure this one out.”
“Why do you want to know this, anyway? You know a lot about research. Is something going on at school? You’re not getting into trouble again, are you?”
“No, I’m just fine there, Dad! And it’s no biggie. Just a little thing I was curious about.”

23.419.Species Counter Challenge

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 419
“Species Counter Challenge”

The final class had ended for the day, and the students prepared to leave the school, starting to put away any school supplies they had out and chatting among each other once again.
“Um, students,” their last teacher said. “I know you all are probably very eager to go home–I know I am. But don’t you remember that we’re holding the Species Counter Challenge today?”
“The Species Counter Challenge!?” Dosa-Mina said, eyes wide. All nearby him could see the joy in them.
“What’s the Species Counter Challenge?” Xhen-Bei asked.
“It’s something we do after classes some years,” she explained. “Miss Hyungdarou is the current person who runs it for Class D, and she keeps a checklist of species with her, you see. The goal is to name every single one. All you have to do is call out the name of species you remember. Whoever gets the most gets a higher grade. It doesn’t affect your grade if you get none because we’re not quizzing each and every one of you because that would take too long and be too pointless. We hadn’t done it in a while, but apparently Mr. Sharai begged.”
Dosa-Mina gave a confident grin and relaxed in his chair. Lirako glared at him. “This is so unfair. Dosa-Mina’s basically a species genius when it comes to us students. He’s just gonna call them all out and not give any of us a chance!”
“We can try, though,” Deki-Tyunri said.
“He’ll probably get the most,” Lirako said. “Wait, I wonder…”
“What is it, Lirako?”
“Ah, it’s nothing important…”
“I don’t care if I don’t name any other species, I’m going to name Vampire and Animated Pumpkin before rival-boy does,” La-Iin said. “I’ll even take just Vampire. The name of my species should not cross his lips.”
“You’re taking this too seriously,” Fer-Shi said. “Let’s just try to call one out and have fun with it.”
“How are you supposed to have fun with something that affects your grade?” La-Iin asked. Fer-Shi shrugged.
“Are all the students ready?” The students heard Miss Hyungdarou ask. The last teacher nodded, waved to the students, then stepped out the classroom. A checklist in hand, Hyungdarou took her place behind the desk.
“All right, class, it’s time for the Species Counter Challenge. New students, were you briefed on what this was all about?”
“Yup!” Xhen-Bei said. Ai-Reia nodded, as did Kaersh-Cogyp and Mi-Kou. Song-Jpinne and Kim-Koou raised their hands. Shuera-Kaizima gave a gentle nod.
“Okay. Now, the only rules are, you can’t repeat a species as that won’t count anymore, don’t fight over who got the most species, and don’t fight to say a species. Remember that this can be a brutal challenge if you’re a slow thinker. Students are not going to be asked to stop suggesting species for those who haven’t gotten any. While that’s being said, if you get none, it will not affect your grade positively or negatively, so don’t worry too much about if you only name one. Now, with that out of the way, the Species Counter Challenge starts NOW!”
“Ca–” Dosa-Mina started.
“CATORI!” Lirako yelled.
“Werewolf!” Xhen-Bei yelled.
“Wi-wi-Wingyrm,” Deki-Tyunri said quietly.
“Siren.” Zae-Mia said.
“VAMPIRE!” La-Iin screamed.
“Normal!” Fer-Shi yelled.
Dosa-Mina sighed. “Animated Pumpkin. Witch–or Warlock. Bearperson. Sn–”
“Groundiser!” Yefu-Shenhao said.
“Minomix,” Kaersh-Cogyp said bitterly.
“Snowliv?” Ilhe-Anra said.
“Cicadin, Horseperson or Centaur,” Ai-Reia said.
“ANIMATED PUMPKIN!” La-Iin yelled.
“Mr. Dslellular already said that,” Miss Hyungdarou said.
“Dammit!” La-Iin muttered under her breath.
“Bunety, Lizardfoot,” San-Kyung said. Tenha-Gumo gaped.
“Narwhaltae,” he said.
“Birdmix,” Ai-Reia said.
“Llamaki!” Nemi-Hikla said.
“Skeletaltype,” Lirako said.
“FERRENIAO!” La-Iin said.
“Demon,” San-Kyung said.
“Seahorsemen, or Seahorsewomen, Goathoof–”
“Fae, or Faerie, if you like,” Ai-Reia said.
“Zebrastripe,” Dosa-Mina said, almost glaring Ai-Reia down.
“Waterlivs,” Ai-Reia said.
“Echidians, Goblelves, Seaweiss, Carroni, and Vegemix,” Dosa-Mina said confidently. “Did I get the rest, Miss Hyungdarou?”
“You only missed a few,” she said.
“I know one, Fishni, right?” Fei-Zhust said.
“Very good. The others are Darpians and Eggmians. Otherwise, we have them all,” Miss Hyungdarou said.
“Why didn’t you give us a chance to figure out Darpians and Eggmians ourselves!?” Lirako yelled.
“Darpians aren’t well-known anywhere in the world, and Eggmians are mostly exclusive to the middle east,” she said. “I didn’t expect you students to know them. But I’m very surprised, Mr. Dslellular! I hadn’t expected a student to get Echidians or Seaweiss. And I’m surprised you know the difference between Carroni and Vegemix.”
“I’ve done a lot of research,” he said.
Some students nearby him glared Dosa-Mina down as Miss Hyungdarou went over her checklist.
“Miss Cahongyun, two species. Miss Sanhuun, one species. Mr. Molshei, three species. Mr. Dslellular, eleven species. Miss Sanyaow, two species. Mr. Elyshen, one species. Miss Konkaeho, one species. Miss Fheyundaer, one species. Miss Bustaen, one species. Mr. Ferister, one species. Miss Melongie, one species. Miss Auedarna, one species. Miss Vampiris, five species. Mr. Xhephekuda, one species. Mr. Yuuldang, one species. Mr. Kerushao, Miss Shaejaein, Mr. Fyuori, Mr. Gyurkang, Miss Oulng, Miss Reusung, Mr. Pinyon, Miss Sherry and Miss Hangdul–zero species. Counting the extras, that makes for a total of thirty-three separate species. And who knows? Maybe there are more out there in the world we don’t even know about. And that’s not to mention the varieties of various species such as Birdmix, Demons, Vegemix…
“Even those of you who did not manage to name a species, I’m proud of you all. I hope you all will continue on to learn more about the species. And Mr. Dslellular, I wish you luck on your future career in species study, should you decide to pursue that.”
Dosa-Mina smiled at Miss Hyungdarou. “Thank you very much, Miss Hyungdarou.”

—–
“Sorry, Deki-Tyunri, you’ll have to go home ahead of me. I have some important business to attend to.”
“Bathroom?” He asked.
“No, something more important than that. I can’t come back to go home with you, sorry. But I’ll see you again tomorrow!”
“Alright, see you again tomorrow.”
Lirako crashed through the crowd and searched for Dosa-Mina.
‘Lots of people like to call out their own species first, it seems,’ she thought to herself. ‘Melongie called out Siren. Yuuldang called out Werewolf. Cahongyun called out Vampire. Deki-Tyunri called out Wingyrm. If my theory is correct, then his weird powers make a hell of a lot more sense than they did before. Even if I’m wrong, there’s definitely got to be something suspicious about him. What Pureblood Normal has yellow eyes!?’
“DOSA-MINA!” Lirako called.
“Uh-oh. Run, San-Kyung!” Dosa-Mina yelled. San-Kyung began to bolt off, grabbing on to Dosa-Mina’s hand to take him with him, but Lirako was faster. She caught up to the boys and pulled Dosa-Mina away and took him to behind the school before he could struggle. Once he started to, she had to let go. She could barely see him from her distance, but she could tell San-Kyung was glancing around frantically for Dosa-Mina.
“What the hell, Lirako!? What are you going after me for now? You got Catori, so be happy! I named eleven species out of thirty-three, what a big deal.”
“It’s a big deal because you named the most, even more than the Tribreed or the child prodigy,” Lirako said. Dosa-Mina glared at her and began to try and run off, but Lirako started to hold him back. She buckled slightly under his strength, but managed to hold her own.
“I notice a lot of people early on called out their own species, including me,” Lirako said. “Deki-Tyunri called out Wingyrm and Melongie Siren. Animated Pumpkin I might be able to pass as you just calling out your friend’s species, but Warlock made me a little suspicious. I know Warlocks can do a lot of kooky things with their powers, so I wanna know. You look like a Normal, but that strength is abnormal. Hey, you did say Bearperson after Warlock….happen to be a Dualbreed, Dosa-Mina?”
Dosa-Mina tossed her over and Lirako went tumbling into nearby bushes. “I am a Pureblood Normal, Lirako. No matter what you say, nothing will change that fact. If you don’t believe me, that’s your own fault.”
Lirako noticed that Dosa-Mina’s eyes were wide open. While he looked angry, she felt she could see fear in his eyes.
“I don’t buy it. Maybe not all of us are species studiers like you, but I don’t think any Pureblood Normal has yellow eyes. But I know both Warlocks and Bearpeople can have yellow eyes. So what’s the deal? Sure you aren’t distanced?”
“One-hundred-percent. Do you see any fur? I didn’t think so. I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish from this, but stop it.”
“I might be more inclined to believe you if you weren’t so adamant about being a Pureblood Normal,” Lirako said. “I’ll find out the truth somehow, Dosa-Mina. Lying about your true species is ridiculous.”
“…” Dosa-Mina looked away from her. “Believe what you will, but don’t spread any rumors.”
He jumped away from her. Lirako noticed he went much higher than a Normal usually could go. “He yells at me about how much of a Pureblood Normal he is, and then he does that. How stupid.”

19.415.Rini-Futo’s Truth

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 415
“Rini-Futo’s Truth”

Break time had arrived, and Nemi-Hikla glanced around the class before giving her claw polish an update. She could see that some students were already starting to sniff the air–Xhen-Bei made it obvious enough that the students around him asked what he was doing.
While putting the finishing touches on, she was startled by a student walking up to her desk. Rini-Futo was staring up at her wide-eyed.
“You–you’re not going to tell on me, are you?”
“No.”
Nemi-Hikla sighed. “Alright, good. Did you need something from me, Shaejaein?”
“I wanted to ask you for advice…”
“On what? Math class? You’re pretty good at math already, Shaejaein.”
“No, not on math class…” She said quietly. “Um, I wanted to know if, well…do you know how to tell someone that you like them?”
“Just tell them?” Rini-Futo opened her mouth in rebuttal, but Nemi-Hikla quickly realized what she was trying to say.
“What the–!? Why do you want to know that, Shaejaein!? You’re only ten! Savor the time you have before teenage crushes for as long as possible!”
“Cahongyun has a crush on someone already and she’s only seven,” Rini-Futo said, pouting. Nemi-Hikla was thoroughly surprised as she continued on. “I just really want to say something…I know he won’t like it, but…”
“Don’t tell me you’ve got the hots for San-Kyung too,” she sighed. Rini-Futo’s eyes widened in horror and she shook her head.
“No! Who I like is a lot nicer…a-and he gets really happy when someone cares about what he does…and it’s so easy to touch his heart…”
“Iiii have no idea who you’re talking about. Mind giving me an actual name to work with?”
“I can’t!” She said. “You’ll have to guess. If everyone else finds out I just know they’ll laugh at me.”
‘Geez, what happened to that shy little girl I knew?’ Rini-Futo was still obviously feeling shy about the whole ordeal, but her determination to confess was obvious to Nemi-Hikla.
“Alright, let’s see…Dslellular, maybe? He likes it when someone asks him about species study, I’ve seen…I bet that would touch his heart too, so that’s easy…”
Rini-Futo shook her head. “Huh? Not him? Okay….Yuuldang? He’s easy to make happy, so his heart might be easy to touch….but I don’t know what he’d do that people would care all that much about…”
Rini-Futo shook her head. Nemi-Hikla sighed. “You know, you’re only giving me a little bit to work off of, and break time’s almost over. You might have to save this for the next–”
“Just guess.”
Nemi-Hikla started to wrack her brain. ‘She’s not going to leave me alone until I get this right, is she….’
“Song-Jpinne? He fits your criteria, maybe. I don’t really know.”
She shook her head. ‘I guess I’m just going to have to give a shot in the dark….I think she probably knows more about this boy than I do.’
“Gyurkang?”
She shook her head.
“Xhephekuda?”
She shook her head.
Nemi-Hikla groaned. “Fyuori?”
She shook her head.
“Kerushao? Don’t tell me it’s him. He’s a taken man, Shaejaein.”
“No, it’s not any of them,” she sighed. “I barely know some of those boys you mentioned…”
“Don’t tell me it’s someone from another class. Then I definitely can’t help you.”
“No, it’s someone from Class D. And he’s always here, without fail, except for when he gets in trouble…”
Nemi-Hikla gave another groan. Just then, Theasis walked into the classroom. Rini-Futo panicked and head back to her desk.
‘He’s happy whenever people care about what he does. It’s easy to touch his heart. And except when he gets in trouble, he’s always here, without fail…..’

***

When it had clicked in Nemi-Hikla’s head who Rini-Futo might be talking about, she was horrified.
After the students had moved to their secondary classroom, Rini-Futo walked up to Nemi-Hikla’s desk again, staring up at her still with wide, but determined, eyes.
“Di–did you figure it out? Can you help me?”
“Shaejaein…don’t tell me you…”
“Huh?”
“You’ve seriously got a crush on Mr. Chensu?”
Rini-Futo’s face turned a dark red and she backed away from Nemi-Hikla’s desk. Nemi-Hikla gave a tiny shriek.
“Oh my God! I was kidding, a little!”
“Who has a crush on Mr. Chensu?” Gen-Reiya asked. Rini-Futo tried to run back to her desk, but Gen-Reiya noticed her attitude before she could make it away.
“What!?”
“I was just kidding! Okay, well, maybe only a little bit, but–”
Rini-Futo made it back to her desk, embarrassment overtaking all her other emotions as the class erupted with discussion about her. It wasn’t long before many students were shrieking about the idea of one of their own having a crush on Mr. Chensu.
And hearing all that talk only made her feel worse.
When Hyungdarou walked into the classroom, she stared at the students with surprise in her eyes. “Normally you all are very quiet before biology, or at least, quiet for you all. Must I shout “shut up” as Mr. Chensu does?”
“Funny that you’d bring up Mr. Chensu, Miss Hyungdarou,” Lirako giggled.
“Why? Did something happen to him during class?” She blinked. “No, that couldn’t be it. I’d have heard of it already….now quiet, all of you. Today we’ll be focusing on the livers of the species and the ways they work.”
“Liver?” Dosa-Mina said, then gave a quiet groan.
As Hyungdarou began to give her lesson on livers, Rini-Futo could still hear some students talking about the subject. Lirako in particular giggled constantly throughout biology, to the point where Hyungdarou stopped her lesson to talk to her.
“Miss Sanyaow, is it my lesson that you find so funny, or is it whatever’s making you laugh so hard about Mr. Chensu? Whichever it is, I’d appreciate it if you’d stop it now.”
“I’m sorry,” she wheezed. “Just…someone having a crush on Mr. Chensu…that’s a riot!
“Hm?” Rini-Futo froze. “Is that all you find so interesting? That’s ridiculous. …I admit my curiosity is piqued in this regard but we’re having class right now. Save your giggles for later.’
Rini-Futo gently laid her face on her desk. She was ready for this school day to be done.

“I’m so sorry, Shaejaein,” Nemi-Hikla said as Rini-Futo passed by her desk. “I should have known what would happen. I just–”
“Don’t talk to me,” she snapped. Nemi-Hikla flinched and bowed her head. As Rini-Futo passed by Lirako’s desk, she glared at her. Lirako stifled a giggle.
Of all her family, and even among her fellow students, Rini-Futo had always felt she was much slower to anger than most other people she knew. Even in the midst of an infuriating situation, she found she managed to stay calm throughout most of it. And she had been expecting, once the class found out the truth, to simply be embarrassed and hide herself away from them.
But instead she was furious, particularly at Nemi-Hikla but even moreso with Lirako. Her wings twitched in agitation at the thought of the two teenage girls, and remembering Nemi-Hikla’s apology didn’t make her feel any better–in fact, it made her more angry at her.
As she head to the restroom, she picked up on some nearby voices.
“Apparently the students were laughing because someone has a crush on Mr. Chensu,” she heard Hyungdarou said.
“It must be one of the students….wait a second…”
“What is it, Miss Theasis?”
“I think Miss Shaejaein has a crush on Mr. Chensu…I remember talking with her parents once and they believed that Mr. Chensu had illicit feelings towards her, but the way they described how she acted about him, I was certain it was that she had feelings for him…”
Rini-Futo cringed. ‘So even the teachers know.’ She head off to the restroom. ‘I don’t even know why I wanted to tell him in the first place. He’d never say okay….’

Classes ended for the day, and Rini-Futo watched students leave, listening out for anyone who might be talking about her crush. La-Iin and Fer-Shi were conversing as they left, but they were talking about powers from what she could hear. Shan-Zetsu left on his own, whistling. Yefu-Shenhao waved to her and then left with Fei-Zhust.
The younger students didn’t seem to mind as much, but the older students she could hear talking about her–particularly Lirako, whose voice drowned out all others and who went on about it the longest. The students nearby stifled giggles, but none of them seemed as intrigued as Lirako herself did.
As they mingled with students from other classes on their way out, Rini-Futo spotted Mr. Chensu walking out the faculty room. She gasped and tried to hide in the crowd.
“I know, I know, I keep going on about it. I’ll stop. But you know, there are just some people you don’t expect people to get crushes on, ever. Mr. Chensu is one of them. I mean, I can see him getting crushes on ladies, but vice-versa? How weird!”
“What are you talking about, Miss Sanyaow?”
Lirako grinned. “Oh, Mr. Chensu! Heard your name and crush in the same sentence?”
“I heard my name,” he said. Lirako’s grin widened. “How conceited.”
“Wh-what were you talking about?”
“I’d better stop talking about it. Everyone else is getting irritated with me. You might have luck asking someone else, though! See ya!”
“What was that all about?” Mr. Chensu said quietly. As Rini-Futo walked on with the crowd, she was tempted to just keep going. But at the same time, the idea of letting Mr. Chensu get his hopes up upset her. She didn’t think it would be fair to keep him in the dark.
“Um, Mr. Chensu?”
“Hm? Miss Shaejaein, is that you?”
She stepped out the crowd. “Um….can I talk to you in private?”
“Uh, sure,” he said. Rini-Futo nodded and walked off with Mr. Chensu. Once she was sure no students or faculty were nearby, she took a deep breath.
“You heard Sanyaow talking abou…about someone having a crush on you…didn’t you?”
“How did you know? Was it that obvious?” He sighed. “I was just curious, that’s all…”
“Um, well…I’m sorry, the answer is kind of disappointing…”
“Huh?” A look of realization dawned on his face. “Oh. Well, that’s not actually all that surprising–”
‘Did he figure it out or is he making assumptions?’ To be safe, Rini-Futo decided to carry on with her original plan. She sucked in a breath, then said,
“It’s me, Mr. Chensu! I’m the one who has a crush on you!”
Mr. Chensu’s eyes widened, and Rini-Futo felt that same embarrassment spread across her once again. “I…I’m sorry…”
Mr. Chensu was silent for a long while before saying, “…um, thank you, Miss Shaejaein, I’m flattered, but…”
“I know,” she said.
“Well, that’s obvious….I see you as just a student, and besides, you’re a lot younger than me. So…”
“I wish I was as old as you,” she said. “Then maybe…”
“Don’t worry so much about it, Miss Shaejaein,” Mr. Chensu said, patting her on the head. “I’m sure it’ll hurt for now. I know what it feels like to be rejected, trust me….but you have your whole life ahead of you. Someday you’ll find someone nice who’s in your age range.”
“If only I was closer to nineteen,” she sighed. “Then maybe…”
“Even if you were, I’d still have to say no, Miss Shaejaein,” he said. “I can’t see you that way. You’re my student!”
Rini-Futo looked away from him.
“…I’m sorry too,” he said. “But I really think you’ll be better off this way. You are a nice girl. There’s got to be someone out there who will like you back…and who’s closer in age to you. But you should get home for now. Really, there’s nothing else I can say to you…”
“Okay,” she sniffled. “…sorry, Mr. Chensu.”
“It’s alright. Go on, go home now.”
Rini-Futo nodded and began to fly off, picking up speed gradually. She wanted to be out of Mr. Chensu’s sight as soon as possible.

—–
“Poor Mr. Chensu. First person who gets a crush on him, and it’s a little girl…”