3.641.Truth of the Matter

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 641
“Truth of the Matter”

“Mr. and Mrs. Molshei. I’m so glad you two actually came.”
“Of course we did! You said it had to do with San-Kyung.” Del-Kyuus said.
San-Kyung glared. The woman who had summoned his mother and father was the Principal of his school. He knew for a fact that she didn’t like him, and he felt likewise. The kind smile she put on around the other children was gone around him.
“Yes, it does. I’m sure the little hellion understands why you have been summoned here as well.”
“Why? Did San-Kyung do something wrong? We know he’s a little antisocial, but I can’t imagine him hurting anyone. We’ve raised him not to.”
“San-Kyung would probably be considered a model student if it weren’t for his attitude,” the Principal hissed. “Certainly, he has better grades than the rest of the mindless morons who come to this school.”
“How could you say that about children!?” Del-Kyuus sounded dumbfounded.
“But if you were to see the utter lack of respect he has for other people, his classmates, teachers and the faculty of our school, I am certain you’d be treating him just as I am now. With this sort of lack of respect I wouldn’t be surprised if he grows up to become a serial killer.”
Salsh-Era looked furious.
“Teach this child to act better! In kindergarten it’s one thing for a child to be a hellion. Once he’s in Elementary, I take it as a sign that terror is in his future! So you’d best do what can be done now before it gets out of hand.”

“I can’t believe that Principal! Saying such things about San-Kyung!”
“Yeah, what a crook! Maybe we should say something about her. I don’t want San-Kyung to be miserable at Muer Elementary. He just started here!”
He glanced down at his son. “San-Kyung, are you okay? I’m sorry that Principal said those things about you.”
“I don’t care. I knew she was a jerk. She’s just like all people.”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus gave each other worried looks. “She only shows me what I already knew. So I don’t care. I don’t like the other kids, but she’s definitely the worst. They’re just stupid. She thinks I’m a soshyo…so…um….she thinks I’m one of those people but I think she would be a serial killer before me.”
“Well, she definitely has worse morals than you, that’s for sure,” Salsh-Era said. “Talking that way about a little kid. Where does that get her?”
San-Kyung huffed and walked a short distance ahead of his parents. Once he did, Del-Kyuus drew closer to Salsh-Era.
“I’m still worried about San-Kyung,” Del-Kyuus said. “I don’t understand why he hates other people so much. I don’t think he’d become a serial killer or anything wicked like that crook of a Principal said, but why hasn’t he opened up to anyone else yet?”
“I don’t know, but people like her are just going to make him a misanthropist. There has to be something we can do. I just wish I knew when this all started. It’d make things a lot easier, that’s for sure…”

***

“San-Kyung, would you like to go to the park?”
“Park?”
“It’s a place where there are a lot of fun fixtures to play on,” Salsh-Era said. “We’ll show you! The park is just up ahead.”
The two started to levitate, San-Kyung in tow, over to the park. They landed and began to show him around the fixtures.
“This you can climb on!”
“And over here, this is a slide! Let me show you how to use it!”
San-Kyung was a little overwhelmed by all the information they were giving him at once, especially since they both seemed to want to gravitate him towards a different fixture. But it was fun nonetheless, especially when they levitated him.
After a while they stopped and sat down on a nearby bench.
“You were right, Kyuusie. Day travel can be pretty fun.”
“See? And we didn’t even need to use a car. We have our feet and our levitation!”
Del-Kyuus reached for her bag and pulled out some drinks. “I can’t believe San-Kyung’s going to start kindergarten soon,” Del-Kyuus sighed. “Where does the time go?”
“By too fast,” Salsh-Era said, a chuckle in his tone.
The Molsheis were not the only family at the park that day. Other people had come to play with their children, and some parents sat down on benches just as they did. One such parent was an Animated Pumpkin.
“Ah, it’s so nice to see other Animated Pumpkins,” she said. “It feels like Bledger is sorely lacking in them.”
“There are plenty of other Animated Pumpkins if you just look around,” Del-Kyuus said, hoping that she was right and the comment was directed to her and her husband.
“And species isn’t everything!” Salsh-Era said.
“Hm.” The woman didn’t seem to agree, but she didn’t talk again–at least, not until her eyes fell on San-Kyung.
“It’s all gone.”
“Alright, then. Wow, you must have been thirsty! There was a lot in there!”
“Your child’s Aesthetically Normal?”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus turned her way. “Yes…?”
“But why? Don’t you know the prime time for mating?”
“Hey, you can’t ask those sorts of things!” Salsh-Era said, sounding flustered. Beside him, Del-Kyuus squeaked “It’s none of your business!”
“No wonder you don’t think species matters,” she sighed. “You didn’t even care enough to let your child be born a normal Animated Pumpkin.”
“That has nothing to do with this,” Salsh-Era said. “And even if you get pregnant at the right time, there’s no guarantee your baby will be born on time. So please, let’s not talk about this anymore. …and by the way, I only said species isn’t everything.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he grows to resent you,” she huffed. “I’ve read up on what happens to Aesthetically Normals in November. Animated Pumpkins just aren’t meant to be Aesthetically Normal. It’s a birth defect in my eyes.” And with that statement, the woman walked over to another bench further away from the three.
“What a rude woman!” Del-Kyuus huffed.
“No kidding. She didn’t have to be so mean…San-Kyung, you don’t resent us for you being Aesthetically Normal, right?”
“Resent?”
Salsh-Era sighed. “We’ll talk to you about it later. Let’s just try and enjoy the rest of the day for now, okay?”

“Mom, Dad?”
“Yes, San-Kyung?” Del-Kyuus said.
“If you have something to say, can you make it quick? I’ve got to get to work soon!”
San-Kyung nodded. “Did you say people are suppose to be nice?”
“That’s what we believe!” Del-Kyuus said. “People should all try to be nice to other people.”
“Hm. Well, why didn’t that lady who was our same species be nice to us?”
“You still remember her?” Salsh-Era said. “Well, San-Kyung, people are supposed to be nice, but that doesn’t stop some people.”
“Yes. Some people just won’t be nice no matter how hard you try. But some have it in them to change, so that’s why you should be nice to people yourself.”
“Hmph!”
“Is something wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m gonna go play now.”
“Alright! If you want, I can join you!”
His parent’s words had San-Kyung thinking. The Animated Pumpkin woman had seemed nice, at least until she saw him. Was it possible other people were like that, that they would seem nice at first but then start acting that way?
How could he tell the difference between people who were genuine and people who weren’t?

“San-Kyung, don’t you want to play with any of the other kids?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“I just don’t.”
“I really can’t tell if he’s just shy or if he’s antisocial,” Del-Kyuus said. “But why does he act like this?”
“He’s been resistent to people ever since he was a baby. Maybe he has some sort of early-onset social anxiety. …well, I’m no doctor. Maybe we should talk to someone about him.”
“He should make some friends of his own. He can’t rely on us forever.”
San-Kyung shot a glance at the children playing. He was new to Shadiruck Kindergarten. The faculty at Shadiruck had, apparently, become concerned about him because of his resistance to the other children and adults.
“Children do this sometimes,” one of the faculty had explained to Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus. “They’re used to being around their parents and being taken away from them makes them upset. Usually it clears up soon enough, but we’re a little concerned that San-Kyung might be slightly dependent on you two. So what we want to do is have you two come here and watch him. First come here for the whole Kindergarten day, then leave after some time, increasing how long you’re gone gradually. Hopefully this will get him used to you being gone and he’ll open up to the other people here.”
“I have work, though,” Salsh-Era had told them.
“I can watch him. And aren’t they giving you Wednesdays and Thursdays off?”
“I guess that’s true. Though I’d really love it if they moved me back to the Weekends-off schedule,” he sighed. “So I can only come certain days.”
Since then his parents had started staying with him at Shadiruck. Most of the time it was only Del-Kyuus, but as today was a Thursday, Salsh-Era was there too, and they watched him during play-time.
‘They don’t get it,’ he thought. ‘I don’t like the other kids!’
It wasn’t just a matter of him being nervous about whether or not they would be nice to him. He genuinely didn’t care for the other children and the way they acted. They annoyed him, and it didn’t seem like it mattered much to them that he kept away from them, anyway. They seemed perfectly happy to play without him, and that only convinced him more.
“After all these weeks and he’s still not opening up to the other kids,” Salsh-Era said.
“Pardon my intrusion, but…”
Salsh-Era, Del-Kyuus and San-Kyung turned around. A Snowliv woman had approached them.
“Something about your son has been bothering me. Namely, his behavior…”
“We’re sorry about that. We really don’t know why San-Kyung doesn’t like playing with the other children.”
“But we’re not going to force him,” Salsh-Era said. “Forced kindness can hurt a lot more than harsh words.”
San-Kyung blinked.
“I see.” The woman’s gaze suddenly became cold. “Well, I understand that children are individuals, but I also understand that parents play a big role in the shaping of their children. And parents don’t always make the right choices.”
“What are you saying?”
“I highly doubt little San-Kyung’s resistance to playing with other children has anything to do with his nature,” she said, her tone cool. “Giving your child love is fine and all. Of course a child should be given love by his parents, otherwise he ends up deranged. But smothering him isn’t good either. And he should have exposure to other people. Haven’t you let him meet his relatives?”
“We did, although we haven’t let him talk to one of them recently,” Salsh-Era admitted. “One of his distant relatives is a little iffy about him being Aesthetically Normal.”
Noticing the chilly gaze in the Snowliv woman’s eyes, San-Kyung opened the small door to the playground, closed it and stood behind his father.
“That reminds me. Aesthetically Normals. There’s nothing wrong with them. No species should be discriminated against, but you should understand statistics.”
“Huh?”
“Aesthetically Normals do not have a natural body set-up for handling the October power surge. As such, their body changes approximately on Halloween. The change can affect the brain as well. It’s a lot of power for someone who doesn’t usually have it to acquire, and it can mess with the mind. The effect can be profound on a child his age, so they need to be watched closely. …if you want me to be blunt, I don’t think you two are very good parents.”
“Why not?”
“A child cannot subsist on love alone! If you truly love your child, you’ll prepare him for the path he’s meant to take instead of just smothering him with love. And Aesthetically Normals aren’t often the product of an early or late baby. I’ve looked at his files. His birthday is not in September nor November. This was solely you either wanting a baby that badly or being so lustful as to not consider what you might bring into the world.”
“I–”
“Shut up!”
San-Kyung was so furious that he had bit down onto his hand to keep himself from screaming at the woman, but he just couldn’t hold himself back anymore. His hand alight, he approached the woman, who began to scream.
“F-fire! Get it away from me!”
San-Kyung smirked. He continued to walk closer to her until she ran into the building. Once she was gone, Salsh-Era picked him up.
“San-Kyung!! You can’t threaten people like that! I can’t believe this. Your first time using your hand fire, and it’s for something like that…”
Salsh-Era sounded choked up. San-Kyung began to hit at the fire to try and get it to go out.
“San-Kyung, what you did was wrong!”
“And what that woman said was wrong,” Salsh-Era said. “We don’t just smother him. I know we don’t…”
“Let’s not worry about that for now, Salsh-Era,” Del-Kyuus said. “We can bring it up with Shadiruck later.”
“Yeah…”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. That woman was more proof than he’d ever need. Watching people, he had already assumed that his feelings of hatred towards them were perfectly reasonable.
Now, he had proof that was the case.

***

“San-Kyung, what are you looking at?”
“A libary book,” he said. “When me and Mom were out, we heard a guy talking about Hell. I wanted to know more about it.”
“Why?”
“Just ’cause.”
“Well, I never believed in Hell, personally, but you’re welcome to look into it. But do you mind if I read with you? You know, just in case. Some things in there might be too mature for you.”
San-Kyung shrugged. He let Salsh-Era join him, and together the two continued to read the Cathien book.

—–
“I have something to say.”
“Yes, San-Kyung?”
“I know you two are good, and you want me to be good, too. But I just can’t do that!”
“H…huh? What do you mean, San-Kyung?”
“People and the world mean nothing to me. Except for you two. And if hating all that makes me evil, then that’s what I am. I’m not going to be a two-faced jerk like everyone else. I’m just going to be evil!”
His parents looked dumbfounded; Del-Kyuus was making confused squeaks as if she couldn’t believe what she had heard. But San-Kyung felt satisfied.
Through this, he was better than other people in one way.

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1.639.Hope and Despair

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 639
“Hope and Despair”

3.
2.
1.

“It’s here again,” San-Kyung breathed, staring at the calendar. “October…”
‘It’s here again, and yet you still don’t have your true form permanently.’
San-Kyung pushed the thought away. As much as that fact hurt him, another fact was that it was October right now. The beginning of October, and from now until its end there was nothing to worry about in terms of powers.
“Excited, San-Kyung?” Salsh-Era asked.
“That’s a stupid question to ask.”
Salsh-Era smiled. “Maybe so. But I just wanted to make sure. I noticed you haven’t had the happiest of years. I’m glad to see you happier again.”
“…”
“But you really should get some rest. This isn’t one of the October firsts you can get away with staying up all night. It’s a school day tomorrow.”
“I know. Fine, I’ll go to bed.”
‘Guess I should call Dosa-Mina,’ he thought to himself. ‘I just hope he’s willing to talk to me.’
Dosa-Mina had opened up to San-Kyung in recent days, but it was still obvious that he wasn’t happy. His grades were still suffering, his parents seemed constantly concerned and San-Kyung couldn’t remember a recent school day in which his head wasn’t bowed upon entering the school.
But perhaps October would be different. October always cheered San-Kyung up. Perhaps it could do something for Dosa-Mina’s mood as well. He only hoped that something would give, because seeing Dosa-Mina the way he was bothered him greatly.
“Hey, if you want to borrow the CD player, it’s in our bedroom. After you asked us to pull it out, you got Kyuusie wanting to listen to some music, and she bought a new CD and listened to it all day.”
It was one thing that had slipped San-Kyung’s mind, the CD that Dosa-Mina had given him last Friday. With that there was no need for San-Kyung to call Dosa-Mina. The CD altogether was enough to give him eight hours of sleep, assuming he didn’t skip any of its tracks.
San-Kyung felt dejected. It was possible that October could turn things around for Dosa-Mina. But if it didn’t, would he just bring him down with him?

***

Getting up to go to school had been difficult for Dosa-Mina.
He knew he couldn’t pretend to be sick forever. It would only seem suspicious, though he had a feeling nobody who understood the situation would begrudge him for it.
But seeing his cuts disgusted him more in recent weeks than they had in the past. Now that his parents knew about them, he felt both an increased eagerness to cut and an increased disgust about his scars. When the urge to cut came on in the past, it was because of his nightmares. This was the first time he could remember that something else had caused the urge.
So getting dressed was a pain.
When he left his bedroom, it was always obvious that his parents were worried about him. They always kept a close eye on him, and he was quick to notice when their eyes focused on his arms.
So leaving the house was a pain.
And then, when he finally left, he was only reminded of what was to come. Lirako hadn’t bothered him since she revealed his species to the school–and even if she had been, after San-Kyung’s win in the race, she had been moved to a different seat and teachers kept a close eye on her. But it still hurt to recall what had happened. Even so, on occasion he could overhear students talking about him, wondering what he really looked like or why he was still coming to school in Normal form–and why he had hid it in the first place. He was still scrambling for an excuse with that one.
So even going to school was a pain.
It was affecting the rest of his life now too. The urge to cut hadn’t come up much in recent days, but cutting was the last thing he could remember bringing him any relief. Species study didn’t make him happy. His parents didn’t make him happy. Feather soup didn’t make him happy. Nothing made him happy, not even San-Kyung.
He was thoroughly miserable with no idea of how to overcome it.
Ahead of him on the path was San-Kyung. Dosa-Mina started to walk faster to catch up with him. San-Kyung seemed slightly startled when he stopped next to him.
“Hi,” Dosa-Mina said.
“Hey.”
“So, it’s October now, huh?”
“Yeah.”
“Did the CD work well?”
San-Kyung nodded.
“That’s good.”
“How are you?”
“Well, I’m alive.”
“Hm.”
“How about you? It’s October. You should smile a little. This is your favorite month.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“Maybe when you can start levitating we should fly around over Bledger.”
“Yeah, that sounds fine.”
This was Dosa-Mina’s biggest problem. San-Kyung was obviously unhappy as well. It made sense why. But he couldn’t bear to see it. Always, one of his biggest priorities was seeing San-Kyung happy. As long as he had that, it didn’t really matter if he wasn’t happy. Not many things made San-Kyung genuinely happy, and for as much as suicide had crossed his mind recently he didn’t want San-Kyung to kill himself as he did in his nightmares.
But he couldn’t think of a way to cheer up right now, and he knew that if he started faking it San-Kyung would be able to tell. But he would have thought that October would make him at least slightly happier.
So why did he still seem upset?

***

School was uneventful that day. Lirako stayed away, as she was requested to, students talked with their friends, mostly about mundane topics, although both boys noticed talk of Dosa-Mina’s species come up. The most abnormal thing was that La-Iin’s strange behavior from yesterday had continued into the next day.
“Seriously, what’s wrong with her!?” San-Kyung exclaimed after she flew past his face.
Other than that, school ended without incident, and they head home along the path together. Dosa-Mina was somewhat surprised when San-Kyung continued following him on the way to his house.
“So, you’re coming over?”
“I didn’t notice.”
“Hm.”
‘Should I ask him about that?’ Dosa-Mina wondered. ‘I mean, I guess it couldn’t hurt…’
“Hey, San-Kyung….October started today. I understand that it seems like we won’t make any headway in Operation Reboot before November arrives, but it still seems like there’s a chance what you want is possible. And anyway, other years you tried to forget that. What’s different about this year?”
“I am excited for October,” San-Kyung said simply. “But…I can’t be completely.”
“Why not?”
San-Kyung sighed. “I’m stressed out.”
Dosa-Mina cringed. “It’s not my fault, is it?”
“It isn’t. …not exactly, anyway.”
“Then it is my fault.”
“No, it isn’t. I have plenty of people I could blame. You’re not one of them.”
“Well, tell me what’s wrong, then!”
San-Kyung was silent.
“Please? You’re only going to make things worse for me now that you’ve said something.”
“I’ve been thinking about my priorities,” he said, an edge to his tone. “What I found out I can’t stand. It’s pissing me off. I keep imagining La-Iin, saying I’m an evil failure and that I’m weak. I can’t stand it!”
He sighed. “At this rate Halloween will be underwhelming, and it’ll only be because I might just be an evil failure.”
“Why would you say that?”
Dosa-Mina felt on edge. What San-Kyung was saying was just making all his nightmares replay in his head. Except it wasn’t suppressing his evil this time, it was failing at it in the first place.
“I guess I just don’t have the temperament for it.”
“Yes you do. I’m sure of it.”
San-Kyung shook his head. “I’m just confused. That’s all. I want to be excited. I am, I still am, but…it’s just harder to keep it up this year.”
“San-Kyung…”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ve told you enough. Now you should understand. My priorities are in the wrong place. They’re detrimental to what I want. But no matter what I do, I don’t know how to change it or to turn it into an advantage. And I just know La-Iin would call that a failing. Maybe it would be better if I acted this way in front of her. Then she might get rid of that kiddy crush she has on me and leave me alone.”
San-Kyung turned away. “I’m going home. If you need to talk, just call.”
Dosa-Mina wasn’t sure of what to say. ‘This is my fault. I can feel it. But what does he mean by his priorities are in the wrong place? I seriously doubt San-Kyung would find out he has good morals, so what’s the problem?
‘It’s not me, is it?’

—–
Late that night, just as he was about to turn on the CD, San-Kyung’s phone rang.
“Hi.”
“Hey.”
“I know this is kind of random, but would you like to study together sometime soon or something like that? We could use some sort of interaction that’s not depressing like this, and my grades have been getting pretty bad, heh heh.”
“If you want to.”
“Okay. …I’m going to try and cheer up too, alright, San-Kyung? So just as you said I can talk to you if anything’s wrong, I want you to know you can do the same.”
“…alright.”
“Cheer up, okay? A maudlin San-Kyung is just weird! The San-Kyung I know has more confidence than this. And the sooner I can see him again, the sooner I’ll cheer up too. I’m sure of that.”
“Really?”
“Yup, really. There’s no lie there. Oops, I should probably get to bed. I think Mom’s still up and she’ll be mad if I’m too tired for school tomorrow. Or maybe she won’t be, but anyway, I should get some sleep. Good night, San-Kyung!”
“Night.”
‘I wonder if that would really cheer him up,’ San-Kyung found himself wondering. ‘But even if it would, can I really make myself act like that right now?’
Knowing what he now knew, San-Kyung felt pathetic. But because of that he also knew that Dosa-Mina was high priority. Perhaps then he could find it in him to get a little more excited than he was.
How easy that would be, however, was something he didn’t know the answer to.

27.635.The Extent of His Trauma

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 635
“The Extent of His Trauma”

“You rung, Baal-Mist? It feels like it’s been a while since we all met.”
Baal-Mist didn’t respond.
“He’s been like this ever since we got here. Ciuthia has been trying to get through to him for about an hour now.”
“Seriously, an hour?”
Ciuthia nodded.
“Baal-Mist, everyone would like to know why we were summoned. We cannot help you if we do not know the reason why.”
“Something tells me it isn’t good. Look at the expression on his face.”
“Dude. Baal-Mist always looks angry. It’s how his face–”
Baal-Mist slammed a fist on the table. Everyone flinched.
“I’m sorry, Ciuthia. I was trying to think of the best way to phrase what I want to say.”
“It is no problem, Baal-Mist. I can exercise patience. …and I have told you that Ire-Salin is fine to call me.”
Baal-Mist sighed and shook his head. “I called you all here today for ideas. I haven’t picked up anything of worth on the bug and I have no good ideas for facing off against him. Sale-Dessu is a necessity in my eyes, and his child is a mystery I want to unravel. The problem is what to do. I’ve been stumped for ideas and every time one comes to mind it seems like it won’t work.”
“We’re three more people strong than him and his child. Astineth or not, we should be able to take him on. And you are a powerful Warlock, Baal-Mist.”
“I think you’re underestimating the Astineth’s ability, Haudon.”
“I believe you are underestimating your own ability, Baal-Mist.”
“Don’t try and make me feel better, Ciuthia. It won’t work.”
“I understand you take this seriously, Baal-Mist, but are you sure you don’t want to take a break for a little?”
The others in the room stiffened. The expression on Baal-Mist’s face had become furious. “You can’t just keep focusing on this old lady forever. She’s an old lady, she’ll be dead soon enough. You’re making yourself unhappy by devoting every day of your life to her and her grandson.”
“I don’t think you should have said that…”
“You obviously don’t understand my situation, then,” Baal-Mist said under his breath. It was evident that he was furious. “Do you know how long I’ve been focusing on this? Are you asking me to just drop it because I’ll stress myself out? Do you know how I’ll feel otherwise?”
“Er, sorry I said anything!”
“I do not believe you sheould stop your life goal, Baal-Mist, but perhaps Liunshess has his point.”
“Um, Ciuthia? It’s Liunshe…”
“You will stress yourself out to be thinking on it constantly. Conversely, if you believe that it will only harm your mentality further to stop focusing on it even for a brief period of time, then I will find a way to speed the progress of our operations. Whatever suits you best, Baal-Mist.”
Baal-Mist sighed and his expression eased. “You always were the most loyal to this project, Ciuthia. Thank you.”
“I take great pleasure in assisting you, Baal-Mist,” Ire-Salin said, cracking a smile.
“Ha. I wasn’t asking for people to judge how I live my life. I’m a Warlock. I don’t have less than a hundred years to live, assuming I’m cautious, and moreso than just a hundred and five years in total. Far more than that. I have plenty of time to devote to this cause. I’m asking for ideas to make some significant progress, and if none of you have any that will bring this meeting to an end.”
“Well, um…how about instead of focusing so much on this Sale-Dessu kid, you just go straight for the prize?”
“That won’t work. It’s imperative that Sale-Dessu is involved in this somehow.”
“I honestly don’t understand why. You went years not knowing that any of her relatives were alive.”
“I know. And now that I know otherwise, my plans won’t work without that.”
“Maybe we can pull a surprise attack on them when he next stops by Eir-Tyuj’s house!”
Baal-Mist looked intrigued. “Good idea, Haudon. Although it would be difficult to ascertain when he next visits, and Eir-Tyuj’s house is high security….though I might be able to do something about that.”
“Well, I’m glad you have an idea, but I really don’t think you should obsess so much about it. You’re gonna make yourself go crazy.”
Baal-Mist’s expression contorted again. The others in the room sat still as Baal-Mist stood up from his seat, his eyes wild.
“You don’t understand this, then! The more I think on it, the closer I am to making a breakthrough. The sooner I make a breakthrough, the sooner I can enjoy life. And I’m certain now, I’m certain I can do it. So why don’t you focus on your own life instead of trying to interfere with mine!?”
“…we’re friends, Baal-Mist. I’m just concerned…you weren’t this obsessive before we saw Sale-Dessu…”
“Because with Sale-Dessu and his child in the picture, circumstances have changed.” Baal-Mist sat back down in his chair. “And right now, we are not friends, we are working together in this. But I have a nugget of something to work with now. So you are all dismissed. Go and enjoy your own lives.”
The others in the room gave each other uncertain looks, but they began to leave the room.
“Ciuthia.”
Ire-Salin turned around.
“I need you.”
“Yes, certainly. What is it, Baal-Mist?”
“You have a special talent for reality warping, correct?”
“Yes. I was taught extensively in the subject as a child as a tactic for war. My family is one to believe that World War V is an inevitability.”
“Yes, about that. I was hoping you would help me with that. Reality warping makes me immensely uncomfortable to pull off myself, and hence I have no particular skill for it, but I’m going to need to get used to it sooner or later. I understand that the skill is one that takes a while to master. I’m alright with that. That is, unless, you were willing to pull it off yourself. Even so I’d like to see your skill with it.”
“I am willing to do whatever you ask of me, Baal-Mist, be it carry out a warp on my own or assist you in creating your own. I may do both and you may judge yourself which will work better for you.”
“Thank you. Ciuthia, you truly are an indispensable member of my team.”
“I thank you, Baal-Mist. Truly thank you…”

—–
“Geez, I really think Baal-Mist is gonna drive himself cuckoo before he hits fifty. That’s sure going to be fun…”
“He’s really obsessive about this whole Astineth thing. I know it’s personal and it has to do with his Mom, but I wonder what the exact story is?”
Haudon turned to Ire-Salin. “Do you know, Ciuthia?”
“Baal-Mist has implied to me the story in the past but I may not speak without knowing the truth for myself, which I do not.”
“Yeah, speaking of that…you two are particularly close, Ire-Salin. How come you didn’t ask him to calm down? I’m sure he would listen to you before the rest of us, and I know you get worried about him no matter how stoic you act.”
“I am deeply worried about Baal-Mist. But I understand the meaning of his mission to him. I do not wish to stoke his ire against me, so I sheall help in a less direct way. Already, I am proving of use to him, and so long as I can be that, I am happy.”
“You’d never be able to tell she’s actually worried about him if she didn’t tell you,” Haudon said. “I’ve never seen someone say they’re deeply worried so emotionlessly.”
“Yeah. But that’s Ciuthia for you.”

Baal-Mist took a deep breath that night before bed.
“Calm down. Ciuthia would never reality warp in the harsh, experimental way that Eir-Tyuj does. I’ll be fine. I will be.”

25.633.Reach Out

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 633
“Reach Out”

San-Kyung walked into the neighborhood where Dosa-Mina lived. That week, it was his third visit. What had happened on Tuesday, the way Dosa-Mina acted after it, none of it would leave his head. He couldn’t stop thinking about it even if he tried. Even worse, Dosa-Mina hadn’t been to school the past two days–and listening to the students’ gossip about him just made him think back on Deatrou, except he felt that this was somewhat worse.
At least during that time at Deatrou, he could get Dosa-Mina to crack a smile every now and then.
It had stirred up some thoughts in his head about his priorities. No matter what he was focusing on, he was always passionate about his plans for world domination or regaining his true form. He knew which one he would take if he could only pick one. He knew where his priorities lie, and he was convinced that he would be ready to drop his loved ones if they betrayed him.
Where did his loved ones fall, though? It was the question on his mind. If he had to pick between them, his true form or ruling the world, which would he pick? Could he really recover if he was betrayed by one of them?
Dosa-Mina was important to him. He already knew he was going to lose his parents some day. It was difficult to think of what was more important when he could barely see the future without the things he wanted.
But just perhaps, he would pick Dosa-Mina. That was what he had been thinking recently.
“Damn it, maybe La-Iin’s right…”
He knocked on the door to the Dslellular house.
“Oh….hi, San-Kyung.”
Orlin-Aesth answered the door. His exhaustion was obvious. San-Kyung hated to admit it, but he could sympathize with his concern for Dosa-Mina.
“You don’t have to ask any questions. He hasn’t come out of his room. There’s no fresh blood on his bed, so I don’t think he’s cut anytime recently. …oh, and come inside.”
San-Kyung walked inside and head for Dosa-Mina’s bedroom door.
“Hey, San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung glanced at him over his shoulder.
“Does the school know what that Catori and Llamaki did?”
“Not exactly.”
“Aren’t you going to tell them?”
San-Kyung sighed. “That’s what I don’t know.” He ignored Orlin-Aesth’s confusion and walked into Dosa-Mina’s room.
“Oh. It’s you again.”
San-Kyung scratched his head. It was obvious from his prior two visits that Dosa-Mina wasn’t going to respond to him just staying in there quietly. He would have to take action.
“So, you’re not really sick, are you.”
Dosa-Mina glared at him. “Awfully stupid for someone with such high grades to say. Obviously not. But I feel horrible anyway. I haven’t been able to do much of anything the last few days. People might say I’m over-reacting, but I’m stressed out.”
San-Kyung joined him on the bed. “Have you talked to the Demon girl?”
“Oh, so I should tell Sirlie I’m cutting too? Great idea, San-Kyung! Really, great.”
“Listen to what I’m saying, why don’t you?”
“Ha ha. Antagonism doesn’t just belong to you and you alone, San-Kyung. I’m well within my rights to be antagonistic. So when are you going to leave me alone?”
“I’m not.”
“Ha ha, just concerned about Operation Reboot, then? I suppose it’s easy to expect someone evil to be so self-centered.”
San-Kyung grit his teeth. Dosa-Mina was making him angry, but he didn’t want to start a fight, not while he was in the state he was in.
“No. I haven’t even thought about Operation Reboot recently. Besides, if I needed to I could do all that research on my own.”
“So, are you going to say you’ve been thinking about nothing but me? I don’t buy it.”
“I didn’t get to say anything. Besides, it would be the truth. That and flaying Lirako, but that’s beside the point.”
San-Kyung sighed.
“What do you want?”
“Don’t try to appeal to me.”
“Do you want Lirako to win, then?”
“Lirako’s already won.”
San-Kyung groaned.
“Go ahead. Get frustrated. This is what I am. Once my secrets are revealed, I give up. Because emotionally I’m as weak as you are in November. I have my disgusting sides too, San-Kyung. And apparently they’re too much for you to deal with. So go ahead! Go focus on Operation Reboot!”
Dosa-Mina pulled a notebook from his shelf and tossed it at San-Kyung’s face. “Here are my notes on it. Focus on it. Forget about me. Use me when you need something.” He huffed. “Oh, that reminds me.”
He stood up and retrieved a CD, then tossed that at San-Kyung as well. “In case you can’t sleep. I don’t know if you have a CD player, but I’m sure your parents wouldn’t mind getting you one, the poor fools.”
San-Kyung sighed. “Are you going to let me talk anytime soon?”
“No. I’ve given you what you want, so you can go home now.”
Evidently just words weren’t going to work on Dosa-Mina either. So San-Kyung stood up and hugged Dosa-Mina.
“So, going for the nuclear option?”
“Oh, just shut up.”
“Hmph.”
“You’re seriously making me wish I was a psychopath. Then this would be so easy. I could kill you and shut you up that way. No loss of sleep. I’d feel the same towards you as I do towards Lirako. Unfortunately, that’s not who I am. I’m worried about you.”
Dosa-Mina rolled his eyes.
“Get mad all you want. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll find what it is that makes you go back to normal. Don’t be scared to rely on me if you need to. I’ve dumped my problems on you before. And I know what’s going on. Until you stop acting like this, I’m not leaving you alone.”
“I–bu…”
Dosa-Mina couldn’t come up with another retort. What San-Kyung had just said reminded him of his own feelings. Whenever San-Kyung would get upset, he would be desperate to remedy it. It made sense that San-Kyung would feel likewise.
Part of him still wanted to resist, but at this point that side was quickly diminishing.
He hugged him back briefly, then pulled away from the hug.
“I really am willing to off Lirako if it makes you happy.”
“Thanks, San-Kyung. The sentiment is enough.”
“Finally cheering up?”
“No, but I shouldn’t have been such a jerk. I’m sorry.”
San-Kyung didn’t respond.
“Have I really been stressing you out all that much?”
“This has been on my mind.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “Sorry. It’s just been hard. I don’t know how to bounce back from this.”
“I’ll figure something out if you can’t. …well, you could always drop out of Malicerie, then come back as another species, something that doesn’t have many powers like Ferreniao or Llamaki. Then you probably won’t be questioned about powers.”
“That wouldn’t work. I’d still be…” San-Kyung was smiling. “Oh, you were joking…geez, my sense of humor is going to be shot after this.”
“Well, like you kept saying, it’s just a little more time before we graduate. 2017 is the last year we’re in school, and that’s just until March. Past that we’ll have plenty of time to decide what to do from then on. That includes you fixing up your situations. We did it before with Deatrou. It could be possible here too.”
For the first time in a few days, Dosa-Mina smiled. “…thanks for not giving up on me, San-Kyung.”
San-Kyung wasn’t sure of how to respond, so he didn’t.

—–
“San-Kyung?”
‘You know what you would do. You’d pick Dosa-Mina over your true form. How stupid.’
“San-Kyung?”
‘But there’s a reason for that. I can still ruin the world without ruling it. And I can still have my true form once a year. But Dosa-Mina is different.’
“I think he’s thinking about something.”
‘I hate this. I wish I was a psychopath. Or at least all alone. Then caring about people wouldn’t be a problem. I wouldn’t even know how because I’d have been all alone, with no parents to teach me how that feels. Being a person sucks. I hate so many things in this world that what I love I love too much…’
“It must be pretty important. Maybe we shouldn’t bother him for now.”
‘How do other people put up with this!?’
“Still, I’m really curious as to what’s on his mind. I’ve never seen him look this intense before.”
San-Kyung groaned. He could imagine La-Iin gloating, saying that she was right and that his love had made him weak.

16.624.Down Grade

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 624
“Down Grade”

Dosa-Mina stared down at his fingers.
“Hey. Dosa-Mina.”
‘How much longer until people ask to see a paw? How much longer until someone looks higher than that? Maybe I should thank Lirako if she reveals my true species.’
“Dosa-Minaaa.”
‘After all, isn’t it worse if people know that I’m cutting? If I go into my true form, I’ll only have to worry about covering one side. And maybe I can grow fur on that side. Or can half-and-halves do that…dang it, I’m half-and-half and I don’t even know how it works.’
“Dosa-Mina?”
‘And after all, my species is more well-known. It’s a fact of my biology. People might question why I hid it, but nobody really knows why I do, so I can just pass it off with an excuse. No excuse I could make for cuts would keep the reaction from being the same. Nothing would…’
Dosa-Mina felt someone tap the side of his head.
“Ah, San-Kyung? Did you need something?”
“Biology just ended. You seemed spaced out throughout all of biology. One of your favorite subjects. I’m not blind, Dosa-Mina. …I may be scared of the police, but I don’t care about getting in trouble if you need one of those bitches murdered…”
“That’s going too far, San-Kyung.”
“Fine, I’ll singe their fur off. Cold weather’s coming soon anyway. Might be funny to see them walk around furless.”
“They’ll just wear heavy clothes,” he sighed. “Anyway, school isn’t the place to talk about this. I don’t need her overhearing you and deciding to tell the entire class…I have enough problems right now.”
“Need to blow off steam? You always offered that for me.”
Dosa-Mina shook his head. “Blowing off steam is easy for you. Not so much for me. I don’t even feel like being affectionate, and that at least usually comforts me. I’m just kind of stuck in a rut. Tell me, San-Kyung, am I getting more obvious?”
“I don’t know. I already know, so I can’t think about it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t. Or didn’t,” he said, glaring at Lirako.
“I’m glad you’re offering to help me, San-Kyung. But it’s okay. I have periods like this and I get past them. Besides, you have more to worry about than I do. Your problems aren’t your fault. Mine are. Whereas someone accidentally dug a grave for you and spilled water near it, I dug my own grave, spilled water on the ground myself and then tried to run away from it.”
“…”
“It’s what I can say to make me feel better,” Dosa-Mina sighed. “Don’t worry, this will pass. As long as I have Operation Reboot to focus on, it should…”

***

The classes drew to an end for the day, and though Dosa-Mina usually started getting ready to leave immediately, this time, as he had the past few days, he kept an eye on Lirako. But Lirako only talked to Deki-Tyunri, and then Xhen-Bei when he approached her. She didn’t get up to go and talk to Airy-Aekok.
San-Kyung was also watching Lirako closely, with a glare that made him slightly concerned. “Make sure you keep any murder fantasies inside your head.”
“Oh, it’s not murder fantasies. If there’s one thing I can give La-Iin, she might be right about torture being preferable over murder.”
“Talking about me?” La-Iin said. San-Kyung flinched. “That makes me happy. Maybe you and I should go somewhere soon, without rival-boy. It’s been a while hasn’t it?”
“Yeah right, La-Iin. I’ve never wanted to go somewhere alone with you, not even now that we’re closer.”
“That’s a lie, and you know it. But I really am glad, San-Kyung. You bringing me up to rival-boy, it almost feels like you’ve noticed…” She giggled to herself. “Well, see you tomorrow.”
San-Kyung waved absently.
“I guess we should go now,” Dosa-Mina whispered. “It doesn’t look like she or Airy-Aekok is going to say anything. I guess she’s kept her promise for now.”
“I don’t trust her to keep it. There has to be something we can do to keep her from saying anything. I wonder…maybe you should keep looking into potions. They seem like they could be helpful.”
“Who knows.”
“Mr. Dslellular?”
Dosa-Mina sat up straight. Hyungdarou was standing at the entrance to the primary classroom.
“Yes, Miss Hyungdarou?”
“The Principal wants to see you. She said it’s a bit of a concerning matter.”
“Huh?”
San-Kyung’s expression became dark, but Dosa-Mina didn’t notice. He nodded and walked after Hyungdarou.
‘What could the Principal want me for? Did I do something wrong?’
Thoughts of his school files, the species written as N/A, raced through his mind. ‘Oh, come on. I thought I heard some of the Class A students did that. …I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel if I’m justifying my actions by Class A’s doing the same…’
He sat down in the faculty room. Hyungdarou also took a seat. The Principal and Hyungdarou weren’t the only ones in there either–as usual, Sharai sat next to the Principal, though he was distracted with papers.
“Mr. Dslellular. Thank you for taking the time to come and talk with us. This matter may not seem urgent in your eyes, but we were incredibly concerned. Especially Miss Hyungdarou. It was her idea that we talk to you.”
“It was?”
Hyungdarou nodded.
“Mr. Dslellular, you are one of the best students in Class D. Your grades consistently rank up there with students such as Mr. Molshei, Miss Vampiris and Miss Sherry. You even stack up quite well against the smartest students of Class C, the class with the most consistently high grades. In short, you are one of our model students.”
“Um, thank you.”
“But there’s a problem.”
“What?”
“Recently there was a bit of homework that needed to be turned in. Even with your high grades, you have never done perfect and so we wouldn’t expect you to, but it was noticed that your grades in that bit of homework were abysmal. Miss Hyungdarou also noticed that you haven’t been concentrating at all in biology, especially yesterday and today. She said that she called for you both days and you didn’t respond so she moved on to another student.”
“You did? Why didn’t San-Kyung tell me?”
“I called on him next in one of those cases,” Hyungdarou said.
“It’s jarring, and I understand that sometimes we have our bad days. Perhaps it’s nothing to worry about at all, but even if it’s a one-off it’s a very startling drop. The grade on your homework was on par with Class A grades.”
Dosa-Mina shuddered.
“Mr. Dslellular, is something wrong at home? If it’s nothing, you needn’t tell us, but if there is anything we can do, we would like to help you.”
‘It’s obvious,’ he thought. ‘If I keep going at this rate, my grades won’t be the only things suffering. I won’t need Lirako or Airy-Aekok to reveal my species, I’ll just slip up myself. Ha ha…this is just great.’
The looks on the faces of the Principal, Sharai and Hyungdarou became more concerned, but Dosa-Mina didn’t pay them mind.
“It has to be nothing,” he said quietly. “Nothing bad has happened to me, except I got sick right before school started. I must have been distracted when I was doing my homework. There’s a specific subject I’ve been studying a ton, like really specific. Like what you do in your classes, Miss Hyungdarou.”
Hyungdarou began to look embarrassed.
“So it must have just sent everything I knew flying right out the window! I was so distracted learning about that subject, I didn’t think while doing my homework.”
“…” The trio looked among each other.
“Fair enough, Mr. Dslellular,” the Principal said. “I’ll believe your story for now. Try to pay more attention while doing your homework, and in class.”
“You are welcome to talk to the school about anything concerning you,” Hyungdarou said. “The faculty will not leak your personal secrets nor judge you.”
“Yeah right. That’ll only make me the one who does that.”
Dosa-Mina hadn’t noticed he had spoken the world aloud. He waved to the trio and left the room. San-Kyung was waiting right outside.
“What got you called to the Principal?”
“Apparently I did really shitty with my last homework, and they were wondering if my brain was turning to Class A mush. But I think it’s just because I’ve been focused on Operation Reboot?”
“…that’s not it, is it.”
“We can talk about this later, San-Kyung,” Dosa-Mina said. “But once you’ve gotten out everything you want to say I don’t want to hear about it any more. I’m tired of all this…”

—–
“I don’t think Mr. Dslellular was telling the truth.”
“I don’t either, Miss Hyungdarou, but what are we supposed to do? We cannot peer into the private lives of our students.”
“We could always call his parents,” Sharai suggested.
“But it is not our business to pry. Let us keep an eye on him for now and see if his grades continue to suffer first. I don’t believe his story, but let us give him the benefit of the doubt for now. If he’s telling the truth, the proof will show itself to us soon enough.”
“Yeah, maybe we should give him more homework.”
“Perhaps…”

31.608.To See the Future–Part 10

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12.589.Transition to Recovery

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 589
“Transition to Recovery”

“Y’know, Ai-Reia, you’ve seemed a little happier this Summer break than last Summer break. Especially after those kids…Kokohara and Fyuori, yeah?”
“Yes. And what are you doing calling them kids? They might be younger than you in years but in terms of general maturity you aren’t all that much older than they are.”
“The years still count for something, sis. Anyway, I’m happy to see you happy, especially after all that was going on. Are you feeling better?”
“I have been, actually….oh! You bringing this up reminded me of something. Mother, Father, would you mind if I invited Kokohara and Fyuori over tomorrow?”
“Hm? Not at all,” her father said.
“I’d be happy to see them again,” her mother said. Ai-Reia smiled. “Thank you.”
“You know, it’s so weird that your best friends are teenagers. You’d think they’d be around your age!”
“I would guess that my smarts alienate the normal kids around my age,” she sighed. “But I’ll take what I can get. I do like Kokohara and Fyuori. But this can all wait for tomorrow, can’t it?”

***

Ai-Reia flipped through her diary. Page after page, she would lament about something that was going on in her life, be it something to do with La-Iin, Ca-Miela or the rest of her family. Sometimes she would see entries about her prodigy status. Reading through it made her cringe, but she continued on anyway.
‘This diary saw me through my darkest times, and it was also what helped usher in more,’ she thought. ‘But things have changed since the days I thought I needed this. I’ve realized Ca-Miela has a true potential. My family is showing love for me once more. La-Iin’s hopefully realized she cannot use me, and I have friends now, impermanent as they are…’
Upon finishing the last page, she closed the book. ‘Still, something feels like it’s missing….’
“Ai-Reia, Kokohara and Fyuori are here,” her mother called.
“I’m coming!” She hopped out the bed, leaving the book behind, and went to greet her friends.
“Herro, Ai-Reia! Oopsy. I mean hello.” Shuera-Kaizima said.
“Don’t worry about it. Come on in!”
“Your house really is nice, Ai-Reia,” Im-Dei said. “I like the way it’s decorated.”
“Thank you. Although if I were the one in charge of decorating, I think it would look a little different.” Although she tried to muster a giggle, the reminder of the subject at hand kept her from doing so. “I, ah figure you two know why I called you here today.”
“We’re here to help you too, so it doesn’t bother us,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “Or, at least, it does not bother me. Does it bother you, In-Dei?”
“No, not at all. …well, maybe a little bit, but not for the reason you’d think.”
“You might just be wrong about that one, Fyuori,” she said. “Follow me.”
She led the two to her bedroom, dashing in ahead of them. She grabbed her diary and held it away from them.
“This diary contains a record of the way I felt for a…period of time,” she said. “I’ve had a hard time, although I guess it doesn’t compare to people who have been through worse. But it was horrible. This was my only escape, and when it was taken away from me I started to deteriorate because I had made it the only thing that made me happy…everything else I considered to have a bad side.”
“Ai-Reia…”
Ai-Reia held up a hand. “Please. I need to get this out without commentary. …I don’t know exactly what it was that caused my behavior, but I have a theory. I think it was stress. For a long time, I did worry that there was something wrong with me…of course with my curious mind, I had to look into it. And while admittedly a few of the things that I thought were concerning, I can chalk that up to, well…I am still little…I don’t always understand the full weight of things right away.”
Ai-Reia glanced at the duo, but their expressions gave away nothing. “When I started feeling happier again, I realized I didn’t want to go back to the way I was before. Not only that, but I realized it was the best thing for me. My family has always been my biggest supporters and my best of friends. You two might not be around my whole life, but you definitely enrich it. And as for that bully, La-Iin….if I can recover, I’m showing her that what she did to me does not affect me. It will not stop me from succeeding where she will likely fail. So this is my goal. I will recover from what happened before, and become a new Ai-Reia.”
Her face flushed. “Sorry, that was probably a little over-dramatic…”
“I’ve heard worse,” Im-Dei said. “And we’ve wanted you to be able to move past things too.”
“It does make sense, Ai-Reia. Of course you want to be happy instead of unhappy!”
Ai-Reia smiled. “Yes, I suppose I do. And more than anything, I didn’t want there to be anything wrong with me. Knowing what I know now, I really feel like I can make an improvement.”
“Part of the improvement can also be not dwelling on the past so much,” Im-Dei said. Ai-Reia chuckled. “Yes, that’s true. And I hope I can do that when school starts again. I think I can improve, but I worry about whether or not seeing La-Iin again will stir those old feelings in me…”
“I’m sure if you devote yourself to this, you’ll be fine,” Shuera-Kaizima said. “But to devote yourself, like In-Dei says, that’s to stop thinking about what happened and focus on the Ai-Reia you want to be. And what is it that you want to be?”
Ai-Reia didn’t need to think on it. “Normal. I may have smarts beyond my age, but that’s just a matter of individuality. I want to be a normal person. And I would like to study more. There is just so much to learn in this world, after all. I wonder if I’ll have the time to learn more about it all?”
“That’s silly to say. Of course you will.”
Ai-Reia gave a half-hearted chuckle. “I suppose I will…”

“You aren’t going to put blood in as a secret ingredient again, are you?”
“It isn’t a secret ingredient to us Vampires,” Ai-Reia said calmly.
“It’s an unpleasant secret to those of us who are not, though!” Shuera-Kaizima shrieked. “Please, no.”
“I’m not sure I can keep that promise.” Ai-Reia dripped blood into the batter. Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei flinched. “Oh, come on, you two. You’d almost think I was the oldest one here. Especially you, Shuera-Kaizima. Catoris are carnivores–I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of blood, and anyway isn’t eating flesh more gruesome than eating something flavored with blood?”
“If it would not kill me, I might be a vegetarian,” Shuera-Kaizima sighed.
“Well, I guess that’s a Vampire tradition, to put blood in food,” Im-Dei sighed. “I’ll respect it…but I don’t like it. I guess it’s not all that easy to taste, though…”
“That’s fine. I’m not the biggest fan of blood either.” Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei shot her surprised looks. “But that’s only because I’m not a bloodsucker yet! I’m sure my taste for it will come with time.”
“As it does,” Reuf-Bu said. “I thought blood tasted like spoiled ham before I could suck blood. Now I love it.”
“You two are crazy. I loved blood even before I could bloodsuck!” Zih-Amo said.
“Why even is there a wait time for the bloodsucking power? Could you not suck my blood now if you wanted to?”
“It has to do with cravings,” Ai-Reia said. She then tapped her canines. “That, and underdeveloped feeding holes.”
“Ah.”
“Reuf-Bu, Zih-Amo, if you’re going to be in the kitchen, the least you could do is help out.”
“Oh noooo!” Zih-Amo shrieked. Reuf-Bu grabbed her by the overalls. “If I’ve gotta help, you’ve gotta help too!”
“Eek!”
Ai-Reia giggled. The kitchen soon became rowdy with the addition of Reuf-Bu and Zih-Amo, but the treats were finished that much faster. Ai-Reia was sure she was having the time of her life, laughing and chatting happily with her older siblings and friends.
Still, something felt like it was missing. ‘I’m sure this would be better if Ca-Miela were old enough to join us.’

When the treats were done, all five of the cooks set them down on the table. Ca-Miela stared at them wide-eyed, and seemed anxious to eat one, but was instead handed a bottle by her mother.
“It might sound conceited, but I figured since I’m making a resolution, why not celebrate?”
“Because some people make resolutions they won’t stick to?” Reuf-Bu said. Ai-Reia nudged him lightly with a fist.
“I am sure Ai-Reia will keep this resolution. She’s serious about it.” Shuera-Kaizima told him.
“Don’t I know that. I live with her, you know.” He rubbed his hands together. “Well, it’s a win-win, then! You’re going to be more happy, and we get treats because of it!”
Everyone at the table began to reach for treats at once, making a bit of mess on the table. Ai-Reia found herself amused by the display.
“Are you really going to be happier from now on, Ai-Reia?” Her mother asked. “I’m still worried, you know…”
“I understand, Mother. But my resolution is to enjoy life more. I can’t keep dwelling on the things that upset me, otherwise they will only serve to upset me more. I’m sure I’ll still be stressed at times–the downside of being such a young child prodigy….but here in Bledger, do I really have to worry all that much?”
“She has a point,” Reuf-Bu said before cramming more food into his mouth.
“I felt it on my birthday. Once everything started going right, I knew what I had to do. So I’m certain now. I will not go back to that point I was at before. I will prove my true strength by showing this world that I can move past it, and be happy!”
Almost everyone at the table smiled at her, save for Ca-Miela, who was still drinking from the bottle. Ai-Reia smiled back.
‘Just you watch, La-Iin. Your threats will mean nothing to me when I return to school. This Summer has made me a changed woman!”

—–
Late that night, after Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei had long since left, Ai-Reia stepped outside with the diary and a lighter she had managed to swipe from the kitchen. She hoped nobody noticed it was missing.
She checked through the pages once more. Each of them made her as uncomfortable as they had earlier that day.
“If I really am going to stick to this plan, I can’t be reminded of my past by you,” she said, then set the diary on fire. She tossed it to a portion of gravel and watched it burn, keeping close by just in case the fire began to spread. To her luck, it stayed mostly contained to the diary.
As she watched it burn, an uncertain feeling washed over her.
‘That monstrous feeling…those violent dreams…am I sure those too were the product of stress?’
She shook her head. ‘Don’t think on it. This is a thing of the past now. If I am really going to be happy from here on out, I need to start convincing myself that will really be the case.’

16.562.A Ca-Miela Conflict

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 562
“A Ca-Miela Conflict”

Ai-Reia stared down at the small shape lying on her bed and crying. As opposed to her normal shrieks, right now Ca-Miela was only letting out a small, thin wail, as if she lacked the energy to cry harder. Just the sight of her contorted face was making her angrier.
“They love you best, don’t they?” Ai-Reia said. “Well then, I might be doing them a favor by taking you out before you’ll be too missed.”
Ai-Reia reached for the closest thing to her that could be a weapon, and found a pen. She jabbed the pen into Ca-Miela’s chest. Ca-Miela began to wail loudly, but Ai-Reia didn’t hear anyone running to see her, so she continued on.
Soon enough despite the blood flowing from her chest it became evident to her that Ca-Miela would not die by that pen alone. Desperate to finish her off, she reached for the next closest thing, a broom. She began to whack Ca-Miela with the broom. Ca-Miela gave several shrill shrieks before the volume of her voice died down until she was no longer making any noise. Taking a quick breath, Ai-Reia brought the broom down one last time to check for any reaction.
Ca-Miela lay on the bed bloodied and beaten, her eyes wide open and cloudy. Her wings had been crushed into her back. Ai-Reia chuckled to herself and continued to stare down at what used to be her sister as everything around her went pitch black.

Ai-Reia woke with a start, gasping for breath. She checked her bed. There was no sign of blood. The broom was not in her room. The events of the dream had not taken place.
‘I haven’t had violent thoughts about Ca-Miela in a long time. Dammit, I thought I moved past that this April! But maybe I’ve just been repressing it for my own good.’
The thought brought back to her memories of her seventh birthday. ‘What’s wrong with me? Why do I have these violent thoughts and dreams? I understand my resentment towards her, but there’s no reason for this level of vitriol.’
It was still dark outside. Feeling uncertain, Ai-Reia got out of bed and head for her parent’s bedroom. Her mother and father were fast asleep, but Ca-Miela was not, sitting up in her crib and glancing around wildly as if looking for something. When she laid eyes on Ai-Reia, she gave a small smile.
Ai-Reia breathed a sigh of relief, then reached into the crib and pulled her out. She checked her parents for any sign that they were waking up, then she fled the bedroom with her sister, who giggled as she ran.
‘What are you doing? How can you trust yourself alone with her?’ The dream flashed back in her mind, and for a moment she nearly dropped Ca-Miela in fear. Ca-Miela was still giggling and cooing with a smile on her face, pulling at Ai-Reia’s hair. ‘No. This has nothing to do with recreating the dream. I know what I plan on doing. My life cannot go on with me thinking such violent thoughts about Ca-Miela. I have the power to sway her onto the right path, the path of innocence. There is no reason for me to hate her unless she ends up like La-Iin, which is highly unlikely even if she does end up spoiled…I will not harm her regardless. Not in that way.’
She set her down on the bed and handed her one of her old baby toys.
“Ca-Miela, you trust your big sister, right? You don’t think I would do anything to you, do you?”
Ca-Miela reached for the toy and stuck it in her mouth. She smiled. ‘Right. Look at her eyes. She trusts me. She probably doesn’t even remember the jump rope incident. But that won’t last forever. That’s why I need to move past this. Ca-Miela hasn’t even been failed yet, after all.’
“Want to play with more?” She pulled out a box of her old toys. Ca-Miela gave a delighted shriek, which Ai-Reia tried to shush, but didn’t quiet her down in the end. Instead she looked at the toys, seeming to be overwhelmed by the variety, and stuck a few in her mouth.
“Goodness, Ca-Miela,” Ai-Reia scoffed, pulling the toy out her mouth. “In what year will you learn that those aren’t for going in your mouth?”
Ca-Miela cooed innocently. Ai-Reia focused on her. Still she could see the sight of the dream in her mind. “Play with them like this.”
Ca-Miela slammed a toy onto the bed. Ai-Reia sighed. “And I worry about being the violent one….no, she’s just a baby, she doesn’t know any better. Okay, Ca-Miela! Maybe toys aren’t the best thing for you so late at night.”
Ca-Miela’s expression dropped when she took the toys away, and for a moment Ai-Reia worried that she might cry. But instead she just stared at her anxiously, as if waiting for her to return the toys.
“Here, if you’d like a toy how about Bunety-Man? Reuf-Bu got this for me, but you can hold him if it will calm you down.”
‘What am I doing? It’s too late at night for this. What if mother and father wake up? Then they’ll be upset. There’s no way they’d believe that I was trying to calm myself down. What am I supposed to tell them? Oh, I had a dream about murdering Ca-Miela so I decided to bring her into my room to calm myself down? Only an idiot would believe something that sounds so excuse-worthy!’
Ca-Miela babbled. ‘And then there’s also the possibility that she might cry and give my position away to my parents and siblings…’
Ca-Miela stared at Ai-Reia, her eyes widening. She began to gently cry, holding tight to Bunety-Man.
“What’s wrong now?” Ai-Reia asked. “Was I making a scary expression?”
Ca-Miela just sobbed quietly. “I’ll get no response from a baby. Oh, please don’t cry, Ca-Miela…”
The beginning of the dream flashed back into her mind as she reached for Ca-Miela, and she flinched, knocking her over. Ca-Miela continued to cry, still holding tight to Bunety-Man. Ai-Reia felt as though she were slipping back into the dream–save for Bunety-Man and the lack of a broom, the situation was exactly the same as it was in the dream, and for a moment she panicked, hiding her face from Ca-Miela.
‘What do I think I’m doing? No matter how hard I try, I’m only a danger to Ca-Miela. Much as I want to avoid her developing a spoiled princess attitude, that’s definitely preferable to her suffering early trauma or growing up to hate me. I can’t trust myself, not like this. I can’t even keep a hold on my own mentality. Why did I ever try to trust myself alone with her!? What’s wrong with me!?’
Through her frenzied thoughts she could still hear Ca-Miela crying, and though the thought of being alone with Ca-Miela terrified her, the thought of being caught by her parents with her in this state terrified her more. She reached out to Ca-Miela and picked her up, gently rocking her.
“Please don’t cry,” she said, her voice wavering. She was beginning to feel on the verge of tears herself. “Don’t worry. If I ever become a danger to you, I won’t let myself hurt you. I promise. I’m going to do my best so that you end up as my ideal younger sister. I don’t want to hurt you…”
Ai-Reia felt uncertain of her own words. Ca-Miela stared up at her, face stained with tears but no longer gently sobbing. She reached for Ai-Reia’s hand and stuck it in her mouth, then closed her eyes and curled up next to her.
Ai-Reia remained silent, trying to get her thoughts into order. “You’re different from La-Iin, Ca-Miela. I only ever held a grudge against you for taking the time of my siblings. But in the process I discovered how much of a monster I can be…and I’m sorry. You never deserved this. I shouldn’t hold grudges against you. You did nothing wrong. You’re just a baby, after all…”
Ca-Miela gave no response, and by her gentle breathing Ai-Reia assumed she had fallen asleep. She sat there with Ca-Miela in her arms for a short while longer, finding her presence calming. She was not dead or beaten. She was not crying or scared. She was comforted and asleep, and alive. Ai-Reia rocked her back and forth gently as she tried to get her emotions into order. She looked down at her. The dream no longer flashed in her mind at the sight. She set her down on her bed. The dream flashed only briefly.
‘Maybe there’s a way to tame this beast, somewhere in me.’
Ai-Reia was tempted to leave Ca-Miela there and go back to sleep, but she knew how her parents would feel if they were unable to find her. Picking her up, she waddled back to their bedroom and gently set her down inside her crib. Then she head back to her own bedroom and curled up in her bed.
‘Perhaps all along I’ve been mistaken. I shouldn’t be having violent dreams about Ca-Miela. Even if the rest of my family turns against me, I’m certain she’ll trust me.’
Ai-Reia fell back to sleep fairly quickly, feeling emotionally fatigued.

—–
“Ai-Reia, is something the matter?” Her mother asked that morning at breakfast. “You seem tired. Did you stay up too late reading?”
“I saw her lights out, Mom,” Zih-Amo said. “What’s got you so tired, sis?”
“Oh, it’s nothing. I think I just haven’t woken up all the way yet, that’s all….”
Ca-Miela was sitting in a high chair next to her. When her family looked away, she briefly squeezed Ca-Miela’s hand. “Last night is our secret. Promise?”
Ca-Miela squealed. “Someone seems happy. I guess she likes drinking out of a bottle better!” Reuf-Bu said.
“I do too. It’s far less painful.”
Ai-Reia cracked a smile. ‘Maybe, just maybe, I can trust you.’

15.531.Mental Breakdown

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 531
“Mental Breakdown”

Ai-Reia felt as though she was once again on the path to despair.
She desperately wanted to write down her thoughts in her notebook, but she felt that Zih-Amo would get her hands on it again and read it and tell the whole family of its contents. She felt she could fix Ca-Miela, but for the effects to show it would take a while–and she had no idea if her influence on her baby sister would be vastly outweighed by the influence of her family.
Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei had also reached out to her as friends, but a constant reminder of their limited lifespan was always on her mind whenever she talked to them. It made ,any conversations she had with them unenjoyable, and in the end only served to depress her further when she arrived home from school.
There was no out. No matter how hard she tried, it would always find her. This was how it was even before she had encountered La-Iin. Nothing would ever go her way the way she wanted it to. Her family would never think of her in the same way they thought of her siblings. It was an endless loop that would never cease.
The idea of continuing on the way she was for hundreds of years was maddening. Living was becoming a chore, and she wasn’t quite sure what it was she wanted anymore.
If Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei somehow extended their lifespans, would that fix the problem?
If La-Iin died, would that fix the problem?
Would she recover once Ca-Miela grew up and proved her wrong?
Was it something with her family? Was she waiting for them to reach out to her?
Or was the only option her own death? Perhaps all along it had nothing to do with the fault of the world and it was just her, herself. Whatever monsters lie inside of her manifested themselves in the form of a violent dream, and if that and daydreams of La-Iin’s murder were capable of nagging at her, perhaps the truth was all along that there was no fix for her. It wasn’t as if
Maybe she really was insane, just as she was certain her family thought she was.
Whatever the case, Ai-Reia desperately wanted the night to be over. In the darkness she was left alone with her thoughts which had begun to barrage her with ideas that all along there was no cure to her sadness.

***

“Ai-Reia, aren’t you going to have breakfast?” Her mother asked.
“Hey, Ai-Reia, you don’t look so good. Get enough sleep last night?” Reuf-Bu asked.
“Ai-Reia, you okay? Your clothes are on backwards.” Zih-Amo asked.
Ai-Reia responded to none of them and head outside and on the path to Malicerie. The door opened behind her.
“Ai-Reia! You’re not ready for school yet! Come back inside!”
Her mother’s voice barely registered, but the angered tone hurt Ai-Reia. She continued on in a run, hoping to outrun the voice and make it to school.
Though her mother started to fly after her, she soon noticed that Ai-Reia was in a desperate run, going much faster than she had ever seen her daughter go. She was certain she could catch up with her, but she was momentarily stunned.
What could have happened to Ai-Reia to make her break out in that sort of run?
Ai-Reia continued on the path, her eyes bleary. She couldn’t tell with what, but either way, she continued on, occasionally tripping on the path there. She felt she could hear the sound of wings flapping behind her, but couldn’t tell if there was actually someone flying behind her or if she was just imagining it.
Something told her it was both. Ai-Reia continued on running.
The path to school was filled with students from all four classes as Ai-Reia dashed into the crowd.
“Is that girl okay?” A Class B student asked.
“She seems upset. Maybe we should do something.” Said one from Class C.
“Probably nervous that some boy’s gonna do something to her!” Said a student from Class A.
“Vampiris!” Shuera-Kaizima called. “Vampiris, are you okay?”
“Is everything alright?” Im-Dei asked.
When Ai-Reia closed in on them, the two noticed that her clothes were put on improperly; her shirt was on backwards and so her wings were underneath the fabric, and her skirt was not properly fastened and was slipping down. Her hair didn’t seem to be brushed and her normal wing hair clip was gone. Most notably to them, her face was streaked with tears and she seemed desperate to reach the school as if being pursued. While Shuera-Kaizima chased after her, Im-Dei checked the crowd to see if anyone was pursuing her, and noticed a Vampire woman flying above the crowd.
The woman spotted him and landed next to him.
“Excuse me,” she panted, “have you…did you see a Vampire girl running by?”
“I did.”
“Where did she go?”
“Into the school?”
“Thank you.”
Now on ground, she ran past the crowd. Im-Dei was confused, and hoped that the woman was Ai-Reia’s mother.
Ai-Reia scrambled into the classroom and into a random seat.
“What are you doing?” La-Iin asked as she walked by.
“Are you okay, Vampiris?”
Ai-Reia shrieked. She ducked under the seat.
“…okay…”
“I don’t think Vampiris is okay,” Fer-Shi said. “Did you notice she had her shirt on backwards? The wing-slots were in the front!”
La-Iin peeked under the desk. Ai-Reia was holding her head and shaking slightly.
‘This has nothing to do with her. It’s all because I’m a monster. There’s no escape. I wish I hadn’t been born with this stupid brain!’
“She seems messed up.”
“We should tell one of the faculty members!”
“Who? I don’t think the school faculty has anyone who deals with crazy people.”
“Well, I think anyone on the faculty would call her family to deal with this!” Fer-Shi dashed out the classroom, nearly crashing into other students who were heading in.
Ai-Reia’s strange behavior soon caught the attention of most of the Class D students, who peeked at her under the desk or watched from a distance. Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei remained at a distance, both looking horrified at the sight of their friend shaking under the desk.
“…go away…”
“No. This is too amusing.”
Ai-Reia’s eyes widened. She crawled out from under the desk and grabbed onto La-Iin’s shirt. She said nothing further, and La-Iin wondered if she should break from her grip before she reacted any further. The other students watched on in fear and curiosity, wondering what she might do to La-Iin next.
“You really are crazy,” La-Iin sighed. ‘It’s a shame. I could have used this to my advantage.’
Ai-Reia’s grip on her shirt became stronger, and La-Iin flinched, ready to break away, when a Vampire woman walked into the classroom, heading for Ai-Reia. She seemed oblivious to what she was doing and scooped her up, hugging her close.
“Ai-Reia, are you okay?” She asked. Ai-Reia didn’t respond. The woman blinked and looked at La-Iin. “Are you okay?”
La-Iin stared curiously at the Vampire woman, who seemed to lose interest in La-Iin’s response in favor of comforting Ai-Reia, who had started to sob.
While the students were distracted, Xhuzsha walked into the classroom and over to Ai-Reia’s mother. The two conversed for a short while before leaving the classroom. Fer-Shi ran over to La-Iin’s side.
“Did you get Xhuzsha?”
“Mm-hm. He sounded pretty worried when I told him about how she was acting. I hope she’s okay…”
La-Iin felt conflicted about Ai-Reia’s behavior. She chose not to dwell on it and head for her seat.

***

“I hesitate to say whether or not she had a mental breakdown, but it could be possible. Has Ai-Reia been under any particular stress lately, Mrs. Vampiris?”
“I don’t know…” She sighed. “She hasn’t been talking to us much lately…”
“Hm.” Xhuzsha glanced at Ai-Reia, who laid silent on the office’s bed. “We’ll let you take her home for today. I don’t think she’s in any condition to stay at school. I can’t claim to know her stressors and I am not a mental health professional, Mrs. Vampiris, but I did dabble in the subject before focusing on physical health. And even had I not I would recommend finding out if there is something wrong with her. With young children, especially Vampires, it can be hard to tell if it’s an actual mental illness or some other cause, but you should get her checked out regardless.”
Ai-Reia’s mother gave an absent nod. “We will, Mr. Xhuzsha.”
‘Just as I thought. It’s all a problem with me. They think I’m crazy.’
“Ai-Reia, are you okay?”
“Take her home, Mrs. Vampiris. She’ll be better off home than at school forcing herself to manage this.”
Her mother picked her up, waved to Xhuzsha, and left the room.
Ai-Reia couldn’t help but feel deeply embarrassed, and more depressed than she had been feeling just moments before.
‘Everyone witnessed that, didn’t they? Now there is no secret. Everyone knows I’m a monster. There’s no out. But no matter how much I prepared myself, I still wasn’t ready…’

—–
“Oh, the Principal wanted me to relay a message to the students of Class D–Miss Vampiris won’t be joining us for classes for a little while she recovers. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with her, but she will be staying home for a short while.”
“If Ai-Reia needs to recover from being crazy, then why don’t I get to?” La-Iin grumbled.
“You’re not crazy. And I don’t think Ai-Reia is either, but there’s definitely something wrong with her.”
“Huh. Say whatever you want, Fer-Shi. This is all overblown.”
“You should be more considerate, La-Iin. You wanted Ai-Reia to be your friend.”
“She proved to me that she doesn’t want that in a violent way. I don’t owe her my concern.”
La-Iin still felt conflicted as she left the classroom. Although she genuinely felt no sympathy for Ai-Reia, she did find herself slightly concerned about what had happened.

5.521.Pumpkin Psychology

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 521
“Pumpkin Psychology”

“Hm…”
“What is it, La-Iin?”
“I’m not sure how much longer I can stand this,” she said, her eyes narrowing.
“How much longer you can stand what? You’ve been acting kind of weird lately, La-Iin.”
“You say that about me, but there’s someone in this class who has been acting even weirder.”
“Um…San-Kyung? Oh no. Never mind!”
“This behavior of his is nothing like the fire he normally has,” La-Iin said. “And I’m fine with San-Kyung almost all of the time, but this is irritating. At this rate he’ll randomly give up just because of what, being sad?”
“Huh?”
“I understand the place San-Kyung is in because I was just in there. But now I know the truth. It’s time I got through to him, once and for all.”
“Good for you?”
“You don’t need to understand any of it, Fer-Shi. Just know that I know that San-Kyung isn’t acting right and I’m gonna do whatever it takes to get his fire back! For that is the San-Kyung I love the most!”
“Miss Cahongyun, SHUT UP!!!”
La-Iin slumped in her seat, but not before raising her middle finger at Mr. Chensu, who failed to notice it.
“La-Iin!”
“What? It’s not like he saw it.”

***

“As soon as San-Kyung gets home, we’ll try everything we can to get through to him,” Salsh-Era said.
“I’ve seen San-Kyung through a lot of points in time, but he seems really bad at this one,” Del-Kyuus sighed. “Even in November he hasn’t seem this sad…”
Salsh-Era grabbed his wife’s hands. “Don’t worry, Kyuusie. We’ve thought long and hard on this. Obviously a professional would never get through to San-Kyung. He’d just try to incinerate them. But even when he hated everyone else in the world, he still loved us. And with that said, what makes you think he won’t hear us out at all? We just have to appeal to what he likes in the world. And that may not be much, but I do know a few things he likes.”
“This has nothing to do with those, um, well…”
“That depends on how desperate the situation gets. But it’s a last resort only, okay!?”
“Okay, Salsh-Era, you don’t need to yell. And you don’t need to keep holding onto my hands, either.”
“Well, I want to take my chances while he’s gone, too…ever since he turned thirteen he’s been getting mad at any little display of affection we show for each other. I want to be able to call you Kyuusie again without getting screamed at.”
“You have right now to be able to do that,” Del-Kyuus said with a smile. Salsh-Era smiled back. “I know I do. And I’m going to take advantage of that as best as possible. But our focus is still on our son. If we can’t break him out of this, who knows what might happen in a few days, a few weeks? We need to keep trying until we succeed.”
“I know. And we will!”
The door opened and Salsh-Era let go of Del-Kyuus’ hands. “Hello there, San-Kyung. How was school today?”
“Why do you care?” He asked. “It was the same as always.”
“I wonder sometimes if we should have sent you to a different school. It feels like a lot of your potential is being wasted at Malicerie.”
“Yeah, San-Kyung. You know, we’re really proud of you for getting the grades you have.”
San-Kyung scratched at his head. “I just study so I won’t get yelled at.”
“Well, it’s definitely paid off.”
“I think you might even be smarter than me!” Del-Kyuus giggled.
“What’s with all the sudden compliments?”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus froze. “U-uh, we had nothing to do while you were gone, so our minds just went to the first thing there was to think about, ha ha…”
“Speaking of, San-Kyung, is there anything you’d like to do today? We could go levitating around downtown, and have lots of tasty–”
Del-Kyuus stopped herself when she noticed the dark expression on San-Kyung’s face. “You two can do whatever you want. I won’t get in your way.”
He head off to his bedroom and closed the door.
“Well, that didn’t work,” Salsh-Era sighed.
“I had a bad feeling it wouldn’t be that easy. But that’s alright! We promised we would find a way to cheer him up, and we’re not going to stop here.”
“Yeah, I guess when he’s feeling down, mentioning levitation wasn’t the best idea.”
Del-Kyuus lowered her head. “B-but it’s alright! You were just trying to be kind, and your intentions mean more than what you said. We’ll get through to him, we have to!”
“You’re right, we have to, but I think we’d be best off bringing out the big guns.”
“Aren’t you the one who was worried about doing that!?”
“I was, but what you said made me think. San-Kyung seems to be in a bad place right now because something’s bothering him mentally. So perhaps if we have him do the things that make him feel in a good place mentally, we’ll get through to him that way!”
“Or distract him from the thoughts in his mind…you’re right, Del-Kyuus! That might just work. And I’ve got plenty of ideas on how to carry it through!”

San-Kyung laid down in his bed, his mood still stuck in the negative. He felt as though he should be getting up, at least heading off to Hledshess to wreak some havoc, before he remembered the recent incident and the dangers he might face if he did so. He contemplated calling Dosa-Mina, but figured he would be better off dealing with a problem he had away from the company of someone in as bad a mood as he was. He considered practicing his powers outside his house, but all he remembered was just how limited they were.
‘Just like my thoughts. Stupid and limited…’
“San-Kyung, dear?” Del-Kyuus’ voice and the creak of his bedroom door snapped him out of his self-deprecating thoughts.
“Sorry to bother you, San-Kyung, but we wanted to show you a little something.”
“What?”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus glanced at each other. “We think that you aren’t doing enough with your time! So we want to give you a special task to distract you!”
“…”
“See this book? We picked it up from the bookstore and when we noticed there was a warning for violence on the cover, we thought it might suit you. We want for you to read this book, then act out for us the violent scenes in it.”
“We’re going to go and buy some fake blood packs and a plush body so you can show it to us in all its gory detail!”
“And that’s not all. We want you to message Dosa-Mina with your blunt opinion on him and his affection. Blunt, and honest. See how he responds, then maybe let him show you a little more affection, alright?”
“And one other thing, San-Kyung? We want you to think long and hard on the things that are important to you, and the things that don’t matter. We want you to write them down, look them over and think even more. Don’t think too long, or you’ll burn yourself out, but think as long and hard as you can manage. Then when you’ve finished doing that, do something else like build up some muscle outside!”
“Why are you making me do all this?”
“Just figured you need something to do, and we’ve been pretty passive lately in letting you do what you want. But if you aren’t going to do what you want, then we’re going to give you something to do. We’re off now, but make sure to read that book, send that message and think, think, think!”
Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus left the room, and San-Kyung heard Del-Kyuus giggle. He stared at the book, its cover adorned with a female Narwhaltae running away from a Demon-winged shadow, blood spatter behind them both. It looked utterly ridiculous, but he felt he recognized the title from somewhere.
“This isn’t…” He shook his head. “No, they don’t know about that, do they?”
He was reluctant to follow through on what his parents asked of him, especially since some of it sounded so ridiculous. But they were right: he truly did have nothing better to do. San-Kyung opened the book and relaxed in his bed, scoffing at the cheesy opening line.

***

I was asked to write this message to you by my parents. Don’t get on my case if it sounds stupid.
As far as I what I think of you: you are my only best friend, and I trust you probably even more than I trust my parents. Don’t tell them that, though. But you’re too secretive. You can be annoying sometimes, but it’s forgivable. And it’s hard to imagine what my life would have been like now if I had continued hating you back in Elementary school.
They also asked me to write about this as well. Your affection can be f@%king annoying sometimes! Especially when you do stupid stuff like kiss me or squeeze me so hard I feel like I’m going to die. But I don’t mind all of it, I suppose. If you stopped being affectionate I think it would seem weird. So don’t stop doing it, but for the love of specites don’t do stuff that makes us seem like we’re a couple!
Sorry to send you the random message, but my parents insisted and I had nothing better to do. So there you go. They want you to respond, but respond if you want to.

San-Kyung sighed. ‘That’s two things down. It’s been two hours and they aren’t back yet. Probably got sidetracked by Dad calling Mom Kyuusie…’
The last project they had asked him to do he was dreading, and he chided himself for not getting it out of the way first. Regardless he pulled a piece of paper out of an empty notebook and began to write his thoughts down.

My parents and Dosa-Mina: because they are the only people who matter in this world.
World domination: because paying back the world and its people will be so satisfying.
My true form: because that is who I truly am, with all my powers and my true appearance.
My powers: because without them I would lack a lot of capability.

After those four he felt stuck at a halt, but eventually more came to him.

La-Iin: necessary for my plans.
Hledshess Street: see above.
Certain books: reason not specified here.
Studying: learning more about the world and such gives me a better understanding of things, which I need.
Freedom: without it I would go mad from having nothing of worth in this world.
Smarts: without them I would be at a loss and unable to plan in the way I do. These have served me well.
Love: mostly worthless but helped me garner more strength. Also helped me to develop:
Ability of detachment: because you never know when someone will betray you.
October: without it I would never have true power or my true form at any point in time.

Once he turned over the paper, he began to write furiously.

The world: does nothing to protect itself.
People: two-faced assholes.
Sanyaow Lirako: major obstacle and annoyance.
Goodness: empty goal that nobody seems to truthfully pursue. (Exception: parents.)
Police: terrifying to someone like me. (Immature, I realize.)
November: torture device masquerading as a month.

San-Kyung took a breath and looked at the paper. He stashed it away inside a book, then glanced back at the small shelf of books.
‘It’s out of place! They couldn’t have…could they?’ Glancing back at the book he just read, he wasn’t sure.
He decided to take his mind off of it and see if Dosa-Mina had responded.

I owe your parents a favor if they made you write this! Thanks, San-Kyung. I haven’t been in a good mood lately so it was nice to see this! No guarantees I’ll stop being ‘annoyingly affectionate’ as you put it, though~

San-Kyung chuckled to himself. ‘Maybe my parents didn’t have too bad of an idea. I guess it’s better than laying in bed all day.’

***

When his parents arrived home with the body plush and the fake blood packets, San-Kyung instantly went to work recreating the book’s violence as best as he could, though he faced some limitations due to his species his parents still seemed impressed, that and shocked. San-Kyung felt slightly exhilarated once the whole ordeal was over.
“Now, we know you don’t eat often, but we also remember that one time you did eat, you liked this,” Del-Kyuus said. She set on the table a platter of animal organs.
“…you guys are trying too hard.”
“Maybe we are, but hey, seeing you destroy that body plush is a lot better than seeing you lie in bed all day.”
“I guess.” He started to eat the animal organ platter. Seeing his parents’ smiles, he was almost tempted to smile himself.

***

Darkness had covered the small neighborhood, and most houses had all their lights out for the night. In the midst of all this, a small shadow walked over to the Molshei house and opened one of the windows.
She moved quietly through the house, over to San-Kyung’s bedroom, and took a close look at him.
“San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung grumbled in his sleep.
“It’s a shame I missed seeing you awake. But I bet if you were awake, you’d appreciate what I did to get here. Sooner or later, I’ll make you feel a lot better than you have been recently.”
La-Iin’s heart thud hard in her chest at the idea that San-Kyung might wake, but when he didn’t, she continued on. “Someday I know you’ll achieve world domination, San-Kyung. And if you still can’t be in your true form, you can still help me out.”
“Stupid…” He mumbled. La-Iin blinked. She couldn’t tell if she was imagining things but it almost looked as if San-Kyung was smiling.
With a smile of her own, she kissed him on the forehead before leaving the house.

—–
“Why is this window open? Didn’t we close it?”
“Did you open a window last night, San-Kyung?”
“I didn’t…” His face paled. “No, that was just a dream, right? I didn’t actually hear her…”
“San-Kyung?”
San-Kyung’s eyes rolled into his head. His parents gasped and reached out to catch him.