15.592.To See the Future–Part 4

The La-Iin Series
Capter 592
“To See the Future–Part 4”

“You know what’s weird to think about?”
“What’s that, Dad?”
“You’re sixteen and in Grade 11 now…2017 isn’t all that far away anymore. Graduation is the last step before adulthood.” Orlin-Aesth’s ears flattened against his head. “Why can’t you go back to being that cute little ten-year-old you were a few years ago!?”
“Why ten?” Dosa-Mina asked. “Aw, come on, Dad. You’ve never had a problem with me aging before.”
“It’s just the idea of you leaving the nest and all. But I guess at least you’re prepared for adulthood.” He smiled. “After all, you even have a game plan for the future, don’t you?”
“Yep! Hopefully someday in the future, you’ll see my name along with many other species studiers!”
“Hopefully,” he chuckled. “Although hopefully I’ll also see you walking around in your true…ahem. Never mind.”
“I know what you were going to say, Dad. That’ll never happen.” ‘And hopefully along with that, nobody will ever know about it, either…’

After Orlin-Aesth head to work, Dosa-Mina found himself pacing around his room.
‘Dad might be right about me having a goal. I do have a lot of ideas for my future. But I’ve never considered certain parts of it, have I?’
Immediately a few things came to his mind–San-Kyung, his nightmares, and the duo of Lirako and Airy-Aekok. ‘Sure I can strive for being a species studier all I want, but what if I can’t move past the point I’m at now? What’ll I do if I’m still having nightmares in the future?’
He sighed. ‘Well, I’ve dealt with my other problems just fine in the past. I’m sure the future would be no different, if I really had to….’

***

“Hey, Elai-Aesth, whatcha up to?”
Elai-Aesth glanced at his father. “I was measuring the properties of a certain protein Warlocks usually come in contact with. Unfortunately your unusually chirpy voice distracted me.”
“Sorry about that, kiddo. I know what it’s like to be distracted right in the middle of rigorous research.”
“Meh, it wasn’t going anywhere.” Elai-Aesth shook his head. Dosa-Mina smiled. He was thankful for Elai-Aesth–he had been the product of his last-ditch effort to have a child. Dosa-Mina was always uncertain about his willingness to show off his species, however. ‘It probably wasn’t the best idea, in hindsight, to have a biological child if I want to hide that…but I can’t see life without him now!’
“Is Uncle San-Kyung coming over today?”
“Uncle San-Kyung?” Dosa-Mina questioned. “Since when did you start calling him that?”
“What, do you want me to call him Papa San-Kyung? That man has no biological relation to me.”
“No?”
Elai-Aesth sighed. “God, Father, what the hell do you want me to call him!?”
“You didn’t need to mouth off at me like that. Just San-Kyung is fine. I don’t think he minds at all.”
“If you ask me, he seems like he minds a lot,” Elai-Aesth grumbled. “I don’t get your relationship with him, Father.”
“We’re best friends.”
“I don’t think you understand…never mind.”
“And to answer your question, yes, he is coming over here today. Happy?”
Elai-Aesth didn’t respond. Moments later he said instead, “So, Father, I was curious…”
“Yeeees?”
“Why do you walk around in that Normal form if you were so determined to have a child who had Werewolf and Siren blood in them? You make no sense.”
“I’ve been told that before by many people years before you were born, Elai-Aesth. I don’t know. I guess you could say it’s kind of a natural curiosity. But as far as I’m concerned, I’m a Normal.”
“Father, that’s physically impossible. Your powers show through even in that falsified form and there is no defined mental reason that would cause one to believe that one is–”
“I get it, I get it. It’s circumstances beyond my control at this point, alright?” A knock sounded at the door. “I think I know who that is. Try and be a little more cheerful, alright, Elai-Aesth? I swear, you’re probably the least cheerful Dslellular currently living.”
“Well, excuse my confusion, then.”
Dosa-Mina went to answer the door. San-Kyung was standing there, his eyes focused on a piece of paper in his hands, though he looked up when Dosa-Mina opened the door.
“Hey.”
“Hello there, San-Kyung! Come on in!”
San-Kyung closed the door, and Dosa-Mina ran ahead of him, though he couldn’t keep himself from glancing over his shoulder. ‘San-Kyung looks exactly like he does in my nightmares now, top to bottom, but he hasn’t been having the problems the one in my nightmares has. And I have Elai-Aesth now. He wasn’t in my nightmares…maybe I don’t have to worry. …geez, Elai-Aesth is nine now, Dosa-Mina! Of course you don’t have to worry about it anymore!’
“What’s got you lost in though?” San-Kyung asked.
“Oh, um, nothing. Just thinking about how you and Elai-Aesth can be a little similar sometimes, heh. You two both have bad attitudes.”
“Excuse me?” Elai-Aesth shot a glare in his father’s direction. “Oh. Hello, Sa…San-Kyung. What brings you here?”
“Your father, who else?”
“Yeah, I don’t think San-Kyung likes walking all the way out here. But he does it all for me!” Dosa-Mina hugged his arm, and Elai-Aesth’s face went bright pink. “Seriously, Father! Either be honest with him or stop teasing him!”
“…”
“Aha ha ha. I’ll never stop showering San-Kyung in affection.”
“Yeah, not even in your thirties,” he sighed.
“Aw, come on.” Dosa-Mina let go of him. “Actually, Elai-Aesth, I did ask him over for a genuine reason. I have something to show him. You two wait here and I’ll go get it!”
Dosa-Mina ran off, but even a room over he could overhear the starts of a conversation between San-Kyung and Elai-Aesth.
“San-Kyung, what are your intentions with my Papa?”
“Papa?”
“I only call him Father when I’m angry with him. You probably never noticed the difference because I’m always angry with him when you come over. Now talk with me. I’m aware of your xenophobia but I’d rather it not apply to me.”
“Hmph.”
“Don’t act like a child. You’re thirty-six.”
“Funny you’re saying that.”
“I value maturity in a person.”
“That makes me wonder how you deal with Dosa-Mina every day.”
“I do care about him despite his ridiculousness. Now, tell me, what are your intentions with him?”
“You should be asking him that question about me.”
“I’ve tried, trust me.”
Dosa-Mina giggled. He retrieved the files and head out the room.
“Look, I don’t know the answer to that question either. I’ve tried asking him but–” San-Kyung looked up. “Oh, you’re back.”
“Well!? Are you going to answer the question, San-Kyung!? My Papa frustrates me endlessly on this subject! If I could get a clear answer from you, I might be able to–” Elai-Aesth cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”
“Papa? That’s new.”
“He must be angry with you more than half the time, then…” San-Kyung stood up. “Alright, what is it?”
“My coworkers think I’m crazy, but I’ve been using a lot of my spare time to look into the whole Aesthetically Normal-Regular Form transformation you want so much.”
Elai-Aesth forced himself between them and stared at the papers; Dosa-Mina noticed San-Kyung flinch briefly. “So, this is what you’ve been holing yourself in your room for? Your devotion to each other astounds me. It’s also the source of much confusion on my part…”
“Aaaanyway, so in the time I’ve been looking into this I’ve found out a few interesting things. And I think it might be possible, but it’s going to take a bit.”
“I’ve waited thirty-six years. I can wait more if it means there’ll be a payoff at the end.”
“There might just be! But what I’m looking into right now is amplifiers. There seem to be a few methods worth looking in to, though.”
“Astounding what you’ve found out, Papa!”
Dosa-Mina giggled. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, it is pretty amazing.”
“Something wrong, San-Kyung? You look sad. We haven’t been able to hang out as much since Elai-Aesth came along. Go ahead and tell me if anything’s on your mind.”
“It’s nothing, really. I just wish this could have happened years ago as opposed to just having a breakthrough now.”
“Me too. But what are you gonna do?”
“What about you? You aren’t cutting anymore, are you?”
Dosa-Mina paled.
“Cutting?”
“San-Kyung, I thought I asked you not to bring that up in front of Elai-Aesth!”
“Shit. Sorry.”
“What’s he talking about, cutting?”
“Er, stress cutting! You know, like cutting paper–” Dosa-Mina flinched. Elai-Aesth had lifted up his sleeve. “I’m not stupid, Father. Your suspicious behavior made it click better than it would have on San-Kyung’s word alone. How long have these been here!?” Elai-Aesth’s paws gripped his arm tight and made him flinch.
“I–I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Look, Dosa-Mina…” Dosa-Mina glared at San-Kyung. “I’m not the one who should be telling you anything about parenting, but you owe it to that kid to tell him. I’ll…make it up to you twofold, just don’t keep him in the dark.”
“You’re saying that?”
“Father, please.”
Dosa-Mina sighed. “…they’ve been here for a while. Ever since me and San-Kyung were kids. But I was older than you are now when I started. I had….certain reasons for starting that I’ll tell you about later. It’s easier for me that way…but anyway, now those reasons, they’re gone. All of them. I’ve realized it was irrational…but I can’t erase what I did in the past, no matter how hard I try.”
Dosa-Mina lowered his head. “I wish I could.”
“Father…”
San-Kyung scratched Dosa-Mina’s head.
“Why keep this from me!? You trust me, don’t you? Why do you do things like this to keep yourself from being happy?”
“I–I don’t think you understand, Elai-Aesth. I’m happier if I can pretend things are the way I want them to be. What am I supposed to do!? I can’t get rid of all these cuts!”
Elai-Aesth had started to cry. The expression on his face was a lot different from the composed one Dosa-Mina was used to seeing. He looked genuinely distressed.
“Father, I know I’m not nice to you all the time, but you’re still my Father! How do you think I feel seeing things like this!? I just want you to be happy…”
Dosa-Mina pulled him close. “Sorry, Elai-Aesth. Unfortunately, your Father’s not as strong as he’d like to pretend…”
“So–so why do you pretend you’re a Normal, then?”
“I think you probably figured that out by now, haven’t you?”
“He’s always been like this, kid. He kept these things secret from me too. I had to find out myself.”
“Why!?”
“I just want to pretend everything’s the way I want it to be…things like this are hard on me, too.”
“Father, you can’t do that. If you hold things in like this, when they are found out, it will be all that much worse. You make things hard on yourself this way. You’ll only be more unhappy if things are found out against your will.”
“Elai-Aesth…?”
“So please, be happy. It’s why I tell you to be honest with your feelings, you know…you really should be, whatever they are.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Th–thanks. I guess I can try…after all, now I know I was cutting for no good reason, maybe I can start being happier…but one thing at a time, alright?”
“You may consider me a xenophobe, kid, but maybe because you’re his child, you’re not as bad as the rest of the people. I can sympathize when it comes to him not being honest…”
“Yeah…”
“I can try. But you’ll have to be patient with me, alright?”
“Mm-hm…it’s just…it’s scary, seeing all those cuts.”
“I know. I’m sorry. To make it up, why don’t I make us all something to drink? Would you like that?”
“Yes…”
“Whatever.”
Dosa-Mina handed the papers to San-Kyung and walked into the kitchen. Soon after he noticed that Elai-Aesth and San-Kyung were close behind him, watching him with concerned expressions.
‘What Kkumneok said happened where he comes from won’t happen here. They prove that to me…people love you, Dosa-Mina. So why can’t you just tell them all these problems you have…’
“Hey.”
“What now?”
San-Kyung handed him a small picture. It was a picture of him and San-Kyung on their graduation day.
“I figured you could use a little cheering up after what happened.”
Dosa-Mina smiled. “Thank you. I really could…”

—–
‘If I want to be a father in the future, I’ll need to try and become honest with myself. All these problems I have…’ He lifted up his sleeve, then quickly pulled it back down. The sight of so many cuts was too much for even him to bear.
‘But things that way would just be too painful! I like things the way they are now. And even if I have to become more honest with myself when I have a kid, why should I have to show these to everyone at school?’
Dosa-Mina was plagued with uncertainty, and it made him feel sick to his stomach. ‘What would really be better for me, anyway? What do I really want?’

14.591.Situations Revisited

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 591
“Situations Revisited”

“Mr. Baelin, it’s been almost a year since that incident at Malicerie happened. Can you please tell us why you decided to cast a spell on a whole school?”
Baelin remained silent, his eyes closed.
“Mr. Baelin, please!”
“H-hey, Harliou, please don’t be so rough on him.”
“Llanni, you take these things too softly! This is a man with immense power, enough to make several people start acting out their fantasies and fears. Now come on, Mr. Baelin! If you ever want us to take you off of power suppressants, you’ll answer us! You’ll get nowhere if you don’t!”
“This whole situation is a mess…”
Baelin remained silent.
“Mr. Baelin, think of all the things you’ll be able to do once you give us the answer we want. You’re already in enough trouble for what you did. But you’ll never be out of trouble if you don’t give us a concrete answer. Come on, think about it: you’ll be free once more, free to use your powers not on unsuspecting and unaware students…and the longer you refuse to answer, the more of a blight it is on your reputation!”
“I have no reputation.”
The cops glanced among each other with wide grins on their faces.
“Come on, Mr. Baelin, we just want a concrete answer. And obviously you’re willing to talk, so tell us what it is.”
“What do I get from telling you guys? It’s not like it’s that important.”
“It’s plenty important!”
“Harliou, please!”
“Mr. Baelin?”
Baelin opened his right eye. He caught sight of a timid Birdmix, staring at him with a look of desperation. “Can you please tell us why you did what you did? It’ll actually be very helpful to you and to us. We need an answer, and you want to be free, right?”
Both of Baelin’s eyes opened, and he stared at the Birdmix woman in surprise. He cleared his throat and faced them all. “Fine. But only if I get a picture of this pretty gal to take home with me.”
“We can’t give you that! We don’t know what you’ll do with it!” Harliou complained.
“Oh, I don’t mind.”
“Vaniette, you should realize why we’re concerned…”
“The point must’ve flown right over her head.”
“Great.” Baelin cleared his throat once more. “The spell I used on those students is a high-grade Witch and Warlock spell called “Drugging Desire”. It makes the person the spell was cast on lose restraint, much like when you get drunk, and nine times out of ten presents to them a pleasurable situation. Of course, in the other one time, it brings up something neutral or horrifying.”
“Drugging Desire?”
“Why haven’t we looked into this already!?” Harliou growled.
“W-we did, we just couldn’t really find all that much on it…”
“Like I said, Drugging Desire is a high-grade Witch and Warlock spell. The only reason I was able to cast it is because I have natural talent, courtesy of my dear Mama and Papa who had so much power of their own. Anyway, now that you know how the power works, I’m supposing you want to know why I cast it on them, don’t you?”
“Yes! That’s what we’ve been begging you for the whole time!”
“Please, Mr. Baelin,” Vaniette said, her eyes sparkling. Baelin’s cheeks flushed. “Anything for the lovely Vaniette. I cast that spell on those students because I wanted to see what would happen.”
“WHAT!? YOU MEAN WE WAITED ALL THIS TIME FOR THIS BULLSHIT!?”
“He was characterized as a mischievous Warlock upon his arrest, Harliou,” Llanni told him.
“Come on, as if you guys didn’t know. You embody the stereotype of a dumb authority force. The answers are sitting in front of your nose. I’ll admit Drugging Desire is a fairly under-the-radar spell, but please. You guys have better means to learn about this kind of stuff than even I do. Vaelyn’s not exactly the Warlock hub of the world after all. I mean–”
“Please make him talk slower, Vaniette,” Harliou said. “I’m done dealing with him.”
“Mr. Baelin, can you please talk slower? And, um, explain yourself a little better?”
“Certainly. If you all should know anything, it’s that an extremely common personality trait in Witches and Warlocks is curiosity. We are the most powerful type of Pureblood naturally–that is, without drug assistance or assistance other species get from us. Of course we’re curious. We have the most power of any single species, and the species with the most power would involve us too, naturally.”
“Arrogant little…” Harliou grumbled. Llanni pat him on the back.
“When I learned Drugging Desire, I had to find someone to use it on. I live alone, you see, and my little sister would never forgive me if I used it on her. I’d be smacked up, down and all around and then some, and I don’t want that. So I used it on anyone I could find. The students at Malicerie Public just happened to be the ones you found.”
“Are you admitting to more crimes!?”
Baelin scoffed. “Puh-leeze. Crimes? You act like Drugging Desire is serious. Unless the person it’s used on has some sort of murderous desire, it really isn’t. And I had no way of knowing if any of the students there, or any of the other people I used it on, had any desires like that. But just so you know: I was observing the students at Malicerie. I did the same for the people I “drugsired” before them. I healed the other people when I was done.”
“That was nice of you,” Vaniette said.
“Ha, it was nice of me, wasn’t it? But even if I hadn’t, they would have snapped out of it naturally. In any event, I got the proof I needed, that if someone like me can use Drugging Desire, that I am an incredibly powerful Warlock. So I don’t give a damn that you guys have been using power suppressants on me. I’ll still be able to use my powers same as always when they wear off.”
“I can’t believe we’ve wasted almost a year on this bullshit…” Harliou sobbed.
“Thank you for telling us, Mr. Baelin.”
“Yeah, no problem, but you should have guessed it yourselves, dumbasses. Of course, that statement doesn’t apply to you, sweetie.”
Vaniette giggled. The others in the room groaned.
“I’m ready to leave whenever you guys give the a-okay. My life is being lived for enjoyment. And as fun as it’s been sticking around with you losers, I’m ready to get back to using my powers. Legally of course this time. I’d rather not deal with you guys again.”
All of them shook their heads. Baelin relaxed in his chair and closed his eyes once more.

***

“So I am not sure if any of you have heard this news already, but Baelin Eung-Al was released from holding a week ago today.”
“Wow, only a week ago? That seems like an awfully long time to be detained for what he did.”
“His bad behavior persuaded them to keep him longer out of spite. But in any event, when I heard of this news, I assembled you all because I want to talk on something. The event with Baelin was chaotic when it happened. School starts again in less than a month, and the future is unpredictable. Do any of you have ideas for something we might be able to do to prevent another Baelin incident?”
Everyone glanced among each other.
“We don’t really know that something like that will happen again. Why take measures against it?” Chensu asked.
“Why, Mr. Chensu? Why? Are you really choosing to ask that question?” The Principal sighed and squeezed the bridge of her nose. “Because it has already happened, proving that it’s fully possible. And we’ve had worse happen as well. I’m sure everyone here remembers the Malicerie Incident.”
The faculty fell silent. “We need something to protect Malicerie from potential attacks. They can and very well might happen again.”
“Should we hire security?” Theasis said. “That might help.”
“A good suggestion. Anyone else?”
“We could use the power of a Warlock against potential attackers,” Hyungdarou said.
“Hm…” The Principal directed to Sharai to start scrawling down notes.
“There’s plenty of ideas we can consider. Security systems, guards, et cetera….there’s plenty, but while I think this is a fine idea, I’m also worried about going overboard. Don’t want to stifle the students, after all.” Sharai said.
“By stifling them do you mean allowing them to misbehave?” Yushie asked.
“No, I’m not stupid, you know! I mean like making it so that the school is so heavily guarded that the students feel uncomfortable. If we incorporate all this stuff into Malicerie right as the students come back, they might think that something happened over the break to make us up our ante. Don’t you think that might have them on pins and needles?”
“Mr. Sharai, making a good point?” The Principal said, mock surprise in her tone.
“Very funny, Principal. You’ve admitted I can make good points before!”
“Your idea is a good one though, Principal,” Theasis said. “It does bear looking in to. We must protect Malicerie and our students.”
“Indeed. But we can’t just contemplate outside attacks as well. I’ve had concerns about inside attacks as well…”
The faculty fell silent.
“Now, anyone else: do you have an idea?”

—–
“Mr. Baelin.”
Eung-Al had been called to the park by a man he had never met before while on a walk around Bledger. Though he’d never met him before, he had a feeling he wouldn’t soon forget him–aside from his fluffy ponytail and sharp eyes, his most distinguishing feature was a strange marking on his left cheek. Eung-Al couldn’t help but stare at it the whole walk.
“So, you must come from a Warlock society. I don’t think many mark their people anymore, though. Just how old are you?”
“My age is not your concern. Besides, I am younger than you might expect for a marked Warlock. You seem to believe that all of us are old fogies…not that I’m surprised seeing your behavior.”
“Well, excuse me!”
“Now that we’re in peace…” The man stared him down. “I have a project I’m working on, you could say. Have you ever heard of the Witch Astineth Eir-Tyuj?”
“Yeah? She’s dead, isn’t she?”
“Quite the contrary, unfortunately. In regards to her I had an idea, a plan you could say…a Warlock of your ability could be quite helpful on my team. Oh, before you get that look on your face, it’s nothing to the degree of murdering her. I simply have some curiosities that need to be sated, but that lady is under high security and it’s incredibly difficult to approach her. I don’t normally approach people like this, but I was impressed by your ability to pull off Drugging Desire. That’s one I don’t know how to use yet, so to me that’s a sign of your strength.”
“I’m glad you know greatness when you see it. But I’m gonna have to decline. Sorry, but I’m interested in having fun in my own life. I don’t know about Eir-Tyuj being alive, but I’d rather do things myself. You understand, don’t you?”
“I do,” he sighed. “Fine. Thank you for taking the time to listen to me. Besides, I’m not completely sure how much I should trust someone I don’t know, in any event…”
“Good for you.” He winked at the man. “Well, I’m off. Best of luck, ah…”
“Spaeic.”
“Spaeic? Feel like I’ve heard that name before…” With a shrug, Eung-Al left the strange man behind.

13.590.Hiding in the Records

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

12.589.Transition to Recovery

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

11.588.To See the Future–Part 3

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

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

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

***

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

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

8.585.To Repair the Prior Year

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 585
“To Repair the Prior Year”

Memories flashed in Ai-Reia’s mind.
“GYAAAAH! CA-MIELA!”
“How what goes!? You could’ve killed Ca-Miela!”

As the minutes passed before her birthday, all she could remember was the prior year and how horrible it had been. She had a slight concern that her eighth birthday would be every bit as bad as her seventh, but for a different reason: her family either becoming concerned that she would harm Ca-Miela again, or becoming concerned about keeping her happy to the point that it was stifling.
It was hard for her to look forward to her birthday under those conditions, but the idea of having a day that miserable made her sick. So instead, she formulated a plan.
‘As long as I pretend to be happy, they won’t have any reason to believe that they need to coddle me or that I’m going to harm Ca-Miela again. And who knows, perhaps if I pretend to be happy, I actually will become happy. I feel it–that is the only way I will have any sort of true happiness tomorrow…’

***

Reuf-Bu’s bedroom door opened with a loud creak. Ai-Reia flinched, but her brother showed no signs of waking up. Cautiously, she walked over to him and began to shake him lightly.
“Reuf-Bu. Reuf-Bu.”
“Mmngh…no, no, I don’t wanna tell my parents about Cais-Elle yet, heh heh…”
‘Cais-Elle? Wasn’t that girl a classmate of his?’ The detail wasn’t all that important, so she went back to gently shaking Reuf-Bu. He groaned again and opened his eyes.
“Cais-Elle? Wait…you aren’t Cais-Elle…”
“Honestly, Reuf-Bu! You can’t tell the difference between me and some school fancy?”
Reuf-Bu sat up abruptly, his eyes wide as if he had just drunk a large pot of coffee. “I–I don’t have a school fancy with Cais-Elle!”
“Hm.”
Reuf-Bu stiffened. “Ergh–I mean–yeeees, what do you need, birthday girl?”
“Oh, so you remembered?” Ai-Reia tried to make her face light up. Reuf-Bu’s expression gave her no indication of whether or not she had succeeded. “I was lonely because nobody else had woken up yet, so I figured of everyone in the house you would be the most likely to pay attention to me if I woke you up. I would like to do a puzzle with you!”
“Of course you would. It feels like with you and me, it’s nothing but puzzles…”
“Is a thousand and eighty pieces too much?”
“A thousand and eighty–!” Reuf-Bu gasped. “Ai-Reia, what is this!? Is this some sort of portrait of a major historical figure or something!?”
“It’s a large picture of cartoon depictions of the countries in the world.”
“Ah…ahaha, I guess you are still a little kid….but geez…a thousand and eighty pieces!? Seriously, what the hell!?”
Ai-Reia covered her mouth. Reuf-Bu sighed. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s fine. I curse myself from time to time, but I keep most of those locked away inside my head instead of letting them cross my lips.”
“Acting high and mighty, aren’t we?”
“I’d usually take offense to what you said, but I can’t find it in myself to care right now. Really, I do want to do a puzzle with you, Reuf-Bu. After all, you mistook me for Cais-Elle…I might have to ask Mother and Father just who she is for you to have mistaken me for her…”
Reuf-Bu flinched. “Now you’re just being a sadist!”
“What’s a sadist?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Ai-Reia. I know you know what a sadist is.” He stretched, yawned, and hopped out of bed. “Fine, I’ll do the puzzle with you, but you have to wait for me to get ready first.”
“I can wait. I’ll be in the living room scrambling the pieces!”
Ai-Reia dashed out the room. ‘Geez, she’s energetic today. Why does something feel a little off about that?’

When Reuf-Bu had come out to do the puzzle, he had a larger reaction to the number of pieces, and Ai-Reia couldn’t suppress a giggle. Nevertheless, they ended up putting together most of the pieces in a shorter amount of time than both of them expected–mostly thanks to Ai-Reia, though Reuf-Bu placed quite a few pieces.
“I think you’re getting the hang of going against me in a puzzle battle, Reuf-Bu,” she said.
“Puzzle battle!? Since when was this anything like that?”
“Since today. Eight is an age of change, you know.”
“What I know is that most eight-year-old Vampires I’ve known are still using the potty, contrary to what you’re doing.”
“It just proves that with an advanced brain, you can overcome any physical shortcoming.”
“Okay, you’re really being obnoxious today. This isn’t indicative of how you’re going to be throughout all of eight, is it?”
Ai-Reia chuckled. “Of course not. Don’t worry about it, brother. I’m only forcing you because today is my birthday.” She cracked a smile at him; when she opened her eyes, she spotted a yawning Zih-Amo walking past them.
“Hello, Zih-Amo! Good morning!”
“Oh….good morning, Ai-Reia,” she said. “Happy birthday.”
“Thank you. Oh, oh, Zih-Amo! I wanted to ask you if we could do something.”
“Hm?”
“Me and Reuf-Bu are doing a puzzle right now, but I thought maybe after that, you and I might do a little flying around? I would really like that.”
“Usually you don’t,” Zih-Amo said. “What changed?”
“She’s claiming eight means everything is changing for her,” Reuf-Bu said.
“Well, it sounds fun right now. You can wake up a bit more first, though. Me and Reuf-Bu still have to finish this puzzle.”
“Oh, okay. Still, that is pretty strange.”
“No, no, Reuf-Bu, that piece goes here! What are you, colorblind?”
“Yep, something tells me your terrible twos were moved up to eight.”

“Woohoo!”
Ai-Reia gave shrieks of delight as Zih-Amo, holding her tight to her chest, flew above their house in arcs and swirls. Zih-Amo was becoming dizzy spinning around so much, and it astounded her that Ai-Reia didn’t seem dizzy in the slightest. She was happy to see her sister with a smile on her face, but something about it unsettled her.
‘I guess I just can’t forget what her diary said…’
“Zih-Amo, you’re slowing down!” Ai-Reia snapped.
“S-sorry, Ai-Reia! Ohh, now you’re gonna pay! We’re gonna do a mega loop-de-loop now!” She began to do a backwards cascading loop. Ai-Reia shrieked in delight, while for Zih-Amo it took all her fortitude to keep herself from vomiting.
“Playing with Ai-Reia, Zih-Amo?”
Their parents voices distracting her, Zih-Amo only narrowly finished her backwards cascading loop before landing slowly on the ground and falling over, the world spinning around her. Ai-Reia ran up to her parents with a smile.
“Mother, Father! Do you two have free time right now?”
“Well, nobody else is asking for our attention, and your father has the day off, so I suppose we do,” her mother said. “Why?”
“I’d like to make some birthday treats for everyone in the house. My birthday is of course mostly for my enjoyment, but I think all the rest of you should enjoy it too!”
Her parents glanced at each other and smiled. “Sure, Ai-Reia. We’d be glad to help you with that.”
“Especially considering we don’t want you to hurt yourself…”
Ai-Reia’s expression fell briefly before she broke out into another wide smile. “Thank you!”
Though they were pleased with their daughter’s sudden cheerfulness, that brief moment where she had shown them a frown made them feel slightly uneasy, and that feeling continued as they followed Ai-Reia into the house.

Ai-Reia hummed a tune as she cut dough into shapes and mixed together a filling made of blood, marshmallows and frosting. She seemed cheerful as she stuffed the dough with the filling, some even to the point where the filling leaked slightly out the opening in the dough. She seemed to want to make each shape unique, and so did things such as etch in a small crack in one heart-shaped piece and create a striped pattern on one star-shaped one.
She almost seemed genuinely happy, and yet there was something that unsettled her parents about the sight, as if there was something artificial about her motions.
“You two trust me more than I thought,” Ai-Reia said. “I basically got to do this whole thing by myself!”
“Oh, well, yes, we do,” her father said. “Of course we do. You are fairly mature for a Vampire who’s just eight. Cooking is the least of our concerns.”
“Um–! Though I am a little concerned about the sweetness of that filling…”
Ai-Reia smiled and sighed. “It’s just because it’s my birthday. Besides, the blood should cut the sweetness some, don’t you think?”
“I guess that’s true,” her mother sighed.
Ai-Reia stuck the pastries into the oven. “Well, I think I should go and do something else. Would you mind keeping an eye on these for me?”
“We wouldn’t mind, I guess,” her father said. Ai-Reia flashed him a wide smile, then took off.
“Something’s definitely wrong,” her father said.
“I feel that way too. But I just don’t know what to do about it…”

***

Ai-Reia head into her parent’s room. It was the same as normal, though Ai-Reia still found the sight of Ca-Miela’s temporary playroom jarring. Her parents had turned a small corner of the room into a place where Ca-Miela could play, and that was where she was now, though she seemed tired as if she might fall asleep at any moment.
“Ca-Miela,” Ai-Reia said. “Look at you. So innocent. If anyone could really brighten up my day, it would be you…strange considering how last year went between you and me.”
She flinched when she heard the door creak. In a moment she had flashes of the previous year, the looks on her parents’ faces, the looks on her siblings’ faces, the sound of Ca-Miela’s crying. But when she looked up, she didn’t spot her parents or siblings–instead standing there was Shuera-Kaizima and Im-Dei, holding presents.
“…Fyuori? Kokohara?”
“Hello, Ai-Reia, and happiest of birthdays!” Shuera-Kaizima said cheerfully. Ai-Reia looked up past her, at Im-Dei, and noticed that standing behind the two was her family, who watched her with a strangely serious expression.
“We wanted to see you today. We had to go through several hoops to figure out where to find you.”
“But we finally did, and without resorting to illegal tactics, too.”
“Oh…” She broke out into smiles. “Well, it’s so nice to see you two!”
“Actually, Ai-Reia, there is something we want to discuss,” Shuera-Kaizima said, her voice becoming strangely serious. Ai-Reia blinked at her. “What would that be?”
“Do you remember what we told you a while back, Ai-Reia?”
“Huh?”
“You can show your true self to your family too,” Shuera-Kaizima told her. “Not just a fake self.”
“What…?”
And then, it clicked. The same attitude she had put upon to keep her family from worrying about her had only served to worry them still. Ai-Reia’s face twitched. At first, she wasn’t sure what to say.
“I just wanted to be happy myself, you know,” she whispered. “I figured if I acted this way, I’d be able to have a genuinely happy birthday. But now I know, all I did was worry you, just as I always do…”
“You know, showing your true self to your family doesn’t mean being always miserable, Ai-Reia. It just means show them how you feel. So right now, how do you feel?”
Ai-Reia looked up at them, her eyes tearing up but her mouth turned up in a smile. “Well, I guess I would have to say…I’m actually a little happy.”
Her family and friends began to smile. Not a single one seemed forced to Ai-Reia, and that made her heart feel lighter. Even Ca-Miela gave her a gummy smile.

—–
“These pastries are good!” Shuera-Kaizima exclaimed.
“Thank you.”
“They have a strange kick to them. Is there a secret ingredient?”
“Perhaps for you two,” Ai-Reia said, her smile innocent. “There’s blood in there.”
Im-Dei paled, and Shuera-Kaizima put her ears back. They looked to Ai-Reia, waiting for her to break out into laughter or say she was lying, but not once did she do either of those things.

5.582.To See the Future–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 582
“To See the Future–Part 2”

“Hey, Father, do you think that there will really be a day where I can walk the streets without worrying about someone wanting to examine me?”
“There might be, if another Witch or Warlock discovers what I did. And for as powerful as I might seem to you, Eul-Bok, there’s always someone more powerful than me out there. Someone will figure it out, the issue is when will they, and will they want to come forward with their discovery…”
Eul-Bok gave a quiet groan. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh, no particular reason. You know I think about these sorts of things sometimes, Father.”
In truth, it was a little more than that.
‘It’s hard to think of the future when you’re trapped inside the house all the time,’ he thought. ‘With things going the way they are, I can only imagine what will happen if nothing changes…’

“Father! Look, I made a water-powered house with cloaking abilities! Now we’ll be able to have a spare house powered by water for whenever the power goes out!”
“Well done, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said with a clap. “But I guess I should expect that of my apprentice of fifty-seven years!”
The two laughed wildly, as if far too amused by the situation.

‘No! I don’t dislike my current situation, but it would be nice to be able to do more. Of course, in my current situation, I can already see how stepping outside in public would go…’
That one was far too easy to imagine.

“Interesting…very interesting. You have to wonder where he got these parts from!”
“Well, he is a strange Warlock living otherwise on his own…I’d put a lot past him.”
“Hm, yes, that’s true.”
Managing to speak through the pain, Eul-Bok asked, “C–can I be done yet?”
“No, not yet, we still haven’t figured out how your body parts work to create a functioning autonomous V-Puppet!”
Eul-Bok sighed. ‘A little anesthesia would have been nice…’ Glancing at the television in the room, he noticed a familiar man on the program that was on.
“So, Mr. Astineth, many people have had questions for you concerning the V-Puppet! Tell us more about him. What prompted this research? Where did you get the parts to make him bleed? And why didn’t you tell us about this breakthrough immediately!?”
“Ah, um, I…”
Sale-Dessu was quite obviously flustered and seemed to be slowly shying away back into his house, but the reporters crowded him and seemed to inch feet closer–rather they would have if they could have. Either way, it seemed like an unpleasant situation for Sale-Dessu, and it hurt Eul-Bok’s heart to watch it. He turned away and swallowed his pain.

“Eul-Bok? Is something wrong? You look unsettled.”
“No, nothing’s wrong, Father! Just kind of down about the idea that I can’t go outside anytime soon…but I’m used to that, of course.”
“You never know what the future holds, Eul-Bok. There’s really no way to predict how long it will take before you can walk outside without worrying about it. I wish I could tell you that you could go outside now, but it’s just too risky.”
“I know. I told you, I’m used to it, you know that, and I know it, too. I’m just wondering…like you said, you never know what the future holds. I’m living proof that V-Puppet autonomy is possible, but who’s to say anyone will find that out soon? Will I be walking around three years from now with no concerns, or will I have to wait far into the future, like thirty-three years from now?”
“I really wish I could give you a clear answer on that, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu sighed. “But nobody has the answer to that question.”
‘What would a world like that be like anyway? I guess I never really gave much thought to what might happen if I could walk around outside. There’s plenty I can do inside, but outside has even more potential. I wonder, if it really was some years from now…what would be different for me?’

***

Eul-Bok stepped outside. It was slightly chilly, so he went back inside and retrieved a scarf. Then, he walked along the sidewalk and out the neighborhood.
Years before this, he wouldn’t have expected to be able to walk around this casually; now that some years had passed, it felt natural. Especially with Sale-Dessu becoming more of a shut-in after his neighbors found out about Eul-Bok’s autonomy. Even knowing that V-Puppets could be autonomous now, it still surprised many people who grew up knowing otherwise, which thus far was most of the world.
He head to a nearby craft store and grabbed a basket.
“He-hey, it’s Eul-Bok!” Someone said. Eul-Bok glanced in their direction. A Normal-Minomix man was waving at him. Eul-Bok smiled. “Hello, Mr. Bacigua! How are you?”
“Good, good. You here to pick up some stuff for Mahico-Touffle?”
Eul-Bok nodded. “How’d ya know?”
“Well, ’tis the season after all, and you do it every year,” he said with a grin. “You know, Eul-Bok, you said you’ve been around for what, eighteen years now?”
“Sixteen,” he said. Eighteen was still too far back for him to have been alive–if people knew that was his actual age, they would know he had come into existence before the first publicly documented autonomous V-Puppet.
“Ah, yes, well, sixteen or eighteen, you are getting closer to nineteen. And you said you still live with your master?”
“My father.”
“Riiight, your father. Anyhoo, you might want to consider moving out sometime soon! People have seen your ability–you could make good vuyong off of that!”
Bacigua waved and walked out of Eul-Bok’s line of sight. He gave the man’s words some thought as he picked up the necessary supplies.
“Hi, Eul-Bok! Buying for Mahico-Touffle?”
“Yep!”
The man behind the counter smiled. “Alrighty then. Let me ring this stuff up.”
Eul-Bok paid for the supplies, thanked the man and began to head home. Bacigua’s words were still on his mind.
Since gaining his freedom, there had been quite a few things he had done differently than he had expected. He had started using his powers at a center for orphaned children, and since then had garnered a bit of fame for his ability. Considering his age, he did have a bit to think about in regards to the future. The possibilities were endless, and yet still something else was on his mind as well.
He walked inside, locked the door and set down the supplies on the table.
“Eul-Bok?” Sale-Dessu peeked his head into the kitchen. “Welcome back, Eul-Bok.”
“Hello, Father.”
“You got nice decorations,” Sale-Dessu said. “But we could have made our own…”
“I know we could have, but I told you, the craft store has new kinds of decorations every year. And they are nice, like you said.”
“I suppose.”
Eul-Bok sighed. “You know, Father, I’m getting older….why does my voice still sound the same as it did when I was one!?”
Sale-Dessu giggled. “You can’t help that, Eul-Bok. V-Puppet autonomy isn’t a perfect science.” His expression became more serious after he said that. “Eul-Bok, there was something else you wanted to say, wasn’t there?”
“Huh?”
“You paused between sentences and you made a strange expression. I’m pretty good at picking up on these sorts of things.”
“I guess you would be,” he sighed, “especially since the reverse is true too.”
“Tell me what’s on your mind then, Eul-Bok.”
“Well, the future’s come for me. I’m autonomous now. I can walk around outside freely now. But there’s one more thing that I can’t figure out about my future.”
“What’s that?”
“Well, I’m eighteen now! That’s almost nineteen. And I tell everyone I know that I’m sixteen, but still, that’s not too far away from nineteen. I’ll be an adult soon, and I…I don’t know what I’m going to do when that day comes!”
“That’s fine, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said. “I didn’t either. And compared to me, you have plenty of time to think instead of having to scramble around for something to do. So don’t worry.”
“Well….it’s actually not just that…”
“Oh?”
“I’m worried about you, Father. You stay inside all the time now. You used to go places before even if it wasn’t much. What are you going to do when I’m gone? After all, do you have anyone else?”
“…that’s awfully rude, Eul-Bok,” Sale-Dessu said.
“Sorry!”
Sale-Dessu chuckled. “No, it’s fine, I don’t actually mind all that much. You’re right, now that Apeta is gone and La-Iin is growing up, I don’t really have anyone else. But I’ll be fine. I survived without other people in the past. But what’s different about now is that I know you’ll be out there somewhere in the world, and I can always contact you if I need to.”
“Father…”
“I don’t want to hold you back, Eul-Bok. Believe me when I say I’ll be fine. So do what you will. Just stay in contact with me.”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Alright, Father, I will. Thank you for taking care of me all these years.”

—–
“Eul-Bok? What’s wrong now?”
“…Father, if I can walk around outside someday, are you going to be sad if I go off on my own?”
“Well, yes, of course I will be. I’ve gotten used to living with you. But I don’t want to hold you back.”
“So I do know you pretty well…”
“Hm?”
“Ah, it’s nothing, Father.”
“Hm.” Sale-Dessu’s eyes widened. “Oh, Eul-Bok, there’s one thing I can tell you about the future.”
“Huh?”
“I plan on visiting Apeta tomorrow. And I would like you to come with me. So, would you like to come?”
Eul-Bok smiled. “Okay, sure!”

4.581.Mr. Eteibreit’s Day at Home

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 581
“Mr. Eteibreit’s Day at Home”

“It’s time for me to head off, Yul-Hiis.”
“Really? Time already? I thought you had time for one session of intercourse.”
Eteibreit purred. “You know what time I leave, Yul-Hiis. I must get there before my workers.” She kissed him on the cheek. “So, what will you do while I’m gone?”
“You’ve asked me this question ever since I quit my job. The same things I always do. And not a one of those things will be kept secret from you. Ask away when you get home, or don’t. I don’t mind, I’ll tell you all the same.”
Eteibreit gave a contented nod. “Alright, then. I’ll be off. See you later, my darling Yul-Hiis.”
Eteibreit walked out and closed the door. Yul-Hiis relaxed on the couch. ‘Ah, I know I should start working right away. After all, that’s what Yong-Hin does when she arrives at the data storage. But ’tis no harm in a quick nap before I start the day….’

***

When Yul-Hiis woke up forty minutes later, he set to work immediately.
‘Oh, internet, for all your foibles you’re the place I find the most information. Why doesn’t Yong-Hin have many computers installed at Eteibreit Data Storage? It isn’t as if we don’t have the vuyong.’
Yul-Hiis had several things he was interested in pursuing on the internet, so many in fact as to have a file on his and Eteibreit’s computer that listed all the things he wanted to look in to. Particularly right now, he was interested in dark secrets hidden within video games–the one of which that caught his most attention being one that supposedly contained real-life murder images.
‘Of course there’s no hard proof though. Of course, when this is a game I don’t and never would want to own. Or even if I did, would Yong-Hin consider it worth the vuyong…ah well, we do have plenty, but still!’
His frustration grew the more he looked through the internet, and his patience went down with it. Just as he was about to give up and find something else to do, he was startled by the phone ringing.
“Yes? Eteibreit residence, Yul-Hiis at your service~”
“Hello, Yul-Hiis! Nice to talk to you again! It’s been a while!”
“Ah, hello there, Sher-Zhen.” Sher-Zhen was a good friend of Yul-Hiis’. The two often talked over the internet about their various data findings. Sher-Zhen in particular specialized in opening programs to find out more about them.
“You must introduce me to this Mr. Tielve sometime, Yul-Hiis,” Eteibreit had said once. “He sounds like an actually competent worker for my data storage.”
“Unfortunately, Sher-Zhen is a freelancer. He couldn’t keep down a stable job, not even a part-time one, if he tried. Those dreams will have to be put on the shelf, Yong-Hin.”
Refocusing on the present, Yul-Hiis continued, “and indeed it has been. What prompts the sudden call?”
“Remember how the last time you contacted me you were looking into that Sunset on the Valley game? You know, the visual novel with the murder images? I got a hold of a copy and did a datamine, and I found a few interesting things. Should I come over and show you them? A few of them are a bit violent as expected.”
“A few things, Sher-Zhen. First off, I am no stranger to even the strangest of things. Don’t worry about content warnings with me. Second off….no, actually, I can answer that question myself. Go on, come over, Yongie’s out right now so it won’t be much problem. She won’t be back for many hours, so there’s no worries about her scoping you out as a potential worker.”
“Ah, good. Alright then, I’ll be there in about an hour.”
“‘Til then, my friend.” He hung up the phone.
“Finally, all my searching comes to a breakthrough. Although I suppose it isn’t my breakthrough. Ah, methinks I’m overthinking things.”
Yul-Hiis wrinkled his nose. “I really need to work on my speech patterns. My parents had too much of an influence on me…”

While he waited for Sher-Zhen to arrive, Yul-Hiis began to set up various things around the house. He tidied the main room for his friend’s arrival, and set up the bedroom for a plan he had for that night. He had only just started a book on data retrieval when the doorbell rang.
“Did I make perfect timing?” Sher-Zhen asked.
“Imperfect timing, unfortunately, Sher-Zhen. I was in the midst of reading a data retrieval book.”
Sher-Zhen looked slightly startled. “I’m sorry…”
Yul-Hiis smirked. “Don’t be. And by the by, I’m sensitive to people who show their vulnerabilities so easily, so cut that out.”
Sher-Zhen closed the door behind him. “It’s just you, Yul-Hiis. Although, the comment wasn’t totally unappreciated…”
His friend’s whispered extra comment went unheard, as he had head immediately for the computer. Sher-Zhen pulled out a small USB stick and stuck it into the computer.
“What, I don’t get the computer chair? Whose house is this?”
“Sorry, it’s hard for me to focus standing up.” Sher-Zhen opened the folder. “There we go.”
“Ah!” Yul-Hiis was pleasantly surprised. The folder was filled at first with images from the game itself, but a separate folder contained much more surprising images. Some were violent images from the game itself, while others seemed to be legitimate murder photos along with strange ones of a young child and a sad looking man.
“Tell me, where did you find these?”
“Inside the game?” Sher-Zhen replied, confused.
“No, no. I mean in what context.”
“Oh. Well, the violent game photos are from a secret ending in the game, while the real-life photos are from an unused secret ending.” Sher-Zhen sighed. “I should have brought you the transcript of that unused ending. I think you would have liked it.”
“No problem, I don’t know the game and anyways there’s always the future for such things. Go on.”
“As for these photos, I found them in a folder that has incomplete data. I can’t really work with anything that’s in there, but I assume it also had something to do with things that were scrapped from the game.”
“Ah. This seems like the type of thing one might report to the police.”
“I’m sure someone else is going to, sooner or later. Everyone’s looking to buy the game because of these pictures, but unfortunately the people who think this stuff is already in the game are the ones buying the most copies instead of the people who know where to look.”
“I see.” Yul-Hiis relaxed. “Thank you so much, Sher-Zhen. I’ve been curious about this for quite a while. I thought my searches would never come to fruition.”
Yul-Hiis was surprised to see Sher-Zhen’s face flush slightly. “You’re welcome, Yul-Hiis. Anything game-related you’re interested in, I can help. I’ve been able to get into even the games with the highest security to protect their product. I guess the skill’s not exactly the rarest one, though.”
“It’s a skill I lack, so it’s good enough for me,” Yul-Hiis said nonchalantly. “Well, since you’re here and our work is done, I might as well give you a prize as well for showing me such an interesting piece of media.”
“Prize?”
“Yes. That and lunch. Say, could I keep the USB stick? I’m sure Yong-Hin will be interested in seeing these contents too.”
Sher-Zhen sighed. “Sure, you can. Keep it forever if you like. I can always open up the game again if I want to see these things.”
Yul-Hiis flashed him a smile. He then head for the library room in the house. Along with a small set-up for reading, the library room’s main attraction was the several bookshelves that were stacked from top to bottom with all sorts of books, though a few shelves to the right were fairly bare, the last being entirely so. Yul-Hiis clapped and flew to check the shelves, looking for something that he was certain Sher-Zhen wouldn’t have seen.
‘Ah!’ His eye caught an old file he and Yong-Hin had put together as teenagers. The file documented various people they had recognized in a shady district much like the one he had discovered Startimatum in. He took the file and landed, but before he could leave the room, Sher-Zhen approached him himself.
“Anxious to see your prize, or anxious to pick one yourself? Sher-Zhen, I might think you’re taking this a little too seriously. Most of our data is actually relatively silly.”
“I know that’s not all the case, Yul-Hiis. And I wasn’t exactly here because of the prize.”
“Oh?”
Sher-Zhen looked away from him. “I was just thinking about something.”
“What about? Typically I’m good at picking up on emotions, but I’m still no mind reader. I can see that you’re tense, though.”
“Of course I am…I want to say something I don’t think I should say.”
Yul-Hiis smirked. “Say it, then. The unsaid just makes me antsy and Yong-Hin always complains about it the next morning.”
“Yong-Hin, huh…” Sher-Zhen sighed. “Yul-Hiis, once in the past, did you say that you and your wife have a bit of an…open relationship?”
“Slightly so. The terms are more on a case-by-case basis but in essentiality we either do it together…heh heh…or are present or otherwise witnesses of what goes on with someone else. Why do you ask?” Yul-Hiis blinked. “Oh, I see how this is. Sher-Zhen, you are absolutely the last man I expected to approach me for this.”
“So you figured it out…”
“Nobody asks me or Yongie that question without either one, wanting to sleep with us or two, being disturbed by it. Since you sounded apprehensive, I naturally assumed it was the former.”
“You’d be right, except it’s a little more complicated than just that. I mean…I just…”
“I can see what path this is going down,” Yul-Hiis sighed. “Fine, tell me what it is you want, Sher-Zhen, and I will talk with Yong-Hin about it later.”
Sher-Zhen looked uncertain, and instead of responding with words, responded by giving Yul-Hiis a kiss.
“There’s a reason I didn’t want to say anything, Yul-Hiis,” he said. “I don’t want Yong-Hin to be a part of it.”
“Is that so…” Yul-Hiis touched his lips. “I’m afraid I’ll have to turn you down, then.”
Sher-Zhen looked dejected. “I’m sorry, my friend. Whether all you want is a night with me, or if you want something more–well, I certainly can’t give you that second one. Even having been with other people during my marriage, Yong-Hin has always been involved in the situation, and I could never give myself emotionally to anyone aside from her. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“I see.”
“Still, color me surprised when it comes to you feeling that way. I wouldn’t have expected that.”
“Well, I’m not surprised, though maybe it’s because it’s me. Yong-Hin is a lucky woman, Yul-Hiis.”
“I’m the lucky one.”
“Yes, I suppose you are…”
“Don’t look so dejected, Sher-Zhen. I’m not the type of person who is too fazed by people having feelings for me. Other people say it won’t change a thing when really it will. Well, I give you my guarantee that it won’t change a thing.” He winked at Sher-Zhen, who chuckled. “Now, instead of dwelling on this topic, why don’t we focus instead on your prize?”
“I’d be glad to. I don’t want to be the only one doing any data sharing today, after all.”

—–
“Interesting files you have here, Yul-Hiis,” Yong-Hin said later that night. “Interesting indeed.”
“I’ll give credit where credit is due. Sher-Zhen is skilled in his trade. He could make a steady living if he could commit to a job.”
“A shame. I really would like him as a worker at the data storage.” She glanced at Yul-Hiis. “Now, about the part involving him wanting to have sex with you…”
“Oh, that? I turned him down, I told you already.”
“No, I heard that part. But if the boy’s so eager, why not give him what he wants?”
“I fear that’s what might change an unchanged friendship into a changed one, at least on his side. Unfortunately, Normals take sex far more seriously than we do, for the most part.”
“No, that isn’t what I meant. I was going to ask, do you think he is the type for a threesome? You could always accept his offer if he would be up for that.”
Yul-Hiis shrugged. “I wouldn’t know on that front, but one thing I can tell you, girls are not his type.”
“Ah, I see. What a shame.”
“Don’t worry about it, Yong-Hin. And if you’re feeling so antsy, that reminds me of a surprise I have for you in the bedroom…”
Yong-Hin giggled. “Oh, Yul-Hiis, you pervert.”
“You more than me, Yongie. Admit that.”
“Oh, I do. Have you ever heard me deny it?”

2.579.Sister Evil

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 579
“Sister Evil”

The Cahongyun house was fairly quiet that day. Mit-Sun watched La-Iin play with Choungetsu, who made the occasional playful growl but otherwise, the house remained consistently quiet, and so far it had been a peaceful Sunday.
Until someone banged hard on the door.
“Huh?”
“I wonder who that is.” Mit-Sun stood up and answered the door. She was surprised to see Shi-Bara and Jul-Ense, both holding Ei-Tio and seemingly on the verge of tears.
“We need your help, Miss Cahongyun!” Shi-Bara said. “Something’s gone wrong with Ei-Tio!”
“Huh?” Mit-Sun glanced at Ei-Tio. She seemed happy enough despite her parents’ frantic moods, and she could see no injuries or signs she was sick. “Um…wrong where?”
They let themselves in and closed the door. Mit-Sun huffed. They sat on the couch, Ei-Tio between them.
“Big sister!” She squealed.
“Ei-Tio? Why are you over?”
“We’ll get to that,” Shi-Bara said before Ei-Tio could even open her mouth. “You see, we both try to make time in every day to play with Ei-Tio. And sometimes we even let Ei-Tio decide the game. But recently things went a little strange when playtime rolled around, and our little Ei-Tio…well, she…”
“She said she wanted to become the Evil Queen of All Vampire Societies,” Jul-Ense said.
“…so?” Mit-Sun didn’t see the problem, though evidently even La-Iin saw this as something to take seriously, for she was staring at Ei-Tio with wide eyes and a grin.
“Well, it was a weird choice for a game, but we went along with it anyway. Maybe it doesn’t mean anything, that’s what we thought, but she’s obsessed with the idea now and I think she sees it as more than just a game!”
Mit-Sun sighed.
“We wanted to come to you since you’re La-Iin’s primary caretaker and you deal with a….difference in morality with her every day.”
“So, you want to be evil,” La-Iin said. The joy in her tone was so evident it made Mit-Sun cringe. Ei-Tio hopped off the couch and bared her fangs.
“Yes! I’m gonna become the Evil Queen of All Vampire Societies! ‘Cause queens are cooler than princesses,” she said.
“Striving so low? Only all Vampire societies? There are all sorts of species societies around the world! And here where I live, all the species live together.”
Ei-Tio watched her with admiration.
“La-Iin, please. Ei-Tio’s parents are worried about this. You’re just goading her on.”
“You two are being ridiculous! If you’re so worried about her turning out evil, why do you let her around me?”
“Please, La-Iin!” Mit-Sun snapped. “I’m sorry about that. But I’m not completely sure how to help you. I hate to say this, but with La-Iin it’s seeming near impossible that she’ll have a change of morality anytime soon, if ever. She started acting this way before she was Ei-Tio’s age, so I don’t know about turning her around…”
Tears seemed to be brimming in her parents’ eyes, and for a moment Mit-Sun felt as though she had said the wrong thing. “We–we understand that’s a possibility. We saw that with you and La-Iin. We just want to hear how to handle it if things do end up that way…”
“O-oh?”
“We’re prepared,” Shi-Bara said with a smile. “I….promise….oh, Jul-Ense, we tried so hard to raise her to be good! Where did we go wrong!?”
“Maybe she was just born that way. Or it might have been La-Iin….no offense, Miss Cahongyun.”
“Absolutely none taken. I know better than anyone else how La-Iin can be…”
“I know better than anyone else how I can be, and I was preparing her for this.” She turned back to Ei-Tio. “As for your plans, I have a better idea. You’re striving too low, but I have plans as well. Perhaps we can combine these plans and make something better out of it!”
“Yeah?”
“In fact, I had the perfect idea. My plan involves ruling the world, but the specific intricacies–”
“Intri…cacies?”
La-Iin blinked. “The specific details about it are difficult to go on with on my own. Naturally, I’m going to have help in the future, but I’ve been wondering if you would like to help me, too.”
“Can I be a evil queen still?”
“You can be an evil combat queen.”
Ei-Tio beamed. “Cool!”
“In fact, I can see it all in my head. You and I, taking on the world together, at each other’s side through all the years we’ll live! It’ll be a large-scale disaster that will last nine-hundred–”
La-Iin’s sudden pause startled Ei-Tio. “Big sister?”
Ei-Tio’s words didn’t reach her. ‘Wait a second. Now that I think about it, isn’t this plan exactly what I had for Ai-Reia!?’
La-Iin had never given her plan about Ei-Tio much thought in the past–she assumed that Ei-Tio would be helping her in some way or another, but had never thought of her exact role like she had with the other people she intended on involving. Now that she had some semblance of an idea, she realized it greatly resembled her plan for Ai-Reia, just with Ei-Tio having more power than the former girl.
All it made her think on was her failure with Ai-Reia, and whether or not it was exactly a good idea to use that plan which had failed with Ei-Tio. Ei-Tio did seem to be on the path towards evil of her own volition contrary to Ai-Reia, but would it still end up with such a great rift between the two that she had to consider her an enemy?
It was difficult to think about.
“Actually, Ei-Tio…” Ei-Tio was watching her intently, as if waiting for her next words. “I don’t think we should have an exact plan just yet.”
“Huh? Why not?”
“You need to think about what you want to do if you’re going to pursue the path of evil. Evil isn’t like good or neutral. You have to put a lot of thought into it, and you have to be careful. Nearly everyone thinks that people should be good. That’s why evil’s so much harder, but it’s a lot more worth it. If you still want to be an evil queen vampire society ruler, then I will help you plan for it. But some of my ideas from when I was four have changed. Did I tell you one of my ideas from six has even changed?”
“Really?”
La-Iin nodded. “Especially if you want to do something large-scale. So first, you need to think. But you have plenty of time.” She gave Ei-Tio a rough pat on the head. Ei-Tio flinched, then giggled.
“You know, she almost sounded like a big sister there. If only she hadn’t been encouraging her to be evil.” Mit-Sun sighed.
“She helped us figure something out though,” Jul-Ense said. “Ei-Tio is still a young child. And so is La-Iin. There is always room for change.”
“Huh…” Mit-Sun watched the two begin to play. “You know, I’m not completely sure about how I’d feel about a good La-Iin.”
“That’s also a good point. As long as Ei-Tio doesn’t do anything drastic, we can handle it, maybe. It’ll be hard at first, but if she turns to just writing violent books or whatever, I think that’ll be okay! And she is still little, like Jul-Ense said. We can’t get all worked up about this right now.”
“That’s true. But if she does end up staying that way…well, I’d say now’s the prime time to start turning her to a hobby she might be able to filter that evil into.”
“Good idea.” Jul-Ense and Shi-Bara hugged Mit-Sun. “Thanks, Miss Cahongyun.”
“Thank you!”
“Big sister?”
“Hm?”
“Do my parents want me not evil?”
La-Iin shook her head. “Of course they do. They’re goody-goodies. Goody-goodies want goody-goody kids. But I’ll tell you one thing that might make that better.”
“What’s that?”
“Sometimes they take it better than you might think.” She pointed out their parents, sitting on the couch in their messy hug.

—–
“Thank you, Miss Cahongyun. It was nice to have someone to turn to for advice. We thought of contacting Asul-Zenza, but since we heard he sees La-Iin on an infrequent basis….”
“It’s not a problem. You two and Ei-Tio are welcome whenever, although some advance notice next time would be appreciated.”
“Thank you again, Miss Cahongyun.” Jul-Ense said.
Ei-Tio waved to La-Iin. “Make sure to think about your role!”
“I will!”
“Well, we’ll see you soon! Bye, Cahongyuns!”
“Bye bye, Cahongyuns! Bye, big sister!”
The trio took off into the sky. “By the way, I heard part of that little conversation with Ei-Tio. What made you pause like that?”
“I was just remembering failed plans. That’s all you need to know. But no matter what happens with Ei-Tio, I think it will be all right. The important part is our bond. From that I can make anything.”
“I’m not sure if that sounds sweet or suspicious.”
“See it as you will.” La-Iin glanced over her shoulder at Choungetsu. “Want to go on a walk?”
Mit-Sun smiled. “Sure, why not!”

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.