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!”

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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!”

20.597.To See the Future–Part 5

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 597
“To See the Future–Part 5”

“I think the most annoying part about life is having ideas that you can’t do anything about because you can’t move on your own.”
La-Iin put down her crayon and glared. “If I agree with those ideas and you’d tell me what they were, I might help you with them.”
“I seriously doubt you would help me build a harem of women.”
“And you would be right.”
“When it comes to the subject of my autonomy, you have a fickleness that you obviously got from that woman.” La-Iin’s glare became more intense. “In the past it seemed like the idea of me becoming autonomous was a little appealing to you, and now you obviously hate it. I suppose I can at least give you that you’re more consistent than the woman who gave you that trait…”
“Hm…well, you wouldn’t understand, Bes-Isa. I’m thinking over my plans every single day so I don’t know what would be best for me. Maybe someday I’ll find out it really will be better for me if you are autonomous. But for now there’s one big problem.”
“What? Your half-Normal side dominating your brain?”
La-Iin hissed. “You realize I live with Mama, right!? Someone who doesn’t know about what Sale-Dessu found out!? You didn’t like the idea of not being able to go outside, but what you didn’t think about is that it goes a step further than that. If you became autonomous right now, not only would you not be able to go outside, you’d be stuck in my bedroom and Mama would always be asking ‘Where’s Bes-Isa? Where’s Bes-Isa!?’ and I’d have to come up with some dumbass excuse just to cover for you!”
La-Iin began to pant. “Wow, you really thought this over.”
“I needed an excu–err, rebuttal for you next time you brought this up.”
“Ah huh.”
“The future is a work in progress, Bes-Isa. We’ll see how things turn out. For now I need to keep on planning. …though Mama helping me with my blood studies has certainly paid off a little bit, heh heh heh…”
‘A work in progress, huh. Ah, it would be so nice if I could become autonomous. My future won’t be much if I can’t. But if I can…’

***

Bes-Isa cackled as she brought her whip down on Mit-Sun and Eul-Bok.
“Scream, scream! Oh, how I’ve waited for this day!”
“P-P-Please, stop…” Eul-Bok begged. Mit-Sun didn’t say anything–she was cowering a short distance behind Eul-Bok, her hands on her head.
“What would it say about me if I gave you mercy when La-Iin doesn’t?” She brought the whip down again and gave another cackle.
“This feels so good….”
“Bes-Isa.”
Bes-Isa turned around. La-Iin landed behind her, San-Kyung right behind. Bes-Isa grinned.
“Hello there, La-Iin, pumpkin boy.”
“I have a name.”
“What are you here for? Want to take over whipping that woman and the brat?”
“Actually, no. I was going to ask if you could stop for now. I need Mama–err–Mit-Sun for something. Also, Sale-Dessu wants to see you. Something about a check-up.”
“Aw, damn. Well, I’d love to go and all, but ah, how am I going to get there?”
“Mind giving her a little assistance, San-Kyung?”
“Yes, I do.”
La-Iin rolled her eyes. “If you do this for me, I’ll let you see rival-boy outside of his cage for a little bit. He can even….ugh…come to dinner. I wouldn’t make you do this, but I don’t want Bes-Isa falling apart. Ever since she gained her autonomy, she has been a useful fixture in my army, especially ever since some of my planned people fell through.”
Bes-Isa grinned. Before she could say anything in response, however, she was lifted into the air. San-Kyung levitated off at a speed that surprised her. ‘You’d think without wings moving through the sky would be a lot slower…’
They landed at the castle. “You know where Sale-Dessu is. I don’t need to be your guide.”
“I wouldn’t want you to be. To be honest, I don’t know what La-Iin sees in you.”
San-Kyung did not respond; as Bes-Isa walked inside, she could have sworn she heard him mumble “Dosa-Mina”, but the rest of what he said was incomprehensible.
Bes-Isa navigated her way through the castle, meeting up with Fer-Shi on the way.
“It’s so boring in here sometimes,” she had said. “Although I guess I shouldn’t say that. Some people have it really bad in La-Iin’s world. I’m one of the lucky ones…”
When she reached Sale-Dessu’s room, she was surprised to see bags under his visible eye. He looked incredibly stressed. He beckoned for her to stand on a small metal circle, then set to work.
“So, uh, hello, Sale-Dessu.”
“Hello.”
“I hear you’re the one who summoned me here.”
“Yes, I-I checked the schedules a-a-and you are scheduled for a…for an experiment. I mean examination.”
“Geez, have you been getting any sleep?”
“Not much, no.”
“La-Iin working you that hard? She really is a sadist.”
“No, it’s my own stresses…” Sale-Dessu sighed. “Everything looks fine to me…have you been feeling strange?”
“Nope, better than ever.”
“Okay.” Sale-Dessu sighed. “I guess you are an improvement over Eul-Bok. I…I mean physically…”
“Heh.”
“How is….how is Eul-Bok?”
“Oh, well, he’s surviving. Still a blabbermouth. But lately I’ve been appreciating the way he blabbers when I show up…”
Bes-Isa couldn’t tell if the look on Sale-Dessu’s face was one of anger or one of sadness. “I was worried you might over-exert yourself, but I guess you’re fine…”
“Yeah, that’s good. Hey, um, Sale-Dessu?”
“Yes?”
“Try not to lose so much sleep, alright?”
“I’ve always been an insomniac, though…” He yawned.
“If it makes you feel better, I’ll make sure things are a little more lenient on Eul-Bok. Maybe I’ll even barter with La-Iin to let you see him again if you do something in return for me.”
“Really…?” A smile crossed Sale-Dessu’s lips.
“Yeah, sure. Anyway, I should get going!”
She ran out the room. ‘I wonder…should I use that as sadistic torture, or a way to get something I want? Still, it is pretty weird to see him so sleep-deprived. Maybe he deserves a little leniency. It’ll be less uncomfortable that way!’

“Done with all your tasks today, Bes-Isa?”
The voice was all too familiar. “Koko-Reni!”
Koko-Reni smiled. Their meeting felt all too fresh in Bes-Isa’s mind–Koko-Reni had been one of the many slaves La-Iin had kept, and one of the first to be locked up at the start of her conquest. Bes-Isa quickly took a shine to her, and had since managed to barter with La-Iin to keep her out of her cage.
“If you’re going to keep that girl out of the cage, you had better find a use for her. If I don’t see any use, she’s going back in with extra punishment.” La-Iin had told her that, and since then Bes-Isa did her best to involve Koko-Reni in her activities whenever possible.
“Yeah, I’m done. But I could’ve been finished whenever.”
“Good. I’d say I’d like to hang out with you, but there’s really no place to outside, and I’m not allowed inside the castle, am I?”
“Unfortunately not. La-Iin calls me a pervert every time I ask if you’re allowed to come in.”
Koko-Reni giggled. “I wonder how true that is…anyway, Bes-Isa, I wanted to ask, are you really happy living in this world? I mean, I’m happy that I have you, but aside from that it’s pretty shitty here, don’t you think?”
“It is pretty shitty, but when you’re guaranteed benefits in return for helping out you come to like it. Also I’m evil, so all the chaos delights me. I’ve gotten a lot of what I wanted, except for a harem, anyway. But that’s alright, because you make up for having seven girls at my side.”
Koko-Reni laughed. “Bes-Isa, you sap. But anyway, doesn’t it get boring sometimes?”
“Boring? I like this. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you, but I was a V-Puppet before I met you. So getting to do things like this, it’s nothing at all like it was for me for around thirty years. I’m happy because I can move and do what I want.”
“I guess.”
“Well, I am pretty good at bartering with La-Iin, you know,” she said. “We’re longtime friends and all. Maybe I can barter to have her set up a little something you’d like more.”
“Like ice cream?”
“I’ll see, but it might be blood ice cream.”
“Ah, that’s fine.”
“If there’s one good thing about being a former V-Puppet, it’s that the moment you get what you want, it’s so satisfying you become simple. …well, that’s what stupid Euly said to me before I locked him up, anyway. And a benefit to this world is that I can go wherever I want! I’m free!”
Bes-Isa gave a wild laugh. Koko-Reni joined in. “Well, if you’re happy, then I’m happy too.”
“And I am happy. This is the best future I could have asked for. I’m sure I could have made something out of the other ones, but hey, I got what I wanted, so who cares about what might have happened!?”
Bes-Isa pulled Koko-Reni close and kissed her. ‘Oh yeah, this is the good stuff.’

—–
“Ahahahaha…..”
“What’s with the creepy giggle? And you call me creepy…”
“I was just thinking about how nice freedom is.”
“Hm. Not like you have any.”
“Yeah, I guess not. …you know, La-Iin, while I like your slave idea, I can see why goody-goodies wouldn’t. Everyone likes to be free to do what they want. Well, except maybe weirdos. I know I would be happy if I was free…”
“What?”
“I hope your future gives me the freedom I want. And I damn well hope that Koko-Reni actually exists, or at least someone like her…”
“Start making sense or I’m not waking you up again until school starts!”

4.581.Mr. Eteibreit’s Day at Home

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

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

***

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

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

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

30.576.Harem Master San-Kyung

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 576
“Harem Master San-Kyung”

“Gee, it feels like it’s been a long time since we just hung out casually like this. Speaking of, when’s the last time you drank something that wasn’t water?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
Dosa-Mina relaxed. “Yeah, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Still, I think you should try a milkshake someday, San-Kyung. I know you’re no fan of sweets, but I think you might like it despite that.”
“I heard some milkshakes have things in them I can’t drink.”
“That’s true.” Dosa-Mina took a sip of his milkshake. “You know, San-Kyung, going out like this again made me think of something. Even though you only like me and your parents, there are more people that like you than you might expect!”
“Huh?”
“Well, to list off the most extreme examples, there’s La-Iin, and Yukkini, and Ely–er–”
“I think I know who you’re talking about,” San-Kyung said with a grimace.
“Those three all like you, and quite a bit too. It’s weird considering their personalities. …well, actually, it’s not all that weird with La-Iin. And it’s not all that weird with Yukkini either, at least it doesn’t seem that way on the outside. I never did know her all that well.”
“I don’t want to think about this. I’m aware other people like me aside from you and my parents. But that doesn’t mean I like them back.”
“Yeah, that’s obvious. And even if you did like one of them the other two would still be left in the dust. Say, San-Kyung, do you think you’ll ever want to enter a relationship?”
“No.”
“That was pretty blunt. Ah well, let’s get our minds off of this silly subject and just enjoy our day out!”

That night, as he prepared for bed, Dosa-Mina’s words from earlier were on San-Kyung’s mind.
‘He’s right, it doesn’t make much sense. Most other people dislike me, and that’s the way things should be. I don’t understand. Well, it doesn’t matter anyway, but still, why?’
The question was still on his mind as he laid down for the night.
‘It just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe it’s because of my grades. Or my looks. But I definitely wouldn’t understand why they would like that…’

***

“Look at the sky, San-Kyung! It’s so nice and blue today! Ah, I think today will be another one of the same school days!”
“…what?”
Dosa-Mina cleared his throat. “You know, more of the same. I’m surprised you haven’t dropped out of school yet, speaking of. After all, do you even learn anything here anymore? It seems like our recent lessons are always below your level.”
“Ask yourself the same question first.”
“Yeah, I suppose you have a point. Well, it’s just a year and so left, so I suppose it’s not worth it to just drop out now.” Dosa-Mina trotted ahead of him. “I’m gonna head in early so I can get some stuff done before class. See you soon, San-Kyung!”
“See you,” he said with a sigh. In that school Dosa-Mina was the only saving grace. Everyone else annoyed him, and it didn’t help that he had ended up becoming arguably the most popular student in his class. Be it for his grades, his attitude, or just because he was an Aesthetically Normal Animated Pumpkin, he had a lot of fans, and the fact that Dosa-Mina could not be in the same class as him frustrated him to no end.
Moreso than the students who speculated about him or the students who begged him to help them study, there were three specific students in his class that angered him more than all the others.
“Ah! M-M-Molshei? I…I didn’t mean to bump into you…”
Deki-Tyunri fidgeted in front of San-Kyung, hiding his mouth with his wing. San-Kyung ignored him and walked right past him.
“O-oh! Molshei? Actually, it’s good that I ran into you….I, um, made something for you to eat during lunch today…”
“I don’t eat.”
“I know you don’t usually, but I thought you might like it.” He lowered his head, visibly blushing. “I heard about how much you liked the animal organ platter they served at the school dance last year, so I was inspired by that…”
“I don’t eat.”
“Please, give it a try. I did my best to recreate it just for you!” Deki-Tyunri ran ahead of San-Kyung, holding the lunch he had made in his mouth. “Pweef?”
“No.”
“How disrespectful of you, Molshei!” San-Kyung flinched. “That boy put his heart and soul into that lunch and you’re just rejecting it?”
Deki-Tyunri peeked past San-Kyung, and both spotted a half-Goathoof girl who was standing a distance behind them, Yukkini Kai-Rin.
“You shut up, hypocrite!”
“Tsk tsk, Molshei, don’t turn to insults, it makes you look petty. And I know how I feel, but I also fully approve of your love for Elyshen!”
“I don’t love Elyshen!”
Deki-Tyunri put the lunch down. “I don’t mind that you don’t, but you should at least give yourself some nutrition. Otherwise you’ll start to look emaciated…”
San-Kyung huffed. “I eat enough to prevent that!”
“Oh, Molshei, you should give him a shot. I’ve given you my blessing.” She grabbed onto her arm and pressed her chest against it. San-Kyung began to rapidly strike his hand.
“I don’t need your blessing!”
“Oh, Molshei…” Deki-Tyunri’s eyes began to sparkle. “Does that mean what I think it means?”
“It means the opposite of what you think it means!”
“At least eat his lunch, Molshei. Why let it go to waste? And besides, he’s right, do you want to look emaciated?”
“YOU!”
San-Kyung let out a loud groan. Deki-Tyunri and Kai-Rin turned around.
“How dare you! You two-timing shitface!”
“Great. Just great. If you had let me go to the classroom, I could’ve avoided this, but no…
“Cahongyun, please. Molshei is not your boyfriend, and besides, all we were trying to do was get him to eat Elyshen’s lunch.”
La-Iin huffed. “I don’t buy it! Why are your boobies pressed against his arm, then!?”
San-Kyung broke free of Kai-Rin’s grasp. “That’s it, San-Kyung! You need to learn your place! And I know the perfect way to teach you.”
She flew towards him, but he rose vines quick enough to block her off. He wrapped the vines around her and trapped her in place. Her face flushed bright pink.
“Oh, San-Kyung, I can’t believe you’d show your vines in public!”
“Now it’s worse.” San-Kyung turned away from them. “I’m going to class.”
Deki-Tyunri, Kai-Rin, and La-Iin–they were the bane of his existence, and he had to deal with that same situation nearly every day.

During classes, San-Kyung tried to ignore the trio to keep from causing any noise in front of other students. It worked, for the most part: Deki-Tyunri had stopped trying to give him the lunch, and Kai-Rin only stopped by to tell him he had made a mistake. It was La-Iin who was problematic–she had started watching him like a hawk.
“I won’t let you cheat on me again!” Her words caught the attention of nearby students, and San-Kyung was uncertain of whether he should retaliate with violence or ignore her. Luckily for him, when the teacher arrived, she was forced to go back to her seat, and though she tried again that time too she was forced to go back to her seat.
When school came to an end for the day, San-Kyung immediately set to head home. After the earlier incident with Deki-Tyunri, Kai-Rin and La-Iin, he was looking forward to just spending time with Dosa-Mina and testing out his driving skills before relaxing at home with one of his favorite violent books.
Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that the situation would not be that simple.
“Molshei! I, um, know you don’t like me…that way and all…but you still shouldn’t let the food go to waste.”
“You eat it.”
“Please, Molshei, he made it just for you. And it’s animal organs~”
“I don’t care.”
“San-Kyung, stop hanging out with these fools. I don’t trust you around them. The two of us should head home alone. I know a secret path.”
“Shut up. You’re not my girlfriend. Look, all three of you just leave me alone, or I’ll disfigure your bodies so badly you’ll never be positively identified.”
“You wouldn’t take me down that easily!” La-Iin yelled.
“You couldn’t do that. Love me or hate me you’ve known me for a while.” Kai-Rin said.
“P-please….my grandmother would never mistake even my badly burned corpse.”
San-Kyung huffed. “Just leave me alone!”
“Molshei…” Kai-Rin’s tone became serious and she stopped in place, causing Deki-Tyunri and La-Iin to do the same. San-Kyung continued to walk on, at least until he was pulled backwards by Kai-Rin. “You can’t just walk away from this situation. Here you have three people who love you and would do anything for you.”
“So you say!” La-Iin complained.
“Object as much as you like, but you are an only child. It might do to continue on the Molshei family name with one of us. Granted, we’re all only children too, but the point is that our lineages will continue on. So–”
“SHUT UP!” San-Kyung rose vines from the ground and wrapped all three of them in them.
“M-M-M-Molshei–!” Deki-Tyunri’s face turned bright red and he seemed to nearly faint.
“Oh, Molshei, I don’t–I–” Kai-Rin’s face had also become red. San-Kyung glared at them.
“San-Kyung, you pervert,” La-Iin said slyly, smiling, at least until she noticed that Deki-Tyunri and Kai-Rin were in the same situation; then, she began to squirm.
The trio began to make strange noises, so unsettled, San-Kyung decided to let them down.
“San-Kyung! Sorry I’m late. A little student called Vampiris was asking for my help…” Dosa-Mina stared at them. “What’s going on?”
“You’re the one who said today’s going to be another of the same school days. What do you think!?”
“Oh no. It’s the option we all forgot about.” Kai-Rin covered her mouth. “Molshei, you get one more option, now that we think about it.”
“What are you talking about?”
Kai-Rin walked up to Dosa-Mina. “Dslellular, we need you to tell us.” She, Deki-Tyunri and La-Iin watched him with a serious glare. “Do you love Molshei romantically?”
“Huh?” Dosa-Mina backed away from her, then smiled. “Well, the truth to that is that I…”

—–
San-Kyung sat up and gasped. He got out of bed and wandered around the house, trying to ease his urge to strike his hands and set the house on fire. In the midst of his wandering, he failed to notice that he had walked into his parents’ room.
“San-Kyung?” Del-Kyuus yawned. “What are you doing in here?”
“Mom?”
“Did you have a nightmare?” Salsh-Era asked. “It’s alright, San-Kyung…”
The both of them tiredly levitated out of bed. San-Kyung felt immensely embarrassed. After the both of them had given him a pat on the head, he head back to his room, flustered and humiliated.

10.556.Recovery from Rejection

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

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

***

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

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

28.544.My Darling, Mit-Sun–Part 2

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 544
“My Darling, Mit-Sun–Part 2”

Mit-Sun sighed. Ever since Uil-Cur had confessed his feelings for her, his confession had been replaying on repeat in her head.
“I knew this from almost the start, Mama. I figured Haner either wanted to kill you or was in love with you. Why do you think I hated him so much?”
“I guess it makes sense now,” Mit-Sun sighed.
“Now that you know, I hope you plan on telling him no soon.”
Mit-Sun didn’t respond. La-Iin began to glare.
“Well!?”
“I don’t know, La-Iin. Besides, this isn’t any of your business.”
“It is my business! If you say yes to Haner, you might marry him! If you marry him and he becomes my step-Dami…”
La-Iin’s wings were flapping wildly. Mit-Sun was startled. She wasn’t used to seeing such emotion on La-Iin’s face. ‘If even her face is giving away how she feels, she must be pretty angry…’
“I’m sorry, La-Iin. There’s nothing I can tell you.”
La-Iin gave no further response after that; instead, she stormed off.
Mit-Sun was in shock at the idea that Uil-Cur had feelings for her, but also felt as though she should have seen it coming. Each time she thought back on his flirtatious nature she felt stupid for not realizing it.
‘But that’s not the issue here! Uil-Cur feels that way towards me, but what do I feel towards him?’
Mit-Sun realized that in truth, she had never exactly figured that one out. She knew she liked Uil-Cur and found him to be fun to hang around, but were those feelings potentially romantic or completely platonic? Was she trying to deny her feelings for him for La-Iin’s sake, or was it possible she was trying to contemplate having feelings for him for his sake?
Mit-Sun heaved a sigh. Whatever her answer was, it still flustered her to think that Uil-Cur loved her.

***

Since confessing his feelings to Mit-Sun, Uil-Cur had felt anxious. Each moment that passed by his feelings seemed to change within a second. At one moment he felt that Mit-Sun was trying to prolong the time before her answer to spare his feelings, while another he wondered if she was simply feeling shy about the idea of him sharing her feelings.
“Brother, you can’t keep shaking like that. If you do that there won’t be many girls who like you.”
“What?”
“There are a lot of girls in Bledger who like guys whose personality is consistent. Although there are some who go for the whole hidden-side thing. Anyway, normally you exude an air of confidence. Don’t stop that or you might turn some girls away.”
“Oh, come on, I’m only around you. I’m better at controlling myself in public. I just feel very comfortable with my sister, is all.”
“That’s good. Just givin’ you advice.”
As his sister turned to leave, the phone began to ring. Groaning, she went to pick it up. “Yeah? Hello? ….hey bro, I think it’s for you!”
She didn’t need to say anything further–Uil-Cur rushed to the phone and snatched it out of her hand. She sneered at him before walking away.
“Hello?”
“Hello, Uil-Cur? This is you, right?”
“Yes, it is. I’m surprised you called.”
“How else was I supposed to reach you? Listen, I want to talk with you. Let’s go down by the park to do this. It’ll feel tacky over the phone.”
“Er, alright.”
‘Good luck, big brother,’ his sister thought.

***

Uil-Cur took several deep breaths on his way to the park. By the time he arrived there, Mit-Sun was already standing there and waiting for him, a distant expression on her face. She waved to him as he landed.
“I suppose this is it,” Uil-Cur sighed. “I’m ready for whatever response you give me, Mit-Sun. So say what you will.”
“Since when did I say this had anything to do with your confession?” Mit-Sun asked. Uil-Cur’s eyes widened, but he let out a sigh when he noticed Mit-Sun start to giggle. “Just kidding. It’s a little humor before my answer.”
“Sorry, Mit-Sun, I’m just so anxious to hear your response…”
“I’m sure you are,” she sighed. “Well…I had to give it a lot of thought. I realized I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel about your confession. Well, aside from obviously being flustered…that’s why I left you yesterday instead of giving you an answer right on the spot. Also, I haven’t been sure about how to feel about the idea of getting into another relationship. After La-Iin’s father and having to raise her, I’ve been reluctant about the idea of dating anyone else, so I had to think over a lot of things relating to both of those. I’m sure if I had been more certain, you would have gotten an answer right then and there.”
“I see,” Uil-Cur said. “…not to be a bother, but could you give me your answer already? Waiting to hear all you have to say is just making me more nervous…”
Mit-Sun glanced down at her feet. “I really do like you, Uil-Cur. You’re one of my best friends, and goodness knows I don’t have enough of those lately…but…I’m going to have to say that I don’t feel the same. I can’t envision going out with you and getting married or any of that stuff. All the things that made me know I liked La-Iin’s father–back when I liked him, anyway–I just don’t have them with you.”
Uil-Cur’s head dropped. “I don’t want this to be the end of our friendship, though! Even though I’m not in love with you, you still mean a lot to me. Without you I’d be in a much worse place right now. And I might have other people in my life who’ll stand by me but I think you’re definitely the most loyal. I know this isn’t the response you wanted to hear, but please, can you stay by me anyway?”
“…I wasn’t going to leave even if you did say no. I never intended on it. I’ll take any chances I can to spend time with you.”
Mit-Sun smiled. “And it’s not the answer I wanted to hear, but, well, I expected it. The closer we got, the more hopeful I was that you might like me back. And I know nothing of how you act while in love. I just assumed it was similar to my own behavior, which led me to believe you didn’t feel the same way. But now that I know, I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sure someday you’ll meet someone who’s good for you.”
Uil-Cur smiled. “Niceties like that aren’t going to work at this point, Mit-Sun. Still, if you’ll allow me to be optimistic…do you think your feelings will ever change? Do you think it could be possible this is just for now? No, that’s being too hopeful…”
“I don’t know, Uil-Cur. The future is the future. If I ever start feeling differently about you, I’ll let you know. Hopefully if that day ever comes you’ll still feel the same way about me.”
“I bet I will.”
“But for now, this is my answer. Still, let’s stay friends, alright?”
Mit-Sun grabbed Uil-Cur’s hand. Uil-Cur sighed.
“I didn’t intend that to be any other way.”

***

“So, bro, how’d it go? …yo?”
Uil-Cur didn’t respond.
“…ouch. Sorry, bro.”
Uil-Cur began to tear up.
“Whoa, you don’t need to get teary-eyed on me! Hey, please don’t cry! I’m not good with crying people!”
His sister sighed. ‘He isn’t going to stop…geez, who’s the adult here?’ She reached up and pat him on the back. No words came to her to say to him, so she kept silent and let her brother cry.

When Mit-Sun arrived home, La-Iin was sitting on the couch with Choungetsu, a glare on her face.
“Oh, stop being antagonistic. I told him I didn’t feel the same way. Don’t you think if I said otherwise, he’d be here with me right now?”
“You made the right decision, Mama.”
“I know I did. Still, I felt bad for him. I’ve never actually been in the turning-down situation…I’ve never been in a situation like that before at all. I’m sure it hurt.”
“He can take the pain. He was an idiot to think you’d say yes. Besides, it’s not all that painful to hear a no. I hear them all the time.”
La-Iin’s eyes widened. “Don’t get any ideas!”
“Yeah, like I would.” Mit-Sun sighed. “I hope he cheers up soon. And I hope we can really stay friends even after all of this…”

—–
“To what to do I owe the phone call?”
“I wanted to tell you that she said no, Dami. You don’t have to worry about some other man becoming my step-Dami.”
“He confessed? Oh, well, I’m pleased! Still, I have to feel bad for him. I understand how painful it can be if someone tells you they don’t feel the same way. Especially if they’re someone with Mit-Sun’s bluntly harsh way of going about things.”
“…Dami, I have a question. You won’t get in a relationship with anyone else, will you?”
“I don’t plan on it, no. But a lot of things can happen in nine-hundred years, that’s for certain. Why do you ask? …you don’t want Mit-Sun and I to get back together, do you?”
“No!”
“Well good, because that is not happening.”
“Hm…”
“Something the matter, La-Iin?”
“It’s nothing. That’s all. Goodbye, Dami.” She hung up the phone.
‘I hope neither Mama or Dami ever gets in another relationship,’ La-Iin thought. ‘Maybe they’re annoying, but nobody else gets to pretend to be my Mama or Dami.’

27.543.My Darling, Mit-Sun–Part 1

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 543
“My Darling, Mit-Sun–Part 1”

‘What do I do if Mit-Sun accepts that man’s feelings?’
Since his phone call with La-Iin, Asul-Zenza had been lost in the thought of what might happen if Mit-Sun reciprocated Uil-Cur’s feelings. Even days later the idea still upset him. He could imagine him marrying Mit-Sun and getting to play an active part in her upbringing–even the reminder of La-Iin’s hatred towards the man barely made him feel better.
‘Even with Mit-Sun’s leniency, if a new man could play the role of La-Iin’s father, would she let him? Might she want to keep La-Iin around if she gave her a younger sibling? What will I do if she accepts his feelings and allows him to help raise La-Iin?’
He felt hopeless about the situation, yet he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He awaited eagerly for La-Iin’s next phone call, in which he hoped she would say that nothing had happened and that Mit-Sun was not getting married.

***

“Mit-Sun, I feel blessed this month. Why, earlier this year I never thought that just months later the two of us would be such good friends that we could hang out so many days in a month! It’s amazing to me. Long gone are the days where I admired you from afar–now, we spend lots of time together.”
“It’s been fun. Before I started spending more time with you I never even knew there were so many places to go in Bledger. Though I already knew about Sunday Daily.”
“Of course you did. When you live near this part of town, who doesn’t?”
“It’s also been nice to have someone who understands how I feel about Mrs. Eteibreit. I swear, I think she gets some sort of sick kick off of torturing us. You seem to handle her a little better, Uil-Cur. That’s something I kind of admire about you. Your personality, the way you act…it’s very fun. It’s kind of weird when you start acting more meek.”
“Aha ha, well, it happens sometimes. I get slightly embarrassed by the way I act sometimes. I’ve been called conceited a lot throughout my lifetime, but as I said, there’s nothing conceited about loving yourself. And it’s not like I’m putting myself on a pedestal above all others.”
“Yeah.” Mit-Sun sighed. “I wish La-Iin wouldn’t be so harsh towards you. She’s turning some of her anger towards you onto me. And that’s not the only reason I’m upset, not by a long shot, it’s just, I don’t know what made her hate you so much! And I know what you said about it seeming like you reminded her of someone she didn’t like, but that’s no excuse. I wouldn’t start mouthing off at a Catori-Demon on the street just because she’s the same species as Mrs. Eteibreit.”
“Well, she’s young. Young children can be irrational a lot of the time.”
“Yeah, I suppose so. I guess I should be more understanding of that–since the year I turned nineteen I haven’t really dealt with many young children, and she’s the only one I deal with on a daily basis. Still, it’s hard to deal with her. I know young children aren’t always as badly-behaved as she is. I met her best friend when she was younger than this and she’s one of the sweetest little girls I know. What happened with La-Iin? I treated her with kindness and what happened between me and her father happened when she was little.” Mit-Sun sighed. “Sorry to pile this on you, Uil-Cur…”
“It’s fine, Mit-Sun. It isn’t something I haven’t heard before. La-Iin is her own person. She might be at odds with you, but I don’t think she’ll ever hate you.”
“I must not be as confident as you are, then.”
“Like I said, she’s a young child. I may not have any experience when it comes to parenting, but I’ve dealt with my younger siblings for many years. They’ve stopped talking to me because I ate something they wanted to eat, or fought with me because I did something wrong that they never told me what it was. It happens. Don’t get down on yourself. You try your best and that is what matters. So have more confidence in your mothering–you don’t want a lack of confidence to bog you down, do you?”
“I suppose not,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Thank you, Uil-Cur. You know, I think you’ll be a great father if you ever decide to become one. I’m sure I’ll still be taking care of La-Iin for years to come–maybe you can give me some tips if you have a kid who ends up better behaved than her.”
Uil-Cur scratched the back of his neck. Seeing Mit-Sun’s innocent smile, hearing what she had to say, he was only reminded of his most recent visit to her house. ‘Should I try? Should I say something to her? I think I might have a chance. I suppose the worst is that she could say no…that or she could cut me off as a friend…’ Uil-Cur shook his head. ‘No. Mit-Sun is a kind woman. She would never do such a thing. I have to take my chances. After all, things don’t look so hopeless anymore. Maybe she likes me back…’
Uil-Cur glanced around him and took a deep breath. There were no people around him or Mit-Sun. He let out the breath.
“Mit-Sun, actually, there’s something I’ve been meaning to speak with you about.”
“Hm?”
“It was something your comment about me as a father reminded me of. And this is something I’ve wanted to bring up for a while, but I didn’t think there would be any benefit to either of us if I did so before. Now I feel confident that no matter what, the outcome will be fine, even if it’s not what I wanted.”
“What are you talking about, Uil-Cur? Can you get to the point?”
Uil-Cur sighed. “Well, I’ve wanted to be your friend for a long while, Mit-Sun, but there’s something else I’ve wanted for almost as long. After I got to know you better, I started to really like you. I had a high opinion of you since before we officially met, but once I really got to know you I knew that opinion was more well-founded than I expected. You’re a wonderful woman, Mit-Sun. Even when there are things you aren’t perfect at, you keep working hard at them anyway. It makes me sad when you say you have no confidence in some aspect of your mothering because I think it’s not a matter of you being a bad mother, it’s a matter of you don’t have it down perfect yet. And really, who ever would?”
“What are you trying to get at, Uil-Cur?” Mit-Sun asked.
“Well…as I got to know you and see how wonderful you are first-hand, I felt a little…differently about you…I was shy to admit it, but recently I thought to myself, with how kind you are I have nothing to worry about no matter what the outcome is. And, that is…I….I’m in love with you, Mit-Sun!”
Mit-Sun gave no response. She simply stared at Uil-Cur with wide eyes.
“I have been for a while. Perhaps even before I officially met you. You always sounded like the type of woman I would like, but the more I got to know you the more I knew that was true. I won’t ask you to give a specific answer, and you don’t have to answer now. I will still be your friend if you say no. And I would be glad to stay by you if you say yes. Well, I will either way, but you understand, right?”
Mit-Sun still didn’t respond. “Mit-Sun? I won’t be upset no matter what answer you give me, so please don’t just stand there. At least tell me if you don’t have an answer yet.”
“I…I…” Mit-Sun’s face flushed red. “I don’t know what to say, Uil-Cur. I can’t believe that flew over my head, how you felt…I always got this feeling you were flirting with me, but I thought it was just in your nature…”
“It is just in my nature. I’m as outgoing as they come and I still whimper like an introvert when I like a woman. I’d only be flirting with you if we were together, and that isn’t the case…right now,” he whispered to himself.
“You’re going to have to wait for me to think on this more, Uil-Cur. I–I just…”
Uil-Cur smiled. “I’ll wait as long as it takes, Mit-Sun. But don’t keep me waiting too long. I’ll get my hopes up and down and basically on a roller-coaster until you give me an answer. Oh, I feel much better having said all that!”
Mit-Sun shook her head. “I–I think I should go home!” She took off ahead of Uil-Cur.
“Be seeing you, Mit-Sun. I look forward to whatever response you give me.”

—–
“Hey, bro, you look kinda melancholy. Did something happen?”
“Ah, not really,” Uil-Cur sighed. “I’ve just been having hopeless fantasies about getting married and staring a family…”
“Who says they’re hopeless? You are pretty nice, bro. Some lady will like you someday, I bet.”
“You think so?”
“Mm-hm.”
Uil-Cur smiled. “I’m actually wondering if there’s some lady who likes me now…”
“Hm?”
“If she does, I think I’ll be a very happy man. Happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”
“Well, I hope she likes you back. But as payment for having this conversation, if she likes you and she marries you and you have kids I want to name your first one!”
“Aha ha, we’ll see about that one.”
His sister’s words sent Uil-Cur into a daydream about a life with Mit-Sun. Already he could imagine the two taking care of La-Iin and a further two children and living a happy life within the Cahongyun house. This time, he was so lost within the fantasy that he never chided himself for how ridiculous it might sound.
‘Perhaps this will come true soon…oh, Mit-Sun, I hope you feel the same as I do.’

18.534.Animosity from Suspicion

The La-Iin Series
Chapter 534
“Animosity from Suspicion”

“Mit-Sun, you look awfully happy today. What’s the occasion? Or, are you just happy because you are?”
Mit-Sun giggled. “It’s nothing, really. Just, I forgot how much fun going out could be. Having to take care of La-Iin, I haven’t been able to do much for myself lately. When we hang out together I get to go places La-Iin probably would never agree to go. Keeping her under wraps is hard.”
Uil-Cur scratched the back of his neck. “Always happy to be of assistance, Mit-Sun. My siblings told me I could be refreshing, but I never thought that would extend to another adult!”
“You can be pretty fun, Haner. So I want to ask: would you like to come over for dinner again tonight? I know La-Iin will hate it, but she’s been resisting all my attempts to bond with her lately. I really don’t think inviting you over again is going to make things any worse.”
“A-are you sure about that, Mit-Sun? She was pretty harsh towards me last time I came over.”
“La-Iin’s like that, but damn it, she can’t control who I make friends with as much as I can’t control who she makes friends with. I seriously don’t know what she has against you. She said something about male Sirens once, but I doubt she’s met another. I know you guys can be pretty rare.”
“It’s hard to think I’m technically somewhat rare. But I suppose that also comes from being an individual!”
“So, what do you say? Want to come over again? I could use a break from all her animosity and there’s not been much to do around the house lately.”
Uil-Cur gave a small smile. “Almost anything you ask me I would accept, Mit-Sun. I enjoy my time with you. I think you are…well, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
“That’s sweet, Haner. Thanks. You’re a pretty great friend too.”
Uil-Cur began to flap his wings rapidly to calm him down. ‘Just because she smiles at you so much, it doesn’t mean anything! Quit getting your hopes up!’ Still, he couldn’t help but feel slightly excited at the sight of Mit-Sun’s casual smile.

***

“You seem pretty steamed up, La-Iin.”
“I am steamed up! I can’t stand it when Mama goes to spend time with Haner! Either she’s stupid or slowly she’s falling for his wiles. Well, either way she must be stupid, because if she’s falling for his wiles she’s delusional! If his wiles were so great I would be in love with him!”
“That’s….disturbing, to say the least. And that begs the question: if another man had really good wiles, would you like him better than San-Kyung?”
“No way, Bes-Isa. San-Kyung is my one and only. Mama is a fool. If she’s looking for what true love looks like, she should be looking in my direction.”
“Nobody who was in their right mind would take love tips from a stalkerish little kid…don’t look at me like that, La-Iin! I’m not saying your little thing for San-Kyung is little kiddy, I’m just saying you’re creepy.”
“I’ve heard what you’ve said about keeping girl slaves before. If anyone is creepy, it’s you!”
“Well, doesn’t that make me more evil!? I want girl slaves for my own use…heh heh….but you want San-Kyung to reciprocate your feelings and work equally by your side! What the hell’s with that!?”
“You should understand by now if you know me any, Bes-Isa. Besides, I would be in a higher position of power over San-Kyung anyway. But this wasn’t about him! I haven’t been able to make any progress with that depressio lately anyways. I’m getting burned up about Haner! Someday I’ll suck that guy’s blood and sing his own song back to him!”
“Tell me, do you think that would work?”
“It’s worth a shot, isn’t it?”
Before Bes-Isa could speak again, the door opened. La-Iin narrowed her eyes at Mit-Sun, then gasped when she noticed that Uil-Cur was right behind her.
“No!”
Mit-Sun scoffed. “Please, La-Iin.”
“H-hello there, La-Iin,” Uil-Cur said, sounding uncertain.
“No. Don’t even talk to me. Mama, you said you wanted to repair our bond. You’re on the wrong path. Continue to show me your stupidity and I’ll lock you in a high-security cage when the time comes, if there’s even any of you left to lock in a cage!”
She stomped off, Bes-Isa in tow. She could hear a faint conversation between Mit-Sun and Uil-Cur, but she couldn’t be bothered to listen in to hear what it was. She was infuriated that Mit-Sun would even bring Uil-Cur over in the first place.

“I had a feeling this would happen,” Mit-Sun sighed. “Sorry about that, Haner.”
“No, there’s no trouble, Mit-Sun. Just as you had that feeling, so did I. She didn’t take well to me last time I was over either.”
“Well, she can go off and do her own thing if she wants to. Is there something you’d like to do?”
“Much as I’d like to spend time with you right at this moment, I want to try something, Mit-Sun. I’m going to see if I can get through to La-Iin.”
“Why?”
“The two of us are friends! I know it’s not all that important, but I don’t want to strain your relationship with your daughter just because she doesn’t like me. We can spend time together after this–after all, we do have plenty of time!”
“I suppose so,” Mit-Sun said. “Just don’t take too long, alright?”
‘She really does want to spend time with me,’ Uil-Cur thought. ‘Now I really do have to do this. With how she’s acting perhaps La-Iin may someday really be my step-daught…no, don’t think that, Uil-Cur! Stop it!’
He pushed the idea away as he fluttered after La-Iin.
“No flying in my house, Haner,” Mit-Sun said. Uil-Cur landed. “Sorry about that, Mit-Sun.”
“Just don’t do it again.”

“Haner won’t get to Mama first, I’ll show her, if anyone’s going to harm her bodily, it’ll be me, just wait and see….”
“I get that you’re angry, but do you have to pull on me like this!? I can feel pain, you know!”
“Heh heh heh…” The dark look in La-Iin’s eyes told Bes-Isa she wasn’t likely to be released soon.
From behind her La-Iin could hear footsteps. She glared over her shoulder. “Don’t bother reasoning with me, Mama. I will always and forever hate Haner. I–”
La-Iin’s eyes widened when she caught sight of Uil-Cur. “I know you’re not all that fond of me, La-Iin, and I respect that. But I don’t think you should get all so mad at Mit-Sun because of this.”
“Don’t you even dare talk to me, fool!” La-Iin hissed. Uil-Cur sighed. “Please, La-Iin, make this easy on me. If it makes you feel better, this friendship started because of me.”
“Take advantage of my Mama’s stupidity, will you!? Well, I’m not as stupid as she is!”
“Mit-Sun is not stupid! You shouldn’t say such things about your own mother.”
“Why should I listen to you!? You don’t matter to me. You’re just trash.”
Uil-Cur flinched. “I don’t know what I did to earn your ire, La-Iin, but I don’t want this to be how it is. I don’t want you to hate Mit-Sun because you hate me.”
“Quit referring to me by name. You don’t have the permission to do so.” La-Iin’s wings began to flap wildly. “I know your aim, Haner. I know what plans you have for my Mama. I can see them from a mile away. For you see, I’m an expert when it comes to planning things.”
Uil-Cur blinked at her. “What do you mean? I don’t have any plans for Mit-Sun.”
“Do you think I’m stupid!? I know wiles better than most others! You can only have two possible plans for Mama. Either way I won’t accept you!”
“I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You won’t fool me, Haner! Until the moment she proves otherwise, I’ll hope that Mama’s not so stupid to let her emotions fall victim to your plans!”
Uil-Cur blinked. ‘What is she talking about?’ As La-Iin bared her fangs, it clicked in his mind, and his face turned a dark red.
“I–it isn’t–it’s not–look, I think you have the wrong idea, La-Iin…”
“Your reaction only proves to me I have the right idea! Stop it, Haner! Or I’ll give you a reason to regret it!”
Uil-Cur felt completely embarrassed. “I…it’s…there’s nothing to worry about on that front, La-Iin. And if that’s making you angry at Mit-Sun, then you’re being irrational. Be angry at me all you want, but this has nothing to do with her…”
La-Iin’s nose wrinkled.
“Haner? La-Iin?”
Mit-Sun’s voice broke into the argument. “Haner, I heard arguing. If you can’t get through to her, there’s no reason to argue with her.”
“All the arguing was coming from her side, though.”
“La-Iin, cut Haner some slack. I get it–you don’t like him. You’ve made that painfully clear.”
“Apparently not clear enough to get through your thick skull!” La-Iin yelled. She stomped off, Bes-Isa in tow.
“I swear, one of these days you’re going to kill me.”
“I’m sorry, Mit-Sun. I didn’t mean to fight with her. She hates me more than I’d expect a seven-year-old to…and now I think I understand why.”
“Why?”
Uil-Cur’s face flushed. “I–I think I just remind her of someone she doesn’t like at her school.”
“Huh?”
“That’s the impression I got, anyway,” he sighed. “So, um, Mit-Sun–about that hanging out?”
“Oh, yeah. Well, there’s plenty I can show you around the house. We have time until dinner to just look around, so tell me where you want to go. Although obviously La-Iin’s room is off-limits.”
“I figured. Well, anywhere you want to show me is fine.”
“Well then, we might as well stop by the miscellaneous room, then,” Mit-Sun said. “Come on!”
From her bedroom La-Iin could hear their conversation. She grit her teeth.
‘What can I do now? Maybe I should turn to Dami for advice on this…’

—–
Dinner came and went, and no matter how hard she tried Mit-Sun simply could not manage to get La-Iin to sit at the table while Uil-Cur was there. Even sending him away didn’t seem to work–La-Iin still refused to sit anywhere near him and instead took her food away and into her room. Mit-Sun lacked the energy to fight with her over it, and so opted against it.
“Thank you for the dinner, Mit-Sun. You are an excellent cook.”
“Not a problem. It was nice to have you over, even though La-Iin was acting up. Maybe next time, we should hang out at your house.”
“Maybe. I hope you can make up with her.”
“Me too. Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, Uil-Cur. Good night.”
Uil-Cur froze and blinked at Mit-Sun. “What? Did I say something wrong?”
“Er, um, no, not at all!” He flustered. “Did I give you a weird look? I’m sorry, I’m just used to you saying Haner…”
“Oh…well, you keep telling me I can call you Uil-Cur, so I suppose it just came out.”
“Well, I am okay with you calling me that,” he said. “Er, I have to go now. See you, Mit-Sun.”
“See you, Haner. Er, Uil-Cur.”
As Uil-Cur walked out the house, he smiled to himself. ‘I wonder if I might just have a chance after all…maybe, just maybe.’
Remembering Leirhyn’s words, he began to feel confident as he fluttered off towards home.