9.647.A Reason to Trust You

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 647
“A Reason to Trust You”

It was dinner time at the Sara house, and all in the family were sitting at the table–all except for Nim-Ghini.
“Your father has been letting himself get arrested too much lately, I swear.”
That, as it happened, was the source of the conversation at the table.
“Certainly, I wonder if he’s losing his finesse.”
“That’s why we, the next generation, should take his place!”
“In due time, Kyu-Aseri. You two lack the physical strength needed to take over completely.”
“What about me? I’m nearly a major. Of course, that’s going by law…which I don’t.”
“Hm, true…”
“I think you don’t deserve to head the Saras right now, Ther-Aoughin.”
“And what would make you say that, Kyu-Nhogo?”
“What you have over Kyu-Aseri and I in physical strength, you lack in mental torture.”
“I do prefer to just assault people and end it.”
“That’s your problem. You lack the finesse of mental torture. That and manipulation.”
“Oh, sweet, sweet, manipulation! I have to say that is my favorite of all the mental tortures. Have you manipulated anyone before, Mama?”
“Aha ha. What a stupid question to ask, Kyu-Aseri, of course I have. I’ve manipulated Ther-Aoughin, and I’ve manipulated Shuu-Kena, and I manipulated your father into getting me pregnant with her, speaking of…I’ve even manipulated you and Kyu-Nhogo.”
“Ooh!”
“Manipulation is a staple of an evil person. You should learn it in due time, Ther-Aoughin. You can ask Kyu-Aseri and Kyu-Nhogo about it. It seems to be their field of expertise.”
“I see. And I suppose in turn I could help them bulk up to do physical damage. All in the interest of the supremacy of the Saras.”
Shuu-Kena poked at her food.
“Is it really a staple of an evil person, manipulation?”
“Why do you ask, Shuu-Kena?”
“A neutral such as herself apparently does not understand the goings-on of the evil mind.”
“Even with an evil ‘friend’ herself.”
“I would say it is, Shuu-Kena. In fact, I just did. Manipulation is very important to evil people, and knowing how to do it well even moreso. We live in a world where sometimes it’s easier to use people than it is to just mindlessly beat them out of your way. Any evil person worth their salt is a manipulator whether good or bad, and if they aren’t thinking of it they’re either ignorant or they might as well be neutral.”
“True, if you’re evil you’ll likely manipulate others in some way or another!”
“Especially if one has lofty political goals such as domination over an area. Manipulation is a trick of the trade for politicians as well!”
Her family began to laugh raucously, but their talk only made Shuu-Kena feel uncomfortable. She could remember why she and La-Iin had become friends–she had only opened up to her once she knew her family was evil.
Was it possible La-Iin was manipulating her?

***

The next day at school, Shuu-Kena couldn’t help but heave a sigh.
Science class had just ended, and now she sat on the bench in the recess area, watching La-Iin and Fer-Shi play. She wasn’t one to believe what her family said, but it did make her wonder.
It was impossible to know if La-Iin was manipulating her unless she did something to outright prove it. But with the circumstances of their friendship, she felt there was reason to be concerned.
She watched as Cae-Bougen flew up behind Fer-Shi, who was falling off the monkey bars. La-Iin began to laugh, and Fer-Shi growled at her. Cae-Bougen said something that she couldn’t understand, and Fer-Shi smiled in response. She turned back to La-Iin, again said something that couldn’t be understood, and went off with him.
La-Iin seemed frustrated. She flew over Shuu-Kena’s head. Shuu-Kena waved to her.
“Oh, hello, Sara.”
“Hi, La-Iin.”
‘Wait. Fer-Shi’s off with Veiner right now. Maybe this is my chance to get an idea of where I stand…’
Shuu-Kena knew she didn’t want to stop being friends with La-Iin, but perhaps it would at least be reassuring to know whether she was being manipulated or not.
“Good timing. Can I talk to you about something?”
La-Iin landed and stood in front of her. “What?”
“I wanted to ask your opinion on something my family told me about yesterday.” La-Iin rolled her eyes. “You know how they’re evil. Well, my mom and my siblings said that they think that manipulation is a defining trait in every evil person, and evil people who don’t manipulate others might as well be neutral. Basically. I wanted to know what you thought.”
“Manipulation is a helpful skill for an evil person,” La-Iin said. Shuu-Kena lowered her head. “I don’t know about evil people who don’t know manipulation being neutrals, though.”
“I see…well, I guess it would be. It makes sense…manipulation seems like one of those ‘evil’ actions. Of course evil people would like it.”
‘Don’t get so upset!’ She chided herself. ‘You knew this was probably coming. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t care about you. Although it probably says something about her priorities…’
Shuu-Kena couldn’t help but feel immensely disappointed in La-Iin. And La-Iin could tell by the look on her face.
‘Damn it! No! Not so close! Now she believes I think the same way as those Sara idiots. What now…’
La-Iin bit into her finger.
“…of course, not every evil person uses that manipulation, or at least, not constantly,” she said casually. Shuu-Kena looked up.
“You don’t have to reassure me, La-Iin.”
“I was just saying the truth. Besides…” La-Iin pondered her next words carefully. “Not everyone I associate with needs to be manipulated. Like you, for example.”
“Huh?”
“If I were to manipulate you it would probably be for information on your family…which I don’t need because in my opinion, your family is nothing but evil failures! No, I keep you as a friend for different reasons.”
“Like what?”
“You’re enjoyable to be around.”
“Really?”
“Yes. I don’t like to associate with people who annoy me constantly. Such as your family.”
Shuu-Kena’s dejected expression slowly brightened, though La-Iin could see she still wasn’t completely happy.
“You really don’t like them, huh. I always thought that was kind of strange.”
“Evil people don’t always get along, Sara. I think we get along even worse than goody-goodies do.”
“Maybe. That sounds like it would make sense.”
“Sara, you need to learn a lesson.”
“Hm?”
“I’m not the same as your family just because I’m evil. You said it yourself, you see me as different. So quit it.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. “Yeah, sorry, Cahongyun. You’re right. Sometimes even though I know you better than that, I can’t help but find my mind slipping back into that mindset. I guess I just have a hard time trusting evil people. I have nothing against them, but my family tends to make me think they’re all the same…but they’re just like good people and neutral people, all doing things for different reasons. I’m sorry I compared you two.”
“You should be, and I don’t like accepting apologies, but being compared to those failures is horrible.”
Shuu-Kena nodded. La-Iin smirked. ‘Good. This should be good enough for now. But she seems easy enough to appease. Convincing her entirely will be another story…but I can’t let her stupid family make her turn against me. I need her on my side.’
La-Iin sighed. ‘That reminds me of someone else I thought that about…’

—–
“Oh, I wanted to ask you something about manipulation, Mama.”
“What’s that, Kyu-Aseri?”
“Do you think Shuu-Kena’s friend manipulates her?” She said with a yawn.
“If she’s truly evil, then yes, she does. But that’s not important. Rest now so that tomorrow you have the energy to do what is necessary.”
Kyu-Aseri nodded and closed her eyes.

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3.641.Truth of the Matter

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

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

30.638.Stand Up to the Opposition

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 638
“Stand Up to the Opposition”

La-Iin felt like she was on top of the world.
Throughout that Wednesday, she continued to read through the files that Sale-Dessu had given her. She hadn’t gotten much sleep the prior night as it had been difficult to stay down and away from the files, but she felt as if she had slept the whole night through. She got dressed, ate Mit-Sun’s breakfast, and head to school.
Her fellow students were quick to notice her change in attitude.
“What’s with her today?” San-Kyung said.
“Wow, Cahongyun looks really happy,” Shuu-Kena said.
“La-Iin!” Fer-Shi called out. La-Iin landed next to her. “What’s got you so happy, La-Iin? Did something good happen?”
“No. Something bad happened.”
“Huh…? Oh.”
La-Iin smirked. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been, Fer-Shi. I think there are only a few things that could make me happier than this. And they’re all very similar to what’s happening right now, incidentally…”
“Calm down, La-Iin. I really don’t understand why you’re so happy. What happened?”
“You’ll find out soon enough, Fer-Shi. Not incredibly soon, not today, but soon enough.”
La-Iin’s smirk at that moment sent a chill down Fer-Shi’s spine. She felt that whatever had happened, something about it wasn’t good.

***

Having to sit through school only ended up making La-Iin feel more antsy than she already was. During break time, she took out her frustration and activity on the children at the playground.
“Eeeeek!”
“La-Iin, what are you doing!?”
La-Iin tipped her head back to look at Fer-Shi. “I’ve been waiting for you, my friend!”
When she noticed that La-Iin was heading for her, Fer-Shi let out a screech and began to dash around the recess area. La-Iin did not tire once during that time, though Fer-Shi eventually did and La-Iin began to threaten to suck her blood or fly her off school grounds several times.
“Something tells me La-Iin got into her mom’s coffee!” Shan-Zetsu said to her on their way back inside.
“I’m not sure Miss Cahongyun drinks coffee.”
Once the final class ended, La-Iin couldn’t restrain herself. She flew out the classroom at as high a speed as she could manage.
“What’s wrong with her?” San-Kyung scoffed.
“Are you sure Miss Cahongyun doesn’t drink coffee?”
“Well, I was pretty sure,” Fer-Shi sighed.

La-Iin could barely keep herself restrained. She hadn’t finished reading the files in their entirety, but what she had read already proved to her what she wanted to know, and now she couldn’t find it in herself to want to stay inside for even a second.
‘No! I can’t act like this! I have to finish planning!’ But right now, she wanted to live in the moment. The planning could wait–that what she wanted was possible at all was what she was focused on right now.
She couldn’t even find it in herself to head back home. Instead she flew around Bledger at her fastest speed, cackling and slamming into several things on her flight across.
“It sure has been pretty quiet in Bledger lately, huh, Harliou?” A Llamaki man asked.
“That concerns me after the influx of evil that happened earlier this year. It’s possible they’re just inactive right now to plan.”
“Can’t we be optimistic for once? I don’t want to think about that. This year keeps making me worried. I just want Airy-Aekok to be safe.”
“As long as we do our job properly, she will be. So don’t worry.”
The two men fell silent for a short while, but their silence was broken not by either of them, but by the sound of something crashing into a nearby pole. They watched as it flew away from the pole, rolled in the air and landed hard onto the grass nearby. In their horror they realized it was a young child.
“Are you okay!?” Llanni exclaimed as he ran up to her.
La-Iin’s whole body ached. The blow had been harder than she had expected. Her eyesight was slightly blurry. When it cleared up she noticed a Llamaki and a Snowliv were staring down at her. Both of them were wearing uniforms.
“Oh thank goodness, it looks like she’s alright,” Llanni breathed.
“I’m glad she seems conscious, but I’d hardly call blood dripping from her head alright!”
“I know. I should call a hospital!”
La-Iin recognized the uniforms the two men were wearing. They were police uniforms. The sight of them made something stir in her.
For La-Iin, everything felt perfect right now. She felt like nothing could stop her. Now she recognized the feeling stirring inside of her. It was desire.
“Hello? Yes, I’ve just found a young girl, and she’s bleeding from the forehead.”
“He’s not taking this all that seriously. You’d think someone with a daughter of his own would be more worried…”
La-Iin bit into her arm. Harliou caught a glimpse of it out the corner of his eye, but he wasn’t certain he had seen it. As her transformation began, La-Iin took off her headband, stuffed it in her bag, and shook her head around. Blood splashed on her hair and into Harliou’s snow. The transformation was almost done.
“Hm?”
La-Iin flew at Harliou and began to attack him. Once Harliou seemed stunned enough, she flew for Llanni, who seemed to be taken even more aback than Harliou. He gasped when she headbutted him in the stomach, and continued to gasp for air when he fell to the ground.
La-Iin was satisfied. She was tempted to take a drink of blood, but decided against it. Instead she attacked both men one more time, then flew off when she noticed that Harliou was about to use a power.
His freeze-ray was too slow to hit La-Iin.
“What the hell was that!?”
“I-I don’t know! I honestly thought it was a little girl!”
“It did look like a little girl…”
“That was terrifying…why did she do that?”
Both men had no answer for what had just happened, so they sat there in silence, save for Llanni hanging up the phone.

La-Iin cackled wildly.
‘Even without blood on my side I could take them down. But that was without blood, without utilizing my new information, while they were distracted. If I could do that then, who’s to say what I could do with my new information on my side?’
She cackled wildly once more. ‘No opposition will stand against me! My Hypotheory will become a reality!’

—–
“Um….La-Iin?”
“What is it, Mama?” La-Iin asked, her tone sly.
“Why do you look like that? Where’s your headband?”
“Oh, Mama.” La-Iin tidied her hair slightly and stuck the headband back in. “You don’t understand. I’ve been in ecstasy all day…”
Mit-Sun flinched. “I really need to teach you the meaning of more words.”
‘No you don’t. I know full well what I mean. But now I know two important things–one, that my Hypotheory is a reality, and two, that I have power without blood and without the new information. Certainly I used my other form, but I always do. Certainly they were distracted, but I have a feeling that they only would have outmatched me with power suppressant guns had they noticed.’
La-Iin smirked. ‘Oh, I need to calm myself. Everything will happen in due time, and it won’t happen if I don’t plan. But now I know. Now I know, Hypotheory will become a reality, and no opposition will be able to stop that!’

27.635.The Extent of His Trauma

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

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

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

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

19.627.Lovely Love Story–Part 3

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 627
“Lovely Love Story–Part 3”

“Congratulations, students of Mudorous High. We are so pleased to see you have made it this far. Go now and make your mark on the world as adults!”
Salsh-Era beamed. Once the cheering died down and the crowd erupted into chatter, he began to feel slightly self-conscious about still being up on stage, so he levitated down to meet a friend of his, Iegyu Li-An.
“Congratulations, Salsh-Era!” She called out. Salsh-Era smiled back at her, though he was quick to notice the Animated Pumpkin girl standing next to her.
“Thanks, Li-An. It went better than I expected it to!”
“I’m glad!”
“Oh, but, who is that next to you?”
“Me?” The Animated Pumpkin girl pointed at herself.
“Oh yeah, that’s right, I never introduced you two. This is Zahelahe Del-Kyuus, a friend of mine. See, you weren’t my only friend up there. Me and Hiduro are close too. Zahelahe here is also friends with Hiduro, and they used to go to the same school before he transferred here.”
“You must be Molshei Salsh-Era,” she said. “Are you and Hiduro friends too?”
“No, not really. I mean I guess we talk, but he’s more popular than me here. Everyone always wants his attention…” Salsh-Era began to feel indignant.
Li-An giggled. “Don’t feel bad, Salsh-Era.”

On their way back from the graduation ceremony, Del-Kyuus, Li-An and Hiduro talked about their futures–for the most part.
“I imagine that if I keep up the way I am now, I can be famous! Imagine what I could use fame to do!”
“Don’t let it all get to your head, Hiduro,” Li-An said. “Conceited folk make it nowhere in life.”
“What a lie! Have you seen all the conceited celebrities and politicians!?”
Li-An sighed. “Touche.”
“Li-An, that Molshei boy was really nice. Do you think you could put us in touch?”
“Huh? You wanna make friends with Molshei?”
“Yes! He reminds me of a boy I knew in Elementary School. He’s funny!”
“You aren’t feeling lovey-dovey towards him, are ya, Del-Kyuus? I thought you and I were gonna be together! I can see it now…’Hiduro Del-Kyuus’.”
“Geez, Hiduro, I told you, I don’t like you that way.”
Hiduro sighed. “For someone so demure you sure aren’t easy on a guy’s heart.”
“And I just want to be his friend. I have plenty of male friends and I don’t have crushes on them.”
“Well, your little squabble aside, sure I can put you in contact with him, Zahelahe. Though I’ll have to ask him if he’s quite as interested in being your friend.”
“Okay!”

“What? Zahelahe wants to be friends with me?”
Li-An nodded. “Apparently you remind her of someone she knew in Elementary School.”
“Really?”
“I can put you two in contact, but that’s only if you’re interested in pursuing a friendship with her.”
“Sure, why not? She seems like a really nice girl. Tell her we can meet up at the park and chat for a bit.”
“Sure, I’ll tell her.”

***

A few days later, Salsh-Era and Del-Kyuus made good on their promise to meet at the park.
“I’m sorry, it must seem pretty weird for me to ask you out of the blue to be friends with me.”
“It was kind of weird.”
“But you know, you really remind me of this boy I knew in Elementary. He was the nicest kid, and so funny! …but I heard he died in junior high.”
“What!?”
Del-Kyuus nodded. “I’m sorry, this is such a somber subject to get on…well, we fell out of touch around junior high. When I got to high school, that’s when I heard he had been dead for a few years. Apparently he was attacked and tried to make it to the hospital on his own, but he got hit by a car on the way there.”
“Yeesh.”
“Oh, but please don’t think I’m trying to replace him with you!” She said. “I just thought you were really funny and I like funny people. You remind me of him, but I don’t see you as him.”
“I see.”
“Soooo, what kind of plans do you have now that you’re out of high school? Aside from maybe college?”
“Well, I want to do the responsible thing and go to college, get a job, all that stuff, but I guess if I had to say specifics, I would like to go visiting species societies. I was born here, so I’ve always been curious as to how they work, especially Animated Pumpkin ones. I heard my Dad lives in one nowadays.”
“Only your Dad?”
“My parents are divorced. I live with my Mom and her partner. It’s a little complicated.”
“Oh, okay. Um, as for me, I want to do the same things, go to college and get a job. I’d really like to get married and have a family, but if I don’t find someone right for me, I think I’ll try and open a bakery!”
“A bakery?”
“Yes! Everyone thinks it’s weird that I like cooking so much even though I don’t have to eat. Well, maybe it’s weird, but I really like it!”
“Well, it’s not like we can’t.”
“Yeah! You know, it’s weird. I’ve always wanted to get married, but…you know Hiduro, right?”
“Yeah, he was my classmate.”
“He likes me, but I just can’t find it in me to like him back. He’s nice, but I don’t know…oops! I guess that was a little too much information,” she giggled. “It just feels so natural with you!”
“Feels the same to me. I don’t usually go around telling people my parents are divorced. Still, that reminds me, Hiduro was always talking about an ‘orange beauty’ to his friends. I could never figure out if he was talking about an Animated Pumpkin or a Witch, or maybe even a Catori…”
“Oh my!” Del-Kyuus looked embarrassed. “What else did Hiduro say?”
“Well, he’s kind of conceited, let me tell you that. I don’t think I think as positively of him as you do, heh heh.”
The two continued to talk on for long after that, the subject changing several times in the middle.

“So, how’d it go?”
“It was great!” Del-Kyuus said.
“She’s a nice girl, and so easy to talk to. I think we’ll be good friends,” Salsh-Era said.
Li-An felt ecstatic. ‘I’m glad I helped them find a new friend.’

***

Li-An cleared her throat.
“My dear best school friends, to celebrate our upcoming graduation from college, I’ve decided to give you all some presents. As we go into a more adult world, we are looking to see hardships and suffer the struggle that is not being able to see each other as often. And–”
“We understand,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Someone just wants the presents!”
“No, I was just saying–”
“It’s okay!” Li-An handed out the presents.
“Oh, thank you, Li-An!” Del-Kyuus said.
“This is so nice of you,” Salsh-Era said.
“Ooh, I approve.” Hiduro said.
“Thanks, you guys.”
“Look what she got me, Salsh-Era!”
“That’s a nice cooking set.”
“I’m so excited to use this!”
“Wow, you two sure have become close, huh?” Li-An said.
Del-Kyuus nodded.
“Hmph.”
“Something wrong, Hiduro?” Del-Kyuus asked.
“Del-Kyuus, look. You know how I feel about you, and I can’t help but admit I’m a little jealous about you two being so close. But that’s not my problem here.”
“Is there something wrong with me and Salsh-Era being friends?”
“I heard what you said! About how he reminds you of an old classmate. And I think I figured out who you’re talking about. Are you just using him to replace him?”
“No! You know this already!”
“Hiduro, you don’t have to be mean,” Li-An said.
“I’m not trying to. But replacing someone is not a good basis for a friendship. And seeing how fast Del-Kyuus wanted to be friends with Molshei, I just feel like that’s the whole reason why.”
“A-are you sure this isn’t just because you’re jealous!?” Del-Kyuus said.
“I’m sure.”
Del-Kyuus sighed. She bowed her head.
“Great going, Hiduro. This was supposed to be fun!”
“Sorry, but I had to say it. If I didn’t now, you said it yourself, we might not see each other often after this–who would?”

Del-Kyuus head home feeling dejected, clutching the cooking set from Li-An tightly.
“Del-Kyuus!”
Salsh-Era was running after her. “Oh. Salsh-Era.”
“Look, Del-Kyuus, I just wanted to tell you that I don’t believe that you were using me as a replacement. You told me as much early on, I remember this.”
“Thank you, Salsh-Era. But to tell the truth, Hiduro might be a little right. Not completely, but sometimes I’ve felt you ease the pain from his death. When we met it had only been a year since I had heard about it. I felt really guilty. But now, we’ve been friends for a while. You and he are really different.”
“Thank you.”
“…” Del-Kyuus bit the tip of her claw.
“Del-Kyuus?”
“No, maybe I shouldn’t say it.”
“What is it, Del-Kyuus? I’m willing to hear you out if there’s something on your mind.”
Del-Kyuus squeezed her eyes shut. “I…I know that you two are different. I do.”
“You said that already.”
“…Hiduro doesn’t understand. You ease the pain, but I don’t see you as a replacement. I don’t feel the same way about him that I do about you.”
“That makes sense.”
“I…I just…”
“Del-Kyuus, can I tell you something?”
“What’s that?”
“Well…I am really glad you told me you don’t see me as a replacement for him, because then I would feel really jealous.”
“About what?”
Salsh-Era looked away from her. Del-Kyuus began to feel flustered. He thrust a letter into her hands. “Here.”
Del-Kyuus opened the letter.

Zahelahe Del-Kyuus–
I don’t have the courage to say this aloud, so I’m writing you this letter. I’m glad for our friendship over the past few years. You are such a kind soul and are so easy to talk to. I have truly enjoyed my friendship with you.
I am writing to tell you that I want something more. I love you, Del-Kyuus. If you don’t feel the same just burn up this letter and forget I ever wrote it. But if there’s any chance that you do, I promise to treat you well and be your biggest supporter. Perhaps it sounds cheesy, but this is what you get writing a letter…
Respond as you see fit.
M. S.

Del-Kyuus looked up.
“Salsh-Era…”
“I–I meant to give it to you later, but I just…anyway…respond as you see fit, like the letter says.”
Del-Kyuus smiled. “Okay.” She hugged him.
“I…I was going to say the same, actually,” she said. “What I was going to tell you was, I feel differently about you two, and this is the big difference. He was a funny boy and a good friend, but you I see in a different light…I just thought that maybe it would sound cheesy…”
“Ah, heh heh…”
The two stood there in silence.
“Um…”
“…”
“I have to go home now…but, would you like to go on a date this Weekend?”
“Oh, sure!”
“Okay. How about–um…how about downtown Bledger?”
“O-okay!”
Del-Kyuus sighed. “Sorry, it’s really hard to find a response for this sort of thing…”
“It’s okay, I feel as uncertain as you look…”
Del-Kyuus pulled away from him. “M-maybe we should just save this for later!” She said. Then, she levitated off at a high speed.
Salsh-Era, on the other hand, did not have her same fortitude. He stood there for quite a while longer pondering the fact that what just happened had actually, truly happened.

—–
“If there’s one thing I can’t stand about you two, it’s the PDA.”
“Says the boy who lets his best friend cling all over him,” Salsh-Era said. “Besides, this isn’t PDA. We’re in our house.”
“Well, stop being so affectionate in front of me!”
“San-Kyung, what will you do if you fall in love someday and your partner wants to be affectionate?”
“Romantic love is pointless. Agh. Never mind, I have other things to do.”
“I guess he isn’t always happy with us,” Del-Kyuus said.
“Yeah, of course not. Well, at least now since he’s out of the room, I can call you Kyuusie.”
Del-Kyuus giggled. “When did you first call me that? Our first date?”
“As far as I can remember, yes!”

18.626.Lovely Love Story–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 626
“Lovely Love Story–Part 2”

“Iiiiiit’s time for the event of the season!”
The people who were chattering in the center quieted down.
“Are you looking for a job? A good one? One that gives you lots of opportunities and could bring the future you want right to your doorstep!? Well look no further than the Opportunist’s Job Fest! We’ve got jobs here, there and everywhere that can place you where you wanna go! So long as it’s within the Opportunist brand, of course.”
“Cool!” Orlin-Aesth exclaimed.
“Hmph. Some people don’t get that you need to take job-hunting seriously.”
“Geez, Elai-Riya. I know you’re desperate for a job, but you don’t have to be so snippy,” her sister, Tebi-Miya, said.
“Tebby, maybe you don’t get it. I left home for a bigger opportunity than what I could get in a Siren society. I want to make my life amazing. And in a Siren society I could kick back and relax, but then life’s predictable and boring. And what’s the point of going to college outside of your hometown if you don’t even get to reap the benefits?”
“Does Opportunist even list any jobs that you need to go to college for?”
“How should I know?”
“Ooh, folks, we’re getting an interesting job opening right now! This is an opening as a Taskmaster at Opportunist’s Bledger base! Come to the front right now to see what this position offers!”
“Taskmaster?” Elai-Riya questioned.
“Sounds interesting. Is it for control freaks?”
“Are you trying to call me a control freak?”
“If I called my chaotic sister a control freak I’d be lying to myself. Although maybe a little.”
Elai-Riya fluttered toward the front, Tebi-Miya behind her. Orlin-Aesth had also walked up to the front and took one of the fliers advertising the Taskmaster position.
“Ooh, freshly printed!” He sniffed the paper intently. Elai-Riya took a flier and read it over.
“‘As a Taskmaster for Opportunist, you’d be in charge of menial tasks at our main base. That would mean doing a lot of physical labor, you know! It can be a dangerous position, so….’ Geez, who wrote this?”
“Sounds like something an Opportunist employee would write. Go on.”
“‘Blah blah blah, pay would be quite good….’ …ooh….whoa! Look at that pay, Tebby! People are not kidding when they say physical labor pays better than cushy office jobs!”
“You thinking about applying for it?”
“I am. I think I’ve got the strength to apply for such a position. I’ll just make sure to eat lots of meat. So I’d better fill out my application…”
‘Not many people seem interested in this position. That’s good! I’ve got the advantage of college on my side. Though lots of other people in Vaelyn do too…’ She hid the written part of her application.
‘This should be a cinch!’

“Thanks, one and all, for attending the Opportunist Job Fest!”
“Who’d expect a job fest to last three days?” Elai-Riya sighed.
“You’re the one who wants a job with Opportunist. You should have done your research about them first.”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Now, it’s time to announce who will fill what position!”
Elai-Riya listened closely for the announcement of who would fill the Taskmaster position. Position fillings were listed first outside of Bledger–the first announcements were for positions filled in Silcoulle–and as the number of areas whittled down, Elai-Riya found herself feeling antsy.
“And, the position of Taskmaster, Opportunist Bledger Base!”
“Here we go!” Elai-Riya said, almost shrieking. Tebi-Miya looked unamused.
“The lucky employee is Dslellular Orlin-Aesth! Congratulations, Mr. Dslellular, and welcome to the Opportunist team!”
“What!?”
“Yay!” A Werewolf man raised his paws into the air. He ran up to the front desk.
“Thanks so much!”
“Not a problem. Your capabilities and history as a toadie had us particularly intrigued! We think you are just perfect for the Taskmaster position, and your personality judging from your writing style a perfect fit for the Opportunist crew!”
“Thanks!”
“Aha ha. You start work on Monday. Be ready.”
“I will!”
Orlin-Aesth happily skipped back into the crowd, humming a tune. In his joy he passed right by Elai-Riya, who was astonished by what she had just seen.
Unable to control herself, she grabbed Orlin-Aesth by his shirt.
“Whoa!”
“What the hell!? How did someone like you get the Taskmaster position!?”
“Lady, I don’t know what your problem is, but I didn’t mean to!”
“What do you mean, didn’t mean to!? You applied for the job!”
“Elai-Riya, please!” Tebi-Miya pulled her sister off of the man. “Mr. Dslellu-lar, I am so, so sorry about my sister.”
“It’s okay!” He said with a smile. “I’m too happy about my job to care much. Sorry you didn’t get the position, though. But I’m sure you’ll get a job soon enough, so long as you don’t go shaking random strangers. Okay, see you!”
Orlin-Aesth skipped off. Elai-Riya grit her teeth.
“Thanks for embarrassing yourself out in public,” Tebi-Miya said, her tone scathing.
“Look at him, all smiling and skipping. He didn’t deserve that position.”
“I’m not surprised about them hiring him based on personality. The people at Opportunist are so fake-cheerful it burns to listen to them. Though it seems they’ve gotten themselves a genuine happy fool.”
“Hmph.” Elai-Riya spread her wings. “Let’s just go home, Tebby.”
‘What am I supposed to do now?’ She thought. ‘I was really banking on that Taskmaster job. I can’t keep going like this. After what I said to everyone back home, they’d think lesser of me if I returned now…’

***

Elai-Riya’s struggles with getting a job were hampered by the memory of the cheerful Werewolf man and her expectations having been too high. Tebi-Miya assisted her sister through the process, but when Elai-Riya finally got a job, it was at a small store someplace in the heart of Bledger.
It felt demeaning, especially after her expectations given her college degree, but it was a job nonetheless.
‘I need to keep looking for something better,’ she thought. ‘Something that actually fits me. And definitely something that pays more vuyong. On this I’ll just be able to get by. I can’t even really buy luxuries…’
As she stocked the shelves, a Werewolf man walked down the aisle. He checked her newly-stocked shelves. Elai-Riya caught a glimpse of him from the side, but even if she hadn’t, she would have recognized his side-ponytail.
“You!”
He turned to see her. “Do I know you?”
‘He doesn’t remember me?’ “Sorry, wrong person,” she said, and hurriedly turned back to her work.
“Wait a second, I know you! You’re the girl who shook me at the job fest!”
Elai-Riya groaned.
“Hey, at least it looks like you got a job! Good for you.”
“Yeah, no thanks to you, jerk,” she mumbled to herself.
Orlin-Aesth didn’t seem to notice her comment, for he went back to checking the shelves seconds later. He took something from the shelf and left the aisle. Elai-Riya breathed a sigh of relief when he was gone.

It wouldn’t be the only time Orlin-Aesth stopped by the small store, though they didn’t speak to each other. Elai-Riya avoided him if she saw him and there were occasions in which he entered the store and she never noticed him at all.
It wasn’t until some months after their first talk in the store that she spoke with him again–or rather, he spoke to her.
“Sick of this job,” she grumbled to herself. “You’d think a college graduate’d be able to get a better job than this…”
“Hey.”
Elai-Riya looked up. Orlin-Aesth was staring at her, his expression more serious than the smile she had seen on him before.
“Look, I don’t know you all that well, but I wanted to tell you, I heard Bledghouses is hiring right now. I don’t know if that’s the kind of job you’re looking for, but I thought I’d tell you.”
He then went back to browsing the shelves.
‘Bledghouses? I barely know that company. I wonder if he’s telling the truth.’
Elai-Riya felt she couldn’t believe him, but if it were a true opportunity she knew she’d have to take a look. ‘Most jobs would be better than this one,’ she reminded herself.

Elai-Riya decided to look into Bledghouses later that day. Apparently it was a business specializing in all sorts of house-related fields, and was quickly outdoing other house-related companies and putting them out of business. It specialized in selling houses and repairing them.
As Orlin-Aesth had said, they were hiring. The job required some physical labor, and definitely paid more than what she made at the store. It was intriguing, but Elai-Riya knew she couldn’t bank on it.
Still, it was worth a try, if for nothing else for a chance to leave behind this job she hated so much.

***

Elai-Riya waited inside the store, looking around for any sign of Orlin-Aesth’s side ponytail. She spotted him walking down an aisle with beans.
“Um, excuse me!”
“Huh? Hi, Skista. That’s your name, right?”
“Yes. But I’m not talking to you for work-related reasons.”
“You aren’t?”
“I wanted to thank you,” she said with a sigh. “That job you mentioned at Bledghouses, I got it and I started work a few weeks ago. So I don’t work here now.”
“I thought I hadn’t been seeing you around recently. Good for you!”
“I also wanted to apologize. How I acted at the Opportunist Job Fest wasn’t right. So, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I actually found it kind of funny that you did that.”
‘This guy’s pretty annoying,’ she thought.
“But I’m glad you got a better job. Everyone should be able to get the job that best suits them! Well, good luck!”
Orlin-Aesth waved. “Good luck to you too,” she said.

Over the next year, Orlin-Aesth and Elai-Riya were heavily focused on their jobs.
“Skista, we need some supplies for a water leakage over in a local neighborhood.”
“I’m on it, boss!”
“Oh Mr. Dslellulaaaaar? We need you to carry a few things for us over, oh, say, a few hundred miles.”
“Got it!”
They required a lot of their physical strength and could be fairly demanding, but they ultimately paid off.

***

“Wow, it sure does smell around here…”
“Hey! What’re you tryna say ’bout my food!?”
“Er, nothing!”
The past year had been full of back-breaking work, so Elai-Riya had decided to take some time off and go to the International Food Festival in the neighboring Caucas, Vaelyn. She had heard mentions that foods specific to species societies would be there, so she was curious to try the foods made by other such societies.
One of the foods she tried was a stretchy, stringy meat that was being sold by a Catori who claimed it came from a Nyapponese Catori society.
“We use only the best internal organs to make this meat!”
“Internal organs?”
“Uh-huh!”
Elai-Riya was a little perturbed by the fact that the meat was so stringy, but it did taste good. “A Siren could really go crazy here.”
At the head of one of the stands she was interested in–it advertised Pomteki and kimchi, which she had been curious about despite common complaints about how ethical it was–was a Werewolf who accepted a plate full.
When he turned around, she recognized his face immediately.
“Hey!”
“Huh? Oh, hey!” He smiled. “Want some? They’re still selling, and it’s not going fast.” He ate a mouthful.
“No! Don’t you recognize me? I recognize you!”
“I’ve met a lot of Sirens. Oh, wait…you’re the one who I turned to the Bledghouses job, right? How’s that working out for you?”
“It’s fine,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d ever run into you again. It’s been a while, Diss-lellyloo…”
Orlin-Aesth sighed. “Not even close. It’s Dslellular. I know it’s hard to say at first, but when it’s your last name it’s pretty easy to remember. And you’re Skista, right?”
“Yes, that’s my name. Skista Elai-Riya.”
“Dslellular Orlin-Aesth. Good to see you again! Hey, mind telling me where you got that stringy skewer?”
“Um, over there,” she said, pointing to the stand.
“Cool! If you spot anything else, tell me, okay? I just love meat.”
Elai-Riya smiled. “Me too!”

Much to her surprise, their meeting at the festival changed their relationship. The overly-cheerful Werewolf man she formerly viewed with such contempt now seemed like a charming and funny man to her. By the end of the festival, he had asked for her contact information so the two could keep in touch about whatever interesting thing was happening in Bledger–or out of it, as with the festival.
‘So weird to think I couldn’t stand him at first. He’s a really nice man.’

And keep in touch they did.
Over the next few years they contacted each other whenever they saw something that they thought might be of interest to their friend.
“There’s an event downtown!”
“They’re having another International Food Festival!”
“Calziona Sulaet-Defka is coming to Vaelyn!”
“This isn’t really an event, but did you know they’re having a big sale on Holiday stuff at the store!?”
Elai-Riya chuckled. “Why does that matter?”
“Well, you could always stock up for next holiday.”
“Are YOU going to be doing that?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Geez, are you ever unhappy, Orlin-Aesth?”
“I try to take things in stride, and I’ve got a lot to be happy about. Though you saw me, that last International Food Festival there were so many people there and they ate up all the food! Pissed me off. Living next to species societies sure can suck sometimes. And hey, did you just call me Orlin-Aesth?”
“Hope you don’t mind. It’s easier for me than Dslellula-whatever.”
“Hey, you almost had it! Oh, I don’t care. I just thought it was weird.”
‘Elai-Riya’s so amazing,’ Orlin-Aesth thought. ‘One of these days, I’ve really got to tell her how I feel. I hope she doesn’t shake me for that!’

Elai-Riya was having a bit of trouble.
She and Orlin-Aesth had been communicating for years now, keeping in touch about all sorts of events. The last event they had gone to together, however, something had changed.
‘No. No no no.’
Elai-Riya had never exactly had a proper crush before–she had certainly thought that people were attractive, but nothing had ever happened like her sister Tebi-Miya or her mother described. This felt different, and to her it was horrifying.
She had heard both success stories and failure stories regarding people telling their crush how they felt. The idea that failure was an option was what scared her. That and having those feelings in the first place. How might she feel if Orlin-Aesth had a girlfriend the next time they went somewhere together?
Just talking to him had become difficult, and so she ignored most of his phone calls from then on out.

***

Orlin-Aesth dialed Elai-Riya’s number.
“Hello?”
“Finally, you picked up! Listen, there’s a cool movie coming out and I got a ticket! I wanted to know if you wanted me to get you a ticket too and we can go together!”
“S-sorry, Orlin-Aesth. I have a lot of work to do.”
“C’mon, you can spare a break. I know you can. Have you been avoiding me?”
“Er, no?”
Orlin-Aesth sighed. “Listen, maybe going to a movie will be good for you! If you keep focusing on work you’ll never be happy. Honestly, the few times Opportunist asks if I can work a whole week I get really irritable and nobody likes me. So let’s go to a movie and kick back!”
“…”
“C’mon, Elai-Riya.”
“Fine, I’ll go. But could you at least tell me what movie it is?”
“Sure! Ever heard of Pocalmes? They say it’s really good and it’s been a big hit so far!”

Elai-Riya, against her better judgment, found herself accompanying Orlin-Aesth to see Pocalmes. It was a good movie, and she enjoyed being out with Orlin-Aesth, but her still-persistent fear kept the experience from being as good as it could have been.
Orlin-Aesth accompanied her on her way back home.
“Why are you following me? We don’t live in the same direction, do we?”
“No. I thought you lived in one of those Avian houses. I could probably reach it with my jumping, though.”
“I see…”
“Nah, I wanted to talk to you! Would you be mad at me if I told you I had malicious intentions for inviting you to Pocalmes?”
“What!?”
“Ah, no, that’s not what I meant! Double standards?”
“Huh?”
“No, ah, well…it doesn’t matter what I had. I was going to ask you something.”
“Yes?”
Orlin-Aesth grinned and his tail started to wag wildly. “I really like you, Elai-Riya! So I was going to ask if you’d be my girlfriend!”
“What!?”
“Ha ha, I doubt it would change much. But I wanted to ask! A guy can hope, right?”
“…”
“Elai-Riya?”
“I didn’t know…I’ve been so stupid.”
“What? Oh, if you don’t want to, you can just say no. Please don’t get elaborate. I don’t think my heart can take it.”
“N-no, it’s not that. Had I realized, this would have been easier for me.”
Orlin-Aesth’s ears folded to his head.
“…okay, I won’t get elaborate. Yes, Orlin-Aesth.”
“What!? Really!? I thought you were gonna say no!”
“Actually, this whole time I haven’t been answering your calls and telling you about events because I was scared. I feel the same way. I just thought you wouldn’t.”
“That’s silly. You’re great! So! Does this mean you’re gonna be my girlfriend?”
“Yes.”
“Woohoo!” Orlin-Aesth’s tail began to wag wildly once more. “Thank you.”
“Thank you too. So, um…now what?”
“I’d kiss you, but I think that should wait, don’t you?”
Elai-Riya smiled. “Yeah.”

—–
“All these years later and we’re still working for Opportunist and Bledghouses,” Orlin-Aesth sighed. “Think they’ll ever fire us?”
“Don’t jinx it.”

17.625.Lovely Love Story–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 625
“Lovely Love Story–Part 1”

“Yo, Aeseri!”
Den-Matsu stopped what he was doing and ran over to the man who had called him, a tall and stout Bearperson. “Yes, Mr. Harley?”
“You came here to do volunteer work, right?”
“Yes! Sorry I wasn’t helping. I’ve got college to focus on too…”
“Well, it’s admirable of you to be thinking about college here as well, but you should also focus on doing what you promised,” Harley said. He pinched Den-Matsu’s cheek.
“Ow!”
“Sorry, Aeseri, guess I forget about my claws sometimes!” He chuckled. “Anyway, I’m not gonna force ya. Destroys the purpose of doing volunteer work in the first place. But don’t just use Happier Hearts to study.”
“Didn’t you say you were gonna change the name?”
“Yeah. I was thinking ‘A Moment of Fluff’. …at first. I’m no good with names.”
Den-Matsu chuckled. Harley was one of his biggest inspirations, so seeing him show a sillier side was nice. Harley was primarily known for running Happier Hearts–name apparently subject to change–where he took care of homeless people and people who were in dire straits. Ever since he had started doing volunteer work, he had always wanted to do something for Happier Hearts.
He walked back over to the bench where his supplies were and stuffed them in a large bag. Just as he was about to turn away, a woman took her seat there and laid out her own supplies. Den-Matsu quickly caught sight of the logo at the top of her paper.
‘That’s the college I’m applying for.’
The girl looked up, and Den-Matsu staggered backwards. He head back over to Harley’s side.
“Looks like someone had a beautiful moment,” Harley said. Den-Matsu flinched.
“What are you talking about?”
“Ah, nothin’. Not good with words, you know?”
“Now it’s words too?”
Harley grinned.
“So, um, what could I do around here? It seems like there are a lot of volunteers today.”
“Just find what makes you comfortable. And remember: always put the people here above yourself, unless they try to attack you. Tell me if they do, okay?”
Den-Matsu chuckled. “Okay, Mr. Harley.”

“So, Den-Matsu! How was your first day at Happier Hearts?”
“It was good! I’m not used to the way things work at Happier Hearts just yet, but there were so many people who were just happy when I brought them food or gave them a bath.”
“You gave people a bath?” His brother asked.
“Y-yeah…?”
His other brother chuckled.
“A-anyway, I’d like to keep helping there, if it’s okay with you.”
“It’s fine with us,” his mother said. “Just make sure to keep your volunteer work from distracting your college work.”
“I will.”

***

So as promised, Den-Matsu continued work at Happier Hearts. He also continued work on his college entrance studies–and as time went on, his college studies.
“Geez, Aeseri, are you planning on taking Happier Hearts from me?” Harley chuckled.
“What do you mean?”
“Everyone keeps asking for you! They’re not happy with just me anymore. I’m second fiddle to you!”
“Really?”
“Yeah, they love you. They’ve especially been commenting on your, as they put it, ‘amazing bathing skills’.”
“Well…I’m just happy to help them. If they can get back on their feet thanks to me, I’m happy.” Den-Matsu blinked. “Oh, Mr. Harley. I hope you don’t mind, I’ve got some college studies to do and–”
“Go on and do them. You’ve done your share of work for the day, and anyway college is an important part of anyone’s life.”
Den-Matsu nodded. He head over to the benches and laid out his study materials. This time, the girl who always seemed to take her seat after him was there before him.
Den-Matsu had seen her many times before, but she was always studying, it seemed. He wasn’t aware of her name, nor of whether she was part of the same college as he was. He had his curiosities about her, but he wasn’t going to just talk to her out of the blue, so he began to study.
“You go to Golden Specites too?”
Or at least, he hadn’t intended on talking to her until today. Den-Matsu stared at her, wide-eyed. The girl looked a little surprised herself.
“Um, yes.”
“I see. What are you studying?”
“Er, care work.”
“Care work?”
“Yeah. I want to keep helping people out like this when I get out of college. And if I could make a job of it, well, this probably sounds terrible but I could do what I want and survive off of it too. What about you?”
“Me? Nothing in particular.”
“Huh?”
“I don’t know how to explain it.” She sighed. “Sorry, I probably should have introduced myself. I’m Sanhuun Tei-Sheu.”
“Er, Aeseri Den-Matsu. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.”
“Do you help at Happier Hearts?”
“I do sometimes. But it’s mostly my family who helps here. They’re good people. I’d help more but I have college.”
“I see.”
“Maybe we’ll run into each other sometime at Golden Specites!” She said with a smile. Then, she turned back to her studies.
“Yeah, maybe.” Den-Matsu turned back to his studies as well.

Volunteering at Happier Hearts became difficult when college became more encompassing. Den-Matsu, several times, had to forgo going there to focus on college, especially when he ended up nearly being expelled for low test scores.
While Happier Hearts was taking up less of his time now, he did talk to Tei-Sheu on occasion, whether at Golden Specites or at Happier Hearts on the occasions he could make it there.
“I still do go to Happier Hearts. I hope things calm down for you soon. You seemed like you really liked it there.”
“I did. Helping people warms my heart. Sounds cheesy, I know. But I’ve known this is what I want to do for a while.”
“Wow, you’re so certain! I’m still so indecisive over even little things. I wish I could have your certainty.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll find what you want to do.”
“Me too. Just how long it will take, that I’m not sure of…”
Tei-Sheu, personally, had taken a bit of a liking to Den-Matsu. He was so certain of himself and so kind. She had seen him a few times at Happier Hearts speaking gently to the people there as he gave them food or washed them, among the other jobs he did. She had a feeling it was just admiration, but a part of her felt truly enamored with him.
Of course, she wasn’t just going to out and admit that to someone she didn’t know all that well.

“Tei-Sheu, I’m glad college has shapen you up. I was worried you were going to go down the rebellious street, what with the way you were acting.”
“It’s alright. That part in my life is done.”
“Why don’t you help us out here? I know college is important, but I’m sure you can spare a little time away from it. You’re good at the subject you picked.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” She closed her book. “Okay, Mom. I’ll help you.”
Tei-Sheu followed her mother to the eatery of Happier Hearts. It was the most simple place for her. Tei-Sheu had picked up on several recipes through watching her mother cook, both at home and at Happier Hearts, and personally considered herself a good learner when it came to making food, so she started to cook immediately after arriving there.
Meanwhile, nearby, Den-Matsu was standing at the entrance to Happier Hearts with a wide smile.
“Someone looks too happy for his own good.”
“It’s been so long since I last came here! Tell me, is Jaipa able to fly again yet?”
“She’s getting there! She can’t go high distances but the doctor she saw said that she should be able to fly again perfectly once she recovers. Those injuries won’t do any permanent damage.”
“I’m so glad!” Den-Matsu sniffed at the air. “Something smells good.”
“I know the food is for the people here at Happier Hearts, but if there’s any leftovers you’re welcome to have. The Sanhuuns are cooking today and they always make great stuff. Not like I’d sneak any food that’s not for me, no,” he coughed.
“Ha ha, you’re so obvious sometimes, Mr. Harley.”
Den-Matsu head over to the eatery to see how things were doing. He spotted Tei-Sheu and another woman handing food to everyone. When Tei-Sheu looked up, she laid eyes on Den-Matsu and broke out in smiles.
“Hello, Aeseri!”
“Hi, Sanhuun. How are you doing?”
“I’m doing great! Hey, is this the first time you’ve spotted me doing work here?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Tei-Sheu’s smile grew wider. “Well, now I think you can tell that I’m not lying when it comes to doing work here!”
“I didn’t doubt you, you know.”
“Ha ha. I guess I should probably get back to helping them, though. But it is great to see you. Maybe we can work together today?”
“Sure, why not!”
The two then handed out bowls together, and even after everyone was fed they continued to volunteer together. Tei-Sheu’s mother watched them with a smile of her own, though she too continued to work.

***

“So, you finally changed the name of Happier Hearts!”
“Yeah! ‘This Place of Harley’s’ sounds better to me. Although I’m gonna keep thinking it’s conceited until I find an heir. My fiancĂ©e keeps telling me I’m too eager to make her have kids, ha! Speaking of, Aeseri, plan on settling down someday yourself?”
“I think I’m like you, Mr. Harley. Of course it would be nice to have a wife and kids and things like that, but you can’t pull me away from helping people.”
“You have to help your kids, you know.”
“I know.”
“And a relationship does involve help, you know.”
“I know, I know,” he chuckled. “Well, talk to you again soon, Mr. Harley.”
He hung up the phone and sighed. Harley’s words had brought to his mind thoughts of Tei-Sheu.
Since the day they had worked together, Tei-Sheu had seemed increasingly more willing to participate in volunteer work, and she almost always insisted upon doing whatever Den-Matsu did. She would also talk to him while they were at college. He had gotten to know her quite well, and had since become a little smitten with her.
He had no idea how he was supposed to admit that, however. Interacting with her didn’t change anything, but if he thought of his little crush it always made him clam up a bit.
He walked away from the phone, intending to wander around campus for a bit, when he spotted Tei-Sheu.
“Oh, hi, Sanhuun.”
“Hello, Aeseri. I’m glad I found you.”
“Really? What for?”
“I wanted to talk. Especially about something that happened a few months back.”
Den-Matsu blinked. “Did something particularly big happen a few months back?”
“I don’t know if you’d consider it big, but it was to me.” She looked around the campus hallway.
“Do you remember when I gave you chocolate for Valentine’s Day?”
“Yeah, I do. It was pretty good. Did you like the cream candies I gave you?”
“They were delicious. I was so sad when I reached the end of them. But yes, I’m glad you liked those chocolates. Especially glad, because there was a special reason for me giving you to them. You see, I’ve never given anyone chocolates before.”
“Really? I was the first? Thank you!”
“You’re very welcome. But I just never gave anyone chocolates because there was never anyone I liked before.”
“Never anyone you liked…?”
“Oops! I guess the secret’s out.” Tei-Sheu’s face flushed. “Oh, and I was going to do some sort of dramatic confession too…”
“Sanhuun, are you trying to say what I think you’re trying to say?”
“What else would I be trying to say with what I’ve said so far? Anyway, I’d love it if you felt the same. But I just wanted to tell you so bad, I just had to!”
“Really?”
Tei-Sheu nodded.
“Th–thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Or not. Even if you weren’t happy I wouldn’t really care.”
Den-Matsu broke out into a goofy smile.
“Um?”
“I’m so happy to hear this, Sanhuun!”
“Really?”
“Yes! Well, you see, I’ve kind of got a crush on you too…”
“Mine’s a little bigger than just a crush, Aeseri,” she said. “But really?”
“Yeah. After you kept wanting to do work together, it just…kind of happened.”
“That’s kind of funny. I wanted to keep doing work with you because I liked you already. So you could kind of say I worked to get what I want!”
“That sounds weird when you say it that way,” Den-Matsu said.
“Yeah. Oh, but…I was wondering…”
“Yeah?”
“Since we know how we feel now, we can be together, right?”
“I’d be surprised if we weren’t.”
“Can I call you…Den-Matsu, then? It’s Den-Matsu, right?”
“Yeah. And I can call you Tei-Sheu?”
Tei-Sheu nodded.
After that, the two stood smiling at each other for a while longer, up until another student walked down the hallway and spotted them.

***

“Look, everyone! It’s the couple of TPOH!”
“TPOH?” Harley questioned.
“I guess everyone knows already,” Den-Matsu said.
“That’s alright. It would’ve become obvious sooner or later!”

—–
“Dad, you said you were called Aeseri when you were a kid, right?”
“Yeah, right up until I married your Mom. Why do you ask?”
“Why’d you change to Sanhuun? Don’t husbands usually give their name to their wives?”
“Well, not always. And anyway, there’s a funny story behind that one!”
“What’s that?”
“Actually, my family is Sanhuuns too, sort of.”
“What!?”
“No, it’s not anything gross. One of my ancestors was briefly married to one of Tei-Sheu’s ancestors. I forget how many greats it was, but anyway, Tei-Sheu’s ancestor was really abusive, so he got granted special permission to divorce her. It was harder back in those days to get divorced. The name kept in my family up until my Dad who gave it up because he was ashamed of what Tei-Sheu’s ancestor had done, even though our ancestors never had any kids together! We thought it was so funny we just had to call ourselves Sanhuun. So you could sort of say I’ve always been a Sanhuun!”
“That’s weird!” Fer-Shi giggled.
“Yeah, it is, isn’t it? Wanna be called Sanhuun-Aeseri instead?”
“Nope! I’m happy being Sanhuun Fer-Shi!”

16.624.Down Grade

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 624
“Down Grade”

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

***

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

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

13.621.Family Bonding

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 621
“Family Bonding”

Mit-Sun sighed as she hung up the phone.
“You sure have been making a lot of phone calls recently,” La-Iin said. “But your birthday is already over. So what’s the point?”
“I have other reasons to be making phone calls aside from it being my birthday, you know.”
“I know that. But why are you?”
“It’s not your business, La-Iin.”
La-Iin’s eyes narrowed. “…you wouldn’t happen to know Haner’s phone number, would you?”
“I do–” La-Iin hissed at her. “But I haven’t talked to him since my birthday, whether over the phone or in person. So quit being like that.”
“Hmph.”
“Anyway, what these phone calls are for is my business and not yours.”
“You always eavesdrop on my phone calls…”
“I don’t always, so calm down, alright? After all, this’ll be good payoff for…”
“For…?”
“It’s nothing,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Just get out of the kitchen, alright?”
La-Iin huffed. She left the kitchen, but as she did continuously glared over her shoulder at Mit-Sun, up until she crashed into a wall.

***

“What do you need to buy downtown now, Mama?”
“Why do you ask?”
“We mostly go downtown when you need to buy something. You’d better tell me. You woke me up before I was ready.”
“You wouldn’t be tired if you hadn’t stayed up all night singing Usl-Thaehey songs at the top of your lungs,” Mit-Sun said. La-Iin’s eyes widened and her face flushed. “That’s right, I heard you. Now, look up ahead.”
La-Iin bit back her retort for the time being and looked ahead, and the sight she saw made her gasp. Waiting in a group, waving to her, were several people she recognized.
Namely, Asul-Zenza, her grandparents, and Ei-Tio’s family.
“Wha–?”
“While you were so bound and determined to interrupt my phone calls yesterday, I was calling all of them out here,” she said. “It’s mostly Asul-Zenza’s family though. You have more family on my side, but they don’t live in Bledger.”
“Ah….”
“Mit-Sun, I think you broke La-Iin,” Asul-Zenza said. “How are we supposed to have a family outing if she’s in that state?”
“Snap out of it, La-Iin,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Anyway, it’s good to see all of you–er…”
The crowd was all smiles–almost. Asul-Zenza’s parents Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha were obviously glaring at her.
“Uh…”
“What is it, Mit-Sun?” Beht-Soh asked.
“Asul-Zenza, your parents–why are they glaring at me like that?”
“Oh, that, well…”
“We’re only here because of La-Iin, I hope you know,” Anil-Kosha said.
“If it weren’t for her, all the persuasion in the world wouldn’t have brought us out.” Verde-Nenda said. Mit-Sun grit her teeth. ‘Damn, I guess I can’t expect them to like me after I broke up with Asul-Zenza the way I did…’
“You two are amazing,” La-Iin sighed. Almost immediately Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha’s glares turned to warm smiles. Mit-Sun was dumbfounded.
“Let’s just get going, alright?” Mit-Sun said. The group nodded and they set out across downtown.

The size of their group caught the attention of some people downtown, but to Mit-Sun’s relief, it wasn’t enough to prompt people to walk up to them, at least not yet. Mit-Sun’s mind was more focused on another problem, that being that the Ghneckdo side of La-Iin’s family seemed to be taking up all her time.
“How has school been, La-Iin? I hear you’re in it already.” Verde-Nenda asked.
“It’s fine.”
“Seven years old and in school. Seems you have a prodigy on your hands!” Anil-Kosha said. Asul-Zenza smiled.
“Nobody ever calls me that.”
“They must be foolish, then.”
“I don’t want to be called the same thing as Ai-Reia.”
“‘Ai-Reia’?” Shi-Bara asked. “You mean like Vampiris Ai-Reia?”
“Yes. She goes to my school.”
“Vaelyn’s child prodigy!?” All her family suddenly seemed quite excited–even Asul-Zenza’s eyes widened a bit, though La-Iin could have sworn she had already told him. “You go to school with her!?”
“Yes? Who cares? She’s annoying.”
“It’s amazing, that’s all,” Anil-Kosha said. “I knew she had flown under the radar recently, but to think she went to our own granddaughter’s school…”
“Though it sounds like you two don’t get along, huh?” Jul-Ense asked.
“No. Unfortunately.”
‘Does that mean it’s Vampiris’ fault?’ That was the thought on a few of their minds.
Behind the chatter, Mit-Sun sighed.
“Is something wrong, Mit-Sun?”
“No, not really. After all, Ghneckdos make up most of La-Iin’s family, so it’s not really a surprise that they’re taking up all her time. I have to face facts that we Cahongyuns aren’t a big family, although we’re the ones who live closest to her.”
“It’s probably because of that, Mit-Sun. The Ghneckdos don’t live very close to La-Iin so of course they want to monopolize her time. You live with her and it’s not too out of my way to visit her, but it takes them quite a while even with that amazing wingspan.”
“I guess.”
“Though I admit I’m still surprised you invited Asul-Zenza,” he chuckled. “What made you do that?”
“I have a reason,” she sighed, “but I’d rather tell you later, away from this crowd. But don’t go thinking it’s anything like ‘wanting to get back together’. I still don’t like that guy.”
“I didn’t think so.”
“Big sister, you still drawin’?”
“Yes. But if I brought my drawings to downtown, it would have been a mistake. That’ll have to wait for a more personal visit.”
“Okay!”
“No matter how much closer you and I want to be to La-Iin, there is no denying her bias to Asul-Zenza and Ei-Tio,” Verde-Nenda said.
“I suppose there isn’t, but that’s alright. She doesn’t know us as well.”
Anil-Kosha glanced over her shoulder. “And you must be Mr. Cahongyun.”
“M-me? Yes, that’s right. I’m Cahongyun Beht-Soh, Mit-Sun’s father.”
“Nice to meet you, sir. I am Ghneckdo Verde-Nenda.”
“And I am Ghneckdo Anil-Kosha. We’re Asul-Zenza’s parents.”
“I figured. I can kind of see where he got some of his features.”
“You seem much more pleasant than your daughter,” Anil-Kosha said.
“Some people have said that to me before. But my wife used to tell me that I was a doormat, so I always thought people would find me annoying. You just have to give her a chance.”
“Maybe someday, seeing as she was kind enough to plan this outing, but it’ll have to wait for now. La-Iin is here, after all!”
Beht-Soh sighed. “Well, I did my best to put in a good word for you.”
“Thanks, Papa. But I really doubt those two are ever going to forgive me for breaking up with Asul-Zenza the way I did.”

“This is boring! I don’t want to keep walking around downtown like this. I want to do something more!”
La-Iin ran ahead of the crowd. “La-Iin! Does anyone see where she ran off to?”
“She just went up there, Mit-Sun,” Asul-Zenza said, pointing to the musical district. Mit-Sun sighed and chased after her.
“Harsh as she might be sometimes, you have to give her points for caring about her daughter,” Asul-Zenza said. Verde-Nenda and Anil-Kosha huffed.
“Wait, big sister!”
“Careful, Ei-Tio! The ground has straight cracks in it!”
“…straight cracks?” Beht-Soh questioned.
“We’ve learned to speak Ei-Tio,” Shi-Bara explained.
Mit-Sun and Ei-Tio caught up with La-Iin in the musical district, where she was dancing along to an Usl-Thaehey song that was playing.
“I could tell an Usl-Thaehey song from a mile away.”
Mit-Sun covered Ei-Tio’s ears. “Isn’t this song a little…racy?”
“Mama, come on. Ei-Tio won’t understand it. And she will someday, so who cares?”
“Can I dance too, big sister!?”
La-Iin nodded, and Ei-Tio began to do a wild dance next to her. Mit-Sun couldn’t help but chuckle at the odd sight.
Once the song had ended, Mit-Sun said, “Please don’t run ahead of the group like that.”
“I heard you saying you set up this group for me. I’ll do what I want.”
“La-Iin,” Mit-Sun forced through grit teeth, “Please.”
“I don’t accept pleases!” La-Iin screamed, running ahead of her once again–almost. This time she stopped in place before getting too far off.
“But I will accept food.”
“Fine, fine…”

Mit-Sun had quite seriously contemplated leaving downtown to take everyone to Sunday Daily, but she had decided against it after remembering her prior experience there. ‘Nobody is going to take that away from me. The day I go back I’ll be alone…or maybe I’ll take Papa with me.’
So she instead took them to a restaurant that was fairly out of sight.
“This seems slightly shady,” Asul-Zenza said.
“It was advertising international food. Why shouldn’t we give something non-Vaelis a chance?”
“I already have,” La-Iin said proudly.
“Wow! What is it?” Ei-Tio asked.
“It’s mincemeat pie,” Mit-Sun said before La-Iin could open her mouth. La-Iin glared. “And it happens to be her favorite food.”
“A Vaelis girl with the heart of a Shitosh one,” Verde-Nenda said, ruffling her hair. “How strange!”
“My dominion spreads far past Vaelyn and Shitosh,” La-Iin said. Most of the crowd was confused, but Asul-Zenza just sighed, and Mit-Sun groaned.

The restaurant was fairly tiny, and judging from the reactions of the staff, they had never gotten a group nine people strong. But it was soon evident that they were more than a little excited to serve the large group, though at ordering time there was a little trouble.
“What’s that say?” Ei-Tio asked Jul-Ense.
“Depoisonberry Soup.”
“An’ that?”
“Bloodsauce Spaghetti.”
“What about that!?”
“Stotche…you don’t want that, Ei-Tio.”
“Why not?”
The group sighed. Though Ei-Tio wasn’t the only problem.
“No mincemeat pie? And I only see bloodsauce spaghetti.”
“There are plenty of other blood-related meals on the list, La-Iin. Where are you looking?”
“You realize La-Iin’s reading isn’t perfect, right?”
“She’s lying to you!” La-Iin hissed.
“Do you want me to read the menu for you too, La-Iin?” Jul-Ense offered. La-Iin responded with a hiss.
It did take a while, but sooner or later the group had all ordered. Their food took a while, and most of the time spent waiting for it was used for La-Iin’s family to ask her questions.
“So La-Iin, you like to draw?”
“Yes.”
“What are your friends like?”
“They wouldn’t be my friends if they were bad. And I don’t mean evil.”
“Did you talk to the pumpkiny boy?”
La-Iin narrowed her eyes. Mit-Sun could tell she was getting quickly agitated.
“How about you tell them about wanting to rule the world?” Mit-Sun suggested. La-Iin looked downright offended.
“Those plans are private!”
Mit-Sun sighed. Thankfully enough, the food didn’t take much longer to arrive.
“I’ve always found middle eastern food very interesting,” Asul-Zenza said. “There’s a certain way they season it that makes it delicious. And I love their species-based foods.”
“I heard in the middle east they still cook people!” La-Iin said excitedly.
“Where!?”
“At school. But they only said one place…”
‘Why did she sound so excited about that!?’ Her family wondered.

After eating, the group began to wind down a bit, though it was obvious they still wanted to be out–and Mit-Sun would have agreed, for it felt like they hadn’t done much so far.
‘What can we do to really end this day off on a high note?’ She wondered. ‘Hm…’
“I want to go back to the music district.”
‘I guess that works.’
So Mit-Sun led the way to the music district, though La-Iin several times tried to take the lead from her.
“Why are we going here again?” Asul-Zenza asked.
“La-Iin asked. And anyway, there are some things that can be done there…namely burning all this food off.”
“Hm?”
“I think I know what she wants to do.”
La-Iin smirked. A song by Chehata-Merni had just gone off, and one by Usl-Thaehey had come on.

Day in, day out
Nothing’s ever good enough
Your expectations, set them too high
Keep on trudging, keep on trudging through
It’ll never be good enough for you

New things, old things
Put them all together now
Nothing’s working, better erase it all
And how you put up with yourself
Is something you never ever figured out

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and you wouldn’t give yourself a chance
To just let it go and let yourself f@%k up!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why aren’t you giving it your all!?

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

Day in, day out
Always trying harder
That’s what you tell yourslef
Even if it is a lie

Over, over, over and over again
You never tried doing things your own way!

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and now it’s not the same
The same as failure in your eyes!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why do you always just slap somethin’ together

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

All….

Remove the limiters, remove the feeling
Remove the expectations, remove the result
Thinkin’ in black-and-white
Keepin’ yourself up all night

I realized the errors of my ways
I’m givin’ you a chance to too
But if you choose to stay that way
I’ve only got one thing to say to YOU!

Ah, it’s never good enough!
It’s always never good enough!
You scream about this every night!

What you try, you cannot defy your
Expectations, you set them far too
High, and you wouldn’t give yourself a chance
To just let it go and let yourself f@%k up!

Oh, it needed to be perfect
That’s what you said, that’s what you said
So why aren’t you giving it your all!?

You made your own never ending hell
Your limiters have made you fall
And that’s the inevitable fate of us aaaaaallll!

You live forever, that’s the inevitable fate of us all!

La-Iin started clapping lightly as the song went off. Her family was pleased.
“That was adorable,” Asul-Zenza said.
“You voiced my very same thoughts,” Beht-Soh laughed.
“It was a good exercise, though! That song is intense!” Verde-Nenda said.
“I’m not sure it was the best thing for Ei-Tio to listen to, though,” Jul-Ense said.
“Well, she wanted to. And now she’ll probably want to look around this part of downtown too, if I know my La-Iin.”
“I would be willing to do that. I don’t seem to have given this ‘Usl-Thaehey’ a fair chance. I was always much more intrigued by Sulaet-Defka.”
“Though even we are older than her, hah!”
As expected, La-Iin had taken the lead from her family, but she stopped in place when a new song started.
“Sweet Inevitable Death….” La-Iin smiled.
“She’s going to make us do it again,” Mit-Sun said.
“I’m up for it if she is!” Verde-Nenda said. And the group broke into dancing once more.
“Weirdos!” A Minomix man called out.

—–
After their dance session, La-Iin had introduced everyone in the group–save for her parents, that is–to Usl-Thaehey, to mostly positive but ultimately mixed reception.
“What do some of those words mean?” Ei-Tio had asked.
“La-Iin, I’m not as intense as Jul-Ense is when it comes to….keeping things secret from Ei-Tio, but I’m just not a big fan,” Shi-Bara said.
“Why should I care?”
After eating a large dinner and dancing, however, they were quite exhausted by the time night was high in the sky, and so decided to head back once they reached the front of downtown.
“Did I ever tell you I met Usl-Thaehey once?”
“WHAT!?”
“Actually twice!”
Though that story kept them from leaving when expected.

“Goodbye, La-Iin! We’ll hopefully be seeing you once more soon!” Verde-Nenda said.
“Bye-bye, big sister!” Ei-Tio said.
“Be seeing you, La-Iin. Remember, you’re always welcome to call me!” Asul-Zenza said.
Beht-Soh walked home with Mit-Sun and La-Iin. When La-Iin ran ahead of the two, he took his chance to speak.
“So what brought on the outing?”
Mit-Sun sighed. “I’m alright with La-Iin being evil. A non-evil La-Iin is a disturbing idea to me. But I don’t want her to ruin her life because of that. There are plenty of evil people who live respectable lives for the most part. And I doubt I can keep La-Iin out of trouble on my own. But if I can at least keep her caring for people, then I won’t think I did a completely horrible job.”
“I see.”
Mit-Sun smiled. “And so far, I don’t think I’ve done the worst.”

6.614.The Predicament and Melancholy of Blooudine

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 614
“The Predicament and Melancholy of Blooudine”

Asul-Zenza flew through the night sky, checking around him for any other fliers and for his destination. He didn’t spot any fellow Vampires, but the light of his destination was soon visible on the horizon, and he picked up speed towards it.
He made his landing and head inside.
The hospital didn’t seem to be all that busy even though it was the time of night most Vampires would usually be out. ‘I suppose that’s a good thing…’ The only Vampires he saw in there was a mother and her child, and the Vampire sitting at the reception desk.
“Hello, sir,” she said.
“Hello. I’m here to see–”
“Mrs. Blooudine Sae-Ah, correct? I’ve seen you around enough lately. Go ahead.”
“Thank you.” He turned away from her and head for Blooudine’s room. He found himself shivering more than once on his way there. “It feels like Winter in here. They could at least take care to adjust the temperature properly…”
“Asul-Zenza?”
It seemed he had been heard before even going in. He opened the door to her room and tried to give her his most reassuring smile.
“H-hello, Mrs. Blooudine.”
Blooudine was facing him, but she looked a lot different than he was used to. Though she wasn’t in any immediate danger from her infection–and indeed the Vampires at the hospital had already mostly eradicated it from her body–it was evident she was feeling the effects, and there was a dark look in her eyes.
That, he felt, was not because of her sickness.
He pulled up a chair and sat down next to her. “I know I’ve been visiting a lot lately, but I can’t help but be concerned.”
“Don’t be,” she muttered.
“You understand why. …has your family been by recently?”
“Asul-Zenza, dear, I understand you have the best of intentions, but don’t talk to me about my family.”
He gave an empty chuckle. “Not in the best of moods, I can tell. Anything I can do to bring your mood up?”
“No.”
Asul-Zenza sighed. “Well–um–damn, I suppose I didn’t do all that many noteworthy things over August–”
“Don’t bother, Asul-Zenza. You don’t have to waste your time in this cold place. Just go home and enjoy the night.”
“Mrs. Blooudine…”
Blooudine didn’t respond.
“Please, Mrs. Blooudine, there has to be something I can do for you. Anything. I can’t leave in good conscience knowing this was the mood I left you in, so if there’s just one thing–”
Blooudine took a deep breath. “That’s right, I did tell you about that, didn’t I…”
“Tell me about what, Mrs. Blooudine?”
“Asul-Zenza, would you be willing to hear an old lady out? For in hindsight, I realize my problem is one that you know about.”
“I’d be more than willing to,” he said. “Please, then, tell me what is wrong.”
Blooudine sniffled. “Mrs. Blooudine?”
“Ever since Rei-Fourse died, I’ve had too much time to think to myself,” she said. The dark look in her eyes only intensified. “And I’ve been thinking about him, him and Vertuo-Nenda…”
“Vertuo-Nenda?”
“Please don’t make me go into more explanation than I need to, Asul-Zenza,” Blooudine sighed. “That Vertuo-Nenda. As in the one I had my affair with…the one I never mustered up the courage to talk to Rei-Fourse about. And now he is dead. And most would tell me to just leave it in my past now that my husband is gone, but there is still a relic remaining.”
Her words clicked in his mind. “Ta-Mane.”
“Yes, her. But do you know how horrid that would be of me!? If I called Ta-Mane just to tell her that the man who died wasn’t really her father? You realize, until I told you about this last year this secret was all mine. Rei-Fourse, Ta-Mane, Vertuo-Nenda, not even an outside party–I never told them any of this. Vertuo-Nenda I left and he believed nothing came out of our time together. In all these years since he’s never contacted me even once. And Rei-Fourse and Ta-Mane have never doubted that they were father and daughter. Even what I can see of him in Ta-Mane’s children, she chalked up to her husband’s side of the family.”
Asul-Zenza felt slightly unsettled. “So if everyone is happy, and they have no reason to doubt me, why, then, should I bother resurrecting this? Because I’m guilty! I never told my husband about what I did! I never told Vertuo-Nenda he had a child! I’ve never told Ta-Mane her father is someone else!”
A passing nurse peeked into Blooudine’s room. Blooudine settled.
“Mrs. Blooudine…sorry to interrupt you, but how do you know for sure that Ta-Mane is not Rei-Fourse’s?”
“Timing, Asul-Zenza. There is no way Ta-Mane could be Rei-Fourse’s. And if you saw Vertuo-Nenda, and compared him to Ta-Mane, you would be able to tell. I only wish Rei-Fourse had been able to. His divorcing me would have been well deserved. I’m sorry to speak with you about all this again, Asul-Zenza. But the guilt has been gnawing away at me.” She relaxed in her bed. “Maybe I’ll get lucky and nature will make the decision for me soon enough…”
Asul-Zenza scoffed.
“Asul-Zenza?”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Blooudine, but I’m not going to stand for your attitude.”
“Wha?”
“An affair is a serious matter! When you first told me of it, I didn’t know what to say, but after this discussion my feelings are clear. It’s bad enough already that you did what you did, and that it went as far as it did, but you have a child who is not your husband’s and not from before your marriage. She deserves to know, even if the truth is painful. You already feel guilty enough for not telling Rei-Fourse, and there is no way of knowing if Vertuo-Nenda is even still alive. Besides, with the advances in technology nowadays, there is no guarantee she will not find out herself, and what would be worse for you?”
“Asul-Zenza…it’s a losing situation. Either I let the guilt eat away at me until the day I die, or I risk losing Ta-Mane’s love. Of all our children Ta-Mane was the one I would say was closest to Rei-Fourse. It will hurt her, even moreso now that Rei-Fourse is gone!”
“Mrs. Blooudine, you’re thinking mostly of yourself here. Otherwise I’m certain that Rei-Fourse would have known before he died. Let me give you my take on the situation. I am going to imagine if Mit-Sun and I were in the same situation you were in. If I found out that she had had an affair, I would be upset regardless. But if she came to me right away and was honest, I would find it more in my heart to forgive her than if I found out later on by myself. Especially if she was still continuing it…
“And as for children…if I found out that La-Iin was not my child…” Asul-Zenza shook his head. Just the idea was painful to him. “It’s one thing if you never knew that. It’s completely different if you believed that for years on end only to find out much later….the pain is worse now because you didn’t say anything right away. Mr. Blooudine was a very kind man. If you had told him about your affair, if you were honest, I’m certain he would have tried to work it out with you instead of divorce you. And you would have been lucky considering that an affair is incredibly reasonable grounds for divorce.”
Blooudine’s expression was pained, and for a moment Asul-Zenza wondered if he should have spoken at all. “I…I don’t mean to hurt you with this, Mrs. Blooudine. But you always gave me advice, and I could just imagine how I would feel if I was in Mr. Blooudine’s shoes–”
“No, don’t sound apologetic, Asul-Zenza. You’re right. I’ve made a big mistake. My own guilt is evidence of this…but…I already feel horrible enough that I did not tell Rei-Fourse! Even if I tell Ta-Mane, I don’t think that guilt will go away! And what of Vertuo-Nenda? Is he still alive, unaware of his daughter and grandchildren and great-grandchildren? I’ve caused such a mess…”
“The choice is in your hands as to whether or not you want to speak up, Mrs. Blooudine. But my advice to you is that you do. If you feel this much guilt over never telling Rei-Fourse, then it’s best you remedy the one person you can talk to. And…I can’t be nice about this, I’m sorry. But if she grows to resent you, that is your own fault.”
Blooudine sighed. “I…I’m really sorry, Mrs–”
“Don’t. I understand.” Blooudine smiled. “It’s not easy for me to consider doing this. But your advice is definitely good. You’ve come a long way, Asul-Zenza. I had believed, with your personality, that you would tell me that it would all work out so long as I was gentle about it or something. But I underestimated you. You understand the weight of this situation. …you haven’t been in it yourself, have you?”
“Heavens no. But if I was, I am almost certain I am right on how I would feel. Honestly, the thought of it is enough to put me off dating moreso than I already am…”
“Alright.” Blooudine sighed. “I’ll see if I can at least work up the muster to write Ta-Mane a letter about it. And perhaps, who knows, Rei-Fourse has been watching me the whole time. But I can’t expect everything to turn out happy after what I’ve done.”
“…”
“…”
“…w-well, I should probably get going right about now,” Asul-Zenza said. “I have a job in the afternoon, so I’ll have to get to sleep earlier than normal.”
“Take care, Asul-Zenza. And…thank you.” Blooudine gave him another smile. “Young Vampire or not, you have the maturity of one who is fully grown. And you’ve proven you have more maturity than I do. Continue on this way, and never let your feelings cloud you from telling people the truth.”

—–
Before he went to sleep that night, Asul-Zenza found that his mind was swarming with thoughts.
‘I can only imagine what it would feel like for Mr. Blooudine and Ta-Mane to learn the truth. It would probably hurt…’
Even now he felt as if he shouldn’t have had the conversation he did with Blooudine. But one thought eased those concerns, at least slightly.
‘But it’s for the better. If she tells Ta-Mane now, then she won’t have to learn through some other external source. And I think that would hurt even more than her mother telling her.’
He sighed. ‘Mit-Sun, for all your foibles, I’m glad that you were at least faithful to me.’