1.578.To See the Future

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

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

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

***

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

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

29.575.Day of Business

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 575
“Day of Business”

Asul-Zenza stared at the table. Sitting on it in piles was all the vuyong he had.
Early that day he had gotten the idea to surprise La-Iin with a new dress. ‘She’s starting to get a little bigger. Sooner or later she’ll outgrow her current dresses. And while Mit-Sun sews her new ones, she can wear my dress!’
He was quite surprised to see such a small pile of vuyong.
‘I haven’t been spending that much, have I? So why do I have so little? Wait a moment…’
Asul-Zenza thought back on the last time he had done a job. He recalled hearing someone that day commenting on how they were not looking forward to Summer.
‘Spring…’ He sighed. ‘This is not good. I thought I was good at keeping an eye on my funds. Evidently not…’
He stood up. ‘Well, I won’t get anywhere moping about this sad pile! My only option now is to find a job I can do. And I think I know just where I can go for that.’

***

“You want to help me with the stand?”
“Yes! I figured you don’t get much help, so I thought I might help you.”
Perule-Cheuse scratched the back of his neck. “I don’t mind, but ah, you realize there ain’t much work to be done ’round here? I don’t understand why ya’d want to…” He narrowed his eyes. “Wait a sec, you ain’t lookin’ for vuyong, are ya?”
“What makes you think that?”
“Don’t think I don’t know you, Asul-Zenza.”
Asul-Zenza scoffed. “I guess you do…alright, I’ll help for free, then. After all, it doesn’t look like there’s anyone around here.”
“Hey. If yer gonna do that, just tidy up the stand a little for me. I’m not askin’ ya to actually serve anyone anything.”
Asul-Zenza nodded and began to reorganize the cart and wipe off stains. ‘No wonder he gave me that look. There really isn’t anything to do here. I feel like a jerk. There are other places I could have found something to do.’
“Alright, it’s clean.” He spread his wings. “I’ll go looking somewhere else now.”
“Hey, ‘fore you go.” Perule-Cheuse placed some vuyong into his hand. “Thanks for the help.”
“You’re really giving me this?”
“Yeah, sure, why not? Ain’t much though, so you don’t need to thank me. Hope you find something to do.”
“Me too.” Asul-Zenza took off. “Farewell, Perule-Cheuse!”

‘I think what I need isn’t something like one-day work. I could more do with a temporary job. I wonder where I could find that…it always feels so easy to find work except for when you really need it.’
He flew over an area with many small shops, checking if any needed some kind of temporary work. He was surprised to see Niser-Zanta inside of one of the shops, not sitting at a table but instead wearing the work clothes. Curious, he landed and went inside.
“Welcome!” Niser-Zanta’s eyes widened. “Asul-Zenza!?”
“I could say the same! Er, well, you get what I mean. I didn’t know you worked at a place like this.”
“Are you rubbing it in?” He asked. “It’s nice to see you, Asul-Zenza, but even though I’m not busy right now I have to keep up work!”
“I just want to ask you a question. That won’t waste so much time, will it?”
“Yeah, not really, though I’m devoted to my job and I don’t like to take any moment sitting down! Also I get extra pay if I do extra work.”
Asul-Zenza chuckled. “Any of these shops in the area, do they accept someone looking to work temporarily?”
“I’m sure some do. Why? You need work? You never seem like you need work, just that you always do work anyway.”
“You could sort of say that.”
“Makes me wonder how much you’ve been spending lately. Hmm, well, you can always find work if you know where to look. I know there’s a place nearby here where people’ll pay you for things like mowing their lawn or watching their kids.”
“I see. …did you say mowing their lawns?”
“Yup. So if none of the shops are looking for a temporary worker you can always try there. The Vampires there have vuyong to spare. They’re the type who save up and feed their kids only on fresh blood.”
“Those types?”
“Yeah. Don’t go judging them. You like fresh blood too.”
“I know, but always, in a Vampire society? It sounds like some of the Normal tales I’ve heard about Vampires.”
“ALDESDRIN! I see you’re enjoying your conversation, but don’t you have a customer to attend to?”
“Eep!” Niser-Zanta startled and his wings spread slightly. “Yes! I’m getting straight back to work, Miss Chaeiou!”
Niser-Zanta took off towards a table. Asul-Zenza left the building and flew off.
“What, he’s not going to eat here?” Chaeiou said with a sigh.

Feeling slightly desperate, Asul-Zenza opted not to look at the shops nearby first and instead head off towards the place that Niser-Zanta had mentioned. Already as he flew over it, he could spot several Vampires playing outside, many with young children. He began to feel intrusive as if he shouldn’t be there.
Still, it was worth a shot if it would make him any vuyong.
“You want a job to do? Wanna mow our lawn? Most Vampires outside of where I live don’t know how to do that, but ah, we do. I can show ya the ropes if you don’t get it.”
“If you could clean the car, that would be nice.”
‘Car!?’ These Vampires truly seemed non-standard. Asul-Zenza couldn’t help but remember Niser-Zanta’s comment of them seeking out nothing but fresh blood. Seeing them now, they seemed very different from most other Vampires he had met, even modern ones.
“I could really use someone to watch Yani-Teri. If you do I’ll pay you a ton!”
When he had started to ask around about jobs he had only felt worse, flying into a neighborhood and asking for something to do, but as Niser-Zanta had said, they seemed quite willing to give him a job. So he mowed one Vampire’s lawn, cleaned the car of another’s, helped repair a few bits of equipment, and as the sun began to set, watched Yani-Teri for her mother, Ila-Eri.
Right now Yani-Teri was playing with blocks. ‘These Vampires are so very strange. But I’ve gotten a bit of vuyong from the work.’ He sighed. ‘I don’t feel right doing this kind of work. I may have earned the vuyong I needed, but I’m more suited to temporary jobs rather than this kind of work.’
“Wanna play?” Yani-Teri asked.
“Um, I’m not as good at this game as I was when I was your age,” he said.
“Game?”
“Ahm, I mean, this construction.”
Yani-Teri beamed. “I’m gonna do construction when I grow up too!”
She turned back to the blocks. ‘Construction…Mit-Sun used to do that.’ The thought of his former fiancĂ©e made him think of La-Iin. ‘That’s right, the whole reason I was doing this today was because I wanted to buy her a dress.’ He checked the vuyong he had already earned. ‘I think I might be able to afford something cheap. Or, hm, I wonder…’
“Mr. Ghneckdo?” Ila-Eri called. “Oh, there you are. Thank you so much. Here you go.”
“Thank you.”
“Mama!”
Asul-Zenza flinched.
“Something wrong, Mr. Ghneckdo?”
“No…she just reminded me of my own daughter.”
Ila-Eri sighed. “I see. Well, thank you.” Dropping her voice to a whisper, she said, “I’ve been trying to work a high-paying job and balance taking care of Yani-Teri. It is so hard. But it’s worth it if I can take care of her and give her all she wants.”
“I understand that. But don’t spoil her too much, okay?”
Ila-Eri nodded. “See you, Mr. Ghneckdo!”

Asul-Zenza head down to the shops to see if any of them were still open–and if any of them were accepting temporary work. On one he noticed a sign that piqued his curiosity.
“Welcome back, amigo,” Niser-Zanta said. “But this is the abandoned time of night.”
“Niser-Zanta? You’re still here?”
“Yeah, I’m workin’ overtime. What are you here for?”
“Are you actually here to eat this time?” Asul-Zenza spotted Chaeiou out the corner of his eye, arms crossed and staring him down.
“No, I’m here to work. I saw outside your sign about needing someone for August to make your special Sunboiled Eggsweet.”
“Actually, we’re thinking of changing the name, but yes. Do you know how to make an Eggsweet?”
“Actually, I do! I only learned fairly recently, admittedly, but I can do it.”
“So you’re only lookin’ to help us during the August, is that right?”
“Yes, that’s my intention.”
Chaeiou nodded. “Come in tomorrow and show me your skills. Then we’ll talk.”
Niser-Zanta gaped. “You’re looking for work here!? Didn’t you go to that neighborhood?”
“I did. And I earned a bit of vuyong. But I realized I have skills that are better suited for other types of jobs. Looks like we may be working together over the Summer, Niser-Zanta.”
“Is that so?” He smiled. “I guess that doesn’t sound too bad. Here’s to working with you, Asul-Zenza!”
“Here’s to it!”

—–
La-Iin:
Sorry I missed you but it seems you and Mit-Sun were out. I know I know nothing about sewing. My skills are nothing compared to your mother’s, but I wanted to try making you a dress. This is for you to wear when you get a little bigger, but feel free to try it on now!
Until we meet again!
~Ghneckdo Asul-Zenza

“It’s itchy.”
“Geez, he really has no idea how to sew. Still, I don’t remember him sewing before, so I suppose this isn’t too bad.”
“You contemplating Dami? Surprising. I think it’s itchy. You really are the better sewer.”
Mit-Sun smiled. “Thanks, La-Iin. Ah, but as much as I hate to say it, if this is his first or second or so try, it isn’t that bad. Now if he’s been practicing a lot, that’s a different story…”
“That doesn’t make it not itchy.”
“If you want, I think I know a way I can make it itch less.”
“No. For as itchy as it is, it’s from Dami. And in my situation, Dami is a cherished rarity. So I’ll keep it the way it is.” She shuddered. “I don’t know if I’ll wear it anyway.”

10.556.Recovery from Rejection

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 556
“Recovery from Rejection”

Since the day of her rejection, Mit-Sun had found that her conversations with Uil-Cur, which were formerly fairly common, hadn’t happened in the week since then. Some days they had greeted each other, but Mit-Sun was always too uncomfortable to continue a conversation, and Uil-Cur always sprinted away right after as if he didn’t want to see Mit-Sun.
‘This isn’t right. I know the situation’s awkward, but my intentions weren’t to ruin our whole friendship over this. At this rate we’ll end up drifting apart because we don’t know how to talk to each other anymore. Gahh, it can’t be that hard! I can chastise Asul-Zenza as much as I want now without feeling awkward about it! Though maybe that’s because I don’t like him anymore….geez, why does this have to be so hard…’
“Stewing over something, Cahongyun?”
Leirhyn’s voice snapped her out of her thoughts and also startled her. “Oh…hello, Leirhyn. You don’t usually approach me yourself anymore, do you?”
“No, not usually. Geez, you sound depressed. Judging by the way you and Haner are flitting around each other I’m gonna take a wild guess and say things aren’t all that well between you.”
“It’s not exactly that things aren’t going well, it’s just that they’re….awkward. I’d talk to you about it, but it’s a little personal.”
“That’s alright. But it’s really weird to see you two like this. You were gettin’ pretty chummy there, after all.” Leirhyn’s mouth turned to a wide smile, and Mit-Sun couldn’t help but feel that she looked incredibly suspicious.
“Yeah, we were. No offense, but I think I was starting to get closer to him than I am to you.”
“Absolutely none taken,” Leirhyn said. “I could see that you two had something there. I know you don’t want to talk about it, but I hope everything clears up. I’d like to see you two hanging out again!”
“I’d like to hang out again…maybe I should talk to him. It just feels so strange…”
“Well, if you want to hang out with him again talking to him is the reasonable next option. Otherwise you won’t get anywhere. Oops, I should get back to my post. All the best, Cahongyun! Hope things work out with Haner!”
“Me too,” Mit-Sun sighed. ‘I really do need to talk with Uil-Cur. But even if I can get over how I feel to talk to him, will he be able to?’

***

“While it isn’t usual for me to bother an employee without bringing them first to my office, I figured this warranted the change in protocol. Haner, you’re one of my better employees most of the time. You’re efficient and do your work accurately and quickly. I admire you, but lately some of your work has been sloppy. Your Saturday work is still fine, I have no problems there. But if this sloppy display continues for another week I’m docking your next paycheck!”
“I’ll try and improve!” Uil-Cur flustered. “I have been working hard, trust me, Mrs. Eteibreit. It’s just that I’ve been having a few mishaps lately. I don’t know what’s wrong…”
Eteibreit narrowed her eyes. “Don’t let other employees distract you, Uil-Cur. And it’s best to try and empty your mind before you work here. I will not pay decent vuyong to employees whose jobs would be better done by a three-year-old!”
Eteibreit clapped her hands and flew off.
“Decent vuyong, my ass,” Uil-Cur muttered. He sighed. “Like I could’ve told her the real reason anyway. Pretty difficult to work when you’re crying all the time….oh, my sister will be mad at me if my pay gets docked. But what does it affect her!? She doesn’t live with me anymore!”
“Uil-Cur?”
“Yipe!” Uil-Cur flew above the tallest shelf in the room. “M-M-Mit-Sun! Er, I’m sorry, but I’m still on my shift, I can’t talk now!”
“That’s alright. I can wait. I’ve waited before.”
“N-no, you have La-Iin to think about, don’t waste your time on me! Besides, if you really need to talk we can talk over the phone!”
Mit-Sun sighed. “I’m waiting for you whether you like it or not, Uil-Cur. Don’t try and avoid me. We have a problem and we need to discuss it.”
Uil-Cur sighed. ‘That’s easy for her to say! She is the rejector, not the rejectee. Oh, I can’t stay mad at Mit-Sun, but does she have any idea of how I’m feeling? I need to avoid her for my own safety, damn it!’
Uil-Cur zipped around the room as he finished his work for the day, fueled by conflicting feelings and thoughts. Once he was done, he left the room and tried to bolt past Mit-Sun, only to be grabbed by the collar before he could make it too far ahead of her.
“Please don’t avoid me, Uil-Cur. I really want to talk to you.”
“I know you do,” he sighed. “And I figure I know what about. But it’s not been easy for me, Mit-Sun. I need some time alone.”
“It’s been awkward for both of us, Uil-Cur. But I miss hanging out with you all the time. I don’t want our friendship to disappear because we don’t know how to talk to each other any more. Since having La-Iin friendships haven’t come easy to me. I’m social enough, but I don’t bond easily. You’re one of the most fun people I’ve met and, and I really liked hanging out with you. I understand what happened. I know I hurt you. But I don’t want us to lose what we have because it didn’t go any further than that.”
“Do you think our friendship is so fragile it will break from spending time apart from each other?”
“No! That’s not what I thought at all! I was worried about how awkward we’ve been between each other, not the amount of time we’ve spent apart! And I’m worried about you, too. I still want to be your friend. But what if I hurt you enough to make you not want to be mine?”
“I do still want to be your friend, Mit-Sun! But I got my hopes up too far. I was really thinking that by your attitude you would reciprocate the way I felt about you and that didn’t end up happening. I’m disappointed, I’m frustrated! I got chewed out by Mrs. Eteibreit for doing a sloppy job! I haven’t been able to handle myself!”
Mit-Sun flinched. “I’m sorry…”
“It isn’t that easy, Mit-Sun. I do still want to be your friend. I don’t want to lose what we had before either because it’s all we had. But I don’t know what’s better for me! Maybe avoiding you will only make me miss you along with being burned, but how do I know that spending time with you won’t make me feel worse? I’m too scared to try. I…I’ve had feelings for other women before, but you’re the first I actually said anything to, because I got in over my head and thought you would reciprocate. I was an idiot.”
“What’s idiotic about taking a chance?”
“It was idiotic to not see that you obviously didn’t feel the same way. Look, Mit-Sun, I hope we can go back to normal someday soon, but I don’t think today is the day.” He took off, breaking free from Mit-Sun’s grasp on his collar.
“Someone’s having romance troubles, I see.”
Mit-Sun jumped. “Mrs. Eteibreit?”
“I hope he didn’t honestly think I wasn’t hovering over him. I was curious to find out what was causing him to do such a poor job and see if I could beat him into shape. And what do I find but he’s taken an interest in my most poor worker?”
“You had no right to eavesdrop on us.”
“No right? This is my building. That’s like telling someone in their own house they didn’t have the right to overhear you moaning in their bedroom. Ridiculous. But it sounds like quite the drama went down between you two.”
“I’m not going to talk about it with you. I’m sorry, Mrs. Eteibreit, but it’s personal.”
“Oh, that’s fine. I overheard enough to form my own opinions about it anyway. You really should stop badgering the poor man about what happened. People all handle rejection differently. And you can promise as much as you want that it won’t change things but that isn’t always the case. You two might end up drifting apart regardless.”
“…”
“The poor man is so devastated. Who knows how he’ll react from there? He could stay fixated on you or turn to the next woman who makes him feel loved. He could end up going back to normal….or he could become bitter at you for your rejection regardless of how logical it is. Don’t cringe at me, Cahongyun. It’s fully possible things won’t work out anymore. You should have prepared yourself for that when you told him you didn’t love him back. But if you’re so worried, you could always start a relationship of convenience. He gets “love” and you get to spend time with him again.”
“I couldn’t do that!”
“Oh? Sometimes it does help people actually reciprocate another’s feelings. Of course it could also show you another side of him you don’t care for.”
“Look, our morals and beliefs are different, Mrs. Eteibreit. And I’ll keep being hopeful that we can go back to normal.”
“Fine, fine, believe what you want. Maybe you’ll be lucky and it all will work out the way you want. But I’ll give you some less-blunt advice: try if you want to to repair your friendship, but don’t keep badgering him when he’s obviously upset. That will only make him really bitter towards you. And accept the fact that he’s having a hard time staying just friends with you. Even if your relationship can repair, it will never be exactly the same.”
Eteibreit flew off.
‘Is it possible our relationship won’t repair?’ Mit-Sun wondered. ‘Ohh, I can’t stand this. Why did you have to go and confess, Uil-Cur…’

—–
“What’s the face for, Mama? It’s annoying.”
“Ha ha, how funny,” Mit-Sun said dryly.
“It wasn’t supposed to be funny.”
“I wasn’t talking about your words. You’re the one who didn’t want me to be friends with Uil-Cur, well guess what, maybe we won’t be any more! Are you happy now, La-Iin!? I’ve had to make a ton of sacrifices for your sake and now it seems like I won’t get that friendship back! So are you happy with yourself!?”
La-Iin flinched. “You don’t need to take it out on me, Mama.”
“You’re the one who kept badgering him! Who knows, maybe it was you who gave him the wrong idea! I wouldn’t have had to defend him so much if it weren’t for you! I hope you’re happy with yourself.”
La-Iin’s face contorted. “Well, I’m not happy with your stupid dinner, that’s for sure!” She left the table. Choungetsu stared after her, whimpering.
“And now you see another reason I despise that woman: blaming her problems on you.”
La-Iin didn’t respond. She ran to her room mired in fury.

17.533.The Future of Bledger

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 533
“The Future of Bledger”

“Miss Ukyon, I need to talk with you about an important matter.”
“What?” She sighed. “If this is anything about my approval rating going down again, I don’t want to hear it. I already know the people of Vaelyn don’t like me much. To which I say: would you rather have me, or live in North Vaelyn!?”
“It has nothing to do with that right now. We’re receiving word from authorities over in Bledger, Vaelyn. They wanted me to tell you about the state of affairs over there.”
“Hm?”
“In case you haven’t heard, lately there’s been an increase in crime over in Bledger. Apparently nothing on the level of many mass murders, but there was a recent event in which one Sara Nim-Ghini attempted to set off a bomb near the district of Hledshess. It was the most major of all the crimes attempted so far. Authorities say that if the bomb had not been stopped, it would have caused serious property damage and resulted in a few casualties.”
Sae-Kyu’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Her assistant nodded. “I’ve been keeping a close eye on the happenings of Vaelyn for you, since you seem to often let them go by ignored.”
“Thanks a lot.”
“I’ve checked on the rest of Vaelyn in my spare time. Places like Silcoulle and Plucehon have reported relative peace. Certainly crimes go on there, but police have been telling me about how they’ve discovered entire crime districts over in Bledger. It certainly seems like there’s a lot going on.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do about it? I’m not exactly stationed over in Bledger, and I do have my own things to do. Do you want me to head over there for morale or something?”
“No, nothing of the sort, Miss Ukyon. Really, nobody knows why the sudden spike in attempted and committed crimes. The police are speculating that these crime districts have always existed and are only just branching out now. Although there have been some suspect incidents…namely, Halloween of 2014, there was massive destruction to parts of Bledger. There were no casualties and barely any injuries, but there’s a lot of confusion as to who the perpetrator was. Some claimed they saw a weakened teenage boy while others claimed they did not see the perpetrator at all. Some further went on to claim that the boy was half-Siren.”
“Huh.”
“And a public school experienced a hostage situation just a little over a year ago. I think you heard of that one–the Malicerie Incident?”
“Yes, I did.”
“So perhaps all along, it wasn’t just something that came out of nowhere because criminals became bold. Perhaps it was always waiting and festering…either way, while I know I can’t exactly go to you and ask you to fix it all, you might want to speak with the authorities of Bledger. Perhaps you could give them some helpful advice.”
“I suppose I could,” she sighed. “Set up communications with them, then.”
“Right at once, Miss Ukyon.”
As her assistant set to work, Sae-Kyu relaxed in her seat and sighed. ‘Being the leader of Vaelyn is a lot harder than I initially expected…how did the people who came before me manage it? It’s simple enough to want to go into politics, but this is pushing it. Now I have people who hate me. I guess at least I don’t live in Bledger right now…’
“Miss Ukyon?”
Sae-Kyu startled. “Y-yes?”
“This is Kaenir Wih-Shin of the Bledger Police Force. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with me.”
“Not at all. What’s up?”
Wih-Shin blinked in surprise. “Err, I’m sure you’ve been informed already of the increasing crime rates over here in Bledger. We’ve found alleyways full of criminal happenings, neighborhoods hiding the active evil and had to deal with a bomb incident just yesterday. Thankfully it was disarmed before any harm came to civilians.”
“I’m sorry things are rough over there, but like I told my assistant, what exactly can I do? Silcoulle’s not exactly close to Bledger, and I have no police experience.”
“I would only ask if you have any tips for dealing with these crime happenings, Miss Ukyon. I don’t expect much of your help. You have bigger things to worry about and I am an experienced officer. If you have nothing to offer then it doesn’t really matter.”
“I can help!” She said indignantly. Wih-Shin gave her a curious look. “So most of these crimes have been committed by the evil, correct?”
“Who else really commits crimes? None of these crimes have been crimes of desperation as far as I’ve seen, Miss Ukyon. It more seems as if the evil have just become more bold. Although the man behind the bomb incident in Hledshess yesterday is a bit infamous for his criminal doings. None of us were really surprised it was him, just that he would go to such lengths.”
“Hm, I guess you’re right. Well, is anything going on over in Bledger that might make impoverished evils turn to crime to take care of themselves?”
“As I said, none of the recent crimes have been crimes of desperation.”
Sae-Kyu sighed. “Well, maybe it’s evil crime-committing season…I have no idea anymore. I don’t even know why I’m trying to understand how an evil person thinks.”
“I understand, Miss Ukyon. Don’t worry about it. We of the Bledger Police Force will make sure to protect the citizens of Bledger and prevent any casualties from occurring.”
Sae-Kyu gasped. “Wait a second, what if…what if you started a program over there that lets the evil people express their evil creatively? Do you think that might work?”
“That honestly depends, Miss Ukyon. I don’t think the idea would gain much traction, and anyway it might not stop these people from committing crimes. I suppose we could give it a try, though.”
“I’m happy to have been of help.”
Sae-Kyu briefly noticed an uncertain expression flash on Wih-Shin’s face. “Er, thank you for the tip, Miss Ukyon. Really. That the leader of Vaelyn would take time out of her day to do this is amazing, to me. We will try that idea of letting the evil of Bledger express their evil creatively, but we’ll also keep an eye out on them so that they don’t commit any more crimes. Your idea is certainly a stepping-stone, and I’m sure it will lead to at least a little relief for Bledger.”
“Well, contact me again if things start getting nasty over there. I might not have total control over the workings of Vaelyn but I can send you quite a bit of help.”
“I know you can, Miss Ukyon.” Wih-Shin bowed. “Well, I thank you for the assistance!”
The contact ended and Sae-Kyu relaxed in her seat.
“Far be it from me to criticize one of your better decisions, but did you notice Mr. Kaenir’s expression?”
“Yeah, I noticed. He doesn’t think the idea’s going to work. He might have a sense of respect for me because I’m the leader of Vaelyn, but that doesn’t change the fact that my idea made him wary. But what am I supposed to do? We can’t exactly ban the evil of Vaelyn. The worldwide recognition that there are people who hold evil ideals was supposed to keep the people who would act on those ideals at bay. I can’t change a long-standing worldwide decision, it would make things worse. I really don’t understand evil people…”
“A lot of good don’t, Miss Ukyon. I feel more neutrally about some subjects and even I don’t understand how someone could so proudly declare their evil. But all people are different, and while recognition of their ideals might have curbed the actions of some it possibly hasn’t worked for all of them. Evil communities seem alive and well in Bledger, unfortunately.”
“Hopefully all works out there. If I can’t even help curb the problem in Bledger that’ll only decrease people’s opinions of me. I kind of can’t wait to get out of office.”
Her assistant sighed. “Miss Ukyon, you need to take this all more seriously! I trust the Bledger Police Force, and if they need your help they will likely contact you again. But you’re in a high position of power. Don’t just handwave things because people don’t care for you. Do you think that will increase the public’s opinion of you?”
“No, I suppose not.”
Her assistant huffed. “I’m as worried about Bledger as Mr. Kaenir seems to be, but there’s nothing much we can do right now. We’ll just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst, and do our best to keep this influx of evil limited to Bledger alone. If it spills into any other part of Vaelyn people will turn their frustrations on you.”
Sae-Kyu sighed. “I really did think the whole thing about letting evil people express their evil creatively was a good idea. After all, acknowledging evil people worked for some time. Now it’s 2015 and we need to work with more ideas for the young generation of evil.”
“Well, if you say so. But there’s other work for you to do today, Miss Ukyon. I’ll keep an eye on the status of Bledger.”
“Alright. Come to me immediately if you hear of a mass shooting or anything like that.”
“Do you really think that’s going to happen?”
Sae-Kyu shrugged. “It’s just a concern I had.”
“Really, Miss Ukyon…”

—–
“Did you hear the radio broadcast, La-Iin? They say there are plans to start a new movement for evil people to express their evil creatively. It sounds perfect for you.”
“Why would I need to join some sort of movement? I already have drawing to express my evil creatively.”
“I know you do, I just figured I’d bring it up.”
‘Yeah right, Mama. You and they probably think that will stop me! Well, the best creative expression of evil is evil actions themselves! Though nothing like what the Saras do….”

9.433.Eternal Desperation

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 433
“Eternal Desperation”

Uil-Cur was in a state of lovesickness.
“Oh, how I wish it was easier to build a relationship with a work acquaintance,” he sighed aloud.
Uil-Cur had thought highly of Mit-Sun since before having met her, and had been interested in her even then, but ever since the day he had walked home with her he was completely smitten and felt conflicted as a result of it.
Many times recently he had found himself daydreaming of what his life might be like if he and Mit-Sun ended up in a relationship, but then he would feel conflicted because the two had not known each other for long.
‘There has to be something I can do to get closer to her, at the very least,’ he thought. ‘I want to see her so badly, but tomorrow’s Monday. I don’t work on Mondays…but she does. Maybe she won’t mind if I go and see her tomorrow. …but she might think that’s creepy, who knows…’
He groaned. ‘If love’s supposed to be such a wonderful feeling, then why does it hurt so damn much!?’

***

Uil-Cur took a deep breath as he walked into work Monday morning, passing by Eteibreit’s office on his way in. He tried to move quickly, but just as his workplace came into view he felt claws dig into his shoulder.
“Haner, would you mind telling me what you’re doing here on a Monday?” Eteibreit said quietly. “I thought you didn’t work Mondays.”
“I, er, remembered something I left here. I wanted to get to it before it was too late to.”
“Oh? I don’t believe you. But if that’s the truth, that’s fine. …just be prepared to work while you’re looking for it.”
Uil-Cur sighed. “Yes, Mrs. Eteibreit…say, will I get payed extra for putting in the work?”
Eteibreit’s tail swished. “That depends on whether you do a good job or not. Though you asking has me tempted to say no.”
She stomped her foot. “Get to work anyway, Haner. You won’t like what happens if you don’t.”
“Yes, ma’am, of course!” He turned away and fluttered his wings, tempted to fly to his workplace but scared of what might happen if he did.
‘I guess I should have been more discreet….or not come here at all. I’ll see Cahongyun tomorrow, anyway! There was no need to come here on a Monday…besides, just because we’re both here doesn’t mean we’re going to run into each other…’
“Haner?”
Uil-Cur flinched.
“What are you doing here today? I thought you said you didn’t work on Mondays.”
Uil-Cur glanced back to make sure he had heard correctly. Sure enough, Mit-Sun was standing there holding a stack of papers to her chest, looking at him with a confused expression.
He was stunned for only a moment before regaining his senses.
“Oh, um, I came here to get something I forgot, and Mrs. Eteibreit caught me and put me to work,” he said, his voice gradually becoming quieter. Mit-Sun sighed.
“Mrs. Eteibreit takes any chance to screw her workers over. Trust me, I’ve dealt with her far more times than you probably have.”
“I don’t doubt that,” he chuckled. “Still, it’s good to see you. You’re the only person at Eteibreit Data Storage I have any sort of meaningful relationship with, after all.”
Mit-Sun blinked as she placed the papers inside a locker. “Really?”
“Well, we might not be much of friends, but we’ve actually talked before. And I gave you those Makeshire tickets!”
Mit-Sun smiled. “Thank you for that. It was a nice night.”
“Your thanks are welcome, Cahongyun. In any event, I suppose we should get back to work. If this extra day can net me any extra pay, I’ll gladly take it. Work here is so painless I’d probably be alright with coming in every day. I wonder why Mrs. Eteibreit doesn’t ask that of me?”
“Who’d want to deal with her seven days a week? I wouldn’t.” Mit-Sun said. “Anyway, see you, Haner.”
A thought popped into Uil-Cur’s mind, and he was desperate to voice it. “Um, Cahongyun, I know we’re busy right now and you have your daughter to think about and all, but do you think we might be able to do something sometime soon? You know, like walking home together…”
Mit-Sun gave him a quizzical look. “Er, I’ll see. Anyways, bye, Haner.”
Uil-Cur waved, feeling as though he had made a grave mistake.

***

Uil-Cur tried to focus on his work, but today he couldn’t find it in him. He kept thinking of Mit-Sun and his last words to her.
‘What if I came on too strongly? I don’t know if Cahongyun likes that….oh, what’s the point in worrying about how strong I’m coming on? Even my confidence isn’t enough for me to trell her how I feel. She’s too far out of my league…’
“Haner?”
Uil-Cur flinched. Mit-Sun was standing a short distance away from him. “Sorry, are you still on your shift? I can go.”
“N-no, it’s fine! There’s only a couple minutes left and I’ve done all my work. Mrs. Eteibreit won’t notice if I spend the end of it talking, will she?” He said.
“Well, that depends. She is in her office right now, I guess.”
“What did you come here to talk about?”
“What you asked for earlier. What’s with your fascination with me? When we first met you wanted to walk home with me and talk to me, then you gave me the tickets soon after…what’s spurring this?”
Uil-Cur could see a suspicious look in Mit-Sun’s eyes. ‘Oh, she’s caught on,’ he thought to himself. ‘There’s got to be something else I can tell her aside from that, though…’
“Well, being honest,” he sighed, “I just…I’ve taken an…interest in you. As a friend. I don’t actually have all that much in the way of friends, and what I do have I wouldn’t say we’re so close. I guess what I’m saying is, I saw a potential friend in you. And I don’t know if you could tell, but I do like to have friends, heh heh.”
“Is that it? I thought it was something else.”
“Did you…” He said, glancing away from her.
“Well, I wouldn’t mind being friends with you, Haner,” she said. “But it’d be a little hard to keep up. I have La-Iin to think about after all, and it’d be nearly impossible to leave her alone…and I don’t know you well enough to want to invite you over.”
“That’s fine. Perhaps we will cultivate a friendship through work chats alone!”
“Maybe, but that doesn’t give us much time. Maybe I should ask someone to watch La-Iin soon. I know someone who’d take good care of her if I was out. But who knows.”
“…you’re really okay with taking time out of your day for me?”
“Why not? You seem nice enough. A little desperate though,” she said. “But I could always use a break from the same old thing every day. Lately I’ve been looking for other things to do aside from watching La-Iin and going to work. Maybe this will be a good chance for that.”
“Maybe,” he said.
“Well, whatever happens, I should get home now. Tell me if you have any ideas for something we could do, and we’ll see what happens. See you tomorrow, Haner!”
“See you, Cahongyun…er, Cahongyun?”
“What?”
“You know, I would be perfectly fine with you calling me Uil-Cur,” he said. “Sorry if I seem pushy about this, but I’m used to others calling me that. I don’t always react to Haner right away.”
“You seemed to react fine to me…well, if I remember we’ll see. See you tomorrow then, Uil-Cur.”
As Mit-Sun walked off, Uil-Cur was left in a daze, thinking over the last words she had said to him.
‘Maybe things will start going my way,’ he thought. A wide grin spread across his face and he couldn’t help but feel a little foolish.

Mit-Sun passed by Leirhyn on her way out the building.
“See you, Cahongyun!” Leirhyn called. Mit-Sun waved.
“See you, Leirhyn.”
“Hey, I just wanted to say something to you before you go.”
“What?”
“You and I should talk together again soon,” she said. “Maybe you could tell me a little more about that guy you keep hanging out with.”
“Who, Haner?”
“You know who~” She hummed. “Anyway, see you tomorrow, Cahongyun!”
“See you, Leirhyn?”

—–
The next day at work, Mit-Sun was greeted by flowers being thrust into her face.
“What are these for?” She asked Uil-Cur.
“Consider them thanks,” he said. “Many people before have been annoyed by my pursuing of them in friendship. Also, you have no idea how worried I was you would take my desire for friendship the wrong way. Now that I know you understand, I feel my old confidence is back. So here.”
“Um, thanks?”
“No need to thank me. These flowers are meant in thanks. Thank-yous lose a little of their point if they’re returned with more thanks.”
“If you say so,” she said. “Well, I have to get back to work, but Haner?”
“Yes?”
“Go ahead and call me Mit-Sun if you want,” she said. “Just don’t do it at work or Leirhyn might think you’re talking to her.”
Uil-Cur smiled. “Certainly.”
As he head back to his workplace, his heart felt light. ‘Maybe this is why they call love such a great feeling. Moments like these are wonderful!’

22.418.All the Helpful Experiments

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 418
“All the Helpful Experiments”

“Dad, do you have work today?” Fer-Shi asked.
“Yeah, I do. Why? Did you want to come with me?”
Fer-Shi nodded. Den-Matsu smiled at her. “Alright then. It’ll be good to have you around, Fer-Shi. Doing what I do has been pretty thankless lately. A lot of people nowadays aren’t all that grateful for just a warm blanket and a bowl of food…”
Fer-Shi went back to eating her rice. Her dream had been on her mind lately. She had believed for the longest time that she would help people out just as her father did, but after her incident with Dosa-Mina and her rekindled love of running, she had been wondering if she should perhaps do something else.
‘If I go with Dad today, maybe I’ll find out for sure,’ she thought. ‘If I enjoy it and I can actually help people, maybe I can do this. Otherwise, I guess I should start training my legs….’

***

“Aw, how cute! Ya bought yer daughter with ya!”
“She asked to come,” Den-Matsu said.
“Hi,” Fer-Shi said.
“Awh, what a cutie. Whodya think she takes more after?”
“Her mother,” Den-Matsu said.
“I can sees a bit of you in ‘er too, so don’t give yer wife all the credit,” he said. “Speakin’ a, if ya two’re gone, what’s she gonna be doing?”
“She was talking about hanging out with a friend of ours today,” he said. “Our daughters are friends and we’ve become close because of that.”
“Ah, that’s nice, that’s nice…”
Fer-Shi glanced around the area. “Um, what are you doing today, Dad?”
“Huh? Oh, today we’re helping the sickly who are on the street. Since it’s Winter, lots of homeless people end up getting sick, especially those of species who are less tolerant of the cold.”
“We’ve got lots of Animated Pumpkins and Vegemix in there,” the man said. “And they get real sick when Winter comes.”
“Do any of them have wilting flu?” Fer-Shi asked. The man blinked. “Didn’t think ya two would know what wiltin’ flu was, but yeah, a few do. We don’t gotta worry, but let’s just say it’s more than the cold that’s keepin’ away our Vegemix workers.”
“Doesn’t that mostly affect Animated Pumpkins, though?”
“Vegemix can get a strain of it. Anyway, be careful ’cause not everyone in there has an illness ya can’t get. ‘ere’s some gloves, a sick mask, and some new clothes. Should keep you pretty healthy. An’ wash yer hands with soap before dealin’ with ’em.”
“Are you sure you want to do this, Fer-Shi?” Den-Matsu asked. “This can be pretty messy work. I won’t blame you if you want to sit back.”
“I want to help,” Fer-Shi said. Glancing away from her father, she added, “I just hope I can help well enough so that these people actually feel better…”
Den-Matsu gave her a concerned glance.

The atmosphere in the room of sick people made Fer-Shi shudder. Several of them were huddled against the wall, wrapped in blankets. A Catori nurse and a Birdmix nurse were tending to their minor needs.
“I’ll still let you turn back if you need to,” Den-Matsu said. Fer-Shi shook her head. “I came here to do this, Dad. I’m not going to turn back now.”
Den-Matsu nodded and set to work tending to a sickly Goathoof. Fer-Shi felt uncertain of what to do. She tried to think of what she had done when her parents had gotten sick, what her parents did for her when she got sick, and what she would do for La-Iin if she got sick.
She walked up to a Normal man who was shivering violently. His eyes were shut tight when Fer-Shi arrived, but he opened them to slits when she sat down.
“Um, hello, sir,” Fer-Shi said. “How do you feel?”
“Terrible,” he spat. “I’m cold all over even with this damn blanket.”
Fer-Shi flinched. “Um, what can I do for you? Would you like some soup?”
The man seemed to be glaring at Fer-Shi, and she was tempted to leave him to tend to someone else.
The man grunted and said, “Soup might be good.”
“Okay!” She said. Standing up, she ran over to the Birdmix nurse.
“Where do you keep the soup?” She asked.
“Soup? We haven’t made any soup. Did someone ask for soup?”
Too ashamed to say it had come up because of her, Fer-Shi nodded. The Birdmix girl flashed a tender smile. “Well, we can make some soup, if someone asked. What species was the person who asked for this?”
“A Normal,” Fer-Shi said.
“Oh, well they can eat just about anything. What do you say we make a nice, brothy soup for this person?”
“Something nice and warm!” Fer-Shi said.
She followed the Birdmix woman to a shack detached from the sick area. Inside was a small kitchen. The Birdmix woman began to cut up vegetables. Fer-Shi decided to try and prepare broth.
“How does it look?”
The Birdmix woman examined it closely. “It could be a little thicker, but good first try!”
The broth, vegetables, and a small amount of meat were put together and heated up on the stove for a while until Fer-Shi taste-tested it and thought it was warm enough.
“We made a lot, huh?” Fer-Shi said.
“It was a good idea, Miss. Now lots of people here can have something nice and warm to eat. We were mostly giving them fruits and vegetables, but the fruit was popular, and, well, Vegemix tend to get a little sensitive about people eating vegetables.”
“What do we do for them, then? The soup has vegetables in it.”
“I figure we could just give them a little broth,” she said. “We don’t need to mention there were carrots and such floating around in it.”
Fer-Shi wondered about how the Vegemix people might feel if they somehow found out, but she decided to keep quiet about it. She smiled when she noticed Den-Matsu summoned to take a bowl of soup. He took it to the Goathoof he had been tending to. The Birdmix woman took hers to a Minomix woman, and Fer-Shi took hers to the Normal man.
“Th-thanks,” he said gruffly, then began to gulp down the soup.
“Don’t burn yourself,” Fer-Shi said.
“I don’t care if I burn myself,” he grunted. “I just care that the pain in my belly’s gone. Seconds…please?”
Fer-Shi smiled and went to get the man seconds, as well as a pillow she had found.
“It’s a little dirty, but it should be comfortable,” she said after putting it behind his head. Then, she handed him the bowl of soup.
“Thanks,” he said. “Don’t you have to help out other people too?”
“I do, but my Dad and the others are helping out lots of people at once. Nobody was going near you, and I thought that was…”
‘What if he gets upset if I say sad?’ She thought, glancing down.
“…” The Normal man stared at her. “Don’t take this as much of a criticism, kid, but I’ve noticed you’re not all that comfortable around me.”
“Huh?”
“You seem kind of on-edge, like you’re worried I’m gonna lash out,” he said. “Those insticts’re good things to have, don’t get me wrong, but if you keep doin’ this kind of work you might hurt people that way. I think if you wanna keep doing this, you gotta learn at least how to feign indifference. Not everyone’s gonna react positively to that attitude.”
Fer-Shi glanced down. “Hey, it’s alright. Lots of us could be dangerous. I gotta say, everyone’s all about those “poor” Dasdorian refugees, but I think a few of them are really violent…same goes for people here, though. Lots of people aren’t completely indifferent like that.”
“It’s just…” Fer-Shi glanced away.
“Somethin’ you wanna say? I don’t care, go ahead and say it.”
“…I feel like if I can’t become…indifferent…if I can’t do that, I can’t do this kind of work,” she said. “I’ll just keep messing up. I think I end up pitying people who have it worse than me, and that’s why I want to help them out…”
“Lots of people do that,” he said. “At least you’re helping.”
“But that’s not right. It’s not like I just pity people like you either. There’s a boy at my school, and he tends to hide when he’s sad, at least it seems like that to me….so I wanted to be his friend because I thought I might be able to help him.”
“You seem to think pitying people’s a bad thing when so many people do,” he said.
“I just think I might not be cut out for this kinda work,” she said.
“Well, who knows?” He said, sipping more of the soup. “You look pretty young. Younger than ten, I’d guess?”
“Yeah.”
“You’ve got time to think about it, so don’t sweat it. Even if the reason why you do these sorts of things isn’t all that pure, at least you do them. I don’t think anyone’s really all that pure. That you can realize you’ve got those impurities, that’s a good thing, I think.”
“Y-you think?”
“Mm-hm. Least you’re not a violent f@%ker like me.” He covered his mouth. “Oops. Sorry.”
“It’s alright,” she chuckled. “Well…I was thinking there might be something else I like to do, too.”
“You can do multiple things at once.”
“I know.” She smiled. “Thank you, sir. It felt good to get that off my chest.”
“You must not be all that uncomfortable around me if you could tell me all that,” he sighed. “And that’s the sort of stuff you should talk to your parents about. But if I could help, I’m glad.”
Fer-Shi nodded. “Want thirds, sir?”
He grinned. “Of course I do.”

—–
“You seem happier than you did earlier, Fer-Shi,” Den-Matsu said as they entered their neighborhood. “I saw you having quite the conversation with that guy. Was he telling you a story or something?”
“No, actually, I was talking to him,” she said. “But he seemed like a really smart man. I hope he can get back on his feet someday. I wonder what he was sick with?”
“Well, you’re welcome to come with me to work anytime, Fer-Shi,” he said. Fer-Shi nodded.
As they came close to their house, Fer-Shi glanced across the street. ‘I haven’t visited Hei-Maj in a while. I wonder if he’s doing alright?’
“Do you mind if I take a walk by myself before dinner, Dad?”
“Why do you want to do that?”
“I just kinda feel like it,” she said.
“Well…alright, if your Mom says it’s okay,” he said. “But if you do, stay across the street. I don’t want you running into anyone who lives on this side.”
Giving one last glance across the street, she said, “I will, Dad.”

28.393.The Man with the Plan

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 393
“The Man with the Plan”

Mit-Sun carried a thick stack of papers with her to the storage room, checking them one more time to make sure she had all she needed. She tried to keep her mind focused on the job instead of letting herself get distracted by idle thoughts that attempted to sneak their way in.
She found the first location for her papers and began to neatly file them into the drawer. Just as she was down to the last nine papers, something crashed against the locker and she flinched.
“Agh! Damn it!” A voice groaned. Startled, Mit-Sun realized that whatever had crashed into the drawer was a person. Forgetting about the papers, she closed the drawer and went to check on the person. Kneeling on the ground, holding his head and groaning, was a Siren man.
“Are you alright?” She asked. The man groaned, still holding on to his head. He stayed like that for a minute before sighing and looking up.
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for your concern.”
‘How polite,’ she thought. “I’m sorry you got hurt.”
“Ah, no, it’s fine. I used to get hurt more at my old job, heh heh…” He met Mit-Sun’s eyes, and his own widened.
“So…”
“So?”
He cleared his throat. “Pleased to meet you, madam! I don’t believe the two of us have ever met. I would remember someone like you.”
“Um…”
“I am sure you want something to call me by. My name is Haner Uil-Cur. You may call me Haner if you please, but I won’t take offense to being called Uil-Cur. What is your name?”
“Er, it’s Cahongyun Mit-Sun.”
“Cahongyun Mit-Sun!?” Uil-Cur exclaimed. “Now I know why my soul reacted the way it did! I’ve heard of you before! Mrs. Eteibreit’s least-favorite? The woman who works here to take care of her daughter?”
“Yes, that’s me,” Mit-Sun said, an edge to her tone. ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’
“Oh, I’ve always wanted to meet you! I’ve heard of you since I first started working here. Granted, that hasn’t been all that long, but I was always fascinated by what I heard. I wanted to know you personally! And now that I do, why, I could just serenade you! …you know, if you wouldn’t die because of it.”
Mit-Sun gave him a blank stare.
“Is something wrong, Cahongyun? Not used to so much praise and love? I know, you’re treated like shit here. It’s the last thing a wonderful woman like you deserves.”
“I need to get back to work,” she said.
“As do I, as do I, but dear, I want to know more about you, and I want you to know more about me! Now that I have met you I must learn more.”
“You’re a weird one,” she said.
“Ah, what a compliment…often I’m told I’m conceited. Is it really so conceited to think highly of yourself, though, I wonder? Or is it just an excuse used by those who have no confidence in themselves and want all the rest of the world to feel the way they do? But no matter how highly I think of myself, I think even more highly of you, Cahongyun.”
“What’s with your obsession with me!?” Mit-Sun yelled, only to cover her mouth seconds later out of embarrassment. ‘Pay attention next time to what you want to say and what you’re thinking!’
“I just liked what I heard, so I wanted to know more about you,” Uil-Cur said. As opposed to looking sad, dejected or offended, as Mit-Sun had been expecting, he instead looked pleased. “You sounded like the type of woman I would get along with swimmingly. And I take any chances I can get to meet kind women like yourself.”
“…I don’t know what to say.”
“Please, Cahongyun, tell me one thing: will you placate me after work and talk with me? Perhaps we could walk around a bit in the surrounding area?”
‘Feels like a come-on,’ Mit-Sun thought. ‘I’m not that gullible!’
Uil-Cur did seem desperate–it was obvious. She had to wonder if placating him would make him leave her alone, or if it would only make her situation worse.
‘Well, I’ll give him one thing, no matter how conceited and desperate he seems, he doesn’t seem like a necessarily bad person,’ she thought. So, turning away from him, she said, “Sure, I guess. But let me finish work first.”
“Yes!” He cheered. “Thank you, Cahongyun! I am most pleased. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to get back to tooooo!”
And with those words, Uil-Cur ran off, propelling himself forward with his wings. Mit-Sun blinked hard.
“There sure are a lot of people I don’t know all that well working here,” she said to herself.

***

Mit-Sun held to her promise and waited outside the Eteibreit Data Storage building for Uil-Cur after she had finished her shift. She had become impatient not long after starting to wait, however, and checked the time and for Uil-Cur frequently.
‘If he doesn’t arrive in a half-hour, I’m leaving,’ she thought to herself. As if he had heard her thoughts, Uil-Cur came running out the front doors of Eteibreit Data Storage, breathing heavily.
“Sorry it took me so long!” He breathed. He took a few gulps of air before sighing and turning to face Mit-Sun. “I only just realized our shifts end at different times! And I had started to take overtime when I remembered my promise with you….but I am much happier to be out here with you rather than inside Eteibreit Data Storage.”
Uil-Cur’s eyes almost seemed to sparkle. Mit-Sun sighed. “Um, yeah, right. Anyway, what did you want to do?”
“Oh, walk around and learn more about you,” he said with a smile. “I told you that already, didn’t I? Mind if I ask a few questions, or would you rather go on about yourself yourself? And you’re welcome to ask me questions about myself too if you feel so inclined,” he said with a giggle.
Mit-Sun blinked at him. The two started to walk away from the Eteibreit Data Storage building. “So what do you want to know?”
“So many things it’s hard to choose,” he sighed. “I’ve heard a lot about how you have a daughter. They say you make excuses when you come into work late, saying that she held you up.” Mit-Sun’s face twitched. “I, however, do not believe they are necessarily excuses, especially depending on how young your child is. Tell me more about her?”
“Oh, well, um, her name is La-Iin,” she said. “She’s a handful, let me tell you. She says she wants to rule the world when she grows up…”
“My.”
“She’s six years old but pushing seven.”
“Well, that explains the problems you have with her then.”
“That and the flying,” Mit-Sun said. Uil-Cur stopped in place and stared at her, his eyes wide.
“Wait a second. Your daughter’s an avian?”
“Yes?”
“Adopted child or Dualbreed?”
“Dualbreed. Half-Vampire.”
“…she must be even more of a handful than I initially imagined,” he said.
“You could never imagine how much of a handful she is,” Mit-Sun groaned.
“Perhaps not. I have zero experience with children, after all.”
“Hey, since you said I could ask you questions too, what’s your family like?”
“Glad you asked. I’m part of a somewhat large family. Only children ran in the Haner bloodline for many years and though my mother has a twin sister, her sister only has one child of her own. I, however, am different. I am the only child of my mother and father, but I have quite a few younger half-siblings from her second marriage–six, to be precise. So I suppose my claim about not having all that much experience with children isn’t too precise.”
“You have that many siblings? I don’t have any,” she said.
“Yes, I have quite a few younger siblings. All of them Dualbreeds like your daughter. They’re half-Normals.”
“Normal-Siren seems pretty common nowadays,” she said.
“It’s the most common Siren Dualbreed combination. I always supposed there was an inherent interest in Normals in us Sirens. Nearly every woman I’ve liked has been a Normal, save for a Goathoof girl I had a crush on in High School. I have to wonder sometimes if there will be any Pureblood Sirens in a few years.”
“I’m sure there will be. Siren societies still exist, after all. Oh, um, how old are you, exactly? And how old’s your youngest sibling?”
“I am twenty-two, in the prime of my life!” He said proudly. “And my younger sibling is only a couple years older than your daughter. She’ll be nine come this May.”
“Twenty-two? Wow, I thought we had less of an age difference.”
“Do we really have that big an age difference?” Uil-Cur said. For a moment, Mit-Sun was distracted by his expression; it was incredibly innocent in stark contrast to the confident one he had been wearing all this time. She shook her head to refocus.
“Um, yeah. I’m over ten years older than you.”
“How old?”
“Thirty-five.”
“Really!? I had thought us closer in age than that! And you barely look it. Most parents at age thirty-five look much older, but you look quite young. I’d assumed you were older than me, twenty-five I thought, but it turns out I was off by ten years!”
“…”
“I mean no offense by it, though. There’s nothing wrong with your age.”
“There’s older that look younger…have you seen Vampires?”
“Yes, I have. In fact, my mother’s best friend is a Vampire, and she’s two-hundred-and-seventy, remembers wars people only hear about in history books and knows things we of other species don’t, and she looks around your age. Not like you, I mean! I mean about thirty-five.”
“I got that,” Mit-Sun chuckled.
“Ahem. Anyway, I’d like to ask then, what made you come to Eteibreit Data Storage?”
“I wanted a job I could work that wasn’t too much strain on my body and that worked on a good enough schedule so that I wouldn’t be away from La-Iin for too long. I really wish I could get back to a full-time job, though. Before I worked here, I worked a construction job that payed really well. It made my body hurt like hell but it was worth it. I quit when I got pregnant, though.”
“You’d have to, I suppose. It’d be hard to do construction while heavy with child,” he said.
“That’s what they told me, but I never figured out if they were right. I quit soon after I found out. But I think, given their reaction, that they would have fired me once it became obvious. I carried pretty heavy near the end.”
“I see…”
“So, what about you? What made you want to work here?”
“I worked a full-time job, but it didn’t pay well, it made me hurt, and I got treated like crap. I figured if I was going to get paid and treated like shit, I’d rather have to spend less time there and put less effort into the job. Also, I think filing is my special talent. That and finding out the sort of useless and not-so-useless details Eteibreit Data Storage wants to know. I have a small amount of hacking skills, going on from that.”
“Hacking?”
“Yes. B-but not bad hacking, I promise! I’ve only ever tried it on things I’ve programmed before. I suppose you could say I have a bit of talent in that field too, but I don’t mean to brag about it.”
“I’m surprised, because you seem like the type of man who takes any chance he could to brag about himself,” she said playfully. Uil-Cur laughed.
“Really? I come off that way to you? I suppose it’s not entirely untrue. But what’s so wrong about loving yourself? Nothing, that’s what. People should. If you do, you can love other people that much better, is what I say.”
His smile became small. “We’re getting close to my home. We can keep walking, but I have at least one more question I want to ask.”
“What’s that?”
“Do you….do you, by any chance, have a husband or something of the sort…? I couldn’t figure it out, you know, from what you said. And I wondered if there was someone to help you while you were pregnant with your daughter…”
Mit-Sun’s eyes narrowed, and for a moment Uil-Cur felt that she was going to blow up at him. But instead, she simply turned away.
“I’ve never been married, but I was in a pretty longstanding relationship with La-Iin’s father. We even got engaged, and he was with me while I was pregnant. But I ditched him after she was born. As far as I’m concerned, he and I didn’t belong together, and I’m happier to have him gone. ….sorry if I seemed mad, it’s just a sensitive subject.”
“I see.”
“What about you? Are you in any sort of committed relationship?”
“Oh no, not at all.” His wings gave a nervous twitch. “Though I suppose there’s a girl I’m interested in…”
“I see. Well, I hope that all works out for you, then. Just make sure you know whether she’s a jerk or not before you try anything. I may not have married that bastard, but I still regret even getting engaged to him. …though, I don’t regret that La-Iin came out of that at all.”
“Yeah, that does sound like a benefit. And, well, I don’t think I’d like her if I didn’t think she wasn’t nice. Bitches are not my type. …pardon the language.”
“It’s fine.” Mit-Sun walked away from him. “Well, it’s been nice talking to you, Uil-Cur. See you tomorrow, I guess.”
“Yes, see you tomorrow, Cahongyun!” He said, waving. “And good luck!”
“Um…” She was confused, but she decided to smile. “Thanks.”

—–
Uil-Cur smiled.
“Mit-Sun is so wonderful,” he sighed. “I need to do something for her. I wonder what sort of something she’d like done for her?”
He glanced at his table. “I wonder….”

2.336.Collaboration with Sulaet-Defka–Part 3

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 336
“Collaboration with Sulaet-Defka–Part 3”

“Today’s the day,” Usl-Thaehey breathed. “I wonder how everyone’ll think of the song…”
“I’m sure it will go over fine,” she said. “I only hope I can get it released in Grougyp soon.”
“Yeah, I hope ya can too. Feels like it hasn’t been all that long since we were collaborating together. Kinda a fast release for a song.”
“It wasn’t that long ago. It was in October.”
Usl-Thaehey blinked. “You remember this stuff better than I do,” she said.
“Groundisers tend to have some of the better memories,” she said. “Vampires are a little better than us, though…”
“You sound exhausted.”
“I wasn’t able to get much sleep. And I’ve been traveling for days just so I could be here when the song released…”
“You wanna take a nap?”
“No, I’ll be fine. I’ve run on less.”
“Is it work? Nervousness?” Usl-Thaehey grinned. “Excitement?”
Sulaet-Defka gave a smile of her own. “Maybe a slight bit of all three,” she said.
The collaboration song between Usl-Thaehey and Sulaet-Defka had released that day. The two were on their way to a release party at that moment. Usl-Thaehey hadn’t expected Sulaet-Defka to come all the way to Vaelyn for the release celebration, but she was glad she had.
The song was stuck in her head on the way there. She couldn’t keep from tapping her foot against the floor of the vehicle.
“I hope both our fans like it,” Sulaet-Defka said. “Overall the style does remind me more of one of your songs than one of mine…”
“Really? I was thinkin’ the melody sounded like a slightly modernized version of somethin’ that would be in one a your songs. I guess we got different opinions there…”
“Our different opinions made the song unique,” Sulaet-Defka said, sounding cheerful. Usl-Thaehey nodded.
“Yeah, I guess they did!”
The two had fallen into a conversation about music when they arrived at a large building. Both Usl-Thaehey and Sulaet-Defka tried to peer at the building from their windows.
“Wow. I didn’t know a buildin’ like this even existed in Vaelyn…”
“This seems like a big celebration,” Sulaet-Defka said. “Is it only because of our collaboration, or does this usually happen to you?”
“I think it’s our collaboration. Just sayin’, I’ve never been to this buildin’ before in my life…”
The vehicle came to a halt. Usl-Thaehey and Sulaet-Defka left the vehicle. They were closely followed by their chauffer and two tall bodyguards who towered over the both of them. Sulaet-Defka seemed unfazed by their size, but Usl-Thaehey flinched.
“Hey, I’ve seen a lotta people workin’ for jobs that seem like their species would be good for it. Like ice-skating Snowlivs…”
“What’s this about?” Sulaet-Defka asked.
“I was just lookin’ at the bodyguards. D’ya think they come from like, bodyguard families that breed ’em so they’ll be the strongest species?”
“Oh, don’t say that,” Sulaet-Defka said playfully. “People aren’t bred like animals…”
One of the bodyguards gave a huff.
“Sorry, sir. Just a little joke.”
“I’ll have you know I’m a bodyguard because I like people,” he said. “What I don’t like is people insinuating I’m bred like cattle. You’re a Dualbreed too, and a famous singer to boot. I’m sure you’ve gotten the comments about being bred from curiosity…”
“Uh, not really. Actually people prefer to say my Dad was into dogs…”
The man huffed again. Usl-Thaehey decided it would be better to keep quiet and instead focused on the path ahead of them.
Even the doors felt too big to Usl-Thaehey. The bodyguards led her, Sulaet-Defka, and their chauffer into the building.
“Man, I’ve been a lotta places in my career, like lots of places in the world, but it still gets me when I come someplace new. There’s so much ta see in the world…”
“I’m not fazed by it anymore,” Sulaet-Defka sighed. “Once you reach so many years of coming to places like this not even the most grand place is exciting anymore. At least for me, the chance to actually sing still sends me a thrill, though…”
Usl-Thaehey decided not to comment on Sulaet-Defka’s mistake as they continued on through the building. The bodyguards moved on, always seeming sure they knew where they were going. Usl-Thaehey wondered if they had been given a map of the area before arriving there.
“We’re stopping here,” one of the bodyguards said. “The two of you can get prepared if there is anything else you wish to do. Outfits are over there, so if you’d like to change into something more fanciful, please feel free.”
“My thanks,” Sulaet-Defka said.
“I-it isn’t a problem, Miss Calziona,” the other bodyguard said. Usl-Thaehey snorted.
“His devotion to her will at least keep her from getting killed,” the other bodyguard whispered in her ear.
“Yeah, I know. But what unprofessional behavior…”
“In any event,” the first bodyguard said, clearing his throat, “make sure you two are ready when people start coming in.”
“We will be,” Sulaet-Defka said. “Why don’t we see what’s behind the curtains, Miss Gyunerr?”
“A’ight,” Usl-Thaehey said. The bodyguards closed the door and stood behind them as the two head behind the curtains. A small rest-room was behind them, with several dresses hanging on clothesracks pressed against the wall. Usl-Thaehey glanced around.
“Nice place here,” she said.
“Will we have to perform tonight? Do you know? My manager was fairly skimpy on the details…”
“I’m not sure, Miss Calziona,” the first bodyguard said. “It may be requested by one of the guests tonight.”
“I may have to change in that case,” she sighed. “I doubt this would be good for a performance…”
“We don’t have to dance or anythin’, you know,” Usl-Thaehey said.
“Yes, but I figured you would want to…and this song does seem more like to type to dance along to,” Sulaet-Defka said.
“Well, I guess we’ll just have to see how it goes,” Usl-Thaehey said.
“Do you want us to leave the room?” The second bodyguard asked.
“Yeah, I think there’s some things me an’ Calziona should talk about in private,” she said. Sulaet-Defka was slightly confused.
“Yes, of course. We’ll be right outside, so if you need us don’t hesitate to say anything.” The second bodyguard was particularly focused on Sulaet-Defka as he said this, but he stepped outside along with the first bodyguard. Usl-Thaehey decided to start looking through the dresses as well.
“What did you want to talk with me about?” Sulaet-Defka asked.
“I dunno. I felt like I wanted to say somethin’, but I have so many things I could say I’m not quite sure which one to say first…except maybe thank you, I guess.”
“Why are you thanking me?”
“Ya didn’t have to come out all the way over to Vaelyn again. I know we don’t exactly live super-close. But ya did anyway, and now I don’t have to deal with this whole event all on my own. I’ve been lots of places before, but I haven’t been in the business for nearly as long as you have. You said you’d seen so many places like this, it’s not even really excitin’ anymore to see another one. I’ve been lots of places too, but I’m so casual I worry about alienatin’ the audience sometimes. I think we’re a good balance.”
“Maybe,” Sulaet-Defka said.
“Maybe we should work together again someday,” Usl-Thaehey said. “I mean, not right now, of course, but maybe someday later?”
“We’ll see, Miss Gyunerr. Remember, the both of us are quite busy women. I don’t know when we might get the chance to do something like this again unless our employers make a request.”
“Yeah…” Usl-Thaehey sighed.
“But I wouldn’t mind, especially if we can come up with a song as good as this one again,” she said.
“Yeah, it’s a pretty good song, isn’t it? I almost hope they ask us to sing it for them!”
Sulaet-Defka began to remove her dress and change into a new one. “I agree.”
Usl-Thaehey decided to change as well. Just as she had started to slip the new dress on, one of the bodyguards said from outside, “Your managers are here to see you.”
“Tell them to wait just a second!” Usl-Thaehey called. She continued to put on the new dress.
“Let’s make this a good night no matter what happens,” Usl-Thaehey said.
“Yes, definitely.”
Once they had finished changing, they stepped out to meet their managers. Namgung was standing next to a tall man Usl-Thaehey could barely remember.
“Are you two ready for tonight?” Namgung asked. “They might ask you to sing the song for them. I just wanted to warn you of that in advance.”
“We were already prepared for that possibility,” Sulaet-Defka said.
“I’m I’m bein’ honest, I almost hope they do ask us,” she said with a grin.
“The four of us still have time before the event begins. Is there anything you need?” Sulaet-Defka’s manager asked.
“I dunno. I could just sit back until it begins. You got any ideas, Calziona?”
“Would you like to hear a few interesting stories from my career? I’m sure there’s something you could tell me about as well…”
Usl-Thaehey grinned. “Sounds like fun!”

***

“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for coming to the release event of the collaboration single between Gyunerr Usl-Thaehey and Calziona Sulaet-Defka, entitled Tipping Scales. The singers themselves are present at this event and will answer your questions as well as talk to you about various things relating both to the single, and their careers. Please enjoy. Miss Gyunerr, Miss Calziona, please come on stage.”
Usl-Thaehey swallowed hard as she walked on stage. Usually she didn’t feel so nervous before an event, but seeing Sulaet-Defka’s calm demeanor as she walked on the stage aggravated how she felt.
‘I wonder if it’s those sunglasses keepin’ her calm,’ she wondered as she stood behind a microphone.
“Hey all! I’m Gyunerr Usl-Thaehey!”
“And I am Calziona Sulaet….” She yawned. “Calziona Sulaet-Defka, excuse me.”
“Geez, you sound tired!”
“I am,” she said, “and you knew that already. But if I were too tired I wouldn’t be here…”
“Anyway, enough about us two, anything you all would like to know?”
“Are you two friends?” A Catori from the audience asked.
“Consider us partners for now,” Sulaet-Defka said.
“Haven’t really known each other long enough to say friends. Though maybe on the right path, would you say?”
“Maybe,” Sulaet-Defka said quietly.
“You two inta anyone!?” A Minomix asked.
“Into anyone…? Like romantically? No way. Music is my boyfriend and I haven’t got the time for a real one!”
“No. Like Miss Gyunerr, I’m always so preoccupied with music that even while the people of my country await my finding a husband, I don’t take the time to see if there is anyone I could be interested in that way.”
“It’s hard to see romance when you’re so devoted to your passion!” Usl-Thaehey said. “Before we go on, and I know this is a little non-traditional, but I suddenly got the urge to sing a certain song the two of us came up with, Calziona.”
“Oh?”
“So, audience, I’m gonna ask you a question–would you like to hear us sing Tipping Scales right here and now!?”
“YEAH!” Most of the audience yelled. Usl-Thaehey nodded.
“Ya ready, Calziona?” She asked.
“Yes,” Sulaet-Defka said. “I’m ready.”

If I light a fire for those who are cold,
Nearby me at the same time, there could be a person
Lighting a nearby forest on fire
Though the thought disgusts me, I know it is true

When I use my powers for my gain
Someone out there could be trying to use
Those powers in a way benefiting someone else

What’s the true use for these powers?
What’s their purpose, what’s their destiny?
Nobody knows for sure right now

But I know which one I can see!

One side of this wide world
Will show you the truth they believe
Warm people with your flames
And sing them final lullabies

Nobody knows for sure right now
What their true purpose is
Does it vary between all people?
That’s an opinion whose stance will always change!

I could create a meal for you.
Solve all your hunger issues
Right there in front of you
Could be something you haven’t had in ages

At the same time I might decide
Tearing you apart might just oblige
Brute strength or from the inside
Doesn’t matter when I improvise

Could we be getting it all wrong?
Do these powers deserve their own song?
Whatever their true purpose is

I’m completely sure I will be right!

One side of this wide world
Will show you the truth they believe
Help them across a great chasm
Or decide to drop them inside

Nobody knows for sure right now
What their true purpose is
For good, or for evil
Perhaps powers have no purpose at all!

You can’t hold back your question,
don’t hold back your question
Ask, and I shall answer in my way
biased though it may be

What’s the truth of our powers?

After millennia of searching,
there’s a common opinion,
and this opinion remains–

One side of this wide world
Will show you the truth they believe
Whether it be good or bad
Or perhaps nothing at all, it is their truth

That is the truth, all of our powers
Serve absolutely no purpose at all
Their stance is the person’s
And that you’d do good to know

Usl-Thaehey and Sulaet-Defka finished their dance and turned to the audience. Usl-Thaehey couldn’t suppress her grin when they started to clap.

—–
“That was a lot of fun, Calziona,” Usl-Thaehey said to her later on their way back.
“It was,” she breathed. “I still feel short on breath…”
“Are you okay?”
She nodded. “I am so glad I got to have this opportunity.”
“Yeah, about that…I know the two of us are really busy and all with all the stuff we’ve gotta do, but I thought maybe we could at least keep in touch? Ya know, just to talk about music and all, maybe get a bit of an idea for a new song…”
Sulaet-Defka smiled. “I’d like that. Although I’m not so good at writing Vaelis…”
“That’s fine! I can understand mangled Vaelis most of the time. And ya speak it well enough. You’ll get the hang of it.”
Sulaet-Defka sighed. “Thank you for your confidence in me,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed this collaboration, Miss Gyunerr. Thank you.”
“No, thank you!”
Sulaet-Defka giggled. “Maybe we should be thanking our companies…”
The two continued to talk as their chauffer drove them back to the building.

28.332.Between Best Friends–Part 7

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 332
“Between Best Friends–Part 7”

“God, I’ve needed this day off!” Usl-Thaehey shrieked. Namgung flinched. “I feel like I’ve only got a little time and so much to do! I still feel like I’m on a schedule!”
“Calm down, Miss Gyunerr!” Namgung said. “You’re not on a schedule. We have today to do whatever we want. And we’ll still have some free time tomorrow. Since Aena cancelled on you, you have quite a bit of time to yourself. So don’t panic. Our next trip is soon, but it’s not too soon.”
“Yeah, I guess yer right…” Usl-Thaehey sighed. “It’s just kinda hard bein’ constantly on a schedule, yanno? I love seein’ fans happy and all, I just feel like I don’t really have a home of my own. I’m on airplanes so much…”
“I can relate,” Namgung sighed.
“‘Course you can. You’re always there with me,” she said playfully.
“Well, you need someone to keep you sane while you travel nearly everywhere in the world, don’t you?” Namgung said.
“Yeah. And I mean, I guess the travels aren’t all bad. I get to see new things, eat new foods, experience all sorts of different kinds of cultures and then see people’s faces light up while they listen to me sing…of course, there’s the times where they only call me over for modellin’ and that always feels kinda pointless….it’s just gotten to the point where it feels like being home is a vacation for me.”
“You need to stop thinking about work,” he said. “We have today to relax and do something fun. Even if you decide to spend the entire day singing, think of it like when you’re coming up with a song you’ve had on your mind instead of something you have to do.”
“Yeah…” Usl-Thaehey sucked in a breath.

Stress is almost like a rock, fitted to your brain
Pushing down harder at just the right moment
The pain, the pain, the….

“I’ve got nothing,” Usl-Thaehey sighed. “Goes to show you even someone like me can come up with shit lyrics when she’s just singing randomly…”
“It wasn’t that bad. It would definitely need some work, though. …hey, look over there.”
“What’s over there?”
“There’s a stand selling hotteok. I can go buy us some.”
“Nah, I can buy it! I’ve got more than enough money to cover.”
“We both do,” Namgung said.
“I’ve probably got more. I do a lot of singing and modelling. You’re just my manager.” Usl-Thaehey’s eyes widened and her ears stood up straight. “Not that you have a bad job or anything, of course–!”
“I get what you’re trying to say, Miss Gyunerr,” Namgung said. “And no offense taken. By the way, I wouldn’t be sure about making less money than you…but if you insist, go ahead and cover for it.”
“Actually, we could both buy our own, couldn’t we? I mean, hotteok’s not that much vuyong…hey, am I even carrying vuyong right now?”
“We’re in Vaelyn. If you’re not then….oh, never mind, can’t we just buy the hotteok without making it a big deal?”
“Uh, sorry,” Usl-Thaehey said, her ears folding to her head. ‘Geez, I thought I was fun and approachable. Maybe when I’m around fans, but I just can’t live my day-to-day life anymore without feeling like work’ll spring up at any second…’
Usl-Thaehey always had fun doing her job, but the tight schedules were stressful. As she walked ahead to buy the hotteok, she started to feel bad for Namgung. He was often working longer hours than her and she was sure he had a lot of boring work to do being her manager.
‘Right now he’s not your manager though. We’re just friends now. Though that’s kinda hard to remember when he keeps calling me Miss Gyunerr…’
She was still lost in thought as she bought the hotteok from a cheerful Catori man who seemed to recognize her. His whiskers twitched as he handed her the hotteok, and he gave a shriek of delight as she walked away.
“Here ya go,” she said, handing one of the hotteok to Namgung.
“Thank you, Miss Gyunerr.”
“Uh, yeah, Mr. Namgung, that’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
“What, the hotteok? I’m grateful you bought it for me, thank you.”
“No, not the hotteok.” She stared him in the eyes. “Right now you’re not my manager. You’re my friend. So I’m not sayin’ you have to go and call me Usl-Thaehey….honestly, that’d feel kinda weird, but you can drop the miss.”
“Um…okay,” he said. “What brought this on?”
“Well, I thought maybe part of the reason I keep stayin’ in a work mindset is because you keep callin’ me miss. Although I don’t know for sure. Maybe it won’t change anyway, but I thought it was worth a shot.” She bit into the hotteok.
“I see….well, if that’s the case, then you can just call me Namgung, for now,” he said. He was feeling a little uncomfortable at the suggestion, but figured it would work with her plan.
“Okaef,” she said through a mouthful of hotteok.

***

What sort of desire will you pursue to the ends of the earth?
What sort of dream would make you end the life of innocents?
What lies in people is the potential to do all that they can
To achieve what would be their greatest goal, their greatest happiness…

“This one still sounds strange,” Usl-Thaehey sighed. “The lyrics are gettin’ pretty long, and it feels like the chorus is a little, I dunno…what do you think, Mr–uh, I mean, Namgung?”
Even while they were out, Usl-Thaehey couldn’t help but want to work on new songs. To her it always felt like a melody was caught in her head. Namgung was happy to help her. He felt a little special being the one who got to listen to the earliest version of all her songs.
“It could use some work. I think the melody is good. It’s just the lyrics that are a little iffy…”
“That’s what I’m thinking! You know, I really wanna get this one out. I feel like it should be my next song, but that ain’t gonna happen if I can’t figure out how to make it work…”
She started to kick her feet back-and-forth. Namgung moved out the way so he wouldn’t get hit in the face. He sat next to her.
‘I’m lucky to be Miss Gyunerr’s manager. There are so many people in the world who are fans of hers and would love to work with her, and I’m one of the people lucky enough to actually get to do that. Someone else could have been her manager, but instead it’s me…’
He smiled to himself.
“Something up, Namgung? You’re smilin’ like a fool….don’t tell me you’ve got a cruuush,” she said playfully. “If you do, tell me who it is!”
“I don’t have a crush,” Namgung sighed. “You can be so silly, Miss Gyunerr….” He added to himself. “I was just thinking I’m lucky to be your manager.”
“Why?” Usl-Thaehey asked.
“Well, lots of people would like to work with you. And I’m lucky enough to be one of the people who gets to do that. I was just thinking about it…it could’ve been someone else.”
“Well, I’m glad it’s you. Who needs a stuck-up manager? I mean, you’re serious, but I’ve seen other people’s managers and man, I feel lucky to have you…”
“There’s a lot of things we understand about each other, isn’t there?” Namgung asked.
“Yeah. The pain of constantly traveling, feeling lucky for certain things…we click well, Namgung. You know, I think even if you weren’t my manager, we would’ve ended up friends anyway.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, really. I’ve met a lotta people workin’ in the business, and they usually have their managers close by. I’m sure you and I would’ve met somehow and ended up becoming friends. At least I’d hope so.” Usl-Thaehey looked at the sky. “But what’s the point in thinkin’ on what could’ve happened when we have the here and now? I dunno where I’m goin’ with this. Just, thank you, Namgung. This is one ‘a the cheesiest things I could say, but to me, you’re more than….aw, damn it, it’s really cheesy!”
“I think I know what you were going to say,” Namgung said. “So thank you.”
“Yer welcome.”
“You and I need more days off like this.”
“Yeah, no kidding. I still feel like I’m on a time constraint for relaxing. But I was thinkin’, since we’re in the area, aren’t there like, species societies nearby? I thought we could visit one ‘a those, see how traditions are different there. I’ve been to a lotta societies but mostly multi-species ones…”
“We could do that,” Namgung said. “….so long as they’re a friendly society, anyway….”
“Well, if they live nearby, they’ve probably heard of me, right!?” Usl-Thaehey said, standing up. “Maybe even if they don’t like outsiders, I could use my fame to weasel my way into there…”
“Oh, Usl-Thaehey…” Namgung sighed. Then, he paused. Usl-Thaehey was staring at him wide-eyed.
“You just called me Usl-Thaehey.”
Namgung opened his mouth to respond, but no words came out. He scratched the back of his neck, feeling awkward.
“Sorry…”
“Nah, you don’t need to apologize, it was just, I dunno…” Usl-Thaehey bit her lip.
“Jus’ try not to do it again. It’s just kinda awkward…”
“No kidding.”
“Geez….here I am gettin’ embarrassed that my manager called me by my first name when random strangers do it all the time…so stupid.” She sighed. “Let’s put this behind us though. Whaddya say we head off to a society?”
“Do you know where one is?”
“I figured you did!”
“Well, there has to be a path to one somewhere…” Namgung said. “We can just look around. If nothing else it might make for a nice walk.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Usl-Thaehey sucked in a breath and began to sing as Namgung led the way along a sidewalk.

All the species studiers I know could not understand
Something base in all of minds
Maybe someday, I’ll find something I missed from a study
But today, I’m just wondering why we feel certain ways…

“I haven’t heard that one before,” Namgung said.
“That’s ’cause I just came up with it now.”
“It sounds nice. Slower than most of your other songs.”
Sweet Inevitable Death is slow too,” she said. “It’s just ’cause something was on my mind…”
“Well, if you come up with any more, you should sing it for me,” Namgung said with a smile.
“Okay…”

Could it be some sort of chemistry in the brain?
I’m expecting that, and if I’m right
Can’t I modify it so that I could understand
Some of the things I don’t yet know if they’re true…

—–
Witches sent green and purple fireworks off in the sky. The smell of stew was mixed with the smell of boiling potions. There was so much use of powers around her, it felt like it was making her fur rise.
“This is really nice,” Usl-Thaehey said.
“Yeah, it is…”
Just relaxing like this is what they had wanted that day, and now they were finally able to.

5.278.Collaboration with Sulaet-Defka–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 278
“Collaboration with Sulaet-Defka–Part 2”

Throughout the night, Usl-Thaehey thought on the things she and Sulaet-Defka had gone over that day.
‘She had some pretty weird ideas…’ Usl-Thaehey thought. To her the sudden tempo changes sounded as though they would be difficult to pull off, and would end up resulting in a disjointed song. She couldn’t imagine the song without any sort of electronic enhancement either.
But at the same time, the idea of electronically enhancing Sulaet-Defka’s voice seemed strange. In the songs by her that she had heard, Sulaet-Defka had a deep voice, much deeper than her tiny speaking voice, that seemed like a strange choice for an electronic song.
Even in her head they were still having conflicts.
‘We need to reach a compromise…’
Usl-Thaehey wasn’t sure how long it would take, but she was determined to see the collaboration through, if for no other reason, to get it over with.

***

“Are you ready, Miss Gyunerr?” Namgung asked.
“Yeah, I guess, but….I dunno…I hope we make more progress than yesterday. And I wish they’d give us our own songs ’cause, you know, we could have collaborated on an album as opposed to singin’ one song together…so crappy what they did…”
“I wish I had any input. I would have mentioned something like that, if I could have…”
“Don’t worry about it, Mr. Namgung. I’ll handle it….she’s pretty polite, but she agitates me a little. Still, it’s hard to stay mad at her ’cause she’s over a hundred years old…know that’s not the oldest for a Groundiser, but I kinda feel like she’s a little old lady and that….ah heh…”
“Are you ready for the meeting, Miss Gyunerr?” Sulaet-Defka asked. Usl-Thaehey swallowed hard.
“Er, yeah, sure! Just, gimme a moment here, I’m discussin’ things with my manager.” She flattened her ears in shame.
“Alright.” She walked into the room, closing the door gently behind her.
“She doesn’t sound like a little old lady,” Namgung said. “Her speaking voice is a lot different from her singing voice, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, wonder why. Some strange abnormality? One of the voices is affected, maybe? Maybe she thought she wouldn’t be taken seriously with that little voice and worked to deepen it for her songs. …or maybe all that singing in such a deep voice killed her vocal chords…”
“If they had, she wouldn’t be meeting you today. You should go now, Miss Gyunerr. The sooner you two get even the smallest idea, the better.”
“I know, I know…” Usl-Thaehey sighed. She took a breath and walked into the room.
“Hey, Calziona.”
“….do I really come off as old to you?”
“Er….you heard that, huh….sorry, it’s just…even a hundred is really old for both Werewolves and Normals…most species actually…I know for a Groundiser, that’s like a young lady, but still…”
“It was just surprising to hear. But we Groundisers do age faster than Vampires, for instance…so I suppose I am closer to little old lady than you are.”
“But my manager said you sound really young. And you don’t act that old. Just, old-fashioned a little, you know?”
“I try to adhere to my traditions as closely as possible,” she said. “Now…to the song…”
“Yeah, yeah!”
“I actually was inspired last night, after hearing your suggestions,” she said.
“Huh?”
“I prepared some…short lyrics…” She pulled out a folded piece of paper from her bag. “It is not the tidiest….I had to get used to the strange writing style of Vaelis…so if you cannot read all of it, I can tell you what it is supposed to say, but…your idea of a song about good and evil, and neutral, I thought was a good idea….and even though I am not a fan of electronica, I saw how it could be incorporated into such a song….”
Usl-Thaehey read over the lyrics. She squinted at some strangely-written Vaelis, but nonetheless was surprised.
‘This…this is pretty good!’
“Wow!”
“Do you like it?”
“Yeah, I do! This short little chorus line here, this is supposed to be the part with the electronica?”
“Yes, I thought if any part would have electronica, it would be the chorus line…or we could reverse that…it could work the other way around, I suppose…” Sulaet-Defka yawned.
“Geez, now I know why you’re so popular. You’ve got talent, Calziona.”
To Usl-Thaehey’s surprise, Sulaet-Defka smiled. “You do too, Miss Gyunerr. You are the modern face of Vaelis music, I would say. There is a reason you have so much popularity outside your home country…”
“You too! And you’re still popular! Oh gosh. Calziona, don’t worry about what a newbie like me has to say about your older style, it works. But this is…”
“Thank you,” she said.
“I think I could work with this, actually.”
“I would love to see where you build from these lyrics…I just got inspired last night…”
“That why you seem so tired today?” Usl-Thaehey asked.
“A little…”
Usl-Thaehey took a good look at the paper once again. “But you know, this still needs work.”
“Of course it does…”
“No, I mean, this is a collaboration project. We can’t have this bein’ ‘Gyunerr Usl-Thaehey’s song with assistance from Calziona Sulaet-Defka’. It has to be the project of both of our minds. It has to be….Gyuziona.”
“Please, no,” Sulaet-Defka sighed.
“Yeah, Gyuziona’s no good….don’t worry, I’m not coming up with another combined name!” She shrieked.
“Y’know, before we go on…” Usl-Thaehey started.
“Hm?”
“Ever since I was told about this collaboration, I was kinda skeptic. Our musical styles are different, and I thought, well…you being more old-fashioned, you wouldn’t like my musical style!”
Sulaet-Defka stared at her, though Usl-Thaehey could barely tell behind the sunglasses. “That’s kinda why I fought you. I thought it would be hard to work together with someone else. But then you show me these lyrics, and I get all inspired!” She gave a sheepish giggle as she continued, “I guess I’m easily swayed.”
“I felt reluctant about our collaboration at first too, Miss Gyunerr. But I think, so long as we are thinking about music, it will come out just fine.”
“Yeah. Instead of thinking about the collaboration, think about the music…” Usl-Thaehey smiled at her.
“I’m glad to work with you, Calziona.”
“Same here, Miss Gyunerr.”
“You know, we might be able to do a milder tempo-switch with the lyrics you have so far. It seems like it could work, so long as it’s a gradual increase in tempo as opposed to just jerking between tempos.”
“That sounds good,” she said.
“And from your lyrics, we’ve got a chorus already, which is good. There’s a direction this song could go in. Then we get down the melody, and find a way to make it work with both of our voices.”
“…will my singing voice work with this song?” She asked.
“Oh yeah. Actually, I’m wonderin’ if my voice might be too high for this…”
“You don’t have too high a voice, Miss Gyunerr.”
“I guess I’m not the pitchest girl….er, whatever that means…”
Usl-Thaehey blinked at Sulaet-Defka.
“Hey, Calziona?”
“Yes, Miss Gyunerr?”
“We’re workin’ together now, for real this time. You don’t need to keep the sunglasses on. Er, you can if you wanna, but…”
“No, I can take them off.” Sulaet-Defka took off the sunglasses and sat them neatly next to her. Usl-Thaehey was able to see her bright cornsilk eyes, which were only partially hidden by sand.
“Do they look strange?” She asked.
“Naw. Actually, they’re pretty cute!”

Later on that day, Namgung invited both Usl-Thaehey and Sulaet-Defka out to a bar diner. Usl-Thaehey could hardly say no, while Sulaet-Defka gave a quiet approval and came along with them.
She figured she knew the reason Namgung was inviting them out; he had been worried about their progress after Usl-Thaehey had voiced her concerns. She grinned when she thought on their earlier conversation given the progress they had made in one day.
They were seated in a booth and Namgung quickly got to the subject matter Usl-Thaehey had been expecting.
“So, how is the song coming so far?”
“Miss Gyunerr is pleasant to work with. It is making swifter progress than I expected,” Sulaet-Defka said.
“We disagreed on some things at first. But like the cliche cartoons of….well, before and now, we figured our ideas, when put together, could probably make a good song.”
“We thought less about the collaboration, and more on our passion for songs,” Sulaet-Defka said. “At the very least, I did. That helped a lot, I think…”
“I thought like that too,” Usl-Thaehey said.
“I’m glad to hear you two made such good progress so quickly,” Namgung said. “Your companies will be pleased.”
“It still needs some refinement,” Sulaet-Defka said.
“Yeah, even though we like our current draft, there’s no way that could be the public version of the song. It needs….refinement, yeah!”
“And also a title,” Sulaet-Defka said.
“And an actual tune instead of tempo increase and decrease cues,” Usl-Thaehey said.
Namgung smiled. “With two professionals on the job, I’m sure you’ll find all those things soon.”
“Calziona deserves that title more than I do,” Usl-Thaehey said sheepishly.
“I have been trying to tell Miss Gyunerr that she is a great modern musician. You should be proud to be her manager, Mr. Namgung.”
“I am,” he said. “She’s a good singer, a good business partner, and a good friend.”
“Don’t embarrass me in front of Calziona!” Usl-Thaehey yelled. Sulaet-Defka gave a soft giggle.
“Your drinks and meals.”
The waiter had returned with their drinks and meals on a tray. He set them down in front of each of them, bowed, and walked away.
“I think this collaboration’ll be fun,” Usl-Thaehey said. “I can’t wait to start recording with you, Calziona.”
“The same, Miss Gyunerr.”
Namgung could barely hide his satisfaction. ‘I knew you girls had it in you…..’

—–
In Bledger that day, La-Iin read a strange rumor.
“Usl-Thaehey and Sulaet-Defka are going to collaborate!?” She shrieked.